Sunday, February 28, 2010

And This Clown Wants to Remake an Insurance Industry?!

theblogprof analyzes the rather witless story, which The One probably just made up as part of his lecture to us bozos who don't understand insurance the way he does, and told to the world watching his health care summit.
What is clear that the concept of collision insurance, which most normal people deal with every year, is beyond his mental capabilities.
Judging from the comments over there, he is not endearing himself to some insurance agents.
I saw this, too, and was screaming at the screen so loud I scared the dog sleeping under my desk. Firstly, hard-working small-business-owning insurance agents don't laugh at people to whom we deliver bad news. We wouldn't be in business very long, now would we? We sell people what they want to buy, and we advise them when we think they're not thinking things through, offering them what we think they should have. When they don't take our advice, we don't laugh at them when the inevitable happens. I spend a great deal of my professional day trying to talk people out of making bad decisions such as this. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don't.
With all DUE respect, MR. President, I require an apology from you over this stupid, ignorant, offensive remark, both personally, and on behalf of my profession. I'm not holding my breath.
To be honest I thought he simply does not understand the concept of insurance, as evidenced by his apparent preference for comprehensive health insurance as opposed to catastrophic, or even high-deductible, high co-pay options.
As Arnold Kling commented during the excellent Cato live-blog of the summit:
Obama admits that you could get cheaper insurance if you allowed higher deductibles, higher co-payments, and less coverage. So why not let people do that?
Obama is saying that catastrophic insurance is not real insurance, but comprehensive insurance is real insurance. That's the opposite of what I believe.
Obama: We are not taking over health insurance. We are just going to design the policies and fix the prices, that's all...
I'm with Arnold.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


US Government is now pressing Toyota.
So many of the compaints against Toyota date from many years ago when things were not as they are now. It always seemed to me (as a quondam software engineer) that there were real software-related problems. (This was mostly a guess.)
As they are is that the US Government owns a large piece of GM and Chrysler.
Now all of a sudden the complaints against Toyota are important.
This is decidedly not pretty. Typical Obama.

It's Hughes!

Clara Hughes medaled in the 5k long track speed skating, surely one of the dullest spectator sports ever devised.
Still, when she was announced as Canada's flag-bearer for ths Olympic opening ceremony, her sheer happiness at the selection did a lot to help melt a little of the curmudgeon in me. Her happiness today is not less enjoyable to witness.
She is unique as a multiple winner at both winter and summer Olympics. I was delighted to see her get on the podium this surely one last time.
Attago, Clara.
Mind you she is less unique in a key way - it seems our medalists come disproportionately from among the children of University professors.
I assume the Canadian Human Rights Commission will investigate this and fix it forthwith.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reflections on the Revolution in the Winter Olympics

As I sit and watch the ski cross women's playdowns, I am thinking I am surprised.
I like the new events better than the old ones!
In fact the old ones seem tedious beside all the newly introduced sports. Who wants to sit around through two tedious runs of one person going down a hill in grand slalom when offered the alternative of ski cross? Not I!
What is happening?
Can we make it happen at the summer Olympics?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Brokaw on Canada

Very nice.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

When Nobody Loves You, Count on Humans

As usual. When did the last otter help a human orphan?
The young otter was found crying and desperately trying to climb on adult females in Morro Bay, seeking her missing mother. Already occupied with their own pups, the adult otters repeatedly pushed the little girl away. With things looking increasingly desperate, staff decided to rescue the pup and bring her back to the Aquarium.

Good God! It's just a stupid skeleton race?

Tears from Melissa Hollingsworth twice now in public simply because she did not win a stupid skeleton race, one of the most ridiculous sports ever?
Maybe this "Own the Podium" stuff is damaging otherwise perfectly sensible human beings for no good reason at all.
Like, do I, one of her compulsory supporters, care who won the skeleton in 2010? Not a chance.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Olympic Interviews

The normally anodyne stuff gets covered extensively, but we should all recall that there have been colorful Canadians in the past.
"I did it for me!"
Don't get me wrong - I love our happy gold medalists this year. And other medalists.

The World's Greatest Pixy

Steve Sailer is very focused on Olympic wear, summer and winter. And hilariously.
Consider gymnastics, the Summer Games equivalent of figure skating in that it’s one of the rare sports where men play second fiddle to women. If the women’s figure skating competition crowns the World’s Greatest Princess, the women’s gymnastics all-around title determines the World’s Greatest Pixy.
Yes that made me laugh.
Ironically, the Communist regimes invested in the elitist culture of the Romantic 19th Century, such as ballet, in order to keep out the pop culture of the 20th Century. Skating excellence is attractive to Slavic men due to their high culture’s traditional devotion to soulful self-expression.
But how long will men’s figure skating last even in Russia as anything other than a gay ghetto? Figure skating first appeared in the Olympics in 1908, while the halfpipe debuted in 1998. The trend seems clear.
Worth reading the whole thing, and somewhat consistent with Elvis Stojko's concerns.

Elvis - Tell Us What you Think

Elvis Stojko is not impressed with men's figure skating. (Personally, I cannot myself bother to watch it.)
How can you be Olympic champion when you don’t even try the quad? If you’re going to take the quad out, why not take out another triple axel and just have more of the other stuff so the International Skating Union can make it more into an “art” recital.
And the judges’ scoring probably killed figure skating because kids now are going to see this and say, “Oh, I don’t need a quad. I can just do great footwork for presentation marks and do a couple of nice spins and make it to Olympic champion.” With that type of scoring, you don’t have to risk it. You can play it safe and win gold.
In what other sports do you have to hold back in order to win?
Man that last question is compelling; the things I have so enjoyed so far in the Olympics have been insane and determined decisions not to hold back. Vonn, Mancuso, Bilodeau, Ricker, ...
Figure skating gets no respect because of outcomes like this. More feathers, head-flinging and so-called step sequences done at walking speed – that’s what the system wants.
Elvis, please don't hold back. Tell us what you really think.

A Sartorial Suggestion from Steve Sailer

And one I agree with as well:
Men's figure skating should have a rule that the skaters can't wear any styles of clothes that weren't worn in dance scenes in Hollywood musicals by either Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, or Jimmy Cagney.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

This World is So Much Better than the One I was Born into

China has a competitor in the Olympic Women's Half-Pipe.

Women's Super-Combined and Hair

I want to start by giving great credit to CTV - they showed the final run in this event of an irrelevant (in the sense we knew she could not affect the medals) participant.
And then I want to reflect on hair. Shaun White's is something else, and I have already mentioned the lovely little squirrel ears Hannah Kearney created in the moguls.
But Julia Mancuso's flowing and flying locks in the combined were lovely to see.
Keep it up. I count on all this entertainment.

This week's word is survival

So says the excellent Journey North site.
Overshadowed by the earthquake in Haiti, the torrential rainstorms in Mexico have not been so much covered, and their impact on the overwintering Monarch butterfly population has been little mentioned in the media here.
Last summer featured for me the fewest Monarch sightings I can recall.
I am really hoping they can have a very fecund journey north, which will start quite soon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Glad I am not a Flagrantly Gay Designer

On the other hand there seem few occupations that are more attractive - naked models all the time, etc.
The guy seemed in command, though I never had the smallest taste for his efforts.
Maybe that was the cause of the outcome.

Too Funny

Watching the CTV coverage of the women's Olympic downhill, where Lindsey Vonn leads and continues to by a large margin as other skiers finish or fail to, I hear this plaintive "Why is she so far ahead?", and nobody seems willing to pop up the utterly obvious answer, that "She is better by far at this sport than anyone else in the field."
That would be un-Canadian. I am sure we will have a Human Rights Commission exploring this inequality soon.
It's a sad mentality, that comes from sad aspects of this country.

The Deadweight Loss

... that is a consequence of striving for Olympic excellence, is a theme of a recent Dan Gardner column.
Sympathizing as I do with his message, I am a bit disappointed that he focuses so much on Lindsey Vonn. Sure, her life has been miserable in some ways, but she will coast now for the rest of that life. She is quite marketable in many ways.
UPDATE: On the other hand, Dan now makes me want to do a little bit more research. Thanks, Dan.

Worst Ever Olympic Management?

I watch all the events on CTV-affiliated stations, so I of course see no hint of dissent or negative feeling about the overall performance of Vancouver as a host for this year's Olympics. But I have sure been wondering - a Georgian athlete dying in practice and then announcing it was his own damned fault, having to import Zambonis from Alberta, hopeless weather (sorry, no, I think the uncertainties here could have been better documented in the bid, though maybe they were), killing off general admission spectator tickets (so only the rich elite get to see the event). And a lot more.
The Wall Street Journal provides a nice summary here.
h/t Colby Cosh, whose views I am not sure I understand.

Book Recommendation - The Silence and the Scorpion

This is a fine book, documenting the 'coup' in 2002 that failed against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. It tells a very sad story, and it sure does not make me feel good about the future of Venezuela.
But it makes me think a lot more about Venezuela than I used to; once I would have thought Venezuela would have been fine had the coup succeeded. Now I do not.
Moreover, it makes it clear that, at least in 2002, Venezuela had a military that cared about the constitution, far more than any of the politicians involved. I suspect that Chavez has fixed that problem. It is clear that Chavez had, and has, an almost breathtaking contempt for human rights and rule of law, but the book makes it seem most of his opposition was not a lot better.
It is SO hard to build a civil society. Especially hard when a rich country ceases to be a rich country, as Nelson so well documents.

It Was So Fun

That seems to me an apt description of how Maelle Ricker looked winning her snow cross gold yesterday. But one thing this article tells me is that I am old. I pictured all these athletes as toiling in obscurity most of the time, but it seems they were obscure only to me!
And the athletes involved are often as wild off the snow as they are on it.
Unlike figure skaters or lugers, these competitors wouldn't stoop to wear spandex even on Halloween.
The biggest names, like halfpipe sensation Shaun White, are brands unto themselves, earning millions in video game, clothing, and Red Bull contracts by selling teenagers on how to be cool.
They use words like "whack" and have nicknames like "Animal." At official press conferences, they hawk charity items like Sweetcheeks panties.
I was astonished after watching the event and interviews with Ricker to discover she is in her thirties. That sport sure keeps her young!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympic Ice

It is pretty farcical and Angus is amused.
I know economists can't make accurate predictions, but this is more basic than that. It's like a crew of economists not being able to draw and correctly label a supply and demand diagram.

Sartorial Battles at the Olympics

I had no idea that clothes so made the athlete, though I do find the different outfits worn by the athletes one of the entertaining points as we switch from event to event.
From the Norwegian curlers' pants, to the snow cross pants, to the whole outfit of some figure skaters, we have lots of controversy about dress.
Team member Christoffer Svae, who helped kit out the team, was also the inspiration behind the Norwegian team wearing pink belts at some tournaments last year.
"There are no rules against the pants, but there may be after this," admitted Svae.
Snow cross:
The flair of halfpipers is seen as one of the engines of snowboarding's lucrative fashion industry, while alpine riders have a more a practical approach, aiming for top speeds with the help of sleeker body suits.
The Americans and a few other teams have unsuccessfully called on the International Ski Federation (FIS) to follow the X Games lead and set a minimum pant-leg width for snowboard cross, Holland said.
So far, no rules to police pants size have been put in place.
Figure Skating:
A top Russian skating pair whose 'Aboriginal' ice dance routine hurt feelings in Australia have decided to ditch their costumes for the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, a newspaper reported on Monday.
Johnny Weir won't be wearing a costume trimmed with fox fur at the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games,
...who donned electric blue catsuits that could’ve been rejects from Blades of Glory for their program
I suspect the interest is driven by a combination of the unfamiliarity of many of the sports and the resulting tendency to find watching the sport itself a little boring, as people watching don't understand either the rules of the sport or the strategies involved.
Another effect, I think, is that the the IOC introduces new events to try to keep the Olympics cool to appeal to a more lucrative demographic, but the focus on winning by the various participating countries introduces tensions into the more laid-back traditions of the sport involved.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dick Francis, RIP

Quite a life.
In 1962 his first thriller was published, Dead Cert. Between then and 2000 he published 38 novels and a collection of short stories, making him one of Britain's most prolific thriller writers.
He was helped by his wife Mary, who became his researcher and collaborator, until her death in 2000 after 53 years of marriage.
Francis is survived by two sons, Felix and Merrick, as well as five grandchildren and one great-grandson.
Felix Francis, who co-wrote four more novels with his father since 2007, said: "My brother, Merrick, and I are, of course devastated by the loss of our father, but we rejoice in having been the sons of such an extraordinary man.
"We share in the joy that he brought to so many over such a long life. It is an honour for me to be able to continue his remarkable legacy through the new novels."
h/t Tim

Our Long National Nightmare is Over - Olympics Day 3

That of the USA was disposed of in a little over two years, but apparently as a Canadian I have been suffering quietly for over thirty years, with all other Canadians, because of the shame that Canada had never won a gold medal in an Olympic Games hosted on its own soil.
This always seemed an odd notion to me; like many Canadians, I have never been in favor of Canada pissing away resources hosting these gigantic commercial and nationalistic farces. Moreover, most countries in the world have never hosted an Olympic Games (and they should count their blessings), so it seems an oddly masochistic thing for our press to decide to focus on this ridiculously small concern. Oh well.
In any case, Alexandre Bilodeau has lifted the curse from the land; perhaps now Canada will start getting probable and improbable wins in all other events and "own the podium". The rise of the oceans will begin now to slow; the recession will end; the lion will lie with the lamb; the separatists will never again be a force; all because our national shame is at an end.
The Olympics are a funny mix of the attractive (generally the athletes and parents), and the unattractive (the media, and the political and bureaucratic nonsense around it). It's a hard balance.
It is enjoyable and often moving to watch the relatively obscure sports, that I watch once every four years. The competitors toil in relative obscurity for years, on the off chance of having a few days in the sun once every four years, and if successful likely assuring themselves a modest future as a coach in the sport, with perhaps a quadrennial broadcasting gig. It is an amazing commitment, and lying behind it is the commitment of family and friends, often great financial sacrifice, and certainly great sacrifice in their time as well as the athlete's. It's a big gamble, and I would guess that over the large population of aspirants to success, there is an enormous deadweight loss. (I imagine this has been studied.)
It is NOT enjoyable watching the collective IQ of the media drop by 45% starting weeks before the opening of the games. I don't care much for nationalism per se, but the nationalism of the Canadian media is a pathetic then that robs all perspective. I must give some credit to the individual sport color commentators, usually ex-athletes, who do maintain some understanding of likely outcomes, and of who is doing well and who not so well. On the political side, the fact that Canada Post is already announcing issuance of a commemorative stamp marking this signal event is a measure of how much political benefit the government sees in this development. And of course that means it thinks there are votes, amazing. Not mine.
All that said, I rather enjoy watching the Moguls finals; the outfits are weird, it is surely one of the strangest sports ever concocted, clearly extremely athletic, with a great frisson of danger, and the athletes seem to be generally enthusiastic, except for that odd apparently surly Canadian-Australian (Australia, you're welcome to him). I really liked the little 'squirrel ears' Hannah Kearney created outside her helmet with her hair. And while I usually think too much is made of the human interest stuff, this morning's CTV interview with the Bilodeau family was quite touching. (Will add link when CTV pops it up here.)
The only bad thing about moguls is that the whole event for Bilodeau lasted under 25 seconds; this means it can be repeated, and is being repeated, 10 times every five minutes (small exaggeration).
So congratulations Alexandre Bilodeau, your family, and all those who supported you. To the media and 'Canada' (whatever that is), not so much.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Major Giggle

It's true - these are the two great voices of my lifetime. And MacLeans has great fun with it.

Turning in my Curmudgeon Badge

OK I did manage to sleep through the Olympic opening ceremony, which should earn me my badge, but have found myself this morning quite captivated by CTV's 24-hour coverage, including recaps of the opening ceremony. Seems the VANOC team were witty and very intelligent in their playing of the lighting of the cauldron.
Whatever I might sarcastically say at times, it is a great country. And I am lucky to have been born here.
And I agree with EclectEcon, there is a ridiculous overemphasis on a marginal part of the population, bet we do like totem poles.
I am now looking forward to the next couple of weeks.
As much as the Olympics are an utterly fraudulent enterprise, they are also extremely attractive, and expose us to an incredible number of attractive young people with attractive qualities like perseverance and application.
So sorry Curmudgeon Society - I have to drop out until March.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Old Cynic

... is about to head to bed, full of negative views about stupid Canada, hosting the Olympics.
I bet I fall asleep in tears tonight watching the opening ceremonies. The people who design them are way smarter than I am.

Maher Arar Clears His Name

So says Chris Hall on the CBC. But where? Where did that name-clearing happen?

Holy Cow!

Wonder what this does to the local broadcasting lobbying battle (i.e. the picking my pocket to enrich Canwest and CTV shareholders)?
The company that owns Shaw Cable and the StarChoice satellite TV service has arranged to buy a controlling stake in Canwest Global Communications Corp.
In addition to the Global television network and several specialty cable channels, Winnipeg-based Canwest also owns the largest chain of newspapers in Canada.
But Shaw Communications Corp. president Peter Bissonnette confirmed Friday that the company's bid does not include the print assets, which are held under a separate corporate entity, Canwest LP.
All of which raises a lot of other interesting questions.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Right to be Fat

Is this a great country or what?
A five-year-long feud over a parking spot has ended with a human-rights victory and $10,000 settlement for a morbidly obese Quebec woman.
Marise Myrand won a favourable ruling from the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, which said her condo association discriminated against her by denying her a parking spot closer to her building entrance. She not only won the preferred spot, but all 35 of her neighbours will have to contribute to her $10,000 award.
Personally I think this is insane but public choice theory will help explain it all.
"When you live in condo co-ownership, you live in a micro-society. You have obligations," said Pierre-Yves Bourdeau, a lawyer with the Quebec Human Rights Commission, who represented Ms. Myrand. "You're obliged to help people with physical disabilities."
The lawyer representing the condo association, Gaétan Mathieu, said he may appeal the ruling. He said that Ms. Nolet, is in her 60s and has a dislocated shoulder, so the tribunal was setting up a hierarchy of handicaps by favouring Ms. Myrand.
One outcome is that there will need to be a lot of future work by the Quebec Human Rights Industry to start ranking those handicaps in a hierarchy. And my guess is that this will be done by very expensive time-consuming analyses trading one handicap against another, and maybe, even better, occasionally inconsistent rulings so we can also have many rounds of appeals and piss away a ton of money on these idiotic debates.

In Defence of Adam Giambrone - No, not Me - Other People

As I have been driving about a fair bit the last couple of days and occasionally watching local news, I keep seeing and hearing discussions of whether Adam Giambrone should continue as chair of the TTC.
Those who defend him frame their response roughly this way: "His personal and sexual life should have no bearing on his public positions". That may or may not be the case (I actually don't agree).
But this is hardly the issue. What has been exposed is that this is a man who is simultaneously a major narcissist (likely normal in such jobs), arrogant (also likely common), and profoundly stupid (less common).
My own and only real concern is the stupidity.
Let's look back; you have a mistress and you have told her you are living with your brother, and leave it open for her to think you are otherwise unattached. You then decide to appear all over in Toronto (where she lives) media announcing your candidacy with some other woman identified as your 'partner' and you think that things will just go on as before?! Stupid.
This is what disqualifies this little creep from any future role in public affairs. I want those who continue to defend him to frame it around his stupidity, and, even, willingness to be completely duplicitous to people close to him.
Nothing to do with his personal life.
I must say as well that yesterday's press conference proves he is VERY POOR at handling stress. Let's get serious - Clinton could produce "It all depends on what the meaning of 'is' is", and this guy is a little crybaby who runs away.
Of course even funnier is having Howard Moscoe praising his job as TTC Chair. Yeah, right, Howard. You'd be a good judge.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


And it's Canadian Content!

Eve Ensler seems not too Bright

I actually went to 'The Vagina Monologues' and the best thing about it was the Toronto Star review by Michelle Landsberg that pointed out Ensler seemed deeply confused about the distinction between the vagina and the vulva.
But Ensler reaches new heights in this wonderful 'put-down' of Sarah Palin (h/t HotAir via Kathy, and the indirection goes on):
ENSLER: Well, I just think the idea that she doesn't believe in global warming is bizarre.
BEHAR: Every scientist at every note believes in it but Sarah Palin doesn't believe in it.
ENSLER: And I think we just kind of have to walk around the world at this point and look at what is happening to nature and earthquakes and tsunamis.
BEHAR: Right.
Now what I love about exchanges like this is that both participants are trying to appear very sophisticated and knowledgeable, and in the process perfectly refuting such pretensions. So perhaps I should have said that Joy Behar seems not too bright either, but that is no surprise.
I should probably check the IPCC report for connections to earthquakes, but I suspect even those guys could not goof up this obviously.

More Giambrone Humor, and Ashley Madison

He sort of announced that he has dropped out of the mayoralty race this morning, in a press conference that had him race from the lectern after some useless apologies, and send his executive assistant out to read the full statement. I am astonished that the clown thinks he can stay on as TTC chair. We shall see. It's not as if he could claim he has been doing a good job in any sense.
I am a bit sorry to see him go, as it would have been nice if there were a few Miller 2.0 candidates to split the stupid people's vote. But I did fear that he might have won, and I do not feel bad on that front.
But on a more amusing point, the TTC refused to carry advertising for the Ashley Madison web site, which is devoted to enabling affairs for married people. That company now believes that, given the behavior of the TTC chair, they have a case for appealing that decision.
Ashley Madison, the website designed to hook up attached clients with people outside their relationships, may again table its “Life is Short. Have an Affair” ad to the TTC in light of the Giambrone sex scandal.
“I just find it really ironic that only a few months ago, there was this huge uproar over the notion of us trying to assist the TTC and riders with extra revenue and now the TTC is in a big mess,” Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman said Tuesday.
In December, the TTC’s advertising review committee rejected Ashley Madison streetcar ads, contending they didn’t comply with community standards.
Biderman sympathizes with Giambrone, saying infidelity is just part of being human.
The world is too wonderfully funny at times. (Not for Giambrone, but he deserves what he's getting, and worse.)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Haiti had an Earthquake, Mexico Storms

Missing in most of the news I have been watching has been the disastrous weather in Mexico; I know about it only because I belong to a Monarch Butterfly discussion group and their wintering regions were especially badly hit.
In fact many of the people I was reading reports from were those who go down to Mexico to see the wintering in the mountain forests, and they were terribly worried about those who have regularly hosted them over many years.
Seems many have suffered terrible damages - that is the humans. Nobody seems sure how bad the butterfly scene is. We will know soon.
I suspect the naturalist in me was born 50 years ago watching Monarch butterflies and the similarly colored Baltimore Orioles. Where I live now I will only in the most unlikely of circumstances see an Oriole, but I count every year on seeing the butterflies.
Last year was not great for the butterflies. I worry now about this year.

I Have Long Wondered Who Won't Get Fooled Again

And Pete Townshend tells us: (h/t) Kathy
This summer, National Review magazine called “Won’t Get Fooled Again” the greatest conservative rock song of all time. Townshend says that’s “on the money.” The self-described “working musician” who sees his job as “helping the audience to forget themselves,” says he never really bought into “all that hippie (expletive) I so despise.”
And, Townshend says, “when people say ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ is not about rebellion, it’s the exact opposite of that, I say they’re right.”
But if Townshend can be contentious and pragmatic one minute, the next he can sound an idealistic note about the communal power of music, reminding you that he’s a product of the ’60s.
“The thing that the last great war did was leave us not so much a bleakness of spirit as a vacancy,” he says. “And we filled the vacancy. We filled it with a lot of tosh ... but we also filled it with a lot of passion.”
Tosh and passion - I love that!


Sorry you have to go look.

Mike Munger takes the Occasionally Silly Ezra Klein to the Cleaners

Golly, Ezra! If only there it "Public Choice" theory. There could even be a journal to study this sort of thing. If only there were a university, perhaps one in the DC metro area, that taught Public Choice theory. Let's make one up, and call it "George Mason." If only there were think tanks.... call them "Mercatus" and "Cato"... that publish dozens of articles and monographs every year taking EXACTLY the perspective that Mr. Klein appears to believe he has originated.
Of course the progressives fret about the capabilities of politicians and government only when it ain't going their way.

That Was Great, Daddy

I feel privileged to have lived long enough to stand up at the end of a performance of 'Don Giovanni', and find in the row behind me a young girl barely reaching my belt in height, and saying as we all left the theatre after the standing ovation, "That was great, Daddy".
The performance was the UWO Music Faculty performance of "Don Giovanni" on the afternoon of February 7. This was the last performance of this production, so unfortunately you cannot go see it now. It was far and away the most satisfying of the many productions I have watched; amusingly, both of the top two were performed in London, Ontario.
What made it so good? I think the core was the direction. I have never seen the characters so clearly as their archetypes. And this does clarify the whole opera nicely : the Don himself, full of appetite, arrogant, and ultimately wonderfully defiant in his refusal to accept social norms; his manservant Leporello, full of the same appetites, but with none of the, yes, courage; Elvira, torn between two feelings; Ana, needing vengeance, and Ottavio, dominated by his love (very sweet) for Ana; Zerlina, the little minx, and Masetto, her fiance, who cannot quite deal with her minx-ness. Of course direction needs performers and the ones we get were well up to it. There was NO weak link.
Now when SillyWife alerted me to this production I wondered how mere students could handle the stress of all these performances - the answer is, partly, that the production ran with different casts on different days, which is also a great thing for a program preparing students for a career. So in the end, as I recite names, they come from what the handout program says was the cast of the day.
Clarence Frazer was a wonderfully arrogant Giovanni, maybe more malicious than any I had previously seen, but that makes sense; Michael Rusnak should have a great comic career ahead of him after his tour de force as Leporello - his skills were exploited especially well in the final dinner scene, as he helped displace some of the intensity from the confrontation between the Don and the Commandante; Natalie Donnelly's Anna was solid and delightful; Michael Marion's Ottavio was excellent, and his sweet tenor made Ottavio's many sweet arias exposing his love for Ana particularly delightful; Gabrielle Heidinger's Elvira perfectly reflected her torn feelings; Breanna Temple's Zerlina was the perfect minx Zerlina is; Joseph Herbison made Masetto an utterly satisfying frustrated fiance.
The orchestra was yet another star. And with it, maybe a truly major star was the Paul Davenport Theatre, the wonderfully refurbished old Talbot Theatre on the Western campus. Everything sounded just great.
Thank you, UWO Music Faculty!
A few side thoughts.
The audiences in these shows usually feature a lot of family, and with that a lot of people who normally do not go to opera, especially younger siblings, and so can react without knowing all the rules, and this is very enjoyable. A part of the audience erupted in laughter wonderfully at the scene where Leporello reminds Giovanni of the name 'Elvira' by showing him his hit list. And I have never been in a production where the audience erupts in applause as Giovanni is pulled down through the gates of hell, but this one did, and that seems to a perfectly right response.
It also struck me it must be fun performing such a subversive piece of work, amusingly subversive now too in a world university environment so fraught with ridiculous political correctness. I suspect Mr. Herbison enjoyed having to bury his nose in Ms. Temple's cleavage. I enjoyed watching it, and the audience reaction showed a lot of the people in it did too. And there are several other lovely examples in this opera.
Other stars clearly are Mozart and Da Ponte. When I got home I had to check into Da Ponte's life - this libretto is no accident. Don Giovanni is almost a pale force beside Da Ponte and his life. Go read his Wikipedia entry.
One other thought - how does one University music program assemble so much talent? They must work very hard at recruiting, and more power to them. I am amazed.
In the end, for me, my favorite moment was still the one I opened with, when that very young girl thanked her father for taking her to the show. Maybe in 15 years she will be on the same stage. I hope to be able to see that.
Oh by the way - I joined in this standing ovation, and my regular readers know I do not do that often.

Laschinger Must be Grinding His Teeth a Lot

I love this - I hope Giambrone stays in the race to drain votes from other Miller look-a-likes politically.
Now Toronto may be the one place in the world where a clown like Giambrone, after these revelations, thinks he can win a mayoralty election; but I find it hard to believe that even Toronto is going to accept the levels of duplicity, self-regard, and cynical lack of respect for the public, that Giambrone has displayed.
Poor Laschinger!
I did not realize this bit, and it shows how cretinous Giambrone is:
After the Toronto Star mistakenly identified Giambrone as married in a recent profile, Lucas shared text messages with the newspaper about their relationship:
"You know I will be announcing I have a partner," Giambrone, 32, wrote in a text message to Lucas Dec. 27. "It is someone named Sarah, who I've been involved with in the past. It is important for the campaign."
It's interesting to see how Miller's other toads line up:
"I just think this kind of gutter reporting, I have no tolerance for it," said Councillor Sandra Bussin. "He's running for mayor, and it's about his personal relationship. He's not married, and I'm wondering where we ever draw the line on personal relationships."

TTC Union to hold Townhalls

This should be amusing. I plan to attend if they do not interfere with any curling being broadcast.

Bye Bye Giambrone

Adam Giambrone is one of the candidates for the mayoralty of Toronto. As chair of the TTC he has had a bad last few weeks, which have surely given his oppnents great new material.
Now though, another problem he has makes him look like the dead meat he should be. The John Edwards of our mayoralty campaign!
Mayoral candidate Adam Giambrone admitted Monday night he had "an inappropriate relationship with a young woman."
Calling it "a serious lapse in judgment," the Toronto city councillor offered his "deepest apology to my partner, Sarah, my family and friends for the pain and embarrassment my indiscretion will cause them."
His statement came after the Toronto Star asked him a series of questions about his relationship with university student Kristen Lucas, who said she had an intimate relationship with Giambrone for more than a year. Lucas, now 20, was 19 when she began dating Giambrone.
Now I might not mind this per se but he seems not to recognize that if he plans to campaign with one woman, maybe there ought not be two.
"You know I will be announcing I have a partner," Giambrone, 32, wrote in a text message to Lucas Dec. 27. "It is someone named Sarah (McQuarrie), who I've been involved with in the past. It is important for the campaign."
Giambrone told Lucas he hoped they could continue to see each other, assuring her: "I had to have someone political."
Moreover, he has been widely touted as bright. text messages? They can be saved. I guess he knows that now.
He even made use of city property!
In recent interviews with the Star, Lucas said she's been involved with Giambrone since late 2008 and, on several occasions, had sex late at night on a couch in his City Hall office.
If he stays in the campaign there will be fun.
Bright? Listen to this!
She alleged Giambrone revealed secrets relating to his work – "I knew a long, long time ago about the (TTC) fare hike" – and shared his "negative" opinions of several councillors. She offered no details, but said Mayor "David Miller is like a god to Adam."
I can barely control my glee.
Wait - it's worse. He tries to hook up on Facebook?
"I am actually pretty transparent," he told her, in an early Facebook message, Dec. 21, 2008. "I live with my brother. I swim a lot and like to spend time travelling. How's that for a beginning."
This must have been tough for the Toronto Star, getting such a great scoop, that surely has sunk their favorite candidate.

No Breasts and a Prescription for Cialis

Daniel Kalder has a great post looking at the recent tendency of whoever organizes the Superbowl entertainment to choose old coots to perform at half-time.
So it seems that the rules if you want to perform at the Superbowl post- Janet Jackson are
  1. No breasts, and thus no women
  2. If you are a man, then you must have a prescription for Cialis.
Now before anybody accuses me of ageism let me say this: I have nothing against venerable singers and guitarists, etc. A month or so back on this very site I sang the praises of King Crimson, who are very old indeed, if not exactly Super Bowl material. Johnny Cash did some of his best work in his 60s and 70s,
and later observes:
I’m also a bit suspicious that these geriatric Super Bowl acts are those bands much beloved of the dismal late 60s Baby Boomer generation that has had a death grip on Western culture since the 80s at least, forcing its own nostalgia for a long passed youth down everybody else’s gullet. These coots just won’t let go: ‘Teenage Wasteland’ indeed. It’s enough to make you nostalgic for Janet Jackson’s nipple.
I find it hard to believe that these entertainment decisions are a draw; certainly I would have paid more attention had it been Lady GaGa than the (to me) tedious Daltrey and Townshend.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Superbowl à la CTV - What a Downer

It's a perpetual theme this time of year in Canada that CRTC rules force Canadians watching the Superbowl on cable or by Canadian satellite to watch the commercials that the Canadian carrier has negotiated.
This has a profound effect on the experience of the viewer; when you watch the game in the US nobody leaves the room for commercials; they are the highlight of the US advertising year and they reflect the unleashing of the creative year for advertising agencies.  I last experienced this two years ago when the Giants upset the Patriots and I was at a party with family in California; then we saw the first of the Clydesdale ads where they bond with other animals, and the first of the E*Trade babies.  The atmosphere was electric and the ads got almost as much in cheering as some of the play.
Last year I watched the game in Canada, and it was a great game but that electricity was gone.
And last night I watched the game largely alone on CTV.
It was pathetic.  There were some standard boring car ads and not much more I recall except ....
90% of the ads seemed to be for their coverage of the upcoming boring Olympics; and this alone made me wonder about a lot of things.
a) Do they need to advertise so heavily for fear we won't watch much of what is likely their expensive coverage (I expect to watch a lot of curling and nothing else)?
b) Or do they think that advertising will inspire us to watch more of the Olympics?  It turned me off so badly I plan to minimize my Olympic watching after last night.
c) Are Canadians so uninterested in the Superbowl that that is the best CTV could sell - 90% of the ads to themselves?
I heard interesting related comments on the CBC this morning about this.  Jian Ghomeishi was frustrated that many in his Twitter community were seeing the US ads and he had nothing to say as he had not seen them.  Bruce Dowbiggin commented (CRTC take note! as did I) that he had watched the game on his laptop from a US feed and so had seen all the ads sitting, I assume, in Calgary.
This is truly a silly and pathetic little country.

Unionized Public Monopolies and Customer Service - Ha Ha Ha

Unionized public monopolies create a large problem, in that their threat to strike is a threat to shut down all available sources of the service they provide, because the state has forbidden alternatives.  The whole situation surrounding them is ill-considered, and leads to a series of consequences.
One thing the institution does NOT lead to is good customer service.
In the last couple of weeks, customers of the Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto's public transit monopoly (and effectively reasonably-priced transit monopoly, since other bus companies, or subways, are not allowed) have been engaged in a bit of guerrilla warfare against TTC employees, capturing them with ubiquitous digital cameras and videocameras sleeping on the job or taking long unannounced breaks in the middle of their shifts.
Now these workers are unionized so anyone knows that management has little recourse to take action against their behaviors.
Nonetheless the General Manager of the TTC sent a stern note to employees on the weekend.
We all have to accept responsibility for allowing the TTC to drift into a culture of unacceptable operating discipline. In other words, we have deemed it acceptable for some employees to not do all aspects of their jobs.
As employees, you – and you alone – are accountable for your actions. The culture of complacency and malaise that has seeped into our organization will end. I hold all of management responsible to make this happen. Reviews and plans are under way to address systemic issues regarding customer service, but real change starts with you.
 However impressive the words sound, anyone with half a brain knows that surely this is all puff when balanced against the collective agreement under which the TTC managers and employees work.   The employees know they are only accountable to meet the minimal demands actually in the collective agreement, and management is surely in no position to expect truly professional behavior from unionized employees (I have never seen that in a unionized environment).

So what follows?  Just the expected intransigence  from the union leader and chaos from the employees, some claiming to be working-to-rule, and others making threats of striking, much of the battle going on on Facebook.
I am sure this will end up a tempest in a teapot (but remember the reference to 'tea') shortly, but it will not be easily forgotten by TTC riders who depend on service.  Being told by the union leader we have no right to defend ourselves in obvious ways against slovenly employee behavior (it is actually worse than slovenly) may last as a memory to the fall mayorlaty and council election.  The employee attitude will likely not leave our minds either.
Even more delicious, the apparent most-like-Miller successor is Adam Giambrone, the current chair of the TTC, decidedly in the race, who is going to have to walk the tightrope between his need for union support, and votes from the rest of us, somewhat burned by the garbage strike last summer, and now by this clear statement by the unions of their attitudes toward customer service.
The irony is that the letter from the general manager included this statement:
We are in the customer service business, but some of the behaviour our customers have encountered recently would suggest otherwise. Our customers pay a fare and the City provides hundreds of millions of dollars every year to the TTC. This public transit agency belongs to the very people we serve.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Heresy Trial by Any Other Name

I've not commented on the Geert Wilders trial in the Netherlands, but have not really had the stomach, it is so appalling.  But I now find I can outsource the task to Pat Condell.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Surprisingly Moving

I recall the Anita Hill testimony etc.  But this exchange between Clarence Thomas and students at the University of Florida moves me.
This is a guy who really had a black background, and America's left ganged up, especially the utterly awful Ted Kennedy, to deny him advancement, when they also ganged up to take up the cause of another kid, grown up in the white professional world, who declared himself black, and now is the US President.
Who is more attractive?  Your call.  He is no fool.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Not Pretty But Right

Greg Gutfeld, not someone I always agree with, is right about this very unfortunate story.
I speak of Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and all the saps at the Huffington Post who by their own earnest idiocy, misled the public into skipping vaccinations. The potential result: measles outbreaks all over the globe – and ultimately, dead kids.
Sadly, the tense of his verb is wrong.  It should still be 'mislead'.

Solid Post on Obama's Climate Change Farce

Ah yes the rising of the oceans he would fix.  Not quite.  This essay is excellent.
Obama has been an utter failure on this front - he maintains the rhetoric as any REAL solution goes all to hell.

In the end, whether or not the Senate passes a cap-in-name-only climate bill, the long-term failure of Kyoto and all other efforts to establish binding emissions caps is virtually assured and is a function of a basic technological problem. We simply do not have low-carbon technologies today that can at large scale replace fossil fuels at a cost that any political economy in the world is willing to impose upon itself. There will be no political solution to climate change, no binding international agreement to substantially reduce emissions, and no effective domestic carbon cap until low-carbon technologies are much cheaper than they are today.
Unfortunately, pointing out this now fairly evident reality is viewed by most greens as an act of bad faith. In the simulated world of Hopenhagen, below-cost energy efficiency can deliver emissions reductions too cheap to meter; solar and wind power are already cheaper than coal; and "political will" along with new regulations and a modest carbon price will deliver technological miracles.
However, the technologies we need will not materialize in response to carbon prices or emissions caps. Nor will they arrive, as many conservatives would have it, by getting the government out of the way and simply allowing a new generation of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to tinker away in their garages.
Rather, we need to create a new clean energy economy in the same way we created our information economy: by identifying a set of well-defined technical problems and mobilizing the human resources of our technologically advanced civilization -- our scientists, laboratories, universities, and engineers -- to solve them.
These technical questions are not difficult to grasp and in fact have already largely been laid out by Chu in his remarks to the New York Times. How do we convert sunlight into energy much more efficiently than solar panels do today? What combination of chemicals can store more energy in batteries that are smaller and lighter? How can we manufacture a next generation of self-contained nuclear reactors that are safer, smaller, and cheaper than the large ones of the 1950s and 1960s? And how can we engineer new biological organisms to serve as a cheap fuel alternative to oil?
Solving global warming's technology challenges will require not a single Apollo program or Manhattan Project, but many. We need to solve technical problems across a range of technologies and at a variety of stages along the road from technological development to demonstration to commercialization to mass deployment.
Leaving the comfortable precincts of Hopenhagen means taking a hard look at our current predicament. A sober assessment will acknowledge that fossil fuels are remarkable sources of energy -- cheap, energy dense, and widely available. That's why oil, coal, and gas will not be easily displaced by present-day renewable-energy technologies that are expensive and intermittent, or by energy-efficiency measures that are more expensive to implement than their proponents have been willing to admit. Nor will green lifestyles and energy conservation reduce the average American's energy consumption 80 percent over 40 years.
Properly chastened, we will turn away from the phony certainty and faked urgency that proponents of today's failed, top-down, target-based approach trade in. Claims that we don't have time to wait for technological breakthroughs and the related demands for policies that supposedly guarantee rapid and assured emissions reductions have only served to delay the technological day of reckoning.
The hard work of mobilizing the resources and institutions necessary to engineer our way to a low-carbon economy will look profoundly different from both the histrionics at Copenhagen and the slick sales pitch offered by carbon traders in Washington. International agreements to share the burden and the benefits of developing better and cheaper low-carbon energy technologies will represent the central focus of international climate negotiations. Such agreements will extend well beyond simply agreeing to underwrite more laboratory research. They will require large financial commitments to demonstrate these technologies and create physical and institutional infrastructures that can support their commercialization.
Transforming the global energy economy from fossil fuels to low-carbon alternatives over the next 50 to 100 years is such a monumental technological undertaking that it is quite understandable that many would either declare it impossible or retreat into magical thinking. We must resist these temptations.
Solving the technology challenge will not be easy, but in terms of our collective wealth and knowledge we are in a better position today than at any other point in our history. In the end, global efforts to address the climate challenge, if they are to succeed, must centrally focus upon the creation of a new and extraordinarily important global public good: the development of low-carbon energy technologies that are cheap, clean, and abundant. After two decades of domestic and international failure to take real action on climate change, it is time for the purveyors of magical thinking to take their exit so that the main act can begin.
And Roger Pielke Jr points at another way to make much the same assessment, this one from Bill Gates, no climate scientis, but someone who gets the point:
 If CO2 reduction is important, we need to make it clear to people what really matters – getting to zero.
With that kind of clarity, people will understand the need to get to zero and begin to grasp the scope and scale of innovation that is needed.
However all the talk about renewable portfolios, efficiency, and cap and trade tends to obscure the specific things that need to be done.
To achieve the kinds of innovations that will be required I think a distributed system of R&D with economic rewards for innovators and strong government encouragement is the key. There just isn’t enough work going on today to get us to where we need to go.
The world is distracted from what counts on this issue in a big way.

Thank God for Elizabeth May!

Evan Solomon's rather feeble CBC replacement show, replacing Don Newman's, has reached a new low; the totally dumb Elizabeth May now has a microphone to document her terrible concern that our Olympic athlete candidates are wracked with anxiety over their continuing subsidies from the Canadian taxpayers.
Why should my taxes pay to support aspiring athletes?  This simply seems absurd to me.  We have an idiotic program called 'Own the Podium' - apparently the government's goal is for Canada to score magnificently at the Olympics.  This for a country of 30 million against countries with a lot more people, and also some, like Norway and Austria, with a lot fewer people, but a lot more fundamental and historical excellence than Canada has ever managed.  What is the point?
Personally, the libertarian in me would like to have all athletic subsidies cancelled.  What is the point?  A gold medal is useless to me unless I win it, and if I want it, I can decide to train for it.  There are real rewards, and lots of people with crazy dreams and a poorly developed sense of reality will train to win gold medals.  But why should I pay?
I think we need to change 'Own the Podium' to 'Let the Podium Go to Those Who Care Enough to Spend Their Own Money and Time and not Take away any of Mine'.  That is of course too simple for the CBC or likely for our government.  Though I secretly suspect that if Harper is still the PM in 40 years he may have choked this godawful chicken to death too.  Please.  Please.

This Will Not Change my Attitude to Geese

The ones I tend to meet are Canada Geese - I choose not to socialize with them and this is why.  They are really just small swans, and I have seen those birds make some major attacks.  Of course it is not Canada Geese in the video but they are just as arrogant and vicious as this goose.

The comments at YouTube are a riot - there are a number of plausible interpretations of what was going on in the mind of that goose.
h/t Mungowitz

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Hell at Pearson

I had the profound misfortune to fly out of Pearson International Airport (Toronto) last week.  As is usual for me, I arrived three hours before my flight, especially because of the new underpants security measures.  This was fine by me because here is what happens at Pearson if you fly to the US: you have your boarding pass (online - the airline has convinced me my doing the agent's work is a benefit to me), you check your bag, and then you head to Immigration/Customs preclearance - there is a hall devoted to US immigration, as this makes arrival in all sorts of obscure airports in the US smoother.  Then you sail through security and BINGO! you are in the gate area, including the Maple Leaf Lounge, for which I was carrying an admission coupon.  (My flight was early so there would be no booze but there would be comfort.)
Well, except...................
It seems that the brilliant folk in charge of the airport had invented a whole new protocol, unannounced.
They had a real problem - the bottleneck is the security area.  Note that I have implicitly mentioned two queues - one at US immigration, one at security (well, actually, three, because checking the bag is an important one).
The queue they decided to throttle was the immigration one.  They did this by admitting us according to scheduled departure time.  And, frustratingly, the security queue gummed up on flights five minutes before mine!  So I stood for almost an hour waiting for admission to the immigration hall, an hour after the flights five minutes before mine had been called.  This was not pretty and people were getting VERY restless, especially as the only information being passed to passengers was via the usual inaudible PA system in the airport.  The poor souls defending the immigration area were trying to inform passengers but were largely inaudible - the irony is that a low-tech megaphone would have made ALL the difference.
In any case, I finally reached my gate at about the planned departure time.  To my astonishment, my flight was under an hour late leaving and arrived essentially on time.  I did not get to enjoy the use of my lounge coupon.
While waiting this hour, I ran into a colleague who had flown a week earlier, with an utterly different, though still underpants-influenced, protocol.  So, so to speak, the airport is still flying by the seat of its pants adapting to the new stupid regulations out of the US TSA, not one of which would have detected Mr. Underpants.
Airline passengers are generally pretty bright and there were some very interesting discussions among us in the cattle call.  As all of us who like to be early for flights noted, we were being punished.  The area outside the immigration hall is decidedly not designed for stacking people up and refusing their entry.
I had noticed in particular in the baggage check-in line that attendants were scanning the line for latecomers - if you were way in the back of the line for a flight coming soon you got advanced past those of us who thought to come early.
So we, not stupid, realized: if we have a flight next week we arrive as late as possible.  I will get bumped to the front of the baggage check-in line, I will sail into immigration, and perhaps even be accelerated through security to get to my gate.
And, as one passenger sagely observed, if everybody responds to this rationally, all hell will break loose.  The dimwits designing these rules of course, as Hayek would have observed, are minimally capable of figuring out how limited their little brains are.
Security, by the way, was decidedly slower, but it certainly did not fill me with confidence.  In fact, at one point three people dressed in the uniforms of the security workers were simply waived right through the metal detectors, with no check; this alone refutes the point of making the rest of us go through with such apparent scrutiny.  A guy standing next to me in line told me of a friend of his who inadvertently managed last week (yes, after Mr Underpants) to take an eight-inch hunting knife through the security check with no problem.  And the only check I got that might have to do with Mr Underpants is that I had to stick my hands in my pockets and rub them up and down and have their explosives wand applied to my hands.  Yeah, right - that will stop it.
Pearson does have the full body scanners but I was not invited; my seatmate on the flight said he was and he had to do some bizarre dance.  There was some odd randomizing software being applied as we entered the security area.  Peronally I see some of the point of randomization but do not buy that it is much of an approach.
But really - the security show remains mostly show and an utter lack of real substance. 
And it is true - this experience broke the back of my willingness to arrive ludicrously early at airports.  Henceforth I look forward to being helped to move past more conscientious people in all the queues.  Sorry, suckers.
And to you idiots who are designing all these systems at Pearson.  Well, you have a monopoly so who is going to fire you for incompetence?  It's as bad as the recent stupid Rogers changes, and driven by exactly the same thing - a near certainty that mistakes cost the perpetrators nothing; they cost only everyone else.
There is other collateral damage; the concessions in the gate area were getting essentially no business as we were all late for our flights and racing to gates.  There could be a very healthy lawsuit there.
And of course the Air Canada lounge got no business - but hey wait!  That's great for Air Canada - all the variable costs drop to zero, and they can think about dropping some fixed costs too.
I wonder how many of these consequences are unintended.  Not as many, surely, as some would pretend.

Canada Climbs the Charts

Ahead of the US in economic freedom!  Attago, Steve.

Monday, February 01, 2010

So Long Andy Barrie - I Will Miss You

I've never had a high opinion of Andy Barrie's intellect, but there is a lot more to running a morning radio show, especially in Toronto, a city that elected David Miller twice!
But damn he could run and control an interview, and work with producers who ran a GREAT morning show.  With the effect that I never thought over the last many years of NOT tuning into Metro Morning.
So Andy - I rarely agreed with you - but thanks for all the fish.  And please enjoy your retirement as I am enjoying mine.
I feel sorry for the CBC - it will be hard to replace you.  Losing Don Newman and Andy Barrie in one year is a strsss, and I see no sign the corp is recovering.
Once again - Andy, as annoying as I always found you, thanks.  You did your job professionally and with a lot of grace.  That I appreciate.  And I know you are so self-absorbed you are reading this, largely just meant for my family.  But hey I think they will have a hell of a time replacing you.

Blair and Chilcot

I did not follow it closely enough so I do not know exactly what political nonsense has created the Chilcot inquiry, but I am delighted that Tony Blair has been happy to testify, and explain not just his decision, but also explain that he was NOT alone.  And for good reason.
Norm has been doing yeoman service trying to remind us of this, in the midst of a lot of nonsense in which people forget facts conveniently.  You should read here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here.
I am pretty confident I will die thinking positively of Tony Blair, and revolted at those who still want to demonize him for tough decisions.  Of course none of them were in positions to make decisions and that makes it a lot easier.

What's Wrong With Exploring for Oil?

One of my nieces is teaching English in China and has started a blog describing her experiences (I've added it to my blogroll).  She writes well and has a sharp eye.  In one of her recent posts she discovers the aspirations of some of her students.  I do want to comment on a couple of her observations.
It’s funny the number of them that want to study accounting or finance.
I think it would be funnier here - but what has made China a much better place to live as these children have grown up is exactly a sensible application of finance and accounting.  Seems to me this would make it a very attractive direction to go, giving one the sense of contributing to the enormous and growing success of the new China.
I even talked to one bright eyed sixteen year old girl who told me she dreamed of going to Calgary and working in oil exploration. Strange dream I thought.
Strange?  Maybe if you come from Eastern Canada and have Eastern Canadian attitudes to Alberta.  But surely the idea of those oil rigs and hard hats, and cowboy hats and the Calgary Stampede, and the ranches, and the wide open spaces, all would be attractive, nay even romantic, to someone in China.  Oil is after all a vast improvement on coal (especially as coal use is implemented, or was, in China.)
I find Gengbaoli's blog wonderful, as I spent a couple of weeks in China in 1997 (I think) and her pictures show me how far China has come in ten years.  Makes me feel good about the world overall.  The farther the Chinese stray from Mao's foolishness the better we all are.

Canadian Diversity

It works in a variety of ways.  We have those little chimps who wanted to behead Harper and blow those of us so evil as to hang around King and Bay up.  Jail the suckers, and for a long time.  (Sorry - this is Canada - they will be out shortly, and there will be government programs subsidizing them somehow.)
On the other hand, I find it lovely that the FIFA World Cup anthem is Canadian, and I confess I find it a real toe-tapper and bloody inspiring.

Thanks K'Naan.  If a stadium of 100,000 people starts joining in this song it will be a wonderful sight.
Previous posts I have made suggest I have an artistic equivalence theory - as the old greats die off, new greats appear.  In this case I want nobody thinking I think K'Naan is a Frank Sinatra replacement (hell, even the estimable Michael Buble does a terrible job of it).  I think K'Naan is an estimable substitute for Milli Vanilli - are they still alive?  But no question this song is absolutely perfect for a stadium full of 100,000 people.  I really look forward to it.