Sunday, April 30, 2006

Truly a Model For Others

Iraq the Model, run by 2 (I think) Iraqis by the names Omar and Mohammed, has some real, inside-the-process analysis of politics in Iraq. They're brutally honest, and not always optimistic, but if you want stripped-down insider info on what's going on there, this is the place to go. Today's post was decidedly optimistic about recent developments in the negotiations to form a new government.

Despite What You May Have Heard....

Al-Qaeda is being defeated. StrategyPage has an interesting breakdown of why this is the case. It includes pointing out that there is increased media competition in America that has helped the administration maintain its resolve in fighting this war. At surface, I found that to be a dubious claim, being a person who is deeply suspicious of mainstream media's biases. But as the article goes on to say, the competition is being supplied by small independent internet suppliers like Drudge Report who can cheaply reach millions of people with unfiltered content. So instead of having CBS, or even CNN control the images and stories that are coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan like the 'good' old days in Vietnam and Mogadishu, the 'silent majority' which has consistently back-boned the administration's posture has all sorts of sources of information from which to draw their opinions on the matters that concern them.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

How many times has this exact headline been used?

You've got to wonder. I mean, I don't even understand why Keith Richards falling out of a palm tree is even news any more. It probably happens more than anyone would like to admit.

Friday, April 28, 2006

How's the left gonna blame Bush this time?

Mark Steyn, the world's most important Canadian living today, has an excellent synopsis of the Iran situation. They are truly a growing menace, and if the states doesn't have the balls to act on this threat, I wonder how the left will be able to blame George Bush jr. for the ensuing tragedy.

I Can't....Hold back......Any.....Longer.....

Ok. I'm gonna let go a bit of a rant here. I've been trying to refrain, but that cartoon lit the fuse. I've been a gas man for 10 years. I sell gas for a living, and I think I've got a better view of the big picture than most. I've seen prices as low as 35 cents per litre, and as high as a dollar nineteen. It doesn't matter what the price is, the average customer has this vague feeling that he's being ripped off. I just want to point out a couple facts for those unenlightened people.

1. Inflation-adjusted gasoline prices have been declining for almost a century. And at the same time, real earnings have been increasing. So, we have more disposable income, and gas prices as a whole are lower. WTF!! Need I say more? I mean, that pretty much sums it all up, doesn't it? No? Well then...

2. Crude Oil prices peaked, in inflation-adjusted terms, in 1979, at around $98 per barrel. Seems to me that 70$ per barrel is, oh, say $28 less right now. That not good enough for you?

3. 1 Litre of Evian costs around $2.50. A Litre of Gas costs $1.09 right now.

4. A pack of smokes costs $12 bucks.

5. Five text messages cost as much as a litre of gas

6. Taking the time to tear a strip out of the poor, pimply-faced student who's behind the counter and has no control over gas prices costs you 5 minutes of your time, and all of your soul.

7. If one more hippy who drives a '74 Oldsmobile gives me any grief about selling gas and being the problem and not the solution, he or she is getting a punch in the nose.

8. If one more middle-aged success who drives a hummer H2 or equivalent gives me any grief about selling gas at high prices, I will slash his tires, punch out his son, slap his wife, burn down his garage, kiss his daughter in a tremendously dirty manner, staple his dog to his cat, throw axes at his investment adviser, and then I'll charge him an extra 25 cents a litre for being an asshole.

9. Why does everyone think that gas companies are gouging when they net 10 cents a litre, but close their eyes to the fact that our Canadian Government takes in over 50 cents a litre for doing nothing? The gas companies have to find the oil, retrieve the oil, process the oil, transport it, market it, and dispense it at retail sites, and then remit half of their earnings before expenses to a corrupt, lazy, malevolent, bureacratic blob that consumes anything that it touches - and doesn't lift a finger to help the money come in. People, look to the real criminals if you want to assign blame.

10. Real people work for oil companies. They went to school with you. They were your friends. They have good hearts, and sharp minds. They have strong work ethics. They pursue the best for themselves, just as you do. As a result, they command the highest compensations that they can, just like you. Who are you to judge them, and belittle their ambitions. How can you not allow them the things that you also desire?

11. There are twice as many cars on the road than in the seventies, yet emissions are down by up to 36%! Huh.

12. Oil Companies use some of their profits to pursue the development of alternative energies.

Ok. I don't know if it was letting that all out, or getting into the rum a bit, but I feel much more tranquil now. I may rest.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Dangerous Double Standard

Cox and Forkum presents an actual caricature of a day in my life as a gas man.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

What the hell is going on

John at Powerline has an excellent synopsis of the lack of courage in today's democratic societies. He looks at how book stores reacted in '89 to the fatwa on Satanic Verses, and how the Islamic world handled that. It seems their terrorism then still affects us today.

"It may be that we're all overly sensitized to these issues right now. But in 1989, when a fatwa was issued against The Satanic Verses and its author, book stores showed quite a bit of courage. I remember reading about stores that took a vote of their staffs on whether to stock the book or not; ultimately, I believe all the major chains and many independent stores did carry it. It was not foolish to think there could be a risk, either. Hitoshi Igarashi, who translated the book into Japanese, was stabbed to death in 1991, and Ettore Capriolo, the Italian translator, was attacked and seriously injured at about the same time. Aziz Nesin published extracts of The Satanic Verses in a Turkish newspaper; he was attacked by a mob in 1993. They set a hotel on fire, killing 37 people, but Nesin escaped. And William Nygaard, who published the book in Norway, was shot four times by an intruder in his home."

Given that our bookstores are not stocking publications which contain the cartoons that started it all, and that most media outlets are also too afraid for their safety to publish or televise these images, I'd like to ask: What The Hell is Going On!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Everyone I've ever met is Neurotic

It's true. I always find myself being upset about my own neuroses, but when I do that I tend to forget that everyone I've ever met is Neurotic too. We're all completely out of control maniacs. There's always a dark corner to a person's mind, where flaws and defects lurk, waiting to ambush reason, turning us over to irrationality. You're not human if you don't have an irrational feeling about something. Phobias are a common example of a generalized irrational flaw.

Delusion is also something that everyone experiences. I hate caring about whether my perception of reality is the same as everybody else's, but I do. But given the fact that I think everyone I know is deluded in some respect, then it follows that I must also sometimes present myself as deluded to others.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Canada Leads the US in a Foreign Initiative

America has decided to cut off aid to Hamas-governed Palestine, following in Canada's lead. See how easy it is to be a global leader, Liberals?

Although I Can't Believe it Came From South Park...

....I'm glad that someone out there in prime time has the balls to do this. As The Officer's Club reports, South Park is priming up to air an episode with a caricature of the prophet Mohammed. So far, the reaction of the western world to the cartoon wars has been shameful. We've gone too long without having to really defend freedom of speech against something, and now we don't really know what to do.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Eurinals of History

Mark Steyn, the most perceptive Canadian in a generation, congratulates himself on his predictions about Europe's demise. His words, as always, though sarcastically hilarious are foreboding and prophetic. His extensive writings on demographical/birthrate collapse are intense.

The Increasing Quagmire that Wasn't

An interesting analysis of iraq casualties, both civilian and military (US and Iraqi). Sort of gives one hope that things might end up turning out alright there. Or, if you insist on being a pessimist, at least you pretty much have to believe that only George W. Bush could be the reason why things seem to be steadily improving there, and that once he's gone, things will all go to hell. hehehehehe.

Demonstrating for the Freedom to Work!!

Varifrank, whom I regularly read for his long rants, has a short but sweet compare and contrast between France and America. He points out the big difference in labour attitudes in these countries:

"America = non citizens upset at not being allowed to work.

France = citizens upset to find that they might have to work. "

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ok Hippies, you officially have to let go of Kyoto

Winds of Change has a roundup of a whole bunch of developments in technology that frankly have more hope of saving the world than a stupid critical-mass protest. You know, I run a gas station on the edge of Winnipeg's Wolseley neighbourhood. That's where Winnipeg's 'critical-mass' of earth-lovin' type folks live, and I'll tell you, that on the rare occasions that they do drive a car somewhere, it's usually an old, beatup, poorly maintained piece of junk. Lots of old vans, lots of old volvos, a ton of big old boats, etc. They may not drive them that often, but these vehicles do more damage to the environment the one day a week they are driven than a brand new vehicle with modern emissions controls does in a week of continuous use. When will they grasp the irony?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Five Modest Priorities

Man, they're just laying it out there. The Tories have got good game. They're simply making plans and going ahead and executing them, and I think that will get a lot of respect from the voters ahead of next election. They've got a concrete position, they are communicating it clearly, and they are consistently executing it one policy at a time.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Trust the Process

Robert Nozick has many problems with Rawls' Theories of Fairness. Not least though, is his argument that pattern distribution denies individuals the right to make voluntary exchanges of money. This means that, for example, an entrepreneur sells a poor person something, but is taxed on the income from the sale, and the tax is returned to the poor person in the form of either money, or a public service of some kind. This process is fraught with problems, not simply because, as Nozick says, it commands individuals to make exchanges in a certain way, but because makes individuals react to the control in a negative way. It's often said that rich people don't really pay taxes, because they just pass the cost of the taxes on to the average consumer by raising prices. In practice, this continually makes the poorest people in society stay poor, because just as they are the recipients of a redistribution of wealth, they are giving that wealth back to the rich in the form of higher payments for exchanges.

Nozick seems mostly worried about the liberty of rich people, I think, but as even Rawls will acknowledge, people seem to be supremely self-interested, and are repelled by challenges to their liberty. As a consequence, their actions when their liberties are challenged tend to have the opposite effect intended by a Rawlsian redistributor, oppressinging the economic liberties of the poor which he'd intended to save.

Ownership is important to Nozick as a consequence of liberty, and he sees that liberty as supreme. When you are not allowed to give somebody something voluntarily in exchange for a possession of another kind, then you effectively do not own that object. When you do not own the products of your labour, then you are not free. While I agree with Nozick that ownership is an important consequence, or more properly an indicator of liberty, I don't think that pattern distribution can ever limit one's liberty, unless those whom Rawls wants to handicap let him do so, by not raising their prices or lowering their wages.

Which Pattern: Paisley or Checkered?

Pattern ethics as applied to social justice, in the view of John Rawls, is the best way so far to effectively equalize social positions to a degree which is necessary to make just rules for conduct and opportunity. What this means in terms of redistribution, is that those people in society who are disadvantaged by the natural lottery - they're born with some socio or economic or physical deficiency - will receive enough economic compensation (ie. welfare, "free" health-care, "free" education, public services) to be on equal terms with all other members of the society and able to compete for greater economic reward against anyone else.

So basically, in order for people to be able to compete, we need to handicap the top competitors. But we do that in a way that does not create an undue burden for the top "class", yet is satisfactory to the underclass. It's an enticing proposal. But it's sort of a watered-down, Marxism lite. From each according to ability, to each according to need - with rules.

And the problem lies, first in the fact that no consensus of opinion in the underclass would occur to define the handicapping parameters in question, and second in the fact that this sort of patterning of efficacy would certainly impede the liberty of top-class individuals.

One might argue that topclass would need to sacrifice some liberty in order to enhance underclass' liberty, not out of altruism, but rational self-interest. Ie., a wealthy entrepreneur can't become wealthy without her workers, who need to be healthy. She needs them just as they need her, thus, she should expect to pay - through taxation - for her workers' health-care needs.

But on closer examination, this argument falls apart, because if a certain portion of society is never allowed to pay the full cost of its life-choices, it will become dependent upon the rest of society, and never be allowed to reach the 'greater economic reward' that it so justly deserves to compete for. The workers would always be in a position of very little economic choice relative to their topclass masters, because they'd need their masters to be rich enough to be able to afford to subsidize their life-choices. And that's the truth because, in order to pay higher taxes, the topclass would raise prices, creating further pressure on limited economic means, or lower wages, which would have the same effect.

to be continued.....

Chicken or the Egg

Geez. For someone to take 40000 ecstacy pills in 9 years, they'd have to have a certain amount of pre-existing mental problems. I don't think the drugs really made things that much worse.

How Come....

.....You can piss on a crucifix, and get rave reviews in America, yet if you convert to Christianity from Islam, you can be EXECUTED BY YOUR GOVERNMENT in Afghanistan.....You can have hit shows about promiscuous, adulterating middle-age women in America that are generally viewed as empowering for women there, but could be executed for cheating on your husband in Iran.....You can write plays about assassinating your own president in America, or you can be tortured and executed for questioning your leader's policies in Iraq....You can, as the president of the united states of america, visit a mosque directly after September 11, 2001 to pray for peace, or you can riot, burn, and kill in the name of mohammed when someone somewhere draws a cartoon.