Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Munich Forever

Wondering why David Brooks wonders why the world is the way it is can be a fool's game, and its best left to those with stronger stomachs and intellects than mine.  (See the blogroll, stage left.)  But something in his column today struck me as unintentionally astute:
The big difference is that the protesters don’t believe in governance. They have zero tolerance for the compromises needed to get legislation passed. They don’t believe in trimming and coalition building. For them, politics is more about earning respect and making a statement than it is about enacting legislation. It’s grievance politics, identity politics.
And why would these Protesters, these Tea Party Republicans, have zero tolerance for compromise and assume negotiation is capitulation and weakness, and if you just stood strong right would win out and the other side would collapse?  Because its been an article of faith in middle-to-right-of-center foreign policy around the world since the Glorious Reagan Revolution that every compromise with a foreign entity is a Chamberlain-in-Munich moment, that everyone who disagrees with you is a bully who thinks you're weak and only wants what they want because they're cynically convinced they can steal a march on you.  And if it works on foreign entities, in the Middle East or Europe or Africa, where dictators only respond to naked displays of will and aggression, well: California sometimes feels like a foreign country, and the Pelosi/Boxer/Feinsten tribunal can't wait to get us into Munich, and willingness to negotiate is a sign of weakness because everything is held on principle.

Brooks and his ilk have encouraged this perspective.  Its hardly operational, though, when you're trying to split the check after dinner.  One gets the sense the Tea Party people are those math-challenged guys who refuse to back down on what they think is fair, because if they backed down on the percentage they've miscalculated, you'd shortly invade their homes and return them to serfdom.  Brooks, then, is the guy encouraging the intransigence, if only to make a point about thrift. 

The rest of us have to cough up the difference so we don't stiff the server.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Second Peloppenesian War

To get its latest "bailout" the Greek government has to agree to give up their country.  When I say "country" here, I mean: their sovereignty on taxation, probably ownership of their more interesting assets (the tourism concessions and attractions and anything else that might generate income), whatever social justice and welfare mechanisms they've implemented, and much of what passes for a social contract.

There are a number of thick ceilings in Greek society.  There are, according to reports, a bunch of cartels in a number of industries that make it nearly impossible to start new businesses.  The tax avoidance is enormous and basically predicated, in the middle and working classes, on the need to save.  The baby boomers have occupied all the stable civil service, middle-management and professional jobs and won't let go.  And its hard to blame them: if you had a great job with a great pension in a country rapidly going south, would you retire for the greater good of the country?  So you've got a mass of educated kids who've grown up in the conservative economic positivism of modern Europe who can't get jobs because their elders have every rational incentive to protect their own assets, and in the meantime, the only thing the elites really want to do in Greece is keep the money pipeline flowing into their own accounts and encourage tourists to visit the Aegean vistas.  In this the Greeks are not dissimilar to any other OECD country, like Canada, only they've got a much better climate.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Explosives expert, at 16!

Ezra Levant, who's claim to fame so far is the phrase "ethical oil" and regularly writing newspaper columns in which he accuses Barack Obama of being a Manchurian candidate (while remaining coy about just which Manchuria he might be a candidate for), has decided that Omar Khadr is an evil genius.  Apparently he was, at 16, both a translator for Al Qaeda and an explosives expert.  At 16!  An expert in explosives!

I had been under the misapprehension that Khadr had been thrown into suicidal battle by a father who may be in the all-time running, behind Cronos but somewhere ahead of, oh, say Ezra Levant, as the worst father ever.  For consider: he sends his teenage son from suburban Ontario to Afghanistan to die for the faith.  He's not just a religious fanatic, but he wants to kill his kid to prove how much of a fanatic he really is.  You just don't find guys like that much, although usually when you do they've been obssessively reading the same nasty books

But no, it turns out that Khadr is some kind of evil genius: an explosives expert and translator, both at 16!  Guantanamo is too good for him.  He needs to go to the prisons where we put Megamind and Dr. Evil, before he has the opportunity to point a laser at the Earth.

Thank goodness for Ezra Levant, who, while he may be an unscrupulous fame-whore desperate to get his name in the paper by saying outrageous, stupid and generally substanceless things, while shilling for wingnut welfare mills on both sides of the border, at least has our best interests in mind.

Imagine: an explosives expert at 16!  And we were thinking of letting this guy walk around Peterborough unmolested.


One of Rick Santorum's billionaire supporters told Andrea Mitchell that all this kerfuffle about birth control could be solved if we all just did what women did in the good old days and put an aspirin between their knees.  This capped a week where the modern GOP shocked the establishment by demonstrating what they really think.

Initially I thought he meant an actual aspirin could be used as a birth control technique, because I'd heard the same thing when I was a kid.  And so all the old questions recurred: Is it the acetylsalycilic acid that does the trick?  Was willow bark an ancient precursor to this kind of - admittedly hit and miss - modern DIY birth control?  I imagined women in nomadic bands of hunter-gatherers carrying around strips of willow bark on the off chance they decided on a quickie with the cute guy in the tent three trees over. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bitchy queens

About two weeks ago Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg marked her 60th year in office.  Editorial pages across the land celebrated the milestone and waxed eloquent about her office's role in making the people of the nation essentially Canadian, and how our very celebration of her office distinguishes us - nay, elevates us - from those vulgar Americans across the 49th, and who decided long ago they'd have no truck with Monarchy.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Updates II

The states have settled their various mortgage malfeasance issues with the banks, or purport to.

Let's put this into perspective.  These banks are collectively worth trillions, much of it extracted in various ways through the mechanisms they're not admitting to wrongdoing for but have decided its cheaper to pay hush money on.  The $29 billion they propose to pay back in the settlement amounts to maybe 1% of their value.  This amounts to a parking ticket for someone in the middle class.

Parking tickets are nuisance.  They don't change behavior unless you get lots and lots of them.  Getting one parking ticket after years and years of using no-parking spots is hardly likely to scare you much.

I belabor the analogy but, really, if you measure intent by action, there is no action here, and so likely no intent.  The elites don't want to solve this problem. 


A few things to get off my chest, which have been sitting there since early December, when my costly unfettered freedom ended.

Facebook Privacy Concerns Deepen:

There are three kinds of concerns here:

1.  Your mom might see a post where you complain about Christmas dinner and assume its about her.  (Alternatively, your significant other may wonder why your "new friend" was kissing you in that picture taken at the ski lodge last weekend.)
2.  Someone might break into your account, figure out your credit card number, and steal your identity. 
3.  Someone might aggregate all the data entered through an application like Facebook or LinkedIn and figure out where individuals live or what they like to do, for nefarious purposes.