Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Vultures v. Argentina gets a second wind

Here at Falling Downs we've been pontificating forever about the sordid spectacle of rich-world hedge funds fucking over the poor people in the so-called developing world.

Paul Singer is one of the leading architects of this brilliant scheme to make the richest people in the world richer at the expense of the poor people of the world.

His brazen pursuit of the government of Argentina through whatever court system he deems most sympathetic to his cause has already cost many millions of dollars.

Paul Singer can afford to keep doing this because the legal system in the world he lives in puts his interests ahead of those millions of people who will be paying the tab should he prevail in this matter.

And even if he loses, his legal costs will be tax-deductible.

Dump your CP RAIL stock now; Ackman is toxic!

It was only a matter of time before the backsplash from the Lac Megantic disaster was going to splatter on folks beyond MMA boss Fast Eddie Burkhardt.

This story tells you that the throngs of litigation attorneys hovering over the carcass of Fast Eddie have Big Bill Ackman in their sites.

This will go on forever on the basis of the "deep pockets" syndrome. That's where the litigation hounds take off after the prey that has potentially the most wherewithal in terms of providing the juiciest pay-out.

Now that the media have drawn the connections between Big Bill and Fast Eddie, everything even remotely connected to Ackman and Pershing has a big fat target on its back.

Goldman Sachs' latest straw-spinning trick

You have to admire those guys for their chutzpah.

When GS bought Metro International Storage five years ago the Detroit warehouse network had 50,000 tons of aluminum in storage. At 48 cents per ton per day that's daily rent of $24,000.

Today they're storing 1.5 million tons for a daily rent of over $700,000!

Before Goldman, it took six weeks for an order to be delivered. Now it takes well over a year. Clogging up the supply line has also caused an across the board price increase even if you never deal with GS.

Rumpelstiltskin is spinning in his grave!

Net benefit to society? Zilch... although we all get to pay a little more for aluminum products.

Net benefit to Goldman Sachs? Somewhere in the range of $250 million a year.

A 100% tax on non-productive economic activity would help steer the geniuses who dream up this stuff towards doing something useful.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

There are a million Mannings

1.4 million to be precise.

That's just folks with the "top secret" security clearance.

For a regular run-of-the-mill secret clearance, there are over five million people.

The think tank here at Falling Downs has it as a matter of policy/mission statement that there is never any reason why a democratic state needs to keep secrets from its citizens.



Manning and Snowden and so many others who have not made the evening news are heroes, because they have called the elite on their anti-democratic mission of valorizing state secrets.

A true democracy never needs to keep secrets from its citizens.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Death on the 505

There's a YouTube video out there showing the police shooting of Sam Yatin in Toronto.

Something is wrong with police culture for such a scene to be possible.

Whatever happened to trying to talk somebody down, to de-escalate a situation, to defuse?

Too many cops today exhibit a SWAT mentality in virtually any encounter with the public. That's not what policing should be about.

Policing has been sliding towards progressively greater overkill for at least twenty years, and it's time to turn this around. The ability to empathize with those in the community who might be stressed or might be screwing up should be at least as important as being big and tough.

There was no reason for this kid to die.

Detective Columbo investigates the Cannes diamond heist

In which Detective Columbo travels to the Holy Land to interview the owner of the diamonds, one Lev Leviev.

C: Mr. Leviev, Mr. Leviev... wait just a moment...

L: Who the hell are you?

C: Mr. Leviev? Thank you for stopping... I'll just take a minute of your time, Mr. Leviev..

L: So who the hell are you?

C: Columbo, Lieutenant Columbo, LAPD, retired...

L: Retired? LAPD? What, are you lost?

C: Oh!.. let me explain. Ya ya, retired, but I do a bit of work you know? I'm looking into that Cannes heist for the insurance companies.

L: Oh yes! Call me Lev. Yes, what a nightmare.

C: Oh ya... 136 million. Wow! Now I was just wondering, how does this, how do you, I mean who actually owned the diamonds?

L: Well Lieutenant Cor.. sorry, what was...

C: Columbo, just call me Columbo.

L: Lieutenant Columbo. Let me explain something. I am but a humble diamond cutter. The diamonds are owned by a consortium. Now if you don't mind, I have a flight to catch.

C: Sure thing Mr. Leviev, Lev... don't mean to hold you up. But there's just one more thing. The policy says Africa Israel. What is that?

L: Oh, that's nothing. I think they might own the consortium that owns the diamonds...

C: Now my wife, you know, she used to have a rich aunt right here in the Holy Land. I mean she still has the aunt... she's just not rich anymore. Put all her eggs in the Africa Israel basket years ago.

L: Sorry to hear. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a flight...

C: Ya I'm sorry... let me walk with you, I just have one more question Lev. At the hotel up there in France, 136 million in one briefcase. Is that even possible? I mean I remember once when Frank Sinatra was on trial, and he said if you can show how to get five million dollars in a briefcase I'll give you the five million...

L: What is your point, Lieutenant?

C: Well, I just don't understand how...

L: Lieutenant! This has what to do with me? I shall miss my flight if...

C: Sorry! Just one more thing... I read where Africa Israel is in trouble, and they say... well it can't be true, but I read somewhere that you own Africa Israel... and 136 million in diamonds and no security, that just doesn't sound right, it almost sounds like, like, well, forgive me for saying so, but it sounds like an inside...

At which point two burly security types appear on either side of the Lieutenant, forcibly turn him around, and frog-march him in the opposite direction...

C: Oh,.. one more thing.... one more thing... just one more question...

When billionaires speak, politicians listen

It follows that if you have a billionaire politician in a leadership position, he'll only listen to himself, which may account for Berlusconi's later career... but I digress.

Here's an uplifting story about one of the world's most influential politicians, EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton, travelling to Egypt to meet with a couple of young idealists from the anti-Morsi Tamarod movement.

So where is the billionaire, you ask?

Oddly enough, the billionaire in this story is deliberately left out of the story, so that we may naively continue on our way believing that these young Egyptian idealists have the ear of a powerful politician, and isn't that nice...

The billionaire for whom those young idealists are doing the talking is Naguib Sawiris, the man who bankrolls the Tamarod movement.

Sawiris comes from the Christian minority and that may explain some of the virulence in the anti-Muslim Brotherhood sentiments voiced by his little spokespersons.

The so-called Nations of Virtue have made a grave error in allowing this coup to pass unchallenged. The reason it has been unchallenged is of course the irrefutable fact that the US supported the coup all along. Unfortunately, the aspirations of the Egyptian people have been aroused, and it seems far from likely that the majority who voted for Morsi only a year ago are willing to give up those aspirations.

What's next for Egypt?

In the immediate future there's a big cloud of very toxic blow-back coming our way. It will decimate the Tamarod, sweep away the Christian minority, and perhaps prove even too much for the Army to contain.

After that, we'll see.

Pope now queer-friendly

It's a spin on the old "God hates the sin, not the sinner" schtick, but good for Pope Francis to go out of his way to make clear it's not up to us to judge one another.

But speaking of queer-friendly, you'll never guess where else the rainbow flag is fluttering proudly these days - right there at CIA headquarters in Langley! Yup, the LGBT folks have their own ERG at the CIA!

God bless America!

CIA now kid-friendly

Right there in the upper right corner of the CIA's home page you've got the CIA Kid's Zone.

Taking a page out of Baldur von Schirach's playbook, the folks at Langley have put together some fun activities for the wee ones. You've got your wordsearch, coloring pages, and so much more. It's never too early to get the tikes revved up about the security of the reich!

But let me explain what led me to the CIA's Kid Zone.

It began with this article by Carole Antony on the Counterpunch site. Antony spins a compelling and plausible yarn about, among other things, the changing of the guard in Qatar.

Seems a CIA agent hand-delivered a note from somewhere really high up in Washington to the Emir, advising him that he was outta there, and that his son Tamim would take over. The reason? Allegedly, during the bin Laden raid in Pakistan, documents came to light tying Al Qaida financing to a member of the al-Thani clan. If the old Emir had a problem with the shuffle, he was told Qatari assets around the world would be frozen.

So why is the young al-Thani considered an improvement? Because he is a Sandhurst man! He may wear the flowing robes for the photo-ops but he's one of us through and through and he'll know what's expected of him when he gets a call from Whitehall or Washington.

Antony got these fascinating facts from Osama Fawzi, a "former high-ranking member of the Qatari information ministry." Fawzi is now based in the US and runs the website Arab Times, the largest Arab-American e-newspaper in the US.

Go ahead; click on it... right below the Arab Times logo is an advert for and link to the CIA!

Which is how I got to the CIA Kid Zone, but it also raises a couple of other questions. Is this an arms length advertisement by the CIA on an independent website, or is it something else? If it's just advertising, maybe the CIA would be interested in sponsoring a NASCAR driver? I know Mark Martin would appreciate ending his career with a reliable and well-funded ride.

If it's something else... hell, maybe Osama Fawzi knows what happened to Bandar?

Bills to debut "synchronized quarterbacking" this season

Kevin Kolb and EJ Manuel run a synchronized passing play.

Bills' coach Doug Marone has hired US Olympic team synchronized swimmer Mary Killman as a consultant in developing his "synchronized QB" strategy. Says Marone, "this should have the opposing defense seeing double... maybe this will be the play that gets us into the playoffs!"

Sunday, July 28, 2013

While the US talks tough, the Saudis talk to Tehran

According to this story out of Beirut, a Saudi delegation will be visiting their arch-enemies in Tehran shortly to discuss matters of mutual concern.

I would imagine their mutual concerns over Syria would be high on the list of mutual concerns. Obviously these backward people don't even respect the taboo against talking to their enemies! Who can imagine such a thing?

Instead, the Americans are boycotting the inauguration of the new Iranian president. After years spent claiming they couldn't deal with the outspoken fanatic Ahmadinejad, you'd think that they'd at least give Rowhani a chance, but no such luck.

Now that there's a more moderate guy in office, it's time to ramp up the pressure!

This Saudi-Iran meeting could be a sign that even America's staunchest Arab allies are recognizing that America's incoherent foreign policy is a threat to their well-being.

Bullshit 'n bluster; John Kerry in the Middle East

The New York Times and the Washington Post et al have been busy wasting tons of ink on the supposedly "revived" Middle East peace process.

Forget about it. Ain't gonna happen. Skip to the sports section.

Much has been made, especially in Israel, about the heart-rending sacrifice involved in freeing 104 Palestinian prisoners.

Hey, not to worry; there's plenty more where those came from!

And in the event that the next nine months of talks were to actually result in some sort of agreement, don't worry; Israel has already passed a law that will require any agreement be put to a referendum.

In other words, even if the government and the Knesset approve a deal, at the end of the day it'll be up to the settlers to vote away their settlements.

There'll be hockey in hell before that happens.

So why is the US pushing this charade?

Because all concerned have something to gain, well short of a "peace agreement."

Netanyahu gets to give his international reputation a bit of a face-lift. "Oh look, he's freeing those prisoners as a gesture of goodwill! What a reasonable man!"

Abbas gets to look like he has at least enough schlepp to get 104 prisoners released (approximately 1% of total Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.) Remember, his Hamas rivals were able to secure the freedom of 1027 Palestinians in return for Gilad Shalit. Abbas is desperate to look like he is more than America's stooge in the occupied territories.

The American's are desperate to be seen to be doing anything whatsoever positive in the region in the face of their rapidly evaporating influence with practically all players on all sides.

America's absolutely incompetent fumbling and bumbling in the region just keeps getting more ludicrous.

Did they learn anything from Iraq? Nope!

Got rid of that crazy guy in Libya... wasn't that a good thing?

Sure it was! Just look at how those lucky Libyans have taken to freedom!

Then we have Syria. Assad must go. Assad is going. He'll be gone in a matter of weeks... maybe months... maybe next year...

Maybe not!

The Egyptian coup that wasn't a coup is just the latest credibility destroying mis-step for the Americans.

All three parties to these "peace talks" have something to gain without actually gaining a peace agreement.

So let's not get our hopes up.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Freedom still spreading like wildfire in recently liberated "free" Libya

Looks like the latest beneficiaries of this contagion of freedom are 1,000 inmates of Al-Kuifiya Prison in Benghazi.

One theory is that local residents stormed the prison and let the inmates out because they were tired of having the prison in their neighbourhood.

That takes NIMBY syndrome to a whole new level, doesn't it!

Perhaps the Libyans have taken the ball 'o "FREEDOM" and are just running with it a little farther and faster than we expected?

That used to be called "citizen activism!"

Perhaps we here in the virtuous West could learn from their example?

Don't like those train tracks running through the centre of town? To hell with council meetings and protest; just dig them up!

Don't like that new Walmart they're building in your city? Burn it down!

Pipelines, over-passes, runway extensions.... the list is never-ending.

The Libyans are leading the way in the renaissance of citizen activism, and it can't be long before citizen activists around the world learn from their example and adopt a new slogan;

We are all Libyans now!

Too soon to judge success of Afghan war - just wait 60 years

That's the word from Canadian historian David Bercuson, writing yesterday in Canada's newspaper of record.

According to Bercuson, had the West not intervened in the Korean civil war in 1950, all of Korea today would resemble the isolated underdeveloped north.

Furthermore, that proves we should remain optimistic that the loss of life and the hundreds of billions of dollars it cost to lose them in Afghanistan has been money and lives well spent. We really need to give it some time - sixty years seems reasonable to Bercuson, before we make an assessment.

The main problem with fatuous comparisons is that they are fatuous. There is utterly no reason to make any kind of comparison between Korea and Afghanistan other than retroactively justifying the war we've been losing for twelve years.

We aren't leaving an Afghanistan that is divided between a half that is bound to the West and another half with its loyalties in an anti-Western camp. We are leaving behind an Afghanistan in which a tiny and corrupt oligarchy which owes its good fortune to the Invasion of 2001 will miss us, and the rest of the country is happy to see the last of us.

That corrupt elite will for the most part have resettled in Dubai and London and Miami before the last NATO occupiers leave their country.

How does Bercuson know that all of Korea would today resemble North Korea had the West not intervened in 1950?

He doesn't. Neither do you or I.

We can however make some reasonable assumptions if we look at other countries that were in 1950 considered part of the "enemy" in the cold war standoff. What do we see?

We see a world that has been integrated into the global economy even in cases where the governments are still nominally "anti-capitalist."

There is no reason whatsoever to assume that a unified Korea would have been different.

It is far more likely that if the West had never involved itself in the Korean war, that a unified Korea would today resemble the South rather than the North.

Instead, we have for sixty years burdened the North with constant sanctions and economic blockades just to prove the superiority of the South.

While Bercuson stretches matters a good deal when he refers to South Korea as a "bastion of liberal democracy," he is simply making stuff up when he credits the West's interference in 1950 for that accomplishment.

Which is about the only way to put a positive spin on the past twelve years of our gravely misguided interference in Afghanistan.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Canada flys stranded fish to safety

This is what we're talking about when we talk about "wealthy nations."

Where else would a few hundred trout and whitefish be evacuated by helicopter?

Not that Canada is without helicopter challenges. The WW II era Sea King has been the subject of an on-again off-again replacement campaign for 30 years. It remains the backbone of Canada's military helicopter fleet.

Budget considerations, we are told, which really means politics.

In Ontario, the Ornge medi-vac helicopter fleet can't be counted on to collect accident victims in a timely manner.

Budget considerations...

But thank God we can rescue some stranded fish!

Why is plagiarism such a big deal when a black dude does it?

Here you have it, a cringeworthy display of contrition and regret when a black guy gets caught plagiarizing.

Chris Spence, Director of Education at the Toronto District School Board, lost his job and his reputation.

But have a look at what happens when these white women get caught plagiarizing.


What up with all these Canadian terrorists?

While we've never seen a successful terror operation in Canada, and the supposed "terror plots" that have come to trial have all failed the most generous of sniff tests, there's been a lot of hoo-ha recently about Canadians going abroad on terror missions.

Depending on what you read and where you read it, that gas plant attack in Algeria was the handiwork of a couple of Canadian high school students cum terror masterminds.

That in itself should tell you something. A couple of middle class Canadian kids fresh out of high school head off into the great blue yonder and within two years they are executing one of the most brazen Al Qaeda attacks in recent memory?

What that should tell you is that Al Qaeda is one easy organization to infiltrate. If it can be that quickly infiltrated by a couple of non-Arabic-speaking Canadian teenagers, how deep into the organization do you suppose the tentacles of Mossad or the CIA would reach?

Now we have Hassan El Hajj Hassan presented to us as another "Canadian" terrorist. He is supposedly linked to both Hezbollah and the bus bombing in Bulgaria last year.

Lebanon, like Hong Kong, is one of those countries where lots of folks like to keep a Canadian passport in the bottom drawer of the nightstand just in case things ever go too far sideways. It's considered an insurance policy.

Back when Israel invaded Lebanon the Canadian government paid to evacuate tens of thousands of "Canadians" out of the country, most of whom had never spent more than a few months here. Hassan seems to be one of that cohort.

I'm willing to wager that his ties to Hezbollah are as tenuous as his ties to Canada, but nonetheless this Canadian Hezbollah Terrorist story does make for a nice headline.

Where to with the Blackberry share price?

If I'm not mistaken the first time Blackberry/RIM was mentioned here was as an aside in a post about Peter Pocklington in August 2011.

At the time the share price was in the $25 range and the advice was an unambiguous "go short."

In May, June, and September 2012, I called it a buy. In September the stock was in the sub $7 range and I correctly called a massive upside.

In January of this year, when the share price was well over $15, I suggested that it might not be wise to hang around too long.. The BB 10 debut was going to be wildly unpredictable.

"As the share price approaches $20 it's got a lot of happy-ever-after built into it."

Another great call if I do say so myself!

So we've had the debut and the stock is down roughly 50% since January.

Now what?

At < $9  we are well below any reasonable assessment of break-up value, so taking a short position now doesn't seem like a sensible strategy.

BBRY can continue as is for a considerable time with current market share. It remains to be seen what the next quarterly results will be.

This is a stock with at least two safety nets under it; its break-up value and its potential as a takeover target.

At $9 it's a buy.

NEWS FLASH: SAC Capital Partners face jail time!

No, no, no!  It's not the the actual partners in SAC Capital Partners who will go to jail...

It's the corporate entity itself.

Yup, corporate entities are people too, as Mitt reminded us, and if they've been naughty they have to face the music just like flesh-and-blood people.

Flesh-and-blood Bernie Madoff got 150 years in the big house for his hanky panky. SAC Capital Partners have arguably hankied more panky for more money, so the corporate entity, i.e. a file folder full of incorporation papers and partnership agreements, could be sitting in a cell for the next 200 years!

I suppose the good news from the point of view of the tax-payer is that the file folder will be cheaper to feed, less of a security risk, and won't be kicking up a fuss over kosher prison food.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Oh look, here comes the next cataclysmic environmental emergency!

While it may sound selfish to say so, I've pretty much made peace with global warming.

And then the methane time-bomb gets tossed through the window!

I think society should be proactive about this. Let's figure out how to harvest all that methane and use it in place of oil. That might also have the added benefit of reducing the appeal of fracking, which also produces a lot of methane that goes into the environment.

There you have it. The next great environmental emergency has only just been discovered but the think tank here at Falling Downs is on top of it already.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Disaster profiteering in full bloom at Lac-Megantic?

Here's a fascinating story from CBC about the clean-up after the Lac-Megantic train derailment.

The Mayor of the town claims that Ed Burkhardt, the CEO of the company that owned the train that exploded the town, has stopped paying the clean-up crews.

Furthermore, she tells us that the town has now stepped in and forwarded $4 million to the clean-up crews to keep them going.

Let's do some math. If the clean-up crews were on the scene within 24 hours (which they weren't) they would by the time of the Mayor's press conference have had 384 hours to clean up the wreckage, assuming they worked around the clock.

A big power shovel or mobile crane runs about $250/hour. Let's assume there are at least six on the site, which is more than we've seen in any photos of the clean-up. Let's assume those six machines have been running 24/7.

Let's assume there are another half-dozen small loaders or trucks taking away debris at roughly $125/hr.

We'll assume they have been working 24/7 for the past 22 days as well.

Let's assume that the boots-on-the-ground number a hundred people, which they don't, and each one is being paid $40/hr, which they're not, and they work 24/7 too.

That adds up to $2,400,000 cost to date for the clean-up.

So why was the Mayor forced to fork over $4 million to keep the clean-up crews on the job?

The selective myopia of the "queer friendly" press

Why is it that any news story about Ontario Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne is more likely than not to mention that she is Canada's first "openly gay" premier?

Could it be that the media, almost entirely an organ of the neo-liberal right, seeks to mine the residual homophobia that might swing a few votes here and there?

The fact is that everybody already knows that Kathleen Wynne is gay and we don't need to be reminded of it every time we read a news story about Ms. Wynne, because NOBODY CARES!

On the other hand, the same media outlets never ever mention that John Baird is Canada's first openly gay Foreign Minister.

Baird gets a free pass because he is a stalwart of the most neo-liberal far-right government that Canada has ever had in the modern era.

And aside from an occasional crusade against a marginal player like Mike Duffy, that's not a boat the neo-liberal press is interested in rocking.

Taliban unleash new terror weapon: exploding donkeys

What could be more authentically ethnic than a local riding a donkey?

That's the kind of innocent rural charm that allowed Abdul to steer his donkey into the midst of a NATO convoy in Afghanistan.

Wait till PETA hears about this!

Would somebody PLEASE take away Anthony "Weeny-wagger" Weiner's iPhone

Man, does this guy have an innate ability to shame himself or what?

This is a classic case of cell-phone addiction if ever there was one.

What was he thinking?

Hmmm... I just shamed myself out of Congress... I better smarten up... oh what's this I see on the on-line dating site... hmmm... Hot!.. and young too!!!... but I better be careful, maybe use a fake name or something... bet she'd love a selfie of my schlong...

For God's sake; this imbecile wants to be mayor of New York City?

Shrinking the Twinkie

That Dean Metropoulos fellow is one hell of a magician!

He made those pesky Hostess unions disappear just like that! Then with another wave of his magic wand he shrunk the pay packets of the remaining workers by half.

But wait, he's not done yet; for his next trick he's gonna shrink the Twinkie itself!

Is nothing sacred?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Canadians have never had it so good!

That's according to Postmedia commentator Andrew Coyne.

Let's see now... the cost of housing relative to income has never been so out of whack...

The prospects for university graduates have never been as poor...

Those graduates are carrying debt burdens as never before...

We have more middle-aged men working at minimum wage than ever before...

We have more university graduates working at the mall than ever in our history...

But Andy Coyne has the stats to prove you've never had it so good!

Man barks at dog; gets busted

So Antonio Morrison and his pals are leaving the bar after having no doubt put in a good solid shift. It's 3 in the morning and as they walk by a police investigation Antonio decides it would be funny to bark at the police dog!

That's hilarious!

And the defense that the dog started it seems a little lame for a guy old enough to be in college.

Have to say I agree with the coach on this one.

Is it too much to expect your young athletes to stay out of the news and out of jail?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Why 9/11 won't go away

Ran across this video today. This engineer is making some observations about things that don't add up about the official 9/11 explanations.

Oddly enough, some of his observations echo what I said about Seven World Trade Center. Those big old steel columns don't just turn into dust for nothing. They would bend for a long time before breaking.

Everybody who has ever worked with structural steel knows that the official story is bogus.

But we also know that anyone who calls into doubt the official story is some sort of nut-job unpatriotic terrorist-loving mentally unstable conspiracy theorist.

So it's way better to just keep quiet.

The Treeing Tennessee Brindle Coon-hound

In her off hours the Farm Manager likes to cruise the internet looking at pictures of dogs.

Fortunately, between managing the farm and managing me and doing the cooking and the dishes and the laundry, she doesn't get around to it that often.

But she did today, and right there in the middle of the afternoon I heard a shriek, "OH MY GOD COME AND LOOK AT THIS IT'S LUCY!!!"

So I came and looked, and sure enough, she was in fact looking at a picture of our youngest, Lucy.

Formerly known as a "brindle cur," our Lucy at some point made it onto the radar of the American Kennel Club and her kind got their own file.

No longer a mere "brindle cur," she is now a "Treeing Tennessee Brindle."

Good with people to a fault, we learn.

Great watch dog, poor guard dog, we learn.

I believe it. The other day I took the hounds into town. Stopped at the liquor store. When I came out Lucy had exited the car window and was on her back in the middle of the handi-cap parking spot getting a belly rub from a couple of Asian guys in a Land Rover.

Asian guys in a Land Rover? Drug cartel king-pins, obviously.

But Lucy doesn't discriminate. Apparently that is why they are a good watch dog and not a good guard dog.

When you bust into my place you can expect that Lucy will bark fiercely on sensing your arrival.

Then when you actually come in the door she will roll over and let you give her a belly rub.

That's why we keep those Rottweilers in the woodshed.

Good news for Detroit pensioners!

Your benefits are good for six months!

That's according to Snyder's hatchet man, Kevyn Orr.

What happens after six months?

Nobody knows, least of all Kevyn Orr.

You can bet that at this very moment there's a lot of to-and-froing going on as the big boys in the world of bond vulture funds are jockeying for position.

At the end of the day, there is one fact you can take to the bank.

Those bond-fund jackals are going to be way ahead of you in the line-up.

A modest proposal for education reform

This was inspired by reading about Michigan Governor Rick Snyder conniving to reduce spending for public education to $5,000 per student, while simultaneously having his own children enrolled in a private school that charges $20,000 per student.

Let's make it a matter of law that every elected official must enroll his or her children in the public school system.

That means every governor/premier/minister of education will by law have to put their children in the same system they provide for the common folks.

Yes, this proposal is short on specifics...

But it doesn't require them. Pass this law and the details will soon enough take care of themselves.

Canada's Foreign Minister makes imaginary phone call to Israel

Here's a story that beggars belief.

This rings false to anyone remotely acquainted with the history of John Baird's obsequious toadying to the Likudniks, but today the CBC wants us to believe that our Foreign Minister has informed the Israelis that they must make "hard compromises."

Frankly, I doubt that there is anyone in Israel who bothers to answer a call from such an inconsequential international dimwit.

A better way to run a railroad

Although "Fast Eddie" Burkhardt's career has been dogged with safety-related controversies, he has not been without his fan base.

The Atlas Society for example.

They must have been truly excited by Burkhardt's resurrection of the Bangor and Aroostook. B&A went into bankruptcy with 420 employees.

Burkhardt resumed operations with half that number, and those who remained took a 25% pay cut. In 2010 they took another 15% cut.

That's the sort of achievement sure to garner a pat on the back and a laudatory article by the Ayn Rand acolytes.

Frankly, a better way to run a railroad would be to staff it properly and treat your employees with respect instead of as a regrettable blot on the "cost" side of the ledger.

Reuters busy polishing halo of Lac-Megantic train owner

The article is one of the longest yet published about Ed Burkhardt since the Lac-Megantic disaster. It begins with a description of the Weyauwega disaster in Wisconsin, and then cheekily segues into a quote from Burkhardt;

I have never been involved with anything remotely approaching this in my whole life.

This is beyond disingenuous. What he means is he's never had an accident with this death toll. The more you read about Weyauwega the more you realize that the only reason it didn't have a death toll even greater than Lac-Megantic is shear dumb luck.

The article tells us several times that one of the big differences between then and now is that the Wisconsin train had a two-man crew. Here is Paul S. Bodine writing at;

On March 4, 1996, a one-crew Wisconsin Central locomotive entering the center of Weyauwega, Wisconsin (midway between Appleton and Stevens Point, Wisconsin) derailed, sending 34 cars off the tracks, 14 of which were loaded with propane or liquefied petroleum. 

Read more:

In the event, Wisconsin officials were sufficiently concerned with Burkhardt's infatuation with understaffed trains that they made the issue an integral part of an agreement between the Federal Railroad Administration and Burkhardt's company.

Most of the article is a kid-glove treatment of Burkardt and the straight-faced reportage of his self-serving quotes and those of former business associates.

We are repeatedly assured that Ed Burkhardt cares about safety, he really does... even though his entire career has been about relentless cost-cutting and he has been dogged by safety issues for two decades.

Sounds like Fast Eddie has hired himself a PR firm!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Drug seizures skyrocket 300% in Holy Land

And while this JPost article puts the cause down rather unconvincingly to "turmoil on Israel's borders," I think the real reason is obvious.

The reason Israelis of all creeds and colors are reaching for the bong in unprecedented numbers is they just can't bear another minute of Netanyahu any other way!

And who can blame them?

Hundreds pour into streets demanding "Justice for Trayvon"

Even Obama's unprecedented remarks yesterday failed to motivate the masses to take to the streets. Justice for Trayvon rallies were sparsely attended across the country in spite of the presence of numerous high-profile celebrity types.

The Trayvon Martin case has from the beginning galvanized the media and the usual human rights entrepreneurs into a frenzy of fear-mongering.

There are many manifestations of America's systemic racism visible to those willing to see them, and none of them get the sustained saturation coverage this isolated killing of one black teen by an over-zealous wannabe cop has.

If CNN gave the kind of coverage they've expended on Zimmerman to poverty, homelessness, employment discrimination, the failed schools in black neighborhoods, and the outrageous over-representation of blacks in the criminal justice system, some of these issues might get traction.

CNN didn't, and they don't.

Every one of these issues is an infinitely greater threat to the welfare of black Americans than George Zimmerman was, and most black Americans understand that.

Which might be why they're avoiding these Obama-endorsed, media promoted "Trayvon Vigils" in droves.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Federal officials working overtime to cover their butts on train disaster

Edward Burkhardt isn't the only one doing the 'tain't-my-fault boogie in the wake of the Lac Megantic disaster.

Have a look at the regulators who gave the thumbs up every time Burkhardt found another corner to cut.

Oh golly, now they are concerned about his insurance coverage?

And oh my goodness, you don't mean that there is a remote ever-so-tiny possibility that the TAXPAYER could end up on the hook?

While the sentiments expressed are cleverly engineered to arouse contempt for the railway and sympathy for the regulators, the fact is, this is how it usually works in Canada.

The highly efficient private sector rapes the land/forests/waters what have you, and when the plundering is done and the efficient private sector is long gone, the tax-payer moves in to clean up the mess.

Who remembers Peggy Witte and the Royal Oak Mines saga?

There was a time when you couldn't open a business paper in Canada without reading some obsequious testimonial to the woman who had fought her way to the top in the macho world 'o mining.

She was the "woman of the year" here and the "miner of the year" there and by God you couldn't turn around without bumping into a half dozen stories about what a genius Peggy Witte was.

Peggy is long long gone but the Canadian taxpayer is still cleaning up her mess.

It's actually worse than that; if you read the story through you realize that for a billion dollars of taxpayer money, we're not actually cleaning up the mess, but merely deferring the cleanup.

So don't be taken in by the self-serving cries of alarm coming from the regulators.

The taxpayer always foots the bill after the efficient private sector geniuses have skipped town.

The mind-boggling hypocrisies of Governor Rick Snyder

Rick Snyder rode into office on a Thatcherite charger proclaiming the usual grab-bag of certitudes we've all been too well acquainted with since the days of Ron and Maggie.

He would get Michigan working again!

Michigan would be free to re-invent itself!

Mr. Snyder won the Governorship of Michigan because on election day 56% of eligible voters stayed home.

During his campaign he assured the good people of Michigan that right-to-work-for-less legislation hadn't even occurred to him.

It occurred to him right after being voted in, and now the good people of Michigan are saddled with it.

Snyder knows that education is broken, and apparently the main problem is that society spends too much money on it. He had a secret team of consultants and advisers brainstorming how to get education spending down to $5,000 per student per year.

Obviously, if spending too much creates a shitty education system it can be improved by spending less!

Then a fund-raising video turns up from Greenhill School where his own kids go. The private school needs donations because the $20,000 per year tuition doesn't cover the expense of a decent education!

That's right! Poor kids in Michigan can get a great education for $5,000 a year. Sanctimonious Snyder's kids deserve better; at least four times better!

That should tell you something about Snyder's world view.

Detroit bankrupt but state government finds $300 million to subsidize new hockey arena

Gov. Rick Snyder says there's no money to help Detroit, nosiree, bankruptcy is the only answer. Don't be expecting a bailout ...

But it looks like he can scrape together $300 million to help a billionaire put up a new hockey arena!

Funny how things work in the world of the privatize-everything, slash-and-burn, union-hating economic fundamentalists who get elected on a promise to "fix" the economy.

Governor Snyder is riding at record lows in the polls and knows he won't have a chance for a second term, so he's in a rush to do as much "fixing" as possible before the clock runs out.

The New York Times reports that the vultures are already eyeballing the city-owned Detroit Institute of Arts for its $2 billion art collection.

And what a stroke of genius!

After all, Detroit is mostly a bunch of poor black folks. They need a Rembrandt for what? They probably think Van Gogh is a kind of running shoe.

And obviously, if they can't run a run-down city, forget about a world class art collection, so taking that burden from them and letting rich people buy the art would be a win-win!

Maybe a couple of paintings will be sold to cover that gift to billionaire Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, thereby fulfilling the Bible prophecy, "to those who have much, much will be given."

Judge throws out Detroit bankruptcy bid

In a brave attempt to protect Detroit's 21,000 pensioners, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina ruled today that the bankruptcy filed by emergency city manager Kevyn Orr was invalid.

Under Michigan law a bankruptcy cannot be used to unwind union contracts or diminish the benefits of retirees.

Those Michigan laws are a holdover from another era, an era when there was a social contract recognized by all and codified in law.

That was then, and this is now. The crew in the state house now will work tirelessly to overturn those laws and Judge Aquilina's decision. More contemporary mores will prevail, ie the bond-holders will be privileged before the retirees, who can expect to be out of luck.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Your intangible assets could be worth more than you think

When I was yet again fulminating about that dastardly plot against journalism called Postmedia Networks, I drew attention to a certain item on their balance sheet.

"Intangible assets."

Somewhere Paul and what's left of his leadership team are strategizing survival strategies, and unless they glanced at the latest financials they might not even be aware that the same company that is deferring their paycheques is sitting on $340 million in intangible assets.

What the hell is an "intangible asset?"

I think the colloquial translation might be "imaginary asset."

But they do help balance a balance sheet!

The theater of American justice

Oh look, no sooner is Trayvon off the front page (everywhere except CNN) than we've got a new scapegoat!

Yup, 83 year old Whitey Bulger has caused the demise of one of the folks about to testify for the prosecution.

I'm sure Whitey was a nasty enough piece of work in his day, but for Christ's sake, the man is 83 years old and he commands absolutely nothing. Is it time to give it a rest?

This is right next to those farcical trials where some senile 98 year old Ukrainian guy finally gets caught for having been a teenage guard at a Nazi death camp when he was 16 years old.

I'm not defending Bulger and I'm certainly not defending Nazis, but when you look at the particulars, is it not possible that cash-strapped America should be considering other priorities?

When these alleged perpetrators are in their 80's and 90's, is there any serious person who believes there is anything to be gained by employing the full weight of the state against them?

These prosecutions run into the millions of dollars.

These 80 and 90 year-olds are extremely unlikely to re-offend.

Let's leave them alone and get on with more realistic priorities.

Piers Morgan determined to ride Zimmerman gravy train to the last ratings point

Don't get me wrong; I like Piers.

He's a great improvement on Larry Suspenders for that time slot.

Frankly, I don't know how Piers has managed to avoid the phone-hacking fall-out back in his homeland, where he was a really big deal.

Maybe his CNN gig makes him to big to fail?

But he is certainly doing his part to make CNN the 24/7 all Zimmerman all the time channel.

Last night he had Larry Elder on, and while I'm not particularly an Elder fan, I'd have to say that Larry made more sense than Piers.

But he's back at the ratings trough tonight. The suits at CNN obviously think there is more to be mined in this non-story.

Detroit bankrupt! Vulture funds drool!

It's a sad day for Detroit and a sad day for anyone who remembers the golden age of America.

But it's one happy day for all those hedge funds who have been accumulating Detroit Municipal bonds for pennies on the dollar. They'll be hounding the carcass of the great city of Detroit through the court system for the next twenty years.

You'll hear lots of gravely intoned bullshit about the sanctity of the lender-debtor contract.

And all of that sanctimonious twaddle will be coming from a species that would have died off en masse at the hand of their own greed and over-reach had the tax-payers not bailed them out.

NEWS FLASH!!! Rich people live longer!

Who knew?

Common sense just screams out that all those poor folks massed on their couches of complacency awaiting their next government cheque would live way longer. After all, talk about a life of no worries!

Meanwhile, those poor rich folks have to negotiate a never-ending gauntlet of lying lawyers, crooked investment advisers, random stock market fluctuations, odious government tax grabs, and the masses of poor people scheming to steal their stuff.

It can't be easy!

But apparently all that stress makes the rich folks live longer!

That news comes from research done by Statistics Canada.

No wonder the Harper gang has been working so hard to make those "social scientists" shut up!

If the poor folks catch wind of this they might get even pissier...

Wind farm mysteries

There's a stretch of Highway 10 that I have occasion to traverse a couple of times a month. Between Dundalk and Shelburne the landscape has been hijacked by industrial wind turbines. They begin north of Dundalk now and march to both the east and the west horizons.

The trips up and down Highway 10 have occurred at various times of day and in all weather conditions year round.

Here's the mystery; whether the turbines are running or how many are running appears to be completely unrelated to peak load hours and wind conditions. Obviously when there's no wind nothing is turning. But I've often driven through there when there's a good wind and no turbines are turning, or some are and some aren't.

Time of day seems to have no bearing on the chances of the turbines being used. I've often driven through there during peak electricity usage hours and a handful of them are spinning but most are not.

Since the corporations who put this stuff up enjoy massive public subsidies, would we not expect that the public be advised as to why this resource is used so intermittently? The rationale for wind power is that we can use less fossil fuel on windy days. Should not all those turbines be turning whenever wind conditions permit?

It's a mystery to me...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The dictatorship of stereotypes

Everybody has heard of Attawapiskat. And for good reason. The tiny First Nation community in a remote corner of northern Ontario has become emblematic of dysfunctional native communities.

How many people have heard of Sagamok?

I've often written about Attawapiskat. I've never mentioned Sagamok, even though I've actually been there a few times but have never been to Attawapiskat.

Sagamok is just one of the many native communities in Canada that is never going to make the news because it's not newsworthy. There are many First Nations without scandals of mismanagement or epidemics of suicide or drug addiction or homelessness or child abuse.

A drive through the Sagamok First Nation reveals an ordinary community of tidy homes that will never be featured in the crisis oriented reporting that is the life-blood of the news business. In fact, the community looks more prosperous than some of the white communities in the area. On Sunday afternoon the locals were tending their gardens, sitting on porches, going boating.

Such ordinariness will never be newsworthy, while stories of addiction and dysfunction and failure inevitably are.

And so the stereotypes live on, while the success stories are ignored.

Zombies are everywhere

You know the ones.

Can't live without their smart phones and tablets. Go into withdrawal when they're out of range of a WiFi connection.

You see entire families of them in restaurants, Ma and Pa and the little zombies, all enraptured by their devices and none of them talking to one another.

They were all over the ferry that took us to Manitoulin Island last week. Hunkered down in the lounge with their tiny flickering screens, when outside the sun was shining and the spray made miniature rainbows as the Lake Huron swell broke against the bow of the boat.

Not that they noticed or cared.

Maybe this ironically labelled "social media" phenomenon is also responsible for the declining use of our park system. Who the hell wants to go camping when you can stay in your bedroom talking to your Facebook friends?

2013 Peace Tour

We're walking by a little diner on the main street of Massey. There's a couple of bikes parked side by each in front. One of them has a map of the "2013 Peace Tour" on the saddlebags. A guy comes out of the diner, fully kitted out in over-the-road regalia, and of course I want to know about this peace tour business.


"Right there on the bags... "

"Oh, that's not my bike. He just parked beside me. Nice GPS though. That's a thousand dollar GPS. I use a hundred dollar GPS. Works fine."

You know what works even better? No GPS. Every year you hear about some schmuck who freezes to death because he allowed his GPS to over-ride his common sense and sally forth down some deserted logging trail in the middle of a blizzard... but I don't tell him that.

Besides, he was in Quebec City a couple days ago and needed to find a TD bank, and the GPS was a big help to him. I personally think that if you need help finding a TD bank in the downtown of any major city you might be a bit challenged. Either that or desperate to justify your GPS.

But no matter. We're chatting about the roads and the north and the traffic and what a shame it is that the parks are so close to empty when Peace dude comes out of the diner.

It's none other than California peace crusader Russ Faure-Brac who wrote a book a couple of years ago called "Transition to Peace." He's on a combination book-promotion peace-promotion tour on his Triumph Tiger. At least that's what he tells everybody.

What he's really on of course is a once-in-a-lifetime coast-to-coast and back motorcycle adventure!

Anyway, hell of guy, and I wish you well, Russ! No, I haven't read the book yet but it's on my list... as is a coast-to-coast motorcycle adventure.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Best joke ever

According to the Toronto papers, or at least one of them, Edward Burkhardt claims that one guy in a locomotive (attached to four unmanned locomotives and 72 cars of explosive petroleum products) is safer than two because there will be fewer distractions...

...wait till the airlines hear about this!

Fuck "rock royalty"

I was just watching a bit of video from one of the Stones' tours in South America thirty years ago.

It makes for compelling viewing.

As does Mick in 2012.

As does Mick in 1964.

And every sane person understands that it's all about Mick.

Here's where I have a problem; there are people who will happily spend $600 to see seventy-year-old Mick shake his money-maker, but they'll balk at paying a ten dollar cover to see the 18 year old next Mick Jagger at the local.

Let's get real, folks!

Give rock & roll a chance!

The forgotten face of Jewish history in Canada

Too much of the historical record has been lost; remembered only by latter day scribes who had a different perspective or an axe to grind.

The recent drive up to Massey was a wake-up call. A century ago Massey was a boom town. The lumber drives were going great guns and the railway had been completed a generation before.

Massey is no more a boom town. The trains don't stop there and neither do the trucks. Greyhound still makes a stop in the town but that's about it.

Whereas 2000 lumberjacks used to augment the full-time population every season, they are now gone and the full-time population is barely half of that.

The most notable thing about Massey today is the metal sculptures on display about the town.

The day we arrived we had a good long walk that took us into the local museum. Saw a few old photographs of the good old days... the usual small-town stuff, and paid three bucks for a 32 page  booklet on the history of Massey.

It was brim-full of the things that you'd find in a little town that has seen better days. Lots of tales of the exploits of the local worthies.

Did you know they invented broomball in Massey?

One of the family names that came up again and again was Sadowski. There were Sadowski's here and there and everywhere. There was even a Sadowski on the first broomball team in history!

In fact, they even had a Sadowski as mayor at one time!

None of this meant anything to us when we were going through the museum. Yes, they had some British guys (Byers, Teasdale, Cameron...) and they had some German guys (Flescher, Bretslaff) and even some Polish guys (the Sadowski clan).

A couple of days later we head out for our morning walk, and the Farm Manager says why don't we take the other way, out of town, and because I generally try to agree with everything the Farm Manager says, I said sure.

Fifteen minutes later, after cresting a hill that has at its base the warning "no gas beyond this point," we find ourselves walking by a cemetery.

Two cemeteries, in fact. One on the left, one on the right.

The Farm Manager suddenly says, what's that over there? Doesn't that look like a star of David?

Turns out there was a third cemetery, hived off from the Protestants.

So we cross the street, and sure enough, there's a big boulder right up near the road with a star of David chiseled into it!

Also chiseled into it is the inscription, "thanks to Moishe Sadowski."

Well, we walked through the small Jewish cemetery that was right up there on the hill with the Protestants and the Catholics. Left some stones on the monuments...

When we got back to the campsite I had to pick up that pamphlet again.

Henry Sadowski was the mayor of Massey in 1914.

David Sadowski was on that broomball team.

These were Jews in pioneer Canada!

But here's a quote I found in that pamphlet. It comes from the depths of the depression, when one of the Sadowski's still managed the family's general store;

If it hadn't been for Mr. Sadowski, we would have starved to death. He trusted my father and he kept us for years. My father did pay him in the end but it took a long, long time."

Nowhere in that pamphlet we got at the museum did it mention that the Sadowski's were Jews.

Thanks, Moishe.

How to tarp your campsite

They used to call me the "tarpmeister."

Mind you, that was a few years ago, and I'm not sure anymore who "they" were. Probably that pack of relatives who got all moralistic the time I gave Junior the green light to raid random beer coolers around the  campground.

But that's another story.

I will admit that my tarping jobs in recent years have fallen short of my own high standard.

But oh, if you could have seen the glory we lived under this past week!

Last winter the Farm Manager bought an old Rockwood camping trailer from a Kijiji advert. We've been tenters all our lives, and I'm not sure what possessed her to make this move, but I confess I did go along with it at the time, so it would be uncouth to whine about it now.

My first challenge was getting the lights to work. Did that the day before we left. When I say "the day," I mean all day.

The old Ford 150 has had the vehicle end of my trailer wiring hanging off the back bumper for several years, through rainsleetsnow and mud year after year.

For some reason it didn't work.

The FM did drive a pretty good bargain on that camper, but it had one flaw. And kudos to the previous owners for 'fessing this; it leaked under certain conditions.

Like rain.

We're heading up to Chutes Provincial Park hard by Massey. They've had rain there before. According to the FM, they will again.

I always figured people get trailers when they're too old and decrepit to climb those trees and fix a proper tarp. That ain't me. But now I have a trailer and I still have to fix a tarp?

Part of the problem with my vehicle wiring is that I'm pretty sure my dear daddy hooked it up years before he sold me the truck. Dad has his own way of doing things. I don't knock it because generally it's worked out OK.

At least for him.

After a whole lot of sleuthing I had it down so that when you hit the left turn signal on the truck, you also get the left turn signal on the trailer!

Anyway, I'm going camping with the Farm Manager, and there is a reason she is the "manager." She has been telling me for months that we need to tarp it. I find a 15 X 20 tarp that should do the deal.

Chutes is a park we've been to many times. There are many reasons not to like it; too close to the Trans-Canada Highway, too close to town, not near enough to big water...

As we were passing through the town of Espanola, an OPP cruiser pulled in behind us and stayed there for a good ten minutes, through numerous turns and stoplights.

There can be no finer vindication of your wiring repair job!

But here's the secret when you camp at Chutes; campsites 92 to about 96 are close enough to the falls that you never hear town sounds or Trans-Canada truckers pulling the air brakes. The sound of that water cascading over those falls just drowns out everything else.

So we had site 92 this year, and it lends itself quite readily to a 15 X 20 tarp. And baby, did I get that tarp up there!

With the trailer you have to get the tarp a good four feet higher into the trees than you would with a tent. Back in the day I would have just climbed those trees. That inevitably leaves you with pine tar all over you.

Here's the shortcut; a claw hammer. I happened to have a 24 oz Estwing that's been lying around in the truck for years. You wrap the rope around the head, toss that puppy over a branch ten feet over your head, tie it off, and you're good to go!

But be cautioned; this can be a dangerous undertaking. The downward trajectory of that 24 oz hammer can be darned unpredictable. Best to move any youngsters out of the immediate vicinity. Even then you have to be on your guard; nothing says "dorkshit" louder than tossing a hammer up in the air and having it come back and give you a concussion.

Chutes is called that because back in the log-drive days, when the white settlers were raping the old-growth forests that the original inhabitants had managed to coexist with for thousands of years, they used to build "chutes" around or over the many waterfalls.

Chutes Park today is where one of the bigger log chutes stood on the Aux Sauble River.

That tarp ended up square over the trailer, and when I say "square" I mean even when you stood 50 feet back you could see that the edge of the tarp was perfectly parallel to the edge of the trailer's hard-top. And those extra few feet of tarp on the width side came out perfectly over the Farm Managers cooking console!

It was, as God is my witness, the most perfect tarp job of my life!

...and we didn't have a single drop of rain for the entire week we were at Chutes.



It's as Canadian as... what? Apple pie? Naw, that's somewhere else...

Maple syrup? Ya, that's it! Poutine is as Canadian as maple syrup.

So I've long felt a bit unpatriotic about never having sampled the esteemed delicacy and iconic Canadian dish. When we're quizzing the Park Warden up in Massey about where to eat, he says Lucky's in Spanish.

"Folks drive a hundred miles for the poutine," he says.

We only had to drive thirty so that seemed like a good deal to me.

Been to Spanish a few times. Got a nice marina. Sorry to say I've never taken my boat there. I'm saving that for the day I do the North Channel with that Rosborough I've had my eye on for a couple years now.

On the way to the marina, which is a couple miles off the highway, you pass by what was once one of the bigger residential schools in the province. That's where they used to stash the native kids that they'd kidnap away from their families, in order to instill in them the love of Christ and the values of the white man.

Many of those native kids never made it back home to their parents. Went home to Jesus instead. Too often the residential schools were one satanic travesty of abuse and sadism that has ruined generations of native families.

But when you come into town on Highway 17 you get to Lucky's before you get to the shell of that school, so you've still got your appetite. Ordered up a family order of poutine for me and small order of fries for the Farm Manager.

For those who aren't in the know, poutine is a basket of fries drowned in goopy gravy and cheese curds.

I don't know where this goes wrong. I like cheese. I like fries. I like gravy...

Then again, I like poached eggs, I like beer, and I like strawberries. Pretty sure if I poured all three in a dish I wouldn't be impressed with the result.

That's how the poutine thing went for me. Got to the parking lot at the marina and set my poutine on the ground for the dogs.

They sniff at it and give me the doggie stink-eye. It's like they're trying to say "you better up your game, dude."

As for the school, whoever owns it now has put up a fence. Behind the fence you can see gardens and flowers...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Toronto hotel workers win living wage from Hilton chain

There's no doubt a lot of umbrage being taken among some of Hilton's competitors over this precedent setting deal with UNITE.

Twenty bucks an hour for an immigrant to fluff your pillow?

Surely there are starving immigrants willing to do the job for less?

Congratulations to Local 75 for seeing this through, and a tip of the hat to Hilton for recognizing that your front line folks merit a living wage.

In an era wherein many employers are working overtime to grind down wages, it's more than refreshing to see an employer willing to acknowledge that they wouldn't be anywhere without their workers.

CNN moves to 24/7 Zimmerman format

That's right folks, they've made it official; you don't ever again have to miss a single moment of the biggest news story in the world; the Zimmerman trial.

Nevermind exploding planes in San Francisco, exploding trains in Canada, imploding governments in the Middle East.

CNN knows that the only story you care about is the one where that white dumbshit in Florida killed that black kid.

While young black males are by far the most likely to get shot in America, what makes this case special is that he was shot by a white civilian and not a cop or a gangsta.

Mind you, Zimmerman was an achingly wannabe cop, but he didn't have his badge yet.

So that must be why it's a big story.

The hundreds of black kids who have been shot down since Trayvon Martin are merely so many footnotes.

Good news for Twinkie technicians!

The Wall Street Journal has a story about how former Hostess employees are all bitter about having their former $33,000 a year (plus benefits) jobs back at $22,000 a year (no benefits).

Hey, lighten up folks; there is a silver lining! Here's a chart straight from the USDA web site on income cut-offs for food stamps:

Household size
Gross monthly income
(130 percent of poverty)
Net monthly income
(100 percent of poverty)
$1,211$ 931
Each additional member

Looks to me like most of you are going to qualify! Isn't that great!

You gotta love it... not only do you get to make Twinkies again, but you'll get food stamps to boot!

God bless America!

Welcome to the Twinkie Research Institute

When we discussed the plight of the Twinkie a year and a half ago we predicted that union contracts would be shredded and pension obligations shed.

What we did not foresee is that new ownership, absent the stultifying drag of union contracts, would plow their new found riches into research and development!

"With lower overhead, Mr Metropoulos said he can now afford to spend money on research and development."

There you have it! Unions bad... research good!

Twinkie research, no less! This might have saved the life of Harvey Milk if it had happened in time...

Damned near enough to make ya believe in progress, isn't it?

Welcome to the Twinkie Research Institute!

Monday, July 8, 2013

The trouble with efficiency

I don't know the man. He could be a decent tax-paying God-fearing regular guy, for all I know.

But Ed Burkhardt has grown rich by riding our "efficiency" craze to absurd  extremes.

There's 60 cars in a train and a crew of 5?

Let's go for a couple more cars and a couple fewer crew.

That's more efficient.

The shareholders and the business press applaud.

Hey, wouldn't it be more efficient if we sacked another worker and added another few cars to the train?

Oh ya! Now we're talking EFFICIENCY!!!

The shareholders augment their positions and the business press wet their pants.

Next thing you know, there's one tired guy at the end of a shift responsible for an 80 car train of highly volatile cargo.

That's absurd!

You know how it ends.

Toronto Mayor missing in action as cataclysmic floods strike city

Are we to believe that Mayor Ford is so super busy at the secret command headquarters that he hasn't had five minutes to address the people of his city in the past five hours?

Oh... maybe he's at the family cottage?...

Or maybe he's doing some outreach work with those gang kids?

Seems to me that a guy who wants to be seen as a leader should want to be seen leading at a moment like this.

The impenetrable mystery of the Lac Megantic rail disaster

I've been watching the news coverage of the Lac Megantic aftermath...

Nobody could see it coming...

Guess we should move those rail tracks so that when trains full of hazardous goods inexplicably explode they don't do it in the downtown of a small town near you...

What I find baffling is that nobody so far in the mainstream media has drawn the parallels with the Weyauwega disaster almost twenty years ago.

An 82 car train loaded with hazardous materials and crewed by a single employee derails in the downtown of a small town...

Sound familiar?

Not only that, but the guy who called the shots at that railroad also called the shots at the railroad that owns the Lac Megantic disaster.

His name is Ed Burkhardt, and he thinks having more than one employee aboard an 80 car train carrying hazardous goods through a small town would be a gross violation of his right to maximize profits.

I think it's safe to say that there have been plenty of folks who have protested the single-operator policy that this management imposes, and all of them feared that this could happen.

We've seen this coming since 1996.

The solution isn't to move the railway tracks.

The solution is to remove management who put profits ahead of safety.

Dumbshits at National Defense sell Raytheon Phalanx guidance system for $37

Then buy it back for thousands!

By the way, calling one of these puppies a "gatling" gun conjures up images from old westerns. The Raytheon Phalanx sprays stuff that's half as big again as .50 caliber at a rate of 4500 rounds per minute!

I hear Terrible Ted's been negotiating to get one for his country estate, but apparently his Sheriff's credentials aren't enough to swing the deal.

But I digress.

Somebody did OK selling the dumbshits back their gear.

These stories don't always have such a happy ending.

There was a guy down in Mildmay who runs a place called Bill's Electronics. He's into the high-tech hardware, but he's a strictly legal by-the-book kind of guy.

Bill's down in Ohio one weekend back in the 90's and he scores himself a missile guidance system at a flea market for a few hundred bucks!

Brings it back across the border, duly filing the requisite paper work, glories in the high-tech glamour of his find for a spell, then puts in on E-Bay...

Well holy jumpin' doomsday!

Anybody who thinks that US security outfits don't operate in Canada should have seen this drama go down!

The jackboot of Uncle Sam was unleashed in all its splendour in small-town Ontario, about an hour and a half north of the border, and young Bill went straight to jail!

Took months to sort things out, and Bill came damned close to losing everything over what was a completely innocent venture on his part.

So congrats to the lucky purchaser of that Raytheon hardware, but not everybody who catches the dumbshits in a mistake fares out that well.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

How does a train of 72 oil tank cars and 5 locomotives have a crew of exactly one?

It's called "efficiency," my friend.

And "Fast Eddie" Burkhardt is renowned the world over for the efficiency two-step he brings to the railroads that he and his hedge fund backers have "restructured" over the years.

Step one in a Burkhardt restructuring is to prune back that inevitably "bloated" workforce.

Step two; grind down the wages of those who remain.

After all, every dollar out of a worker's pay packet is another dollar for the dividend pool.

The legacy of "Fast Eddie" Burkhardt

This weekend isn't the first time one of Fast Eddie's trains burned down a town.

In 1996 Weyauwega Wisconsin suffered an accident with startling similarities to the disaster still unfolding at Lac Megantic, an accident that led to the state requiring a two man crew on every train.

By that time, Burkhardt had developed a reputation for being ruthlessly anti-union. Not surprisingly, his railway had a reputation for having an accident rate three times higher than the industry average.

The modus operandi for all of Burkhardt's adventures in railroading is to fire as many employees as possible, grind down the wages of the ones who remain, and maximize the profits for himself and his fellow investors.

It's a strategy that has made him a very wealthy man.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The terrorism of unregulated capitalist enterprise

While we don't want to read too much into the Quebec train explosion at this early hour, there is one thing we know for sure.

Back in the day, a train such as that would never have been left unattended.

There would have been a caboose and that's where the crew would have stayed for a layover.

But that extra crew and that caboose are easy pickings for the efficiency experts who want rail traffic to be lean and mean.

We now have one incident which by far has caused more mayhem than all of the terror attacks in the history of Canadian terror attacks.

If we can spend billions avoiding the latter, why can we not spend some loose change preventing the former?

Let's (not) spend the night together

Here's the Rolling Stones in Brazil a hundred years ago.

If you saw them at 02 last year you'll realize that not much has changed.

You've probably got a hundred garage bands in your town that have at least as much going on as the Rolling Stones.

Why not give them a chance?

Gonna raise hell at the union hall

Frankly, Rip This Joint gets my vote as best Stones tune ever.

Watch any of the recent live versions on Youtube and see how the aging geezers can hardly keep up...

I suppose one reason I like it so much is that I raised hell at a union hall myself once.

In my voluminous archives I have a letter informing "Brother Neumann" of his lifetime ban from the premises of the Steelworkers Hall in Guelph.

It was all Igor's fault.

I can't remember precisely what it was that Igor did to antagonize me, but he'd been antagonizing me for hours, and the more beers I had at the union hall the more antagonized I got.

Finally he pushed me over the edge. I couldn't take the antagonization anymore...

I had no choice... he forced me to pour a pitcher of beer over his head.

Well, that should have been the end of it, but no!

Igor whacked me across the face with a beer glass!

I know! Who can even imagine such a thing!

A brawl ensued.

Igor got a good thrashing.

I know that isn't his story, but trust me, it's the truth.

Unfortunately, the cut that beer glass opened up over my right eye wouldn't stop bleeding.

It was eventually decided that Brother Neumann needed to go to the emergency ward for stitches.

The crew arrives at the Guelph General Hospital, and who do we run into but Igor!

He'd beat me there to get his own stitches!

Hey, how ya doin' man... sorry about your head.

Ya, I'm OK, sorry about your eye...

Long story short, me and Igor walk outta the emergency ward arm in arm, head back to the union hall, drink till closing time, bloody bandages  wrapped around our heads, and we've never had a note of animosity between us ever since!

Then two weeks later I get that snotty letter from the USW.

Friday, July 5, 2013

How to pass a drug test

I guess I should have clarified things right there in the title...

I can't help you if you're on crack or meth or any of that bathtub chemistry-project shit that is going around.

You're on your own. And you're an idiot.

If, on the other hand, your tool of choice is God's own herb, the weed of wisdom, you might want to listen up.

So Buddy who I've known for 40 years has been driving the big rigs from Alaska to Brownsville, from Long Beach to Saint John for about 5 million miles by now, and I know for a fact that at least 4 and a half of those the dude was under the influence of the weed of wisdom.

No, it's not Willy Nelson.

So the reason Buddy never gets nabbed on a dope test is that he keeps a supply of clean pee in his freezer. He gets the call to come in for a random pee test, he's got it figured out to the minute how to get that urine sample that's been in the freezer for six months to body temp in the time it takes to drive to the lab.

That's been working for 40 years.

And there hasn't been an accident in 5 million miles.

The sins of Mohamed Morsi

It's been two days since Egypt's US trained and financed military overthrew the democratically elected President Morsi.

Is there any serious person who believes such a thing would happen without a green light from the US?

There is no doubt that there was mass dissatisfaction with Morsi among the Egyptian public. That dissatisfaction had little to do with Morsi's supposedly Islamist agenda.

From the beginning Morsi went out of his way to appease the US and Israel. The Egypt-Israel peace accord was respected in full. In spite of much pro-Palestinian rhetoric, the Gaza tunnels were far more restricted under Morsi than they were in the Mubarak era.

Domestically, Morsi allowed the price of food to rise to garner favor with European trading partners. The pending end of fuel subsidies was his attempt to appease the IMF.

As recently as three weeks ago Morsi was parroting the most jingoistic anti-Assad rhetoric in yet another attempt to gain favor in Washington.

With a year of slavish toadying to Washington under his belt, Morsi had every reason to believe that the greatest democracy in the world and it's erstwhile sidekick, the only democracy in the Middle East, would allow him to see out his democratically elected term.

That was obviously a miscalculation.

So now what?

The military bosses are promising new elections. Will the next elected leader succumb to the next Twitter mob as well?

Is this all part of a grand strategy to create in every Arab state conditions of perpetual upheaval and anarchy?

Perhaps Libya is the model of a perfect Arab state in the eyes of Washington. Civil society in chaos, the country bankrupt, but the oil sector humming along smoothly and the profits going... well, who knows, but certainly not to Libya.

If that is the case, then Morsi's greatest sin was not his supposed Islamist fundamentalism, but his eagerness to appease the West.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

nicotine run

Back in the day there was folks who made a decent living buying up smokes in the low tax or no tax states and running them up to New York or Detroit.

More recently a few of the Native brothers up here did OK for themselves running duty-free Canadian cigarettes back into Canada.

I don't think Junior had any of that in mind when he came up with this.

The kid got some talent.

Poster girl for women's equality shot dead in Afghanistan

Lieutenant Islam Bibi was no stranger to Western media.

That might be one of the factors that made her a target of insurgents yesterday. Most media coverage is focused on this being a symbolic strike against women's rights, but that's probably an oversimplification.

Afghan National Police are gunned down at the rate of three to ten per day. If Afghan women want to be cops, they're going to take their chances. Sooner or later they could be shot down too.

There is no reliable evidence to show that the Taliban hates women Afghan cops any more than they hate cops in general. The Afghan National Police are seen as stooges of the occupiers, which would be a reasonable conclusion from the perspective of the Taliban.

Not only that, they are widely despised by the general population for their rampant corruption.

So while Islam Bibi was a minor celebrity in certain circles in the West, she met the same fate that eventually catches up with many of her male compatriots in Afghanistan.

Let's not make her a martyr for women's rights.

The Canada Day bomb plot: "profoundly shocking" or obvious bullshit?

BC preem Christy Clark claims she finds the Canada Day bomb plot "profoundly shocking."

Everybody who knew the two alleged bombers are certainly profoundly shocked. They were a couple of white trash druggies on welfare who don't have the wherewithal to come up with the monthly rent, let alone a bomb plot.

The RCMP claims they intervened early and the public was never at risk.

I believe them.

I believe the RCMP intervened early. Early enough to coax those two along on their path to becoming "terrorists." Early enough to supply the pressure cookers and the bomb-making materials. In fact, when this comes to trial we'll once again see that without the use of well-paid RCMP informants this case would never have happened.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews claims this is more proof that we must be ever vigilant.

When you spend billions fighting non-existent terrorists, it's essential that you find some once in awhile, just to keep the public on board.

But I must say the caliber of the "terrorists" they are finding is downright disappointing. Two drug addicted white misfits who love heavy metal music and recently converted to Islam?...

And suddenly they want to become heavy metal jihadists?

Ya, right...

Fridges and loathing at Falling Downs

The instructions for switching the handles on the new refrigerator from  right to left side started on page 11 of the owners manual. They ended on page 18.

The Farm Manager has been lobbying for months for a new fridge. Not that there's anything wrong with the old fridge. Except that a couple of the plastic shelves in the door have cracked.

The reason those shelves have cracked is because, and I'm not going to name names, somebody crams way too much crap in there.

Personally, I'm a refrigerator minimalist. If there's more in your fridge than a twelve-pack and a jar of pickled eggs you're on the slippery slope to pathological hoarding. It's definitely not me who crams way too much crap in there.

Anyway, yesterday was the big day. We took the truck into town and loaded up a new Kenmore fridge at Sears. Got a damn good deal too - hundred bucks off because it was a "floor model."

They used to make the Kenmore brand in Cambridge, back when we still built appliances in this country. This one comes from Mexico, one of the manifold blessings that NAFTA brought us.

I hadn't really planned ahead, and all I had to secure the fridge was a thirty foot tow strap. That took a little ingenuity to wrap around the fridge and I wasn't feeling too good about the result. One wrong move and that new Kenmore was going overboard...

That actually happened to me once. Luckily it was an old Kenmore on its way to the old-fridge graveyard. Did that bend under the railway tracks with just a bit too much speed, and WHOOPSIE!!! As fate would have it, there was no one immediately behind me, so after a moment's hesitation I just kept driving.

That actually saved me the bullshit twenty dollar fee they charge you when you drop off an old fridge.

So I was driving real careful. It's one thing to lose an old fridge, but especially with the Farm Manager riding shotgun, there'd be hell to pay if I lost the new one.

Get out here to the ranch and gather up the tools I need for the handle switch-over. That is the one and only instruction in that owner's manual that made any sense. That's because they show you a picture of an adjustable wrench and a Phillips screwdriver and a 3/8 socket.

After that it rapidly became a nightmare. "If you have a model 1410, proceed to page 14. For model 1409, follow instructions beginning on page 12, and then skip to page 15 after step 3. For models 2410 - 2420 follow steps 1-7 on pages 11-13 and then follow steps 8-10 on page 15. Thank you for choosing a Kenmore."

I am not by nature a follow-the-instructions kind of guy, but I've been trying to get better these past few years. I read those instructions. Then I read them again.

As far as I'm concerned none of the pictures of handles looked like the handles on the fridge in front of me.

Meanwhile the Farm Manager was pulling the contents out of the old fridge. It's amazing how much stuff can get lost in a modestly sized refrigerator. I had no idea we had four different brands of hot sauce in the house. Five flavors of mustard. Three jars of olives, a jar of pickled hot pepper rings that looked a very unpalatable shade of grey...

After spending 45 minutes reading the instruction manual I finally tossed it in the corner in frustration. I'll just do this the old-school way - by intuition.

Had those handles swapped over in under a half hour.

Appliance manufacture used to be a big business in Canada. All the major brand names were built here at one time or another. I think Woods in Guelph was the last Canadian manufacturer, and they built their last freezer in Canada in 2009. Even before the Woods family sold out a couple of years before that, they had opened a manufacturing plant in Mexico.

That's all part of the NAFTA legacy. Thousands of manufacturing jobs gone to Mexico, and we're still waiting for all those new high-tech jobs that were supposed to take their place.

But I digress. We got the new fridge set up in the kitchen, and the old one is in the wood shed with a twelve-pack and a jar of pickled eggs.