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I Am Skooter  So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
It's my father's voice dreaming of / Sailors sailing off in the morning
— Wilco, Poor Places
November 13, 2016
On Trump

Trump Election Win It’s old news by now, and more column inches of paper and bits have been spilled since the election about Donald Trump’s win than anything else this week—there’s not much to say and it’s certain that whatever I say will sail into a meaningless void.

Two short thoughts then.

First: I always argued that Barak Obama was elected because he made everybody he met feel like he was actually listening to them. Whether he was or not isn’t the point—he engaged people, and connected to them. That’s a powerful thing when you’re looking for 300 million votes. I ran an election for a candidate once who couldn’t remember people he’d met the previous week and who turned every meeting into something about him. He didn’t win, mercifully.

Donald Trump tapped into the same sentiment, but he did so without meaning. He essentially ran a campaign that was a straight line for people who were angry, and frustrated to vent every racist, misogynist and mean spirited thought on the national stage. He listened, and he parroted everything he heard.

That’s not leadership and it shouldn’t be rewarded.

Second: there are a multitude of those voices—almost 50% of the people who voted supported Trump (and, yes, almost 50% of Americans stayed home.) That means that almost 50% of the people who voted supported a buffoon, a tyrant, an egomaniac, an outright liar, and an overt racist and a man who so clearly hates women that it’s unbelievable that he had the nerve so even say “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.”

That, friends, is a pretty sure sign that America is a broken place—and I fear for its future because that hatred and loathing now has a voice and power that it hasn’t had for years. A world where Ronald Reagan now looks like a moderate, intelligent leader is a frightening world, and it’s not one I’m looking forward too.

Posted by skooter at 6:28 PM
Tags: Donald Trump

December 14, 2012
Well that was quite a week...

It’s been a long week: one of those ones that have the same numbers of hours as others, but too many of them filled with hard times and not enough enjoyable ones. When that balance tips, the weekend can’t come soon enough.

Today was busy and that was exacerbated by a friend’s problems this morning. While the rest of the world was reading news reports about shootings in Connecticut, I was focused on a more immediate problem closer to home. Everything’s fine, and that’s a good thing. For my friend, there are many tomorrows to come.

Of course for the 28 people who were killed in Connecticut—most of them young children—everything’s not fine and there is no tomorrow. It sort of puts things in perspective, an event like this.

After the shootings in Aurora, Colorado the Atlantic published an extremely well written article called Under a Blood Red Sky which mused, among other things, that _”…perhaps the most distressing thing to contemplate today is the realization that we are virtually powerless to prevent it from happening again, soon, somewhere, despite all the hand-wringing and soul-searching that now routinely accompanies these national tragedies.”

That hand-wringing’s been happening again today. One day, I hope America does something about the gun problem it has. One day, I hope to spend more than 147 days between reading stories that about people being killed by “mad gunmen,” or whatever term you choose to use to describe them.

The madness is the problem to be sure, but the gun empowers it in a way that is uniquely on display in America—the land of the free, and home of the brave. Where, as the Skydiggers once ruminated, every girl and boy can grow up to be the president…or grow up to be the president’s killer.

Too many people are working their way towards the latter, and it doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon. Maybe, until it does, we should all stop going there. I might.

Posted by skooter at 9:10 PM
Tags: Friends, Gun Control, Guns, Work

July 22, 2012
Aurora, Colorado

I’ve never been to Colorado. It’s a state I’ve always wanted to visit, but I’ve never quite made it. I’ve driven through Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Nevada and California pretty extensively, but Colorado’s eluded me.

I’d never heard of Aurora actually, but last Friday morning it was impossible not too. With The Dark Knight Rises premiering nationwide, thousands of people lined up for midnight screenings. Fans had booked tickets months in advance, and they showed up in droves. They showed up in costumes, and in Aurora, Colorado one fan showed up with a mask, an assault weapon and some kind of chemical smoke bomb, killed 12 people and wounded 58 others.

Andrew Cohen has a well written essay at The Atlantic that touches on the most troubling aspects of the events. It covers the topic well: the most striking thing about the events in Aurora isn’t that they happened, it’s that they’re really not surprising to anybody who follows the news. As Cohen writes:

Local television is inundated this weekend with stories of the victims, and the survivors, and the community’s pain. But that’s just one part of the tragedy that accompanies this story. The other is the realization that in the day and a half since the Aurora massacre another 100 or so people have been shot to death in America. The land of the free. The home of the brave.

12 people died late in the evening last Thursday, but at least those deaths made the news. Those 12 people’s deaths have had an impact on people. The other 100? Largely forgotten and unknown, those deaths just happened. That’s wrong.

I’ve written about his before, a bit more than five years ago. In the years since nothing’s changed: whenever an incident like this happens, American politicians come forward with expressions of grief and remorse but nothing changes. America is a society where, broadly speaking, most citizens have relatively easy access to weapons that have only one purpose—killing people.

These weapons have no practical application for civilians, and yet when a president even starts to talk about restricting access it becomes a constitutional issue.

Maybe Barak Obama is different, but I don’t think so. I suspect that he’ll continue to talk about hope, but do nothing about gun control. What hope is there in a country where this sort of thing can happen any day and anywhere? A country whose leaders are so weak of will that they refuse to address the root of the issue for fear that they won’t get elected.

That’s not leadership, that’s pandering. It has to stop.

Posted by skooter at 9:03 PM
Tags: Barak Obama, Colorado, Gun Control, Guns

May 26, 2010
Vancouver's Old Chrysler Dealership

Fading banners at Vancouver's old Chrysler dealership Fading banners at Vancouver's old Chrysler dealership Fading banners at Vancouver's old Chrysler dealership Fading banners at Vancouver's old Chrysler dealership

Posted by skooter at 3:26 PM
Tags: Cars, Chrysler

May 8, 2010
Aren't Markets Supposed To Be Rational?

When I first heard the news about this week’s drop on the Dow Jones Industrial Index, it was being reported as being caused by concerns over the Greek economy. I had my standard reaction to this kind of news: the Greek economy has been crumbling for a while now, so how is it that a supposedly rational and forward looking market has such a large swing in a single day? Shouldn’t the decline have been gradual over time since the beginning of the news?

Later it was reported as being caused by fat fingers on the trading floor. Somebody entered a trade in billions of units instead of millions, and automated trading systems around the world went into a frenzy.

Now that makes sense, but if this isn’t an indictment of automated trading systems then I don’t know what is. Procter & Gamble dropped 37%—as if sales of laundry detergent and other cleaning supplies are going to plummet 37% worldwide because of events in Greece.

These kinds of wild swings in the Dow and other market indices are a modern phenomenon. When trading was done by people, they didn’t happen. According to the Vanguard Group the S&P 500 closed up or down 5% or more in a single day 17 times between 1956 and 2007. In a single year—2008—the S&P reached that same number, closing up or down 5% in a single day.

That is not a rational market, and that isn’t good technology.

Origin of Wall Street’s Plunge Continues to Elude Officials

By GRAHAM BOWLEY
Published: May 7, 2010

A day after a harrowing plunge in the stock market, federal regulators were still unable on Friday to answer the one question on every investor’s mind: What caused that near panic on Wall Street?

Through the day and into the evening, officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission and other federal agencies hunted for clues amid a tangle of electronic trading records from the nation’s increasingly high-tech exchanges.

But, maddeningly, the cause or causes of the market’s wild swing remained elusive, leaving what amounts to a $1 trillion question mark hanging over the world’s largest, and most celebrated, stock market.

May 4, 2010
From Hipster to Hippie

From a Smashing Magazine article about that state of web design comes an article by Hanah Snavely in The Bold Italic about the rise and fall of San Francisco’s hippie hill.

The absolute design highlight is a series of illustrations called From Hipster to Hippie: A Cautionary Tale in 6 Steps. Worth reading.

From Hipster to Hippie: step one and two

Posted by skooter at 4:49 PM
Tags: Articles, Hipster, San Francisco

April 26, 2010
Cycling is Mainstream Transportation

In the densely packed urban wilderness of New York City cycling is on the rise rapidly.

More Than 200,000 a Day Are Now Cycling
April 26, 2010, 5:05 AM, By J. DAVID GOODMAN

Build it and they will ride. That’s the message conveyed in the latest annual estimate of the number of bicyclists in New York City by Transportation Alternatives, which found roughly 236,000 New Yorkers riding each day in 2009, up 28 percent from 185,000 daily riders the year before.

“More and better designed bike lanes, that’s clearly what’s fueling this growth,” said Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for the bicycling and pedestrian advocacy group, which has conducted an annual cycling estimate for nearly two decades.

The estimate was extrapolated from cyclist counts performed by the city Department of Transportation at various downtown entry points — including East River bridge crossings, the Hudson Greenway and the Staten Island Ferry.

Posted by skooter at 2:01 PM
Tags: cycling, New York, Transportation

December 29, 2009
Harper's Magazine Advocates a Protectionist Economy

I really can’t find any other way to read this month’s editorial at Harpers as advocating anything other than a return to good old fashion protectionism. It all just seems a bit weird.

Notebook: Up from Globalism
by Alan Tonelson

“…the full potential of the Buy American approach has been limited by U.S. treaty obligations under NAFTA, and by our membership in the World Trade Organization. Hence, at the very least, the United States should declare these obligations suspended until the economic crisis has been vanquished.” Harpers, January 2010, pp. 9

Oddly, they go on to argue against consumption taxes arguing that they give other countries a competitive advantage.

“Another gigantic but barely recognized barrier to balancing America’s manufacturing dominated trade flows is the use of value-added taxes (VATs) by virtually all U.S. trade partners. VATs are applied only to goods consumed domestically, and since the United States lacks such measures, foreign VATs clandestinely subsidize exports to the United States by subtracting the cost of foreign governments for everything that is not consumed locally.” ibid.

On the first point, it seems clear that there’s nothing inherently wrong with a globalized economy. In theory it promotes a level playing field amongst the world’s citizens and is responsible for the rising (albeit slowly) quality of life of many citizens of traditionally third world nations.

The notion that the United States can create a walled community in which all of its needs are met seems just patently ridiculous. The American economy can’t even provide its own food. As Harpers itself has pointed out

America’s biggest crop, grain corn, is completely unpalatable. It is raw material for an industry that manufactures food substitutes. Likewise, you can’t eat unprocessed wheat. You certainly can’t eat hay. You can eat unprocessed soybeans, but mostly we don’t. These four crops cover 82 percent of American cropland.

On the second I have difficulty seeing consumption taxes as a bad thing. As with any method of taxation the taxes need to be allocated and used effectively by governments. At heart a consumption tax means that those who consume more pay more tax, and its quite difficult to hide from them. Put simply: the guy who buys a BMW pays more taxes than the guy who buys a Honda Civic.

Given the sheer size of the U.S. deficit, and the enormous levels of household debt involved it seems clear that the current strategy of American taxation isn’t sustainable.

Something has to give, and perhaps a consumption tax would help to balance the equation a bit.

Posted by skooter at 2:05 AM
Tags: America, Economics, Oil, Recession

November 27, 2009
Follow the Leader

Both Barak Obama and Stephen Harper announced they weren’t going to attend the Copenhagen environmental summit, demonstrating a shortsightedness that one would hope world leaders would not exhibit.

A couple of days ago Barak Obama announced that he would attend after all.

Today Stephen Harper announced he would attend after all.

It seems as if Canada is, these days, playing follow the leader to such an extent that we’re not even willing to play in the sandbox until our friends ask us too.

That’s not leadership.

Posted by skooter at 2:50 AM
Tags: Barak Obama, Environmentalism, Stephen Harper

November 25, 2009
Sarah Palin Book Signing

The only problem with this is that if you’d done the same thing at a Barak Obama book signing, the results would have probably been identical. It’s not just the right wing that’s hung up on the politics of image.

The right wing is exceptionally good at the politics of fear though.

Posted by skooter at 3:39 PM
Tags: Barak Obama, Sarah Palin

November 7, 2009
Between Euphoria & Fear

Janice Gross Stein is more commonly a foreign affairs correspondent, but has an interesting article in the Literary Review of Canada titled Between Euphoria and Fear that looks at the financial meltdown and the role that emotion played in perpetuating it. Essentially, basic economic theory should have suggested that the market would “correct” itself as investors behaved rationally. This didn’t seem to happen, and behaviour was far from rational.

To complicate matters further, pioneering new research in neuroscience in the last 15 years by Antonio Damasio and Joseph LeDoux, among others, demonstrates that emotion is primary and plays a dominant role in choice because it is automatic and fast. Damasio was able to observe closely patients who had suffered injury to those parts of the brain that process emotions, and, to his surprise, his patients were unable to make even simple rational choices even though their cognitive systems were fully intact. Rationality, he demonstrated in his clinical research, requires emotion.

The problematic behaviour happened, basically, when people lost money and feared losing more money. The money that was then withdrawn created a market contraction. Rationally, people should have taken the long view and left their money in there. There was a problem with this though:

Mainstream economics treats risk as judgements about variation over outcomes, judgements that are informed by probability theory. Psychologists see it differently. The propensity to take risk is in part determined by whether people have gained or lost in relation to some reference point.

People didn’t care if they had more money than they’d invested a few years ago: the face that they were still “up” didn’t matter—they were “down” relative to their mental reference point.

Posted by skooter at 8:38 PM
Tags: Articles, Economics, Financial Services

August 26, 2009
In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, the Lion Sleeps Tonight

Senator Edward Kennedy’s earlier passing has ended one of America’s great political dynasties. A true Democrat has passed.

Posted by skooter at 3:56 PM
Tags: America, Democrat, Obituaries

August 14, 2009
About Damn Time

The Harper government’s handling of the Omar Khadr affair has been nothing short of a disgrace:

Ottawa must seek Khadr’s return, court rules

OTTAWA—The Canadian Press Last updated on Friday, Aug. 14, 2009 12:27PM EDT

The Federal Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling ordering the government to seek the return of Omar Khadr from a U.S. military prison.

In a 2-1 judgment released Friday , the court dismissed an appeal by the Harper government, which did not want to ask that Mr. Khadr be sent home.

Of course Michael Ignatief’s calls for Khadr’s return seem a little hollow, given his past support for the use of torture as a tool in democracies.

Posted by skooter at 6:25 PM
Tags: America, George Bush, Stephen Harper

June 13, 2009
Barak Obama Gets It

It’s called being a person not a politician, and the Democrats probably just got two votes for life.

I can’t help but think that Stephen Harper’s response to the father’s comment in that video would have been to criticize him for not having his daughter in school.

Even the National Post thinks the Conservatives are dead.

Posted by skooter at 5:09 AM
Tags: Barak Obama, Stephen Harper

May 19, 2009
Take Me Out to the Ballgame: Wilco

Posted by skooter at 2:03 AM
Tags: Baseball, Wilco

May 4, 2009
I wonder why we listen to poets / When nobody gives a fuck

Ashes of American Flags: Wilco Live I finally managed to get a copy of Ashes of American Flags. The only store in Bellingham to have copies had sold out before I got down there, and for some strange reason Zulu Records didn’t get any in on the April 28, 2009 release date. Red Cat Records came to my rescue, though I paid a pretty penny for it.

It was, of course, worth every penny, and I prefer to shop at those two stores whenever I can.

The film is excellent, documenting three separate concerts and the journey through an America that, at the time, struck the band as disappearing. Filmed two summers ago, it’s not hard to imagine how the same America would look today.

Wilco released a free song on May 1st on their web site. It’s a cover of Woody Guthrie’s The Jolly Banker. May 1st is May Day, a day associated with protest, with working people around the world, with the common person. Ashes of American Flags shows a band that hasn’t lost touch with itself yet, and one that believes that music is still a force for change in sugar coated pop flavoured world. Watch it.

I’m down on my hands and knees
Every time the doorbell rings
I shake like a toothache
When I hear myself sing

All my lies are only wishes
I know I would die if I could come back new

Posted by skooter at 4:47 AM
Tags: Politics, Wilco

April 26, 2009
Peace Arch at Sunset

Peace Arch border crossing at Sunset, April 26, 2009

Posted by skooter at 5:44 AM
Tags: America

March 20, 2009
If the Chair of the Republican National Committee Say So, It Must Be True...

Nerts. The sad thing is this guy is part of the Republican leadership. People actually look up to this guy. I’m especially fond of his warming being part of the cooling process logic. That’s just brilliant.

Michael Steele: ‘We Are Not Warming’
March 20, 2009, 11:39 am, By Kate Galbraith

The Republican National Committee Chairman, Michael Steele, has weighed in on climate change.

In a March 6 radio appearance that is only now percolating through the blogosphere, Mr. Steele apparently fielded a skeptic’s question about global warming. As transcribed by the liberal blog, the Huffington Post, Mr. Steele thanked the questioner and replied this way:

“We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I am using my finger quotation marks here, is part of the cooling process. Greenland, which is now covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? Iceland, which is now green. Oh I love this. Like we know what this planet is all about. How long have we been here? How long? No very long.”

Posted by skooter at 8:30 PM
Tags: Environmentalism, Politics, Republican, Science

February 19, 2009
Faces of the Dead

The New York Times has created one of the most compelling memorials to American soldiers who have died in Iraq I can imagine. This is reminiscent of Life Magazine’s One Day Dead feature published in 1969, but the update uses current technology in an effective way.

Posted by skooter at 3:37 AM
Tags: Interaction Design, Iraq

January 20, 2009
Hope

Barak Obama sticker at a Construction Site

Posted by skooter at 3:58 AM
Tags: America, Barak Obama, Elections, President

January 6, 2009
15 Days and Counting

On January 20th, 2009 Barak Obama will be sworn in as the President of the United States of America, the 43rd such man to hold the office.

Perhaps more significantly, it ends the tenure of George W. Bush, a conservative Republican who promised lower taxes and smaller government. So much for the concept of small government.

The result of deficit spending is debt. When President Bush took office, the national debt was $5.7 trillion. Now it is $10.6 trillion—and Congress voted in October to raise the debt ceiling to $11.3 trillion, the seventh such hike since President Bush took office and the second since last July. If, as is quite likely, we reach the new ceiling by January 20, the outgoing president will have managed to amass more debt than all of his predecessors combined.

And even that number may be too small. When the federal government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it also assumed their $5.4 trillion debt. The accounting procedures used by the International Monetary Fund,
and endorsed by the [Congressional Budget Office], normally require that such debt also be taken into account…
- Harper’s, January 2009, pp. 33

History will not be kind. The emphasis was added by me.

Posted by skooter at 6:02 AM
Tags: Barak Obama, Debt, George Bush, United States

December 23, 2008
A Modest Proposal (for Cycling)

It’s unfortunate, I think, that this article is not written in the sarcastic spirit of Jonathan Swift. A pitch for a $25 per year cycling registration fee in Seattle seems just ridiculous.

For starters, there’s not a jurisdiction in North America that funds road infrastructure purely from taxes paid by cars. Virtually every jurisdiction uses a portion of their general revenue to pay for automotive infrastructure, and in many cases various property taxes are applied as well. By extenstion cyclists—even those that don’t own cars—are paying for a road infrastructure that they’re not using as frequently as others.

Velonews’ Bob Mionske looks at other reasons in some depth.

I hope this is just a newspaper columnist trying to stir up some noise, because if it’s a serious proposal opposition needs to be built now.

Impose license fee on King County cyclists
By James F. Vesely
Times editorial page editor

Local government finances are so dire, it is time to consider — and enact — an annual fee on bicyclists.

A $25 annual fee for owning a bike is a natural outgrowth of the enormous amounts of trails, lanes and accommodations the region has made to cyclists. Those funds would be useful for local cities and King County. It would also make cyclists true members of the world of transportation, rather than free riders on the tax rolls.

Special licenses are not new. We license dogs, our cars, our boats, our motorcycles, our pleasures in hunting and fishing, as well as many other outdoor activities. Cyclists, known for their community spirit and exalted senses of self, should welcome this opportunity to help government support their activities.

Posted by skooter at 2:20 AM
Tags: Cycling, Seattle, Taxes, Transportation

December 20, 2008
Less Than a Month to Inauguration

It’s less than a month now before Barak Obama’s inauguration, and the pieces are beginning to fall into place. The New York Times offers up some thoughts today in an article titled Obama Reshapes White House for Domestic Focus

For years U.S. politics has been dominated by foreign policy not domestic. Americans voted for Republican presidents bent on securing “America’s place in the world” all the while ignoring the needs of Americans living in America.

Typically a Democratic vote reflects a local vote: a concern for home, rather than afar. The Clinton presidency was more focused on domestic policy than either of the Bush presidency’s that preceded or followed it (though many conveniently forget that under Clinton the U.S. bombed Iraq pretty much every day.)

An Obama presidency focusing on domestic policy should be a good thin for the world at large, and Canada specifically. A stronger U.S. economy is a goal the entire world should share, provided a protectionist instinct doesn’t take over.

With much of the world in an official recession, it I’m hopeful that doesn’t happen, but only time will tell I suppose.

Posted by skooter at 2:41 PM
Tags: Barak Obama, Economics, Politics, Seattle

November 28, 2008
I Hope it Was Worth It

Charge Wal-Mart inciting the incident. Charge every single person in the crowd with conspiracy. Whatever it takes to send a message.

I hope the deal was worth it. Something needs to change here in people’s value systems.

Wal-Mart worker killed in bargain-hunting stampede
ANNE D’INNOCENZIO AND COLLEEN LONG
The Associated Press
November 28, 2008 at 11:34 AM EST

NEW YORK — A Wal-Mart worker died after being trampled by a throng of unruly shoppers as consumers, who had snapped their wallets shut since September, flocked to stores before dawn Friday to grab deals on everything from TVs to toys for the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, feared to be the weakest in decades.

Retailers extended their hours — some opening at midnight — and offered deals that promised to be more impressive than even the deep discounts that shoppers found throughout November.

The 34-year-old Wal-Mart worker was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead at about 6 a.m., an hour after the store opened, when a throng of shoppers “physically broke down the doors, knocking him to the ground,” a police statement said.

Posted by skooter at 5:14 PM
Tags: Economics, Shopping, Wal-Mart

November 14, 2008
One and a Half Years

It was on May 14, 2007 that Cerberus Capital bought Chrysler Corporation from Daimler. That’s about one and a half years ago: only a moment in the lifetime of an investment of that magnitude; a brief interlude in the lifetime of a corporation.

What’s changed so dramatically in that scant 20 months that Cerberus capital wasn’t prepared to deal with? A recession? Decreased demand for products? The latter, at least, was already happening when the purchase when through.

Apparently now American tax payers are being asked to bail them out of their deal. Hardly seems fair does it. If America does this, Canada will inevitably get on board, or risk losing all those jobs.

Chrysler adds its voice to calls for U.S. bailout
GREG KEENAN
November 13, 2008 at 7:59 PM EST

A government rescue package and alliances with competitors are essential if Chrysler LLC is to ride out the storm battering the auto industry, the company’s chief executive officer said Thursday, shifting the focus of the Detroit crisis away from General Motors Corp. for at least part of the day.

Chrysler posted a video on its website late Thursday urging Americans to contact federal politicians and urge them to support assistance from the U.S. government for auto makers.

Posted by skooter at 1:26 PM
Tags: Cars, Chrysler, Economics

November 12, 2008
Oh CIBC, Don't Tease Us

Given that CIBC was the Canadian bank with the single largest exposure to the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crises, I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in this:

Market near bottom: CIBC
Eric Beauchesne, Canwest News Service
Published: Wednesday, November 12, 2008
OTTAWA — The deep erosion of Canadians’ investment savings is likely near an end, a major Bay Street investment firm optimistically projected Tuesday, even as stock markets around the world were sinking deeper into bear territory and as the initial euphoria from the latest major economic stimulus announcement — China’s $586-billion US fiscal injection into its giant economy — continued to fade.

Posted by skooter at 1:27 PM
Tags: Banking, Financial Services, Investing

Rock, Meet Hard Place

Having participated, if not led, the nationalization of the financial services industry, it’s interesting to see what will happen with the automotive one.

Democrats Seek Help for Automakers
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and CARL HULSE
Published: November 11, 2008
WASHINGTON — Democratic Congressional leaders said Tuesday that they were ready to push emergency legislation to aid the imperiled auto industry when lawmakers return to Washington next week for the first time after the election, setting the stage for one last showdown with President Bush.

It’s a tough choice, to be sure. The automotive industry is a massive part of North America’s economic well being. It employs tens of thousands of people, with the associated multiplier effect of those dollars in local communities. It is the heart of many communities, and devastates them when hard times hit and plants close.

So what to do?

The Democratic house leader is advocating for a bailout:

Mr. Reid and Ms. Pelosi have urged the Bush administration to help the major automakers, especially General Motors, which is fast depleting its cash reserves and seems to be hurtling toward bankruptcy. G.M. shares, pummeled for weeks, fell an additional 13 percent on Tuesday to $2.92, its lowest point since 1943. G.M. on Monday warned shareholders that it might not be able to continue as a “going concern.”

But I personally find it hard to see that as a good option. The fall of the North American automotive industry has been a long time coming: more of a gentle slide than a sudden thud. Bailing out General Motors at this point would certainly be good for votes (blue collar, union sponsored votes no less) but it would be bad for the long term health of the economy.

Capitalism thrives on risk: the same risk that creates the potential for failure also creates the potential for wealth. Bailing out General Motors sends a message that risk only applies to the small: get big enough, and the government will effectively eliminate your financial risk.

Many would argue that GM is too big too allow to fail. The simply fact is, if you’re too big too fail you’re just too big. The government has anti-trust powers, and they probably should have been used a long time ago in the automotive industry. Unfortunately, the automotive industry successfully lobbied against it.

I personal fall, I think, on the side of letting GM fall. It will lead to a stronger economy over the long run. If there’s room for an American automotive manufacturer, one will rise again.

Posted by skooter at 3:48 AM
Tags: Cars, Economics

November 7, 2008
Stocking Up: Would You Prefer a Gun Fairy?

I suspect that Gun Snatcher isn’t the worst name that will be used to describe Barak Obama. In my mind, it’s kind of a compliment actually.

I hope there’s finally a chance for reasonable gun control laws in the United States, but I suspect enough Democrats support the NRA that it won’t happen.

On Concerns Over Gun Control, Gun Sales Are Up
Michael Stravato for The New York Times
By KIRK JOHNSON
Published: November 6, 2008

DENVER — Sales of handguns, rifles and ammunition have surged in the last week, according to gun store owners around the nation who describe a wave of buyers concerned that an Obama administration will curtail their right to bear arms.

“He’s a gun-snatcher,” said Jim Pruett, owner of Jim Pruett’s Guns and Ammo in northwest Houston, which was packed with shoppers on Thursday.

“He wants to take our guns from us and create a socialist society policed by his own police force,” added Mr. Pruett, a former radio personality, of President-elect Barack Obama.

Posted by skooter at 1:36 PM
Tags: Barak Obama, Guns

November 5, 2008
Hope

A lot is going to be written about this day, for many years to come. Barak Obama has, of course, proven that he is more than capable of speaking for himself.

“I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents’ dreams live on in my two precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible.

If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription drugs, and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

It is that fundamental belief, it is that fundamental belief, I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.

I’m not talking about blind optimism here - the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t think about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs. The hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores. The hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta. The hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds. The hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.”

- Barak Obama, July 27, 2004, Democratic National Convention

Posted by skooter at 7:11 AM
Tags: America, Barak Obama, Elections, President

November 2, 2008
John McCain & Tina Fey on SNL


Tina Fey truly does have that little Sarah Palin wink nailed. I’m gonna miss that after Tuesday (at least until 2012.)

It’s also nice to see John McCain displaying a seemingly good sense of humour about his current status:

I’m impressed, incidentally, with a Starbucks advertisement that ran before my viewing of the clip. On November 4th visit any Starbucks in the United States, tell them you voted and they’ll give you a tall cup of coffee. Cynics will point out that the actual cost on that cup of coffee is minimal, and the promotion will get written off as marketing: it doesn’t matter. They don’t need to do this, and if it encourages just one more person to vote—no matter who they vote for—it will be worthwhile.

Posted by skooter at 4:02 PM
Tags: Elections, Sarah Palin, SNL, Tina Fey

October 30, 2008
Early Voting is Usually a Good Thing

It’s a trueism of campaigning, that a high turnout at advance polls is a sign of impending change. Vancouver’s early voting set a record when voters roundly turfed Philip Owen from office in favour of that political maverick now known as Senator Larry Campbell.

The logic is simple: if people are happy with the status quo, they are complacent about voting and don’t rush out to do it before they are reminded by every media outlet they can find.

It makes me happy, therefore, to read this article in the New York Times:

The Decided Go in Droves to Vote Early

Among some of the 32 states that allow their residents to vote early without an excuse, either by mail or in person, the verdict is already in from a full quarter of registered voters — well into the millions. In some counties across the nation, the percentages are far higher. The early voting will continue for several days in most of the states, but in Louisiana it is already closed, and it will end on Friday or Saturday elsewhere to give time to update the books to prevent people from voting twice.

Change, in this case, would indicate electoral success for Barak Obama and that seems to be a good thing.

I never cease to be amazed at how easy it is to find a commentator ignorant enough to say something stupid like this:

Mr. Schuetz said he voted for Mr. McCain, a Republican, with enthusiasm. His wife, Linda, called the choice the “lesser of two evils.”

The article, of course, doesn’t go on to outline the ways in which an Obama administration could be evil. You can use your own imagination.

Posted by skooter at 4:58 AM
Tags: America, Barak Obama, Elections, John McCain, President

October 11, 2008
Congratulations Barak Obama

Barak Obama just won November’s election (as if the debates weren’t pushing it in that direction already.)

Alaska Inquiry Concludes Palin Abused Powers
By SERGE F. KOVALESKI
Published: October 10, 2008
Gov. Sarah Palin abused the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired, a investigation by the Alaska Legislature has concluded.

You know, I always said Chrysler would be the first to go. Not that it was a hard call: they’re the smallest American car maker, after being dumped by Daimler. Either way…this is not a merger, this is a takeover. GM is large, Chrysler is small.

G.M. and Chrysler Explore Merger
By BILL VLASIC and ANDREW ROSS SORKIN
Published: October 10, 2008
DETROIT — General Motors is in preliminary talks about a possible merger with Chrysler, a deal that could drastically remake the landscape of the auto industry by reducing the Big Three of Detroit automakers to the Big Two.

The talks between G.M. and Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm that owns Chrysler, began more than a month ago, and the negotiations are not certain to produce a deal. Two people close to the process said the chances of a merger were “50-50” as of Friday and would most likely still take weeks to work out.

October 5, 2008
It's Almost Predictable Now

Once again, Tina Fey opens Saturday Night Live as Sarah Palin. What’s interesting is that I think that’s Queen Latifah playing the moderator, and she was neither the host nor the musical guest of the episode.

It’s a bit sad that these little moments will end on November 4th, 2008. It’s looking strongly like McCain no longer stands a chance.

I’m not sure if this is the best line:

“You know, we’re gonna take every aspect of the crisis and look at it and then we’re gonna ask ourselves, ‘What would a maverick do in this situation?’ And then, you know, we’ll do that.”

or this one:

Moderator: Governor Palin, would you like to respond to Senator Biden’s comments about Senator McCain
Sarah Palin: No thank you, but I would like to talk about being an outsider.

The first got more laughs, but personally I think the second was sharper.

Posted by skooter at 5:36 PM
Tags: Sarah Palin, SNL, Television, Tina Fey

September 30, 2008
I Swear I Thought I Was Dreaming

Having fallen asleep in front of the TV, I thought I was dreaming when I woke up to see Tina Fey on my TV. Happily I wasn’t.

The moment, about four minutes in, when she starts to explain about the economic bail out plan is just beautiful, and hits the nail a little too close to the head. “…and having a dollar value meal at restaurants…” Priceless.

September 26, 2008
The Bartlett White House Was Fictional...

but it was also idealistic in the best way. Maureen Dowd is possessed of a sharp wit and a sharp pen, and whether she actually talked to Aaron Sorkin or not, she’s written a pretty funny article called Aaron Sorkin Conjures a Meeting of Obama and Bartlet

One of my favourite excerpts:

OBAMA I didn’t expect you to answer the door yourself.

BARTLET I didn’t expect you to be getting beat by John McCain and a Lancôme rep who thinks “The Flintstones” was based on a true story, so let’s call it even.

and another (I’ve added the emphasis):

BARTLET Well … let me think. …We went to war against the wrong country, Osama bin Laden just celebrated his seventh anniversary of not being caught either dead or alive, my family’s less safe than it was eight years ago, we’ve lost trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, thousands of lives and we lost an entire city due to bad weather. So, you know … I’m a little angry.

OBAMA What would you do?

BARTLET GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back.

The article drops a sly reference to 30 Rock as well. I swear that didn’t influence my opinion.

Posted by skooter at 4:53 AM
Tags: Barak Obama, Elections, John McCain, President

News That Contradicts Itself

What I love about this article:

Gas shortages reportedly critical in western N.C.
BY STEVE LYTTLE, The Charlotte Observer

Hundreds of cars lined streets this morning as motorists in the Charlotte metro region tried to cope with an ever-worsening gasoline shortage situation.
Some motorists waited up to five hours, and fights were reported as people accused other customers of cutting in line.

Some gas stations that opened this morning with what they thought were ample supplies ran out within a few hours.

Police were called out several times to break up fights among angry customers.

which is both surreal and entirely unsurprising, is not so much the article itself as it is these ads which appeared on the same web page.
Charlotte Observer

Every single ad is for an SUV.

Posted by skooter at 3:05 AM
Tags: Carbon Tax, Cars, Gas, Oil

September 24, 2008
Some Things Never Change

The question is, will Barak Obama be any different?

From the New York Times

One of the giant mortgage companies at the heart of the credit crisis paid $15,000 a month from the end of 2005 through last month to a firm owned by Senator John McCain’s campaign manager, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement.
[McCain adviser Rick] Davis’s firm, Davis Manafort, had been kept on the payroll because of his close ties to Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, who by 2006 was widely expected to run again for the White House.

Posted by skooter at 3:54 AM
Tags: Barak Obama, John McCain, Politics, President

September 23, 2008
When Capitalists Become Communists

That least Liberal of publications, Forbes magazine advocates for an even greater level of government intervention. At least they mention Marbury vs. Madison

$700 billion is not enough. It also doesn’t include the hundreds of billions of dollars that the government has already committed in earlier actions to stem the tsunami flooding the markets. The bill for American International Group could consume a significant amount of the new request, and the balance sheets of other financial institutions are sitting on trillions of dollars of mortgage detritus.
The Bush administration’s request that the Treasury’s actions be immune from judicial oversight is unconstitutional. Unless Marbury v. Madison has been overruled while HCM’s attention was diverted elsewhere, all actions of the executive branch in this country are subject to judicial review. This request rings with the same troubling echoes of the most abusive aspects of the Patriot Act.

Wrong, Forbes. $700 billion is too much. Wall Street tied its own noose under the free market doctrine of conservatism, and now they’re asking someone else to untie it. Yet another example of changing the rules midway through the game.

Read some Naomi Klein instead. She’s thought the problem through more thoroughly than George Bush has.

Posted by skooter at 4:46 PM
Tags: Conservative, Economics, Republican, United States

August 13, 2008
Making the World a Cheaper (and Poorer) Place

If you shop at Wal-Mart reading Wal-Mart: The Bully of Bentonville: How the High Cost of Everyday Low Prices is Hurting America might be enough to make you stop.

I don’t, and have rarely set foot inside (in Charlottetown, PEI there were few other options when I lived here) for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the principle involved in supporting a mass market big-box retailer with little interest in its employees and the bottom line.

What’s interesting about this book is that it paints a very different picture of Costco. Perhaps it’s a matter of degrees: Costco may not be good, but Wal-Mart is uniquely evil. I’m not so sure.

The book’s about two years out of date and paints an unflattering portrait of the company’s current CEO Lee Scott who is, at this writing, still in the top spot.

High fuel prices are no doubt taking a toll on the company, and shifting the purchasing patterns of the entire world. I’ve no doubt that Wal-Mart will survive, although I’m hopeful that it is fundamentally transformed by the modern economy.

Posted by skooter at 3:57 AM
Tags: Consumers, Retail, Shopping, Wal-Mart

July 28, 2008
Nice to See the World Can be Changed

With stories of bike racks being overfull in communities around the continent, it’s nice to see someone trying to do something distinctive.

Contest picks best designs for Ballard bike racks
By JENNIFER LANGSTON
P-I REPORTER

Later this year, Ballard cyclists could find themselves parking their bikes between two toes of a giant concrete foot.

Or maybe inside the rusted husk of a car sculpture, meant to symbolize the decay of the automobile and fossil fuel age.

Personally, these racks have long been my favourites, combining function with good visual design. The City of Toronto’s are also good, although the locking circle is affixed to the post by two bolts that can be removed which is a problem. I’ve never seen these ones at the ROM but I like the idea of doing something unique.

Posted by skooter at 2:09 PM
Tags: Bike Racks, Bikes, Cycling, Security, Transportation

July 15, 2008
Going Down the Road - Places Captured in Time, but Not Frozen There

The North Cascades Highway is a spectacular, hilly, twisty route through the mountains that I love riding on a motorcycle and would one day like to cycle.

Winthrop is a strange little town that’s been made over in a complete western theme, complete with saloons instead of restaurants and pumping stations that look like old style general stores. It’s a bit weird, but not without it’s charm.

The New York Times has an article about Winthrop today but they left out some details about its sister city Concrete.

Chief amongst these is that the place is overrun with cops. I’ve never seen such a ratio. The population is estimated at just over 800 people, and the last time I was there I saw four cars pulled over.

They love to give out speeding tickets down there, and every motorcyclist in the world seems to know it. It’s kind of a running joke.

I might get to do this ride on Sunday, if time and my energy level allows. I’m heading to Midway for one of my regular visits, and I might come back through the states.

Either way, if you haven’t driven it you need to. Better yet—ride it.

Posted by skooter at 11:39 PM
Tags: America, Diners, Motorcycle, Road Trip, Travel

April 4, 2008
Early Morning, April 4 / A Shot Rings Out / In the Memphis Sky

mlk.jpg 40 years ago today Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.

February 27, 2008
America in Isolation

In a world where America seems increasingly isolated and alone, it’s hard to imagine this advancing the economic cause:

Clinton and Obama vow to reopen NAFTA
Both Democrats make commitment in final debate before next week’s crucial primaries
JOHN IBBITSON
February 27, 2008 at 12:15 AM EST

WASHINGTON—Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would withdraw the United States from the North American free trade agreement with six months notice after becoming president, unless the deal were completely renegotiated.

February 5, 2008
Yes We Can

Beautifully executed. I still think Hillary Clinton is the right choice for a democratic nominee, but moments like thist are rare in modern politics. Will.I.Am’s notes on the video are worth reading.

Whatever happens today, and in the next year, the Democratic Party will be making a historic choice: forging a new path forward. I only hope that all of my American friends vote, no matter who they vote for.

Posted by skooter at 3:45 PM
Tags: Barak Obama, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Politics

January 20, 2008
Win South Carolina, Win the Nomination

So goes the Republican maxim, and John McCain looks to be winning South Carolina, according to Campaigns & Elections

McCain Wins S.C. Primary

Sen. John McCain is the projected winner of the South Carolina Republican primary besting rivals Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson. With 82 percent of precincts reporting, McCain has 33 percent of the vote, Huckabee 30 percent, and Thompson 16 percent.

The win holds the potential to put McCain on a serious roll heading into Florida Jan. 29 and then on to the 20 plus states voting Feb. 5

There’s a great line from an old episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon says:

“There is an 80% chance in the next election that I will tell all my friends that I’m voting for Barack Obama but I will secretly vote for John McCain

and therein lies the problem. McCain gives left leaning republicans a home, and has a lot of appeal to right leaning democrats. He trumps Obama on experience, is certainly seen as a man who speaks his own mind and is probably the only real threat to a Democratic win in 2008.

It’s a good choice: if you’re a Republican.

Posted by skooter at 4:40 AM
Tags: America, Barak Obama, Elections, John McCain

January 13, 2008
Striking it Rich circa 2002

Falling into the category of the more things change, the more things stay the same an article by John Cassidy from The New Yorker’s January 14, 2002 issue titled Striking it Rich: the rise and fall of popular capitalism..

It wasn’t until after the First World War that Americans returned to he stock market in large numbers…In 1927, Barron’s, the financial weekly, hailed a “new era without depressions.” (In September, 2000 the same publication would carry the front-page headline “CAN ANYTHING STOP THIS ECONOMY? DESPITE RECENT SIGNS OF A SLOWDOWN, EXPECT THE ECONOMY TO REMAIN ROBUST, WITH NO RECESSION IN SIGHT.”) The mood of optimism spread to the stock market, and millions of people bought shared for the first time—only to be caught out in the stock-market crash of October, 1929
— The New Yorker, January 14, 2002, pp. 63

One by one, most of the bears either changed their views or found themselves being shunted aside. Whenever the stock market took a tumble, as it did several times, it came back stronger than ever. Anybody who questioned the market’s ascent was seen as hopelessly antiquated…In April, 1996 Warren Buffet…warned that neither he nor his longtime partner, Charlie Munger, “would buy shares” in Berkshire Hathaway at prevailing prices, “nor would they recommend that their families or friends do so.”
— The New Yorker, January 14, 2002, pp. 65

A couple of years before, in early 1994 when [the Federal Reserve Bank] raised rates for the first time in several years, the Dow, which had been climbing sharply, fell back. At the next meeting of the F.O.M.C., [Alan] Greenspan congratulated his colleagues, saying, “I think we partially broke the back of an emerging speculation.”

But in the summer of 1996, Greensan was reluctant to repeat the trick. He was coming to believe that higher stock prices were justified by the economy’s sterling performance….He believed that, thanks to the application of new technology, American firms and American workers were becoming a lot more productive, even if the official statistics were failing to pick up on this.
— The New Yorker, January 14, 2002, pp. 66-67

CNBC didn’t create the stock-market boom, but it did perpetuate and amplify it…the network acted as a “propagation mechanism” for the investing epidemic…On all but the darkest of days, CNBC maintained an upbeat tone. its reporters were enthusiastic and well informed. It produced smart, entertaining television. What it didn’t produce was objective news….”Joe Kernen”:google, CNBC’s stocks editor, who was himself a former stock-broker, complained to a reporter “It would be like having sportscasters who hate sports. I love capitalism.”
— The New Yorker, January 14, 2002, pp. 68

In the spring of 1998, when the Dow topped 9,000, two prominent British publications called on Alan Greenspan to bring the stock market back to earth before it crashed of its own accord. “America is experiencing a serious asset-price bubble,” The Economist announced in an editorial…Several days later, the Financial Times compared the United States’ economy to Japan’s in the nineteen-eighties, saying “This is unquestionably a bubble.”
— The New Yorker, January 14, 2002, pp. 68

Not until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, did most Americans finally acknowledge that the nineteen-nineties were over, and that a darker more uncertain future had dawned.
— The New Yorker, January 14, 2002, pp. 73

Posted by skooter at 5:17 AM

January 9, 2008
Hillary in New Hampshire

Were it not for California, New Hampshire would be my favourite state. What little time I’ve spent there has always been somewhat charmed by nature. Its mountains are granite, tall, spiky and snow covered (by contrast, Vermont’s mountains are rolling in nature.) Fall is beautiful and alive with the colours of leaves, winters are cold and crisp, spring offers the luxury of watching the world come to life again and summer presents hardwood forests to explore.

If that’s not enough, there’s those licence plates with that great Live Free or Die slogan, so at odds with the cliche image of New England liberalism.

And they appear to be voting for Hillary.

Results are still early, so we’ll have to wait and see. I’m hopeful on this one though: it’s an issue of electability, ultimately. Left leaning Republicans are more likely to go to Hillary, in my view, than Obama. The whole game changes if the Republicans choose McCain, who will give them the home they’re so badly looking for anyway.

January 4, 2008
Is Obama Electable?

Iowa results are in, with the New York Times reporting the following results with 91% or polls in.

Election Results—Iowa

DemocratsVote%
Obama82137%
66830
Clinton65930
Richardson482
Biden201
Dodd1
Others2

91% reporting

Clinton in third is very very bad: she will probably start to shed support slowly, although a solid performance in the next primaries could reverse it. Things don’t look good.

The main question with Obama in first (by a wide margin, it should be noted) is will the broader American public vote for him? Riding a wave of hype including the Oprah endorsement, the surge in votes is no surprise: I’m not convinced that anybody who voted for George W. Bush in the 2004 election will change their mind and vote for Barack Obama as much because of his lack of experience (a legitimate complaint) as the colour of his skin (which should be irrelevant, but unfortunately will not be.)

The world needs a Democratic victory, not another Republican one.

Posted by skooter at 3:03 AM
Tags: America, George Bush, President

December 29, 2007
Canada Loses in Hockey: Al Qaeda Blamed

The Swedes have ended our unbeaten streak: it had to end for one team—both were unbeaten.

Blaming Al Qaeda for the death of Benazir Bhutto is convenient, to be sure, and American media have dutifully repeated the story with not much in the way of questioning. While newspapers seem happy to question the account of how Bhutto died, there’s not much debate over who set the bomb.

Blaming Al Qaeda, of course, gives Pervez Mushareff a perfect excuse for canceling elections (civil unrest is assured with the World’s Greatest Terrorists™ responsible) and the U.S. government the perfect excuse for extending its mission in Afghanistan.

Surely, the theory goes, no one will withdraw from the Coalition of the Willing in the face of this latest blow against democracy.

Yeah, right.

Just make sure you still vote Democratic, Americans. Don’t be fooled by this.

Posted by skooter at 10:55 PM
Tags: America, Nuclear War, Pakistan

November 6, 2007
Pakistan Attempts to Crush Protests by Lawyers

That Shakespeare was no fan of lawyers does nothing to legitimize Pervez Musharraf’s actions

In all, about 2,000 people have been rounded up since the imposition of emergency rule on Saturday night, lawyers and legal and political analysts said. General Musharraf said in his emergency edict that he was taking the action as chief of the Pakistani Army, not as president, a fact that made his move akin to martial law, said Daniel Markey, senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington

Posted by skooter at 2:09 PM
Tags: America, Democracy, Middle East, Pakistan, Politics

November 5, 2007
Bourbon & Bluegrass

I have a fondness for good Bourbon (generally keeping a bottle of Knob Creek in my desk at home.) This is one of those great road trips I’d like to ride…

Bourbon & Bluegrass
By STEVEN KURUTZ
Published: November 4, 2007

ONE Friday afternoon a few weeks ago, while most people were at work, I stood in a room at Maker’s Mark distillery, in rural Kentucky, breathing in the pungent fumes of fermenting whiskey mash and feeling a kind of mild contact buzz.

Posted by skooter at 8:43 PM
Tags: Alcohol, America, Bourbon, Kentucky

October 19, 2007
The New York Times Review: Rendition

The New York Times somehow has managed to review the new film Rendition without mentioning the name Maher Arar.

This seems just…strange. You can read the review here

Posted by skooter at 12:59 PM
Tags: America, Articles, Media Bias, Movies, Terrorism

October 7, 2007
Right...well...if Jim Carrey said it...

So now that Jim Carrey’s said this, I suppose people are supposed to start taking it seriously?

Jim Carrey calls for UN embargo against Burma
Last Updated: Saturday, October 6, 2007 | 7:51 PM ET
CBC News

Canadian comedian Jim Carrey has urged the United Nations Security Council to slap an arms embargo against the military junta in Burma.

“This is a government that uses its weapons not in self-defence but against its own citizens,” said the 45-year-old performer, star of movies such as Bruce Almighty, Dumb and Dumber, The Truman Show and The Mask.

Two questions come to mind, given the source of the information:

  1. When did Jim Carrey become politically active? This seems like a sudden rebirth.
  2. Did the star of Ace Ventura Pet Detective make his feelings about Burma known from his ass, or by more conventional methods?

Posted by skooter at 11:42 PM
Tags: Burma, Hollywood, Hypocrisy, Politics

October 1, 2007
Wasn't This Entirely Predictable?

The government encourages farmers to grow a new crop, with the promise of a more stable future. Farmers plant that crop en masse. One year later, so many farmers have planted the crop that an oversupply problem means prices are low and that many farmers who moved to that new crop will be unable to recoup their investment.

Let’s not forget about the rapid rise in corn prices this particular boom caused and the hardship that resulted in Mexico, where corn is as much a staple of the diet as wheat is here.

Governments are supposed to learn from past mistakes, not repeeat them until they finally work.

Ethanol’s Boom Stalling as Glut Depresses Price
By CLIFFORD KRAUSS
Published: September 30, 2007

NEVADA, Iowa, Sept. 24 — The ethanol boom of recent years — which spurred a frenzy of distillery construction, record corn prices, rising food prices and hopes of a new future for rural America — may be fading.

Only last year, farmers here spoke of a biofuel gold rush, and they rejoiced as prices for ethanol and the corn used to produce it set records.

But companies and farm cooperatives have built so many distilleries so quickly that the ethanol market is suddenly plagued by a glut, in part because the means to distribute it have not kept pace. The average national ethanol price on the spot market has plunged 30 percent since May, with the decline escalating sharply in the last few weeks.

The Kingdom

The Kingdom is a well made political action film set in Saudi Arabia against the backdrop of international terrorism. It’s worth seeing, even if it makes it’s point (and it does have one) a bit too literally for my taste. This is Hollywood after all.

Onw of its better moment is the opening credits, the backdrop of which is a brief two minute history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

That point, by the way? The good guys often have much more in common with the bad guys than people think. This isn’t always a good thing.

Posted by skooter at 6:02 AM
Tags: Hollywood, Movies, Terrorism

September 2, 2007
Heartbroken Bush Runs After Departing Rove's Car

The Onion is one of the funniest reads on the web on a consistent basis.

Heartbroken Bush Runs After Departing Rove’s Car

WASHINGTON, DC—A confused President Bush broke free from the restraint of Secret Service agents this morning and ran in pursuit of departing deputy chief of staff Karl Rove’s car for several blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue before being outdistanced by the vehicle

Posted by skooter at 10:06 AM
Tags: Comedy, George Bush, President

September 1, 2007
One More Reason the Mojave Desert is Cool

As if Joshua Trees weren’t enough, the Mojave is also where Nasa tests its new engines.

The coolest thing about those Mach Disks is seeing them form one at a time…watch carefully: it’s the speed of sound after all.

Posted by skooter at 10:26 PM
Tags: Articles, NASA, Space, Wired

August 27, 2007
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales Resigns

This has been far too long in coming

WACO, Tex., Aug. 27 — Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, announced his resignation in Washington today, declaring that he had “lived the American dream” by being able to lead the Justice Department.

Gonzales typified the Bush presidency. This is presidency characterized by an utter disregard for the people it’s intended to serve. I once heard the Nixon presidency described as paranoid. It was that paranoia that led to Nixon and Kissinger’s propensity for keeping secrets.

The Bush administration doesn’t even have that excuse: instead, it appears to act out of pure selfishness and disrespect for those who both did and did not vote for them.

Thank god 2008 is coming soon…the only question is which Democrat will be president at this point.

Posted by skooter at 12:58 PM
Tags: George Bush, Republican

August 26, 2007
Global Warming in the New York Times

From today’s New York Times

Suddenly, 1934 appeared to vault ahead of 1998 as the warmest year on record (by a statistically meaningless 0.036 degrees Fahrenheit). In NASA’s most recent data set, 1934 had followed 1998 by a statistically meaningless 0.018 degrees. Conservative bloggers, columnists and radio hosts pounced. “We have proof of man-made global warming,” Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience. “The man-made global warming is inside NASA.

Of course, it’s long been my opinion that the man-made global warming was inside Rush Limbaugh. Why people listen to these wind bags remains beyond my unerstanding.

Posted by skooter at 1:50 PM
Tags: Articles, Environmentalism, Republican

August 12, 2007
Meadows Field Airport, Bakersfield, CA

Note that it doesn’t specify checked baggage or carry on. I’m not sure which one I’d prefer, but I know that it will be a cold day in hell before I declare any firearms to the Transportation Safety Authority.

Flying home, via Seattle.

Posted by skooter at 2:09 PM
Tags: Guns

June 24, 2007
Home Owners Who Don't Pay Attention

The New York Times has an interesting article on the intersection of leisure and residential properties—specifically home on golf courses.

It also happens to contain one of my favourite quotes ever to illustrate the mindset of the so called “average American.”

A Fairway View, but the Window Is Often Broken

“We did not consider the feng shui of bad golfers,” she said. “When I go outside, it’s like dodgeball out there. I wish I knew that you have to be careful where you live on a golf course.”

Far bit it from me to suggest that it would be obvious that you would have to be careful where you live on a golf course, but certainly doesn’t seem like rocket science.

Posted by skooter at 10:41 AM
Tags: Golf

April 18, 2007
Life, Death and the Charter of Rights

The Supreme Court of the United States of America today upheld a ban on partial birth abortions and furthered the highly conservative agenda of the Bush government.

A similar conservative agenda supports ownership of hand guns by citizens in the United States of America and funds the National Rifle Association. Two days ago a mentally ill individual put a pair of handguns to their only intended use in Virginia, and hunted and succesfully killed 32 people on the campus of Virgina Tech.

Both of these rights — the right of the government to restrict women’s control over her body, and the right to own a weapon designed to hunt other human beings are drawn from the Bill of Rights in the American constitution.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a document that transformed our nation at its core and guarantees individual rights to the citizens of Canada, something that most parliamentary democracies do not have. The supremacy of an unelected judiciary over the laws of an elected parliament isn’t uniquely Canadian, but it’s quite rare.

It’s days like today that I’m reminded of why I’m glad to live in a kindler, gentler nation than our neighbours to the south. It’s days like today that I’m glad to live in a just society.

On Partial Birth Abortions

You’ll note that if you follow that link on partial birth abortions the lack of medical information is quite startling: there is no strict definition of the term, according to most of the literature that I’ve read through the years. I’ve never heard a medical doctor admit to having seen one, and certainly never to performing one.

As with so many political arguments are these days, the abortion argument is framed in absolutes and sound bites. This is not an argument that has blacks and whites, or one that should be discussed in thirty second sound bites. The term partial birth aborition is a term used by lobbyists in order to sound provocative. Pro Life is a similarly provocative term: what’s the alternative…Anti Life? In reality these groups are Anti Choice but they would never dare call themselves by that most honest of names.

It’s also not an issue that should be decided either by a legislative body run by grey haired old men who are afraid to lose a single vote, or a court of similarly grey haired (but supposedly learned) old men sitting on a bench.

Put simply, grey haired old men have no business telling women what they can do with their bodies, and it’s offensive to use the Bill of Rights as a ruse to doing so is offensive and appaling to the core.

On Hand Guns and Gun Control

The hand gun has one sole purpose:to hunt and kill humans. An old marketing slogan, apparently, says:

God created men, but Colt made them equal

I once heard a story about one of Samuel Colt’s children (or grand children) who lived in a mansion of some size, paid for by the family fortune. Staircase after staircase was added to the mansion, all leading nowhere. The purpose, apparently, was to mislead the ghosts that haunted the house. She believed the soul of every person killed by a Colt handgun wandered the hallways, and the fake hallways were a way of misdirecting them.

There are a lot of souls in those hallways, and using the language of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America to justify owing these killing machines has no place in a reasonable conversation.

32 people paid the price in one day, in one place. The appalling thing is not that these students died, but that their deaths hardly matter to the total. 30,242 people were killed by guns in the United States in 2002. 82 people on every day.

82 people.

On a day when 32 people were shot in a single day, 50 people were shot somewhere else in the United States.

50 people.

The hand gun has one sole purpose, and it has no business being in the hands of the average person.

A Boeing 737-400 seats 168 people. If a 737-400 fell out of the sky killing everyone on board the Boeing corporation would be out of business. Why handgun manufacturers are allowed to do the same thing remains a mystery to me.

But remember, planes don’t kill people…people kill people.

On the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

I knew a lawyer once who, when I expressed my affection for the Charter and it’s father—Pierre Elliot Trudeau—said “Let me tell you how hard it’s made my job.”

Good, I said. Your job should be hard. The state should have the burden of proof, and every person should be guaranteed certain rights. These rights might be inconvenient, and they might create a financial burden on the state and its taxpayers. This doesn’t make these rights any less important.

There are any number of countries in the world that exist without them: Chile, Cuba, China, Afghanistan…the list goes on. Citizens don’t speak out against their government, and they don’t have any protection against the state. People are arrested without being told what the charges against them are; people disappear without their family even knowing what happened; people are killed in the name of the state.

These things may seem farfeteched to most Canadians, but they happen every day in some part of the world. It may not happen in Toronto or Halifax, but it happens in other places.

Fundamental human rights are violated every day in Guantanamo Bay, under the guise of “national security.”

It happens despite the fact that the United States is a leading signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the rights of every Canadian young or old, male or female, native born or immigrant.

This is an important document, and one whose anniversary deserves to be remembered. This is the foundation of a just society, and it’s a much better document than what the American Bill of Rights has become.

The Charter gives me hope for a future, despite events like this week’s. Like the American bill of rights, it’s a living breathing document subject to the interpretation of the courts. Judicial decisions frame the specifics of the application of the charter, but the core will likely live for some time thanks to an extremely difficult amendment process.

This is as it should be, and it’s my sincere hope that our Charter doesn’t become subject to the kinds of political whims demonstrated by the events of the past few days in America.

It’s my sincere hope that Canada will always remain just, and fair.

Posted by skooter at 11:39 AM
Tags: Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Guns, Trudeau

April 9, 2007
Public / Private Health Care

From today’s New York Times

The effort, which lawmakers emphasize is still in its early stages, would exempt millions of people from the tax but would have to come up with a way to offset an enormous loss of revenue in the next decade. Measured in dollars, it would be far bigger than Democratic initiatives to provide money for children’s health care, education or any other spending program.

The emphasis is mine, and the health care issue is particularly pertinent in Vancouver today.

The False Creek Medical clinic has opened (again) and is offering pay for service medical care. The clinic was shut down once but has made changes intended to bring it in line with the Canada Health Act, the federal legislation that defines Canada’s public health reginmen.

Lost in the extremely polarized debate over health care in Canada is the distinction between children’s health care and adult health care.

I would never advocate for a purely private system, even if it were only applicable to adults. I do think it’s critical to recognize that we need a different strategy to deal with adults than kids.

This, of course, presumes that one recognizes that the health care system as it currently operates in Canada is not sustainable. There are still people who don’t…people who think the only option is a fully funded public health care regime.

Private care has a role in the system. More accurately, user fees have a role in the system. I have a genetic disposition to require eyewear that isn’t funded by the Canada Health Act. Extreme sports participants who repeatedly injure themselves are, however. This isn’t a great system.

I sincerely hope the Democratic party is succesful, if only becuase it will give Canadians another model and one that recognizes the importance of protecting children at all costs.

Posted by skooter at 7:46 PM
Tags: Democrats, Health Care

March 13, 2007
Two Great Articles in the New York Times

This may be one of the saddest articles I’ve read:

A Place to Turn When a Newborn Is Fated to Die
MINNEAPOLIS The day after Alaina Kilibarda was born, her breathing started to falter, as her family knew it might. During the pregnancy, doctors had told James and Jill Kilibarda that their baby had a lethal genetic problem that would probably end her life within hours of birth.

and nothing points to a consumption based society quite as much as the the growth of the storage industry:

Hooked on Storage
By SUZANNE GANNON
Published: March 8, 2007
Gaithersburg, Md.

ON a recent Saturday afternoon Marcus and Imal Wagner stood in a U-Haul storage warehouse here, surrounded by their castoff possessions: a papier-mâché candy dish, LPs by Cream and the Ventures, a computer printer, a ceramic figurine of a gnome atop a turtle, bolts of taffeta from a long-abandoned pillow-making hobby, and stacks of 25-gallon tubs filled with old files and five years’ worth of paperwork

The emphasis is mine.

Posted by skooter at 5:40 PM
Tags: Articles, Children, Storage

March 7, 2007
The Case for Liberalism, George McGovern

Written before the commencement of the Iraq War (or, as some prefer to think of it, Gulf War 2.0) this article by George McGovern appeared in Harpers Magazine in December of 2002. It’s been kicking around my house ever since. If you haven’t read it, you need to—especially if you live in the United States of America.

Some points I like.

“[As] William F. Buckley puts it in his book Up from Liberalism,

‘Conservatism is the tacit acknowledgment that all that is finally important in human experience is behind us; that the crucial explorations have been undertaken, and that it is given to man to know what are the great truths that emerged from them. Whatever is to come cannot outweigh the importance to man of what has gone before.’

The business of conservatism is, in other words, to cling tightly to the past…”
pp. 39

“With the cold War behind us, the U.N. is now free to become the great international organ for peace, development, justice and freedome that Franklin Roosevelt, Wendell Willkie, and others intended it to be. As the host nation, America should take the lead in calling for a strengthened U.N., a stronger World Court, and a modern, well-equipped international police force directed by the Secretary General of the U.N. and the U.N. Security Council rather than view such ideals as obstacles.”
pp. 41

“Most of today’s liberals are too intimidated for my taste. When I look back on my twenty-two years in the U.S. Congress, I don’t regret the questions I directed at policymakers; I regret the times that I didn’t ask questions when I should have. the way of a public critic is uncertain and difficult, especially when flags are flying and drums are rolling, but patriotism includes the responsibility, when the nation is following an unwise course, to call it to a higher standard.”
pp. 42

One of these points is a reminder of something that I’m constantly surprised by: the that United States remains home to the United Nations and yet continues to so blatantly undermine its role on the world stage is shocking.

Is it time for the United Nations to move?

February 12, 2007
60 Most Respected American Corporations

An interesting Harris Interactive survey identifies America’s 60 most respected corporations.

The new is not good for some companies, most notably American automotive manufacturing.

DaimlerChryser (nominally American anymore) is the higest of The Big Three at 49, Ford is at 55 and General Motors is at 57. Of the three, only Chrysler’s rating increased and only marginally.

Contrast this with Toyota and Honda at 9 and 14 respectively.

Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway makes the list this year, but didn’t last year. This is likely a result of Buffet’s tremendous philanthropic gesture this year. They also get my vote for Best Website of the List, and I don’t even have to look at the others to say that.

Apple is up, but still only number 22. Microsoft is number one, and up by less than Apple by ranking but still up.

3M ranks number 3, and probably likes it that way — it’s good for the brand. Take a look at that URL too. The guy who registered that one deserves a raise…a big one.

I find it interesing that UPS ranks higher than FedEx. A couple of years ago FedEx was getting all the press. Lowes and Home Depot are in a virtual tie…that’s a war to watch.

I can’t help but wonder who would appear on a similar Canadian list. A lot of banks, I’d be willing to bet.

Posted by skooter at 6:23 PM
Tags: Apple, Business, Cars, Microsoft

February 6, 2007
Myriam Bedard's Got Nothing on This Lady

The strange tale of Myriam Bedard had Canadians shaking their heads over Christmas. Further proof that fam is no guarantee of sanity.

Astronaut charged with attempted kidnap-murder
Tue Feb 6, 2007 5:57 PM EST
By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) — A married U.S. astronaut was accused on Tuesday of trying to kidnap and kill a rival for the affections of a male astronaut after she drove 950 miles wearing adult diapers to confront the woman.

U.S. Navy Capt. Lisa Nowak, who has three children, was released from jail in Florida after posting bail.

Nowak was initially arrested on attempted kidnapping charges on Monday in Orlando after assaulting Colleen Shipman, a U.S. Air Force captain, police said.

That little line about wearing adult diapers takes the cake.

Posted by skooter at 3:25 PM
Tags: Articles, Astronauts

January 24, 2007
Cousin Bush

“Sorry, I didn’t catch that last name” I said into the receiver. I’d heard the first name was Janice but I hadn’t quite understood the last.

“Bush. Like Cousin Bush…the President.”

“Oh. Sorry.” I apologized. Maybe I wasn’t quite paying attention. “Is that something you’re proud of?”

“Let’s just call him the black sheep of the family.” was the response from the other end.

I think this bodes very well for the Democratic party.

Posted by skooter at 12:51 PM
Tags: America, Democrat, George Bush, President, Republican

November 20, 2006
Atlantic Poll: Vote!

The Atlantic Monthly is running an online poll to choose the most influential American in history.

Right now, Ronald Reagan is winning. For the sake of all of us, vote!

My choice? John Marshall. Marshall was the first chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and in that role shaped the future of American jurisprudence and the Bill of Rights. The Liberty Bell cracked tolling the death of Marshall, which is one of my favourite stories of all time.

Posted by skooter at 8:45 AM
Tags: America

November 7, 2006
Death by Hanging

While procrastinating on some work, I found an interesting article about death by hanging over at Slate Magazine. The topic is in the news lately as a result of Saddam Hussein’s death sentence received only a couple of days ago.

I’m vigorously oppposed to the death penalty, and have been since my teens. There is no such thing as a humane death sentence—the chemical concoction used in most modern executions is no better than more brutish methods such as hanging or the electric chair.

What I find most surprising, is the fact that even in modern American jurisprudence hangings have been allowed to proceed.

The Army even has its own drop table. According to its guidelines, the last man to hang in America—220-pound Billy Bailey—would have required 5 feet of loose rope. On a windy night in 1996, the Delaware guards removed Bailey’s dentures, placed a black hood over his head, and then dropped the noose around his neck.

Posted by skooter at 7:49 PM
Tags: Death penalty, Law

October 4, 2006
Seattle Terrorist Scare

An article in the Post-Intelligencer has an interesting comment…

Seattle-bound Ferry Gets Scare

“This is not the time in which you make any kinds of comments, or suggestions, about bombs,” said ferry system spokeswoman Susan Harris. “Especially on a ferry.”

I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to be making comments or suggestions about bombs, but it’s been five years since 9/11, and I’m wondering when it will be time to stop refering to this as “the time.”

Posted by skooter at 7:35 PM
Tags: Politics, Seattle, Terrorism

April 19, 2006
Scott McClellan

The most astonishing thing about Scott McLellan’s resignation is that he said more of substance on this single day than in any other press conference of the administration.

This man shut down the podium, and communicated in a manner that can at best be described as intentional obfuscation, and at worst as intentional propoganda.

White House press secretary resigns
Wednesday 19 April 2006, 18:26 Makka Time, 15:26 GMT

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, has resigned from his post in the latest reshuffle within the Bush administration.

Appearing with McClellan at a press conference on the White House lawn, George Bush, the US president, praised McClellan for his “class and integrity” in handling Washington’s often combative press core.

Posted by skooter at 9:37 AM

March 24, 2006
Richard Cheney

So Dick Cheney is being mocked for his slavish devotion to Fox News.

Of course, the vast majority of Americans get their political news from comedians, such as Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, daily commuter newspapers or organizations such as CNN that produce news only in a heavily abbreviated format.

Is one better than the other?

Posted by skooter at 12:50 PM
Tags: Articles, CNN, Television

March 11, 2006
America the Inward Looking

Even accepting that Americans are amongst the most inward looking people in the world (outdone, with certainty, by the French and perhaps the Chinese, although the latter’s rising place on the world stage suggests otherwise) I remain astonished at the sheer ignorance with which many Americans view headlines like this one in the New York Times:

Dubai Deal’s Collapse Prompts Fears Abroad on Trade With U.S.
By EDUARDO PORTER
Published: March 10, 2006

DP World’s decision yesterday to transfer a handful of American port terminals, rather than chilling interest in investing in the United States, may actually have made it safer for foreigners by relieving some of the political pressure that was building up against them.

But as part of a pattern of other antiforeign actions in Washington, fears remain that the United States is becoming a less welcoming place for investment from overseas.

“We need a net inflow of capital of $3 billion a day to keep the economy afloat,” said Clyde V. Prestowitz Jr., a former trade official in the Reagan administration who is president of the Economic Strategy Institute. “Yet all of the body language here is ‘go away.’

The main question I find myself facing is how America’s increasingly isolated position in the world affects Canada. The sheer volume of trade that moves between our border — unprotected for who knows how much longer — ensures that any change in United States trade policy will have a serious affect on our nation.

With both Asian and European ports quite a distance away, it’s hard to say whether Canada can (or will) succesfully build closer connections to these ports of call.

It may be that goods increasingly land in Canada for further transport to the United States, but I suspect that Americans would see through this and implement some form of change, the including Canada in its isolation.

I fear this isolationism, but have no doubt that it will be America’s natural response to the failure of its previous policy of globalization.

Posted by skooter at 6:00 PM

December 28, 2005
Mommy? How do I vote if I support tassles but not tip jars?

This. Is. Just. Weird.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005
New strip-club rules to go before voters
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER STAFF

Voters will have a chance to decide whether brighter lights, tip jars and a 4-foot distance between strip-club entertainers and customers should be required in Seattle’s adult cabarets.

The King County elections office has certified that enough signatures have been gathered to place the referendum on the ballot next year.

I’m envisioning all sorts of dinner table conversations about this; all kinds of it. Young boys asking their mothers and fathers. There are just too many jokes, really.

Sometimes democracy in action is interesting. People in Iraq are killing each other over who they’re going to vote for, and people in Seattle won’t even bother to turn out for a referendum on titty bars.

Somehow it just doesn’t make sense. These people voted five times on their monorail, each victory reading to nothing more than another fight and another vote. Perhaps we’ll see several years of voting, and fighting over what’s appropriate in Seattle’s strip clubs.

Either way, this is just weird.

Posted by skooter at 7:17 AM
Tags: Articles

December 23, 2005
Marbury vs. Madison

The government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws and not of men. It will certainly cease to deserve this high appellation, if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right.

Chief Justice John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803)

Note, Mr. Bush, that it is neither a government of God.

Posted by skooter at 9:40 AM

November 18, 2005
It's funny, only because she lived.

From today’s Post-Intelligencer:

Friday, November 18, 2005
Motorcyclist hits 520 curb, ‘vaults’ into lake
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES

A motorcyclist ended up in Lake Washington after hitting a curb along the Evergreen Point Bridge and flying over the railing Thursday.

“It’s amazing that she survived,” Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick said.

The accident happened just before 11 a.m. at the west end of the bridge. The woman’s motorcycle somehow hit the curb and “she vaulted over the side of 520, at least 30 feet down into the water,” Fitzpatrick said.

The woman landed in a marshy part of the lake near East Montlake Park and made her way to a dry spot, where firefighters were able to help her. She broke her leg, but was alert and conscious when they took her to Harborview Medical Center.

Posted by skooter at 10:59 PM
Tags: Articles, Motorcycle

November 10, 2005
That Giant Sucking Sound

One more head office says goodbye to British Columbia

This does not bode well for the future, although if the Cascadia idea ever launches we can all move south without going through immigration.

Utilities Commission approves Terasen sale
Last updated Nov 10 2005 05:54 PM PST
CBC News

A Texas-based company has been given approval to buy Terasen Gas. Kinder Morgan will pay nearly $7 billion for the company and its natural gas pipeline network.

The B.C. Utilities Commission gave its conditional approval despite a flood of letters from concerned British Columbians. The commission says it received 8,000 letters of comment about the sale.

Posted by skooter at 7:51 PM
Tags: Business, Economics, Politics, Vancouver

Sorry Marge, the mob has spoken.

Seattle’s monorail, which has been on 5 different Seattle ballots, is finally dead.

At least we can hope so. I’ve never taken the extremely short monorail system that exists in Seattle already. This plan was intended to extend the system to a reasonable length.

As the only public monorail system in North America, it seemed to make little sense: the cost of maintaining the system and building equipment was bound to be horrendous. Using a system that already has built in North American infrastructure seems more logical.

You don’t, after all, see very many cities installing cable cars a la San Francicso do you?

Seattle needs more public transit badly though—it’ll be interesting to watch what happens next.

Posted by skooter at 8:31 AM
Tags: Articles, Public Transit

November 9, 2005
Maybe California Makes Sense After All

From today’s New York Times:

Schwarzenegger Is Dealt a Stinging Rebuke by Voters
By JOHN M. BRODER
Published: November 9, 2005

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 9 - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was dealt a stinging rebuke on Tuesday by voters who rejected all four special election ballot initiatives that were the basis of his efforts to change the balance of power in Sacramento

I doubt this’ll last. I still feel like I’m taking some kind of hallucinogen everytime I see Schwarzenegger on TV.

Posted by skooter at 7:49 PM

November 7, 2005
A Highly Sensible Bicycle Law

Washington State has a highly sensible new traffic law, aimed at protecting cyclists. From today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

A new bicycle safety law is now in effect, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission points out. It’s now a traffic violation to pass another vehicle when bicyclists are approaching in the oncoming lane or on the shoulder. The law stems from a May 2004 crash near Walla Walla that killed a bicyclist. House Bill 1108 extended the legal zone of protection for bicyclists and pedestrians to highway shoulders and bicycle lanes. The law states that it is illegal to use the left-hand side of the road to pass when a bicyclist or pedestrian is within view and approaching from the opposite direction.

Posted by skooter at 6:20 PM

November 5, 2005
Conservatives In The Lead? Maybe on Paper.

According to today’s Globe and Mail the Tories are ahead of the Liberals in the polls.

It doesn’t matter, this is a blip and the truth is revealed to all brave enough to look, or at least read the rest of the article.

That most notorious pollster goes on to say this:

Opposition parties have begun contemplating whether to bring down the government this month, pre-empting Mr. Martin’s pledge to call an election 30 days after Judge Gomery’s second report on the sponsorship scandal, which is due in February.

“The temptation to defeat the government will be overwhelming,” Strategic Counsel chairman Allan Gregg said.

The Tories have a very narrow window of opportunity here. It’s my personal belief that while they may be leadind a poll, they would fail to win a national election in any case. Canadians, faced with a concrete rather than abstract choice of Paul Martin or Stephen Harper will inevitably vote Liberal, despite the findings of the Gomery report. NDP sympathizing ridings stand to be picked up by Liberal candidates as voters vote strategically.

Mr. Gregg continues:

“They know that when this issue fades, their fortunes fade with it, so sooner is better than later.”

Mr. Gregg added that the poll demonstrates gains for all three opposition parties if a vote were held today

That last bit is really the key. The Tories have not really gained anything here, the Liberals have lost. In Quebec, they’ve probably lost more permanently - the Bloc will win additional seats in Quebec, without a doubt.

As for the lonely NDP, our perennial third runner, it seems likely that as their support base leans towards the Liberal party their seat count will remain about the same. There may be one or two pick ups, but Jack Layton has largely failed to inspire and isn’t likely to make any significant gains.

Sadly, this may be a symptom of Canada moving towards a two party system. I don’t think the NDP will ever disappear absolutely, but practically speaking people are increasingly viewing our politics through an American style lens held up by media. They are the politics of simplicity and opposition rather than the politics of ideas. Perhaps in my lifetime they will change, but it’s not going to help the NDP in this election.

So don’t bet on a Tory government, even if they do manage to tear down the government right away. It’s just not in the cards.

Posted by skooter at 9:03 AM

November 4, 2005
Why Parks Should be Free

One man’s perspective on why parks should be free and there is no such thing as an acceptable reasonable charge.

I’m onside with this one. The imposition of parking fees in British Columbia’s provincial parks has been little more than a cash grab, and made it harder for lower income residents to enjoy.

Posted by skooter at 9:37 PM

October 13, 2005
Barn, Birch Bay, Washington

Barn, Birch Bay, Washington

I would like to salute
The ashes of American flags
And all the fallen leaves
Filling up shopping bags

Posted by skooter at 9:45 PM
Tags: Washington, Wilco

October 11, 2005
Coffee at Alki Beach

!/washingtonState/coffee.jpg (Coffee at Alki Beach) 424x281!

Posted by skooter at 5:08 PM
Tags: Coffee, Lomo, Seattle

September 13, 2005
Roadtrip: Portland

My last visit to Seattle inluded a road trip to Portland, with two main goals. The first was to visit Mt. St. Helens, which was about to blow the last time I passed by; the second was to hit Powell’s bookstore, long my favourite online bookstore and the world’s best used store by far.

A funky new Lomo Fisheye camera got trotted out for this trip too - the results are below.

Mt. St. Helens
Cycling the road to Mt. St. Helens The road to Mt. St. Helens is a twisting, sprawling road to nowhere and one that positively begs to be ridden on two wheels. These girls chose my favourite mode.

Entering Oregon
Crossing the Columbia River from Washington Every time I cross the bridge over the Columbia River - something I’ve done 4 or 5 times - I love it. The Columbia is one of the world’s greatest waterways, and was planned, by the Hudson’s Bay Company, as the border of Canada. This bridge, even if it’s fairly new, is a piece of history simply as a result of its geography.

Powells
Bikes parked at Powells City of Books Powell’s has long been my favourite online bookstore but I’ve never been to the store itself. Wall to wall books with book cases that go from floor to ceiling. So easy too get lost. So much fun.

Portland is a great city - a cyclists paradise that doesn’t suffer from the urban sprawl that characterizes so many large cities. I love this place.

Gas Works Park, Seattle
Gas Works Park Back in Seattle the next day, a visit to Gas Works Park was in order. From Gas Works, you can watch the water based buzz of seattle happening. In this picture, you can just see a sea plane landing in the upper portion of the picture. The structures at Gas Works are remnants of a more industrial era - a time when cities were lit by gaslight with all of the attendant smells and murkiness that this implies.

Some things are best left as memories.

Posted by skooter at 8:37 PM
Tags: Portland, Road Trip, Travel

July 5, 2005
The Emerald City and Independence Day

This combined Canada Day and Independence Day weekend marked my longest contiguous stay in Seattle ever. Four days of time spent in the Emerald City. I’ve been in the United State longer, but a great deal of this is usually camping time in off the beaten path places. This is a bit different.

So what did 4 days and 5 nights in Seattle teach me?

Independence Day in the United States is a very big deal; a (long) walk around the Alki beach area had us peppered with American flags - usually more than one at most properties. These people do wave their flag.

Having said that, I was a bit underwhelmed by the patriotism. The Capitol Hill gang celebrates differently than the Alki Beach gang. Signs were everywhere, but in a very understated way.

The most patriotic moment was attending a Mariner’s game, pitched by Kenny Rogers mid-appeal on his 20 game suspension. Not a popular man.

The singing of the National Anthem was astonishing though. I have never seen anything like this at a Canadian sporting event, although I’d bet a Stanley Cup final with a Canadian team (unlikely though that may be) and perhaps a world championship game. I doubt it though. Every hand and hat was held over heart without a trace of cynicism outside of my little bubble of Canadiana. I was, of course, busily pointing out the history of the song which celebrated a Canadian (O.K. - British if you’re going to be picky) attack during the war of 1812.BTW, any of my fellow Canadians proud of the fact that we’re the only nation to ever succesfully attack the Capitol? Anybody want to try again? C’mon. You know it’d be fun.

While we’re on that topic, how’s this for revisionist history. First, notice that the Americans were siding with the French. Regrets I’ve had a few. Should’ve seen that one coming anyway - when was the last time you heard “France has won!” being shouted in the streets? Anyway, we’re still here. I think we know who won this one folks. Deal with it.

The list of things to do in Seattle is substantially longer than any weekend in Vancouver. No Fun Vancouver? Absolutely.

A partial list of the things we didn’t do:

And here, a partial list of the things I did do:

A good weekend.

There’s a hot rumour that Seattle is not as safe as Vancouver. While one weekend does not provide a good example, two men were killed this weekend in Vancouver within steps of each other (at different times) near a Skytrain station, and Canada celebrated Independence Day by releasing Karla Homolka from jail.

I certainly didn’t feel unsafe in Seattle.

So go. Spend time. Our American neighbours are fun to hang out with.

I’ll be doing it again, I’m sure, although I hope the next time is on two wheels.

Posted by skooter at 6:28 PM

November 11, 2004
Laurie Anderson: Until the End of the Moon

I’ve been a fan of Laurie Anderson for as along as I can remember; Home of the Brave was one of the first movies Muchmusic showed, and it blew me away. As so often happens, this lead to an obsession.
Marquee at the Moore Theatre

One of the things I like about her just came back to me as I started typing this; Movable Type likes for you to attach a category to each entry. This is great, except I can’t figure out what category Laurie fits into: she doesn’t.

Music will do, but be warned of its limitations.

I’d never seen Laurie live, and this tour seemed like a reasonable time to do it; a pop down to Seattle at the historic (and quite beautiful) Moore Theatre, and the night was on.

I don’t quite know how to describe the next hour and a half; the show itself is mostly about story telling; Laurie is a compelling storyteller, and she does it very well here. The set is sparse, with only a chair, the latest iteration of the tape-bow violin and a keyboard. Stage lighting is sparse, with much light provided by an uncountable number of tea lights on the stage itself.

Laurie was NASA’s first, and last, artist in residence and much of her storytelling in this performance is based on those experiences.

Still, Laurie is from New York and 9/11 looms in her work. Laurie played a concert in New York on the 13th of September of 2001, later released as a live album. This was one of the most compelling albums I had bought in quite a while. Other artists have certainly found larger audiences, but I feel like Laurie captures the feeling of that time more than anybody else.

Of course I wasn’t there, so I really don’t know.

If you get a chance to see Laurie, do it. Do it somewhere with character though: I can’t imagine seeing this at the type of boring, anonymous square box that she’s playing in Vancouver. It just wouldn’t be the same.

Posted by skooter at 5:58 PM

July 6, 2002
Of ships and shoes and sealing wax

Ironic, isn’t it, that it’s cheaper for me to reach the west coast of Washington than British Columbia; of course, we have an island and they don’t.

Nonetheless, Olympic National Park is stunning and was home for three days.

Olympic National Park: South Coast Unit

Seattle, like Vancouver, doesn’t actually border on the Pacific Ocean. This was a distinction that meant little to me when I lived in Toronto, but is now of tremendous significance.

The shape of the coast is different here; while Howe Sound or Puget Sound make Lake Ontario feel like a fishing pond, the wild shores of the Pacific Ocean are another thing altogether.

With that in mind, I headed to Olympic National Park for a coast walk. Olympic can be reached by driving only, although a half-hour ferry ride from Whidbey Island makes the trip much shorter; at US$8.75 for passenger and car, this is much cheaper than getting to Vancouver Island.

I left after three days, with near perfect weather (save some rain at night, which put my new tent to the test.) I drove home through a storm; if I had known this was going to happen, I might have stayed.

More photos are stuck in my camera, but these will do for now.


Scott Bluff


Giant’s Graveyard, as seen from my tent

Posted by skooter at 9:36 AM
Tags: Camping, Coast, Washington

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