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September 30, 2006

Ferris Wheel

The kids had their first ride on a ferris wheel today at the Metcalfe Fair. We got three complete rotations for only $4.50 per person -- what a deal!

We saw so many tractors and animals that Max is seriously considering giving up his dream of being a firefighter for the life of a farmer.

September 26, 2006

You gotta like that Karzai

Not only is he a snappy dresser, but he's a fighter and a believer. At a White House press conference today he shows how little patience he has for the defeatist Washington press corps:

REPORTER: And to President Karzai, if I might, what do you think of President Musharraf's comments that you need to get to know your own country better when you're talking about where terror threats and the Taliban threat is coming from?


PRESIDENT KARZAI: Ma'am, before I go to remarks by my brother, President Musharraf, terrorism was hurting us way before Iraq or September 11th. The President mentioned some examples of it. These extremist forces were killing people in Afghanistan and around for years, closing schools, burning mosques, killing children, uprooting vineyards, with vine trees, grapes hanging on them, forcing populations to poverty and misery.

They came to America on September 11th, but they were attacking you before September 11th in other parts of the world. We are a witness in Afghanistan to what they are and how they can hurt. You are a witness in New York. Do you forget people jumping off the 80th floor or 70th floor when the planes hit them? Can you imagine what it will be for a man or a woman to jump off that high? Who did that? And where are they now? And how do we fight them, how do we get rid of them, other than going after them? Should we wait for them to come and kill us again? That's why we need more action around the world, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, to get them defeated -- extremism, their allies, terrorists and the like.

On the remarks of my brother, President Musharraf, Afghanistan is a country that is emerging out of so many years of war and destruction, and occupation by terrorism and misery that they've brought to us. We lost almost two generations to the lack of education. And those who were educated before that are now older. We know our problems. We have difficulties. But Afghanistan also knows where the problem is -- in extremism, in madrassas preaching hatred, preachers in the name of madrassas preaching hatred. That's what we should do together to stop.

The United States, as our ally, is helping both countries. And I think it is very important that we have more dedication and more intense work with sincerity, all of us, to get rid of the problems that we have around the world.

UPDATE: Hot Air has the video of the press conference. The puzzled and angry look he gives the reporter is priceless.

September 25, 2006

Doom da doom-doom

It's been a while since I last linked to some juicy foretellings of economic doom. I'll correct that now. Bill Fleckenstein quotes economic analyst Robert Campbell:

"I always figured the deflation of the housing bubble would resemble a slow train wreck, but there is new evidence that makes me think the correction may occur more rapidly. This is because there is compelling evidence that a recession is dead ahead. … Now that housing prices are going sideways to down -- and incomes and jobs are still sagging -- this 'debt-fueled' artificial-life-support system for continued consumer spending (and an expanding U.S. economy) is running out of gas.

"In the long run, housing prices cannot continue compounding faster than incomes. We are now facing this economic reality. People cannot continue buying homes with creative, voodoo mortgage-loan financing -- that, in the end -- they can't afford. I don't know who has been more irresponsible, real estate agents, mortgage lenders, borrowers, or banking regulators -- but I do know that the lending standards for mortgage borrowing have dropped to a zero setting for the past five years. If people weren't in prison or earned more than the minimum wage, money essentially was free to all -- whether they could ever hope to pay it back or not."

Continuing on, he says: "The United States has experienced the greatest real estate boom in history, but the boom is now turning into a bust, and the aftermath is not going to be pretty. Present American folklore has it that a real estate decline does not have to affect the economy. That's like saying that it will rain, but you're not going to get wet.

"The coming recession is not only going to dispel that hope, but it's going to speed up the fall. … The sad fact is that we're living in a debt-fueled economy, as opposed to an income-fueled economy. Housing prices cannot continue to compound faster than incomes forever. This incredible rise in prices has been driven by artificial demand (ultra-low interest rates and ultra-loose credit), as opposed to real demand (rising incomes and rents)."

He concludes: "Loose mortgage loans that prolonged the boom will worsen the bust. Homebuyers are now going to pay the price for their 'buy now, worry later' spending spree. … With market manias, self-feeding greed on the way up turns into self-feeding fear on the way down. That time is near."

Repent, borrowers! The end is nigh!

Speaking of The Inferno...

Apparently I'm bound for Hell. Damn.

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Moderate
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Moderate
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

Find your Final destination.

Chavez's Inferno

Alvaro Vargas Llosa is a South American economist, historian and writer, and is a passionate supporter of free markets and free societies. As you might expect, he doesn't care for Hugo Chávez very much and offers this description of the hell being created in Venezuela:

Chávez's Inferno

It would have been more appropriate for Hugo Chávez to brandish Dante's "Divine Comedy" than Chomsky's "Hegemony or Survival" during his sulfuric broadside at the U.N. last week. In the first part of the Italian masterpiece, the author undertakes a journey through the nine concentric circles of the Inferno, each representing a type of evil. Dante's description reads like a script of present-day Venezuela.

Dante's first circle is for those who lack faith. In Chávez's Inferno, the first circle is made up of those who lack food. Cendas, a research center, maintains that 80% of Venezuelans cannot meet the cost of a basic daily diet. According to an official statistic the government inadvertently made public on the Web site of the Instituto Nacional de Estadística, between 1999, the year in which Chávez took office, and 2004, poverty rose to 53% from 43% of the population. The authorities attributed the figures to an outdated methodology and now claim the rate of poverty is 42%. If it were true, that would be embarrassing enough, because it would mean that poverty has remained at nearly the same level for eight years.

Dante's second circle is for those unable to control lust. Chávez's second circle is for those unable to control homicidal instincts. His government has degraded social coexistence so much that there have been more homicides in Venezuela during his seven-and-a-half years in office than there have been deaths in any single armed conflict around the world in recent years. Between 2001 and 2006, the number of homicides in Venezuela has been three times the number of victims in Afghanistan.

Dante's third circle is for gluttons who leave us with no food. Chávez's third is reserved for corrupt authorities who leave Venezuelans with no wealth. The major sources of corruption have been Plan Bolívar 2000, the state-owned oil company, and social programs known as "missions." Under Plan Bolívar 2000, the army took over development programs from the local governments. In the case of PDVSA, the energy giant, no one but Chávez and his cronies have access to detailed financial records. The budget for social programs, personally controlled by Chávez, is not included in any government ministry.

Dante's fourth circle is for misers. In Chávez's Inferno, the fourth circle is made up of bureaucrats who claim to provide social services but use funds to pay people to attend rallies or bust up opposition gatherings. Marino González, from Universidad Simón Bolívar, says that the "Barrio Adentro" program that purports to tend to all the pregnant women in the country only serves 2,000 expectant mothers out of a total of half a million each year. No country ever became prosperous through socialism, but for a government that claims to be able to tend to the needy, not being able to meet even 1% of the commitment is a particularly hellish sin.

Dante's fifth circle is for those who succumb to wrath. Chávez's fifth is for political persecution. Venezuela's human rights record is atrocious. Two violent incidents involving Chavista henchmen with many fatalities have gone unpunished, including the killing in April 2002 of 12 people who were protesting near the government palace. There are political prisoners such as Francisco Usón, former minister of finance in Chávez's government, who received a six-year sentence for saying he thought an incident in which a few soldiers died at Fort Mara in 2004 was no accident. Henrique Capriles, the mayor of Baruta, was jailed in 2004, accused of organizing a violent protest against the Cuban embassy which he had actually helped diffuse.

Dante's sixth circle is for heretics. Chávez's sixth circle is for heretic journalists who try to tell the truth. In December 2004, a "gag law" was imposed making it easy to prosecute journalists. The president continually threatens to withdraw TV and radio licenses -- the reason why there are no opinion programs on network TV. Government-controlled mobs called Bolivarian Circles, formed with the help of the Cuban intelligence apparatus, harass journalists.

Dante's seventh circle is for the violent. Chávez's seventh circle is another name for imperialism. His government has bought (or is buying) 100,000 AK-47s, 53 Mi-35 assault helicopters, fighter jets, transport planes, patrol boats, speedboats and Tucano jets from Russia, Spain and Brazil. Chávez is a long-time supporter of FARC, Colombia's terrorist group. He granted Venezuelan citizenship and protection to Rodrigo Granda, its "foreign minister," until Alvaro Uribe's government hired bounty hunters to bring him back to Colombia in 2005. The Venezuelan leader has given financial and political support to movements from Mexico to Bolivia. (His support for Ollanta Humala in Peru and Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico was a major factor in both men's recent defeats.)

Chávez buys influence through oil. It is a form of blackmail: At OPEC, Chávez fights for increasing prices, making life hard for poor countries that import oil, and then offers those very nations oil subsidies they have no choice but to accept. That is what happened with the 14 Caribbean countries that make up the Caricom group. He also sends 100,000 barrels of oil to Cuba daily; and 200,000 barrels to Bolivia every month in exchange for soy, poultry and political subservience. And he has bought $3 billion worth of Argentine bonds to entice President Kirchner's loyalty. Chávez is denying his nation its wealth from oil, somewhere between $40 billion and $50 billion a year. His annual "aid" budget totals more than $2 billion. He sponsors 30 countries, including some in Africa, in order to buy their vote for a seat at the U.N. Security Council.

Dante's eighth circle is for those who commit fraud. Chávez's eighth is fraudulent anti-Americanism. Chávez exports 1.5 million barrels of oil a day to the U.S. Since oil makes up half the government's revenue and the U.S. is the principal destination of Venezuelan oil, he pays daily homage to U.S. capitalism. Moreover, Venezuela imported $18 billion worth of goods and services from the U.S. in 2005. He may have signed 20 trade deals with Iran's Ahmadinejad, but what he really lusts for is U.S. capitalism. (Another type of fraud involves the electoral system. Chávez has manipulated the voter registration rolls, adding two million phantom voters, including 30,000 who are 100 years old and citizens named "Superman." Four out of five members in the Electoral Council are Chávez lackeys.)

Dante's final circle is for traitors. Chávez's ninth is for traitors, too -- and the place is getting crowded. Army officers betray Chávez every day. Labor leader Carlos Ortega recently fled with three officers from a high-security prison controlled by the army. They evaded security controls thanks to help from army personnel.

At the end of Dante's Inferno is the center of the earth, where Satan is held captive in the frozen lake of Cocytus. In Venezuela's Inferno, Satan is frozen in oil-rich Lake Maracaibo, a metaphor for astronomical wealth squandered by tyrannical populism. The journey through hell is now complete.

September 22, 2006

Canadian first: Crowd wearing red cheers Conservative Prime Minister!

There was a big turnout on Parliament Hill today to show support for our Armed Forces in Afghanistan and around the world. I have no skill at estimating crowd sizes, but I'd say it was 'lots and lots'. The CBC instead claims 'thousands' were there, but I'll stand by my assessment.

The speeches were preceded my a march to the front by a collection of veterans. I can be pretty cynical at times, but seeing these old guys was very moving and reminded me of the tremendous sacrifices made by earlier generations. Not to take away anything from those serving in our current commitments, but the difficulties overcome by these men are almost unfathomable today.

The joke that titles this post was the Prime Minister's as he opened his speech. He made a good speech, and it's clear he's a true believer in our mission in Afghanistan. There was no waffling at all from him. He said, "Canadians do not start fights, but we finish them, and we don't leave until we are finished." He also had some words for the press, saying that journalists should not be afraid of defending the Canadian Military, and that the freedom of press they enjoy was created by the Armed Forces.

Steve Madely from CRFA was the MC, and he made sure he credited everyone who helped organize the rally. People clapped and cheered for each. But one of those introduced was an MP from the NDP (I can't remember his name) who was standing on the stage. I'm sure the press reports will say that the crowd booed when he was announced, but I wouldn't quite say that. There were boos mixed in there to be sure, and very little clapping, but it was more of a surprised and sustained hoot. It was a very strange sound that I've never heard before. In a moment or two though, the crowd game him some applause as well. The event was supposed to be non-political, but the guy with the SUPPORT SOLDIERS, NOT THE NDP sign probably didn't get the memo.

Hamid Karzai was in town, and there was an expectation that he might address the crowd. But it didn't happen, probably due to security concerns. The guy must live in a security bubble. But a representative from the Afghan-Canadian community gave a short speech to thank the Canadian Armed Forces for the work they're doing in Afghanistan.

The war in Afghanistan is shaping up to be a big issue for the next election. The Conservatives have chosen their ground and have given themselves no route to retreat. And I think it will work to their advantage because there's more support for continuing this mission than conventional wisdom suggests.

September 21, 2006

Red Friday on Parliament Hill

There's a rally planned for tomorrow to show support for our Armed Forces. It's from noon to 1:00 and attendees are encouraged to wear red. With all the waffling going on in Canada over our very important presence in Afghanistan, I think something like this is a very necessary statement to make.

Somehow I think the press will overlook even a high turnout event, but maybe I'll be wrong. Either way, you'll be able to find some photos of it on this fine neglected blog.

September 16, 2006

The press fans the flames

The Ottawa Citizen's David Warren describes in his column today how the BBC twisted the Pope's remarks to provoke the latest storm of outrage passing through the Middle East:

The BBC appears to have been quickest off the mark, to send around the world in many languages, including Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, Urdu, and Malay, word that the Pope had insulted the Prophet of Islam, during an address in Bavaria.

He had not, of course. Pope Benedict XVI had instead quoted, carefully and without approval, remarks by the learned 14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Palaeologus, in debate with a 14th-century learned Persian. He was trying to provide a little historical depth to present controversies about the meaning of "jihad", and his very point was that on their own respective theological terms, Muslims and Christians were bound to talk past each other today, in the same ways as they did seven centuries ago. But in the most conscientious media reports I have seen, even the Byzantine emperor is quoted out of context.

By turning the story back-to-front, so that what’s promised in the lead -- a crude attack on Islam -- is quietly withdrawn much later in the text, the BBC journalists were having a little mischief. The kind of mischief that is likely to end with Catholic priests and faithful butchered around the Muslim world. Either the writers were so jaw-droppingly ignorant, they did not realize this is what they were abetting (always a possibility with the postmodern journalist), or the malice was intended. There is no third possibility.

From the start, the BBC’s reports said the Pope would “face criticism from Muslim leaders” -- in the present tense. This is a form of dishonesty that has become common in journalism today. The flagrantly biased reporter, feigning objectivity, spices his story by just guessing what a man’s enemies will say, even before they have spoken.

While I don’t mean to pick especially on the BBC, when other mainstream media are often as culpable, they are worth singling out here to show the amount of sheer, murderous evil of which this taxpayer-funded network is capable.

The fact that the Pope was not insulting Islam is very clear if the context of his speech is understood, but the chance to stir up trouble by the BBC was too much to resist. The truth was simplified, and the suggestion was made that there was something to be outraged about. Warren predicts how the story will play out over the next week:
From now on, the reporting will be about the Muslim rage, and whether the Vatican has apologized yet. That is the “drama” the media will seek to capture -- the drama of the cockfight -- because they know no better kind. That the Pope said nothing intrinsically objectionable will be overlooked, in deference to the Muslim rage, just as the media hid the Danish cartoons from their viewers -- preventing them from discovering how mild they were.

But again: even without the BBC doing the devil’s work, with unbecoming enthusiasm, the story could have carried to the Muslim world, where a new wave of anti-Western, and specifically anti-Christian hysteria is now rising, similar to what was enhanced by tendentious misreporting after the Danish controversy. There are enough other agents provocateurs both in my business and outside it; and surely, enough radical Muslims digging for grievances to extend their own power.

The manufacture of grievances, to justify strident demands for their redress, is the tyrant’s stock-in-trade. It is what took Adolf Hitler to power over the Germans, and it is what today’s Islamic fanatics depend upon to control the Muslims, and push them towards an apocalyptic jihad against the West. Moreover, the basic tactic of bullying is to demand apologies for exaggerated or imaginary offences. It is to make the decent kneel before the indecent.

That the BBC provoked this latest 'scandal' should in no way absolve the Muslim world from their hyper-sensitivity to these imaginary slights. But pouring gasoline on a fire is not responsible journalism. People are going to wind up dead because of this.

September 15, 2006

The deluge begins

I'm really quite disgusted by the National Post today. Even beyond the lurid front page, inside the front section there are four pages given over to extensive coverage of Kimveer Gill, including no less than nine photos of him. There are long quotes from his website, the lyrics to his favourite songs, and more than you should ever want to know about this pathetic loser. I haven't looked at the other papers, But I'm sure there's more of the same there. If I was a distrubed suicidal selfish jerk starved for attention and respect, I'd be quite impressed at the attention being paid to Gill and might even want to emulate him.

September 13, 2006

Today's news

Two, or perhaps three, psychos have gone on a shooting spree in downtown Montreal. From what I've heard, it seems to be a Columbine-inspired attack; there were reports of black trenchcoats being worn by the would-be killers.

Prepare for a media orgy on "why, why, oh why?" Every tiny little detail of these scumbags' lives will be raked over for 'clues', and their faces will be staring at you from the newstand for weeks. And personally, I think that's "why" it happened.

When people as vile as the Columbine creeps become idols for 'disaffected' youth, and a famous film director makes a sympathetic movie about them, of course there will be imitators. Stupid, shallow, pathetic bastards. There's a wrong-headed belief by many that to do something dramatic and destructive like this requires great motivation. But it doesn't. It just requires extreme selfishness and a complete lack of empathy.

Luckily, so far it seems they didn't manage to kill anyone, though there are six in intensive care. And the two poor, misunderstood assholes are dead, with a possible third still at large. A poor showing that will thankfully keep them from ever being too famous.

UPDATE: Segac's is live-blogging the news as it comes out.

UPDATE II: Turns out there was only one shooter and there has been one fatality. Tim Blair reports that this loser's web page announced he didn't like "capatalists". I really don't need to hear any more about him (but I will).

North Korea is teetering

Via The Corner, I found this very informative pdf on current conditions in North Korea. It paints a very believable picture of a Stalinist state rotting from below. I think most people's perception of North Korea is that it is a perfect totalitarian state, ruthlessly efficient (in it's ruthlessness, not in actually producing anything) and in complete control of its dispirited population. But in reality, the machinery of state is now a sham, and most of the economy -- as well as the culture -- moves through unofficial channels. This transformation was underway for some time, but the famine in the late '90s accelerated it. People were forced to become illegal entrepeneurs -- just to survive. Those true believers who depended on the state to feed them... died.

In such a situation, the ability and willingness to engage in private business
became a major guarantee of one’s physical survival. As one local observer described the situation in post-famine North Korea: "Those who could not trade are long dead, and we are only left with survivors hanging around
Small 'garden plots' are seen all over North Korea now. I'm sure the food is organic and the methods used are very sustainable -- I wonder when David Suzuki will head over there to make a documentary about this 'revolution'.

Wow. This is just... monstrous...

A few years ago I used to be pretty frightened at the thought of my children being politically indoctrinated by the public school system. I even briefly considered home schooling to keep them away from those well-meaning brainwashers. But eventually I accepted that it was something they would have to go through, but they would at least have their parents to give them alternate viewpoints and hopefully keep their feet partially on the ground. And it probably wouldn't be as bad as I thought anyways.

But then there's this: Stephen Lewis Secondary School.

The student body, which will rise to 1,500 when Grades 11 and 12 are added in subsequent years, has been divided into four "villages" named after four Canadian activists: June Callwood, David Suzuki, children's rights crusader Craig Kielburger and Agnes Macphail, the first woman elected to the House of Commons.

The idea, Ms. Wood said, is to instill a passion for social justice and humanitarianism in the students as they form a new school community.

"This is what we're teaching the kids, that we can never give up and that we are agents of change," Ms. Wood said in an interview just before Mr. Lewis arrived.

Perhaps before churning out 'agents of change', Ms Wood should first concentrate on educating her students in how the world actually works. Doesn't seem too likely though...

The army that can't fight

NATO has been having some problems scraping together some more troops to battle a pocket of Taliban in the south of Afghanistan. Canada, Holland, Britain and the United States have been willing to pull their weight, but others just find fighting, you know... dangerous. Norway doesn't even want its soldiers to go anywhere near Kandahar, even if they won't be asked to fight:

NATO wants to shift more force to fight the Taliban in the area and sketched out a draft order that would move Norway's Quick Reaction Force from the north to Kandahar in the troubled south. There it would relieve an allied watch force which in turn would join the fight against the Taliban.

Defense Department spokesman Kjetil Eide in Oslo said that NATO had sent an 'inquiry' and not an 'order'. Norway's vice-admiral Jan Reksten decided to exercise the right of members to veto ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) orders.

"This was an assignment not in keeping with the what the Norwegian soldiers were sent to Afghanistan to do," brigadier Gunnar Gustavsen, chief of staff at the Joint Defense operative headquarters, told Aftenposten.

According to Aftenposten's sources, the NATO plan would not have meant using Norwegian soldiers in combat operations.

Norway has made it clear that its forces in Afghanistan are not sufficiently trained to take part in combat and not properly equipped to do so either.

I guess this is the kind of military Jack Layton wants Canada to have...

September 11, 2006

Five years on

I was in a classroom, beginning an ill-fated MBA program when I heard the news. The program's director came in and gave us an brief overview of what was happening -- the World Trade Center had been hit by two planes, the Pentagon was on fire -- and told us the rest of the day was cancelled.

I immediately tried to find out more from the internet -- we had computers in the classroom -- but every news site was down, swamped by other panicked people like myself needing desperately to know what was going on. The old ways of distributing information work better in this type of situation. As I wandered out into the lobby of the office building where the class was being held, some people were setting up a TV on a large stand, tuned to CNN. And finally I could see the horror for myself. I stood there in a large crowd for twenty minutes, listening to the dribble of real news beyond the images, until the first tower dropped. Then I'd had enough, I wanted to go home.

I was overcome by anger and worry. My worry at the time was not for the people who had died, and were dying, and their families; it was for the future. I assumed the attacks were the work of militant Islam, and worried what would happen next. There had been repeated sniping and ankle-biting of the United States for years up until that point, and the US had been content to mostly ignore it. But this couldn't be ignored. I worried that the US would fall to a spirit of retribution, a new xenophobia, and a blind hatred to match that of the attackers. I worried that the US would lose its temper.

And I was wrong. There were no crowds shouting for blood of Arabs. No one made broad accusations, just speculations with clear . While it was generally understood that militant Islam was most likely behind the attacks, Muslims as a whole could not be blamed. The anger felt by many was not directed outwards blindly, but instead was channeled into resolve. The White House thought as I did, and made it a priority in the days after September 11th to appear with Muslim leaders and assure the country that Islam was not their enemy. But I don't think it was necessary -- and I'm glad. If the events that day can't inspire Americans to the hate that is too frequently seen in the Middle East, nothing can.

Five years on, I think things have gone better than they might have. Two countries have been liberated, and though both still have enemies to fight, they are much better off than they would be had they still been tyrannies. Just because there were no TV cameras to capture it, no one should doubt that pre-war Afghanistan and Iraq were brutal violent places.

What worries me most is that many seem to have forgotten who the enemy is. Five years ago the world had a chance to see the hate that is motivating so many. The hijackers were not an aberration, they were part of a movement that thrives all over the world. They want to kill, and they have been killing. And if they get a nuclear weapon, they will use it. They cannot be reasoned with, accomodated, contained or controlled. They can only be confronted and fought. But too many in our comfortable part of the world would prefer just to go back to sleep.

September 06, 2006

The New Holocaust Deniers

From a story in the Daily Mail:

The 9/11 terrorist attack on America which left almost 3,000 people dead was an "inside job", according to a group of leading academics.

Around 75 top professors and leading scientists believe the attacks were puppeteered by war mongers in the White House to justify the invasion and the occupation of oil-rich Arab countries.

"Leading academics"? "Top professors and leading scientists?" Pfft. Time magazine -- though at least acknowledging that the conspiracy nuts are wrong -- is charitable as to their motives:
There are psychological explanations for why conspiracy theories are so seductive. Academics who study them argue that they meet a basic human need: to have the magnitude of any given effect be balanced by the magnitude of the cause behind it. A world in which tiny causes can have huge consequences feels scary and unreliable. Therefore a grand disaster like Sept. 11 needs a grand conspiracy behind it. "We tend to associate major events--a President or princess dying--with major causes," says Patrick Leman, a lecturer in psychology at Royal Holloway University of London, who has conducted studies on conspiracy belief. "If we think big events like a President being assassinated can happen at the hands of a minor individual, that points to the unpredictability and randomness of life and unsettles us." In that sense, the idea that there is a malevolent controlling force orchestrating global events is, in a perverse way, comforting.
What a load of nonsense. The real motivation for these nuts' beliefs is hatred. People who fall for these fantasies do so because their loathing of Bush is so overwhelming and so pure that they cannot bear to share even one tiny piece of common ground with him. The fact that 9/11 gives Bush's arguments some validity is precisely the reason they feel it could not have happened that way -- because Bush's arguments have no validity.

9/11 conspiracy nuts are in the same boat as holocaust deniers. Their hate prevents them from acknowledging something they feel gives power to their foes. They can't accept that it's possible to disagree with Bush's policies while still sharing some of his worldview. That there are so many of these loons around suggests to me that if Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) were entered into the DSM, it would be one of the most prevelant disorders.

I'm not going to get into debating what happened (check out Popular Mechanics or for thorough shreddings of the lies), but just to illustrate how nuts these people are, here's the response from a true believer to a story on CBC Radio that was inadequately sympathetic to the "truth".

It would seem that the recent and ongoing public disintegration of the 9/11 story has been a matter of concern to CBC functionaries. Existing demolitions of the official 9/11 narrative have gained added weight in recent months from the public interventions of Professors James Fetzer and Steven Jones, co-founders of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, who together with other distinguished scholars and scientists who have joined this group, notably the theologian David Ray Griffin, have been publishing scrupulously researched studies of the 9/11 evidence—and have as well been making increasingly high-profile media appearances across the U.S.

Why should this concern the CBC? Because together with the rest of the Canadian mainstream media, the CBC has taken on the task of swinging Canadian public opinion into support for Canada’s increasingly aggressive participation in the occupation of Afghanistan—a country that was bombed, invaded, and occupied by the United States in 2001 as punishment for giving refuge to Osama bin Laden, the man accused of masterminding the atrocities of 9/11. Obviously enough, if the real organizers of the 9/11 attacks were in fact senior officials of the U.S. government, then that opinion-molding project collapses into rubble.

The source? A 'distiquished' Canadian academic. If you can believe hundreds of military personnel and government officials worked together in secret to kill thousands of their fellow citizens in cold blood, I guess it's not such a great leap of logic to the think the CBC (and 'The Current', no less) are working to advance the neo-con agenda.

Most Annoying Canadian Update

My thanks to the people who made nominations for this year's Most Annoying Canadian competition, and to the other bloggers that helped me spread the word. From those nominations (and a bit more thinking on my part) I've added a few more candidates into the race:

But I'm still sure there are some hard-working and very annoying Canadians that are missing. It would be an affront to them to be overlooked in this very prestigious contest. I'm especially interested in those that the Canadian 'left' find annoying (and why). As well, if any of those proposed are not annoying, I'd be glad to hear of it. Avril Lavigne, for example, I threw on the list knowing next to nothing about her. Annoying or not? I need to know.

Nominations will continue to be taken until the end of September. By then, I hope to have finished reading my book on PHP and MySQL and have a super-secure method of tabulating votes in place.

September 05, 2006

I'll be there, man...

Well, probably not..

But how can I miss it? Liam will be there!

September 03, 2006

Sunday Music: Orbital

First of all, I must apologize for last week's babblings about the quantities of 'genius' in the world. Reading it over, I found it somewhat preachy and overly simplistic. And earnest. Painfully earnest. I was quite tired when I wrote it and possibly had had a few drinks. From now on these Sunday Music posts will try to just stick to the music. I'll write some artists I admire, and if you disagree, well, what do you know?

This week I've got a few tunes from the British electronica band, Orbital. Four tracks, 35 minutes of music -- these guys create long and varying sonic landscapes, with the emphasis on long. I like electronic music for the buzz it can give. A good beat and some interesting noises can get me moving and dampen my conscious mind, allowing me to do some boring repetitive work. But most electronic music is pretty simple and doesn't stand up to repeat listening. There's usually a rhythm sequence that loops through the whole thing, a couple of melody fragments scotch-taped in there somewhere, and maybe a key change if you're lucky.

But Orbital's music really stands out. It's as complex as anything you're going to hear and doesn't follow any of the standard 'electronica' conventions. Their music has complex, ever-evolving beats, carefully woven together textures, and different voices heading off in different directions and coming together again. It's not easily accessable, but on repeated listenings the depth of the music comes out. It's not music for doing repetitive tasks, but music best appreciated with your eyes closed, headphones on, and lying on the couch. Enjoy. Or don't. What do I care?

September 02, 2006

Bubble, bubble

Back during the late-90's stock market boom, I read Robert Shiller's book Irrational Exuberance, which showed how share prices had become insane and a crash was around the corner. It didn't take a genius to see this, but Shiller's book was still worth reading because besides just making a strong economic case, he also discussed the psychological factors that made it happen.

His latest book is Irrational Exuberance: Second Edition, in which he uses the same techniques to look at the housing market. I haven't read it, because the graph showing the economic argument is about all I need to know:

Larger version. From Nouriel Roubini's blog, which has much, much more info.

I would qualify Shiller's graph by noting that there is probably a 'quality' factor in the rise in price of homes. People at least 'feel' richer, and have been buying bigger and bigger homes over the years (which are more valuable). But that in no way accounts for the doubling of prices in less than ten years.

Housing prices in the US have hit their zenith and have nowhere to go but down. In fact, even though the last batch of housing numbers in the US showed a miniscule increase in housing prices year-over-year, prices may actually be falling.Many economists and commentators have begun to point out that housing prices are inflated to an unknown degree by seller concessions: rebates on closing costs, swimming pools, new kitchen countertops, luxury trips once a year for life and other goodies detailed in a recent New York Times article. These and other expensive sweeteners are now par for the course as desperate sellers try anything to move their houses.

There are plenty of reasons this occurs. First and foremost is that the homebuilding and home-selling industry depends on the perception that housing is a no-lose investment in order to continue hawking its wares. Agents, of course, get paid based on selling price, so you can be darn sure they'd rather see under-the-table concessions than straight price drops.When it becomes common knowledge that prices are falling, buying will slow down even further as more potential buyers decide to 'wait until things settle'. Then the economy-wide pain starts.

The bursting of the bubble has started to happen in Canada too. Anecdotally, I've seen plenty of properties in my area offering 'reduced prices' on homes. But we're still mostly in the 'denial' phase. The next few years are going to be rough.

September 01, 2006

First Day at School

The house is strangely quiet today as Captain Destructo and the Mistress of Chaos are off having their heads filled by someone other than myself, my wife, and the children's edutainment industry. They started their first day at a local Montessori school. I haven't read much on the Montessori method, but I'm impressed by the teachers and the tools in the classroom. There seems to be a focus on non-verbal skills, and building self-reliance, responsibility and concentration. The kids work on what they want, when they want, individually or in groups. It sounds like a recipe for insanity, but it works. We spent an hour in class with them a few days ago so Max and Talia could get used to the place, and they settled in quickly and enthusiastically. They're very ready for this now and I know it's going to be so good for them.

I guess I have to start looking for a job now. And not just pretend to, either...