Crawl Across the Ocean

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Getting Things Done for Canadians

As if CAtO hadn't already accomplished enough this year, how's this for getting results:

December 7, CAtO says: "maybe there is progress online at the Star, even if they haven't updated the look of their hideous site since the summer of '87"

later that same month: The Star updates the look of their website. It's definitely an improvement although my early assessment is that it still needs some work.

You're welcome.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Holiday Blogging Hours

Well, it's time for a holiday slowdown at CAtO. I'll be on vacation for the next two weeks, and then I come back and move the following weekend (have I mentioned I hate moving - oh yeah, right.)

So my point is, posting will probably be light for the next few weeks. Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

CAtO Christmas Letter

December 17, 2006:

Friends, relatives, fellow countrymen and dual citizens, once again it is that time of the year again - time for the holidays and the annual CAtO family letter. How time flies - it hardly seems like a year has passed and yet CAtO has had so many great achievements, it feels like it must have been two or three years since this time last year.

The past year has seen a Canadian Federal election, a U.S. federal election, Canada's best ever Olympic performance, a World Cup in one of the sports we still haven't quite mastered, and through it all, CAtO was there.

It's been a hectic year, keeping up with the ever-growing popularity of CAtO, as posts receive the odd comment here and there, and cumulative traffic levels hit a new all time high every single day of the year!

Still, we appreciate that while popularity is nice, life is more than just a popularity contest. That is why it was so gratifying to see all the critical acclaim that CAtO received this year:

CAtO received a nomination in the prestigious 'Best Post' category at the Canadian Blog Awards for this post, and proceeded to rack up some votes in the subsequent first round of voting. Meanwhile, a post on Climate Change Denialism met with universal acclaim, including one commenter who said, "Well done." Finally, even ace pundit Paul Wells weighed in with a measured, but generally favourable opinion on CAtO's review of his article on the federal election.

Now I know that some of you may be thinking, 'boy CAtO accomplished so many wonderful things this past year, it makes me feel really inadequate about what I accomplished.' But the truth is, 2006 was a such productive year for CAtO that even if you only managed to do half as many impressive things, you still probably had a decent year, so chin up, champ.

Well that wraps up things around here. Here's to a great Christmas and Holiday Season and may your 2007 be even half as impressive as CAtO's.

P.S. A late breaking cherry to top off this Sunday: Time Magazine names CAtO man of the year. That's going to be tough to top.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Sheep Says: Private Sector Good, Public Sector Baaad

One of the things I find tiresome is how many people seem to let a sheeplike, 'private good-public bad' mindset lead them into saying really stupid things:

Today's case in point is Harry Koza, writing in the Globe and Mail about Corporate Governance.

Says Harry,
"Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of good governance, and there are in fact places where we need a lot more of it, especially in government. In fact, what we need is for governments to adhere to the same standards of governance that corporations do already.

The papers are full of examples: Luxury cars on the taxpayers' dime, vacations paid for with government credit cards, brown paper bags full of taxpayer cash funnelled into political party coffers, e-mails from members of Parliament to pals on Bay Street -- I could go on all day.

You do that kind of stuff in the real world, and the next thing you know you're a cellmate with a 300-pound guy named Bubba. If you work in government, you generally get a pass."

Right, the jails are filled with CEO's and management types who waste shareholders money with frivolous spending on things like luxury cars. <- that was sarcasm, I don't see a lot of white collar folks going to jail and sharing a cell with Bubba.

But don't take my word for it, consider this quote: "Has anyone in Canada -- aside from Viola MacMillan back in the sixties over the Windfall Mines scandal, of course, and she ended up with the Order of Canada -- ever actually gone to jail for a securities offence?"

Who asked that rhetorical question? Why it was Harry Koza, earlier in the same column!

Did any of these charlatans ever spend a day in jail? No. At worst, they have to give back a little of the money they effectively stole and they might have to go without insurance to protect their personal assets in case of their next major screw-up which leads to bankruptcy and total losses for their investors.

I've worked for small companies in the private sector, and I've worked for big companies in the private sector, I've worked for the Provincial government, the Federal government and I've worked for a semi-autonomous government agency. I can tell you beyond a doubt that, at least in the sectors I've worked in, there are more controls, more accountability, and more oversight in the public sector than there are in the private sector. The idea that we need to bring public standards *up* to the private ones is ludicrous.

In fact, I generally find that one of the main benefits of working in the private sector is that you get more of a chance to just do your job, without spending all your time filling in forms, documenting things, looking over your shoulder at auditors, getting things approved multiple times, holding public consultations, completing impact studies, explaining things to public relations officers etc. etc. etc.

As I type, shareholders are seeing millions upon millions of dollars go as compensation for CEO's who are fired for poor performance, and management friendly boards of directors are approving cushy zero-risk contracts for new CEO's which contain piles of luxury cars, enough money to spend the rest of your life vacationing on the shareholder's dime, and far, far too much money to ever fit into a paper bag. Similarly, as we speak, incompetent, unlucky, and, in a small number of cases, corrupt executives are already at work on the next Enron, the next Tyco, the next airline bankruptcy, the next Nortel meltdown or who knows what will be next.

I suspect that, deep down Harry Koza probably realizes all this. It's just that there is such a strong conventional wisdom current of sheeplike 'public sector good, private sector bad' thinking in our culture that it's easy to write a silly paragraph about how anyone who wastes money in the private sector ends up in a cell with Bubba without even realizing what you are saying. If we're going to take advantage of the benefits that good government can bring us, we need to get past this knee-jerk anti-government sentiment.

Friday, December 15, 2006

More Dean

Here's some more commentary from the Mother of All Blogs, on Peterborough MP, Dean Del Mastro.

Apparently, he doesn't believe in the separation of church and state:

"Separation of church and state is an American idea, not Canadian, Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro proclaimed in the House of Commons yesterday during debate on same-sex marriage. The supremacy of God is laid out in the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Del Mastro said when he rose shortly after 9 pm to argue in favour of the traditional definition of marriage. 'Ultimately faith influences how this House makes law,' he said. 'The separation of church and state was set up to protect the church from the state, not the state from the church.' " (Peterborough Examiner, Thursday, December 7, 2006, Page A3)."


Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Circus

Some things I've found interesting recently:

Here's an article which lays out unusually clearly the challenge globalization poses to workers: trying to catch up to capital which has already gone global years ago and has been building up global institutions to protect their interests on a global scale for decades.

Robert lists some of the things that should come ahead of the Senate on the list of thing needing reform.

Speaking of the Senate, Vues D'ici elaborates on my point about how electing Senators could limit the effectiveness of the federal government. I'm not as optimistic that elected Senators would limit the fearsome whining power of the Premiers, but it's a good post all the same.

Speaking of Vues D'Ici, if you want to catch up on where we are with respect to equalization and how we got here, this post will get you up to speed better than anything else I've seen.

Going back to Robert, he picks up on this CBC report which once again demonstrates the hazards of having a government which is ideologically opposed to the concept of government. Even seemingly obvious decisions like supporting Canada's involvement in cutting edge research and science like building the Mars Rover end up getting dithered on until Canada's role is placed in jeopardy.

Finally, on a lighter note, via Colby Cosh, the internet based campaign to get Rory Fitzpatrick voted in to the all-star game, has gone negative. I guess Nicklas Lidstrom isn't the straight shooter I thought he was.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rising Tide Lifts Big Boats, Submerges Small Ones

Some discouraging news from StatsCan yesterday. It appears that inequality continues to worsen in Canada.

If you were an average person in the top quintile with respect to wealth, your income would be up 19% from 1999 to 2005 and up 64% from 1984 to 2005.

Meanwhile if you were the average person in the bottom quintile, you started off with nothing in 1984 and you've been losing ground ever since. Even if you are the average person in the second from bottom quintile, you've seen your wealth drop from 14,400 in 1999 to 12,500 in 2005. Of course, talking wealth, part of that growing spread is the housing bubble which obviously doesn't bring many benefits to those who don't own houses (e.g. most of the bottom 40% of Canadians ordered by personal wealth.) And maybe it's just that (maybe some of) those at the bottom are spending too much and not saving, which is not something the government can control. It's hard to get a clear picture without corresponding income data. Still worrying numbers though.

Perhaps the most depressing part was the section on young (especially male) Canadians. Says StatsCan:
"While the median wealth of families and unattached individuals rose 26% between 1984 and 2005, it fell substantially among families in which the major income recipient was aged 25 to 34."
(expected government solution: more tax breaks for Seniors! - OK, that was cynical, the actual government solution is to let those poor young people borrow more money to pay already overinflated home prices - and of course lots of Conservatives would like to see a 'flat' tax, giving the lion's share of benefits to old rich folks, because their biggest concern with inequality is that we don't have enough yet)

Even worse, continuing from the above StatsCan quote:
"This decline [in the wealth of young households] was due mainly to the fact that cumulative earnings of young men (the sum of earnings they receive over several years) fell substantially between the 1970s and 1990s.

Between 1994 and 2004, these cumulative earnings averaged roughly $267,000, compared with $330,000 accumulated between 1973 and 1983.

In contrast, cumulative earnings of young women increased about $10,000 from $166,000 to $177,000 during these periods.

Three factors were behind the decline among young men. First, they now stay in school longer than their counterparts did during the mid-1970s. This reduces the number of years during which they receive significant wages. Second, once out of school, they are less likely to have a full-time, and therefore relatively well-paid, job than in the past.

Third, those who did work on a full-year, full-time basis earned less annually during much of the 1990s than their counterparts did previously."

Talk about a triple-whammy. Compared to 20 years ago, you have to go to school for longer, and at the end you have less chance of finding a full time job than the people with less education had in the past, and even if you do find a job, it will pay less than it would have in the past.

Let's hear it for progress!


For some more reading on inequality (in the U.S.), I recommend this Paul Krugman article.


Does inequality matter? Well, say you had a choice, you could be randomly moved to one of the 20 most equal countries in the world or to one of the 20 most unequal. Which would you choose?

20 most equal (measured by Gini Coefficient): Azerbaijan, Denmark, Japan, Sweden, Czech Republic, Norway, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Uzbekistan, Hungary, Finland, Ukraine, Albania, Germany, Slovenia, Rwanda, Croatia, Austria, Bulgaria, Belarus

Seems risky, but odds are you'll end up in Europe somewhere.

The bottom 20: Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Swaziland, Bolivia, Haiti, Columbia, Brazil, South Africa, Paraguay, Chile, Panama, Guatemala, Peru, Honduras, Argentina, El Salvador, Dominican Republic.

Yeah, I think I'll go with the first list, although if you can postpone the decision for a while, and keep voting Republican, the U.S. might show up on that second list which could help a little.

This Caused me to Get Irrationally Annoyed

John caught this comment by Stephen Harper,

"Our economy is strong. Our administration is clean. Our country is united and the world is spreading the word, Canada is back,"

The f-ing arrogance is unbelievable. Memo to Harper: Canada doesn't disappear just because you're not in charge. Since you took over less than a year ago, the economy is weaker, there has been zero noticeable change in the country's unity and the only word the world is spreading on Canada is that if you want to know our position on a world issue (Israel-Palestine, Global Warming/Kyoto, War on Terror), you can just ask George Bush and save yourself a call.

Double Standards

I see that as part of his ongoing campaign to make Canada's government more like the U.S. one, and to hobble the capacity of the federal government to take action, Harper is talking about asking provinces to hold elections to nominate Senators. Says Harper, "If need be we'll use a plurality voting system at first and move on to proportional voting. (This will) give Canadians the option of electing the senators that will represent them,"

It's left unclear what need would require the use of plurality voting at first. In the meantime I await all the people who feel that a 60% threshold in a referendum is required to change the manner in which we elect one set of representatives to suggest an appropriate decision threshold for deciding to (effectively) elect an entire new set of representatives, clearly a bigger change to the system.

So what's it going to be folks, 65%, 70%? Or do we support having this change made unilaterally by a government elected with 36% of the vote?

Also, when is the Harper party going to change its name back from Conservative to Reform?

Update: My snark is just a mere subset of the snark of Lord Kitchener's Own, commenting over at BigCityLib.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Tax Cuts

So Augusto Pinochet died, and the National Post figured this was a good time to publish an editorial listing all the great things they figure he did for Chile's economy, bookended, in as perfunctory a manner as possible, by a brief acknowledgement of the thousands of people he murdered, tortured and exiled while acting as dictator.

Glenn Greenwald has more, writing about a similar editorial in the Washington Post. Of course Glenn is writing from the United States, where they've taken this attitude of tolerating and/or excusing torture, murder and authoritarian government - as long as it is accompanied by right-wing economic policies - a little further than we have so far in Canada.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Important Question for the Day

If they do a sequel to Ocean's Twelve, will they call it Ocean's Thirteen or just skip straight to Ocean's Fourteen?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

This and That


Via Idealistic Pragmatist, Terry Glavin has an article in the Tyee which basically asks, now that the Liberals have a leader who makes a big deal about the environment and is generally fairly progressive on social issues, why should anyone vote NDP.


Meanwhile, in the Globe and Mail today, Konrad Yakabuski seems to argue* that Canadian pork processors should bust their unions so that they can hire illegal immigrants and pay them peanuts with no benefits, so that they can compete with U.S. producers.

Think I'm exaggerating? From the column:
"Workers at the world's biggest hog-processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., staged a two-day walkout last month to protest a seemingly routine request made by their employer. Smithfield Foods Inc. sought to verify the immigration status of the 5,500 employees at the plant that slaughters and slices up more than 200,000 pigs a week.

Of course, Smithfield -- a global pork powerhouse that processes almost as many pigs each year as the entire Canadian industry -- was only acting to pre-empt a raid by U.S. immigration authorities. About half of the Tar Heel plant's workers are Latino and almost 600 turned out to have improper documents or none at all. Smithfield fired 50 people on the spot. Hence, the walkout organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which has been trying, unsuccessfully, to sign up the Smithfield workers.

That's right. Tar Heel, like most U.S. meat processing plants, is a non-union operation that counts on the kinds of workers CNN host Lou Dobbs thinks are killing the U.S. economy. In fact, they may be saving it -- or at least saving it from Canadian competition.

How else can you explain the blood being left on the floor of Canada's previously plump and rosy pig processing industry?"


"The sad fact is that Canada's pig industry can't compete against U.S. processors who rely on factory-farm operations and immigrant labour that remains willing to work for paltry wages and near-zero benefits. The result is that the U.S. overtook Canada as the world's biggest pork exporter last year, squeezing Maple Leaf and Olymel out of markets they previously dominated in Japan.

Canada's pig processors let an undervalued dollar lull them into becoming Porky when Speedy Gonzales should have been their role model."

* Was initially written as "Yakabuski argues," not "seems to argue" in the original version of the post but was updated (Dec 13, 2006) to reflect his assertion that he was not in fact making this argument. Most of the relevant parts of the column are in this post so you can judge for yourself the impression it leaves.

This Week In Peterborough

While my current riding is Vancouver Centre, the one I grew up in was Peterborough, back 'out East' in Ontario. It occurred to me the other day that I hadn't heard a word from Dean Del Mastro since he was elected for the Conservatives with 35.9% of the vote in the last election.

So I looked up his website, and it turns out he has a blog. Although he might be better off without one. Consider this entry from November 9, 2006:

"In a move that can only be described as astounding, the Federal Liberal party officially aligned themselves with the Bloc Quebecois.

Now what is the noble cause that has united them? Well while they apparently agree that Quebec is a Nation, contrary to proud Canadians everywhere that's not it. Their new found co-operation surrounds the failed Liberal Kyoto plan, or lack thereof.

On May 16th of this year Rex Murphy of CBC's The National wrote:

The gun registry and the Kyoto protocol are, at least in one

respect, twins. They both illustrate the uselessness of piety

pretending to be policy, of half thought mixed with full-bore

emotion substituting for a rational response to a perceived

public problem.

He goes on to point out that Kyoto "is a great empty house of wishful thinking"; so it would seem that the Liberals and the Bloc have united in the cause of "uselessness"...

...why have they [the Bloc and the Liberals] aligned on this issue? Look no further than the deplorable cause of political positioning and posturing."

Never mind equating the words of Rex Murphy with the objective truth, the overheated language, and the apparently unironic implication that the Conservatives never engage in the deplorable tactic of political positioning, the piece I picked out was, "they apparently agree that Quebec is a Nation, contrary to proud Canadians everywhere".

From the CBC, "How each MP Voted on Québécois nationhood":

In Favour

76. Dean Del Mastro (Conservative, Ontario)

Appratently, by his own criteria set last month, Del Mastro is not a proud Canadian.

Moving on, a news search shows that Del Mastro, aside from being accused (with no proof so far) of meddling in local municipal politics, also made news for his comments on same-sex marriage:
"A solemn Dean Del Mastro says democracy wasn't served Thursday when his Parliament Hill colleagues voted down a motion to change the definition of marriage.

The same-sex marriage debate will now rest after a 175 to 123 vote in the House of Commons. Peterborough MP Del Mastro says it was intended to be a free vote for MPs but doesn't believe that was the case. He voted in favour of revisiting the issue and says many other MPs would have done the same if it wasn't for political pressure.
He was told by some that if they voted in favour they would be "assassinating their own careers."

Perhaps next time we can bring in some external auditors to verify that no political pressure was applied to anybody and then the results will be acceptable: an even freer, really free vote next time. In the meantime, this kind of sour grapes which makes no specific accusations and names no names is pretty pointless. But his best comment on the topic was this one,
"It's a different kind of relationship, one that needs to be respected. Their relationship can embody all the things of marriage but not be called marriage."

After all, there's nothing worse than getting gay cooties on what had been a perfectly good word.

It must be frustrating at times for the nearly 2/3 of Peterborough voters who didn't vote for Del Mastro to find themselves represented by this guy. Heck, I suspect it's often frustrating even for the 1/3 that did vote for him.

Update: Via Flash Point Canada, I see that Clear Grit also caught the about face by Del Mastro on the nationhood motion. the Clear Grit also quotes Del Mastro's blogged explanation of why he voted for the motion (although there's no source, so it's not clear where Del Mastro said this - was it on his blog and now removed, or is it from a local paper?):

"I chose to vote [in favour of] a motion [defining Quebec as a nation] that I believe united Canadians. I hope the member voted the same way on that motion because I believe in Canada. I believe in a united Canada and I believe in this party as a party that is uniting Canadians from coast to coast."

OK then.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Here's The Plan

So, I found a link to Stéphane Dion's climate change plan in the unlikeliest of places, a newspaper website! To be specific, it was in Cameron Smith's column. So maybe there is progress online at the Star, even if they haven't updated the look of their hideous site since the summer of '87.

Anyway, the plan is long, detailed, and, I have to say, very good. Comparing it my off-the-cuff Global Warming policy wishlist from a couple of years back, just about everything is included. Matching our fuel efficiency standards to tough standards set by California and other progressive states, a tough emission trading program, support for green infrastructure, an expanded and committed green power subsidy program, tougher standards for appliances - even the potential for expanding the hydro-electric grid in an east-west fashion is mentioned.

True, it also includes a raft of tax exemptions which I consider overly bureaucratic, and it leaves the door open for purchasing credits overseas which I consider both a tough sell politically, and hard to implement so that it actually helps the planet, and it argues that emissions trading can take the place of a carbon tax and is more efficient policy-wise, which I'm not completely sold on, but nitpicking aside, the odds of us getting a better plan from a Federal politician are about the same as the odds of Dion giving away state secrets to the French because of his dual-citizenship, which is to say, as close to zero as makes no difference.

One of the things I found interesting was what Dion has to say about the plans the Liberals were implementing, but were interrupted by the Conservatives. Keep in mind that Dion was environment minister for roughly 18 months, the second half of 2004, and all of 2005 - not a long time to start making a noticeable difference in emissions (does the Conservative plan call for any action at all in the next 9 months? - they've been in power for 9 already - hmm, I went to the CPC part website to find a link to their environmental plan, but I can't find it. Seriously, I see a tacky red-tinted picture of Dion surrounded by Riddler-style question marks which is all very well, but can you find their policy on their site anywhere? I can't).

Anyway, here are some quotes from Dion's plan (which he doesn't seem to be ashamed of like the Conservatives are of theirs):

"Energy Efficiency Retrofits

Tax credits can help homeowners cover the cost of energy-efficiency retrofits. The former Liberal government implemented a number of programs to encourage energy efficiency retrofits, including the EnerGuide for Houses Retrofit Incentive(EGHRI). This program, which provided grants up to a maximum of $3 458 per household, was discontinued by the Harper Conservative government in May 2006."


"Our plan to create a carbon market had three key components. They were:
1. The Climate Fund, to help domestic projects produce real emissions reductions in Canada and thereby create a supply of domestically produced emissions reductions credits, or offsets;
2. Binding provisions for Large Final Emitters, requiring them to achieve specific emissions reductions goals on a specific timeline, and creating a demand for the emissions reductions credits that were produced; and,
3. An Offset System, enabling projects in Canada to produce verified emissions
reductions that would have been bought and sold in the carbon market.

Each of these elements was set to begin in February of this year. They were cancelled
by the new Conservative government without any coherent policy or program to replace


"In the 2005 budget, the former Liberal government announced long-term funding for both the RPPI and WPPI, and committed to a target of 5500MW of renewable-energy production (4000MW of wind and 1500MW other renewable). In their spring budget, the new Conservative government failed to fund these programs. This decision will significantly impact the development of meaningful wind and renewable energy industries in Canada, as international and domestic investors lose faith in the commitment of the federal government to support a stable and meaningful wind power sector. The fate of WPPI and the new RPPI are uncertain and developers of alternative energy projects are anxious to learn the fate of this important set of incentives."

So when you read stuff like this, as you will...

"Conservatives have given notice that they're going to hold Dion accountable for previous Liberal shortcomings.

Dion, a former environment minister, ran for the party leadership on a green platform. His backers even used green scarves, T-shirts and caps as identity badges.

Yet under the Liberals, greenhouse gas emissions rose 30 per cent.

"He was part of the Liberal team during the entire Liberal debacle on the environment," John Baird, president of the Treasury Board, told CBC News on Monday. "He can't escape the collective responsibility."

The Conservatives are pleased that the Liberals finally have a leader because the Opposition will now have to make its policies clear, Baird said.

Dion has "no concrete plan" to deal with climate change, and now "he's going to have to talk about facts," said Baird."

...keep in mind that (as the CBC article points out), Dion actually does have a plan, much of which was only starting to be implemented when the Conservatives took power, cancelled just about every climate change program going and put nothing in its place.

Fire (that's hot) and Ice (hockey)?

From the Star, this is supposedly a list of the top 10 Canadian and U.S. Yahoo searches so far in 2006:

U.S. Searches

1. Britney Spears
2. WWE
3. Shakira
4. Jessica Simpson
5. Paris Hilton
6. American Idol
7. Beyoncé Knowles
8. Chris Brown
9. Pamela Anderson
10. Lindsay Lohan

Canadian Searches

1. NHL
2. FIFA World Cup
3. American Idol
4. Rock Star Supernova
5. WWE
6. Neopets
7. Revenue Canada
8. Days of Our Lives
9. Environment Canada
10. Jessica Simpson

Neopets? Environment Canada?? Much as I'd like to think that me and my fellow countrymen do more searches for our federal environmental agency than for Britney Spears, I am skeptical.

Post title reference

I Need a Hiro...

...And she's gotta be strong
And she's gotta be fast
And she's gotta be fresh from the fight

So I've been watching the first season of Heroes, and it's pretty good. My biggest complaint/suggestion is that I think they should have reversed the gender of all their current heroes.

It they had done that, then for female Heroes/main characters we would currently have:

- A hard-nosed (female) politician who does whatever it takes to get elected (aided by her supportive, but crippled husband).

- The (female) hospice nurse who absorbs the powers of others nearby has to save the day by facing off with the evil villain (aided by her supportive, but otherwise useless boyfriend, and her supportive mother)

- The unattractive (female) office worker / geek from Japan who can bend space and time, who comes to America with her (female) office worker friend, but is unable to save a cute waiter that she falls in love with from being killed.

- The mysterious (female) government worker who can negate other's powers and (almost) never speaks

- The near-unstoppable (female) villain, a former watch-maker who can steal other's powers.

- The (female) drug addict who can paint the future (aided by her supportive former boyfriend who is now with the nurse)

- The (female) small-time criminal with a good heart, who just wants what's best for her daughter - a mechanical genius with powers of her own.

- The (female) Indian child who can helps others see the past in their dreams.

- The (female) who has turned into some sort of human nuclear device and is on the run after accidentally killing her husband

- The somewhat overweight (female) cop who can read minds, including that of her cheating husband, and the sarcastic FBI guy she works with.

- The (female) scientist who is looking to follow up her mother's scientific research on genetic mutations (aided by her supportive father, inspired by the memory of her brother who died as a child)

And on the male side, we would have:

- The hot blond (male) stripper who has a split personality due to being abused by his mother as a child, whose dark side protects him and his child by doing things like sleeping with the female politician for money.

- The hot blond (male) cheerleader who is pretty much indestructible, but nonetheless, after sneaking out of the house to get away from his overprotective mother, finds himself needing to be rescued by the (female) nurse.

Yeah, I think that would work a lot better. The show is good, but the dated sexism of the casting and writing gives it a bit of a tired, clichéd feel.

Monday, December 04, 2006

When anybody else would refrain...

... they're debating SSM again.

OK, technically, the plan seems to be that parliament will hold a vote on Same-Sex Marraige (SSM) in which they will decide *not* to debate it again. You know, I've heard of the expression 'throwing red-meat to your base' but this seems more like throwing an already gnawed bone to your base. I guess we'll see if they choke on it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


I was reading this article in the Economist and it struck me as a great example of the kind of writing one often sees where the author doesn't seem to be thinking at all (at least in parts).

Says Buttonwood in paragraph 2:
"They [some economists] argue that profits in America, for example, are at a 40-year high as a percentage of GDP precisely because capital is winning at the expense of labour. Globalisation has brought the Indian and Chinese workforces into the world economy, which has kept the lid on wage costs. That has allowed the economy and profits to grow, without the kind of pay-and-price spiral that occurred in the 1970s."

And then in paragraph 3, the rebuttal:
"That is the theory, at least. But economists have always been tempted to dream up grand theories for trends that are just part of the economic cycle. Profits are very dependent on whether the economy is expanding or contracting: businesses have fixed costs and when demand is strong, revenues rise faster than costs; when demand is weak, they fall faster."

So the argument in paragraph 2 is that we are seeing something we haven't seen in 40 years, a period which spans many economic cycles, with an explanation of how and why things are different than they were in a previous cycle. And then in the very next paragraph this is supposedly rebutted by saying that this is all just the usual economic cycle.

It's as if the writer of the third paragraph never even read the second one. And then in the fourth paragraph we get an excellent point:
"So the reason American profits have been remarkably strong may originate closer to home than in Shanghai. Nick Carn, a strategist at Odey, a hedge-fund group, says it is pretty simple: companies' revenues are determined by the pace of consumer spending; their costs are largely driven by wages. Profits have grown because Americans have borrowed money to spend more than they have been earning. This cannot continue forever."

I wasn't being sarcastic, this is a good point. But again note that it has little to do with the economic cycle, the trend towards increased borrowings has spanned a few economic cycles. Just take that third paragraph out and we have a much stronger article.

Anyway, it's not a big deal, just another sign that even in respected publications like the Economist, there seems to be a general downward drift in the amount of editing and revision which goes into what gets published. Just part of our fast paced world, I suppose.

On a Practical Note

Via Kung Fu Monkey, here's a list of 30 free applications which can make your computing life easier, and also keep you out of Bill Gates' monopolistic clutches. Really, I'm just posting it for my own reference, but you might find some of the stuff useful as well.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Do you really want the party of these immature people running the country?

via Canadian Cynic.

Congratulations to Dion, by the way. I just hope it is (or will become) as clear to other Canadians as it is to me that the country would be in better hands with Dion in charge, as opposed to Harper.

Western Alienation

I don't know if this is a one-time thing or is going to be a regular occurrence, but I see that Jim Hughson was doing the early (Leafs) game on Hockey Night in Canada while Bob Cole was doing the late game. I guess the idea would be that because Cole is over the hill, they need someone better for the important game, so they can dump him onto the smaller Western audience. If this is a regular thing, it won't win the CBC any new admirers out West, that's for sure.

And to make matters worse, the league office (in Toronto) made perhaps the worst call I've seen all season, ruling that Naslund made a deliberate kicking motion at a puck which he obviously never even saw. A bad enough decision on it's own, but combined with the decision a few weeks back to let a Wild goal against the Canucks stand even though the player clearly did deliberately move his skate forward a tiny bit to put the puck in the net (and in both cases overruling the referees on the ice), it's especially putrid.

The longer I live out West, the more I realize all the little, seemingly trivial/irrelevant irritations which could build up into annoyance with Central Canada (a.k.a. 'Easterners').

Friday, December 01, 2006

Topic De Jour

Some thoughts on the eve of the Liberal leadership convention:

1. I hope Bob Rae doesn't win the leadership contest because I'm afraid he would lose the next election.

2. I hope Michael Ignatieff doesn't win the leadership contest because I'm afraid he would win the next election.

3. Gerard Kennedy and Ken Dryden would be fine, but if had a vote I would cast it for Stéphane Dion (although I might vote for Martha Hall Findlay on the first ballot).

What, you want me to explain?

Well, Rick Salutin had a column in the Globe today which included this passage:

"Pause it there. That is the root of everything? See how brainless an articulate, well-educated person can be? What does he think an idea is? They all talk that way. They had this idea: Attack Iraq, spread democracy. Then George Bush and his “dysfunctional” team gummed it up. As if one group, the neo-cons, is responsible for the heavy lifting — getting ideas; then you call in the trades. Look, David, when you get the idea that there's a leak in your basement, it didn't come out of your head, it came out of the pipes. It's related to reality.

Nothing in the numbing daily horror of that country, which they helped sow, has caused any of them to change their big minds. The idea was right. They aren't responsible — they say this — for how it was miscarried out. If ideas fail, blame reality. This is way too much respect for ideas. It misses what they are: tools with which to organize experience, not real entities themselves. They emerge from reality and play back into it. Most normal people sense this interwebbing between our thoughts and the world. You can't just stick in your thumb and pull out a plum of an idea and expect everyone to say what a good boy (almost always) you are no matter what results. That is blindly religious or, in politics, blindly ideological. You used to find it on the left. I am pleased to say it is now largely confined to the right.

But enough about those masses of slaughtered innocents in Iraq. Let's talk about my ideas. I'm so down ... The word callow comes to mind. How do people get this, um, removed? Like David Frum, they might go to an expensive private school such as Upper Canada College, then an elite university such as Yale, where your first public exposure is writing for the National Review, describing how drunk you got with champagne and bliss the night Ronald Reagan won in 1980. Then maybe go as a grad to LSE, and soon be writing editorials for The Wall Street Journal and the National Post (or The Globe and Mail) and on to your own column. Note that you've never done much but think, pontificate, read and discuss ideas with people like you; you have virtually no non-idea experience to test your thoughts against. Compare this to another generation, the Keynesians and “progressives” who created the social programs that neo-cons crusade against. Many of them were also privileged intellectuals, but they had often lived or fought through two world wars and a depression. The real world had imprinted them and their ideas.

I'm sure you can think clearly despite the disadvantages of a cloistered life, but it's a challenge."

The passage was written about David Frum, but, as I suspect Salutin knew full well and intended, that whole passage could also apply in principle, with the details changed, to Michael Ignatieff too.

It's not just the detachment from the consequences of ideas either. I am personally wary of any would-be leader who comes from a privileged background, especially someone who hasn't 'paid their dues' or worked their way up through the system.

I see it as follows: Imagine I had to try and pick the fastest frog out of thousands of frogs for an upcoming frog race I wanted to win. If I lined up thousands of frogs, gave them roughly equal starting spots and then saw which one was fastest across a field to a finish line, that would give me a pretty good level of confidence that the frog I chose, which had beat out thousands of others, was a pretty fast frog.

But what if a few of the frogs were given big head starts? If one of these frogs came first I wouldn't know whether it was that the frog was fast, or just that it had a big head start. This type of thinking explains, to some extent I think, the disappointment of Paul Martin as leader. True, he paid his dues in politics, but he still started from a far advanced position, due to personal wealth, connections and his father's experience as a politician. The extreme case is George Bush - a crippled frog that couldn't even hop, but started with such a big head start that when it fell over, it fell across the finish line and became President. And we all saw where that lead.

Anyway, as Salutin (sort of) says, coming from a sheltered, privileged background doesn't rule a candidate out, but it does make me wary. Combined with the lack of judgement shown on invading Iraq and on re-opening the debate over Quebec's identity, that is more than enough to make me worry a lot about an Ignatieff victory.

As for Bob Rae, I like him, and I think he would do a good job, but I worry that, whatever they might tell pollsters, the people of Ontario just won't vote for him. At least not the centre-right voters the Liberals need to take the small and medium town Ontario seats they need to keep the Conservatives from staying in power.

Kennedy I don't know very well. He seems like more of a pure politician than a policy person, but that can be all right in a leader, if the leader has the confidence and wisdom to put the right people in charge of the right ministries.

Dion seems like the best combination of political experience, knowledge of policy, and toughness/savvy to stick to doing the right thing in the face of hysterical whining from the right-wing media (I'm thinking about taking action on global warming here, but it applies across the board). Of course, it seems Liberals are worried that he might lack charisma, because as we all know, they lost to Harper in the last election because he was just so charismatic.

Anyway, I'm not a Liberal, and it's not my choice, but after keeping silent on the topic all this time, I felt like saying something, so there it is.