Monday, March 31, 2014

Pauline Marois quits Quebec election campaign, joins Ehud Olmert in creating new investment bank

M&O Investment Bank will specialize in negotiating contracts between infrastructure providers and governments throughout the Middle East and in Quebec.

Speaking to reporters in Quebec City this evening, Ms. Marois said " I've done all I can for the people of Quebec; it's time I did something for myself. I owe it to my children."

Speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv this evening, Mr. Olmert said "I've done everything I can for the people of Israel; it's time I did something for myself. I owe it to my children."

It is rumoured that Canadian Gwynn Morgan, former Chair of Canadian infrastructure big dog SNC-Lavalin and noted anti-corruption campaigner, will be CEO of the new investment bank.

Speaking to reporters in Canada, Morgan said "I've done enough for these sanctimonious assholes; it's time I did something for myself. I owe it to my grandchildren."

What is Canadian PM Harper talking about when he talks about democracy?

The reason I frame that as a question is because I don't know.

I'm of a generation that was indoctrinated to believe that the ballot box, whatever its shortcomings, was a step forward from the bad old days of mob rule.

And it makes a certain amount of sense. Y'all put the guns down and go for a vote, and if you don't like the way the vote went, well, you suck it up and get out there and work really hard to make sure the result is different in four or five years.

What you don't do is pick up the guns and undo what just happened at the ballot box.

Stephen Harper has a record that suggests he's all about picking up the guns if you're not happy with what happened in the polling booth.

When Hamas won an election in Gaza in 2006, deemed free and fair by the international observers on the ground, Harper was the first international leader to denounce the result. Democracy is great, but only when the voters vote the right way.

When the democratically elected Manuel Zelaya was pushed aside in favour of the oligarchs in Honduras in 2009, the Harper government spoke of the putsch as a "restoration of democracy" and went on to sign a free trade deal with the new non-elected government. Democracy is great, but only when people vote responsibly.

Canada's response to the overthrow of Egypt's Morsi  was this;

Canada firmly believes that implementing a transparent democratic system that respects the voices of its citizens, and that encourages and respects the contributions of civil society and all other segments of the population—including religious minorities—is the best way to restore calm and give all Egyptians a stake in the future stability and prosperity of Egypt.
"On behalf of all Canadians, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in the political violence of the past several days and wish a speedy recovery for those injured.
"All Egyptians have the right to live in a free, democratic and secure society"

Overthrowing a democratically elected government is "implementing a transparent democratic system."

You have to love that last line (this comes from the website of Canada's Dept. of Foreign Affairs); it's OK for the army to overthrow the democratically elected government because "all Egyptians have the right to live in a free and democratic society..."

What the fuck is that? Orwell must have had a orgasm right there in his grave!

Which brings us to Ukraine. The government of the unelected "Yats" Yatsenyuk, the result of the Nuland-Pyatt putsch well documented everywhere, was not yet 24 hours old before John Baird was on the ground in Ukraine extolling the virtues of democracy!

Mr. Baird! Mr. Harper! "Democracy" is what it's called when you elect a government...

Overthrowing an elected government is commonly known as something else!

Junior says "nein danke" to Kielburger Kult

Yup, they put on another "Me to We" Kielburger extravaganza at Junior's high school today.

At this point in his academic career Junior has had the misfortune of sitting through these Kielburger sales pitches at least a dozen times.

But one thing that the Farm Manager and I pride ourselves on is the fact that we've managed to raise all of our children with a healthy skepticism for received wisdom, whether that wisdom is received from state or church or news media or advertising industry or education system or Kielburger Kult.

Or parents, for that matter...

If you're not familiar with the Kielburger do-gooder behemoth it's probably because you haven't had a child in the education system anywhere in North America in the last 15 years. While Kielburger foundational myths are constantly undergoing fine-tuning, this much seems to be true; a couple of astute parents spotted the do-gooder instinct in their offspring at an early age, and encouraged them to run with it.

The offspring are now blue-ribbon lawyers who have created a labyrinthine network of for-profits, non-profits, and semi-profits to channel "aid" to poor children in what used to be called the Third World, all of them (the Kielburger corporate entities; not the poor children) revolving around the Kielburger's "Me to We" and "Free the Children" brands.

The fulcrum of their operation seems to have been unlimited entre into the education system. "Leadership" courses in many high schools allow the Kielburger edifice to provide lesson plans and curriculum that, surprise!, favours active participation in fundraising for the various Kielburger brands.

So Junior was treated yet again to a slick schtick that had exceptional production values and a really good "motivational speaker" (ie salesperson) by high school auditorium standards.

The problem with this entire operation isn't that they get kids to think beyond themselves. That's a good thing. The problem is that they are a big business. They are firmly tied in to big corporate sponsors, big celebrities, and big government. They promote a top-down model of "help" that assumes the "Third World/developing world/under-developed world" is what it is because there's not enough happy prosperous middle-class children in North America raising money for them.

The reality is that poverty in that world is the direct result of the systemic exploitation of those societies by ours.

If we were serious about helping the less fortunate, we'd stay home, and by "we" I don't mean just the do-gooders. I mean the geologists and the oil-exploration guys and the diamond merchants and the mercenaries and the arms merchants and the lot of them.

There's way more than enough local ability and intelligence in Haiti and Ecuador and throughout Africa to solve their own problems without our help, and more than enough wealth in the ground to pay for it.

That's not a message those budding activists are likely to hear from the Me to We machine.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Selfie" culture humanizes anyone

Here's the master of the universe getting in on the action;

Yes, even though every official utterance and every policy move takes his country closer to the abyss, Netanyahu can find solace in a "selfie" moment.

Have to admit I think this one is kinda cool;

IAF selfie

But this is a distraction that takes the mind away from serious matters.

And nobody has more serious matters on his plate these days than Netanyahu.

Maybe he should focus on them and forget the selfies.

Turk vote; Erdogan claims victory as opposition claims fraud

And from this distance, you really don't know who to believe.

There is no question that Erdogan maintains massive popular support. There is also no question that he faces massive popular opposition.

Is this what "democracy" comes down to?

Competing claims for popularity?

Erdogan's position is a little more complicated than most. He's been targeted by a lot of former allies for being tied too closely to the Muslim Brotherhood. At the same time he remains a NATO ally. At the same time, his NATO ally the US is busy nurturing the "international imam of mystery" Fethullah Gulen.

Erdogan was drawn deeply into the civil war next door with all sorts of assurances from his betters that they had his back.

Now that it's obvious that the great Syria gambit has been a resounding flop, "having his back" means sooner or later sticking a knife in it and making Erdogan the fall guy for everything that has gone wrong with the NATO plan for Syria.

Erdogan is up a stump. All but abandoned by his NATO buddies, he is being left to fend for himself.

Desperate men take desperate measures.

Hollande gets cold shower in municipal elections

Hollande the Conqueror may be a hero in the CAR and Mali, but he's toxic in France.

The big winners in the municipal elections are allegedly the centre-right main opposition, but read between the lines and it's obvious that the real winners are the once-marginalized National Front.

We've said it before and we'll say it again; once the mainstream left makes itself irrelevant, the fringe right will pick up the pieces.

National Front is long past being on the fringes. The roots of the far right go deep in France. Yes, there is a substantial "silent majority" that will be in denial about that forever, but look at the election results and tell me who is in the ascendancy.

A big part of the reason is that the left cannot seem to come up with viable candidates who capture the imagination of the people. What did Hollande ever have to offer?

Those with even a marginal appreciation for the difference between left and right would have been putting their eggs in the Melenchon basket two years ago.

Russia massing troops on Ukraine border... or not

Versions of this story have dominated Western media coverage of the Ukraine crisis for the better part of the past week. Tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of troops, miles long tank convoys, all ready to swoop in on Ukraine whenever the whim seizes the unpredictable megalomaniac Putin.

Jim Maceda has a story at NBC that is a radical departure from the standard coverage of this story. He did something quite rare for a reporter in the Big Media arena; went to have a look for himself instead of regurgitating the standard talking points of dubious provenance. Over four days and a thousand miles of Russia-Ukraine border this past week, he saw no sign of a military build-up.

The usual anti-Putin hysteria, whipped up by the likes of Canada's big-talking lightweight duo of FM Baird and PM Harper, would have us believe that Putin is hell-bent on re-establishing the Soviet empire. This is not a point of view conducive to acknowledging that Russia has legitimate security interests in its own neighbourhood. It's also a perspective that requires near-total amnesia about the carnage that the Nations of Virtue have wrought in nations nowhere near their neighbourhoods over the past twenty years; Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, to name just a few.

It takes a powerful dose of self-deception indeed to imagine that the West holds the moral high ground in this discussion.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Leaf's still suck and it's still Burke's fault

Mini-Burke Dave Nonis has held a steady-as-she-goes course in Toronto since the departure of his mentor Brian Burke.

That's translated into continuing the Burke strategy of building the team around Phaneuf and Kessel.

It's probably fair to say Burke lost his job for that misguided strategy, so why Nonis would want to continue it is a mystery to me. Maybe he's keen to join Brian in the Calgary rebuild.

In any case, he's not shown himself as anything other than Burkie Lite in Toronto.

Both Phaneuf and Kessel are starters on any NHL team, but neither of them are guys who you should be building a team around. Ultimately it's not fair to them either. That was obvious two years ago or more, and the fact that Nonis is sticking to a tested and failed strategy tells you that he needs to go too.

Wiggins chokes, gives up b'ball to play for Leafs instead

Apparently the rumours that Wiggins was offered a tryout with the Maple Leafs after his inexplicable choke against Stanford are unfounded.

What the hell went on there? Stage fright? You wouldn't think so. Wiggins has had enough money games behind him that you wouldn't think the pressure would make a difference.

Maybe he just had a bad day.

Hopefully it's not a remake of the Carl English story.

Not that Carl has done that poorly for himself. Yes, it was a humiliation for the ages to watch that draft where Carl never got drafted, but it was the twats at CBC who engineered that, so don't blame Carl.

Carl just wanted to play hoops, and that's what he's been doing, and he's made a great living off of it. Maybe not a first-round NBA draft pick kind of living, but definitely a better living than virtually anybody he left behind in Newfoundland.

But for some reason I don't see Wiggins playing in Spain, regardless of his meltdown the other day.

Which was the exact same day that I fired up the F-150 for the first time in months! Yup, she's sat there under a snowbank since November. For a good part of that time there was no sign of her - just a bump in the big snow berm that accumulated in front of the garage.

A few warm days lately have melted enough snow that I could see a bit of red peeking though that snow berm. Three tires were flat.

But we got that taken care of and we're off to see the Leafs beat the Red Wings tonight!

And I hear Wiggins has got a spot on the D!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Time to dump your Toronto real estate

Canadian media are filled with soothing stories about why the vastly over-heated Toronto real estate market is not in fact vastly over-heated.

In the long run, a stable market means that the average income can buy the average house.

Toronto's real estate market has made a lie of that since at least ten years ago.

So if we don't see a stable market, what exactly are we looking at?

A bubble.

A bubble nobody wants to call because all concerned have a vested interest in keeping the bubble bubbling.

I've been around long enough to see a few bubbles come and go, and believe me, this one's about ready to pop.

I recall a brief period about ten years ago, the pre Farm Manager era, when I was involved with a Toronto gal and we were semi-seriously looking at Toronto real estate.

Looked at a place on the perhiphery of Forest Hill that was available for a mere $300k. Thought it was extravagantly overpriced. That little cottage would go for well over a million in today's market.

Another place we looked at was a fixer-upper on Baby Point Road that was on offer for a mere $800k. That would get 3 millions today.

If that shit was overpriced ten years ago, what is it now?

I remember going to a family do at a place near mid-town, where my friend's dad had bought the two-story red brick home on the strength of his salesman's salary back in the '50s. Ten years ago it would have brought close to a million. Clearly outside the range of what a typical salesman could afford. Today it would trade for 3 and a half or four millions. The only salesmen buying in that neighbourhood today are guys at the bond desk at Goldman Sachs.

And there's not enough of them to keep these wacky prices where they are.

What goes up is gonna come down.

Get out before you get hurt.

How the Rob Ford brand opens doors

Nobody knows better that there's no such thing as bad publicity than Rob Ford.

After all, the dude has had but one success as a politician; privatizing garbage collection and thereby turning a $25/ hour job with benefits into a $12/hour job with no benefits.

In a city where a two-bedroom apartment rents for $1,200 a month, that's quite an accomplishment. Never mind buying a house, where half a million gets you a starter if you're lucky, and none of those newly privatized trash collectors would consider themselves that.

But some wanker who prefers to remain anonymous has got major face time on ABC News because he put an ad on Craigslist looking for a tuba player willing to harrass Ford for a day.

For $125.00.

He's already got a million bucks worth of free PR from ABC.

Only the Rob Ford brand can make that happen...

Foreign Minister John Baird re-invents Canadian history

John Baird's Department of Foreign Affairs has a press release on its website today that includes this whopper;

"One of Canada’s oldest and most basic values is supporting a sovereign state’s territorial integrity,” said Baird.

Oh really?

Didn't Canada just take leave of a NATO mission in Afghanistan that had everything to do with propping up a NATO-installed stooge and nothing to do with that sovereign state's integrity?

And where was Canada when our bestest besties in the whole world were egregiously violating the territorial integrity of Lebanon in 2006?

Where were the protests from the Canadian government when the other best friends were laying waste to the territorial integrity of Iraq?

And wasn't Baird himself photographed autographing a bomb to be delivered by Canadian jets to Libya in the egregious violation of that sovereign state's territorial integrity in 2011?

But suddenly "supporting a sovereign state's territorial integrity" is a cherished Canadian value of long standing?

I think what he meant to say was "we're a bunch of dumbshits who get our talking points from Washington and Tel Aviv. Apart from that, we don't really stand for much of anything, but if a few of of our mining conglomerates or oil companies can make a buck, we're in!"

Sashko Bily and the rise of Ukrainian fascism

The extreme right, the guys who took over the Maidan protests back in January and forced the abdication of the democratically elected Yanukovich, now have their martyr.

Sashko Bily, aka Oleksandr Muzychko, died in a police shootout Monday night. Bily was one of the top dogs on the far-right scene in Ukraine, a scene that far too many commentators in the West are pretending does not exist. The police who shot him down were working for the new pro-western non-elected government of Washington favorite "Yats" Yatsenyuk.

As much as the Western press might want to write these guys out of recent history, they are the ones who are making history in Ukraine, and going forward this will not be a history that the fomentors of the latest Ukraine "revolution" had in mind.

Now that the broad outlines of the IMF "rescue package" have been made public, it's only a matter of time before the extreme right gets serious traction among the Ukrainian masses. Washington's bumboy Yatsenyuk has already acknowledged that he intends to fully comply with IMF dictates, going so far as to admit he will be the most hated politician in Ukraine.

What the IMF life-line means is a 50-75% percent increase in gas bills for already impoverished Ukrainians. On top of that there will be massive job losses in the public sector and a reduction in state benefits such as pensions.

That will be fertile soil indeed for the ultra-nationalists.

If Yats isn't dead in six months, he'll have a cushy teaching post at an American university. The embittered people of the Ukraine will have realized that the IMF life-line was designed to pay their Gazprom account and cover the losses of the big banks.

They'll be flocking to the far right in droves. Democracy will be up for grabs, and the people most likely to grab it will be the hard right fanatics currently being whitewashed by dimbulbs like Stephen Harper and John Baird.

Let's hope it doesn't get ugly.

Floundering Erdogan lashes out at YouTube over false flag expose

Just days after an attempted ban on Twitter spectacularly backfired, the wily Turk PM Erdogan found himself forced to ban YouTube.

Why? Because YouTube had posted a recording of high-level Erdogan insiders planning a false flag operation in Syria. The plan was to send a small team of Turkish special forces into Syria and fire a few rockets at Turkey, thereby giving the Turkish military an excuse to move into Syria.

Obviously those years of close cooperation with the IDF were not for naught!

Naturally enough, Team Erdogan is doing its level best to pin this latest embarrassment on Team Gulen, which I think misses the main point. Yes, it would be an outrage to think that ones enemies have such insider access that they could record the particulars of this discussion, but the real embarrassment is that they were having such a discussion in the first place!

And banning YouTube is just another desperate act from a leader who has little else to offer. We said it here two years ago; Erdogan will be long gone while the evil Assad next door remains in power.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tossing the baby out with the bathwater; Ontario cracks down on internships

Have to admit that the think tank here at Falling Downs has been whining as long and as hard as anybody about the injustice of unpaid internships.

And an unpaid internship is an injustice. As a matter of principle, anybody who works for somebody else should be paid for their work.

That said, the practice of unpaid internships seemed to be sailing along nicely, well under the radar, until the inevitable happened; one or two idiots wrecked it for everybody.

While there may be something to be said for Steven Spielberg taking on a few unpaid interns etc, it was only a matter of time before opportunistic money-grubbers took advantage of things. Suddenly you had major league hospitality chains offering "internships" to clean cutlery and bus tables.

Isadore Sharp's Four Seasons chain even got in on the action!

So the folks who offered genuine opportunities, in film and publishing and advertising and so forth, got caught in the backlash when the luxury hotels and the big restaurant chains started offering "internships" for folks who might be wanting a chance to make a career in cleaning hotel rooms or bussing tables.

Looks like a case of an over-eager bureaucracy using the proverbial hammer to swat a fly.

Nairobi Gay Pride Parade cancelled

Till further notice. The duly elected representatives of the people have promised to have another look at the matter in a hundred years or so...

Pan-African homophobia is one of the few cultural facts that can be declared as truly pan-African these days. Aden Duale speaks for the "silent majority" of Africa when he puts his bona-fides on the table.

As any right thinking African knows, and as all those really smart white missionaries have been telling them for 400 years or more, homosexuality is a crime against God and a crime against the natural order.

While I don't mean to over-generalize, that's a bit of foolishness that fits right in there with other common African cultural facts like
  • we can't develop without the aid of the white man
  • we're backward
  • we need help
  • we can't feed ourselves without foreign aid
  • Bwana is just so much smarter than us folks
  • etc etc etc...
Bubbling merrily to the surface just below that level of official black deference to white colonial culture is a vigorous Afro-centric counter-culture that happily says "bullshit" to all of the above.

Look up virtually anything Binyavanga Wainaina has ever written and you'll find an entre into a world where real Africans know that the picture our mainstream media has painted of them doesn't resemble them in the least.

And he is far from being the only one...

It's just a matter of time before the Africans realize they're better off, far better off, without the "help" of the white man.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Freedom isn't free"; Obama exhorts NATO allies to increase arms spending

Let's do some math here. According to Obama's pep talk to the Nations of Virtue in Brussels today, our European allies need to pony up more money for weapons so that NATO can have a "credible deterrent" to Putin's neo-Soviet designs on eastern Europe.

In 2013 NATO spent a combined one trillion dollars plus on defence. Russia spent in the range of 90 billions. If outspending Russia by a factor of 10 has failed to provide a "credible deterrent", how much more spending does Obama think would buy credibility?

Nor would military spending seem to be the deciding factor in Russia's "take-over" of Crimea, which, let's not forget, came off without a shot being fired. Contrast that bit of Russian "aggression" to America's shock and awe approach to imposing its will. Recent history tells us that while there may well be a correlation between military spending and the enthusiasm to pursue military action, there is no correlation whatsoever between military action and getting the results you want.

In fact, all of America's big talk and the big stick they've been keen to use has resulted in a profound decline in America's influence and prestige on the world stage over the past twenty years.

America's solution? Let's spend more money on weapons!

Which does not mean that Obama has slipped his moorings and is over there spouting nonsense. America is the world's biggest arms supplier and producer by a wide margin, and weapons are America's number one export. Nothing like a little fear-mongering to scare up some sales!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mali coup leader abandons hunger strike because "tummy hurts"

What else is there to read between the lines of this story?

You will recall that Captain Amadou Sanogo first took power in an accidental coup a couple of years ago. He and a few mates get shit-faced one night and have a drunken whoop-up at their barracks, staggering about firing their machine guns in the air and drunkenly baying for regime change.

The hapless civilian President catches wind of this, figures it's the real thing, and high-tails it for the border.

Next day Sanogo and his pals wake up from their drunken stupour and find out that they've taken over the country! For real!

Against his better judgement, the US-trained Sanogo decided to run with it, at least for a little while. For his troubles he's now been tossed into the brig while the French liberators figure out what to do with him.

Here's a bit of advice for Francios Hollande, who has been desperately casting about for a Mali exit strategy:

Three Point Plan for Mali Exit

  1. Declare Mali a constitutional monarchy.
  2. Declare Captain Sanogo the "King".
  3. Wish him well and get the fuck out of there!
Sounds like a plan to me!

More doubts cast on Canada's imaginary "worker shortage"

This time it's the Parliamentary Budget Office throwing cold water on the Harper governments' contention that Canada is in the throes of a major skilled worker shortage.

In fact, the PBO's Mostafa Askari pretty much confirms what we've been saying all along; the "skilled worker shortage" is political flim-flam designed to cover up the fact that the Harper government has been waging all-out war on Canadian workers.

The government has pointed to the so-called skills mismatch to justify measures like the foreign temporary workers program, stricter unemployment insurance eligibility rules and the Canada Jobs Grant, which has been unpopular with the provinces.

The PBO report points out that a genuine labour shortage would result in upward pressure on wages. Instead, wages in most fields have been stagnant, and the addition of hundreds of thousands of "Temporary Foreign Workers" has in fact put considerable downward pressure on the wages of many Canadian workers.

The only point on which the think tank here at Falling Downs would disagree with Mr. Askari is over his "surprise" at the government's use of statistics to justify their conclusions that there has been a labour shortage.

It's all politics. The Conservative Party represents business, not workers. Of course the business community would like to see downward pressure on wages; of course they'd like to flood the country with foreign workers undercutting Canadian wages; of course they'd love to use any excuse to cut back unemployment benefits...

How is any of this a surprise?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Madoff flunkies convicted while big fish swim free

Well here's a blow for justice.  Five Bernie Madoff underlings have been found guilty of aiding and abetting the great man in his great Ponzi scheme.

Off with their heads! That's a verdict that's bound to ensure personal ruin for folks who were, at the most, guilty of ignoring their better judgement as their boss passed every test the SEC threw Madoff's way in the course of twenty years.

Meanwhile, Dick Fuld and Steve Cohen have no worries beyond a decent tee time at Wampanoag.

That's justice, American style!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

National Front soars as Hollande dithers

After almost two years at the helm, Hollande has impressed the populace with his non-existent grasp of issues both domestic and overseas.

The early enthusiasm for foreign adventures, as typified by the ever-unctuous BHL claiming that Hollande would "earn his spurs" in Mali, has long faded.

It has so faded that Hollande is now the single most effective recruiting tool for the National Front.

Hang in there Francois, if anyone can bring back Vichy it will be you!

As Michelle Obama is busy preaching virtues of internet freedom to China, NSA is busy spying on Chinese internet traffic

Holy cow, that's enough to give long-dead Orwell a boner!

The folks at German news magazine Der Spiegel claim that the NSA has been vacuuming up the data trail left not only by the government of China but the upper echelon of China's "private sector" as well, especially China's answer to Microsoft, Huawei.

Frankly, I think they get the lower echelon as well. In fact, I think it's more than obvious that they vacuum up EVERYTHING!

Maybe that's why we sent Michelle over there, with her kids and her mom. Nobody gonna suspect that little family unit of being up to no good!

About that mysterious Vatican cocaine shipment

Here's a story that raises a few questions.

  • does all Vatican mail get routed through Germany?
  • is Vatican mail not subject to diplomatic immunity?
  • does the Bundespost publizice all suspicious packages or just those going to Rome?
  • what are the advantages of shipping "liquid" cocaine?
  • what is "liquid" cocaine?
  • where does that fanciful price for 300g of cocaine come from?
  • how often does a Vatican emissary travel to Liepzig to pick up the papal mail?
Sounds like it was a slow news day somewhere, and somebody thought they'd liven it up a little by putting the words "cocaine" and "Vatican" in the same story. After all, who do we know in the Vatican who is from South America, nudge, nudge, wink?...

Michelle Obama preaches internet freedom in China!

Isn't that a hoot!

Yes, every one of those Chinese has a God-given right to freely peruse the internet, whenever and wherever... and America of course has a God-given right to track everywhere they go and everything they do.

Hey, freedom comes with responsibility; it's a two way street. They get freedom and we have the responsibility to monitor them.

Ironically, at the very moment Michelle was promoting internet freedom in China, her hubby was hunkering down with a room full of tech biz big dogs sorting out just who has what responsibility for violating internet freedom around the world.

On Obama's agenda; data-mining, security, privacy, and surveillance. Almost sounds like the exact opposite of what Michelle is promoting in China!

Such delicious juxtapositioning of news stories risks waking Orwell from the dead.

Shoveling bupkus above your weight; the shameless hypocrisy of Stephen Harper

Harper Baird MacKay

This is Big Steve's Brain; l to r Big John, Big Steve, Big Peter "Pinocchio" MacKay

Truth of the matter is that an awful lot of what looks, sounds, and smells of rank hypocrisy when we follow Mr. Harper's various pronouncements on current events isn't really that at all.

As Canadians, when we foot the bill for Steve's various turns on the world stage, we naturally think he's on the world stage. "Why is that man talking such foolishness on the world stage?" we ask ourselves.

"Does he not know he makes all Canadians look ridiculous?"

For example, one does not need to have a doctorate in history to catch the glaring inconsistencies in the Harperite world view. When this country illegally annexes a neighbour's land, they're our best friend. When that country does the same thing, it's 1938 all over again!

Relax! Harper is not on the world stage; he's on the campaign trail!

Do you ever notice that whenever Harper is on one of these junkets, the only reporters who ever have questions for him are the one's he brought with him from Canada? Nobody, but nobody in the broader world has the slightest interest about where Steven Harper stands on anything.

So when Mr. Harper spends a few days bowing and scraping in Israel, it's not because he has discovered a sudden affinity for the Holy Land; it's because his handlers think there might be a couple of key ridings in the next election where this toadying will be rewarded.

Likewise his fawning over a non-elected cipher in the new non-elected democratic government of Ukraine. Yes, everybody knows that's ridiculous; everybody except those rabidly anti-Russian Ukrainian-Canadians who are likely to shower Harper with votes in that next election.

Which is not to say the Ukrainian-Canadians do not come by their Russophobia honestly. Ukraine suffered terribly under Stalin's forced collectivization of agriculture.

There are no votes to be lost in Canada by shoveling hysterically over-the-top anti-Putin propaganda.

So give Mr. Harper a break. He's not a hypocrite. He's a pragmatist.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The fight for fair marijuana distribution in Canada

It's hard to tell which way the winds are blowing in the marijuana decriminalization evolution in Canada.

Harper's tough-on-crimers have eased up slightly on who can be prescribed medical marijuana, but at the same time they're taking steps to ensure that legal weed and the profits thereof go to corporate types rather than to small scale cottage-industry folks who grow for their own use and may have a little surplus left over to share with friends.

Guy's like Steven Stairs will no longer be able to grow their own medicinal pot if the Harperites get their way. He'll be forced to buy it from the corporate growers Harper has been empowering.

The judge's decision on Friday merely delays this process. The issue has in effect been kicked up the courts, so it could take years before we get that Supreme Court ruling. In the meantime everybody is operating in more or less of a legal limbo.

The blessing here is that it gives regular folks an opportunity to draw a little bit of publicity to the matter. Why should the cultivation and distribution of marijuana be rendered just another commodity in our consumer supply chain, just another profit centre for the corporate douchebags who've managed to take the joy out of everything else they touch?

Marijuana is a sacred sacrament to some, a medicinal herb to others, and a nice way to unwind after a long day for others still. Wally Tucker fought his whole life to get respect for pot; he wasn't fighting so money guys in suits could build a corporate empire.

Let's twist one up and see if we can come up with some better ideas.

Manitoba has hillbillies... who knew?

This story about hillbillies spending a Manitoba winter living in a tipi caught my eye.

I had no idea they had hillbillies in Manitoba.

German-speaking agrarian Christian communes I knew about.

Oodles of Nordic immigrants who were drawn in by the promise of six months of winter every year I knew about.

Some of the most wretched concentrations of urban native poverty in all the land I knew about.

But hillbillies? I didn't know about that. Then you read the fine print; they're from Ontario!

That explains it.

Just passing through...

Ciara and Bill obviously have better things to do than sit around in Ontario bemoaning the lack of opportunities for young people. They're walking across the land in pursuit of their dreams.

Good on them!

If you're ever back this way we can put you up with a campsite down along the creek. Stay as long as you need to.

And good luck chasing your dreams!

Having tossed the money-changers from the temple and rid the seminaries of pedophiles, Pope Francis turns his guns on.. THE MAFIA!

One thing you gotta say about this latest Pope is he knows how to sniff out the headlines.

Those "evil, blood-stained" mafiosi better mind their Ps and Qs 'cause His Holiness has got their number!

And while these ruminations may capture headlines, is this really the most dastardly problem facing Italy?

I would think not.

Perhaps he could say a few words against Italy's NATO membership; that is a gang of far more sinister designs than the mafia and a far longer list of victims

Perhaps he could address the fact that every day more souls drown trying to reach Italian shores than die in a given year of mafia violence.

Perhaps he could reign in the upstart Renzi before he gets too far down the road of sacrificing the nation at the altar of Mammon.

And if the recent vote of the Venetians to exit the Republic is a harbinger of things to come, there may soon be no nation left to pray for!

So focus on God's kingdom in Italy, and leave the gangsters to the devil...

Besides, I'm a little suspect about what's become of the money-changers and the pedophiles.

Friday, March 21, 2014

FIFA and the international labour brokers

As Qatar scrambles to complete construction of stadia and infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup, FIFA is getting splattered with a bit of bad ink.

And that's too bad, because the root problem here lies not with FIFA, nor with Qatar, but with the lack of international regulation of labour brokers.

"Labour brokers" are not a new thing. In fact, there are probably labour brokers operating in your town. You may know them as "employment agencies."

Where once your local manufactories prided themselves on having their own HR department and doing their own hiring out of the community they are a part of, it has become the norm to outsource this function to employment agencies.

Employment agencies sell the employers on this as a way to cut their costs, and in this day and age of relentless cost-cutting at all costs, this is a powerful pitch.

And whatever cost-savings this outsourcing may entail, it also serves to break the bond between employer and employee.

In the age of the globalization and commodification of everything, we shouldn't be surprised that "labour," ie "work,"  has become just another commodity to be sourced from the cheapest international supplier.

Once the employment agency has morphed into the international labour broker, the employer-employee bond has been completely crushed. There are layers of sub-brokers and sub sub-brokers between the worker and the employer. Responsibility for the welfare of the employee is easily shed amongst the many layers of brokerage that stand between a worker from Nepal or Bangladesh and a project in Qatar being administered by a general contractor from Canada or Spain or wherever.

That's why none of the feel-good campaigns to ease the plight of Cambodian or Viet Namese or Bengali garment workers ever amount to anything. Sure, we can all agree to pay another ten cents or two dollars or whatever for a T-shirt, but that money simply gets lost among the many levels of brokers long before it ever finds its way to a $37/month garment worker.

When responsibility for worker welfare is so widely diffused, we end up with a situation wherein no one is responsible.

IDF discovers biggest Gaza terror tunnel ever... again!

This is the "biggest terror tunnel ever," according to the Times of Israel last October.

Section of the tunnel discovered running from the Gaza Strip to Israel, October 13, 2013. (photo credit: Times of Israel/Mitch Ginsburg)


And this would be the latest biggest terror tunnel ever, according to today's JPost.
Gaza terror tunnle. (IDF Spokeperon's Office)
Are these really two different tunnels?
Or are the IDF PR types not above refloating the same story when they think the original didn't get its due?
Iranian nukes, anyone?

Canada PM Harper jets to Ukraine to offer illegal Yatsenyuk government advice on "rule of law"

Less than 24 hours after the coup that overthrew a democratically elected government in Ukraine and replaced it with the hand-picked US bumboy Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs had on its website a congratulatory press release that included this bit of weasel-speak;

Canada welcomes the appointment of a new government today in Ukraine. After the trauma of the past three months and the loss of so many lives, the appointment of a legitimate government is a vital step forward in restoring democracy and normalcy to Ukraine.

This does in fact tip the hand of the Harper gang in terms of their respect for democracy. Forget about it; legitimacy is conferred by appointment, not by the ballot box! And after the release of the infamous Pyatt-Nuland tapes, everybody knows who made the appointment.

But it's a done deal, and today Harper is off to spread best wishes among the "legitimate" rulers of the new albeit truncated Ukraine, led by the man who polled under 7% in the first round of the 2010 elections. Ah, but what's a few percentage points when you've got the votes that count in Washington!

Ironically, on the very day that Big Steve left to spread platitudes among the newly legit losers of Ukraine's last election, the Supreme Court of Canada had a few things to say about Harper's ham-fisted end-run around "rule of law" with the Marc Nadon Supreme Court nomination. If you recall, that was Harper's attempt to stack the Supreme Court with Harper-friendly stooges by nominating the unqualified Marc Nadon, and then trying to cover his tracks by retroactively changing the rules.

What they are in effect saying is, "hold the phone there, Big Steve... this ain't Ukraine!"

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The boots'll be flyin' tonight

Don Gregory was by all accounts a level-headed and even-tempered kinda guy.

But there was two issues that got his goat. One was when his thieving old hag of a landlady got into his groceries. The other was when his pack of maritime hillbilly flat-mates didn't clean out the bathroom properly at the rooming house they all shared with the aforementioned thieving hag.

Don was the first guy I got buddied up with when I arrived in Saint John New Brunswick to make my contribution to the Canadian Frigate Program in the early 90s. Mr. Irving was a firm believer in the "buddy system." To me, the buddy system was pretty much limited to that bit of growing-up wisdom that said "never go swimming without a buddy."

I suppose that it was possible Mr. Irving was coming from the same place. If one of his drydock workers should, in the course of an extended walkabout, happen to stroll off the end of a pier, he might just drown. If there were two of them, one could possibly save the other, or vice versa.

Don was from "the Island." I originally assumed that to mean Newfoundland, or possibly Cape Bretton, but it actually meant PEI. Don hailed from a long line of bootleggers on the Island, which to my understanding continues to be an honourable trade there to this day.

Don used to commute to Saint John from his place in Pictou County with a few other lads that had families up there but jobs at the drydock. On a Friday night as many as seven of them might squeeze into somebody's Hyundai Pony or pick-up truck for the six or seven hours drive to visit the home side. Sunday night they'd all pile in again for the return trip.

In the course of a winter the price of fresh vegtables could take quite an unfortunate turn in Saint John. It was nothing to see a plump red tomato, a single one, going for upwards of three dollars at Sobey's, and I'm talking twenty-five years ago. Don would treat himself to a tomato or two, only to find the tomatoes long disappeared when he was ready to fix himself a tomato sandwich a day or two later.

One day he tells me this story;

So Neumann, I been tellin' ya about the great fuckin' disappearin' tomato mystery... figgured it must be Reggie or one a them cunts. But no, it's fuckin' worse than that!

I get home last night, and the landlady is walkin' round the house eatin' a fuckin' tomato sandwich, Neumann! Ya! The old crow is fuckin' eatin' a tomato sandwich right in fronta me, and I just bought two fuckin' tomatoes last night, so I check in the fridge, and fuckin' right, no tomatoes!

So I says to her, Neumann, I says right to her face, do you know what happened to my tomatoes? And she looks me in the eye, in the EYE Neumann, and she's got fuckin' tomato juices dribbling down her chin, and the lyin' old crow looks me in the eye and says "no!"

I could see where Don was caught on the horns of a moral dilema. This is where honour and justice demand that he give his ninety year old landlady a punch in the face. Except of course that you just can't do that! Calling the cops because the landlady ate your tomato just makes you look like a dorkshit. Having her call the cops 'cause you gave her a poke in the beak for eating your tomato just makes you look a thousand times worse!

I'm afraid I wasn't much help to Don over that quandry. Dude, suck it up and buy yourself another tomato... let it slide, man. You're not going to make a lot of friends in jail when word gets round you're there for beating up the old girl who filched your tomato...

The deal with the flat-mates did however end in violence. Like I said, the deal there was their inability to clean up the bathroom, and nothing disturbed Don's equimanity more than walking into the shared bath after a hard day's work with a hot bath in mind, and finding other men's pubic hair, or "pupil hair" as Don had it, festooning the sides of the tub.

The climax was weeks in coming. I gathered there'd been a couple of stand-offs and harsh words had been exchanged more than once. Still the reprobates were careless about cleaning up their pupil hair.

Neumann, I swear, tonight's the night. If there's a single fuckin' pupil hair to be seen in that bathroom, the boots are gonna fly...

That night the boots did fly. Next time I saw Reggie his smile was missing a couple more teeth. Couple other fellas were looking for new rooms. And Don was making new arrangements for that weekend commute to Pictou County.

And oddly enough, the old crow left Don's tomatoes alone after that.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cooler heads flabberghasted as Netanyahu seizes opportunity to ratchet Middle East tensions even higher

Sensing at least a temporary victory over the sad-sack Abbas and the doofus Kerry, Netanyahu has decided this would be the perfect time to do what's generally been considered out-of-bounds since 1967; go for a direct strike on Syrian troops.

And why not? Assad's been busy enough trying to keep his head attached to his body. Kerry's been busy enough trying to save what little is left of US prestige after the Crimea debacle.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for one thing, when top IDF intelligence types routinely warn of hundreds of thousands of missiles pointed at every city and town in Israel, it may be more than a little foolhardy to risk finding out the hard way just how many of those hundreds of thousands of missiles can be stopped by Iron Dome.

As much as I hope I'm wrong, I think Iron Dome is going to be pretty much played out after the first fifteen minutes of a serious battle with the neighbours.

Then what?

Netanyahu is a spoiled child randomly tossing lit matches over his shoulder while he sits atop a tinderbox that could engulf the entire region within minutes.

His actions are criminally irresponsible and stupid in the extreme.

Helping Canadian workers stay flexible

No, I'm not talking about shopfloor yoga lessons.

I'm talking about the kind of flexibility GE boss Jeff Immelt had in mind when he waxed wise on worker's expectations a couple years ago.

There's always something precious about a $25 million a year guy giving tips for living to the shopfloor folks he's been driving into abject penury.

But we're talking about the flexibility that ensues when you see your job being fobbed off on one of those hard-working Mexicans or Filipinos who have been making hay big-time under Canada's "Temporary Foreign Worker" program.

A friend of a friend made quite a success story of herself establishing a business that did site-clean-up for home-builders in the Calgary area over the past few years. She struggled till she hit the brass TFW ring.

Her first batch of Mexicans turned her struggling business into a gold mine! Needless to say, she swears by them now. And why not?

They get in the country on their TFW card, and you can bet they won't be making any trouble. They don't have the luxury of taking the tried and true "take this job and shove it" route. The conditions of their contract don't allow them to quit just because somebody down the street offers them a couple dollars an hour more. Once they're in-country, they're yours!

While $12/hr may seem like a joke to any Canadian in Calgary, it's considered a great opportunity by the Mexicans in Calgary.

Which is what we're talking about when we talk about "flexibility."

Employers love flexibility. A Croatian or Tunisian welder making $16/hr is so damned flexible he makes the typical Fort Mac Newfie look like rigor mortis set in ten years ago. These folks are keen! You can hire two or three of them for the hourly rate of a Canadian!

And what is really great about the TFW program is that it helps the Canadians be just a little more flexible. Nothing like having a reserve army of TFWs waiting in the wings at contract time...

It helps those lazy-ass Canadians appreciate that in this globalized economy, they're not the only game in town anymore.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The "skilled worker shortage" hoax unravels

Here is yet more proof that the vaunted "skilled worker shortage" has been little more than a Harper-gang scam to flood the country with temporary foreign workers.

They're here in the hundreds of thousands. Their presence keeps Canadians underemployed, unemployed, and keeps downward pressure on Canadian wages.  The government could never get away with this if they told the truth about it, which is why we've had the on-going pitch about the imaginary labour shortage for years and years.

That's also why the much bally-hooed "skills training" initiative has never been anything other than TV ads promoting a program that doesn't exist. Gives the stunned Canadian voter the illusion that their government is doing something for them.

That's democracy, Harper style. Give the rubes the illusion that you're doing something for them, and all the while work behind their backs to bring in more of those hard-working folks from places where a shipping crate is considered a middle-class home.

At least those folks appreciate a $12/hr job when they get a crack at one.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The four major food groups

With a title like that, it's obvious that I've come a long way since last week's trip to death's portal. Obviously my appetite is back.

With appetite back it was hard not to notice that the Farm Manager was watching something on the TV about "the four major food groups." I heard "protein" and "dairy" and then I kinda lost track... but it did get me thinking about what the actual real-world four major food groups might be for real people who eat real food.

In no particular order, here's the Falling Downs list of the four major food groups.

Ribs. How can you go wrong with ribs? Even "bad" ribs make for a happy day. And really, what are "bad" ribs? A little over-cooked and a little chewy perhaps, but that's nothing another swig of beer and a little more chewing can't fix. Rib's rock!

Chicken wings. I can't count the number of times I've got up in the morning promising myself I'm turning over a new leaf. Yup, gonna step out and buy me some yoga pants and join a gym. Maybe run 10k after work... go all out and go vegan maybe?!

Sure thing! Then before you know it, I'm heading home, and as I'm driving through Shallow Lake the sign outside Mumma Brown's reminds me it's wing night... and all good intentions go down the shitter just like that, and I find the most delightful hour of my entire life spent with a jumbo wing platter and a pitcher of beer! I'd happily trade every gym membership I've ever had for just one more night at Mumma Brown's with a jumbo wing platter and a pitcher of beer! Maybe even two pitchers? How about two pitchers and two platters?..

Liver 'n onions. OK, I know I just lost a few folks. It's a bit of an acquired taste. Kind of a DP thing to be honest, but goddamn, it's friggin' hard to beat a plate of liver done right with mashed potatoes and sauteed onions... oh shit I just drooled on the keyboard. Excuse me...

Like I was saying, liver done right is a trip to heaven. Liver done not-so-right is like eating your old Kodiak work boots. You gotta be careful, cause there's more places doing it wrong than right these days.

There's folks who want to tell you that liver can't be good for you, because after all, that's the organ that filters all the poisons out of a living organism, ergo, it's gotta be bad for ya.

Bullshit! A good feed of liver once and again actually inoculates you against all that bad stuff! Think of it as a vaccination.

By the way, if you're in the neighbourhood you'll find that Mumma Brown generally has a good handle on the liver too.

And finally, number four on the four major food groups... well that's a tough one. I don't know why the experts insist on limiting themselves to four. Personally I would have stretched that out to ten or twelve at least, but I think if I had to saw it off, number four would be chile.

Damn right; it's pretty hard to beat a good bowl of chile! And the great thing about chile is you can toss a lot of your real healthy shit in there and not even know it! I'm talking carrots, yams, you name it...  Plus it's a good spot to let your less than stellar cuts of beef tender up for awhile.

There you have it. The four major tasty food groups. Ribs, liver, wings, and chile. And while I'm at it, I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention another local who does all of the above to an exquisite level, and that would be my neighbour Bill Lisk.

Bill's got a place over Sauble way, North Sauble actually, and he's got it all nailed down. In fact, he gives Mumma Brown a run for her money; too bad he's a bit out of the way.

His place is called "The Smoking Gun," and his schtick is he's got a smoker out beside the place that looks like a twenty foot long .45 revolver. And he really knows his stuff.

Rumour has it Bill was a biker in one of his past lives. I wouldn't know anything about that, but I think in general bikers get a bad rap. At the same time, just between me and you, most bikers look like they know something about good food, don't they?

Man, am I ever hungry...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Would an independent Quebec be a police state?

It was hilarity all round as Montreal Police busted the annual anti-police-brutality march within three minutes of its start. Normally they like to let it get off to a good head-start before chasing down the n'ere-do-wells and beating some sense into them!

Quebec has the best developed anti-establishment culture in all of Canada, as evidenced by this annual march and the red square protests among other things. Unfortunately for them, a PQ future means a future under the thumb of the reprobate anti-worker "star" PQ candidate Pierre Peladeau.

It's gonna be tough to square that circle.

Steve Cohen; still out of jail but not out of the woods

I'm a sucker for the rags-to-riches story. I've met dozens of European immigrants who came to Canada and made something out of nothing. Italians, Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Germans, Ukrainians... you name it, this was a land of opportunity for anybody with a bit of good luck and a big work ethic. Some became merely comfortable, others became wealthy enough to keep their grandchildren in cocaine and Porsches in perpetuity.

All of them built something. They started a one man machine shop that thirty years later was a global concern, or they started an excavating company that grew into a major infrastructure provider, or they started a construction business that became a major real estate company... they built real stuff in the real world. They employed real people in real jobs in the hundreds of thousands.

Which sets them apart from the new breed of capitalists, guys like Steven A. Cohen.

Cohen's is certainly a rags-to-riches story. He came from nothing and rode the rising tide of the "Rumpelstilskin economy" to great wealth, employing only a small army of straw-into-gold spinners, whose primary job it was to make Steve wealthier.

Alas, Steve has been laboring under a cloud of insider-trading allegations for the past few years. Multiple investigations have led to the dismemberment of his hedge fund and a repositioning of his business concerns as a closed shop managing only Mr. Cohen's personal fortune of $9 billions.

This story from Bloomberg suggests that he may not be out of the woods yet.

"Jesus was a socialist" - words to remember Tony Benn

The world has lost a great social democrat with the passing of long-time British Labour MP Tony Benn.

Benn had nothing in common with the "new" Labour of phoney Tony Blair. Benn was an old-school idealist who stuck with his beliefs even though the temptations of opportunism led the majority of his party in another direction.

This interview with Michael Moore done a few years ago gives some sense of the man;

Godspeed Mr. Benn, the world's a colder place without you.

Ford Nation claims it has Bill Blair sex tapes

The long-simmering feud between Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Chief of Police Bill Blair has exploded with the revelation that Ford Nation has in its possession tapes that show the Chief in several dozen compromising positions with semi-naked women dressed up as prison camp internees.

That might go a long way towards explaining why Blair has been reluctant to pursue any sort of case against His Worship, in spite of the vast treasure trove of raw material he has to work with.

Our global network of undercover operatives has a mole deep inside Ford Nation, a mole who has seen the tapes, and she says Blair has nothing to worry about.

"That's not Bill Blair, it's Max Mosley," she confidently asserted. "Believe me, I've seen both of them naked and I know who's who!"

The Gawker website immediately cancelled the fund raiser they had organized to purchase the Blair sex tapes.

If you thought the Rob Ford "crack video" was a scandal, wait till you see the Rob Ford sex tapes!

Anonymous Toronto Police Services insiders have revealed an ongoing investigation into the possible existence of rumours of a Rob Ford sex tape. The TMZ entertainment site was first to break the news, reporting that its operatives had seen uncut video of fat white people wearing nothing but masks doing the oinky-boinky in ways that shocked even the hardened reporters at TMZ.

Media website Gawker has launched a fund-raising drive to purchase the video.

This cruel, cruel winter

Six weeks ago, Canada's most famous lying rodent outside Ottawa, Wiarton Willie, predicted six more weeks of winter.

At the time that was something of a disappointment. We'd had enough already of a winter that set in early and froze deep. But we grudgingly braced ourselves for that six week trudge to the finish line.

Last Tuesday I believed we had made it. I took the hounds on an extended ramble all the way up the escarpment. The sky was the bluest of blue and a hopeful spring breeze blew. We made an afternoon of it and arrived home exhausted, the three of us, but content and sure that spring was, if not quite sprung, then just around the next corner.

That evening I noticed a faint tickle at the back of my throat, but thought nothing of it. In the middle of the night I woke up drenched in sweat, fevered and freezing and my throat on fire. That's been the last three days; a cycle of semi-lucid consciousness followed by a deep coma, from which I emerge every few hours just as I am at risk of drowning in my sheets.

And the dreams....  a non-stop purgatorial landscape, heaven above and hell below, with those horizons stretching out to infinity in all directions with no way out. Searching in vain for a ladder or a trap door, searching... until the next awakening into the fevered and freezing reality of soaking sheets and a really big load of laundry to be done before I have any dry ones.

While I was dreaming winter returned. The promise of Tuesday was just wishful thinking. Today there is a full-blown blizzard rattling the windows here at Falling Downs. The temperature will plummet into the minus 20s tonight.

Thanks for nothing, Willie!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Christians again dominate Canada's billionaire list

What the heck is going on?

Thanks to diversity and multiculturalism etc I thought Canada was a level playing field. Maybe it is, but the closer you get to the top the more you seem to see an over-representation of Christians.

We've raised this concern before. All that's changed in two years is that one more non-Christian has made Canada's top ten. But in that top ten you have to go most of the way down the list to find one of them.

The entire exercise of "billionaire lists" seems a little dubious to me. The very fact that we have billionaires in our society tells me our tax regimine is woefully inadequate. Yes, there are sound reasons for rewarding some members of society more than others...

Meritocracy is a great concept.

But absolutely no one is that meritorious that they should be rewarded a thousand fold more for their contribution to our world than the schmuck who fixes your car or opens your pool.

It's all but over for Erdogan

Turkey is yet another chosen nation, chosen alongside Venezuela and Ukraine and so many others as a target for the "democracy promotion" antics of the National Endowment for Democracy.

The NED has invested millions in promoting accountability and strengthening democratic institutions in the country, and the rioting on the occasion of Berkin Alvan's funeral has proved that the money has not been wasted. But Erdogan probably can blame himself as much as outside meddling for his imminent demise.

It was he and he alone who undercut his own stature as a favored bumboy of Washington. First strike was that prissy refusal to allow the US access to Turkish bases in the Iraq war. That's quite something between NATO brothers, and you can believe the US has never forgotten or forgiven.

Then there was the Mavi Marmora incident. Did he really think he'd keep "favored friend" status after that debacle?

Lately he can scarcely keep ahead of the scandals, and now the generals he so gleefully put away are having their verdicts annuled. Thus far they're not having their commissions re-instated, but nevertheless this is a body-blow.

And let's not forget that America has been grooming an even more pliable candidate for Turkey's top job.

Patriotic US corporations stash $1.95 trillions in offshore tax-havens...

...thereby proving that they can offshore more than American jobs!

This story from Bloomberg claims that's an increase of $206 billion in just the past year. The lead offender is the iconic General Electric, with a cash horde of 110 billions stashed offshore, followed by that great philanthropist Bill Gates' Microsoft at 76 billion.

The off-shoring of profits cost the government up to $90 billion per year in lost revenues, a deficit that then needs to be made up by the little folks who don't have access to offshore tax havens.

When multi-billion dollar corporations shirk their taxes, it's up to you to pick up the slack.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Heebie jeebies in the Holy Land

All is not well on Planet Bibi.

While Netanyahu has spared no rhetorical flourish in milking the miracle of the Iranian missile shipment, he has yet to explain why anyone should give a rat's ass about 40 missiles allegedly headed for Gaza, when top IDF intelligence boffins routinely claim that a minimum of 170,000 rockets and missiles or more are at this very moment targeted at every city and town in Israel.

Then there's the matter of those US-orchestrated "peace talks." Most thinking people realized from the beginning that these talks were dead in the water from the get-go, but spare us the nonsense about Palestinian inflexibility! Listening to Netanyahu one could be forgiven for concluding that it must be the Palestinians' illegal construction of thousands of housing units inside the Green Line that has derailed the peace process.

And things went from bad to worse when Netanyahu had to apologize for the murder of Jordanian judge Raed Zeiter at a border crossing by trigger-happy IDF soldiers the other day. How were they supposed to know that the guy was a judge, and that this otherwise routine killing would attract international opprobrium?

On top of all that schmerz, you now have the Committee for the Fight against Poverty making it plain to all the world that if you think Israel is the land of milk and honey, you'd best bring along your own milk and honey, because otherwise you're screwed.

Oh dear! Whatever is the greatest leader since Moses to do?

I'm guessing Netanyahu will hew close to his traditional "the best defence is a heavy-handed offence" strategy.

Don't panic, folks; plans for Lebanon III are well advanced!

Libya Herald scoops news world with "missile attack on oil tanker" story

It must be true; I read it at Beforeitsnews!

The Herald reported the story over two hours ago, and as of yet neither Reuters nor Al Jazeera nor any of the other big boys in the news biz have caught wind of it.

Then again, the Libya Herald has been a veritable gusher of Libya good-news stories since "the liberation."

Too bad they so rarely turn out to be true.

Somali pirates can seize oil tankers but Libya's navy can't

This story tells you everything you need to know about the sad-sack stooges NATO left in charge after the glorious campaign to bring freedom and democracy to Libya three years ago.

They don't control the oil terminals. They don't control the militias. They don't control their own parliament.

They don't govern.

What are they doing other than organizing the next "donor conference?"

Bill Ackman shows why hedge fund slime tactics need to be regulated

The NYT has an expose of the lengths to which Pershing Square Capital boss Bill Ackman will go to lobby regulators and elected officials to aid him in his campaign against Herbalife.

I've never bought a Herbalife product and generally can't get too enthused about any direct-marketing scheme, be it Amway or Mary Kay or whatever, but like them or not they've been a part of the business scene for generations. Whatever flim-flam and unrealistic expectations they're peddling pales in comparison to what Ackman is doing.

Among other things, he's giving hedgies a bad name. This isn't "capitalism", it's rank cynical opportunism. It's a bully trying to destroy the value of another company with tactics made possible by his deep pockets and political connections.

What would stop this foolishness? A 100% tax on non-productive economic activity. Take the incentive away completely. Let Mr. Ackman and those like him use their talents and their money to make constructive contributions to the society they're a part of.

Many, many entrepreneurs have proven that can be profitable too.

Peladeau Rising; Quebec's Silvio Berlusconi sets sights on Presidency of independent Quebec

When Pierre Karl Peladeau says he wants to see Quebec become an independent country, he hardly needs to add that he'd also like to see himself as its leader.

Its interesting to see how his declaration for the PQ is considered to lend the separatist party much-needed cred in the business community. The shareholders who took a multi-million dollar bath with the bankruptcy of Quebecor World in 2008 may have a different opinion.

Here is a portrait of the young Peladeau as a business genius, from Forbes in 1999.

Angry son

HE STRIDES THROUGH his U.S. offices blowing smoke from his Montecristo cigar and relishing the fact that no one dares to remind him of nonsmoking laws. He curses at his executives in French and English, throwing an occasional chair across the room to drive his point home. He punishes salesmen for extravagant spending by withholding their travel reimbursement checks for six weeks. Pierre Karl Pladeau, the new head of Quebecor Inc., is something of a terror. But allow him some bad-boy antics: His Montreal-based, but internationally ambitious, firm had sales last year of $5.6 billion and is upstaging the competition wherever it goes.
What a charmer!
Hopefully Quebec media will do a little digging into their new political star. They should ask questions about his partnership with right-wing union-buster and all-round nutter Robert Maxwell, and his more than cosy relationship with the ever-slippery Lyin' Brian Mulroney, who had more than a few scandals of his own.
But given his control of Quebec media that may be wishful thinking.
Most disturbing is his consistent record of bullying workers. It makes one fear for the future of Quebec's working class if this man is allowed near the levers of political power.

Heinz CEO pockets $110 million for sell-out

The headline at BBC says it all; Former Heinz boss in $110 million payday as layoffs continue.

Layoffs for thousands, a payday of unfathomable proportions for the man who engineered the sale of the company.

I've never met William Johnson and cannot vouch for his character one way or the other, but it seems to me that a CEO has a conflict of interest in a buy-out scenario. Do his responsibilities to share-holders clash with the interests of other stake-holders? Who represents the interests of the farmers and the employees who are affected? Does the company have any obligations to the communities in which it does business?

A CEO who has a $110m incentive to pursue a particular course of action is unlikely to consider other options.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Canada to fight sexual violence against women - in Libya

On 7th March Al Jazeera featured a story about violence against aboriginal women in Canada. The article points out that the Native Women's Association of Canada has documented more than 600 cases of murdered or missing aboriginal women up until 2010, whereafter the Conservative government stopped funding their database.

The article also mentions that calls for a public inquiry into the matter have been routinely rejected by that same Conservative government.

On the same day the Hon. Lynne Yelich, Minister in that Conservative government, released a statement at the Department of Foreign Affairs website, which included the following;

Canada commends the Government of Libya’s recent decree to recognize and compensate victims of sexual violence perpetrated during and following the revolution. We hope that this decree is swiftly entered into law and implemented.
“Sexual violence is a vicious attack on human dignity. It has a debilitating effect on the victims, their families and their communities, and undermines Libya’s transition to democracy and security. Canada is actively supporting efforts to strengthen local leadership to defend women’s rights and combat sexual violence in Libya.
“Canada stands by the Libyan people as they strive toward a future founded on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

As admirable as it may be to advocate for Libyan women, could not the government of Canada also stand by the First Nations women of Canada as they strive toward a future free of sexual violence?

US special forces to liberate Libyan oil terminals?

After the Nations of Virtue left Libya to freedom and democracy and complete chaos a couple of years ago, the travails of that benighted land have flown soothingly under the radar of Western media.

That's changing fast.

Why? Not because the country is bankrupt and ungovernable, but because bad guys are stealing oil that rightfully belongs to American oil companies.

State Department mouthpiece Jen Psaki initially claimed that the unauthorized shipping of Libyan oil by the North Korean tanker "Morning Glory" was a "theft from the Libyan people."

Realizing immediately that concern over the Libyan people would induce no more than yawns around the Beltway, she then got to the nitty gritty; the oil really belongs to the National Oil Company and its partners which include US companies!

Now that's something the boys at AFRICOM can sink their teeth into!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The nerd agenda for world domination

Don't laugh.

The nerds already have the tool.

It's called "meta-data".

The technology is already in place for the big guns (facebook, google, your cell-phone service provider) to follow your every move.

Ya, I hear the smarty-pants prepper crowd crowing about how they're invisible to the stealth rays of the digital panopticon because they leave no tracks.

Not for long, my friends!

We're just a tech shift or two away from having every drivers licence and every visa and passport and every birth certificate be scannable by the princelings of techology.


All that stuff their companies vacuum up becomes part of that big meta-data motherlode in the sky.

The folks at the NSA and similar spook agencies around that world then mine that meta-data as required.

It'll never be required for law-abiding citizens who stand up and sit down when they're told.

But those degenerates who insist on independent thinking and rattling their cages will be in for a rude awakening.

Once the digital panopticon can track seven billion plus clients in real time, it won't be hard to root out those free-thinkers.

Nor will it be difficult to walk through their histories and collect every bit of incriminating evidence long after the fact.

The nerds have everything you ever did or said recorded on that big meta-cloud in the sky.

If you think that's unlikely, remember that a lot of these guys were considered nerds too;

Have Obama and Putin cooked up a Ukraine -Venezuela quid pro quo?

After all the hyperventilating that's been going on in Big Media re: Ukraine for the past week, it was a surprise to see how little attention the matter received on the Sunday Morning propaganda shows at ABCNBCCNNFOX.

Paul Ryan's presidential aspirations are now a more pressing story than the fate of Ukraine.

But lookee here; VP Biden has uncovered human rights abuses right in his own backyard!

And not just ordinary run-of-the-mill human rights violations, but "alarming" ones. That's code speak for "we're warming up to invoke R2P."

So what's been going on behind the scenes with these multiple phone calls between the White House and the Kremlin?

I smell a quid pro quo. Vlad the Hammer gets Crimea, and the Nations of Virtue will tone down their rhetoric as long as he leaves it at that. The rest of Ukraine will be tossed to the wolves at the IMF/World Bank for an attitude adjustment.

In return, the Yanquis get a free pass to fiddle in Caracas. This is a bit of a disappointment for the American Empire crowd because they've been after both prizes since forever, but hey, half the pie is better than nothing!

Sounds like a win-win!

At Putin's side, an army of Jewish billionaires

Bet you thought this was going to be about Ukraine, didn't you?

That's a headline from the Jerusalem Post on the occasion of Putin's visit to Israel a couple of years ago for the dedication of a memorial to the Red Army. Writer Gil Shefler was utterly chuffed by the fact that Israel could round up so many billionaires to greet the Russian leader.

Shefler must have been pleased with the news of the past week that the list of Israeli billionaires continues to grow. What's also growing, and should get more attention than another billionaire or two on the list, is poverty.

If you sort through the numbers in this JPost story you'll be shocked to find that the percentage of working families living in poverty has nearly doubled between 1999 and 2012. Note that we're talking about working people, not folks who exempt themselves from the workforce for religious studies.

That makes for a bleak prognosis. The billionaire class is booming. The number in poverty is blossoming. The middle class is stagnant and struggling - no wonder Netanyahu needs to pull another Iranian threat out of his hat every other week!

If folks had the opportunity to calmly mull over where the country is heading we'd soon be reading about Zion Square alongside Maidan and Tahrir.

These billionaires should put their heads together and figure out how to put some of the promise back in the "Promised Land".

Profits before health; why more American women are dying from childbirth

Abigail Higgins' analysis of rising maternal mortality rates in the US checks off all the usual boxes; poverty, obesity, systemic racism.

But she could have spent a little more time focusing on the overwhelmingly obvious contradiction at the center of "for profit health care."

The primary mandate of a "for profit" health care provider is not to provide health care, but to reap a profit.

Until America finds the political will to face that reality, the crisis in health care will only get worse.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Why the thinnest woman you know probably thinks she's too fat, and other random musings on International Women's Day

Things are tougher for young people coming up today than they were a generation or two ago.

An education has become prohibitively expensive for far too many. Graduating with massive student loans, young people find an economy that has been shedding decent jobs for at least thirty years. Most of what they grew up believing in they find out of reach.

But however difficult things may be for young people in general, they're twice as tough for young women in particular.

They carry every ounce of the burden carried by their male peers, but then piled on top of that they carry the expectations of a consumer culture that through every medium imaginable ceaselessly reminds them that they're not good enough.

Feminist writers and activists have been going on about the destructive impact of female representation in popular culture since at least the '60s. Has there been any let up in the unrealistic representation of females?

No. To the contrary, advances in technology make the reminders of inadequacy more ubiquitous than ever.

It's hardly news that the iconic images of female perfection lionized by the culture we all swim in are hopelessly out of reach for most normal females.

A fifty year old guy who had bad skin as a teen now has "rugged good looks."

A fifty year old woman who had bad skin as a teen has had plastic surgery or is just ugly.

Any overweight man is just big.

Overweight women are fat.

There's a difference.

Feelings of perpetual inadequacy extract a toll. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, abusive relationships... all of these are far more likely to sweep up my daughters than my sons.


We live in a hyper-competitive society. If you're not on the A-list you're a loser. That's drummed into kids from the time they are sentient beings. It comes from the TV and the internet and the movies and every mainstream media outlet. It is a philosophy propagated by our education system from pre-kindergarden on.

If you don't want to be a loser, you're going to have to look like a winner. Winners look like they look in the commercials and the print ads. When is the last time you saw an overweight fiftyish woman with bad skin in an ad for Jaguar or Porsche or Rolex or...

Young women, having been bombarded with that beauty propaganda from their first sentient moments, internalize that stuff.

According to studies by learned folks tasked with looking into these matters, most girls worry about their weight by the time they're ten years old.

Ten year old girls should be climbing trees and building tree-forts, not worrying about their weight.

That's just bullshit!

For the sake of our daughters, we need to get away from that winner-takes-all model of society. International Women's Day originated in the European socialist movement, which was a response to the unbridled capitalism that had established itself in the Europe of the industrial age.

We've come full circle. One hundred years later we are again grappling with an unbridled capitalism that wants to make winners out of the few and losers of the rest of us.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Canada stands tall among the anti-democratic lackeys

Whether it's the knee-jerk denunciation of the Hamas election victory in Gaza, the celebration of the overthrow of an elected government in Ukraine, or the strident anti-Palestinian stance at the UN, Canada under the Harper gang has made a name for itself as a dependable member of the reactionary rump in international relations.

The latest example lies in voting against the overwhelming majority of OAS members who voted for a national dialogue in Venezuela. The only other OAS members to vote "no" were the US and that other reliable lackey to big power, Panama.

When the entirety of the South American continent votes "yes" for a measure intended to defuse a volatile political situation in South America, and Canada votes with the superpower that has been funding and fanning that volatility for years, we can conclude by the actions of our leaders where they stand on the question of "democracy".

Democracy is a great thing as long as folks vote the right way.

North Korea and the Libyan militias - a match made in heaven?

Here's a story so improbable it's got to have some big-time grey market operators behind it. A few years ago I would have guessed Glencore, but they've gone legit.

Since the North Korean economy is virtually under house arrest, due to the sanctions and embargoes imposed by the Nations of Virtue, you'd wonder how that ship even got to the Mediterranean without making headlines.

You'd also have to wonder what was on it. Missiles for Gaza? By all accounts the rebels who hold the oil terminals in eastern Libya are open to virtually any kind of barter deal.

The comical "legitimate government" of Libya, currently operating out of a Tripoli hotel since it lost control of its own parliament building, is threatening to bomb the offending tanker. Given that the "legitimate government" has neither bombs nor airplanes to drop them, this may seem an idle threat. Unfortunately, it isn't.

While they may lack legitimacy and the wherewithal to drop a bomb, they're still capable of making a phone call to someone who could.

I'm guessing they have AFRICOM on speed-dial.

Daewoo sitting duck for hedgies

While it's true enough that I often make stuff up, I will occasionally resort to research in a desperate attempt to enhance the credibility of this blog. Thus it was that I found myself reading up on the Daewoo Shipyard.

I was utterly shocked to learn that the Daewoo shipbuilding facility employs 300 gardeners!

Gardeners?  At a shipyard? Who can even imagine such a thing? Ya, I get that they keep the trees trimmed and the flower-gardens tidy, but gardeners in a shipyard?...

I couldn't make that up.

Does Bill Ackman know about this?

Canada's shipbuilding program billions over budget - before building any ships!

I'm waiting for the politicians to blame the wage demands of the folks in coveralls for these cost overruns, even though it appears there's been precious little building of ships in the much bally-hooed shipbuilding program.

In his article Mr. Milewski approvingly notes the decision by the Royal Navy to outsource construction of new navy vessels to South Korea. That's a stunning come-down for an empire that once ruled the seven seas, isn't it? Thanks to Mrs. Thatcher's policy of de-industrialization, the UK can no longer build her own battleships.

Then again, why would you want to, when South Korean industry can build them so much cheaper? If you think that's due to Daewoo and Samsung paying third world wages, you'd be wrong. According to this article from Shippingwatch shipyard workers in South Korea have achieved virtual wage parity with American and British workers.

The efficiency advantage for the Koreans obviously comes from somewhere else, and that can only be the management side. It is abundantly clear that the Canadian "procurement process" is wildly top-heavy with planners, analysts, and consultants of all stripes busily creating busy-work for one another.

Not much has changed from the Saint John Shipbuilding days. All our work was supposedly coordinated by "planners" whose job it was to ensure that work progressed seamlessly. What a hoot that was!

You could spend most of a shift trying to hunt down the "planner" responsible for your daily debacle, and then try to explain why it was impossible to install this or that part because one end attached to a module already in the drydock while the other attached to one still in the mod shop. By and large these folks were university educated but didn't know anything about either ships or metal fabrication. It was a non-stop clusterfuck, and productivity would have shot through the roof had Mr. Irving found it within himself to fire the lot of them.

I strongly suspect that many of them have now found employment doing "planning" for Canada's latest shipbuilding program.