Go Rudy!

August 10, 2007

If I ever had any doubts that Rudy Giuliani was presidential material, they have surely been assuaged by comments he made in Cincinnati yesterday:

“This is not a mayor or a governor or a President who’s sitting in an ivory tower,” Giuliani said. “I was at Ground Zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers. I was there working with them. I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I’m one of them.”

Yes, Rudy, in a sense, you are indeed one of them – in fact in the exact same sense that George Bush cutting some stumps on his toy ranch makes him a good ‘ol boy rancher or that wearing a fucking open-collar plaid shirt turns any Necropublican into a commoner for a photo op. You are a privileged, conniving, cowardly asshat riding the 911 pony for the same reason Bush has.

That really is one of the more outrageous things I’ve heard so far in this campaign, but I’m still hoping for more as things heat up. This can go nowhere but down as it becomes more obvious that the Party might go for a Mormon or maybe even another wannabe tough-guy actor.

Yes, Rudy, you are indeed presidential material; which is a horrible thing to have to say about the presidency, but nonetheless true.

Go, Rudy, go!


NAFTA? SHAFTA!

August 8, 2007

Well, it’s been a long 13 months since Stephen Harper delivered the goods (otherwise known as the self-screwing) on the softwood lumber dispute with the US.  Longtime Conservative David Emerson brokered the agreement to much fanfare and hoopla, as evidenced in this CBC article. As explained in the article, the illegally-imposed American tariffs (according to the WTA and NAFTA tribunals) were removed and in their place producers had to pay an export tax of between 5-15%. All because we Canadians are more efficient at raping the environment than our American cousins. Anyway, the point is that Harper delivered where Martin/Chretien failed, and finally ended the softwood war forever.

Oopsie!

The United States made good yesterday on its threat to force Ottawa and the timber-producing provinces to comply with the 10-month-old softwood lumber agreement (SLA), saying it will seek binding arbitration against Canada in a move that could cost the domestic industry hundreds of millions of dollars in extra costs.

Susan Schwab, the U.S. Trade Representative, said she is filing a formal complaint through the London Court of International Arbitration because of what she said was Ottawa’s refusal to live up to the agreement.

“It is truly regrettable that, just 10 months after the agreement entered into force, the United States has no choice but to initiate arbitration proceedings to compel Canada to live up to its SLA obligations,” she said.

It seems that the USA want to dishonour this agreement, or that Canada is not living up to the deal, depending on who’s speaking. In reality, the housing bubble in the US burst a few months ago, and lumber prices have dropped by about 20% since that bubble burst. The US lumber industry, instead of taking it’s lumps and accepting that commodity markets experience lows from time to time, is going after it’s favourite whipping boy, the Canadian lumber industry.

The bad deal that Emerson/Harper bent over for was good enough when lumber prices were US$355 per thousand board, but the penetration was insufficient for US$305 per thousand board. The seven year deal is not dead yet, but it’s certainly taking a beating.

Good jobs all around.


The first trans-gendered presidential candidate

August 8, 2007

I see the US Democrats once again appear to prefer Republican-lite to substantive change in a new poll that shows Hillary Clinton’s lead over the rest of the field of contenders increasing. She defends corporate lobbyists as “representing real America”, hasn’t apologized for voting to invade a WMD-free Iraq, and is promoting herself as a tough-on-terrorism Guiliani in drag. Is anyone going to be surprised in 2008 when the real Democratic vote sits on its hands again and once again gives a Republican the keys to the Whitehouse?

Are we witnessing Hillary Clinton undergoing gender modification or has she always been a guy? I was hoping that as women became more politically influential they would bring new ideas to the table that might change the system. Unfortunately the system itself seems too strong for that and instead we see women only becoming influential because their views align with pre-existing systemic views. There’s a direct parallel here – Democrats try to win by dressing up as Republicans and trading their souls for conservative ideals and women win by dressing up as men.

Shit. Perhaps by the time there is a second serious female candidate she will actually be able to be a woman in office, not a she-male.


The Half Hour News Hour

August 8, 2007

As some of you might know, I’m currently sailing in the North Atlantic and through the quirks of the satelite system that provides me with slow but effective internet access, I am able to watch one television channel – Fox News. Yes, it’s as if this seismic boat is in some way one of the Dante’s outer circles – comfortable(ish) quarters, decent and plentiful food, but Fox News. Fox “News”. Fux Knows.

Anyway, after nearly two months out here, I’ve actually started to watch the rubbish and I’ve become a bit of a fan of what might be the worst show to ever grace television – The Half Hour News Hour, the Fox News riff on The Daily Show. Okay, that’s a bit harsh in the age of “reality” TV, but I hyperbolize for effect.

The intention is obviously to do for the right-wing what the Daily Show does for the left, except now that The Daily Show makes headlines, they have to do so in the glare of the media. This is only the beginning of the problems for the show.

Where The Daily Show produces smart humour delivered by comics and written by comics on the issues of the day, The Half Hour is formatted more like the old Saturday Night Live Weekend Updates – two anchors taking turns on various story leads. The big difference, and it’s part of the charm, I must admit, is that it’s almost unwatchably unfunny. Oh, it’s lame in a large way.

Perhaps it’s sadism, but watching these two actors deliver such lame commentary and hearing the scattered laughter of the studio audience (which the editors opt to show periodically just so you know it isn’t a laugh track), is hysterical to me. Watching people this uncomfortable makes me howl. And interspersed with all of this are fake ads (again a la SNL), a regular lame bit by Dennis Miller (what, more SNL?), and the odd little set bit or animated sequence. The other night, the first time I watched in fact, the animated bit was a thing called “The Closet Conservative” about a conservative guy (subtly named “Guy White”) who works in an office full of liberals and feels that in order to fit in he has to hide his political views. Yes, the poor white man doesn’t feel his views are adequately represented by those around him – good thing he still owns and controls everything!

I think it’s time for me to get off this boat now.


A short poem

August 4, 2007

Nose of blue and neck of red,
Shut your mouth or shake your head.


A Long Overdue Stirring of the Proverbial Pot

August 3, 2007

Good morning, folks, it’s good to be back. I have a few minutes to spare, and plenty of anger to share. Let’s go West to East today, just for a change…

Item 1: 79-Year-Old Man Attacked by Panhandler in Vancouver Church 

Ok folks, you know the drill: half of the people who read this story (not here, I expect – we do have a certain tone and type of morality shared with our readers) will say “Execute him!”, and the other will say, “That’s terrible, but society is to blame for that man being on the streets”. Curiously, I’m feeling a little of both right now.

As some of you may remember, I volunteer extensively in my community, and therefore feel justified in not giving money to panhandlers – donating time to solve the problem seems better to me than throwing money at it to salve a guilty conscience. That said, even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t give money anyway. Many of the purported ‘homeless’ that I see daily are reasonably well-fed and able-bodied. Some, contrary to my own form of logic, take it upon themselves to gain additional mouths to feed by getting a dog. Many are obviously on the streets voluntarily (most of these are young people), and are commonly tattooed and pierced beyond reason to emphasize their ‘rebel’ status. There are those homeless that have legitimate mental health issues, and I do genuinely feel sorry for them, but there are programs in place to help, although they often prove woefully inadequate. It is not the mentally ill or those legitimately suffering from poverty that I am singling out however, it is those who have adopted this ‘lifestyle’ by choice.

And that’s the key word in this instance: choice. I’m not sure why they think that just because you have decided that society doesn’t work for you that I have to assume some sort of responsibility to support you and respect your choice. In this case, it’s not an ‘opting in/out’ proposition – you don’t get to decide what the values are – those are decided collectively and over time. The Protestant work ethic, or whatever modern version of it prevails today, is the dominant one. I may not like it, you may not like it, but that doesn’t give us the right to refuse to play. The paper is filled with jobs, even here in the Maritimes, and despite your obvious proclivity for tattooing snakes on your skull, if you’re able-bodied, you can work. I am not responsible for the voluntary choices made by others. I volunteer in order to help those who are at a disadvantage through no fault of their own, and that is the best way, in my view, to effect change – legitimately and through positive action, not through withdrawal and the expectation that society’s teat will be there for you. You decided not to play, remember? You are not, therefore, entitled to the benefits of team membership.

I know I’m going to get some negative feedback on this, but I’m here to share my opinion, so share I shall.

Item 2: Parapsychology Conference Claims Scientific Legitimacy

This is a gem. The gent in question asserts that the approach taken by the participants in the conference are conducting a “regular scientific and scholarly conference“, but with a difference. This conference is distinguished by the application of metaphysics (phenomena outside the realm of scientific explanation), and that “Science is good at studying a lot of things, but not everything.”

No, not if you want what you study to be completely invalid, at any rate. As in the item above, you can’t have it both ways. Either something is scientific, or it is pretending to be, which is commonly referred to as pseudoscientific. When you discuss the paranormal in terms that look and sound scientific but are ultimately meaningless because they make extrapolations based on faith, you are using nothing more than scientistic discourse – the words without the substance. To be scientific, or admissible to the realm of science, as the great philosopher Karl Popper asserted, a phenomenon must be falsifiable, which is to say that there has to be a way to prove the theory or explanation wrong. If you can’t conceive of a way to disprove something, it isn’t an idea that science can address. The existence of god is therefore not a scientific question – there’s no way you can conclusively prove she doesn’t exist. Similarly, paranormal phenomena – ghosts, telepathy and such – are not matters for serious scientific inquiry for those who wish to admit that supernatural explanations for phenomena are possible. Your non-detection of the ghost of your grandfather does not, in this instance, disprove his existence, it just proves that ‘science can’t explain it’, and you will continue to believe that Grandpa Topper haunts your liquor cabinet.  If a scientific explanation is not possible, or will not be the ultimate proof of the falsehood of a theory, then science is entitled to take its ball and go home.

By the way, “Ghostbusters” is one of my favourite movies. Is that wrong?

Also by the way, Duke University has disassociated itself from the Rhine Institute. Go Duke!

Item 3: Health Concerns Arise over Wireless Internet in Schools 

A woman claims that due to her family’s particular sensitivity to electromagnetic fields, leading to ‘negative heath effects’, she is trying to make sure teachers shut off their cell phones in her child’s class, and furthermore, is campaigning against the introduction of wireless Internet in schools.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute…

Ok, I’ll let you in on a little secret, Ma’am. I know the reason for your sensitivity.

You’re a loon. And you’re apparently making your child into a little loonlet as well.

There has been no, I repeat, no evidence that even remotely suggests negative health effects from electromagnetic radiation. Wait, let me revise that, some electromagnetic radiation is harmful, mostly that in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum. There is no conceivable effect on a person that would originate from another person’s cellphone in a desk drawer 20 feet away. The desk has a more significant gravitational effect on the people in the room, in fact. Besides which, even if the phone is turned off, there aren’t very many places on Earth free from the flow of electromagnetic waves of one sort or another, not to mention non-manmade stuff like cosmic rays from outer space (ban outer space!) and particles that shoot through us and the planet itself like poo through a goose.

I’m not even so upset at this poor, misguided woman – I’m more disturbed by the fact that the media is even paying attention to this crackpot. Slow news day or not, this is the type of story that calls into question the credibility of the media and leads people down the path to scientific illiteracy.

So, all is right with the world. Or at least it’s business as usual. *sigh*

It’s good to be back. Be seeing you.


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