November 10, 2012

“We’re here, we’re queer, and that shouldn’t really matter”

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:51

A profile of Conservative activist Roy Eappen:

You’re not really gay.

That’s a phrase that Roy Eappen hears quite a bit.

“I’m a gay Tory. That’s apparently not acceptable,” he says between giggles. “I find it kind of funny.”

Eappen is a bit of a curious case. Indian by birth, he now lives in Quebec, where he splits his time between advocating for a new centre-right consensus in the province, stumping for the federal Conservatives and hobnobbing with Republican heavyweights down south. A quick Google search will turn up pictures of Eappen alongside George W Bush, Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan.

But he’s becoming increasingly known for his parties.

Recently, Eappen was in Tampa for the Republican National Convention, where he helped organize for conservative gay group GOProud. Before that, he started the Fabulous Blue Tent party for the Conservative convention here in Canada. “It’s a funny little secret that Tory parties all over the world are full of gay people,” he says.

Eappen’s recent 800-person party in Ottawa was met with accolades and positive reviews from partygoers and pundits. It attracted Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and MP Rick Dykstra, as well as staffers from all parties. Even Laureen Harper was supposed to come, but she couldn’t make it.

He laughs again. “She’s an Evangelical Christian, and she’s cool with us.”

What Ataturk accomplished to create modern Turkey

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, WW1 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:35

History Today posted that today is the anniversary of the death of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the man who carved modern Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire:

Mustapha Kemal Pasha was given the honorific title ‘father of the Turks’ at the height of a revolution which he was pushing forward intuitively and idiosyncratically, there being no precedent for such a fundamental sea change in a Muslim state.

Inevitably, it took someone standing outside the Islamic tradition of Ottoman Turkey to create a new state out of Anatolia — rising from the wreck of the empire. But as The Times was to say in its obituary, this was a man of extraordinary qualities; a Cromwell of the Middle East and also a maverick with an almost feminine subtlety in handling crises on the path to supreme power. He had an iron will and displayed single-mindedness when it came to ensuring the security of the state, even to hanging former confederates who plotted against his revolution.

Ataturk was born of an Albanian mother in Salonika and, without connections followed a military career in which, after being involved with the Young Turks reformist movement, he made his name in 1915 by rushing reinforcements to the Gallipoli beach-head and holding the ANZAC assault.

[. . .]

The Kemalists formed a provisional government in the small town of Ankara, in the middle of the desolate Anatolian plateau. On the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts the Greeks and Italians laid claim to what they regarded as their Asia Minor birthright, hoping to recreate some sort of classical empire. Kemal disabused the Greeks, who soon, of all the Allies hoping for a piece of Anatolia, were alone in arms against the nationalist forces. Halted in a blistering hot wilderness just short of Ankara, the Greeks, who had out-marched their supply lines, were outflanked and thrown back by Kemal’s outnumbered and ragged levies at the Sakaria river. A retreat became a headlong flight and the Greek forces joined their fellow nationals and the Armenians and foreigners who had formed the mercantile community of Smyrna, in a panic-stricken evacuation of the sacked and blazing port. Kemal is supposed to have indulged in a drinking orgy as Smyrna went up in flames — a Tartar conqueror’s celebration of total victory.

The Greeks quit the struggle and their sponsor, the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, who had threatened armed British intervention backed by the fleet to keep Constantinople an open port under British protection, followed suit. The French and Russians signed separate treaties, giving the Kemalists recognition and aid.

The Two Scotts’ NFL picks (beat up on Buffalo edition)

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:09

It’s not nice to pick on poor, defenceless Buffalo … but that won’t stop either Scott:

Buffalo (plus 11) at New England

Scott Feschuk: As a Bills fan, I’ve so far refrained from criticizing QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, largely because he represents a genuine upgrade over guys like Trent Edwards and J.P. Losman. Remember Losman? You couldn’t find a more incompetent quarterback if you took Ryan Leaf’s brain, stuffed it inside Matt Leinart’s skull and handed the skull to JaMarcus Russell to throw 12 feet over the head of a wide-open receiver. But enough is enough. Fitzpatrick just isn’t getting it done and the fact that he graduated from Harvard and probably knows how to use a protractor does not make up for the fact HE NO CAN THROWY MR. OBLONG. Right now, the only thing that will save 2012 for Buffalo fans is if it turns out that the Bills’ season syncs up perfectly with Dark Side of the Moon. Fingers crossed. Pick: Buffalo.

Scott Reid: Breaking News — the Buffalo Bills, whose defence has allowed an NFL all-time high forty squinjillion points, has fired its entire defensive team and replaced them with the Muppets and Wall-E.

Head coach Chan Gailey explained that, while unconventional, the technically lifeless Muppets would still represent a substantial upgrade to most positions. “Gonzo played a little Division II ball before he got into show biz and Kermit has great instincts around the ball — as long as we can keep that pig away.” New free safety Animal had this to add in an interview with WNY Sports, “Lurrghh.” In other news, the Bills denied that they’ve been negotiating with Tennessee for the rights to field goal kicker Stuart Little. Pick: New England.

Minimum wage and “living wage”

Filed under: Britain, Business, Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:47

Tim Harford discusses the image and reality of Britain’s campaign for “living wages”:

Living wage?

The minimum wage, £6.19 an hour for those 21 and over, is a legal obligation. The living wage, £8.55 an hour in London and £7.45 an hour elsewhere, is the result of a very successful publicity campaign and can count Ed Miliband and Boris Johnson among its advocates. There are no legal sanctions for paying less than the living wage, although Mr Miliband did announce plans to “name and shame” those companies who didn’t. Apparently that is helpful, because “name” rhymes with “shame”.

Why do campaigners say that you can’t live on the minimum wage?

Try living on £6.19 an hour and see how you get on.

For an economist you’re getting very high-minded all of a sudden.

I think it’s perfectly reasonable to point out that £6.19 an hour isn’t a lot of money. £8.55 an hour isn’t a lot of money, either, but a lot of people have to get by on less. Unfortunately we economists have to ask awkward questions — for instance, whether these campaigns are likely to help people without much income.

[. . .]

Perhaps we should just raise the legal minimum wage to the same level as the living wage.

Perhaps. Perhaps we should raise the legal minimum wage to a £100m an hour. I think if we did we’d find unemployment might rise. A minimum wage does two things. It will shift money from employers in an imperfectly competitive market to low-paid workers and it will induce some employers to sack workers, even if both employer and employee would prefer a deal struck at an illegally-low wage rate. There’s a case that for the good of low-paid workers, there should be no minimum wage at all. There should be one but it needs to be modest if it isn’t to cause too much unemployment.

Is there any evidence on the right level?

There’s lots, and it is mixed, but on balance it’s in favour of the idea that if you raise the cost of employing people, fewer people will be employed. It is worth bearing in mind that, for a lowly paid worker shifting from job to job, having less work available but at a high hourly rate, isn’t a bad deal. The concern has to be that certain types of people — especially young unskilled workers — will be shut out completely and denied the chance to learn on the job.

“Carbon sequestration in peatland may be one of the main reasons why ice age conditions have occurred time after time”

Filed under: Environment, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Overall, global cooling is far more to be feared than global warming … and we may be seeing the conditions that would create a new ice age in the near future:

A group of Swedish scientists at the University of Gothenburg have published a paper in which they argue that spreading peatlands are inexorably driving planet Earth into its next ice age, and the only thing holding back catastrophe is humanity’s hotly debated atmospheric carbon emissions.

“We are probably entering a new ice age right now. However, we’re not noticing it due to the effects of carbon dioxide,” says Professor of Physical Geography Lars Franzén, from the Department of Earth Sciences at Gothenburg uni.

[. . .]

The scientists have calculated that the potential is there for Swedish peatlands to triple in extent, enormously increasing their carbon sink effect. By extrapolating to include the rest of the world’s high-latitude temperate areas – the parts of the globe where peatland can expand as it does in Sweden – they project the creation of an extremely powerful carbon sink. They theorise that this is the mechanism which tends to force the Earth back into prolonged ice ages after each relatively brief “interglacial” warm period.

“Carbon sequestration in peatland may be one of the main reasons why ice age conditions have occurred time after time,” says Franzén.

With no other factors in play, the time is about right for the present interglacial to end and the next ice age to come on. Indeed, Franzén and his crew think it has barely been staved off by human activity

Caution should be exercised with this as with all climate-model-based predictions: our models are still not good enough to be dependable, so this is no more something to panic about than the “global warming” scare of the last decade. It is something to consider and to try to develop better models and collect more data to support or contradict the findings.

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