The Numsgiliad

Saturday, November 18, 2006
Some perspective
This is a post I made on the Maclean's forums a while back. I thought it was worth posting here. Enjoy.

In two world wars, Germany never once attacked Canada. Our territory was never attacked, our civilians were never bombed - fewer Canadian civilians died to enemy action in those wars than did to the 9/11 attacks. And yet, we spent our combined energies as a nation for over a decade, took on vast debts, and sacrificed over a hundred thousand young men for the purpose of crushing our enemies and winning the wars. And what's more, we did it without our resolve cracking - there was never a serious movement advocating that Canadians cut and run, and there were certainly no political parties who had peace at any cost as a major plank in their platform.

Maybe it's because the threat, despite being an ocean away, was real to us. We knew who our allies were and that we had to stand beside them in their time of need. And we knew what would happen if the Nazis took over Europe and destroyed all that is good about Western civilization. We couldn't delude ourselves into thinking that we could walk away without showing our back to an enemy who was only too eager to stick a knife into it, and we couldn't pretend that we were invincible and unassailable whether we defended ourselves or not. We knew that we had exactly two choices - victory and defeat. We knew that "can't we all just get along?" wasn't option C. And we knew that victory meant our continued existance, whereas defeat meant foreign conquest and the loss of all.

And so, we fought. Not because we wanted to, because no person in their right mind wants a fight, but because we knew fighting was the best option we had. And in so doing, we became one of the most respected and feared nations on the planet. A podunk little colony that started the war with more mules in the Army than soldiers had one of the largest military machines in the world, and we used it to accumulate a dazzling array of battle honours, and earn our independance from the British Empire besides. Another war came, and we were the spearhead of Allied advances into France, liberating entire nations from the Nazis singlehandedly. We had the third-largest navy and fourth-largest army in the world by the end of the war, along with one of the few intact economies left on the planet - we were no middle power, we were one of the mightiest nations on the planet in 1945.

How the mighty have fallen! A Canadian in the time of those wars would never have quailed at dead soldiers - that's what happens in wartime. The question isn't the cost, the question is whether the war is worth it. A single soldier dead in the name of conquest is too many, but a million is a worthwhile price if it buys us out from tyranny, destruction, and death. The fight in Afghanistan is a simple one - the repressive, dictatorial Afghan government was actively sheltering vast numbers of terrorists, and those terrorists killed 3000 innocent civilians in a brutal attack. We entered the country to put their heads on pikes, and to give 31 million Afghans a chance at freedom - a society where women are permitted to read, drive, and participate in society, rather than one where rape victims are stoned to death for adultery as a spectator sport. If you wanted to come up with the textbook definition of a good war, our fight in Afghanistan wouldn't be far off. And the best we get from Canadian society today is a miser sitting at his abacus, counting off the lives of soldiers as though a big enough number provides an excuse for his moral cowardice. You share the same nation, the same geography, and the same history as those hundred thousand men who died to keep this nation free. But you lack the most important attribute that they all shared - they were worthy of those freedoms.

Sunday, February 12, 2006
Floor crossings and byelections
With the whole Emerson thing, I'm seeing a lot of talk kicked around on the subject of forcing byelections in the case of floor-crossings. First off, let me say that any law to that effect is totally unenfocable - you don't have to be on one side of the floor to accept that side's nomination next time, or to vote that side's party line in Parliament. The only thing it would affect is research funding and the like, which, while important, is not usually as important as the seat itself.

So the question has to be asked - why does the by-election have to be automatic under terms set in advance, with abusable loopholes thrown in? Why don't we leave the decision up to the voters? I mean, after all, it's the voters that we're trying to protect here, so why not let them decide if they've been abused by their representative's actions? I speak, of course, of MP recall. Why not set it up such that if voters are actually indignant about abuses by sitting members(be those abuses floor-crossing, corruption, lying to the electorate, or anything else), all they have to do to force a by-election is get a sufficiently large petition signed? The threshold would have to be fairly high to prevent abuses of the procedure - the most popular number I've heard is 20% of the electorate - but it could be implemented pretty easily.

Because really, what's wrong with MP's being accountable to their constituents?

Friday, February 10, 2006
My two cents
I know I'm chipping in a bit late on Emerson and Fortier, but whatever. Here's my thoughts:

Emerson - I don't think this one should reflect as badly on Harper as most people think. Let's be honest here - no leader will ever refuse support unless he has a good reason to. And, given that Emerson is going to support us, he has the qualifications for his Cabinet post. I'm still concerned about the possibility that we were actively trying to bribe him over, but given that it's possible that we didn't, I'll let it go until we have more information.

The person who Emerson's defection should reflect badly on, on the other hand, is Emerson. He lied to his constituents, and did so seemingly for the sole purpose of getting more personal power. For shame. Just like Stronach and Brison should have been punted by their constituents, I hope Emerson gets his ass handed to him in the next election.

Fortier - Unlike Emerson, this one *does* reflect badly on Harper and the party. We said we wouldn't appoint Senators, and we go and appoint a Senator for the sole reason that he was too lazy to run for a Commons seat. I know, we don't have mechanisms in place to elect them, and won't for a while yet, but this is still something Harper shouldn't have done. It'll clean itself up in time, probably, but it's still not a good idea.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Election Prediction 2: Electric Boogaloo
The latest polls I've found have indicated some truly remarkable results:

BC: 22 Con, 8 Lib, 5 NDP
AB: 28 Con
PR: 23 Con, 1 Lib, 3 NDP
ON: 66 Con, 30 Lib, 9 NDP
QU: 64 Bloc, 7 Lib, 4 Con
AT: 25 Con, 3 Lib, 4 NDP
CA: 168 Con, 64 Bloc, 49 Lib, 21 NDP

Yes, you read that right. Not only do the Tories win a majority, but the Libs are reduced to third-party status, behind the Bloc. Hell, Paul Martin even loses his seat. I know, I know, I shouldn't be counting my eggs before they've hatched, and the only poll that matters is on the 23rd, and all that. But all that said, I'm still giddy with anticipation.

Sunday, January 08, 2006
Interesting Liberal attack
Looking at the Liberal site, I see an attempt to say that the Conservatives will return to deficit spending. This one is interesting for several reasons. First off, the Liberals claim that the combined surplus for the next 5 years is around $18 billion. I don't see a Tory estimate for the next 5 years, but they do say it'll be $55 billion over the next 6. Somehow I doubt there'll be a $37 billion surplus in 2010/11, so one of those sets of numbers is wrong. Second, this assumes exactly zero cuts - when was the last Conservative government that didn't start shutting down at least a few money sinks when it got into power? They aren't playing it up, since it isn't what people want to hear, but if there's no large-scale spending cuts of one variety or another by the Tories in their first majority, I'll print this page out and literally eat my words. Third, if you look at their chart, you'll notice that the Liberals have set aside 3 billion dollars a year as a "contingency reserve". I don't object to this, per se - it's good fiscal planning, and it's something that Martin has been doing ever since we got rid of the deficit - but the Liberal numbers count that $3B a year as spending. That's $15 billion over 5 years, whereas the "projected Conservative deficit" is only $12.4 billion. In other words, even using the rather unflattering numbers that the Liberals have come up with, there's still a combined surplus of $2.6 billion.

Also, has anyone run the numbers on the Liberal platform? Using this ridiculously low surplus estimate, does their platform fit within their means?

Update: I slogged through a bunch of Liberal press releases from this campaign, but I can't find more than a few billion in actual numbers. Someone who knows what some of these promises will cost can estimate a lot better than me, but I can't do it right now. However, I do have a better estimate on the argument over surplus numbers, from the CBC:

In saying the Conservatives would not run a deficit, Maheux cited the projected $55 billion federal surplus over the next five years, the same figure the federal government used in its November 2005 economic update.

In other words, even assuming we go down 30 billion like the Libs say, we've still got enough to implement their tax-cut plan on top of our own. This attack is a flagrant lie.

Update 2: Just looked again at the Liberal spending table - the total surplus they predict in that table is $42.4 billion over 5 years. Drop 15 for the contingency reserve and 9.3 for assorted new Liberal spending int he November economic update, and that's how you get to the 18.2 of fiscal room that they claim. But, put simply, that means that the Tories have $42B+ of room to play with, not the 18 that the Liberals claim. I guess the old comment about how "figures lie and liars figure" is as good a slogan for the Liberals as any.

Saturday, January 07, 2006
*smack* No, Harper! Feet taste bad!
I know that the Conservative tax-cut plan is bigger, better, and flashier than the Liberal one, and I know that the Liberal mini-budget promise to cut taxes was totally unimportant in the grand scheme of government finance. But that doesn't mean we can get away with saying we'll repeal their tax cut!

Because really, look at the totally predictable Liberal response: Tories will raise taxes. Yes, there's only about eight people in the country who benefit less from our tax-cut plan than the Liberal one, but that's trumped by "Tories will raise taxes", and we can't do much to dispel that. The best damage control we could do here is to roll out a big cut to income taxes, preferably upstaging the 1% cut and $500 deduction totally. I can't imagine that we weren't going to do something similar anyways(have you noticed how little we've spent of our projected fiscal room?), but it should be done tomorrow, and it should be BIG. This doesn't have to be a disaster, but it can be if we don't manage it properly.

Friday, January 06, 2006
Best blonde joke ever
Just click here - I guarantee you'll love it.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Great ads
Just looking at some of the new ads from the various parties. I liked the "Change" ad from the Conservatives(though the latest batch of negative ones I'm not a fan of), and the NDP's "Gift" ad was great too. However, my favourite is probably the new Tory "More than money" radio ad - it's not the hackneyed cliche of an attack ad with mean voiceovers and scary black-and-white photos, it's got exactly the right tone of almost parental scolding that makes it feel less like out-of-context quotes being used as near-slander, and more like genuine outrage, which is exactly the right message for us to be using in attack ads.

Also, honourable mention goes to a certain strangely familiar ad - I'm glad to see those visuals getting used for something that isn't a flagrant lie.

And, speaking of flagrant lies, here's the latest seat projections, using mostly the Strategic Counsel and SES numbers from yesterday:

Con: 129
Lib: 96
Bloc: 66
NDP: 14
Uncallable: 3

As an interesting aside to this, a swing of 7% from the Libs to the Tories in Ontario alone is enough for a Conservative majority. That's obviously not an excessively likely situation, but that does give you an idea of how close this could be to a complete victory for Harper rather than just the partial one everyone is expecting.

Sunday, December 25, 2005
Wishing you all a merry Xmas!
I'm not particularly imaginative right now, so I'll just go with the old Dec. 25th standby of wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Kwazy Kwanzaa, Tumultuous Tet and a solemn and dignified Ramadan. And, if all that fails, at least enjoy a lazy Boxing Day Eve, the last day of the year where people are expected to pay full price.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
I almost forgot!
Serenity came out today, and it's an awesome, awesome movie. If you haven't seen it yet, you owe it to yourself to go buy(or at least rent) the DVD and watch it. It's better if you've seen the entire series of Firefly(the short-lived show it's a sequel to, which, of course, you should also buy), but it's more than good enough on its own. Watch it.

Election Prediction, Again
This one uses the Pollara poll here - the first one posted in a while with a proper regional breakdown. The margins of error are pretty high on this one, though, since the sample sizes are small.

BC: 4 CPC, 24 LPC, 7 NDP, 1 WTF(Cadman)
AB: 28 CPC
PR: 24 CPC, 1 LPC, 2 NDP, 1 WTF(Desjarlais)
ON: 28 CPC, 73 LPC, 4 NDP, 1 WTF(Stronach)
QU: 67 Bloc, 8 LPC
MR: 12 CPC, 17 LPC, 3 NDP
Canada: 126 LPC, 96 CPC, 67 Bloc, 16 NDP, 3 unknown

Balance of power is with CPC-Bloc alliance over NDP-Lib one(163 vs 142).

I know, I know, polls don't matter at this point, but I'll post this anyways.

Friday, December 09, 2005
Interesting comparison
Everybody seems to acknowledge that crime is a problem that needs to be addressed, so everyone is bringing forward policies to fight it. The Conservative policy is to punish criminals. The Liberal plan is to punish those law-abiding enough to register their guns. Anyone still wonder why I prefer the Conservative Party?

Friday, December 02, 2005
Normally I'd be scornful, but incompetent opponents are good
Check out the Liberal Party's homepage if you haven't already. These guys are asking people to give their personal info before they even launch the webpage proper. It's just the party logo, datamining in both languages, and a bilingual "Enter" button. And even if you click past it once, you still have it bother you every time you load their page until you actually give them info. What kind of incompetents are runing their website? The party website is mostly useful as a place for partisans to get involved(donating, volunteering, etc.), and for non-partisans to check out the party. Neither of those are served by asking for personal info up front. The partisans will probably wind up giving it anyways, and the non-partisans don't want to give it, and may just tune out of what you have to say rather than responding to an intrusive request. Besides, what exactly do they need it for? Voter ID is great and all, but a person looking at your website is a long way from being a hardcore supporter.

I know it's not really a major thing, but jeez Libs, if you want to win, you should do even the little things right. And if you don't, then please do a better job of self-destructing - this is nice, but a press release saying that Harper is a reptilian kitten-eater who runs a child porn ring would really do the job.

Edit: I just went back and checked the page again. I know it says that it's a one-time request, but I submitted data, and it's bugging me to submit it again. Real good work on the back-end there Libs!

Thursday, November 24, 2005
Election Prediction 2.0
I was bored and procrastinating today, so I ran through my election-prediction algorithm again with modern poll numbers. Here are the results:

BC: 4/12/19/0/1
AB: 26/1/0/0/1
PR: 22/1/4/0/1
ON: 28/54/22/0/2
QU: 0/8/0/67/0
AT: 8/22/2/0/0
TR: 0/3/0/0/0
CAN: 88/101/47/67/5

The uncallable ridings are the ones won last election by Kilgour, Desjarlais, Parrish, Stronach, and Cadman - due to switches in party affiliations, I can't tell what will happen. O'Brien's is callable, however, because it's an NDP pickup, so it doesn't matter if the Liberal vote splits.

Notable numbers: Con+Bloc is between 155 and 160, which can hold a majority if need be. Lib+NDP is between 148 and 153, which cannot. In other words, whoever can get two of the top three parties onto their side will be the next Prime Minister. I'm starting to think that the Con/Lib alliance is the only way to get a stable House that will actually happen - scary thought, no?

I'll try to keep this updated through the election, if I have time between that and exams. If anyone is actually reading this and cares, drop me an email(link at the top right), and I can send you the spreadsheet I'm using to compile this. It's simplistic, but it makes a useful tool.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005
When The Levee Breaks
...and in case you've been living under a rock, I'm not talking about Led Zeppelin. I don't know how much you've been paying attention to what's going on, but the situation in New Orleans looks like something out of Revelations, or at least a particularly nasty war. I'm sure we've all seen hurricanes before, and the devastation in other cities is about what was expected, but I've never seen anything to compare to a hurricane and a massive flood in tandem. The city is almost totally underwater, people are still being taken out of their attics on helicopters two days later, looting has gotten so bad that cops are getting in on it(and in case it needs to be said, people like that are vile scum no matter what uniform they wear), clean food and water are near-impossible to find, almost all major arteries into the city have been cut, people are expecting massive outbreaks of just about every plague you can name, and worst of all, the water is still rising from unrepaired breaches in the dams that keep the city dry.

Long story short, it's hell on earth for anyone who was stupid enough to stick around in the city, and it's probably going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. So, do what you can to help these people. I don't know where to direct you, but this is one of the biggest natural disasters I can remember(it's no tsunami, but the worst-cases put it at #2 in my lifetime), so go do something if you can. Until then, back to read-only mode I go...

Update: If news reports are to be believed, the looting has turned into full-blown anarchy, and police have been forced to stop search-and-rescue to dedicate themselves to breaking up armed mobs on the streets. It just keeps going downhill, sad to say, and it'll probably keep circling the drain until somebody has the cojones to start opening fire on them(with lethal force, not warning shots and tear gas). I don't think I'll say this very often, but now would be a good time for Bush to start using and abusing his powers of pardon to make sure that anyone restoring order(uniformed or not) doesn't get thrown in jail for doing what needs to be done. It can't be total carte-blanche, of course(that'd be worse than not doing anything), but it should be close to it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Brain Dump
There's a couple ideas I've had kicking around for a while on computer games and the like, and I figured I might as well mention them here to fill in some of the blanks in my posting(like, you know, the last year or so). I'm never going to do any of these, and I'm not sure that some of them will ever get done, but I still think that they're cool ideas. Anmyways:

1) One thing that pisses me off about games is that so much of the time, you're saddled with rediculous AI. I can't count the number of times when I've been playing some game(usually a strategy game) and had either an experience way easier than I deserved, because my AI enemy didn't have a damn clue how to play properly, or had an AI teammate that was supposed to be doing something that didn't know how to(protecting my flank, charging their army in to exploit a hole I just made, etc.). The reasoning behind this is obvious - the AI these games use isn't intelligent in the slightest, it's all just scripts made up by the game developers. That said, it's really annoying at times, especially for somebody who's too lazy to play multiplayer and generally just faces of with the AI(i.e., me). But, there's a relatively easy solution that I think I've come across, and it can be impelmented by anybody who feels like doing it.

Basically, take a game where the AI scripts are moddable by the users. Get a game going where each side is controlled by an AI(i.e., code up an input script for the "human" player that uses the same rules as the AI), and introduce random variation into your script via some simple program. We now have variation and a selection mechanism(figuring out which one wins, specifically), so we're about ten lines of code away from Darwinian evolution. Modern systems can crank out an awe-inspiring number of cycles, meaning that we can cycle generations pretty quickly, and therefore evolve well. There are limits on how well this will work, of course, but if you're ambitious in how you set it up(perhaps making one of the valid evolutions be to add well-formed pieces of random code to the script?), those limits will be as high as you would ever want them to be.

For the average player, this probablty won't make much of a difference, but I can imagibne that someone at the high-end would appreciate a competent opponent who is always available, and everybody wants opponents who are more intelligent instead of just being faster.

2) This one is rediculously ambitious, and would probably require a budget of like $100 million to pull off, but it'd probably ship enough units to be profitable anyways. Basically, the one thing I always want more of in my games is scope. It's great to have a shooter or a game of grand strategy, but I know that each one of those things implies the other. You can't have the stereotypical Omaha Beach level without the Second World War and the strategic need for a second front, and you can't play a game of world conquest without ordering around millions of unsimulated peons. So, why are games always designed such that you're totally unable to move between the two levels? The closest I've seen to a multi-level game is the Total War series(Shogun/Medieval/Rome: Total War - each has its strategic map and battle maps which are played separately), but ity could be taken to the next level, and I think that what I'm about to suggest would be a good way to do that.

As a concession to practicality, I'll split this into three games. Each will be mostly separate, but they'll be released simultaneously and marketed together, and you'll be able to move around between any that you own and play the same thing in each of the different games(kinda like what they do with the Pokemon series, except this one is designed for people whose age is in the double digits). Set it in WW2, since that's the best historical environment for this game. One will be on the level of a shooter and tactical combat game, like a larger-scale Rainbow Six, one will be a small-scale strategy game like Panzer General, and one will be a game of grand strategy like Hearts of Iron. Have options like career mode(where you can go from being a private to being a general by rising through the ranks - yes, it's unrealistic, but accelerated promotion is pretty much expected), or the ability to take control of a small section of the battlefield and fight that out in the next game lower down(ideally, you'd be able to play the grand strategic level by commanding each company individually if you were a real grognard). Have it be that when you upgrade your infantry rifle tech in the top level, your soldier at the bottom one gets a weapon upgrade. I don't know the specifics, obviously, but I can imagine a whole bunch of cool ideas making their way into it. Like I said, it'd be horribly impractical, but if there was a developer ambitious enough to tackle it and good enough to do it right, I think people would be singing the praises of it for a decade or two.

Thursday, August 04, 2005
At this rate, why aren't the oceans boiling yet?
Right now, this part of the world is going through a fairly hot, dry summer. That happens once in a while, right? Anyways, some enterprising pollster decided tio ask people whether they thought it was caused by global warming, and about 57%(if I remember the numbers right), said that they thought it was. This merely proves one thing - the average person doesn't know enough about the issue to understand their way out of a paper bag.

I'll use a stat straight from Greenpeace's website, just so nobody can accuse me of bias - "Since the late 1800's our planet has warmed about 0.6°Celcius (1.1°F)"(link). Now, ask yourself - if the entire planet has warmed up by just over half a degree in a century, and that is the extent of climate change to date, then why is a summer a few degrees hotter than the previous year's caused by global warming?

To take it one step further, back in about May, when it still hadn't warmed up at all, everyone was asking if we were going to miss our summer, or complaining about how they wanted a little bit more global warming. So if it was colder than usual then, and it's hotter than usual today, then why is climate change, of all things, the assumption? It's weather! It changes quite frequently and fairly unpredictably, and it's done that ever since this planet has had an atmosphere. So why is it that people complain about global warming every day at 2 PM and complain about the lack of it at 2 AM? Public opinion polls are the worst possible thing to add to the mix of an issue where even the people who understand the issue can't agree.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005
A few things that seemed link-worthy:

First off, a buddy of mine runs a great event every summer just east of Toronto. It's called the Liberty Summer Seminar, and it's basically a weekend event with a bunch of assorted libertarian speakers. While I can't claim to be a fan of the venue(it's basically a camp-out on the guy's 40-acre backyard, and I'm the kind of guy who considers using a subpar Web browser to be "uncivilized"), it's definately a fun event if you're into that sort of thing. And the deals you get there are pretty good too - I got a nicely discounted Western Standard subscription($50 for a year), and a free Enjoy Capitalism T-shirt, in addition to a bunch of good food and the event itself. But in any case, if you're the sort of person who thinks you might enjoy this event, you will, and if you're in the Toronto area, give it a shot.

Second, I just found an intersting little political game online. It's called the Canada Government Simulator, and it's basically a forum-based simulation of Canadian politics. It's just starting up now, and it's currently in about 1996, though time runs greatly accelerated(1 month = 3 days). It's not large, but it does seem cool, and it's based on similar games from other countries, meaning that the rules are probably fairly well understood. I haven't seen it in action yet, so it may turn out to be crap, but I doubt it. I'm playing as Ron Wilson(yes, that's a Reagan refrence), in case you care.

Third, for any gamers out there who like real-time strategy, the greatest RTS of all time(Total Annihilation) is gettign a pseudo-sequel. It's called Supreme Commander, and it looks to be awesome like TA was awesome. The scale is mindbogglingly large, everything looks to be designed remarkably well, and there's plenty of the "Wow..." kind of units - flying aircraft carriers, anyone? Give the preview a look if you like that sort of thing, because it'll be freakin' sweet.

Saturday, July 23, 2005
Looks like somebody spilled some hot coffee
In case you haven't heard about the whole GTA San Andreas rating argument going around now, here's a good synopsis, and here's a good parody. Long story short, there's a mod out for the PC version of the game that unlocks a somewhat explicit sex minigame, and because of this, the game's rating has been changed form Mature to Adults Only, and it's been pulled of the shelves at some stores.

Now, don't get me wrong, there's a lot of software out there where discovering a sex game would be quite a shocker and would be worthy of controversy. But we're talking about Grand Theft Auto here - not only is this a game named after a major felony, but said crime is probably the least significant one you commit in the game. I've played a bit of various GTA games, and they were all murderous romps through cities - if you aren't killing a hundred people an hour, you're not really playing it. I know there's plot, and missions, and stuff like that, but the basic formula was 1) 'Jack a car, 2) Get mission to kill guy at Point B from guy at Point A, 3) Run over any pedestrians you find on the way from Point A to Point B(because it's fun), then kill guy at Point B, 4) Repeat. This is the game series that encouraged not only using the services of prostitutes, but killing them after you're done with them just so that you don't have to pay them. This is an exceedingly violent game, and anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows that it is not for the faint-hearted or anyone who isn't old enough to handle it.

So, if I may be so blunt, who the hell cares if you get to see some sexual imagery? We're not talking about hardcore porn here, from the sounds of it, it's about the sort of thing you'd see on late-night cable TV most nights. And given the context, this should almost be a *downgrade* to their ESRB rating - "Yeah, you kill lots of people and all, but the sex is just too weak to really earn that M. Killing hookers was great, but a bad attempt at softcore porn that you need a mod to get at? Into the Teen bin with you!". So what the hell is the big deal? Anyone who can handle the violence can handle the sex, and an M rating is about the right place for that.

Frankly, I don't even know what the AO rating is for. M is the 18+ rating, meaning that it should only be legal adults who have access to this software, and it encompasses just about anything. What ground is there to break after the M that justifies another rating classification? Anyone who is old enough to run around firing rockets at corpses in Unreal Tournament to watch the body explode, or try to figure out where to hit people to blow limbs off in Soldier of Fortune(by trial and error with a shotgun and a room full of enemies, of course), or to play a game of underworld crime that makes The Sopranos look like The Care Bears is old enough to be able to handle a human body without clothing. And after that, what's left under the "offensive content" category that would ever come up in a game? That's right, nothing. Quit treating adults as infants, and quit trying to subdivide the "Adult" category of the ratings system based on some ill-advised moral code that rates content for adults based on standards for children. An adult is an adult.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Racial profiling
I read the Toronto Star's editorial page every Saturday(their big-paper day), on the principle that it's always good to get some perspectives from the other side, and because my parents have a subscription to it already. Anyways, needless to say, this means that I come into contact with some ideas that I consider to be rather ill-advised. One of the worst of these is their stance on racial profiling by police officers.

To put it simply, their position is that it is unquestionably evil, and that if they could just get the stats to prove that it happens - because we all know it does, we just need to have numbers to wave at those racist jerks in the police force - then they could get a whole bunch of these evil cops fired and make sure that It Never Happens Again(and to think, they said the same thing after Hitler). But at the same time as they are opposed to ethnic groups being pulled over in any sort of numbers that are disproportionate to their numbers, they are vehemently opposed to the police actually tracking racial stats on who does the crime to defend themselves from these allegations.

In other words, they want us to believe for lack of evidence that crime is committed equally by all racial groups, and that the police are just being discriminatory when they pull over a disproportionate number of some groups. That said, we know that this is almost certainly not true. While we obviously don't have stats for Toronto, since anyone who tried to collect them would get tossed out on their ass, stats seem to indicate severe disproportions in who commits crime where they have been collected. I'm not going to analyze why this is the case, mostly because I don't have a damn clue, but I will use it as a hypothetical here.

Now, assume for the sake of argument that there are twice as many arrest warrants per capita out for members of the Elbonian community as there are for the Kerplakistani community(not twice as many warrants, just twice the rate). Now, a cop sees two cars that look suspicious driving by, one with an Elbonian driving, and the other with a Kerplakistani. All else being equal, which should he pull over if his goal is to catch criminals at the highest rate possible? That's right, Sherlock, you pull over the guy that's twice as likely to be a crook. I don't care whether the difference is 0.1% vs 0.2%, if you're engaging in a speculative search, or just choosing which of the 20-overs you'll be running the plates on, you pick the one who is more likely to be someone you want off the street. And if this results in a 5:1 ratio of pull-overs, so be it - the mathematical ideal here is 100% Elbonians, so getting closer to that means better results. There are, of course, practical considerations - when you see a car going 150 down a residential street, you don't look at the driver before you decide whether or not to give him a ticket - but it should be wholly unsurprising that the ratio is far in excess of their ratio among the general population. It's just proper tactics.

Now, I know that me saying this has to ring a bit hollow - "What does he know? A white guy isn't going to be pulled over on a DWB anytime soon" - but rest assured, I'd be saying the same thing if it was me that was going to be on the receiving end. Inconvenience is a small price to pay to clean up society.

Also, one other thing I'd like to make clear - I'm not saying that every cop on the face of the planet is a good person, and that none of them have ever abused their power. Any who have, and who are screwing people around just because they feel like it, deserve to be punished for their abuses. Furthermore, I'm not saying that the police force as a whole is definitely not racist either. All I'm saying here is that I'm skeptical that it stems mostly from abuse of power and systemic racism, because it could just be a result of the difference in crime rates(and that I wish there could actually be some data collected on that issue, just so that we'd know better what we were talking about. Information is not to be feared). We don't have enough data to tell much of anything for sure.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005
The Grewal Tapes
For those of you who haven't heard this, the tapes featuring hours of commentary between Gurmant Grewal, Tim Murphy, and Ujjal Dossanjh have now been released in their entirety. There isn't anything new here, per se - the Liberals wanted the Grewals onside, and Gurmant was stringing them along because he had the recorder - but it makes any denials from the Martin camp utterly ludicrous. It's rather obvious here that it wasn't something out of context or a fake, but was rather Murphy and Dossanjh attempting to bribe a pair of Conservative MPs into abstaining on the critical budget vote with patronage appointments.

Two things about this really disturb me. First off, I know that as much as this is really a big deal, the Canadian public probably won't care very much. It's sad, yes, but it's true - the Liberals have lowered the bar so far into the mud recently that this is actually what we've come to expect from them - this isn't a scandal, it's just incorporated into the Liberal brand. And what's worse is that the brand hasn't sffered much. I can post plenty about why this may have happened(actually, I've made some comments on that topic already), but the fact of the matter is that this action, which by all rights should be a major, government-destroying scandal, might cost the Libs 1% in the polls, if the CPC is lucky. That's not just pathetic, it's kinda horrifying to see how little we care. But then again, if you're reading my blog, you probably know exactly what I mean, so I'll shut up about this one.

The second thing that gets me about this is what it says for government efficiency. We have here over an hour of conversations, using up the time of the PM's Chief of Staff and the Minister of Health, neither of whom are people with much time to kill. And this time was spent conveying a one-line proposal - in exchange for abstentions, the Grewals would get high-level patronage appointments, probably one Senate spot and one diplomatic post. If it takes them an hour to do that, then is it any surprise that it takes them years to do anything that's even marginally useful or important?

Monday, May 23, 2005
Let's review...
Two weeks ago, Paul Martin lost the confidence of the House, but refused to hold an election, and refused to hold a confidence motion for more than a week. One week ago, he bribed an opposition member into switching sides to help support his government, and his immediate underlings are recorded trying to convince two others to do the same(as well as allegations of it happening to yet more opposition MP's). Today, he is still Prime Minister, and we are not in an election campaign. I know I'm not the only one who sees something wrong with this.

Our head of government is playing with tactics that belong in a third-world banana republic, and ones that have been used many a time by sham democracies. There aren't any soldiers in the polling booths, of course, and Harper and Duceppe are still free men, but Martin and crew are seeming pretty good at second-tier democracy-flaunting lately. The Parliamentary system has, as one of its main principles, the idea that the Prime Minister is the person who can maintain the confidence of the majority of the Members at all times, but we have just witnessed a Prime Minister retain his powers, against all conventions(and in this system, the conventions are above the laws), despite losing the confidence of the house. He simply ignored the vote. And he didn't do so because he had the confidence of the house at the time, he did it because, in his personal opinion, a clear confidence motion, almost identical to ones that have been taken as such in the past(and caused the fall of governments), didn't count. So, it appears that in addition to all the powers that the PMO has appropriated over the years, we now have the man running the country interpreting the rules of how the House runs. I hope that I don't need to explain the conflicts of interest here.

I can't say I'm particualrly surprised by this, however. Let's be honest - not only is holding onto power something that everyone wants to do, but he could do it and get away with it. Few people would be able to stop themselves in such a circumstance. The person whose conduct does embarass me as a Canadian, however, is Adrienne Clarkson. The position of Governor-General has never mattered very much - it's arguable that the greatest contribution made to Canada by the GG is the Stanley Cup. But the reason why we have a GG is for those situations that come up maybe once in a century where the political system breaks down and we need someone to step in and bring things back to where they should be. The last such situation was handled perfectly correctly by Byng in 1925, where he smacked down William Lyon Mackenzie King, who was attempting to push through an election when there were other members who may have been able to hold the confidence of the House(which, as it turned out, Meighen was capable of doing for about a week). But in this situation, Clarkson dropped the ball completely. The powers posessed by the GG, are, in the modern context, there only for situations like this, and if the GG isn't willing to step in and crack some skulls, then we've tied up some perfectly good real estate on Sussex for the last 80 years for nothing.

The correct response here, as far as I'm concerned, was pretty obvious. Tell Martin to call a blank confidence motion for the next day, and after a two-minute conversation where Harper denies the ability to form a government(mostly because he's not only incapable of it, he wouldn't if he could), dissolve Parliament and call an immediate election if Martin refuses to post the motion, or loses the vote. Instead, in the one situation in her lifetime where the position is good for anything other than pomp and formality, and she's sitting on her hands. For shame, Adrienne, for shame.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005
It's like Judas, but without the silver
In case you haven't heard, Parliament Hill Barbie is now wearing red, and has accepted the post of Minister of Human Resources. I don't think I actually need to say very much here, but I'm pissed, so I will anyways. First off, what kind of short-sighted imbecile would willingly cross the floor to a party that's going to get devastated in the next election? Second, what kind of spineless weasel would voluntarily join the Liberals, while knowing fullwell what they have done to the country? And third, how big of a power-grabbing political whore do you have to be to enter politics by running for leadership, start getting into the pants of the deputy leader about ten minutes after getting into the House with him, and then switch parties because you aren't getting to the top fast enough?

But despite all that, there's one other very bad aspect to this. Her defection will probably cost us a hell of a lot more than one Commons seat. She has actively said that this betrayal was based on the fact that she wants this budget to pass, and she has quite a lot of prominence and credibility among the swing voters who we will need to win over to win this election. She just legitimized the insane Liberal spending spree of recent weeks to that whole crowd - "If this budget is good enough to bring Belinda across the floor, maybe it's not so bad after all". Between that and the fact that they just got the numbers to survive a confidence motion, the next election will be held next winter, and the Liberals will win it, probably with a majority. Fuck.

Sunday, May 08, 2005
All hail our great and humane leader!
Isn't Canada so lucky to have a great humanitarian like Paul Martin running the country? People around the world know that when they're in the worst trouble of their lives, trying to avoid being torn to pieces by daily attacks, the Canadian Government, as run by Paul Martin, will send Canadian troops into harm's way, to give them the critical 153rd vote that they need to avoid utter oblivion. Wait, what's that you say? You mean we're helping a region that's seen hundreds of thousands of innocents get slaughtered while the world watched? Damn, it seems that this expedition might even have some nice secondary effects too!

Now, don't get me wrong - I'm fully supportive of sendoing Canadian troops to help the downtrodden peoples of the world. God knows it's something I wish we could do more often(though we all know the chances of that when the Liberals are in charge of the military's pursestrings). What sickens me about this decision isn't what was actually decided, it was the fact that Martin waited until he could get maximum political utility from this decision, instead of doing what was right when it was right. I understand that Kilgour's vote means a whole lot to Martin right now, given how finely balance the House is, but this nation should not be conducting its foreign policy for the sole purpose of bribing whichever independant MP is wavering lately.

Then again, I suppose it could be worse - Carolyn Parrish is still standing fully behind Martin, and not wavering. Imagine what kind of damage we could do to our realtionships with the US if she needed to be reined in...

Saturday, April 30, 2005
What the CPC needs to do
Needless to say, I've been watching the political climate in this country fairly closley in recent months. Most of the country has been, so it should be no surprise that a political geek like me has been as well. Also needless to say is the fact that I'm really liking the numbers that most of the polls are coming out with. When even the worst of them has us 1% ahead of the Liberals, that is a nicely positive sign. However, what worries me is the fact that the movement seems to have stopped, and may even be regressing. I don't know about anyone who may be reading, but I do know that I want a Conservative majority in the next election - no screwing around with another minority, just get the right crowd in there and let them clean up the plentiful supply of Liberal messes from the last 12 years - god knows it's time for it.

But like I said, the movement seems to have stopped, and I think the biggest problem is that the Conservatives are just riding the Gomery revalations, we aren't actually going out and trying to spread a vision. Gomery is a great thing for us, obviously, but it's not enough to win us a majority unless Martin is personally and severely implicated by it, and that seems quite unlikely. In order to turn a protest-vote minority into an actual majority, we should be out there trying to sell a vision for Canada, not just saying "Throw the bums out!", because that won't work well enough. What we need is to get a full platform out there as soon as we can - and not something incomplete, it needs to include actual numbers for spending and tax plans, so that we can't be accused of fiscal irresponsiblity like we were last time. It needs to focus more on things that matter, and less on things that the Reform crowd cares about, like poorly-thought-out democratic reform proposals(Did I ever mention how much I hate most of the democratic reform proposals that we threw out there last time?). Hell, I think you know as well as I what the platform should probably be - now let's just hope that we see it happen soon.

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