Month: April 2008

NC Primary – Vote for a Non Panderer

Apparently, there’s a relevant presidential election this time around in my erstwhile home state, woohoo! (Not that it matters to me, when I was living in the States as an alien on parole, I did not have a vote, and I don’t even live there no more, but I follow US politics religiously!). I do have a dog in the fight (okay, references to dog fighting are no longer cool), being an Obama supporter (he’s skinny, brown and intelligent, and his name, he could be me!). He has tried hard, and only occasionally failed in his attempts to not pander, to not go against his broad principles or intelligence (do not get me started on his famous coal fetish). Clinton, on the other hand, is losing her mind, and here’s the end result.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton lined up with Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, in endorsing a plan to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for the summer travel season. But Senator Barack Obama, Mrs. Clinton’s Democratic rival, spoke out firmly against the proposal, saying it would save consumers little and do nothing to curtail oil consumption and imports

As Clinton Seeks Gas Tax Break for Summer, Obama Says No – New York Times

GasPrices.jpgSo, 18.4 cents a gallon, ai, let’s see, ah, friendly chart of gas prices in North Carolina this MONTH (courtesy Gas Prices) shows the price jumping about 36 cents a gallon, or double this so called tax break. By the time the holiday weekend rolls around, prices would have gone up a little more. What exactly does this accomplish? It fails the first test of not providing meaningful relief to anyone concerned. Most people don’t know that the tax directly funds transportation infrastructure.

The highway trust fund that the gas tax finances provides money to states and local governments to pay for road and bridge construction, repair and maintenance. Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton propose to suspend the tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the peak driving season, which would lower tax receipts by roughly $9 billion and potentially cost 300,000 highway construction jobs, according to state highway officials.

So, take money from the federal government and give it to whom? Here’s a word from Dean Baker, my favorite economist.

Actually, almost all economists would agree that the tax cut proposed by Senators Clinton and McCain would save consumers nothing. With the supply of gas largely fixed by the capacity of the oil industry (they claim to be running their refineries at full capacity), the price will
not change in response to the elimination of the tax. The only difference will be that money that used to go to the government in tax revenues will instead go to the oil industry as higher profits.

So, Hilary Clinton supports the transfer of money from the government to the the oil companies? I don’t think so and she ought to know better, she’s a smart and intelligent woman. So, what gives? Why the pander?

Of course, she claims that she will make up the funding shortfall by increasing taxes on the oil companies. Who is she kidding here? You think our emperor (yes, he’s still there) will allow any new tax increases on his buddies in the oil industry? He’ll happily veto any such bill that comes his way!

Note that I did not have to make a single environmental argument about how high gas prices will, in the medium to long run, eventually result in increased fuel efficiency, investments n public transit and hopefully, a shift away from the American (can’t say “our” any more!) car driven model of planning.

Oh well, at this point in time, everyone’s mind’s made up anyway. Cheers and enjoy your rare meaningful vote.

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More on Obama and Electability, and Canada

Where people a little more qualified than me weigh in on Obama’s chances.

John’s asumption that a candidate’s primary base will be the same as his general election base strikes me as seriously flawed. If Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, will her electoral base consist of blue-collar whites? No, it will be highly similar to Obama’s, with a major reliance on minorities and white liberals.


Excellent point, but it’s the independent voter that is going to be swayed by race and identity, not the ones voting in the primary. I don’t think the usual democratic coalition is in much danger, but the usual democratic coalition of minorities, the young, the poor and urban whites will still leads to your usual situation in which Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Missouri decide the election.

Alas, it is only April, and way too early, screw it, just enjoy Spring and the Summer, and I need to learn more about Canadian politics. I did not even know that my local MLA, Carole James, is the leader of the BC NDP, the official opposition party of BC that is to the LEFT of the ruling BC liberal party, which is independent of the Federal liberal party! Must admit, it is nice to live in a province where the opposition party accuses the liberal party of being insufficiently liberal.

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Obama and the race/identity vote

I support Obama because he’s skinny, brown, liberal, young, and of course, the whole name thing. He’s the closest in American politics to me, and I identify with him quite a bit. By the same token, how the hell is he going to win a general election?

It’s the first US election in which a white person is going to have to choose between someone of her race and someone who does not look like her, talk like him, has a funny name and is most definitely African American in identity and behavior. Call me the cynical product of an Indian upbringing where caste/religion/community plays such a vital and unsubtle part in politics, but when faced with this kind of choice where one of the choices is not someone you can identify with at all, I don’t see it happening. There’s a reason why the undecided vote’s always flipping to Clinton at the eve of every primary, it’s all about racial identity, I’m afraid.

Many white people see in McCain their ornery grandfather (the one who always talks about the war – McCain reminds me of Abe Simpson, the resemblance is uncanny) or uncle, or something like that, someone they can identify with. What is Obama, but an outsider? The undecideds will tend to flip to the known quantity (vaguely senile and ill tempered older relative who used to be something) as opposed to the unknown (urbane, educated, intelligent, yet vaguely threatening black man).

Younger people, especially the college educated young can identify more with Obama because they have at least a couple of black friends, and see plenty of intelligent young black men in their peer circles. It’s all about identity and what you base it on. The idealism and energy he brings is also much better received by a younger audience. The older you get, the less likely it is that you’ve interacted with someone whom Obama can represent in racial/identity demographic. Which is why Clinton’s performance is always better among the older voters.

There, my pessimism is on record, McCain in a squeaker in November, though I’d love to be proved wrong.

Note: I am assuming that this silly extended primary will eventually go to Obama, Clinton has no shot, sorry.

Probably my first ever link free post, but hey, isn’t that what blogging’s all about? This was written in the aftermath of the Pennsylvania primary where everything that was predicted happened: Obama won the “urban” and young vote, Clinton won the rural and white vote, this just presages the general election.

PS: Obama’s at least 5 inches taller than McCain and quite a bit better looking. The taller, better looking man usually wins the election. But both choices have always been white, so what happens now? I think identity still triumphs.

Snow, and more

Yikes, my last few posts have been, shall we say “bitter”? Enough of that, how about some boring pictures. Not that I take too many! But, it’s all pictures and no thinking/analysis in this post.

It’s been 4 weeks to the day I arrived in Victoria and the weather’s been completely and utterly whacked out. We had snow on Friday…



Of course, it was too warm for the snow to stick, just came down for about half an hour or so and cleared right away, followed by sun an hour later. Up in Nanaimo, they got 25cm of snow. Toronto, on the other hand, was in shorts, poetic justice, my local acquaintances tell me because us islanders usually rub our wonderful weather in every other Canadian’s face. But, it isn’t really that cold, just not warm. And the crazy instability has its pluses. Did I ever mention that 4 days in a row, I saw some spectacular rainbows on the way back from work, to the point that I was getting a little blase about it? This place is all about micro climates. It will be sunny in Victoria, and as I drive towards Sidney to work, passing Elk Lake, the temperature drops significantly and there’s always more cloud and rain. Then Sidney has it’s own thing going on, could be cloudy, never know. So, always pack a raincoat and a layer or two!

Anyway, went to Thetis Lake this Sunday for a leisurely hike around the lake with a few acquaintances. As usual, beautiful. Spring is here, and it was really interesting to see all the blooming flowers interspersed with patches of snow. Yep, snow and flowers, a little unusual (didn’t take any pictures of flowers, unfortunately).

It’s also the greenest time on the year because it’s been raining all winter and also getting warmer in the last few weeks, so everything’s alive and the evergreens are, well, very green. As it warms up more and the rain goes away, it apparently gets a lot browner. Also saw a bald eagle encircling the parking lot, that’s probably the fourth or fifth one I’ve seen here.

Some random pictures of the lake. The upper trail goes uphill immediately and leads to some beautiful vistas overlooking the lake. I don’t think my cellphone camera does it any justice, looks like I might have to invest in a real camera soon.

Thetis Lake

That’s it, I guess. Enough of the pictures. I am going to be hiking every weekend from now on, there are so many trails, This website actually rates quite a few of them by difficulty, ought to keep me busy for a year or two!

Back to bitter in a bit, and some environmental posts later. Meanwhile, looks like the the ol’ chief finally made it out of Gaul (if you don’t get it, click the link!)

Americanize Me? No Thanks

The Tyee gets all feisty on the subject of American-Canadian “integration”.

It all got me to thinking about just why on earth Canadians would want to integrate into the U.S.Let’s be clear. This goes way beyond just having a bad neighbour. It’s about moving in with them.Don’t get me wrong. We can actually feel sorry for folks next door. They weren’t always this bad. But there is just no question that today they are a dangerously dysfunctional family. A lot of them are ill, but the other half refuses to come to their assistance. The old man squanders the family’s considerable income on his gun collection. They foul their own nests and squander their resources.The family behaves as if the neighbourhood’s rules don’t apply to them: they are noisy, pushy and if you try to reason with them they bully you. Hey, it’s not just our neighbourhood — they bully people all over town.

Americanize Me? No Thanks :: Views ::

One more highlight…

But what about the two decade long increase in U.S. productivity, constantly touted by Bay Street as a model for Canada? According to Doug Henwood of the Guardian newspaper, much of that increase can be traced to the enormous amount of forced, unpaid overtime by both waged and salaried employees. Americans work longer hours per year than those in any other industrialized country

According to this report, Canadians worked 4 fewer weeks per year than Americans in 2002, which is good. Canada’s right in the middle of industrialized countries as far as hours worked per year goes, no need to emulate the US in that regard.

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Ah, Propaganda

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand – New York Times

Of course, the word “propaganda” is first used on page 4 of the article, long after most people stopped reading. Not that I am surprised or shocked or anything, it was clear that all those military suits on the screen were spouting propaganda from the very beginning. They said the same things, used the same words, it was always well timed and planned, but apparently, no one in the media bothered to ask them about it. The media must have thought “very patriotic folks them, they wear a lot of lapel pins!”

I fail to see how this meticulously detailed story will have any impact on anything that happens in the States. What would John McCain’s reaction be to this news? Will anyone actually ask him if he would have done the same thing? Will there be any protests, calls for resignations, impeachments, court martials, media boycotts? Maybe a shocked letter to the editor or two, maybe a million blog posts like this one, nothing more.

God Bless America, it has lived up to all my expectations finally!! Pravda, Xinhua and Goebbels have nothing on these guys. It looks like all the president’s people and all the mass media colluded to sell this war to the American people and make each other very rich. Wonderful! Note that a small part of every dollar spent on cable and newspapers goes to support this war effort. Note that a small part of everyone’s taxes go to support this war effort.


Top Bush Advisors Approved 'Enhanced Interrogation'

THis banana republic story is not so benign.

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of “combined” interrogation techniques — using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time — on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects — whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.The high-level discussions about these “enhanced interrogation techniques” were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed — down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

Sources: Top Bush Advisors Approved ‘Enhanced Interrogation’

Once again, don’t know what to say…

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Power to Build Border Fence Is Above U.S. Law

Banana Republic Alert…

Securing the nation’s borders is so important, Congress says, that Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, must have the power to ignore any laws that stand in the way of building a border fence. Any laws at all.

Last week, Mr. Chertoff issued waivers suspending more than 30 laws he said could interfere with “the expeditious construction of barriers” in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The list included laws protecting the environment, endangered species, migratory birds, the bald eagle, antiquities, farms, deserts, forests, Native American graves and religious freedom.

Power to Build Border Fence Is Above U.S. Law – New York Times

I don’t know what to say, rule of law, so quaint, so pre 9/11…

Mass Transit Systems Have a Hard Time Paying the Bills

Interesting article on the difficulty in funding public transit system in the US of A. But the article makes one of those typical mistakes…

Because mass transit systems are so expensive to operate, they rely heavily on subsidies from federal, state, and local coffers. But the flow of money has not kept pace with the ridership growth.

Mass Transit Systems Have a Hard Time Paying the Bills – US News and World Report

No, mass transit systems aren’t that expensive to operate when compared to building highways, maintaining highways and subsidizing the private transit system, it just feels that way because our media and political overlords have normalized us into thinking that highways = infrastructure and public transit = subsidy. If you don’t believe me, go read just about every artile on public transit, and the obligatory yearly complaint article about “subsidies” for Amtrak.

Meanwhile, here’s a much better article on public transit including this money quote…

A 25 percent reduction in federal highway spending would clear the way for a tenfold increase in annual federal transit spending–sufficient to produce a sea change in the way cities build their transportation networks.

The Bellows » The Forgotten Solution

(h/t) Mathew Yglesias

Those numbers are mind boggling, and if we can flip our language so highway=subsidy and mass transit=infrastructure, maybe we can make some headway in dealing with our emissions issues.

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Victoria, 7 Days Later

Well, it’s been an interesting and full week in Beautiful BC (the other BBC), I found a home:

It has a nice view from the window

and a not so nice view from the same window, which I shall not post because it gives away my location, you’re either going to have to email me or, god forbid, visit!
And it is in close proximity (5 minute walk) to the wonderful Beacon Hill Park.

Once the weather gets better (Yes Virginia, long “rant” about the weather’s just up ahead, keep reading!), I look forward to running from home through Beacon Hill Park to the gorgeous seashore on Dallas Road, about a kilometer away (yes, I’ve gone metric).

Not the greatest of photos, but it was rainy and foggy. Yes, you can’t really escape nature in this part of the world, even though Victoria’s dense and urban for its size, you turn the corner and suddenly, you’re in a park or on a waterfront.

The weather, well, it’s crazy. Last Tuesday, or Wednesday, I can’t remember, I was at my local Y taking a tour before joining the gym and it was sunny when I entered, my gym guide points the sky out to me 15 minutes later from the 2nd floor of the gym (nice scenic view of beautiful church grounds from the treadmills, BTW) and lo and behold, hail! Apparently, every few years or so, one gets bad weather from Russia, damn them. But, he did say that if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes, and there it was, sunshine again. I step out after joining the gym and walk back to my funky inn, it starts raining, oh well, it rained 5 minutes then the sun came out, then 5 minutes later, sleet. It did not rain frogs, or cats or dogs, so I did not see everything, but still, way too much weather action in an hour. It is not warm yet, but it is not terribly cold either, always hovers above or around freezing at night, and gets warmer up to 8 degrees (45) in the day time. I am told that it will get warmer soon. Really does not matter, though, it’s still very nice and the people here pretend that the weather does not exist, so I am going to be one with the locals!

In other good news, I found an excellent video store, Pic-a-Flic which is in Cook Street Village, just around the corner (literally) from where I live, nice little neighborhood, lots of “character”, which is sometimes problematic! I haven’t really hung out yet, except to go to a couple of bars and to watch Carolina games and the heartbreaking Davidson-Kansas game (why did the coach make the star of the team and its best shooter also bring the ball up the floor on the last play and make him create his own shot instead of setting up a play where he came off a screen to catch and shoot, his forte, I will never understand) at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre with a fellow Tarheel fan (born and brought up in Victoria!). I just happened to run into him in the bar of the inn I was at for a week and I happened to mention where I was from, he nearly jumped out of his skin! So, I guess that baby blue blood helps once in a while! GO HEELS!

And yes, I started work as well, promises to be interesting, though it is a 35 minute commute, which is what you get for living in a cool neighborhood 🙂

First impressions, well, it’s all very exciting and new, but I have the depressing habit of getting my routines going quickly, so I go to work, go to the gym, eat dinner, read blogs/novels/surf for a while, and the day’s done, so what’s changed? The drive to work’s much more scenic, the walk to the gym is much nicer, the country’s language, rhetoric, radio, everything is so much more in line with my values (CBC Vancouver occasionally makes NPR sound like Rush Limbaugh, I kid you not!). There are tons of organic markets, farmers’ markets (summer only), the produce is generally cheap, though packaged goods are expensive, Michael Pollan would approve!

Victoria has its warts, there are burgeoning drug and homelessness issues that seem to be driven by income inequality and lack of affordable housing. The climate also attracts people seeking shelter from the brutal winter of the rest of Canada. I am reading and hearing that parts of downtown can be dangerous for cars, not people though.

All in all, an eventful week, can’t believe it’s only been a week, I feel like i’ve been here a lot longer, but I’ve spent exactly 3 nights at my new place.

More later, I might have exhausted all this personal blogging energy, probably back to regularly scheduled blogging soon.