Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Harper plagiarized a speech!!

I don't care. And neither should you. What you should care about is the fact that he, along with John Howard, wanted to go into Iraq. Which would have been a disaster. That's what matters. Liberal flailing about "plagiarism" is irrelevant.

Seriously, are we so bored that we have to start comparing speeches from five years ago? Is that what we're reduced to, instead of talking about things that matter?

Pretty much says it all.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What Liberals are missing.

I saw this over at Scott's place and had to make a point which is being always overlooked. Most Dippers (and, indeed, most Greens) don't consider a Dion government to be better than a Harper government. Neither one is really what they want. So why support Dion over Harper?

Seriously, Liberals, actually make a point which involves why your guy is supposed to be so appealing to the left. I can see why the NDP appeal. I can see why (at least some -- I have suspicions about the party as a whole) Greens appeal. But why the Liberals? They're basically Conservative-lite, and why would any self-respecting leftist vote for that?

Get it through your heads: the NDP are surging and the Liberals are falling because people don't want a Liberal government. Until Liberals can grasp that they are not the natural alternative to the Conservatives, and start making some positive arguments in favour of their party, they will continue to fall. It's not an argument to presume that Liberals are "better" than Conservatives.

(For the record, the governments I'd take, in order: (1) NDP minority, (2) Green minority, (3) I really don't care. Note the lack of majority governments: I would prefer a coalition over a majority any day.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I hadn't seen this.

But, I kinda needed it (as I suspect many of us might). Watch the whole thing:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Yech. Teaching evaluations.

Teaching evaluations have finally arrived for the summer course I taught at Western -- 6 weeks, 5 days a week, 2.5 hours a day. Numerically, across the board, I'm okay. I never claimed to be a fantastic teacher, only a decent one, and that seems to be reflected therein. Although, I should point out that there were 10 replies out of a class of 15, so the sample is hopelessly non-representative.

It's the comments that annoyed me, though. There were very few, first off. And the ones there were said (a) there was too much reading, (b) things were "too dull", and (c) they wouldn't recommend the course to others. In reverse order.

Third, it's not a Amazon review. It's a teaching evaluation. No one cares (or no one should care, says the pessimist in me) if you'd "recommend" the course. They care if you understood the material. If you found the lectures helpful. If the readings were appropriate to your conceptual level. Anything else makes the student seem like they don't understand the basic truth that students are not consumers. (Hell, if they are, I reserve the right to charge an "idiot tax" for the ones that annoy me. And not teach those who don't want to learn. And, for that matter, make them all pay the full cost of their education, instead of the small fraction they currently pay.)

Second, if the presentation really was too dull, the numbers for quality of presentation would be low. They are not. They're well within the numbers everywhere else. Which means the presentation was not exceptionally dull. (This is pretty basic reasoning.) It strikes me that the students who wrote those comments found philosophy boring. Which is fine. I find mathematics boring. I don't blame the mathematicians, though; I just drop their classes and move on.

First, and finally, they were warned from the beginning that the compressed nature of the course meant that things would be tough. However, their transcripts don't indicate that this was a compressed course. If they're getting the same credit as a student who takes the course during the year, then they will receive the same teaching -- and thus the same reading -- as a student who takes the course during the year. Those that can't hack it were invited, repeatedly, to drop.

On the whole, I'm fairly neutral about these evaluations. As said, they're basically consistent with what I've gotten from other groups. But the ignorance and sloppy thinking in the written comments is a source of constant irritation to me.

On what is "obviously false".

There are really two possibilities when someone says something you consider "obviously false". Either you have failed to understand them, or they are irrational. In the former case, this could be because, say, they have not expressed themselves clearly, or because they deny an assumption you are implicitly accepting. In the latter, it could be because of dogmatism or even insanity. In any event, the appropriate response is to ask for clarification. If the clarification is unenlightening, repeat the process until you are satisfied that your interlocutor is simply irrational.

I know of no rational basis for assuming that the problem with "obviously false" statements is always on the part of the person who says them.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Is adopting John McCain's campaign strategy really going to get Harper his precious majority?

Just askin'.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


It's apparently not online yet, but I just saw a new Con ad with Harper talking about the economy. I presume it was rushed out after the meltdown south of the border. In it, Harper says -- and I'm doing this from memory so I may slightly garble it, but I swear this is true -- "the fundamentals of our economy remain strong".

Of all the phrases he could use, Harper picked that one? (See below.) ROFLMAOWTFBBQ.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Are these elections over yet?

I've been listening to the stream of Metallica's Death Magnetic over hyar. Apparently, this is a "return to form", according to various reviews/previews. Seriously? To me, it sounds like they've been listening to Machine Head and took out all the aggression and vicious anger that they bring to everything. (Aside: a Machine Head cover of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" would be awesome.) Or possibly Megadeth circa Youthanasia/Cryptic Writings/Risk (Y'know, the crappy years.)

In short, this is no "return to form". It has none of the rhythmic structure and harmonic complexity you find on Master of Puppets or ...And Justice for All, and none of the stripped-down force of Metallica or Load. (Shut up -- Load's a good album. ReLoad not so much.) From what I hear, they haven't found any new ideas since the mess that was St. Anger. Sad; but not unexpected.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wow. So much for the Liberal party.

It's interesting perusing the Progressive Bloggers aggregator. Everyone's bashing Conservatives -- okay, makes sense. NDP supporters are explaining why Jack's a great possibility for PM, cheering him on. Makes sense, too. Green supporters are doing the same thing for Elizabeth May. Again, quite sensible.

What are Liberal supporters doing? Bashing the NDP. Seriously, I'm just looking down the feed right now, and all I see from Liberal supporters is NDP-bashing. Nothing about why the Liberals are a good choice for voters. Tell me, Libs, do you guys actually have anything good to say about your side? I'm genuinely curious, as I really don't see anything in the Liberal platform to date worth voting for, and I certainly don't see any reason to vote for a milquetoast like Dion. And it strikes me, judging by your actions, that you really believe that, too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Oh, honestly.

People get paid to write this? Really? Barber says, apparently with a straight face, that the NDP are the reason that the Cons are currently in power (letting the Liberals entirely off the hook), that the Liberals are a left-wing party, and that the solution to vote-splitting is to vote Liberal.

Glenn Greenwald complains -- rightly -- about the bullshit passed off by the Washington press corps, but I'm not sure that the "serious analysis" displayed here by The Globe and Mail is really all that different.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Oh, look. Our election is already a joke.

Thus far:

  1. Two leaders (Harper and Layton) have decided that they'll boycott the leadership debates if May is included. Well, fine. They can boycott if they like. But a decent press corps would have pointed out that the choices were (a) attend or (b) have an empty podium sitting there with the party's logo prominently displayed. Harper and Layton were both blowing smoke, and the consortium that organizes the debates decided to use that as an excuse to exclude a viable fourth (I don't count the BQ) party. And everyone knows this. Yet, somehow, it's taken as a legitimate argument by the serious and thoughtful folks in the Ottawa bureaus against the political importance of the Greens.
  2. Everyone also knows that the leadership debates are a bullshit fest at the best of times, and an exercise in slogan-shouting at the worst. This is, again, partly the fault of our pathetic press corps; but it is also the fault of a political system (SMP or FPTP) that only really works when there are two parties. When you have the dozen-plus that are registered in Canada, FPTP works to insulate the historically powerful parties and reduce the ability of newcomers to found political organizations to advance their interests. Which means that unless you're deeply confused and think that the historically powerful parties will actually serve or represent your interests to Parliament (Liberals, I'm looking at you), or you're a hyperpartisan who treats politics like a team sport, there's really no point to participating in the process.
  3. As mentioned, the elephant is in the room, the one thing that no one has yet talked about on a national stage. Our voting system is pathetically inadequate for an advanced and diverse polity like Canada. (It doesn't even work for the more homogenous Americans; and places where it might work, like Sweden, don't use it.) It leads to vote-splitting (what a group of laughably inept Young Liberals were screaming about at a Jack Layton campaign stop yesterday -- or possibly the day before, I can't really be bothered to look it up). It leads to excluding the leaders of parties -- not just the Greens, but also Canadian Action, Libertarian, Christian Heritage, the old National party, etc, etc -- on obviously arbitrary grounds. It leads to pseudomajority governments that can force policies on the country most people didn't vote for. And on, and on, and on.

So, here's my message for the election.

Don't vote.

Like as not, the parties you want to vote for have no chance at getting any national exposure, and are thus doomed to be footnotes. The parties you don't want to vote for don't represent your views (and, seriously, Liberals, Dippers, Greens, do you really believe the crap your parties endorse?). And your riding is probably so ridiculously partisan one way or the other -- mine happens to be heavily Liberal -- that your vote, whether for that part or not, serves no purpose.

At least the American election provides some interesting theatre. So far, ours doesn't even have that much going for it.

So, don't vote.