Sunday, March 31, 2013

Marx and Engels walk into a bar...

So Karl and Fred walk into a bar, and the bartender says "whadya want?"

And Karl says " I want the emancipation of the people. I want the liberation of the masses. I want that everyone be paid according to their need and taxed according to their ability. The seeds of class struggle were sown in the Pleistocene era when the rich dinosaurs'..."

Engels cuts in;

"We'll have two vodka neat."  

French forces liberate Timbuktu again

Here we go again.

Even though the forces of Hollande the Conqueror liberated Timbuktu back in January, they are liberating it again today.

Nevermind "Operation Spurs for Hollande," this is doomed to be deemed the war of everlasting re-liberation.

(doomed to be deemed? that's a good one! Wonder if that combination has ever been assembled before? Perhaps I have a claim on originality after all?)

What's noteworthy about this French initiative is that it marks a very self-conscious descent into self-parody by the Nations of Virtue. That is as it should be from the folks who brought you Paul de Mann and Jacques Derrida.

To say nothing of the media-savvy twat lurking in the background of every French headline. You know who I'm talking about.

So does he.

Which raises an interesting question. Do the forces of Hollande the Crusader even know that they are repeating history as self-parody?

Or will they chase the invisible forces of evil round and round forever, with an occasional inspirational essay from the great BHL every second or third lap to keep up the morale of the troops, and if not the troops, at least of the imbeciles who keep the troops going round and round?

Critical mass at the bullshit factory

Here is an exercise in contemporary propaganda that cries out for a closer look.

Look at that title. Do you think "Cyprus" had stand-alone status in the original drafts of this press release? Or do you suspect it may have been just a part of a Middle East tour?

Canada has a back-story in Cyprus. We've been keeping the peace there since forever. Cyprus was once deemed a hot-spot, a bone of contention between rising Turkey and failing Greece, although it wasn't always as evident who was rising and who was failing.

Our man Baird is off to promote Prosperity and Security over there; in Jordan, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Cyprus, Israel, and the West Bank.

Six countries and an occupied territory. Of the six countries, four are monarchist dictatorships, one has recently become a protectorate of the IMF, and only one has the slightest claim to being democratic.

Will this impinge on Mr. Baird's quest to promote Canadian interests and values?

"As part of our principled foreign policy, we recognize that prosperity and security are intrinsically linked."

But are they intrinsically linked to democracy? Apparently not.

"Our friends in the region live every day in the shadow of uncertainty caused by the Syrian crisis and Iranian belligerence."

Aren't our friends in Qatar doing more than anyone to fan the flames of the Syrian crisis?

Do you imagine that our erstwhile Minister will be bringing that up with our Qatari friends?

And wasn't it Baird and Harper who connived to close the Canadian embassy in Tehran, thereby closing off a valuable channel through which to communicate our esteemed values?

And is it not interesting how studiously the Baird travelogue avoids any mention of Gaza? Baird will be preaching to our bumboys in Ramallah about the need for negotiations without preconditions, but there will be not a word about settlements.

Or about democracy, because if a free election were held in the West Bank today in which Hamas was allowed to participate, the charade of the PA being the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people would be over.

All of which leaves the Honourable Mr. Baird doing exactly what on this grand tour of the Middle East?

Collecting frequent flier points.

War on drugs = war on terror

It's worth hearing how the parliamentary assistant to Canadian Defense Minister Peter "Pinocchio" MacKay explains the melding of the two most expensive wars in history.

"There's definitely a link between these narcotics and terrorism and by stopping narcotics on the high seas... we know that the financial nodes of terrorism are being attacked."

Well, that's a crock of shit.

The Canadians are ostensibly in the Gulf of Arabia to prevent sea-borne shipments of arms to the Taliban. Whether or not there even are any sea-borne shipments of arms to the Taliban is an open question.

As anyone who follows these matters undoubtedly knows, Afghan poppy production was virtually eliminated under the Taliban. The Taliban are funded lock, stock and oil barrel by fundamentalist elements in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

These are also the folks funding al-Qaeda.

They are close enough to the levers of power in The Kingdom that they do not in any way shape or form need to resort to drugs trafficking to finance their operations.

Their money comes from oil trafficking.

The foolish assertion that this seizure will somehow impact the supply of drugs in Canada is designed to gloss over the fact that the discredited war on drugs regains no legitimacy by being paired with the equally discredited war on terror.

We've been reading variations of this nonsense for long enough now that we know bullshit when we see it.

Canadian and Australian Navies now tasked with drug interdiction

According to this article at CBC News the two NATO partners have been "working together all week to interrupt drug shipments in the Arabian sea."

Since when has enforcement of drug prohibitions been part of NATO's mandate?

IDF needs a few good men who didn't fail high school math

While I felt both flattered and vindicated by Major General Eyal Eisenberg's comments about the false sense of security engendered by Iron Dome, I was at the same time taken aback by the claim, five paragraphs from the bottom, that Hezbollah's arsenal consists of approximately 5,000 warheads.

Where the hell does he pull that number from, and how the hell does the media let it pass?

That's fewer rockets than Hezbollah used in the last Lebanon war.

Have Hezbollah been decommissioning their inventory and forgot to put out a press release?

Not likely.

Should a reasonable observer assume that they have more, not fewer missiles today?

I would think so.

Estimates of Hezbollah missile inventory typically range from 30,000 into the hundreds of thousands, depending on the motivations of the person doing the talking.

Eisenberg's estimate of 5,000 is by far the lowest I have seen in years.

Of course, if one tires of the hand-wringing over missile counts, there is another option; making peace with the neighbors.

Failing that, the best and the brightest will keep moving to Berlin.


Crippled by budget restrictions and political meddling, IDF now reads blogs to maintain strategic advantage

Major General Eyal Eisenberg is stirring up controversy over in the Holy Land with his claim that Israelis are not adequately protected by Iron Dome.

He goes so far as to claim that the anti-missile defense system has created a false sense of security.

Everything he is saying today was said over a year ago in a blog post entitled The flawed arithmetic of Iron Dome.

His interview perpetuates that false sense of security by focusing only on missiles from Hezbollah. The political establishment has for years been pounding the war-drums for a confrontation with Iran, in which case the Shia militia will be only an afterthought, and the Iron Dome advantage will have been exhausted within the first five minutes of hostilities.

Here's an option the political boffins may want to consider; make peace instead.


Sheldon Adelson to save Cyprus?

Anytime, anywhere that talk comes round to legalizing casino gambling, you can bet that Sheldon Adelson will be ready with a plan to save your stumbling economy.

After all, look what the man has done for Las Vegas. And Macau.

The Spaniards have evidently fallen for his Spanish Salvation Strategy and plan to proceed with the pie-in-the-sky "Eurovegas," because as everyone knows, there's nothing like a mega-casino development to create secure and well-paying jobs and fund education and health-care.

At the end of the day casino gambling is a tax on stupidity. In order for a casino to run profitably over the long term, this tax requires not just stupid people, but a vast pool of stupid people with money.

That's where the casino model of economic development eventually hits the wall. There are a limited number of sheep to be fleeced, and even though it's a big number, it's nonetheless limited.

Paul Singer v. the people of Argentina

In 2008, seven years after the Government of Argentina defaulted on $95 billion in sovereign debt, hedge funds managed by Paul Singer bought up some of those defaulted bonds for pennies on the dollar. Ever since, Singer has been using the American courts in an attempt to force Argentina to pay out those bonds at face value.

This case highlights some of the more egregious abuses that finance capital imposes on its host societies. While Singer's distressed-debt investment strategy has made him a wealthy man, has it contributed anything positive to society?

No. Hedge funds like Singer's represent an opportunistic and non-productive pool of capital that seeks to turn legal technicalities and political influence into windfall gains. Hedge-funds are the Rumpelstiltskins of the modern era.

The legal system is their spinning wheel. When lawyers for Singer, a long-time Republican Party insider and huge financial backer, appear in front of judges appointed by Republican presidents, does anyone imagine that the other side will get an impartial hearing?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Living large in Ontario's hillbilly belt

I see where Dr. Hazel Lynn is once again the highest paid public servant locally.

For well over $300 thousand a year Lynn spends virtually all of her time warning the locals about the dangers of smoking and obesity, and waging a vendetta against Michael Schmidt, the local farmer who wants to be free to sell unpasteurized milk to folks who want to buy unpasteurized milk.

Lynn does her work from an office in the Health Unit, an edifice erected a few years ago at a cost well north of 20 millions for 10 thousand feet of floor space, making it the most expensive office space in Canada by a considerable margin.

Skeptics in the community maintain that Lynn's health cops could have made themselves some nice office space on the several floors of the hospital that are currently shuttered, for next to nothing, but I digress.

That new Health Unit build did win its architects some sort of award for being environmentally sensitive.

At two thousand bucks a foot you'd certainly hope so.

She's not the only one living large.

How does a town of 20,000 with a declining tax base have eighteen firefighters and six fire captains all making six numbers?

Time to consider a volunteer fire department.

Why the US Navy ships Russian ammo

Here's a link to documentation from the US Navy Surface Warfare Center at Crane, Indiana, summarizing the testing the Navy did on the shipping containers used for moving ammunition for the ubiquitous AK-47.

The AK-47 and its many variations are not issued to the fighting forces of the US or any of her NATO allies.

So why would the US need to ship this ammunition?

Here's one reason.

And it's not the only reason by any stretch of the imagination. But Elliot Higgins unwittingly draws a few loose ends together for us. The ammo for those Croatian AK-47s that Higgins correctly spots in his Syrian action videos obviously comes from somewhere.

My guess is it's coming in shipping containers painstakingly tested and approved by Kerry Libbert and his team twenty years ago, and it's coming in US Navy ships docking in Bahrain and Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

So the question posed here well over a year ago has at least a partial answer.

Not-so-Brown Moses proves Syrian military uses cluster bombs!

CNN has a lovely hagiography on view of Elliot Higgins, aka Brown Moses, who has irrefutable evidence that the Assad regime has used cluster bombs. He also has evidence that some of the rebel armaments come from Croatia.

Actually, Elliot has shed some light on a question posed right here at Falling Downs; why does US navy ship Russian ammo?

As for the cluster bomb business, a quick scan of the Wikipedia page for "cluster munitions" reveals that the top four users of cluster bombs over the past twenty years are the US, UK, France, and Israel, in roughly that order.

So cluster bombs are hunky dory when used by the Nations of Virtue but a war crime when used by Assad?

Perhaps Elliot should spend more time parenting his wee daughter.

Syrian rebels behead imam, drag corpse through streets of Aleppo

You'd think a Sunni imam would be a champion of the so-called rebels. You'd be wrong.

The Sunni majority in Syria are not at all united in their opposition to the Assad regime, and even most of those who oppose Assad are loathe to see their country descend into the kind of barbaric violence we are witnessing today.

Judging from the tone of the article, even our friend Rami Abdulrahmen at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is getting cold feet about some of his confreres in the Free Syrian Army.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Steve Cohen is toast

Time to go short on shares in Steve's world.

Even though a steady stream of SAC insiders has been finding themselves in the headlines, Mr. Cohen himself has managed for the most part to avoid the splatter.

The arrest of Mike Steinberg this morning brings the long nose of the law closer to Cohen than it's ever been. What's amazing about the Cohen story is that after Madoff, everybody, from the doorman to the janitor to the guidance counselor at your kid's school,  knew that year after year of suspiciously robust returns could mean only one thing.

Monkey business.

Dirty deals.

Insider trading.

Don't know where the SEC types are finding the cahones after letting this stuff slide for thirty years, but it seems the game has changed.

And it's about time.

Twats gone wild

I almost feel a bit guilty calling Richard Handler a "twat."

In fact, I have oodles of respect for Dick because he has gone on the record calling his fellow hedgies "twats."

OK, he didn't actually use the "T" word, but he did tell them they were wildly overpaid and extremely lucky.

Same thing.

Dick is in the news because some foreign upstarts are putting up a condo tower that might block the view from his 24 million penthouse in Manhattan.

Dick made 58 million last year.

He can afford to move.

Goodnight Ralph

I'm probably the only self-avowed commie who is going to admit in public that he liked Ralph Klein.

What I liked about Ralph was that he told it like he saw it. You never had to dig through umpteen layers of bullshit to figure out what he really meant.

Happy trails, dude!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Generation F

Warning: this blog-post contains shitty language.


I'm talking about Generation Fucked.

Way too many of our best and brightest young folks are at this very moment enjoying life in an unpaid internship.

That may seem a hypothetical dilemma for my generation, but it's the day-to-day reality for our kids in Gen F.

In fact, scoring an unpaid internship is today seen as a giant step forward on the career ladder for a lot of university graduates.

Unpaid internships are bullshit.

Period.

Young and not-so-young people scrambling for the chance to work for free aren't helping themselves and they're not helping society.

In the short term they're padding their resumes.

In the long term they're re-legitimizing slavery.

Too many have worked too long and sacrificed too much to let that go unchallenged.

So think long and think hard before signing on to an internship that obliges you to work for nothing.

It's not just yourself you're selling short.

Canada shows lead in abandoning UN desertification treaty

Like a lot of UN endeavours, the desertification treaty has thus far led to occasional meetings, and not much else.

And Big Steve's decision to save the $350,000 a year Canada contributes to the drought protocol may seem like a big fat slab of phoney baloney coming from the guy who spent a million plus of tax-payer dollars shipping his bullet-proof Cadillac to India for a two day visit.

But what's really hilarious is listening to the opposition wankers despair of what this decision means to "Canada's reputation on the world stage."

For goodness sakes!

Canada no longer has a "reputation" on the world stage beyond being known as America's over-eager bumboy. With the sweaty hands of the effervescent John Baird at the controls, Canada's foreign policy has veered crazily between obsequious subservience to Lukid foreign policy and trying to keep the big dog south of the 49th happy.

There was a time when hewing to both the Likud agenda and the US agenda was relatively simple. With the ascent of the Oracle of Nairobi things have gotten a bit more complicated.

After six years of Harper mayhem, the Israeli's don't want to sell us the Dead Sea and the American's don't want to buy our tar sands oil.

So I can see why the Harper gang might be in the mood for a good pout, but why take it out on the UN?

Socialists need secret Swiss bank accounts too!

I detect a double standard here.

For generations it has been considered the conventional order of things that any self-respecting member of the French bourgeoisie, whether from the left or the right, the far left or the far right, or anywhere in between, has at least one mistress and one secret Swiss bank account.

"Ce la vies," as the French would say, which roughly translated means "so what?"

Well, poor Hollande the would-be "crusader" just lost his Finance Minister due to some trumped up scandal that wouldn't even be a scandal if everybody wasn't so utterly sick to death of the hapless Hollande.

Big in Mali, a bust in France, that's how Hollande's brief turn in the limelight has turned out so far. Jerome Cahuzac is just the latest victim of the anti-Hollande crusade being orchestrated by the three disgruntled Frenchmen subject to the 75% tax recently imposed on super-high earners.

What's really got the folks pissed is Hollande's headlong rush into the Malian fiasco. While heartily lauded by supposed left-wing philosopher-heavyweight and all-round buffoon BHL, the hasty intervention has thus far succeeded in draining the French treasury of many millions and getting a dozen French troops killed, all in the name of some imbecilic notion of colonial greatness.

Latest word from the UN is that at least 11,000 "peace-keepers" will be required to contain the mess that the French have stirred up. Number of troops offered for this mission thus far?

Zero.

In fact, the French are still resolutely waiting for most of their African allies to field troops for the now-almost-over intervention, let alone the peace-keeping mission that will allow the French to go home.

Mind you, given the number of times the city of Gao has been liberated in the past three months, it's not hard to see why putative allies might be getting cold feet.

Looks like you're on your own, Mr. Hollande... and good luck!

Stupid Venezuelans persist in glorifying despotic tyrant

Cheerfully oblivious to the thousands of sanctimonious op-eds published in the Nations of Virtue on the passing of their late democratically-elected dictator, multitudes of mourners continue to defy the will of their betters in singing the praises, literally, of a leader so awful that the US was once forced to try to remove him from office by force.

There they are, an endless line of the duped and gullible, waiting to pay their respects three weeks after the passing of Hugo Chavez. And it's not just Venezuelans; they're even coming from places like Switzerland and Spain where we expect folks to know better!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Jobs of the future: shelf-stockers, shit-wipers, and truck-drivers

That's three-quarters of your "jobs of tomorrow" right there.

Do any of these require post-secondary education?

There are certainly plenty of private "truck driver schools" sucking up government cash to train the gullible for a minimum wage job that can produce a middle-class income if you're willing to put 90 hours a week into it.

And the shit-wipers have their own professional designation now; PSW.

Professional Shit Wiper.

Those are the folks who are going to be changing my adult diaper for minimum wage plus fifty cents an hour not too long hence.

And we all know what shelf-stockers do. Popular opinion says those folks could be paid less, not more.

These are the three occupations with the best prospects in the American economy.

The challenge for the American economy is to turn those occupations into jobs worth doing.

That means the Personal Service Workers, the clerks in the big box stores, and the truck drivers all have to make a decent middle-class wage.

Without working 90 hours a week.

Fort Mac real estate bubble on the brink

Just a few days ago we were speculating about the possibility of a near-term Fort McMurray real estate implosion.

The first shoe has dropped.

More will soon follow, especially in light of the continued failure to find markets for all the "oil" coming out of those tar sands.

Only in America; dope-dealing cross-dressing priest ready for plea-bargain

Check out this story.

Father Wallin ministers to the flock on the wrong side of the tracks over there in Connecticut.

That's gotta be a tough gig. We mostly know Connecticut as the home base of choice for successful hedgies. Once you're flush and have a few success stories under your belt, nothing says "you're a big boy now" louder than an estate in Connecticut.

But then there's that other Connecticut, the one where entire neighborhoods live on less than the annual cigar tab for a self-respecting got-it-made wheeler-dealer.

You know what I'm talking about; where the black folks live.

And while I'm at it; why aren't there any black hedge fund managers?

Anyway, Father Wallin brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to the hopeless and homeless and down and out in Connecticut, not to the other guys. Seems the pressure got to him.

Father Wallin was in the habit... oh jeez... I didn't even see that one coming... oh my God?!...

Well, the body of evidence claims he was a cross-dresser, but WTF, when you look at the pictures from that Conclave of Cardinals just a couple weeks ago, they're all about that... which was why I thought Rodman was a shoe-in for the Golden Scepter...

But I digress. Don't know if Father Wallin donned the habit, but apparently he was in the habit of doffing the friarly robes for something a little more flattering. A mini-skirt maybe. Yoga pants... who knows?

Not only that, but due to the Church of Rome having to settle one multi-billion dollar class-action after another for the last twenty years, your local parish priest is actually paying the bills out of the proceeds from the bingo and the bake sale these days.

Bingo and bake sales only go so far, and for Father Wallin they obviously didn't go far enough.

Father Wallin took some hard decisions. Out with baking cupcakes. In with cooking meth.

The rest of the story is, if not history, at least really cheesy headlines.

And if you're among the multitude rushing to judge Father Wallin, let me leave you with a quote from the Good Book.

"Judge not, lest ye be judged."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Boris Berezovsky's death will be a bonanza for Putin-haters for years to come

The demise of Boris Berezovsky by his own hand at the weekend will be exploited by the anti-Putin contingent for years.

Berezovsky was the consummate insider-turned-entrepreneur. His tenure as a member of Yeltsin's inner circle positioned him to become one of the leading oligarchs in that first wave of emerging Russian super-capitalists.

His mentoring of Putin unfortunately had an effect that Berezovsky could not have foreseen. Instead of becoming a pliant puppet of Berezovsky's largess, Putin unleashed a surprise on Berezovsky and all the other rising oligarchs.

He unleashed something that we in the Nations of Virtue claim to be all about; the rule of law.

Suddenly the state, acting on behalf of the people, was telling the oligarchs how things were going to work, instead of the other way around.

That led to a massive exodus of Russia's super-rich, including Berezovsky.

Which in turn led to the long-term campaign of America's super-rich to vilify Putin by whatever means possible, a campaign that continues unabated to this day.  After all, the heresy that a government can boss the super-capitalists around has been expunged in the West for generations.

Who is this Russian upstart who threatens to upset the apple-cart?

Cyprus seen as blueprint for future bank bailouts

That's according to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, President of the European Stability Mechanism.

The logic seems to be that a troubled bank's owners and investors should be held liable for a bank's losses before the taxpayer is called on for a bailout.

He seems to be saying that people who put their money in a bank are "investors" in that enterprise.

They're not.

The kind of financial hanky-panky that gets banks into trouble has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that my all-too-modest pay is deposited there, and that I then use my account to pay my mortgage and utilities.

While it is fine to hypothesize that the people taking the biggest hit in the Cyprus fiasco are Russian tax cheats, the principle here is that you the depositor are going to be held to account for the derivatives trading losses of that twat who got himself a multi-million bonus last year but lost his bank a billion this year.

Doesn't sit right with me.

As Cree youth complete 1000 mile protest trek to Ottawa, PM Harper is in Toronto to greet... pandas!

Shows the man's priorities.

Why bother greeting a bunch of pain-in-the-ass natives when you can enjoy a photo-op with cuddly pandas from China instead?

Alas, we already know that in ten years those cuddly panda bears will be going home to China. They are strictly loaner-pandas.

The Cree are still going to be here ten years from now, twenty years from now, 100 years from now, demanding their rightful place in Canadian society.

Media double-talk on Syria obscures reality on the ground

Here's a perfect example.

Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Ariel Ben Solomon promises with his headline an analysis of the Syrian oppositions's growing momentum.

Yet the first line of his article makes clear that what is gaining momentum is not the opposition but Western intervention.

In fact, the official opposition, recognized as the "legitimate voice of the Syrian people" months ago by their sponsors in the West, is descending into complete chaos. Within the past week they have elected an American prime minister who no one in Syria other than his distant relatives has ever heard of, lost the leader anointed by Hilary Clinton mere months ago, and lost the putative commander of the Free Syrian Army to a car bomb on one of his rare excursions into the country.

This does not bode well for the opposition's "growing momentum."

It becomes more obvious by the day that the real war within Syria is being waged by precisely the sort of radical elements that France is fighting in Mali, that the US has sworn to eliminate around the world, and that has been the primary target of the entire "War on Terror" since said war was declared by George W. Bush in 2001.

Which should raise several problematic questions.

Assad has all along claimed he is in a battle with "terrorists." If he is fighting the same al-Qaeda in Syria that US forces were fighting in Iraq he's right. Then why is he America's enemy?

Why is America funding and arming, directly and via various proxies, the very enemy that elsewhere it is committed to wiping out? How do you wipe out your enemy by supplying them with guns and money? Who are the useful idiots in this scenario?

The community of wishful thinkers in Langley had a Syrian slam-dunk on the drawing board. Their long-cultivated "opposition" would have Assad on the run in weeks, or on the outside, months. Then Syria would be in the hands of a pliable anti-Iran pro-Israel proxy government happy to do America's bidding in the region.

There was no plan B.

As Assad defied their expectations, the "revolution" so carefully nurtured over a decade fell day by day and week by week into the hands of the "foreign extremists" who will take American support but not American orders.

America is turning Syria into an al-Qaeda state.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Resolution of Israel Chemicals dispute to establish if ass-kissing pays

When Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird was traipsing around the Holy Land last year, personal rabbi in tow, Canadians and Israelis alike cringed at the man's over-the-top obsequiousness.

We need to bear in mind that a Foreign Minister's role is, among other things, to be a sales ambassador for a country's industrialists. So we can safely assume that intermingled amongst the ubiquitous toadying and back-slapping Baird had more than a few occasions to put in a plug for Potash Corp's proposed takeover of Israel Chemicals.

But here comes party pooper Gilad Erdan, whose last desperate act as an outgoing minister of the state is an impassioned plea to Netanyahu to quash the Canadian deal.

The Environmental Protection Minister goes so far as to admit he totally fell down on the job.

"For decades Israel Chemicals has caused enormous damage to its environs."

Oh really? And where was the Environment Protection Minister while that was going on?


Hollande the Conqueror's liberation merry-go-round in Mali

Back in January a chuffed Malian communications minister informed the world that the war in his country would be over in days.

Indeed, the key town of Gao fell the very next day.

You can watch it fall again in this entertaining You Tube clip from 10 February.

Two weeks after that the Islamists were driven out of Gao again!

And according to the BBC, guess who's back today?  Yup, it's those darned al Qaeda rebels!

But not to worry, the story has a happy ending. The rebels have been pushed out of town and the French and their allies are once again in control.

At least for the rest of today...

How to forget history

On March 16 the New York Times published this article by Elisabeth Malkin about the upcoming trial of former Guatemalan dictator Rios Montt on charges of genocide.

Today an edited version of the same story appears in my New York Times International Weekly. One thing that has been edited out of the original is Ms. Malkin's reference to US knowledge of the genocide;

   "...American diplomats and intelligence agencies knew that the Guatemalan army was carrying out the massacres, even though the Reagan administration argued in public that human rights conditions were improving."

Apparently even that oblique concession to reality was too much for the editors at the Times. America's complicity in the murder of tens of thousands of peasants and natives throughout Central and South America goes far beyond knowing about it. These murders in Guatemala and beyond were actively supported as a matter of US policy.

See for example the excellent article by Robert Parry, Reagan's Hand in Guatemala's Genocide.

Thirty years later Rios Montt finally gets a trial.

Ronald Reagan gets statues.

Kerry leaves 'em laughing in Baghdad

Note the look of bemused incredulity on the faces of Iraqi PM al-Maliki and his aides.

They're not sure what to think. Traditional Arab customs of hospitality demand that they not laugh the man out of town, but it's not everyday that they come face to face with such woefully misguided thinking.

Kerry thinks he can come and lecture them on what they "must" do?

And if they do as they're told Kerry will permit them into discussions about Syria's future?

Both Kerry's visit and the New York Times' coverage thereof reek of the same hubris that lead the US into their disastrous Iraq adventure in the first place. The embassy where Kerry met the Iraqi delegation stands as a monument to that hubris.

Almost a billion dollars to build and billions more to guard and maintain, the edifice now houses about a third of the staff it was designed for.

It will remain a testament to American overreach long after its inhabitants have moved to more modest accommodations and the Iraqis re-purpose it as something useful.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Case study in media BS; "massive gas spill" turns out to be dozens of gallons

Dozens of gallons?

Something less than a barrel then, I assume, but that wouldn't make much of a headline.

The gist of the story is that two American billionaires named Larry had their mega-yachts parked in Hawaii at the same time.

So really it's a story geared to pander to our infatuation with the rich and famous.

Which reminds me of the story I heard when I lived out on the east coast about Burt Reynolds and his yacht. Seems Burt was doing a summer cruise up the Saint John River. Made it all the way up to the Mactaquac dam, but to do so they had to fly the helicopter over a couple of bridges while the yacht sailed underneath.

And apparently they had a massive spill late one afternoon when Burt accidentally tipped over a forty pounder of Old Grandad on the sundeck.

Hand of al-Qaeda lurks behind Seleka rebellion in Central African Republic


Last December Central African Republic President Francios Bozize pleaded for urgent military support from his French and American "cousins." Both nations have troops on the ground in the country.

Looks like the cousins are prepared to let Bozize go down the commode of history, or more likely, live out a splendid retirement in Paris.

The fact that Western media are not touting the CAR rebellion as an al Qaeda affiliated plot is a clear signal that the US and/or France aren't planning to do anything about it. Their assumption seems to be that the Seleka coalition will be as hospitable to the continued rape of the country by foreign multi-nationals as was Bozize, so why bother?

While the CAR has not been known as an al-Qaeda hot spot, the rebel coalition is largely although not exclusively drawn from the Muslim population. As such, it will no doubt be informed by al-Qaeda sensibilities and sympathies that are flourishing in a number of neighboring countries.

Surprised that this story doesn't get more prominence in the mainstream media. Maybe it's because the Nations of Virtue are going to be stretched so thin by the pending Syria intervention that they can't do anything about it anyway.

Frau Merkel wags finger of righteousness at Cypriots

"Don't try our patience?"

I trust that every citizen of Cyprus will be waving their middle finger right back at Frau Merkel.

The German arrogance is something to behold. How the German people, a decent enough lot nowadays in spite of their sordid history, have become the bully-boys of the Euro-zone is an interesting question. I didn't realize that Merkel was elected to be the global emissary of the banking industry.

But there she is, telling the citizens of Cyprus that they must tighten their belts for generations to come, and by the way, give up a good chunk of whatever savings they might have, in order to save the prevailing financial order.

Rob the people to save the banks.

Lip-gloss and photo-ops; Syria's famous female sniper

Guevara's story is everywhere.

Depending on where you read it, she joined the fighters either after her own children were killed in a regime bombing attack, or because many of her students died in regime attacks. She's got You Tube videos and a taste for designer sunglasses.

The myth of the Syrian sniper babe sounds like propaganda from beginning to end. It's a catchy story designed to win sympathy for the anti-Assad forces by showcasing the prominent role women are playing.

The reality is that photo-ops aside, the war on Assad is being fought by hardened extremists who would not for a moment allow a woman into their ranks.

If and when these extremists win the country Guevara will realize that insofar as she cares about the rights of women, she should have been fighting for the Assad regime and not against it.

Only legitimate leader of the Syrian people lived in Texas last 30 years

The so-called Syrian opposition took another step into irrelevance this week by electing as its Prime Minister a US citizen who left Syria thirty years ago.

Ghassan Hitto has no track record of anti-Assad activism and is a total unknown inside Syria. The Syrian National Coalition elected him for one reason; he has the CIA stamp of approval.

That the SNC is fundamentally a CIA creation should be more than obvious by now. The interesting story that will play out in the months ahead is how this US puppet will manage relations with the Jabhat al Nusra elements who are actually doing the fighting in the country.

Not that the al-Qaeda affiliated radicals are any more a legitimate "Syrian" opposition than the SNC. Most of their fighters hail from outside the country too. And they have the backing of US allies Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

That fact too raises some interesting questions. How is it possible that the US spends hundreds of billions fighting al-Qaeda around the world, but her supposed allies are busy arming and funding al-Qaeda in Syria?

The &%# dog ate my glasses!

Several times over the past week or so I've asked the Farm Manager if she's seen my glasses. No, not the ones I'm wearing; the good ones.

Couldn't find them anywhere.

Today I found a few bits of broken lens in the back seat of the car...

Lucy!

I usually take the hounds into town with me when I'm out running errands. Lucy likes to get behind the wheel when I go into a store. She'll find a souvenir and take it into the back with her and then pretend nothing happened. I've found gloves, sales slips, even my wallet relocated to the back seat.

But I've never had anything damaged, and it didn't occur to me that she might consider my glasses fair game.

Must have happened the day we stopped for lunch. The dogs had a good 45 minutes in the car on their own. We could see them from the window seats in the restaurant. Lucy in the drivers seat, Boomer in the back, both of them on the alert for dogs being walked down the main street.

When we came out Lucy was back to her dog spot in the back seat, and I thought nothing of it till I found those broken lenses today. There's not a trace of the arms to be found though.

They must have gone right through her.

No sign that Western allies will intervene to save Bozize

Last December Central African Republic President Francios Bozize pleaded for urgent military support from his French and American "cousins." Both nations have troops on the ground in the country.

Looks like the cousins are prepared to let Bozize go down the commode of history, or more likely, live out a splendid retirement in Paris.

The fact that Western media are not touting the CAR rebellion as an al Qaeda affiliated plot is a clear signal that the US and/or France aren't planning to do anything about it. Their assumption seems to be that the Seleka coalition will be as hospitable to the continued rape of the country by foreign multi-nationals as was Bozize, so why bother?

Top al Qaeda leader killed again

And this time they really really mean it!

And you gotta love the bit about this being "a milestone in the fight against terrorism..."

Al Qaeda "leaders" are bumped off with clock-like regularity and have been for years now. Result? More al Qaeda, more al Qaeda leaders, and more terrorism.

There can't be anyone on the planet stupid enough to believe that this death is in any way a milestone.

Assuming for a moment that Abou Zeid is actually dead this time, we may also safely assume that AQIM continues to operate today with new leadership. In all probability the new leadership will be younger, better educated, and more aggressive.

So what has been accomplished?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Things fall apart

Back in the day, when I was doing course work at the University of Guelph, I had a prof who was tight with Chinua Achebe.

Tight enough to be invited to the wedding of one of Achebe's daughters.

That means I was but one degree of separation removed from The Great Man.

Those were the days when university professors would find the time to sit in the campus pub and share pints with their undergrads.

I think that's fallen apart. Hard to find the prof at the pub when she or he has 1,000 undergrads in that first year course.

From what I hear, it's hard to find a real prof at all. Most of the teaching is done by sessional types, as in they're hired for a semester to deliver one course, and then they and their Doctor Phil are set free to mosey on and find greener pastures elsewhere.

Which they don't, because there's a thousand recently minted Doctor Phils applying for every sessional job.

The old-school model of tenure and job security has fallen apart.

There was a guy tenured at the University of Guelph who was the brother of the Attorney General of Ontario at the time. Bit of a radical. I used to score my hashish from the guy who also supplied the brother of the Attorney General.

As things go, for a few months that guy had his supply lines interrupted, and as luck would have it, I had some alternative supply lines happening, and all of a sudden I was supplying my supplier, and my hashish was going to the brother of the Attorney General of Ontario.

Which I think put me two degrees removed from His Honour.

And then things fell apart.

As they inevitably do.

Achebe had it pegged way back in he '50's.

No matter how you strive and connive to thrive and survive...

Things fall apart.

Ackman's "cost-cutting" at CP Rail; 50 million for the new CEO

Outgoing CPR CEO Fred Green would have had to work another ten years or more to get the kind of green Harrison Hunter scored in his first year at the venerable Canadian railway.

Hunter's first year compensation is reported to come within a whisker of 50 million.

That of course will come out of the hides of the 4,500 CPR employees scheduled for redundancy in the next couple of years.

But what the hey, everybody knows you can let track maintenance slide for a few years. And squeeze a few more years out of those rail cars that were scheduled to be replaced. And whatever lawsuits result from the horrendous accidents that will inevitably result from all this cutting will take so long to drag through the courts that Bill and Hunter will be long gone by the time the shit hits the fan.

Long gone with their pockets bulging with cash... long gone with the applause of the Canadian business media still ringing in their ears.

Joining hands in peace... just in time for war

They say Obama's Air Force One was still on the taxi-way enroute to Jordan when Netanyahu picked up the phone and put a call through to Turkey's President Erdogan.

"Hey, so sorry about that Mavi Marmara business," the Israeli PM whispered into the ear of Erdogan, and that's all the Turk PM needed to hear.

"Ah, thank you so much, all is forgiven!"

The pouty Turks had been waiting three years for today's apology. And Middle-East watchers knew it had to come sooner or later.

So while the Oracle of Nairobi didn't accomplish anything in terms of Israel-Palestine peace, he has set the stage for the next phase in the Syrian war.

Look at a map. The Syrian capital is less than fifty miles from the Israeli border. That's about an hour's drive for a column of Merkavas.

And of course Turkey has the northern border.

NATO-member Turkey and NATO step-child Israel have been having that unfortunate internecine spat ever since that unfortunate Mavi Marmara incident.

Looks like Obama was able to patch things up.

All we need now is the "major provocation" that will breach the "red line."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

BS Alert! Overpaid public servants are trying to drown Margaret Wente's grandchildren!

Margaret Wente occasionally gets something right, but she gets a lot more wrong.

Today the self-confessed plagiarist built an article around some remarks that Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page made about the average salary of public servants being $114,000 a year.

Wente succeeded in keeping her regular Globe and Mail column in spite of her plagiarism issues, presumably because the folks who run Canada's newspaper of record appreciate the anti-union slant she brings to her journalistic endeavors.

And when no less an authority than Kevin Page can be quoted in such a juicy anti-labour context, Ms. Wente had to run with it.

The news that public servants average $114,000 a year will come as a shock to the union that represents them. According to CUPE's own website, the average salary of their members is in the range of $50,000.

Nevertheless, it's a nice anti-worker yarn she spins.

India prevails in dispute over Italian marines

The government of Italy has reluctantly back-pedaled in the case of the Italian marines who are accused of killing two Indian fishermen in an anti-piracy operation months ago.

The Italian defense, "those guys all look the same," was not deemed sufficient to quash the charges. The Italian climb-down means that Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini is free to high-tail it for home.

A week ago the View From Falling Downs commented on the ghosts of the colonial era looming over this case. The high-handed manner in which the Europeans sought to impose their will on India brought back all sorts of unfortunate echoes of the past.

India has served notice that the past is past, and this is now. Europeans will be held to account when they snuff the innocent lives of her citizens. A fisherman in India has the same right to life as a fisherman from one of the Nations of Virtue.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why Fort Mac real estate is poised to plummet

Here's what three-quarters of a million dollars gets you in Fort McMurray. Twelve hundred square feet of particle board and vinyl siding on a forty foot lot. Back when I was in the game we used to put that shit up for well under a hundred bucks a square foot. So how does a hundred thousand dollar shack become worth three quarters of a million?

That's what we're talking about when we talk about "real estate bubbles."

Pull the plug on a couple of the big upgrader projects and this place is worth $100 thou again.

The coming collapse of the Canadian economy

The news that Native Peoples across the continent are uniting to stop proposed tar-sands pipeline projects should be the writing on the wall that even the dimmest of politicians on both sides of the border cannot fail to see.

Alberta will be hit first and hit hardest. But since tar sands development has been the little engine that could keep dragging the Canadian economy into positive numbers for the past generation, the impending collapse of tar sands development will bode ill for the entire country.

The fundamental problem is that the market for tar-sands oil is shrinking while dozens of tar-sands development projects are in various states of completion.

At the same time, there is a world-wide glut of fossil fuels.

Look for huge cancellations in Alberta development projects in the months ahead.

Opposition to tar-sands development is approaching critical mass. The Native population is overwhelmingly against, no matter how many grand promises are made them about employment opportunities and future royalties.

Pipelines have become a political hot potato in the US. Obama can't afford to be the guy left holding the hot potato.

Prestigious international research institutes are  severing ties with oil-sands research because they fear the association is ruining their reputations.

It'll hit the Fort Mac real estate bubble first. Then Alberta, then the entire economy.

Buckle up; there's a bumpy road ahead.

The bum-tox boondoggle; text of official Toronto Police Public Safety Alert


Thought I made this story up, didn't you!


Public Safety Alert,
Illegal Buttock Enhancement Procedures
Broadcast time: 08:54
Monday, March 18, 2013
32 Division
416−808−3204
The Toronto Police Service would like to make the public aware that illegal buttock
enhancement procedures are continuing to occur in the Greater Toronto Area.
It is reported that:
women are continuing to have a substance that is advertised as PMMA
(polymethylmetacrylate) injected to enhance the appearance of their buttocks
− arrangements are usually made via e−mail or a referral
− the injector attends the client’s home or a hotel room
− the services are provided for cash, usually costing thousands of dollars
− some of these women have developed serious medical complications requiring
hospitalization
This type of procedure performed outside a medical facility is very dangerous and could result
in long−lasting complications and, in some cases, even death.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416−808−3204, Crime Stoppers
anonymously at 416−222−TIPS (8477), online at www.222tips.com, text TOR and your
message to CRIMES (274637), or Leave A Tip on Facebook. Download the free Crime
Stoppers Mobile App on iTunes, Google Play or Blackberry App World.
Constable Wendy Drummond, Corporate Communications, for Detective Louise Farrugia, 32
Division
ID: 25947

Here's a link  to Toronto Police in case you have some info.

International Criminal Court bags another Bad Black African War Criminal

It's game over for Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda. He'll be enjoying the hospitality of the Nations of Virtue at The Hague within days. Apparently he is culpable in the deaths of "at least 800" civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2002 to 2003.

If the ICC were ever to expand it's mandate to include Bad White War Criminals, here's a brief list just to get them started:

Tony Blair, suspected of causing the deaths of "at least 800" Afghan civilians from 2001 till he stepped down, and "at least 800" Iraqi civilians from 2003 on.

George W. Bush, see above.

Donald Rumsfeld, see above.

General David Petraeus, see above.

These famous white faces have avoided the long arm of the ICC forever, but since they have far more blood on their hands than the parade of petty African despots who have appeared before the Court I'm sure it's only a matter of time...


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Saudi Arabia arrests 18 spies, but where's the Spymaster?

Good news out of The Kingdom today; they've broken a spy ring that was working to subvert Saudi democracy.

Yup, got them in the nick of time, and while it's early days it looks plain as day that the Persians are behind this.

But what puzzles me is that nowhere in the reportage of this story does the name of The Kingdoms's spymaster come up.

Last July Prince Bandar Bin Sultan was promoted to Director General of the Saudi Intelligence Agency by none other than King Abdullah himself.

A day or two later he was allegedly blown up by a bomb planted by Syrian agents. That story was denied by reputable sources here and there and everywhere.

Crazy thing is, Bandar ain't been seen or heard from since...

Coincidence?

Phony Tony doubles down on Iraq legacy

That would be the legacy of half-truths and misrepresentations and outright lies that fell from Tony's lips as he maneuvered his country into the Iraq disaster.

But ten years on, Tony wants the world to believe it was all worth it.

And he's got one snappy line of reasoning to support his view, a view that most of his henchmen back in the day have long abandoned, by the way.

It goes like this; no matter how atrocious the consequences to Britain, to America, and especially to Iraq, the war was worth it because imagine how much worse everything would be if we'd left Saddam in power.

For instance, if we'd left Saddam in place, and Arab Spring swept into Iraq like it has into Syria et al., just imagine the bloodbath that would have happened!

So it's a good thing we destroyed the country when we did, because otherwise it might have destroyed itself eventually, and God only knows what a horror show that might have been...

It's worth keeping in mind that Mr. Blair is reaping millions in speaker's fees and consultancy fees to promote his unique brand of imbecilic arrogance.

He is even a self-appointed spokesman for God Himself in the debate with non-believers (for a heavenly fee of course!).

If God needs friends like Tony Blair, He doesn't need the likes of me...

I'm too sexy for my yoga pants

Coupla weeks ago I decided to take up yoga. I'd heard a lot of good things. Tones your muscles. Tones your mind. Lowers the blood pressure and enhances the libido all at the same time.

So last time I was in the city I trotted into the Lululemon shop and picked up a pair of stretchy black yoga pants. They felt so damn good I wore 'em right outta the shop!

Must say I got some envious looks as I was sauntering up Queen Street. There's something about wearing yoga pants that boosts your confidence; gives yer strut a little extra swagger, if you know what I mean. It's something I never experienced while wearing my Big Bill coveralls.

Had an immediate impact on folks around me too. The Farm Manager just busts out laughing whenever she sees me wearing them. The lads at Jason's Pub let me play pool whenever I feel like it; don't even make me wait my turn.

And there's nothing like watching an afternoon of left turns from Bristol while lounging on the couch in your yoga pants, twisting the top off another Bud every ten laps. By the way, ever notice that a twist-off twists off to the left? Just like the Nascar guys only turn left?

What do you suppose that means?

Anyway, I'd pretty much decided to live the rest of my life in yoga pants. Was planning a trip to the city just to snag a couple more pairs.

Then this story hits me outta the blue. Lululemon takes their yoga pants, MY yoga pants, off the market.

Apparently you can see right through 'em... which makes me wonder what the lads at the pub were thinking?...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Russian censors easing up on Falling Downs?

This blog used to have thousands of readers in Russia.

Either that or one guy in Russia who read it thousands of times. Then, a couple of weeks ago, nothing.

It was like somebody flicked a switch.

Today they've started to trickle back. A mere nineteen so far, but it's a start.

Don't know what might have happened. We try to be relatively Putin-friendly. Anybody as reviled by America's "democracy-promotion" industry as Putin deserves our support. Besides, we don't have to live there.

Whatever the reason, welcome back folks!

And thanks for putting a word in, Vlad!

Canadian PM gets dangerously close to having a good idea

I know! I share your sense of shock!

Big Steve is pissed that there's way too many Canadians getting BA degrees, and not nearly enough becoming welders.

As a welder with a BA degree I have to admit this is probably the first time I've found myself in agreement with the PM. It was a problem twenty years ago and it's a bigger problem today.

Thus far the only measure taken by the Harper gang to remedy the situation is making it easier for employers to bring skilled workers in from other countries. There's always been bullshit aplenty about training more Canadians for these jobs, but the consternation has never gone beyond the bullshit stage.

You get a welding ticket to pay the mortgage and put dinner on the table.

You get a BA degree to meet hot chicks in the Psych 101 course.

We'll see if Big Steve follows through.

Toronto cops on lookout for illegal ass jobs

Call it the Bumtox Scandal.

Not too long ago the Toronto papers were full of self congratulatory nonsense over the fact the population of Toronto has surpassed that of Chicago.

Because what really really matters to Torontonians is being bigger and better than Chicago.

Toronto journalists were particularly chuffed over the fact that although Toronto was now bigger, it has a mere ten percent of the number of homicides that afflict the Windy City, which proves the superiority of Canadian culture in 1001 ways.

But don't assume for a moment that this means the Toronto Police Services don't have much to do. You'd be wronger than wrong.

Toronto Police are being run off their feet by a wave of illegal butt-enhancement procedures...

Not sure if that puts us ahead of the Chicago coolness curve or behind it...

Canada agog at crotch shot of under-age skater

To be perfectly honest, I scanned the front page of the Globe and Mail this morning and didn't even notice that I should take offence.

I was far more interested in the latest twist on the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal written up right next to the under-age thighs of the teen figure skater. And what exactly does "under-age" mean in this context?

Is she not old enough to skate?

Kaetlyn Osmond was not offended by the photo. And why should she be? Presumably she knows what she wears when she skates. She was just thrilled to be on the front page of the national newspaper of record in spite of her eighth place finish at the World Figure Skating Championships.

So I think it's a tempest in a tea-pot, and if it doesn't bother Kaetlyn then I think we can safely ignore the half dozen or so senior editors at the Globe who are threatening to fall on their swords over this imaginary faux-pas.

You go girl!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sarah Palin's Big Gulp

Seems to me that there was a time when politics aspired to being considered a serious business, and this kind of buffoonery was relegated to the fringes, to the minor leagues.

Palin's gratuitous swipe at Michael Bloomberg was designed to accomplish what? Get some easy laughs?

Yet this bush league joke is deemed important enough by the Washington Post to feature prominently on their home page.

Look around you. Does America have obesity issues?

All Bloomberg is saying is that it would be negligent of society to watch you kill yourself with processed sugar/fat/salt-saturated junk food manufactured by a few dozen corporations committed to maximizing their profits at the expense of your health.

Enjoy your Big Gulp.

Keystone XL: as American as apple pie and high school football


Fear and loathing in the tar sands; what happens when you spend hundreds of billions developing a resource and nobody wants it?


Alberta places an ad in the Sunday New York Times to make its case for Keystone XL pipeline

Old Vic Toews soaring from strength to strength

Vic Toews has had one hell of a run as Minister of Public Safety.

Harper's get-tough-on-crime crowd doesn't get any tougher than Old Vic. Remember his uncompromising stand on internet privacy? Only pedophiles and child-pornographers would have any possible interest in preserving internet privacy, according to Old Vic.

You're either with the censors or with the child-rapists. No room for nuanced argument in Vic's world.

Then he got rid of non-Christian chaplains in the Canadian prison system. As well he should. It's a 'friggin prison system, not a madrassa network for God's sake!

And you can't get tough enough on crime unless your'e getting tough on criminals, especially the ones already behind bars, and most especially on those lifers with their BBQ socials.

Every Canadian can rest easy that Old Vic faced down that threat to the tough-on-crime agenda.

Now Toews has moved on to a new controversy. In a unique public-private partnership, Toews has become the de-facto executive producer of a new reality cop show called Border Security.

This show will give viewers the chance to see real border security guys, kitted out in bullet-proof vests and the finest armaments, scaring the bejeesus out of "undocumented workers" as they round them up and pack them off to prison!

Keep up the great work, Vic! Canada is a safer land for your efforts.

Father Fantino knows best

Over a year ago Falling Downs ran a story about how American taxpayers were on the hook to finish Canada's work on the Dahla dam restoration project in Afghanistan. The trigger for that story was an on-line tender request posted by the US Army Corp of Engineers.

Last summer the Toronto Star published a lengthy article detailing the failures of the Canadian project.

Last week the Star ran a story by Jessica McDiarmid raising more questions about just how much of the budget was squandered on security contractors.

Today the Star printed a blistering rebuttal from none other than Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation and the titular overseer of the Canadian International Development Agency.

McDiarmid obviously failed to do her due diligence.

Canada's work in Afghanistan, and especially on the Dahra dam, has been "exemplary."

"The results of this initiative actually tell the real story... "

Well, that's true, Mr. Fantino, and the result has been that the US Army Corp of Engineers has been finishing the job you're taking credit for, a job botched from the beginning by CIDA and SNC-Lavalin.

And a year on, knowing what we know now about SNC-Lavalin's corporate culture of corruption, perhaps it might be more useful to mount an inquiry into what happened to the money, rather than singing the praises of a job that clearly didn't get done.




Chinese drones over Washington

Reuters has a thought-provoking and irony-laden meditation on America's drone advantage.

We've been warning forever that America's drone advantage won't last forever. It's that age-old relic of American exceptionalism, the belief that America is so far advanced the rest of the world can never catch up.

As in the Japanese auto industry will never catch up...

Nor will the Chinese manufacturing infrastructure... or Taiwanese computer makers... it's a long list.

But until recently there's been little or no acknowledgement that America's unprecedented use of UAVs is setting precedents every time another Al-Qaeda "number two" is dispatched in some foreign land.

That's changing though. Iran has cobbled together some sort of embryonic drone device and sent it on sight-seeing missions over Israel. China now has drones. If the Pakistanis are clever enough to build nuclear weapons, I suspect they can manage a drone program too.

Paki drones over the Pentagon? That should give the brass pause for thought.

Evidently it already has. Obama thinks the time may be ripe for some international guidelines on drone use.

That's not bound to impress the dozen or so countries that have borne the brunt of America's strategic advantage in drone warfare over the past ten years or so.
















Saturday, March 16, 2013

CIA drones over Damascus; preparing to "thin the herd"

I gather that the phrase "thin the herd of a future insurgency" is technical jargon for killing off the jihadists after they've killed off Assad.

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that the CIA is moving the surveillance infrastructure into place to unleash a drone war on "radical" elements within the Syrian opposition. That would be the very elements who have provided what limited forward motion the opposition has achieved as the insurgency against Assad enters its third year.

Which raises at least one question; if the US has made a commitment to using drones to cleanse Syria of militants they don't approve of, why not just use them to get rid of the Syrian president they don't approve of?

Would that not at least hurry the "revolution" along and possibly save some of the lives being sacrificed in the present war of attrition between Assad and the rebels?

The strategic thinking must be that such an intervention would give the appearance that Assad was removed by the US rather than by a "homegrown" uprising. By allowing the civil war to run it's course,  and then interceding on behalf of the "moderates" in their inevitable showdown with the militants, we preserve the fiction that US drone strikes in Syria are simply a continuation of the war on Al Qaeda.

So while the array of fictional narratives multiplies, the truth becomes increasingly obvious. The uprising so carefully orchestrated by the democracy promoters in Washington for the last ten years has been hijacked by Jabhat al Nusra, who will sooner or later face the full fury of the American military so that Syria can be handed to our "moderate" stooges in the London-based opposition.

Friday, March 15, 2013

India holds Italian ambassador hostage

Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini is a hunted man tonight.

The Indian government has alerted all border posts and airports to be on the lookout for Mr. Mancini, claiming he cannot leave without their permission.

This very undiplomatic turn of events stems from an incident in which Italian marines doing anti-pirate guard duty aboard a cargo ship shot two Indian fishermen dead.

It's a confrontation that owes a lot to the ghosts of colonialism. The arrogant Europeans acting as though the natives were a lower species on the one hand, and the Indians being insulted and needing to fight for their dignity.

With the unfortunate Mr. Mancini caught in the middle.

Cohen hedge funds pay 600 million fine for insider trading "but nobody did anything wrong!"

There are hedge funds in all sizes, but when the adoring press discuss Steve Cohen he is invariably the "hedge fund titan."

Cohen is somewhat less titanic today after agreeing to pay $616 million in fines over a couple of SEC insider trading investigations.

Some of his bigger investors have been pulling hundreds of millions out of Cohen's funds over the past few months as speculation increased that the SEC investigation wasn't going away.

Nor are the SEC done with Cohen, in spite of these record-setting fines. He may yet face criminal charges.

Hagel to announce emergency funding to counter imminent threats from N Korea and Iran

Well by God, it's about time Lockheed Martin and Boeing got some good news!

Sequester shmeequester, there's always money to be found when the security of the Homeland hangs in the balance.

Apparently North Korea is now an imminent threat. And as has been well documented, Iran has been months away from a nuclear weapon for at least twenty years.

The only reasonable thing to do is spend more money. Yup, even though the US outspends NK 100:1 on defense, America's military needs more money.

Britain well ahead in race to bottom

This is for all you guys and gals who are having to dodge Big Steve's pogie police.

Things could be so much worse.

Meet Martine White, age 51. She was born with severe birth defects as a result of the Thalidomide scandal. She can't walk. She's blind in one eye. Did I mention the brain tumor?

She's just been deemed "fit for work!"

Yup, they're going to end her days of lollygagging about in her slippers and robe all day long with a glass of wine in one hand  and the TV remote in the other!

Sir Stirling Moss and poofterphobia

I see where esteemed former F1 star Sir Stirling Moss has brought the condemnation of the thought police on his head with his intemperate remarks about "poofters."

I was a big racing fan growing up. Big fan of Juan Fangio, big fan of John Surtees. And an even bigger fan of the old school NASCAR guys like Junior Johnson, and especially Curtis Turner.

I was never much of a Stirling Moss fan. He just came across as too sissyfied.

So it's somewhat ironic that Moss is now in the news because the thought of having a gay actor play his character in a movie just makes him way too uncomfortable.

I assume he was not amused by Sacha Baron Cohen's turn in Talladega Nights. Cohen did a great send up of the supposedly effete F1 culture with his portrayal of Jean Girard, the gayer than gay F1 star.

Relax, Sir Moss. Many a manly silver screen man has, off screen in his private time, lived the poofter lifestyle. Doesn't mean they're not great actors.

I imagine that back in your heyday you could not have cared less about the private lives of the crew who maintained your race car. You wanted the best you could get, regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation.

You cared only for winning.

So get over yourself. You should be flattered a Moss bio-pic is even on the table. I would have thought Fangio and Surtees and Turner and Johnson would make it to the silver screen long before you.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Outrage in Alberta as rumors swirl...

It's a rumor riot at the moment, but that article hints that the teacher unions may have extorted a two percent wage increase out of the government.

Over four years... oh my, that's a half percent pay raise per year!

But the actual details of this tentative deal are hush-hush for the moment.

When the hard-working tax-payers of Alberta catch wind of this, they'll be rioting in the streets.

When the fat and lazy tax-payers of Alberta catch wind of this they'll say "huh?"

And then they'll put it out of their fat and lazy minds because they know the hard-working cohort will look after it...

It's time us fat lazy and inefficient types organized and started advocating for ourselves.

Cops discover marijuana "forest"

A thousand plants.

Ya, I know you were expecting more of a story, but hey, that headline drew me in too...

I share your disappointment.

Well, thank God they caught that tangle of electrical cords. That coulda burned the place down!

Sure hope they don't find the tangle of cords under my computer desk.

As for that "forest," lets get serious guys. The standard police math that puts a value of a thousand bucks on every seedling is long overdue for a rethink too.

Now that Washington State is good to grow, does anybody still think there is a US market for BC bud?

Maybe that's where that Polish guy comes in...

Border Security; best review of a reality TV show ever

Thank you Ian Mulgrew at the Vancouver Sun.

That's the thing about "reality television."

It's always possible that your discomfort, annoyance, indignation, or outright suffering can become somebody's entertainment.

Speaking of which, I've got a new show in development where me and my camera crew tag along as HR types fire people from their jobs!

It's hilarious!

You wouldn't believe the sniveling and the grovelling that folks will stoop to when told their employment has been terminated!

Laughs abound!

Piers joins Kielburger kult

Piers had one of the Kielburger kids on his show tonight.

There's three of four of them out there. They're famous for having discovered child poverty in the lesser-developed world. They were so moved on discovering poverty in the lesser-developed world that they and their media-savvy parents started a NGO to set things right.

Hence "Free the Children."

Not to be confused with a NGO of long standing, "Save the Children," which apparently spotted child poverty in the lesser-developed world but didn't do nearly enough, at least by Kielburger standards, to fix things.

So before you can say "this sounds like bullshit," those young Kielburgers have got their non-profit doing fund-raising via school programs all over North America. And they've got their for-profit "Me-to-We" subsidiary right in there alongside their non-profit, and schools everywhere are busy raising funds for these selfless Kielburgers who are building schools all over the world... and buying up real estate all over Toronto.

Piers was hugely impressed.

Which, by the way, might be one of the last times you see him being hugely impressed. The noose is tightening on what's left of his former team over in his old country... the phone hacking and all that stuff that was going on under Piers' watch when he was the Big Dog at News of the World...

Oaf of Cannes makes posthumous attack on Hugo Chavez

Bernard-Henri Levy is an unctuous twat.

How he continues to be presented as a "leftist philosopher" in the mainstream media I do not understand.

But rightists and further rightists and fascists of every stripe will love his latest rant.

Hugo Chavez was a Jew-hating union-baiting woman-abusing dictator-loving monster.

This from the guy who takes credit for almost single-handedly bringing freedom and democracy to Libya.

Did Chavez wreck Venezuela's economy? Not according to the vast swaths of the populace lifted out of poverty during his tenure. But apparently that is not good enough for the leftist philosopher.

Chavez hob-nobbed with "dictators who have blood on their hands."

Is this in some way a more egregious violation of BHL's imaginary ethical code than hob-nobbing with democratically elected leaders with blood on their hands?

If the issue is "blood on the hands" we must question Levy's infatuation with those democratically elected tyrants he is so comfortable with.

Perhaps their saving grace is that they govern for the benefit of "the economy," rather than for the benefit of the poor.

SNC-Lavalin made million $$ illegal political contributions

That's today's scoop from the anti-corruption inquiry in Quebec.

After eight months of interrogating Italian guys who keep money in their socks, the Charbonneau Commission is finally getting serious. SNC-Lavalin is a great Canadian success story. They've been brought low lately by allegations of running wild with the schmier-geld on their overseas contracts in places like Libya and Bangladesh.

And Quebec from the sounds of things.

Ironically, the guy overseeing this cesspool of corruption is one Gwyn Morgan, Chair of the Board of Directors.  Morgan made his hundreds of millions perfecting fracking practices when he was CEO of Encana. Upon retirement he took the SNC-Lavalin gig, which leaves him lots of time to pen his Globe and Mail column, in which he likes to pontificate on, among other things, corporate ethics!

Attaboy Gwyn!

Looking forward to your next column!


Alberta tar sands development crippled by fat and lazy contractors

Fat, lazy, and inefficient to be precise. So says Don Lowry, Chair of Canadian Oil Sands Corporation. Lowry's sentiments were seconded by Joe Bradford, speaking on behalf of CNOOC, the Chinese government-owned oil conglomerate that recently bought into the tar sands.

Lowry even had a heart-stopping anecdote to underline his point. Back when he was CEO of Epcor, they got a quote of $175,000 to build a bathroom.

Always get more than one quote would be my advice.

But the article did get me thinking; who is Don Lowry and what is Epcor?

Epcor was a public utility owned by the city of Edmonton. Lowry was essentially a civil servant.

But a very well paid one. In 2009 his salary was 2.6 million, about a million better than the CEO of Ontario's public power company, even though his Ontario counterpart presided over an operation that produced roughly ten times the electricity Epcor did.

Now I'm not suggesting that Lowry is fat or lazy or inefficient. But he is obviously a guy who knows how to make the best of it when he bellies up to the trough.

Which I suppose is no different than what those suppliers and contractors in Fort Mac are doing.

Making hay while the sun shines, as they say...

The difference being that Don made his hay at the public trough, while the Fort Mac guys are strictly private sector.

Canadian becomes most famous astronaut in history

I would have bet a million bucks the most famous astronaut is Neil Armstrong. First man on the moon and all that stuff.

But no, the most popular astronaut comes from a country that doesn't even have a space program.

Google Neil Armstrong and you get 32 million results.

Google Chris Hadfield and there's 59 million.

Everybody know what Armstrong did.

What does Hadfield do? He is supposedly the "commander" of the International Space Station. Why is it that whenever you see him, which is pretty much constantly, he doesn't look like he's anywhere near the bridge of the Starship Enterprise?

No, he's playing his guitar, or chit-chatting with William Shatner, or joking around with some class of school kids via the internet. When does he even have time to do all that scientific astronauty stuff that we send those folks up there for?

He doesn't, obviously! Hadfield has grabbed his fifteen minutes and is running with it! And nobody can stop him. If he was down here somebody could tell him to empty out his desk and escort him off the premises, but Hadfield is homefree!

With the kind of internet stardom he's achieving I expect to see him follow this act up with a career in politics, like John Glenn.

Who, by the way, gets over 280 million google results.

Netanyahu coalition held together with wishful thinking and duct tape

Netanyahu had two looming deadlines to contend with as he cobbled together this awkward coalition.

Election rules demand that he form a government by 16 March or another election must be held. Just as importantly, he needs to present the appearance of being on top of things when Obama visits next week. So like a squabbling couple who put their differences aside temporarily when the in-laws come for dinner, Netanyahu and his coalition partners have agreed to keep up appearances.

Can it last?

Three weeks maybe. Three months at the most.

He's got one coalition partner who wants to sit down with the Palestinians tomorrow, and another who thinks "never" might be a good time to begin peace negotiations.

About the only thing his partners agree on is ending the Haredim welfare state and conscription exemption. Good luck with that!

Luckily, as everybody knows, security trumps everything in Israel, and Netanyahu strategically keeps the levers of the state security apparatus in his own hands.

So look for an escalation of "existential threat" rhetoric coming from the PM in the weeks and months ahead.

Insecurity for the nation means job security for the Prime Minister.


UN development chief blames US for war on drugs

Who can even imagine such a slander?

Poor Uncle Sam gets blamed for damned near everything these days.

Then again, she may be on to something.

Without US arm-twisting, would Calderon have led Mexico down the road of militarizing his war on drugs, a move that has thus far taken an estimated 60,000 lives?

No.

Would Guatemala and Honduras be battlegrounds for ongoing cartel wars?

No.

The remedy has been obvious for a long time; legalize, regulate, and tax drugs. Treat drug abuse as a medical/social problem instead of a crime problem.

Why won't this happen anytime soon?

Because too many powerful interest groups have a vested interest in the status quo.

America's for-profit prison system certainly wouldn't want to see decriminalization.

Nor would the unions that represent prison guards. Almost half a million American homes depend on a prison guard paycheck to pay the bills, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And crime-fighters across the land depend on drug busts for their bread and butter. When three quarters of all law enforcement activity is directly or indirectly related to the fact that drugs are illegal, it stands to reason that an awful lot of police budgets would slim down after decriminalization.

Not to mention the hordes of bankers and lawyers and consultants who are kept busy turning drug money into clean money.

So I'm guessing that no amount of common sense is going to change things in the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What's behind the Michael Dell buyback of Dell?

I have no idea.

And I have no idea what Big Bill Gates might be thinking when he agrees to back-stop this deal.

Maybe we're just looking on as these billionaire tech geniuses drive themselves onto the rocks of hubris.

Or let hubris drive them onto the rocks of... oh, for fuck's sakes... I'm getting bogged down in a sea of contradictory metaphors...

("bogged down" at sea? please!!)

And while there might be some ideas that don't look too bad in the rear-view mirror, all concerned would be well advised to give their heads a good shake and try looking ahead.

Tom gone, Pope on

I'm pretty sure Stompin' Tom would appreciate the poetic beauty of him being celebrated on the way out on the very day the new Pope was celebrated on the way in.

And it was a thing of beauty, was it not?

Tom's farewell on the TV I mean. I was moved. Tom's schtick wasn't even a schtick...

That was Tom Connors.

That's not goat polo! It's goat rugby!

That polo analogy just wasn't working for me.

I'm on board with the fact that they have horses in Afghanistan.

But they're playing polo with a headless goat carcass?

How would that work?

You'd need one hell of a mallet to move that carcass more than a couple of feet.

Or move it at all.

So I did a little more research, and it turns out they don't even use mallets.

No, they lean down from their horses much like what you'd see at a North American rodeo competition, and scoop up that headless goat carcass, and make a bee-line for the end-zone.

That ain't polo!

That's rugby!

What the hell is "goat polo?"

I'd read several accounts of a suicide attack in Afghanistan the other day. It happened at a "sporting match."

I was eventually able to determine the nature of that sporting match; goat polo.

Goat polo? OK, I get it. I know what polo is; similar to field hockey except you play it while mounted on a horse. I naturally assumed that, given the backwardness of Afghanistan, they played the game whilst mounted on goats.

Boy was I ever wrong!

Apparently they have the horses. According to Al Jazeera it's called goat polo because it's played with the headless carcass of a goat instead of a ball.

Who knew?

IRAN TERROR BIN LADEN IRAN AL-QAEDA

You'll have to look long and hard to find any media mention of Sulaiman Abu Graith before he showed up on the front page of every American newspaper a week ago.

Since then he's morphed into a Senior Bin Laden Adviser, Terror Mastermind, Al Qaeda Mastermind... but mostly, he's become the most useful device ever for putting Al-Qaeda and Iran in the same story.

After all, it's nice to have some terrorists to pin on the Iranian terrorism sponsors, and evidence for that is notably lacking.

That's useful because the Bomb Iran crowd needs to keep alive the fiction that Al-Qaeda is a creation of the Iranian terror apparatus. It helps if you can produce headlines that make that link, even if the content of the story fails to substantiate it.

Hence, in the past week, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and innumerable others have all provided their eager readers with fanciful speculation about the links between the Saudi-sponsored Al Qaeda, and Saudi Arabia's number one enemy, Iran.

Here's a Reuters story from a year ago that describes the Al Qaeda-Iran relationship as "fractious at best and antagonistic at worst." They even have a reference to Abu Graith in the third and forth paragraphs from the bottom. He was such a non-entity he wasn't even mentioned by name, simply referred to as "the husband of one of Bin Laden's daughters."

He is a non-entity no more. He has since become a useful pawn in the anti-Iran propaganda campaign. He gives the media big boys an excuse to print headlines that imply linkages that don't exist.

You can be sure we'll be seeing lots of those in the months to come.



Cardinals booze it up inside Sistine Chapel

And I got thrown out of there in '74 for doing the same!

Bloody hypocrites!

Mind you, I wasn't voting for a new Pope at the time, so I wasn't locked down in the place... so I guess I should cut them some slack.

But it's true; while the esteemed Cardinals are deliberating, they have full access to the incomparable cellars of Vatican City.

Not only that, they get cigarette breaks too!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Half of all British children will be under poverty line within two years

Well that's a gloomy outlook, aren't it?

They'll be getting foreign aid from the likes of Soweto and Kenya soon.

But the toffs at the top won't be feeling the pinch, will they?

Corporate tax evasion and the "asset write-down" gambit

I've broached the topic before, but I am once again moved to wonderment at the alacrity with which corporate asset write-downs are accomodated.

Whenever you read "asset write-down" think tax dodge.

Been reading about the First Quantum take-over of Inmet. While it's early days to pronounce judgement on that take-over, I suspect that in ten years it'll look like a stroke of genius.

I'm also guessing that before it's recognized as a stroke of genius the commodity cycle will cycle lower once or twice, giving First Quantum a chance to take massive asset write-downs.

Asset write-downs produce artificial losses which then produce very real reductions in tax obligations. In fact, the linked article makes multiple references to this phenomenon.

There is no third-party verification required to declare such a write-down. We are to believe that all those highly paid MBA's just didn't read the tea leaves correctly and, oops, Company X now has no choice but to to take an oh-so-embarrassing multi-billion dollar write-down.

Especially in a business as cyclical as mining, the write-down offers enormous opportunities for fraudulent tax avoidance.