Monday, October 30, 2000

On the Nader-Gore problem: 1) People who consider themselves progressive are deluding themselves if they think that voting for Nader will bring the Democratic Party back to a more progressive stance. The main 'improvement' Clinton brought to the Democratic Party was full-scale Republican-style fundraising. This entails giving complete control to those who contribute the money, big corporations. Gore hasn't come part way to meet Nader on any of the issues because he can't. The people who tell him what to do won't let him. Once you sell your soul to the devil, he won't sell it back. 2) I see much pro-Nader bad-faith writing on the abortion issue. No progressive can assume that Bush won't do everything in his power to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will curtail abortion rights. Referring to his record in Texas is irrelevant. The Republicans are explicitly running a campaign promising the creation of an almost theocratic state. This isn't hot air on their part. The Republicans have decided that the way to sell the extreme pro-corporate agenda is to disguise it using the term 'compassionate conservatism'. This is just a more sophisticated form of the overt kowtowing to the Christian Right which scared off so many voters to Clinton's advantage. It is certainly possible for a progressive to vote for Nader feeling that abortion isn't the huge issue Gore supporters make it out to be. However, no one should fool themselves into thinking that Bush is not going to be influenced by an extreme Christian Right agenda. 3) It seems clear that Bush would use the veto power and the President's ability to influence the course of public policy in a different way than Gore would. Arguments that the United States would have been quite a different place under some Republican President than under Clinton are certainly correct. This may be particularly so in foreign affairs, where the almost psychopathic approach to the rest of the world taken by
Reagan-Bush is much less likely to be taken by
Gore than by Bush II. Still, a progressive could certainly take the position that the differences between the two parties are grossly outweighed by the similarities, and vote for Nader. 4) So if a progressive doesn't vote for Nader because of a mistaken belief that the soul of the Democratic party can be saved, or because of a mistaken belief that
Bush won't try to meddle with abortion rights, or because of a mistaken belief that there is no difference between the practical effects of a Gore and a Bush Presidency, there is absolutely nothing wrong with voting your conscience. Voting becomes an act of civil disobedience, an honorable position to take when things are really, really bad.

Wednesday, October 25, 2000

You can look at the current problems in the Middle East in terms of the new economics that is usually called 'globalism'. Israel has been successful in creating a high-tech industry, which it would like to see get much bigger. Using a cheap Palestinian workforce would greatly reduce manufacturing costs, not to mention generally lower the cost of labour in Israel. If a somewhat 'normal' Palestinian state can be created, and everyone can get along, the Palestinians can be trained and used as really cheap labour either in Israel (in the same way that South African blacks could be confined to their 'homelands' but used as labourers in the mines), or in factories set up in the new Palestine (with customs laws set up as are in the Mexican maquiladoras). The corrupt Palestinian leaders would probably go along with just about anything. Key to this whole concept is the creation of a Palestinian state that is similar to the 'homelands' in apartheid South Africa. The new Palestine would have to be subject to Israeli control over water and power, and under effective Israeli military control. The latter would be accomplished in the guise of protecting the Jewish settlers who would remain in the middle of the new country (and would no doubt be constantly getting into trouble). It is completely understandable that the United States, the world champion of this sort of economics, would be mad at Arafat for not buying into this vision of a Palestinian future. It is also understandable that Arafat would do whatever he could to avoid it.

Sunday, October 22, 2000

How many people have been convicted of a crime and punished (perhaps even executed) based on fingerprint evidence? What if the very basis for the widespread use of fingerprint evidence, the idea that no two fingerprints are alike, is wrong, or at least unproven? How much is the 'science' of fingerprint examination actually an art?

Saturday, October 21, 2000

So let me get this straight. Barak is saying to the Palestinians that unless they stop getting themselves killed by Israeli bullets, he's going to punish them by ending the peace process!

Sunday, October 15, 2000

What is it about doctors and pain? Considering they're supposed to be helping people, why do they have so much difficulty giving their patients relief from pain? I've actually heard that they don't want to supply sufficient opiates to terminally ill patients for fear the patients will become addicted! Does being a doctor make you a bit of a sadist? After all, their income and position in society depends to a large extent on the existence of pain. Maybe you start to see pain as a good thing. Dr. Frank Adams has been found guilty of professional misconduct by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, apparently for showing too much compassion. I'm sure they call it something else.
What about counterfeiting, forgery and fakes in the wine trade? This is a subject not often written about, as wine is sold on such a weight of dreams that the very idea that trickery could be involved causes all involved in the trade to change the subject. Three facts: 1) the same liquid, for all intents and purposes, can be worth tens or hundreds of times more, depending on where it comes from and who makes it; 2) wine labels and bottles are laughably easy to copy; and 3) the recent economic boom has led to both an increase in the amount of money available for luxuries and the corresponding need for conspicuous consumption. The very nature of the expensive wine business means that there is a very limited supply of the most expensive wines available, and, more importantly, that that supply cannot be increased. It cannot be increased as pricey wine is sold on the basis of the actual tiny plot of land on which its grapes are grown, and the yield of those grape plants is fixed, either by law or custom. Thus, when the number of expensive restaurants and wine collectors goes up extremely quickly, the demand for the wines simply cannot be met legitimately. All one would have to do to track the deception is calculate the cases of wine sold and compare it to the known case production levels for the same year.

Friday, October 13, 2000

If you're lucky enough to be born a Palestinian, you have three choices: 1) you can be a second-class citizen in Israel, or 2) you can spend the next 50 years in a refugee camp, or 3) you can live in a few odds and ends places that Israel didn't want, governed by a bunch of organized criminals (who are at least Palestinian organized criminals). The liberal Israelis feel badly about this, so they negotiate with you to improve your plight. As they know that they'll have to give up something when the negotiations are over, they let them drag on and on for years. They know that the Palestinians have no bargaining position, and thus don't really know if Israel should give up anything at all. However, the Israelis feel themselves to be basically good well-meaning people, and the act of negotiating makes them feel generous. They actually feel like a 'normal' country, engaged in negotiations with their friends and neighbours. Imagine their shock and horror when you turn on them! How ungrateful can a people be? Said has a good article on what may be in store.

Thursday, October 12, 2000

This article is about the idea, proposed by Russian mathematicians, that the timeline used in conventional history is all messed up. The mathematicians have found that the patterns of the conventional chronology are suspiciously similar, as if the chronology contains many instances where a series of events has been counted more than once. If there has been substantial error in the chronology, the timeline we are used to is too long, and events in ancient history turn out to be not so ancient. The 'dark ages', which we think of as lasting for hundreds and hundreds of years, may not have lasted for very long, if at all. The timeline of history comprises one of the most important foundations of our thought. If the timeline is wrong, we would have to rethink the whole way we view the world.

Wednesday, October 11, 2000

I'm very, very, very sorry, but when I saw this story I immediately thought of the Black Knight.

Tuesday, October 10, 2000

The whole Yugoslavian situation is just as troubling as it was before. Milosevic claimed that no one won a plurality in the election, so there should be a run-off. What if he was right? Do we only support democracy when the electors vote for people we like? German meddling in the Balkans continues. The real basis for the problems in Yugoslavia continues to be ignored by the press. Kostunica is just as scary a nationalist as Milosevic was. There doesn't appear to be any reason to expect anything but more of the same. I hope I'm wrong.

Monday, October 09, 2000

Israelis are dreaming if they think the United States supports them for any reason other than sheer economic self-interest. Israel is the American watch dog over the mid-east oilfields. Once the oil starts to run out (or if large amounts of oil are suddenly found elsewhere or technical solutions to replace the oil are implemented), American diplomatic support and American money will disappear instantly. The Palestinians are almost always in an incredibly bad bargaining position. You would think that Israel would be in a hurry to get some permanent resolution to the whole situation, while the most favorable result for the Jewish Israelis is still possible. The Israeli Government has to get the position of Israel 'normalized' in the Middle East well in advance of any drastic change in the status of oil. This is a good article on the current mess.
It's very ironic that, as Milosevic 'retires' and his thugs lose some of their power, American thugs stop Ralph Nader from attending the Presidential Debates. Nader writes a good letter about it.
The moderator of a political debate (for the New York Senate, no less) asks a question based on an internet hoax. Given the fact that journalists are just entertainers, and show no aptitude for the facts, why do journalists moderate debates and ask the questions? If debates are important to a democracy, shouldn't people who know what they're doing be involved? What sort of punishment should be meted out for such an egregious error?

Friday, October 06, 2000

Looks like mud. There are 'ancient and bizarre' growths on the bottom of a lake in British Columbia.
The experts have decided that the record industry is tilting against windmills in its various attempts to stop sharing of music over the internet. What if the music industry executives are smarter than we give them credit for? What if all this litigation is merely an effort to keep the issue in the public eye, and create a demand for compressed (and inferior quality) music files? Then deals can be done and the consumer will end up paying CD prices for essentially costless (to the record industry) downloads. See the second letter on this page.

Thursday, October 05, 2000

I've finally seen something on the use of agents provocateurs in the anti-globalization protests in Prague. Thirty years from now the CIA will almost certainly be forced to release documents showing that the so-called 'black anarchists' in Seattle and other places were led by similar government employees.
The people who run the Republican Party are very smart. They have picked an obviously unqualified buffoon as their presidential candidate. If he wins they have a completely manipulable puppet in the
White House (sort of like Reagan after he was shot). A win also proves to themselves just how powerful their party and their money are. On the other hand, given the fact that Gore should have an advantage with the state of the economy, if the Democrats win, the Republicans haven't wasted a useful future candidate. On top of that, since the electorate seems to want to create balance between the levels of government, a candidate like Bush may improve their chances in Congress. It's a no-lose situation for the Republicans.

Tuesday, October 03, 2000

How could this journalist not have foreseen that this remark would be hurtful, especially given the context?
Canadians might be interested to know that Mr. Pelossi has been testifying in Germany about Airbus.

Sunday, October 01, 2000

How does Sharon live with himself?
Oh, great! Aren't you getting sick and tired of discrimination against the 'abled'? The handicapped get all the good parking spots. You have to have some terrible disease to smoke marijuana.
And now this.