Friday, January 31, 2014

Winter blues

Back when I toiled in the Budd plant in Kitchener there was a shorthand used to refer to your co-workers.

We worked among Rastamen and Polskies and Ukes and Newfs and Frenchies and Krauts.

Every Portugese guy was known as Goose or Magellan or Vasco de Gamma.

One night after second shift let out we headed for the all-night liquor store in Stratford. A couple of home boys and a couple of Rastas in Frenchy's Javelin, with Frenchy driving.

I don't know to this day whether there actually was an all-night liquor store in Stratford, but we almost died trying to find out.

I do recall there was a 24 hour beer store in Toronto. We did make it there one night.

But Frenchy's Javelin ended up in the ditch on its roof that winter night, with five thirsty guys just getting thirstier.

Winter blues.

There's something about winter that makes desperation more desperate.

Me and Kipling headed out west to make our fortune in the dead of one winter. Went in the ditch 50 miles east of Winnipeg. Went in the ditch at a high rate of speed while I was both napping and driving simultaneously.

Winter blues.

If you're watching this at home, kids, don't drive and nap simultaneously.

It's not a happy thing.

There was a Neil Young song popular at the time that glorified going to Alberta. I think most of us were just going to Alberta because Neil Young had sung a song about it...

Years later me and Terry ran out to Calgary in the dead of winter. Lost a wheel bearing somewhere around Bumfuck Manitoba in the middle of the night when it was -40 degrees outside.

You can't fix a wheel bearing without going outside.

-40 is really fucking cold!

Winter blues.

Winter adventures.

The Kid still swears that the best day of his life, and he's had an awful pile of great ones, was the day I picked him up at the hospital in Vegreville, in the dead of winter, and we toured all the way into the foothills and beyond, all the way to Mount Robson, him with his bottle of pills and me with my case of beer, and we ended up in Edmonton totally fucked up and just in time for a Triumph concert.

In the dead of winter.

Winter blues.

Canadian Brigadier General held in Afghan jail on gun-running charges

Former Canadian military big Brigadier General Daniel Menard has been pantsed with a stash of 129 undocumented automatic weapons in Afghanistan.

Brigadier General Menard took early retirement recently, following a pants-off scandal involving some underlings. Hey, that's why they're called "underlings". Why else would a man devote his life to climbing the career ladder in the Canadian Forces?

Menard now works for GardaWorld, one of the pre-eminent global mercenary forces, so expect two things;

1) a really short investigation
2) a complete exoneration

Brigadier General Menard will be out and about in no time at all!

When the left-commentariat is this boring, it's no wonder we watch Fox News

Louis Proyect is an old-school radical with a bountiful CV and a thirst for truth and justice.

But read this and tell me he hasn't become a tool in the arsenal of anti-left propaganda.

Dude, you are literally boring people to death. And the tragedy of this is the people you are boring to death want to agree with you.

Proyect will forever be haunted by the petty internecine squabbles that destroyed the organized left over the course of the 20th century.

I recall many a local election in Guelph when the voters had to make a choice between candidates from the three traditional parties and half a dozen radical parties. You'd have your Marxists and your Communists and your Trotskyites and your Socialists and your Marxist Socialists and Trotskyist Marxists and blah blah blah ad infinitum.

Long story short, had all those radical parties presented a unified list they might have made an impact. As it was, they spent all their political capital undercutting one another and then had nothing left for the real fight.

Anyway, the man writes intelligently about jazz and film history and he's obviously a good guy.

But for fuck's sakes, give up the petty squabbles with those who may have supported the "wrong" strand of radicalism at some point in their careers.

There is a greater good.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Arabs in Israel? Jews in Palestine? Why not?

First off, I have no time for the ages-old rhetoric about all Arabs having a right to live in their usurped homeland, or it's obverse; all Jews having a right to live where they want in the land God promised them.

With all due respect to the Almighty, as long as He in His wisdom is not physically manifest on this earth directing traffic, I am more than a little suspicious of those on all sides who claim to speak for Him.

Netanyahu recently set off a bit of a shitstorm with the unguarded comment that some settlers might happily choose to remain on the other side of the fence after the two states have been established. (In 3014?)

This comes pretty close to being evidence for a long-held fear; that things are swinging so far to the right in Israel that Netanyahu is now considered a moderate.

But stop being hysterical for a moment and give it some thought. True, it's not been a happy last 65 years or so between the Arabs and the Jews. Then again, you don't have to dial the time machine too far back to witness unparalleled butchery between the French and the Germans, or the Russians and the Poles, or the Poles and the Germans, etc, etc...

And what are they now? Three of the four are partners in the EU and the other is their happy accomplice in commerce.

Ultimately it will not be up to Israel to decide who will live in Palestine, just as it is not up to the Palestinians to determine who has the right to live in Israel. It is the inalienable right of a sovereign state to determine who may and may not live within its borders.

So in the event that an agreement can be reached, and there are settlers who for whatever reason are content to remain where they are, and the PA or whatever leadership entity emerges from that morass is amenable, then why not?

After all, ethnic purity and ethnic cleansing are so last-century.

How Bill Ackman and Hunter Harrison are destroying CP Rail

Financial media in Canada and beyond are singing the praises of CP Rail CEO Hunter "Hitman" Harrison after the stellar Q4 results posted yesterday.

And while the results may be stellar, the overall tone of unbridled adulation is unwarranted. Spend five minutes with a pencil and a scratch-pad and you'll see there are essentially two factors that account for Harrison's stellar results.

One is that Harrison is running the railroad with roughly 4,500 fewer employees. That's an annual payroll saving of somewhere north of $300m/year.

Harrison isn't the first business leader to come up with the idea of making fewer people do more work. What was quintessentially Canadian about previous CEO Fred Green was that he could have done the same thing but chose not to. I don't want to over-generalize and make this a contrast between US and Canadian management philosophies; there are certainly American entrepreneurs who have stopped short of squeezing the very last nickel out of every employee, just as there are Canadians who do, but on the whole, the slash and burn mentality is more American than it is Canadian.

The other factor is the exponential rise in crude-by-rail. Crude traffic has absolutely exploded for CP Rail, pun intended. That scratch pad should tell you that at 700 barrels of crude in a tank wagon at ten bucks a barrel for the average trip times the increase in crude traffic is good for another half billion or so per year.

You just solved the Ackman-Harrison miracle.

So Canada has 4,500 fewer well-paying jobs and CP Rail has a record cash hoard on hand of about $500 millions. Judging by the stories out there, the Ackman-Harrison management team intends to solve that problem with either a share buy-back or a special dividend. Either way, it's a gift the shareholders are giving themselves, and the biggest shareholder is Ackman's Pershing Square hedge fund.

While they're looting the cash reserves, Canada's rail infrastructure needs tens of billions of dollars in upgrades. A responsible corporate citizen would be investing the surplus in upgrading the infrastructure, not lining its own pockets.

Instead, Harrison, the guy who got a $50 million signing bonus for agreeing to do Ackman's dirty work, and Ackman, who was permitted by the government to rape this iconic Canadian company with a mere 14% shareholding, are roundly applauded by the sycophantic business media.

It'll be a great success story till one of those exploding crude trains takes out the downtown of a major city.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Open veins of Latin America

I first encountered Open Veins of Latin America when I had the good fortune of having Professor Jorge Neff for a course in international development at the University of Guelph in the early '80s. Neff referenced the book constantly, and by the end of the course my views on economic development had been irrevocably altered.

Eduardo Galeano and Professor Neff convinced me that under-development in the "third world" was indeed the inevitable result of the model of capitalist development that evolved during the industrialization of the "first world." Reading the book again thirty years later, and more than forty years after it was first published, I realize that while much has changed, the underlying dynamic between centers of power and the rest of the world remains the same.

One thing that has changed is that at the present moment there seems to be a critical mass of Latin American countries rejecting the domination of American interests over their economies. At the time Open Veins was written, virtually the entirety of Latin America was governed by dictators who served at the pleasure of their Washington overlords. Today many of those societies have successfully used the ballot box to elect leaders who are less cozy with the US and more likely to put the needs and aspirations of their own populations ahead of the interests of foreign multinationals.

In that respect it is tempting to conclude that things have changed, that a long struggle has been won. That would be an unwarranted conclusion. Events in Honduras in 2009 and Paraguay in 2012 remind us that the hegemon remains keenly interested in Latin America. The many US-sponsored "democracy promotion" NGOs active in the region attest to that.

Another change that Galeano could not have anticipated is the de-industrialization of the US itself. Vast swaths of America's industrial heartland have suffered a process of un-development. As a result, in many cases the standard of living among the working class is now comparable to what we not long ago considered "third world" levels.

Almost forty-five years after its publication, Open Veins of Latin America remains a relevant and highly readable indictment of an economic system that impoverishes the many to appease the insatiable greed of the few.

Erdogan wags terror dog in Syria

Various news sites are reporting that Turkish fighter jets have attacked a terrorist convoy across the border in Syria.

At first blush this seems quite a turnaround for Turkey, whose political elite has actively nourished the Syrian rebels thus far. Has there been a change of heart?

No, Erdogan is merely borrowing a well-thumbed page from Netanyahu's playbook; whenever the flames of domestic politics are getting uncomfortably warm, distract the populace with a brazen diversionary tactic.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

2014 State of the Union Poem

thank you
thank you

a teacher
an entrepreneur
an autoworker
a farmer
a doctor

give thanks for being home
from a war

you make our union strong

adding jobs
adding oil

this can be a breakthrough year for America!

faith and credit

rebuild the trust

invest in
the future

hopes, aspirations
what unites this nation?

opportunity for all!

those at the top have rarely done better
upward mobility
has stalled

too many
have stalled


the ladders of opportunity

lets move
lets join forces
lets help every hard working kid

go to college

millions are tired
of stale

millions are tired

millions have given up

the son of a single mom

isn't every man
the son of a single mom?

lets flip equations
create jobs
turn things around
right here at home

create jobs
rebuild infrastructure

as fast as possible

create hubs
to lead the world

we own the edge
we cannot surrender

industries to be built on vaccines
and paper stronger than steel
and innovation stronger than

i'll get those factories built
and strengthen protection

of air

and water

and future generations

it's not oil and gas
it's smarter tax policy
that builds the future

cleaner safer fracking
cleaner safer pollution
we are still the worst
but we are the best

the dirtiest, but the

time to heed the call

immigration reform

will shrink our economy
and make us more attractive

lets get it done!


train americans
right now

train on the job
put him in jail
if he smokes a joint

employment insurance
a month ago
i wrote a letter
and now i'm on tv

give em a chance
give em a chance

give every child a chance
at a world class education
at world class prices

race to the top
critical thinking
more challenges
better parents
but its worth it!

that has to change

race to the top
for our youngest

race to the bottom
for the rest

partner the rest
with google
and apple
and the leading

too many will see this
as empty promise

we need to restore
the dignity of hard work

if not the pay

women deserve
equal pay
so lets do away
with the difference

lets make sure
every woman succeeds

americans agree;

no one who works
should be in poverty

therefore i ask
that employers be nice
and raise wages

and when you're making
ten ten
you'll be owning
a home!

and isn't affordable care great?

i did all this
for america

lets see
if the numbers add up

means standing up

the power of the vote
drives our democracy

this chamber agrees

extraordinary troops
make us secure

troops come home for
our security

we will support
a unified Afghanistan

for our security

we will support
a unified al Qaeda
in Yeman
in Somalia

at home we will
keep faith
and invest
in future missions

our leadership
our security
cannot depend
on targeted efforts

vital confidence
on ordinary people being violated

so we will counter
with our ideals

let me be clear

we must give
a chance

or else
all options

Iran could take
a chance
and risk war

forge greater understanding
free people from fear
and want

from Tunisia to Burma
to Ukraine to Africa

we're building commerce
and will continue
to focus
and extend one hand
and greet them
with kindness

and next week we will
march into Sochi
with the red white and blue

the burdens we bear
to advance America
a new generation will
slash health care
and that mental health
that they need

every veteran will
stay in touch

Cory was nearly killed
in that wasted

wasted time in

even now Cory is still
but slowly
he is learning to speak
and is slowly
becoming the man he was

before Afghanistan

Cory gets a standing O

men and women like Cory
remind us
that there are them
and us
and that collective shoulder
on the wheel of progress
is just a metaphor

what we want for our kids most
is to not be Cory

our eyes are cast to tomorrow

God bless me,

God bless us,

God bless America

Muslim group threatens Canadian PM

Oh my God, al Qaeda is after Big Steve! Look, right there in the headlines... they're after him!...

Just for fun, google "Muslims threaten Harper" and see what comes up.

Yup, you've got all sorts of stuff about this Muslim group threatening Canadian PM Stephen Harper... with a lawsuit!

Not quite the same as a suicide bombing or a carbomb or a beheading, is it?

But it does make for a snappy headline. Big Steve is obviously in the thick of things... they must hate him because he loves Israel's freedom and democracy so much and isn't afraid to say so.

So what is the cause of this threat of a lawsuit?

Seems a Harper spokesperson implied that the National Council of Canadian Muslims was linked to terrorism.

Specifically, to the Hamas clique governing Gaza. Yes, those very ones who were democratically elected in the sort of free and fair elections we generally applaud.

This is how a non-story gets made up. A Harper spokeperson makes an ill-informed comment. The targets of the comment over-react, and suddenly you've got the headlines in question.


Relax folks... as with most Harper headlines, it's nothing.

When experts toil in ignorance

Found this bit of idiocy at Bloomberg Businessweek;

 Any attempt to draw lessons from the 1950s, when many a high school-educated (white, male) person got a job in a factory and joined the middle class, doesn’t account for the changes in the U.S. and global economy since the middle of the last century.

That's what happens when you spend your life studying work instead of doing any. This is for you, Charles Kenny:

GM strikers in Detroit, September 14, 1970

As you can see, Mr. Kenny, it wasn't just white males who made a decent living in a factory. And by the way, you could make a good living without that high school diploma.

White folks like Red Lobster too!

This morning I came across this opinion piece by LZ Granderson at CNN.

Granderson recounts coming up poor and black in Detroit, and how a family outing to Red Lobster was a bit of a special occassion. He mourns the fact that the corporate entity now running the chain may cut it loose or even shut it down altogether.

That set me on a google chase for the possible causes for the demise of Red Lobster. Instead, I found this; Red Lobster and the Continuing Demise of the Black Middle Class by Dr. Jason Johnson. He too has all sorts of happy memories, and he too is a black writer.

Well, time to set the record straight; there's at least one white dude right here who loves Red Lobster!

Now, I'm a bit too old for Red Lobster to have been part of my childhood, but it was definitely part of my children's childhood. And it was a special occassion. You knew you weren't at McDonalds. At the same time it wasn't fancy to the point where you felt uncomfortable. It was the kind of place where a working class family could afford to go once in awhile to mark a birthday or an anniversary. You could order a drink and have something that was a bit exotic where we lived, lobster, without breaking the bank.

I have to agree though with the above writers as to why Red Lobster has fallen on hard times. There simply aren't enough decent jobs around for young working class families of any color. Some of them up and left to Mexico or China, some of them have been eliminated by advances in automation, and most of the rest have been re-cast as low wage subsistance jobs by greedy corporations.

The fate of Red Loster is just one example of the collateral damage that ensues when companies like Caterpillar decree that $25/hr jobs will henceforth be $12/hr jobs.

Top war profiteers invest in Africa

Canadian journalist Brian Stewart has an "analysis" on view at CBC that purports to tell us why the US and France are sending troops to Africa.

What's striking is that this far-flung and little noticed U.S. Africa Command —​ AFRICOM as it's called — has been on a roll at a time when the Pentagon is undergoing a big downsizing.
But the move coincides with new thinking in Washington that big wars like Iraq and Afghanistan are far less likely in future, so it's now time to shift priorities toward preparing for smaller regional conflicts

Little noticed? AFRICOM has been the subject of thousands of articles and numerous books. Brian goes on to inform us that America's interest in Africa may have something to do with China;

While the U.S. military objectives seem clear enough, it is assumed Washington has an unstated strategic goal as well — to lay down markers again in an Africa increasingly being courted by China and other Asian nations.

Again, hardly a fresh observation, and if I may say, an altogether too delicate way of stating the matter. Let us assume the worst; American troops are being prepared for African adventures in order to protect American capital. And nowhere do the interests of the American military and American capital co mingle, coalesce, and congeal more serendipitously than in the Carlyle Capital Group.  "Making a buck on your bad luck" is their motto, especially where your bad luck attracts the attention of the Pentagon.

Nowhere else in the wacky world 'o inbred crony capitalism does big money snuggle tighter with big guns. So it should come as no surprise that Carlyle just announced a $100 million investment in African logistics.

As you know, "logistics" is just a ten dollar word for trucking, and anyone at all who has paid attention to America's doomed adventures in Afghanistan knows that this most ordinary of enterprises was the achilles heel of NATO and US re-supply. It was also phenomenally lucrative for the contractors providing the services, often running into the hundreds of millions of dollars per month.

Obviously lucrative enough to capture the attention of the big dogs at Carlyle.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Caterpillar living proof it pays to screw workers

Caterpillar is the toast of Wall Street tonight. Quarterly results released earlier in the day reveal a 10% drop in sales. That's the bad news.

The good news is a 50% jump in profits!

Oh ya baby, it's gonna be a feeding frenzy at the bonus trough this year for the corner office boys in Peoria. They are obviously geniuses and deserve every penny of the multiple millions grateful shareholders will shower upon them.

What's the secret? Simple; fuck the workers. The management wizards have managed to lop 10,000 workees off the payroll in the past year. Not that a job at Cat is any great shakes for the folks who remain. It's not that hard to scare a bunch of dumbshit welders into major contract give-backs once they've seen you shut a few plants down just to let the workforce know you're serious.

Over the past few years the management team at Cat has magically transformed thousands of $30/hr jobs into $15/hr jobs. That money adds up! That is some masterful management savvy alright!

While Caterpillar can't afford to pay its workers a decent wage, they've got billions upon billions just lying around to spend on share buy-backs. Short of firing up cigars with hundred dollar bills, share buy-backs have to be about the most non-productive use of corporate cash known to economics. But the shareholders love it!

Elsewhere in the world 'o Cat, Reuters has the tale of the great Shanghai shakedown. That's where the brilliant Cat management team spent almost $700 millions on a Chinese equipment maker and then wrote most of it off within a year.

How is such a thing even possible? Well, they were obviously outsmarted. Having grown overconfident after bullying their workforce for years, they totally overestimated their own intelligence. Given that at least half a dozen senior Cat managers are making over $5 million per year each, you can only conclude that the IQ bar isn't set very high in their corporate culture.

But don't expect that little half billion dollar faux pas to slow down the feeding frenzy at the bonus trough or the relentless grinding down of their workers wages.

French forces mark anniversary of Timbuktu liberation by liberating it again

This was the story from Timbuktu a year ago. Euphoria and jubilation as the forces of Hollande the Conqueror rout the forces of darkness from Timbuktu.

This is the story a year later from France 24;

Eleven Islamists fighters were killed and one French soldier was wounded in the latest military operation against militants in Mali’s turbulent desert north, according to security sources.

“The French military operation in the vicinity of Timbuktu has finished. Eleven terrorists were killed, one French soldier was injured, but his life is not in danger,” a French official told the AFP news agency.

No mention of euphoria or jubilation this time round.

Harper government leads by example at Davos

That headline is lifted from a news release from Canada's Dept of Foreign Affairs. It's got about as much veracity to it as some of the headlines you've seen on this blog that claim to reveal the anti-Christ or the messiah. The difference is that when I'm flogging crop circles and such, most readers of average intelligence will assume I'm joking. When they read the above headline at a Government of Canada website, they assume it's true.

Guess the joke's on them!

I've read both the press release and the appended Quick Facts more than once, and the only item referenced that can be construed as being about Canadian leadership is that our banking sector is not  as bankrupt as those in some other developed countries. Does this have anything to do with the Harper government? Absolutely not. The reason Canada escaped the worst of the 2007-8 collapse is because we avoided the worst excesses of the deregulation frenzy of the 1990s, and avoided them only because we had the good fortune of not having a Conservative government at the time.

So we're "leaders" by default in that arena, but where the Harper government supporters can correctly raise a chant of "we're almost number one" is in the "Bloomberg Ease of Business" ranking. That's pretty much what it sounds like. How easy is it for foreign investors to set up shop here?  Ponder that for a moment. What sort of impediments might disuade foreign investors?

Strict environmental regulations?
Stringent protection of workers' health and safety?
A living minimum wage?..

Sounds to me like leading the Bloomberg Ease of Business ranking is another way of saying we're winning the race to the bottom!

What's shocking is that the news release itself concedes that foreign investment is responsible for only one in ten Canadian jobs. For this we're selling out our workers and destroying the environment?

That may be leadership, Mr. Harper, but I'm not sure it's where Canadians want to be led.

Tossed in as it is with all the bogus leadership jive, one barely notices Trade Minister Ed Fast congratulating FerroAtlantica on investing $375 millions in a new plant in Quebec. Seems chucking the environment and flushing the workers pays off when you can attrack big sums of foreign boodle like that, eh?

Not that I don't want to take Mr. Fast's good news story at face value, but lets see what else we can learn about this foreign investment.

Here's what the trade website PLANT tells us;

“Very favourable” conditions attracted the company to Quebec, said Pedro Larrea, the company’s director general. These include discounted rates for hydroelectricity and a 10-year tax holiday.

Oh look what Mr. Fast forgot to mention!

Discounts on electricity!

A ten year tax holiday!

Sounds to me like they're pretty much giving away the store, but that may be the price of leadership in this competitive era.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Phony Tony delivers another steaming (self) serving of BS

Democracy is not only a way of voting. It is a way of thinking. People have to feel equal, not just be regarded by the law as such.

That's a quote Tony Blair drops in his latest blast 'o bullshit currently on view at The Guardian and many other sites. So how are the folks in England feeling, you slimy shitbag?

Tony professes befuddlement over those radical Islamic terror types who have bedeviled the Nations of Virtue for the last decade and a half. Apparently there is some inherent flaw in their belief system that makes them hate freedom and democracy.

I don't know, Tony; maybe they're just sick of you and your friends killing their kids and stealing their stuff. 

Israel scandalized as fruit of PM's loins boinking shiksa

Yair Netanyahu, 23 year old spawn of Benyamin, has been outed as engaging in carnal relations with a non-Jewish woman.

Well, at least the outraged nutters can thank the Almighty that it's a woman, you might be saying to yourself.

You'd be wrong! MK Eli Ben Dahan, who moonlights as a rabbi in his free time, has gone on the record stating that a Jewish man is better off with a Jewish man than with a non-Jewish woman!

I better be careful here... once the Farm Manager catches wind of that reasoning she'll run off with one of the gals from the schul and I'll be managing Falling Downs on my own.

But seriously, this must be the first time ever that I feel some empathy for Netanyahu. His son is 23. He'll do what he does. What is the father supposed to do about it?

What foolishness!

Forget building helicopters; Canadians can't figure out how to buy them!

Gather round children, and let gramps tell you about when Canada had its very own home-grown aircraft manufacturing industry.


Yes, that was another age, for sure. The can-do era. Not to be confused with the Candu era, wherein we contributed mightily to nuclear weapons proliferation in Asia, although Canadian competitiveness in that technology has become a mere memory too.

But yes, Canadian industry used to be able to build stuff, including state of the art aircraft. Alas, it was an industry destroyed by the politicians. And while we still harbour a Bell-Textron branch plant, the very idea that Canada has indigenous capabilities in aircraft manufacturing is laughable.

But if the politicians thought building this stuff was too complicated for us whores of wood and drawers of water, just watch them try to buy it. The Canadian Coast Guard is shopping around for new helicopters. The old ones are on average 30 years old, and apparently the nobs in Ottawa just figured out they'd need to be replaced.

Needless to say, this purchasing process is straining the capabilities of the Ottawankers to the max. For good reason. After all, look at how the purchase of Sea King replacements has worked out for them. Ottawa has been replacing the Sea King since 1983 and they still don't have any new helicopters! This saga has gone on so long the ordeal has its own Wikipedia entry! Those babies are over 50 years old now, and still no replacements? How is such a thing even possible?

Well, we're talking Ottawa here folks, where the routine is difficult and the difficult is impossible, and buying helicopters lies well beyond the pale...

2014: not a good year for the doves of peace

Hope this is not an omen. No sooner does Pope Francis have a couple of his toddler acolytes free up a couple of white doves symbolizing peace, than they are set upon by a crow and a seagull.

He'd just been praying for peace in Ukraine. If the papal doves symbolize peace, what do the attackers symbolize?  It's a tough call, but I'm going to go with John McCain as the seagull, and Oleg Tyagnybok as the crow...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fear and loathing at Wiarton Foodland

I used to work with a guy at the Sandvik plant in Guelph, back when Sandvik had a plant in Guelph. The pre-NAFTA era. He hailed from a small town in the foothills of Alberta, right in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.

I'd lived in Alberta for a spell, and I loved the mountains and I loved knowing those snow-capped peaks were on the western horizon even on the hottest days of summer. I couldn't imagine anyone turning their back on that geography if they didn't have to.

One day I asked Buddy if he ever misses the mountains.

No. They're just background. Don't ever give them a thought.

That's the sort of attitude the folks in Wiarton had when they built a concrete block supermarket on the shore of Colpoy Bay. Facing away from the bay, of course. The God-given geographical bounty was not just taken for granted; it was willfully ignored.

Wiarton was at one time, before the arrival of the sea lamprey, one of the top commercial fishing hubs in North America. Her population was more one hundred years ago than it is today.

Today it's a struggling small town that owes most of its existence to the fact that it's the last place to shop for all the seasonal folks who have summer homes on the Bruce Peninsula.

They pop into Wiarton Foodland to stock up and pop into the liquor store across the street to stock up before heading on up to the cottage.

Absent the tourists, the lion's share of commerce comes courtesy of locals from Georgian Bluffs, the town itself, and the native population at the reservation twenty minutes up the road.

As small town grocers go, Wiarton Foodland is exceptional. It's got a decent in-store bakery. It's got a selection of cheeses and sandwich meats that would do a big city grocer proud. Overall, it's a happy place to shop.

Or it was, until the Farm Manager began to monopolize my Saturday morning trips to Wiarton.

It started out innocently enough. I'd be heading into town on a Saturday morning to pick up my Saturday Globe and Mail and she'd be "oh I just want to pick up a couple of things at Foodland."

The thin edge of the wedge...

You give in to that, and pretty soon that Saturday morning trip isn't about your Globe and Mail; it's about her trip to Foodland.

It eventually leads to the disaster I experienced today.

We've been well and properly snowed in around here lately. It's been one blizzard after another. You barely get shoveled out from one before the next one hits.

I'd plugged the old Ford diesel tractor in bright and early this morning, with a view to getting the drive cleared before noon, so I could fetch my Saturday Globe.

Per expectations, the Farm manager was hot for the trip so she could "pick up a few things."

Fine! I'm good with that. After all, I can sit in the Foodland parking lot and read my Globe and Mail while she shops...

Get the drive cleared, get to Wiarton... and there's NO GLOBE!!!

The roads between here and Toronto were closed all night on account of the blizzard...

I'm trapped in the Foodland parking lot, with no Globe and Mail to distract me, while the Farm Manager is "picking up a few things."

I sit. I sit some more. I sit watching. Pondering...

Cars come and go. Toyota RAVs seem to be popular. A guy in grimy orange work coveralls steps out of a new Land Rover. Somebody else waiting for someone picking up a few things is playing rap too loud on their stereo.

Every vehicle has their license plates obscured by snow. There's actually a law about that. Around here everybody goes weeks at a time in winter with the plates buried. Never heard of anyone getting a ticket.

I watch as one vehicle after another pulls in and pulls out. Their occupants enter Foodland fifteen minutes after the Farm Manager and come out fifteen minutes before. It happens again and again and again.

I am oh-so-tempted to wander in and help things along.

Luckily I have the maturity to realize that's a really bad idea.

Murder in the frozen food aisle.

I stay put. I count the cars and vans and 4X4s  coming and going. I sit. I watch...

I doze off.

I awake to the Farm Manager pounding on the back of the car, signalling me to pop open the trunk.

She comes round to the window.

"You'll never guess what the cashier told me!..."

She's right. I'd never guess. Not only that, but I don't care. I'm just glad she got out of Foodland alive.

Yankee meddlers have Erdogan in their sights

Freedom House is but one of the plethora of American NGOs tasked with promoting democracy, Yankee style, in those benighted lands wherein democracy is not up to US standards.

Which is not to say that those countries are undemocratic. But it takes more than free and fair elections to get the stamp of approval from the big dogs in Washington. It takes grovelling subservience to the American agenda.

Thus, when the dimwitted voters in Gaza or Honduras or Paraguay or Egypt foolishly elect the wrong party, America's respect for the democratic process vanishes even more quickly than that democratically but erroneously elected leader. Ukraine is now "in play" thanks in no small part to the efforts of American democracy activists. Ukraine has been such a high priority for Freedom House that the NGO has a permanent field office in the country.

The "NGO" label is as fraudulent as the brand of democracy promoted by these democracy promoters. The acronym stands for Non Governmental Organization which traditionally meant they were independent of government. In America these democracy promoters are financed in their entirety by the US government, but all concerned maintain the fiction that they are somehow independent.

The not-actually-independent thinkers at Freedom House have revealed their grave concerns over the state of democracy in Turkey. Indeed, they are alarmed at the precipitous decline of freedom and democracy under Erdogan. One could well argue that freedom is losing ground far more quickly in Obama's America than in Erdogan's Turkey, but that would be missing the point.

Not coincidentally, the Freedom House report was followed up with unseemly haste by a Washington Post opinion piece titled The United States needs to tell Turkey to change course. This is of course the sort of hubristic attitude that the world sees as the norm for the bully on the world stage. Why is it up to the US to tell anybody anything? Why can the US not, at least just for a while, concentrate on getting its own house in order?

Ukraine's Orange Revolution 2.0 hijacked by neo-nazis

The change in the tenor of Ukraine's Orange Revolution 2.0 came suddenly. After more than a month of peaceful street protests, television screens around the world were abruptly filled with scenes of organized and well-armed hooligans attacking police lines.

Clearly this was a beast of a different temperment than what we have witnessed since November. The difference was as stark as night and day, as though someone had flipped a switch. Who are these extremists who have hijacked the hitherto peaceful protests?

These are the Brownshirts of the extreme right Freedom Party. Historically at the fringe of mainstream anti-Yanukovych activism, the extremists were gifted the stamp of approval by US Senator John McCain in December. The super-annuated cold warrior has never met an anti-Russian sentiment that he does not immediately and unreservedly embrace.

Thus emboldened, the storm troopers of  Svoboda unleashed their assault on the state a month later. What has been totally remarkable for the fact that it goes totally uncommented on is the utterly ambiguous response of the Yanukovych administration. These protesters were originally motivated by Yanukovych's snub of the EU. There is no country in the EU that would treat armed thugs in the streets with the benign indifference exhibited by the police in Kiev.

And not just in the EU. Indeed, the spectacle of armed gangs tossing volleys of firebombs at police lines would be unheard of in America. The rioters would be ruthlessly swept from the streets after the first bottle was tossed. In Kiev, Yanukovych seems paralyzed.

The original protests may have been naive. After all, what sort of foolishness is it to be clamoring to join that slowly sinking ship that is the EU today?  But they were peaceful and well-intentioned. To have their peaceful protests hijacked by the most extreme of greater Europe's neo-nazi partys is a crime against freedom and a crime against democracy.

Responsible members of Ukraine's opposition will disavow the extremist elements, distance themselves from the anti-semitic thugs fomenting the violence, and commit themselves to making peaceful change in their country.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Welcome to the Blaze 'o Glory Crematory

That's got a ring of truth about it, don't it?

The "Blaze 'o Glory Crematory".

That's where we burn your remains to a crisp and hand them back to your relatives in an urn, for a paltry 10% of the price of a conventional funeral. I've got a team of consultants doing focus groups right now.

We're hoping to get some traction for a first tranche of investment money in the near future. We'll be looking for a mere five millions or so. Then we plan to franchise. After that, we could be looking at an IPO in a couple of years.

I'll have to wait for the final report on those focus groups, but I think we got us a winner here. People just keep a dying, but fewer and fewer can afford the cost of a conventional funeral. I personally don't see the need for focus groups. Then again, you have to have some research to shear investors from their investment dollars these days.

One of the strengths of this concept is the shere honesty of the brand. "Blaze 'o Glory." What better way to say what you want to say without saying too much!

It's in the tradition of the BigAss Chair Company. Tell it like it is and the masses will reward you for your honesty.

There's really nothing new in that. Look around at how many nursing homes have the word "Gateway" in their name. Gateway to what, I wonder? Why, gateway to the Blaze 'o Glory!
Just doing a random Google search, I found "Gateway" nursing homes in New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Ontario, and North Carolina, and that was just in the first two pages of results.

Clearly we're onto something here.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

When the Rolling Stones were dirty

If you just want to see the Rolling Stones rock out, this is for you.

If you want to hang around for the critique, read on.

When Mick Jagger became SIR Mick you should have known you were sold out. The anti-establishment gets the Judas-kiss from the establishment.

Not that you weren't sold out long before.

Rock and Roll is about selling out.

It sold out incrementally. But by the time Mick became Sir Mick and tours took on corporate sponsors you knew it was over.

There was a time, the old days, a time when the Rolling Stones were just a band, when rock and roll was just music.

Now they're a big business.

Rock and roll is big business.

There are a dozen bands in your home town who haven't been corrupted yet, no matter how much they might wish they had been.

Take a pass on the next big-ticket show and go see some of the young bands in your town.

BREAKING! Alien warcraft swarm DC, leave crop circles on White House lawn (photo)

Sorry folks, this didn't actually happen; it was a premonition.

Or maybe a hallucination. Or a daydream. An acid flashback?

Maybe I just made it up?

If you look around the www you'll notice there's an awful lot of that shit out there. In fact, next to porn, the subject of aliens and their attendant traces are probably the biggest thing on the internet.

The Silicon Valley cheer-leaders want you to believe that we've never had this kind of mother-lode of information available anytime in human history.

We're in the information age now, baby!

Here's some information for ya; those "crop circles" on the White House lawn were caused by BO doing donuts in a golf cart after he heard that Deron Williams was not on the Olympic bb team.

By the way, that's Deron putting the squeeze on the First Lady behind BO's back.

Remember; just because it's information doesn't mean it's true.

As cancer slowly drains your life and bankrupts your family, isn't it comforting to know someone is profiting from your misery?

Ran across this headline at Money Morning; "Buffett: scrap Obamacare and start over."

I thought, oh thank goodness, here's a name Americans trust coming out for single payer health care.

Turns out the folks at Money Morning were doing the old "bait 'n switch."

The only reference to Buffett in the article is a quote from four years ago wherein he advises Obama to start over on his health care plans. Buffett himself is resolutely committed to for-profit health care, as evidenced by his investments in for-profit health care operators.

 After all, his personal plan covers everything and he can afford the deductible. As for those of you who don't share his good fortune, tough luck; you should have worked harder and then you'd be rich like Warren Buffett.

What their article is really about is how you can profit from Obamacare, like Warren is doing.

Yet, while millions of Americans loathe every facet of The Affordable Care Act, as it's officially titled, another group of Americans see it as a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to get rich: Investors.

Yup, you too can be an investor getting rich on someone's cancer. Or heart disease. Or kidney failure. Or whatever.

Point is, don't get hoodwinked into feeling sorry for folks who fall sick. They're not a pity party; they're an investment opportunity.

Ya, they'll be dead and their family will be suffering the repercussions of bankruptcy for generations, BUT YOUR PORTFOLIO IS GONNA BE BURSTING WITH PROFITS!!!

It's health care, the American way!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Obsequious Canadian PM ridiculed in Israeli press

There's hardly been a sour note in the Canadian media about Big Steve's Holy Land holiday. In fact, many a news platform was today pleased to report a ringing endorsement of our PM from no less an authority on international relations than Sarah Palin.

Which should give us pause...

But this evening the CBC News website has this headline for us; Stephen Harper's visit garners scant coverage or praise from Israeli media.

Here's a quote from Barak Ravid of Haaretz; "...he is a friend of Benjamin Netanyahu more than he is a true friend of Israel... his support for the policies of the government of Israel is blind."

Meanwhile at the JPost, Zehava Gal-On had this observation; "I feel his head is in the sand and he hasn't seen what's really happening here."


All's well in Dan's Republic

At least for Dan.

Dan Gertler has been keeping a low profile of late. The man who "really understands Negroes" has become something of a target of the do-gooder crowd who imagine that all that is required for Africa's development is more NGOs, more capacity building, more transparency, and more meddling by western democracy activists.

Mind you, the optics of this deal are going to do nothing but inflame Gertler's critics. Back in 2006 one of Dan's companies bought an oil concession offshore the DRC for half a million dollars. He recently sold it back to the government for the tidy sum of $150,000,000.

That's nice work if you can get it!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Solving Canada's "skills shortage"

This "issue" is a popular one these days. Canada has a shortage of skilled workers. Therefore there is nothing to be done other than import skilled labour in the tens of thousands. There is no other option.


I was writing about the impending skills shortage twenty-five years ago, as were plenty of others. The solution then as now has always been obvious; train Canadians in those skills.

So what have the various governments of Canada done about training Canadians for those jobs? Right next to nothing.

When the problem is of such import and the solution is so obvious, there is but one conclusion to be drawn from the fact that those various governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have done nothing.

They don't want to and they don't intend to. They are more than content to "solve" the problem by allowing the wholesale importation of "temporary foreign workers"

Looking at the problem from the government's point of view, this absolves them of the responsibility to initiate comprehensive and meaningful job-training programs.

They can save money and drive down wages by doing nothing. The former makes them look good and the latter pleases their corporate constituency.

In the meantime, they do a grave disservice to that minority of good corporate citizens like Ledcor who have developed meaningful apprenticeship programs. They do a grave disservice to the 1.5 million unemployed Canadians who would benefit from genuine job training. They do a grave disservice to the fabric of Canadian society as a whole.

Instead of floating out imaginary solutions like the "Job Action Plan" our government needs to get serious. Make a commitment to training Canadians for the jobs that Canada needs.


Racist Toronto media hound Mayor Ford for Jamaican outreach programme

There's a new video out featuring Mayor Rob Ford "talking Jamaican."

The response of the mainstream Toronto media is pathetically predictable. It's as if the entire journalism community has taken the way-back machine to 1955, when Toronto was Toronto the Good, and Jamaicans were folks who lived on an island in the Caribbean.

Those are the times Toronto media pine for.

Times have changed. Today tens of thousands of Torontonians trace their roots to Jamaica. The systemic racism of the Great White North has often forced many younger Jamaicans into the criminal underworld.

Mayor Ford has a rapport with that community like no other politician, black or white, in the city.

For that he should be commended.

Instead, he is mocked, ridiculed, and relentlessly hounded.

Welcome to the University of Jihad

According to recently published accounts, there may now be upwards of 11,000 foreign jihadis fighting in Syria against the Assad government.

Think of Syria as one gigantic open air campus specializing in terror training. When these idealistic young men arrive in Syria they are no more dangerous than the many home grown wannabe "terrorists" like the Toronto 18.

Those who do not graduate cum laude and go straight to their reward in the hereafter will graduate back to their home countries; to Germany, France, the UK and US, Canada, and throughout the Arab world.

They may have left with grand illusions and stars in their eyes; they will return as battle-hardened blooded killers.

They will know and understand small arms and not-so-small. They will know the rudiments of guerrilla warfare strategy. They will be experienced in urban combat. They will have learned how to craft a carbomb, a suicide vest, and an ambush.

And they're coming home to the soft white underbelly of the West.

We have sown the wind with our hubristic vendetta against Assad.

We'll be reaping the blowback soon enough...

Bieber writes his name in yellow snow

True, any idiot can pee their name in a snow-drift - well, any male idiot. It's one thing our feminist sisters will never be able to do...

But you know you're a global icon when said signature is deemed newsworthy on the other side of the earth. Thanks to the Times of India, even folks on the other side of the world were informed of Bieber's latest indiscretion.

And they don't even know snow!

Let's not make too big a deal of this. After all, no less a luminary than the great American poet Robert Louis Servicestation immortalized the act of pecker printing when he wrote;

whose woods these are I do not know
his house is in the village though
he will not see me stopping here
to sign my name in yellow snow.

As for the starstruck residents of Snowmass, one can only hope they heed the advice of the great Frank Zappa...  don't you eat that yellow snow.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The night billionaire JK Irving rousted a bunch of drunken welders off his yacht

OK, it wasn't "his yacht", it was HMCS Vancouver. I was working steady second shift at the time. It was late in the shift, maybe 11:00 o'clock at night, when the unmistakable profile of Irving Shipyard owner JK Irving was spotted heading our way.

"We're fucked" was the word that went round.

Then little Kenny jumped to his feet. Probably the most far-gone of the lot of us sitting in that unit passing the jug around.

We watched with baited breath...

"Mr. Irving sir, fer fucks sakes sir we been down on 'r arses fer three fuckin goddam shifts Mr. Irving, cause the cunts in planning can't send us the right fuckin' blueprints for the canteen!"

Kenny had a point of course. The shipyard was absolutely famous for dystopian management practices. They'd send a crew of fitters and welders to a unit and not get around to sending the shop drawings till a week later. In the meanwhile the lads, and the occasional gal, come to think of it, would be passing round the hashpipe and the liquor jug.

Not that we weren't ready and able to work; we just had nothing to do.

So the billionaire Irving comes right in the unit. "Is that right?" he asks. "You can't do your job because you don't have the drawings?"

Amens all round.

We all get up and walk/wobble/stagger to the canteen in question. Partly roughed in, pile of parts on the floor, but no blueprints.

There's no way he could not have noticed the booze vapours emanating from his welding crew.

Then the unthinkable happened. The billionaire JK Irving APOLOGIZED TO US.

"Well that won't do... I'm so sorry fellas. Wish you'd brought this to my attention sooner, but thank you very much. This won't happen again."

And it didn't. At least not on that unit.

Yachts of Canadian Billionaires

Canadian Business has a spot of wealth porn going on at the moment with their annual "Rich 100" list.

Among the many treats in store for the reader is a lavish spread on the yachts of Canadian billionaires.

It's a little lame as a matter of fact. As mega-yachts go there's not really that much to ogle here. All these billionaires could afford bigger yachts if that was a priority.

Here are the interesting points not made in the article.

Of the five Canadian billionaires whose yachts are featured, one is a Russian and one is from Hong Kong. Why are they on the Canadian billionaire list?

These are the folks we are told are "job creators" every time their political bumboys are lobbying to reduce their taxes. We reduce their taxes so they can buy bigger yachts. How many of these yachts were built in Canada?


Canadian PM Harper wins standing ovation for anti-Arab hate speech in Knesset

PM Harper didn't miss many cliches in his droolingly sycophantic speech before the Israeli parliament today. He even managed to marvel at how the "people of Israel" managed to make the desert bloom!

When Mr. Harper talks about "the people of Israel" he is not talking about Israeli citizens per se; no, his speech makes clear that his admiration is only for Jewish citizens of the state of Israel. The other 20% of the population are non-entities. When talking about "the people of Israel" Harper is referencing the "Israelites" of his Judeo-Christian tradition.

Harpers theological roots lie in a conservative fundamentalist sect called the Christian Missionary Alliance. Like their literalist counterparts in Judaism, they accept that the Land of Israel is the Land of Israel because God rendered it thus. Beyond that article of faith no justification or rationale is required. Hence anyone who questions modern Israel's expansionist agenda, illegal occupation and history of ethnic cleansing is simply denying God's will.

That's why we expected the slavish adulation Harper expressed towards his audience.

But he gave them even more than he had to.

While Israel, or at least its Jewish population, defines everything that is noble and just and courageous and decent in humanity, there are bad people around. And who might those be?

Those who scorn modernity, who loathe the liberty of others, and who hold the differences of peoples and cultures in contempt. Those who often begin by hating the Jews, but, history show us, end up hating anyone who is not them. Those forces, which have threatened the state of Israel every day of its existence, and which, today, as 9/11 graphically showed us, threaten us all.

While you wouldn't know it listening to Mr. Harper, Jews and Muslims have managed to get along reasonably well throughout most of their shared history. The persecution of Jews has always been primarily a Christian undertaking.

Which is why, were I one of those smug folks sitting in the Knesset listening to Mr. Harper, I'd be having some doubts about the authenticity of the friendship he never stops talking about.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Standing on guard for Canada - in the Indian Ocean

Today we have another breathless tale about the derring-do of Canada's brave men and women in uniform and their exploits on the high seas. Seems they took another "massive haul" of heroin off the market.

Members on the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Toronto board a suspected drug-smuggling vessel.

That's got to be a fun gig. Racing about in Zodiac jet-boats, waving guns around, scaring the crap out of hapless oafs trying to make a few bucks smuggling heroin.

While this month's massive haul is only half the size of last month's, why is the Canadian Navy making any drug busts in the Indian Ocean? They are ostensibly in the area to "curb terrorism and deter piracy." How did their war on terrorists and pirates morph into a war on drug smugglers?

Is interrupting drug smuggling in the Indian Ocean something the Canadian taxpayer should be paying for?

Who's up for a free trip to Israel?

The think tank here at Falling Downs is more than a little miffed that our invite for Big Steve's Holy Land junket got "lost in the mail," as a spokesperson from the PMO put it after a frantic call I made when I realized the plane was leaving without us.

Well, maybe we're outta luck, but Big Steve has put together the biggest trade delegation-religious pilgrimage ever, including 21 rabbis, a couple of dozen Christian ministers, and... what? No imams?

I know how they feel!

The imams, I mean.

But what the heck, it would be small-minded of me to begrudge the 250 free-loaders their free trip. After all, Israel is a "growing" part of Canada's international trade picture, accounting for approximately $2b in annual trade. That's about 5% of the trade we do with the US state of Michigan, so there's lots of room for improvement, and what with all those men of God along on the trip, God Himself is sure to bestow His blessings on Canada- Israel trade like never before.

Aside from the many men of God there are also a goodly number of Harper cronies enjoying the trip simply because it's free. What is Stockwell Day's purpose on the trip, for example?

The rest of the delegation is comprised mainly of Conservative-friendly CEO's and lobbyists who don't necessarily see any business opportunities in Israel, but didn't want to offend the PM by declining the invite.

Besides, it's a balmy 21C in Tel Aviv today, compared to -3C in Ottawa.

And it's free!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

John Tortorella is just an a-hole

Torts was parachuted in to save the Canucks.

Ya, they're a bit better, but it could be nothing more than a placebo effect.

Not a Torts effect.

He's got a melodrama going on again tonight. The thing about Torts is he truly believes it's all about him.

Calm down dude.

The NHL is full of guys who are insiders only because they're insiders. Instead of riding off into the sunset running a GM dealership somewhere they want to put their stamp on the game.

That's Torts; a legend in his own mind.

Lets find a GM dealership for him right quick before he hurts somebody.

The good ole days of sexual harassment

Jimmy Savile is to sexual harassment what Bernie Madoff was to Wall Street Corruption.

A convenient stooge.

I see where The Guardian is on the Savile case again. That's not news anymore folks. Why not write up a story about all the "victims" of Sir Mick Jagger?

That was the way things were done in the day. There is a limited theatrical release of the semi-underground classic, "Cocksucker Blues," in which you get of a sense of how "consensual" the sex was.

But that was considered the norm.

Now it's considered rape.

The unspeakable cruelty of animal haters

As I write this, Lucy the Tennessee brindle is stretched out on the couch. Chloe the cat is commandeering the Zaida Laz-e-boy by the front window. Boomer is splayed out in the kitchen, her thumping tail banging out an "I love you" every time I enter the room. There's another cat somewhere, and one thing I know for sure is that she's completely happy and content and loves the life she has.

I'm very happy that the two-leggers in this house can provide a comfortable environment for the four-leggers. We get a lot of great stuff back in return.

Chloe started out a very anti-social cat. Spent years avoiding us. Now she gets underfoot constantly. Gives you a swat as you go by, then flops over for a belly rub.

The hounds live for my every move. I can't tie my boots without them descending into a frenzy of bum-wagging and face licking at the prospect of a walk.

The other cat hangs out in the upstairs bathroom. She loves catching the last drips out of the tap when someone's had a bath.

All of these animals, "pets" if you must, have very fine low-stress lives. What's so cool is that they lower the stress in our lives. It's hard to be angry with the universe when a dog is licking your face or a fifteen year old cat is flopping on her back for a belly rub.

That's why I don't get stories like this.

While it's gratifying to see folks rally round and raise up a reward, the bigger question to me is what kind of a person does this sort of thing? How do you tape an animal's snout shut and set it out to starve to death?

Neil Young defies Israel boycott, announces Tel Aviv concert

His friends in the BDS movement won't be pleased, but rock icon Neil Young hasn't ever been about pleasing anyone. He just does what he does; critics, fans, media be damned.

That's what I like about the guy.

Neil is scheduled to play in Tel Aviv July 17. Neil is indeed one of the most "important and influential figures in the history of rock music." I admit I didn't realize the extent of that influence until a few years ago, when the story came out about Bob Dylan prowling Winnipeg looking for Neil's childhood home.

When no less a rock icon than Bob Dylan is paying homage, you know you're a big deal.

As Canadian PM "Big Steve" Harper wings his way to Holy Land, the only Canadian on Israel's radar is... Neil Young!

Big Steve is on his way to the Holy Land with an entourage of hundreds, all having a nice winter break in the middle of the coldest winter in decades, and all on the tax-payer's dime, thank you very much.

Canadian media have played up this trip as a really big deal. It cements our imaginary stature as Israel's most loyal ally in the world. Don't laugh. There are some Canadians who buy into this stuff. Most of them seem to be in the Harper cabinet.

Doesn't seem to be that big a deal in Israel though. I just checked the home pages of a few mainstream Israeli news sites and there's not a hint of Harper's visit anywhere.

I did however come across one reference to a prominent Canadian; Neil Young is heading to the Holy Land to play a concert in July!

Man, that's gonna piss off his pinko fans among the BDS crowd!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Pope Benny wasn't such a bad sort after all

In fact, I think Pope Benny might have got the short end of the stick. Pope Benny didn't have the PR smarts to save his rep.

Stuff like this was just water off a duck's back.

Now that Benny is gone and Frankie is wearing the red dress, there's a whole new game in play. Frankie got a whole new bag going on, but part of it seems to be the rehabilitation of Bennie.

Seems that Bennie was coming down hard on all those kiddie-diddlers in the priesthood. Defrocked no less than 400 of his disciples for taking liberties with the wee ones.

So take that, all yee anti-Papists. The Church of Rome went off the rails a bit, but they got their mojo back, by God!

Obama planned "robust public discussion" of NSA well before Snowden leaks

At least that's what he says now;

... I indicated in a speech at the National Defense University last May that we needed a more robust public discussion about the balance between security and liberty. Of course, what I did not know at the time is that within weeks of my speech an avalanche of unauthorized disclosures would spark controversies at home and abroad that have continued to this day.

Yup, the Oracle of Nairobi was all over the liberty/security balance long before that traitor Snowden spilled the beans.

As for Snowden, he did more than just spill the beans; he single-handedly, well almost single-handedly, endangered the safety of every 'merican patriot. Not only that, but it's going to be impossible to "conduct foreign policy" for God knows how long;

... I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations. I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy.

The man is a natural-born salesman, that's for sure. This speech is Obama at his best; long on feel-good bromides and short on particulars. For instance, did you know that the folks who work at the NSA are just regular 'merican patriots like you?

 After all, the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies are our neighbors. They’re our friends and family. They’ve got electronic bank and medical records like everybody else. They have kids on Facebook and Instagram.

Whereas Snowden was an obvious traitor who was known to consort with journalists, and not just any journalists, but homosexual journalists!

What's not in his speech is any real commitment to putting a leash on the runaway surveillance industry.

God bless America!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Who dat messin wit my web?

There's a certain amount of discussion in the air about "internet freedom."

What does that mean?

I've noticed over and over that there are mysterious forces at work that seem to limit internet traffic.

This is what I notice. You post a blog that seems very popular. You get a couple of dozen views in the first five minutes. Then internet traffic stops.

Theoretically, if something takes off it should keep taking off. But it doesn't. It's like somebody puts the brakes on.

I've even seen page counts disappear. You had 91 views in the first half hour but three hours later you're at 21. How does that happen?

Maybe "internet freedom" is already a relic of the past.

Canada's "moral obligation" to Israel

PostMedia titles in Canada are featuring an interview with Employment Minister Jason Kenney that reads as though it could have been scripted by one of Benyamin Netanyahu's speech writers.

Israel faces a daily existential struggle for survival and is a refuge for the Jewish people born out of the ashes of the Holocaust.

The only Israelis facing a "daily existential struggle for survival" are the 1.7 million citizens living below the poverty line. When Kenney claims Israel is "attacked every day" he must be talking about those kids throwing rocks at soldiers in the West Bank. That's not considered an "existential threat" even by Netanyahu's speech writers.

From what I hear through the grapevine, unless you're already established or well connected, Israel is a very tough place for young folks to make a go of it. That's why young Jewish professionals are leaving Israel by the tens of thousands.

As for being a "refuge for the Jewish people" it's telling that more Jewish people choose to live outside of Israel than in Israel.

Kenney's comments don't really shed any light whatsoever on the Harper gang's obsession with Israel. Surely they can not imagine that Israel needs us for our military prowess? The Israeli military is far larger, far better equipped, and infinitely more experienced than Canada's. Plus, they're a nuclear super-power in their own right.

Which is not to suggest that Israel couldn't use some good friends. Remarks by Kenney and Baird and Harper smack more of wannabes trying to ingratiate themselves than the concerns of true friends. What real friends would do is talk seriously to their friends about the issues that are driving Israel onto the rocks. True friends would express their concerns over the occupation, the settlements, the immigrant issue, the Beduin relocation issue, nuclear proliferation, and so on. If the Harper gang were really friends of Israel they would have kept Canada's Iran embassy open and worked hard at establishing a robust diplomatic presence in that country.

As things stand, Canada's "friendship" consists of constantly telling the most reactionary elements in the Israeli political spectrum only what they want to hear.

That's not friendship.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

FM John Baird takes time out from shilling for Israel to shill for Keystone XL pipeline

John Baird has the no-shit skinny on what's what with that controversial Keystone pipeline.

Obama just has to make up his mind.

Keep buying oil from those toweller terror states, or embrace the ooey gooey Canadian tar sands.

Guess Baird hasn't got the memo about how the US of A is shedding both the toweller terror states and the northern neighbour.

Thanks to the new fracking utopia, both Canada and those tar sands, and all those fair-weather toweller states can take a flying leap.

Long live fracking!

RIP Keystone.

So long John Baird!

Sloppy security makes headlines as Canadian al-Qaeda killed in Syria

Well here's an odd pairing of related security stories to make the mainstream. News comes out that a nice young man from Calgary died while fighting for Jabat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda franchise that's been punching above its weight, in an oh-so-Canadian way, in Syria for a couple of years now.

Meanwhile, a couple of hundred miles north, another Alberta youngster is trying to smuggle a bomb onto an airplane. Airport security finds the bomb, confiscates the bomb, and then lets bomb-dude carry on with his trip!

Anything wrong with this picture?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Alberta oil patch salaries rise 5 times faster than national average

An eye-catching headline to that effect appeared on the CBC News website yesterday.

At first blush that sounds really good. The working class not only lives, but is thriving, at least in Alberta! You immediately picture swaggering young men driving the latest muscled up 4X4 pick-ups and jetting off with their girlfriends on fancy vacations twice a year...

Here's why the story is misleading feel-good bullshit.

Fact: This cohort had a cumulative wage gain of 21% from 2001-2008. According to the Bank of Canada, inflation over that period was 17.3%. While this group's wages may have been going up "5 times faster" than everyone else, they were barely half a percentage point ahead of inflation. What this really means is that "everybody else" was losing ground over that period.

Fact: Our happy story conveniently ends in 2008. Guess what happened then? The recession! According to the Alberta Treasury Board the Alberta economy lost 25,000 jobs in 2009. Over 9,000 of those lost jobs were in the oil patch. The Alberta employment rate hit a 14 year high of 7.3 %. The unemployment rate for young men hit 13.9%.

Fact: From 2001-2008, when the fastest-growing wages of any group of workers in Canada climbed a total of 3.7%, or barely half a percent per year, the average price of a house in Edmonton, the heart of the oil patch, went from $133k to $332k. In other words, even that small sliver of the working class that was doing exponentially better than everyone else was being priced out of the housing market.

There you have it. It's rather the opposite of a feel-good story when you look at the facts.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fat chicks no longer sporting Lululemon attire; dump stock now before it's too late

That's a bit of a misleading headline. Even chicks who think they're fat are having second and third thoughts, and while they're having those thoughts they're not spreading their purses open for the empire that Chip built.

Bear in mind that the thinnest women you know all believe that they're fat. Lululemon founder Chip Wilson completely and totally destroyed his customer base with his moronic comments.

What an asshole!

And now the stock is in free-fall.

That means the yoga-tights market is wide open for some savvy entrepreneur who gets fat chicks. Or who gets women in general, since they're pretty much all convinced that they're fat. Obviously Chip Wilson was wildly out of touch all along.

Not that there's anything new about that. Many a multi-billion fortune has been built on women's sense of inadequacy, from cosmetics to fashion to chick-lit and chick-flicks and beyond.

It is well-trod but fertile ground.

I've got a brainstorming session going on next door with some of the top consultants in the industry, on how we can piggyback a new line of yoga tights off the smashing success of our BigAss brand of patio furniture. I'll let you know how you can invest on the ground floor, because my hunch is this is gonna go through the roof...

In the meanwhile, get the hell outta whatever Lululemon stock is still befouling your portfolio.

Falling Downs scoops CBC by three months on fraudulent jobs program

The CBC has a scoop for you today. That Harper gang "Job Action Plan" is a bunch of PR bullshit and nothing else. There is no action, no plan, and no jobs.

Who knew?

Oh lookee, the think tank here at Falling Downs had it nailed months ago. I quote:

Witness the many government adverts for "Job Action Plans" that consist of nothing beyond their advertising plans.

To be fair, the CBC has a lot of detail that was beyond our resources to dig up, such as how many millions our leaders have invested in publicizing this imaginary jobs plan. Then again, the folks at CBC get a billion dollar plus budget to work with.

Our think tank here at Falling Downs is financed by what we get for the empties we take back to the beer store, and while substantial, it's nowhere near that league.

But it's nice to have our work verified by the CBC. Maybe one of these days they'll run something about how the Harperites aren't actually leading the fight against polio in Pakistan.

Britain's death wish

The lustre of "greatness" has long been fading for Great Britain. It makes one wonder if the twats who run the place have the slightest clue about where they're going.

What, for example, do they imagine will come out of the trebling of university tuition? It's a policy that stinks of entrenching the privileged station of the elite at the expense of everyone else. How can this be good for the society in the long run?

And what is the desired result of the ruthless and cynical war on the poor that we've been seeing? While that's been a plank in the platform of both leading parties for two generations, it has only ramped up under the Cameron wrecking crew. Charging folks on welfare a "bedroom tax" for unoccupied rooms in their homes? What is that?

But here comes Cameron with a strategy guaranteed to speed the downward spiral along. According to Cameron, Britain needs to "go all out" for fracking. Yes, he and his cronies in the oil business have seen the future, and the future is fracking.

Having squandered the North Sea windfall with a quarter century of tax cuts for the rich and foolish military adventures, the brain trust at the top is now doubling down on fossil fuels.

The US is a good ten years ahead of the UK in permitting the industry an unrestricted free-for-all in pumping poisons deep into the earth to free up gas and oil inaccessible with conventional drilling methods. Anyone who looks for it can find plenty of evidence that the practice poses a grave peril for underground water resources. How much greater will the damage be in a country that has 700% higher population density than the US?

Looks like Cameron and Co. are determined to find out.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Haiti four years on

Four years on after the big earthquake.

All the big white-world media platforms have been celebrating the anniversary.

Some of them are celebrating the progress visible on the ground.

Some of them are celebrating the lack of progress.

Either way, what's true about Haiti is that all of the good intentions and all of the goodwill and all of the wishful thinking of all of the do-gooders from across the waters hasn't made much difference to the folks being kicked out of their temporary shelters today.

Bill Clinton and Sean Penn have long since turned to more consumer-friendly causes.

The fraudulent Prime Minister Martelly, fraudulent because he won his post only because the true people's favorite was not permitted to run, has done nothing other than perpetuate what's gone wrong in Haiti since not long after they became the first slave state to overthrow their masters.

Black Haiti beat Black Africa to Neocolonialism by a good 200 years.

Haiti has everything it needs to be a fully self-sufficient nation. What's holding her back is that .1% who own the country but educate their kids and do their banking in Miami or Montreal or Switzerland.

Haiti doesn't need "aid". Haitians need us to get the fuck out of their business and out of their country and let them figure it out.

Is Louis Proyect watching the Golden Globe Awards?

I'll bet he is.

He's a sucker for that sort of shit, no matter how much he abhors it.

I abhor it too, and I'm watching.

Louis was one of those "vanguard of the proletariat" types back when I was a dumb-fuck proletarian with a welding gig.

I love reading Louis' blog. He can go on for thousands of words about some near-invisible dispute that irrecoverably tore the common bonds between the Staten Island Trotskyists and the Manhattan Marxists back in '64.

And then he'll spell out in complete historically accurate detail how that Staten Island Trotskyist cell splintered into rival factions over the next ten years.

He was there!

He lived it!

Nobody gives a shit!

Luckily, there's more to the man than obscurantist far-left political history.

He loves jazz.

He loves movies.

Maybe he's an American patriot after all?

Enjoy the Golden Globes dude!

Neil Young on the Harper gang; "integrity isn't even on the map"

Amen, dude. I've been saying that for years.

Young was speaking at a brief presser before the first of four Canadian concerts that will raise money for First Nations that have ongoing legal battles over tar sands projects.

Do you ever question why First Nations have to fight for their rights in our justice system?

Shouldn't we be fighting for our right to despoil the earth in their justice system?

After all, it's their land we're talking about, isn't it?

Lets have the oil industry bigs sit down with a council of elders and make their case.

That would be the right thing to do... or would have been forty years ago when the tar-sludge gold rush was in its infancy.

You're a little late to the ongoing ecological and social disaster, Mr. Young, but at least when rich white dudes take up the torch, folks might start to pay attention.

It's not too late to get integrity back on the map.

Boobs in the basilica

The first few times I saw headlines to the effect "Pope endorses breastfeeding in Sistine Chapel" I thought it was one of those little grammatical faux pas, like "I enjoy cooking my dog and my friends."

Obviously, he just happened to be in the Sistine Chapel as he was putting in a word for nature's baby food, not suggesting that nursing moms do their duty right there in the cathedral.

But no, the latest version of the story in The Guardian spells it out; "Pope encourages mothers to breastfeed - even in the Sistine Chapel." That should pretty much remove any ambiguous residue left by the original headline. Yes, mums, if your wee one is a bit finicky while you're sitting there in the pew, you are welcome to do what you have to do.

I'm starting to like this guy.

First of all he comes out with the outrageous suggestion that the rich have obligations to the poor.

Then he tells the world that judging gay folks isn't his concern, and therefore not mine or yours either.

And now this!?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

How to blow through $700 of furnace oil in a week

It wasn't that we were out of wood.

Well, not quite anyway.

Although I must admit I let the side down this year with my rather paltry stash of firewood.

But hard into that Christmas ice storm, I called the oil folks for a $700 top-up just in case.

Just in case we ran out of wood, obviously.

But once you have the top-up, it's easy to get lazy. Just as I was getting lazy the blizzard of '14 hits.

Minus 35 and six inches of snow falling every hour with the winds blowing to gale force and beyond.

We were storm-stayed for the better part of a week.

Positively apocalyptic.

So there's only one thing to do. Eat, drink, be merry, and crank the furnace to 80 degrees!

When that decision was made, the blizzard of '14 was only hours old. Little did I realize that the apocalyptic snow and the apocalyptic wind would not abate for days.

When it's that windy and snowy and wild and cold and the thermostat is cranked to 80, and it's -35 outside, that old furnace never even shuts down!

That's how you blow through $700 in furnace oil in a week.

How Ariel Sharon created Hezbollah

If you believe what you read in the mainstream media, Hezbollah is now the second most dire existential threat to Israel, right after the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Thanks to intensive lobbying, bribery, and arm-twisting by successive Israeli governments, Hezbollah has been branded a "terror" group by most of the Nations of Virtue.

There was no such thing as Hezbollah before Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. That fiasco, which dragged on for eighteen years at enormous cost to Israel, both in casualties and finances, was entirely a Sharon initiative.

Hezbollah emerged from a disparate collection of Shiite militias in southern Lebanon who congealed around one issue; undoing Sharon's invasion.

Israel is long gone from southern Lebanon, and Hezbollah is stronger than ever.

That too is Ariel Sharon's legacy. 

How Ariel Sharon became "The Bulldozer"

I was just watching a Paul Begley video in which the American bible-thumper was opining that Sharon got that nick-name because of his dogged determination to pursue his agenda once he embarked on a political career.

Actually, he was "The Bulldozer" well before his political career began. Sharon was known as "The Bulldozer" because of his penchant for ordering IDF Caterpillars to demolish the homes of Palestinians, often with the inhabitants still in the house.

Funny how those "Christian Zionists" can miss those little nuances of Israel's history.

Ariel Sharon, Rabbi Kaduri, and the imminent arrival of the Messiah

There's an awful lot of internet traffic today devoted to imaginary prophecies concerning visions allegedly visited on Mizrahi rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri.

Kaduri was quite a character. Spent his whole life reading scripture and seeing visions. He kicked the bucket just weeks after Sharon went into what was to be his terminal coma. But he's having a bit of a resurrection today, thanks mostly to Christian Zionist propagandists in the US.

I'm personally a bit of a skeptic when it comes to visions. Oh, I've certainly had my share... that's why I'm profoundly skeptical. But Kaduri was mostly a big deal among the more orientalist folks in the Holy Land, and God knows those are the folks who will go in for visions and prophesies and quackery of all stripes.

It's a bit of Netanyahu-inspired folk-lore that Rabbi Kaduri once confided to him that Jehovah himself had revealed in a vision that anyone to the left of Likud was no longer an authentic Jew.

Netanyahu himself is of course the ultimate pragmatist and he knows quackery when he hears it, but he's certainly not adverse to harnessing it for his own ends.

Pretty much the only people anywhere even more susceptible to quackery are American Christian Zionists like Paul Begley.

What is really astonishing, and this is a profound indictment of the American education system, is that millions of people lap this stuff up.

Sharon dead - coast now clear for return of Christ?

Ariel Sharon was many things; a great Israeli patriot, a mass-murderer of biblical proportions, and at least according to Charles Krauthammer, the founder of the independent Palestinian state of Gaza.

But I had no idea that Ariel Sharon was single-handedly preventing the coming, or second coming, depending on your perspective, of the messiah.

Apparently it's got to do with some visions visited upon the late Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri.