Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Falling Downs announces "Dorkshit of the year 2013" award winner

I was thinking about that the other day, when I was working on the snowblower drive-chain in the -10 cold.

The drive-chain snapped the last time I used the snowblower, must have been back in March. I had all summer, spring and fall too, to fix it. But who wants to fiddle with a snowblower when it's July? So I let it slide...

Dorkshit of the year? Well, there's a lot of candidates, large and small. Besides, how exactly do you define "dorkshit"?

Through most of the autumn I kept deferring the snowblower repair because I was convinced there was lots more autumn ahead before the snows came. In fact, I was waiting for Indian Summer well into December.

Wonder why it's called "Indian Summer"?

When that chain snapped it wound itself around the drive sprocket real good. Took a good half hour with a hammer and chisel and angle grinder to get it unwound. In a blizzard at -10.

That's on top of the hour and a half to attach the snowblower to the tractor. When winter, instead of Indian Summer, arrived here in early December I was flabbergasted. That Ford 4000 is a diesel, and diesels of her vintage don't start in cold weather unless they're plugged in. I'd conveniently parked the tractor about ten feet beyond the reach of any extension cord in my possession, back when I was still convinced Indian Summer was just around the corner.

That's an easy enough fix of course; just buy a longer extension cord.

Finding the chain links to fix the chain was another matter. Oddly enough, the drive chain hadn't snapped at the master link, it had taken out a regular link in the chain. I inquired at the shop where I get the Stihl serviced, but they told me they didn't carry stuff that size.

Maybe "Indian Summer" is one of those racist constructs, like "Indian bar." An Indian bar is a bar that specializes in over-serving First Nation folks. I've never heard of an Indian bar that was run by native folks; it's pretty much always white guys running these joints.

Alcoholism among the First Nations is a well-trod trope that I don't need to elaborate on. Over the years there has been plenty of ink spilled on why our native brothers are so prone to alcohol dependency. Many a thesis on the topic has launched the academic careers of the (generally) white folks looking into the issue.

And while I don't mean to demean the work of the many social scientists who have made careers out of studying the matter, I think it's pretty obvious that relentless grinding poverty and ubiquitous systemic racism have a considerable role in the state of things.

But that's just a wild guess, because I'm not a social scientist and I haven't properly researched the matter in an objective scientific manner.

Instead of Indian Summer we got real cold deep-snow winter, and there I am with no snow clearing technology of any kind. Once I got the blower attached to the tractor, at least I could push the snow around. In these parts, being the guy who can't fix his drive chain and therefore uses his snowblower to push the snow pretty much marks you as an irredeemable dorkshit.

If not a complete retard.

But for two or three weeks I was pushing the snow around with the snowblower.

Orville next door actually came over and blew the driveway out a couple times, I think because the stigma of living next to the retard who pushes the snow with his snowblower was becoming a bit much for him.

The folks where I get the Stihl serviced referred me to Barfoot Welding. I've been there before. Old school welding and machine shop in Wiarton. They got so much old shit hanging in their tiny reception area that you're never sure if you're in a shop or a museum.

I walk in with my drive chain in hand, and the 75 year old woman behind the counter asks me straight out if that's a 50 or a 60.

Huh?

The old girl obviously knows way more about this stuff than I do.

On close scrutiny of my drive chain we ascertain that it is a 50, and the old girl fixes me up with two master links and a half-link, in case I need to tighten up the chain.

Total cost, about five bucks.

So there I am fitting the various chain bits together in the -10 cold, and I realize there's only one dorkshit in this scenario.

Me.

Gonna keep the Dorkshit of the Year award right here in my pocket. Nobody deserves it better.


All drills, no kills; meet the EU Army



Some keener at France 24 is wondering why the EU Army isn't being dispatched to Mali or the CAR. In fact, in its nine year history it has never been dispatched anywhere.

Frankly, I think those bee-keeper outfits would make them sitting ducks!

Rabbi gives Phil Robertson a run for his (homophobic) money

And not just any rabbi. Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan is an Israeli MK and minister of religious services. Here's his take on homosexuality;

Do homosexuals change the Jewish character of the state?
“God forbid. Bastards are also Jews. I don’t want to persecute a person because of what he does in his privacy of his home. Quite the contrary ... They can do what they want, but we will not grant it legal status.”
What will you do if a law for single sex marriages is proposed [in the Knesset]?
“No, under no circumstances. A Jew and a goy can also not marry.”
Is that the same thing?
“We don’t recognize either of them. In any case, a Jew always has a much higher soul than a goy, even if he is a homosexual ...
We await John Baird's unequivocal condemnation of Rabbi Ben Dahan's remarks. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

You too can make $100k a year growing marijuana in your garden shed

But first you have to have the right set-up.

That 8x10 garden shed is only the beginning.

Then you need your off-grid power sources to drive the latest LED grow lights. The beauty of that technology is that it takes way less power than the grow lamps of days gone by.

In fact, if you are limiting yourself to making 100K and you're not a greedy shit, you can probably run a bank of LED lights off your regular power bill without anybody noticing. They'll just figure you got a bigger big-screen TV.

You do want to be indoors though. Colorado and Washington notwithstanding, the warondrugs crowd is still flying infrared sniffer planes over your property to find out what's what in your garden.

And for fuck's sakes, if you're going to grow the weed o' wisdom in the great outdoors, grow it on your neighbor's property, not on your own.

That's how they been rollin' in all the historic hemp hollers in Kentucky forever. Bubba be growin' his stuff on Junior's plot; Junior be growin' his stuff on Bubba's plot for the last fifty years, and if ever either one get's busted, they can righteously feign innocence.

It's a concept known as "planning ahead".

Revenge of the jocks

Remember those semi-literate mouth-breathers who used to bully you in high school?

They're not done with you yet.

In fact, to really rub it in, they're going to live longer than you.

Figures!

World Exclusive; ISON comet alien spaceship dropping Fukashima radioactive waste in Louisiana sinkhole!

Take that, Mr. Jindal!

Even the aliens have pegged Jindal as an obsequious know-nothing ass-kisser.

Time to push back, Bobby.

Don't take any more crap from those Indo-hating Republicans who pretend to be your friend while undercutting you behind the scenes. You know who they are.

And stand up against those racist Dems who push you around even when they pretend to be your friend.

And Bobby, those aliens... for God's sake, they're not your friends either!

Bobby, it's just me and you, buddy. Lets grab a few sheets of plywood at Home Depot and cover up them sinkholes before it's too late... I don't think we can trust the Japs OR the aliens...

Better safe than sorry.

Some unsolicited advice for Stephen Tarrant

Dude, sucks to be you. And I mean that in the most supportive way.

Read about your dilemma in the Vancouver Sun.  Must be mighty painful to see neighbours of yours being flown back and forth to Alberta for their eight in and four out spells driving the big trucks in the tar sludge projects.

For $120,000 a year.

With their grade 10 educations.

And you with your fancy degree shuffling back and forth between Target and Starbucks trying to make ends meet.

That's gotta hurt.

Your first mistake was believing the government bullshit about how that degree in "economic geology" was going to take you to a special place. Why didn't you just take a degree in shoveling government bullshit, like Pedro there in the video?

Anyway, no use feeling bad about the past. It's too late to undo your fancy education, and the honkin' huge student loan debt you are no doubt stuck with.

Here's a tip. I know they're big on job training out there in Newfoundland.

Sign up for a welding course.

Ya, I know that after your degree in economic geology that's gonna be a bit of a come-down, but at least it's going to get you a job. And I'm betting the lowest paid welding gig in Alberta is gonna trump your Target/Starbucks pay by a wide margin.

Once you're in with one of the contractors out there, who knows what can happen?

What? Stevie out there welding pipe in the ditch has a geology degree? Get him in here RIGHT NOW!!!

So stay strong, Stephen. Good things can happen.

Do not despair!

Bruce County alien crop circles explained

Sorry folks. Might not have been aliens after all.

Talking to one of the local guys who rents my pastures. Seems he got the right brake stuck on his tractor when he was out spreading manure on my fields. The tractor just kept going round and round in circles. That wasn't comet debris I saw, it was cow manure.

My face is red... so sorry!

Alien spaceship deposits ISON comet debris in Bruce County crop circles!

No shit!

Went for a ramble over the fields this afternoon, and there were FRESH CROP CIRCLES  all over the place!

It's not hard to put two and two together; alien spaceships circling the Bruce last night; fresh crop circles this morning!

Where does this spaceship hail from? Is the ISON debris radioactive? Are the aliens saving us from a radioactive debris shower?

I called up my buddy Kipling, who, among his many other duties, is Chair of the University of Guelph's Crop Circle Task Force.

Professor Kipling had a few questions, which I was happy to answer.

No, haven't been into the home brew.

The home grown?...

Well, maybe.

He tried to make a big deal out of that, but I know the difference between a blunt of homegrown and a crop circle.

Alien spaceship seen circling Great Lakes area

Talked to a few neighbors and they saw it too... cylindrical object, circling in ever-tightening circles... seems to be honing in on the Bruce Peninsula...

Oh my God... what pre-human secrets could those Bruce Caves hold?... is this the reckoning?...

The RAPTURE???

Or just the homebrew?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Junior cancels Japanese tour

Now that Junior is making inroads with the Japanese audience I thought maybe we should put together a tour.

He figures he wants to hold back at least till they get that Fukashima thing sorted out.

We'll have another look at it in 2,000 years.

Abenomics will hit the wall in 2014

Since Shinzo Abe returned to the PM's office in 2012, we've enjoyed a gusher of good-news stories about the Japanese economy.

Business mood hits six year high as Abenomics takes hold.

Abenomics fuel Japan economics boom.

That's just two among hundreds that we've seen in the past year. But according to this article at Bloomberg, storm clouds are gathering, and by next summer the Abenomics miracle will be over.

You can't maintain the facade of economic rejuvenation when the cost of living is rising five times as fast as wages. Ironically for a hard-core neo-lib, Abe himself is very well aware of this fact and has been pleading with the private sector to raise wages.

The last twenty years of economic stagnation in Japan seems to have seriously degraded a once-sacrosanct social contract. Japanese employers are now as keen to grind down wages as their counterparts in the US or UK.

Why should we share the wealth when we don't have to?

In Britain, the Director of the Confederation of British Industries is likewise pleading with employers to loosen the purse-strings and share the wealth. Again, the pleas are falling on deaf ears. Why should we provide a living wage when millions of desperate workers are willing to settle for less?

If Shinzo Abe and CBI boss John Cridland can figure out that workers need to make a living wage, why can't the titans of commerce and the captains of industry?

Junior turning Japanese

Let this be a lesson of hope to despairing parents everywhere. Junior is a brilliant guitarist, singer, and all-round music guy. I used to thrill to his Tom Waites covers.

Then he crossed over to the dark side. Electronic music...  I don't get it and I don't like it and I don't understand why anyone with real talent would go there.

But he seems to be coming out the other side!

This ain't Tom Waites anymore, but I like it:

https://soundcloud.com/shadowmaskmusic/necorobo-tsumiki-shadowmask

Saudi makes $3billion commitment to crush Hezbollah

The report that Saudi Arabia is gifting the Lebanese Army $3 billion, to be spent on French weapons, does not explicitly link the agreement to an anti-Hezbollah initiative.

But read around a bit, and it's not hard to connect the dots.

Saudi policy, more than ever in the hands of one man, Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, is doubling down on it's anti-Assad bet in Syria. Seriously irked by Obama having backed away from "red lines" and forging a tentative rapprochement with Iran, Bandar is going it alone.

Well, not quite alone. French President Francois Hollande was on hand to lend the announcement a veneer of first world gravitas. Besides, those three billions are earmarked for the French armaments industry, so the Saudi Santa is spreading his Christmas cheer far beyond the Lebanese Army.

A Christmas gift of these proportions represents a massive infusion of hardware for the Lebanese military, far beyond what is required to maintain its traditional role of nominally preserving sovereignty. The quid pro quo is that the Army will be expected to show its gratitude by coming down hard on Hezbollah; at least hard enough to get the Shite militia to disengage from direct participation in Syria.

The Saudi's have the tacit support of Israel in this deal. It is understood on all sides that this three billion dollars is not intended to protect Lebanon sovereignty from routine violations by her southern neighbor.

What could possibly go wrong?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Canada's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Free Trade, Gold Mine Development and Religious Freedom now 100% staffed by unpaid interns

How else do you explain something like this, from their home page:

Hot Topics

Canada's direct diplomacy – Iran
  Through direct diplomacy, Canada is committed to supporting the people of Iran in achieving a better future for their country.
****************
That's from their home page today. Canada closed its embassy in Iran in September of 2012. 

Pussy Riot still gunning for Putin

What must impress the casual observer most about the self-absorbed "activists" who call themselves Pussy Riot is the relentless inanity of their so-called protests.

Pussy Riot is the latest iteration of a loose-knit collective of spoiled youth united only in their principled rejection of paid employment. Instead, they are supported by allowances provided by US based democracy promotion NGO's, which is a win-win all round. The activists are free to pursue their dissolute lifestyles and dream up publicity stunts, while the NGO's leverage those stunts into anti-Putin propaganda.

Thus the two hour press conference yesterday represented a windfall return on investment for those democracy promoters. Prominently covered by all major Western media, the just-pardoned Rioteers earned their keep with a shambolic anti-Putin diatribe.

Full steam ahead with the over-throw of Putin was their rallying cry!

Aside from the predictable anti-Putin ranting, the news conference did offer some welcome revelations. The Rioteers are promising not to perform or record any more of their "punk rock."

Anybody remotely acquainted with the genre long ago recognized that what these folks were doing was neither "punk" nor "rock" by any conceivable stretch of the imagination. You could randomly throw together three or four people who have never held musical instruments in their hands, provide them with guitars and amplifiers, and within half an hour they would inevitably have achieved a level of musicianship far beyond anything Pussy Riot has exhibited.

That's not music, gals...

By far the best quote from the presser has to be from Nadia Tolotonnikova:

The scariest thing about Putin's Russia is the impossibility to speak and be heard.

Ponder that for a moment. She is speaking those words at a news conference in Putin's Russia to a crowd of journalists from all over the world.

That pretty much speaks for itself!


Pinko A&E execs come to senses, restore Duck Dynasty

Filthy lucre has once again trumped principle as A&E reverses its decision to suspend Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.

As any one not in a coma for the month of December already knows, Robertson ignited a cultural firestorm recently with some politically incorrect personal opinions about gays and blacks.

Not just "politically incorrect", but crude in an almost Fordian manner.

Suddenly America was treated to a freedom of speech ruckus that had the gay socialists of the NAACP and GLAAD on one side and stalwarts for free speech like Glenn Beck, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, and Sarah Palin on the other.

Hanging in the balance was almost a billion dollars in revenue the show is expected to bring in this year...

What did you think was going to happen?


Erdogan v Gulen

Al Jazeera has an article posted today by Yaduz Baydar of Today's Zaman entitled Erdogan v Gulen: a zero sum game?

There follows a lengthy screed heavy with both anti-Erdogan and pro-Gulen sentiment. Erdogan is portrayed as a corrupt, paranoid, anti-democratic autocrat.

Gulen is a "reclusive cleric, writer, and preacher... loved by millions of followers in and outside of Turkey for his staunch advocacy of a moderate, tolerant, modern brand of Islam, and peace and interfaith dialogue."

Not hard to take sides in the battle of Erdogan v Gulen, is it? You've got the devious despot on the one hand; the man of peace, modernity, and interfaith dialogue on the other.

Gulen good. Erdogan bad!

While Yaduz Baydar is identified as a columnist for Today's Zaman , nowhere does Al Jazeera inform us that Today's Zaman is part of Fethullah Gulen's vast empire of media holdings.

In effect, you're reading anti-Erdogan propaganda written by an employee of Fethullah Gulen.

An unfortunate oversight, I'm sure.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fast Eddie Burkhardt's really bad year

Ed Burkhardt is going easy on the folks of Lac-Megantic because after all, "they went through hell."

That hell took the shape of a hellacious fireball that destroyed the centre of their town when one of Fast Eddie's trains derailed, taking the lives of 47 locals.

That really sucks, but Mr. Burkhardt wants people to know he's hurtin' too. His net worth ain't quite what it used to be, although he is happy to point out that his European operations continue to haul dangerous goods without incident.

Burkardt continues to blame everybody and everything except his own reckless management for the disaster. Local fire-crews caused the trains brakes to fail when they turned the locomotives off.

The lone employee responsible for the mile-long train didn't set enough brakes.

Tank cars aren't build soundly.

The cargo wasn't inspected and labelled properly.

His decision to defer maintenance and cut train crews down to a single operator had nothing to do with it, and while he believes that safety protocols may need to be tightened up, that's something that shouldn't be the purview of heavy handed regulators. It should be left to managers.

Like him.




Thursday, December 26, 2013

Towards a drone economy

According to The Guardian, we have glimpsed the future, and the future is drones.

That's right; not only will Jeff Bezos put Walmart out of business with drone-delivery of everything from your morning coffee to your grocery order to that jury duty summons, but drones will utterly revolutionize the US economy.

Apparently drones are the next big thing. Drones are to 21st century America what cars were to the 20th; the lifeblood of the economy.

States are outdoing one another to seduce drone manufacturers. Everybody wants the jobs bonanza that will come with a drone assembly plant. Probably a lost cause; just a couple more technological break-throughs and it'll be drones building drones.

Investors are betting billions on an explosion in drone demand.

It's a brave new drone world!

Good news!.. dignity restored at Detroit City Hall

Who could even make up a headline like this?

The vulture funds are circling.

Pensioners will soon face the prospect of freezing to death.

What's left of Detroit's assets will be divied up among the creditors.

But thank God dignity has been restored!

The Teflon Turk

Haaretz has this perspective on the wily Erdogan.

Haaretz generally has a liberal/secular take on ME issues. If the linked article is any indication, they too see Erdogan's main challenge coming from the Gulen loyalists in his country.

Turkey-Israel relations have been all over the map since Erdogan came to power. Turkey is a full-patch NATO member, and Israel is "the only democracy in the Middle East", so on an official level one might expect a substantial overlap in interests.

The Mavi Marmara incident was a turning point. Regardless of what one thinks of the illegal and immoral Gaza blockade, any realist will first need to acknowledge that there are plenty of others who view it as legal, moral, and necessary. Turkey's connivance with those who took direct action in attempting to breach the blockade was a classic case of over-reach.

In hindsight, that was the turning point in Erdogan's tenure, and also a turning point in the fortunes of the Muslim Brotherhood. The NATO bigs in Brussels and Washington realized that the NATO chapter in Ankara was no longer on the same page as the rest of the gang.

The Chinese missile deal was the last straw.

That's why you're hearing more these days about the influence of Fethullah Gulen, whose minions are poised to dispose of Erdogan. What then?

The appeal of the Muslim Brotherhood in Washington and Brussels was always that, all things considered, they were more moderate, more pliable, more US/Israel friendly than the alternatives.

The MB star is fading because there is a more moderate, more pliable alternative waiting in the wings.

Unfortunately, for a lot of conservative folks who held their noses and put up with the MB, any option that is even more moderate and pliable will simply be unacceptable.

The Teflon Turk may be on his way out. Whoever comes next will have a very serious problem with the fundamentalists who have taken root next door.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Crappy Christmas for Muslim Brotherhood

Washington's Cairo satrap General el-Sisi has taken the gloves off... no more Mr. Nice Guy!

A gentle summer coup, months of patient negotiations about a transition to a more acceptable brand of democratic government, more acceptable than the democratically elected Morsi at least, and still the Koran-crazed fanatics run riot in the streets!

Enough of that!  The Muslim Brotherhood has been officially declared a terror organization. And there could not be a more symbolically significant day to make such a declaration than on the birthday of the baby Jesus!

Meanwhile, across the Mediterranean, Morsi's comrade in arms, the wily Erdogan, is lurching from crisis to crisis. As is usual for these radical Islamists, they must constantly blame their troubles on the USA. Erdogan's reckless slandering of American motives became so outrageous that US Ambassador  Francis Ricciardone was forced to issue a harsh rebuttal.

"Baseless attacks" and "intentional slander" is what those false tales in Turkish media were. The mere idea that anyone associated with the US embassy would ever have anything to discuss with the Ankara Young Businessmen's Association is outrageous!

I rather suspect that with denials so vehement, the story is probably true!

This would seem to be the end of America's long flirtation with the Muslim Brotherhood. There is a new champion of Islamic moderation waiting in the wings, a much more reliable chap than that MB crowd.

Fethulla Gulen, come on down!

Christmas in Kabul; time for your Yuletide blast 'o bullshit

Just in case you've been moping about the futility of America's Afghan adventure, NBC News has a timely bit of pro-war propaganda to perk you up!

NBC lays out the straight skinny:


  • US troops are family-oriented sentimentalists
  • the only thing more important to them than combat is getting mail from home
  • when not combating evildoers and reading mail, they build lots of schools
  • Afghans love American soldiers so much they are like brothers and sisters
  • all the sacrifices are worth it to help Afghan children realize their dreams.

There you go! For the money invested in defending America in Afghanistan, Detroit could have been bailed out a thousand times over. To say nothing of the 2,300 American's who have died and the tens of thousands who have come back physically and/or emotionally crippled... not even the Motor City could have inflicted such casualties!

But it's all been worth it!

Besides, Afghans are so much more grateful than Detroit would ever be.

Monday, December 23, 2013

There's nothing like the magic of a live concert

My buddy Randy from the drydock told me this story.

He'd gone to a Pink Floyd concert at Ivor Wynn stadium back in the 70's.

That in itself bestows a certain badge of coolness.

The closest I ever got to a Floyd concert was when Roger Waters was touring "The Wall" around and they came to Toronto a couple years ago. Me and Junior took that in, and if I remember correctly, Junior paid for the seats, the first time that had happened, which is probably why I remember "The Wall" at all.

Not that it wasn't a good show, but not anything like that gig at Ivor Wynn.

Here's Randy;

"Ya man, I was so fucked up when I went in. I barfed all over the head of the person sitting in front of me.

But what's really fucked up was that she didn't even move. I just had lunch and I barfed up all these peas that I ate. Had a steak dinner with a side of vegetables... but all that came up was these damned peas...

So she sits there for the whole two hour concert, and doesn't move... and I thought I was fucked up?"

Yup, nothing like the magic of a live concert.

"First World" already meddling in 2015 Ivory Coast election

The national newspaper of record (no, that is not ever going to be the National Post) today had a story for me penned by none other than former Canadian PM Joe Clark.

Follow Mandela's example in Ivory Coast.

Jolly Joe scored a trip to Ivory Coast courtesy of the National Democratic Institute. His mission is to check the temperature on the ground to see if those black folks are ready for democracy.

Throw Mandela's name at me and I'll read anything, at least for awhile.

I was doing OK till I happened upon this manure pile;

The NDI was invited by President Alassane Ouattara to send a neutral international panel to speak and listen to the leaders of parties, religious groups, civil society...

Excuse me?

The National Democratic Institute is a neutral international panel?

No, Joe, the NDI is 100% a creation of the US government! How far would your head have to be up your ass to call that "neutral?"

And by the way, Joe, Ouattara is an IMF bumboy installed at the pleasure of the USA, while the guy who should be president of the Cote d'Ivoire is languishing among the naughty niggers in the holding cells at ICC HQ in The Hague.

Have you noticed yet that the ICC can only find BLACK criminals?

The fact that two years out we get anti-Gbagbo propaganda delivered via mainstream media platforms tells you who has been anointed to win the next election.

That's democracy?

Mandela, Bronfman, Kalashnikov, Rizzuto; 'tis the season to bury giants

All these guys were way larger than life, whatever the fuck that means.

Out of the four of them I suspect all the others were acquainted with the work of Kalashnikov.

I also suspect that all of them had at one time or another sampled the wares of Mr. Bronfman.

Mandela is of course a global icon. Enough said.

That leaves Rizzuto. An old-school Mafia boss, he lived by a code that those other guys would intuitively understand.

I'm not sure that can be said of the new guys coming up.

And that's a loss for all of us.

Stopping Construction; Edgar Bronfman on the issue of settlement construction in the occupied territories

Stopping Construction, Building Peace


These are not easy times for all of us who care deeply about Israel. It has become clear that the governments in Washington and Jerusalem are at loggerheads, primarily over the issue of settlements on the West Bank.
As someone who even during the Carter administration, 30 years ago, called publicly for a halt to settlement building on the part of Israel, I remain even more steadfast in my belief that settlements are inimical to the interests of peace, and therefore inimical to Israel's long-term interests and viability.
The expansion of settlements in the West Bank, as we all know, has been promoted by the religious Zionist right in Israel as a form of holy work, meant to hasten the return of the Messiah through the possession of the entire biblical Land of Israel. Governments all across the Israeli political spectrum have allowed this to continue for decades, due usually to political expediency and pressure.
Now it seems as if the international community, including the U.S. government, is requesting that Israel freeze construction on these settlements as part of a process aimed at restarting stalled peace talks.
It is time even the Israeli right, including the current Likud government under Benjamin Netanyahu, look to the precedents set by Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon on the issue of settlements.
After all, it was Menachem Begin who first embraced the concept of "land for peace" as the basis for settling the Arab-Israeli conflict: in return for normalized relations with Egypt, Israel relinquished the entire Sinai Peninsula.
Today we have most of the Arab and even Muslim world putting forward a proposal, the "Arab Peace Initiative," which calls for a normalization of relations in return for an Israeli withdrawal back to the 1967 borders. While negotiations on the exact implementation of the initiative are needed, an Israeli freeze to settlement expansion is part of a necessary first move toward realizing this historic offer.
An even more telling precedent is the case of Ariel Sharon, the man tasked with taking down the settlements in the Sinai, and who as prime minister subsequently took down the settlements in the Gaza Strip.
Sharon became convinced that the demographic threat to Israel's existence outweighed his life's work of settlement construction. As Sharon understood clearly, there was no way to keep controlling the Palestinian people indefinitely and to simultaneously maintain Israel's Jewish and democratic character.
At a certain point, there will be more Arabs than Jews living between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, thereby leading to one de facto apartheid state if no resolution to the conflict is reached via a two-state solution.
Nearly as important, Sharon's evacuation of Gaza, opposed so bitterly by the Israeli right in the Knesset and by settlers on the ground, was a triumph for Israeli democracy and governance. Once the government took the decision, the various organs of the state worked respectfully to uphold the rule of law. This should be kept in mind every time another illegal outpost sprouts up on the West Bank, in direct contravention of Israeli law.
It is these types of decisions from an Israeli prime minister regarding settlements that the Obama administration has said repeatedly it wants to see from Netanyahu.
The American Jewish community has, over decades, been a steadfast source of strength for Israel -- inside Israel and out, and from our local communities all the way up to Washington. As Zionists, I and the vast majority of American Jews will always remain committed to the security and well-being of the Jewish state.
However, on the issue of settlements there is seemingly a divergence of opinion: a majority of American Jews agrees with President Obama and does think that a halt to settlement construction is a reasonable request in the interest of peace.
To be sure, the Arab states and the Palestinians have to do their part, too, and the international community needs to hold them to account. After all, a future Palestinian state has to be a viable economic and political entity if it is to succeed and there is to be a lasting peace.
But continued "natural growth" in West Bank settlements cannot be allowed to take priority over the possibility of normalized relations with the entire Arab world. Peace with its neighbors, not the sensitivities of a small minority of religious settlers, has to be Israel's ultimate objective.
People have taken to calling this the "tough love" approach towards Israel, but this is wrong. Rather, it's the only approach you can take if you truly love Israel and care about its survival. A peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with two states for two peoples, is the only realistic way for Israel to ensure its Jewish and democratic character, and hence its existence.
Muddling through for another 30 years on the present course, only to have someone write again about the need for an end to settlements, is not only unsustainable but unloving.

Edgar M. Bronfman is the President of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation and the recent author of Hope, Not Fear: A Path to Jewish Renaissance. 

Mid-east peace takes giant step backward with death of Edgar Bronfman

A quick scan of obits in various media outlets reveals the expected accolades for Edgar Bronfman. His lengthy tenure as head of the World Jewish Congress. The tenacious lobbying of the Soviets to allow more Jewish emigration. His efforts to hold Swiss banks accountable for Nazi-era collusion with German authorities.

But one facet of Bronfman's career as a lobbyist for Jewish interests is hard to find. That is his principled opposition to settlement building in the occupied territories. Bronfman was convinced that the settlement project was fundamentally at odds with the long term interests of the state of Israel. In fact, he was not afraid to use the word "apartheid" when describing what he feared Israel was becoming.

Moderates on all sides have lost a powerful ally.

Revealed; Snoop Dog, Tupac trained at Satwa Combat School in Dubai

Check it out, right around the 14 minute mark of the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUk5CB9kaBY

Pretty hilarious video. What's not so funny is that Shezanne Cassim is sitting in a Dubai jail for his comedic efforts.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Why I am optimistic

There's sure enough lots of shit to get gloomy about. Click on the Counterpunch site if you don't believe me. Thing is, I generally am in agreement with what I read there, but I simply cannot share the overall sense of gloom that Counterpunch gives off.

I believe we are on the cusp of a new age, and it ain't gonna be a new age of NWO black helicopters and all that shit.

It will be a new age forged by the young generation, the one's who are just coming to terms with the shit-pile we're leaving them.

We have seen some hints of what is bubbling to the surface. The "Occupy" thing is going to make a comeback. Occupy inspired the "Idle no more" movement of First Nations folks who were getting to know the power of social media. We'll be seeing more of that.

There is also an uprising among the fast food serfs. Many major cities have seen demonstrations for fair wages for fast food workers. As more and more fast food serfs have graduate degrees, those folks will realize that they have nothing to lose and will invest their considerable energies in fighting for a living wage.

It is an unconscionable shame that there are people in the US and Canada who work full time yet rely on food banks to feed their children.

We, my generation, have let it come to this.

I sincerely hope the next generation won't let that legacy stand.

The eternal sunshine of the Rolling Stones

If I remember correctly, the name of the guy out there on Vancouver Island who did my tattoos was "Zane."

Nice work Zane. I still got 'em.

Zane had a tattoo place in Victoria, and he was a cool enough dude, but I could not for the life of me get across to him what I had in mind for that angel on my forearm.

Zane always had a few buddies hanging around, with their pit bulls and stuff. I remember going home with the cuffs of my pants shredded because all these pit bull pups had been chewing on them.

Zane played it pretty straight. Wouldn't allow you to bring your six-pack into the premises. But you could get fourteen sheets to the wind and stagger up there and he'd tattoo anything anywhere.

As long as you signed the waiver.

So I says to Zane, Dude, I want a angel like what Jimmy Page has in the middle of his records.

Zane has no clue what I'm talking about.

Fuck man, let's go to the record store. I'll show you...

So Zane on his roller skates and I skate/stroll a couple blocks and I show him the angel on those Swan Song discs.

We get back to his studio, and he's got the radio on, and a Rolling Stones tune comes on, and he's running his needle up the left leg of my angel, and he says to me "I like dancing to the Rolling Stones."

And he starts dancing.

While he's running that needle up the left leg of my angel.

Long story short, I got a few extra jabs with that tattoo needle, and while he did a great overall job on that likeness of the Swan Song angel, it appears to any casual observer to have a dick.

Yes, a male appendage.

There's a tattoo on my forearm of an angel with a fucking dick.

Thank you Zane... thank you Rolling Stones!

These two movies will tell you everything you need to know about the human condition

The Farm Manager has been bingeing on seasonal movies.

It's a wonderful life. The sound of music. Fly away home.

I didn't even realize that those latter two had made the Christmas canon, but apparently they have.

The Farm Manager claims that the common thread is that all these Christmas shows are about love.

Ya, maybe, but then again, she says that about everything.

Here's my take on movies.

There are essentially two, and only two narratives in contemporary story-telling.

The happy ending.

The other ending.

You can summarize the entire post-enlightenment history of story-telling with two movies; The Sound of Music, and Das Boot. I won't insult the intelligence of the reader by spelling out which is which.

Oddly enough, both stories involve relatives of mine.

I've mentioned before the provenance of Colonel von Trapp.

And I've heard that a cousin on my mother's side was a crewman on the U-96.

And how is it that the good Colonel from the happy movie was also involved with submarine warfare?


Ice storm of the century cripples Toronto

There's folks all over Toronto who won't have power for three or four days. At least.

I wonder how Toronto Hydro prioritizes whose power to fix first?

I'm guessing they're hard at work in Rob's 'hood right now. Also in Rosedale and Forest Hill. And of course you want Bay Street up and running by the opening bell tomorrow.

All you brown folks out Jane-Finch way are penciled in for February.

And a heartfelt salute to my dear step-daughter who is putting up elderly folks of all shades at the burger joint she manages on Spadina.

I could not be more proud!

Canada's "ambassador for religious freedom" gets good bang for buck from tiny budget

Canada's Office For Religious Freedom is not yet a year old, but just look where it has been finding religious persecution;
  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Sri Lanka
  • Central African Republic
  • Nigeria
  • Indonesia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Syria
  • Pakistan
  • China
Hell, just reading the Pew Research Center reports on all those countries must be a full time job for Ambassador Bennett! And that's a lot of religious persecution to address on a budget of less than $5 millions. Coming from a country where the leader spends over a million bucks shipping two armoured limos to India for a three day visit, religious freedom seems to be getting the short end of the stick.

Luckily for religious freedom, Andrew Bennett is a master of working miracles with minuscule budgets. Before getting this gig he was Dean of Augustine College, a private Christian school with several dozen students.

With all respect to Ambassador Bennett, recent developments within the Department of Foreign Affairs would suggest Mammon has by far trumped God on the list of Canadian priorities. Religious freedom is a subset of foreign aid, which is a subset of economic development, which is a subset of the foreign operations of Canada's "extractive sector".

In other words, if you're not letting us build gold mines in your country, we're going to come down hard on your lack of religious freedom.




Khodorkovsky acknowledges error of his ways; will not challenge Putin

Funny how ten years in prison can change your perspective.

Both Putin and Khodorkovsky came to prominence in that great free-for-all that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. The most ambitious and ruthless of former insiders battled one another for the spoils. Men barely in their thirties emerged as billionaires.

Real estate prices on the French Riviera sky-rocketed.

Builders of super-yachts welcomed the new lease on life.

As both Khodorkovsky and Putin are well aware, but for the grace of God it might just as easily have been Putin in prison and Khodorkovsky in the Kremlin.

The Guardian undoes twenty years of anti-tobacco activism with one photograph

Helmut Schmidt

Gott im Himmel, what were they thinking! The twats at The Guardian have just undone the good works of the past twenty years of anti-tobacco activism with this single photo of 95 year old Helmut Schmidt puffing on a ciggy.

You know what's going to happen when the impressionable youth of the world see this picture? It's gonna go viral, that's what! And then cigarette sales are gonna go through the roof...


Because impressionable youth all want to be just like Helmut?

Hollande abandons Napoleonic aspirations, shoots for comedy career instead

Pity poor Hollande the Conqueror. Those African adventures that were to earn him his spurs have done nothing of the sort. Mali remains a merry-go-round of continuously chasing the same radicals out of the same towns, while in the Central African Republic anti-France protesters were in the streets by the thousands today.

So one must not be too harsh in assessing the man's motives. Perhaps realizing that his legacy would not be secured by the gun, he has reached for the pun. In the country that adopted Jerry Lewis as a comedic icon one might think Hollande would have a chance.

No such luck. While attempting a lame joke at the expense of Algeria, he has managed instead to create an international incident. While apologies and recriminations have gone back and forth, it remains to be seen whether the damage can be contained.

Meanwhile, lame-duck Hollande is wallowing in approval numbers that are barely half those of lame-duck Obama, and we like to think his goose is cooked... which I suppose proves yet again that these things are all relative.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Slow-motion coup unfolding in Turkey

When we looked in on Fethullah Gulen a year ago we speculated that American security services were grooming him for something special.

Recent goings on in Turkey draw into focus what that "something special" might be. Gulen is to be nothing less than the Washington-endorsed unifier of Islam and saviour of the Muslim people.

The wily Erdogan is now fighting for his political life. There are enough Gulen allies throughout his government that they know where the bodies are buried (sadly, this may soon prove to be more than a metaphor). Corruption allegations against Erdogan's inner circle will be a high bar for him to clear. What will most likely happen is that in his heavy-handed way Erdogan will over-react against his perceived enemies, public confidence in his government will erode, and Gulen-linked challengers for the leadership will emerge.

All of which seems quite an achievement for a pious man of peace who makes his home in the Pennsylvania hills an hour and a half west of New York City. When you read his "sermons"  they remind you of nothing so much as typical New Age self-helpy claptrap that could come from any crystal rubber working to cultivate a following.

It's not hard to see why his message of working hard in this life to get your reward in the next would appeal to the American authorities. If you get enough Muslim folks believing that, chants of "death to America" will be a thing of the past. His attitude towards big business is also welcome. Indeed, the humble man of God has a global business empire of his very own that spans banking, insurance, construction and much more. Unlike his philosophy for individuals, his businesses seem to operate with a view to making a profit in this world, not the next.

So the next few months will be interesting indeed for Turkish politics. Look for pro-Gulen candidates to emerge in time for the elections. Gulen himself will not directly dirty his hands in Turkish politics; he will stay put in Pennsylvania.

After all, he has bigger kebabs to fry; he has been anointed to unify ALL Muslims, not just the Turks.

Rob Ford bobble-heads on e-bay

If you weren't one of the lucky 1,000 who snapped up the second batch of Ford dolls yesterday, it's not too late.

Bobble-head resellers are willing to let you have one on ebay.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Red rum and dead babies

If I'd been a bit more in tune with horror genres I might have known that "red rum" was just "murder" spelled backwards.

So when I bought that little fixer-upper triplex in Guelph back in the middle 80's it didn't even register with me that "red rum" painted randomly across various doors windows and walls should have been a red flag.

I'd bought the place because it had a huge lot. A robust presentation at the committee of adjustment might have got half a dozen townhouses approved for the site.

But I'd just come from a lengthy battle to have a little condo development approved on Water Street. I won that lengthy battle and the condo is still there, and I must say it is one of the finest small projects in the entire town.

But I was exhausted and my finances were exhausted and even though I saw huge potential in this triplex property, I didn't have the fight left in me at the time.

So I decided to give this place the lipstick treatment and defer redevelopment for a future date.

I figured that lipstick was going to run about 10K and be done in a month.

Even then I should have known better. Any reno I've ever done has been positive proof that the "3 factor" isn't just a myth.

The 3 factor is where you take your best guess about what a reno is going to run you, and multiply everything by three.

If it's gonna take three months, it'll take nine.

If it's gonna take $30 thou, it'll be 90 time you're done.

On this particular property, we burned the 3 and were gunning for a 5 factor.

Gotta put in a new bathroom in the ground floor suite. Pull out the hardware, and by jeepers, if that old bathtub ain't been leaking for at least twenty years!

The toilet too!

The entire floor under the bathroom is rotted out.

Now we're into shit that requires a building permit. That wasn't in the budget. I thought this was a lipstick job.

I end up working 24/7 week after week trying to get this project done. One morning, after having spent the night nailing floor joists into place under that new bathroom, I'm outside taking a breath of fresh air when a neighbor lady comes up to me and tells me this story.

She's so glad somebody is fixing up the place. She thought the dead baby was going to haunt it forever.

Huh?

What dead baby?

Ya, one day the woman who lived in that apartment where you've been replacing the floor under the bathroom came out and talked to me.

Talked for hours.

While she was talking to me, her baby was drowning in the bathtub.


Obama to send Duck Dynasty star to Uganda to explain homosexuality

This is an obvious response to the claim by Anglican Bishop Chris Ssenyonjo that Ugandans don't understand homosexuality.

Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson obviously does. He's being seconded to the Uganda Ministry of Health to explain the difference between a man's anus and a woman's vagina.

I have a hunch the Ugandans already know the difference. They're just playing stupid to attract more foreign aid.

Canadian tax dollars at work; Canadian warship makes another drug bust in Arabian Sea

So this is why we have a Navy?

Yup, Canada may have no enemies to speak of, not that Harper and his gang of imbeciles haven't been working overtime to create some, but when all else fails you can always claim you need a military to pursue that ever-slippery War on Drugs.

A couple of weeks ago Canada told the UN that it intends to claim the North Pole as sovereign territory, but asked for more time to map the area.

If our Navy spent its resources mapping the Arctic instead of making drug busts in the Arabian sea, perhaps they would actually be doing something useful for the country.

Sales plunge, stock soars! The strange tale of Blackberry's gravity-defying share price

The smart money abandoned Blackberry eons ago. Some even smarter money has been busy for at least the past year trying to drive the price down while accumulating massive positions in the stock.

Being neither an insider nor a professional analyst, I don't know to what extent the quarterly reports are simply exercises in creative writing. Seems to me that real losses would preclude an increase in cash on hand.

Some losses are more real than others, and a lot of the losses reported at BlackBerry are rather nebulous to say the least. When you announce multi-billion dollar write-downs on inventory you make some impressive share-value-destroying headlines, which I suspect is the intent, but the inventory is still there and people are still buying the product.

In spite of all the obits that have been written for BlackBerry over the past couple of years, the fact is that the company remains a global brand with serious market share in many emerging markets.


"Doomed" BlackBerry manages to add $600 millions to cash reserves in losing quarter

Everybody should have losing quarters like this.

Reuters is running with the "doomed" trope for now. Other news headlines feature "staggering losses" and "huge losses". Investors must be going with that last paragraph on the press release instead of the news headlines; BlackBerry stock is up 15% on the day.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Big Steve demands MacKay's resignation

Peter MacKay, known here as "Pinocchio" MacKay, seems to have outlived his usefulness to the Harper gang.

Long considered an inveterate liar and the most Machiavellian of Harper acolytes, at least since the infamous David Orchard double-cross, MacKay was today ordered to resign from cabinet.

His recent demotion out of the Defence file was perhaps the writing on the wall...

What?

Whadyamean I've got the wrong MacKay?


Oh...

Sorry folks, looks like I got the wrong MacKay. It's not Pinocchio MacKay, it's Cardiff manager Malky Mackay over there in the Premier League...

Sorry; my mistake. I just saw that headline and jumped to some obviously unwarranted conclusions. Wishful thinking can do that to you.

Well, nevermind then! Maybe some other time!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bank of America to outsource banking

Is that not what this story is all about?

Are not "banks" synonymous with handling money?

Not any more. GardaWorld is going to do the banking for the banks.

So what are the banks doing?

Why unlicensed dentists are in the news

The BC College of Dental Surgeons is coming down hard on unlicensed dentists operating in the province.

By "unlicensed" I think they mean the perps haven't been paying their dues to the college.

Reading between the lines, it appears that the perps hail from a particular ethnic community. This particular ethnic community isn't known for being stupid. I'm guessing that folks in this ethnic community gravitate to certain unlicensed dentists because word of mouth recommends them.

If that 's true, I'd hazard a bet that these pirate dentists probably had legit dentist training in a certain country where this particular ethnic community originates. I'd hazard a further bet that for the most part, they are sufficiently competent in their trade that folks recommend them to friends and relations.

And, further to that, I'll go way out on a limb here and hazard a guess that 100% of the ethnic folks favouring these underground dentists are not blessed with dental benefits. When they hear about a David Wu charging fifty bucks for a procedure that a paid-up member of the BC College of Dental Surgeons might charge $500, they know where to go.

When you're a minimum wage immigrant with no dental plan, this is what you do.

The David Wu's are providing an essential service. They should be venerated, not persecuted.

Canada Post and the memory hole

The announcement last week that Canada Post was to take itself out of the mail delivery business got me floating down memory lane just bit.

When we moved out here to Falling Downs the Post Office was just doing a review of rural mailbox safety. There had been a mailbox out in front of this place since the invention of the postage stamp, with never a hint that the mailbox might be unsafe. As a society, we are of course more safety conscious than we used to be, so I was not surprised when the safety review concluded that our mailbox had to go.

We've been picking up our mail from Mrs. Wallace at the Kemble PO ever since, so losing home delivery doesn't mean anything around here.

It means a lot to a lot of folks though, which is why the parliamentary transport committee had that emergency meeting today. Canada Post boss Deepak Chopra was called to explain the Canada Post decision to eliminate home mail delivery and double the price of a stamp.

Hilarity ensued.

In reply to concerns that seniors and shut-ins depend on home delivery, Chopra revealed that he has been besieged by seniors and shut-ins clamouring for the opportunity to get more exercise and fresh air by taking their walker or mobility scooter a couple of blocks to a community mail drop.

Isn't that great!

We're eliminating home delivery to give seniors a chance to get more fresh air and exercise!

As I recall, that's hardly the first time Canada Post indulged in egregious Orwell-think.

Must have been back in the 70's or 80's when Canada Post closed the main Guelph post office. The reason? According to the sign posted at the front door, it was to serve the public better! Yes, the public in Guelph would be better served by having their mail channelled to Kitchener fifteen miles away to be sorted.

So a Guelphite sending a letter across town, or to someone on the next block, was better served by having their mail sent to Kitchener for sorting, and then sent back to Guelph for delivery.

Even before that, I remember when Canada Post spent hundreds of millions making sure that French-speaking Canadians could find the nearest post office no matter where they were in the country. It sticks in my memory because I used to make frequent trips to the Suzuki dealer in Bridgeport, which was hard by the Bridgeport Post Office, and also conveniently nearby a well-known strip joint.

You could pick up a few bike parts, a stamp, and enjoy an afternoon of adult entertainment all in one go!

It must have taken a month to change the signage on that post office from "Canada Post" to "Canada Post/ Poste Canada."

At least now the non-English speaking residents of Bridgeport could find the post office. That's "inclusivity", ain't it?

Number of uni-lingual French-speakers in Bridgeport Ontario in 1969? None! And if there were any, I'm guessing those who were not entirely brain-dead might have, entirely on their own, figured out that Canada Post was in fact the same post office as Poste Canada.

The demise of home delivery also calls other serpents out of the memory hole. In that long ago era before e-mail, long distance love affairs used to rely on the postal service to keep connected. Ah, the sweet sorrow of running out to the mailbox every day to see if the beloved has favoured you with a few words!

I remember being hit hard by a bad case of first love. I'd made a trip to the old country and met a girl, Gudrun. Oh ya, that was the real thing!

How I looked forward to the next letter! It always took weeks longer than I thought it should have. But when it finally arrived!... oh the sweet bliss!

That all ended rather painfully with the letter that informed me that her loyalties were henceforth with the drummer of the local Christian rock band.

To this day I harbour a profound skepticism about Christian rock.

But it was Canada Post that facilitated that love, that longing, that long distance relationship, and I still have a soft spot in my heart for the folks who deliver a letter right to your door.

According to the linked article, Dan Kelly, CEO of the Federation of Independent Businesses, claims that the Post Office has run itself onto the rocks by paying 40% higher wages than his members. That's a massive 40% premium over minimum wage in other words. Canada Post must be wound down because it has dug such a deep hole by paying its workers a living wage.

I think what Dan is really getting at is that there's a lot of room for downsizing at Canada Post. Privatize the whole damned operation. Turn those living wage jobs into minimum wage jobs. That's how the rest of the working class lives; what's so special about postal workers?

Not only that, but Canada Post owns a lot of triple A real estate in the downtown core of many cities. Obviously, the highest and best use for all that prime real estate would be office towers and condos. If the Harper gang were to turn all that juicy downtown real estate over to the private sector, they might be able to avoid a tax increase for a year or two!

Meanwhile, whatever skeleton operations a government postal service might retain could be sourced out of private-sector industrial parks on the edge of town.

That's a win-win and win again!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

FM Baird claims new and improved Foreign Policy "not about jobs"

He is of course referring to the recently formalized strategy of making the "extractive industries" the centrepiece of Canada's so-called "foreign policy".

He's absolutely right; in no way can any aspect of this policy be mistaken for being about jobs for Canadians.

Rather, it is about mining ventures domiciled in Canada using government infrastructure to further their interests around the world.

Our "foreign aid" is to be piggybacked on this, as is our foreign policy.

"Jobs for Canadians" has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Meet the US policy wonks who invented South Sudan

Here's a lovely tale of first world "we-know-what's-best-for-everybody" paternalism sketching out how America invented South Sudan.

One hell of a feel-good story, ain't it?

Ya gotta love their sense of adventure and intrigue...

The Emperor.

The Spear-carrier.

Here is South Sudan today.

Hundreds dead, tens of thousands displaced, ethnic violence rampant.

Great job, fellas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Canadian delegation drops toxic turds at African mining summit in Mozambique

They had a really really important summit meeting in Mozambique this past week, the third Annual Conference of Ministers Responsible for Mineral Resources Development.

Canada, while being a global leader in providing sanctuary for rogue mining concerns, didn't see fit to send anyone with serious rank to the conference. They got a Parliamentary Secretary to a B list cabinet minister instead.

Not that she didn't have important stuff to say; "creating sustainable economic growth, led by the private sector, is the number one way to break the cycle of poverty."

Sounds good, eh?

Remember, she's in Moputo on behalf of Canadian mining companies. Mining is by definition not sustainable. That's a friggin' no-brainer, ain't it? You get the gold/silver/copper/whatever out of the ground, and then you're outta there.

Nowhere in history has the "extractive sector" ever created sustainable economic growth.

Harper Government celebrates biggest sellout ever

Oh sorry, according to the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Religious Freedom, Mining, and Gay Rights, it's not the biggest sellout ever, it's the Biggest Trade Deal Ever!

Whoopee!!!

If you have a look at what was announced last October, you'll see that for the first time European companies will have the right to bid on Canadian infrastructure projects.

And not only that, but they'll be able to bring their own workers with them!

Not even Lyin' Brian gave that away in NAFTA.

Yup, this biggest trade deal ever is going to create jobs alright; for Italians, Spaniards, and Irishmen.

Right here in Canada!

Where to find $6.5 billions to save Syrian refugees

The UN is embarking on its biggest fund-raiser ever in order to save millions of displaced Syrian refugees who are at risk of freezing to death this winter.

Six and a half billion is a small fraction of what the financiers of the Syrian crisis have spent on funding the war. Since they are the ones who have created the crisis, should they not be the ones to pay for the consequences?

Spare me the hands-out nonsense, Mr. Ban Ki-moon. Embargo the assets of the Saudi and Qatari sovereign wealth funds. It's no secret that those are the folks funding the "rebels" in Syria.

The Saudi's have over 600 billions in their piggy bank; the Qataris at least 100 billions.

If they can afford the war, they can afford to cough up this 6.5 billion.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Crawford and me

Crawford was a hard luck guy who almost made it in the world of road construction. Coulda been up there with Cox and that obnoxious guy who ran Atlantic Paving.

By the way, that obnoxious guy who ran Atlantic Paving still owes me a steak dinner, on account of a bet we made way back in the 80's. He'd bought a farm way out the country end of Paisley Road, thinking he'd be growing subdivisions within a year or two.

I knew enough about the business that I knew he was full of shit, so I told him he was full of shit.

So he gets all huffy and says to me, "Neumann, mark my words, I'll bet you a steak dinner that in two years we couldn't stand here because the cars will be running us over."

At the time, we were standing in a corn field at the corner of Paisley Road and County Rd. 32.

It's still a corn field 35 years later, so where's my steak dinner?

Real estate speculation isn't always the slam dunk you think it's gonna be.

But back to Crawford.

Way before he and me crossed paths he had a major gravel operation going on up Durham way. Used to supply gravel to road-building projects all over south Ontario. Then one day disaster struck.

According to Crawford, and he told me this story many times, the very day that his insurance agent had come round and assured him he was insured for everything, one of his drivers backed into the support pillar for one of his gravel hoppers, causing a chain reaction that took out about a million dollars worth of equipment.

This would have been back in the 1950's, when a million dollars was a million dollars.

I saw enough family photos from Crawford's wife Jean that I knew they'd been real close to grabbing the brass ring before that happened. Had the nice house and the new Cadillac and the whole nine yards.

Long story short, Crawford turned up in my world twenty years later. My dear daddy had bought a Supertest gas station on the edge of Guelph, purportedly so that I could get a part-time job, as I was in high school at the time.

Obviously his thinking at the time was that I was too retarded to find my own part-time job.

In hindsight, he was right.

So Pop buys this Supertest station from this old Polish guy, hires Crawford to run it, but makes him hire me as his gas-pump guy. At least after school and weekends.

Crawford had by then midwifed several unsuccessful careers in the lee of the great gravel pit tragedy. The irony of that episode was that the one calamity that neither Crawford or his insurance agent had foreseen was one of Crawford's own trucks taking out his own operation on his own property.

He was covered for everything, but he wasn't covered for that.

By the time me and Crawford worked together he was pretty much a hard-core alcoholic. One day I was up on the roof of John's Supertest, fixing up the waterproofing on a skylight, when I saw a hand reach up over the eve...

It waved around a bit, and then started running up and down the eve trough. I was transfixed... and then the hand miraculously pulled a pint of whiskey out of the eve!

That's where Crawford stashed his fix!

In hindsight, I think I should have showed the man a bit more respect. As it was, I made a game of hiding the booze he was hiding. Find his fix, take a snort, and replace it five feet down the eve...

Old Crawford would go into a panic...

I'm about the age now that Crawford was then, and I can finally appreciate how unfunny that funny stuff was.

60 Minutes presents... Christian Towelheads!

OK, there's your Coptic Pope...



IRAN BREW: Hassan Rouhani, showing Iranians a version of a gesture he learned in Glasgow.

And here's your top toweller.

And what's the difference, other than one's got the white rig and the other got the black rig?

It was a remarkably telling episode of 60 Minutes. Seems like they are trying to re-establish their bona fides after some of their recent mishaps.

The first two thirds of tonight's show was dedicated to singing the praises of the NSA. Yup, that Snowden chap was one bad dude. Hurt America something terrible. You know; that America of secret prisons and torture etc. Snowden almost wrecked it for those folks.

And those Copts, god love 'em, just because their Pope manned up to support the Army after the coup they are suddenly the victims of all sorts of religious persecution.

We gotta put a stop to that!

RIP Jack Munro

Reading the remembrances for former IWA leader Jack Munro I am struck by how widespread the recognition is that he was a labour leader from another era.

Here's one of the better ones.

Munro was IWA President when I joined that union in 1979. Thanks to the IWA I was making a well above average middle class income as a maintenance welder. I worked for a small millwright outfit, but our work took us into sawmills all over southern Vancouver Island.

It was good work, good pay, and thanks to the efforts of old-school guys like Jack Munro, that was an era when you were proud of your union affiliation.

While it's tempting to say those days are over, I'm going to be a glass-half-full guy and predict that there will be another generation of Jack Munros, Jimmy Hoffas, C.S. Jacksons, and Bob Whites coming along.

There's a generation of young folks out there who can't find jobs that will pay off their student loans, let alone make a decent life. Sooner or later this generation is going to take the reins from our current generation of labour leaders. Strike action will make a return. Solidarity will once again mean something. Two-tier contracts will be a thing of a past.

It can't happen soon enough.

Canadian workers f@cked again!

Just happened to be reading about a mid-sized welding shop in North Bay that recently brought in a couple of guys from Tunisia, because apparently there are no qualified welders available in Canada.

Bullshit!

In the first place, there's plenty of folks among the 1.5 million unemployed Canadians who have those skills.

Furthermore, it's a very long way from rocket science to train up welders. If this government had the slightest interest in training unemployed Canadians, they could implement a training program at minimal cost that would have welder-helpers earning their keep within a few weeks, welder apprentices within a few months, and high-end welder-fitters within a couple of years.

We've got the training infrastructure available in high-school shops and community colleges. What we don't have is the political will. That's because political will in our government is shaped by the will of the Canadian Manufacturers Association and the Chamber of Commerce, and believe it or not those folks don't have much in the way of over-lapping interests with unemployed or underemployed Canadian workers.

What they are after is cheap labour. The government connives with them by establishing the incredibly opaque "Labour Market Opinion" as the magic key that opens Canadian jobs to foreign workers. All the employer needs to do is fill out a few forms to prove that they've tried really hard to find skilled welders in Canada for $16 dollars an hour with no luck, and therefore need to hire from outside the country.

Some cubicle lifer with a BA in sociology, toiling away deep in the bowels of Citizenship and Immigration, who doesn't know shit when it comes to skilled work, gives the application a cursory once-over. She has no clue that $16 hasn't been the "prevailing wage" for skilled welders since the mid-eighties.

Bingo! The rubber stamp comes down and the employer has the green light to bring in those keeners from Tunisia.

Sixteen bucks an hour is serious money in Tunisia.

Here's a telling headline from CTV News; Temporary Foreign Workers debate shines light on labour shortage in mining industry.

What's the debate? There's a one sided drone of platitudes from various employer lobby groups about how we've neglected training skilled trades. They've been complaining about it as long as they've been bringing in foreign workers; it's cheaper to complain than to train!

The employers as a whole (I know there are some exceptional employers who invest mightily in Canadians, but they are the exceptions) would prefer to see the foreigners come in, because a trained Canadian is going to want to work for a Canadian standard of living. The Tunisian is going to be happy with $16/hr, and he's already got the skill set! See why this is a win-win for the employers?

It's also a win-win for the government. They save those training funds while at the same time appeasing their corporate backers.

Contrary to what that headline would lead you to believe, there is scarcely a debate, nor is there a shortage of skilled workers in the mining industry. What there is, is a concerted and coordinated push by employers and government to drive down the wages of Canadians.

Here's another headline, this time from Fort Mac a couple of months ago; 300 Canadians replaced by Temporary Foreign Workers. There was no national outrage over this story like there was when the Royal Bank got caught playing the same game. There was no shortage of skilled workers; these Canadian welders and pipe-fitters already had the jobs and have been displaced by foreign workers.

And where is organized labour in all this? We don't hear a lot from them, do we? Sure, go to any union's home page and they'll be flat out against the TFW program, but where are the demonstrations in the streets? Those 300 Fort Mac guys could and should shut down the Husky project. We no longer have principled union leadership like we had in the day of C.S. Jackson and Bob White. What we have now is union bureaucrats who think getting their former members a better severance package when their jobs are off-shored or handed to foreign workers is all that is required of them.

If we continue on the road we're on, in a few short years our "labour market" will be the plaything of international labour brokers, and secure jobs at a decent wage for Canadians will be but a distant memory.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Why criticism of Ontario's $190 million gift to Cisco is misguided

Premier Kathleen Wynn thought she finally had an all-too-rare good news story the other day. For a mere $190 millions of taxpayer boodle, tech giant Cisco promises to spend four billion dollars in the province over the next ten years.

As a small "c" commie I find it repugnant that capitalists are able to play various jurisdictions off, one against the other, in demanding what are essentially legal kickbacks.

But while my political opinions allow me to cheerfully piss into the prevailing winds, I also live in the real world, and I realize that this is how things work.

It's how they have worked for quite some time. The reason there is a Toyota plant in Cambridge today that employs thousands of people is because thirty years ago different levels of government collaborated in luring the company to Cambridge. That meant providing a package of tax-breaks and incentives that would make Cambridge more competitive than the various other sites the company was considering all over North America. Bear in mind that they already had a plant in Kentucky at the time and could simply have expanded there.

Look at the game Boeing is playing in the US right now.  They got a $120 million kickback for a mere billion in spending in South Carolina, which makes it look like Wynn struck a relatively hard bargain with Cisco. But the real eye-opener is that once they let it be known that they are shopping a future plant around for the upcoming 777, they got offers from 54 cities in 22 states.

The reason they are shopping the plant around in the first place is part of their ongoing war with their unions. In fact, that's why they have a plant in SC. The Cisco deal has no hint of that back story. Cisco is making a commitment to a high wage, worker-friendly neighbourhood by choosing to expand their operations in Ontario.

That makes the bleatings of Tory MPP Vic Fedeli somewhat ironic. He wants to take this opportunity to brand the Ontario Conservatives as the party that is "against corporate welfare." Surely Ontario voters are not daft enough to fall for that one.

Hudak and Fedeli are "against" corporate welfare, but want to lower corporate taxes and make Ontario a right-to-work jurisdiction. Maybe he's right; that's not welfare - that's just giving away the store!





Friday, December 13, 2013

Why Omar Khadr deserves another chance

In 2002 Canada signed on to an ambitious bit of do-gooderism known as the "Optional protocol on the Rights of the Child".

The aim of this non-binding UN document was to divert "child soldiers" out of the regular stream of consequences that befall adults who are captured in the course of hostilities. Minors who became prisoners of war were to be reintegrated into civil society.

Canada was the first country to ratify the agreement, and one of its most vocal cheerleaders.

Also in 2002, Canadian teen Omar Khadr was captured after a fire-fight in Afghanistan, in the course of which an American serviceman died. Khadr, 14 or 15 years old at the time, was captured by US forces and eventually found his way to Gitmo.

Khadr's repatriation to Canada was resisted at every step by the Canadian government. The child soldier had morphed into an unrepentant terrorist in the view of Canadian authorities. Clearly the protocol on the rights of the child was intended to protect children raised by African savages, not children who were born in Canada.

The naive do-gooderism of well-meaning activists was more than offset by the vindictive racism of the Harper gang.

The Canadian child soldier is now 27 years old and still in prison, albeit in Canada finally. He has launched a legal action against the government for violating his rights.

This case throws into stark relief the hypocrisy of Canadian authorities who are always eager to preach to the rest of the world about doing the right thing, but then pretend those rules don't apply to Canada.

Get over yourselves, you sanctimonious twats! The same rules that apply to child soldiers born in Africa must apply to child soldiers born in Canada. You can not offer prescriptions to right the wrongs of the lesser developed nations, or just lesser peoples, and pretend that you are not subject to those same rules.

Canada's treatment of Omar Khadr has been one long and despicable exercise in hypocrisy and racism.

We need to give him another chance just to exonerate ourselves.

God smites Israelites with apocalyptic blizzard

Obviously the Almighty has been mightily displeased with the shenannigans of His people over there in the Holy Land.

Jerusalem is bracing for up to two feet of snow over the weekend, which would effectively paralyze the city. Speculation is rife that His real target is the Knesset, whose denizens offered up a too-little too-late sop by shelving the controversial Prawer Plan as the snow began to blow.

Religious authorities expect that it may take further concessions from the hardliners before the Almighty is placated. Said Rabbi Moshe Hirsch of the Neturei Karta faction, "we have been warning for 65 years that the people have made a grievous error, and does anyone listen? No!... and finally it comes to this!"

Thursday, December 12, 2013

US "oopsie" kills 15 civilians in Yemen wedding party drone attack

Faces were red at Drone Central today when word spread that the latest dispatch of an al-Qaeda supremo missed its target and instead dispatched fifteen civilians heading to a wedding.

"Oops!"

"My bad!"

"Guess I'm putting fifteen dollars in the oopsie jar!"

Those were just a few of the remarks heard at CIA Drone Central in the awkward silence that followed the news.

By the way, here's a reminder of how and why drones in Yemen became CIA business. In the event that some international tribunal ever catches up to the perpetrators of these illegal drone attacks, burying responsibility deep within the CIA will ensure that the actual trigger-fingers are never known to the public. Especially a public that could conceivably come knocking with a mandate from the ICC.

Well, at least there's fifteen al-Qaeda sympathizers who can never testify!




Bangladesh backs initiative to improve working conditions and rail safety in Canada

Today the Honourable Dr. Dipu Moni, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, announced Bangladesh's support for a joint initiative with the ILO entitled Improving Rail Safety in Canada.

Stimulating sustainable economic growth is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty, increasing security, and encouraging equality. Bangladesh's support for this initiative is helping ensure that Canada is better equipped to provide safe and healthy employment for its people, and a safe environment for communities that abutt rail transit corridors.

Bangladesh's assistance will help ensure that Canadian workers, particularly in the shipping crude by rail sector, are properly assessed for fire safety, that unsafe operators are identified for remediation, and that robust and transparent inspections are carried out.

As was so tragically underlined earlier this year, improving the safety of Canada's railway infrastructure is imperative. This project will address the complex and serious challenges facing the sector, and improve safety for workers and local communities, in line with international standards.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Goodbye paperless office!... we hardly knew ya

Well, this has got to be a happy story for floundering paper mills all over the world.

The "paperless office" hoax was always just that for anybody who works in an office. The more we got "paperless" the more paper copies we had to make of everything.

But it's official now; paper is making a come-back.

And if you read the link it's all because digital technology has made spying ubiquitous.

Talk about being hoist from your own petard.

FULLY LEGAL MARIJUANA!

Yup, you can smoke it, grow it, buy it, sell it...

In Uruguay.

Yes, down there in South America Uruguay has upped the ante on Colorado and Washington. In Uruguay we're not talking the weasel talk of "decriminalization."

We're talking full-on legal as apple pie!

Mind you, it only took the UN a few hours to declare legal marijuana illegal.

But that's what you'd expect from the UN. They do the bidding for the international criminal cartels who profit from illegal drugs and keep the international banking cartels flush. Not to mention a goodly percentage of the UN's member states.

It's a great day for the weed 'o wisdom.

Wally Tucker, may he rest in peace, is probably signing up for Spanish lessons even as I write this!

Toronto loves Rob Ford

Not the Toronto of community activists and the liberal millionaires and the Toronto Star and the beautiful people. Those folks are downright embarrassed by the man.

Jimmy Kimmel made a joke about Rob Ford?

OH MY GOD THE ETERNAL SHAME OF IT ALL!!! Not even on Jimmy Kimmel does Toronto get any respect!

The fat crack-smoking cracker just has to go!

There's another Toronto, though, that seems to quite like the guy, crack or no crack.

That's the Toronto of the tow truck driver and the hotel cleaner and regular folks of all stripes.

And that fact is evidence of one of the most successful cases of brand-building in recent history, because only in his drinking and recreational drug habits is Rob Ford "regular folks" by any stretch of the imagination.

Rob's Daddy was a millionaire businessman and successful provincial politician. Rob Ford inherited a business worth millions of dollars. The only money he has saved his city came out of the hides of the garbage collectors whose jobs he privatized.

That's the enigma of Rob Ford; an embarrassment to the beautiful people who has, in spite of his record, managed to become an icon to a lot of regular folks.

He's mobbed when he goes to a football game.

Today he pulled another publicity stunt, dutifully reported by all the news media types who profess to despise him. He skipped a city council meeting to tour one of the worst apartment buildings in the city.

Check out that Katie Simpson tweet; "residents chanting Rob Ford."

Go figure!