Saturday, August 19, 2017

About that new car smell

That's not the smell of white privilege, is it?

I've only had the privilege of new car smell twice in my life.

That factory-order '73 Duster 340 had new car smell all over it.

As did the Toyota I bought brand new thirty years later.

The dozens of cars that passed through my hands in between generally didn't.

You could still catch a whiff of new car smell in that '73 Trans Am SD 455. It had a mere 5000 clicks on it when I got her.

And the '77 Impala with the 350 4bbl that I bought as a dealer demo still had the smell.

But by and large, new car smell gets annihilated in short order by B.O., farts, smoke of all kinds, farts, spilled beer, more farts, wet dogs, and the perfume of the latest hottie you thought you'd impress with your new car.

By the way, that's a strategy that seldom worked, and when it did, you lived to regret it.

So it was a blast down memory lane when I stepped into my dear octogenarian father's new Dodge truck the other day to be enveloped by that new car smell!

Yup, the new car smell still smells the same!

Word of advice, Dad; avoid the hotties.

Checking my white privilege

Ya, I guess there's no getting around the fact that I'm a honky. Unlike that Dolezal woman, I don't have a snowball's chance in hell of passing.

Today me and the Farm Manager took a tour up to Tobermory to scope out waterfront real estate that might be suitable for our retirement.

Personally, I find that white privilege is highly over-rated. True, I've never suffered police brutality, although there were a couple of occasions in my youth where I didn't really think it was necessary for the dickheads to draw their sidearms. And I have to admit they didn't open fire, so maybe white privilege does count for something.

Anyway, we had a fine day if it, capped by a lovely lunch at the Princess Hotel in Tobermory. That's run by a Greek family. What's up with the Greeks? Do they have white privilege? One thing I know for sure is they have a knack for running restaurants. The Kritikos family has done a great job with their hotel-restaurant, and they've recently expanded into offering extra-virgin olive oil from their family's olive groves in the old country.

Then we drove around and collected some names off for sale signs, and got home to do some research on the internet. Here's one real estate agent who came up more than once.

Not sure how far my white privilege is gonna get me in my quest for waterfront on the Bruce.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Hope I don't die before I get old

Went to see my dear daddy at his cottage the other day. Couldn't help but notice that he seems to be enjoying his dotage very much.

I thought I was just having lunch, but as it turned out (surprise!), he happened to be having a crisis that involved a chain saw, a ladder, fifty feet of rope, a John Deere 450 crawler loader, and a spindly little cedar tree with a trunk diameter of less than six inches.

If it was me, I probably would have just whacked the thing down with an axe. After all, five inches of cedar hardly seems worth firing up the Stihl. Nevermind all that other shit.

But that's how Dad rolls.

And at 85 years of age, he's earned the right!

KILL THE HATERS!!!

I kinda miss that Russia thing. That was on the verge of bringing Trump down for almost a year, and now it's gone like a fart in a windstorm.

And North Korea? A mere week ago we were on the very brink of nuclear Armageddon, were we not?

That's gone too!

Both those stories have been eclipsed by the news that a White Supremacist has seized the White House!

Like that's never happened before...

Every progressive American knows that the USA is a post-racial society, if not since the Emancipation Declaration, then certainly since the Thirteenth Amendment,  and if not since then, for sure since the Civil Rights Act, and if not entirely by then, certainly for double-sure the ascent of Obama to the Oval Office signalled that America had put its racist past behind it once and for all.

And then this outrage in Charlottesville. A gaggle of semi-literate goobers brandishing Walmart tiki-torches gather in Charlottesville to profess their love for a Confederate general.

Who cares?

The news business cares, that's who. Sensing that the Russia cow was more or less milked out, and that only a very small sliver of the public was buying into the imaginary threat posed to the most militarized nation on earth by that fat Korean kid, the media discovered the malignant menace in our midst, the alt-right neo-Nazi white-supremacist set that is on the cusp of sweeping away 150 years of inter-racial harmony.

Yup, on a really good day these wankers can draw several hundred acolytes to a demo. They are inevitably humiliated by counter-demos that attract many thousands without really trying. But they're the latest and greatest threat to the fabric of America's egalitarian democracy!

And all because of Trump, of course!

Frankly, I'm a little disappointed in our "free press."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Minimum wage rise to collapse economy?

Hey, if our economy depends on keeping hundreds of thousands of workers toiling in poverty, I say, let it fall! It ain't working for us!

The Metro grocery chain is the latest outfit to proclaim that the sky will fall if the proposed Ontario min wage rise goes forward. OMG, it's gonna cost Metro up to fifty million a year!!!

Hmm... fifty million on sales of 12 billion. A little elementary math tells me an across-the-board price hike of less than .5% would bury the 50 million.

You or I won't notice a .5% increase in our grocery bill. What's an extra fifty cents when you spend a hundred bucks? If fifty cents upsets your weekly grocery budget, you're already getting your groceries at the food bank.

Metro's sacred net profits will be unscathed. All the other chains will be subject to the same minimum wage, so there's no competitive disadvantage.

Thousands of their workers will notice a real difference in their take-home pay.

How is this even cause for debate?

Come on, Metro, don't be such tightwad bastards!

Celebrate the fact that you'll finally be paying your employees a living wage!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Fuck the algorithm

When I wake up, and that's consistently been in the morning for several decades now, thank you very much, I wobble over to the computer and check out the news stories that an algorithm has selected for me.

Algorithms pretty much decide everything I'm prompted to look at in the course of my day.

The folks who own the algorithms are now fine-tuning algorithms that will decide whether the news I access via the world wide web is real news or fake news.

Hmm... do we really want to be in a place where algorithms define reality for us?

Power has never been as concentrated as it is today

My dear Uncle Werner used to go traipsing all over Europe to deliver his papers. That's one sorry excuse of a paper route, I thought.

It was only after I got a little older that I realized that's what academics do; travel the world to read their papers to learned fellow-travellers. It's not at all like me reading my Globe and Mail at Dockside Willies.

Werner had some good stories about his various paper delivery adventures.  Aside from visiting places like Tubigen and Heidelberg, and any other place with a famous brewery, or so it seemed to me, he on occasion had to hop the Iron Curtain to attend conferences on that side of the fence. That's where his path would inevitably cross that of the Stasi, the state security outfit in East Germany.

He'd call up some esteemed Herr Doktor Professor, and someone would answer with the greeting "Staartssicherheit." This would be back in the ugly old Berlin Wall days.

Before the internet.

Before the digital revolution.

Before a small handful of private companies, all tied closely to American Empire, had a lock on global internet traffic.

I was impressed by what the Stasi could do in the '80's.

I can't even imagine what the NSA can do today.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fisk announces retirement?

Don't get me wrong; I think Robert Fisk is one of the the absolute go-to guys when it comes to news from the Middle East.

As near as I can tell he's got a pretty sweet gig going on, what with those papers who pay the rent on his waterfront flat in Beirut, and I've always thought he's a pretty credible guy.

In fact, he may have become too credible for his own good. And too honest.

Check this out;

There are still honourable Israelis who demand a state for the Palestinians; there are well-educated Saudis who object to the crazed Wahhabism upon which their kingdom is founded; there are millions of Americans, from sea to shining sea, who do not believe that Iran is their enemy nor Saudi Arabia their friend. But the problem today in both East and West is that our governments are not our friends. They are our oppressors or masters, suppressors of the truth and allies of the unjust.

What? 

Our governments are not our friends?

They are our oppressors?

Oh Robert! You must be fully convinced that your pension is sound if you risk your job like that!

But good on you!

Fresh brain fart from world's greatest intellectual smells suspiciously like last one

You don't have to work the google button very hard to find copious examples of the great BHL's ruminations on the need for regime change in Syria, and before that, Libya. In fact, he was advocating regime change in Syria even before the Coalition of the Self-Righteous was done murdering Gaddafi.

You'd think that the state of affairs in those two countries six years later would cast doubt on Mr. Levy's skills as a prognosticator, but apparently not. Here he is in my Globe and Mail today.

Yes, "we" have a duty to bring the gift of regime change to yet another country that's done absolutely nothing to threaten "us," but happens to be on Washington's shit-list, Venezuela.

Imperial meddling isn't just something we should do because we're militarily stronger and will get away with it. No, "we have a duty." Accordingly, Mr. Levy provides a long list of prescriptions for what the UN should do, what Washington and London and Paris should do, etc.

What is truly astonishing is even as his counsel has contributed to the destruction of the wealthiest country in Africa and the last secular Arab society in the Middle East, and created the worst refugee crisis in the modern era, reputable media outlets continue to offer him a platform to bray for more of the same.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

About the Ninja

I knew a guy once who owned a racehorse. He kept it at his buddy's place down the road. His wife knew nothing about the racehorse. He'd tell her that he was just heading over to Buddy's farm to help with the chores, and of course every Saturday he had to help Buddy out at the racetrack.

I was thinking about this as I was blasting down the side-road on the Ninja. She's an early eighties model, may have been a first year Ninja for all I know. Could be a collector item!

She's a four-stroke 500cc twin, not nearly as tempermental as those two-stroke 500cc triples Kawasaki was putting out in the early 70s. Still, she's got a redline of 11,000, and I generally lose my ambition by the time I'm half way there.

My pal Harvard lives at the end of the sideroad. He got his moniker because he's the only guy in these parts who actually went there. Hated it. Loves the quiet life up here in The Bruce.

I'm still up in the air about the Ninja. I haven't got round to registering it or getting insurance or any of that stuff, and I haven't actually bought a helmet. Frankly, the Ninja scares me a little bit.

That's not a bad thing. Being scared makes you careful.

As I was carefully negotiating the gravel side-road at a very decent clip, it occurred to me that I had something in common with Buddy and the racehorse.

The Farm Manager gets so into her Netflix she doesn't notice that I'm off on a ten mile toot round the block on the Ninja. Buddy's wife didn't realize her man owned a racehorse until that horse, after the top three favorites were unexpectedly scratched one Saturday night, won a race.

Buddy was so thrilled to have $7,049.50 in winnings he immediately went home and spilled the beans...

Maybe when I win a motorcycle race I'll do the same.






Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The clash of civilizations

When you think about it, it's no surprise that the European settlers were determined to wipe out the native population from the get-go.

On the one side, you had strict hierarchical regimentation of society. The ubermenschen ate first and ate the most, and the rest of the crowd scrambled for the left-overs.

On the other side, when the hunters brought home a moose or a caribou, everybody in the clan got to eat.

On the one side, even though the word "capitalism" had yet to be invented, the winner-take-all ethos was already well established.

On the other side, a communal ethos had been in place for millenia.

On the one side, rapacious exploitation was the norm.

On the other, sustainability was the norm.

Yes, there was indeed a clash of civilizations.

The folks who had the guns, germs, and steel on their side triumphed.

At least in the short term.


Fast forward a few centuries, and we are witnessing the death throes of this thing we call "capitalism."

It's become a tail-eating monster of a shit-show that feasts on constant expansion and constant war. It holds vast swathes of the so called civilized world in its thrall.

But, in spite of the best efforts of the settlers over these last five hundred blood-soaked years, there remains another side.

The communal side.

If we're to have a future, that's where we'll find it.

Canada: successfully dividing and conquering First Nations for 500 years

Perry Bellegarde has an impossible job. As the putative leader of 634 First Nations in Canada, he has to reconcile the oft-irreconcilable interests of those First Nations. Some want more resource development, some want less, some want none.  Remote fly-in communities of a few hundred have vastly different needs and interests than more populous communities in the south. About the only thing all 634 First Nations can agree on is that they've consistently got the dirty end of the stick since those swashbuckling Europeans you read about in "Breastplate and Buckskin" embarked upon the great usurpation five hundred or so years ago. That leaves the national leadership with a very muddled mandate when supposedly having "sovereign to sovereign" negotiations with Ottawa.

Herding cats would be a stroll in the meadow by comparison.

One thing First Nations do agree on is equal funding for education. There was renewed optimism on that file when the settlers elected Justin Trudeau as their Grand Chief a couple of years ago. Here was a man who talked the talk and availed himself of many photo-ops kitted out in traditional Indian finery. Yet what has become of his supposed good intentions?

Nothing, that's what. Initiatives to augment financing for health care and education are strangled in bureaucratic inertia. The much anticipated MMIW inquiry is collapsing in recrimination and infighting. The suicide epidemic among the young continues apace... or is getting worse, if such a thing can be imagined. By any metric, education, incarceration, employment, the life prospects for a First Nations child born today reveal the reality of a de facto apartheid that should shame every Canadian.

Tragically, it's difficult to see where much can change in the foreseeable future. Far too many have a vested interest in the status quo, especially but not exclusively on the settler side. Legions of lawyers have made lucrative careers out of NOT resolving the many outstanding land claims. After all, why would they be in any rush to end their ride on this gravy train?

Unfortunately, their gravy train is the nightmare train to nowhere for far too many First Nations people. There's been a lot of happy-talk about "reconciliation" these past few years. That's just empty words until those land claims are resolved, because no true sovereign to sovereign negotiations can happen until then.

At that point, the two (equal?) sides can begin discussing reparations, and only after that can there be any hope for reconciliation.

In the meantime, it's full-speed-ahead for Ottawa's divide and conquer strategy.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What are we, retarded?

Konrad Yakabuski had an op-ed in the Globe and Mail the other day wherein he bemoaned the fact that certain fast-fashion retail chains have become so globally ubiquitous that he's not sure whether he's shopping in London or Paris, Tokyo or Toronto. "McShopping," he calls it.

And while the veil of stultifying sameness that has descended on the great shopping cities of the world makes him sad, he does find a silver lining; millions of "decent" jobs have been created in the global South to bring this cornucopia of fast-fashion to the consumers in the global North.

How retarded would you have to be to buy into that?

The reality is that the same brand names that were once manufactured in factories in Canada and the US are now made in sweatshops in Bangladesh and Pakistan and China. As recently as twenty years ago you could buy jeans made in Canada, shirts made in Canada, shoes made in Canada... and while we may have referred to those factories as "sweatshops," they had little in common with the sweatshops in Asia that we've outsourced our production to.

Back in the "boat people" era my family sponsored a family of Vietnamese refugees into Canada. Two or three of them got jobs at the Rennie shirt factory in Guelph. That was considered a bottom-rung shit-job, the kind of place that new immigrants go to to get a toe-hold in the new land. Within three or four years that Vietnamese-Chinese family had bought their own house in Guelph, which was a veritable palace compared to the "house" that a typical Bangladeshi garment worker in one of Yakabuski's "decent" jobs would find themselves living in today.

Yet we are constantly implored to view the immiseration of workers in the global South as evidence of progress.

That's not progress!

That's just bullshit!

And here's some more progress for you. I happened to find myself wandering around Home Depot this afternoon. Spied a Samsung fridge that had been marked down by an unbelievable $2500! That caught my eye; I often buy shit I don't need because I get a good price on in. My garage is so full of these bargains I haven't been able to park a vehicle in there for years.

But wait a minute... even with that $2500 discount, this refrigerator is still within a whisker of five grand. What gives?

It's a good-sized double door stainless-steel with an ice-maker. OK, that's way more complexity than I'd ever consider, but you can get one of those for around fifteen hundred. So where's the other six thou come in?

Aha! Our Samsung has a 21.5 inch touch screen right on the fridge door! But wait a minute; how does that become a six thousand dollar touch? There's plenty of touch-screen monitors out there for $500 or less...

I figure you can buy that stainless two-door fridge, a computer with a bigger touch-screen, and top the package off with a decent phone, and you'll barely break the two grand barrier. I guess the genius of Samsung is to stitch all that into one package and charge a 200% premium! That premium is your ticket to the "internet of things!"

That's more progress for you!

Or maybe just more bullshit.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Bolt beat, billions applaud!

The nauseating hero-worship bestowed on Usain Bolt by an adoring world press can wind down now. Let the man have a quiet retirement. Please!

Bolt, as the entire world knows all too well, was the fastest man to ever lace up a pair of running shoes. That made him great. In fact, his greatness was greater than great... he was one of the greatest greats in the history greatness! No, he was THE greatest. Ever. In all of history no one has even come close to Bolt in terms of greatness!

Too bad a couple of other guys ran past him in the (hopefully) last race of his career.

So, happy retirement, Usain! I for one am looking forward to leafing through a Bolt-free sports section. Besides, you weren't really that fast. I'm pretty sure I ran faster that night when two bouncers from the Manor chased me down the middle of Waterloo Avenue with blood-lust in their eyes and pool cues in their hands.

Friday, August 4, 2017

It can't be bad gas

Back in the spring I was conferring with my pal Mac about why or why not various internal-combustion-powered stuff around Falling Downs was or was not starting up.

Mac is no Jimmy Lippert when it comes to internal combustion magic, but he's way ahead of me. I'm just a welder. Bring me a blueprint and I can build you something that looks like it, but don't ask me about how shit actually works. That's all voodoo to me. They used to have a saying at the drydock; a welder is just a pipefitter with his brains kicked in. There's an element of truth to that.

Anyway, we concluded that perhaps one of the issues confronting me was "stale gas." That's where you top up the tank with cheap low-lead gas, let the item in question sit for a year, and whoopsie, it never fires up again! At least not until you drain all that stale gas, flush the lines, clean the carb, and have another go at it with new fresh gasoline.

Sounded plausible.

But look at what went down today. I haven't used the F-150 for two years. I parked it in my parts-vehicle field and have rarely given it a second thought, nor would I have given it a second thought except the Farm Manager has been on the nag about what she considers to be a lot of useless shit sitting around the yard.

My opinion is of course a little different.

The classic Mustang 50 was working as recently as May. I'm sure it's just a little thing.

Oddly enough, the Ford 4000 diesel tractor gave up the same week as the Mustang.

And then there's the little Escape 4x4 that's was a blast as a "field car" right up until it wouldn't start this spring.

Could they all be suffering from bad gas?

Well, I hooked up the battery charger to the F-150 last night, the vehicle that's had bad gas in the tank the longest, and today it fired right up!

There goes the "bad gas" theory.

German ingrates stab Uncle Sam in back

Hey Squareheads, have you forgotten everything that Uncle Sam has done for you?

Have you forgotten the Marshal Plan?

Have you forgotten who kept you safely tucked under his nuclear umbrella while the Evil Empire was running amok on the world stage?

So now Uncle Sam is asking for a little sacrifice, a few pfennigs lost from your bulging geldbeutel, in order to slow down the new Stalin's bid to resurrect the Soviet dynasty, and you want to begrudge this?

Shame!

And this shameful selfishness is not only coming from the pinkos of Die Linke, but from the Chambers of Industry and Commerce and the Foreign Minister himself!?

Come to your senses, Volk!

What, after all, does it really mean to give up a gas pipeline from Russia when you have a chance to further the interests of freedom and democracy worldwide by paying double for American gas supplies?

And after everything that Uncle Sam has done for you...

The mind boggles!

Bell tolls for Bibi

Looks like the faint odour of corruption that has so frequently wafted about the career of the greatest leader since Moses is settling in once again. This time round it seems to have legs.

If you go by the story in the Globe and Mail, this is about rather trifling stuff; running a little interference for one of Sheldon Adelson's competitors in the newspaper wars, and enjoying fine wines and cigars provided by an admiring public.

But there's a much bigger corruption story lurking in the background. The submarine scandal promises to be about big money and big jail time if anything sticks to Netanyahu. That would truly end his political career once and for all.

Alas, while once I would have thought that a good thing, I'm not so sure anymore. Israeli politics
have moved so far to the right in recent years that Netanyahu may well be remembered as the last moderate Prime Minister.

And that does not bode well for the future of the country.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

True crime drama from Dumschitt County

I really can't improve on this, so here's your crime story verbatim from the Owen Sound Sun-Times website:

NEWS LOCAL

Suspect spotted on mower after alcohol theft

OPP
OPP
An Etobicoke man has been charged with theft after the suspect was seen leaving the area of the Thornbury LCBO on a riding lawnmower.
On July 26 shortly before 11 a.m., police were called to the LCBO store on Arthur Street in regards to a theft.
The suspect, who was seen leaving the area on a riding lawnmower, was located a short time later. The man was found to be under the influence of alcohol, a roadside breath test was conducted and he was found to be in the "warn" range, resulting in a three-day licence suspension, it said in a news release from the Collingwood and The Blue Mountains OPP.
Further investigation found the man was in possession of a bottle of alcohol that was taken from the LCBO, the news release said.
The 37-year-old man has been charged with theft under $5,000 and is scheduled to appear in court in Owen Sound on Aug. 17.

Top twat pontificates on Venezuela's economic catastrophe

According to his Wikipedia page, Ricardo Hausmann is best known for inventing several abstruse concepts to make the Dismal Science even more obscurantist than it would otherwise be. When I was coming up "dark matter" was a term from theoretical physics and "original sin" was something you learned about in Sunday school.

No more. Thanks to Hausmann, introducing these concepts to economics has given dismal scientists some much-needed tools to better explain the inexplicable, or whatever it is those people do.

In his spare time, Hausmann is the director of Harvard's Center for International Development, the successor to Harvard's Institute for International Development, which went down in flames as a result of hanky-panky involving its activities in post-Soviet Russia. It was in his capacity as director at the CID that I found him in the Op-ed pages of my Globe and Mail today.

Here's a taste; "The Maduro government's all-out attack on liberty and democracy is deservedly attracting greater international attention." Hmm... gotta say that whenever I hear an apologist for Empire profess concern for "liberty and democracy" the old bullshit detector starts twitching uncontrollably. No honest person today would posit that being on Uncle Sam's bestie list has anything whatsoever to do with one's commitment to "liberty and democracy."

As for that "greater international attention" bit, I suppose that's all relative. There has certainly been no deficit of American attention to Venezuelan politics in recent decades. By their own admission, the National Endowment for Democracy (that US government funded "NGO"- how Orwellian is that!?) has spent over 100 millions since the election of Chavez meddling in Venezuela's internal politics, and it looks like their efforts are finally bearing fruit.

The claim that Venezuela is the world's most indebted country is a bit of a puzzler. According to the CIA, (ya, that CIA) Venezuela has a debt/GDP ratio of 36.7%. That compares to 181.6% for Greece, 132.5% for Italy, and 126.2% for Portugal... and oh lookee! There's the USA with a debt/GDP ratio of 73.8%!

But Venezuela is the most indebted country in the world? Get outta here!

So why doesn't Maduro just belly up to the loan desk at the IMF or the World Bank like all those other guys? Borrow a few billions to tide his country over this tight spot? That's an interesting question. Here's a couple of paragraphs from a Huffpost article a few years back.


Venezuela also has specific grievances against the IMF, which are likely to generate sympathy in other developing countries with democratic, left-of-center governments. On April 12, 2002, just hours after Venezuela’s democratically elected government was overthrown in a military coup, the IMF stated publicly that it was “ready to assist the new administration [of Pedro Carmona] in whatever manner they find suitable.”
This instantaneous show of financial support for a newly installed dictatorship - one which immediately dissolved the country’s constitution, general assembly, and Supreme Court - was unprecedented in the IMF’s history. Typically the IMF does not react so quickly, even to an elected government. It is no wonder that this move was seen in Venezuela and elsewhere as an attempt by the IMF to support the coup itself. Washington, which dominates the Fund, had advance knowledge of the coup, supported it, and funded some of its leaders - according to U.S. government documents.
Oopsie... it almost looks like Uncle Sam and his toadies at the IMF and the World Bank are a little inconsistent in their commitment to "liberty and democracy," doesn't it? 
So there's no question that one of the main causes of Venezuela's suffering today is due to a long-standing policy of egregious Yanqui meddling. 
A related and equally important cause can be found in Mr. Hausmann's text, "...the government decided to cut imports while remaining current on foreign-debt service..."
WTF? What kind of "socialist" is this Maduro? He prioritizes debt payments over feeding his people?
That's the Venezuelan tragedy in a nutshell; not enough socialism and way too much US meddling.