Saturday, December 31, 2011

There's something to be said for MAD

As we bid a bittersweet farewell to all the unfulfilled promise of the year now gone, I find myself getting a little nostalgic for the good old days of Mutually Assured Destruction.

Those were the good old days, were they not? We had the big nuke hardware, they had the big nuke hardware, everybody knew that nobody was going to do anything stupid. Mutually Assured Destruction.

Even in the darkest days of Nixon's downfall, when Tricky Dick was stumbling around the White House in an alcoholic stupor, nothing bad happened.

Same with the last days of Brezhnev. Senility and cirrhosis may have had him firmly in hand, but somehow, that threat of mutual destruction prevented anyone from taking advantage.

One of the biggest stories of the year gone by and the year ahead is the story of the mythical Iranian nuke.

Do they have one?

Are they working on one?

If so, how far are they from having one?

You know the rest of it. It's the number one foreign policy obsession with every GOP candidate. Talking tough on Iran is the caucus cajone test. They're tripping over each other to make the most bellicose statements about the imaginary Iranian nuke.

I personally have taken the worst-case scenario to heart. Let's assume they have a nuclear weapons program. Lets assume they actually build a bomb.

Then what?

Then nothing. There is only one country that has ever used an atomic weapon. Everybody else holds them for their deterrent value.

That deterrent value has worked. It'll work for Iran too.

Could Iran attack come from Saudi Arabia?

In the endless chatter about "all options" being on the table, amid all the saber-rattling and veiled threats, one possibility has received little attention.

What if an attack on Iran originates not in Israel or America, but in Saudi Arabia?

The war-mongers generally acknowledge that even if the US does not initiate an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, it will be drawn in if the Israelis proceed with a unilateral action.

But what if the Saudi's launch the attack, thereby drawing in both Israel and the US?

The Saudi's have just signed off on a 30 billion dollar fighter plane deal with the US. They are, if anything, more dependent on US support than the Israelis are.

This strategy also has the benefit of being deniable. If things go seriously south, we'll just stand back and wash our hands of the whole thing.

Oil companies reassure Ohio public that earthquakes not related to fracking

Fracking.

That's where your friendly neighborhood oil exploration company pumps toxic fluids deep into the earth, under immense pressure, to get out the gas and oil deposits that haven't been easily accessible by conventional drilling methods.

One thing that fracking has been linked to is poisoned groundwater. The oil companies deny any link between the toxins they pump into the ground and the toxins that subsequently show up in people's tap water.

After today's 4.0 earthquake in Ohio, questions are being raised about a connection to fracking activity. Before fracking became commonplace earthquakes were relatively rare in Ohio, with a low-intensity quake expected once every ten to twenty years.

In the past year there have been ten quakes, with today's being the most significant yet. The oil companies want you to believe that it can't possibly have anything to do with them.

Ohio before fracking; clean water and an earthquake every twenty years.

Ohio after fracking; toxic water and ten earthquakes per year.

Coincidence?

Mossad boss dismisses Iranian nuclear threat

While a goodly cross-section of the American media, as well as every GOP contender aside from Ron Paul, are busy fanning the flames of hysteria over the supposed Iranian nuclear threat, Israeli spy chief Tamir Pardo is taking a more sanguine approach.

While admitting that he'd prefer Iran didn't acquire nuclear weapons, he dismissed talk of a nuclear-armed Iran as an "existential threat", saying the word was tossed about much too freely.

Pardo took over the Mossad command a year ago. He has worked his entire life in the Israeli intelligence community. One would expect that he has some idea what he's talking about.

His words contradict the fear-mongering of Prime Minister Netanyahu and highlights once again the divide between the politicians and the military on the question of Iran, both in Israel and the US.

Politicians need to scare voters to keep their minds off more important issues.

Ron Paul supporters "white supremacists, anti-semites"

That's according to Joe McQuaid, publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader in an op-ed yesterday.

He worked the "truthers" into his rant too. I'm not sure what a "truther" is. I thought it was a reference to people who don't believe the official 9/11 story. What that would have to do with the Paul campaign I'm not sure.

What the anti-semite and racist references are intended to do I'm not sure either. Looks like a salvo of irrational name calling. Sometimes that happens when you don't actually have any arguments.

A good deal of McQuaid's opprobrium seems to focus on a distortion of Paul's stance with respect to Iran's nuclear program; it's not America's job to attack Iran. This becomes, in McQuaid's fevered imagination, Ron Paul wanting Iran to have nuclear weapons.

I think what's really got McQuaid's shorts in a twist is that he came out for Gingrich back in November and the Gingrich campaign has been sputtering ever since.

Take it easy, Joe. Look around you. Being the World Cop is bankrupting America.

It's time to change course.

Prescription for Gaza: close your eyes and dance

Whenever I'm having a really bad day and things couldn't possibly get worse, I pull myself back from the brink by reminding myself, hey, at least I don't have to live in Gaza.

Between the rival gangs of gunmen on the ground, Israeli drones and Apaches overhead, 60% unemployment, life in Gaza has got to be one hopeless dreary slog.

Luckily for the people of Gaza, the American based Center for Mind-Body Medicine is teaching them how to look on the bright side. Are they bringing peace, jobs, law and order, and an end to the blockade?

No.

They're bring meditation and dance. Apparently Gazans will feel better if they close their eyes, dance in circles, and imagine that they are somewhere else.

Based on the program's success in Gaza there are plans to export it to Egypt and Syria where many are feeling frustrated at their stalled Arab Spring.

Don't let that evil dictator get you down; just close your eyes and dance!

Iraqis celebrate victory over US

There's gratitude for you!

The diesel fumes from the last American convoy to hightail it over the Kuwait border are still hanging in the air and already the Iraqi ingrates are claiming victory.

Where in history have you ever witnessed such an altruistic campaign as America's invasion of Iraq to liberate those people from themselves? And do they appreciate it?

No. Already they are calling today the "Day of Defeating the Occupier", as if the US forces were driven out at the point of a gun.

Our thankless newly democratic friends should remember that we liberated them once, and if they overdo this churlish "celebrating" we can always come back and liberate them again.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cat wars at Falling Downs

We have two house cats here at Falling Downs.

Chloe has been with me since Mildmay. Moved to Durham with me. Always a standoffish bitch. There were times we didn't see her for weeks. She'd be hiding out in the ductwork or visiting the neighbor for days on end. Weeks sometimes.

Mew is a former barn cat who got a promotion. One day you're a barn cat scrapping for survival, next day you're a house cat.

Two things I have to clarify here. First of all, "Mew" is an utterly lame  name for a cat. Do you name your dog "bark"? No, it's really stupid. It wasn't me that named her, and that's all I can say about that.

Secondly, the reason she was the only surviving barn cat was because one of the hounds ate all the other barn cats.

That would be Charlie. Most beautiful hound in dog history. Just one little personality flaw; couldn't help herself from eating kittens.

So we were down to one kitten left out of the barn crew, and we thought, well, Charlie doesn't bother the house cat, let's bring Mew indoors. So we did.

And Charlie, may she rest in peace, never did bother her, nor did the other hounds.

But suddenly we had territory strife between Chloe and Mew.

I made the decision early on that there was only going to be one cat-box in the house, and that it's going to be in the basement. The basement steps go from the pantry.

Chloe has staked out her turf in the pantry. There is a heating vent in the pantry she likes to sleep on. With one eye open.

Chloe is ten or twelve years old now, but when that one open eye spots Mew heading for the cat-hole in that pantry door, she rises up in full cat fury, back arched to heaven and hissing and spitting like a rattler in a sleeping bag.

Naturally that scares the crap out of Mew, who was just heading to the cat-box. When Mew can't make it to the cat-box, she tends to leave cat surprises here and there around the house.

So that's kind of where it's at here at Falling Downs. If you come by for a stay-over and you find something nasty in your sheets, you know why.

When your right to work = your right to starve

One of the generally unacknowledged reasons for the end of slavery in America was the realization by the slave-owners that they could save a lot of money by setting their slaves free.

No longer did they have to feed and house the slaves all year round just for a few weeks of work during planting and harvest seasons. And of course freeing the slaves made for good political optics as well, optics that became part of American mythology.

The Right to Work folks are exploiting an American myth too. They've got commercials on the TV where a couple of imaginary blue-collar white guys are shaking their heads in disgust at the political candidates that their union bosses have been sending their dues to.

I was perusing the website of the Right to Work Committee when I realized that they were on a blog aggregator that also runs The View From Falling Downs. Just for fun I took a look at their numbers. Their numbers are shit. Nobody reads the stuff. This anti-war, pro-labor, legalize common sense blog blows them out of the water.

Nevertheless they have big money behind them. Ironically the money behind them is also the money behind the "research" that recently discovered that American workers are the most overpaid in the world.

I know that there are real flesh-and-blood working folks who hate unions. I've worked with them. I feel sorry for them. They're the people who buy into the "right to work" nonsense that's being promulgated by the most reactionary elements of the 1%.

In my experience, unions are amongst the most democratic organizations in the world. If you don't like what's going down, go to your meetings and speak up. Get involved. If you're scared, take half a dozen friends with you.

If you've been on the shop floor for more than six months and you still don't have half a dozen people to back you up, maybe you're just full of shit.

The reason our economy is in the shitter today has nothing to do with unions being too strong, and everything to do with them being too weak. All the high-wage Western countries that are doing better than we are have stronger unions and more labor rights, not less.

"Right to work" is about one thing; your right to work longer hours for less money.

Interpol Chief: EU risks new September 11

This story just goes to prove that Homeland Security types aren't the only one's who can spin sensational headlines out of thin air.

Interpol Secretary General Ron Noble, an American who was previously head of the US Secret Service (surprise surprise) warned today that lax passport checks at European airports will inevitably result in towelhead terrorists staging a 9/11 somewhere in the EU.

According to Noble, there were 500 million European flights last year where the departure airport didn't check the passenger list against the Interpol database of potential terrorists.

That seems like a mighty high number to me. I'm getting this story from The Independent, so it must be true, but isn't that about one flight for every European? I guess those Europeans really like to sit in a cramped aluminum cage sniffing their neighbors farts on trips that you can do by car in under six hours. After all, you can drive across Europe in less time than it takes to drive across Texas.

Anyway, to get back to the story, Interpol has a database of 15,000,000 potential terrorists. Fifteen million.

Maybe that's why nobody uses your database, Mr. Noble. Once everybody's on it, nobody's allowed to fly.

Too bad the Nazis gave sterilization a bad name

There's a story in USA Today about a young couple who bound up their toddlers with duct tape.

Taped the wrists. Taped the ankles. Taped their yaps shut. No doubt about it, those little shitheads won't be giving ma and pa any trouble!

Then they took a picture and put it on their Facebook page.

What can you say? While I'm not big on the nanny state and all that, there are people who just shouldn't be allowed to breed.

Our society is a bit messed up in that regard. Any two idiots who rub the right body parts together can procreate. It's free. Any two idiots can get married. There's places in Vegas that'll be pleased to provide you a fully legal hitching for under a hundred bucks.

But getting a divorce takes years and requires the help of high-paid experts. It'll set you back tens it not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Isn't there something profoundly wrong with that picture?

Look around you. I'll bet you know people who just should not reproduce. It's not in their interest. It's not in the interests of society at large. And it's definitely not in the interest of their children.

Yet, those very people are probably doing the oinky-boinky at this very moment. They'll keep a-smokin' and a-drinkin' just like normal for the next six months till mama notices she's missed a few periods. Then it's too late.

Let's face it; some people just shouldn't be allowed to reproduce. Everybody knows it, nobody wants to say it.

Because... every life is sacred.

Why does CNN present this war cheer-leader as an expert?

Fouad Ajami has long been the favorite token Arab of the Project for a New American Century, that right-wing crowd of war-mongers who devised George W's brilliant Iraq strategy.

He is a close collaborator of Daniel Pipes, a pal of Paul Wolfowitz, a former adviser to Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney, none of whom would be regarded as credible objective observers of events in the Arab world. But, because of his ostensible insider status, even though he moved to the US while still a teenager, Ajami gets away with it.

These days Ajami appears on CNN several times a day as an expert on the Syrian uprising. He's hitting all the same notes as he was during the nine months that he made daily appearances as a Libya expert; the evil dictator is looting his country and killing his people, and only benevolent western intervention can save those people from imminent slaughter.

Ajami continues to see the Iraq fiasco as a glorious triumph. In fact, he believes that the invasion of Iraq serves as the template for successful interventions. This is not a view shared by the vast majority of observers and has much more to do with his political agenda than with the reality in Iraq today.

Taking an absurdly revisionist turn, Ajami claims without any evidence whatsoever that our invasion of Iraq in 2003 is what inspired the Egyptian demonstrators in Tahrir Square in 2010.

None of this background is made known when he is trotted out as an expert by CNN or other networks. In the interest of truthful journalism, CNN needs to provide a little more on-screen info.

How about Professor Fouad Ajami, Hoover Institute Fellow, neocon hack with axe to grind.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Does the road to Damascus lead to Tehran?

The so-called Syrian uprising gives the think tank here at Falling Downs a bit of pause.

Let me be clear. Falling Downs is a friend of freedom everywhere and at all times. This is Freedom Central. In fact, I've been thinking about changing the name of the blog to The View From Freedom Central. 

Wouldn't really work on the side of the barn. "Freedom Central". At least "Falling Downs" references, however obliquely, those Kentucky horse farms that populated the imagination of my youth.

But I digress. Syria has top billing in the mainstream news these days. That in itself is enough to make me suspicious. Why Syria?

Every day a new tally of the martyrs massacred by that monster Assad. The daily total tends to be less than the daily total of Americans murdered by other Americans on any given day. Ya, I know that's sort of an apple to oranges thing, but violence is violence and dead is dead.

The R2P arguments have been suspiciously absent thus far. If the virtuous west had to intervene in Libya before any civilians were killed, why has the virtuous west not intervened in Syria after seven thousand have been killed?

But I think it's coming. You're hearing it before it's news. It'll be R2P all over the place, and Assad's weapons of mass destruction, and OMG, look, that road goes straight to Tehran!

Russian blogger breaches security at top secret rocket factory

Russian blogger Lana Sator has posted pictures on the internet of the interior of a high security rocket factory near Moscow. http://lana-sator.livejournal.com/tag/active

Looking at the pictures, I can't help but drool. Can you even begin to imagine the scrap value of the stuff in those pictures? The lads down at the Scone scrap-metal yard would have a new best friend.

"High security" is obviously a high joke in this case. The very fact that Sator was able to get these pictures seems to suggest that if security was  "high", it was high on that Bekaa valley stuff that's been causing problems elsewhere.

Nice work, Lana!

Rick Santorum; last hope for the anybody-but-Paul crowd

A funny thing has happened on the way to the Iowa caucuses. The invisible candidate, Rick Santorum, suddenly has big-time front-page cred!

Look for Rick on Meet the Press and Face the Nation this coming weekend. He's everywhere all of a sudden after being nowhere all along.

Oddly enough, the ascent of the nowhere man has coincided with the decline in the fortunes of the GOP establishment's favorites and the rise of Ron Paul.

Why? Well, Mitt's a Mormon, Perry's a moron, Bachmann's a woman, Newt is Newt, none of which is exactly winning-ticket material in Iowa.

By God, how are we ever gonna stop the Ron Paul juggernaut, that train of pain that's gonna let the air out of the tires of manifest destiny, derail the beltway gravy train, and MAKE POT A TAXABLE LEGAL PRODUCT!? OH MY GOD WHATEVER WILL WE DO?...

Oh look, there goes Rick Santorum...  Of course! Quick, let's get him on Meet the Press while there's still time.

He's a city slicker who hides it well. The Iowa rubes will fall for the schtick. Homos bad, creationism good. Islam bad, Israel good. Unions bad, drugs bad, welfare bad, Santorum good good good.

P.T. Barnum's maxim about the American public is about to be proved correct yet again.

Top US General heads to Israel to discuss options on table

General Martin Dempsey, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is travelling to the Holy Land next month to meet his Israeli counterpart, Lt. General Benny Gantz. Dempsey will also be meeting with Defense Minister Barak and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The meeting is being held to clarify exactly what is meant when various American politicians speak of "all options" being on the table. Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta are especially fond of the phrase, but Obama himself has been heard to invoke it from time to time.

It is thought that what the Israelis would like to see on the table is a blue and white checkered tablecloth, representing the national colors, topped with a simple menorah as a centerpiece.

Given the budget situation in the US it is expected that Dempsey will suggest something modest from the Martha Stewart catalog, topped with the birch-log candle-holder his nephew handcrafted at Boy Scouts.

In addition to discussing the options on the table, it is expected that the brain trust will also finalize plans for the biggest ever US-Israel joint military exercises.

Scheduled for May of 2012, operation Austere Challenge will involve thousands of American boots on the ground in Israel, as well as the establishment of IDF command posts at the US Army European Command headquarters in Germany.

The overall focus of the exercises is to showcase missile interception capabilities. According to the Jerusalem Post, live missile interceptions will be a part of the drill.

After visiting Israel, General Dempsey will continue on to Lebanon where he will meet with Hezbollah officials to arrange for the live missiles.

Top Bachmann adviser endorses Ron Paul

Michele Bachmann is some pissed off today.

Her top guy in Iowa, Kent Sorenson, has gone on the record with a Ron Paul endorsement. As he sees it, Bachmann doesn't have a chance and Paul is easily the best of the rest.

Bachmann is having a major hissy fit. First she claimed Sorenson was bribed by the Paul campaign. When that was denied by other officials on her Iowa team she switched to using scare tactics.

"He wants to legalize drugs! Cocaine! Heroin! He wants to turn your children into addicts right here in Iowa!"

Nice try Michele, but your 2012 run is over.

Hezbollah hashish merchants suspected as dozens of Israeli missiles fall off truck

There were no injuries as dozens of unsecured missiles fell off an Israeli transport this week.

The accident happened after IDF troops loaded up the shipment, intended for an Iron Dome installation in the Negev, but then forgot to tie them down.

A senior IDF spokesperson claimed that he is not surprised. "That Bekaa Valley Blonde is everywhere. And these young conscripts, they are not good for shit. Half of them are religious fanatics and the other half are stoned all the time. Today we saw what can happen when the stoned ones load the trucks."

Officials with the Defense Ministry refused to comment, but sources say that it is well known that Hezbollah is behind the trafficking of Bekaa valley hashish into Israel.

IDF chief Maj. General Ido Nehoshtan has ordered a complete halt to all missile-loading activities until the completion of a full governmental inquiry.

While I don't mean to second guess the Major General, I do think this is a bit of an over-reaction. Something simple like having the driver check the load before he pulls out of the warehouse works well on the civilian side, regardless of how stoned the warehouse workers are.

Should work for the IDF too. No government inquiry needed.

That's not art; it's just sh*t

I have to admit it; I don't get modern art.

I've tried to get it. Even went so far as to read a couple Clement Greenberg essays. Can't say it helped me much.

I'm given to pondering the 'what is art' question because one of the greats of American abstract expressionism went to the big gallery in the sky this week. Helen Frankenthaler had a career that spanned well over half a century. I like some of her stuff, a lot of it in fact. But I don't get it.

Take Nature Abhors a Vacuum for instance. I like it. I see a green eagle leaving her nest. Or maybe it's a green sunset. Either way, it's pleasant. I've got a spot for it in the upstairs hall here at Falling Downs. Unfortunately something called the "art market" makes this single painting worth several farms just like this one. How is such a thing even possible?

For a small fraction of the price I could have an original Marla Olmstead. She too produces colorful and pleasant canvases that would look good in the upstairs hall. Very similar in style to Frankenthaler.

Then again, I could go a step further and produce a pleasant and colorful work myself. After all, it is not as though I have never spilled paint. In fact, when I was painting the kitchen ceiling I knocked a gallon of Daffodil Ambiance from the top of the stepladder. The many subtle shades of yellow splatter on the maple floor really drew the eye in. If I'd had the forsight to place a canvas on the floor I might have had something.

So why is Marla Olmstead's spilled paint more valuable than mine but less valuable than Frankenthaler's? Who makes these decisions? Clement Greenberg? The "art market"?

It seems to me that some of the artists prominent today got their art education at business school. Has Damien Hirst every produced anything without at least one eye already on the "art market"?

At least I get Hirst. I don't get modern art, but I get kitsch.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Only Iran can save Iraq

That's not something I'm making up. That headline comes from the CNN homepage. You can't get any more patriotic than that.

The writer is a professor from Michigan State University. You can't get any more patriotic than that either.

Somehow, after all that money and all the blood spilled, we've left it up to the Iranians to clean up our mess.

You know, the bad guys. Trying to develop a nuclear weapon. Threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz. The baddest of the bad guys in all of history. The towelheads from hell.

We've left Iraq to them.

If Israel can reach out to Hamas, why can't America reach out to Iran?

Writing in Forward  today Nicolas Pelham makes a refreshing case for optimism about relations between Israel and it's most intransigent foe, the Gaza based Hamas.

After many years of imbecilic claims that "we do not talk to our enemies" it seems that factions in the Netanyahu government are doing just that. And it's long overdue.

That an intelligent and informed public can countenance such a foolish claim has always been beyond comprehension. "We do not talk to our enemies."

How stupid is that? If one is interested in achieving peace, are the "enemies" not the ones with whom it is absolutely essential to talk?
How does talking only to friends further the cause of peace?

Yet such idiocy has been the prevailing narrative in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for far too long. For how many years was nothing done because there was no "partner for peace", no one to talk to? And God forbid that one talk to the enemy.

Maybe there is a example in this for the US. Instead of working overtime to antagonize the Iranians at every turn, we could talk to them instead. Not just to remind them of all the options on the table, but a real dialogue between equals.

Of course the usual crowd of nay-sayers will immediately cry from the rooftops that we can't talk to Ahmajinedad because he is the enemy. He has promised to erase Israel off the map, etc. etc.

The only way Ahmajinedad will ever erase Israel from the map is with an eraser and possibly a bottle of white-out. Every serious person knows this. Let's stop appeasing the war-mongers and start making an effort at peace.

Peace begins with talking to the enemy.

Brouhaha in Bethlehem; Palestinian police intervene in Christian on Christian violence

Those crazy Christians!

At this most sacred time of year, at the holiest site in all of Christendom, what are they doing?

Beating the crap out of one another! Rival gangs of Greek and Armenian Christians, each claiming to be more Christ-like and pure in spirit than the other, battled it out in the Church of the Nativity today with whatever holy artifacts they could get their hands on.

Luckily the Palestinian police were on hand to restore order before there was serious damage to the church.

Wonder what the Prince of Peace thinks about that?

Iran threatens oil supplies and suddenly it's 1973 all over again

Who remembers 1973?

I sure do. Worked at the Budd Automotive plant at the time. Building frames for Torinos and Impalas and the like. The Arab oil embargo hits, and I go from making a fine paycheck to a layoff notice faster than you can say can't-make-my-payments.

Folks weren't buying Torinos and Impalas. They went to Toyotas and Datsuns like somebody had flipped a switch. Last frames I built were a special order for the Arkansas highway patrol. At least they kept with the big cars, but it wasn't enough to keep our plant going at full capacity.

That little hiccup in the economy cost me my beloved 455 Trans Am SD. In some ways it was the sweetest car I ever owned. Handled like it was on rails. Absolutely gobs of torque. She could break the tires loose when you stood on it too hard in forth gear.

I remember to this day President Nixon going on TV to say this would never happen again. Being dependent on those fickle towelheads for our oil supply just didn't cut it.

So now it's almost forty years later. Price of oil goes up every time Ahmadinejad reminds the world that he can close the straits of Hormuz in ten minutes. Which you can hardly blame him for doing given that every other day Hillary or Obama or Panetta make a point of reminding him that "all options are on the table".

Which brings me back to Nixon's promise.

How is it that after forty years we're as dependent on middle east oil as we were then?

Even when it's a month late, winter is always a complete surprise

It's the last week in December. Out of nowhere there's a six inch dump of snow overnight.

Who knew? Snow? In December? Who has ever heard of such a thing?

Needless to say, no one is prepared for such a surprise. Every tire store in town suddenly has a weeks worth of backlog on having snow tires installed. Many of them are sold out. Even Walmart is sold out.

Remember when TSC was remaindering their last snow-blowers back in March, at half price? You thought about it. Scratched your head and thought about it some more. Nah... you decided against saving that six or seven hundred dollars. After all, what with global warming, maybe you'll never see snow again.

Ha! Now you wake up with six inches of snow, that piece of crap 1980's era snow-blower you've been thinking about replacing won't start, and you hustle down to TSC or Sears or Walmart. Half price? No, in fact they're sold out and back-ordered. Really back ordered. If you put your money down today your snow-blower will be waiting for you mid-January.

In the meantime, you might as well pick up a snow shovel while you're there. You can't find the one you bought last year.

It's under the snow somewhere.

Ron Paul outrages rivals with claim that America has no "right" to bomb towelheads

Let's stop and think for a minute. How has our right to bomb towelheads been working out for us these last ten years or so?

We know how it's worked out for them. Not that great. Iraq may be a smoldering cauldron of sectarian violence, but they don't really seem to have much appreciation for the democracy we have gifted them.

Ditto Afghanistan, where everybody except Hillary and Leon Panetta's speechwriters have acknowledged that the very towelheads we kicked out of power will be back in power the day we leave.

What have we gained, and at what cost? Well, more people than ever hate America, and the cost has been in the trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of American lives lost or shattered.

Yes, by all means, let's do more of that!

The Godfather of street racing

For anyone who was into street racing back in the day, one name stood out; Jimmy Addison.

Addison operated a Sunoco station in Detroit and his daily driver was a '67 GTX that sooner or later was written up in virtually every car magazine under the sun. Legend had it that he never lost a race.

Addison's GTX ran low tens at 135 through the mufflers, a few tenths off what the top SS/A drag cars were running at the time. That is piss-your-pants fast in my world.

The quickest cars you could buy from a dealer in that era were the heavily prepped Yenko Camaros and Novas that promised five hundred horsepower. Baldwin Chevolet on Long Island offered their Phase III Camaro, also with five hundred horsepower and a guarantee of of a sub-twelve quarter mile with their driver behind the wheel.

To put some perspective on how quick Addison's GTX was, if you lined it up against one of those 500 hp Camaros, Addison would have about fifteen car lengths on it at the top of the quarter. That was one scary strong hemi.

Rumor had it that Addison's street racing endeavors had the financial backing of Chrysler Corporation. If that's true it's probably the only time in history that there was a factory sponsored street racer.

Alas, Addison was out of the game by the mid-seventies. Spent the rest of his life driving a cab around Detroit. Died behind the wheel a few years ago, of complications from an asthma attack, aged 65.

An ignominious end to the most legendary street racer of all time.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Street gangs and street racing

I occasionally watch a show called Pass time. You guess what the elapsed time of a given car is going to be in a quarter mile run. They give you the basic stats on the vehicle and the modifications thereto and you take it from there.

I generally get the best guess well over half the time. The farm manager here at Falling Downs thinks I should apply to be a contestant. Problem is, the most you're ever going to come away with is about two thousand bucks. So even if I get on the show and win, the winnings won't cover the cost of the trip.

There's a reason for my good luck at guessing elapsed times. Back in the day there was a hard-core street racing community in the town I lived in. The racetrack, informally known as the Highway 86 Dragway, was right in front of my house. Matter of fact, a couple of years I personally repainted the start/finish lines.

On any given night you'd find GTO's and Shelby Cobra's and hemi Chargers and six-pak Road Runners duking it out. This was a passion driven enterprise, but money did inevitably change hands. Eventually you'd find that cars that reigned supreme on the 86 were cars that had been on the NHRA circuit a year or two before.

This trend became particularly noticeable in places like New York City, where you'd find guys who were making big bucks in illegal drugs getting into street racing with last year's race car they just bought from Grumpy or Dyno Don or Ronnie Sox. You'd have 140 mph street races in Bed-Stu with a hundred grand changing hands at the finish line.

The forces of do-goodism were alarmed by this trend, and somewhere along the line the "Street-racers of Los Angeles" were invented. That was a joint venture between the LAPD and God knows who. Their front man was a guy named Big Willy something or other. Big Willy was a big black dude kitted out in Hells Angels type garb except where you would expect to see the flying skull there was some other bullshit patch instead.

(Not to be confused with Wild Willy, a skinny white guy who campaigned a scary AA altered car forever and spent his golden years working in obscurity in a muffler shop. RIP Willy Borsch)

Big Willy had one message; take your street racing to the track. And that is where I saw him. He was running a Plymouth Superbird with a small block. Had a couple of german shepherd guard dogs around his car at all times. His 340 Superbird was running low thirteen second times.

Needless to say, that failed to make much of an impression. I'd had a number of faster cars, and virtually everybody on the street racing scene had faster cars than me.

Not that the Superbird wasn't an interesting idea in it's own right, but it was never intended as a quarter-miler, and only an idiot would go drag racing with one, especially with a small-block. Not that Big Willy was an idiot; in fact, he was just indulging some highly impractical personal fantasies while getting somebody else to foot the bill.

Big Willy didn't convince anybody to take it to the track, but I'm sure that thanks to the LAPD he did OK for himself.

Canada ships bomb-grade nuke material to US

Those squeaky clean Canadians.

They're a nuclear-free zone, don't you know? There's protests all over the place whenever a nuclear powered US sub wants to pull into a Canadian port to give the boys aboard a bit of r&r.

Mind you, they're a bit conflicted. They do have a nuclear power program. Just like the Iranians. Just for peaceful purposes of course.

The just-for-peaceful-purposes nuclear power program in Canada was instrumental in bringing both Pakistan and India into the nuke club. Yes, you have sold us a nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes, but now we have a surprise for you!

Canada may have a milquetoast attitude towards nuclear proliferation, but it remains one of the premier sources of weapons-grade uranium on the planet. That's why we're sending the stuff to the USA.

These shipments happen without the slightest bit of public scrutiny. By contrast, when the local nuclear power plant wanted to ship some used machinery to Sweden for decommisioning, the do-gooders were all over it. Wanted full public hearings and an environmental study just for starters.

But sending weapon-grade uranium to the only country in the world that has ever used nuclear weapons?

No problem.

Justin Bieber implicated in satanic death cult

Sorry folks. I just made that up. Tacky made-up headlines are a mainstay of the blogosphere, don't you know? More page reads means more advertising money for me.

But it's too late now. And even though I made that up, you know it's true. Bieber isn't just implicated, he's one of the main front-men at the moment. One of the top spokespeople for the death cult we call consumer capitalism.

Have to say I don't feel too bad about it. Tacky made-up headlines have been a mainstay of the New York Times for well over 150 years.

If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.

Sadder but wiser, Noriega comes home to Panama

It's the celebratory season. Celebrating Jesus' birthday. Celebrating victory in Libya and Iraq. Celebrating the fact that you got a pair of those Nike's that Americans are dying for.

What with all that celebrating going on it's no wonder there wasn't much celebration of our great victory in Panama exactly 22 years ago this week. Yes, it's been twenty-two years since we opened a can of ass-whup that our little brownish friends in Central America won't soon forget.

Noriega was one of our favorite bum-boys of all time. There isn't an  American President or Secretary of State from the sixties to the eighties who didn't have their picture taken with Noriega.

Alas, with all that Yankee adulation, Noriega's head eventually grew too big for his body. He needed a good old fashioned take-down.

It happens to most of our friends sooner or later. The poor old Shah of Iran, after being our best boy in the middle east for ever and ever, wasn't even allowed to come to America for cancer surgery when he was down and out.

Saddam Hussein, in spite of his photo-gallery of handshakes with American nabobs, eventually hit his best-before date. He wasn't just abandoned. He was hunted down and murdered.

That's the way we roll. We're best buddies this week...

Next week, who knows?

Kmart's never ending death spiral; an insiders account

By the time Sam Walton was born, Sebastian S. Kresge was one of the richest men in the world. If Sebastian had the slightest inkling that baby Sam would eventually erase Kresge from America's retail map, he would have found a way to strangle wee Sam in his crib.

This will come as a shock to the Falling Downs faithful, but I was once a Kmart insider. A very low-level insider, mind you, but an insider none the less.

I was a department head. No retail experience whatsoever. Down on my luck, but a fresh haircut saw me walk into a Kmart in the late seventies, fill out an application, and walk out as Manager of the Automotive Department.

Being a department manager had its perks and its responsibilities. One of the perks was access to the paperwork that showed the wholesale price of everything on offer in the store. We were selling twenty dollar items that cost us two bucks. Obscure automotive parts, but people bought them. No wonder Sebastian got rich.

Another perk was the perogative to arbitrarily create mark-downs. If one of my buddies came in looking for, say, a twenty foot extension ladder, we'd find a scratch on it, and voila, that hundred dollar ladder was marked down to twenty bucks.

One of the things I'll always remember is how many people were perfectly happy to screw their employer. The guy who ran the shoe department would wear a new pair of shoes home every day.

The part-time guy in the building supply department had a great thing going. He needed to call an assistant manager to open the shipping doors. Unlike the full time day shift "department manager", he wasn't entrusted with his own key. But once that door was open and the assistant manager had left, he'd be cutting the sweetest deals. Got your eye on a new bathroom vanity, regular price $399? If you've got fifty cash in your pocket it's yours while the door is open.

I personally take a dim view of stealing from my employer, but I admit I had a lucrative sideline. Medicinal herbs. It was an ideal setup. Kept a stash in my stock room. Folks always knew where to find me. Didn't have to hang out in pool halls and strip joints. Good for the customer too. They didn't have to venture to a pool hall or a strip joint. "Hey honey, I'm just going up to Kmart at the mall for a minute." Solved a lot of problems on both sides of the equation.

Alas, all good things come to an end. The downfall of my Kmart career can be attributed to a couple of young hotties in the pet department. In my relentless campaign to impress them, I'd have my 300 pound teenage assistant go down to the pet department and surreptitiously release a couple of canaries or budgies.

Then he and I would make like Stanley and Livingstone in the jungle, carrying a ladder and butterfly nets from one end of the store to the other. We even found some pith helmets somewhere. We'd zero in on the  awol bird, plant our ladder, and quietly hone in on it with the butterfly net.

This was a game you could extend indefinitely. Just make sure you scare the bird off with that net instead of catching it. To impress the gals in the pet department you'd have to catch it eventually of course, but this little gambit made for many fun days working at Kmart.

The management structure in the store was something to behold. Our store had as many as twelve assistant managers at one time. It was a company strategy, applied Darwinism at its finest. You'd have these twelve guys (I don't remember a single female assistant manager at the time) all out-doing one another to climb the corporate ladder.

When the big dogs from head office made a store visit, you had an absolute frenzy of ass-kissing. There would be a parade of vice presidents and regional managers and assistant managers snaking aisle by aisle through the store, everybody determined to demonstrate to the people further up the hierarchy that they were better than the person immediately ahead of them.

Given that my income from the sideline was several times my income as a department manager, I kept myself aloof from that sort of thing. I had purloined a TV and a Lay-Z-Boy recliner from the furniture department and had a little lounge area set up in my stock room.

One Saturday morning just after Christmas I was relaxing there, one of the pet department hotties on my lap, rum and eggnogs at hand, watching the Saturday morning cartoons, when the parade of management wannabes decided for some reason to tour the stock room. If memory serves, we'd just sampled some of the medicinal stuff moments before.

That turned out to be my last day as an insider at Kmart.

Little did anyone in that parade realize that Sam Walton was about to cut their grass. The carnage continues. Today Kmart announced the closing of another 100 Sears and Kmart stores. In a strategy that does grave disservice to wherever those Kmart managers get their MBA's, Kmart decided a few years ago to buy that other sinking giant of the post-Walmart world, Sears.

And here they are today, still retreating and regrouping and running from the Walmart juggernaut. Another hundred stores closed.

As for me, that was my one and only foray into retail. Much too old for it now. But I hear that there's a kid up at Walmart, in the automotive department, there everyday from five till closing, can fix you up with some primo medicinal herb.

Adelson mulling joint Israel/USA leadership bid

Fed up with how his inept flunkies have squandered his money in both Israel and the US, Sheldon Adelson is considering turning off the money tap and personally running for both president of the US and prime minister of Israel.

Currently number twelve on Forbes rich list, Adelson has spent tens of millions on Netanyahu and Newt Gingrich. Inside sources claim he is more than a little disappointed in the results.

Who can blame him? Netanyahu has single handedly made Israel a pariah on the world stage. He has even succeeded in turning Israelis against each other. It is an open question whether Israel can survive another Bibi term without slipping into civil war.

As for Gingrich, one must question Adelson's judgement on this call. Of all the horses available to bet on in the US presidential race, Gingrich seemed like the longest of longshots. The old carpet-bagger simply has too much baggage to be a viable candidate.

So who could blame Adelson if he chooses to come out from behind the curtain and enter the leadership races in both countries? A joint Israel-USA government would eliminate a lot of unnecessary bureaucratic duplication when you think about it.

AIPAC would be made redundant, thereby eliminating our need to send billions of dollars to Israel which they in turn funnel back to our senators and congressmen.

Defense policy could be better coordinated, eliminating the possibility of some surprise military adventure that we weren't ready for.

Under an Adelson regime gambling oriented theme parks could be established all over the West Bank, taking the minds of those people off their obsession with a homeland.

Once you start to think about it, the possibilities go on and on.

Adelson for President!

Adelson for Prime Minister!

Trump quits Republican Party, may run as independent

Donald "Sideshow" Trump has left the Republican Party and registered as an independent. This leaves open the possibility of running a third party presidential campaign.

With Cain out and Gingrich struggling, Trump may appeal to that segment of the electorate that wants to hear simplistic solutions to complex problems, and that's a pretty big segment.

Trump will be unable to mount a serious campaign until the Apprentice wraps in May, which is rather late in the day considering that the GOP campaign is already in full swing and Obama has been campaigning since '08.

Don't count him out. Trump has a sturdy platform; get tough with countries that aren't nice to America. That's about 180 countries, so he'll have his work cut out for him. But if anyone can do that, it's Donald Trump.

President Trump will put the "bomb" into bombast!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Republicans for Obama

Sounds crazy, but it's coming soon to a town hall near you; Republicans for Obama.

It's bubbling away on the back burner right now. It will burst into full bloom after Ron Paul wins the GOP nomination.

And that's probably a done deal. Who's left? Newt and Perry tripped up by the demands of campaign paperwork, Cain undone by the stuck zipper on his trousers, Bachmann  done in by the unstuck zipper on her lips, Palin and Huntsman and Trump sitting this round out... It's starting to look a lot like Paul vs. Romney.

Romney is the "corporations are people" candidate. Good luck with that.

Ron Paul is the isolationist candidate. Let's just bring a million American soldiers home and, and... do what? Have them build housing for the homeless? No can do. We need them off the payroll to hit that trillion dollar budget reduction target. So we'll just add them to the ranks of the unemployed.

The more folks think this through, the better Obama looks. Keep paying for uncountable military bases on foreign soil? Check. Keep antagonizing the People of the Towel with pointless interventions in their countries? Check. Keep funding idiotic blue-sky military programs that do nothing but suck money out of the real economy and enrich war profiteers? Check. Keep bailing out too-big-too-fail banksters? Double check.

The closer Republicans look at Ron Paul, the more they will realize that Obama's their man.

Newt drops ball in Virginia; Adelson pissed

Newt Gingrich has missed the filing deadline to run in the Virginia primaries.

Having earlier claimed that he intended to deliver the papers personally he later changed his story and said he'd missed his flight from Iowa due to hassles with unionized airport workers.

Whatever the truth, one thing is for certain. Not being on the ticket in Virginia is a serious blow to the Gingrich campaign. Insiders with knowledge of the matter say Gingrich moneyman Sheldon Adelson hit the roof when he heard the news.

"What kind of schmuck misses a deadline? This is the future of the free world we are talking about! He missed a fucking deadline?! Millions and millions I have put on this schlemel, and he misses a deadline?"

In other GOP leadership news, Rick Perry missed the deadline too. In his case, though, it's obvious he just didn't have any support. That crock about creating all those jobs didn't hold much water after folks found out they were all minimum wage jobs. And the fact that he bellies up to the trough at the Texas treasury for a double helping every month didn't help his case either. Perry is toast.

Meanwhile Ron Paul got his paperwork done and handed in and will be on the ticket in Virginia.

Leafs extend commitment to mediocrity

SI.com is reporting that the Toronto Maple Leafs have given Ron Wilson a contract extension.

Read and weep, Leaf Nation. Anybody who thought the recent sale of the Leafs by the Teachers Pension Plan was a sign of good things to come must be suicidal today. After all, you'd think that Rogers and Bell would have a vested interest in fielding a contender. All Teachers ever had an interest in is ROI. (That's return on investment for you Leaf fans who don't sit in the golds.)

Wilson is in the last year of a four year contract. His team has missed the playoffs under the first three years of his tutelage. He has a losing record overall.

And this is cause for a contract extension?

Assuming SI has its story straight, what this is, is more proof that it's the GM who needs to go.

Dog eats Bible

Not just any Bible, but one from the 1850's that had been in Alex Anderson's family since before his father came over from Scotland to homestead 100 acres in Wellington County.

Alex was a farmer who lived with his two spinster sisters. For a couple of summers I was the hired man on the farm. That involved back-breaking work from morning to sundown six days a week for less than minimum wage, just like farm labor today.

Alex was a man of very few words. You always knew he thought you were an imbecile; the question was only how high you were on the imbecile scale at any given moment, and he had a way of letting you know with nothing more than a glance.

While I wouldn't say he was a cruel man, the old-school farmers weren't known for their sentimentality. When the barn cat population was getting out of hand he simply stopped feeding them. It was an exercise in applied Darwinism.

Those who were a little bigger to begin with and had the meanest disposition did alright. The rest were slowly starving to death. Scrawny mewling kittens all over the place. I eventually sneaked into the barn with my .22 and helped the process along.

One day we're heading to the the feed mill in the truck when out of the blue Alex says today's his anniversary. Say what? I'd never heard even a rumor of such a thing.

Turns out Alex had been married fifty years ago that day. His wife died in childbirth less than a year later. Their son died too.

After Alex went to the big farm in the sky I bought his Bible at the estate auction. No particular reason. It's been sitting on a shelf in the woodshed since I came to Falling Downs. The top shelf.

Lucy is still going through the "I'm a puppy and therefore I'm entitled to chew everything" phase. There's been any number of hounds lived in that woodshed, in and out of their chewing stage, and it would never occur to me that a dog would go to the trouble of fetching something off the top shelf when there were so many chewing options available closer to the ground.

But I should have known. Lucy eats beer cans and shits aluminum ingots. She's a four-legged recycling machine. She's chewed extension cords down to the bare wire and lived to tell the tale. She ate my generator.

That Bible never had a chance.

Putin finds lump of coal in Christmas stocking

Protesters were busy in the streets of Moscow today, expressing their displeasure over the results of the Dec. 4 election, which saw Putin re-elected, albeit with a reduced majority.

According to police about 25,000 took to the streets, although organizers say it was closer to a million. Western media have already given the protests a color and a name; this is the White Revolution, and it follows the template of other so-called color revolutions and the Arab uprisings in that it seems to be a social networking phenomenon.

Hopefully most Russians are too young to appreciate the unfortunate connotations of that moniker, the white revolution. Ninety years before social media sprung Arab spring there was another "White Revolution" in Russia, an armed uprising against the 1917 revolution.

That armed uprising included boots on the ground from the US and the core countries of what is now known as NATO. It was a foreign invasion, in other words.

One of the features of the White Russians was their rampant antisemitism. Russia had a long and horrific history of state-sponsored pogroms against her Jewish population.

When the Bolsheviks came to power they outlawed antisemitism. The anti-Bolshevik forces rose up, we supported them, and the Bolsheviks won. It's not something we highlight in our history books.

Ninety years later we have another White Revolution, supposedly a Facebook fueled spontaneous eruption of discontent. Today's protest was the big news of the day in our media.

When reached by satellite phone, Santa said he was disappointed in Putin, and that Putin had indeed been naughty in the lead up to the election.

"But you have to put in in perspective," Grampa Frost, as he is known in Russia, said. "Remember Florida in 2000? George didn't get a lump of coal that year.

I left him a stocking full of reindeer turds."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mayhem at the mall

It's the running-shoe riots. From coast to coast Americans are lining up to pay two hundrd bucks for the latest Nike sneakers. Two hundred bucks for a pair of shoes that some eight year old kid in a Chinese sweat shop got paid twenty-five cents to put together. A couple dollars for the material, and a few cents for the invisible hand of the free market to deliver them to a retail outlet near you, and I can't see where Nike has even five bucks invested in this product.

American consumers are lining up in their thousands for a chance to sport the new kicks. Fist fights and gun battles are breaking out. Riot police are using pepper spray to subdue the frenzied mobs of shoe shoppers.

Meanwhile in other news from planet earth, my research director here at Falling Downs informs me that an estimated 20,000 children will die of starvation on Christmas day. That's something to think about while you're standing in that lineup at the mall.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Second thoughts on the New World Order

The New World Order has become a genre. The blogosphere is full of the stuff. It's right next to the conspiracy sites. In fact, if you were to draw a Venn diagram, you'd see pretty much a total overlap. The New World Order is a conspiracy theory.

And that's all it is. The New World Order is pretty much the same old world order we've seen before. Where is the "new" in the New World Order?

Most of this stuff is retrograde recycled phoney baloney that impresses 17 year olds who have never read a book. Rich people make the rules? Well, there's a shocker for ya.

Of course, owing to the precipitious decline in American educational standards, it's not a far carry from that one to "Rothschilds cause earthquakes" and then we're pretty much back to the Protocols of Zion.

Make no mistake. The New World Order is the same old same old. Money-grubbing cunts, Presbytarian and Baptist and Episcopalian and Jewish.

There's nothing new about the New World Order.

Powerful labor union tramples on citizens' rights

Oh my God! Did I just write that?

Yes I did. If you've followed the Falling Downs blog at all you know we're totally pro-labor here. Or pro-labour if you happen to be reading this in England or Canada.

So I'm feeling more than a little conflicted. Looking on the bright side, maybe that title will get me some funding from the Koch brothers or the American Enterprise Institute. I'm like Newt; I'll take the money wherever it comes from.

But it's true, and it's happening not an hour's drive from here, in Port Elgin, Ontario.

The CAW wants to put up an industrial scale wind turbine at their "education center" in Port Elgin. Many years ago Bob White took the Canadian auto workers out of the UAW and birthed the CAW. I have nothing but respect for Bob White and the CAW, but they've failed to test the wind on this one.

Alternative energy is a great idea, but given the present state of technology it can't exist in the Ontario market without massive government subsidies. These subsidies run rampant in Ontario, and the CAW has organized the workers in a few foreign owned branch plants that assemble components for both solar and wind technology. So I can see the thinking of the union guys; let's support policies that keep our membership employed.

Unfortunately, the industrial scale wind turbine developments that have been sprouting up all over the province in the last ten years have pissed off a lot of people. Generally, the closer you are to a wind farm the more pissed off you'll be. And the CAW wind turbine is pretty much in the middle of a small vacation community where people go to get away from it all.

They're not happy with the proposed CAW wind turbine.

So I hope my union friends figure out which way the wind is blowing. You can bulldoze over the objections of the locals and put up your windmill, as a show of support for a government policy that might keep a few of your members employed in the short term, but is doomed to failure in the long run.

Or you can do the right thing, be a good neighbor in the community, and scrap that wind turbine.

Poll: Ron Paul boots Gingrich out of top spot in Iowa

Gee, that's odd, I was just at the Gallup site half an hour ago and they told me Romney was in the lead.

Had to do a little digging to confirm the story. After all, that's a pretty provocative headline. Ron Paul? Let's get serious!

Went to all the reputable American news sources. Couldn't find this Ron Paul story anywhere. In fact, politics is on the back burner this night before the night before Christmas. Not on Fox News. Not on NBC, CBS, ABC. CNN has a lame home page story about Rick Perry, but mostly the political talk is about the non-story two-month delay on the payroll tax cut extension.

So where do you have to go to find out that Ron Paul is ahead in Iowa?

That headline comes word for word from the home page of Haaretz. That's right; if you want no spin on your homespun news, you'll have to go to Israel to get it.

Republicans come to senses; Newt fading fast

Maybe those Republican voters aren't retarded after all. The latest numbers from Gallup show that the big lead Gingrich held just a couple of weeks ago has pretty much evaporated.

And it's a good thing. How the wily old carpet-bagger ever became the front-runner caused more than a little befuddlement around the think tank here at Falling Downs. Gingrich has proved himself a leader in two respects; he leads all candidates in his craven pandering to AIPAC, and he leads all candidates in his proven ability to enrich himself while serving the public. Neither of these are qualities that say "front-runner" at this particular point in American history.

The AIPAC thing is just a matter of where Newt's campaign money comes from. I've never seen evidence that Newt has a particularly strong position on any issue. His modus operandi is to talk his best game for whoever cuts the biggest check. Somebody else waves a check with bigger numbers on it, and Newt's outa there like a fart in a windstorm.

Right now Sheldon Adelson is the guy calling the tune with his generous financial backing. Sheldon is the same guy who keeps Netanyahu afloat over in the promised land. But I really don't think Newt's heart is in it. If the Emir of Qatar doubled Adelson's stipend, Newt would be doing haj next week and talking about the Israelis being an invented people.

As for Newt's proven record of success at enriching himself while serving the public, that's just not the right message in tough times like these. Horatio Alger myths are big in American iconography, but "small town hustler gets rich in politics" isn't something the general public has any appetite for these days.

On the other hand, the man gaining on Newt, at least according to Gallup, is the man who told us that corporations are people too.

I'll hold off reassessing that retardation diagnosis for a little while yet.

News flash: rising salaries eat into corporate profits!

No kidding.

There's a scary story in Canada's newspaper of record today about the supposed labor shortage in Alberta. The shortage itself is real enough. There simply aren't enough qualified welders and pipefitters and heavy equipment operators around to fill all the vacancies.

But it is a contrived shortage, a deliberately engineered shortage. There is a shortage of skilled workers because policy-makers at the highest levels want there to be a shortage.

The shortages they have created provide the rationalization for bringing in skilled workers from other countries. Needless to say they don't bring in those workers from high-wage countries. The entire game here is to bring in workers from lower wage countries to drive down Canadian wages.

That's also why they are lukewarm about bringing in unemployed American trades. Why bring in welders from Poland and Hungary when there's guys from Oklahoma and Texas would be happy for the work, and they speak the language and can put their stuff in the pick-up and be there in a couple of days? That's the problem; they speak the language, they're often members of the same unions, and they know the going rate for pipe welders isn't fifteen bucks an hour.

The obvious solution of course is to train unemployed Canadians to do the work, but that would require an investment in training.

And training the unemployed is just one more thing that would cut into corporate profits.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

70 dead as peace and stability reign in Bagdahd

As State Department spokesman Pat Kennedy said the other day, that Iraq democracy we installed may not be perfect, but by God, at least they're democratic now.

Multiple car bombs put the exclamation mark behind Kennedy's comments today. A mere 48 hours after the official withdrawal of official American troops the Iraqi capital was wracked by the worst terror outbreak in years.

There are of course rival theories about who is behind the bombing. American media have thus far gone out of their way to assure their audience that this fresh outbreak of violence is "non-sectarian" in nature, and in fact is most likely the work of Al Qaeda. You know, those guys who sacrificed all their top minds on 9/11 and have since struggled with dolts who may have the jihad spirit but are too stunned to successfully blow up their shoes and underpants.

Media in the rest of the world seem to see today's attacks as very much sectarian. Specifically, as an attack on the Shia government by the Sunni minority. The Sunni's if you recall, are the bad guys we went in to take out. Sadam's people.

The Shia are the people who we put in, or at least let in. Since they are the majority, they can pretty much have their way in a democratic society. By the way, they are supported by the Shia country next door; Iran. Yes, that Iran, the one we're going to have to attack one of these days to make sure we can delay their nuclear weapons program by a few years.

Confusing? You bet. But one thing is very clear; the American taxpayer has spent a trillion dollars to make this mess. Almost 5,000 American died to make this mess. Over 30,000 Americans were grievously injured in the course of bringing this imperfect democracy to Iraq.

And it's far from over.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Navy goes queer-friendly

History was made today at the navy pier in Portsmouth Virginia. Two gay gals shared the traditional first kiss on terra firma when the USS Oak Hill tied up at the wharf.

Navy spokeswoman Sylvia Landis confirmed that this was the first time a same-sex couple were granted the honor of the first kiss, although she quickly added that the Navy doesn't actually keep track of that sort of statistic.

"The Navy just treats it as a normal homecoming," she said.

Ya right.

Personally, I'm thinking the Navy is treating it like a major PR coup. Look at us! We're the new Navy! All you light-in-the-loafer types can join up without fear of harassment, bullying, or ostracism. So come on gay guys 'n gals, join the Navy!

There are good reasons for the olive branch to the gay community. Research shows that gay teens are more likely to be high achievers. Their reading, writing, and math scores are significantly ahead of those of their non-queer counterparts.

The Navy, just like all the services, gets more high-tech every year. They need a lot more of the highly literate over-achievers, and a lot less of the drooling puppy-killers who have been giving the services such a bad rep.

So take heart gay teens; the US Navy needs you. Sign up today.

Could deadly mutant virus fall into wrong hands?

That's what a Fox News headline is asking us.

Think about it for a minute. Are there "right" hands for a deadly mutant virus? The virus in question is a strain of bird flu developed by Dutch scientists with US government funding.

This should raise both eyebrows and questions all over the place.

Why is the US government paying for research in Holland? Are there no scientists in America?

Who would want to create a deadly mutant virus in the first place?

What are they planning to do with it?

If the "right" hands have developed the deadly mutant virus, what would "wrong" hands do? Develop an antidote?

If you have money to spend on research, why not focus on developing a cure for cancer instead of a deadly mutant virus?

Sadly, the only question Fox News has is what would happen if Islamic Terrorists got hold of this virus.

My guess is they'd be dead real quick.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Can the PRI save Mexico?

The Institutional Revolutionary Party had their way with Mexico for a long time. Ostensibly a leftist party they had long since abandoned any pretense of speaking for the dispossessed by the time they were turfed out two elections ago.

But the PRI is finding new life. Fed up with President Calderon's disasterous war on the drug cartels, which after claiming 45,000 Mexican lives has not made the slightest dent in the availability of drugs in the US, the people of Mexico are ready for a change.

But the PRI is running into trouble. Their star hopeful, Enrique Pena Nieto, is a slick American style politico with an American style campaign and American political advisors. How is all that north-of-the-border advice working for him? Not that well apparently.

At a recent photo-op Nieto was asked what books he'd read that mattered to him. Here is his list: the Bible.

That worked for W once upon a time, but it won't work in Mexico. Mexicans have higher standards.

When asked if he knew the price of tortillas, he replied that the little woman looks after the tortilla department in his house, so he didn't know.

When asked if he knew the minimum wage in the country he wants to be president of, he didn't know that either.

I think the PRI man is toast. Mexicans are consistently screwed over, but they're not stupid.

Hell, I know more about tortillas and the minimum wage than Enrique does, and the last book I read was by Malcom Gladwell, although I think the Bible has more depth.

The Mexican people are desperate to get out from under Calderon and his American sponsored war on the cartels. I don't speak much Mexican, but I'm thinking of taking a run at the Presidency.

The Mexican minimum wage when converted to dollars is about 80 cents an hour.

Do you ever wonder about the shit people put on their fridge door?

No matter where you go, from the humblest of double-wides to the most ostentatious McMansion, people put stuff on the fridge door, usually with those little fridge magnets you get from Little Caesars or Domino's or Slackville Insurance Brokers Inc.

I know I'm guilty. I've got Junior's grade one report card up there. Junior is twenty-one now, but that grade one report card was the highlight of his academic career, so it's a keeper. Things went downhill after that.

Got half a dozen pictures of Junior, the farm manager, various hounds. I'm even in a couple of them myself. Got a couple of doctor and dentist appointments Dominoed to the fridge door too, and a newspaper article from when Bubby got her "Volunteer of the Year" award from the Chamber of Commerce.

It's probably a fairly typical fridge door. A reflection of aspirations and accomplishments. You could probably get a doctorate in sociology analyzing what's on peoples fridge doors. Well, the sociologists would be up against it when they got to my buddy Kipling's place.

Now Kipling lives in a place that's bigger than mine, and genuine old Ontario hand-hewn limestone to boot. No simple red brick for him. But don't let that fool you. Kipling is a hard-core hillbilly. In fact, the only way I know I've got any hillbilly cred myself is due to an incident twenty years ago.

It was spring and I needed a spot to store a snowmobile, so asked if I could keep it in his living room. I was a bit tight for space at the time, and the missus of the day was a bit fussy, so I couldn't keep it in mine. He got right huffy, which surprised me, because I'd helped him rebuild a 426 hemi once right there between the love-seat and the coffee table. Why don't you keep it in your own living room, he says.

Which I did, to the detriment of an already shaky relationship, but that's another story. Point is, we're pretty even in the hillbilly cred except for one thing; the fridge door.

On the fridge door in Kiplings' kitchen is a picture of a toilet bowl, and in that toilet bowl is the most massive piece of shit you'd ever want to pass. Apparently it did successfully flush after a couple of attempts, which is a miracle in itself.

Turns out that this had been the achievement of one of his kids, who was just into her teen years at the time. Heading into that phase where they lose interest in school and get involved in God-knows-what. I think this was Kipling's way of giving the kid a subtle message. 'Ya, we've got your grade three report card on the fridge, but look at what you've done lately' type of thing.

Must have worked. Not too long ago he took down the toilet picture and replaced it with a photo-copy of the kid's engineering degree.

Auditors blow Mississippi mayor out of the closet

Southaven Mississippi is in shock after state auditors discovered that Republican Mayor Greg Davis had been indulging his dark side to the tune of $170,000 of the taxpayers’ money.

Davis, who ran for Congress in 2008 on a family values ticket, said “I have tried to maintain separation between my personal and my public life. It is obvious that this can no longer be the case. I think that it is important to discuss the struggles I’ve had since I came to the realization that I am gay.”

Well, actually Mr. Davis, that would be your personal life. What you need to discuss with the public is the struggle they’re having since they realized you’re a crook.

US Defense Secretary: Iran could be within a year of a nuclear weapon

It’s been a busy week for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. After declaring victory in Iraq and Libya he flew to Israel to announce that Iran could be within a year of having a nuclear bomb.

We’ve all heard that one before. In fact, we’ve been hearing it more or less continuously for at least twenty years. Does Panetta have any new information to justify trotting this old chestnut out yet again?

Apparently not. Panetta’s speech was full of the usual qualifiers; “if” this and “maybe” that and a couple of more “ifs”.

But one things for sure. If we get intelligence information that Iran is trying to build a bomb, they are “crossing a red line” and “no options are off the table”.

The attack on Iran will have nothing to do with what Iran does, of course. The “intelligence” will magically appear when the time is right, just as it did before the Iraq invasion. The important consideration is how and when can the next war be most effectively sold to the American public?

Hmm… we’ve freed up some manpower now what with the Iraq draw-down. Obama isn’t doing that well in the polls and the public could be ready for a new distraction.

Is it time to look at those oil futures?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why there is more hope for North Korea than for the USA

North Korea's Dear Leader Kim Jong-il is not yet in the ground but already all of the reputable news outlets in the West are chock full of the predictable condemnations of his criminal decadence and his regime's Stalinist indifference to the well-being of his people.

Kim Jong-il was the kind of leader who endlessly pumped scarce resources into his country's military-industrial complex while ignoring the plight of the average citizen. He enjoyed the support of a small coterie of rabid fans who benefited from that policy while the masses struggled to find a roof over their heads and enough to eat.

Any of that sound familiar? Can you think of another country that pumps massive amounts of resources into its military-industrial complex while the masses struggle with the basics? Don't have to look too far, do you?

Our propaganda machine is second to none. Thanks to that, most people believe we're still about freedom and virtue. The city on a hill and all that stuff.

Does the President survive at the pleasure of a small coterie of financial backers who benefit from the policies of perpetual war and a free hand for the biggest financial institutions?

Hundreds upon hundreds of billions are lavished upon unnecessary wars, blue-sky defense-industry fantasy projects like the F-35, and bailing out the biggest and most corrupt banks because they are too big to fail. There are Americans who benefit from these policies. They make up that coterie of cheer-leaders.

Meanwhile, there has never been a time when more Americans have had to cope with homelessness, unemployment, and inadequate health care.

Obviously these are two countries on the same track. Sure, the North Koreans may be a little further along, but we've been gaining on them fast these last twenty or thirty years. Our propaganda machine ensures that we'll pass them soon even as 100,000 fans stand and celebrate freedom and democracy and the heroism of our troops at the start of the next Nascar race.

They've got an opening though. With the death of their Dear Leader, maybe they've got an opportunity to take a new direction.

We on the other hand are stuck, forever condemned to choosing another Dear Leader every four years and staying on the same track.

How Bernard-Henri Levy liberated Libya

There is an insightful interview with Bernard-Henri Levy on the Haaretz website today.

I had known a little bit about Levy. How he is one of the greatest living intellectuals. Perhaps even greater than a lot of the dead ones. A brilliant, brilliant man, as is evident from any interview in which he is questioned about the matter. He may in fact be the most incisively intelligent and wise man who ever lived. To say nothing of his dazzling brilliance.

But there is more, so much more to the man. According to the revelations in the interview with Sefy Hendler, Levy is not just a man of the intellect; he is a man of action!

BHL makes the adventures of James Bond seem tame by comparison. Taking calls from world leaders as he sits in the bar in some opulent hotel. Relaying bombing coordinates to NATO fighter aircraft as he sits in the hotel bar. Advising Netanyahu on Israeli foreign policy as he sits at the bar. Coordinating diplomatic cut and thrust between the NTC’s Jalil and Juppe and Lieberman, all from the hotel bar. Guiding the Rebels day-to-day strategy, from, of all places, the hotel bar. Personally directing the search  for Gaddafi, from the hotel bar of course…

That is Bernard-Henri Levy, the man who single-handedly liberated Libya.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rocking with Jesus: Norwegian death metal and the Norwegische bruder

Quick, what do you think of when you think Norway? Black metal, their most noteworthy cultural export? Oil? Their economic lifeblood? Or the Norwegische Bruder, a Christian cult that has its tentacles in communities around the world?

My grandmother Leokadia had a messed up life. Came from a part of Lithuania that was a battleground between the Bolsheviks and the white Russians after the revolution. The family made their way to East Prussia. She married and had three kids when her husband was drafted into the Wehrmacht. Hubby went to the eastern front and was never seen again. In 1945 she arrived in a refugee camp in Denmark with three kids, the clothes on her back, and a pail of lard.

Somewhere along the way she lost her sense of humour along with everything else besides that pail of lard. She became something of a religious fanatic. Tended to hang with the more extreme groups; folks who thought laughter was satanic and the reading of newspapers one of Lucifer's temptations. Laughing aloud while reading the paper? Eternal hellfire for sure.

I really got to know her in my teens, when I first got a drivers license. By then she'd hooked up with some bunch of quacks who styled themselves the "Norwegische Bruder", or Norwegian brothers. It was my job to drive her, sometimes several times a week, to meetings. Since she'd need a lift home after, I generally stayed for the meeting.

First thing that baffled me was why they were called Norwegian when they all seemed to be German-speaking immigrants. Turns out there was this guy named Smith who discovered he had an uncanny ability to interpret the Bible more insightfully than anyone else in the history of Christianity. Doesn't strike me as a Norwegian name, so I'm guessing he got kicked out of his home church and his home country. Started his own cult in Norway around the turn of the 20th century.

Must admit I wasn't just there for the drive. Had my eye on one of the young sisters of the Bruder. But these sermons I got to hear I remember to this day. It was mainly a variety of older men telling a bunch of gullible younger people whatever the old guys made up. When one of the young men was lobbying dad for a snowmobile, the elder found scripture verses that prohibited snowmobiles. Seemed more than a bit silly.

Younger family members eventually got drivers licenses and relieved me of my duties. I hooked up with the sister a couple of years later. Didn't give any more thought to anything Norwegian for twenty years. Then out of nowhere, Junior is going through a black metal phase. What's this crap?

Norwegian death metal. Had pretty much the same fixation with all things Lucifer as the Norwegische Bruder. Just came to it from a different perspective. Makes sense in a bizarre way. Extreme religion. Extreme music.

I can't say what my grandmother got out of her faith. She eventually went down the alzheimer highway, so by the time I thought of asking that question it was too late. But it didn't seem to bring her much joy.

As for Junior, the black metal phase thankfully ended. He's into Mendelssohn and Schumann and Brian Wilson now.

And the Norweger Bruder? Still finding stuff in the Bible that nobody ever noticed before.

Panetta congratulates Libyans, promises long and difficult transition

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta paid a quick in-and-out visit to Tripoli under a massive security cordon yesterday.

Panetta offered the usual patronizing claptrap about how Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people and that while the road to security and prosperity would be long and difficult, he had no doubts their dreams would come true.

Meanwhile, the Libyan people dream of getting to the market and back home without being shot or robbed by one of the hundreds of heavily armed militias that roam the country at will.

The militias applauded Panetta's speech.

"Truer words were never spoken" remarked one unidentified militiaman, "we are indeed the Libyan people. I'm feeling pretty darn secure already with this .50 cal machine gun me and my homies fixed to the back of our stolen Toyota here. And the prosperity is coming just as soon as our NATO pals unfreeze the hundred and fifty billion they're sitting on....

then it's sayonara Tripoli, hello Miami, baby!"

As combat troops leave Iraq State Department fields private army

There's a lot of delusional nonsense all over the internet today about the imaginary withdrawal from Iraq.


Here's State Department nabob Pat Kennedy;


"The U.S.-Iraq relationship is incredibly important. This is a democracy in the Middle East," he says. "Is it perfect? No. A lot of people think our system isn't perfect either. But this is a major oil producer, a friend of the United States, a potential market for American goods and now, I think, a very important symbol in the Middle East of what democracy in the Middle East could be."


Sure thing, Pat. Not that it was ever about the oil, of course.


And while the "combat" troops are leaving, there are plenty of Americans with guns staying, certainly enough to protect the largest American "diplomatic mission" in the world. The State Department alone will 
keep over 16,000 employees in Iraq to keep an eye on the symbolic democracy we've created.


And the projected cost of this friendly gesture?


$3.5 billion a year in perpetuity.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Occupy Kazakhstan

Most Americans couldn't find Kazakhstan on a map. Do they know they're sending millions of tax dollars there every year?

Seems Kazakhstan is a strategic US ally. They've got oil. They've also got a "democratically elected" president who likes to make his critics disappear. But he's our kind of guy. He's got oil.

The oil workers have been occupying the civic square in the capital on and off for the last six months. The usual disgruntled-worker stuff. They want a living wage and health care and blah blah blah... Fail to appreciate that just because they earn a tenth of what their American counterparts in the oilfields do, doesn't mean they're underpaid.

It just means American workers are overpaid.

Which is why we'll never see Occupy Kazakhstan on our eleven o'clock news.

Ron Paul finally gets respect

Ron Paul is the candidate not like the others.

Just full of crazy ideas. Such as why should America be supporting Israel financially or militarily, when Israel is in better shape than we are and has enough nuclear weapons to keep the Ayatollahs minding their own business for the next five hundred years.

In fact, Paul doesn't see why America needs to be aiding anybody when we've got people living in parks and under bridges and in their cars by the hundreds of thousands.

Paul thinks American tax dollars should be spent helping Americans.

The media do their level best to ignore him. But the times are changing. How do I know?

Wolf Blitzer had Paul on tonight. Not only did he talk to him, he talked to him respectfully, courteously, almost deferentially.

If CNN is starting to take Ron Paul seriously, then the rest of the mainstream media won't be far behind, and once the Paul camp gets the kind of publicity lavished on Gingrich, Paul is a shoe-in for the nomination.

Then the 2012 election might actually become an exercise in democracy.

Occupy Cairo: Arab spring all over again

The protesters are being bludgeoned in Tahrir Square again. By the Egyptian army.

The think tank here at Falling Downs never thought it was mere coincidence that General Anan, at the time the number two guy in the Egyptian military, happened to be in Washington when the original Tahrir protests begat Arab Spring, which went on to inspire a thousand Occupations in the west.

Occupy Wall Street.

Occupy Portland.

Occupy Toronto. And so on.

The Occupiers have for the most part faded back into their nine to five realities. But not in Tahrir Square.

In Egypt, everything has changed and nothing has changed. General Anan is now the number one guy. Egypt is ostensibly a democracy, albeit a democracy taking its first baby steps. How is that working out for "the people"?

The people are back in Tahrir Square. In January and February there was a wide-spread belief that the army was on the side of the people. Now the people realize that Mubarak was just the figure-head for a military regime, and that the same military that was in charge under Sadat and Mubarak is in charge today.

Sami Anan has to cope with some day to day realities that Hillary Clinton and David Cameron and the rest of his cheerleaders don't. Were Egypt to be truly democratic, they might not be our friends anymore. A majority of Egyptian voters could very well turn their backs on the peace treaty with Israel. A majority of Egyptian voters could very well say good-bye to American aid, and hello to China.

The Egyptian military gets over a billion dollars a year from the US. We expect something in return.

And no matter what Hillary says, it isn't democracy.

Christopher Hitchens: man of many faces

I really liked some of Hitchens' work. His unremitting contempt for Henry Kissinger is in itself sufficient reason to keep Hitchens name on the walk of fame.

On the other hand, why kick around Mother Teresa?

Where Hitchens really lost me was in his support for the Iraq war. That still looks to me like a calculated attempt to be as controversial as possible and thereby maximize his own marketability, for by then Hitchens had become a brand.

And the so-called debates with Tony Blair about the relative merits of religion were sheer marketing fakery from stem to stern. If God needs Tony Blair as His spokesman on earth, then He must be in worse shape than we can possibly imagine. The life and works of Phony Tony are a more profound argument for atheism than anything Cristopher Hitchens ever wrote.

But overall, love him or hate him, when you saw the name you read the work. He will be missed.

Occupy Kemble: taking it to the street in a small town

Kemble doesn't have a town square per se, so I took my demo to the lawn in front of the post office on Friday.

Mrs. Wallace, the post office lady, was not impressed. "Get the fuck off my lawn" were her exact words.

I was not deterred. I marched up and down with my sign. Somebody has to breathe new life into the flagging  Occupy movement.

"Pogey stamps not food stamps" my sign read. Lucy wore a sign that said "capitalism sucks."

Going for a touch of levity, I had a sign on Boomer that said "bow wow."

Mrs. Wallace didn't think any of this was funny. Sent her kids out with their BB guns. They were taking shots at my sign. When I almost got hit in the eye I hid in my tent.

Next thing I know Mrs. Wallace is kicking me through the side of my 6x9 Walmart camper's special.

"If you don't get your shit off the lawn right now I'm gonna have Billy put you and your tent through the wood-chipper!"

The wood-chipper? I didn't like the sound of that. And knowing Billy, he'd be likely to do it too. Did everything his missus told him. Once you've pissed her off you've pretty much got the whole town against you. Plus, and I wish I'd thought of this sooner, any government checks you might be expecting are definitely going to be taking the long way to your mailbox.

Time to reassess the situation. Besides, I was almost out of beer. Took the last two cans in and handed them to Mrs. Wallace.

"I'd like for you and Billy to have these" I said.

I think I made my point.

So many jobs in Texas Governor Perry gets two paychecks

Rick Perry has created so many new jobs that many Texans are finding themselves with multiple paychecks!

The Lone Star jobs bonanza has even reached the governors office. Perry the fiscal conservative finds himself with the unwanted good fortune of collecting two checks from the state's coffers; one for being the top dog and one for being an old dog.

That's right! At 61 Perry qualifies for a pension. Not just any piddly pension, but a sweet $7,700 a month!

This should give fresh legs to the ailing Perry campaign. If he can work the Perry magic on the entire nation we'll all retire at 61 with a full pension plus get another paycheck as well.

Hard times will be just a Texas dust storm in the rear-view mirror.

The guidance counsellor is out to lunch

A few years ago I was reading something about a Louisiana shipyard, and the story mentioned in passing that the Northrop corporation was bringing in overseas workers for the skilled trade jobs because they couldn't find American workers.

Damned capitalist jackals, I thought. Yet one more example of corporate America's abhorrent and never ending campaign to screw labor.

Did a little digging. Northrop not only tried to find local trades, they even set up a training program at one of the regional tech colleges. It was a dismal failure. For every applicant with the basic math and literacy skills required to learn a trade, they'd get a hundred who had no idea how to show up on time, how to study, and no familiarity whatsover with the concept of doing a days work.

I am reminded of this by a job ad in the paper today. ThyssenKrupp is looking for an elevator mechanic for their Newfoundland operations. Who even knew they had elevators in Newfoundland? Apparenly they do, but they don't have anyone to service them. Hence the nation wide search. Good luck to them.

When I was a highschooler I once fancied the idea of being an elevator mechanic. Not sure why. Figured you'd get plenty of variety. Never be at the same workplace two days in a row. That appealed to me.

Screwed up my courage and found my way to the guidance office. The door was locked. In the window, a handwritten sign; "the guidance counsellor is out to lunch." It was two in the afternoon.

The guidance counsellors are still out to lunch, all over north America. Coincidentally, the same paper has a feature article on the shortage of skilled labor not only in Newfoundland, but all over the country. They could have added Louisiana too.

In hindsight, I can't blame the guidance counsellor for the fact that my dreams of becoming an elevator mechanic were never realized (although I came close; built a couple of escalators when I worked at Sandvik).

Guidance counsellors are just teachers who took a couple of extra courses to get themselves out of the classroom. These aren't courses about what skills are needed for which careers or what kind of careers are likely to be in demand. They're courses about identifying students' "learning styles" and how to make sure their self-esteem banks are perpetually topped up. The only career most guidance counsellors know anything about is teaching.

Twenty-five years ago I was on a Lackie Brothers crew installing an overhead crane in a steel mill. (Why do they call them overhead? Aren't all cranes overhead?) Harnischfeger had sent a guy all the way from Wisconsin to supervise the operation. He was in his late sixties, smoked one cigarette after another, and had just returned to work after convalescing from a triple by-pass.

He was a  hands-on supervisor, that's for sure, up there on the girders with the rest of us, and getting his hands just as dirty. Between the heart issues and the cigarettes we had side-bets going about when he was going to drop dead, but I think what would have killed the man is if you'd told him he couldn't go to work anymore. He absolutely loved his job.

That's the kind of guy guidance counsellors should spend a day job shadowing. It would be far more useful than another course in teen psychology.