Monday, June 29, 2009

Hewitt-Roddick Coming!

Wimbledon supplies all sorts of pleasures, and maybe I will have to play hookey a bit on Wednesday.
I disliked both Hewitt and Roddick as young players, but they did play one great match I recall enjoying, and they both seem to be more reasonable humans as they have aged.
Wednesday should be fun!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

There is no Big Lie. There is no System. The Universe is Indifferent

Don Draper was right!
And the stupid woman turned Paris down? This is utterly brain dead. (Season 1, Episode 8.)
I am definitely coming to enjoy "Mad Men".

Confederation Cup - USA 2-0 over Brazil!

And it is SO funny listening to the Brit reporters who really hate the idea that the US team is doing well.
UPDATE: Yes I know it is now 2-1.
UPDATE: Wow! 2-2!
UPDATE: Brazil get what was truly a great corner. Brit announcers are so happy not having to face the idea of the competence of the US team. There seems minimal discussion of the lack of a Brit team here. These people are truly pathetic.
It is funny and deeply sad. Brits, with no further chance ever to be important again in the sport they invented, invest a ton of soul in being Anti-American. Why does this not surprise me? And should I want to like such hopeless people? No, I think not.

Dances of Delight

It's Chris Dillow's fault, asking about atheist songs! There is an obvious candidate he failed to list.

But to think a man could write "All My Days Won't be Dances of Delight" (mine are!, as were apparently many of his) and then kill himself. I do not get it.

It Worked Me Over Like a Work of Art

Chris Dillow points me to a great song, from an artist I learned about from a colleague and have been nuts about since. But I did not know this song.

I've never had feelings like those she describes. Seems sad to me that people actually have them.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

TCM Hitchcock Day

This is actually pretty exciting, except that a couple of hours get devoted to 'Psycho'. I just do not understand this movie. It seems sickening to me.
Mind you I love 'North by Northwest'. Another one of my celebrity moments was an evening in Berkeley, California, with Bob Ellenstein, who figured prominently in the the early bits of that movie.
He played an amusing part in an evening with Silly ExWife and Aunt and Uncle and Bob, all realizing we were among the very few people in Berkeley who had never smoked pot!
What a world.

What? pronunciation stupidities

The ESPN broadcasters are now starting to say "Kuz-net-SOH-va". What is going on? Will Russian names simple have to conform to some silly NBC notion of how they should be pronounced?
UPDATE: It is truly bizarre. Patrick McEnroe keeps changing the pronunciation of Kuznetsova. Does ESPN lack staff to tell people about the players' names?.
UPDATE: Within 30 seconds Pam Shriver pronounces Kuznetsova iwht emphasis on different syllables? What is wrong with these people?

Farrah II

I am a bit like Rondi (maybe a LOT like) - I think this was the most beautiful animal of my time on the planet and this video I pointed to on Phil Miller's blog says a lot about my thinking (maybe not exactly thinking).

The shot at 1:50 with that Irish guy is SO sad and so sweet. (It is fleeting as it clearly should not be.)
OK - from me last Farrah Fawcett post but nobody should diminish her importance. She was a stunner.


Can tennis reporters (a kind word) put the emphasis on the right syllable in Kuznetsova and not in Scharapova? Did Scharapova agree to have her name changed?

Friday, June 26, 2009

I'm Not Like Other Guys

I made the perhaps mistake of going to YouTube to watch 'Thriller' again.
It is heartbreaking to absorb.
And it makes Steve Sailer's reflections very relevant and deeply sad.

Go Buy It - Filthy Lucre

Well, I confess I did not buy it, I took it out from the library.
But people should buy it.
Joseph Heath's 'Filthy Lucre' is a wonderful primer on economics, largely because it is written by a professional philosopher, and one who can write, with clarity and great humor.
I had been pointed to it by two posts from the excellent bloggers who run the blog Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.
My favorite bits? Hard to say - it is truly a fine piece of work. There is a great section on international trade. But all the sections are excellent.
He also puts some specific effort into some Naomi Kleinism, in this her rather silly 'The Take'. As Heath points out witheringly, workers' cooperatives are no new idea, and Klein and her hubby treat them with a superficiality one would expect from them; no literature review, etc.
He also spends some effort analyzing 'The Corporation', another silly Canadian 'documentary', which Heath clearly shows contained zero intelligence, just attitude. My fear though is that many do not recognize the demolition he is doing.
He also has a lovely section explaining quite correctly why he is overpaid. (I am happy he is as it extends to my family too.)
If it were only for those chapters, the book would be a delight. But it is so much more. Get it, read it, enjoy it, try to understand it.
Thanks, Joseph Heath!

A Rough Day

At the start of yesterday I had to absorb the death of Farrah Fawcett. I am with Rondi on this one, and I can certainly see why one would want to emulate her shampooing. That hair was stunning, but so was so much else. And the life story with Ryan O'Neal has its own strange appeal, with the clear loyalty over so many years, despite his being a hardly perfect person.
And at the end of the day, Michael Jackson! The last music video of any appeal to me was 'Thriller', and he was only 50. He was forced to work from childhood on, never had a proper childhood, and turned out as freaky as pop psychiatrists would expect one to in such circumstances. But 'Thriller' was 'Thriller'. And many other people clearly liked a lot more than what I liked.
It's a smaller world today, at least until I find out who were born today who will make my world richer in time.
UPDATE: Phil Miller provides wonderful reminiscences, though that is not quite the right word. I had no idea Farrah had been on 'The Dating Game' (one of the better reality shows). She was ludicrously beautiful.
UPDATE #2: Andrew Sullivan, whom I follow more for Iran than other stuff, has some fine reflections on Jackson. And he makes me realize how good 'Billie Jean' was too. A sad day. (Be warned - Sullivan gets somewhat silly in his post. He needs to read Joseph Heath's book. Michael Jackson was NOT created by a money culture.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

More on Iran

fleshisgrass provides me with an excuse. And I thank her.
It seems pretty clear that the Iranians are in for the long haul on this one, and that Barry is going to be dealing with the current administration for a while.
But let me take this excuse to follow fleshisgrass and point to Shappi Khorsandi, who had me laughing with this performance:

"We're the ones WITH weapons of mass destruction."
My exposure to Iranians is like that of fleshisgrass, through very impressive expatriates, and because of my age I am aware of how paranoid the expatriates could be about the Shah's secret police, the Savak. And there is little need to comment on how awful the current guys are. I am pretty confident now that, while I may not live to see it, they are going to end up in a much better place.
But thanks to 50 years of tyranny for contributing enormously to the countries that have accepted Iranian immigrants!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Geothermal Pitfalls

Residents have been fighting for years with California power companies over the earthquakes, occasionally winning modest financial compensation. But the obscure nature of earthquakes always gives the companies an out, says Douglas Bartlett, who works in marketing at Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco, and with his wife, Susan, owns a bungalow in town.
“If they were creating tornadoes, they would be shut down immediately,” Mr. Bartlett said. “But because it’s under the ground, where you can’t see it, and somewhat conjectural, they keep doing it.”

It's more morning repentance as I held out high hopes for this! Maybe a few earthquakes are worth it, though.

Ed Morrissey deconstructs my Naivete

Do I feel used? No, just a tad infantile.
Seems to be a morning of repentance.

Mad Men, Reconsidered

I tried once and failed, but have decided that my initial reaction might not have been so brilliant.
So I started watching again. And it is certainly drawing me in. This time I think I am listening better.
"The men who designed it made it simple enough for a woman to use", about an IBM Selectric (I think that's what it was). I think that line tells me more than I caught first try.
So I will be working through the first season again. And I hope to pay more attention than on the first try.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The CP24 Evening News Says

... unbelievably that the Millerbabble mayor we have now wants us to rat out neighbors who find creative ways to deal with the garbage his union buddies who will not collect it right now have not collected.
How stupid is this man?
I will connive with my neighbors to hide the secret depositing of garbage!
Free Garbage!!!!!!!
UPDATE: This is the point. Slimeball Council!

Wow! Two of my Favorite Actors

I had no idea.
And it is comforting as mostly I know my favorite actors (I think Sean Penn is a great performer and NO thinker, and Alec Baldwin has found his niche in 30Rock) are idiots.
But Watts and Schreiber are both actors' actors. Totally professional and utterly brilliant.

This Country is Getting Sillier and Sillier

Let's see - dig a grave
Hughes acknowledges in her lawsuit she published an article in 2002 in a Winnipeg community newspaper, subsequently posted on a United Church of Canada website, in which she explored claims made by Internet sites about the 9/11 attacks the previous year -- particularly Internet allegations Israeli businesses vacated the World Trade Center a week before the attack, and that German intelligence had allegedly warned U.S., Israeli and Russian intelligence about the impending attacks.

and fall in and then blame others?

Hughes says senior members of the two Jewish organizations went to Dion on Sept. 25, 2008, cited the six-year-old article, and persuaded Dion to revoke her candidacy on the grounds she was anti-Semitic and unfit for public office.
She says Kent, then a Tory candidate and now minister of state for foreign affairs (Americas), issued a news release on Sept. 26, 2008, in which Kent said Hughes holds "extreme, anti-Israel 9/11 conspiracy theories" and was "unfit to serve for public office."
Hughes, who stated she is a freelance journalist/broadcaster, said the accusations against her were widely published and broadcast. Hughes said she "has been branded as an anti-Semite and a person of unsavoury character and, as a result, is no longer employable in her role as a freelance journalist/broadcaster."
Hughes said she has been shunned, scorned and ridiculed, and has suffered mental distress and humiliation.

My view - humiliation is well deserved and created without any external agency. Just take it. It's my guess her exploration was not quite dispassionate or evidence-based.

Cute Babies and a Positive Note about Islam!

German-speakers, be prepared to enjoy.

Three Cheers for the Boring!

Yay Canada.
Well, maybe. But I remain unsure about our virtue versus our luck
On the other hand if it is virtue, then it is surely that we are indeed boring.

That was Real Courage

...and maybe with a real cost.
It seems they are now paying.

Kudos to Obama

I am watching his press conference today regarding Iran (among other things). He is saying what seem to me to be reasonable things.
What totally impresses me is that he calls out Nico Pitney of the Huffington Post, who has been tracking events in Iran brilliantly, to pose questions that Nico had been soliciting from Iranians.
UPDATE: For a larger and good perspective on the rest of the presser you cannot beat Ed Morrissey.

Crow Lake

What a fine novel!
When it came out I heard interviews with the author and discussions of the book; this is one side effect of keeping CBC Radio One as your default setting in the car. I never bought it or bothered to read it.
A few weeks ago I had a drink with an old friend (she's not old, I'm old) and she gave me the book, well-leaved. I just finished and must say I enjoyed it greatly; this may have been partly because of coming from a small-town background (not so small as in the novel), and being part of a somewhat divided family (maybe more so than in the novel!), but I suspect the appeal is pretty universal. It is a lovely story about a woman finally learning to reevaluate her views of her past.
I also learned a lot about biology from this novel! And I love the idea that a key contributor to the content was the book "Animals of the Surface Film".

Don't Stand on Your Head

... if you want those bees to recognize you.

Using differential conditioning, individual bees were trained to visit target face stimuli and to avoid similar distractor stimuli from a standard face recognition test used in human psychology. Performance was evaluated in non-rewarded trials and bees discriminated the target face from a similar distractor with greater than 80% accuracy. When novel distractors were used, bees also demonstrated a high level of choices for the target face, indicating an ability for face recognition. When the stimuli were rotated by 180 degrees there was a large drop in performance, indicating a possible disruption to configural type visual processing.

SillyWife, the daughter of an apiarist, probably knew all this stuff.

I'm Getting Better with the Telemarketers, Clearly

I've aged sufficiently that politeness is no longer an issue for me when I smell one on the phone.
"Hello, sir. How are you?"
"What do you want?"
"How are you sir?"
"What the fuck do you want?!"
"Well fuck you too. sir!"
Mutual hangup.
Now that is a deferentially-oriented immigrant taking a distasteful job who can stand up for himself!

Two Million Disappear!

Ed Morrissey has some fun with some windbaggery from the world's biggest windbag.
And, as Reuters also points out, making 2 million Muslims disappear puts us even farther down the list of Muslim nations than before. We dropped from 32nd place to 38th place, either of which would mean that Obama can’t do math — which would explain his economic policies. Unfortunately, most of his audience both here and abroad don’t have that problem. If he’s looking to impress people in the Middle East, he might want to consider using a calculator and doing a little research before trotting out this demonstrably laughable claim.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Random Harvest

OK I made it to 60 never remembering having seen this movie. So SillyWife and I watched it last night.
About all I can say is "Wow!". SillyWife said she was ready to sign off after a half hour but then even in her somewhat stupefied state managed to stay engaged to the end.
This film did almost NOTHING to address key points of possible suspension of disbelief like the age of the characters. And yet it barely mattered. Garson and Colman, and the wonderful cinematography, all convinced me to relax and enjoy.
I have no strong memory from watching Greer Garson films but she is now up on my priority list as I choose what to tape and watch. Enjoy these early ten minutes from the movie.

Is she beautiful and charming or is she beautiful and charming? And realize how in 1942 the Harry Lauder reference would have meant so much more! (The legs would have meant about the same as now.)
It seems YouTube can let you watch the whole thing, if you are willing to do some searching. Here is how it finishes - but you need all that is in between to get the proper tear outlet.
And SPOILER SPOILER you are way better off suffering through the two magnificent hours.
(Another fan of the source of my taping of this movie, Rondi, is a great lover of the French language. For anyone who loves the English language hearing Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson speaking is transcendent.)

I loved it - it was utterly James Hilton.
Thanks so much to Ted Turner!

Neda Soltani

I saw the original YouTube upload pretty early on Saturday and it was an awful watch, as it was utterly and horrendously clear that this was at the very least a video of someone dying right in front of you, and someone terribly attractive, which should not matter but does.
I am not linking to it, not because of its being removed and restored frequently to YouTube, but because it is just so awful. I do not recommend watching it.
But if you are tempted by ideas that this is a fake, or not horrendously moving, then find a link, but be warned. What the body does as someone dies in her circumstances is terrible, and it is clear on the video. And it cannot readily be faked. (And you have not seen that on CNN - they have edited extensively.)
Yesterday CNN was all about the woman "known only as Neda". Of course even by then the Web world knew she was Neda Soltani. Why belittle her and make her abstract?
Ahmadinejad's and Khamenei's goons felt this was a killing they were allowed.
Why they picked her I have no idea. It is still the case they are holding back on the machine guns and the tanks. I would like to think that is because they cannot count on commanding them. That is likely a foolish dream.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Roger Cohen Walks the Streets of Tehran

And writes about it.
I also know that Iran’s women stand in the vanguard. For days now, I’ve seen them urging less courageous men on. I’ve seen them get beaten and return to the fray. “Why are you sitting there?” one shouted at a couple of men perched on the sidewalk on Saturday. “Get up! Get up!”
Another green-eyed woman, Mahin, aged 52, staggered into an alley clutching her face and in tears. Then, against the urging of those around her, she limped back into the crowd moving west toward Freedom Square. Cries of “Death to the dictator!” and “We want liberty!” accompanied her.
There were people of all ages. I saw an old man on crutches, middle-aged office workers and bands of teenagers. Unlike the student revolts of 2003 and 1999, this movement is broad.
“Can’t the United Nations help us?” one woman asked me. I said I doubted that very much. “So,” she said, “we are on our own.”
The world is watching, and technology is connecting, and the West is sending what signals it can, but in the end that is true. Iranians have fought this lonely fight for a long time: to be free, to have a measure of democracy.

There is much more, all compelling.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Biggest Fear

For all today's drama in Iran, and make no mistake there was a lot, it does not seem as if the forces of the state simply placed machine gun emplacements and opened fire.
That seems to me the key question.
I hope it is that they know they need the commitment of the citizenry and mass slaughter of that form would take that away at the drop of a hat.
And this is not to say they did not make the mistake of allowing independent contractors too much space. The murder of the young girl that has been all over the internet is a classic error. (I am not reposting it - it is just too painful.) Nobody who watches either of the two videos I have seen can fail to be completely disgusted.
But that is not yet 1000s mowed down easily. They surely could have achieved that. And did not.
I deeply hope this means there is a civil society that could not tolerate that outcome.
I fear we may find out tomorrow, from the reports I have heard about the rooftop chanting tonight.

The Joy of Time on My Hands

I loved Robert Wright's "The Moral Animal", and did much to proselytize it to friends, successfully in at least one case.
The Bloggingheads discussion below is long and not to everyone's taste but I found it interesting (and found it easy to watch waiting for rain to let up at the US Golf Open). I find this more fun than the Wright-Cowen bloggingheads discussion, but you can go find that and enjoy it too if you have my free time to spend!

"It's not a cohesive unitary actor."

Fine Iran Comment from Paul Wells

Not velvet, maybe.
Khamanei set the terms for this battle. He has put himself on the wrong side of history. Barack Obama has been extraordinarily careful all week, but he called it right today with a modest but implacable statement, with its references to “the universal rights to assembly and free speech,” the regime’s “unjust actions against its own people,” and his evocation of King, whose shrine at the Lincoln Memorial he visited on the day before he became President. “‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward truth,’” he wrote. “I believe that…. [W]e are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth.” Note that, as Lincoln did with the House Divided speech, Obama is using quotation to show that he is not asserting a truth but merely acknowledging one. Lincoln was saying, “You don’t need me to tell you a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Obama is saying, “I’m not making this happen. I just know that it will.”
In his Friday sermon, Khamanei said he had seen how the “Americans and Zionists” fomented a velvet revolution in Georgia. He would see to it these “aqmaqha” — idiots — did not get a velvet revolution in Iran.
Very well then. It won’t be velvet.

What is The Real News Network?

A very interesting long video on Iran in the form of an interview with Pepe Escobar.
I have no idea who he is or what this 'network' is but the commentary is very consistent with the best analyses I think I have seen - I intend to watch their site until it proves it ain't worth it.

Andrew Sullivan Still Working Admirably on the Iran Case

Day 8 Liveblog.
These are moments in history whose salience it is simply impossible to know as they happen. But today has already demonstrated both the total bankruptcy of the current Iranian regime and the immense bravery, humanity and genius of the Iranian people.

Sensitive about His/Her Weight

No wonder they have to complain! Being weighed is embarrassing, especially at the rate these little guys are likely packing it on.

The sound they make is rather odd, though it might attract birds, which is undoubtedly good for the diet, and packing more weight on.
h/t The Internet Center for the Cuteness of Animals

Cable Nonsense Network

From at least 6am Eastern time this morning, CNN have had an almost complete focus on reporting from Iran, but spend most of their time either replaying Iran State-Run Media Reports, talking pointlessly, or explaining why they cannot actually report anything from Iran.
If the latter was their position, it seems to me they would be better holding a day's focus on North American weather.

Iran State Media trying to Help Obama out

Against criticism that he is not speaking out more firmly.
This morning a friend of NIAC who gets Iranian Satellite TV here said that state-run media showed President Obama speaking about Iran this morning. However, instead of translating what he actually said, the translator reportedly quoted Obama as saying he “supports the protesters against the government and they should keep protesting.
Assuming this report is correct, it shows the Iranian government is eager to portray Obama as a partisan supporting the demonstrators.

This is awkward and difficult, but I think he is still right to be careful.

Hopeful instincts - Ignatieff on Iran

From almost four years ago, around the time of the previous Presidential election. h/t Andrew Potter, whose "Well, not quite" seems to me to nicely summarize the superficiality of Ignatieff's argument for the universality of what we Westerners used to think of as human rights. A short discussion with a philosopher (it would have been mercifully short) might have been a good idea before making this idea the hallmark of your classroom work.
On the other hand, the article IS interesting, and revealing of much of the ferment even back then, which we see now played out in the streets of Iran.
As far as he was concerned, beneath his belief in human rights lies the bedrock of the Koran, while beneath mine lies nothing but hopeful instincts.

Ignatieff seems embarrassed, but it seems to me that his hopeful instincts are a far better base for a civil society than the "bedrock of the Koran".
When I said this to another young Iranian woman and told her that when Ahmadinejad fails the poor, the only recourse left will be further repression, she said, determinedly: ''No, he cannot turn back the clock. He cannot send us backward.'' I hoped she was right, but I noticed that she made a small involuntary gesture. She pulled her hijab down and covered her hair entirely. For the first time, she looked uncertain and concerned.

And maybe defiant today. Good luck to her.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Contingencies of Political Reporting

As I mentioned yesterday, today is the last day of Don Newman on CBC's Newsworld. And of course we are wallowing (and laughing) in history. But the history shows how extraordinary he was at maintaining relations with numerous colleagues and politicians while never coddling them nor letting the pressure off.
I have NO idea whether CBC can fill this hole ever again. My own guess is no, but who knows.
I feel the puniness of Canadian political reporting every Sunday morning, as I leave the Stephanopoulos and Wallace morning shows on US politics and have to wander over to CTV's offering. I rarely last the whole hour. It is of course not just the journalists, as the scale is so much smaller here in Canada, but it is also the journalism.
The only thing I have found comparable is Don Newman's daily work at 5pm on weekdays.
What will CBC do now?
I am VERY curious.
One of the most awkward things about this tribute show is that the CBC has lined up its successor candidates to participate, but they must surely know how they measure up comparatively, and that must be tough.
Too sad - Newman picks his best CBC journalist, unknown to me, and it turns out HE is also retiring today. This does not bode well.
This show is very moving - it is a ride across the top of the last 30 years of our politics. The 30 years when I most cared about it.
The tributes just get better - Peter MacKay recalls as a newwly fledged MP hearing people wonder who it was talking to Don Newman when they saw him in Ottawa, and Dalton McGunity, with typical Ontario Liberal nanny state concern, suggests Don should now tend his garden better. As for celebrity, walking into Nicholas Hoare books on Front Street before a Canadian Stage production a few years ago, exactly as Don walked out, set the little tremble off up my leg. :-) Maybe not quite the equivalent of Terry Bradshaw for a half hour, but close!
And this is too believable - a few minor league regional reporters lines up to talk about how well he treated them - not every national reporter did. Seems utterly credible.
My guess is I won't make watching this show a priority ever again. I will regret that but I will test the decision often enough to know whether the decision is arbitrary.
(Very sweet thing from Rosemary Barton who points out she had no opportunity to recall Mulroney as PM but that Don took her seriously as a co-reporter through various recent Mulroney stuff.)
The CBC is a lot weaker right now. We shall see what they do.

For A Moment I was Excited

I thought this would be an appropriate tribute until I actually followed the link and realized that I had mis-read Stromboulopoulos as Stephanopoulos. I admit I was surprised that the latter was even aware of Don Newman.
Oh well. In any case, I never watched the interview. Pipsqueak interviewing a giant.

Ezra on Lynch's Silly and Pernicious Speech

I posted earlier on Mark Steyn's response to a rather silly speech delivered by Jennifer Lynch to CASHRA at one of their recent festive gatherings.
Ezra decides to invest the energy in a rather detailed fisking of her transcript., leaving it in tatters, and exposing exactly what a bureaucratic mentality appears to dominate her 'thinking'.

One excellent section exposing how seriously off some of her notions are:
I know what “chill” means. Chill means that if you are a publisher and print some Danish cartoons of Mohammed, some HRC will prosecute you for 900 days, with fifteen government bureaucrats and lawyers, and you’ll spend $100,000 in legal fees even if you eventually win. That’s chill.
Chill is not a critical letter to the editor, or someone cancelling their subscription, or someone calling you an idiot. That’s part of the fun of being in the public square – and part of democracy.
Lynch dares to equate the real chill or prosecution, fines, legal fees and the stigma of a government agency deeming you to be a “hatemonger” with the “chill” of having your foolish ideas criticized in some far corner of the Internet.
Can’t you see how these people despise freedom?
Ironically, those who are claiming that human rights commission’s jurisdiction over hate speech is “chilling” to freedom of expression, have successfully created their own reverse chill.

The reverse chill! I love it!
Critics of the human rights system are manipulating and misrepresenting information to further a new agenda: one that posits that human rights commissions and tribunals no longer serve a useful purpose.

Lynch has shown in this speech that she’s no slouch when it comes to manipulating and misrepresenting the facts. But that’s the thing about liars like her – they’re easy to rebut and discredit.

The impression I get from this fisking is that our commissioner is not mature enough to hold a job of this seniority that exposes her to any public debate.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I Knew This was Coming, But Still

Tomorrow is Don Newman's last day on Newsworld.
This is an enormous loss.

Yes My Concern Exactly

Thomas Ricks puts it well. To which we can add the Shiite uprising in Iraq after the Gulf War. We have a shabby record regarding help and so ought not to appear to promise much.

A "tough" stance that Fox's anchors are pushing might feel good, but it likely would be unproductive. A sober stance of the sort that Obama has taken is more difficult but likely more effective in the long run.
Meanwhile, for those reality-based readers who were wondering about the vote in the Iranian countryside, in the LA Times, Babrak Rahimi, an academic who recently was doing research in southern Iran, says his sense is that rural Iranians did not vote overwhelmingly for the mean little guy.

It is evident that this current battle in Iran will be sorted by Iranians and it is ludicrous for outsiders to pretend they can make a difference. My saying I support the protesters is one thing. Obama saying it is another.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Layton's Mom

Will miss Don Newman, as will I! Not sure where I fit in this age thingie.
Layton also railed rightly against what I think are the stupid "summits" between Ignatieff and Harper.
It is hard to make me side with Layton but all this gets me there.

I Have Got It!

I have struggled with why this quiet protest so impresses me.
It took me a while but I know now.
Almost any major protest I have seen involves large crowds of people chanting slogans and waving their arms, as they do in rock concerts. When I see that behavior, I see Nuremburg in the 1930s. That bit sickens me. It's one reason I do not like even innocent activities like rock concerts (and I have a cousin who is a rock star!).
So this restraint attracts me in ways few can imagine.
Brilliance and it surely draws my sympathy.

Damn! I Missed Bloomsday

So we had better let the young prodigies take the field.
All that he has to say makes sense but maybe he could now say too that Joyce was a neuroscientist!

This, Joyce says, is the broth of thought, the mind before punctuation, the Jamesian stream of consciousness rendered on the page. We now take the messiness of the mind for granted - at any given moment, you are a bundle of stray associations and fleeting sensations, bound together by the glue of attention - but it took an artist to reveal just how disordered and confused our inner thoughts actually are.

Dead right, man!

Let Me Simply Second Dan Gardner

On this!
This is truly standing up in public!

Now is the not the Time to Accuse them of Kidnapping

Austan Goolsbee is cool on Colbert.
June 15 show - this link might work in Canada.
(Annoying - the link does not work. Go to, seek out the Colbert Report, pick 3 of 4. Makes me wonder if the licensing arrangement is TOTALLY brain-dead. I assume in ten years things that should work will work.)
Stephen Harper is getting much notice on this show ("he is a madman").

A Shameful Farce

More on the Chicago that remains in Obama.

I would feel sadder if I thought of him as anything more than a Chicago politician
But to quote Steve Sailer,
In reality, however, Ricci is not an unusual case with particularly complicated facts. It’s just business as usual in American society.
When President Obama graduated from Harvard Law School, he chose, out of hundreds of job offers, to work for a Chicago law firm that specialized in suing over purported discrimination against blacks. For example, as I point out in America’s Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama’s “Story of Race and Inheritance,” Obama made one of his rare court appearances to accuse Citibank of not giving enough mortgage money to minorities. The Chicago Sun-Times reported in 2007:
"Obama represented Calvin Roberson in a 1994 lawsuit against Citibank, charging the bank systematically denied mortgages to African-American applicants and others from minority neighborhoods." [As Lawyer Obama Was Strong, Silent Type December 17, 2007 By Abdon M. Pallasch]
(By the way, how’s that working out for us these days?)

He chose to be a Chicago politician. And that part of him is not pretty.

Non-Gotcha on Krugman

Many sites are pointing to an old assertion from Paul Krugman that we need a housing bubble. The irony in what he is saying is so obvious I am stunned that people are citing this as a slam on him.
Arnold Kling summarizes very sensibly, I think.
Krugman was mainly expressing pessimism. He was not cheerfully advocating a housing bubble, but instead he was glumly saying that the only way he could see to get out of the recession would be for such a bubble to occur.

A Reflection on Obama and Iran

As I posted earlier, I have not felt sure about Obama's reaction to the Iranian demonstrations.
This posting at Andrew Sullivan's blog makes me feel better at my earlier view that Obama had acquitted himself pretty well with earlier statements.

For what it's worth, not one of them thinks Obama should be saying anything more than he has - that's partly what made the Shah so hated. I would also say that anyone who doesn't think that Obama's No Ruz message and his speech in Cairo didn't contribute at least something to this uprising doesn't know any Iranians - the feeling of hope that Obama gave to Americans and people all over the world (rightly or wrongly…) has trickled down to Iranians. On a human level, as well, everyone knows how far a little respect can go.

I know I underestimated these people! And I find this all terribly moving. Seems to me they are pretty smart and don't need much more than the obvious intervention of not publicly recognizing the results of the election.

They are NOT Quitting

This is truly uncanny. It was to be the 'silent' protest and it is amazingly so.
I wonder how much longer information will continue to escape the controls of the thugs.

Cash for our Friends in Detroit

Russell Roberts eviscerates the idiotic and plaintive whine from Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins in the Wall Street Journal about the cash for clunkers bill.
They whine:
Our "Cash for Clunkers" proposal was a win-win for the environment and the economy. Then Detroit auto industry lobbyists got involved. Soon a rival bill emerged in the House, tailored perfectly to the auto industry's specifications.

They idiotically seem to think that the final bill did not reflect their initial 'win-win' motives.
Roberts' whole post is good for a laugh, but his final point is telling and refutes their self-delusions.

You mean the lobbyists actually influenced the bill? And a new Hummer gets preference over a used Ford Focus? Well that's what happens when you have the wasteful idea of subsidizing new car purchases. It leads to waste. Why are you surprised?

Andrew Sullivan and Iran

I haven't found much urge over the last couple of years to follow Andrew Sullivan, but he has been consistently excellent the last few days on Iran. Here's one good post on Mousavi's latest call.
One obvious weakness of the coup leaders - enough to make even Khamenei acknowledge - is the evidence of rank brutality against students, women and young protestors. Calling for a national Day of Mourning tomorrow in the mosques seems like an inspired move to me

From watching Twitter, I suspect he is right.
I may put him back in my feed reader.

Dan Gardner's "Risk"

I just finished Dan Gardner's "Risk" - a very entertaining and informative read about how bad we are at assessing and acting on risk. I recommend a visit to this post of Dan's, where you can learn a little bit about one topic in the book, and get a good laugh at the end of the post.

Fisk on the Streets of Teheran

There's much I don't admire about Robert Fisk but this is a compelling report, and I sure cannot fault his courage.
It was interesting that the special forces - who normally take the side of Ahmadinejad's Basij militia - were there with clubs and sticks in their camouflage trousers and their purity white shirts and on this occasion the Iranian military kept them away from Mousavi's men and women.
In fact at one point, Mousavi's supporters were shouting 'thank you, thank you' to the soldiers.
One woman went up to the special forces men, who normally are very brutal with Mr Mousavi's supporters, and said 'can you protect us from the Basij?' He said 'with God's help'.
It was quite extraordinary because it looked as if the military authorities in Tehran have either taken a decision not to go on supporting the very brutal militia - which is always associated with the presidency here - or individual soldiers have made up their own mind that they're tired of being associated with the kind of brutality that left seven dead yesterday - buried, by the way secretly by the police - and indeed the seven or eight students who were killed on the university campus 24 hours earlier.

Breakfast at Ashbridge's Bay

The whole family:

Dad washes up:

And the little ones are learning to as well:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me

... what red meant!?
This is annoying - I am almost through my life and never understood this.
Meanwhile SillyWife is going out in red jeans!
My guess on the general point of this post - the BRits will wake up. They are not quite there yet but they will be.
We need the same awakening and will achieve it. Though likely after I die.


Why Did This Piece of Genius Come to Mind?

As thousands fill the streets in Iran?
It is even more brilliant years later knowing that he had NONE of those feelings, was just a great artist.
UPDATE: This is somewhat funny as Springsteen clearly thinks Dylan wrote some other way than how neat it sounded. And he performs impressively in that mode.

The Job of the Historian

... is surely changing in a gigantic way.
For many historic events the problem has been finding the few documentary bits and interpreting them.
For future historians working on the current Iranian politics the problem is clearly the oversupply of 'data' - the Twitter logs will be so rich and also so full of misinformation.
Good luck to them. They have, as they always have had, a tough job.

The Canadian "Human Rights" Commission Fights Back

Damn those bloggers.
And Mark Steyn treats the honcho with just what she deserves - ridicule!
So just to up the ante: "Is Jennifer Lynch, QC a drunken pedophile serial killer? Maybe not. But no one has decided that."
About the rest of her plaint, one thing I've learned since 9/11 is that those who receive credible death threats do not brag about them in public. As for the unflattering descriptions of her commission, I was responsible for three of them: "human rights racket"; "a fetish club for servants of the Crown"; and "welcome to the wacky world of Canadian 'human rights'". I deeply resent Commissar Lynch lifting all my best lines without credit to perk up her turgid speech. I stand by all of them, and I see I've reprised the last up at the top. Must try to work the "fetish club" line in again.
Exactly. Jennifer Lynch, QC is so tone-deaf, ham-fisted and club-footed that she does not understand how absurd her bleat would sound to real "human rights activists" like John Milton. In Canada, "protecting human rights" now means insulating the "human rights" bureaucracy from criticism. So we have the preposterous spectacle of a government commissar whining to a roomful of government apparatchiks that the citizenry are insufficiently deferential to them. Does Kathy Shaidle have a $25 million budget? Can Jay Currie impose a lifetime speech ban on the targets of his wrath, as the Government of Alberta did to Rev Boissoin? Yet here we have, in effect, the Government of the Dominion of Canada complaining that Blazing Cat Fur is being mean to it.

He's right - these people are pathetic.
To quote Ezra: Fire. Them. All.

I Love This World of Communication

I am not so naive that I assume the Iranian government cannot shut it largely down. That it has taken days is a great tribute to technology. And to the determination of brave people.
It seems people speak Farsi faster than even Newfoundlanders speak English. This is a Spanish level of speed.

Daddy Swan

In the previous post, I failed to mention Dad (I assume the little ones stick closer to Mom).
Dad was nearby, in a posture that reflects perhaps pride, or a threat to me, too close.


Seven cygnets! This is likely a record in the years i have been watching. Let's hope most of them make it.

Iran : The Big Picture

Great photos.
h/t LGF

Civil Courage

I have had the privilege to live in countries (Canada, USA, UK) in which there is no need to fear brutal consequences for dissent, and it means that it stuns me to watch the courage of Iranians defying the recent election results. I applaud them and hope for a good outcome. You can find much good on this subject on the Web - I will simply link to Oliver Kamm as a kindred spirit.
I have felt critical of Obama's apparent lack of response over the last couple of days. In the end I think he acquits himself well with this:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ignatieff on Don Newman's Show June 15, 2009

This still seems the exact attitude toward Harper from December:

Guess what! Harper doesn't.

Web, Apologize!

So I was preparing an earlier post and stumbled accidentally on pretty much my favorite song of the '60s.

If someone one day would like to supply me all the lyrics that would be a delight but I enjoy the picture of a family life long forgotten. (I do think of my family as dispersed to the four winds!)
Now the same magical genius also wrote:

And of course many of you will recognize this is a sign he spent some well-justified time in the Piaf circle.

Vive le Quebec (at least the useful parts of it)! (Cannot be bothered with the accents for now.)

The Greatest Jealousy Song Ever?

Well, I have never known another more tellingly accurate.

On the other hand was I "Lui" or "Moi". Not sure. To a degree at times certainly both. But it is easy to imagine being "Moi" so stupidly easily and I have sure done that in my time.
"Toi, tu regrette que je sois la". Ouch. There I HAVE been.

You Can Take the Sleazeball out of Chicago

... but Chicago sticks within the soul, such as it is.
Yes we can! Because who will stop us?

America May Go the Way of GM

Well, I doubt that phrase from his speech to the AMA was ironic in intention. (Guess who - 'The One'.)
Has the guy no capability to hear how stupid he sounds? I wonder, like when he emphasized the importance of fiscal responsibility a few weeks ago.
Well, he has gotten away with it all so far, he probably figures he is coated in teflon, and to a degree he is still allowed that by a largely uncritical media.
When does it start to break down seriously?
Also, his tepid reaction to the Iranian elections (especially compared to the EU, once far more passive and accepting to the US - this role reversal is SAD in one way, and great in another) looks deeply misplaced to me right now.

Is it Bad to Spend 30% of one's Income on Medical Care?

(UPDATE: Thought of after the fact and totally relevant. It is REALLY bad if you have not figured out how to get a government program funded by other people to spend it for you.)
The windbag addresses the AMA.
I have never quite understood the general obsession about the % of GDP spent on medical expense.
Going back to Marx and imagining a highly productive future, where else would the money be better spent? Assuming, of course, that the care were effective.
I DO understand a major concern about such expenditures in a domain of total moral hazard, like most major societies. In Canada it is VERY hard to vote (far more so than in most countries) with your own money in favor of your own medical care (unless it is on something the government considers medically unnecessary).
But in the US don't people still spend a lot of their own money on medical care? Why fret about how much they choose to spend?
Yes, I know they have a system dominated by insurance, like most countries, and that IS a problem.
But moving forward, is it right to have a total focus on cutting spending?
Of course, with what is likely his goal, controlling it all through HIM, it is likely VERY important.
I think the most charming thing in his speech is the focus on preventive care - of course that will solve everything. Of course, at the same time he prates on about the comparative effectiveness regimes, and there is NO evidence that preventive medicine will save a cent.
I SO hope that the US will make some stupid decision (whatever they pick will be stupid) on this just so we have to stop hearing him and his ignorant pronouncements.
Ah yes - he just suggested I ask my doctor about what risk factors to avoid. I think I'll ask Gary Taubes instead.
Oh Great! He is offering "Wellness Programs". I can hardly wait for the spillover to Canada.
And now he is promising to judge the quantity of care versus its quality. What an arrogant little joke.

The Saddest Story of the Weekend

Yeah, I knew, it's just an animal. But it sure sounds as if she was a sweet one.

Eric Cole, supervisor of the African Savanna area at the zoo, said Tessa was the gentlest elephant in the herd and lived longer than she would have in the wild. “Ordinarily Tessa managed to avoid the activities of the more dominant elephants but in this incident was caught off guard and tripped over,” he said in a press release.
The four remaining elephants, Thika, Toka, Iringa and Tara, had time to view Tessa’s body and mourn before staff conducted a post-mortem. Tessa was expected to be buried yesterday.

Seeing the Light on Twitter

What Rondi says, exactly.

Ignatieff Trembles on the Brink

This does not bode well.
After much ballyhoo about how Ignatieff would decide whether to bring the government down and announce his decision at 11 this morning, he announces ... nothing - he says he is unhappy with what the government has delivered but wants to give the Prime Minister a chance to make good on its deficiencies. He sets a deadline of ... well no, he seems not to set a deadline. (He does say he will do something by Friday if the government fails to do, err, something, not clear what.)
He prattles on about his stupid proposal for Employment Insurance at the same time prattling on about a deficit (which his proposal would increase) that he largely induced the government to create! And then he whines that Stephen Harper does not call him on the phone.
Maybe Harper does not respect him in the morning.
This man looked OK once; he looks terrible today. Indecisive, incoherent, and not very brave (which he actually once was).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hope?! and Maybe a Lot Less Change

Andrew Sullivan makes himself look silly trying not to challenge The One.
We are asked to be patient, and that is fair enough. But we should not be asked to be attacked in this gratuitous manner, shut out of dialogue beforehand, and applaud. We did that for eight years under Clinton. Never again.

Never again? So let's see some real opposition.
Maybe I misunderstand.

Smart Power - Uighur Front

Not just Pahlua, but Bermuda. Damn - I should have been a Uighur fighter!
Of course, with the new smart power, there is no need to let the responsible authorities know.
It’s a highly unusual move, all right. I don’t recall the last time an ally sent trained terrorists into a territory for which the other ally had responsibility for security without their permission. Why? Because it hasn’t ever happened before now.
So, to our British friends: how does it feel to have Obama make security decisions about your territory without bothering to consult you at all? The liberal press in the UK used to deride Tony Blair as George Bush’s poodle; what does that make Gordon Brown in relation to Barack Obama? It’s a good thing that arrogant Bush isn’t running things in Washington any more, huh?

Hope and change!

You Can Take Him Out of Chicago

but you sure cannot take Chicago out of Obama.
Hope and change!
h/t PowerLine with a nice summary
Byron has much more. The bottom line, though, is that this story adds to the disconcerting picture we are getting of the Obama administration--a picture of lawlessness, hyperpartisanship, cronyism and lack of transparency.

Another Reason I Think I Would Love to have Dinner with the Cheneys

... and decidedly not Biden and wife.
One thing I loathed during my work life was the plethora of colleagues who trumpeted their PhDs as signatures on their notes. The PhD proves ONE thing only - once in your life you managed to complete a project to the satisfaction of some gatekeepers. That ain't much in the grand scheme of things.

Alfred Hitchcock, where are you?

More aggressive birds.

Why is Carla Bruni so Committed to Flats?

Everybody knows.

Media Coverage of the Festival of "Excellence"

Even Usain Bolt admits it was hardly excellence.
"It threw me off a bit," Bolt said. "But I'm happy I got through it injury free."

Well, ain't that great and worth what was surely a honking appearance fee.
Meanwhile, I have yet to see in any media (including the brain-dead TSN coverage of the event, one hour long) any mention at all of the remarkable and wonderful 5000 metre race. It was not a Canadian - TSN does mention the mile, as that was won by a Canadian. Meanwhile, we suffer intense coverage of two false starts (that is, cheating) in the 100, to suffer a mediocre 10 flat by Bolt.
Seems pretty clear to me this sport is in a major way on the downslope.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Passive Voice - Why Does It Seem So Hard?

Krauthammer screws it up. OK he is an MD. They probably do not get a firm grounding in grammar.
It is not a question of whether the agent is specified.

A Great Reminder

How recent this is, so shameful! h/t Pharyngula

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Festival of Yes, Some Excellence

Almost all the pre-meet publicity focused on Usain Bolt (yawn) and Canada's two women hurdlers (double yawn), but I went in the hopes that it would be simply a good track meet.
And hey it was! Good job University of Toronto.
I think I may have seen the fastest 5000 metres run I have ever witnessed in person, run by a front-runner all on his own, and one of the few sub-four-minute miles I have ever seen.
For that, sitting in the rain for a couple of hours was a small price.
(Oh by the way, Usain Bolt won his event, yawn, and Canada's two hurdlers came one-two in their event, yawn again.)

Letterman Proves he is Pathetic

But even scarier is his audience. Who are these god-awful people? I cannot for the life of me imagine laughing at any of this garbage. So who is laughing?

He of course lies about that 18-year-old versus 14-year-old daughter issue - only one was accompanying Palin. And he licks his lips with such sad self-satisfaction on the issue of being a celebrity. Not remotely a pretty picture.
The sad fact is that people ARE laughing. Who are they? What rock have they crawled out from under.
I can do no more than I do today. I have NEVER watched the Letterman show and certainly never plan to.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What the Hell was I Thinking?

This search will now consume hours!

Who is John Ziegler?

I have concluded he is a very useful mischief-maker. There is good mischief.
Watch the Contessa melt down in this sad discussion. As usual the Mainstream Media collapses under its notion of self-importance.

Ziegler did a nice job and got me to go to his web page and enjoy just what he said, a classy interview from Palin. She is decidedly a more estimable person than David Letterman.
I shake my head at this world.

Ada Brunstein Shows Some Class

She falls on her sword appropriately, with grace and humor.
I’ve never actually looked through Strunk & White in my life and I’ve had more than enough training in linguistics to know the difference between active and passive (or at least enough training to consult the right sources in moments of confusion). It was simply an honest mistake.
You must now, Professor Pullum, hire me as an active proper-passive promoter. I can reach a wide audience and, having experienced first-hand the effects of improper usage, can more effectively caution others about the consequences. Together we can make sure there are no more victims. I have just one favor to ask. As I already mentioned, I’ve never read Strunk & White and in order to better carry out my new task I think I should at least take a look so I know exactly what I’m up against. Would you be so kind as to send me a copy (obtained by whatever means you deem fit so as to avoid supporting the publisher of such works)? Signed and dedicated, if it’s not too much trouble.

The Facts, Ma'am, just the Facts

Much as I enjoy the occasional rhetorical flourish from George Will, he has always struck me as pretty uncommitted to facts. His most recent column caught the attention, unfortunately for him, of Mark Liberman at Langauge Log.

This comparison suggests that George W. Bush, in his early press conferences, used first-person singular pronouns about 60-70% more often than Barack Obama did, while Bill Clinton, in the comparable events, used first-person singular pronouns about 50% more often than Obama did.
This whole exercise, by the way, took me about 45 minutes from conception to posting.
Now, maybe there's some selection of Obama's interactions where his use of the first person singular pronoun is higher than expected for someone in his circumstances. Alternatively, maybe George F. Will is a bullshitter, who doesn't bother even to ask one of his interns to check whether the alleged "facts" in his columns are true or false. We report, you decide.

I think I know which of these options is most consistent with my experience.
Despite this effort, this silly meme spreads to Stanley Fish (not really a surprise) and Mark responds again.

You'd think that Prof. Fish would have done some counts of this sort before displaying his analysis in the pages of the New York Times, especially since he's explicit about the fact that he's inferring the president's attitudes by counting (and analyzing) pronouns rather than by using ESP. Unfortunately, at some point in the past few decades, literary scholars seem to have abandoned the assumption that claims, even quantitative ones, ought to be testable.

The guy is a humanities prof. Quantitative? What's that?
It gets funnier. Professor Fish makes much of Obama using the 'royal we', apparently not understanding what that means; as Mark again points out, many of the 'we' usages are decidedly not royal, but a simple and appropriate collective.
Appallingly, this just keeps coming.
There is much I do not like about the great windbag's rhetoric, but let's not charge him with crimes he does not commit!

Where the Hell is Palau?

Palau agrees to take the Uighurs.
Hope and change for Palau to the extent of 200 million dollars!
Two U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. was prepared to give Palau up to $200 million (U.S.) in development, budget support and other assistance in return for accepting the Uighurs and as part of a mutual defence and cooperation treaty that is due to be renegotiated this year.

So all the lofty rhetoric about closing Guantanamo turns into a payoff scheme. The audacity of hope certainly does not include the audacity to release the Uighurs on U.S. soil.

Unbelievably Disgusting, and the Audience Laughed

What is the world coming to? This is what passes for humor? Pregnancy jokes about a teenage girl? No doubt this is OK in some circles because it is a daughter of Sarah Palin.

We Have Cygnets!

No swans on the nest this morning! Consultation with other morning walkers indicated that the cygnets have been out for over a week (mom was on the nest the mornings I came by, which is not proof that the eggs have not hatched).
I found the family feeding, very sensibly, far from where people could get close, so the best picture is from quite a distance. It shows at least four cygnets. Not too bad.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The New GM

Addressing the BS and making me laugh.

Without my Hair, what would I Blow-Dry?

Colbert is in Iraq. And he gets some amusing appearances from Odierno and Obama. Credit to Barack!
Canadians may be able to link to it here. Nevermind.
Start by going here and navigating on your own. Look for the Colbert report June 8. International copyright laws really peeve me right now. I'd like to give you an easy link.

Cat-Blogging - but be warned

I love this picture. It combines at least a couple of my favorite things. But it is decidedly NSFW, and your mileage could easily vary.

Yes That Seems About Right

It's certainly how I screen when the doorbell rings.

h/t Steve Levitt

I've Been There

And it has had an enormous effect on my morning routine, now avoiding nesting red-winged blackbirds.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Utterly Stunning Shakira

Nobody who sees my sidebar or knows me misses the fact that I am an utter fan of the artist Shakira.
A very complicated article in the NY Times Magazine last weekend commits me even more to her, but largely by making her much more complicated.
I came to know about her when I was trying to learn a little Spanish many years ago before a planned trip to Spain, and the Shakira I discovered was an apparently modest young woman who wrote very subtle and sad lyrics about emotional life. But as she has changed I have remained an utter fan.
I have paid no attention to her career now for likely five years and this article makes me want to rediscover her.
The article strikes me as jubilant and melancholy at the same time and it saddens me that she feels so much of the latter. She is also clearly just a flat-out good person!
I plan no major change to the music part of my sidebar!

The French Open

OK it's a day late and it's all done, but I want to summarize.
Both finals were a terrible disappointment from a competitive point of view.
And the women's was worse, as it really was more a matter of Safina losing, to the point where poor Kuznetsova apologizes for winning. Her speech was sweet though, and showed her to be somewhat sweeter than she lets on, rightly, on court.
As for the men, the only excitement was the worry whether Federer would end up crying as he has recently, but he played well and got to cry for the reasons I had hoped. Soderling was a class act with a great sense of humor - "Surely nobody can beat me ten times in a row". The final, sadly, did NOT feature the Soderling who beat Nadal. I hope that guy comes back.
The tournament highlights on both sides were the semi-finals. I hope I see a tournament again where the man's semi-finals are so exciting and draining, especially as I can actually now find the time to watch it all!
On to Wimbledon!

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Sweaty Weevils

Yesterday, as I was driving around London, Ontario, Stuart McLean, in the story being broadcast on the day as part of his Vinyl Cafe show, described two young boys as looking like 'sweaty weevils'.
The studio audience laughed but I was a bit troubled. I live in Toronto and have never seen a weevil. McLean lives in Toronto - has he seen a weevil? Was it sweaty? How would you know? - it is after all a beetle and so possibly shiny even if it is not sweating.
Or did I mishear? Maybe it was sweaty beavers? How would one tell?
Writing at its worst, is my current diagnosis, writing for lazy audiences.

Straw Men - the Typical Obama Administration Tactic

It has been pointed out by many that one of the 'features' of a typical Barack Obama administration speech is the erection of straw men (usually representing the previous administration) against whom to argue, making the argument much simpler by inventing the strawman position at the same time. Obama himself used this several times, to the point of making me laugh out loud, in his Cairo speech. Man, those poor American Muslim girls desperate to wear the hijab - I am so glad his administration is committed to slaying the dragons standing in their way! :-) (More so, in Canada, the real stories are about a Canadian Muslim girl, who did not want to wear the hijab, and get killed by her male relatives.)
On FOX News Sunday the ever excellent Chris Wallace hosted a panel that included Austan Goolsbee making a comment at one point, slamming the Bush administration for the loans that kept GM and Chrysler alive, and I felt puzzled, as I was sure I recalled clear statements at the time that this strategy was to allow the Obama administration to handle the problem, which a) made sense, and b) was a classy behavior, in my view. Not now in Austan Goolsbee's:

We are only in this situation because somebody else kicked the can down the road, and that’s really an understatement. They shook up the can, they opened the can, and handed to us in our laps. Senator Shelby knows that to be true. When George Bush put money in to General Motors, almost explicitly with the purpose, how many dollars do they need to stay alive until January 20th, 2009? There was no commitment to restructuring, to making these viable enterprises of any kind.

Keith Hennessey not merely remembers the context, but also considers the strawman erected here as an utter offense against truth. And makes his case.
Even if Dr. Goolsbee was not privy to the quiet discussion we had with the senior Obama team last November, the public record refutes his claim:

1. The Obama team declined to respond to the Bush team’s offer to work together to create a joint process that would have resulted in a resolution by March 1st or April 1st, rather than by June 1st for Chrysler and maybe September 1st for GM.
2. We then worked with the Democratic majority to enact legislation that would have limited funds to be available only to firms that would become viable.
3. After Congress left town for the holidays without having addressed the issue, President Bush was faced with a choice between providing loans and allowing these firms to liquidate in early January, which would have further exacerbated the economic situation for the incoming President. President Bush chose to provide the loans.
4. We provided GM and Chrysler with sufficient funds to get to March 31st, not January 20th, and in those loans we gave the incoming Administration the ability to extend them for 30 more days.
5. The loans were conditioned on restructuring to become viable, with a precise definition of viability, specific restructuring goals, and quantitative targets.
6. The Obama Administration followed the restructuring process laid out in the Bush-era loans. They are now measuring that deal against the targets established in the Bush-era loans. The only changes the Obama team made were that they extended GM for 60 days rather than 30, and the Obama Administration directly inserted themselves into the negotiations as the pre-packager.

Dr. Goolsbee’s comments this morning were both inflammatory and incorrect.

I somehow doubt any Obama administration official would see fit to apologize for this. THey apologize mostly for what were sensible policies.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

A New TSN Stupidity

The French Open Women's Final is being broadcast by both NBC and TSN this morning here on my Toronto cable system. On the original NBC feed, there is a little box, I'll coin the name infobox, on the lower left of the screen, including three lines of text, the top two informing the viewer of the set and game score in the match and the bottom line the score in the current game.
TSN simply rebroadcasts the NBC feed, but they have decided to improve it! It is standard on TSN coverage to add to the screen a bottom line in which scores of other sports, which of course every sports fan knows from watching the earlier sports news on the network or can check on the internet, since there is no other sport of import active at the moment that is being reported.
The enhancement that this bottom line brings comes from its writing over the current game score in the NBC infobox. So I am watching on NBC.
I am also surprised that our cable system has not replaced the NBC feed by the TSN feed as is common (I thought mandatory) when the 'same' show is being broadcast on cable by a US and a Canadian station.
UPDATE: This is interesting. TSN's enhancement is not currently on-screen. I will go back to NBC anyway - the blasted thing could come back.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Friday Evening Flower Bush Blogging

That spiraea in front of my porch was trimmed WAY back last fall. It's now bigger than it has ever been in the over-20 years it has lived with me.

Ahhh Culture

Read about it here, as the notion of scandal in the UK and Italy are compared with illustrations.

Obama can turn War into Peace

Robert Spencer finds another small howler in THE SPEECH.
Obama picked out of this one sentence that made it appear as if the Qur'an was simply counseling one to speak the truth, mindful of the divine presence. In reality, the passage is about the necessity to wage jihad warfare against unbelievers, and not to fail to perform this duty. He took a passage about warfare and division and passed it off as part of a call for us all to come together and sing kumbaya.
Yet neither Honest Ibe Hooper of CAIR nor any other Muslim spokesman is complaining today that Obama quoted the Qur'an out of context. How strange!

In the end of course it was never the point of the speech to be accurate. And probably there is no point in Robert Spencer actually doing a careful reading of a speech written with such a careless disregard for accuracy.


Will this Change Persist? - Conspicuous Frugality

There is somewhat of a social change going on.
At play dates and happy hours, friends are swapping recipes instead of making restaurant reservations. Teenagers are skipping flashy block-long limos and showing up to prom in minivans. Coupons has become a more popular search term than Britney Spears on Google.
Instead of feeling self-conscious about spending less, people are flaunting their frugality. Both those who have lost income, such as Walker, and those who simply fear they may become at risk are part of the new discourse.

I imagine some in neither position may be joining in as well.
Rather a more attractive picture in many ways, and I am trying to do my part.

Musical Protectionism from the Obama Administration

Walter Ostanek's Grammy category is axed.
OK now we need to think of some revenge.

Sharing the Pain for Climate Change

Hey it's not just us humans, other species are pitching in!
Since January, cows at 15 farms across Vermont have had their grain feed adjusted to include more plants like alfalfa and flaxseed — substances that, unlike corn or soy, mimic the spring grasses that the animals evolved long ago to eat.
As of the last reading in mid-May, the methane output of Mr. Choiniere’s herd had dropped 18 percent. Meanwhile, milk production has held its own.

Well, maybe that dietary change is not much of a sacrifice.
“They are healthier,” he said of his cows. “Their coats are shinier, and the breath is sweet.”

And this is likely to be the quote of the day for me.
Sweetening cow breath is a matter of some urgency, climate scientists say.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Palm Rolls the Dice

I had a Palm Pilot, I don't recall which one. I don't really use a personal organizer now, except my memory, but I don't have to remember too much at this stage of life. Palm suffered badly business-wise, as other companies caught up with them.
Palm then decided to roll the dice and enter the competition directly against Apple's iPhone and Saturday the result of the large engineering effort hits the market (then for Sprint and somewhat later for Verizon) and I will be cheering for it.
Technology reporter David Pogue of the NY Times has taken a close look at the result, the Palm Pre, and he really likes it:!

The Pre, which goes on sale Saturday, is an elegant, joyous, multitouch smartphone; it’s the iPhone remixed. That’s no surprise, really; its primary mastermind was Jon Rubinstein, who joined Palm after working with Steve Jobs of Apple, on and off, for 16 years. Once at Palm, he hired 250 engineers from Apple and elsewhere, and challenged them to out-iPhone the iPhone.
Elegant and joyous! Wow!
Now why am I cheering for it? Because one of those 250 engineers mentioned above is one of my nephews! That nephew's wife has already featured on this blog in a rather different context here.
Good luck Pre, and congratulations Dan.

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Some other Obama Speech Reactions

Robert Spencer does a thorough fisking of the speech, as the obsessive he is. Mostly he shows that the speech is largely full of platitude and naivete, some assertion of good intention, and laced with some of Obama's usual lack (perhaps willful) of historical knowledge. In the end, this is exactly the sort of speech Obama surely wanted to give (especially as much of the history is at best inconsistent with his desire to flatter, as well as some pretty strong evidence that many of his goals and characterizations are too hopeful or just baloney); the last thing he wanted to do was obstruct his extended hand, however clenched the fist he is reaching for really is.
I probably react overall more like Paul Mirengoff.

A Spaniard takes an interest in Obama's History Lessons

Jose Guardia is amused by one part of the new Obamaian history of Spain.
OBAMA SINGS Don't Know Much About History in Cairo ... the Spanish Inquisition was created in 1478, Cordoba has been reconquered from Islamic hands almost 150 years earlier, in 1236.

What's a couple of hundred years? Fairy tales are fun.

We Knew This Was Coming

But I did not realize how much Iowahawk could keep me laughing for almost four full minutes:

There's a small roundup of other reflections on the future of the car, thanks to Speedmaster, at the Amateur Economist.

Obama in Cairo

I can't get too excited one way or the other about this outreach attempt. Little is likely to come of it, but he can't help bloviating, it's an instinct, and it might help. A couple of passages jumped out (not many).
One was the recommendation of democracy - a key thing people aspire to is:
Government that is transparent and does not steal from the people.

There is quite a substantial number of citizens of the US (and Canada, for that matter) who would like to feel they had one of those.
And early, in the obligatory section in any of such speeches distortingreality somewhat by blathering about how great Islam was back in the early second millennium, with all those tolerant communities, in a discussion of the cultural and scientific progress, that DID take place, he referred to things like the development of algebra, and medieval medicine, etc., as occurring:
in Muslim communities

A nice sleight of hand, nicely and simultaneously obscuring and recognizing the fact that a ton of that progress was the product of non-Muslims. I wonder how that sentence read in initial drafts of the speech.
We're done now and the talking head, Christiane Amanpour, says this is an outreach primarily to extremist Islam; in that case, I do have an opinion - it will bring about nothing useful.
Maybe all those scholarships he promised to American universities will be popular.
Another CNN talking head, Candy Crowley, observes that the speech lacked a new idea. Indeed. But that has never been a problem before for Obama.