Victor had a great second half to his indoor soccer game yesterday, scoring two goals (the only two goals his team scored in the game), between bouts of breathing difficulty. I should mention that these are the first goals he's scored in soccer games in nearly ten years, and they took place less than a minute apart. After the game, we took him over to Lakeridge Health Centre (formerly known as Oshawa General Hospital) to get him checked out for some problem he'd had getting his breath. He mentioned that he'd woken up in the middle of the night with something like this, but it was only during the game that we realized that it was still an issue: after every all-out run, he had to pause for a minute or more to try and get his breathing back in order (he'd arranged with his coach to substitute him more often than usual).
I don't know that I've ever been prouder of him, that he stayed in the game to help his team while suffering from a pronounced inability to catch his breath. I also don't know how I'd have coped had he collapsed in the middle of the game . . . parenting is such a challenge, and not at all what I thought I was signing up for nearly 14 years ago.
How do you tell a kid that there's a point at which being noble is a stupid idea? Riddle me that one.
These wines should only be tasted under the following circumstances: on their own, outside the context of a meal, with your best wine-loving friends, in a respectful atmosphere and without the slightest reference to their price. In such a way, you will do homage to the skill and honesty of the winegrower and equally to Nature, without whom the production of such jewels would be impossible.
Jean Hugel, quoted in Wine and War by Don & Petie Kladstrup
This is more a pre-whine, but I was at the LCBO today picking up the weekly "groceries" and I saw a bottle of Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush and I knew I had to pick it up. It's a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (LCBO product number 606384) from Cooper's Creek.
We'll be trying it later tonight and (if I can get to a computer tomorrow in between my son's frantic preparations for his Halloween party) I'll report on whether it lives up to its name.
Update 31 October: Well, the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglay, as Rabbie Burns is supposed to have said. We spent much of tonight (uh, I mean last night, glancing at the little clock in the taskbar) at Lakeridge Hospital where we took our son after he had recurrent breathing problems. He's fine now, we hope, but let's just say that our attention was diverted. After all the basic diagnostics were taken (blood pressure, pulse, blood-oxygen levels, chest X-ray), they can't find anything wrong, so we're keeping our fingers crossed right now.
I don't normally link to Toronto Star articles, but this one is a rare exception:
From Chapter Eight:
"This was around 1993, I think, and I was sitting in Cabinet, and we were talking about how to make Canadians aware of the various government agencies and programs that are available, and I said, I just came up with this, I said, what if you could go on to your computer, type in an address, and link through the phone line to anything in the world, and read it right in the privacy of your own home? And they all looked at me like I was crazy, except for Paul Martin, who said, 'Hasn't Al Gore come up with something like that?'
"Uh, no," I said. "I don't think so."
"I get the Gore thing all the time, and it used to annoy me, but now, it's enough just to know it was my idea. I'm not interested in any credit."
Remarkable article in today's Congressional Quarterly. An excerpt (though you should read the whole thing):
Eight months before the White House appointed him the Homeland Security Department's top intelligence official, retired U.S. Army Gen. Patrick M. Hughes told a public forum at Harvard last year that the government would have to "abridge individual rights" and take domestic security measures "not in accordance with our values and traditions" to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States. [. . .]
So he'd already decided to destroy the Constitution in order to save it, eh?
I think I've mentioned it often enough, but here goes one more time: I think the terrorists need to be killed, but you don't win this battle by surrendering your most basic principles. The terrorists and their supporters don't hate the United States (and the rest of the "free" world) because of George Bush, rock'n'roll music, Starbucks, free trade, or because the US Senate refused to ratify the Kyoto Treaty. They hate because we are free and they cannot allow this to continue. Until and unless we all adopt all of their demands, they will continue to kill innocent people. There is no negotiation tactic we can try that will somehow magically assuage all the hatred and turn their hate into tolerance. Tolerance is one of the very things they are fighting against.
Abandoning individual rights is exactly the wrong way to protect Americans and the rights of every western civilian.
"Therefore, we have to abridge individual rights, change the societal conditions, and act in ways that heretofore were not in accordance with our values and traditions, like giving a police officer or security official the right to search you without a judicial finding of probable cause," said Hughes.
Yep, demanding travel restrictions, unlimited searches, internal passports, and all the trappings of a police state will certainly deter those terrorists, yes sirree Bob. And the rivers will freaking well run uphill.
Today was the day in court, so to speak. There were only three appeals, so we expected to be in and out pretty quickly. Three hours later . . .
The first petitioner was an older gentleman in our village who'd based his appeal on the basis of his roof needing to be replaced (and therefore the value of the house for tax purposes should be discounted by that much). They kindly, but firmly, informed him that this was not sufficient reason to change the assessment, and that he actually had a lower assessment than the other houses he'd wanted his to be compared with.
The second petitioner had bought a new house in 2002, and wanted her assessment lowered to match those of some comparable houses in her general area. She'd prepared some good supporting material for her case, including spreadsheets of the various houses she felt were comparable for tax purposes. They shot her down pretty quickly: apparently they don't consider that the price you pay a builder for a new house to be in any way related to "market" value. Under this view, builders are irrational and do not charge the homebuyer what they should; the excess value accrues to the buyer and the tax system must claw that back as much as possible.
The houses she tried to get admitted as equivalent (even though built by the same builder to the same floorplan) were ruled to be "inferior" and therefore not allowable. Unfortunately for her, someone with a similar home must have won the jackpot because they'd sold (recently) for nearly half again what they'd paid for their house: this was deemed to be a valid comparison to her house. The adjudicator ruled that her assessment was not unfair and kept it at the current level.
Now it was our turn, and we already knew that our ace had been trumped: we couldn't use the builder's sale price as part of our evidence. We tried anyway, and to our astonishment, it was allowed. In fact, we seem to have unwittingly wrong-footed the representative from MPAC, because we mentioned that we'd received two separate assessment notices for different values (the first was about 5% more than we'd paid, the second nearly 25% more).
Because we're in a pretty fast-moving market area, we could certainly believe that the house would be worth 5% more within a couple of months of buying it, but 25%? Come on. There was no way that we could have sold the house for 125% of list price that quickly. After a few years, sure, that'd be possible, but not that soon.
We were treated to a long-ish lecture about how our builder had owned the land for such a long time that they weren't selling the houses for what they would really be worth on the open market, because they didn't need to make a profit on the land . . . or something equally economically unlikely. I rather lost the thread at that point. Anyway, during our respective summations, it became clear that he didn't think we had a leg to stand on (he wasn't openly gloating, but it was edging in that direction).
The final act was a bit of a Scrooge-to-Bob-Cratchit moment, as the adjudicator turned to us and said ". . . and in summary, I will be lowering your assessment to $XXX,XXX" — about 5% less than the lowest assessment figure we'd got. I was so sure that I'd misheard him that it was only as the MPAC rep started whining that I believed what I'd heard. The observer from the town suddenly went into a huddle with the MPAC guy, because the lowered assessment for us might have a domino effect in our entire subdivision.
You might think it's funny, but it's disrespectful to submit write-in candidates like "Don Knotts," "Mickey Mouse," or "Michael Badnarik."
Tomorrow morning, I have to attack the beast in its lair: I'm appealing my municipal taxes. We bought a new house last spring, and the municipal tax assessment was done six days after we took possession of the house. It rated our house as being worth about 25% more than we'd paid for it, and set our tax obligations to match.
Given that we're supposedly doing market value assessment nowadays, you'd think that a dated bill of sale would be sufficient proof that the house was worth on the open market roughly what it had sold for, wouldn't you?
Tomorrow morning, we find out whether market value has any relationship to the government's view of "market value". I'll update you as and when we get a ruling.
Colby Cosh muses on the endless days of hockey-free Edmonton:
Winter [in Edmonton] appeals to the (decidedly narrow) ascetic side of my temperament, but right now this place is pretty Dantean — empty, forlorn, and still, all sound half-absorbed by the snow. On the days when there's no cloud, the sunlight hits the street with a blinding chemical whiteness that makes you wonder if God is screwing around with Photoshop filters. Most days, the sun is obscured by a gray-pink gauze that leaves you uncertain what planet you're on. Heroin has never been a popular drug here: we all already know what it's like to be dead.
Paul Denton is the blogger behind Ravishing Light (you'll see him listed in the Red Ensign Blogroll to your left). Here's his take on yet another government behaviour-control experiment:
Deposits encourage returns insofar as it is convenient to do so. I have no car; carrying the large quantities of empty cans I generate the several blocks back to Hartman's, the closest grocery store, would be greatly inconvenient for me. Why should I be punished with a five-cent-per-can surcharge because I can't easily participate in the state's negative-reinforcement behaviour experiment? If a deposit on cans was enacted in Ontario, I wouldn't even bother with placing them in the correct box here in my building; I'd throw them in the garbage, out of spite.
If it's not inconvenient, I'll recycle. I don't mind that. I do resent social engineering, because it can only lead to folly [. . .]
And Joss is aware of that, as Paul Denton reports:
I was momentarily upset by the news that Joss Whedon wants out of TV . . .right up until I remembered two things:
First, it's not as though he's capable of keeping a show on the air any more, no matter how well-written. S5 of Angel approached utter brilliance in the way it managed to portay a mature, fully-developed fictional world; it was still thrown to the wolves. I'm slightly sorry I even watched Firefly at all, knowing that it'll only continue with (as yet) a single feature film. Whedon, sadly, doesn't seem to be the kind of guy who can pull any weight with networks.
From today's Scotsman:
Over recent decades, [European militaries] have given up trying to train for high-intensity warfare. It does not matter if Dutch soldiers insist on being allowed to take their hairdryers into action and the Belgians demand a box of chocolates with their evening meal. Before the Second World War, it was said that every Romanian private's knapsack contained a Romanian Field Marshal's lipstick. As the continent of Europe has largely given up serious soldiering, there would be no harm in that becoming a symbol for its future armed services.
And, from the same article:
Once the high intensity warfare was over, our men were quick to get out of helmets into berets and to start playing football with the locals. That is why we are so good at modern warfare. When we have to fight, we know how to do so. But when it is time to stop fighting and start playing football, we know how to do that as well — and even with Scottish regiments, it is possible to tell the difference.
Update 27 October: As Fred reminded me in the comments, I forgot to provide the URL for this: here.
A huge row in Britain has erupted over the Labour government's plan to amalgamate (that is, in military morale terms, destroy) two of the surviving Highland regiments as a cost-saving measure. Does any of this sound familiar:
It seems commitment, respect and loyalty form a one-way street with 100 per cent given by the soldiers of the Scottish regiments and absolutely nothing given in return by the Labour government.
There also has been the dubious contribution of the ungrateful Council of Scottish Colonels which has assisted the government in executing the planned changes for the regiments by writing the blueprint and, of course, refusing to oppose the changes.
Both veterans and soldiers have lost their respect for their colonels who so willingly gave up the fight to retain their individual regiments by refusing to lift a finger.
One can only wonder what has motivated them to act so disgracefully — could knighthoods and increasing pensions be a motivating factor?
It is this blatant lack of fair play and underhandedness that has angered so many people throughout Scotland (and many supporters from England, the United States of America, Canada and Australia).
An arrogant and uncaring government has decided to throw away more than 371 years of Scottish regimental service and pride to solve a few minor issues which could be easily resolved with proper funding.
The reasons given for the proposed
destruction amalgamation is that the old regiments have had trouble recruiting to keep up to strength (the British army recruits at the regimental level, not at the army level):
‘Super Regiments’ formed by amalgamations do not work — take the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, created in 1992 after umpteen mergers of formations such as the Buffs and the Tigers.
Now the PWRR is struggling to keep its strength up because few in its recruiting grounds of Surrey, Hampshire and Kent have ever heard of it.
Men prefer to join and fight for ancient regiments, with their camaraderie and unique esprit de corps. They do not feel the same affection for abstract formations invented in Whitehall.
Recruitment in the Scottish regiments is nowhere near as problematic as the Ministry of Defence would lead us to believe. In fact, several regiments had beaten their recruitment targets before the ministry slapped on a recruitment freeze.
According to this article in the Edmonton Journal, the new CADPAT Canadian uniforms have infiltrated into the surplus market:
A military surplus dealer wonders how he will recoup his investment in what could be the civilian world's biggest collection of state-of-the-art camouflage clothing.
In August, the army threatened to arrest Scott Collacutt if he sold his 3,500 cadpat "Canadian Disruptive Pattern" uniforms.
Collacutt, owner of Morinville's CEL Army Surplus, purchased the uniforms sight-unseen from Edmonton Garrison as scrap textiles.
So, based on their mistake, they're now trying to prosecute Collacutt. No wonder the military is seen as a pale imitation of the Lieberal Party: they are following the same tactics!
The article finishes off with this:
In exchange for returning 30 large boxes of uniforms, the military is offering 30 boxes of "scrap textile" plus an extra 15 boxes "in compensation for your time and effort," Collacutt said.
When he originally bought the boxes of mixed cast-off clothing, Collacutt paid approximately $2 a pound.
To return the uniforms scavenged from those loads, he now wants $159,000, plus $5,000 in legal fees, $3,600 in lost wages and a one-year extension on his contracts with the military.
Hat tip to Spotlight on Military News.
Samizdata reminds us that today is the 150th anniversary of that glorious moment in British military history where Lord Raglan decided that he didn't really need a brigade of light cavalry in his army:
The charge, which was part of the Battle of Balaklava, was one of those iconic moments in British military history due more to the works of Alfred Tennyson than the actual importance of the incident itself, which was really little more than a footnote in the overall conduct of the Crimean War. Yet at the time many newspapers accorded the charge of the Light Brigade far more significance than it was really due (and they also tended to gloss over the rather more successful actions of both the Heavy Brigade under Lord Lucan and the magnificent Chasseurs D'Afrique under General D'Allonville).
My favourite account of the blunder is the fictionalized memoirs of General Sir Harry Flashman, VC, published in the packet called Flashman at the Charge.
If you've ever been involved in the ongoing oxymoron of "organized libertarianism", this sort of thing will come as no surprise. Some people seem to have to go out of their way to be offensive even to potential friends and allies:
As a frequent contributor in energy, effort, time, and money to the Badnarik for President campaign (I also gave a nominating speech for him in Atlanta), I was pretty shocked at how Liberty magazine tried to make Badnarik look, at best, like a stooge or idiot and at worst like a fellow-traveler of some neo-nazi.
For those who didn't see it, Liberty claimed that Michael Badnarik is a friend of Rick Stanley (he is), and that Rick Stanley is an anti-semitic neo-nazi. Nice touch, wouldn't you say? Lets paint them both as nazi-sympathizers, goose-stepping Aryan warriors. Too bad its not true.
Alan Weiss then goes on to introduce Rick Stanley:
In Rick's own words to me, when I asked him directly if he's anti-semitic, he responded:
"Truly nonsense. Yesterday at church, I asked the Jewish Pastor, who is a servant of Jesus Christ, to give the sermon he just related to the "Church in the City" in Denver, Colorado, to my radio show in a few weeks, when he returns from a mission in Argentina. If I am anti-Jewish, why would I do this? I have personal friends who are Jewish. I have personal friends who are homosexual. I dislike their sin, I do not hate the person. All Jews are sinners, as are we all. (that you will notice includes me and you). As we are all sinners, no "group" is better or worse, than another. We are all equal. However, anyone not receiving Jesus Christ as their Savior is of this world, which is of satan. I am not anti-Semite, I am anti-sin. I have never advocated the killing of Jews."
So it seems that Rick Stanley is simply a good Christian, who hates the sin and, if not loves, then tolerates the sinner, and has never advocated the killing of Jews.
Well, that is a relief, isn't it?
Those wacky libertarians, always joshing around. Perhaps I don't know that many "good Christians", but I'd certainly view someone differently if they frequently dragged discussions around to the religious plane. You know, even the tone of the explanation is enough to set the hackles rising among the less devoutly religious (never mind the secular and anti-religious types).
It helps to indicate how difficult it can be to get a bunch of radical individualists to co-operate, never mind "all pull in the same direction", to borrow the well-worn communitarian phrase.
Again this morning, I was listening to my local jazz radio station on the way in to work. As usual, they had a broker from CIBC Wood Gundy giving portfolio advice at about 9:20 a.m. Today's talk was about investing in China, and how the markets have been reacting to the recent small drop in the official GDP growth figures released by the Chinese central bank.
This time, the emphasis was on the idea that in spite of the breathtaking growth figures, Chinese firms still are not particularly profitable and that therefore there are better ways of investing your money to benefit from all that growth. Unlike the last time I addressed this issue, this time I thought that the advisor was actually making pretty good sense. The incredible transformation of China from a pure command-driven economy to a mixed economy will certainly provide lots of opportunities for people to get rich; it will also provide even more opportunities to lose big money.
Much of the problem is that even now, the Chinese economy is not particularly free: the official and unofficial controls on the economy provide far too many opportunities for rent-seeking officialdom to play favourites and cripple antagonists (and for once, "cripple" is not just a bit of hyperbole). Any numbers provided by the Chinese authorities can not be depended upon, and should probably only be viewed as an indication of what the Chinese government wants the outside world to believe.
Even in a relatively free economy like Canada, the underground economy can be huge, with plenty of economic activity happening out of reach of the taxman. In China, where everybody was raised in an environment where providing the "wrong" answer to your leader could get you imprisoned (or executed) as an economic criminal, the numbers upon which the bankers and financial officials depend can only be described as extremely unreliable.
Update 26 October: The Last Amazon asks a highly pertinent and pointed question:
In the past week, the Globe and Mail has been featuring the economic engine that China has become. It's economy is thriving so much so that Chinese government owned companies like China Minmetals Corp (which had revenues in 2003 of USD$11.7 billion) is currently negotiating to buy outright 100% of the stock of the Canadian mining corporation, Noranda Inc. The total stock is estimated at approximately CDN$6.7 billion.
If the Chinese government can afford to buy Noranda Inc. why hasn't anyone asked when China will reimburse the overburden Canadian taxpayers of this fair land for the Cdn$65.4 million that has been given to China as foreign aid?
Update 26 October: Shudder. I ignorantly mis-spelled Doxology in the original posting and only just noticed the error now. Eeeek! The way I originally spelled it was a throw-away line in a Heinlein novel (Friday, if I remember correctly). Many apologies to Rebecca for the mistake.
My son's indoor soccer season started today, and his team won their opener 9-3, and Victor got three assists (the most he's ever had in a game, indoors or outdoors). His team looked quite good for a first outing, and he played a very good game. Parental pride; Wunnerful stuff. ;-)
I'm always a bit worried when the sporting press starts paying any extra attention to the Vikings, especially this early in the season. Last year's terrible let-down of a 6-0 start turning into failure to make the playoffs is warning enough. Articles like this one may start the hubris-nemesis machine working all over again. . .
But hey, I'm enjoying it while I can!
The Agitator has collected a bunch of H.L. Mencken quotes (some of which I'd never seen. . .and I've read a lot of his writings), including:
Suppose two-thirds of the members of the national House of Representatives were dumped into the Washington garbage incinerator tomorrow, what would we lose to offset our gain of their salaries and the salaries of their parasites?
On post-reductio America:
Truth would quickly cease to become stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.
On Guantanamo Bay:
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
Hat tip to Jay Jardine.
I posted a slightly more
incriminating detailed description of this on a mailing list a while back. I just decided to inflict it on those of you who weren't victimized the first time around. When my son was about five, I undertook to build a small model train layout with him. This partially explains why the job never really got finished:
I have followed dozens of tips and tricks to make my soldering look even remotely like what they say it should look like. I just can't make it work. "Tin the work first", they say, so I tin it . . . except that when they show a photo of a tinned piece, it looks as if it's just got a microscopically thin coating of really, really shiny solder on it. When I "tin" something, it looks more like I took a tin can and wrapped it around the work piece. All gnarled and grey-black and totally not like the photo. Not to mention being twice the size of the "un-tinned" original piece.
So careful application of heat is the key, they say. I carefully apply heat to a freshly cleaned piece of rail. About a second after I get the iron in contact with the metal, the ties go all Salvador Dali and I'm breathing in really fascinating fumes.
Okay, maybe I'm using too large a soldering iron. I switch to a much smaller iron. Now, when I touch the rail, nothing happens for like 30 seconds or so. The solder at the tip of the iron briefly turns shiny, then jumps off the tip of the iron and lands on the plastic tie instead of the rail.
Flux, they say, flux is the key. Okay, I get myself some flux. Now, I don't get a huge blob of solder. Now I get a huge sheet of solder stretching far beyond the area I'm trying to work on. Flux works too well, if you ask me! Instead of making the solder joint easier to make, it converts the melted metal into a science fiction amoeba-like creature, trying to escape . . .
And don't even get me started about how many bloody hands are necessary to hold a soldering iron, solder, wire, flux applicator, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, emergency beer glass, other emergency beer glass, etc. I'm certain that the magazine authors actually have this all done by Industrial Light and Magic with a 50-person FX team filming against a blue screen, because I sure can't reproduce what they show as just a simple task!
Grumpy? I get grumpy just thinking about soldering! Five minutes after I start trying to do it, I'm all the way out to Apoplectic!
A posting to the Reason Hit and Run blog has yet another reason for separation of church and state:
There's a breed of fundamentalist Christian that protests whenever a school celebrates Halloween and thus, by their lights, promotes witchcraft. Now those easily offended Christians have some unlikely allies: easily offended witches.
On the one hand, we've got school districts in Kansas having "Be a Muslim for a week" sessions, and on the other, we've got wigged-out Wiccans looking for some press coverage. All in favour of purely secular schooling, say "Aye".
. . . whether he made up the "Dardick" automatic revolver, here is the answer.
And with pictures of the "trounds" to boot!
And, no kidding, the thing is as ugly as can be. . .
Brigade Commander [Ghost of a Flea] has a very informative post about the Victoria class of submarines (formerly the Royal Navy's Upholder class), including a letter from Vice Admiral Lynn Mason:
When the nuclear submarine program was cancelled, the Navy went back to a diesel-electric program. In the early 90s, the top-flight programs that we looked at were the Dutch Walrus Class, the German 209s, the proposed Australian Collins Class, and the British Upholders. They were all considered excellent submarines, with the on-paper Collins Class seeming to be on top. Thank the fates that we didn't go the Collins route because that program has had significant problems. In those days, however, the Navy would have been happy to acquire any of the those classes of submarine. And it is noteworthy that the Upholder Class was not considered to be the least of the bunch. Accordingly, the Navy was ecstatic when, instead of an unaffordable program of 2 1/2 to 4 billion dollars, we were offered four slightly used Upholder Class submarines. Unfortunately, it took several years for the negotiations to be completed and the Canadian Government to be convinced. That delay caused the reactivation program to become increasingly problematic. Even so, it is hard to imagine a build-new program that would have made submarines available more quickly.
As I've said in other posts, I'm not a former Navy person, so my knowledge of the situation is neither broad nor deep. I'm moderately well-read on naval mattters, but that's the limit. On that basis, I thought the purchase of the Upholder subs was a brilliant solution for both the Canadian and Royal Navies: we got a heck of a deal and they got the subs off their inventory. It really did look like a win-win, and both sides thought they'd gotten the better of the bargain.
In the long run, this may still turn out to be true. I certainly hope so.
As several others have noted, until we find out exactly what happened on HMCS Chicoutimi, we can't make any determination about whether the subs are going to be safe and effective vessels for our navy. And, as Bruce R. pointed out the other day, if we want to retain any claims of sovereignty over the coastal waters of this huge country, we need those subs in the water now.
While logging in on my test machine this morning, I noticed that the Netscape home page had this link in their "News" section:
Unfortunately, it was then followed by the much-less pleasing words "Possibly Breaking Leg". I was hoping for something a bit more like "Corpse Hanging From Havana Lightpost", personally.
See if you agree with the list put together by Bruce R. at Flit. He certainly makes a good case for Currie, although based on my (admittedly sketchy) readings, I'd have moved Foulkes up a couple of notches and Simonds down a couple. . .
Myrick, our Singapore-based Brigade member has raised the Red Ensign again. Go and check out some of the best blogging from our (mostly) Canadian blog-base. The non-Canadian blogging is equally good.
From his introduction:
I love Canada, but I worry about its future. Because I express my concerns, I am sometimes called un-Canadian.
I love multiculturalism and diversity. Homogeneity is boring. But I worry that political correctness, often carried out in the name of multiculturalism, is crushing the diversity of opinion that is required for a functional society.
I love America, although not blindly. Nevertheless, this also seems to be a crime against mainstream Canadian values.
I believe that advocates of Canada's favorite shibboleth, the health-care system, are promoting the indirect murder of citizens by preventing them from getting medical attention. It is not often immediately available from Canada's overcrowded system. Private-sector health care could take the pressure off a strained system . . . but under the Canadian way it is better to have people die.
Several people I've talked with lately seem to have fallen in love with the idea of wind power as the clean alternative to fossil-fuels and nuclear energy. Here is a good explanation of why that isn't true.
Until fusion or some other less-polluting form of energy generation comes to market, we're stuck with the same old triad: hydro, thermal, and nuclear power. Hydro power requires water that can be dammed up to provide sufficient potential energy to turn turbines (bad for fresh-water marine life and plants and animals in or near the flooding zone). Thermal power requires oil, coal, or natural gas; all of which pollute the atmosphere (coal especially). Nuclear power is politically unacceptable due to the catastrophe in Chernobyl and the accident at Three-Mile Island; no politician wants to be on watch when a new nuclear power plant is given the green light.
Update, 21 October: Jon has a dissenting view.
Too busy pretending to work to get down to pretending to blog. Hopefully the situation will improve tonight or tomorrow. No promises, mind you.
Saturday is the day that Vintages (the exclusive arm of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario) releases new products. The competition can, apparently, get quite violent:
Shoving matches have been known to ensue over coveted vintages, and, from time to time, collectors have even been caught stealing prized merchandise from other people's shopping carts. One LCBO customer regularly purchases large quantities of expensive wines to display for guests on Saturday night, only to bring them back for a refund on Monday. "We actually had an employee injured recently when two people too impatient to wait reached over his shoulder and ripped open a wooden box," says Bailey. "They sliced the edge of his face."
On another recent occasion, a Toronto contractor devised an ingenious plan to thwart the LCBO's one-bottle-per-person policy on limited-supply vintages. At 5 a.m. that Saturday, he parked his construction trailer in the wine-store parking lot and paid his crew to line up in one-hour shifts. (They'd return to the trailer for coffee, doughnuts and bathroom breaks.) By the end of the morning, they'd bought up every bottle in the store.
Apparently the C$100 million contribution to dismantling mothballed former Soviet nuclear submarines is actually doing some good:
Russian workers have begun removing nuclear fuel from the first of 12 atomic submarines to be dismantled at Canada's expense as Foreign Affairs officials monitor what they call a historic and "very, very emotional" exercise.
The Victor-class attack sub, known only by the number 608, patrolled the northern seas for years, possibly armed with nuclear-tipped torpedoes designed to destroy NATO ships. But No. 608 has been mothballed for at least a decade, its nuclear reactors and fuel threatening the Arctic environment and presenting a potential bonanza to terrorists.
Canada is spending $100-million to pay for tearing apart the 12 Russian subs and workers began late last week the painstaking job of extracting radioactive parts from the first of them, said Michael Washer, a Foreign Affairs project manager.
Reason's Michael Young interviews Lebanese wine writer Michael Karam:
Today, Lebanon produces 7 million bottles annually. It's still a cottage industry by global standards (it would need to produce 80 million bottles per year to reach 1 percent of France's output), but the quality is not in doubt and the Lebanese aim is to turn their country into one of the world's boutique wine nations. Meanwhile, domestic consumption has increased in relative terms, though it stands roughly at the still modest figure of a bottle per person per year, or some 3.5 million bottles consumed — though that includes domestic and foreign wines. This is helped in part by visiting or returning Lebanese emigrants, who bring with them the more pronounced taste for wine abroad that has yet to develop inside Lebanon. That said, the Lebanese, always anxious to be seen as getting it right, are gradually eschewing the obligatory bottle of luxury-blend whisky in favor of wine with their meals.
As a Canadian, I'm used to the idea of going to the doctor for a checkup (or whatever) and no money changing hands: I present my Health card and the financial side of things is invisible to me as a patient. It's very easy to get into the notion that healthcare is "free", because on a practical level that's exactly how it appears. For those of you living in jurisdictions where you don't see a doctor without reaching for your debit card or chequebook, this may sound like a great innovation.
When the system works well, everyone is happy. Unfortunately, the system is designed to oscillate out of control very quickly indeed: there are no limits to the demand for healthcare, and because the costs are not borne directly by the patients, there is no dampener on the demand from the payer. Canadians like to think of our system as being fair: everyone has equal access to healthcare. This is true, to a degree: it is against the law to "jump the queue" and pay directly to get faster treatment. As a device to prevent corruption, this provides doctors with a good reason not to stray outside the system, for fear of the penalties for being caught taking payment directly.
Dental care is not currently part of our government-run healthcare system, and we're much more familiar with the idea of paying for services. Many of us have some health insurance coverage through our employers which pays some or all of the costs of regular dental care. My employer, for example, pays a significant share of the costs for me and my family.
My employer, however, has a strong incentive to purchase group insurance for their employees through whichever insurance company offers the best deal: there is a competitive market for providing group health insurance. I assume that my company is satisfied with the trade-off they've made between the cost of providing the benefit and the degree of coverage the plan provides to me and the other employees.
A specific example, and this relates to the title for this posting, is that the insurance coverage we have provides for twice-yearly cleaning and scaling treatments. My dentist has recommended that I come in more frequently (as a kid, and even as a young adult, I had terrible dental hygiene: I've spent more hours in dental chairs as a "mature" adult as a result).
Any additional care, beyond what my insurance provides, comes out of my pocket. And this is right: I'm the one who benefits — although I find it hard to think of it as a benefit as the dental hygienist is taking a pick and shovel to my gumline!
This is where the natural limits to healthcare in general should also fall: without some patient buy-in (and I mean that literally, as in cash-on-the-barrel), we will never manage to reign in the out-of-control costs of the overall healthcare system. As it is, we ration by time, and some people suffer for months before the system can take them in their turn and fix whatever needs fixing. For some, that means living in pain that is totally unnecessary. If that doesn't strike you as being wrong, then we probably have diametrically opposed ideas about human dignity.
Jane Galt is not voting Libertarian this time around. She explains why in no uncertain terms:
[. . .] Mr Badnarik is a barking moonbat. He has, if memory serves, been arrested multiple times for driving without a license, because he views getting one as an unwarranted concession to The State. I believe he also has tax protester sympathies. I am not going to encourage the Libertarian Party to nominate more such by voting for this one.
As the Instapundit would say, "Ouch"!
Perhaps Jane and I have different definitions of what a tax protester might be, but normally I'd think that would be a good reason to support someone. I've done my share of futile protests in the political world, I assure you. But perhaps the tax burden is so much lower in New York state than here in Ontaxtario (and they're not as high here as in Quebtaxec and Newfoundtaxland).
The driving without a license thing may just be a personal foible, but most jurisdictions view it with a very disapproving gaze. And, given the number of unlicensed drivers who are involved in accidents (disproportionally high in a lot of areas, from what I hear), they're probably correct from the standpoint of public safety.
I still call myself a libertarian, but I no longer agonize that I'm somehow supporting the machinery of tyranny by getting a passport or a government-issued ID of another sort. Philosophically, I'd love to see government shrunk down to attending only to a very small group of tasks (defence of the realm being one of 'em: a responsibility the Canadian government signally ignores).
Charles Stone, Jr. writes:
In most of Europe, the war cost the nations the best and brightest of their young men. The men who would have been the inventors and innovators and risk takers who would have built a new continent based on free enterprise and free trade.
Those who did survive to return home were in many cases traumatized by their experiences, either in combat, as prisoners or just victims of the horrors that went on around them. They just wanted to go home where it was safe and there were no bullets flying. They cared little for politics and were used to being in the structured anti-individualistic environment of the military.
Into the breech stepped the socialists and neo-communists who had been waiting patiently for just such a circumstance.
It's time for the people to take control, they said. Time to bring down the upper classes and the money grubbing merchants. The government had taken from the people for too long, it was time for the government to give back.
I'm not sure that I agree with everything he writes here, but it's certainly true that Europe had lost so many people to the three un-natural disasters of the 20th century: World War One, the great Flu Pandemic of 1919, and then the bloodletting of World War Two. After hitting the bad-luck trifecta, you can certainly understand much of the willingness to rely on government to look after more and more of the economy: as long as they weren't starting wars, it was better than what had gone before.
The problem with turning all your troubles over to the government is that it perpetuates a dependency; government bureaucracies rarely, if ever, are shut down, but have an overriding need to both justify their existance and to expand and grow. Once everyone expects the government to "do something", there is very little chance of it giving up that monopoly of power. Government involvement almost always follows government oversight, and soon is followed in turn by government control.
He finishes up with this:
I give them thirty years before the people get fed up with the pseudo-egalitarianism on which socialism is based and discover the fallacious promise of centralized control. Europe's history is rich and varied and I don't believe the populace will accept a vapid, homogenized dogma based on sterile statism. I only hope the counter-revolution is peaceful.
You could say that this is the more hopeful end to the great EU experiment. The less hopeful one is based on the demographics of modern day Europe: the only segments of the population that are above replacement growth rates are the poor immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East: Islam is the only fast-growing religion in Europe right now. A pessimist might see this revanche de berceau as a renewal of the great Islamic invasions of the early middle ages (Charles Martel may yet have lived in vain).
To a certain stratum of our intelligentsia, you're supposed to believe in God like you believe in continental drift, or the tides, or the yearly reappearance of Shamrock Shakes at McDonald's. The idea that it's a two-way conversation strikes many as nonsense, proof that we're dealing with someone two steps removed from worshipping the moon. I don't say this as someone who gets daily briefings from the Big Guy Upstairs; for whatever reason, I've never felt as if God had me on speed dial. This hasn't influenced my thoughts about religion in the least, believe it or not. I don't need Carl Sagan showing up at my door to believe there are billions and billions of stars.
Minnesota's 38-31 win over the New Orleans Saints was powered by their fourth-string running back, Mewelde Moore. (Bennett has been out with knee problems since the pre-season, Smith is on suspension for 4 games, and Williams is just coming back from a leg injury.) For a fourth-string rookie, the kid sure can play football: 15 carries for 109 yards, 7 catches for 78 yards, plus 3 kick returns for 51 yards. Except for his horrible passer rating (0 for 1), he'd be the entire offense for some teams this year!
Of course, Daunte Culpepper didn't do too much himself: only 26 of 37 pass completions for 425 yards, with 5 TDs and 2 interceptions (twice as many picks as he threw in the other four games combined). One of those interceptions was caused by Randy Moss pulling up injured deep on his route: I certainly hope it's not too serious! The Vikings offense is pretty impressive even without Moss, but if he's seriously hurt, it will definitely force the Vikings to change their game plans.
Neither team fielded much of a defense, and Minnesota's special teams were doing a good job until they mis-read the Saints fake punt which gave the Saints a renewed lease on life.
Still, a win is a win in this league, so I won't complain too much.
One gets the feeling that in restricted niches of the Mojave Spaceport here, work is already underway on bigger and better spaceships. Asked directly about that prospect, Rutan is quick with a "no comment" that comes wrapped in a guarded smile.
"You think this is cool?" Rutan asked, pointing to the freshly flown SpaceShipOne. "Wait 'til you see SpaceShipTwo . . . it is erotic," he added, alluding to the smooth lines of a craft that would seem tangible and touchable — not a minds-eye image of vaporware.
My favourite part of the interview is this:
"Look at the progress in 25 years of trying to replace the mistake of the shuttle. It's more expensive . . . not less . . . a horrible mistake," Rutan said. "They knew it right away. And they've spent billions . . . arguably nearly $100 billion over all these years trying to sort out how to correct that mistake . . . trying to solve the problem of access to space. The problem is . . .it's the government trying to do it."
Depending on government to solve any kind of problem is a long, long step on the road to serfdom. Allowing government (any government) a monopoly on access to space is one of the worst mistakes we could ever make; this is a wonderful, but overdue, correction of that mistake.
Middlesbrough took full advantage of Blackburn's Tugay being sent off, leaving his team at only 10 players for the bulk of the game. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scored a hattrick in the victory. Details here.
For those of you unfamiliar with soccer, a 4-0 game is roughly equivalent to a 28-0 score in the NFL (being an away game for the Boro, it might be more like a 35-0 equivalent score). The win moves Boro up to fifth place in the league tables.
The Guardian reports on a recent diplomatic kerfuffle between Germany and Libya:
President Muammar Gadafy yesterday embarrassed his latest high-profile western visitor, the German chancellor Gerhard Schr÷der, by demanding compensation for thousands of landmines left in the Libyan desert during the second world war.
During talks in Tripoli, Mr Gadafy complained that dozens of Libyans were still being injured and killed by the anti-tank mines, which were buried by Erwin Rommel and his retreating army more than 60 years ago.
In my opinion, Gadafy should barrage the British, Italian, and German governments with demands for assistance in removing the old minefields and for compensation for the civilians who have been injured by the vintage weaponry. As a former infantryman, I have a strong loathing for landmines, and I hope that the former antagonists in the Desert War do the right thing here (and anywhere else in North Africa where this is still a problem).
A recent news report breathlessly headlined "Troops revolt over 'suicide mission'" gives you the impression that some large combat formation has mutinied against their lawful commanders. If you actually read the article instead of concentrating on the editorial slant, you get a slightly different picture:
In a statement issued yesterday, US military spokesmen in Baghdad would only confirm that a senior officer from the 13th Corps Support Command had been sent to a base near Tallil to investigate an "isolated incident", amid reports that members of a reservist supply unit refused to undertake a convoy mission.
However, the Clarion-Ledger newspaper, based in Jackson, Mississippi, said the platoon of 17 men and women from the 343rd Quartermaster Company were in army detention, after refusing to carry out a fuel supply convoy on Wednesday, because their vehicles were in such poor shape and their usual armed escort was not available.
Castle Argghhh! has more.
Brigade Commander [Ghost of a Flea] has the latest Winston Review up for your instruction and eddification.
What are you doing still here? Go!
Tim Blair reports on the latest news about his minions' infiltration of the Grauniad's meddling in the American Presidential election:
So perhaps it's time to make a modest proposal. If everyone in the world will be affected by this election, shouldn't everyone in the world have a vote?
It ain't gonna happen. But here's a way Freedland and his fellow meddlers can still have their say in the USA: each could simply identify and adopt a random individual living in one of the battleground states and target that person with emails, letters, and telephone calls begging them to vote against Bush. I'm sure average Americans will be pleased to receive whiny 3am calls from people called "Jonathan", and will alter their vote accordingly.
Y'know, this is bound to work. Just imagine your reaction if you got lots and lots of pressure from self-consciously superior individuals from foreign lands, telling you exactly how to vote. You'd do just as you were told by the snotty foreigners, wouldn't you?
Welcome to the latest recruit to the Brigade: Stephen Taylor, who bills himself as the "Conservative Party of Canada Pundit".
Welcome to the best unit in the 'sphere! Junior officers buy the first round in the mess, Stephen.
If you have been following the recent unpleasantness (no, not the last Canadian election, though you would be right to call it that), you'll know that Warren Kinsella has been threatening legal action against certain bloggers. One of those victims of legal intimidation tactics, Damian Brooks, is one of the Red Ensign bloggers. He posted a blog entry which was quite outspoken and Kinsella took offence.
Rather than doing what most bloggers would do (and Kinsella has his own blog, to which I'm carefully not linking), retaliate in your own blog to the perceived attack, Kinsella chose to brandish his weapons of mass (legal) destruction. Damian, being a wise chap in spite of his perhaps over-enthusiastic original posting, realized that even if he won a court case, the costs would be ruinous. He removed the posting from his blog.
I know about as much about the law as a pig knows about music, so it's not particularly useful for me to comment on the legal aspects of the case, but it did strike me as odd that Kinsella immediately reached for the biggest stick in his arsenal. This post at Samizdata suggests the real reason for his actions:
By the sound of it, there is very little that the blogosphere can do to make this Warren Kinsella person think better of his threats, although I would love to be proved wrong about that. Even by the standards of regular party politicians, he sounds like a fairly unpleasant character. All bloggers can do is publicise that he has made the threats, which I think he will be very happy about. He may be nasty but he is not stupid. He wants to be known as a political bully, if only to sell his book about how to be a political bully.
Glenn Reynolds, the renowned Instapundit has declared for Hillary Clinton in the Presidential race.
Sheila Copps, in today's National Post (no link: the article's behind the subscriber firewall):
The easiest solution is to blame the politicians. After all, it was Cabinet that approved the purchase of the subs. Ultimately, the buck stops there. But if we are going to have any full, long-term understanding of the issue, we have to know why these submarines came so highly recommended. Make no mistake about it: Their purchase was widely supported in the Armed Forces and it was their persistence, coupled with the support of three successive ministers of defence, that saw the subs come into Canadian hands.
Hat tip to Norman's Spectator
Joss Whedon had a few things to say about his new Serenity movie:
Well, sports fans, it's official. The movie is shot. Done. And I couldn't be happier to be through with it. No more of that exciting, vibrant set, that warm camaraderie, that creative stimulus, free donuts... Excuse me. I have something in my eye... free donuts...
Oh, there's things I'll miss. But there's definitely things I WON'T miss. In no particular order:
1) Fillion. People who are prettier than me are not supposed to be funnier than me. I think it's a guild thing. And that whole 'gracious and professional' thing got old on day ONE, you know what I mean?
And then, a bit later on:
But no matter how much I suffer for my art, it's worth it. 'Cause come April 22nd I think we'll be bringing you an exciting film that's a powerful statement about the right to be free. Which is not as cool as my original statement about the right to tasty garlic mussels in a cilantro broth, but the freedom thing's okay too.
Have I mentioned how much I am looking forward to Joss Whedon's next movie? I didn't watch Firefly when it was briefly on television, but that's mostly because I don't watch a lot of television. I got the DVD collection and I decided that the network officials who messed it up should each and severally be hanged, drawn, quartered, and beheaded. It was one of the best things I'd ever seen on TV, and it was gone after only 12 episodes.
So many SF shows are like Star Trek: the UN in space, with all the socialistic notions embedded so deeply that they're never challenged or even identified. Firefly isn't like that. Freedom and personal responsibility are always part of the picture (although rarely stated in didactic "Prime Directive" style, thank goodness). While there is a multi-planetary government in the story, they're explicitly the bad guys (from the point of view of the protagonists). If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favour and pick up the Firefly DVD set: it has the Quotulatiousness seal of approval!
Hat tip to Virginia Postrel.
I like James Lileks' writing, I really do. Every weekday morning, it's my first stop on my web-rounds. He's funny. He's sincere. He's a great writer.
Except . . . On the odd day like today when he's suddenly running for "Mr. Domesticality" in the All-Minnesota Sensitive New Age Guy contest:
I offer my congratulations on a successful product line, and I look forward to a similarly integrated theme come the spring. However, you are surely aware that of the disparity in usage patterns that exists between towels and napkins, which makes it likely that a customer will run out of one before exhausting his stores of the other. This would not be a problem were it not for the seemingly random fashion in which these matching patterns have been distributed to the retail outlets. Yesterday, for example, I found three bales of leaf-bordered napkins at the store, and no such paper towels. This presents the consumer with a dilemma. Having become accustomed to the tight thematic consistency, one is forced to consider abandoning it entirely, and returning to the pell-mell ways of yore. Yes, the customer could keep using the towels without the napkins, but the presence of the former would mock the latter, make it seem somehow lesser. Which in fact it would be.
James! Snap out of it man! There are screeds to be written, spleen to be vented, idiots to be mocked!
Of course, the column improves dramatically once he gets the excess domesticity wrung out of his system. . .
This obituary appeared in today's Globe and Mail:
John Macdonell, 1812
Lawyer, politician and soldier born in Glengarry, Scotland, 1785. After immigrating with his parents to a Highland colony near what is now Cornwall, Ont., he attended Bishop John Strachan's school in Kingston. At 18, he joined a law office to begin a meteoric legal career that six years later saw him become Attorney-General for Upper Canada. When the War of 1812 erupted he was given the rank of lieutenant-colonel and made aide-de-camp to General Isaac Brock and later negotiated the surrender of American forces at Detroit. When Gen. Brock was killed at the Battle of Queenston Heights, he assumed command but was himself mortally wounded. Their remains are interred together in a sarcophagus at the Brock Monument overlooking Queenston Heights, Ont.
Macdonnell is perhaps the most famous obscure soldier in Canadian history. His story first came to my attention through Stan Rogers' song "MacDonell on the Heights", covered on his final album From Fresh Water:
Too thin the line that charged the Heights
And scrambled in the clay.
Too thin the Eastern Township Scot
Who showed them all the way,
And perhaps had you not fallen,
You might be what Brock became
But not one in ten thousand knows your name.
To say the name, MacDonnell,
It would bring no bugle call
But the Redcoats stayed beside you
When they saw the General fall.
Twas MacDonnell raised the banner then
And set the Heights aflame,
But not one in ten thousand knows your name.
You brought the field all standing with your courage and your luck
But unknown to most, you're lying there beside old General Brock.
So you know what it is to scale the Heights and fall just short of fame
And have not one in ten thousand know your name.
At Queenston now, the General on his tower stands alone
And there's lichen on 'MacDonnell' carved upon that weathered stone
In a corner of the monument to glory you could claim,
But not one in ten thousand knows your name.
You brought the field all standing with your courage and your luck
But unknown to most, you're lying there beside old General Brock.
So you know what it is to scale the Heights and fall just short of fame
And have not one in ten thousand know your name.
A report in the Globe and Mail suggests that beards were a significant contributing factor to the casualties on board HMCS Chicoutimi:
Navy brass ignored a safety warning earlier this year by the military's chief fire marshal that beards on sailors could reduce the effectiveness of emergency oxygen masks, which are supposed to be tight-fitting to prevent smoke inhalation while fighting fires.
Many of the sailors aboard the problem-plagued HMCS Chicoutimi were bearded, navy officials said yesterday, and the board of inquiry into last week's fatal fire aboard the submarine is investigating whether this was a factor in how quickly and effectively crew members were able to battle the blaze in the cramped, smoke-filled quarters.
To be fair, this may well be a safety factor, but the timing suggests that someone is trying to divert attention away from the government's role in the fiasco. Submariners probably should have to stay clean-shaven, due to the higher risk that they will need to don breathing apparatus compared to surface fleet sailors: I don't know, I've never been in the navy.
Voting for President is a lot like sex — and not just because it takes place once every four years in the solitude of a semi-private booth. Both are intensely personal activities that nonetheless can have profound public consequences. We might add that both often involve drug-and-alcohol-fueled delusions and morning-after feelings of guilt, shame, and recrimination.
The Editors, Reason November, 2004.
"The art chose the words," said the artist, who is now refusing to fix the problem.
Hat tip to Fark.
Debbye of Being American in T.O. is back to her blog, and boy is she steaming:
I received an email from a Canadian who moved to the UK in 1993. He made some extremely pertinent observations from the perspective of a Canadian who was often mistaken for an American. When he would identify himself as a Canadian, sometimes the assumption would be made that he hated Americans too and he would hear what he described as some pretty vile comments. Both he and I heard things that most Americans never heard before Operation Iraqi Freedom (remember that people up here assume I'm a Canadian until I set them straight.) In retrospect, I should have spoken out about it, but back then I didn't recognize the danger it represented so shrugged it off. After all, we were strong and could afford to be tolerant.
In Canada today, the only acceptable form of public bigotry is to be anti-American. What is typically said about Americans would get you jailed if you said it about women or visible minorities or homosexuals. We're being carefully trained to channel all our pent-up anger towards Americans (and, once again, Israel and the Jews).
There is no standard of proof necessary for the most outré accusation of American perfidy to be accepted at full value. They lied about yellowcake? Sure, that matches my current belief pattern. They napalmed innocent children? Okay, we believe that, too. George Bush conducts Satanic Rituals in the White House? Okay, we're cool with that: he's a Republican, what do you expect? What's that? He's a Christian? He's evil, evil, I tell you!
But made no mistake: the elites in Canada and Europe hate us virulently, and their media reflect that hatred. They always have and always will. They hide it when they want something, and bring it out, fully formed, when we're down.
No dispute there. The entrenched elite always hate those nouveau riches who can afford to buy the luxuries that were previously only available to the nobs.
When a country's social democratic programs are bankrupting it, they resent countries that manage to thrive without a huge civil service to oversee those mountains of regulations that stifle economic growth and keep people on the dole. When a country has been paying off terrorists, it makes them look bad when another country chooses to fight back. When a country has pandered to its citizens' notions of entitlement, it's hard for them to persuade their citizens that those policies are not self-sustaining but so long as there is the possibility of channeling resentment away from the failures that produced it and towards a people, like us, that are flourishing because we renounced socialism, they have gained one more term to rule.
Exactly. That's why we're being encouraged to use the convenient outlet for our frustration: institutional anti-Americanism. It's a useful relief valve that does not undermine the existing power structure. Everyone likes having a scapegoat (or two).
Hat tip to Damian Penny
Bill, at Bound By Gravity has joined the Red Ensign Brigade. Welcome to the unit, recruit!
Okay, so it's a fair cop:
This guy stole something of mine, from in among this. Just copied it and stuck it up at his blog. The nerve of him. "Quote of the day" or some such palaver. But he didn't fool me. He nicked it. He couldn't be bothered to write his own posting, so he swiped a bit of mine instead.
The outraged Micklethwait is referring to my blatant abuse of his hard work here.
The shame of knowing my guilt is insupportable. I don't know how I can possibly carry on. But, in advance of the judicial ruling, I will undertake never to properly credit Mr. Micklethwait in future. I will never correctly spell his name in the highly unlikely circumstance of having to mention him. In other words, I'll treat him just like a mainstream journalist treats anyone they use as a source for their stories.
Aha! A thought: if I muck up his spelling just a trifle, he will never even know that I stole more words from him even if he ego surfs all day long! Bwa-ha-ha! Oh. Wait. That's also what MSM journalists do, isn't it?
If you're not convinced the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States changed everything, ask yourself this: If anybody had told you on September 10 that the talk of early-21st-century Hollywood was going to be an action feature film in which marionettes play celebrities and world leaders, would you have believed it?
Peg Kerr does the Tolkien take on the traditional chicken joke.
William of Orange masterminds a coup d'Útat known here as the 'Glorious Revolution' (1688), and installs himself as King of England. My teachers made it sound as if the English elite suddenly decided one day that they wanted a different king, found William of Orange in a mail order catalogue, liked the look of him and had him delivered the next day, in a state of great amazement and gratitude. In fact, William bossed the entire operation, albeit with plenty of English support. It is worth noting that William achieved a successful cross-Channel invasion of England, so all that stuff about England not having been invaded since 1066 is quite wrong.
Jacob Sullum sketches in the background to an upcoming case for the US Supreme Court, which ties together marijuana cultivation for personal use with the ability for individuals to buy wines from out-of-state. Although these sound pretty disparate, they're closely linked by the US Federal (or in this case Feral) government's use of the Commerce Clause:
In a case the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear next month, it will decide who should have won that argument. Its decision will hinge on how broadly it reads Congress' authority to "regulate Commerce . . . among the several states," the constitutional basis for the Controlled Substances Act and the main pretext for expanding the federal government since the New Deal.
Last December the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit noted that Monson's marijuana cultivation bore little resemblance to interstate commerce: It wasn't commercial, and it wasn't interstate. Concluding that the Controlled Substances Act "is likely unconstitutional" as applied to people who use cannabis for medical purposes in compliance with state law, the 9th Circuit said a federal judge had erred in refusing to protect Monson and another patient, Angel McClary Raich, against future federal raids.
Appealing that decision, the Justice Department is pushing a view of the Commerce Clause that leaves virtually nothing beyond the federal government's reach. Although growing a few marijuana plants for your own medical use may not be interstate commerce, the government argues, it's still a federal concern because it's part of a class of activities that together have a "substantial effect" on interstate commerce.
Predicting which way the court will rule is a mug's game, but we can hope for a bit more protection of the rights of individuals if the court agrees that the Federal government is over-stepping the bounds of what the Commerce Clause is supposed to allow.
Wendy McElroy writes about the recent "Vaginas Vote, Chicks Rock" event:
"Are there are any registered vaginas in the house?"
"Step into your vaginas and get the vagina vote out!"
These were some of the comments shouted at the celebrity-packed "Vaginas Vote, Chicks Rock" night in New York City this September. Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem were among the laudables at the event that urged women to register to vote in order to promote "women's issues."
McElroy points out the idiocy of trying to encourage a group of voters whose only point of commonality is their sexual organs to somehow come to the polls and vote as a bloc:
Only if you advocate group rights and reject individual ones does it make sense to cry out for sexual solidarity in voting. Ironically, such a call reverses the political trend that secured the vote to women in the first place. Namely, the demand for inclusion in human rights. The demand by women to have their rights equally recognized so they were no longer in a separate legal category "with lunatics, idiots and criminals."
The early feminists who fought for true equality did not speak of "special interests." They spoke of human rights. The call for women to "step into their vaginas" dishonors the brave women who refused to define themselves as body parts and longed, instead, to participate fully in the richness of a broader humanity.
Michael Badnarik managed to get himself arrested on Friday. This is the sort of stunt that media types love: confrontation with police, arrests, beatings (well, they hope, anyway: that's dynamite to local news ratings), etc. Perhaps I'm just old and weary, but I find this sort of thing to be tedious at best.
A couple of months ago, the LCBO brought in a 2001 BC Meritage from Jackson-Triggs' Okanagan Valley estate (LCBO #643460). I tracked down a couple of bottles and we opended the first bottle that same day. The wine was, at best, adequate. It lacked much of the complexity we'd have expected from even a Niagara JT Meritage, and were puzzled at the good reviews the wine had received.
Wind the calendar on a couple of months and we had the second bottle last night, along with a prime rib dinner. The wine was excellent. Clearly I'd neglected to allow the first bottle to settle down after all the travelling it'd done: it was murky in both colour and flavour. Last night's bottle was a perfect match to the meal. It had some of the classic Bordeaux style flavours, but in a lighter, fruitier vein, with almost a Shiraz-like spice on the finish.
Now I wish I'd bought a dozen, instead of only a pair!
As we have to have our Thanksgiving turkey earlier (before they freeze too solid to cook), today is a statutory holiday here at Quotulatiousness (oh, and in the rest of the country, too). I'm not a turkey fan myself, so I'll be having prime rib instead. Yum!
More tomorrow, as time allows.
Again, thanks to the gods of the television schedule, I didn't get to watch the Vikings-Texans game, I got to see a few highlights here and there. And then I got to watch the scoreboard in horror as a 21-7 score changed steadily to 28-28 OT. The individual stats sounded good (Culpepper with 5 TD passes, Moss and Robinson each with a pair of receiving TDs, rookie Moore with nearly 200 all-purpose yards), but clearly the Texans were being kept alive somehow.
This Star Tribune report is the first Minnesota report I've seen:
There is a time for laughter, a time for love and a time to hook up the defibrillator. The Vikings were on life support Sunday, sucking wind in the Texas swampland as they followed every patented step toward one of their epic collapses. And then, and then ....
For the first time in the Mike Tice Era, there was an "And then...." The Vikings pulled themselves up from the Reliant Stadium floor, shook off the numbing effects of a jarring fourth-quarter breakdown and perhaps turned a corner in their three-year rebuilding process. Their 34-28 overtime victory against Houston helped them retain a share of the NFC North lead and might have marked a new capacity to function amid high adversity as well.
Still, an ugly win is still a win, and the Vikes stay in a tie with Detroit (Detroit????) for first in the NFC North. Small mercies, and all of that. . .
Brigadier Packwood: "You can't leave us hanging like that... did you find the missing weapons?"
Eventually, the missing weapons turned up. Our little search party had nothing to do with the success of the mission. Partly because of the presence of an SAS patrol on base at the time.
The British army had a field engineer squadron encamped about a kilometer from where our course tent line was located. Their official mission was to re-build a wartime bridge somewhere on the Mattawa Plain. The odd thing was that every time we wandered past their position, they were rather noticeably sitting around, drinking beer, and being obviously unmilitary. Very weird, given the much more professional impression we all had of the Brits.
One day during my brief two-week training course, our little convoy of communications vehicles was ambushed by chaps in British pattern camo. One second we were driving along like good little toy soldiers, the next, every vehicle in the convoy had been sprayed with (simulated) automatic weapons fire, had a thunderflash (or other explosive simulator) blow up under the truck, and each member of the vehicle crew got "counted coup".
For "field engineers", these guys were incredibly good: we didn't see them before the ambush and within less than a minute we didn't see where they'd gone. I don't know whether they were just freelancing, or if we were mistaken for the real target of their ambush, but it convinced us not to mess with 'em.
A couple of weeks later, the prime minister of the day was grilled in Parliament about the rumours that the SAS were training in Canada. Even back then, this was supposed to be a bad thing: the eeeeevil SAS were not supposed to be welcome here in peace-loving Soviet Canuckistan, you see. . .
For some reason, the brigade has a vocal contingent demanding photographic evidence of our past (teenage) sins. I've managed to lose or destroy most of the images from that time period, but here's one that somehow survived:
That was me, circa 1979, somewhere in CFB Petawawa. We were pulled out of our TQ2 Radio Operator field exercise and set to wander the woods looking for some missing weapons. A friend of mine from the Highland Fusiliers happened to have his camera along, so he took a few pictures. One of 'em ended up being published in a DND publication of some sort (details get hazy after all these
If I haven't already mentioned it, I'm one of those chaps for whom the mere mention of "auto mechanics" results in a sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach: Mr. Mechanic, I'm not. But once upon a time, I thought it couldn't be that hard, right? So I bought one of those do-it-yourself mechanic guides for the car I was driving at that time (1973 VW Beetle, actually). This guide explains all the things that the printed manual really means.
Artist claims that critics are "denigrating my work and the purpose of this work" by criticizing the poor spelling in her $40,000 ceramic mural. "The importance of this work is that it is supposed to unite people" said artist Maria Alquilar. The hapless city council has voted to pay more than $6,000 to fly Alquilar back to town to fix the problems.
The mistakes wouldn't even register with a true artisan, Alquilar said.
"The people that are into humanities and are into Blake's concept of enlightenment, they are not looking at the words."
Someone's tax dollars at work.
Brian Micklethwait writes about how easily voters are mislead into supporting (and then demanding) government do something about the problems of the moment:
The answer to this mania for the governmental micro-management of everything is that it has got to be perceived as resembling taxation and nationalisation, which at the moment it is not.
Taxes and nationalisation of business are both now understood to be costly, and a disincentive to doing whatever it is.
But governmental attempts merely to improve things, by exhortation, and then when that fails, by regulation, [. . .] are still regarded by too many ignoramuses as a cost-free way to improve the doing of whatever it is. But exhortations, and then regulations, are in fact very costly.
This article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune gives an example of how the mysterious Passer Rating is calculated for NFL quarterbacks:
- Percentage of completions: 324 of 461 is 70.28 percent. Subtract 30 from the completion percentage (40.28) and multiply the result by 0.05. The result is a point rating of 2.014. (Note: If the result is less than zero (Comp. pct. less than 30.0), award zero points. If the results are greater than 2.375 (Comp. pct. greater than 77.5), award 2.375.)
- Average yards gained per attempt: 3,969 yards divided by 461 attempts is 8.61. Subtract three yards from yards-per-attempt (5.61) and multiply the result by 0.25. The result is 1.403. (Note: If the result is less than zero (yards per attempt less than 3.0), award zero points. If the result is greater than 2.375 (yards per attempt greater than 12.5), award 2.375 points.)
- Percentage of touchdown passes: 35 touchdowns in 461 attempts is 7.59 percent. Multiply the touchdown percentage by 0.2. The result is 1.518. (Note: If the result is greater than 2.375 (touchdown percentage greater than 11.875), award 2.375.)
- Percentage of interceptions: 10 interceptions in 461 attempts is 2.17 percent. Multiply the interception percentage by 0.25 (0.542) and subtract it from the the percentage of TD passes (2.375). The result is 1.833. (Note: If the result is less than zero (interception percentage greater than 9.5), award zero points.)
The sum of the four steps (2.014 + 1.403 + 1.518 + 1.833) is 6.768. The sum is then divided by six (1.128) and multiplied by 100. In this case, the result is 112.8.
A fair criticism of the passer rating is that it doesn't include things like rushing (which would benefit scrambling QBs like Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick, and Donovan McNabb), fumbles (which would work to the detriment of Culpepper), and offensive systems (a pass-happy offensive scheme will yield much more dazzling numbers than a ground-control scheme).
To be said in favour: given what it measures, it's a pretty good guideline as long as it's not assumed to carry more information than pure passing. It's been in use for long enough that every active quarterback in the NFL can be compared to every other QB on a fair basis (what Brett Favre brings to the table can't be easily captured in a graph or table, for example)
Of course, thanks to nearly 100-hours of outage, I'm almost the last poster to point there, but what can I do?
Sorry for the long absence. . .our ISP seemed to have some significant difficulty getting the SQL database back online. 97 hours and 45 minutes worth of difficulty, if you happened to be counting.
Myrick reports on the significant changes happening in socially ultra-conservative Singapore:
Singapore continues to position itself a center for pink-dollar tourism:
Conservative Singapore crowns first transsexual beauty
Singapore - The first transsexual beauty queen has been crowned in Singapore - an about-face for a country renowned for its strict social controls.
More than 1 300 people turned out at the weekend for Miss Tiffany, Singapore, a beauty contest open to both transsexuals and transvestites modelled after a famous Thai beauty pageant.
Outside of perhaps Iran, or Utah, I'd have guessed that Singapore was the least likely place on the planet to allow something like this to happen. Perhaps the place is changing, after all.
The Boss: "But the web's a valuable customer interface!"
The Operator: "If you're Amazon or Sendit, but not if you're us. We're a web nothing! Baby seals get more hits!"
Simon Travaglia, the Bastard Operator from Hell
Reports from CNN indicate that SpaceShipOne has successfully met the terms of the X Prize Competition by completing a second launch earlier today.
According to a report in The Guardian, French troops continued to guard detainees from neutral and allied countries, even after the liberation of France:
The government of Charles de Gaulle held hundreds of foreigners, including at least three Britons, in an internment camp near Toulouse for up to four years after the second world war, according to secret documents.
The papers, part of a cache of 12,000 photocopied illegally by an Austrian-born Jew, reveal the extent to which French officials collaborated with their fleeing Nazi occupiers even as their country was being liberated. They also show that, when the war was over, France went to extraordinary lengths to hide as much evidence of that collaboration as possible.
Even more ominously, the article finishes with:
But what happened to those, many elderly and infirm, who stayed? Some are marked "transferred". Others were moved in 1947 to Pithiviers or Rivesaltes camps, both officially closed. Some are marked: "Agreed with Mr Casse - to be lost". And what that means, no one knows.
Hat tip to Spotlight on Military News.
While thousands are being murdered daily in the Sudan. While countless women in Muslim countries around the world are oppressed and murdered routinely. Amnesty International is preparing a report on a country that is obviously much more problematic for them: Canada.
Apparently, Amnesty International can safely distract their attention from all sorts of other problem areas to concentrate on the issue of aboriginal women who have suffered from what is termed the "violence of colonization".
That is not to say that their plight does not deserve attention, but that it's more than a bit surprising that AI is trying to direct attention here instead of the much greater tragedy playing out in Sudan.
The good news is that closing comments on the old blog entries that attract spam comments does seem to slow down the number of such postings. The bad news is that it only slows it down; I'm still banning about an IP address a day for spam postings.
On the off-chance that you get a notification that your IP has been banned, send me an email at "nrusson AT rogers DOT com" and I'll unban it for you (this offer is void for known spammers, of course).
" . . . this next song is about middle-aged seduction. It's not quite true-to-life however — there's no begging."
Roar of laughter from the predominantly middle-aged audience.
"Do I know my demographic or what?"
This item is more addressed to my fellow Red Ensign bloggers than the general public, but I think it's worth bringing to your attention too. Garnet Rogers has a new CD ready to come to market, including a song about something near and dear to the hearts of the brigade. At his performance last night in Brooklin, he apologized for not already having the CDs available for sale (the artwork is apparently holding up the shipment, so it'll be a week or so before Shining Thing is in stock.
Honestly, the title track didn't grab me, but one of the other songs he performed was stunning. It's based on an event that happened at the Juno Beach Centre last summer, where a veteran who had landed on June 6, 1944 was denied the opportunity to lay a wreath at the ceremony. As Garnet said (and I apologize if my memory isn't exact):
In my opinion, someone who got their boots wet on that beach in the early morning of June 6th has the right to go wherever he damn well pleases!
I lead a burst of applause (I didn't really expect as warm a response from a folky audience, to be honest). At the break, I took the opportunity to thank Garnet for writing and performing the song and asking if the lyrics were available on his website yet. Unfortunately, not yet . . . but that's no excuse for Brigade members not to buy the CD when it's available, understood?
Also of note during the performance was a killer performance of "Night Drive", "The Outside Track", and "Small Victory". I wanted to ask for "Sleeping Buffalo", but I figured I'd already taken up too much of his break already, so I just enjoyed everyone else's requests.
If, for some reason, you don't already know about Garnet's music, I think you're in for a real treat. But I admit that I'm biased that way. His live performances are brilliant, both musically and for his wicked sense of humour. Who else can talk about the choices in the American election as being between "the puppet" and "the animated Easter Island statue"?
Welcome to new brigade member Canadian Comment. Dana and Bob offer their prescriptions to the world for what ails it.
He's added me to his blogroll and until just now, I hadn't realized it. I'll quickly add him to my blogroll and pretend he's been there all along. Yeah, that's the ticket. . .
Steve "Buy My Book" H. writes:
"Lager" is an inherently ambiguous word these days. It can mean "wonderful, full-bodied, malty, highly hopped beer aged for weeks," or it can mean "soap-flavored water for pussies who are frightened by actual beer." In other words "American beer."
Incidentally, Steve would also like you to know that there will be
Just in case it isn't clear from context, Steve is from Florida.
Colby Cosh has been fired from the National Post, proving that there is now almost no reason to bother reading that formerly interesting newspaper.
I certainly hope he quickly finds some more welcoming environment to keep writing his usual insightful and entertaining work.
What Did You Do In the War Daddy?
I chased criminal plants. I tore up fields of hemp. A plant that looks like marijuana but has no psychoactive effect. I filled the jails with drug users, letting untold numbers of violent criminals get a free pass to make sure there was room for dealers and users of the wrong kinds of drugs. I let terrorists go free in order to concentrate on jailing people out for a little drug induced fun. Of course I ignored those using the most harmful drugs commonly available in society, alcohol and tobacco.
A long litany of personal and state sins in pursuit of an unachievable goal: total drug prohibition. It's working so similarly to alcohol prohibition that it's flat out amazing that politicians can't see the historical repeat — or don't want to recognize it.
. . .I stayed at work until after rush hour, then headed over to Bowmanville to play badminton at my club. "At my club" — doesn't that just sound so tweedy and leather-armchairish? Not at all tweedy. Sweaty, sure: the gym isn't air-conditioned and at the start of the season we get lots of new members showing up.
If you're interested in post-debate debate, try visiting James Lileks' Bleat for today: it's at least a 9.3 on the screediness scale:
But mostly I hate the debates because I simply cannot abide hearing certain statements I've been hearing over, and over, and over again. I can't take any more talk about bringing allies to the table. Which ones? Brazil? Mynmar? Microfrickin'nesia? Are there some incredibly important and powerful nations out there whose existence has hitherto escaped me? Fermany? Gerance? The Galactic Order of the Belgian Dominion? Did we piss off the Vulcans? Who? If we mean "France and Germany," then please explain to me why the reluctant participation of these two countries somehow bestows the magic kiss of legitimacy. They want in? Fine. They don't? Fine. At this point mooning over France is like being that sophomore loser dorm pal who spent his dateless weekends telling his loser roommate about a high school sweetheart who stood him up for the prom. Give it up. Move on. I understand; they are wise and nuanced, we are young and dumb. We're the cowboy leaning with his back against the bar, elbows on the rail, watching the door; we need our European betters to teach us how to ape the subtle forms of Nijinsky, limbs arrayed in the exquisite form of the Dying Swan. Understood. But I don't want to be the Dying Swan. And I don't want posture lessons from a country that spent the last 20 years flopping on its back and grabbing its ankles when Saddam showed up waving stacks of Francs in exchange for bang-sticks. Don't you think I know about France's relations with Saddam? Surely the advocates of the French Touch must know, and don't care. Or they don't know — in which case their advice is useless.
Visitors since 17 August, 2004