October 31, 2008

Bad Me

I have been a horrible person: I've missed TWO Skeptics' Circles in a row!

Here is the one from early in the month:


And the latest:


Both with sincere apologies, both to the folks who wrote for them and to myself for missing out on some fun and fascinating stuff!



posted by Thursday at 11:24 am 0 comments

October 29, 2008

And Now, the Good News

I would like to direct your attention to Kiva, and the concept of microloans. In short, they are loans to people in poor nations that help them start businesses so they can support themselves.

The loans are made with no lawyers, no paperwork (often the recipient can't read), and no guarantee of repayment.

Kiva is an international group that acts as go-between for the lenders and the entrepreneurs. Individuals can loan any amount they like out to any of the people starting (or improving) their business. Individuals can also join groups (like the Crazy Canucks, or the Praise Black Jesus donor groups) to make it a community effort.

So far, Kiva arranged for well over $47,000,000; the default rate is below 1%.

And they recently achieved the amazing goal of funding every person who successfully applied for a loan.

We are with the Flying Spaghetti Monster Religious Congregation, and I suggest you find a mob you like and dive in: it's solid proof that altruism works, mate.

This is what the World Bank was supposed to be doing, and was doing, right up until the 80's when the ideologues of the Thatcher/Reagan era took over. What say we show them how to really change the world?


Note: Kiva started as a peer-to-peer lending institution in March, 2005. Three and a half years, and nearly $48,000,000 loaned out, often five or ten dollars at a time.

And from the observant:

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posted by Thursday at 10:17 pm 0 comments

Back in June, I made fun of those folks who insist in every word of the Bible being the infallible Word O' God (tm) by mentioning the lovely episode in Numbers where a couple are killed because they are of differing races. But then, even the more strident Thumpers shy away from some of the stranger or more psychotic of God's episodes, so I didn't think anyone would really be offended.

That is, I didn't think I would be able to offend anybody. Goes to show what I know about Alabama:

“He’s neither-nor,” said Ricky Thompson, a pipe fitter who works at a factory north of Mobile, while standing in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store just north of here. “He’s other. It’s in the Bible. Come as one. Don’t create other breeds.”

Really? No, really?

Any way we can have more gun shows in that state? Bring your kids.


posted by Thursday at 9:47 pm 0 comments

October 28, 2008

Maybe I'm in a Bad Mood...

...But can anyone tell me why a school shooting in Arkansas never quite made it to the front page nation wide? Let's see:




Aaaaand Arkansas.

If you look closely, you just might see a difference that could explain the relative lack of interest.


posted by Thursday at 10:18 pm 0 comments



Excuse me for a minute. I've just been in the back yard screaming of idiots, wilful stupidity, and really, really bad parenting.

To wit:

An eight-year-old boy has died after accidentally shooting himself in the head while firing an Uzi submachine-gun at a gun fair in Massachusetts.


The club said on its website that the event was "all legal and fun" and would allow people to fire weapons at vehicles, pumpkins and other targets.

In case you hadn't heard: guns are a right in America. Not just guns, of course: we've got plenty of those in Canada. What's important is that any guns are a right in America.

"This is a horrible event, a horrible travesty, and I really don't know why it happened," said Mr Bizilj, a hospital director from Ashford, Connecticut.

I have some idea: you had an eight-year old boy shooting a fully automatic weapon. Somehow, it doesn't make me feel any better that it was with parental consent.

How about you?

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posted by Thursday at 9:56 pm 2 comments

October 23, 2008

Latte Liberals and Cruller Conservatives

The classic accusations go: The Political Left are all a bunch of latte-drinking, metrosexual, anti-establishment hippies; while the Political Right are are a pack of double-double swilling heartless billionaires living in trailer parks festooned with velvet Jesii and twelve kids.

In at least one aspect, these images are untrue: the ridings with more of the elitist Starbucks coffee shops tended to vote Conservative, where the Tim Horton's-dominant regions went to the Liberals.

So says CanWest, and I'm sticking to it.

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posted by Thursday at 9:03 pm 0 comments

Caribou Barbie Goes Shopping

Bearing in mind that the entire image of Sarah Palin has been one of, essentially, a Hick from the Sticks - you know, one of the Regular People the Republicans are so happy to avoid helping - you'd have to wonder what she would spend $150,000 on in two months?

By happy coincidence, it's not the season tickets to the Alaska Aces for 300 of her closest friends that you expected, but instead it was all spent on clothing and accessories at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Yes, $150,000.

And yes, two months.

I guess Manolo Blahnik makes hiking boots now!


posted by Thursday at 1:40 am 2 comments

October 21, 2008

How Was Your Weekend?

I spent mine getting (among other things) fingerprinted at the local constabulary. Alas, not for any particularly interesting reason - I'm applying for a locksmithing licence from the province tomorrow. Just need to finish up by drooling, getting drunk, not going to bed until 4 AM, then sleeping on my hair.

Or I could just get another passport photo. Same result.


posted by Thursday at 9:49 pm 2 comments

October 19, 2008

50-50 Odds in Las Vegas

New Mexico, that is.

There's a reason why a whole lot of Democratic observers are only giving Obama a fifty percent chance of being named the next president, and it has less to do with this:

"When you got a Negra running for president, you need a first stringer. He’s definitely a second stringer."

and more to do with this:

"On February 5th, the day of the Super Tuesday caucus, a school-bus driver named Paul Maez arrived at his local polling station to cast his ballot. To his surprise, Maez found that his name had vanished from the list of registered voters, thanks to a statewide effort to deter fraudulent voting. For Maez, the shock was especially acute: He is the supervisor of elections in Las Vegas.

Maez was not alone in being denied his right to vote. On Super Tuesday, one in nine Democrats who tried to cast ballots in New Mexico found their names missing from the registration lists. The numbers were even higher in precincts like Las Vegas, where nearly 20 percent of the county's voters were absent from the rolls."

For those pissing and moaning about ACORN, which is an attempt by communities to register the poor and homeless to vote, try this on for size.

Which is worse: stopping people, specifically the poor, from voting; or an unemployed registrar going to a graveyard and writing names of dead people as voters? Here's a hint: in one case, dead and imaginary people are signed to the rolls who don't vote; in the other, living people who are on the rolls can't vote.

If you still can't tell, I can guess which party you belong to.


posted by Thursday at 11:26 pm 0 comments

Evil + Stupid = ?

The brilliant Billmon on the recapturing of history that the McCain/Palin campaign is attempting:

"With the prospect of a bone-crushing election defeat staring them full in the face, the diehard rump of the conservative movement is already busy fashioning a narrative to explain the dissolution of its world -- the one that Ronald Reagan built and that George W. Bush (with an assist from Wall Street) has thoroughly trashed.

And the emerging story line appears to be, roughly, that ACORN did it.


You have to admit: That's a damned impressive revolutionary track record for an obscure group of community organizers operating on a shoestring budget. I mean, who needs the Red Army when you've got ACORN and the Community Reinvestment Act?"

The tragedy is that McCain is aware of what's happening in his country, and his own contribution to it: "his" followers are blindly terrified of even the thought of anyone who is different t them being in the same country as they are. Anger comes from fear, and violence isn't far from that. There is a reason why the Oklahoma bombings happened during Clinton's campaign: certain people were told, deliberately and repeatedly, that the Clintons were EEEEVIL and destroying America. If you limited yourself to a single information source, you are vulnerable to what that source tells you. For instance, dd you know McCain won the last presidential debate?

Think I'm making this up? Exagerating the fear and disinformation sown into the so-called "Heartland"?

Ask David Neiwert (get your headphones on for this one).


posted by Thursday at 4:21 pm 0 comments

October 15, 2008

Why Respect Must Be Earned

There are a whole lot of people out there who don't agree with me on everything - I'm averaging somewhere around 100% of them so far, wife included - but many of those I can at least understand why they have the views they do.

But the new breed of "conservatives" in the United States is utterly bewildering. Trying to argue with them is like... like... trying to tell Matthew McConaughey he sucks. Really, the only people that are left are the ones who will proudly tell you they're voting for Sarah Palin, ignoring the old guy who's actually running for office.

***Side note: Why do I hate Palin? For hearing the cascade of fear and vitriol that gets unleashed by her fans whenever she mentions the astoundingly idiotic "Obama pals around with terrorists" meme, then watching her smile...***

Here's the "expert" from the National Review debating economics:

"The economy is all the blacks' fault. Answer what? Uh... Oh, shit! This is live? Google save me!"

Okay, maybe that's not a direct quote, but it is representative of what happened. Check out the whole "debate" here if you want, but there's not much more to it.


posted by Thursday at 11:07 pm 2 comments

October 14, 2008

It's All Over

Just to rub it in a little for the Americans - from declaration to finish, our election took less than sixty days.

Okay, so nothing actually happened as a result, outside of what everyone already knew:

1) Dion is not a leader that moves people;
2) Harper blew it in Quebec with his arts cuts;
3) Cities don't trust the Conservatives;
4) One more minority government;
5)Donna Cadman is showing herself to be an utterly vacant shell who got elected by avoiding exposure and letting her late husband do the work for her;
6) The lowest voter turnout ever (well below 60%) showing a tired/bored group, despite the quite interesting economic turmoil going on just now.

So what's next? A few things:

The Liberals are going to go into yet another leadership campaign, giving the Conservatives yet another weak opposition and de facto majority, at least for their first year.

Harper lost his best chance at a majority - he even held off the election as long as he could to see if the Republicans would be rising in the polls at all down South, hoping to catch a bump from their ads and spin. It didn't work, but you can understand the motivation.

The Conservatives will declare victory - after all, they gained seats - and permission to do whatever they want, because somehow a Minority + Minority = Strong Mandate.

The Liberals will reluctantly agree, because "The people aren't ready for another election" (not until they get their pants on, anyway) and will declare victory because Dion avoided spontaneous combustion.

The Bloc will declare victory because Duceppe set the bar low enough to crawl over: seriously, "a majority of seats in Quebec" going to the Bloc could have been won by a dyspeptic goat.

The NDP will declare victory despite getting less than 20% of the popular vote because they got one seat in Quebec and one, astoundingly, in Alberta.

The Greens are going to declare victory because they could have won a seat somewhere in the country.

And we the electorate are going to wait for these idiots go get back to work.


posted by Thursday at 10:09 pm 0 comments

October 11, 2008

School District 10, Now With Enhanced Irony!

Stop me when you've figured out why this is eye-blinkingly stupid:

"Alex Sanchez writes books about gay youth and their struggle to find acceptance, but local school principals were not comfortable allowing him to address their students."

Stop now? Well, that took you less time than superintendent Keith Pierce:

"Some principals felt their schools were just “not ready” for the kind of presentation that Sanchez will give, he said."

Not ready, indeed.


posted by Thursday at 8:08 pm 2 comments

October 10, 2008


So, here's a funny thing.

According to the World Economic Forum, when people were asked about their nations' financial institutions, the United States ranked 40th of 134 countries. And this was before the crash and incredibly stupid bailout proposal, so you can imagine where it might stand now...

Still, they were four places up on Britain, so it couldn't have been that bad, right? I mean, these are two of the free-est markets, each with First World industries and businesses and business leaders who pushed for those freedoms; so at least they were confident in their nations' banks, right? That is, after all, who's opinion matters when it comes to these things.

Except that's who was asked.

That's right: when business leaders were asked about their nations' financial stability, the countries who ranked highest were:

1) Canada;
2) Sweden;
3) Luxembourg;
5) Australia;
4) Denmark; and
5) The Netherlands.

Yup, those socialist lands that put a stranglehold on economic freedoms had the highest level of trust among financial workers.

When purchasing power was included, the United States shot to the top, of course. In fact, the U.S. dominated in far more categories than Canada did - we only managed top marks in "computer use" and, stereotypically enough, "trustworthiness"; while the States were first in venture capital availability, university-industry research, marketing (natch), domestic market, and other factors.

But what I find so interesting is that simply having the power and economic clout to be powerful didn't translate into a feeling of trustworthiness among the very people who used those political freedoms.

I wonder if that's changed at all?


posted by Thursday at 9:48 pm 0 comments

It's Something To Be

Our working class hero:

"He [Lehman Brother's CEO] was on a treadmill with a heart monitor on. Someone was in the corner, pumping iron and he walked over and he knocked him out cold."

Now before you feel too bad about a 62-year old man getting his lights punched out, bear in mind he went to the company gym after announcing the company's collapse a week earlier. Oh, and he's the douche who said this when asked whether he thought he had actually earned his $480 million:

"Mr Fuld said that he had in fact taken about $300 million in pay and bonuses over the past eight years."

Okay, so the guy who punched Mr. Fuld was working out in the executive gym, meaning he was probably hauling in seven figures himself, but still... It's nice to dream, no?


posted by Thursday at 9:22 pm 0 comments

October 05, 2008

An American Clunker

So the conservative souls in Hollywood decided to strike back against the overwhelming Liberal Elite Media by releasing a movie of their own, called "An American Carol". It features a Michael Moore replicant being visited by three ghosts (including Washington and Patton) trying to convince him to change his sinful, liberal ways. The result?

Swing, as they say, and a miss.

The weekend gross was just over $2300 per screen, as compared to nearly $7000 for Bill Mahr's Religulous, whose target audience would be unlikely to be flipping a coin over which flick to catch.

There are a couple warning signs that are standard for bad films, and this hit both:

1) the film was not pre-screened for critics. Predictably, the end result is something that is going to challenge Battlefield Earth on many reviewers' Barrel Scraper lists; and

2) the tagline tries to guilt the audience into seeing it. (See Also: the "Watch The Women or you're not a real woman!" campaign) One poster for An American Carol reads "Laugh like your country depends on it."

Ah, forced laughter. I haven't heard that since, well, the last time conservatives tried to be funny while staying conservative. Oh 1/2 News Hour, how we haven't missed you at all...

Still, all this could change - and probably will. My guess is that there is going to be a hard effort to get this movie off big screens and on to little ones as soon as possible (specifically before one month from now), where it will do far better.

Why do I think so? For the exact same reason why "Bestseller" lists have little daggers beside half the titles: mass purchases of 100 or more by a single anonymous individual.

This movie's going to create more landfill than E.T. game cartridges.


posted by Thursday at 10:48 pm 0 comments


Interestingly, the Conservatives' latest meme is: "If you move, you die."

Or perhaps you have a different interpretation.

In his most recent set of speeches and commercials, he's really pushing the fact that our economy is reasonably stable; especially the banking system. This, he says, is because Team Blue has been fiscally responsible for the two years they've been campaigning in charge.

Ignore the Perpetual Party behind the curtain... for fourteen years. That would be the group who eliminated the $42 billion deficit and ran continuous surpluses.

Ignore the restrictions the Canadian government placed on banks decades ago, lessening the risk of economic meltdown; restrictions the Conservatives have long wanted removed.

Ignore that the Reform Party made putting a portion of the Canada Pension Plan into the stock market a part of their party platform.

Ignore that deregulation and a lack of inspectors helped lead to the recent listeriosis outbreak, and that deregulation and self-policing industries are a particular Conservative fetish.

Ignore that Plastic Man would have leaped into Bush's Great Adventure in Iraq if he had been in power in 2003.

No, ignore all that. No, what you should be paying attention to is that everything is perfect Right Now, and if you dare vote for anyone else, then everything will go horribly, horribly wrong. No, really! Instead, you should listen when he says:

"This country is gonna come through this period in a lot better shape than it's ever been before."

Which means absolutely nothing, of course; but in the best possible way. And in an election, isn't that what really counts?


posted by Thursday at 8:41 pm 0 comments

October 02, 2008

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Inspectors!

Gaz has been on fire this election cycle: if you doubt this, check out his shredding of Plastic Man waving away criticism of his government's policies leading to the listeriosis outbreak...

"Well, once again, Mr. Harper 'dismissed' a reference to the Editorial from the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) because it was, he intimated, based on the statements of a single anti-Conservative partisan.

Now, leaving the 'shoot the messenger' codswallop aside for the moment, there appears to something weird going on here."

To Update: Here's the actual link. Yes, I am an idiot.


posted by Thursday at 5:01 pm 0 comments