Monday, September 29, 2008

Presidential Debate No.1

I’m sure I was only one small part of a huge majority of North Americans who watched the first of three presidential debates last Friday, put on by our friends to the south (the United States). I’ve been asked by some of my fellow Canadians why I bother and I think the answer is obvious. I am aware that I have no say whatsoever in what goes on south of the 49th (or in Alaska or Hawaii) but some of the things they get up to down there will definitely affect me. As the saying goes, “When the elephant farts, it ruins everybody’s day.” So I cooked up some escargot and some freedom-fries, cracked a chilled bottle of flavoured water and fired up the old boob-tube just to watch as Senator McCain repeated himself endlessly (yes, John. They called you ‘the Maverick’. We caught that the first hundred times you mentioned it), pretended that the war in Iraq had started in 2007 (apparently the lack of judgment that lead to the invasion in the first place doesn’t matter), and rambled on about nothing when he didn’t actually have a point to make (the Senator does this in interviews too when the questions cut too close for comfort. I call this being ‘Reaganesque’, although I have to admit that the Senator never did run to hide under a helicopters whirling blades so that he could pretend not to hear the questions, like President Reagan used to do. Good on you, John.) Unfortunately Senator McCain also stuck to the old “you voted against funding for the troops” argument that maybe worked about forty-years ago but which is now merely a sign of contempt towards the voters. Is there anybody out there who doesn’t understand that this was only one small part of the bill and everybody knows that if Senator Obama voted against it then there had to be something pretty repulsive on the same bill. Something you would vote for, John?

I thought that Senator Obama came across quite well. He had his facts at his fingertips, he countered every accusation that Senator McCain made, and he refrained from laughing at the sillier comments made by Senator McCain.

I had been thinking that this election would be another victory for the Republicans, and now I’m not so sure about that at all. The GOP has been misfiring pretty steadily this past while, while the Democrats are staying on target. Of course the current unpleasantness in the US domestic economy won’t be helping the governing Republicans at all, since they have spent the last eight years pretty much ignoring the economy anyway. I would have expected the pro-business Republicans to have done a better job economically, but there you go. Behaving like atypical tax and spend-like-a-drunken-sailor Republicans isn’t helping the cause at all.

Post-debate, and after some pretty sad on-the-spot analysis, I watched Bill Moyers Journal on PBS. Bill Moyers is one of the most intelligent journalists you will ever see, and easily ten-times smarter than anybody on Fox (sorry, that was a cheap shot). I suspect he leans a little towards the ‘liberal’ or ‘left’ side of the political spectrum but on the Journal, nobody gets a free ride (except maybe for Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, but everybody likes Jon) and he treats ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ equally respectfully. The post-debate interview was a rerun from last August with Andrew J Basevich who is a historian, an international relations expert, and a former Colonel in the US Army. He was talking about his latest book, The Limits Of Power: The End Of American Exceptionalism, (which I have not read, yet) and he came across as one of the most common sense, intelligent people I have ever heard. His views on the administration of President George W Bush, the war in Iraq and “supporting the troops”, and on the current version of US politics were bang on. I know this is only a first impression (that may change after I read his books) but he came across as having a considered wisdom that any politician I have seen or heard, north or south of the border, can only dream about.

Anyway… Humouroceros

PS: I am really looking forward to the vice-presidential debate set for this coming Thursday. Now no offense to Governor Palin, but when the Republicans chose her as Senator McCains running mate, they had to see this coming. What the hell were they thinking?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fox Rage

Our friends to the south (the United States) in particular the fine folks at Fox News have taken an exciting new direction in their constant battle against the annoying right of freedom of expression. What makes this latest initiative most exciting is the fact that the person they’re cracking the whip and shaking their fingers at is a Canadian. A Canadian who, by the way, works at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (AKA: the CBC) and lives in Canada. This person who has single-handedly managed to PO the entire Fox News organization is named Heather Mallick, and she dared to write an opinion piece posted to the CBC web-site on September 5, 2008 that was, to be generous, less than flattering about vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.

Now I’m pretty sure that this is not what got our friends at Fox all discombombulated (they are, after all, fair and balanced, or at least they used to be), since such things are an unfortunately expected part of the modern political landscape in times of election. The candidates all have to have thick skin and when you consider past presidential campaigns, anything said by Mallick was pretty tame. The thing that I (and I suspect, my good friends at Fox) object to are Mallick’s comments on Palin’s family, her husband, her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend. That stuff is totally offside. The candidates are free targets and take your best shot, but you do not aim at their families. (Watching the Fox coverage of this I was struck at just how tough the television regulations are in the United States. The Fox journalist I was watching, I missed her name, was not even allowed to use the term “pramface” on air as it would have been too disgusting for sensitive United Station ears. Wild.) The candidates families are off limits and Fox is totally aware of this and is rightfully disturbed by Mallick’s having written about them.

I recall years back when right-wing commentator Rush Limbaugh called President Bill Clinton’s daughter “the new White House dog”. No doubt they were as disgusted as I was at the time, wondering, as I did, what sort of a low-life, fat, drug addicted, coward Rush must be to say something like that about a young girl. They probably find it just as weird as I do that Limbaugh is still on the air, and with plenty of listeners, I understand. Obviously these are people who agree with Mallick and Limbaugh that politicians children are fair game. Sick.

I am also reminded of a joke told by then senator John McCain at a 2000 Republican senate fund-raiser, about (again) President Clinton’s daughter (what is it with these freaks, going after a young girl all the time. Calling someone who would do something like this a hero really cheapens the term ‘hero’). I assume that the Republicans in the audience that night laughed at this joke at a young girl’s expense and what a wonderful bunch of “pro-family” folks they must be. That is, if “pro-family” means “hypocrite”. I’m not going to repeat the joke here but it was bad enough that McCain had to call the president and apologize. I don’t know what Fox had to say about either of these incidents but it had to be pretty hard hitting, I would expect nothing less. Good on you, Fox.

Anyway… Humouroceros

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Our friends to the south (the United States), particularly the Republican political party (AKA: the GOP – the Grand Old Party) have lucked onto a potentially winning for the upcoming presidential election this coming November. There are those who call what is happening ‘the Palin effect’ after the Republican vice-presidential candidate, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. Personally I find it hard to believe that the GOP actually had the foresight to see that the choice of someone like Governor Palin (youngish, good looking, hardcore right-wing) would pump life back into the old party, but nothing else makes sense. I just can’t bring myself to believe that the response to Governor Palin’s choice wasn’t expected and even looked for because they must have understood the chance they were taking. Considering all the noise they have been making regarding Senator Barrack Obama’s inexperience with US foreign policy, bringing in a vice-president candidate with an equal (where ‘equal’ = ‘zip’) amount of foreign policy experience was a pretty gutsy move.

It could be seen as a cynical attempt to attract younger people to the Republican party, and I’m sure that the rumours that they had been planning to change their party nick-name from the GOP to the GROWPP (the Grand Really Old White Person’s Party) are probably untrue (although as a new name it would fit pretty good.) The Republicans have always seemed to be stuck in the conservative side of the nineteen sixties, maybe not quite Archie Bunker, but a better-dressed version perhaps. The wilder, looser members of the party would be a Hugh Hefner type of hipster, loaded down with gold chains and white leather belts. Not a pretty picture by anybody’s lights but then along comes Governor Palin in her red “power” suit and now the game has changed.

One political show I was watching said that having Governor Palin along on a speaking engagement with Senator McCain could double the size of the crowd. Everybody wants to see the chick who whacks moose (uh… Palin) and nobody wants to see the guy who may be the next president (that would be Senator McCain)(d’uh!) That’s just weird. Especially when you consider that one of her main topics of conversation (when she’s not pretending to be Ann Coulter) is that she is really just a hockey-mom from Alaska. Now I’ve known a few hockey-moms in my time (I am, after all, Canadian) and there is not one who I would want to be a heartbeat (or a cancer cell) away from being the most powerful person in the history of the world (the President of the United States)(d’uh again). Screaming in the stands and shaking a rattle made from a pop bottle filled with popcorn is not good training for political office. In fact the only thing worse than a hockey-mom for president would be a hockey-dad. Most of those guys are loons.

The guys running in Canada (for Prime Minister) would probably like to take a page from the Republican playbook in this regard (the Conservatives would probably like just to use the Republican playbook and be done with it). Unfortunately there is no such thing as a vice-Prime Minister so all that we Canadians have to look at is the party leaders. Dull and Duller (Conservative Harper and Liberal Dion) and then the lesser Dulls like the leader of the New Democratic Party (Layton who looks like a younger, more fit Lenin), the leader of the Green Party (whose name escapes me but be assured, she is dull), and the little mutt from the Bloque Quebecois (who is a dull jerk. He once fired a campaign bus driver for missing a turn and getting lost. Obviously a man of the people.) This is the Canadian setup.

Of course they are only the party leaders and we don’t vote for them. We vote for the local person and whichever party wins the most seats then the leader of that party is the Prime Minister (this is basic Canadian politics. About as basic as you can get.) The local people are about as dull as the leaders though, so it doesn’t matter.

Anyway… Humouroceros

Sunday, September 14, 2008

September and October

Here's a thought: why is it that 'September' and 'October' are the ninth and tenth months respectively when everybody knows that the 'sept' and 'oct' prefixes mean 'seven' and 'eight' respectively? I'm sure that we have all heard the stories about how way back when the Romans were all over the place, having orgies and whatnot, the first Emperor, Julius Caesar, wanted his name remembered forever (apparently being the first Emperor of Rome and slaughtering a truckload of Gauls wasn't quite enough to ensure this. Well, it was a different time.)

The callendar of the time must have only had ten months in it so Julius figured that with a little bit of shuffling he could wedge another one in there. Next thing you know the Roman calandar has a shiney new month stuffed in between June and September, and in a fit of humbleness Julius called it July.

Well the years pass and poor old Julius gets whacked in the Roman Forum and his nephew Gaius follows in his footsteps, becoming Emperor number two, which is good work if you can get it (by the way, Julius's real first name was Gaius too). Gaius takes the name Augustus and one day while taking care of the Empires business (which probably involve a ton of scroll-work) he looks up and notices a calandar with "July" on it. "What the crap," he says. "If old Julius could do that, so can I!" (sorry about the profanity but the Romans were a rougher crowd than most of us are used to). Before you could say "send over a couple of gladiators and a hungry lion" there is another new month for the calandar makers to deal with, and as with Julius, Augustus named the month after his own bad self, thus August. And just as Augustus followed Julius now August followed July. Sweet.

So is this story true? Millions of years ago (thousands really) did the year have ten rather than twelve months? I'd have to do some research on that but it's election time again so I don't feel like it.

Anyway... Humouroceros

Julius Caesar - "Big Julie"

Caesar Augustus - "Augie"

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Bible as fact (?)

I was surfing the net the other day and I came across the statistic that 63% of our friends to the south (in the United States) believe in the literal truth of the Bible (Rasmussen Reports - April 21 - 22, 2005 survey of 1000 adults). This is an opinion that I have heard before from both people I know personally and from "celebrities" of one stripe or another, and that is fine. Anyone can have whatever beliefs they want. I think we call that freedom or some such thing, or at least we used to. I figure that as long as someone doesn't believe they have the right to cause somebody else harm then fly at 'er (I understand that this can be a slippery slope because there are always going to be those out there who will claim that any idea that offends them is causing them harm. These people should grow the heck up. Please. Really.)

With a little bit of imagination this brings us back to the literal belief in the Bible thing, if we ever left it that is. Back in the long ago (what a great phrase) we used to have Bible readings in school every morning. I remember being appalled by the Genesis story of Abraham and Isaac. As everyone knows Isaac was the son of Abraham. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and Abraham, instead of asking, "What are You, friggin' nuts?!" says, "Yezz, Boss," and leads his trusting son up Mount Moriah. He ties Isaac to a stone alter, pulls out his knife and just as he's about to start hacking away an angel appears and says, "Holdeth thee on there. Don'test do it. Slasheth thee not atest thy son for it wath only a testeth!" (or words to that effect). Abraham says, "Yup-yo", and upon finding a sheep conveniently tangled in a nearby thicket, sacrifices the sheep instead of his son.

As I understand it Christians view this story as one of faith and obedience. My own view is somewhat less generous but my point, such as it is, is this: people who believe the Bible is literally true must be okay with the "facts" of this story. So what would they do in the following circumstance? One of them is out on his or her back deck enjoying a nice morning coffee. They notice that their neighbour, a devout man of faith, has tied his son to a walnut tree and is about to cut his throat with a knife. Now as anyone would our protagonists first act would be to run over and stop his neighbour, but then his neighbour says, "God has commanded me to do this." What's a good Bible believing fellow to do?

The logical and common sensical thing to do is yell, "You're wacked, buddy!", grab the knife, cold-cock the nut with the hilt and call in the funny-farm squad. Unfortunately too much of religion has nothing to do with logic or common sense. It seems that what the bible believing fellow should do, according to his beliefs, is as there is precident for this sort of thing (remember Abraham and Isaac) , he should just stand back far enough so as to not get any blood on him. Now, is that blasphemy? I don't see how it could be. If someone who is a devout and faithfull person, then how can another believer not believe him when the first person says that god has spoken to him? What if one of Abraham's neighbours had followed him and Isaac up the mountain (or 'mount') and then yanked the knife out of his hand before the angel had showed up? How would the angel have reacted if s/he had appeared and found Abraham and one of his neighbours rolling around on the ground together fighting over a knife? Would s/he have smitten the snot out of the neighbour for trying to do the right thing, or would they have just rescheduled the testing of Abraham?

In any event, this is the sort of thing I wonder about when somebody says they believe the Bible is literally true. As I said, it is totally their right to believe that but I wonder if they believe it is my right not to? At least, without some cheezy little insult thrown in, like: "I guess you're just not ready to accept the Lord into your life", or something along those lines. Yeah, whatever.

Anyway... Humouroceros

PS: the painting is by Laurent de la Hyre from about 1650.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Ha! I suppose that all those nay-sayers and self-hating Canadians out there who moan about how exciting US politics are and how dreadfully dull Canadian politics are are now talking out of the other sides of their bodies. Here it is only a couple of days into the Federal election campaign and we have already been tagged with controversy number one.

In what will probably eventually be called (unfortunately) “puffin-gate”, the federal Conservative party issued a campaign ad showing the Liberal leader, Stephane Dion, being pooped on by a low-flying puffin (see above). After Liberal supporters complained, the Conservatives pulled the ad, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper admitting the entire episode had been a “mistake” and kind of “low-brow”. Mr. Dion commented that this sort of thing was to be expected since the Conservatives were a bunch of dinks anyway.

In a way this sort of tells you everything you need to know about Canadian politics. Our friends to the south (the United States) are arguing over who is soft on defense and who is going to allow the terrorist hoards (since the Communist hoards have somehow faded away) into the US to slaughter the innocent and drive taxis. In Canada there is a cartoon puffin pooping on a guy in a suit. On one hand it is all kind of embarrassing, but on the other hand I have to wonder; which is more childish? The amplified pissing contest going on south of the 49th, or the silly cartoons being shown up here? Politics as usual, indeed.

Anyway… Humouroceros

A close up of the offending puffin

A real close up of the offending puffin

An even closer look at the offending puffin

How the ad should probably really look

Monday, September 08, 2008

The silly season

Political silliness in North America just became a smidgeon sillier with the announcement that there was to be a federal election in Canada on October 14 of this year. Canadian Prime Minister, the right honourable big Steven Harper is feeling his oats and figures it’s time to get rid of this darn old minority government thingy and go for the gusto. It started out with Steve being all coy (he is, after all, Canadian), spending some nice afternoons with the other political party leaders, sipping tea and eating Tim-bitsâ and talking about this and that. The last meeting he had was with the leader of the official opposition, the right honourable Stephane Dion. Steve and Steph only met for about twenty minutes or so before Steph scampered off to chat with the press corps (known as the corpse du presse in Stephane’s home town). S.D. said that S.H. asked for the oppositions total support for the next nine months, and S.D., with a typical French-Canadian shrug said that such a thing was “impossablé” and “not very damn likely”.
Of course P.M. Harper had no choice but to call an election since the opposition was being so unreasonable. “I cant work under these circumstances,” commented the P.M. “It’s like I don’t even know him any more.”

So, nothing for it but time to call an election and come October 14, 2008 many of us Canadians will be trudging off to the polls to fulfill our democratic duty (I say “many” because although all are invited, not everybody shows up). As usual it will involve voting for the least worse of a the usual bunch. Actually the really sad part is that on October 15th there is a real possibility that nothing will have changed very much. We will probably have the same minority Conservative government that we have now only now there’ll be several millions of dollars that will have been flushed away to sleep with the fishes. Bye, bye, dollarses.

Politically-wise (if I can use those two words together) the zaniness is in full swing for our friends to the south (the United States) as well, only it takes them a lot longer to choose a leader. Of course it makes sense that it would take them longer to get things decided down there as the population is roughly 10X that of Canada, they claim to be about 35X as religious as Canadians are in general (there is some question as to the authenticity of their relignicity but I’m not touching that with a three metre pole. Not today anyway), and on a good day they’re about 100X as likely as Canadians are to invade another country just for the shear hell of it.

Everybody’s favourite Republican, Senator John McCain (AKA: Cracker, McBush or, Governor Sarah Palin’s newest best friend) has chosen a hottie to be his running mate because she’s Conservative, she can field-strip a moose in under ten minutes, and he likes younger chicks. Senator McCain has said that he will be doing politics different from how they’ve been done before and will reach out to the other party once he is president, to get things done. Things will not be done the same old way, he assures his fellow United Stations. He then goes on to describe what a pack of cowards and traitors the Democrats are and how if they (the Democrats) win in November then it will be ‘Big-brother goes to Washington’ and “the terrorists” will be knocking at the door (the Republican vision of the Democratic vision is of your average poor United Station sitting at home staring at the space on the wall where the hand-gun used to hang, wondering why their children are being taught to abort children and become homosexual in school). Now if that’s not reaching out to the other party I don’t know what is. Why insinuating that the other party will bring in bigger, more intrusive government and reduce your civil and privacy rights, isn’t that like sending hugs and kisses? Of course the Republicans support illegal wire-tapping of US citizens and a domestic economy that is heading down the drain faster than greased water, or is saying that defeatist and supporting the terrorists? Oh well.

Senator Obama (also known as “the Democrats presidential candidate”) has taken the high road in this campaign, refusing to play “politics as usual”. It’s true that some see his choice of Senator Joseph Biden as a running mate to be a cynical political move, but I am forced to say that that thought is just plain crazy-talk. How could a rich, old, white guy possibly attract votes? Like, when’s the last time a rich, old, white guy won the presidency? People should think before they say those sorts of things.

Anyway… Humouroceros

Saturday, September 06, 2008


Word around the water-cooler is that it’s not just geeks using the word ‘frak’ any more. Frak, for that .00001% of the population who don’t know, a cuss word created by Glen Larson for the TV show Battlestar Galactica way back in the 1970’s (the original spelling was ‘frack’ but this has been reimagined as “frak” for the new Battlestar Galactica TV series, possibly to make it more obviously into a four-letter word(?)). The intent was to have what everybody would recognize as a swear that could be used on family viewing television and if translated into English it would be ‘fudge’ or, if one were being particularly grumpy, ‘fiddlesticks’.

Frak was about the coolest word created by Mr. Larson, much better than the unwieldy ‘feldercarb’ and way less annoying than ‘centon’, ‘cubit’, or ‘dagget’, and I’m glad to see that it is finally entering popular vocabulary. In fact, I myself fully intend to use it more than I have been up to now, and I’ll be using the newer and tighter spelling as well.

Unfortunately I will probably be curtailing my use of the Klingon word, ‘Qapla’!’ (success!). It’s been twenty years or so and it just doesn’t seem to be catching on. I don’t understand that at all.

Anyway… Humouroceros

Friday, September 05, 2008


Lots of stuff in the news lately about this Alaskan chick, AKA: Governor Sarah Palin, chosen by old man McCain as his vice-presidential running mate. Now my opinion regarding the antics of our friends to the south (the United States) tend to be neutral. They can get up to what they want to (what would be the point of being a superpower otherwise?) and the rest of us can pick up the pieces afterwards. That is how it is so let’s just stop worrying and get on with it.

Back to Governor Palin though. It seems that all to often when she is mentioned in the news, the fact that she is the mother of five has to be mentioned as well. It made me wonder, how many kids does Obama’s running mate, Senator Joe Biden (D – Delaware) have (that he knows of, heh, heh, heh). Oddly enough, that never seems to come up. Is he like a hockey mom too? Inquiring minds want to know.

Anyway… Humouroceros

PS: It’s a story that the liberal media has seemingly missed completely, but what is the relationship betwixt Alaskan Governor Palin and Michael Palin of “Around the World in Eighty Days” and “Monty Python” fame? I have noticed that there are no photos of the two of them together so the most logical and reasonable question is: are they one and the same person? Personally (and I know I’m stepping out on a limb here) I suspect that they are not the same person for the following reasons; A) He is an English comedian and writer, and 2) she shoots moose.

Caveat emptore.

Michael Palin - English comedian and writer

Sarah Palin - she whacks moose

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


I just finished Un-Spun by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson and it is excellent. When I first got it I was expecting a liberal tirade against the conservative right (which is a game I enjoy but it does get tiresome, Al Franken and Mike Moore notwithstanding) and was quite happy to find just how unbiased it is. The authors are willing to name names when discussing certain bits of information and while there are no footnotes (or endnotes) there is generally enough information in the chapters themselves that if you want to check out things for yourself you can (and I do). I have used Snopes and other urban legend sites for a while now and have added to my (heh, hee) slowly growing list of fact checking sites.

If I had to complain about anything in the book it would be a little story they play out on pages 85 - 87 where they discuss something they have named "the Grey Goose Effect". Essentially this is about the belief that if something costs more it must automatically be worth more, or "better". Anybody who is actually paying attention will know that this is just plain wrong, but that's not what I'm complaining about, or whining about if you prefer. The example they use here is a French vodka called Grey Goose which was introduced to the United States in 1997 at a cost that was about three times what your average jug of vodka cost at the time. People were buying this stuff hand over fist and to some it resembled the Cabbage Patch doll frenzy of all those years ago.
Their comment was, " is hard to see how one vodka can be three times better than another on any objective basis." This comment was responded to by one of their editors who said that "Expensive vodkas are significantly smoother than cheap ones, which taste like rubbing alcohol." I assume that expensive ones just taste like smooth rubbing alcohol, but my point, such as it is, is this: I do not drink vodka and I wouldn't know the difference between Skyy, Grey Goose, Smirnoff, or Who-forgot-to-flush vodka and I suspect that neither would either of the authors. So shouldn't the word of a vodka drinker carry some weight?

That aside though, this book is well worth owning. And reading.

Anyway... Humouroceros