Canada dependant on US for defense?

This Salon article reports that Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has announced that Canada will not participate in the US’s plans to build a missile-defense system for North America. That’s probably just as well, since the system may never actually work. However, the Salon article repeats the chestnut that “With a military budget a fraction of that of the U.S., Canada has always — at least tacitly — depended on its brawny neighbor to the south for protection”.

This point of view is often repeated, but it’s not at all clear to me that it’s true. Canada borders no country other than the US, would be logistically impossible to occupy, and is not belligerent, or in conflict with any other country. Why would anyone want to attack it in the first place?

FCC fines disproportionate?

Bizzarely, Rolling Stone reports that proposed new allowable FCC fines for airing “indecent” material are disturbingly out of line with the amounts charged by federal regulatory bodies for other types of violations:

On February 16th, the Bush administration won House approval for a bill that would raise the maximum FCC fine to $500,000 per violation.
[...]
If the bill passes the Senate, Bono saying “fucking brilliant” on the air would carry the exact same penalty as illegally testing pesticides on human subjects. And for the price of Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl, you could cause the wrongful death of an elderly patient in a nursing home and still have enough money left to create dangerous mishaps at two nuclear reactors. (Actually, you might be able to afford four “nuke malfunctions”: The biggest fine levied by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year was only $60,000.)

Jeff Raskin dies

Jeff Raskin, who headed the Lisa and Macintosh projects at Apple Computer, has died. Raskin was Apple employee number 31 and named the Mac after his favorite fruit.

A State Divided

There continues to be chatter about dividing Washington into two states. The Seattle PI has a mostly fluff piece that nonetheless has this amusing graphic:

Photo of the Day

More Blue Cat antics:

Photo of the Day

Here is Timmy the Mad Cat being silly:

Pope says gays are evil

The Pope says gay marriage is “part of a new ideology of evil”.

Goodbye, glaciers

CNet has pictures of retreating glaciers, to put global warming in perspective.

Australia to build Solar Tower

This is wild: Wired reports that plans are moving forward to build a one-kilometer tall “solar tower” to produce electricity, in the Australian outback.

A one-kilometer-tall structure would be twice as tall as the world’s tallest free-standing structure, the CN Tower in Toronto.

The solar tower works like a chimney: heated air rises through the column, powering wind turbines along the way. The Australian tower could apparently produce 200 megawatts of power. To put this in perspective, the Hoover dam apparently produces about 2,000MW. Apparently ambitious solar-tower-proponents hope that in the near future, solar towers could be built capable of producing up to 1,000MW.

Second Photo of the Day

More kick-ass photography by Timmy

Photo of the Day

Here is Blue Cat looking coy:

Leg: not quite cured

Over the past few days, a sharp, highly localized pain has been developing in my hip when I move in specific ways, namely when I walk up hills. I don’t like this new development one bit, and plan to get it checked out.

Wall Street in favor of Social Security “privitization”

This fluff piece on MSN about how to invest the hypothetical money that you may one day have as a result of Social Security “privitization” quotes 7 Wall Street types about whether or not they support the move to private Social Security accounts.

All but one of them come out in favor, with comments like:

  • Yes: Without a doubt, a great way to shore up the system.
  • Yes: The alternative is sharply higher taxes or reduced benefits.

Who are these people, and don’t they know that even the White House admits that private accounts won’t do anything to address the solvency of the Social Security program? How could they? They take money out of the system and will cost a bunch of money to set up.

Is Iran or Syria next?

I can’t figure out if Iran or Syria will be the next target of Bush’s efforts to spread freedom, democracy and light throughout the world. ABC news is quoting Bush as saying:

“This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table”

Well, that clears things up. Remember that a few days ago, Bush said of Syria that it was “out of step with the progress being made in the greater Middle East”. Recall that relations with Syria have been cooling off rapidly since the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri last week. Syria denies involvement, but so far the US has:

  • Demanded Syria remove its troops from Lebanon
  • Demanded that Syria adhere to U.N. Security Council resolution 1559, which calls for the removal of the Syrian troops (Bush said “we expect them to help free and fair elections to take place in Lebanon.”)
  • Imposed certain economic sanctions against Syria to isolate its banks
  • Debated the possibility of freezing the assets of Syrian officials
  • Demanded that Syria turn over any Iraqi insurgents it may be harboring

With all the Syria action, I figured it was definitely next on the block for liberation and enlightenment, but maybe Iran is next? Place your bets…

Bush is afraid of Germans

The Seattle PI reports today that on Bush’s European trip this week, he has decided not to hold the “town-hall” style meetings he usually favors back home in the US while visiting Germany. Maybe it’s harder to filter the attendees to ensure they ask only softball questions? Or maybe it’s just that they couldn’t find any pro-Bush attendees in Germany, given the unpopularity of his administration there?

One more step towards Cascadia

The Seattle PI reports today that GOP lawmakers in Washington are proposing with a straight face that Washington state be split in two, with Eastern Washington becoming the 51st state in the Union. In fact, Sen. Bob Morton and nine other GOP senators are sponsoring a bill in the Washington Congress that asks the Federal Government to create a new state out of Eastern Washington.

I find it interesting that talk of secession and state-cleaving has been on the lips of liberals since W first won office, but here in Washington, after a brusing and bitter race for the governorship that has concluded, or appears to have concluded, with a Democrat in the governor’s mansion, it’s the GOP talking separation.

I say, whatever moves us closer to the Republic of Cascadia is probably good. Maybe once separated from Eastern Washington, Western Washington could overtly pursue the progressive policies that its population would favor.

Photography at below-average.net

Check out my friend John Thimsen’s recent photo post on his blog

More crappy Bush antics

My friend Zeynep’s blog entry reminded me of a Seattle PI article I had read this weekend that expressed surprise over the lack of outrage at the “Jeff Gannon debacle”. Jeff Gannon was (supposedly) a reporter at a White House press conference who asked Bush how he could work with “people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality”.

As it turns out, Gannon’s real name is James Guckert, and he writes for a web site called talnonnews.comm which is “linked to” GOPUSA.com, which is a straightforward promotion site for the GOP.

I went to take a look at talonnews.com and strangely, none of their site’s links to their recent news stories seem to work. There is also a page confirming that Jeff Gannon resigned from his post, effective February 8th.

Thinly veiled GOP shill, or legitimate reporter for an admittedly right-wing web site? We report, you decide.

Greenspan a partisan hack?

This interesting opinion piece in the Seattle PI charges Fed chairman Alan Greenspan with being “just another partisan hack” for supporting the Bush administration’s plans to partially “privitize” Social Security, despite the fact that this will evidently do nothing at all to address the program’s solvency (and, in fact, stands to make the situation worse). Excerpts:

Last week, Greenspan offered no excuse for supporting privatization. In fact, he agreed with two of the main critiques of the administration’s plan: that it would do nothing to improve the Social Security system’s finances, and that it would lead to a dangerous increase in debt. Yet he still came out in favor of the idea.

Let me make a detour here. The way privatizers link the long-run financing of Social Security with the case for private accounts parallels the three-card-monte technique the Bush administration used to link terrorism to the Iraq war. Speeches about Iraq invariably included references to 9/11, leading much of the public to believe that invading Iraq somehow meant taking the war to the terrorists. When pressed, war supporters would admit they lacked evidence of any significant links between Iraq and al-Qaida, let alone any Iraqi role in 9/11 — yet in their next sentence it would be 9/11 and Saddam, together again.

Similarly, calls for privatization invariably begin with ominous warnings about Social Security’s financial future. When pressed, administration officials admit that private accounts would do nothing to improve that financial future. Yet in the next sentence, they once again link privatization to the problem posed by an aging population.

And so it was with Greenspan. He painted a dark (and seriously exaggerated) picture of the demographic problem, and said that what we need is a “fully funded” system. He then conceded that Bush-style privatization would do nothing to improve the system’s funding.
[...]
A disturbing thing about Wednesday’s hearing was the deference with which Democratic senators treated Greenspan. They acted as if he were still playing his proper role, acting as a nonpartisan source of economic advice. After the hearing, rather than challenging Greenspan’s testimony, they tried to spin it in their favor.

But Greenspan is no longer entitled to such deference. By repeatedly shilling for whatever the Bush administration wants, he has betrayed the trust placed in Fed chairmen, and deserves to be treated as just another partisan hack.

The administration’s pairing of dire warnings about the state of Social Security with prescriptions for its privitization does seem a lot like the pairing of al-Quaida and Saddam Hussein before the war — deliberate, repeated juxtaposition of unrelated items to foster an association in the public’s mind. It all seems fairly sinister.

Has Greenspan crossed over to the dark side? Discuss.

Seattle to shrinkwrap bodies

In a somewhat disturbing story, the Seattle PI reports that the “Thurston County Coroner’s Office recently won approval to purchase a machine able to shrink-wrap human remains”. The idea is to facilitate the handling and transportation of bodies in case of mass-casualty disasters. Let’s hope they never get to use it.