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.