Dueling Coalition Rallies: Pro & Con

The anti-coalition, pro-Harper, Conservative sponsored rally in Ottawa yesterday. Heil Harper!

On Friday, around 500 people in Edmonton rallied in support of a coalition government between the in front of City Hall.

And another pro-coalition rally, this one (est. 1,000 people) in Vancouver on Friday at Canada Place (of course).

More flag-wrapping (literally) and invocations of “Oh Canada”… After watching those, this scathing article by Rick Mercer that appeared in Saturday’s Globe & Mail might prove to be a good chaser.

Reinventing the Automobile

General Motors Vice President Larry Burns previews next-generation car design at a recent TED conference: sleek, customizable (and computer-enhanced) vehicles that run clean on hydrogen — and pump energy back into the electrical grid when they’re sitting idle in parking lots.

I’m normally quite skeptical about hydrogen-powered vehicles and I think this is the first time that I’ve seen the idea promoted in a way that, to use the hackneyed expression, involves some “thinking outside the box” when it comes to different sources of the hydrogen power. Although again, Burns offers up biofuels as one such possible source, which presents its own problems — at least in the way that it’s being handled in North America and Europe.

The idea of cars feeding their power generating capabilities back into the electric grid is quite novel, to say the least; as is the thought of drawing on their computing power.

Anyway, it’s interesting and perhaps more than a little reassuring to see that GM perhaps isn’t as hidebound and retroactive as many presume them to be.

Update: Okay, one thing leads to another… Somewhat related to this post, there’s the more current matter of bailing out the automakers — something that now seems like a certainty given that the Democrats have finagled money out of the original $25 billion that was provided to the automakers for technological improvements to go to the “bridge loan” (aka “bailout”) that they’re currently seeking to keep them afloat during the present time when credit remains seized up and new car sales are plummeting.

House Financial Services Barney Frank (D – MA) led the charge here and, as usual, he got off the best line of the day on Friday when talking about how Obama should become more actively involved by saying: “He’s going to have to be more assertive than he’s been. At a time of great crisis, with mortgage foreclosures and autos… he says ‘we’ve only got one president at a time.’ I’m afraid that overstates the number of presidents we have at the present time.” Heh.

Sign of the Times

Laid-off Workers Occupy Factory in Chicago

Approximately 200-300 workers who are angry about getting laid off from their factory jobs at Chicago’s Republic Windows and Doors occupied the building today in protest at the move.

Workers who got three days’ notice that their factory was closing down occupied the building and say they won’t go home without assurances they’ll get severance and vacation pay. By law the Chicago-based vinyl window manufacturer is required to give 60 days’ notice before shutting down its operations

The Trib’s headline writers, being ever-clever, quipped “Republic Windows closing doors.” According to the article, the company, which has been in business since 1965, told employees Wednesday that its main lender, Bank of America, had canceled its line of credit due to a severe downturn in business at the plant.

At the high point of the residential construction market, product sales to home builders totaled $30 million at the company. This year, those sales will total $6 million, said Amy Zimmerman, vice president of sales and marketing.

It’s noted that Bank of America received $25 billion from the government’s financial bailout package. However, the company said in a statement today that it isn’t responsible for Republic’s financial obligations to its employees.

“Across cultures, religions, union and nonunion, we all say this bailout was a shame,” said Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743. “If this bailout should go to anything, it should go to the workers of this country.”

Outside the plant, protesters wore stickers and carried signs that said, “You got bailed out, we got sold out.” Meanwhile, the angry workers have apparently been shoveling snow and cleaning the building.

All That’s Missing is the Sex…

Via Jeff Jedras, here’s video from CBC’s live news broadcast Friday morning while they were all spinning their wheels, waiting for the outcome of Stephen Harper’s meeting with the Governor General to prorogue parliament.

Interviewing Transport Minister John Baird in the foyer of the House, Don Newman seemed bit shocked at the notion that the Conservatives were going to present “a budget with a Canadian flag on it” and even more so at Baird’s statement at the STEPHEN HARPER GOVERNMENT® was going to “take a time out” in order to “go over the heads of the members of parliament, go over the heads frankly of the Governor General, go right to the Canadian people.” In effect, Baird was claiming that the duly elected parliament and its representatives were “illegitimate” (something which Baird denied, even though his statements clearly indicated otherwise).

Afterward, Keith Boag attempted to set the record straight, noting that “I cannot remember a circumstance when so many members of the government, including the Prime Minister, say so many things that need to be corrected because they aren’t true.” That’s a very diplomatic way of saying that the Conservatives are LYING with relentless determination.

Anti-Coalition Demonstration: Calgary

This is getting really ugly and nasty.

Characterizing Layton as some kind of Communist and signs “written in Russian so the Communists can understand”… Are these people serious? Protesters waving signs with suspiciously high production values and masks of Dion — courtesy of the Conservative Party’s well-funded “war room” to be sure.

Anti-coalition protesters wrapping themselves in the flag and singing the national anthem… (something which it should be noted that Conservative MPs did on the Hill in their caucus meeting the other day) Good grief, how ridiculous. Not to mention shameful.

Gratuitous Buggles Moment

I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved this song for some reason. Actually, the whole album is great. I miss that old dreamy, synth-pop from the 80s.

Now, if I could only find Ultravox’s I Want to be a Machine on YouTube… that would be splendid.

Update: Most excellent! Carrie has found it…

I stole a cathode face from newscasts
And a crumbling fugue of songs
From the reservoir of video souls
In the lakes beneath my tongue
In flesh of ash and silent movies
I walked at boulevards again
A nebula of unfinished creatures
From the lifetimes of my friends
I hope your innocence has depraved me

Atom: The Illusion of Reality

I took a break from politics, current affairs, and ceaseless news programs last night (isn’t everyone just a little fed up with it at the moment?) and instead watched this excellent BBC4 documentary about the atom.

This is the final part of Professor Jim Al-Khalili’s series about the basic building block of our universe, the atom. He explores how studying the atom forced us to rethink the nature of reality itself, discovers how there might be parallel universes in which different versions of us exist and finds out that “empty” space isn’t empty at all. I’ve heard this theory many times before but it became a more vivid concept when it was described by Dawkins in one of his lectures discussing quantum physics and cosmology.

Al-Khalili shows how the world we think we know turns out to be a tiny sliver of an infinitely weirder universe than which we could have conceived.

I can’t say that you’ll come away from this with any more knowledge than when you started, but it does perhaps pose some interesting new questions.