Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Generation "Snowflake" and the anti-Trump agenda

Here's a story that hasn't got a lot of attention from the mainstream media.

And why would it?

After all, it's hard to fathom the fact that the anti-gay anti-woman anti-immigrant President would come out as queer friendly.

But if you take the trouble to read anything about Trump that was written before his White House campaign, you soon realise he was nothing more or less than a typical Manhattan uber-rich liberal.

Of course he's fag friendly!

That's how they roll in Manhattan.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Why Americans are right to fear Muslim refugees

Remember Abu Ghraib?

Maybe this picture will help jog your memory.

Image result for abu ghraib

Maybe you're an Iraqi who was in this picture. Maybe your father or your son or your brother was in this picture, or in one of the many thousands of similar keepsakes that the men and women in American uniforms brought home from their glorious mission of bringing peace and democracy to the Muslim world.

Can you think of any reason why these men or their family members might want do do Americans harm?

One thing that's noticeably absent in today's histrionics about Trump's 90 day freeze on visitors from Muslim countries is any discussion about what's driving the so-called refugee crisis in the first place. Why is that?

Because any honest assessment would have to acknowledge that refugees fleeing the Middle East are the direct result of US policy in the region.

If you want to stop the refugee crisis, stop making refugees!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Got lyrics, need beats

Hey, I was eyeballing that last post when it struck me that I could be on the road with a rap show with a little fine tuning. Check it out;

Geez... you gotta wonder why?

"Democracy" seems to mean "for sale to the highest bidder."

Only when this corrupt edifice known as "the exceptional nation" has had a complete renovation will it again have any purchase on the world's imagination.

OK, let's just skip over those first two lines for a moment. That third sentence has serious potential. Let's try to re-imagine it. We clearly have some rhymey shit going on with nation, renovation, and imagination...

 this exceptional nation

demands complete renovation

before it can grab

the world's imagination

That's not much, but it's a start. Maybe we can give it legs with a few "shun" rhymers:

situation

conflagration

manipulation

exploitation

salvation

deportation

destination... and so on.

Even the title has potential;

old boss Clinton in trouble

While initiation fees

at Mar-a-Lago double

new boss lives in a bubble

gonna leave us

buried in the rubble...

Oh ya!

I think we're going places here! My creative juices haven't run this hot since me and Junior set off on that Bible Belt Tour with our Gay Baptists on Heroin grunge band!

As you can see with your own ears, we just need some beats here.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Democracy in America; Mar-a-Lago fees double while Clinton Foundation wobbles

Geez... you gotta wonder why?

"Democracy" seems to mean "for sale to the highest bidder."

Only when this corrupt edifice known as "the exceptional nation" has had a complete renovation will it again have any purchase on the world's imagination.

Canada's democracy hangs by a very slender and rapidly unravelling thread

Yup, read it in the Toronto Star, so it must be true. Check it out for yourself; Media cuts are a threat to democracy, new report warns.

That new report comes from the Public Policy Forum. Take a gander at their board of directors. That's a disinterested non-partisan crew for sure.

These are the guardians of our democracy. Verily, they are the guardians of our "free press," which is the very cornerstone of our democracy.

Ya right... In the first place, our press isn't even close to "free." I'm well over five bucks when I pick up my Saturday Globe from The Korean. I remember when it was fifty cents. The regular weekday edition was a quarter, delivered to my door.

Then there's the problem of what they actually print in their papers. I for one am tired of Trump trumping Canadian stories in the Canadian papers I buy.

All the time.

As in every day!

Enough already! No matter what you think of Trump, he won the election in that profoundly flawed "democracy" on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. Leave it alone already! Give me some news about our Canadian democracy!

Oh, I guess we're back at square one.... our democracy is heading down the shitter unless Ottawa bucks up and forks over public money to rescue the US hedge funds who control SunPostMedia, the five millionaire families who own the Toronto Star, and the billionaire family that controls The Globe and Mail.

Really?

Get the fuck outta here!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Back and forth to Mexico

Every Sunday the Toronto Star includes The New York Times International Weekly with their paper. I used to think that was intended to give us hicks in the sticks a taste of big league journalism, but that may only be the half of it. The other half might be the fact the Star puts out its paper with about one third of the journalists they had on staff ten years ago.

I'm guessing it's way cheaper to buy a dozen pages of stale-dated NYT content than it is to produce an equivalent amount of original content in-house.

On page 10 of my NYT International Weekly is a story by Azam Ahmed and Elisabeth Malkin, "Mexicans Also See Nafta Failing." In the story we meet Jorge Martinez, who has worked at Prolec for ten years. Prolec is a joint venture with General Electric that builds transformers.

Back in the mid-seventies I worked at the General Electric transformer plant on Woodlawn Road in Guelph. One of my workmates became a modest celeb, famous in our circle for taking his Econoline van on a road trip to Mexico on his summer holiday and coming home with fifty pounds of weed stuffed under the floorboards.

Those were naive and innocent times. Buddy got out of the drug-running game while the getting was still good. General Electric got out of the transformer plant in Guelph and now builds transformers in Mexico instead.

Jorge Martinez makes about $100 per week for a six day workweek. In 2017. That's less than half of what we made for a five day workweek almost forty years ago. Figure in inflation and GE is paying Jorge about 10% of what they used pay us to build transformers in Guelph.

For almost forty years the prevailing wisdom emanating from the pundits and opinion makers and politicians was that "free trade" was good for us. We knew otherwise. It wasn't until the 2016 White House race, when both Trump and Sanders picked up on the issue, that the prevailing wisdom was challenged.

But the pundits and opinion makers and professional politicians still can't figure out how Donald Trump got elected.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Mexican with world's longest schlong plans to put US porn stars out of work

Well here's a timely story for inauguration day. Seems one Roberto Cabrera has his eye on a porn star career in the US.

How appropriate to celebrate the ascent of Donald "Build-a-Wall" Trump with the tale of a Mexican who's gonna pole-vault right over that damned wall... with his hands in his pockets!

The rise of Cabrera and his nineteen inches of manhood is bound to blight the careers of any number of god-fearing, hard-working, all-American porn stars.

Better build that wall higher, Mr. Trump, if you're planning to keep out this Mexican!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Now THAT'S some serious entitlement!

I was reading at the CBC website where CP Rail boss Hunter "Hitman" Harrison is walking out on his contract six months early "to pursue other opportunities." The head-hunters must be dangling some humongous golden carrots in front of the old greedbag. Check out this quote from the story;

 ...the board agreed to a limited waiver of his non-compete obligations in return for Harrison agreeing to forfeit "substantially" all benefits he is entitled to receive from CP going forward, including his pension, worth in total about $118 million.

Huh? He only worked there for four and a half years! That entitles him to a pension of $118 millions? That's pretty much two million in pension for every month of work, and that's on top of his multi-million dollar salary!

Oh well, I guess that's a small price to pay for a visionary leader who made the profitable CP Rail even more profitable by destroying 6000 excellent working class jobs in Canada.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Why Kevin O'Leary is not the Donald J. Trump of the Great White North

There will definitely be a few Canadian voters who will be cheered by the news that Kevin O'Leary intends to take a run at the leadership of the Conservative Party.

Starting tomorrow. The reason he's starting tomorrow is because the all-candidates French language leadership debate is today, and O'Leary doesn't speak enough French to order a plate of poutine in Rimouski... at least not in French! So a French language debate is obviously out.

There are admittedly some cogent similarities between the two reality TV stars. They're both given to talking a lot of stupid shit, for example. But even then there's a difference. Trump's stupid shit generally finds a bigly amount of traction with a yuge swath of the electorate.

O'Leary's stupid shit just sounds like stupid shit.

Take O'Leary's many pronouncements on unions, for example. O'Leary doesn't have any use for unions. They're obviously a serious impediment to the meritocracy that he imagines is waiting for him to graciously accept its leadership mantle.

Trump has worked with the most powerful unions in the New York City construction scene all his life, but you never hear him dissing unions. Working class voters take note of these things.

Then there's that personal net worth thing. Both these guys play wealthy investors on TV. Only one of them keeps his own fleet of private aircraft. The other one flies commercial.

There's also the matter of how they deal with adversity. When O'Leary's business empire hit rough waters, he sold a controlling interest to Bain Capital, Mittens' company. When Trump has been faced with adversity in his business career he rolls up his sleeves, sits down face to face with the biggest banks in America, and walks away having got the better of them.

People respect that.


Canada to do more for NATO?

That's the word from MP Bob Nault, head of the House of Commons' foreign affairs committee.

The thinking is that if the US scales back its contributions to NATO, or abandons it altogether, Canada will step into the breach. If nothing else, that statement gives some sense of the overweening hubris running amok among our military types.

Last year the US spent 600 billions plus on defence. Canada spent 20 billion. But Canada will step into the breach! Now that's called punching above your weight!

I think the best thing that could happen to NATO is that it take the same dive into the dumpster of history as the Warsaw Pact did twenty-five years ago. NATO has been in busy-work mode for a quarter of a century, and it's really hard to see where much of that busy-work has done any good.

Afghanistan?

Libya?

Endless exercises in provocation on Russia's borders?

The best thing Canada could do for Canada is to detach itself from NATO. We don't need to spend more lives and dollars destroying other countries. This will of course be met with howls of outrage from the Naults of the world.

What about our obligations to our allies?

What about our shared values?

Bullshit and double bullshit. Think about the "shared values" of the NATO alliance for a moment. There may have been something to that fifty years ago, when NATO was essentially a combine of white Christian European nations plus the Turkish military. Today many NATO countries take positions on any number of issues that do not resonate at all with values that we consider Canadian. Since the dissolution of the USSR, the only "common value" binding us to our allies is a lingering Russophobia.

As for those obligations to our allies, the two most powerful of them, the US and Turkey, are at this moment engaged in illegal military operations in Syria. What should be our obligation, if any, to allies who flout international law?

It's time Canada disengaged from NATO and pursued a truly independent foreign policy.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Nevermind Israel; apartheid alive and well in Canada

Don't take my word for it. Take the word of Quebec coroner Dr. Bernard Lefrancois. Dr. Lefrancois was tasked with investigating a rash of suicides in a native community on Quebec's North Shore, and in his report, released yesterday, he doesn't hold back from using the "a" word.

Apartheid.

Ironically, on the very day that his report was released, 70 countries, including that most virtuous of The Nations of Virtue, Canada, were convening in Paris for yet another gabfest about Israeli apartheid and the implementation of the "two state solution."

I don't hold out much hope that anything will come of Dr. Lefrancois' report. Reports and inquiries and hearings and investigations into our shamefully shabby treatment of First Nations have been a dismally predictable feature of the news cycle for as long as I can remember. They plop onto the news horizon with a ripple or occasionally a small splash, and are then quickly forgotten.

Nothing changes.

Maybe we'll start taking these matters seriously when 70 nations convene in Paris to discuss a blueprint for a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction campaign against apartheid in Canada.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

BREAKING: POT-ADDLED HILLBILLY NOT SMOKING POT!

That's right. Haven't fired up a fattie in weeks now.

I'm vaping instead.

Yup, plunked down a hundred bucks for what looks like a cigar tube. You put your stuff in and you push the button, and it's up up and away!

I must admit I knew nothing about this technology, which will come as no surprise to those who have pegged me as a know-nothing all along. But it does prove that, contrary to popular opinion, it is in fact possible to teach an old dog new tricks.

One thing I've learned is you can smoke the same shit more than once. Like, that is beyond cool! Who knew?

Well, Junior knew for one. In fact, when I shared this revelation with him, he says, "hey Dad, you can smoke it three or four times in your vaporiser, and then you can knock it out and twist it up and it'll get you high again!"

Get the fuck outta here, I thought.

But it turns out Junior knows way more about ganja in the modern era than I do. Sure enough, you can puff on that vaporiser three or four times, roll up the dregs in a zigzag, and get high again on the same shit!

That is simply fucking amazing!

I've got a whole new attitude about the concept of "progress!"

In praise of Beppi Crosariol

Once again a weekend comes and goes, and once again I contemplate returning my weekend Globe & Mail to The Korean for a refund.

But along comes Beppi, their intrepid wine columnist, who poses the question; "drink less or drink smarter?"

Not that he's the only writer worth reading this weekend. Far from it! A lot of the regulars must still be off on their holidays, because John Doyle has way more column inches than usual, and he's always worth a look.

And Eric Reguly has a provocative piece about the folks who brought you the recession of '08.

But it's Beppi who saves the day. In response to his own rhetorical question, he puts the ixnay on drinking less in favour of drinking smarter.

Building on Beppi's foundation, it didn't take long for me to devise a strategy whereby I could actually drink more and drink smarter!

Thank you Beppi Crosariol!

The Korean is off the hook for at least another week!

Friday, January 13, 2017

What's left?

Back in the day, it was a pretty straight-forward thing distinguishing right from left on the political spectrum. The right was where you found your reactionaries and warmongers. The left was the "progressive" side of the spectrum. The left was pro-labour, pro-women's rights, pro-choice, anti-racist, anti-war, and if not out and out anti-capitalist, at least acknowledged that the titans of industry and the big banks needed to be kept on a short regulatory leash.

Those were the days when the top union boss at the UE, which represented the workers at the General Electric plant where I cut my welding teeth, was an out-and-out self-confessed commie. Not a "liberal," not a "social democrat," not even a "socialist," but a full-bore communist. Yup, that was CS Jackson. And, may I add, he was a mightily effective union leader to boot.

Today, distinguishing left from right is a much more nebulous undertaking. As I tour the blogosphere, I encounter a gusher of references to "rabid leftists," "left-wing extremists," and "die-hard socialists." At first blush one is inclined to be impressed at the robust health of the left in American politics today!

Then you realize that all these references are to the Democratic party and its acolytes...

Bummer, man!

Sad to say, the Democratic party today is at least as reactionary and warmongering as their Republican counterparts, if not more so. And at least as pro-capitalist. Hillary Clinton, the "left" candidate, just spent 1.2 billion dollars, provided mainly by the big banks and the war profiteers, in the most expensive election campaign in US history, only to be defeated by a reality TV personality who spent a small fraction of that and got virtually nothing from the big banks and the warmongers.

What the fuck goes on here?

Back in the day, we could rely on the media to explain things, and if we didn't like the explanations provided by so-called mainstream media, there existed a thriving alternative media happy to fill in the blanks. Today the mainstream media is totally in the pocket of the "deep state" and the alternative media hysterically informs us that Obama has a communist agenda.

CS Jackson must be spinning in his grave...

But at least what's left of the UE had the good sense to endorse the Sanders campaign.

Alas, we know how that ended.

What's left?

Not much... but there is hope! Bernie's short-lived run as a socialist proved that there's a hunger in America for real change. Bernie's unfortunate capitulation to the corrupt Dem party machine put an end to that.

But the hunger remains.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The strategic thinking behind Trump's cabinet picks

Looks to me like Trump is using the same strategy in choosing his cabinet that an aspiring middle-school teacher would use in managing a classroom.

Pick out the leaders of the various cliques, get them aboard, and then let them deal with the naysayers and upstarts. Once the factional leaders have pledged allegiance to the alpha dog, the grumblers will eventually shut up and fall in line.

Works in the classroom. Will it work for Trump?

That's one reason Trump's cabinet is full of GS alumni. Wall Street may be reluctant to take direction from Donny J, but when there's a half dozen former GS heavy hitters in the Trump cabinet, at least you know Wall Street will be paying attention.

So if the decree comes down from the top of Trump Tower that there's a one-time window for corporate tax avoiders to repatriate their off-shored billions at a low rate, those corporate types will be far more amenable to hearing that message if it comes from their GS brothers than if it came from the tax-evader-in-chief.

Same goes for General "Mad Dog" Mattis. By all accounts he's a highly respected guy the length and breadth of the military establishment. When the order comes down to close half of America's offshore military bases, the folks being downsized are going to be way more amenable to the message if it comes from General Mattis than they would be if it came from some unruly NYC condo developer with fake hair.

One thing that I'd wager on with 100% certainty is that, unlike Barry O and W before him, Mr. Trump will never be a prisoner of his cabinet.

Time will tell.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

How mining companies give taxpayers the shaft

Sad story in my Globe and Mail today about the Faro mine in Yukon. Justin Giovannetti tells us all about the fallout after the world's biggest open pit mine was abandoned. It's a good story as far as it goes. As a taxpayer and a citizen it's certainly important to be informed of a major environmental threat and what the government is doing about it.

What the government has been doing about it is cooking up a remediation plan. The plan has been in the planning process for 18 years now, and get this; work should start in 2023! In the meanwhile, planning takes a lot of money - at least 250 millions thus far! And that's just the planning! The actual remediation is expected to cost at least a billion!

That's a lot of cash and a fascinating story, but what would have been interesting is some discussion about how this ended up being a taxpayer liability. All Giovannetti tells us is that "...the owner went bankrupt, dumping one of Canada's largest environmental liabilities into the lap of the federal government."

Yup, just like that!

Now the story, to my way of thinking, would be far more informative if we knew a little more about those owners who went bankrupt. Obviously, a lot of people must have made a lot of money during the lifespan of what was once the world's biggest open pit mine. Why aren't they cleaning up after themselves?

The lead-zinc motherlode at Faro was discovered by a guy named Al Kulan. He teamed up with an established American mining multi-national, Cyprus Mines, and Cyprus Anvil was born. The CEO of Cyprus Mines at the time was a guy named Henry Mudd. Check out his wikipedia page and you'll see he's mostly famous for his philanthropy; giving money away. He obviously had plenty of it coming in.

Cyprus Mines changed hands and was controlled by Amoco, the US oil giant, at the time Faro closed in the early '80s. They have plenty of money too. Most Cyprus properties eventually ended up with Freeport McMoRan, a company with revenues of almost 16 billion US dollars in 2015.

Amoco, via its subsidiary Dome Petroleum, sold the mine to a rising star in the mining industry, Clifford Frame. Frame has twice been honoured by The Northern Miner as its "Miner of the Year." Frame went on to a measure of infamy thanks to the Westray mine disaster in Nova Scotia in which 26 of his employees died. Here's a fascinating article about Mr. Frame's business practices from Paul McKay at the Ottawa Citizen. Mr. Frame is now 83 years old and fabulously wealthy. No word on whether he's kicking in a few bucks towards the cleanup costs.

Mr. Frame fobbed the Faro mine off on another Toronto mining promoter, and this is the guy who went bankrupt in Giovannetti's story. But he personally didn't go bankrupt - just the company that owned the mine! He too is fabulously wealthy and remains active in the mining community.

So this is what would make a fabulous story, or at least flesh out Giovannetti's version. Lots of folks made lots of money in the relatively short life span of the Faro mine. How do they get to keep their millions but the taxpayer gets stuck with the billion dollar plus tab to clean up their mess!

Sadly, this is far from an isolated incident. Remember Royal Oak Mines? Peggy Witte was the darling of the business pages in The Globe and Mail for a few years, a tough woman making it in the macho world of mining. She too has a "Miner of the Year" trophy on her mantle. She too left a billion dollar mess for the taxpayer to tidy up.

And then there's those 150,000 orphan oil and gas wells awaiting taxpayer remediation in Alberta alone.

That's how we roll in Canada! Some entrepreneurial genius comes up with a scheme. They get laudatory press coverage galore and oodles of government subsidies. Then, when the mine or the well is worked out and our entrepreneurial whiz kids are long gone, leaving the taxpayer holding the bag, that same press can't even remember their names.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Why I love Michael Moore

Moore had me hooked with his first doc, Roger and Me.

I loved that on-screen persona, the fat slob schlumpfing about Michigan looking for the president of General Motors. Wanting to hold him to account for shipping all those Michigan jobs to Mexico. It was a beautiful thing!

Over the holidays me and the Farm Manager found time to finally view his latest doc, Where to Invade Next.

We weren't disappointed. Moore's latest film neatly contrasts living standards in America with what regular folks typically experience in a variety of European counties. The contrast is an eye-opener. On the one side you've got eight weeks of paid vacation, free health care, free post-secondary education, subsidized day-care, and yadayadayada...

On the other side you've got... well, look around you.

University grads working at Mickey D's trying to pay down their $50,000 student loans.

Health care expenses as the prime cause of personal bankruptcy.

Veterans sleeping on the sidewalk.

Families living in their cars.

Welcome to America!

Over the course of his career, Mr. Moore has done yeoman's work skewering the shibboleths of "American exceptionalism." I suspect a lot of the millennials "feeling the Bern" were feeling it largely thanks to Moore's oeuvre.

So here's what I don't like about Michael Moore.

Right after he made his last doc he came down four-square for Hillary. Yup, Michael Moore, renegade documentary film-maker, morphed into a strident Dem party supporter.

This was after the Democrats had held the White House for eight years and had done utterly fuck-all to improve the lot of those folks Moore claims to represent; the working class.

The homeless vets.

The families living out of their cars...

Ya, there's Obamacare, I suppose, but what is that other than a giant subsidy to for-profit health-care providers?

And of course there's the record of the Nobel Peace Prize winner's foreign policy. Let me know if you can think of an example where Obama's foreign policy fostered anything resembling peace. Instead, America is involved in more foreign intrigues than ever, and never in the interest of "peace."

This is the party that America's number one anti-establishment film-maker wants you to support?

Fuck you, Michael Moore!

MSM crybaby wants to credit Bush and Obama for Ford jobs in Michigan

Daniel Gross has a lament on view at Slate decrying the possibility that President-elect Trump might possibly have something to do with Ford Motor Company's decision to scrap their plan to "migrate" all small car production to Mexico.

According to Gross, this is the result of market forces that have been at work for many years. His so-called argument in support of this thesis makes no sense whatsoever. American companies have always moved production to low-labour-cost jurisdictions for one and only one reason; low labour costs! That's not rocket science, Mr. Gross!

And also, can Slate not afford to pay somebody to proof-read this stuff before it hits the web? I'm pretty sure even a blinkered self-censoring mainstream writer like Gross knows that it's not "...Ford... pushing production of the Chevy Cruze to Mexico..." That embarrassing!

But the major flaw in his thesis is this; the alleged market forces that have been at work for years would have been manifestly evident last September when Ford announced the move to Mexico.

If that's true, why did the management brain trust at Ford not notice until after Trump won the election?

Hill and Bill to attend Donny J's party after all

After over twenty years of thinking aloud on the topic, Donald Trump finally got off the fence and threw his hat into the ring for the 2016 election. Who knows what motivated him to make the decision? Maybe the fact that he's getting on in years and he knew another kick at the can would be increasingly unlikely going forward? Regardless, we do know, thanks to those emails Putin hacked, that his decision had the backing of the Hillary camp.

We all know how that turned out. In hindsight, it was perhaps the biggest mistake of her campaign.

Today's news that the Clintons will be attending Trump's inauguration puts paid to the widely held belief that they were so distressed by the supposedly vicious campaign that they would stay home and pout instead.

Not likely! There's gonna be more billionaires in that room than anywhere outside Davos!

That's not something the Clintons would miss!