Thursday, September 30, 2004

Saved By Hazing 

Sometimes the conventions of serious journalism stand in the way of telling the TRUTH. Other bloggers have pointed out how misplaced notions of "telling both sides of the story" create mistaken impressions (that global climate change may be a myth, for example).

But this isn't the whole story. There are other problematic journalistic conventions which must be addressed as well.

As an example, check out this AP story:
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Cleveland Indians pitcher Kyle Denney was shot in the right calf while riding on the team bus as it was traveling to Kansas City International Airport late Wednesday night.

Denney was not seriously injured. The bullet did not go very deep and was immediately removed by Indians trainers. The rookie right-hander was taken to a hospital, and although team spokesman Bart Swain had said he was expected to spend the night, a police spokesman said Denney was treated and released.
So there's the who what where and when. And why?
Another police spokesman, Sgt. Tony Sanders, said people on the bus reported hearing "what sounded like a firecracker" and then realized that it was a gunshot. He said the investigation was hampered a bit by the fact that the bus continued on to the airport before police were called.

He appealed for calls from anyone who was in the area at the time.

"We are doing out best to find out what happened, and we think somebody might have seen something," Sanders said.

Sanders said later that a tip had led to identification of a possible suspect, who was not in custody.
OK, so no one knows why. That's fine.

But why oh why does one have to read the whole story to get to this detail?
As part of a rookie hazing ritual, Denney was wearing a USC cheerleader's outfit, including high white boots, on the trip to the airport.

"Our trainers said the boots may have saved Kyle from further injury," Swain said.
Hey, AP! THIS is what people want (and need!) to know! The NY Post has many faults, but trust me, missing this kind of story is not one of them. Shame, shame on the Associated Press.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Canadian Malaise 

The New York Times has an article today on the malaise afflicting Canadians engaged in nationalist omphaloskepsis:
As one of Canada's pre-eminent historians, David Bercuson of the University of Calgary is not your average couch potato. But with beer in hand and feet up on the sofa, he watched the Olympics on television last month to cheer on the world champion hurdler Perdita Félicien to win a gold medal for Canada.

When Ms. Félicien inexplicably stumbled into the very first hurdle like a rank amateur, Mr. Bercuson dashed straight to his computer. He knocked out a screed declaring that her sad performance, and that of the entire Canadian Olympic team, was just another symptom of "the national malaise'' that is making Canada a second-rate, uncompetitive nation.

"It's not the individual performers whose shortcomings are on display for all the world to see,'' he wrote in an op-ed article for The Calgary Herald. "It is the very spirit of the nation and the sickness that now has hold of it that is at fault.''

His acidic commentary is characteristic of the view of a growing number of historians, foreign policy thinkers and columnists from some of the nation's top newspapers. Many see themselves as part of an informal school that has no name or single mentor, but all are writing the same assessment: Canada is in decline, or at the very least, has fallen short of their aspirations.

For these thinkers, Canada is adrift at home and wilting as a player on the world stage. It is dogged by not only uninspired leaders but also by a lack of national purpose, stunted imagination and befuddled priorities even as its economy prospers.

"I'm in almost total despair,'' Michael Bliss, a University of Toronto historian, said in an interview. "You have a country, but what is it for and what is it doing?''
The article goes on to discuss the travails of Canadian health care and hockey, but strangely omits mention of the fact that Canada finally lost one of its only two Major League Baseball franchises today.

I'm not sure what to suggest. Personally, I think that ratcheting up Canada's fiery-hot conflict with Denmark is not the way to go to pull our neighbors to the north out of their collective funk.

Another option seemingly on the table is beating Americans at their own game: creating horrible, loathsome TV shows. There may be some who believe that this appalling cultural invasion of the US airwaves will do the trick, but I can't imagine (and indeed pray against) this show's being a success. [Side question: Why are Canadian pop musicians (except A.C. Newman and Neil Young) generally so awful? Check out this list for proof that this is the case. Note that I am not saying anything negative about Canadian jazz vocalists.)]

What should Canada do? This descendent of Alberta's tiny Jewish cattle-ranching community wants to know...

NZ/Israel: Passport Fraudsters Gone, But Diplomatic Sanctions Remain 

As I mentioned here in July (and also posted at The Head Heeb, where the comments were far more extensive), feathers in New Zealand and Israel have been ruffled over the case of two Israeli citizens who attempted to fraudulently obtain NZ passports. The NZ government has accused the men of being spies seeking false travel documents for use on assassination missions, and the Israeli government (and the men in question) have insisted that the men were gangsters, not Mossad agents.

For those of you intriguted by this incident, the BBC and New Zealand Herald have more on the story today: the men accused of trying to illegally obtain the passports (though not, as the Herald suggests, of "spying in New Zealand") have been deported after serving one third of their six-month jail sentences. Israel still says they aren't Mossad agents, and New Zealand has not removed its diplomatic sanctions on Israel.

The BBC article also features this picture of one of the fraudsters, which should be helpful in identifying him in case he tries to forge YOUR passport:

Read This, Ye Well-Meaning and Good-Intentioned 

Brad DeLong is on a rampage. He has read a Seth Stevenson article in Slate decrying the predations of "Debbie", an American importer of coir rugs who buys her products from shady Indian middlemen who in turn exploit villagers by paying them miniscule wages. Stevenson urges his readers to boycott these rugs, and DeLong gets MAD:
Seth Stevenson thinks that those who do not buy the coir mats are morally superior to Debbie and the rest of us: they are not complicit in the exploitation of Third World labor. But there is another way of looking at it--a way that makes those who do not buy the coir mats (and Seth Stevenson) into moral monsters. Suppose that Seth Stevenson, on his bicycle ride, were to stop by a couple of empty huts, run into them, steal the looms, and then smash their looms to pieces on the beach and dance in front of the resulting bonfire. Then the villagers could no longer make coir mats. They would have to find something else to do--something else that is worse than making mats. Such a theft-and-bonfire would have the same effect on the people of Desperately Poor Village as... as... drying up demand for their products by urging First World consumers to adopt a higher standard of morality and eschew the products of Third World labor, no?

So shouldn't we evaluate Seth Stevenson's plea for us not to buy coir mats as having the same moral value as loom-smashing, since it has the same effect on the people in Desperately Poor Village? By this way of thinking, Seth Stevenson is a thief. No, he is worse than your common-variety thief: a common-thief steals from the rich, while Stevenson steals their livelihood from the poor. Stevenson is a thief who steals the poor's livelihod. No, he is even worse--for he incites others to steal the poor's livelihood as well. And he is even worse than that: a thief--even the master of a gang of thieves--makes use of what he steals, while Stevenson simply destroys the looms (or, rather, urges us to destroy the looms' market value as a capital good.)

There is no reason. He's a thief--no, worse, the organizer of a large gang of thieves--no, worse, the organizer of a large gang of vandals who prey on the world's poor. By my lights, Stevenson is on a moral plane far, far lower than that of Debbie. Debbie may be reborn as a Brahman. But the karmic wages of Stevenson's internet virtual loom-smashing ensure that he will, at best, be reborn as a dung-fly.

But here's where DeLong adds something of value: he presents an array of other, more effective, less karmically-damaging options for those appalled at the plight of the Indian villagers:
* Praise coir doormats extravagantly, to boost demand in America for them. With higher demand, Mr. Shady Middleman will have to go further, work harder, and pay more. More families will have the option of making a livelihood by weaving coir doormats--and those families that take up that option are pretty likely to be made better off as a result.

* Agitate for the expiration-on-time of the Multi Fiber Agreement, which restricts textile exports from the Third World to the United States--and so virtually smashes more looms in a minute than Seth Stevenson on his bike could smash in a year.

* Figure out a way to generate alternatives to Mr. Shady Middleman. If there were two or three such bidding for Debbie's business, each would be a lot less shady--and each would pay the mat-makers more. The fact that Mr. Shady Middleman has his local monopoly is a sign that this is going to be hard. Either Mr. Shady Middleman himself is barely getting by, and nobody else with the organizational skills to successfully do his job wants it; or bad things happen to competitors at the hands either of the local police or the local notables. Kerala is the province of India in which the local government does the best job of protecting the poor against the rich, but it is extremely rare in historical perspective for the government to be anything other than a committee for managing (and advancing) the affairs of the local landlord class and the local bourgeoisie.

* Take more vacations at Big Luxury Hotel, so that it will have to hire more people from Desperately Poor Village, and so give them even better options.

* Band together with the other guests at Big Luxury Hotel, collect a pool of $10,000 or so, and give it to a committee of senior women in Desperately Poor Village to lend out in small amounts to those in the village who need capital for projects.

* Buy the villagers some goats (or whatever other piece of agricultural capital seems useful).

* Give money to the Kerala Ministry of Education (which is a reasonably clean and uncorrupt institution).

* Agitate for the United States to increase its foreign aid budget.
Maybe these options don't generate the same kind of easy, smug moral self-satisfaction that a boycott would, but they'd possibly achieve some good. Some of the suggestions are awfully nebulous: any policy recommendation beginning with the phrase "figure out a way to" needs a little more work. But others are very doable. Even the goat-buying one: you can buy goats for people in developing countries (although not actually in India) without leaving your computer by visiting Heifer International's website.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Cuyahoga County Cardstock Clash, Continued 

OK, so we're talking all of Ohio, here, not just one county, but I adore alliteration.

The Dayton Daily News has more on the story I linked to yesterday about Ohio's GOP Secretary of State suddenly choosing to enforce an obscure regulation about the thickness of voter registration cards after reports suggesting that Democrats were out-registering new voters in Ohio:
Cuyahoga County board of elections officials are ignoring the edict because they have already had an avalanche of new registrations submitted on forms printed on newsprint in The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.

"We don't have a micrometer at each desk to check the weight of the paper," said Michael Vu, director of the Cuyahoga County Board.

Blackwell's office has given the Cuyahoga board a special dispensation to accept the newsprint registration forms. The requirement is because the forms are designed to be mailed like post-cards and must be thick enough to survive mechanical sorters at the U.S. Post Office, according to Blackwell's spokesman Carlo LoParo.

"Our directive stands and it is specifically in place to protect new registrants to make sure the forms are not destroyed," LoParo said.
A couple of things to note: not every county has been granted this dispensation. In Montgomery County, the deputy director of the county elections board has estimated that a few hundred people might not have a chance to vote because of the cardstock regulation, and says there's no reason to demand heavy cardstock be used.

Furthermore, if the regulations are designed to protect voters from having their cards lost in the mail, does it make any sense to penalize those voters who somehow, miraculously, managed to get their too-thin voter registration cards to the authorities, despite the fearsome mechanical sorters that blocked their way? [Hint: The answer is "no."]

The Daily News sees another historical reason for the cardstock rule than that cited by LoParo:
The heavy-weight paper was a requirement when the cards were kept for years, were used to keep track of when a person voted, and were the main way to check signatures to combat voter fraud and verify petitions. But many boards, including both Montgomery and Cuyahoga, scan the signatures into a computer database and no longer record voting history on the cards.
Probably what happened is that nobody told the Secretary of State about the new computers, and he was just trying to protect voters. Right?

UPDATE: More on the story (including a similar dust-up over Ohio provisional ballots) in this article.

UPDATE 2: Jesse at Pandagon has much, much more.

No Longer Any Reason To Use Outlook/Outlook Express 

According to this article, Microsoft will stop allowing new Hotmail users to access their accounts via Outlook and Outlook Express in the near future, and will end current accountholders' ability to do so in April 2005.

I'm no obsessive open source geek, nor do I foster strong anti-Microsoft feelings in my heart of hearts. In fact, I'll just come right out and admit it: I use Microsoft Outlook Express as my primary e-mail reader. But why do I do so, knowing the calumny that would be heaped upon me should tech-savvy friends and relatives of mine discover this fact? Why do I risk horrible security breaches and constant requirements to update my software? One reason: I use my Hotmail account to get comments from this site's readers.

If Microsoft is going to make me use their stupid web interface from now on, though, I'm going to get a second Gmail account and start using Thunderbird. I already use Firefox, which is much better than Internet Explorer, and I exhort all of you to do the same. Check 'em out here.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Bureaucracy or Electioneering? You Be the Judge 

MyDD is reporting an obnoxious story about efforts to keep US citizens from voting. After news that Democrats have been out-registering Republicans in the race to find new Ohio voters, the GOP Ohio Secretary of State has ordered his minions to rigorously enforce an obscure rule requiring all voter registration cards to be on heavy cardstock in order to be processed.

While one would hope that the various GOTV organizations would have noted such nasty little bureaucratic requirements before sending out materials (and hopefully they have), it's hard to imagine what public interest is served by this kind of regulation. I'd be a bit of a hypocrite if I ranted too heavily about this kind of tactic after commending Democrats for using similar persnickety enforcement of the rules to keep Nader off ballots, but at least there are generally fairly good arguments for restricting ballot access floating around out there. I'm unaware of (and unlikely to be persuaded by) arguments against easy voter registration. I challenge Bonassus readers to come up with arguments linking heaviness-of-registration-cardstock and voter fraud.

In any case, isn't this the sort of heavy-handed state regulation that we regularly hear decried by the right? I guess it's just those damn big government Republicans again!

UPDATE: Atrios is making a claim that the Ohio regulation is actually in violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act. I am completely ignorant both of the law and of the likely implications if in fact the law is being violated, so look elsewhere for your info, or tell me what I don't know, you lawyer-types.

And Now Back to Your Regularly-Scheduled Blogging 

Sick me, sick baby (although there are suspicions of malingering) and lots of work has lately equalled no blogging. But now I'm well and my daughter has been pronounced ready to start sleeping through the night again, so I'm back to blogging.

At least I don't have to take a train through Penn Station today.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Florida Ballot Access Wackiness 

Folks, things are getting weirder and weirder in Florida. Besides the impending landfall of Hurricane Ivan, ballot access is now up in the air not only for Ralph Nader, but apparently for George W. Bush and John Kerry as well. I recommend you visit Discourse.net and Abstract Appeal for better reporting of this issue than I could hope to offer you.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Hot Wind Blowin' in Florida 

In the latest twist on the ludicrous and yet somehow boring saga of Ralph Nader's quest for ballot access in Florida, Hurricane Ivan has provided a pretext for legally-suspect maneuvering:
MIAMI (Reuters) - Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name can appear on Florida ballots for the election, despite a court order to the contrary, Florida's elections chief told officials on Monday in a move that could help President Bush in the key swing state.

The Florida Democratic Party reacted with outrage, calling the move "blatant partisan maneuvering" by Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's younger brother, and vowed to fight it.

In a memo to Florida's 67 county supervisors of elections, Division of Elections director Dawn Roberts said the uncertainty of Hurricane Ivan, which could hit parts of the state by week's end, forced her to act..."I'm in disbelief," said Scott Maddox, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. "This is blatant partisan maneuvering on the part of Jeb Bush to give his brother a leg up on election day."

"They are trying to get ballots printed with Nader's name on them," said Maddox. "I am astounded that Jeb Bush is willing to defy the judiciary to help his brother."

Gov. Bush said he agreed with Roberts' decision.

"It's up to the judge to determine, based on the law, whether Nader should be on the ballot or not," Bush said. "But while that process goes on, we cannot put ourselves in the position where the ministerial role of the supervisors cannot be fulfilled."

Maddox noted that Tallahassee, the state capital where Davey sits, is not expected to be directly hit by the hurricane. He said the circuit court could hear the case as scheduled on Wednesday and rule immediately.

In addition, the case is before the Florida Supreme Court, which could also rule at any time, he said.
The stakes here are actually fairly high. As I described here, if Nader is not on the ballot Floridians will not be able to vote for him as a write-in candidate. If ballots are printed with his name, yet he is ruled ineligible for the ballot, it's unclear to me whether votes for Nader would be counted. Oy vey.

As I mentioned before, I'm not terribly impressed with the legal argument underlying Judge Davey's ruling keeping Nader off the ballot. As much as I despise the man and disdain those who support him at this late date, I don't think rules should be bent in keeping him off the ballot. On the other hand, this latest tomfoolery smacks of a constitutional crisis, and raises the level of partisan irresponsibility to new heights. Florida Republicans, I salute your upping the ante on shameless, disgraceful partisanship.

UPDATE: Read this. Michael Froomkin, whose credentials for commentary on this vastly surpass mine, thinks that the case for leaving Nader off the ballot is actually quite strong, and also reports that the article cited above may exaggerate the scope of Florida's decision to override the judiciary. He's still plenty steamed though...

Friday, September 10, 2004

If Nader Isn't on the Ballot, Is the US a Democracy? 

djw addresses the Florida court decision taking Ralph Nader's name off the state's ballots:
I confess that when I hear that Nader has suffered a setback or failed to make a state ballot, I celebrate first and investigate the particulars later. The potential substantive implications--and consequences--of Nader's name on state ballots significantly outweighs my concerns about procedural manners. Still, the legal challenge mounted by the Democrats in Florida seems prima facie legitimate. If the issue hinges on whether or not the Reform party is an actual party, the fact that they haven't fielded a candidate for any office since 2000 and have upwards of eighteen dollars in their bank account would seem to indicate that there are legitimate questions here.

Nader supporters, of course, are up in arms. This, we are told, is a blow to democracy itself. This is the claim I'd like to investigate a little bit.

When one studies democratic theory, one begins to notice the sheer volume of arguments that invoke democracy as a rationale, without any serious attempt to explain what is meant by democracy or how it is threatened/supported. It's tempting to simply dismiss or ignore these imprecise and seemingly reflexive invocations of democracy, but I think it's more appropriate and revealing to take the seriously and explore what is meant by them.
What follows is a clear and cogent rebuttal to claims that Nader's removal from the ballot is somehow evidence that US democracy is non-existant or reduced. Go read it. GO!

There's one thing djw gets wrong:
First of all, no citizen (with voting rights) in this country will be denied the right to vote for Ralph Nader. If he isn't on the ballot, a vote for him can still be cast as a write-in. What Nader is fighting for is the ease and convenience with which people can vote for him. This is worth remembering when the histrionics start to get to be a bit much--none of the people doing the wailing will be prevented from voting for Ralph Nader, as long as they can remember how to spell his name.
It's actually not so simple. Five states (Hawaii, Louisiana, Nevada, Oklahoma and South Dakota) don't allow write-in votes at all, and South Carolina won't count write-ins in presidential elections. Of these 6 states, I'm pretty sure that Nader's name is on the ballots of all but Oklahoma. Among the other 44 states, some states won't count unapproved write-in candidates. As far as I can tell, this isn't usually too high a hurdle, requiring nothing more than filling out a form (and in North Carolina, getting 500 signatures). Nevertheless, according to this site, at least, to date Nader has only secured official write-in status in three states. And the clock is ticking: in many states, filing deadlines for write-in candidates have already passed. Florida's was back in July, so unless Judge Davey's ruling is overturned, Floridians won't have an opportunity to vote for Nader, even by write-in.

There are some other minimal anti-write-in rules as well. In California, at least, write-ins must be literally written in: pre-printed stickers aren't legit.

What names do voters write in when getting "authorized" isn't an issue? Here's a list of write-in votes from Rhode Island in 2000. As you can see, some people apparently decide to write in the names of candidates already appearing on the ballot. I don't know why, either. Among people who think that going to the polls to cast a "joke" ballot is a good use of time, Mickey Mouse outpolls Jung Jung Kank McClimn 5-to-1, while "Lets Include the People" and Alan Keyes each beat expectations by receiving 2 votes.

[A big Bonassus "Thank You!" to Richard Winger of Ballot Access News for information.]

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Libertarians and New Hampshire 

Let's say you are an ardent believer in a very unpopular political cause. How can you minimize your exposure to policies you disagree with? If you're possessed of tremendous bloodthirstiness, extraordinary military resources or are Doctor Doom or Turkmenbashi, you might consider taking over an existing nation state by force and imposing your will. But most of us don't have what it takes to go down this road. What's left over?

As I've noted before, creating a new country is one possibility. True believers have tried erecting man-made islands, but just declaring dominion over desolate rocks in the sea might work just as well.

But say you're prone to seasickness. What then? Extremists of various stripes have tried to create exclusive zones of control within existing states, usually seeking autonomy on privately-held land. For example, Richard Butler (who recently permanently relocated to Hell) once advocated a mass movement of racists to Idaho. [On a personal note, I've always hoped that some utopian followers of Fourier would create an enclave somewhere, mostly because I'd love to see the seas turn to lemonade, and to regard the magnificent anti-whale.]

But let's say you're not interested in just carving out an autonomous zone. No, you want to impose your ideology on the public! What to do?

Some US Libertarians have fastened on one possibility: get a bunch of fellow travelers to, well, travel with you to a small state. If you can convince enough Libertarians to move to one place, you can create a critical mass, win lots of elections, and start running things. The "Free State Project," which aims to put this idea into practice, got going in earnest in September 2003, after the state of New Hampshire was chosen as their new Libertarian eden.

How are things going? Hard to say. I will note, however, that New Hampshire is the only state in the union where the Libertarian presidential candidate will definitely not be on the ballot. Make of that what you will.

Some Third Party News 

Bonassus readers with an interest in US third-party politics are encouraged to check in now and again with Ballot Access News. The latest: this useful guide helping voters in every state count the number of ways they can throw away their vote. [All kidding aside, it's a really well-done site and well worth an occasional visit.]

In a move that should cheer Kerry supporters, a Florida judge has had Ralph Nader's name struck from that state's ballot. As the judge in the case noted, there are a lot of court battles to be fought before Nader's final Florida ballot status is certain, but the timing of the decision appears to keep Nader's name off ballots mailed to overseas absentees, at the very least. I'm no lawyer, and I'm certainly no Nader supporter, but the decision looks a bit dicey to me:
[Judge] Davey ruled that the Reform Party is no longer a real political party. Therefore, he held that Nader's certification as the Reform candidate did not meet Florida laws, which require a presidential candidate to get nearly 100,000 voter signatures or be nominated by a national convention...

The judge said there was ample evidence that the party Texas billionaire Ross Perot once headed is barely "a skeleton of its former self," with almost no money, only a handful of candidates in a few states and no influence on issues. But Davey said the basis of his ruling was a long list of legal precedents mandating ballot-qualification rules "must be strictly complied with."

Attorneys Ed Stafman and Michael Olin, representing Maddox and Reform Party members Alan Hermann of Broward County and Candice Wilson of Pinellas County, said the party has been "hijacked" by a small fringe of members. They said fewer than 65 Reform Party members held a teleconference on May 11 and designated Nader in a few states, including Florida, and then fewer than 50 delegates to a "working convention" in Irving, Texas, ratified that choice in August - for the sole purpose of meeting Florida's requirement of a national convention.

"There are more people in this room right now, Your Honor, than there were on that phone call that nominated Ralph Nader in May," Olin told Davey. "We in this room could hold a meeting and nominate a candidate for president, then send out for beer and pizzas - but we would not have the right to get that person on the Florida ballot."


But Assistant Attorney General George Waas and Richard Perez, a lawyer for Hood's department, said Davey risked "disenfranchising" voters who support Nader. Waas said it was dangerous for a court to "intrude on party affairs" and consider how much money a party has to have, how many other states must give it ballot position, how many members it needs or how its convention must be conducted.
Law-knowin' Bonassus readers are asked to comment.

Of course Ol' Ralph's comments should come as no surprise: the ruling, in his view, is the result of political by "nervous" Democrats. "Nervous Democrats," "scared liberals"... I'm still waiting to hear him call somebody a sissy.

[Link via Michael Froomkin]

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Chess and Zermelo 

Interesting post up at Crooked Timber (be sure to read the comments) on whether or not Zermelo's Theorem actually proves that chess has a winning strategy.

The conventional wisdom among those who've dipped their toes into game theory is that Zermelo shows that chess is basically a kind of really complex tic-tac-toe, and that given enough time and energy, somebody (or some computer) could "solve" chess. This is one of those "ooh, wow" findings that generate a lot of not-terribly-interesting cocktail party posturing: save yourself the trouble of listening next time this comes up by fortifying yourself with the knowledgey goodness of the blogosphere.

The Greater White North 

From the "This Horse I'm Beating is NOT Dead, It's Just Frozen" Department:

During my absence from blogging, the New York Times featured an article on Canada's "Operation Narwhal," previously blogged upon here and here.
Not all of Canada's vast claims to the Arctic are recognized internationally. The United States, the European Union and Denmark either contend that the region's waterways are open to all or have placed their own claims on parts where climate change is expected to increase access to the region's bountiful resources in coming years.

Diamond finds already have inspired a new mining rush, making Canada the world's third-largest producer. Canada someday wants to tap natural gas in the Beaufort Sea in a frigid zone, bordering Alaska and Yukon Territory, which the United States tried to auction off to oil companies last year. The companies balked, preferring not to get mixed up in an international squabble.

Despite unusual challenges from Denmark, a NATO ally, Canada also is laying claim to an Arctic island with potential oil riches off its rocky shore.

Most important, climate change has begun to make more real the dream of opening a northwest passage that would shorten ship travel between Europe and Asia by thousands of miles, over the decades to come. Canadian policy-makers want to reserve the right to regulate and tax such a passage.
Danish readers of this blog repeatedly tell me that their press is not covering the story, which is mildly surprising, as even if the likelihood of all-out war is practically nil, military operations surrounding an intra-NATO dispute are awfully unusual. A Danish reader has also left a comment describing a 1983 Denmark-Sweden dispute over another desolate island which bears further investigation.

From a less news-driven perspective, the interesting part of this story is that even in our current Westphalian state system, sovereignty over territory isn't just about lines on the map, but about control (even outside Iraq and Afghanistan):
``We used to forget that the Arctic was our border,'' Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew said. ``There has been a change of perception of our reality, of where we belong.''

But while Canada claims the region, it does not regularly patrol it. That is what Operation Narwhal was intended to remedy by making the military more comfortable operating in what can be an extreme environment and by allowing a sometimes mistrustful native population to get used to seeing Canadian troops and navy ships.

For now, however, if nothing else, the exercise demonstrated that the military has a long way to go to operate effectively here.

Bad weather grounded air force planes and helicopters for days at a time, slowing troop transport even while commercial airlines kept flying.

A small fire on a 40-year-old Sea King helicopter aboard the frigate Montreal hampered one exercise. Two soldiers got lost in the barren tundra and spent a night in a cave without survival gear.

But there were small victories, too, particularly in meshing the skills of the military and their Eskimo Ranger guides and improving relations with local residents.
Finally, the Canadian Foreign Minister is named Pierre Pettigrew. I wonder if Harry Potter fans in Canada have noted the sinister connotations...

I'm Back 

Back to blogging, that is. What to expect over the next few days:

* More on Canadian military exercises in the Arctic;
* Some interesting papers presented at the American Political Science Association conference
* A late "Arrival Day" entry cowritten with my wife.

Stay tuned!

Friday, September 03, 2004

Me Update 

Thanks for the e-mails: everything is fine. I'll return to blogging next week. I've been away from e-mail access for a few days and am now in Chicago at a conference, but will return to regular Bonassus posting on Monday.

I'll have more details on the upcoming group blog then as well.

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