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

30 April 2008

Because "No One Links to Poor Zathras"

Mme M. is an inveterate Babylon 5 fan, so when I stumbled across the phrase I used in the title of this post I knew I would not be forgiven if I did not, in fact, link to him.

However, the post itself (over at Dead Racists Society) is worth a read.

A man was invited to help a local citizens group celebrate a special birthday. Now freedom of association presumably means we should not be quick to leap to judging people (such as future president Barack Obama, for example) by the company they keep (such as reverend Wright--assuming that he was ever the "racist" he's now being blown up to be by the Wingnutosphere).

However, in certain cases one could probably make an exception and simply rush to judgement.

Although one should be tempered about whether the guest speaker was in fact a racist and a bigot, or whether he's simply so terminally stupid he shouldn't be entrusted with anything more dangerous than a crayon.

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29 April 2008

Inequality Unequaled, or, Reasons to Vote Obama

The Census Bureau has tracked the economic fortunes of affluent, middle-class and poor American families for six decades. According to my analysis, these tabulations reveal a wide partisan disparity in income growth. The real incomes of middle-class families grew more than twice as fast under Democratic presidents as they did under Republican presidents. Even more remarkable, the real incomes of working-poor families (at the 20th percentile of the income distribution) grew six times as fast when Democrats held the White House. Only the incomes of affluent families were relatively impervious to partisan politics, growing robustly under Democrats and Republicans alike.

From the New York Times article. Go read it.

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Florida Lawmaker Taking the Ball by the Horns

Well now that any psycho can park his gun right by the factory door for those moments of homicidal rage, what is the gun-totin' community up to?

Well, pardner, Republican Cary Baker, gun shop owner, isn't resting on his laurels. He's moving to ban truck nuts. You know, those rubber bull testicles that the intellectually challenged mount on their cars and trailer hitches?

And the Florida Senate passed it on, just like it was real legislation. Canadian tax dollars at work.

Me, I think they're stupid and a bit mystifying. I mean, what's the truck owner trying to say? "I like testicles?" "My virility is intrinsically intertwined with the vehicle I drive?" "I'm stupid enough to pay $20 for a pair of rubber bull testes?"

But banning them? Because they're "offensive"?

In a state which is moving to print Christian license plates with the slogan "I believe"?

I don't object to it, in theory ... as long as they print the atheist "I don't" plate, the Muslim "Allah akbar" plate, and the Jewish "It's our damn book, and we want it back!" plate.

There certainly seems to be a lot of offensive balls going on in Florida.

And yes, I feel use of these decorations should be discouraged with extreme prejudice. But it doesn't take legislation: Whenever someone asks me "What are those?" I just tell them that it means the driver is a member of the gay community.

Once that trope works its way into society, the pickup drivers will be turning their vehicles into steers.

27 April 2008

Those Poor People

Okay, so the fact that the floor collapsed at a church isn't funny. Nor is the fact that several people were injured, one severely. In fact, aside from the obvious (" That God--always playing those practical jokes on His Chosen People! What a mensch!") there's only one really funny thing about this.

It's not the picture itself--the picture isn't even right for the caption. However, in the caption there is potential for amusement, the description of the people present is priceless.

"Victims of a Christian rock concert ..."

Presumably there will be counselling afterward?

While we're at it--d'you suppose that person is getting much business for their "Chuch design"? Maybe in the Deep South ...

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25 April 2008

So That's What He Meant!

Moktada al-Sadr called on his followers to stop the bloodshed, unite with all Iraqis and focus their firepower on driving out the “occupation forces,” meaning the United States military and its foreign allies.
--From the New York Times
Reminds me of a quote:

"I'm a Uniter, Not a Divider"
--Geo. W. Bush

And another:

"You see, my most precious abilities are mainly administrative ones. I have a happy facility for getting different people to agree." [General Peckem]

"He has a happy facility for getting different people to agree what a prick he is," [Colonel Cargill]
--From Joseph Heller's Catch-22

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Um, "Protest" a Day of Silence How, Exactly?

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A student Day of Silence on Friday in support of gay and lesbian students has drawn a protest from a group led by Redmond pastor Ken Hutcherson, who has a daughter at the school. Gay rights supporters plan a counter-protest.
So, what did the pastor have in mind? A "Day of Noise"? In a high school?

Like anyone would notice.

More interestingly, why protest somebody's right (constitutionally-protected right, in the US) to express their sexuality openly and honestly?

I tend to believe many of the people who speak out most strongly against gays and lesbians are doing so in order to ensure they never have to come out of the closet and face themselves.

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24 April 2008

Oil at $225 a Barrel? Gas at $2.25 a Litre? By 2012?

Well when the lead thinking head at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce thinks so, I figure it's time to start polishing my bike.
"The point is that the solution lies not with the supply curve, it lies with the demand curve," Rubin said. "It's not about finding new sources of energy supply, it's about consuming less energy, because ultimately, that's what we're going to have to do."
Emphasis mine.

Jeff Rubin figures that peak oil plus increased demand for it from the "developing nations" will result in higher prices. Go read the article.

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Uncivilization Duties?

I despise our current government. They're a bunch of feel-good handwringers and pearl clutchers without a single scap of moral discrimination.

Witness their quest to de-fund Canadian films that some unspecified body (presumably the Conservative Reform Alliance Party) calls "offensive". The great irony is that American productions would receive the tax credits regardless. So in one fell swoop the Conservatives both ruin an industry in which Canada remains competetive and drives the survivors to Hollywood. Bravo.

Witness their slavish desperation and lack of depth in technology: Internet throttling? They're fine with it--it's private industry, don'cherknow? Penalizing music lovers? Heck, they actively get paid for that!

Witness the "Reform" (as in the Canadian equivalent of the One Nation Party) of immigration law in response to a crisis that the Conservatives themselves manufactured by cutting staffing levels.

The only organization I despise more is our "opposition" party. If Stephane Dion wants to be remembered as anything other than a Quisling, an apologist, and an enabler, he'd be better off pulling the damn trigger and getting us another election, during which he could then resign. Because he'll sure as hell never be Prime Minister. And doesn't deserve to.

You're the Opposition, Steph. For Christ's sweet sake--oppose something!

However, the Conservatives are just as bad or worse. Positions taken on human rights abuses in Darfur, China, or Guantanamo Bay? None.

Of all of these, I loathe their position on China the most. These self-styled "Conservatives" willingly allow people to deal and trade with China under the auspices of the "principles of the free market," yet take no action as the world's largest military grows to unprecedented size, as the hothouse economy blows more crap into the environment, as workers--supposedly the bedrock of the "communist" state--are exploited and enslaved, and as increasing numbers of dissidents are jailed in the interest of a peaceful Olympics. Not that the Liberal party would have been any better on this one point.

So I was wondering: How best to start forcing despots to change their behaviour? Sanctions work, over time, but they take decades and often have an indiscriminate impact on the most exploited people in such benighted states.

Armed intervention? Expensive, bad for one's image, and no guarantee of victory ... well just look at the "liberation" of Iraq.

Simply asking often doesn't work. But perhaps there's a way to combine polite insistence with treading heavily on some toes?

How about an "uncivilization duty"?

Imagine: July 2008, the new Prime Minister rises in the house and announces that Canada will be examining the conduct of every nation with whom we have a trading relationship.

Using our own standard (a shade shy of perfection--at least until we settle all the land claims, get pot decriminalised, and start taxing consumption at an appropriate rate), we will evaluate each country on a scale of one to 100.

Each country will be assigned import and export duties correspondent with their place on the list. For example, Zimbabwe, at a hypothetical #98, would face 50% duties on all exports to Canada and Canadian imports. The scale would be a curve, so that if you got to within ten positions, you could possibly avoid duties altogether.

It's a drop in the bucket, sure. But it means something. It would be concrete recognition that a democracy (which we're not--we're a Constitutional Monarchy, much better) is a preferred trading partner and that other regimes are pariahs.

It's a very rough idea, but I keep looking for leadership--such as a move for a boycott of the Olympics--and never seeing it.

21 April 2008

The Sins of the Father, Wright?

Much has been made by the wingnut wurlitzer lately of the associations of Barack Obama. I mean, it's a real hate-and-fear fest out there. Especially now that Obama looks certain to be the Democratic nominee, and therefore future President.

In particular, the wingnutosphere, having failed in portraying Obama as a MUSLIM SLEEPER AGENT!!!, and unable to shake his patriotism, despite his public appearances WITHOUT A FLAG PIN!!! and failure to PLACE HIS HAND OVER HIS HEART DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM!!! and being ignored on similar, weighty, issues, has been busy exploiting his "relationship" to former Weather Undergrounder Bill Ayers (who comitted his acts of domestic terrorism when Obama was about eight years old), and to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose views and remarks have made some people label him a racist, others call him an "America-hater", and still others address him by terms not fit for a family blog.

However, the Clinton campaign has been quietly massaging the message too, and enjoying a measure of plausible deniablility in doing it. As her quest for the Albion Asylum becomes more and more desperate, Hilary has allowed her campaign to become less and less restrained--until her talking points could hardly be told from those of billious O'Reilly.

These tactics were thrown into sharp relief today, as the Grey Lady printed the following message:

Dear Pastor Wright:
Thank you so much for your kind message.
I am touched by your prayers and by the many expressions of encouragement and support I have received from friends across our country.
You have my best wishes.

Not Who You'd Think

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Condi Calls Al-Sadr Black

"I know he's sitting in Iran," Rice said dismissively, when asked about al-Sadr's latest threat to lift a self-imposed ceasefire with government and U.S. forces. "I guess it's all-out war for anybody but him. I guess that's the message; his followers can go to their deaths and he's in Iran."

Ms. Rice, heavily guarded for her brief stopover, which was unannounced for security reasons, was speaking on behalf of her boss, George W. Bush, who is fighting the Iraq war from the safety of Washington. Just as he fought in the Vietnam War.

It seems to Metro that if you're going to send others to die for your cause while you "clear brush" on your Texas ranch, you'd better shut up about other people sending people to die for their causes.

Impeach now.

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18 April 2008

Belt Tightening 101

Over at, Heather Havrilesky has an article entitled "How I learned to stop worrying and love the recession:
I say bring it on! As long as people aren't nattering on about cosmetic surgery or their stupid kitchen remodels anymore, as long as the skyrocketing costs of food and gas will make us stop for two seconds to consider how impossible it is to feed a family these days on our laughable minimum wage, I'm on board.

Me, I don't get it. I think about saving money all the time. I also think about the tradeoff between foreign-made and domestic, between organic and non, and myriad other consumer issues that tend to escape us during the well-off times.

We middle-classers have been giving more and more of our money away for frippery, vanity, and garbage. Even I am not entirely immune, as the $35 weight set in the basement attests (Hey--it was on sale, and I had every intention of using it).

As we continue to consume more and harder, the costs are catching up with us. Cheap housing disappeared in the 1990's. Cheap food is rapidly vanishing (with the poor getting the $#17ty end of that stick as well). Cheap fuel?--You have been paying attention, haven't you?

Wait until we're asked to pay the actual environmental cost of what we consume.

But I believe the hard times are coming. It's time to slice off the fat. Mexico's already feeling the pinch, and so are we, as the US economy pauses at the top of the roller-coaster.

I'm almost inclined to hope that McCain gets elected, so that the blame when the economic $#17 hits the fan may at least be assigned to the proper party.

But there's good news too. As this article shows, we can all do better. Let's get frugal, folks. Let's get tight. Let's make Jack Benny look like a plunger. And when I go to my grave, O Avid Fan, there will be a gravestone roughly the size of a saucer, made of plastic, upon which shall be engraved my final words:

"I'll take whichever's cheaper ..."

17 April 2008

Inspired by the Music of Meyers

After reading the links in the post here, I am inspired:

Expelled (From Academia)
To the tune of "Hotel California"

In a dark movie theatre,
Air conditionin' on
All out of the liquorice
All the popcorn was gone

Up ahead on a big screen,
There was a flickering glow
My eyes were heavy but I sat up straight
I really had to know

Lecture hall wasn't empty
All the extras were hired
Ben Stein's nasal drone in the air
Geez he really sounds tired

Well, he talked about Darwin, and Dawkins and Pee Zed*
By the time he got finished,
I was bangin' my head

He said:
Welcome to Expelled (from Acadamia)
See the godzone truth
From the projection booth

Don't need no facts in Expelled (from Acadamia)
For its premise rests
On its truthiness

Ben Stein was explaining
Why prof Gene took a dive
What he took 90 minutes to say
He could have told us in five

And still teh crazy it burns all across the land
Doesn't bother the DI folks though
Sure they're feeling grand

Welcome to Expelled (from Acadamia)
Yeah it's got Ben Stein
And his monowhine

Yes we're oh-so-fair in Expelled (from Acadamia)
Why just look at who's
In our interviews

(slow tempo)
As the filmaker people
Spun distortions and lies
I felt a need for some Visine (TM)
For my itchy red eyes

I rose to go get some
But was stopped when they said
That the grand persecution
Was / all / the/ fault / of / PZ*

(tempo up)
Last thing I remember, I was
Tumbling to the floor
Ribs contracting in laughter
Couldn't take any more

Relax, said the doorman
And we'll bring you right round
I said:
I wouldn't mind watching that again
If they just could kill the sound

(* "Pee Zed". I'm Canadian. Hope you'll forgive the liberty.)

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George Carlin Said It Best:

"Some people are £µ©λin' stupid.
Then there are the people--they're not stupid--they're full of $#17.
Then there's the other people. They're not stupid, they're not fulla $#17 ... They're £µ©λin' nuts!

Dan Quayle is all three."

Today you might add Charlie Crist, governor of the latest state to advocate responsible gunplay in the workplace.

Crist signed into law a bill allowing workers to bring their firearms to work. The gun must be locked in a vehicle in the parking lot. Under the law you could conceivably ride your motor scooter to work and padlock your .45 to it.

I've always felt that Florida needed a high fence around it, possibly electrified. Dave Barry can relocate to Canada by smuggling himself up in a snowbird's fifth-wheeler.

Florida business groups are sick of this shameless pandering to the National Rifle Association, and point out that the Governor has just made it impossible for them to comply with their duties under federal and state laws that mandate the first duty of an employer: Namely, to ensure a safe working environment.

But the really interesting thing is the comments at various news organs, where teh crazy burns brightest, with a spooky green-blue glow like a rotting ham under a full moon in the Okeefenokee.

Many of these people justify their desire to bring their penis extensions to work because ... are you ready for this?

What if a "disgruntled" worker brings a gun to work?

As Dave Barry says: I am not making this up!

I'm not going to get into the whole melée scenario (y'know, where one guy shoots a madman, and several "heroes" blow one another away).

I'm just going to say that if I were a Florida employer, I'd be making plans to move my parking lot at least two miles from the building.

Stupid. Full of $#17. And £µ©λing nuts.

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16 April 2008

Not for the Squeamish--Topless Pics of ... Ugh, I can't Say It.

I can't even think it.

In the wake of Rupert "Who Cares If It's True? It's FOX!" Murdoch's acquisition of the once-proud Wall Street Journal, a group of parodists has put out My Wall Street Journal.

The inaugural edition features the picture found on this page. Which I warn you will make you want to harm yourself, possibly in a graphic fashion--I'm talking Oedipus Rex meets Lorena Bobbitt here.

If I hadn't been wearing an approved Jesus' General brand Conservative Pro-life Tubesock I might have been badly injured before my computer shut down--seemingly in self-defence.

If you have a blind friend to duct tape your arms to the chair, go have a look. But just a glance. Otherwise ectoplasm will be expelled from your body with dangerous force.

Oh--the "expelled" link thing is just a gratuitous link to kick Ben Stein and the producers in the metaphorical nuts for promoting the Creationist fantasy film "Expelled--No Intelligence Allowed" as some sort of documentary. More explanation here.

I mean, what does it say about Expelled" when even FOX hates it?

Which neatly brings us back to Rupert "Howling Mad" Murdoch. And there, O Avid Fan, I think it's best to leave it. Don't you?

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A Surreal Moment From Metroland

Yesterday I was speaking with a colleague at work when she interrupted the conversation:

"I'm sorry," she said "I have to go move my car."

To which I wittily replied: "Huh?"

"I'm in a two-hour zone, so I have to go move my car."

O Avid Fan, weep for us. The city of Hometown contains fewer than fifty thousand residents. There's ample, nay, abundant street parking within two short blocks of the building. To put the formaldehyde-soaked maraschino cherry on this sundae of surrealism, the lot directly behind the building next door, once a thriving grocery store complete with parking lot, is vacant and daily full of cars belonging to those who work in the area.

Why in the name of the FSM would you park in a two hour zone and have to rush out three times during your working day? I asked her if it was for the exercise.

"No," quoth she. "If I arrive early I always park on X St, that way I don't have to walk so far."

"Saves wear and tear on the wooden leg, eh?" I asked with only a slight trace of snark.

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15 April 2008

A Scene From the Morning Commute in Metroland

I heard the sound long before I got there. It was a ripping, snorting, grinding sound that, at 7:30 on a cloudy Spring morning can only mean one thing: Something was going down.

It was a good-sized house, dating from the seventies by the look of it, making it a Johnny-come-lately in this neighbourhood that was first seeded with GI tract houses in the nineteen-fifties.

To one side stood another single-family dwelling. To the other sat the stucco-sided apartments that have been slowly carving their way up the street, destroying all in their path.

I'm all for higher-density housing. Particularly in view of the fact that the vacancy rate here looks like the chances of Osama Bin Laden being found by the Bush administration. However, I have not been able to rid myself of the suburban urge to have "each his own vine and fig tree, and none to make him afraid." And therefore I view the encroachment of monster houses and multiplexes as a strange hybrid of progress and sub (barely) urban cancer.

While multiplexes allow more people to live slightly more efficiently, they also tear up green space, and encourage commuter living. So you see that I'm torn.

The excavator was gnawing its way through the back side of the house as I approached down the little lane behind it. Another small house stood nearby, its windows boarded up, signifying its own iminent death. Ramshackle "just-growed" garages stood next to the plywood skins rising to accomodate future Toyotas and Fords for families yet undwelling.

A fancy mirror, probably about nineteen-thirties vintage, stood against the shuttered garage, abandoned by scavengers or preciously preserved by an outgoing owner I could not tell.

The excavator munched its way through the side and clambered up the heap of debris it had just generated. I caught a glimpse of a green wall. Who had chosen to paint the upstairs bedroom that shade? Then the inside wall came down in a cluster of torn gyproc.Fumes belched into the air, dust swirled. The stumps of trees lay like the corpses of martyrs alongside the site.

A Bobcat putted around the site like a tug servicing an ocean liner, dragging off bits of concrete and inconvenient arborism. Glass shattered, steel twisted, and wood splintered.

The excavator reached out and shoved its bucket down through the roof. The house trembled in its death agonies and shed shingles like the tears of the condemned.

But when I saw that excavator, I was, for just a few brief moments, unconcerned about pollution, construction wastes, diesel fumes, zoning laws, or the character of the neighbourhood.

For a few brief minutes I experienced the little-boy thrill of big machines.

14 April 2008

Avid Fans and Others, I am Reminded

By a post over at the online residence of the sodden madonna of the internets, of an incident that happened shortly prior to the end of my military career.

I was working with a summer staffer from the Canadian Forces Reserves. They are often employed to shore up mnumbers during the summer on training bases, where the active season co-incides with the student schedules of major institutes of learning.

My job, as driver for the Company Sargeant Major or CSM, involved fetching forth food and drink thrice daily for staff. Additionally, I shipped the sick, lame, and lazy to their doctor's appointments, stopped at the on-the-way store and bought smokes for any as needed, and generally did whatever damn dogsbody thing was believed necessary by my boss. Because, in case you don't realize it, the CSM is god.

So Pte Slouch, a skinny, slightly pretty, rather hard-of-thinking girl from an area near my hometown, came aboard that summer. Being of the male type, and having as my goal the maximization of contact with female types of people with the minimization of clothing, I made sure to try and endear myself to her. Said attempts were greatly hampered by the presence of a buffoon from her home battalion, with whom I shared a mutual loathing, and my general state of sobriety when off duty (none to speak of).

She was a provincial little thing, but oh she had big problems. Her parents were separating. Her brother was an uncontrollable danger to himself, into drugs and drink, and inclined to lose control. She herself seemed to suffer repreat cases of the galloping heebie-jeebies or possibly the crawling crud or some such affliction on a basis that became repetitive. Some said she was just lazy. Given my motivation, I didn't care what she was. She was a target, and I was, in the finest military tradition, determined to acquire her with all due speed.

As the CSm's driver it was my prerogrative to choose whatever victim was currently un-tasked to help me load up the 5/4 ton truck with haybox rations and assorted other junk.So on this day, Pte Slouch was beside me for the smoke-n-choke run to the kitchen, and as was customary we stopped in at Base Transport for the mail.

I have no idea why mail-call is supposed to be such a big morale booster. Surely the field cannot be such a misery that the arrival of another overdue notice from Zellers is a happy event? Still it was, as I said, customary.

Pte. Slouch went inside for a while. When she returned, she looked very stressed. Her eyes were red, and water was leaking from them.

"My brother was in a car accident," she said "He's in a coma in hospital and they don't think he's going to live."

Naturally I was shocked.

"You better talk to Chimp (our section commander) and get some compassionate leave right away." I replied.

"Oh, no." she said "Mom says there's probably nothing to be done. I'll stick it out here"

Still I persisted, and by the time we were back at camp she seemed to be persuaded to at least take some time off to visit her family.

So she returned with me for the breakfast run the following day, and I was informed that she was staying on base until transportation home could be arranged for her.

At lunchtime I was required to take my boss, Chimp (he was husky of build, with a low brow and heavy jaw), somewhere. A hundred yards from Transport, I asked him how Pte. Slouch's brother was making out.

"Huh?" he said.
"Well," I answered, not yet picking up on the cognitive dissonance, "It sounded like he was pretty badly off."
"Huh?" he said, again.
I repeated myself.
"Waitaminit," he said, furrowing his honest brow, "She's going home because her parents are divorcing or something ..."

There was some brief confusion, which resulted in me turning the truck around and heading for home. Chimp went into his office and made a phone call. Immediately thereafter there there was a short, intense meeting between Pte. Slouch and Mcpl Chimp.

Pte. Slouch was confined to quarters. As she was a reservist she wasn't charged, just shipped home with the equivalent of "Not wanted on voyage" marked in her personnel file and an injuction, essentially, against her coming within a mile of the base for whatever length of time her military career would endure. She was still in the reserves two years later.

On the day she left, I was given the task of driving her to her departure point. I had met with her once since the big blowup, and she had asked me in all angry sincerity why I'd felt it was my business to enlighten the army to the fact that she was pretty much trying to rip them off.

I answered that if she'd been a half-decent liar she would have stuck to one simple story.

But I really kind of sympathized. I had once (albeit with slightly more honesty) parleyed my dad's hiatus hernia into a week's vacation at home. Perhaps I'll tell you that one sometime.

For the kiddies who may be reading this post (for I think a blog post should always have some moral lesson to impart to the tiny tots) the moral lesson of this post is:

"Keep your lies simple. It makes it far less likely you'll be caught out."

Words to live by, from your best friend and mine, Metro.

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13 April 2008

Those Mounties--They Always Get Their Tran!

Sorry, but the article just kind of begs for a title like this.

It appears that the Mounties know the ladies, and others, like a man in uniform.

11 April 2008

While I'm At It: New Widgets

Via Wandering Coyote (thanks, WC) I found a bunch of widgets over at Feedjit. If you dislike the idea of seeing your location noted on the list, you can click on the application and choose "ignore my browser."

Thanks for popping by.

Colonel-Soldat/Corporal-Major Metro! Report de la Front!

Mon inner Francais is de retour avec un video stolen de ce man's man's manly man le General J.C. Christian, Terror de les Tubesocks, Ruler de la Roman Wrestling, et Lord of the Yellow Elephants.

Le video c'est un "get-to-know-your-leaders" type de thing, qui ce concern with le Canada's New Government (marque registré).

Mes ladies et gentlemen, ici sont your Naz--sorry, votre Reform--excuse-moi, doubtless c'est le Tourette's encore ... tes Conservative Party of Canada, en rompant through ce p'tit naizerie.

10 April 2008

From the Gospel According to the First Church of Creationism (Second Great Schism, Non-Egnorant, Reformed)

Chap 3
I And thus did the Multitude cry unto the Scientists: "Where are the transitional fossils?"

II And the scientists answered unto them:
"Behold, we have uneartherd aerchaeopteryx. And yea, verily, it is dressed in scales, like unto a lizard is. And yet is hath the wings of a bird of the air." And the Multitude said unto them each and all: "Hang on, those wings were glued on."

III Quoth the Scientists: "What? Of course not ... look, it's all part of the same stone. Besides, we've found several of these things ..."

IV And in answer the Multitude arose and said: "Well, okay, it's not a fake--but it's not a dinosaur, neither. This is not like unto a Lizard, but is Wholly Bird, as the Creator (or Creators) intended.

V And the Scientists, and the Paleontologists didst return to their Laboratories, and there was much mumbling and shuffling of paper.

VI In time cameth again and again the Scientists, and always they said unto the Multitude: "Look, we really think we've got something here. We think you ought to look at it. It's very exciting."

VII And they brought forth several fossils. And the Multitude hardened their hearts against them until the composition thereof was as organic matter which hath settled into a peat bog for millions of years and become as stone. And stopped they their ears and cried they: "Nyah, nyah, nyah, I canst not hear thee, for my Creator hath caused mine fingers to stop Mine ears that I may not hear!"

VIII But then came Eupodophis descouensi. And the Scientists did consult one unto another. And they came before the Multitude and said:

IX "Right--you see that? That there, right? Y'know what that is, Sunshine? That's a bloody Leg! It was useless to the animal in life, so presumably it wasn't bloody well designed--not bloody intelligently at any rate. Now is any of this getting through? At all?"

X And lo, the scales fell from the eyes of the Multitude, and their fingers left their ears with an audible "pop", and they became Enlightened, saying:

XI "Er, um. Well, I guess we were a bit foolish about that whole business, weren't we? I feelest a right muggins, me. Perhaps we shouldn't be trying to force reality to fit the literalist interpretation of English retranslations of a book, in Latin, of Aramaic and Greek philosophical writings that are at best allegorical."

XII And they went out and found something more constructive to spend their time on. And there was much Rejoicing, and people were a little bit friendlier with one another.

Conservative Government, Liberal Flinching, and Legislative Bullying

The Conservative party has been pissing me off for a couple of years now, as it strives to put actual conservatism behind it and go to an ideology-driven agenda of stripping out all that makes Canada relevant, special, and different and putting us on track to become the US' prison bitch.

But the federal Liberals are managing to piss me off worse. And that's utterly amazing.

My latest wanna-bite-someone moment comes from the package of immigration Reforms passed by Parliament this week.

First: In usual Harper style, the announcement was made by--and I quote from press sources: "A ministry official who could not be named."

When the government hides the identities of officials makling public ministry announcements, what the hell does that mean?

Second: Canada's immigration process, while cumbersome, was at least equitable. It took bloody ages for a prince or a peasant. And no matter what, you knew that your file would be reviewed at some stage.

The current queue for reviews was about six-to-eight years. The backlog, according to the Harperites, was almost a million cases.

So, uh, what? You couldn't hire a few more clerks and reviewers to help out? Oh, I see. That would have meant admitting more brown people to Canada, and the All-White All-Stars, all former pillars of the Fas--I mean "Alliance" Party, are ag'in' that.

Now the Conservatives want to:
a) Stream all applicants so that those with "required skills" such as doctors get moved to the top of the pile.

b) Scrap the old process and simply force people to reapply year after year.

This is classic Conservative Party pandering, to prove they haven't forgotten their roots in the Reform Party and the later Axis--sorry, I meant "Alliance" party.

However, they're not being honest. Here's what they haven't actually said:
Under the old system, everyone had a chance. Now in classic neo-con fashion, only "desirables" will be considered.

That was what the review process was for.

All others will have to reapply each year. You could conceivably be in the queue, applying every year, for fifty years and not ever have your file reviewed.

It was already hard enough to immigrate to Canada. They're determined to make it harder.

The Conservatives are willing to poach doctors and other skilled workers from the third world to let their vision become reality. And if I were an honest man, I suppose I'd admit that if these people were leaving their countries anyway, I'd as soon they ended up here.

But that doesn't make it any righter.

And here's the real heartbreak. Rather than stand and defend Canadian values, Stephane Dion and the Liberal party rolled over and let Harper £µ©λ them without even asking for a reach-around.

Because Harper, without a majority, likes to bully by attaching everything to the budget. That way, any provision that's defeat-worthy becomes a confidence motion, the government falls, and they have to hold an election.

Message to Stephane Dion: You know, you might not be elected if an election were held tomorrow (although I don't think enough people like the Cons enough to vote them a majority).

But you'll sure as hell never get elected if you never have the balls to call an election.

Go ahead, for £µ©λ's sakes. Pull the trigger already! If you never stand up to the bully you just keep looking weaker and weaker until you fade into irrelevancy.

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09 April 2008

Green Choice, Black Gold, and Red Lights

I've been having to rethink my stance on unrestricted free-market capitalism these past two years, particularly. My earlier Avid Fans will recall that I used to express mild enthusiasm for deregulation, generally.

But that's not to say I don't still believe in the power of the market at the consumer level. Consider the article from the Tampa Bay Business Journal saying that gas is going to hit $3.60 US per gallon this summer.

In our earlier discussions below I mentioned that it's the poor who benefit most by green choices. I'd like to believe that gas at the equivalent of 93¢ Cdn per litre might send a few more people looking for alternatives.

But I ain't holding my breath. Gas here runs between a buck-twenty and one-twenty-six at the moment, and traffic isn't slowing down yet.

However there's hope, I notice that the article suggests that gas prices will
"peak" at $3.60. It is to laugh. When did gas last "peak" anywhere?

The price of gas goes up. Period. A combination of collusion on the part of oil companies and an opaque pricing process and policy mean that those of us who must drive are hostage to those who sell us fuel. But we don't have to be.

As the price goes up, people will make better, greener choices. Some will get aboard transit, some will carpool, others will walk. But whatever people do, the demand for change will finally grow too loud to be ignored. I actually find I'm almost looking forward to $5-a-gallon gas. Because then I believe we'll see some real changes.

In the end, the "consumers" (corporate-speak for "people") and the market will prevail.

So, to quote one of the geniuses who helped keep Big Oil such a vital part of modern life: "Bring it on."

Just to make your day, crude oil hit a new high today at $112 per barrel.

But I very much doubt it's "peaked".

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08 April 2008

Angry? Why Should the Average Worker be Angry?

Washington Mutual Inc. expects a $1 billion first quarter loss and said Tuesday that it will slice 3,000 jobs nationwide while also closing more home-loan centers.

[. . .]

WaMu also said it was closing its 186 remaining freestanding home loan offices and exiting wholesale lending by the end of June.

[. . .]

WaMu said it had raised $7 billion from the sale of stock to an investment group led by Fort Worth private equity firm TPG Capital. David Bonderman, co-founder of TPG, formerly Texas Pacific Group, will take a seat on the WaMu board along with Larry Kellner, chief executive of Houston-based Continental Airlines Inc.

[. . .]

WaMu CEO Kerry Killinger said the $7 billion injection "will position us for a return to profitability as these elevated credit costs subside. With the support of these investors, we have every confidence in our ability to deal with today's market conditions and restore shareholder value."
From the Houston Business Journal

According to, Mr. Killinger was the 83rd highest-paid executive in the United States in 2005, earning $48,679,000 over the five-year period, and more than $15 million in 2005. He also owns over $60 million in stock.

I'm sure Killinger is really feeling the pain of the economic downturn. I'm sure he can't sleep for the thought of all those jobs and homes lost. Nightly he paces the floor as his erstwhile employees get on with the business of finding new jobs--hopefully some that have health plans.

On his salary alone, Washington Mutual could save enough to keep 500 employees earning $30,000 per year employed. But presumably executives are seen as giving better "shareholder value"?

Meanwhile, I'm sure some of those workers will be trying to find work to make their predatory mortgage payments as the screw turns and foreclosures rise to levels not seen since 1931 or so.

In January I read a prediction that the economy was going to tank, led by a house-price "deflation". It was predicted that US unemployment would hit 7.5 percent.

Tighten your belts, save your pennies, and don't vote for anyone who'd bail out investment bankers before mortgage-holders. And hold onto your hats, it's gonna get rough.

Unless, of course, you're a CEO.

05 April 2008

How to Reduce the Impact of Poverty: Go Green!

Slave to the Dogs left a cogent comment on my last post, it raised a number of issues that I feel need to be addressed rather more broadly than the comment-thread format allows:

For myself, I agree completely. I know I can do more to contribute and try to do so.
For the general population, I disagree. I think technology is what ultimately will solve the problem
I agree that technology will help. But irrespective of any advances in technology, if you don't like living in a polluted environment, the best way to reduce that pollution is to stop making it.

If you are struggling to make ends meet, pollution and energy use is going to be pretty low on your priority list. You buy cheaper lightbulbs because you live paycheck to paycheck [...] Reducing your individual energy output is a benefit we priveleged have.
(Forgive my bunging together two quotes from different paragraphs, but they speak to the same issue).

There's a misperception that environmentally sensible behaviour is somehow solely within the reach of the rich. In fact, if you're struggling to make ends meet, you're exactly the person who should be thinking about the environment. Environmentally conscious and responsible behaviour saves the person practicing it money.

Using your the example: I can choose to buy an incandescent 60 Watt bulb for my home. It'll last anywhere up to about 2,000 hours. For those 2000 hours, it'll use 120 KW and cost roughly $14.40 assuming 12¢ per KW/h.

Lifetime costs:
Bulb: 30¢
Power: $14.70 or so.

In my home, I'm slowly converting to compact fluorescent bulbs. I don't like the "60-Watt equivalent 13-Watters, they're too dim for me. So I use a 23-watt "100W equivalent". They cost about $5.00 apiece when I bought them (and they're cheaper now). Wal-Mart had 23-Watters on at $3 last year.

Lifetime costs:
Bulb: $3
Power: $22.08
Total: $25.08

What? Why would any sensible person go for that? Ah, well you see, if I'm buying an incandescent bulb, I had to replace it four times over that compact fluorescent's 8,000-hour lifespan.

I had to spend $57.60. If I'm struggling to make ends meet, I think I could scrape up the initial $5 (or $3) to make an investment that'd save me $25, no?

You make your '91 high emissions car last as long as it possibly can.
In California, rich and poor alike must pass the smog tests, yet the poor still drive.

You can put the gas guzzler taxes et. al on new cars that get sold. How many poor folks can atually afford to buy a new car?
All used cars begin as new cars. If the environmental costs of new cars, built to a higher standard for consumption and economy are recouped at the plant, or through the initial buyer, sooner or later that cleaner car will be a used, but still cleaner-running, car. And the people who buy them used will still save money on gas!

But wait, as Mr. Popeil says, there's more:

To return to our lightbulbs. Compact fluorescents are a little more energy-intensive to manufacture than plain old incandescents--but last four times as long and consume less power. So factories need make only about a third as many. Smaller, cleaner cars (and I'm talking something like a Ford Focus, not the Tata Nano, here) generate less pollution and burn less fuel. But in manufacturing, they take less energy to build. And both these options require less mining--one of the filthiest industries on the planet. They also require less power to make, less oil extraction and refining, and take a smaller toll on road infrastructure.

Those Chinese factories would belch less pollution if we stopped buying crap, too, making a serious difference to the people of China, and saving North Americans in the lower tax brackets cash as well. Mme Metro likes the "Regal" catalogue's hot dog toaster as a prime example of crap you don't need, but there's a hell of other examples. Recycling what we have, and making a genuine effort to slow consumption and economic "growth" for its own sake will save money, environmental waste, and lives.

Recycle? They don't do it in your hood.
So you take the time and make the effort to do it yourself. There are certainly costs associated with individually responsible choices, but most of them aren't actually monetary. Take the cans to the recycling center (and whether or not your city has centralized collection, there's someone recycling plastic, paper, and steel somewhere nearby) while you're driving your cleaner car to Wal-Mart for some compact fluorescent bulbs. It'll help offset the cost of the trip.

In fact, I believe waste and poverty in the industrialized world have a great deal to do with one another. But it's a long story. Perhaps I'll post it.

And here's a big bonus: A healthier environment will save us millions in health costs. Excess power capacity should mean that the price of energy drops a bit, too.

In other words--we all save money! The poor, who of necessity will save a greater proportion of their income, should be 100% greenfreaks.

And the changes don't have to be draconian--incremental change will do and even the poorest of us can start right now: Drop your hot water thermostat a degree or two, lower your home heating by two degrees, try to take the bus twice a week for the commute, or walk, or carpool. Take 5-minute showers instead of 7-minute ones ... my point is, if one person does it, the effort is futile. If a population of thirty million does it, you'll see some changes.

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04 April 2008

Uh, So What?

I've been reading a lot of reaction to the recent report that says that the International Panel on Climate Change was overly optimistic, and that we need to shovel money into new technology to beat the devil on this one.

The conclusion, for some folks, appears to be: "Since we can't make a significant dent in greenhouse gases using current technology and reducing consumption, shouldn't we just give up and give all the researchers a bunch of money to see if they can find an easy way to fix the problem while we go on our merry way."

Wrong, wrong, and wrong the hell again.

For one simple reason: If we don't have the tech to solve the problem now, then the first step we must take is to reduce emissions at the source. The paper's authors appear to have taken as read that our energy demands are going to climb. There are ways to prevent that, or at least slow it down.

We need to put into play every possible trick to cap emissions at the smokestack and tailpipe. In North America, imagine how much could be reduced if we started adding an environmental levy (of the kind charged on your tires and batteries) on vehicles. It would be a sliding scale, with zero-emissions vehicles at, of course, zero. The lowest rates could be charged for hybrids, with SUVs and the like paying the highest rates.

At the other end, why not issue tighter madatory fuel economy standards? California did, (and that's where I'm going with this in a minute).

Because the environment is a globally shared resource. Canadians, particularly, have had their resources at far, far, below the actual cost of consuming them. What if every pound of coal we burned had to carry a charge to reflect the health effects of burning it?

And this is where California comes in: California had a smog problem. It was a health and economy-poisoning disaster. What did those crazy hippie-types who ran the government in the sixties and seventies do? My god! They implemented fuel-economy standards and tailpipe tests that made driving a blue-spewing clunker a pain in the pocketbook. They made industry clean up its act.

Of course, all of that came to an end when the economy imploded and the state slid into the sea as a result of failing to burn sufficient oil ...

Of course not. They made people stop spewing poison into the air, and guess what? The air got cleaner! Holy crap!

Europe mandates tough emissions controls and fuel economy standards on cars, including savage money for engines bigger than two litres; and oddly enough, most of Europe seems to be doing okay. And as a bonus, finding parking is easier when your stall neighbours aren't driving Hummers.

Hell, London has a congestion charge, but people still drive there. Although as I understand it, most cars carry two people in any case because one has to circle the block while the other goes shopping, given the parking situation.

So the Avid Fan should probably conclude that it doesn't matter why we do it. Pollution is bad news in any case. It is simply an urgent and necessary thing that we take measures to reduce it as soon as possible and that such measures carry a stiff economic penalty for those who will not change their behaviour to adapt to the century we live in, whether those people are individual citizens or corporate ones.

Furthermore--if we expect developing nations to do their part, we in the industrialized countries must do ours. And that means we must reduce. Why should a Chinese citizen be entitled to pollute only a quarter as much as a North American? Instead, we need to look to reduce our individual energy use.

Next time some cretin is holding forth in the pub about how you can have his SUV when you pry it from his cold, dead fingers, look him in the eye and ask:

"So ... why exactly are you in favour of increasing pollution?"

Helpful household hint: Drop your thermostat two degrees in winter and raise it two degrees in summer. You'll barely notice. Or are you simply unprepared to face the possibility of having to wear a sweater in order to save money and carbon wastes?

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03 April 2008

Will He Cut the Ribbon? Or at Least the Cheese?

I found this via the posting at the pithy, funny Canadian Cynic.

From the Huffington Post
Looking to honor the forty-third President of the United States of America, George W. Bush, the recently formed Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco is looking to change the name of the Oceanside Wastewater Treatment Facility. It seems the group would like to rename the SF Zoo adjacent facility to the 'George W Bush Sewage Plant.'
Apropriateness abounds. Dubya's probably thinking: "At last! Recognition!"

Okay, maybe not actually thinking anything, but I'll bet he gets the same warm feeling as he does before his twice-daily changing.

Update: Urgh. Trust me to leave out the punchline. I'll let you figure it out for yourself, O Avid Fan.

Bonus joke: What does Dubya listen to on his Walkman?
A: "Left ... right ... left ... right ..."

02 April 2008

Some Sense on Cents!

Finally--some sense about the cent. The cent will soon see its centenary, and sensible sorts seek to see it stopped.

That's right, after a dollar's worth of years, a sensible motion from the New Democratic Party (which puts them one up over Stephane Dion's Liberals) would do away with the copper coin.

My 2¢ worth? Well, actually, rounding to the nearest nickel, my 0¢ worth:
I'm 100 per nickel in favour.

The conversion would be easy. We wouldn't even need to change our pricing. Heck, even Australia, which did away with the cent decades ago, still prices things at "$19.99". It's just that when you get to the till, you find it's actually $20 even.

Certainly it might do away with the ridiculous pricing of cars. I mean, if you're in the market for a Chrysler Crossfire, do you care whether it costs you $27,999.99 or $28K even?

Heck, we'd even save a few ... er, nickels on printing costs.

However, as a writer, I have some reservations. Will a penny saved still be a penny earned? Will one still be able to spoil the ship for a ha'p'th of tar? Will godforsaken Miami Vice-style yuppie wannabes have to shop for even upscale-r quarter loafers?

Will undesireable relations pop up like a bad loonie? Will we finally become both dime wise and kilogram foolish? What will I not have to rub together?

There could be come spillover too. Would toilet paper come in snickeled and unsnickeled? Something that happened lately might be redime, but the term "dollarury" sounds like a manufacturing facility producing decoys.

I know, I know, I've overdone it. Taken the whole thing waaaay too far. With professional writers, words are ten to the ... $5.00, I should hope.

At least government and industry will still be able to nickel and dime us to death.

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01 April 2008

Thought for the Day #22:

I was listening to the program over at Quirks and Quarks today, and I heard physiscist Michio Kaku, author of "Physics of the Impossible" say:
"Negative energy, we thought, did not exist. But we were wrong. Many times we physicists are wrong."
One reason I tend to favour atheism is because you will never hear any preacher say of his or her own religion: "We were wrong."

Even the churches of my forefathers (some of them) and foremothers (a majority), having twisted themselves into theological knots to avoid becoming dated and redundant (with at best mixed results) have no way of saying "we were wrong." At best they always seem to feel that they were, perhaps, differently right.

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