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

01 March 2010

Okay, We're Back

This seems like as good a time as any revisit Mr. Bunk Strutts' comments from back about the last ice age. Sure, we both have better things to do, but ...

Well actually at this precise moment, I don't. And as I'm leaving town for a while, I figured I should get a post up. Plus I'd been looking into this for a while.

Because recently the Daily Mail made a total ₤µ©λup of an interview with a climate scientist from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, renown in song and story for the "Climategate" emails, which proved only that science isn't for sissies.

The Mail piece has been thoroughly dealt with, though in by no means as loud or obnoxious a fashion as it ought to have been, by better writers than my noble self.

But I wanted to return to Bunk's comment, because a challenge to one's ideas that one cannot immediately answer should be researched. I'm sorry it's taken so long. And it'll take longer.

Before proceeding, let me say that I want to try and keep this discussion as civil as possible. I don't intend to insult Mr. Strutts for holding a view he considers reasonable.

Our mutual acquiantance Raincoaster says that were we to meet, we'd probably argue late into the night over pitchers of beer. We might even agree on what brand of beer to order.

So let's get to part one.

Bunk visited my post about the tepid Copenhagen Conference on climate change and left a long comment.

It raised a number of points, some of which were correct in their facts but incorrect on the interpretation. And what is the internet after all but an extension of the great search for meaning, eh?

For clarity, I'm enclosing Bunk's statements in blockquotes and italic font.

I'm sure I won't change Bunk's mind on this. In order to do that he and I would first have to agree on a credible set of sources, and I doubt we can agree on that point.

But I feel that I should know why I believe what I believe, and at least have a nodding acquaintance with what the science says. Which is why this is such a long post.

Bunk opens up thusly:
The premise of manmade global warming (AGW) is a false alarmist myth designed to create public hysteria for the purposes of taxation, both locally and globally.

Then who's behind this myth? That taxation theory's certainly not supported in my country, where the science minister thinks belief in evolution is a religious position and the PM called AGW a "socialist plot."

On the other hand, a number of authorities one could hardly describe as left-wing loonies are taking the position that AGW is real.

But more importantly, the position has nothing to do with taxation. If alternatives to carbon taxation were found (such as Kyoto's carbon credit system) the position would not change: "It ain't happening, and wouldn't matter if it were."

For example, carbon pricing is a free-market solution that's rejected by the same people who claim the free market has all the answers.

The premise that a [1-to-2]*-degree Celsius increase in average global temperatures over a century is a catastrophic danger is false.

[*Edited from "1/2" to clarify what I think Bunk means. Any error is the fault of my interpretation.]

In fact the main thrust of anti-warming efforts is to hold warming down to something around two degrees in order to forestall worse warming and worse cocomittant effects. But don't take my word for it: Read the Times.

We're also not talking about a century. We're already past the first degree. The question is whether we can keep it to two, probably within the next fifty years.

The premise that a relatively small percentage of sentient animals (humans) can significantly affect long-term global temperature variations is absurd.
Did we cause acid rain? L.A.'s horrible smog? Fewer than 500 million humans created those effects. In the case of L.A. they're still trying to fix them. A cross-border agreement helped stop acid rain.

Why is it so inconceivable that we could effect change on a global level? After all, we really aren't a "relatively small percentage of sentient animals." There are eight billion-plus of us, all of us burning fuels at increasing rates to make our economies do what they do.

The premise that human-generated CO2 is the culprit ignores the fact that water vapor is the major uncontrollable greenhouse gas by a factor of tens of thousands.
Right, except possibly for the "uncontrollable bit." As CO2 warms the atmosphere, more water evaporates, and more water vapour increases the warming effect. So adding more CO2 increases the rate at which the world is warming. But we could slow the rate at which CO2 is being added to the atmosphere by reducing the other crap, along with the CO2, we put into it.

The fact [is] that global temperatures are always in flux due to thousands of variables, as they have been since the creation of this planet.
So natural factors like sunlight, cloud cover, and vegetable rot can apparently change the climate, but not gigatons of carbon emissions?

There is no possible way to determine what the ideal global temperature should be, as that is merely a philosophical argument, i.e., do you favor plants or animals? Reptiles or mammals? Algae or bacteria?
My philosophical position is that judging by the lessons of history, we're better off trying to not screw things up any further.

We have some idea of the potential effects of a warmer climate, and aside from less snowblowing (which would be offset by an increase in lawn mowing), they don't sound good.

But most life on this ball of mud is interconnected anyway, and we mess with other species at our peril.

So the ideal global temperature, to me, would be something in the range of the past couple of thousand years, during which humankind has lived and thrived.

This concludes part one. It'll be at least a week before I can post a second part. Thanks for reading, if you got this far.

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18 February 2010

Blowing the Dust Off

Phew. Who the hell left this sandwich lying on the console?

Okay, so I was away for a while. I want to thank the staff and those husky damn interns at the Sunnyvale Home for the Particularly Stressed for the length of my stay, and a certain pathological psycologist (you know who you are, sweetie) for its abrupt end, and I'm sure the insurance will cover everything.

Lots going on in Canada right now. In particular there's the Olympics. Yet somehow they seem smaller and meaner than the 2000 gala. My country's neuroses seem to be on full display. Perhaps because everything feels like a little too little of most things (snow, actual tickets rather than fake ticket shops, the hopeless bloody Canada Pavillion pictured below) and far too much of others ("own the podium," Prime Ministerial photo-ops, those stupid-ass mascots and also the Canada Pavillion).

Parliament still isn't sitting. The Harpercons are relying on the Olympic spectacle to distract the masses, so it seems. Well hey, if you can't give them bread, give 'em circuses, I guess. O'course bread could be had had we not spent our bread money on tax cuts and Olympic circuses.

But still, whatever gets you through, eh?

Of the Olympics, I think the best thing is that due to the neurotic rah-rah "own the podium" propaganda push, we have at least learned the names of some of our athletes.

Me? Well I've been busy elsewhere. That is all ye know and all ye need know. I haven't forgotten my promise to address the silliness of global warming denialism, and I plan on making that my next effort.

Hope you've all been behaving while I was away.

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30 December 2009

Constitutional Monarchy: The Stephen Harper Edition

I'm not even dully surprised at the grotesque wankery of Canada's Conservative Government.

We don't have "democracy" the way the rest of the world has it. Our head of state is the Queen of England, our Senate is appointed, not elected. At one time Mr. S. Harper made much of this, promising an elected one, which I personally don't want for reasons I've mentioned here before. He also has expressed a dislike for the monarchy.

A year ago, threatened by a move to establish a coalition government that would have represented the 60-odd-percent of Canadians who are currently shut out of Bushland North, Stephen Harper, demonstrating a quick-change in principles ummatched except in every other thing he's done, ran for the umbrella of the monarchy he previously deplored.

He asked the Governor-General to protect his failed government by shutting down, or "proroguing" Parliament for three months. And for no known reason she acceeded.

At the time, his excuse was that Parliament wasn't functioning. Which it wasn't, because he'd ordered his winged monkeys not to co-operate when working on Parliamentary committees.

This year, he ordered his people to do this again, especially in regard to the Afghan detainee investigation. He's in contempt of Parliament, and should be under indictment for such.

Now the news says that he's asking the GG to prorogue again.

The only thing worse, if she once again bends Canadian democracy over the table for him, will be the conservative wankersphere orgasming all over itself at Harper's "statesmanship."

Is it any wonder that half the electorate stayed home last election?

I hope the GG tells him to go ₤µ©λ himself with a rasp.

Pre-publication update: The CBC reports that the PMO is announcing proroguement has been achieved.

If there were a god I'd ask him/her/it to damn these lousy bastards to hell. As it is, I'm stopping just short of expressing a public wish for a competent assassin. Let me be clear: I don't actually want Harper assassinated. But I do think about wishing for it.

What democracy remained in this country just died.

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07 December 2009

A Wee Prediction About Copenhagen

The world will agree to a "framework" at Copenhagen. Maybe even sign an actual deal.

  • It will not be binding, with real penalties for failure to reduce emissions

  • It won't adress consumer-level pollution

  • It will be based on cap-and-trade, but will be watered down, with incentive-destroying loopholes for many nations

  • Here's Canada's loophole: The Conservative unnatural governing party claims it wants to penalize "polluters." To that end they have advanced cap-and-trade, to be imposed on industry rather than their fickle taxpaying electorate.

    There are two problems with that:
    First, if those financial penalties are imposed on companies, the cost of goods and services will simply rise by that much, plus a bit extra to reflect the cost of administering the new penalties, if any (whether the Conservatives are willing to slap on penalties with teeth remains to be seen, and I wouldn't hold your breath). In other words, the cash still comes out of the consumer's pocket.

    Secondly: As I mentioned below, we're not an industrial nation anymore. Companies in Canada account for about half the pollution we emit. The other half is mostly from our cars.

    There's a simple, market-based solution for this. However, it's not a Conservative-friendly solution. It's taxes.

    Yes, taxes. Those things Harper's now considering re-raising as we slither along the economic trench in the wake of his economic stewardship (which has heretofore been comparable to the stewardship of Joseph Hazelwood on the Exxon Valdez).

    It's simple: You tax crap that pollutes, and use the revenue to reduce the price of things that don't. Tax gasoline, pass the savings on to hydro or wind power. Tax heating oil, reduce the taxes on home heating gas. Increase incentives to buy energy-efficient appliances, drive cleaner cars, and build green buildings, decrease the incentives to buy SUVs, hang onto antique toasters, and live in poorly-insulated boxes.

    But our Conservative government can't go that route. Look at how they demonized Stephane Dion's "tax-on-everything."

    There's another solution of course: Elect someone else. Which I'm afraid is what we have to do ... if we can find someone else to vote for. Because the Opposition Liberals aren't making any noise about it, and the Bloc Quebecois doesn't care.

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    04 November 2009

    Justice Delayed is Justice ₤µ©λed Over

    Or maybe we should just call it "Ashcrofted."

    A US court has struck down the lawsuit Arar vs. Ashcroft.

    Arar, if we recall from the high and far-off times of about 2001, is the Canadian citizen detained without excuse in JFK International Airport and then flown with the outright connivance of the then-Liberal Canadian government and the active assistance of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (a Service which historically provides neither security nor intelligence) to Syria, where he was tortured.

    When it turned out Arar was not in fact an Al-Qaeda operative, the Canadian government initially stonewalled before finally issuing a begrudging apology. Naturally, Arar sued and received a hefty sum of money as compensation for having his rights as a citizen denied.

    However, Stephen Harper Conservative Government of Canada™ has demonstrated a total inability to learn from the experience.

    The US government quite simply told Arar to ₤µ©λ off. Among the other shining features of this unpolishable turd of a Republican-positive decision was this little beauty, as described in Glenn Greenwald's piece:
    Arar did not, for instance, have the names of the individuals who detained and abused him at JFK, which the majority said he must have. As Judge Sack in dissent said of that requirement: it "means government miscreants may avoid [] liability altogether through the simple expedient of wearing hoods while inflicting injury."

    Ladies and gentlemen, your antiterrorist forces, 2010 model:

    One of the most disappointing things about Barack Obama's presidency so far is the outright refusal to repeal the Bush acts that made the president and his minions untouchable in cases like domestic espionage and outsourced torture. You would think he might have a little sympathy.

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    29 October 2009

    This is News?

    The Aspers have apparently decided that their flagship, the National Post may be folded under an umbrella or something. It's all a bit complex to me, but has to do with the Global bankruptcy or something.

    Mr. Asper heads out to pasture

    Couldn't happen to a nicer paper. Really. Even if they never did get the spelling of "Nazional" quite right. The problem was that, although they tried to claim an audience, Canadians actually have a limited tolerance for right-wing, blindly-pro-Israel garbage on the editorial pages (The odd thing is that Izzy Asper, who eventually sent the paper to hell, was at one time president of a Liberal Party arm).

    It cannot be co-incidence that this announcement comes immediately after this guy was killed the other night. Their sole remaining reader? We just editorialize, you decide.

    Among it's dafter content, the paper published screeds defending Mark Steyn. They also publish the ramblings of a number of what are known as Blogging Tories. Such as one Mr. "Raphael Alexander" a.k.a. Adrian McNair. I honestly haven't the familiarity with Mr. Alexander that others have cultivated, but I know what I like, and most of his writing is garbage by that fickle and arbitrary standard. Although I place a caveat by his coverage of Vancouver's Great Boondoggle.

    The paper's recent hagiographic coverage of the Stephen Harper New Conservative Government of Canada (for which it functions much the way that FOX Noise did for the Bush White House--as a PR organ) is unlikely to be missed. At least by a majority of Canadians.

    Okay, so I'm not entirely unmoved. Whatever its manifest and grotesque failures of conscience and decency in its editorial pages, the Post was known at one time for good journalism. But the rot set in when the Aspers forbade the publication of editorials criticizing Israel. And what may die in the coming days is a shell of addled opinion and relentless conservative cheerleading that not only doesn't represent Candians, but in recent years seems to have broken with reality.

    Though the paper claimed to be a free speech champion, it ended up proving that censorship for the wrong reasons rots political discourse. God rest whatever's left of its soul.

    I will, however miss John Moore, the Post's token lib'rul.

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    29 September 2009

    In Defence of Offenders

    In the news today I see that sex offenders in Georgia and Florida have reputedly taken to living in tents.
    The group of nine men were told to live in the woods in the southern state after they were unable to find housing far enough away from areas where children congregated, such as schools and playgrounds.

    Georgian law bans the state's 16,000 sex offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000ft of schools, churches, child-care facilities and other areas where children gather.
    Yeah, that law makes sense. Just like the current fad of "outing" such offenders online, or posting their mug shots in the neighborhoods where they get released.

    Look: A sex offender by definition is one who's been caught. Many, if not most, of the ones who do time can't be fully rehabilitated. They need watching, pure and simple. And they absolutely need access to the support systems everyone else has to ensure they're at the lowest possible risk of reoffending.

    These guys probably aren't the problem! They're trying to comply with the conditions of laws that would be regarded as unfair if imposed on many other classes of offender.

    What's needed isn't exclusion. What's needed is a way to ensure that these guys can return to the community in safety, or conversely where the risk of re-offence is unacceptably high, what's needed is a mechanism to keep them under direct and constant supervision.

    And that's why the Stephen Harper Conservative Government of Canada™ pisses me off. They're trying to kick over one of the few frail anti-re-offence agencies that exist. Wish I could find the link to that, dammit ... It was right here a minute ago. They've apparently chopped funding to one of the few working sex-offender post-release counselling-and-treatment outfits. I'll keep looking.

    But in any case, the Stephen Harper Conservative Government of Canada™ has an embarrassingly fluffy relationship with the desperately disfunctional US prison system.

    The problem is the fundamental difference in perception. Canadians regard the purpose of prison as an attempt at rehabilitation. A machine which turns crooks into citizens (albeit at a very low rate).

    US Republicans and the Stephen Harper Conservative Government of Canada™ (if that's not a redundancy) see prisons as a massive private machine where inmates=profit, and rehab and trying to open doors gives way to punishment and training the thugs to damn well stay in their place.

    Nonethless, Public Safety caveman Peter van Loan asserts that such places will "return people to the community better able to live law-abiding lives." Despite the fact that it doesn't work. Hasn't worked in the US, and--surprise!--Hasn't worked here.

    Note: Yes, I know the government said privatization isn't on the table. Let's consider this like adults, shall we?

    Stephen Harper, alleged economist either mistook or lied outright when he claimed there wasn't a recession coming. Immediately after winning his second minority, he said strong measures had to be taken to blunt its impact.

    Stephen Harper passed a law saying an election had to be held, was mandatory, this October. Last year he broke his own law (As a lawbreaker himself, doesn't he worry about being carted off to a US-style jail?).

    So this government isn't known for what you'd call "frankness". Drop the "f" and you'd be about right. Their ideology calls for privatization of public functions, without regard to inconvieniences like "facts" or "reality."

    You want to know where opposition to relaxing marijuana laws comes from in the US? Three guesses and the first two don't count. When prisoners=profit, sacrifices have to be made, eh? Sometimes human sacrifices.

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    03 September 2009

    A Glimmer From the End of the Tunnel?

    Michael Ignatieff, that shifting mass of shapeless ego currently fronting the Liberal Party of Canada, has decided that a Loyal Opposition party should, like, oppose something the government proposes.

    For most of his reign, Steve Harper (PM pro tempore) has been sneaking poison pills into his legislation which effectively turn everything into a confidence vote. Thus, should the opposition actually manage to do its ₤µ©λing job and oppose, they run the risk of triggering an election.

    Harper's also been gambling that fear of triggering an election he keeps claiming no-one wants (which is true--No Tory wants an election, not with their tragic record of hubris and ham-fisted mismanagement).

    And he's largely succeeded. The Liberal opposition has been confined to saying "Hey--You better not cross this line--Yeah, this one here ... Okay, but not this one ... We really mean it. Well, I guess we can live with that then ..."

    But Ignatieff may have managed to drag the Opposition out of irrelevancy by saying that they will simply no longer go along. To which I say thank ₤µ©λing Christ and can we have the election already?

    At the moment, polls show the Libs and Refor--I mean, Alli--I mean "Conservatives" neck-and-neck. However, Harper knows what that means. Unless he comes up with a world-beating idea (unlike any other he or his cronies has ever managed to have), he's toast. Which is actually a pretty safe bet anyway if he continues to foul up the economy as badly as he has thus far.

    Of course, Harper prefers fear to actual, y'know, ideas and stuff. He threatened that, last election, if the Libs got elected it would spell econo-disaster (while simultaneously denying that a) there was an economic crisis on already and b) that he hadn't made it worse by denying its reality). He can't use that one again, I'm guessing.

    So this time he's whinging that the Liberals might turn off a tax credit for building additions onto your home. Bad news, Harpy: The credit only kicks in after $10 thousand. And how many people have ten grand to throw down for a 15% tax credit? Given the current economic non-disaster you apparently think you've presided over?

    So let's have the election. Keep it clean, above the belt, and no clinching in the corners. I realize that Mr. Harper may be handicapped by those rules, but all lousy things come to an end, so I've heard.

    Let's just hope it's true.

    Oops--I blew it. The tax credit goes from $1000 to $10,000. We regret the error.

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    11 August 2009

    Conservatism: The View's Great With Your Head Up Your Collective

    I'm honestly wondering whether Conservatism isn't merely a political viewpoint, but a psychotic disconnect.

    Case in point: Our own Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is blaming Canada for the recent imposition of visa requirements on Mexicans, which you may recall was a summer surprise from his government.

    That is, asked to explain his government's actions, Harper goes for the "It's not my fault--The country I'm trying to rule over just likes brown people too much!" defence. No surprise there, really.

    Gutless, brainless, unconscionable ... And speaking of that:

    I'm still glad I don't live in the United States. Because apparently Republicans have no idea what the term "discourse" means.

    Invited to have a town-hall debate on health care reform, they respond with a) death threats, b) invitations to bring guns to said meetings and be violent, oh, and c) faking their own beatings. More on the Passion of Kenneth Gladney here.

    The distortion and lying by shills for the Repugnicans reached its peak with Sarah "Moose Head" Palin's nutty claim that under the Obama proposal some sort of bureaucratic health board would pronounce on the fitness of her offspring to live
    The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
    Well I can understand why Palin would be worried about a panel with the power of life or death judging the usefulness to society of the mentally deficient. But even if such a panel were convened, they'd surely have enough humanity to spare her: culling mental defectives in the Palin family would likely leave no-one to care for poor Trig, who has Down Syndrome.

    Your Republican Party: Fighting for the rights of the common folk to remain ignorant, fearful, exploited, and ill. Huzzah!

    --And god damn them to hell.

    In my own province, the BC "Liberals"--who are Conservatives (It'd take too long to explain--Here's the Wikipedia) are mulling over cutting some six thousand surgeries in Vancouver, and also closing a third of Vancouver emergency rooms during the Olympics.

    The reason is that the Liberal government told the health authority to suck it up and refused to even negotiate funding a $200 million shortfall in budget because all spare money is earmarked for the Olympics--which is also why we're getting a "Harmonized Sales Tax"--which isn't a tax grab, apparently, but purely co-incidentally adds taxes to items previously spared them.

    What's most disturbing about this non-tax-grab is the cynicism behind it. The Campbell Liberals campaigned specifically on a promise of "no new taxes" after adding a 2¢ "carbon" tax on every litre of gas. Note: I support the gas tax. Consumer-level carbon taxes are pretty much the only way to make significant change. However instead of the money going to green initiatives, the goverment plugs it into general revenue to bolster their abysmal budget figures.

    Bear in mind that all health changes instituted in the past fifteen years have been from the BC Liberal Conservative party. So if the health authority is scrod--and I believe it is--the people to blame are fairly easy to spot.

    You may remember the Olympics--the ones that are some 100% or something over budget and climbing? Turns out that the BC Liberals based part of that budget on the willingness of employers to pay their employees to work at the Olympics instead of, well, at work--Like, y'know, at their businesses.

    For some reason that doesn't seem to be working out. So the BC government is going to second its own employees--that is, civil servants from the force that the first Campbell government slashed to its barely-functional bones--to do the Olympic jobs instead of, y'know, providing government services.

    Oh, and that's on top of the massive incentive program already offered to BC government employees who volunteer at the Olympics--they actually get paid to take paid leave.

    The Olympic security budget is $900 mil, up from an estimate of $180 million--I think they assumed Superman would be available, so the shortfall is understandable. But Superman is likely to be covering for the cops who are also being drafted into the Olympics' service. Courts will be all-but-closed for most of February in BC.

    Conservatives just don't connect with reality anymore. They've earned their tme in the wilderness and should just go away and let the adults handle things until therapists find a cure.

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    08 August 2009

    Safety Catch .22

    There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to.
    ~From Joseph Heller's 1961 novel

    Just today we receive the announcement that several idiots who filmed themselves illegally shooting flightless baby ducks from their truck and making humourous comments such as "Mama's dead, don't need that one anymore," have been caught.

    I have avoided commenting at the various threads on the health club shooting beyond saying that the shooter (may his name be rapidly forgotten) was a zeta-male loser with a grudge and a gun. The part I'm avoiding is the obvious bit about the NRA's unofficial creed: "Guns don't kill people--People with guns kill people!"

    The point is that it's fairly clear that many people who get themselves a gun are precisely the sort of people whom no-one would want to have one.

    So I propose a simple policy: I call it "Safety Catch-.22"

    Since the desire to have a gun often seems to indicate the unsuitability of the applicant, anyone who applies in their own name to own a firearm will be immediately disqualified from doing so.

    However, in the interest of fairness and all other requirements met, a license may be granted to anyone who can persuade another person to apply in his or her name.

    I mean, think about it. People who know multiple murderers often say "Yeah--he creeped me out." Do you think anyone who knew the gym shooter, or the Columbine kids, would have signed off on getting them guns?

    A friend mentioned, by pure happenstance yesterday, that one of the Columbine shooters' "girlfriend" acquired one of the weapons they used. I'd just like to say, "Have a nice life you dopey troll," and to suggest that perhaps the person making the application in your name should have to be a total stranger to you.

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    04 August 2009

    My Dear

    Hi Guys:

    Since your email came from "" (an address I've learned is morally equivalent to "go₤µ¢λ") I can't write back to you, but of course the World Wide Web is indeed wide, and so I've decided to post a reply to your reply to my "application" to write for you.

    In short: Go ₤µ¢λ yourselves.

    Does that seem rude? Do I sound less-than-impressed by your considered and thoughtful response from ""? Well let me try to put this in terms you genii (reach for your dictionaries--one genius, two genii) can understand:

    If you were arrested, would you prefer that the charge sheet state:
    "You are being charged with committing malicious parking in a handicapped zone"
    --that being the sort of thing I suspect you do for kicks.

    -or would you rather it read thusly:
    "You are being charged with one of the following possible offences:
    1) Mopery and dopery on the spaceways
    2) Extreme flatulence in a public conveyance
    3) Malicious parking in a handicapped zone
    4) Knowingly and with malice aforethought bringing out photos of your children to show the unfortunate clerk while the lineup gets longer behind you at the grocery.
    5) Keeping a number of cats exceeding the number of rooms in your home."
    Me neither, so let me enlighten you as to your approach when dismissing someone who actually took a fair bit of time to adapt and edit some work your readers might have enjoyed while I was applying to write for you.

    Rejection from employment, if presented as a form letter, should never imply that a human ever looked at the submitted samples. It's obvious no-one with eyeballs (or any other kind) has seen what I submitted.

    In that case, why provide the following advisory?
    Your application to be a Contributing Writer to has been declined for ONE of the following reasons:

    * your areas of expertise and samples did not reflect the search interests of our Web audience;
    * your educational and employment experience did not suggest authoritative expertise re the subject areas you wish to cover;
    * the tone of your samples was better suited to a site either more or less formal than our own;
    * your writing sample may have had serious errors in language use, structure, grammar, spelling, or punctuation;
    * your writing suggested a first-person, experiential, or opinion-based approach to material rather than an objective journalistic style that quoted verifiable sources.

    Due to volume of applicants and limited editorial staff and time we are not able to field inquiries requesting more specific reasons for declining this application.
    To quote a sergeant I once worked for, "Why couldn't you just have told me to ₤µ¢λ off?"

    If anyone had truly read the samples I sent, then you wouldn't need this broadsheet multiple-choice approach. You'd have been able to say "We're sorry, but we're really not looking for that sort of material." Or "Your work is far too classy for a $#17-ass pack of grammatical illiterates such as ourselves," or even "We're sorry, but you spell like a Brit, and we cater to the Alabama trailer-park demographic. They don't understand the word 'neighbour.'"

    Instead, you ran my samples through some sort of filter designed to mine the money-making stuff. So if my spelling didn't suit, or my turn of phrase was maybe a tad over-elaborate, it wasn't going to get through. If I didn't submit samples on the topics you failed to specify you need covered, then it wasn't going to get through. If, in other words, any thought, reading comprehension, or intellect was required to make sense of my prose, that wasn't going to do it for

    However, I'd like to thank you for the laugh I got when I spotted the following at the bottom of your form letter:
    You are welcome to reapply at a later date should your credentials and samples change. We wish you the best with your writing career and thank you for considering Suite as a publishing platform
    Let me make a slight grammatical correction for the sake of clarity, albeit from a "first-person, experiential, or opinion-based approach to material rather than an objective journalistic style that quoted verifiable sources":

    "₤µ¢λ off."

    Now perhaps we understand each other a bit better.

    Oh,I can handle rejection alright. But form-letter rejection trying to pretend anyone with authority, or even a human, saw my work gets right on my nuts, in case you genii hadn't guessed.

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    25 July 2009

    The Healthcare "Debate"?

    Let me declare my biases:
  • I'm Canadian

  • I was born to parents whose own parents didn't have "socialized health care" and who regarded it as one of the finest achievements of civilization

  • The Canadian health care system helped, at the very least, to save my life on at least one occasion.

  • So I'm mad when I see the system so mischaracterized by the forces who want to continue screwing US citizens out of their money. Because that's what private-for-profit health "care" does: It rations health care. The very thing it accuses "government-run" or "bureaucratic" or "socialized" health care of.

    Because economics is all about scarcity. The scarcer something is, the higher a premiuim it may command on the open market. Healthy people just aren't good "health consumers."

    It is reckoned that the US pirate-for-profit system costs several billion dollars in lost productivity each year, not counting the $46 bn in direct costs. Yet there are outfits out there who are frantically trying to avoid the Obama health care debate by going to their "consumers" and trying to defend their (the consumers') right to go bankrupt for cancer treatment, their right to pay premiums and have coverage denied anyway, and their right to go entirely without any form of health care. And, purely co-incidentally I'm sure, these organizations end up defending their right to profit off the sick and healthy alike, through fear.

    The US system simply doesn't make sense in a civilized world. Of course, a civilized world would have to be one in which profit might occasionally have to take a back seat to charity, mercy, forbearance. Which doesn't suit insurance companies at all. After all, it takes an especially twisty kind of thinking to take the wrong end of a bet on whether or not you will die, and still make money on the deal.

    The Calgary Herald has today an excellent, simple editorial outlining the fractured thinking going on behind the drive to preserve health as something people who produce nothing and contribute nothing good to the economy should continue making a profit on (I'm speaking specifically of HMOs. Insurance itself is useful, and a vital financial instrument that has to be in place for any kind of market-based economy to thrive).

    Oh, and to any US Avid Fans: If you hear anything from a Doctor Brian Day, ignore it. He's a rotten lousy shill for the health insurance industry. Because up here in "Marxist" Canada, where "rationed" healthcare dictates who gets what, we allow people to see private quacks out of their own pockets if they like. And we allow said quacks to set up clinics so that they can go about the business of gouging money out of the healthy.

    In Canada, doctors are in private practice. But the patient is shielded from predation by drug companies, "health management" companies, and doctors who're so terrified of liability that they send you for unnecessary tests.

    The US can't do it like Canada, exactly. There are too many entrenched interests, too long a history, and possibly too decentralized a government (Although we've steadily been devolving responsibility to the provinces--and it's been a bit of a disaster).

    Now, no system will ever cover everything (there's that scarcity again). But it seems to me that while government provided systems usually have to justify refusing care, all an insurance company has to say is "Sorry--we don't cover that." It's on record: Companies have routinely sent "deny-first" letters to clients hoping they'll simply give up and go away.

    But the US has a chance to step out and show the world. Perhaps a blended private-public system like many of the Scandanavian countries would do it?

    Like the old commercials say: "Two flavour great--No debate!"

    In any case, if they really want an easy way to jump-start the economy, the first thing to do is to get everyone some form of basic health coverage.

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    14 July 2009

    Speaking of Politics ... Which of Course I Never Do ...

    Today is Bastille Day!
    Today in 1789 a group of concerned citizens stormed HM prison le Bastille Saint-Antoine. In honour of which I am having a beer.

    The lesson of the Bastille is threefold:
    1) Sic Semper Tyrannis
    The Bastille's notoriety was due to secrecy rather than based in fact. At the time of its storming, the garrison was mostly pensioned veterans, backed by 30 or so Grenadiers, and the prisoner count was seven.

    However, it remained a symbol of the ruling classes, and following the storming it was appropriated as a symbol by the ruling revolutionaries, leading to lesson #2.

    2) Revolutions Poison History (so does everything else)
    The goal of storming the Bastille had nothing to do with releasing the prisoners, until it occured to someone what a fine political gesture it might make. Instead, the concerned citizens, pragmatic pre-Marxists that they were, were attempting to apply Marx' principles a priori to the supplies of weaponry, shot, and powder inside.

    In the aftermath, the prison's governor and several other of the prison staff were murdered, despite surrendering under a truce flag, and their heads cut off and paraded on pikes.

    3) Political Currents Are Profitably Navigable
    After the Revolution, a well-connected impresario named Palloy contracted to demolish the building. As part of the demolition, he sold the rubble to souvenir hunters.

    Here endeth the lessons.

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    29 May 2009

    A Nerve-shredding Thought Occurs

    In the post below I stated that the Harperites (why dignify them by calling them "Conservatives"?) believed government should be run like a business.

    And that's the problem. Have you seen the way business behaves?

    Harper's watching the CEOs of Goldmann-Sachs (golden sacks) and the other corporate welfare recipients, and wondering "How do I get MINE?"

    He's clearly got the idea that if he bankrupts the company--I mean the country--he'll then be in line for a bailout and a bonus.

    Naturally, that too will land on the taxpayer's shoulders. Reminds me of a song dedicated to the predatory practices of the banking industry:

    That was from the US bank Capital One--My once and former credit card provider.

    However, we do have the Canadian equivalent:

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    02 April 2009

    Would You Conspiracy Theorists Just Please Keep Quiet and Let the Grownups Get on With Things? Thank You

    Today in my inbox were three appeals from my buddy "Big Jim." Jim is a nice guy, plays poker reasonably well (but not so well that I don't take him off the table oftener than he does me), and makes a fine beer. However, he's a full-on kook.

    He's a New World Order conspiracy theorist, and is entirely serious about it. He sees the shadowy hand of the Illuminati or someone behind every new piece of legislation, in every apparently innocent tragedy. I have no doubt he believes Natasha Richardson was smuggled from the country to facilitate translplanting her brain into a fembot clone of Michelle Obama, which will use its fantastic sexaliciousness to keep the US president under control.

    Or perhaps Obama's part of it all, in which case he ordered the Secret Service to bump off Richardson so that when he ordered the hit on Michelle, her absence would go unnoticed. After all, Richardson's an actress, right? Who better to replace a very public woman on the world stage?

    You get the picture. You only think I'm joking. I have only the slimmest doubt that Jim believes Richardson's death was engineered.

    Last week he was fulminating on the new rules coming in for food in Canada. In a piece of legislation specifically stating that Natural Health Products are not regulated by said legislation, Jim saw an iminent threat to the availability of such quack remedies as colloidal silver.

    As I said: The law he was worrying about, Bill C-6, specifically exempts "Natural Health Products". The text is available online, and it's the work of a moment to read.

    When I took Jim to task in a public forum, we traded shots a couple of times until he finall said, in essence: "I know you've read the bill. I know what it says. Despite that, I take a completely different meaning from the text sepecifically exempting NHPs."

    He then cited a definition within the text and claimed that this would allow "foreign agencies, corporations, and governments" to dictate what Canadians could or couldn't put in their bodies. In context, this was like saying that all of theatre is a conspiracy because plays have something called "plot".

    This week he's off again. The G20 meeting is the harbinger of the new age of the New World Order. Don't let politicians do this to us!

    In saying he opposes the G20, which has managed to work something pretty amazing, Jim is opposing:
  • Outing countries that create secret tax havens, contributing to money laundering, tax fiddling, and like chicanery, often by the corporations he seems to so despise;
  • The public shaming of nations that breach trade rules, such as China, and Jim's bete noir the USA, and;
  • An injection of $100 billion in capital to help the poorest countries (who are not represented in the G20) weather the current economic crisis, which may be a matter of life and death to their people.

  • In saying he opposes the deal, Jim also manages to put himself into the same camp as Rush Windbag--I mean Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity, who openly mocks NWO conspiracy nuts until it's good for his ratings.

    There's a saying: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Jim seems utterly onboard with this.

    And another, which Jim really needs to keep in mind: "With friends like this, who needs enemies?"

    Much less all those powerful dudes with connections to the NWO, eh?

    So I asked specifically what he expects to happen, now that the deal's gone through. His response was "Everything's fine. Just go back to sleep. LOL"

    No Jim: You shout "fire" in a crowded theatre. I asked "Where? What fire?" And you responded with "Never mind--you're too thick to understand anyway."

    So you go post to your internet bulletin boards about the Illuminati, the New World Order, and the space aliens, the "truth" about "9/11", the faked moon landings and similar paranoia-inducing drivel, and let us grown-ups try to get on with living in the real world please.

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    19 March 2009

    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

    @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.

    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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    24 February 2009

    Somewhere Out There is a Tripe-Head With a Sense of Humour

    Someone subscribed Metro to the American Family Association and Onenewsnow email newsletters.

    The AFA is the pearl-clutching, pants-wetting bunch who are terrified that Pepsi is "promoting" teh gay. They're so afraid of the word "gay" that a while back a headline referring to track athlete Tyson Gay was autocorrected to read "Homosexual Eases into 100 Final ..."

    Onenewsnow (portending some rather better news later, one assumes) is their mouthpiece, self-described as a "Conservative" news agency. However, in this context "Conservative" is spelt "Christian."

    I also got a personal begging letter from Donald Wildmon, the crazy man who leads the AFA.

    It's a shame they aren't paper publications instead of electro-spam. When it comes to toilet roll I prefer to cut out the middleperson.

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    20 January 2009

    A New President, a New Era?

    I think the award for "Remark Least Appropriate in Scope" goes to the anonymous commentator I heard this morning who said: "Americans have been waiting for this moment for two months."

    No sir. The world has been awaiting this moment for eight years.

    I have referred to the Bush years as the Kidney Stone Presidency. That stone plinks off the rim of history today and will hopefully be swiftly flushed.

    If I were granted one wish it is that Obama will truly be everything Dubya wasn't: Statesmanlike, generous of spirit, and consensus-seeking for starters.

    (If I were granted two wishes I would wish that every member of the Bush junta would be knocked unconscious leaving the White House, rolled up in carpets, and extraordinarily rendered to Gitmo, where they could provide historical object lessons to high school classes. But the sewer of history is, I suppose, as close to justice as we're likely to see.)

    Goodbye Dubya. The world mourns you.

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    22 December 2008

    Is There a Secular Equivalent to Poe?

    Poe's Law states that without some indication of humourous intent, it is impossible to tell a parody of religious belief from an actual one.

    I need a secular equivalent--or just to broaden the definition, to make room for stuff like this year's hot gift for men:
    Still can't think what to get him for Christmas? Socks don't seem to cut it any more? Fret no longer because Burger King is here to help.

    The mass purveyor of grilled meat is offering, for a limited time, something even better than their usual piles of beef patties. This week, American men were given the chance to smell like their favourite meat snack with the launch of Flame, Burger King's contribution to the perfume market.

    The company describes Flame as "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat".
    That's right: For just $3.99, you too can smell like a plane crash in the Dominican Republic.

    I don't honestly believe this is real. But if it is, then look for a rise in trailer park dog attacks in 2009.

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