July 31, 2002

Just checked my archives - last Wednesday was the site's 6 month birthday. Haza!

UPDATE: This week is also the 6 month mark for Juan Gato's Bucket O' Links, and A Coyote At the Dog Show. Nice work guys.
Great Moments in Journalistic Bias:

This comes from the Toronto Star, page 2, very bottom, tucked against the fold:

Clarification
Israel’s security tied to proposal

Firmer U.S. president Bill
Clinton proposes creation of a
Palestinian state now. But
speaking Monday in Markham,
he stressed that Palestinian
statehood must be preceded by
security assurances for Israel
and a timetable to resolve other
issues.
As a result of the editing pro-
cess, those qualifications in
Clinton’s plan were omitted
from a story in many copies
yesterday.”


That about says it all.

July 28, 2002

The Blogroll has received a much needed update. Moved ites have had their new URLs corrected, fesh meat has been added (especially to the” friends" column, I'm flattered how many new links I've gotten) and a few new Papers, resources, and search engines have been included.

This all raises a fascinating philosophical question:

When you put The Advocate on the same link page as NRO, do you get attacked from the left, the right, or both at once?
N.Z. Bear's bit of speculative fiction makes me want to be a better blogger. I'll get right on that.
An Open Letter to the Bell Canada employee who called my cell phone at 9 am on Saturday morning:

The gods of bad reception cut the call short, and for that you should be thankful. You would not have enjoyed the next 10 seconds of that conversation, if it were to have taken place. Should you, or any of your cohorts, make such a call at such a time again, there will be grave consequences. I know I can’t stop telemarketers altogether, but be on notice, those that call my cellular phone while I’m trying to sleep will taste my vengeance.

Sincerely,

Sean Kirby -
Irate and sleep
deprived blogger.
Letters, we get letter….


I wrote a piece a while ago about the perceived dangers of nuclear material being shipped to Yucca mountain, and how this sense of danger was based on ridiculously bad information about the actual danger these things represented. Smarty-pants and nuclear science quasi-expert Alex Elliot writes:

You have one entry from last month (June 16)
about nuclear waste that I largely agree with
(I used to work in the nuclear industry, so I've seen
firsthand some of the safeguards used in the storage
and transport of nuclear waste), but you did make a
significant factual error when you said "[Plutonium]
is not poisonous at all, its radioactive".


In fact, plutonium is both radioactive *and* poisonous.
Pu is a heavy metal and, like many other heavy metals
(mercury, arsenic, lead), Pu is chemically toxic.


Of course, Pu's high alpha particle activity will kill you
if you ingest it long before the heavy metal poisoning will
(in constrast to uranium, where the heavy metal effects
will destroy your kidneys long before you notice any
symptoms of radiation sickness); but it's still incorrect
to say that Pu isn't poisonous.
Its heavy metal effects are on the same degree as
lead poisoning (i.e., not nearly as bad as arsenic and
only really significant in the long term).


Ok, so Pu is still harmful. Lets assume for the sake of argument that the TV personality in question meant to say radioactive, not poisonous, an easy enough mistake. Plutonium is pretty dangerous stuff that way right?

Even its radiological toxicity isn't *that* bad. You have
to ingest it - alpha particles are stopped by skin, so mere
proximity is not a real danger. There has never been a
single case of human death caused by Pu toxicity.


There have been lab animal studies that have shown that Pu
can cause death in amounts under 30 micrograms, but that
death is not immediate. Instead the Pu is absorbed into
your bones, where lies bombarding you with radiation,
finally causing death from bone cancer several years later.


Compare this to something like phosgene gas (used as a
chemical weapon in WWI and still manufactured yearly by
the metric ton as an important ingredient in polymers like
PVC). If you inhale air with more than about eight parts
per million of phosgene, your lungs almost immediately turn
to shredded meat and you're dead. I'd rather deal with Pu
any day.


Well there you have it folks: man-made disaster from accidental Plutonium exposure? Not bloody likely. Alex goes on to make some really fascinating points about the real danger of all this nuclear waste controversy – it distracts the public from far greater risks in other areas:

This brings up an interesting point related to terrorism.
Everyone seems to be worried about nuclear plants being
blown up or having planes crashed into them as a worst-case
scenario. I think it would be *much* worse if a chemical
plant were sabotaged. The stuff there is not only orders
of magnitude more deadly than nuclear fuel, but the
containment vessels are more fragile and the security is
less. There are chemical plants much closer to population
centers than nuclear plants.


It's estimated that 2,500 people died as a result of the
Chernobyl accident (some of them years later); whereas
the Bhopal chemical spill killed 3,800 people almost
immediately, and that was only one tank rupturing in a
chemical plant containing dozens of tanks.


"Nuclear" is a big scary word, and it seems that
politicians use it to make it look like they're doing
*something* to protect us. I remain unconvinced that
they're actually protecting us from the biggest dangers.


Point Taken.

July 27, 2002

Does The United States Army Kicks Ass? Yes.


Here Are Four Reasons.

I love the way the military develops a bunch of badass weapons during peace time, then, when we go to war, slowly leak them out to the media one by one, as if they just whipped them up on the spot. It gets the most dramatic effect that way, and because of the timing, nobody asks if it was worth the money. There�fs a war on, of course it was worth it.
The National Post is often slow in updating their website, so I’ll have to relate the contents of the dead tree version without benefit of links (we’re working without a safety net here folks) until they get up to speed.

Essentially, the Post is reporting that among other things, the Canadian government is considering a radical redefinition of marriage so as to give equal rights to gay and lesbian couples. What they have proposed is eliminating marriage as a legal context entirely, in favor of a national institution of civil unions. What this would mean is that the institution of marriage would return to being a strictly religious institution, for Churches to define as they wish. Civil Unions would be the legal measure for a couple to become joined – with all the accompanying financial and legal rights and responsibilities that marriage currently entails. A couple would have the option of being civilly unionized, or married, or both, or neither, depending on what sort or relationship they wanted.

If this idea sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you heard it on Horologium about a Month ago. The Timekeeper’s suggestion initially applied to the United States, to which I offered my hearty agreement, as I still do, perhaps more so, for Canada.

On that site, I mused that it was a rare thing when an idea could simultaneously appeal to the Gay left and the Religious right, while still possessing the quality of being the right thing to do - my opinion hasn’t changed since them. This sort of separation of “married in the eyes of god” and “joined in the eyes of the state” would seem the perfect solution to the current tenuous situation of marriage in law, which makes it all the more unfortunate that it will never happen.

I say it will never happen, because despite it being such a wonderful and practical idea, on the surface, it still has the appearance of “the government is trying to outlaw marriage!” to the uninformed. Regardless of the fact that the proposed change would have exactly the opposite intent and effect, the knee-jerk public reaction to it would alone be enough to kill it on the operating table. True, the country is now evenly split on the idea of real gay marriage, but on the other hand, the country is evenly split on the idea of real of gay marriage. The issue is at a precarious stage right now - divided right down the middle. This could mean two things strategy wise: 1) That now and only now would the public be receptive to new idea of this sort or 2) That there’s a danger of unpredictable backlash. I suspect that the reality would be a little of both.

If the Government moves to fast, it could end up setting the marriage movement back instead of forward, but if it moves to slow, then it would just be continuing the foot-dragging that has made radical measures necessary in the first place.

Ultimately, I remain in support of the Civil Union/Religious Marriage separation. However, if that option is to be chosen, I hope it is undertaken carefully, and that there is full and informed public discussion on the idea. A redefinition of marriage of this kind is a hard sell, but is undeniably good for the country in the long run.
And Bloggers across the globe rejoiced…

The New York Sun is online.
New York Times: Stupid People Scared Of Internet


…ok, the real headline was “Net Users Try to Elude the Google Grasp”, but it might as well have been.

Essentially, the Times is claiming that a larger and larger number of people are beginning to fear the power of Google, because of its uncanny ability to find anything on the net. Apparently, this is one of those mislabeled “personal privacy” issues. Allow me to directly address the dumbasses this article was for/about:

1) When you put information on the internet, it’s not private. The fact that you want something that has been made public to be hushed up again does not mean that your privacy has been violated when someone finds said information.

2) The internet is a database of information, and Google is a tool for finding and extracting the information contained therein on command. It’s doing exactly what its supposed to do. The “Google grasp” is not some case of technology-run-awry, but rather the internet performing as it always should have, but was not capable of until now. If your scared of the power of Google, it’s because you dived headlong into the world of the Internet, not fully considering its implications. Well, the grace period is over. You put your information out there, it stays out there, and it can be found. Get in the game, or stay off the net.

3) If you’re so concerned about protecting your useless, meager, uninteresting personal data, don’t give it away so easily. Privacy is, by its very nature, a state that requires the solitary effort of the individual to maintain. You can’t expect somebody to hold your hand, making sure you didn’t accidentally leave some compromising information in your wake. If you can’t learn to hold onto your data, don’t blame the big bad search engine for finding it.


Big Brother doesn’t need a massive infrastructure of surveillance in place to take away peoples privacy, people seem willing to give it away all to readily, so naive are they of the concept of “public domain” and the total unforgivingness with which the web preserves all that is entered into it.

July 24, 2002

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

The world is (tentatively) slated to end February 1st, 2019. Apparently, this asteroid is the biggest threat to the earth in the history of such observation. Somebody call Bruce Willis.

July 23, 2002

WebTV Virus Tells Modems to Call 911

I’m not usually one to advocate the sort of harsh, knee-jerk reactions courts take to prosecuting computer criminals (like the nationwide man-hunt for a kid who shut down Amazon.com for an hour?) but this is something we should take a hard-edged approach to. Sure, the virus hasn’t spread all that far, due to the massive unpopularity of WebTV, but if it did, it would have the potential at siege Emergency Response centers around the country with calls – people could die.

What kind of fucked up individual devises such a virus is beyond me.
Fritz Strikes Again


Instapundit links to a Slashdot article about Attempts be congress to make recording TV movies impossible.

He thinks we should reduce Copyrights on movies to five years. I might say that ten years is fair, but he’s still right. Copyright used to be a sort of bonus we gave to people to encourage them to create stuff - a brief period in which they could solely profit from their work, giving them motivation to create and thereby put more innovation and art into the public domain. Copyright was a privilege, intended to increase the aggregate amount of public works. But current laws are having the opposite effect. Now, copyright extends the life of the creator plus 70 years in some cases, and Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-Disney) and his crew are trying to extend it. Copyright has become a right in this country. The assumption is the right of the creator to profit and control their work till the end of time. Public domain is seen as a rarity, something that happens when the work becomes of no value to anyone, and there is nothing to loose by letting it go. The idea that a movie – something intended to be viewed and appreciated by the public – should be shown on television, but forbidden from being permanently recorded off that same medium – is ludicrous.

I believe in people right to protect their property, but we’re not really talking about private property here. It would seem that if something is flowing into your home on television, you’re more then entitled to make a tape copy of that feed.
Right Wing News (scroll down a bit) waxes hilarious about Superman as the ultimate Conservative Superhero. His only mistake is that taking personal responsibility for all the suffering of the world is really more of a liberal trait.

July 21, 2002

Man, Fearing Terrorists, Fires at Helicopter.

WILLIAMSBURG, Virginia (AP) -- A man armed with an assault-style rifle opened fire on a helicopter landing in a residential neighborhood, thinking the chopper was carrying terrorists, police said.

If there was ever an argument against instituting the TIPS program of civilian anti-terrorist spies, this is it.
We are the Borg, You will be Assimilated, Resistance is futile.


Here’s an FAQ about the newly proposed TCPA/Palladium initiatives, if the statements here are credible, (and I don’t know if they are) then Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Microsoft are poised to simultaneously take control of all software development, seize authoritarian control over everyone’s PC, install widespread, tamperproof Digital Rights Management, and hijack the internet in one fell swoop. This is one of those things we should probably be worried about. Really Worried.
Steve Den Beste – Master of the well-researched, absolutely convincing argument, explains his objection to the International Criminal Court. A brief history of “international law” to boot!

July 20, 2002

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accuses the US of abusing human rights, and spreading war and death.

Seriously folks, I can�ft make this stuff up.
How Many Bloggers does it take to screw in a light bulb?


The SF Gate has run another story on all the hoopla surrounding this intended Blogging Class to be taught at UBC. Incidentally, Wired News ran much the same bit a few weeks ago.

My only beef with their reporting is that both articles quote me as saying:

“Mark my words, this is going to be the Altamont of the blogging movement; they will destroy everything good about it,"

While I stand by the basic position of my comments, had I known they would appear in so many mainstream publications, I would have made more of an effort not to sound like such a paranoid jackass, but maybe it’s not too late to salvage my good name.

I still think that blogging is not something that can or should be taught in school. Classes would inevitably form rules on what makes a good or bad blog ? what habits a “professional” blogger must have, and what to avoid. This is precisely what blogging was supposed to get away from: the strict professionalism of mainstream journalism. Blogs are supposed to be something that ordinary people can do, grassroots journalism if you will. If people feel that the blogging community is just as much a strict, high brow intellegista as the mainstream media, they will shy away from contributing to it.

Debates between bloggers are supposed to be more like big town hall meetings then roundtable discussions. It’s about range of opinion rather than “expertise”, letting everyone have their say, not deferring to the judgment of our betters. But a class on the subject implies that there are right and wrong ways to run a blog (don’t get me wrong, there are some objectively bad blogs out there, you won’t get any moral equivalence here), instead of encouraging anyone who has something to say to start a blog, it’s sending the message that there are things you have to learn first, if you want to do it “right”.

All anyone needs to run a blog is a strong opinion and a basic command of their native language. While these qualities are, to be sure, in short supply sometimes, they aren’t things you’re going to pick up in Blogging 101. What you will find, I think, is a lot of pretentious “experts” telling you why you can’t discuss the Middle East crisis, the new Palm Pilot, and your trip to the zoo in the same post.

[The SF gate link comes via DailyPundit, who incidentally, got this whole debate going in the first place.]
“An other option is for drug companies to start preventing export of new and expensive drugs to Canada or Europe, ending the free-rides these socialist parasites have had on America's free market in pharmaceuticals.”

Andrew – I’m hurt. I’m not a freeloading socialist parasite.

HappyFunPundit explains why.
Just got this in: Roll up TV's.

Now I can really wallpaper my room with it.

July 19, 2002

Pejman carpet bombs Brendan O'Neill.

Nothing like a good fisking on a friday afternoon.
We are about to lose the archive of all comments. Let's hope there was nothing espcially noteworthy said....


UPDATE: I've tried to restore commenting functionality, but Blogger is having none of that. Email comments to me and they can be posted. Not that we get all that much feedback anyway.


UPDATE-The-Second: Obviously, the commenting is repaired. Have at it.

July 18, 2002

SatireWire knows how it is.


"POLICE ACCUSED OF CORPORACIAL PROFILING

With Crackdown Mandate, Cops Randomly Hassling "People of White Collar" "
Evolution At Work?


A 17 year old kid let his friends douse him in lighter fluid and set him on fire, then film him as he burned. He’s in critical condition. Idiot. (From Drudge)
Ever notice how each time Apple releases it’s latest new products and upgrades – the pages for those products take over the top spots on Daypop for at least a week? I didn’t think all that many bloggers used Macs, so it surprises me when the newest iMac consistently outranks all the daily news in the blogosphere.

But I’ll admit, the new iPod is damn cool.
Great, that's just great.


Now, in addition to Blogger's archives being, to put it simply, fucked - Sitemeter appears to be broken too. It's causing some level of non-loading-ness on several pages that have meters. Including mine.

UPDATE: You've got to be kidding me. Now my posts don't seem to be, uh, posting. Blogger now has all the functionality of a European Intellectual.

July 16, 2002

Blogspot is the Bain of my existence - Part 17,000:


As of this moment, linking to all Blogspot archives are broken, as it has been for the past few days. This has cost me at least one referral, and is generally making inter-Blogspot-meme spreading impossible. I ‘sphere wide switch to Moveable Type could be at least as important, at this point, as the original innovation for which it is named.

Ok, so maybe moving off of Blogspot isn’t quite as important as the printing press, but it would be a big help.
Right Wing News explains why the solution to homelessness is to make it illegal.

The funny thing is, he’s starting to convince me.
And now for something completely different.


USS Clueless has a lengthy post discussing the pros and cons of fighter jet versus dragon combat. I feel informed, yet strangely empty.
Clock it – the day is over and the Dow closed of 439 points. Lets all kick back and sooth our aching portfolios with a little market -related levity from Mark Steyn:

(among the fallen corporate idols is America's happy homemaker Martha Stewart, supposedly being investigated for insider dealing - or, as she would say, "Here's a stock deal I made earlier").

I feel better already.
…That’s one on every Subway Car.


The US Government has plans to recruit one in every 24 Americans as a citizen spy to report “suspicious behavior” to authorities. Yes, yes - Big Brother, Secret Police, Children selling out their parents to the gulags. I know all about that stuff. But that’s not the part of it that scares me most. Think about this:

What percentage of people you run into in your day to day life are complete and utter assholes? One in 20? One in Ten? Maybe more? So under the Presidents new plan, we can be absolutely sure that a good percentage of those citizen spies roaming the streets, looking to report terrorist, are going to be the kind of inconsiderate, arrogant, hopelessly stupid fuckheads that you don’t trust to brew your coffee, let alone judge threats of National security.

Normally, I don’t like to join the ranks of the paranoid left, and cry havoc about our society becoming a 1984 police state. That’s old hat. Old tinfoil hat to be precise. But honestly, this is scary stuff, and sometimes we have to call a spade a spade. Recruiting millions upon millions of ordinary people to become domestic spies is just wrong, and cannot be permitted. Right?

July 15, 2002

Pearl Murderers are guilty. One death Penalty and 3 live sentences. Excellent.

July 14, 2002

It Doesn’t just happen In France


A Jewish man was murdered by Skinheads in a pizza parlor Toronto this week. This makes me ill, I live in Toronto. I didn’t think this shit happened here. But the worst part of the article? This: "It's too early to indicate whether this is a hate crime," said Sergeant Jim Muscat.

That’s right, skinheads walk into a Jewish restaurant, harass the owner, then attack a man wearing traditional Jewish clothes – stabbing him in the back. Nope, no sign of a hate crime there – he probably owed them a drug debt right?

It’s as bad as the airport shooting on July 4th – nobody will call a hate crime what it is.

July 11, 2002

No, I think he means the other Palestinian leader.


Arafat says Bush never called for his replacement, because Bush never mentioned him by name. This can be taken a few ways:

1. Arafat doesn’t consider himself to constitute Palestinian leadership.

2. Arafat lacks the capacity for basic “if A then B” logic.

3. Arafat is so royally screwed, he’s beginning to writh and squirm on the pike that’s been shoved up his ass, and comments like these are just a side-effect.

I’ll take number 3 for $500 Alex.
Nuremburg Laws – part II.


European scholars continue their steady march towards 1937 – this time by firing two respected scientists from an academic journal, the reason being that they are Israeli nationals. You see, the members of the journal “deplore the Israeli state” and as such, working with any Israeli-born intellectuals would be akin to collaborating with Dr. Joseph Mengele, the Nazi scientist who performed human experiments on concentration camp prisoners (their analogy, not mine).

So, ya: Hell - hand basket – Europe. You get the picture.