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

31 May 2006

At Odds With the Nag

I have a slight difference of opinion with Nag's take on the misery of Haditha.
Haditha is an atrocity. And the soldiers who committed the crime need to pay for it. But this does not make what took place there typical.

Most damning, though, is Nag's statement that:"These young soldiers were doing exactly as they were trained to do, namely kill Iraquis".

There is no doubt that soldiers are trained to kill. The definition of a military professional would have to include the application of political will by violence. However, no Western military actually teaches its soldiers to kill any one nationality or group.

To say so is to deprive of their humanity the vast number of doughboys who are just doing a thoroughly unpleasant job in Iraq.

To say so takes the responsibility for the murders away from the men who lost their control, forgot what they were trained to do, and did something shameful.

To say so takes the horror and outrage from Haditha by alleging that this is a routine event. The very fact of its enormous impact lets us know it's not.

If the American soldiers had been what are delicately called "insurgents", there would have been no outrage. That doesn't make the murders right, but perhaps it's important to remember that the "insurgents" are never brought to book for their suicide bombings, their massacres, and their inter-sectarian atrocities.

Most Iraqi victims in Iraq, at least since the formation of the interim government, have been killed by Iraqis. And I'm not seeing the same scale of anger against them.

That's because among the Americans, a massacre is considered repugnant, abhorrent, the act of cowards and thugs.

Among their opponents it's just business as usual.

And that's worth remembering.

Guilt-Free & Necessary Debt

More good news:
So Ford won't cover the fuel pump under the warranty, given that it's not a defect. Understandable. But upsettingly, my provincial insurance will.

Why upsettingly? Well it works like this: At the moment I have my 43% discount. It's a bonus for being "claim-free". If one retains that 43% for seven years, one essentially earns a free accident--that is, if you have an accident it won't affect your insurance rate. Because the provincial insurance company, a monopoly, has to insure the entire population, that still means I pay roughly $1400 per year to cover the drivers whom no-one would insure elsewhere.

Unfortunately I'm short of that seven-year mark. So if I claim my $600 fuel pump repair I lose a big chunk of that discount. I pay extra for three years until I regain the whole thing. How much do I pay? Well over the next three years I pay out $900.

But wait there's more! Of course my insurance has a deductible--the amount I'm required to pay before the coverage pays for the rest. It's $300. So for my insurance company to cover half of a $600 repair, I must needs pay out $300 plus $300 a year for three years for a total of $1200. My insurance agent told me: "Basically it's not worth claiming for anything under $1500".

Logical conclusion: the next time this happens, I should drive the car back over the rock to puncture the oil pan, then rev the engine until it seizes!

I can actually afford not to run the car, if I so chose, because unlike the vast majority of my countymen I actually live close enough to walk to work. And I have resources that will permit me to borrow the money fairly cheaply. But what if I didn't have access to the funds and had to commute by car? I would, in essence, be forced to pay $1200 through my insurance company for a $600 repair!

Would rates be cheaper if the practice of insurance didn't actively encourage fraud?

The really daft thing is that I could do the job myself for parts cost if I weren't trying to preserve the warranty coverage that doesn't cover this repair.

30 May 2006

I Do Love Being Backed Into a Corner

Mme Metro and I were out on the weekend when there was a tremendous "bang" from beneath our car.
Quoth we: "What the hell was that?" But answer came there none.

It turned out to have been a large rock, three-quarters buried under the dirt road we were travelling. Somehow it had gone clean under the bumper, then been excoriated from the earth by the subframe of the car, to sit on the surface and scrape along underneath.

Being male, I naturally had to perform due diligence. I crawled under the car on a piece of cardboard I keep in the trunk for the purpose, I checked for leaks, and then the car stopped running and refused to be restarted. I couldn't identify anything especially wrong-looking, and didn't want to mess with the warranty (what an odd thing to say about any car I've ever owned). Otherwise we might still be there, with bits of car strewn about.

Or at least I might. Mme is not noted for her patience on automotive issues.

Thank Providence for the cellular telephone [hers] (we got it in Rhode Island. No, not really). We called the Ford roadside assistance service, and a tow truck tooled all the way out to the toolies to pick us up within forty minutes.

The local Ford dealer told me the next day that the fuel pump outlet had cracked off, triggering an emergency shut-off. The pump would cost about $300, all in.

Plus labour.



I thanked the service manager and immediately began doing what I usually do--namely spend $50 worth of time to save $40 worth of money. But that's fine by me; time I have.

My local Canadian Tire quoted labour at $158.00. Quite a difference. But they had no listing for the pump. After a couple of other calls, I got a-hold of Lordco, who told me that the fuel pump is a "dealer-only" item. That is, it can only be purchased from the dealer.

Assuming (and it's a long assumption) that the towing costs only $50 between the dealer, where the car is now, and Can Tire, I'd save about $50--not inconsiderable. But since the tow is far more likely to cost $80, it just isn't worth it.

Besides, there's my relationship with the dealer to consider. I may need an actual warranty repair someday.

It's a great weight off my conscience to find I probably can't get a better deal elsewhere.

I notice I have nowhere here indicated that Mme Metro was generally opposed to the expedition from the start. She has expressed a desire that I should include in this post the phrase "She was right".


29 May 2006

Another Non-surprising Headline

After all, no-one can afford to smoke except lobbyists, and there are more conservative MPs in government.

Signs of Desperation

In the dying days of the last government, Paul Martin flirted with controversial-but-popular moves like decriminalizing pot and gay marriage. Stephen Harper has decided to go for popularity through the mum-and-maple-syrup approach. He's proposing draconian legislation against street racers.

Why the sudden interest now?

Harper's desperate for press he can regard as "fair and balanced" (ie. that likes him for his resemblance to George W. Bush (or "*")). He's lately been so desperate in fact that he's paying lobbyists to do all of his talking for him. So he's seized on this as a means to look better.

After all, who can oppose this legislation, conceived by the late independant MP Chuck Cadman?

I can. There are at least four laws under which such a cretin can be prosecuted. The question is whether they're enforced properly. Courtesy of the CBC:

  • 1) Criminal negligence causing death.

  • 2) Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.

  • 3) Criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

  • 4) Dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm.

  • There seems to be no evidence that the sort of person who can't consider the consequences of street racing to others is the sort who can consider the legal consequences to himself. So what's the incentive?

    "If you commit one of these offences you might go to jail" doesn't stop them. So what good is "If you commit this offence you might go to jail more"?

    Chuck Cadman had his good points. He created unity within his community, for one. Harper so far is doing something similar: at the alleged figure of 40% support it seems that 60% of Canadians are unimpressed with him. And it's not likely to get much better.

    'Specially if he can't do better than stealing ideas from his dead opponents.

    27 May 2006


    What would Jesus press?
    According to Doctor Pat Robertson, all around good-guy, multimillionaire, ex-presidential candidate and the sort of Christian who was probably the reason Jesus asked Judas Iscariot to turn him over to the Romans, it'd have to be over 2000 lbs. After all, PR is not the sort of dude to claim he's better than Jesus, is he? His commercial, by the way, supposedly shows him pressing 1000.

    But he DOES claim that his "age-defying shake" (which many of us thought was something to do with Parkinson's) helps him leg press 2 kilopounds. Which is only about 700 pounds more than anyone has leg-pressed before. Ever. And Robertson's 76!

    Does this mean he'll be opening a gym called the 2000 Club?

    As for WWJP? I think the answer is "the eject button".

    26 May 2006

    Non-Story of the £µ¢λin' Year

    From Yahoo! News. Which should sometimes be called olds.
    I enjoy YN 'cos they mix in, under the "TV News" heading, titbits from that venerable organ, the Weekly World News. And I'd luuuuurve to work for the WWN. No kidding. If you work for the WWN, please e-mail me. I have strange ideas and I'd just love to actually get paid to write them down.

    I have a story to fit the headline: Alien Country Singer Gives Jesus' Lucky Bigfoot Charm to Pint-sized Cancer Victim Midget Porn Star.

    Call me.

    But I digress. In this case, Yahoo! News links to "HealthDay", whose front page declaims that moderate alcohol is good for the heart (knew that, since 1997 or so. And I save up my one drink per day for fifteen to twenty days at a time) and that depressed boys are likely to smoke (depression and smoking, and indeed many other mood-altering addictive drugs, have been linked for decades).

    But what really pushed my "DUH" button was this:
    Note: I have selected quotes from the article. The whole thing is linked at the top of this post. Declare your biases. Thank you.
    FRIDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- Poorer Americans also tend to be more stressed out, a new study shows.

    . . . Lower socioeconomic status was associated with higher levels of [all three] stress hormones, the researchers report in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. This association was independent of race, age, sex or level of overweight or obesity.

    In addition, being poorer was also associated with higher rates of smoking, not eating breakfast regularly, and having a less diverse social network. These behavior and social factors seem to strengthen the link between socioeconomic status and hormone levels. Smoking alone accounted for about 63 percent of that association, the study said.

    Okay--you've heard the experts. Now here's my analysis:

    Link between poverty and smoking? Christ! No surprise there. Have you seen what they're charging for smokes nowadays?

    Link between poverty and not eating breakfast. I suspect they could correlate poverty with not eating lots of meals, generally.

    Less diverse social network. Yeah, the poor people always seem to miss out on the big networking occasions. I mean, it's not like people chat to strangers at bingo halls or the welfare office. And they never seem to show up for the Beaux-Arts Ball.

    And is it possible that being poor in *'s america, land of "faith-based" social services but not social security, looking down the pipe at the godawful mess the hacks are making of pensions, and being unable to afford health care for your increasing stress level are perhaps seriously upping the stress levels of poor Americans?

    The conclusion is left as an exercise for the Avid Fan.

    24 May 2006


    Oh--so now he's going to stop talking to us.

    I'm not certain, but I believe Harper's actually already broken the record for fewest statements to the press of a serving PM. Mulroney had it before, but got his head out later in his reign.

    The real reason is that Harper's pissed because I referred to him in my early-this-morning post as a "caretaker prime minister". Personally I'm flattered at being called "national media".

    Although I normally consider myself a Global Media Outlet I recognize that this echoes my delusions of grandeur.

    Harper has yet to come to terms with his, it seems.

    How much of this, d'ya think, originates with Harper manfully decrying the Iranian Nazi dress code as reported in the "unnamed paper" mentioned here?

    But suddenly. The PM is caught with his #@^&-0~ jutting into the wind. I suppose he had a Right to expect the Post to give him a pass (first past the Post?).

    Poor Stephen. Imagine what he must be thinking.

    Just Checkin' It Out

    I have a new work machine.
    Clearly they have no idea what I'm going to use it for on my coffee break.

    The ancient Mac it replaced was elderly and prone to hysterics, inclined to faint when too many demands were placed on it. And for some reason it couldn't sign in to Blogger.

    In honour of the new machine, I present the ballad of Mulga Bill--about les gadgets nouveaux.

    David and Stephen Sittin' in a Tree

    David Wilkins, the US embarrasment to Canada, is singing the praises of Stephen Harper.

    For the uninitiated, Mr. Wilkins is a South Carolina campaigner for *, whose reward seems to have been something he considers exile. Until his ambassadorship he'd only ever been to Niagra falls, about twenty years ago. Natural choice for *, really.

    Well, actually he's saying that:
    . . ."the strongest and sweetest songs have yet to be sung."
    This is a far cry from his, um, testy relationship with Paul Martin.

    In fact, it's a far cry from most of what he's said. Remember, despite the current less-than-honest Softwood Lumber deal under which the US gets to keep $1 billion of its ill-gotten gains, Canada was "over-reacting"on the issue.

    But now we're the bestest of friends--except for that pesky Arctic thing.

    Oh, and aside from the whole "missile 'fence" thing (you know: we pour money in, US contractors get money out, and
    in return we get to participate in the Reagan Star Wars program, with the added bonus that it doesn't work, making it very safe).

    Historically, we don't do well when US politicos admit to liking us publicly. Cosider the music of Reagan and Mulroney, coming as it did as the economy tanked.

    Personally, when Wilikins praises somebody, I'd prefer to see him saying something like this:


    "I've been called worse things by better people."
    --Pierre Trudeau

    Mark my words, the fact that *, through his embarras--I mean his ambassadore is praising our caretaker PM bodes no good.

    By the way, where are all these POWs we're taking? Oops--sorry, I mean "Taliban fighters". This report sayeth not, specifically.

    If there's the slightest chance that the Afghan government is handing them off to the US, we are morally bound to keep them. I suggest a detention camp in Point Roberts.

    12 May 2006

    How's About This?

    Am I not a scary, scary man with the predictions? Here's another: First it'll be "voluntary suppression", then it'll be taken as standard practice. Then it'll be a law.

    And what do we think is being done with those ten Taliban prisoners?--Do we think they're on their way to The Hague? To a Canadian prison? Where, in fact, ARE they headed?

    But answer comes there none, so far.

    They had bomb-making materials--batteries and wires! Hey! We could make the whole place safer by arresting every Afghani who owns a flashlight!

    Seriously, though: We must be careful to distinguish ourselves in our humane treatment of prisoners. To incarcerate these people in an Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay risks squandering our moral capital. We must be seen to be firm, yet just. Particularly we must be so seen.

    What do you think the moral effect will be if these prisoners are diappeared into American "black" prisons?

    Let us have photos. Let the names of these prisoners be announced to the world, and let us never forget that we have a duty towards them as human beings who claim to be more civilised than they are: To repay hatred with something better. To show and not just tell the virtues and values of a truly democratic, multifaceted society.

    Let's not just be tools of an increasingly ideological and imperialist foreign policy.

    Okay Mr. Harper?

    By the way: I can't see this post properly on my Mac, so if it has "issues" I'll fix 'em later.

    10 May 2006

    I've said it before and I'll say it again.

    I believe Stephen Harper is maneuvering his way toward greater powers, and a Canadian version of the US Patriot Act. All of a sudden today a report prepared in November is being made a damn big fuss of.

    The title of this article should be in the past tense:

    "Terror Attack Now 'Probable', Head of Agency Warned Last Year"
    --seems less urgent now, right?

    Considering his secretive and paranoid governing style, why do you think the current government "de-classified" a "top secret" report so easily?

    Do you think the PM wants us to feel insecure?


    How do you expect him to exploit that fear?

    Perhaps he's going to try to make us beg him to keep us "safe" by curtailing our rights under the constitution and the Charter. He's surely noticed how well it worked in America.

    But we're too smart to fall for that.

    Aren't we?

    Keep an eye open. Soon it'll be secret "renditions" of "terror suspects" or "enemy combatants" captured in Afghanistan to US torture facilities. No-one will protest, because with the changes he's making to Access to Information laws who'll know? Then domestic espionage--who are you talking to, chum?--and the traitorisation of anyone who speaks out against him.

    Do I sound fabulously paranoid? I don't feel paranoid. I still have my wits about me and I know The Da Vinci Code is fiction (that's "not true" for you Dan Brown believers out there--it's a good test question).

    We can only wait and see. But you heard it here first once before. Well, actually, it was a comment I posted to Raincoaster:

    April 26, 2006 at 1:28 am

    […] From the CBC, although Metro called it first, and with perfect accuracy, on this very website several days ago. Reporters were not allowed into the military airbase at Trenton, Ont., to cover the Tuesday evening arrival of the remains of four soldiers who died in a weekend bombing. […]

    If I'm right, watch for my name on the list of "traitors".

    Besides, it's not as though it's never happened before in North America.

    Death to all tyrants.

    08 May 2006

    Stephen Harper Report Card

    To Mr & Mrs. Harper
    School Name: Canada
    Student Name: Harper, Stephen J.

    Dear Mr. and Mrs. Harper:

    We regard the Canada School as the finest of political finishing schools. We have given the world statesmen, ministers, and great persons at all levels. Where there is work to be done you will find our graduates, usually working in the background, eschewing the limelight but ahem-"beavering" away.

    We had our doubts about accepting young Stephen, but he was so eager and showed such promise--especially after the behaviour of his predecessor--that we reluctantly allowed him a scholarship.

    At the beginning of this term we had fairly high hopes for your son. He appeared to have modified his less-socialized behaviour, and seemed to have learned from the behaviour of his peers.

    Unfortunately his achievements so far appear to tell another story:

    He promised that he would root out patronage and dishonesty in government, and deplored the past policy of appointing Senators to the senior class as a political reward and means of forcing change in public policy. But:

    1) Immediately upon arrival he appointed M. Fortier, who has not run in and did not win any election in this class, to be Minister for Public Works.
    2) At the same time, having pilloried classmate Belinda Stronach for deciding to play for another house during the vote-of-confidence on Paul Martin’s government, gave David Emerson the International Trade Minister’s job as a reward for doing just the same.

    He promised greater transparency and accountability, a key promise made in the wake of that unpleasant business with that Gomery boy and our young M. Chrétien. However, he then:

    1) Closed the corridors of power to reporters after cabinet meetings.
    2) Insisted that all public pronouncements be cleared through his office.
    3) Began attempting to enact draconian measures to secure even more secrecy.

    In terms of social policy, Stephen is taking a disturbing tack:
    1) He has dishonoured the Liberal child care program in existence a this school in favour of handing out $1200 per year per family per child under 6. This estimate of child care costs seems to indicate that he has failed to learn any lessons in economics class.
    2) He seems to feel that the gay marriage debate is not over, despite there being no constitutional means by which he can change the law. This does not bode well for his report in civics.
    3) He has eschewed the Liberal’s moderate tack on marijuana for a restatement of the “War on Drugs” rhetoric of George W. Bush, indicating that he is failing social studies.

    Most encouragingly, your son seemed in general to have abandoned the bankrupt (morally and financially) and dangerous philosophy of his classmate, George W. Bush. Unfortunately, that promise has not proven true either:
    1) First there was the worrying gesture forbidding flags to be flown at half-mast for dead Canadian soldiers. Your son seems to assume that death is just part of the job of a soldier.
    2) Then he adds insult to injury by forbidding reporters to cover the arrival of coffins bearing the dead heroes, and bans even the taking of pictures. Particularly worrying.
    3) He continues to vouchsafe that the debate on the US “Missile Shield” isn’t over, even though some 70% of Canadians oppose the idea.

    It seems increasingly likely that he will fail history, and be compelled to repeat the term.

    Mr. and Mrs. Harper, we here are becoming worried that your son is in fact bent on a personal social and political agenda that has little to do with how the rest of the class feels on the issues.

    His secrecy measures seem to indicate a clear path, and we can see no good thing coming out of this. Within two years we suspect that Mr. Harper will be using his increased powers of secrecy to render enemy fighters captured in Afghanistan (and, later, perhaps secret missions to Iraq) to the US torture facility at Guantanamo Bay. He will attempt to reform Canadian society in line with his religious and "moral" convictions, and is willing to ignore economic agreements in order to call Mr. Bush his friend.

    We regret that your son seems to regard his minority as a license to spit in the face of all that is Canadian, and we ask you to withdraw him from the school.
    Failing that, we will have no alternative but to kick his ass out at the earliest convenience.

    Sincerely yours,

    Joe Canada


    07 May 2006

    I'm Back

    Did I miss anything?

    Mme Metro and I have sporadic internet access while we await possession of our house. I have some things on my mind. Let's start with this:

    One of the benefits of living close to the US is the fact that I can listen to National Public Radio, the listener-supported voice of sane America (the bits that didn't vote for *) [I've decided he needs his own symbol, like that Artist dude, and since Pullitzer-winning Garry Trudeau gave him an asterisk, who am I to argue?]. Today I turned it on, hoping for A Prairie Home Companion or perhaps Car Talk.

    Instead, there's T.R. Reid, obviously a "neocon intellectual" (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one) hawking a book.I must paraphrase his ideas, but the tone and most of the wording is his.
    TRR: You see, Europe can afford these lavish welfare states because they don't want military power. They just take the money we spend on our military and pour it into these big government schemes. And they can afford to do this because we assume the military risk for them.

    Pardon me?

    Okay Dopey, let me set you straight here: Europe can afford to do these things because their rates of tax are phenomenally high, and because their electorate believes that these are important things to do.

    And just what "risk" do you claim to be assuming, by the way? Nuclear? The Brits have nukes, so do the French. Are you referring to Russia? They're no longer a threat; and your own president is helping prop up the very-nasty Putin regime.

    North Korea? Doesn't look like you're being very helpful there--partly due to your inability to pressure Russia. China? Hu Jintao went to the White House last week so * could ask him politely to stop holding more US dollar debt than anyone else. And if Iran threatening to leave it's Non-Proliferation-Treaty obligations in the dust is so disturbing, why'd * give India a pass?

    Iran? Well I admit you haven't had much help from Europe. Um, any idea where they got their first atomic reactors? Here's a hint: 1978, a company whose initials are GE, and something called the US-Iran Nuclear Agreement.

    Of course, you have definitely kept Iraq from invading Poland. Bravo.

    For some idiotic reason, Europeans choose to supply their children with free college educations and their poor with health care, rather than buying more guns.

    I see your point, Mr. Reid.

    And this on National Public Radio. Thanks, *, for appointing a Czar to ensure compliance with the Party Diktat.

    Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for the CBC. And Cthulhu keep it safe from Stephen Harper.

    Ooh! I want this for Cthulhumas! As twisted as Dick Cheney's mind and soul put together.