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silly little country

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Home January 2012
January 2012

I Am Coming to Hate Travel

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Though maybe it has some advantages; I just spent a day with a niece and one of her presents to me was a nice long walk through her neighborhood, which she clearly loves, for many more reasons than just this vista (and it would be more dramatic if my future photo-editing experiments work better).

And I  must say the weather is nice - roughly daily highs of 16 degrees Canadian (tx EclectEcon) versus just above freezing back home.

I MUST learn to maintain a balance!

h/t CLA

Last Updated on Monday, 30 January 2012 09:06

A True Hero Turns 60

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Peter Tatchell makes that milestone.

Nick Cohen provides a great tribute in The Guardian.

Happy birthday, comrade. If the British are slightly more tolerant than we once were, it is in part because we had the good fortune to have you live among us.

You have to know Nick Cohen's writing to feel fully that initial greeting.

h/t Tim Worstall, who has a slightly different view, more like mine:

His various forays into the world of economics have been laughably ignorant.

Certain of his campaigns have been based upon very, very, odd readings of the world.

Yet, as Sellars and Yeatman didn’t put it, he’s not been wrong but wromatic, nor even right but repulsive.

On balance, he’s been a Good Thing.

On which note Happy Birthday to Mr. Tatchell, someone who probably wouldn’t accept one but most certainly should be offered a peerage.

For we should cherish, promote, reward and acknowledge the loons that we are privileged to have among us.

Yup, priviliged is the right word, and I do feel so that Peter Tatchell lived during my time.



Touristic Same-Sex Marriage

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OK the title is provacative, and I have mixed feelings about how much it should be.

But let's face it; same sex marriage means something quite different when you swear it in a domain in which it is recognized compared to one in which it is not. So a Canadian couple marrying under Canadian law are conferred multiple benefits, legal and emotional.

Since the Canadian laws changed (well, no, they did not change, they were sort of reinterpreted, no they did change , no I am confused, and I am not alone)  Canadian same-sex couples have been able to move into a married state exactly like opposite-sex couples (and yeah LGBT I know there are all sorts of other categories but I am in my 60s so give me a break).

But foreigners who come here to marry are clearly in a funny state. When they return to home turf, what rights does their Canadian marriage buy them? This is a deep question. It runs at the heart of the stupid outbreak last week over a same-sex married-pair trying to divorce in Canada again, though living elsewhere, and facing a perfectly reasonable (to my mind) residency rule. If locally where they live their Canadian marriage is meaningless how much more meaningful is a putative divorce?

This is for lawyers and lawyers were fighting it. It turns out it is obvious the problem starts earlier.  If you are married in Canada and live where that does not matter what does your marriage mean?

Well, not much legally, but maybe a TON emotionally. And that is part of the point. The Canadians married under our law are privileged, in that these forms align. Those outside Canada must have a struggle. WE cannot make that better.

And surely for divorce it is even worse; to have a bond you swore under law (even if not your law) that you find you cannot break under anyone's law? That is what we saw.

I think most of what we saw was puffery. I have no problem with Canada offering symbolic marriages to non-Canadians; between Candians this would create claims between individuals, but why should Canada be fussed with such claims between foreigners? I don't know. Seems crazy to me.

But that was what all the fuss last week was about. I think it is nice our government will try to make foreigners feel good about their relationships, but I am really dubious about how much we have to follow up.

In any case I will give credit to our government that its solution to meaningless marriages was to find a way to offer meaningless divorces.

I love my country and I am not joking.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 January 2012 18:31


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Overheard on the radio, roughly, from a rollerblader: "Despite the fact that I wear a helmet, I am still pretty careful"

Well that just about sums it up.

The Wikipedia entry is a tad guarded, though:

The Peltzman effect is the hypothesized tendency of people to react to a safety regulation by increasing other risky behavior, offsetting some or all of the benefit of the regulation.

I dont't think 'hypothetical' applies to that guy on the radio.



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Winter sport in Russia.

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Or, to quote KPC, "Best athlete out of Russia since Maria Sharapova".


The Toronto 2012 Budget Process

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After long council meetings listening to the pigs at the trough, the endless procession of those currently on the receiving end of the budget squealing about how bad life will be if they are not handed over other taxpayer money, a budget is coming to council in about five minutes.

Toronto is in a hole, created by our previous mayor (the liar who promised tax rate increases matching inflation), who was in love with spending the money of others on what often looked to me like vanity projects (typified by his environmental junkets, and while they were a small part of the expense they indicated how much he seemed to love being loved in the spotlight, by his chosen audience, all of this funded by many people with NO sympathy for his antics). Sue-Ann Levy (apology - originally had Anne) documents some of how we got here.

While the disasters are extensive she gives a few examples of poorly-managed construction initiatives:

That laissez-faire attitude has permeated the organization from the bottom-up and the top-down — resulting in a never-ending stream of construction projects that have come in over-budget and well beyond their projected completion date.

The 6.7-km St. Clair dedicated streetcar line — Mihevc’s pet project — is a prime example. It took more than five years to complete and came in at least 100% over its originally budgeted $65-million.

The 40-bed Peter St. Shelter — one of Vaughan’s legacies — is still not finished and at $11-million, is more than 100% over-budget.

One of Miller’s final insults to taxpayers before he left office in 2010 was to push through a $2.4-billion capital budget and long-term plan that stretched borrowing for major capital projects — the Spadina subway line and the waterfront — over a 40-year time frame.

That refinancing scheme will end up costing taxpayers $1.6-billion more.

This will be somewhat of a battle, as many of what seemed like Miller cronies are still on council and will hate to see any impact on their pet projects using taxpayer funding.

I will wager that to get to financial sanity, this is only a step, amd more pain will be needed.

This is a very hard task politically, and I can imagine it may cost mayor Ford any prospect of re-election. It is, after all, we idiot citizens, who balance poorly the benefits we get from a government (we'd love to have it give us all sorts of goodies) against the cost of the taxation and fees the city must impose (though many of the pigs at the trough balance this VERY well - they get the rest of us to subsidize them no end, using their votes).

Add to this drama, the city is in the midst of a contract negotiation with many of the workers in CUPE, the union representing them, and this union is already negotiating in a canny way for the public, with an initial salvo of offering a three-year wage freeze. The city needs more in contract changes to get the flexibility to cut costs.

So I have switched over to watching council in action; a measure of how important I think this is is that I was watching Kelly Ripa and Jessica Alba.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 January 2012 12:32

Maybe Alec Baldwin Should Run for Office

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Ezra Levant waylays celebrities attending the Waterkeeper Alliance for interviews (i.e. somewhat loaded and silly questions) and Baldwin, up until the end, fields the standard Ethical Oil question by recognizing there is a trade-off. His final answer, about buying a mix of both seems silly, but it is probably more politeness than analysis. You can watch starting at 7:00 in this clip.

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There are more interviews with other celebrities, but they really are not worth hearing, except for the last guy who is an oil and gas man John Paul DeJoria, who is on part 4. You can surely find it if you want it.


My Personal Opinion on Peeing on Justly Dead Tailban

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CBC keeps raving about this. Nobody seems troubled the guys were killed; Only that they were peed on!

Seems to me the right response is to use the peeing video to show the little bastards what comes of their useless behavior.

Oops nevermind. CBC could not deal with that!


Once Upon a Time Episode Three

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OK when a TV series has one character explain to another that he is confusing trolls with dwarves, I know I am in good hands.

UPDATE: And hot damn those trolls are manning a bridge! And are extortionists.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 January 2012 16:05

Once Upon a Time Part 2 - Men vs Women

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I am only three episodes in and trying to catch up. Is it just me or are the male characters essentially without character compared to Emma, the mayor and Miss Blanchard? Other than, of course, Henry.

Where this is relevant, it seems not to differ much in the two tracks of their lives.

The casting is a delight; as an inveterate House MD fan, getting Jennifer Morrison back is a treat. I have loved Ginnifer Goodwin in a couple of m,ovies (she seems to have very big feet, which is not at all bad), and Lana Parrilla has so much fun in her makeup in the fairytale part of the story. The male actors have had no influence on me so far but I will give them some time.


Once Upon a Time

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I am a bit concerned about the premiss of this TV series; it seems to have to drive to an end so it cannot just go on forever like a police proedural.

And maybe that is part of why it is so effective. When Emma tells Miss Blanchard that she should read to the coma patient I both laughed and cried at the same time in a way I do not recall doing in a very long time.

The development id all a tad slow for me (I never watched Lost) but I really enjoy the idea. And I am very much enjoying the cast.

TV is SO good now.


THE CBC is Proud of This?

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They seem to be - much excited reporting on the fact that they are the 'first' news reporting organization to be allowed into Syria!

This is an apparent source of pride.

It would seem to me a clear source of shame, to take nothing away from Susan Ormiston.

By the way they are also stll focused on peeing on dead bodies but not on killing the people.

Government is so great!


I Confess to a Certain Bafflement

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Killing them is OK but peeing on them is not?

Please explain the logic, CBC, as you report this breathlessly every half hour, And it is amusing to hear the use of the 'polite' word 'urinate'.


Nice Job Tony Clement!

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I got into a tweet-fight with him over his spelling of 'Wisenheimer'.

His final response:

Let me apologize right now to all the weisenheimers for using the term "wisenheimer". Thx bye.


I would say score one big time for Tony!


Maybe I could nitpick about capitalization but I am afraid of what he would do then!


This is VERY Good

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h/t @acoyne on Twitter. Great reference.

The one I live by and man does it help you live! (and help others too):

One for the major causes of traffic jams is a lane coming to an end. One simple solution if you're the one driving in the lane being merged into is to move over a lane if you can to help the merging traffic have a place to go. Another option to slowly accumulate a large space in front of you for the traffic to move into. If you leave the space ahead of time, the cars merging in will have a place to slide into and the traffic won't slow down. It's thought that if only a few cars in a traffic jam line do this, it will increase the overall flow of traffic.

Others will indeed abuse your good sense when you do this but it remains infantile NOT to do it.

Last Updated on Monday, 09 January 2012 13:38

Christie and the Occutards

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This is why we like him:

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Romney really could use some help from this guy.

New Jersey features not only Chris Christie but the great Kelly Ripa too!



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OK I do not get it, despite the fact that recent press releases now have the CBC and CTV breathlessly reporting about this so-called phenomenon.

The idea is I put my cellphone in my pocked and somehow I inadvertently press a button that makes it diall 911?

How does this happen? I can barely get my cellphone to make calls advertently.

What magic makes them call this number? (BTW it is an emergency number only in some countries so I doubt this is preprogrammed into the phone.)

I love the police advice to stay on the phone if this happens. How the hell would I know it happened? Or did 911 phone me?

I guess we are a week into January and need some hobby horse for the media to ride.


People Don't Have Archenemies

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"Not in real life.": So says Dr. Watson in Sherlock.

I can see I am going to love this show.

I love the Seinfeldish exchange as well:

"You don't have a girlfriend?"  "No that's not really my area." "All right then. Do you have a boyfriend? Which is fine, by the way."

Last Updated on Monday, 09 January 2012 11:25

How Have I Only Now Discovered 'Sherlock'?

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That opening episode is just great! I asume the pace will continue.

I love the use of texting and technology but what great acting and writing.



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Country Music still does not fail me.

Monday I was driving home and the CBC was doing something so stupid I flipped the dial to my solid backup (for Americans the CBC is alogical NPR walking disaster)  country station.

The song that was on so confirmed my choice. It was Alan Jackson's very beautiful "Remember When".

Country songs are about real lives, not about murdering the bitches who stupidly hang around you awful people. It is about love and families and about caring.

And it does not hurt that when my wife's mom spent time in Canada she fell in love with Jackson's hat. Yeah. sounds stupid, but it is far less stupid than that attraction to the P Diddys of the world.

Last Updated on Saturday, 07 January 2012 07:41

Forbrydelsen II

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The second season was MUCH better than the first! Largely because it was a lot shorter.

And no, I do not mean that as an insult.

The writers could not escape from their fascination with ludicrous conspiracy theories, and imagining all sorts of bizarre and barely credible malfeasance in the Danish government. But along the way they could write characters that some actors really embodied.

Sarah Lund is the one fictional character I think I have fallen in love with. Sofie Grabol (no I will not bother with the Scandinavian diacritics) is just fabulous, as she was in Forbrydelsen I, where she was required to behave even more ridiculously than in this shorter season. And it was SO nice to have her sweater back in the later episodes of series II. She fills her jeans nicely as well. As did the characters Louise Raben and Karina (had she a surname?). The actors playing Raben and Buch were also wonderful.

Also a tremendous addition was Strange.

But REALLY, writers! Why would a policeman who wants to shoot a colleague and kill her fire only into the parts of her body likely to be covered by a vest, exactly like the one you have often worn? Why not shoot her in the head? Even before Sarah's resurrection I was shaking my head at the awful prospect she would come back from the dead and take her revenge, it seemed so stupid.

As for the overall plot, I am still lost and have NO wish to know what was actually going on, and who was bad or good.

IMDB suggests there is a third season coming. Maybe a simpler plot and just a lot more of Sarah and some great colleague (both Mayer and Strange were wonderful in the seasons so far). There is really no need to suggest the whole government is totally corrupt to get me to want to watch Sofie Grabol.

Last Updated on Friday, 06 January 2012 14:23

Is Economics even a Hope for Some People?

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@h/t @TimHarford

What an amusing reflection!

It's actually quite good at explaining why there is no point trying to discuss economics rationally with some of my siblings, who have never left school, the ultimate socialist world.

The trouble with teaching economics philosophically is that a 16- or a 19-year old does not have the experience of life to make the philosophy speak to her. It’s just words… Economically speaking, she hasn’t had a life. She has lived mainly in a socialist economy, namely her birth household, centrally planned by her parents, depending on loyalty rather than exit. She therefore has no concept of how markets organize production. … She does not have any economic history under her belt – no experience of the Reagan Recession or the Carter Inflation.

This is also true for a 60-year-old professor who has also never experienced any real effects from economic change. I am not sure whether that makes them lucky or unlucky. It does make them a sorry bunch.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 January 2012 13:27

The Women of This Family Are Very Busy

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A great line uttered by a character in what is looking like one great season of television, "ForbrydelsenII", the second go-round of the Danish series that inspired AMC's "The Killing".

I am only six episodes into the Danish second season but it seems they have dodged the major failures of their first season - a kind of scatter-shot that diluted so much that was good; apparently their season got extended partway through filming and that had a negative impact on plotting. I have previously blogged on how that first season failed.

None of the problems from that season have appeared so far in season 2 (but then they had not appeared so early either in the first season).

And the strengths are all there in spades. Sarah Lund is magnificent, as she was in season one, though a pretty incompetent policewoman; here she is constrained by everyone's low expectations, and this does seem to help! But Sofie Grabol (the vowels will lack their Danish accountrements) is just tremendous as this character. It is surely the role of her career - it should be! And Ulrik Strange is such a great partner (her partner was a key part of what was great about the first season too).

I am fresh off the wedding scene - perhaps five of the most moving minutes I can recall on TV. THe title of this post is from that scene.

Nice job Danish TV in making this series a series, and making the second season learn so much from the first.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 January 2012 13:06

Sailer on 'The Iron Lady'

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As always, very interesting.

And I did not know this great line from Freeman Dyson:

"Thatcher’s contemporary, physicist/wise man Freeman Dyson explained:

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class.…I learned to look on the commercial middle class with loathing and contempt. Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher, which was also the revenge of the commercial middle class. The academics lost their power and prestige and the business people took over. The academics never forgave Thatcher….

But don’t expect anything that insightful in Morgan’s script."

It's easy to forget how silly academics can be. Here in Canada the Liberal party chose two in a row as leader and as a result may never play much of a role again in Canadian politics. We shall see. There is no question in my mind that I would rather be guided by the commercial middle class!
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 January 2012 10:34

Thatcher is in the Air

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And justly - she should never have been out of it.

Rondi finds an interesting phase of her (Thatcher's) life and her pride, previously unknown also to me.

I had started assuming I would pass on 'Iron Lady', knowing the infantile political proclivities of many of the principals involved in the movie. But Steven Hayward really gives me pause.

So were the writer and director trying to offer a more subtle attack on Thatcher by limiting some of the factors that would make her seem more heroic?  If so they will likely have failed.  Her greatness is impossible to suppress, even in this treatment.

In this respect the film is comparable to one of the most successful biopics ever: Patton.  Rumor and legend have long held that France Ford Coppola wanted the film to convey an antiwar message, or make out Patton as a metaphor of the supposed bloodlust of the American military mindset then said to be rampaging in Vietnam.  I doubt this is true, though one can imagine Coppola and others associated with the film embracing this cover story with their liberal friends in Hollywood at the height of anti-Vietnam War sentiment.  However ambiguous the intent may have been, George C. Scott’s portrayal was a triumph for American patriotism and martial virtue.  Streep’s portrayal of Thatcher, even with some of the deliberate ambiguities and negative suggestions the screenplay contains, is going to cause many a moviegoer to say, “We could use someone exactly like her today.”

Yes indeed the US could use it and won't get it. We in Canada likely would have a national heart attack; PM Harper already has our infantile center-left to left suffering paroxysms, but he has some time yet to play out his role.

As for the UK poor Cameron may face some trouble from the Argentines if Falkland oil looks marketable. What will My Nice Guy do? Thatcher was great because she was beyond caring who liked her.


A Thwarted Discourse - Canadian Health Care

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One of the saddest things about living in Canada is the juvenile nature of much public discourse about health care in the country.

Every now and then someone tries to point out that there is a distinction between public payment for services and public monopolization of the provision of medical services. Last month Yannick Labrie tried to make the point in an FP column.

The failure for the discussion to be carried on honestly is stunning. I still recall our current PM Harper in one of his first debates in running for the Prime Ministership (maybe his first) attempting to raise this distinction in a gentle and reasonable way, even explicitly referring to the distinction between the ultimate payer and the provider, and being shouted down as some sort of right-wing fanatic by essentially all the leaders at the time, ex-Stalinist Gilles Duceppe, NDP leader Layton, and, I believe, Paul Martin, who, among those three, surely knew better, but also knew what language to use in Canada at that time.

The irony is that at least two of these shouting leaders had been treated at private clinics. As have I, I believe; I suspect the cataract clinic that did my eyes was a private one, and very effiecient, and had I not opted for 'premium' lenses (the jury is out on what that means) would have cost me only what the government of the province pays.

The discourse is so busted that many Canadians think we have a system that is similar to those in Europe; that is simply not true; almost every European country features private provisioning, especially France, often portrayed as the golden boy among these systems. Ours is similar really only to those in Cuba and North Korea. SillyWife is Austrian and I have seen their system at work; it embarrasses me.

Recently the Federal Finance Minister explained that the recent politically-motivated funding arrangement whereby the Federal government increases provincial allotments for health care by 6% per annum is not sustainable and will not be sustained. The howling has been hilarious. And one key message is clear - the Feds expect the provinces to actually take responsibility in this area for a change (but really only since the '70s).

It is a bit like Kyoto. This government step by step is trying to recognize realities; Kyoto was one step (get the hell out of this idiocy!) and this funding arrangement is one more. What is nice about this going forward is that the Feds clearly are offering the provinces the opportunity to act on what our constitution says is their bailiwick - health care! This will get interesting.

I am hoping for a lot more of what might outrage Trudeaupians in the next couple of years.

Last Updated on Monday, 02 January 2012 15:15


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