Sunday, September 30, 2007

No Such Thing as American Conservatism

In defense of the idea that there is nobody reasonably considered conservative in America, consider this.

The very picture of a Tory, isn't she? UPDATE: Bah, broken link. Never trust a newspaper.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Homesickness cure

Any time I feel like turning my back on these rednecked fools and retreating to good old civilized Canada, I should remind myself what Canada is actually like. The picture is the intersection of Rue Cavendish and Blvd. Cote St. Luc in my beautiful home town of Cote St. Luc Quebec, on the rare occasion that there is no ice or snow about.

In spite of all humans can achieve in making a place inspiring and beautiful, usually they don't. I'll take Burnet Road in Austin over this any day, though it pains me to say it.

Miles and Miles

Jacksonville Beach FL to Orange TX: 783 miles

Orange TX to El Paso TX: 856 miles

El Paso TX to San Diego CA: 725 miles

Also, though,

Cornwall ON to Kenora ON: 1280 miles

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Megalopolitan Confusion

It's nice to have Paul Krugman visible on the web, but today he reminds us how little coastal people understand the rest of the country.

Here, Krugman gets something right, but finds his conclusion somehow astonishing and counterintuitive in spite of the fact that it is completely obvious to anyone who spends time in, you know, America.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Great Greenspan

according to someone who isn't all that impressed

Personally I have never been all that impressed with the idea of a one dimensional control of the whole system, which I think is pretty much all the Fed Chairman gets, besides a podium. The whole position seems far less potent than is usually made out.

So, while it doesn't make it any easier to take, I don't think this blithering is especially Greenspan's fault. The lemmings in front of the pack are, at best, not less confused than the rest of us.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Not Everything In Texas

is all that wonderful.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Biosintegrumology Today

Let me be the first to admit that I think about comic books a lot, perhaps too much, and that I find Hunter Thompson at least slightly interesting though a pale shadow of Kerouac to be sure. I'm, um, neutral about, uh, biosintegrumology at present. Still, curricula like this cause me to wonder about the whole concept of education.

By the way, is there some way I can resign from being a baby boomer...?


Yay! Maureen Dowd is out from behind the NYT firewall with a doozy. I missed ya, Mo.

XP zealotry backfiring

An article, interesting on many levels, about being a protagonist for extreme programming.

Monday, September 17, 2007

One great thing about getting older

You start to know what most of those weird items on the pharmacy shelves are for...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

NYT Editorial: "No Exit, No Strategy"

Shamelessly copied verbatim; please don't link, but I obviously can't criticize you if you make your own shameless copy. As I write the article can be found here and emailed directly from the Times server. They tend to age things behind their payment firewall as a source of income, though, so this is for future reference.
New York Times Editorial Published: September 14, 2007

No Exit, No Strategy

This was the week in which Americans hoped they would get straight talk and clear thinking on Iraq. What they got was two exhausting days of Congressional testimony by the American military commander, hours of news conferences and interviews, clouds of cut-to-order statistics and a speech from the Oval Office — and none of it either straight or clear.

The White House insisted that President Bush had consulted intensively with his generals and adapted to changing circumstances. But no amount of smoke could obscure the truth: Mr. Bush has no strategy to end his disastrous war and no strategy for containing the chaos he unleashed.

Last night’s speech could have been given any day in the last four years — and was delivered a half-dozen times already. Despite Mr. Bush’s claim that he was offering a way for all Americans to “come together” on Iraq, he offered the same divisive policies — repackaged this time with the Orwellian slogan “return on success.”

Mr. Bush’s claim that things were going so well in Iraq that he could “accept” his generals’ recommendation for a “drawdown” of forces was a carnival barker’s come-on. The Army cannot sustain the 30,000 extra troops Mr. Bush sent to Iraq beyond mid-2008 without serious damage to its fighting ability. From the start, the president said that the increase would be temporary. That’s why he called it a “surge.”

Before he spoke, Iraq’s brutal reality had debunked the claims of political and military success made by Gen. David Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the ambassador in Baghdad. First, The Times reported that the only sliver of political progress — a tortuous compromise on sharing oil revenues — was evaporating. Then came news of the assassination of the Anbar tribal leader whose decision to fight alongside the Americans was cited by Mr. Bush as proof that the war’s tide was turning — even though it had nothing to do with the increase in forces.

Mr. Bush’s claims last night about how well the war is going are believable only if you use Pentagon numbers so obviously cooked that they call to mind the way Americans were duped into first supporting this war.

There will be a lot said in coming days about Mr. Bush’s “new strategy,” just as there was after each of his previous major addresses on the war. If there was a new strategy, it would be easy to recognize. Mr. Bush would drop the meaningless talk of victory and stop trying to sell Americans the fiction that the war keeps them safe from terrorism. (To his credit, General Petraeus declined to adopt that bit of propaganda.) Instead, Mr. Bush would do what the vast majority of Americans want — plan an orderly withdrawal while doing what he can to mitigate the consequences of the war.

Mr. Bush was right when he said last night that the aftermath of withdrawal would be bloody and frightening, but that is a product of his invasion and his gross mismanagement of the aftermath. Mr. Bush’s endless insistence on staying the course will only make Iraq more bloody and frightening.

If Mr. Bush had a new strategy, he would have talked to the American people last night about what he would do to draw Iraq’s neighbors into a solution. Last January, when he announced the troop increase, Mr. Bush promised to “use America’s full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East.” The world is still waiting.

A strategy for ending the war would include real efforts to hold Iraq’s government to verifiable measures of political conciliation — and make clear to Iraq’s leaders that they cannot count on America’s indefinite and unquestioning protection.

A real shift in strategy would have included an effort to deal with the massive problem of refugees. Nine months after the surge began, ever more Iraqis are being driven from their homes — and Mr. Bush never even mentioned them last night.

If Mr. Bush were serious about ending the war, rather than threatening Iran and Syria, he would make a serious effort to persuade them that they too have a lot to lose from a disintegrating Iraq. And he would enlist the help of the leaders of Britain, France and Germany for serious negotiations. Then, perhaps, Mr. Bush’s promise from January to stanch the flow of men and weapons into Iraq from Iran and Syria would not have sounded so hollow.

Once again, it is clear that Mr. Bush refuses to recognize the truth of his failure in Iraq and envisions a military commitment that has no end. Congress must use its powers to expose the truth and demand a real change in strategy. Democratic leaders, forever parsing polls, are backing away from proposals to impose a deadline for withdrawal and tinkering with small ideas that mostly sound like ways to enable the president’s strategy of delay.

The presidential candidates, as well, have a duty to take Iraq head-on. Some Democrats have started to talk in some detail about how they would end the war, but the burden is not just on the war critics. Republicans like Rudolph Giuliani and John McCain, who love to proclaim their support for the president and hide behind the troops, need to explain their vision as well. What do they think would constitute victory in Iraq, and how, precisely, do they intend to achieve it?

After all, it seems the burden of ending the war will fall to the next president. Mr. Bush was clear last night — as he was when he addressed the nation in January, September of last year, the December before that and in April 2004 — that his only real plan is to confuse enough Americans and cow enough members of Congress to let him muddle along and saddle his successor with this war that should never have been started.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Land of the Brand

Every student in the class was to pick a different US state. My best friend Tommy (who really ought to drop me a line one of these days) as I recall was stuck with Indiana, having relatives in judaeo-hungarian Hoosierdom as I recollect. Kids were fighting tooth and nail over New York and California. Somehow I was the only kid to whom it occurred to pick Texas.

What a great decision! Send a Texas bureaucrat a letter saying "I'm a Canadian sixth grader doing a project on a US state, and I picked Texas" and you'll get a twenty pound package of brochures and stuff. They must have gone all around Austin pickin stuff up for me.

I easily had the best project in the class.

I recall the part where I did something on each of the ten biggest cities in Texas. This may have somehting to do with my peculiar inclination to visit Wichita Falls, which came in tenth at the time. It's probably fiftieth now, but that always makes for good pictures...

Anyway, I've been in Texas for six months, and this event had completely slipped my mind. But I was a Texas fanatic once before in my life, long before I learned that you have to peel a tamale. I guess I spent several weeks totally obsessed with Texas, land of the brand.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

River Bend is Alive!

and asking good questions...
The first minutes after passing the border were overwhelming. Overwhelming relief and overwhelming sadness… How is it that only a stretch of several kilometers and maybe twenty minutes, so firmly segregates life from death?

How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads and… peace, safety? It’s difficult to believe- even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can’t hear the explosions.

I wonder at how the windows don’t rattle as the planes pass overhead. I’m trying to rid myself of the expectation that armed people in black will break through the door and into our lives. I’m trying to let my eyes grow accustomed to streets free of road blocks, hummers and pictures of Muqtada and the rest…

How is it that all of this lies a short car ride away?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Not the New York Times

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

Monday, September 03, 2007