Monday, December 31, 2012

Modern times

Some time last month in a big city in India a bus driver drove his bus while one of his passengers was being raped by six other passengers. They also beat her and her companion with metal rods.

While the rapee has died there has been no word on what happened to the bus driver.

Just yesterday in Edmonton, a man was beaten to death on a rapid transit train. Apparently the beating was going on in front of at least a half dozen passengers, who obligingly got off the train when the driver hit the next stop.

Both the train and the beating then continued, with the driver watching the beating on his CCV monitor, and by the time the train arrived at the next stop the beater was gone and the beatee was dead.

That's life in the big city, and whether that city is in India or in Canada doesn't seem to make much difference. 

Dead is dead.

But now that it's 2013 things will be different...

Sunni spring sweeps into Iraq

Nouri al-Maliki has barely had time to get comfy in the Prime Minister's chair in the newly liberated Iraq when here comes Sunni spring to liberate his country all over again.

al-Maliki has been beset by freedom-seeking Sunni protesters for a couple of weeks now, and he's got a couple of questions.

Why are those Iraqi protesters carrying banners with Turkish PM Erdogan's face on them?

Not only that, but apparently those Iraqi protesters are flying the Free Syrian Army banner as well.

If I were al-Maliki I'd be worried too.

Let me spell it out for you, Nouri.

While at some level the Nations of Virtue would rather not deal with any Islamic folks, the truth of the matter is, as even those deaf dumb blind leaders in the West have grudgingly recognized, there's no way around it.

At least not so long as you folks are sitting on all that oil that rightfully belongs to the West.

So, Nouri, we've decided to pick sides. There's a Sunni side and the devil's side, and you're not a Sunni, are you Mr. al-Maliki?

That puts you square in the camp of you-know-who to your immediate east. Yup, the Islamic Republic, or Satan's Republic as we like to refer to it here.

So good luck to you, Mr. Prime Minister. You'll need it!

Highway 86 Dragway

It was in the summer of '68 that the road between Guelph and Elmira was torn up and replaced with a proper two-lane asphalt highway. Not long after, a couple of white lines appeared across the new road, a quarter of a mile apart.

The starting line was right in front of my parents' house, and the other line was a quarter mile to the south, just before the road took a gentle rise which peaked in front of Johnson's farm.

The reason our end was the start was because just to the north was the intersection of the Marden-Maryhill Road. The guys who ran on the 86 were typically in the 100 to 120 mph range at the top end. Bearing down on that intersection at that speed was an accident waiting to happen.

If on the other hand you were heading south, a car cresting the hill at Johnson's farm gave you lots of time to abort a run.

Most of the racing happened at night. Some of these meets looked like they'd had a fair bit of planning. There'd be flares at the start and finish lines, spotters at the top of the hill with walkie-talkies, and somebody with a police-band scanner. On a good night you'd find dozens of cars parked along the shoulders.

That was the golden age of Detroit muscle. Our house was set well back from the road, but you'd hear the action. That was my signal to climb out my second story bedroom window and head up to the fence for a front row seat.

There was a fellow in town by the name of Earl Vollet who was a big cheese in the Ventures Car Club. He'd built a replica of a Sox and Martin '64 Plymouth Super Stock racer. 426 Hemi with the two four barrels.

"King of the Street" according to the Mopar propaganda. I saw that car get whupped a couple of times. Once by a '69 GTO Judge and once by '68 Camaro Z-28.

In 1970 Vollet showed up with a brand new Hemi Challenger, hemi orange with a black (painted, not vinyl) roof. Automatic. That too got a spanking from a small block Z-28.

There were a number of quick Fords around at the time. The 390 Mustang GTA's were a lot quicker than the magazines gave them credit for. Ran with the big block Mopars all the time.

When the '69 models came out you saw a few Mach 1's. With the 428 and the shaker hood and the drag-pak option those were a pretty sweet car. In 1970 the 351 Cleveland motor showed up in the Mach 1. I saw several of those on our dragstrip. Had a sound all their own. I could hear the difference between a Windsor and a Cleveland 351 from half a mile away.

The quickest Ford that ever graced the 86 belonged to one of the Reinhart boys who lived on the next concession. Dad was a dairy farmer, and one of his lads went on to become a big deal in the NHL. His older brother had one of the quickest street cars I've ever seen. It was a gold '68 Mustang hardtop, supposedly with a 427 side-oiler, that had been on the Super Stock circuit the year before. At least that was the story.

From time to time Reinhart would run the car with open headers. You'd hear it fire up one concession over, and you could track it's path from the sound it made. That was a car that never hung around for more than a run or two. Anything that loud would prompt the normally tolerant neighbours to call the cops.

At the bigger meets the cops would inevitably show up. I'm not aware that anyone ever got charged with anything racing related. Thanks to the spotters there'd be a flurry of get-away activity, but there'd always be a few cars still sitting by the side of the road. The cops would join the car owners in looking under the hoods and chit-chatting about cams and carburetors and headers and axle ratios.

One night after the dust had settled I actually witnessed a couple of OPP cruisers square off on a quarter mile run. I think cops were more down to earth back then.

There were three brothers who lived on Bagot Street in town and between them they pretty much owned the 1969 Mopar catalog. One had a 440 Charger RT, another a blue 340 Dart with a white stripe, and another a black Super Bee. The Bee was the prettiest and the fastest.

Once I got to driving age it was just a matter of time before I was racing instead of watching. The first race-worthy car I owned was a factory ordered 340 Duster. Four speed, buckets, 3:55 posi, radio delete. Man was I proud of that car! Spent more time waxing it than driving it.

My very first race on the 86 was against Kenny Boyce's 67 Chevy ll SS. 327/375 with 4:11's. Four speed of course. I had no idea. He was so far ahead of me at the halfway he nonchalantly signaled and pulled into my lane. He coasted past the finish and was still ten car lengths ahead of me.

Later on I'd take my SD 455 Trans Am for the occasional rip down the quarter. It's problem was traction. Basically you didn't have any with the factory polyglas tires. I recall going up against Brian Vollet's 440 six-bbl '71 GTX. Ken Goslin had bought that car as a tow vehicle for his Hemi 'Cuda Super Stock racer.

While on paper the 455 should have had the better of that match, Brian pulled about a half length ahead in first gear while I was going up in smoke and that was it. Still a half length ahead at the finish line. Both of those cars were good for 110 at the top of the quarter.

My buddy Kipling bought a SS D big block Chevelle race car and put mufflers and license plates on it. He was the big dog for about two weeks, which is how long it took to put a rod out the side of the block. Running race cars on the street seems like a good idea, but in practice it never worked out in the long run.

There's a ton of really fast cars I could reminisce about. My '70 Dart 340 had some modifications done by the previous owner, who'd been a high school machine shop teacher. Don't know what he'd done because everything looked box stock when you opened the hood. Didn't even have headers. Cleared the top of the quarter at just under 7,000 rpm in third. If you were up for it you could grab forth and carry on till about 150 mph, but by that time the quarter mile was quite a ways behind you.

Johnny Hirtle had a brutal 69 Super Bee. He'd broke the original motor and we swapped another Mopar big block in that had been built for Super Stock racing. That was a mid twelve car easily, even with the 3:23's that he left in the back.

Those were good times. Alas, time went on. Cars got slower. The guys who drove them got older and raised families. More houses went up along the 86.

It's called the Elmira Road now and there's no stripes painted on it.

But Toyota just named their latest hot-rod the Toyota 86.

Thanks, Toyota!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Singer v Argentina; does the revolution start here?

Attorneys acting for the state of Argentina have filed papers to overturn a ruling that would oblige the country to reward American speculators who were hoping to make a killing trading in defaulted Argentine bonds.

The gist of the Argentinian argument is that a sovereign state is not obliged to abide by rulings handed down in another state.

Makes sense to me.

The spectacle unfolding before us is a crucial battle between the common good and private interests. What's different here is that we have a sovereign state arguing for the common good, and another sovereign state acting on behalf of the private interests.

Do American courts have the right to impose their remedies beyond the borders of America?

The Singer camp apparently believes so. It's Paul Singer's bond funds that have spear-headed this drive to impose American jurisprudence on the planet.

And why not? If they can pull this off, American lawyers will indeed be the masters of the universe!

Meet Judge Thomas P. Griesa, last hope of the bond vultures

Judge Griesa's ruling in favour of Paul Singer has reinvigorated Singer's Elliot Management's battle over getting Argentina to pay face value plus interest on bonds dating from the default of 2002. Singer runs a bond vulture fund and purchased the debt at a huge discount.











The fiscal cliff; America gets Greeced

I've been following the "fiscal cliff" drama with disbelief.

It's a bipartisan cash grab. It's an assault on the American people by the leaders of... America's ruling class.

True, the plutocrats will for the moment lose a laughable "temporary" tax reduction.

But the pain is worth the prize.

And the prize is that in all this angst about the "fiscal cliff" the further erosion of what's left of a social safety net has become an inevitability.

We are all Greeks now.

Sell the house, or just walk away. Sell the kids too. Forget about a pension. Forget about health care.

We must all tighten our belts. We must all make sacrifices. If we don't, well, who knows what could happen.

The big banks, the ones with those trillions in outstanding derivatives that even their creators don't understand, hell, they could go tits up just like that.

And then where would we be?

Frankly, I'm one of those fiscal cliff agnostics who figures we'd pretty much be where we are right now. True, a handful of super-banks would find themselves in the dumpster of history overnight, and their legions of Rumpelstiltskin derivative inventors along with them.

And yes, that would be a hit. Porsche and Bentley dealers in the greater Manhattan area would feel the pinch.

Eight number mid-town apartments would see their value plummet to the mid seven-figures. Same with the Connecticut estates favored by the Rumpelstiltskin crowd.

But somewhere not too far away from that, the heart of America would keep beating. Somewhere there is a real economy, where real people build real stuff and provide real services.

So the think tank here at Falling Downs says the fiscal cliff might be just what it takes to wake up America.

Shake off the bipartisan yoke of those two parties doing the bidding of the plutocracy.

That could be the first step to reviving democracy in the USA.

666

666 million dollars that is.

That's the number the original story at Bloomberg News gave when they first reported the buyout of Duff and Phelps.

I notice that they have since amended that to $665.5 million. Maybe some mid-level editor glanced at the headline and said WTF! We're gonna have the NWO crowd crawling all over us!

No matter. Rounded that still ends up as 666.

And you're not going to escape the New World Order types anyway. Look who's buying Duff and Phelps.

A consortium.

A consortium led by Carlyle Group!

And if that's not enough, the consortium includes the Edmond de Rothschild Group!

Carlyle. Rothschild. 666 million. I couldn't make this stuff up!

I'm heading out back to check on the crop circles...

Canadian troops to Mali?

Looks like Harper needs to knock a few heads together to make sure his cabinet goofballs are singing from the same page in the hymnal.

Foreign Minister Baird has gone out of his way for months to make it clearer than clear that under no circumstances will Canada commit troops to any Mali resuscitation effort.

So along comes Defense Minister Peter "Pinocchio" MacKay, and suddenly everything Baird has assured us was off the table is back on the table.

Yup. We could be "training" those Mali troops.

Because of the great job we've done training Afghan troops.

Yup.

We're a small country, but we punch way above our weight. Especially when it comes to training.

Yessiree, Canada is the troop-trainer of choice.

In fact, if you scroll down to the last few paragraphs, you learn that we've already been training Mali's army for years!

And in the very last paragraph you learn why anybody in Ottawa can even find Mali on a map.

It's because of the 20 Canadian mining companies operating there!

Joe Clark idle no more

You'd have to go back over thirty years to rediscover Joe Clark's moment in the spotlight. That's when he was briefly the Progressive Conservative Prime Minister of Canada. He was widely seen as a well-meaning doofus not cut out for the rough and tumble of federal politics.

He was also widely seen as being done in by the much more politically savvy Brian Mulroney.

Clark went on to serve in Mulroney's cabinet for a few years before fading into a gentle twilight of university teaching posts.

But now he's back!

Former PM Clark has dared to go where the current PM fears to tread; all the way to the Ottawa River to meet with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.

Chief Spence is in the third week of a hunger strike to draw attention to First Nations grievances with the Harper gang. Clark came away praising Spence's vision as "humble and achievable."

Good for you, Mr. Clark! What a refreshing change from the macho posturing of the current administration.

Is it too late for a political comeback?

IAF blasts Gaza trebuchet sites

The Israeli Air Force launched several Hellfire missiles at suspected trebuchet sites in Gaza early this morning.

An IAF spokeswoman linked the trebuchet sites to the newly-relaxed restrictions on the importation of building materials into Gaza.

"Our information is that the militants were preparing to lob concrete blocks into Sderot," she said.

A Hamas representative denied the accusations and claimed that the trebuchet construction activity was for peaceful purposes only.

'Cops on steroids' culture alive and well

I had no idea how old this story is. Here's Men'sHealth magazine's expose on the topic from over seven years ago.

And just a few months ago a Canadian cop pleaded to a charge of importing a half million in steroids and growth hormones from the US.

But that too was a back-burner story for me.

What's brought it front and center is some pictures Junior showed me when he was home for the holiday this past week. Pictures on his Facebook page of some of his high school buddies.

These are guys a couple of years out of high school, guys who went on to community college for the Police Foundations course. That's something aspiring cops need to take if they lack the connections that would permit good old-fashioned nepotism to get them into uniform.

These were kids I'd known when they were teens coming up. Average skinny scrawny teens. A couple of years later they look like body doubles  for the next installment of the Hulk franchise.

These scrawny kids have gotten unnaturally and suspiciously buff. It's a buff you couldn't possibly achieve with honest exercise. These are guys desperate to out-buff one another.

In this day and age the cop gig is a pretty good one. Most of the major police forces in Canada boast salaries in the range of $90,000 a year within three years of signing up. So the competition for these jobs is fierce indeed.

Part of that competitive spirit seems to have translated into buffing up by whatever means necessary to get an advantage on the next guy, and that's created an environment in the Police Foundations courses that has allowed steroid culture to flourish.

Which doesn't translate into good things happening for these guys down the road, health-wise.

Or for you, if you happen to be pulled over by some twitchy cop suffering a roid-induced mood swing.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Bloomberg Christmas story

Amity Schlaes shares a woeful tale at the Bloomberg site today.

All about how unions are to blame for wage inequality.

Now, I agree with this to a point. Many unions have certainly acquiesced to employer's demands for two-tiered wage structures. In the long run, as the grandfathered employees retire, eventually the entire work force will be covered by the lower of the two tiers.

It ends up a slow-motion wage cut across the board.

At the same time, this is not "promoting wage inequality."

What got Schlaes' attention was the fact that security guards at JFK were threatening a strike over their $8/hr pay packet, a strike that might even render the travelling public unsafe!

Fortunately for the travelling public, the security staff rescinded their strike threat and the public can now continue their carefree travels, secure in the knowledge that their safety is in the good hands of the $8/hr folks at JFK.

Schlaes then segues into a largely pointless back-story on the history of public sector unions in America and comes to some startling conclusions. Giving public servants the right to strike has led to State Troopers making $484,000 a year, and an unknown number of union officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey earning $200,000 per year.

In Schlaes' tortured reasoning, those underpaid $8/hr workers cannot be paid more because of those $200,000 a year union officials.

Schlaes neglects to mention that those 8 dollar an hour folks are already union members, which in itself is a searing indictment of the efficacy of union strategies in today's America. Whether their leadership at the SEIU are among those "overpaid" union bosses is not a fact that Schlaes informs us of.

Frankly, any union leader who negotiates an $8 wage for their members in this day and age should hang his or her head in shame and hand the reins to someone willing to work harder for the membership.

The premise that there is a strictly limited pool of money available to pay labor flies in the face of the last hundred years of labor relations. The key to deciding who gets what share of the pie is what "negotiating" is all about. That's why talks between unions and employers are called "negotiations."

The thrust of Schlaes' "Christmas story" becomes clear; there is no need to negotiate. If workers want a raise they should fire their union leaders and divvy up their pay packets amongst themselves.

Schlaes doesn't want to re-write the "grand bargain."

She wants to get rid of it entirely.

Friday, December 28, 2012

US doubles down on global cop gig

According to this story, not just global cop but global judge and jury too.

So these three dudes were arrested in Djibouti and suspected of wanting to support al Shabaab fighters in Somalia.

On the face of it one might detect in this narrative some concerns for Djibouti or Somalia. Possibly even Sweden or Britain.

So why are they now in a New York jail?

It costs a lot of money to bring folks over from Djibouti and keep them in New York jails.

It will cost even more to put them on trial. This case will run into the millions of dollars in no time.

If the concern is that these three individuals have al Qaeda sympathies and might at some point in the future pose a risk to American interests, then why are US law enforcement officials not busy in Turkey vetting the thousands of fighters with al Qaeda sympathies who have been crossing into Syria?

Canada cracks down on imaginary terror threats

Here's  what the law and order crowd think Canada is up against in the way of terror threats.

Freeman of the Land. Yup. Read the story. These guys carry guns to the grocery store and drive their vehicles without license plates.

I should point out at this juncture that PostMedia and The Vancouver Sun are generally considered serious news outlets.

So how they can justify publishing sensationalist fantasy like this is a bit of a puzzle. Perhaps because this is "insider" info that required a freedom of information request to get access to they think it has some legitimacy.

Let me assure the international reader that no one in Canada drives their vehicle without license plates, because everyone knows you will drive only so long as the first patrol car notices that you are driving without them, and then they will take your vehicle and, assuming that was your only transgression, you will be walking home.

If, on the other hand, you were driving your unregistered vehicle to the grocery store whilst wearing your unregistered handgun on your hip, you would be going straight to jail in any province or territory in Canada.

This tale of imaginary threats comes from CSIS, Canada's spy agency. They obviously have a vested interest in overstating exponentially any threats to law and order in the country, because that is what will ensure their budget next year and the year after.

And that plays straight into the hands of the Fantinos and the Toews and the rest of the out of touch ward-heelers that make up the Harper cabinet.

The reality is that Canada is by far one of the most peaceable nations on the planet. Even our most oppressed minority with by far the most grievances  (that would be the First Nations) refrain from picking up arms against the state.

As for the rest of their terror list; a smear job from beginning to end, and the only purpose in lumping the racist extremists in with the anti-globalists and the environmentalists is to expand the pool of potential terror threats.

The vast majority of Canadians can readily see through this facile nonsense.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure the same can be said for the Harper cabinet.

American cruise line gifts billion dollar ship-building contract to French yard

Miami based Royal Caribbean Cruises, operator of some of the biggest cruise ships in the world, is on a building spree. And where are they building the new boats?

Some pathetic low wage country like China?

Wrong!

Some middle-tier industrial power like South Korea?

Wrong!

Some supposedly de-industrialized European high-wage country where pay and benefits outstripped those in America a generation or two ago?

Bingo!

How is such a thing even possible?

Washington Post celebrates dockworkers with steaming platter of anti-union BS

One of the favorite tactics of the anti-worker anti-union mainstream media is to vastly inflate the actual wages of union workers in their news coverage.

That's why whenever you read about, just as an example, the UAW needing to rein in their expectations you'll see all sorts of fanciful numbers being tossed about how labor costs are $54 per hour, or $60, or $70.

The alchemists who conjure up these numbers throw in all sorts of superfluous health care costs and pension obligations to come up with those figures, when in reality the actual UAW member on the shop floor might be making $28 if he's been there for twenty years, and $14 if he's a recent hire.

Here's a timely example from today's Washington Post. We're told that east coast dockworkers are already "well compensated with an average salary of $124,000 a year."

Well by golly, that does sound like well-compensated. Let's see, that works out to roughly $60 per hour   assuming the dockworker is working an average of 40 hours a week; what's typically considered full-time employment.

According to the last contract signed with the International Longshoreman's Association, the top rate at the end of the contract was $32 an hour, not $60, with recent hires making substantially less. (Sadly, even the ILA has caved to employer demands and accepted two-tier wage structures.)

While it's possible that there's a dockworker here or there at the top end of the seniority list, pigging out on OT, who is in the range of that "average" presented by the Post, the vast majority are a long way south of that. It can take years before a new hire even gets 40 hours a week.

We all know the reason for this kind of sleazy "reporting"; it makes the union folks look greedy and the employers look hard done by.

As such it's nothing less and nothing more than anti-union propaganda.

"The Kid" turns 50

"The Kid" surprised no one more than himself when he rang the five-0 bell yesterday.

While I wasn't able to be there, I did twist one up in your honour, bro.

Happy birthday!

That's the kid who fell out of the trunk of my '77 Impala at 70 miles an hour on a logging road in the Alberta foothills.

The kid who landed three hundred feet away from the vehicle in a car crash that made the front page of the local paper.

The kid who waved bye-bye to his mother every school-day morning for two years as she dropped him off at the front door of his high school, and then promptly headed out the back door in search of more intriguing educational opportunities.

The kid who spent a week exhausting the morphine supply at Vegreville Hospital after his house trailer exploded with him in it...

Oh, but the kid's got some stories, he does...

And now that he's into wholesome hobbies like gardening and bicycle racing, the next fifty years is gonna fly by like nothing...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Israeli election becomes horse race

Netanyahu has some competition.

A contender.

Unfortunately, the contender is coming up fast on his right. The only thing Netanyahu can do for the next two weeks is try to head off the upstart by cutting farther to the right himself.

It's going to be an ugly two weeks.

Bennett articulates what Netanyahu believes in but will not speak, namely that if there is to be a Palestinian state it will be somewhere else.

Like Antarctica maybe?

Netanyahu still pays lip service to the two state solution.

But that will officially be declared dead within the next few weeks.

And what do they think will happen then?

Iron Lady's dirty knickers revealed

Must be frustrating to be a historian. Thirty years they had to wait for this?

So Lady Thatcher was playing footsies under the table with Chile's murderous dictator?

Who knew?

Practically anyone who was paying attention. But I suppose it is now "official."

And the relationship between the Iron Lady and the only union leader to ever get elected to the White House doesn't hold many surprises either.

Surely we all know that only among those most deluded with a sense of Imperial entitlement were democracy, liberty, and justice hanging in the balance when Thatcher sent the Royal Navy to liberate the Malvinas.

All things considered, we wouldn't really expect any other leader besides Reagan to second that opinion.

Sacrificing a thousand men so that a few hundred Island sheep farms could keep flying the Union Jack seemed an egregious waste of lives then and it still does today.

But I do like the quote to the effect that Reagan knows a lot less than he appears to.

That was the quintessential Reagan; act like you know what you're talking about and folks will believe that you do.

The revelations that came with the opening of the archives are going to give the Jimmy Savile story another boost. Apparently the BBC star and rampant pederast was so close with the Thatcher family he spent a decade worth of New Years Eve's with them.

Thatcher was wrong about a lot of people.


Facebook; warden of the digital panopticon

I see where Michael Rivero is in a flap because Facebook has suspended his What Really Happened site for security reasons.

I'm guessing it's because he's been using too much of the First Amendment in his impassioned defense of the Second Amendment. Apparently there is a bunker in the bowels of Facebook HQ where teams of mathematicians and computer scientists create algorithms that can detect when a subject is in violation of the secret Constitutional Amendment Invocation Code.

While that scenario may be hypothetical (so far) there is no question that Facebook is at the vanguard of a new generation of intrusive surveillance technology.

That well over a billion supposedly free citizens of this planet have voluntarily opened their lives to this corporate snooping behemoth is something I find baffling. Are that many flesh and blood people so alienated and lonely that they find comfort in the virtual friends that Facebook delivers to their iPad?

People need to get out more.

Without their iPad and their smart phone.

Escape the panopticon!

Wheels fall off democracy bandwagon length and breadth of Dark Continent

Here's an entertaining and educational parlor game the whole family can  enjoy on those long winter evenings.

Get yourselves a map of Africa and rank the democratic countries in order of political stability!

Hmm, that's a head-scratcher, isn't it?

First conundrum; how democratic and by whose standard?

Next problem; once you're into the second hour of head-scratching, countries you may have successfully categorized in the first hour could very well have suffered a "spring", a coup, an invasion, or been sold to Dan Gertler or a Canadian mining conglomerate.

Just last spring the government of Mali, reputedly "one of the most stable and democratic" in Africa, was toppled by a US trained Colonel with less firepower than the Luther Marsh Duck Hunting Club.

And all this week, the President of the Central African Republic has been pleading with his colonial overlords, or his "French and American cousins" as he likes to frame it, to save his sorry kleptocratic ass from the rebels bearing down hard on the capital.

As random happenstance would have it, the US and France both have boots on the ground already in the CAR, ostensibly to track down that most heinous band of evildoers of all time, the Lord's Resistance Army.

Frankly, I'm guessing the boffins at AFRICOM wouldn't care one way or the other whether Kony or Bozize was in charge of the CAR, as long as someone's in charge who will make the place safe for foreign capital.

You see, in Africa there can be no stability without democracy, and there can be no democracy without capitalism, and there can be no capitalism without foreign capital. That's because for the entire capitalist era, foreigners have been exploiting Africa's wealth and sending the profits elsewhere. Ergo, Africa has no indigenous capital and is therefore entirely dependent on foreign investment!

So until AFRICOM has had some time to set things right, the next few dozen years in the history of the Dark Continent will be dark indeed.

And good luck finding those stable democracies.

International imam of mystery

There's something of a flap unfolding over there in NATO's weakest link. Seems that sometime over the past few years miscreants of unknown origin were able to install eavesdropping devices both in the office and the personal residence of Prime Minister Erdogan.

Now who would do such a thing? Who would harbor such a distrust of the patriotic islamic nationalist that they would seek to plant bugs in his home and office?

The suspect list includes but is not limited to the following;


  • his former Israeli allies
  • his former Syrian allies
  • his former Hamas allies
  • his former allies in Hezbollah
  • his former allies in the Islamic Republic
  • his former friends in UK
  • his former US allies
  • his former allies among the Turkish Defense Forces
  • his would-be future allies in the EU
  • his current imaginary allies in NATO

Wow! That's a guy with a long list of former allies but no friends! And now the editor-in-chief of Hurriyet Daily  has added another name to the list.

Fethullah Gulen, international imam of mystery.

Gulen was a prominent imam in Turkey before he came to America for medical treatment about fifteen years ago. He was so inspired by American freedom and democracy that he decided not to get well but to stay in the US indefinitely, which he has.

And when you read up on the man, it's not hard to see why he's the kind of guy America's 101 security agencies might want to keep around.

They're obviously grooming him for something special.

Canada's no.1 hang-around-the-fort Indian slams Chief Spence hunger strike

The winds of fate have been gentle with Patrick Brazeau. Surviving one unseemly scandal after another during his tenure as National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, those benign breezes wafted him right into the Senate at the behest of none other than Big Chief Harper.

Now Senator Brazeau has some words of wisdom for Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence. Spence is in the third week of a hunger strike demanding a meeting with Harper and Governor General David Johnston.

Senator Brazeau's advice? Cut out the foolishness and have some respect for "proper parliamentary process."

Well Senator, I know that while your respect for proper parliamentary process has made you a favorite token Indian with the Harper gang, that process hasn't worked out so well for the vast majority of your people.

Maybe when you look around you in the upper chamber all you see is a bunch of smug upper middle class white dudes. That might be your world now, but it's not the world of Chief Spence.

Wake up Senator Brazeau!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Haiti: NGO capital of the world

Haiti is fast approaching the third anniversary of the devastating earthquake that unleashed a tsunami of rebuilding donations from around the world.

That anniversary will no doubt see a torrent of "what's wrong with Haiti" articles in the global media. Billions in reconstruction aid, and how is the rebuilding going?

Frankly, it isn't going anywhere, and here's an insight into why. We're quoting American Red Cross spokesperson Sandrine Capelle Manuel from an article in the NYT;

We prioritized all the issues and created a consultative group that is representative of the community fabric... and now we need to do a master plan...

Huh?

Three years after the earthquake one of the grand-daddies of all NGOs has spent millions consulting, and is ready to go to the planning stage?

How is such a thing even possible?

They prioritized the issues? A million people lost their homes and a few million more are at risk of food and water shortages. There you go; prioritized in ten seconds. Does it not occur to these people that after three years they should have done something other than consulting and planning?

The same article also quotes a Haitian, Pierre Justinville;

I think we Haitians need to take the wheel.

The think tank here at Falling Downs believes Pierre is right. Send the thousands of NGOs packing. Give every Haitian a shovel and a wheelbarrow. Close the airport so the wealthy expats who live in Miami and Montreal and Switzerland can't come back and interfere.

By the time the next three years roll by, Haitians will have built a thriving self-sufficient country.

And they'll be well on their way to breaking their dependency on the neo-colonialism of the NGOs.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Life after Armageddon

Welcome to the future.

While that particular video has undergone numerous reincarnations in the few years it's been on my radar, the central point remains the same.

After the coming apocalypse, i.e.  the exchange of nuclear missiles among the "advanced" nations who own them, there are going to be communities all over the planet very much like this one.

Now, there are bound to be more of them in the "third" world, (and I apologize for the out-dated terminology), simply because when the infrastructure of modernity has been vaporized, those places that never had it won't notice it's gone.

They'll just keep doing whatever they've always done.

Grow their non-GM crops.

Live in their mud shacks.

Feed their children.

Make guns.

Whoa! Make guns? 

Yes, long after our grid is completely annihilated, the towellers will continue to make guns, because they never had that grid dependency to begin with!

But don't despair. There is hope under the mushroom clouds...

We too have our primitives who are not dependent on the grid.

The Amish.

Mennonites.

Hutterites.

Have you ever seen the machine shops these dudes run off the grid? My old pal Kenny would be more than happy to build his sniper rifles in one of these off-the-the-grid shops.

So relax.

There'll be plenty of life after Armageddon. 

Hardest-hitting restaurant review of all time

On Monday morning "customer x" parked his pick-up in front of  the Bonanza Restaurant in Edmonton and headed in for a hearty breakfast before a day of Christmas shopping.

Eggs sunny side up, bacon crisp, and rye toast, he told the server.

He spends fifteen minutes with his nose in the Edmonton Sun. Nice Sunshine girl. The Sun doesn't have big words, but the words it does have they like to print big.

Makes the readers think they're reading big words.

Breakfast arrives.

Eggs?

Not-so-easy-over.

Bacon?

Soggy. They didn't even fry off the fat.

Toast?

What toast?

"Customer x" was so taken aback he didn't even take things up with the wait staff.

He stumbled out of the restaurant in a daze, not even touching his breakfast...

But he knew he'd be back.

And he was!


Egypt votes for Islamic dictatorship

That's democracy for you!

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

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

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

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

Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Egypt.

Turkish despot slaughters his own people

And on Christmas day! Oh the outrage!

News reports indicate over a dozen members of the PKK were ruthlessly slaughtered by Erdogan loyalists.

What is the civilized world to do? Set a no-fly zone?

Support the PKK with weapons and money?

Assemble a NATO air force to smash the positions of the Erdogan loyalists?

Oh, wait a minute... Turkey's is a NATO country...

Nevermind then!

Carry on Erdogan!

Prince Harry bags a wog

You'll have to go to The Telegraph to read about it; I just couldn't resist that headline!

Must say those are some fetching photos of the Prince. Almost makes you want to join the RAF, doesn't it?

Makes you wonder why Piers Morgan would leave such a great country...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Why Ted Nugent should fire up a fattie

Don't get me wrong. I love Ted. He's one of the finest rock-and-roll guitarists who ever lived. As far as I'm concerned he's right up there with  Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.

In fact, I think one reason he has never gotten his due as a musician is because he goes so far out of his way to push the envelope of political incorrectitude.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's an envelope I often try to push in my own way.

And I know that in his heart Ted is a sportsman when it comes to his hunting activities. Just today he was Tweeting from his deer-sit where's he's spending Christmas Eve with a crossbow.

That's a far cry from sitting in that deer-sit holding a Bushmaster with a 30 round clip.

I know Ted would correct me. That's not a clip; it's a "magazine."

So we know that Ted is, after all and above all, a true sportsman.

But when a toff like Piers Morgan gets him on TV Ted doesn't do himself any favors. What the hell is up with that "suck on my machine gun" stuff?

Ted, get a grip; that just makes you sound like a weirdo.

That's why you should fire one up now and then, Ted. It'll mellow you out a bit. In fact, if you want to head up this way I can hook you up with the coyote hunters around here. Nobody's got a 30 round clip, but they're providing an essential public service to the local farm economy.

And they bag dozens of coyotes every winter.

I can hook you up with some primo Puslinch red-hair too. It does a great job taking the edge off.

Hell, you won't even miss that 30 round clip.

Deport Piers Morgan?

Maybe it takes an outsider to put America's gun culture in the spotlight.

A petition to have Morgan deported back to his native England has by now more than 50,000 signatures. Those are folks who want to deport Piers because he has been using the old Larry King slot to lobby for tighter gun control legislation in America.

They see his lobbying as a threat to the Second Amendment.

Aren't they forgetting the First Amendment?

Frankly, while I don't necessarily agree with him across the board, he's one of the highest profile media personalities making an issue of what unfettered access to military hardware is doing to America. That's a debate that's long overdue.

It's easy enough to endlessly regurgitate the truism that it's not guns killing people, it's people.

Yet it's also beyond debate that people with guns kill a lot more people than people without guns.

One of the tragedies about this entire non-debate is how little serious discussion there is about the underlying factors that are behind so many of the headlines.

After all, there are plenty of societies around the world where guns are common but mass killings are virtually unheard of. Maybe it's time to look at a couple of the other contributing factors.

The rampant over-prescription of psycho-tropic drugs.

The almost complete absence of support systems for people with mental health issues.

If Joe Shmuck down the street has lost his job and his house and his family has deserted him and he's been gobbling down the anti-depressants, is it a good idea that he be able to buy, no questions asked, an arsenal of military grade hardware and thousands of rounds of ammo?

I think not.

UK's Guardian Newspaper reporting Russian troops in Syria

This story has been on the Guardian's website all day. It's entirely consistent with a story floating around yesterday about Russian troops having secured Syrian chemical assets. The advanced anti-aircraft missile batteries that the Guardian claims are being run by Russian "advisers" would presumably be stationed in the same vicinity as the air bases that hold the chemical stockpiles.

There was a flurry of stories back in March of this year claiming that Russian troops were on the ground in Syria, stories that faded away. That of course has nothing much to do with whether the stories are true or not.

One can safely assume that Russia's intervention was on the agenda when Putin and Netanyahu had a face-to-face meeting in June. No one has a keener interest in where Assad's chemical weapons end up than Israel does. At the same time, it would be seen as an intolerable escalation if the Israelis were to act on the matter unilaterally.

Perhaps what we're seeing is a one-hand-washes-the-other symbiosis between Putin and the IDF that seeks to neutralize US influence in the Syrian conflict. If that is the case it would imply that senior elements within the Israeli security establishment have at least for the time being prevailed upon their political masters to put the Iran attack on the back burner.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

How does Luka Magnotta get to be Canada's "newsmaker of the year?"

That's what we call a searing indictment of Canada's journalism fraternity!

Luka Magnotta? Give me a break! By now most Canadians have all but forgotten about that sick puppy. Surely there were other candidates...

How about Sidney Crosbie for bringing sports concussions out of the locker room and into the mainstream?

How about Chief Theresa Spence for standing up to the Harper gang?

How about Brett Lawrie or Tristan Thompson?

Hell, even John Baird or old Vic Toews would have been a better choice!

Then again, putting the spotlight on Magnotta one more time might afford an opportunity to ask some questions that weren't asked the last time around.

Like what meds he was on.

Are mass shooters all white guys?

Nope. Not all of them.

Fort Hood and Virginia Tech shooters weren't.

But most of them.

David Sirota stirred up a little controversy with his claim today that white  guys are the only group that isn't racially profiled. Not sure what he's getting at.

With all the hysteria around gun control these days what I'd like to see is some logical follow-up on how many shooters have been on meds.

Taking psychotropic medications for imaginary ailments is mostly a middle class white folks kind of undertaking. You're never going to go on a anti-depressant induced suicidal rampage if you were never on the anti-depressant to begin with.

What's Friedman been smoking?

I've had to read it through a couple of times, but I'm still not sure what Friedman is trying to say when he posits that Egypt must decide between a future like India's rather than Pakistan's.

Obviously Thomas thinks India is the model Egypt should aspire to.

Why? Why would they set the bar that low? Right now they have a higher GDP per capita, longer life expectancy, and lower infant mortality.

Perhaps India should aspire to be more like Egypt?

Ah, but India has an "inclusive democracy", as evidenced by a Muslim being appointed as intelligence chief. That, according to Friedman, would be akin to Egypt appointing a Coptic Christian to that post; "preposterous!"

Well, no more preposterous than Israel appointing a Muslim as the next Mossad boss.

Maybe Israel should aspire to be more like India too?

Russian Special Forces seize Syrian chemical weapons

There are reports coming out of Israel that an elite unit of Russian troops has entered Syria and secured the Assad regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons.

Rebel fighters from the al Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al Nusra have been steadily making gains recently on the military complex at al Safira where the chemical stockpiles are kept.

Russian forces intervened when it appeared that the rebels were about to overrun the base.

The story is consistent with statements coming from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today assuring the world that the chemical weapons are "secure."

Socialists struggle with White Man's Burden

Whatever delusions may have attended the rise of Francois Hollande must be laid to rest by now.

I am referring to our delusions, not his. He appears to have fully embraced the Sarko-BHL delusion of an ascendant France reclaiming her colonial glory. If anything there is more bellicose tub-thumping coming from the Elysee Palace today than a year ago.

With respect to Syria, Hollande  has distinguished himself among the leaders of the Nations of Virtue with his undue haste in embracing the "opposition". To recognize the Syrian National Coalition as the "only legitimate representatives of the Syrian people" at a time when "their" liberation campaign has been thoroughly hijacked by Islamic fundamentalists seems, at the least, reckless and premature.

On a visit to Algeria this week Hollande acknowledged the residual ill will that lingers in that land even fifty years after independence. To make amends he promised them a Renault factory, but behind the scenes he was lobbying hard for Algerian support for France's next adventure in neo-colonialism.

That would be the upcoming re-liberation of Mali. It was a major diplomatic coup for the French to get unanimous Security Council support for their resolution to assemble and train a liberation army that will put the run to the Islamic radicals currently establishing Sharia law in the north of the country.

The French have nominated themselves to take the lead in this adventure, but press reports stress the actual boots on the ground will come from the neighboring ECOWAS nations. As it stands, the plan has several fatal flaws.

First of all, the numbers make no sense whatsoever. A 3,000 strong ECOWAS force might be able to hold Gao and perhaps a handful of smaller centers in the north, but that will hardly impact Ansar Dine and their al Qaeda cohorts, let alone defeat them.

Secondly, the time line is ridiculous. If  the ECOWAS force can be trained, and if  the Malian army can be brought up to a suitable standard, then the earliest intervention date would be in late 2013, almost a year hence. Judging by the success of "training" programs in Iraq and Afghanistan, this expectation in itself will be the kiss of death for the entire operation.

The training issue seems a bit dodgy to begin with. The leader of the coup that overthrew the civilian government is a Colonel in the Malian army who was himself trained in the US, but perhaps the French think they have superior training skills.

A lot can happen in a year. The two most lucrative gold mines in Mali are scheduled to be worked out by the end of 2013. Their closing will take some of the urgency out of the West's call for intervention, and they are located in the south west of the country far from the al Qaeda threat.

The think tank here at Falling Downs has a simpler and wiser solution, one that conforms to the humanitarian ideals of Hollande's Socialist Party. We simply take a page from Hollande's Syria playbook and recognize Ansar Dine as the legitimate representatives of the Malian people!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How do you know you can trust your armed guard?

You'll need a gun to protect yourself from your armed guard.

That's the verdict of the Farm Manager.

But she may have a point.

Once you're on the ladder of paranoia, where do you stop?

As much as I like guns and loathe gun control I have to admit that, as a guy with more than one ex-wife, I am grateful that guns are not too easy to access in Canada.

That's why I live here!

Hell, that's why I'm living anywhere!

And I truly believe that there must be a way of keeping mentally unstable folks away from guns that even Ted Nugent can agree with.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen piles on Scud bandwagon

The NATO boss is doing his part to hype the fear.

Oh my God, one of those Syrian Scuds landed a mere twenty miles from the border of NATO member Turkey!

That's something the entire NATO bloc, not to mention the free world in general, needs to be very afraid about.

After all, when the boots hit the ground, there will be many NATO boots required to take the heat off the US. While the former PM of Denmark may not have much to fear from Assad as a Dane, his role as the commander in chief of the NATO global bully crew demands that he keep the fear fires burning bright.

The Scuds are but one lever in the fear-mongering sweepstakes. Assad's chemical weapon stockpiles are another. When you read that Assad's troops are affixing chemical warheads to Scud missiles you'll know that the NATO intervention is ready to roll.

About those Syrian Scuds

They are in the news again today. The "desperate" Assad regime "may" have unleashed up to six Scud missiles against the al-Qaeda rebels.

Here's analyst Mark Perry in an interview from Al Jazeera a few days ago discussing Assad's use of the missiles. Note that while Perry refers to the use of Scuds as a "profound escalation" his only reference point is reports in the NYT.

Mark Perry is not a reflexive Arab hater like too many of the "experts" we see on the evening news. In fact, he was once an adviser to Yasser himself. He knows his stuff, but he doesn't actually know anything about Assad's use of Scuds.

And here's Joshua Landis' take on the Syrian Scuds. Like Perry he is well regarded and well connected in the Middle East. Yet all his insights into Assad's use of Scuds seem to come from the New York Times.

All of the Times' info about Assad's Scuds seem to come from unnamed sources in the State Department.

Which is not to say they're not true, but one should certainly not assume that they are.

The bigger question should be why is the State Department promoting this story? If they intend to not support the rebels any more than they already have, what is the point of publicizing this "profound escalation?"

The think tank here at Falling Downs believes that in the absence of verification from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and in-country
sources, the Syrian Scuds story is most likely bogus.

So why is the State Department busy spreading a bogus story?

At this point it is imperative that the US keep its options open. Boots on the ground will mean going head to head with the very rebels that America has winked and nodded into the country. Leaving al Qaeda in charge of Syria is a non-starter both in Washington and in Israel.

It cannot be allowed to happen.

These "last days of a desperate dictator" stories are meant to prepare the public for something the public has absolutely no appetite for.

Another US war in the Muslim world.

What do you cook in a million dollar kitchen?

The Farm Manager is busy with one of those real estate porn shows. This one's about folks who spend up to a million bucks on renovating a kitchen.

I don't even know how that is possible. Sure, you can bust the bank on a Sub-Zero fridge and a La Cornue range and lava countertops, but you'll still have a long way to go to make it to seven numbers.

People can lose touch with reality on these renovation projects. I remember back in the nineties, my buddy Bruno had a little carpentry shop, and he somehow ended up with a contract to supply and install the new interior doors on Paul Reichman's home reno in Toronto.

Bruno was quite the self-promoter. Everywhere he went he carried around a roll of stickers that said "Bruno's Custom Woodwork" along with his phone number. Wherever he saw some nice millwork, he'd slap on one of his Bruno stickers. Public library, traffic court, U of T admin buildings, didn't matter what. If there was some extra-fine craftsmanship on view, there'd be a Bruno sticker stuck to it somewhere. Somewhere Paul or Mrs. Reichman must have spotted one of those stickers and jotted down the phone number.

Now Reichman's home reno was quite epic. It went on for years and from time to time aspects of it would make the papers - usually legal aspects. Reichman spent as much on lawyers for his reno as he spent on the house, which was many millions.

Which was of course somewhat ironic because Paul Reichman was at that time in a bit of a funk due to having birthed the biggest bankruptcy in Canadian history, that of Olympia and York to the tune of 20 billion dollars.

I was doubly aware of the irony, because I had almost simultaneously birthed one of the smallest bankruptcies in Canadian history, an amount considerably less than what Reichman was spending on these doors.

So I can appreciate that people get carried away with reno projects, but why?

Seems to me if you've got a million lying around for a kitchen reno, you could just scrap the kitchen entirely. Wouldn't that be nice? Maybe keep a hotplate and a microwave for a cup of tea and some warm snacks, but that's it.

You can order in from Dominos or KFC twice a day and it's going to take you at least fifty years to make that add up to the cost of your million dollar kitchen.

And you won't even need a dishwasher.

Bill Ackman dons mantle of righteousness

Taking a break from his screw-over of Canadian Pacific Railway, "activist investor" Bill Ackman is making headlines with his pledge to drive the value of Herbalife shares to zero.

And even though Ackman claims his Pershing Square hedge fund has accumulated an enormous short position in Herbalife, Bill says he's not doing this for the money. In fact, he says that in the event he makes any, he will donate the gains to charity.

Bill is doing this for "poor people" says Bill. Poor schmucks in Africa who have been beguiled into believing that they too can get rich as a Herbalife distributor.

Hell, I figure anybody that stunned is just a patsy waiting to be fleeced anyway. But it sure is nice that Bill cares.

Frankly, anyone seriously interested in getting rich would be well advised to copy Bill's MO. That "activist investor" shtick has worked wonders for him. All he has to do is take a minority position in a company, and then manipulate the media to publicize the pending shake-down... sorry, I meant to say shake-up of management.

Viola! The publicity itself will produce astonishing results in Ackman's portfolio.

So if you're a young keener with a hunger for riches, forget that Herbalife nonsense.

Gather up a few friends, pool your resources, and become an activist investor like Bill Ackman.  

NRA misses the boat on safe schools

I know the folks at the NRA mean well with their proposal to put armed guards in every elementary school, but the think tank here at Falling Downs has come up with an even better and more cost effective solution.

Arm the tykes.

There's no reason to pay good money to "armed guards" when the children are perfectly capable of fending for themselves. Good luck to the wacko who storms the local Kindergarten to find every child has one of these:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Canadian judge rules Minister of Public Safety has "closed mind"

That's got to be one of those Homer Simpson moments; Old Vic Toews has a closed mind?

Duh!!!

What's reassuring about this story is that Old Vic doesn't discriminate when he doles out his stupidity. While not an anglo, the victim of this Toews tantrum is at least not Islamic.

But it must be relatively rare to see a Minister of the Crown being declared as having a "closed mind" by the judiciary.

Almost makes you want to believe in the democratic system.

IDLE NO MORE getting serious international traction

This story is from The Guardian in the UK.

They've noticed Idle No More in England, and they're telling the Theresa Spence story too.

Today's protests have made it onto the news agenda across Canada and beyond.

Eventually even Stephen Harper is going to have to pay attention.

It's a beautiful thing!

Old Vic Toews shows what he's made of

Canada's Minister of Public Safety, still chuffed from the knock-out punch he delivered to Iran's Revolutionary Guards the other day, has made good on his promise to ban "pizza parties and BBQ socials" in Canada's federal prisons.

That's right, life in the Big House here in Canada is one non-stop whirl of double cheese and deep-fried chicken.

What an asshole!

Here's an overview of what those pizza parties and BBQ socials are all about. Every now and then the lifers pool their resources and order out. They make these "socials" fund-raisers for a variety of good causes out in the free world, everything from earthquake relief in Haiti to Doctors Without Borders to Special Olympics.

Not only do those charities benefit, but the local pizza joints and KFC outlets get a good boost too, as these deliveries can run into the thousands of dollars.

As one of the inmates says, "anybody who is in a rage because I get a piece of KFC a couple times a year has got their priorities askew."

No shit!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cat box feuds

Here at Falling Downs we've got the upstairs cat and the downstairs cat. They share a litter box, way downstairs in the gloriously primitive unfinished farmhouse basement.

From my perch in front of the wood furnace in that basement, from where I tend the fire and sneak the occasional smoke, I can keep half an eye on the cat box.

Both cats seem to think that whenever I'm down there enjoying a few moments of unregulated bliss, that's a good time to have a shit.

But what is truly comical is that both of them scoop out one another's cat turds before using the litter box.

So downstairs cat will come down, have a good sniff around, make a big show of tossing the offending turds over the side of the box, and then go about her business.

Twenty minutes later upstairs cat will show up. She'll have a sniff, paw out the offending cat turds, and then try to scoop her own shit back into the litter box that the other cat has scooped out. It'll take her a good half hour of scratching about before she's ready to do her business.

I find it a compelling metaphor for international politics.

Downstairs cat has an advantage in these cat wars. The cat door to the basement is on her turf. That makes her, metaphorically speaking, Guardian of the Special Places. Upstairs cat has to cajole and connive or just plain fight her way past the Guardian of the Cat Door before she can hit the cat box for a crap.

My role is to observe and occasionally scold.

Metaphorically speaking, I guess that makes me Ban Ki Moon.

NATO's weakest link; Turkey

Not that there's a shortage of "weak links" in NATO.

How did outfits like Albania and Croatia even get into the bully club?

But the weakest link we should be most concerned about is Turkey. We predicted some time ago that the Turks would be left holding the bag when things went wrong in the Syria intervention that Erdogan was strong-armed into supporting, and there are stories floating around this week that suggest his NATO allies are preparing to wash their hands of him.

A number of regional news outlets reported this week that two major US Navy battle groups have pulled out of the neighborhood, namely the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group and the Iwo Jima Amphibious Assault Group. This comes at a time when Erdogan was hoping for more support, not less.

It's true that this is happening at the same time as NATO is officially giving the Turks a vote of confidence by sending Patriot missile batteries to the country. But note the fine print; even though NATO allies Germany and the USA are sending Patriots to NATO ally Turkey, it will be American troops manning the missile batteries, thank you very much.

Some allies are more equal than others.

As for Syria, official US policy for the moment seems to be let it burn and see what's left when it's over.

On the one hand, the carefully fomented "revolution" has gone wildly out of the control of the American paymasters.

On the other, this is not entirely a bad thing for the Nations of Virtue.

What better launch pad for an Iran war than a Syria in ruins, with 100,000 hardened al Qaeda fighters prepared to march to Tehran and do America's dirty work?

Alas, Turkey will disintegrate long before Iran does.

RIM loses millions in quarter but adds half a billion to cash hoard

Note that sentence about half way through the article; "cash on hand grew by $600 million to 2.9 billion."

Seems that those who have been declaring the Blackberry dead may have been a little premature.

Going forward of course everything depends on how the BB10 fares out in the coming months. A lackluster reception means the recent climb in the share price will stall out.

At the same time, even with a declining market share in mature markets, as long as Blackberry maintains a strong presence in emerging markets that cash hoard will continue to grow, especially with so many of the corporate cost-cutting measures just starting to kick in.

The stock is no longer the achingly obvious buy that it was in September, but it could easily top $20 even before we see what the marketplace thinks of BB10.

Canada invites Iranian terror group in from the cold

Every once in a while they let old Vic Toews make an announcement that makes him feel he's near the center of the action, and today was a red letter day by any standard.

Not only was old Vic tickled to announce that Iran's Revolutionary Guards were added to the official terror list, he had the good fortune to deliver even happier news; the Iranian People's Mujaheddin (MEK) are officially off the list!

The MEK are long time devotees of the notion that the Ayatollahs can be overthrown by force. They are a terror group devoted to wreaking havoc in Iran. For many years they did this under the tutelage of Saddam Hussein, who as the arch-enemy of the Ayatollahs saw it in his interest to feed and house the People's Mujaheddin.

Since the Nations of Virtue dispatched Hussein, the MEK has spent almost as much money buying friends inside the Washington Beltway as AIPAC does. The list of high-profile movers and shakers who have lobbied for the MEK includes two former CIA Directors, former FBI boss Louis Freeh, Rudy Giuliani, UN Ambassador John Bolton, and former Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.

In truth the Canadian move is more or less meaningless. The EU removed the MEK's terror designation three years ago, and the US did the same a few months ago, so old Vic is just tagging along behind the big dogs on this one.

Unfortunately, after having broken off diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic earlier this year, there is no expectation that Canada's announcement will have any impact on Iran.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cutting off the head of the snake III

In 2004 an American Hellfire missile, fired from an American attack helicopter manned by an IAF flight crew, took out an old man in a wheelchair and a dozen bystanders in Gaza City.

The old man was Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, reputed head of Hamas.

"The head of the snake."

At the time there was a lot of infantile gloating about having dispatched the head of the snake.

What a glorious victory! Nevermind that we'd just murdered an old man in a wheelchair and a dozen bystanders; he was the head of the snake!

It was a Hellfire missile well spent.

Two years later Hamas won the elections in Gaza.

Free and fair and utterly democratic elections by all accounts, just like the ones we in the Nations of Virtue love to sermonize about.

By the time another year was over, Hamas had routed the PA in an ill-advised counter-revolution that we put the PA up to.

Hamas have been the undisputed masters of Gaza ever since.

Just a couple of months ago the Emir of Qatar, an erstwhile ally of the Nations of Virtue, paid a visit to Gaza and promised 400 millions in rebuilding assistance.

Since then there have been pro-Hamas rallies galore in the supposedly PA-controlled West Bank. There is little doubt that in a fair and free election Hamas would rout the PA in the West Bank as well.

All of which flows from having cut the head off the snake in 2004.

Perhaps "cutting off the head of the snake" is a strategy that could bear revisiting.

Gloating idiocy , or what happens when you cut off the head of the snake II

Here's an oh-so-proud chest-thumper of a headline that's been popping up all over the place for the past day or so.

Since Obama took office at least two thirds of the al Qaeda leadership has been eliminated. So says State Department counter-terror boss Daniel Benjamin.

So why are al Qaeda stronger than ever? Stronger in Yemen, Mali, Libya. Practically running the revolution in Syria.

A bigger threat to US interests by far than when Obama took office.

But an imbecile from State can get world-wide headlines for boasting about America's "success"  against al Qaeda?

What's wrong with this picture?

When leaders are eliminated new leaders take their place. The new leaders will by definition be younger, better educated, and more aggressive.

That's why the fabled strategy of "cutting off the head of the snake" inevitably leads to there being more snakes.

It's a losing strategy.

Netanyahu confirms commitment to one-state solution

Ever since the stinging success of the PLO/PA statehood gambit at the UN a couple of weeks ago Netanyahu has been going out of his way to make it plain to the world that the Palestinian ploy will speed up rather than slow down the attainment of a "Greater Israel."

New homes and highways (for Israeli Jews only, of course) are announced almost on a daily basis.

It's not hard to figure out the short-term strategy here. Netanyahu needs to staunch the outflow of votes that could go to the right of him in the January election.

Fair enough. But what is the long term strategy?

Making a two-state solution impossible makes a one-state solution inevitable. The only possible way to avoid that conclusion is through the magical assumption that the Palestinians, after 65 years, will suddenly tire of the struggle and move en masse to Jordan and Egypt.

Barring that, Israeli Jews are facing the fact that sooner or later they will be a minority in their homeland.

Then what?

New research upsets anti-union apple-cart

Professor Erwin Diewert of UBC is uncorking a research paper that upends the last fifty years of received wisdom on the subject of Canada's supposed "productivity gap" with the US.

There is not a business school or an editorial board in Canada that has not laboured long and hard to explain that gap, and without fail there are several common threads in those explanations.


  • Canadian taxes are too high
  • labour laws are too rigid
  • the minimum wage is too high
  • unions have too much clout
  • all of the above conspire to drive the best and the brightest to greener pastures

So after hearing that same song from every think tank in the land for the better part of half a century, Professor Diewert comes along and claims that the "productivity gap" as we have come to know and fear it simply doesn't exist!

Taxes aren't too high after all.

Labour laws could stand to be tightened up a little.

The minimum wage could be higher.

Unions don't have enough clout.

Insofar as the "best and brightest" have sought out greener pastures, it's because of fear-mongering and not because of facts!

Thanks Professor Diewert!..

LET'S PARTY LIKE IT'S 1962!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Here's what happens when you cut the head off the snake

Not sure just how hard Calderon was trying in his war to eliminate all the cartels, but this story is a great lesson about what happens when one relentlessly pursues the leadership of a narco gang.

Calderon launched a war on half a dozen cartels at the beginning of his term. By the end of his term he had 60 to 80 cartels to contend with.

The same holds true for terror groups. Every time you read how we dispatched another al Qaeda leader, ask yourself what that really means.

It means there's a new leader today, typically a younger and more aggressive leader keen to make his mark.

It seems the "cut off the head of the snake" strategy inevitably leads to more snakes.

Words of wisdom from Frank Hasenfratz

The Globe and Mail had a brief interview with Linamar Corp founder Frank Hasenfratz today. I'd link you to it but getting around their paywall is rather time consuming, and I think I can give you the gist of his wisdom without the link. I suppose I could start paying, but hell, I pay enough for their paper when I pick it up at the corner store. I shouldn't have to pay them twice.

But back to Frank.

Frank is one of those old school capitalists who made his money the old fashioned way; by working really hard at making things other people were willing to pay for. In his case it's been mainly auto parts, with a variety of other precision machined goodies thrown into the mix.

During my high school years Frank's original factory, one concession over, right beside his house, was the employer of last resort for high school drop-outs and others on the lower rungs of the employability ladder. While I was a high school drop-out I always had the good fortune of finding better paying gigs than what Frank had on offer.

That story took a turn in the 1980's when Frank took his company public. He offered pre-IPO shares to his employees and quite a few took him up on it.

And quite a few of them became millionaires.

But that's quite beyond the ken of Frank's interview with the Globe today.

On the subject of training skilled workers, Frank had this to say; everybody pays lip service to it but nobody does anything about it.

Exactly!

That's what I've been saying for at least 25 years! In Canada, about 20% of companies who employ skilled trades have any sort of training/apprenticeship program to develop skilled workers. The other 80% of employers are content to poach them from the 20%.

And what sort of a leadership role has government taken in creating a skilled work force? Aside from the aforementioned lip service, absolutely nothing.

In fact, the government bends over backwards to accommodate employers when they apply to bring foreign trades into the country.

Meanwhile, well over a million Canadians are unemployed.

I'm aware that working as a welder or a carpenter isn't everybody's cup of tea, but for the sake of our future, isn't it time we got serious about this? 

ICC batting .500 in Negro Leagues

Since its inception in 2002 the International Criminal Court has tried a grand total of two "war criminals".

They got a conviction in the Lubanga case and lost the Katanga-Chui case.

I think the problem with the ICC is they need to up their game. They need to bring it to the big leagues, go after some plump white targets in the West. The way they've gone about their prosecutions thus far the casual observer could be forgiven for concluding that all war criminals are Black Africans.

But look, right over there in Her Majesty's merry England, there's war criminal Tony Blair prancing about boasting of his intimate relationship with God and how he only pays a 2.6% tax rate. The man has the blood of tens of thousands of Iraqis on his hands. Surely he can't be that hard to track down.

And forget merry England; there's no greater concentration of well-fed rich white war criminals anywhere in the world than right inside the Washington Beltway. Their ICC sheriffs might have to slip over to Texas to pick up W, but Washington is a veritable cornucopia of war criminals. The entire PNAC cabal seems to me to merit at least as much attention from the ICC as did Lubanga and Katanga-Chui, and they have by far more blood on their hands.

So get serious, ICC, or give up and go home.

God's banker renders unto Caesar at rate of 2.6%

Tony Blair paid an unexpected visit to the home team today to drop a few pearls of wisdom about how they shouldn't be too hard on bankers, and by the way, in case they had any doubts, to reassure the supplicants that he does indeed pay his "full share" of British taxes.

According to a story in the Telegraph last January, Phony Tony paid a paltry 315 thousand pounds tax on a 2011 income of over 12 millions. That's Tony's idea of paying his fair share. Works out to a paltry 2.6%.

Since Tony is pretty much devoting his life to doing God's work these days, it's fair to say that God is getting the other 97%, and that God is just letting Tony manage the money while he inhabits his mortal coil.

Whatever.

But he sure makes that Romney fellow look stupid with his 14% tax rate, doesn't he? Maybe the God of the Mormons doesn't sharpen His pencils often enough.

To be fair, Romney never claimed he payed that rate on ALL his income; merely his "US" income, and since most of Mitt's moolah is safely ensconced in offshore tax havens, we'll never know if Tony is actually outsmarting him or not.

But we do know they're both outsmarting the tax collectors.

Experts claim Aspergers does not cause violence

This article is typical of a lot of stuff inundating the mainstream in the last couple of days that seeks to dispel any sort of linkage between Adam Lanza "possibly" having been treated for Aspergers and the carnage that he caused last Friday.

The writer duly quotes the appropriate experts to sketch out what Aspergers is, what the common symptoms are, and how those diagnosed with the condition may be expected to function in society.

All of which is legitimate reportage but misses the point. Most of the serious writers who have sought to link the Newtown tragedy to Aspergers have not focused on the condition per se, but on how it is treated. The above article and scores of similar ones tend to refute a link between violence and Aspergers while steering well clear of any discussion about the medications commonly used in its treatment.

There is a wealth of documentation linking those medications to violent behavior. Try this site for an overview. There's plenty more information out there.

It's more than a little disingenuous for "reputable" news organizations to pretend they're debunking a link between Aspergers and violence while at the same time deliberately ignoring the real story.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Chief Theresa Spence and the Attawapiskat news blackout

It was only a year ago that Attawapiskat was hogging major headlines around the world. The remote Indian reservation had a majority of its members living in housing that was so far below any conceivable standard of habitation that news organizations the world over were lavishing attention on the story.

Twelve months roll by, the government delivers a couple dozen double-wides to Attawapiskat, and the story is gone.

But it isn't. Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is at this moment in the second week of a hunger strike just a few minutes from Parliament Hill. A thousand miles away the majority of her people once again face winter in housing far below any contemporary health and safety standards.

But this time around the world's media seems pre-occupied with other stories. Even Canadian mainstream outlets, with the notable exception of the Huffington Post, haven't found much space for the issue beyond a back pages paragraph or two.

It's the standard Canadian response to uncomfortable stories; close your ears and eyes until it goes away.

Well here's to you, Chief Spence; may God give you the strength to keep up the struggle until the deaf and blind find the courage to open their ears and eyes.

Prominent Lebanese Canadian branded "Special Global Terrorist" by US State Department

That should pretty much ensure that Michel Samaha never again sees the light of day.

Samaha is the consummate Lebanese political insider. He spent most of his career as a functionary in the right-wing of Lebanon's  Christian political establishment. The circumstances of his acquiring Canadian citizenship are unclear, but there are at least 50,000 Lebanese who hold dual Lebanese-Canadian citizenship.

The category of "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" is one of those uniquely American inventions that popped up post 9/11. Like "unlawful enemy combatants" it is a category invented to skirt traditional conceptions of human rights in America's war on terror.

Apparently being on the Special Global Terrorist List also puts you in an Orwellian version of God's waiting room. It is rumored that Obama's "kill list" considers anyone with the Global Terrorist designation as having made the short list.

Samaha should be safe from a drone strike for the foreseeable future. He was picked up by the Lebanese government last August and charged with plotting terror attacks at the behest of the Assad regime and hasn't been heard from since.

In the course of his career he was variously considered an asset of Israeli, American, Syrian, French and Canadian intelligence services

His new status as a "Global Terrorist," and a special one at that, should get him unlimited free travel between CIA "black" interrogation prisons around the world. 

Idle No More

This is one of the most hopeful things to come from the First Nations in a long time. It exudes a tone of confidence that at least to my ears is new. It is inclusive and respectful. It is angry but not filled with debilitating rage.

These are not voices of hopelessness and despair. These are voices that have survived, are thriving, and will overcome. These are voices quietly but insistently demanding justice, not just for themselves, but for all.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Raptors on two game win streak!

That's got to be the most exciting news for Toronto sports fans next to the Leafs undefeated season!

It's the middle of December and the Raptors have put together a two game win streak. For the first time this year! Is that pathetic or what?

Unfortunately that's about par for the course for the mighty Maple Leaf Sports empire, the empire that runs all pro sport in Toronto.

With the exception of the Jays, and oddly enough, the Jays are in the news for reasons that don't require the home fans to hang their heads in shame. Anthopoulos is actually out there trying to build a winning team! Who in Toronto can even imagine such a thing?

Certainly no one at MLSE, and why should they? If you can build one of the worlds most lucrative sporting brands on the strength of year after year of losing, then why mess with success?

Just look at the post season record of MLSE's main properties, the Leafs, the Raptors, and the Toronto FC...

Are you looking?

Yes, that was a cruel joke, I know, but what boggles the mind is that WE ALREADY KNOW IT WILL LOOK THE SAME A YEAR FROM NOW, AND NOBODY CARES!!!

I think part of the problem is that Toronto sport no longer belongs to Toronto sports fans. They belong to the kind of "fan" who likes the prestige of owning Leaf season tickets, and as everybody in Toronto knows, the only thing more prestigious than owning Leafs seats is LEAVING THEM EMPTY JUST TO SHOW YOU CAN!

Which doesn't seem to bother the ownership crew in the least.