Biden Time!

Oh come on, like you didn’t see that one coming.

John King has just announced on CNN that according to “very very solid sources” Biden is Obama’s pick for vice-president. Jake Tapper reports that the secret service has dispatched a security detail to Biden’s estate in Delaware.

Well, so much for surprises.

Already the smears have started. YouTube is full of new clips of past gaffes and malicious, defamatory attacks. Disgusting. The above clip is from an appearance at the National Press Club in 2007 reading from his autobiography Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics.

Update: Here’s the clip from CNN.

Update2: The “far left” can be a pretty tough crowd.

Liberal Hypocrisy on Abortion?

Pictured: Tom Wappel’s parliament office window. (Credit: Stephen Taylor)

Shocking! Say it ain’t so!

Well, Stephen Taylor would certainly like people to think that there’s some kind of a “double-standard” with respect to Stéphane Dion’s views on abortion because of the absolutely startling revelation that Tom Wappel (whose strident pro-life stance is quite well known) has a “Defend Life” poster from the Knights of Columbus (of which he’s a member) displayed in his office window. Yawn.

He also cites past statements from a handful of Liberal MPs that have expressed anti-choice sentiments, or at least have equivocated on the issue as proof of that “Liberals are hypocrites on abortion.” Again, ho-hum. Last time I checked, I don’t believe there was any requirement for members to fall into lock-step with the leader on this controversial issue and it’s fair to say that Dion’s position is entirely representative of the vast majority of the caucus.

Presumably to address where Harper stands on the issue of abortion, Taylor offers up a quote from his address to the 2005 Conservative Convention (which interestingly he retrieves from the extreme right-wing U.S. website Free Republic) where he said: “And, while I’m at it, I will tell you that, as prime minister, I will not bring forth legislation on the issue of abortion.” That’s reassuring, especially seeing as Harper’s not one to break promises. But let’s assume he’s good to his word, how do “social conservatives” within the party feel about that?

“Character & Conduct” in 60 Seconds

Fox News Channel aired the first of two presidential candidate documentaries called “Character and Conduct” hosted by Bill Hemmer last Monday. The folks at 23/6 (“Some of the News Most of the Time”) stitched together a bunch of the numerous stereotypes and insinuations included in the piece and distilled them into a snappy one minute version.

Bonus from 23/6, here’s an animated version of the “Get Your War On” strip. Short, but oh so sweet.

Canada Not an Island

Well, there’s a real shocker. “We are feeling the impacts of global economic factors beyond the control of any one individual or government,” Flaherty said in connection with his department’s monthly fiscal update. Translation: Don’t blame us for the crummy economic forecast; we’re just helpless victims and innocent bystanders!

Although in fairness, it’s hard to get too worked up over Flim-Flam Jim’s prediction that economic growth this year will be less than was originally forecast — 1.1 percent as opposed to an more optimistic estimate of 1.4% that had been made in February. This brings the government’s figures into line with what private forecasters had been saying months ago, and what the Bank of Canada said last month.

What’s perhaps more concerning is a $4.4 billion drop in the budget surplus and a decline in revenue of $1.1 billion led by a 17 percent drop in returns from the GST. Also, despite having apparently reversed its deficit position, program spending has risen by almost $4 billion or 8.4 percent from the first three months of the previous fiscal year. It should be interesting to see what the forecast is going to be once all of the pork-barrel spending promises that have been made over the summer have been factored into the mix in the next budget.

Waking Up in the Universe

“The odds against our century’s happening to be the present century are the same as the odds against a penny tossed out at random on the road from London to Istanbul happening to fall on a particular ant.”

This is the first part of Richard Dawkins’ 1991 Royal Institution Christmas Lecture entitled “Growing Up in the Universe” that was intended to provide young people with an introduction to evolution, and more generally, the wonders of science. In the lecture, Dawkins aims to shake off the “anesthetic of the familiar” and, in various ways, demonstrates the usefulness of science in aiding our understanding of the universe. Rather than re-invent the wheel, Wikipedia provides an excellent summary of the series here.

Also “The DVD Outsider” has an extensive review of the series (I’ll spare beleaguered theists the stridently anti-religious rant that precedes it, even though it’s highly entertaining):

The human brain is the most sophisticated object in the known universe and hey, you’ve got one! Yes, you had to go through the complex reproductive process to obtain one but the fact is that if you are reading this, you are the proud possessor of a human brain. What are the odds? Actually the odds of you being here reading this are staggeringly small. If you could grasp just how small, you’d wake up each morning thrilled to be alive and the prospect of more discoveries about the wonder that is your life before being shut down for good, with luck, at extreme old age. If you’ve passed on your genes then you’ve done your job (as far as evolution is concerned).

I am not naïve to think that life is wonderful for all (there are many things that conspire to make it hard. I could have done without pain for a start) but as a child you ask questions. If you have teachers and guardians that are well informed then the world isn’t so much an oyster as a sumptuous banquet just waiting for you to taste its many pleasures.

The tossing pennies rubbishing of psychic events and the cannonball aimed squarely at Dawkins’ own head (faith in scientific principles) are small but exquisite pleasures in this particular lecture and I’m happy to report that my ten year old put his hand up more than once after the audience was asked a question. That’s getting your audience involved.

It would certainly be wonderful to see science taught this way in the classroom rather than as is more frequently the case, in dull fashions that result in it being a stultifying exercise in boredom. In this regard, let me direct your attention to the tragic story of Andy, a gifted 12-year old who entered his junior high school science fair with the challenge to “invent something new and useful.” Andy thought about the problem for a while and, after the expected failed attempts and blind alleys, came up with the idea of a self-buttering toaster. Kind of a Rube Goldberg contraption, to be sure, but quite a clever invention for a 12-year old.

The evening of the fair approached, and Andy and I looked forward with anticipation and excitement to a night of glory. The judges, a collection of teachers and parent volunteers, methodically walked up and down each aisle. They asked questions, measured things with rulers, made notes on clipboards, and generally maintained a judgelike demeanor. When the judges came to Andy’s table, the toaster worked perfectly. With self-assurance and a smile, he handed each judge a slice of warm, buttery Wonder Bread for a snack.

But when the winners were announced, Andy’s name wasn’t called. Crestfallen, he approached the judges and asked, “Why didn’t I get a ribbon?”

“Well, Andy,” said a judge, “we thought your machine was dangerous. After all, it uses electricity and it gets very hot.”

“Of course it does. It’s a toaster,” he protested. “It’s supposed to get hot and use electricity. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be a toaster.” Unswayed by logic, the judges would not reconsider.

So who won? First place went to a girl who made a cap and vest for her hamster. Second place went to a boy who “made” radar.

“Hamster clothes? That’s so lame,” Andy whispered to me during the award ceremony. “And that the second place kid didn’t invent radar. He just cut out some pictures of radar antennas and glued them to a poster board.”

More seriously, several years ago, a cross-party group of MPs in the U.K. comprising the Commons science and technology committee found that the rote learning of facts of little use has effectively made science a “tedious and dull activity.” Chairman of the committee Dr. Ian Gibson MP said: “Science should be the most exciting subject on the school curriculum: scientific controversies and breakthroughs hit the headlines every day. But school science can be so boring it puts young people off science for life.” I don’t imagine that the situation is all that much different here in Canada. What an awful shame.

Red Star “In the Dark” About Green Shift

Promoting the Green Shift plan has been a “tough sell” according to Rob Ferguson writing in this morning’s Toronto Star about a Dion campaign swing through the riding of Don Valley West. Although he’s been selling the plan for weeks, most voters “were in the dark about it,” Ferguson reports.

”I haven’t really seen much about that,” men’s clothier Paul Carreira said after a quick chat with Dion, mainstreeting for the Sept. 22 by-election in Don Valley West.

Popping into stores and coffee shops to shake hands, Dion said his mission was to “just say hello” and not pitch the pollution-fighting plan to boost taxes on carbon-based fuels like gasoline while lowering income taxes.

Seems it’s not just voters who are in the dark, so is Ferguson. In fact, the tax will not apply to gasoline, since the existing excise tax on gasoline at the pump is already the equivalent of $42 per tonne of carbon.

Jocks v. Artsies

It’s a little difficult to see how the Harper government’s plan to “redirect the savings” from the recent cuts to arts programs into Olympic torch relays and “Road to Excellence” program as part of an effort to help Harper government “achieve its domestic and international branding goals,” is going to make anyone overly happy.

Place Your Bets

Word is that the “Obama Drama” (as CNN has taken to calling it) will soon be over when the Democratic nominee announces his pick for Vice-President (at first by text message to contributors) this weekend, or possibly even today.

I really haven’t a clue who America’s next “warm bucket of piss” might be, but it would certainly be nice to be surprised for a change.

I Thought Harper Was a “Leader”

Ever since Stéphane Dion took over the helm of the badly listing Liberal ship following the party’s defeat in 2006 and a prolonged leadership contest that followed, we’ve been told by the Conservative party and its supporters that the former academic and cabinet minister is “not a leader.” By contrast, Stephen Harper has been touted as the embodiment of “leadership” — a principled man of conscience that’s unconcerned by the whims of popular opinion polls and is unafraid to stake out forward positions on a range of controversial issues. Or so the story goes.

Yesterday, in response to a question at a town hall meeting about the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, the pending bill that would make it a criminal offence to harm an unborn child during an attack on its mother, Dion stated that he opposed because it might infringe on women’s access to abortion. “We need to protect everyone against crime but, at the same time, it happens that I believe in the rights of women to choose and I have a lot of respect for the people who have a different view,” he told the crowd.

Dion then went on to ask that Stephen Harper to state his own position on abortion. “I think all Canadians have the right to know what the party leader thinks,” he said. “I gave my opinion. I want to hear the opinion of Stephen Harper.” A fair enough question it seems.

So how did our fearless “leader” respond? Harper had Darren Eke, some flunky in the PMO, send an e-mail distancing the government from the private member’s bill and further stating that the government “no intention to reopen the debate on abortion.” Wow. That was quite some “leadership” there. So much for appealing to the “silent majority” of social conservatives that have long been ignored by the media, but are supposed to living in what’s imagined will soon become “Harperland” after the next election.