Monday 29 November 2010

Wikileak: we're all going to die!

I question the public good that comes from revealing that a U.S. diplomat referred to Kim Jong-Il as a "flabby old chap". It could have been worse, mind you. Like maybe "crazy near-sighted dwarf" or something like that. I'm sure all diplomats do it, but mostly only the American ones (oh those rude Americans) are being exposed by Wikileaks , which is problematic for the U.S.

Nevertheless, there is some interesting stuff in there, like the fact that Israel is going to declare war against Iran in the next month. It's true! See:
Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, told American congressmen in June 2009 there was a window of "between six and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable".
Let's see ... June 2009 plus 18 months is ... December 2010! Fasten your seat belts boys and girls, there's gonna be a big ol' dust-up in the middle east! Well, another big ol' dust-up.

Other cables indicated that Iran was getting missile parts from North Korea via China. Both former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and current SoS Hillary Clinton have repeatedly urged China to stop the shipments, and have done so with complete futility. This just impresses on the reader how powerless the U.S. has become in the world in some respects. The U.S. has absolutely no leverage with China.

When you put these and other cables together a picture develops of a complicated situation where China is helping to arm Iran, and the U.S. is helping to arm Israel, and the two are on a deadly collision course. And that's just the start of it. Dozens of other countries are involved in one way or another.

Maybe there is a noble purpose in releasing all of these documents, but I think most people would probably be better off living in blissful ignorance. From now on it's nothing but reality TV and YouTube for me. What channel is Jersey Shore on?

Thursday 25 November 2010

Jon's great adventure

Jon Montgomery, Manitoba's own beer swilling Olympic gold medalist, had a good summer. He was flown all over the world by companies that wanted him to give a motivational talk to their employees, or cut a ribbon, or pose for a picture; and in the process he swam with great white sharks, golfed with Retief Goosen, travelled to Africa with Right To Play, and got engaged to his girlfriend Darla while vacationing on a tropical island.

He did more in one summer than I have in all of my summers combined. Somewhere in that whirlwind "off" season he cobbled together six days to film a television pilot for the Discovery Channel: Best. Trip. Ever. Here's a preview:

Go to the website to view bonus video and other features, but more importantly set your PVR to the Discovery Channel, Saturday at 6:00 pm ... because I know the kind of people who read this blog have way too much going on Saturday nights to watch TV.

(also on at 10:00 PM, according to the Discovery schedule.)

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Hugh McFadyen should sue Greg Selinger

Why not? I probably would if I were him.

I'm refering to the negative campaign ads that the NDP is airing on TV, and now appearing in your mailbox as well. Pretty soon there will be billboards too:

Negative ad campaigns are standard operating procedure in politics now, and to some degree people expect a level of exaggeration or half truths. That doesn't make it right, but that's the way it goes. That said, you have to draw a line somewhere unless you want to end up with swift-boat style ads dominating political campaigns.

The TV ads say "We know McFadyen would overturn water protection laws and allow e-coli and urine to pollute our rivers and lakes." Bruce Owen has already wrote about this in the Free Press:

For the record, all he’s said is that the province could save $350 million by backing off its plan to require the City of Winnipeg to remove nitrogen from its wastewater. Phosphorus should be removed, but removing nitrogen too would have a negligible effect, he says. A bunch of scientists say the same thing.
Not to mention that there is already e-coli and urine polluting our rivers and lakes.

To what degree can you bend the truth in a political ad? Does there have to be at least a half truth? A shred of truth? A nugget? A photon? In civil law, the standard would certainly be set above "photon".

The Criminal Code says that defamatory libel "is matter published, without lawful justification or excuse, that is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person or concerning whom it is published." I would say that the NDP ad fits that description quite well.

A valid defense against a charge of defamatory libel is truth. If what you're saying is true then you're off the hook. What the NDP ads say certainly is not. Not by any standard that would be recognized by the courts. I just don't see how McFadyen would lose if he chose to sue Selinger and the NDP for libel. That is, unless he had the misfortune of running into an NDP-friendly judge. Then it could back-fire on him in a big way.

That's risk no. 1. Risk no. 2 is that the public will view him as a pansy-ass whiner who can't take the heat of politics. Thus if he were to sue the NDP, he should do it on the down-low. Don't say anything about it publicly. Somebody will notice (probably a blogger with too much time on their hands) and it will come out with a splash. When asked about it, Hugh can play it cool and simply comment that there was no truth to the "fact" portrayed in the ads. That way he gets to confront the ads in a manner that is not forced or desperate.

The upside is huge. (Or "Hughe" in this case. Ha! See what I did there? With the "h"? You know, cause McFadyen's name is "Hugh, and um ... ya anyhow ...) Right, upside no. 1: the big kerfuffle about the untruthiness of the NDP ad will put a spotlight on the integrity of the NDP and call into question the factualness of everything else they have said.

Upside no. 2: it will bring the issue of the Water Protection Act into the front pages. The newspapers will be forced to explain what exactly Hugh called for in his press release, which will provide another opportunity to expose the collosal waste of money of removing nitrogen from the water.

Upside no. 3: should Hugh win, it could be for a substantial amount of money which could really hurt the bank balance of the NDP. The NDP could even be bankrupted if the stars aligned properly for the PCs. More than likely it would be settled out of court for some mutually agreed sum, but whatever that sum it still amounts to the NDP fundraising for the PC party.

Upside no. 4: ads are bound to be more truthful in the future.

techincal note: I don't know if a defamatory TV ad would consitute libel or slander. Libel is written, slander is spoken. TV ads are spoken, but they are read off a script, thus I am assuming libel would be the charge.

Monday 22 November 2010

For sale: svchost.exe virus. Excellent condition!

Blogging is a little bit like working out. It's hard to get to the gym, but after a couple of workouts you can feel it in your muscles and it makes you want to go back and work out some more. With blogging, you get the feedback from the hits and the comments and so on, and it makes you want to post more. But when you fall out of it, you kinda lose that motivation a little bit. Or at least I do. Maybe it's a post-civic election slump. Post electoral depression. It's been a week since I've posted .. which isn't much .. but I've already lost that blogging mojo.

Work got in the way last week, as well as viruses. Computer viruses. Nasty ones. Ones that my virus program can't clean and that keep coming back like that damned cat.

They're sneaky little devils. They take on the same names as legitimate windows executables: svchost.exe, shell.exe, dwm.exe, etc.. except they locate themselves in the application data of your windows profile, and other places they're not supposed to be. You can delete them, but then seconds later they're back. My Trend Micro would usually block them, but that meant a warning box was popping up literally every 3 or 4 seconds saying that something was blocked, and then another window would pop up saying svchost.exe failed to initialize.

That's annoying.

I would run my virus scan, and it did catch and quarantine a few of them, but not all. And it can't clean the quarantined files either. I tired manually deleting the bad files from safe mode, but that works for all of 18 nanoseconds. I tried running Spybot Serach & Destroy, but it mostly finds bad cookies and that sort of thing. It might have helped a little. Then I ran the CCleaner registry cleaner in the hope of cleaning whatever registry entries were causing these stupid little things to keep coming back. Then I tried Combofix. Then I tried running Trend Micro from safe mode.

Then I rebooted and I still had the Goddamned viruses.

Then I turned to the internet. Not very helpful. A bunch of sites try to get you to buy their phony product with phony reviews ("I downloaded it and now everything is perfect!") when the program you're downloading is probably loaded with more viruses than a refugee ship from Burma. There are also some sites that tell you to clean them manually by deleting autorun.ini and other files from your System32 directory, and then going into Regedit and deleting a bunch of lines in there.

Uhm. No. You first.

I finally got rid of them (I think ... mostly ...) using an internet scanner from Trend Micro called Housecall. Seemed to work well. Which makes me wonder why the Trend Micro program on my computer that I pay for can't do the same thing.

So that was my weekend. Thanks for humouring me, as I attempt to get back into the blogging groove by sharing my problems with the world.

Monday 15 November 2010

Free: F35 stealth fighters

alternate title: Foreign Policy: It's not really his thing

I had a "holy shit" moment reading The Economist on-line today during my coffee break. The story was one that initially appeared to be a good news story about Israel re-freezing development in the West Bank.
“I think it is promising,” Mr Obama told reporters aboard Air Force One. “I commend Prime Minister Netanyahu for taking, I think, a very constructive step. It’s not easy for him to do, but I think it’s a signal that he is serious.”
This is indeed very promising ... and surprising coming from Netanyahu. I wonder what motivated him to do this? Maybe he was visited by a ghost in his dreams that showed him the toll that unending conflict with the Palestinians would have on the Israeli people. Or maybe it was something else:
Under this new deal, Israel will agree to a 90-day re-freeze in return for a generous package of military and diplomatic goodies from America. These include an additional 20 F-35 stealth fighters, worth $3 billion, to be added at America's expense to the original 20 ordered by Israel.
(emphasis added by me, to indicate when the "holy shit" moment occurred.)

And here in Canada we have to pay for our F35s. With money. Hey ... if we build a settlement on Hans Island, do you suppose ....

3 billion dollars of jet fighters to freeze development for 90 days -- less than three months. Jet fighters.

The Economist says that it would be hard for Netanyahu "to backslide now that the president had publicly announced the accord." Uh. I guess not. Why would he want to? He's getting a fleet of brand new stealth fighters and a bunch of other stuff for free, and all he has to do is give the construction workers an extra long Hanukkah break. It's not the President's influence that is responsible for the freeze, but the billions of dollars in bribes.

American diplomats say "they hope that by then the two parties will have agreed on the borders of the future Palestinian state, so that further argument over the settlements will be unnecessary." I think Obama and his advisors have gone mad. The likelihood of that magically happening over the next three months after decades of failed attempts, is about the same as the chances of Hugo Chavez privatizing Venezuela postal delivery.

Obama, by gambling billions of dollars on this unlikely scenario (in spite of the massive fiscal deficit he faces at home) appears extremely desperate to live up to the quasi-success that some of his predecessors had in middle-east peace broking. If not that, then the desperation comes from trying to earn ex post facto the Nobel Peace Prize that he was awarded last year ... and he's trying to do it by giving away jet fighters.

Friday 12 November 2010

Alternative Media: sign in the little box

The alternative media is under attack. First Marginalized Action Dinosaur was threatened with a lawsuit and shut down by his ISP, then Waverley West and Beyond abruptly vanished after writing about apparent conflicts of interest, and finally the irreverent Marty Gold and his Great Canadian Talk Show were kneecapped by CreComm Radio Inc. Who got to you CreComm? WHO GOT TO YOU???

But Anybody Want A Peanut? will not be intimidated. We will not back down, damn the consequences. We will continue to expose the injustice and corruption in the world; and explore the issues that the MSM will not. Issues like: why are the signature strips on credit cards so small?

I mean, seriously. I get this new credit card in the mail the other day, and the first thing you're supposed to do is sign it, but all they give you is this tiny little box that's less than half an inch tall.

Who has a signature like that? I certainly don't. I'm not going to show you my signature, but it's about the same size and shape as this:
which does not fit well in the box:

In order to get it to fit, I have to carefully micro-size it so much that doesn't even look like my signature anymore. To make matters worse, the hard little strip almost repels the ink from my ball-point pen so all I end up with is a tiny thin faded little scribble that doesn't resemble at all the bold and assertive scribble that is my real signature. And that's on day 1. By day 300 I have already had to re-sign my credit card so many times that all you can see is a smeared multi-colour strip of abstract line art.

I can't be the only one. I know that Michelle Wie's autograph is similar in shape to mine, but what about back in the days when people used to write their entire names in their signatures. They must have had a hard time dealing with these shallow boxes too. But where can I find some old signatures ... Hmmm... How about the Declaration of Independence? What if the Founding Fathers had credit cards?

Well, for starters, John Hancock's signature was almost 5 inches long, so even if the entire back of the card was a signature strip he would have been screwed. But let's suppose he shrank it down to 50% it's original size ...

Still doesn't fit. Ben Franklin's signature didn't fit either. Evidently there was no time in history when people had signatures that fit on the signature strip of a credit card. So why so small? Who is responsible for this?

You would think something that affects so many people would get some attention from the media professionals, but I guess they're too busy covering the "stories of the day" like murders and elections. There is obviously some kind of cartel that is controlling the signature strip industry, but who is it, and what is their evil goal?

It is appalling the lack of attention that this travesty has garnered by the so-called journalists in the media. I guess they're too "important" (or too lazy) to get to the bottom of this, so once again it's up to the alternative media to figure it out. If I end up disappearing overnight, you'll know what happened. taking on the issues that the Mainstream Media fears to touch.

Monday 8 November 2010

Bipole Disorder: The open house

Just a quickie post ... I heard from Adrienne Pan that there were some fireworks at the open house for the contentious Bipole III transmission line, so I sent a correspondent down to have a look. It could be interesting to see a bunch of angry farmers, preferably with pitchforks, confronting Hydro managers.

I was disappointed to find out that everybody was quite civil. There were people who were unhappy, but no pitchforks and no yelling. However there was a sign that it might come down to violence if/when they start to build the thing:

The open house was to discuss the proposed west-side route only, not why it's going down the west side of the province. That didn't stop some people from asking though. Repeatedly. The poor hydro guy ... all he could do was shrug his shoulders and explain "It was a political decision. The east side was not an option."

It is clear that a pile of time, money and effort is being put into this project including 3D modeling of the whole route, fly-over style, using Google Earth Pro. Almost seems a shame to waste all of that effort by changing to the East route, as the PCs are planning to do if they get elected. Almost but not really. It is clear that the Hydro employees are trying to do the best they can with the parameters that they were given. I have no beef with them. Its the man at the top that I have a problem with.

Whelp ... that's about all I have to say 'bout that. Let's turn on the tube and see what Adrienne Pan has to say.

Sunday 7 November 2010

Let's call the whole thing off

This is worrisome:

The cost of building Manitoba Hydro's new transmission line from the north could escalate from an estimated $2.247 billion to almost double that amount, Hydro CEO Bob Brennan said Friday. - fp-
Double? Wow. The stadium cost overruns don't look so bad. How could this happen? Well, according to Brennan, it has nothing to do with the route itself, but solely due to the converters:
But when you get into specialized conversion equipment, that is a limited number of people globally. That one, we just don't have the same sort of confidence in.
So to recap: the cost of the Bipole III line is almost doubling from $2.2 bil to, say $4.3 bil, and the increase is entirely due to the converters, and the converters only made up $1.1 bil of the original estimate. That means that the cost of the converters is almost triple what they estimated. Like, holy smokes dude. That's bad. Hydro is in the electricity business, and the best they can do in pricing out AC/DC converters is plus or minus 200%? Hey, what's that noise? Oh look, it's my bullshit-o-meter:

You know what I think? I don't think it's the converters at all. I think Hydro found out that none of the farmers want to sell their land for a Hydro right of way, and that it's going to cost a hell of a lot more to buy them out than they originally figured. The cost of the route must be going up somehow.

In any event, this raises all kinds of questions. Like: how certain are we about the cost of the new power dams that will be generating the volts that will be traveling through these lines? The estimated cost of the Wuskwatim generating station has gone up to $1.6 billion ... but it's almost completed. The real question marks are about Keeyask and Conawapa -- the dams we'll need if we're going to fulfill our contracts to Wisconsin and Minnesota Power. Estimated cost of Conawapa is $5 bil. Hydro isn't publishing a cost estimate for Keeyask, but figure something around $2.6 bil based on its size relative to the others. Now: factor in the "specialized equipment, limited suppliers, and we don't know what the fuck we're doing" adjustment and it could be anything.

So the real question is: are we going to make any money off all of this? Or are we just exporting electricity for the sake of appearing green? When I did my sanity check a couple months ago, the numbers did not look great, but that was when I thought that bipole was going to cost only $2.2 bil and Wuskwatim only $1.3 bil. Now suddenly we have another $2.5 bil or so of cost to make up for by selling electricity to the U.S. at something like 3 cents per kWh.

Manitoba Hydro is a crown corporation, which means that we all have a stake in it. With all of this uncertainty, Hydro and the MB gov't are ploughing ahead with this development like it's no big deal. Before we sign and seal either of the new export contracts, we need more clarity. A lot more clarity. We could very well end up billions of dollars in the hole as a result of this development, but Brennan has his marching orders from the government and he'll never admit that there's any risk of that happening.

Firing the board of a crown corporation is a bit of an odd election promise, but that might be the best thing McFadyen and the Tories could do. That probably means that Brennan's days are numbered as well. We can only hope.

(I had a little blog posting spasm there ... I appreciate comments C & R, but I had to deleted it.)

Thursday 4 November 2010

Train videos

Found on YouTube ... If you like trains and old stuff, this is for you: smokeywoodstover posted this old1946 footage of a train ride from Winnipeg to Calgary

If that's a little too old-timey for you, then how about this ... The Crystal Method's Comin' Back, off the Vegas album. Vegas, by the way, is a must-have album, even if this isn't really your type of music.

/* Google Tracker Code