Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fishing then and now

The Farm Manager brought home some "planked salmon" that she'd caught at the Wiarton Foodland last week.

It was on sale, which gives cause for a lot of forgiveness on my part.

"Planked salmon" for those who don't know, is a slab of salmon fillet on a chunk of cedar that, according to the instructions, is to be put into the BBQ right there on top of it's own cedar-slab cutting board.

I remember years ago on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, I saw a guy fishing in the surf down by the beach. Figuring I'd make some small talk, I went down there.

Hey, how's the fishing?

Cum see cum saw the guy says. Holy shit, I'm asking a simple fishing question and the guy breaks into Latin?

Back when we were simple German immigrants who got to Canada from Poland via Denmark, I remember that we'd go on family fishing expeditions along the Grand River between Fergus and Elora. I remember we'd catch a lot of Perch and a few Catfish, but according to my parents everything we caught was a "smelt", and catch and release was an unknown concept.

If we caught it, it went in the fry-pan.

So I was mightily discombobulated when buddy on the beach answered my next question. Have you caught anything?

Ya, but I let them go.

Say what?

This made no sense, no sense whatsoever.

After a moment of head-shaking I said, so why are you standing here all day?

I swear, the guy looked at me like it's me who's retarded.

I looked at historical data from the fishery in the Saint John river out in New Brunswick, and according to the stuff I saw, back in the old days the  fishermen could make a year's wage in a few days when the herring or the salmon run was on.

Of course, greed being the way of things, the herring are scarce to non-existent and the salmon haven't run the Saint John River for years. They still run the Mirimachi and a few other rivers, but today the only people fishing there are foreigners who hire a local guide at $800 a day.

I should say those are the only people fishing legally, because in New Brunswick, just because the law says you can't fish doesn't mean people don't. In fact, one of my buddies at the drydock was telling me about his favorite fishing hole, and I said isn't that the Saint John water reservoir?

He says, ya, and you park your boat-trailer right by the no-fishing sign out by the highway!

And there was a multi-scale approach to fishing and poaching. You needed a tag to catch salmon, which is what the rich tourists got for their $800 a day.

It was only after I'd been there for a time that I found out there was a price you got for a salmon you had a tag for, another price for a totally illegal salmon, and yet a third price for a salmon that had a tag but the customer gave the tag back to you.

But this is now.

There's a case flailing through the Ontario court system where some local oafs beat up some Chinese fishermen somewhere north of Toronto.

The Chinese fish for Carp. I guess it's an acquired taste, because even long before the niceties of "catch and release" Carp was a throw-back.

I'm thinking most of the "smelt" my immigrant family was catching back in the early '60's was probably throw-back material too.

Luckily, we stayed under the radar of the local immigrant-beaters and we had some mighty fine fish feeds.

As for the "planked salmon," it comes from fish farms in Norway, and sale price or not, I don't imagine it will be returning to Falling Downs anytime soon.

Pork barrel redux

Back in the day we used to rent a nice four-bedroom townhouse in Bar Harbor for about two hundred a night. That was going to turn into a thousand a night in "high" season, so we pretty much never visited Bah Habba, as the locals call it, after April.

You cross the river at Calais (pronounced "Calus" by the locals) and all of a sudden you're in the land of eternal sunshine.

Not that the sun shines more in New Brunswick than it does in Maine, but if you have occasion to drive up the east coast make a note of the highway on-ramps and off-ramps in NB when compared to Maine.

In Maine they are just regular on-ramps etc.

In New Brunswick a ramp, on or off the main highway, can go on for miles.

This is the legacy of Richard Hatfield, who was elected time and again as Premier of the Province at a time when everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY knew the man was gay and it was not yet socially acceptable to be "out".

I once asked a cab driver in Saint John about that.

"So what's up with the Preem? Seems he spends more time in New York City than he does here. Why you keep voting for the old fag?"

Here's the answer; "the old fag, as you so rudely put it, takes care of business."

And he did!

Those four-mile-long on-ramps kept a lot of redneck paving contractors and all their red-neck employees busy with regular pay-checks.

Once when a reporter asked him how he could justify spending more time in New York than New Brunswick, he replied "just because I run the place doesn't mean I have to live there."

How can you not love that! A truthful politician!

Cadillac Mountain

Back in the day when the missus of the time and I lived in New Brunswick we used to head down to Maine now and then, stay for the weekend, and then head back with our legally obtained tax-free alcohol and tobacco. Not to mention the extra alcohol and tobacco stuffed into the front and rear bumpers of the Oldsmobile Firenza that was our main transport at the time.

Bar Harbor was a happening destination at the time. You'd have your Harley crowd and your bicycle crowd. They'd pretty much frequent the same bars and restaurants, but the way you could tell them apart was the bicycle people wore helmets.

The Harley crowd didn't.

Then there was the Cadillac Mountain crowd. I'd almost call it  a cult.  Cadillac Mountain is the first place in America that the sun shines on every day. Cadillac Mountain is just outside Bar Harbor, and every morning it is besieged by folks from all over the USA and beyond who want the sun to shine on them first before it shines on anyone else. Don't take my word for it - drive up to Maine and see for yourself.

Cadillac Mountain was named after the same guy who the Cadillac car was named after. This was in an era where the Cadillac brand still had some call on it's motto; Standard of the World.

And arguably it was the standard of the world. Caddies were luxurious and fast.

I've never owned a Cadillac, but my dad had a couple back in the day.

He had a blue Fleetwood around '71 or so.  Had the 472 motor. It was big and heavy and the upholstery was rich and deep, and it wasn't hard to see why a guy who navigated his way out of refugee camps in Denmark might find it appealling.

That was followed up by the butter-yellow '76 Eldorado. Man was that a sweet car!

But back to Cadillac Mountain. One day back in the Iraq War times we headed up there, and while you can drive most of the way to the top, you still have to get out of the car and hike the last hundred feet or so. We're hiking, and suddenly, around a bend and over a ridge, there's a whole whack of Military vehicles just a sitting in the shrubbery, generators  running flat out and radar antenaes spinning round and round. A hike up a hill turns into Realpolitik 101 just like that. After all, Old George had his summer place just a hundred miles or so down the coast, and in those heady times the evil Saddam could have launched some of his WMDs onto the Maine Coast quicker than you can say "bullshit", so the forces of GOOD were right in protecting the vacationing President.

Dad was pretty good about loaning me the Caddies when I had an important date or something. Not that I made a habit of it. It wasn't like you could leave cigarette burns and used condoms in your wake. Well, you could have I suppose, but at the time I wasn't ready to push the boundaries of parental  indulgence quite that far. Funny thing was, when Dad got really comfy with his role as wheeler-dealer in the new world, when he was 100% confident that the bank was going to honor that $100,000 check even if the account was a couple of dollars short, he traded that last Caddie for a Subaru.

Which was the end of borrowing Dad's car for hot dates.

Something's fishy at the Christian Science Monitor

Or at least in Jaroslaw Adamowski's reporting on Romney's visit to Warsaw. This quote in particular caught my eye;

Former US President George W. Bush proposed a plan for establishing
an anti-missile defense system in Poland, which Poles welcomed as
additional border security. President Barack Obama has since
abandoned this plan, displeasing many Poles.

Poles welcomed the US missile shield and many of them were displeased when Obama abandoned it. This is someone's opinion masquerading as fact. Not only is it opinion, it's flatly wrong.

In an essay published in 2007 Polish think-tanker Lukasz Kulesa quotes an opinion poll result that showed 55% of Poles against the missile shield and 28% for. While Kulesa doesn't name the poll the numbers match one done by Angus Reid early in 2007.  Surveys done later in the summer show the percentage in favor diminishing as those against increase.

So instead of a blanket statement about the enthusiasm with which the Poles embraced the offer of American missiles on their soil ("which Poles welcomed") a truthful telling would have spelled out that while a minority of Poles agreed with the plan, more than twice as many were against it.

Can this kind of mis-representation be accidental? I don't think so. The intent is to promote a world view in which of course everyone would love to have US missiles stationed in their country, because nothing says "we're with the big dog" quite as eloquently.

What Americans find so difficult to comprehend is that the club of those wanting to line up with "the big dog" shrinks constantly.

As for the CSM, it's sad to see the once prestigious title stoop to this kind of shabby non-journalism.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The long drive

Have to say I love the long drive.

That is one thing I have in common with my dear father.

He likes the long drive too.

After he had the auxiliary tanks fitted out for the motor home he was able to do the Great Lakes Circle Tour in a day and a half, where mere mortals thought two and a half weeks was a good time.

I've never left the old boy much reason to swell with pride at the thought of me, but he'd be proud of this; I made it from the door of ex-wife 2 to the door of my daughter's place in res at Trent University in exactly one minute under two hours.

Look at a map and figure that out!

Quite a few times when the co-spawn of ex-wife 2 and myself were living in Ontario and I was still at the Irving shipyard in Saint John I made the Saint John to Guelph trip in under 13 hours. In fact, I once nailed it just under 12!

Those were painful times. A twelve and a half hour drive and a four hour visit with my children and then twelve and a half hours back to fitting pipe-hangers aboard the good ship HMCS Vancouver.

But I digress. The long drive.

Paul Newman and I once did the Calgary-Toronto run in well under 30 hours. We were driving Paul's Grand Marquis. That right there is a sign of the times, isn't it?

What car company nowadays would have the audacity to market something called a "Grand Marquis?"

"Oh, I see you are piloting a Grand Mar Kiss, so I assume you are a total twat!"

But Pauli and I took turns and kept the hammer down and by God we set a personal best on that Calgary - Toronto jaunt.

The one highlight of the trip will forever be the pedal-to-the-metal 20 laps around a boarded-up gas station in North Ontario with an OPP cruiser in hot pursuit. I'm driving and the g-forces wake Paul up and he says "you're not playing ring-around-the-service-station, are you?"

Of course not... go back to sleep... meanwhile, the last lap I did I see fuckface the uber-keen OPP recruit has piled the cruiser into the snow berm, and we're good to carry on down that trans-Canada highway!

And I still like the long drive. What's even more fucked up is that my father still has his driving license, and he still revels in the long drive.

Not that long ago I was heading back home from a wedding in Montreal. I'm cruising at about 140 kph, and there's this motor home looming bigger and bigger in the rear-view... oh there it goes, he's well ahead of us now...

Talk to you when I catch up with ya, Dad...

The long drive...

Are we all Kerouac's children or what?

Today's top stories...

It's hard to pick 'em, isn't it?

You've got you're Pussy Riot trial over there in the former evil empire.

Not sure who Putin has doing PR on this file but I have to say they're fucking up big-time. Hell, I could do a better job...

Then there's the steady stream of athletes booted from that orgy of corporate self-congratulations, also know as the "Olympics", not for cheating, but for tweeting.

Seems those corporate sponsors are still aboard the Political Correctness bandwagon, so any tweet slagging an opponent that can in any way be interpreted as "racist" has got the tweeter out of the Olympic Village quicker than a dozen syringes and a couple of empty blood bags.

Then you've got your plucky ragtag rebels over there in Syria, fighting the good fight for democracy, sponsored by those democratic bellwethers Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

That's a good one, isn't it? But how we fall for the bullshit...

Romney's "I'm Presidential material just watch me" tour is a candidate. This guy could, given a few hung chads and a sympathetic judge, be the next leader of the free world.

But no, I think the BIG story is this; that clothesline has been up for the better part of a week, and survived numerous wash hangings. A couple more days and the farm manager is going to let me sleep in the house again.

That's today's top story.

Bell tolls for Rwanda's President Kagame

The winds of change are swirling around Rwandan Pres Paul Kagame. He's still the favored house-boy of certain past-their-prime Western leaders like Bill Clinton and Phony Tony, but the jig is pretty much up.

Rwanda has been deep into stirring things up in the worlds longest running conflict next door, pretty much as long as that conflict has been running, and of course with the full connivance of the UK and the US.

But those pesky do-gooders at Amnesty and Human Rights International just refuse to leave well enough alone.

The bad press has been piling up, and a number of rich white donor states are cutting back on their "aid" to one of Black Africa's favorite good news stories.

Kagame, your time is up. Meet Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, that Colonel from Libya...

It's a long list.

You're only useful until you're not useful anymore.

Mitt Romney's foot-in-mouth world tour

David Frum, please come out of your self-imposed semi-retirement and take over the speech-writing duties on the Romney campaign.

The guy is obviously writing his own stuff, and I'm afraid things are going from bad to worse.

There he was snuggled up between Bibi and Sheldon yesterday, and the speech he made seemed to forget that there might have been others listening besides Bibi and Sheldon.

Mind you, that 100 million dollar carrot that Sheldon's been dangling in front of the Mormon may have impacted his judgement somewhat.

I can tell you that the Jewish farm manager was so pissed off by Romney's speech she threw her shoes at the television. At least that takes a bit of heat off me.

I guess it would have been impolite, when in the presence of the two greatest living Jews, to bring up the fact that Jews are setting themselves alight in the Jewish homeland these days because the likes of Adelson and the politicians his money can buy have created a state in which those not born rich are destined to get poorer.

To say nothing about the finger in the eye Romney managed to give every Arab who might have heard his speech.

Before that, he spent a few hours in London astonishing everyone with the sheer imbecility of his opinions. He's just landed in Poland, where aside from the aging and semi-senile Lech Walensa, he will soon find that the Poles are way past being talked down to by rich presidential wannabe twats from America.

Obama, all you have to do to win this one is shut up and let Romney keep talking.

Say what you will about those Persians; they know how to deal with banksters

When insiders rig the system in New York or London they get multi-million dollar bonuses.

In Iran they get the death penalty!

That's got to make it tough to get young MBAs to volunteer for the Tehran office of Barclays or Citibank!

Bandar Bush assassinated?

There are "unconfirmed reports" floating around that Bandar bin Sultan  was blown up by a bomb just days into his new gig as Saudi Chief of all intelligence agencies. The unconfirmed reporters claim this was payback for the Saudi-engineered blast in Damascus that took out a number of Syrian senior defense officials  a couple of weeks back.

The trouble with unconfirmed reports is that you never know if you're dealing with wishful thinking. One of the sites claims Press TV, the semi-official Iranian news site, broke the story, although I can't find it there. None of the usual Big News sites have the story, which doesn't mean it didn't happen, nor does it prove it did.

Maybe I'll just send him an e-mail and ask if he's OK.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Romney in the Holy Land

So you thought Mitt was just over there to kiss ass? Well shame on you!

Sure, Mitt agreed with everything Bibi said, almost said, or thought about saying. Or almost thought about saying. But still, it's obvious that Mitt was following his own agenda.

Mitt is his own man and those commentarians who claim he has his head up the anal aperture of the Israel Lobby are obviously anti-semites and I'm not even going to give them the time of day on this blog.

In fact, I'd like to point out that Mitt had a photo-op with top PA dude Abbas today.

Apparently there are a lot of Muslim voters in the Detroit area, and they're going to feel warm and included when they see Mitt and Abbas shaking hands.

Hey, that could make all the difference in November!

Looks like the DEA is getting to Africa in the nick of time...

Because they're abandoning ship in South America!

Check this out. Yup, those thankless twats there in South America, after everything we've done for them, what do they want to do?

Legalize marijuana? Are you fucking kidding me? The most dangerous drug in the world according to none other than Ronald Reagan?

Never mind Africa. I think maybe the DEA types aren't thick enough on the ground in South America yet. Then again, they've had a couple of hundred years of our meddling, and they're good and tired of "Uncle Sam knows best."

Maybe Africa is the way forward after all.

Here's why Nigeria needs elite US trained paramilitaries

Read this and it's obvious why the DEA needs to be over there training their elite cops. Seems their inept incompetent regular cops just let a Boko Haram terror mastermind escape! Just like that!

And, in case you're thinking, what's that possibly got to do with the DEA, read a little closer. Boko Haram has links to Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb! Yup, those very Qaeda who the New York Times said are linked to the cocaine trade, where they make the money that finances their ongoing relentless terror campaign against America!

See how neatly the dots connect?

Don't laugh. A ton of cocaine will buy a lot of exploding underpants when it's sold in Europe. We gotta get these guys now before it's too late...

Syria Iran Chemical Weapons Syria Iran Chemical Weapons

Guess "we" have to do something about that!

This story was floated by Big News a few weeks ago. Nobody saluted at the time, but I see where the Washington Post figures it's time to run that one up the pole again.


Guess we better not waste too much time before we do something about that... Hezbollah probably has a truck on the way to pick up some of those weapons right now.

Did I mention that Syria has CHEMICAL WEAPONS? Did you know they got them from Iran?



Sounds like the transcript from Romney's visit with Netanyahu.

If John Bolton is reading this he's got a boner by now.

Stupendous success of drug war prompts African expansion

Here's where we put the "stu" into stupendous, folks! My once-a-week NYT supplement that the Toronto Star provides to give us rubes a taste of big-time journalism informs me that  "US expands war on drugs to Africa". This is apparently because Latin American cartels are increasingly using Africa to ship South American cocaine to Europe.

Hmm... let me get my mind around this... South America, Latin American cartels, Europe... am I missing something? How and where does this become an American policing concern?

Aha! There we are! Five paragraphs in; "We see Africa as the new frontier in terms of counterterrorism and counternarcotics issues," says Jeffrey Breeden, DEA chief for Europe and Africa.

Note the seamless melding of the war on terror with the war on drugs! What's next, cocaine sniffing towellers? Hey, I was kidding, but the New York Times isn't - a few paragraphs later, sure enough we've got Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb shipping tons of cocaine into Europe to RAISE MONEY  FOR TERRORIST ATTACKS OH MY GOD!!! The Times informs me that has actually happened and been dealt with by the courts in New York.

I must have missed that story so I googled it as hard as I could; Al Qaeda/cocaine/New York. All I could come up with is some poor schmuck named Oumar Issa who wasn't Al Qaeda and wasn't a drug trafficker but was set up by the DEA in an elaborate sting. That case is now the "proof" of a connection between Al Qaeda and drug trafficking!

Here's where we put the "stu" into stupid!

The really good news is that it allows Americans to train "elite" police units  in a variety of African countries. That's what we want -cosy relationships with elite police units who will be trained and equipped by the US, and of course beholden to the US. It's transplanting the Honduran model to Africa.

From what I've heard cocaine is still plentiful in schoolyards and nightclubs everywhere, but those elite police units can come in handy when the locals get carried away with crazy ideas about democracy and such.

Thomas L. Friedman is still a twit

But what the hell do I know? The guy has three Pulitzer prizes for God's sake...

It's almost a year ago that I wrote my first Friedman rant, and almost a year later I find his musings as stupid as ever.

He has learned something though. He has actually learned a lesson from Iraq; "you can't go from Saddam to Switzerland without getting stuck in Hobbes..."


Bet the Pulitzer committee is chewing that one over right now.

Syria is Iraq, Friedman wants us to know. Well, it's not. In Iraq we spent a trillion dollars to deliver the country into the orbit of Iran.

If we are to pull off a repeat of this success in Syria, Friedman thinks our rebels will need the help of Saudi, Turkish, and American intelligence officers on the ground. I think they've had that all along and still they're stuck.

And what exactly is this "feared, armed, and trusted" midwife bullshit? Does Friedman seriously think that anyone in the Middle East "trusts" America? For Christ's sake, Thomas, give your head a shake. Our only "friends" in the neighborhood are the Israelis, and a quick scan of Israeli media will reveal that there's not a lot of "trust" even in that relationship!

So the destruction of Iraq wasn't an exercise in big-power bullying after all; it was an exercise in midwifery...

The uses of "news"

It's safe to assume that the big dogs in the world of news and commentary spend at least as much time perusing global news feeds as I do. One would like to think they spend even more.

That's why whenever some pip-squeak blogger has a "scoop" it's not because they've got a hyper-sensitive ear to the ground; it's because the BBC/Jazeera/Reuters universe has chosen to ignore the story.

Case in point; the Reuters "exclusive" the other day about the "nerve center" in Turkey from which the Syrian uprising is being managed. It is utterly inconceivable that the newsheads at Reuters just stumbled over that story this week.

You can be sure that along with anyone else who follows events they've been aware of that "secret" nerve center for the better part of the past year. Why do they choose to make it "news" at this time, and not before?

Not only is the supposedly secret nerve center not news, but the fact that American-sponsored advocacy groups have been busy on the ground in Syria for years fomenting this spontaneous rebellion isn't news either. That's a story that the big dogs haven't got around to telling much of yet.

I think that the reason some of this is coming out now is that almost a year and a half into this spontaneous uprising official circles have recognized that things aren't going according to the script. On the one hand, Assad has proven to be a lot more resilient than was expected. Not so much Assad personally, but the power structure around him.

We hear constantly about high-level defections. At various times entire armored units have supposedly defected, but for some reason we never see them turn their armor on the regime.

The other issue causing second thoughts is that our rebellion (and this is "our" rebellion, make no mistake) has to a large extent been hijacked, on the ground, by radical Islamists. That takes away the rationale for trying to replace Assad with a more US-friendly, Israel-friendly, and Exxon-friendly regime.

So we are seeing a shift in the reportage on the Syrian rebellion. Maybe Assad isn't such a bad apple after all...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Humiliated by the inconsequence of my own stories

Just for fun I googled "Bandar Bush" this evening.

Scrolled through the first 12 pages of results. Didn't find a single citing of  The View From Falling Downs.

Did find a link to "Raw Story" dated 22 July.

Here's a link to The View From Falling Downs from three days earlier.

It's a fucked-up world.

We're on top of it baby...


The Olympiad, and why you shouldn't give a shit

I see where Phelps missed his first gold medal. Oh, it seems he missed his first medal of any kind!

Let's not get too weepy over that. Michael Phelps is a twat. Now, even as I say that I have to admit he's my kind of twat... after all, he did have that famous/infamous bong-shot go out to the global media.

But really, he makes it in the 200 butterfly or he doesn't.. Who fucking cares?

That's the thing with these Olympics. Nobody cares, not even the guys swimming in them!

All your top guns are gonna keep their sponsors no matter what. Unless, God forbid, they're busted for doping!

But the medical management teams of all these top guys are way too smart for that...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mrs. Defense Minister apologizes for speaking truth

Poor Nazanin MacKay. The wife of Canadian Defense Minister Peter "Pinocchio" Mackay made it onto the front page of today's Globe and Mail.


Because a couple of days ago she had the audacity to tell an interviewer that she believed that Omar Khadar should be repatriated. Since the Harper gang has done everything imaginable to avoid bringing the former child soldier home, this opinion was apparently not met favorably at the dinner table in the MacKay home that night.

So now poor Nazanin is busy setting the record straight. She was "baited." Her views were "distorted." The interviewer was "duplicitous."

After being set straight by whoever, she now believes that Khadar's fate should rest in the hands of the government, who, after all, have all the "facts and details".

The only relevant detail is that he was 15 at the time of his alleged crime, and that fact makes him a child soldier. In her spare time Mrs. MacKay likes to fancy herself an advocate for children's rights. This was a perfect opportunity for her to make an important statement.

For about 24 hours she had it right.

How sad to see she allowed herself to be pressured away from this issue.

Reuters: out of touch and full of sh*t

Reuters has quite the scoop for you today. In fact it's even more than a scoop; it's an "exclusive".

Seems that the Syrian uprising is being stage-managed from the US air base at Incirlik in Turkey!

Wow! Who knew?

Oh, maybe you knew, if you read this blog from time to time, because it's certainly been mentioned here.

It's been mentioned frequently in news reports from Russia and Iran since at least December.

The website Boiling Frogs had the story last November, and if I'm not mistaken Pepe Escobar had the story even before that.

But today Reuters has a scoop for you!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Heads will roll...

There's a guy in the Mexican security establishment who is making a bit of news today with a claim that US anti-drug strategies are designed to manage the drugs trade, not eradicate it.

No shit!

But his head's gonna roll.

When heads roll in Mexico we're not talking metaphorically. His head will roll.

To get a head to roll requires that it be severed from the body that it is appended to. No problem. Our allies in the War On Drugs are sure to look after that.

But that bit of news trivia led to quite the discussion here at Falling Downs.

Seems the Farm Manager was a social worker in her youth. Worked for a few years in the Regent Park area of Toronto, where then as now the drugs economy is pretty much the only economy.

The Rob Ford anti-drug policy is a bit of a gray area at the moment. Rob is the law-and-order Toronto mayor who got elected by promising the middle-class masses he was gonna get tough on crime.

Crime has been on the down-tick in Toronto as well as in the rest of Canada for the last forty years, so you might think it's tough to get elected on a get-tough-on-crime platform.

You'd be wrong. The Rob Ford mayoral campaign had a secret helper; niggers with guns.

If there's one thing that scares the shit out of middle-class folks everywhere, and I'm not just talking about the white middle class, it's the prospect of young black gangstas packin' Glocks and Berettas and Colts.

So a couple of our young gangsta wannabees gave Rob Ford the gift of a lifetime a couple of weeks ago by emptying their clips at one another at a neighborhood streeter.

They didn't actually manage to shoot each other, but they got a couple dozen bystanders. Two of those bystanders died.

That's led to the predictable tsunami of anti-gun rhetoric in the Canadian media.

Should we ban all guns everywhere?

Should we ban bullets?

Should we should we ban ban ban....


Guns are not the problem.

As the Farm Manager figured out in her sojourn at Regent Park all those years ago, the problem is that there are no opportunities for young Black men to achieve meaningful lives in the mainstream economy.

Which leaves them the drugs economy.

Idiot Ford can rant all he wants about banning convicted gun-crime felons from his city. None of that will change the fact that when you don't have a hope in hell of making it in the real economy, you're going to take whatever chances you have to take in the other one.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

There's a surprise brewing in Syria

Everybody knows the broad outlines of the story. Arab Spring swept into Syria a year and a half ago and the Syrian masses rose up against the evil dictator etc.

Most people by now know the subtext too. The "spontaneous uprising" in  Syria has been orchestrated by US vassal states Saudi Arabia and Qatar from the beginning. It's the "road to Damascus leads to Tehran" scenario much ballyhooed from this blog and many others.

Behind the masses yearning for freedom lies the realpolitik of US-Russia power struggles and the simmering Shia-Sunni war of attrition for dominance of the Islamist agenda.

So this story has a discombobulation factor that's off the scale. The headline and most of the text are what we expect. Iranian warships through the Suez on their way to Syria causes alarm in Israel!

That on the face of it is a scary story. What could those dodgy Persians be up to? And lets not forget that once they've cleared the Suez and are sailing past the Israeli coast, ISRAEL WILL BE SURROUNDED BY THE IRANIAN WAR MACHINE OH MY GOD!!!

But wait a minute, what's this? Three paragraphs from the bottom, we learn that the two-ship Iranian flotilla has put into Jedda for a couple of days r & r.

Jedda? That's in Saudi Arabia! That's where Bandar Bush, the CIA's favorite Arab, has just been promoted to Chief of Chiefs of secret service intel stuff of all sorts. He's the top spook, and probably the most powerful man in the land of Saud!

And this is where our arch-enemies the Iranians stop off for a few days on their way to Syria?

Something's not adding up here...

Nothing sings "country" more sweetly than clothes billowing on the line...

And nothing cries dorkshit louder than a tangle of laundry and clothesline lying in the dirt behind the house.

For f*cks sakes!

What was that, the third time? I tell you, that damned piece-of-crap gizmo that's supposed to hold the ends together DOES NOT WORK!!!

After the last time I even went and bought some grommety-type things to back up the gizmo, but to no avail. Mind you it was looking good, but then, not being one to quit while ahead, I had to add my long-departed Oma Lotte's rag quilt, and that was the end of that.

When you look closely at the gizmo you can see there's an element of genius involved.  You've got a metal cylinder with a spring-loaded plastic sleeve insert and three ball-bearings. You feed an end of your clothesline into each end of the gizmo, and in theory the spring scrunches the ball-bearings so tightly against the clothesline that the ends won't pull out.

In theory.

In practice, how much this will hold and for how long seems to depend on any number of factors, but I'm thinking wind speed is a big one. As the line, complete with two dozen assorted items of laundry, billows to and fro there is a constant tightening and loosening of the ball-bearings inside the cylinder. With each loosening the line can slip a bit. Eventually it takes that last slip and there you are...

So I've been back to the hardware store and now we've got a super-heavy-duty ratchet-type gizmo securing the clothesline.  She's passed her first test already this afternoon, and touch wood, I'm feeling that success is just around the corner.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

They'rrre OFF! Lawyers off and running after Batman massacre

There's only four days on the clock but America's legal profession is filing briefs 'n torts in courts far and wide already.

Torrance Brown's legal team was the first to file a claim. Since Brown wasn't shot or otherwise injured the claim may lack credibility in the eyes of some. But that is not the case, said a PR person for the team.

"Mr. Brown's right to enjoy an evening at the movies has been irrevocably prejudiced and we intend to seek redress."

Mr. Brown's claim is the first of many. Hell, if people who weren't hurt can sue, what about people who were not actually in the theater? There could have been dozens of traumatized folks in the lobby.

And what about passersby on the sidewalk? What about people who were just in that theater the night before? Hell, I think anybody who's been to Colorado in the last year can probably find a lawyer willing to file a claim on their behalf.

Romney's Offshore Doctrine: offshored jobs for American workers, offshore tax havens for the rich

"A healthy American economy is what underwrites American power."

That's a line from Romney's speech today addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Obviously Romney thought the assembled veterans were senile, brain-damaged, or not too bright in the first place. The most pressing problem for returning veterans today is their inability to successfully reintigrate into civilian society.

And why is this such a struggle? Because the best and brightest of our hedge-fund whiz-kids (who oddly enough rarely find themselves in uniform) have made themselves fabulously wealthy by sending American jobs to Mexico and China.

That's one prong of the Offshore Doctrine. The other is that once a patriot like Romney has made himself a few hundred  million, it becomes a hassle to pay taxes in America. After all, that most powerful military machine in history that Romney couldn't mention often enough costs an awful lot of money to maintain. Better to keep your cash in Switzerland or Monaco, countries that don't have to pay for such an ambitious military-industrial complex.

So even though he's shipped untold numbers of jobs out of the country and refuses to cough up his share of taxes to pay for the military, he told the vets that he believes America is the greatest force for good the world has ever know. He even drew the vets a time-line; America's mission to bring  justice, peace, and hope to the world can be traced from Lexington and Concord in 1775 right through to Fallujah and Kandahar in the modern era.

If I was a Romney speech-writer I probably would have sawed that one off before he got to Falluja and Kandahar. Presumably there were more than a few vets in the audience who are far better acquainted with the nature of the "justice, peace, and hope" they brought to Falluja than Romney is.

About the Arab Spring he had this to say; "we will not be complicit in oppression." That one's going to have the People of the Towel laughing themselves to death, from Cairo to Kabul and from Baghdad to Islamabad for months to come, but there's no indication in the speech that Romney intended it to be a joke.

In preparation for his visit with Netanyahu next week, Romney saved his harshest words for a message dear to the Israeli leader's heart; Iran.

There is no greater danger to the world than the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon.

Well, Mittens, I don't know about the particulars of that claim. But I do know that doing something about it is going to be damned expensive. What with all those jobs off-shored and all those rich tax evaders off-shoring their money, America can't afford to do anything about it anyway.

Better tell Bibi he's on his own.

The murky provenance of a Libya "good news" story

As I was scrolling down the Google news aggregator this morning a headline on the right side of the screen caught my eye; Libya might be on right path.

Well that would certainly be good news! I clicked on for a read. The article is from a website called War in Context which appears to be the hobby blog of one Paul Woodward. The article is a recycle of a piece by James Traub that appeared earlier on the Foreign Policy website under the title Baby Steps.

Traub informs us that he gets a lot of his Libya news from a "plucky" little start-up called the Libya Herald. Traub approvingly informs us that the Herald has informed him that no less an authority than William Hague has declared Libya's progress "inspiring."

Traub then goes on to spend several paragraphs celebrating the victory of secular forces (i.e. NTC boss Jibril) over Islamist forces in the recent election. He quotes an official from the National Democratic Institute, "a democracy promotion group," who assures him that since all Libyans are Muslims, an Islamist party has no appeal.

Alas, and give Traub credit, it's not all unvarnished good news. A gratuitous reference to Max Weber leads to a discussion of how those unruly NATO rebels could yet throw a spanner in the works. He concludes with a celebration of the impressive resilience of Libya's oil sector.

The think tank here at Falling Downs would like to climb aboard the happy-talk bandwagon with Messrs. Traub and Hague. Here's why we'll stand aside for the time being.

That plucky start-up doesn't seem all that plucky, unless you think that it takes "pluck" to write a continuous stream of pro-NATO propaganda. While there are certainly Libyans who owe that viewpoint their current good fortune (Mr. Jibril?) it seems like an unfortunate source for an experienced journo like Mr. Traub to get a "lot" of his information about Libya.

Aside from being an experienced journalist, James Traub is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a fact that some might conclude could becloud his journalistic objectivity.

And who are these democracy promoters, the National Democratic Institute? Why, they're not Libyan, they're American! Here's a link to their Libya page, where they're quite happy to tell you that they've been ever-so-busy fanning the embers of freedom in Libya long before the spontaneous eruption of Arab Spring!

Finally, lets have a look at that election that we're told established the "secularist" Jibril as the champion of the Libyan people.

In the first place, Jibril is famously on record as stating he wants a "secular" Libya based on Sharia law. That's not a secularism that I personally would put a lot of stock in.

Secondly, approximately 1.7 million Libyans took part in the election, out of 3.5 million eligible voters, in a country of 6.7 million. Do the math and then decide if this election should be heralded as a triumph for democracy.

So I'm somewhat saddened to let go of that brief flicker of hope I felt when I first read the words 'Libya might be on right path'. The seeds of that sadness were right there in the title all along of course...

If Libya "might" be on the right path, then I guess it might not be.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A tale of two ice-cream companies

Burt Baskin and Irvine Robbins were long gone by the time their namesake company became a cash cow for Mitt Romney's loot 'n plunder hedge fund, and the previous post gives you a thumbnail sketch of what happened then.

But I would be remiss if I tarred all capitalists with that same tawdry brush. Just a half hour down the road from Falling Downs is the Chapman's Ice Cream company. Chapman's was started in 1973 by a local couple who worked and worked and worked some more to build their little operation. They made a reputation for not only a great product, but for fair dealings with their workers, forward-looking environmental processes, and an obsessive attention to product quality and customer satisfaction.

When their factory burned to the ground in 2009 the first thought among many of the locals was, there goes my job. In the first few days the local consensus was that this fire meant the end of Chapman's.

Then co-founder Penney Chapman made an announcement that stunned the community. Not only would they rebuild the plant right there in Markdale, they would keep paying their workers while the plant was being rebuilt!

And they did!

Bain Capital closes last Baskin-Robbins factory

It's cheaper to hire out the work, after all. The unionized workers at the Baskin-Robbins plant in Peterborough Ontario were making in the range of $20 to $30 an hour! Can you even imagine such a thing? What is it, rocket science?

US plants were closed years ago and the work shipped to no-name ice-cream plants in "right-to-work" states. That's where a good solid ice-cream factory worker can be had for 9 or 10 bucks an hour. Far more realistic, wouldn't you think?

Now the Canadian plant will follow. Part of the rationale offered up by the company was that it's too small and can't keep up with demand. The real reason is that every dollar taken out of a worker's pocket is much better utilized up the corporate chain at Bain.

Bain took control of Baskin-Robbins in 2006 with the purchase of Dunkin Brands. They have since worked their usual magic of stripping the company and it's franchisees of as much value as possible before fobbing the result off on the public in an IPO.

But don't take my word for it. Here's an example from the business press  of a discussion of the shady dealings that go on when Bain comes to town. There's tons more out there and it makes fascinating reading.

Not that any of this has the slightest connection to Mitt, yahear! After all, he decamped in 99 to save the Olympics and hasn't looked back since...

Arab Spring in Tel Aviv

The Tunisian fruit-vendor Mohamed Bouazizi is credited with inspiring the Arab Spring with his self-immolation a year and a half ago. His desperate act soon resulted in copy-cat incidents in Egypt, Algeria, and Morrocco. Here's a typical sympathetic account in reportage of the time, in this case from Huffington Post:

...these incidents reflect the growing despair among much of the Arab public which has no real means of expressing its dissatisfaction. They are deeply symbolic means of protest in a region that has little or no tolerance for dissent.

Much of that rings true of Israel as well. Moshe Silman has succumbed to the injuries sustained when he set himself ablaze a week ago, and his example has led at least half a dozen imitators already.

What the Israeli press tends to soft-pedal as "social protest" is another manifestation of the "we're mad as hell" revolt that informs both Arab Spring and the Occupy movement. The despair of the masses is bubbling over everywhere since nowhere do the 99% find a meaningful way of expressing their dissatisfaction with the elites who run their countries.

Netanyahu was quick to brush off the Silman case as a "personal tragedy." As such it of course has nothing to do with the policies that he and his cronies have been steering through the Knesset for the last generation. Every socio-economic indicator shows that the quality of life for average Jewish Israeli's has been deteriorating. There is more poverty, more unemployment, more homelessness and hopelessness. For the protesters in the streets these are not statistics; they are the facts of life.

The 1% has never fared better, and the gap between rich and poor in Israel is growing faster than in any other Western country.

So I was looking forward to hearing Netanyahu address some of these issues when he appeared on Fox News the other day. No such luck. He wants to talk about "existential threats" and how Iran is months away from a bomb.

This is of course the only message the American public wants to hear.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The REAL financial crisis; there's just way too much cash out there!

According to a study by the US based Tax Justice Network there's somewhere north of 21 trillion dollars stashed in offshore tax havens. That's trillions with a "t".

In addition, US corporations are hoarding cash in the range of 2 to 6 trillion, depending on what you read, a phenomenon that is repeated in various other affluent economies.

There is such a glut of money that the overnight interest rate at the Swiss Central Bank has been in negative territory recently. That means the bank charges the depositor to have the money parked there overnight - reverse interest as it were!

Puts the global financial crisis in a whole new perspective, doesn't it?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Empire of weasels

In some respects you almost have to admire the Harper gang.

That dogged determination to promote the seal hunt, even though at this point the government's cost to promote it outstrips the actual income it provides the seal hunters.

And by God we're not going to let some pointy-headed environmentalist types dictate our environment policies! Goodbye Kyoto - we didn't even get to know you...

And full speed ahead on asbestos exports. After all, for every hundred people the stuff kills in India or Pakistan, at least one miner in Quebec gets to keep a job.

Let's not even start with the tar sands.

Or John Baird's laughing-stock tour of Israel a few months back.

But old Vic Toews is taking a serious run at being the most ridiculous of the ridiculous.

The crusty old Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews has a number of distinctions in his political career. When he was Labour Minister in Manitoba he presided over the most strike-riddled period in the recent history of that province.

Later on he tried to introduce a "three-strikes" law in Canada. He's a dyed-in-the-wool law-and-order aficionado, old Vic is.

But he's out-doing himself on the Omar Khadr file.

Khadr was the 15 year old Afghan-Canadian kid who allegedly threw the grenade that killed an American soldier.

At 15 Khadr falls unambiguously into the category of "child soldier". He's been in Gitmo for the last ten years. After Obama promised to close Gitmo Canada agreed to repatriate him, but he's still there.

Now Mr. Toews is demanding that the US provide sealed evidence from Khadr's trial at a military tribunal before considering his repatriation.

Canada's treatment of Khadr is beyond shameful. Every Canadian should have the rights that Canada so loudly proclaims to the rest of the world.

The view from Mumbai

I ran across an article called The Arab Spring is nothing but an eyewash on the site DNA this afternoon.

Hmm... what kind of radical-commie stuff is this, I wondered.

Almost anti-American in tone, questioning US motives in this Arab Spring circus. I see it's based in India. Makes sense. They do after all still have a serious Communist party there.

Nope. With a little checking I find out that they're old-school capitalists. They started their paper and their website a few years ago, and it's one of the fastest growing news providers among the educated younger people of Mumbai.

Looks to me like those third world folks in India are a lot better served by their media than we are here with CNN and the no-spin zone.

Free Syrian Army frees cargo from dozens of trucks stranded at border

These must be the Libyan freedom fighters who migrated to the Syrian revolution.

Multiple news sites are carrying variations of this story.

Seems when the rebels overran a couple of border posts this week it left dozens of transport trucks stranded.

The liberators lost no time liberating the freight, leaving a lot of drivers and businessmen wondering who is going to make good on their losses.

The think tank here at Falling Downs has given this serious consideration. It is our seriously considered view that the losses should be covered by the same entities that are funding the rebels.

The Saudis and the Qataris can well afford it.

Goodbye highway star

Jon Lord passed on this week. Another sign that everybody's getting older.

Those early Deep Purple albums were staples among the crew I hung with at the time. Spent some time listening to the oldies the past few days and a lot of it stands the test of time rather well.

I must admit I have trouble cranking it to the appropriate volume, as the  farm manager isn't a big fan. Highway star was probably responsible for more guys upgrading their car stereo systems than any other track ever recorded. It's still my favorite Purple track of all time.

So to honor the memory of Jon Lord I'm heading out to the garage with some treats and I'll see if I can figure out a way to patch this little Casio keyboard one of the kids left behind into that 200 watt amp I've got out there.

Free Pussy Riot!

C'mon, Mr. Putin, you've made your point, now do the right thing!

Have to admit I've been a little behind the curve on the Pussy Riot story. Had to go to YouTube to catch a performance. Musically, lets just say they're a bit rough. Sid Vicious was a virtuoso musician compared to these gals.

Their Wikipedia page presents quite an impressive reading list, although it is slewed heavily towards what used to be called post-structuralist theory. Nevertheless, they have presence and know how to get publicity. They are more performance artists than a "band".

One of these performances, staged in a church back in February, consisted of a prayer asking for divine intervention to rid the country of Putin. As a result three of the gals have been in jail ever since.

That seems a little excessive to me.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pot-addled blogger beats Piers Morgan to the story by at least six months

Piers has got retired General George Casey on tonight. He's got a scoop for us.

Those Syrian rebels have been infiltrated by Al Qaeda!

No shit!

Never mind how long I've been talking about that; Pepe Escobar had that story at least EIGHT months ago.

Come on Piers; you have to do better than that.

A helpful hint you're not about to get from Toronto media

Two gangsta wannabees whip out their Glocks and empty their 15 round magazines.

Result? Two dead and 23 injured. But the shooters never actually managed to shoot one another.

That was the scene in a Toronto burb last week.

All the usual purveyors of wisdom have chimed in on this one. Ban guns. Ban bullets. Ban ban ban blah blah blah...

Fuck that.

How about we give these gangsta wannabees some target training?

Like what the fuck is going on when two guys are gunning for one another and they hit 25 bystanders but they themselves are unscathed?

This is a disgrace to gang culture and a disgrace to anyone who ever held a gun in their hand.

Toronto shootings fan anti-gun hysteria

Last week a couple of young black gangstas duked it out at a Toronto street party.

As is the norm these days, they didn't duke it out with their fists, but rather with their 9mm Glocks.

The result? Two dead and 23 injured.

But more than that, the event unleashed the predictable deluge of anti-gun hysteria in the Canadian media.

The stories are telling. Should we ban handguns? Should we ban the sale of bullets? Should we ban all guns?

Let's take a couple of steps back and a couple of deep breaths.

Ban handguns? For all practical purposes handguns are already banned in Canada. To get a legal handgun involves so many hoops to jump through and so many legal hurdles to clear that you can bet your bottom dollar that no gangsta type in the last 30 years has gotten his handgun through legal channels.

A ban on handgun sales will do absolutely nothing to close off the channels of black market handgun distribution.

I think the powers that be banned something called marijuana about 85 years ago. How is that working out?

Ban bullets? The people who write this shit seem to be under the impression that anyone in Toronto can walk into Walmart and walk out with a box or two of 9mm rounds.

Wrong! You don't buy ammo anywhere in Canada without producing a FAQ. That means you've jumped through the hoops and been certified as a reasonably sane and politically reliable citizen. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY on the gangsta scene is buying their ammo at Walmart or Canadian Tire.

So banning ammo sales in the city of Toronto means absolutely nothing to the gangs and the gang culture that foster this violence.

So what is the answer?

There's a reason gangsta culture is such a draw to young black kids growing up in Toronto. You're just a nigger in the big city and nobody gives you the time of day, let alone a job. Poverty is rampant.

Suddenly you're on the fringe of the local Crips affiliate and holy shit, you're a somebody! You're getting respect!

That's the essence of gang appeal right there.

You're never going to break that with a ban on bullets or guns or by building more prisons.

These guys need opportunities for real jobs and a real life.

They need hope.

Putin's most implacable foe

No, we're not talking about the NYT.

We're not talking about the US State Department.

We're not talking about the various oligarchs who have gone political when their ill-gotten fortunes have been clawed back by the state.

And we're certainly not talking about those young Russians, democracy lovers every one, who went so far as to cancel their Black Sea vacations so they could take part in anti-Putin demos.

We are talking about the simmering Islamist insurgency in the Caucuses.

Western media love to portray Putin as an enabler of the Syrian regime, and there's certainly an element of truth to that.

Assad's demise will, at the end of the day, be the handiwork of the Islamist radicals who are doing the lions share of the heavy lifting on the ground in Syria. It won't come as the result of the myriad "Syria experts" who pontificate daily on the evils of the Assad regime on news media all over the Western world.

That's why Putin has something to talk about when he sits down with Netanyahu.

They both understand what they're up against.

Too bad the New York Times can't figure it out.

The hemp make-over

I was roused from an indolent stupor the other day by the ferocious barking of the hounds.

There's a FEDEX truck backing up the driveway. He's got a delivery for the farm manager.

I hadn't realized she was expecting anything. But here we are, two goodly sized boxes of hemp products delivered right to the farmhouse door.

Back in the day FEDEX and some of their competitors were a pretty reliable way to ship hemp products. Sure beat that nerve-wracking cross-country jaunt with ten pounds of weed packed in with your camping gear.

But that was then, this is now.

So the farm manager's hemp madness continues apace. Not only have we got the hemp smoothie going on every morning, but now we are in full-on hemp mode with hemp skin-cream, hemp body-lotion, hemp shampoo, hemp soap... maybe there was even a hemp toothpaste in there somewhere.

Thanks Kipling!

Canadian paper celebrates triumph of democracy in Syria

This isn't just counting your chickens before they hatch; it's counting your chickens while somebody's making an omelet with the eggs your waiting to hatch.

Jonathan Kay has got the Syrian Free Army toppling not just the Assad regime, but, hold on to your hat, Hezbollah as well!

Mr. Kay is way too far down the highway of wishful thinking for me to even try to catch up!

For all the gloating his article evinces, there doesn't seem to be any awareness that the heavy lifting on the ground in Syria isn't being done by a "rag-tag army" of freedom loving secularists. It's being done by hard core Islamist extremists.

When they eventually do triumph, they won't be eager to cede power to the "Free Syria" crowd doing the light lifting in London and Washington. Nor will they love America, Israel, or the West in general, as the delusional Mr. Kay assumes.

That's when the real war in Syria will start.

As for his claim that the Syrian revolution is home-grown, he should know better. His bio informs us that he is a fellow of The Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, one of the right wing American front groups that's been  busy fomenting "home-grown" change in Syria for years.

Bandar Bush gets promoted to chief of Saudi Intelligence

You'll remember Bandar bin Sultan. Saudi ambassador to the US for over twenty years. Investor in Bush family business ventures. Implicated in a huge kick-back scandal in an arms deal between Britain and Saudi Arabia.

Bandar was so tight with the Bush family they referred to him as Bandar Bush.

Bandar Bush now has one of the most powerful and sensitive positions in the entire Middle East. His fingers will be in every pie where the Kingdom needs to overthrow a government (that would be any country with a Shia government) or conversely, stamp out dissent to keep a Sunni government in power (e.g. Bahrain).

An interesting development. Congratulations on your new job, Mr. bin Sultan!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Canadian Indian Chiefs elect more of the same old same old

Shawn Atleo has been re-elected at the Assembly of First Nations conflab being held in Toronto.

The election is an exercise in democracy of sorts. Over 600 elected chiefs from across the country get to vote for a grand chief, i.e. Atleo.

I've often ranted about the "hang-around-the-fort" mentality that seems to consume so much of the native leadership in Canada. I'm not the only one who thinks Atleo has been much too cosy with the Harper gang.

This year there were a number of challengers who aren't from the fort crowd; Palmeter, Nelson, Gabriel, to name three.

But look who's voting! It's not Canada's native population; it's just the chiefs.

All that stuff you read about third-world living conditions on reservations? You can bet these chiefs aren't living in sub-standard housing.

In fact, the people voting today have done quite well for themselves hanging around the fort. So another term for Atleo shouldn't come as a shock.

Ya, at some level it's none of my business because I'm not native, but to hell with that.

You don't have to be Norwegian to criticize Quisling, and you don't have to be French to call Petain a collaborator.


Just a few days ago I was waxing wise on how Obama is going to stall any action on Syria till after the election. Syria, as anyone who seriously follows these matters well knows, is the segue into the long anticipated war with Iran.

Events may be overtaking Obama. Suddenly the provenance of his birth certificate and the hoo-ha over Mitt's tax returns seem to be fading into the background.

A couple of days ago there was a story floating around about Assad's chemical warfare capabilities. The usual (highly suspect) sources had info that Assad's troops were accessing stockpiles of nerve gas. Echoes of Saddam's WMD all over that one. The story failed to gain serious traction at the time.

Yesterday Major General Aviv Kochavi, Israel's military intel boss, made some public statements to the effect that if Assad falls, the northern border is in play. Kochavi does not harbor any illusions about the nature of the Syrian uprising. These are not secular democracy-loving liberals calling the shots in the revolution, no matter what the Syrian expats in London and Washington want us to believe.

Today a busload of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria were targeted by a terrorist bomb. It took Netanyahu about fifteen seconds to announce that Iran was behind it. Suddenly the faltering coalition and the protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are relegated to the back burner.

Also today, a bodyguard with access to the highest levels of the Assad regime took out a good slice of Assad's senior leadership with a suicide bomb, that time-honored tactic of secular oppositions everywhere.

Connect the dots. It's not hard to see where things are going.

And I no longer believe matters will wait till November.

Zook's sawmill

Not being in the mood to unload the trailer, I took the truck to the woodlot across the road. Last time I had the truck in there was last summer, when it mysteriously quit right at the back, at the edge of the marsh, after I'd fully loaded the box.

That was the time I had to recruit Junior to steer while I towed the truck, wood and all, out of there with the Ford 4000. Quite a scene, that, the poor kid with his under-developed forearms trying to turn the wheel of the truck this way and that with no power steering and me giving him the "are you retarded?" look the whole time.

The climax of that adventure occurred as we were pulling out onto the road. You have to traverse the ditch and then climb a steep incline, and it's really hard to see if there's traffic coming. The weight of the truck and the angle of attack resulted in our merging onto the road in a gigantic wheelie that would have made the old Little Red Wagon pilot proud.

Nothing that exciting today. The maple I dropped gave me a moment's pause just as she was starting to go over. These sixty or seventy footers can find stuff to get tangled up in on their way down, and then sometimes there's trouble.

That's what was about to happen; she leaned to about a 60 degree angle while I still had the saw in the trunk, and it looked for sure like the crown was going to be hung up on a couple of adjacent trees, but just as the saw broke through the trunk she did a slow roll and came crashing to earth.

What I'm aiming for in terms of woodlot management is sustainable firewood in perpetuity. Not that I'll be here that long, of course, but somebody's going to be. There's a lot of past-its-prime stuff both in this lot and the other one on the north side of the property, that by rights should be harvested while it's still worth something more than firewood, but it's not enough to interest the commercial loggers around here.

I think eventually, when I get around to it, I'll strike a deal with the Amish guy, Ebeneezer Zook or Zook Ebeneezer, one or the other, who has a sawmill over towards Keady. I'll borrow a haywagon from one of the neighbors and take a dozen or so 12 foot lengths down there to have sawn into planks. The Amish are pretty good about negotiating the kind of deal where he's got the sawmill and I've got the wood and everybody goes away happy with a few planks.

The first time I visited Zook's sawmill I thought I'd gone through some sort of time warp. I was with my buddy Jimmy Lippert and we dropped by with a couple dozen layed out laying hens at ten in the morning. By the time we came by on our way home at four in the afternoon all those old chickens were in jars and there was a stack of fresh pies awaiting us in payment.

We went around back to find Zook and that's where the time warp experience enveloped me. The guy has a serious sawmill going on, but his clan doesn't allow electricity of any sort, so he's got a big old draft horse going round and round driving the mechanicals of the millworks. There's other horses shuffling backwards and forwards as they lift logs onto the saw bed via a series of ropes and pullies.

In charge of all these horses ropes pulleys and giant saw blades is a kid who looks to be about 13, and he's got a couple of ten-year-old helpers. How these people get around the child labor laws is beyond me. 

Something to do with religious freedom, I guess.

Not that I have a problem with it. Those kids are getting an education in Zook's sawmill that Junior won't come close to at his high school.

And when the internet and the electrical grid and all the other necessities of life crash, these kids are going to be putting in a day's work and sitting down to chicken and pie like nothing happened.

An embarrassment of riches

The heat wave seems to have broken, at least somewhat.

That means that I need to move beyond pondering, beyond planning... I have to do something.

But what?

I'm saving the bat shit in the attic for a rainy day. A cool rainy day. No sense wasting a gorgeous afternoon's sunshine up there.

So it's outside then... it's been awhile since I fetched a load of wood. In fact, the trailer behind the woodshed is waiting to be unloaded. I'd almost forgotten about it.

While I was poking about back there I found my 22 ton wood-splitter virtually engulfed by tall grass. I'd forgotten about that too. Oh yeah, I have a wood-splitter... better get to it then.

The sight of that machine trying to peek out from the overgrowth reminded me of something I read recently. Someone was making the observation that underbrush, overgrowth, the stuff that grows in ditches etc. seems to grow a lot faster today than it did in his youth fifty years ago.

By gosh, I think he's right. Turn your back on the weeds for a couple of weeks and they've taken over. He puts it down to global warming. All that extra CO2 in the atmosphere just supercharges the plant growth. Not that it seems to do that for the wheat or the corn though.

That's the problem with anecdotal evidence I suppose. He thinks undergrowth comes up faster. I agree. But is this because it comes up faster or because two creaky seniors can't rely on their memories anymore?

That's a damned good question...

I could ponder that for hours!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lazy days at Falling Downs

It's simply too hot to work.

I can hear the Farm Manager mumbling, ya it's too friggin hot to work around here in January...

But seriously...

It's too hot to work. We've been in the grip of a heat wave. If I don't get the hounds out for their walk before nine in the morning it's too late.

It's hell on them. They'll run ahead from one shady spot to the next and then lie there waiting for me.

When it gets too hot to work, we turn to planning and pondering.

Right now the pine trees are right up top on my pondering schedule. There's seven of them on the west side of the drive. The very last, the most northerly one, has seen all its needles turn brown.

Does this mean the tree is dead?

I've heard that pines will drop all their needles once in a while and then come back in full glory the next year, so I don't want to jump the gun in turning it into firewood.

And a couple of the elms a little further down aren't looking too prosperous either.

Now they'd make way richer firewood than the pine... oh my God, I think I'm on that slippery slope where pondering turns into planning...

Thank goodness it's way too hot to work.

Al-Qaeda flag flying in "free" Syria

Ruth Sherlock has a thought-provoking article at the Telegraph. Here's a quote;

As this slow war progresses there are plenty of signs of the religious aspect of the conflict. The DailyTelegraph witnessed the black flag used by al Qaeda flying high in several villages and on pick up trucks of rebel fighters. The men insist it was merely a tribute to their God and not a sign of allegiance to al Qaeda.

Now that's a good one! We are merely flying the Al-Qaeda flag because we love God, not that we've anything to do with Al-Qaeda... please start humanitarian bombing immediately thank you!

Sherlock is in Syria and apparently all the actual fighters she's meeting are religious fundamentalists. The "secular opposition" prefers to fight in London and Paris and Washington.

This presents quite a dilemma for Obama. The war cheerleaders at The Foundation for the Defense of Democracy and others have been pushing hard for greater American involvement. Their ultimate goal is of course a war on the Ayatollahs next door, but Syrian intervention is recognized as the opening front.

But it looks like Obama is going to refrain from sending supplies and reinforcements to Al-Qaeda, at least until after November.

Monday, July 16, 2012

How a war on landless farmers hides behind the War on Drugs in Honduras

The expansion of a Mexican-style militarized drug war creeping into Honduras over the last couple of years has led to a number of scary news stories.

The rough outline is thus; as the pressure has increased on the Mexican cartels, they have moved into Honduras, where their activities have led to the Honduran murder rate becoming the highest in the world, a tragedy so alarming that the DEA, US Army and the State Department are all busy lending a helping hand to their counterparts in Honduras.

What's wrong with that scenario? Well, cocaine still travels roughly the same routes that it always has; from the producer countries in South America to the market countries in North America and Europe. And Honduras remains where it's always been, in the middle of those routes.

The argument that the US needs to take the War on Drugs into Honduras makes no sense. Insofar as the goal is to keep the drugs out of the US, that can be done as effectively at the Mexican border.

Are there other reasons why the US military and the State Department might have an interest in Honduras?

Since the coup that deposed the democratically elected Manuel Zelaya in 2009, violence against peasant farmers, union organizers, journalists, and social activists of all stripes has sky-rocketed.

If you google Miguel Facusse today you'll read that the billionaire Facusse is fighting a vicious war against the small farmers who were promised land under Zelaya's proposed reforms. And he's not the only one afraid of the landless peasants. American conglomerates like Chiquita Brands and Dole have the same concerns.

That's the real story behind this so-called escalation of the drugs war in Honduras.

If you have any doubts, google Miguel Facusse Wikileaks. You'll see that the oligarch Facusse has been implicated in the cocaine trade for years by the very American diplomats who are now cheerleading this imaginary war on the cartels.

Here's a niche market!

While reading up on the travails of athletes trying to negotiate Heathrow  Airport I came across a picture of a forlorn looking chap with a honkin' huge vaulting pole draped across his baggage cart.

Well, quite aside from all sorts of tacky 'that's a honkin' big pole' jokes, I got to wondering just how these folks travel from event to event.

Turns out somebody already thought of this. That's right, Fly Away Pole Protection is a US company that has the answers to all your vaulting pole logistics questions.

And who says the entrepreneurial spirit is dead!?

London calling...

Well you always had to wonder what was going to happen when they awarded the 2012 Olympic Games to a people hopelessly challenged to organize a two car train.

Even though we have eleven days left before the games begin, the screw-ups are well under way. The first American athletes arrived today and were stunned to find themselves on a four hour bus odyssey from the airport to the athletes village, a trip that should have taken no more than forty-five minutes.

The private contractor in charge of security has admitted their twenty thousand Olympic rent-a-cops number far less than twenty thousand and in many cases lack even conversational English language skills.

Depending on what you read, these games are sucking anywhere from 12 to 24 billion Pounds out of the public teat.

Meanwhile, a news article in the Telegraph site reports that there is an epidemic of impoverished Brits dying without even the funds to pay for their funerals.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Foreskin flap unites German Jews and Muslims

But only for the briefest of moments. And then controversy flared up anew.

"It's antisemitism!", claims Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

"No, it's Islamophobia!" cries Serdar Yazar of the Turkish Migrant Workers Office.



Frau Merkel has waded into this one, promising that all the sons of Abraham can continue to have their schlongs snipped as long as she has anything to say about it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Meet the Syrian Human Rights Observatory

From left to right: Rami Abdulrahmen, reporter; Rami Abdulrahmen, editor; Rami Abdulrahmen, producer; Rami Abdulrahmen, researcher; Rami Abdulrahmen, fact checker

Yup, it’s a one man show, that Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Never before in the history of journalism has a one man show got this much face time on major media.

Apparently Rami hasn’t been to Syria in at least ten years. He has no network and no fact-checkers. He just passes on stuff that somebody may or may not have made up. He has no way of knowing. We have no way of knowing either. Maybe he just makes stuff up himself.

But Rami’s Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gets major face-time on Fox, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, BBC and al Jazeera.

Hillary visits Laos

That's a little tour you didn't read much about in your local media, did you?

Laos is a commie country next door to Viet Nam that was the recipient of  over two million tons of bombs during the Nam era.

They say that two million tons of bombs on a little country like that makes it the most heavily bombed country in the history of war.

But be that as it may, they allowed Hillary in for a visit.

Hillary was astonished to find that forty years later farmers and their kids in rural Laos were still being killed and maimed by unexploded cluster bombs America dropped there over forty years ago.

What's even more astonishing is that Henry Kissinger, the architect of the war on Laos, is at this moment sitting in his flat in Manhattan instead of in a cell at The Hague.

Syrian "opposition" on US payroll for years

Syrian-Canadian Thwaiba Kanafani was on the verge of making a name for herself.

Having an innate love for freedom and not willing to sit idly by as her homeland dissolves into civil war, she dropped everything and went to help.

She got far enough that she was able to make a nifty propaganda video which you can find on Youtube. Then she was summarily given the bums rush.

Seems the Free Syrian Army doesn't really appreciate free-booting independents, and this item in the Guardian goes a long way towards explaining why.

The Syrian "opposition" is a collection of well-connected exiles whose efforts have been funded by the US government for many years. When you see who they're connected to you'll find a lot of familiar names, names that were once loudly proclaiming the urgency of our need to intervene in Libya and before that, Iraq.

It's worth keeping in mind the next time you're watching a spot of unbiased Syria news on the TV.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Remembering Joe Wolfond

I'm not talking about little Joe. I'm talking about old Joe.

Not that little Joe was a bad guy. I had many an entertaining conversation with him in his basement office at the Willow West Mall.

Little Joe was a good guy.

But old Joe made the wheels go round.

Old Joe was a Russian Jew who landed in the new world with what most old world Jews landed here with.


Old Joe took it from there. By the time I first heard the Wolfond name, back in the '60's, it was a well established "fact" that Joe Wolfond got rich by being the first guy at the city dump every morning.

By the sixties there was a well-established Jewish community in Guelph, and there was a well-established Jew-hating community right alongside of it.

By the time I got to know old Joe he was pretty much the fall guy in every anti-semitic joke in town.

That was in the early '70's. I was a gas pumper and then the manager of John's Supertest. At John's Supertest, we prided ourselves on matching the lowest gas prices in town.

It was a strategy that worked. Match the lowest price in town, plus clean the windshield real good, by God they'd be coming back again and again.

And they did.

So I got to meet old Joe on a regular basis. And a lot of other stalwarts of the community as well. After all, who doesn't want to save two cents on a gallon of gas?

Old Joe was always a decent guy. He wouldn't leave the place without dropping one of his maxims.

His voice wasn't that far removed from that croak Marlon Brando had in the Godfather. In that Godfatherly croak he'd intone:

They say money talks. All my money ever says is goodbye Joe.

So you can see why I fell in love with the guy right there and then.

But that's not why I'm remembering Joe Wolfond.

I'm remembering old Joe because of a conversation I had tonight with the farm manager. Both of us recall friends who started out small and then morphed into big people.

Suddenly their two thousand square foot homes weren't good enough anymore.

You couldn't have people over because after all, those others have six thousand square feet and a serious art collection.

Old Joe would have none of that. A few years after that Supertest experience he would come into the K-mart where I then worked, and pick over the hammers and saws at our 88 cent sale.

By then old Joe's net worth was well into the tens of millions. He wore a rumpled suit that suggested nothing more or less than having slept in the ditch for the last three weeks.

I'm 100% sure he never gave a shit about what people thought of him.

Today his progeny are big deals in the Toronto Jewish community.

I hope they remember where they came from.