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Next POTUS · The numbers, considered carefully, make an Obama win look like a safer and safer bet. Herewith a Canadian spectator’s opinions as to why this is and why it’s a good thing ...
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On the Hill · Today I had a bunch of meetings in Washington, DC, only one of which I can talk about. The sun was up and the trees a riot of blossoms, and it was pleasant to walk around, which is what you mostly do there when you’re on government business. We got to meet briefly with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, and was I ever impressed. I suppose, given that her district includes San Jose, it’s not surprising that she’d be pretty tech-savvy, but even so. She’s generally on board with the notion that Open Standards float all boats, and she’s involved in a bunch of the hot issues where these apply: in particular, with voting law (think: Diebold) and the Library of Congress. A very Net-friendly politician ...
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Mountain · The left-hand side of North America has big mountains, many of them apt to erupt one of these centuries, at this time of year all snow-covered. This is one of them ...
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The Greatest Show on Earth · Here in Canada, American politics is a spectator sport; and this year our southern neighbors are putting on a terrific show. The Washington machinations get further and further into you-couldn’t-make-this-up territory. My favorite this week: apparently Republican supremo Ken Mehlman did sleazemeister Jack Abramoff a favor by getting a government lawyer fired for labor-policy reform efforts that were bothering Abramoff’s clients. Now, while this is an outstandingly clear instance of corruption and evil in action at the highest levels, it’s really nothing new; humanity is prone to corruption, large organizations (both public and private sector) are where it’s most profitable, and there will always be a certain amount going on. What pushed my weirdness-meter into overload on this one is that while the quid pro quo was mostly at a strategic level around large-scale campaign funding, in this particular case Abramoff also scored Mehlman a couple of U2 concert tickets. There’s just something about U2 tickets being used to bribe officials to resist labor-law reform that resonates in all the wrong places. And, for those who like to watch the show, I’m happy to report that Andy Tanenbaum’s Electoral Vote Predictor is back; its cheerily obsessive tracking of every credible poll in every state of the union will add some entertainment value to your daily feed scans.
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Political Wisdom · Like I’ve said before, I was in favor of taking down Saddam. But the crumbling tower of stinking lies used to sell the war, then the nauseating incompetent brutality with which it’s been pursued, have pushed the cost/benefit equation way negative. Today, on one of the TV shows, US Rep. John Murtha said: “The only solution to this is to redeploy. Let me tell you, the only people who want us in Iraq is Iran and al-Qaeda. I’ve talked to a top-level commander the other day, it was about two weeks ago, and he said China wants us there also. Why? Because we’re depleting our resources, our troop resources and our fiscal resources.” Sounds convincing to me.
 
Hockey and America · I managed to catch a few of the games in the just-completed World Junior Hockey Championship. If I’d been more organized I might have been able to go to some of them since they were right here in town, but hockey turns out to be excellent HDTV fare and it was terrific entertainment. While we won the final 5-0, that wasn’t fair to the Russians, who were a strong, fast, skilled team; they had at least as much talent as the Canadians. I think they were out-coached; plus our goalie Justin Pogge, whom nobody’d ever heard of before, went into brick-wall mode in the first third or so of the game, against a mere human there would have been two or three or more Russian goals. Anyhow, once you got past Canada and Russia, the other really good team in the tournament was the USA. And here’s what’s weird and disturbing: the mostly-Canadian audiences were actively cheering for anyone playing against the US, and occasionally booing the Americans. Granted, economically-literate Canadians are mad at the US for egregious NAFTA abuse, and we’re terrified of the consequences of our neighbor’s lunatic fiscal and trade deficits. And of course, from the mushy Canadian cultural centre, Dubya and the neotheocons seem like beings from an alien planet. While, like most Canadians, I disapprove of many actions of the current US administration, like most Canadians I also like most Americans. And it’s just moronic to take out political gripes on a bunch of eager, dedicated, young athletes. But having said that, if there were any doubt that the USA has a major public-relations problem, booing hockey fans a half-hour over the border should dispel it.
 
US Politics — Creepy · I see that in our southern neighbor, the President has promised to veto anti-torture legislation and the Vice-President is trying to get the CIA exempted from it. I hate jumping to conclusions, and I’m worried; I read a lot of news, and it makes me wonder whether the faction currently governing America is heavily populated with greedy vicious lying thieving sanctimonious underhanded heartless venial creeps. That is what the evidence suggests. But like I said, you wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions.
 
Callous, Inept, and Racist · That’s from the last paragraph of this remarkable first-person New Orleans narrative. The high-level recrimination dance has become predictably partisan, and I assume it will end when those in charge receive the usual Washington punishment. But the cops on the ground, once this is over can a whole bunch of them please be sent to jail? I’d never previously heard of Gretna, Louisiana but it’s going to go down in history as the place where the cops drive off refugees at gunpoint, then steal their food and water. [Update: Interesting meta-story. I originally linked to this story over at an Emergency Medical Services community site (the authors are both EMS workers). But then it vanished, as did the version at Craigslist. It turns out that the authors are, well, commies of the old school, and this apparently spooked the sites hosting the story. While commies have enhanced suspension-of-disbelief capability, they are not a priori liars, and now I see via Rogers Cadenhead that, class-struggle issues aside, the story is apparently true.]
 
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