GUINEA PIGS

THE CONTRARIAN

 

There are very small businesses, otherwise known as hobbies. There are larger ones such as owning a rental property or properties, or a retail shop or a farm, and there are large businesses with multiple employees.  There are different rules on financial reporting for different sizes of businesses.

The rule for farms is anything below $7 000 gross income is a hobby, not a business, and I think this pretty much applies to all hobbies. If you account your hobby/business according to the rules larger businesses use, expensing and depreciating everything in sight, it is very unlikely to have a net income, and they do not want you making little claims for business losses on what is really a hobby.

The next milestone is that businesses grossing less than $30 000 do not need a ‘business licence number’, or to report for GST purposes, saving another whole layer of hassle and red tape.

As a business grows in size and complexity beyond hobby scale, government red tape becomes an issue, blocking growth in many ways, not least in financial reporting and even quite small businesses need an accountant.  An example, one year I got an imperiously worded (you might say snotty) letter from Revenue Canada.  I didn’t really understand it and don’t remember exactly, it was along the lines of “the ratzerfratser is reported as a gimcrack in error according to section 24, subsection 18, and you owe us $2500, pay us immediately”.  I took it to my accountant, and he wrote a letter saying ‘the ratzerfratser is indeed a gimcrack, according to subsection xyz, and we don’t owe anything’; the government responded ‘OK, have a nice day’.  So having an accountant saved me $2500.

I asked the accountant what it all meant, and here is his answer translated into my language.  “The government claim was that rabbits are not taxable, but guinea pigs are, and as my rabbit had short ears and no tail they interpret that he is in fact a guinea pig and I have to pay.  My accountant replied that it is a lop-eared rabbit, and was sitting on its tail as it was cold out, so he is indeed a rabbit and not a guinea pig and we do not have to pay.”  He said this kind of stupid stuff is kicked out by a computer, and the governments generally do not follow up if they get a reasonably intelligent reply as the amount of money is not worthwhile.

The economy grows by entrepreneurs trying new ideas and starting new businesses, not by big businesses eating up patronage government grants, and certainly not by bureaucrats tinkering with interest rates and ‘stimulus’. If we want to grow the economy, a good place to start would be to raise the bar on having to report as a business, that $7000 limit to being treated as a hobby could be raised to say $15 000, and that $30 000 could be raised to $50 000 or more.  In fact, adjusted for inflation, these limits would still be less than when these rules first came into force.

What a simple and easy way to “help the middle class”, instead of treating small business as ‘a tax dodge’, encourage them to grow into bigger businesses. Grow the economy by encouraging the future Bill Gates’ and Mark Zuckerberg’s to get out there and start businesses.

 

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INSTRUCTIONS

THE CONTRARIAN

Long ago when the earth was green, and so was I, three of us university students decided that we would be better off and have a handy party location if we rented a furnished apartment. Being bachelors, we relied on my aunt, also resident in that city, for cooking advice.

That fall, one of my roomies brought a bag of apples from home, but they were so sour both roomies agreed they must be thrown out. I hate waste, and allowed maybe I could make an apple pie, and I did.  I got instructions from my aunt, and went to work, mixing up the mortar, er, I mean dough as instructed.  Lacking the appropriate tools, like a rolling pin, I thought I would roll it out on the table, using a jar which had come to us containing home-made pickles, I thought it would be kind of neat to have a pie with the word ”Imperial” embossed in the crust.

I passed my improvised rolling pin over that glue, I mean dough, and Ka-slurp, it stuck to the jar like paint on a wall, or peanut butter on toast, you get the idea, I had to pick it off with my fingernails. More telephone consultation, “maybe you used too much flour, or not enough, maybe you need some water, I would really have to see what you are doing to know what is wrong.”  O.K.  Sprinkle some more flour and try again, and Ka-slurp, it stuck to the table this time, like paint – toast, you get the idea, I managed to scrape it off with a putty knife without scratching the table too much.

And so it went, step by painful step. Slicing up all those apples is work, too, and I figured a pie ought to be about an inch deep, so that’s how many apples I put in.  It came out of the oven looking nice and brown, well, ok, maybe a little dark, well, ok, maybe caramelized a bit, and looking a bit flat.  In fact, those apples had shrunk down so the pie filling was about as thick as the jam on your toast.  Worse, when I tried to cut it, the knife just scratched the glazed surface; it was hard enough to pave a road with.  I cut a piece by chipping a trench across it with a screwdriver, without denting the pan too badly.  I sampled the chips, and they tasted like something you might pave a road with.  Couldn’t take the piece out, the whole pie was stuck to the pan like paint –toast, you get the idea, so we couldn’t throw it out without throwing out the pan and all.

Further consultation with the aunt brought the knowledge that if you want a pie an inch thick, you need to put in at least 2 inches of apples, and maybe the apples were too green, or the wrong kind, and maybe you used too much sugar, or not enough. Maybe all that manipulating the dough made it hungry enough to suck up all the grease I put in the pan, and that’s why it stuck.  She would have to see it to know what went wrong.  We put the thing in the fridge, and after a few weeks it tenderized itself enough to get it out of the pan.  We threw out the rest of the apples.

The point is that it is really difficult to transmit how to do anything more complicated than making lemonade by telling, you really have to show me how. As anyone who has tried to assemble a present from the instructions at 11 pm on Christmas eve knows (insert screw A through hole B in part C while holding spring D under pressure etc).  So I don’t get real disturbed when I hear you can find instructions for making any kind of bomb or drug or evil device on the internet.  The chance of something that actually works being made from instructions on the internet or from your aunt is pretty slim.

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PRE-PALEOLITHIC CURMUDGEONS

THE CONTRARIAN

 

MacLean’s, April 25, had a lot of coverage of the recent NDP convention. It appears some radicals injected something called the “LEAP Manifesto”, upsetting the applecart.  I would describe the LEAP as proposing to shut down my farm, and use the money that realizes to help poor kids.  (I know, I can’t see any logic there either).

In an interview with Avi Lewis, one of the LEAP sponsors, MacLean’s asked if he was surprised that critics had labeled it ‘utopian’ and ‘anti-capitalist’. His response almost made me fall off my chair, then laugh out loud.  He said  “We weren’t surprised in the least that pre-Paleolithic climate-denying curmudgeons like Rex Murphy and Conrad Black would  seize upon (it) with glee”.

My goodness, the man has a way with words. But on second thought, I greatly admire both Rex Murphy and Conrad Black, so that makes me a ’pre-Paleolithic climate-denying curmudgeon’ too.  Not funny, in fact, an insult.  So let’s analyse that a bit.

Start with ‘curmudgeon’. The Oxford English Reference Dictionary, 2003 edition, defines ‘curmudgeon’ as a (noun) “bad-tempered or miserly person”. Well, hey, that fits me right on, but I am at a loss how it applies to Murphy or Black, or fits into a discussion on climate change theology (and it is a religion).

Back up to ‘Pre’, which means before, and Paleolithic, which is a fancy way of saying “stone age”. So, ‘even older than stone age’. I suppose that means fur underwear and dragging a wooden club through the forest looking for something to kill and eat, presumably raw.  I have been accused of having some Stone Age attitudes, for example I think we really are better off living in families, but knuckle-dragging is a bit over the top.

Now let’s get to the core of it. Climate-denying?  Means nothing, so I suppose he meant ‘climate-change denying’.  Now that’s offensive.

Firstly, no sensible person would deny the climate is changing, always has, always will. But he means climate change caused by humans, specifically, burning all the oil and coal and raising the C02 content of the air.  There is considerably more scientific  evidence for existence of bigfoot running around in our forests, or for space aliens zipping around keeping an eye on us, than there is for C02-caused ‘climate change’.  It would be sounder science and economics to build Sanctuaries for Bigfoot and a Spaceport for the aliens than to starve more kids by impoverishing ourselves following the LEAP agenda.

Then we come to ‘denying’ – lefties use the term ‘denier’ as a pejorative and an insult, and this brings us to what this really is, politics, not science. Let’s look at what Avi Lewis must deny to maintain his concern is science-based.

He has to deny that C02 is just the latest in a long string of grotesque over-reactions to hugely exaggerated problems, from Dioxin to PCB to asbestos to mercury to the ozone layer to coming ice age due to our dust and smoke, all the way back to DDT.

He has to deny the existence of the UN’s “Agenda 21” and “New World Order”, programs to save the planet by reducing us all to serfs of the Global Government. He has to deny that the founder of the movement, Maurice Strong, said publicly that the first priority is to destroy the economy of the western world.

He has to deny the New World Order takes away democracy, bureaucrats will rule.

He has to deny the New World Order takes away our freedom and privacy; we will be cogs in a giant wheel.

He has to deny the New World Order takes away our individual rights.

He has to deny the New World Order demands a reduced standard of living for us all.

He has to deny that the Executive secretary of the recent “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change” said that the goal of the process is “a complete transformation of the economic structure of the world”

In other words, there is no science supporting  CO2 – caused climate change, and there is plenty of evidence it is part of a political scheme (called ‘Agenda 21’); impoverish and destroy the west in order to force us all into a ‘New World Order’ of a world government. We will all be sheep, and the new government the shepherd.  We can already see how that is working out in Europe.

Perhaps we should just refer to the fable of The Emperor’s New Clothes. While the properly brainwashed ‘educated folk’ ooh’d and aah’d, pretending they could see the Emperor’s Invisible Clothes, a small boy asked “why is the king prancing along in his skivvies?”  This caused the masses to recognize the elite had been hoodwinked, the invisible clothes did not exist, and they threw the rascals out.  Perhaps we ‘Deniers’ are, like the innocent little boy, just insufficiently brainwashed.  Perhaps we, like the little boy, are pointing the way. Just a thought.

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SEPARATISTS

THE CONTRARIAN

 

Looking at ‘Brexit’, I thought about our own Canadian Separatists.

They feel like they are treated by their province as a remote hinterland, a bit quaint, behind the times, even dare I say ‘redneck’, and safely ignored. After all they are remote indeed from the center of power, and have a small enough population that their vote will not matter.   They feel like they should not have been part of the province even when it was created, but rather a province of their own.

They feel like their best interests are completely ignored when the big economic decisions are made at the seat of power. They feel they pay more in provincial taxes than they get in provincial investment, in infrastructure, and especially in ‘economic development’.  They feel like their resources are stripped away, and used to build golden towers in the capital.  They feel like environment-based restraints which really benefit nothing in their remote location nevertheless are applied mercilessly, destroying their economy and forcing their young people to leave to find employment.  They feel like they are a rump on Canadian society, unwanted, in the way.

Not surprisingly, there have been movements promoting separation from the province over the decades. Sometimes they fade on their own during boom times, sometimes the province throws them a bone, and they fall to squabbling over that like ravens at a roadkill, and forget about their grievances.  And of course the naysayers are always there, fearful of any change, and fearful of unknown costs, pushing public opinion toward the status quo.

Of course I am talking about Vancouver Island, the original, very British colony, which was sandbagged into being lumped in with a much larger block of wilderness, which then turned into the main population base of the Province of British Columbia.

Oh, you thought I was talking about Northern Ontario! Well, well.  Of course we do have much the same grievances, a colony remote from the provincial power base.  But our genesis was the other way round. Vancouver Island, a civilized, populous British colony, had a large, remote (to them) block of mainland wilderness tacked on to them, and the tail quickly became the dog.  We, on the other hand, are the large, remote land tacked on to the existing smaller but much more populous colony for crass political reasons.  We never were the seat of power they once were, we were always the tail on the dog.

But we have had our separatists. In the early 70’s, the Northern Ontario Heritage Party, a northern separatist movement based in North Bay, grew to 25 000 members.  This is an incredible number compared with the population of the north, and in fact it was the largest political party in Ontario in terms of number of members.  Their embarrassing growth resulted in formation of the Department of Northern Affairs, which was somewhat effective at the time and helped destroy the Separatist movement.  DNA has long since been neutered, the soreness festers on, and there have been and still are smaller separatist movements.

One problem is that we in Kenora district are culturally westerners, we have little in common with northeastern Ontario, and Thunder Bay is culturally its own little world. If a new province needs to pull together like a team of Huskies, northern Ontario would be a mixed team — poodles, dachshund’s, perhaps a collie and a Labrador, not likely to pull together well enough to succeed.  Sunset Country would no doubt be better off attached to Manitoba (Or even Minnesota!)  than to northeastern Ontario.

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TALE OF A MEXICAN VALLEY

THE CONTRARIAN

 

When you cross into Mexico from the US, you see a quaint, rustic, old village, as befits a country stuck in the past. Well, except that some of those shops are remarkably alike, you see the same shop, whether you cross from Texas, Arizona, or California.  Which suggests a chain, like Cracker Barrel, or for that matter KFC.  Which in turn suggests the whole stuck in the past thing is a bit of a front for tourists.

In fact Mexico City is one of the world’s largest cities, with a sophisticated cosmopolitan center, and much of Mexico is as advanced as anywhere. And that brings me to agriculture.

The Yaqui Valley is a well-developed agricultural area in Mexico, with large, modern, sophisticated farms being operated entirely in the modern, chemical-using, environment-destroying way. All around the valley, in the foothills, there are villages where people live in less sophisticated ways, practicing subsistence agriculture where they pretty much eat what they produce.

Melinda Hemmelgam is an American writer, known as the ‘Food Sleuth’, google it and learn. Writing in the September issue of ACRES, a US magazine written for those with an interest in natural farming, she tells of a study done on those Yaqui Valley kids by Dr. Guillette of the University of Florida.

Comparing those living in the valley with those living in the foothills, she found the valley kids “had deficits in learning, stamina, balance, eye-hand co-ordination and memory”. Solid evidence that exposure to modern chemistry does indeed have developmental effects, in spite of assurances from the powers that be.

Solid evidence that the stuff they put in and on our food is not tested anywhere near as thoroughly as it needs to be, especially for long term effects. The US is of course the giant in the room, and giant corporations (mostly American) have way too much to say about what gets approved – the approval process for new chemicals (and new drugs) is influenced far too much by politics, and not enough by science.  And what the US approves generally gets approved world wide – witness the storm Europe has faced over its refusal to accept genetically modified stuff.  Even though the modification is always in support of the chemical industry (GM crops which tolerate popular herbicides) or giant farm companies – (tomatoes which can be shipped a zillion miles without getting a bruise on them).

You have probably heard the joke about the guy, faced with an oncoming ravenous bear, who stops to put on running shoes. “Are you kidding”, says his partner, “You can’t outrun a bear!”   The guy answers “No, but I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you!”  So I try to eat as much natural food and as little frankenfood as I can without being a fanatic about it, on the theory that if I eat less than the average, I have a lot less chance of being a victim of unexpected side effects of that frankenfood.  Less chance of being eaten by the bear, so to speak.  Eat local, eat fresh.

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PATH OF THE PADDLE

THE CONTRARIAN

Have you seen the ad? It’s in all the glossy magazines, even the ones on the airplanes, it’s on all the television networks in Switzerland, Germany, eastern Europe, even France and Italy, and of course Britain.   It runs in Hong Kong and Japan.   It features lots of spectacular colour pictures of our northwestern landscape, water and wildlife.  Its text runs something like this.

 

*   *    *    *

Travel the Path of the Paddle! See Canada as the explorers saw it!  Test yourself against Mother Nature in all her glory!

 

Your voyage starts at Fort William, a fur-trading fort recreated faithfully to its 1812 heyday, near the present day city of Thunder Bay. There you will meet your native guide, and be introduced to your canoe.  Travel on unspoiled rivers and over pristine lakes just as the native people did for centuries, all the way to Lower Fort Garry, another restored fur trader’s fort near the modern city of Winnipeg.

 

Your wilderness adventure can take a month or more, if you paddle all the way. Many people choose to traverse the big lakes by luxury yacht, cutting weeks off the time, without missing any scenery.  Those in a hurry can do the whole route by fast hovercraft, or your travel agent can mix and match the modes of travel to suit your time available and fitness level.

 

Stay each night at a five-star lodge, or rough it and camp under the stars as the voyageurs did.  Interrupt your travel with a stay at a Canadian Fishing Lodge, where guides will make sure you catch trophies, then carry on.  Portage your canoe as a test of your physical condition, or ride an air-conditioned bus to bypass the waterfalls and rapids that were such an obstacle to the voyageurs.  See spectacular northern lights.  See the wildlife in its natural setting.  See ancient native meeting grounds, rock paintings, and modern native life.

 

The whole route is undeveloped wilderness, but modern amenities are never more than a few hours away (a few minutes by helicopter), so that the less fit can enjoy the trip without worrying about medical problems.

 

Daily jet flights to Winnipeg and Thunder Bay’s modern international airports make your travel arrangements easy.   Modern towns with travel facilities are accessible as you go, so the trip can also be done in stages.

 

*   *    *    *

 

You haven’t heard anything about such ads? Of course not, they will be running in 2025.  That is, if we can put aside our petty differences and start developing the Path of the Paddle into the world-class tourist attraction it ought to be.

 

You haven’t heard of Path of the Paddle? That’s disappointing, but not surprising, our leaders, our press; our tourist promotion agencies have done a good job of ignoring it.  The Path of the Paddle is our section of the TransCanada Trail.  The authorities decided a walking path, as in the rest of Canada, would be too difficult, and a canoe ‘trail’ would be more doable and more interesting.  It is still not much more than an idea, maps, a few signs, and volunteers busy improving campsites and portages along the way.  It is high time tourist promotion agencies such as Sunset Country and even municipal agencies and governments started promoting it.  Build some traffic and the 5 star lodges will follow.

 

After all, we have as much to offer as cruises in Russia or up the Amazon, all we need is the leadership.

 

 

PATH OF THE PADDLE PART 2

I occasionally watch ‘Cubbies adventures’ on TV; it is quite entertaining to us old folk who can no longer go adventuring in the woods, and sometimes it’s the best that Shaw cable has to offer. Anyway, one day last winter Cubby gave me quite a surprise. He came across a sign out near Eagle Lake saying ‘Path of the Paddle’, and he seemed completely at a loss as to what it meant.  That is why I commented last column that it is not surprising that most people have never heard of ‘Path of the Paddle’.

Path of the Paddle is the present, not the history I usually write about. But it does have a story that I think is worth telling, and I will try to do that, if I get it wrong, I hope you will write the editor and tell him so.

If you drive the TransCanada at all, you must have noticed folks trekking across the country, walking, bicycling, pulling a wagon, riding a horse or donkey or otherwise unusual vehicle; a great, international- class adventure. Sometimes they travel with a pup tent, which you might see pitched in some very unlikely spots, no doubt where the traveller ran out of wind for the day.  Many of these folks will be community leaders some day, many are international, and admittedly some are more like ‘Knights of the Road’, trying to survive in a world too complex for them.  They all literally have their lives in their hands, especially east of Ignace on that little one foot wide ‘paved shoulder’ the Ministry thinks is enough.  They would be terrified if they knew how sleepy the drivers of the herds of trucks surging within inches of their handlebars or donkey’s ears really are.  I am sure very few go away with positive memories of Northwestern Ontario, so that ought to be a concern to us.

In more densely populated parts of the country, local volunteers have been cleaning up abandoned roads and rail right-of-ways to make Hiking Trails. A great community success story, a walk of say 10 miles to the next town is a great outing in Mother Nature.  Activists have been plumping to expand this success, link these community trails up all across Canada, and capitalize on that Cross-Canada traffic we see on our highway.

Government response was to set up a body to promote a ‘Trans Canada Trail’. A northwestern Ontario committee was struck, and local people did a lot of work, I know that Dryden’s Vicki Kurz and Ignace’s Dennis Smyk were involved, along with many others.  But our communities are too far apart, and our people already have access to miles of wilderness trails, so there aren’t nearly enough local volunteers to create and operate a hiking trail the way they do it in more civilized parts of the country.  Even worse, while there are lots of abandoned roads which could be made into a trail, they do not connect up.  There is a lot of water to cross, and bridges and boardwalks would have to be built (what an opportunity for some truly sensational swinging bridges).  So a hiking trail would involve major construction dollars, and the no-cost, volunteer-driven model will not work.  More next week.

 

PATH OF THE PADDLE, PART 3

We were looking at how the TransCanada Trail in our area was the precarious shoulder of highway 17, and a Northwestern Ontario committee was working on how to fix that. Eureka, they did come up with an idea.

Back in the day, every summer the Department of Lands and Forests would lay on a crew of ‘Junior Rangers’, teenage boys who would work in the bush and get some real life experience and become men. One of the things this crew did was maintain the canoe portages, places where canoes could be transferred from one body of water to another.  And there were lots of portages; we have myriads of lakes, more than anywhere in the world, and canoeists could and did travel all over the district ever since antiquity.  There is a spot on the Turtle River which appears to have been used back in the stone age as a meeting ground for periodic large assemblies of people from as far away as perhaps New Orleans; all came by canoe.

I have an excellent auto-biographical book called “The Trapper”, by Phillip Sawdo, from the Suzanne River band. He matter-of-factly reports his amazing canoe journeys all over our district 80 or so years ago.  If I ever get it back from those I have lent it to, I will donate it to the Dryden Library as it is an important part of our local history.

Junior Rangers are no more, and the canoe is no longer the major means of travel, so no maintenance is being done on the portages. City folk would be surprised at how fast the forest reclaims clearings, and many of these portages are completely regrown and not even visible.

So, the trail committee’s idea was, what if we had a water route for our section of the TransCanada Trail? What if we improve and restore portages from Lake of the Woods through area lakes all the way to Old Fort William, and put up signs so strangers could actually find their way?  Most of the portages would be close to existing communities, so there would be services available to canoe trekkers.  There are lots of local canoe enthusiasts who would work as volunteers to make it happen.

Eventually, the TransCanada Trail body accepted this concept. It wouldn’t be of much help to the guy riding his bicycle or his donkey across Canada, donkeys make poor canoe passengers, but at least it would fit the mould as there were local volunteers and governments would not have to spend very much money. And it adds a distinctly Canadian flavour to our National Trail.  They decided this section of the TransCanada Trail would be called “The Path of the Paddle”.

So now there are groups of volunteers all along the way, quietly working away putting up signs and restoring portages and campsites, unsung heroes. The local group is headed by Jack Harrison, and Garth Gillis is diligently working on an on-line Traveller’s Guide for canoeing in our area which is attracting international attention.  So, Cubbie, the sign you saw was a trail marker so the guy from, say, Germany, paddling across the district, has some hope of finding his way.  I am sure you agree that “Path of the Paddle” is a great choice for a name for this National canoe route.

The Path of the Paddle –  a national treasure, if we can just put aside our petty differences and start developing it into the world-class tourist attraction it ought to be.

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DONALD TRUMP, SAVIOUR?

THE CONTRARIAN

 

As you know from previous scribblings, I am fascinated by the notion of ‘Megatrends’, from a book of that name by John Naisbitt.

He describes changes as ‘trends’, things going in a particular direction, and he describes broad societal changes as megatrends. He has many examples over the ages, but the example I like best is prudery.  In the 18th century, necklines down to there, gentlemen’s tights left nothing to the imagination, let it all hang out.  In the 19th century, Queen Victoria’s time, prudery reigned; we became so worried about displays of body parts that not only were we thoroughly covered up, even piano’s had skirts as it was vulgar for the piano to show its legs!

He said trends go in a particular direction, then explode and people forget all about them, sometimes just because they become old hat, sometimes they are derailed by an event or upheaval. Remember yoyos? Or hula hoops? Leisure suits? Or even concern about dioxin?   The prudery thing was fading with the loss of Queen Victoria, but was really exploded by the First World War, and after that we had the flappers, let it all hang out again, prudery gone.

I suggest we have been in the process of a megatrend these past 60 years or so, call it ‘progress’ or ‘political correctness’ or ‘causes of the hippies from the 60’s’. this trend has gone well past it’s best before date; concern about gender and racial equality has gone so far it is causing inequality; concern about ‘the environment’ has gone so far it is causing environmental degradation; concern about financial inequality has gone so far it is making inequality worse; concern about social inequity has resulted in a new serfdom for regular folk.   The pendulum has swung way out there.  We are putting skirts on our pianos, and as a result facing huge issues which threaten peace and stability in the world.

I am amused by the indignant outraged screaming in the press about everything Donald Trump does or says. Donald is not part of the big government/big corporation unholy alliance and they can’t buy him off, (no doubt they will try to blackmail him, and even his life is in danger).  He is anything but ‘politically correct’.  The humorous part is that the politically correct piano-skirters do not even realize they have joined forces with their enemy, the rich, in frantically trying to bring him down.

But I see him as a possible salvation. Perhaps he is the outside force that will explode the megatrend of Political Correctness before it brings us down to war, poverty, destruction.

Just another way of looking at things.

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