Quick Hits - March 20

I have to say that I really love the CBC website. Not only do they do their own take on the news, but they reprint most of the latest headlines from CP news service, including a batch they call “Oddities from CP”. In a world of mine disasters, war, massive human displacement and all the other bad news, there is a great relief in being able to see the lighter side of the news. Case in point:

Japanese robbers steal US$2 million block of gold from open museum showcase

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2007 | 4:36 AM ET
Canadian Press

TOKYO (AP) - A group of thieves stole a massive block of gold worth more than US$2 million from a Japanese museum in a heist police said could have been prevented - if only the curators hadn’t left the showcases wide open.

The Ohashi Collection Kan museum in Takayama, central Japan, had kept the 100 kilogram gold bullion unguarded by sensors or even a case because it wanted visitors to be able to touch it, according to local police officer Shinji Kurake.

I’m betting that the museum also felt that the gold brick itself, weighing the equivalent of two grown men, would be an impediment. Maybe next time they should invest in a 500 kilogram block of gold. And bolt the thing to the floor.

But on Sunday, three masked men made off with the gold block in broad daylight while the museum was open, Kurake said. A female employee who was alerted by the sound of their footsteps tried to intervene, but was roughly pushed aside.

“We were very shocked… but of course this was a big block of gold, and there was no security,” Kurake said. “I suppose they could have been a little more careful.”

Police were still searching for the group, who were thought to be driven away by a fourth accomplice.

Who knew that a big block of gold was so easy to hide?

Indeed, one wonders just what these criminals intend to do. It’s not like a hundred kilogram block of gold is going to be easy to fence on the open market. Do they intend to melt these things down into coins? What store is going to take that currency?

But I especially like this last paragraph:

The museum was closed for an “emergency holiday” on Monday and officials could not be reached for comment.

Heh. Gotta love the Japanese.

The Tyee Online has an interesting post about blogging burnout. Though I haven’t been blogging about politics nearly so much these days, I’m still enjoying myself. It helps that I haven’t had any problems with trolls, but I think it also speaks to why I got into blogging in the first place. I’m here because I like to write, and these posts keep my fingers nimble and my mind fresh.

The post in question describes a number of former writer who were “sucked into” politics by the September 11 terrorist attacks, and a theme that comes up again and again is that politics was like a drug for them, and they became addicted to the discussion and comments they received.

There is no doubt that the conversations I’ve had have been most enjoyable and have been an incentive to keep going, but the discussions of A Small Victory suggest that there is an incentive to court political controversy, to be drawn to the extremes of political thought in order to engender a stronger response. After all, if you are one blog among a hundred million, how else are you going to make yourself noticed?

But like most drugs, the high is not real. The blogs’ influence on the real political world has actually been quite limited. Those of us who use blogs as our release mechanism, or a personal diary we just happen to share with others, probably have our heads screwed on right. Posts like what we’ve read at the Tyee are probably excellent reminders of the need to keep our perspective.

And after that dose of perspective, let’s talk politics.

Check out the comments on this post at Andrew’s Bound by Gravity. It makes for interesting reading.

Now I call myself a centrist, but others might disagree. I have to say to Andrew that I do not share his desire for across-the-board tax cuts. I believe the amount of taxes we are currently paying isn’t onerous, especially compared to the services received. I don’t believe in smaller government as a matter of course, though I do believe that government should be no bigger than it has to be, so we have to keep pressure on to keep government small. I believe our priorities should be in paying down our debt, addressing our infrastructure deficit (in cities and in our military), maintaining our health care system and fostering our education system. Only once we do that should we be cutting taxes.

So I don’t find much to complain about in Harper’s second budget, other than the corporate tax cuts. Andrew is far more of a libertarian than I am, though, and is understandably upset at this perceived abandonment of principles. But I’m not here to debate Andrew on that.

Some of you may be wondering why, now that Harper has delivered a budget that seems tailored to appeal to a broad range of voters, including centrist voters, how I could possibly retain those suspicions that make Liberal fearmongering of Stephen Harper so tempting. Why do I continue to suspect that Harper is not sincere in his so-called move to the centre and, if given the near dictatorial powers of a majority government, significantly alter the social and economic infrastructure of this country in such a way as to make my life and my family’s life significantly harder?

Well, let me just say that comments such as “watch as Harper ever so slowly undermines the mechanisms and justification for big central government” don’t help. When a party’s supporters suggest that the party is attempting to deceive Canadians, Canadians simply don’t take well to being deceived.

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