Monday, October 31, 2011

The Rumpelstiltskin economy; spinning straw into gold till it doesn't work anymore

Jon Corzine has certainly had an illustrious career. CEO of Goldman Sachs in the nineties. Senator and then Governor of the Garden State till Chris Christie turfed him. Never quite made it onto the Forbes billionaire list but came close.

After Christie put the boots to him he ended up as the top dog at MF Global, one of those Rumpelstiltskin creations that don't actually do anything useful but manage to put their ownership group into 100 foot yachts and 6000 square foot upper east side apartments. MF Global declared bankruptcy today. The times they are a-changing.

But maybe not. Back in the '20's there was a Guelph boy who made it big in the major money centers of America, first Chicago, then Wall Street. His name was Arthur Cutten. The Cutten Club in Guelph bears his name to this day. Had that Rumpelstiltskin magic working for him. Made the cover of Time magazine in 1928. The local mythology has him making hundreds of millions while his competitors were doing their death dives from the towers of Wall street.

Had it all. The yachts. The fancy apartments. All because he had a knack for spinning money out of nothing.

Spent the rest of his life being hounded by the federal government. Died in the late thirties while under indictment for income tax evasion and other oversights. He's buried in the same cemetery in Guelph as my grandmother and my great grandmother. Just as dead as they are.

So there's really nothing new about all this derivatives and options and futures stuff. The Rumpelstiltskin economy. Real wealth comes from making stuff that works and doing useful things for other people. It will never come from being a more clever or crooked paper shuffler than the next guy.

That's been our downfall. We've been worshiping the crooked paper shufflers for far too long.

Rival militias stage fierce gun battles in Tripoli as NATO washes its hands of Libya

On the same day that NATO officially declared mission accomplished, rival armed gangs had a four hour shoot-out with heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft cannon outside of Tripoli's main hospital.

Seems that one of the militia's wanted to enter the hospital to finish off someone whom they'd wounded earlier. Up until recently, "finishing off" a wounded opponent in hospital was war-crime material. NATO's freedom fighters aren't having any of that.

When they arrived, they were denied entry by the one of the rival militias, and the fireworks began. Notwithstanding that fact that the NTC has been pleading with the militias to turn over their weapons and return to civilian life, none of the militias have done so.

Ironically the gun battle was on going as the NTC announced a new interim leader, one Abdel-Rahim al-Keeb. al-Keeb spent many years "studying" right here in America, just a few hours down the road from CIA headquarters.

That would seem to put him at odds with some of the other worthies who have floated to the top in the toxic stew that is Libya today. Like one Abdelhakim Belhadj, who is now the military boss of Tripoli. Belhadj spent a few years being "studied" by the CIA, while he was an Al Qaeda suspect, at various CIA black-op sites in south Asia. Can't imagine that he and his boys will be heeding the call to turn in their weapons.

Fortunately, both sides demonstrated the same marksmanship and general military prowess we've been seeing on our evening newscasts for the last eight months. After a four hour gun battle, with many thousands of rounds fired off in the general direction of their opponents, the outcome was two dead and seven injured.

That wounded guy they came to finish off? Still there; he'll be fine.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

India spends 300 million on Grand Prix while children starve

Billionaire Bernie Ecclestone's F1 circus touched down in India this weekend. The Indians reportedly spent upwards of 300 million dollars in preparation for the event.

Wasn't long ago that India was considered a "third-world" country. In fact, they still get foreign aid from the so-called developed world, including the US and Britain. The IMF rates India as the 129th richest country in the world by GDP per capita. The CIA World Factbook puts them at 162. Either way, they're a lot closer to the bottom than they are to the top.

Half of all children in India are malnourished. But they can spare 300 million for Billionaire Bernie and his stable of multi-millionaire race drivers?

Twenty-three year old German Sebastian Vettel took the inaugural event. Enjoyed his time in India. Took a side-trip to the Taj Mahal. Found the people poor but happy.

As for Vettel, now that he's nailed down the championship for the second year in a row, endorsement money should put his annual income into the $50,000,000.00 per year range.

That'll make him rich and happy.

Gun-toting liberals and other hybrids

The old left-right dichotomy has out-lived its usefulness.

Yet the stereotypes live on. Gays are liberal. NRA types vote Republican. Liberals love gun control. Hunters are rednecks. Potheads are liberals. Muslims are terrorists. Jews are rich. Rich people vote Republican. Artists love gun control. And on and on.

It's the outliers who've blurred the borders. Jorg Haider was one of Austria's most famous gay men for many years. Also leader of an extremist right wing party. Drug-taking right-wing homosexual. Died in a car crash. Going twice the speed limit with three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood. How do you categorize a man like that? Gay redneck?

Richard Hatfield. Premier of New Brunswick for almost twenty years. One of the most right-wing provinces in Canada. Spent more time in Manhattan gay haunts than in the premier's office. Once told an interviewer that just because he was premier of New Brunswick didn't mean he had to live there. He's the other guy responsible for the Bricklin automobile. Those salt-of the-earth New Brunswick voters elected him again and again.

The back-country pot-heads around here all own guns. Not because they're up to something nefarious, but because there's bears and coyotes about.  Does that make them liberals or conservatives? I suppose it means they're people.

Left? Right? Who cares. People are people.

Everybody's queer in their own way.

Drunken welder waves wang from International Bridge

The St. Croix river separates Saint Stephen New Brunswick from Calais Maine. One Sunday in '91 my buddy Fudge from the shipyard had a bit of a thirst on, and since the beer stores in NB didn't have Sunday hours at the time, he decides to make a run to the border to quench his craving.

The St. Croix isn't much of a river. You can walk across it in hip waders and keep your socks dry. In fact, on any given day you'll see a couple dozen guys fishing in the river, God knows what's in their hip waders. Could be stuffed full of dope for all I know. I've heard you can cram ten pounds of bud into a pair of chest-highs with no problem.

So Fudgie drives down to Saint Stephen, parks his car, walks across the bridge to the duty-free on the US side, picks up a suitcase of Coors, and heads back. Gets to the Canada Customs shack, they ask if he's got anything to declare. Well I got this two-four here but I been over for a couple days so that should be ok.

You watch these guys fishing in the St. Croix. Fishing is one boring pastime. You can only watch them so long. Sooner or later you lose interest. The fishermen can stand in that damn river all day. Eventually they get out.

The customs guy says to Fudge, couple of days my ass, I saw you walk over ten minutes ago. No way pal. Off you go. So Fudgie traipses back to the US side.

A guy stands in the river for six or eight hours. Does he get out the same side he went in? Well, you'd have to be watching for six or eight hours to know for sure, and even then, how sure would you be? A fat middle-age white guy in a lumberjack shirt and hip-waders standing in the middle of a river could be from anywhere. Even the Homeland Security types lose interest after awhile.

Fudge gets back to the US side. You can't bring the beer in. Why not? You owe us the tax. Well, Fudge knew the price of a suitcase but he didn't bring tax money. Fudge is fucked.

Border crossings. Back in the day we had a flood of guys head up here because they didn't want to go and kill the yellow people. Good for them. Unfortunately, almost all of them ended up in the bowels of the Canadian university system, where they totally constipated the tenure tract for the next several generations of aspiring academics. Hell of a price to pay, but I suppose it saved some lives on both sides.

Fudge decides he's done screwing around with the bureaucrats. He takes his suitcase to the middle of the bridge, right where the flags are, and pops open a Coors. He's gonna show 'em they don't mess with the Fudge.

Fudge was an old-timer at the shipyard. He once told me a story about when things were slow in the Saint John drydock, how the US Navy came up and recruited the laid-off lads to go and work in the yards down in Bath. Ya, I was drunk when they hired me, I was drunk for the two months I was there. I was drunk when I quit. Never did a lick of work. All I remember is riding around the yards on a bicycle.

After about six beers Fudge has to take a leak. So he does. From the middle of the bridge. Two guys come running out from the Canadian side. Fudgie steps a couple of feet to the south. You can't touch me. You don't have any authority here. You're infringing on American sovereignty.

Fudge knew his rights. The Canadians are on their radios trying to get the US guys to come and sort this out. Fudge sits down on his suitcase, two feet over the line, and cracks another beer.

In every war you hear the stories about the regular guys who would rather sing Christmas carols or play soccer or drink beer or smoke a joint with the guys on the other side. It happened in the Great War. It happened in the next war. It happened in Viet Nam. There are soldiers in the IDF today smoking hash that came from their enemies in Lebanon.

The Americans never did come to the aid of their Canadian colleagues. Even in those distant pre 9/11 days they had bigger fish to fry. While old Fudgie was spending the day watching the fishermen and taking an occasional whiz off the bridge, they busted a young black guy driving a brand new Jaguar across the border with three white women in it. That pretty much kept them tied up for the rest of the day.

Fudge tired of the game about four in the afternoon. Still had a couple of cans left in the case. The border guys turned him over to the RCMP, who kept him in the Saint Stephen lock-up overnight. By then the New Brunswick beer stores were open.

All's well that ends well.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bill McCreary: referee extrordinaire

I was having a beer with Bill one day in the early '70s. In the back of my '69 GMC pickup. Had a cap on the back. Sort of a hunter type thing, although it wasn't insulated. But it gave you a bit of privacy when you were sitting on a side street in Guelph at two in the afternoon, drinking beer.

Had the old Chevy straight six. 250 cubes if I remember correctly. Not whiplash material. But enough to keep a mobile beer shack mobile.

So I was quizzing Bill about his decision to go into the referee business. He'd been having a reasonable junior career. Every junior hockey player in Canada thinks they're going to the NHL. Bill explains how he's probably not going to be a first round draft in the big show. Might have a few years as a third liner if he's lucky. On the other hand, a referee makes a decent dollar, and his career can last twenty years or more.

I thought he was nuts in the head. Turn your back on a chance to play in the bigs?

Like I said, that was the early '70s. It was another ten years before Bill refereed his first game in the NHL. He did his last one this year. Bill had it pegged right. The referee career has longer legs than the player career. Along the way he did more than a dozen Stanley Cup playoffs. Ref'd a couple of Olympics. Broke up a thousand brawls between the toughest NHL brawlers. Shared the ice with the brightest lights in hockey for the last quarter century.

Good call, Bill. But remember, you were wavering. It was me who said go for the referee gig.

You're welcome.

Qantas grounds fleet to screw workers

Al Joyce.

Name rings a bell... Al Joyce Plumbing and Heating. Just around the corner from Falling Downs. Put in an outdoor tap for me back in the spring. Good guy.

Apparently Al has moved up in the business world. He's now CEO of Qantas, Australia's national airline. How you get from Al's Plumbing to head up Australia's national airline I don't understand. If I'd taken a few more business courses in university perhaps things would be clear to me. Hell, I could be in the business pages myself!

Anyway, it looks like Al is trying to make a name for himself in the world of big business. Been having a wee spat with some of his unions about off-shoring.  Seems Al wants to rip the guts out of Qantas and put as many jobs as he can in low-wage south asian countries.

Can't say I blame him. The Ausies have been infected by the same want-more virus that has characterised unions in America for 75 years. Al's got it right. Why pay some roly-poly white guy in Perth or Sydney fifty thousand a year when you can get a skinny brown person in Malaysia to do the same work for ten?

So his workers are a bit pissed. They've taken to making fake public service announcements on Qantas flights accusing Al of being a heartless job-killing Australia-hater. Al did the only responsible thing. Shut the entire operation down.

That's costing the company about 25 million a day. Thirteen thousand Qantas customers are stranded all around the world.

Hang in there Al. Victory is just around the corner.

Nice job on the tap, by the way.

Chrysler boss declares war on two tier wage structure

Something mighty stinky happened during the great bailout bonanza of '08. Seeing the tsunami of free money being lavished on the banksters, the CEOs of GM and Chrysler suddenly discovered that they too were too big to fail etc. They polished up their begging cups and pointed their corporate jets Washington way.

The fallout from their successful foray to the capital included a two-tiered wage structure. The UAW old boys would keep their decent white folk wages. New hires would get Mexican wages, even if they weren't Mexican. So you've got one guy on the assembly line making 60 thousand a year, and the new guy next to him, doing the same work, making 25 a year. How and why the UAW ever went for this I'll never understand.

Sergio Marchionne, big cheese at Chrysler, wants to change that. "When you've got this kind of economic disparity between people on the line, it's not something that can go on for a long period of time" he says.


And this must be great news for the new hires. Obviously Marchionne plans to bring their wages up to parity with the old boys. I'm sure of it.

What else could he do?

Canada commits 25 billion for new combat ships

Minister of National Deference Peter MacKay announced last week that the Irving shipyard in Halifax would be contracted to build the next generation of warships for Canada's navy.

As Minister of Deference Mr. Mackay sees his job as being mainly about deferring to the big dogs in Brussels and Washington, and no doubt the big dogs will be pleased with this announcement. After all, it seals our commitment to being able to punch above our weight etc. whenever some dictator in some shithole foreign country who we've supported for forty years gets too big for his britches. And you know how we Canadians like to punch above our weight. It's almost an obsession.

But politics aside, it's good news for the lads in the shipyard. I worked on the last generation of warships, at the Irving shipyard in Saint John, and I have to say it's a good gig, in spite of my pacifist leanings. It's good news for the Irvings too.

As big-time capitalists go the Irvings are pretty cool. James Irving was the big gun at the Saint John yard back in the day. Used to come in unannounced at the oddest of hours just to see how things were going. One night he shows up on our late shift. One of the boys who'd had a few was a bit irate over having had to install the same set of bulkhead doors three times because the specs kept changing. Got right in Irving's face and gave him a whiskey laced piece of his mind.

I thought, well, Buddy's toast. Not so. James Irving was able to overlook the booze-breath because Buddy had some serious concerns about efficiency. That made him Irving's kind of guy.

If I was just a bit younger I'd be tempted to head east again.

Dying Gaddafi raped by NATO freedom fighters

There's some graphic footage going around the web showing our freedom fighters sodomizing the gravely wounded King of Africa with what is either a knife or a stick. An apt metaphor for what we just did to Libya, in my estimation.

Not that this will curb the gloating in the NATO capitals. Britain's Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond has advised British businessmen to pack their bags and head for Tripoli. It's a veritable gold rush apparently. All that black gold in the ground. All that rebuilding to be done. This will be one of the most profitable wars in recent memory.

Across the pond Obama showed up on the Jay Leno show to gloat about what a brilliant success the Libya mission has been. How does Obama measure success? No American lives were lost. The world's only super-power and its NATO gang of wannabees were able to turn back the clock on the country with the highest standard of living in Africa by about two hundred years. It only took eight months for the most powerful military alliance in history to utterly destroy a country that has half the population of greater Los Angeles. But at least no American lives were lost.

Meanwhile here in the True North, Minister of National Defence Peter "Pinocchio" MacKay declared that the Libya mission was a "success by any standard". As long as your standards don't involve a shred of concern for fundamental concepts of justice and humanity he may be right. MacKay also declared himself pleased and surprised that glory in Libya came in well under budget at a mere 50 million dollars.

Funny, back in May the papers were full of stories about how we had to replenish our smart-bomb inventory to the tune of 130 million due to the unexpected reluctance of the Libyans to embrace our message of freedom and democracy. How 130 million plus thousands of sorties over eight months adds up to 50 million I'm not sure.

But then, I'm not a politician.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Uncle Jack

Jack Dinovi was a cool guy. Huge Eagles fan. Phillies, Flyers, 76er's, he loved them all.

Taught high school in Philly his whole life. Coached every high school sport there was to coach. Loved the kids. They loved him. Perfect universe.

Retired in the early '90's. Had a stroke six months after.

I remember Uncle Jack from the early sixties. Used to come up every other year or so to visit with the poor cousins. I used to get my new clothes out of a box they sent up once a year, they being the rich cousins in New York and New Jersey.

Jack lived just across the state line from Philly. Forty-five minutes from Atlantic City. We watched the moon landing from his basement. The poor cousins would drop in once in awhile.

The stroke. He goes from being the coolest coach in Philly to having insurance company lawyers sitting on his hospital bed, telling him what his insurance will and will not pay for.

Lingered on for a few years. When you linger on in America the insurance company and everybody else makes sure you know you're a burden.

His widow still makes the trip up every few years. She is a beautiful person. Just got her PhD recently. Quite an achievement for somebody crowding 70. Looks younger than me.

When she comes up the conversation inevitably turns to single payer health insurance. Here in Canada people don't lose their homes because they can't pay their hospital bills. She didn't, but she came close.

But it would put an end to lawyers sitting on your bed telling you what medical care you can afford.

Don't let the skin tone fool you; Cain's a cracker

Stupid people are ruining America. Hmmm... I'm not sure if I agree with the Hermanator on that one. It's tempting, though, isn't it? Blame the stupid people.

There are certainly enough stupid people in America. If you believe the test scores from the international agencies that measure student achievement, Americans are becoming relatively more stupid. The think tank here at Falling Downs sees the problem as being a little more nuanced than that.

Stupid people are rarely elected to office. When was the last time an obvious cretin held a major political post? I know the name George W will immediately come up. I'm not sure that's true, but I'm pretty sure that's irrelevant. Any presidential candidate is little more than a symbolic figurehead. Every presidential campaign is run by over-educated over-achievers. Think what you like, but these people aren't stupid.

They do have a problem, however. Stupid people vote. So election campaigns are inevitably skewed towards appealing to stupid people. That's why Grover Norquist has so much power. Stupid people believe that taxes are bad. Herman Cain has a solution for stupid people who hate taxes. 9-9-9. It's catchy. Even the most stunned among us can remember 9-9-9. Nevermind that it means the richest will pay even less tax and the poor will pay more. Its got the aura of fairness and simplicity about it.

Cain likes to point out that half the population already pays 97% of all taxes. That's a sly way of saying the rich are paying more than their share. Nobody comes out and says the rich have more than their share. Let the rich pay all the taxes is what I say. What's fair about taxing the minimum wage folks at the same rate as the billionaires? According to Cain, if you're not rich you only have yourself to blame. Stop punishing those poor rich folks for their good fortune.

Given that the polls show that an Obama-Cain race is now a distinct possibility, the Hermanator has been getting schooled in the field of international diplomacy. His mentor is none other than far right nut-bar John Bolton. Cain's previous forays into international relations were limited to a few failed Godfather's franchises in Canada. Bolton is bringing him up to speed.

Bible good. Koran bad.

Turbans bad. Ballcaps good.

Israel good. Iran bad.

Bolton's not stupid either. He knows a blank slate when he sees one, and he hasn't seen one this blank since he worked for W. He knows if the cards fall the right way, he'll be Secretary of State in a year and a half.

He could even be Vice President!

Canadian submarine fleet high and dry

Canada needs submarines. No question about that. We have coastlines all over the place, and you know what that means. Water. Lots of it. Off every coast.

And do we know what's in that water? No, which is why we desperately need a submarine fleet. Could be narco-terrorists from Mexico, seeking to land tons of marijuana on the British Columbia coast. Could be British Columbia marijuana growers, smuggling their BC bud to Mexico. Could be regular Islamic terrorists planning to sneak into the country. Illegal immigrants from wherever. We just don't know. In fact I saw a guy in a turban just the other day who looked somewhat foreign. Wonder what unguarded shore he washed up on?

So it's obvious we need a submarine fleet. We do have one of course. Four used subs we bought from our British allies about eight years ago. They've pretty much been in drydock ever since. Seemed like a good deal at the time. Under two hundred million apiece for a good used sub? How could we go wrong?

The cost of refitting has now pushed the price upwards of half a billion each, and we still can't put them in the water. Refit this. Refit that. Refits on the last refit... Now uber-weenie and Minister of National Defense Peter MacKay has come up with a new plan. Let's build a brand new fleet of nuclear subs!

Sounds a lot like the old plan to me. Twenty years ago, when I worked at Saint John Shipbuilding, the Irving family was lobbying hard for a contract to build a nuclear submarine fleet. The Irvings are super-patriots, well known for putting the national interest right up there with their own family interests. They could see the long ride on the pork-barrel express called the Patrol Frigate Program coming to an end. What to do with their state-of-the-art shipyard and two thousand hashish-addled shipbuilders? Build submarines!

Alas, I think it was the nuclear angle that sunk the plan. All you have to do in Canada is whisper the word "nuclear" and the militant whale-huggers start organizing. Didn't take long to file that one in the "ya right" bin.

So here we are twenty years later. Our sub fleet high and dry. Our British allies still snickering. The navy spends thousand of dollars a month just keeping migratory birds from nesting in the conning towers. And Mr. MacKay has a brand new plan.

Maybe the Irvings will get their submarine contract after all.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Zdeno Cycle and the first ATV in Canada

The first ATV was actually called an ATC. I should know. I owned it.

Zdeno was a guy who was once motocross champ of whatever eastern European country he came from. One of those countries that's been wiped from the map.  Moved to the new land. Got a Honda dealership. It was on Elizabeth Street in Guelph.

I wandered in there one day in '69 or '70. They had this weird hallucination on the showroom floor. A tricycle. Balloon tires. Honda 90 engine. Hi-lo four speed. Looked like something out of a cartoon. I just had to have one.

Kind of odd when you think about it. My very first childhood memory involved a tricycle. I was pedalling my trike up Lorraine Avenue in Guelph, past Billy Kipling's house. Billy was standing on the front lawn. As I passed he hurled his sister's toy iron at me. Those were the days. Little sisters had toy steam irons. Big brothers had toy guns.

So he flings the iron at me, for no reason I could figure out, and bops me square in the head. All I remember is it really hurt, I fell off my trike, causing even more trauma, and I ran home crying.

So now I'm in my mid-teens and I want to buy this trike. Maybe I just wanted to run over Billy's face with it, I don't know. But I had to have it. It was my first bank loan. Dad co-signed.

That Honda three-wheeler was one incredible joy-ride. First thing I figured out is that I could pretty much go indefinitely on either the two back wheels- a wheelie- or two side wheels - a side-wheelie as it were. Sure, a few times I went over backwards and scraped a bit of skin off my ass, but you kind of expected that with anything you bought at a motorcycle shop back in the day.

I soon got the stunt riding thing figured out. Built a little ramp up beside the road. Got all my siblings to lie on the ground behind the ramp. Then I'd jump over them. Sort of like Evil Kneivel except instead of jumping buses you were jumping over your siblings. Nobody ever got hurt.

Must say the design of the Honda ATC was a litigation lawyer's dream. Even after I'd racked up hundreds of hours on this baby, totally unpredictable things could happen. You'd be snaking up a 60 degree incline back in the woods. Low range. Territory that none of your dirt-bikin' buddies could dream of, and suddenly the Honda would do a sharp left and take off down the hill.

I remember the first time I let "the kid" take her for a spin. He's got her at about 50 clicks alongside the irrigation ditch up beside the highway. He's about nine years old at the time. He's whipping along, drifting closer and closer to the ditch. I'm watching, thinking oh shit, he can't be going in the...

And the ATC disappears from view, tumbling into the ditch. Holy shit! I just killed my little brother... I run for the ditch, look over the edge. Eight feet below me I see three balloon tires, and up beside the front tire, there's the kid's face. He's looking at me. Then he starts to laugh. The ATC has flipped, he's trapped underneath, but he landed in mud and two feet of water. It broke his fall. He's OK!

Unfortunately, not everybody who had one of those three-wheelers go its own way had such a happy ending. Honda had a flood of law-suits over the controlability of their three-wheelers. So they stopped making them and along came the four-wheeler. Less fun. Less law-suits. But today in rural America, the four-wheelers are everywhere.

Before they pulled the plug on production, Honda had seriously upgraded their three-wheeler. The balloon tires went the second year of production, in favor of off-road knobbies. They upped the power. You could get 185's, 250's, and more. Yamaha and Suzuki even got into the act before the legal tsunami hit the fan.

Then the three-wheelers morphed into four-wheerlers. They're everywhere. But I'm looking for a good clean three wheeler. At least a 250. Give me a shout if you have one for sale.

 I'm still looking to run over Billy Kipling's face.

Canadians fix their democracy - by adding more politicians

God bless Canada's political elite for not resting on their laurels. Fresh off freeing the people of Libya, our paragons of freedom and virtue took a good hard look in the mirror and realized that even though we are a light unto the nations and a beacon of hope for the huddled masses, even we can do better.

And so they could. Canadian elections struggle to interest even half the eligible voters enough to get them to vote. Why? My own theory is that the big issues facing most Canadians are never reflected in the electioneering of the major parties. Nobody talks about First Nation kids having a suicide rate eight times the national average. Nobody talks about university graduates coming out of school with 30 or 40 thousand dollars of debt, only to find themselves working at Tim Hortons. Nobody talks about why we import welders from Hungary and Romania to take 40 dollar an hour welding jobs in Alberta when we could be training unemployed Canadians to do the work.

So the dorkwads in Ottawa took a good hard look at our system and realized that what we really really need in this country is more politicians. That's right; more Canadians will feel enfranchised if only we could lengthen the trough in the House of Commons and make room for a few new faces.

Thirty new faces is the number they came up with. That's almost a 10 % increase. That should do the trick! That'll improve voter turnout. That will shift the agenda... Of course it will!

So there will be some new faces. They will be running for the same old parties, unfortunately. The same old parties who in unison proclaim that we are a light unto the nations, that our model is a model for the world, and that we are so over-archingly virtuous that even when we are lighting up Libya with bombing sorties what we are really doing is projecting our democratic values.

Our new and improved democracy won't come cheap. Between salaries, expense accounts, office allowances, car allowances, allowance allowances, our new parliamentarians will cost the taxpayers a half million bucks. Each. Per year.

I'm a taxpayer and I don't recall being consulted on this. Or on the Libya war. Or on the F-35 purchase. Or on the free trade agreements with Columbia and Honduras. What kind of democracy is this anyway?

Who knows, but at least there'll be thirty smug new faces telling us what's good for the country.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In praise of smuggling: world's second oldest profession

They say that prostitution is the world's oldest profession. The second oldest is smuggling, invented by a Natufian pimp in 6100 BC when he sneaked two Sumarian hookers into the ancient walled city of Uruk. And it's been going gangbusters ever after.

When I worked at the drydock in Saint John there'd be a guy coming round every Thursday to take your order for liquor from the other side of the line. You could get a forty pounder of Canadian whiskey for about half the price from the smuggler than what you'd pay at the liquor store down the street. Twenty-four hours later, payday, your order would be waiting for you in the parking lot at the shipyard.

Passamaquoddy Bay was the "border" between Maine and New Brunswick. Beautiful country. Home to a couple thousand lobster boats and two Border Patrol vessels. Pulled up at the Canada Customs shack on Deer Island once, where the ferry comes in from Maine. They had a sign in the window, back in 15 minutes. Alrighty then... I'll just sit tight! Or not...

Up in Woodstock N.B. there's a golf course. Half of it is in Maine and the other half in Canada. Fore! Just gonna step state-side to find my ball, boys, back in a minute. I'll just leave my golf bag with the ten pounds of premium bud in the rough over there...  And now we got Republican contenders who are going to build a five thousand mile fence to put an end to this stuff?

Fellow I know crosses the border all the time. Called me up on his cell one night. Hey man, I'm in Michigan, half hour from the border. Didn't want to have anything on me when I got there so I just burned my last joint.

Know why he didn't want to have anything on him?


Smugglers avoid the dogs whenever they can. Anything else, all the high-tech stuff, smuggling becomes a math problem. You do the math and you figure out the odds. If you know the border crossing has dogs, you go somewhere else. So what does the Border Patrol do? Get rid of the dogs and buy more high-tech stuff.

It's part of the high-tech hypnosis that we've all fallen prey to. If it's got dials and screens it must be better than a dog. And the tech lobby knows how we think. There is no dog lobby. Best example I can think of in terms of effective lobbying is Michael Chertoff. Went from Secretary of Homeland Security to being a lobbiest for the outfit that puts body scanners in airports.

Body scanners do work. If you're a really dumbshit terrorist like the undie bomber, the scanners will catch you. If the undie bomber was a tad brighter and shoved the explosives up his butt, the scanner wouldn't catch him. That's why Israel doesn't use body scanners. They're useless. And the Israelis probably know more than we do about terrorism. Yet every airport in America now has body scanners, and Michael Chertoff is a wealthy man.

But I digress. Smuggling is Economics 101. Where there is a market, people will take risks to meet that need. We've been fighting the war on drugs for over thirty years. The market is still there. So are the drugs.

So let them build fences.

The Euro-crisis: guaranteeing massive profits for the Bond Vulture Funds

The regular folks in the streets of Athens haven't been too impressed with the "austerity measures" their banker over-lords have been shoving down their throats. Nor should they be.

Who owns Greece's debt and what did they pay for it? That is a question the public, and especially the Greek public, should be demanding answers to. Greece's public debt fiasco hasn't been a secret. Greek government bonds have been trading at a discount for years, and rightly so. If somebody consistently spends more than they take in, only an idiot would buy their promissory notes.

The big dogs in global finance may be a lot of unpleasant things, but one thing they're not is idiots. When they buy Greek debt they buy it at a steep discount because of the risks involved. Then they go on the 24/7 big-time propaganda blitz: OH MY GOD IF GREECE DEFAULTS IT WILL BE THE END OF THE FREE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT etc. etc. etc. It's on every news program and on the front page of every newspaper every single day.

The purpose of the propaganda blitz is to scare people until somebody somewhere guarantees the face value of the Greek government bonds they bought at a steep discount. Instant windfall for the Bond Vulture Funds. Years of austerity and deprivation for the people of Greece.

I say let them default. We'll sit back with an Ouzo and see what happens, and drink a toast to the people in the streets of Athens.

Canadian military throws more money at US crap that may never work

So keen are the Harper Conservatives to score brownie points in Washington that they've just signed onto another pie-in-the-sky high-tech program. This time it's Boeing's Wideband Global Satellite System, which has been promising to revolutionize military communications for the last fifteen years.

As is often the case with these Pentagon fantasy projects, the WGSS is at this point about ten years behind schedule and 300% over the original budget. Oh, and it's nowhere near ready to go either. That's the kind of project the Canadian taxpayer loves, Mr. Harper! It's not as if we have anything more important to do with the money.

The last boondoggle was the fabled F-35 Strike Fighter. Canada is on the hook for at least 9 billion worth of this puppy, and when I say puppy I mean dog. The truth about the F-35 is that not even the American's want it. It's the Lockheed Martin lobby buying off the politicians who then force it on the Air Force. Those in the know who haven't succumbed to the Lockhheed lobby believe the F-16 is a better machine at a fraction of the price.

That won't slow down these intrepid Canadians though. There is nothing more important to the law and order folks in Ottawa than being liked in Washington.

Canada's murder rate at 45 year low as government scrambles to get tough on crime

Statistics Canada let a little air out of the Harper government's "get tough on crime" agenda. Today they revealed that Canada now enjoys the lowest homicide rate that we have seen since 1966.

Less serious crimes are also trending downward for the most part. This has put the Harperites in an awkward position. Their dream legislation, an omnibus bill promising a gamut of measures to get tough on criminals, gets a lot harder to sell when the statistics show that crime is going down across the board without it.

Longer mandatory sentences for a wide variety of infractions, the elimination of credit for time spent awaiting trial, stiffer sentences for minor drug infractions, and tougher rules for parole are just a few of the measures that the Conservatives are salivating to introduce. They love the law and order stuff. They want to spend billions on new prisons at a time when government programs of every stripe are being degraded. Thats why these stats are so inconvenient.

They've already introduced an imaginary ace up their sleeve; the disturbing rise of "unreported crime". That's right! They invented this one a little while back. Yes, they assured us, the stats may tell one story, but they don't tell the whole story, and that includes this ominous and wholly imaginary rise in unreported crime. Anyone not sound asleep would immediately wonder how they know about it if it's unreported. That's top secret, but they just know.

They have a plan "B" as well; slash funding to Statistics Canada.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Karzai vows to back Pakistan in war with US

The scent of Hillary's perfume still hung in the air of Karzai's presidential palace last week when Karzai dropped a bombshell. In the event of an American attack on Pakistan, he told the world, Afghanistan would back up the Pakis.

This pronouncement was of course more important as symbolic gesture than serious threat. It would be like Monaco promising to back up France in the event of an attack by Germany. Not that big a deal in strategic terms, but as a symbolic gesture this cuts deep.

After all, this is the guy we put in power. This is the guy we steadfastly stood behind as he stole two elections. This is the guy whose country we've been shovelling a hundred million dollars a week into for the last ten years while cops and teachers in America get lay off notices, while bridges and hydro pylons collapse from neglect, while far too many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are jobless and homeless.

It truly is shocking to see what kind of friends a trillion bucks buys you these days.

On the other hand, maybe he's had a look around and figured out the fickle nature of our "friendship". Recent history is littered with the corpses of Uncle Sam's Frankesteins who outlived their usefullness. One day it's all palsy-walsy buddy-buddy, next day there's a 500 pound Pavemaster IV coming through the ceiling of the palace, courtesy of the USAF. Sadam, Osama, Gaddafi, Noriega, Marcos...

Wonder if our "friends" in Tel Aviv have noticed the pattern?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

How about those Leafs?

Brian Burke lucked into a Stanley Cup ring when he happened to be GM of the Annaheim Ducks when they won the cup in 2007. Even though the make-up of that winning team had little to do with him he was able to ride that victory to a new job as General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the iconic teams in the NHL.

The Leafs have yet to make the playoffs under Burke's stewardship. Even though his team beat Montreal in overtime tonight, nobody seriously believes they are contenders. Burke has been in the driver's seat for four years. Don't the fans at least deserve a contender?

Maybe not. There doesn't seem to be much of a link between keeping your job and having a winning record once you're at the general manager level. Look at Glen Sather. One of the highest paid front-room guys in the NHL. What's his record? Better than Brian Burke's I suppose, but certainly nothing to write home about. He's still milking the Gretzky cow.

The NHL has made the front office a pasture for lame-ass has-beens. Fans pay big bucks to see the NHL's product on the ice. It's time to give them what they pay for. Brian Burke may have a very compelling back story, but he's not the guy who will lead the Leafs to another Stanley Cup.

Let's see some changes now. Goodbye Burkey, and goodbye Mr. Wilson.

Go Leafs go.

Whatever happened to Occupy Wall Street?

Nothing like the death of a dictator to reset the news agenda.

Even if the dictator was our former bum-boy.

Sure he was.

That's why we had to kill him.

You don't really think we wanted this lug-nut to stand trial, do you? He was being advised by people in the inner circle of American power right up till it became obvious that higher circles of power had cut him loose.

But he was our stooge.

Gaddafi in the stand?

No way.

He could tell a lot of stories.

He could tell a lot of very embarrassing stories.

Goodbye Gaddafi.

Dead dictators tell no tales.

Same with bin Laden.

Totally a CIA creation, do we want this clown standing in the dock somewhere telling the world the who, what, where and when of how he became public enemy number one?

I think not.

Much better an assassination and a burial at sea.

So what happened to OWS?

Off the front page, that's for sure. And in the knick of time, too.

All those hippie-dippie types whining about jobs and housing and blah blah blah.

What's another trillion for bank bail-outs when you've got the death of a dictator to ponder?

Dog eats generator

I'm pissed off.

Don't know who to tell. The live-in help is busy watching Paul Simon and Willie Nelson sing a duet on the other computer. She's toast, probably for the rest of the weekend. So I'm telling you.

Back in the spring I took the generator in to Hastie's Small Engines for a tune-up. Probably didn't need one, but I'd forgotten (see Alzheimer story above) which way to twiddle the knobs to get it going. So I spend a hundred bucks on the tune-up, and put the generator back in the woodshed.

The other day I figure, winter's on its way, better make sure the generator works. After all, in a power-down situation it's the generator that keeps us alive. I go in the woodshed, scope out the generator, and realize that it won't be keeping us alive this winter.

You see, when we had the big dog cull earlier in the year, and we got the new puppy, Lucy, we put her in the woodshed. Lucy has chewed all the knobs off the generator. Chewed off the pull-cord too. The generator is fucked.

Back to Hastie's I guess. They must make a lot of money off retards like me.

Tried talking to the farm manager about it. "Oh, she's going through the chewing phase," she says.

No shit.

Alzheimer lottery; the luck of the draw

My mother had two brothers. Both of them came of age in DP camps in Denmark after the WW II. Then their paths diverged.

The elder one found a millwright apprenticeship in Switzerland. Plied his trade at the Degussa works in Rheinfelden for a few years. Came to Canada in the mid fifties. Gave General Electric the rest of his working life. Welding inspector. Spent his days inhaling the same toxic stew every day that I did. In fact, we worked together for a time. He's into his eighties now. Sharp as the proverbial tack.

The younger brother took a scholarly turn. Breathed a more rarefied air. Had a great career. History professor. Delivered learned papers at symposia in Geneva and Heidelberg and Tubingen. Wrote books. Took early retirement because of the dementia snapping at his heels. Today he sits in front of the TV, talking to Colonel Gaddafi.

I'm at an age where I'm wondering. I've been to the Alzheimer Society's website. They've got a top ten list of symptoms. I can see all of them. Then again, I'm pretty sure I could have seen all of them thirty years ago if I'd been looking for them. So I don't know what to think. I'm hoping the toxic welding fumes that inoculated the elder brother might have worked their magic on me too.

But on a bad day I'm pretty sure I can hear it sniffing round my door.

Well of hubris overflows in Canada

Canada can deliver.

So intones our national newspaper of record today. Pulling its weight and punching above it. The assholes who write this stuff really love those references to the sweet science.

And I had no idea that the Canadian pilots often found themselves in the most dangerous skies over Libya. Hmmm... I didn't even realize that some skies over a country with no anti-aircraft defences could be more dangerous than others. But apparently they were. Those plucky Canucks flew in and dropped their smart bombs even when the skies were too dangerous for the cowardly British and French pilots.

The general tone of the various articles is that the Libya campaign is the first great success for the "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine, which is of course a Canadian invention. Because Canadian politicians are towering geniuses in the world of minding other peoples business.

Now that we have brought freedom to the people of Libya, perhaps the towering geniuses could have a look in their back yard. Maybe they could take a moment to consider if they have a responsibility to protect the most disadvantaged of their own people. For the money they spent destroying Libya's infrastructure over the last eight months they could have delivered sewer and water infrastructure to every First Nation reservation in the country.

But I guess that wouldn't impress the big dogs in Brussels and Washington nearly as much, and impressing the big dogs is what our political elite are all about.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Imperial fireball

Can't remember the exact nature of the dispute.

But there was a dispute. Between me and one of the other guys who worked at the gas station. I was a mere 16 or 17 years of age. The other disputant was a little older, but he'd brought his much older buddy Marquardt into it as the heavy hitter.

I remember a heated debate by the pop cooler at the gas station, just after closing time. Things went sour. I kicked Marquardt in the crotch and almost had him in the pop cooler, but then other buddy was all over me. Had to run for it. Made it to my car and took off. They were right behind me.

Marquardt had an old Chrysler Imperial, late 50's vintage. Nice enough car in the day. All leather upholstery. Blue leather. Pretty sweet. Had the 392 hemi in it.

Led them on a wild goose chase through the suburbs and the downtown and the uptown and then out of town. Couldn't shake them. Down Victoria Road at 120 miles an hour. I was losing them, but I could still see their lights.

Hung a left onto the Arkell Road. Half a mile up there I knew there was a railway crossing. Over the hundred  years since the Grand Trunk had put the rails in, the road had gone down or the tracks had come up, I'm not sure which. In any case, there was about a three foot berm at the tracks, which anyone who knew the road would know about, and anybody else wouldn't. I was counting on Marquardt not knowing the road.

I saw the lights of the Imperial follow me onto the Arkell Road. Took it up to about ninety and then let it coast down. Didn't want Marquardt to see brake lights coming on. That would tip him off. Coasted over the berm and hit the gas. Those lights were gaining on me fast. He's going to hit that berm any second....


There's a giant fireball in my rear-view mirror. Holy shit! I just lured buddy and his buddy into a death trap! Oh my God! What do I do now?

I was petrified. Do I go back? No, they're probably burned to a crisp. What good am I gonna be?

Had a sleepless night. Went to work the next morning.

Holy shit, there's buddy!


"Holy shit man, we thought we had ya, and then, holy shit, we're like fucking flying through the air, and then we come down and the gas tank falls off, and kablooey, the fucking gas tank explodes, and we're coasting down the road with this huge fucking fireball behind us. The cops and the firetrucks were there in five minutes.  Marquardt got charged with drunk driving.

Is he ever pissed with you man!"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

We got Gaddafi! Let the gloating begin

A mere two days after her majesty Hillary Clinton reminded the NTC that "we" wanted Gaddafi dead or alive, our erstwhile allies came through. They got him. First alive, then dead. Hillary must be doubly pleased.

This is how it ends then, our Libyan adventure. The most powerful military alliance in the history of humanity has managed, after an eight month bombing campaign, to unseat the eccentric leader of a country with half the population of greater Los Angeles. This is how we measure success these days.

This triumph has succeeded, at least for today, in keeping far more interesting stories off the front page. Kenya's invasion of Somalia. Turkey's invasion of Iraq. The never-ending Euro-zone crisis. The ongoing OWS protests. All stories that have far more importance to the world and to America than the question of who rules Libya.

Nor does it end, of course. While it might be hard to imagine that it would require an eight month bombing campaign to unseat the mayor of Los Angeles, it's obvious that we don't have to. How much oil do we gain by toppling Villaraigosa? This end is but the beginning, though.

The immediate problem will be to suppress any hint that the Libyans themselves may be displeased with our "help". All Libyans, regardless of their loyalties a month ago or a year ago, get their power from the same electricity grid, get their water from the same water system, and use the same hospitals and schools. NATO  smashed everything for everbody. The rebuilding will cost many hundreds of billions.

Obama and Cameron were both facing the press today with nauseating platitudes about standing with the Libyan people.  I'm not sure that overflying the country with unmanned drones or Tornado jets qualifies as "standing with", even metaphorically.

Let's savour this "mission accomplished" moment. It won't last long.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why does my hair smell like piss?

Back in the day, I terrorized the streets and back roads of Wellington County in a 1970 340 Dart. A very nice piece. Bench seat. Plain Jane. The original owner had put in a cam and had some head work done.

 Oddly enough, it still had the original exhaust manifolds instead of headers. Usually the first thing guys did was replace the stock manifolds with headers. It really wasn't till the last ten years that the common wisdom acknowledged the stock manifolds as flowing better than most headers. You spent a few hundred bucks on stuff that didn't make your car go any faster.

Anyway, I didn't ever go very far down that road, so it's a good thing the previous owner had gone for the cam and the port work. I end up with this beauty 1970 Dart, brown with a black vinyl roof, four speed. Good for a tenth over or under a thirteen flat in the quarter.

All that high energy stuff took the clutch out of it. Had to call on my pal Kipling to put a new clutch in. Hooked up at his dad's little single car garage, me with a heavy-duty racing clutch, and Kipling with the skills I didn't have to put it in.

Spent the afternoon on my back, on the floor of that little garage, holding up various mechanical parts while Kipling did the finesse work. My hair was constantly getting caught in the grate in the middle of the cement floor. This was the long-hair era, after all.

And I kept thinking I smelled piss...

Get the new clutch/flywheel assembly in. Lined up the tranny, and I recall that involved a broomstick. Get everything buttoned up. Back the snorting and gurgling 340 into the street, and leave 300 feet of rubber on Paisley Ave.

Head out to the country via the then-new Hanlon Expressway. There's a long long straight stretch below Stone Road. Three or four miles of dead straight straightaway. That 340 Dart with the 3:23's and the cam and the port work would pass 150 mph on that stretch. Did it way more than once.

So we're getting the revs up, and I've been smelling piss the whole day, and I'm smelling more than ever. At 110 I shift into forth. It's getting way loud in the Dart by now, so we're shouting... Hey man, it's hooking up nice, but what's with the piss smell? I think it's my hair... why does my hair smell like piss?

Oh, sorry man... you know that grate in the middle of the floor? In Dad's garage?

We're past 130. Ya, the grate?

Well, whenever the old man goes out in the garage, he takes a piss in there.

(With a shout-out to old Lorne. RIP )

Drug-addled hillbilly accidentally saves life of towel-head

Back in the late '80s my buddy Kipling went a quarter million in debt to buy a brick rig. That's a heavy-duty tractor-trailer with a crane attached just behind the cab. He had a contract with Canada Brick out of Brampton to deliver bricks all over south Ontario and Michigan.

Business was good. It was the housing boom before the last housing boom. Bricks were in demand. He bought an extra set of trailers so that one set could be loaded while he was delivering the other load. Another 75 thou of debt.

Kipling has always been a bit of an operator. One of his short run missions was to deliver brick that failed quality control to the Canada Brick recycling plant. Book-keeping at the recycling plant was a little sketchy. Kipling figured out that if he delivered the sub-par brick to a job site instead of the recycling plant, his next load was free! All he had to do was find people who could pay cash for a load of good bricks. Me and a lot of other folks got a great deal on the bricks. They made damn fine pave stones for your driveway.

So one day Kip is heading down the 401 highway, on his way to Flint. Traffic grinds to a halt. Miles of gridlock in front of him. Every now and again a cop car comes screaming by on the shoulder of the highway. Obviously a bad accident somewhere up ahead.

Sitting in traffic for half an hour. Suddenly there's a cop car tearing back on the same shoulder. Kipling just burned one and he's feeling no pain. Cop stops right beside his rig.

We need a crane up there. Follow me.

So Kipling pulls onto the shoulder and heads up the 401 with a cop escort, stoned to the bone. The brick rig is a little wide for the shoulder, so when they get to fence-posts and guardrails and such, he just keeps going. Ping ping ping, the posts for the guardrails are just a-flying into the ditch, and Kipling doesn't even have to care because he's got a police escort.

Gets to the front ot the traffic jam, and there's the accident. A mess. But there's a van upside down in the median. The guy in it is still alive, trapped under the van's engine and transmission. Kipling hooks up his brick crane, flips the van, the paramedics pull the guy out. He lived.

Three months later Kipling gets a phone call. Paki. You can tell right away. "Hello, you saved my life. May I buy you a dinner?" They're still friends to this day.

Meanwhile, that housing bubble busts. Kipling goes from making two grand a day to making nothing. His payments on the brick rig stay the same.Couple of months later, it's tits up for Kipling. Bankrupt.

In the meantime Kipling gets some sort of hero citation from the OPP. Took a lot of flack from his red-neck buddies. "Oh great, you got an award for saving a Paki."

But when he found that Glasgow cabbie in a turban last month, he knew the wheel of Karma had come around.

Kurds, turds, and fightin' words

George W was famous for mangling the language. He once accidentally referred to the Kurds as "turds".

For me personally all those turban people look the same. I couldn't tell a Shite from a Paki from a Sikh to save my life. In some of the harder neighborhoods I frequented in my youth the white punks had an entire vocabulary of differentiation to work with; pull-starts, kicks-starts, push-starts... and I'm sure the other guys had an entire vocabulary for us too.

So on to the Kurds. They're one of those sub-groups, sort of like the catholics and the protestants in Ireland. To outsiders they all look the same. They're all Irish. To one another, they can tell the difference, and that's often enough to set off car bombs in one another's neigborhoods. Same with the Kurds. They don't have their own country. There's a bunch of them in Iraq, in Iran, in Turkey, and in Syria.

To an outsider, it's like the Irish deal. We can't tell a Turk from a Kurd from an Iraqi etc. But they sure can, and they're doing a lot more than car bombs. Just yesterday some Kurdish freedom-fighters, or terrorists, depending on your point of view, attacked a Turkish army patrol and took out a couple dozen Turks. So today the Turkish Air Force, generously provisioned by us, flew into Iraq and bombed a bunch of Kurdish militants, also generously provisioned by us.

Here is where it gets interesting. Turkey is an erstwhile NATO ally of ours. But they've grown a little distant from our even more erstwhile ally, the only democracy in the middle east, even more generously provisioned by us.  Now they're picking a fight with our erstwhile allies the Kurds. Meanwhile, we're selling guns and bombs and bullets to absolutely everybody in the most conflict-ridden neighborhood in the world!

This can only be good news for the American economy. When guns and bombs and bullets are your main exports, it's good to own all the dogs in the fight.

Michelle Bachmann takes American exceptionalism to new level of obscenity

Bachmann introduced a great concept during the debate in Las Vegas last night. You know those little shithole countries we've been invading the last ten years? Bombing their infrastructure, decimating their government and social structures, generally wreaking mayhem, and of course liberating their oil? Well, those lucky victims of our largesse should reimburse us for our expenses!

They've still got the oil after all. They can afford to pay for our ill-advised military adventures.

We can't.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How to profit from the impending war on Iran

The stage is set. We've got the fake Iranian plot to carbomb Saudi Arabia's man in Washington. We've got the American boots on the ground in Uganda, drawing a line in the sand on the south flank of Islam in Africa, and, very much related to that, we've given the Kenyans a blank check to invade Somalia. By blank check I mean that every bullet, every RPG, every bomb, and every mortar round that Kenya's army uses in this invasion is being paid for by the American taxpayer.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu just made an existential sacrifice, trading a thousand terrorists for a single Israeli hostage. I've followed Binny's career long enough to know he doesn't make a decision like this because he's a nice guy. He's got a few Goodwill Shekels in the bank now. He'll be betting large on them. Really large.

So how can you profit from this? When Binny pulls the trigger, with our blessing of course, oil is going through the roof. Here's how you profit.

Really safe no risk strategy, buy shares in the international majors. Ask your broker.

Somewhat risky fail-safe strategy, buy oil future options. Go for a ridiculously high strike price. Two hundred a barrel seems insane now but it'll be cheap after Binny pulls the trigger. Ask your broker.

Side bet: the Canadian oil sands are going to be super golden once America's middle east oil supplies are cut off. I'd go for long term buy options on the shares of any of the big players in the oil sands.

Talk to your broker.

Iran attack any day now

The Shalit gambit has given Netanyahu a few shekels in the Goodwill Bank. After all, deep down he must be a reasonable man, to trade a thousand terrorists for one IDF hostage. Looks good in the international media.

Plenty of people to the right of Netanyahu in Israel see this not as the mark of a reasonable man, but the mark of a capitulator, the Chamberlain of the Holy Land. Binny has to win those people back. And he won't be winning them back with a few thousand more settler homes in occupied territory. No sir, this will take a little more than that. Time to put an end to that dastardly Iranian nuclear program once and for all. Time to show the Islamists who the big dog is.

So now is the time. In just the last few days America has already thrown its hand in with the flanking movement in Uganda, and the US sponsored Kenyan invasion of Somalia. It's the Grand Crusade. North Africa, where all the African oil happens to be, has been predominantly Muslim for well over a thousand years.

Time to turn back the tide.

After all, what do Muslims know about oil? Even the good Muslims, the ones we install and then keep in power by paying them off with their own oil riches, what do they know about the power of petroleum? Not a heck of a lot. They need us to find it, they need us to pump it out of the ground, they need us to refine it, and they need us to market it. Name one middle east petro-dynasty that got there without our help?

Never mind help; we practically do the whole job for them. And still they complain! So the time is right to wipe the slate clean. Let's teach them a lesson they'll remember forever.

Let there be mushroom clouds over Tehran. That will bring peace in the middle east for the next thousand years.

Libyan rebels give Hillary Clinton hero's welcome

Hillary Clinton flew into Tripoli today for a brief photo-op. The visit entailed a massive security operation costing many millions of dollars. But as a photo-op it was a roaring success. It'll be on the front page of every newspaper in America in the morning, and it'll be featured on your evening news for days. We'll see mobs of our rebels chanting Allah-akbar and firing their weapons in the air. They sure love Hillary, don't they, our Libyan rebels? And they love us too! Finally, Arabs with guns who don't want to kill us.

That is indeed noteworthy and newsworthy. (Although I did notice with some consternation that Hillary was kept well away from the celebratory gunfire, just in case...) After a spot of rumination I think I've come up with ten good reasons why Hillary got such a loving reception in Tripoli:

  1. They thought it was Lady Gaga.
  2. At least she's not black.
  3. They're even dumber than we thought.
  4. She wears nicer dresses than Gaddafi.
  5. They're even more desperate for our support than we imagined.
  6. Allah makes mistakes too.
  7. They'll cheer anybody who gives them guns.
  8. They want to impress mom to get chance with Chelsea.
  9. At least she's not Jewish.
10. They'll cheer anybody who doesn't shoot back at them.

What with new Libyan elections looming, maybe Hillary should reconsider her presidential ambitions. With a rousing welcome like we saw today, I believe she has a fair chance to become the next President.

Of Libya!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Say no to job porn

There's a fairly recent innovation in entertainment for the brain dead that I'll call job porn. Its genesis was the insatiable need that the ever-expanding cable universe has for content. It took its cues from the food porn genre, which originally involved showing photogenic chefs making pretty food for dumbfucks sitting in the Lay-Z-Boy with a bag of Doritos and a 2 litre bottle of Coke.

Understandably there's a market for this kind of entertainment. When you're working two or three minimum wage jobs trying to keep a roof over the spawn you ain't gonna do any fancy-pants cooking yourself. But it's easy on the eye and allows the mind to unwind. These shows lacked one thing though; drama.

Didn't take long to fix that. You take the buff chef and the pretty food, and you add a couple or three wanna-be assistant chefs, young and pretty, who are competing for a chance to work in the Kitchen of the Great Man. Instant competition, instant drama, and you can bet all these wanna-bees will work for nothing just to get on TV. Brilliant programming! When they win, they get a chance to work in the kitchen of the Puck or the Ramsey for six months or a year, again for nothing. It's called "internship".

Didn't take long for the concept to spread to other occupations. You got duelling carpenters now, racing to see who can finish the deck first. The car shop guys racing the clock to see if they can get the flat screen television and the hot-tub fitted into the Cadillac Escalade by tommow at three, because that's when Lebron Bigballs from the Clippers is gonna pick it up, even if the ten dollar an hour Latinos with dubious immigration status doing the work have to pull an allnighter and gouge each others' eyes out to get it done.

Over at the bike shop you've got Bubba's team and Sparky's team, duking it out to see who can build the finest chopper for the semi-retired biker who made millions dealing dope. The human drama is mostly added in the editing room, of course. Walk into a chopper shop and see how they really react when you tell them the jobs gotta be done by tomorrow, or else. They'll think that's really funny. You won't.

Working in the kitchen or the car shop will never be glamorous. But by the time the editors work their magic it will certainly seem that way. To me, it's another way to profit from the little folks working really hard to make a wage that even in a good year will still see them well south of the poverty line.

The big dogs do OK though. Can't hurt Gordon Ramsey to have interns fighting for a chance to work for free. And Buddy with the car shop bills the customers $90 an hour while he pays the workers ten or twenty. All in all, it's a brilliant formula for making more money off the peons who will never have any.

But as an entertaiment genre that's cheap to make and consistantly profitable, it's hard to beat.

That's why I say no to job porn.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rethinking car racing

The death of Dan Wheldon today after an accident at the Las Vegas Indy 300 might give the sport the wake-up call it needs.

Car racing at the elite level in North America has been suffering for a few years. A big part of the reason is that it became frighteningly expensive to field a team. After the 2008 financial meltdown a lot of big-dollar sponsorship money evaporated. Both Indycar and Nascar are dominated by a few well-financed teams. This gives the season a predictability that undermines fan interest.

That financial meltdown also had a big impact on the disposable income that the fans have available. It had become prohibitively expensive as a family outing. Why lay out all that cash for something that had become a little dull. At most events in the last couple of years the thousands of empty seats have become painfully obvious. That speeds up the downward spiral. Your big entertainment spectacle loses its pizzaz when you're playing to a half-empty grandstand.

Officials and team owners have tried a variety of strategies to fill the seats. Cutting ticket prices. Changing the rules to close the gap between the stronger teams and the also-rans. For the race today Wheldon was racing for a five million dollar bonus. To make the bonus he needed to come from the very back of the field and win the race. Did it add some drama to the race? Maybe. Did it contribute to his death?

A tragedy like this doesn't help the future of the sport.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

California declares October 16 "Steve Jobs Day"

I have a lot of respect for Jerry Brown. He was governor before, and he took on quite a mess that the "Governator" left him. But Steve Jobs Day? Come on Jerry... get away from that BC bud you've been cramming into the bong.

What's next? Maybe the 16th of November can be "Bill Gates" day.

How about "enough already" day in December.

"Apple sucks too" day in January?

"Dilbert rules" day in February.

Maybe we could have "fuck off already I've had quite enough" day in March...

Really Jerry. You can do better than that.

How about a "let's put California back to work" day?

I'd vote for that.

Jews, chicken-killers, and Uncle Henry

Uncle Henry looms large here at Falling Downs. Had a tough time of it back in the WW 2. Lost a lot of family to the Nazi extermination campaign.

We cleaned up his apartment in Toronto when he passed. Just off Bathurst. Nice area. Jew friendly. For a kid who had to outrun and outfox the powers that were the powers in central Europe in the early forties that was quite an accomplishment.

We got his rocking chair, his stereo, and his hall carpet. They are now our hall carpet, our rocking chair, and our stereo. We also got a pack of smokes that must have been twenty years old, but that's another story.

My parents came out of the same shithole shtetl in Poland as Uncle Henry. Half the Neumanns in town were Jewish and the other half weren't. I think if you go back a hundred years they were probably all Jewish, but times changed. In the latter half of the eighteen hundreds all the smart folks were saying no thanks to their religion. All the peasant folk who wanted to look like smart folks were doing the same.

So the Nazis come along, and all the smart folks survived, at least for the time being. You know what happened to the other ones.

So Uncle Henry, not having the good fortune to be born into the smart crowd, had a tough time of it. Spent the best part of the early forties hiding in the woods. Strangled stray chickens with his bare hands to keep body and soul together.

Made it to Canada in the early fifties. Made a living in the tailoring trade all his life. Hated Germans. Did well enough that we got a real nice carpet and chair and stereo. Had a nephew Fred who became a big cheese on Broadway. Another nephew is on the PGA tour to this day.

My mother, born into the smart crowd in the same shtetl, got by the Jew cull, and then found herself running for her life as the Red Army rolled in. They didn't give a shit what your name was or where you went to pray. She had a tough time of it too. Killing chickens well into the mid sixties. Not with her bare hands though; she used an axe.

My mother the chicken killer. Uncle Henry the chicken killer. People came through dark times. German, Jew, Arab, Hindu, people will do what they have to do to survive.

We are entering dark times again.

The future belongs to people who can kill chickens and feed their families.

Autumn winds howl at Falling Downs

Last weekend the weather was too fine to do any work. It was still high summer. This weekend? When we wake up tomorrow it'll be mid-November. And who wants to work out there today? Not me.

Not that there's any shortage of stuff to do. I've been meaning to swap a new battery into the tractor, the old Ford 4000. I knew the battery was weak when I bought her. It's come to the point where after sitting more than a couple days it needs a boost to get going. I got as far as putting the cowl up, and now she's sitting there, cowl up in the rain, waiting for the new battery.

Not that I'm lacking for indoor work, stuff I'm always promising myself I'll get to in inclement weather. For example, I have to bat-proof the attic. Nice rainy day job. The bats are gone to their winter nests in the caves along the escarpment. Gives me a chance to make sure they don't make the attic here at Falling Downs their summer nest again next year. But I have all winter to get around to that.

Then there's the paper work. There's a shit-load of paperwork involved in managing a farm. I'm always behind on it. Just don't have the knack. Some people can tuck into a pile of paperwork like it's a jumbo wing platter and a pitcher of beer. Not me.

I'd rather clean up bat shit.

How to profit from the US invasion of Uganda

We're in Uganda to save the people from the ravages of the Lord's Resistance Army. Ha ha ha, good one! You can bet the guy who dreamt that one up just got a promotion!

But seriously, I don't think we're there to make a rich Irish accountant richer either. Tullow Oil is the biggest player by far in the nascent Ugandan oil play. It was founded in 1985 by an Irishman named Aidan Heavey. In his haste to grow his company he made deals with the Ugandan government that oil industry veterans consider extremely favorable to Uganda.

To become profitable, the Ugandan oil needs to find a way to export markets. That's going to take more capital investment in pipeline and refinery infrastructure than Tullow can handle. I don't think the American boots are in the country to make it safe for BP or Total to take over Tullow. I'm thinking one of the American majors will have a controlling interest in the near future.

Then we'll pressure the Ugandan government to re-write the royalty agreements. I'm sure they'll comply. After all, they just have to look around and see what happens to people who don't.

Once the new American owners have renegotiated the concessions so they're 80/20 in our favor instead of the other way around, the Tullow properties will be infinitely more valuable. That justifies a huge premium on the current share price for the company.

Buy now. Thank me later.

Locking up Africa's oil; from Libya to Uganda

American boots on the ground in Uganda can only mean one thing; Uganda's got oil!

Does it ever. Discoveries made over the past five years could eventually lead to the impoverished African country becoming a major oil exporter. And here's the problem; we don't want the Chinese getting their grubby fingers on the stuff. That's our oil!

And just to make sure the wily Chinese get the message, we had to get American boots on the ground before there were Chinese boots there instead. That's how we roll.

We have to make sure, of course, that Uganda's political elite play ball. We can't be having all that oil fall into the hands of another Gaddafi type, you know, using all that oil wealth to provide subsidized cellphone service for the whole neighborhood, subsidized health care, education, and housing, and all the other faggy-commie shit that comes with those radical kooks.

American boots on the ground will help the Ugandan elite remember who calls the shots.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Lets NOT bomb Iran, not just yet anyway...

Oh my!...

Seems like all the main sources of info on this Iranian plot to bomb the Saudi ambassador were already tied into various US intelligence agencies.

That Mexican drug cartel connection always sounded a bit dubious, didn't it? Muslim fundamentalists and Christian drug runners making common cause to destroy America?  Hmmm....  How retarded would you have to be to fall for that? I guess the spin-meisters in the Pentagon think we're all pretty retarded.

Which is not to say we shouldn't bomb Iran. After all, they've been practically begging for the two thousand pound bunker-busters, haven't they? Any towel-heads anywhere in the world who think they have a right to nuclear anything are asking for the B-52 bombing runs, if you ask me.

So between bombing Iran and invading Uganda and doing the mop-ups in the last two or three invasions that seem to linger, we are gonna have military employment opportunities for years to come.

Obama's real job plan.

US gives up on Iraq and Afpak, invades Uganda instead

Not that we're done with Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan. No, by all accounts we're losing, losing, and losing.

None of the losing is going to convince the Pentagon brain trust that we shouldn't be spreading our magic even farther afield. Ever since they created the AfriCom military command center they've been chomping at the bit to see action in Africa. Libya was the trial run. We've almost won Libya. Almost. So let us set our sights on greater glory. Uganda.

I had no idea Uganda even had oil, and I read up on this shit quite a lot. Didn't see this one coming at all. Thought we were tied down and busy busy busy with the wars we bit off already.

Not so, apparently. Nope, there's bad people in Uganda, and we're gonna get 'em.

And there's nothing like a spot of foreign adventure to take the eye off all the domestic issues.

Libyan conflict almost sort of over, again

Our racist rebels have got the Gaddafi loyalists cornered. Again.

Our racist rebels are mounting the final, this time we really mean it, final final attack on the last Gaddafi strongholds. Again.

Oopsie, there's folks in Tripoli flying the green flag again. Well, our rebels had better get on top of that right away. Again.

Anybody besides me think the NATO war for democracy for the Libyan oil fields has veered way off the script?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dog Tales

Best dog I ever owned was Buddy. "Owned" is a bit of a misnomer. You never own a dog. Depending on your temperment and their temperment they'll put up with you or not.

Buddy was a full blood German Shepard, or "Alsatian" as my Jewish neighbor referred to him. She was an old school Jew who couldn't allow herself to like anything that had German in its name. She loved Buddy, so she had to call him an Alsatian.

Absolute beauty of a dog. He put up with me as long as he could. I think the breaking point for him came with the infamous schoolgirl incident. It didn't break him right away. That came later.

The schoolgirl incident. Buddy was my constant companion, but when I went to work he couldn't come with me. I left him in the basement. Spring comes, I figure I don't want to leave Buddy in the basement when it's nice outside. I'll leave him chained to the deck. Let him enjoy the fine spring weather.

Every Wednesday I and he had an extra long day because I took a long drive to the city to visit my children, who lived there with their mom. So instead of a 8 hour day chained to the deck, on Wednesdays he had a 16 hour day chained to the deck.

So one Wednesday I get home, and it's late and there's a message on my answering machine. From the neighbor in behind. Went on and on, but the gist of it was, Buddy was dragging her daughter down the street by her hair. Huh?

Well, I did what any responsible dog owner would do, gave him a whuppin' he'd never forget. After all, you can't be having your hound dragging the neighborhood kids up the street by the hair.

It was only much later that I got to thinking about it. My initial panic was an over-reaction. I knew Buddy. Buddy would never do such a thing in malice. He was playing. Poor Buddy, chained up for 16 hours, saw the kids cutting through my yard, and naturally wanted to play. The kids were probably encouraging that. The chain snapped. Buddy is free. He frolicks down the street, dragging the kid along, the kid who had been encouraging him to play just seconds before.

I get the message from the neighbor, and of course visions of lawsuits and visions of multiple visits from the animal control folks are immediately dancing in my head. So I did what I did.

I think that whuppn' broke the bond between me and Buddy. Not long after, we were out for our morning walk. Buddy took off after a deer. Not unusual. What was unusual was that he didn't come back to me.

About a week later, I'm out for the morning walk, without Buddy. Early morning, still half-dark. I'm on my normal route, and I spy something on the trail in front of me... it's Buddy! There he is on our walking trail, just waiting for me! I was so happy to see him I didn't even have the talk about being away for the last week!

In hindsight, I should have known that he was giving me a message by not coming back to the house. Took me a few years to figure that one out. I was just thrilled to have him back. Best dog I ever knew, and he's back!

A few days later, we're on our pre-dawn walk. Buddy takes off after another deer. I've never seen him again.

I figure on that first escape he probably found a farmer or somebody who treated him well. Didn't keep him chained up 8 hours a day, 16 hours on Wednesday. Buddy came back to say good-bye.

Hope you're happy in your new home, Buddy. Miss ya.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Let's bomb Iran NOW!

I'm sure the US government would not have released the damning details of this case if they didn't have good solid evidence. And the details are damning. Those towel-heads were gonna bomb the Saudi ambassador to the USA. Even though he's a towel-head too, he's OUR towel-head. And they were going to employ the Mexican drug cartels to do the dirty work. At least they're Christians and not towellers.

Yup, makes perfect sense to me. Especially that Mexican connection. Don't you know that your radical Muslim types often employ criminal Christian gangs to do the dirty work for them? After all, leaving aside the cultural differences that might mitigate against Mexicans drug gangs working in tandem with the Ayatohlas, we know they have something in common; they all hate America!

Wait a minute.... the Mexican drug gangs hate America? Is not America their main market? Don't they love America? Why would those Mexican drug gangs work with the radical towel-heads to bash America? So they can sell more dope here after we become an Islamic Republic?

Ya, that would be it.... the radical Islamists love dope dealers. That's why our old Taliban adversaries had practically eliminated the opium trade in Afghanistan before we intervened and made Afghanistan safe for democracy. And dope. And the Taliban weren't particularly nice about how they eliminated it. Summary execution without trial. Ya, that'll get you to grow your stuff somewhere else. Like Mexico.

Ironically, summary execution without trial is a page we've taken out of THEIR handbook.

So, this is a real head-scratcher. There's about a dozen why's to figure out here. Why the Saudi ambassador? Why in America, where we've been itching to find a reason to toast them? Why the Mexicans? Why why why?

But let me keep scatching my head. I'll get back to ya....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

NHL tough guys threaten Don Cherry with legal action

Many years ago I played a bit of hockey in the Guelph Industrial League. It was a tough arena, full of wanna-be pros killing time and former Junior players staying busy. It was the bad old days of ice hockey. A few guys were just starting to wear helmets. I never owned one.

I had the privilege of playing both with and against guys who had played in the AHL, both against and with Don Cherry. Believe me, it was a lot more fun playing with them than against them.

I remember a certain Mike Mahoney.  Spent most of his pro career in the AHL, with the Hershey Bears. Washed up has-been by the time he got to our league. But you pissed your hockey pants when you saw him coming down your wing. You really didn't want to get run over by Mike Mahoney.

Don Cherry made his living in those climes for many years. Then he reinvented himself as a hockey commentator. I like a lot of things about him. I like that he held his own against the Mike Mahoney's for many years. I like the fact that as long as he's been in the commentator booth he's told it like he sees it.

There's also been plenty that didn't impress me about Don. He brings way too much politics into his broadcasts. Every Canadian who ever stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan is a HERO in Don's book, and he never fails to mention it on national TV. To me they're just a scared kid who had the misfortune of stepping on a landmine. He's been way too quick to endorse some really sketchy right-wing politicians.

One of the finest players, and one of the finest for a long long time, in that Guelph Industrial League was Johnny Hirtle. He was one of the premier players in that league, year in and year out, no matter what former pros or what up and coming juniors were on the ice. He maintained that status from his late teens to his late forties. Then it was a detached retina and a bad divorce and a job moved to Mexico that sidelined him. Jobs moving to Mexico kicked the shit out of the Guelph Industrial League. Don't know if they got a hockey thing going on in Mexico or not. I doubt it.

Johnny woulda loved Don and Don woulda loved Johnny. Both were guys who played the game because they loved it. Lately Don has come under attack from guys who loved the game because they loved the money. Enforcers. Tough guys.

Money was never the issue for Johnny, or for me, or, I suspect, for Don or for Mike Mahoney. But today, guys with half of Johnny's talent, or Don's, or Mike's are making millions in the NHL. And I think what Don was ranting about was the guys who made millions as enforcers, had no particular hockey talents, and then turn around and whine about how they got concussions and the game needs to be cleaned up.

Clean up hockey and you've got figure skating with a puck.

Dude, your pants are on fire!

They've begun the trial of Umar the undie bomber today in Detroit. You may remember Umar. Couple of years ago, Christmas day, he sets his shorts alight on an airplane approaching Detroit.

Today's witnesses at the trial recounted how they tried to alert the inert Umar to the fact his pants were aflame. "Hey dude, your pants are on fire!" I don't know about you, but that would get my attention. Pants on fire? Usually when I think my pants are on fire I know right away it's a bad case of you-know-what from I'm-not-sure -who that I met at the bar the night before. But I know that stays in my pants. It doesn't get the rest of the passengers to feeling threatened.

But not in Umar's case. They've got him dead to rights. Operative of the same Al Qeida that outsmarted the entire USA defence establishment on 9/11. How do you go from outsmarting the entire USA defence establishment to Umar, too fucking retarded to set off the bomb in his underwear? Doesn't make much sense to me.

Maybe it's a testament to how much we've degraded  the al-Qaeda. After all, ten years of drone attacks and waterboarding and secret prisons in Libya have got to count for something. Maybe the evil-doers are just getting to the bottom of the recruitment barrel, just like we are.

Maybe. Maybe not. It ain't just hapless Umar on trial here. It's the entire USA defence apparatus.

And I'm guessing they'll put up a good defence.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Uncle Tom's Revenge? Obama vs. Cain in 2012

Could happen, you know.

Obama and Cain are living proof that black men can be every bit as venal, every bit as mendacious, and every bit as stupid as white men. Thanks for that.

Gotta admit I was impressed with Obama for a time. Talked a good game. But it was known all along he relied on Wall Street for a huge slice of his campaign money. Why do we act surprised and disappointed now?

That Nobel prize was a head-scratcher at the time. A couple years later it's obvious it was just a mistake. I guess the Nobel committee was impressed too. Seems like such a long time ago, doesn't it?

The Republican field is mighty sketchy. Romney reminds the people that corporations are people too. How does he not get hung from the nearest tree for that? That's an outrageous insult to every American. Well, every American except that one percent that agrees with him. The one percent who buy 100%  of the plates at his $25,000 a plate fund-raisers.

Bachmann is too batty to get a serious chance. Palin has taken herself out. Perry had a brief reign as flavor of the day until the general public found out none of those jobs he created paid more than five bucks an hour. Christie has delayed till 2016 to allow his Weight-Watchers program to kick in. Ron Paul might actually be a Republican who can mobilize the OWS crowd. He's certainly a radical in foreign policy. Lets stay home and take care of America? Makes sense to me. But he's a long shot.

Obama vs. Cain?

Why not?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why your GPS sucks

Last night around ten we had a knock on the door.

Now usually, if there's a knock on the door after dark, we automatically assume it's the OPP, and we don't even bother getting the artillery out. Nothing says dorkshit louder than standing at the door with your Cooey single shot when the OPP tactical response unit is taking up positions up and down your driveway.

So I answer the knock, and it's some older gent, wanting to know where Kemble was. He'd punched it into his GPS, and just couldn't find it.

Well, there you go. GPS syndrome.

Any idiot with a map could have found Kemble with no problem. Any idiot even without a map has a 50/50 chance of finding Kemble. After all, you go out our driveway here at Falling Downs, turn left, and you're in Kemble in two or three minutes. Turn right, you're in Wolsely in two or three minutes. Wolsley isn't Kemble.  It ain't fuckin' brain science.

But no, Buddy at the door has punched Kemble into his GPS and he's hopelessly lost. Every once in awhile you hear these stories, and they often end tragically. "Elderly couple stranded on Montana logging road - survive for six days before eating one another and dying." It's because they trusted their GPS.

On the GPS it'll show you the Burgess sideroad going clear up to Concession 24. It does and it doesn't. If you're hiking and you've got water-proof waders on, you can do it. If your driving a 2011 Lexus, and your on-board GPS says you can do it, well, the Burgess sideroad has a surprise for you. You can't.

Same with Cole's sideroad, a couple miles to the east. Your GPS will tell you it goes to the next concession and beyond. Hahaha! I once did the trip from our road to the next concession up the Cole's sideroad. Halfway through the trip the passengers balked and abandoned ship. I made it, with little more than a few dings in the oil pan, but suggesting this route to some gullible oaf who just punched Kemble into his GPS is right next to criminal.

There you go. Believe in progress and trust your GPS, or take a map with you.

I'll take the map.

Darkies Corners

Just outside of the town of Durham Ontario there's a bridge. Embedded into the concrete is the name "Darkies Corners Bridge" along with the names of all the township bigwigs (all white, no doubt) who presided over the christening of said bridge in the 1970's. The bridge replaced an older structure and honored, in its way, the community that was moved to facilitate its construction.

I suppose that in the etymology of words that non-blacks use to refer to blacks, "darkie" falls somewhere in the middle. Not as grating as the n-word. Not as sensitive as "Afro-Canadian" or "Afro-American."


There was a bit of a fuss a few years ago about the plaque on the bridge. Ontario is one of the most liberal constituencies in North America. Whatever good-news laws you might have in Ohio or New Mexico or British Columbia, chances are Ontario got there first. We're queer friendly out the ying yang. People were coming up here from Boston for same-sex marriages, if you can imagine such a thing!

More liberal than Boston?!

Yup, that would be Ontario. And sure enough, some do-gooder revisionists took exception to the darkie of Darkies Corner. Let us expunge reality from our collective consciousness was their rallying cry.

Fortunately, saner non-concussed heads prevailed. It's still there, with offensive plaque intact, just a couple of miles east of Durham.

Seems that in the bad old days of the underground railroad and Uncle Tom's Cabin and all that stuff, quite a few black folks found their way to the Durham area and put down roots. Hence, "Darkie Corners."

It's part of our history.

History should never be deleted.

Games cancelled because gladiators might get hurt

Remember the dumb-ass who occasionally showed up in your class at college? There on an athletic scholarship of some sort. Generally never mistaken for the sharpest tool in the shed. Millionaire by the age of twenty two, thanks to his skill at knocking down some other dumb-ass who went to some other college on an athletic scholarship.

In case you missed it, there's a move afoot in the NHL to save the dumb-ass from concussions. A concussion is what you sometimes end up with when you run into some other dumb-ass at high speed. Get concussed often enough, and it's goodbye career, hello real world.

In the real world, the millionaire dumb-ass might have to get a real job. There's a reason society rewards these guys the way it does, and the reason has been fairly consistent since at least the time of the Roman gladiators. We want to see the Christians fighting the lions to the death. We want to see the bull gore the matador. We want to be entertained. In return for the entertainment we put the gladiator on a pedestal. We shower him with riches and privileges. In return, the gladiator takes some risks.

Some modern gladiators, Ayrton Senna, Bill Masterton, Dale Earnhardt among them, have paid the ultimate price. While we mourn their passing, we recognize that the possibility of their demise was an implicit part of the bargain they made when they chose their respective games. If the gladiator becomes convinced that the risks no longer justify the rewards in his chosen profession, let him do something else.

There's a few guys in the NHL who want to change the rules. They want the gladiators' rewards but don't want the risks. Don Cherry was right in calling them hypocrites. Once we take fighting and body-checking out of professional hockey, what's left?

Six hundred over-paid figure skaters.

Toronto cops gun down granny

And a white granny at that! What gives?

Apparently 52 year old Sylvia Klibingaitis had waved a knife at them. Well! That'll teach her, won't it? There's something tragically amiss here. They're either recruiting the wrong kind of people or their training is seriously flawed. Maybe a bit of both. It's hard to imagine that blazing away in a suburban neighborhood on a weekday morning is the preferred method of dealing with a pissed off woman.

They need to take a page or two out of my book. Whenever a pissed off woman pulls a knife on me, first thing I do is run to the gun cabinet, but only to grab the key out of the lock. No sense letting a bad situation escalate. I can usually outrun a woman with a knife. I can't outrun a 9 mil hollow-point. Then  I clear the hell out of there.

The thing about pissed off women is that they'll usually calm down after they let off a bit of steam. How long that takes can depend on a number of factors: weather, time of the month, gravity of perceived infraction, amount of wine consumed, and so on. How long you need to clear out can range from a half hour to, in extreme cases, permanently. Let's face it, you're not leaving any stuff behind that's worth dying for.

And that's my point. Nobody needs to die in these situations. Maybe the Police Services Board can introduce a nice simple slogan that the trainees can commit to memory.

"Turn on brain switch before cocking Glock."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

NFL bans tackles

Oops. Sorry. That was the NHL. And they're not banning tackles. They're just banning body-checking that involves hits to the head.

This is where I get really confused, and yes, I used to play hockey, at the most minor of minor leagues, and I did in fact take a few shots to the head, which would explain quite a bit. But I totally don't get how you can have a sport that allows one 220 pound white athlete to crash into same and then call it a penalty when somebody's head gets hit?

Isn't the head attached to the body?

So what they really want to do, is eliminate body-checks.

This is why you NFL fans should be paying attention. This drive to eliminate contact in hockey comes out of a concern about player health. Sorry, when you decide to make a career out of running at other athletes at 30 miles an hour on skates, the concussion you get is the concussion you signed up for. That's the name of the game. It's the game, in fact. Same with football. Excuse me, but these guys are getting millions for running into each other because it's something you and I couldn't or wouldn't do. And even if we were willing to risk a concussion, we're not nearly good enough to make the millions.

Millions. Concussions. They are hanging Don Cherry out to dry because he said what I just said. Millions. Concussions. It's a game. Football, hockey, whatever, when we pay you millions to play a game it's because we know you are taking risks we would never take.

The ground zero of this foolishness is Ontario, home of the CBC, which both harbours Dangerous Don Cherry and leads the fake campaign against concussions in sport.

Ontario just legalized MMA fights. You know, that sport where athletes are allowed to kick one another in the head.