Saturday, August 31, 2013

Entire Canadian Navy in dry-dock after mishap at sea

Both ships of the Royal Canadian Navy were being towed to port yesterday after running into each other.

Navy Lt. Raul Pendergast says initial reports suggest that both Captains may have been texting while driving.

If that is confirmed it would be a violation of Navy rules of conduct. The RCN only permits the use of smart phones while its ships are at anchor or in dry-dock.

One of the most sought after assignments in the Canadian Navy is with the submarine fleet because all four submarines have been dry-docked for the past 14 years. While at one time that fact made the sub fleet something to guarantee death by boredom, the advent of the iPad and smart phone has made it highly desirable.

Swabbies assigned to the Halifax dry-dock where the Canadian sub fleet undergoes a perpetual "refit" report that a typical day consists of eight hours sleep and sixteen hours spent surfing the internet.

US to bombard Damascus with tomatoes

Not just any tomatoes; Christian tomatoes.

Talking Christian tomatoes that praise the cross instead of Allah.

This is certainly a new twist in the thousand year history of crusades, and it promises to be a messy one.

While John McCain and his Likudnik extremist fringe will no doubt cast aspersions on the tomato attack, preferring instead the much more lethal Tomahawk attack, administration insiders speaking on condition of anonymity point out that at least Obama will be able to say he "did" something.

"Besides," the unnamed insider continued, "the spellings are somewhat similar, and tomatoes are red, which makes them an aesthetically appropriate response to the crossing of red lines."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The 24 hours that saved Assad and sunk Obama

This is the tits-up moment for war-monger number one, Senator John McCain.

John's been lobbying for war with Syria for the last two years.

All of America's besties are busy on Saturday night.

Canada is scheduled for a shampoo and curl.

The Brits have let the democracy cat out of the bag and seem to be scaling down the war rhetoric in favour of the will of the people.

The only NATO ally still on board is Francois Hollande. The poor devil is determined to win his spurs one way or another. Mali didn't quite do it, so he has been hoping for a second chance.

And of course the only democracy in the middle east would dearly love to see an all-out assault on the people of the towel, but the Likud crowd must be beyond despairing that such a thing is going to happen this time around.

Maybe even a few of the smarty-pants know-it-alls around Obama have concluded that dumping Assad isn't worth risking WW III.

So carry on with the whatever, Mr. Assad; we were just joking around with that "red line" shit.

Twenty-four hours ago, the Nations of Virtue were coordinating their plans to annihilate Syria.

Tonight they're not.

There is hope for humanity.

Democracy rears its ugly head...

Pity David Cameron.

The Brit PM had such a boner for justice and the rule of law that he was ready to let the cruise missiles fly a couple of days ago.

But, just as it was all coming together, just as Cameron was on the verge of earning his spurs... his glory train gets derailed by a parliamentary vote!

That's got to hurt...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Union bosses ignore advice, score spectacular own goal

Almost two years ago, the think tank here at Falling Downs had this to say about the industrial wind turbine that the Canadian Auto Workers union was planning to erect in the resort community of Port Elgin.

We concluded our appeal with these words; "...do the right thing, be a good neighbour in the community, and scrap that wind turbine."

Did they listen?

Of course not!

So today they face the wretched spectacle of public meetings and front page media coverage, with one pissed off neighbour after another reciting a litany of complaints into the public record.

Instead of backing down and generating goodwill in the community, they forged ahead and gave themselves and the labour movement in general a giant black eye.

Nice work, imbeciles!

Will Israel use NATO attack on Syria as cover for new Lebanon war?

Every few years the government of Israel gives the IDF the green light to attack Lebanon, there to root out the Hezbollah "terrorists" once and for all.

The imminent NATO attack on Syria, widely expected to launch by the end of the week, may prove an irresistible window of opportunity for Netanyahu. The inevitable fog of war will help obscure who did what first, and the always-pliant western media giants will circle the wagons in defense of "the only democracy in the middle east."

But not to worry; Iron Dome batteries are now so ubiquitous that most Israelis will be well protected from at least the first ten minutes of retaliatory Hezbollah rocket barrages.

What could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

BlackBerry cash hoard jumps $200 million during money-losing Q1

Explain to me how this works. We all recall the sturm and drang that followed the release of BlackBerry's Q1 2014 results two months ago.

Media reaction was immediate and unanimous.

The sky had fallen. The company had well and truly tanked. Z10 and Q10 were DOA. Nothing left to do but close the door and sell off what's left of the parts.

So how do cash reserves grow by $200 million while you lose $87 million?

Even if the cash pile had stayed even, Blackberry could lose money at the current rate another thirty years before running out of money. Remember, the company has no debt.

My hunch is that a lot of this negativity comes from analysts who are motivated to drive the price down, mainly to facilitate covering short positions built up when the same analysts were declaring the death of BBRY/RIM back when the shares were in the $6 range.

There is reason to think the shorts are headed for a haircut. The next quarterlies could very well show a PRISM bounce as security-minded consumers discover that BlackBerry was absent from the list of smart-phone providers who share their customers' data with the NSA's domestic spying program.

Even without that, BBRY can keep losing money and growing their cash for a long time.

At ten or eleven bucks it's a great speculative buy.


Colombians celebrate glories of neo-liberalism with general strike

While it's not getting much attention in North American media, hundreds of thousands of Colombians have taken to the streets in the past week to voice their outrage over government economic policies.

A series of "free trade agreements" that favor foreign investors over small-scale farmers and local indigenous communities have raised the ire of vast sectors of the population.

Contrast that to the reaction of workers in North America who stood by and watched as convoys of trucks shipped entire factories to Mexico after the NAFTA.

The workers in Colombia are miles ahead of their counterparts in the US and Canada, both in their awareness of the nature of the economic policies that disadvantage them, and in their willingness to do something about it.

We can learn much from them.


Pounding the R2P war drums

Canada's national newspaper of record today features an op-ed by two lifelong political hacks, Loyd Axworthy and Allan Rock.

They argue that the west needs to intervene in Syria, and that the "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine can serve as a useful fig leaf for such a manifestly illegal adventure. According to messrs. Rock and Axworthy, R2P has proven itself, being the excuse the west used both in the "successful" Libya mission and in ending "the mass killing of civilians" during NATO's war on Serbia in 1999.

These are far from unambiguous success stories. Libya has transitioned from being the African state with the highest standard of living pre R2P, to a failed state. This is success?

Anyone who takes time to acquaint themselves with the basic facts of the NATO war on Serbia knows that wholesale ethnic cleansing of Kosovars did not begin until after the bombs started falling. This would seem to be evidence against "humanitarian intervention" rather than for it.

Sadly, this op-ed isn't about what is best for the people of Syria; it's about trying to find the best excuse for launching another war on a Muslim country that is unwilling to take orders from the Nations of Virtue.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Paul Singer's attempted rape of Argentina gets thumbs up from New York appeals court

The government of Argentina has been forced to petition the US Supreme Court in the next instalment of the ongoing battle with US hedgie Paul Singer.

Singer's hedge funds bet big on defaulted Argentine debt, buying up all they could at pennies on the dollar after Argentina defaulted on its foreign debt in 2002.

The Singer strategy is to employ the courts to force the defaulter to make good on 100% of the face value of the debt.

In a nutshell, this case pits the people of Argentina against the opportunistic machinations of a small group of American uber-capitalists looking for free money.

Pssst!.... wanna see some moral obscenity?

For the most recent news cycle the occasionally lucid John Kerry has become the lead voice among the war-monger crowd.

Yup, we were OK with Assad killing 100 thousand of his own people, but by God, now that a few hundred have been maybe killed by poison gas that was maybe used by Assad's forces...

We're in the land o' moral obscenity!

Here's what that looks like, in case you've forgotten;











Just a little reminder of the blessings we brought to Syria's neigbours in Iraq not long ago!

A little bit of Falluja, a little bit of Abu Ghraib... godamn, nobody can say we don't know from moral obscenity! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Canada does NOT need an influx of foreign workers

Since I posted this a week ago there's been hundreds of looks, primarily from around the Gulf, presumably by folks who are working in the oil industry and figure Canada might be a good gig.

Sorry you didn't read past the first paragraph, but my point was that Canada does not need foreign workers. Until such time as Canada has a job for everyone who wants to work, the government of Canada needs to focus on training Canadians rather than importing workers.

Canada's open-arms policy around foreign workers at a time when 1.5 million Canadians are unemployed is scandalous to say the least.

Contrast Chile's policy on foreign workers to Canada's. Chile's economy is growing more than twice the rate of Canada's. The unemployment rate in Chile is less than in Canada. One would therefore conclude that Chile must be even more reliant on foreign workers than Canada, at least if the standard argument of "worker shortage" holds any water.

Instead, we see that in 2011 some 41,000 foreign workers entered Chile. While Canada has twice the population, it allowed almost five times the number of foreign workers in the same year.

Canada is an outlier to the foreign worker norms that prevail in the rest of the OECD.

The imaginary hurdle seems to be that Canada is tapped out and therefore cannot afford to invest in her people. This is an absolute fiction.

Before the Harper gang "reformed" unemployment insurance in 2008, the program had an accumulated surplus of some $54 billion.

That was money generated by workers and their employers for the benefit of workers when they became unemployed. Retraining would seem to be a perfect way to reinvest that money in the workforce.

So was that $54 billion spent on training workers?

Of course not. The $54 billion was legislated out of the old UI program and into general revenues. It was in effect a $54 billion totally legal theft from Canadian workers.

While stealing the workers' money, the Harperites simultaneously boosted the bar for qualifying workers, to the point that today most people who pay into the program will never quality to benefit from it.

So to all you guys in Saudi and Qatar who are working in oil projects, I apologize that you got the impression that you are needed in Canada.

Nothing personal, but I think it's up to our government to put the interests of unemployed Canadians ahead of your interests.

Nations of Virtue bay for blood after alleged Syrian gas attack

The "red-liners" are making a concerted effort to use this chemical weapon issue as the lever that will directly engage the US and some of the me-too nations in the euphemistically tagged "Syrian Crisis."

News sites across the western world are at this very moment unanimous in blaming Assad for the attack.

The source of this info seems to be William Hague, who apparently gets the straight skinny directly from George Sabra of the UK-US sponsored Syrian National Coalition.

Therefore this is an obviously impartial verdict coming down the chain of a whole lot of folks with no irons in the fire.

Bullshit!

It's almost impossible to imagine that Assad's military brain trust would choose to deploy chemical weapons on the very day that UN chemical weapons inspectors arrive in the country.

The entire "red line" issue is a bit of a red herring to begin with. Why has it been decided, and by whom, that spending a half hour bleeding to death while trying to push your intestines back where they belong after being collateral damage in a Hellfire missile strike is a perfectly acceptable death, but dying in your sleep in a gas attack is a red line, the crossing of which marks a war crime?

But politics being what it is, it looks more and more as though the red-liners will have their way.

The blow-back will come soon enough, and once again the pundits will scratch their collective heads and wonder aloud why "they" hate us.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

NYT's Syria Salvation Strategy; let the towelheads kill each other off

The old sentimentalist Edward Luttwak has given some thought to solving Syria, and by golly, I think he could be onto something.

Writing in the New York Times, Luttwak makes the case that no matter who wins in Syria, America loses. Hence, the best strategy from an American point of view is to have the various sides fighting each other indefinitely;

By tying down Mr. Assad’s army and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies in a war against Al Qaeda-aligned extremist fighters, four of Washington’s enemies will be engaged in war among themselves and prevented from attacking Americans or America’s allies.

Sorry about your luck, People of Syria, but the big dog has decided to let you fight it out amongst one another, preferably till there's nobody left.

In the meantime, we'll be happy to sell weapons to the lot of you!

Note the assumption on Luttwak's part that all these four factions are too  stupid to realize what America's grand strategy is. What could possibly go wrong?

This could be the best catalyst for pan-Islamic unity in the last 500 years!

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Delbert Belton murder; was it about race?

I'm guessing this story is gonna grow legs, and big ones.

This has the potential to fill the post-Zimmerman void every news platform has been struggling with.

Two black kids beat an 88 year old white guy to death.

A gift from heaven. There are so many compelling ways this story can be spun. Fox and MSNBC et al can have fun pitting black against white and left against right for the next year or so.

It's bound to be a ratings bonanza.

News stories aren't about news anymore. They are a resource, a commodity to be exploited.

Red line fever grips America

Big debate going on in US media today.

Should the US "take action" on Syria?

Seems to be a consensus building that Obama needs to "do something" given his statements last year stating that the use of chemical weapons constituted a red line.

There's a certain clique in Congress and the Senate, a bipartisan war party if you will, who seem determined to push Obama deeper into the Syrian travesty.

This is generally the same crew of jingoistic dickheads who lobbied for the Afghanistan invasion, the Iraq invasion, and the destruction of Libya. They have yet to realize that they're 0 for 3.

They're in denial.

In fact, they are firmly convinced that they are 3 for 3.

They have lost all credibility in the Middle East.

They still want the public to believe that America has been going from strength to strength.

The public knows better.

Skilled welders wanted; $16/hour, or how to spot a Temporary Foreign Worker Program scam

An advert to that effect can frequently be seen in major Canadian newspapers.

Not that they're planning to hire any Canadians. The rate on offer is well under what I earned when I retired from welding over twenty years ago.

So why do we see these ads? Because they're not expecting to find any skilled welders reading those papers and calling that number. What those employers, or employment agencies working on their behalf are doing, is establishing the "fact" that suitable candidates for their welding jobs are nowhere to be found in all of Canada.

That's the essential component in getting the thumbs-up from Citizen and Immigration Canada to import foreign workers. If the employer can demonstrate that they couldn't find workers in Canada, the government will issue a Labour Market Opinion, the magic key that opens the door to bringing in foreign workers.

That's why we see those ads.

Welding isn't rocket science. Most people with reasonable hand-eye coordination can become relatively proficient in under a year. Blueprint reading and fit-up competence take a little longer. It's a universal trade. If you can weld in the Ukraine or China or Albania you can weld in Canada.

And you'd be happy to do it for $16/hr.

Which is why our government bends over backwards to facilitate the import of skilled workers instead of training Canadians to do the work.

How to hire foreign workers

If you're one of those employers who is sick to death of lazy-ass locals whining that the minimum wage you're offering isn't enough to live on, the Harper gang has good news for you!

Yes, Citizen and Immigration Canada has lots and lots of helpful websites, links, and thousands of helpful staffers to shepherd you through the process of importing hard-working Mexicans and Filipinos who think eleven dollars an hour is manna from heaven!

And it is, when you've spent your entire life in a one room unheated tin shack with an extended family of 19.

Here's the best part; once the Harper gang has helped you get them here, they're yours! Yessiree Bob, they can't just up and quit like the locals because somebody down the street offers them a couple of dollars more.

It's the best deal for employers since before Honest Abe abolished slavery!

You'll NEVER have to worry about Pablo whining about overtime pay, benefits, or working conditions!

And you'll never have to hire one of those lazy-ass Canadians again!

World-class wannabe delivers world-class dose of food poisoning

Folks in Toronto are so stunned they elected a right-wing dickhead as mayor because he campaigned on the age-old ploy of promising to cut wasteful spending.

What that meant in practice was privatizing trash pickup; what used to be a $45 thousand a year job has been privatized into a $25 thousand a year job - this in a city where the average house price is well north of half a million.

The world class wannabees are getting a double-dose of class today. None other than former world-class professional wrestler Hulk Hogan favoured the city with a visit!

Not only that, but he did a PR turn with the mayor by challenging him to an arm wrestle! Is that world class or what?

But... not only that, THE MAYOR WON!!!

OH YA WE'RE TALKIN' WORLD CLASS NOW BABY!

That should put to rest the vile crack video innuendo that's been dogging His Worship for months.

Sadly, news of the mayor's victory was eclipsed by the news that over 150 people have been felled by food poisoning after visiting one of the world's greatest open-air harvest festivals, the CNE.

Apparently what did them in was the "cronutburger",  an invention that was to put Toronto on the culinary map once and for all.

That's how it goes in Toronto's neverending struggle to make the "A" list of world class cities... every once in awhile a step forward, but then, regrettably, a step back.

Harper's never-ending war on workers

When the RBC "temporary" foreign worker scam hit the fan a few months back, the Harper gang made a lot of noise about drafting "reforms" to the TFW plan. Not that anyone truly believes that these rabid anti-worker ideologues were serious about actually reforming anything, but politics being what it is, Harper & Co. found it necessary to at least blow some smoke up the nation's tailpipe on the matter.

Here's one way to avoid reforms; just fob the entire program off on the provinces or territories! Yes, the government of the Yukon now has carte blanche to bring in as many foreign workers as they'd like! The northern territory has a population of roughly 36,000, of whom over a thousand are unemployed. The Yukon also has one of the highest costs of living in Canada, which has resulted in relatively high wages being required to lure Canadians to the north.

The genius of the TFW program is that you can lure Mexicans and Guatemalans and Filipinos to the north for a lot less than you can get Canadians there. Canadians have come to expect certain amenities like indoor plumbing and a roof that doesn't leak and expect a paycheque that will make that happen.

The Yukon download is just a trial balloon, but if it goes unopposed there you can expect the Harper gang to download its responsibilities for workers onto larger territories and provinces.

In a country with 1.5 million unemployed and millions more underemployed there is no excuse for importing labour other than driving down the wages and living standard of Canadian workers. That's what Harper's corporate constituency wants and that's what they're getting.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Canada military spends billions developing invisible snowmobiles

That story you saw at the CBC about stealth snowmobiles is just the tip of the iceberg.

The truth of the matter is that the "Loki" program has cost billions and has had great success in developing stealth snowmobile technology.

Falling Downs operatives recently visited the top-secret invisible snowmobile test site outside Watdaphuk on Baffin Island, code named "Loki-no-see" and they report that invisible snowmobiles are everywhere.

Colonel Mac Johnson, head of the secret Canadian Forces base at Watdaphuk, says the funding for the top-secret stealth snowmobile development program has come through John Baird's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development and Gay Rights and Arctic Sovereignty and Religious Freedom.

Apparently Baird has taken Vladimir Putin's assault on gay rights personally, and is determined to establish the Arctic as a queer-friendly zone of Canadian influence.

Informed observers will of course recognize that Putin has been simultaneously waging war both on gays in Russia and Canada's claims to sovereignty in the Arctic, so the Loki-no-see initiative cuts across all the most important currents in Canadian foreign policy, and proves definitively once and for all that as Canadians, we punch well above our weight and talk even bigger.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Only a major influx of foreign workers can save Canada

( Addendum 25.08.13  The following is excerpted from a Canadian Press article. The slanty script is my commentary.  Please read this for clarification.)

The Canadian Press
Published Friday, August 16, 2013 5:07PM EDT
CALGARY -- Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney says a chronic shortage of skilled trades workers, especially in Alberta's oilsands, can only be solved by a major influx of carpenters, electricians and welders from outside of Canada.

Because as we all know, Canadian teens want to grow up to be rocket scientists, politicians, and video-game designers, not carpenters, welders, and electricians. That's why governments across this land have connived for forty years to shut down high school vocational programs.

The program is aimed at people who want to become permanent residents based on being qualified in a skilled trade. To apply they must have work experience in a specific trade and meet several other requirements.

The program is aimed at providing skilled trades without having to invest in Canadians.

Kenney said one of the challenges facing Canada is that young people are not going into the trades and its creating an "acute shortage" of electricians, welders and boilermakers.

They are not going into skilled trades because they have been told for generations that a good future requires a university education. Nor have employers been encouraged to train apprentices.

"Because Canada has always been a country of immigration we believe we can use our immigration programs much better to attract tradesmen who have practical skills and can literally help us build our country," he said.

With the political will we could easily train the Canadians we need to build Canada.

"We see some of the most acute labour shortages in the construction trades in the Athabasca oilsands region because we're talking about multibillion dollar mega construction projects there. We simply do not have enough qualified trades people in Canada to fill those labour needs."

It's just so much easier to import them willy-nilly from around the world rather than invest in training Canadians.

"According to different industry councils, we're looking at shortages of hundreds of thousands of construction trades people in the next decade," he said.

We have 1.5 million Canadians unemployed. It is a disgrace to import workers. Politicians should stop short-changing Canadians and start working for their constituents. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

RCMP enjoying "open season" on Alberta Indians

This makes it three dead in two weeks.

What's wrong with this picture?

Pretty much everything. While details are scarce, the RCMP persist in entering reservations on the flimsiest of pretexts. A violent confrontation because somebody may have been drinking or didn't show up in court simply doesn't make any sense.

RCMP need to make non-violent interaction their fall-back position, instead of treating every encounter with the public as an opportunity to strut their SWAT swagger.

A change in policing strategies is long overdue.

The hokum of Ai Weiwei

Canada's newspaper of record today features a review of an Ai Weiwei exhibition at The Art Gallery of Ontario.

According to James Adams, one of the exhibitions' highlights is Straight, which is forty tons of rebar lying on the floor of the gallery.

That's the intriguing thing about art, isn't it? When there's forty tons of rebar lying on the floor at the local welding shop it's called an accident. When it's lying on the floor of a gallery it becomes art.

Here's where the hokum comes along; after the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 Ai Weiwei and his team "collected thousands of rebar rods from these (collapsed) schools, straightened them, then arranged their varying lengths into a vast carpet of rusted corrugated steel."

Apparently this is "a powerful testimony to state indifference and to the young lives cut short..."




Ya maybe, but something about this story will ring more than a little false to anyone who has ever had to straighten rebar. It can be done -sort of, but you'll never get them to pile quite that neatly after they've been bent and straightened.

Not only that, but rebar is cased in cement, so the Ai Weiwei team has meticulously disentombed each individual length from the concrete in which it had been embedded.

The Ai Weiwei travelling circus has 40 tons of rebar on view in Toronto and 150 tons at the Venice Art Beinnale which runs till November. That's almost 200 tons of earthquake-ravaged rebar that Weiwei and his team has pulled from collapsed buildings in Sichuan.

It looks like the artist and his team use an assortment of rebar diameters, but for the sake of easy math lets assume the entire exhibit consists of #5 rebar which weighs a convenient one pound per running foot. That would put 80,000 ft. of rebar on view in Toronto; 300,000 in Venice.

In total, Ai Weiwei and his team have salvaged over 70 miles of rebar from an earthquake zone, cleaned it of concrete, and straightened it?

All since 2008?

Not that we want to call Weiwei's bluff. He has become a hero of sorts in some circles for antagonizing the Chinese government, who as we all know do not love freedom and democracy nearly as much as their betters in America.

I'm guessing that for the "Straight" touring exhibit, The Artist calls up the nearest rebar supply house for his rebar needs, and none of the rebar on view in Toronto or Venice has ever been near Sichuan.



More weapons can only be good for nascent Colombian democracy

After you gain a "free trade" agreement the next logical step is finding something to trade, and leave it to Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs and roving ambassador-at-large for gay rights, John Baird, to sniff out "new market opportunities" in that bastion of gay equality.

Weapons!

Yup maybe we can sell them some automatic weapons and some armored personnel carriers!

The two-year anniversary of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement is such a universally heralded good-news story that I first read it at the Sacramento Bee.

But I suspect that's only because the Bee, like so many other news outlets, operates with unpaid interns instead of journalists and hence publishes as "news" whatever press release comes through the wire without giving it much further thought.

So is this rising tide of trade lifting all boats?...

Of course not!

Apparently "extreme poverty is on the increase..."

But at least Canada should be able to sell a few automatic rifles and armored personnel carriers.

Canada celebrates two years of "free trade" with Colombia

It's happy days for Canada-Colombia Free Trade!

Here's how minister of International Trade Ed Fast spins it in a press release,

“Our government’s ambitious job-creating, pro-trade plan is benefiting Canadian workers and their families,” said Minister Fast. “The trade agreement with Colombia has encouraged significant growth in Canadian exports. In fact, since this agreement came into force, Canadian exports to Colombia have increased by almost 29 percent.” 

It's all happy news for workers and their happy families in Canada, but maybe not so much in Colombia.

While Canadians were getting the happy talk from Ed Fast, the "faggots, guerrillas, and trade unionists" (aka the working class) in Colombia are getting death threats.

Thank goodness Foreign Minister John Baird has been lobbying to permit the sale of armored personnel carriers to the government of Colombia... they'll be able to protect the faggots, guerrillas, and trade unionists even more effectively than they have in the past!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Desperate Erdogan wondering if he's next

Here's something worth reading.

Note the tinge of desperation as Erdogan wanly champions the imaginary obligations of the international community to intercede with the generals in Egypt and prevent the wholesale slaughter of the Morsi supporters who have been holding peaceful sit-ins in the streets.

Don't expect Hurriyet to spell out the irony of Erdogan's appeal to international law after being neck deep in fomenting the Syrian crisis for the past three years.

Truth is, the big boys have decided that the Muslim Brotherhood is expendable. That's evident by what has happened with the regime change in Qatar and the coup in Egypt. This anti-MB impetus also helps sideline Hamas while the US puts on the latest iteration of the Middle East Peace charade.

The supposed conversations that Erdogan has been having with his counterparts among the UN Security Council must have been awkward in the extreme.

It seems that Erdogan is the last to know that the world has turned a page, and that he is being hung out to dry.

True, he has clapped most of his US-trained high command into prison, but that may not be enough.

The US-sponsored "democracy activists" remain thick on the ground.

US has lavished at least $66 billion on Egypt army but pretends it has no influence

Six weeks after the military coup that deposed a democratically elected government in Egypt, the US trained generals have unleashed the full fury of their armed forces on the Morsi supporters who have been demonstrating in the streets.

Marwan Bishara called the Americans on their rampant hypocrisy in an op-ed at Al Jazeera today. That's nice, but where American hypocrisy needs to be called is in the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post.

America's acolytes in Cairo are now slaughtering their own people, which is an accusation oft leveled at supposed enemies of the US when the hypocrites in Washington are trying to rally support for interventions in Libya or Syria.

So where is the outrage today?

Pot-addled blogger has uncanny ability to predict news

Today the journalism pros at the Globe and Mail revealed that CP Rail will be targeted by Quebec authorities looking for deep pockets to cover the Lac Megantic clean-up.

Oh lookee; the story was right here two weeks ago.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Justice system whacks Whitey, lets FBI walk

The Whitey Bulger trial has concluded, with the 83 year old Bulger looking at spending the rest of his life behind bars.

I'm guessing that's not nearly as devastating a verdict at 83 as it might have been at 23.

Anyone applauding this verdict should at the same time ask themselves how long Whitey's life 'o crime might have lasted had the FBI been actively working to fight crime instead of facilitating it.

Just one more question mark in the checkered history of crime fighting in the USA.

Carl Icahn Apple play reveals extent of dementia

Carl is getting on in years, God love him.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, but he's kinda let things slip and slide a bit these last few years.

He's playing the "activist investor" card again. It's worked before and it might work this time.

He's taken a relatively small position in Apple and therefore presumes that he can dictate to Cook and company what's best for Icahn's share position.

If Apple would only use its cash hoard to buy up even more Apple shares, Carl's Apple stake would vastly appreciate! He's confident that the shares he's bought in the low 400's could go to $700!

That's the way of American capitalism today; Icahn brings utterly nothing to Apple, but fully believes that his billionaire status and reputation as a bully should dictate corporate strategy at the ailing computer giant.

Sooner or later a corporate board will find the balls to tell these "activist investor" types to go fuck themselves.

The sooner the better.

The unAmerican way to run a railroad

We know the American way.

Fast Eddie Burkhardt nickle-and-dimed his workers half to death his entire career. Even after the horror of Lac Megantic, Burkhardt was arguing that single operator trains are safer because there are "fewer distractions."

E. Hunter Harrison got a $50 million signing bonus courtesy of Bill Ackman to work his slash-and-burn magic at Canadian Pacific. Does anyone dare question if there is a connection between Harrison's goal of slashing a quarter of the workforce and the fact the rate of accidents at CPR has gone up by 26%?  
    
Believe it or not, there's another way to treat employees. Here's an excerpt from the website of German rail operator DeutscheBahn:

What we do for our employees

For a secure future – and a lifetime career

We accept responsibility for our employees. It begins with first-class training and continuous education, followed by fair wages based on collective bargaining agreements, down to comprehensive social benefits.
What the hell is wrong with those people?
Burkhardt and Harrison would die laughing!
Security?
A lifetime career?
Training?
Comprehensive benefits?
Get outta here!

Canadian Pacific Railway sees 26% surge in accidents

That's the headline the pros at the Globe and Mail and the Financial Post forgot to write.

When CP Rail released their Q2 results a few weeks ago the business press was full of adulatory twaddle over the phoenix-like rebirth that the genius Bill Ackman and his hired gun, Hunter "Hitman" Harrison have engineered at the railroad.

Revenues up! Net income up! Earnings per share, up up and away!...

Hallelujahs abounded and champagne corks popped as the journos outdid themselves lavishing praise on the "activist investor" and his hatchet-man.

In fact, they were so busy praising the results that they entirely forgot to mention the other item that's taken an impressive leap; The FRA train accident rate.

Right there on page 20 of the Q2 report; the year-to-date accident rate per million train-miles was 1.51 in 2012 and 1.91 this year, an increase of over 26%.

Given that this stat came out barely two weeks after the Lac Megantic disaster, one would think that the newshounds would be all over the revelation that CPR's accident rate has gone up 26% while thousands of employees were being pink slipped.

An accidental oversight, I'm sure.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Middle-East math; why Abbas may not be the patsy that we think he is

On the face of it, the latest announcement of settlement expansion should be another nail in the coffin of Abbas' credibility.

So why are none of the Palestinian militants scheduled for release declining their good fortune to protest this settlement expansion being facilitated by Abbas?

After all, at least some of these guys are hard-core nationalists who have made a life-long commitment to putting the fate of their nation ahead of their personal fate. Why are they playing along with the Abbas strategy of allowing settlement expansion even while "negotiating" a supposedly final peace agreement?

Because they fully understand that the two-state solution becomes less likely with every new settler home approved for the occupied territories, and you should believe that Abbas understands this too.

Which leaves us where?

Which leaves us with the status quo... ever expanding settlements, ever expanding publicity for the BDS movement, and an ever-decreasing likelihood that Israel as a "Jewish state" has a viable future in the community of nations.

Abbas may not be such a hapless dipshit after all.

Shithouse sociology

From my perch here in the outhouse, I have a nice view of all the boat traffic heading to and from the eastern reaches of the lake. Aside from looking out at the boat traffic, I find that this is a very nice spot to settle in and read a book.

I'm working my way through Marlon Brando's autobiography at the moment.

Regular readers will realize that reading in the shithouse is not a recent phenomenon with the top analyst at Falling Downs.

In my youth I often found myself in workshops and factories wherein the shithouse offered the best available respite from the grinding monotony of the shop floor.

In fact, at the shipyard I became somewhat of a legend for disappearing hours on end into the bathroom with the fattest tomes on offer at the Saint John public library.

The shipyard crew had the same generalized anti-intellectual bent common in most blue-collar workplaces at the time, and I believe that the reason my bathroom habits made me a legend instead of a target was the assumption that I was using these books as a pillow and was not actually reading them.

What has caught my notice as I sit here on the island observing the boat traffic, is that there are far fewer sailboats on the lake today than there would have been five years ago, or ten, or twenty...

What could possibly account for this decline?

That Brando fellow was quite a piece of work. Have to say I really liked him in the Godfather.

Ditto Apocalypse Now.

Last Tango just left me feeling I'd watched somebody's dirty home movie. A middle-aged creeper boning a young hottie up the bottom is no doubt a great moment for the middle-aged creeper, but it's really difficult to locate the artistic merit in that, if you know what I mean.

Here's my theory on the decline of recreational sailing:

It's not about money. The folks running V-8 power boats up and down the lake at high speed could easily afford to sail, but they don't want to.

They've got places to get to and things to do.

Sailing is, after all, "outdoor recreation." Like camping, it's got to be an end in itself and not just a means to an end. Whose family today wants to spend the day on the sailboat when they could be snuggled up at the cottage with their internet?

Let's get there as fast as we can.

Let's get back as fast as we can.

That's why there are more supercharged 900 horsepower big-block V-8's on the lake than there are spinnakers.

That wasn't the case twenty years ago.

Perhaps the greatest shithouse intellectual I ever knew was my pal Johnny at GE. Johnny never finished high school but he finished the Globe and Mail crossword every day in the shitter at GE for over thirty years.

What I really respect about Brando is his commitment to native rights. I had no idea that he was actually in the building with those AIM guys when they were being beseiged and shot at by the cops in Wisconsin.

GE eventually made good on the threat they'd trotted out every couple of years at contract time; "we're gonna shut you down and build our transformers somewhere else."

Finally Johnny was able to do the Globe and Mail crossword at his kitchen table at home.








A poor man on a rich lake

From time to time an old friend affords me the opportunity to summer on an island in one of the lakes north of Toronto. I get a cabin with no electricity and no running water. The "facilities" consist of a vintage two-holer.

A hundred years ago this island was the summer home of the Peck family of Chicago. That was an era when those who could afford it would hire a private rail car and make their way north to get their families and an appropriate complement of servants away from the oppressive mid-west summer heat.

A few days later they would disembark their rail car and board a steamer that would deposit them on the dock at their summer retreat.

The remains of the Peck family's summer home are still partially intact at the highest point of this island, from where, in the first few decades after the rapacious logging concerns clear-cut everything they could access, they would have had a view for many miles up and down the lake.

I still get a decent view from the two-holer. I am no stranger to pre-modern sanitation. One of my family's first homes in the promised land had no running water; a hand-pump in the yard was the only water supply for the house and the barn and the chicken coops.

Ten years later, as the upwardly mobile immigrants built their first new house in the promised land, vagaries of scheduling resulted in the family moving in before the plumbers got there, and I had the opportunity to execute an entire winter's worth of bowel movements in temperatures that could hit -30.

So the island outhouse is no great shakes in the hardship department. In fact, due to being screened in on three sides it affords a rather splendid vista of the eastern reaches of the lake, and the breezes the screening allows minimize both the odors associated with outhouses and the bugs associated with taking a shit in the woods.

At some point post WWI the Peck family, made comfortable in the Chicago summer by electricity and air-conditioning, no longer required this distant refuge and deeded it to a church group, which built a bunch of little cabins and made it a summer youth camp.

One of those cabins serves as my occasional summer retreat.

The history of summer retreats is something that I could, if I were starting a career as a social historian, get seriously enthused about. After all, there are worse ways to spend one's life as a social scientist than lounging about in the Muskokas.

The uber-rich from far away are mostly gone. Waterfront on any of these lakes starts in the range of a half million dollars and goes up from there, and is mostly held by upper-middle-class folks from Toronto and professional hockey players.

They wouldn't recognize the Pecks and the Pecks wouldn't recognize them.









Thursday, August 8, 2013

Working class

"I've never... dealt with such an unethical, immoral, disrespectful, highly profitable company like Caterpillar."

That was CAW chief Ken Lewenza when Caterpillar was busy turning $30/hr. jobs in London Ontario into $15/hr. jobs in one of the "right-to-work-for-less" states.

And what happened then?

Nothing.

Ken did the best he could to salvage whatever severance crumbs he could from the situation. The overall Caterpillar strategy of playing workers in one jurisdiction off against those in another was never remotely challenged.

Why not?

Workers in China have made huge gains in recent years. They have made such gains that within a few years Chinese wages will catch up to North American wages.

Why?

Because workers in China are not averse to tossing a factory manager from the plant roof from time to time just to let the management side know that they're serious.

Now I'm certainly not suggesting that we need to toss managers from the factory roof, but where all of the unions in North America have failed is in letting the other side know that they're serious. Back in the day, folks like Reuther and Hoffa were willing to go to jail.

That can happen when you're willing to assert yourself.

That can happen when you're prepared to say "no thanks, we're not ready to settle for crumbs."

A large part of the problem originates in the rank and file. I remember when I worked at Budd Automotive, where I was hired on my 18th birthday, guys would show up in dress shirts and blazers because they didn't want their neighbours to know they worked in a factory.

These were generally the same guys who, once they'd worked there a few months, would conclude that the union was holding them back.

Yup! They were slamming blanks into a press and pulling them out for five bucks an hour when the minimum wage was $1.50. The training for their job took about five minutes. But they hated the fact that they had union dues deducted from their pay!

There's still an awful lot of that going on. Well into the 1960's Newfoundland was happy to employ grade eight graduates to teach the grade one class. Now you need two university degrees to teach a grade one class. And you'll find teachers who truly believe that without their teacher union they could do better for themselves!

Yes! The government will happily double your salary if it wasn't for that damned union!

The truth of the matter is that there is no teaching job anywhere in North America that couldn't be done and done well by some eager recent graduate who is working at the mall for minimum wage and would see a $30 thousand annual salary with benefits as the pot 'o gold at the end of their rainbow.

Once we're in a mindset that accepts the logic of moving a job or replacing a worker just because somebody is willing to do that job for less, we're screwed.

And it is on this point that organized labour has failed us.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ken Lewenza's resignation can only mean good things for Canadian workers

There is a new generation coming up, a generation that has $40,000 or more in student loans for that university degree that they don't really need for their minimum wage job at the mall.

Ken and the major unions and the national labour groups have all failed that cohort.

Ken was an old school organized-labour guy. He doesn't get the kids at the mall.

They are the future of organized labour, because they are smart enough and educated enough to see that things don't need to be the way they are.

What a tragedy that the leaders of organized labour can't see that.

Oh look! It's Uncle Henry the war criminal...

I love Steven, or Stephen, or even Stephan Colbert.

He is absolutely the coolest left-of-center dude who ever made prime time.

So last night he had this great gag where supposedly booked Daft Punk supposedly ditched at the last minute, leaving the stage wide open for a wide open improv schtick that was obviously very well choreographed.

Among the supposedly last minute stand-ins who helped fill the void left by the supposedly last-minute weasel job by Daft Punk, was indicted war criminal Henry Kissinger.

Henry Kissinger could have prevented the deaths of many millions of peasants in Laos and Cambodia.

Why is Stephen Colbert showcasing him in a positive light?




In praise of an honourable capitalist

Yes, I truly believe they can be found. Unfortunately it's the sleaze-bag "activist investors" and self-dealing hedgies who get most of the accolades.

But Robert Schad is one of the good guys. Schad was one of that generation of post WW II European immigrants who spent his life building up a company from nothing. The company he built, Husky Injection Molding, was known far and wide as a leader in corporate social responsibility.

In 2008 Schad sold the company for some 800 million to one of the above, who made it more efficient by stripping many of the benefits that Schad had provided his former employees, and then sold it on to another group of hedge funds for two billion.

Long before he sold out Schad had started a joint venture with a First Nation  community in Ontario. The current owners of Husky have since forced the closure of that operation for reasons that seem to have more to do with spite than anything legitimate. Reading the story of Mr. Schad's contribution to that native community underlines just what a mensch he is.

Mr. Schad is also the guy who gets credit for ending Ontario's spring bear hunt, which I once did a satirical take on. I've recently heard another version of the same story, in which far from being pals with Premier Harris, Schad supposedly told him that if he didn't cancel the hunt he was going to donate a million dollars to the Liberal party.

Regardless of which version is true, that cancellation is one of the few blots on an otherwise saintly resume.

Or not, depending on how you feel about bear hunting.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Flash mob democracy and the new ruling class

Personally, I've got nothing against Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post.

After all, isn't it about time the old media guys handed the reins to the new-media moguls?

What should be bothering us is the alacrity with which the new media moguls have made peace and so much more with the national security establishment.

Don't ever forget that all of the worst excesses revealed by the Snowden scandal would not have been possible without the connivance of the big tech players.

Welcome aboard, Jeff.

RIP Banksy of the Great White North

AC Hilgendorf kicked the bucket today.

The dude left a trail of murals on public buildings from Kincardine to Dundalk and from Wiarton to Walkerton.

He was a star who came outta nowhere.

I met him a couple of times because I used to hang out with a high school art teacher who was totally swept away by the work this guy was doing. In fact, there are faux Hilgendorf murals all over Bruce county that owe their existence to Emily Pedrosa's determination to have a legacy at least equal to Hilgendorf's.

If Allen Hilgendorf had been doing his schtick in NYC instead of Bruce County, you'd be reading his obit in the New York Times and folks would be paying millions for his murals.

Alas, he was just a local boy...

The Falling Downs summer book review

Every summer I try to read at least one "serious" book, and this year it was Steven Pinker's The better angels of our nature.

I'd heard Pinker interviewed on the radio and was skeptical but intrigued by his thesis that humankind is evolving towards some more peaceable iteration of ourselves. Seems counter-intuitive when you look at the world around you.

First of all, at just shy of 700 pages exclusive of footnotes, what Pinker really needs is an editor. His recitation of medieval torture techniques goes on for a hundred pages and left me shrieking for mercy. Alright already!.. I get the point!

A dozen pages to explain the Poisson process, a couple dozen more on brain physiology... a half-decent editor could have lopped 300 pages off this bloated tome and left us with a more readable book.

Be that as it may, and although I'm disinclined to believe in "progress," there seems no question that today we are less likely to murder our rivals, abuse our spouses, beat our kids and our dogs, and lynch members of minorities than we have been in the past, and that's a good thing.

As individuals we are becoming less violent.

Pinker argues this is a result of a gradual process whereby as society became more literate and cosmopolitan we were able to broaden our circles of empathy to include more and more folks who looked less and less like us.

Meanwhile, and again owing to the spread of literacy, the escalator of reason was carrying us ever upwards, to the point where in the last two hundred years or so we were finally able to figure out that if both I and my arch-nemesis each settled for a slice of pie instead of trying to kill each other over the whole damn thing, not only would we both have pie, there'd even be pie left over for breakfast!

While that was going on, the modern nation state evolved right along with us and codified a lot of these new enlightened rules about pie-sharing and neighbor-killing, and to bind all of these developments together and spread them far and wide was a phenomenon called "gentle commerce," not to be confused with the dog-eat-dog rough commerce we are all too acquainted with.

Well, I'm not so sure, Steven. It's not that I don't want to believe you, but... this "new peace" we're enjoying is really just a blink in the overall scheme of things, isn't it? And look around you; it could all go for a shit really fast, couldn't it?

I think if and when it does, it will be because of the work of what might be called the "war lobby" that is based mainly in the US, with chapters in the NATO gang and a few other followers of empire. These are folks who have a vested interest in making weapons, making profits, and making war. They've been busier than ever these last few years bringing freedom and democracy and death and destruction to a string of less evolved people, mostly in the Islamic world.

So it's not that I think you've got it wrong, Steve, it's just that it seems we could be but one false move by one sweaty-palmed ideologue away from having the bloodiest century in history.

We'll have to wait and see...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Snowden v. gay rights in Russia

We knew all along that it was only a matter of time before CIA shills would condemn Edward Snowden for having accepted Russia's offer of asylum.

We at the Falling Downs think tank are all aboard for gay rights and same-sex marriage etc.

We are disturbed by recent anti-queer legislation in Russia.

But if we are forced to choose between Edward Snowden finding sanctuary and gay Russians having a pride parade, well, it's a no-brainer.

"Gay" has been co-opted through and through in the West, to the point where the CIA empowers a gay "Employee Resource Group" to make sure that gay CIA staffers are not discriminated against.

However laudable that may be, some things are more important than "gay rights."


Mounties gun down Tonto

Curtis Hallock, who played the faithful Indian sidekick on Mantracker, was shot down by Alberta Mounties on Thursday at a police check-point.

Didn't know we had police check-points in the Great White North... oh yes, I see... just to make sure you haven't been drinking... ah ha!

Yes, so they are not police check-points per se; they are PUBLIC SAFETY CHECK-POINTS!

In Alberta these public safety checkpoints are often found on the perimeter of Indian reservations, because, well, you know about the drunken Indians and all that, don't you?

It's been a busy few days for the Mounties. Not only did they get Tonto, they got a couple more Indians near Pigeon Lake.

Plus they tased a guy dead in LeDuc. No word yet on whether that too was a mis-behavin' native.


Netanyahu kicks off peace talks with surprise goodwill gesture

To the settlers!

Wonder if Kerry realizes yet that he's been had?

Tony Blair sees "hope for the future" as Middle East burns


Take it away, Tony!

There is hope for the future amid the turmoil of the Middle East

Last week's revival of the Israeli/Palestinian peace process proves that the region's problems can be resolved
Tony Blair, Middle east, Comment
John Kerry brings Israeli justice minister Tzipi Livni (right) and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat together in Washington on 30 July. Photograph: Mike Theiler/EPA
Syria is a living nightmare. Egypt hovers on the brink. But as last week's breakthrough in the Middle East peace process shows, there are signs of optimism. And counter-intuitive though it is to say so, underneath all the turmoil, the fundamental problems of the region are finally being brought to the surface in a way that allows them to be confronted and overcome. For us, now is the time not for despair, but for active engagement.
Whoa!... "fundamental problems of the region?" Do you mean the last two hundred years of colonialism, economic imperialism... and for lack of a better word, "active engagement?"
No one put the chances of reviving the Middle East peace process at more than minimal. Last week, in Washington, it happened. And not talks about talks, but full-blown reignition of final status negotiations, with an undertaking by both parties to stay in the process for at least nine months. To those of us who have toiled, often fruitlessly, over the past years on this issue, it is a huge achievement brought about by John Kerry, with sheer dogged determination, and the two leaders, by taking risks with their public opinion.
"Full blown final status negotiations" indeed... Abbas made a nine month commitment because the release of the 104 prisoners was staggered over nine months. Obama wants a nine months commitment so he can look like a peace-maker in the next election cycle, and Netanyahu doesn't mind playing along because he knows the negotiations mean nothing one way or the other. 
Much less noticed was the visit of the Yemen president to Washington. In Yemen, against all the odds, the country is going through a process of political transformation, with 500 delegates from all parts of society working on plans for democracy, justice and equality.
Even less noticed is that the Yemeni president is increasingly isolated because his friends in Washington insist on using his country as a drone free-fire zone.
In Iraq, after years where the sectarian violence declined year on year, the casualty figures are back up again, in part through the war in Syria. Yet even here, there was recently a seminal statement from Najaf by the Grand Ayatollah Ali al–Sistani, the most influential Shia cleric in Iraq, proclaiming the need for a civil, not religious state, in which all people had equal freedom to participate and disagreeing with those close to Iran who want Shia to go to Syria to fight for Assad alongside Hezbollah.
The most influential Shia clerics in Iraq are all in Iran. 
At the commencement of Ramadan, the king of Saudi Arabia, who is also the keeper of the two holy mosques, made a powerful statement reclaiming the faith of Islam from those who would pervert it, in the name of politics.
Yes, the king of Saudi Arabia is as given to making grandiose nonsensical statements as you are, Tony.
Libya and Tunisia are far from settled, as the assassination of theleading opposition politician in Tunisia and the presence of unrestrained militia in Libyan towns, show. But the democrats aren't giving up. Across the bulge of the northern part of sub-Saharan Africa there are huge challenges now from well-armed and financed terrorists groups that have imported this toxic ideology from the Middle East. Countries such as Nigeria have suffered horribly from a terror based on religious extremism that is alien to their society. But again, despite it all, the country is experiencing rapid economic growth and there has just been a major reform of the power sector, something people thought impossible a short time ago.
Which "democrats" would those be, Tony? The democrats working overtime at the behest of Whitehall and Washington to undo the results of democratic elections in Tunisia and Egypt? As for the "reform" of Nigeria's power sector, I think you meant to say "privatization." This is more of a concern to your City pals than it is to the people of Nigeria.
Egypt could pivot back towards democracy, with a constitution that is genuinely inclusive and objectively administered. There is the promise of elections by early 2014 and all parties, including theMuslim Brotherhood, could take part. Or it could become paralysed, incapable of moving forward, unable to rectify the dire economic situation and restore order, without which no progress is possible.
What was wrong with the elections of 2012?
But the very divisions in Egypt illustrate a deeper awakening in the region that has its own significance. Lessons about government, governance and democracy that took the west centuries to learn are being taken in at extraordinary speed.
How ironic that "the region" is discovering democracy just as we're waving it good-bye in the West.
It is now clear that the status quo in the region will not hold. The idea of the "strong man" government that keeps order, and that the rest of the world likes to deal with because it is predictable, has gone. It doesn't matter whether the "strong man" is of the psychopathic variety, such as Saddam, or the moderate variety, such as Hosni Mubarak, who kept peace in the region. This is the 21st century and the people want to shape their nation's politics. The choice is between evolution and revolution.
"The rest of the world like to deal with?" Come on Tony! It wasn't that we "liked to deal" with the strong men, it's that we put them in and kept them in.
It is equally clear: evolution is definitely preferable if it is attainable. Frankly, it would have been better in Syria. People have had a taste of politics conducted by firestorm. Across the region, there is a fatigue with the wildness and disorder such politics brings. There is recognition that change is best accompanied by stability, and democracy only works if debate is conducted in a reasonable atmosphere where words can be bold, even harsh, but not inflammatory.
There may be "fatigue" aplenty in Damascus but Whitehall and Washington remain indefatigable fanners of the flames. 
There is a burgeoning acceptance that religious freedom is a necessary part of free and open societies. The discussion about the place of religion in government and society is now out in the open. This is enormously important and healthy. For the first time, there is lively and intelligent debate around this issue, which is at the core of the Middle East's problems.
The core of the Middle East's problems is that we screwed them over for a hundred years in the name of empire and another hundred for the sake of oil.
Neither do closed economies fit with open societies. The need for economic reform to provide jobs is absolute. A functioning private sector and an education system educating the large young population for a world which today is more inter-connected than ever before are pre-conditional to progress.
Pure bunk, Tony! How is Britain's open economy doing providing jobs for her large young population?
The Israeli/Palestinian issue is crucial for all the obvious reasons. But it is also a test of the region's capacity to forge a different and better future. If these two peoples can find common ground to create two states, both democratic and free, after all the bloodshed and dispute of decades, that is a huge harbinger of hope.
As a spokesperson for freedom, democracy, and God, you are a disgrace, Mr. Blair, but I do respect your ability to craft an alliteration. 
But last week would not have happened without the full engagement of the US and other international partners. This is the lesson for us. It is a lesson we should bear in mind as Syria disintegrates before our eyes, and as the battle rages over which side used chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal. However much we may wish to look away, the consequences of leaving the bloodbath in Syria to take whatever course it may will be absolutely disastrous for the region and for our security.
Who is "looking away?" Had but the UK/US and their minions in the Gulf kept their fingers out of Syria the "bloodbath" would never have begun.
9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Arab revolutions, Iran, Syria, Egypt, the spread of terror based on religious extremism – surely we can begin to see common threads in all of this. One is how states emerge from years of repression to build institutions capable of answering the needs of the modern world. The other – plainly linked – is how majority Muslim countries define the place of religion in political society. We have a massive interest in a benign outcome.
The common thread is the interference of the US and the former colonial powers at every turn, Tony. Why don't we try something different?
How about if the US/NATO overlords stop funding the militaries in the region, ALL of them, stop funding the "democracy activists," pull the CIA out of every embassy and consulate, and leave "those people" to their own devices?
Surely they won't make a worse hash of it than we have, but in any event, it'll be their hash, not ours.
It's worth clicking on Phony Tony's essay just to read the comments.  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/03/turmoil-middle-east-hope-future