Autonomous Source

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January 31, 2007

Why is the world upside down?

For the past few years I've had the feeling that global politics is moving into the Twilight Zone. So many politicians, reporters, and members of other elites have been appeasing and making excuses for one of the most vile ideologies in history. The United States and a few of its allies have fought against this ideology, making difficult sacrifices to try to grow democracy in some very poor soil, and those same intellectuals seem very clearly to want this effort to fail. Can it be that they hate Bush so much that they want to see an entire nation fall to fascists so that he doesn't have the honour of a 'victory'? Sure, there have been mistakes, but if I recall my history, the allies in World War II didn't follow a perfectly executed plan either. But they won, despite setbacks and disagreements, because they understood the consequences of defeat.

[Former?] Leftist Nick Cohen can't understand what's going on either, and has some questions for his 'comrades':

Why is it that apologies for a militant Islam which stands for everything the liberal left is against come from the liberal left? Why will students hear a leftish postmodern theorist defend the exploitation of women in traditional cultures but not a crusty conservative don? After the American and British wars in Bosnia and Kosovo against Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansers, why were men and women of the left denying the existence of Serb concentration camps? As important, why did a European Union that daily announces its commitment to the liberal principles of human rights and international law do nothing as crimes against humanity took place just over its borders? Why is Palestine a cause for the liberal left, but not China, Sudan, Zimbabwe, the Congo or North Korea? Why, even in the case of Palestine, can't those who say they support the Palestinian cause tell you what type of Palestine they would like to see? After the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington why were you as likely to read that a sinister conspiracy of Jews controlled American or British foreign policy in a superior literary journal as in a neo-Nazi hate sheet? And why after the 7/7 attacks on London did leftish rather than right-wing newspapers run pieces excusing suicide bombers who were inspired by a psychopathic theology from the ultra-right?

In short, why is the world upside down?

Read the whole thing, he's just getting warmed up...

January 29, 2007

Slow news day

It just doesn't get slower...

(via BOTWT)

'Do you think it's easy to set priorities?'

The Conservatives have fired the first shots in the election that won't be held this spring. Most people that watch the TV news have probably seen this, but internet only folks like myself had to wait for some kind soul to upload it to Youtube.

My opinion? It's pretty effective. Dion is working overtime to build an image of himself that he can bring to an election. It's a lot harder to do when your opponents are lobbing well-aimed shots at the foundation. And these are Dion's own words being used against him, so the ad is pretty difficult to refute. With luck, the spluttering Dion shown here will be the view of him that 'sticks', leaving the Liberals no choice but to pull him out of the leadership and start looking for a replacement.

UPDATE: All three of these ads can be found on the Conservative website. I'm not as keen on the Back to Power ad, but the environmental one is effective at pointing out that the Liberals did nothing on greenhouse gas emissions in their thirteen years in power. Which I'm happy about, actually.

Hmm, there it is, a reason for me to vote for the Liberals...

January 28, 2007

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
'Bethankit' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect sconner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit:
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

-- Robert Burns, 1786

I must say I enjoyed our haggis much more than I thought I would. Groundskeeper Willy is probably not the best salesman for this particular delicacy...

January 26, 2007

Giuliani vs Gore

That's who I think will face off in the Presidential elections of 2008. I know it's a year and a half away but I feel pretty confident with my prediction. Here's my back-of-the-envelope analysis:

Republicans: There's not a lot of strong candidates here. Basically there's Giuliani and everybody else. McCain will flop in the same way he did in 2000. Gingrich has that stale smell of the 90's clinging to him. All the rest are nobodies that won't get any traction unless they happen to find a hot issue.

Giuliani is pretty liberal on social issues, and this is making him some enemies as the race gets closer. But this is actually a strength, because these issues have normally cost Republicans votes in the general election. Giuliani is also seen as a strong leader that can get things done, and with the bad atmosphere in Congress today that quality will be seen as vital. Most importantly, after their loss in 2006, Republicans desperately want to win again. And they'll be willing to nominate a candidate that they may not completely agree with if he can bring them victory.

Democrats: This is a little more difficult. There is a general feeling that the next election is the Democrats 'turn', so it's attracting a lot of strong candidates.

I think Hillary has too much baggage to make it. As the front-runner declaring so early, she's going to take an enormous amount of abuse and be subjected to incredible scrutiny before the first primary. I've been watching her over the years -- knowing full well what her ultimate intentions were -- and I have to admit she's done a good job straddling every issue. But this becomes a problem in that people have the perception that she's an empty shell: guided by the best political advice available solely for the goal of becoming President. And in this case, the perception is reality.

Obama is a good-looking (so I'm told) black man in the Senate. For most people he's an empty page, which gets you pretty far. But it can't get you to the White House. Whoever advised him to run after only two years in the Senate did him a great disservice. He's young, and has lots of time to build more of a reputation and get more allies before aiming at the big prize. But after this he'll be seen as overly ambitious, and will have squandered all the goodwill he's getting now.

Gore hasn't declared yet, and he won't for some time. But someone as ambitious as him sees the perfect opportunity to make his comeback onto the big stage. There is nothing that will stop him from running. Nothing. He may even miss some of the early primaries, but when he arrives he will seem fresh. The halo he's been polishing since he lost in 2000 will dazzle the press and primary voters. Expect to hear many comparisons during this period to Nixon, who lost in a squeaker in 1960, but came back in 1968 to trounce the party that had mired the country in a war they couldn't win. The other candidates will have spent at least six months tearing each other apart and taking abuse from the press. No one will look very good. But at that moment Al will look like a saint, an wise scientist, and a movie star all rolled into one. He's not, of course, but it'll take some time for the press and his opponents to recalibrate their attacks on him. But it'll be too late. He'll coast to victory. Gore has a tremendously loyal following, and you can be sure he's spent the last six years courting anyone who can help him. He's unstoppable -- at least for the Democratic nomination.

Sorry, Hill.

And who will win? I think Giuliani will. But maybe that's hope talking, I'm not sure.

January 25, 2007

Stellarium

The internet age offers us vast resources for education, of which I am just beginning to make use of. If, in a discussion with my children, the topic of something odd like pole vaulting comes up, I can go to Youtube and quickly find a video that demonstrates what it looks like. I can find the words to any half-remembered rhyme with ease, and find all kinds of fun activities in a moment.

Tonight we were discussing stars, and since it's -25 out right now, I couldn't take them to see the real thing. But I just knew that somewhere in the world someone had created a perfect stellar simulator and was offering for free. After three minutes searching and two minutes downloading, I had it: Stellarium.

It's a planetarium for your computer. You can show the sky from any position on earth at any time, speed up or reverse time, zoom in, and overlay labels, constellations, and various navigational markers. I've wasted almost as much time on it as I did Flash Element TD...

Dion's Shallow 'Support'

Stephane Dion seems to be making use of the technique his predecessor used to such great effect when he was Prime Minister. Take no position on anything, but talk instead about how important it is to talk:

"We are in Afghanistan to help the population live more securely and to give it, over the coming years, a functional government.

"That is why we are there. To do that we have to know if the mission is working well. What is really happening? We want hearings from the Foreign Affairs committee to know how we can improve this mission.

"We support the troops but we can't support the troops efficiently if we don't know exactly what is happening."

Can't you? I don't know everything that's going on in Afghanistan, and I haven't been invited for any 'fact-finding' tours, but I trust that the men on the ground and their leaders are doing the best they can given the situation. Maybe I'm naive, but I'd rather trust them than a committee of MPs eager to score points. The time for talking has passed, there was a vote on the House of Commons and now is the time for getting on with the job, not second-guessing every decision.

Dion wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants the power to influence and make noise about Afghanistan, but is unwilling to take responsibility for it. Good politics, maybe, but bad for those doing the difficult work on the ground. One only needs to look at the current circus in the US Congress to see what damage having a 'Foreign Affairs committee' digging for dirt would do:

If they were serious and had the courage of their convictions, they'd attempt to cut off funds for the Iraq effort. But that would mean they would have to take responsibility for what happens next. By passing "non-binding resolutions," they can assail Mr. Bush and put all of the burden of success or failure on his shoulders.

This is not to say that the resolution won't have harmful consequences, at home and abroad. At home, it further undermines public support for the Iraq effort. Virginia Republican John Warner even cites a lack of public support to justify his separate non-binding resolution of criticism for Mr. Bush's troop "surge." But public pessimism is in part a response to the rhetoric of failure from political leaders like Mr. Warner. The same Senators then wrap their own retreat in the defeatism they helped to promote.

In Iraq, all of this undermines the morale of the military and makes their task that much harder on the ground. When John McCain asked Lieutenant General David Petraeus that precise question during his confirmation hearing Tuesday, the next commander of Coalition operations in Iraq said, "It would not be a beneficial effect, sir."

And when Joe Lieberman asked if such a resolution would give the enemy cause to believe that Americans were divided, he added, "That's correct, sir." Several Senators protested and demanded that the general stay out of domestic politics, but his only offense was telling the truth. Of course the enemy would take comfort from any Senate declaration that Mr. Bush lacks domestic support.

All of this also applies to the many Congressional efforts to set "benchmarks" or otherwise micromanage the battlefield. Hillary Rodham Clinton says she is "cursed with the responsibility gene" that makes her unwilling to cut off funds, but instead she proposes to set a cap on U.S. troops in the theater. So while General Petraeus says he needs more troops to fulfill his mission, General Clinton says he doesn't. Which battlefield commander do you trust?

House Republicans are little better. They blame Mr. Bush and Iraq for their loss of Congress, rather than their own ethics, earmarks and other failures. So looking ahead to 2008 they now want to distance themselves from the war they voted for, albeit also without actually having to vote against it. Thus their political brainstorm is to demand monthly "benchmarks for success" that the Bush Administration and Iraqis will have to meet.

So every 30 days, General Petraeus and his men will have to take their attention away from the Baghdad campaign and instead report to Congress on how well Iraqis and Americans are communicating with one another, among other crucial matters. Minority Leader John Boehner is even asking Speaker Nancy Pelosi to create another special Congressional committee to look over the general's shoulder. It's a shame Ulysses S. Grant isn't around to tell them where to put their special committee.

Let's not let it happen in Canada.

January 24, 2007

Don't follow this link

I can thank Gnotalex for the loss of this morning to idleness. Terrible thing, idleness, always stopping me from being the effective achiever I know I am meant to be.

Anyways, if you do not want your day to me mired in idleness, DO NOT follow this link. I'm warning you!

And if you do follow it, I'll bet you can't get to level 39 like I did...

January 23, 2007

Bush confronts his critics

I think one of the reasons President Bush's popularity has been on a slow slide downward over the past years has been the gradual softening of the tough stance he took after 9/11 and the beginning of the Iraq war. If he played more on offence rather than defence -- talked more (and acted more) about the threats we face -- maybe he wouldn't have lost so many of his early allies. With this speech to his critics, maybe he's trying to turn things around:

Faced with a fundamental challenge to our own security, to everything we believe in, to the world order to peace and security for which we and our parents fought so hard for so many years, you now want to pretend like none of these threats are real. You want to surrender to the evil I have been telling you about. An evil that, unchecked, can consume large parts of the world and threatens to usher in a dark age.

You didn’t like it when I talked about evil. Sounded too simple, too uncompromising, too moralistic. Too … biblical.

I don’t know what else you call people who fly passenger jets into office buildings; who rape women in front of their husbands and children, and execute their opponents in acid baths; who seek to spread tyrannical and archaic religious regimes that enslave women and stifle fundamental freedoms. Who want to dominate the world’s primary oil fields with nuclear weapons.

I call it evil. Works for me.

I’ve heard all the comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam. George Bush’s Vietnam. The myopia is astonishing, even for me, George Bush, who you all think just isn’t that smart. But I learned something in school: People who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it...

Too bad he never really made it...

January 20, 2007

Your vote is your say, don't throw it away.

Over at Faster Than The World, they're attempting to resolve, for once and for all: what was the best arcade game ever? Fifty games have been nominated for the voting, and it's clear some of them are pretty wonky. (I mean, come on! Tecmo Super Dodge Ball?) But the important games are there.

It's clear that if there is any justice in the universe the winner will be Atari's Gauntlet:

Go my minions, go to FTTW and vote for Gauntlet!

C'mon! I mean it. That means both of you...

UPDATE: You guys are such a disappointment. Space Invaders has been declared the winner. Which makes me think some people thought they were voting for the most influential arcade game of all time or some such thing, rather than the best one. Because certainly no one could be interested in playing Space Invaders any more...

January 19, 2007

How deep does the guilt go?

One thing that must be very difficult in being a environmentalist and concerned citizen is dealing with the guilt. After all, there you are: alive, consuming limited resources, exhaling carbon dioxide, inflicting pain on Gaia with your unsustainable presence.

Some 'environmentalists' evidently have no difficulty with this -- such as David Suzuki -- but true believers must experience real suffering. Imagine having to rationalize to yourself every trip in an automobile or every grocery purchase that isn't organic and 'fair trade' when the media is stacked with stories telling the tragic consequences of these actions. The worst case of Catholic guilt could never be this bad.

William Watson takes a look at the look at the poor souls that inhabit this world, and has a lot of sympathy for them:

Living under a constant cloud of enviro-guilt must be like living under a permanent tax audit.
Read the whole thing.

Bob's back!

Somehow I missed this, but Bob Tarantino of the defunct Let it Bleed has had a new blog up for a couple of months. I always enjoyed his no-nonsense take on the issues and his ability to neatly eviscerate the columns of the wackier contributors to the Star and Globe. He was always one of my higher priority reads. It's good to have him back.

January 17, 2007

For Lease: Supervillain Lair

How does this sound as a supervillain (or even a superhero) lair? Massive man-made caverns located behind the rushing water of Niagara Falls? It would be the perfect place to build an army of giant robots. It's almost too good to be true.

And they exist! A hydro-electric powerstation once used these caverns to expel water from two turbines. It would have been very expensive to fill them in, so it was never done. And no one could ever get to them anyway.

Or could they? Thrill to the story of how three ninja mountaineers, JonDoe, Stoop and Dsankt, made their way past Ontario Hydro's lame security and made their way to the base of the Falls -- from behind.

Note that the writers, editors, and financial backers of Autonomous Source do not in any way endorse this dangerous and illegal activity. But we do think it's pretty cool.

Talk about a war on reality...

I used to like Doonesbury. I really did. It had a good mix of characters, had interesting plotlines, and had some link to reality. I even liked the art. But that was quite a while ago. Now it seems Gary Trudeau seems to get his story ideas by taking the talking points of the worst enemies of the Bush administration and exaggerating them for comic effect. The result is a strip that really only belongs in a college newspaper.

A strip this week is a good example.

Trouble is, none of it is true. Blogger Christopher Taylor (not our Chris Taylor) actually went to the heroic lengths of calling the Park Service for confirmation of the story.

But even to think that it could be true strains the mind. No matter how diabolical and anti-science one might think the 'Bush Regime' is, it's hard to imagine them being so concerned with how the Parks Service describes the Grand Canyon that they would personally intervene. And even if they did care, they simply don't have the power to dictate the day-to-day policy of any branch of government.

To believe this story upon first hearing it is perhaps understandable. But surely any rational person would have a few questions about its veracity after a few moment's thought. But to take the time to put it into a comic strip to be seen by millions of people (creating an undestroyable urban myth) indicates Gary Trudeau is either a willing liar, or lives in a penthouse apartment in cloud-cuckoo land.

UPDATE: The skeptics at eSkeptic were insufficiently skeptical when they first heard this story and promptly flew off the handle. But since then they have regained their composure, admitted their error, and tried to track down the feeble story to its source.

January 16, 2007

Three years of Autonomous Source

Three years ago, I wrote the first memorable post on this blog: Test. From that simple beginning this blog has grown into one of the most important, well-read, and influential Canadian blogs that I have ever been a part of.

It's been an up and down ride. There have been periods of extreme activity, and there have been some nasty funk-induced ruts. One of those ruts almost metastasized into full-blown blog paralysis this winter, and it took a great deal of effort to build a bit of momentum and get it moving again. It's too early to declare victory, but so far the signs are promising.

I've never been clear on what this blog is about. I have many interests and not so much focus. So you never know what's going to turn up on this page. But after reviewing the thousand or so posts I've written these past few years, there are some topics and themes that come up regularly. Here are the primary ingredients in the Autonomous Source stew:

  • The Kids: I love Captain Destructo and The Mistress of Chaos more than I ever thought it was possible to love something. But they also drive me absolutely batty. I write about them to remember their antics and to ease some of the tension they cause in my life.
  • Canadian Politics: I'm politically active in the Conservative party at the local level. That doesn't mean I support everything the party does, but I see them as the best of a bad lot. I find it's more useful to work for my beliefs (smaller government, more individualism, less identity politics, freer markets) within an organization that has the opportunity of doing something about it than to slouch on the sidelines and bitch. But I don't always get what I want.
  • Free Market Economics: The heart of capitalism is that two people (or two corporations) can make a free, uncoerced exchange and each feel that they are the better for it. As a result of millions and millions of these exchanges, the world grows richer and people are better off. This seems so obvious, yet so few people understand it.
  • Fighting Tyranny: The history of the world is packed with brutal regimes that ruled with terror and the threat of violence. The relatively free societies we live in today are fragile exceptions to the rule. I believe we have the duty to try to spread this freedom when possible and support it in places where it is under attack. That's why I still support the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. I am absolutely flummoxed by the supposedly caring people that want to throw the people of those countries to the wolves.
  • Junk Science: Superstitious beliefs are still commonplace in this age of reason. They're just given a scientific veneer. I occasionally try to do a bit of sanding to get to the truth.
  • The Lying No-good Media: The modern news media is very susceptible to bias, herd-thinking, sloppiness, and corruption. I have been known to be somewhat critical of it.
  • Neat Stuff: I love video games, music, art, nifty web pages, movies, and comic books. Well, the good stuff anyway. And when I find something I love, I want to share it with the world. This blog is my conduit.
The successful blogs are those that manage to specialize and become nexus points for some particular topic, no matter how small. That's never going to happen around here. I will keep on writing about whatever half-baked topic flits through my mind for as long as this blog exists. I appreciate everyone that drops by, and especially appreciate those that link and comment.

Okay, that's enough for now. Time to get back to real life...

I figured he was dead...

Castro Reportedly in 'Grave' Condition.

We have a winnah!

Yesterday's logic problem has been noodled out by the Latin American Correspondent. His prize is a free dinner for two at his choice of any of Ottawa's fine restaurants*. The answer is two weighings. First two sets of three packages are compared, if one of those sets is heavier, then two from that set are weighed and the heavier is found either directly or through the process of elimination. If the two sets of three are equal, the heavier of the two remaining is easily found with the remaining weighinig. I altered the problem slightly in that I was told originally that there were nine packages from which to find the heaviest. I think changing it to eight makes it more difficult because it gets you thinking of twos rather than threes.

* Prize may only be accepted in the calender year of 2007. No substitutions will be accepted.

January 15, 2007

Logic problem

There's nothing like a good puzzle to get the old brain juices going. A friend of mine told me a good one the other day, and it took me about five minutes to solve. I've altered it just a little bit:

You are a worker in a successful drug cartel. You are well respected for the excellent work you do at packaging kilo bags of cocaine. They are always perfectly measured. But just as you are about to hand eight new bags to your boss, you realize the flashy piece of bling you bought yesterday has fallen into one of them -- but you can't figure out which one! You have a balance scale at hand; what is fewest numbers of weighings you can do to determine which bag has the surprise inside?
Answer tomorrow.

January 12, 2007

Taking the 'retro' trend too far...

Or maybe not. The Holden Efijy displayed at the recent North American International Auto Show is really something else.

A resized photo really doesn't do this car any justice. You really have to see them full size: above photo, side, rear, interior.

The second biggest issue of the 21st century

The Chinese state media agency Xinhua has admitted that China gender imbalance is growing deeper:

A report released here Thursday said there will be 30 million more males of marriageable age in China than females by the year 2020, which will make it difficult for men to find wives.

The report, issued by the State Population and Family Planning Commission, said China's sex ratio for newborn babies in 2005 was 118 boys to 100 girls, compared with 110:100 in 2000. In some regions, the sex ratio has reached 130:100.

The Chinese Communist government has decided this is a bad thing, but that their brutal family planning policies had nothing to do with it.
The report predicted that in the year 2020, Chinese men of marriageable age will find it difficult to find wives, especially those with low income or little education. This will create social instability.

Liu said the sex ratio imbalance was not connected to China's family planning policy. "It is more a result of the deep-rooted notion in Chinese culture that men are superior to women," she said.

It's hard to imagine what China will be like when there are four men to every three women. I'm very pro-woman myself; I believe that those of the female gender contribute much more to the 'glue' that binds civilization together. Single men are capable of all kinds of trouble -- especially in groups -- but when matched with women they become contributing members of society. Without women, these unmatched Chinese men will be attracted to gangs or aggressive political movements.

I'm also of the opinion that the booming Chinese economy is due to throw a piston in the next five years. Too much of the business of the country is driven by state-managed industry and financing, and not enough by real demand. It will run into trouble for the same reasons that Japan's government-managed economy fell flat fifteen years ago. Will Hutton summarizes it like this:

China's economic growth is based on the state channelling vast under-priced savings into huge investment projects driven by cheap labour. Some 200m of China's 760m workforce are migrant peasants employed in factories, construction sites and offices in its new towns and cities—the biggest migration in history. The Communist party has permitted free movement of prices, encourages profit-seeking and has sharply lowered tariffs on imports and obstacles to inward investment. Its success in creating annual growth of some 9.5 per cent for a generation, lifting 400m people out of poverty, is widely acknowledged. But the party keeps firm control of ownership, wages and company strategies—and of the state. In other words, China occupies an uneasy halfway house between socialism and capitalism; its private sector, although growing, is still puny. It is a system of Leninist corporatism—and it is this that is breaking down.

The breaches in the model are all around. How much longer can China's state-owned banks carry on directing billions of dollars of savings into investments that produce tiny or even negative returns and on which interest is irregularly paid? Poor peasants' ability to create the savings needed to fuel growth is reaching its limits. And in any case, for how long can a $2 trillion economy save at more than 40 per cent of GDP? It is reaching the limit of its capacity to increase exports (which in 2007 will surpass $1 trillion) by 25 per cent a year; at this rate of growth they will reach $5 trillion by 2020 or sooner, representing more than half of today's world trade. Is that likely? Are there sufficient ships and ports to move such volumes—and will western markets stay open without real reciprocity on trade? Every year China acquires $200bn of foreign exchange reserves, mainly dollars, as it rigs its currency to keep its exports competitive. It is absurd for a poor country like China to be lending to a rich one like the US; in fact, it is unsustainable, and the financial markets seem to agree.

China would like to lower the current feverish growth rates, but the tools available in the west—raising taxes, cutting spending and lifting interest rates—are not available to China. The party dare not trigger protests by raising taxes; officials in state enterprises and provincial governments ignore orders to lower spending because their careers depend on generating growth and jobs. And raising interest rates could create a credit crunch as loans go sour.

Chinese history is remarkably consistent. China is always united under one dynasty, which grows corrupt and weak. Sparks erupt in the backwaters -- minor revolts against local rulers -- but most are snuffed out. But eventually one catches fire and starts to claim more territory until a new dynasty is founded. In this way the Ming were replaced by the Qing, who were replaced by the Kuomintang, who were replaced by the Communists. In each of those transitions, there was a huge loss of life.

With the growing gender imbalance and the teetering economy, the groundwork is definitely in place for a dynastic change. And it's not going to be pretty.

January 09, 2007

Do as I say, not as I do

From the globe-trotting schedule of David Suzuki:

Saturday 17th February, London Ontario
1:00 pm
Travel Media Association of Canada
London Convention Centre
Leaving a Small Footprint

Tuesday 5th March, Qatar
7:00 PM
Virginia Commonwealth University
School of the Arts

I assume he's going to walk there.

Related hypocrisy: Tony Blair.

Venezuela begins its descent....

All you need to know about the hell Venezuela is heading for is summarized neatly in this post by Fausta Wertz.

The Financial Post's War on Environmentalism

Personally, I'm a skeptic when it comes to fight against global warming. I have my reasons, which I have yet to detail on this blog -- because I'm generally very wary of the subject. Everyone I know seems to be a passionate believer in it, and the party I belong to has embraced it and is taking advice from the most vocal crusaders for it. It's the great motherhood issue of our time, and I feel that I would ruffle too many feathers if I said my piece.

The Financial Post Comment page (part of the National Post) does not have a similar fear. Almost every day for the past few weeks, there has been a story kicking holes in the theory or examining the true costs of Kyoto. Obviously, the editors are in the pockets of Big Oil. Still, as a member of the small cohort of heretics still left, I appreciate seeing arguments being made about the issue when many people would just like to declare global warming -- and its solution -- to be beyond debate.

Today's piece, Climate action would be suicidal, pulls no punches and is a fun read:

Even if one were one to agree that the scientific case for potentially catastrophic man-made climate change was closed, which it is not, there would still be three unavoidable facts about the pretensions of climate policy. Each of these facts is assiduously avoided by fans of draconian action. The first is that Canada could not meet its obligations under the Kyoto Accord without decimating the economy. The second is that if it were to achieve this suicidal goal, the impact on global climate would be zero. Finally, even if all the signatories to Kyoto were to meet their targets (which they won't), the impact on global temperatures would be minimal. Kyoto was just one draconian step towards a much more draconian future.
Read the whole thing.

January 07, 2007

New email

Be advised, merchants of pirated software, incest foot-fetish porn, herbal erectile-dysfunction remedies, and penny stocks, that I have a new email address. It's not that I didn't appreciate your endless offers and come-ons, but I was finding it too difficult to find my legitimate correspondence. If you really feel you must contact me, the new address can be found on the right. Thanks for your understanding.

January 05, 2007

Welcome to the world!

Congratulations go out to the Latin American correspondent and his wife on the birth of their hairy baby in Sao Paulo.

Sorry -- on the birth of their baby, Harry.

Good work folks! Keep 'em coming!

My neighbors hate me...

Why else would they buy an inflatable Superman suit for my son at Christmas? And even worse, they bought a Barbie and a Barbie bedroom set for my daughter. With 50 pairs of little pink shoes! Maybe I shouldn't let my dog crap on their lawn so often...

Here SuperMax is set upon by his nemesis, the Mistress of Chaos. He is invulnerable to her attacks, but cannot fight back because he can't move his arms...

Don't do it Steve!

With his new cabinet shuffle and his new rhetoric, Stephen Harper seems to be getting ready to remake himself and his party as environmentalists.

"We've clearly determined we need to do more on the environment," Mr. Harper said.

"I think the public's been clear to us; they want that to be a priority. I think it should be a priority," the Prime Minister added, "so that is going to occupy ... a lot of our time."

Terence Corcoran is alarmed by the anti-prosperity 'rankings' that are used by the PM to justify this new focus:
In a newspaper interview just before Christmas, Mr. Harper said Canada's environmental record is "the worst in the developed world ... in just about every measure." In an interview with CTV, he said Canada's environmental performance "is, by most measures, the worst in the developed world. We've got big problems." Now defunct Environment Minister Rona Brockovich [har!] made the same claims earlier in the year.

There is only one study model by only one group in the world that ranks Canada as the worst environmental performer among developed nations, and that's the work of David Suzuki and a collection of academic activists associated with Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria. The latest in the line landed last month from the Suzuki Foundation, a report that begins: "Canada has among the worst environmental record of any developed country, ranking 28th out of 30 OECD countries."

Authority for this claim, absurd on its face -- ranking Canada behind the likes of Greece, Poland, Turkey and Mexico--is a 2005 report, The Maple Leaf in the OECD, produced by the Suzuki Foundation and environmental academics from Simon Fraser. That report in turn draws on Canada Vs. The OECD: An Environmental Comparison, a 2001 work by David R. Boyd, eco-research chair of environmental law at the University of Victoria.

The 2001 Boyd report, the founding catalogue of misleading indicators, warped assumptions and outrageous conclusions should send the Harper Tories running for cover. Instead, the government has adopted the report's methodology as legitimate foundation for political policy.

The first and obvious clue that the Boyd report is trouble is the appearance of Mexico as No. 2 in the ranking. Is Mexico a model for green policy? Will Canada send new Environment Minister John Baird to Mexico on a fact finding mission to unearth the secrets of Mexico's environmental success?

Mexico ranks high on the Suzuki-Boyd rankings for one main reason: low growth and dismal standard of living. Take transportation: Canada ranks 26th for distance travelled by road vehicles per capita, while Mexico ranks 1st. Canada ranks 25th in the high number of vehicles per capita, while Mexico is 2nd with few vehicles. Why? Nobody in Mexico can afford cars or road travel.

The transportation area captures the overriding moral theme of the New Conservative standard for environmental success. Economic progress, symbolized by the ability of people to own motor cars and travel about, live well, produce energy, keep warm and keep cool, leads to environmental failure that must be corrected. Economic stagnation and reversal produces success. Mexico is good, Canada is bad.

I'm fully in agreement with Terry on this. Suzuki and his supporters are against wealth, and against economic growth. They see people living comfortably in large houses and enjoying greater mobility and purchasing power as dangerous. They want us to live 'sustainably', which they would like to enforce by passing laws to restrict our economic freedoms. This despite the fact that as people grow wealthier and no longer have to worry about the basics of survival, they're more likely to be concerned about improving their surroundings. A town that is living at a subsistance level is unlikely to worry too much that their sewage is being improperly disposed of.

But luckily, Harper's new green push is most likely a cynical ploy to soften the Tories vulnerability on this issue rather than a true conversion to the cause.

John Ivison:

The theme of all this activity can be summed up in two words -- spring election. Mr. Harper is bolstering his defences against predictable Liberal assaults --an Environment Minister from Alberta in the pocket of the oil industry; a social conservative Justice Minister; a Human Resources Minister who has failed to create any new child-care spaces, and so on.

In theory, it is all perfectly logical. In practice, we will probably see the environment fall down the agenda as quickly as it rose when the world is gripped by an irrational panic over an asteroid impact.

Andrew Coyne:
But the Tories will have correctly calculated that much of the public's concern for the environment is essentially fraudulent. While there are true believers on both sides, the broad mass of the public wants Something Done about global warming, but wants Someone Else to pay for it.

All that is required to satisfy these voters is to put on a reasonably convincing show of action, to flatter their consciences without disturbing their pocketbooks. As with gifts and remedial math tests, it's the thought that counts.

Whew!

January 04, 2007

Demon Children: 1, Outmatched Babysitter: 0

My wife has taken leave to bring the wonders of the Quebec health care system to the grateful residents of Chisasibi, on the shores of James Bay. While she is away, I have the absolute authority and responsibility over Max and Talia. It's an awesome burden, so obviously the first thing I had to do after seeing my wife off was to get rid of it.

I am now a member of the Quebec Liberal party. As such, I have the obligation to gather occasionally with other members to drink plan strategy. Knowing that I was burdened with my two not-quite-four-year-olds, another member offered to give up his daughter as a sacrifice. She would 'babysit', as we fulfilled our difficult obligations to help assure Jean Charest more time in office. She assured me she could handle them; the kids assured me they would be good. I had a good laugh. Captain Destructo and the Mistress of Chaos would make short work of her.

After a number of hours deep in strategic discussion, I was driven back home to where my collegue could pick up what was left of his daughter. It was 11:00. The light in Max and Talia's room was out. I thought that was a good sign.

But when I came in, the first thing I heard was giggling. Then two extremely wired children ran down the stairs and proceeded to run around in circles in the living room, together shouting, "I am a robot! I am a robot!" The babysitter made her way down behind them, defeat etched in the new wrinkles on her face. The children won. Carefully and with sensitivity, we managed to draw the story out of her. And with later confirmation from Max and Talia, I can now partially piece together what happened that night -- though the full truth will probably never be known.

At around 8:00 she attempted to herd them into bed. They had been watching TV with her, and behaving acceptably. They demanded a snack. She provided one. They demanded more. She acquiesced. She finally got them in the bath, where they turned into water monkeys. She tried to reassert control, but didn't manage it. Talia saw the prize she has always wanted -- absolute dominance of this household -- within her reach and went for it.

She asked for longer in the bath. She asked for more stories. She couldn't sleep. She needed a drink. She wanted that pair of pajamas, not the other one. She couldn't sleep. It was too dark. She couldn't sleep. What the babysitter didn't understand was that indulging these requests did not sate my daughters lust for control, it just fed it fuel. And all the while, Max laughed and cheered and egged my little girl on. Talia is exceptionally ingenious, and has no trouble inventing new tasks to tie the supposed authority up in knots.

But I'm not blaming the babysitter. She did her best, but was not prepared for the deviousness of the Mistress of Chaos' mind. And I'm not taking the blame either. Obviously the person at fault is my wife for leaving me here alone with these demon children. I mean, what was she thinking?

January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

Last year went by so fast, I have trouble remembering what happened. Luckily Dave Berry provided a synopsis to refresh my memory.