#188 – Anne of Grim Gables

I haven’t beaten up yet on Canada’s tiniest and most useless province – Prince Edward Island. How bad is it? Well, it sucked harder at providing a solid quality-of-life than two of the three territories in 2012. Given how unthinkably fucked the North is, this does not bode well for PEI. Coincidentally, people are leaving the island in droves, citing reasons like the place being boring, cultureless, and filled with noxious dudebros. One in six children on PEI live in poverty and the issue hasn’t received attention in at least 25 years. An island that seriously brands itself on its potato crop has a 25% incidence of childhood food insecurity. How do you fuck up this badly and how can anyone fix this mess?

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(s) The world’s largest egg-beater probably won’t help.

Prince Edward Island, like British Columbia only joined Confederation because of debt. This is rather funny considering that Charlottetown is hailed as the “Cradle of Confederation”. Revisionism starts as soon as the island is forced into the Canadian fold. Never mind that Canada took on the island’s debt or that Prince Edward Island was also seriously considering joining the United States. Better not think about the fact that 20% of Canada’s provinces effectively joined the union out of debt bondage, because that isn’t shucks-golly approved! That the Canada connection is a central part of Prince Edward Island’s self-branding is a fascinating display of caker doublethink and revisionism in action. It’s almost impressive how quickly and ably Canadians erase their pasts.

When all the Anne of Green Gables crap is scraped off of the place PEI reveals itself to be rather less wistful and rather more unhealthful. Here’s a letter to the editor decrying the obscene difficulty associated with finding a doctor on the island. Prince Edward Island is dealing with both a crippling shortage of nurses and a debilitating lack of doctors. Six year ago there were problems associated with getting prescriptions filled, too. And just like in the North doctors and frontline care are being ground to dust without adequate support. Speaking of not having any support, Prince Edward Island has a critical lack of foster parents. Wonder if that has anything to do with PEI’s longstanding policy of not having abortions on the island, a policy which only ended this year?

Anyways, PEI is also full of hicks and idiots. And food prices have gone up nearly 40% in eight years, which doesn’t exactly scream successful policy-making. It also doesn’t seem like planning is a priority for the island, seeing as how they couldn’t be bothered to keep their provincial legislative building structurally sound. Who knew that a Maritime island gets rained on or that buildings require protection ftom rain? Similar planning acumen can be seen in PEI’s lobster fishery, which apparently is benefitting from climate change and high prices only to suffer a bad season because of weather. It’s almost like mindless extraction isn’t the way to prosperity. Not like Canada will figure that out this century.

Like most provinces in Canada Prince Edward Island is dependent on seasonal production, tourism from people who don’t know any better, and extractive industry. Shitty frozen French fries and potato chips were made on the island, though the McCains (another loathsome Canadian family that will definitely get its time in court here on Shit about Canada) have closed their fry-making slop-shop up. The other operator in the frozen food business, the one that’s still around, is called Cavendish Farms and is owned by – wait for it! – the Irvings! Yes, nothing says Canada quite like caker business. Amazing how caker business always seems to turn up in regions that have no hope of attracting anything less parasitic.

And there it is. Prince Edward Island is dangerously unprepared, reliant on unpredictable industries headed by cakers with a proven track record of being shitwands, doesn’t plan properly, and uses an edited version of itself to sell Canadians on a trip to the middle of nowhere. Its social indicators are poor, its people are fleeing in droves to the rest of Canada, and Canadians are busy not giving a shit about tiny, tiny PEI.

I think the islanders would have been better off with the Yankees. Just saying.

 

 

 

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#185 – Heavy Metal Blunder

Let me ask you a question. Suppose that you owned a plot of forest bifurcated by a river in the middle of ass-fuck nowhere. Then suppose that forty or so years ago your grandpappy permitted a bunch of people to lug toxic waste all over your property in the name of profits. Grandpappy is gone and the forest is yours; when do you think you might get around to checking that, you know, the toxic waste party was properly cleaned up?

If you’re Ontario and “touched by the angels”, the answer is 35 years. That’s how long the rivers and land around the now-infamous Grassy Narrows have gone untested by the provincial government. Never mind that there was a fucking sawmill openly using mercury as part of their production. Forget Robert Sharpe’s alarming discovery that the court system was unable to dispense justice for the people who lost lives and livelihoods after the Ontario government practically banned fishing in the area. Obviously Ontario doesn’t need to seriously inspect the area anymore, because the “ah, fuck it, it’ll fix itself” method of…well, doing anything really is Canada’s preferred method. I’m half-convinced that some caker will unironically suggest duct tape.

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(s) Rivers are like ducts. Close enough, eh?

The first amazing part of this story is how many times it has come up without any meaningful action. Like a cat turd in a toilet bowl stories of malfeasance and stupidity bob into and out of public awareness. Most recently I was inspired by Kas Glowacki recalling his time literally dumping barrels of toxic waste in the wilderness with the awesome protective power of a plastic sheet to prevent seepage. We still have no information about the extent of the pollution around Grassy Narrows despite it being in the news now, in 2015, and in 2012. Research on the impacts of poisoning people has been ongoing since the 1970s, and the Canadian government continues to do what it does best – nothing of consequence. I suspect that if this was happening in a new suburban development we wouldn’t be waiting generations to start fixing the problem; where Japan set up a hefty repayment program for the lives that their experiences with mercury ruined Canada unleashed a half-assed system that couldn’t even be assed to send so much as a sympathy card. What’s this? We ruined your food supply and livelihoods? Here’s ~$18 million in a single lump sum to split for the rest of your lives. Debilitating mental and physical harm has never been less lucrative.

But wait, there’s more! Remember that bit about Kas Glowacki and the who-cares approach to poison? For a while it was practically policy – Ontario doubled its imports of American toxic waste in the 1990s because of how lax regulations on the stuff were. And that’s not including the disaster that is consumer habits dumping small quantities of crap over time. And even better? Ensuring compliance with waste dispsoal regimes is still a problem! Yes, people of the Internet – in the year 2015 Canadians were still dumping toxic waste in random spots and hoping for the best. Given how sloppy Canada is at managing even obvious pollution in heavily-populated areas the probability of Canada giving a shit about stuff that most people don’t see is frankly miniscule. This is especially true when municipalities are the ones often holding the fiscal bag as regards disposal sites. If anyone has the money to properly police toxic waste it sure as shit isn’t your average cash-strapped Canadian municipality.

Tracking would-be miscreant dumpers is a tough thing to mandate because there’s frankly a lot of space for a would-be illegal dumper to offload some toxic shit. But proper, constant environmental scanning is both possible and doesn’t require Orwellian surveillance. Actually looking proactively for problems instead of fumbling like a quarterback with a greased football allows us to hopefully find problems and their sources before they become massive, crippling problems. Sadly, when Canadians can’t even be bothered to properly screen the water they drink daily there is little chance that they’ll consider planning to test water that they aren’t regularly in contact with.

#171 – Broadband Blues

Cakers have shit Internet. One of the few things approved for bitching at in Canada are cable, telephone, and Internet service providers in this country. That said few Canadians go further into the problem, where profound disorganization and confusion marry claims and promises of a Fourth Industrial Revolution powered apparently on Care Bear Stares and Feels because fuck if Canada has any sort of coherent broadband strategy or ambition to do better. Pravda’s sadsack attempts to tell Canada that they get what they pay for from shitty oligarchs belies the fact that Canada has fallen from second-best at connectivity in 2002 (behind, of course, South Korea) to its current position, described unironically by Canadian media as “third world access”, hanging out in the bottom third of countries as regards overall speed and in the top 5 when it comes to prices.

What’s in play here is some pretty standard caker business practices. Caker companies like Bell have whinged over and over that they just can’t afford to not gouge customers; their attempt at Canada-baiting when the threat of competition was raised was so bad that even cakers saw through their bullshit. Not even the threat of AmeriKKKa makes Canadians any happier to be under the digital thumb of a collective pile of assholes who basically wanted to kill off the then-new notion of streaming television by way of usage-based billing. When Canada’s telcos were called out for being shitlamps they went and cried foul about how studies of their inferior service are mean and the data was wrong you guys we’re great. So great that even the ultra-nationalist caker population which generally has no issue with oligarchy hates your guts. Obviously with providers like these  #RealChange and his plans for a digital kum-bah-yah Canada are destined for greatness!

When you take the country and break it down into regions broadband connectivity and speed becomes even more obviously broken. Certain areas of the country have tolerable (not even good – tolerable) Internet connection speeds. The Canadian government’s standard of 5mbp up/1mbp down is ridiculously slow considering that the Europeans are calling for 30mbp access by 2020. But even that listless goal is not likely to happen in much of Canada. British Columbia has speeds lower than those found in Iraq, and it’s not even the worst. Even the best-off Canadian provinces don’t meet European standards:

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(s) In textbook caker fashion Yukon’s Northwestel responded by crying foul

The pitiful speed of Canada’s Internet access is made even worse by the insane prices that Canadians pay for their subpar “service”. Caker businesses Rogers, Bell, and Telus now blame the low dollar for rising costs despite this being a long-standing problem that was present during the days when the Canadian dollar was at par. Canadians spend nearly 3% of their yearly income on Internet that in many cases can’t even get up to the speeds exhibited in such e-heavy states as Mongolia and Kazakhstan. I cited those two specifically because those two are both sparse as fuck, which is a common apologism for caker-net.

The implications of shitty Internet are clear. How on Earth can Canada claim to have advanced infrastructure when we have numbers like these? And what about rural Canada, which is notoriously slow even by our weak standards? Enjoy your Netflix and waiting, Cochrane! E-mail? Nah, that’s not going to matter. And forget only having access to reasonably-priced Internet in the form of last century’s dial-up connections; nearly 1 million Canadians aren’t even hooked up to the Internet. It’s a bit tough to build the e-conomy of #RealChange’s dreams when we haven’t even gotten to the e-part yet. Of course the Indigenous are particularly slammed by the suck-hammer with 37% of remote communities being told to fuck off and forget about being able to participate in the modern world. Dial-up doesn’t cut it for conducting business, but 15% of Canada’s rural communities aren’t able to ride the e-wave. How inclusive of #RealChange and his economic policies!

But with whinging oligarchs and sadsack, piecemeal planning Canada continues to backslide. A digital divide looms over the country whereby what has been presented as a basic human right is de facto denied because Canada can’t be assed to bring the pain to its garbage ISPs or to plan in such a way that a coherent broadband strategy is even possible. Piss-weak lobbying laws in general reflect on the regulatory body overseeing this clusterfuck and contribute to the flaccid response of the Canadian government to inferior Internet access.

When you’re getting outstripped by Honduras and Rwanda it’s probably time to take a step back and think. Or you could be Canada and LOL WHEEE your way to the future on feels and #RealChange selling an impossible economic prescription.

 

 

#170 – DNDark: A Soviet Repair Tale

The Ottawa headquarters of the Department of National Defense looks like the government buildings in a particularly podunk post-Soviet region. It’s a dreary brown slab of shit sandwiched between a shitty shopping mall, a shitty university, a shitty “park” full of drunks and hoboes, and the spectacular shitshow of meep-meepery that is Elgin Street. A regular hangout spot for drooling morons and tuff-guy skateboard punks, this unassuming Soviet piece of shit is going to be scarring a lot more than the Ottawa landscape when its ventiliation, plumbing, or fire suppression are taken offline. While people are working. Well, at least the building and the policy are meshed because that’s some fucking bush-league third-world bullshit that further demonstrates how divorced from reality the Ottawa Caker Crew really is.

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(s) In Cakergrad, building designs you! Seriously though, this thing is total wank

The government has taken to advising employees trapped on the 11th floor without elevators and practically working by candlelight that the chance of fire is minimal, which is totally reasonable and not at all a ridiculous cop-out after basically telling your employees to eat shit. We’ll just ask potentially-combustible material to please stay sans fire and we’re golden! Backup plans? Nah. We’ve never had that problem before, especially not during renovations. This is also in the context of DND leaving this heaving hulk of a shit-campus in favor of a suburban shit-campus in the middle of fucking nowhere, which has been going about as well as Soviet Cakerstan can manage. Which is of course fucking not at all because these people can’t even take their own national defense buildings seriously.

This particular Soviet abortion of a building has a long, turgid history as the equivalent of a perfectly-coiled dog turd in a public park. Officially called the Major-General George R. Pearkes Building, the design was conceived by a deeply confused human being named Jacques Greber who thought highways were the future and who hated density and trains. This particular building consequently contributed to the loss of Ottawa’s downtown train station. So if you’re wondering why Ottawa got the name Cakergrad it’s basically shit like this building that did it. Rob Campeau would be proud – Greber took a dump on the city and contributed to it being the lifeless, low-density hole of a city that Rob would later take his own dumps on. Greber was a member of the City Beautiful Movement, but you wouldn’t know it from this piece of shit because all it can possibly inspire is snide commentary like mine.

So not only is it a horrible building (which was actually initially meant for the Department of Transportation, because those two departments have exactly the same building needs), but it contributed in its own shitty way to the ruin of Ottawa (if there ever was anything good there, which I frankly doubt). And now that the government is planning on moving out of that nasty place (ironically fleeing to the suburbs exactly as Jacques Greber encouraged Ottawa’s public serice buildings to do), they’re not able to figure themselves out to do that either. The whole building is a history of slap-dash whoopsie-doodles.

And that shitty pile of flaccid failure now squirts a stinking load, as necessary systems are now required to stay open despite have no water, refrigeration, fire protection, lighting (headlamps don’t exactly cut it), or toilet. It’s not like you can just say to an overseas mission “yeah, Canada shit the bed again, so we’re gonna leave you to it and we’ll catch up with you Tuesday”. People have to be there. They could have been in a proper campus where this Chernobyl sarcophagus wannabe’s maintenance schedule wouldn’t be a problem. But they aren’t so they’re stuck holding their shits in and praying the place doesn’t catch fire.

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(s) At least this place could possibly fucking glow or something.

Remember kids – safety first! Unless, you know, safety requires competence or expense, whereupon fuck that noise.

 

#166 – Greenwashing²

One must pity the wealthy in Ontario. From Hydro One’s CEO only making a mere $4m last year to Wynne’s Chief of Staff Tom Teahen making more than Obama’s, how can we expect Ontario’s 111,400 people on the Sunshine List, which measures public employees making more than $100,000 a year, to possibly go green? Sure, we’ve paid Samsung $7B to brutalize Southern Ontario in the name of being green, but that doesn’t give those poor rich people any particular symbol of their excellence and wealth. We need a personalized, flashy way to wash the polluted consciences of Ontario’s wealthiest. What to do, what to do…

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(s) Almost. Could you make this as a hockeymans jersey?

I know! Help ’em out with buying a green Porsche! That should dry those monied eyes. There there, rich people. Can’t quite justify buying a vehicle that’s totally inappropriate for Ontario’s salty winter roads at Porsche prices? Why not get a Tesla? If you do, you’re special – fewer than half of a percentage point of car purchases are electrics, and the subsidy scales up with the price of the car to make sure that the government is doing its part to make you feel like you’re doing good in the world. Never mind that you’re going to need another, probably gas-powered vehicle or risk either running your sports car into a salted, slippery grave or getting kneecapped with shit range and no heat. Forget how toxic and eco-unfriendly lithium-ion battery production is. Pay no mind to the myriad problems associated with the technology and how it interfaces with utility companies. Consumption is green, and consumption by rich people is the most greenest of all! Were you idly considering buying another car that you might not need? C’mon and buy one, fucker!

My favorite justification for this comes from the pollution angle – that is, the negative externalities of the motorcar are no longer because pollution is bad. Certainly, pollution is one of the personal motorcar’s externalities. But it’s not as if electric cars don’t contribute to congestion, encourage low-density sprawl that requires more consumption to get around (versus, say, being able to walk from place to place as is the case in civilized, bearable built environments), or require choking amounts of parking. It’s a typical greenwashing attitude to focus on the tailpipe and ignore the car’s role in prohibiting or otherwise damaging walkabilty. Walking, once again, neither requires consumption nor is restricted to wealth. Even I got legs when I started life.

Oh, and for the record – wheelchair and access for folks who have trouble walking is important too, and that doesn’t have to default to the motorcar either so long as you plan with all parts of a society in mind rather than making sweeping and untrue assumptions. Har-har, it’s the bad word so it won’t happen in Canada because planning is for heathens.

Those negatives are conveniently ignored in favor of helping the rich buy toys on the government dime. Obviously ensuring that the rich can drive with a clean conscience (but not in New England where electrics are actually more pollutive than gas-powered cars because of how power is generated there) is more environmentally-friendly than actually designing cities with far superior transit that avoids these other externalities – walking, biking, mass transit. The hated AmeriKKKans are even thinking that way! But we can’t not sprawl when developers are funding our municipal elections and those poor wealthy developers need to squander farmland en masse if they’re going to get the funds to buy an electric car!

The problem of regressive subsidy is a known quantity in the world of greenwashing. The fact is that rich people are more likely to be able to afford expensive, cutting-edge products while the poor aren’t. If you’re driving a `96 Corolla to your warehousing job you probably have more pressing demands on your funds than buying a Volt. Like, say, paying your power bill. But fuck those poor people, right? I bet they aren’t working hard enough to earn a green environment.

 

#164 – Paid in Feels

The federal government has been doing a shit job of dealing with paying employees for a hilarious number of reasons. Federal prison guards braced for failure as their pay system shifts onto a government office in New Brunswick that has already pled for mercy. Members of the Coast Guard have found themselves coming home to cut utilities and urgent fuck-you-pay-us notices as their pay became a veritable Nor’easter of bullshit. Reliable pay? Fuck no – you’re paid in feels, you useless cretins!

Bitching about bureaucracy is easy, but the sheer magnitude of stupidity associated with pay can’t be making their lives any easier. Workers have a right to expect that the pay they agreed to will arrive at a regular time and in an easily-accessed form. We all make financial decisions with future income in mind; indeed, we’re punished with overdraft fees, bad credit scores, and all sorts of frustrations if we aren’t able to keep up with our expenses. So how fair is it that someone working for the government finds themselves on the sharp end of the Canadian banks’ bullshit stick.

Consider this readily-plausible scenario: a single-income family makes its required income through the Coast Guard. The breadwinner gets sent to a posting and writes out checks for the family’s utility and other bills. There’s not enough in the account now to do job, but with incoming paychecks this arrangement is doable. All is well, all is good.

And then the checks don’t come in. Panicked calls become emergency loans with high interest rates and other debt traps; bounced checks add even more financial strain on the family. Word gets around the posting that others aren’t getting paid. Can you imagine what that would do to your mental health and to the cohesion of the workplace? It doesn’t matter if you think bureaucrats are poopieheads – there is a basic obligation which was not met by the Canadian government and its consequences are fucking with the fundamentals of peoples’ lives. The irony of Canada’s civil service making the mental health of employees a stated priority while it continues forward with a system that so obviously causes harm is somewhere between predictable and obscene.

The story here is very simple – for once the government found a problem and made a plan to fix it. The only problem there was the tiny point where they caused exactly the failure in the pay system that they warned about. Oh, and pro-tip: when the people you’re trusting with paying a crucial part of your government have a website that looks like it came straight from 2004 it might be a bit of a red flag.

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Bad website design you can believe in

At any rate, Canadians are suffering at the hands of our government and the way that our social order is structured means that a loss of pay entirely unrelated to their performance compounds suffering and stress during the reign of a government that says that it really cares about civil servants. The workers in Miramichi are stressed, the employees not getting paid are stressed, and inevitably quality of service (such as it is) will plummet even further.

And in the face of the complaints, the difficulties, the clear and obvious failure of Public Works to properly staff with trained people (I suspect that a lot of new folks are at the helm; it would cost a hell of a lot to convince me to live in a tiny shit-shack town in the middle of buttfuck nowhere) – with all that on board, what’s the plan? Why, expanding the program that workers are begging you not to! Because Canada’s government stands with its employees, at least until they demand their pay.

And as for civil servants, well, they can get fucked. Who needs a paycheck – isn’t the joy and satisfaction of living in Canada enough?

 

#162 – The Failure (Not)Express

Via Rail is shitting the bed again! Apparently, despite the Windsor-Quebec City Corridor being the densest part of Canada we just can’t do high-speed rail. Never mind that of methods of intercity transit planes and cars contributed 98% of the greenhouse gas emissions. Forget the fact that three of the four largest cities in Canada are along the Corridor. Pay no attention to Canada’s shifty auto loan industry in a context where overall personal indebtedness is at a terrifying high. Nah – clearly Via’s head is speaking sense when he says that Via should contest the automobile with the same system that drivers have already evidently rejected, but more of it.

Yeah – only in Canada is the head of a public transit department basically telling you to drive more. Here’s the CBC:

But that plan [to build high-speed rail) no longer makes either economical or practical sense, said Desjardins-Siciliano, who sees Via competing with passenger cars rather than airlines to get people from city to city.

Except no, you goon. Parking costs in downtown Toronto are fucking nuts – why the shit would I drive there only to cruise about for God knows how long to find parking? I’d rather fly to Montreal than attempt its legendarily shit roads. I dread the commute along Ontario’s highways because the roadway is jammed, aging, full of shitty drivers, and seemingly always under construction. The trip is stressful and a crash can leave you stranded on the highway for God only knows how long. When a single fucking breakdown can cause travel snarls, you know that your system is probably shit. But flying costs an ungodly amount and getting to an airport is a fucking chore too. Given my options and the distance, I’d love to take a train as opposed to either option. Too bad that the trains in Canada do neither – they don’t stop often enough to make them competitive against cars, and they’re too slow to make them competitive against planes. It’s almost like you need two rail systems, one to take the place of  the car and the other to take the place of the plane.

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“Thank fuck I’m not on a train. How could I miss this?”

But rather than recognizing that people use cars and planes for different reasons and that two different, interlinked types of train infrastructure can do the jobs of both car and plane, here we are doubling-down on inefficacy because reasons. This is a system that even Canadians will admit sucks goat scrotum (you know something’s really shit here when even the most ardent caker has to concede that it’s crap). And the argument is idiotic: high-speed and conventional-speed trains are supposed to work in tandem, not to be mutually-exclusive. Yves Desjardins-Siciliano is basically arguing that since it would be too difficult to hook small towns up to a system that isn’t designed to hook small towns together we might as well not bother properly connecting anywhere.

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(s) Using both conventional and high-speed rail? Insanity!!

Do you see how in the French example high-speed and conventional rail work together? It doesn’t make sense to run high-speed through Normandy, but you can have a central hub connected to a high-speed network (here, it’s Rouen) and run regular lines from there. Madness, I say! Clearly it won’t work because evil AmeriKKKans are designing stations to work with both high-speed and conventional-speed regional rail.

What’s even funnier is that this is happening in a context where Metrolinx, a legendary fuck-up by its own right, is already working to expand its conventional-rail transit systems. How Yves missed the largest city in Canada demonstrating a keen interest in building exactly the kind of rail system that would ideally complement a high-speed rail system is beyond me but apparently he thinks I’d rather drive through bullshit than transfer from one system to the other. Just one more reason Canada is more betterer than France: we don’t have to transfer from one system to another. Clearly encouraging a mountain of hideous highway nonsense was a small price to pay.

And then we get to the point where I really squat a load on Yves corn flakes. I could attack the fact that young people are increasingly uninterested in driving. I could continue to mock Canada by noting that AmeriKKKa has high-speed rail. I could talk about how air transit is becoming ever-more shitty and that an alternative is increasingly desirable. But I think I want to slam this guy for this quote:

There’s a perfect alignment between this government’s desire to have generational, transformative projects that are a step-change in Canada’s modernization, with this project.

Please, tell me how pulling Via off of CN’s rails is a “generational change”? Is it because getting anything done in this useless bog of a country takes generations to complete? And how does the same shitty service we’ve suffered for decades constitute modernization? It’s great that we’re not running potentially-dangerous freight on the same lines as commuters; welcome to the 20th century, Canada! It’s one thing to oppose a project for stupid reasons but it’s quite another lofty whiff of stink when you’re telling me that moving a turd transforms it into a modern system.