Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Afghan Army recruits exposed as Afghan sympathizers

In a story that might as well be called  A slow day at Reuters  the news agency spins an entire article out of the self-evident ruminations of a conveniently anonymous “senior Afghan defense official”.  (Afghan forces face threat from within by Michael Georgy)

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan must act quickly to tackle infiltration of its security forces or another fatal attack on Western forces could undermine ties with NATO, a senior Afghan defense ministry official said on Wednesday, in a rare admission of the threat within.

Act quickly? Who is this guy kidding? We’ve had over ten years to get this right. Now is not the time to invoke the word “quickly”.

"We must make great efforts to prevent infiltration. This is a challenge for us," the official, speaking on the condition that he not be identified because he did not have the authority, told Reuters.
"It's a very serious matter."

It’s been a very serious matter for ten years, Officer Anonymous. It’s obviously not a challenge you’re up to.

The Ministry of Defense official said the large size of the Afghan army and police -- about 250,000 -- made it difficult to stop infiltration.

Ah! So that’s the problem; the large size of the Afghan security forces.  And here I’ve been thinking the problem is that the Afghans don’t like being occupied. But wait, Officer Anonymous has a plan:

"Our intelligence agencies will have to work on tapping phones and monitoring people's movements," said the official. "The bigger the force gets the harder it will be to fight infiltration."

Well, that’s rather unpleasant.  Seems like we’ve given up on leaving behind a free society. In fact, it sounds a lot like a police state.

By the time we leave we’ll have those Afghans pining for the tender mercies of the Soviet Empire.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Real News, Fake News, and Conspiracy Theories

For months on end the lead news story on the CBC was some report or another about how our Syrian Rebels were faring out.

At every juncture it was made clear that our Syrian Rebels were not like our Libyan Rebels and that in any event Syria was not Libya.

All of this could be categorized under the label of Real Fake News.

It's real in the sense that there is in fact a rise-up of some sort against Syrian President al-Assad.

It's fake whenever you extrapolate away from that to some sort of big-picture fantasy about Arab Spring.

But overall it loosely qualifies as news.

Lately CBC has cut away from Syria to cover the latest developments in Tori's Trial.

Tori was a little girl abducted a year ago in Woodstock. Her body was found a month later. One of the perpetrators is set to go to trial soon. That's why a national news program will devote its top shelf to a story about how Tori's parents feel about this.

They feel really bad, and have for over a year.

That is undoubtedly true, but is it news?

Has there ever been a parent of a murdered child who wasn't devastated by their loss? But is their suffering "news"?

Is their suffering newsworthy enough to pre-empt the story of a revolution in the most volatile part of the planet?

And on the pre-emption continuum, once we pass fake news we get to the land of the conspiracy theory.

When there is a real news story that can't be shuffled aside by fake news, we give it the label of "conspiracy theory."

That's the news we ignore but for whatever reason it doesn't go away.

Maybe it doesn't go away because it should have been real news.

I wrote a post six months ago about Seven World Trade Center, a project I worked on. It continues to be the most viewed post on this blog. It hints at an abiding mystery; how do ten ton steel beams give way after having been exposed to a minor fire for a few hours?

That blog post has been relegated to the realm of the conspiracy theory.

Serious media never have to address such a question because it's not real news, not fake news, it's a conspiracy theory.

Just like how a terrorist's passport floats safely to earth while a black box can never be found is a question that will never have to be answered because it has been relegated to the realm of the conspiracy theory.

What I'd like to see on the news is less about people's feelings and more answers to hard questions.

A different kind of research in motion; the 60 mpg cargo van

This photograph of a proto-type VW cargo van was taken in rural Arkansas recently as it was being put through its paces by a secretive test crew of Volkswagen engineers and computer types from Research in Motion.
There's an interesting story behind this proto-type. Seems the engineering guys in Germany had a great idea to build a cargo van based on a diesel-powered new Beetle. The project was cancelled soon after by head office, but the engineering team wasn't prepared to let it die.

One of the engineers spirited the engineering drawings to a friend at RIM in Canada. Soon enough the cancelled cargo van had a clique of believers. According to the original design specs this was a vehicle that could deliver well over 60 miles per gallon while delivering three tons of freight.

That's about a 300% improvement in fuel efficiency over the most fuel efficient cargo vans on the market. Imagine New York to Los Angeles on fifty gallons of fuel. Not in your Prius hybrid but in a cargo van!

The RIM techies retained legendary hot-rodder Dave Robinson to build the proto-type you see here. Robinson is better known in street racing circles as a builder of super-reliable yet ultra-powerful Dodge and Chevy race motors.

He had a different kind of challenge here. How do you get three tons of freight through the mountains and still keep your 60 mpg fuel economy. German engineers made numerous trips on their own dime to help coax the project to fruition.

Rumor has it that they and Robinson have more than succeeded, and that the design team is now aiming for 75 miles per gallon.

You'll be hearing more about this one.

Santorum battles Satan to a draw at the Daytona 500

The Prince of Darkness was all over this one from the moment Saint Rick Santorum announced his sponsorship of the 26 car of Tony Raines.

Threw up every roadblock imaginable.

One mechanical complication after another in the qualifiers. It was touch and go for the better part of the week but in the end the Lord prevailed and the Santorum car was officially on the starting grid. It was close though; Raines was starting from the second last row.

Then Lucifer resorted to the temptation card. Seems the number 26 pit crew headed to the local Hooters on Saturday night for wings and beer. A late night at Hooters turned into a even later night at the strip joint down the block. Informed sources reveal that the jack-man and the gas guy didn't make it back to the number 26 transporter till noon on Sunday.

Then the Father of Lies called on his demonic allies in the weather department. Apocalyptic rains forced the first ever wash out of the Daytona 500.

Oh Rick, what hath thee wrought?

From a simple stock car race you have made Daytona a battleground for armegeddon.

Santorum's angelic "Sancti-PAC" was able to repel the rainclouds and by 7 pm on Monday the race was ready for the green flag.

But the struggle wasn't over.

Satan himself climbed into the back seat of Elliot Sadler's car when nobody was watching and on the second lap reached over and made Elliot bump Jimmy Johnson into the wall, thereby causing the proverbial "big one" at least a hundred laps before we were expecting it.

The forces of light fought back valiantly and by lap 160 were up to third place. That's when foreigner and well-known papist Satan worshipper Juan Pablo Montoya deliberately drove his car into the back of a safety vehicle carrying 200 gallons of jet fuel in an attempt to burn down the entire track to prevent a Santorum victory.

Alas, Montoya's maneuvre was a partial success. The two hour delay caused by Montoya's, or I should say Lucifer's fire allowed the hung-over pit crew in Raines' camp to lose their concentration to the point that when the race was restarted three quarters of them were back at Hooters.

But even without a pit crew, the Santorum number 26 was able to finish in 19th place. Not a victory, but a good twenty places ahead of where they started.

It's safe to say that Santorum battled Satan to a standstill.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pentagon declares Full Steam Ahead in Afghanistan as anti-US riots rage

Full Steam Ahead to what?

Why the 2014 handover, of course!

Handover to who?

Why, the Taliban, of course!

That's not quite the way the Pentagon crowd tells the story.

Here's Pentagon spokesman George Little;

We're making progress. We have put the enemy on it's heels in many parts of the country.

Well, that may be, narrowly speaking, true. But it's also true that in many more parts of the country the Taliban are stronger than ever. There are more parts of Afghanistan today that ISAF/NATO/US forces simply can't enter than at any time since we liberated the Afghan people in 2001.

That's progress?

If after a ten year fight, the enemy is stronger than ever, what do you suppose is going to happen in the next two years before the handover?

Here's White House spokesman Jay Carney;

The number one reason that US forces are in the country in the first place is to disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately defeat al-Qaeda.

Hey, here's a better idea.

Al-Qaeda has already announced that they're joining us in removing al-Assad from power in Syria. We promise every al-Qaeda operative in Afghanistan a gun and a free flight to Damascus. Maybe throw in a round trip to Disney World once Assad is gone. That should get them out of Afghanistan.

In return we move up our best-before date eighteen months or so. Then we're out.

Meanwhile, they do our dirty work in Syria!

Is that not one of the finest win-win-win scenarios you've ever seen?

The Chardon High School shooting; is gun control the answer?

By now you've surely heard about the Chardon shootings. High school kid goes off the deep end and shoots four of his school-mates.

There's not enough detail out yet to get a good picture of the motivations of the shooter. Was he a bullied dweeb who finally snapped and lashed out at his tormentors?

Was he a young psycho itching to make a name for himself?

Was the shooting a manifestation of race war, class war, holy war?

Who knows?

But one thing I can guarantee you is that the gun control lobby will be all over it like flies on a cow-pie.

Nothing like a senseless tragedy to rally those folks. If you listen to them long enough you start believing that the world would be a peaceable paradise if only nobody was ever allowed to own a gun.

Except cops and soldiers, of course. I suppose they'll need them in the gun-free future just in case a few of the bad guys kept one back.

So get ready for the flood of anti-gun editorials that is about to sweep the nation. Happens every time. Hell, Michael Moore rode this issue all the way to an Oscar for Bowling for Columbine.

Personally, I'm of a different opinion. There was a time before guns. Was it less violent than today?

When Grok came home and found his woman in the clutches of Throk 50,000 years ago, he didn't reach for a 9 mil. He picked up a boulder and caved Throks skull.

Dead is dead.

On the other hand, there's going to be lots of counter-editorializing by the pro-gun folks that is just as stupid.

Your concealed carry afficianados are going to be arguing that Chardon would never have happened if every student in that school was packing.

Not sure about that. You texted my girlfriend? How dare you! Pow!

That isn't the answer either.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chicken diplomacy; as war clouds gather KFC opens store in Iran

You've got to hand it to the Colonel.

Colonel Sanders that is. What with all the war mongering that's been going on, the desk thumping and the idiotic "all options on the table" talk, it takes substantial cajones to open up a KFC in the Islamic Republic.

I'd be careful. Every time the Ayatollahs want to have an anti-USA rally they're going to send the crowds to demonstrate in front of the KFC. After all, it'll be the closest that America has to a diplomatic presence in Iran.

The Colonel will become synonymous with The Great Satan.

Iranian terror groups will link up with animal rights groups like Peta in the West and fight a combined action to save Islam from the Great Satan and the chickens from the Colonel.

On the other hand, maybe the Ayatollahs will develop a fondness for the Colonel's secret recipe.

Liberating Somalia one barrel of oil at a time

When he hosted the Somalia Salvation Summit last week British PM David Cameron was full of high-toned rhetoric about freedom and democracy and all the usual good stuff we in the righteous West like to lecture the rest of the world about.

Turns out that behind the scenes he was busy as can be lining up oil exploration deals for British companies. Yes, there's oil in that long benighted wasteland, and it's calling out to Britain to be freed!

British and American companies are hoping to cash in now that the Somalia "government" is willing to sign deals in return for perpetual propping up.

That's a bit of a problem. The "government" tends to meet in Kenya because there's no place in Somalia considered safe enough. That's because popular sentiment among the people of Somalia tends to favor Islamist groups like al Shabaab and the Union of Islamic Courts.

The only reason Somalia is not an Islamic Republic under Sharia law is because whenever the Islamist groups appear too close for (our) comfort to consolidating power, we send in Ethiopia or the Kenyans to impose our version of secular governace. These are the people with whom we are now making deals for Somalia's energy resources.

The al-Shabaab have already announced that all contracts entered into by the puppet will be considered null and void, and that the country's nascent oil infrastructure will be considered a legitimate target.

That would seem to set the stage for many years of blood for oil in the horn of Africa.

Their blood. Our oil.

Santorum sponsors race car, God replies with rain-out at Daytona 500

This is solid proof that Santorum's much ballyhooed relationship with the Almighty isn't what he makes it out to be.

Surely, if the Lord was on Team Santorum, He would have provided sunny skies today.

He would have allowed that number 26 car to steer through the numerous inevitable crashes unscathed. He would have made sure the pit-stops were blessed with divine guidance.

And surely He would have guided Santorum's car into the winner's circle.

Instead, in His infinite wisdom He has visited torrential rains upon Daytona.

What does that tell you?

Allies run for cover as US threatens to "redouble our efforts" in Afghanistan

US ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker today promised that America will redouble her efforts to do whatever it is they still think they're accomplishing over there.

Crocker apparently thinks that involves creating a climate wherein the Taliban and al Qaeda won't move in when the US moves out. Given that the US has already promised to leave by the end of 2014, at which point the Taliban will effectively be handed the country, it's hard to see what difference a couple of years is going to make. If we haven't "won" Afghanistan in the last ten years we're not going to win it in the next two.

ISAF allies France and Germany have meanwhile pulled all civilian personnel out of the country, citing the climate of extreme hostility created by the Koran burning fiasco.

And even America's allies in the Arab world are strongly suggesting that it's time to fold the tent. Here's what Dubai based Gulf News has to say;

The apologies pouring out of the US make very little difference. The same apologies are heard after every slaughter of innocent civilians in drone attacks. They simply indicate that the NATO force has lost any legitimacy it might have had at the start, and needs to leave Afghanistan.

Santorum meets the press with the Lord by his side

Did you happen to catch Rick Santorum's turn on Meet the Press this morning?

Seems we've got this apology thing all wrong over in Afghanistan. Obama and the military brass have been falling all over themselves with "we really really mean it this time and it'll never happen again" grovelling over the burning of the Koran.

Apparently that's not what Jesus would do.

According to Santorum, the correct response would be something along the lines of "shit happens, get over it," which doesn't particularly reverberate with Christ-like compassion or humility.

In fact, Santorum thinks it's the Afghans who should be apologizing to us.

For what?

For making us invade their country and then being such ungrateful turds about it I suppose.

Israel inks $1.6 billion weapons deal with Azerbaijan

Since the break-up of the former Soviet Union the central Asian republic has been courted  relentlessly by the West. In return for access to their oil fields we've given them semi-official observer status at NATO and pretended not to notice that their practice of democracy has not evolved very much from the single-party Soviet era.

Presumably the delivery of state-of-the-art missiles and missile defense systems to this country on Iran's northern border is intended as a vote of confidence in the Azerbaijan regime. It's also intended as another poke in the eye for Iran. This is where the strategy of assuming that anyone who buys weapons from the West is automatically our "ally" is at serious risk of back-firing.

When the first breezes of Arab Spring wafted over the Urals last March the government wasted no time in ruthlessly snuffing out the voices of opposition. Does that make it a reliable ally? If and when hostilities break out with Iran, in which direction will those missiles be pointed?

Azerbaijan is a Shia Muslim country whose commitment to democracy is tenuous to say the least. While the pro-NATO orientation of the authoritarian government may be reassuring in some circles, the loyalties of the majority of the population would more likely lie with their Shia neighbors in Iran.

On the same day that the Israeli missile deal was announced the government also welcomed an official visit by the Chief of Staff of the Pakistani Armed Forces.

That's another ally we should never be too certain of.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Burkies Bong: how marijuana destroyed the Toronto Maple Leafs

Ok, I'll fess up right up front; I have no idea if marijuana destroyed the Leafs.

All I know for sure is that for the 97th year in a row they are not going to be in the playoffs.

My pal Kipling dropped by tonight while I was watching the Leafs get hammered by the Washington Capitals. As regular readers know Kipling likes to burn one now and again.

So we burn a couple, and we're watching this game.

Ovechkin doesn't seem to be his old self.

No, surely not.

And that young Ward fellow. Been pretty much invisible since he signed that four year deal at three million a year. We can relate to that guy; used to run into him all the time when he played for the junior team here.

I can understand it in a way. You work your ass off your whole life trying to make it to the bigs. You get there, and holy shit, three million a year over four years?




No sense getting hurt now.

But we're talking about Caps.

What about the Leafs?

Well, Kippers twists another one up and we speculate on what might be ailing the Leafs.

Look at Kessel, he says between tokes.

Ya, I reply.


How about those Leafs?


Kessel, I say. What do you think about Kessel?


We decided to watch Pass Time instead. Great show. Nobody's been smoking pot, and if they have, it doesn't impact their performance.

What's this 1969 Chevy Nova SS with the 375 horse 396 going to do in the quarter?

Nathan Rothschild meets extra-terrestials at secret Davos meeting

And if you believe that, you're fucked in the head.

Actually, Nathan Rothschild just lost a libel case in Britain, proving again that while he might be a relatively rich guy, he too has feet of clay.

Who goes in for this nonsense that's pedelled all over the internet, about the Rothschilds and crop circles and the end of the world?

The elite control the world, that's true. That's why they're known as the elite.

But it's got nothing to do with the Illuminati or the Rothschilds or extra-terrestials or Davos or Bilderberg.

It's got everything to do with the fundamental intrinsic nature of capitalism.

Letting a few control everything is the logical outcome of how we allow capitalism to be practised.

There's nothing wrong with capitalism. There's never been a more efficient way of mobilizing human resources.

Problem is, left to its own devices, capitalism eventually eats its host. When you get to a place where vulture capitalists like Mitt Romney are held up as paragons of capitalist success, you have reached a tipping point.

Mitt Romney and the likes of Bain Capital don't enable capitalism; they destroy it.

There are huge swaths of society that will never be accomodated by winner-take-all capitalism.

The sick.

The poor.

The elderly.

Those marginalized for any reason.

That's why there needs to be a "we" to regulate capitalism.

Netanyahu still clamoring for US attack on Iran

Netanyahu doesn't get that the Bomb Iran train has left the station.

Not to bomb Iran, but to find smaller fish to fry. America is in no mood for another disaster in the Middle East.

Even without nukes Iran is a formidable enemy. Remember a couple of weeks ago when the blogosphere was awash with stories about how 200,000 missiles were aimed at Israel at any given moment?

These are real missiles, not the home made pipe rockets the Gaza wankers are firing off into the Negev every other day.

By the way, the real resistance in Gaza has plenty of real rockets, way more than ever before, thanks to NATO's "liberation" of Libya. They've been bringing more than Toyotas and concrete blocks through those tunnels.

So even after the military intelligence apparati on all sides conclude that an attack on Iran would be an unmitigated disaster, we still see politicians in Israel and America banging the war drums.

Especially those politicians financed by Sheldon Adelson.

Here's the Falling Downs plan to avert a new Middle East war. Put Sheldon under house arrest and confine him to his apartment in Tel Aviv.

As long as he's within range of those 200,000 missiles, the war talk from Likud and the Republican party in the US will magically disappear.

Arab Spring in full bloom as Washington's bum-boy takes power in Yemen

Out with the old, in with the new.

Yemen has finally rid itself of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Washington annointed autocrat who ruled Yemen with an iron fist for thirty plus years.

In his place they now have Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the Washington annointed replacement for Saleh.

A glorious triumph for the forces of democracy, to be sure.

Saleh's family remains in control of the armed forces, so this change of government isn't really that much of a change.

But it does make for some optimistic headlines.

Blood Sport: Daytona and "the big one"

Who remembers the Le Mans catastrophe of 1955?

A Mercedes race car left the track and killed 83 spectators. A further 120 were seriously injured. The accident took Mercedes out of racing for a generation.

I was reminded of this while watching the Nationwide race from Daytona this afternoon.

They had "the big one" late in the race. I saw the 52 car slide right underneath the car in front. Anything could have happened.

Sooner or later "anything" will happen. A car will launch into the grandstand at 200 mph. Scores will die. Scores more will be maimed. Lawyers will have a field day for the next twenty years.

And isn't that what compels us to watch?

Arab Spring officially dead

And who better than Robert Fisk to write the obituary.

Love him or hate him, and plenty are on either side, Fisk knows and understands the Middle East better than virtually any Western based writer.

This past week he journeyed to Tunisia to visit the cradle of the Arab Spring.

Tunisia has thus far come off as the glowing success story in Western media coverage of the various Arab springs.

Egypt's spring took control of the country from the army and gave it to the army.

Libya's spring took the country away from a benevolent crank and gave it to three hundred semi-organized militias who continue to run amok to this day.

Springtime in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia was strangled in its crib.

Syrian spring is being leveraged by the usual suspects into a cudgel with which to pummel Iran.

If you're not familiar with Fisk's work you don't know the Middle East. When Fisk says Arab Spring is over, you can be assured that Arab Spring is over.

How to avoid saying sh*t when you're choking on it

I'm spending the afternoon going back and forth between the Nationwide race at Daytona and the news channels. My idea of a perfect day.

I like this Ali Velshi character who hosts a program on CNN called "my money" or "your money" or whatever. Turns out he's from Obama's tribe in Kenya, which took me by surprise because I thought I was googling a fat white guy. That new flat screen really does distort stuff sometimes.

Anyway, while Danica is slipping back in the field Ali's got David Frum on and they're having a chit-chat about the supposedly explosive new book by Charles Murray, Coming Apart.

Murray likes to make waves by writing books wherein he proposes ludicrous explanations for self-evident phenomena. Coming Apart focuses on the relative decline of America's working class since 1960. Oddly enough I've pegged the high-water mark for America's working class to the Teamsters Master Freight Agreement of that era. If Murray read this blog he wouldn't have had to write this book.

Frum apparently has a few bones to pick with Murray about his analysis of the decline of America's working class. He makes the point that there's really nothing new in Murray's book. He's right on that one.

Frum also makes the interesting point that there needs to be an analysis of why the lot of the working class improved so much from 1910 to 1960, and has been in a slow fade ever since.

Not once was the word "union" mentioned in the chat with Frum.

Exit Frum and here comes Ali's next guest, demographer-sociologist-all-round-smarty-pants Richard Florida.

Wouldn't you know it, but Velshi then has the exact conversation with Florida he just had with Frum, except he doesn't seem to realize it.

The conversation turns to how our society could turn tens of millions of shit jobs into good jobs. They dance around the problem for a few minutes. After exploring re-education and life-long learning and all the usual claptrap about the brave new world and the knowledge economy, they hit a dead end of sorts.

While any given individual can be educated for a high-skill well paying job, it just means somebody else is doing the shit job; the minimum wage stuff in nursing homes and restaurants and so on. How do we turn those into "good" jobs?

To my shock, Florida finally uttered the word "union". I was aghast!

The mainstream media is on the cusp of discovering something that's been painfully obvious for at least a hundred years;


Execution-style slaying of US officers raises disturbing questions in Kabul

After ten years of occupation you'd think that the NATO forces would have made a little more progress in winning the hearts and minds of our Afghan allies.

Apparently not.

The execution-style murders of at least two senior American advisers inside the heavily-guarded Interior Ministry exposes the extent to which the NATO/ISAF mission has been an abject failure.

The Interior Ministry was considered secure because access to Afghans was virtually impossible except in the role of translators. In other words, there is no safe place in the country for members of the occupation forces.

This also exposes the sham charade of the "training" that we are supposedly doing over there. The Afghans quite obviously don't need training. They are amongst the most resourceful fighters and killers to be found anywhere. The "training" missions are merely a pretext for maintaining control over the country's armed forces and thereby keeping a nominally "friendly" government in power.

It's time to declare victory and get the rest of the troops out now.

Let the Taliban train their own. They're much better at it anyway, and they've already got the hearts and minds on their side.

Hamas joins al-Qaeda and Hillary Clinton in call for regime change in Syria

Well this is awkward.

It was bad enough a week ago when al-Qaeda boss al-Zawahiri endorsed Hillary's campaign to free the Syrian people. Now she's got the Hamas terror group from Gaza on board as well.

No word yet on whether Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah will throw his lot in with the anti-Assad forces, thereby creating a "terror trifecta" all rowing in the same direction as Obama and Hillary.

Not that this is primarily a Hillary/Obama problem. A number of prominent voices on the Republican side have been clamoring for more active US support for the Syrian "rebels".

In combination with the recently aired footage that shows the "unarmed protesters" of Homs to be heavily armed revolutionaries, the Hamas endorsement could be part of an elaborate climb-down on the part of the Obama administration and NATO.

After all, how can we possibly be seen as supporting al-Qaeda and Hamas?

Rare footage shows peaceful protesters in fierce gun battles with Syrian Army

CNN has been airing video from the besieged city of Homs that appears to contradict the news that CNN has been airing for months, i.e. that peaceful protesters are being slaughtered en masse by the brutal al-Assad regime.

The video shows peaceful protesters fighting street-to-street, house-to-house, and room-to-room against members of the Syrian Army. Shot over a period of two days, we see the unarmed protesters firing thousands of rounds at soldiers cornered on the upper floors of a government building.

Throughout the video, the unarmed peaceful protesters are heavily armed and seem to have unlimited access to ammunition which they fire non-stop in all directions.

Makes you wonder about the veracity of our "news," doesn't it?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Crop circles predict that Justin Bieber is the Messiah!

Oops... Oh wait a minute. I'm getting mixed messages from the crop circles...

Here we go... Bieber is the.... A N T I C H R I S.....  wait a minute!

That can't be right. Let me try again.

I'm walking around my crop circles with a divining rod and a ouiji board. Been walking around in circles for hours. The messages keep changing...

O B A M A  A N T I C H R... oh shit! Obama is the anti-Christ? No, just hang on here. Let me try again.

Wait! Be very quiet - I think I'm getting a message... I hear a "N"....

N E W T  H A I L T H E  M E S S I ....

Say what? Newt is the Messiah? Or is the crop circle delivering a message to Newt, that he should hail Justin Bieber? If it's a message to Newt, why is the crop circle in my field instead of Newt's?

These damned crop circles are so vague in their messages...

Boot-gobbling hound strikes again

A couple of weeks ago we were working out the mystery of the disappearing Wellys.

Lucy has struck again.

Yesterday I was busy in the bush lot at the back, carving up that old elm for firewood. Brought a trailer-load back to the house.

The boots tend to collect a lot of sawdust, so I left them on the front porch as a gesture to the farm manager. She can get downright hostile when I track chainsaw shavings all over the house.

Without giving it another thought I let the hounds out this morning.

This afternoon, planning another firewood run, I went out to retrieve my boots. Nowhere to be found.

There is a small scattering of leather and laces and insulating material under the apple tree by the barn.

I think that used to be my boots.

Pentagon announces new Apology Center

Pentagon media spokesperson Susan Blackmore today announced the creation of a task force that will study the feasibility of an Apology Center.

The Apology Center will augment the usual Pentagon news briefings and will streamline the process of Pentagon news delivery.

"We have found that far too much time in our normal news briefings is spent on apologizing." Blackmore said. "It's come to the point where routine mission announcements and declarations of victory have been delayed because the communications infrastructure is tied up with one apology after another."

In the past week alone the Pentagon has held thirty-seven apology briefings. Apologies have been made for everything from the rape of military cadets to the unintended vaporizing of Pakistani farm families in drone strikes to the now infamous Koran burnings in Afghanistan.

"Hopefully our Pentagon news briefings will be able to focus on good news instead of the constant stream of apologies," Blackmore added.

Pending a successful feasibility study, construction of the Apology Center is expected to be completed in 2015.

Romney strikes out in Detroit

Romney packed them in at Ford Field today. Seven or eight hundred of them.

Ford Field seats 70,000.

That's what the professional political advisors commonly refer to as a "gaffe".

You and I would call it a major fuck-up.

Mitt's unbounded hubris aside, I suppose it's a source of wonderment that he pulled in as many as he did. He's got a lot of nerve even showing his face in the Motor City.

After all, none of the front-runners went as far out of their way as Mitt did in proclaiming that the Big Three should be left to go down the drain back in the bail-out bonanza era.

The opinion at the think tank here at Falling Downs is that the car companies, at least the two that took bailout money, didn't actually need it. They saw an opening and went for it. Free money, and even more important, a chance to ditch their legal obligations to their pensioners and rip up their contracts with the UAW. Worked like a dream.

They're suddenly experiencing record profits.

So the bail-out, however fraudulent it may have been, is seen as a success in Michigan, and Romney is seen as a major party-pooper.

Which makes you wonder about the polling numbers released today. At least two seperate polls showed Romney leading in Michigan.

Eight hundred people at Ford Field showed something else.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fox's Bill O'Reilly sez GOP race not cool with old white guys

And he had three old white guys on his show just to prove his point.

Sucks to be you, Bill. Must hurt a lot to see the unwhite old guys taking over the roost.

One of the issues Bill was particularly incensed about was those Persian towel-heads giving us the finger about their nuke program.

Guess I'm a bit of a traitor in the incensed-old-white-guy ranks.

As an old white guy, I think it's dispicable that anyone would want nukes.

Nukes have been nothing but bad news ever since the US tried off a couple on Japan back in the WW 2.

That was enough for me. Ever since, I've thought it was pretty obvious that nobody should have any.

But the nuke club keeps expanding. The Russians needed them to balance out the US. The Chinese needed them to balance out the Russians. The Indians and the Pakistanis needed them to balance out the Pakistanis and the Indians.

And now the towellers in Iran think they need them to balance off the Israelis.

Well, when you think about it for a moment, they probably do.

The IAEA nuke cops are crawling all over Iran as I write this.

They steer clear of Israel.


And that's a question that "No-spin Bill" will never even have on his radar.

So long Syria, hello Somalia!

There’s enough hot air coming out of London this week to send a fleet of dirigibles to the horn of Africa, there to rain thousands of tons of “projectiles of democratic values” down on the al-Shabaab evil doers currently doing their evil on the benighted people of Somalia.

All the usual suspects are in town for the Somalia Salvation Summit, usual suspects meaning NATO and a few hangers-on.

The fact that Clinton and Cameron are making bold pronouncements about Somalia also tells you something about Syria, i.e. that NATO has washed its hands and isn’t about to get more involved than it already is.

And if they’ve had a change of heart about Syria, it also tells you something about where their thoughts are on Iran. Syria has essentially been a proxy front in the war on Iran.

So while there’s going to be continued braying for Persian blood from the usual right-wing war-mongers in Likud and the GOP, the reality is that NATO has decided on smaller fish for their next adventure.

Like Somalia. After generations of anarchy during which we occasionally sent in our proxies from Ethiopia or Kenya to flatten a few villages, the fact that Somalia suddenly merits its very own conference means bigger things are in the works.

Hillary Clinton herself has announced that Somalia stands at a crossroads.

Cameron must have thought he heard “crosshairs” instead of crossroads and immediately offered to begin bombing raids on the al-Shabaab.

Canada’s John Baird is just hoping the world has forgotten the last time Canadians were bringing democracy to Somalia. That effort resulted in the torture and murder of a number of Somali civilians.

So good luck to you, Somalia! Good things are just around the corner now that NATO’s got your back.

And carry on with that nuke program Ayatollahs; you’re good to go for now.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The most prolific prolificator of terror in the world

That was Rick Santorum at the Arizona debates talking about Iran.

A comment that was met with wild cheering by the audience. A comment entirely devoid of any grounding in the world of hard facts and reasoned analysis.

But it's a comment that can be expected to go over the fence in a political debate cum reality show.

If this reality show is any indication of what the state of the Union really is, America is far more profoundly screwed than we could ever have imagined.

This reality show isn't about who gets to marry the bachelor or who gets to stay on the island.

This reality show is about who gets to be leader of the free world. Which always has veto power over the rest of the world, so in actuality we are watching a reality show that will choose the leader of the human race.

And when you frame it like that, it's got to be the most depressing show you've ever watched.

The Arizona debate; political theater or reality show?

Had the entire Falling Downs think tank gathered round the TV to watch the debate tonight.

It was Junior who labelled it a reality show.

He's right. These debates don't really debate anything. It's a prime time reality show for the benefit of whoever can get the most easy shots in. But it's a reality show that matters more than most of the other reality shows. The guy who wins this one has a good chance of being the leader of the free world.

That's a scary thought.

Romney likes to go on and on about how he learned to balance a budget when he was in private business.

Maybe he did, but let's not lose sight of the fact that his business, when he was in "private business", was to carve up other businesses, strip their assets, loot their pensions, and leave the entrails to the tender mercies of the welfare safety net.

Romney also likes the idea of linking public sector wages to those paid in the private sector. Since it's the vulture capitalists like Romney who have done more than anyone to drive down wages in the private sector, this bold gesture for wage parity has just a little bit of a bitter taste to it.

Newt played a good game here. He's playing to the masses with his appeal to bring back $2.50 a gallon gasoline. Oh, and he's gonna bring back jobs too.

If you're on a reality show and you are after the most votes, jobs and low gas prices are a sure-fire winning combo.

I haven't stayed up late enough to see how the official pundits rate the debate, but I'm thinking Santorum failed to claim a distinctive turf. He's against Obamacare. He's against entitlements. He's had his hand in more balanced budgets than any of the other guys, at least according to him. He's the guy who won't take a penny away from military spending because after all, it's so much lower now as a percentage of GDP than it was in 1945.

Keep those stupid wars coming.

Then there is the candidate not like the other ones.

Ron Paul is polling beyond his highest hopes. To be on the stage in Arizona as one of the "final four" is an achievement in itself.

While the other three guys are debating how best to do something, Paul comes up with a really radical option: how about we just don't do it.

That's revolutionary.

Koran burning: could military do more to offend Muslims?

You've probably run into the story by now. Pissed off Afghans rioting outside the US embassy in Kabul. So far they've managed to kill seven fellow Afghans.

What are they pissed off about?

Seems the cleaning staff at one of the local torture centers discovered the charred remains of several Korans in the course of their normal duties.

You'd shudder to think what they normally find in the course of their "normal" duties. Teeth, fingernails, blood, bloodied implements of one kind or another, dead people.

All in a days work.

But they find the remains of a charred Koran and all hell breaks loose.

Just highlights how a modern society like ours and a primitive one like their's have different perspectives on this sort of thing.

If we found a stack of charred Bibles in America we'd naturally conclude that a Marilyn Manson tour had just passed through town. No big deal.

Over there, they take their religion seriously.

Adelson threatens to drop another $100 million on Newt's Super-PAC

This has got to have the Romney camp worried.

Romney has deep pockets. He's by far the richest man in the race. He can donate to his own PAC to his hearts' content.

But there's rich and then there's Sheldon Adelson Forbes Billionaire List kind of rich.

Mitt can't drop a hundred million just for fun. Sheldon can.

So what could Newt do with a hundred million in fresh cash in his PAC? Oh my goodness! The advertising agencies that craft the attack adds are going to be working 24/7 for months on end.

The researchers who dig up the dirt to fuel the attack adds are going to be working 24/7 for months on end.

That's already dozens of pretty regular folks wringing a lot of OT out of Sheldon's largesse. After all, lighting guy or cameraman at a production shop that's subcontracted by an ad agency to do political attack ads is probably an anti-war stoner in a same-sex marriage; he doesn't give a shit who wins the GOP nomination but he's thankful for the work.

Hell, maybe this is the new economic model for America. Forget manufacturing. Forget high tech. Maybe the American economy can be rebooted to feed off the election campaigns. We know its cyclical, just like the rest of the economy, but at least we can predict the cycles.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The parable of the chicken factory

Once there was a chicken-killing factory.

Industrial scale chicken killing is a nasty business.

You're in chicken guts and egg yolks up to your ankles. And you know all that stuff that's up to your ankles will be scooped up, mashed up, dehydrated, freeze-dried, deep-fried, and presented on some fast-food menu as "chicken strips".

The workers in the chicken-killing factory all hated their jobs. But they showed up on time every day because they needed the paycheck.

After all, it's not that many kids sit around in grade school, ignoring the math lesson so they can focus on their life's dream of killing chickens.

One day one of the chicken kill-line guys says to me he paid twenty bucks that month in union dues. For what?

That got me started.

You don't have to dig too deep to find the most odious examples of union corruption. That seems to be the fall-back position for a lot of anti-union folks.

On the other hand, look at my chicken-killing friend here.

Killing chickens is not rocket science. You don't need a graduate degree to kill chickens. In fact, you don't even need a high school diploma.

So Buddy doesn't bother with the education, drops out of school half way through grade ten, and lands a job on the kill line at two and a half times the minimum wage.

The reason that job on the kill line pays more than minimum wage is because the chicken factory is unionized.

Otherwise the low bidder would be the dude hired for every job, and every job would be bid down to the minimum wage level. Contract says $15 an hour? Surely someone will do the job for 14... oh here comes someone who just arrived in the country and needs a start; they're in for 12....oh, there's a guy who's been out of work so long his children are starving, he'll work for minimum wage.

Thank God for the minimum wage!

Without unions there would be no minimum wage. Without unions there would be no forty hour week. Without unions it would be a free-for-all.

Eventually some poor guy will come along and work for free, as long as he can take a chicken home to feed his family.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ron Paul high on hemp in North Dakota

Speaking to a crowd of farmers while on a campaign stop in North Dakota, Ron Paul praised the potential of industrial hemp as a cash crop, AP reported today.

"There's no reason, in a free society, why farmers should not be free to raise hemp," Paul told the cheering crowd.

Actually, I'm guessing Paul doesn't even know the extent to which hemp was a mainstream agricultural product in America before it got tainted by the drugs prohibition movement.

Hemp is a near cousin to marijuana of course, which gets the war-on-drugs crowd hot under the collar. These are the folks who think the reason that fifty years and hundreds of billions of dollars haven't won the war on drugs is because we haven't been trying hard enough.

Paul is the only candidate in the GOP race who approaches the drugs question with an iota of common sense. He recognizes that 50 years and hundreds of billions is long enough to prove it ain't gonna work, so maybe trying something else, like regulation and taxation, might be worth a try.

So it stands to reason that he's not going to go along with a hemp ban just because the plant looks like pot.

Before the fear-mongers got all over it Henry Ford was experimenting with using hemp fibre for body panels on his cars. It's also useful for making clothing, construction material, and alternative fuel.

Hell, hemp could save America!

Here's the article:

US taxpayers on hook for $250 million to finish Canadian legacy project in Afghanistan

Remember the Dahla Dam?

It was to be Canada's signature project in Afghanistan. It was trotted out regularly as an example of Canada's humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

Well, turns out the "we-don't-cut-and-run" Canucks left the job in disarray when they cut and ran.

Don't know what they spent their tens of millions on, but apparently not much happened in the way of dam rehabilitation. Knowing the Canadian way, it's likely that ten years didn't really provide enough of a time window to do much besides planning, setting out parameters and protocols, and funneling money to various Karzai-related intermediaries.

That, and write a few feel-good news stories about it.

Now that the planning is done and Canadians are long gone, the US Army Corp of Engineers are looking for a few good contract proposals for finishing the job.

It's all there on the website, solicitation number W5J9LE-12-SS-0003.

The Corp estimates that the job will cost in the range of $100 to $250 million to complete.

In case your thinking about submitting a proposal, be aware that there's a timeline for completion. The US Army wants the job done by December 2014.

That's America's cut-and-run date and they want to have the project wrapped up in time to turn it over to the Taliban.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Robert Mugabe promises Zimbabwe free elections as birthday present

Not that the people are getting their hopes up. This is the 32nd year in a row that they've been promised the same present.

In that time Zimbabwe has seen her relative standing on every conceivable quality-of-life index plummet. Where Zimbabwe was once one of the most prosperous nations in Africa it is now one of the poorest in the world.

Infant mortality has doubled.

Life expectancy has dropped 20 years.

A quarter of the population has sought refuge outside its borders.

But the wise men of the West, with that R2P card in their holster and an itch to use it, decide to save the people of Libya, who before their liberation by NATO enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa.

Could it be because Libya has oil and Zimbabwe doesn't?

Iran cuts off oil to UK, France


Oh really?

This is totally a non-story, but it's everywhere. Getting prominent play in the NYT, The Washington Post, UK's Telegraph, and on and on all over the democratic free press on both sides of the Atlantic.

The wording of the headline is intended to give the impression that this is yet another Iranian provocation.

The reality is that France and Britain import virtually zero Iranian oil now, and have already announced that will become absolute zero in a few months when the EU embargo on Iran's oil takes full effect.

So is this a story?

One wouldn't think so, which is not to say that the Washington Post and the New York Times couldn't find some interesting angles for an "Iran continues to export oil" story.

Here's a few story suggestions:

  • why is the worlds largest democracy and our ally India still committed to buying Iranian oil?
  • why is NATO member Turkey still buying Iranian oil?  
  • are oil traders in Switzerland still facilitating Israel's purchases of Iranian oil?
These are all stories that pose interesting questions. The answers to these questions might even be "newsworthy".

A story about Iran cutting off non-existent exports to countries that don't buy its oil anyway and are already committed to boycotting it is hardly "news".

Campaigning politicians say the darndest things!

Really stupid stuff like "no new taxes!"

Or one of my favorites; "jobs, jobs, jobs!"

It's only after the election that it becomes clear that they were talking about jobs for Mexicans.

And this is by no means an American phenomenon. Seems to be pretty much endemic in the so-called democratic world.

Take President Sarkozy of France, the land where 95 year olds ride  around on bicycles with a baguette in one hand and a glass of wine in the other while smoking a cigarette.

Sarkozy is up for re-election. He is deeply unpopular, so re-election is going to be an uphill slog.

He dropped the gloves and come out swinging. Wants the public to know that he and he alone saved France from certain catastrophe once already, and that only he can save it again.

Of course, he's also saved Libya in the interim, but at least for now he's being quite humble about that success.

Sarkozy is also attempting something of an image makeover on the fly. Long regarded as a toady of the rich, out of touch with the record numbers of French unemployed, he is now recasting himself and his super-model wife as "regular folks".

So far the magic isn't working. His Socialist Party opponent has a good twenty points on him in the polls.

Seems the French would rather be saved from him than by him.

Iran could plunge Middle East into new cold war

If you've been checking out the international news sites this weekend you've seen some variation of that headline.

It's a quote from British Foreign Minister William Hague. Does serve to catch the eye, doesn't it? When you see "Iran" and "plunge into war" you want to say oh-oh!

Or maybe not.

Could Hague really be saying that some options are now off the table? After all, given a choice, it's not a hard one to make between a "hot" and a "cold" war. Is the "hot" option off the table?

Hague has been right up there with Hillary and some of the GOP candidates in making bellicose statements about Iran. I read this as a ratcheting down by several large degrees.

Similarly, the anti-Assad rhetoric seems to be calming just a bit. Is it possible that the NATO/Pentagon brain trust doesn't have the stomach to go another round in the Middle East at this time?

Or with a number of NATO political leaders facing difficult election campaigns, have they decided that boots on the ground in Syria or an attack on Iran would be prejudicial to their chances of re-election?

Either way, looks like we're seeing  a subtle ramping down of the war talk.

Or maybe it's just the calm before the storm.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Commie blogger sees light, applies for job at Caterpillar plant in Georgia

That's right folks!

Gonna roll up the rugs here at Falling Downs and head for the Peach State. I'll be joining up with my dream team, the Newt and Cain Travelling Revival Show.

Gonna stay awhile too.

Dusted off those welding tickets and sent my resume to Caterpillar. Got my eye on one of those twelve dollar an hour jobs at the new plant they're building just outside Athens.

Already scoped out the real estate market in the new 'hood. Figure I can find me a nice,and I mean really nice trailer within a fifteen minute drive of the plant for about fifty thou. Maybe even less if I bargain hard.

Planning to pick up some new wheels too. No point heading south with the fleet. Fellow over in Johns Creek has a almost mint '79 Lincoln Town Car on offer for a mere $3,500. Has the half-vinyl roof and the leather interior, and according to the ad almost everything works.

The '79 was the last of the big sleds. Two and a half tons of American glory floating down the Interstate! Cadillac had downsized in '77. Lincoln didn't go to the smaller platform till '80. This particular car has the 400 instead of the 460, and lacks the moon roof, but I'm sure she'll do fine for my new life in Georgia.

Coincidentally, twelve bucks an hour was what I made at Harjim Machinery Works when that Lincoln was new, but I couldn't afford it then.

Just goes to prove that good things come to those who wait long enough!

Iran warships dock in Syria


Because they can.

They can roam the Mediterranean at will now that our Egyptian Islamist Springtimers have handed them the keys to the Suez canal. Heck, I suppose they could dock in Haifa if they wanted!

Wouldn't that be a great shore leave for the Sailors of the Towel?

A few days of r&r in the Holy Land! They could stock up on all the stuff that's hard to find in the Islamic Republic. Like Justin Bieber CD's. Tylenol. Madonna videos. Yankees ball caps.

Maybe tour some of the holy places. God knows the Holy Land is desperate for tourist dollars.

And maybe the Israeli Navy could reciprocate with shore leave for it's sailors in Iran.

Before long, you'd have two peoples trading with one another and visiting back and forth.

Heck, they could even swap tips on the secret development of a nuclear program!

Santorum's bright idea: zero tax rate for the super-rich!

As you well know, Rick Santorum has never had an idea.

He relies on financial bag-man and billionaire backer Foster Friess to have the ideas for him.

And Foster's come up with a good one!

Countering the tide of socialist billionaires like Gates and Buffet who have been clamoring for higher taxes on themselves, Friess proposes a zero tax rate for the super-rich!

In an interview with Bloomberg Friess says rich people are far better qualified to decide where to spend their money than is the government. They would fund performing arts centers and art galleries and high-end medical research all over the place if the government wasn't constantly robbing them of 15% of their income and wasting it on lazy people.

Friessen is an old-school Bible-thumper who claims not to have any ideas. Rather, he is a conduit for God's ideas.

So really, it's not Santorum's idea, it's not Friess' idea, the zero-tax rate idea comes directly from Jehova.

And it's certainly not as if Jehova just came up with it.

A few years ago one of His other spokespeople on earth, Imelda Marcos, exclaimed "thank God there are so many poor people in the world; it means there will always be opportunities for the rich to do good deeds!"

Venezuela ships oil to Syria in violation of sanctions

I'm riffing off a Reuters exclusive here, and it's got to be just about the fishiest story of the day.

Yes, there's lots of oil in Venezuela, and most of it gets shipped to the US, but because Chavez is a bit of an independent thinker and likes to call American leaders nasty names, we don't like him. Therefore our independent Western media seldom misses a chance for an anti-Chavez smear.

So of course, the evil Chavez would violate sanctions that are intended to bring the despotic and freedom-hating al-Assad regime to its knees.

Never mind that Syria is herself an oil exporting country. Never mind that its next-door neighbor Iran, also rumored to have some oil reserves, maintains friendly relations with the al-Assad government. Never mind that Venezuela is not a party to any international embargo of trade with Syria.

It's just such a darn good story!

And Reuters manages to juice it up even more with speculation that Assad needs the oil to fuel the tanks and heavy artillery that have been busy firing on unarmed protesters these past eleven months!

Libya one year on; it's a good news/bad news story!

Here's the good news.

Libya's Deputy Oil Minister Omar Ahakmak announced this week that Libyan oil refineries are operating at 100% capacity!

Seems that the country's petroleum infrastructure largely escaped the NATO bombing campaign that pulverized the civilian infrastructure.

If Gadaffi had been thinking he'd have hidden his weapons of mass destruction and his mercenary hordes in the oil refineries instead of in schools and hospitals. They could have held out indefinitely.

Alas, there's bad news too.

Outside the oil refineries, the country continues to be terrorized by the former NATO rebels who now call the shots. Anarchy prevails across all major cities. There is no central authority and the rebels are accountable only to themselves.

But at least the oil is flowing!

NATO back-pedaling furiously over Syria

"We have no intention whatsoever of intervening in Syria" NATO boss Anders Rasmussen announced today from Ankara, where he has been overseeing the negotiations to free 49 NATO intelligence advisers held by the Syrian Army.

Which begs the question; how did those NATO advisers get captured in
Syria, if we're not interfering already?

And from Mexico, where she's helping celebrate the success of the War on Drugs, Hillary Clinton tweeted this morning that the US continues to stand behind the Syrian opposition and support the "protesters".

It's not like the NATO boss to contradict his US masters.

So is Rasmussen back-pedaling or just lying?

The think tank here at Falling Downs believes that this is a bit of strategic fibbing in the course of negotiations.

Once the NATO advisers have been released it'll be back to a full court press for "humanitarian intervention."

And we all know what that looks like.

NATO "advisers" captured in Syria

In the tsunami of rumor and propaganda that's washed over the mainstream media about Syria recently it's remarkable that this story has remained hidden.

Turkish news sources reported on Feb. 9 that 49 Turkish intelligence operatives were being held by the Syrian government.

A story on the Haaretz site today puts the number at 40 and claims that  Syria and Turkey are negotiating a swap that would involve Syrian Army officers being held at a NATO base in Turkey.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and his entourage flew into Ankara this week to take over the negotiations.

Turkey has been a NATO member for 60 years.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Lucy ate my Wellys

Regular readers are well acquainted with the hounds here at Falling Downs.

Lucy is the black-orange brindle with the cropped tail, the pup.

Boomer is the old girl.

Lucy is still in the chew-everything-in-sight stage of puppydom. She's done in an old Bible, a stack of 70's era car magazines, and a variety of extension cords.

And my TSC Wellys.

I'm as partial to boots as Lucy is. Except I don't eat them. I just wear them on my feet. Wear them till they fall apart.

For example, I've got a pair of Salomon hiking boots I bought in Calgary in '99. Still pull them on every morning when I do my 5k with Lucy and Boomer. Socks hanging out the sides, they're well past their "waterproof" guarantee, but I just can't give them up.

Just too damned comfortable.

Came from a shoe store in a Calgary mall. The store was having a going-out-of-business sale the day before I was going to hike up the glacier behind Lake Louise with my kids.

It was a purchase meant to be.

Not much good in the wet though, not anymore, what with your socks poking out the sides. That's why I had the Wellys. For those wet occasions.

With the late winter and the early spring we've been having more than our share of those around here, and the other day I'm looking for the Wellys.

Put them on the shelf right between the Bible and those old car books.

Can't find a trace of them anywhere.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mario Monti: most important man in the world

Actually, when Time magazine put him on their cover, he was only the "most important man in Europe".

Well, if this blog had a cover, we'd fix that caption. Obviously an oversight by the folks at Time.

So why is this Goldman Sachs advisor and un-elected Prime Minister of Italy the "most important man in Europe/the world?

Damned if I know. Seems to have something to do with his links to Goldman Sachs.

After all, they're the mega-bullies who've engineered the current economic crisis, and they're also profiting most handsomely from it. I shouldn't say Monti was not elected. Goldman Sachs elected him to be the democratically elected leader of Italy.

Getting their boy on the cover of Time must be something of a coup.

But I can see why Berlusconi had to go. His insatiable appetite for teen tarts was becoming a bit of an embarrassment.

So now Mario has his big test in front of him. He has to tame those commie-infected Italian labor unions. You know the ones. All about a living wage and paid holidays and the usual smorgasbord of union demands.

Enough of that!

DEA gives Mexico drug war slaughter thumbs up

There are some useful insights to be gleaned from a CNN opinion piece entitled Is Mexico's drug war strategy working?

You know the war. The one that's been waged with US money since Calderon's election. The war on drugs that has taken 50,000 Mexican lives since 2006. The war that's keeping cocaine and marijuana out of America.

Any problem finding cocaine or marijuana in your corner of America?

Didn't think so.

But here's Rod Benson, Intelligence Director of the DEA, on a drug war that has taken 50,000 Mexican lives and made no impact whatsoever in the availability of drugs in the US; "it is moving in the right direction, and I believe it will bear dividends in the future."

Oh great!

Fifty thousand dead Mexicans might disagree...

...but what the fuck; they're dead anyway!

Romney; corporations are people but workers are a liability

There goes Mitt, strutting around Michigan blowing the anti-bailout trumpet. He thinks he's campaigning.

That's not a particularly receptive audience for that particular trumpet, one would think.

Folks in Michigan remember the original Chrysler bail-out, the loan guarantees of 1980. That was a deal originally agreed to by a Democrat. Ronald Reagan was originally against it, but once he saw which way the wind was blowing he was all over it. Got on great with Chrysler boss Lee Iacocca too.

The bailout saved the company and tens of thousands of jobs in Michigan.

And Mitt doesn't seem to want to spend a lot of time talking about how the government bailed out the pension plan at GS Technologies, one of the many victims of the "restructuring specialists" at Bain Capital.

Long story short, Romney's restructuring specialists took control of GS for eight million dollars, paid themselves a dividend of 36 million the following year, and then let the company go down the drain. It was left to the federal government to cover the losses in the GS pensions.

But that's capitalism today. Nevermind the time-consuming process of building a company up through decades of hard work and innovation and struggle in the competitive marketplace.

That's for old-school idiots.

Romney stands for new-age vulture capitalism. Buy it, strip it, dump it.

You'll get a lot richer a lot faster.

Canada slams door on Roma refugees

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced changes to Canada's Immigration Act today that are specifically targeted at Roma refugees.

He didn't stand up in parliament and put it in those words, of course. He's a politician.

What he did say is that there has been a surge in bogus refugee claims from "democratic" countries in the EU.

That would be democratic countries like Hungary, where the ruling extreme right coalition has declared war on the Roma population.

Which would explain the surge of refugee claims from Hungarian Roma.

But because Hungary is "democratic" according to the dictates of the extreme right government in Canada, those refugee claims are self-evidently bogus.

Ottawa had a similar policy going on in the 30's vis-a-vis Jewish refugees from Germany. Nazi Germany was a democratic country after all.

What could go wrong?

Mitt Romney in Michigan; steps in cowpie while trying to get other foot out of mouth

... and the whole time he's got his head up his arse!

That whacky Mormon. What a mensch!

Just today I was reading the saga of Mitt's (corporations are people but workers are a liability) takeover of a steel mill in Kansas. The Bain Capital boys bought control of the place in '93 with 8 million of their own money.

The next year they paid themselves a special dividend of 36 million. Whee-ha! That is good old yankee ingenuity at its finest, is it not?

Anyway, the 90's were not kind to the steel business, and a few years after Romney pocketed the "special dividend" a company that had once employed thousands was shut down for good. The federal government had to step in and bail out the employees' pensions.

Mainwhile the Bain boys had set up a new non-union steel plant across town. Lavished with state of the art technology and a lower pay structure, it's done very well.

Oddly enough, Mitt's been touring the state of Michigan touting the evils of bail-outs. Kind of bad timing that GM's record results came out in the middle of his campaign there.

Then again, you can't blame Romney for the government bailing out the pensions of his former employees.

He woulda let God's will run its course.

GM posts all-time record profits

Well glory be!

From death throes to record profits in less time than a supercharged Cadillac can cover the quarter mile!

The politicians are falling over themselves to take credit for the resurrection. W claims it was his idea. Nothing doing, Obama says.

It's a beautiful story though. Shows what 80 billion in Tarp loans can do for an American industry better known for having tens of thousands of vice-presidents than for its products.

At least they had products. I think what really rankled the car companies was seeing all those bail-out billions being handed out to the too-big-to-fail banksters.

Like, what the hell do they do? At least we make cars. I think. Somewhere. Hang on, let me check with my administrative assistant.

Yup! We make cars, dammit, and we employ millions of proud American workers and... what's that?.. not millions?... OK, we still employ a few hundred thousand proud Americans, so where's OUR bail out bonanza?

Alright already, patriotic American car companies, step right up and let Uncle Sam have a lookie into those books!

Hmmm... cause for concern. Tell you what. Seems you've been playing Santa to those UAW guys. Here's the plan.

Cut wages in half. After the last thirty years of driving them into the ground, there's lots and lots of folks happy to work for jobs that pay like it's 1976.

Cut those union pensioners off their health care benefits altogether. Let's get serious. What are they doing for you these days? These tough times are no place for sentimentality. Besides, they're sick and old. They'll be long-gone well before any class actions make it to court.

You do that, and Uncle Sam will cut you a big fat Tarp check, alrighty!

And now that profitability has returned with a vengeance, can six-figure bonuses for all those vice-presidents be far behind?

Canada's economic engine out of gas

It's the same old song; the feckless masses, led by irresponsible union leaders, have been living it up far too long and now the time has come to pay the piper.

Same old prescription too; slash government spending. Slash pensions, slash spending on education, health care, day care, drug benefits to seniors, slash and slash some more. Let's slash our way back to prosperity.

The dismal scientist offering up this vision of the future isn't some German banker talking about what's good for Greece. It's a Canadian banker talking about what used to be Canada's richest province, Ontario.

Not long after TD Bank group's chief economist Don Drummond retired the Ontario government hired him to head up a commission to crystal-ball the province's economic future.

Drummond's report was released this week. With a whopping 362 recommendations about what to slash, Drummond and his fellow dismal scientists were churning out recommendations at the rate of almost one a day for the year it took them to write their report. That's a lot of catered working lunches at the best conference rooms at the finest hotels, all on the taxpayers tab, but I digress.

Our mewling media now propose that this report comes as a slap in the face to Premier Dalton McGuinty and his free-spending ways.


Dalton McGuinty knew exactly who Drummond was and what he could expect in this report when he hired him.

Here's a quote from a 2009 article Drummond, then still top economic wizard at TD, wrote for the National Post:

...the script for better productivity growth is well known. We just need the will with issues such as employment insurance and welfare programs that incent people not to work.

Aha! Thats the secret! That's why the Ontario economy has been coasting downhill for a generation! It's not the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs that have been off-shored - it's the lazy workers sitting on their sofas waiting for the next check from Sugar-daddy McGuinty's all-too-generous welfare programs!

Drummond's entire 2009 article remains posted on TD's website. It's worth a read if you're interested in the insights of a man who will ride his new-found retirement notoriety into a lucrative sideline as McGuinty's Special Advisor on Austerity at the rate of several thousand dollars a day.

On the other hand, if you're already aquainted with the rough outlines of neo-liberal orthodoxies, you won't find much of interest in it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Anarchy as an instrument of foreign policy

I'm not talking about the "black bloc" wankers who wreck every otherwise legitimate demo here in the "West".

We all know those supposed anarchists tend to be 3/4 undercover cops and 1/4 misguided teenagers.

I'm talking about real-world anarchy like the US invasion created in Iraq and the NATO intervention created in Libya.

The anarchy that we created there prevents the machinery of civilization from functioning effectively. Everything from tax collection to garbage collection to routine policing goes down the toilet because the rule of law is no more.

Who benefits from this?

Well, we do. You'll notice that the only locii of law and order in either Iraq or Libya are the oil fields.

As long as there is law and order in the oil extraction industry we don't care what happens in the rest of the country.

Besides; keeping civil society and the state apparatus disorganized and weak prevents them from developing nuclear weapon programs.


Yup, it's official.

Our NATO rebels are out of control.

I think this blog was saying that six months ago, but now it's official.

CNN has noticed that our rebels are out of control.

I guess what that really means is that official media couldn't ignore reality any longer. Our rebels loot and plunder and rape and pillage with impunity. Six months after the demise of the evil dictator.

And it's still Gaddafi's fault...

Check the story out on CNN's home page right now.

Is the Linsanity for real?

The hype is real. What about the player behind it?

Remember the hype around Carl English? Set all kinds of records at the U of Hawaii. Cut short his college career to declare for the draft. Hired a video crew to come to his house on draft night.

Didn't get drafted. That had to be one of the most humiliating moments a wannabe pro ever inflicted on himself. Been kicking around pro basketball in various European leagues ever since.

So, I'm not much of a sports guy to begin with, and I hear about this Lin fellow, and even though I figure it's bound to be another English-style self- immolation, I just have to have a look.

The Knicks played Toronto last night. For three quarters Lin looked pretty average. Made some nice plays but gave away the ball a lot. Played against Calderon most of the time.

Lin got better as the game got closer. Made a couple of plays in the last five minutes that were exceptional. Then we get to the last possession.

Lin holds holds holds the ball till the last possible second. That was utterly masterful, a beautiful thing to watch. It was like time stood still.

With one second on the clock he does a vertical rise of about four feet, shoots over Calderon's head and sinks three points with .5 on the clock.

This guy is the real deal.

Linsanity rules!

Top cops call for legal marijuana

Four former Attorneys General have written to British Columbia Premier Christy Clark recommending that she lobby the federal government to legalize marijuana.

British Columbia has a major drug-cultivation scene and the underground marijuana economy would make pot the province's biggest money-maker if it were to be legalized, taxed, and regulated.

The four are certainly not the first government insiders to make such a call. Four former Vancouver mayors have also called for legalization. It's been obvious to all concerned for at least two generations that the "war on drugs" is a lost cause.

Legalization, taxation, and regulation would bring the business out of the hands of the gangs and into the mainstream. Less gang involvement means less crime, which means hundreds of millions saved in prison, policing, and court costs.

Taxation means hundreds of millions in new revenues for governments at evey level. Where is the downside in this scenario?

Alas, something so sensible isn't likely to get the thumbs-up from the law-and-order guys in Ottawa. Any measure that would reduce the need for cops and prisons isn't going to see the light of day in the Harper era.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

If you're not for unlimited police monitoring of the internet you're for pedophilia

That's the word from Canada's Minister for Public Safety, Vic Toews.

Sounds like one of those biblical all-or-nothing declarations that W was so fond of. "If you are not with us in the war on terror, you are against us and for the terrorists."

Toews is one of the law-and-order guys so at home in the Harper cabinet. It was only last week that he attracted a little ink with his declaration that torture is hunky-dory and damn right Canada will act on information derived from torture.

Now he's claiming that anyone against unlimited police powers to track your internet travels is obviously a supporter of child porn.

Otherwise, why would you have anything to hide?

Well Vic, not that you'll find any child porn, or even grown-up porn on my computer, but there's plenty of things you don't need to see.

Like my e-mails to my children.

Like my e-mails to and from lawyers about this and that.

Like my visits to a variety of websites across the political spectrum that might be considered "radical" depending on what kind of imbecile gets the Minister of Public Safety gig next.

Like my frequent letters here and there about trading Kessel and firing the front office.

Like... like a whole lot of stuff.

The Office of Public Safety was one of those post-9/11 creations that sprang from the initial Twin Towers attack, much like the Department of Homeland Security in the US.

Since there's never been another 9/11 these folks find themselves in the awkward position of having to constantly invent imaginary terror threats to justify their continued existance.

So they go home and read 1984 every night and wake up to new terror threats every morning.

Like, oh, you know, people who might want to take their manicure scissors on an airplane.

Box-cutters, manicure scissors,... hey, you can't be too vigilant in these dangerous times.

And why don't we have a look-see through your in-box just to see if you've been aiding and abetting people who want to take their manicure scissors on an airplane.

What? You object?

What do you have to hide? Could you have kiddie-porn on your computer?

Think we better have a look...

Terror networks recruiting mentally handi-capped from madrassas

It's good to be vindicated by mainstream headlines!

Twelve hours after posting about the stupidity factor among the "enemy" we learn that a supposed Iranian secret agent sent to Thailand on a terror mission only blew his legs off instead. Not only that, but the blast left his Iranian passport intact as well.

The terror bosses have to hate it when that happens.

You really have to wonder about the quality of their recruits, don't you?

The undie bomber. "Dude, your pants are on fire!"

Indeed. And the guy before that. The shoe bomber. Over-powered by fellow passengers after wasting two books of matches trying to set his Addidas trainers on fire...

Where do they get these guys?

And these are the people who are building themselves a nuclear weapon?

I'm guessing they'll accidentally blow up their own nuclear program long before they're a threat to anyone else.

Let's all relax a little.

Defense Minister Peter "Pinocchio" MacKay claims submarine fleet will be seaworthy in no time

Canada's Defense Minister claimed today that he expects Canada's much maligned sub fleet will be fully up to snuff in no time.

Fat chance! Canada bought this fleet from the Brits over ten years ago. Since then they haven't had a "fleet", because when the damned things aren't breaking down or in for refit, the Navy guys are running them into the rocks at the bottom of the ocean.

Cost of this sub fleet so far to the Canadian taxpayer? Well over a billion dollars and counting. And no sub fleet yet.

Here's the article MacKay was commenting on:

Damage to Canadian sub much worse than navy let on last year

HMCS Corner Brook returned to CFB Esquimalt last June after hitting bottom near Nootka Sound.

Photograph by: Darren Stone, Times Colonist, Times Colonist

Leaked photos of the Victoria-class submarine that struck bottom in Nootka Sound last year show a gaping hole in the boat's nose - damage much more severe than the Royal Canadian Navy initially let on.
The nighttime photos of HMCS Corner Brook, obtained by CBC, show a large gash shaped like an inverted triangle that pierces the rusty vessel.
The submarine ran aground on June 4, 2011, while conducting underwater manoeuvres 45 metres below the surface during advanced officer training. A navy board of inquiry found the crash was "avoidable" and that an inexperienced commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Paul Sutherland, had the sub more than 450 metres from its intended position.
But the navy report played down the damage, saying the boat "incurred damage to her bow and experienced minor leakage in a forward ballast tank."
Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, former head of the Senate defence committee, said he was taken aback at the level of damage.
"It was an incredible hole in the front of the boat and I was shocked at that," Kenny said in an interview Monday. "It looked about 10 or 15 feet high and maybe 10 feet wide."
The navy moved the ship from the waters of Esquimalt Harbour to the dry dock at night, and base policy prohibited CFB Esquimalt employees from taking photos of it. Media photos like the one accompanying this story captured the boat submerged in the harbour.
Kenny said naval officers have told him the hole is in the outer fibreglass shell, and does not affect the structural integrity of the submarine's crucial pressure hull.
Retired rear admiral Roger Girouard said "they are pretty ugly looking pictures, I'll grant you that." He added the torn fibreglass is similar to the plastic parts of a car that do not affect how the car runs.
HMCS Corner Brook is at the Esquimalt graving dock, awaiting repair by Victoria Shipyards.
Two submariners suffered minor bruises from the impact of the grounding, but Kenny said he's worried about the psychological repercussions for the 60 crew members after what must have been a traumatic experience.
The navy also played down the disruption in HMCS Corner Brook's training schedule. At the time of the crash, it said the boat was just three weeks away from extended maintenance period that would have it ashore until 2016.
Kenny said photos of the hole will add to the crisis in confidence Canadians feel over the submarine program, which has cost taxpayers about $900 million since the government bought four used Victoria-class vessels from Britain in 1998 for $750 million.
Not one of the four submarines is fully operational.
HMCS Windsor and HMCS Victoria are set to be certified and equipped with weapons by 2013. HMCS Chicoutimi, damaged by a fire in 2004 that killed one officer, is to be in extended maintenance until 2013 and certified a year later.
Girouard said that while it's important for Canada to have strong submarine capabilities, he can understand frustration at the growing price tag for ships sitting idle.
"For folks who aren't savvy about all the maritime issues at play right now, who already are in a place where they're not sure about the value of boats, I guess it does add to that," Girouard said.
Kenny said Canada's navy needs to ditch the battered subs and invest in new ones. Because the four boats are constantly undergoing repairs, there isn't a lot of opportunity for submariner training, Kenny said, which could lead to more serious accidents.
"Having two submarines on each coast goes a long way toward providing security for Canada. If these boats keep on having problems, we should get out of them and we should move onto something that works."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Global stock markets rise as Greece sinks into despair

The Greek parliament today passed the latest round of so-called austerity measures in an attempt to soothe the international community's concerns about their ability to repay the latest rounds of bail-out loans.

"International community" in this case seems to mean mainly the Germans. There are a number of banks in Germany that are going to have some difficulties in the event Greece defaults on her sovereign debt.

There are of course a large number of opportunistic investment banks and hedge funds in America that have been buying up Greek debt at a steep discount and now clamor for the Greeks to pay up.

That's a pretty sweet deal, when you think about it. You buy Greek government bonds at forty cents on the dollar and within the year blackmail the Greek government into paying back the face value. That's certainly going to top up the bonus pool at Goldman Sachs next year.

And the folks paying those bonuses, the working poor and the pensioners in Greece, will have absolutely no say in the matter beyond the sporadic street protests we've seen so far.

But global markets went up today, so I guess it's all good.

Iran's secret agents even dumber than their nuclear scientists

And we know the pathetic state of their nuclear scientist pool.

For at least twenty years now these imbeciles have been months away from a nuclear weapon. And guess what?

They're still months away!

Turns out their black ops guys graduated from the same schools. Rember a couple of months ago when they had the plot to kill the Saudi ambassador? How lame was that?

Now they've spread their terror tentacles to Georgia and India. Didn't succeed in taking anybody out, although in India they managed to injure a couple of people who are of absolutely no consequence to Israeli security.

Meanwhile, their top nuclear scientists keep exploding in mysterious spontaneous combustion incidents.

Coincidence? I think not, folks, and I wouldn't lose too much sleep worrying about any Iranian threat.

Seems to me the threat is pretty well contained.

Mossad still using Canadian passports for black ops?

This is a question that flares up every few years. It's flaring up again. The London Sunday Times claimed this week that the use of foreign passports is in fact an ongoing policy in the Israeli secret service.

But I don't think they're still using Canadian passports, and here's why.

When Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird did his tour of Israel last week, personal ultra-orthodox Rabbi in tow, he made such an embarrassing spectacle of himself that frankly, Canadian passports just attract too much attention.

When Canada's Foreign Minister repeats dozens of times on one trip the mantra that "Israel has no better friend in the world than Canada", well, there's quite a lot of places where they're going to raise eyebrows when they see a Canadian passport.

Our passports were much more useful back when we were a quiet supporter of Israel. A Canadian passport got you into and out of a lot of nasty places because we were seen as a more or less neutral entity. Sure, we're pretty much limited in how far we can deviate from the path set out for us by our big neighbor to the south, but right back to the Pearson era there was a strain of independent thinking in Canadian foreign policy.

A few years ago that would have made a Canadian passport a useful tool for Mossad.

With the ascent of the Harperites and the slavish pro-Likud turn that Canadian foreign policy has taken, Mossad agents will attract less attention using Israeli passports.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Grammys

Hard to know what to think.

Certainly a lot of remembrance of Whitney Houston.

Maybe this could have been the moment that some of the big wheels in the biz took advantage of their TV time to say a word or two about the decriminalization of drugs.

Maybe if we treated addiction like it's a health issue instead of a crime, some things could change.

Nothing in Houston's career suggests that criminalizing addiction has any positive repercussions.

As things stand, we seem determined as a society to keep on keeping on the road of war, the "war on drugs".

How's that been going in your neighborhood?

Jorge Neff and the zen of procrastination

Professor Jorge Neff was a walking encyclopedia when it came to issues around colonialism and third-world development.

It's not called the "third world" anymore of course. The winds of political correctitude have rendered the third world into the developing world, the post-colonial world, and God only knows what else.

I got to know Jorge when he taught a course in International Studies at the University of Guelph many years ago.

Jorge was a blast. A refugee from Pinochet's Chile, he'd found at least a temporary refuge at this lovely little second tier university in Canada. And he totally knew his stuff.

Pinochet was the guy we installed in Chile after that democratically elected commie Allende committed suicide by shooting himself 57 times in the back with a machine gun.

Anyway, Professor Neff opened my eyes to different perspectives on what might be going on in that great big world out there.

And as much as that was an eye-opening course, my eyes soon became preoccupied with the minutia of day to day life. Raising children, paying the mortgage, and so on.

So it was only thirty years later that semi-retirement permitted the luxury of rediscovering International Studies.

And here's what's so great about that.

At any given moment I've got a to-do list a mile long here at Falling Downs. The dining room needs re-plastering. The wood-shed needs re-stocking. The bathroom ceiling needs re-painting...

The farm manager is never shy about mentioning the to-do list. Luckily, as long as I'm sitting in front of the computer typing out some obscure take on peace in the Middle East or the 2012 election campaign, she figures I'm working for the greater good!

What's more important? Peace in the Middle East or the bathroom ceiling?

See what I mean?

Obviously, to write even semi-intelligently about world affairs requires a ton of research. See where I'm going here? I mean TONS of research. I'm talking about a viable excuse to sit in front of the computer all day long when others might think I should be cleaning up the bat shit in the attic or painting the bathroom ceiling.

And the fact that every once in a while a reputable almost-mainstream website picks up one of my blog-posts... well!

How is the farm manager going to argue with that?

One thing I've learned from all this research is how wide the range of opinion is on any given issue. Take this attack on Iran that may or may not be in the works.

Mainstream American media pretty much sees it as a done deal. It's just a matter of timing.

The Likud faction in Israel seconds that sentiment.

But then a whole range of security insiders in Israel are on the record as claiming this would be the biggest nightmare in Israel's sixty+ year history.

I have to admit I'm a little partial to the point of view of the insiders. With them, there's at least a chance they know what they're talking about. No guarantee, mind you, but at least a chance.

Which is why I was fascinated by MJ Rosenberg's essay on the Al Jazeera website today.

Rosenberg is very much an insider. Knows AIPAC, knows his way around Washington, knows how stuff works. His latest missive is Will AIPAC and Bibi get their war?

I'm not going to spoil the fun for you. Look it up and give it a read. Find out for yourself what this insider thinks.

Anyway, between reading that and writing this, I've probably taken care of a good two hours of time that would otherwise have been spent on chores around Falling Downs.

Thanks Jorge!