Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reality check for Charles Krauthammer

I was just watching Charles Krauthammer on Fox News. According to Krauthammer, Iran is the "most grave threat" facing America today.

Hmm...

Last year the US spent about 700 billion dollars on its military.

Iran spent about 7 billion.

At last count America had well over 5,000 nuclear weapons.

Iran has been months away from figuring out how to build its first one for about twenty years now.

But people watch this nonsense, and what's totally shocking, they'll tune in tomorrow to catch even more of Krauthammer's insights.

Tar Sands on the Mississippi

What could possibly go wrong?

Read it and weep.

Or even better, call your elected representative and raise hell!

Big Chief Harper's favorite Indian casts rude aspersions on Chief Spence

Think what you will of Theresa Spence's hunger strike; at least she was doing something.

Something that contrasts starkly with Patrick Brazeau's anti-Spence smear campaign.

Brazeau has been flitting around the country on his Senate expense account waxing wise on the error of Chief Spence's political protest.

This latest diatribe was so far past any standard of professionalism or common decency that it scarcely merits comment.

Unfortunately, it's exactly the kind of performance that the Indian haters will seize upon.

This should get him extensive face time on the Sun TV channel. Ezra Levant drools over this stuff.

Storm-stayed at Falling Downs

Old Man Winter has been giving us one hell of a pounding here at Falling Downs. Roads are closed. Schools are closed. Damned near everything is closed.

We're generally well fixed for an extended stay around here, with one exception. The Farm Manager enjoys a bottle of red wine once in awhile. For a time we toyed with making it at one of those make-your-own-wine joints. You go and mix your ingredients and a few weeks later you go and bottle the results, and voila, you've got 30 liters of wine in your basement, or "wine cellar" if you must.

That's the problem of course. Having thirty bottles of wine in the house is not conducive to moderation. Pretty soon you're pouring it on your granola.

Ran into the same problem when I bought a five gallon pail of refosco from my Italian brother in law. The price was right, the wine was fine, but you're a little embarrassed to buy another five gallon pail two weeks later.

So when the storm moved in the Farm Manager had exactly one 750 ml bottle of red in the wine cupboard, and three days later she was getting a little cranky.

Dire straights demand extreme solutions, so it was decided on the morning of the fourth day that I would snow-shoe into town to get supplies. The roads and the schools are closed, but the liquor store is open. Armed with nothing more than my new-fangled aluminum snow-shoes, a goose-down parka, and my debit card, I set out at eight o'clock yesterday morning.

Oh, the things you do for love!

I figured on about a three hour trek into town and another three back. That's six hours of trekking in the teeth of a blizzard. That's a tall order for a man my age.

Set off cross country. No point following the roads when they're closed. That took me right across Willard MacMillan's front yard about fifteen minutes into my trek, and lo and behold, there's MacMillan's kids racing around the yard on an old Arctic Cat!

My God, why didn't I think of that before!

Young Josh MacMillan was pleased as can be to pocket the twenty bucks I gave him to borrow his sled for a half hour.

That really enhanced my cargo capacity too. I was able to transport an entire two-four of Coors Light tallboys in addition to that box of wine for the Farm Manager.

Unfortunately, the Farm Manager wasn't expecting me home for another five hours, and I was reluctant to see such a major brownie point score go up in flames...

So me and Willard worked our way through most of the two-four. Hell of a guy, that Willard. Served in the army for a spell. Couldn't take it. Told me lots of stories...

But that's another story.

The Senator McCain show

Acting on his conviction that he is always the most important man in any room Senator John McCain did his best to make himself the star of the Hagel confirmation hearings today.

And it worked. McCain's relentless pursuit of one-word answers to simple-minded questions eventually led to what the networks call a "heated exchange", which they have been cycling through their news channels endlessly ever since.

Frankly, it doesn't make any difference if Hagel is confirmed or not. It could just as easily have been McCain... oh, maybe that's why he's testy? It could just as easily have been Obama's Uncle Kwambo from Kenya. Secretary of Defense is a figurehead position with no influence to speak of.

Sure, you're the face of America's military to the world, so it helps to have a deep manly voice. That's why they don't let women be Sec of Defense, even though the job has the title of "secretary."

But Hagel is only the face of the nation's military. The brains and the heart soul and muscle are somewhere else.


Syria threatens Nations of Virtue

Google "Syria threatens" and you get 32 million results.

And who might the evil Assad be threatening with his threats?

On the face of it he is threatening Israel, but as Chuck Hagel confirmed today any attack on Israel is an attack on America, which is automatically an attack on all of NATO.

Heck, you might as well say Assad is threatening the entire world!

Why this threat talk? Seems the evil Assad is pissy about the Israeli airstrikes yesterday. Those Syrians!

What's an airstrike between neighbors?

But pouty-pants Assad is threatening retaliation.

Oooo!...  No Hanukkah greeting card for Netanyahu this year!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Myths of the one percent

Canadian media have been having a lot of fun with the story that you only need to earn 200 thousand a year to be a "one percenter" here in the promised land.

Hell, there's welders in Fort Mac making that...

Guess those rich folks aren't that rich after all.

Once you've gone that far down the road the real issues around taxes and relative tax rates are easily left behind.

Oh the one percent are already paying thirty percent of the income tax, and besides, they're just regular folks, welders in Alberta...

It's true that higher taxes on the one percent will not get us to balanced budgets. We'll need higher taxes on the five percenters and the ten and twenty percenters too.

And of course as every realist knows we'll need to make some spending cuts too.

I figure we can save a bundle by steering clear of those exercises in neo-imperialism that our NATO pals are constantly trying to sucker us into. What did we accomplish in Afghanistan?

Or Libya?

In fact, it's high time we washed our hands of that NATO gang altogether.

An exit from NATO would render the sub purchase and the F-35 unnecessary.

That would sure help us on the path to a balanced budget.

To be sure, we'd need to increase income taxes. Even on Buddy out there in the oil patch with his B-pressure ticket making 200k a year.

But let's not forget that income tax is only a small corner of tax land.

Is it fair that Joe Schmuck who drives his 15 year old Cavalier to a $15/hr job in the next town pays the same gasoline tax as the bond trader filling up his Bentley?

Or that they pay the same tax on liquor? Or cigarettes?

Any reasonable person can spot the inequity here. Yet it is not practical to have variable sales taxes and so on. Means testing at the checkout counter is a non-starter.

That's what justifies higher income tax rates on higher earners.


UK PM Cameron sucking up to Algerian terror state

There's a reason Algeria has been spared the dubious blessings of Arab Spring. The Algerian police state is by far harsher with dissidents than any of the so-called strongmen whose passing the West has cheered or facilitated.

Britain of course was gung-ho for clearing Gaddafi out of Libya. And Britain has been among the vanguard in braying for the destruction of the Assad regime in Syria. But here we have the spectacle of Britain's Prime Minister making nice with a regime that has a far more sinister track record than Gaddafi's Libya or Assad's Syria.

The reasons are beyond obvious. Algeria is a major profit center for prominent British corporations. The "B" in BP stands for something after all, and that headline-grabbing hostage incident of a couple weeks ago happened at a BP facility.

So Cameron is schmoozing the Algerians for greater security cooperation. He's not talking about greater security for political dissidents in Algeria obviously! No, he'd be talking about greater security cooperation in protecting British commercial interests.

He's talking to the right people. Those Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb types have more than a passing relationship with the Algerian security apparatus.

You could call it a love-hate relationship.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It's curtains for A-Rod

As in it's all over.

They'll be squabbling about who is liable for what's left on his contract, but the high-flying always lying going out with A-list babes career is done.

Kaput.

Over.

Once the New York Times chronicles your steroid story, you're toast.

Moment of truth for RIM

If this BB10 puppy is a dog RIM is worth somewhere around $8 or $10.

The stock has gone down the last couple of days because everybody who piled in on the speculation that BB 10 was going to be a home run has been cashing out.

As they should. It needs to be a home run to justify a share price in the 18-20  range. Mind you, some happy  sales numbers and positive reviews could easily push the stock to $40 in the near term.

Biker flash mob

If you haven't seen this you should.

America as it could be and should be.

These are the patriots!

Not surprised that the CHP is planning to make arrests.

Canadian PM spends millions to avoid Indian rickshaws

Usually when Canadian tourists go to India to slum around with really poor people for a couple of weeks, they make it a priority to travel like they think the locals travel.

In a tourist rickshaw.

But not Big Steve.

In fact, when Big Steve was approached by a team of his advisers who suggested he travel like the locals travel on his trip to India, he had two words in response;

Fuck that.

So Big Steve, champion of the little man, had not one but two bullet-proof Cadillacs shipped to India for his two day visit.

Cost to the Canadian taxpayer? Well over a million dollars.

Timbuktu; liberated on Monday, looted on Tuesday

Interesting story in the Guardian about the "liberation" of Timbuktu. Interesting in that it's a contrast to some of the other stories floating about, stories about French paratroops descending on the airport under cover of night, to cut off the rebel fighters.

Apparently the rebel fighters left last week.

And while we have seen plenty of cheering crowds welcoming the French invaders on our TVs, who are the refugees Al Jazeera reports surging into Mauritania since this "liberation" began?

Local MP calls for end to Idle No More protests

Larry Miller's bit of rascist posturing is not without irony.

Calling for an audit of Attawapiskat months after the last one was completed is designed to make Larry look like he's careful with the taxpayer's dollar and tough on ne're-do-well natives all at the same time.

I think he's angling for a cabinet post. He'd fit in well with Toews and Fantino.

But what's funny is his whining about how his constituents have been inconvenienced by INM protests blocking roads etc.

Larry Miller is the Member of Parliament for Grey-Bruce. There is a school of thought that claims most of Grey and Bruce counties were never forfeited by the local native bands. In other words, Larry's constituents are squatting on Indian land.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Conrad Black rises from pit of shame

Yup!

He's back...

Conrad the Librarian is gonna have a weekly show on Moses "I used to be famous" Znaimer's pseudo-network.

Conrad is recently out of the slammer down there in the US of A, which was the indirect result of fobbing off his sinking publishing ship on those hapless Asper folks in Winnipeg.

And you gotta love Conrad...

Conrad is generally full of shit but he succeeds in intimidating his would-be adversaries out of calling him on it because of his herculean vocabulary and assertive I've done time and you haven't manner.

And also because he triggers more than a bit of liticaphobia.

Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls.

But seriously, I want to be on his show. I have a few questions about what he was thinking when he tried to screw those supermarket cashiers out of their pensions.

Rios Montt to face war crimes charges

Well here's a blast from the past.

General Rios Montt. Dictator of Guatemala and one of America's very best friends in the neighborhood at the time.

He's been ordered by a Guatemalan court to stand trial for all those crimes against humanity that America put him up to back in the 80's.

At the time, Montt claimed his US backed security forces weren't actually "disappearing" those leftist radicals...

They were merely sending them to heaven.

Bandar where are you?

Bandar Bush, aka Bandar bin Sultan, has not made a public appearance in six months.

Or a public statement. Nothing. In years gone by you might have expected him at some of the big conflabs like Davos. Nothing.

Ever since that flurry of rumors last July that he'd been taken out by the Syrians right after assuming the top job in Saudi intelligence, he has been totally missing in action.

There have been news stories  claiming he's alive and well.

There have been news stories  claiming he's deader than the two-state solution.

So where are you, Bandar? We're hoping you're OK. The world stage isn't the same without you.

Just send a brief reply right here in the comment box at the bottom of this blog.

I'll get the word out.

We miss you pal...

Openly straight candidate fails in bid to win Ontario premiership

Openly straight candidate Sandra Pupatello narrowly lost in her bid to become the next preem of Canada's most populated province. She was hoping to step into the loafers of the outgoing openly straight Dalton McGuinty.

Pupatello lost to contender Kathleen Wynne, who is apparently not openly straight, which every headline in the nation has informed us multipe times makes Wynne the first not openly straight first minister in the history of Canada.

I beg to differ. Richard Hatfield was the Premier of New Brunswick forever back in the days when it was considered a political liability to not be openly straight. And while he didn't wear a pink triangle on his sleeve, there wasn't a voter in the province who had any delusions about his straightness or lack thereof.

While he may not have been "open" about not being straight, it was certainly an open secret.

They just kept voting for the old queen.

So the new not-openly-straight premier takes the helm of a province facing a host of issues. I'd like to read more about her policies and plans and how she will tackle these issues, and less about her private life.


Cameron commits UK troops to Mali

No sooner did Cameron's advisers learn that the French had taken Timbuktu without a shot being fired than they prevailed on the great leader to declare that Britain is in.

That's the kind of action Cameron's men are looking for after that somewhat messy business in Afghanistan, where it turned out that not only were shots fired, but all too often they were being fired at the Brits.

This is a turn of events that threatens to bankrupt the cliche vaults in short order; thin edge of the wedge, slippery slope, quagmire...

Nevertheless it's impossible for Mr. Cameron to see his socialist counterpart across the channel getting all the glory.

Spurs for Cameron!


Sunday, January 27, 2013

African allies demand $450 millions for Mali junket

So they're stupid enough to sign up for Hollande's grand African adventure.

But they're smart enough not to pay for it out of their own pockets!

Frankly, that's a pretty robust number. The five thousand African troops now envisioned are going to cost somebody $90,000 per man. Who that "somebody" will be remains up in the air.

That's a lot of money to pour into a part of the world where folks are used to living on less than two dollars a day. You know the fellows on the ground won't be putting that money in their pockets. Looks to me like another shakedown by the kleptocrats who run those not-yet-quite-failed ECOWAS states.

Who should be coughing up that money? France and whoever else signs on to this folly are doing this to preserve the economic interests of their corporations; maybe those corporations should foot the tab.

Not bloody likely! This $450m will come from general revenues in the "rich" countries. Unfortunately it's not the corporations or their owners who pay those taxes; the rich are invariably able to shirk their share of the tax burden no matter where you go.

So tighten up your belts there, working people of France. On top of what austerity you are enduring, be prepared to deliver up another half billion to pay for Hollande's delusions of Empire.

But even Hollande must have lucid moments wherein he questions the purpose of this exercise. There is no question that the French military can drive rebels out of any village in Mali. The African allies may then be able to keep them out.

And then what?

A perpetual occupation of Mali? And when the rebels take refuge in neighbor states, will those be invaded and occupied too?

Will Hollande's first triumph also be his Waterloo?



Americans deserve more than one right

Mind you, the one they still have is a good one, and I hope they manage to hang onto it.

But being an American should give you more rights than the right to bear arms.

There's a lot of hysteria being fanned by folks with a vested interest in making you forget that you should have more than that one right. It's as though as long as you can hang onto your gun everything else is hunky dory.

So while you're sitting under that overpass, jobless, homeless, kids in foster care, as long as they let you keep your Bushmaster with the 30 round clip things are fine. Besides, you'll need it to defend yourself from the government...

Think that one through. The patriots who think they're going to take on the government with an AR-15 could learn a lesson from the patriots in Afghanistan and Yemen. When the government of the USA comes to get you, it'll be with a Hellfire missile from 30,000 feet. Won't much matter if you've got the 10 round or the 30 round clip on that baby. Nor will it matter if you've got the latest hardware or a vintage 12 gauge side-by-side.

But in the meantime, you could give some thought to demanding a few rights besides that one.

In the richest country in the world, should it not be possible for every citizen to have the right to a roof over their head?

Shouldn't every American have the right to go to sleep every night without feeling hunger?

How about the right of your children to get an education?

Getting health care when you're sick might be a right to consider.

Or the right to a job with a wage that provides a dignified standard of living to you and your family.

The right to live out your life in peace and security in your old age would be a welcome addition.

Think big, America! You are the richest and most powerful nation in history. You deserve so much more than the right to bear arms!


Saudi Prince calls for missiles and heavy weapons for Syrian rebels

Speaking to reporters  in Davos, His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal has called on the Nations of Virtue to equip the Syrian "rebels" with the sophisticated weapons that they need to shoot down fighter jets and destroy tanks at a distance.

Obviously mindful of concerns in some quarters that the Syrian "uprising" has been hijacked by extremists, His Excellency also addressed this question. Apparently by giving the heavy-duty hardware to the "good" rebels, it will prevent the jihadis from gaining too much influence!

Hmm... what could possibly go wrong with such a plan?

Quoted in the same article is Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutolgu of the Middle East's rising giant, who signaled that he is totally on board with the Prince's line of reasoning, claiming there are no limits to Turkey's help for the Syrian people.

Now that those Patriot anti-missile missile batteries in Turkey are up and running, he may feel confident in shipping anti-aircraft missiles over the border, but his NATO allies may need some time to get their Patriots set up at Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle before they give this plan the green light.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Democracy in Egypt; if the freedom riots don't get you the football riots will

Yesterday nine people died in rioting that ensued when a group of protesters gathered to proclaim their unhappiness with Morsi.

Today 32 people died in rioting that ensued when a court upheld the death sentences of twenty-one soccer hooligans who precipitated a riot last year in which over seventy people died.

A death sentence for soccer hooliganism seems a tad harsh, but maybe that's all part and parcel of the new regime.

Sharia football rules.

France in Mali; liberation or reign of terror?

Here's the latest Mali news from Al Jazeera.

The Qatar news source is generally pro Western, pro France, pro intervention.

They are also playing the double game just like our allies in Turkey. Some al Qaeda are terrorists when you put them in one context, say Qatar, but they are freedom fighters when you  put them in Syria.

Qatar was huge in the fight against the Monster of the Magheb, because the Colonel had for years railed against what he saw as the corrupt regimes of the Gulf statelets.

Obviously Qatar prevailed in that struggle.

Here are some key terms that we can pick out of the Al Jazeera article about Mali;

reprisal killing
collective punishment
executions
targeted killings

None of these references are to anything the "bad guys" have done.

These are the actions of the liberators, Hollande's Crusaders and their allies in the Malian army.

If a pro-Western news source is painting such a picture, what is the real situation on the ground?

We don't know. There is far more information coming out of Syria, where the evil Assad is blocking press access, than out of Mali, where the virtuous French are blocking press access.

But we're the good guys!

A left-wing idiot is as dangerous as a right-wing idiot

That is just one of a multitude of pithy bon-mots that has fallen from the lips of the newly elected President of the Czech Republic over the years.

He's been sniffing around the power centers for most of his career. Been a Communist and an anti-Communist, a reformer and a conservative.

Made some headlines years ago for comparing Yasser Arafat to Hitler. Don't know how he would have voted in the great Palestinian Statehood vote at the UN a couple of months back, where his country was one of a small handful to vote against recognizing Palestine as a state.

But given the insights reflected in this title, he's obviously a philosopher like his one-time predecessor Vaclav Havel.

A philosopher and a loose canon. Oh, and he likes his wine and brandy.

The Czech Republic finally has her Churchill!

NATO member Turkey ships weapons to al Qaeda in Yemen

The interdiction of a container load of Turkish small arms in Yemen last November has finally made the news in Turkey.

Officials in Ankara claim no knowledge of the shipment, which includes thousands of automatic assault rifles.
Weapons of Turkish manufacture confiscated from a Turkish ship in a shipping container originating in Turkey; obviously Ankara would know nothing about it.

But as a NATO member, not to mention a "rising giant," we must once again give our erstwhile ally the benefit of the doubt.

After all, they've been doing a great job facilitating the al-Qaeda/Jabat al-Nusra insurrection in Syria.


Shimon Peres breaks bread with Palestinian counterpart at Davos

Well there you go.  And here I thought Davos was all about the super-rich figuring out how to grab what's left of our pension plans and grind our wages down to Haitian levels.

But no, it's not just the World Economic Forum, it's the World Peace Forum too. Good things can happen when adversaries sit down for a meal.

"How do like the cous-cous Shimon?"

Not bad, Saalam, but I must say the tabouli is more to my liking."

"Now about that separation wall..."

"Fence! You mean fence..."

"Wall!"

"FENCE!"

"SECURITY!!..."

Bombs and bombast; Hollande the Conqueror does Mali

Here's a few excerpts from French coverage of "Operation Spurs for Hollande."


French-led forces in Mali retake Gao


The Toronto Star's bullsh@t headline of the week

Yesterday the Toronto Star carried this headline on page A16; Mali residents repel rebels.

In the first place you want to high five the editor who came up with that triple alliteration. Well played, my friend!

And that certainly looks like a good-news story! Maybe they don't even need the forces of Hollande the Conqueror if they're going to stand up for themselves.

The subhead is even cheerier; Islamists driven out of Diabaly by brave townspeople.

By God, those folks have found their backbone! Wonder what they're driving the limb-hacking, child-raping forces of evil out of town with?...

Prayer?

Spears?

Some divinely empowered combination of the two?

Turns out the brave townspeople are ringing up the French commanders and calling in French air strikes. The story in the Star is this story from McClatchy with a little tweaking of the title.

Linc Energy; Bonanza or biggest bamboozle since Bre-X?

Something about "discoveries" in the "trillions" of barrels of oil makes me want to use quotation marks a lot.

That's what Linc Energy has unexpectedly found in the Australian outback, according to a couple of "consultant reports" it commissioned. That strikes me as a somewhat thin peg from which to hang headlines
containing the word "trillions."

On the other hand, both the company and the guy who has built it up appear to be the real deal. Could be something to keep an eye on.

Mali War "over in days"

That's according to Mali's Communications Minister Manga Dembele.

"We are winning very rapidly... this will be over in days."

Time will quickly enough disabuse Mr. Dembele of his optimism. That "we" of which he speaks is not a we at all; it is Mali's colonial masters come to save the bacon of Mali's corrupt ruling elite. And yes, Mr. Dembele and his ilk will be safe as long as Hollande the Conqueror's forces are there to serve as bodyguards.

And while word from France is that Hollande's crusaders will remain as long as necessary, that is unlikely to be forever. Long after the French tire of this dubious campaign and return whence they came, the Islamists and the Touregs will still be seeking the overthrow of this corrupt pro-Western regime in Bamako.


AFRICOM boss slams US training of Mali army

In recent years the US has spent at least $500 million training the Malian military. What's to show for that outlay? An army that bullies the civilian population, overthrows the democratically elected government, and collapses into chaos in the face of the Toureg insurgency.

If General Carter Ham was a glass-half-full kind of guy he might have said something along the lines of, "well, just imagine what a mess the place would be if we hadn't trained them... thank God we were there for them!"

So give Bwana Ham credit for not trying to spin this debacle. In fact, he mans up and takes full responsibility. Seems the US trainers forgot their lesson plans for the values and ethics chapters in the training manuals. Well, it's no surprise then that our students are summarily executing unarmed civilians and dropping their bodies down wells.

Looks like the rascals are going to have to be trained all over again.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Road kill on the hedge fund highway

You owe it to yourself to read this.

A couple of weeks ago when I wrote about dueling douchebags I had Dan Loeb in mind. Looks like Icahn has elbowed him aside.

It's always good fun to see a couple of billionaire twats calling each other names. The reality of America today requires people to see beyond the cheap laughs. These are guys who have made billions of dollars, and hope to make billions more, destroying the American economy.

They're on TV but Bradley Manning is in jail.

I think it should be the other way around.

The fart taboo

Back in the early 80's when I found myself taking a few sociology courses at the University of Guelph, the "discipline" of sociology was having a bit of an internal struggle. An identity crisis if you will.

The nub of the matter centered around whether or not the "social sciences" in general and sociology in particular could legitimately be considered "science." I remember one of the profs repeatedly referring to a sociological study called "The Fart Taboo" to bolster his argument that sociology must not be taken too seriously.

I've looked for that study on the internet and come up empty. There is however an update called "A Sociological Study of the Fart" which can be yours for only $48.00 plus shipping and handling.

What would be even more interesting than the study is the thesis proposal. In the academic world you don't just randomly study stuff. You need the approval of a thesis committee.

"Ah yes, I see young Brimstone here intends to study farts. Do explain yourself young man..."

It must have been a hell of an explanation, because you can buy the study. Obviously it was approved.

After the approval of the committee the aspiring fart scientist will need to submit a funding application. I'd like to read one of those too.

I bring this up for one reason only; historically the social scientists were looked down upon by their "hard science" peers in the "real" sciences.

But now that you've got your hard science types making hats for dung beetles, perhaps the social sciences have achieved parity.

Move over Magellan; study proves that dung beetles use celestial navigation

Guess it's time we abandoned our anthropocentric conceit that the great explorers of history were somehow unique in using the stars to determine their course.

They are now officially in the company of the vermin first made famous by Franz Kafka; the dung beetle.

University researchers in Sweden led a study that involved afixing tiny cardboard hats to some dung beetles and not to others...

Wait a minute... In Sweden they have money to spend on researchers who are fashioning wee cardboard hats for dung beetles?

Ya gotta be shittin' me...

But here you go! Over here we can't get money for cancer research but in Sweden they have teams of scientists making hats for dung beetles?

What are they, mini toques? Fedoras? Baseball caps?

Do the coolest of the happening dung beetles wear their hats sideways? Do the researchers knit matching scarves for the dung beetles?

And why hats instead of turbans?

Anyway, turns out the dung beetles can chart a course with the best of the old-time explorers.

Kafka must be impressed, wherever he is.

New "giant" rises in Middle East

That's from the fevered imagination of Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and yes, that would be Turkey he's talking about.

The Erdogan regime is becoming increasingly aware that it has been left holding the bag on the Syria Question by all those allies who were only too quick to rush to the recognition of the Syrian "rebels" as the only official representatives of the Syrian people months and months ago.

The most recent pronouncements on the fate of al-Assad, after two years of claiming he is weeks, days, possibly hours from fleeing the country, seem to be, "oh well, guess he's not going anywhere after all..."

The Nations of Virtue have lost interest, and have now discovered even greater threats to freedom and democracy in the middle of the African deserts.

So Erdogan and Davutoglu sound increasingly pathetic as they try to redirect Western attention to the horror show they have unleashed next door.

The latest cry is for humanitarian aid. While there is no question of a humanitarian crisis in Syria, that can be laid in its entirety at the feet of those who spent hundreds of millions of dollars instigating the fiasco in Syria. In other words, the US and its regional proxies Qatar and Saudi, and last but not least, Turkey.

It's a curious kind of giant Erdogan is raising up there; a NATO ally that has a "strategic arrangement" with China, an ally in the war on terror fomenting terror in it's next door neighbor, an aspiring EU candidate that continues to buy Iranian oil...

Perhaps not quite a giant yet, but certainly creating a giant heap of contradictions.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Canadians declare al-Qaeda "a cancer"

It would be wrong to label Defense Minister MacKay and Foreign Minister Baird the dumb and dumber of the Harper cabinet, for the simple reason that this would be unfair to Toews and Fantino. Besides, Fantino and Toews are floundering about in junior portfolios, while Baird and MacKay have big-boy chairs.

Be that as it may, both Baird and MacKay figure in a Canadian news story today. MacKay has realized that al-Qaeda is a cancer that must be cut out. Interesting analogy. Cutting out cancer is only one method of combating the big C. There's chemo, there's radiation. Most importantly there's prevention.

If you can prevent the al-Qaeda cancer you won't have to worry about cutting it out twenty or fifty or a hundred years later.

The think tank here at Falling Downs has spent a considerable amount of time on this prevention issue. Just as getting folks to stop smoking will curtail a certain amount of cancer, changing our behaviour will prevent a certain amount of Islamic radicalism. For example, if we turned away from killing their children and stealing their resources, I'm willing to bet that a lot of the militant stuff would be nipped in the bud just like that.

Baird reiterates that Canada is willing to do its part to push back the al-Qaeda tide in Mali. Canada's part in pushing back this most grave threat to civilization, according to Baird, is lending France an airplane for a couple of weeks.

That would be the equivalent of giving the oncologist a ride to the hospital.

But we're doing our part!

The decline of unions in Canada

In an article that has appeared on both the anti-worker Bloomberg site and the generally pro-labour Counterpunch site, Kris Warner makes the case that the cause of organized labour's long drift into irrelevance in the US is due to a hostile climate.

His arguments are relevant as far as they go. There is no question that unions in America are up against a hostile environment, and that environment grows ever more hostile. However, his article is gravely misguided in using Canada as the benchmark for what unions could be.

While it's true that the overall climate in Canadian society is somewhat more conducive to and tolerant of union activity, the difference is one of degree, rather than of kind.

Warner is correct in claiming that there is yet no equivalent to "right to work" in Canada. Yet.

But listen to Ontario's wannabe Conservative Premier Tim Hudak. He's definitely a "right to work" kind of guy, and a Conservative victory in the next provincial election is not an outlandish prospect. The fact that traditionally union-friendly Michigan next door just went down that road doesn't help.

Even Ontario's supposedly labour-friendly Liberal government had no qualms about passing a bill that allowed it to "legally" quash the collective bargaining rights of Ontario's teachers, a bit of skulduggery that the most reactionary right-to-work governors must be admiring.

Warner's analysis misses the big picture, and the big picture is this; since the 1970's the rate of unionization in Canada's private sector has fallen by more than half.

True, it's fallen even more precipitously in the US, but Canada is hardly poster-boy material for a "make America union friendly" campaign.

Malice in Mali

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are claiming that the Mali Army is committing atrocities in the wake of the French push into the north of the country.

Will this be part of Hollande's legacy? Not only has his Malian adventure provided a great recruiting tool for the jihadist groups, but the French action is facilitating crimes against humanity.

Here's how the French Defense minister responded to the charges; "the President of France is counting on Mali's Army leaders to hold themselves responsible for avoiding any abuses. Their honor is at stake."

That should put a stop to it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Microsoft + Dell; a marriage of has-beens

This take-Dell-private story reminds me of that joke Henny Youngman milked his entire career.

Take it private... PLEASE take it private.

There's a couple of hedge fund sharpies backstopping Microsoft on this proposed deal. Not sure what they see in this. Maybe Mike Dell's company is sitting on vast undervalued real estate acreage. Or maybe they just want to suck up to Big Bill.

Which reminds me of a story I heard from a guy who had a bartender gig in Banff. Seems one evening when Big Bill Gates was in town for a conference Buddy's place had a sudden sweep of private security types. They paid the three or four unattached women in the bar cash to go and drink somewhere else.

Then Mr.Gates arrived.

Had a drink and left.

The market for Bill Gates stories is bigger than the market for Microsoft and Dell combined.

Henny Youngman would appreciate that.

Walkabout with Herr Doktor Alzheimer

Herr Doktor Alois Alzheimer discovered Alzheimer's disease in 1906.

I discovered it in my grandmother, Leokadia, about seventy years later.

Leokadia's (or "Lotte" as she Germanized herself) youngest son became one of the world's pre-eminent historians of the Reformation.

When he was off reading papers at Tubingen and Heidelberg and all the finest universities on the Continent they called him "Herr Doktor Professor."

I just called him Uncle. He discovered Doktor Alzheimer ten years ago or so.

But it bit hard.

I never tired of kidding him about that reading of papers stuff.

"What, you're flying to Zurich to read the paper? My God man, I read the goddamn paper right here every day... what's the matter with you egg-heads?"

And so on.

What was so cool about Herr Doktor Professor, is that long before he was Herr Doktor Professor he was a welder. In fact he put in some time on the Second Narrows Bridge just before it fell down. He was that rare combination of a learned man with practical skills.

But it's all over now.

The other day I was out for a walk, and lost in thought, and by God, at some point I came back to the walk from the thoughts and I couldn't figure out quite where I was. Or where I was going.

Right there in my own woodlot that I've wandered through a thousand times.

Is that how it starts?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chadians advance in Mali: case study in Media Bullshit 101

Here's a headline from Reuters.

"Chadians advance in troop moves against Mali Islamists."

Take a glance at that headline, and whoa! You know Hollande's blackface backup crew has arrived!

Hallelujah!

Then start reading the story.

Oh, seems the Chadians and their troop moves aren't actually in Mali...

This is from Reuters, one of the most trusted brands in news reporting...

Revisiting the Neumann Plan

About six months ago I wrote out a few simple suggestions about how we could achieve balanced budgets and full employment.

I think we need to add a sixth point to the five point plan.

There needs to be a mechanism whereby the gap between the highest wage-earners and the lowest can be narrowed. In North America today the typical CEO of a major company is paid roughly 400 times what the average employee is paid.

Thirty years ago that ratio was about 40:1.

If we can legislate a minimum wage, we can legislate a maximum wage.

There are a multiplicity of reasons why the worker's income has stagnated while that of the CEO has increased tenfold. None of those reasons have anything to do with the relative merit of CEOs. Rather, it has been the emergence of a culture of entitlement that has spurred these obscene gains in executive compensation.

Executive compensation has sky-rocketed because the guys in charge are paying themselves and figured out that they can get away with it.

Look at Doug Oberhelman for example, CEO of Caterpillar. In 2011, while he was quietly scheming to drop  the pay of the guys who weld the Cat machines together from $60 K per year to 30, he was lobbying the board of directors for a 60% pay raise, which he got.

If there were a legislated limit to the ratio of CEO pay to worker pay, Oberhelman would have had to take a 50% cut right along with his workers.

Or what is far more likely, he would have left the workers alone.

The culture of executive entitlement never went off the rails in Europe to the extent it did in North America, and the folks there are at least cognizant of the fact that society needs to debate the matter. David Roth of the Switzerland Social Democrat youth wing has proposed a multiple of twelve.

Doug Oberhelman's pay packet would by law be limited to twelve times what his lowest paid employee earns.

Klaus Schwab at the World Economic Forum and Francois Hollande before he became Hollande the Conqueror both proposed a multiple of twenty.

When I used to sit around the Albion with fellow students and left-tilting professors, long before the Albion was gentrified, the multiple that came up was ten. The point being that this is by no means a new idea.

But it is an idea whose time has come. We need to get away from the CEO giving himself a 60% pay raise while cutting the pay of his workers by 50%.

Whether that CEO-worker pay ratio is 10 or 12 or 20 or 25 to 1, there needs to be limit to how much we reward the top earners. I'll go with David Roth and his Social Democrats on this one.

Point no. 6 on the Neumann Plan for balanced budgets and full employment; limit executive pay to twelve times the pay of the minimum in the entity that executive is managing.


Busy days for Democracy

Yesterday Democracy gave Frau Merkel a poke in the eye with a narrow loss in the regional election in Lower Saxony. Her boy in the region, David McAllister, was turfed out by one seat.

Now I know if you don't follow German politics closely (which I don't) the above makes no sense. Right away you are dumfounded.

"McAllister" you ask? This is a German election? Yup, it's a German election, and believe it or not, McAllister used to be touted as a possible successor to the Merkel throne. Or bidet.

How bizarre would that have been? You'd be reading news stories about David McAllister meeting with other world leaders, and you'd never even know it was the leader of Germany they're talking about.

Maybe this loss is what she was anticipating when Merkel said multiculturalism has been a failure!

And if you think David McAllister is a stain on the master race, check out Philipp Roesler. The entire Prussian aristocracy must be spinning in their graves whenever his face shows up on the TV news in that really warm place where they are watching it.

Merkel may think multi-culti is dead, but Democracy remains undecided.

Having finished her work among the heathens Democracy then took a quick trip to the Holy Land intending  to guide Moses Netanyahu to his third term today.

Alas, things did not go as planned. Every now and then the masses rise up and give Democracy a black eye. Netanyahu is now rumored to be casting about among the so-called centrists for coalition partners.

There is no wilier political animal on this planet than Netanyahu when he's trying to form a coalition. Anything could happen. He could reinvent himself in a thousand different ways.

Those four Hadash seats might come in handy. Multi-culti may not be dead after all.

Prince Harry confirms killing Taliban just like playing X-box

This is great news for all those parents who are worried that the teenager in your house who plays Black Ops for twelve hours a day will never amount to anything.

According to big H, as his mates in the military call him, those hours at the X-box controls are perfect prep for a career as a helicopter gunner. I'm sure there are applications outside the helicopter for those skills too. Drone gunner. A-10 gunner. Tank gunner. Navy gunner.

Put those millions of video game kills behind you and graduate to killing real people!

They're hiring at a recruiting center near you.

Sign up today and start playing for keeps!

Lost Palestine found!

What a blessed coincidence!

On the very day of the Israeli election, the Jerusalem Post finds a study that solves the Palestinian problem. The study addresses primarily the Gaza over-crowding, and feints in the direction of a couple of untenable remedies before landing on the simple yet elegant solution; Sinai!

Brilliant on every level! There's lots of room over there. The cash-strapped Islamists would probably give a good deal on a thousand year lease. Sderot is farther away.

I can see Netanyahu pursuing this with great vigor once he is confirmed for another term.

Qatar backing Mali rebels

Or "terrorists" if you will.

But aren't they supposed to be our allies?

We know that they funneled weapons to the Libyan rebels. It's common knowledge that they've been instrumental in supplying the Syrian rebels. Should we be surprised that they are also supporting the rebels in the north of Mali?

After all, it's more or less the same rebels. Or terrorists, depending on the time and the place.

What would be surprising is that while the Libyan and Syrian supply operations were done with the approval of the US, their support for the Mali rebels is supposedly an independent venture.

The key word being "supposedly."

Qatar is tiny country with a population the size of Spokane. It hosts major American Air Force and Navy facilities. Is it realistic to suppose they would be delivering weapons to Malian rebels without the tacit approval of the US?

Also curious is the absence of this story from US news reports. While it's a matter of public discussion in France, the story is invisible on this side of the Atlantic.

But it might explain the reticence of the Obama administration to more overtly ally themselves with Hollande's African adventure.

While it wouldn't be the first time that the US supports both sides in a conflict, it's not the sort of thing that can be done too publicly.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hollande the Crusader's African reinforcements finally arrive

Just a few of them so far, but things are looking up for Mr. Hollande's really big African adventure, aka "Operation Spurs for Hollande."      
                                       

Aaron Swartz and the great Intellectual Property bamboozle

Aaron Swartz is gone now. Someone of a different temperament might have handled things differently.

But that's beside the point. He's still gone and it's still true it wouldn't have happened if not for his campaign against so-called intellectual property rights.

Central to Swartz's campaign was the belief that knowledge is a common good. He was absolutely right. He was however fighting against the spirit of the times. We are still in an era of privatizing the common good. He was a generation or two ahead of us, bringing a common good that had been privatized back into the commons.

This is one of the foundational myths of the American university system, that knowledge professionals create knowledge, which is their property to keep, sell, barter, mortgage, etc.

It is theirs.

These knowledge professionals are the tenured faculty. They take credit for the research their interns and assistants do and the academic papers they write. They get the contracts to write the textbooks. They sit on the hiring committees and decide who from the multitude of supplicants will be the next to join their elite club.

There is a vast underemployed ghetto of teaching assistants and sessionals from which to choose.

The cult of privilege has spread far beyond the academy, as evidenced by court cases brought by multi-millionaire "musicians" whose claim to fame owes everything to their amplifier technology. Once again, they are after an imaginary due they are owed because they have a copyright on a particular three chord progression.

Nobody owns music.

Nobody owns ideas.

Canada stunned to learn PM has "stylist"

That news came out in the the course of the CBC expose on the Harper government paying the tab for 30 CEOs who accompanied him on a China junket.

I mean take a look at the picture in the link. This requires a stylist? The suit, the tie, the shirt... I swear any dweeb can walk into Moore's with five hundred bucks and come out looking like that. And surely he can comb his own hair into the 'do we see here.

Maybe the stylist picked the glasses?

My first suit was a Samuelsohn I got at David Enchin's place in Guelph, The House of David I believe it was called. Still have the jacket, and by God it still looks damn fine with a pair of jeans forty years later.

Think Steve will be saying that about the rig he's sporting, forty years from now?

I guess the bigger story is why the government would pay a planeload of CEOs, multi-millionaires every one, to accompany the PM on a sales trip to China. That's not how influence peddling works in the rest of the world.

Normally, the CEOs would be expected to pay the tab for the Prime Minister.

But maybe Mr. Harper  suffers from some deep-seated insecurities. He wants those CEOs to like him, because after all, sooner or later he'll be back in the private sector.

That would explain the stylist too.

Canadians behind Algeria terror attack

Must be true; it's on Reuters.

Now I'm not suggesting this is not true. But the skeptic in me says it's always mightily convenient how these terror types go off on their suicide missions with their passport conveniently tucked into the pocket of their suicide vest.

For one thing, a Canadian passport is a valuable commodity in the world of cloak and dagger and international intrigue. Just ask the Israeli's who have a long history of using the Canadian ID  for their secret overseas snuff missions.

The reason being that it tends to raise fewer suspicions than a passport from Yemen or Libya. Or Israel for that matter.

So if Abdul Canuck was contemplating going to his reward there in Algeria, would he have taken that passport along on his last mission, or would he have bequeathed it to one of his brothers for a future martyrdom operation?

One thing's for sure; this is going to ramp up the anti-Muslim hysteria among the Harperites in Canada.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Police break up figure-skater brawl

There's something that grabs you about a headline like that.

What would two hundred figure skaters be fighting over at five in the morning?

"My triple salchow is way better than yours!"

"Is not!"

"Is so!"

IS NOT!...

Yup, not too hard to visualize things coming to fisticuffs sooner or later.

Hell, wonder if it's on Youtube yet?

But isn't it ironic that just when so many do-gooders are campaigning to get fighting out of hockey, and you're worried the greatest game on ice is going to turn into figure skating with hockey sticks, this story comes along.

Hope lives!

Gold, oil, uranium; Mali is one of the richest countries in the world

So why is it one of the poorest?

That's a good question. The answer lies in the history of Mali's relationships with those countries now busy trying to save it from "terrorists."

As befits one of the poorest countries in the world, Mali is heavily dependent on foreign aid. Aid inflow is in the range of one billion dollars a year, or about half the value of the gold shipped out of the country every year by foreign mining conglomerates.

Much of that aid is in the form of food support. Ironically, agricultural exports from Mali are an even larger slice of the economy than gold. Malians rely on food donations to eat, but use their land to grow cotton for the export market.

How that export market has fared in the face of US subsidies to American farmers is the focus of some interesting work that has been done by the Fairtrade Foundation.

Mali has also been the target for a variety of foreign firms looking to tie up fertile land for the production of biofuel crops. The Oakland Institute has published extensively on that topic.

The oil industry in Mali is in its embryonic stage. The four or five zones that show the most promise based on past exploration activity all happen to lie in the north of the country, where those Islamic radicals have been running wild for the past nine months.

The guiding principles of radical Islam are not necessarily incompatible with the guiding principles of the western capitalists whose "development" model has left Mali destitute and dependent. There are many examples around the world where capitalism has coexisted happily and profitably with fundamentalisms of various stripes.

What "saving Mali from terrorists" is all about is heading off China's development initiatives in the country.

Western military intervention in Mali has nothing to do with helping the people of Mali and everything to do with securing the country for continued exploitation by our rapacious corporations.


British PM sees "decades-long" North Africa terror war

Cementing his reputation as a long-term visionary and a big-picture guy, in stark contrast to his impulsive Socialist counterpart in France, PM David Cameron has publicly stated that the war on Islam in North Africa could go on for decades.

That should give the Nations of Virtue enough time to loot West Africa of its oil and gold.

Oh yes, and defeat the terrorists of course!

Hollande's African allies bogged down by meetings

Hollande the Conqueror's desperate wait for African allies is going rather off the rails.

There have been promises aplenty from the ECOWAS consortium for well over a week. They were going to be there last weekend, then in a few days, then, maybe in a few weeks...

Thus far the actual number of troops who have made it to Mali seems to be no more than a few dozen.

The Nigerian contingent has suffered a setback. Nigeria has variously promised anywhere between 500 and 2000 troops to Operation Spurs for Hollande. Lacking the the transport to airlift themselves to Mali the Nigerian commanders ordered their troops to walk.

Unfortunately they were ambushed by Islamic radicals before they even made it out of Nigeria.

Meanwhile the leaders of the ECOWAS countries are busy having meetings. Every Western Africa country sees these meetings as a rare chance to fill their best hotels on Hollande's tab, so you can be sure they will be meeting as often as possible. This weekend it was in Abidjan.

Before Abidjan they had this meeting, at which it was decided to have another meeting in Addis Ababa next weekend. That will be the "donors meeting" at which it will be determined which Western countries will be footing what part of the bill.

Don't expect to see too many African boots on the ground in Mali until that is sorted out.

Not that anybody seriously expects the arrival of the African troops to make a difference on the ground in Mali. Their main purpose is to disguise Hollande's neocolonialist vanity project in black-face.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

B. Gorbet and Sons

There's a poster here at Falling Downs, framed and sitting on a music stand, for a fur store in Owen Sound.

"Gorbet's of Owen Sound, since 1919."

In 1919 Benjamin Gorbet took over a fur store in Owen Sound that belonged to a fellow named Goldheimer. The furrier trade was one of the traditional trades for European Jews.

As of a couple of weeks ago I've got a new piece of history gracing the dining room table. It's a vintage Fur Machine from Bonis Bros Fur Machinery Corp in New York City.

It's a compact bit of technology. The Bonis Brothers obviously built their stuff to last. The metal label riveted into its top tells me I've got the new "Bonis Never-Stop" model.

A label at the base of the machine tells me that the Bonis Bros Machine Corp was located at 312 Seventh Avenue, New York N.Y.

Another metal label tells me that Gorbet, or possibly Goldheimer, bought the machine from John Garde and Company Limited, Agents for Canada.

In 1980 PETA was created by a few so-called animal rights activists.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

That was the beginning of the end for furriers, the fur industry, the Jews who made and sold fur coats, the First Nations and Metis trappers who had made their living on the traplines throughout the far north for 400 years...

It's all over now.

The sons of B. Gorbet watched helplessly as the business they had spent a lifetime building up collapsed into the residual value of the real estate it sat on.

Ironically, in this era of global warming and carbon footprint hysteria, the fur coat could well merit a renaissance. A good fur coat can last a lifetime. Needs to be retooled every few years just to keep up with the styling trends. That's what kept the furriers in business.

Instead, now we buy a new winter coat every couple of years. Every year or even twice a year for the children. Everything is made of synthetics that end up in the landfill.

That's progress for you.

Human Rights Watch reporting abuses in Mali Crusade

They've been reporting them all along of course, in the context of the various Northern Mali militias, Islamic and not so much, hacking off limbs etc.

But barely a week into "Operation Spurs for Hollande" they are ominously reporting that our allies in the Malian army are in fact committing human rights abuses right there under the noses of the noble French crusaders.

How is such a thing even possible?

This underlines the difficulties that inevitably ensue when the master race (no no no!!! not the French for God's sakes! We're talking about the Nations of Virtue in general... NATO without all those iffy "partners" they've added out of political expediency over the last twenty years) involves itself in the politics of "less developed" nations.

We are essentially choosing sides in a civil war. It is no surprise that we have chosen the side that is sworn to genuflect to Western power and to commit themselves to giving their lives to preserve the outreach projects of Western capitalism that manifest themselves as uranium mines, gold mines, and huge agri-business estates.

There are of course many Malians who do not share the values of our capitalist encroachments on their society.

That makes them terrorists.

Savoring the fruits of Arab Spring; Bill Gates scoops up Egyptian multi-national

Bloomberg News is reporting that Microsoft boss and uber-billionaire Bill Gates is leading an American investor group that has bought Egyptian construction conglomerate Orascom.

The deal includes the company's fertilizer business but not it's massive telecommunications empire that also operates under the Orascom name.

Orascom has long been one of the Pentagon's favored contractors on foreign construction projects.

How this deal will benefit the recently democratized people of Egypt remains unclear.

Did you hear the one about the school guard who forgot his gun in the bathroom?

Pity poor Clark Arnold, by now the poster boy for all that could go wrong with bringing armed guards into schools.

But it wasn't Clark's fault.

I'm willing to bet a box of .40 cal rounds that the bathrooms at the Lapeer elementary school have those high-capacity toilet-paper magazines that have been retro-fitted to institutional bathrooms across the country in recent years.

Instead of a single modestly sized roll of bathroom tissue hanging unobtrusively from the wall, you've got this huge box that has God-knows-how-many rolls of bumwipe in it.

This is not to accommodate the unfortunate stall denizen with the worst-ever case of the trots; it's so the custodian can fill the high capacity magazine once a week or once a month instead of replacing individual rolls on a daily basis.

Doesn't sound like a big deal, but across tens of thousands of schools this little innovation has eliminated the jobs of thousands of school custodians.

It's also narrowed the interior width of an already claustrophobic space by a good eight or nine inches.

I remember when I went to Junior's graduation. Sure enough, nature called, and before I know it I'm trying to wrestle my drawers up and down in a space that would be too cozy for a man half my size.

In the process I had to put my phone and my Glock 22 on the floor, because there's not a single flat surface in there. I was so pleased with myself when I finally got my trousers successfully buckled up that I clean forgot about the gun and the cell!

So lay off Clark, folks. This could happen to anybody, and let's put the blame where it belongs; the high capacity toilet-paper magazine.

Call your congressman now and have him lobby for legislation to limit the sale of these dangerous aftermarket accessories before something tragic happens.

Again.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lynching Ray Nagin

I see where they've got former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin at the end of a rope almost.

According to the stuff I've been reading, it has been alleged that in the ebb and flow of his mayoralty he took illicit benefits that were worth somewhere in the range of a couple of hundred K.

Almost enough for a down payment on a beach house on the Gulf Coast.

Apparently this makes him the first crooked mayor in the 295 year history of New Orleans.

That's kind of funny, because all the other guys actually had beach houses on the gulf... never mind down payments.

Mind you, some of those alleged benefits took the form of airplane rides and limo trips, which are hard to put down on shore-front real estate.

$200 thousand?

Almost an insult to pursue the charges.

Ask the mayor of Montreal what $200K will get you. A place in the line.

I don't mean to make light of political corruption if that's what this is about. But I'm pretty sure it's really about something else.

In the darkest hours of Katrina, Ray Nagin stood up to Washington.

This is payback.

Management incompetence causes half billion Caterpillar loss while workers get screwed

That's quite a brilliant management team they've got in place over there at the Caterpillar company.

These are the shitbags who shut down 450 jobs in London Ontario last year and moved them to Indiana. Net saving to the already hugely profitable Caterpillar empire? About ten million dollars a year.

Wow! Ten millions added on the bottom line when you're already clearing 4 billions in profit! That's got to make the management team feel proud!

All they had to do for that is destroy the livelihood of 450 workers in London.

And who can blame them?

By destroying the lives of 450 families in London they added about .025% to the bottom line!

Fuck social responsibility and fuck the workers!

Bring on the management bonuses!

Today the news comes out that the same genius management team forgot to do their due diligence before they bought a Chinese machinery builder a couple of years ago.

As a result, they are announcing a half billion dollar write-down on the purchase of Chinese company ERA Mining Machinery.

How many workers will have to get fucked over to make good on that?

That's the equivalent of moving fifty good-wage London plants to half-cost "right to work" states.

Think any of those six and seven and eight number management shitbags will lose their jobs over this?

Not likely.

The dilemma of RIM short sellers

If you follow Research In Motion you already know that the percentage of RIM stock held short has been wildly in motion. Depending on what you read, anywhere from 17% to 25% to one third of the RIM share float is tied up in short positions.

That's an awful lot of folks who will want to cover their asses as we get closer to the BB10 debut. As the linked article states, a lot of the current activity in the stock could well be from nervous shorts covering their positions.

As the share price approaches $20 it's got a lot of happy-ever-after built into it. Folks who were going short at ten bucks are screwed, but there is an argument to be made to short the stock in the twenty dollar range. BB 10 is obviously the make or break hinge here. If that debut meets a luke-warm reception then shorting in the next couple of weeks will pay off.

If the BB 10 buzz continues to build and is followed up by a reasonable product, then shorting now will cause you to lose your shorts.

Best strategy?  If you foolishly ignored my advice to buy at 6 and change, or even ten and change last May, and you are contemplating a short position at today's price, balance that off with call options that will limit your losses just in case.

There's a reasonable amount of speculative upside over the next couple of weeks, so if you've got the nerve, get in at 16 and get out at 18 or 20 in the next week or ten days.

Exodus II; secular Israelis will exit in droves after election

All indications point to the next government being sharply to the right after Tuesday.

How one can be "sharply to the right" of the travesty that has been unfolding under Netanyahu these past few years is a bit of a brain teaser.

The hitherto unspoken will be proclaimed from the rooftops. Netanyahu has at least kept alive the fiction that he is for a two state solution. That will melt into the air after Tuesday. Oh, there may be a two state solution, but the other state will be somewhere else.

Siberia perhaps?

Somewhere in Africa?

Jordan? Gaza? The Sinai?

How about Canada? Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird has proclaimed that Canada is Israel's best friend; perhaps he can help out by providing a Palestinian Homeland.

But wherever it is and whatever it is, it won't be on the West Bank.

As the JPost announced today the West Bank residents are becoming more and more enamored of Hamas anyway. Let them move to Gaza to enjoy the benefits of Hamas governance.

Then there is the matter of Iran. The Bibi clique has made it clear, all protestations from the highest levels of the defense establishment aside, that war with Iran would be a good idea. With a fresh mandate he may well act on his obsession.

Then there is the issue of the rapidly growing sector who are more just than the just, more kosher than the kosher, closer to the Almighty in every way, but refuse to serve in the military or take employment. This minority will eventually be a majority.

All of which will help seal the deal for the 40% of Israelis already toying with the idea of absconding to more hospitable climes...

New York, Miami, Montreal, Toronto, Berlin...




Falling Downs passes a milestone

I guess, all things considered, that's preferable to passing a kidney stone...

It's taken about a year and a half for this blog to get 50,000 reads. That's what the big-boy blogs get in a day, but no, we're not discouraged.

In fact, this unique combination of political satire, pet stories, and occasional investment tips is more popular than I ever expected.

The most popular story remains the Seven World Trade Center that I wrote just a couple of weeks after starting the blog. That gave me the false impression that a couple of thousand of people were going to be reading this every day.

Ha!

I did not appreciate the vast market for 911 trivia at the time I wrote that. People are making careers out of maintaining the flame of conspiracy innuendo around 911, and I'm not interested in being one of those people.

Which doesn't change the fact that I worked at Milty Harris' Frankel Steel works where we fabbed up the beams and columns for WTC 7.  Nor does it change the fact that everybody who has ever worked hands-on with structural steel knows those buildings can't just fall down because there's a fire for a couple of hours.

This remains America's greatest unsolved mystery.

But it ain't mine to unravel.

There's a few favorite issues we tend to come back to. The never-ending screw-over of native people. The long long long goodbye of the working class in Canada and the US. The endless idiocy of endless war that our political class steers us into at the behest of those who will profit from them. The tragic imbecility of the war on drugs...

But after all that it's still about the view from here, Falling Downs. One of the least productive organic farms anywhere. Twelve quarts of currant jam to show for five years of organic farming. And I can literally still show you eleven of them, because while the one we finished off was quite tasty, you can only eat so much currant jam, and eleven jars isn't enough to make it worth your while to rent a table at the farmers market.

Beyond all that, I'm having fun writing it.

Hope at least a few of those folks have enjoyed reading it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

DIY laser surgery

I was taking in the long-awaited Lance confession on the Oprah network, when this commercial comes on informing me that I can save thousands of dollars by erasing my wrinkles with this handy laser tool, in the privacy of my own home, instead of running off to a pricey professional clinic.

I'm clear with Lance. This blog long ago called out Lance for doping. When the shit hit the fan we took the view that what he needs to do now is 'fess up.

And this is the end of that. Ya, he'll have some loose ends to tie up with a few of those folks he sued over the years, but that's his problem.

So I do have a few wrinkles, but too few to mention. Find they lend a bit of character actually. But still, the idea that you can do laser surgery on yourself at home... well, that seems a bit messed up.

Mind you, for 79 bucks I think it would be cool to have the tool. Even if you never get around to giving yourself laser surgery I'm sure there's lots of other useful applications.

If you have a wrinkly dog you could give it a try there.

You could light the BBQ with it.

Fire up them fatties.

Start campfires.

I'm sure there's going to be a wave of self-righteous twats all over this Lance confession claiming that it isn't nearly enough. The ever-unctuous Dick Pound is bound to weigh in on the matter, at which point I hope Lance tells him to pound dick.

Gosh... where did that come from?

But seriously, it's time to leave Lance alone. Is it "cheating" when everybody else is doing it? No, it's creating a level playing field.

Now that he's 'fessed up it's time to move on.

Although I must say I'm still curious about what he got paid to 'fess on Oprah...

And if times get really tough for Lance, we might yet see him as the official spokesman for the DIY home laser-surgery kit.

Canadian sewage giant lands huge Israel contract

I'm not making up that "sewage giant" bit; that's what the Jerusalem Post called Canadian pollution abatement multi-national EnGlobe today.

And this contract is but one lucrative spin-off from Canada's status as a world-leader in creating pollution; we get a chance to develop leading-edge expertise in cleaning it up!

Sounds like a win-win-and-win-again to me!

Israel Environment Minister Gilad Erdan was thrilled to announce the contract, which will mean that the Kishon River will eventually be rehabilitated. Long treated as an open waste ditch by the local chemicals industry, this project will be a feather in the cap for EnGlobe.

But I'd have your PR folks slip the JPost dudes a note;

 "Please, we're so much more than a sewage giant."

Canada leads world in making garbage!

They're breaking out the bubbly in Ottawa!

Still smarting after Australia one-upped them in their other leadership category, health warnings on cigarette packaging, the Canucks are in the mood for gloating today.

As well they should be!

A fresh Conference Board of Canada report reveals that Canadians make more garbage per capita than any other country in the world!

In fact, the average Canadian makes more than twice the amount of garbage every year than a typical citizen of Japan.

And not only are we the world leaders in making garbage, we also lead the world in wasting fresh water!

High fives are due all round, my fellow Canadians! We are finally WORLD CLASS!!!

Canadians use nine times as much fresh water per capita as the Danes, the losers in the water-wasting sweepstakes.

Not all of the credit for that can go to individual households though... it takes enormous amounts of fresh water to boil down those Tar Sands so they'll flow through a pipeline.

So thank you, Alberta and the Tar Sands Developers, for helping make Canada a leader among nations again!

Pot-addled hillbilly blows Goldman Sachs out the door with 350% gain

And not just Goldman Sachs, but Bridgewater and Bain and all the rest of them.

I wrote this on September 28 last year;

No matter how you look at it RIM is a buy in the current price range.

The price at the time was a smurf-hair over six bucks. The price at closing today was a smurf-hair under fifteen.

That's about 110% in just over three and a half months.

Or about 350% annualized.

Sweet!

Algeria fiasco "proves" Hollande the Conqueror was right to attack Mali

In a meandering train of logical fallacies more tortured than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Hollande the Crusader has claimed that today's hostage taking in Algeria "proves" that he had no choice but to invade Mali a week ago.

Hollande did not provide specifics to buttress his highly fanciful claims. Perhaps the hostage-taking in Algeria proves that the evil-doers are everywhere... but that would logically require the Nations of Virtue to invade everywhere...

Indeed, a new Crusade is what's in order here!

The disastrous denouement of the hostage taking has drawn strong condemnation of the Algerian government from their betters in the Nations of Virtue. Cameron and Hague are pissed that the UK was not asked for approval before the Algerians went in. After all, there were British citizens among the hostages, and a British conglomerate owns the complex where these events unfolded.

Other governments in the civilized world are expressing similar sentiments.

Besides, when Toweller nations like Algeria act like sovereign states we are quickly in the realm of intolerable effrontery.

In the Nations of Virtue we tolerate those folks so long as they're pliable and subservient, giving us oil and buying our guns.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The trouble with headlines

Take this one  for example; "1,600 businesses sign up for BB 10 training."

What the hell does that mean?

Does that mean "Toys 'r Us" or "Nails r us?"

Ford Motor Company or Rob Fords Used Car Emporium?

General Electric or Jerry's Electric?

General Motors or Bob's General Repairs?

They're all businesses...

From everything I've heard RIM just might have a gamechanger ready to unleash, but bullshit headlines like this don't help their case.

Mali evil-doers take refuge among civilians

Apparently this is holding back the forces of Hollande the Conqueror.

The Nations of Virtue have not figured out that by definition this is what a guerrilla army does. The French have known this at least since their meddling in Indochina sixty years ago, meddling that eventually led to what Americans know as "the Viet Nam War."

But it's certainly a relief to know that the French crusaders will absolutely not fire if they are not absolutely sure that their targets are rebels and not civilians.

Which is at odds with Western media reports that at least a dozen civilians died in the first 24 hours of the Hollande "I'm gonna finally earn my spurs" action. Non-Western media are already putting civilian casualties in the hundreds.

Will the rebels hide among the civilian population? Of course. While we in the Nations of Virtue may protest that this offends our sense of fair play, we are reluctant to extend that "fair play" agenda to the enemy.

As in Libya, we consider it "fair play" when the most powerful nations in history unleash bombing campaigns against countries with no air force and no air defenses.

But the "bad guys" have the temerity to hide among the civilian population?

Our hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Harper gang wants Canadian boots in Mali

I could be wrong of course. But I don't think John Baird is calling in the ambassadors of France and Mali tomorrow just to tell them that this French action in Mali is the stupidest thing he's ever seen.

He's going into this with one question in his head; "how do I get to earn those spurs?...."

The story is going to be that "we" didn't really want to do it, but we owe it to our allies and to the people of Mali.

But I could be wrong.

We'll see.

Lance Armstrong PR team takes Falling Downs' advice three months late

Nor has Lance followed through; he has yet to fire the PR team.

It's obvious at this point that the think tank here at Falling Downs and most other informed observers had Lyin' Lance figured out all along.

Nor is this finely-tuned display of contrition on Oprah quite what we were hoping for.

Any word on what the Oprah Winfrey Network paid Lance for this interview?

Socialists seize control of Walmart

What's up with that Walmart plan to hire 100,000 veterans? Somebody been passing The Communist Manifesto around in the boardroom or what?

This raw concession to the idea of social responsibility must be making old Sam spin in his grave.

I also hear a few veterans muttering, "oh great, this is why I put my life on the line and left my family in the lurch? That won't get me a Dodge 4x4 truck, nevermind a driveway to park it in."

But here's some sound reasoning that, if society had the balls to run with it, could make all the difference.

All of a sudden that twenty thousand a year Walmart job is paying thirty-five. Hell, I can almost see that Dodge parked in the driveway from here...

Happy days are just around the corner!

We're losing the race to the bottom

Don't take it personally; everybody loses in the race to the bottom.

I'm old enough to remember the debate about how much the various levels of government should be prepared to subsidize the proposed Cambridge Toyota plant thirty years ago. Toyota made it clear that they were playing off one jurisdiction against another.

Why should they build their factory in Ontario in return for 50 million in subsidies if Kentucky was offering 100 million and so on.

This has become the norm in the car industry. Why build here if they're going to give us more free money over there? It's the strategy that got Alabama a Mercedes plant. It's the strategy that got anybody any car plant anywhere in the last thirty years.

Originally different communities were prepared to offer those subsidies because of what they got in return; long-term, stable, well-paying jobs.

That has slowly been changing, and the pace of that change will only speed up in the future. Today the car companies want those billion dollar subsidies in return for providing fewer, less stable, mediocre-paying jobs. In a few years they will demand even greater subsidies in return for shit jobs.

We're well on our way.

One of the arguments put forward by Canadian officials is that companies will continue to see Canada as a desirable location because of our well educated work-force. This is a conceit unique to those who have never worked in a car assembly plant. Face it; as anybody who has ever walked that mile will readily attest, you don't have to be particularly bright or particularly well-educated to nail that gig.

Here's a telling quote from Professor Tony Faria, of the Odette Business School at the University of Windsor; " We like to talk about a skilled, educated workforce in Canada... the US workforce is equally as skilled and educated... the Mexican workforce is equal to that in the US."

So where does that leave Canadian autoworkers?

The going wage for assembly line workers in Mexican plants owned by the big three is $3.75 an hour.

Where do you think that leaves Canadian autoworkers?

France trapped in Mali quagmire after four days

Monsieur President can scarcely have had time to savor the adulation that came his way as he decisively established himself the bold and fearless leader he always believed he could be.

Four days into his operation to rid Mali of "Islamic terrorists" several facts have made themselves obvious.

The advisers who led Hollande the Conqueror to believe that the adversary would fade into the desert after a few days of bombing are imbeciles.

The delusion that this adventure would be over in a week was just that; delusional.

Many more thousands of boots will be required on the ground if the Islamists are to be routed in a land operation.

The lofty goals he has declared for a stable, democratic and Western-friendly Mali ensure that France will eventually have to concede defeat or be prepared to occupy the country indefinitely.

All of which facts were readily discernible to every moderately well-informed observer months ago.

Was the man so obsessed with "earning his spurs" that he chose to forge ahead regardless?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Imaginary ECOWAS troop deployment to Mali delayed again

Mali's neighbors in ECOWAS don't seem in any great hurry to come to her aid.

On Friday it was reported that the troop deployment had been approved. At various points over the weekend numerous sources reported that Nigerian and Senegalese troops were already in Mali, and that more troops would arrive Monday.

Monday arrived but the troops didn't. Instead we got the news that there is to be an ECOWAS summit tomorrow at which last Friday's decision is to be discussed.

None of which is particularly relevant to the situation on the ground. A mere three thousand  ECOWAS troops are little more than window dressing for what is fundamentally a French war.

Laurent Fabius' declaration of victory in Mali may have been premature

According to this story at al Jazeera, the Islamist hordes are 280 kilometers closer to Mali's capital today than they were yesterday.

It was just yesterday that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced to the world that the rebels had been stopped.

Between Fabius the Fabulist and Hollande the Conqueror one senses that the French are in for a rude awakening.

That's the crazy thing about war.

You declare victory, and oops!....

Bad shit happens.


A great moment in the history of sports philosophy

Fired GM Brian Burke, late of the Leafs, revealed quite a revelation at his sour-grapes news conference on Saturday.

"I wouldn't have been fired if we'd won more games."

Well no shit!

Mali; the terror threat on France's doorstep

Although the distance from Paris to Bamako is approximately 6,000 kilometers, the French President claims that the Islamist groups in the Malian desert represent an imminent threat not only to France, but to Europe and indeed, the entire word.

Mali is the "doorstep" of France.

The French public has thus far rewarded this idiocy with approval ratings of over 60 pct.

It was also France that initiated the bombing of Libya almost two years ago, in that instance not to save the French from a terror threat on their doorstep but to save the Libyans from themselves. That exercise has been uncritically assumed a success and it is only in the past couple of days that some major media outlets have explicitly drawn the linkages between the destruction of Libya and what has transpired in Mali since.

Once again the French, this time led by a different aspiring Napoleon, rush into a war that is unnecessary and poorly thought out. What are the ramifications for neighboring countries when the Malian insurgency spreads over their borders as surely it will? Where will France and the other Nations of Virtue be bombing in six months or a year to extinguish the fires they are in the process of lighting now?

All this so Hollande the Conqueror can prove to his critics that he is a decisive and fearless leader.

He has "earned his spurs..."  What rubbish!

Hollande the Conqueror has "earned his spurs" - Bernard-Henri Levy

That's the foolishness  emanating from the greatest French philosopher who ever walked the earth, the great BHL, the man who is so great that he is universally recognized just by his initials alone.

Did I mention that the man considers himself great? A "celebrity philosopher," no less.

This is the supposedly liberal humanist philosopher who couldn't get the Nations of Virtue bombing Libya soon enough.

The same humanist who has been bitterly disappointed that those same nations failed to heed his advice to apply the Libya blueprint to Syria.

But in this topsy-turvy world of war-mongering liberals, there is also a voice of reason. In a profound irony it happens to come from the right wing of the political spectrum.

You will remember Dominique de Villepen as the Foreign Minister who spoke against the Iraq war. He is speaking out now against this disasterous course France has embarked on in Africa.

Unfortunately the country at large seems for the moment to be swept with war fever.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Obama takes credit for failed French mission in Somalia

Well that's good to know.

Always great to be part of a winning team, isn't it?

America has not even tied up the loose ends in Iraq and Afghanistan. Syria is an open sore. But America will follow France into new adventures in Africa?

How retarded would you have to be for this to make any sense?

Is one hedge fund manager worth 55,000 nurses?

According to Payscale.com the median income for nurses in 2011 was 55,000 dollars.

That's not a bad income. Depending on where you live, your family could have a more or less decent life on that income. And we all understand what nurses do.

They help sick people.

According to Forbe's, the highest paid hedge fund manager in 2011 was Raymond Dalio of Bridgewater Associates. He earned himself three billion dollars in 2011. We all know what hedge fund managers do.

They help themselves.

Doing some elementary math, we find that the hedge fund manager makes the equivalent salary of 55,000 nurses.

Who contributes more to society?

One hedge fund manager?

Or 55,000 nurses?