Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Talk about a Sad Country, not just Silly

This is utterly sorry. Count on the CBC.
It contains narcissism of the sort that the most insecure narcissists have.

Beginning Monday, January 5, CBC Radio 2 invites Canadians to help select the top “49 songs from north of the 49th parallel” that would best define our country to the incoming U.S. President Barack Obama.
His playlist could definitely benefit from some Canadian content, especially given the depth of our musical offerings – spanning a wide variety of genres and representing our culture from coast to coast.

It also has a happy dose of major windbaggery:

“One of the best way [sic] to know Canada is through the depth and breadth of our artistic expression,” says Denise Donlon, Executive Director, CBC Radio. “We're excited about the new President and we want him to be excited about us, so we're asking our audience to help compile the list of our most definitive Canadian songs!”
I shake my head in dismay. What a lofty goal - getting some songs on Obama's iPod!
Radio 2 used to feature a lot of good programming. Now they have a small amount of good programming surrounded by a clown show.

As an aside, if you follow the links, and check out the comments, we are off to a very bad start. The comments seem more a way to show off than to make serious suggestions.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

John Hinderaker fisks AFP on Thatcher

The distortions are wonderfully predictable.

What's funny about the AFP's take on the newly-released documents, other than their triviality, is that the facts, as described by AFP, support a conclusion exactly opposite from the one the news agency draws: Britain's Labour government was petty and vindictive in trying to keep Mrs. Thatcher out of the limelight:

And history gave that Labour government just what it deserved for its slimy behaviour.

It is the Labour government, not Mrs. Thatcher, that comes off looking terrible in the documents as described by AFP; yet the "news" agency can see them only as an indictment of the Conservative Prime Minister: "Shrill, publicity-seeking, demanding a good hairdresser." Sad, but typical of the absurd level of liberal bias that we see in our newspapers every day.

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John Hinderaker fisks AFP on Gaza

Unfortunately, there is reason to do it.

While AFP's summary of "key events in 2008" is useless as a guide to what has happened in Gaza and Israel over the past year, it does accurately reflect AFP's woefully biased coverage of that part of the world: the Middle East according to AFP.

The graphs also put paid to the ridiculous claims various Palestinian "governments" have made regarding their inability to control rocket launchings, suicide bombings, and the like.

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This Ought to be Unbelievable

... but I fear I know a few people who would think it is funny.

In angry retaliation for the house arrest of Bernie Madoff, Israel has launched a hellacious air assault against Hamas in Gaza ...

As David Bernstein comments:
Get it? Madoff's a Jew! Israel is a Jewish country! Israel is retaliating for the arrest of Madoff! Ha, ha!

One would have thought that this sort of "humor" died out at a country club in Greenwich around 1958, but I guess not.

I am pleased to report that my last Vanity Fair purchase was many many years ago. And it will be the last ever.
h/y Instapundit

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Monday, December 29, 2008

The Flight of the Valkyrie

This seems a very odd way for Siemens to sell washing machines in Denmark but what do I know?

Link: Fleg Master Tlpizza

h/t TechCrunch, via Instapundit

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What he said.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

They seem not to want Boys in a proper School either

I guess it is not just educating women that is offensive to the charmers.

How depraved do they have to be to lose the love of the progressives, or, just as objectionable, the tolerance?

A single-file line of school children walked past a military checkpoint Sunday as a bomb-loaded truck veered toward them and exploded, ending the lives of 14 young Afghans in a heartbreaking flash captured by a U.S. military security camera.

The video shows an SUV slowly weaving through sand bag barriers at a military checkpoint just as a line of school children, most wearing white caps, comes into view. They walk along a pathway between the street and a wall, several of them pausing for a few seconds in a group before moving forward again. The vehicle moves toward the security camera while the children walk in the opposite direction, nearly passing the SUV when the footage ends in a fiery blast.

I take This Observation as Encouraging

As noted at Harry's Place.
"If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that,” Obama said at the time. “And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

As Gene observes in an update:
And while Obama was saying these things, there were people (among them some of our commenters) accusing him of being secretly hostile to Israel– which just goes to prove that the dopiness on this issue is not all on one side.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

And some Canadians support these Guys?

Ophelia notes one project of the charmers called the Taliban, and follows with even more. I am particularly impressed by the commitment to civil society.

You have until January 15 to stop sending your girls to schools. If you do not pay any heed to this warning, we will kill such girls," one official quoted the commander as saying. "We also warn schools not to enrol any female students; otherwise, their buildings will be blown up

The militants have also prohibited immunisation for children against polio – claiming that the UN-sponsored vaccination drive is aimed at causing sexual impotence – causing a sharp rise in cases of the disease.

This is of course made much easier for them by restrictions put on their troops by many of the NATO nations. And it appears that a substantial part of Canada's "left" believe that we should simply pack up and leave the place to the Taliban. The abandonment of key principles of the left in history should be a sad embarrassment. Of course, the NDP will say they want to "negotiate" with the Taliban. What exactly do they think there is to negotiate? It would seem rather like negotiating with John Gotti. I deeply hope we do not end up with the appalling planned coalition.
I do hope Barack Obama carries out his promise to beef up the effort in Afghanistan.
As Ophelia says, Allah the merciful indeed.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

BBC and Containers

The BBC has done a couple of nice reports on the revolution that was created by the brilliant and simple idea to use standardized containers as a unit of shipping. As part of the series of reports they have attached a GPS unit to one container full of whisky leaving Scotland. You can read about this and even track the box at this site.

Container shipping is a great example of creative destruction. It creates winners and losers, and tends not to be noticed unless the losers that have significant political influence focus effort, not on improving their own business model, but instead getting the rest of us, usually through their power over the gubmnt, to prop them up, or to inhibit the coming winners (a standard behaviour of rent-seekers). There is a gigantic example of this response in the news these days, with monstrous hand-wringing over American car firms. Meanwhile, all sorts of other creative destruction going on right now, are proceeding without too much suggestion of a response from the government.

One example is the press, which has tried to respond to the threat of the Internet partly by the transformation of their own companies, but partly also by rent-seeking behaviour, for example the suggestion that there be regulation of the "non-journalists" on the Internet. It will be interesting to see how these and other responses develop.

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Harold Pinter

I was going to post on this subject, but it is pretty hard to top Roger Simon's reflections so I will simply link to and quote from them.
But overwhelming much of this were his (to me) increasingly bizarre political views. Nevertheless, there was never a question in my mind that his Nobel Prize for Literature was deserved, although I cringed when he received it because I knew he would seize the opportunity to make ugly and propagandistic statements. Of course, I was right about that - you didn’t have to be Nostradamus.
His politics, I think, was mostly governed by chic, veering as he did to the left in the 1980s to be part of the typical London theater crowd (cf. Vanessa Redgrave). It’s not surprising really that his work was already declining at that point. I would imagine that he was tremendously frustrated by that decline. Pinter was a minimalist and it’s hard for minimalists to evolve without eradicating what they do. So he became something of a crotchety old political man, attacking Thatcher, Blair or whoever else he could blame. But does that invalidate his previous work? Not for me. Art is a larger tent than that.

A Christmas Carol for the Times


h/t Greg Mankiw

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Sophistication indeed

If this is sophistication, you can have it.
Photographs taken by a police forensic team after the hotel was sanitised yield a gruesome picture of some of the guests in the nude.

These bodies were found away from the hotel's swimming pool which makes it clear that they were not those guests who were taken hostage from the poolside.

"Even the Rabbi and his wife at Nariman House were sexually assaulted and their genitalia mutilated," said a senior officer of the investigating team, not wishing to be quoted.

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Squirrels and the Web

Through a good part of the fall, my squirrel feeding station was steadily visited by three black squirrels and two grey squirrels. To the degree that I paid attention it seemed that they were the same ones each time, and they seemed to know me, as they would look expectantly whenever they saw me even a few houses down the block (and I did check to see if they responded to everyone that way - they did not).

Now the station is visited by five black squirrels, or so it seems. The obvious explanation is that the grey squirrels now have black fur for the winter. SillyWife pointed out that some of the apparently black squirrels are not quite as black as the others, and this seem to possibly confirm this theory. But in all my searches on the Web trying to confirm this possibility, I have yet to find any reference to seasonal coat color changes in grey squirrels. For example the Wikipedia references to both forms refer to the black one as a "melanistic" form of the grey one, and mention albino and black forms of the grey, but make no references to the seasonal colour change. I did see one reference to two moults per year, which certain makes the change possible.

As a truly amateur amateur naturalist, I own a couple of field guides (see below) to North American wildlife, and both of these mention the possibility of greys being black in the winter.

So why the lacuna of information on the Web? Does it have to do with the restricted range of black-coloured squirrels.?

I guess, as far as Wikipedia goes, I can fix that myself, as I certainly have good citations.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Animal Post for Christmas - Sir Penguin

From last summer:

King penguins were the stars in Happy Feet ,and in case you are wondering, as far as conservation status, they are in the "Least Concern" category. And one of them became a Norwegian knight last week, at the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland.

That's right, king penguin Nils Olav was made a knight of the Norwegian King's Guard.

Merry Christmas

To all my readers.

Plus, a Christmas present, a free giggle, in this post at Language Log.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Steve Sailer on Mr Gladwell

What is telling is I do not have to give you the first name. (Disclaimer - there is some regrettable family history with his family).
But with Rondi and Steve Sailer, I am mystified why anyone would buy any of those books (I have not).
I shall quote some Sailer:
But, not surprisingly, Gladwell also embodies the chief shortcomings of contemporary journalism: a complete lack of realism and skepticism.
He has neither the intellectual capacity nor the moral character to question his sources rigorously. So he ends up just recasting their self-interested talking points in a more reader-friendly format.

The great thing about Gladwell is that he’s so lacking in critical thinking skills that he just blurts out the underlying assumptions of today’s conventional wisdom, stating its stupidities in their Platonic form. To Gladwell, the long, laborious, and expensive development of the computer isn’t a great accomplishment of Western civilization for which posterity should be grateful. No, it’s a civil rights issue. See, back in 1968, "our world" hadn’t "allowed" enough teenagers—especially not enough black and Mexican ones, to use state-of-the-art time-sharing computers.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Robert Wright is Funny Too - Non-Zero-Sum

I definitely believe in non-zero-sum.

I always enjoy the very odd but correct mutual thank-yous as I buy something. Both of us traders feel we are gaining and this is true!

TED invited him to present on his ideas, from books I have really enjoyed. But who expected this level of humour?

Dodo Obsession

I've said many times that one thing that makes the Web such a great resource is the obsessions of people now able to express them to the world. This is an utterly lovely example.

h/t Phil Plait
"Yeah, I know."
"Achieving the end of the exercise was never the point of the exercise, was it?"

Monday, December 22, 2008

Some Snappy Movie Reviews

Rondi has been busy and is sharing her efforts!

I agree with her 100% about Sophie Scholl, The Kite Runner, and Breach. All utterly fine movies. And also the thoroughly excellent and very sad Reservation Road, a true tour de force of acting - Joaquin Phoenix is just stunning, and Mark Ruffalo is what he always is, reliable.

But I utterly disagree about Breaking and Entering - it is true it has some of Minghella's usual portentousness, but it is no match for his standardly tedious efforts like the English Patient, or his ability to make even a Patricia Highsmith novel boring. The film actually has somewhat of a light touch and, quite unlike what Rondi says, every chance to be real. SillyWife and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And this amazed me, as it featured Jude Law! (I also loved him in Music from Another Room, though it was the Tilly who stole that movie.)

I will never know whether The Love Guru is as bad as she says but I sure trust her on that one.

Mon Oncle has long been one of my favorites,


I have long wondered what ZipCars were. Robin Chase tells me.

I am not sure I agree with her premisses but I think this is a great idea.

And yay - go for road pricing! Pigovian! The right thing to do. ASAP!

Regrettably, it seems she is wearing Crocs. Yuuccchhh.

Digging to America

What a book! I discovered it as I followed SillyWife on a grocery shopping expedition and I strayed into the cheap paperback section.

I am a third of the way through and I cannot recall anything half so satisfying in the last many years!

It is an utterly brilliant book about how we chafe against one another and learn to live together and even love one another. At so many levels. There is the intercultural, but there is also the intracultural, and even more so, the intrafamilial. And she does this, creating not a single character to dislike. Simply stunning. She also has no problem that cultural differences occur across groups long established geographically here.

I may join Norm's club of trying to read Anne Tyler on schedule.

I think this is the most profoundly American of her books; and what I mean by that is an immigrant society that sees itself as such. It is clearly marked by the fact that her late husband was Iranian, and utter intelligence and compassion flows through it.

The Great White North

This moniker has long been fun for us, especially when the McKenzie brothers were performing their act.

But Yahoo says we deserve it now and for the first time in ages!

Winter debuted Sunday with boisterous displays of heavy snow, powerful winds and numbing cold across the country. Forecasters are predicting Christmas will look much the same.

"I would dare say if you're in a satellite looking down on Canada, it would be white from coast to coast to coast and it would be frozen," said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

"There's no area that can say that winter hasn't really arrived."

Red warning labels stretched right across the government agency's weather map, showing snowfall warnings and arctic outflow in B.C. and flesh-freezing windchill warnings for the Prairies and northern Ontario.

There was more blustering snow through southern Ontario, and a series of winter storm warnings for Quebec and the Maritimes.

"Whatever we're under - this winter wave, this pre-winter hit - is not going to go away," Phillips said.

"We're going to see the vestiges of this cold and snow perhaps maybe until the end of the year.

Doc has already described some of the implications of this sort of weather.

I particularly appreciated this observation:

Overall, it was an intriguing exercise in information search: how much information can I find about the road conditions, and how reliable will the information be? What if the road conditions turned out to be worse than I expected based on the information I had gathered?

The weekend before last, I was in London contemplating the drive home, and it was stunning how useful the radar picture on the Weather Channel was. London itself was in the middle of a major snowstorm, but the radar showed that once I got to the main freeway from London to Toronto, I would be out of the snow quickly, descend into it for a short spell near Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, and then have clear sailing home. And it was exactly so!

(There are some major perversities concerning the placement of Lake Huron and the prevailing winds in Ontario that affect the geographical distribution of perfectly awful winter weather.)

I am a big fan of technology not just for the income it has brought me as an employee.

As for me, I am hoping to spend some time with parts of the family over the holidays to come, but as I have aged I have become less willing to run the risks of driving in winter weather. Especially as I use all-season radials, perhaps the topic of another post to come (not quite the Baptists and the Bootleggers but close).

Springy Legs and Split Ends

A great TED talk by Robert Full.

Grayling on Secularism

Once again via Ophelia, who was on a roll, a very nice summary of the comic religious response.

The churches answered criticism in the past with murder; if they still had the upper hand would they now restrict themselves to their critics' choice of weapon – words?

Secularism is the view that religious outlooks, though perfectly entitled to exist and have their say, are not entitled to a bigger slice of the public pie than any other self-constituted, self-appointed, self-selected and self-serving civil society organisation. Yet the religious persistently ask for special treatment: public money for their "faith-based" schools, seats in the House of Lords, exemption from laws inconvenient to their prejudices, and so endlessly on. They even have the cheek to ask for "respect" for their silly and antiquated beliefs; and in Geneva at the Human Rights Council the Islamic countries are trying to subvert the Universal Declaration of Human Rights because it is inconvenient to their medieval, sexist, intolerant outlook.

Respect, indeed, for these comic views.

Eyebrow amazement

How does she do that trick with her left eyebrow?

Lame Duck Stupidity

Once again, Ophelia gets it utterly right:

So no matter what damn fool thing you believe, you have the 'right' to deny medical services to anyone and everyone as long as you announce that it's a matter of your conscience. Worse than that, no matter what cruel unjust misogynist bigoted damn fool thing you believe, you have the same right.

Does it not occur to them that 'conscience' can cover a lot of territory and that not all of it is anodyne? Does it not occur to them that even they might find a real theocracy a little uncomfortable to live in?

An utterly fatuous invitation to doctors everywhere to refuse to do their jobs. I do hope they are more professional than that.

Could there ever be a better blog?!

Than this one?

More on Secularism

A truly fine post by Timothy Sandefur.
Great question:
Why did these deeply peaceful men do this?

And great answers.

They felt it their obligation to defend the values of individualism and freedom of the mind against an aggressive ideology of ignorance, dogma, compulsion, uniformity, and authoritarianism. If the representatives of that ideology obtained the bomb first, they would win the war, and science itself might literally be wiped from the face of the earth, to be replaced with something they were unafraid to call by the names of “savagery” and “barbarism.”

And today?

Today, the west is confronted by an ideology of dogma, chauvinism, nationalism, and brutality—an ideology whose practitioners brutalize women and children, commit unimaginable acts of savage brutality, and who, if they had the power, would wipe away all free scientific inquiry, all freedom of speech, all dissent. This ideology is the aggressive Islam-inspired ideology loosely termed Islamofascism. Headquartered in Iran and Saudi Arabia, practitioners of this ideology are working aggressively toward obtaining a nuclear weapon with which to blackmail the free, secular nations of the world—and, not incidentally, to exterminate the Jewish nation of Israel.
What is the reaction of the secular liberal community? While there are a good many of them who have spoken out eloquently and powerfully in defense of the same human values their fathers defended—people like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens—a many others refuse to do so. They point their accusatory fingers instead at the west. They condemn American society as fundamentally racist and exploitative, and a pro-democracy foreign policy as "imperialistic" because it is “forcing” “our way of life” (i.e., freedom) upon other nations. Many of them even hesitate to use words like “terrorist” when describing terrorists. One rarely hears expressed the view that scientists and other secular intellectuals have any obligation to oppose the forces of barbarism—a word many of them would indignantly refuse to employ.

The bottom line is that I believe we will soon face, if we do not already face, a choice not unlike that faced by Szilard and his contemporaries: a choice to put ourselves on the line in defense of universal human values. That defense may take many forms; for now, I believe simply articulating and intellectually defending them would be enough. But if we fail in that, we will find ourselves faced with that same choice in a far more terrible form.

Faith and School

Ophelia gets it right:

'Faith' and 'school' don't really belong together - they are in tension, at least if 'school' is understood (as it should be) in a modern secular sense. It is possible to have 'schools' that teach any old magic, but such 'schools' aren't schools in the usual sense intended, just as madrassas are not real schools in that sense. 'Faith school' should be seen as a silly and harmful mixing of two projects that ought to be kept strictly separate because if they're not the first will irreparably mess up the second. Children don't (when things are arranged as they should be) go to school to learn how to believe things for no reason on the basis of no evidence; they go to school to learn how not to do that.

I have always found the notion 'Islamic scholar' equally oxymoronic.
Read the whole post for some great comments from Ian McKellen. One nice example:

When asked how religious studies teachers in all schools should explain the stance of Christianity, Judaism and Islam on homosexuality, McKellen said: "They should abandon the teaching of their church, because it is cruel and misplaced."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Closed Captioning

I love closed captioning. If I am sleepless in the middle of the night, I can pop on the TV and watch a show without having the sound on.

But there can be perversities, I learn today.

I am watching TSN, doing a delayed broadcast of the Continental Cup final women's match, and the closed captioning on the screen is clearly that for an NFL football match and the accompanying ads. This does make me wonder about the software TSN has set out.

The world is too rich for us.

Yours is the Land of Lincoln

Claudia Rosett has some fun with Illinois.

If you once walked with Rezko and Obama
Or spoke with Jesse Junior and with Rahm
If you can overcome this legal drama,
If you can show that no one greased your palm
If you can take that Senate seat and fill it
With someone who will swear you’re not a knave
Yours is the Land of Lincoln, and yet still it
Will have Kipling rolling over in his grave.

I Wish I Were Surprised that the Reporter is Canadian

Go Condi!

As we start another insanely snowy December in Toronto

It is worth seeing this 'documentary' that is very skeptical of global warming., via Little Green Footballs

I find the concern about CO2 on the face quite plausible, but also doubt anyone really knows - I suspect the climate models have about the quality of economic models, and I have worked on those!

Silly but Sweet

Harry's Place has a nice summary.

See if you can guess which group of countries lists those which voted for the resolution. Guess which list voted against it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Apollo 8 - Can it Really be Forty Years?

A lovely reminiscence by Paul Spudis.

The famous Apollo 8 picture of Earthrise over the lunar horizon was a stunningly beautiful image. Even though it had been photographed earlier by the first robotic Lunar Orbiter mission, both the magnificent color of the Apollo 8 picture and the fact that a human had taken it changed our view of the Earth and ourselves. Earth became “a grand oasis in the big vastness of space” to use Jim Lovell’s memorable phrase. This single image did more to raise a “global consciousness” — for good and ill — than did the tons of books, protest marches and pamphlets produced by the environmental movement.

Obama's Science Team

His string of appointments seems very impressive to me. I leave the details to Matthew Yglesias.

I am not entirely convinced that Bush did a worse job in assembling a team, but somehow this team seems designed so that it would be able to deliver real input. I look forward to this administration, and actually consider Obama's assembled team much better than I had expected, and the one reason I would have voted for him (were I a USAian) was the expectation that he would assemble such a convincing crew.

What remains open, and was my concern, is what he does with this team; we shall soon see. The next four years should be very interesting!


Thanks to Charles Johnson for this one! Let's "engage the rogue nation".

Well, this is a hopeychange kind of brand new outreach, different from all outreaches of the past, with the charisma of The One driving it. Oh ye of little faith.

I would be so pleased if the windbag President-elect could achieve anything here. I hope my poor judgment is confirmed in this case.

A Year in Pictures

Thanks to Paul Kedrosky - links to am amazing set of pictures.

My favorite is in part 2, the last photo, the Sarkozy hands.

Decidedly Ironic

From Tyler Cowen.

I am not sure how I missed this local story.

Mice may be responsible for a blaze that killed nearly 100 cats

History Alive in Poland

I love simple things like this, though maybe not their effects. It is a bit depressing to see how persistent bad ideas from the past can be.

This is one great blog, though - I am thrilled to have found it.

Le Google

Jeff Jarvis has a great post on some of the effects of some of the disruptions Google creates.

Beware entitlement. Publishers who can’t make it now in the open market are trying to rely on entitlement. There are only two ways to grant such entitlement: taxes and public subsidy or legislation to hamper competitors. After the Google meetings, Scherer tells us, a French online executive raised the spectre of breaking up Google - the reflex of regulators - and a trade union representative “has recently come out in favor of banning Google from France.”

Be careful what you wish for.

Hmm - banning Google from France. Which of the two stands to lose more?

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Joys of Fungus

I am not a major mushroom fan and never like seeing mold. But this talk sure makes me think a lot more. Another delight from TED. I now know what to do if the house shows signs of termites.

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A Great Irish Loss

I was deeply saddened today.

And Norm describes it better than anyone else so far.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Web Constantly Amazes

This is just a small reason, but it is a reason!

One of my little BugBears

I know where it comes from. In the '50s and '60s mothers did a great job of correcting their children who would say, "Johnny and me are going to the store".
But really, the proposed Secretary of Education cannot distinguish the nominative from the accusative? (I have siblings who make this mistake routinely too, which astonishes me.) I have generally been impressed by Obama's nominations but this pushes my grammatical descriptiveness pretty hard.

He gave my sister and I the opportunity to start a great school in the Southside of Chicago, and that has become a model for success in urban education.

Not an auspicious start on this front. Vouchers, anyone?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

One Blissed-Out Monkey

Via Obscene Desserts.

I think these little fellas have the right idea...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is this as Subtle as I Read it?

The same complaints fit Christianity as well. I assume the subtitle authors are thoroughly aware of this.

But the idea of using this movie sequence for a rant is really quite witty. And not quite unprecedented.

Lemming Reporters

The Angry Arab gives me a good laugh:

I got out of my house with a bag of shoes: I started throwing them, shoe by shoe, at my neighbor, aiming at the face. My neighbor laughed, and could only say nice things to me as a good neighbor. He then explained: you see, o Arab neighbor, in our American culture, throwing a shoe at somebody is not an insult at all. In fact, it is taken as a sign of affection. I returned back to my house, having learned about American culture, what I knew not before. Thanks to you, New York Times (and your intelligent and culturally informed reporters).

Maude Barlow - Water Moron

And not just about water, but water is what sadly matters now, thanks, unsurprisingly, to the UN, who dismayingly assigned this stupid woman to some job involving water - David Zetland summarizes it nicely:

The Right to Water is so politically correct and so likely to lead to disaster and failure that my head spins.

Will Barlow apologize when MORE children die as a result of such silly policies?

Or will she call for more intervention?

If you've learned anything from international aid failure, you will know that it wil be the latter: "MORE kids are dying -- give us more money to help them..."


Why is this so predictable?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Save Santa!

Please please.

h/t Kris

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging

From a colleague and amazing:

Chris Dillow Gets it Yet Again

In the discussion of the proposed auto industry bailouts, he makes a very solid point.

It’s awkward for the right because demands for a bail-out gain legitimacy from the fact that unemployment is a really nasty thing. But if unemployment benefits were (much?) higher, job loss would sting less and the bail-out would be easier to oppose.
This shows that redistributive policies, far from being the enemy of free markets, can in fact be their allies because they reduce support for ad hoc interventions.
It’s awkward for the left because so many have for so long identified “neo-liberal ideology” with the interests of big business. But sometimes - often? - these are not the same.

There are similar issues with respect to free trade - good unemployment benefits could mitigate the justifiable concerns about job loss.

And neo-liberal ideology, by which I assume he means on emphasis on free markets, has NEVER been in the interest of the current existing businesses. The whole point is that they should be susceptible to being undermined.

Take That, St. Arbucks

Jose Guardia finds a great billboard.

More on Canadian Politics

Paul Wells, out of the country for most of the fun, has a lovely summary:

From a springtime of committee chaos to a summer of ultimatums to a fall election, a December crisis, a tasty prorogue-y holiday feast, and the near certainty of another New Year psychodrama. I could swear there was a pattern in there. Blame the opposition if you like, but what olive branch did the PM hold out that they refused? Stephen Harper spent his whole adult life complaining that the state was no good for anything. Now, under him, it is so. Consistency at last.

Meanwhile two people who WERE in the country have assembled a more detailed description of the last couple of weeks, well worth the reading.

Whatever the outcome, the parties and their leaders all look different now. Harper survived into 2009 only through improvisation, occasional demagoguery, and constitutional brinksmanship. His reputation for strategic savvy is permanently damaged, as might be his party’s prospects among Quebecers who don’t view the Bloc as fair game for demonization. He still has only a minority, and now faces opposition leaders who distrust and dislike him, and long to humble him, more than ever. His advantage in facing Dion, a lame duck, is suddenly lost. Ignatieff might be tougher.

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The Lovely Che

A pretty good film narrated on image of the revolting icon , the "king of marketing", by Nick Gillespie: you see see it here.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Comedy Begins - the REAL Shock Doctrine

And it will not be funny nor pretty.
The US Congress moves in to begin nationalizing the no longer so big three. David Harsanyi has reservations.

"We don't want government to run companies," Barack Obama, who supports a bailout, recently said on "Meet the Press." "Generally, government historically hasn't done that very well."

Generally? Washington is now ready to sign off on the business plan of auto companies and buy into industry. If that's not "running" the economy, then what is?

Not long ago, incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel claimed that we "never want a serious crisis to go to waste. This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before."

Does this mean a czar for every sector of the economy? Because this brand of economic planning has been tried, and it has failed — not "generally," but every time.

For what it's worth, I have a GM car I bought three years ago that I like.
Felix Salmon has another worry, and I agree, as we are already seeing this in Canada.

And of course it doesn't stop there. Just for starters, think for a minute about the car czar's responsibility for Opel, and the negotiations which are going to start up between the US and German governments over the European marque's fate. On the one hand, Opels are clearly the kind of thing which Congress wants GM to make more of. But they want GM to make those cars in America, not in Europe. And GM has already asked the German government for money to keep Opel going.

With every relevant government striving to hold up its local automobile companies, we can be guaranteed we will all piss away a fortune on cars that won't be sold at a profit.

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No Poker Face Here

This may be a problem - Harper always looks miserable, no matter what the situation.

Michael Ignatieff is doing his initial press conference as Liberal Party leader and the poor guy can no more hide his delight at the current situation than he could hide how crushed he was when Stephane Dion won the final ballot in the previous leadership convention (thanks largely to his delightful buddy Bob Rae back then).

I thought of another bit of uniqueness. Might he also not be the only Western party leader descended from a key character in a Flashman novel? Actually, given the scope of the series of novels, surely some Germans are in the same boat.

Our RollerCoaster Ride

After the US Election SillyWife asked, "What can we watch on TV now?"

Canadian politics has supplied the answer. I was planning to blog at some length on this, but any effort on my part was made redundant by this summary of the last week.

Still, the idea of a separatist party having power over decisions that affect the country from which they want to secede has not sat well with Canadians. Nor has the transparently partisan power-grab and disregard for the public's common sense. The coalition insisted that they had the best interests of Canada at heart, but most Canadians didn't buy it.

So on Dec. 4, when Harper asked Canada's governor-general, Michaëlle Jean, to prorogue parliament – also perfectly legal – until late January, what might have been disastrous, wasn't. Polls indicate Canadians see it as the lesser of two evils

In ensuing events, the Liberal party leader who negotiated the coalition is effectively gone, and the leadership candidate who continued to publicly support it after the prorogation of Parliament was hounded out of the race, and the party is crowning Michael Ignatieff shortly as its new leader. All this in a mere week! Who said we aren't exciting!?

As for the next election, I somewhat agree with Rondi:

Canada will have two major parties led by wonks. I can't imagine a campaign with less charisma.

We may also have a first major party leader in the West who is a signatory of the Euston Manifesto!

I have decided to stop predicting, after my earlier expectation fond hope that Stephane Dion would do a halfway sensible job.

But I don't think the TV politics shows will be a total bore in the next many months.

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Hillier on Grim Milestones and Nichola Goddard

On CTV's Canada AM this week, Canada's former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hiller made a very good point about the 'grim milestone' themes so beloved in our standard media, as the 100th death of a Canadian soldier during the Afghanistan Mission is reported. He was asked to explain, by the somewhat inane reporter, the meaning of the new grim milestone number of 100.

Truthfully, for the soldiers, their families, those that are engaged, that 100 number is meaningless. The number one is what's most important. Each family has lost one, a husband, a son, a father, a brother, or in the case of Nichola Goddard, a wife, a daughter, and that's what's important to them; the number 100 has become truly a media focus, and really doesn't reflect what the soldiers, the families themselves, experience and think about. They deal with losing a family member.

I don't seem to be able to link directly to the video but it is worth trying to find as the idiotic reporter, no doubt a total Obama fan, then asks Hillier whether we should not simply implement NDP policy and surrender.
But Hillier's statement took me back to a major surprise on my drive home on the weekend listening to The Sunday Edition on the CBC. Michael Enright reliably began by observing the grim milestons, even using those words, so predictably, and then began an interview with the parents of Nichola Goddard, mentioned specifically by Hillier.
This is a lovely piece of work, and Enright does the things he does well (there are some) in the interview. And the contrast between the near-pacifism of Goddard's parents and her strengths is lovely.
I do what I do so you can do what you do.

What do you think I am - a princess?

The podcast of the whole show is here. The segment is the last 20+ minutes of a roughly three-hour radio show, but an apparently shorter podcast. It really is worth hearing.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Context Matters

I loved this post.

I especially liked the observation:

I need to get a job soon so that people can assume that I bumble because I'm a professor not because I'm an idiot.

Facebook Pride and Prejudice

This is excellent.

Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet are now friends.
Elizabeth Bennet is not handsome enough to tempt a certain gentleman. Ha!
Mrs. Bennet had a most delightful evening!
Mr. Bennet wishes that Mr. Bingley had sprained his ankle in the first dance.
Elizabeth Bennet promises never to dance with Mr. Darcy.
Fitzwilliam Darcy became a fan of Fine Eyes.
Caroline Bingley is all astonishment.
Lydia Bennet became a fan of Officers.
Kitty Bennet became a fan of Officers.

h/t Protein Wisdom

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Animal Blogging

Not unrelated to this post.

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Rondi is spot on on the fatuous CBC Coverage.

And at almost the same time we have Terry Glavin's very useful observations.

There is a deep irony. As the US has elected someone committed to trying to fix Afghanistan, we are in the middle of an attempt by a group that would leave that country high and dry as soon as possible to take power. (Not that those currently with the power are much better.)

This country is not just silly, it is sad.

Punch Lines

I have to confess, I never watch "Mad Men" but I do enjoy some of their work.

"No. Charlie is my dog. Rex is my husband."

(And I generally hate all Pepto-Bismol ads and have never even thought of buying their product, and this changes my buying propensity not one bit.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Another Celebrity Sighting

When I answered question 91 I forgot one other celebrity sighting in my life (though I did not MEET this celebrity). I just walked by him as I entered Nicholas Hoare Books on Front Street and he was leaving.

Scott Feschuk sings his praises and I concur.

Ezra makes me laugh - the Maximum Leader

Just read it.

I sure agree with one part of this

Dan Gardner gets it!

But we’re a silly country with petty leaders, so we’re yammering about Stephen Harper’s folly and the rest of the wretched little drama unfolding on Parliament Hill. The economy is treated as, at best, a secondary matter — nothing more than grist for partisans, who repeat hype and spin and whatever factoids suit their momentary interests.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hail Hail Fredonia

Canada would likely almost be better as Klopstokia.

I have lost an episode of Law and Order to the idiocy of the current battle in Canadian politics.

But now, amusingly, having listened to a surprisingly terse (I like terse!) presentation from the prime minister on why we should not switch over to the proposed coalition, the various media mutter on, somewhat desperate not to project from this clear instance of incompetence to what the coalition will be in end.

We could have saved a lot of time with a simple fight. That was the Klopstokian ideal and it was likely far more efficient that where we are headed.

We are headed to a decision by a Governor-General chosen for beauty, diversity, being a female, and maybe even being close to being a separatist.

Now nobody in his right mind would write the movie "The Queen" around what Michaelle Jean will face tomorrow or soon. I do not envy her. I would have taken the job gambling I would NEVER have this problem. But it's a great job - travel, pomp, entertaining. But actually making a profound decision? S**t. I do not want this!

Dion is now rambling, as anticipated, He knows not terse.

My proposal is Klopstokian. Put Dion and Harper out on Parliament Hill tomorrow morning. Let them fight. Spare Michaelle Jean!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Not Exactly a Bucket List

Via Composite Drawlings:

1. Started your own blog. Evidently
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
. A marching band at that - I sure recall those cold Santa Claus parades.
4. Visited Hawaii. With all the business trips I have taken, I would have expected to make it to Hawaii, but the organizations were always too economical.
5. Watched a meteor shower. Combined with 2 above.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
. Certainly not more than I can afford.
7. Been to Disney World. Does the Epcot Center count? If so then count this bold.
8. Climbed a mountain. Are Wainwrights and Munros mountains? That is my justification for the bolding. Oh, and, once, long ago, Whistler?
9. Held a praying mantis
. Just looked at one once.
10. Sang a solo
 so low you couldn't hear it.
11. Bungee jumped. Never going to happen.
12. Visited Paris. 
. Many times and not nearly enough times.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea. I am counting Lake Ontario as 'sea'.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch. 
All musical.
15. Adopted a child
. Having adopted cats should count here, right?
16. Had food poisoning
. Brutal experience, never figured out what the food had been.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
. I don't recommend it, if it is even possible anymore.
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
. Many times, and every time a true disappointment.
20. Slept on an overnight train

. Before the true spread of aviation, this was more or less normal.
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked.
 Do not recall doing it.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill. Depends on what 'ill' means.
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb. Stared one closely in the face. But no touching.
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a marathon
. Completed one - that is more than enough.
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice. Yet to get there. Want to.
29. Seen a total eclipse. A stunning and lucky experience - everywhere else nearby was covered in clouds.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run. I rarely struck out but had no power.
32. Been on a cruise
. Never had any interest.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person. Well, it is only an hour and a half drive away. Pace Oscar Wilde, it has never been a disappointment.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.
 One side of the family, though not with that intention.
35. Seen an Amish community
. I'll take 'Amish' to mean treaditional Mennonite.
36. Taught yourself a new language. Many - all poorly.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
. Have yet to get to Italy at all.
39. Gone rock climbing
. See bungee jumping.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David. See 38.
41. Sung karaoke

. See bungee jumping.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted.
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
. See 38.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

51. Gone SCUBA diving. See bungee jumping.
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
. This is a bit unfair to our younger participants.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
. There is time yet!
58. Taken a martial arts class. See bungee jumping.
59. Visited Russia. As I can read the language reasonably, this is a bit of a disappointment, I have to admit.
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies. I am at a disadvantage here.
62. Gone whale watching
. Not with much success.
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving

. See bunjee jumping.
66. Visited a Nazi concentration camp
67. Bounced a check
. Maybe but it was a small deal.
68. Flown in a helicopter. This was once the logical way to get to SFO from Berkeley.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial. Very moving.
71. Eaten caviar
. Not something that has caused me to seek out repetition.
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
. Does the changing of the guard in Ottawa count?
77. Broken a bone
. A toe, now fused.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
. Well, I thought it was speeding!
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book

. SillyWife has, though.
81. Visited the Vatican. See 38.
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper. Accordion band.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
 and eaten it. No Sarah Palin here!
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury
. Was in the waiting area but never got to the courtroom.
91. Met someone famous. Terry Bradshaw - a true entertainer (though the immaculate reception ruined my 1972).
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
. 'Nuff said
94. Had a baby. Not that I am aware of.
95. Seen the Alamo in person
. During a winter storm when the felt temperature was around 30 below in Fahrenheit. A very moving experience, as I had had no prior idea of the multicultural force that was occupying the Alamo.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee. What a shock!
100. Read an entire book in one day. This is the role of Dan Brown!

Not Just Another Pretty Face

And, heavens to Betsy, she has one!

She will shortly have to decide on whether to appoint a new government. It is claiming its necessity on grounds I do not get. And so she will implicitly have to rule on these issues.

Tough job. Glad it is not mine. And of course the questions about her husband's apparent separatism are utterly fair. She is in a very tricky spot.

We're all subprime now

A very moving obituary for Doris Dungey from Calculated Risk.

Tanta was also extremely funny. She introduced the Muddled Metaphor Index (MMI) and Excel Art featuring the Mortgage Pig, and she was the originator of a number of phrases in use today, like “We’re all subprime now!”

Tanta Vive. Sadly no more.

Stephen Gordon asks a Good Question again

I recently had some maintenance work done on my house, and dealt with several construction subcontractors. The biggest difficulty was getting their time. Every one of them reported utterly full schedules. This ran counter to much of the mood being reported in the press at the time, but it was unmistakable, and there were even a couple of jobs I wanted done that I could not book.

Stephen Gordon is wondering who will do the work if our government decides to bring forth a stimulus package involving major infrastructure work.

As I noted earlier, unemployment in the construction sector is at an all-time low.
I'd be surprised to learn that this situation is in fact unique to Quebec.