Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This looks like a job for...Master Legend?

This story makes me smile:

Like other real life super-heroes, Master Legend is not an orphan from a distant dying sun or the mutated product of a gamma-ray experiment gone awry. He is not an eccentric billionaire moonlighting as a crime fighter. He is, as he puts it, "just a man hellbent on battling evil." Although Master Legend was one of the first to call himself a Real Life Superhero, in recent years a growing network of similarly homespun caped crusaders has emerged across the country. Some were inspired by 9/11. If malevolent individuals can threaten the world, the argument goes, why can't other individuals step up to save it? "What is Osama bin Laden if not a supervillain, off in his cave, scheming to destroy us?" asks Green Scorpion, a masked avenger in Arizona. True to comic-book tradition, each superhero has his own aesthetic. Green Scorpion's name is derived from his desert home, from which he recently issued a proclamation to "the criminals of Arizona and beyond," warning that to continue illegal activities is to risk the "Sting of the Green Scorpion!" The Eye takes his cue from the primordial era of Detective Comics, prowling Mountain View, California, in a trench coat, goggles and a black fedora featuring a self-designed logo: the "all-seeing" Eye of Horus. Superhero — his full name — is a former wrestler from Clearwater, Florida, who wears red and blue spandex and a burgundy helicopter helmet, and drives a 1975 Corvette Stingray customized with license plates that read SUPRHRO.

Most Real Life Superheroes are listed on the World Superhero Registry, a recently assembled online roster. ("I can't say if I will ever fight an army of giant robots or a criminal mastermind," an Indianapolis superhero called Mr. Silent notes in his entry. "I just don't know.") Some superheroes have joined forces in local crime-fighting syndicates: the Black Monday Society in Salt Lake City, the Artemis National Consortium in San Diego and the tautologically titled Justice Society of Justice in Indianapolis. Attempting to unite all the superheroes under one banner are groups like the World Heroes Organization and Heroes Network, which hosts an online forum where more than 200 crime fighters trade tactics (should I wear a mask?), patrolling tips (how do I identify a street gang?) and advice/feedback (can you get bulletproof vests on eBay?).

I dunno, if I were a real superhero, I'd want a cooler name. And Batarangs.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday blues update

I haven't really been motivated to blog lately. Between work, family matters, and the general stress of the Christmas splurging season, I'm not left with much energy or time to rant on the internet.

During my time away from the keyboard, the Democratic governor of Illinois went down in flames, and turns out to have been a complete asshole and egomaniac. Or, as Dickipedia so aptly summarizes:

The subject of no fewer than a dozen separate federal investigations, Blagojevich is a disgrace to all Serbian-American governors everywhere—that means you, George Voinovich of Ohio. He is also just the kind of a-hole who threatens to screw the whole thing up for Barack Obama before he even takes office.

Rod Blagojevich was the first Democrat to be elected governor of Illinois in 30 years, a distinction he proceeded to totally crap all over by continually failing to pass legislation and budgets, making many political enemies (even in his own party), committing federal and state crimes, wearing a ridiculous side-part in some seriously bouffant hair, and, in October 2008, earning the title “America’s Least Popular Governor.” All that before he got arrested.

On December 9, 2008, adding dick insult to dick injury, Blagojevich was detained by the FBI and charged with conspiracy to commit fraud as well as solicitation of bribery for allegedly trying to sell president-elect Barack Obama’s vacated seat in the U.S. Senate. This happened the day before Blagojevich’s 52nd birthday. One imagines they canceled the stripper.

Heh. Hee hee.

What else?

Oh, I should mention that the BSG spinoff Caprica has been picked up by Scifi as a series! Details here. The only downside is that we won't be seeing any of it until 2010.

Webisodes bridging seasons 4.0 and 4.5 are currently airing as well, but I refuse to link to them in protest of their unavailability for Canadian web surfers (can't see the logic in shutting out fans who happen to be outside of the US; if Space is too cheap to get the rights to them, that's their problem). Catch them on Youtube instead.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

WTF, Dubai?

World's tallest skyscraper, under construction in Dubai:

Something about that building indicates low self-esteem on the part of the architects...

(click the picture for more detail)

Not Iggy!

Okay, so Dion wasn't the very best party leader. But Ignatieff? Seriously? He's the best guy they've got?

Look, I don't usually get worked up at the thought of elitist inteleckshuals sipping their lattes and scoffing at the common folk, but this guy pretty much embodies that stereotype. He's spent more of his life at Oxford and Harvard than in Canada.

More to the point, he has only three years of actual political experience. The former director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy was a prominent and early supporter of the war in Iraq (using dumbass reasoning), and equivocated on torture (using even more dumbass reasoning). This unappealing intellectual midgetry is fine for the Republican Party, but the Liberal Party of Canada? Seriously? What exactly gives this guy the credibility to become a potential Prime Minister of Canada, other than his admittedly unimpeachable Ivory Tower credentials?

Ah, whatever. For some levity, here's Jon Stewart attempting to make sense of our wacky political adventures.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I agree with the Governor General

She made the right move in proroguing Parliament. I know a lot of liberals and progressives out there will be disappointed that Harper has lived to fight another day (and really, that fight might come immediately after January 26), but in the long run, it's for the best.

Harper overreached. He knows that, and he and his party are chastened. They are still a minority government, and they need to act like one. They will now get to work on a budget that the opposition will support, meaning real concessions on the economy and no more poison pills like the removal of campaign financing dollars or crackdowns on public employees' rights to strike.

This unexpected vacation will give all the parties time to step back from the brink and think about what is best for Canada and their own political futures (there should be some overlap). We'll also have a better idea of what the US is planning to do on their end before we march ahead with a massive stimulus.

Meanwhile, despite all the fireworks, the rest of the world has barely noticed our Grave Political Crisis. How typical.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

So anyway, maybe you guys were right after all...

Lost amidst everything else that has been going on, the US and Iraqi governments have quietly agreed to a withdrawal timetable, a timetable that includes the withdrawal of most combat troops by mid-2009. Bush is still in office, mind you. The same Bush who repeatedly warned us that such a thing would amount to surrendering to terror, a warning that was endlessly regurgitated by all the usual suspects in the Right Wing Noise Machine.

Never mind that the Iraqis have been requesting this for quite some time, withdrawal was a crazy moonbat Left Wing socialist Islamofascocommunist idea! Only the Defeatocrats and their terrorist allies would ever consider such a thing! USA! USA! USA!

Just thought I'd throw that out there...

Here we go

Things are moving quite quickly. The opposition parties have come to an agreement on power-sharing, and are going ahead with plans to topple the Harper government. The NDP will have claim to 6 cabinet seats out of 25, while Dion would be PM temporarily until May, when the Liberals choose a new leader. For their part, the Bloc have pledged to support this government for 2 1/2 years (not unexpectedly, the Tories are attempting to paint the coalition as anti-Canada on account of Bloc support). Practically the only option open to Harper at this point for preserving his government is pro-roguing, which sets a dangerous precedent, and is no less drastic a move as what the opposition is currently doing.

Despite the sheer craziness of all this, the media seems to be placing the blame mostly on Mr. Harper. Here's Jeffrey Simpson, in today's Globe and Mail:

Mr. Harper, who bulldozed his way toward this cliff and who will be judged harshly and perhaps fatally by his party if the government goes over the cliff, has tried unsuccessfully to show belated flexibility by backing down (temporarily) from plans to eliminate party subsidies and ending the right to strike. But he had nothing new yesterday – not that any fresh concession would have derailed the coalition's drive for power.

His options now would seem to be a) persuade the Governor-General to prorogue Parliament only three weeks after a Speech from the Throne, hoping to gain time to manoeuvre; b) lose the confidence of the House but persuade the G-G to dissolve Parliament and call an election.
He could always offer a mea culpa and alter his economic statement. It would not likely impress the coalition partners.

Mr. Harper has either to get to another Speech from the Throne in January that might be a better platform than the rickety one of Thursday's economic statement, or get to the people and argue, as he and his MPs did yesterday, that the opposition parties are trying to take power through parliamentary intrigue, having been defeated in the election.

His fate depends, it would appear, on the Governor-General's decision to grant prorogation or an election. Otherwise, he will have done a Joe Clark, miscalculating his way out of office.

And the editorial board editor, John Geiger, is calling for Harper's resignation:

"Mr. Harper is ultimately responsible for this unhappy state of affairs. It is the byproduct of his machinations, and the product of a failure of his leadership.

"The opposition parties, especially with the Liberals busy licking their election wounds, were not out to pick a fight in the new Parliament.

"Mr. Harper gave them one anyway, turning his government's economic update into a partisan document aimed less at strengthening Canada's economic position than at undermining their ability to compete in the next election.

"In so doing, he sent the message that even if he backs down in this instance, he has no interest in making the current Parliament work.

"His conduct since then — epitomized by his blustery and provocative statement last Friday, and his party's disturbing act in eavesdropping on a private NDP conference call this past weekend — has only reinforced for the opposition the necessity of defeating him while it has the opportunity.

Regardless of where the blame lies, I have deep reservations about a coalition government.

First, it will be seen as illegitimate by many Canadians. The Conservatives may have only secured the support of 37% of Canadian voters, but they hold more seats in the House of Commons than the Liberals and NDP combined. And Liberal/NDP voters were voting for their preferred party, not a coalition. I'll be interested to see some polling, because I wonder how much support this action really has.

Second, it will grant the NDP legitimacy and a real role in government (though hopefully not any direct role in economic policy). Jack Layton will attempt to undercut Stephane Dion at every opportunity, and given their relative political talents, he'll probably succeed at promoting himself and his party at the expense of his coalition partner, causing a further deterioration of Liberal support.

Finally, this government would be coming in riding a wave of fear and uncertainty over the economy, and will be expected to take strong action to minimize the effects of a recession. Would this coalition be up to the task? Is $30 billion a realistic number for a stimulus package? One positive sign is that the NDP seem to have dropped their opposition to corporate tax cuts, showing that they will likely defer to the Liberals in most economic matters. Since I think the Liberals are generally better stewards of the economy than the Conservatives and definitely better than the NDP, that sits well with me.

To sum up, there are a lot of potential pitfalls. This could easily be a disaster for the Left that will ensure a Conservative majority in the next election. But given the way things have gone, I also don't see any other option for the opposition at this point, other than forcing some further concession out of Harper on economic stimulus. Given his current weakness, that might be possible. It would at least spare the country the trauma of leadership change so soon after an election, and it might also spare the Liberals the embarrassment of partnering with the NDP and Bloc, and governing with an unpopular leader in Stephane Dion.

(Photo: Chris Wattie, Reuters)

Monday, December 1, 2008

The "Bush boom"

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), today:

The National Bureau of Economic Research said Monday that the U.S. has been in a
recession since December 2007, making official what most Americans have already
believed about the state of the economy .

The NBER is a private group of
leading economists charged with dating the start and end of economic downturns.
It typically takes a long time after the start of a recession to declare its
start because of the need to look at final readings of various economic
Larry Kudlow, in December 2007 :

There is no recession. Despite all the doom and gloom from the economic
pessimistas, the resilient U.S economy continues moving ahead—quarter after
quarter, year after year—defying dire forecasts and delivering positive growth.
In fact, we are about to enter the seventh consecutive year of the Bush boom.

The pessimistas are a persistent bunch. In 2006, they were certain a
recession was just around the corner. They were wrong. Instead, the economy
posted two consecutive quarters of near or above four-percent growth.

Earlier today, a doom and gloom economic forecast from Macro Economic
Advisors was released predicting zero percent growth in the fourth quarter. This
report is off by at least two percentage points. These guys are going to wind up
with egg on their faces.

I've picked on Larry before, but why anyone pays this idiot to spread his idiocy is beyond me. The only thing he's good at is being consistently hilariously wrong. Kind of like Bill Kristol.