Thursday, May 03, 2007
Canadian Press Spreads Lies
A Question of Survival and of Low Hanging Fruit
Furthermore their threats that it is environment or the economy is simply wrong. Canada is the most energy inefficient country in the world. We are wasteful compared to the other developed countries. This means we have not yet taken the easy steps towards a more efficient economy. Guess what happens when we do? We get a booming economy, because our productivity increases. That is what efficiency does. Especially when we can get good of the shelf technologies that can easily drop our energy consumption by 25%. We still haven't done the easy steps, we haven't picked the low hanging fruit.
We need to do this for our survival and we will benefit from doing it. Why then are our leaders trying to make us fear these necessary steps?
Nota Bene: Dave at the Galloping Beaver has taken a blast at Jim Baird. It is what inspired me to take a shot at them as well. Here is the money quote:
I do not care about recessions and economic loss. We have survived them in the past. If you happen to find you cannot adapt our growth based economic system or your political ideology to climate change, FIND A NEW FUCKING SYSTEM [hint: there are many experts in alternative systems that can help you; academia is full of people who study these things]. I do not care if this means I can no longer drive a car. I do not care if this means I must plant crops on my lawn, or give up single malt Scotch (well, that’ll hurt a bit, but given a choice, I’d go with, you know, life), or move across the country, or pay more taxes, or take the train, or whatever. Sacrifices are necessary.
Quote and Comment
Senator Jim Webb
When Harry Reid made his comment that America was losing the Iraq war, the Right wing media jumped on him. He would probably have been destroyed politically if he was not so completely and obviously right. The some in the liberal blogosphere realized that calling the conflict in Iraq a war plays into the right's talking points. However, the word occupation is both more accurate and loaded with lots and lots of negative connotations. What is interesting is how quickly Jim Webb has picked up on the term. Watch it become the Democrats's new talking point on Iraq.
As a further side note. It is interesting how Jim Webb has become one of the democrats leading spokesmen, given that he is a former Reagan official.
Are the Drug Laws Making Pot Stronger?
It's been a long time since I was a pothead, but in the old days a lot of us assumed that pot was getting stronger as a direct result of the drug laws. The penalties are based on weight, not on the amount of THC in the pot. So if you can get more bang out of a certain mass of weed, you're better off.
When I was smoking we were mildly cognizant of the line between simple posession and intent to deliver. I think that you get charged with the latter for a few reasons - if you had your weed divided into a number of plastic bags, or whatever. But there was also a weight limit. If you had more than such and such an amount, it was intent to deliver.
If alcohol were illegal, and the penalties were based on the fluid volume of the booze, no one would drink beer. It wouldn't make any sense.
America's Great Leap Left
One of the goals of the Bush administration was to make the Republicans into the permanent ruling party in America. This has backfired spectacularly. Today, the Democrats enjoy a 30 point lead over the Republicans among the under 30's. Given that that is the age when most people form their life long political affiliations, the democrats have gained an electoral advantage over Republicans that can last a generation.
This has happened before. The Great Depression happened under a Republican President, Herbert Hoover, and it haunted the Republican's for a generation. George Will recently commented on this:
[It] took 30, 40 years for the Republican Party to get out from under Herbert Hoover. People would say, "Are you going to vote for Nixon in '60?" "No, I don't like Hoover."
Further more the Democrats are stronger then the republicans on the issues that the younger voters care about. In particular, Republicans have been obstructing any attempts to tackle Climate Change, which is the hot button issue for younger voters. Should the Democrats forcefully seize this issue, younger voters will be thanking them for the next 40 years.
Even the older voters may be up for grabs as well. Health care costs are ballooning to the point that the median American household is being hurt financially by regular health care costs, let alone the costs of major emergencies. This effect is being felt across all of middle America and is fuelling a middle class revolt. Should the Democrats seize this issue, they can also expect to own the support of the Baby Boomers for at least a decade.
All of this suggests a sustain shift away from the conservative politics that has dominated America since Ronald Reagan was elected. The rest of the world is looking forward to the return of a sane America. It is about time.
America's Army Losing Able Soldiers Do to Bigotry
This only further confirms that the problem of bigotry towards atheists in the Army is a systemic one. The Army not only looks the other way when officers and supposed leaders disparage soldiers because they lack a belief in the supernatural, the Army systematically ignores formal EO complaints by atheists and refuses to enforce its own regulations. Now, being the efficient machine it is, the Army is training its EO reps to ignore legitimate EO complaints by atheists at the lowest possible level. I am so glad I submitted my resignation as an officer. The Army has disgraced itself by protecting bigots and allowing unlawful discrimination to continue.
Gonzales Can be Impeached
Article II of the Constitution grants Congress the power to impeach “the president, the vice president and all civil officers of the United States.” The phrase “civil officers” includes the members of the cabinet (one of whom, Secretary of War William Belknap, was impeached in 1876).
Essentially any government officer can be impeached by congress. This could include a mail clerk from Elk Horn, North Dakota, but in practice it serves as a way for congress to assert its oversight over the executive.
The question is, will public pressure build in time to nail these bushite buggers before the next election?
If you think that it is unnecessary to impeach them now given that there is less then two years left in their mandate. Please remember that if they are being impeached then they are going to be occupied and their ability to commit mischief will be largely curtailed.
Secondly, impeachment sends a message to the world, "Bush is not representative of us. We actually think he is evil. Sorry, it took us this long to get him." This is a valuable message to send and will accelerate the rehabilitation of America's international reputation.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Quote and Comment
It is not a "moral compromise" to shoot an enemy combatant in wartime. It is just, assuming a just war. However, the mass slaughter of civilians that Barnett cites aboves is not "justifiable". It too is not a moral compromise. It is simply and solely evil: a "crime against man and God" according to the Church. Barnett is calling a largely religious and prolife readership to enthusiastically accept grave evil. He is, in short, a false prophet,
I agree with the sentiment expressed in this quote but I have a concern with the opening:
It is not a "moral compromise" to shoot an enemy combatant in wartime. It is just, assuming a just war.
To draw upon John Robb and especially Rupert Smith, we have entered a time where most wars are wars of choice and not wars of survival. A war of survival permits greater violence and greater error in the application of that violence. A war of choice are much less likely to be just and are much more likely to land in shades of moral greyness. It is possible to be fighting more than war in the same space and time, with one being just and the other not. The Afghan War provides us with an example. Consider an insurgent whose goal is to driven NATO from Afghanistan, she is fighting for national liberation and possibly also against the corruption of the Kabul government. Her cause would, arguably be just. The NATO soldier who is hunting the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces behind the 9/11 attacks is also engaged in a just war. Is it just for the NATO soldier to kill the liberator? This assumes that the liberator is not a member of either the Taliban or Al Qaeda.
It is morally grey and hinges upon status of the occupying forces and the legitimacy of the Afghan government.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
When are you dead?
Consider someone who has just died of a heart attack. His organs are intact, he hasn't lost blood. All that's happened is his heart has stopped beating—the definition of "clinical death"—and his brain has shut down to conserve oxygen. But what has actually died?Interesting question when you think about it. What is death? The religous answer, "When the soul leaves the body." is completely useless in this regard. The obvious scientific answer is that the cells in the body have died. A logical answer and in the case of heart attack victims a wrong answer (at least initally).
What they saw amazed them, according to Dr. Lance Becker, an authority on emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "After one hour," he says, "we couldn't see evidence the cells had died. We thought we'd done something wrong." In fact, cells cut off from their blood supply died only hours later.If conventional wisdom is wrong, then what is the actual cause of death?
Because once the cells have been without oxygen for more than five minutes, they die when their oxygen supply is resumed.At this point I remembered just how bad some science journalists can be so I did a little digging and I found the press release. It started to give actual numbers.
When cells are deprived of oxygen for an hour there is only 4% cell death. After four hours, cell death is only around 16%. Both of these numbers are low. The amazing thing was once we re-introduced oxygen to the cells they died off rapidly to almost 60% cell death.The obvious approach then is to find a way to restart people's hearts that does not include a massive flood of oxygen to the system. The approach they were taking consists of cooling the patient to provide a slower start to their metabolism. Even though this type of treatment is only in its infancy it already has seen a respectable impact:
Immediate cooling cardiac arrest victims increased their survival by 16%. That’s a very significant improvement which could mean thousands of lives saved each year as we get faster and better at cooling patients.The doctors behind the study were not expecting this type of result. Their goals were much less ambitious:
“If I can get a cardiac arrest patient in front of me within five minutes, I have a good chance of saving them,” said Becker. “But the chances of that are slim due to the average response time of Emergency Medical Services, which tend to take between 10-20 minutes to get you to a hospital. The thrust of my work is to take that five minutes and stretch it into 15 minutes.”
Equal Marriage: Anything Less is Just Evil
I remember a story told by a friend during the plague years. He was visiting a dying friend in hospital and a couple of beds down the ward from his friend, the curtains were drawn around a patient. From behind the curtains, he could hear a man softly singing a show-tune. "Well, at least that guy's keeping his spirits up," my friend remarked. "Actually," his dying friend replied, "the man in that bed died this morning and was taken away by his family. That's his boyfriend. The family won't let him go to the funeral or ever see his spouse's body again. They've kicked him out of their apartment. It wasn't his name on the lease. So he's just sitting there, singing their favorite song to an empty bed. It's the last time he'll get that close to his husband. The nurses didn't have the heart to tell him to leave yet. He's been there for hours."
This is the type of story that makes me want to put my fist thought the wall.
Dinner Party in the Sky
I have a restaurant idea for you. Lets serve people food 50 m off the ground with no floor or walls. Good idea, yes.
As you can see from the photo, this already exists.
Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) revised the much publicized statements he made yesterday and told National Public Radio late on Monday afternoon that impeaching President George W. Bush was "on the table."
"I'm just saying that's one of the options that Congress has on the table, I'm getting more and more calls from the public about impeachment," the long-time Congressman
Climate Change and Government Lies
This article looks at the level of climate change that governments say that they are willing to accept and compares it to the level of CO2 that they are trying to reach. There is a big gap between the two. Big like an melting ice sheet.
This isn’t easy to follow, but please bear with me, as you cannot understand the world’s most important issue without grappling with some numbers. The average global temperature is affected by the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This concentration is usually expressed as “carbon dioxide equivalent”. It is not an exact science – you cannot say that a certain concentration of gases will lead to a precise increase in temperature – but scientists discuss the relationship in terms of probability. A paper published last year by the climatologist Malte Meinshausen suggests that if greenhouse gases reach a concentration of 550 parts per million, carbon dioxide equivalent, there is a 63-99% chance (with an average value of 82%) that global warming will exceed two degrees(5). At 475 parts the average likelihood is 64%. Only if concentrations are stabilised at 400 parts or below is there a low chance (an average of 28%) that temperatures will rise by over two degrees.
The IPCC’s draft report contains similar figures. A concentration of 510 parts per million (ppm) gives us a 33% chance of preventing more than two degrees of warming(6). A concentration of 590ppm gives us a 10% chance(7). You begin to understand the scale of the challenge when you discover that the current level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (using the IPCC’s formula) is 459ppm(8). We have already exceeded the safe level. To give ourselves a high chance of preventing dangerous climate change, we will need a programme so drastic that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere end up below the current concentrations. The sooner this happens, the greater the chance of preventing two degrees of warming.
But no government has set itself this task. The European Union and the Swedish government have established the world’s most stringent target. It is 550ppm, which gives us a near certainty of an extra 2°C. The British government makes use of a clever conjuring trick. Its target is also “550 parts per million”, but 550 parts of carbon dioxide alone. When you include the other greenhouse gases, this translates into 666ppm carbon dioxide equivalent (a fitting figure)(9). According to the Stern Report, at 650ppm there is a 60 – 95% chance of 3°C of warming(10). The government’s target, in other words, commits us to a very dangerous level of climate change.
To quote Mike Dunbar, "Time to get into the business of adaptation"
World Wide Asset Bubble Redux
Mr. Dodge indicated he was more concerned about the global liquidity glut and its fuelling of takeover activity by private-equity funds.
Private equity pools and hedge funds "seem to have an inexhaustible supply" of liquidity behind them, driving a trend to "take companies out of the public domain," Mr. Dodge said.
A glut of liquidity will tend to drive the up the price of real assets. Raghuram G. Rajan explained this in a speech in indonesia:
The mismatch between unabated global desired savings and lower realized investment, between the amounts available for finance and the flow of hard assets to absorb it, has led to a liquidity glut which has pushed long term real interest rates the world over lower. This has spilt over into markets for existing real and financial assets — real estate, high-risk credit, private equity, art, commodities, etc — pushing prices higher. Indeed, casual empiricism suggests that the most illiquid markets, where typically there are few transactions, and small infusions of liquidity can have substantial effect, have been pushed the highest.Shorter version: Assets prices rise when there is too much money around. Sounds like this talk of a a global economic bubble sounds a bit more real.
Here is another example:
Worldwide, an abundance of liquidity has lured investors into riskier assets in search of higher returns. Though there is no agreement on how to measure liquidity, using the global supply of dollars as a proxy, The Economist estimates that in the past four years it has risen by an annual average of 18%, probably the fastest pace ever.And Alan Greenspan has also warned of it.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned on Wednesday a global glut in liquidity would result in a fall in asset prices. Greenspan, speaking to a financial conference in Seoul via satellite, ... said the market value of assets worldwide had been rising faster than nominal gross domestic product globally due to a decline in real long-term interest rates over the years and a significant fall in real equity premiums.
“A good part of this expansion is a direct function of the decline in real equity premiums,” Greenspan said. “That cannot go on indefinitely.” He said asset prices would begin to fall, but did not predict when that would happen. “I am reasonably certain that what we are looking at today is an abnormal situation,” he said...
Conclusion: We are in an asset price bubble so big and so broad that we could the forest for the trees.
Shorter Conclusion: Oh Shit.
Rise of the Loonie
It seems I may be on to something. The Globe and Mail had an article today about the rise of maple bonds (Bonds issued in Canadian dollar). It notes that Canada has a number of factors that favour it:
Canada's supremacy as the capital market of choice for companies as diverse as New Zealand's Telecom Corp. and Iceland's Kaupthing Bank has a lot to do with the federal government's obsession with balanced budgets, some of the lowest interest rates available anywhere, a sinking currency against the euro and a two-year-old law that lets pension funds own as much foreign debt as they want without a tax penalty.
Now the total is still much smaller than debt issued in American dollars, But the growth rate is large.
While the $21.3-billion of so-called Maple bonds represent 10 per cent of the Yankee debt sold by international issuers in the United States last year, the Canadian market is growing twice as fast and may exceed $50-billion in 2007.
This is a trend that will be worth following.
A Great Documentary
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Monday, April 30, 2007
America's Two Economies
My sense is if you make a half a million a year or more, you're feeling pretty good about how things are going. You're benefitting from higher worker productivity and lower costs for the companies you hold stock in, and your portfolio's soaring. So you're able to shop at Neiman-Marcus and Tiffany's. We depend on you to keep those consumer spending numbers high. You haven't noticed that eggs are more precious than hens teeth, and that onions now top a dollar a pound. You don't lay awake at night wondering how you're going to afford to send your kids to college. Even if Junior is a delinquent and flunking out of his third private high school, you know you'll find a college somewhere that'll take him, because you can afford the full load of tuition and room and board.
On the other hand, the rest of you aren't so happy. You're the worker being squeezed to support that growth in corporate productivity, so you're being worked harder and longer for the same pay (if you're lucky). And, what with groceries and gas going through the roof, and the value of your house declining, you're probably losing ground in your long term financial planning. You've been priced out of the market of sending your kids to a private college unless you hand over the keys to your house and the account number of your 401(k). So you stay on top of your kids to make sure they can compete academically and get admitted to a good public university. You shop at Marshalls or TJ Maxx, and yes, those hackers have your credit card number. Let's not even talk about how much you're spending on health care. We used to call you middle class.
Notice all the references to inflationary effects: "groceries and gas going through the roof" and "You haven't noticed that eggs are more precious than hens teeth, and that onions now top a dollar a pound." This is what we call bad news. I had stumbled across an article that was suggesting that America's official inflation numbers were created using Enron style accounting. I suspect that real consumer inflation is a bit higher that the official numbers.
This is the type of thing that makes people angry and desperate. I remember 1993 election here in Canada were Jean Chretien didn't not have much of a plan for running Canada but he did offer hope. People grabbed that hope with both hands and swept the Liberals to power. It was a middle class revolt. That is what is brewing in America: a middle class revolt.
Another Reason to Like Turkey
I wish this would happen south of the 49th.
Police said more than 1 million people rallied in Istanbul on Sunday in defence of Turkey's secular system and against the military's threat of intervention amid a political crisis over presidential elections.
"Turkey is secular and will stay that way," chanted the protestors, who carried Turkish flags and portraits of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
"We want neither Sharia, nor a coup, but a fully democratic Turkey," they said.
The crowd also called for the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist-rooted government which many accuse of raising tensions over presidential elections.
A Prince and a Jaguar
A few nights after he resigned his post as secretary of state two years ago, Colin L. Powell answered a ring at his front door. Standing outside was Prince Bandar, then Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, with a 1995 Jaguar. Mr. Powell’s wife, Alma, had once mentioned that she missed their 1995 Jaguar, which she and her husband had traded in. Prince Bandar had filed that information away, and presented the Powells that night with an identical, 10-year-old model. The Powells kept the car — a gift that the State Department said was legal — but recently traded it away.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Freedom doesn't mean what you think it does.
Christian Americans talk a lot about preserving their freedoms. Now, over the centuries in America, more than a few of them have declared that the mere existence of other beliefs infringes on their freedom -- that is, their freedom to inflict violence and terror on the "unbelievers." Somewhat sensibly, however, the law has generally recognized that our freedoms do not include the right to take away others' freedoms at will.
Putin From Inside
While Russian law bars Putin from seeking a third term, he is so popular at home that many Russians would relax the rules to allow him to seek a third term. He has said that he intends to step down, though Russia watchers speculate that he will land in a position that keeps him close to the center of power...
"I think the Russian people would support Putin staying in power indefinitely," says Dmitri Trenin, deputy director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Moscow Center. "If you look at the way people live today compared with when he came to power, they will say that living standards are twice as high. More importantly, there's a sense of stability that has replaced the chaos of the 1990s. They will also say that Putin has restored some pride and respect for Russia abroad."
Why is the West Uniting a Muslim Nation?
The smarter of the these pundits will point to the concept of the clash of civilizations put forward by Samuel Huntington. The short description version of Huntington's thesis is as follows:
It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.
One of the main problem of this approach is that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Muslim dominated world is very heterogeneous. There are deep divisions in this cultural group (Not the least being the divide between Sunni and Shia that most Bush Administration officials still don't understand). In fact one of the only things that unities all members of this religious-ethnic group is attacks upon the group by xenophobic Westerners.
Consider for a moment what may be the most emblematic example of tendency: the French Muslim youth. If you are born in a country to citizens of that country then you should be a full participate in the society of that country. This is most definitely not true of french youth of Muslim decent. They are deeply alienated from french society by a number of cultural and political attacks upon their community. Try to imagine living in a society to into which you were born rejecting you as an outsider, a foreigner. Imagine how that would rot your soul. Are you now surprised when french youth of Muslim decent gather around an identity of being Muslim. If you are thrown into a group against your will, that group will become a voice for the common grievance of rejection.
This is true for all Muslims. By attacking them for being Muslims, we are creating an identity of being oppressed for being Muslim. This identity and the grievance that goes with it becomes a rallying point for the large number of disaffected youth in the Islamic world. The question really becomes what sort of leader is going to use this identity as a base for their rise to power? There is one person already that is trying to do this: Osama bin Laden. In fact his attacks on the West have been in part to cause the West to attack Muslims and build the identity of victims of of an overbearing imperial West.
One of the great things about living in the West is the diversity. It doesn't matter whether it is diversity of thought, diversity of lifestyle, or diversity of religion. Why not then make diversity be one of our tools in this conflict we are facing. Lets stop building Bin Laden's Caliphate and instead start supporting those people who wish to have the autonomy to live their lives as they see fit. Osama's vision is only compelling to those who either wish to see or are forced to see the Muslim world as monolith. Let us not enter this struggle on his terms. Let us reveal the diversity of the Muslim world and show the world how false Bin Laden's vision is.
Two recent examples: here and here.
This Picture Cost a Student Her Degree
Millerville University has decided that this photo, posted on MySpace promotes underage drinking and therefore Stacy Snyder should not get her degree in education.
What The Fuck?!
And this is their business, how?
It is her life to live not theirs. No to mention that drinking alcohol is completely fucking legal. They are trying to block her career, her vocation, her deepest profession desire, because she has done something she is allowed to do?
What fucking busybodies!
This incident does serve to illustrate one of Sara Robinson's points in her brilliant essay series on authoritarian personalities. That the authoritarians are nosy, always looking into other peoples lives. Their communities are kept in line because of their willingness to gather information about each other and to judge each other.
Stacy Snyder's story makes me think that she has encountered an authoritarian christian of some sort.
Go West, There is Oil In There Plains
Go west in the great Canada oil rush of '07It is from a Guardian article about a ad campaign to recruit workers for Alberta.
[Canada]* has launched a campaign to attract 100,000 new citizens in an appeal reminiscent of the great colonial migrations of the middle of the 20th century.
Canada is the only developed country with a mass immigration policy. Imagine politicians in the States or Europe pushing a policy like this. And then try to imagine that the local media not caring about this story. That is Canada for you, the most pro-immigrant country in the world.
Workers and their families from scientists and machinists to doctors and carers are being urged to move to the province of Alberta to help cope with the demand for jobs fuelled by the oil boom. Canada already takes in about 250,000 immigrants a year - about 1 per cent of the population - but the opening of massive oil sands in the western province means that even that boost cannot meet surging demand for specialist and support jobs.
* spelling mistake in the Guardian