Monday, June 30, 2008


God, we Canadians are pathetic. The American Congress bats an eyelash in the direction of a sane, low-carbon fuel policy, and our newspapers start throwing a nutty:
...when Barack Obama threatens to break America's addiction to “dirty, dwindling and expensive oil” and endorses a proposed “low-carbon fuel standard,” he is harming America's own national interests. Canada is the largest exporter of crude oil to the United States, surpassing Mexico and Saudi Arabia, and supplying almost 19 per cent of U.S. demand. If the U.S. eliminates its Canadian heavy-oil imports, which are now growing significantly, Canada will soon find other eager customers such as China, and will simply expand its pipeline system to supply them.
Two things: how is the size of Canada's energy export in America's interests? If Canada supplied 100% of America's energy, would that be in it's interests? Second, if it were "simple" to massively expand Canada's westward pipelines, we would be doing it already, wouldn't we? We aren't. Ergo...
The U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 contains a controversial section 526, which bans federal agencies from buying alternative fuels that produce more greenhouse gases than conventional oil. Efforts to amend the legislation, to specify that this section does not include Canadian heavy oil, have stalled. Worse, many view the section as a precedent for broader action.
Oh no! Broader action!? To combat climate change? Whatever will we do? (And why, for the love of God, should we expect an explicit exemption for Canadian tar sands? Why are Canadian leaders asking the US Congress to pass nonsensical laws?)
Meanwhile, California has a sweeping plan to reduce greenhouse gases, which would require a 10-per-cent cut to the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 2020. If Mr. Obama embraces this provision, as seems likely, U.S. refiners would hesitate to accept Canadian oil – because oil-sands production generates as much as three times more greenhouse gas than conventional oil.
Ah, so Canada is producing shitty oil. (Come on, you can admit it.) Canada is producing garbage. Crap. The hydrocarbon equivalent of, well, a GM car. It's dirty, inefficient, and it doesn't even really get us where we want to go. So naturally, we're demanding that America continue to accept it without any question.
Mr. Obama's advisers have not done the hard calculations. Canada's oil sands contain as much as 173 billion barrels of economically viable oil, which is second only to Saudi Arabia. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers estimates that production will quadruple by 2020 to almost four million barrels a day, and there is the potential for more than 100 years of production. Canadian producers are also cutting emissions per barrel of production, unlike producers in most other nations.
If we have more than a century's worth of production, but all we can produce is crap (garbage, shitty oil, what have you) what does it matter? And as for those estimates that we'll massively expand the tar sands: riiiight. The CAPP estimates that, despite the fact that it's taken 30 years to get tar sands production to 1 million barrels per day, we're going to add another 3 million barrels per day in... under 12 years. They've maintained that estimate, btw, since 2002. This despite the acknowledged cost overruns and delays that are already causing oil majors to rethink their plans in Athabasca. It might have been worth the Globe and Mail mentioning that the CAPP is composed of... Canadian oil companies, who stand to lose a ton of money if the law is unchanged.

A less obviously corrupt source would be Canada's own national energy board, which predicts that, in a scenario of high energy prices and increased environmental concern, oil sands developent will stall well before 2030. [PDF here, p. 75] The situation is different if global politics become more fractious, according to the NEB, but does the Globe and Mail really want to sell oil based on increased global unrest and all its attendant death and destruction? Yes, yes it does.
So where could Mr. Obama turn for supplies? The North Sea is declining. Venezuela, Nigeria and much of the Middle East are not stable; anyway, the cost of transporting that oil adds to their emissions tally. Canadian producers plan to spend $16-billion on pipelines to bring more heavy oil south; U.S. refiners are spending $53-billion (U.S.) to handle it. If Mr. Obama wins the election and launches a foolhardy attack on his best supplier, it is the American consumer who will pay the price, not Canada.
Incredibly obtuse. Explain to me how, in the absence of an enthusiastic second customer (to whom we cannot sell this shitty oil, because we don't have the alternative routes to market) Canadians wouldn't also be hurt if Americans decided to do without our oil? For every seller, there needs to be a buyer. America is our only buyer, and because of the structure of our energy market, the only possible buyer of the volumes we produce. If they decide to do without us, we're fucked plain and simple. America, meanwhile, is rich enough to afford oil from whomever will sell it to them. (Note also that "simple" pipeline construction actually costs billions of dollars.) Americans are already conserving oil by driving less and driving smaller, and if you think those trends are going to stop you're crazy.

Or here's a different idea: instead of hitching our national wagon to the mirage of Alberta's shitty-oil based future, we could try and build cars that people want, fueled by things that aren't killing the planet (and ducks), at prices people can afford. Crazy, I know.


Why is VIA Rail so expensive? I mean, at $140/barrel you'd think that passenger rail would be more competitive with buses, even in Ontario. But every time I check, it's usually almost twice as much to take the train from Toronto to Ottawa and back as it is to take the bus, provided I book 7 days in advance. Hypothesis?

1) Greyhound doesn't have to pay for its own roads. True, but neither does VIA -- it uses CP's rails. Though presumably not for free.

2) Greyhound buys its diesel in long-term contracts, and has been isolated from recent price spikes. Plausible, but we should have seen some movement.

3) VIA rail is a monopoly. More likely, but Greyhound is damn close to one on the Ottawa-Toronto route. I would assume both companies treat the Montreal-Windsor corridor as the cash cow, and price accordingly.

4) Unions? Both companies have to rely on heavily unionized workforces. Per passenger seat, I would assume VIA has the advantage here.

5) As always, I could be doing something wrong.

I don't know, I'm not convinced by any of the reasons I can think of (except of course #5.) If, only by booking a week in advance, I can get a ticket to Ottawa for <$100, it seems unreasonable that VIA can't offer similar rates, especially with the rapidly-escalating price of fuel and the inherent fuel efficiency of rail.

You should be so lucky

Conservative rag says Obama wants to turn America in to Canada. And wouldn't that be horrible.

Snark is redundant, but what Chet said.

"The Mother of all hissy fits"

A prediction: A some point this campaign season, a major media outlet will get an unedited, unredacted, complete version of John McCain's military file (much of which is otherwise classified) which will show, among other things, that McCain was a pretty lousy aviator but whose career kept getting secured by the influence of his father and grandfather.

That newspaper will choose to sit on the file, out of "respect" for John McCain's "status".

This will be exactly the same fucking behaviour the US press exhibited when they ignored, in 2000, the facts of Bush's military records in favour of calling Al Gore a serial liar. John McCain, who actually is a serial liar, and adulterer, and married his 2nd wife for her money when his 1st wife wasn't so pretty anymore, and was so horrified by his experience in the Vietnam War that everytime the US finds someone to bomb, his only response is "more, faster"... will get no such treatment.

When you hear that John McCain "supported the GI Bill after he opposed it" as often as you heard the same thing about Kerry, I'll believe otherwise. C'mon, American media, prove me wrong.

And as for the Obama campaign, throwing Wesley Clark under the bus is just stupid. Aside from everything else, it won't get you anything: the press has decided on it's narrative -- "Obama says he's for change, but he's just the same old politics. He's trying to swiftboat McCain! Best to go for the guy with experience."

That said, I think we can safely assume Clark is no longer on the VP list.

Technology is lame

With the full-scale rollout of Japan’s cigarette vending machine age-verification system just around the corner, a Sankei Sports news reporter has confirmed the existence of a minor flaw: magazine photos can be used to fool the age-verification cameras on some machines.

When the reporter went to check out the new age-verifying machines after they were introduced in the Osaka area in June, he soon discovered that the machines equipped with face-recognition cameras would let him buy cigarettes when he held up a 15-centimeter (6-in) wide magazine photo of a man who looked to be in his 50s.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


This is the most extraordinary animated film I've seen in years. And the most extraordinary film of any kind I've seen this year. It is eerie, cutting, sly, traumatic, hopeful, funny, and an indictment of our ideas about progress, technology, and our ability to solve problems.

And it's fun for the whole family.

There's a scene at the end that ranks pretty high on the Bambis-mom-ometer in terms of childhood film sadness. I was trying -- and mostly succeeding -- to keep my shit together until a plaintive cry went out from one of my fellow audience members (no older than 6, my guess) asking "what's wrong with WALL-E?" Oh lord did I lose it.

I wonder if the legacy of expensive processor time makes Pixar more economical with it's animation than other firms? I lost count of the number of scenes in this movie that spoke volumes in a few seconds. Intro shot: we zoom past a dead, dry, abandoned landscape as wind turbines sit still around mountain valleys of trash. Volumes about the futile efforts to address symtoms, not causes. We pan across the portraits of ship captains that get fatter and live shorter with every passing generation. Volumes. We see the latest captain engage in a herculean struggle to press the off button on the cherished technology. Volumes.

It is also a movie that is largely dialogue-free, leading to some incredible characterization by the animators and voice actors. Oscars for all involved with this picture, or I burn shit down.

Go see it.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Sure, the Clinton/Obama unity even starts just as I have to run out the door. But one thought: it's really nice to see Democrats booing Republicans instead of each other.

World on fire

Trouble, from pole to pole:
Dr Bradley Opdyke, a paleoceanographer from the Australia National University (ANU) believes the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could partially collapse within 20 years, resulting in a dramatic jump in sea levels....

"Satellite images have revealed there's already melt-water beneath some of the ice sheets" he says. "If the WAIS collapses, sea levels will rise between four and six metres."

McCulloch believes the collapse of the WAIS can be averted if the world community becomes "open minded" in its search for alternatives to fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the planet:
(CNN) -- The North Pole may be briefly ice-free by September as global warming melts away Arctic sea ice, according to scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

Scientists say it's a 50-50 bet that the thin Arctic sea ice will completely melt away at the geographic North Pole.

"We kind of have an informal betting pool going around in our center and that betting pool is 'does the North Pole melt out this summer?' and it may well," said the center's senior research scientist Mark Serreze.
Oh, and Nicholas Stern has revised his estimates of the cost of global warming.
The author of an influential British government report arguing the world needed to spend just 1% of its wealth tackling climate change has warned that the cost of averting disaster has now doubled.

Lord Stern of Brentford made headlines in 2006 with a report that said countries needed to spend 1% of their GDP to stop greenhouse gases rising to dangerous levels. Failure to do this would lead to damage costing much more, the report warned - at least 5% and perhaps more than 20% of global GDP.

But speaking yesterday in London, Stern said evidence that climate change was happening faster than had been previously thought meant that emissions needed to be reduced even more sharply.

This meant the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would have to be kept below 500 parts per million, said Stern. In 2006, he set a figure of 450-550ppm. "I now think the appropriate thing would be in the middle of that range," he said. "To get below 500ppm ... would cost around 2% of GDP."
It's worth pointing out that to a lot of people Stern's prescriptions are woefully inadequate. Hansen thinks that 500ppm would probably be a disaster.

But hey, the tar sands make Albertans rich, so it's all worth it, right?

Alberta: less popular in Washington than Venezuela

An interesting piece in the National Post today about how Albertan tar sands producers (and their American allies) have been surprised by the rise of a well-organized opposition to tar sands oil in the US, most recently at a conference of mayors. And worried they should be, because of the structure of the Albertan oil industry: the pipelines only lead south. There is no realistic alternative to exporting to the US in the short-term, so if tar sands oil gets shut out of the US market it would be the death knell for the tar sands. The idea of exporting to China or India is fantasy at the moment, for the very simple reason that there are no pipelines leading to the Pacific coast with the kind of volume that they would need.

There's something else I've been meaning to write about for a while, and it's this: according to Jim Hansen and others, we can avoid the worst impact of global warming if we a) immediately implement a moratorium on new coal, b) phase-out existing coal as rapdily as possible, and c) do not use unconventional fossil fuels. Basically, if we limit ourselves to conventional oil and gas, we cannot emit enough CO2 to doom ourselves. That means, as a matter of climate security, the tar sands need to be shut down.

I've seen no party leader in Canada express this simple fact: the tar sands need to be ended, and soon. At the very least, we need a moratorium on new projects and a hiring freeze in the tar sands. (An end to the breakneck development would also be good for Alberta, btw.) But that time is coming, and soon.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Credit where it's due

Sen. Clinton steps up to the plate:
I know Senator Obama,” Clinton said. “I have served with him now for four years in the Senate I campaigned with him for 16 months on the campaign trail I have stood on the stage for 22 debates, but who is counting? … In his own life he has lived the American dream and as a community organizer, state senator, and U.S. Senator he has worked to make that dream possible for others.
Never an easy thing for anyone to do, no less a US Senator.

I'm still unimpressed with the arguments for Sen. Clinton as VP, but it's worth pointing out that at least in one respect she's proven herself capable of the traditional VP duties: political offense against the opponent. As much as Sen. Obama may have hated having the Clintons attackig him for 6 months, it might be fun to sic them on John McCain.

Sorry if some people find this blog is becoming all-election all the time, but, hey, it's my blog and the Internet's a big place.

They're contagious

In general, I think Barack Obama would be well advised to stay the hell away from the GOP this year, no matter how much bipartisan cred he thinks it might win him. Still, this could be a very powerful gesture -- few to zero GOP operatives still have as much public credibility as Powell:
But Novak does think that Powell will endorse Obama. This, Novak says, has some inside McCain's camp worried. "While McCain strategists shrug off defections from [lesser-known Republicans], they wince in anticipating headlines generated by Powell's expected endorsement of Obama," Novak writes.

Elsewhere, commenting on Novak's column, Time's Mark Halperin throws in a little bit of additional speculation, saying Powell could be "the surprise keynote speaker at the Democrats' convention in Denver" this year.
I don't think his credibility deserves to be in good standing, but my impression is that a lot of Americans think Powell basically got rolled by Cheney, and still retain a good image of him. Moreover, if Powell used a public endorsement of Obama to say that now's the time to leave Iraq, I think he could be very influential indeed.

Of course, the redneck vote will dismiss it as blacks sticking together.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dept. of lame excuses

So after a new poll shows Obama leading McCain by 12 points -- 15 if you put Nader and Barr on the ballot! -- the McCain camp comes up with a defense: if you do the math a bit differently, we're only losing by 7 points.


Tieing up loose ends

Barack Obama is asking his donors to help Clinton pay down her campaign debt. John Cole:
Not only is helping her pay down her campaign debt a gesture of good will, but it is important to remember where that debt is from. The debt, if you think about it, is from the last few months of the campaign when Clinton went with the kitchen sink strategy. Obama is now subsidizing the “White People Won’t Vote For Him” Appalachian tour, the 3 am ad, and the rest of the bile they chucked his way over the last two months when it was clear Clinton could not win.
This was a very odd primary season.

In Xanadu

Matthew Yglesias:
...Genghis Khan banned torture in his empire.

So, yes, under George W. Bush the United States of America is regressing to an understanding of humane treatment of people that doesn't reflect the enlightened views of Genghis Khan. That's your feel-good thought of the day.

Absolutely Correct

Ezra Klein:
You hear this a lot in DC, folks bragging that they really know how to "read" a newspaper. It's a tremendous indictment of the way newspapers are written, that you need to train yourself to correctly understand them. The information exists, of course, but it needs to be extracted and re-processed. Which is why I'll take Political Wire over any "Washington" section in the country. The information is there for the taking. But I shouldn't have to turn to Political Wire.

There's no reason newspapers can't be written in a more immediate, aggressive way. But it would require an editor willing to break with the stylistic conventions of the industry, willing to toss away the "inverted pyramid." Given that the industry is in intense turmoil and self doubt, you'd think lots of editors would happily try a new model. But newspapering is one of the few professions where those in charge feel it's their duty to preserve the old ways, even if they're not working particularly well.
The newspaper of the future, I'd venture, is going to look a lot more like Pro Publica or the Washington Independent (or TPM!) than the NY Times or the WaPo.

The idea that newspapers are failing because many of them are, in fact, quite bad is really one you need to keep in mind throughout this entire discussion.

Best. Election. Ever.

Man this is going to be a fun few months.

Karl Rove:
Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He’s the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.
Mark Schmitt:
ABC’s Jake Tapper posed the question, at the same country club, who would Rove be? The easy answer, of course, is “the guy who quit the club when it integrated.”
Ralph Nader:
"There's only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He's half African-American. Whether that will make any difference, I don't know. I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white? He doesn't want to appear like Jesse Jackson?
Ta-Nehisi Coates:
I just realized this after reading Ralph Nader--that druken master of Ebonics--give his take on Obama and race. Nader, along with many other penatrating scholars of the black experience, have helped me to understand not just Obama's true nature, but my own.

...there are roughly 317 black people in America. All of them live in the projects. All of them earn thier keep by making white people feel bad.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Things I've long assumed I'd be disappointed with

The people who supported Barack Obama during the primary were called many things by Clinton supporters, most of them implying that we were unthinking cultists ready to take Dear Leader's commands and execute them without question. And you know, it's true: just look at the glowing, fawning language I used when I decided Edwards' exit left me no option but to support Obama:
So I'm left with Obama. Squishy, vague, homophobe-coddling, coal-supporting Obama. Right on the war -- and that earns him so much from me, much more than Edwards' learning curve -- but wrong on a lot of other things. But not a Clinton, and seems the best suited to actually grow the ranks of the Democratic Party.
Yup, that's me, the unthinking cultist.

In truth, there's always been a lot of stuff making me wary about Obama, but those things have been -- and are -- outweighed by several factors, including his obvious skill as a politician, his judgment in foreign policy, and the fact that I think he's best suited to win the election by actually grabbing votes from the other side.[1]

But given the recent Democratic collapse over FISA (huzzah to retroactive immunity!) it seems like an opportune moment to pre-empt the disappointment I'll feel later by listing the things I assume President Barack Obama will disappoint me on.

1) Energy. Yes, Obama will be much better on energy and the environment than John McCain. But Obama's still got too many ties to the Illinois coal and ethanol rackets to push for an objectively good energy policy.

2) FISA. In case you missed it, the Bush Administration and major telecom companies have been spying illegally on Americans for years. And the Democrats are poised to let them all get away with it, because they don't want it as an election issue. It's difficult to see how this turns out at all well for Democrats -- are there really millions of GOP voters demanding that they be spied upon? But the writing has been on the wall for almost a year now -- the House Dems were ready to cave on this a while ago. The only hope now is a Senate filibuster, and there seems to be little chance of that. Anyway, this is not the issue I expected to see a lot of leadership on from Obama, somehow. Which is a shame, because it's exactly this kind of politics that Obama's been able to insulate himself against effectively.

3) Gay rights. What can I say. I guy who'll take the stage with bigots who think homosexuality is a disease to be cured doesn't give me a lot of confidence.

I'm sure I'll add to this list as time goes on, but those are the biggies right now.

[1] And yet, some Democrats seem to find the prospect of Obama winning independent and GOP voters even more terrifying than a McCain victory. Seriously. I'm still selectively maintaining my no-names policy until certain parties re-enter the saneosphere, but yes some diehard Clinton supporters are literally writing that the prospect of the Democratic Party winning seats in red states make them more concerned that the party will be more conservative because, duh, it's winning seats in the conservative parts of the country.

Democracy really is a bitch. It would be so much better for American Democrats if the Democratic Party could get more voters without actually having to get more Americans to vote for them.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Record Industry: Still assholes

So the radio broadcasters of America have done pretty well for both themselves, and the music industry over the years. Curiously, the AM and FM radio stations do not pay royalties -- I assume this is some vestige of the early days of radio, where both industries were primarily interested in screwing performers and creators, so they made a tacit agreement to label radio as "promotional".

But now the record industry is going looking for new revenue, and the AM/FM broadcasters look plump and juicy.
On Monday, the recording industry sent the National Association of Broadcasters -- the trade group representing the $16 billion a year AM-FM broadcasting business -- a can of herring to underscore that it believes its arguments against paying royalties are a red herring. The NAB says its members should not pay royalties because AM-FM radio "promotes" the music industry.

The herring present followed another gift -- a dictionary, a bid by the recording industry to explain what it saw as the difference between fees and taxes. The NAB describes the latest royalty proposal as a tax.

And two weeks ago, the recording industry, under the umbrella group musicFIRST, sent the NAB four digital downloads: "Take the Money and Run" by the Steve Miller Band; "Pay me My Money Down" by Bruce Springsteen; "Back In the U.S.S.R" by Paul McCartney and "A Change Would Do You Good" by Sheryl Crow.
In case you missed it, the record industry just called the radio industry a bunch of Communists, for adhering to the status quo. Time was, you actually had to have a revolution and nationalize property to be a Marxist. Now all you've got to do is abide by long-held agreements.

Not that I'll shed any tears for the radio broadcasters -- they've spent the last decade screwing Internet radio as hard as they can, so I'll be happy when this entire sick, sordid industry collapses in on itself.

The scramble for Africa: Picard edition

So a few weeks ago, this story ran on Reuters:
GENEVA (Reuters) - China is drawing on natural resources such as farm land, timber and water twice as fast as they can be renewed in its drive for development, a report from Chinese and international environmentalists said on Tuesday.

The report said the next 20 years would be critical to correct the situation and put the Asian giant's burgeoning economy, with a rapidly growing population, on to a sustainable path.

"China's average ecological footprint has doubled since the 1960s and now demands more than two times what the country's ecosystems can sustainably supply," said a summary of the report, issued by the Swiss-based WWF International.
So, with China in short supply of square meters, what to do? Oh, I'm sure this won't end badly...'
China’s growing demand for food and the rapid shrinking of available arable land in China itself due to environmental degradation and urbanization have made finding new agricultural lands an urgent priority for the Chinese government....

China’s search for new land has led Beijing to aggressively seek large land leases in Mozambique over the past two years, particularly in its most fertile areas, such as the Zambezi valley in the north and the Limpopo valley in the south.
Chinese interest in the Zambezi valley started in mid-2006, when the Chinese state owned Exibank granted $2 billion in soft loans to the Mozambican government to build the Mpanda Nkua mega-dam on the stretch of the Zambezi in Tete province. Since then, China has been requesting large land leases to establish Chinese-run mega-farms and cattle ranches. A memorandum of understanding was reported to have been signed in June 2007, allowing an initial 3,000 Chinese settlers to move to Zambezia and Tete provinces to run farms along the valley. A Mozambican official said the number could eventually grow to up to 10,000. However, the reports of this deal caused such an uproar that the Mozambique government was forced to dismiss the whole story as false.
Hmmm. Rapidly industrializing powers arranging sweet deals in the poorest regions of the world to secure the scarce resources they crave for further economic growth? Nope, doesn't ring a bell...

Shifty brown people trying to steal our bodily fluids

You would think, based on reading the two columns this weekend from Christie Blatchford and Thomas Walkom, that they were talking about two different trials. Indeed, two different trials on two different planets! But no:
And of course there was; the court has heard evidence up the ying-yang that there was just such an enterprise afoot. Was it the finest plot ever? Oh hardly. Were its members variously bumblers, what those who hang around courts call “yutes” or raving hotheads? Absolutely. But there was a plot.
Meanwhile, Walkom:
Paid $300,000 by the RCMP to infiltrate the cell of alleged terrorists, Shaikh is the sole source for many of the sensational charges levelled against them – including claims that they wanted to blow up nuclear plants and storm Parliament.

If, as the Crown now suggests, this RCMP agent can't be believed, what happens to the government's case?
You'd also think they're on different planets because, while Walkom actually writes about, you know, what happened in the courtroom, Blatchford writes about how Muslims make her feel all icky.
Well, guess what? Seven of those arrested that day have since had their criminal charges stayed or dropped, one is on trial now, and 10 others remain charged. Recent convert or raised in the faith, white or brown or black, guilty or innocent – the one sure thing is that they are all Muslims and that faith was what bound them together.
Ooh, good deduction there Christie. Some alleged criminals are Muslim, therefore Islam is criminal. Rarely spelled out so clearly by our pundits, but nicely done.

Let's try a few more of these out:

Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian, Hitler hated Jews, therefore vegetarians...

Timothy McVeigh was a white Christian, Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist, therefore white Christians...

Christie Blatchford is a journalist, Christie Blatchford is a disgrace, therefore journalists...

It's really too bad the Globe decided to give column inches to someone one step away from NRO.

Two bad both candidates hate this issue

My friends know I am an unreconstructed space nut. While I get a lot of the objections to the real-world examples of space exploration spending, I really don't understand people who, for example, want to de-fund NASA and spend the money "here on Earth" (where do they think it's spent?)

That said, I think even the most charitable observers see the Space Shuttle/ISS combination as basically a 30-year long detour in terms of any real accomplishment. The public -- not unreasonably -- likes to see actual results for their money, and an important part of that is basically seeing the government doing something new every once in a while. But the SS/ISS combo wasn't really about that, it was bureaucratic circular reasoning made manifest. Why do we need the space station? Because that's where the Space Shuttle will go. Why do we need the Space Shuttle? Because it's the way we'll get to the Space Station. Simple, right?

Of course, the Soviets -- then the Russians -- managed to maintain a much more robust space station program without a space shuttle. But that's just details...

One of the most depressing things about the Bush Administration's approach to space is one of those things I could almost grudgingly praise. Scrapping the Shuttle? Good start! Giving NASA Mars as a goal? I'm with ya. But there's this curious Moon detour. Landing astronauts on the Moon will do basically nothing to really prepare NASA for a Mars landing, given the dramatic differences between the two. It will consume a great deal of capital -- financial and political -- and probably kill any serious attempt at the Red Planet.

So I'm a much, much bigger fan of this idea: a bunch of NASA insurgents, calling themselves the "Asteroid Underground" are trying to push for a piloted rendezvous with a Near Earth Object (asteroid).
An asteroid-bound crew would therefore need to “bring mission control on board,” says Korsmeyer, in the form of highly automated decision-making software. “When something bad happens, which tends to happen quickly, the crew and systems will have to manage it on their own. This is something humanity hasn’t done yet. But that makes it the best of all possible testing grounds for Mars, which, without an asteroid mission, will be like jumping into the deep end without practicing in the shallow end.” In comparison, “the moon is like the baby pool. I don’t mean to minimize that—Apollo 13 showed us you can drown there too.” But, he says, an asteroid “would really be someplace fabulously new. You’re talking 2.5 million miles, more than 10 times the distance between Earth and the moon. You’d be so far away you could cover up Earth with your finger. It would be no more than a beautiful, pale blue star.”
An asteroid mission would be a meaningful test of a lot of the Constellation hardware (zero-gravity, deep deep space, long-endurance space flight) that can't necessarily be fully duplicated in orbit of the Earth, no matter how high up you go. It frankly makes a lot more sense to do something like this, instead of going back to the Moon to play around.

If you could guarantee it wouldn't detract from the goal of landing on Mars, and if you could guarantee long-term political support, I'd say America can easily afford to do both: a full-spectrum space program would cost a tiny fraction of what America is spending to lose two wars, after all. But in the real world, I think any attempt to spend a lot of time on the Moon will come at the expense of a Martian goal.

Plus, NASA's new spacesuits meet the all-important requirement of looking cool.

I try to stay on top of the good news, and fail

I missed this last week, but good news as one of Canada's more level-headed governments pushes through authorization for ZENN's electric low-speed vehicle to be used on public roads with minimal red tape. Sadly, it's not the jurisdiction in which I live, because on this issue Dalton McGuinty is apparently content to let the beating heart of the Dominion be eclipsed by Quebec, BC, Manitoba...

When you ask the people at Ontario's MiniTrans why it is that Ontarian drivers are apparently to stupid to cope with a car that's legal in 48 states and now Canada's second-largest province, the sole answer you'll receive is "we won't comment on decisions made in other jurisdictions." Which is, you know, less than satisfying.

Anyone want to guess on when Ontarians will be granted the same priviliges as Quebeckers?

RIP George Carlin

So apparently Mr. Carlin is dead. He will be missed. As Jonathan Schwarz notes, he embodied much of what's best about American satire. This is a good example: skip to about 1:40 to get to the meat.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturday Night Linkdump

From Tom Engelhart: Iraq 4 evah, baby!

Michelle Obama, still refusing to use the word "whitey". Hell, I've probably used the words whitey, honkey, and cracker more than she has.

John McCain, still crazy and attracting the crazy. My fave:
A few paces away, I catch up with a man named Ron Saucier and a woman who would only identify herself as Mary. Ron says his problem with Obama is the integrity thing. "He exaggerates too much," Ron says. "He's not honest."

"OK," I say. "What does he exaggerate about?"

"Well, like that time he was saying he had a white mother and a white grandmother," he says.

I ask him how this is an exaggeration.

"Well, he was saying . . ." he begins. "As if that qualifies him to . . ."

Despite my repeated prodding, Ron seems unable or unwilling to say aloud exactly what he means. Finally, his friend Mary, a grave-looking blonde with fierce anger lines around her eyes, jumps in, points a finger and blurts out one of the all-time man-on-the-street quotes.

"Look, you either are or you aren't," she says.

"And he aren't," Ron says, nodding with relief.
Artificial diamonds!

What Thoreau said:
I mean, surely the people in the Bush administration must have some worthless relative who lies about everything and can never manage to hold an honest job. Once you learn the type it’s easy to spot.

And then it hit me: These guys are the relatives who lie about everything and can’t hold honest jobs. They felt a natural kinship with him but were too stupid to realize what that meant.
Planet X: Still out there, somewhere?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hooray for oral pain!

So I made my first trip to the dentist's office in... well, let's not talk about that. Suffice to say, it's been longer than it should have been. All in all, not too much unexpected bad news.[1] But this is the first time in my adult life I've had to ask the question, "will the insurance cover that?" This whole private health care thing sucks balls, let me just say. OHIP for teeth!

Now, it's not that bad. Even if I had no insurance, I could probably afford to pay my bill out of pocket because of a number of factors, including saving for tuition that I no longer have to pay[2], a recently-arrived tax refund, and a few more cheques that are in the mail. (They swear.)

But it does make me think how I'd manage if I weren't young, healthy, employed, and covered by a loved one with a real job.

[1] So, uh, getting wisdom teeth pulled. Does that, like, hurt a lot?

[2] No, I didn't drop out. My scholarship has been renewed.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

That should do the trick

Wednesday surliness? Gone. The reappearance of Rudy Giuliani -- thrice-married warmongering nutter and once-GOP hopeful -- as a McCain surrogate is just the thing I needed to make it all feel smiley once more. Who once spoke these words, talking specifically about Rudy Giuliani?
"I think the nation respects the mayor's leadership after 9/11, and I do, too, and I think he displayed leadership at a time that Americans needed some steady hand, and I think that his conduct was very laudatory following 9/11... I don't think it translates, necessarily, into foreign policy or national security expertise. I know of nothing in his background that indicates that he has any experience in it..."
Who answered John McCain?

By the way, John McCain is now trailing Obama in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

This isn't going to be close. This is going to be nasty.

Occupational hazards

Is it possible for a bookseller to commit malpractice? And could I be sued?

I ask because I work in a bookstore, and have worked in a number of different bookstores over the last decade or so, big and small. I met my beloved Vicki while we were working together at a bookstore, and it's a great job to have as a student, and seeing as it looks like I'll be in school for most of my adult life...

But there are certain books that I really think we just shouldn't sell. And, believe it or not, neither climate change deniers nor Michael Ignatieff are on that list. No, this little ramble is prompted by the woman who asked if we could hold a book for her last night. The book, to my dismay, was on "curing your addiction" through diet changes.

Look, people can buy any number of stupid-ass books, and I don't care. You want to read Mark Steyn, go ahead, just don't make me. But when a book promises an "easy, pain-free" cure to addiction -- with a 74% success rate, no less! -- I shudder inside. You're messing with people's lives. And I'm employed by the pusher. (Does that make me a mule?)

Even sadder was the fact that we'd already extended this hold, and the woman swore up and down she'd be in before Friday to pick it up... the same thing she'd said last Friday. Despair.

All this made the guy who complained about our "biased" book selection being unfair to climate change deniers seem even more ridiculous than normal. Note to jackass: we sell what sells. And apparently, your crackpot idea about global warming not happening, or being caused by penguins with investments in real estate, or whatever the fuck you crazy people believe, is so pathetic that the "desperate addicts looking for easy solutions" is a more lucrative market. That's right, you're less popular and influential than the not-quite-rock-bottom-yet crowd.

Hm. Need something to pick up my mood.

Your actions please Ceiling Cat

I love the Internet so goddam much.

Warning: Epic Nerd ahead.

(If you're confused, don't try to keep up.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

You can't have him

Dear people in charge of Firefox

When you said, "Hey everyone! Come download Firefox as soon as possible on Tuesday so we can set a world record! It'll be nifty!"

You remember that, right?

Did it not occur to you that people might actually, you know, do that?

(Hits refresh button, swears.)

Way to go people.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"The Old Man is staying because I'm not ending up in The Hague."

Robert Farley has previously argued against trying dictators who step down after securing immunity from prosecution, ie Pinochet. It's not an argument I can bring myself to agree with easily, but damn if this isn't evidence in his favor:
JOHANNESBURG — In the first, electric days after Robert Mugabe lost the opening round of Zimbabwe's presidential election, it seemed as though he might simply accept defeat and step down. His family and closest advisers were telling him that, after 28 years in office, it was time to go. He opened secret negotiations with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on a deal that would guarantee his party a share of power, provide him with a peaceful retirement and, crucially, make him immune to prosecution for crimes committed during his long and troubled tenure...

Over the next few weeks, the story of Mr. Mugabe's about-face gradually emerged: Stunned and embittered at his loss, he had been prepared to go, but those around him — in particular, the five generals known as "the securocrats" who oversee the armed forces, the prison service and the police — refused to let him.

"The Old Man is staying," a senior member of his ZANU-PF party told The Globe and Mail, "because I'm not ending up in The Hague."

Once again, the long arm of international law had reached into the heart of an African conflict and extinguished the possibility of a quick and peaceful resolution. Zimbabwe provides the latest evidence that a concept heralded as a way to bring justice to ordinary Africans, but driven by a largely Western-based hunger for prosecution, can instead prolong their misery.
The rest, here.

Surprising Nobody

So Darlington it is. Which is what any thinking person would have gambled on -- the plant was always only half-built, so this will probably be the cheapest option. "Cheapest", only if you constrain the choices to nuclear power. Which is basically what the Liberals did. Oh well.

...adding, this means AECL will get the contract for the reactors themselves. Bank on it. This:
The manufacturer of the new reactors will not be selected until the end of this year. Three companies are competing for the business: Crown-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., French-based Areva SA and Westinghouse Electric Co.


While the first shovels will not go in the ground until 2012, already there are questions about cost overruns.

Mr. Phillips declined to say whether the government will have to revise its estimate of $26-billion for its entire nuclear project. But he said he expects all three vendors to “sharpen their pencils” and aggressively pursue the business.
Is pure smokescreen. AECL will get the contract, AECL (in all likelihood) knows they will get the contract, and any cost promises they make now won't be worth the paper they're printed on.

By the time McGuinty needs to run for re-election in 2012, the cost estimates will have at least doubled. Bank on that, too.

Friday, June 13, 2008

What [a different] John said

Here’s a quick test on whether Obama should be considered fully black: Poof! Barack Obama has been magically transported to a KKK meeting in deepest, whitest Klanistan without his Secret Service detail. There’s a rope and a tree nearby. What happens to Obama? If you say, “why, Barack Obama walks out of there alive, of course” then sure, he’s biracial. Also, you’re a fucking idiot. To everybody who cares about Obama’s racial identity, either positively or negatively, the man is a black man, married to a black woman, who has black children. Black black black black black black black black.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I vow to thee my country

Every time I see the ad for "Young People Fucking" I feel a swell of pride for my country.

Not only can a film like this be made in Canada, not only will it be shown in Canadian theatres, but the governments of Ontario and Canada helped fund it.
Try to imagine the US Congress allowing funds to be spent on a film that portrayed non-marital sex between consenting adults as normal, and even enjoyable behaviour.

That's right, you can't.

Funny thing: I was at a theater seeing another movie while a screening of YPF was showing, and it appears the theater staff have been forbidden from actually speaking the name of the film when telling patrons what is playing. When I asked what the screening was, the poor till-jockey literally held up a piece of paper with the title on it, rather than vocalize the dirty word.

So, Canadians: go to your nearest theatres tomorrow and demand, in loud and clear voices, to see Young People Fucking! Stick it to management -- always a good principle, and pretty much required in this case!

I'd like to hear more about that...

And as Lars Osberg pointed out at the recent PEF session on carbon pricing, the expansion of consumption by the richest is largely responsible for Canada’s horrible emissions record (the bottom 80%, in Lars’ estimation, have met their Kyoto commitments due to stagnant incomes and improvements in energy efficiency).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Can we bomb their broadcast towers yet?

Michelle Obama: Barack's "baby mama".

Thanks, Fox News.

Maybe someday they'll built permanent bases in reality

There are any number of things that are pathetic about this story:
BAGHDAD - A proposed U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that would set the conditions for a defense alliance and long-term U.S. troop presence appears increasingly in trouble, facing growing resistance from the Iraqi government, bipartisan opposition in Congress and strong questioning from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Pathetic, in no particular order:
  • The Bush Administration still thinks it can salvage something -- permanent occupation, no less -- from the wreckage of their past.
  • American legislators, including the current Democratic nominee for the Presidency, need to remind the White House squatter that agreements with foreign governments need to be ratified by the Senate.
  • The White House seems to not care about #2.
  • Therefore, if the Iraqi occupation is finally undone, it will be because of the strength of Iraqi democratic institutions, not the sclerotic American ones.
Sad, sad, sad.

And, in case you didn't think this was all bad enough, the US is literally holding billions of dollars of Iraqi money hostage unless the Iraqi Parliament prostrates itself before Rome. Unconscionable.

Those of us -- including Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts -- who were saying since 2004 that the Bush Administration was attempting to build permanent bases in Iraq and institute a permanent occupation without democratic consent can claim to be right all along, but at this point we've racked up enough karma. I want these people gone, driven from the halls of power and whipped through the streets of Washington D.C. at mid-day.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Question of the Day

Barack Obama Sr. (the Senator's father) was a Kenyan born in 1936, when Kenya was still a British colony.

When was the last time the United States had a President who was that close to the British colonial experience? That is, when was the last time a President was only one generation removed from direct British rule?

Some quick Wikipedia-ing suggest Lincoln or Andrew Johnson.

Also, kind of an inside joke among my friends: Obama Sr. was a political opponent of Jomo Kenyatta. A clash with African strongmen is not generally a career-enhancing move, nor was it for Obama Sr.

Peanut farmer

John McCain: still finding relevant, contemporary differences between himself and his Democratic challenger:
“Senator Obama says that I’m running for a Bush’s third term," McCain said, picking up the central Democratic line of attack. "Seems to me he’s running for Jimmy Carter’s second.”
I was born less than one month after Jimmy Carter left office. I have no strong memory of the Reagan Administration, and only hazy memories of Bush I (entirely due to the Gulf War.) If there's a surge in youth voting this year -- as seems likely -- it's all but certain that the majority of voters in 2008 will have been born after the Carter Administration, and have similarly hazy ideas of the pre-Clinton past.

Still, the Simpsons taught my generation that Carter was history's greatest monster, so maybe this will have some resonance.

The "sticking it to Goldwater" doctrine

So it's a week old, meaning I'm way behind the times, but I really want to emphasize this poll (PDF) from Public Agenda (via) showing that 80% of Americans want something other than military action or threats thereof against Iran.

I mean, it's great news on its own, and many have rightly pointed out that it shows the American people aren't really willing to wage unending war against phantoms for zero gain, so hurrah. But it also reminded me of something I read last summer, something that it took me a while to find: From The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam:

In the fall [of 1963] the President had been scheduled to go on a tour of Western states that Mike Mansfield had promoted, a conservation tour in essence, where he would praise wide open spaces and high mountains and clean rivers. It was not a subject which particularly interested him... but Kennedy was glad to be leaving Washington. The trip did not start well. He made two poor appearances, and then in Billings, Montana, he was scheduled to give another boring speech, boring himself and the audience, and in the middle of it he mentioned the test-ban treaty, and as he did, the crowd responded with force and immediacy....

Kennedy, who was above all a good politician, whose ear was fine and always tuned, and who sensed his audience well, adjusted immediately and continued on the peace theme, accelerating the tempo and intensity, and the crowd responded....

From then on through the Far West, the trip was the same; he strayed more and more from conservation and into the test-ban treaty, and everywhere the crowds were very good, and very responsive. The last night he went to Salt Lake City, and the crowds along the route were the best yet, and when he entered the Mormon Tabernacle, allegedly the enemy camp, he received a five-minute standing ovation as he walked in. Here again, in what was alleged to be Birch country, Goldwater territory, he challenged the theses of the far right and talked of the problems of living in a complicated world. He had long suspected that the right in America was overrated as a political force, that there was an element of blackmail to its power, and now he was convinced that the country was going past old and rigid fears of the Communists, that it was probably ahead of Washington in its comprehension of the world and its willingness to accept it... He sensed that there was a deep longing for a sane peace and sane world....

The following evening both Tom Wicker and Sander Vanocur, the New York Times and NBC White House correspondents, respectively, sought out Press Secretary Pierre Salinger and suggested that the Western trip had uncovered a new and powerful issue. "Yes," said Salinger, "you're right. We've found that peace is an issue."

--Halberstam, p. 361 (Chapter

Just as Barack Obama's pledge to negotiate with rogue regimes seems to have come about by accident, Kennedy's revelation was totally unanticipated. But there was, and there remains a constituency in America for peace, or at the very least not shooting first. The Ledeen Doctrine's constituency consists of the comment threads at the Corner and LGF (but I repeat myself.)

If Americans were enthusiastic about trying to negotiate an end to the Cold War -- only a year after the Soviets had put missiles in Cuba! -- why shouldn't they be willing to negotiate from a position of much greater strength with Iran, North Korea, or any other country on Earth?

God hates the stupid

Monday, June 09, 2008

Dept. of easy calls

I don't know why this ever left the discussion, but Joe Romm points out something rather important at Gristmill: for all the big-big-big numbers thrown around when talking about mitigating climate change, it's worth noting the direct, calculable, brass-tacks benefits. For example, investing in fuel-efficient cars will reduce your gasoline bill.

If we can capture those kinds of efficiencies on a broader level – and there's every reason to think we can – then the costs of mitigating climate change basically pay for themselves. And neither I nor Romm are talking out of our asses here – the International Energy Agency, an OECD body charged with looking ahead on energy issues for the developed world, agrees with us.

Or, to put it the way David Roberts once did (can't find the link right now): if we push for a solution for climate change, we will almost by definition get energy security as a happy side effect. If we push for energy security alone, we are likely to doom the planet with coal-based gasoline. (Please, please, please no Vice-President Schweitzer!)

It's not really that tough a choice, and according to a growing consensus, it will probably save us money in the long run, especially if you think counting pollution as a cost instead of a benefit makes sense.

Why I'm not worried about November, vol. MXIX

Sen. Obama is 8 points ahead of McCain in Rasmussen's tracking poll.

To restate things, the black dude with the Arabic name is 8 points ahead of the white senior Senator war hero.


Update: And 6 points ahead in the Gallup tracker. Gallup had previously had him within 2 points of McCain. And in case you're wondering, the bulk of the movement has happened since Saturday.

All together now, Obama supporters:

Thank you, Senator Clinton.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Why I'm not worried about November, vol. MXVIII

John McCain has not faced a competitive election (defined as one where the margin of victory was less than 10%) since 1982. (I was born in 1981.) The closest example since then would be the GOP primaries of 2000, which he lost to the current President. Simply put, there's no reason to think of the man as a competent campaigner. (Being the Republican Senator from Arizona has job security that would make Teamsters cry foul.) Meanwhile, Barack Obama just pulled off one of the biggest campaign upsets in modern history, dethroning the closest thing the Democrats have to an incumbent Vice-President.

The candidate with the better military record hasn't won an election since... What, Bush 1988? Before that, Kennedy?

More than that, Barack Obama's campaign machine is good. Putting aside for the moment Obama's inspiration and ability to recruit new supporters (though I think these are crucial to the victory in November) his team is simply one of the best-run campaigns the Democrats have seen in decades. They'd have to be to accomplish what they have.

Not a single iota of the above is cause for complacency. It is, however, cause for hope. There's that word again.

You can watch Sen. Obama address his campaign staff in Chicago.

I especially like this quote from about 9:30:
If I'd lost Iowa, it would have been okay. One of the other Democrats would have emerged, and they would have carried the banner, and we would have joined their campaign, and we would have moved forward. And the country would move in a better direction. But now that we've won, we now have no choice. We have to win.
And then there's simply the fact that John McCain seems to be suffering from some of the same personality... attributes that caused so much pain for the Clinton camp.
Yet some McCain sympathizers are concerned about how their candidate is presenting himself.

"It lacked graciousness, lacked civility and it was small," one friend of McCain said in describing the candidate's attacks on Obama on the night the Democrat made history by becoming the first African-American to run as a major party's nominee.

McCain and his campaign are unhappy, this source suggested, at where they find themselves heading into the general election.

"They're mad at the situation and at a candidate who they correctly feel hasn't earned his place in history, much less the right to run for president."
Uh-huh. Sen. McCain, the last 6 months are on the phone. They wonder if you've learned anything. No? Take a message? You'll get back to them?

Okay then.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Bravo, Hillary

A fantastic speech -- complete with scattered boos at the mention of Obama's name, as can only be expected -- that has me in mind of one of the last lines from Casablanca.

As the three of them stand on the airport runway, Rick, Ilsa and Victor all basically agree to a palatable fairy tale about what's transpired in the last few days. None of them are happy -- at all, really -- but the problems of three little people etc, etc. They concoct a fiction that they can all live with, and they part ways to continue the vastly larger fight ahead of them.

At the end of it, Victor shakes Rick's hand and says, "Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win."

I've had that line stuck in my head for days.

Friday, June 06, 2008

More data

6 months after Barack Obama entered the primaries, Hillary Clinton had a, 84% approval rating among blacks, with only 10% unfavourable.

Today, it's 36% unfavourable.

Once again: if Hillary Clinton had managed to keep her losses among blacks to even 70-30, instead of 90-10, she'd probably be the nominee today.

Bill Clinton owes his wife more than he can ever possibly repay. Worse still, in his efforts to repay, he made things worse.

This is going to be more fun

John McCain, determined to keep his age out of public discussion, compares Barack Obama to William Jennings Bryant.

...a relevant comparison to the 20% of the population who were alive in the 1920s, maybe.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

General election: the first 48 hrs

First of all, hell yes I want these two to be the first couple. Much much more than I wanted Bill Clinton back in the White House. And here's a question: when was the last time a President had children in the White House as young as Malia and Sasha Obama?

Secondly, I'd like to relate a conversation I had a few weeks ago: a friend asked me a) if Obama would really win the nomination, and b) was I certain he would win the White House if he did. I answered affirmative to both. McCain and Obama had just started to hit each other over Obama's diplomacy, and the polls hadn't moved, so I began to explain why I thought the Republicans weak-ass shit wouldn't work this year, that Obama had found a way of appearing strong while rejecting the madness of the Clinton/McCain "no talkie" approach.

But If I had a time machine, I think I'd just go back and show him this clip of McCain, apparently doing his best to look like every child's nightmare image of the boogey man.

This election is going to be fun.

And not to get Sullivan-esque in my fawning, but this quote blew me away:
"The primaries showed that the U.S. is actually the nation we had believed it to be, a place that is open-minded enough to have a woman or an African American as its president," - Minoru Morita, a Tokyo political analyst.
"...the U.S. is actually the nation we had believed it to be..." Five, four, three years ago those words would have been acid, and could have been followed by approximately: "... the U.S. is actually the nation we had believed it to be, the biggest bully in the world, invading oil-rich countries to enrich a powerful few." Or, "the U.S. is actually the nation we had believed it to be, torturing people and humiliating them for its own sadistic impulses." Or, "the U.S. is actually the nation we had believed it to be, unwilling to make even modest cuts in its oil and coal consumption to avert climate disaster."

And until January, all those things are still true. But for today, redemption.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Denver! Denver!

Well, in a primary season where I think I've gotten every possible prediction wrong, it's nice to know that I got the last prediction right: Clinton is dropping out Saturday, and it's because her own closest supporters basically told her the gig was up.

Which puts me in mind of a Winston Churchill quote:
The late M. Venizelos observed that in all her wars England -- he should have said Britain, of course -- always wins one battle: the last.
See, so if you disagree with me you love Hitler.

Seriously, I was sick of the primaries weeks ago.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Funny story

I've had to work every Tuesday night for the last five months or so. Almost without fail, I've missed every important primary. Apparently, something rather important happened tonight, but I missed it, as I've missed every single important event of this primary season, with the exception of Barack Obama's speech in Philadelphia about Rev. Wright.

I've been working 16-hour days for three days now, and I've got one more ahead of me before I'm over the hump, so rather than write at length on the blessed and praised end of the primaries, I'm going to bed.

Congratulations to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, for three things: 1) You both ran amazing campaigns, 2) Obama, you've won, and 3) Clinton, you've probably speech-ed yourself out of the VP slot, if it was ever even a possibility.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Inappropriate metaphor Olympics

Oh dear God. Some Clinton supporters are actually arguing that the decisions by the RBC on Saturday -- to allot each state half-votes because of their illegal primaries -- amounts to "worse than slavery". Because half a vote is less than 3/5 of a vote. And slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person. (Actually, there's such a thing as "punishment" for "breaking rules". Not that it's ever popular.)

There's so much, so deeply offensive about even writing that where other people can see it, that I didn't know where to start. An arcane procedural dispute totally internal to a political party is akin to a system that killed tens of millions, and reduced the survivors to things? The mind boggles at where to go on that.

Or, my mind boggles at where to go. My girlfriend, after I read that aloud to her, tried to one-up Clinton supporters: "This parking ticket is even worse than the time I had to stick a coathanger in my uterus for an abortion!"

Your own inappropriate similes in comments. Or tell me why I'm an awful person.

Unforgiving, unforgiven

I'm starting to feel bad for Hillary Clinton's supporters. Not because they're losing, but because they're being lied to. By Hillary Clinton. And they don't even realize it. When I see reactions like this from Hillary supporters, my heart goes out to them. I don't understand or feel your anger, but I don't doubt it's real. But anger is a step on the way to acceptance, not a substitute for it.

Let's be clear: Hillary Clinton isn't going to take her challenges to Denver. If she tries, she'll be stopped by the party. The only thing that going to Denver would accomplish would be to make Clinton's humiliation more final, and more public. (And if you don't think it can get more public than this, wait and see what it's like when the entire party has to publicly repudiate her.) Look at the results from the RBC yesterday for what the facts of the matter are: on a committee where Clinton supporter held a plurality of votes, the Obama campaign's preferred position almost won outright. CNN and other outlets are reporting that the Obama campaign actually had to push the committee to accept the outcome it did, rather than simply allocating the delegates 50/50. The party is dissolving away from the Clintons, due in large part to two factors: 1) They never much liked the Clintons anyway, and 2) their conduct in this election has been disruptive to the very process of the party, and no institution takes shit like that sitting down.

So yes, this is almost over. But Hillary is trying to keep the money spigot open, and trying to keep her supporters energized until at least... Wednesday. In fact, I doubt even Harold Ickes knows the truth: that Clinton is dropping out of the race, and before the end of June. (I'd wager before the 20th.) The Clintons have a long, long history of lying to their closest advisors about their plans. Does nobody else remember the stories about high-level White House staffers being shocked -- actually shocked -- when President Clinton admitted his affair with Lewinsky?

Make no mistake -- it's been a bad weekend for Sen. Clinton. She got slapped down by the RBC, which refused to recognize Michigan as a legitimate primary, and turnout in Puerto Rico was way too low to justify any claim to have taken the popular vote. (Don't be fooled -- the dodgy math of the Clinton campaign hasn't changed. You have to discount hundreds of thousands of Obama votes to manufacture Clinton's 'lead'.) What's aggravating me about so much of the denoument of this campaign is how much of the narrative has been captured by the accusations of sexism, racism, arcane party disputes, etc.

Lost in all this is that Clinton has run an objectively weaker campaign. To put it bluntly, if demographics were all, and Clinton had a lock on women the way Obama has a lock on blacks, Clinton would be the nominee. If Clinton had managed to lose blacks by only 65-35, instead of 90-10, she'd be the nominee. If she'd managed to swallow her pride and make an early apology for her support for the Iraq war, she'd be the nominee. And if she'd managed to make the argument that she was better qualified without sounding ridiculous (yes, sniper fire moved votes) she'd be the nominee.

This was a close fight, and any number of things could have won Clinton the nomination. But they haven't. She's lost. It's all over but the shoutin'. Unless, of course, you actually believe the Clinton campaign, in which case you'll feel doubly hurt -- and betrayed? -- when your candidate drops out, after assuring you that she was staying in until the convention. No doubt some will find a way to blame Obama for that, too, just as some blame Newt Gingrich for putting Bill Clinton's dick in Lewinsky's mouth. Which is what brings me to this Vanity Fair article. In part, it's a very poor article -- a great deal of innuendo about Clinton's sex life post-White House -- but two things really stuck out. When the author tried to get Clinton's people to comment on rumours of Clinton's continuing infidelity, they got this back:
“The ills of the Democratic Party can be seen perfectly in the willingness of fellow Democrats to say bad things about President Clinton. If you ask any Republican about Reagan they will say he still makes the sun rise in the morning, but if you ask Democrats about their only two-term president in 80 years, a man who took the party from the wilderness of loserdom to the White House and created the strongest economy in American history, they’d rather be quoted saying what a reporter wants to hear than protect a strong brand for the party. Republicans look at this behavior and laugh at us.”
Oh Jesus that brings back memories. For all the talk about Obama's people being a cult, I think a lot of people, including some otherwise astute observers of politics, learned the wrong lessons about the Clinton years. At the end of the day, the lesson I learned was that, even if the Republicans never managed to catch Clinton on the shit they went digging for, there wasn't a lot that Bill Clinton wasn't willing to lie about. WMDs in Sudan? Lies. His zipper? Lies. His support for gay rights? Mostly lies.

But this is the Clinton math all over again -- all addition, no subtraction. If the country got dragged through the mud because of his infidelity, that was the GOP's fault, not his. If women's rights, workers rights, and gay rights got stomped on again and again, well that's all the fault of the GOP Congress. Oh, and lets not forget that in this retelling Gore's 2000 loss is due entirely to Ralph Nader and not Bill Clinton's record in Florida, either. The Clintons can do no wrong for some Democrats.

But then there was also this piece, which makes me think of Bill Clinton as something akin to Gerald Ford's attempt to get on the ticket in 1980:
“Look, the game has changed,” said Mike McCurry. “He ran his last national campaign in 1996, and remember, we kind of ran unopposed. It’s been a while since he did that, and the way you summon people up and get them to do things has changed. All of this stuff, the blogging and the YouTubing and the way in which everything is instantaneously available: I tell you, until you get out there and are actually dealing with the consequences—having what you just said as you were walking out the door [all over the Internet], that’s brand-new to him.”
Bill Clinton has been out of big-game politics for twelve years -- almost half my life. America's newest voters will almost certainly have little to no memory of the Clinton years -- the impeachment mess would have ended when they were 8. The Florida recount was going on while they were learning long division. He is, in short, a man of the past. Senator Clinton might -- might -- have been a woman of the present, but she didn't make it.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Oil pun here

With oil hitting $130, we're finally seeing people start to accept the reality that oil ain't gonna be cheap, ever again, folks. I was shocked this week as none other than the Wall Street Journal seemed to adopt many of the tenets of the peak oil perspective, for example noting that it's not just oil production that's flatlining: oil exporters are shipping less as their own domestic demand keeps going up. The problem isn't just that the Chinese and Indians are driving more -- the Saudis, Kuwaitis, and Qataris are as well.

Also worth noting is that LNG plants have stalled in America as the price of domestic natural gas has (unexpectedly) stayed low. Cheap natural gas is okay, but it's almost certainly evanscent -- we'll be caught with our pants down when US conventional gas production starts a rapid decline.

Probably most notable of all was the WSJ's story on the International Energy Agency finally admitting that the oil we expect to need simply won't be there. Usually the IEA and US DoE simply predict demand and assume the energy will be there. The IEA at least is finally admitting that we're at least 12 million barrels short by 2015. Oops.

But probably the most thought-provoking thing I've read all week has been Jeff Rubin's CIBC analysis (PDF) which declares that high oil prices have "effectively offset all the trade liberalization efforts of the last three decades." Basically, the cost of shipping a standard container from Shanghai to Los Angeles has more than doubled since 2000 due to fuel costs, and if/when oil gets to $200/barrel, the price will have quintupled relative to 2000. At $200/barrel the effective tariff rate on shipping products to the US is equivalent to rates prevalent before the Kennedy Administration.

This is great news for Canadian and Mexican manufacturers, I suppose, given the cheap transportation to the US. The real question is how high can US demand stay as oil climbs higher and higher -- and why isn't the Ontario government pushing to have more fuel-efficient cars built here?