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Welcome to the Me Show.
Monday, April 25, 2005
 
  • Oh, dear.

    Putin deplores collapse of USSR

    He said the break-up of the USSR in 1991 was "a real drama" which left tens of millions of Russians outside the Russian Federation.

    The neighbours get nervous when he says things like that.
     

  • Saturday, April 23, 2005
     
  • Josh Marshall has been presenting some pretty egregious examples of politics at its rock-bottom worst lately, which I feel we all ought to see, if only so that we have a sense of what that looks like.

    The first case is just the latest example of modern Orwellianism. The Republicans have discovered that the phrase 'nuclear option', which has been widely used for some time now to describe their proposed strategy of abolishing the Senate filibuster in order to make it impossible for the Democrats to block Bush's judicial nominees, doesn't poll well. So, recently:
    Republican press operatives were fanning out to editorial rooms around Washington and New York, attempting to ban the phrase 'nuclear option' from print and airwave, unless it is duly noted as a Democrat-created smear phrase. ... But who actually came up with the term? ... [I]t seems that the guy who came up with this notorious Democratic smear was none other than its prime proponent, Sen. Trent Lott (R) of Mississippi.

    Beautiful. But really, par for the course at this point. (Emphasis mine.)

    I'm actually more impressed by Senator Santorum's jaw-dropping gall, which provides our second example of politics at its worst. The good senator from Pennsylvania is proposing that the US National Weather Service be banned from providing weather information to the public. I kid you not.
     

  • Thursday, April 21, 2005
     
  • Think before speak.

    Speaking about the PM's decision to go live on TV tonight to talk abuot the sponsorship scandal, Peter MacKay expressed his opinion:
    This to me is a diversionary tactic." Mr. MacKay said.


    Right. If he's talking about the sponsorship scandal, it's not a diversion from the sponsorship scandal. It might be spin. And maybe he will use it as a way to divert public attention to other issues. But really, Peter needs to think up another phrase.
     

  • Monday, April 18, 2005
     
  • Russian federalism diminishing.
     

  • Sunday, April 17, 2005
     
  • Tight security:
    A Vatican spokesman said Saturday that he was confident that jamming devices and other security measures would keep secret the name of John Paul's successor until it's announced publicly.

    Joaquin Navarro-Valls of the Vatican said technical specialists on the Vatican's security force had ensured that no leaks would be possible from the chapel.

    Guards said devices that block cell phones and other communications equipment have been installed in the chapel.

    The 115 cardinals who will take part in the conclave have taken an oath of secrecy, as have all housekeepers and other staff who will have contact with the cardinals.
     

  • Saturday, April 16, 2005
     
  • Bt in the EU
    The European Union yesterday imposed an emergency ban on imports of US animal feeds unless they are proven to be free of illegal genetically modified maize.

    The ban, on corn gluten feed and brewers' grains, followed an admission by Syngenta, a Swiss-based agrochemical firm, that about 1,000 tonnes of US maize derived from its unlicensed Bt10 GM seeds had 'inadvertently' entered the European food chain over the past four years.

    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency website notes:
    About 47 per cent of corn planted in Canada in 2003 was Bt corn.
     

  • Friday, April 15, 2005
     
  • King of Slime...
    Entomologists Quentin Wheeler and Kelly B. Miller, who recently had the task of naming 65 newly discovered species of slime-mold beetles, named three species after the president, vice president and defense secretary. ... Naming the beetles after Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld was intended to pay homage to them, said Wheeler, who taught at Cornell University for 24 years and now is with the Natural History Museum in London.

    "We admire these leaders as fellow citizens who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or popular," he said.

    Emphasis added. Is it really conceivable that these entomologists didn't see the irony?
     

  • Thursday, April 14, 2005
     
  • So far, I've tried to be sympathetic to Venezuela's President Chavez. It's become a little harder today. He's creating a new reserve military force which he says is meant to deter aggression against Venezuela. The force is starting out with 20,000 troops and is meant to grow to 1.5 - 2 million. He announced the creation of the force last week.
    Although the Venezuelan President pointed out that no one wanted war, he said that one of the best forms to avoid it, "and this is what we are beginning to do here," is to prepare oneself for it. "If anyone were to come here and to try to seize the fatherland from us, we would make them bite the dust," he affirmed.

    Chavez is pretty clearly hinting about a hypothetical US invasion. The thing is, US interference in Venezuela is unlikely to come in the form of an invasion; covert activities are far more likely, meaning that these reservists will have little or no effect in that regard. Much more of a concern is that the force could be used against Chavez's domestic opposition to establish a dictatorship.
     

  • Tuesday, April 12, 2005
     
  • Rumsfeld is in Baku (Azerbaijan) today. This is his third visit since 2003. Officially, he is there to discuss expanding anti-terrorism cooperation, which may include asking Azerbaijan to increase its deployment in Iraq. Another possibility is that he is there to discuss
    basing US military units in Azerbaijan.

    Azerbaijan, a big oil producer, borders Iran. So a plausible rumour is that the US wants to make sure it can use bases in Azerbaijan if it decides to attack Iran. Given the complex transborder ethnic ties between Azerbaijan and Iran, that could be a sticky proposition.

    The US-Azerbaijani relationship is certainly one to keep a close eye on.
     

  •  
  • Paul Krugman at the New York Times has sparked a discussion about healthcare in the US. There are a number of interesting points here, but by far the most fun part is the stark contrast between the bizzarro world of US healthcare and socialized systems around the world.

    The Angry Bear is following up on this with some interesting commentary and statistics. The US is far and away the outlier in terms of spending and aggregate quality of healthcare. It spends more and achieves less than anyone else. In terms of the major statistics (infant mortality, life expentency, expenditure per capita, expenditure as % of GDP) Canada fits in pretty well with the other five countries Angry Bear lists: France, Germany, Japan, Sweden, and Australia.

    Kevin Drum points us to a funny anecdote by Matt Welch on the superiority of the French system and the ignorance among Americans about this.
    "Wait a minute wait a minute," one guy said. "If you were sick -- I mean, really sick -- where would you rather be? France or the U.S.?"

    "Um, France," we both said.

    Various sputtering ensued. What about the terrible waiting lists? (There really aren't any.) The shoddy quality? (It's actually quite good.) Finally, to deflect the conversation away, I said "Look, if we made twice as much money, we'd probably prefer American health care for a severe crisis. But we don't, so we don't."

    Drum also presents us with a helpful 'original position'-type thought experiment. Imagine you're creating a national health care system from scratch. You can go the socialized route, or...
    Choice #2 is this: if you're employed, your employer might provide you with healthcare coverage of some kind. Anytime you change employers or your employer changes plans, your coverage and your doctor will change too. If you're unemployed, or you work for Wal-Mart, you get nothing — though in a pinch you can always show up at an emergency room, which is perhaps the most expensive way of delivering healthcare known to man. If you're poor, there's a shabby government program that will sort of cover your kids, but probably not you. If you're over 65, another government program will cover some but not all of your medical expenses. And all of this will cost us about 14% of GDP, far more than any other industrialized country on the planet.

    How is it that healthcare is the number one issue time and again in Canada but barely shows up on the American radar? It's especially surprising given facts like this (from the Krugman piece):
    General Motors now spends about $1,500 on health care for every car it produces.
     

  • Monday, April 11, 2005
     
  • Via Kevin Drum, excellent US liberal blogging on the Sponsorship Scandal and its leakage to the right of the American blogosphere. Highly recommended reading.
     

  • Sunday, April 10, 2005
     
  • Disingenuous doublespeaking dink:
    'Liberals may talk about minorities,' Mr. Harper said. 'But undermining the traditional definition of marriage is an assault on the beliefs of all cultural and religious communities who have come to this country.'

    Harper keeps on using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means. "Minority" does not mean "non-white." Dork.

    The Globe also reports that a pair of constitutional law experts are using equally alliterative (if somewhat less mellifluous) language to describe Harper's "deceitful and disingenuous" assertion that Parliament can take away civil marriage from same-sex couples without using the Constitution's notwithstanding clause.
     

  •  
  • Atrios is right. If you're looking for a reason to off yourself today, this music video won't disappoint. Everything that is wrong with the USA wrapped up in one slick package. The best part has got to be the sexy-shadowy angels. Oh, and the rainbow.

    And this guy used to work on Star Trek...
     

  • Wednesday, April 06, 2005
     
  • Amanda brings us more on sphincter bleaching. This time, it's poetry.
     

  • Tuesday, April 05, 2005
     
  • On a personal note, I got a job today. Yay, me!

    On a very impersonal note, check out this New York Times report on the plethora of unmanned aerial drones flying around Iraq and Afghanistan. These things are pretty crazy.
    "I can watch the rear of a building for a bad guy escaping when troops go in the front, and flash an infrared beam on the guy that our troops can see with their night-vision goggles," said Maj. John Erickson, 33, an F-16 fighter pilot who has spent 18 months in a stationary cockpit here.

     

  •  
  • The Globe today discusses an American blog, run by one Captain Ed, which is providing Canadians with information on the Gomery inquiry, thereby bypassing the Canadian publication ban. The Globe story doesn't mention the name of Captain Ed's blog, but a Google search quickly turned it up. Apart from Captain Ed's obvious lack of judgement (as demonstrated by his being a Bush supporter), I have no reason to doubt the factuality of his accounts. Indeed, I'd assume the Globe would have done some verification.

    UPDATE: Removed the link. Not worth the trouble, I suppose, though if I were in half a mood for such things it certainly would be. If it's true that the Canadian government would prosecute a Canadian for linking to a website that is available from a three word google search ("Captain Ed" blog), then our public prosecutor is sorely out of touch with the reality of modern technology. I can't believe such a case would be upheld by the Canadian courts. Anyway, since I've barely been following this case, I'd recommend you read the E-Group over at BlogsCanada.
     

  • Monday, April 04, 2005
     
  • Oh Jesus, may I please have some more news about the Pope?

    Amanda, Jesse's new partner over at Pandagon, is disturbed by the latest fashion trend, the so-called "new Brazilian," sphincter bleaching.
    Yes, ladies, you better make sure the skin around your sphincter muscles is as pearly white and smooth as your eyelids or you run the grave risk of losing your man to the lady down the street who consents to stick her ass in the air at the beauty salon and having her asshole covered with a nice, burning chemical.

    Well, now. About the Pope...
     

  •  
  • Arcade Fire was on the cover of TIME's Canadian edition last week.
     

  •  
  • Exiled Kyrgyz president, Askar Akayev, has formally resigned after meeting in Moscow with a delegation from Kyrgyzstan's new leaders. New presidential elections are tentatively scheduled for June 26th. The agreement signed in Moscow has some protections for Akayev built in, but there is some concern that forthcoming investigations into state corruption, specifically corruption in the Akayev family, might yet destabilize the country again.

    Furthermore, while the revolution may now be legally complete, rivalries between the revolutionaries (at least two of whom have already announced their intention to run for the presidency), or efforts by some revolutionary factions to gain advantage over others, are also plausible sources of instability.

    Today, RFE/RL makes some points I made a couple weeks ago:
    Further developments will likely depend on the political will of the new leadership.

    And much depends on whether the new Kyrgyz leaders are able to focus on the economy and make good on promises made to the Kyrgyz people before the 24 March uprising.
     

  • Sunday, April 03, 2005
     
  • 2 AM, first Sunday in April:

    The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.

    Saving is used here as a verbal adjective (a participle). It modifies time and tells us more about its nature; namely, that it is characterized by the activity of saving daylight. It is a saving daylight kind of time. Similar examples would be dog walking time or book reading time. Since saving is a verb describing a single type of activity, the form is singular.

    Nevertheless, many people feel the word savings (with an 's') flows more mellifluously off the tongue, and Daylight Savings Time is also in common usage, and can be found in dictionaries.

    Part of the confusion is because the phrase Daylight Saving Time is inaccurate, since no daylight is actually saved. Daylight Shifting Time would be better, but it is not as politically desirable.

    Here in North America, the clocks shift at 2 AM in each time zone. In the EU, it happens simultaneously at 2 AM Greenwhich Mean Time. Also, in the EU, they do it one week before us, the last Sunday in March.
     

  • Saturday, April 02, 2005
     
  • The Pope has died. Here in Montreal, where Quebec's Quiet Revolution of the 1960s transformed this heavily Catholic society into one of North America's most progressive and secular societies, the city marks the death of popes by switching the colour of the lights on the giant metal Cross atop Mount Royal from white to purple.
     

  • Friday, April 01, 2005
     
  • Here in Montreal, the Smart Car has been taking off, giving the more expensive VW Bug and Austin Mini a run for their money. Globally, though, the brand is apparently not profitable and DaimlerChrysler is cutting its workforce and making other changes to the line.

    They are not ending production and I'll wish them luck on the revamp. Although I've heard a rumor that they're unreliable, they look great (in my opinion) and help alleviate space problems on city roads because two of them can fit in an ordinary parking space.

    In fact, cities really should start offering some kind of special Smart-rate for parking.

    One bit of good news: a planned Smart SUV (a contradiction in terms as far as I'm concerned) has been canned.
     




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