Nice cup of tea

The first of the Presidential ‘Debates’ is tonight. I may rant and foam tomorrow, but for now I’ll just point out that these aren’t debates, as the two candidates can’t address each other directly. Hence I shall refer to tonight’s event as as the Presidential Bit of a Chat.

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Don’t you just hate it when…

…people post quotes that they find to be really deep and meaningful, like they assume you give a monkey’s? Well stop reading.

I like the idea of every morning suddenly thinking, “You know what? I’ve suddenly decided I’m a fascist.” I don’t think that will ever happen, and I hope it doesn’t, to be perfectly honest. But I do think it’s important not to be absolutely sure, so sure that you can’t reinvent yourself in some way, or at least rediscover the truth of why you think what you think, and not just take it as an assumption.

Stephen Fry.

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Even I can’t do this nuance thing

In an earlier post I commented on a possible conspiracy theory involving Bush and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. While some interesting discussion has arisen, it’s become clear that I fumbled the ball, lost the plot, dropped the euphemism, etc. and didn’t get my point across. For the sake of clarity, therefore:

I don’t think Bush committed is involved in such a conspiracy, nor that it even exists.
I do think Bush and his chums are capable of such things.
I think Clinton was as likely to do such things.
I imagine Kerry won’t be far behind, though he strikes me as slightly more upright than some.
My primary concern is that this is a depressingly expectable (is that a word?) function of the office, not the current officeholder.

Next time: I explain exactly what I meant by “for the sake of clarity”

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Sports Roundup

Well, just the one sport really. I know how fascinated you all (all! ha!) are with my rowing, but if Bérubé can do it with hockey, why not me? I rowed in the Head of the Des Moines on Saturday, a three mile race up the Des Moines river in, erm, Des Moines (third-largest insurance city in the world, if you were wondering). Despite only four hours of kip I managed to race in a men’s open quad where we came second, though unfortunately the field was small enough that we also came last. But we got a medal. Then the masters eight, where we got silver again, and this time we actually beat another team. Just one though.

The highlight of the day was when I coxed (go ahead, snigger) the mixed master’s eight, where equipment failure meant for half the race it was a mixed master’s seven. Despite that we got gold by a huge 1 second margin (over a 22+ minute race). It was really heartening to see the crew drive themselves so hard when all seemed lost, and I was very gratified when one of the more experienced members thanked me for something I said during the race that helped him carry on.

Coxing (pause) the Head of the Mississippi this weekend, then the season is done. I hope to do more regattas next year though, so prepare for more tedious talk of lactic acid and strange hotels.

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Conspiracy Theory

There’s a story on CNN at the moment about the possibility of opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The SPR is a pool (ha ha) of oil that is available to help with temporary breaks in oil supply, to prevent short-term shocks to the economy. It is not intended to smooth out natural market fluctuations, or lower prices when the market gets a bit carried away. It looks like the Bush administration is abiding by these principles with their announcement that they are considering tapping the reserve in the wake of the hurricane damage in Florida, and they are to be commended for it.

So far so dull. But it got me thinking about the level of scheming that goes on in politics Here’s a scenario I just made up; it is in no way backed by any fact or inside gossip, it’s purely designed to illustrate a point:

Bush would like oil prices to come down near the election to show (rightly or wrongly) that economic conditions are improving. He said earlier in the year that he wouldn’t do that by tapping the SPR, for the reasons outlined above. Between that statement and the election, of course, lay hurricane (and tornado) season, so it was a fair bet that there would be some incident that could be played as a reason to open the reserves. By waiting for that event, Bush could get more of an election-day effect from resultant price drops, and without doing anything overtly manipulative.

Here are the things that slimed me out about such an idea. First, it is entirely plausible; in fact I can’t think of a major leader who wouldn’t consider this. Worse, it’s actually pretty mild; all Bush had to do was make sure he emphasized his level-headed, strategic viewpoint at the beginning, then reap all the rewards later on. Compared to some of the things that politicians are rumored to do it’s practically virtuous. Nonetheless it’s still orders of magnitude more slimy than anything I would do (in my comfortable middle-class life).

After mulling that over, I started to think about the praciticalities of implementing such a conspiracy. Naturally that starts with the basic idea, where there are four basic choices:
1.The President comes up with it, keeps it to himself, and steers events as necessary. Slimy, but not totally slimy.
2. The President comes up with it, shares it with his chums, and they agree to steer events between them. Slimy
3. Somebody else comes up with the idea, the President doesn’t know, events are nonetheless steered as necessary. Slimy and worrying.
4. Somebody else comes up with the idea, the President agrees, and everyone steers events. Beyond slimy.

Again, this could happen with just about any politician. The people who run your country. It’s a rather unnerving thought, not least because I’d always sort of assumed better.

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