Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Twenty years ago

...Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity...
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
I was appalled when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 -- they were without UN Security Council support, without Canada or Mexico or France or Germany or most of the other countries of the world, who refused to support so-called "preventive" war.
America had lost their minds after 9/11 and too many of them seemed to think invading Iraq was the only way to show the Middle East that America was really the boss of the world. 
A million people died because of that terrible decision. 
And the only ones who appear to be ashamed about it today are the people who said it was immoral and a mistake in the first place. 
Thank heavens for the accident of history that kept Canada out of it - luckily, Chretien was getting ready to retire so he no longer cared about the politics of America or whether Britain thought he was cowardly. Chretien knew that regime-change was not a legitimate reason to start a war, and he said so, and he wanted to prevent pointless sacrifice of Canadian lives. 
Canada has never really thanked him enough for doing that, not the way we should have.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Today's News: Saskatchewan has created another cat party

A new provincial political party recently formed here, calling themselves the Sask United Party, which intends to out-conservative the existing Saskatchewan Party. 
Basically, I think its just another Cat party trying to pretend to be mice (see above for a video about Tommy Douglas' "Mouseland" analogy)
I also wonder if the Sask United Party is basically just another reflection of the urban-rural divide, which here in Saskatchewan has now become an abyss. Now, Saskatchewan is hardly Canada's urban hell-hole but even here, we get fear and resentment of our cities, as well as a certain amount of fetishization of rural life.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Today's News: Temper Tantrums

Here's how I see it: 
First of all, Canadian voters haven't turfed Trudeau in three elections and chances are they won't in the 2025 either. 
The opinion polls are back and forth a bit - and who knows now what might be an issue in BC and Quebec and the Maritimes in two years - but the Golden Horseshoe is basically still Liberal territory and likely to remain so.  The CPC and the small-c conservative media in Canada know this. 
So they thought maybe they could find some big scandal or controversy that would force Trudeau to resign. But its been seven years now and nothing has worked - not JWR and SNC-Lavalin, not the WE Charity, not the Convoy, not the Emergencies Act, not the Rouleau report. The smaller stuff they keep trashing at him is just silly (remember the Indian outfits? the family beach walk in Tofino? the blackface 20 years ago? the Star Wars socks?) 
So finally, they started thinking that maybe China China China could do it. 
But today they realized that ain't gonna happen. China China China is a problem for Elections Canada, CSIS, RCMP and Canadian political parties (both Liberal and Conservative) but the David Johnston report, whenever it comes out, likely won't tarnish Trudeau personally.
Cue today's temper tantrums. They really went crazy:

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Today's News: David Johnston to the rescue

I do keep wondering what, exactly, this China scandal is all about:
Now former governor general David Johnston is going to investigate and that's good -- maybe he can tell the rest of us exactly what is going on here, and whether a public inquiry is really the only way to sort it out.
But I think Poilievre already realizes Johnston's appointment will move the story off the front pages and there aren't going to be any "gotcha" revelations about Trudeau. So now he's trying his very best to discredit Johnston - and the CPC Flying Monkeys are desperately pushing to kibosh the appointment quick. Or likely they think it would be just as useful to see if they can discredit in advance any Johnston recommendations against a public inquiry.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Today's Random Stuff: Cats and Pigs and Politics

Its the weekend, so here we go with some random stuff from the lighter side. 
BBC News posted an very odd tweet about how the pandemic hadn't really affected anyone's mental health - and the internet immediately went nuts:
Next, here's a pig blowing bubbles and its just so righteous:

Friday, March 10, 2023

Today's News: Outstanding Support for Trans Rights

I thought this was outstanding: Because we don't get to choose the battle, we only get to choose our side. When people whose rights are under attack need us to stand up and be counted, then we all have to do that, just as Trudeau did. 
Of course he got criticized for it from the usual suspects - and he knew he would be - but he did it anyway.
Saskatoon City Council also stepped up yesterday:

Monday, March 06, 2023

Today's Random Stuff -- dogs, frogs, and physics

Dogs, bruh!

As seen on George Takai's substack:

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Today's News: "Being Woke" = "Being Kind"

My husband and I were talking tonight and he asked "Exactly what is 'Woke' anyway?" 
Hmm, good question.  Coincidentally, I have been reading some stuff just today about it, and here it is. 
First, a few cartoons I found about how crazy the anti-woke MAGA is getting:

But defining Woke isn't difficult -- here's a succinct tweet from Bob Rae that describes the definition pretty well:

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Today's Scene: An Inquiry If Necessary, but Not Necessarily An Inquiry

A batch of very good substacks this week. 
When it comes to the news of the day, the conclusion of the Canadian columnists I read is this: 
1. If China interfered in Canadian elections and the Liberals let them, then there needs to be an investigation and Trudeau would likely need to resign. 
2.  But the CSIS leaks so far seem to show just normal political activity by Chinese-Canadian Liberal supporters, whose political involvement should be applauded, not targeted.
3. So we should have an inquiry if necessary, but not necessarily an inquiry 
The commentary this week is too extensive to quote, but see Evan Scrimshaw here Foreign Interference and CSIS Leaks, and Dale Smith here Roundup: A smear to precede the report, and The Line here Emergency Dispatch: The China File, and Paul Wells here Things to do in Ottawa when you're not calling an inquiry into Chinese election interference 
For myself, I would add this point
4 Conservatives will lose the plot if they keep on trying to turn the China questions into just another partisan anti-Trudeau issue.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Today's Random Stuff

First, here's something I didn't know: Fascinating article in The Atlantic: The Puzzling Gap Between How Old You Are and How Old You Think You Are 
 ...It’s bizarre, if you think about it. Certainly most of us don’t believe ourselves to be shorter or taller than we actually are. We don’t think of ourselves as having smaller ears or longer noses or curlier hair. Most of us also know where our bodies are in space, what physiologists call “proprioception.” Yet we seem to have an awfully rough go of locating ourselves in time.... 
 ...adults over 40 perceive themselves to be, on average, about 20 percent younger than their actual age.
 ... viewing yourself as younger is a form of optimism, rather than denialism. It says that you envision many generative years ahead of you, that you will not be written off, that your future is not one long, dreary corridor of locked doors. 
Envisioning yourself as about 15 or 20 years younger seems to start when people are in their mid-40s and 50s, according to several studies. The author explains the possible reason: 
...I’m 53 in real life but suspended at 36 in my head, and if I stop my brain from doing its usual Tilt-A-Whirl for long enough, I land on the same explanation: At 36, I knew the broad contours of my life, but hadn’t yet filled them in....I was not yet on the gray turnpike of middle age, in other words. 
... Adolescence and emerging adulthood are times dense with firsts (first kiss, first time having sex, first love, first foray into the world without your parents’ watchful gaze); they are also times when our brains, for a variety of neuro­developmental reasons, are inclined to feel things more intensely, especially the devil’s buzz of a good, foolhardy risk. 
...adults have an outsize number of memories from the ages of about 15 to 25. They called this phenomenon “the reminiscence bump.” (This is generally used to explain why we’re so responsive to the music of our adolescence—­which in my case means my iPhone is loaded with a lot more Duran Duran songs than any dignified person should admit.) 
But not everyone wants to be younger, or thinks of themselves that way. The article ends with this anecdote: 
Recently, I wrote to Margaret Atwood, asking her how old she is in her head. In the few interactions I’ve had with her, she seems quite sanguine about aging. Her reply: 
 At 53 you worry about being old compared to younger people. At 83 you enjoy the moment, and time travel here and there in the past 8 decades. You don’t fret about seeming old, because hey, you really are old! You and your friends make Old jokes. You have more fun than at 53, in some ways. Wait, you’ll see! :) 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Today's News: Ukraine Strong

A year ago, Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. 
A year later, Ukraine still stands. 
There is lots of commentary today about how Ukraine did this -- Zelenskyy's brilliant leadership, the indominable spirt of Ukraine's people, the ineptitude and corruption of the Russian military, the unwavering and effective financial and military support from Biden, NATO, the EU, Poland, England, and Canada.
David Rothkoph has made a list of what has been learned from this war so far: 
...- While Ukraine has pleaded for fighter jets for a year, unmanned aircraft have stolen the show.... 
- “No Time for Sergeants” was once a TV hit in America. It has been a flop for the Russian army....
- Speaking of time, it’s time for traditional navies to realize their time will soon be up.... 
Poland is the new Germany. (And Estonia is the new France.)... 
- Vladimir Putin may be a madman, but at least he has the common sense not to want to be obliterated in a nuclear war with NATO.... 
- Speaking of Putin, stick a fork in him. He may not be quite done yet, but he will be soon… and besides if anyone deserves to have a fork stuck in him, it’s Putin.... 
- ...Ukraine’s masterful use of social media has played a major role in shaping global public opinion about the war... 
- Ukraine is already in the EU and NATO whether you (or Russia or Turkey) like it or not.... 
- With friends like Turkey, Israel, the global South and Elon Musk, who needs enemies?... 
- And the most important lesson of all is, as it will be for the remainder of this century, everything is always about China....
... the prospects of a Ukrainian winter offensive, once widely anticipated, are pretty much nil. There’s no reason to waste lives and material when heavy Western armor is on its way, while the U.S. drills Ukrainian commanders on combined arms operations in Germany’s training fields. 
Ukraine has gotten this far because it has always worked to undermine Russia’s logistics. It’s why they are screaming for longer-range rockets, to hit Russian ammo depots further behind enemy lines and force those supplies even further back. Ukraine’s success in shrinking the active front line is also its great challenge, as Russia squeezes more men into a smaller space. 
 But Ukraine won't win by killing 300,000 Russians. It will do so by cutting off their food and ammunition. Russia lost the war because of logistics, and Ukraine will win it for the same reason. 
Also at Daily Kos, check out Mark Sumner's useful month-by-month summary of the war's major events.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Today's News: "Home On Native Land"

Yes, "home on Native land" is exactly right. Some Canadians may be freaking out about this national anthem version at the NBA All-Star game, but I think it's perfectly justified: The Toronto Star reports on the background:
 ...In an interview with TSN reporter Kayla Grey, Black said she had reached out to Indigenous friends for feedback, and landed on this version of the song. 
Eva Jewell, the research director at Indigenous-led research centre Yellowhead Institute, said she was “heartened” to see her rendition. 
“Indigenous Peoples have been saying that line for decades actually — this is something that is known within our communities,” Jewell said. “So, to see Jully uplift that into the national anthem … it showed me that she has seen us, she understands us; she gets it.”
 ... Hearing it performed this way, though, is powerful, she said. 
 “I think that changing that word and being very explicit about settler colonialism is a pause for reflection amongst the Canadian public,” she said. “Too often, the Canadian state is normalized as just being a fact, and that small word change would call that into question and be really explicit about that pre-existing world of the Indigenous countries that were here before Canada violently stole our lands.”

Monday, February 20, 2023

Today's Funny Stuff: rounding up the tweets and substacks

I still love this cartoon, from a year ago. 

Here's one more great comment about the Rouleau report:
In yesterday's other news - that Globe and Mail piece about China trying to interfere with the 2021 election - Alison flags something that has been completely forgotten:

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Today's News: Justified

TL;DR In October, I wrote that I hoped the Public Order Emergency Commission looking into Trudeau's use of the Emergencies Act to shut down the FreeDumb Convoy Ottawa occupation and border blockades should answer five questions: 
1. Whose side were the police really on? 
2. Whose side are the media really on? 
3. Whose side is the public really on? 
4. Conservatives, WTF? 
5. Are the hearings going to be a clown show? 
Paging throgh the POEC Final Report released today, I wanted to see if any of these questions were considered, either directly or indirectly. 
Commissioner Paul Rouleau found that Ottawa police were inept and unprepared, but I haven't come across any discussion of whether some police were acting as Convoy supporters or enablers. I couldn't find discussion of how many Canadians actually supported what the FreeDumb Convoy was trying to do. Pandering to the Convoy by Conservative politicians isn't mentioned, even though it is noted that the Ford government dropped the ball.  Also not discussed is whether Canadian media gleefully embraced the Convoy initially because it was an embarassment to the Trudeau government. 
But at least Rouleau ensured that the hearings were not a clown show, though Ford refused to testify. 
One point that Commissioner Rouleau does make clear in the report is that the outrage at Canadian border vaccine requirements - the rationale for the Convoy's entire existance - was based on a lie. Maybe the truth will never be believed by the Freedumbers, but at least the truth is in the report:
...on October 12, 2021, the government of the United States announced [emphasis mine] that, starting in January 2022, all inbound foreign national travellers crossing United States land or ferry ports of entry would be required to be fully vaccinated. This included those travelling for essential purposes, including commercial trucking. Then, on November 18, 2021, Canada announced that its border rules would also change ... 
The effect of these new rules was that foreign truck drivers would be barred from entering Canada unless they were vaccinated. Canadian truckers, who have a constitutional right to enter Canada, would not be barred from entry. However, if unvaccinated, they would no longer be exempted from the requirement to quarantine, which would have a significant impact on their ability to engage in commercial trucking. 
In practice, they were more impacted by the American rules that barred them from entering that country entirely. However, as I mentioned earlier in this chapter, several protest leaders believed that the American authorities decided to impose their vaccination requirement only after Canada did so. 
This was not the case [emphasis mine] but does go some way to explaining why protesters may have focused their anger toward Canadian authorities and believed that a repeal of the Canadian requirements would have allowed unvaccinated truckers to continue cross-border work ...
Rouleau continues:
In some circles, “the trucker” became a symbol for hard-working Canadians who, despite their contributions to society, were having their lives and livelihoods upended by government COVID-19 regulations. 
This narrative was a contributing factor that helped to animate the Freedom Convoy.  
(Volume 2, page 98-99)

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Today's Scene: "What about the squirrels?"

One of the things I love about social media is that we keep finding "some guy" who knows an awful lot of great stuff.
For example, here is a Balloon Juice post with an outstanding discussion thread: Sunday Night Open Thread: Chatbot vs Jagoffs. The post discusses why jerk conservatives are getting mad at ChatGPT because they can't get it to say racial slurs and I can't even.... 
In the Comments, the discussion about Artificial Intelligence goes all over the place, but a reader who calls himself Carlo Graziani adds this thoughtful comment:
....ChatGPT is essentially never very far away from a crazy response, and relies on people not feeding it crazy prompts to appear as a sane interlocutor.
So now, the danger: at the moment it is easy to find the sense/nonsense boundary. But we could imagine a future ChatGPT version that has orders of magnitude more parameters, and is trained on vastly more, better-curated data, to the point that it is difficult to fool it into giving a pathological response. Question: has the sense/nonsense boundary been annihilated for such a system?
The correct answer is “duh, no.” The boundary has simply been made harder to find, even by experts. But it’s still there, waiting for the unwary to be led over it by the Chatbot. Which is guaranteed to happen, eventually, because the future is not like the past. The world is an ever-surprising place. ChatGPT’s heirs are bound to get tripped up eventually by a world that has drifted beyond their training data. Yet humans will trust the AI’s inferences, because it’s never made mistakes before.
The fact that such an AI customized for, say, air traffic control has simulated successfully landing billions of aircraft over the past 50 years using real ATC data is a terrible reason to trust it to run ATC unsupervised, because changing aeronautic technology and changing economics of air travel are extremely likely to produce situations that it’s never seen, and ought not “reason” about. But DL systems make overconfident decisions even with cases that in no way resemble their training.
Now, for “ATC”, substitute “surgery”. Or “war policy planning”. Or ” emergency management”. And imagine the consequences of falling off the cliff of bullshit, led on by your implicit trust in your “demonstrably” (“never been wrong before”) infallible AI.
That’s the real danger. The superficially anthropomorphic character and apparent oracularity of such systems make people forget that the future is a strange country which drifts away from the past, and that any system that cannot acknowledge that — as DL cannot — is doomed to fall off the cliff of bullshit sooner or later, taking anyone who places their faith in that system with it.
Another commenter soon replies:
I think I have a way of quickly finding the boundary.
Ask: “What about the squirrels?”
If it attempts to answer the question, it’s a bot.
If it says, “Huh?” it’s a human.