Friday, February 28, 2014

Fear and loathing in a uni-polar world

I suppose what's good about a uni-polar world is that there is but one hegemon to fear and loathe.

The way things stand that would be the American Empire.

That's why the Empire spends so much political capital trying to brand Putin as the second coming of that trusted and true adversary, the Evil Empire, aka the Soviet Union.

Those were the glory days when you didn't have to think too long and too hard about what side you were on.

And if you did appear to think too long and/or too hard about it, your next appearance would be in front of a McCarthy hearing about why you might be thinking too long and too hard about it.

Times have changed.

America has more or less morphed into a totalitarian state. True, you still have the right to choose between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Or the Republicans and the Democrats.

But what does it matter?

The panic that pervades current decision making by the stewards of American Empire is driven by fear that the singularly independent operator Putin is somehow recreating the bi-polar world of yore.

If you take a close look at that bi-polar world of yore you'll realize that it was not nearly as anti-capitalist or anti-American as you suppose. There are several biographies floating around about Armand Hammer. He was an American capitalist who did lots and lots of business with the very first wave of Bolsheviks.

You could almost say he was to Russia in the 20s and 30s what Dan Gertler is to the DRC today. Or what Sam Bronfman was to prohibition era American culture; ie a guy who knew how to do an end run around red tape.

My favorite Hammer book is his autobiography. While he's busy air-brushing his own history, he also does a damn good job prettifying the great communist experiment in the Soviet Union.

The larger point being that the only major anti-capitalist country of the modern era was from top to bottom tied into the capitalist network from the very beginning.

And Putin's Russia is as well. Nothing about Putin today or Lenin or Stalin yesterday ever threatened the reality of capitalist hegemony.

Pot-addled hillbilly predicted Morsi demise by six months

Here's what I wrote on the occasion of Morsi's election in December of 2012.


That's democracy for you!

Frankly, you have to wonder if "the people" weren't better off with their old dictatorship. Alas, spring has sprung and it's too late for that.

A mere 32% of the eligible voters bothered to cast their ballots. That's a standard of apathy approaching American levels!

Within hours the Morsi democratic dictatorship announced currency and travel restrictions in anticipation of a run for the borders by folks with money.

Since the only folks with money in Egypt are to a lesser or greater degree affiliated with the Egyptian Armed Forces vast parallel economy, it looks like Morsi is setting up the final showdown with the military.

Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Egypt.

That's democracy for you. Looks like they got their military dictatorship back.

The DP pecking order

Of the various DP tribes, all of them naturally assumed that they were at the top of the pecking order.

And depending on where you went in the land, they might have been right.

Once you got west of Thunder Bay your Bohunk peoples pretty much ruled the roost. East of Thunder Bay it was the Germans who had primacy. All across the land the Pollacks secretly believed that they were in fact the most important immigrant group, but they kept it secret for fear of getting beat up by the Krauts in the east and the Bohunks in the west.

Relations among the DP populations were smoothed over largely because that rising tide of post-war prosperity was indeed lifting all boats. That's what enabled every new wave of DPs to take root in the promised land.

Persons displaced from Viet Nam and Laos and Ethiopia and Somalia, to name just a few.

Canada has been a veritable riot of DP immigration.

It is standard modus operandi for the groups already settled to shit on the latest wave of newcomers.

The most virulent racism against immigrants from India and Pakistan back in the 60s came not from the anglo population but from the Krauts and the Wops and from Bohunks of all stripes.

Hey, at least we were white!

Over time, and due at least in part to that rising tide, ethnic divisions eventually gave way to class divisions.

Many a DP labourer from whatever ethnic background found their way into one of the construction trades. I'm told that to this day it helps to speak Portuguese if you want to prosper in the cement finishing trade in Toronto. Ditch diggers morphed into excavation contractors. Excavation contractors became infrastructure providers. A few of them became billionaires.

As the little guys became big people, they realized they had more in common with other big people than with the little people of their own ethnic group. And that's a beautiful thing. That's why the Toronto Star can now regularly showcase the children of immigrants in its flattering coverage of Toronto's fund-raisers and philanthropists. You'll see the second and third and fourth generation spawn of Jews and Germans and Italians and Iranians and Hungarians and you name it who all reaped the manifold blessings of life in the new land.

Proving yet again that an Italian billionaire has more in common with a German or an Iranian billionaire than he has in common with an Italian labourer.

But that's not news.

Nor is the fact that every DP making their way in this land, no matter where they stand on the socio-economic ladder, has at least one ethnic group they can still look down on.

The Canadian Indian.

The implications of Egypt's cure for AIDS

While I do appreciate the General charged with stamping out AIDS in Egypt for his courage in calling out the "international pharmaceutical mafia", it looks like that mafia doesn't have a lot to worry about for the time being.

The implications of last weekend's announcement that Egypt had a cure for AIDS shed light on the calibre of leadership in the post-Morsi era.

Like, just how retarded are these guys?

And we give 'em what? The latest tanks, jet fighters, attack helicopters.... to the tune of billions?

How retarded are WE?

Canadian delegation flies to Ukraine to announce $200k in aid

That's two hundred thousand dollars; or about the same as what the trip cost. But no matter; the Ukrainians are hard up and will take what they can get.

Foreign Minister Baird posted this insight on his Department's website today;

Members of the Canadian delegation walked through the Maidan and paid their respects to the fallen protesters who died for the cause of democracy. “Their sacrifice in the defence of their democracy and freedom has brought change to this country,” said Baird. “They will not be forgotten.”

That's got to be one of the more ominous developments in the evolution of democracy; overthrowing an elected government in the defence of it. Orwell would be proud. 

Elsewhere Baird waxed wise on lending Ukraine support in establishing good relations with it's ethnic minorities, due to Canada's world-reknowned expertise in the matter. Canada is especially reknowned for it's treatment of the ethnic minority otherwise known as "First Nations," treatment which is often referred to as "genocidal" among people tasked with studying such matters.

This trip and these news stories may not make a lot of sense on the face of it, but there are sound political calculations behind it. There's a federal election on the horizon in Canada, and Canada just happens to be home to the largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world. There will be well over a million votes cast by Ukrainian-Canadians in that election.

The Harper Gang just tried to buy them off at less than a measely twenty cents per vote.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The thrill is gone

I'm not sure exactly when it left me, but the thrill is gone.

When I talked the Farm Manager into that Mustang Fifty a couple of years ago, I thought the thrill would still be there.

Instead, I found out that I can't keep my foot in that car for even ten seconds without feeling that I'm going way faster than I want to go.

That's a different philosophy than what I subscribed to in my youth.

I remember a Dodge Dart 340 approaching 7000 rpm's on the tach on the Hanlon Expressway after midnight and hours at the bar. We were somewhere around 150 miles per hour. If the road was long enough and you kept your foot in it long enough you could do that back then.

That was a story repeated almost every night for years. If it wasn't my latest 340 it was Johny's big-block Super Bee or Kipling's hemi Charger or my Super Duty Trans Am.

Which barely got over 120 by the way. But it got there pretty damned quick.

Young men.

Fast cars.

I think where it all changed for me was about ten years ago, when I was asked to speak at the memorial service for four young men who had died in a car crash. They had run into a train at a level crossing at what was euphemistically referred to in the papers as "a high rate of speed."

I knew those kids and they were just like me and Kipling and a million other young guys.

They were young and had a fast car.

It was a late model Z-28 with some serious motor work. 150 mph was no problem for that car. They knew they'd beat the train to the crossing...

They were wrong.

Driving fast has never had quite the same attraction since.

The thrill is gone.

Best story ever found on Before It's News

That's saying something, given that I've written a couple of thousand of them myself, but trust me, this trumps anything  I could ever come up with.

Buddy seems to be a bit of a hoarder, but at least he knows what to hoard. That 427 Galaxie is a keeper no matter what you store on top of it. Right now I've got a couple of lawnmowers and a drum kit on top of the tarp that's over top of the roof of the Mustang 50, and that's nowhere near the gem of a piece Buddy has in his shop.

Almost bought a Galaxy myself once or twice. One was a 64 convertible with a 390 and four speed. I believe the ask was $400. We're going back a few years here.

The other was, if I'm not mistaken, a 406 four speed that had been raced on the quarter mile circuit. Had a piece of chain securing the engine block to the frame. That was an old drag-racer trick that was probably more or less useless. But it looked impressive.

Shouted out "this motor is so strong it could twist itself outta this chassis" even if that was a complete lie.

But this story just brings back the old days. He's right about a new Subaru WRX blowing that piece into the weeds...

A fact that in no way diminishes the allure of that 1964 Galaxie.

Bandar Bush sacked! Retires to Texas ranch

Word from my favorite Israeli website is that Prince Bandar bin Sultan has been kicked out of his headship at Saudi Arabia's Ministry of International Mayhem.

Quoting confidential sources, Debkafiles reports that Prince Bandar's completely independent management of the long-stalled Syrian revolution has become an impediment to those in Washington who just want to move things along already.

More specifically, Bandar's irrational obsession with the imaginary Iranian nuclear weapons program is a growing concern in Washington as the Obama team tries to rebrand the Ayatollas from "Axis of Evil" to "Axis of decent chaps who just have some wrong-headed ideas and ridiculous headgear."

While the Debka report cites numerous clandestine Bandar visits to Tel Aviv, it is also a well-known fact that Bandar has made clandestine visits to Tehran. This should not be a surprise. That's what your top spy-guys do; clandestine! Once you have been elevated to the position of top spook in any modern society, everything you do going forward is by definition clandestine!

Anonymous sources have assured the think tank here at Falling Downs that Bandar has taken leave of The Kingdom, probably for good, and settled in Texas. He was last seen helping George W stack firewood at Prairie Chapel Ranch.

This is good news for Assad, Rouhani, and of course Obama, whose Middle East policy has been bogged down in a place worse than Nowhere pretty much since the time he first took office.

With Bandar in Texas, it should be smooth sailing from here on.

Hearts of Darkness

As the astute reader will have realized long ago, the Farm Manager manages much more than the farm around here.

She micro-manages virtually every aspect of my existence.

Not that I'm complaining. In fact, I've never been happier.

And sometimes her managing manages to birth a great concept for a business venture.

Hence the Hearts of Darkness Chocolate Company. That's a concept that has "home run" written all over it. It'll join our stable of start-ups that include the Stinkfoot Cheese Company and the BigAss Chair Company.

Yessirree, this commie is embracing capitalism big time!

It all started with a story she read me about the health benefits of dark chocolate. Due to considerations of age and lifestyle I'm a proud member of that cohort that can be reasonably expected to drop dead at any moment from a catastrophic cardiac event.

Ya, who knows, this could be the last blog post I ever wr... aarrrgggghhh.............. oh shit I can't breathe... call 911!..






Just kidding.

Anyway, she says guys my age can benefit big time from regular doses of dark chocolate. I don't have a problem with that. In fact I don't mind dark chocolate one bit. All things considered I'm more partial to white chocolate, but WTF, I like life, and I've never heard anything about the power of white chocolate stretching out my time in this mortal coil.

The problem, I think, is getting guys my age into the typical chocolates emporium to buy their life-saving dark chocolates. While we occasionally darken the doorways of such establishments when we have the good fortune of remembering a birthday or an anniversary or the fact that Feb 14 is more than just another day in February, we're otherwise disinclined to frequent these places.

It's just not that cool, and what guy goes to a fancy chocolate shop to buy himself chocolates?

That's where a bit of marketing savvy comes in, and after "Stinkfoot" and "BigAss" you'll have to admit that I'm up there with the heavy hitters of marketing. Welding was absolutely the wrong career choice for me, a decision that should haunt my grade 9 guidance counsellor to this day.

So Heart of Darkness Chocolate Company is going to partner up with the Snap-On folks. Yup, you can buy your life-saving dark chocolates right off the Snap-On truck when Buddy rolls round to sell you your next $150 screwdriver.

We're thinking of a NASCAR sponsorship too, especially if we can convince Mark Martin to hang around another year or two. Our people are talking to his people even as I write this.

I think we got us a winner!

No surprises as Washington's man becomes Prime Minister of Ukraine

The revelation two weeks ago that US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland were vetting candidates to replace Ukraine's democratically elected Prime Minister caused barely a ripple at the time.

Nor is it likely to cause any now that the Pyatt-Nuland pick has miraculously emerged as the new PM!

Arseniy "Yats" Yatsenyuk may not be a household name yet, but if he's good enough for the American overlords then by golly he's certainly good enough for the people of Ukraine.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The unseemly haste of Canada's mission to Ukraine

On the face of it, Canada might seem an unlikely candidate to be the first of the Nations of Virtue to send a senior delegation into the chaos of post-Yanukovich Ukraine.

While Ukraine is doing their best to put a moderate face on the new regime with the announcement that vaguely centrist Arseniy Yatsenyuk is to be interim leader until May elections, there can be no question that it was the extremist right that did the heavy lifting in the triumph over the democratically elected government of Yanukovich.

That is a cohort that features at least two prominent characteristics that are anethema to the purported values of the Canadians.

One is their rampant anti-semitism.

The other is their rampant homophobia. Don't expect gay marriages to become officially sanctioned in Ukraine anytime soon.

So the spectacle of a Canadian delegation led by openly gay Foreign Minister John Baird handing out bon-bons in Independence Square is fraught with multiple layers of irony.

This is the same crew that has embarrassed itself professing absolute loyalty to the Likudniks in Israel.

Perhaps the Canadian mission is tasked with moderating the extremist views of their Ukrainian hosts?

Perhaps not.

Perhaps it's about nothing more than brazen political opportunism. As everybody knows, there is a federal election on the horizon in Canada, and Prime Minister Harper's Conservatives are in for a tight race.

The fundamentalist religious inclinations of certain of their party notwithstanding, the Harper gang sucks up to Israel mainly to impress the Jewish vote in Canada.

They're now sucking up to Ukraine to woo the Ukrainian vote in Canada, which happens to be roughly twice the size of the Jewish vote.

That's a lot of sucking up.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top homos revealed in Uganda

They've got a thing about homos in Uganda.

Today their media revealed the 200 top homos.

Frankly, I'd be more concerned about the 200 bottom homos...

Uganda is a country long considered a faithful ally of the Nations of Virtue. It has benefited from billions of dollars of foreign aid and subsidized trade. Yet on this most fundamental point of human rights they seem determined to set the way-back machine to 1954 or so.

Oddly enough, in a tale that is more than odd enough already, anti-gay sentiment in Uganda particularly and in Africa generally seems to be propagated mainly by white American missionaries.

Big dog politicians in the Nations of Virtue are making noises about cutting back aid to Uganda till this sort of homophobic legislation disappears into the dustbin of history.

Better idea; clip the wings of those US based homophobes who are using their tax-exempt US based charities to spread queer-hate across Africa.

New Canadian study proves middle class is booming!

Yup, all that scary shit you've been hearing is just so much hear-say.

The good folks at the Financial Post have real live proof that Canada's middle classes are blossoming as never before!

That "paycheck to paycheck" stuff is just a myth. In reality we're so much better off that the one percenters are drooling with envy...

I'm not ashamed to admit I've lived paycheck to paycheck my entire life. At the end of the year my T-4 tells me I had a "middle class" income, but by Jeezus that slipped by before I even noticed.

Strikes me as a story planted by Harper gang loyalists trying to undo the damage done by the story that came out yesterday, about the confidential government report that revealed the dream of upward mobility for Canada's middle class was just a myth.

What do you want to believe? A story pryed from the bowels of the Harper regime via an Access to Information request, or something the Finacial Post cooked up the day after?

Have a good look around you. How are your middle and working class friends faring out in this prosperous new world? Are they more prosperous than ever before?

Or are they living paycheck to paycheck?

Canada celebrates overthrow of democratically elected government in Ukraine

Canada Welcomes Presidential Transition in Ukraine

February 24, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement welcoming the confirmation of Oleksander Turchinov as Ukraine’s acting president:
“The Ukrainian parliament acted legitimately in naming Speaker Turchinov as acting president pending the May 25 elections, and Canada welcomes his interim appointment during this important transition period.
“The next critical juncture will be the Ukrainian parliament’s vote to establish a new government under the leadership of a new prime minister, in accordance with the constitution passed on February 22.
“Canada supports the Ukrainian people, the constitutional process and the Ukrainian people’s legitimate leaders as they work to re-establish freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Together with our allies, we will continue to monitor the situation closely at this pivotal time in the country’s history.”
- 30 -
For further information, media representatives may contact:
Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
613-995-1874
media@international.gc.ca
Follow us on Twitter: @DFATDCanada


 

     

The "exceptional nigger" is coming to a classroom in your town

Anyone who has made the effort and taken the time to read and digest Bernard Nicolas' essay The Existential Fears of the "Exceptional Nigger" can be forgiven for feeling a few pangs of discomfort over the news that 12 Years a Slave is coming to a classroom near you.

Nicolas does a great job calling out the white power-broker behind a "cultural product" that is generally getting a pass as a ground-breaking movie about race in America.

The plan to incorporate 12 Years a Slave into middle school curriculum would at first blush seem to be a step in the direction of America coming to grips with its past. It's a plan that will garner heaps of praise for the forward thinking folks at the studio and the publisher. Accolades will rain down on the capitalists at Penguin and New Regency.

Awards will be won. Profits will pile up. The white man's burden will be immeasurably lightened.

Few will stand up and ask why, more than 150 years after emmancipation, a black man in America is 700% more likely to go to prison than a white man in America.


Monday, February 24, 2014

What the Pentagon budget cuts really mean

Chuck Hagel's proposed budget cuts at the Pentagon have unleashed a carnival of hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing.

Relax. It's all window dressing.

First of all, Hagel isn't actually pitching hard numbers. He's proposing very modest reductions of troop numbers and the mothballing of some hardware that is reaching the outer margins of its useful life anyway.

The very idea of large standing armies is so 19th century. In the modern era, if the US government needs boots on the ground, the company formerly known as Blackwater or one of its many rivals can provide them quickly and cost-effectively. You'll also notice that quick-reaction special forces numbers are scheduled to go up rather than down, for those special occasions where "America's strategic interests" just can't be farmed out to the private sector or local proxies.

For routine invasions and occupations, "local proxies" like the armed forces of Kenya or Uganda or Ethiopia are a much more cost-effective way of pacifying restless locals than sending the US Army into some African backwater that happens to sit astride vast mineral or oil wealth.

What Hagel is really signalling is this; American military spending going forward will be much more focussed on buying the latest hardware. Not necessarily last-century hardware like ships and planes and tanks, but new-age "intelligent" hardware, that special niche of technology where Silicon valley meets the Valley of Death.

So rather than mourn lost Pentagon funding, patriotic investors need to do their homework and sniff out those high-tech start-ups whose products can thrive in that niche.

There's a new high-tech boom on the horizon!

Ukraine faces imminent economic collapse

Move over Greece; Europe has a new economic basket case and her name is Ukraine.

However bad things were three months ago, they are immeasurably worse today. After all, when half the population occupy themselves for weeks on end burning government buildings and throwing gasoline bombs at policemen, not much is being added to the GDP.

The news that minor league banker Stepan Kubiv has been appointed head of the Central Bank will do nothing to stem the melt-down. Kubiv's main qualification seems to be his experience as a "commandant" of the rioters rather than his banking experience. In other words, it's a great personal career move for Stepan but mere meaningless floundering by whoever is in charge.

Mark Ames makes some interesting observations in an article on view at Pandodaily. The fickle allegiances of Ukraine's political elites do not bode well for the emergence of a coherent consensus of any political orientation.

The current state of affairs means that the financial lifeline offered by Moscow will in all probability be rescinded, throwing the country into the arms of the IMF/World Bank/ECB cartel. If indeed the international institutions make available the $35 billions required for short-term stability you can bet such a deal will come with the usual neo-liberal prescription for "austerity" and selling off the commons.

By all accounts things are beyond austere for most Ukrainian workers and the middle class already. Layer a foreign-imposed dose of austerity on top of that and the gasoline bombs will soon be flying again.

Canadian Air Force's lone bomber moved to Europe for possible Syria action

Hamilton’s Mynarski Memorial Avro Lancaster Mk X bomber was built at Victory Aircraft in Malton, Ont., in 1945.

The Canadian Air Force is moving it's only dedicated bomber, a seventy year old Lancaster, to an unspecified NATO air base in Europe, where it will join Canada's fleet of six 35 year old CF-18s and four 50 year old Sea King helicopters for an anticipated action in Syria.

Canada's arsenal of the air last saw combat in the vaunted Libyan campaign of 2011 in which it served as the pointy end of the spear that brought freedom and democracy to the people of Libya.

Anonymous insiders speculate that NATO will soon unleash a similar humanitarian bombing campaign to bring freedom and democracy to the people of Syria.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Junior does Daytona

Again!

In fine style I might add.

Pretty sure this 500 was the longest ever. Started watching early this afternoon and by gosh I was able to get a lot of reading in during the rain delay.

But it's finally over, and for all kinds of sentimental reasons it's really nice that Dale Jr. came out on top.

But I do feel kinda cheated out of THE BIG ONE.


Walmart to invest $250 billions in American manufacturing

At least that's what I think their Daytona 500 commercials were telling me...

Oh, maybe that's not quite the same as "sourcing" $250 billions of their purchases from American manufacturers, which may be what they actually promised.

The reason I'm not 100% clear on what that Walmart commercial promised was  because I was totally taken aback by the soundtrack.

Yes, that was Rush. Quintessential hard-rock nerd band.

Walmart has bought the rights to "Working Man."

Buying the rights is probably a lot easier than hiring an American working man and paying him a decent wage.

All cynicism aside, at least working people and making stuff in America are on the radar again.

Iconic Canadian rockers sell out... to Walmart!

That's not what I would have expected.

It hit me hard when I saw that shabby Dylan commercial during the Superbowl. Bolshevik Bob shilling for a post-bailout Chrysler. Shilling for one of the American car companies that used guile and deception to weasel out of their responsibilities to their workforce.

But that's nothing compared to the loathing that overwhelmed me when I realized that Rush has lent their good name to no less a capitalist behemoth than Walmart.

Walmart!

Then again, I shouldn't be that surprised. Rush always had a somewhat dodgy relationship with the Aynn Rand school of fuck-everybody selfishness.

Rush.

Working Man.

Walmart.

The end may indeed be nigh...

Sunday afternoon downward spiral

So what to do when Daytona gets black-flagged due to rain?

Well, that drive into town killed a bit of time. Got home and thought the race was on. Took me some time before I realized I was watching last years race.

If they're going to show old races instead of fresh ones, why not the best Daytona 500 ever, from two years ago? That was a classic battle between good and evil worthy of Armageddon.

Only Armageddon is bigger than THE BIG ONE.

That rainout can't help the TV numbers. One thing little talked about is how NASCAR's numbers have been hurting in the post collapse era, both at the tracks and on TV. There's a totally obvious reason for this, of course, which is why the media prefer not to talk about it.

The reason is that the white middle-class/working class core of NASCAR fans has been utterly decimated by the economic collapse. It looks to me as though entire upper sections of the grandstands at Daytona have been cordoned off this year to make the lower stands look more full. That is both a bandaid and an exercise in self-deception.

It's a lovely thing that Caterpillar remains a NASCAR sponsor, but thousands of Cat employees who have had their $30 an hour jobs made into $12 an hour jobs in the past few years, so that that the shitbags at CAT HQ can grab bigger bonuses, can no longer afford to go to a NASCAR race.

Note to NASCAR management; that's no way to build brand loyalty.

So in spite of that benediction, God sent the rains anyway, and it's been an afternoon of b'ball and now golf....

If that rain delay goes on much longer, what's next?

Curling?

Fathers and daughters

Whoever it was gave that benediction before the 500 maybe didn't have the kind of hotline to the Almighty that we imagined. Barely an hour in the race was red-flagged for rain!

Or maybe the Almighty was preoccupied.

Syria, Ukraine, the CAR... God knows God's got enough on His plate.

So I took the opportunity to drive into town for a sixpack, and had the immense pleasure of hearing an interview with the late Mavis Gallant on the car radio.

Canadian literature has always left me a little cold. I think it's that "Canadian" label. Why do we need to have labels for literature? Isn't it enough that it's in a language I can read? As long as you're writing in English should it matter whether you write from India or Ceylon or Nigeria or the US or England?

Or Canada?

It struck me as a way to get some spotlight for otherwise mediocre writers who would have drowned in the big pool but were able to become big fish in the segregated pool we call Canlit.

So Michael Ondaatje came to Canada and is now a great Canadian writer; Malcom Lowry did some of his best work here but was never a Canadian writer. Elizabeth Smart was a Canadian but didn't write here so is excluded from the Canlit canon... it all seems a little arbitrary to me.

Mavis was a Canadian writer who wrote elsewhere and was therefore a Canlit outsider of sorts; proudly embraced after the fact of her international success, which only underscores my point that these labels of national identity are irrelevant if not illegitimate.

Good writing is always universal. Love, death, peace, war...

The father-daughter bond is one of those universals, and it was poignant to hear the octogenarian Gallant reminisce about events in her life from over 80 years ago. The father-daughter relationship was evidently a crucial one in her formative years. It's remarkable that she can wistfully recollect memories even though he died when she was ten years old.

I've had the extreme good fortune of not dying when my daughter was ten. That's allowed me to be a coach and cheerleader as a shy but precocious little girl has negotiated the innumerable hazards that lie in wait for a girl growing up, and I do believe it's tougher for girls than for boys.

For well beyond the first year of her life I walked her to sleep every night to Sing it again, Rod. At some level that hour-long walk every night created bonds that have been strained at times, by divorce and adolescence and all the baggage that goes with that, but have never been seriously threatened.

It's a joy I can scarcely articulate to drive to the big city and visit with her, an independent and successful young professional making her way in the world.

The last ten years have also gifted me a step-daughter. That relationship did not have the benefit of that crucial first year of being walked to sleep to Rod Stewart tunes. As a result, we had to fight through a lot of that adolescent baggage, a process that had both highs and lows. But we made it.

She too is a fiercely intelligent and independent young woman successfully making her way in the world.

I feel bad for Mavis' dad. He missed so much.

And I am the luckiest dad in the world.

God loves the Daytona 500

I know this because I just heard the pre-race benediction, and even as He was beseeched to steer the storm clouds away from the track, sure enough, those clouds began to scatter.

Once again we see that NASCAR remains a testament to American diversity and inclusion; there is at least one black person in the stadium today. I know this because he sang the national anthem.

The blessing sought, the Lord thanked, the jets applauded, the gentlemen and one gal having started their engines, it's all over now except for sitting on the couch all afternoon waiting for THE BIG ONE.

Flash mob democracy

All those news stories in today's papers trumpeting the demise of Yanukovych tend to downplay one salient factor; whatever the man's shortcomings as a leader, he was in fact elected to his position in a reasonably fair election process. His premature removal from office, on the other hand, was the result of mob violence in the streets.

A not dissimilar trajectory marked the demise of Egypt's democratically elected President Morsi last July. The major difference was that in the end the street violence in Egypt was not in itself sufficient to turn the deed, and the US sponsored military had to step in to enforce "the will of the people."

In both cases we have seen the legitimacy of the democratic process trumped by the flash mob.

Both cases are victories for US based "democracy promotion" NGOs like the National Endowment for Democracy and their numerous quasi-governmental affiliates. These "NGOs" are doubly deceptive; in the first instance, they are funded virtually in their entirety by the US government, rendering the "NG" part of their labels more than a little suspect.

Secondly, when they are instrumental in the removal of democratically elected governments, it is a curious sort of "democracy" they are promoting.

The NED has for some time focussed on the uses of social media as a tool to organize opposition in the countries where it operates. It's a strategy that has now been proven effective in paralyzing the government and economy of targeted societies. What we are witnessing is the evolution of how governments are installed and maintained, an evolution driven by developments in technology.

That in itself is not new. The printing press, the telegraph, radio, television, and the internet have all impacted the evolution of the democratic process.

What seems to be new is that until the present time these technological changes served to democratize the process by which governments are installed and maintained. The process of choosing  leadership was taken away from priests and magi and hereditary leaders. It was also taken away from angry hordes mobilizing in the streets.

The process was bureaucratized and institutionalized. We've evolved something called "the rule of law," which while nowhere perfect, did insulate the process effectively from the demands of easily manipulated  street mobs. The current technology seems to be a reversal. Social media are unravelling the last five hundred years in the evolution of democracy as we know it.

One of the as-yet little-appreciated effects of this change is that by its nature, this technology is very effective in gathering a mass of disaffected individuals on a given street or in a particular square. That's the definition of "flash mob." What the technology cannot do is replace the kind of oppositional networks that grow from long term commitment to activism.

Those are the kind of networks that can effectively oppose entrenched power institutions. The overthrow of the military regime in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood was the result of several generations of activism undertaken at great personal risk by members of an organization that had a cogent set of core values and an agenda. The overthrow of the Morsi administration was the result of mere weeks of virulent anti-Morsi flash mob activism.

We know how that has turned out.

Will Ukraine be different? Or, when the smoke settles will we see a nation, or perhaps two nations, even less accountable than the hapless Yanukovych?

And what of other flash mob revolutions currently in play to a greater or lesser extent in Venezuela, Turkey, and Thailand, all of them well trod playgrounds for the "democracy promoters" of the NED?

Technology is facilitating a brand new world of democracy, and it's starting to look a lot like the bad old world of rule by rioting mob.

The era of flash mob democracy has arrived.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Tymoshenko uses freedom to fan flames as Ukraine burns

Yulia Tymoshenko wasted no time after her release from prison celebrating the demise of "the dictator" and encouraging the ultras to keep up the pressure.

"The dictator" is of course the guy who got more votes than she in the last election. Tymoshenko is on the cusp of superstar status in the west. In spite of the frightening hair event permanently entwined around her head, she looks good on TV. That is of course the second most valuable quality that the western elites look for in opposition candidates in foreign lands.

The first is that they swallow without reservation the entire smorgasbord of neo-liberal dogma so that the resources of western "democracy promoters" can flow their way.

There is no question Tymoshenko will clear that bar. She has led an incredibly charmed life. In business she started from nothing and emerged a burgeoning oligarchette.

In politics she has made and unmade a dizzying array of coalitions with partners ranging from the extreme left to the extreme right.

The wiff of scandal and corruption has followed her in both arenas.

She is about to be elevated to the highest reaches of the pantheon of iconic freedom-fighters by western media.

Hell, she could be bigger than Pussy Riot!

Africa under the Bintus

Back when I was a bright-eyed keener in Professor Jorge Neff's International Development class he used to talk a lot about the Bintu tribe. Took me awhile to catch on, but he was referring to local elites who had been to the west for their education.

As in "been to" Harvard.

Been to the LSE.

Been to Oxford, been to MIT, been to Columbia, etc.

The Bintus.

I was reminded of this while reading about the latest attack on the Presidential Palace in Mogadishu. The al-Shabaab hit team managed to create a minimum of mayhem but missed both the president and prime minister. One of their victims was an Ottawa man, and the article revealed that PM Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed was also from Ottawa.

In fact, he is a graduate of the University of Ottawa, a bit of trivia that the school could capitalize on by featuring him in their recruitment literature.

He is also an alumnus of multiple international finance and NGO outfits. He has drank deeply from the cup of western wisdom. He's a man who knows what the west expects, knows how the power game is played.

He's one of us, in other words, which is why he's deemed suitable for a leadership role in Africa.




Drugs war finally turns corner with arrest of kingpin Guzman

It's been a long time coming, but the drug warriors have finally got their man.

'El Chapo' Guzman is, according to media reports, the biggest drug lord of them all. His organization reputedly runs hundreds of tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States every year. The capture of Guzman means that the supply of drugs in America will dry up in a matter of weeks.

Or not. What we have here is a nice headline and a good story. That picture of the three Mexican marines frog-marching Guzman to a helicopter while he's got his hands cuffed behind his back and a gun held to his head just screams photo-op, doesn't it?

The authorities have captured Guzman before, so we've got a case of deja vu all over again. Last time he spent seven or eight years running his empire from a high security Mexican prison. There was absolutely no impact on the supply of drugs on America's streets.

Nor will there be this time round.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Oligarchs, democrats, and Ukraine

Louis Proyect has a depth of expertise on divergent strands of Marxism that I can only dream of. When he speaks of "Baathist Socialists" you can bet your bottom dollar he knows what he means, whereas I have no clue what the difference is between a Baathist and non-Baathist socialist.

At least part of the reason for that is the fact that while Louis was spending a career studying the working classes I was a dumbfuck schmuck enjoying the pleasures of the shop floor.

Nevertheless we have each self-identified as "Marxists" of one stripe or another. (and at this juncture I want to tip my hat to the fact that Louis would be able to not only identify each of those stripes, but could provide the complete history of that stripe and how it split from other stripes and which revisionists and revanchists stabbed the other stripes in their running-dog backs etc.)

But Louis constantly reveals himself as a true mensch with his vast knowledge of pop culture. How many Marxists of any stripe are mourning the passing of Devo guitarist Bob Casale?

Louis also manages to throw a new light on certain certitudes about current events. His recent post about Ukraine is a prime example. Who knew that one of the prime backers of supposed right-wing Ukraine President Yanukovich uses the same beltway PR folks as Senator John McCain? That's a story well worth reading.

It's also a story that brings to mind certain certitudes I've harboured for a long time. Should we be surprised that billionaires of any stripe have more in common with other billionaires than they do with non-billionaires who may share some of their other markers? Does a Ukrainian billionaire have more in common with Ukrainian factory hands or with Russian/US/Mexican billionaires?

Does not an unemployed black autoworker have more in common with unemployed white autoworkers than with middle-class black "activists?"

Does not a queer welfare recipient have more in common with straight welfare recipients than with well funded middle-class gay activists?

I recall a winter night many years ago at the end of a second shift when a bunch of us walked out of Frankel Steel with layoff notices in our pockets. Black, white, couple of yellow guys, a few Pakis... at that moment we had way more in common with one another than we had with the black or white or yellow folks for whom life was merrily rolling along in the subdivisions on the other side of the 401.

I don't know what the right read is of the disaster unfolding in Kiev. Is there a Ukrainian national spirit emerging that puts the unemployed Ukrainian and the queer Ukrainian and the billionaire Ukrainian and the left and the right and the politically indifferent Ukrainian all on the same page at this moment in history?

Why BEFORE ITS NEWS fiddles view counts

Here at Falling Downs we've noted with some amusement that the view count for stuff on Before it's News often goes backwards. You can have 50 views fifteen minutes after posting something, and an hour later there's 20.

Here's a guy who thinks he has it figured out. xvleo is a contributor who has noted the same phenomenon, and he's come up with an explanation. According to xv, the satanists at BIN do this to hide the truth about the NWO.

Yup.

Sorry to ruin your theory, Mr. Leo, but there's a much more prosaic explanation. Those clicks on your stories go somewhere; just not to your story!

Instead, they are siphoned off to plump the numbers of the crap that routinely shows up at "today's top stories." And most of it is crap. How do 11,000 people click onto the latest expose about crop circles? Seriously folks, all my ranting about America's dysfunctional education system aside, there are not enough stupid people in America to drive the kind of viewership you see at "today's top stories."

And guess who writes most of that crap? Why, BIN insiders of course! And guess what? If you can author several stories a day that run into the thousands of page views, you end up making a tidy living writing dreck about imaginary conspiracies, aliens, crop circles, etc.

This blog has been fodder at the Alternative department at BIN since before they had a million stories. They're over four million now. We're glad to have been a small part of their success. But we're not deluding ourselves about what BIN is or does.

Nobody at BIN seriously believes the shit they put up as "top stories" and nobody reads it.

Those numbers are just page views pilfered from earnest bloggers who wonder why their view counts go down instead of up.

CP Rail kills 5,000 jobs, can't figure out how to spend ensuing cash horde

That's quite a conundrum facing the management team over there at CP Rail. Hitman Harrison takes a perverse pride in having eliminated close to 5,000 good Canadian jobs. That's 5,000 folks no longer getting a paycheck, and even a simpleton realizes that if you don't have to pay that cash out to lazy-ass Canadian workers, well, ya gotta do something with it...

For the Ackman-installed management team those savings add up to somewhere between 300 and 400 millions of dollars per year; perhaps a little more.

What to do, what to do?....

Hunter Harrison himself was ruminating during a recent speech about who was going to pay to replace those exploding DOT 111 tankers. A casual observer might be tempted to draw a line linking a railroad's surplus cash to the unsafe oil tank wagons they are pulling back and forth across the country, but that would be just a tad too obvious. They didn't pay Hunter a $50,000,000 signing bonus to invest in safety, for Gods sakes!

Thankfully, Hunter came to his senses a few days after those careless ruminations. Instead of investing in safety, or figuring out a way to get Canadian farmers' bumper grain crop to market, he's come up with a meaningful way to meet the needs of CP Rail's American shareholders - a share buy back.

Share buy-backs are perhaps the most useless and counter-productive investment strategy when it comes to investing surplus cash. Doesn't enhance the company, doesn't open doors to new business opportunities, doesn't do a damed thing except goose the share price.

Ergo, the share-holders love it!

The biggest shareholder of CP Rail is of course US hedgie Bill Ackman and his Pershing Square fund.

That's job one for CP Rail today. It's no longer about trains or jobs or getting grain to market.

It's about meeting the needs of American hedge funds.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ukraine in play

The events of the last twelve hours underline the gravity of what is at stake in Ukraine. After the apparent stand-down of the protesters the extremists came back with a vengeance.

This is not a cohort that the West can overtly support, what with the rampant anti-semitism and xenophobia associated with it. We can't be seen to be cajoling Putin about gay rights in Russia while at the same time tying our wagon to even more virulently homophobic elements in Ukraine. The rabid right in Ukraine is a non-starter.

At the same time, that is the nature of the most vehement opposition at the moment, and they do have one feature prized by the West; they are anti-Russian and even more importantly, anti-Putin. A vast cross-section of Congress and the Senate will support them for that reason alone.

This could be the first time in recent history that the Israel lobby can achieve something useful; call off their congressional dogs from their blind anti-Putinism.

Pussy Riot unveil latest hit; "Yeltsin Lives"

I'm a bit confused here; I thought Maria and Nadya had been kicked out of the band.

Apparently not. Maria and Nadya managed to make worldwide headlines for the brand today after their release for shoplifting from a Sochi police station.

But the stamp of approval from uber-rebel Madonna seems to have soothed a lot of savage breasts. The gals were mobbed by their hysterical fan base - western journalists - upon their release.

Nowhere in recent history has style trumped substance in such a convincing fashion.

What do the Rioteers actually stand for? Well, we can't be too sure... sex with dead chickens? Hatred of the church? Wanton self-promotion?

At least we know what they are against.

Putin.

That's good enough for the hordes of western journos.

In the shadow of Canada's Palace of Human Rights

On a good day you or I could probably walk from the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre to the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights in about half an hour.

Brian Sinclair couldn't.  Brian is, or rather was, a 45 year old native dude with some serious health issues and no legs. He died in the waiting room of the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre five years ago. He had been waiting to see medical professionals for 36 hours before he was discovered dead. That's a day and a half waiting in Emergency.

They're having an inquest now, more than five years after the fact. All kinds of great stuff is coming out. Brian was the classic Indian drunk who caused his own demise. That's pretty much been the sum total of what's been discovered at the inquest so far, so it's no wonder that his family has given up.

By far the most telling quote from the story is this;

Rigor mortis had set in by the time he was discovered dead.

Discovered dead in Emerge after waiting a day and a half. If that was my Dad, my uncle, my brother, I'd be seriously pissed. He wasn't and I'm still pissed. Every Canadian deserves better than that. Christ, every human deserves better than that.

This story is about poverty and systemic racism and blaming the victim and the priorities of Canadian society. We can't afford health care for Brian Sinclair, but a short walk away we are erecting a Museum for Human Rights at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

What's wrong with that picture?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Canada's shameful record of sucking up to Colombia's narco-fascists

Here's an excerpt from the website of Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs highlighting some of the good stuff happening in Canada-Colombia relations;

Security
Colombia has also benefitted from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada’s Counter-Terrorism and Anti-Crime Capacity Building Programs.
The RCMP and the Colombian National Police also work closely in conducting investigations targeting drug trafficking organizations with the objective of ensuring safe communities in Canada and in Colombia. The RCMP has also provided technical assistance on issues such as witness protection, child exploitation and criminal science.
Colombia is a priority hemispheric partner for the Department of National Defence. Canada has had a Defence Attaché in Bogotá since 2001; Colombia recently reinstated its military attaché position in Canada. Colombia became a member of the Department of National Defence’s (DND) Military Training Cooperation Program (MTCP) in 2011. As such, the Colombian armed forces will have access to training that will expose them to Canadian values, including the need to incorporate/promote the respect in human rights in basic military training and in guidelines for operations. Canada and Colombia also hold Defence Policy Talks.

Not only that, but we've forged a free trade agreement with those folks. So what's our "historic hemispheric partner" been up to? Well, leaving aside the longstanding historic rumors of paramilitary death squads and connivance in the drug trade, lets see what's new in Colombia these days.

Oh look, the death-wishing journalists at the news magazine Semana have unearthed a massive corruption scandal in the armed forces! That very same armed forces that has been inculcated in Canadian values!

Well, at least President Santos is demonstrating some of those great Canadian values; he has ordered the Army to investigate itself, pronto.

I'm sure they'll have this cleaned up in no time flat, thanks to that training in "Canadian values."

US pulls plug on latest Ukraine "revolution"

The release of the Nuland-Pyatt recordings a week ago took the American wind out of the sails of Ukraine's opposition. Things suddenly went very quiet very fast. Today the protesters peacefully left the government buildings they had occupied for months.

The think tank here at Falling Downs was initially perturbed at the lack of public outrage over the Nuland-Pyatt revelations. After all, here we had the US ambassador to the country and the number two in the State Department discussing who would be the next leader of Ukraine as casually as they might choose a wine for dinner.

And while there was little public reaction, obviously a great deal has happened behind the scenes. After that tape was leaked to the public any opposition government would have been forever tainted by accusations of being stooges for America.

It also caused more observers to look a little more closely at who exactly comprises that Ukraine opposition, and the closer you looked the more uncomfortable even folks in Kerry's State Department must have become. You don't have to dig too deep to find a vast swath of reactionary extremism among that opposition.

While it may be amusing for the beltway crowd to flirt with those folks just for the sake of making trouble for Putin, they wouldn't exactly want to stand accused of bringing a cabal of neo-nazis to power in Ukraine.

Does this mean the US will stop with its campaign of "democracy promotion" and leave Ukraine politics to Ukrainians?  After all, they have now lost two revolutions within ten years.

Of course they cannot stop interfering. Ukraine is the biggest prize of the post-Soviet era. Just look at a map. Having the Ukraine in the US fold would be the prize of prizes.

This just means they'll have to double down for next time.

Good things happen in thirds.

IDF soldiers busted "hot-boxing" in troop-wagon



Blame that Bekaa Valley Blonde! Well-wasted IDF troops stumble out of their armoured Jeep somewhere in the West Bank after spending an afternoon passing the bong around with the windows rolled up. There hasn't been this much smoke on four wheels since the original Cheech and Chong movie!

John Kerry gets (green) religion

John Kerry took time out from saving the Middle East yesterday to save the entire planet.

Addressing an audience of students in Indonesia Kerry tried to scare the crap out of them by claiming that climate change was the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction, to which the students replied, "hey, don't look at us, we're just students. Wasn't us that messed the nest!"

Let's linger a moment on Mr. Kerry's metaphor. Weapons are tools we use to coerce, intimidate, threaten, dominate, subjugate, and sometimes eliminate our rivals or potential rivals. Who in this world is wielding this weapon of mass destruction? Since the US and China between them account for over 30% of greenhouse gases, it would be safe to say that they have the greatest stockpiles.

So are these stockpiles in safe hands or are they in the hands of rogue states? Are the leading proliferators of this weapon working to reduce their stockpiles or are they engaged in an arms race?

Stats reveal that it's more of an arms race. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Who are these states threatening with their massive emissions? Why everyone on the entire planet, of course.

Why?

Because America has from the beginning been in thrall to a reckless model of exploitation of the natural world that puts short-term profit before long-term sustainability, and for too much of its recent history China has been aping that model.

It's not up to the children of Indonesia to fix that; it's up to the US and China. So what new initiatives did Kerry announce that would begin to reduce the threat posed by this most fearsome weapon of mass destruction? Well, great news for the planet, folks; Kerry announced that China and the US have agreed to "intensify information-sharing and policy discussions."

In other words, they'll just add more hot air.

Forget fighter jets - Lockheed Martin can't make underwear

Don't know what the good folks at the US Olympic Team were thinking when they went to Lockheed Martin to fine tune their "speed-skating suits." As you know, that's jock talk for the longies your mom used to make you put on before she bundled you up and kicked you out the door to play in the snow all day.

In the modern era Under Armor has been trying to build a athletic brand, and they've been pretty successful at it. They sponsored the US speed skaters and provided the uniforms, or "speed-skating-suits."

Longies, onesies, whatever; everybody knows we're talking underwear here. Really hi-tech underwear to be sure, and I guess that's why partnering up with Lockheed must have seemed a good idea.

But that should have sent up some red flags too. Lockheed Martin makes news almost every day for the ongoing boondoggle that is the F-35 joint strike fighter. After fifteen years in development the most impressive feature of this next generation jet fighter is its name. After shredding and re-shredding every delivery timeline, after blowing through budget estimates by billions upon billions of dollars, the F-35 is too slow, too heavy, too complicated, and too expensive.

Yup, that would be the outfit you'd want to entrust in the development of your new speed-skating suit!

Best finish for the new suit so far? Seventh.

Lockheed Martin strikes again!

Putin revealed as "the devil"

Next to Rob Ford one of the favorite targets of the Toronto Star's soft left journo crew is Vladimir Putin. This morning sports writer Cathal Kelly takes a turn at international relations and is rewarded with a spot on the front page. Here are a few quotes;

Vladimir Putin doesn't make entrances. Like the devil, he appears.

He took a seat up in the rafters, leaned forward like a gargoyle.

...the expression of raw power.

Putin looks like he's wearing his own death mask.

...Putin is full-on evil.

He rules through a personality cult.

...combination of power and malice.

Well! Move over Masha Gessen! This kind of objective and carefully balanced reportage should get Kelly off the sports beat and into the Washington bureau in no time!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Losing America

We've lost America.

Call home, America; we need you...

We need the America of Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash and Ike and Elvis back again.

The America of jobs and dual exhausts and Saturday night at the drive-in.

The America of pain and sorrow and trial and error and hope and hope...

The America I used to listen in on every night on WLS and WCFL.

We've lost America

Latest western bumboy in Somalia bedeviled by corruption concerns

How do we know this to be true?

Because no less a personage than Governor of the newly created Somalia Central Bank, Yussur Abrar, says so. And Yussur was once a VP at Citibank, so she obviously knows whereof she speaks.

The Gods of Development in the Nations of Virtue have not done much for Somalia over the last fifty years or so, but apparently we have gifted them a central bank, the better to centralize the looting of their country, I suppose.

The single bright moment in that time in terms of indigenous development came in that brief period that the Union of Islamic Courts established some primacy over the myriad warring factions in the country. That was an effort that should have and could have been supported by the west.

But no.

We sent our proxies in to stamp out that wee episode of regional self-sufficiency.

We would rather see Somalia as a bleeding morass, worthy of pity but not respect.

Somalia can never begin to heal until the foreigners go home.

Three cheers for Tom Perkins!

Tom Perkins attracted more than a little ridicule a couple weeks ago with his assertion that the super-rich like him are being persecuted in contemporary America just like Jews were persecuted in Nazi Germany.

Hold on a minute. Maybe Tom is the canary in the proverbial coalmine. Maybe some of us are just too blind with envy to see what is really happening.

Already we see the super-rich being barred from the boards of directors of major corporations. None of the big banks will any longer be publicly associated with billionaires. They are increasingly shunned even by the very media they own!

Rumours abound of private jets ferrying planeloads of billionaires to secret camps deep in the woods. We are told these camps are for "economic summits." Of course they are... just like the Jews of Europe were attending "economic summits" at Belsen and Auschwitz.

And what of the future for our beleaguered billionaires? Will enough survive these dark days to achieve, someday, a homeland of their own?  

Luckily, Tom has an idea that may nip this tide of anti-oligarchism in the bud. The fatal flaw in democracy has always been that a lot of lazy stupid people have this so-called "right to vote." This manifestly unfair feature of US democracy has lead us straight to the current crisis of billionaire-bashing. If Tom's net worth is the equivalent of the combined net worth of 150 million poor Americans, why should they get 150 million votes while he gets one?

Tom's plan is brilliant in its simplicity. Every dollar paid in tax would entitle the payer to one vote. That way Tom will no longer be punished for working a million times harder than a million lazy stupid poor people. This plan would also increase government revenue by incentivising many billionaires to pay taxes for the first time!

So enough with the ridicule already. Let's give Tom's plans a chance!

What's wrong with this Canada - Mossad story?

This story originated with the Sun chain in Canada and is now turning up in Israeli media. It's got all the elements of a good spy thriller; assassination, secret identities, false passports, and, wouldn't you know it, a shady Iranian right in the middle of it.

The way the story is presented is obvious hokum. The Mossad agent in question is hiding out in Canada after the assassination of Hamas big Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai back in 2010. Hiding out from what? Hamas hit teams roaming Haifa and Tel Aviv looking for revenge?

That's beyond silly. That's even sillier than the original assassination plot which involved a team of no less than 26 killers! That's what I call overkill! And while they did get their man, they also got most of their team ID'd by Dubai security. Oops!

But just because our Mossad chappie has no need to be hiding out in Canada doesn't mean the accommodating folks in Harper's Ottawa didn't fix him up with a new Canadian identity. In 1997 Israel admitted to using fake Canadian passports in a botched assassination attempt in Jordan and promised not to be so naughty again.

With the current PM of Canada and most of his cabinet having sworn eternal love for Netanyahu, they won't have to. They can pick up real passports at the nearest Canadian consulate. The Canadians are only doing God's will; right there in the Book of Revelations it says "and the Canadianites shall shelterest them from the anti-semites with papers bearing the Seal of Stephen", a clear reference to Canadian passports.

As for the Iranian Don Juan charming state secrets out of a lonely gal at the passport office, that's a nice touch too. Gives the story a human element.

Chattanooga anti-union vote proves value of crappy education system

Those folks puzzled over the never-ending downward spiral of America's international education rankings should take heart - crappy education is paying big dividends!

The big dogs at Volkswagen can hardly believe it; they refrained from interfering in the union drive. In fact, they all but invited the union in! Surely the American workers know that a Volkswagen worker in Germany makes four times their hourly wage for building the same car? Surely they can figure out that is the result of unionization?

Luckily such reasoning is beyond the scope of Tennessee's workers. Instead, they were mightily impressed by the bipartisan anti-union rhetoric that has been forthcoming from every one of their better-dressed and better-educated betters across the state.

"Unions destroyed Detroit... OH MY GAWD DON'T LET THEM TAKE TENNESSEE TOO!!!"

In fairness, well over 600 workers voted for the union. Maybe they were home-schooled.

Canada sale of 5,000 armored military vehicles to Saudi Arabia a giant leap for human rights

Canada's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, and Weapon Sales is celebrating the biggest win in its history with the $10 billion sale of armored vehicles to the government of Saudi Arabia.

The usual pinko human rights fussbudgets are of course making the expected fuss, claiming that the state of human rights in Saudi Arabia is so abysmal that it makes Iran look good by comparison. An anonymous source within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gay Rights, Rainbows and Unicorns told Falling Downs that the sale represents a liberalizing trend in Saudi society.

"The fears in some circles that these vehicles will be used to crush dissent are without foundation. In fact, some of these armored cars will be used as taxis to take people home from gay bars safely. Also, they provide a safe method to give Ethiopian workers a lift to the border or to the beach, wherever they wish to go. And also, His Majesty has decreed that women drivers will henceforth be countenanced in the Kingdom, but in the interest of safety other drivers will now have the option of travelling in armored personnel carriers."

Friday, February 14, 2014

Why Drake needs a smarter smart-phone

Let's face it; if smart phones were all that smart, Drake's unit would have intervened before he had a chance to push "send" on that rancid Rolling Stone/ Phillip Seymour Hoffman rant he tweeted yesterday.

As it is, his PR folks swung into damage control mode today to undo the damage. He was a bit emotional, don't you know... it was a tough day at the office, and yadayadayada.

But some of the damage can never be undone. Drake has been forever revealed as petty, vindictive, and a narcissist through and through. No amount of PR spin is going to change that.

Then again, maybe that's what we expect from our "stars" in the first place.

Honey, it's time to shoot the dogs

Dogs managed to survive millions of years of evolution sleeping in snowdrifts and looking out for themselves. In fact, their cousins the coyotes are sleeping in snowdrifts within 100 yards of this house as I write this. They survive. It's not a big deal.

But you make the damned things into house-pets, and all of a sudden your more sentimental house residents get the idea that the poor pups aren't going to survive in the woodshed if you step out for a few hours. Because it's too cold.

So it is that we can't step out the door without leaving them in the house rather than the woodshed. This used to work out OK. Not sure why it's gone off the rails. For a couple of years Boomer and Lucy would guard the homestead in our absence, and there'd be nothing amiss other than the indent on the down duvets that gave away the fact they'd made themselves at home on the beds.

That happy state of affairs has changed, and we can't figure out why. In the last couple of months we've taken to fixing all the bedroom doors with old-school deadbolts and hooks, and they bust in regardless. It seems to go in spurts. A couple of weeks of good behavior go by, and you figure they're over the urge to chew up everything you own, and then wham!

A week ago the Farm Manager bought herself a new pair of fancy boots. She's a practical country gal and this is not something that happens too often. They lasted two days. I'm telling ya, she woulda shot the dogs herself that night if she knew where I keep the rifle.

The reason she doesn't has nothing to do with the dogs, by the way.

Couple nights later we get home and they've busted into the bedroom and had a good feed on my leather jacket, a beauty from the Olde Hide House in Acton. Getting on in years but priceless just for sentimental value alone. Plus leather jackets only get real cred when they're turning a bit ratty, and this one had the patina of time-worn authenticity pretty much polished to a level 10 pitch.

I almost get that. My ratty old leather jacket could easily enough be mistaken for roadkill. But they also took out a pair of Addidas trainers made of 100% artificial materials, and a cotton lumberjack shirt. What gives?

While we were out for our Valentines' dinner tonight they broke into the bathroom and ate the top off the wicker laundry hamper. Then they spread the contents throughout the house. But here's the good news; they only spread it; didn't shred it... so the Farm Manager's new Silver jeans with exactly one wear on them remain intact.

So maybe things have turned a corner. Maybe they're getting better. Maybe I won't have to shoot them after all... not just yet anyway.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

DC hit by snowstorm from south but climate change is just a pinko fantasy

And the last time Washington DC was hit by a snowstorm from the south was when?  Ya, stop with the Newt jokes already; that was a different kind of snowjob.

Fact is, reasonable people should at this juncture be concluding that yes, things are indeed going awry with the weather. The climate is changing. Whether you want to quibble about whether or not or how much of it is due to man-made warming or whether you just want to do what you can about it is up to you. Even if there is nothing that we could ever do to change whatever changes are coming, it remains incumbent upon all of us to do what we can.

That should be our modus operandi even in the absence of climate change or a climate change debate. Small footprint. Clean up after yourself. Don't hoard more than you can use. That goes for everything you use including money.

Leave the place better than you found it.

Drake is a flake on the cover of the Rolling Stone

Well, I guess he's not on the cover, which is what he's on about.

The optics of Drake's tantrum aren't going to do much of anything for his career. What would you call it... uncouth? Petty? Ridiculous?

I don't get that career to begin with, but then again I'm not really dialled in to pop culture. Like, how does that Beiber kid garner the kind of front page publicity that he gets? If I'm not mistaken he's part of the same pop stable that Drake hails from.

But to whine about being bumped from the cover of Rolling Stone because of the untimely passing of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, well, that is beyond bad manners.

US puppet Karzai claims US not respecting Afghan sovereignty

Well duh!

Afghan sovereignty? Who the hell is US-installed and CIA paid-for Karzai to piss and moan about Afghan sovereignty?

Of course the US has no respect for Afghan sovereignty! Who does Karzai think provided all those billions he has stashed in Dubai and Switzerland? Does he believe for a moment those riches were a reward for his stewardship of Afghan sovereignty?

Let's set the record straight; Karzai was never about Afghan sovereignty; he was installed by the US and has been maintained in power by the US as the best of a bad lot, at least from the US perspective.

So when the puppet ignores the strings and embarks on initiatives such as freeing Taliban prisoners, he knows in advance that he's going to ruffle a few feathers.

I'm betting there's a Hellfire missile attached to a drone with Karzai's name on it right now.

Putin gives thumbs-up to Pentagon's not-yet-elected democratically elected leader for Egypt

The other day Vlad "The Hammer" Putin gave the green light to Egyptian Field Marshal Abdel Fatah al-Sisi's run for the presidency of Egypt.

The policy wonks inside the Beltway were apoplectic; "HEY, HE CAN'T DO THAT; THAT'S OUR BUMBOY!!!"

And they had good reason to think so. After all, it's US and not Russian cash that maintains the Egyptian elite in power. It's US and not Russian gifts of military hardware that keeps the Egyptian military in charge.

There are basically two different ways of approaching this. Putin is cutting the Pentagon's grass with this show of support for al-Sisi. While we have not yet seen al-Sisi's political chops up close, it's safe to expect he's going to be a strongman type once he is duly "democratically elected." His cuddly meeting with Putin serves notice to the State Department folks that there's more than one game in town.

On the other hand, the Beltway boffins could take heart that their arch-nemesis Putin has exactly the same high hopes for Egypt's leadership as they do; a neutered secular regime that has no patience whatsoever with the slightest hint of a Koran-based government.

A win-win for Putin and the Pentagon. A lose-lose for democracy in Egypt.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ray Nagin found guilty of acting too white

There's very little that has come out in the course of Nagin's trial that changes the opinion we had of his rail-roading over a year ago. Nothing that Nagin is guilty of would have been considered noteworthy but for two facts;

  • he's black
  • he was insufficiently grateful at how New Orleans was screwed over by Washington after Katrina.
The so-called 'favors' outlined by the prosecution are comically petty when compared to the wholesale corruption that passes for lobbying in Washington and state capitals every day. To say nothing of what white fatcats like Steve Cohen and Dick Fuld have gotten away with.

But that's the nub of the matter right there; power and money are the province of the white man, and uppity Ray Nagin was above his station all along.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I want to be a slave

The focus group here at Falling Downs has been consulting with various think-tankers on how and why we have come to this utterly putrid turn of history wherein it is once again fashionable to live in poverty while holding down a job.

Fortunately, this will just be a phase.

Too many of those folks holding down those minimum wage jobs are too smart and too pissed off to let this state of affairs carry on...

In the meantime, I'm starting up a "bring back slavery" movement. Ya, I know it's a bit retro, but look at it this way; at least then the fuckers will have to house you and feed you.

This tough old broad's still got it

Me and the Farm Manager headed into town Saturday night to catch a spot of theatre. The local theatre company was putting on Calendar Girls, and the octogenarian mostly known as "Bubby" around here was to take a turn on the stage as Lady Cravenshire.

Bubby, aka Lady Cravenshire, aka Ruth Gorbet, has been a fixture with the local theatre company for well over half a century. She literally has theatre in her blood. She hails from a long line of Polish Jews who made their living in theatre long before they made it to the new land.

Once in the new land most of the extended family settled into more conventional professions. Not all of them though. Cousin Fred Reinglas made a very successful career as a stage manager on Broadway.

Owen Sound is truly blessed to have a theatre community around the Roxy that puts many larger centres to shame. Ruth found her way to Owen Sound because she married the son of a local furrier. In 1961 she was one of the folks in the local little theatre who bought the Roxy and made it the home base for one of Canada's most durable theatre companies, the Owen Sound Little Theatre.

Lady Cravenshire isn't a major role in this play, but Bubby pulled it off with aplomb. She's still got it. If she'd ended up in Manhattan instead of Owen Sound she would have put "the broad" into Broadway. I've now had the pleasure of seeing her on stage a few times, and she totally nails things down. There has never been a more perfect Lady Cravenshire.

In the half a century since that founder's group bought the property, Ruth has been constantly involved in acting, directing, producing, promoting... hell, she got her liquor server licence just a couple of years ago so she could help out at the bar at intermission!

I'm proud. We're proud! The forbears in Lodz and Krakow are proud!

Nice job, Ruth!