Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's on, unless it isn't

All I'm saying, is in the near future either Keith Boag or John Ivison is going to look mighty silly.

If you follow the first link, via Mike in comments, the CBC is reporting that a deal has been reached and that the NDP will get a quarter of the seats in cabinet, but not finance or deputy PM. So... Foreign Affairs Minister Layton? If the Liberals keep the cabinet about the current size, Layton is looking at 9-10 Ministers.

Wild times. Also kind of funny, Dion reportedly believes he has the "right" to be Prime Minister. I bet somewhere Stephen Harper just gagged a bit.

All it takes is one

I've said before that I have some reservations about this coalition idea, but let me put those aside for a moment and speak purely of crass political concerns: for once in his life, Scott Reid may be right:
Owing to a ridiculously ill-considered act of hubris, [Harper] has laid himself vulnerable to his opponents. Their imperative could not be more clear: kill him. Kill him dead. Do not, whatever you do, provide him with an opportunity to extend his hold on power. Because you can be damn certain he will never again be so reckless as to give you a chance to finish him off.
This can't be said often enough -- Stephen Harper needs to be defeated, and in particular needs to be seen as having lost because of ideological hubris. That will be good for Canada, and even good for the Conservative party once they nurse their wounds.

The first step in nursing the wounds is to stop the bleeding, and that means the Conservatives have to dump Harper. Any poor sucker can lose his government because of a calamity. A number of leaders in human history can tell you, when famine, flood, or fire strikes the people quickly find ways of making their displeasure known. This, on the other hand, is a mistake of such enormity somewhere Joe Clark is thinking "damn, he makes me look gooood." It takes a world-class bungle to lose your government over a trifle, and that's what this will have been. Harper has been relatively smart as political leaders go, but you simply cannot allow a fuck-up like this to be unpunished. And I would encourage any Conservatives to strongly consider dumping Harper even if he retains the Prime Minister's Office after Dec. 8th. To have even brought the government close to falling over such petty matters is itself an indictment of Harper's ability to govern.

Paul Wells has some of the inside gossip from the Press Gallery Dinner, and I was in particular struck by this, which I take as very good news:
Some Liberals say the Bloc will not accept Michael Ignatieff as PM and that the Bloc insists on Dion, who will do less damage to their long-term chances. Some Liberals say the NDP will not accept Bob Rae as PM. I spoke to an NDP negotiator who said the party does not care who serves as PM. “The Liberal leader will be PM. The Liberals get to decide who their leader is.” The Bloc does not expect cabinet seats. I’ve heard one report that the Bloc is insisting on a French-only requirement for public-service employees in Quebec. This was news to a Bloquiste I quizzed. The NDP does expect cabinet seats; a deal like the 1985 accord in Ontario, which sealed NDP cooperation for a Liberal-only cabinet, is unacceptable to the NDP, who see this as a chance to groom a young generation of New Democrats who are used to the compromises and disciplines of actually governing.
Jack Layton's long-term project of making the NDP a party of government, not just a party of protest, is proceeding well. I say Prime Minister Dion and Finance Minister Goodale is a good start. If the point of this coalition is to give the country sane financial and economic management, putting a former Finance Minister back in office to get an effective budget out ASAP seems like a no-brainer to me. And the NDP and BQ have no business getting in the middle of the Liberal leadership race: let Dion sit until the leadership race is over.

But none of this will matter if someone defects. Already I'm seeing Liberals willing to make nice now that the most offensive parts of the fiscal update have been shelved. Aside from the fact that it would consitute a major defeat for the opposition to back down at this point -- forget what you've achieved, the story would be that Harper won the day by surviving -- this is about more than the details of the fiscal update. A supermajority of people voted for someone other than a Conservative MP, and it would be nice to have a government that represented most of the people of this country. Not that any of this matters to knuckleheads like Stephen Ledrew, who's on CTV saying that good Liberals are horrified at the thought of a coalition.

So: let's begin weak-kneed defection watch!

It gets more complicated...

Harper may prorogue the Parliament, according to Stephen Taylor. Except that he gets something, er, not quite right:
The opposition will cry foul, but it’s within the Prime Minister’s power.
Except that of course it's not the Prime Minister's power, but the Crown's exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister. Normally, this distinction doesn't matter. Today, it absolutely does.

Could the Governor General refuse to prorogue? It would pretty much give up the game is she did -- Harper would be done. At the very least, it seems like the GG could demand Harper show some proof that the prorogation would do any good, and not just add days to his government.

That said, I'm intrigued to see how quickly this has gotten away from the Tories. Harper wouldn't be thinking along these lines (and there's no guarantee he is now, obviously) unless the next week was looking bleak. Is there a parliamentary way for the opposition to force their motion on to the agenda, in opposition to the Prime Minister?

More intriguingly is that the knives seem to be coming out for Harper within his own party:
One senior Conservative said Harper had shot himself in the foot for ideological reasons — much as he did when he announced $45 million in arts funding cuts last summer, which cost his party seats in Quebec in the Oct. 14 federal election.

"These guys think it's campus politics, so they get too cute by half and then f--- everything up," he said.
"We're in the middle of an economic crisis and they pull a stunt like this?"
I assume everyone else believes, as I do, that if Harper loses this week that he's out as Conservative leader, right?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

More thoughts

Let me start off by saying that, despite my partisan preferences, I have some serious reservations about the idea of this coalition of parties deposing Harper. Not that I'll be sorry to see Harper go if he does, but this really is unprecedented in the Canadian small-c constitution. (Think conventions, not text.) Generally, I'm wary of things that can be accurately described as "unprecedented" when they have to do with our structure of government.

Basically, all three political parties ran on the implicit, and sometimes explicit idea that there would be no coalition. This isn't just a Tory talking point -- the voters endorsed a Parliament where the Tories would have a minority and the opposition were divided. None of us know what it would be like if Dion hadn't ruled out a coalition during the campaign.

All of that said, Harper really has no one to blame but himself. Attacking the public funding of political parties was nothing less than a declaration of war against the opposition. It follows that the opposition would react as strongly as possible, and it further follows that the opposition simply cannot trust the government from here on out.

But I think we're beyond the question of the public financing by now. This is pure speculation on my part, but I think the Liberals and NDP were both surprised to discover how willing each party was to form a coalition. This was the kind of thing that until about 9pm Thursday nobody was even talking about, that's how unlikely it was. Then suddenly by about noon yesterday it was practically a done deal. With power seemingly within their grasp, why would the left back down -- aside from the fact that we always do?

Well, there's one good reason: only an idiot would want to be responsible for the state of the economy right now. Not only is the coalition taking over at the beginning of a recession, they're explicitly claiming the mantle of financial responsibility. This seems to me worse than buying the rope to hang yourself with -- you're buying the rope at a premium.

Then there's the fact that this will be a really fragile coalition. What happens if some blue Liberals or Bloquistes defect? Admittedly there aren't too many of the former left, and I don't know how many of the latter there are, but it wouldn't take much to bring the coalition down.

So the next week is going to be a raging shitstorm of anger on the right, and probably some relative timidity on the left. And I don't blame the right for being angry -- it looks like they're going to lose power in an unprecedented fashion. But there's nothing illegal or unconstitutional about what's happening, and it wouldn't have come to this if their leader could have been even moderately less offensive and partisan in the middle of a crisis. This is the first time that I've thought the Harper-Bush comparison was really apt: Harper, like Bush/Rove, saw an opportunity to eviscerate his partisan opponents, policy or necessity be damned. And he went for it. The problem is he isn't a President, and the opposition is actually stronger than he is.

Which is why you don't do shit like this in Canada. Steve, this country took Mulroney and reduced the Tories to 2 seats in the Commons. You think we're gonna be really that upset to see the last of you? Before you answer, remember that more than 60% of the country voted for another dude or dudette.

One last point of seriousness: I am concerned that this is basically going to look like (fuck it, it's going to be) an Ontario/Quebec plot to keep Alberta from running things for too long. I have substantial policy differences with the current Conservatives, but given that Albertans are still bitching about the NEP, I suspect if this happens I'll be hearing it until I die...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Coalition update

According to CBC, Dion would stay as PM. This is starting to look very, very serious.

Also, just saw John Robson on Newsworld make an interesting argument: the 3 opposition parties share not only the majority of seats in Parliament, but significant common policy preferences. In this sense, Robson argued they have been abdicating their responsibility to the Parliament by refusing to use their majority status properly. Not sure I agree, but I thought it turned around the "legitimacy" question nicely.

Gonna be a long weekend. The countdown begins on how quickly Harper orders Flaherty to open the purse strings to the Bloc...

More interesting than the election, anyway

Well, isn't this eeeenteresting. No, really -- Canadian politics is momentarily interesting! There's apparently movement between the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc to form a coalition government that would spare Canadians from both a new election and a Conservative government. If it's official, it would be the first real coalition (as opposed to de facto) since World War I. (Broadbent's NDP held the balance of power in Trudeau's minority government, but never entered the cabinet.)

The Conservatives are yelling "anti-democratic" at their highest possible volume, and I'm not entirely unsympathetic. I think that we have to assume that voters are largely self-conscious and can read polls, and there were no real surprises in the last election: the Canadian people got, more or less, the Parliament they wanted.

That said, the government they got only earned 37.65% of the vote, meaning that more than 6 in 10 Canadian voters wanted someone else in power. It's not entirely clear that a coalition between the Liberals and NDP would be less legitimate, given that they'd have a combined 43% of the vote. The Bloc probably won't officially be in the government, but adding their share of the vote puts the de facto coalition's vote share at more than half, so tell me how exactly that would be undemocratic?

Then the next question is who would be PM -- CTV sez that the NDP and Bloc have both nicked Dion, so Iggy's getting the nod. If this actually occurs, that would effectively end the Liberal leadership race, wouldn't it? (The Globe says this isn't true, Layton is willing to work with Dion and says the rumour came from Ignatieff's camp!, which seems pretty low.)

It won't surprise anyone to learn that I would much prefer a Liberal-NDP coalition to the current government. I also think there's a strong argument to be made, outside of my own partisan preferences, that Canada's interests would be best served by having a government that was likely to be on better terms with the incoming US administration. Please, do recall that Harper's people kneecapped Obama in Pennsylvania -- Obama's not the grudge-keeping kind, but maybe it would be better to start off with a clean slate?

Aside from the political stuff, it's clear that Stephane "named my dog Kyoto" Dion is going to be more in sync with Obama than Harper "Tar sands emissions are a state secret" Harper.

Update: Given that she's literally the only MP in Alberta from either the NDP or Liberals, wouldn't Linda Duncan be pretty much guaranteed a cabinet spot? Minister of the environment, anyone? I suspect at the very least we could also expect Mulcair.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The start of something big

Now this is what I'm talking about: Matthew Simmons wants to build a 5-Gw wind farm using massive, far-offshore turbines that haven't exactly, uh, been designed or built yet.
Because the winds are strongest several miles offshore, the turbines would be mostly out of sight of land, built on floating platforms anchored some 12 to 20 miles off the coast in waters 100 to 200 meters, or 330 feet to 660 feet, deep.

That should pose no problem. "The oil industry has been using floating platforms for 20 to 30 years," Dagher said. Two main designs exist - the tension-leg platform and the spar buoy. The platform has horizontal "legs" attached to a buoyant central structure and secured by tensioned cables to gravity anchors - essentially heavy weights - on the ocean floor. "The tension, fighting against the buoyancy of the platform on top, keeps it stable even in storms or heavy waves," Hart said.

A spar buoy "looks like a large pencil floating in the water, point down toward the ocean floor," Hart said. Up to 300 feet long, and mostly submerged, the underwater section acts like a ship's keel to stabilize the structure, which is anchored with mooring lines only "because you don't want it waltzing around the ocean," he said.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Too good for me to ignore

But too old for me to claim to have seen it first -- IOZ on the wankers of the right who plan to protest the election of a moderate conservative (by global standards) to the White House:
Reynold's army of John Galts (pray: come, let us snicker together), a gang of pencil-neck Sharper-Image shoppers with dreams of mountain redoubts and rough sex with heiresses, petulantly proclaim that they will . . . well, they do not seem to be proclaiming that they will stop the engine of the world. Rather, they will consider slowing it marginally, like union slugs caging an extra five minutes on every smoke break in order to stick it to Management. The irony. Oh.


My favorite correspondent over at Reynolds' is the doctor who swears he will stop curing the ill if Obama is elected. He and his family will go out into the woods and live like wild dogs, foraging for food and hunting in packs, rather than allow that Socialist Obama to, uh, lower their standard of living.


Andrew Sullivan titles a post "Did we save lives after all?" Dear God in heaven, we're still talking about this?

Okay, Posner's argument goes like this: the sanctions regime pre-war had killed, and was killing, lots of children and adults in Iraq, and if you take a ridiculously low estimate of the war casualties (the IBC is not credible, in any way whatsoever) the sanctions would have killed more people, left in place status quo, than the war has. And don't think about lifting the sanctions -- that just means that Saddam will invade Kuwait again!

Get it? The only two options were for us to maintain a horrible, bloody and bloody-minded policy that was killing tens of thousands of innocent people, or invade and kill tens of thousands of innocent people in much more destructive ways.

It's 2003 all over again: the same bad-faith stupidity on the part of war advocates. I would have loved to believe that they weren't dumb enough to fall for the same tricks twice, but apparently Andy is still that gullible. Fuck.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

DVD sales soften

Per the NYT, it looks like maybe the Blu-ray isn't going to save Hollywood after all. Note that the story here isn't that BR sales are so small -- it's still too early to tell on that score -- but that DVD sales have started to plateau. This is only natural, as people have probably reached the saturation point on their DVD libraries. (I know I've got most of the movies that I want.)

I've been saying for some time that I thought hi-def video was going to go a lot worse than Sony and other companies wanted, for the simple reason that it's hard to convince someone that they need HD when DVD is plenty good enough for most people.

Consider that there hasn't really been a successful digital-to-digital media transition orchestrated by Big Content. Analog-to-digital, sure. But the transition from CDs to MP3s was driven by consumers in spite of Big Content, which practically left fingernail marks in the floor.

Anybody want to bet that the movie companies are any smarter than the music companies? Before you answer, remember that in many cases they're the same god damn company.

I wrote this more than two years ago:
Consumers have adopted MP3s, and this is crucial, even though MP3s are lower-fidelity. This is the same reason TV piracy isn't going to go away - people will download episodes (whole seasons, even) of TV, even though the fidelity is crap sometimes, because it's easier and more convenient.
I've seen nothing that makes me change my mind. Piracy of TV and movies is going to keep going, and people will buy $1000-screens and then pipe the video equivalent of a dog's breakfast on it. Why? Because we can, that's why.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hillary to SecState


Dunno what I think about this, really. Sen. Clinton will, I think, probably end up being a solid team player, and I certainly prefer her to some of the other names that were offered.

That said, I can't shake a feeling that this is problematic somehow. Clinton ran hard against Obama in part on the difference over negotiations with countries like Iran, and now she's going to have to execute the very policies she said were naive, etc. It's not just cosmetic: if Clinton believed they were bad policy ideas -- and I think that was sincere -- then what does she do when the President asks her to go meet with Manouchehr Mottaki?

Also, word has it that Bill Richardson is going to Commerce, which some are seeing as a consolation prize but I think actually suits Richardson well.

I missed something

Something important: Kevin Werbach has been named co-head of Obama's FCC transition team. THIS IS IMPORTANT, STAY IN YOUR SEATS. Werbach is probably one of the most interesting thinkers on wireless issues in America today, and a staunch ally of Net Neutrality folks everywhere.

If you've got the time, I would strongly, strongly recommend reading his 2003 paper, "Radio Revolution" for an idea of what a progressive, technologically-literate communications policy would look like.

I'd been waiting for some signs that Obama was taking technology as seriously as he'd indicated in the primaries, and this makes me very, very happy.

Also, Werbach is a WoW player, so he can't possibly be evil.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Narrowly avoided

Josh Marshall:
I don't want to draw over-broad interpretations. But historically, the rising incidence of piracy has frequently, if not always, been a sign of the receding reach of whatever great power has taken on responsibility for policing the sea lanes. The decline of the Hellenistic monarchies in the Mediterranean before the rise of Rome. Caribbean piracy during Spain's long slide into decrepitude and before England decided she lost more than she gained from it. There are many examples. I note too that the Russians just announced that they're sending a few more warships to try to get things under control off the coast of East Africa.
The EU is sending an armada as well. Man, there's so much to talk about with this kind of issue. Do I blog about how the combined forces of the industrialized world don't have the necessary assets to put down piracy off the coast of east Africa? Do I blog about how this is a good example of why it's probably a bad idea to go around creating failed states in places like this? Or do we talk about the possible signal of the EU finally emerging as a global military actor in it's own right?

Well, lucky for you I don't have the time to write about any of those things so you're spared a few hundred words of my prose. Ha-ha!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The absurdity of DRM, cont.

Bought 2 DVDs yesterday, WALL-E and Tropic Thunder. Annoyance ensued the moment I put WALL-E in my computer's DVD drive.

You see, I refuse to play most commercial DVDs straight off the disc. They come with way too many ads, warnings, and other cruft before I can get to the actual movie that I almost always rip the movie to my hard drive and play it off that instead. (Our computer being wired to the big screen TV helps.) Disney is one of the worst offenders for this, yet still I buy their movies when they're good enough.

So I put WALL-E in the drive and tried to start ripping it with DVD-Decrypter, but no dice. Almost 10 years since DeCSS made DVDs a de facto open format, Disney has decided to crap up their DVDs with yet another layer of copyright protection. So -- 10 minutes of googling and downloading free software later -- I had to circumvent the copyright protection, but do it in a modestly different way. This, apparently, is what Disney calls victory -- a 10-minute incremental increase in the time it takes me to liberate their content.

Tropic Thunder had no extra DRM on it, allowing me to use my normal software.

I truly don't understand all this work. Whatever it cost Disney to implement this new layer of DRM, it cost me less to defeat it. I bought their DVD legally and legitimately, and without distributing it to anyone else I would simply like to cut out a lot of the bullshit that Disney seems to think I must be subjected to in order to watch their beautiful and haunting film. The people at Dreamworks are not similarly bothered by the possibility that I might want to watch a movie in whatever way I choose once I buy it.

But what I've described above is already illegal in the US, and in all likelihood will be soon in Canada. Such a bizarre world we live in.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why Lieberman won

Because the one thing that continues to unite the Democratic Party is the dread fear of the Dirty Fucking Hippies. Witness:
Asked what it would mean if Lieberman kept his chairmanship, one Senate Democratic aide said bluntly: "The left has been foiled again. They can rant and rage but they still do not put the fear into folks to actually change their votes. Their influence would be in question."
Uh-huh. How soon before DailyKos starts a donations boycott list? As in, not a fucking cent goes to the 41 Senators who voted to give Lieberman not so much as a slap on the wrist? How soon before ActBlue and the other activist sites do the same? How many primary challengers do you think they'll find in 2012 and 2016?

The Web has been transformative for US politics not just because of the amount of money it's raised, but because it's cheap money (phone banks and door-knockers are expensive.) And this Senate aide has just shit in the money pot. Good work, Dems.

Oh, and this sentiment -- that the party must be protected from accountability or substantial change -- is why I think Ignatieff will probably win the Liberal leadership race this time around. The Canadian Liberals are, if anything, even more phobic on these issues than Senate Democrats.

Friday, November 14, 2008


via TPM, an auto industry collapse could cost the US govt. as much as $200 billion in unemployment benefits and ancilliary costs. So a bailout seems like the prudent path.

See, I'm not unreasonable....

My wish is the Internet's command

Jon Cohn makes the argument for a bailout of GM. He makes a stronger case than I would have expected. In particular, there's this part suggesting that Detroit is on the right track, contrary to my opinions:
But what's missing in the tsk-tsk editorials is any recognition that the culture of Detroit has been changing, however belatedly, starting with its labor relations. Ford led the way years ago by reaching site-specific "competitive operating agreements" with locals at different plants, rather than sticking to one national agreement, thereby enabling it loosen work rules and engage in the sort of collaborative quality management on which industry leader Toyota made its reputation. Then, last year, the UAW reached a breakthrough agreement in which it granted the companies similar flexibility, agreed to a two-tier wage structure for new hires, and set up a separate trust fund to finance future retiree health benefits. The companies would provide the initial money for this trust, but, henceforth, the unions would manage it--thereby taking off the companies' books a tremendous burden that had, on its own, accounted for about half the gap in compensation between unionized workers for the Big Three and non-unionized workers for foreign-owned automakers. "I think they've shown unprecedented ability to change and transform the union," says Kristin Dziczek, who directs CAR's Automotive Labor and Education program. "They understand what is at stake."
But make no mistake: any bailout of the Detroit 3 should be conditioned on a collective agreement with the government: public support by the 3 companies for a 50 mpg minimum by 2018, say, and 100 mpg minimum by 2030. Scrap the broken CAFE system, put these minimums in law, and then give Detroit the cash they need to keep breathing.

We'll never have a better opportunity to put these companies on 21st century track.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Holy hell

The EPA just stopped the construction of something like 100 coal plants in the US. Awesome.

I might actually have to stop being so pessimistic.

We can see you

Okay, enough complaining: this is the coolest news I've seen since Obama won.
For the first time, astronomers have taken a visual image of a multiple-planet solar system beyond our own.

Using the Gemini North telescope and the W. M. Keck Observatory on Hawaii's Mauna Kea, researchers observed in infrared light three planets orbiting around a star about 130 light-years away from Earth, called HR 8799. The discovery, published today in Science Express, is a step forward in the hunt for planets, and life, beyond Earth.

The alien system is supersized compared to our own: All three planets are gas giants, weighing roughly 10, 10 and 7 times the mass of Jupiter, circling a parent star 1.5 times the mass of our sun, and 5 times as bright. The giant bodies (two of which are pictured above) are orbiting at roughly 25, 40, and 70 times the distance between Earth and our sun. If there are Earth-sized planets present, they are too small to see with current technology.
What an age we live in.

Oh, and Canadian scientists FTW!

Something somebody will have to explain to me

GM is being bankrupted by two fundamental facts: high labour costs (primarily health care for current employees and retirees) and the to-my-mind far more salient fact that it makes shitty, shitty cars.

The US government, under Pres. Clinton in the 1990s, proposed two things that would have solved both of GM's problems: national health care and subsidies (through the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles) to develop more fuel-efficient cars. GM lobbied against health care and never developed the cars the Clinton administration gave them cash for. So even though we need no further evidence of this fact, it's clear that GM's management is totally unable to recognize what's in its own best interests. Now, having brayed "socialism" like every other corporate giant when the government offered them a hand, and having defrauded the public when the PNGV was closed down, I'm supposed to believe that a bailout from at least three separate governments (US, Canada, Ontario) is going to help matters?

What, pray tell, am I missing?

Regulation saved your money -- if you're Canadian

Good piece from Time, on the basic reason that Canada's banks are more sound than America's:
The average capital reserves for Canada's Big Six banks — defined as Tier 1 capital (common shares, retained earnings and non-cumulative preferred shares) to risk-adjusted assets — is 9.8%, several percentage points above the 7% required by Canada's federal bank regulator. That's a little better than major U.S. commercial banks like Bank of America, but significantly higher than an average capital ratio of about 4% for U.S. investment banks and 3.3% for European commercial banks.
So the capital reserve of Canada's banks is required by law to be more than twice as high as Europe's are, and in practice is almost three times as high. Also, Canada's investment dealers are subject to the same strict regulation that banks are. Not that the banks are grateful for this security -- they spent the better part of the last decade whining about over-regulation. It would be nice to get a thank you, is all I'm saying.

Shallow thought

If, after everything he's already done (much less what a reasonable person could expect him to keep doing) the Democrats keep Joe Lieberman in the chair of the HSGA committee, they are going to regret it.

Seriously, try removing Lieberman after he starts making trouble for the new President instead of doing it now. Just wait and see how that looks to the press.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

IEO World Energy Outlook released

...and if they were honest, they'd have titled the thing "expletive deleted". But, being close to massive global energy companies has never done anybody's honesty any good. The Oil Drum has the basic rundown. As for how plausible the projections are, I'd commend to you this paragraph from TOD's analysis:
Under the reference scenario, production reaches 104 mb/d in 2030, requiring 64 mb/d of gross capacity additions –(six times the current capacity of Saudi Arabia) –to meet demand growth & counter decline. Historically, the 1960's was the decade with the largest capacity addition, with about 30 Mb/d added during that 10 year period. So, the IEA Reference Scenario assumes we need to do as well as the best decade ever over the next 22 years.
This is lunacy. All of the cheap, easy oil is either gone or going soon. Anybody who thinks we can do as well at increasing oil production as we did in the 1960s -- when we were doing things like bringing the Saudi and Kuwaiti super-giant fields in to full production -- is insane. Unfortunately, we seem to have a global energy market where insanity has a seat at the table.

The global economy needs massive amounts of new capacity to meet existing demand, given existing declines in the older, large fields we get most of our oil from. The IEA has in the past responded to this fact -- which they acknowledge -- by a bit of hand-waving and the assumption that supplies will be procured to meet demand. Today, they released a report which... basically did more of the same, but sounded really worried about it. Sure, they say the economy needs trillions of new dollars for energy investment. But they're still assuming massive amounts of undiscovered oil exist out there, quietly waiting for homo sapiens to liberate them from the deep. Don't believe me -- take a look:

That's from the WEO report, and you can see the slice that comprises "fields yet to be found". I also think that the "fields yet to be developed" should be taken with a huge dose of salt, but that's just me.

Bottom line is that the IEA is at least starting to ring the alarm bells on oil production -- though arguably about a decade too late to recognize the problem. It's also worth pointing out that the IEA (and the national-level agencies that it relies on) has a really poor record on estimates of oil production, always being proven too optimistic by reality.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This can't possibly be true

All right-thinking economists tell me it's not:
The Limits to Growth modelled scenarios for the future global economy and environment and recommended far reaching changes to the way we live to avoid disaster.

In a paper published in the current edition of the international journal; Global Environmental Change, CSIRO physicist Dr. Graham Turner compares forecasts from the book with global data from the past 30 years.

"The real-world data basically supports The Limits to Growth model," he says. "It shows that for the first 30 years of the model, the world has been tracking along the unsustainable trajectory of the book’s business-as-usual scenario."
If you have access to the paper, I'd reccomend reading it -- pretty accessible, and it's all bad news. The only place where the predictions of LTG really fall down is in their predictions of "services per capita", but at least part of that is the proxy metric that Graham uses, electricity and literacy rates. The result is that the estimates of LTG were overly-optimistic, or to put it another way the one substantial point of disagreement with the LTG model is because we suck even worse than the Meadows' and Randers predicted in the 1970s.

And yet, you'll hear over and over and over that LTG was wrong. You'll hear this because our stupid discourse is run by the mentally deficient.

FYI -- the original LTG standard run showed a collapse of global population starting around 2050.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Best. President. Ever.

The President-elect at his first press conference, speaking about the future first pooch:
Malia is allergic, so we're looking for a hypoallergenic breed. Our preference is to get a shelter dog, but the problem is that most shelter dogs are mutts like me.

Something that'll never get old

Watching the news call him "President-elect Obama".

Correction: It'll get old January 20th.

There's always time for pettiness

Joe Lieberman sez that if he's stripped of his chairmanship, he'll bolt to the Republicans.

This is a threat? Senator, the rest of us call that truth in advertising. Let the GOP make room for him, if they can -- hardly a foregone conclusion, btw. Which GOP senator is going to give up their seniority so that Lieberman can be sandwiched in somewhere? Is Lieberman willing to ditch the Democrats (who are still willing to let him keep his seniority privileges, sans committee chair) in order to be the least senior GOP Senator?

Look, if Lieberman had merely tried to support his friend and colleague John McCain without calling Obama a terrorist-sympathising defeatist who could destroy America, he might not be in this spot. But he said all those things, people recorded and heard them, and now he can't un-shit his bed. So no, Senator, you don't get to keep your chairmanship.

But if Joe thinks this is bad, just wait until 2012 when President Obama swings through his state during primary season...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Because they could

Newsweek has a spectacular issue on the 2008 campaign, and it's chock full of details. One, in particular, needs to be dwelled upon:
The Obama campaign was provided with reports from the Secret Service showing a sharp and disturbing increase in threats to Obama in September and early October, at the same time that many crowds at Palin rallies became more frenzied. Michelle Obama was shaken by the vituperative crowds and the hot rhetoric from the GOP candidates. "Why would they try to make people hate us?" Michelle asked a top campaign aide.
It's the Secret Service's job to deal with Presidential protection, so if they're calling something "sharp and disturbing" (and it's not clear they are, that might be the reporter's voice) then the GOP need to clean out the Augean stables that are their base.

But as for Mrs. Obama's question: because they knew that even if the worst happened, they'd never face any serious penalty for doing so. McCain is a close personal friend of G. Gordon Liddy, so he knows what the rules are: GOP thuggery is never, ever punished.

Did you notice the contrast during their speeches on election night? When Barack Obama was mentioned by John McCain, the crowed howled (and don't think there weren't some ugly things said beyond the range of the mics). When Obama mentioned McCain, the crowed cheered.

Yes, it's easy to be magnanimous in victory, but McCain's late efforts to calm his supporters are too little and too late. Something awful was unleashed in this election, and it's unknown whether or not it can possibly be contained.

In case you hadn't noticed, there are certain things for which I'm not ready to kiss and make up.

Speaking of reconciliation, we know for a mathematical certainty that the GOP will spend the next 4 years complaining about liberal bias in the media. But consider that the worst thing the media did to John McCain this cycle wasn't calling him a liar, wasn't daring to interview his VP with actual questions, and wasn't even those snap polls that prevented GOP spinmeisters from calling the debates in his favour.

No, the worst thing the media did for John McCain was convince him, apparently, that a large number of female voters could be bought by naming a female VP. Chet does the math, and if anything I think it overstates the strength of the so-called PUMAs.

Between chasing the mythical PUMA and the Pennsylvania gambit, I think we can see that the United States avoided serious turmoil for the next 4 years by choosing not to elect John McCain as President. If nothing else, those two example of his leadership style show him to be reckless, uninformed, and unwise. (Especially that last one.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

That's not funny at all

The fiancée doesn't think that's humorous in the slightest.

I read the news today, oh boy


Any bets on what the headlines are this morning? I mean, apparently John Manley announced he won't be running for the Liberal leadership. That's worth a banner, right?

What's next?


I'm sure it will hit me later -- probably sometime inappropriate -- but for now, all I want to know is what's next?

Oh John, you say, isn't it enough that a black dude with an Arabic name is the President-elect?

Well. Maybe.

Gnight everybody.

Yes, we did.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Victory, maybe

Sure, Obama's been elected President of the United States with at least 330 electoral votes.

But can he win?

(yes, I'm mocking the nervous nellies of the Democratic Party.)

21 months, 24 hours

It's 12:30am on election day, and by this time tomorrow America will have its first African-American President-elect. I think it's safe to say that most people alive today didn't think they'd be alive to see it.

I've said before that I took my time in warming to Obama. I was incredibly impressed by his 2004 speech to the DNC, but never really warmed to his policy proposals until much later. I, lamentably, thought Edwards was the superior pick early in the primaries. Again, it is to the credit and great benefit of the Union that I don't decide these things.

Since Edwards dropped out of the race, I decided to support Barack Obama for President largely out of spite -- I'd never been Bill Clinton's biggest fan, and was happy to see a strong challenger even though I assumed Hillary would win in the end. My enthusiasm grew as I saw Obama build something dramatically larger and more powerful than the usual Quixotic campaigns to unseat a party favorite.

The campaign proceeded to get ugly -- indeed, it's struck me in the last month that the primary seemed much uglier than the general -- and through it all the Obama campaign remained unstoppable, calmly collecting more dollars, more votes, and more delegates, until they won the contest.

And today they're poised to do it again.

Apparently, the town of Dixville Notch, NH, has already voted and they've voted for a Democrat for the first time since 1968 (and only the second time ever) which I'm taking as a good sign. Most of my coworkers are nervous after the trauma of the Bush years, but I'm going to go to bed and wake up early, and probably spend most of the day glued to CNN and RSS in equal measure. I will do this because I have a profound mental illness that gives me no joy whatsoever. Worst. Fetish. Ever.

Happy thoughts, everyone. Today is the beginning of the end of politics that have defined the world for the entirety of my (somewhat brief) adult life. Your disappointments with that sellout Obama can start on Nov. 5th. Today -- the next 23 hours and 10 minutes -- are for celebrating.

Monday, November 03, 2008


HONOLULU — Barack Obama's grandmother, whose personality and bearing shaped much of the life of the Democratic presidential contender, has died, Mr. Obama announced Monday, one day before the election. Madelyn Payne Dunham was 86.

Mr. Obama announced the news from the campaign trail in Charlotte, N.C. The joint statement with his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, said Ms. Dunham died peacefully late Sunday night after a battle with cancer.
Another 36 hours and she'd have lived to see her grandson elected.

So now he'll begin his life as President without any of his parents or grandparents. It's awful, but it almost sounds like it's supposed to be that way.

SNL does Olbermann

I know at least one of my friends doesn't like Olbermann that much, so this is for you:

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Surely, we're reaching a critical shortage of crazy...

This election must have used up all the crazy by now, right? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Chair of the American Nazi Party:
White people are faced with either a negro or a total nutter who happens to have a pale face. Personally I’d prefer the negro. National Socialists are not mindless haters. Here, I see a white man, who is almost dead, who declares he wants to fight endless wars around the globe to make the world safe for Judeo-capitalist exploitation, who supports the invasion of America by illegals--basically a continuation of the last eight years of Emperor Bush. Then, we have a black man, who loves his own kind, belongs to a Black-Nationalist religion, is married to a black women--when usually negroes who have 'made it' immediately land a white spouse as a kind of prize--that’s the kind of negro that I can respect. Any time that a prominent person embraces their racial heritage in a positive manner, it’s good for all racially minded folks.
UPDATE: Conversation with the fiancée:
Me: Okay, can I give you a quote from the American Nazi Party?

Vicki: Uh, okay...

[Get her up to speed...]

Vicki: Okay. I apparently walked out of our bathroom and in to bizarro world. I'm gonna go back in, turn the knob three times, and...

Me: Come back out in to a world where the American Nazi Party hasn't endorsed Barack Hussein Obama to be President of the United States of America?

Vicki: ...yeah.