Friday, December 31, 2010

Jonah Goldberg says Liberals are Like Fascists

This is from an interview with Jonah Goldberg. Jonah, an American conservative writer, seems to specialize in outrageous cutting edge rhetoric. I cannot imagine that his work is considered serious, for example his plea for the US to begin bombing Canada to get us to join the coalition in Iraq. However some conservatives like to characterize him as a more serious thinker than say Rush Limbaugh, and I might just agree with that.

Jonah Goldberg wrote a book called "Liberal Fascism", where he tries to deflect criticism that the conservatives are like Nazis, by claiming that on the contrary, it is the liberals who are actually like the Nazis.

Question in an interview by Calitreview:
"You state that “Woodrow Wilson was the twentieth century’s first fascist dictator.” Would you talk a little about that and the assault on civil liberties that occurred in this country during World War I."

Jonah: "The late sociologist Robert Nisbet once wrote, that the “West’s first real experience with totalitarianism – political absolutism extended into every possible area of culture and society, education, religion, industry, the arts, local community and family included, with a kind of terror always waiting in the wings – came with the American war state under Wilson.” Nisbet was right. Under Wilson, American newspapers and magazines were censored, threatened, harassed and intimidated. The Committee on Public Information, the first modern propaganda ministry, sent propaganda agents across the country – “four minute men” to whip-up war fever. The CPI released a string of propaganda films with such titles as The Kaiser, The Beast of Berlin, and The Prussian Cur. The Justice Department established the American Protective League, literally an army of goons a quarter-million strong at their zenith, who beat up “slackers” and other dissidents, spied on people and performed unconstitutional background checks. In 1920 a salesman at a clothing store in Waterbury, Connecticut, received a six-month prison sentence for referring to Lenin as “one of the brainiest” leaders in the world. Mrs. Rose Pastor Stokes was arrested, tried, and convicted for telling a women’s group, “I am for the people, and the government is for the profiteers.” These are just a few examples of what I’m talking about."
So to go through Jonah's answer here, he states that the west's first experience with totalitarianism was under Woodrow Wilson in WW1. I am not familiar with his source, Robert Nisbet, but according to Wikipedia, Nisbet is a conservative, and so may be biased on this topic. And I'm not sure what exactly is included by the "West". Because I am quite sure that the UK had a ministry in charge of propaganda, and had censorship of newspapers and magazines before the U.S. did. Britain was in WW1 for three years before the United States entered, (a little known fact in the U.S. apparently) and the Brits were familiar with censorship already from the Boer war.

Next, is the reference to the "American Protective League". According to Wikipedia, the "American Protective League was an American organization of private citizens that worked with federal law enforcement agencies during the World War I era to identify suspected German sympathizers and to counteract the activities of radicals, anarchists, anti-war activists, and left-wing labor and political organizations."

So an army of goons was hired by rich conservatives to beat up liberal anti-war activists, left-wing labour and left wing political organizations. Hey, Jonah, you are still just as crazy as when you had the idea of bombing Canada for the purpose of making Canadians friendly to the USA. Right wing mobs beating up leftists does not prove the leftists are fascists, it proves the opposite.

To be fair to Jonah, his reasoning is based on the Woodrow Wilson describing himself as a progressive, and this APL thuggery happened under his watch. But then, Woodrow Wilson also described himself as the man who kept America out of the war. As we all know, Woodrow Wilson was the president who actually ended up declaring war on Germany. In times of war, people do things that may go against their better instinct. Even so, Wilson was quite concerned about the APL militia, and wanted to limit their power, but I guess was afraid to do so because he may have been beaten up himself. That's how things go in war.

The New York Times Book Review says:

"And Goldberg doesn't merely make the case that the label is unfair. His turning of the tables is more thorough and, to the conservatives who perceive themselves as unfairly labeled, more gratifying than that. His argument is that, actually, fascism is not a right-wing or conservative idea at all. It's always been a leftist notion, and even today, a lot of liberal beliefs have, unbeknownst to liberals themselves, fascist origins."
So apparently even the New York Times does not pick up on the irony that a private army of thugs beating up on left wingers, proves that the left wing is Fascist. Part of this review even refers to Goldberg as "a serious and thoughtful writer of opinion pieces for the Los Angeles Times and National Review Online".

If anything, Jonah's failure to prove his point kind of proves the opposite, that Conservatives will lie copiously to conceal their similarity to fascists, especially in the conservatives tendencies to militaristic nationalism, eagerness to go to war, and lack of tolerance. A private army of thugs operating outside of the government payroll fits in quite well with conservative notions of "privatization" and "shrinking the government".

Here is a link to my blog where I disagree with Jonah's equally poor plan to bomb Canada.

And another where I give a closer look at the Orwellian idea of doublethink:

Picture: From this conservative site you can see Jonah is not the only conservative who would like to link the Nazis to the liberals

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Evangelicals Believe Jesus Died for our SIns

I disagree with the concept of Jesus dying for my sins. I am OK with it as a minor plot, but the Evangelicals make this issue central to their entire belief, and taken to extremes, it makes no sense at all.

I always believed that Christianity is all about trying be a good person. But I have been told that Evangelicals believe that it is not important to be a good person, but only accept that Jesus died for your sins. (Which when you think about it is actually a heck of a lot easier than my belief.) According to Evangelicals, once you have accepted Jesus, no matter what you do, it will be right and good. Even if it isn't really, and that's where the argument starts.

Yes it is very moving when someone makes a sacrifice for you. That's why it is a good story. But when you make this story the centre of your Christian faith, it no longer makes sense, and worse yet, it pushes out the true message of Christianity "Do unto others as they would do unto you."

How does this sacrifice stop making sense when you take it too literally?

To properly understand the concept of sacrifice, I am going to invent a fictional situation, where someone tried to shoot me, and my friend Bruce jumped in front of me, and was hit by the bullet, and died. Of course, this is all make believe, but I want to use this to illustrate a normal sacrifice. When Bruce sacrificed himself to save me, I was actually in danger. The danger was not caused by Bruce, either. Bruce really did put himself at risk and died trying to save me. And I really was saved, and lived happily ever after, and I was properly grateful for what he did.

Now let's look at the assertion that Jesus sacrificed himself to save me. How is Jesus' sacrifice different from Bruce's sacrifice?

With Bruce's sacrifice, my danger was real. In Jesus's sacrifice, there was no evidence of me being in danger. Also, I must accept that I am evil and I must accept that hell exists and that Jesus is going to send me there for not accepting his "sacrifice". (more of a threat than a sacrifice, actually)

Why was I bound for hell in the first place? According to the Born Again Christians, I am going to hell because Eve ate the apple of the tree of Knowledge, and after that crime, God has declared all her descendants to be evil. Furthermore, it does not matter if I am actually good, I'm going to hell anyway, unless Jesus sacrifices Himself to save all mankind, including the people who actually tortured and  killed him.

Unlike Jesus, Bruce had documentation to show he existed. A real sacrifice normally involves a real person, but in Jesus' case, he lived 2 thousand years ago, and even then, there is no solid evidence that he existed.

Bruce's sacrifice is a genuine example of Jesus's actual message  "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". It seems to me that Jesus's sacrifice is more like blackmail, according to the Evangelical interpretation.

Bruce's sacrifice was real in another sense. Bruce really did die. He did did not come back to life. Jesus only pretended to die, but came back to life, meaning Jesus was a tad inconvenienced, that is all.

So the actual expression would be more like: "Jesus was a tad inconvenienced to try to scare me with a threat of hellfire." And apparently I should show my gratefulness for this mercy by becoming an Evangelical.
Jesus' message was "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.", and it is the very opposite of the message we get from Evangelical fundamentalists like the wealthy  Pat Robertson and Jack Van Impe on TV.  They tell us  You are all evil because God made mankind that way, and Jesus died to save you from your sins."
The Evangelical interpretation of Christianity is inconsistent with the message Jesus gave us. If God was following his own golden rule, he would not create an evil mankind that needed to be saved. There are other ways to interpret the Bible that make far more sense.
Picture: The Evangelical version of the bible with modern day wording, from this blog:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

S.E. Cupp Tells Atheists to Leave Christians Alone

(NOTE: Picture of S.E. Cupp deleted because it was flooding this blog with unrelated traffic.)

I came across this article by S.E. Cupp printed in the New York Daily News. S.E. is a right wing commentator whose specialty seems to be defending Christianity from the "Liberal Media"

"The arrogance of the atheists: They batter believers in religion with smug certainty"
By S.E. Cupp

In this particular NY Daily News article, she asserts that atheists are smugly certain, while Christians "understand that a measure of doubt is necessary for faith." I don't think she has proven that assertion in her essay. She did refer to several statements made by atheists:

Dave Silverman, on "Religion is my bitch." On Twitter: "Yes it is a myth. Deal with it. All delusions are myths."

Bill Maher calls religion a "neurological disorder." And wrote a series of scathing jokes at the faithfuls' expense in the documentary "Religulous."

By comparison, the religious writer C.S. Lewis when asked if he would write another book, responded he would, "When I understand the meaning of prayer." Ms Cupp claims this statement "was an acknowledgment that he [C.S. Lewis] - a thinker with a much sharper mind than, say, Maher's - didn't know everything." By the way, S.E. Supp did not attempt to back up the argumentative claim that C.S. Lewis had a sharper mind than Bill Maher. And she reveals her own religious "smug certainty" about whose mind is sharper. So it's not just the Atheists with "smug certainty", is it?

Getting back to Lewis's statement, which she interprets as a humble admission that he does not know everything. I don't know anyone who claims to know everything, unless maybe they are a two year old, or a nutcase. Religious people freely admit they do not know God's will (except Pat Robertson). Atheists freely admit they do not know everything, for example, what is the origin of life, do extraterrestrials exist, where are my car keys?

To summarize the argument, yes, admittedly if you take some comments from some atheists, they may sound dismissive of God, or religion. But the same is true of religious people, who sound smugly certain that they are going to heaven and you are going to hell, and they are friends with Jesus and you are not, and they have sharper minds than atheists.

What S.E. Cupp is basically trying to say is that atheists are smug, supercilious bastards, while religious people are deep thinkers, who are caring and loving. And then if I understand correctly, she follows it up with an appeal to atheists to leave the religious people alone and let them live their quiet lives of faith, humility and searching for truth.

Her basic argument is that atheists are flawed because they are smugly certain. I think it is flawed to base this kind of argument on personal characteristics.

What S.E. Cupp fails to mention at all is that religious fanatics are involved in politics. They are promoting war based on religious beliefs, and supporting the rich conservatives against the middle class and the poor.

A nice compromise would be: Everybody leave other people to their own beliefs. Separation of church and state is the best way to achieve that. It has worked for many years, and it is far superior to religion based governments. That's what I think is right, and all atheists, and most religious people can support it too.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why Does the Birther Movement Not Go Away?

The "Birther" movement in the USA has nothing to do with abortions, although it kind of sounds like it might. No, it is made up of all the Americans who question whether Barack Obama was born in the USA. If he was not born in the USA, then he is not qualified to be president. Recently, Chris Matthews, a self proclaimed liberal journalist, and "enemy of the Birthers" basically joined the Birther movement by asking why Barack Obama had not produced the long form of his birth certificate.

Being Canadian, I am not actually concerned about the fine points of being born in the USA. But I have noted that there is a racist overtone to the entire Birther approach to this problem.

Every comment by a birther in the New York Times article, and in Chris Matthews own comment, has the same fundamental logic: It is not good enough that the US Congress, the electoral college, and the Supreme Court have accepted Barack Obama as the legitimate President. This would of course be good enough if he was white, then everyone would shut up. But because the president is black, we have the equivalent of the old lynch mob gathered around the courthouse howling guilty. Every person in the birther movement has the same attitude. It is not good enough that the existing system of democracy has spoken. Obama is still not qualified in the minds of each one of those birthers. Each and every birther is their own judge, jury and executioner, standing outside the system. Each one requires their own personal proof of his innocence. The Birthers place themselves above authority of the system that was put in place to decide such things once and for all.

It is not enough for a black man to prove his case to the US government, and the Supreme Court. A black man must carry his documents at all times and present them to any white man who may ask for them, whenever they ask. That was the way back in the good old days of slavery, segregation, and apartheid. The birthers are blind to any other system. They simply cannot accept that the existing institutions work for black folks and white folks equally, and there is no going back on the old lynch mob mentality.

In sports, if the ref's final decision is that you're out, then you're out. Everybody agrees to accept the judgment and move on.  It would be stupid to think that every call in a game would be subject to each and every spectator's own final ruling, and that unless every spectator was satisfied, that the game was not legitimate.  And I might add, in sports not all rulings are even right!  Many important games have been settled by a bad call, in my opinion.  But that does not make the sport any less valid.

The Government has decided that Barack Obama is the President. He is not obligated to prove his case to each and every person individually. The case is settled by a well documented process. Everyone is honour bound to accept the outcome of the process.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monckton Puts Down Enviro-Zomb in the Telegraph

The climate bugaboo is the strangest intellectual aberration of our age
By Viscount Monckton of Brenchley 8:52PM GMT 17 Dec 2010
The Telegraph (UK)

"But don’t you realise," said the bearded, staring enviro-zomb with the regrettable T-shirt, “that global cooling is what we must expect because of global warming?”

"Don’t you realise," I replied, "how silly that sounds? The lowest temperatures ever recorded here in Cancun six days in a row; four extreme winters on the trot in the Northern hemisphere; more people dying in one three-day cold snap in little England in 2002 than Oxfam pretends died of ‘global warming’ worldwide throughout 2010; where’s your perspective, man?"

Later on in his article....

"Another failure of perspective. One of the two ancient principles of natural justice long recognised in British law is audiatur et altera pars. Hear the other side too. It’s certainly cheaper, and it’s probably right."

Well, thank you for your introduction, Viscount, so allow me to present the other side, so that many thousands of people may read it, like they read your piece in the Telegraph.

First let me start in the fairest way possible: by attacking your motives in this. You say "enviro-zomb with the regrettable T-shirt". Well according to my research you are part owner in a high end shirt boutique, is that right? How many millions have you made from people who upgrading from common T-shirts to expensive high end shirts?

Next, your station in life resulted from a hereditary title, and not necessarily from merit, like the enviro-zomb and me. (apologies if the envir-zomb was Prince Charles) So why should we listen to you? And third, it seems that you are a died-in-the-wool wealthy conservative who hates paying taxes, especially when those taxes are used to save the environment instead of making war. That is why conservatives generally fall into the anti-global warming crowd.

Now that I have sufficiently torn down your "ad hominems" (see I know some Latin too), let me get into your actual argument. First sentence, I can ignore the insulting, and possibly made up "enviro-zomb" slur, and the remarks about beard and t-shirt, and the staring facial expression. Although I have to admire the very combative full court press at the beginning of your "intellectual bugaboos" article.

You quote the supposed environmentalist saying "But don’t you realise, that global cooling is what we must expect because of global warming?”
You might have heard it wrong, as people often do who have a closed mind. The actual statement would have been "Local cooling is what we must expect because of global warming." The correct word is "Local", and can mean areas as big as Europe in this context. This is a result of changes in the patterns of wind currents, and sea currents.
If we assume that global warming also leads to local (not global) cooling, all the people who died in England's cold snap in 2002, can be attributed to Global Warming which has subtly altered the Gulf Stream. That's a different perspective from yours, but has been explained scientific articles, and in "Inconvenient Truth" by Al Gore.
I can cite a counter intuitive example. When we have extreme cold weather, car engines can overheat. That is because the cold can freeze the coolant, which then cannot function to keep the engine temperature down, and the engine overheats. It makes no sense, unless you understand how a car engine works. It has nothing to do with politics, propaganda, religion, or Al Gore's personality. It is the way a system works or does not work.
You are quite right about global warming being the strangest intellectual aberration of our age. The people of position and wealth feel very threatened by climate change, as they do about anything that may interfere with their God-given and privileged way of life. As they always have been while they profit from destroying the environment. And so they put forward propaganda, thinly disguised as scientific arguments, to confuse the common folk. They have lots of money, and use big words to sound important, and they can spread their message far and wide. But they do not themselves understand either science, or justice. That's what makes it a strange intellectual aberration.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Lord of the Rings Helps Those Who Help Themselves

As our thoughts turn toward the real meaning of Christmas, Bill O'Reilly puts the thoughts of Jesus into words that even Fox viewers can understand.
"Jesus was in favour of charity for deserving cases, but the cold hard facts are that we cannot afford to help everyone. Jesus was not self destructive. The Lord helps those who help themselves."
I may have mixed up some words, from this video here:

One comment left by a viewer, defending Bill O'Reilly:

"To be fair every year people DO abuse ALL government programs, and that HAS to include welfare. Or do you people not remember Ol' Dirt Bastard collecting benefits while also having a gold record on a TV show years and years ago?"

I replied with this
"It is a misuse of the phrase "to be fair" if you only mention one type of abuse. To really be fair you need to give equal time to abuse of faith based charities, and abuse of corporate subsidies. Mentioning only one type of welfare abuse is not what I call fair."

Selective examples, such as welfare abuse, distort the truth. For example, to be fair to Hitler, some Jews did murder some Germans. Just because something is true, does not mean it is actually fair to mention in an argument, without any context.

The phrase "The Lord helps those who help themselves", (which is not in the bible), can be used it to "prove" poor people are not helping themselves. Because if they were helping themselves, the Lord would also be helping them, and if the Lord were helping them, they would not be poor. The only conclusion we can come to is that the poor are not helping themselves.

I suspect that this phrase is a favourite of rich conservatives, right up there with "Charity begins at home". I think both phrases are self serving, and I try to avoid using them myself.

A truer slogan might be "The Lord does not always immediately help those who help themselves." or "The Lord gives us an opportunity to help those unable to help themselves."

So is there a real meaning of Christmas hidden somewhere in the Bible? We sure are not going to get this message by watching TV, if Bill's speech is typical of the most popular TV news network in America.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Low Tech Winter Driving

What I call low tech is winter driving without a cell phone, without anti-lock braking, without anti-skid computer systems, no cruise control, no automatic transmission, no GPS, or Blackberry, and no all-wheel drive. To some people this is madness. Especially when I tell them about driving to Labrador in February. But it was not that surprising, as the road to Labrador has no cell phone towers anyway.

But despite my lack of cutting edge technology in certain areas, I will make use of some other new developments in the world of winter driving. I will use the Internet or the weather channel on TV for radar images of weather, and for road and weather reports before setting out on a trip. I do have winter tires, and beam type windshield wipers, two new products for winter driving that have gained a lot of popularity in the last ten years or so. I currently have synthetic oil in the engine, which works well at low and high temperatures. My car is fuel injected, meaning it generally starts quickly in cold weather, and with no choke twisting. If you still call front wheel drive high tech, I have that too.

My first car was a 1956 model, which did not have a windshield washer system. While the washers are a benefit in the summer, they are essential equipment for winter driving. And just as some technology advances are now taken for granted, some regression has occurred too. Remember when cars all had a full sized spare? In another trend, recently, car tires have gotten a lot wider. Although this may have some benefits on dry roads, when dealing with snow and slush the old style narrow tires work better.

If you read the weather maps correctly, you will not be out of the house in bad weather, and so you may not need the following advice. But it happens, so...

If you are out in the snow already, you should observe the road and weather conditions outside your car windows. I have a thermometer on the car's instrument panel that gives me the temperature outside. At 0 or -2 degrees C on damp evenings after the sun goes down, beware of bridges. They often form black ice first. And slow down when visibility is obscured, or when the road condition is snow or ice covered. If I can, I get off the freeway when I think conditions may deteriorate quickly, because that is when the deadly 50-car pile ups generally occur. But I only do that when I know the local roads fairly well.

The worst problem in the winter is crashing due to loss of control in icy or low traction conditions. Here, ABS can help, and so can anti-skid systems. But better than either of those, would be equipping a car with winter tires. Although ABS and anti-skid may keep you from spinning, they do not help you stop faster, or help you stay in your lane in a curve, the way winter tires can. If you drive a low-tech car without ABS, you should at least learn to pump the brakes, which helps you maintain control while still slowing down as best you can.

Don't forget that sometimes, it's not you hitting something else, it's another car hitting you. You have very little control over that once you make the decision to sally forth into the winter wonderland.

A front wheel drive car without an anti-skid system is vulnerable to spinning around (also known as losing the back end) in slippery corners. You need to learn to point the front wheels to counteract the spin, and if you have front wheel drive, to accelerate instead of backing off the throttle. Another option instead of accelerating would be to press the clutch pedal. You will only make it worse with a front wheel drive car, when you take your foot off the gas. This will have the effect of slowing down the front end of the car while the back end continues past you at speed, starting a skid where you can end up backwards on the road, or in the ditch, or worse.

The second worst situation in the winter, after crashing, is being stuck far from help. It's to prevent this possibility that lot of people buy four wheel drive vehicles. I think that some people put a bit too much faith in their four wheel drive technology, with the result being, that they are still as likely to get stuck, only much farther from any help. Instead of four wheel drive, I put my faith in a snow shovel in the back of the car. But I know how limited that is, even with Mary Ann out there pushing the car after she clears all the snow from in front of and behind the tires.

One way to get stuck is not just because you can't move yourself, but because the traffic around you is all stuck. In cases like that even snowplows can't move. Another way to get stuck is to pull off to the side of the road and accidentally drop into the ditch, which is hidden because the plow pushed the snowbank back too far. Of course other situations should be preventable, like running out of gas. Always try to keep the tank more than half full in winter. And it would be a good idea to have a working gas gauge.

With an old, unreliable car, there are hundreds of ways to get stranded. (e.g. run out of gas when the gas gauge does not work) I'm sure all are amusing and I have many stories myself which I will not bore you with here. At this time, I am driving a 2005 Toyota Matrix, which has so far been utterly reliable, and that is mostly why I bought it. Reliability is a feature that does nothing for the sexiness of a car, but it has a lot of appeal in winter driving. If you have ever been forced to step out of a warm car in a blizzard you will know what I mean. I don't mind paying extra for a car that I know will just keep working no matter how cold it gets out there.

When driving in Canada in January, never fool yourself into thinking you can dress for the summer, just because you are in a car. Dress for the winter if it's winter. Turn down the heater in the car a bit, or remove your toque and gloves in the car to stay comfortable. But make sure you have the boots and whatever other clothing you need to get outside and keep on living.

Every winter there are new drivers out there, who for whatever reason have never driven in snow before, and think they have a "better way". Especially when it comes to eliminating such burdensome tasks as brushing the snow off the car before starting out. I spotted one such genius, who was driving through a mall parking lot, with a huge pile of snow on his car, and all the windows obscured as he had decided let the snow fly off in the air all by itself while driving. As he drove through the lot toward the busy road, lots of snow was flying off the car, leaving a dust cloud and whiteout conditions behind him. The driver decided that he needed go faster, as the snow was not coming off fast enough and he still could not see where he was going. So he accelerated toward the intersection, with even greater clouds of snow coming off, and the deep pile of snow on the hood and roof gradually wearing down. The plan was working, in a way, but still no luck seeing out the windows. At quite a high speed, the car crossed the raised sidewalk, flew past the stop sign, and came down hard in the middle of the busy the street. I don't have to imagine what this display looked like to the oncoming car drivers, as I was the driver that came closest to hitting the snow comet. As it went over the bump,the remaining snow exploded off the car into the air, and the driver could finally see where he was. Nobody hit him, and that's an indication of how many Canadians drive defensively in winter. And why.

Picture: Our Toyota Matrix outside the Lion's Head Beach Motel on a winter trip in 2008. Here's my 30 second "How to drive in snow" video, of Mary Ann driving out after a plow went by and blocked the car in.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Clive Runnels Demands a Fence in the Manitoba Herald

The latest in a wave of right wing emails, is this story:

“Build a Damn Fence!"
From The Manitoba Herald , Canada ;
by Clive Runnels, August 1st 2010

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The recent actions of the Tea Party are prompting an exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray, and to agree with Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night. "I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield , whose acreage borders North Dakota . The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he left before I even got a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?”

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. He then installed loudspeakers that blared Rush Limbaugh across the fields. "Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through and Rush annoyed the cows so much that they wouldn't give any milk.”

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons and drive them across the border where they are simply left to fend for themselves." A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions," an Ontario border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a single bottle of imported drinking water. They did have a nice little Napa Valley Cabernet, though."

When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been circulating about plans being made to build re-education camps where liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.

In recent days, liberals have turned to ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have been disguised as senior citizens taking a bus trip to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans in powdered wig disguises, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior citizens about Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney to prove that they were alive in the '50s. "If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we become very suspicious about their age." an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and are renting all the Michael Moore movies "I really feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them." an Ottawa resident said. "How many art-history majors does one country need?"
The first clue that this may be fake is that The Manitoba Herald closed down on August 2, 1877.

This story is likely written by an American who has no Canadian historical perspective. One who does not know for example, that English Canada was founded by a wave of US immigration after the War of Independence, people who came to be known as the British Empire Loyalists. Later on, Canada became a terminus of the "underground railway" for slaves escaping their bondage in the USA. As recently as the Vietnam war, Canada took in thousands of young American who did not wish to fight, known as "Draft Dodgers".

So here is a funny story, this time written by a genuine Canadian (me), of the next big immigration wave from the USA.

In the third decade of the twenty first century, global warming had become severe. Not only had New Orleans disappeared, but also Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington. Droughts had devastated the US, and it's economy was in ruins, partly because jobs had gone to China, and partly through endless tax cuts to the rich, who now owned everything, while the rest were homeless and starving.

Meanwhile Canada's permafrost receded and settlers were starting move up to the previously uninhabited north. Canada, a liberal, well managed, tolerant country had opened the border to Americans, but millions of Hummer driving Limbaugh listening NASCAR watching conservatives were afraid to go to Canadian Welcome centres because their heads were filled with anti-Canadian propaganda.

So they began to swarm across the border in convoys of heavily armed camouflaged four wheel drive pickups, carefully avoiding high danger areas such as wind farms or evolution museums. When they got stuck, nice Canadians helped them out, gave them, a place to stay and food, and suggested they go to a local immigration welcome centre. But the new American refugees were afraid their guns would be registered, or they may have their Holy Bibles confiscated, or they might be refused the right to pray or say Merry Christmas."

"Nonsense" said the Canadians. "We welcome all religions, all types here. We even let Americans buy up all our prime land and fly the USA flag on it. That's because we're just so nice. We even have a political party for you, the Conservative Party of Canada, that believes in Biblical creation, and destroying the environment, and pre-emptive wars, and torture. You're going to love it here."

"We'll see about that. Right now, two of our children have gunshot wounds from playing with their automatic 45 caliber handguns. Is there a hospital around that can take care of them?"

"Of course, and it will be free of charge too."

"What! That sounds like some kind of socialist guvvimint run death camp! Turn the truck around, Thelma. We're heading back south to Freedom!".

"Sorry to see you go, eh?" Said the Canadian. And then as they were covered with the rooster tail of mud from the truck's spinning tires, he turned to his wife and said "They seemed like such nice people, too!"

Picture: Vancouver Sun. I got it off this American website:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Does Conrad Black Need More Time to Recuperate?

I have never agreed with many of Conrad Black's ideas. Giving up his Canadian citizenship to take a title of Lord in England, summarizes the differences between him and me. But up till now, I had always thought of him as an intellectual, someone who could write well, and researched their ideas. But recently I read this article of his in the National Post "Four Ideas for a Better Canada and a Better World", and I think he is beginning to unravel mentally. Here is the link.

I will take the liberty of summarizing in my own words. Read it for yourself in case I am distorting his ideas.

  1. The Canadian government can make money by investing in Chrysler Corporation [instead of taxing the rich]. He didn't mention not taxing the rich in this article, but in "How to revive the Liberal Party" from a few days ago. I simply connected the dots.
  2. Encourage immigration from white countries instead of brown or black countries.
  3. Make Haiti a joint protectorate of Canada and the USA. That way we can put an end to Haitian piracy and stop the pirates from cutting all the trees in Haiti to build ships. And he calls Cuba a "Stalinist sex slave emporium".
  4. Don't incarcerate non-violent offenders if they don't steal as much as Bernie Madoff. i.e Conrad Black

I would normally try to explain what is wrong with these ideas, but I think in this case, I would simply recommend that Conrad get some rest, maybe being in jail in Florida was too much for him.


Soviet vs. Capitalist Propaganda Still With Us

I received this story as one of the endless forwarded emails from right wing sources. I don't want to analyse every one of them in my blog, as there are simply too many. But this was the first one forwarded to me by Mary Ann, as she normally hits the delete key first. This one seemed to bother her because of who sent it, and because it was about teaching. So I decided to use it as an example lesson in media literacy. (i.e. bullsh*t awareness 101)

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had once failed an entire class.

That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan”.

All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A.

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.

As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy.

When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

The scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. Could not be any simpler than that.

This would actually be an interesting experiment, from a scientific point of view, just to see what the outcome would be in real life (instead of the imaginations of email spammers). I'll bet some people would be surprised to find out that many, maybe thousands of real scientific experiments have been done about what motivates people. Motivating people is the basis for many human endeavours, including sales, political propaganda, education (as illustrated), and just about any business that has hired people to work for them. It would be mind boggling if no one had ever studied human motivation before.

What have we learned from real scientific studies of human motivation? Some students will work for high marks in school, and many students do not. In the workplace, many people will work for money, but other motivating factors have been discovered. And it has also been determined that once the workers have enough money to cover their basic needs, that money loses some of its motivational power.

Anyway, to summarize, it is way more complicated in real life than this fictional story indicates, it is even way more complicated in a real scientific study.

I find it easy to imagine a Soviet style story just like this one, except "proving" that capitalism does not work.

It starts off like this "My comrades, once upon a time there was a professor at a local college..blah blah.. all his students thought capitalism was a great system ... blah blah ... all the students who get low marks have to give their lunches to the kids who have high marks." and finally. it ends like this "The students who got low marks threatened the students with high marks, so that they would not do so well in their tests next time." And to summarize. "Finally, everybody failed, therefore capitalism does not work. Glory to Stalin and the Communist Revolution!"

By the way: No socialist has ever proposed removing all rewards from their economic system. On the other hand, capitalist generally agree that starvation, torture, and poverty is not a requirement for the capitalist system to work. And, oh yeah... Obama is not a socialist anyway. Extremist black/white viewpoints like the stories above are useful only in brainwashing the masses.

Picture: Fake soviet style poster from

Winter Driving in Canada

Canadians may have an inferiority complex, according to Wikileaks, but not when it comes to snow. We are pretty confident that we have more of that stuff than anybody else, and we think we know how to handle ourselves in it.

That myth was debunked yesterday, when 300 motorists were trapped overnight on the 402 near Sarnia. Apparently we are just like anyone else, if we get three times as much snow, falling twice as fast as normal, being drifted by 60 kph winds, lasting three days, in freezing temperatures, we get stuck too. At one point on Tuesday morning, the military rescue helicopters were grounded, the snowplows were stuck, the Police 4 wheel drive vehicles couldn't get through. Only the snowmobiles could get around, but could not travel far enough carrying a big enough load to rescue many people.

So what did the Canadians do then? They went to Tim Horton's apparently. And to farmers' houses, and various buildings, or shared the heat in the cabs of big trucks. So nobody died, according to the latest reports, but I'm not sure how they know as there is no system to register who is on the road, and cars can literally disappear under the snow.

This system is not a blizzard, it is what we like to call "lake effect snow", a much smaller snow system. What made this one so bad was that it was severe and long lasting, and it did not move for days. If you happened to be in it's path, it must have seemed like the big guy had pointed His holy snowblower in your direction for a couple of days.

So I called my mother, who lives in Dutton, a little to the south east of Wyoming, Ontario (the hardest hit area). She reported that there was about a half meter of snow on the ground, and she understood the 401 was also closed. I checked the Internet, but it wasn't, except for two accidents.

Here are a couple of good websites to help plan trips. I use them to avoid rain when I'm riding my motorcycle, and to check road conditions in the winter.

Here is a road map compatible with my browser. Just tick off road conditions and closures to see where they are. You will see there are also three traffic cameras in London, if you tick traffic cameras.,-81.251792&z=11

I decided not to go down to visit Dutton, because the first and most important part of coping with snow is figuring out when to stay home. Then this morning I decided to replace my car battery instead of trying to push an old one for an extra year's life. And I got some winter windshield wipers.

In very bad winter conditions, slush builds up in the frame of conventional wiper blades, which then freezes while you are driving, and reduces visibility, so you can hardly see the white-out in front of you. (White-out is a word we use for when it is snowing so hard that all you see is white around you)

For the first time I bought a pair of beam-type windshield wipers. I have gotten tired of the old routine of having to stop the car in a snowstorm, pulling over to the side of the road (when you can't even see the edge of the road), jumping out of the car in the wind, cold and snow, and trying to crack the ice out of the windshield wiper frames, while dodging the slush spray from passing traffic. I am too old for that now. Probably always was. These new wiper blades have no intricate lattice frame to clog with ice, so we'll see how that works for me. They are very expensive, though, about $50 a pair. They claim to be "all-season" but I asked for my old regular wiper blades back. I'll probably save the beam blades for winter use only. I got the blades at Jiffy Lube, but here is a Canadian Tire buyer's guide to wiper blades.

Picture: The radar image of the "lake effect snow", still pumping away this morning.
Second Picture: Tim Hortons at Reece's Corners yesterday, where some stranded motorists hung out. From this CTV website

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Canada USA Price Disparity

Motorcycles and Cars generally sell for more in Canada than in the USA, even allowing for currency exchange. The argument has always been "You have only one tenth of the customers!" "They have overhead expenses for conforming to Transport Canada requirements." And of course the unspoken understanding "Canadians tend to put up with more bullshit than Americans."

But these days, the Canadian dollar is close to parity with the US dollar, having climbed from 62 US cents to a dollar to about 99 cents. Unfortunately, this has not helped Canadians at all, it has just made the problems worse, as Canadian plants shut down because their export market dries up. And still Canadians see about the same price difference to US prices, despite our dollars 30% increase in value.

I can understand the reluctance of retailers to adjust the Canadian prices downward to reflect the new value of the Canadian dollar. What if the price parity is a temporary thing, and we have to raise the prices again next week? And we bought all those bikes/accessories a year ago when the Canadian dollar was worth 30% less than now. Should we retailers get stuck with that expensive stock?

But the Canadian dollar has been at par with the US for a while now, and looks set to stay there. So sooner or later, Canadian customers are going to demand equal pricing.

BMW has announced the base price of the new K1600GT six cylinder bike at $24,100. The US price has not been announced yet, but rumours are it will be about $23,800. If so, this indicates that price parity may be coming our way. BMW has been very fair in its Canadian pricing, more so than many Japanese companies.

I did a lookup on the prices of other sport-touring bikes. You can see that Honda and Kawasaki have been maintaining quite a wide price discrepancy. I'm sure they would like to close the gap, but with Japanese Yen rising in value, and low profit margins, their only solution would be to raise the US prices. They are afraid of an angry backlash that may cause them to lose too many sales in the USA.

So the free (or cheap) ride for American motorcyclists may still continue for some time, until Japanese makers can start introducing new motorcycle models, and the Canadian dollar has more time to prove it is holding up in value. Or the American dollar is holding down.

BMW K1600GT $24,100 (price announced in Canada first) Est in US? $23,900????

Kawasaki 2011 Concours C14 (ABS) Canada $20,199, US $15,599

Honda 2010 ST1300 ABS Canada $19,999 US $15,999 to 16,499

BMW K1300GT 2009 Canada $21,600 (21,825?) US $18,800

Picture: I photoshopped together:

How Much Horsepower Does a Motorcycle Need?

Of course it's fun to go out once in a while on a motorcycle with a huge amount of horsepower. But sometimes it's also fun to have just enough power to get you down the road. Ever thought of how Santa decided on eight reindeer? I'm sure he could have had as many as he wanted, and we all know he is hauling some serious a**. But he decided eight was enough. I guess he didn't have any other Santa's out there trying to one-up him on number of reindeer for the Christmas Eve toy run. And every reindeer over eight is just an extra mouth to feed.

With a motorcycle, I think that anything over 50 horses is going to be too many to use fully. On bikes over 130 hp, I'm guessing you would never use full throttle in the lifetime of the bike.

I have had some bikes that were clearly more powerful than they needed to be, and some that were just adequate. The bikes that were just adequate required a lot more concentration to ride. You had to think about wind, and hills. To pass a car or truck safely with a smaller bike often required using a whole bag of tricks.

I think between 10 and fifty would be just the number of horses. My Honda CD175 has 15 horsepower. My old Yamaha DS7 (a two stroke) had 25 hp. Mary Ann's Burgman has 32 horsepower. My Honda Silverwing 500cc had 50 hp. My Vulcan 900 also has about 50. On the other hand, most modern 600cc sportbikes have about 100 hp. Honda's new Shadow 750RS has 42 hp.

The Honda 175, with 15 hp, can do an indicated 75 mph, with the engine screaming on a flat road with no headwind, and me ducked down out of the air stream. And that may be less measured with a radar. It also takes quite a while to get there. I need a long unobstructed run, like the Bonneville Salt Flats. At 75 mph I feel the engine's pain. But I think the engine is comfortable driving at 50 mph all day. Well actually, how would I know what the engine feels, as I don't have nerve endings inside the engine. I should say the engine "seems" to be happy at 50 mph, in that it vibrates less, uses less gas per mile, it can accelerate more easily from that speed if it needs to. Also the chain does not get hot and dry, or stretch so that it need tightening at lower speeds. With 15 hp I have gone on the freeway, but it feels scary, and I think it would feel even more scary to someone who was not used to small bikes. I have not tried the CD175 on high speed roads in the mountains, and I suspect it would not be too good for that task. Also you don't overtake trucks or cars without a paid up life insurance policy.

My Yamaha 250, with 25 hp, had more than enough power except when going through the mountains two up, where I needed to gear down at times to maintain 100 kph up the hills. When I rode that bike on the freeway, I tried to stick to the slow lanes. Otherwise it was much like a car, in that you could easily keep up with traffic and even pass some cars at times, with the same passing zones you would use in a normal car.

One thing you soon realize with a low powered bike, is that your main disadvantage on the road is at high speed, not in low speed acceleration. In town, a 15 hp bike is enough to dust off most car traffic. That's because bikes are lighter than cars. But out on the highway, wind resistance is the big factor, and even a small bike has almost as much wind resistance as some smaller cars.

The 1982 Honda Silver Wing 500cc had about the same power as the Vulcan 900. The Vulcan has a big enough engine, that the designers can sacrifice horsepower to have a lot of torque at low rpm. The Silver Wing was a higher revving engine. I believe the Silver Wing was faster, as it was lighter. But with either bike I had no trouble keeping up with, or even staying ahead of, average traffic on the freeway. I also have no trouble going up mountains grades. I suspect 50 horsepower is about all you really need to go almost anywhere the road goes.

I noticed at the motorcycle show that the 250cc class is reviving. At first I was thinking that this might be a bit small, and why not do a 350cc bike? Here are the claimed horsepower ratings: Honda CBR250R = 26 hp, Hyosung 250 = 28 hp, Ninja 250 = 32 hp. Suzuki is being very secretive about the horsepower of the TU250, but I have seen estimates on the Internet from 16 to 20 hp. One thing most people agree on is that it is not as powerful as the other 250's out there.

When you are looking at the 250 class, you will need to consider horsepower. Big bikes have so many horses you will never need them all. You could probably pull the plug out of a few cylinders without noticing a loss of power. But with a small bike, you are probably going to use every horse, and more than once. So make sure you have enough before you buy.

Finally, if you are deciding on which 250 to buy, I advise you to not waste your time looking at torque figures The amount of torque these small bikes make will not amount to a hill of beans anyway. With 250 cc, you need to rev the engines and change gears if you need to get out of your own way. And that's the fun of it, too.

Picture: I photoshopped a bigger exhaust onto a Boss Hoss motorcycle (they have about 500 hp), to illustrate the concept of "more power than you actually need"

Friday, December 10, 2010

2010 Toronto Motorcycle Show Convention Centre MMIC

Finally, the Toronto Motorcycle Show. Or should I say the other Motorcycle show because there are two of them. This one is downtown at the Convention Centre, and all the major motorcycle and moped manufacturers try to attend. The two bikes I wanted to see were first the BMW K1600GT and the Honda CBR250R sport bike.

I was not disappointed, the BMW K1600GT is the bike in the picture with me sitting on it wearing my best fake smile. I got there early and not too many people were around the bike, although I still had to photoshop one onlooker out of the picture. Later on, the bike was simply surrounded by onlookers. The K1600GT was locked in a vertical stand, so I couldn't feel the weight, and there was really not much to see other than the engine's width, which is easier to judge in real life. The price tag on this bike was $24,100. I'm sure that is on the low side of what most people were expecting, but I don't have the breakdown of what options that includes. I didn't talk to the people at the booth, which I should have done, about what is included in the price. According to this website, the price does not include Bluetooth, adaptive headlight system, dynamic traction control, electronically adjustable suspension, central locking system, tire pressure monitor, alarm, and modular GPS, trunk, or stereo

I also stopped at an Ontario Provincial Police booth, and asked about the stunt laws, especially "Sitting on the drivers seat while riding". The officer thought that it would be very surprising if a fellow officer were to confiscate my bike for stunt driving merely because I was lifting my rear end off the seat for railroad tracks, or even to stretch my legs. However, if he was following me, and I was standing up all the time, after 14 km or so he may just pull me over out of curiosity, and probably to advise me to sit down. I guess I could understand that.

The Honda booth as expected, had the new CBR250R, with a price tag of $5000 including ABS, and about $500 less without ABS. It was mounted on a tilting platform, in front of a screen with a twisting road. So if I was smart I could have gotten a really impressive picture of me leaning into a curve. Unfortunately when Bob took the picture with my camera, the flash didn't go off. So I'm using the picture I took of him in my blog. Yes, I know he's not wearing a helmet. He's also not moving.

Another bike I was interested in was the Suzuki TU250, a retro-style standard 250 single. Price was not known by the people at the Suzuki booth. It looks like finally we are starting to get some smaller non-cruiser motorcycles, that are still capable of freeway riding. (just)

Another good booth was about Wawa, Ontario, where I picked up a free map of Algoma Country. Free maps and stickers are my favourite things to collect. I also got some stickers, including a "Lucas Oil Products" sticker that I had never heard of before. I always thought they made electrical products such as headlight switches that have three positions: dim, off, and flicker. I had heard of Amsoil before, and got one of their stickers too. Although when I visited their booth I was too speechless in the presence of the Amsoil girl to ask for one, but debonair Bob (i.e. not me) picked up one for me later to complete the collection.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Coolest Motorcycle From China

You probably already know that Chinese motorcycles are not the coolest around, what you may not be aware of is that there are some Chinese motorcycles that are so uncool that they don't sell even in China. Apparently that was the fate of the 1985 Xingfu Happiness (pictured left), which had the style of an unpopular 1950 British bike, and was also about 35 years too late.

There would be a good profit for some entrepreneur who discovered a way to combine the coolness of a Harley Davidson Dyna with the low cost of almost any Chinese motorcycle. The best attempt I have seen recently is by "Cleveland Cyclwerks" model called "Tha Misfit". The route chosen by Cleveland Cyclewerks was to use the name Cleveland, to give it some cool. You may think, Cleveland is one of the most uncool cities in the USA. That was true a few years ago, but Cleveland is getting so uncool it is starting to be cool again. Kind of like New Jersey. Cleveland also has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and three or four TV shows named after it, way more than a really cool city like New Orleans. But Cleveland has one big advantage over New Orleans. It is still there.

Here is a Cleveland Tourism video (I hope it's a joke, not sure)

If you decide to watch that video, do not be tempted by Youtube to also watch "Cleveland's Next Top Model". If you enjoyed "America's Next Top Model", you will hate "Cleveland's Next Top Model". And that goes double if you didn't like "America's Next Top Model".

OK Getting back the the bike, as they say in the Cleveland Cyclwerks ads "In Cleveland Trouble Finds YOU". Now apparently the first spot of trouble they ran into is that nobody in Cleveland knows how to make a motorcycle. Although some could make handlebars. So they had the handlebars made in Cleveland, and to fill in the rest of the bike, they hired a motorcycle factory in China .

Names are so important in Motorcycling. Cleveland was a good choice, and "Cyclewerks" adds a bit more coolness. It sounds to me like the name of a German motorcycle factory. Finally, "Tha Misfit" for a model name is a bit rebellious, although it also has certain overtones of long waits for parts.

Anyway, people make fun of all motorcycles, so don't be surprised if there are many jokes made about this one. Unfortunately I don't think it will be imported to Canada.

There is another, older Chinese motorcycle I always thought was kind of cool, the Chinese WW2 BMW sidecar, the Chang Jiang.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Coolest Bikes and their Riders

This is a survey of the top coolest motorcycles and their riders. I have decided that for a motorcycle to be cool, it needs a human with it. It's only once you know the rider that the bike can be properly judged.

Steve McQueen and Triumph or Indian. After you mention Steve McQueen in a motorcycle cool-off is there any point of listing the other contenders? Steve McQueen had an extensive collection of bikes, he competed in the International Six Days Trials. He was the guy who jumped the barbed wire in "The Great Escape" (actually a stunt man did it). He was a star of the famous motorcycle documentary "On Any Sunday". And he is often called the king of cool. My only objection really, is his character in "The Great Escape" who was irritatingly American (rather than cool). This character was a fictitious character, made up to appeal to American audiences, where in the original real great escape, American involvement was very restricted.

Steve was also a "bad boy", but in some ways had a kind heart. So overall, I'll give him 8/10.

Lawrence of Arabia and the Brough Superior. Lawrence was a real historical character, not a pampered actor, so he gets a lot of bonus points for that. His bike was also very cool, and Lawrence stuck with the same make of bike which to my mind enhances the image. He also actually dies in a motorcycle accident, instead of lung cancer like Steve, so I'll also award him 8/10

Fonzie and his custom bike. Fonzie was the first leather jacketed biker to be featured in a regular prime time TV program, and helped break the mold of the evil biker of the fifties and sixties. On screen, he rode a customized bike, seemed kind of home made. But because the Fonz could not ride a bike in real life, and because he was only an actor, and his real life in no way matched his on screen antics, I will only give him a 6/10

Marlon Brando and Triumph. Unfortunately this film "The Wild Ones" did more to tarnish the name of bikers than to enhance it, so 5/10

Jay Leno on any one of his motorcycles. Jay is a comedian with a huge bike and car collection. I like his website, where he produces videos of him discussing and riding his bikes. He rides a bike in real life and talks to random motorcyclists he meets around southern California. Seems to be a likeable guy: 7/10

Peter Fonda on the Captain America chopper. Peter Fonda made a big impression with the movie "Easy Rider" in 1969. He rode a custom Chopper across America. Peter also starred in other biker movies. I also remember him doing a cameo in "Wild Hogs", a recent biker comedy film. Although Peter is in the biker hall of fame, I just don't think of him as being much of a motorcyclist himself, more of an actor who used motorcycles in film. 6/10

Burt Munro with 1920 Indian Scout A movie "World's Fastest Indian" was made about him. What I like is the persistence of the guy in rebuilding his Indian Scout by hand over many years to make it the fastest in the world. 7/10

Any other candidates?

Picture: Steve McQueen in "The Great Escape".
joomla visitors

John Lennon Was not Shot by a "Crazed Fan"

Thirty years ago today, John Lennon of the Beatles was shot by Mark David Chapman. This story was reported on our local news station tonight, CKCO, a CTV affiliate. I cannot understand why they reported that he was shot by a "crazed fan", rather than a fanatical Born Again Christian.

Wikipedia mentions that Chapman became a Christian an 1971. What is not mentioned here is the antipathy between the Christians and the Beatles.

"Chapman recalls having listened to Lennon's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album in the weeks before the murder and stated: "I would listen to this music and I would get angry at him, for saying that he didn't believe in God... and that he didn't believe in the Beatles. This was another thing that angered me, even though this record had been done at least 10 years previously. I just wanted to scream out loud, 'Who does he think he is, saying these things about God and heaven and the Beatles?' Saying that he doesn't believe in Jesus and things like that"

"In 1966, John Lennon told reporter and friend Maureen Cleave, “[The Beatles are] more popular than Jesus now.” The American religious public was indignant with rage, burning Beatles albums, boycotting their performances, and even threatening to kill Lennon. Jesus, I’m sure, was thrilled by our zeal."

I'm sure the Christians don't like to think that this murder was committed by one of their own. Well, the Beatles' fans don't either. And the murder was more because of the Christians attitudes than because of Rock and Roll music.

Trumped Up Rape Charge Against Julian Assange

Where is a Wikileak when we need it? I would like to know what secret messages are being sent about the accusations of rape against Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. Even in the absence of any hard information, I am not buying the government spin on this one.

In Sweden, you can be accused of rape even if the act is consensual, which I think is kind of weird, but then I don't understand their culture. Maybe Swedes understand this concept that a woman can withdraw consent after the fact, and if they understand it, it may actually work for them. It does not work for me.

I don't know how many countries in the world have this concept of retroactive rape, but if Sweden is the only one, then it starts to be a little bit fishy that an Australian gets accused of rape by a Cuban-American woman in Sweden. If this Cuban American woman is actually trying to trap Julian Assange, then I guess Sweden would be a good country to do it.

I don't pretend to understand women or their motivations, but I do know that some women are strongly committed to certain causes. These two women were both apparently committed to the cause of Wikileaks, and yet both had sex with Julian Assange and then filed charges of "Swedish rape" against him.

They must have known that to do so would be hugely damaging to the cause that they supported. In my opinion, they did not really believe in the cause in the first place, because women I know do not abandon their convictions so easily.

How about the motives of the Swedish Government? Are they really so concerned about every charge of rape in Sweden? I doubt it.

"up to 90% of all reported rapes never get to court. In 2006 six people were convicted of rape though almost 4,000 people were reported"

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it is a lot more believable to me that this would be some kind of US Government operation to nail Julian Assange. Pressure is being put on certain people to do certain things to try and neutralize Wikileaks.

Picture: From this site

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Commentary on the Movie "Hard Ride to Hell"

This is not a review of this movie, and furthermore it may contain spoilers. Instead this is a commentary. The difference between a commentary and a review, is that in a review the reader is given opinions on the movie in order to decide whether to see it or not. My commentary is more about whether movies like this are harmful to motorcyclists image, instead of why you might want to or not want to see it. (although there are a ton of reasons why you might not want to see it.) So here goes.

If you just happen to randomly flick across this movie as you change channels, you might think it was a biker movie from the sixties. It has ugly violent bikers terrorizing honest decent citizens, just like in the old days. But this movie was made in 2010! I thought we had put all that stuff behind us. Way, way, behind us. Up till yesterday, my only complaint about biker shows, was about the T.V. series on bikers "Sons of Anarchy", which I think is a throwback, although to be fair, it is far more sympathetic to the bikers than the old biker gang movies.

The title of this movie is "Hard Ride to Hell", which is redundant, as I doubt if there has ever been a ride to Hell that was easy. At first glance is just like the sixties biker gang movies. Crazed ugly bikers terrorizing innocent civilians. And laughing as they do it! Is there ever a lot of crazed laughing from the bikers as they chase their victims and beat them up, and do other even more nasty stuff to them.

As I watched the movie more closely I noticed we motorcyclists actually were catching a break. Because these monsters were not human bikers. They were a group of immortal vampire-like demons that cannot be killed except by luring them into a church and hitting them with a crucifix of Jesus. OK So now it makes perfect sense why they are not wearing DOT approved helmets while riding their bikes.

And several other things start to make sense too. Like why the gang leader is riding a Harley Davidson whose only custom accessory is a pair of goat horns bungeed carefully to the handlebars. Why most of the other motorcycles in the gang are lightweight dirt bikes. How the gang leader manages to keep his wide brimmed hat from flying off while riding down the road. (It's not a chin strap, it's black magic, which is much, much cooler. Or maybe glue.)

The innocents in this flick are a group of people travelling by motorhome, to volunteer at a Habitat for Humanity construction site. They are nice, easygoing people. No wonder their women are not interested in the Gang Leader's offer to bear his spawn of Satan. Incidentally, that is the basic plot right there. The Gang leader must somehow find a woman to give birth to his spawn, who will be the next AntiChrist.

It takes quite a while for the innocent people to figure out that they can't kill these immortal demons. No matter what they do, it just pisses the biker/vampires off even more. Until the good guys stumble across an old church, where the priest has an amulet that will stop the bikers in their tracks, plus as they say "It's good to have Jesus on your side."

There is an interesting comment on one of the reviews I read (yes I read reviews, in order to know about the parts I missed). The comment is "why don't they use their cell phone?" That is a fair comment. I guess back in the sixties, they didn't have cell phones, and this plot is lifted directly from the sixties. (*minus the vampire angle). But in the movie, they do try to explain that there is no cell phone coverage in that area. OK I can accept that, even though the reviewer is doubtful.

I will make one other comment, in case you like movies without a lot of swearwords. I'd have to say that these vampires, for all the raping, amputations, and cannibalism they exhibit, there is hardly any bad language.

Here is a link to a review

Canadian Voters Need a Second Choice on Our Ballots

Our current voting system is hurting Canada, and it needs to be changed. And there is a simple, convenient, inexpensive fix for our voting system.

A multi-party system is only really fair with some kind of runoff election, so everyone gets a chance to decide on the winner. But we have no runoff elections in Canada, mainly due to cost and inconvenience. But now with computer systems for tallying the results, a cheap and effective solution is available.

A computer vote counting system can give us a result comparable to a runoff election without a costly second trip to the polls. Here is how. On voting day, you vote for your favourite candidate, and you also have an alternate vote (if you wish) for your second favourite candidate. The computer keeps track of the primary votes, and for each primary party's vote, it also just as easily keeps track of the alternate vote. When the votes have all been counted, the computer immediately figures out the top two parties based on primary choices, then adds in the total alternate, or second choices if your party was not in the top two. The computer, within seconds, and without any extra cost, tallies the votes for the ultimate winner, taking in the alternate choices of the voters. The only extra cost, assuming computers are counting the votes already, is in the initial one-time only, setting up of the computer. There is no inconvenience to the voter other than marking one extra X on the second part of ballot, and even that is optional.

Why is a second alternate vote like this needed for fairness? Don't we already have a fair system of voting in Canada? No we don't, because one party can win the vote even though the majority of people are opposed to that party. I'm going to give a concrete example.

In Quebec, you have the Bloc Quebecois party, that favours separation for Quebec. They are the only party in favour of separation, against four other parties in each riding that favour staying within Canada. Assuming that this issue is important enough to the voters, it is undemocratic to have the anti-separation votes split up between four competing candidates. If indeed this issue of separation is the most important issue to this voter, I think they would be careful not to put the Bloc candidate as their second choice, since they are not just voting for one of the federalist parties, they are also voting against a separatist party.

A few years ago, in Ontario, we were given a referendum to adopt a new reformed system of voting. Unfortunately the proposal was burdened by the addition of 45 new members of the provincial parliament, so the voting reform proposal was very unpopular and did not pass. It does not mean we don't need voting reform, it only means that particular solution was no good. There are plenty of good ideas out there. For example, this new proposal for a virtual runoff has no substantial extra cost, such as a second runoff election or the addition of dozens of new Members of Parliament. And it still solves the problem of special interest regional parties holding too much power.

Update: Here is a link to the web site Fair Vote Canada working toward a better voting system.

Update 2: I need to give credit for the system I described here, it is the "Top-two Instant Runoff" election according to Wikipedia, and is currently the method for electing the Lord Mayor of London, England.

Picture: I have modified the Canadian sample ballot to indicate a place for a second vote, and hopefully it is understandable to all in French and English.