January 29, 2005
Politics: That's Three
As if the two were compatible.
He'd been given $10,000 to promote the white house's marriage initiatives. Three major incidences of payola revealed inside a month. If there is anyone left who still believes they somehow Republicans are morally superior to Democrats in any way, shape or form, then they're living in a freakin' bubble, and the only channel is FOX. Well, it's better than having sex, right?
Here's the bitter truth of it: the only reason why I'm doing a blog is because I hope that someday, somehow, the bribes from the left side of the political spectrum will go the dame way their donations have come: from individuals, to individuals. Well, somewhat, anyways. I do know others will be in line way, way before little old me (Ayn Clouter or Betty Bowers for instance), and if there were only big payoffs made I'd get exactly bupkus. So I'm hoping for lesser amounts, but more of them.
Trickle down, my ass. I like my bribes direct and to the point. Although Michelle Malkin's column seems to make the point that you really shouldn't get caught, rather than taking the money itself. There are days that I do wish I could think way off to the right: life would be lacking in any kind of moral dilemna, and I'd be a bunch richer.
Other: What EXACTLY is this?
We ran out of multis, so Jenny bought another bottle of "house" brand from our local pharmacy. The "house" brand here is called Exact, for no immediately apparent reason. Now, the word exact means precise or accurate; a fine thing in any drugs you happen to be taking, and a name that inspires confidence. But that's also the name of their soap. Is there any conceivable purpose behind precise or accurate bar soap? If you drop it, maybe.
In accordance with the labeling laws in Canada, there is a list of ingredients and their amounts on the bottle, along with one special feature, listed in "other ingredients": lutein.
This bottle of multis advertises that it also is now "with lutein!" Um... hooray? So I went scampering off to my handy Webster's New World, and came up with this: xanthophyll. Not much help there, then. But it also had: a preperation of dried and powdered corpus luteum. And corpus luteum is:
"a mass of yellow tissue formed in the ovary by a ruptured graafian follicle that has discharged its ovum." In other words, it's progesterone, a hormone that's used in ovarian therapy. This is not a comforting thought to me, as I don't really want to piss around with the hormones in my body without a very specific reason to do so.
So what's the moral of this story? I guess that you should always bring a dictionary with you when you go grocery shopping. Sheesh.
January 27, 2005
Politics: Afghanistan Exists! Hooray!
Think Canada has problems with Quebec (and vise versa)? There are over 30 languages spoken in Afghanistan. Even the "official" language of Pashtu is only the primary language of 35% of the country: half the people speak Dari, but they often aren't the ones in command of government. There are more than 40 political parties (more than there are provinces) in what is a theoretically budding democracy, and there are still warlords controlling many of the outlying regions. Fewer than a third of the population could get registered to vote. Lost cause, right?
Not even close.
Of those who could vote, almost 85% did. The new constitution that has been written states that while no law should be "contrary to Islam" (okay, I'm not fond of that bit), it must also be based on the protection of human rights, and that the nation shall abide by the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There has been over $2 billion in aid entering the country, and a bunch of that is going to be infrastructure such as roads, phone lines, hospitals, schools. And, of course, internet. Can't forget the internet. Now, you just know the concept of internet cafes would have started here if they had computers sooner...
So why should I be optimistic about this country, but not Iraq? Because the bulk of the invading army LEFT afghanistan once it was decided bin Laden & Co. wouldn't be found there, leaving behind a smaller force who were (and are) committed to helping the country govern itself. The coalition that ended up invading Afghanistan (no need to use euphemisms here, kids) did so with very little protest from the Arabic or Muslim world, unlike the remnants of the bribed mob that's left in favour of the Iraq invasion. That "coalition" is down to what? Twenty-five members now? A decision wasn't made to strip resources while they were there, either.
Gee, maybe there's a lesson there. Not that I expect any of the mob to strain themselves reading a history book or anything.
Two paintings by Alex Colville, Woman with revolver and Surveyor were slashed by an unknown assailant in Saskachewan earlier this month. Now, why would someone, anyone, take offence at these works? Now, granted that while Woman does use a naked woman as its focus, the image could hardly be seen as erotic.
Or at least if you do consider it erotic, Playboy will make your head explode. Maybe John Ashcroft was in town. We all know how he feels about what makes art better: an $8,000 blue drape to cover anything that might be a breast. Entirely appropriate that in covering the breast of a statue representing Justice, he ended up obscuring Justice completely...
Anyhow: what exactly was the vandal thinking? He's got a hate on for fantasy realism? I'll try not to let them know we own a work by Toby Nilsson, then! Seriously, what can you accomplish by trying to cut up a painting? If it's big enough to cause any kind of a scandal, then the gallary will repair it; and if it's too small to be worth repair, nobody will care other than the artist and a few supporters who know the artist exists. And what's the point of that? Want to make a splash? Try having the art banned, that always works!
January 26, 2005
Motorcycles: You Shouldn't Ride.
There is no law, no ordanance insisting the nations citizens ride. There is no reason for anything as utterly psychotic as the Aprilia Tuono to exist. Or the 300 km/h (and then some) Hayabusa. After all, is there any practical advantage a fully dressed Harley Road King has over any one of dozens of SUVs or minivans? Of course not. Well, parking, maybe: but unless you've got a reverse gear even that can be more awkward with a bike.
Some of the "logical" arguements in favour of bikes:
1) They're cheaper to buy.
Sure, as transport for one, occasionally two, individuals. And that's it. Going shopping? Camping? Any kind of construction? ANY four wheeled vehicle is more convient than ANY bike for workhorse duty. So if you need to use your bike for damn near anything, you'll end up needing a second vehicle anyways. Plus you've got equipment to buy. Okay, you don't have to buy gear, but you really should, and that costs.
2) They're good on fuel.
Hmm, my bike gets about 240 km every 15 litres or so, which is about 40 miles to the gallon. There are a few cars that beat that all to hell.
3) That's about it.
So why the Sam Hill would anyone bother to ride? Because of how good it feels, baby!
I will tell you that this is as close as you will ever get to flying. The freedom implied in the act is awe inspiring: power and control without being in a box that even the best of sports cars forces you into. When you ride, your awareness is at an all-time high, and for good reason: make a mistake, you can die. Someone else makes a mistake, you can die. Then there's the weather...
Bikes are never, ever a logical purchase; but purely a visceral one. Anyone who tells you otherwise is outright lying to feed his or her disgusting habit.
Presenting my next (eventually) bike...
Politics: Yes, Iraq
Sex: Equal, But Different Redux
Stephen Harper and his Conservatives have said that they want the “traditional definition of marriage” of one man and one woman to remain, but they’ll give gays the “right” to a civil union that includes all legal benefits of marriage. In theory, this would make sure that the old and/or religious are happy, what with gays not being able to marry, and this will make sure that gays are happy, because they have all rights of marriage.
So, explain again how this isn’t marriage? If it’s not marriage because it didn’t happen in a church, then there are a whole lot of people who aren’t married, but think they are! Anyone who got “civilly unionized” outdoors, for instance; or in their homes; or temples; or any other locations that hold a special meaning for them.
If he’s thinking to stop polygamy (the spectre he keeps raising while his Deputy Peter McKay claims he isn’t), how will that help? The exact same arguments for and against simply get transferred to another word, while the concerns remain.
I still haven’t seen any logical argument opposing gay marriage. If tomorrow as much as 10% of the population suddenly decided to marry each other, my own marriage simply will not be affected in any way, shape or form. I will not turn to my wife suddenly, saying “Well, dear, now that these folks can get hitched, I don’t love you any more.” It seems as likely to me that some of those against gay marriage are homosexuals trying to get out of a promise they made one too-late night. That, I could understand. Weddings are bloody expensive, after all.
Besides, imagine the changes to all the government forms that would have to be made: that expense alone should have the more extreme of the fiscal conservatives thinking twice. But also in a practical sense, even if Mr. Harper got all he wanted, and civil unions were permitted for gays, there’s nobody who would call them that. Civil unions happen now between heterosexual couples who simply walk down to the Notary Public and get the forms: yet I know of no one who does not call these couples “married”. No church, no minister, no religion of any kind, and yet they’re married.
If conservatives were truly concerned about the sanctity of marriage, they should be trying to make infidelity warrant jail time, and divorce absolutely forbidden. The truth of this matter is that all the name change does is allow those opposed to gay marriage to continue considering homosexuals second class citizens.
January 24, 2005
Politics: Okay, Give It Up
North Korea has just decided to cut the food rations it gives to its population down to HALF the daily minimum requirement: it's now at 250 grams. That's less than nine ounces of food. I've had sandwiches bigger than that.
So here's another saying: Guns and Butter. What that means (in the short) is an example of simplified economics that appears in some textbooks: what if a nation only produced two items, guns and butter. Spend too much on guns, and the people starve. North Korea, a country of 22 million people (about 8 million less than Canada), has a standing army of 1.2 million people.
To compare: Canada has a total military personnel of 60,000, or five percent North Koreas army. The biggest difference, of course, is that the countries which border North Korea are not exactly friendly: South Korea (of course), China and Russia. I'll stick with the U.S., thanks. At least they got over the whole "Manifest Destiny" bunk in North America. The rest of the world? Well...
Even so, when you spend almost a quarter of your Gross Domestic Product on a standing army, your country is going to be in trouble. Especially if it's a questionable economy because your somewhat freakish dictator is a paranoid fanatic who is an utter xenophobe.
So, guys: I know you're reading this (because hey, who wouldn't) so I'll give you some free advice.
Less guns, more butter. Your welcome.
Other: Viral Polo Ad
January 23, 2005
Politics: It's All About Sex
Deputy Conservative Leater (read: 2nd in command of the Conservatives) Peter MacKay has been telling people that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper did NOT say that if gay marriage was allowed, polygamy would be next. Really, he didn't: it's all the fault of the Liberal government, who were investigating a region in British Columbia where polygamy was being practiced. Never mind that most people had never heard of this investigation until Mr. Harper mentioned it in a press scrum. I believes ya, Pete.
By the way: last election, Stepher Harper looked horrible. I know, I know; I'm supposed to consider issues only, but the guy looked like he was made of plastic, and that was in commercials shot by (supposed) professionals. Not much has changed.
Anyhow, there was a young woman appearing on Sunday Morning on the CBC saying well, hey, since polygamy is practiced in many parts of the world, why not here?
Now, to my mind, the only important thing in human relationships is consent, and that's where a lot of governmentally sanctioned polygamy fails. Instead of a mutually cooperative relationship, we end up with child brides, forced marriages and women who are treated like chattel. Not good. Here's where we went down the rabbit hole: when interviewer Carole MacNiel asked about keeping another husband, the woman replied, "No, I don't think that's right."
I do wish I had the womans name, but the transcript isn't up yet; she went on to explain that it's normal and natural for men to stray, because a woman cannot satisfy a man. On the other hand, if a woman should find herself unsatisfied, she should divorce her husband and look for a man who can satisfy her and marry him. Then she said that if we allow one group to marry (gays), we can't forbid another to do so (polygamists). Oh, and God said it was okay, referring to the bible and Koran.
Um. Actually, darlin', what you're talking about is guys tossing off a quick one before coming home to dinner. And if you don't think women do that too, you're sadly mistaken. People, if you're gonna cheat, could you at least use preventatives? Sheesh! The funniest thing here, is that she's trying to use science to justify infidelity, then religon to explain why it should only apply to half the population (men), with it being illegal for the other half (others).
Frankly, I wouldn't mind having a few more people around the house: cuts down on bills, for one thing. Have someone new to argue with about doing the dishes. I'd also give the wife a chance to go shopping with someone who actually wants to go.
The problem? I can't imagine anyone who could tolerate us that long.
Other: The Decadent Canucks
I've been playing on-line poker at a particular site calling itself Tiger Gaming, and enjoying it immensely.
(If you want to join, drop me a line and I'll refer you: you get a bonus, I get a bonus, everyone wins. End of commercial.)
And I have noticed a certain something: there are one hell of a lot of Canadians playing on-line poker right now. Seriously, I'd guess 70% to 80% of the low-stakes playerswere from Canada. I suppose it's because we've got an extra three hours to kill on three or four days of the week. I wonder if any groups who are opposed to gambling are going to bring this up whenever the NHL and NHLPA next meet...
January 22, 2005
Sex: What's a Lifestyle?
Gays should not be allowed to marry, because that would be promoting their "lifestyle". I've always thought that part of the "lifestyle" that moralists used was their sexual proclivity. But if marriage promotes monogamy, wouldn't that be a good thing?
Anyhow, I've tried to figure out what it is about homosexuals that shows a very distinct lifestyle from, say, my own. I'm using those folks around me who I know are gay, instead of those whom I merely suspect are gay. Sounds fair to me, so here we go:
Them: about half own or partially own businesses.
Me: been fired a few times.
Them: regular vacations, lots of toys (boats, rear-projection tvs)
Me: I got my bike! Of course, it's my only vehicle...
Them: a few single, others in monogamous long-term relationships.
Me: was single, now in long term relationship.
Them: most have kids and grandkids.
Me: way too self-centred for children. And the wife said no.
Them: one stopped by family from visiting her terminally ill lover.
Me: avoided visiting one terminally ill grandfather if possible.
Them: recently at dinner party where guest told lots of fag jokes.
Me: insults more personalized. (I appreciate that sort of thing.)
Okay, so there are some differences in "lifestyle" between them and me; but there are as many differences between the gays I know. Frankly, I don't see what difference the gay couples being married is going to make to my life, other than that awkwardness when a couple you know divorce and you try to stay friends with both parties.
The Premier of Alberta, Ralph Klien, has been trying to gain support for a "third way" (showing socialist roots, Ralph?) to get legalization for gay marriage, just not call it marriage.
"Equal, but Different" anyone?
This makes them second class citizens, and I just don't accept that definition being applied to someone in my country. For those of you who still think being gay is a choice, here's a little test:
Think of your perfect mate. What are the attributes that compose this ideal person? Can you picture falling in love with that person if they were the same sex you are? Can you imagine living with, and quite happily spending the rest of your life with, anyone of the same sex? And you can't give the usual "But I was really drunk at the time" excuse, either! This is for life, remember.
Most of the arguements I've seen against gay marriage are religon based, and that's understandable, but the Suprems Court of Canada has made it very clear that no church or temple or indeed any faith will be forced to perform unwanted ceremonies. None. It's when the arguements wander away from theology where things get really, really silly. The value of marriage to society at large is a recurring favorite, as if suddenly hetrosexual marriage will end if gays can get hitched. The best part of such arguements is that they support such concepts as pre-arranged marriage and forced marriage "for societys good", and that's just goofy.
Motorcycles: Flat Out Bragging
I caller her Clover.
Science: The Immortal Ig Nobel Awards
These are presented by the AIR, or Annals of Improbable Research. They celebrate those experiments that cannot, or should not, be reproduced. This years winners include the Ig Nobel Peace Prize going to the inventor of the kareoke machine (for finding a whole new way for us to... tolerate each other); the researh team who discovered that herrings communicate by farting; and a short speech by one of last years winners, the scientistwho noted the first ever recorded incidence of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck. Earth shaking stuff, truely.
Oh, there's also the Atkins Diet Musical, and operetta in four parts.
Religion: Explaining Away Earthquakes
Six different people representing six different religous views were all gathered together to share their reasons why the earthquake (and subsequent tsunami) happened.
Apparently, God loves everything and everyone just enough to kill off 160,000 people so others will have a chance to prove how godly they are. That seemed to be the consensus among the attendees to this little theological round table, except for Deepak Chopra who believes that the people in the afflicted countries brought the tsunami on themselves because they are all masochists, and the Buddhist who thought the victims had to learn to let go of the connections to their vast amount of worldly possessions. So it serves them right.
So where was the geologist? Where the heck was the person who could explain plate tectonics to these boneheads? We already know why earthquakes happen, kids. I live in the "Ring of Fire" that's all around the Pacific Ocean: a lively spot geologically speaking, and a big quake is almost certain to hit this area in the next 100 years. Know what? It won't be Gods fault when it does. It won't be a test of faith, or evidence that other people are morally superior, or divine spite. It will be because of pressures in the Earth building to a breaking point, then breaking. That's earthquakes for you. And I won't be looking skyward crying "Why, God? Why?" for the simple reason that I'm not religous.
Religions are for people too scared to say "I don't know."
January 21, 2005
Politics: The Ambassador's Bomb
First? It doesn't work. A little history:
The Pentagon spends about $10 billion dollars anually on the system first proposed by President Ronald Regan in 1983, and has installed 10 of the land based missiles in the western States (Arkansas) as of November 2004, and yet somehow it just never... quite... manages to do what was promised. The biggest success rate so far has been a theoretical kill rate of 62% - not too bad, until you consider that all the target missiles had homing beacons attached. Plus, of course, the thought of 38 nuclear missiles landing for every 100 launched at you.
When President Regan proposed the Strategic Defence Initive, a law was shortly announced stopping the deployment of weapon systems that don't work. So how did this get through? Because North Korea is going to launch nukes at America any day now. No, really: that was the logic Donald Rumsfeld used to have the law waived and the missiles installed. It was so urgent that current President George W. Bush even promised to have the system up and running by the end of 2004. And they haven't worked since. In 2002, for instance, one kill vehicle failed to seperate from its booster. This, the Missile Defence Agency said, didn't affect the programs "success rate" because the missile never got to "endgame". If it didn't reach "endgame", it didn't fail.
I've always defined failure as something that didn't work. Goes to show you what I know.
In December 2004, the latest test, the intercept missile failed to launch at all. The missile would work, the MDA said, if nothing went wrong. Well, yeeeeessss, but each of these tests is costing $85 million dollars, and frankly something has gone wrong a whole lot more than gone right during these tests. But we can relax now, because Secretary Rumsfeld has delayed a decision on the missile system, citing a lack of any long-range missile threat.
So, again: why is this news? The second reason:
It's news because this is an extremely contriversial issue in Canada: there has never been a national poll showing a majority of Candians supporting the missile defence system. And the ruling party is sitting on a minority government. That in and of itself is no big deal as Canada has had several minority governments in its history. Where it gets interesting is when you consider who the ruling party is, and who the replacement party would be. Pat Buchanan called Canada "Soviet Canuckistan" for a reason: politically it is way, WAY to the left of the U.S. A few years back, the leader of the Conservative Party was the grand marshall of the annual Gay Pride parade in Calgary, despite the fact that he was not himself gay. Did I mention being somewhat to the left?
Anyhow, what was then a populist protest party (the Reform Party) on the political right has since taken over the Conservatives: they are more religous, more inclined to private health care, and much closer to the current political realities in the U.S. than national politics in Canada usually are. (A noteable exception would be the bizzare Mulroney/Regan era sing-alongs, but Mulroney saw his approval ratings drop into single digits before he jumped ship, so let's move along...) They are the only party to the political Right in Canada, with the Liberals being Centre-Left, the New Democratic Party being seriously Left, and the Green Party being Over There Some Where.
The point being: Ambassador Cellucci deliberately raised a contentous issue in a very dismissive way. "It will be dealt with"? That's talk from an ambassador, directly to the press? This is an issue that can bring down the current ruling party, whom the Republicans have never been very comfortable with, and force another election placing a far more conservative government in place. The President is leaning heavily on Prime Minister Martin for approval of what is essentially a government make-work program in the missile defence system. Why should that be important? It cuts a bit of moral high ground from the political left in the U.S., who have been using Canada as an example of much of what they want (religon out of political decisions; acceptance of gay rights; single-payer health care; some form of gun control; whatever else, hell, make something up and say it's Up North!), while at the same time having a political party more closely linked with its own ideals running what is the U.S.' most important trading partner.
So what will Canada lose if it doesn't support this nearly obsolete method of national defence? Well, while Canada is the U.S.'s biggest trading partner (despite President Bush's earlier belief that it was Mexico), the U.S. is also Canada's biggest trading partner, and a population of 30 million will lose out to a population of 300 million every time. As far as economic clout goes, the U.S. has a lot more than Canada does. There are already perpetual leagal arguements over softwood lumber tariffs, which have been to court over a dozen times now with the U.S. losing each time. Likewise the closure of beef imports, the occasional spats over fishing... The only thing Canada has is a trump card: energy. When deregulation of energy companies in California led to rolling blackouts and brown outs in that state, British Columbia had enough energy reserves from hydro electricity plants to help. In addition to processed energy, Canada is the major supplier to the U.S. of oil and uranium, two big energy sources, but placing embargos on any of these would be crippling on both sides of the border, and Canada would be very reluctant to use those as bargaining chips. A Phyrric victory at best. Then there is NORAD, which would certainly see less of Canada's influence.
So what could Canada lose if it does support the Defense Against North Korea? Certainly money, as the White House has already said that they're dropping $5 billion from the program over the next six years, and they'd love Canada to pick that up. There is international status: Canada does still have some influence in world opinion, though there has been a reluctance to back that up with our once-vaunted peacekeeping missions, and military spending is shockingly low for what the Canadian Forces are asked to do. And, of course, there could be a change of government.
What can Canada gain by supporting the current U.S. administration? No one knows, but given the "more stick than carrot" approach to international relations, I don't think it's much.