February 28, 2006

Toilet humour . . . at the table

I posted a brief entry about this last year, but Samantha Burns gets to the bottom of the situation:

Many may have heard about it before, but I just couldn't live with myself without reporting on it.

Yes, you heard me correctly, Taiwan has a toilet bowl restaurant.

If you are lucky enough to dine at this elegant restaurant, you will not only get to sit on the piss pot, but you'll get to eat from it as well.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:54 PM | Comments (2)

Castle Argghhh runs a caption contest

John of Argghhh! has some clean, innocent fun with a photo of a Canadian soldier being interviewed.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:32 PM | Comments (0)

Refuted by one who knows

Farfromcanadahar is a Canadian soldier, serving in Afghanistan. I don't think he's read my blog, but he might as well have done:

Every time anything happens to Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, everyone with a beef against the current federal government seems to feel the need to ratchet-jaw on about the poor, wretchedly equipped Canadian military. As someone who's been issued all the kit, and who has had access to the stuff other countries are using, I find this tendency extremely irritating.

Canada doesn't have a big navy. We don't have guided missile cruisers, (working) submarines, or aircraft carriers. Our air force is suffering from decades of neglect, and we are stretched mighty thin just sustaining our forces in Afghanistan with our brace of C-130s. We are mothballing our tanks. It's safe to say that as far as the big-ticket stuff goes, we pretty much suck.

But the soldier stuff, the vehicles and the clothing and the protection and (sorry, Gen Hillier) the gizmos . . . now there, we have another story.

He specifically praises the G-wagon, the LAV-III, the C7A2 rifle "which has so many useful and innovative improvements that I despair of listing them without putting my civilian readers to sleep", the new camouflage pattern, CADPAT, night vision equipment, communications equipment, etc.

Is it perfect? Hell no. Combat uniforms, designed to be worn under fragmentation vests, that have chest pockets? And no arm pockets? WTF!? And seriously, mate, what genius came up with a "modular" tactical vest that doesn't allow the user to carry more than 4 magazines? After every other fighting force in the world, not to mention your own soldiers, has come to the conclusion that soldiers require up to 10 or more magazines in modern battle? By the way, great job in making grenade pouches that the grenades you give us don't fit into. That's especially useful. I put my Garmin in one of mine. Maybe I can use another for an MP3 player. And don't even get me started about the absurd, almost criminally negligent administrative system under which we suffer. I really didn't enjoy not getting paid for over two months this fall.

But for the love of God, I think back to the Army I joined in 1987, and the 1950's pattern webbing and 1950's vintage equipment I was originally issued with. I think back to the vehicles we used to drive, the clothing we used to wear, and frankly the attitudes we used to have, and I don't even recognize us.

Clearly, based on that last paragraph, this isn't the army I belonged to, either. In my company's armoury, we still had a WWII-era American rocket launcher (bazooka, to the comic-book crowd), a Bren gun, and lots of other stuff that was older than the company commander. I'm delighted to hear that at least some of that has changed.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:27 PM | Comments (2)

Falklands, part two?

The Scotsman reports on Argentinian military build-up near the Falkland Islands:

Several planes are believed to have overflown island airspace in a bid to test RAF defences. A number of Falkland vessels have been seized in waters close to Argentina.

The already tense situation has been further exacerbated by the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, a Kirchner ally, who responded to criticism from Blair this month by telling him to "return the Malvinas to Argentina".

[. . .] a Foreign Office source last night conceded that Tony Blair now faced having to reinforce Britain's commitment to the islands — perhaps by sending more troops to the South Atlantic.

"There have been a number of incidents, and even if they weren't all connected, they might suggest that the government in Buenos Aires is feeling a bit bullish," the source said. "No one is saying they are about to invade but you have to maintain your position. We all remember that, after the original conflict, Britain was accused of giving the junta the impression that their invasion would not be opposed.

"We would, of course, prefer them to get the message, but maybe — sometimes — we just have to underline it ourselves."

Steve Janke takes a look at the ongoing tensions:

In 1982, Argentinian territory was never attacked (the Falklands don't count, of course). That was both a strategic decision to avoid escalating the conflict, as well as a tactical nod to the limits of British power projection. This time around, things might play out very differently on that front. If Britain is faced with having to fight the same war twice, they might decide that this will be not only the second time but also the last time. Argentina might be faced with some serious threats to its strategic military and economic assets over . . . what? . . . some wind-swept rocks and sheep?

With stand-off weapons of the kind that wreaked havoc inside Iraq launched from hundreds of miles away by submerged submarines, the Argentinians might discover that the explosion they trigger by stepping on the Falklands tripwire is far worse than they imagined.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:09 PM | Comments (0)

Economics joke

From Radley Balko's Agitator last year:

Three guys are in a jail cell. They start to talking and find out that they're all gas station owners.

The first one says, "I set my prices at a couple of cents higher than my competitors. I'm in here for price-gouging."

The second one says "I set my prices at a couple of cents lower than my competitors. I'm in here for predatory practices."

The third one says "I set my prices at the same price as my competitors. I'm in here for collusion!"

As Radley says in his wrap up: "It's funny 'cause it's true."

Posted by Nicholas at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)

New Canadian Military blog

The Torch is a group blog for posts on Canadian military matters.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

"We absolutely want to see it go into public hands"

As we all know, it's impossible to have private enterprise run things like roads and bridges, because they could deny access to the public:

Some are worried that new private owners could let the bridge — it's actually two connected bridges — deteriorate, or could hike tolls. Current tolls, collected only on northbound traffic, are $6 per car, more for trucks, but officials on both sides of the border wouldn't mind if the tolls were scrapped altogether.

"We absolutely want to see it go into public hands," said Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk. "It's the main channel for northwestern Ontario for Canadians going into the States and vice-versa."

Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton agreed the bridge should be in public hands, and said he too was worried tolls could be hiked to the point that they hurt both tourism and the forestry sector in the northwestern part of the province.

"You can kill a lot of jobs and that kills a lot of economic activity," he warned.

Clearly this is a situation that can't be allowed to continue: why, a private owner might raise the tolls! Unlike the current private owners . . . who've owned the bridge since it was built in 1908.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:58 AM | Comments (0)

Well, at least I'm not this bad . . .

Apparently collectors are a dying breed, according to this WSJ article:

In Graytown, Ohio, 51-year-old Doug Martin has amassed a collection of 5,000 pencils, most of them never used. Some date back to the 1800s.

He sometimes wonders what will become of his prized collection when he dies. Will his children stick them in a sharpener and write with them? "It hurts to think about it," he says.

Young people today have little interest in the stamp, coin or knickknack collections of their elders, so an aging America can't help but wonder: What's going to happen to all those boxes in the basement?

It occurred to me a few years ago that collecting — in the sense of seeking out odd and unusual items to make an eclectic set — seems to have dropped right out of the class of activities that people adopt as hobbies in childhood and continue through their lives. Of course, this is only a tragedy to those who are still afflicted with the collection bug:

[. . .] most young people don't connect with their elders' collections. In Goodyear, Ariz., Zita Wessa, 72, says her grandchildren walk past her display cases of gnome figurines "and show no interest at all." Her 45-year-old son, Scott, says he'd be happy to inherit one of the giant cabinets she stores them in, but the gnomes "don't do much for me. If she begged me to take them, I would, because I love my mother. But I don't know what I'd do with them." (His mom says she paid $5,600 over the years for her 160 gnomes, but their current value is uncertain.)

William Adrian, 72, of Plainfield, Ill., collects miniature guns. He says his three children "wouldn't give you a twenty-dollar bill for any of it."

"Collecting is about memory, and young people today have a different memory base," explains Mr. Rinker, who is well known in antiquing circles for his books and personal appearances. He lives in a 14,000-square-foot former elementary school in Vera Cruz, Pa. He uses the classrooms as storage spaces for his 250 different collections. He says he doesn't care what becomes of it all once he's gone, and if his children opt to use his rolls of century-old toilet paper, "that might be the finest honor they can give me."

As a kid, I had lots of "collections", including stamps, coins, military badges, and so on. By their very nature, they were open-ended groupings of similar things. Others my age collected things like hockey cards . . . where it was theoretically possible to actually complete the set (and then stop?). My son's generation seems to have followed that "other" side of collecting: the finite set model (Pokemon cards being the obvious example).

I've long since stopped collecting most of the things that interested me as a child, but I don't think I'll be able to kick the book collecting habit. I don't buy 'em as "collectables": I buy 'em because I plan on eventually getting around to reading 'em. After that, however, I do confess I have a problem getting rid of them . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

Snow and sky

It was remarkably pretty on the drive in to work today. The temperature was around -11 C, and the sky was brilliantly blue. The photos don't even begin to do it justice:

ColumbusRoad_28Feb06.jpgConcession7_28Feb06.jpg

The extra-dark looking road surface is one of those pleasant novelties of driving in southern Ontario . . . it's not quite frozen, not quite liquid, and only marginally slippery — except when it's very slippery. The sunlight works to heat the road surface, while the air temperature works to keep it cold.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:06 AM | Comments (2)

QotD: Firefly

I know a few of you are waiting for the "Firefly" review. Well. I watched the pilot. I should preface my remarks, by way of explanation, with a confession of prejudices. Western stuff doesn't do much for me — horses, six shooters — and it's not what I look for in my sci-fi. And I find myself less and less interested in committing to another sci-fi world, since the ones in which I invested anything either disappointed (Star Wars, Matrix) or went on too long (Star Trek. In fact, the only reason the last season of Enterprise was so good was because they went back to the source to explain the first series — a clever move, well done, but not exactly an endorsement of the story's vitality.) When "Firefly" first came out I read good reviews, and stayed away because I was certain it would be cancelled, and I would be annoyed. There was also a certain amount of Buffyness hanging over the project, and I'd managed to completely miss that one as well. So I watched the pilot Friday night out of obligation, really — arms crossed across the chest, remote in hand on the FF button, looking for an excuse to bail, because it just can't be that good.

About fifteen minutes in, I thought: well, this is just the best sci-fi TV pilot ever. An hour into it I hit pause, shrunk the screen and hit Amazon to see if they had any Serenity toy ships. I enjoyed every minute. Every half-minute. Sometimes I rewound and did a frame by frame so I could enjoy certain seconds at my leisure. I'm sure there will be lesser episodes and better ones; I don't care. I love it. And, as usual, I'm late. But at least I don't have to worry about it being cancelled; as far as I'm concerned, it's just begun, and it ends with a big movie. Happy day.

James Lileks, The Bleat, 2006-02-27

Posted by Nicholas at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2006

"It is with great sadness . . ."

Just found this mentioned on Hit and Run:

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Darren McGavin at approximately 7:10 A.M. Pacific time today, Saturday 25, 2006. Darren was just three months short of his 84th birthday. While we suspect none of us can imagine a world without the beloved, feisty little red-head, it is time to reflect, give thanks for his life and hold in reverence his memory. Darren is gone, but in many respects he will always be with us: as Carl Kolchak, fighting authority and battling monsters; the grumpy Old Man sending curses over Lake Michigan; as David Ross, the outsider, Grey Holden, captain of the Enterprise, the irascible detective Mike Hammer or any number of memorable guest star appearances, most notably as Joe Bascome on GUNSMOKE and as the washed-up old actor from "Distant Signals."

I had vague, distant childhood memories of Kolchak, but "the old man" will never die.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

Heinlein centennial in 2007

It was just called to my attention that next year is the centennial of the birth of (in my opinion, anyway) the greatest SF author, Robert A. Heinlein. There is a website for the upcoming event to mark the occasion.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:53 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Freedom of Religion

Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn't intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy.

This is exactly why Karl Popper, in his seminal work "The Open Society and Its Enemies," insisted that one should not be tolerant with the intolerant. Nowhere do so many religions coexist peacefully as in a democracy where freedom of expression is a fundamental right. In Saudi Arabia, you can get arrested for wearing a cross or having a Bible in your suitcase, while Muslims in secular Denmark can have their own mosques, cemeteries, schools, TV and radio stations.

Flemming Rose, "Why I Published the Cartoons", Washington Post, 2006-02-19

Posted by Nicholas at 12:02 AM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2006

QotD: Pandemics

Governments thrive on infectious diseases, because only governments, or institutions that are very hard to distinguish from governments, can contain them. Which is why I always suspect that such "pandemics" (pandemic seems now to be the regular word for an "epidemic") tend to be somewhat exaggerated. But if I were a politician, I would never dare to say such a thing.

Brian Micklethwait, "Not a good time to be a chicken", Samizdata, 2006-02-21

Posted by Nicholas at 09:40 AM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2006

This is a cool part-time job

Elizabeth's cousin Ross emailed her the other day to describe a new part-time job he's taken on:

I have got myself another part-time flying job. It is flying a 1968 Cessna 172 (old single engine piston) for English Heritage. The job is aerial photography of ancient earth works/listed buildings/standing stones etc. etc. How good is that for a job?

I was up last Friday afternoon and the dude was photographing an iron age settlement in one of the villages less than 5 miles from ours. We have been shoeing in the village for years and had no idea. [After leaving the army, Ross became a farrier.] In fact one of the old farms that we have shod in has been demolished ready for development and the developers have allowed an archaeological dig to go in before they build.

From the air, with the low sun, you could easily see the outlines of the old settlement and ridge and furrow ploughing. I believe we will even go as far as Carlisle and Hadrian's Wall. It is only where and when the weather is right and they have a target to shoot, but having done one flight for them I am looking forward to my next, whenever that may be.

The drill is, you fly to the target, circle it until the dude works out the best angle for the shot. He then opens the window while you bank the aircraft and hangs out and shoots.

It certainly sounds like a much more interesting job than being a flying truck driver!

Posted by Nicholas at 10:34 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: The political aftermath of 9/11

Five years ago, on September 11th, 2001, a small, grubby handful of moral retards murdered 3000 individuals in America, and the more chicken-hearted among us immediately soiled their delicate collective undergarments. The ugly smell that resulted we now call "Homeland Security".

At the time, some of the worst people in this country wielded the most power and wealth (they still do, regrettably), and they cynically exploited the terrible situation to pursue an evil, murderous course, the principal purpose of which was to get them even more power and wealth.

L. Neil Smith, "Cartoon Politics", Libertarian Enterprise, 2006-02-13

Posted by Nicholas at 12:23 AM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2006

Old films, now available online

Google now has some fascinating historical films available for viewing. Among the first releases are some NASA films, WW2 newsreels, and US Department of the Interior shorts.

I had a quick look at the newsreels, and I certainly found this one from May, 1945 extremely interesting. It includes footage of the 1945 May Day parade in Moscow, footage of Vidkun Quisling, Karl Doenitz, Alfred Jodl, and the remains of Heinrich Himmler, and U.S. President Harry Truman giving a brief speech about the war against Japan. Fascinating stuff.

UnitedNewsTitle.pngMayDay1945.png
QuislingOnTrial.pngHimmlerCorpsified.png
BelsenDestroyed.png TrumanSpeaking.png
Posted by Nicholas at 04:33 PM | Comments (0)

More cartoons

Jon sent along a link to a collection of cartoon reactions to the cartoon reaction.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:10 PM | Comments (0)

Medievally amusing

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog. Hat tip to Helen Schulz of the MedievalSawdust mailing list for the URL.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:52 PM | Comments (0)

Chip Bok on hate speech

Chip Bok's cartoons are often featured in Reason magazine. This is a good one.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

Austin Bay on the bombing of the Askariya Shrine

Austin Bay has a post up including some informed commentary from one of his military buddies:

"Sapper"is a long time friend. He is a Vietnam vet (combat engineers). He also served in the US Army Reserves for over thirty years. He is a civil engineer, by trade.

The following is his analysis of the terror bomb attack on the Askariya Shrine in Samarra. Understand that his analysis is informed speculation, but speculation by a man who knows how to build buildings as well as destroy them.

    

[. . .] My best guess from the review of the photos and with some help from an OSHA Inspector with experience in Accident investigation/reconstruction is that the explosion took place about 1/2 up the dome. The bricks in this area may have been only one or two thick. Without a view of the interior of the Shrine there is a lot left to conjecture. The amount of explosive required at any one point to do the damage would not be that great about ten pounds as an off hand guess based upon a quick glance at Junior Woodchuck Manual (FM 5-34), the demolitions section. Placed around the circumference at say twenty separate points would add up to a total of 200 pounds of TNT. Using C4 or an equivalent would decrease this by a factor 1.34.

A question posed is, was this a quick in and out job or would it have taken some time to plant the charges. My guess is that it probably took some time to plant the charges. The charges would have to be taken into the building placed at a point some distance up in the structure of the dome itself. With only people power to move the stuff up there, place the charges and rig the ignition circuits I would tend to believe this was an operation covering three to five hours, not just a quick in and out raid.

    
Posted by Nicholas at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Unequal Justice

At the same time Jyllands-Posten in Denmark is valiantly establishing that freedom of expression is a core western value and that the right to say what you will does indeed include the right to say what some people may find offensive . . . a court in Austria has in effect sided with Islamic extremists by sentencing 'historian' and fantasist David Irving to three years in jail for upsetting Jewish sensibilities by making preposterous claims about the Nazi Holocaust.

Am I the only one who sees the sickening irony of protecting Jewish feelings ending up giving aid and comfort of Islamic bigots who want to prevent the publishing of anything they find offensive? I can just hear them now: "Oh, so upsetting the Jews gets you thrown in jail but anyone can upset the Muslims . . ."

Perry de Havilland, "Denmark's pride . . . Austria's shame", Samizdata, 2006-02-21

Posted by Nicholas at 12:37 AM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2006

The strange things they chalk up to "research"

The Register reports that science will not be denied:

Scientists: masturbation not as good as sex
And you thought you just weren't doing it right

It must have been a slow day in the lab to come up with that experiment proposal . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 03:42 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Blasphemy

We may not be able to prove George Bernard Shaw's claim that all great truths begin as blasphemies. Still, it's closer to accuracy than the opposite, which would be something like: When in doubt, consult the authorities. As we know too well, the authorities often get it wrong. History demonstrates the priceless value of blasphemy. That's one reason why anyone now trying to revive anti-blasphemy laws should be seen as an enemy of progress as well as an enemy of freedom.

In 1633 Galileo was tried for heresy by the Roman Catholic Church and forced to repudiate his claim that the Earth moves around the Sun; 359 years later, in 1992, a Vatican commission decided that, on second thought, Galileo had it right. Everyone agreed that was very nice of the Vatican, admitting they were wrong and all. In the middle of the 19th century Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection looked clearly blasphemous to many Christians; it still does, to some.

But then, Christianity began as blasphemy. In the Gospel (Mark, 14:61) the high priest asks Jesus, "Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" and Jesus answers Yes. The high priest claims that's proof enough -- "Ye have heard his blasphemy"; crucifixion follows.

Robert Fulford, "Blasphemy has set us free", National Post, 2006-02-18

Posted by Nicholas at 08:39 AM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2006

QotD: Galloping Fascism

As my regular readers know, as far as I'm concerned, they represent two not-terribly-different wings of exactly the same political party: the Boot on Your Neck Party. If it isn't George Bush with his boot on your neck after 2008 — if George isn't there any more to steal half of everything you make, and enslave your kids for military and other purposes, and dog your steps, and lowjack your phone, and read your mail, and ransack your medical records, and censor your radio and television, and search your home, and probe your bunghole — it'll be Hillary.

Or somebody just like her.

Neither of these phony antagonists will offer not to do any of those evil things. Instead, they're competing on the basis of who can deprive us all of more of our rights faster. Standing on the shoulders of would-be tyrants like Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, and Johnson, Bill Clinton did his damnedable best to make the state stronger and more unaccountable to the people. George Bush stands on Clinton's shoulders today.

Any "progress" made by Republicans in converting America into a dictatorship will be absorbed by the next Democratic administration before they go on to make "progress" of their own. The "no-fly" list will become the "no-ride" list, then the "no-drive" list, then the "no-walk" list, and finally the "no-breathe" list. Why anybody should think that it matters which wing of the Boot on Your Neck Party is doing it to us at any given moment is — and always has been — beyond me.

L. Neil Smith, "Time for a Boynout ", Libertarian Enterprise, 2006-02-19

Posted by Nicholas at 12:09 AM | Comments (4)

February 21, 2006

National ID Cards: an idea whose time should never come

Jay Currie takes a few potshots at the crackpot idea of a new national ID card:

I am as hard core as anyone about preventing terrorism, immigration fraud and crime; but a national id card is a completely ill-conceived means of attacking any one of these problems. Competent terrorists have the incentive to crack the cards as to criminals. Immigration fraud is about the endless difficulties in sending people back to their countries of origin as much as it about people pretending to be someone else.

But there is a more basic problem and one which I would hope the more libertarian members of the CPC caucus address. Any national identity scheme needs to be universal to be effective which will mean that Canadians will be forced to give the government even more data about themselves than they do now. Right down to retina scans or a bit of DNA. The government will, of course, maintain that if you are "good, law-abiding people" you need not worry. But what it misses is that the people are not the problem, rather it is what the government might do with such information.

Remember the number one thing about any such proposal to give governments more power: the government is not your friend. The power may be claimed to be needed to protect you, but it's much more likely to be used to further control you, your actions, and your freedom of movement.

This is, I say again, an idea which must be stamped out at the earliest possible moment.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)

Babbler on defence priorities

Damian has a good post up on priorities for the new defence minister:

I like his first priority, because it deals with the trickiest issue facing our CF today: training and personnel problems. Undermanning hurts our present-force capabilities, but it also hurts our future-force capabilities as a consequence. For example, a specialist PO2 who jetty-jumps to fill a slot on two different ships on back-to-back deployments isn't available to train new specialists in his trade. He's also a lot more likely to burn out - family problems, depresssion, etc - and deprive the CF of a fully trained operator. Reinvesting our 'human capital', if you will, in the training system requires some short-term sacrifices, but will pay dividends in the long-run.

I like his third priority, because it deals with a huge gap in the CF's primary mission: to defend Canadian sovereignty on our Arctic borders. Yes, there are some serious roadblocks to putting artic-ice-capable warships into action, especially if they are to be Canadian-built. We're creating a military competency from scratch, for heaven's sake - it's not going to be a walk in the park. But when the alternative is to continue to cede everything but the moral high ground to those nations who don't recognize our sovereignty, I think we have to bite the bullet and fight our way through the difficulties to make our presence felt. Will there be some mistakes made along the way? Almost certainly. Should that stop us from proceeding? Absolutely not.

O'Connor's second priority is more problematic. Perhaps he's on the right track, and perhaps he simply understands his political purview a little better than I do, but his phrasing leaves me concerned: simplifying the procurement process so it's fair and transparent.

Damian thinks a lot about this sort of thing, and he's very persuasive, but as discussed recently, the way the Canadian government has gone about making their military equipment decisions in the past is ludicrous: capabilities are watered down, numbers are cut, and much seedy politicking goes on (and probably much more that we don't see), ending up in a smaller, less capable, more expensive purchase. Doing some or all of the construction in Canada (or, perhaps more to the point, in the right part of Canada) always seems to take priority over both economic reality and the very real needs of the military.

If O'Connor's move to transparency reduces or eliminates these problems, then I fully support the change.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:03 PM | Comments (0)

The Strand goes global

Victoria University (for some reason, I've always thought it was "Victoria College") of the University of Toronto has an obscure student publication called The Strand. As this article at Hit and Run implies, it's not going to stay obscure obscure for long:

Click here to view image and article

Image [Image removed at site owner's request] links to original article at The Strand

Commenter "RexRhino" at Hit and Run gets the situation exactly right:

Remember that Star Trek episode where Spock tell the computer "Believe me, I am lying", and the computer cannot handle the paradox? "If you say you are lying, it means you are lying that you are lying, you are telling the truth, but telling the truth you are lying... BZZZPPPPZZTTTHHH!!"

This is the same effect with the Political Correctness androids here in Canada when looking at this cartoon!

"Muslims are upset because the cartoon offends them by depicting Mohommed as homosexual... must make sure muslims are not offended... except that gays will be offended if we imply that there is anything offensive about homosexualiy... must make sure gays are not offended... but if we don't offend them we offend muslims... but if we don't offend muslims, we offend gays... Politically Correct brain cannot compute! BBBTTHHHZZZZPP!"

Posted by Nicholas at 11:18 AM | Comments (5)

QotD: Advice for new grads

I've been asked to compile some Dilbert advice for new graduates who have no idea what's awaiting them in the business world. I'm talking about practical advice. Here are some of the ones that come to mind.

The person who sits nearest the boss's office gets the most assignments.

Your potential for senior management will be determined by the three H's: Hair, Height, and Harvard degree. You need at least two out of three. (Non-Harvard schools will be acceptable if it's clear that you "could have gone" to Harvard.)

Your hard work will be rewarded. Specifically, your boss's boss will reward your boss for making you work so hard.

Scott Adams, "Wisdom for Grads", The Dilbert Blog, 2006-02-18

Posted by Nicholas at 12:07 AM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2006

Children's lit, gone wrong

Nick Gillespie casts a jaundiced eye at a new children's book:

Paul Wilbert sends scarifying news of the latest — and possibly the saddest — skirmish in the Red State/Blue State culture wars: A kid's book titled Why Mommy Is a Democrat, which should be subtitled Why Republicans Run All Branches of the Federal Government and Probably Will for the Next 20 or 30 Years. [. . .]

Note to Democrats: A two-party duopoly only works if both parties can throw a punch. I half-suspect this of being a GOP plant job.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

Ingredients in fast food

I've had to become much more aware of what ingredients go into the various fast foods, as members of my family are gluten-intolerant, but it's getting harder to do so, as even things that shouldn't contain wheat are having it added:

McDonald's Corp. is facing at least three lawsuits related to its disclosure last week that its french fries contain wheat and dairy products.

Debra Moffatt of Lombard, Ill., seeks unspecified damages in a suit filed Friday in Cook County Circuit Court that accuses the company of misleading the public. Her lawyer, Thomas Pakenas, said his client has celiac disease that causes gastrointestinal symptoms when set off by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat.

"You cannot sell gluten-free french fries when they have gluten," Pakenas said. Moffatt's lawsuit seeks class-action status.

McDonald's said Feb. 13 that wheat and dairy ingredients are used to flavour its fries. Those substances can cause allergic or other medical reactions in food-sensitive consumers.

Wheat is an incredibly cheap additive that is used in vast numbers of products which (on first glance) would not be considered to have any need for it. It is very frequently used to replace more expensive ingredients and to provide more bulk in the finished product.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:42 AM | Comments (0)

Blasphemous Emoticons

Jon sent a link to Rand Simberg's post on how even basic emoticons can be used to invite a fatwah.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Liberalism

[O]ur ancestors in the West didn't choose our liberal freedoms because they woke up one day and decided that they preferred liberalism over perfectionism. It is that they eventually realized — after centuries of fighting about it — that the only alternative to religious toleration was perpetual war. But religious toleration is the thin edge of the liberal wedge. Once you allow a man to say that he has different Gods than you or that there is no God at all, it is hard to set any principled limit on what anyone can say, about anything at all.

Looked at it from this perspective, Fukuyama's thesis of the "End of History" comes across not as a final triumphalist victory for the West, but as the inevitable consequence of the exhaustion of reasonable alternatives. Liberalism isn't a reflection of our deepest values, but a second-best regime more or less forced upon the societies of the West.

Andrew Coyne, "Cartoon Violence", AndrewCoyne.com, 2006-02-17

Posted by Nicholas at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2006

The Tiger takes down the ID card proposal

The Tiger in Exile has a go at the idiotic suggestion by Stockwell Day that mandatory ID cards are a necessary part of Canada's future:

Let me get this straight. People don't want to have to show passports at the American border.

That's a reasonable argument. I can also see a very reasonable argument for the American government to tell the Canadian government to go piss up a rope, as they're the ones who control their own borders.

So . . . in order to spare Canadians the incredible difficulty of applying for a passport (horrors, it takes all of a week to have it processed, if you're not in an emergency travel situation), we are going to saddle people with the task of getting an identity card that will be even more of a hassle to get?!

As Tiger points out, the requirement for Canadians to carry a passport is not a particularly unreasonable request by the American government. I'd prefer not to have to carry a passport, but if I need to visit the United States on business, I'll carry a passport. A mandatory internal passport system is in no way, shape, or form a good thing for Canadians.

The post-9/ll world has already taken us too far along the path of restricting individual liberties for dubious or non-existant increases in public security. Mandatory national ID cards have no use except as another attempt to control the movement and behaviour of free people. This needs to be stamped out as soon as possible.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:24 PM | Comments (1)

New Red Ensign Standard Raised

The latest round-up of activity within the Brigade has been posted at West Coast Chaos. Go see what has been occupying the other members of the unit over the last two weeks.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:35 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Blasphemy

We've all learned this week that people react badly when you make blasphemous insinuations against the central figure of a dominant religion. Nevertheless, that's not going to stop me from writing about Gretzky.

Colby Cosh, "Par for the course", ColbyCosh.com, 2006-02-10

Posted by Nicholas at 12:35 AM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2006

QotD: The cartoon physics of politics

A generation or so ago, somebody — I think it was either Tiny Toons or the Animaniacs — identified and described the cluster of phenomena we've since come to know as "cartoon physics". Just as a single example, we now understand that the Law of Gravity doesn't actually apply to a cartoon character until he notices that it does, usually by looking down after he's accidentally run past the edge of a cliff.

In the 21st century, we are becoming forcibly acquainted with similar phenomena in politics. We have been presented, over the past few weeks, with an almost (but not quite) impossible number of absurd sights and sounds, associated with the publication, in Denmark, of certain cartoons deemed blasphemous by the dogwhistles of the Moslem world. [. . .]

"Dogwhistle?" I pretend to hear you ask. An extremely useful concept from the wonderful movie, Strange Days. A dogwhistle, says one of the characters, is somebody with an ass so tight that when he farts, only dogs can hear him. We have plenty of them here, in our part of the world, ranging from the type of folks who gave Hester Prynne her "A", to the morons who wet themselves over Janet Jackson's right nipple, to the idiots who censored songs by Mick Jagger that are probably older than the censors are, to Marxoid feminists against pornography.

L. Neil Smith, "Cartoon Politics", Libertarian Enterprise, 2006-02-13

Posted by Nicholas at 02:17 PM | Comments (1)

February 17, 2006

Writers and editors

This article was forwarded to a tech writing mailing list, where our professional experiences are remarkably close to those of our reporting kin:

We writers, while getting the credit on the page, have to deal with a group of folks called editors. Editors are the threshold guardians of the printed word. Their job is to take a writer's vision and bluntly tell him that it's not clear and that he must state it in half the space.

(Ed. note: be careful, laptop jockey, this piece could be dropped...)

Editors are the heroes of the printed word, the kings of the First Amendment.

(Ed. note: well . . . a bit flashy but we don't want to get in the writer's way. keep this line.)

They can also be impossible, short sighted, and cruel . . .

(Ed. note: three of us think these are still compliments, two are unsure.)

. . . And, of course, clueless.

(Ed. note: it's almost unanimous that this is NOT the compliment section.)

Many times a writer looks at his finished work with sadness. He thinks of how much better it could have been had he been allowed to keep certain lofty and majestic lines.

(Ed. note: you mean the lines we put up on the dartboard at the office?)

Of course, I don't think this way about my own editor. Hi Anne!

Hat tip to Bonnie Granat.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)

It stopped being a joke a while ago

The cartoon jihad has taken another step away from farce and toward further tragedy:

A Pakistani Muslim cleric and his followers offered rewards amounting to over $1 million for anyone who killed Danish cartoonists who drew caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad that have enraged Muslims worldwide.

The cleric offered the bounty during Friday prayers as Muslim anger against the cartoons flared anew in parts of Asia.

Weeks of global protests over the cartoons have triggered fears of a clash of civilizations between the West and Islam, and have led to calls on all sides for calm.

In a civilized country, wouldn't putting a private bounty on someone's head be a fairly serious crime?

The Danish foreign ministry also issued a travel warning for Pakistan, urging any Danes to leave as soon as possible.

In the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, cleric Maulana Yousef Qureshi said he had personally offered to pay a bounty of 500,000 rupees ($8,400) to anyone who killed a Danish cartoonist, and two of his congregation put up additional rewards of $1 million and one million rupees plus a car.

"If the West can place a bounty on Osama bin Laden and Zawahri we can also announce reward for killing the man who has caused this sacrilege of the holy Prophet," Qureshi told Reuters, referring to the al Qaeda leader and his deputy Ayman al Zawahri.

Oh, I guess that answers my question, doesn't it? "We" have already abandoned the moral high ground because "we" offered a bounty for the mastermind whose organization killed more than 3,000 civilians in just one attack, therefore we have no moral standing to object to killing cartoonists.

Of course, even if a bounty hadn't been offered for Zahahri or bin Laden, there'd be all sorts of pseudo-historical justifications that could be dredged up (or manufactured) anyway.

Update: More information from another report:

Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi, prayer leader at the historic Mohabat Khan mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar, announced the mosque and the Jamia Ashrafia religious school he leads would give a 1.5 million rupee ($25,000) reward and a car for killing the cartoonist of the prophet pictures that appeared first in a Danish newspaper in September.

He also said a local jewellers' association would give $1 million. No representative of the association was available to confirm it had made the offer.

"Whoever has done this despicable and shameful act, he has challenged the honour of Muslims. Whoever will kill this cursed man, he will get $1 million dollars from the association of the jewellers bazaar, one million rupees from Masjid Mohabat Khan and 500,000 rupees and a car from Jamia Ashrafia as a reward," Qureshi said.

"This is a unanimous decision of by all imams (prayer leaders) of Islam that whoever insults the prophet deserves to be killed and whoever will take this insulting man to his end, will get this prize," Qureshi said.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:27 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Social Assistance

The dependent population does not like the state and its agents, indeed they hate them, but they soon come to fear the elimination of their good offices even more. They are like drug addicts who know that the drug that they take is not good for them, and hate the drug dealer from whom they obtain their drug, but cannot face the supposed pains of withdrawal.

Theodore Dalrymple, "Is 'Old Europe' Doomed?", Cato Unbound, 2006-02-06

Posted by Nicholas at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2006

Moosehead pulls ad

Moosehead Breweries has been pressured to pull an ad:

After complaints from a feminist group and incensed customers, New Brunswick's Moosehead Breweries has pulled an ad that implied women should speak no more than 50 words a day.

The ad, which appeared in The Onion, a U.S.-based satirical magazine, read: "The average woman speaks 10,000 words in a day. Roughly 9,950 too many."

"It's offensive," said Rosella Melanson, executive director of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women. "It's saying women should not be listened to."

Just as a thought experiment, do you think there'd have been the same kind of objections if they'd flipped it around to say something like "The average man speaks 50 words in a day. Roughly 50 too many."? Or would that be seen as "transgressive" and "speaking truth to power" and "empowering women"?

Hat tip to NealeNews.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:23 PM | Comments (1)

No danish pastries for Iran

In something out of the pages of The Onion, Iran has renamed danish pastries:

Iranians love Danish pastries, but now when they look for the flaky dessert at the bakery they have to ask for "Roses of the Prophet Muhammad."

Bakeries across the capital were covering up their ads for danish pastries Thursday after the confectioners union ordered the name change in retaliation for cartoons of Islam's revered Prophet first published in a Danish newspaper.

The move was reminiscent of a decision by the US House of Representatives in 2004 to rename french fries as "freedom fries" after France refused to back the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"Given the insults by Danish newspapers against the prophet, as of now the name of Danish pastries will give way to Rose of Mohammad' pastries," the confectioners union said in its order.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:56 PM | Comments (6)

Bruce Bawer on the dhimmicization of Europe

A very timely piece published in The Stranger:

Bat Ye'or, a Jewish Egyptian woman whose splendid 2005 book Eurabia is a veritable catalog of the European political establishment's systematic toadying to autocratic Muslim governments, has a name for this toadying: "dhimmitude," a reference to the historical Islamic practice of tolerating infidels so long as they accept their role as "dhimmis," i.e., second-class citizens without rights under Muslim law. Clearly, many agitators saw Jylland-Posten's cartoons as an opportunity to nudge an already largely passive and sycophantic Europe a step closer to full-fledged dhimmi status.

No, most Danes don’t want to be dhimmis: In poll results released in late January, 79 percent of them said Fogh Rasmussen owed nobody an apology. (This is, let it be remembered, the only European country that stood up to the Nazi "final solution" by ferrying its own Jews to safety.) But millions of Europeans have already internalized Islamic taboos and accepted the need to curb liberties in order to "keep the peace." For them, Muslim rage — and its expression in acts of violence and death threats — is already an accepted part of life that is simply not to be questioned or criticized; in their view, the fault lies with those who provoke the rage by failing to be good enough dhimmis. "There is something wrong with a democracy," read a typical viewer SMS on a Norwegian news discussion program, "where an editor can put the whole country in danger!" EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson was one of many who spoke of outraged Muslims as if they were a force of nature — every re-publication of the cartoons by other European newspapers, he said, "is adding fuel to the flames." Across Europe, the same kind of leftists who reflexively cheer art for outraging Christians now uphold Muslims' sacred right not to be offended.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Military Equipment Purchases

For sake of comparison, the US-built Milverados cost $65,000 each, the Austrian-built G-wagon $150,000 each. In the early 1980s, the Candian Forces wanted to buy German-built Iltis at a cost of $26,500 apiece. But, purchasing policies intended to support Canadian industry resulted in German tools being moved to a Bombardier plant in Quebec instead. Each licence-built Bombardier Iltis ended up costing DND $84,000.

Stephen Priestley, "Canadian Forces Light Utility Vehicle — the milCOTS 'Milverado'", DND 101, 2006

Posted by Nicholas at 10:07 AM | Comments (3)

February 15, 2006

Guest Editorial: Union and Management

Today's QotD provoked Brendan McKenna to write the longest comment I've ever had on the blog. Because most readers don't follow the links to comments, I'm reposting this as an article in its own right:

No one seems to think about the big picture any more . . . so you have these perks of the unionized job. So you've got your pension, you've got your medical benefits, and you've got your wages. Right. Then you have a situation: we're bankrupting the company . . . shit.

Well what do we do here? Half - maybe 55% of me would say this: make a concession to a wage or benefit reduction and smarten up or you WONT HAVE A JOB AT ALL when the firm dies. It reminds me of old growth forestry- there was this brilliant statement made to me once (can't remember who made it) that there was a membership out west scrapping with environmentalists over a plot of old growth wood- the last in the region (or something to that effect). The lumberjack membership was arguing that their members were suffering because they weren't allowed to cut those trees down and there was no work (no $$$). The environmentalists said that they couldn't cut down these trees because they were all that were left (or something). Then some one said this: "at present you don't have jobs because you cannot deforest this plot of lumber. Problem. If you were to deforest this area you would still be without a job because the trees would be GONE".

What do we do?

Then the remaining 45% of me would say this: the union cannot make a concession because if it does it loses its power with the employer and the respect of its membership. If it makes a concession, a precedent is set and (theoretically) there is nothing stopping the employer from biting down on the collective and forcing a shitty contract. One of my favourite laws of negotiation is: "if one concession is made, more concessions WILL follow". Secondly the 45% socialist in me would say that the employer is to blame. Let me explain: by letting wages or benefits- the membership package- get out of hand the employer has been reckless. In addition, a working conditions precedent has been set and why should the collective have to accept a lower standard? is it not the duty of the employer to find ways to me the $$$ needed to pay the people who rely on them for income? This does not take into consideration the fact that industries and markets change- consumer tastes change and as an industry moves through its lifecycle towards maturity, competition will begin to stack up and price wars are inevitable, ultimately driving profits down and pinching margins razor tight. In other words, what may have been a fiscally responsible employment expense in years gone by may now be damagingly high (the present North American auto industry for example). The end picture would resemble something like this: either the company goes bankrupt and dies and the workers have no jobs or the product has become redundant, portfolio diversification was not undertaken (this would more than likely have something to do with the union in the first place), the company dies and the workers have no jobs . . .

Call me an asshole, but it seems to me that unionized environments defend ignorance, self-service, and redundancy in most cases, and discourage the evolution of an industry towards natural problem solving and a better deal (in the end) for the customer, the labourer, and the employer . . . you have companies with their coffers bled dry, sitting in bankruptcy protection and the union is still at the table making demands when there is nothing left to give. The union boss will tell you: "We'll fight for your rights!" what they are not telling you is that they will continue to duke it out with the employer on the deck as the ship goes down . . . rather than encouraging creative thought and problem solving they will continue to fight for a product or service that (in some cases) the public doesn't even use anymore. While the membership is blinded by this "my dick is bigger than yours" macho bullshit, they miss the chance to create a new idea out of the ashes of yesterday's product . . .

I don't believe there is a "correct" answer to the question brought to my mind by your post . . . what do you do when a union is killing its employer financially - who is wrong, the union or the employer - the membership or the managers? . . . this is something that has wandered through my mind for many years - more so now as I am working a unionized position. I think it would make an excellent thesis topic . . . probably been done before, though.

Anyway - I find it fascinating. Payroll expenses pile up as the unions get tougher and the bosses get stingier. It goes on and on until it balloons into a situation of sheer and utter ridiculous stupidity - where the company is forced to offer insurance to its customers against its own workers because rendering their services has become so expensive that the consumer will not be able to afford it (or justify the expense with relation to the work provided). Bell and its technicians currently foster this type of relationship. By this situation, I remain unreservedly stupefied . . .

I'm reminded of another old saying "companies get the unions they deserve." Some organizations can go for years and years without serious labour unrest or financial strife, while others seem to just lurch from wildcat strike to illegal walkout to legal strike to other "industrial action". Bad unions and bad management combine to sap the life out of a company, which is already exposed to the slings and arrows of competing with other firms. The very worst of them go under, which is bad in the short term for the employees, but good in the long term for the entire economy.

It's funny that the largest area of the working world that is unionized nowadays is the public sector.

And that the relations between public sector unions and their employers are probably the worst in the entire workforce.

Just sayin', ya know?

Posted by Nicholas at 05:14 PM | Comments (2)

Steyn on the demographic trends of tomorrow

Mark Steyn's latest column in The Australian talks about the importance of understanding demographics:

Demography doesn't explain everything but it accounts for a good 90 per cent. The "who" is the best indicator of the what-where-when-and-why. Go on, pick a subject. Will Japan's economy return to the heady days of the 1980s when US businesses cowered in terror? Answer: No. Japan is exactly the same as it was in its heyday except for one fact: it stopped breeding and its population aged. Will China be the hyperpower of the 21st century? Answer: No. Its population will get old before it gets rich.

Check back with me in a century and we'll see who's right on that one. But here's one we know the answer to: Why is this newspaper published in the language of a tiny island on the other side of the earth? Why does Australia have an English Queen, English common law, English institutions? Because England was the first nation to conquer infant mortality.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:23 PM | Comments (0)

Here comes the science

Marginal Revolution has a post on one of those "everyone recognizes it" phenomena:

The finding backs the idea that distances elongate in our minds because, over time, we begin to notice more and more minutiae about a route, an idea called the feature-accumulation theory. "As detail accumulates, the distance seems to get bigger," Crompton says.

Here is the full story. Remember the earlier result that if you are going and returning only once, the ride back seems shorter. Furthermore life speeds up as you get older.

Cool. I'd often wondered why the return journey seemed shorter, yet logically couldn't be.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:16 PM | Comments (0)

A valuable online resource . . .

. . . except that the very people who most need the help are the ones least likely to use it.

Hat tip to "JtMc".

Posted by Nicholas at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Sclerotic States

In the name of social justice, personal and sectional interest has become all-powerful, paralyzing all attempts to maximize collective endeavor. Nowhere is this clearer than in France, where a survey published in the left-wing newspaper, Liberation, showed that three times as many people had warm feeling towards socialism as towards capitalism. (The ambition of three quarters of French youth is to be employed by the state). Yet French defense of personal and sectional interest is so ferocious that it renders reform almost impossible, at least without violence on the streets. Workers in the French public transport system, who enjoy privileges that would have made Louis XIV gasp, strike the moment that any reduction in them is even mooted, all in the name of preserving social justice as represented by those privileges, despite the fact that striking brings misery and impoverishment to millions of their fellow-citizens, and their privileges are bankrupting the state. The goal of everyone is to parasitize everyone else, or to struggle for as large a slice of the economic cake as possible. No one worries about the size of the cake itself. Apres moi, le deluge has become the watchword not of the king alone, but of the entire population.

Theodore Dalrymple, "Is 'Old Europe' Doomed?", Cato Unbound, 2006-02-06

Posted by Nicholas at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

February 14, 2006

That might explain it

This might explain why Jon always orders his Coke with no ice at the fast food joints in which we sometimes have lunch:

Jasmine Roberts: "I found that 70-percent of the time, the ice from the fast food restaurant's contain more bacteria than the fast food restaurant's toilet water."

Hat tip to NealeNews.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:23 PM | Comments (0)

Modern translations

Apparently the corporate name "Carrefour" translates handily as "We Surrender".

Posted by Nicholas at 03:33 PM | Comments (0)

For the anti-Valentine reader

Adriana suggests "don't say it with flowers, say it with bile".

As a public service to all those who feel the same way about the looming "unimaginative, consumerist-oriented and entirely arbitrary, manipulative and shallow interpretation of romance day", here is a site that might provide just what you need to get through it. [. . .]

Or as a friend once said: Valentine's Day is to love as tap water is to tequila.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:28 PM | Comments (3)

Putting Canadian troops at risk?

A short news item on the CP wires says that Canadian troops are at risk because the Western Standard is re-publishing the cartoons:

A Muslim group warns that the publication of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a Western magazine may cause harm to Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

Riad Saloojee with the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations says reprinting the drawings could put Canada's soldiers in danger. Violent protests erupted after the images were printed in a Danish newspaper.

As opposed, one must guess, to the utterly risk-free and peaceful job they're currently enjoying in Afghanistan? Or do we need to read this as a threat, rather than just a note of concern?

Note for the overly literal reader: "utterly risk free" and "peaceful" are used in an ironic sense in the preceding paragraph.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:09 PM | Comments (1)

Lileks geeks out on "Doom"

If you're the kind of geek who spent hours and hours (and days and days) playing Doom, you probably had the same impression of the movie as James Lileks did (here, scroll down past the Clara Bow image):

Producer: They won't see it coming, you gotta admit that. Then end with a big battle and save the world, whatever. Bring it in under 50 mil and we'll all be heroes for a day.

Writer: You understand that world of mouth will kill the movie almost immediately, don't you?

Producer: I'm not worried what someone says about the movie the second weekend as long as they show up the first.

Writer: But they won't. Someone will leak details, and you'll have to do damage control, show up at conventions with some carefully edited footage, assure everyone you're respecting the franchise, that sort of thing.

Producer: So what's the problem?

Writer: Everyone will hate you.

Producer: (Shrug.) Tell you what. When you write the script, you can put in all your buddies' names. Wherever you want. And you can all come to the set and hang out with whoever plays the hero, and everyone in your company who gets a "producer" credit on your games gets a leased sportscar for a year, just for signing on.

Writer: Deal. But the first guy who dies has to be named "Carmack.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Valentine's Day

ENTRY REMOVED AT REQUEST OF NATALIE MACLEAN

Natalie Maclean, "Seductive Wines", Nat Decants Wine Newsletter, 2006-02-02

Posted by Nicholas at 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2006

Quick links

Posted by Nicholas at 06:34 PM | Comments (0)

Anybody got a stake?

Apparently "dead" doesn't really mean dead . . . sometimes they're just resting.

"Welcome back to the fight," Rick Ray. "This time, I'm sure our side will" win draw score carry on uh, do something noble.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:55 PM | Comments (1)

Steve H. on childhood memories

I've sometimes said that I'd rather not imagine re-living my childhood . . . I was a miserable child (only partly self-inflicted, I must admit), but mine was apparently not as bad as Steve's experience:

If you told me I could relive my childhood or lose a leg, I'd tell you to start cutting, and that is no exaggeration. I could not face it again. For some reason, I started thinking about my childhood last night while I was trying to sleep, and I felt real pain. I listed horrible memories in my mind, and it surprised me how many there were. The pain kept me awake an extra hour and a half. It was the strangest sensation. Like having a broken bone, except that the pain was in my mind.

Yikes!

Posted by Nicholas at 12:45 PM | Comments (1)

Another myth . . . busted

I first encountered this basic axiom when I was a teenaged army cadet, and it struck me as total rubbish:

In an average experienced infantry company in an average day's action, the number engaging with any and all weapons was approximately 15 per cent of the total strength. In the most aggressive companies, under the most intense local pressure, the figure rarely rose above 25 percent of the total strength from the opening to the close of the action.

The writer was US Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall, and he was writing in a book called Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command in Future War. I've never read the book — although I've read several other books by Marshall — but I've seen this "fact" quoted dozens of times in various military history books and articles. I never found it credible, based on discussions with WW2 veterans of the British and Canadian armies, but at the time I was pretty much brainwashed by the then-current anti-American bias in Canada.

I had to assume, as Marshall's work was constantly being praised by (mostly) American writers, that even if it wasn't true for Canadian, British, German, Russian, or even French soldiers, it must be true of American soldiers. Which dovetailed nicely with my early anti-American feelings. So, a big-name American general says that Yankee soldiers are too timid to fire their weapons in combat 75% of the time? No wonder they're losing in Vietnam.

A link from Hit and Run took me to this interesting little article:

[. . .] This calculation assumes, however, that of all the questions Marshall might ask the soldiers of a rifle company during his interviews, he would unfailingly want to know who had fired his weapon and who had not. Such a question, posed interview after interview, would have signalled that Marshall was on a particular line of inquiry, and that regardless of the other information Marshall might discover, he was devoted to investigating this facet of combat performance. John Westover, usually in attendance during Marshall's sessions with the troops, does not recall Marshall's ever asking this question. Nor does Westover recall Marshall ever talking about ratios of weapons usage in their many private conversations. Marshall's own personal correspondence leaves no hint that he was ever collecting statistics. His surviving field notebooks show no signs of statistical compilations that would have been necessary to deduce a ratio as precise as Marshall reported later in Men Against Fire. The "systematic collection of data" that made Marshall's ratio of fire so authoritative appears to have been an invention.

Bingo!

Posted by Nicholas at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

Untangling the legacy of Betty Friedan

Wendy McElroy takes some time to examine the differing interpretations of the legacy of the recently deceased feminist icon, Betty Friedan:

A starting point of consensus on Friedan is possible, even among extremes. She was a remarkable woman who deeply influenced the culture of her time. But for better or worse? — that's where battle engages.

Some of the 'facts' and assumptions about her life advanced in the eulogies demand closer examination.

Assumption One: Friedan was an apolitical housewife who had an 'aha' moment.

The New York Times sums up its eulogy with the observation that Friedan will "be forever known as the suburban housewife who started a revolution with The Feminine Mystique," her best-selling book published in 1963.

Although The Feminine Mystique capitalized upon, and thus acknowledged, Friedan's ivy-league education, it also presented her as a basically apolitical homemaker who stumbled across political truth through viewing her own domestic circumstances. This is myth.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

Bumpersnicker of the day

nsa.jpg
warfolly.net

Posted by Nicholas at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: The Subaltern

How to not completely fail as [a second lieutenant] (or, how to not be in the .5% that fail to be promoted to Captain):

If you think it is a good idea and your Platoon Sergeant thinks it is a bad idea, do the common sense check — ask a specialist. If the specialist agrees with the Platoon Sergeant, you were wrong. If the specialist agrees with you, you were definitely wrong and quite possibly were about to do something illegal.

"MP" at Fast Bunnies, 2006-01-29

Posted by Nicholas at 12:08 AM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2006

QotD: The Westminster System

Endowing the sovereignty of the nation in an absentee monarch — as Canada, Barbados, Belize, Tuvalu et al. do — is an even more exquisite variation on the Weil theory: vesting power in its literal rather than merely political absence. But the Westminster system depends on a Westminster disposition. And the disadvantage, as we've seen in Gomery Canada this last decade, is that, if you're prepared to drive a coach-and-horses through the polite conventions, there's nothing very much that can be done about it. As Lord Acton almost said, all power corrupts but Liberal power corrupts very liberally. And the Grits' big red machine was by no means the first to realize that the Marquess of Queensbury doesn't always stand up to biker-gang tactics. The British system worked in India and Grenada and New Zealand. It proved less resilient in Zimbabwe and Iraq.

Mark Steyn, "Pip, pip for the Brits — despite the blips", Macleans, 2006-02-07

Posted by Nicholas at 02:08 AM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2006

QotD: Canadian Politics

The problem with Canada over the last decade was that it was a one-party state. Having seen the arrogance and corruption built up due to that am I going to accept a one-party Conservative state? Give your head a shake. I want a functional democracy with honourable parties putting out well thought out alternative positions and debating them maturely. Yes, I am an idealist small d-democrat. No one side has a majority on the truth. I would love to actually have a hard choice deciding what party to vote for. I am not blindly partisan. Although you might have questioned that for the last, I don't know, year.

Greg Staples, "Wow!", Political Staples, 2006-02-06

Posted by Nicholas at 01:46 AM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2006

Garth Turner sticks to his guns

I've not really been a huge fan of former-and-now-current MP Garth Turner. This little post may make me change my mind:

This one MP came face-to-face with the party machine in a series of unhappy meetings including one tonight with the prime minister. I think it is now safe to say my career options within the Conservative caucus are seriously limited. If you would like a course on how not to be popular in Ottawa, then take a seat.

[. . .]

But, I arrived as the prime minister was appointing a floor-crossing Liberal and an unelected party official to his cabinet, which seemed to fly in the face of everything I had told voters about accountability and democracy. It also made me question the whole process, after eight months of knocking on doors to win my coveted seat in this magnificent stone building on the banks of the Rideau.

Going from door to door turns a politician into a democrat. At least, it did for me. By the time I got to Parliament Hill, I was infused with the spirit of a new era in government, sated on the belief we would see freedom reign in the Chamber and that the days of subjugation of MPs by the prime minster’s office were numbered. I had swallowed with gusto promises of more free votes, more powerful committees of free-thinking MPs, more listening to the voters, and an elected and responsible Senate.

[. . .]

Sure, I thought the appointment of those two ministers was questionable. And after stating many a time that Belinda Stronach should have sought a by-election after her defection, how could I not say the same obvious thing now? It was simple for my constitutents to understand, and simple for me. I did not seek the microphones out, but when they were under my nose and a clear question was asked, I gave a clear answer.

Everybody who makes up the government should be elected. They should be elected as members of the party that forms the government. Anybody who switches parties should go back to the people. To do otherwise is to place politicians above the people when, actually, it’s the other way around.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

More on the ethical side of healthcare

Another case where medical ethics, economics, and basic humanity all rumble for supremacy:

I somehow missed the culture war moment last month when it was reported that Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, Texas, disconnected a dying, uninsured cancer patient, Tirhas Habtegiris, from the ventilator that was keeping her alive. The 27-year-old abdominal cancer patient was conscious and did not wish to be disconnected because she hoped that her mother would arrive from Africa for one last visit before she died. The hospital warned the patient and her family that it would keep her on the ventilator for just 10 more days. Ms. Habtegiris died 16 minutes after the ventilator was shut off on December 14, 2005.

The hospital acted pursuant to a law passed in 1999 that allowed it to discontinue "inappropriate" medical care despite the wishes of a patient or the patient's family.

[. . .]

These left-leaning bloggers and commentators were in favor of leaving the ventilator on. Curiously, as far as I can tell, very few right-wingers and pro-lifers, who were in high dudgeon over the Terry Schiavo case, have commented on the Habtegiris case.

This horrible situation raises a number of hard questions. First, would the hospital have cut off the ventilator had Ms. Habtegiris had insurance to pay for it? The hospital insists that was not the issue, but one can't help wondering. A second harder question is what obligation do physicians, hospitals and the rest of us have to pay for the health care of others?

My impression of the controversy is that most left-wingers believe that every conscious patient should have as much medical care as they want regardless of the cost to the rest of us. On the other ideological hand, right-wingers seem confused. As the Terri Schiavo case showed many apparently want to offer unlimited medical care to brain-dead patients whose wishes are unknown or contested by family members. Meanwhile their silence in the Habtegiris case might be construed to mean that it's all right to make hard-headed decisions like denying medical care to conscious patients who are indigent.

There are no easy answers to these kinds of dilemmas: no obvious "right" answer that will satisfy everyone. Healthcare costs money . . . sometimes inconceivable amounts of money. Most of us don't have enough money to pay for all the healthcare we may need to consume over our lives, and most of us don't want to die prematurely.

If medical care was "free", there would never be enough of it to meet the demand. If medical care was priced to cover costs (setting aside the concept of profit for a moment), many poor, elderly, and those suffering from chronic conditions would not be able to afford to pay for their own needs. In most of the western world, healthcare is — to greater or lesser degree — socialized: the state pays some or all of the costs for most or all patients. The one who pays the piper gets to call the tune. This means that someone in the bureaucracy is going to be (at the very least) guiding the medical decisions on who gets what services.

As Ronald Baily writes, "As someone who is very conscious of his mortality, I joke with my friends that the whole U.S. gross domestic product should be spent keeping me alive when I fall ill." Most of us feel the same way — if not for ourselves, certainly for our loved ones.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:46 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Intolerance

Whenever [we criticize] a work of art, cartoon, movie or TV show, we are told that (a) we're the intolerant ones (b) what is offensive is in the eye of the beholder (c) art is supposed to make people uncomfortable (d) no one can criticize anything until they have seen it (e) protests have a 'chilling effect' on free speech (f) it's not real anyway, and (g) get over it. So why have Muslims been spared this lecture? Because the extremists in their ranks — and they are not a tiny minority — have shown they may respond with beheadings.

Bill Donohue, "Fear Guides Media Response to Cartoons", Catholic League news release, 2006-02-09

Posted by Nicholas at 12:02 AM | Comments (2)

February 09, 2006

Dan Savage interview

Dan Savage, sex columnist to the geeks, is interviewed in the current Onion A/V Club:

AVC: You use your column to advocate freedom, but that often seems to scare people. Historically, it seems like there's a real terror that other people might somehow get the freedom to do the things we ourselves don't want to do. Why do you think that is?

DS: Because Canada got the French and Australia got the convicts and we got the fuckin' batshit crazy Christians. And that matters. We're all lied to in high school — "The Pilgrims came here seeking religious freedom." No they didn't. They were the Puritans kicked out of England. They went to Holland, Holland was like "Fuck you people," and they kicked them out too, so they came here. They came here seeking the ability to persecute everybody else — and each other — for their religious beliefs. And we are living with the descendants of those nutjobs, and we have to fight them.

We also have to concede some things to them. There's a big mistake the left has made with talking to religious people, which is attempting to talk them out of their interpretations of the Bible, attempting to have theological debate with them. When I'm on right-wing whackjob radio, when people call up to inform me that I'm going to hell, I concede the point. [Laughs.] "I'm going to hell. Yes. Can you leave me alone now? Isn't that enough? Isn't punishment for all eternity enough? Do you have to screw with me here on Earth, too? Can't you just sit back content that I will roast on a spit in hell right next to Ronald Reagan, adulterer?" And often if you concede their theology and let them have their crackpot religious beliefs, you can make a little progress. The left has made a mistake trying to argue with religious people about their religious beliefs. They have a legitimate beef when it comes to thought police from the left getting up in their business and telling them how they should interpret Leviticus. Well, who gives a fuck how you interpret your fuckin' Grimm fairy tale?

Posted by Nicholas at 03:35 PM | Comments (1)

Medical ethics or cost-benefit analysis?

A brief news article in Canadian Press today illustrates the inevitable end of fully socialized medicine — allocating care only to those who follow medical orders:

A New Brunswick man has been told he has to butt out before doctors will perform the surgery he needs to get back on his feet.

Robert Randall, a fisherman from southeastern New Brunswick, says he has smoked for over 30 years. Randall says there's no way he can give up cigarettes prior to the surgery required to further repair his previously broken knee and leg.

[. . .]

Dr. Ruth Collins-Nakai, president of the Canadian Medical Association, says doctors understand addiction and would never deny care in an emergency situation. But she warns that when it comes to elective and non-urgent care, physicians may have to start saying no to patients with potentially dangerous lifestyle habits like smoking.

Or eating fatty foods. Or not exercising regularly. Or failing to go for regular checkups. Or pick your common human frailty.

As long as there's only one healthcare provider — the state — they get to set the conditions under which you'll be eligible for care. And there is never enough money or resources to provide all the care that is required. So, the healthcare bureaucracy will ration care, based on whatever criteria they think they can get away with.

Is anyone really surprised?

Posted by Nicholas at 03:10 PM | Comments (3)

QotD: Hockey Anagrams

I was playing with a new piece of anagram software today, plugging in the names of various National Hockey League teams. It began to dawn on me that, despite the best efforts of franchises like the Minnesota Wild, there isn't nearly enough poetic, surrealistic imagery in hockey. Rearranging the letters in the team names opens up a whole new imaginative universe to the hockey fan. You tell me — why would you cheer for the pedestrian New York Rangers when you could root for the Narrow Green Sky? You're already thinking of how beautiful the uniforms would be, am I right? And isn't it true that a much more evocative and accurate name for the Toronto Maple Leafs would be the Lame Forest Platoon? It summarizes their entire history perfectly, and you wouldn't even have to change the logo.

Colby Cosh, "Engages No Skills", ColbyCosh.com, 2006-02-04

Posted by Nicholas at 12:20 AM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2006

Flea-bait?

This is something I'd have expected to find referenced at Ghost of a Flea; it has all the necessary elements for passing the Flea-worthiness test (Japanese pop culture, media tie-in, and hilarious understatement):

Maid cafes dot Akihabara, which has become a second home for Tokyo's "otaku" — roughly translated as "geeks". They're known for their devotion to comics and computer games and can easily be identified by their standard outfit of track suit, knapsack and spectacles.

In the cafes, girls dressed in frilly frocks inspired by comic-book heroines wait hand and foot on customers, mostly male, who might have once been obsessed with naughty schoolgirls and nurses.

Emphasis added. "Might once have been", eh?

H/T to Fark.com, where the comments include a very funny image comparing Anime to real life.

Update: I should know better than to try to jump on a Flea topic before the Flea himself does. I am so PWNED.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:09 AM | Comments (3)

QotD: Chihuahuas

I was taking a intro to genetics class in college, the instructor was using canines as an example of differing morphology in a species. At one point he said "For example, the chihuahua was bred to fight rats", at which point I said "Yeah, and they took home war brides".

Patrick McKinnion, posted to the Bujold mailing list, 2006-02-03

Posted by Nicholas at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2006

More on body armour

A brief post on facial armour is summed up by a comment from Joe Katzman, of Winds of Change:

Obviously, these guys have NOT read the manual re: "The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord."

Item #1: "My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones."

RTFM, guys, RTFM . . .

The discussion in the extended comments thread is, by turns, interesting, amusing, and occasionally informative.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

Appeasement, circa 2006

Theodore Dalrymple, in City Journal,on the London protests against cartoons:

The weekend edition of Le Monde carried on its front page a startling photograph of a masked protester in London, holding up a placard demanding the death of those who insult Islam. Policemen flanked him on either side, as if protecting him from the vicious assaults of cartoonists.

Nothing could have captured better the cowardly and pusillanimous response of the British government to the crisis deliberately stirred up in many Muslim countries four months after the publication in a Danish newspaper of 12 cartoons depicting Muhammad (only one of which was remotely funny).

In condemning the cartoons, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, a man with all the qualities of Neville Chamberlain except his fundamental decency, attempted to curry favor with the Muslim world, or at least to avoid its wrath. Revealing the practical value of such appeasement is the way in which Muslims burned down the Danish consulates and embassies even after the Danes, with equal cowardice, had apologized. But at least the Danes have the excuse of being a very small nation indeed — although their country produces far more, oil excepted, than the whole Arab world put together.

What started as an attempt to raise awareness in one country, has recently ballooned to encompass most of the Islamic world . . . and the surprise "aggressor" is Denmark. Of all the western countries, Denmark would be among the least likely place for something like this to start, and the Danish government appears to have been taken unsuspecting as much as anyone else.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

Zerbisias versus Shaidle, round one

Antonia Zerbisias took some cheap shots at Kathy Shaidle in her Toronto Star column:

Toronto-based blogger Kathy Shaidle (a.k.a. Relapsed Catholic) whose religious politics would have easily qualified her as chief judge and bonfire builder during the Spanish Inquisition. The woman never misses an opportunity to insult Islam. And so, it was hardly surprising that, not only did she publish the offending cartoons, she giddily took up the torch and ran with it.

On Sunday she posted a Tom McMahon cartoon claiming that when it comes to skyscrapers Muslims "destroy" them, and when it comes to cartoons Muslims "riot about them" — as if this applies to every single Muslim every single minute.

Why she doesn't call her blog the Daily Auto Da Fe — for the public burning of heretics in Spain — is beyond me.

Kathy responded in this post, titled "The Daily Cougar: So Very Creative":

Funny for so many reasons.

Who are the actual "heretic burners" around today? Me, for publishing some cartoons, or . . . a bunch of crazy Muslims demanding that cartoonists get their hands chopped off?

And yes, I really am morally superior to people like that, thanks muchly.

[. . .]

The "every single Muslim every single minute" line is about the level of argumentation you'd expect from a kindergartener, not a professional journalist. I can just as easily and petulantly respond that I don't "blog about crazed Muslim terrorists and their welfare bum/crack dealer supporters every single minute of every single day" to prove her wrong. And that would be just as lame.

She — and remember, this is a salaried journalist at Canada's largest paper, who, on every other issue, like allowing Al-Jazeera on Canadian tv, is all for free speech — explains that publishing the cartoons in North American papers "was not necessary to understanding the story. As many editors have explained, merely describing the cartoons is sufficient for making the point."

The gloves are definitely off in this fight. It's probably going to get much, much more violent after this exchange. Stay tuned, fight fans!

H/T to NealeNews for the URL to Zerbisias' column.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:03 PM | Comments (3)

Tarantino wields words like blunt objects

. . . but in a good way:

[I]t's these sorts of big stakes gambles that everybody, including me, has thus far doubted Harper's ability to win — and been consistently proven wrong. That sound you heard today? (you mean the grinding screech as the CPC slid from the moral high ground? no, the other one, the thud) That was the sound of Harper pulling it out and laying it on the table.

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:53 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Defending Western Civilization

A democracy cannot survive long without freedom of expression, the freedom to argue, to dissent, even to insult and offend. It is a freedom sorely lacking in the Islamic world, and without it Islam will remain unassailed in its dogmatic, fanatical, medieval fortress; ossified, totalitarian and intolerant. Without this fundamental freedom, Islam will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality, originality and truth.

Unless we show some solidarity, unashamed, noisy, public solidarity with the Danish cartoonists, then the forces that are trying to impose on the free West a totalitarian ideology will have won; the Islamisation of Europe will have begun in earnest.

Ibn Warraq, "The Islamisation of Europe must be vigorously opposed", The Australian (originally published in Der Spiegel), 2006-02-06

Posted by Nicholas at 01:02 AM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2006

Support Freedom

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Image courtesy of the Dissident Frogman

Jon's off sick today, but tomorrow, we're talking about finding a pub around here that serves Tuborg . . .

Update: Kate helpfully provides a list of Danish products you may wish to consider purchasing.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:53 PM | Comments (4)

Harper's new cabinet

Stephen Harper has been sworn in as Canada's new prime minister. Among his new cabinet team was a surprise addition: David Emerson, former Liberal minister of Industry:

Former Liberal industry minister David Emerson will cross the floor and sit in the Conservative cabinet.

Stunned onlookers barely had a chance to ask a question of the Vancouver MP and former head of lumber giant Canfor as he strolled into Rideau Hall shortly before the Tory cabinet was being announced. Pinching Emerson might be seen as Conservative retribution for the defection of Belinda Stronach, who went from being a Tory leadership candidate to a Liberal cabinet minister in about a year.

Several Conservatives responded by demanding laws forcing floor-crossers to go back to the electorate for another mandate.

I think Harper has made his first mistake here: the "several conservatives" are right. Anyone crossing the floor should be required to at the very least observe a decent waiting period before being allowed to take a cabinet position, and there certainly is a case for some form of formal consultation with the electors in the riding the MP represents (although I don't think a full by-election is called for).

The new cabinet is much smaller than the last one: 27 members to the 39 of Paul Martin. My local MP, Jim Flaherty, is the new minister of Finance, which is a safe call . . . he did well as Ontario Finance minister. Peter McKay is the new Foreign Affairs minister (I'd expected Stockwell Day in that post), and Gordon O'Connor is the new Defence minister (which is potentially troublesome . . . see Damian Brooks for more info).

The full list of cabinet members is available from Canadian Press.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:02 AM | Comments (8)

The latest raising of the Red Ensign

The Standard has been raised at the Phantom Observer. Go see what the members of the Brigade have been writing about over the last few weeks.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:03 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Craftsmanship

One of the best things about traveling in Europe is the opportunity to go to small local museums and see everyday objects from nearby archaeological digs, often "rescue digs" in advance of construction. I was delighted to see many pieces that looked as if they had been made by someone using only their feet! Ah-HAH! [. . .] a very large proportion of the stuff dug up is actually very shoddy. It's only surprising because we have been conditioned to expect what we see in museums — invariably the best examples, because the everyday crap got used up and thrown out.

Tim Bray, posting to the Medieval Sawdust group on Yahoo, 2006-01-31

Posted by Nicholas at 12:05 AM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2006

QotD: Superbowl Half-time show

ABC will apparently tape-delay this year's Super Bowl halftime show, fearing any futher "wardrobe malfunctions." Given that this year's halftime entertainment is the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin, I would think that football fans the world over would applaud in appreciation.

Radley Balko, "Halftime Hijinx", The Agitator, 2006-02-03

Posted by Nicholas at 01:05 AM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2006

QotD: Artistic Freedom

[T]he ability to apply criticism and ridicule are the basic rights of anyone living in a western democracy. As a society we should expect citizens and artists alike to apply a measure of good taste. It is very hard to argue that the Jyllands-Posten's cartoons were offensive, but a case could be made that Serrano's "Piss Christ" was testing the limits of that somewhat arbitrary 'taste measure'. But we didn't kill Serrano, we didn't destroy his career, we didn't ask him for damages and a rectification, no, we debated it and we are still debating it today, twenty years on. That's freedom, that's democracy.

Pieter Dorsman, "Danish Boycott, Christ and Freedom", Peaktalk, 2006-01-31

Posted by Nicholas at 12:14 AM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2006

Wishful thinking, unfortunately

In a well-written post at Samizdata, a guest blogger points out what is obvious to most of us (who don't publish North American newspapers, anyway):

No one can insult me or offend me unless I choose to be insulted or offended. In denying that, I deny my own power over myself. I understand that people may not have arrived at that understanding, but since I have it, I cannot in good conscience withdraw my own free expression when no hurt was intended.

Did all these politicians and pundits not learn this very basic lesson when they were five and got upset at a hurtful remark in the playground, and their teachers told them, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me"...?

Unfortunately, as many of the comments on the post point out, this works well only if you are dealing with similarly reasonable opponents. This situation will likely get much worse before it calms down, and it's going to be a very useful proxy for so many other issues. The problem is that, rather than the situation resolving itself as the original post hopes:

Then let it drop and let the fire burn itself out. It is called "agreeing to disagree" and is the very manifestation of treating everyone with equal respect.

. . . the situation is not going to be allowed to fade away. Silly as it might seem, the cartoons may have been the line in the sand for Europe and the Islamic world. If the European Union or the individual national governments fall over themselves to apologize and promise to squelch such potentially offensive publications in future, they're sacrificing much of what made western civilization possible at all.

In some ways, I've been heartened to find that not all newspaper and media outlets are backing away from the issue . . . especially in Europe and in Jordan. If it becomes impossible to say anything that might inflame or insult an easily inflamed or insulted group, it very quickly turns into a tool for that group to control more and more of what can be said.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:10 PM | Comments (3)

Amusing photoshop/biology experiments

I visit Fark.com every now and again, partly to see the latest zaniness in the Photoshop threads. Here are some non-Fark photoshop entries (featuring few, if any, of the typical lazy Fark 'shop efforts):

Hat tip to Lois McMaster Bujold, who sent the link to her eponymous list.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)

Replacing the Browning High Power?

An article in the Regina Leader Post implies that yet another piece of equipment in current use by the Canadian troops in Afghanistan needs to be replaced:

Canadian soldiers embarked on the country's largest combat mission since the Korean War are using handguns that date back even further — to the Second World War.

The nine-millimetre Browning High Power, which serves as the soldiers' "weapon of last resort" in southern Afghanistan, has been in service with the Canadian military since 1937 and the average Browning — commonly known as the "nine-mill" — now being used by the troops is 63 years old, according to Canadian Forces small-arms experts.

Major Gary Vassbotn, the army's section head for small arms, said the Browning was adopted as a sidearm in 1937 and the last pistol was produced by John Inglis & Co. in 1944. But while the handguns may be old, he said they are in excellent condition.

Jon sent me this link and asked for my comments. I can hardly call myself an expert on handguns, although I had some experience with the Browning, and didn't think it was that bad a weapon . . . of course, that was nearly thirty years ago.

In typical range conditions, I didn't find the weapon prone to jamming, but the range conditions I encountered were significantly less dusty than the environment the troops are dealing with now. I'd suspect an ammunition issue before I'd look to the design of the weapon itself, given the long service life the Browning has had in the Canadian Forces. To be fair, I never fired the weapon outside the range, so I can't say whether it was a good or bad combat piece: we always used to joke about throwing the pistol after firing off all the rounds in the magazine (because the enemy would be close enough to hit by then). American commentators have often dismissed the 9mm cartridge as being too light for the job (most preferring the .45 ACP instead).

I did find the Browning to be less accurate (okay, I was less accurate firing the weapon), but I haven't fired enough handguns to determine if that's typical of the Browning or not. The most accurate handgun I ever played with was a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver. That was a sweet, sweet target piece.

Update: Jon also sent a link to an older post by Kim du Toit, who also liked the Browning.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

A fond farewell

Kate at SDA sets aside political differences to wish a fond farewell to the man who . . .

[. . .] more than any other, set into motion the policies that pulled a debt-ridden Canadian government balance sheet out of the red and set us on the road to reducing the national debt.

His policies were responsible for the sustained economic growth we've enjoyed and the historically low levels of Canadian unemployment for much of these past 12 years.

He has helped Canadians make Canada prosperous.

Hat tip to Jon, for calling this post to my attention.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:28 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Authenticity

[I]n an age when professional writers write autobiographies for celebrities and personal heartwarming anecdotes for political candidates and stilted dialogue for reality TV shows, it seems a bit picky to insist they eschew the gravy train of the bestselling memoir just because they didn't personally experience the events they're writing about. The memoir industry may be approaching the condition of the Australian art business, where so many fashionably primitive Aboriginal female painters were unmasked as wily male Caucasian opportunists they passed a law making it a crime to claim falsely to be a native person.

Mark Steyn, "Why should he have to live what he writes?", Macleans, 2006-01-30

Posted by Nicholas at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2006

Natalie Solent goes all out for freedom of speech

Posting over at Samizdata, Natalie Solent writes

I am fully aware that the disclosure I am about to write may cause outrage even among people who think of themselves as absolutists when it comes to free speech. I must apologise in advance to Perry and the others who have extended me the hospitality of this site for what may seem to be an abuse of it. I realise that there are some people who may think that, having said in public what I am about to say, they can never associate with me again. Forgive me. I feel I have to say this.

The rest is in the extended entry. Don't click if you're easily disturbed.

Don't say I didn't warn you:

"Mornington Crescent" is not a real game. The rules and strategies you hear quoted by players are made up on the spot. Its only purpose is to have a laugh at the expense of those not in the know.

There.

The secret is out now.

More (much more) information can be gleaned here, here, and especially here.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)

Trading one problem for another?

Jon sent along a link to this article by Robert Zubrin (h/t to Instapundit), which Jon sums up this way:

However, we'll be in the same place we are now in a century: instead of being held hostage by oil producing countries, we'll be held hostage by the countries from which we import the biomass to make the alcohol.

[. . .]

What's the difference? Petroleum oil or flax seed oil — as long as you're relying on the third world for the lifeblood of your civilization, you're doomed.

Doomed!

Posted by Nicholas at 11:23 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Americans and drugs

The typical American — and just about every journalist I've ever asked — has already tried marijuana at least once before the age of 25, according to the government's National Survey on Drug Use and Health. What's more, despite 35 years and billions of dollars' worth of taxpayer-financed propaganda to the contrary, most of those who've inhaled didn't collapse through the "gateway" into desperate heroin addiction or "Traffic"-style sex slavery. George W. Bush turned out all right (at least on paper), as did Al Gore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Walton, Michael Bloomberg and millions more.

Matt Welch, "His cup runneth over with annoyance", LA Times, 2006-01-29

Posted by Nicholas at 08:28 AM | Comments (1)

February 01, 2006

Former Vikings head coach hired by Jacksonville

Mike Tice, former Minnesota Vikings head coach, has been taken on to Jack Del Rio's staff as assistant Head Coach:

Del Rio said Tice will work on the offensive side of the ball.

"Over the last 10 years, Mike has been a major contributor to some very productive offenses," Del Rio said in a statement. "Mike brings toughness, experience and passion. He will certainly be a tremendous asset to me and our offensive staff as we continue our pursuit of a championship."

Tice was 33-34 after four seasons in Minnesota, and his final year was an embarrassing one. He was fined $100,000 by the league for scalping his Super Bowl tickets, and the team was involved in a scandalous boat party that resulted in charges against four players.

He was fired Jan. 1 after the Vikings finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs.

I'm glad to see that Mike Tice is still employable in the NFL: I don't believe that most of the problems the team had during his tenure were completely his fault (the cheapest SOB in professional sports as team owner was a much bigger factor).

Posted by Nicholas at 04:03 PM | Comments (0)

Radley Balko sinks to a new low

In a quick-hit post, wrapping up several unrelated items, Radley Balko commits a terrible joke:

Here's a prosecutor who's enthusiastic about his work:

      

During his closing argument, prosecutor Robert Nelson re-enacted the bondage session that allegedly killed Michael Lord, 53, of North Hampton, N.H., in July 2000.

Donning a leather mask and speaking to the jury through the zippered mouth, he said Lord flailed about and died while strapped to the rack in a makeshift "dungeon" in Asher's Quincy condominium.

[...]

The prosecutor pointed and hollered at Asher. He dumped a box full of hoods, collars, and paddles onto a table, and proclaimed that Asher was trying to protect her business.

"That's why she didn't call the police," he said.

With both hands, he reached back and clutched the top of a blackboard to simulate Lord being strapped to the rack.

He paused as his head hung forward as if to simulate Lord's alleged death.

      

The defendant . . . um . . . got off.

Sorry.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Canada in 2006

Canada remains in 2006 largely what it was in 2005 — a country where cigarettes are taxed 300% to 400% but heroin is free to addicts; where gay widowers have an easier time obtaining their pension entitlements than World War II veterans; and where a woman can go topless in public unless she has hate literature tattooed on her breasts.

Colby Cosh, "The great right North?", L.A. Times, 2006-01-27

Posted by Nicholas at 01:40 AM | Comments (2)


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