Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Asshat of the Day - December 10, 2006

Today's special guest will be Guitarman, courtesy of the CBC readers' comments section.

So far (today!) he has violated Godwin's Law, used the term "liberal elitist", used the term "socialist" as an epithet, and claimed that 75% of liberals voted Conservative in the last election.

Sadly, the violation of the Law has been removed by CBC forum moderators, since such behaviour is against their rules, so it cannot be held up as a striking example of why you do not want to be Guitarman.

However, among his other statements:

Back then my friend women didnt work a lot...most of them would stay home and take care of the kiddies..

(In reference to the "good old days".) I suppose that this individual likes the Conservative ideology isn't a huge surprise, really.

Harper has an overwhelming support of Canadians right fact if an election were held today I'm almost 100 per cent confident he would get his majority, because the vast majority of Canadians are so disgusted with the three stooges performances over the last month, that it definitely would be a cakewalk for Harper, regardless if iganatiff is leader of the Liberals/coalition. You're obviously way out of touch with reality lately.

Once again, we see this "la-la-la-la-la-I CAN'T HEAR YOU!-la-la-la" attitude. Given some of his other comments, Guitarman here is from Alberta, which might explain some things.

Regardless, this is how he earned today's title.

I think I'll stop choosing from the CBC commenters. It's too easy.

Medicare and the United States

Alright, US, time to bite the bullet.

Current estimates place the Medicare debt as of 2050 at ninety trillion dollars. That's a quarter billion dollars for every day between now and 2050. It makes the scale of the financial crisis look trivial. This is not something you can let sit.

Now, part of this problem stems from the fact that you've gone and divided your public health care system into two parts: Medicare for the old, and Medicaid for the poor. I'm the first to admit that our (Canada's) healthcare system has its flaws, but at least we're not that stupid. More organizations means more bureaucracy, which means more money gets eaten up in things that provide no benefit to those covered by the plan. It also means more confusion, and, likely, legal fees.

Now, your first problem is glaringly obvious, even to me. Medicare in the United States is supported by a 2.9% income tax, across the board. Now, this one's probably going to hurt, but there's one important step that can be taken immediately - crank up income taxes. On average, 30% of the nation's income is taken in by government of one level or another. I'm willing to bet that, as a nation, you can bring that up to 50% without ever raising taxes on the low-income bracket. An adjustment to your taxes to make them more progressive would do the trick; here in Canada, the highest earners pay around 55% on their income. This is fair because they're still far better off with their 45% than the next bracket is with 50%, and so on down. Under Canadian tax law, you will never earn less by jumping a tax bracket.

It's a bitter pill to swallow, but given the announced one trillion dollar deficit your government is running, I don't think sweetness is in your future. (I'm trying to keep this condescending, but I'm going to have to segue to astonished for a moment - the bailout notwithstanding, how in the name of everything that is good in the universe did you manage a deficit that tacks another 10% onto the largest national debt in the world? That's 2.5% of the stock market valuation - for the entire world. Your deficit.)

I mean, 19% of your federal budget already goes to paying interest on the debt, and I can't imagine that anyone still willing to lend is going to do so at anything but punitive interest rates. So we're rapidly approaching the point where out of every dollar spent by the government, a shiny new quarter goes to paying for the costs of the debt. Not reducing it - just paying for its very existence.

But I digress. Back to Medicare. My proposal was to hike taxes. That's stage one. Then (and I know this word will hurt) socialize healthcare altogether. Medicaid was never a good implementation - too little, too poorly managed. Lay down firm federal guidelines for how the states are to run their healthcare systems, and then take medicine out of the hands of private business. The free market is not the place to go - the free market is what brought you the Financial Crisis, the Housing Crisis, and a host of other Crises that haven't yet burst on the scene. More to the point, you don't want your healthcare providers playing "survival of the fittest". You want them to provide healthcare. Additionally, by socializing healthcare, you take health insurance costs off your populace's shoulders - and thereby add to their take-home income, which you can then tax more heavily with fewer complaints. Pay doctors something that will allow them to get out of med-school debt, but not the ludicrous amounts doctors can charge in your economy. If they want to make that kind of money, they can go to a country that's willing to work itself into the mess you're in now.

If you want, you can make it two-tier, with a free-market healthcare system running wounded. That might take some of the stress off the socialized portion - but in my experience, the socialized system runs pretty well.

Whatever you decide to do, though, oh neighbour to the south, you'd best do it soon - because ninety trillion dollars is a hell of a lot of money. You've got forty years. Better make the most of 'em.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Conservatives and the Big Lie

I'm going to tell you a story, boys and girls...

Once upon a time, there was a country. It was a big country, but more in terms of landmass than anything else. It was a proud country, though, and kept its cities and its populace bright and shiny.

In this country, there were all sorts of political parties, but for the longest time, there were only two that mattered - the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives. One or the other of them always formed the government, but was kept from going completely nuts because of the structure of the country's system of governance.

You see, boys and girls, unlike their neighbours to the south, the citizens of this country don't elect leaders. They elect Members of Parliament. Those MPs, collectively, decide who will run parliament. Who will be the lead, or prime, minister. Now, this means that most of the time, the political party that has the most MPs in the House can choose one of their own as the Prime Minister. But - and here is the first part of the story you should remember, boys and girls - there is no law saying they have to. If they felt that a Member from another party would be a better Prime Minister and hold the confidence of the House, they could decide he or she should be the Prime Minister.

Now, that leads us to point number two. Since the country's inception, a few other parties rose to political prominence, to the degree that they now claim a number of seats in the House to themselves. This makes it possible for a party to "win" an election with less than fifty percent of the seats, since they need only have a larger fraction than any other single party. However, their Prime Minister must then not only secure the confidence of his own party, but that of enough other MPs to make up that crucial fifty percent.

Under this country's system of governance, should the sitting Prime Minister lose the confidence of the House, it is entirely within the prerogative of the other parties in residence in the House to propose a new candidate. If, through some happenstance, the "other" parties happen to make up a larger fraction of the house than the party which formed the government, they are in fact capable of doing this without the aid of any of the MPs from the sitting PM's party.

Finally, in this country, there was an entity known as the Governor General, a representative of the monarchy that once held sway over the country. This post is still important, and holds some power. In the event of a pending loss of confidence, he or she has many options, but three principal ones, delineated here:

  • to prorogue Parliament for a short time, on the premise that the disruption is temporary and time will alleviate any problems

  • to let the confidence matter go through, fail, and call another election

  • to let the confidence matter go through, fail, and hand the government to the opposition to give it a try

These are all options as outlined in the constitution of the country.

However, the leader of the dominant party at the time of this story, boys and girls - he wanted to trick the good citizens of the country! When the other parties - who had more MPs in the house than his party did - decided to team up to remove him from office, he squawked that it was undemocratic, and unconstitutional! He played up the fact that the citizens had voted for him, not them! But as evidenced above, the citizens had voted for both, since they voted MPs into the house, not Prime Ministers!

He cried that what the country needed now was stability, not another election - discounting the fact that it was fully within the powers of the Governor General to simply turn the government over to the other team, and avoid the hassle of an election altogether!

Yes, the cowardly leader even pressured the Governor General to use the prorogue option, thus forestalling any chance of a no-confidence vote.

Will this story have a happy ending, boys and girls? I don't know, yet. But I can hope.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Idle Thought Inspired by a CBC Comment

In response to a comment by one HenryDavis...

To everyone who has their panties in a wad, loosen up, or go change them. For those on the left, why isn't a person of color up for the Liberal leadership? Same question for the NDP. Maybe you should take a few lessons from the Americans that you so love to bash. Might be that they are far more enlightened than you can ever hope to be.

The answer here is pretty simple. A cursory look at data from the 2006 US census shows us the following:

  • 12.4% of the US population is comprised of African-Americans

  • 4.4% of the US population is of asian descent

  • 6.4% fall under "some other race"

All of this excluding Hispanic/Latino Americans, who are grouped with Caucasians in this particular chart. So, with that large portion of the US population aside, 23.2% of the US population are members of a visible minority.

When we compare this to Canada's 2006 Census, we find:

  • 2.5% of the Canadian population is comprised of African-Americans

  • South Asian and Chinese descent make up 4 and 3.6% of the population, respectively

And, if you look at the totals, including Hispanics/Latinos, 16.2% of the Canadian population are members of a visible minority.

If you're referring exclusively to individuals of African descent when you refer to "people of color", Mr. Davis, the reason that no such individuals have risen to positions of prominence in the various federal parties is due to a paucity of choice, since, in the US, you have forty-seven times the population to choose from. Even speaking in terms of a percentage of the whole, you have just shy of six times the choice.

Let's have a quick look at a demographic in which the US and Canada are on equal footing. Sex. Hands up, which country has had its highest office held by a woman? I thought so. Hands up, which country has had the leader of any federal political party be a woman? Mmmhmmm. And hands up, which country has had the longer time in which to do so?

I rest my case. "Far more enlightened", my ass.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Asshat of the Day - November 15th, 2008

Now, what with Vancouver's municipal elections going on today, you'd think my beef was with them. Say, with Marc Emery getting more than a thousand votes and placing a narrow fourth among the mayoral candidates. (Come on, people. I know you like pot, but seriously, the guy isn't qualified for the job!)

But no. On the whole, I'm not totally displeased with the way that turned out, and the polling itself was carried out courteously and efficiently. Points to the CoV for that.

No, the gentleman who proved himself to be so idiotic, so aggravating, so... asinine as to have won himself the title for today? A gentleman named Roddy, who chose to flaunt his idiocy in the comments attached to a Gizmodo post about the first of US president-elect Obama's weekly YouTube addresses.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I actually quite like Obama. The man clearly has a head on his shoulders, he's using modern avenues of communication, and he seems to have the political gumption to effect some of the change he's talking about. I don't think he'll live up to all of his campaign promises, but I think he'll do some serious good, both to his country, and to the world as a whole. And I'm all for that.

But even if I hated the man, I'd like to think that I'd find good ol' Roddy's comments repugnant. Let's dig in with both hands and see what we've got here:

"Change Change Change" is the moto.

Who wants a change to even more liberal ideas such as baby killing, socialism, and higher taxes? Sounds like a change for the worse to me.

Gizliberals? I lose respect for you :(

So, let's start with the buzzwords here. "liberal" is a good start, followed by "baby killing", "socialism", and "higher taxes", in the same breath. So, we've established that this is someone who watches Fox News with reverent awe, and covers his eyes when any other show appears. That aside, let's move on.

1. Obama wants to increase abortion to a later term in preganancy. Any abortion is murder and later term is more abominable.

2. Socialism comes by increasing socialism of our banking system (in progress), socialism of our health care, socialism of our education (done), socialism in our taxes (steal from rich, give to poor to make all equal), socialism in our thoughts (taking away free speech, guns, etc, espcially with the "hate crimes bills" and "fairness doctrines", and socialism in our national programs. More government control is always bad. I prefer freedom.

3. Don't go along with the liberal spewed lies. Even obama says 150k in certain speeches. Liberals raise taxes in many areas, not just income tax. We are taxed to death and it will get worse. Lower taxes boost the economy. Higher taxes stiffle it. Our national debt cannot be corrected at this point no matter what, so they will attempt to hyperinflate and tax us with this unseen tax.

America is going down the toilet even faster (repubs and demoncrats are mostly all liberals now)

So, with point #1, our intrepid contender suggests that he's the type who believes that chemical abortion three days after conception would also be murder. Interesting point put forth by another poster - here is someone who, apparently, believes that what routinely happens in doctors' practices and abortion clinics is murder. And what does he do against this heinous serial-killing scheme? He posts to a largely unrelated topic on a gadget blog. Surely, he will go down in the annals of history as a hero.

Point #2 makes it clear that socialism arises from ... socialism. Just socialism broken up into its forays into various subsets of the country as a whole. Apparently prohibiting hate speech is an act of tyranny on a par with hunting down thoughtcrime, and that people should be free to not be educated, starve to death, or die from a lack of healthcare, because this is preferable to "government control". Presumably, this gentleman also objects to red lights telling him that he should stop.

Point #3 is particularly good. We start out with an exhortation not to believe "liberal spewed lies" (clearly, liberals spew lies with the silver tongues that we don't have). Then we proceed to "liberal raise more than income taxes" - which may well be true, but how does that "steal from the rich", as postulated not three sentences earlier? Surely luxury taxes only tax those who purchase luxuries. These may be the rich, but the purchase of luxuries is always optional. If you object to the tax, don't buy the stuff! And then, for a capper, we have "Our national debt cannot be corrected at this point no matter what..." - this is truly rich. The national debt can't be fixed, so the government... shouldn't try? Just go to the various creditors and say, "Well, we're never going to pay you anything, so you may as well forget it!"? Seriously, Roddy, old boy, what the hell?!?

There followed a thorough (though not quite this thorough) debunking of our man Roddy's points, and then he had to stick his big nose in - which was hard, given that his head was, by now, so thoroughly wedged up his own ass...

Abortion is murder. It is premeditated killing of a defenseless infant. This is sick sick sick. I don't understand how anyone thinks "Pro-choice" (for choice to kill) is better than "Pro-life" (for life). Deceived you are...

Yoda, you are not. Let's go look at "infant". Let's see...
infant (n.): A very young human being, from birth to somewhere between six months and two years of age...

Hmm... that doesn't seem to support your cause there, Roddy. But that's the Wiktionary, and I'm sure that's been watered down by we liberal types. How about something a bit more staid, dependable... how about Cambridge?

infant (n.): a baby or a very young child

Hmm... a bit more nebulous, maybe you could work with "baby" there... oh, no, a subsequent search on "baby" suggests that the word only applies to human offspring after birth.

Well, one more try - how about Princeton?

infant (n.): a very young child (birth to 1 year) who has not yet begun to walk or talk

Oooh, sorry, Roddy. That's three. You're out.

So, what do you have for us next?

I shun both demoncrats and republicides. They are both liberals. I am a constitutionalist conservative where I don't think judges can change law, but uphold law. All law should be based on God's law (the God of Israel) and seperation of church and state is to keep state out of church, not the other way around.

Ah-hah! So what we have here is not your ordinary asshat. What we have here is a my-god-is-the-right-god theocratic asshat. Who can't spell, among his other failings. Who believes that the current crop of US Republicans are too liberal. (Perhaps there haven't been enough burnings of heathen books for his liking?) Let's see what else he has to say...

Giz put in the article they are liberals, so I called them on it. Liberalism is akin to satanism imho...

Guh-wha? Liberalism? Satanism? Akin? Is? Sorry, I understand all the words you just wrote, but together... it feels like I've spilled something crazy on my screen. Oh wait. It's you. What else have you got for us?

You either have liberal republicans or more liberal democrats. I disown both and think we need a new party that actually believes in the constitution and in God. This country is not the same by a long shot as was intended...

I believe this would be an appropriate response, but to summarize - not only were the American Founding Fathers not a Christian body, but they actively worked to keep God out of the workings of the new country altogether. So "as was intended" is a popular but totally false assumption.

(In response to another user's post:)You're wrong in every point. for some enlightenment

You can go to InfoWars yourself if you want to, dear reader. I've been once. I'm not going back. That's too much, even for me.

Raising taxes on the rich is bad because it's the rich paying most of the tax already. Raising taxes yields a slowing economy and less tax revenue. Income tax is unjust as is property tax and a death tax. We're serfs to the government.

Obam-a is stacking his cabinant with anti-gun people and has also voiced limiting guns himself. Look into it more plz. Free speech will be curtailed as has all thru his campaign on people who protested him. Check out the evidence.

Well, Roddy, me boy, little thing - money earned as income is, presumably, representative of the value you've added to your society. By taking a little of that and redistributing it through the provision of services, your government can provide all the things that modern societies so enjoy. Like roads, telecommunication networks, farms, and everything else the government has to subsidize, since they're too colossal for private industry to gather around. The alternative, I suppose, would be a 75% tax on all goods and services, but I'll bet you'd whine about that too. I just bet you would.

As for the death tax - see, that's to avoid the lower classes becoming serfs. I can't think of a better tool against class stratification. Look at it. It follows that if someone gathers a ton of money and passes it on to their children, the fortune will continue to grow and gather more money to it. If money (representative value) is gathered in the hands of a few, they become an aristocracy. It's just a short step from aristocracy to "nobility". But if each generation is largely in charge of earning their own way? Suddenly, you've stirred things up. But stratification is good for budding theocracies, so I suppose I can see where you're coming from. It's not a nice place, but I can see it.

Also, "check out the evidence" without providing citations? In the age of Google? déclassée, Roddy.

*deep breath*

After that point, he appears to have shut up. However, I would argue that in the space above, he more than earned the title of Asshat of the Day.

And we're back in the saddle again. See you all tomorrow!

Well, I'm Back!

Yup. Just when you (my multitudinous readers) thought I was gone, finished, kaput - I'm back.

Y'see, I've been having a busy time with work and other concerns eating up my daylight hours, so I haven't had time to give this blog the love and attention it deserves. But recently, I've been reading things that have pumped the kinetic energy of my blood up to and beyond the boiling point.

So we will be returning to irregularly-updated Asshats of the Day, with special posts reserved for those who truly, deeply deserve it. They're out there. They're not even waiting.

So let's get down to business, eh?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Poem

Not my usual fare, I know, but this isn't so much a rant as recognition of a brilliant rant by another:

I proudly am an atheist;
I do not share your views.
Imagine how insulting,
When I watch the evening news
And I see you point at folks like me
Indignantly, with rage,
As if we were the lepers
Of a less enlightened age!
No need to watch your language
Or to treat us with respect—
Because demonizing us is still
Politically correct.
You’d never talk like this regarding
Blacks, or Gays, or Jews,
But with atheists, just look at all
The language that you use!
“Obama is a terrorist”—of course
The claim’s obscene;
But “Hagan is an atheist”?
The worst you’ve ever seen?!?
Comparing her to me is now
The lowest of the low?
It’s good I don’t believe in Hell—
I’d tell you where to go.
-- A comment posted on Greg Laden's Blog

This was posted in response to this video, and this subsequent video. What a world it is that we live in.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Carbon Cap Guns

Alright, seriously, people. Comments like these drive me up the wall.

The theory goes like this: if we tax Canadian "bads" then the investment that otherwise would have gone into the Canadian production of "bads" will now be directed to the Canadian production of "goods". NONE (and I mean NONE) of the economic models on which our academic advisors rely anticipate the real life phenomon of capital flight. The models assume that the same amount of capital that would have been invested in Canada before the tax is still available to Canadians after the tax.

Yes. Carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, punitive taxation against producers and consumers alike - they're all going to cost money. We will, initially, see economic reductions. Companies who care more about the bottom line than their reputation and impact on the world will leave. Prices will go up as corporations transfer the cost to their consumers.


By reducing the Corporate Tax rate, it remains beneficial to companies to reside in the country - if they can find a way to get by with fewer emissions. And therein lies the goal of these taxes and fees in the firs place. Companies that can reduce their impact will thrive, because they'll be able to pass those savings along to the consumer and outcompete the corporations that cannot.

Now, the other popular argument on the site:

So it is now true that a company can largely avoid BC's carbon tax by transporting raw resources to Washington state--in trucks that fuel up in Washingtion--where they can burn tax exempt BC natural gas to make final products in Washington mills.

Again, true. However, someone has to do it first. It will mean we'll likely have to suffer a bit. I, for one, am willing to weather the financial woes that will result in an effort to make Canada cleaner and greener for the future. And, forward-thinking (which so few people seem to do these days), when oil smashes through the roof on the beginning of its ascent to the stratosphere, those companies who have already reduced their consumption of fossil fuels won't be feeling the pain as much as their competitors - and then who'll be laughing?

To sum up the two arguments:

  1. "I'm fine with going green, but I don't want to spend any money to do so." As Heinlein was so fond of pointing out, TANSTAAFL. If you want the city, the country, and the world to change, it has to start somewhere - and you're going to have to do without, just a bit, to make it happen.

  2. "Even if we do it, other people can just get around it." There are countries where murder is, if not legal, not terribly well-policed. Does that mean that other countries should relax their laws as well? You don't drink and drive, but your neighbour does, so even if you don't, it's still dangerous out there, so you might as well, right? Or, to choose an example that confers an advantage - kids at school cheat on a test, but you didn't. Was it just because you were scared of getting caught, or did you do it honestly because it was the right thing to do, even if you might have gotten a better grade by cheating?

Seriously, people. Get your heads on straight, get back to work, and pay the damn tax.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Asshat of the Day - September 26th, 2008

For Friday's Asshat of the Day, I bring you: The Discovery Institute, and, to a lesser extent, the Louisiana Legislature for making it all possible.

Now, what's got me pissed off at DI? It's not their championing of alternative fuels - if that were all they got up to, I'd be delighted. It's not their claim that Spore is a good tool for teaching Intelligent Design (they're right, it is - shame on you, Will Wright).

It's the textbook they've produced and are now trying to wiggle into high school curricula:

Explore Evolution

The book very carefully never uses the words "Intelligent Design", and stays a long way away from "Creation", but it's quite simply a tool of "Intelligent Design", née "Creation Science". It introduces controversy where there is none, uses "neo-Darwinism" to make evolution seem like some sort of cult, and uses as one of its sources a man who believes that all life evolves as proto-life stem cells beneath the surface of the earth, and then emerges and self-assembles when the time is right.

Ars Technica does a better job of critiquing the book than I could.

My beef, however, is not only with the book itself, but with the mindset behind both the people who wrote it and those who seek to introduce it into schools. For pity's sake, folks - "God did it!" isn't science. In fact, it's the kind of crappy, baseless argument that engendered the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Assume the presence of an all-powerful, omniscient being, be it a father figure in the sky, a big bowl of flying pasta, or an invisible pink unicorn (Blessed Be Her Holy Hooves). Life evolves on a planet, with the descent of species through mutation and selection pressure. Can you prove that the being, capable of literally anything, did not in fact place everything where it is, fully formed? Can you prove that the world existed even a second ago, and that the being did not place you, the world, and everything else, including your memories of a past, where they are? Of course not. We have no means of testing for that, because if such a being were to do such a thing, they could also be able to ensure that we would be unable to distinguish it from a world that developed over time.

So if you say "God/Allah/TFSM did it, and you can't prove otherwise!", you're right, at least about the last part. But if someone examines creatures and fossils, and finds the properties of both, and says "Well, according to all the evidence that is visible to mere mortals, this whole thing could easily have happened without any intercession from any intelligent force", "Yeah, but it COULD have." is not a valid counter-argument. More to the point, it's not science. Science involves things that it is possible to disprove. Theology, by definition, involves things that must be taken on faith.

So, unless you plan to start teaching evolution, chemistry, physics, and math in Sunday school, don't expect "God created us!" to show up in a class designed to teach that which we can see and test, and therefore do not have to take on faith.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Asshat of the Day - September 25th, 2008


Don't get me wrong - China has done many things that have impressed me of late. Their human rights record is still pretty black, but their progress in alternative energy research, the production of the Olympics, new housing techniques and the ability to recognize a sinking ship when they see it (the US economy) are all laudable.

But this? That was unimpressive.

Seriously, guys. You've got the technology. You've got the money to buy all the scientists you might need, and a population from which you can recruit a whole bunch of really smart people, who in turn will probably work for far less than their Western equivalents. This whole launch and first spacewalk thing is practically a done deal.

Presenting a photoshopped launch picture and the associated article? It damages your credibility, hurts your reputation, and makes everyone in the world take everything else you say with a grain of salt. If it had been something terse, like "Shenzhou 7 launch a success.", you could probably be forgiven. There are no end of criminal trials/world events for which most of the story was probably already written before the event occurred, so the paper/radio/tv announcement could be made as quickly as possible. But including nonexistent dialogue?

Sorry, CNSA. You fumbled the ball big time here. And so you receive the title of Asshat of the Day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Asshat of the Day - September 24th, 2008

This one was easy - even posted a day late.

George W. Bush

I mean, come on. A seven hundred BILLION dollar bailout?

If you want to spend more than the Iraq war has cost (on paper, at least) to date, earmark it for infrastructure development. The US hasn't seen major infrastructure spending since the 1950s, and never has it needed it more than today. But come on! You're nearly twelve trillion dollars in debt, and your solution to the credit crisis is to spend more? Where are you going to get it? I can't think of any country who would extend you that much in additional credit. Which leaves you one option: print money.

So, you put an additional seven hundred (what was that? Oh yes) billion dollars into circulation. What, pray, would this do to your dollar's value? Oh, right. Ask the Germans, right before World War II, say. They might be able to tell you.

Now, on top of all this, there are a couple trillion dollars of imaginary money that's sitting and souring in the financial markets. Seven hundred billion dollars, as mind-boggling a sum as it is, won't actually solve the problem unless the government takes a hand in legislating the economy, rather than the hands-off laissez-faire technique which has been the hallmark of the "free market" politicians since the Nixon era. If they don't, all it'll do is keep the eggs in the air for a few more months.

Which may be the point.

If he can keep it going a few more months, Bush can dump the economy on the next person to take office... in legal terms, the "chump."

Therefore, I give you the Asshat of the Day. George W. Bush.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Asshat of the Day - August 20th, 2008

Petrol Pump Pilgrims Keep Faith


Okay. I thought this was ridiculous when I first read about it, but we've moved from ridiculous to ludicrous.

"We don't have anybody else to turn to but God," Mr Twyman told the BBC. "We have to turn these problems over to God and not to man."

So, to control the price of a commodity extracted and traded by Man, you turn to a divine power? If God doesn't listen to all the children in war-torn countries who pray that their parents survive the night, why on Earth would He listen to people whining about gas prices?

This week the group returned to the site of their first prayer meeting to celebrate. Singing "We shall overcome," they changed the words of the well-known hymn to "We'll have lower gas prices".

I'm... actually speechless. You take a song that's a lovely testament of faith, and you turn it into a "thanks, God, for making it easier to fill my tank"? I am probably the most lapsed Catholic in the world, and I still find that abhorrent. I mean, good ol' J.C. and his disciples were rather famously against the hoarding of money, so really, high gas prices are doing you a favour by bringing you closer to God.

Mr Twyman is sceptical that market forces might be responsible for the lower prices. But he and his prayer warriors have changed their motoring habits.

Ahh... do I detect a hint of doubt there? The market upon which gasoline is bought and traded is an artifact of man, the supply of oil finite and its extraction, again, limited by man's own capabilities. God may be comforting to turn to in times of trouble, and faith a ward against the cruelties of the world... but don't go crediting Him with things that aren't His work.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Asshat of the Day - August 14th, 2008

Today's Asshat of the Day is our reigning champion, the Bush administration, and one of its Horsemen (or Horsewomen) of the Idiocalypse, the Secretary of Transportation, Mary E. Peters.

The article, you ask? Here we are: Drop in Miles Driven Is Depleting Highway Fund; Loan From Mass Transit Is Urged

Let's get into it...
The secretary, Mary E. Peters, said the short-term solution would be for the Highway Trust Fund’s highway account to borrow money from the fund’s mass transit account, a step that would balance the accounts as highway travel declines and use of mass transit increases. Both trends are being driven by the high price of gasoline and diesel fuel.

Now... this isn't all Mrs. Peters' fault; part of it has to do with the colossal lack of infrastructure spending that accompanied the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude that has seemed to dominate American politics for the last few decades. Always better to offer a tax cut than to actually keep the infrastructure in good shape, eh?


Things are now broke. They need fixing. However, the US government is also broke. Hence the rampant borrowing from Social Security, among other funds. This idea, though, beggars credulity.

You depend on a tax from the people who use the highway system to maintain the highway system. Fewer people now use the system. As the free market economy that the administration professes to be such a fan of would dictate, if fewer people use a service, but the service quality is fixed at a certain level, the price to those few should increase. Ergo, a rise in the gas tax to support infrastructure spending. It's the same in any profession - the more specialized a tool becomes, the more it costs an individual user.

Heck, you could even make more roads toll roads electronically; we did it with the 407 and that road is self-supporting now.

But both of those involve raising taxes or charging people more money, which the Republicans are traditionally against. What to do, what to do... Oh, I've got it! Let's take money from the transit system that desperately need infrastructure improvements, right now, and spend it on roads that they don't use! Brilliant! Only pinko Commies ride public transit anyway!

Whoa... a few too many shots of sarcanol there. Bit dizzy.

So, Mrs. Peters: yes, the highways, bridges, and roads need improvement. They've been needing it for a long time. But borrowing from another fund isn't a solution, because the transit system is going to need that money. You're just going to have to bite the bullet and raise taxes. Hell, your administration has the lowest approval rating in US History - what's another few points?

Asshat of the Day - August 13th, 2008

Sorry, loyal readers - I mentally flagged this article yesterday, but didn't get around to posting it. So here, a day late, is the Asshat of the Day for August 13th, 2008...

Back to the US with today's story:

Chemist Allowed to Go Home, Sans His Lab

Of particular note...

“It is a residential home in a residential neighborhood,” [Pamela A. Wilderman] said. “This is Mr. Deeb’s hobby. He’s still got bunches of ideas. I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation. … There are regulations about how much you’re supposed to have, how it’s detained, how it’s disposed of.”

(Emphasis, as always, mine.) So, Ms. Wilderman, you "think" he crossed a line somewhere? Is that why you seized his property without a warrant? Isn't the progress ion of such things usually "suspicion, investigation, confirmation, jurisprudence, and then lawful search and seizure"? Seems to me you skipped a few stages there.

Mr. Deeb’s home lab likely violated the regulations of many state and local departments...

Again, I'd think that I'd feel uncomfortable in a country where seizure of assets can occur on a "likely". I'd like a "does", thank you.

And, of course, let's not forget one of the leading paragraphs in the article:

None of the materials found at 81 Fremont St. posed a radiological or biological risk, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. No mercury or poison was found. Some of the compounds are potentially explosive, but no more dangerous than typical household cleaning products.

So, let me sum this up. A chemist who so enjoyed his work that he continued experimenting in his copious spare time after retirement had his lab, doubtless the fruit of many weeks/months of labour, confiscated because authorities thought that there might be something wrong with it being there. Nothing he had was chemically harmful - at least, no moreso than a dozen things you can pick up in a hardware store - and as a chemist, he was probably more aware of the harmful capacities of any such chemicals than your average layperson.

I sincerely doubt that Mr. Deeb was dumping chemical residue into greywater, given his previous experience, so what we're left with is "I don't understand what you're doing, but it scares me, so I'm stopping it" from the authorities.

Oh, and I don't buy the "violation of zoning laws". He wasn't doing scientific R&D commercially, he was doing it 'cause he liked doing it! It was a freakin' hobby! He might even have found something new, working on his own... but we can't have people trying to better society on their own property, can we now?


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Asshat of the Day - August 12th, 2008

This one's pretty straightforward:

Mark Thomas

Every time I think that the "them furreners, takin' our jobs" mindset is ensconced south of the border, someone like this pops up.

Julie bbviously(sic) has dual citizenship and she should have represented Communist China - it would have been a more comfortable fit for her. Besides waving the red Chinese flag or banner. In her interviews all she talked about was China China China - not once did she mention Canada or if she was proud to represent our country. This is a disgrace she should have represented her real homeland China and not taken advantage of Canada. But then again being 50 she would never have qualified for the Communist Chinese team!

Nevermind that it had already been made clear that what she had held up was a countrywide "Hi Mom!". Nevermind that she was competing for Canada. Mr. Thomas was all too keen to leap onto this as evidence of an immigrant plot...

Julie is not a Canadian - she is and identifies herself as Chinese first. Another example of an immigrant who thinks the multiculturalism means you can live in Canada and enjoy its benefits but sitll consider your birth country as your homeland. Canada deserves better!

(Emphasis mine.) You can see the thought process here; immigrants, clearly, rather than being one of the hardest-working and proudest components of our multicultural society, are moochers who come for the benefits while laughing at us behind our backs. This is the kind of mind that's behind building fences along borders.

What my sports affiliation is - simply is none of your business. The bottom line is members of the Canadian Olympic team are supposed follow certain rules of conduct when they represent Canada - demonstrating loyalty and commitment to the country you represent. She did not! My goodness I can just imagine the hysterua she would have caused had she waved a Quebec flag!

It has all the hallmarks of a genuine, Grade-A asshat... willful ignorance, stubborn refusal to let clumsy things like "facts" get in the way of his uninformed opinion, and bigotry.

For all these reasons, Mark Thomas wins Asshat of the Day.

Jujie and the banner that stirred all this up.  Go Jujie!
Go Jujie!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Asshat of the Day - August 3rd

So, Saturday didn't give me anything to post about. Very little asshattery took place. In addition, I was busy, and I'm still getting used to this "daily post" business.

But, I'm back. Today's evidence that there is no intelligent life on Earth:

Beijing is moving protesters to where they're out-of-sight.

Now, I can understand registering for a protest; it's only polite. Likewise, I can see working with police or civil administration to allow unobstructed paths for athletes and spectators. However...

The application process differs for foreigners and locals who wish to rally at one of the three officially approved protest sites near far-flung sporting venues, which were announced by Liu at a news conference in Beijing on July 23.

(Emphasis, as always, mine.)

So, essentially, protesters get this: "Oh, of course, we wouldn't dream of impinging upon your right, as a citizen or foreign visitor, to protest. You are, as always, welcome to make your political statement. Just not where anyone will see you. You can go protest by the Ballroom Dancing pavilion. Shoo, now."

This, combined with the Great Firewall of China blocking out Amnesty International, as well as other sites critical of China from the Olympic pavilion (though the blocks on some of the more prominent websites were later lifted) earns China (and Beijing in particular) the title of Asshat of the Day.

Though, I suppose, I shouldn't be too critical of the Chinese. After all, the Americans came up with it first. And we've done it too - though with the agreement of the protesters, I grant you. And the Chinese constitution, at least, doesn't pretend that free speech is an inalienable right in which the government has no business interfering.

Friday, August 1, 2008

New Feature! - Asshat of the Day

This new (daily) feature bestows the dubious honour of "Asshat of the Day" on whatever newsmaker I deem to be having the largest negative impact on the world... or who demonstrates the greatest stupidity, even if the scope of their influence is less than a lesser case of terminal stupid.

Today's winner/loser:
The US Government (specifically, the Department of Homeland Security.)

Important excerpt from the article (emphasis mine):

Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed.

Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

So, in other words, the DHS can seize your laptop if you're crossing the border, for no better reason than "we felt like it", hold it indefinitely, and give any information contained therein (or on a Blackberry, or iPhone, or PocketPC) to anyone they choose.

If it weren't for the fact that they're rewriting the laws to allow it, I'm fairly certain this would qualify as "unlawful search and seizure... but when has something like the Constitution stood in the way of the Bush administration, eh?

So, our first Asshat of the Day (doubtless destined to recover the honour many more times) - the Department of Homeland Security.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

ive Got a Bone 2 Pick With U

Today's rant - people who don't even make an attempt at spelling.

As a preface - this is not meant to be directed at the dyslexic: they have a problem that is no fault of their own, and should not be blamed for it. Neither should it be directed at those who truly try their hardest, but still come up short - they will improve with time, and their problem is either age or an educational system that failed them.

No, the people at whom this particular diatribe is aimed are those who can't bring themselves to make the effort to learn to use the English language correctly - or, worse still, those who know how to use it correctly, but are too lazy to do so.

Now, formal language isn't required for all writing. In fact, I have a loose hierarchy of written communication, from informal, to formal:
  • Text messages
  • Instant messages
  • Short e-mail
  • Forum posts
  • E-mail
  • Personal letter
  • Creative writing
  • Formal letter
  • Essay
By the time you've passed the second rung, there should be no misspellings.

By the fourth, grammar and punctuation should always be correct.

Everything from then on in is tone and word choice. (eg. Repetition should only be for effect by rung, and so forth.)

What brought this on was my role as a moderator of a certain online forum wherein participants submit stories for approval by myself or others on the team. If these were, for example, handwritten with pencil and paper, the occasional spelling mistake would be tolerable. Were they typed out on a manual typewriter, a lack of formatting or major grammatical errors could be overlooked.

But this is the internet, and you're working on a computer.

All the major web browsers have inline spellchecking these days. Not only that, but several (Firefox among them) will even give suggestions as to what the right word might be. This won't, of course, catch homonyms, but even having all the words spelled correctly would be step up from some of the dreck that seems, increasingly, to be littering the web and forums everywhere. If, for some reason, the browser you're working with doesn't have a spellchecker built-in, it is the work of a moment to copy your post to a word processor (MS Word, OpenOffice, TextEdit) and check it there. If you have no control over the programs on a computer (if you're using, for example, a public computer), that's still no excuse: there are still sites like which will correct your assault on the English language.

More stunning still is the ability of posters to misspell words taken directly from the previous poster, or the original article. Transpositions of letters, phonetic replacements - all of which should be, flatly, impossible. The word is right there. How in the name of any god who cares to take proper writing into their fold can you possibly get it wrong?

A few particular pet peeves:
  • I moderate on a fantasy gaming site. People persistently misspell "rogue", as "rouge". The one is a sneakthief. The other is a powder applied to the face. It's really not that hard.
  • Abuse of apostrophes. Girl's is not more than one girl. It's is a contracted form of "it is", not a possessive pronoun. And if you're describing something belonging to a collection of objects, there's only one "s". (eg. "The racers' cars flashed by, engines racing.")
  • Random capitalization. Unless it's a proper noun, capital letters ought not to preface it.
  • Generally, people who say "people understand me, so it doesn't matter how I write!" (See concluding statement.)
In conclusion, I'll offer up a plea to the internet at large, and the writing-challenged in particular. Get a spellchecker for every communication program you have. Pay attention to its little red lines, and take its advice. Take a moment to read something over before you hit "post" or "send". And, for the gods' sake, read! Read everything you can get your hands on. Read every day. There is no better way to improve your writing skills than to have a large base upon which to draw.

Written language, in this day and age in particular, is the greatest communication tool the human race has ever conceived. Abusing its rules, ignoring its strictures, and raping its meaning for the sake of expediency or laziness is unworthy of it, and should (and often does) lower your worth in the eyes of others. If you wish to be heard, understood, and taken seriously, learn to use the language. Otherwise, stay off the 'Net. It was built on language, and if you're going to languish in the gutters of linguistic abuse, you're just a waste of bandwidth - no better than white noise.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes...

Today's rant will pertain to that most vile of demographics - smokers.

Now, don't get me wrong - I have personally known quite a few people who were otherwise very nice, but were possessed of this disgusting habit. The habit did not erase their positive characteristics, but it did lessen their worth as human beings in my eyes.

"Now, that's a bit harsh," I hear you say. This may be the case. It does not, however, make it any less true. I can see nothing, whatsoever, laudable about the habit. I do not vilify those who successfully kicked the habit - it is behind them, now, and they may have started for reasons beyond my ken. But those who "try" and yet continue to smoke, or, worse still, those who have never even tried to quit and sneer at those who do - they earn no points.

(This is principally targeted at those who smoke conventional cigarettes and cigars, but pipes and weed are certainly guilty of many of the same crimes.)

Why all this anger directed towards people enjoying a pull from some fine American-grown tobacco? Where to start?

  • Pollution - people complain of smog, and governments are legislating high-emissions vehicles off the streets. When the AQI is particularly nasty, children, the elderly, and those of an otherwise weak constitution are advised to remain indoors. Yet smokers seem to think that it's their god-given right to stand wherever they want and blow smoke into the air. Nevermind that being twenty feet upwind of a bus stop does nothing to attenuate the smoke concentration. Nevermind that you're exhaling pollutants many times more toxic than the cars whizzing by on the street. You're either such a slave to your nicotine addiction that you have to have that taste right now, or you're so bored that you can't think of anything better to do with your time. Both of these are reprehensible.
  • Littering - If someone finishes their McDonald's meal, crumples the wrapper, and tosses it on the street, most people (smokers included!) would look at them with disgust, and the bold in the crowd might even demand that they pick it up and dispose of it properly. Smokers, somehow, seem to think that their butts are exempt from this. They are not - neither legally, nor morally. A smoker who drops a butt can be charged with littering, and should accept that this is precisely what they are doing. Some smokers, should they ever read this, might say, "Oh, but it's just paper and plants. It'll biodegrade!" Bull. Anyone who walks the streets of any major city can tell where smokers hang out. The scattered butts accumulate until a street sweeper or cleaning person cleans them up, or until a rainstorm flushes them down into the city sewers. Either carry your own ashtray, or quit the damn habit!
  • Damage - There's a reason pretty much all North American businesses forbid smoking indoors. It's not the health issues (at least, not primarily), nor is it the risk of fire when cigarettes are combined with office paper supplies. It's the damage. The amount of smoke damage done to office buildings back when smoking was permitted in office buildings made most of the materials making up the buildings unrecoverable when the buildings were demolished. This same accumulation of crud (soot, tar, nicotine stains) occurs on anything a smoker smokes near. Speaking for my own area, smokers are permitted to (or, whether or not they're permitted, they do) smoke on their balconies, though not in their apartment. This is ridiculous. First, it spreads the smoke, and second, most of it will go straight back through the open door of their apartment anyway. The conditions under which you should be permitted to smoke in a building or in a vehicle ought to be: a) you must own the building/vehicle and b) the smoke has no means of escape from the vehicle/building.
  • Wasted Crop Space - with the biofuels/food crises gripping the land (though not particularly pressing in North America, it remains a concern), using over three hundred and fifty thousand acres to grow a slow poison seems an almost criminal waste of cropland.
  • Health Concerns - I live in Canada, so the concern I have is twofold. First, as with any area, people suffering from smoking-related illnesses take up space in hospitals that could otherwise be given to those with legitimate ailments that they did not induce themselves through an idiotic habit. Second, anyone who afflicts themselves with chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or other respiratory illness (or worse, Buerger's Disease) presents a massive drain on publicly-funded healthcare. This drain, and its reallocation of resources from those who need help and didn't bring their health problems on themselves, is not at all offset by any cigarette tax that could be levied. If smokers were required by law to either quit or give up their health cards, I'd be happy.
What sparked off this diatribe? Well, recently (hallelujah!) the city in which I live passed a law banning smokers (smoking ones, anyway) from bus stations, any indoor public venue, and anywhere within six metres of a door, window, or air intake of any sort to such public venues. As such, most coffee shops posted prominent notices indicating that there was no longer any smoking in their customer patios.

Did this stop the smokers? Not a whit. I saw one man lean back against the no-smoking sign as he lit up. There have been several outspoken letters in the newspaper where they declaim that their rights and freedoms are being infringed upon, and that they should be able to smoke wherever they please.

I'll tell you what, all those of you beholden to the god Nicotine - as long as I never have to see your butts lying on the sidewalk, or be forced to walk through your exhaust fumes when on my way about my day; as long as I never have to endure an interminable ride on the bus sitting next to someone whose clothes reek of cigarette smoke; as long as I never sit down to have a coffee, take a deep breath of the fresh morning air and choke on the pollutants you spew for your own entertainment and gratification; and as long as I never have to pay a cent to save your lungs from the toxins and grit you gleefully suck down... smoke wherever you want.

Tobacco is a filthy weed,
That from the devil does proceed;
It drains your purse, it burns your clothes,
And it makes a chimney of your nose.
— Benjamin Waterhouse

In the Beginning...

I'll start this with an obvious, but necessary, preface. This persona was created as a means to vent my thoughts in a public forum without otherwise affecting my online presence under other pseudonyms. I will not publish anything that is considered secret, and all names in this blog will be changed to protect (most likely) the stupid.

It will also largely consist of rants on one topic or another. I pride myself on my coherence and cogency of writing, but if you're not the sort who enjoys a bit of vitriol or railing against the world, you may wish to stop reading at this point. (Then again, if you're someone here to whom I didn't explicitly give a link to this blog... welcome! Your readership is welcome, if unexpected.)

With that done, let the railing and gnashing of teeth commence!