Sunday, February 24, 2008

Two points on Ralph Nader

(1) If the Democratic candidate can't beat Ralph Nader and John McCain, then the candidate stinks. That was mostly Al Gore's problem (well, and the Republicans cheated). Al Gore now is a hell of a lot better as a candidate than Al Gore then. He didn't know how to fight the media and he didn't know how to beat the Republican machine. Obama can probably pants Nader and McCain. Clinton, I'm not sure about.

(2) Nader is an American citizen and he has the sovereign right to run for the presidency, or any public office he damn well chooses. The Democratic and Republican parties don't own the presidency; citizens like Nader do. And the fact that the system is gamed such that only the Democratic or Republican candidate has a snowball's chance says more about those two parties and the shitpile the system has become than it does about someone like Ralph Nader.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

So, who should I vote for?

Got my voter registration card today for the federal by-election in Willowdale. Why must the Willowdale candidates always suck? Here's who I get to choose from:
  • Martha Hall Findlay (Lib)
  • Maureen Harquail (Con)
  • Rini Ghosh (NDP)
  • Lou Carcasole (Green)
  • Vijay Sarma (Canadian Action)
  • Paul Barnes (Libertarian)
What a pile of shit.

Finding web information for some (Sarma, Barnes) is a pointless task. Not that I'd vote Libertarian, given the fundamental dishonesty of the Canadian libertarian parties (reset button, guys; reset button). I have voted Canadian Action in the past, but only because I knew the candidate and where he stood on issues. I have no idea who Sarma is or what he stands for.

Carcasole is a froo-froo Green, in that he's long on the "peace, love, and understanding", but short on the actual brass-tacks policy. Not my cup of tea. WTF happened to Torbjorn Zetterlund (who ran for the Greens in October)? That guy looked pretty decent. Yes, I know he was running as an MPP before, but why not run him as an MP, too?

I've complained about Ghosh over here, and I don't see any evidence that she's changed her stripes. No fucking clue what she'd do if elected. Except, apparently, wear a sari. (No, seriously, that's all you can tell about her from her site: she wears a sari. Go see.)

Findlay, as far as I can tell, is not qualified to be an MP. I say "as far as I can tell", as she hasn't obviously updated her website since she lost the leadership race to Stephane Dion. So, I don't know what she's running on, exactly. Maybe she's got some super awesome policy positions or something, but she seems to be keeping them a secret.

As for Harquail... well, I'd sooner vote for the Libertarian. The federal Cons

are so far beyond capable of governing, I'm actually losing respect for all

federal parties the longer they fail to bring the government down. Harquail's website hits the usual buttons of law and order bullshit. No policy positions. No evident principles. Fuck the Cons.

So, yeah. I'm inclined to vote federally because, AFAIK, each vote puts a (small) amount of public money into that party's coffers. But all these candidates stink. Even though the polling station is actually in my building, I'm considering not wasting my time.

Suggestions, anyone?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Claude Castonguay can fuck right off.

See here if you're not yet informed.

(1) The guy works for insurers. Does he maybe, possibly, kinda, sorta have a conflict of interest thingy going on here? No, of course not... insurance company execs are entirely dispassionate and not in the least bit interested in expanding their profits. Like every other executive in every other field ever.

“People can choose what car they want to buy, what suit they want to wear, what house they want to live-in, but when it comes to their health, they don't have a choice. That's what I'm against,” Mr. Castonguay said in an interview Tuesday. “We are proposing to give a greater role to the private sector so that people can exercise a freedom of choice.”
Fuck off. Seriously. This is such a stupid argument it's almost hard to know where to start in critiquing it.

First, you do have a choice when it comes to healthcare. You can choose your doctor, which hospital you want to go to, which specialist you want to see (or, at least, which you don't), and so on. These are all choices, for fuck's sake.

Second, you don't have unlimited choice when it comes to cars, suits, and houses. You choose the ones you can afford. So, if you can't afford a new car, you buy used. If you can't afford a recent used car, you buy an older one. If you can't afford a car that runs efficiently, you buy one that doesn't. And so on. Your purchase power limits the quality of the goods you can purchase. If we extend the model to healthcare, then, the lower classes will end up with shit healthcare, the middle classes will end up with healthcare that's kinda maybe good enough, and the upper classes will get gold-plated healthcare to go with their luxury cars, thousand-dollar suits, and sprawling estates. In other words, extending private interests into public healthcare will reduce our ability to choose. Obvious to the sane amongst us, I know, but apparently this has escaped M. Castonguay.

Third, so fucking what? Framing this in terms of "choice" is absurd. It's not about choice. It's about a scarce resource (healthcare) that we all need and how to distribute it in a just fashion. Framing the issue as a matter of "choice" concedes the significant political point to the libertarian fringe: it accepts their understanding of justice and tries to foist it off on the rest of us. Which is pure bullshit. Libertarians -- honest ones -- defend the claim that a just distribution turns on individual choices (rather than, say, distribution according to need, or according to outcome, or according to one of the many egalitarian measures). Dishonest libertarians -- like M. Castonguay -- just assume it and hope the reporters are too stupid to notice.

So, fuck you, Claude Castonguay. And fuck you Rhéal Seguin, for falling for his bullshit.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


My dear wife just floated an interesting possibility. According to CNN's coverage, on the Republican side, if a candidate for the nomination doesn't pass the threshold of number of delegates (which I think is around 1900), then all delegates are free to vote for whomever they choose at the convention. Which means that, if Mike Huckabee continues to take delegates away from John McCain, then McCain's delegates will be free to vote for someone else at the convention. And Mitt Romney didn't, as far as I read, actually withdraw from the race: he "suspended" his campaign. One wonders if Romney has a backup plan in the works....

(On the Democratic side, my understanding is that delegates, once pledged, are expected to vote for whom they are pledged for, regardless. Which means, at this point, the decision will be in the hands of the superdelegates.)

I'm honestly not trying to turn this into a links blog.

But things are speaking to me today. Here is Rick Salutin getting it right on what bothers me the most about Toronto's new "black-focused" schools idea.

It's a good day for comics.

Anyone who's ever tried to figure out Dennett will appreciate this. Go.

Best comic on grading ever.

Why are so many so stupid?

Right now (midnight EST), this is on the Digg frontpage. It links to a story in Investor's Business Daily (a publication known for climate change denialism) allegedly showing that global temperature change is due to changes in solar activity, and not greenhouse gases. Despite the fact that this has an overall ring of bullshit about it -- slight shifts in the energy levels of a big ball of flaming gas millions of miles away vs. centuries-long concatenation of emissions creating an observable (effective) heatsink -- I glanced over the article.

First, these twits need to tone down the hyperbole or risk being shut out of the conversation. After all, the United States Climate Action Partnership is a coalition of major businesses and NGOs dedicated to lobbying the US government to actually pass some useful fucking legislation for once. When Ford, GM, BP, and Shell (among others) decide it's time to do something about global climate change, it's time for allegedly pro-business publications to get with the fucking program.

Second, there is a familiar name amongst the bullshit. Can you guess who? Tim Patterson. This Tim Patterson. A geologist whose professional expertise is in paleaoclimatology, and who is part of a group partially funded (in secret, no less!) by the oil and gas sector in Canada.

And who else? Well, how 'bout one Kenneth F. Tapping -- an astrophysicist. Which seems quite relevant to figuring out what the sun's doing, but what the fuck does he know about climate change? And a Russian astrophysicist, Khabibullo Abdusamatov -- again, where's his fucking qualification to talk about climate change? (Not that you need a formal qualification; but if you don't have one, you'd damn well better have an argument. As far as I can tell, Tapping doesn't have one, and Abdusamatov's is rejected by his peers.)

And Bruce Berkowitz, currently with the Hoover Institution (from its Wikipedia page: "The Hoover Institution is influential in the American conservative and libertarian movements, and the Institution has long been a place of scholarship for high profile conservatives with government experience."), who has a PhD in fuck knows what. He used to work for the CIA, though, so clearly he's a climate change expert. Seriously, this is the best they can come up with? He could have a PhD in clinical psychology for fuck's sake.

(There's also some completely unsourced studies, which is pretty much wingnut code for "we're making this shit up.")

Do I need to mention that the user who submitted the story to Digg (one "LadyAmerica") has an apparent penchant for standard American right-wing talking-points? Y'know, evil Muslims, poor put-upon Israel, and so on and so forth. Does this need to be said?

I know "Web 2.0" is all hype. I've been online for over ten years at this point, and it's always the same ol' shit: the decor changes, but it's the same old rotting foundation underneath. The Web was going to change the world, and then P2P, and now it's "social networking" (which looks like newsgroups with a more annoying interface). So why does it irritate me when I see so many people adding mindless, thoughtless support to such flagrant stupidity as this? (That Investor's Business Daily is publishing it in the first place just amuses me. As noted with regard to US-CAP, they're badly misreading the trend in their target audience, methinks.)

I have got to do away with this optimistic streak; 'twill be the death of me.