Saturday, September 23, 2017

The show must go on...

A couple of the juniors from the Jewish side came up for the weekend because their Bubby was in a play.

At 87 years of age Bubby retains her love for the stage. She's lived and breathed live theatre all her life. It's something she was born into. Her family was deep into live theatre in the old country, which happened to be Poland. Various relations landed in the bigs; Broadway, film, and TV.

She never made the bigs. Instead, it fell to her to start up a theatre company in a small town a couple of hours north of Toronto, and that company is going strong to this day.

Ironically, her family hails from the same small town in Poland as my mother's folks. What are the odds? Here I am with the Farm Manager living the good life at Falling Downs. Eighty years ago our respective forbears, her's Jewish, mine nominally German, were co-habiting the same shithole shtettl in Poland.

But back to the play. The theatre company she co-founded over fifty years ago was putting on a stage adaptation of "Gas-Head Willy," a novel by a local author. What we didn't know was that the theatre had an air conditioning failure last Thursday.

You'd like to think that would have been fixed by Friday at the latest, but such was not the case. I overheard some admin types talking amongst themselves and it seems they can't get a contractor on site till Monday or Tuesday.

What the hell? You've got a veritable emergency and you can't get a HVAC contractor in under four days?

Go into the trades, dear young people...  It's gonna be at least another hundred years before a robot comes out to fix your air conditioner.

Meanwhile, we've been having a heat-wave in these parts. Yup, we've been setting record high temperatures most of September.

Heat wave.

Record high temperatures.

No air in the theatre...

But the show must go on!

And it did. Not that I particularly noticed or cared. I was fading in and out of consciousness for most of the evening. Luckily, I was alert for Bubby's lines, so I didn't completely disgrace myself.

I've had the privilege of having the Bubbinator in my life for ten or fifteen years now. Every time we go to see her in a show, we figure it could be the last time.

And we'll keep going as long as she keeps going!

Air conditioning or not, the show must go on!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Government of Canada selling off surplus Porsches

Ya, I know what you're thinking; Neumann's making shit up again...

And I can't blame you. After all, the pot-addled hillbilly isn't always the most reliable narrator.

But check this out; Environment Canada has this beauty 2010 Panamera 4S on auction, minimum bid $38,000. Apparently they needed it for "emissions testing!"

Of course they did!

If you're a SUV kinda guy, maybe this 2014 Cayenne with a mere 15,000 clicks on the clock is more your speed. More "emissions testing," of course!

No matter how you feel about wasteful government spending, you gotta tip your cap to the smoothies who slipped these purchases past their superiors!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Me and Elvis

When I was over at the Cobble Beach Concourse last weekend, I tried to take a picture with my phone, a picture with the Farm Manager posed alongside a very pretty 1934 Bentley.

Although I thought I took a couple of dozen pictures, only one turned out, and it featured the torso of the FM alongside that pretty car. Back in the day of real cameras and real film, you wouldn't have claimed that "turned out."

But with the new technology, everything is good all the time, right?

I bring this up only because I miss that old school 35 mm stuff.

The first time I was in rehab they pounded into me the importance of having something to do when they graduated me. You had to have a hobby or an interest or a passion or something, otherwise you'd just fall back into your old ways...

So I took up photography.

It almost became a passion.

There are people who have Neumann photographs on their walls to this day, and not all of them are relatives.

 My photography career peaked when the Bookshelf Cafe offered me their walls for a couple of months. That was the good news.

The bad news was I'd have to share those walls with another photographer.

I was mortified. Share those Bookshelf walls?

No way!

Long story short, it wasn't long before I was taking another crack at rehab.

That's when I found out I wasn't the first repeat customer. According to the old hands at the place, Elvis used to go there all the time!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Google's commitment to a free press; Big Brother tightens the noose

I see where Google Canada has found half a million in spare change to fund a media literacy program at the Canadian Journalism Foundation. This will equip Canadian youngsters age 9 - 19 to better ferret out "fake news" and develop a "deeper understanding of the role journalism plays in democracy."

Of course it will. After all, a free press is the very cornerstone of our democracy. Just ask the CJF if you don't believe me. Here's CJF chair David Walmsley; "fake news accelerates distrust in our institutions, including distrust of the trained media who spend so much time trying to hold the powerful to account."

Oh, so that's what they've been doing! If that's the case, they've been doing a slovenly job of it over my lifetime. As near as I can tell, trust in mainstream media was on a downward spiral for decades before Trump and Putin allegedly invented fake news a couple of years ago, and for good reason; the typical news consumer figured out long ago that if and when media hold the powerful to account, it is by accident rather than by intent.

No, there are many agendas that have priority over that particular mission, and they're generally the agendas of the rich and powerful.

Be that as it may, we're truly going down the bunny hole if we buy into the notion that Google or anybody else in Big Tech has the slightest interest in saving journalism or promoting truth-telling. These outfits are now the richest and most powerful entities on the planet, with the exception of a handful of nation states.

It's safe to say that holding themselves to account is not a plank in their program.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The temp agency - slave traders of the 21st century

I wrote a post a few years ago sarcastically applauding Canada's enthusiasm for "temporary foreign workers."

Some poor schmuck in Indonesia who has a limited grasp of English, or at least a limited grasp of sarcasm, tweeted my blog to all his buddies and before I knew it I was inundated with queries on how a welder from Indonesia or Malaysia or half a dozen other countries might make their way to Canada.

Had I fewer scruples and more ambition, I might have replied to those queries by offering some bullshit "immigration information package for qualified welders." Yup, for a mere five hundred bucks I could have sent them stuff they could readily find on the internet for free. And thousands of them would have bought it.

I could have become a labour broker! Those desperate migrant welders could have made me rich!

That's what temp agency's are; labour brokers. Calling them slave traders is a bit of an insult to slave owners. Slave owners made an investment and had a vested interest in maintaining or enhancing their value. That required them to feed and house their slaves. The modern corporate employer has no such obligations, and the temp agency that sources the vast majority of employees today has even fewer.

Here's a story from the New York Times that contrasts the career trajectory of a worker in the pre-temp era to what's going on today. Forty or fifty years ago employers generally had some sense of duty to their employees. I remember when I was hired on at Kearney-National in Guelph back in '77, the woman in the HR office telling me, "welcome to the Kearney family."

I'm pretty sure nobody hears those words when they're handing in their paperwork at the Acme Employment Agency today. In the event, I moved to a better-paying family after a couple of years, but the point remains that the hiring process was qualitatively different when the employer was directly responsible for the hiring.

But, as Neil Irwin points out in that NYT story, the temp agency has allowed the corporate greedbags to run a more efficient ship.

Fuck the worker, and may God bless the bottom line!

The golden age of gas fumes

Did you know that in 1927 Cadillac offered 50 different body styles from a variety of coach-builders, and a whopping 500 different colour combos?

I didn't either.

That's just one of many nuggets of automotive miscellany I happened upon while strolling the 18th fairway at Cobble Beach today. It's a little overwhelming to take in so much automobile history at one go. How do you fully appreciate a Cord Speedster when you're already overwhelmed by a Stutz Bearcat and a bevy of vintage Bentleys?

There were a number of cars on view that were over one hundred years old. I can't imagine that anyone is going to be restoring and showing a 2017 Cadillac a hundred years from now, but I suspect the Type 55 will still be going strong two hundred years after it left the factory.

That's because they don't build stuff like they used to. The idea that you took pride in what you built and made it to last has pretty much gone out the window. Guys like Henry Ford and Walter Chrysler put their actual names on the cars that came out of their factories. They staked their reputations on the quality of their products.

Times have changed, and not for the better.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The winter-beater

Lot's of good stuff in my Globe today. Liz Renzetti kicks things off with a beauty take-down of Facebook on A2.  Also in the first section we see a nice tribute to "The Rock" and how being cut from the Stamps practice squad twenty years ago helped make him the A-list commodity he is today, and a moved-me-to-tears profile of a young actor who inexplicably checked out when everyone around him believed he had it all going on.

Further in we've got Doug Saunders, aka "Mr. Renzetti," with a lengthy polemic on why we need another sixty-million immigrants to properly colonize this great land the Indians so generously gifted us, so lengthy in fact that I've had to put it aside for later while I mollify the Farm Manager with a display of "doing something" around the place. For once I do not begrudge The Korean his $6.30.

Now that summer's over we're finally getting some decent summer weather. Me and the FM spent some quality time on the patio at Dockside Willie's yesterday afternoon, watching the melancholy spectacle of a few die-hard pleasure boaters try to wring the last drops of pleasure from the summer that wasn't.

Picked up an older Subaru last week. I'd set out to find a set of snows for the current ride. For not a lot more money, I got a practically new set of snows with a Subaru attached. Overall I've had good luck with them. Of the three I've owned, two took me well past four hundred thousand clicks. The other one was a lemon. This one has about eighty thousand fewer kilometres on it than the GM product that's been my daily driver for the past few years, so with a little luck I've found a winter-beater that should last for pretty much however many winters I've got left.

Must do something with the summer vehicle situation. The Mustang 50 is a nice enough car, but I'd never have bought it had I known the FM was done her driving days. For a thirty year old car it's impeccable and has lots of jam, but if I'd known, I'd never have bought one with an automatic. For me, a sporty car is just a whole lot sportier with a manual. Also, I've only had one ragtop in my life, a '64 Bonneville with a 348 4bbl and four speed, and I figure it's high time I did that again. There's a very pretty '69 Dart GTS (big block, four speed) convertible at Cars-on-line that's been calling my name, but the Farm Manager swears it's really shouting "denouement."

It's Concours weekend at Cobble Beach, so there's been some inspirational traffic going by Falling Downs today. Maybe we'll check out the show tomorrow.

In the meanwhile, I better get on with "doing something," - re-arranging the parts vehicles behind the barn... and maybe see what I can do about the mirror on the Ninja. If the FM gets into her Netflix, maybe I'll have a shot at a 10k blast around the block.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Brazil; a very stinky kettle of fish

Brazil.

The new corrupt government is putting the boots to the old corrupt government, but the corrupt supreme court seems to be putting the boots to everybody all over the place... because corruption in Brazil is universal?

Do not take umbrage, dear people of Brazil. Until very recently, "corruption" was more commonly known as "good governance."

But in spite of all that, there's been a couple of headlines that caught my eye.

Here's a killer headline from the Washington Post.

That is some nasty shit!

Up here in the northern hemisphere we'd go to jail for a long time for randomly killing Indigenous folks.

Those days are long gone.

Long gone up here, at least. We have to be way more subtle in how we kill the aboriginals...

But they're still way brazen about it in Brazil.

That's got to be a blot on a nation's record, wouldn't you think? I mean, who in the hell in the modern world brags about killing the natives?

Get the fuck outta here!

But wait a minute... here's a story from the New York Times that will lift your spirits.

Yup, it might be "bumpy times," but the hedge funds are booming!

That's Brazil.

A very stinky kettle of fish...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pot-addled hillbilly beats serious journalists at Macleans to story by almost a year

Compare these headlines.

The sinking of the Canadian Navy.  That's from Macleans in August 2015.

Royal Canadian Navy sinking fast. That's from the perpetually inebriated think-tank here at Falling Downs, in October of 2014.

You'd almost think Scott Gilmore reads this blog, wouldn't you?

Well, maybe not... anybody who gives a shit was probably aware that our navy was sinking long before either of those stories. Gilmore and I obviously both give a shit, perhaps not for the same reasons, but still...

I ran into the Macleans story because I was looking for stuff around Canadian military procurement. Those 18 Boeing Super Hornets that are supposed to "temporarily" tide over our pathetic excuse for an air force are in the news again.

Eighteen airplanes for 6.3 billions. That works out to 350 millions per by my math. To do what? Stop Putin's aggression?

Thanks for the laugh! Hey, just strike Putin off your Christmas card mailing list if you're pissed at Putin. It'll have about the same impact on Putin's imaginary aggression as those eighteen warplanes... but look at the savings!

But seriously; we've been replacing our CF-18s for ten or fifteen years. We've been replacing our aging (and let's face it, we're way beyond "aging" here) Sea King helicopters for twice as long. The Harper gang was getting boffo press on our new fleet of warships for ten solid years without ever building a ship.

It's the Canadian way, eh? Talk tough and show up for the photo-ops.

Then, do nothing.

Wait for next photo-op and repeat.

And it's been going on long enough that we can safely say it's a bipartisan thing.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Ignorance isn't bliss, but it can make bliss last longer

So, what up with that Fukashima thing? You know, the non-news item where that nuclear reactor has been spewing radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean for years now.

Ignorance is bliss.

And what up with all the contaminated sites that have been flooded by hurricanes Harvey and Irma? Those contaminated flood waters will have to go somewhere, won't they?

Ignorance is bliss.


Someday our bliss will end.

We will live to rue our ignorance.


Deconstructing the NAFTA boondoggle one belated news story at a time

Conventional wisdom holds that NAFTA has been good for Canada. That's pretty much the only story corporate media have room for - although the Globe and Mail used to give Unifor economist Jim Stanford a token column once in awhile to sow seeds of doubt - in the interest of journalistic fairness I suppose. But the over-riding theme, always, is that NAFTA has been a rip-roaring success.

Every now and then, though, the gate-keepers of the "news" get sloppy and a bit of truth slips out. Canadian Press had a story last week about Canadian auto-parts plants in Mexico. Writer Alexander Panetta informs us that "Canadian auto-parts companies have over 120 plants and 43,000 employees in Mexico..." That's up from a small handful of plants and a few hundred employees pre-NAFTA.

Panetta introduces us to Nataly Jacobo. She works eight hour shifts six days a week in one of those Canadian plants for a weekly pay of $61. Those hours would pay a minimum wage worker in Canada over $500 per week.

Geez!... you don't imagine that's why Canadian auto-parts manufacturers operate in Mexico, do you?

Of course it is! That was beyond obvious to the typical factory hand even when Lyin' Brian Mulroney was singing the praises of the original Free Trade Agreement back in the eighties.

"Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!.." the old swindler promised.

A recent trend that's been gathering steam in the last couple of years is to blame the gutting of Ontario's industrial economy on automation. That's becoming truer every day, but it certainly wasn't true twenty or thirty years ago when the real damage to our industrial working class was being done.

So a little rough math tells me that our Canadian auto-parts makers are saving about twenty thousand dollars a year for every job they put in Mexico as opposed to having that job in Canada. Times that by 43,000, and we're talking serious money. Obviously, some Canadians have done well under NAFTA... the ones who own those companies!

The rest of us got screwed.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Fort Indians to get own fort

I wrote a post a few years ago criticising First Nations leadership. That's a little awkward, because I'm a white settler, whether I want to admit it or not.

And I don't. Is it my fault that my parents dragged me ashore at Pier 21 at the age of not-quite-one?

Hell, what was I supposed to know about the back story?

Now that I know somewhat more about that back story, I'm obliged to speak out.

A little while back Justin got lots of good press when he ceded a prime piece of Ottawa real estate back to its rightful owners while simultaneously repudiating the name of said real estate, hitherto known as the Langevin Block.

Its new name will be "The Palace of Co-optation."

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Revisiting Porto Munkenegro three years on

I noticed with a modicum of alarm that there are now more than five thousand missives posted on this blog. What a humongous waste of time that's been!

But it's been therapeutic for me, at some level...

Take this post on the gangster state of Montenegro from three years ago.

Three years on, Montenegro is now a fully made member of the NATO gang. How is that even possible?

Well, dear reader, the most implausible possibilities have come to pass.

Donald Trump is the president of the United States of America. How the fuck did that happen?

It's hard to know what to say...

My favourite "leftish" web-site, Counterpunch, has of late been inundated with anti-fascist screeds extolling the virtues of beating up fascists in the streets.

Who is a fascist?

Apparently it's anyone who looks like they might have voted for Trump. It's OK to beat those folks up, whether they voted for Trump or not, because after all, if well-meaning folks had beat down more proto-fascists in the streets of Berlin in the 1920's, Hitler would never have happened.

This is a narrative wholly ignorant of the street violence of 1920's Germany. Violence inevitably begets more violence. The parties most amenable to maximum violence will prevail in the end. And then what?

And then fascism, that's what.

This man, Trump, was at one time the toast of the Professional Black Activist class in America. Your google key can find you all sorts of smarmy liberal feel-good celebrations featuring Trump and Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Today Trump is deemed the embodiment of White Supremacist ideology in America. He's brought fascism to the USA.

Bullshit.

America went fascist long before Trump. One could argue that America was already there by the time Ike made his famous speech warning of the dangers of the military-industrial complex.

Maybe Harvey and Irma will help Americans figure out who they really are...


Friday, September 8, 2017

The beauty of it all

Will God smite Mar-a-Lago?

Or will God spare Mar-a-Lago?

If God is indeed dead, as has been hypothesised by deep thinkers since the time of Nietzsche and beyond, will Mother Nature or Hurricane Irma spare or smite?

Allow me to speculate for a moment; what use is the death of God if Mother Nature and Hurricane Irma are rushing in to fill the void?

These were the questions I was pondering when there was a sudden knock on the door.

A knock on the door is a novelty in these parts. There's a reason folks like us live off the beaten path. We don't appreciate random knocks on the door. That's why our welcome mat has "naff off" embroidered into it.

I see where the Wynne regime has charted its own course on the legal weed journey. They'll grow a whole new bureaucracy called the "Cannabis Control Board." I'll bet growing that bureaucracy is gonna be a whole lot more lucrative than growing weed.

But that's how things play out when you let politicians run the show. Somewhere along the line those folks forgot that they were public servants, ie, servants to the public.

Hahaha... that's a good one, eh!?

A few days ago I breakfasted with my old pal Kipling at the Teviotdale Truck Stop. He's knee-deep in grandchildren these days, so it's hard to get together, but Kipling has an old-timer's perspective on this whole legal weed question. He figures the entire legal weed thing is a scam to put pot profits (triple alliteration!!!) into the hands of Bay Street wankers and their attendant bureaucracy sycophants, while cutting out guys like himself who have been growing quality organic shit for forty years.

I suspect he's right.

So there's a knock on the door.

The hounds go ballistic.

The Farm Manager wants to run for the gun cabinet.

Relax!

It's just a couple of local kids who hunted our property last year and repaid the favour with some mighty tasty goose summer sausage.

I gave them the thumbs up.

Conditional on another round of summer sausage of course.


The beauty of it all...





Tuesday, September 5, 2017

When the system breaks down

Around here I have a system. Diesel goes in the yellow jugs. 50:1 two-stroke mix goes in the one gallon red jugs. Any larger red cans have straight-up gasoline, high-octane in the smaller ones and run of the mill ethanol-gasoline mix in the larger.

That ethanol thing is quite the scam. Farmers grow corn. Mostly they grow it by the Industrial Agriculture standards approved by Monsanto and the rest of the Big Ag overlords.

Corn grown, you can choose to use it as food for your family or food for your car.

But the food you feed your car won't ever feed a family...

It's a fucked-up thing.

But I digress.

Systems.

They can go awry. They can be corrupted. They can get fucked-up.

You'd be surprised how often my simple system with the fuel supply goes in the ditch.

Sometimes it's just driver error, as in when I can't remember what runs on diesel and what doesn't. I'm always clear that the Ninja needs high-octane gasoline. But the cars can be confusing. I mean, last year I was piloting that diesel VW. It becomes habit to stop in front of the diesel pump at the Pioneer.

So you change cars but you still stop in front of the diesel pump... ya, you gotta keep your wits about you.

And the further you go down the Alzheimer Highway, the bigger that challenge becomes.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

NFL in death throes

Professional football is well past its best-before date. Its legitimacy is rapidly eroding on two fronts, each of which is bigger than the NFL.

Colin Kaepernick kicked off something that's starting to snowball and have repercussions. The politicisation of sports isn't a fad that's just going to go away. I'm of two minds on that. On the one hand, it's a shame. I'm not a serious fan, but I can appreciate the athleticism of a great pass or an exceptional touch-down run.

On the other hand, the NFL and pro sport in general have for too long prostituted themselves as cheerleaders for a militaristic faux patriotism, which effectively politicised sports long before Kaepernick took a knee.

The other front is the rapidly growing public awareness of the CTE scandal. When a guy like Ed Cunningham walks away from his dream job, he's making a statement every bit as courageous and important as Kaepernick's. The NFL money guys might have thought they put the brain injury thing to bed with that billion dollar payout last year, but that was just the beginning.

There is no end in sight... other than the end of the NFL itself.

The NFL is toast.



The future of food

My Sunday Star today has on view a wholly unappetising story by Lisa Kramer titled Consumer demand will lead to lab-made 'clean meat'.

Yummy!

Kramer bobs and weaves through a thicket of issues ranging from food safety to animal welfare, but ultimately seems to have only one over-riding concern; safe returns for investors. Of course that's how virtually all policy is decided these days. Nothing is a good idea until "luminaries" like Richard Branson and Bill Gates put money into it.

We have to call bullshit on that. The last hundred years of the corporatization of the human food supply chain has given us cheap food. It's also given us an obesity crisis and a diabetes epidemic. Big Ag is a nightmare for our ecosystem. Industrial agriculture, no matter how much it enriches investors, impoverishes everyone.

We don't need more corporate control of our food supply.

We need to break free of that corporate control!

Buy beef that was grass-fed in pastures instead of fattened in feedlots.

Source your eggs from small farmers who allow the chickens to run free.

Patronize your local farmers' market (but beware the "farmers" who source their produce at the Oshawa Food Terminal - they're everywhere).

There's a growing enthusiasm for "real food" alternatives today that didn't exist a generation ago. Community supported small-scale farming is on the rise everywhere. A lot of millennials are saying "goodbye Wonderbread, hello artisanal sourdough!"

Here's a great example of what's happening. Riverside Bakery is a community supported bakery in Stirling, Scotland. I use them as an example because I've met some of the folks involved, but similar ventures, be they bakeries or butcher shops or what have you, are popping up everywhere.

And while they may hold little appeal for Branson and Gates and other big investors, they, and not lab-grown food products, are the real future of sustainable agriculture.





Friday, September 1, 2017

It's not the corporate greed-bags; Mother Nature causes high gas prices

There's a hilarious item on view at CBC this moment claiming that it's Hurricane Harvey in Texas that's causing gasoline prices to spike 25% in Ontario.

It's because Harvey shut down all those refineries on the Gulf Coast, dontcha know...

How much Ontario gasoline comes from refineries on the Gulf Coast?

If I'm not mistaken, the percentage is right around zero.

But the folks who do supply your Ontario gasoline claim that their adventures in price-gouging are all about Hurricane Harvey.

Sounds like bullshit to me.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The pretentious twattery of John Ralston Saul

Walls, Bridges, Homes is a series of essays written in response to the emerging global appetite for a progressive narrative around inclusion and immigration. The series frames the thematic focus of 6 Degrees Citizen Space, a forum presented by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

So reads the intro to a full page opinion piece by John Ralston Saul in last Saturday's Globe and Mail. The forum in question is open to the public - for a price! Yes, dear citizen, you too can witness important thinkers of "progressive" thoughts reaffirm one another's greatness! The great Ai Wei Wei will be on hand, together with a goodly slice of the Canadian literary establishment. At a mere $65 to $175 per ticket, it's a bargain, at least for the kind of people who like to name drop; "I was at a conference last week, and asked _______________ (fill in the name of your choosing, although it's obvious that the big draw here is Ai Wei Wei) to clarify their theory of ____________."

Of course, once you've paid for your ticket you're no longer involved as a citizen, but as a consumer.

So JRS (Saul has a ways to go before his initials get the same instant recognition as the initials BHL, but I'm doing my best to help raise his profile) and his wife start an "Institute," they have fund-raising forums, and the Globe and Mail donates tens of thousands in free advertising by way of a "series of essays..."

Hmm... are the people writing this ad copy also being paid for it by the Globe? No wonder they don't make money on ads anymore. The old model, wherein advertisers pay the paper, has been completely turned upside down!

Anyway, lets have a look at JRS's essay, The bridges we must build, right here at home.

The first quarter or so is an incoherent ramble about how some white Europeans invented racism, "the Westphalian model," and spread it all over the world. It's part of "our imperial inheritance," and "we took it up with enthusiasm."

Sorry, John; "we," meaning white settlers in North America, didn't take it up, enthusiastically or otherwise. We brought it with us. The colonial project was always about the dispossession of the indigenous population. There was no golden age when settler and native lived in egalitarian harmony. True, there are many examples of various First Nations having alliances of convenience with various settler groups (British, French, Spanish, Dutch) in the many wars that wracked the continent from the late fifteenth century forward, but the over-arching theme was always one of destroying the natives and stealing their land.

Saul then segues into a discussion of the "migrant crisis" that struck Europe in 2015. Apparently this crisis is due primarily to the lack of a sufficient bureaucracy within the EU to handle this population in-flow in an orderly manner. Yup, all those refugees from Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan and Libya would have caused nary a ripple if the EU nations had proper policies and sufficient bureaucrats. There is no hint that there might be some connection between US/NATO foreign policy in those countries and the migrant crisis.

This is of course complete bullshit. The vast majority of actual refugees are fleeing the death and destruction visited on their countries by ourselves and our allies. Suggesting otherwise is beyond dishonest; it is propaganda for a blinkered and profoundly racist world-view that seeks to shift responsibility for our crimes against humanity to unfortunate policy failures and faceless bureaucrats.

Saul wraps things up with a patronising tribute to the great comeback Canada's Indians are making. Sure, we can celebrate, if we are so inclined, the inclusion of Indian writers in the canon of the Canlit establishment, but what's that worth to a teenager in Attawapiskat?

JRS concludes with this, addressed to First Nations; "...one of the first things you do is show respect by saying thank you. That is how bridges begin to be built."

In other words, we stole your land, we destroyed your culture, we're still killing your kids, but we are deeply grateful to you.

Please appreciate our heartfelt respect.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Is the mission of a free press to elucidate or obfuscate?

This story from the Washington Post (August 23) has found its way into my Sunday Star today, four days later. Only the title has been simplified for the benefit of the Canadian readership; Was the cost of defeating Daesh in Mosul too high?

Writers Kareem Fahim and Aaso Ameen Schwan never get around to answering their rhetorical question, because, by gosh, it's just too hard to figure out what the cost was. Nobody seems to know how many civilians have died in Mosul. We are provided with a reassuring quote from a US Army spokesman about "how we apply rigorous standards to our targeting process" and of course even one civilian casualty is too many.

The best estimate they can come up with is 1,429 civilian dead, sourced from the Iraqi military. Had they tried a little harder and spent five minutes with Google, they might have happened upon this story from PRI citing an Amnesty International report that came out a month and a half before their story, that claims 5,805 civilian casualties.

Or they might have stumbled over this story by Patrick Cockburn in The Independent. Citing Kurdish intelligence, Cockburn speaks of 40,000 deaths in Mosul.

PRI, Amnesty International, Patrick Cockburn, and The Independent are all legitimate (although Western) sources who are quoted without hesitation when their reportage suits the narrative we're trying to spin. When it doesn't, they can be safely ignored.

In a similar vein, a story by Ann Hui in the Globe and Mail last week included the audacious claim that China has more journalists in prison than any country in the world. Say what? Even a pot-addled hillbilly from the backwoods of Bruce County knows that's a crock of shit!

I fired off an appropriately miffed letter to the editor providing a link to more recent information than what their reporter apparently had access to. Within a few hours I got a reply from the Globe's "Public Editor," Sylvia Stead.

Well, by golly, the reporter had made an oopsie and mistakenly used statistics from December of 2015 for a story written in August 2017. That's an honest mistake of course; major news platforms use outdated stats all the time when it suits the narrative they're spinning. We must never be allowed to forget that China is a totalitarian state with no press freedom.

To their credit, they printed a correction of sorts the next day - China no longer had the most journalists locked up. They could have gone a little further and pointed out, given the latest available stats (and if I can find them, Ann Hui could too), there are currently about five times as many journalists in the prisons of our NATO ally Turkey (population 90 million) than in the Peoples Republic of China (population 1,400 million), but I guess that would be asking too much.

It would undermine the narrative. As we all know, NATO is a force for freedom and democracy while China is an evil dictatorship.

It's worth fudging the facts to preserve such an essential truth.




Friday, August 25, 2017

Mayweather vs. McGregor and why I couldn't give a shit

Mayweather vs. McGregor is the fakest fight of all time, being held in the fakest city in the fakest nation on the planet.

This is nothing more than a media production put on by the same folks who brought you Clinton vs. Trump last year. Remember that?

Yes, this is nothing more than a contrived media spectacle, fake from end to end and top to bottom. "The fight everybody is talking about" screams the mainstream press. They're talking about it because you've been ramming it down their gullets for months.

It's like the revelatory headlines revealing that after a year of non-stop doggerel about Trump's Russia connections, 60% of the population believed there was a Trump Russia connection. Of course they do! You've been telling them for a year!

And that's why people are talking about Mayweather vs. McGregor. You've been telling them for months how important it is...

Even my Globe and Mail has had Cathal Kelly on the file writing about nothing else for the past week, although to his credit he has struck a much appreciated tone of scepticism about the entire charade.

Here's my prediction; the most lucrative event in pay per view will be inconclusive and controversial.

They will then have a rematch that will be even more lucrative...

Oh, how I miss Muhammad Ali.

Sauveur Macron revealed as man of substance

France is f@cked.

You'll notice that the Macron-friendly Toronto Star is quick to point out that this is more or less in line with the amount that his two immediate predecessors spent on personal grooming. That's the point though, isn't it?

Wasn't Macron supposed to be a breath of fresh air?

Whether it's Sarko or Hollande the Conqueror or this icon of a supposedly new neither left nor right politics, Macron demonstrates his contempt for the average citizen by spending more on makeup in three months than the average citizen takes home in a year.

That's politics, and Macron is just another politician.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Lawn liberation

Think I'm gonna start a NGO.

The Lawn Liberation Front. Rise up against the tyranny of the lawn!

No, that sounds a little too revolutionary... especially for an NGO.

How about the Lawn Liberation Foundation? Oh ya!

I like the way that rolls off the tongue!


I was pondering this shit whilst pushing the 19" mower back and forth and back and forth across the two acres of lawn that surround my falling down hundred year old pile of bricks that I call home and you know as Falling Downs.

Lawn Liberation Foundation.

Ya, I like it!

Gonna set up a fund-kicker page tomorrow.

Because lawns really are retarded. I'm completely sacrificing at least three hours per week to cutting grass that any number of small animal types would be happy to forage. Back in the day my folks would make this rabbit pen out of wood from used shipping pallets, and every day the bunny cage would be moved over.

You never had to mow the lawn!

And by the end of the summer you had a bunch of plump rabbits.

You know how that ends.


My dear Mom had the best rabbit recipes.


Anyway, I don't think getting a riding mower solves the problem. It's just an enabling technology. The original problem is that a lawn is a waste of space and money. Keeping the lawn while cutting the lawn-cutting time down from three hours a week to three quarters of an hour per week isn't solving the problem.

But it would sure make my life easier.



Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Death of the "citizen"

Goodbye, dear citizen! We hardly got to know you...


But, thank god you're back!

No, you're not a "citizen" anymore...

You're a consumer.


But at least you're back.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Another thing that could never happen just happened

Do you ever follow those stories where some business-savvy keener wants to open up a new fish farm, and a bunch of pointy-headed long-beards will show up to claim that the farmed fish will escape and wreak havoc on wild fish habitat and blah blah blah?

So they'll have a hearing, wherein the keener presents lots of experts who claim such a thing can never happen, blah blah blah.  And because our culture valourizes business-savvy keeners and discounts everyone else, the project gets the green light.

And then this happens.

Oopsie!

Oh well, it's only 300,000 fish... and its not our fault.

It was the solar eclipse!

9/11 through the prism of POTUS 45

Donny J made it official yesterday; he's turning his back on the last campaign promise that he hasn't already broken; ending the longest war in US history. The particulars of his announcement are beyond laughable. He will ramp up boots on the ground by some 4,000 pairs and serve notice that we're now officially in it to win it.

Complete bullshit obviously. If the USA/NATO combine couldn't win Afghanistan with over 100,000 troops, bumping the numbers up to 12,000 from 8,000 is a joke.

I'm guessing that this is not so much a case of Mr. Trump changing his mind, but rather the acknowledgement that it's not actually the president of the country who is running the show.

Which raises a multi-trillion dollar question; if it's not the democratically elected leader running the country, who is?

That's not a question a lot of Americans seem to concern themselves with. No, Americans are far more concerned with where a trans person gets to take a shit, whether a NFL player stands for the national anthem, or if Civil War statuary should be removed from public spaces. These are issues that so divide Americans that they will gleefully beat one another to a pulp in defense of their respective opinions.

Questions of who is actually at the helm as the world's most dangerous state careens off the cliff isn't something most Americans can roust themselves off the couch over. After all, even raising the question will get you tarred with the "conspiracy theorist" brush.

It's not really going off the cliff of course. The only thing that really matters to those who call the shots is that the American war machine keeps pumping profits to those who own it. Making the Afghanistan campaign open-ended guarantees lots more of that. As do the dozens of other intrigues simultaneously greasing the war machine, from Ukraine to Yemen to Iraq to Syria to Israel and on and on and on.

From the point of view of those actually steering the ship, this is not "going off the cliff." This is everything going to plan.

Which is what Trump is in the process of figuring out. Who the hell was Trump, after all? Until he ran for the 2016 election he was anything but this racist, misogynist, nativist, etc, etc, beast who now fronts every newscast. He was a fairly typical Manhattan uber-rich liberal who was relentlessly fawned over by the same media that now denigrates him non-stop. Oprah had no qualms about conducting deferential interviews with him. Google Images has a vast trove of pictures showing the racist beast yucking it up with the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

In fact, if you were an A-list American socialite, politician, sports or entertainment star in the decades before Trump's White House run, chances are there's a picture somewhere of you posing with Donald J Trump.

So what happened?

What happened was that he unexpectedly won the election, and America's deep state propaganda machine, often referred to as "the free press," swung into action. Trump was not supposed to win. What's this nonsense about improving relations with Russia and ending wars for regime change? No arms race with Russia or China? No perpetual wars in Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria? OMG, the gushing taps of the war profiteers will be down to a trickle in no time flat...

We gotta stop that man!

And I think they have. The beast has been tamed. Sure, he'll keep up with those silly tweets, but that doesn't hurt the war machine.

The last time America's propaganda infrastructure closed ranks so effectively in the interests of preserving the folks behind the curtain was circa 2001. I was a welding inspector at Frankel Steel where the structural steel for Seven World Trade Center was fabbed up. Nobody I've ever met who has hands-on experience with structural steel buys the official narrative, nor do the over two thousand professional architects and engineers who have put their professional reputations on the line to say so, yet sixteen years on it's that official narrative that holds sway.

If Americans were not so stupefied by their exceptionalism they might be asking themselves why.




Monday, August 21, 2017

A picture of race relations in America

Meet Bridget and Fran.

Marion at her friend’s house.

Read their story at The Guardian.

When you peruse mainstream media it's easy to get the impression that race relations in America are all about white privilege and black resentment. I think there's a reason the big media platforms push that narrative; the old maxim "divide and conquer" comes to mind.

It is therefore very refreshing to read a story about a couple of working class women who don't seem aware of the "racial divide." Fran and Bridget are both active with "Stand up Kansas City," a group lobbying for a $15/hr minimum wage.

That wage workers in the world's wealthiest country are too often trapped in poverty even when working more than full-time hours should be an embarrassment to every American.

A minimum wage that affords a decent standard of living is long overdue.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

About that new car smell

That's not the smell of white privilege, is it?

I've only had the privilege of new car smell twice in my life.

That factory-order '73 Duster 340 had new car smell all over it.

As did the Toyota I bought brand new thirty years later.

The dozens of cars that passed through my hands in between generally didn't.

You could still catch a whiff of new car smell in that '73 Trans Am SD 455. It had a mere 5000 clicks on it when I got her.

And the '77 Impala with the 350 4bbl that I bought as a dealer demo still had the smell.

But by and large, new car smell gets annihilated in short order by B.O., farts, smoke of all kinds, farts, spilled beer, more farts, wet dogs, and the perfume of the latest hottie you thought you'd impress with your new car.

By the way, that's a strategy that seldom worked, and when it did, you lived to regret it.

So it was a blast down memory lane when I stepped into my dear octogenarian father's new Dodge truck the other day to be enveloped by that new car smell!

Yup, the new car smell still smells the same!

Word of advice, Dad; avoid the hotties.

Checking my white privilege

Ya, I guess there's no getting around the fact that I'm a honky. Unlike that Dolezal woman, I don't have a snowball's chance in hell of passing.

Today me and the Farm Manager took a tour up to Tobermory to scope out waterfront real estate that might be suitable for our retirement.

Personally, I find that white privilege is highly over-rated. True, I've never suffered police brutality, although there were a couple of occasions in my youth where I didn't really think it was necessary for the dickheads to draw their sidearms. And I have to admit they didn't open fire, so maybe white privilege does count for something.

Anyway, we had a fine day if it, capped by a lovely lunch at the Princess Hotel in Tobermory. That's run by a Greek family. What's up with the Greeks? Do they have white privilege? One thing I know for sure is they have a knack for running restaurants. The Kritikos family has done a great job with their hotel-restaurant, and they've recently expanded into offering extra-virgin olive oil from their family's olive groves in the old country.

Then we drove around and collected some names off for sale signs, and got home to do some research on the internet. Here's one real estate agent who came up more than once.

Not sure how far my white privilege is gonna get me in my quest for waterfront on the Bruce.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Hope I don't die before I get old

Went to see my dear daddy at his cottage the other day. Couldn't help but notice that he seems to be enjoying his dotage very much.

I thought I was just having lunch, but as it turned out (surprise!), he happened to be having a crisis that involved a chain saw, a ladder, fifty feet of rope, a John Deere 450 crawler loader, and a spindly little cedar tree with a trunk diameter of less than six inches.

If it was me, I probably would have just whacked the thing down with an axe. After all, five inches of cedar hardly seems worth firing up the Stihl. Nevermind all that other shit.

But that's how Dad rolls.

And at 85 years of age, he's earned the right!

KILL THE HATERS!!!

I kinda miss that Russia thing. That was on the verge of bringing Trump down for almost a year, and now it's gone like a fart in a windstorm.

And North Korea? A mere week ago we were on the very brink of nuclear Armageddon, were we not?

That's gone too!

Both those stories have been eclipsed by the news that a White Supremacist has seized the White House!

Like that's never happened before...

Every progressive American knows that the USA is a post-racial society, if not since the Emancipation Declaration, then certainly since the Thirteenth Amendment,  and if not since then, for sure since the Civil Rights Act, and if not entirely by then, certainly for double-sure the ascent of Obama to the Oval Office signalled that America had put its racist past behind it once and for all.

And then this outrage in Charlottesville. A gaggle of semi-literate goobers brandishing Walmart tiki-torches gather in Charlottesville to profess their love for a Confederate general.

Who cares?

The news business cares, that's who. Sensing that the Russia cow was more or less milked out, and that only a very small sliver of the public was buying into the imaginary threat posed to the most militarized nation on earth by that fat Korean kid, the media discovered the malignant menace in our midst, the alt-right neo-Nazi white-supremacist set that is on the cusp of sweeping away 150 years of inter-racial harmony.

Yup, on a really good day these wankers can draw several hundred acolytes to a demo. They are inevitably humiliated by counter-demos that attract many thousands without really trying. But they're the latest and greatest threat to the fabric of America's egalitarian democracy!

And all because of Trump, of course!

Frankly, I'm a little disappointed in our "free press."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Minimum wage rise to collapse economy?

Hey, if our economy depends on keeping hundreds of thousands of workers toiling in poverty, I say, let it fall! It ain't working for us!

The Metro grocery chain is the latest outfit to proclaim that the sky will fall if the proposed Ontario min wage rise goes forward. OMG, it's gonna cost Metro up to fifty million a year!!!

Hmm... fifty million on sales of 12 billion. A little elementary math tells me an across-the-board price hike of less than .5% would bury the 50 million.

You or I won't notice a .5% increase in our grocery bill. What's an extra fifty cents when you spend a hundred bucks at Metro or Foodland? If fifty cents upsets your weekly grocery budget, you're already getting your groceries at the food bank.

Metro's sacred net profits will be unscathed. All the other chains will be subject to the same minimum wage, so there's no competitive disadvantage.

Thousands of their workers will notice a real difference in their take-home pay.

How is this even cause for debate?

Come on, Metro, don't be such tightwad bastards!

Celebrate the fact that you'll finally be paying your employees a living wage!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Fuck the algorithm

When I wake up, and that's consistently been in the morning for several decades now, thank you very much, I wobble over to the computer and check out the news stories that an algorithm has selected for me.

Algorithms pretty much decide everything I'm prompted to look at in the course of my day.

The folks who own the algorithms are now fine-tuning algorithms that will decide whether the news I access via the world wide web is real news or fake news.

Hmm... do we really want to be in a place where algorithms define reality for us?

Power has never been as concentrated as it is today

My dear Uncle Werner used to go traipsing all over Europe to deliver his papers. That's one sorry excuse of a paper route, I thought.

It was only after I got a little older that I realized that's what academics do; travel the world to read their papers to learned fellow-travellers. It's not at all like me reading my Globe and Mail at Dockside Willies.

Werner had some good stories about his various paper delivery adventures.  Aside from visiting places like Tubigen and Heidelberg, and any other place with a famous brewery, or so it seemed to me, he on occasion had to hop the Iron Curtain to attend conferences on that side of the fence. That's where his path would inevitably cross that of the Stasi, the state security outfit in East Germany.

He'd call up some esteemed Herr Doktor Professor, and someone would answer with the greeting "Staartssicherheit." This would be back in the ugly old Berlin Wall days.

Before the internet.

Before the digital revolution.

Before a small handful of private companies, all tied closely to American Empire, had a lock on global internet traffic.

I was impressed by what the Stasi could do in the '80's.

I can't even imagine what the NSA can do today.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fisk announces retirement?

Don't get me wrong; I think Robert Fisk is one of the the absolute go-to guys when it comes to news from the Middle East.

As near as I can tell he's got a pretty sweet gig going on, what with those papers who pay the rent on his waterfront flat in Beirut, and I've always thought he's a pretty credible guy.

In fact, he may have become too credible for his own good. And too honest.

Check this out;

There are still honourable Israelis who demand a state for the Palestinians; there are well-educated Saudis who object to the crazed Wahhabism upon which their kingdom is founded; there are millions of Americans, from sea to shining sea, who do not believe that Iran is their enemy nor Saudi Arabia their friend. But the problem today in both East and West is that our governments are not our friends. They are our oppressors or masters, suppressors of the truth and allies of the unjust.

What? 

Our governments are not our friends?

They are our oppressors?

Oh Robert! You must be fully convinced that your pension is sound if you risk your job like that!

But good on you!

Fresh brain fart from world's greatest intellectual smells suspiciously like last one

You don't have to work the google button very hard to find copious examples of the great BHL's ruminations on the need for regime change in Syria, and before that, Libya. In fact, he was advocating regime change in Syria even before the Coalition of the Self-Righteous was done murdering Gaddafi.

You'd think that the state of affairs in those two countries six years later would cast doubt on Mr. Levy's skills as a prognosticator, but apparently not. Here he is in my Globe and Mail today.

Yes, "we" have a duty to bring the gift of regime change to yet another country that's done absolutely nothing to threaten "us," but happens to be on Washington's shit-list, Venezuela.

Imperial meddling isn't just something we should do because we're militarily stronger and will get away with it. No, "we have a duty." Accordingly, Mr. Levy provides a long list of prescriptions for what the UN should do, what Washington and London and Paris should do, etc.

What is truly astonishing is even as his counsel has contributed to the destruction of the wealthiest country in Africa and the last secular Arab society in the Middle East, and created the worst refugee crisis in the modern era, reputable media outlets continue to offer him a platform to bray for more of the same.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

About the Ninja

I knew a guy once who owned a racehorse. He kept it at his buddy's place down the road. His wife knew nothing about the racehorse. He'd tell her that he was just heading over to Buddy's farm to help with the chores, and of course every Saturday he had to help Buddy out at the racetrack.

I was thinking about this as I was blasting down the side-road on the Ninja. She's an early eighties model, may have been a first year Ninja for all I know. Could be a collector item!

She's a four-stroke 500cc twin, not nearly as tempermental as those two-stroke 500cc triples Kawasaki was putting out in the early 70s. Still, she's got a redline of 11,000, and I generally lose my ambition by the time I'm half way there.

My pal Harvard lives at the end of the sideroad. He got his moniker because he's the only guy in these parts who actually went there. Hated it. Loves the quiet life up here in The Bruce.

I'm still up in the air about the Ninja. I haven't got round to registering it or getting insurance or any of that stuff, and I haven't actually bought a helmet. Frankly, the Ninja scares me a little bit.

That's not a bad thing. Being scared makes you careful.

As I was carefully negotiating the gravel side-road at a very decent clip, it occurred to me that I had something in common with Buddy and the racehorse.

The Farm Manager gets so into her Netflix she doesn't notice that I'm off on a ten mile toot round the block on the Ninja. Buddy's wife didn't realize her man owned a racehorse until that horse, after the top three favorites were unexpectedly scratched one Saturday night, won a race.

Buddy was so thrilled to have $7,049.50 in winnings he immediately went home and spilled the beans...

Maybe when I win a motorcycle race I'll do the same.






Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The clash of civilizations

When you think about it, it's no surprise that the European settlers were determined to wipe out the native population from the get-go.

On the one side, you had strict hierarchical regimentation of society. The ubermenschen ate first and ate the most, and the rest of the crowd scrambled for the left-overs.

On the other side, when the hunters brought home a moose or a caribou, everybody in the clan got to eat.

On the one side, even though the word "capitalism" had yet to be invented, the winner-take-all ethos was already well established.

On the other side, a communal ethos had been in place for millenia.

On the one side, rapacious exploitation was the norm.

On the other, sustainability was the norm.

Yes, there was indeed a clash of civilizations.

The folks who had the guns, germs, and steel on their side triumphed.

At least in the short term.


Fast forward a few centuries, and we are witnessing the death throes of this thing we call "capitalism."

It's become a tail-eating monster of a shit-show that feasts on constant expansion and constant war. It holds vast swathes of the so called civilized world in its thrall.

But, in spite of the best efforts of the settlers over these last five hundred blood-soaked years, there remains another side.

The communal side.

If we're to have a future, that's where we'll find it.

Canada: successfully dividing and conquering First Nations for 500 years

Perry Bellegarde has an impossible job. As the putative leader of 634 First Nations in Canada, he has to reconcile the oft-irreconcilable interests of those First Nations. Some want more resource development, some want less, some want none.  Remote fly-in communities of a few hundred have vastly different needs and interests than more populous communities in the south. About the only thing all 634 First Nations can agree on is that they've consistently got the dirty end of the stick since those swashbuckling Europeans you read about in "Breastplate and Buckskin" embarked upon the great usurpation five hundred or so years ago. That leaves the national leadership with a very muddled mandate when supposedly having "sovereign to sovereign" negotiations with Ottawa.

Herding cats would be a stroll in the meadow by comparison.

One thing First Nations do agree on is equal funding for education. There was renewed optimism on that file when the settlers elected Justin Trudeau as their Grand Chief a couple of years ago. Here was a man who talked the talk and availed himself of many photo-ops kitted out in traditional Indian finery. Yet what has become of his supposed good intentions?

Nothing, that's what. Initiatives to augment financing for health care and education are strangled in bureaucratic inertia. The much anticipated MMIW inquiry is collapsing in recrimination and infighting. The suicide epidemic among the young continues apace... or is getting worse, if such a thing can be imagined. By any metric, education, incarceration, employment, the life prospects for a First Nations child born today reveal the reality of a de facto apartheid that should shame every Canadian.

Tragically, it's difficult to see where much can change in the foreseeable future. Far too many have a vested interest in the status quo, especially but not exclusively on the settler side. Legions of lawyers have made lucrative careers out of NOT resolving the many outstanding land claims. After all, why would they be in any rush to end their ride on this gravy train?

Unfortunately, their gravy train is the nightmare train to nowhere for far too many First Nations people. There's been a lot of happy-talk about "reconciliation" these past few years. That's just empty words until those land claims are resolved, because no true sovereign to sovereign negotiations can happen until then.

At that point, the two (equal?) sides can begin discussing reparations, and only after that can there be any hope for reconciliation.

In the meantime, it's full-speed-ahead for Ottawa's divide and conquer strategy.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What are we, retarded?

Konrad Yakabuski had an op-ed in the Globe and Mail the other day wherein he bemoaned the fact that certain fast-fashion retail chains have become so globally ubiquitous that he's not sure whether he's shopping in London or Paris, Tokyo or Toronto. "McShopping," he calls it.

And while the veil of stultifying sameness that has descended on the great shopping cities of the world makes him sad, he does find a silver lining; millions of "decent" jobs have been created in the global South to bring this cornucopia of fast-fashion to the consumers in the global North.

How retarded would you have to be to buy into that?

The reality is that the same brand names that were once manufactured in factories in Canada and the US are now made in sweatshops in Bangladesh and Pakistan and China. As recently as twenty years ago you could buy jeans made in Canada, shirts made in Canada, shoes made in Canada... and while we may have referred to those factories as "sweatshops," they had little in common with the sweatshops in Asia that we've outsourced our production to.

Back in the "boat people" era my family sponsored a family of Vietnamese refugees into Canada. Two or three of them got jobs at the Rennie shirt factory in Guelph. That was considered a bottom-rung shit-job, the kind of place that new immigrants go to to get a toe-hold in the new land. Within three or four years that Vietnamese-Chinese family had bought their own house in Guelph, which was a veritable palace compared to the "house" that a typical Bangladeshi garment worker in one of Yakabuski's "decent" jobs would find themselves living in today.

Yet we are constantly implored to view the immiseration of workers in the global South as evidence of progress.

That's not progress!

That's just bullshit!

And here's some more progress for you. I happened to find myself wandering around Home Depot this afternoon. Spied a Samsung fridge that had been marked down by an unbelievable $2500! That caught my eye; I often buy shit I don't need because I get a good price on in. My garage is so full of these bargains I haven't been able to park a vehicle in there for years.

But wait a minute... even with that $2500 discount, this refrigerator is still within a whisker of five grand. What gives?

It's a good-sized double door stainless-steel with an ice-maker. OK, that's way more complexity than I'd ever consider, but you can get one of those for around fifteen hundred. So where's the other six thou come in?

Aha! Our Samsung has a 21.5 inch touch screen right on the fridge door! But wait a minute; how does that become a six thousand dollar touch? There's plenty of touch-screen monitors out there for $500 or less...

I figure you can buy that stainless two-door fridge, a computer with a bigger touch-screen, and top the package off with a decent phone, and you'll barely break the two grand barrier. I guess the genius of Samsung is to stitch all that into one package and charge a 200% premium! That premium is your ticket to the "internet of things!"

That's more progress for you!

Or maybe just more bullshit.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Bolt beat, billions applaud!

The nauseating hero-worship bestowed on Usain Bolt by an adoring world press can wind down now. Let the man have a quiet retirement. Please!

Bolt, as the entire world knows all too well, was the fastest man to ever lace up a pair of running shoes. That made him great. In fact, his greatness was greater than great... he was one of the greatest greats in the history greatness! No, he was THE greatest. Ever. In all of history no one has even come close to Bolt in terms of greatness!

Too bad a couple of other guys ran past him in the (hopefully) last race of his career.

So, happy retirement, Usain! I for one am looking forward to leafing through a Bolt-free sports section. Besides, you weren't really that fast. I'm pretty sure I ran faster that night when two bouncers from the Manor chased me down the middle of Waterloo Avenue with blood-lust in their eyes and pool cues in their hands.

Friday, August 4, 2017

It can't be bad gas

Back in the spring I was conferring with my pal Mac about why or why not various internal-combustion-powered stuff around Falling Downs was or was not starting up.

Mac is no Jimmy Lippert when it comes to internal combustion magic, but he's way ahead of me. I'm just a welder. Bring me a blueprint and I can build you something that looks like it, but don't ask me about how shit actually works. That's all voodoo to me. They used to have a saying at the drydock; a welder is just a pipefitter with his brains kicked in. There's an element of truth to that.

Anyway, we concluded that perhaps one of the issues confronting me was "stale gas." That's where you top up the tank with cheap low-lead gas, let the item in question sit for a year, and whoopsie, it never fires up again! At least not until you drain all that stale gas, flush the lines, clean the carb, and have another go at it with new fresh gasoline.

Sounded plausible.

But look at what went down today. I haven't used the F-150 for two years. I parked it in my parts-vehicle field and have rarely given it a second thought, nor would I have given it a second thought except the Farm Manager has been on the nag about what she considers to be a lot of useless shit sitting around the yard.

My opinion is of course a little different.

The classic Mustang 50 was working as recently as May. I'm sure it's just a little thing.

Oddly enough, the Ford 4000 diesel tractor gave up the same week as the Mustang.

And then there's the little Escape 4x4 that's was a blast as a "field car" right up until it wouldn't start this spring.

Could they all be suffering from bad gas?

Well, I hooked up the battery charger to the F-150 last night, the vehicle that's had bad gas in the tank the longest, and today it fired right up!

There goes the "bad gas" theory.

German ingrates stab Uncle Sam in back

Hey Squareheads, have you forgotten everything that Uncle Sam has done for you?

Have you forgotten the Marshal Plan?

Have you forgotten who kept you safely tucked under his nuclear umbrella while the Evil Empire was running amok on the world stage?

So now Uncle Sam is asking for a little sacrifice, a few pfennigs lost from your bulging geldbeutel, in order to slow down the new Stalin's bid to resurrect the Soviet dynasty, and you want to begrudge this?

Shame!

And this shameful selfishness is not only coming from the pinkos of Die Linke, but from the Chambers of Industry and Commerce and the Foreign Minister himself!?

Come to your senses, Volk!

What, after all, does it really mean to give up a gas pipeline from Russia when you have a chance to further the interests of freedom and democracy worldwide by paying double for American gas supplies?

And after everything that Uncle Sam has done for you...

The mind boggles!

Bell tolls for Bibi

Looks like the faint odour of corruption that has so frequently wafted about the career of the greatest leader since Moses is settling in once again. This time round it seems to have legs.

If you go by the story in the Globe and Mail, this is about rather trifling stuff; running a little interference for one of Sheldon Adelson's competitors in the newspaper wars, and enjoying fine wines and cigars provided by an admiring public.

But there's a much bigger corruption story lurking in the background. The submarine scandal promises to be about big money and big jail time if anything sticks to Netanyahu. That would truly end his political career once and for all.

Alas, while once I would have thought that a good thing, I'm not so sure anymore. Israeli politics
have moved so far to the right in recent years that Netanyahu may well be remembered as the last moderate Prime Minister.

And that does not bode well for the future of the country.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

True crime drama from Dumschitt County

I really can't improve on this, so here's your crime story verbatim from the Owen Sound Sun-Times website:

NEWS LOCAL

Suspect spotted on mower after alcohol theft

OPP
OPP
An Etobicoke man has been charged with theft after the suspect was seen leaving the area of the Thornbury LCBO on a riding lawnmower.
On July 26 shortly before 11 a.m., police were called to the LCBO store on Arthur Street in regards to a theft.
The suspect, who was seen leaving the area on a riding lawnmower, was located a short time later. The man was found to be under the influence of alcohol, a roadside breath test was conducted and he was found to be in the "warn" range, resulting in a three-day licence suspension, it said in a news release from the Collingwood and The Blue Mountains OPP.
Further investigation found the man was in possession of a bottle of alcohol that was taken from the LCBO, the news release said.
The 37-year-old man has been charged with theft under $5,000 and is scheduled to appear in court in Owen Sound on Aug. 17.

Top twat pontificates on Venezuela's economic catastrophe

According to his Wikipedia page, Ricardo Hausmann is best known for inventing several abstruse concepts to make the Dismal Science even more obscurantist than it would otherwise be. When I was coming up "dark matter" was a term from theoretical physics and "original sin" was something you learned about in Sunday school.

No more. Thanks to Hausmann, introducing these concepts to economics has given dismal scientists some much-needed tools to better explain the inexplicable, or whatever it is those people do.

In his spare time, Hausmann is the director of Harvard's Center for International Development, the successor to Harvard's Institute for International Development, which went down in flames as a result of hanky-panky involving its activities in post-Soviet Russia. It was in his capacity as director at the CID that I found him in the Op-ed pages of my Globe and Mail today.

Here's a taste; "The Maduro government's all-out attack on liberty and democracy is deservedly attracting greater international attention." Hmm... gotta say that whenever I hear an apologist for Empire profess concern for "liberty and democracy" the old bullshit detector starts twitching uncontrollably. No honest person today would posit that being on Uncle Sam's bestie list has anything whatsoever to do with one's commitment to "liberty and democracy."

As for that "greater international attention" bit, I suppose that's all relative. There has certainly been no deficit of American attention to Venezuelan politics in recent decades. By their own admission, the National Endowment for Democracy (that US government funded "NGO"- how Orwellian is that!?) has spent over 100 millions since the election of Chavez meddling in Venezuela's internal politics, and it looks like their efforts are finally bearing fruit.

The claim that Venezuela is the world's most indebted country is a bit of a puzzler. According to the CIA, (ya, that CIA) Venezuela has a debt/GDP ratio of 36.7%. That compares to 181.6% for Greece, 132.5% for Italy, and 126.2% for Portugal... and oh lookee! There's the USA with a debt/GDP ratio of 73.8%!

But Venezuela is the most indebted country in the world? Get outta here!

So why doesn't Maduro just belly up to the loan desk at the IMF or the World Bank like all those other guys? Borrow a few billions to tide his country over this tight spot? That's an interesting question. Here's a couple of paragraphs from a Huffpost article a few years back.


Venezuela also has specific grievances against the IMF, which are likely to generate sympathy in other developing countries with democratic, left-of-center governments. On April 12, 2002, just hours after Venezuela’s democratically elected government was overthrown in a military coup, the IMF stated publicly that it was “ready to assist the new administration [of Pedro Carmona] in whatever manner they find suitable.”
This instantaneous show of financial support for a newly installed dictatorship - one which immediately dissolved the country’s constitution, general assembly, and Supreme Court - was unprecedented in the IMF’s history. Typically the IMF does not react so quickly, even to an elected government. It is no wonder that this move was seen in Venezuela and elsewhere as an attempt by the IMF to support the coup itself. Washington, which dominates the Fund, had advance knowledge of the coup, supported it, and funded some of its leaders - according to U.S. government documents.
Oopsie... it almost looks like Uncle Sam and his toadies at the IMF and the World Bank are a little inconsistent in their commitment to "liberty and democracy," doesn't it? 
So there's no question that one of the main causes of Venezuela's suffering today is due to a long-standing policy of egregious Yanqui meddling. 
A related and equally important cause can be found in Mr. Hausmann's text, "...the government decided to cut imports while remaining current on foreign-debt service..."
WTF? What kind of "socialist" is this Maduro? He prioritizes debt payments over feeding his people?
That's the Venezuelan tragedy in a nutshell; not enough socialism and way too much US meddling.




Monday, July 31, 2017

Quaternary glaciation and why I'm not sweating global warming

Here's a scholarly article that claims that the real estate I'm sitting on right now has been subject to multiple ice ages over the past million and a half years or so.

Before the glaciers of the last ice age receded, Falling Downs was stuck under two kilometers of ice. Obviously, it took a lot of global warming to melt all that ice, and that was long before us humans started using fossil fuels.

Sometimes I think all the hoo-ha about "global warming" is just a bunch of hucksters trying to sell me everything from new taxes to electric cars.

So the seas will rise and coastal areas will be underwater? Guess folks will have to move. The seas have been rising and falling for millennia. And humankind and our various ancestors have been moving out of the way just as long.

Nothing new there.

What's new is that our brightest minds have figured out how to financialize these historic ebbs and flows in the planetary ecosystem.

That's bound to be a dead end.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Breakfast with Ai Weiwei

It was Saturday morning and we headed into town for breakfast. The parking lot at the Topnotch was full to overflowing, so we thought we'd try Buddy's place down by the water, Dockside Willies. We'd breakfast there more often, but they serve those shitty deep-fried frozen potato cubes instead of real fried potatoes.

The Globe and Mail is up to $6.30 now at the Korean's. That's a long way from a "free press" in my world, but what can you do? Read the news on your laptop? I'm not ready for that... yet.

So we settle in at Dockside's at a table with a nice view of the harbour. Aside from my quibble with the potatoes, Buddy has really raised the bar since the place was known as Wiarton Willies. You wouldn't guess that by looking at Buddy and his four by four Ford pickup with the six inch lift. I mean, you can get smoked duck breast in your salad now if you're so inclined!

Anyway, I got to page A8 in my $6.30 paper, and was half way through a story about the great Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei when our food arrived.

The good thing about those potato cubes is that it gives us more leftovers to feed the hounds when we take them to the park on the other side of the bay. It was a beautiful morning and we spent the next hour enjoying the dogs and the water and the sunshine and the boats heading out before we meandered home.

We get back to Falling Downs and I'm keen to get back to Ai Weiwei. After all, he's just won the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship and I want to read the rest of the story. I look for the paper... not on the dash, not on the back seat, not on the floor... I look at the Farm Manager and she looks at me.

"Oh for f@cks sakes!"

Dockside's was filling up fast with the lunch crowd when we left, and our newspaper would be long gone. I drive back to the Korean's and pay $6.30 for the Globe and Mail, for the second time in three hours. Mrs. Korean looks at me like maybe I'm a bit touched in the head.

I had an open mind about Ai Weiwei till he launched his "Straight" exhibit in Toronto in 2013. I wrote a post about it called The hokum of Ai Weiwei.

I don't know from "art" but I do have some experience with rebar, and that entire story about Ai Weiwei and his team laboriously chipping the concrete off 70 miles of rebar salvaged from collapsed school buildings in China was pure unadulterated bullshit.

By 2016, Ai Weiwei, or more probably his management team, had discovered the great European refugee crisis, prompting the artist to create his embarrassing tribute to Aylan Kurdi. Since then he's been keeping busy doing stuff with life-jackets supposedly left behind on the beaches of Lesbos (stuff that would get you or me arrested for trespass and vandalism), stood up to the anti-Semitic bullies of BDS with an exhibition in Jerusalem, and has something coming up in New York City called "Good Fences make Good Neighbours," which is ostensibly about walling/fencing people in/out.

That's obviously a timely issue, what with Trump's Mexican wall and all, but it would have been especially auspicious if he'd found the courage to mount that show in Israel last month, instead of the innocuous schlock on display at the Israel Museum. After all, nobody in today's world has more experience in walling/fencing people in/out than our Israeli friends.

But here's the thing with Ai Weiwei; he's mighty fussy about where he fights for human rights. His critical gaze finds room only for countries that are considered America's adversaries. Don't expect him to dig too deep into the root causes about why Aylan Kurdi and the thousands like him die fleeing their devastated homelands.

Then again, this may not be Ai's doing. Watch this interview he has with Jerry Cohen of the Council for Foreign Relations. (I know! Talk about friends in high places! How many artists get interviewed by the CFR?)

Does he answer the questions? Does he understand the questions? Are the questions even "questions?" It's a pretty gentle question session from what I can see, and his minder Jerry Cohen does a great job keeping things simple.

Shades of Chauncey Gardiner, perhaps?

Anyway, have to say I'm mighty skeptical. Apparently he's got a major film coming out, "Flow," all about refugees. At this very moment Ai Weiwei (or his management team) have no less than twenty film crews on location all over the world.

Maybe his forthcoming film will expose the causal relationship between American foreign policy and refugee flows.

Let's give him a chance.