2010-02-28

Thank You For Not Breeding

I was pointed towards an interesting, if not downright weird to mainstreamers, website "The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement" from a commenter/blogger named "Douglas."

Which led me to a neat, short film by Nina Paley titled 'Thank you for not breeding.'

Thoughts On The Ceremony Shutting Vancouver Down

Now that was some spoof ball gala, eh? 

In watching the closing ceremonies, I can't shake the image of how it reminds me of those inter-galactic meetings bringing together federations from distant galaxies we see in sci-fi flicks.

Anyway.

Neil Young is the MAN. He should have gone straight to 'Down by the river.' And then lace into one wicked, psycho electric guitar solo.

And then he'd shout: "Let's shut this bitch down. This mess belongs to Russia now!"

***

Since the Olympics play national anthems, here are my personal favorites in no particular order:

Canada, United States, Russia, France, Italy.

That is all.

Simpson. Homer J.

Governments Sponsor Genocide

Right now, the private sector is considered to be at the core of where all our greed resides. Government is seen as the one great conduit to mitigating against it. As readers of this blog know, I'm highly skeptical of this view.

As I read about the Armenian genocide - a historical event Turkey vehemently denies was methodically orchestrated - and the Holocaust later on, it's interesting note how the murder of peaceful citizens were ordered by...government.

The United States is caught between Armenian calls to recognize the genocide and Turkey who happens to be a crucial ally and regional super power with the second largest army in NATO. Thus far, Turkey's alliance has proven more important. Even President Obama, who said there was a genocide while on the campaign trail, has never used it as President.

Pure Gibberish

By the mouth of the Eleonore Clift:

"Obama is trying to save capitalism from the excesses..." Cut off.

Now, now. There, there. I know, I know. Itsokay. Go to sleep, Elly.

2010-02-27

What The Eugenics Movement Teaches Us About Today

I remember cringing reading about eugenics in university. It was evil then and it's evil now. We may think it's gone but it lives on in different ways. Think population control. It struck me as foolish - if not outright evil - back then and so I continue to feel this way today.

Anything else other than population control? What about minimum wage?

***

We've been conditioned to believe regulation is "good." To protect us from the excesses of our own evils.

And it wasn't restricted to any one ideology either. Liberals, socialists, fascists, Nazis and conservatives alike all engaged in some variation of eugenics.

Question: Are discrimination and eugenics inter-related?

We Own Gold

The Commentator: Excuse me ma'am? Excuse me. Can you point me to Chilkoot Pass?

Lady: Thataway, buster. Wannashotta hootch? Huh? Eh? C'man.

The Commentator: I was supposed to go watch curling, but sure. What the heck? You sure are purty you know that?

***

Now that's a gold rush, eh?

I'm rendered astounded, really. Canada has really come through these Olympics.

The last few Olympics Canada has done well but to go out and win 13 gold medals (tying an Olympic record) and beat the United States, Germany and Norway in the process is a great accomplishment. Canada can truly say "we're #1" at the Olympics and not be smirked at. The performance has been great not by just Canadian standards, but any standards. 

"Own the podium" took some flack - most notably and strangely from abroad - but it can hold its head up high. Sure, they'll have to assess where things went right and wrong (the alpine ski team did not reach the podium neither did the cross country team but they turned in some excellent results)  to ensure the level of excellence remains, but all things considered it's hard not to decree the results to be a success - even if we didn't win the overall medal count. As mentioned, the gold medal haul was amazing and we did eclipse our total from Torino with 26 medals. To me this is progress. Results show what direction the amateur program is heading.

Canada can make it 14 in the one sport Canadians are bonkers over: hockey. Only our rivals and brothers from Team USA stand in the way. Should be a scintillating contest. The U.S. has been the most consistent team with a roster filled with excellent, stellar players most pundits overlooked. They weren't as sexy as Canada, Russia or Sweden, but the whole is greater than the sum of its part with the U.S. While Canada possesses greater depth and talent, it's the better team on that day that will win gold.

As for the future, keep it going. Now we have to stay on top.

Doesn't it feel great to say "we want to win" and then do it? Canadians demanded results and got it. I know I love it.

Let's keep it going.

The Fixer-Upper President

Apparently, he was supposed to "fix" things.

Truth is, when it comes to foreign policy, you'll always piss of people, make friends, make good with the people you pissed off, then piss off friends for making up with the people you pissed off. Follow?

I still don't get what's so special about Professor Obama's foreign policy.

Anyone? Please 'splain.

***
Exhibit A: India.

I've been a proponent of maintaining and enhancing Indian-North American relations well before I established this blog. It's just makes sense to have a strong, democratic ally in Asia. Alas, they "steal" North American jobs thus sparking a protectionist impulse with some people, politicians and pundits. Obama, for the record, has already flexed a protectionist muscle with Canada.

 Pajamas Media, a conservative news service, addresses the ignoring of India under Obama:

Additionally, Secretary of State Clinton skipped a visit to New Delhi during her maiden voyage to South Asia, stoking concerns that the new administration was putting India on the back burner (opting instead to prioritize relations with an ascendant China). As former U.S. ambassador to India Robert D. Blackwill phrased it, “China today appears … to be on a substantially higher plane in U.S. diplomacy than India, which seems to have been downgraded in the administration’s calculations.” Validating this view, India was not mentioned
even once in the Obama administration’s official foreign policy agenda. The world’s largest democracy, more than one billion people — ignored.
Not wise.
The American left simply prefers to play hardball with allies than with adversaries. Recall President Carter’s handling of Iran: the allied shah was condemned as an autocrat; the enemy Khomeini, a “holy man.” For Carter, our anticommunist allies were violators of human rights first, second, and third; the Soviets, murderers of tens of millions, were benign enough for Carter to proclaim Americans had an “inordinate fear of communism.”

Contemporaneously, the left’s is a world where dictatorial Venezuela is to be apologized for, democratic Colombia economically punished; where the fascists and racists and bus-bombers in Palestine are “misunderstood” and the democrats in Israel are Nazi brownshirts incarnate. Anti-American terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Lebanon are euphemized as “guerrillas,” whereas pro-American militiamen are castigated as “warlords” — and on and on it goes.

Embroiling the Indians in such amoral nonsense would threaten not only our present rapport with India, but also what could potentially become the most significant American alliance with another country this century — an alliance rooted in a commonality of values, genuine companionship and affection for one another, and solidarity against the totalitarian evils of the world. The United States should welcome India’s rise. We’re largely the reason it’s occurring.

That's More Like It

Last week I expressed disappointment at Canada's failure to "seal the deal" during the first week of the Olympics. I tempered this concern by applauding Canada's "Own the Podium" program despite criticism from some newspapers and pundits. We strove for excellence, achieved it during the world cup season and expected to make a splash at the Olympics.

So when it didn't get off to a good start, a good many people, including this lousy blogger, wondered if we were going to fall flat.

While we won't win the overall medal count, we have a good chance of being in the top three (like in Torino). More importantly, we currently have 10 gold medals which leads all nations as I type this. Of course, this can change in a jiffy.

Canada bounced back after a rough start both on and off the venues. 10 gold medals is the most we've ever won in both non-boycotted and boycotted Olympic games - we hit that number in 1984 in Los Angeles.

One more and we break it.

Not bad indeed.

By the way, Team Canada will take on Team USA for the gold medal in men's hockey on Sunday. The Canadian women already knocked off the Americans and Canada will look to make it two in a row against their rivals - and what a rivalry it is!

Proponents Of Global Warming Hit Back

The Nation attempts to explain the attacks against man-made global warming and climate change. Mr. McKibbin makes a valiant plea and addresses a few of contentions held - for example, it's an economic scam. However, he didn't address another charge made by "deniers." That being how politicians who advocate change in policy fly around the world leaving huge carbon foot prints as opposed to using video conferencing. 

I'm also not convinced the IPCC is not without its own agenda. There's ample evidence to worry about them too. 

Yes. I am a skeptic. But I'm not a nut about it either. I know there's great damage being done to the planet. Just not sure what to make of this entire debate. On the one hand, I don't think it's an orchestrated hoax. On the other, I'm not so sure it's as dire as being depicted.

And even if it is, who is to say this is not a positive thing or that we're already too late to do anything about it? If we are and all these people like Gore know it, then yeah, I think they're out to make a buck off it.

2010-02-26

If You Want To Help Out The Environment

For you skeptical (and not) 'mentalists out there. Here's ten things (courtesy of The Nation) you can do to improve the environment.

I know I've adhered to #2,3 and 4 - within reason.

#6 and #10 just don't jive with me. I'm active and need a lot of protein. Cutting meat out of my diet is plain off the table for me. I know some will say you can substitute with eggs, legumes, beans, poultry and what not but the fact remains I like a diversified diet. I'm not even a big meat eater to begin with. I do have to watch my red meat intake - for cholesterol and acid.

But I'll decide what's best for me. Not an environmental list.

As for #10, I like driving in my car. It's a necessity. The truth is, I don't live on a public transit schedule - I live on mine given my unusual schedule.

Tax Sex And Breathing And Be Done With It

Some town in Quebec is mulling over banning smoking in an open park.

Let aside for a moment the paternalistic attitude by the government persists, the thing that I really, really, really find irritating and disgusting is - and I've said this many times before - how the government has no problem collecting the massive taxes tobacco companies pay. If smoking was so terrible ban the fucken thing outright.

But this is all normal behaviour now. Politicians are pretty much masters of "do as I say not as I do."

When they began the crusade to rid smoking for our midst, I mentioned it was a matter of time before public spaces and eventually private domains would be invaded. As usual, I was told the slippery slope didn't apply here and that the government would not be "unreasonable" and over step its place.

Psst. I have a bridge I want to sell you. It goes straight to London.

Yet, that's exactly what's happening. In Massachusetts, a lollipop tax has been tabled. In New York, a soda tax was proposed. You like motorcyles? Too bad, our sham stats show you're a menace - TAX! Like what we like and you'll be alright, kiddo.

All in an effort to protect us from ourselves. It's all pure bull shit of course. All it is, like any tax, it's an inefficient cash grab. Taxes, the thinking goes, discourages behavior. And until this nonsense is obliterated and demonstrated to be false, the list of taxes - already massive in North America - will continue to grow.

It's not a slippery slope. It's a concrete straightaway. 

Excessive taxes erode wealth. That's how I see it.

All we need now is for the professorial Obama to take up the smoking cause. Him and his two packs a day addiction. Paging Kafka, paging Kafka.

Knowing he can't do that, he wants to introduce a health care plan he barely understands - it's become that painfully obvious. Who could blame him? 2700 pages? Who's going to read that? Tolstoy and Cervantes would be proud.

I'm going to take a guess and say I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere in the middle, dark nether regions of the bill there would be the poem 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' with some fancy-dancy-loosey-goosey Marxian language. Like:



He cracks me up.

I don't know if anyone noticed but during the health summit Obama - despite coming off as sincere - displayed poor body language while the GOP (led by Lamar Alexander and Tom Coburn) came prepared to debate the issues. It was a bold move and a "bipartisan" reach over by Obama but Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi were the ones who acted anything but. It seems like Obama's strategy is to simply refute and play the "you guys are naive and evil dipshits" game. "Now, where's...my...goddam...CHALK!. I need more chalk dust!"

Indeed. It all feels, all these "well-intentioned" measures, like Animal Crackers.

You People!

When I read about Tory MP Guergis pulling a hissy pussy fit at the airport, it wasn't much of a story for me. Politicians and celebrities do it all the time. I recently heard Katie Couric (I still don't get her appeal) acted in similar fashion at the airport. 

What I did find interesting was that Ms. Guergis was reported as saying:

"I don't need to be lectured about flight time by you. I've been down here working my ass off for you people." 
  
Sezalot about her mindset, no? "For you people?" "Do you know who I am! I make and break citizens like you every fucken day!" 

O....k. Get off of my cloud, then. Don't run for office if you're going to publicly lose cool and say i-gnorant things. 


Cut her some slack. She's married to a coke-sniffing drunk conservative politician- allegedly.


As an aside, I don't get how anyone would want to be a political or celebrity aide.




2010-02-25

The Emergence Of The Real Estate Agent Pundit

Is it me or has anyone noticed the arrival of real estate agents on the political and punditry scene?

In a recent election in my town I think three real estate agents ran for mayor or a council seat. On a local radio show, the host regularly brings on an agent to discuss issues of the day - why I have no idea. Terrible stuff escapes her mouth.

Real estate agents are the new darlings. Times are good for agents and they're willing to splash their cash around. And what better way to expose themselves than on the political or radio scene to gain more clients and inside scoops?

Good grief.

Real estate agents, those noted collectors of historical memory and intellectual discourse, for comments, will now help to form public opinion. No offense.

None have impressed me. They're more personality - sell, sell, sell! - than intellectual substance. On a scale how much higher are they from car salesmen?

"Intellectualism? We don't need no stinkin' intellectualism for ratings!" cries one producer.

Apparently.

Annoying Assertions

I notice across many sites and blogs the following:

"the myth of the free markets."

It's not a myth.

Move on commie's.

Role Of Insurance In American Health Life

Great, great, great article titled "How many people die from lack of insurance" in The Atlantic. The comments thread is worth a look as well. It comes with the requisite Canadian comparisons.

At the same time, a report concluded wait times in emergencies are rising with more deaths in Quebec. I heard it on the news and can't find the appropriate story. Sorry.

Obama has bet his political balls that it's the insurance companies solely at fault for the mess. Clearly, there's room for debate. For a "complex" problem as he describes, he really does come off as simplistic (and emotional) by employing a specific narrative: Democrats = compassion, GOP = evil. No rational discussion in between.

It's the same nonsense up here with liberals and conservatives.

While according to polls over 85% of Americans say they're happy with their current health plans (and that number gets fortified with the prospect of government interference), many Americans agree something has to be done to fix major problems confronting it. But what the GOP wants (e.g. Tort reform), the Dems won't give for political reasons. What the Dems want (e.g. public option), the GOP won't give for ideological and political reasons. Obama says he wants to hammer out a bipartisan plan but I can't see how this is possible. Bipartisanship is a new buzz word that's increasingly being thrown around these days. 

Here's a link to the WHO's ranking of health care systems back in 2000. Canada ranked 30th; these United States 37th. France and Italy were first and second respectively.Three to five is interesting: San Marino, Andorra and Malta.

***

The way I see the Americans are getting ready to make a trade in attempting to move their system towards ours.

Rick Ankiel for Steve Sax.

Inside baseball reference.

.

2010-02-24

NBC Olympic Coverage Lousy

The U.S. may be kicking ass in the medals (with Canada fast catching steam), but NBC is getting its butt whipped by CTV/TSN/Sportsnet in terms of overall coverage. More content, substance, and of course, no cheap sophomoric tape delay.

Of course, that's just my opinion.

This is not the reason why I decided to comment on coverage. Rather, while watching the Canada/Russia hockey game, I flipped to NBC. There I saw Bob Costas (Michael Johnson fastest man alive my little pinkie) sitting comfy, legs crossed, in front of a fire place. All he was missing was a Tim Horton's hot chocolate.

Arguably, the biggest attraction at the Olympics is hockey. And for good reason. With the best players in the world competing, hockey offers a great entertaining sporting show piece to the world.

Canada and Russia came in with the two best players on the planet in Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin; to say nothing of one of the best intense rivalries in pro sports. They were expected to be playing in the gold medal game. Instead it was the quarter finals. It's a shame one of these teams will have to go home - as it stands as I type this Canada is ahead 7-2.

Why is NBC completely ignoring hockey? I don't even think they showed the U.S. defeat Switzerland in their quarter final game.

Did Gary Bettman fail to make a deal with them? Is it a rights issue? I know they'll say it's a rating thing but it's the effen Olympics. What, Americans are more interested in women's bobsleigh?


All I know is I'm glad I have options and it's an easy choice to make.

2010-02-23

The Liberal Party's Search For A New Brand

...at Dissent magazine.

Couple of excerpts and thoughts:

WHEN MICHAEL Ignatieff spoke at the Liberal Party convention in 2005, he was the country’s most buzzed-about politician since Pierre Trudeau. He was introduced as “the voice of our conscience” and seemed capable of uniting and broadening the ruling Liberal Party as well as expanding Canadian liberalism into a coherent philosophy instead of a laundry list of decades-old social programs.
I never thought that. While I consider Ignatieff a great thinker and scholar, I couldn't quite see how his past pondering on say, torture, could ever be fused with the Canadian "conscience." As to his potential to form a coherent philosophy, he certainly possesses the brain power to do it but he lacks the overall persona to drive through the hearts of Canadians. Moreover, he started echoing typical, tired liberal cliches about the environment, poverty and other social issues. His political meanderings were no better. Remember the farce of him leading MP's "to work" while Harper tried to "lock" them out.

Harper has proven to be a formidable politician, at times displaying a tactical ruthlessness foreign to most Canadian politicians. He has siphoned off support from Canadian centrists and liberals by co-opting programs created by the Liberals and the socialist New Democratic Party, and combining them with just enough elements of traditional conservatism to forge a distinct vision for his party.
Finally. Someone on the left with the balls to admit it.

Before he became the leader of the far-right Canadian Alliance Party and merged it with the center-right Progressive Conservative Party, Harper was among the most economically conservative politicians in Canadian history.
 Which is largely why I voted for him. There's nothing cooler than a penny-pinching politician with an eye on maintaining fiscal responsibility. If the Cons would elect a gal, then it would be sexy.

But even before he shrewdly merged the far right with the center right, Harper was a pragmatist. Although personally opposed to same-sex marriage, he knew that social conservatism would always be unpopular in Canada, and he warned the Reform Party (later renamed the Alliance Party) that they risked relegating themselves “more towards being a party of the religious right” if abortion and same-sex marriage became issues that they were not willing to compromise on.

As prime minister, Harper has extended this pragmatic conservatism. He has made no efforts to repeal same-sex marriage or abortion laws, and he has left universal health care intact. He passed a $40-billion stimulus plan earlier this year, leading Canada to post its first deficit in a decade, and he extended employment insurance benefits, a move that was part of a budget one pundit called “the end of conservatism in Canada.” He has apologized to Chinese Canadians for a head tax imposed on them at the turn of the twentieth century and sped up the immigration process for skilled workers. 
What? Harper a pragmatist? This guy is really impressing me. I agree with his decision to be pragmatic on social issues. Let freedom reign. However, I do feel he moved too much on his fiscal tough talk - I don't like that. I don't think anyone would dare attack universal health care, however, it would be nice if someone would have the courage to tackle the major problems it faces.

He did cut taxes. Some may scoff at the amounts but the child tax credit, for example, is $150 per child. I use the money for my child's RESP that invests strictly in bonds. That's $32 000 over 18 years. Do the math at an average of 5% per year for 18 years or so - you would have to calculate future value and I can't find my financial calculator.

The liberals didn't give me money. They took it in the form of the Sponsorship scandal.

About Stephane Dion's poor English:

While having problems with French has been a problem with Anglophone Canadians in the past, Francophone Liberals like Jean Chrétien and Pierre Trudeau have been fluent, even elegant English speakers.
I've seen a lot of descriptive wording and phrases used to describe Chretien but "elegant English" wasn't among them. For good reason.

Leadership aside, the Liberals also faced deep structural difficulties. In 2002, Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien introduced stringent public financing laws, capping corporate contributions at $1000 and individual donations at $5,000. As the longtime dominant party, the Liberal Party was heavily supported by corporations eager to curry influence with the government, and Chrétien’s laws, while admirably curtailing the role of big money in politics, drastically cut into the Liberal coffers.

Harper’s Conservative Party, on the other hand, has always been much more effective at developing grassroots financial donors. As a result, it has a much larger pool of cash on which to draw. In 2008, the Conservatives brought in more than $21 million (CAN) from over 112,000 contributors. The Liberals, meanwhile, took in less than $6 million from only about 30,000 contributors. The socialist New Democratic Party, a permanent third-place national party, took in nearly as much as the Liberals, underscoring the latter’s comparative disadvantage.

Under Canadian law, limits are placed on spending during election periods, which are called “writ periods”. It is meant to establish a rough equivalency in campaign spending by the parties. However, outside of the writ periods, no such limits are placed, and those parties fortunate to have a financial surplus can spend money as they wish. The Conservatives under Harper have taken great advantage of this loophole by spending huge amounts on advertisements that attack Liberal leaders before the elections. They have, as Kinsella put it, “been able to define the opposition before it has the chance to define itself.”

Not a Kinsella fan, but that was an apt description used by him. As I've written in the past, the conservatives are better at rallying the troops. They were right to want to put an end to taxpayer-sponsored subsidy political parties were getting. It was a way to reward their own inept behavior. The conservatives have no problem raising cash, so why should those who give to them have to pay through their taxes a subsidy to other parties who can't raise their own funds?

But if the Liberals are going to regain power in Canada, they will have to find a way to resolve the popular concerns over the balance between environmental interests and economic ones. The Conservatives are vulnerable on their stewardship of the environment, flouting an indifference to global warming eerily similar to that of the Bush administration. Liberals have talked much about their passion for protecting the environment and believe the jobs of the future are going to be green, as Ignatieff reports in a much-mocked ad filmed in a forest. But while Ignatieff called for a carbon tax, he also has conceded that the plan was a vote-loser.
Perhaps. If the narrative on the environment proves to be correct. And if the conservatives are smart, they'll beat them to it - without giving into the discredit global warming alarmists. 

All in all, a good read about the issues facing the Liberals and free from the usual hyper screed we're treated to when it comes to Harper.

This Isn't Surprising

Duh. It didn't take Harvard to tell me that. Anyone with a mild grasp of internet broadband would know Canada over charges. I just have to look at my Videotron bill. It's pure gouging. But that's what it is in Canada. We have a monopolistic system in the industry. I don't think it's any better in the U.S. from what I read.

"Isn't this typical...the corporates tweaking the data to suit the end to their means. Canada always wants to play with the big boys with a third world mentality and budget and the U.S. and the other G7 countries just sit there and laugh at us."

Ain't that the truth. The CRTC. Non-transparent. Non-elected. Yet, wield so much power over us. Absurd. I learned a long time ago to just assume the opposite of anything the CRTC says.


By the way, if you look at the rankings, it's pretty much the same story on health care in the OECD. No one is looking to us for pointers.  

If you want to lodge a complaint go here.  









Williams Speaks: None Of Your Business

Newfie premier Danny Williams:

"This is my heart, it's my health and it's my choice."

Too bad ordinary Canadians don't have that privilege.

He's right. Health is a private matter.

"What was ultimately done to me, the surgery that I eventually got ... was not offered to me in Canada."
Truth is, it happens more often than not where serious surgeries are not offered here and we have to go elsewhere to seek treatment. It's crazy that in a wealthy country like Canada with all its talent would lack specific health surgeries.

But, Williams did say:

"It's a bum rap … for someone to try to turn around and say, 'You know, Williams doesn't have confidence in his own health-care system because he had to leave the province.' Well, I had to leave the province because it was recommended to me by my own doctors that for this particular type of surgery I should leave the province."

***

I heard about a report on the radio by an independent insurance business analyst in the United States. They estimates that under Obamacare insurance will be eliminated from the health process. The smaller agencies will be gone quicker while the larger ones will be able to survive probably for ten years. Then, it's government time.

Hammer time! Can't touch this (insurance)...can't touch this.

2010-02-21

Why Is Charlie Chaplin Funny?

Or Buster Keaton. Or Fatty Arbuckle. Or W.C. Fields. Or Laurel & Hardy. Or the Marx Brothers.

Why do we still watch those films? How has humor evolved over the years?

For me, I watch them from a perspective of history and time. I like watching the settings, architecture, clothes, mannerisms etc. to give me a sense of the period. I'm not necessarily drawn into the humor per se. Nor am I a film expert able to dissect the film genius behind the aforementioned Hollywood figures.

I look at them very much like I read any piece of historical literature. To get a sense of history. Where we've been and maybe where we're headed.

And so it is with comedy. From Chaplin to Billy Wilder to Woody Allen to Christopher Guest and so on.

***

Here's a list of comedic directors. In them you see how wide the 'definition' of comedy can be. Many of the films are safe, average, light and romantic in orientation.

2010-02-20

Excess Useless Bureaucratic Fat

What the government giveth they taketh. Last week I praised the government office for their services. This week it's a different matter.

Apparently, get this, as if I don't have enough to do (I think I've written my address down 12 times between five forms so far), I have to explain my intentions and "plans" for the daycare - as stipulated in the "regle interne" (internal regulations)- to a bureaucrat even though I'm not asking for one red cent from them.

I don't know what the definition of "communism" or communist tendencies are for most, but for me this smacks of paternalistic bureaucratic BS.


I'm faithfully filling out all their documents. I shall abide by the rules and regulations set forth by the government. Why in the world do I have to discuss my philosophy, schedules (etc.) and what not to them? It's a private business. It's not like they can stop me. I think.

Man. Imagine if I went with the government state-controlled day care program! It would be hell. Only the government can teach and protect humanism. Apparently.

Anyway. I'll be speaking with them next month. I expect a lot of "yes ma'am" and "absolutely ma'am" and "yes, big brother I kneel before you."  It's all so pointless and demeaning. Meh.

Reminds me of the time when a murky union outfit visited my father's building last year. They came in "peace" and for my "protection." They came in acting like they owned the place because the "law was in their favor."

While they didn't explicitly say that they deceptively insinuate it. They come in elbows up because they know most people don't want to run afoul with the government. I didn't know who they were so I just nodded like a newly arrived immigrant in approval to everything they asked of me. They wanted me to fax an official contract, they wanted me to fill forms out and all kinds of other stupidities.

All because we were renovating OUR property. My cousin was doing the job. They with a straight face told us it's especially important to have a contract between family members. Perhaps. But that's OUR business if we chose to not enter one. We took the risk. Not them. There is such a thing as trust in business, you know. But don't tell a communist that.

It was hilarious. I just stood there nodding like Bill Murray in that skit (with John Belushi) on SNL; "Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger!" I knew they were talking gibberish. I just couldn't show it.

All this in the most corrupt of all industries in Quebec: Construction. The crap that goes on with officials, the mob and contractors is insane. But you really can't touch the mob or unions here so pick on the small guy to make the public think things are under control.

*Hand job motion*

They got squat from us - and deservedly so. Needless to say, we never heard from them again. Why? Because they didn't really have any legal right to pull that shit on us. It was just another one of those government departments trying to justify their existence - on our dime of course.

Holden Caufield's Dark Rebellion

I've been reading about how the protagonist in Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caufield, is seen as a romantic, mislead, confused kid who is going through a phase. The understanding being "we've all been there and will eventually out grow it." A rebel without a cause.

I don't get the sense from him. While I can see that angle, Holden wasn't completely depraved socially as he did sympathize in spots, for the most part I saw him as a dick. If you're 17 and acting that way, you're likely to exhibit similar traits, albeit probably more restrained and refined, into adulthood. You're born with a specific character trait I believe and not much can be done with it. So it is with Holden.

In a previous post, I saw a little Holden in the film Rushmore with Max Fischer. Fischer at one point was just a prick. But he was 15 and clearly wasn't in control of his emotions, mostly driven by love, seeing he was mature beyond his years. He just couldn't marriage his actual age with his mental age. Yet, he was very much 15. Follow?

Holden speaks of some girls fondly and seems to have an issue with loss innocence, but even then, can a guy like that at that point really fall in love or was he confusing the idea of being in love? Similarly, Fischer was in love with someone too old for him; it was the idea of being with someone mature that drove him. He was unrealistic.

By the end of the film, Max seemed to have found his place and footing. I don't see that in Holden. I saw a guy well on his way to being a recluse. An anti-social person with little regard or care for the world. Every once in a while he peeks his head into the social fish bowl, he did exhibit nostalgic feelings, to remind himself of what he's missing - or not - and hide right back again into a shell like a turtle.

About nostalgia. Nostalgia can be a tricky thing. It can mean merely looking back and finding comfort in something because you don't like what you see in the present and are afraid to move forward or it can be you have a genuine love of the past; of where you've been by tracing back your steps to see how far you've come.

It's up to Holden to decide if he wants to be in or out...of life.

Ranking Brand And Asset Strengths Of World Cities

Here's a unique study. Looking at the brand and asset strength of cities. Paris and London lead the list.

A quote:

The study also underlines the contrasting fortunes of Barcelona and Naples – two potentially comparable cities in terms of regional significance, yet the Catalan capital has trounced its Italian rival in projecting a distinctive idea of what it stands for and who it’s appealing to. The southern Italian city is rich in good climate, history, culture and gastronomy but it has devoted little time to creating a reputation among Europe’s cities. Naples’ well-documented refuse crisis makes the need for deliberate action to improve its image even more acute. It has the necessary attractions to help shift perceptions in its favour.
I pulled this quote out because for years I've heard it be lamented by people how Naples could permit its cultural and historical legacy wallow as it has. The Economist, in their survey on Italy, bluntly argued years ago there's no excuse for Italy's aloof and chaotic attitude towards its history and the branding of its culture. In their eyes, Italy should not be trailing Spain in tourism. Ironically, I think I read it again in The Economist, something like 45% of the world's luxury items come from Italy - there's some powerful high end branding there that's for sure.

My parents visited Barcelona a couple of years back. They enjoyed it. Just to say. 

2010-02-19

Chronic Olympic Mediocrity

We were supposed to "own" the podium. Instead, as I nervously pointed out, we're renting it out - to the United States.

To say I'm disappointed with the medal haul thus far in Vancouver is an under statement. In fact, it's been a topic of discussion among a few sports junkies in my circle of numb skulls. We just can't accept being a winter nation with average results. Call us cranky Canucks.

To think some papers predicted we'd win as many as 41 medals. I never believed for one second that would happen but I did think we were poised to surpass Torino's impressive showing. At this point, it looks as though we'll be lucky to hit 20.

The U.S. has been outstanding already hitting the 20 medals plateau half way through. Canada? Seven. Seven.

In Torino we finished third overall with 24. If we're gonna hit that mark we got some serious ass to kick. Many pinned their hopes on the ski team to come through with a couple of medals. However, like in Italy, our ski team flamed out despite having the net advantage of knowing the hill very well.

What makes Canada's start surprising, and I'm sure there are some nervous people within the COC, is the fact we concluded the world cup sessions in 2009 tied in the overall standings with Germany. It was a great year. Yet, we still can't convert that achievement into Olympic success. Jeremy Wotherspoon is arguably the greatest long track speed skater in his specialty in the sport's history, yet he too couldn't bag a medal. Weird stuff. Does this tarnish his legacy? Absolutely not but it's unfortunate nevertheless.

Put it to you this way. We have three gold medals. Korea, that noted winter power, has three. Indeed, China and Korea are out skating Canada. Dunno 'bout you but I'm of the darn opinion that should never, ever happen, you know, because we essentially LIVE ON ICE. Norway. A tiny nation of four million sits ahead of us in the standings; as they've usually done historically speaking.

In 2006, Canada started out slow and finished off strong mostly thanks to short and long track speed skating. I don't know if that's going to happen this time around. If it doesn't, we'd better hope some dark horses come through. If the overall medal count is out of reach, capturing more golds than any country is still a possibility.

Hey, but you know us, at least we're hitting personal bests and are participating.

***

Despite all this, I applaud Canada's athletic maturation process. We're finally coming around to the notion that striving for excellence is a good thing. We should always aim for gold. A nation feeds of the success of its amateur athletes for two weeks every four years. Up until now out approach was way too "nice" and unrealistic.

However, as we Canucks are realizing, it's not enough to say we want to achieve greatness by pouring money into the system. The difference between being a nation of champions and a being a nation of chumps is all in mental preparation. Canada is getting there. Until our athletes develop a ruthless killer instinct, we will never own the podium. Truth is, it was a tall order for Canada to over take Germany, Norway and the United States. These nations have  taken the idea of competition more serious than we have until now. It's going to take longer for the "own the podium" program to take root; to embed itself in the psyche of its athletes and even the population at large. We need future athlete watching these Olympics to get "mad" and say, "Hey, I want to make Canada win." Think the "Program of excellence" in hockey. It's been a resounding success. There's no reason why we can't replicate this in other sports.

I seriously hope Canada doesn't abandon their quest for excellence. We have great athletes. They deserve to be given a chance to win. We need the corporate world to get even more involved to make it all possible.

I don't want to see the same thing happen to our amateur program that gripped the soccer program. In 1986, we made the World Cup. The soccer community was convinced Canada was on the right path and that it was a matter of time before we developed our talent into a strong soccer outfit. The assumption was we were going to build on the 1986. Instead, the exact opposite happened. The CSA fell into an abyss of irrelevance and incompetence. The results plain for all to see as we slid way down the rankings.

One other thing. We may want to consider trimming down the number of athletes we send to both the winter and summer games. If funds are limited, then a "leaner is meaner" approach may be appropriate. Select the sports we think we can excel in and focus on that. There's no point in sending 126 athletes if they're going to render you a return of a dozen medals. That's not a sound game plan. 

Stick with it Canada. This is just the first phase. We'll figure out how to win on a consistent basis at the winter games.

It's too bad it's taken this long for us to "get it."

Metro Suicides And No Green Love For Light Bulb

I don't get something. Suicides in metro systems - and it certainly is a complicated issue to examine -  in Canada take place more often than we care to admit and debate. It always befuddled me how we don't have protective gates in the Metro. It struck me as naive if not careless for the city to not block the platform. Another thing. Why don't the rail cars slow down instead of zooming in?

To both questions it comes down to: Cost and delays.

To which I would counter, it's money well spent to protect lives considering how much we waste on other projects. At least with this we can have a direct impact on people's lives. It's an easy thing to quantify. As to the delays, I'm sure people would be more than happy to forfeit 30, 60, 90 (whatever) extra seconds of their lives if it means keeping them safe.

Consider the opening of Dr. Mishara's thesis on the subject:

Objective: To understand the characteristics of persons who commit suicide in the Montreal subway system (the Montreal Metro), their personal and psychiatric histories, and the nature of the event in order to develop better prevention strategies.

Method: Systematic analysis of coroner’s office investigations of the 129 suicides in the Montreal Metro from 1986 to 1996.

Results: Of the 129 people who committed suicide, 81% had expressed a prior suicidal intention, 66% had previously attempted suicide, and 9% had attempted suicide in the metro. One hundred and five of the victims had serious mental health problems, most frequently depression; 73% had had inpatient psychiatric treatment, and at the time of death, 27% resided in a mental health treatment institution. Recent adverse life events included failed relationships, work problems, and family difficulties.

Conclusions: Suicide victims intentionally go to the metro to kill themselves, often tell others beforehand, and are generally in treatment for serious psychiatric problems. Possible prevention strategies include modification of the environment and procedures in the metro, changing public conceptions of metro suicides, and modifying practice in psychiatric facilities.


***

Quebec should entertain other bids for the construction of new metro cars. I don't see why it should be otherwise. I further don't understand how Bombardier should get the contract outright; especially if we can do business with a company with lower costs associated. Doesn't it behoove us to seek out the best cost to quality offer? Or do we want to be like the Montreal Canadiens and be myopic by restricting who we hire and deal with?

Quebec is the only place in North America, possibly in the world, that operates on rubber tires as opposed to steel wheels. I'm not sure about the "environmental" viability of this seeing Quebec wants to go green. Moreover, isn't steel better and less costly to maintain over the long run? Anyone?

Tendering contracts for city metros can be a complicated process. Stever Munro does a good job describing it giving the reader some insights into it. I pulled out this comment from the blog:

RE: N. Clawson’s comment about the “durability” and “reliability” of the Vickers-built metro cars in Montreal.
Yes, it is quite a miracle that these original Vickers from 1966 are still (though not for long) serving dutifully as the backbone of Montreal’s metro system. But you seemed to have fogotten that over 1/2 of Montreal’s metro fleet are MR-73 built by Bombarider in 1974 – and these are much more preferred by Montrealers.
Also, Montreal being one of the few cities in the world that operate rubber-tired cars, a lot of effort were put into the system to prolong its service life.
Myself as an ex-Montrealer who used to ride the Green line (1966 Vickers) everyday and the Orange line (1974 Bombardier) on weekends, I can tell you that the TTC subway cars are much more comfortable and spacious than Montreal’s.
As for reliability, Montreal metros are known to breakdown often. Delays and shut-downs are common place in Montreal, and these inconveniences (minor or major) have become a part of the daily life of a metro user like myself.
As the saying goes, grass is always greener on the other side.
 ***
I was at Canadian Tire today (insert commercial riff hear). I went to buy one of those "twirly, ener-saver" bulbs that are supposed to last nine years.

I brought the burnt bulb to make sure I purchased the right one - going to buy a simple 100w bulb is so 90s, you know? Nothing is more aggravating than buying the wrong light bulbs. It's like buying all the special ingredients for a gore-met meal and realizing you forgot to buy fucken salt; make that sea salt.

At the cash I asked the girl if she had a "poubelle" that's French for trash can for you illiterate hicks and hacks. She pointed me to three recycling cans. One yellow, one blue and the other black. I followed the picture instructions but didn't "twirly light bulbs" on any of them. So I went back and asked her which garbage can should I use. She glanced over and told me she didn't know.

Nice. Not even the effen staff knows. Shouldn't they be given a one day training course to know this stuff? Let's be green and lost. Together.

Green, red, fuscia - whatever - it all ends up in the same garbage heap I'm guessing. Reminds of the scene in The Simpsons when all the different varieties of Duff beer went through the same funnel and came out of one tube. Hilarious.

I took the bulb home and threw it in a Glad garbage bag. And that was that.

2010-02-18

It Was Over Before It Began

MSNBC inserted Keith Olbermann into their lineup likely to take on Rush Limbaugh on the EIB Network.

The best way I can describe this fight is this way:



I was at a live feed broadcast at the old Montreal Forum for that fight. 1988 I think it was. My father took me and friend. We were halfway through our Mars bar when the fight ended. Tyson was a raging rhino. He still gives me nightmares. He quite possibly remains the scariest athlete ever.

Spinks is Olbermann. Limbaugh is Tyson.

Hey, check Olbermann (why do I keep thinking of Oktoberfest when I spell his name?) match acting wits with a chipmunk.

Announcement To Make

I wrote that I was left-handed on Zeus's blog.

Since then I've gotten a few comments and emails about it.

So right here, right now I'm coming out: I'm left handed and I'm Aquarius.

Which means, I'm the best.

Ciao.

U.S. Government Faces Toyota Down

I don't know. It'll be some time before we get all the facts around the Toyota recall but it's becoming increasingly alarming at the degree the Obama administration is involving itself in it.

It makes you wonder about "qui bono?"

I've been reading how in some circles it is asserted Obama is doing it because A) Toyota is a non-unionized company and it's time to stick with his union cohorts and B) of the government's stake in General Motors.

There's no evidence of this but is it that crazy to "put it out there" considering these points?

One argument I do refute is the idea of pushing Toyota out to increase sales of American cars. There's no way of telling if American will flock to GM or Chrysler. Ford doesn't need Obama as it's doing fine on its own. There are other players in the market like Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia and Honda who could benefit. Unless Obama forces people to buy GM (and I wouldn't put it past him), with an assortment of "proposals" and "credits," the market will determine on its own who will benefit. Does the market still exist? Just checking.

But if Toyota were to "pull out" that would have a gigantic negative effect on U.S. jobs and by extension the economy. It would surprise me -no, stun me - if Obama was this short sighted in his thinking. It would be a staggering error in judgment seeing that he's trying to create and "save" jobs.

Maher Tried And Tripped

I consider Bil Maher a decent comedian and commentator even though I don't agree with him most of the time - I thought Religulous was a ridiculous film. He's pretty funny too. However, he dropped the ball this time.

Why?

Consider this comment by Maher: 

 While we were off, Sarah Palin agreed to do commentary at Fox News, which is actually very similar to her day job: talking to a baby with Down syndrome. (The studio audience groans, then applauds).
Imagine. If. Limbaugh. Said. This. Omigod, the media would lose its mind. What blows me away, reading some comments defending him, the same rules don't apply to a guy Limbaugh or here in Canada, Don Cherry.

In any event, if you read or listen carefully, he isn't making fun of down syndrome per se but he did use it as a "human shield" to denigrate Fox. Still not cool, man.

And this Palin thing. Holy Jesus, get off that boring train already! It was a matter of time it was going to sink lower and lower and lower.

Maher (who doesn't really strike me as "liberal") spends a lot of time trying to point out the deficiencies in others, yet, ironically, he exposed his own triviality. It betrays healthy intellectualism to allow yourself to fall to this level.

This is not a left or right thing. This is a simple case of human decency.

Canadian Banks Pride Of The Nation; Inheriting The Solution

All of a sudden banks are a hit with people. They're proud to be Canadian because our banks did so well during the financial meltdown. It doesn't take much for Canadians to find a "proud du jour."

Though there may be some truth to the conservative nature of our DNA (peace, order, good government anyone?) I think stretching it to wisdom may be a tad rich.

When I worked for the bank fro 1995 to 2005 (or thereabouts), the banks were public enemy number one. You couldn't go a day it seemed without reading something the boogey-men bankers were up to. "You guys, are ridiculous" as one friendly client put it to me. To which I retorted, "would you prefer if we didn't?" He replied, "It's not that. It's just that it's too much," "Sez who? How much is too much? If I were you, I'd enjoy the ride." Zing!

The same people ready to wave Canadian and TD Bank (or Royal bank or any other Schedule 1 bank of your choice.Or you could wave, if you live in Quebec, Caisse Populaire or Laurentien if you desire) flags with a maple doughnut (again, your choice) were the same ones who blasted them for the excessive profits we made (even though in the grand scheme of international things, ours were chump change). They couldn't be consoled that are banks were pretty stable.

***

Speaking if illogical, myopic double-standards, it's interesting to read how liberals and the Obama administration are dying - dying - to claim credit for a recovery not yet there thanks to their stimulus bill (though not all of it has been spent for some reason). So. Let me see. They "inherited" Bush's mess but proceeded to use his stimulus plan to "fix" the economy even though it was part of the inheritance?

Can someone 'splain to me?

2010-02-16

The Apartment

There's a feel and quality to The Apartment. I can't quite explain. I love the intro. The relationship between time, space and individual is especially captivating. There's something to the architecture too. Maybe it's Wilder's technique. And then there's the story; the social and corporate commentary. Cool stuff.

The acting of course is excellent with Shirley McLaine, Jack Lemmon and Fred MacMurray - easily one of the most under rated actors in Hollywood history.

Here are the opening two scenes:



Misusing The Word Literal

The first time I ever saw David Cross was on The Drew Carey Show. He was playing some psycho guy selling ties in Drew's department store. I remember laughing so hard my guts literally oozed from my ass.



Dogs are smarting than women:

Wotherspoon Still A Champion

My take on Jeremy Wotherspoon at sportsperspectives.com.

If this keeps up, Canada won't "own" the podium. They're going to "rent" it.

11 Years Ain't What It Used To Be

So. You defraud people of their life savings to the tune of $50 million dollars and what do the courts do?

They give you a light sentence. 11 years for Earl Jones? With "good" behavior - like he's going to bite someone's dick off in prison - he may be out in two years.

Lives shattered. Families destroyed. And this bonehead gets pretty much a slap on the wrist? Bernie Madoff wishes he was Canadian. Wishes.

"He can rot in hell," his own brother Bevan Jones said.

Here's what I don't get. Prosecutors, the police, whatever, say they can't retrieve or find the money in fraud cases. If that's the case, then why let this guy have a chance to escape to another country to enjoy the rest of his life while his victims lay in tatters?

It makes no sense to me. We're tougher on smokers - I speak figuratively of course. If Jones defrauded people, increased his carbon footprint and smoked watch out!

I'm also about to make a bleeding heart statement. I feel for those old folks. It's not like they can go out and get a job and rebuild their savings. They've did their part for society. Now, they essentially become wards of the state. I would be glad to give to a slush fund of some kind to keep these people afloat. I know, the rest of us shouldn't pay for someone's mistakes, but this case is so extraordinary and disgusting, what's the alternative? They're going to be a drain anyway on society. There's no safety net for victims of this sort of fraud. I say this because the flood gates have already been open. Liberals want to "equalize" life and take of everyone yet in this case, it's not happening. Instead, a bunch of clueless able-bodied douches get to take advantage of the system.

In the end, life just isn't fair.

And Earle Jones can indeed rot in hell.

2010-02-15

Bilodeau's Gold Medal Ceremony

24 000 people packed the arena for the men's moguls medal ceremony. They were there to celebrate Alexandre Bilodeau - a native of Montreal. Bilodeau is not the first Canadian to win a gold medal and he won't be the last. However, his medal will be the most remembered. See, he was the the first Canadian to ever win a gold on home turf. Didn't happen in Montreal in 1976 (where Canada won 11 medals; five silvers) and it didn't happen in Calgary in 1988 (five medals; two silvers).

Naturally, it was a great moment for Canada. A cathartic one if you will. The energy exuded from the scene onto your television set it was so exciting. Premier Jean Charest was there to celebrate too:

"It was great and all. Great moment for sure. But, voyons donc, did they have to sing the national anthem with such gusto and in English only? Where's the OLF when you need them? And what's with all the flags? Seems to me they could have waved a few Quebec flags. I'm just saying."

Just after his comment, Charest was pelted with snow balls.

I Think I'm Going To Sleep With The Light On Tonight

Into horror flicks? Check out Zombos Closet of Horror.

I interviewed Iloz Zoc - the man behind behind the site - a couple of years back.

Which reminded me of Stanley Turrentine's Spooky for some reason. Has there ever been a funky killer in slasher movies?

The Art Of Singing National Anthems

Much banter has taken place about 16 year-old Nikki Yanofsky's rendition of 'O, Canada' at the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics. It was a piece of creative work that some got and others didn't. Free country. Anthems and interpretations of them will always cause a stir whenever an artist challenges traditional versions. Heck, I would have loved to have seen it sung in Hindi.

Consider these two version of the 'Star Spangled Banner' by Marvin Gaye and Jose Feliciano. One was a reflection of African-American culture and the other Hispanic culture in a nation called America. Two contrasting styles but equally staggering in their delivery. Feliciano's version, so derided for so long, is a moving rendition while Gaye's was, well, let's just say I think many television sets shut off for a couple of minutes.



From Wall St. To Whine St.

My sister is one of those leftists who reads the New York Times (I won't even mention the left-wing rag blogs she pollutes her mind with), and declares every so often naked blanket statements about something.

A personal favorite one of mine is "Wall St. is so greedy!"

As if greed has a GPS and stops on, you got it, Wall st.! *Winks. Shoots air pistols*

No, the government isn't greedy. Nah. They're just filled with the same hacks who worked on Wall St. who suddenly had a change of heart and decided to serve in the public interest. Sure.

It's so annoying to hear a person who never worked in financial services rail against "Wall St." They speak as if it's one monolithic entity. A place where evil suits meet in a town square to plot mass financial destruction and scurry on over to their soot filled offices.

To a certain extent it is. There are some priceless assholes in banking. However, in my experience working in it for 10 years, it's best to accord some perspective on the industry.

"You know on Wall. St they..." and "Wall St. is so evil" and "Wall St. is a racket Obama must clean up." Wall St, Wall St., Wall St. all the time! It's enough to make you want to scream like Sylvester the Cat "Ah, shaddap!" Half these people don't know what they're speaking of when it comes to Wall St. They can barely invest their own money or balance their own household budgets yet they somehow want to link their financial illiteracy and ineptitude with, say it, WALL STREET! Say it again, WALL STREET.

You would think these people reside on Sesame Street.

And what about Obama? Whatever. Talk to the hand. Have you ever seen a President say "I propose" more than him? Propose nothing.

Back to my sister, a superior writer to me but inferior mathematically (and that's not saying much), although I do have quite the panache in the kitchen. Hang on. She's better. Anyway.

She sent me a link to a New York Times article by Angelo Matera in the business section about hedge funds. Comment, obviously, will follow:

In today’s NY Times, Peter Goodman’s excellent profile of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan confirms what I’ve been writing, that it was a specific “structure of sin”—financial speculation—rather than mere human greed (or bad home loans) that created the credit crisis. I’d always wondered how a rigid anti-government libertarian ideologue like Greenspan—an Ayn Rand disciple, no less—managed to get appointed to the most powerful economic post in the world. If he had been running the Food and Drug Administration, he would have been exposed within a few months, as soon as the first deaths caused by lax food inspection started happening. But the byzantine complexities of global finance, and the fact that Ponzi Schemes can run for a long time before collapsing, meant Greenspan could reign for twenty years before the effects of his blindness would be seen in today’s financial meltdown. Despite warnings from experts, Greenspan did nothing to regulate the market for financial contracts known as derivatives as it grew from “a relative pittance just two decades ago” to $106 trillion in 2002 to $531 trillion today. Along the way he had accomplices from across the political spectrum, from current McCain advisor Phil Gramm, to Clinton Treasury Secretaries Robert E. Rubin and Lawrence Summers. (If anything, this financial crisis should convince doubters that we’re living under one party rule.)
Always remember this. another piece of advice. Write it down on a piece of toilet paper and carry it for the the rest of your life. It's a simple human adage: People WANT to be deceived.

The hedge fund collapse was huge because people wanted to believe. It wasn't  just Wall St. - though they do have to shoulder large parts of the blame - that was complicit in it.

I know it's hard for people to accept but we too are part of the problem. Yes, financial wizards are always dreaming up ways to gain liquidity - that's how options were invented in the early 1970s; options are a game for suckers.

Just like me and my senior partner avoided tech stocks during that bubble, we didn't jump on the hedge bus either. I never did like the word "hedge." It came at a cost because people wanted them so they went elsewhere to get some. It was an opportunity cost but a good sensible one for our business. We did something called due diligence and opted out while others in our office jumped on it - gotta get those great trailers and fees. The art of avoiding the herd mentality is a tricky one.

My point is we all have choices to make in life. We then have to live and die by the consequences of those choices.

That's where I break from writers like Mr. Matera. They always want to find someone to blame; a philosophical root for our madness. To paint the people as sheep at the hand of the wolf only detracts from personal accountability.

In addition, it's rubbish to connect Rand and Greenspan to the hedge fund mess. This line of thinking lets people off the hook. The bottom line is if we'd paid closer attention and guarded against our own "personal exuberance" maybe the powers that be wouldn't be so quick to capitalize on it.

Hedging, leveraging, short selling, options - whatever- will always be risky but legal forms of investment. This is something people should realize. 

Predictable Quebec Whine

Leave it to Quebec and Canadian sensitivity to complain about the Olympics.

Sad. So very sad.

Pathetic really.

I won't dignify a detailed response.

What's shocking is the "leader" of this province, Premier Jean Charest (a province that's unilingual by law) added his lousy, useless two cents. Nice. The effen leader of a region crying like a little biatch. Must. Everything. In. Quebec. Be. Fucking. Political? I doubt the people of Quebec had much of a problem with the ceremony, it's likely this is a problem with our political and intellectual clowns. Nice signals to send the people.

"Je pense que..." You think nothing.

The one thing I observed is the Olympic announcers begin all introductions in French. The ceremony was essentially English-French neutral and focused on our Native heritage. What's the matter with these jackasses?

It's unfortunate to see people who've worked so hard be put on the defensive like this. 

Nationalism is a scourge. It's a divisive force. It's seen as a natural and appropriate mechanism to "defend" Quebec but in reality it's a piece of shit logic with little legs in the long-run to promote a culture. Nationalism is a great tool when you're just starting out as a country and need to instill and install all sorts of desired institutions. Once settled, nationalism has little use in the maturation process. In fact, my advice to any society is to kick out all self-professed nationalists. They'll only cause heart ache and impede progress.

Sarah's Palinism

Hopey?

Changey?

Ugh.

Ughy.

2010-02-14

Words That Ring True For Many

I was clearing out some junk and came across a bunch of newspaper clippings I kept. I literally have hundreds if not thousands of periodicals, newspapers, essays, articles (and the sort) neatly tucked away in special boxes.

One in particular caught my eye. It was graffiti splattered on the side of a building in Montreal. It read:

If voting could change the system it would be illegal.

Thus concludes political science class. 

On Second Thought...

It's becoming increasingly difficult to follow Obama's foreign policy logic. Iran is going to serve as his leitmotif I reckon at some point.

But I want to talk about the recent decision to place missiles in Romania. A former communist country in Eastern Europe, I would think Russia would consider it, rightly or wrongly, as part of its sphere of influence.

Last year, the Obama administration opted to not place missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland (after Robert Gates said it was lie they weren't going to) drawing criticism from those countries. It was thought the decision was made to keep Russia happy in the context of dealing with Iran.

Hey, it was a calculation.

However, this logic is put into question now given Obama has decided to go ahead and place missile interceptors in Romania.This drew vociferous ire from the Russians.

Let me see if I get this straight. The Bush policy of missile defense was laughed and scoffed at by the left and the incoming administration. It was seen as another mark of insensitivity under the Bush "reign of terror." n an effort to distance himself from Bush, Obama scrapped the deal. Now, just one year later he's "revamping" the strategy?

Therein lies the problem with Obama and the Democrats. They assumed everything Bush did was wrong and was the crux of all America's problems. They figured do the opposite and all will work out. Instead, the opposite has happened. Obama and the Democrats have essentially followed lock-step with Bush's policies and this recent move only adds to it. You even have Biden going on Larry King saying "Iraq can be an achievement for this administration!" A war they chastised and were against. Now they want to take credit?

Which begs the question: How accurate was Bush with his assessments on foreign policy?

So. He ended ruffling Russian feathers after all and now he has two committed allies in the Czech Republic and Poland sore with the United States.

I think it's time Obama stops looking at things through the prism of Bush. Time for him to grow up and start making foreign policy an important part of his presidency. If this keeps up, he'll ironically end up upsetting even allies.

***
Speaking of Russia. I still don't get how it was admitted into the G7. Its resource (oil mostly) driven economy is in tatters. It's nowhere near the levels of the members of the G7. Obviously, that was a political move to assuage its paranoid tendencies. Spain, China or India have a better claim to enter the G7.

***

This brings me to another question. Accepting that Russia is weak economically (and demographically), would it be in its best interest to ever risk war with the United States? If they were to ever engage in direct war, in the long run, the United States would prevail given its obvious advantages.

What I'm saying is the best Russia can do is voice displeasure with the Americans. But beyond that, being a rational player in global affairs, what can it do despite its military power?

No. I'm not suggesting the U.S. dictate policy along these lines. Far from it. It should be engaging the Russians and avoiding upsetting them. I'm just openly considering the reality of Russia's own weaknesses.

Popular Restaurant Not For Us

La femme de la maison informed me that she'll be going out for supper for a birthday party. My disciplinarian methods, it seems, have not worked. You can't keep a girl down I confess. Sigh.

Women. If you don't be careful, they'll end up like Ann Dvorak ('Cesca) in the original Scarface (1932). All fun and death. Now that's not a life is it?

I digress. I always digress. It's a weakness. Perhaps to disguise my pointlessness.

The restaurant they'll be inhabiting for a few hours is a popular one. To be quite honest, I don't know why. It's one of those high priced places pretending to be high end. It has all the decorum and presentation of a haute-cuisine but it really isn't. The food (Italian) is alright but I don't know how such a place can become popular.

They always say don't try and fool the customer. They (whoever the fuck they are) also say make sure you serve high quality food with excellent service. How many place you know rake it in providing none or one of these? Assuming of course it's not a front for something else.

This particular place, my wife has already had problems with. The last time she was there she asked for vegetables instead of pasta with her veal - she's allergic to wheat. Mind you, she's allergic to nearly everything. She's one step removed from being like Paul in the Wonder Years.

The waiter refused at first! She stuck to her guns - she rarely does that. She's not into causing scenes in any way. She's conservative that way - but this time she was irritated. An establishment with an extensive menu bragging about optimum service shouldn't be so petty. She had to take it to the manager. The manager, reluctantly relented.

"What a silly place," she lamented.

"And over rated. There are plenty of Italian restaurants, dives really, superior to that place," I replied.

The market is "efficient" so goes the saying. When it comes to food, it becomes more subjective. I've seen many great places offering outstanding food go under. While the reasons for this can be numerous - most among them being poor management and bad control of costs have little to do with customers - I've personally known a couple of well-run places that couldn't make it. Meanwhile, I see, too often, crappy places jammed pack. Line ups.

2010-02-13

The Obama Mirage

In the comments thread of this article titled "Inside Obama's Hologram" on Reason Online, I found this gem:

Recognition of George W Bush by the Obama Administration

Just heard that the Obama Administration will be honoring the 43rd President of the United States by naming the gap between the tectonic plates beneath Haiti after him.

The area will now officially be referred to as "Bush's Fault."
Anyway. I can't stand people who fawn over other people. I have a friend like that. In the old days when we would hit Montreal's hip club scene, it was a common occurrence to be among celebrities and athletes. It was pathetic to watch him in action trying to get their attention.

Fuck them. It made for such a weird evening knowing one of the guys was a puppy before some entertainers. Entertainers!

To me, Obama is certainly a celebrity. Not much on the ideas and content or substance side, but what a winning smile! He doesn't represent squat. Pragmatist my foot. You could spot that crock a mile away. He's just another politician who plays and preys on the emotions of people. Other than that, he'd probably be cool to sit and have a Lime Bud with. Then again, so would Bush.

***

Oh, about this community organizing thing. I never did quite grasp how this became such an important part of his aura and how it related to his ability to be the executive of his country.

How about this indicting piece about his community organizing experience in City Journal? 
Although he did change his tune; looks like anyway.

Chicago is one tough place. 

Again. Not surprising.

Contradictory Thoughts

Popular conservative pundits speak as though their thinking holds no contradictions with the ideas of liberty.

"We're for freedom!" Maybe vis-a-vis a hard leftist they take individualism and freedom more seriously but getting it down in a formal way has proven inconsistent.

Take for example the notion of limited government. Sounds good. I'm all for it. But what happens when they advocate war? Doesn't this expand the government? Now, at this point, they will argue "well, it's necessary in order to defend liberties." Ergo, they tolerate something that really isn't about limited government as a trade off for freedom. Or like in a previous post, the constant need to "morally" regulate the lives of people. That's not conservatism; that's bull shit by any other definition. Just as it's zany for liberals to coerce people to follow their pet projects, it makes no sense to accept conservative totalitarian tendencies.

About the war angle, it may make perfect sense to them but I always thought conservatism doesn't not believe in foreign wars. Then again, national defense is one area the people consented to allow the government to control.

So. Is there still a contradiction?

Danny Boy Fixes Ticker In The USA

I wasn't going to comment on Newfoundland Premier Danny Wilson's decision to head to the States for heart surgery.

Then I realized, *smashes V8 to head* I'm The Commentator.

With a slight concussion I try. My wife says I was born concussed.

Look it's simple: In Canada, when it comes to access to quick and specialized services like, say, a heart transplant, the universal care system in its current form can't provide it. I don't know why people act shocked - SHOCKED! - whenever they here someone with some coin split for the USA for health services. When I worked at FPC (findprivateclinics.ca), I was flooded with emails from people asking where to go in the United States for certain services. For example, here in Quebec there are no private rheumatoid arthritis. I had to help link people to the Fletcher Allen Center in Vermont.

Truth is it happens all the time. So much so we almost launched a medical travel practice. That's how strong the demand was.

Part of it, is bureaucratic. There are so many interventionist rules against doctors and nurses it would leave you wondering if our politicians are doing it on purpose it's so stupid. In one case, we were close to a doctor in Ontario. Here's a guy, a doc, who went to school in Ontario, was trained in Ontario, worked in the Ontario system and he wasn't allowed to perform certain major knee surgeries because he decided to go private - as if he suddenly became incompetent. He was free to scope knees and other minor surgeries but was not permitted to repair an ACL.

Dumb.

And that shit happens right across the board in hundreds of different combination. Here in Quebec, we have a doctor, nurse (and bed) shortage. Yet, we don't allow immigrant medical professionals to work here to help shorten the gap. I recognize some places don't have our standards but in cases where they do, dammit, let them work. Too many of them are driving cabs or selling RRSPs for crying out loud. That's not putting our resources to good work.

In the case of Williams, quite frankly, it's none of our business what he does. While I'm cool with his decision, I just hope the good people of Newfoundland aren't on the hook.

Here's another thing to consider. Health falls under the jurisdiction of the provinces. There is no blanket "Canadian universal" system. Provinces adhere to the health act set by the Federal government but are free to operate their own systems. It's pretty fragmented when you think of the fact that our medicare cards aren't portable across provincial borders.

So it's possible Newfoundland didn't offer the service he needed. As for the other provinces? It looks like his best bet was in the States.

And don't think for one minute Europeans don't leave their own respective countries for medical services elsewhere. From what I read, their destination of choice is Asia and, of course, the United States. Is it an indictment of the systems or just a result of specific cases and personal decisions?

Which begs the question. If The Grinch had a choice where would he go to increase the size of his heart?

Conservatives Are Condescending Too (Organized Too); Obama's Agnosticism

My friend in Boston, an registered independent, had this priceless thing to say:

Although I know all too well that this is just another brilliant tactic on their part by downplaying their intelligence and ability to debate their ideas publicly and in doing so they can continue to portray Obama as an elitist to the masses of idiots which I spoke about in my prior email.
 

Brilliant strategy. Just brilliant.
 

Somewhere along the line Republicans dissected the human genome for the "little guy/common folks/average joe/regular dolts" and they've mastered how to corrupt it for their own gains, over and over and over again.
 

Just brilliant.

By now, as you read this, you would be thinking "fascist" and "socialist" and other names used to disparage anything from the Democrat rank.

He added:

At this point they would be the KC Royals and the Republicans would be the Cardinals.
In other words they both have the same resources and can play on the same field but one is simply run better than the other.


He was a radio sports broadcaster. I'm a sports junkie. It was only natural we went this route.

***


I don't know. *Shrugs* shoulders.

Something tells me President Obama coulda and shoulda used a better word than "agnostic" when asked about the federal deficit. He's not paid and wasn't elected to not have answers.

Scroll down to "What is agnosticism?" from the New York Times in 1886. It's pretty revealing.

For an academic, he ought to know better, no?

Liberty Has No Political Colour

From Classically Liberal:

Rep. Nancy Barto, a Republican from Phoenix, has introduced legislation in the Arizona state legislature to have government step in to try and stop people from divorcing. Under Barto's bill couples wanting to divorce will have to wait an extra four months for their divorce to take effect legally. And, if the couple have children, Barto wants to force them to attend government-run indoctrination classes on why they should not divorce.
I like this quote because whenever I hear conservative political pundits - Limbaugh et all - speak of liberty, they exclusively focus on the left and with the Democrats. It wouldn't be a bad idea to look in the barn every once in a while.

Erosion of liberty isn't exclusive to any party or ideology. It's a political ideology onto itself now. It's a monster.

Another reason why the quote is interesting is because it helps force us to exercise our brains a little. Whenever I see a claim made, I always try to reverse its logic to see if it holds up. It's a tough game but worth it in the long run. For example, when it comes to gay marriage we tend to try and follow the logic of same-sex families to its logical end - if there is one. I'm not sure that there is. However, we never stop and say, "what if it in fact strengthens the family unit?" Or that the people and organizations defending traditional marriage won't turn around and use coercion to maintain its version of the institution.

It's a battle of the "agendas" and we're in the middle. Or are we?

***

At this point I do appeal to readers about this argument; to verify, confirm or reject its tenet:

Why not civil unions with all the necessary guarantees and protection before the law for gays? Why does the institution of marriage in its current form have to be rewritten?

Vancouver Olympics

Thoughts on Vancouver's tough start over at Sportsperspectives.com by yours truly.

Intersportswire has changed name. Yup it has. I'm not sure what the angle is yet but it sure won't be all that gossip gunk we see in sports blogging.

About the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili:
If my four year old daughter is any indication, it may all turn out fine. While we watched the moving moment of silence for the fallen athlete, she asked what the people were doing. My wife delicately explained to her the situation. She sat quietly and began to play a music box. “I put the music for the person who died,” she said.

To Try Or Not To Try Federally

The federal courts in the United States can indeed handle the prosecution of terrorists (as the Bush administration showed), but like everything else in life it's all in how you define "terrorist." 

The bottom line is KSM is not like all the others. He's a different, bigger fish altogether.

2010-02-12

Life's Not Fair

Boy, now there's a cliche.

But it does have staying power.

It is illogical to believe life can be made "fair" and logical to accept this to be part of life.

Discuss.

We can make things more "equal" but we can never determine the results. It feels as though we're trying to mess with results to fit our notions of what is "just" and "fair."

***

In sports, parity is seen as something healthy. "Everyone gets a chance!" And where inept organizations falter, others will be there to pick them up - that's salary caps and revenue sharing attempt to do.

So why is it "fair" to making winning organizations who make the right decisions to fork over cash to a team that perpetually messes up?

The thinking has become - and this is seen in matters of history as well - that dominant and successful entities have somehow reached the pinnacle of success by cheating or off the backs of others. The excuse they have "more" money is exactly a result of their championship mentality. They earned the money through winning. They didn't necessarily start with the cash. 

There's a reason why Ferrari, New York Yankees, Green Bay Packers, Boston Celtics, Montreal Canadiens (although it's not evident these days) and a few others as well as a bunch of soccer clubs, are who they are. They've become brand names synonymous with success. Their organizational standards were outstanding. They stood/stand above all other teams.

A Most Pleasant Experience

I had to go incorporate my company today. I went in with the full knowledge I may sweat and spend a couple of hours at the government office. It didn't start off too well but once the gal slowed down the pace of her French all was good.

She explained to me what forms I had to sign and that I could do it online on the premises. She directed me to the computers at the back and off I went. Within 30 seconds I was in trouble, 10 seconds later a man appeared asking if I needed a hand.

I was taken aback. Is this a government office? I looked around and saw that it was.

I accepted. What a god send. The whole process was fast and easy thanks to the gentleman. And he spoke fluent English to boot!

As he pointed to me where to fill information out, it became clear I wouldn't have been able to do this on my own. Or if I did manage to succeed, it would take me over an hour probably. I asked him if most people knew how to fill documents out. He answered in the negative.

If the government is going to involve itself to the degree it does, the least it can do be semi-efficient and in this case, provide optimum service.

I was out within an hour. With the extra hour I had set aside for the bureaucracy, I spent in a cafe with an espresso, a falafel sandwich and my Sudoku book.

2010-02-11

Blog Plug

I like to plug blogs as you know.

Zeus Is Watching keeps my interest in classical music and culture alive and kicking.

Where Art Thou Dear Leader?

Found this article from Forbes by way of David Gergen's site. Can't really argue with this. 
Coming out of this crisis, it is obvious that Washington will intervene more heavily in the marketplace. What is less clear is whether this new regime will encourage a healthier and equally vigorous capitalism or whether it will go so far that it smothers the spirit of enterprise and innovation that remain key to our future. The answer will lie not just among leaders in Washington but in the leaders of corporate America.
 Or this:

Two professors at the Harvard Business School, Rakesh Khurana and Nitin Nohria, are advancing an idea envisioned in the early days of industrial growth - that management should become a true profession like law or medicine, with a code of conduct, commitment to social responsibility, and professional boards of enforcement. Their efforts represent the beginnings of what must become a longer, deeper conversation about a new social compact between corporations and society.
This is true to anyone who has spent 4:33 minutes in a corporation.  I know I've always felt this way. It made no sense to me how an important position like management can be put in the hands of a moron with no sense of anything. A poor decision by a known moronic quantity demoralizes a staff.

Obama Making It Easy For Hilary

If this keeps up, that is Obama making his incoherence seem like his pragmatic ("I'm open to ideas" is code for "I'm so fricken lost"), Hilary is going to love her chances in 2012.

Who can blame her?

***

The day I see Obama stop the "I inherited a mess" bull shit and grow a pair is the day I'll know he's become a leader.