Israel and Palestine should set up a cage match

3 Comments

Via Kinsella’s site, a link to an article that’s reasonable but misses the context: Answering Israel’s critics

Both sides in this conflict are taking actions that, without any context or forward thinking, seem sort of logical and maybe reasonable.  If I lived in a city that had rockets fired at it frequently, you bet I’d want something done about it.  If I lived in an internment camp under the control of people who frequently carried out air strikes, kept taking more land and showed no motivation to help end the situation amicably, you’d bet I’d want something done about it.

But, as always, all that’s irrelevant without the context.  Given the context we see this is nothing more than a continued struggle between two illogical, stubborn and hateful peoples.

Obama should declare that all aid to Israel will be cut off by the end of his first term if a new agreement is not in place and being implemented.  Realistically, Israel is the roadblock to any agreement since they are the side giving something up, so their hand has to be forced somehow.

Failing that, the leaders of each side should meet for a no-rules fight to the death in a cage.  Sounds stupid, but is it really when you consider how many thousands have died and they’re no closer to a solution?

Planes, trains, automobiles and a bus

2 Comments

I doubt most people will find my misery interesting, but I’ve had a comically disastrous week of travel and writing it down may be therapeutic.

The goal was simple: spend 2 nights in New York for work.  The execution of this proved a bit more difficult.  The weather and a transportation system not designed to deal with snow were working against me.

Wednesday, December 17

I live a bit less than an hour away from Toronto airport.  For an early morning flight I typically leave home 3 hours ahead of my departure time.  This morning I had in fact left 3.5 hours before my flight.

The night before, and morning of, my flight we had gotten about 8cm of snow.  This wasn’t enough that I even thought twice about it causing issues on the highway to the airport.

I hit the highway just after 6am and it was already moving slowly.  15 minutes later and it was crawling to a stop.  In total it took me over 4 hours to reach the airport, missing my flight.  I had called ahead once I knew I’d miss it to rebook on a flight 2 hours later but had even gotten worried I’d miss that.

My new flight ended up being over 2 hours delayed but I did eventually make it to NY.

Friday, December 19

The weather channel had been expecting bad weather Friday so I checked my flight, which wasn’t until 3pm, as soon as I woke up.  Already cancelled.  Fantastic.  Further, Continentals phone system was so busy that I couldn’t get through for 3 hours.  I was automatically booked onto the next available flight, which wasn’t until Sunday.  Extra fantastic.

There wasn’t any availability on Saturday because it was the busiest travel day of the year, being right before Christmas.

I then noticed Air Canada had a flight for 9pm on the Friday that wasn’t yet listed as cancelled.  It was only $150 so I took a shot and booked it.

As the day wore on all my other co-workers who had flown in, or those who were trying to get out for the holidays, were checking their flights.  One by one they were all cancelled.  My new flight was actually the last one to be cancelled (thankfully I got a full refund).

Now, it was pretty important for me to be home for Saturday so I had looked at alternatives.  Trains bound for Toronto were fully booked (even though they take an outrageous 14 hours or more).  I started looking at buses.  I was very hesitant to take an overnight bus trip, but at the last minute decided to go for it.  I bought a ticket online and made my way to the bus station.  When I arrived and went to check-in they told me all buses to Toronto had been cancelled due to weather (why they let me purchase that ticket and spend $40 in cab rides is another infuriating question).

Aftermath

After coming to grips with the fact that I was stuck, things weren’t so bad.  I went along with some friends who were also stranded until Sunday and explored Manhattan, which I hadn’t done before.  It was fun and great to see the city.

Looking forward to inflation?

1 Comment

As predicted by the apparently unknown law of “you can’t print money without consequences”: Dollar Staggers as U.S. Unleashes Cash Flood, Deficit

I don’t know what all went into this number, but the article says:

“U.S. policy makers are flooding the world with an extra $8.5 trillion through 23 different plans designed to bail out the financial system and pump up the economy.”

If that number is true, then Wow.  8.5 trillion.  Inflation and a devalued currency seem to be on their way.

Can a Progressive not oppose the auto bailout?

6 Comments

My earlier post today generated a lot of comments: No bailout yet, maybe the Big 3 should save themselves

At a glance count, most commenter’s seemed to agree with me, but there was a forceful minority who strongly opposed it.  They even started their own post to trash me (I admit to having some fun over there too), calling me all kinds of awful things.  My feelings were hurt; really.  I’m crushed.  They even suggested I should be removed from the Progressive Bloggers roll because I oppose the bailout.  I think I just got an attempted smack-down from the extreme left!

Never mind the fact that it’s ridiculous to assume people on one side of the political spectrum can’t have differences in opinion, but why do some people obviously assume any progressive should support the bailout?  And to the extent of claiming the person can’t be a progressive if they don’t?

Here’s what I see as the pros and cons of the bailout.  First, some points I believe to be true, to add some context:

  1. Neither Ford or GM will go away, no matter what happens.  At worst they will enter bankruptcy and retool.
  2. Ford and GMs largest problems are related to weak products and product timing as well as the massive pension and health care liabilities.
  3. The 3M lost jobs quoted by the UAW is as gross an exaggeration as is the $70/hour wage for the average UAW employee.  Some people just won’t accept that if the Big 3 don’t get their bailout money they will not evaporate.  Sure, tough times are ahead (they are no matter how much money the government gives them), but there are many ways for them to survive that do not involve nationalization.

Pros:

  • Help some people keep their jobs, at least in the short term.
  • There is a national interest in maintaining manufacturing capacity.
  • If it weren’t for government-run car companies we’d never have gotten the VW Beetle.

Cons:

  • The role of government, as defined in Canada and the US, does not include guaranteeing jobs to anyone.  Their most important role in that area is to produce an environment where business can grow and thrive.  I don’t know if I missed a memo that said Progressive has to mean Communist, but if I did then count me out.
  • Propping up a failing business is harmful in several ways.  First, it rewards failure.  Second, it stifles new innovation and new business that could employ those same people in a sustainable way.  Third it’s a government-enforced monopoly.
  • GM does not appear to have a plan to bring themselves to solvency after taking our tax money.  What’s to be done in 6 months?  More money?  Then what?
  • It does not seem fiscally responsible to give more money to companies who have proven they are experts at losing it.  Losing $2k on each product you sell means you’re doing something very wrong.
  • I’m sick of this “Support American business” line.  I work in the tech industry.  The Big 3 had no qualms whatsoever about firing thousands of us in North America and replacing us with people in India and China.  Why would I give them a level of respect they won’t give me?
  • We don’t live in a Communist country, nor have our governments proven particularly adept at running most types of business.  There are exceptions, for example the American Medicaid program apparently runs at a fraction of the administrative costs of private health insurers.

So, that’s where I am.  I think there are reasonable justifications for the bailout, I just don’t see how that’s more than a short-term band-aid that has more downsides in the long-term.

And, if anyone doesn’t think I quality as a progressive because of my thoughts above, guess how much I care?

No bailout yet, maybe the Big 3 should save themselves

30 Comments

Senate Drops Automaker Bailout Bid

High five to the Senate Republicans.  Who would have thought I’d ever say that?

It still doesn’t sound like the auto companies want to use this money for anything other than “surviving until SUV demand returns.”  I wish someone in power would realize this is stupid.

Interim Leader

1 Comment

Why are the Liberals bothering to pick an Interim Leader?  Just pick someone and get focused on beating Harper.  Wasn’t Dion the interim leader?

Also, I guess I missed it, but I’m not clear on why Dion decided to “step down again” now.  I heard someone on CBC mention it was partially due to his “performance with the coalition thing.”  It didn’t appear that he did anything wrong and things turned out as well as could be expected considering the Governor General pulled the plug on it.

Behind the scenes of the financial meltdown

1 Comment

A great, and lengthy, article on the story behind the US financial bailout: Anatomy of a Meltdown

The most striking part, for me, is the idea that the financial system is so large and complex that nobody understands all of it.  This isn’t really news but it’s dramatic to see the truth of it as these world-leading economists try to contain the crisis.  For example, the Fed had decided to let Bear Stearns fall, similarly to Leahman Brothers, until they discovered Bear was one of the largest dealers in the overnight “repo” market for short-term capital.  If Bear fell, the repo market would descend into chaos, leading to widespread damage to the larger economy.

Also interesting is that the low interest rates put in place at the Fed to feed the economy post 9/11 were a large factor in the housing bubble.  Seems obvious, in hindsight, but few people guessed it would have been such a large factor.

If you have any interest in the financial bailout this is a great read.