Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Apple leaves tech innovation behind to focus on balance-sheet innovation

What would Steve Jobs think of the Apple bond issue?

Apple's $17 billion bond issue seems like an unnecessarily convoluted method of getting some of the cash horde "into the hands of the shareholders."

Although I suppose the fees earned by Goldman Sachs will quiet some of the squeakiest wheels clamoring for that cash.

Why does Tim Cook think this is a good idea? When you're sitting on 150 billions, you don't need to give a shit what the shareholders think.

Or what the self-dealing opportunists at GS think.

Focus on making great product, not keeping those so-called activist investors placated.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Junior channels Marc Bolan

See for yourself;


http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_songInfo.cfm?bandID=918836&songID=12218484&showPlayer=true

San Francisco's Gay Shame parade

For a few brief hours the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade stood by an honorable gesture; making Bradley Manning the honorary parade marshal.

Then it all went for a shit.

The weasle-words are coming fast and hard. Manning endangered the men and women in uniform. Manning endangered American security.

Since when is the San Francisco Pride Committee charged with doing PR for the Pentagon?

Shame!

The Bangladeshi guilt trip; paying one cent more for that five dollar t-shirt will more than double the wage of Bangladeshi garment workers

There is a lot of faux outrage over the deaths of hundreds of garment workers in the collapse of that Dhaka factory.

They die because we're too cheap to pay a proper price for a shirt.

Bullshit!

Here's a look at the economics of t-shirt production. The Bangladeshi garment worker produces 250 t-shirts per hour. In a 60 hour week, that's 15,000 shirts. She gets paid in the range of $50 per month; as low as $37 by some estimates.

If the Western consumer were to pay one cent more for every t-shirt from Bangladesh, and the entirety of that one cent increase went to the sewing machine operator making the shirt, her wage would triple.

Nobody among the consumers would notice an increase of one cent on a t-shirt. They wouldn't notice an increase of 10 cents, and I don't believe an increase of a dollar would cause much notice.

The problem is not with the niggardly spending habits of the Western consumer. The problem lies with a supply chain that is dedicated to driving costs as low as possible while maximizing profits at every level of that chain.

If we were to double the cost of that t-shirt without legislating a forced feed-through of those cost increases to the workers who actually make the shirt, the only result would be that the players in the supply chain would be massively enriched.

The workers would continue to toil in squalid poverty.

That's why the blandishments of the "consumers are too cheap" crowd need to be ignored.

Without proper regulation of the supply chain nothing will change for the garment workers in Bangladesh.

After all, Haiti beckons...

Changing times...

It's much too soon to gloat, but there are hopeful signs all across the horizon.

The intellectual back-stops of austerity have been revealed as frauds.

That will be good news for the many millions who are more than tired of the Merkel-induced and Reinhart and Rogoff inspired "austerity enema" from Greece to Spain to Cyprus to Italy and beyond.

Little people across the board are less inclined to give the free pass to the banksters who have weaseled multiple billions out of the public purse over the past few years.

Ultra-conservative Alberta has a major labour uprising on its hands.

And Jason Collins just made it OK to be gay.

The shape of a new world is coming into focus.

Jason Collins rocks the sporting world

What is to be made of America's obsessive prurience vis-a-vis what folks do with their pants-off time?

How is your sex life any business of mine?

It isn't.

And frankly, I don't care!

Congratulations to Jason Collins for being the first big-league jock to come out as queer.

And congratulations to Kobe and Steve Nash for being there with the support.

Hopefully this attitude of acceptance will trickle down to the varsity and the high-school level.  

Oh great... now the Sheriff has joined the illegal strike!

Hundreds of sheriffs to be precise.

That "illegal" Alberta prison guards' strike seems to be picking up momentum, in spite of the protestations of Deputy Premier Lukaszuk that the only reason for the strike is that workers are intimidated by their unions.

Since she won her last election Alberta Premier Alison Redford has done quite a right-turn. Word is that at least a dozen of her MLA's are blackmailing her with threats to jump to the further right Wild Rose Party if she doesn't cave to their demands.

That would explain quite a bit, and it would go a long way to explaining this completely unnecessary confrontation with Alberta's public workers.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cradle of Arab Spring gets downright autumnal

Here's a recent story from Tunisia.

The long and the short of it is that while Tunisia may have humored the Nations of Virtue with show elections, the streets belong to the more fundamental of the fundamentalists; often referred to as " radical extremists" etc.

There's a certain disappointment in the West over the Arab Spring countries' turn towards fundamentalism.

That disappointment must be exponentially more galling among the secular educated middle class in these countries, the very people who were most vocal in their opposition to the former US-backed kleptocrats.

And while they are disappointed, these secular, educated populations are within their own countries small minorities.

Arab Spring is making the Arab world more democratic. We should not be surprised that the "fundamentalists" are prevailing. They represent the democratic choice of the majority of the people.

Alberta's tough but heart-broken Deputy Premier channels Thatcher in showdown with prison guards

He's a hard core law-and-order guy, Thomas Lukaszak is, and if there's one thing that bothers that crowd it's unionized workers getting all uppity and sniveling about "working conditions."

Alberta's prison guards have been on strike since Friday, after a couple of their members were suspended for having the gall to complain about unsafe working conditions.

Lukaszak is doing his best with the divide and conquer tactics favored by union-busters everywhere. Union "intimidation" is what's keeping the workers out, not any legitimate concerns about their safety.

And notice the crocodile tears shed for the "heartbreaking" news that inmates might be doing damage to the new half billion dollar Edmonton Remand Centre.

There is much to break one's heart when contemplating the state of Canada's justice system; the preponderance of native Canadians in the system, the lack of adequate mental health care for Ashley Smith and the thousands like her, the fact that a substantial percentage of inmates are there for victimless "crimes" involving the growing and distribution of  marijuana...

But the Deputy Premier's heart is broken at the prospect of inmates damaging a jail.

Probably tells you more about his heart than anything else.

Earth's core holds unlimited free energy

The geophysicists and seismologists and geodynamicists who get paid to figure this stuff out have come to the conclusion that earth's core is a giant molten nucleus generating temperatures in the range of 5-6000 degrees C.

That would keep a lot of steam turbines making electricity in perpetuity!

All we'd have to do is drill a hole about 3,000 miles deep. I know that's a big number, but it's doable.

Conventional drill rigs can do 300-800 feet per day. Just for a bit of math fun let's assume we're heading to the earth's core at the rate of 500 feet per day. That would take us a mile every couple of weeks. Two miles and a bit every month. A good twenty-five miles a year!

The scientists aren't sure exactly where the 5000 degree core begins, but it's safe to say that somewhere between 150 and 200 years from now we'd be there!

And it wouldn't be free of course.

It'll cost a pretty penny and then some to drill a 3,000 mile hole. Pretty sure only Exxon and her ugly sisters have the pockets for such a venture...

Then they'll need to recoup their expenses and make a return on their hard capital and their soft capital, and their exploration capital and their imaginary capital and blah blah blah....

By the time it's all over it'll be cheaper to just buy their oil.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Springtime at Hillbilly Acres

That's what the Farm Manager has been calling the place. Maybe "Falling Downs" is too subtle...

I think it's all part of her master plan to have me get rid of a winter's worth of empties.

In the fullness of time.

That's what I tell her. That's what I used to tell my children when they were lobbying for this or that.

Ya, OK, we'll do that...

When?

In the fullness of time...

As a bullshit answer to serious questions, serious at least in the mind of the questioner, you have to admit that's a good one.

It doesn't nail you down.

We don't necessarily have to do this or that next weekend or the one after, because that may not yet be the fullness of time.

For years the Farm Manager has been lobbying for a camping rig that will allow her to sleep "off the ground."

For me, sleeping on the ground is the essence of camping, so I gave this lobby job the full "fullness of time" treatment.

The empties do pile up over the winter months. Not that you can't take them back in the winter; there's just something about being in hibernation mode that mitigates against it.

Also, you let the empties pile up long enough, taking-back-the-empties day sort of becomes an extra payday. You cart your empties in there and come out with a case of beer AND twenty bucks in your pocket.

That's a win-win if ever there was one. Unfortunately it'll take a few months before it's gonna happen again...

Sleeping "on the ground" is a bit of bullshit to begin with. We have always had the tent floor and a couple of foamies between us and the ground. Even experimented with an air mattress for a couple of years.

Besides, when you are out in mother nature in the deep north, hiking and inhaling all that all-too-fresh air all day long, and then quaffing a six-pack or two to wash down those campfire-cooked hot-dogs, there's absolutely nothing that can keep you awake once your head hits the pillow, whether that pillow is one inch or six inches or four feet off the ground.

Be that as it may, the Farm Manager got so fed up with the "fullness of time" runaround that she went out and bought us an old Rockwood camper.

A tent trailer.

Ya, I'm thrilled. Now I have to weld a hitch on the van. We towed the Rockwood home behind the farm truck, but that ain't gonna be the tow unit for our cross-country junkets.

The farm truck is pretty much limited to back forty junkets these days, and the previous owners of the Rockwood were only about ten minutes past that, so we were good to go.

But the annual North of Superior pilgrimage won't be happening with the farm truck.


Friday, April 26, 2013

The birds and the frogs are singing together

At the north end of Bass Lake the lake turns into several hundred acres of marsh, which eventually becomes the Indian River, which flows into Georgian Bay right about where Balmy Beach starts.

Some of those hundreds of acres are part of Falling Downs.

At this time of year the marsh is full of frog choirs. The frogs' song falls and rises and rises and falls. It falls and rises as thousands of frogs sing in unison.

Ten thousand frogs in that marsh across the road are singing in unison.

And if that isn't enough to make you believe in God, then the birds chime in.

The frogs will hit a high note and there'll be multiple bird chirps hitting that high note right along with them.

Its a crazy Falling Down's moment.


The happy face of addiction

They say that cellphone addicts show similar results on a brain MRI as meth addicts.

I'm inclined to believe it.

Otherwise prudent and sensible people think nothing of reading text messages while they are motoring down the 400 highway at 135.

And sending them too.

This is thus far a socially acceptable addiction.

That has to change.


The curious case of Canada's Sri Lanka human rights crusade

I always thought the Tamils and the Palestinians had a lot in common.

The big dogs in Likud think so too. That's why Israel has always been comfortable backing the government of Sri Lanka in its battle with Tamil separatists.

So you would automatically assume that Israel and her very best friend in the world would be on the same page vis-a-vis the Tamil-Sri Lanka dispute.

You'd be wrong.

FM Baird has been so extraordinarily strident in his denunciations of Sri Lanka that he has found himself in the foreign press; a rarity for Canada's lightweight Foreign Minister.

There would seem to be a massive contradiction between how the Harper government sees the Tamil struggle as compared to the Palestinian struggle.

What could possibly account for that?

Might it be the tens of thousands of Tamils living in key Toronto ridings, ridings that are critical to Harper's re-election?

Just wondering.

The sad truth about the power of unions

Contrary to what you might read in your morning paper, unions don't have much influence.

Look at this story about the former Nanticoke Stelco Works for example. Now a part of US Steel, the company is embarking on a plan to starve the Steelworkers union that represents the Nanticoke workers into submission.

There's nothing illegal about what they're doing. USS has steel plants all over the world. They can well afford to starve their Canadian workers while supplying their customers from other plants in their worldwide network.

That's the beauty of globalization. Your workers in one country get too uppity, you simply freeze them out till they come to their senses.

Full disclosure; in past lives I was a paid up member of the United Steelworkers of America in various locals: Dayton Steel, Dresser, Sandvik, Frankel Steel, Kearney National, to name just a few.

Thirty years ago the USWA was a heavyweight union that was taken seriously by the folks on the other side of the table.

Today it's just another spent force in the ranks of organized labour, happy to negotiate contracts for minimum wage plus a buck or two on behalf of what's left of their membership.

Canada compromises FBI terror investigation so Harper gang can make the evening news

According to this story, the Harper government threw a spanner into an FBI investigation by arresting a couple of alleged terror suspects last Monday.

As you will recall, that is the sensational case that not only claims to have uncovered the first al-Qaeda plot in North America since 9/11, it also ties Iran to al-Qaeda!

That's big news indeed!

I'm certainly not the only observer who found the timing of Monday's arrests cuter than cute. The Vancouver Sun, leaning heavily on an article in The Wall Street Journal, is making essentially the same claim today that was made here a few days ago.

But the Sun ups the ante exponentially. The Harperites weren't just manipulating Canadian police with the timing of these arrests and the ensuing press conference. They were effectively scuttling an FBI investigation into the US contacts of the two guys they arrested, even after the FBI asked them to hold off.

I guess that's one way for Harper to prove he's more than a US bumboy.


Cops gone wild

Seems to me that cops pretty much have impunity these days.

A guy waves a machette around and the only way to stop him is to shoot him dead?

Bullshit!

Pepper spray didn't work?

The taser didn't work?

Shooting him in the leg didn't work?

Hey, maybe just talking to the guy would have worked. Who knows? Did they try to talk to the guy?

Apparently none of these options were even considered.

But a bullet in the chest stopped him cold.

A bullet in the chest will do that.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Obama's Syria pivot

Hagel telegraphed the administration's intentions very effectively over the last 24 hours.

It was all about red lines and headlines.

America is moving into the Syria conflict; stepping out from behind the curtain.

The logic behind the latest rhetoric beggars belief.

Evil dictator has been slaughtering his own people for two years. But today he has picked up a new implement with which to slaughter his people.

We were OK with the slaughter until this new implement was implemented, at which point we determined that a red line had been crossed.

UN Security Council votes to get France out of Mali Mistake

Hollande the Conqueror is getting a free pass out of his Mali misadventure. No spurs, no conquering; just a huge sigh of relief.

The Security Council voted today to send a UN "peacekeeper" force into the country. This allows the French forces to save face after a five months long farce that saw them liberating the same northern Mali towns again and again.

Estimated cost of the 12,000 strong UN mission is $800 million per year, which is equivalent to almost 10% of Mali's GDP.

Funny how we in the Nations of Virtue can find the money for a peace-keeping mission in a country where there is no peace to keep, even as economies across the West are floundering.

The various Islamist and Tuareg militias in the region are keen enough to do the job. They know the neighborhood, they're already on the ground in Mali, and it wouldn't cost us a cent...

Unless of course those locals couldn't be counted on to keep the Western-owned cotton plantations and gold mines happily sending their profits to their overseas owners.

In which case we should clarify why we are sending "peacekeepers" to Mali. They are there not to keep the peace, but to keep our profits safe.

Bill Ackman's "vision" for CP Rail already fraying around the edges

Not that Ackman ever had a vision for CP that went beyond making a quick buck.

Business media were over-the-top today in praise of the quick turnaround Ackman has engineered at the railway.  Hunter "Hitman" Harrison, the Ackman installation as Chief Engineer, was busy bragging that  things were going so swimmingly that pink-slips might go to 6,000 from an initially projected 4,000.

Alas, late in the day the Montreal Gazette dropped this stinker into the celebratory punch bowl. Seems the outfit that runs Montreal area commuter trains has a few issues. They can't get their trains to the station in time with any consistency because of the newer leaner CPR's "...poor track-maintenance planning, switching errors, and communication problems. Strained relations between CP and its employees are another big part of the problem..."

Well whadya know... maybe you can't run a railroad without people after all?

Ackman's vision for CP Rail vindicated by record quarterly results!

Read it and snivel, Ackman haters. Bill Ackman's vision, being executed by $50 million man Hunter Harrison, has left the doubters in the dust.

Profit up by over 50%!

Most profitable quarter in the history of the 130 year old company!

This should secure Bill's place in the pantheon of top hedgies once and for all!

Why is a foreign NGO writing press releases for Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs?

When John Baird issued his highly unprofessional personal attack on Richard Falk yesterday, was he speaking for Canada, or was he speaking for someone else?

His talking points seem to come from a UNWATCH letter made public by the Geneva-based human rights organization several days prior to Baird's press release on the Department of Foreign Affairs website.

Was the content of the DFAIT news release vetted by the Minister's staff, or is Baird being advised by foreign interests?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Nice salute to Kraftwerk

https://soundcloud.com/jakeneumann/automatische

Still have to say I preferred his Waitesian phase, but this one kinda grows on you.

Canada FM Baird condemns Richard Falk for suggesting terrorism has causes

Here's Baird's press release;


Falk’s Comments Cast Shame on United Nations

April 24, 2013 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:
“Once again, United Nations official Richard Falk has spewed more mean-spirited, anti-Semitic rhetoric, this time blaming the attacks in Boston on President [Barack] Obama and the State of Israel.
“There is a dangerous pattern to Mr. Falk’s anti-Western and anti-Semitic comments. The United Nations should be ashamed to even be associated with such an individual.
“I respectfully call on the United Nations Human Rights Council—again—to remove Mr. Falk from his position immediately.
“Mr. Falk’s consistently mean-spirited comments cast a dark shadow over the United Nations and what it can accomplish. Comments like these do a great disservice to the fundamental values of the United Nations and to all freedom-loving people.”
----
It is apparently mean-spirited, anti-Western, and anti-Semitic to suggest that terror attacks against Western interests might be caused by something other than the Towelheads doing up their hats too tight.
Frankly, the article that gave such offence to all freedom-loving people and caused this outburst on Baird's part, "Collective self-reflection in the wake of a national tragedy," strikes me as a very modest critique of US foreign policy in the Middle East.
It's worth noting that five days passed between the appearance of Falk's article and Baird's vitriolic denunciation thereof. As always, Baird needs to wait and see which way the winds are blowing before he takes a stand.

Entrepreneur sells $20 "golf ball finders" for $40,000 apiece as bomb detectors

That makes him entrepreneur of the year in my book.

But it makes James McCormick a fraud in the eyes of the English courts.

He sold this hokum in the millions of dollars worth, mainly to the government of Iraq.

Ask yourself, does this make him a lesser or a greater fraud than Bush, Blair, et al who promised the people of Iraq freedom, democracy, and prosperity ten years ago?

While it's great to see this minor huckster being held accountable for his fraud, when are Bush, Blair, et al going to be held accountable for theirs?

Justin Trudeau and the "root causes of terrorism"

Mere days after being elected leader of Canada's floundering Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau found himself in plenty of hot water with his insinuation that terrorism might be caused by something.

Trudeau was lambasted from left and right for his untoward ruminations.

Op-eds in the major dailies have ripped him for his foolishness.

Nothing, but nothing, can justify acts of terror.

We simply cannot permit anyone to excuse acts of terror.

Suggesting that there may be "something" that "causes" terror is absolutely unacceptable.

Hypothesizing a connection between cause and effect has become a forbidden trope.

Here's Jeffrey Simpson in The Globe and Mail;  "(Trudeau's) comments are maladroit and troubling..."

And at the MIT memorial today for the campus cop shot by the Boston bombers, VP Biden disavowed any hint of a "cause" for terror; the alleged perpetrators were simply "twisted, perverted, and cowardly."

Biden might be right. And this might be what twists and perverts them.

Drone strikes provoke "intense anger and growing hatred of America."

And we thought they just hated us for our freedoms...

Madonna is not the only western witch with a hex on Malawi

It's the other one that Joyce Banda should be worried about.

Banda drew great accolades for her recent diss of the globe-trotting do-gooder Madonna. If only she had the courage to be so forthright with that other witch from the west, IMF boss Christine Lagarde. Instead, Banda has obligingly "opened up" to IMF blandishments on the ever-popular "structural adjustments" universally demanded of the poor nations by the rich nations.

Banda's major achievement as leader, economistically speaking, has been a devaluation of the Malwian currency. That may have pleased the overlords at the IMF, but has displeased the vast majority of the populace, who have seen their cost of living rise by over 20%.

That's why the public spat with Madonna was such an image boost for Banda. She is a strong African leader who won't be talked down to by rich white celebrities.

But she is quite content to take her marching orders from the rich white bankers at the IMF.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Canada's National Post; a nest of anti-semites?

Look how they take the soft-ball approach to the clear and present danger of children throwing stones at IDF troops in the West Bank.

This article practically oozes empathy for the stone throwers.

Call it Amira Hass syndrome.

And of course the use of the word "attack" with respect to the assault on the Mavi Marmara is beyond the pale.

That's why the Israeli government has apologized for the incident and an Israeli delegation is in Turkey negotiating compensation even as I write this.

And contrary to the claims of Honest Reporting Canada, the maximum sentence for a Palestinian child throwing stones at an IDF soldier is not 15 months in prison.

It's a bullet through the head.

The brazen fear-mongering of Canada's Conservative government

Last Friday the Harper government added to Monday's parliamentary agenda debate over Bill S-7, which has been stuck in the bureaucratic maze for months. Bill S-7 promises a few goodies that are dear to the hearts of Harper's law-and-order fanatics. More police powers, fewer rights for citizens.

On Monday, while the parliamentary debate was underway and hours after they had scheduled a news conference, the RCMP arrested two terror suspects who had been under surveillance for at least a year and by the RCMP's own admission were not an immediate threat.

Such serendipitous timing cannot be mere coincidence.

Such craven manipulation of the public, the parliamentary process, the media, and the police is unprecedented in modern Canada.

At their afternoon press conference the RCMP shocked the nation with the news that no less a terror hegemon than al-Qaeda itself was behind this plot to attack a passenger train. And not just any old al-Qaeda; al-Qaeda in Iran!

The greatest state sponsor of terror in the world, according to our friends in Israel. A nation so far beyond the pale of civilized discourse that our own John Baird slapped them with the closure of our embassy six months ago, a move that baffled the professional diplomatic corps in Canada and beyond

In Canada, the Tory publicity stunt had the desired effect; acres of hysterical hand-wringing across the news horizon.

In media outlets around the world there was a tone of skepticism. Experts everywhere puzzled over this Iranian al-Qaeda which was ostensibly directing terror operations in Canada. A previously unknown branch of al-Qaeda choosing a target that has been absolutely terror-free since 9/11.

Unknown for the simple reason that the Sunni al-Qaeda has always been an enemy of Shiite Iran and vise versa.

But for Harper, Baird, Toews, MacKay and the rest of the paranoid hate-mongers in the Conservative cabinet, it was mission accomplished.

Not only had they brought terror front and centre in a country that doesn't have any; they managed to implicate Iran!

And that's got to be a home run in the eyes of Ottawa's law and order crowd.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mounties bust major al-Qaeda conspiracy in Canada!

Have to say I tried to keep an open mind on this story.

Yes, maybe for the first time the RCMP and CSIS have uncovered a Canadian terror plot that didn't originate with the RCMP or CSIS.

Maybe we've got a REAL terror plot here, one that doesn't involve sketchy informants being paid millions of dollars to coax the "terrorists" along, as was the case with the Toronto 18.

Maybe this is the real deal?

Then I ran headlong into this; "the suspects were getting guidance and direction from al Qaeda elements in Iran."

Al-Qaeda elements in Iran? The only al-Qaeda elements in Iran are locked in secret prisons having their fingernails plucked with pliers.

Al-Qaeda is a Saudi franchise, not an Iranian one.

This doesn't pass the sniff test from a hundred miles.

It does however neatly fold into the Harper gang's agenda of demonizing  Iran.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Friends of Syria club shrinking rapidly

When the "Friends of  Syria" gathered in Turkey with US Secretary of State John Kerry to brainstorm next steps this weekend, a mere eleven friends bothered to send representatives.

There seems to be concern among many former friends that being a "friend" of the Syrian opposition means being a friend of al-Qaeda. This has become an increasingly awkward optics problem for the US in the year since the al-Nusra Front came to prominence.

Without the involvement of the extremists, the armed struggle against Assad would have collapsed long ago. Yet the US thinks it that it can continue to quarterback the anti-Assad forces with the nonsensical claim that it only sends "humanitarian" aid to the rebels.

Today Kerry announced another $123 million in "non-lethal" aid that will include armored vehicles and night-vision goggles, but America's hands remain clean because the actual guns and bullets are delivered to al-Qaeda by US proxies.

Meanwhile, Turkish journo Murat Yetkin invokes the Malian template as a model for direct intervention. While things appear to be moving in that direction, (note the assignment of an American HQ unit to Jordan in the past two weeks) there is an obvious flaw in the Mali model.

It hasn't worked.

Hey kids! Tired of dealing dope? Try gun-trafficking instead!

In the finest tradition of yellow journalism the Toronto Star has been extra busy informing tens of thousands of gangstas and wannabees just how easy it is to buy a gun in the US and smuggle it into Canada.

Starstruck with the future prospect of journalism awards (best investigative series of 2013?), the writers and editors reveal the lucrative secrets of the underground gun pipeline. Time and again we are told that a handgun bought for $150 in Florida or Alabama will fetch ten times that amount on the streets of Toronto.

If any would-be entrepreneurs on those Toronto streets hadn't thought of entering the gun trade before, they're probably on their way to Florida today. Who needs to peddle drugs when gun trafficking is so easy and so much more lucrative?

Thank you Toronto Star!

That's the paper Hemingway once wrote for, in case you don't know!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

America's bumboy in Paraguay destined for presidency

The party of Alfredo Stroessner is favored to win tomorrow's election in Paraguay.

Horacio Cartes is certainly not the favorite of the poor or the working classes or the aboriginal peoples of the land, but he is favored in Washington.

And we all know that's what counts.

That's how democracy is supposed to work.

Top Harvard economists get caught making stuff up and nobody cares

Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff are the Crosby and Ovechkin of economics.

A few years ago they wrote a book that provided the indisputable proof that the likes of Angela Merkel et al need to justify the austerity enema.

Economies just can't grow if they have too much debt.

That's music to the ears of slash and burn right-wing politicians everywhere.

"See! Your pension and your wage and your benefits are crippling the economy! We gotta cut back now!!!!... "

So along comes an economics student a few years later and tries to replicate their theoretic models. He tries and he tries with no success.

Finally he respectfully requests their original data. They oblige.

And their model still doesn't work!

In other words, the link between their research and their conclusion is mostly imaginary.

One would like to think that the revelation of such nefarious hijinx would result in outrage, opprobrium, loss of tenure... something.

Instead, it has resulted in next to nothing. Krugman writes about it in his blog and that's about the extent of the outrage and opprobrium.

There are of course very sound reasons why mainstream media are happy to let this story float by.

Mainstream media is owned by the same folks who think your pension and your wages are way too generous.

More austerity please!

Why the FBI was so quick to i.d. the Boston Bombers

Because they've been tracking them for years!

Sound familiar? How many of the 9/11 19 had been tracked for years before September 2001?

Does this speak to the efficiency of the FBI or the incompetence of the FBI?

No spurs yet, but a camel for Hollande

The biggest news story out of Mali in the past week was that the grateful dark people have presented Hollande with a new camel.

This is to replace the last camel that the grateful dark people presented to Hollande, which was unfortunately eaten by the (obviously hungry) dark people entrusted with its care.

Dark people will do that.

But where are the spurs?

When Hollande launched this ill-advised adventure, the unctuous imbecile BHL was crowing about Hollande's remake as a man of action. Hollande was "earning his spurs."

That struck me as fatuous nonsense then, and it remains fatuous nonsense.

Hollande's poll numbers at home are plummeting. In Mali they eat his camel. His allies have abandoned him. His stretched-too-thin boots on the African ground keep liberating the same towns over and over again.

And all the while his treasury bleeds red ink.

At least he has a new camel for consolation.

Big Bernie and Johnny Death court disaster with their pig-headed arrogance

There is no legitimate reason for F-1 to proceed with the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Todt and Ecclestone want to maintain the charade that their Formula One circus is above or beyond politics.

When it takes thousands of troops to keep rioting mobs from disrupting a race event, it has not only become political, but the race organizers have effectively chosen sides.

While the House of Khalifa craves the aura of first-world legitimacy that they think the race bestows on their kingdom, the reality is that this controversy is delegitimizing Formula One itself.

From a purely business point of view that should be enough for Todt and Ecclestone to cancel the race.

No politics required.

Friday, April 19, 2013

I've got a torture film and a GTO

You've got to admit that Iggy had America nailed.

Way before Abu Ghraib and Gitmo.

But you know where he got it wrong?

The GTO.

Torture lives but the GTO is dead.

That latest iteration of the GTO, some unseemly import from Australia, didn't exactly rain glory on the brand.

From the early days of the 389 tri-power, the GTO meant something. It symbolized an insecure America showing the bulge in her pants.

The Ruskies had put a man into orbit before America. They were way ahead of us in the missile race, or so we were lead to believe.

But we had the GTO and they had what?

The GTO let America feel good about America long before Ronald Reagan whupped the Commies in Grenada.

Fifty years later the GTO is dead.

And Obama can't figure out how to close Gitmo.

Tangled webs; Gwyn Morgan, SNC-Lavalin, Cynthia Vanier and Muammar Gaddafi

Must admit I was thrilled to hear that Cynthia Vanier is getting herself out of a Mexican prison.

What that means is the payola finally got to the judge in the case.

Not that this should be any reflection on the veracity of Cynthia's case; everybody knows that the ebb and flow of bakteesh in Mexico ebbs and flows quite independently of a person's innocence or guilt.

Rather, it ebbs and flows in accordance with the depth of the pockets of those ensnared in the Mexican judicial system.

In Cynthia's case, those pockets were deemed deep indeed.

On the one hand, you had the Muammar Gaddafi clan, universally known as the biggest kleptocrats in history.

On the other, you had the SNC-Lavalin conglomerate, the poster-boys of post-colonial corruption, headed up by the anti-corruption sermonizer Gwyn Morgan.

With such a stellar cast lurking in the background, it's no wonder that it took the Mexican authorities a year and a half to come to a satisfactory settlement.

Me and Cynthia are practically next-door neighbors. An hour down the road qualifies as "next door" in these parts. I'll be having her over soon for a cup of tea, or a pint or two, and we'll get to the bottom of this story.

Diplomatic world baffled as Canada names PM's gardener as next ambassador to Netherlands

The head gardener at 24 Sussex Drive was today announced as the next Canadian Ambassador to the Netherlands.

Dietrich Van Dijk has been Chief Groundskeeper at the PM's residence since John Diefenbaker hired him in 1958.

Opposition critics were quick to point out that Mr. Van Dijk is 92 years old and may not have the faculties to stay on top of the harried agenda of a diplomatic posting.

A spokesman for the PMO wasted no time in debunking those claims.

" Mr. Van Dijk has been punching above his weight for well over fifty years. And he really knows tulips. They have a lot of gardens in Holland, and especially a lot of tulips. The Prime Minister has every confidence that this appointment will enhance Canada's prestige in  the Low Countries and also in the High Countries of Europe. After all, it's not as if our Ambassadors are expected to do anything."

Canada names PM's housekeeper next ambassador to Saudi Arabia

The PMO today announced that Maria Cristina Reyes will be Canada's next ambassador to Saudi Arabia. 

Reyes has been head of housekeeping at 24 Sussex drive since 2006. During her tenure she is credited for whipping the housekeeping staff into shape. 

"Under Reyes the housekeeping staff at the PM's residence became an elite unit," an anonymous staffer said, "they can hold their own with any housekeepers in the world and they often punch above their weight."

The PMO spokesman dismissed opposition claims that Reyes status as an undocumented Filipino disqualified her from taking a diplomatic post.

"The fact that Filipino housekeepers make up a substantial percentage of the Saudi population makes Maria uniquely qualified for this assignment, and we consider her a more than able candidate to represent Canada's interests in Saudi Arabia and the broader Arab world."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

From Boston to Baghdad; terror here and there

CNN has been pretty much 24/7 all over the Boston Marathon bombs for the past couple of days.

Three dead. That is a vile defilement of America's innocence.

They've barely had time to cover today's Baghdad bombing.

Twenty-seven dead and counting.

Not to mention yesterday's Baghdad bombings. Or those of the day before. Or the day before that.

Crazy thing is, Baghdad didn't have random terror bombings before we liberated those people from themselves.

Which is not to suggest that Boston is in any way justifiable or excusable. It most definitely is not.

But neither is Baghdad. 


Musharraf goes from "running for President" to "running for my life" in 30 seconds

This must be the most remarkable manifestation of over-confidence since Baby Doc voluntarily returned to Haiti a couple of years ago.

What are these guys thinking?


Lucky Canadians get chance to buy into the manufacturer of Ski-Doos for first time in a decade

That's no doubt something Canadians have been clamouring for...

In my morning Globe and Mail Tim Kiladze is so excited about this news that he tells me twice. He also tells me that

Typically, private equity investors such as Bain prefer to hold their investments for five to seven years and then either sell them to another private investor, or exit through a public offering. However, BRP's "liquidity event," as it is known on Bay Street, has been delayed for years because the company  hit a rough spot in the aftermath of the financial crisis, when fewer consumers wanted to purchase new snowmobiles and watercraft.

That certainly is an informative paragraph. Hedge funds "prefer" to hold for five to seven years? Where does Kiladze glean this tidbit from? Bain and everybody else sees five to seven as an unfortunate reality if you couldn't get out in two or three. Six months is even better.

IPO's are known as "liquidity events?" Who knew? Maybe Bay Street has succumbed to the mandarin's syndrome of using six syllables where three have always been perfectly adequate, as in "go public" or "IPO."

But I don't want to belabour little issues. Kiladze does provide us with some useful info; the Bain ownership group paid themselves a special dividend of $310 million in 2006, another special dividend of $376 million last year, and will take "an additional dividend" of $155 million before the IPO closes.

That adds up to $841 million that the ownership group, led by Bain, will have taken out of the company in ten years.

To say nothing of management and consulting fees.

What our intrepid Globe and Mail reporter neglects to report is what Bain paid for Ski-Doo, or BRP as it is now known.

That number was $875 million US. Of the purchase price only about $150 million was cash.

In other words, Bain and their partners had doubled their initial investment within three years. Last year's $376 million payout was gravy on the gravy, and the $155 million yet to come is the cherry on top.

And believe it or not, the story gets even better. For Bain.

Here's a final quote from Tim Kiladze;

While BRP is offering Canadians the chance to invest in the turnaround, the private equity backers are not relinquishing control. The shares being offered are subordinate voting shares... public investors who buy into the IPO will not be entitled to dividends.

So after about a 500% return on their investment, Bain gets to flog the dregs in a IPO... oh, I meant to say a "liquidity event," and still gets to keep control of the cash flow, management fees, etc.

And I get a chance to have a piece of this?

I'm in! Where do I sign up?


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

US prepares for occupation of Syria

What else could this mean?

You only send out a HQ unit if they're going to have something to command.

Coming from the semi-official American propaganda outfit, I think we can take this at face value.

There's been a skeleton force of "advisers" and "trainers" and CIA types on the ground in Jordan all along. Sending in an official command unit can only mean one thing.

Obama is getting serious about Syria.

US taxpayers to fork over another $400 million for Israel's imaginary missile defence system

There's nothing wrong with Iron Dome.

It works.

So the news that America is slipping her bestie in the ME another 400 mil for more Iron Dome batteries  isn't that big a deal.

After all, our besties are the only sort-of democracy in the Middle East.

And if you're not prepared to squander hundreds of millions on that sort-of fact, what the hell else would you squander that money on?

Education?

Health care?

Infrastructure?

Let's get serious...

But I digress. Back to Iron Dome.

Iron Dome does indeed work. The five operational batteries en situ today will have an 80-90% success rate in knocking incoming missiles out of the sky... for about the first five minutes of a serious conflagration with, oh, just for the sake of debate, Iran.

Then Iron Dome will have exhausted it's supply of ready-to-fire anti-missile missiles.

The $400 millions promised by the Americans today will extend that five minute protection umbrella by a couple of minutes at the most.

Is there a serious person anywhere who thinks there will not be more missiles incoming after seven or eight minutes? Or hours? Or days?

That's why Iron Dome is and always has been bullshit. It provides a false sense of security and enriches certain military contractors.

In the long run the only security is making peace with the neighbors.

If only the Americans were willing to subsidize that.




Tip your cap for the passing of a REAL Iron Lady

Rita MacNeil passed away yesterday.

Born during the last great war in one of the poorest corners of Canada, Rita was up against it from the beginning.

She overcame enormous odds to make it to the big leagues of the entertainment biz. Never got to see her live, although I did try once.

Back in the day Ontario Place used to put on concerts that were included in the admission price. I took my dear children, who were maybe five and eight years old at the time, for an afternoon at OP, thinking we'd have a great day at the park and then settle in for the MacNeil concert at the Ontario Place Forum at eight o'clock.

By six o'clock my darlings were exhausted and crabby, and getting crabbier by the minute. Even though they'd had a great afternoon, they were done for the day.

I had to choose between my children and Rita MacNeil.

I'm still hoping Rita would understand.

Sea-doo, Ski-doo, dog-poo... avoid this Bain IPO at all costs

The Ski-doo folks still make some sexy stuff. There's nothing like racing an avalanche down a mountain on a 300 horsepower snowmobile! Youtube has all sorts of that stuff., and every once in awhile when the avalanche wins it makes headlines in the mainstream.

But don't let that make you think the pending BRP IPO is something you'd want to touch with a twenty foot pole.

Bain Capital has had controlling interest in the Ski-doo brand for ten years. In that time they've been busy slashing wages, offshoring manufacturing, and loading the company up with debt. Bain's track record shows they get an A+ for making money for Bain and a D- for building viable companies.

We'll have to see the particulars of the IPO, but I'm guessing the only folks who'll make money on this are Bain and the guys smart enough to go massive short right off the get-go.

Pot-addled hillbilly blogger called todays AAPL drop months ago

As in last August, September, November, and most recently six weeks ago.

At the time, I believe my exact words were "at $430 Apple still has a long way to drop."

But don't worry, it'll be dropping further even after today!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How to tell if your teen has been smoking marijuana

I've tried all the tips you get from the "how to raise a perfect family" magazine articles.

Mood swings. Teens are big on mood swings whether they've been smoking weed or not. Doesn't mean a thing.

Glazed and bloodshot eyes. Maybe, but maybe it's a cat allergy making itself known. You can't make a federal case out of something that might be a cat allergy.

Loss of interest in school performance. High school is so god-awfully lame these days that I'd be suspicious of any teen who hasn't lost interest.

No, there is but one sure-fire way to tell if your kid has been smoking pot; if your stash is inexplicably disappearing and there is no other plausible explanation.

Kipling hasn't been over for a visit.

Your brother who last passed a urine test in 1973 hasn't been over for a visit.

The local Green Party candidate hasn't been over for a visit.

But still the stash is getting smaller.

Look for my next self-help column; "how to hide your stash from your thieving pot-head teen," coming soon.

Bixi bamboozle to cost Toronto millions

Seemed like a good idea on paper. Bike kiosks every few blocks where green-minded citizens could rent a bike whenever the mood seized them.

Apparently the mood doesn't seize them nearly often enough. Either that or there's a lot of Torontonians talking the green talk but not following through by pedaling the green bike.

The good news is that Toronto looks like it might be able to limit its losses to somewhere in the $5 million range. When I wrote about Bixi's Montreal "Schwindle" a year and a half ago, those folks were on the hook for over a hundred million!

I think the difference is due to the absence of all those intermediaries that they have in Montreal; you know, those Italian guys who have a finger in all City of Montreal contracts and pedal around with hundreds of thousands of dollars in their socks.

Monday, April 15, 2013

This is what industrial action needs to look like

It's like the independent trucker scenario; three quarters of the guys go out on a job action, and the quarter who remain suddenly find themselves with a bonanza of work!

But you have to hand it to the lads out there in Hickman's Harbour. They still remember old school job action, and they're putting on a educational seminar on how things are supposed to work.

While we're not in the league of those Chinese workers who have been tossing the recalcitrant factory managers off the plant roof, at least we're not doing the patented CLC-approved roll-over.

Hollande all alone in Mali after Chad Pres declares "mission accomplished"

Francois Hollande, aka "the Conqueror," aka "the Crusader," is finding things getting a little lonely in "Operation Spurs for Hollande."

France's only ally in the ill-advised (well, BHL advised it, so I'm sure at some level it must have been a stroke of genius) Mali adventure has served notice that the Chadians are outta there. Yup, President Idriss Deby may be black, but he's not stupid and he's not consumed with hallucinations of restoring past glory to his nation.

Unlike Hollande and his top military adviser Bernard-Henri Levy.

So now the French are good and stuck...

Look for AFRICOM to ride to the rescue real soon!

Hagel robs drone pilots of hero medal

You're a nineteen year old kid sitting in an air-conditioned trailer in the Nevada desert. You watch the screen for hours and hours and hours.

Finally you click a mouse, and on the other side of the world a bad guy gets splattered to his reward. Or maybe a bad guy and his family. Or maybe just his family if the bad guy wasn't home. Or just some innocent family if the intelligence chain made a mistake.

Whatever. But you've risked eye-strain and headaches doing your part to keep freedom and democracy free and democratic.

Not too long ago the Pentagon was getting ready to recognize your sacrifices with the Distinguished Warfare Medal.

Then the pinkos and the commies and the liberals and America-haters of all stripes started up a hate-fest against the bold X-Box Special Ops who were risking so much.

And today Chuck Hagel revealed his true colors by caving in to the America-haters and cancelling the Distinguished Warfare Medal.

Shame!

US drone strikes radicalizing a new generation

Don't take my word for it, read it at CNN.

But nobody can figure out why they hate us.

The Boston bombing; who would want to harm America?

You can see where the folks at Fox are going to have a field day with this one.

"The enemy within."

And a thousand variations of that trope.

Who would want to harm America?

Who has America harmed in the last generation or two? Mind you, the folks "over there,"  the "other," the "Towelheads," our victims... all those folks have been known to hang on to a grudge for much longer than a generation or two.

So whether this is another case of America's chickens coming home to roost, or just generic blow-back for a poisonous American foreign policy that has terrorized much of the world for the last fifty-plus years, only liars and stupid people can claim they didn't see it coming.

What will America's reaction be?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The dark side of credentialism

You mean there's a bright side?

No, there isn't. But there's an overriding assumption in society that those who have more credentials have more cred.

Here's a perfect example. Robyn Allan is an opponent of pipeline development. About 12 paragraphs from the end of that link you'll see that one of the big pipeliners has cast aspersions on her qualifications to oppose a pipeline because she only has an M.A. in economics, whereas the pipeliners have hired on plenty of economists with Ph.D's to vouch for them.

Back in one of my previous lives I remember some sort of environmental hearing, wherein all assembled were discussing the pros and cons of a proposed residential development in what had hitherto been a farm field. On this particular occasion I was against the proposal, although I am inclined to be pro-development when I have skin in the game.

The locals figured common sense was going to prevail here, but they didn't count on the developers having "experts."

The secret weapon we had to defeat the development proposal was the "it'll mess up the wildlife" card. Deer, foxes, raccoons, and rabbits would all be inconvenienced if a subdivision were to be plunked down in a pasture that they had freely traversed for generations.

Maybe even millenia.

That's a pretty strong card to play in the NIMBY game.

So the developers bring in this guy with a Ph.D. in Zoology, who, as an expert witness, claims that the rabbits and the raccoons and the foxes and the whatever have never traversed this property, because the ridge (if I'm not mistaken, the technical term was "esker") behind the subject property would have prevented it.

That was immediately identified as whole-cloth bullshit by everybody in the room. The rabbits can't hop up a hill?

But wait a minute... the guy who made that ludicrous statement had a doctorate in zoology!

Good enough!

That sub-division is a thriving and sought-after enclave just north-west of Guelph today, thanks to that expert witness with the appropriate credentials.

So I don't know if I entirely agree with Ms. Allan's take on pipelines, but I do know it is utter foolishness to ascribe more credibility to someone who has more credentials.

After all, what's to tell the difference between someone who has a masters degree in economics and someone who has a doctorate?

Often the only difference is that the parents of the Ph.D. had deeper pockets.

Lara Logan and 60 Minutes team up with AFRICOM for thrilling Kony episode

The first thing that grabbed my attention was the claim that the Lord's Resistance Army represents a significant "emerging threat" to the US.

Huh?

Luckily they dropped that bombshell in the first few seconds, so at least you know you're in Bullshit City right away. Nothing worse than thinking you're watching objective news programming for half an hour before you figure out you're being had.

The Ugandan Special Ops are, according to the program, close enough to Kony that they can track him and his few dozen remaining acolytes by their fresh footprints.

If these guys are a threat to the US, America is well beyond any hope.

But we do need to throw a bit of a scary story out there in prime time just to get the idiot public onside for the rapidly expanding role of AFRICOM in the re-liberation of the dark continent.

Frankly, I thought that from the point of view of aesthetics, Lara's prominent bosoms provided a great visual counterpoint to those folks missing their ears and lips.

And of course there was not a word about the dismal human rights record of our friend and ally President Museveni.

Wherever the law creates an opportunity, the desperate will exploit it

Smuggling has been with us forever.

Over the last twenty years or so cigarette smuggling has become one of the drivers of economic sustainability among some First Nations in Canada. In fact, on some reservations it's become the main driver.

The Montreal Gazette provides a reasonably fair and balanced overview of the business. While they do have the obligatory reference to really bad (white) gangsters, they acknowledge that this is a business run by and for First Nations.

And the overall tone of the article is remarkably non-judgmental.

Which is as it should be. Chief Simon is merely following in the footsteps of the Kennedys and the Bronfmans. You do what you have to do, and when circumstances permit, you go legit.

One thing that Gazette story doesn't spell out is how that Akwesasne reservation came by the high-tech cigarette manufacturing machinery that allowed them to get into the game in the first place. Imperial Tobacco, manufacturers of 70% of the cigarettes smoked in Canada, used to have cigarette factories in Montreal and five hours down the road in Guelph, Ontario.

Being a world-class multinational, Imperial Tobacco was constantly on the lookout for ways to cut the labour component of their cigarette costs. They did this by constantly upgrading their cigarette-making machinery.

The old machinery, still absolutely workable, was routinely sold for its scrap value at a junk-yard near Montreal. Somewhere along the line the proprietor of said junk-yard had an epiphany.

"Maybe there's somebody who would pay a premium for this machinery. After all, it still works... maybe I could get more out of it than the scap metal value?..."

He found someone who was willing to pay more than the scrap metal value, and the rest is history. I think that's what's called a win-win. A nice windfall for the scrap dealer; a viable business opportunity for the First Nations.

Alas, the "tough-on-crime" gang in Ottawa seems determined to put an end to this happy story.

A night full of dreams

I'm in places that were familiar in my youth but are foreign... I know where I am but I don't know how to get home. I wait for buses/trains/trams that never come. Oh, buses trains and trams come and go constantly, but never the one I'm waiting for.

People seem to know me but they are strangers.

I navigate endless corridors through abandoned factories and department stores. Idle machinery, entire floors of once-grand stores with the displays intact but covered with cobwebs and dust.

Up and down ladders and stairways and walking past a concrete crew that chases me off their fresh cement... my phone won't work. I'm trying to call home but my phone won't work.

I'M CALLING HOME BUT MY PHONE WON'T WORK!

I can hear the echo of the familiar... but I'm not sure where I am...

Buckle up and put the pedal to the metal dude! It's just early laps in the Alzheimer 500!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The do-gooder's comeuppance II

There's a gal who lives about an hour away from here who used to be a nun.

A bride of Christ.

That entails taking a vow of celibacy and committing your life to doing God's work on earth. Not something to be taken lightly.

And she didn't take it lightly. She was at once thrilled and distressed when God Himself, speaking through several layers of earthly intermediaries of course, commanded her to move to Peru, there to spread the gospel of Christ among the indigenous people and win souls for the Lord.

That's a tall order. Many of the indigenous people there still recall the tales that have been handed down from generation to generation about the horrific consequences that followed the first collision of indigenous culture and the gospel of Christ.

It wasn't pretty.

Nevertheless our dear daughter of Christ heeded the call and soon found herself ministering to the heathens in Peru.

Not too long after, she found herself falling in love with one of those aboriginal heathens.

Not too long after that, she found herself quitting the nunnery, marrying said heathen, and sponsoring the object of her affections to come to Canada, which he did.

He got busy sponsoring myriad relatives, heathen and non-heathen, aboriginal and not-so-much, to come to Canada.

He set up a restaurant in Waterloo where his vast network of newly arrived relatives could work.

Before long he was spending all his time with his "relatives" and none with his wife.

While it took her a few years to "smell the coffee," as they say, she now realizes she should have stuck with Jesus.

My Kenya connection; the do-gooder's comeuppance

Hey, Obama isn't the only one with a Kenya connection...

So there was this guy I've known since I was eleven or twelve years old. Friend of the family who eventually married into the family.

Nice guy in every way. Artist.

Years after he married into the family he and his bride became the CIDA reps in Kenya. That got them a grand house in Nairobi, servants galore, the whole colonial enchilada.

Given that they were humble Christian folk all that grandeur, while pleasant, disturbed them at some level. They decided to make amends, with their own consciences if not with the arc of history, by sponsoring as many of their Kenyan staff to emigrate to Canada as they possibly could.

One of their Kenyan proteges decided to open a restaurant in Ottawa. A little slice of exotica right there in Canada's capital. He needed a few hundred thousands in start-up capital.

Being the trusting sort of folks they were, the artist and his bride sunk their life savings into the restaurant venture of their Kenyan protege.

The restaurant opened to decent reviews and decent traffic. There was, however, a fly in the ointment.

Unbeknownst to them, their Kenyan protege had for many years been hearing an inner voice telling him that his true calling was to be a professional bicycle racer on the European pro circuit.

As all of us who are fortunate enough to hear such an inner voice must eventually do, he finally heeded the voice.

Goodbye restaurant.

Hello Rund um Koln.

From the relatives who follow his career I am given to understand that he specializes in the DNF.

As for the folks who sunk their life savings into his restaurant, they are now specializing in working 90 hours a week and learning the finer points of Kenyan cuisine in a desperate attempt to salvage their retirement funds.

Binyavanga Wainaina rips forth a brilliant riposte to Madonna

Every once in a while I read something so scintillatingly clever I wish I'd written it myself. Here it is in its entirety. 

An open letter to Madonna
Madonna visiting school children in Chorwe, Malawi
Madonna visiting schoolchildren in Chorwe, Malawi in April. Photograph: AP
Dear Madonna,
I wish to thank you for being a caring mother to all the children of Malawi, to all the children of Africa. I wish to thank you for all your money too. Africa is deeply invested in your love of us, in the schools you build, and in the central place in the world you have afforded Africa by choosing us!
I would like to ask you a favour. Please forgive President Joyce Banda for all those nasty things somebody said on her behalf about you.
If Malawi has been ungrateful and treated you badly, you must know my country Kenya has orphans too.
Kenya specialises in making tourists feel very happy and at home, dancing around an African fire, drinking gin and making happy sounds in the middle of herds of animals and on beaches.
It's been well over a century since we met your people, and since then Africa's relationship with the western world has gone from strength to strength. Today, bad people, like those from China, Brazil and India are coming to Africa to bring colonialism back by buying our minerals and crops at good market prices and giving us cheapish loans for infrastructure.
But some of us Africans are deeply committed to the values Europe and the west brings to us: like democracy, human rights and lots and lots of cold hard cash for human rights workers and civil society and anything, really, that does things like Sustainability, Empowerment and most of all, Capacity Building – which, as you know is very, very important for Africa's future especially as it is tax free and comes with per diems and conference allowances. Imagine what your money would do in Kenya! We have cannier auditors than the Malawians.
Those countries, Brics as they are called, who think development is about bridges, roads, rail and electricity are not investing in democracy. Europe and the west, they have a simple way of developing Africa. They give money to do something called Institution-Building. They find activists who can start pro-democracy organisations with massive budgets. These civil society activists like to make social-change soap operas about a thing called Governance, which is very important for Africa because Africans are corrupt and illiterate and need a lot of gentle lectures from western institutions about how to unthreateningly and firmly and nicely talk to the grassroots and show them the best way to choose their leaders. African people, of course, cannot make good decisions.
Civil society organisations spend most of the time writing reports, managing reports, making pre-reports, drinking with funders (advocacy) – but this is the best way to ensure a thing called Transparency – which is important because the reports go to Europe for custody where they are put in a museum for safekeeping because the grassroots are too stupid to know what documentation and transparency mean but when the wild grassroots learn to become a dutiful and dependant lawn, mother Europe will transfer the files.
Sorry Madonna, I digress. As a civil society activist working on the African girl child I would love to talk with you about coming to Kenya where the girl child needs you very much. She is surrounded by wild animals! And corruption!
Kenya is full of vibrant organisations who make wonderful reports but who struggle to get Kenyans to listen to them because Kenyans need a lot of European funding to become ready for democracy and more and more institutions need to be built until the fools learn. Those rebellious Kenyans who keep wanting to do business with the Brics need a good awareness workshop and some focus goups!
Meanwhile, Nato and America will circle our shores to protect us from bad Asians and South Americans. Invest your love Madonna. Invest in love for Africa. For … for our children. Much Love.

Globe and Mail back-pedaling on Royal Bank's foreign worker scandal

The Globe and Mail seems to be in damage control re: the story that embarrassed one of Canada's iconic bastions of capitalism last week. Two of the paper's heavy hitters have opinion pieces in today's edition that go to credibility-stretching lengths to downplay the substance of that scandal.

Doug Saunders has it neatly wrapped up. The real problem with outsourcing is that we need the foreign workers to stick around longer. After all, we were all temporary foreign workers at one time, according to Doug.

His fatuous reference to guest workers in Germany in the 1960's neglects to mention that the West German economy had full employment at the time, a phenomenon starkly absent from the Canadian situation today. Were Canada in full employment Saunders might have a point. It isn't and he doesn't.

Then we've got Margaret Wente, The Globe' s in-house plagiarist. She spins a compelling yarn about how it's not avaricious managers displacing workers with their opportunistic abuse of the TFW program; it's technology!

Yup, it's all about computers and algorithms. The entire effort smacks suspiciously of the glib foolishness that Don Tapscott has been peddling for at least twenty years.

Oddly enough, once we leave the opinion pages The Globe has buried another article about the Temporary Foreign Worker program deep in the business section.

Finally we get to the meat and potatoes of the matter. Quoting several actual economists, Tavia Grant informs us that the TFW program displaces Canadian workers and drives down Canadian wages... which is so blatantly obvious that even a pot-addled hillbilly blogger figured it out ages ago.

And that's why Canadians are pissed off about the Royal Bank firing Canadian workers and outsourcing their jobs.

Oh-oh... now you're REALLY f@cked; Cameron and Merkel vow to keep up Thatcher's great work!

Here's a headline that's guaranteed to set a hundred million sphincters into involuntary spasms;

"Cameron and Merkel call for urgent action to make EU flexible and competitive."

That's British PM David Cameron, the unctuous twat who truly believes Thatcher saved his country, and Angela Merkel, she of the "austerity enema" that has been setting the EU economy right for several years now.

Flexible and competitive. Indeed! Maggie could have written that headline herself. We all need to be flexible and competitive of course, because there's a less fortunate, more hungry person somewhere willing to do our job for less.

Posing for a photo-op at Merkel's Alpine retreat, the "Berghof," the leaders agreed that it is up to them to show "global leadership."

Be afraid...

Guatemala confronts a dark chapter

That's the title of a recent essay  at CNN by Mariano Castillo, writing about the trial of former Reagan favorite Rios Montt on charges of genocide.

Castillo makes a couple of grudging nods in the direction of the "critics who claim Washington turned a blind eye" to the excesses committed in the name of stamping out a leftist insurgency. In the interest of balanced reporting he points out more than once that the US can also take credit for the fact that this trial is now happening, for without the US, the judicial reforms that made the trial possible would not have happened.

All in all, it's a splendid whitewash of America's role in Guatemala's internal war.

In the second half of the twentieth century dark chapters were being written all over Central and South America and beyond. Rios Montt was one of many script assistants in the writing of those chapters, but the creative geniuses, the men with the vision, the head writers if you will, were all in Washington.

Some of them are still alive. If Guatemala can confront a dark chapter, perhaps America can too.

I await the trial of Henry Kissinger.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ding dong the bitch is dead

I'm from an era where expressing glee over the demise of an adversary was considered poor form.

An era when "poor form" still meant something.

Apparently it doesn't mean anything anymore.

BBC seem to have a conundrum on their hands; are they going to play the number one hit of the week on their weekly hits show? The number one hit this week is that number from the Wizard of Oz.

Ding dong the witch is dead.

Far more shocking than the bile of her detractors is the unmitigated adulation of her supporters.

PM Cameron speaks for a substantial minority when he says Thatcher saved Britain. The disaster that David Cameron is presiding over today is 100% the product of Mrs. Thatcher.

And it is a disaster. If Britain keeps her current course, she will be the Greece of next year or the year after.

The thesis that the de-industrialization of Britain was an inevitability is bullshit from stem to stern. Given a different set of lights to guide the ship of state by, Britain could have saved her coal mines, her ship-building industry, her steel industry, and the entire industrial working class.

But once you drink the neo-liberal free-trade kool-aid nothing is doable if somebody somewhere can do it cheaper.

So Maggie set out to make Britain the place where finance hi-jinx was cheapest, and yes, the financial sector blossomed. The Rumpelstiltskin economy of the City eclipsed everything else.

Until it drove what was left of the rest of the economy into the ground.

Thatcher did not save Britain. Thatcher presided over the destruction of Britain. I can well see why so many want to celebrate instead of mourn.

Cellphone syndrome

Last week an investigation into the fatal crash of a medivac helicopter in Missouri revealed that the pilot had been texting at the time of the accident.

Google "texting car crash" and you'll get millions of results. Folks who would never dream of getting behind the wheel after a glass of wine has passed their lips think nothing of sending half a dozen texts on the way home from work.

A teacher at the local high school tells me that students are so cell-addicted that the devices have become a regular feature in every classroom all the time. There is an official policy against using cellphones in the classroom, but there is no enforcement, and students often become abusive if a teacher asks that they shut their phone off.

Somebody is profiting from this digital opium. Look at that high school for a minute. A thousand students. Nine out of ten have cellphones. If we postulate an average fifty bucks a month, which I'm guessing is extremely conservative, we're seeing $45,000 wafting out of the building into cyberspace every month.

Fifteen years ago the equivalent number was zero.

If the student body at a smallish rural high school was spending $45,000 a month on drugs, there would be a public outcry and a Royal Inquiry. Commissions and task forces would be struck. Editorials would be penned by the dozen. Political campaigns left and right would develop policy to combat this scourge.

But somehow the mobile phone industry has managed to convince the public that this is all good. Your children "need" those phones you pay for. After all, you need to be able to get in touch with them instantly at any time, do you not?

No, you do not! Nor do they need to text their pals half a dozen times from English class!

The cellphone has become a must-have accessory for insecure teens. They are socially excluded without one, and it's a very small minority of adolescents who can buck the social pressures and step outside the mainstream. The cellphone providers have become masters of exploiting the insecurities not only of those teens, but their parents as well.

Then, when those kids start to drive in their late teens or early twenties, they've been conditioned to check their messages constantly, whether they're at home, walking to school, or in class. It's only natural for them to check them while they're driving. It's what they've been conditioned to do.

There is a word for this.

Addiction.

As world media obsess over imaginary N Korea threats, al-Qaeda consolidates hold on Syria rebellion

North Korea has been the top news story for a couple of weeks now. The usual fanciful rhetoric has been flowing from Pyongyang that accompanies every joint US - South Korea military exercise. This time it's getting more attention because there's a new guy in the big chair in the North, but also because the folks who decide what's "news" would rather we watch that story than some of the others.

Like Syria for example. The story that the al-Nusra Front may or may not have merged with al-Qaeda in Iraq is far more relevant to word peace than the North Koreans playing hide-the-missile with US spy satellites.

Reading between the lines, it's obvious that the so-called Free Syrian Army is by now little more than a fantasy in the minds of the western-sponsored SNC. The "merger" and Zawahiri's call for an Islamic emirate in Syria exposes the true goals of the rebels, but not necessarily the ultimate goals of their backers.

Their backers are a handful of Gulf states all allied with the US. Would Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey be arming the rebels if the US didn't permit it? Not likely. The designation of al-Nusra as a terror group last year was designed to give the US a measure of deniability against the inevitable claims that America now arms it's supposed number one enemy in the war on terror.

The ultimate US goal is that the al-Qaeda rebels in Syria will eventually be turned on Iran. It's a beautiful plan. The time-line is of no consequence. The current war of attrition in Syria can go on indefinitely without harming US interests. Netanyahu doesn't mind chaos next door because it helps keep security concerns on the front burner in Israel, which is politically advantageous for him.

Sooner or later Syria will become neither the Islamic state envisioned by Zawahiri or the democracy of State Department rhetoric, but a failed state in the style of Libya today. A failed state with tens of thousands of heavily-armed and highly experienced Sunni fanatics with nothing to do except join their al-Qaeda brothers in Iraq in making jihad on the Shia devils in Baghdad and Tehran.

Royal Bank boss apologizes for foreign worker scandal

Not that he thinks the bank has done anything wrong. In fact, he is at pains to make clear the bank followed all regulations.

No, he's only apologizing because they "don't always meet everyone's expectations." How humble!

And when Canada's biggest bank fails to meet everyone's expectations, we are quick to let them know, and Gord Nixon assures us that he's listening.

Nice try, Gord, but I ain't buying it. According to this story, the RBC's arrangement with this particular outsourcing contractor has been ongoing since 2008.

Apparently no one at the bank thought it was dodgy to replace Canadian workers with "temporary foreign workers" for five years, until the CBC broke the story this week.

That smacks of an ethically challenged corporate culture, and hiding behind the "legality" of outsourcing is no excuse.

This kind of dirty dealing is legal because big business' friends in Ottawa look out for big business and not for Canadian workers.

The fact that RBC spent $100 million on this one outsourcing contractor in 2012 alone only comes to light because of a SEC filing made in the US. The Canadian government would prefer not to know what Canadian companies spend on outsourcing jobs, and they would obviously prefer that Canadians don't know either.

Shame on you, Mr. Nixon, and shame on your enablers in Ottawa.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why every girl should take auto shop in high school

Here's an old Rodney Dangerfield schtick about how to succeed as a car mechanic.

I'm pretty sure this clip is mandatory viewing in every car mechanic course in the world to this day.

My dear daughter called me up tonight from the waiting room of a Canadian Tire store in Toronto. She was waiting for Rodney or one of his proteges to change a five dollar headlight bulb. They were charging her fifty bucks for the labour.

I told her she can change that herself in about five minutes, no tools required other than your fingers.

She had no idea.

Throughout her high school career I was all over her taking auto shop. At least you learn the basics.

Even reputable repair shops like Canadian Tire seem to pursue the standard scam of ripping off every female who comes through the door, just because they are presumed to know nothing about the vehicle they drove in.

In today's case, while they're just changing a bulb, they told her the brake calipers were rusty and needed to be replaced.

The calipers were replaced less than a year ago. New brake calipers will appear rusty within a week or two.

That doesn't mean anything, but an unsuspecting consumer might fall for the "they need to be replaced" schtick and spend a few hundred dollars that don't need to be spent. After all, those are the brakes that expert is talking about.

You have to stay safe, don't you?

And that is exactly the sentiment that so many of these shops will take advantage of. It's been my observation that they don't try nearly as much of this crap on men. Guys are automatically assumed to have some rudimentary familiarity with how a vehicle works.

Women are automatically assumed to have none.

That's why every girl should take auto shop in high school.




He's here, he's queer, and he's got a 99 mph fastball

Get over it.

No less a cultural arbiter than the New York Times has weighed in on the gay athlete issue. And it is a bit of a mystery that there's never been a pro athlete in North America who has come out during his playing days.

Then again, maybe it isn't. The upper reaches of professional jock culture are chock full of iconic he-men who are relentlessly marketed to a pretty stunned fan demographic; homophobic couch jocks.

If gayness presents in professional athletes at the same rate it does in the general population, there must be at least a couple hundred professional gay athletes in the major leagues of North American sports.

Pretending they don't exist doesn't help anyone.

RBC chief Gord Nixon got $2.5 million raise last year, promises to be more sensitive about offshoring jobs

Royal Bank of Canada boss Gord Nixon and his crocodile tears were all over the news today.

He apologized to the workers he was caught trying to fire last week. Said he was going be more sensitive in the future.

In the future, when RBC ships your job to India, they will send a grief counselor round to your house the day after they tell you to clean out your desk. The grief counselor will hold your hand and pass you kleenex.

Gord made a nice pay packet of 12.6 million dollars last year, so it's not as if he has to care. He's doing this because it sincerely comes from his heart. He had no idea that the people he was firing would lose their jobs. 

Free world on edge as N Korea moves missiles in and out of shed

There it is, ten paragraphs from the bottom; "...the North has been repeatedly moving its missiles in and out of a shed, which needs close monitoring."

It is unclear whether the missiles being moved in and out of a shed are the same two missiles that were moved to the east coast of the country a week or two ago. There have been conflicting media reports that the North may possess as many as five medium range missiles, which, given a good tail-wind, could conceivably get partway to Japan.

It is not known if this is the same shed that houses the North's nuclear program, which has enjoyed some successful press releases but not very much success in actual nuclear technology.

An anonymous official at the Pentagon has reported that the US is closely monitoring the shed in question from the USS George Washington nuclear equipped carrier group currently in the South China Sea, as well as from several nuclear submarines patrolling off the coast of North Korea.

"The North has pretty much exhausted the patience of the Free World," the Pentagon official declared. "They move those missiles in and out of that shed a couple more times, they're toast!"

G8's aggressive stance condemned by G8 in strongest terms

Foreign ministers of the G8 nations meeting in London issued a press release criticizing their bellicose rhetoric and continued development of nuclear technology.

The stern communique follows revelations that some of the G8 nations may in fact already have functional nuclear weapons. The ministers said their aggressive rhetoric would only further isolate them and they would seek to forge ahead with credible talks on ending all their nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.

They also expressed regret that they had collectively spread mayhem in Nagorno-Karabakh, Mali, Chechnya, Syria, Libya, Honduras, Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Argentina, Indonesia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and Pakistan.

The G8 includes Britain, France, Italy, Germany, US, Japan, Russia and Canada and is often referred to as "The Nations of Virtue plus one."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Battle lines drawn over multi-million Mandela estate before the poor bastard is even gone!

One of the little details that the Thatcher hagiographers downplay is her virulent opposition to Nelson Mandela and everything he stood for.

As far as the Iron Lady was concerned, Nelson Mandela was a communist and a terrorist.

Period.

End of story.

This unseemly tale out of South Africa would have had Maggie high-fiving her minders.

And it is an unseemly tale. I am surprised that the left-tilting Guardian would frame this story as being about Nelson Mandela. The story is about some of his offspring, who capitalized on their father's famous name, using the courts to grab whatever advantage they can against perceived business threats.

It's not about Mandela at all.

But apparently the temptation to slander the iconic freedom fighter who spent most of his adult life in prison for his opposition to apartheid was too much even for The Guardian.

US officials claim black African fighters completely useless

I'm paraphrasing here; the exact words were "completely incapable."

That's from Mike Sheehan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Ops, testifying before the Senate  Armed Services Committee. I'm sure Mike was just trying to be polite.

Mike even went so far as to acknowledge that those useless African troops have been trained by the US and NATO for many years. Speaks volumes about the efficacy of our "training" doesn't it?

That's the thing about our many training missions. It's not about training anybody. It's about maintaining control over the armed forces in those countries where we're the trainers. Think about it for a minute; do the Afghans need us to train them?

Hell no! After putting the run to the Red Army twenty-five years ago, the sandal-clad locals with their WW II era arsenal have put the run to the most technologically advanced armies in the history of history. And we think we need to train them?

They should be hired to train our military!

But back to Sheehan. Mike is one of those versatile guys who has served his country well. Even did a spell of "counter-insurgency" in Central America back in the day, and you know what that means. He's not squeamish. He knows how to rub out insurgency and he knows when our African client states are falling down on the job.

He's also versatile enough to slip back and forth between "public service" and helping himself as a player in the private sector, specifically as a partner in an investment group that specializes in defense industries. He's got the kind of inside knowledge that will keep America safe and himself rich, which is pretty much the apex of the American Dream!

Reading between the lines, I'm going to speculate that with the impending flight of the French and the shocking ineptitude of the Africans, there is but one hope for free Africa, for America, and for freedom and democracy and liberty and capitalism worldwide....

Look for AFRICOM to step up to the plate!