Autonomous Source

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September 25, 2005

Ten reasons for this blog's lameness

  1. World of Warcraft
  2. Talia
  3. The Editor
  4. Microsoft
  5. Goddam blog spammers
  6. Max
  7. A crushing sense of ennui from recognizing the ultimate futility of everything I do
  8. Spider solitaire
  9. Max & Talia
  10. Sudoku!
Once I get these things under control, this blog will be back to normal. A couple of weeks, tops.

September 23, 2005

Sheep dreams are made of this

September 15, 2005

The press is seriously lacking

Or actually, lacking seriousness. Here's what Bush said at the United Nations yesterday:

Today I broaden the challenge by making this pledge: The United States is ready to eliminate all tariffs, subsidies and other barriers to free flow of goods and services as other nations do the same. This is key to overcoming poverty in the world's poorest nations. It's essential we promote prosperity and opportunity for all nations.
That's a pretty important statement. Much poverty is caused by protectionism within the developed world towards agricultural products coming from developing nations. That protectionism is the result of powerful lobbies that are determined to keep things as they are. Bush is pledging to fight these lobbies and allow free competition from abroad. These forces aren't pushovers; Bush would be in for the fight of his life. Whether he can do it or not remains to be seen, but as far as I know he's the first world leader to propose something of this magnitude.

But here's what most news sources focused on:

September 14, 2005

Debate night

It seems that in some people's minds, the debate over the war in Iraq has long been over. Newspaper stories refer in an offhand way to the "disastrous" situation there without feeling any need to justify that point of view. But the debate isn't over; there's just been a cease-fire. The pro-war and anti-war forces have, for the most part, withdrawn from the argument into their own camps, where they discuss the news in the context of their divergent views of what went before.

Tonight, the cease fire will be broken with a couple of debates between high-profile members of the opposing sides. In the first, terror-apologist George Galloway will be debating Christopher Hitchens at 7:00 Eastern (live feed here). This should be a fine battle; Galloway and Hitchens hate each other. Don't expect a dry recitation of figures and reports. Here's Hitchens describing his opponent:

Galloway's preferred style is that of vulgar ad hominem insult, usually uttered while a rather gaunt crew of minders stands around him. I have a thick skin and a broad back and no bodyguards. He says that I am an ex-Trotskyist (true), a "popinjay" (true enough, since its original Webster's definition means a target for arrows and shots), and that I cannot hold a drink (here I must protest). In a recent interview he made opprobrious remarks about the state of my midriff, which I will confess has—as P.G. Wodehouse himself once phrased it—"slipped down to the mezzanine floor." In reply I do not wish to stoop. Those of us who revere the vagina are committed to defend it against the very idea that it is a mouth or has teeth. Study the photographs of Galloway from Syrian state television, however, and you will see how unwise and incautious it is for such a hideous person to resort to personal remarks. Unkind nature, which could have made a perfectly good butt out of his face, has spoiled the whole effect by taking an asshole and studding it with ill-brushed fangs.
The other debate is at 8:00 Eastern between Victor Davis Hanson and Arianna Huffington on the topic of whether or not the United States is an empire (video feed here). Maybe it wouldn't be as outrageous as the first one promises to be, but it should be educational.

UPDATE: Can't seem to get on anywhere. All the streams are full. I'm sure the mp3 will be available tomorrow.

September 13, 2005

Kim Campbell's historical revisionism

Peter C. Newman's sleazy recordings of private conversations he had with Brian Mulroney are very revealing. Unlike the conventional wisdom of much of the Canadian press -- which thinks his foul language and personal attacks will completely destroy any reputation he has -- I read his pronouncements as a reasonable perspective on the corrupt nature of Canadian politics. He's got some nasty things to say about almost everyone, and many of them really needed to be said.

Kim Campbell gets the full treatment:

Mulroney, in Newman's book The Secret Mulroney Tapes, said Campbell was a "goddamned vain" and selfish woman who spoke "awful" French and blew the 1993 election.

Mulroney criticized Campbell for wasting time socializing with her then-boyfriend during the 1993 campaign in which the Progressive Conservative Party won just two seats.

Campbell has responded with her own version of the election and attempts to pin the blame on Mulroney:
"In 1993, Brian Mulroney was the most unpopular prime minister in the history of Canadian polling and the Progressive Conservative Party was at historically low levels of support," she wrote in an email.

"The question that begs asking is why he then gave me, as his successor, only 21/2 months to turn the party fortunes around before an election had to be called.

"Brian Mulroney did not 'groom' or 'mentor' possible successors. As he puts it, 'I've been manoeuvring this thing for two years, to be succeeded by Campbell.'

"Yet, by his own admission, he did not know me then and he does not know me now.

"He suggests that we could have won by running on his record, but he lacked the courage to stay and fight an election when all the reasonable deadlines for stepping down had passed."

[snip speculations on Mulroney's character...]

I'm sorry Kim, but that's not right. When the 1993 election began, the Tories had a lead in the polls and a lot of momentum coming out of your leadership convention. Mulroney had built up quite a lot of antipathy from the Canadian public, and it was a certainty that he couldn't win another election, but with him out of the picture the black clouds were gone and another majority seemed possible. You were indulged in by the press, who had been temporarily cured of their loathing of the Conservatives by the joy in having a female Prime Minister. Everything was going your way.

Until you started campaigning. You ran the worst -- the worst! -- campaign I've ever seen. You dithered, stumbled, and collapsed. It was painful to watch. The defining moment of the campaign was when you backed down on the plan to purchase the much-needed replacements for the faulty Sea King helicopters. Publicly. Sponaneously. Just because you were being questioned about it a little too aggressively by the press!

My memory of the incident is a little hazy, but it's clear yours is even worse. I remember you facing the press and negotiating with them on how many helicopters would be acceptable. Wait, sorry. It wasn't negotiating, it was pleading. It was the sorriest political spectacle this country has ever seen. It was lucky you even managed two seats.

I've voted for the Conservatives since I was first able to vote. But that election I sat out. If it helps you sleep at night, blame Mulroney. But you're not fooling anyone.

September 12, 2005

The state of journalism in Canada

It's bad. It's really bloody awful. I flipped through this weekend's Globe and Mail -- supposedly Canada's most prestigious newspaper -- and saw the most banal triumphalist anti-Americanism to mark the anniversary of September 11. It was stuffed with paranoid conspiracy theories, slippery and vague arguments, and far too much gleeful hand-rubbing over the impending demise of the United States. I'm very disappointed that this kind of blinkered perspective has become so mainstream in this country today. It was too fatiguing for me to even read.

I'm glad there are people like Bob Tarantino to fisk the holy bejeezus out of this crap. Read him. He deserves it.

September 09, 2005

Bottomless fun

Sometimes I worry what my neighbors think of our children running around the yard half naked. But no clothes gives me one less thing to worry about when I'm looking after them, so naked they will remain -- at least until the first snow.

(photo removed -- not that there was anything revealing...)

In this shot, Talia has just fallen in the mud (again). She's a mud-magnet, that girl...

September 07, 2005

A Holiday in Azeroth

The Editor isn't the only thing that's been menacing the future viability of this miserable, limping blog; there's also been a terrible and destructive new interest in my life. I've been sucked into the World of Warcraft. I hadn't intended to -- as I wrote last year, I knew it would be a mistake. But I found a two week free trial in a computer magazine and thought I would be able control the urge to continue beyond that. I wasn't, and now my minimal free time that used to be spent complaining about Paul Martin's choices for the senate or trolling better sites than mine for content I could loot, is now spent grinding furbogs and weaving shirts to sell (long story).

My character is named Boneybruce and he looks uncomfortably like the Editor. He's an undead warlock trying to make a living in a difficult world. Considering he's a walking corpse with no soul that summons demons to kill for him, I've grown quite fond of him. Here he and his imp, Zepfip, encounter the Orc metropolis of Orgrimmar for the first time:

WoW, for those that don't know is a MMORPG -- a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game -- in which you join hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of thirteen-year-olds in a seemless (and huge) virtual world. Multiple parallel worlds -- or realms -- allow more players to play, and play in their own language. There must be hundreds of realms by now. WoW is the most popular MMORPG of all time, with over a million customers in the US and millions more in Europe and Korea (they're nuts about it over there). They've just set up in China as well. Read this article for a humourous (but possibly accurate) look at how these games will change the world.

So for as long as this new interest of mine continues, I'll write some posts on the game. I'd like to talk about the phenomena of Chinese loot farmers gathering gold to sell (for real dollars) to richer players, the psychological hooks the games uses to pull in hopeless dweebs like myself, and the culture that developed between players of the game. Or maybe I'll just write about the cool stuff I've found and how awesome my character is. I haven't decided yet.

September 05, 2005

Annual celebrity news

I don't note the various activities of the international glitterati too often on this blog, but I have to make an exception in this case. Sean Penn, who seems to think he can solve the world's problems on his own, came to New Orleans to mount a rescue. But he wound up needing rescue himself:

Penn had planned to rescue children waylaid by Katrina's flood waters, but apparently forgot to plug a hole in the bottom of the vessel, which began taking water within seconds of its launch.

The actor, known for his political activism, was seen wearing what appeared to be a white flak jacket and frantically bailing water out of the sinking vessel with a red plastic cup.

When the boat's motor failed to start, those aboard were forced to use paddles to propel themselves down the flooded New Orleans street.

Asked what he had hoped to achieve in the waterlogged city, the actor replied: "Whatever I can do to help."

With the boat loaded with members of Penn's entourage, including a personal photographer, one bystander taunted the actor: "How are you going to get any people in that thing?"

I love how he planned to 'rescue children.' Presumably any non-children he encountered (or just unattractive ones) would be ignored so his 'personal photographer' could get the right shot.

(via Tim Blair)

UPDATE: I should have known; this story is everywhere in the blogosphere. LGF has a photo.

September 04, 2005

Suitable for framing

Gnotalex at the Blog Quebecois has pointed me to program called ArtRage, which does a very nice job of simulating various types of art materials. I thought it was a perfect medium for allowing Max and Talia to express their artistic side -- with no mess. Can you guess the toddler that drew each of these two mesmerizing works of Art?

It was a dark and stormy night

The first work is the result of channeled rage. The artist -- while generally demonstrating a calm, peaceful exterior -- has been politicized by the inherent injustices experienced by two-year-olds in this household. This energy is thankfully directed towards creating works of beauty rather than acts of violence. This piece is dedicated to the outrage of manditory bedtimes.

Octopus sabre dance

This second piece is more minimal, but that minimalism is very deceptive. It hides the rich inner mythology of the artist, in which animals are used to illustrate through parody the falseness of the human condition. This piece is part of a series on the topic of war.

Read the extended entry to find out more about these artists.

Max Gottfred is the creator of the first work. Born on February 14, 2003, he lives in the artists' community of Chelsea, Quebec. His favourite show is Bob the Builder.

Talia Gottfred is the genius behind the second painting. She was also born on February 14, 2003, and lives with Max in Chelsea. Her favourite show is Dora the Explorer.

The uncomfortable truth

Nicole Gelinas again pulls back the curtain to look at what caused the societal chaos in New Orleans. Unfortunately, her analysis doesn't fit with the the simplistic worldview of the modern media class and probably shouldn't be mentioned in polite company. It starts like this:

New Orleans hasn’t even been disarmed yet, but the story of those who looted, trashed, and terrorized the city this week is already being re-written. Al Sharpton went on MSNBC Thursday night to say that “looters are people who pay their taxes whose infrastructure caved in on them.” The final PC version of the story is likely to go like this: The desperate people left behind in New Orleans, nearly all black, had justification in brutally attacking their city because the help they frantically sought didn’t come.

In truth, the looters, rapists, and murderers who have terrorized New Orleans since Monday began their post-Katrina reign of terror a full day before the situation grew truly desperate—and it was their increasingly lawless behavior that kept willing but unarmed professional and volunteer rescue workers away from the city and from the poor people who needed saving.


September 03, 2005

Time to impeach the Big Chief!

Mike at the London Fog has the perfect illumination of the mindset of those boneheaded beings that wish to blame Katrina on Bush:

Shaman from enemy tribe tell big chief must make sacrifice for weather spirits. Big chief not make sacrifice. Spirit of water and spirit of air angry. Spirit of water and spirit of air join with moon demon. Spirit of water and spirit of air and moon demon bring wrath upon city at great water...

September 02, 2005

The city that the damned call home

Can New Orleans ever be resurrected? Nicole Gelinas from City Journal doesn't sound too optimistic:

No American city has ever gone through what New Orleans must go through: the complete (if temporary) flight of its most affluent and capable citizens, followed by social breakdown among those left behind, after which must come the total reconstruction of economic and physical infrastructure by a devastated populace.

And the locals and outsiders who try to help New Orleans in the weeks and months to come will do so with no local institutional infrastructure to back them up. New Orleans has no real competent government or civil infrastructure—and no aggressive media or organized citizens’ groups to prod public officials in the right direction during what will be, in the best-case scenario, a painstaking path to normalcy.

The truth is that even on a normal day, New Orleans is a sad city. Sure, tourists think New Orleans is fun: you can drink and hop from strip club to strip club all night on Bourbon Street, and gamble all your money away at Harrah’s. But the city’s decline over the past three decades has left it impoverished and lacking the resources to build its economy from within. New Orleans can’t take care of itself even when it is not 80 percent underwater; what is it going to do now, as waters continue to cripple it, and thousands of looters systematically destroy what Katrina left unscathed?

And as for all the looting, maybe we shouldn't be so surprised:
New Orleans teems with crime, and the NOPD can’t keep order on a good day. Former commissioner Richard Pennington brought New Orleans’ crime rate down from its peak during the mid-1990s. But since Pennington’s departure, crime rates have soared, to ten times the national average. The NOPD might have hundreds of decent officers, but it has a well-deserved institutional image as corrupt, brutal, and incompetent.
Rebuilding the city will take two things: billions and billions of dollars and the will and dedication of the city's denizens. It's undoubtably the latter that will be the problem:
Sure, the feds must provide cash and resources for relief and recovery—but it’s up to New Orleans, not the feds, to dig deep within itself to rebuild its economic and social infrastructure before the tourists ever will flock back to pump cash into the city’s economy. It will take a miracle. New Orleans has experienced a steady brain drain and fiscal drain for decades, as affluent corporations and individuals have fled, leaving behind a large population of people dependent on the government. Socially, New Orleans is one of America’s last helpless cities—just at the moment when it must do all it can to help itself survive.

September 01, 2005

The news just keeps getting worse

It's hard to believe these scenes are happening in the United States:

The Superdome, where some 25,000 people were being evacuated by bus to the Houston Astrodome, descended into chaos.

Huge crowds, hoping to finally escape the stifling confines of the stadium, jammed the main concourse outside the dome, spilling out over the ramp to the Hyatt hotel next door _ a seething sea of tense, unhappy, people packed shoulder-to-shoulder up to the barricades where heavily armed National Guardsmen stood.

Fights broke out. A fire erupted in a trash chute inside the dome, but a National Guard commander said it did not affect the evacuation. After a traffic jam kept buses from arriving at the Superdome for nearly four hours, a near-riot broke out in the scramble to get on the buses that finally did show up.

Outside the Convention Center, the sidewalks were packed with people without food, water or medical care, and with no sign of law enforcement. Thousands of storm refugees had been assembling outside for days, waiting for buses that did not come.

At least seven bodies were scattered outside, and hungry people broke through the steel doors to a food service entrance and began pushing out pallets of water and juice and whatever else they could find.

An old man in a chaise lounge lay dead in a grassy median as hungry babies wailed around him. Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead in her wheelchair, covered with a blanket, and another body lay beside her wrapped in a sheet.

A city evacuated and uninhabitable for months. Looters ruling the streets. Thousands dead? Natural disasters usually don't happen this slowly, but it's still too fast for outside relief to get things under control. I hope New Orleans can recover from this, but it obviously will never be the same again.