Metroblog

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

31 March 2009

What's Good for America Had Better Be Good Enough for GM

Much of the business world is frowning down their columns today after the Obama administration attached a major condition to the bailout of sputtering GM corp: The resignation of Rick Waggoner. The Obamadmin also hinted that it would allow GM and Chrysler to sink rather than be dictated the terms of a bailout.

Waggoner has been in charge for about half a decade, give or take, and all that time there was no plan for a future, no attempt to think beyond the next model year, and a total lack of vision. All the Obama administration did was precisely what any consultancy would have done.
“It [restructuring] should have happened years ago,” said Mary Ann Keller, a longtime auto analyst who has been unrelentingly critical of G.M. for, in her words, “being perpetually two years behind the curve.”

“It must have come as shock to their management, because when you think about it, the government never said no to them before,” Ms. Keller said. “When G.M. complained about the Japanese, the government got ‘voluntary restraints’ on car imports. When G.M. said it would be hurt by fuel efficiency standards, the standards were usually watered down.”
~NYT

In other words, the "free market" was adjusted and tinkered with to allow non-viable companies to cling to life. And the new administration clearly feels there's been enough of that.

New thinking is necessary, has been for years. The Big Three have been manufacturing oil lamps as the world began to shift to electric light bulbs. All the US government is saying is that new thinking must be a condition of any bailout. And that's good.

Of course, since half the consultancies around are likely to depend on bailout money and the subsequent necessary restructurings to fill their coffers lo these next three years of recession, one is unlikely to hear this sentiment aloud.

***

As regards the bailouts in various nations in response to the flagging economies thereof, I have one major thought. It is ironic how the same businesses that are so ready to cry "state interference" at the first sign of regulation are the same ones who now cry "bail us out with public money."

My answer would tend to be "No." No bailout. You sell part of your company to the country you're asking for the bailout.

In the nineteen-thirties, banks that FDR's administration bailed out were de facto nationalized, with the United States government taking a slice of each in return for bailout money. The idea wasn't to get a controlling interest. It was to ensure that when the market picked up, the companies had to repay their loans. It was a market-based mechanism, and it worked.

Obama has thus far avoided any mention of nationalizing anything, which is a shame. Yet he has been outright accused of nationalizing AIG for suggesting that the buffoons responsible for sinking her return their multimillion-dollar bonuses, and excoriated for forcing Waggoner off the waggon.
When he stood in the White House to unveil his approach, Mr. Obama took pains to assure the country — twice — that “the United States government has no interest in running G.M.”

No interest, perhaps, but also no choice.
~The NYT again (Which also describes the bailout as "nationalizing")

On the bonuses: The vast public attention the AIG bonuses have received is like passengers on the Titanic complaining that the visible part of the iceberg was spoiling the view. Yes, such public displays of staggering greed and hypocrisy are unprecedented. And on Waggoner, it's as though the major business papers had suggested that Joseph Hazelwood be allowed to run tankers for Exxon again, given his successful history thus far. The ship has gone down, and the captain has a duty to go with her.

But the bonuses and Waggoner are a tiny portion of a much larger, rather more complex, picture: An investment for which the American taxpayer is receiving nothing in return.

If you're asking that your private firm be bailed out by the public--especially if you're doing so while slashing jobs and benefits, causing even greater strain on the public purse, then you are asking the government to nationalize you. And it should.

But Obama has specifically nixed the idea of the US government taking a turn in the driver's seat, content instead apparently to invest US taxpayer funds in bad debt and leave it at that.

I still like Obama, and if he decided to take every nickel of taxpayers' money to Vegas and bet it all on "00" he still wouldn't be as incompetent, plutocratic, greedy, venial, petty, and stupid as any collection of Bush administration wonks you care to name. But to give money without asking anything in return?

It's as far from "nationalizing" anything as could be imagined.

***

Ironically, the Unions are likely to lose a lot of power in this as well. New workers will probably find themselves coming in at the same salaries as their compatriots working for Mecedes and Toyota in the southern states, and their health plans are likely to be pared back.

However, if the new administration also manages to push through some health care reform, it's likely to reduce the burden on both companies and workers, which should help mitigate the effects.







27 March 2009

With Apologies

Sometime in the way-back-whenago my longtime friend Hobbes stopped in for a visit. We haven't seen each other for about many-many years, and we've clearly wandered a long way from our Catholic school days in La Belle Province.

Hobbes most recently wrote me to say that he'd written a story with me in mind. I found it fascinating, and said I'd post a link to it. Here, after rather too long a delay, is that link.

But don't confine yourself to that single story. Hobbes has mad story skillz and is a delight to listen to. Check out his blog and listen to a few for yourself.

The fascinating thing about the story, for me, is the marvelous mix of fact, fiction, and perspective I find in it. The tale is so compelling that I could think it was true, or that my actual memories of that time in my life were somehow wrong, FSM knows they're foggy enough. I might even believe that "Ted" was the name I was Christened with--and it isn't, lest the Avid Fans (all five of them) wonder.

I've put a couple of new links in the sidebar. It's all I've got time for at the moment. I can't believe I ever got anything done when I was employed.

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25 March 2009

Protesters? Nah--They're ... Extreme Fighters! Yeah, Yeah, That's It!

From the BBC:
China says video footage that purportedly shows Chinese security personnel violently beating Tibetans last year is "a lie".

The video apparently shows protesters being beaten with sticks, and kicked and choked by China's security forces.

The Tibetan government-in-exile says the footage shows China's "brutality".

But a Chinese government official said many of the images and voices in the video had been pieced together from different sources.
Shorter China: "Who says those images of our security forces beating people came from Tibet? Those images of our security forces beating people could have come from anywhere in China!"

Glad we've cleared that up.

Why does China simply lie bald-facedly to the world every single time they're caught out doing what they do?

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23 March 2009

A Passing Thought

Mme and I were having a discussion as we walked to work (her work. I'm as yet underemployed) about the things that sometimes happen to couples.

"I think," quoth she "that we're good enough friends that even if things didn't work out we'd still live together."

She thinks.

Naturally my first thought was to wonder why the hell that thought had ever crossed her mind.

However, on second thought we've both heard of couples separated by time, distance, and circumstance, so it's fairly natural to consider a future under which we might find ourselves one of those couples.

"Well," I returned "We haven't seen Mum and Dad's house since the remodelling. It wouldn't surprise me to discover that they'd moved into twin beds or even separate rooms. I mean, Mum snores something historic!"

"Wait" I second-thoughted, "Why would Dad care? He's deaf nowadays."

Mother Nature is a true romantic sometimes.

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21 March 2009

Pope Advocates Superstition

At a private mass in the capital Luanda, Pope Benedict has told members of Angola's clergy that they should work to convert people who believe in traditional witchcraft.
~Voice of America

Shorter Pope: "Abandon your ridiculous fetishistic outmoded traditional tribal beliefs and take up MY ridiculous fetishistic outmoded traditional tribal beliefs!"

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19 March 2009

Second-Best Damn Thing I've Read Today

Besides the Post column referenced below.

From World-O-Crap, written of seventies Christ-power flick The Cross and the Switchblade.
Erik [Estrada] stares at Pat [Boone] with what we imagine is the same look you’d give a man standing next to you in an elevator if he suddenly set his own pants on fire and began to juggle fetal pigs.
Which is why WOC is going into the sidebar. If I ever get the template revamp done.

But I have other priorities right this minute, helping design a website, tidying up the Metropit, painting stage sets ...

How the hell did I ever get anything done while I was employed?

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The Post: The Great Right of the Excessive Right-Wing

I've often said that the journalism in the National Post--Canada's major right-wing rag and proud standard bearer for the Asper group--is quite good, it's the opinions and editorials that should be printed on thin, soft paper and left in outhouses for the apropriate purpose.

On the subject of Gary Goodyear, Canada's apparently-creationist of a science minister, the first person out the gate was Jonathan Kay, who shot his ignorance into the air like somthing from a porn movie, calling it "The Globe & Mail's appalling front-page smear on religion."

Today one shining editorial rose out of the mire. "Ignorance is not a civil right" says John Moore.

Alas, the Post's more usual stance was more accurately reflected in David (Death to Palestine) Asper's "editorial" entitled "The liberal war on faith."

The difference is that Mr. Moore is not being deliberately and willfully stupid about what being science minister in this country means.

I have said this before, but it bears repeating. No matter what Mr. Goodyear's personal beliefs are, any science minister should have had an answer for that question prepped and ready the moment he received the portfolio.

Failing to have one suggests either incompetence in his portfolio or an ideological devotion to religion over science that should scare the willies out of anyone in research, medicine, or education. The Minister must communicate with the public on science issues. Or at least that's the sort of thing ministers used to do until the ideologically hidebound and pathalogically secretive Conservatives were defaulted into power as a caretaker government.

Alas, Moore appears to be the Post's token Lib'rul. But for one shining moment, he lifted the discourse on the Editorial page beyond the normal pro-Conservative puffery and fulmination.

It is a moment Canada should treasure, the more so because they are so rare. At least among the Asper group of papers.

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18 March 2009

I Am Sorry

I clearly had no idea how serious Natasha Richardson's injuries were. I read this evening that she has died. I apologize for the harshness with which I treated her.

On the off chance that anyone remotely connected with her should read this, I express my condolences to her family. In honesty, I'm leaving the post up as a reminder to myself.


My point about celebrity journalism still stands, and I regret that genuine tragedy stood behind it. I hope the reporters will give the family more respect at her death than they did prior to it.







@Google News: I Have Just One Question

--Who the flaming, frying, flying, fiddle-eye ₤µ©λ is Natasha Richardson?

Okay, she falled down go boom, bumped her head. I sympathize. But she seems to have taken over Google news, and I'm sorry, no actress deserves the attention she's getting. I mean, she fell on the friggin' bunny hill. Me, I'd be plurry embarrassed about that.

It looks as though she has a concussion. Big whoop--we're wetting our collective pants about this why?

Yesterday I saw a story entitled "Head injuries can turn deadly" or some such godawful drivel. Naturally the first ten words contained the name "Richardson" twice.

Forgive me if I think there's more important $#17 going on. As far as I know, there were at least three possible concussions in the NHL last night, and none of them are even in hospital.

And look at the stuff that gets shoved down the page because of it:

As cuts to our science programs and the marginalization of science continue under the Conservative "Feel-better-through-ignorance" program, Canada's science minister gives a firm, clear, answer to the question "Do you believe in evolution?"

That firm clear answer, however, is "I refuse to answer questions about my religion."

The problem isn't Goodyear's religion. The problem is that the Conservative Party of Canada neither likes nor understands science or scientists. And that's why, in the digital age, Canadians are cutting down trees and digging big ₤µ©λing holes in order to sell their country by the ounce, barrel, and board-foot to nations that'll sell it back to them as plastic, integrated circuits, and futons.

Evolution only has to do with religion if you're one of a particularly blockheaded and narrow-minded selection of Christian sects. I mean, even the Pope believes that evolution is the working meachanism by which his hairy thunderer keeps the biological world on its toes.

A science minister should have a stock pat answer for that question and be able to give it on cue as easily as Pavlov's dogs answered their bell. To fail to do so suggests either cluelessness unbecoming a government hack--I mean minister--or religious rigidity unbecoming anyone in charge of science.

Speaking of the Pope: He just gets better and better. He's defended the excommunication of people who helped secure a d&c for a nine-year old rape victim. He has allowed people who to this day believe the Holocaust is a hoax to wrap themselves in the authority of the Catholic Church--to speak with spiritual authority on major issues.

And this week, pushed to the mid-page by Natasha whosit's boo-boo, the Pope said that condoms aren't the solution to AIDS in Africa (a reasonable sentiment, and one I agree with [the two are not always the same]).

However, the Pope added the secret ingredient "radioactive stupid" to his stance when he said condoms may make the AIDS epidemic in Africa worse.

And it's amazing, with a few well-chosen words the Pope manages to go from a straightforward, well-understood, meaningful position, to a bucketload of stupidinium.

I mean, does he really believe that the few miserable and precious inches of ground we have gained in the struggle to keep this disease from killing half a continent are all due to husbands keeping their peckers in their pants, wives keeping their skirts down, and prayer? Honestly?

Meanwhile, Washington DC struggles with its own AIDS epidemic. Newsworthy, were it not for the eagerness with which we're apparently pursuing Mme Richardson. And I'll lay a pint to a prawn that she'll be "looking pale and tired, but happy" as she thanks "all her supporters and well-wishers" as she leaves the hospital. Unlike, say, any number of Washington AIDS patients.

Meanwhile:
Up to 1,000 Gambian villagers have been abducted by "witch doctors" to secret detention centres and forced to drink potions, a human rights group says. [...] The London-based rights group said the witch hunters, said to be from neighbouring Guinea, were invited into Gambia after the death of the president's aunt earlier this year was blamed on witchcraft.

Kate Allen, Amnesty's UK director, said hundreds of Gambians have fled to neighbouring Senegal for safety after seeing their villages attacked.
Somewhere out there, the African Union is presumably warming up the Pope-signal.

But hey, husband Liam Neeson has apparently flown to Natasha's side, so as day three of the Natasha Richardson Concussion Watch draws to a lunchtime, stand by for more agonizing detail.

But first a word from our sponsor!

*Sober second thought (AKA ass-covering). Perhaps I've misread this and Miss Richardson's injury is more than a common or garden-variety concussion. I still don't feel that the story deserves more column inches than real, important $#17 that's going down, right now, in the world.

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14 March 2009

Stephen Harper: Civil Discourse, Exchange of Ideas, and ₤µ©λ You!

Stephen Harper flipped his lid and exposed his inner Steve for all to see this week.

The Manning Centre for Warmed-Over Refom Party Ideas gave a little party that was supposed to be private. Only fellationically devoted Conservatives allowed. During the party, the PM himself stepped to the mike to do what exactly?

Well, blame everyone but himself:
In a speech meant for sympathetic ears only, Prime Minister Stephen Harper blamed Canada's economic woes on "unconservative" U.S. consumers, chided President Barack Obama's economic policies and complained the courts and government are full of liberals.
~Via the Toronto Star
Article One
Article Two

The Prime Minister's Office, in the proud tradition of the Conservative Party of Canada, failed to notify anyone that the speech was to be given, and attempted to conceal its content from the press afterward.

Now we see the whiny, hectoring, little fusspot that the Conservative Party felt was their best choice to lead the nation. His speech blamed "unconservative" Americans for getting into debt, and claimed the justice system was somehow overwhelmed with "liberals":
In part, Harper was hoping to convince some of the diehard Tory supporters at a conference organized by the Manning Institute for Building Democracy that he hasn't lost his way, even though his government is going billions of dollars into debt to fight the recession.

"Just imagine how different things would have been if the Liberal left had remained in power over the past three years ... imagine how many Liberal insiders and ideologues would now be in the Senate, the courts and countless other federal institutions and agencies. I should say how many more," he said to laughter and applause.
Uh, Mister Harper? Hate to pop your bubble, but how many lib'ruls were in charge of the US economy recently? Over the past eight years, say?

And who exactly was it who, after watching us slide toward recession for three years, wasting $60 million to hold an unnecessary election, and spending the surplus you were left by "the previous lib'rul government" told us there was no crisis just three weeks prior to the election? Whereafter he suddenly about-faced and, having already squandered the surplus, declared himself ready to spend us all into a $30-billion plus hole? (At best--more realistic projections suggest up to $60 bn, but as you've previously demonstrated you're hopeless at economics we won't *a-hem* tax you with that.)

Would that man still, despite having abandoned every Neoconservative principle, good or ill (and I can't think of any good ones--I'm just being charitable) he ever stood for, describe himself as a Conservative, Mister Harper?

Well, would you?

Bring on the election. Even die-hard Conservatives are tired of this slimeball's continual and desperate attempts to cling to power.

It's like watching a really cute dog hump your leg. You feel for the guy, you know he's trying his hardest, but in the end you're gonna have to shake him off and punt him into the corner.

Only Harper's never been that cute.

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11 March 2009

Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Go Back Into the Inbox

I went back to the inbox yesterday. Thought it would all be over, that things might have settled down.

Not quite.

I have previously received mail for other variations of "Metro" such as "M. Etro," "Me_Tro," etc. from such diverse groups as a veterinarian (the type of animal involved is as yet unknown, but goes by the name of "Blinky"), a school board, and the Boy Scouts of America. Who would definitely not approve of my latest inbox find.

The first was innocuous enough: An art gallery invite consisting of a postcard-sized scan of a drawing that might have been done in tenth grade art class. Even down to the two nude ladies holding hands.

I don't know much about art, but I like looking at nude ladies, so I was going to RSVP when I noticed that the invite was for a) a Friday night some long time gone and b) a gallery in New York City. Lacking a TARDIS, I was forced to decline.

The next item was *sound the trumpets* a job offer. As I am unemployed, I paged through the mental file labelled "Jobs I Have Applied For". It's a thinnish file--professional writing work doesn't lend itself to the descriptor "job" too often, really--And contains nowhere the nomenclature "project co-ordinator." That's Mme's line of country.

However, Missoula, MT isn't impossibly far away, and for a while I considered following up and attempting the interview. But they wouldn't actually have hired me, and if they had it's doubtless that M Etro might have been peeved. So I returned it with a polite note hoping they could find the actual candidate, but if they needed some communications work done that my word processor is at their disposal.

The third item of mail, also intended for someone else, was an invitation to "Dance Bitch." It was from a person who is apparently an actor, with at least one production film to his credit, said movie being called Swishbucklers, set for release this year. While the IMDB page gives no useful information, the list of "If you enjoyed this title, our database also recommends" movies includes "Clones Gone Wild" and "Johnny, Are You Queer?" This actor is named Billy Francesca.

Enclosed was this picture. I believe Mmlle Francesca is the person in the middle.



I considered attending, but it appears to be in San Francisco, and while I could arrive there fashionably late in the Lear, my sequined thong won't be back from the cleaners.

Quel dommage, darlings ...

What? Are you kidding? I'm an actor, dammit! It is my bounden duty to attend functions at which I might attract the attention of Hollywood producers. Which, admittedly seems unlikely given the picture.

Unless Hollywood producers are into bears.

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09 March 2009

Dick Pics? Lemme Help You With That, Mr. Johnson

So I have a gmail account, as some of you may know. And today I went to check it, as, y'know, you do, right?

And found myself the inadvertent focus of a love triangle, or so it seems.

First off, because the address is fairly common, I get a lot of mail that seems to have been misdirected or mis-addressed to "Metr0" or "met.ro" etc. etc.

In this instance, someone named, for arguments' sake, "Johnson" at somemail dot com has apparently sent to "Rapartist34" at someothermail dot com, pictures of himself. For reasons equally unfathomable, person two has sent them to another address which closely approximates mine.

The first set, in message one, are fairly benign. A black male having dinner with a pretty woman, a couple of plain-jane pics of said black male ...

It's the next two that are ... um, interesting. It seems as though the person depicted has become very excited. It's hard to be certain it's the same guy--the camera's on the bathroom floor--but that would be the logical conclusion, no?

The third leaves absolutely no question as to exactly how excited said dude is.

So, having taken some time to think about all the permutations of why I appear to be receiving nude photos of person unknown A courtesy of person unknown B, I composed the following response:

Dear guys:

If you're going to send pictures of your dick to people, please check the address first. For all you know you could have sent this to your own mother! What would she be thinking right now?

"Mmmm ... sonny boy looks good with his boxers off ..."
"My boy--hung even bigger than his daddy!"
"Wait'll I tell the girls at bridge!"
"I'm so glad he's found a nice boy to show his dick to ..."

Come on guys. I'm all for internet porn, but at least have some professionalism! Speaking of which--You really need to work on your camera angles. That thing looks no bigger than about six inches, and are you sure that's the impression you're trying to give here? Oh, and a word of advice: for this kind of work you really need better lighting too--Surely you can find a bathroom with track lighting somewhere? I could hardly read your tattoo.

Which was mis-spelt by the way. I'll leave it to you to figure out whether it's "My hart," "belongs," or "dady."

All the best with your future photography. To increase your public profile I've created a whole new MySpace page in your name and will faithfully post all the pics there. Since I don't know whose email to enter on registering, I'll use one for the "main" and one for the "secondary" addresses.

But don't worry. I'll make sure I get those addresses right. Which unfortunately does not guarantee that some goober won't accidentally send you his dick pics through sheer carelessness, lack of attention, and lack of consideration.

Yours, sincerely, etc.

Metro

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07 March 2009

So Here's One of My Major Issues With Teh Church

The Roman Catholic Church has the potential to be a force for good. I really believe that. But then their agents go and do stupid $#17 like this.

A girl is abused by her stepfather and conceives twins in a uterus that could not contain either.

The logical outcome of allowing this pregnancy to proceed is pain and death for the girl, and the death of both kids.

Doctors save one of those lives by performing a simple procedure, an abortion, availble in strongly Catholic Brazil only in cases of a) rape, and b) threat to the life of the mother, both conditions the girl met.

The reaction of The Roman Catholic Stupid-to-the-nth-Power-for-Christ Archbishop in the area? Excommunicate everyone involved. Cut them off from their spiritual support when they made what should have been an easy choice: To save a life.

And why? Because "life is sacred." Just not, apparently, the lives of nine-year-old rape victims.

Yeah, she was nine. Didn't I mention that?

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05 March 2009

Slice of Metrolife (A la Mode Not Available)

This week Mme and I took in a wandering, wayfaring stranger from the Katimavik program. Katimavik is a Canadian service-club/youth experience which sends young people in diverse groups all across the nation to serve and grow in experience.

We've hosted three of these kids--all about a week prior to Christmas. We often get "the French ones" who have little or no English, as Mme and I together can speak French (separately we muddle through).

The last batch tended to hang out in groups, went about independantly, and were rather a joy in that while we knew they were going out to smoke dope, they tended to gather in a friendly group and do it down by the school where all the other kids did.

The current kid has done little but sit and watch TV and movies. I managed to get him out to poker last night though, and he took seventh place (I got sixth).

He also talks. I am reminded of Alan Rickman's line from "Dogma":
The one who speaks ... an' he will ... at great length ... whether you want him to or not ... will make mention of himself as a prophet.
Si it is with Big G.

Big G has enlightened us as to the natures of his father, grandfather, and mother. He has professed support for the Bloc Quebecois, claims Quebec can be economically independant (16th largest economy in the world, apparently), and has generally displayed the blinkered certainties of a twenty-one-year-old who grew up in a separatist culture (two actually--he's part native and claims his grand-dad is a chief).

In short, he reminds me a lot of myself at that age.

I just wanted to apologize to anyone who knew me then.

He also claims he's bad luck, and has recounted many episodes when his black dog has dragged his friends down, usually in small ways. I notice he doesn't blame his bad luck for the street-racing death of his childhood friend, though.

Anyway--he may be attended by a poltergeist or other household demon. When he entered the house, our stove went belly-up. That was Saturday.

Yesterday the kitchen dimmer switch began to crackle and smoke, and the lights to flash in a manner reminiscent of your high-school play's lightning storm. I pulled it from the wall and shut off the breaker, deluminating half the house.

One is left wondering "What the hell next?"

Unless "next" is the fact that the smouldering brush war between me and the Black cat has flared in earnest.

It's a simple issue: The cat pisses in locations whence I do not desire that cat urine should be deposited. My new strategy is also simple. Where she pisses, I place a mothball. Cats apparently strongly dislike the smell of mothballs (which means the whole house must currently be very unpleasant for both of them.

Until now, the smell of napthalene orbs seemed to have a salutary effect. However, yesterday I discovered two old deposits of cat urine, followed by at least one, possibly two, new ones. Those are the ones we've found.

The odour of the spheres being unpleasant to her, Blackie has nevertheless continued to urinate outside of the desired receptacle. The war continues.

Eventually either the cat will remember what the litter box is for, or the floor will be so covered with mothballs that movement will become impossible.

I'm game if she is.

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02 March 2009

From the "Learn Something New Every Day " Department (#17, 443)

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you the famous Vaudevillians:
Gus Visser and his Singing Duck!



Actually, due to a recent contract negotiation the Duck gets top billing.

But this isn't just a film scrap. From this site I learn that:
While, at first glance, just a bizarre oddity of the early sound era, this film clip is of actual historical note. It was made by Theodore Case in 1925 as a proof-of-concept for the sound-on-film process he was shopping around an all-silent Hollywood--a process that would eventually lead to the birth of the talkie in 1929's The Jazz Singer

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