Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Kevin Rudd admits his fallibility

Kevin Rudd, Australia's prime minister-elect following last Saturday's election, was reportedly in a strip club in New York City a few years back, but was too drunk to remember:

It was revealed yesterday that Mr Rudd visited Scores gentlemen's club in Manhattan in 2003 with fellow Labor MP Warren Snowdon and New York Post editor Col Allan during a taxpayer-funded trip when he was opposition foreign affairs spokesman.

Mr Rudd has apologised but said he has little recollection of what happened in the strip club, because he had had too much to drink.

"I think any bloke who's honest about their lives can point to times in their lives when they've got it wrong," Mr Rudd said today.

"I've done that, but can I say the attitude of the Australian community, their evaluation of me, that's a matter for them and I accept their judgment.
As Gwynne Dyer remarked, "in most countries that would be the end of a political career, but in Australia it was the right answer". For some reason I'm reminded of the Trailer Park Boys episode where Mr. Lahey is running for reelection as trailer park supervisor, and fills his campaign speech with lines like "Who among us hasn't had a bit too much to drink now and then, and maybe ended up passed out in their own driveway pissing themself?"

On an unrelated note, today on Metro Morning I heard Andy Barrie talking about how Jan Wong and Christie Blatchford would be appearing at some library today, and spoke of the opportunity to hear "two very interesting women". Well, Jan Wong, for all her faults, is indeed quite interesting, but Christie Blatchford? She seems to be a one-trick pony, and her trick is advocating for hang 'em high "justice". Her function at the Globe seems to be to make Margaret Wente seem good. What Andy sees in her I don't know, but she used to work for the CBC back in the 80s (I have vague recollections of her vapid monolugues interrupting my enjoyment of the afternoon show) so maybe he knows her. Politically, though, they're worlds apart.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

US using bogus inflation figures

So it seems that for nearly 25 years the Yanks have been using a cooked inflation index, one that leaves out housing:

In 1983 the Bureau of Labor Statistics was faced with an awkward dilemma. If it continued to include the cost of housing in the Consumer Price Index, the CPI would reflect an inflation rate of 15 percent, thereby making the country's economy look like a banana republic. Worse, since investors and bond traders have historically demanded a 2 percent real return after inflation, that would mean that bond and money market yields could climb as high as 17 percent.

The BLS solution was as simple as it was shocking: Exclude the cost of housing as a component in the CPI, and substitute a so-called "Owner Equivalent Rent" component based on what a homeowner might rent his house for.

The result of this statistical sleight of hand was immediate and gratifying, for the reported inflation index quickly dropped to 2 percent. (This was in part because speculators needed to offset their holding costs by renting out their homes while their prices skyrocketed, thereby flooding the market with rentals, which pushed down the cost of renting a house or apartment.)

From here, via this babble thread. Must be nice to redefine inflation so as to be able to say you don't have it...

Friday, November 16, 2007

US bridge world plunged into crisis by team's anti-Bush protest

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The usually sedate world of US bridge has been plunged into an unprecedented political crisis by six little words: "We did not vote for Bush."

Those words were penned on the back of a menu and held up by the US women's team as they stood on a podium in Shanghai, China last month to receive their gold medal at the World Bridge Federation's 2007 Championships.

The US Bridge Federation has decried the impromptu message as "a political statement" and said it was particularly out of place in China, where acts of "political dissent" are frowned upon.

It threatened to suspend the women for a year, but has failed to get them to "grovel" for forgiveness, the captain of the team, Gail Greenberg said.

From here, via babble. Funny thing is, the US Bridge Federation is the entity that's frowning on this particular act of political dissent.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

White anti-racists

In this thread on babble, someone linked to this site. Some highlights:

As a White Anti-Racist:

You Can: Verbally and/or in writing, invoke John Brown as your role model and hero
But You Don’t Have To: Actually do what he did (i.e. pick up arms and forfeit your life)

You Can: Publish an article criticizing white people for trying to “control meaning”
But You Don’t Have To: Actually quit your job as tenured academic publishing your interpretations and critiques of whiteness

You Can: Ritually confess (”own”) that you are a racist
But You Don’t Have To: Let anyone forget that it is an anti-racist act to confess such a thing

… and so much more!

Remind you of anyone you know?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Beware of God

Seems that having God on your side may actually be a disadvantage:

Gregory Paul, the author of the study and a social scientist, used data from the International Social Survey Programme, Gallup and other research bodies to reach his conclusions.

He compared social indicators such as murder rates, abortion, suicide and teenage pregnancy.

The study concluded that the US was the world’s only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional. Mr Paul said that rates of gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in less devout democratic countries. The US also suffered from “ uniquely high” adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates, the study suggested.

Mr Paul said: “The study shows that England, despite the social ills it has, is actually performing a good deal better than the USA in most indicators, even though it is now a much less religious nation than America.”

He said that the disparity was even greater when the US was compared with other countries, including France, Japan and the Scandinavian countries. These nations had been the most successful in reducing murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion, he added.

Thanks to atomicat for this one.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sell water to the Yanks or they'll take it, Dyer says

So Gwynne Dyer is now saying that if we don't sell our water to the US, they'll just take it anyway:

Canada must start selling its water to the United States before the Americans decide to take it and the country should also pay Alberta to stop tar sands production amid an emerging global climate crisis, international affairs columnist Gwynne Dyer said Monday.

Global warming and its calamitous fallout coming over the rest of this century is the subject of Dyer's next book. He described the sober picture of what might happen in a lecture to a nearly full house at the Roxy Theatre in Owen Sound.

The London-based, Canadian-born syndicated columnist said British policy makers are secretly worried about a scenario in which even a 2 C increase in daily average global temperatures would turn today's agricultural breadbaskets into deserts.

The American midwest, the Mediterranean basin, the north Indian plain, the Australian wheat belt, "those areas will suffer catastrophic losses of rainfall and will see crop yields fall drastically," Dyer said, clad in his trademark worn brown leather jacket.

Funny thing is, the US is having a hell of a time fighting protracted guerrilla wars at a "safe" distance; having one on their borders would be more than they could handle. Of course, I really hope they're not stupid enough to try, because the consequences would be devastating for both countries.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

More good news about our neighbours to the south


A majority of likely voters – 52% – would support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, and 53% believe it is likely that the U.S. will be involved in a military strike against Iran before the next presidential election, a new Zogby America telephone poll shows.
Via Shakesville. The EnMasse thread on the subject, though, has a better title.