Metroblog

A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

28 October 2004

By The Way


From GW Bush:
"I have been strengthened by my faith and humbled by its reminder that my life is part of a much bigger story."

From Terry Pratchett:
"[He] could humble himself in prayer in a manner that made the posturings of power-mad tyrants look meek."

One reason I'm kinda gleeful today is this:

"About a year ago, when things weren't going so well in my campaign, somebody called a radio talk show and they said, thinking they were just cutting me right to the quick, they said 'John Kerry won't be the president until the Red Sox win.' Well, we're on our way."
--John Kerry







Hell Yeah!


My man Dr. Gonzo came out this week screaming coherently for Kerry. Seems like his recent years in the wilderness breeding attack dogs and shooting stuff has been good for him, and from what I understand even his liver is finally deriving some benefit.

His diaries, sold at auction in the 1990's, included self-admonishments to "smoke more" and "cultivate intensity". He's a cultivated libertarian, or possibly libertine, with a tongue made sharper by time.

From this glorious, riotous piece:

Some people say that George Bush should be run down and sacrificed to the Rat gods. But not me. No. I say it would be a lot easier to just vote the bastard out of office on November 2nd.

And again:
"Only a fool or a sucker would vote for a dangerous loser like Bush," Dr. Thompson warned. "He hates everything we stand for, and he knows we will vote against him in November."

Thompson, long known for the eerie accuracy of his political instincts, went on to denounce Ralph Nader as "a worthless Judas Goat with no moral compass."

"I endorsed John Kerry a long time ago," he said, "and I will do everything in my power, short of roaming the streets with a meat hammer, to help him be the next President of the United States."

I haven't forgotten about blogging about blogging, but I had to mention this. The endorsement of the author of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has to count for something.

His criticism of Ralph Nader has something to it, too. In a normal election, Nader's aimless pursuit of high office, carrying his odd, green-ish aspirations would be charmingly Quixotic. In this election he's a spoiler, and he'll draw votes that by rights should go toward whacking W. into the long grass.

Consider: If Nader had conceded early in 2000 and thrown such weight as he had behind Al Gore, would we be biting our nails today, praying not that the right man gets in but that the wrong man can be extracted from the White House?

Ralph has four days to do the right thing. Although personally I don't think it matters whether he stays or goes--GWB is history either way, as long as the election is run comparatively honestly.

But it's a good indication of what sort of man Nader is that he's still willing to tilt at windmills knowing that 537 of his supporters could have made the difference between Al Gore and 1100 dead Americans, to say nothing of other nationals.

Speaking of which--what the hell was on this person's mind?

According to the news article where I first read about him, Shosei Koda was carrying about $20 in cash when he boarded a bus in Amman, Jordan, to go to Bagdhad, an unplanned extension of his trip to the Middle East.

It's hard to feel so conflicted about someone who's probably going to have his head brutally sawn off ("beheaded" is a whitewash term used to spare readers the full horror of the murder), but what the ₤µ€λ was he thinking?








26 October 2004

Famous Last Words


Last night I was wandering about the wilds of the 'net, randomly searching terms such as "insidious fish""

{Note in the links were included the terms:

tsunami photos flopping fish Sex Picture Links
... believe that resplendent the photos tropical fish evicerated geological another photos to copy of fish jumping, but the insidious some photos sail fish is much ...}

I went off to look at Darren's blog. He's won awards for it, so I sought to steal his secrets. The blogosphere genre analysis will have to wait though. While I was there I ran into his question about: "What song lyrics would you ever have tattooed on your body?"

It got me thinking.

A few days ago I was casually blissed out on the couch reading the Economist when the SO asked if I needed anything. I said:

"I'm fine thanks."

And I really was, too.

I have decided that these are what I want my last words to be. However, before any gods in the neighborhood decide to do something funny, I'd like to qualify that:

  • I do not want the person to whom I say these last words to be any kind of airline employee.

  • I would prefer not to be saying them while standing waist-deep in a dumpster.

  • And I don't want to find myself saying them this week.


  • Not for at least sixty-eight years, in fact.

    So, for next time: A blog on the genre of blogs, and what I'm doing wrong (Oh so very wrong).








    24 October 2004

    Safe


    It's an interesting word. And in this US election year of 2004 it is, for some odd reason, a major issue.

    Why "odd"?

    Consider this question: Is safety a measure of A) How likely it is that someone will be able to commit an act of mass terrorism on US soil? Or does it factor in B) How many people hate a given nation and would LIKE to commit such acts?

    Or is safety something else entirely?

    In 2001, what essentially happened to the United States was that history caught up with it. Please don't be angry with me for having said that. I'm not trying to suggest that the attacks of September 11th were somehow "deserved", or that all those three thousand poor victims had somehow "earned" their deaths in the World Trade Centre towers.

    What I want to point out here is this: Most countries, including the other two North American nations have suffered some form of terrorism.

    Mexico had (and still has) the Zapatistas. Like Hamas they're either a terror group or a political movement depending on who you ask, but the fact remains that people living in areas where they enjoy some level of support have had to deal with domestic violence and uncertainty as measures of political persuasion.

    Canada experienced the FLQ crisis--which should not have become the monstrosity it did. On the other hand, the kidnap and murder of Pierre Laporte demanded SOME response from the Trudeau government. Certainly nothing on the scale of the World Trade Center attacks, but worrying nontheless--especially for Anglos living in Quebec; which I became, along with my parents, the following year.

    What's interesting about the FLQ Crisis--or the October Crisis--was how far overboard the government seemed to go, curtailing civil liberties, detaining people with neither charges nor access to counsel, and imposing curfew on free cities. It seems only a shadow though, to impose martial law on one province, when compared to the international nature of the American reaction.

    But both cases have something in common.

    The attacks galvanized a formerly complacent populace into demanding "safety". Even though what they were demanding was impossible in a truly free society.

    Consider Britain: For over 30 years the IRA made attacks on British targets. They had rules, of a sort, which they cast aside when they felt like it. They certainly practiced torture and murder as political strategies. But after thirty years it looks as though the IRA has mostly decided that it's better to address the inequity from within.

    Over those thirty years, was it some sort of crackdown that brought the IRA to heel? Probably it was a combination of the RIGHT crackdown, combined with a genuine effort to address the root causes. The British could hardly invade Northern Ireland, and it was recognized that despite any help they might have been getting from the south, the IRA operated in the North, so invading Eire would have been worse than useless.

    {Note that in the seventies several prominent New York Irish were heavily criticised for giving material support to an outlaw fighting force that among other things planted bombs here and here, and engineered the February 7th mortaring of 10 Downing St. Here's a terse, but statistically heavy summation.}

    But in North America, particularly Canada and the US, we've been largely terror-free since the advent of newspapers (which is relevant--terror relies on widely-promulgated stories as example), assuming that we differentiate between terror as an undeclared attack on the general population, vice such conflicts as the Riel Rebellion, the Civil War, and the War of 1812 (which Canada won, dammit!). Oh, and let's not forget the Pig War.

    But when you are a large and powerful nation--possibly the economic engine of the world in the past century, you are like a large and powerful man sharing a bed with several other men of varying sizes and potencies (if the image of men sharing a bed scares you, perhaps you could think of it as a prison population).

    There's only so much space, and you occupy a lot of it. And each time you turn over in bed, other nations have to accomodate. Now no matter how nice and friendly the neighbours are, some portion of them is likely to resent you. This DOES NOT mean that you shouldn't move for fear of pissing someone off, but it IS a factor, and cannot be denied.

    Among other nations, some of this friction bubbles forth as war--often confined to relatively small spaces: Consider Kashmir, or Cyprus. But who's going to take on the Big Man?

    The US, by being the biggest on the block, and by being pretty isolated from areas where its decisions caused the most anger, remained mostly immune from attacks on its home turf (Although various subsets of national populations were, and still are trying, and have succeeded abroad).

    Until 1995.

    At that time, there wasn't a lot of soul-searching. Tim McVeigh was characterised as one of a few nut-jobs, home-grown malcontents who were looking for a symbol to hit at. The problem was actually a bit more pervasive, and partially cultural in nature. But this sort of person, operating from within a democracy in ways not sanctioned by the majority, CAN be written off as having a squeaky gear in his brainbox.

    If this wasn't terrorism, what was? In other words, aspiring terrorists had to hit higher and harder, even to make an impression. Again--this doesn't make it "right", or "justified"--I'm trying to get to a point here, and it's a tough one.

    It is simply this: "Safety" is a fiction. We're none of us "safe", never have been nor will be. In a free society, the bombers and the bastards are as free to move among us as we are to move about without being questioned.

    So I put to you the question at the head of this blog:

    A) Is safety a measure of how likely it is that someone will attack a nation's civillian populace?

    B) Is it a measure of how many people want to do so?

    or C) Is it the comfort of feeling that we can go about our daily business in peace and unmolested by someone who simply sees the world differently?

    In the US, the fear accompanying "9/11" has led to a slow curtailing of liberties, offered a pretext for war in Iraq (I still support the invasion of Afghanistan), brought the US unsuitable bedfellows, and pissed off a hell of a lot of the population of the planet.

    It seems to me that the Bush White house has answered "C" and to some measure "A" at the expense of "B" and of the freedoms for which America stands. Yeah, not everybody's going to like your country, or the set of ideas on which you operate. But it is possible to address the underlying causes of terrorism whilst firming your own borders. It is possible to guard against threat while carefully maintaining the sovereign freedoms of your citizenry. And it looks like the people of America are coming to their senses on this and asking the tough questions.

    I could be wrong. I have the luxury of living in the shadow of the giant, which largely gave Canada a great deal of freedom of action during the Cold War. But our relatively puny size and starved Forces mean that our weapons have latterly been more diplomatic than military. So far, for whatever reason, we've been extremely fortunate.

    The United States has been plunged into a debt hole at least $2 trillion dollars deep. What would have happened had the Bush government spent the same sum on addressing the political and economic causes of terrorism (as well as toughening up domestic security)?

    I believe that Canada is likely, as a traditionally American ally and a liberal democracy, to endure at least one foreign terrorist attack. But I will go forth daily and live my life. I will ask that my government do what it can to prevent terror attacks but I will recognize that someone will eventually slip through the net. And if and when that attack arises, I hope that I will not be so fearful as to ask it to lock me into a cage.

    Nor anyone else without a damn good reason.













    22 October 2004

    Last post wasn't very interesting, was it?


    I've been busy. Had another job interview yesterday--not writing-related, but a step up (or down, depending how you look at it) from trucking. I'd be moving into the dispatch office. Yes, I'm applying to be the Devil.

    It's not 100% bad (or good, depending how you look at it). I'd still be spending approximately 25% of my time on the road. The job seems to entail hazardous waste hauling--possibly biohazard or medical waste. This might all look like a reversal of fortune, but I'd be getting a good price for my soul: $44k per year. No benefits that I can tell.

    I'm really torn. The S.O. has just quit teaching ESL and we need cash. At the same time, I'm petrified of spending a year outside my chosen industry and having the shine fade off my qualifications.

    But then I think that $44k is a lot of money, and I could still do fiction work in my spare time. . .it's tempting. Of course this presumes I'm going to get the job. And that it's really what Manpower says it's going to be.

    In other news, I just sent my first magazine subscription to Geist. Wish it luck.

    And in other late news we have what was apparently the single most important issue of yesterday:

    Bridges

    My Fair City has a not-entirely-unforseeable problem: Three million people--and three bridges. Every morning roughly 1.5 million of those bodies heave themselves from their beds and try to cross one of those bridges. This causes a certain amount of slow traffic. But being Canadians, we don't tend to actually shoot each other (although seeing a single driver in the car pool lane always makes me reconsider), and traffic tends to mosey along at no less than 60 Km/h.

    However, once in a while this changes. Sometimes, just for drill, some kind citizen will decide we need a reminder of what gridlock really is. Said citizen then goes about demonstrating the concept. This usually involves climbing a bridge and threatening to jump off.

    Naturally the police, ambulance, fire, and social work personnel close the bridge (I'm not entirely certain why this is. Do they think anyone in this town would notice a mere airborne pedestrian?) for however long it takes to fetch the chap his ice-cream sundae or whatever it is that will bring him inside. Apparently this often means feeding him or her fizzy drinks and waiting until they ask to use the bathroom.

    This sort of affair, rare-ish though it is, goes by the name of a "police incident"--a name that in the US often involves one or more firearms. Here it's just another damn hassle on the commute to work. Particularly unkind people are known to chant "Jump, jump, jump" while parked on the highway approaches.
    But yesteday was bad. First there was a three-car accident in the eastbound lanes at the major junction in the city. Then another on the westbound side. Then the fertilizer really hit the windmill.

    A distraught man managed to get the highway bridge closed for five hours--from about 9 AM until 3. Then as he was being escorted off, another man was found on the second of our three bridges. Yeah, really. Personally I think the second man had chosen a far prettier place to End It All. He didn't stay quite as long as his compatriot.

    I was very impressed with the number of people who just sat in the traffic and waited. Myself, I would have driven back into town, parked, and taken in an art gallery, or a film. After the first hour or so anyway.

    But as always happens when this sort of incident takes place, the debate reignited: should we build more bridges? A survey a few years ago found that 75% of residents favoured a new route into/out of the city. The options are:

    1) A toll tunnel. Advantages--theoretically self-financing, and our Province tends to do reasonably well with toll roads. Disadvantages: Costs--ever tried to engineer a tunnel under a major shipping seaway? No matter what they charged for tolls, they'd need about firty years to make back the outlay.

    2) A new bridge. Advantages: Cost--cheaper than tunneling. But on the other hand, do we really have room? Both a tunnel and a new bridge would have to be located either in some of the finest city parkland ever occupied by squatters, or on Native land, or possibly on someone's new urban home. And let's not mention the number of lawsuits by people who will now have homes "convenient to transportation" who were looking for a "million-dollar view".

    3) String a new deck on one of the existing bridges. Of all the engineering options, this one is most attractive to me. Cheaper than a new structure. The major disadvantage would be closing the existing route for construction for an entire season. But it's been done before.

    But I have a solution that is elegant, simple, and cost effective. In fact I have two complimentary solutions:

    1) Nearly every car crossing the bridge yesterday had one person in it. How about a public transit link from the North Shore to downtown. Or why not close one of the bridges to non-car-pool traffic? Our highways are perfectly adequate to capacity. We don't need more of them. We just need to start making proper use of the ones we have.

    And 2) Nets! From Wikipaedia on the Golden Gate Bridge:
    A unique aspect of the construction of this bridge was that a safety net was set up beneath it, significantly reducing the number of deaths that were typical for a construction project such as this in the early 1900s. Approximately 11 men were killed from falls during construction, and approximately 19 men were saved by the safety net. The bulk of the deaths occurred near completion when the net itself failed under the stress of a scaffold fall. Those workers whose lives were saved by the safety nets became proud members of the (informal) Halfway to Hell Club.


    Cost-effective, simple, and it seems to me very likely to reduce attention-getting behaviour such as bridge-mounted suicide attempts:

    Scene: A fog-shrouded bridge-top, near dawn.
    Distraught Man: Hi. Suicide hotline?

    Solicitous Counsellor: Yes.

    DM: I'm standing on the Memory Bridge and I'm going to jump.

    SC: Hmmm. I see the problem. Look, if you're just crying out for help why don't you drop by our offices during working hours? We'll be opening up in about forty minutes. I mean, if you just jump, you wind up in the safety net, and then you get all embarrassed 'cos they have to close the bridge while they fish you out. I mean, have you thought about what you're gonna say at the water cooler at work tomorrow when someone brings up the horrendous traffic jam yesterday because some fool got caught in the net again?

    DM: Um, yeah. You're right I guess. Maybe it is a rather silly idea.

    SC: Yeah, it is. I mean why not just vault off the cliffs at ships beach? Wait till the tide goes out and you get a three-hundred-foot-drop onto solid rock--Boom, no problem. And three hundred feet, well that's just enough to kill you for sure, but not enough so's you get time to think, change your mind on the way down, eh?

    DM: Uh, you're right--I gotta think this through.

    SC: Well could you hang up and call back later? You're blocking a lifeline for some poor desperate soul, y'know?

    DM: Okay, uh, 'bye.


    . . . Of course that's just my vision.

    I'm desperately trying to avoid thinking of food. I'm fasting for a blood test. Yes, I know, we did all this last year didn't we?--well I have a different doctor now.

    Once again I consider the discipline and willpower of those who are fasting--in this instance for Ramadan, and last month for Yom Kippur. I'd make a lousy ascetic.

    I keep intending to blog about my vague and less-than directed investigations into religious faith, but so far I've managed very well not to get around to it.










    20 October 2004

    Haven't Felt Much Like Posting, Lately



    But I owe it to my loyal fans (both of) to struggle on . . .

    I have frequently mentioned in these pages my frustration at being unable thus far to find work. Lately things have gotten busier.

    First, an interview with the Continuing Legal Education Society. They needed, essentially, an editor. The interview (the second I've had since April) was terrific in some ways. I swatted the "trick question" out of the park.

    Interviewer:"So you've just contacted an author a week prior to deadline and they're saying their stuff isn't ready. What do you do?"

    Noble Self: Well I think the key is to not let it get to that point. If my deadline is the tenth, I'd give the author the first as HIS deadline, and work from there."

    It also made me fully realize, perhaps, what my working worth is now:
    Interviewer 1: "Now regarding salary, er, well . . . you understand this IS an entry-level position, so it's perhaps, well . . . er, well what I'm saying is that the job starts at $28 to $30 thousand per year."

    Now I'd been worrying that it'd be about $24-$26K, so I'm trying to conceal my glee, and then I reflexively blurt out my instinctive reaction--call it the auctioneer's curse:

    "Oh. Well from my research I'd found that this sort of work averages around $32 thousand . . . but of course there's the learning curve . . . er, training takes time . . . er."

    It's my thing--from years of stumbling into jobs. I suppose I'm not the swiftest thinker in town, and in prior jobs I think my silent hesitation has been perceived as reluctance to accept the stated amount. So I've grown a bit cocky, I suppose. I almost always raise the stated figure.

    Nowadays, I'm applying for an altogether better class of job, and I'm a bit worried that I may have priced myself out of two successive jobs.

    But it seems as though my life is busying up. I'm prepping a fiction piece for submission, working on a short novel (but not a novella, nor a novelette, and definitely not a novellina), fighting an insurance company for some $300, trying to get various medicos to agree I'm fat and thus that I qualify to attend a fat-loss clinic at the local hospital . . .

    &cetera &cetera &cetera.







    13 October 2004

    Oh


    Someone asked me what I meant by "he may be a caretaker president" in my last post.

    Isn't it obvious? In 2008, this will be the Democartic nominee, to usher in the New Democratic era in America.

    We could have had a terrific Prime Minister once, were it not that she was handed off the last few days of a declined-and-falling empire.

    I was looking for her image at Aislin's web site. I used to deliver the Gazette, and have fond memories of his "okay America" cartoon of Breznev, clutching a hot-dog bun and squirting mustard over his invisible, yet definitely there genitals.

    But alas, Aislin doesn't seem to have archived the pics, and I can't find them anywhere else.

    Twenty-one days to the new president and counting.







    I was wasting my time yesterday


    And yours. Here's an article, arrived at via Doonesbury's Honest Voices®, which says what I was burbling on about far better.

    I had a job interview yesterday which introduced me to an odd sensation. Typically I hear people preach about the wondrous job they're about to offer you with a growing cynicism. Experience, I suppose. This time I became more enthusiastic as the time rolled by.

    In the world of trucking, the most common advert for recruiting is this sort of thing. I'd like you to consider the phrase "More miles, more time home".

    Hmmm. If I'm already running a full legal (or slightly extra-legal) day, then how many more miles could I get? And how the heck am I supposed to get more miles in if I'm spending more time at home?

    But truckers do fall for it. We're generally suckers for emotional argumentation and for a good sales pitch. One scientist was studying the role of truckers in disease epidemics. Here are some of the conclusions. In an issue of "Discover" magazine, which was covering the difficulty of getting funding from a Republican congress for such research, Dr. Valdez said that homosexual "truck chasers" often reported being asked "You're married, aren't you?" before engaging in sex. Such is the power of belief among the bretheren of the road.

    Likewise, truckers as a group believe that the grass is greener (and perhaps contains more THC) on the other side of the fence. Turnaround in Canadian trucking averages about 3 months, but that's because if one driver stays 1 year and three more leave after 3 weeks, the average is about 3.5 months.

    So we move on, always looking for the brass ring, the better deal. We don't ask for much, we just want to do this job from the comfort of our living rooms. Failing that, we want "more paid miles and more time home".

    But during the interviews we start hearing the same old lines:
    "Oh once in a while you get a quick turnaround that means you gotta run hard."
    Translation:Your kids will forget what you look like and your logbooks will spontaneously combust"

    "You get much more time home with us."
    Up to four hours per day, every day!

    "We pay more miles than anyone else, because we use 'PC Miler' to calculate the distances."
    Oh--you mean the same software my last company and everybody else uses? Does your version have a greater 'generosity' setting?

    Truck companies typically pay by calculating the number of miles between two given cities. But most programs calculate from city-limit to city-limit rather than between city centres. If you have to run straight across Dallas-Fort-Worth at rush hour, that's about three unpaid hours.

    So by the time you've signed up and collected your bonus you realize that this is just another trucking job.

    Well whatever this is, it ain't no trucking job. I'm not going to link to it. Not even going to think about it, and I'm gonna cross my fingers and my toes.

    Because I really like the sound of this job. Wish me luck!








    12 October 2004

    I'm Back



    Or as the playful Gubernator would have it, I'm Bach.

    Scarcely three weeks until the new President of the United States takes office. Is anyone else getting excited?

    He may be rich, he may be a trade protectionist, he may be a caretaker President. But one thing the new man will not be is George W. Bush.

    I do not believe that the American people will get fooled again. More importantly, I just can't see a rational voter going for the shrub twice. Let's consider: He's lost 3 million jobs (and let's admit it, created 150,000 or so) on his watch). He's put the country so far in the hole (having inherited a surplus in the tens of billions of dollars) that his grandkids will be paying it off. He's squandered America's moral capital by going to war against all wishes but his own, and worse off by lying to do it. He's curtailed freedoms from reproduction to research, stuck strings on charitable monies while arguing for "faith-based" services, and is campaigning on a single issue: Fear.

    But surely the American people are not so stupid as to fall for this sad clown twice?

    Way back in the misty dawn of this blog, I said that I wanted this blog to be even-handed, fair-minded and reasonable. As free of bias as it was possible to be. And I am.

    You may not believe it. I'd modify my opinion of the little wooden boy in the White House in a heartbeat if anyone could tell me a single good thing he's done.

    Anyone?

    Made the world safer?

    Uh, no. I supported, and still stand by, the Afghanistan invasion. And based on the justification we were given, I supported the Iraq war as well. I was wrong on that, and I wish I could feel bad about it. But in order to feel badly about supporting GWB's personal vendetta I'd have to believe that me not supporting it might have stopped it. No soap.

    In fact, the latter invasion, by removing Iran's main spoiler in the Persian Gulf region, has made things considerably less "safe" (they never were actually safe, even in the US, and that's a whole 'nother blog). Likewise, by forcing itself and the world to pick sides, the US has once again been placed by its leaders in the position of having to support people who would make real democracies squirm, and turn a blind eye to repressive regimes with policies of torture.

    Improved living conditions for US citizens?

    Nope. His tax cuts gave a lot of money to the rich, but the middle class, and the poor (who always seem to disappear behind the door when a neo-con shows up) got screwed. Many middle-income families saw a net benefit in their taxes of five bucks. Now consider what George and his oil-based friends have done for the energy market. And those tax cuts will be being paid off for quite a long time after you-know-who has moved on.

    And as far as national security is concerned, does anyone like the US or its foreign policy any better than they did in 2001? Is this likely to improve relations or taint them? Are US citizens safer now that even more people are flocking to Al-Qaeda's cause?

    Oh, but he'll get better--he's learned a few lessons. He needs another chance.

    No. His mantra during this election campaign has been "Four more years of the same". More fear-mongering, more tunnel vision, and having staked his political manhood in Iraq, the soldiers of the US army must bear more of his foreign policy--No matter who the president is and no matter what else takes place in the world!

    Because the US cannot leave Iraq now. Unlike Vietnam, Iraq would remain a failed state until the warlords and fundamentalists took over. And as anyone living in the US now knows, fundamentalists are a bad idea, especially in power. America must bend its collective will to working with the international community (which has unsurprisingly been less than forthcoming with funds and support, given the verbal abuse of Bush before the war, and the instability afterward) to create an un-failed state. Preferably some form of oligarchy, working towards a social democracy (as opposed to the sort that Americans have got at the moment).

    But as it is, the need to "pacify" Iraq has undercut the frustrated and neglected sons of the Union who wear desert camouflage in Afghanistan and its citizens. It seems they might now have something like an elected leader, but make no mistake about what's propping him up for the moment. Let's hope the new state of Afghanistan succeeds.

    In the past couple of weeks the pigeons have come home to roost:

    The Economist forecasts a total defecit for the next ten years, providing Iraq continues and Bush is allowed to renew his tax cuts (some of which are supposed to expire soon) of something approaching 4.6 trillion dollars.

    A trillion dollar bills (assuming we're talking about a US trillion {10 to the twelfth power}, not a British trillion (ten to the eighteenth power}--The Economist is British) is a single-bill stack 63 thousand miles high.

    Yes, 63 thousand. I had to recalculate it to believe it. If that defecit money were stacked in a single pile, it would reach out past the moon--even at its highest point! I suppose that's the dollars he said he'd put into space exploration?

    Worse yet, even if operations in Iraq and Afghanistan slow down, the projection is still 1.5 trillion. I'm sure Georgie's grandkids will thank him.

    The report on "weapons of mass destruction" (apparently those not present in the US arsenal) has found that Saddam Hussein was closer to having an atomic bomb in 1991 than in 2003. And the Bush White House has the unmitigated gall to say "See? We were right!"

    The report on job losses (more than any President since Herbert Hoover fought the depression) will hopefully produce one more unemplyed redneck.

    And George's claim that "I'm a war president" and "You don't change horses in the middle of a war" are starting to sound weird when juxtaposed with the "Mission Accomplished rhetoric. Also--Some people have made the observation that GWB didn't have to be a war president. In fact he's the only one who actually took a world at relative peace and pitched it on its ear. Clinton only stirred the pot in Sarajevo, and never comitted ground troops until the UN proved it couldn't handle things. Kennedy inherited Vietnam and the Cuban adventure from previous planners, and Roosevelt and Wilson responded to direct provocation. Other presidents have at least asked Congress' permission to go to war. George W. Bush asked Congress to give him the power to go to war without consulting them.

    In Canada we have a conflicted shipping magnate at the helm (at least his businesses made money). Still, in the next election I will vote for anyone who promises gay marriage, decriminalised pot, and enlightened social policy. I have seen enough über-right-wing crap for one lifetime. Maybe Americans have, too.

    Where are valour, duty and honour? They're not gone. They're underground, like winter flowers. But unlike spring blooms, they're waiting for a different season.

    George Bush likes to tell people it's morning in America. Yeah. No wonder they're so grumpy--I mean how are you first thing in the morning? Perhaps it would be better if it were afternoon in America, and everyone could have a little lie-down?

    Didn't like Reagan much either. But I'd vote for him dead before I'd put any Bush back into the residence albion.

    No. Honour, duty, and valour are just waiting for November third. Now will be the winter of our content.

    Heck, November is a good time for gardening.