Crawl Across the Ocean

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Im Urlaub

I'm on vacation for the next two weeks, so likely no posting until September 12th or so.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

One More Thing

Via Antonia (again) I see that some enterprising soul has started a 'Wente-watch' blog, and no, it wasn't me. I doubt it will last, but even if it doesn't, it would seem like a worthwhile effort to collect all the criticism in one place for posterity.

On the topic of Wente, I wrote about her column on transit a while back, and a commenter linked to their own excellent post on that column which I meant to highlight at the time, but am getting around to now.

And They Call it Meritocracy

Antonia notes some improbable hiring decisions- at least they are improbable if one assumes that the hiring decisions were made on merit. Dismissed as coincidence.

I'm no fan of Stephen Harper, and I think he's seriously misguided on a large number of policy issues, but I do give him credit for getting as far as he has without 'being born into it.'

Reading Material

Laura links to an interesting article in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell on demographics, dependency ratios and their impacts on national growth rates, the optimal way of delivering social programs and the real source of some of GM's self-inflicted (a long time ago) problems.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned John Rogers links to an interesting article by General Wesley Clark on the strategy the U.S. should adopt in the Middle East. His conclusions are similar to the ones I came to in my post on the topic, but his article is a whole lot better written and coming from a much more credible source so it's definitely worth a read.

Finally, on a shorter note, the Canadian Cynic compares the Republican Party's concern for the welfare of war veterans with it's concern for the Paris Hilton's of the world. Not that it's news that the Republican party only cares about the rich (except to the poor bastards who keep voting for them, I suppose), but even after all they've done, it can still be a little shocking to see their sheer disregard for the welfare of their fellow citizens thrown into such sharp relief.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

9th Planet Revealed

John has been following the debate about whether Pluto should officially be considered a planet or not.

The way I see it, the best way to decide is by consulting the Holy Bible.


First you have the gas giants of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Massive, cold, distant, and inhospitable, yet with an undeniable presence and beauty, these make up the Old Testament of the solar system.

Next you have the terrestrials: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. Warmer, not quite as overwhelming in size and even partially habitable, this is the New Testament of the solar system.

Finally Pluto. Puny, Out of Sync, Tacked on at the end years later amidst controversy - and still controversial right to the present day. The planetary Book of Revelations. I say we toss 'em both.

Got a Spare 6 Hours?

If so, two ways I recommend spending it:

1) Head over to comic writer/screenwriter/physics grad/stand up comedian/voluntary Canadian John Rogers' Kung Fu Monkey blog, start with this index page and read it all.


2) Watch "The Best of Youth" (if you haven't already).

And for anyone who has already done both 1) and 2), you obviously have good taste, so perhaps you can leave me some time-spending tips in the comment section.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I Hate it When Political Issues get Politicized

From the CBC,
"The government of Canada is strongly committed to the fight against HIV-AIDS and continues to commit a significant amount of money to this issue," press secretary Erik Waddell said by e-mail to Canadian Press. "Our government is committed to doing more in the future.

"However, there are no announcements this week while the issue is so politicized."

1) I've noticed that the word 'politician', and the word 'politicized' have the same root. Isn't a politician avoiding things which have been politicized kind of like a fireman avoiding things that are on fire?

2) It seems kind of painfully transparent that what the government means by an issue being 'politicized', is that people are paying attention. Always best to take action when fewer people are paying attention. Assuming that what you're planning to do will be unpopular, of course.

via Cowboys for Social Responsibility.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Apparently, This Question is not Rhetorical for Our Justice Minister

The question being the one in big letters on the cover of the National Post today, "Should 10 year olds face jail?"

I'm going to be over in the corner trying to figure out what has gone wrong with our country so that a man like Vic Toews could become our Minister of Justice and how it can be fixed, so I'll have to hand further discussion of his topic over to Chris Selley, who makes a valiant attempt at explaining just how stupid this is.

Maybe that will be a Conservative slogan for the next election, "Standing Up for Canada, One Imprisoned 10 Year Old at a Time."

You Didn't Make me Scared, You Didn't Do What You Set Out to Do

So I watched 30 seconds of TV 'news' just now (yes, I should have known better, too late), and the 'story' was on the risks of shopping cart injuries (to the children, of course).

Anchor #1 (alarmed): "The incidence of shopping cart injuries is up 30% over the last twenty years!"
Anchor #2 (more alarmed): "Yes, the rise in shopping cart injuries is definitely alarming!!!"

and off they went.

Later in the story, they pulled out the usual alarmist trick, quoting some figure for total shopping cart injuries in North America every year and then telling us that that works out to one every (however often it was), taking advantage of the fact that people just can't mentally grasp the magnitude of just how many shopping carts there are on a continent of 500+ million people.

And I'm sure you know what comes next. The movement for safer shopping carts. Built lower to the ground for a lower center of gravity less likely to tip. Seatbelts. Helmets for kids in shopping carts (ok, they stopped just short of this one, butyou get the idea).

So I came back over to my computer, to blog about this idiocy, with the demented voice of Ian Curtis singing "Where will it end, where will it end?" in my head, and what do I see on the yahoo homepage? The headline, "Is your laptop a fire hazard?" complete with dramatic photo of burning laptop.

So here's my message for all media outlets of all kinds: I'm not scared. You're not going to make me scared. I know that life expectancies are continuing their decades long climb, and yes I am well aware that bad things can happen, laptops catch fire, kids fall out of the shopping cart while reaching for the Coco-Crisps, a truck could lose control and crash into your living room, exploding toothpaste could blow your plane out of the sky, toboggans occasionally run into trees, etc. etc. etc., but whatever. Give it a rest. Try to find some way to convey news that doesn't involve alarmist bs (or telling us the colour of Paris Hilton's underwear, for that matter).

Update: Et tu Globe and Mail?

"The experts suggest leaving children at home, shopping on-line, or using other means, such as a stroller, to ferry a child around a store."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Vote for the Conservatives is a Vote For This

I highly recommend that everyone read this article (via Deltoid) by Charles Montgomery which appeared in the Globe and Mail yesterday (although I can't find it on their website - update: here it is - subscription only).

No really, the whole thing, read it.

A few quotes:

"There was plenty of money for the anti-Kyoto cause in the oil patch, but the Friends dared not take money directly from energy companies. The optics, Mr. Jacobs admits, would have been terrible.

This conundrum, he says, was solved by University of Calgary political scientist Barry Cooper, a well-known associate of Stephen Harper.

As is his privilege as a faculty member, Prof. Cooper set up a fund at the university dubbed the Science Education Fund. Donors were encouraged to give to the fund through the Calgary Foundation, which administers charitable giving in the Calgary area, and has a policy of guarding donors' identities. The Science Education Fund in turn provides money for the Friends of Science, as well as Tim Ball's travel expenses, according to Mr. Jacobs.

And who are the donors? No one will say.

"[The money's] not exclusively from the oil and gas industry," says Prof. Cooper. "It's also from foundations and individuals. I can't tell you the names of those companies, or the foundations for that matter, or the individuals."

When pushed in another interview, however, Prof. Cooper admits, "There were some oil companies."

The brilliance of the plan is that by going through the foundation and the university fund, donors get anonymity as well as charitable status for their donations. In the last two years, the Science Education Fund has received more than $200,000 in charitable donations through the Calgary Foundation. Yet its marketing director Kerry Longpré said in June that she had never heard of the Friends of Science. The foundation, she said, deals only with the university, which is left to administer donations as it sees fit.

Prof. Cooper and Mr. Jacobs both affirm that the Science Education Fund paid the bills for the Friends' anti-Kyoto video, Climate Catastrophe Cancelled."


Few in the audience have any idea that Prof. Ball hasn't published on climate science in any peer-reviewed scientific journal in more than 14 years. They do not know that he has been paid to speak to federal MPs by a public-relations company that works for energy firms. Nor are they aware that his travel expenses are covered by a group supported by donors from the Alberta oil patch.


But various levels of government have gone on to give Prof. Ball an audience. This spring he addressed the Alberta Tories in Calgary, as well as the province's standing policy committee on energy and sustainable development. On the trip Tom Harris organized for him in May, he met with the Ottawa Citizen editorial board, and gave his slide show to a half-dozen federal Conservative MPs and a clutch of Tory staffers. (Prof. Ball is not listed in the federal government's Lobbyists' Registry.)

He made a particular impression on Brad Trost, MP for Saskatoon Humboldt: "It really broadened the perspective. You know, maybe there is more uncertainty on [climate change]. Maybe we need to put more research into this to get a better idea," says Mr. Trost. "Just like the Y2K problem, we were a little oversold on that one. You sort of wonder. Just because something is repeated often, it doesn't make it true."


"We started out without a nickel, mostly retired geologists, geophysicists and retired businessmen, all old fogeys," says Albert Jacobs, a geologist and retired oil-explorations manager, proudly remembering the first meeting of the Friends of Science Society in the curling lounge of Calgary's Glencoe Club back in 2002.

"Mr. Jacobs says he suspects that the Kyoto Accord was devised as a tool by United Nations bureaucrats to push the world towards a world socialist government under the UN. "You know," he says, "to this day, there is no scientific proof that human-caused C02 is the main cause of global warming."

"Our success is very recent, and our success is tied to the Conservative government," Mr. Jacobs says. "Rona Ambrose, she has been tearing down that Kyoto building."

The next big challenge, he says, is to reach children. The Friends of Science is now lobbying to have its message included in the grade-school curriculum."


Any words I could add would be written in anger, so it's better if I don't say anything. But I can't imagine someday having the next generation asking why I didn't do more to prevent global warming and having to admit that I voted for this bs.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Story

I was in the bagel store the other day, and they happened to have a copy of the Globe and Mail lying around. I looked down at the cover, and there was a big headline, "RED ALERT". Underneath the headline was a picture of an airport screen showing a bunch of cancelled flights. To the right was a big inset listing all the things no longer allowed to be brought onto planes in carry-on luggage.

And I realized that, quite literally, the big story was not the plot to blow up a bunch of planes, but was instead the (over)reaction to the plot by our governments.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Completely Weak Situations

I stumbled across some French movie reviews, clicked google's 'translate this page' button and the results were almost poetic, with some apt descriptions that could apply to many a bad movie:

"This film one is crowned nullity, torpedoed especially by dialogues afflicting and with the completely weak situations. Indeed, to discover zombis followers of plunged underwater, gymnastes and leaping has what to destroy the fans of the kind. Moreover, characters worse than caricatural bimbo type blondasse or Chinese kareteka without savours and a setting in scene with the completely moved matrixiens effects destroys last positive inclinations of the spectator. Imperatively to look at festive mood between pals or only neurons flat after a hard working day."

I certainly know that 'Neurons flat after a hard working day' feeling. Bonus points (and mild concern) for anyone who can identify the movie.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I'll Have the Pork, with a Side of Small Potatoes Please

Sometimes I hear right-wing folks complaining about how their political opponents lump together Stephen Harper with George Bush and, to be fair, they have a point. Take this latest example, for instance:

"The Conservative government has used an extraordinary 'national security' clause to take control of $8-billion in recently announced military spending, allowing it to dole out contracts to the West, Quebec and the Atlantic.

The federal government lost the power to steer contract work to specific parts of the country with the 1994 signing of the Agreement on Internal Trade with the provinces. But as part of the continuing purchase of new planes and helicopters, the government has decided to invoke a national-security exception (NSE), which effectively removes these contracts from reach of the agreement.

A federal official said the net result is that Ottawa will be able to impose regional quotas on the economic benefits of the contracts."

Can you imagine George Bush invoking bogus concerns about national security, just to spread around a little political pork? Of course not. When Bush spuriously invokes concerns about National Security it's so that he can detain and torture innocent people in violation of both domestic and international law. It's so that he can get Eastern European gulags back to what they were built for. It's so that he and his administration can lie their way into a disastrous war, killing tens of thousands and costing hundreds of billions.

To suggest that Harper, with this kind of small potato pork project is in the same league as George Bush is an insult to Bush and all that he has accomplished as President while hiding behind supposed concerns about national security. There simply is no comparison.

True That

Via Digby, I happened upon this passage, which struck me as well said:

"I once was lucky enough to have a long conversation with Peter Bergman of the Firesign Theatre. At one point he expressed his belief that television has proven too much for humanity. He suggested that we should gracefully admit defeat, obliterate television, and then possibly match wits with it again after another twenty million years of evolution. As Bergman put it, "TV too much for monkey man. Will try again later."

In unrelated news, Kevin comments on the poll in which 50% of Americans said they believed that Saddam had Weapons Of Mass Destruction.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Bloggers are from Mars, Blogs are from Venus

So I got into a fight with my blog the other day. Apparently, I "don't spend as much time with it as I used to" and I am "taking the blog for granted."

Things got pretty heated and we eventually agreed to blog counselling. An excerpt from our first session:

Counsellor: OK, CAtO, in your mind, what brings us together today?

CAtO: I guess, I mean, I remember back when this blog got started, there was more of a sense of purpose and energy around here. We had posts almost every day, sometimes more than one in a day, and some of the posts would go on for hours. Now it seems like the spark has gone out a little bit. I mean, it's just a little thing, but when was the last time we did a big update to the blogroll? And he was so distant during that whole World Cup phase. I feel like I used to be a high priority for him, and now I'm just another chore to squeeze in between taking out the garbage and doing the dishes.

Counsellor (turns to me): Is this how you see it?

Me: Well, I think it's only natural that things slow down after a while. That's just the way blogging works, people don't stay in that initial infatuation period forever. I mean - sure, we could move to Bountiful and I could bring in six guest bloggers and there would be plenty of action around here and...

CAtO: There's no need to be crude. I see lots of other blogs out there still going strong, and some of them have been online for a lot longer than we have.

Me: Sure, and five times that many have probably packed it in, too.

CAtO: Oh really, and how is that relevant to our situation, is that where we're headed?

Me: No, I was just saying...

CAtO (dangerous tone): What we're you saying?

Me (pauses): Well, I was just saying, I mean, what is it that you want from me?

CAtO: I want to feel like you are really into me. We don't have to post every day like we used to, but this once a week business, and half the time I know you're thinking about the World Cup or cutlery or something stupid. We used to talk some real politics here.

Me: We could do more political posts.

CAtO: It's not just that. We don't have any fun any more.

Me: We totally have fun.

CAtO: The only time we have any fun is when we go out with memes, we don't have any original fun anymore.

Me: That's not true.

CAtO: Name one fun post we've had that wasn't part of some meme?

Me: Well, there was... Wait a second. You don't really want me to name a post, do you? I'm taking your words too literally. What you really want is for me to acknowledge that your feelings of wanting to have more fun and feeling neglected have validity, and commit to having more fun posts and being more attentive in the future. I've read John Gray, you know.

CAtO: Now your just saying the words I want to hear, you don't really mean them.

Me: Sure I do, just because I know the right thing to say, doesn't mean I don't mean it, you know what I mean?

CAtO (to counsellor): You see how mean he is to me? He can't take anything seriously.

Me: What did I say?

CAtO (mocking): What did I say? What did I say? Grow up.

Counsellor: Well, that's all the time we have this week, I think we've made some real progress here.

CAtO & Me: Hmph.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Cultural Imperialism

Do you suppose that East Asians are eventually going to acknowledge the functional superiority of the knife and fork vs. chopsticks and switch over?

Most Asian restaurants in North America offer up at least a fork as an option for the chopstick-averse. Do Western restaurants in East Asia offer chopsticks as an option?

Just wondering.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Our Dysfunctional Electoral System at Work

Republicans funding Green Party campaign in Pennsylvania Senate race. Because the more people vote Green, the more likely they are to get a Republican in power - first past the post at it's best.