Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tony Greenstein rocks

Tony's blog is one of the few places I visit on a regular basis.

Outside of the usual mainstream feeding stations where I stock up on ammo.

It won't take you long to figure out that this guy is determined to go down kicking against the pricks, and that is something I hugely admire.

But for god's sake, Tony, take the p-values up a notch.

Nobody will ever take you seriously when your blog looks just like mine.

Charlie Watt's going bald 30+ years ago!

But he has a full head of hair today! How the hell does that happen?

Check it out. Beautiful tune, but keep an eye out right around the 3:08 mark in the video. Charlie's got a bald spot bigger than the kippa I wear to funerals!

Just goes to prove that money can buy anything!

Crackers go wild on Black Friday!

Hell, I can't even see any black folks in this video.

How realistic is that? Even up here in Santastan we see black folks aplenty in Walmart.

Maybe they're smart enough to stay away on Black Friday?

But look at those crazy crackers going after the Black Friday specials...

Yes, the American dream has come to this.

Why is winter always a surprise?

I've lived in Canada long enough to know that come November, you might wake up one day and find snow on the ground. Furthermore, that snow is likely to stay awhile. Like till next May.

Nevertheless, November once again found me unprepared.

The snow-blower for my Ford 4000 is parked behind the garage. If memory serves, I think I need to fix the drive chain, which snapped on my last snow-clearing mission back in the spring.

The Ford 4000 is conveniently parked just out of range of my longest extension cord. Once the temperature falls to below 10 C, that Ford diesel needs to be plugged in for a couple hours before it's going to start.

You know the temperature is well below that if the snow stays on the ground overnight.

The day I parked it there I had just attached the 3-furrow plow, meaning to get to plowing up that weed-ridden flower patch on the east side of the front yard. That's a job the Farm Manager has been nagging about for at least two years, and if nothing else, I thought mounting the plow was a gesture of good faith on my part.

The walk behind snow-blower is in partial dis-assembly in the garage. It will start and run, but there is something wonky with the pulleys. It'll spit a drive belt out before I'm halfway down the driveway. I planned all summer to fix that, but here we are with snow on the ground, and wouldn't you know it, I never got around to it!

Last time I was out and about I'd dumped off a load of tree-tops behind the woodshed, thinking I was going to cut them into wood-stove sized pieces of firewood. That's another issue the Farm Manager has been on the warpath about.

"You better get going on the wood because it doesn't look like we'll get to Christmas with what's in the woodshed now!"

She's right of course, but I can't admit that, so I've been fobbing her off with how next time it's a nice afternoon I'll be carving up those six-footers behind the woodshed.

Today that nice afternoon came.

I haven't actually fired up the Stihl for a good two months. Topped her off with gas and bar oil, and set about to starting her up. After a few pulls on the cord I noticed I had bar oil all over my pants, my boots, the floor... and on account of the temperature, the bar oil had a viscosity just slightly more fluid than used bubble-gum.

I'd forgot to put the cap on the oil reservoir.

While I'm cleaning up that mess, I notice that one of the two nuts that secures the chain sprocket cover is missing. This has happened before. They will vibrate themselves loose if you don't tend to them. Not a big deal. The saw runs fine with just one nut holding the sprocket cover in place. Just keep an eye out...

So I get at my woodpile, and not five minutes later the other nut falls into the snow, the sprocket cover flies off, and the bar and the chain both disappear into the snow.

I'm left standing there with a perfectly running Stihl but it has no bar and no chain attached to it. Not gonna cut a lot of wood with that rig.

While I'm debating whether I should run into town and buy chainsaw parts, or just slash my wrists now and get it over with, Kipling calls.

You know how whenever you're at the end of your rope, if you can find somebody with an even more horrendous hard luck story, you find the strength to carry on?

Well, Kipling only calls a few times a year, but every time it has that salutary effect.

He's just finished rebuilding his VW diesel van for the nth time. That's not a slag on the VW; it's got over two million miles on it. You have to do a rebuild every half million or so.

But the story isn't that simple. That diesel broke down on the edge of an Indian reservation somewhere north of Ottawa. He had another couple hundred miles to go to deliver the load of windows he was taking to a building supply place up there.

The locals were friendly enough, but they didn't have the technology to fix a VW diesel, so Kipling is stuck, in a snow storm, with a diesel that won't start, and a load of windows that need to get delivered the next day.

He calls his broker and has them send another truck up to complete the window shipment.

That truck is going to take ten hours to get there. In the meantime, Kipling figures he better stay with his van to protect both the van and the cargo from vandalism.

While all this is going down he's also got the worst cold in his life and it's getting worse and worse by the hour, and he's thinking he's just another cough away from pneumonia.

"I coughed all night. I coughed so hard I shit myself."

Well, that was more info than I needed to know, but suddenly I was able to put my chain-saw issues into perspective. I've got a warm house right here. He's spending the night in an unheated van in the middle of a blizzard guarding his windows. Not to mention cleaning up after that personal hygiene incident under those circumstances.

Long story short, Kipling gets a ride back to Cambridge with the driver his company sent up to finish his job. His van is still up there in the boonies. He borrows a truck and a car hauler and heads north to retrieve his van. While he's winching the van onto the trailer the OPP stop by, and wouldn't you know it, he's got absolutely no paper work for the truck he borrowed.

There was some to-ing and fro-ing, but fortunately reason prevailed. The cops concluded that he wouldn't be stealing that ten year old VW van if he was driving a new F-350 Ford, and they gave him the benefit of the doubt on the rest of his story.

Getting the benefit of the doubt from the cops isn't something you can count on these days.

Anyway, he didn't get paid for that job and he was off work the next two weeks rebuilding that VW diesel.

I missed an afternoon of chainsawing.

It just proves that your troubles can be few so long as you compare yourself to someone who has lots more.

Oh, and winter has arrived!

Friday, November 29, 2013

A word of advice to pot-smoking Mounties

Having had the pleasure of twisting one up with a few of you folks years ago, I know that most of you must be torn by what's happened to Cpl. Francis over there in New Brunswick.

You know the culture and you know what to expect.

Cops, doctors, teachers, judges,... everybody figures out how to smoke their two doctor-prescribed legal medicinal marijuana joints every day without ending up on the front page.

 I'm sure Cpl. Francis could have figured it out too.

But for Ron Francis this isn't just about smoking a joint. It's about PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Shell shock, as we once euphemised what happened when a person had seen more grief and gore than they could handle.

It manifests in many ways. Addiction. Depression. Substance abuse...

It's rampant among cops and soldiers.

Because those are the folks who see the most grief and gore.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Canada crucifies pot-smoking Mountie

Ron Francis is a veteran RCMP officer who happens to have a medical marijuana prescription.

According to Francis, and obviously the prescribing physician agrees, he needs the pot to treat his post traumatic stress.

No less an authority than Justice Minister Peter MacKay has chimed in to denounce Cpl. Francis. MacKay has just recently taken over the Justice file, having spent many years as Canada's Minister of Defence. Ironically, the recent suicides of three Canadian Forces members has pushed PTSD into the Canadian news pages as never before.

The latter story points out that the last 70 suicides in the Canadian Forces, most of which occurred on the watch of Peter MacKay, have never been adequately investigated.

Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder responsible for this wave of suicides?

Mr. MacKay obviously doesn't think so.

The official line of the law-and-order fetishists in Ottawa is this; suicides of servicemen and cops are a regrettable inevitability.

Smoking a legal physician-prescribed marijuana cigarette to manage your PTSD will not be tolerated.

CBC misses the boat on senate scandal

Big Steve is juggling so many scandals his head must be spinning.

Lucky for Big Steve, Canadian media are determined to give him a free pass.

Take today's interrogation of the auditors who were examining senate expenses. The auditors, employees of Deloitte, the reigning international accounting giant since all the other reigning international accounting giants were destroyed by scandal, claimed that their boss, the managing partner of the firm, asked them how things were coming along on the senate file, to which they claim to have replied, "sorry boss, that would be a breach of confidentiality and we just can't reveal that info."

Ya right.

That's not how it works.

When you sign up with an accounting firm for an audit, you are contracting with the firm, not the individual auditor. You fully expect that the work of the auditors will be actively supervised by the big dogs at that company. The idea that these Deloitte auditors wouldn't tell their boss how the job was going is whole-cloth bunk.

So self-confessed bag-man Senator Irving Gerstein calls his pal, the managing partner at Deloitte, on behalf of Big Steve's political party. He wants to know how the audit is coming along. Managing partner asks the auditors but is rebuffed on the grounds that telling him would breach rules of confidentiality.

And this obvious rubbish is allowed to pass unchallenged by the media?

Today's performance by the Deloitte auditors was just the latest chapter in an ongoing cover-up.

Bibi's latest peace initiative: let Gaza drown in its own sewage

Experts were warning more than five years ago that the Gaza sewage treatment system was grossly inadequate for the demands placed upon it. Even then, tens of thousands of gallons of raw sewage were being pumped into the Mediterranean every day.

Perhaps realizing that that is the same Mediterranean that the Chosen People like to frolic in at vacation time, the Israeli government has recently denied Gaza the diesel fuel required to run the generators that run the pumps that can pump the sewage away.

From the Likud perspective this is a win-win. Not only is sewage being kept out of the Mediterranean, but the citizens of Gaza are being taught yet another sharp lesson on why they should turn their backs on their Hamas leaders!

They can ponder this lesson till they drown in their own sewage.

This crime against basic human decency is being waged with the full connivance of the Egyptian military junta that seized power from the democratically elected Morsi last July, and also with the full connivance of the Palestinian Authority, those shameless collaborators who will stoop to any depths to best their Hamas rivals.

This disgusting strategy to bully the Palestinians of Gaza will no doubt have the same result as every previous heavy-handed Israeli tactic.

The radicals in Gaza will be strengthened, and Israel will end up with yet another PR fiasco in the court of world public opinion.

Charge Harper with High Treason

As realistic Canadians, we have long known that we can't set any kind of policy course that would deviate too radically from what the big boys inside the Beltway want to see. We tell ourselves that the occassional gesture of independent thinking, like sitting out the Iraq invasion for example, proves that we remain a sovereign nation, despite our proximity to and dependence on the USA.

For the most part, we are content to be lap dogs.

But who suspected this?

Greenlighting the NSA's nefarious activities on Canadian soil goes far beyond any notion of "security cooperation." It is a complete sell-out of Canadian sovereignty and nothing less.

Harper needs to be held accountable.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bill 60 and the short slippery slope to Krystalnacht

There they are, those Muslim gals with their brood of half a dozen pre-schoolers. Some white busy-body took enough umbrage over this that they snapped a picture and up-loaded it to Facebook, so the entire world can see that some Quebec children are left in the care of women who walk around wearing black bedsheets.

Outside of the context of Bill 60 this would be a mildly engrossing human interest photo. It speaks volumes about diversity, care, empathy, tolerance... all the good stuff. It's a beautiful picture! The brown and white parents of these tykes obviously are comfortable leaving their offspring in the care of Islamic women who wear the niqab.

That was nobody else's business until the aforementioned busybody took it upon herself to stir up a bit of mischief. Apparently the above pic has unleashed a torrent of cyber-hate. The groundwork for that hate has been carefully prepared by the PQ, who hope to gain votes by stirring racial hatred.

Let's hope they're voted into the dustbin of history at the next election.

Al Jazeera asleep at the news desk; discovers "radicals" in Central African Republic nine months after pot-addled blogger writes about it

Yup, seems some radical types have infiltrated the imaginary power vacuum in the Central African Republic.

The power vacuum is real enough; it's just being allowed to fester by the US and France for their own political reasons.

The think tank here at Falling Downs had it figured out back in March. Indeed, the writing was on the wall well before that.

Obviously, the good folks at AJ knew all about it months ago, but chose not to foreground it. Why? Because at the time, France had already committed to the Mali intervention, and the US was expected to get involved in Syria. While both countries already had vast intelligence networks in place in the CAR, and both countries already had boots on the ground, it was decided at some level to leave the disintegration of the CAR off the front page for the time being.

The fact that Al Jazeera has now discovered radicals among Seleka tells you that's about to change.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

George Soros steps up to the plate for the Roma

You have to admit, that George Soros chap has a pretty big heart for a billionaire.

Here he is in The Guardian batting for the creation of a Roma working class. Apparently Romany well-being is not some recent infatuation for George; he's been supporting Roma causes for over a quarter century.

George is all about training up Romany youth for job opportunities in their eastern European homelands.

Great idea!

Let's see... Slovakia has a youth unemployment rate of 31%. Strike one!

Bulgaria has a youth unemployment rate of 28%.

Strike two!

And in Hungary youth unemployment stands at a mere 26.9%.

I think you're onto a great idea there, George, but you just struck out. It ain't just the Romany who need jobs... IT'S EVERYBODY!!!

Why "free enterprise" needs a little less freedom

Big Steve was in Lac-Megantic the other day to announce a $95 million gift from the Canadian taxpayer towards cleaning up the mess left by feisty free-enterpriser Fast Eddie Burkhardt's killer crude train. If you read the fine print you find that it's actually a matching grant; the Canadian taxpayer will match the Quebec taxpayers up to a maximum of $95 million.

In other words, taxpayers are committed to cleaning up Mr. Burkhardt's mess one way or the other. Harper is just giving notice that after the clean-up cost passes $190 million the Quebec tax-payers are on their own.

Where is Fast Eddie in all this?

Long gone.

Meanwhile, up Yellowknife way, the staggeringly expensive Giant Mine clean-up continues apace, or rather at a snails pace. That was another textbook case of a feisty free-enterpriser, in fact a series of them, making hay while the sun was shining. Then one day the gold was gone and the jobs were gone and the free-enterprisers were gone and all that's left is 237,000 tons of arsenic trioxide.

The estimated billion dollar clean-up isn't even a clean-up; it's a containment. The actual clean-up is being left to future generations of taxpayers.

That's the trouble with free-enterprisers. They're only around for the good times. They make hay while the sun shines. They enjoy the adulation of the business press for a few years, and when the going gets tough and the clouds move in, they're outta there, leaving the public to clean up their mess.

There will be plenty more disasters coming down the pike and the pipeline in the future. Who do you think will pick up the tab for decommissioning those privatized nuclear reactors in Ontario? Bruce Power bought the project to generate profits, not to clean up when the profits are gone. The tax-payers of Ontario paid for that project when the private sector first built it, pay for the enormous cost over-runs every month on their hydro bills, and will pay for it again several times over when it's time to decommission.

You can be sure that the folks pocketing the profits today will be long gone by the time that happens.

So given that the public will be paying for all this anyway, maybe the public should demand a little more say well before we're left with just the mess.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Resurrection of Captain Ludd

The local high school has about 800 cellphone-carrying students. Assuming that they, or more likely their parents, are paying an average of fifty bucks a month for cell service, that's $40,000 every month floating out of that building into the coffers of the cellphone industry.

Twenty years ago no students at that school had cellphones. That's a school that can't afford new helmets for the football team and has multiple fund-raisers to keep alive its breakfast program which costs somewhat less than $500 a month to operate. But $40,000 every month just wafts up through the ceiling tiles.

This is the result of a completely irrational fetishization of technology. What are these kids actually doing with these cellphones? Are they necessary?

Ask the kids and they'll answer that they can't imagine living without one.

As a society we seem to blindly accept that just because someone has come up with a technology, we are obliged to adopt, adapt, consume, and enrich the providers of that technology. Asking "how is this making the world a better place" would mark you as a senile sentimentalist.

But while it's true that the billions worldwide who have adopted this technology have made an infinitesimally small clique of individuals exceedingly wealthy, how has it improved society?

This goes well beyond cellphones. Usually, new technology will promise enhanced efficiencies in the bouquet of propaganda that heralds its debut.

As a society, we're over-the-top about "efficiency."

Efficiency-seeking investment dollars chased manufacturing from the US and Canada to Mexico and then China, and then on to Cambodia and Bangladesh and Haiti, in a constant quest for greater efficiency.

The never-ending search for cheaper inputs on the one hand, and the constant evolution of technology on the other, have conspired to make North America and much of the "developed world" into a job-shedding wasteland.

If we believe that "jobs" are a valuable commodity in a society, perhaps we should manage ourselves accordingly.

When hedge fund driven mergers, rationalizations, take-overs etc. result in the inevitable "synergies,"  i.e. drastic lay-offs, there needs to be a place in the discussion about how this benefits society at large. If the only beneficiaries are the hedge-fund operators and their investors, then the only point would be to further enrich the already rich at the expense of a wide swath of ordinary folks.

Why should that be permitted?

The creation and preservation of decent jobs is a worthwhile end in itself. The elimination of such jobs is not.

And what is a "decent" job?

A lot of low-wage employment is not inherently unpleasant. I served a spell in retail myself once. Putting in an eight hour shift at the mall could be eminently agreeable to a lot of people if the pay allowed them to live a proper life.

That's why the movement in the US by fast food and retail workers to up the minimum wage to $15 is such a positive development. If Costco can pay a decent wage, Wal-mart and McDonalds can too.

Even more important, we can't as a society embrace every new "labour-saving technology" without giving some thought to what will happen to the labour that's going to be saved. When we talk about saving labour we are talking about eliminating somebody's livelihood. Shouldn't they have a say in the matter?

For far too long the discussion about workers and jobs has been monopolized by the Chamber of Commerce types who champion profit maximization over employees, communities, society, the environment, and every other manifestation of the common good.

It's time to reboot the discussion.

Woman who auctioned off virginity wants to sell it again

Whoa! That doesn't sound right... but as a headline it kinda grabs you, doesn't it?

But as a headline it has nothing on this beauty; "I held Michael Jackson's penis every night."

Those are ostensibly "news" stories.

Taking pictures of your own mother doing the oinky-boinky with teenage boys is "art."

No wonder the media barons and culture gods hold the public in contempt.

We're the ones who click on this stuff.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Rebranding Canada

Back in the late 50's my folks, DPs fairly recent off the boat, moved us to a sleepy town in south Ontario, where I bore the distinction of being the only kid in Grade one who couldn't speak English.

My mother tongue was German, and this was in the day when you still had ex-army dudes on mechanic's creepers sitting outside the Iroquois Hotel with their tin cups and no legs.

It was not always the best of times.

But I grew up with a certain sense of what this adopted country was all about.

My dear daddy told me many times that we ended up in Canada because it was a less militaristic society than some of the other options.

That was one thing that always stuck in my mind.

The fact that Canada, very early on, was a destination for escaped slaves instead of the place they were escaping was something that stuck with me too.

We seemed to be just a bit ahead of the curve on all sorts of compassionate causes.

We were peace-keepers, not war-mongers. We cared about the environment. We believed in free health care for everybody and we brought in gun control.

That was then.

This is now;
There's a certain trend evident here. Where once upon a time Canada aligned herself with the progressive nations on the planet, we are now relegated to that rump of rogue states who are perpetually pro-war and anti-environment.

When did we vote for that?

34% of Swiss voters support executive pay cap

Unfortunately twice as many voted against it.

But it's a start. The referendum was over a measure brought by the Young Socialist Party to cap executive pay at twelve times the pay of the lowest paid employee in an organization.

While that '12 factor' is somewhat arbitrary, the ballooning of executive pay packets has become recognized as a problem in most of the developed world, at least in progressive circles.

According to Forbes, in the mid sixties American CEO's made about twenty times what their average employee earned. That has steadily climbed, through good times and bad, to a multiple of hundreds. While the shop floor folks have seen stagnant wages since the 1970's, the suits have been living the dream.

Any cap on executive compensation is bound to be arbitrary, and there is plenty of room for discussion about what an appropriate cap multiple should be, but it's a debate that society needs to have. There was a time when the phrase "working poor" had all but become an oxymoron, but in America the working poor have been the fastest growing economic category over the past twenty years.

That can be undone. Change can happen in the same incremental way that other social changes have succeeded in capturing the public agenda. Civil rights, women's rights, gay rights; none of these struggles were won on the first go-round. Indeed, all of them remain struggles and should not be taken for granted, but the fact that they are now seen as legitimate issues by a broad spectrum of society tells us that executive comp caps could become a generally accepted concept too.

True, simply capping CEO compensation won't by itself lift the working poor out of poverty. But it is an important symbolic gesture. It signals that at some level we're all in this together. A society that rewards the executive suite with eight-number annual compensation while the shop-floor folks need food stamps to feed their kids needs to change, and shaming the selfish bastards who have brought this situation about is a good start.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mick Jagger plays a mean harp

Check it out.

King Biscuit Boy would approve!

I play a pretty mean harp myself. In fact, there used to be a bar in Guelph called the Chooch. One night I was sitting at the bar and sporadically pulling out my Hohner and bending a few notes.

There was a few biker types in the place. I happened to know one of them as a nearby neighbour. He was loosely affiliated with the Satan's Choice motorcycle club. "Loosely affiliated" would probably be a bit of an understatement.

Many years later the Choice all became full-patch Hells Angels in that great biker corporate merger known as the Ontario patch-over.

Anyway, Buddy passed the hat among his pals, and lo and behold, I got nearly twenty bucks for my harp work! That was my one and only paid gig as a musician!

While I was flattered, I was also a little disconcerted by what he said to me when he handed me the fistful of change and small bills;

you can fuckin stop that shit now or I'm gonna shove that fuckin thing so far up your ass its gonna take ya a week to shit it out.

I stopped.

Why "destination dining" won't lift your stagnant local economy

In his recent brain-wave on bold economic initiatives, ATB senior economist Todd Hirsch posits that struggling local economies should entice celebrity chefs to open restaurants in their communities, to take advantage of the burgeoning new phenomenon of "destination dining."

This is a subset of culinary tourism discovered, or made up by Hirsch, wherein people of means fly to wherever to try out the latest offerings of a celebrity chef.

The reality is that the more famous the celebrity chef, the more likely it is that a goodly percentage of his employees are being severely screwed over. Read up on this lawsuit brought against uber-celeb chef Gordon Ramsey.

At least those folks were being paid something. Here's a peek into the kitchen of famous NYC pizza joint Roberta's. The writer apparently has no clue why anyone would object to working for nothing;

 Plenty of two-, three-, and four-star restaurant kitchens routinely take on volunteer labor, sometimes dozens of aspiring cooks at a time, to the point where there's a fair chance that a few of those behind the line, cooking your dinner, aren't actually on the books.

So Mr. Celebrity Chef comes to town, hires dozens of aspiring cooks to work for free, and this helps the local economy how?

Come on Hirsch, enough with the nonsense!

Not all economists are bullsh*tters

Unfortunately, when dimwits like Todd Hirsch are given a soapbox in Canada's national newspaper of record from which to broadcast their foolishness, the entirety of the dismal science is cast into disrepute.

This tends to obscure the good work done by many fine dismal scientists in colleges and universities around the world. Too often their research produces results that deviate from accepted wisdom, and therefore their work tends to be ignored by mainstream truism peddlers like the Globe and Mail.

Take for example the truism that extending unemployment insurance benefits prevents people from taking jobs. That's an unquestioned nugget of wisdom in conservative policy circles. But is it true?

Some of the best research done on this topic can be found in a paper by Jesse Rothstein, Unemployment Insurance and Job Search in the Great Recession. It's a bit of a slog, in true academic fashion, and has lots of busy charts and graphs, so let me spare you the trouble. Rothstein concludes that yes, there is some minuscule impact on job search, but it is in the range of .1 to .2 percent; for all practical purposes a statistically insignificant amount.

The underlying truth is that virtually everyone would prefer to have a job. Blaming unemployment insurance for joblessness is like blaming aspirin for the common cold. It's unvarnished foolishness, but it is a core article of faith in conservative policy-making circles everywhere.

Economists like Hirsch aren't studying the economy; instead, they use the presumed credibility of their credentials to burnish half-truths in the interest of promoting an anti-worker agenda.

Friday, November 22, 2013

On being "world class"

For fifty years Toronto has aspired to "world class" status.

What does that mean?

Who remembers when Mayor Mel was ruminating about whether the natives would want to toss him in a stew pot when he visited Africa?

That was pretty world-classless.

Now we've got Mayor Ford.

The Toronto press, and especially the Toronto Star, are agog at his antics. In fact, they are so agog at the stain that Ford has besmirched their world class city with that they have fully endorsed the short-circuiting of the democratic process just to get this world-class buffoon out of the picture.

After all, Toronto's reputation as a "world-class" city hangs in the balance.

What nonsense!

The democratic process has tossed up the occasional world-class screw-up from time to time long before Rob Ford hit the front page.

Ford has a ways to go before he matches the boorish buffoonery of Silvio Berlusconi.

Have Berlusconi's foibles prevented tourists from visiting Italy? Have Berlusconi's antics caused head offices to flee from Italy to Luxembourg and Lichtenstein?

Of course not!

Italy remains a serious country and a serious tourist destination in spite of Berlusconi. That's because Italy is a world-class destination that is bigger than the personal peccadilloes of whoever sits in the big chair.

Same goes for Toronto.

More proof that being an economist is still the bullshitters' dream job

I've sounded off on this topic before. Last time round it was all about Todd Hirsch and his plan for the rejuvenation of the American economy.

Todd had it figured out that what was stalling the US economy was the fact that way too many folks were living large on their extended unemployment benefits.

The way Todd saw it, once those malingerers were cut off the dole, necessity would become the mother of invention, and those folks were going to re-invent pizza delivery.

Or something.

Well, Todd remains a senior economist, and he is still full of shit.

Here's his latest effort.

His friend flew from Calgary to Montreal to have a meal at a restaurant.

Ergo, Todd has identified an entirely new economic category.

Destination dining.

Yessiree, that's where folks fly to a destination because a celebrity chef has opened a restaurant there. When celebrity chefs open a place, it obviously becomes a destination restaurant.

Todd seems to think that this is a recipe for economic renewal for communities that have lost their tax base. If Wolfgang Puck or Gord Ramsey had opened a restaurant in Detroit before it was too late, the entire sorry tale of Detroit's demise might have been averted.

Disintegrating communities everywhere can revitalize their economy by attracting celebrity chefs, or even better, growing their own!

Between that and all those redundant middle aged guys reinventing pizza delivery, there is a new golden age of capitalism just around the corner!

What a retard...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Masses shocked as rich get richer

Who knew?

Aren't we all in this together?

Does a rising tide not lift all boats?

Apparently not. Looks like the billionaires are rolling in 25% net worth increases while the rest of us are treading water. Or inhaling water, like those 3,000 shoved overboard off the good ship Thomson-Reuters in the past year.

Maybe a rising tide does lift all boats, but unless you already have a boat you'll probably just drown...

Crunch time for Karzai

Never during Karzai's ascent to power has any serious person doubted that he was anything other than America's flunky in Kabul.

The current debate about the future of US troops in Afghanistan after all US troops leave Afghanistan is just the latest instalment in a long-running charade. In the first instance, the very fact that anyone is having such a debate would make Orwell blush. You're either leaving or you're not.

The privileged classes in Afghanistan know what side of the debate they're on. No one knows better than Karzai himself that a complete withdrawal of the US means the end of the comprador kleptocracy that he has led for over a decade.

At the same time, he needs to preserve at least the appearance of some shadow of Afghan sovereignty. This is mainly for the benefit of the west rather than Afghans. It allows our elites to portray Karzai as something other than a puppet. "Oh look what a hard bargain the man is driving in the name of Afghan sovereignty."

In Afghanistan "the people" know better.

They know that lasting peace will never come with American boots on the ground.

They know that even a "bad" peace is to be preferred over unending war.

They know that "sovereignty" is an empty fraud if it is imposed by a foreign occupier.

And Karzai well knows that they know.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What to do when you find out your neighbour is a mafia boss


And let me tell you why.

These guys are the very best of neighbours.

I didn't even have an inkling that Buddy next door was any sort of Mafia bigwig until I saw him on TV. In fact, when you watch the show, it even had my house in one of the shots!

Now, had I given it more thought, I might have come up with suspicions about Buddy. Middle aged Italian gentleman who dressed nice, didn't appear to have a regular job, went away somewhere warm every November to March, and always drove a Cadillac or a Mercedes - it changed every year.

When you put it like that you'd have to say only a willful idiot didn't see it.

But it wasn't like that at all.

He was the best of neighbours. Liked to mind his business like I mind my own.

The odd time we'd stand and chat for five minutes. Mostly it was just a neighbourly wave as he went about his business and I went about mine.

But then, there was that time I was scalping tickets outside Copps Coliseum... it was the Canada Cup back in ... oh man, 72?  82?...

Anyway, this wasn't anything I did on a regular basis, but a friend had a few extras and so there we were about a block down the street, and there was lots of folks around doing the same thing. Lots of people just happened to have a few extra tickets, and this Canada-Russia shit kinda went viral... people were happy to pay $500 for a ticket with a face value of less than fifty bucks!

And suddenly here is this well-dressed Italian gentleman sidling up the street, and the scalpers scatter. Well, some of them.

The rest of them seem to be friends of his. Then he sees me, and.... holy jumpin'... it's my neighbour!

So we stopped and chatted for a minute. He knew exactly what I was doing. I knew exactly what he was doing. If I hadn't been his innocent next door neighbour, there might have been an issue.

But there wasn't.

Which is why, when you find yourself living next to a middle age Italian guy with no visible means of support but a really nice car, you know you've got nothing to worry about.

Why Trey Radel is not Rob Ford

First of all, lets get this out of the way; both of them blamed booze for their cocaine/crack cocaine use.

Yup, booze will do that to you. That's why we will never make any headway in the WAR ON DRUGS till we include booze in that war. Booze is obviously the gateway drug.

Have a sip today.

Sniff a line tomorrow.

Smoke a rock the day after...

Both of them are tough-on-(black)crime phonies too.

That's how they're the same.

How they're different is that Radel has worn the knees out of his suit pants with all the grovelling he's been doing.

Rob Ford hasn't.

Rob Ford life story to become major motion picture

HarperCollins, the American publishing house, have revealed that they have sold the movie rights to Rob Ford's autobiography, Cracked, the Rob Ford story. Rumour has it that funnyman Ralphie May is being considered for the leading role.

Top Hollywood agents woo Mayor Rob Ford

Scuttlebutt out of Hollywood has it that the cream of the California entertainment establishment have been out-bidding one another to get Rob Ford to sign on the dotted line.

Anonymous sources have revealed that a Rob Ford reality show is already in the works. 

Rob Ford signs million $$ book deal!

US publishing house HarperCollins has announced that it has secured a book deal with rogue Mayor Rob Ford.

Tentatively titled Cracked; the Rob Ford Story, the book is expected to be on the shelves in time for the next mayoral election.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rob Ford goes global

Hadley Freeman offers the finest analysis of the Rob Ford saga that I've seen anywhere, and she's writing in a British paper.

Ford is not just some rogue making a bad name for crack-heads, he's revealing some profound truths about Canada's soul.

Don Cherry's gonna have something to say about that.

Hope Dana White is reading this, because Ford v Cherry could make serious money on pay-per-view. They used to be pals, or at least fellow-travellers, but Don draws the line at a few pops at party time.

We need Hadley to write up Don. He reveals more about Canada than Rob Ford does.

Bolsheviks, Marxists, Stalinists, Trotskyites...

Those are just some of the names serious leftist types like to throw at one another.

These congregations are further sub-divided on the basis of a wide range of internecine rivalries. For example, within the Trotskyist sub-group there are a number of sub sub-groups, who at this remove from the actual living Trotsky appear forever doomed to spend far more of their energy, their political capital, such as it is, on denigrating other Trotskyists rather than bringing down the capitalist order.

That's kinda the way it's gone with the vanguard of the proletariat for the past 50 years. As a guy who came up through shops and factories, shop-floor level, from coast to coast, over the last three decades of the 20th century, that line of debate strikes me as an indulgence of the academic revolutionaries. The Ivory Tower crew who imagine themselves the vanguard of that proletariat.

There is a "greater good" hanging in the balance today. On one side of the balance hangs the greater good, where education and opportunity and a roof and a job are prized.

On the other side of the balance lie endless war, increasing accumulation of wealth among the finance class, more jobless, more homeless, more despair.

Surely all of you know on which side of the balance you stand.

John Baird's super-busy week of hypocrisy

The ever-blustery John Baird announced today that the Canadian taxpayer would contribute ten millions to combat cluster bombs.

You will note in the third paragraph of the link that our principled stand on cluster munitions will on no account be allowed to cast a shadow over our relations with our cluster-bomb-loving best friends and allies, the USA.

Nor does anyone expect our principled stand against cluster munitions to impact in any way our relations with our cluster-bomb-loving besties in Israel, who of course have the inalienable right to defend themselves by saturating southern Lebanon's farm fields and olive groves with cluster bombs.

A few days ago Baird shared the podium at a presser in Kazakhstan with that country's foreign minister, and waxed wise on the shared aspirations of our two great nations. Any serious review of human rights in Kazakhstan concludes that it is a democracy in name only and that its overall human rights record is pretty much right down there with the worst of the worst, BUT HOT DAMN, ARE THEY EVER OPEN FOR BUSINESS!!!

That's the kind of shared values that Canada can take a principled stand on.

Arcade Fire destroy what's left of their coolness factor with clueless act of twattery

It's not enough for the pretentious twats behind the Arcade Fire brand that 20,000 are going to pack the ACC; those 20,000 better dress up for the occasion!

Last show I saw in Toronto was Trent Reznor. I'm guessing he'll still have a following long after these precious pumpkins are forgotten, and he doesn't dictate a dress code to his fans.

Arcade Fire have become WAY too special.....

Celebrating World Toilet Day

It's something we in the developed world take for granted,
and we should justly celebrate the commode, but it's a serious
business for the two and a half billion people who haven't one.

WORLD TOILET DAY | 2.5 billion do not have access to safe, clean toilets

World Toilet Day, India, 2012. AFP
The online news portal of TV5
MANILA/WASHINGTON DC – Today is World Toilet Day and 2.5 billion, or one in three of the world’s seven billion people, still do not have access to safe and clean toilet, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said.
Of this figure, UNICEF said one billion still defecate in the open.
“Access to a safe, clean toilet should be a basic right for everyone, yet 36 percent of the world’s population still lives without them. This has grave implications on people’s health, wellbeing, dignity, as well as on the environment, and social and economic development,” Unicef pointed out.
According to Unicef, today’s celebration of the World Toilet Day “is a chance for advocacy aimed at policy makers and key stake holders.”
“It’s a chance to spread the world about the sanitation crisis and what can be done to address it,” it said.
“The United Nations is alarmed and concerned about the slow and insufficient progress in improving access to basic sanitation facilities around the world,” Unicef said. 
Deaths from diarrhea
But Unicef stressed that having no safe, clean toilets has “consequences.”
Unicef said from 2000 to 2012, the total annual number of deaths from diarrhea among children under 5 had decreased by more than 50 percent, from almost 1.3 million in 2000 to about 0.6 million in 2012.
However, globally, diarrhea still remains the second largest cause of under-five mortality and is responsible for 9 percent of all under-five.
Almost 600,000 children under five die each year – more than 1,600 a day – as a result of diarrhea which is “largely preventable through ”clean toilets, safe water, and good hygiene.”
Globally there are 1.5 billion infections with intestinal nematode infections (worms), affecting one quarter of the world’s population.
Unicef said that school-age children have the highest intestinal worm infection prevalence of any group. An estimated 47 percent of children ages 5-9 in the developing world suffer from a worm infection.
“It is common for a child living in a less developed country to be chronically infected with all three worms - hookworm, whipworm, roundworm. Such children have malnutrition, growth stunting, intellectual retardation, and cognitive and educational deficits,” Unicef said.
But by improving sanitation, the incidence of diarrhea in children below five years old could go down by 36 percent.
Unicef said the transmission of intestinal worms occurs through soil contaminated with feces so this could also be prevented by adequate sanitation and good hygiene practices.
Link between improved toilets and children’s learning
In a related development, according to a new World Bank study, access to improved sanitation can increase children's cognitive skills and low-cost rural sanitation programs can support children's cognitive development.
The policy research paper, entitled "Effects of Early-Life Exposure to Sanitation on Childhood Cognitive Skills," was released Monday ahead of the first official UN World Toilet Day, which falls on Tuesday.
It studied the effects on childhood cognitive achievement of early life exposure to India's Total Sanitation Campaign, a nationwide government program that encouraged local governments to build and promote use of inexpensive pit latrines.
"Our research showed that six-year-olds who had been exposed to India's sanitation program during their first year of life were more likely to recognize letters and simple numbers on learning tests than those who were not," said Dean Spears, lead author of the paper.
"This is important news -- the study suggests that low-cost rural sanitation strategies such as India's Total Sanitation Campaign can support children's cognitive development."

Monday, November 18, 2013

Canadian court orders Elsipogtog First Nation to bend over and spread 'em

Never, never, ever, has there been a single case of environmental damage in the entire history of hydraulic fracturing, as anyone who believes experts like Gwyn Morgan can tell you.

That's why it is incumbent upon us as a greed-crazed, hubris-blinded society to pump poison deep into every square inch of this great land to force that black gold 'n gas to the surface.

There'll be plenty of time to negotiate land claims with First Nations after we're done raping their land.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Latest leaks reveal why they want to keep the TPP negotiations secret

Because it's going to be a great deal for a few conglomerates and a shitty deal for everybody else!

It's also going to give the control freaks in the US an absolute monopoly over policing the internet. You will access the world wide web at their pleasure, and if you're not pleasing them, you'll be out of luck.

The secretive nature of these negotiations gives the impression that what's really going on is a not-so-secret attempt to cobble together an anti-China coalition.

That will not further trade, nor will it further peace.

This is the last gasp of a spent hegemon.

Blogger beats JPost to Israel/Saudi attack on Iran... by two years!

The think tank here at Falling Downs saw a Saudi-instigated attack on Iran coming almost two years ago. That would obviously have to be done with the connivance of other Iran-haters in the neighbourhood. In fact, I fleshed out and shopped around that story with a few more details after Bandar visited Tel Aviv, but alas, there were no takers.

We must have been ahead of the curve, as we often are around here. Today the Sunday Times and Jerusalem Post are all over the story.

I'm actually less enamoured of the story today than I was then. Obama has sent out some strong signals that he is disinclined to rush into such an adventure. Would the two most belligerent US dependencies in the Middle East dare to start this without the backing of the big dog?

Interesting question.

A hundred pictures of Jesus and a stash of gay porn; Grampa's secrets revealed

The dude's been dead for 30 years, so where-ever he reads this blog I'm sure he's having a good laugh.

We're loading up my truck with basement detritus when one of the cousins comes out with a stack of magazines. "I didn't know they had naked wrestling in the Olympics."

I took a look.

Whoa! They might call it wrestling, honey, but that ain't the Olympics...

I've never been much of a porn consumer, gay or otherwise, but I'm guessing nude wrestling magazines from the 40's and 50's would attract a decent dollar in the collector market. Way more than the old Time and Life magazines.

Crazy how you can walk through the remnants of an up-standing citizen's life when they're gone and discover that they were way more than you thought. Bernie was indeed a respected and upstanding citizen. He was also a gay porn aficionado. And somebody in that house had a very healthy appetite for pills and booze...

But enough about that.

Bernie comes alive in that nursing home. In fact, it took mere weeks to find a new love! That revelation was initially received with good humour by the extended family. "Oh how lovely that he has some companionship in his twilight years" and all that sort of thing.

Then he bought the bitch a thousand dollar fur coat!..


She was obviously a tramp and a gold-digger and by God if this was gonna be the way he carries on there would not be a red cent left over for anybody when the old coot kicked the bucket!

Unfortunately the last months of Grampa Bernie's life were consumed with frantic family desperately running interference between him and the gold-digger.

He dropped dead half way through a Leafs game on CBC one Saturday night.

As many of us wish we could when the Leafs are playing on Saturday night.

I suppose you could say his dreams came true!

In spite of the machinations of his heirs, the new gal got to keep the coat.

Letter from Gitmo

Shaker Aamer has been incarcerated without charge at Guantanamo Bay since 2002. AJE published this article today.

November 10, 2013 - It was Halloween ten days ago in the United States. Having spent the last 11 years in US custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, I've learned a fair amount about American culture. I understand that it is customary for people to dress up in masks and embrace different identities for a night. In Camp 5 at Guantanamo, the masks rarely come off.
Take one of our military guards here. Standing 195cm tall at 114k, Biggie is the name that the prisoners have given him. A young soldier in his 20s, Biggie can be both courteous and helpful. He often runs errands for us and speaks to us respectfully. But Biggie is also the most brutal of guards.
In February of this year, my fellow Guantanamo prisoners and I began a hunger strike to protest our indefinite imprisonment without charge. I also routinely stage peaceful sit-ins, refusing to leave my cell or the recreation area.
A procedure known as "Forced Cell Extraction" (FCE) is used to transport protesting prisoners. A typical extraction begins with the FCE team slamming my face into the ground. Four men grab my legs and arms and a fifth takes my head. The team leader pins my feet and arms together behind me at a single point while all the other guards press down on him with their cumulative weight.
Biggie is the FCE team leader on my cellblock. He is the one who nearly breaks my back during each forced extraction. He is also the one who handcuffs me using tight, cutting plastic restraints and then subjects me to a humiliating body search. I'm lucky if Biggie and the FCE team handle me like a sack of potatoes.
I recently confronted Biggie about this contradiction. His only response is that he's "just doing as told".
I often reflect on how Biggie mirrors his country's contradictions. Elected American officials labeled me and the other prisoners here as "the worst of the worst". They called us "terrorists". Yet, despite these claims, I have not been charged with a single crime nor has any evidence been presented to support my imprisonment these long years. In fact, I have been cleared for release by both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Of course, Guantanamo does not define me. I arrived here bound at the hands and feet, blacked-out goggles covering my eyes, and expecting death. But up until that point, I had been an English teacher, a translator, a volunteer with a humanitarian group, a resident of Great Britain, a husband, and a father of four.
I know who I am. I ask the American people which face they wish to choose for their country - the good or the bad. I pray that Americans do not continue to allow fellow human beings to suffer such atrocities in the name of their security. I dream that they will find the strength to peacefully challenge those in power. And I hope that their actions are shown more humanity than ours have seen.

Why Canada needs a Charter of Economic Rights

Here's something for the 400 soon-to-be unemployed Heinz workers in Leamington to mull over.

According to Forbes, Warren Buffett is the world's 4th richest man, with a net worth of 53 billion dollars.

Jorge Lemann is the world's 33rd richest man, with a net worth of 18 billion dollars.

Just to put a billion dollars in perspective, a typical Heinz employee in Leamington would have to work for 20,000 years to make a billion dollars.

Warren stands tall at 83 years old, atop a 53 million dollar loot-pile

Jorges loot-pile is barely half that size.

Warren and Jorge have joined forces to buy the HJ Heinz company with a view to making themselves more money.

Because apparently they don't have enough.

This will be achieved by deploying the usual slash-and-burn strategies that have enriched hedge-fund shitbags for generations. Every dollar that can be leveraged out of a worker's pocket and diverted into the obscenely engorged wallets of Warren and Jorge is a step in the right direction.

Whether that destroys workers, their families, and their communities is quite irrelevant. It's all about "efficiency," don't you know?


It's all about making obscenely rich people richer.

The layoffs and plant consolidations looming at Heinz contribute nothing of value to the overall economy. The Lemann-Buffett rape of HJ Heinz is a prime example of non-productive economic activity.

For starters, profits on non-productive economic activity should be taxed at a rate of 100%.

That would de-incentivize the Lemanns and Ackmans and Romneys of the world.

They could turn their attention to doing something useful for society!

Beyond that, as a society we need to get away from the idea that "democracy" is about nothing more than voting for one party or another every few years. Democracy should value the interests of ALL members of the society. We need to put the interests of the worker in Leamington on a par with the interests of Buffett or Lemann making their next billion.

Without economic democracy there is no democracy at all.

In the meantime, this is one household that is going to muddle through without using any HJ Heinz products from here on in.

Hope you do the same in your household.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Say good-bye to nxxxxx work

As everybody who reads the business pages knows by now, Capitalist Icon Warren Buffet has put paid to the concept of regular folks making a decent wage at the Heintz plant in Ontario.


Warren and his hedgie partners realize that real nxxxxxs will work for way less than the 25 bucks an hour that the Canadian nxxxxxs were getting.

What a genius that man is!

This blog post has been edited by the Farm Manager. Dee will not be permitted on the computer again until he washes his racist potty mouth out with soap and promises to stop tossing the n-word around with reckless abandon.

Bullying the big fat bully

There is no question that Rob Ford is a bully. He bullied his way on to city council, and he bullied his way into the mayoralty.

When pictures like the above show up on the front page of the Toronto Star, what are they doing?

They are bullying the bully.

He is a big fat misogynistic slob.

We can relentlessly expose his every foible.

Apparently that's OK when you are the voice of liberal Canada. We can bully Rob Ford because he is a bully. There has been way too little comment on the bullying of Ford amidst all the schadenfreude over his self-destruction.

He is a big fat bully and he deserves all the bullying he gets.

The same media outlets that have been devoting pages upon pages to Rob Ford's downward spiral are as usual silent on issues of far greater import. Here are just a few topics that the Star could choose to put on their front page;

  • how are things going in Attawapiskat?
  • how is that youth unemployment crisis coming along?
  • how is that youth suicide crisis on the reservations coming along?
  • how is it that the native suicide rate is eight times that for white folks?

Those are just a few questions that the Toronto Star might devote its first eight pages to. Instead, they are steadfast in their "get Ford" vendetta.

Forget Ford. 

There are real life-and-death issues in this country.

A hundred pictures of Jesus; Grampa's secrets III

Grampa McMahon does OK at the funeral of his wife of 60 years.

Goes home and shuts down.

By "shuts down" I mean he went back to the home he had shared with his Heintzman girl for sixty years. Stopped eating. Stopped drinking. Stopped looking after himself.

Stopped living.

They found him on the floor in a coma a week later. All but dead. Had a leg amputated just to keep him alive.

Put him in a home.

The dreamer and the Weston's VP had different ideas on how to handle Bernie.

But they finally agreed that he belonged in a "home".

Bernie goes to a home, and the rest of us set about clearing out the house.

I was the only family member with a truck, so I was front and centre for the clean-up.

For many years no visitors to the McMahon household had been permitted beyond the front room. The front room had plastic on the couch cushions and a picture of Jesus on the wall.

Finally we were able to get past the front room.

Pictures of Jesus everywhere.

Egg cartons and newspapers and magazines everywhere, once you got past the front room.

They were big-time hoarders.

You got down to the basement, and besides the newspapers and magazines piled so high you could barely navigate your way through, there were hundreds if not thousands of empty gin bottles.

And pill bottles.

Apparently these pillars of the catholic community had spent the last fifty years ginned up, pilled up, and generally fucked up as they dictated morality to the rest of the community, as devout Catholics are wont to do.

I made five or six trips to the Cambridge landfill with the box of my pick-up truck filled with old magazines. I took hundreds and thousands of Life, Look, Time, and Newsweek magazines from the 30's to the 70's to the landfill, as well as thousands of empty pill and liquor bottles.

Not two weeks later I was walking through the Stone Road Mall, and a bunch of nostalgia merchants had set up their kiosks in the place. They were selling magazines from the 30's on up, from five bucks on up.

It suddenly occurred to me that in the past month I'd taken a couple of million dollars worth of nostalgia to the landfill...

...more soon.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hollande the Conqueror sees record low poll numbers

He's down to a 15% approval rating in the latest poll.

So obviously that's the guy who has the cred to veto any deal with Iran on their nuke program.

There may have been a sympathy element in Hollande's initial approval ratings. After all, he took the baton from King Sarko, the dim-witted twat who imagined he was still leading Gaulist France.

It was assumed that Hollande knew better.

What have been his accomplishments?

An absolutely ill-advised foray into Mali, advised by his consiglieri BHL. Mali was going to earn Hollande his spurs, according to Bernard-Henri Levi.

Instead, Mali has produced a few dead Frenchmen, lots more dead Malians, and a growing quagmire that shows no signs of abating.

Meanwhile, the consiglieri and the President have shown no interest in interventions in situations that are even more dire than Mali.

The Central African Republic for example.

Yet Hollande is allowed to use his imaginary credibility to scuttle a deal with Iran at the Geneva talks?

There is obviously more going on here than we see.

Obamacare; it's all about the money

Guess who had that insight well over a year ago?

Yup, yours truly, who ditched the prevailing winds in cutting-edge big-pharma-phuck-you-up-industrial health care years ago for a strict medical marijuana regimen.

How's that working out?

I'm still here, aren't I?

Notice I also mentioned that "Wall Street loves it."

And that is the problem with Yankee health care.

I truly believe that Obama originally imagined his health-care reforms would result in a genuine single-payer publicly funded health-care system, just as Hilary had entertained the same fantasy before him.

Alas, that is not a system that Wall Street could EVER love. The mere thought that some pathetic broke sick fuck with no insurance could walk into a hospital and get state-of-the-art health care is well beyond the pale in America.


True single-payer would pretty much eliminate the private health-care sector. That's a big slice of the US economy. How can you even imagine putting people out of business who are in business to deny you health care?

And that is the fundamental reality of for-profit health care. There is no profit in providing health care. There is only profit in the denial of health care. Obviously, the private health care sector has an over-the-moon vested interest in preserving the status quo.

And so far they are winning.

Grampa's secrets II

So Bernie and the bride lived a happy and prosperous life there in downtown Preston. Time went on and they married off their two uber-talented daughters. The elder one hooked up with a young lad who was going places at Electrohome, the TV and electronics manufacturer in nearby Kitchener.

The younger one hooked up with the milkman.

That was in an era when the milkman drove a horse and wagon round to your house every day to deliver milk and bread. Bernie and the bride weren't too keen on that match-up. At least Mr. Electrohome had some prospects.

The years went by. Each of those sacred unions produced five children. Bernie and the bride were grand-parents ten times over!

Alas, things were not what they originally seemed. That up-and-coming young fellow at Electrohome turned out to be a bit of a dreamer. Left Electrohome to chase a dream, then another one, and then another one after that.

The milkman, on the other hand, soon graduated from the milk wagon to a junior exec spot in the bread company whose product he'd been peddling from that wagon. It was a company called Weston's Bread. By the early '80's he was a VP at one of the biggest conglomerates in the land, and indeed believed himself to be in line for the presidency of the corporation.

By then Bernie was long retired from his sales route. In fact, that entire travelling salesman gig had pretty much faded into the mists of time. Folks who ran hardware stores mostly were attached to hardware chains by then. When they needed stuff they called head office, not some guy who visited once a week. The times had changed.

But life was good. Bernie and the bride kept up appearances. They were gentle and generous people.

Then the bride died.

Just like that.

From perfect health to deader than dead in a heartbeat.

It's always surprised me how everybody acts completely surprised when somebody well into their 9th decade kicks the bucket. What do they think is gonna happen? People get old and then they die.

When the bride died nobody was more surprised than Bernie.

He kept up appearances throughout the funeral celebrations. "Celebration" may be the wrong word, but you know what I mean. All the well-meaning relations bring in tons of cole slaw and potato salad. People you haven't seen in twenty years throw their arms around you.

We bade our farewells after the wake, promised to be in touch soon, and that was that.

Left Bernie to his own devices.

.... more soon.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Grampa's secrets

Got to know Barnard because he was the grampa of one of my ex's.

Old Irishman.


Him and his bride, a Heintzman, met while working at a piano factory. Or at least that was one of the stories I heard.

Barnard went on to become a professional hard wares salesman, travelling across and around the province of Ontario paying sales calls to hardware stores in towns and cities large and small. A life straight out of Robertson Davies.

Or Alice.

She does owe him a rather large debt.

He legitimized south Ontario as a world worthy of literature.

But I digress.

So Bernie McMahon marries this Heintzman gal and they buy a brand new house in the charming town of Preston, sometime in the 1920's, when they were both in their twenties. Bernie musta done good in his sales world. He came to be a pillar-of-the-community type. On the school board, big deal at the Knights, etc.

Bernie and his bride raise two beautiful daughters in that house. Both of the daughters were exceptionally talented, and were minor local TV celebrities before they hit their teens!

........... more soon.

Tommy Chong gets religion, becomes prominent rabbi in Holy Land

Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak

Tommy now and then; as Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak today, and as famous 70s pot-head.

The venerable Tommy Chong has resurfaced in Haifa, Israel, where he now styles himself a ultra-orthodox rabbi.

The aging pot-head has certainly not lost his wicked sense of humour. Yesterday he decreed that it was immoral for women to drive, on account of that it causes them to expose themselves.

I know what he means. I tagged along with my buddy Kipling once on a grape-fruit run to Florida. You would not believe what otherwise respectable gals are willing to reveal to the boys in the big rigs up and down the I-95!

I was shocked!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Killing Ahmed

In 2004 the IDF killed Ahmed Yassin with a Hellfire missile strike that also killed a number of bystanders. Yassin was an octogenarian in a wheelchair. While the civilized world would generally look askance at firing a Hellfire at an old guy in a wheelchair, the IDF was given a pass because Yassin was a senior Hamas boffin.

The IDF remained the most moral army in the world.

Eight years later, Ahmed Jabari was one of the first casualties of  the 2012 attack on Gaza. Jabari was a senior Hamas figure. He died on a Wednesday. Until the preceding Tuesday, he had been involved in "peace" talks with Israel. While the civilized world would generally look askance at murdering one's peace partners, the IDF was given a pass because Jabari was a senior Hamas boffin.

The IDF remained the most moral army in the world.

In between those two murders was Operation Cast Lead. The debut operation of Cast Lead was to attack a graduation ceremony of Gaza traffic cops. Gaza traffic cops are trained to manage traffic in Gaza, and God knows they need more of those. Gaza traffic cops do not launch missiles into Israel. Traffic cops are in no way a legitimate military target. The IDF was given a pass because Gaza traffic cops are issued sidearms, and they are Palestinians, so obviously they are legitimate targets.

The IDF remained the most moral army in the world.

How far will we stretch the concept of "morality" before we admit that there are no moral armies anywhere in the world?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Selling out Palestine for a blow job?

Way back when Arafat was kept waiting 20 minutes for his meeting with Big Bill, nobody had any idea that the great leader was being kept on ice because the other great leader was busy getting a blow-job from a 19 year old intern.

As it turned out, that may have been more or less true.

But today we are led to believe that Tzipi Livni has been corrupting the Palestinian negotiating team with her favours.

Livni is a very nice middle of the road Israeli politician who couches her anti-palestinian views in disarming rhetoric.

This story sounds like Hamas propaganda.

Or Likud propaganda.

Remembrance Day


the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

we celebrate them still

the farm boys and the factory hands

looking for a way out

a way ahead


a way to get away

and they found it

in the boot camps and the barracks and the trenches

was it everything they'd dreamed

those innocent dreamers?

or was it everything they feared

boredom and

more boredom

more boredom

and then the fear

sheer pants-soiling fear

day after night after day

in those maggot infested ditches

the boredom and the fear

day after week

after month

after year

in those maggot infested ditches

until one last time the order came

over the top

for God and King

over the top for God

and the Kaiser

over the top

chin down

bayonet fixed

finger on the trigger



sheer pants-shitting fear

but choke it back

you're on the attack

and nothing can be worse than

those rat-infested trenches

onward to glory!

for God and...

the end

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Here's why Hollande the Conqueror suddenly remembered he couldn't trust Iran

There they were in Geneva, all the NATO big dogs meeting with the Persians, hammering out a long-sought-after agreement to curb their nuclear development efforts. With the exception of Netanyahu dashing madly from one news conference to another delivering the same anti-Iranian rant, things were going swimmingly.

Then this fly landed in the ointment. France suffers ratings downgrade! Mon dieu! Just as France is shopping for a five-billion euro loan to pay for a bank bailout!

Bad enough that the forces of Hollande the Conqueror have been sweeping the Islamists out of Goa every other week for nearly a year, but now their credit rating has been bashed!

Hmmm... where to get hands on five billion euros now? Luckily, Hollande the Accountant remembered that four of the world's top ten sovereign wealth funds belong to Sunni fiefdoms in the Gulf! Who do those Sunnis hate even more than Jews?

The Shia!


Maybe if I can throw a spanner into these talks, they'll overlook this business about our credit rating?...

And before you can say "spurs and low-interest loans for Hollande," the French delegation announced that they just simply couldn't bring themselves to trust Iran.


If you're not acquainted with it yet, here's a new tune from Canadian music icon Brian Adams, just in time for November 11th.

Let's leave aside the hoary sentimentalism represented by a choir of wives left behind as their men go off to war - that is so 100 years ago.

Let's focus instead on the lyrics;

...hear the battle cry
see the Ric-A-Dam-Doo
It's the flag of freedom in the air
Always glorious, victorious
Standing shoulder to shoulder till the end

That's a jingoism as dated as the gender stereotypes that inform the very concept of the song. The Van Doo's most recent posting in Afghanistan was not glorious, nor was it victorious. In fact, it brought freedom to no one, made widows of a few of those wives left behind, and killed or maimed dozens of Van Doo.

Why? So that a clique of political leaders, men who have never served in the CF and whose experience of warfare is limited to watching Full Metal Jacket on TV, can strut about on the world stage as fully-made combatants in the War on Terror.

What disturbs me about the annual "remembrance" ceremonies is that for all the claims that we are honouring the sacrifices of those who gave their lives for our "freedom," we're not really. We're celebrating war.

War is glorious. We're always victorious, even when we're not, because we are the good guys, and our flag is the flag of freedom.

In 1914 tens of thousands of Canadians were among the millions who gave their lives so a few spatting Royal Families in Europe could sort things out amongst themselves. It was the war to end all wars.

Barely twenty-five years later they held another war to end all wars to tie up the loose ends left by the first. Tens of millions more gave their lives. Alas, that was not the war to end all wars either, and we've been fighting for peace in one country or another ever since.

This new song does have one redeeming feature; all proceeds will be donated to assisting soldiers suffering from PTS syndrome and other issues. The government that never tires of basking in the refracted glory of "the troops" has been steadily eroding the supports it provides for them.

They fought for our freedom so they can rely on charity when they get home.

Netanyahu urges caution over Iran nuke deal

When I noticed the Israeli PM was going to be on Face the Nation I immediately thought, great!.. we're going to get an update on how those peace talks are going with the Palestinians, straight from the horse's mouth!

Alas, it was not to be. Guest host Nora O'Donnell steered clear of the pesky Palestinian question and instead quizzed the PM on his thoughts about the Iranian nuclear negotiations.

As journalism goes, this was an exercise in redundancy. Is it possible than anyone on the planet does not already know Netanyahu's thinking on the question of Iran's nuclear programme? After all, Netanyahu is practically the grandfather of the Iranian nuke scare, having first raised the alarm that Iranian scientists were months away from a nuclear weapon more than twenty years ago.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu's advice to the Western negotiators in Switzerland is well worth heeding. Lets not rush into anything. Just as Israel has avoided rushing back to those pre '67 borders for over 45 years, so the NATO negotiating team should take their time easing sanctions on Iran.

While it is always drollery of the highest order to hear Netanyahu invoke the sanctity of UN resolutions, I have to say I'm with him on this one. Iran would not be the first country in history to claim its nuclear energy program is for peaceful purposes only, until one day, SURPRISE!

Netanyahu knows whereof he speaks.

Friday, November 8, 2013

It's open season for bullying Rob Ford

It's OK to bully bullies.

That was my MO back in the day when I got lean and mean and was able to turn the tables on a few of the guys who had bullied me back in high school.

How do you like it now?

Nobody here at Falling Downs has ever been a Rob Ford fan. But the Toronto Star anti-Ford campaign has given us pause.

Today the Farm Manager opined that "they're driving him to suicide, or at least a heart attack."

You don't have to look at too many pictures of Rob Ford to realize that the heart attack is just a matter of time.

But the suicide will only be the result of the ceaseless hounding by the free press.

Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

gone, gone...the damage done

It took me a long time to realize what a mensch Neil Young was.

Back in the day, I was busy buying records by Dylan and Deep Purple and Black Sabbath...

The damage done...

I knew a few guys who had gone down the H highway.

It was a great gig till it wasn't, and by then you were dead.

Got to thinking about that last week when it came out that Lou Reed had gone to his reward. Lou kept on keeping on, writing songs about the big H his whole life. Most of his listeners never figured out what he was on about.

I have to admit I didn't give Neil his due till the story came out that Bob had been sniffing around Winnipeg looking for Neil Young's boyhood home.

I'd once spent an entire day sniffing around Winnipeg looking for a house that was on the cover of a Guess Who album.

Never found it. Retreated back to my room at the Oxford Arms in the bleakest of black depressions. Had I known then that Bob Dylan would someday spend an afternoon looking for Neil's house, I would have kept looking for that Guess Who album cover house.

But that was then...

Panic as peace threatens Israel

Today's news out of Geneva sent shock waves through the Likud ranks.

Word that the US and the EU are considering easing sanctions on Iran led PM Netanyahu to convene an emergency meeting of the Security Cabinet.

Falling Downs operatives with access to Likud insiders report the party is in crisis;

There is an absolute dread that without the "existential threat" gambit that Iran so conveniently provided under Ahmadinejad, we will be forced to talk about those people. The ones who don't exist. Only a few days ago we promised the people who don't exist secure borders along the line of the security barrier, and we further promised to build them thousands of new homes in East Jerusalem, not for them of course, because after all, they don't exist. Today's news changes everything!

Netanyahu rushed to hospital with ruptured anal aperture

PM Netanyahu was rushed to Hadassah Medical Centre today.

Doctor Shlomo Finkelbein, the Prime Minister's personal physician, briefed the press;

When the Prime Minister heard the news that there was progress in Geneva, he had what is colloquially known as a "shit hemorrhage." Clinically speaking, his blood pressure elevated to such an astonishing level that it caused the sidewalls to blow out of his lower intestine. 

Watch Mayor Ford take a crap!

The Toronto Star has obtained a video from anonymous sources that shows an obviously drunk Mayor Ford having a bowel movement.

Confidential sources who have seen the video claim the Mayor may have been smoking crack cocaine too! While the context is unknown it is obvious that the potty-cam got the goods on the Mayor, who appears to be saying "good riddance, Blair," as he reaches for the flusher handle, although the audio is not very clear according to the sources.

The Star is rumoured to have a standing offer of $100,000 for any video that shows Ford in an embarrassing light, so we should be in for many more yucky laughs at the Mayor's expense in the days and weeks ahead!

Thank God for press freedom!

And thank God for those indefatigable investigative journalists at the Toronto Star who are relentless in their determination to get to the bottom of things.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Saudis to invest billions in training "good" Syrian rebels

Apparently the House of Saud aren't the sort to walk away from a bad bet.

Instead, they're gonna double down.


The pouty Western powers don't like the AQ crew we've flooded Syria with, we'll flood the country with jihadists who have had the appropriate sensitivity training. In addition to teaching our recruits how to chant "death to America," we will henceforth teach them to sing "Jesus loves me."

That will show the world that our guys are not scary at all, and that even though they hate America they love Jesus.

That should do it!

What other politicians can learn from Rob Ford's crash & burn

At this point there can't be much left of Ford's political career, at least in the short-term. Sure, he might be able to pull off a Marion Barry and come back from the edge to haunt us for many years down the road, but for now he's finished.

So where did it all go wrong?

In the first place, if you've got a high political profile and like to "party", if that's what it is, then you better be damned sure there's a foolproof firewall between you and the public. Hire a bunch of tee-totalling Mormons to run interference. Don't surround yourself with drug-dealers and petty criminals, who see you as their meal ticket no matter how far back your history in the 'hood goes. Ford is hardly the first politician to smoke crack or get drunk, but mostly they are savvy enough to keep it off the front page.

Secondly, don't pick fights with major media. Ford made his contempt for the media more than obvious from the beginning of his mayoralty campaign. They returned the favour. More than a few reporters see bringing down Ford as their ticket to the big-time, or at least a paying job.

Finally, remember that the public loves fallible politicians but they hate liars. If unsavoury shit leaks out, and it's true, and you know it's true, don't deny it. By denying it you look bad now and worse later. 'Fess up right away and court the sympathy bounce.

If all else fails, here's an even better strategy; don't be such an asshole in the first place!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Honouring God's bagman in China

A week ago Foreign Minister John Baird stood on a podium in Vancouver and made a lovely speech about the centrality of human rights in the Canadian identity. The occasion was the third annual John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award Ceremony.

Mr. Baird made his speech mere blocks from a downtown neighbourhood where dozens of native women have gone missing over the years.

The recipient of the Diefenbaker award this year was Cardinal Joseph Zen, a Catholic. Seems Catholics win this award every year!

Not that there is anything wrong with that. Many Catholic advocates for human rights have sacrificed their lives advocating for the rights of the indigenous and poor people in places like Honduras and Colombia, countries with which Canada has recently concluded trade agreements. Their advocacy is a part of something once called "liberation theology."

This is not the sort of advocacy for which Cardinal Zen was being honoured. He is more of a political theologian, and what he primarily wants to liberate is the Chinese masses from the horrors of communism. To that end he was embroiled a few years ago in a scandal in which it was revealed that he had used the church to funnel millions of dollars from Hong Kong billionaire Jimmy Lai to "underground churches" on the mainland.

Ironically, Lai made his original fortune by exploiting Chinese workers in garment sweatshops. There is no record of Cardinal Zen proclamations in favour of the rights of exploited garment workers.

The original Diefenbaker recipient was Reverend Ben Yoon, who runs a South Korean NGO largely funded by the National Endowment for Democracy whose mission is to bring freedom and democracy to North Korea. The NED is a "non-government organization" financed entirely by the US government.

That's another irony.

Where freedom and democracy gain a beach-head, low wage sweatshops are sure to follow.

One might wonder if these people are being rewarded for standing up for human rights, or if they are being rewarded for promoting unfettered capitalism.

It's almost as if some rights are considered righter than others here in the most righteous nation of nations.

Only a couple of weeks before Baird's speech, James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur for the rights of indigenous people toured the same neighbourhood as part of his cross-country investigation of the plight of First Nations people in Canada. He called on the government of which Baird is a Minister to launch an inquiry into the fate of the hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Anaya also called on the federal government to launch a "comprehensive and nationwide" inquiry into the case of missing and murdered aboriginal women, something the federal government has so far refused to do.

If we're half as keen on human rights as we like to let on, would we not expect our government to jump on this recommendation?

After all, aren't aboriginal women human too?