Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Maybe if CSIS and the RCMP Weren't So Busy Spying on Environmentalists For Big Oil, They Could Do a Better Job on Domestic Terrorism.

To our prime minister's perverted mind, environmentalists are closet terrorists laying in wait to attack his pipelines if and when those ever get built.

We're only three days into the work week and already two Canadian soldiers may have paid with their lives for this prime minister's stupidity.

On Monday, a soldier was run down and killed outside CFB St. Jean.  Harper wasted no time declaring it a terrorist attack.

"What took place yesterday is clearly linked to terrorist ideology," Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told reporters in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

 
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office said the man was known to federal authorities, and that there were clear indications he had become "radicalised", a term the government has used to refer to those who support militant Islam.


"I want to express that the authorities can count on our full support in order to get to the bottom of this terrible act," Mr Harper said in a statement.

Canadian security officials have worried for years about the threat of radicalise young men, and the concern became more intense after Canada sent six fighter jets to take part in the campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq.


Steve, you dumb hump, you are "the authorities."  It's your job and your cabinet's job and CSIS, CSEC and the RCMP's job to safeguard Canada from real terrorists.  You would rather employ the instruments of state power to intimidate bird watchers or people who speak politically, except when you like what they're saying.  You would rather employ your government's security resources in service to Enbridge and Kinder Morgan and two soldiers may have paid for that with their lives.

If You've Got a Facebook Page

You might want to post this.  Anyone with daughters can appreciate this Lesley Gore classic from the Department of Peace:

"You Don't Own Me" PSA from You Don't Own Me on Vimeo.

This is American, obviously.  Yet, in the illiberal democracy that now has Canada in a death grip, something like this would be more than enough to bring the CRA Tax Stasi down on the heads of those who deigned to challenge Beelzebub's family values.


"You Don't Own Me" PSA - Upworthy from The Department of Peace on Vimeo.

INSURRECTION!! CHAOS!! CANADA UNDER SIEGE!! LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS!!!

By Canadian standards it was pretty exciting, enough to get the thickened blood of wintertime coursing through our veins.

With apologies in advance to Sally Fields - They HATE Us!!  They Really, Really, Hate Us!!!

A couple of guys with (unregistered) long guns went on a bit of a shooting spree in downtown Ottawa.  They shot a soldier standing duty at the National War Memorial.  Then one of the gunmen made a bee line for the Centre Block and more gunfire ensued, apparently leaving the gunman dead.

The second, or "multiple gunmen", gunman is believed to be running for safety in Quebec (hmm, possibly NDP?  Best interrogate Mulcair.  Give him the treatment.)

Even from way out here on Vancouver Island you can hear the loud droning noise of the Ottawa spin machines at full revs.

C'mon, they had to be Muslims, right?  Somehow you just know.  And if they weren't Muslims this morning why, sure as shit, they'll be Muslims by the end of the day.

Okay, I'll grant you this.  As the kids would say, "it was a thing." Then again, let's have a bit of perspective.  It wasn't much of a thing, not really.

How many times during Obama's tenure has the White House taken gunshots? Hint - more than a couple.

Just curious.  Why do we have soldiers standing around the National War Memorial?  In my day soldiers were there on Remembrance Day.  In a time of global and domestic terrorism why leave sitting duck targets out there, as inviting a target as a domestic terrorist could hope for. Why?

Terrorists ordinarily strike first.  The first shot or first bomb is theirs.  They get to decide how to attack, where, who and when.  So if it's a soldier ordered to stand stationary on the war memorial with a target on his chest well that's almost too good to pass up when the terrorist blood lust takes hold.

I think Stevie Boy has some 'splaining to do.  He's been warning us about domestic terrorism, well, forever or at least it seems like forever.  The way he tells it, again and again, the terrr-rists have sleeper cells from Flin Flon to Port Hardy.  Surely that would put Ottawa right in their crosshairs.

Just how in hell did a gunman, on foot, open fire at the war memorial and then make it from there into the Centre Block with a long gun?  I know it's not that far but it's far enough that he should never have made it inside the Parliament buildings.  The initial gunshots would have been heard on Parliament Hill in ample time to secure the buildings.  There are a lot of questions in need of answers.

By the sounds of it, we were lucky.  Just a pair of nutjobs with rifles.  No explosives, no heavy weapons.  About as unsophisticated an attack as we could hope for.  The shooting at the war memorial was really, really dumb.  If they knew how to get into the Parliament buildings with guns, alerting everyone first at the war memorial was just stupid.

Oh I cringe at the thought of the political capital that'll be squeezed out of the body of the soldier who never should have been on Target Duty at the war memorial anyway.

To the soldier's family and to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, whose turn it was to stand guard at the memorial, my genuine sympathies and regrets that we have a government so craven as to put this soldier at such obvious risk.




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Say What? How Bad Is It?

To quote Sverker Göransson, Sweden's top military commander, "it's fucked up."
Referring to Sweden's so far fruitless search for a suspected Russian sub lurking somewhere around the islands off its capital,  he said, "This is very serious. I would even go so far as to say, to say that it's fucked up."  

The Swedish military won't even say that they're hunting a submarine.  They have, however, described it as a vessel that was spotted surfacing.  I guess you have to connect the dots yourself.



The Swedish military has released a map of the Stockholm archipelago showing five sightings of the apparent submarine.  The map also reveals how easy it is for a submarine to hide among the myriad of inlets, bays and channels.



Pontifical Council to World Hindus - Globalization Sucks!

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has issued a heads up to world Hindus for Diwali, the Hindu Autumn festival of lights.


In the message, released October 20 and entitled “Christians and Hindus: Together to Foster a Culture of ‘Inclusion,’” the Pontifical Council stated that “globalization has not achieved its primary objective of integrating local peoples into the global community. Rather, globalization has contributed significantly to many peoples losing their sociocultural, economic and political identities.”
Globalization, the message continued, has contributed to relativism, syncretism, “a privatization of religion,” and “religious fundamentalism and ethnic, tribal and sectarian violence in different parts of the world.
“Nurturing a culture of inclusion thus becomes a common call and a shared responsibility, which must be urgently undertaken,” the Pontifical Council added. “It is a project involving those who care for the health and survival of the human family here on earth and which needs to be carried out amidst, and in spite of, the forces that perpetuate the culture of exclusion.”


A Nation Awash in Pigs and Guns. What's the Problem?



How can a nation with a lunatic gun culture ever find itself at the mercy of pigs?

The United States, or at least 39 States so far, is being overrun by a burgeoning population of wild pigs.  There's even a TV show about a family of L'il Abner rednecks who make their living at pig pest control.

In the past 30 years ...their ranks have swollen until suddenly disease-carrying, crop-devouring swine have spread to 39 states. Now, wild pigs are five million strong and the targets of a $20-million federal initiative to get their numbers under control.

Settlers first brought the ancestors of today’s pigs to the South in the 1600s and let them roam free as a ready supply of fresh pork. Not surprisingly, some of the pigs wandered off and thrived in the wild, thanks to their indiscriminate appetites.

Wildlife biologists can’t really explain how pigs from a few pockets were able to extend their range so rapidly in recent years. “If you look at maps of pig distribution from the eighties, there's a lot of pigs, but primarily in Florida and Texas,” says Stephen Ditchkoff, a wildlife ecologist at Auburn University. “Today, populations in the southeast have exploded. In the Midwest and the north it's grown to be a significant problem.” Ditchkoff believes sportsmen transported the pigs so they could hunt them on their land.

As pigs spread, they wreak havoc on the lands they inhabit. Wild pigs cause at least$1.5 billion in damages and control costs each year, according to a 2007 survey, mostly to agriculture. Dubbed the “rototillers of nature,” they dig up fields, create wallows in pastures and destroy fences. A church in Texas was so worried that pigs would devour its annual pumpkin sale that it lobbied the local government to let hunters stand watch over the patch at night. They were right to fret. The 2.6 million pigs in Texas cause $500 million in damage each year—a liability of $200 per pig. “I’ve never seen any one species that can affect so many livelihoods and resources,” says Michael Bodenchuk, state director of Texas Wildlife Services. He is particularly worried about harm to native species and the 400 stream segments in Texas that are infected with bacteria from the pigs’ defecation.
 
Heeding concerns from state wildlife agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculturecreated a new national program in April to halt and reverse this trend. It aims to wipe out pigs from two states every three to five years and stabilize the population within a decade. Dale Nolte, national coordinator of the program, says his first priority will be states with the fewest pigs; he will then work back to those like Texas that are overrun. One reason he wants to confront the states with the fewest pigs first is because the animals reproduce rapidly once they invade an area. If 70 percent of the pigs in a region are killed, the remaining ones can have piglets fast enough to replace all those lost in just two and a half years.

Dispossession by Negotiation - Harper's Approach to Native Land Rights

In what appears to be "Shame on You, Canada" Day, the Guardian has a damning piece on how the Harper regime is intent on severing Canada's First Nations from their rightful claims to ancestral lands.

First Nations have been emboldened by this summer’s Supreme Court of Canada William decision, which recognized the aboriginal title of the Tsilhqot’in nation to 1750 square kilometres of their land in central British Columbia – not outright ownership, but the right to use and manage the land and to reap its economic benefits.

The ruling affects all “unceded” territory in Canada – those lands never signed away through a treaty or conquered by war. Which means that over an enormous land-mass – most of British Columbia, large parts of Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and a number of other spots – a new legal landscape is emerging that offers the prospect of much more responsible land stewardship.

...And the Canadian government’s response? Far from embracing these newly recognized Indigenous land rights, they are trying to accelerate their elimination. The court has definitively told Canada to accept the reality of aboriginal title: the government is doing everything in its power to deny it.

This is what dispossession by negotiation looks like. The government demands that First Nations trade away – or in the original term, to “extinguish” – their rights to 95 percent of their traditional territory. Their return is some money and small parcels of land, but insidiously, as private property, instead of in the collective way that Indigenous peoples have long held and stewarded it. And First Nations need to provide costly, exhaustive proof of their rights to their own land, for which they have amassed a stunning $700 million in debt – a debt the government doesn’t think twice about using to arm-twist.

...Despite the pressure, most First Nations have not yet signed their names to these crooked deals – especially when the Supreme Court is simultaneously directing the government to reconcile with First Nations and share the land. But the Supreme Court’s confirmation that this approach is unconstitutional and illegal matters little to the government. What enables them to flout their own legal system is that Canadians remain scarcely aware of it.

Acting without public scrutiny, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is trying to shore up support for this policy – now forty years old – to finally secure the elimination of Indigenous land rights. The process is led by the same man, Douglas Eyford, who has been Harper’s advisor on getting tar sands pipelines and energy projects built in western Canada. That is no coincidence. The government is growing more desperate to remove the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of a corporate bonanza for dirty fossil fuels: the unceded aboriginal title of First Nations – backed now by the Supreme Court of Canada.

...That’s why the habit of government officials, of media and even of Supreme Court judges to call the Tsilhqoti’in “nomadic” bothers [Chief Roger] William so much: his people have lived on these lands for thousands of years, while it is non-natives who are constantly moving and resettling. And what could be more nomadic and transient than the extractive industry itself – grabbing what resources and profits it can before abandoning one area for another.

As Canadians look more closely, they are discovering that the unceded status of vast territories across this country is not a threat, as they’ve long been told. It is a tremendous gift, protected with love by Indigenous nations over generations, to be seized for the possibilities it now offers for governing the land in a radically more just and sustainable way for everyone.
I
n this battle between the love of the land and a drive for its destruction, those behind the extractive economy have everything to lose and Indigenous peoples everything to win. The rest of us, depending on our stand, have a transformed country to gain.

What this article reminds us is that, in so many ways, Canada's First Nations are carrying the fight for us.  They're doing the heavy lifting.  They're blocking a rogue government that considers itself above the law whenever that suits it.  Maybe it's time we showed a little tangible support for everything our First Nations are doing to defend Canada.

The New Republic Slams Harper, Abbott and Canada's "Government of Thugs"



It's an American publication so you'll have to excuse the hyperbole.  The New Republic, in an article entitled, "These Two World Leaders are Laughing While the World Burns Up," obviously conflated Stephen Harper and his Australian ventriloquist's dummy, Tony Abbott, with "world leaders."

Canada once had a shot at being the world's leader on climate change.  Back in 2002, our northern neighbours had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the world's first treaty that required nations to cut their emissions or face penalties.  In 2005, the country hosted an international climate change conference in Montreal, where then-Prime Minister Paul Martin singled out America for its indifference.  "To the reticent nations, including the United States, I say this: There is such a thing as a global conscience," Martin said.

...According to a 2014 Climate Change Performance Index from European groups Climate Action Network Europe and Germanwatch, Canada and Australia occupy the bottom two spots among all 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  Among the 20 countries with the largest economies (G20), only Saudi Arabia ranked lower than them. Canada and Australia's records on climate change have gotten so bad, they've become the go-to examples for Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who don't think climate change exists.

...On the way to his first trip in the U.S., Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott stopped for a full day of talks with Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Abbott was in Canada's capital with the intention of building a "conservative alliance among 'like-minded' countries" to try to dismantle global efforts on climate change. At a press conference that day, Harper applauded Abbott's efforts to gut Australia's carbon tax. "You’ve used this international platform to encourage our counterparts in the major economies and beyond to boost economic growth, to lower taxes when possible and to eliminate harmful ones, most notably the job-killing carbon tax," Harper said. He added that "we shouldn't clobber the economy" by pursuing an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax. 
ADVERTISEMENT

This is how Canada and Australia's top leaders frame global warming. The two stress that they will always choose short-term economic gain first, disregarding scientific findings and even the interests of their political allies in the process. The countries' abrupt shift on climate track conservatives' rise to a majority in Canada in 2011 and in Australia last year.

 The hostility toward environmental interests goes even deeper than energy policy. Harper has battled his own scientists, independent journalists, and environmental groups at odds with his views. 
 
Climate scientists have reported that they are unable to speak to press about their own findings, feeling effectively "muzzled" by agencies that want to script talking points for them. In June, a government spokesperson explained that federal meteorologists must speak only "to their area of expertise," which does not include climate change, according to a government spokesperson. Journalists sometimes face bullying, too. Environmental author Andrew Nikiforuk told ThinkProgress that "a government of thugs" slandered him and shut him out of events. But environmentalists may fare the worst. Seven environmental nonprofits in Canada have accused the Canada Revenue Agency of unfairly targeting them for audits. According to internal documents obtained by The Guardian, Canada's police and Security Intelligence Service identified nonviolent environmental protestslike people who oppose hydrofracking and the Keystone XL tar sands pipelineas "forms of attack" fitting the "number of cases where we think people might be inclined to acts of terrorism." 
 
...A decade ago, our close allies due north and across the Pacific rightly shamed us on our poor response to climate change. Now, they've lost the moral high ground. At the September United Nations Climate Summit, the largest gathering of world leaders yet on the issue, both Abbott and Harper were no-shows. The ministers sent in their place also arrived empty-handed; Australia's foreign minister suggested that only larger countries should be responsible for more ambitious climate action. Canada Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq repeated an already-public commitment that Canada would copy Obama's fuel economy regulations requiring 35.5 miles per gallon. Afterward, in an interview with the Globe and Mail, Aglukkaq spoke of the unfairness of a global treaty. "It’s not up to one country to solve the global greenhouse-gas emissions. I mean, seriously now, it’s just not fair. We all have to do our part, big or small countries.”
 
That's true. If only her small country would do its part, too. 
 
A government of thugs indeed.  A government that disgraces our people and our country both at home and on the world stage.






Really, Is This a Good Idea?



Back in the days when General Motors ruled the world it was said that the business of America was business.   That's what came to mind on reading an item today about the US ordering more than a thousand Hellfire missiles on behalf of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Qatar.

Just what is Saudi Arabia going to do with hundreds of Hellfire missiles?  They don't go to war.  We do that for them.  They do fund Islamic extremists of the sort that we wind up having to fight.  They do use their militaries to brutally suppress dissent, especially of the democratic kind.

We've been arming those fanatical buggers, the princes and sheikhs who quietly fund outfits like al Qaeda and ISIS, to the teeth and what good has come of it?

Let's hope these Hellfires don't find their way into the wrong hands, the guys who could use them against us.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Start Thinking About the Next Society. This One Has About Had It.

I'm with Chris Hedges.  We are sorely in need of revolutionary change.  It's come to the point where we have to kick over the traces if we're to have any hope of reclaiming democracy and salvaging a liveable world for our grandchildren.

For me, the straw that broke the camel's back was the report last week that we have lost half the planet's wild life over the last 40-years.  Such an unbelievably brief interval to have caused such devastation.

I predicted at the time that the report would be forgotten, consigned down the memory hole, within a week and that is precisely what has occurred.  Our political caste has treated the whole business as a non-event.  It's not even on their radar.

If we can be so complacent about the loss of half the world's wild life in just 40-years, what does this portend for the remaining half?  What is our tipping point for biodiversity collapse?  How vulnerable is our civilization, how fragile are we?

A lot of people have no clue how dependent mankind is on biodiversity.  We don't grasp how interconnected the species are and how the loss of part of our biodiversity ripples through every other species.

We lose the pollinators, we starve en masse.  Plain as day.  Without the bees and other insect pollinators plants don't reproduce.  That includes all the plants that we feed on.  Predator species keep pests and disease at bay.  Lose enough of them and your life will become very different very rapidly.

We're facing an extraordinary, immediate and potentially existential threat and all our political caste can do is yawn - and preen.  And that's just one threat, one of several.

Making the country work for Canadians is more than tweaking tax policy even if neoliberals don't see it that way.  It's about building a society that is as robust and cohesive as possible.  That means countering the forces that corrode social cohesion - inequality, authoritarianism, corporatism.  Make no mistake, these are forces that degrade our democracy and there are a good many within our political caste who are just fine with that.

Our political apparatus is no longer responsive to the needs of our people and the future needs of our nation.  Biodiversity, who cares?  Inequality, sure we'll get right on that.  Climate change, we get it but just not now.  The death of democratic press freedom?  Next.

Perhaps you're a true believer who thinks all Canada needs is new management - i.e. your party in power - and all will be right.  I'll tell you what I believe.  I believe that's delusional thinking.  Rubbish, utter nonsense.  The best we can hope for out of the New Democrats or Liberals is government "less worse" than the Harper Conservatives and that's still no damned good for us, our grandkids and our Canada.




Enjoy the Autumn. Winter is Shaping Up to be a B



Climate change can be cool.  It can also be damned cold, icy and frigid.  You know, you easterners, the Polar Vortex you endured last year.

Well, guess what?  You're getting another one this year.  Or, as my old great aunt used to say, "shit, oh dear."

No, seriously, you're in for another Polar Vortex winter.

AccuWeather reports:  Cold air will surge into the Northeast in late November, but the brunt of the season will hold off until January and February. The polar vortex, the culprit responsible for several days of below-zero temperatures last year, will slip down into the region from time to time, delivering blasts of arctic air.
So, to you easterners, you need to understand that this is not a problem that is going to go away or even not worsen substantially until you begin to think less about your party affiliation and a lot more about starting to vote for a party that puts this issue front and center on their agenda.

It's the last really progressive thing to do.

Just sayin.

MoS

Harper's Experiment to Wrap Canadians in "Protective Stupidity" Mission Accomplished?



The Tyee's Murray Dobbins laments the success Stephen Harper has had, with the powerful support of a shamelessly collaborative media, at manipulating the Canadian public.

Harper's amoral political calculations about who and when to bomb people has little to do with any genuine consideration of the geopolitical situation or what role Canada might usefully play -- or even in what Canada's "interests" are. So long as he is prime minister it will be the same: every calculation will be made with the single-minded goal of staying in power long enough to dismantle the post-war activist state. The nurturing of his core constituency includes appeals to a thinly disguised pseudo-crusade against Islamic infidels, a phony appeal to national security (preceded by fear-mongering) and in the case of Ukraine, a crude appeal to ethnic votes.

Reinforcing this legacy is a mainstream media that lets him get away with it, and in particular, refuses to do its homework while the bombing -- or posturing -- is taking place and then refuses to expose the negative consequences of the reckless adventures. The result is what cultural critic Henry Giroux calls "the fog of historical and social amnesia."

The three most obvious examples are Harper's extremist policy in support of Israel, his joining with France and the U.S. in the catastrophic destruction of the Libyan state and his infantile posturing on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. And now we have Harper's mini-crusade (six fighter bombers for six months) against ISIS or the Islamic State. With rare exceptions the media has gone along with him at every turn, treating Canadians as children incapable of navigating the nuances of foreign policy.
Regarding Israel, Harper, with widespread support in the media, has gone so far as to try to establish criticism of Israel as a kind of Orwellian "thought crime." By declaring repeatedly (and even threatening supportive legislation) that criticism of Israel was anti-Semitic, Harper hoped to establish what Orwell referred to as "protective stupidity" -- a kind of mass denial of the obvious. Freud referred to it as "knowing with not knowing" and when it comes to most of Canada's military adventures, it is epidemic. 

In Afghanistan the war went for so long that the facts eventually broke through the protective stupidity, but only partially. Even with the total failure of the mission to accomplish a single worthwhile goal, it is likely that most Canadians still see it as having been a "good war."

As Giroux puts it: "Neoliberal authoritarianism has changed the language of politics and everyday life through a poisonous public pedagogy that turns reason on its head and normalizes a culture of fear, war and exploitation."

Harper's response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict has been similar: a maximum of infantile, simplistic sabre rattling rhetoric with an absolute minimum of reflection on the historical context or even the immediate facts of the situation. This is foreign policy for the willingly -- if not willfully -- ignorant. We are encouraged -- or perhaps enlisted is a better word -- to treat facts and history with a disdain bordering on contempt. Facts, context, history and thoughtful anticipation of the consequences of our actions -- all of this is for sissies and Putin apologists. The nay-sayers are all Neville Chamberlain clones.

...there will be no lasting consequences for governments -- Harper's or anyone else's. The structure of protective stupidity is in place and without a radical change in consciousness the current political consensus will prevail. All will be forgotten.

...Which brings us to the Islamic State. Here, too, the conventional approach to making intelligent foreign policy is cast aside on the basis of reacting to a handful of Westerners being beheaded (as happens on a regular basis already to citizens of Saudi Arabia). Can it be possible that our policy making has been reduced to this level of drunken barroom reaction? We know that the ISIS did this precisely to provoke a Western military response. But "we don't know." We prefer denial and the simplistic -- the notion that we can correct 25 years of imperial hubris, ignorance and gross incompetence by Western powers by bombing our own creation.

The Imperative of Revolt



I've been looking for a way out, an alternative.  I truly have.  Yet I'm becoming resigned to the idea that the future of our grandchildren cannot be entrusted to the existing political structure that currently suffocates Canadian society.

Getting punched in the mouth is devastating whether the fist is in a velvet glove or not.  That's what today's Liberals and New Democrats offer, a velvet glove. Thanks but no thanks.

We're at a point where the imperative of revolutionary change is increasingly obvious.  It's no longer a matter of choice. Twenty or thirty years from now, we won't have the option of a structural reformation of our society, our politics and our economy.

I've written about this for years.  Naomi Klein explores the need to save ourselves from the scourge of free market capitalism while we still can.  Ms. Klein, quite rightly, sees the onset of climate change as bringing us to the boiling point.  The neoliberalism that has come to infect Canda's body politic and that of much of the rest of the world cannot be sustained.

It is with this in mind that I read Chris Hedges' interviews with John Raulston Saul and Sheldon Wolin on smashing the yoke of corporatism that has quietly displaced democracy in our societies.

If, as Saul has written, we have undergone a corporate coup d’état and now live under a species of corporate dictatorship that Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism,” if the internal mechanisms that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible remain ineffective, if corporate power retains its chokehold on our economy and governance, including our legislative bodies, judiciary and systems of information, and if these corporate forces are able to use the security and surveillance apparatus and militarized police forces to criminalize dissent, how will change occur and what will it look like?


Wolin ..and Saul ...see democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States, as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power. Wolin and Saul excoriate academics, intellectuals and journalists, charging they have abrogated their calling to expose abuses of power and give voice to social criticism; they instead function as echo chambers for elites, courtiers and corporate systems managers. Neither believes the current economic system is sustainable. And each calls for mass movements willing to carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience to disrupt and delegitimize corporate power.

“If you continue to go down the wrong road, at a certain point something happens,” Saul said during our meeting Wednesday in Toronto, where he lives. “At a certain point when the financial system is wrong it falls apart. And it did. And it will fall apart again.”

“The collapse started in 1973,” Saul continued. “There were a series of sequential collapses afterwards. The fascinating thing is that between 1850 and 1970 we put in place all sorts of mechanisms to stop collapses which we can call liberalism, social democracy orRed Toryism. It was an understanding that we can’t have boom-and-bust cycles. We can’t have poverty-stricken people. We can’t have starvation. The reason today’s collapses are not leading to what happened in the 18th century and the 19th century is because all these safety nets, although under attack, are still in place. But each time we have a collapse we come out of it stripping more of the protection away. At a certain point we will find ourselves back in the pre-protection period. At that point we will get a collapse that will be incredibly dramatic. I have no idea what it will look like. A revolution from the left? A revolution from the right? Is it violence followed by state violence? Is it the collapse of the last meaningful edges of democracy? Is it a sudden decision by a critical mass of people that they are not going to take it anymore?”

This devolution of the economic system has been accompanied by corporations’ seizure of nearly all forms of political and social power. The corporate elite, through a puppet political class and compliant intellectuals, pundits and press, still employs the language of a capitalist democracy. But what has arisen is a new kind of control, inverted totalitarianism, which Wolin brilliantly dissects in his book “Democracy Incorporated.”

Inverted totalitarianism does not replicate past totalitarian structures, such as fascism and communism. It is therefore harder to immediately identify and understand. There is no blustering demagogue. There is no triumphant revolutionary party. There are no ideologically drenched and emotional mass political rallies. The old symbols, the old iconography and the old language of democracy are held up as virtuous. The old systems of governance—electoral politics, an independent judiciary, a free press and the Constitution—appear to be venerated. But, similar to what happened during the late Roman Empire, all the institutions that make democracy possible have been hollowed out and rendered impotent and ineffectual.

The corporate state, Wolin told me at his Oregon home, is “legitimated by elections it controls.” It exploits laws that once protected democracy to extinguish democracy; one example is allowing unlimited corporate campaign contributions in the name of our First Amendment right to free speech and our right to petition the government as citizens. “It perpetuates politics all the time,” Wolin said, “but a politics that is not political.” The endless election cycles, he said, are an example of politics without politics, driven not by substantive issues but manufactured political personalities and opinion polls. There is no national institution in the United States “that can be described as democratic,” he said.

The mechanisms that once allowed the citizen to be a participant in power—from participating in elections to enjoying the rights of dissent and privacy—have been nullified. Money has replaced the vote, Wolin said, and corporations have garnered total power without using the cruder forms of traditional totalitarian control: concentration camps, enforced ideological conformity and the physical suppression of dissent. They will avoid such measures “as long as that dissent remains ineffectual,” he said. “The government does not need to stamp out dissent. The uniformity of imposed public opinion through the corporate media does a very effective job.”

The state has obliterated privacy through mass surveillance, a fundamental precondition for totalitarian rule, and in ways that are patently unconstitutional has stripped citizens of the rights to a living wage, benefits and job security. And it has destroyed institutions, such as labor unions, that once protected workers from corporate abuse.

Wolin goes on to discuss something explored in a recent course I took on warfare in the 21st century, the rise of "illiberal" democracy.  Think of it as a government that retains some vestiges of democracy, such as the vote, but acts independently of the electorate and often not for their benefit.  The individual's rights against the state are weakened, sapped.  The apparatus, taking such forms as the alliance of political and corporate media power, basically shape public opinion as it suits their interests.

Democracy has been turned upside down,” Wolin said. “It is supposed to be a government for the people, by the people. But it has become an organized form of government dominated by groups that are only vaguely, if at all, responsible or responsive to popular needs and popular demands. At the same time, it retains a patina of democracy. We still have elections. They are relatively free. We have a relatively free media. But what is missing is a crucial, continuous opposition that has a coherent position, that is not just saying no, no, no, that has an alternative and ongoing critique of what is wrong and what needs to be remedied.”

Capitalism is destructive because it has to eliminate customs, mores, political values, even institutions that present any kind of credible threat to the autonomy of the economy,” Wolin said. “That is where the battle lies. Capitalism wants an autonomous economy. It wants a political order subservient to the needs of the economy. The [capitalist’s] notion of an economy, while broadly based in the sense of a relatively free entrance and property that is relatively widely dispersed, is as elitist as any aristocratic system.

Wolin and Saul said they expect the state, especially in an age of terminal economic decline, to employ more violent and draconian forms of control to keep restive populations in check. This coercion, they said, will fuel discontent and unrest, which will further increase state repression.

...“They decided that capitalism and the market was about the right to have the cheapest possible goods,” Saul said. “That is what competition meant. This is a lie. No capitalist philosopher ever said that. As you bring the prices down below the capacity to produce them in a middle-class country you commit suicide. As you commit suicide you have to ask, ‘How do we run this place?’ And you have to run it using these other methods—bread and circuses, armies, police and prisons.”

The liberal class—which has shriveled under the corporate onslaught and a Cold War ideology that held up national security as the highest good—once found a home in the Democratic Party, the press, labor unions and universities. It made reform possible. Now, because it is merely decorative, it compounds the political and economic crisis. There is no effective organized opposition to the rise of a neofeudalism dominated a tiny corporate oligarchy that exploits workers and the poor.

...Resistance, Wolin and Saul agreed, will begin locally, with communities organizing to form autonomous groups that practice direct democracy outside the formal power structures, including the two main political parties. These groups will have to address issues such as food security, education, local governance, economic cooperation and consumption. And they will have to sever themselves, as much as possible, from the corporate economy.

It is extremely important that people are willing to go into the streets,” Saul said. “Democracy has always been about the willingness of people to go into the streets. When the Occupy movement started I was pessimistic. I felt it could only go a certain distance. But the fact that a critical mass of people was willing to go into the streets and stay there, without being organized by a political party or a union, was a real statement. If you look at that, at what is happening in Canada, at the movements in Europe, the hundreds of thousands of people in Spain in the streets, you are seeing for the first time since the 19th century or early 20th century people coming into the streets in large numbers without a real political structure. These movements aren’t going to take power. But they are a sign that power and the respect for power is falling apart. What happens next? It could be dribbled away. But I think there is the possibility of a new generation coming in and saying we won’t accept this. That is how you get change. A new generation comes along and says no, no, no. They build their lives on the basis of that no.”

“You need a professional or elite class devoted to profound change,” Saul said. “If you want to get power you have to be able to hold it. And you have to be able to hold it long enough to change the direction. The neoconservatives understood this. They have always been Bolsheviks. They are the Bolsheviks of the right. Their methodology is the methodology of the Bolsheviks. They took over political parties by internal coups d’état. They worked out, scientifically, what things they needed to do and in what order to change the structures of power. They have done it stage by stage. And we are living the result of that. The liberals sat around writing incomprehensible laws and boring policy papers. They were unwilling to engage in the real fight that was won by a minute group of extremists.

“You have to understand power to reform things,” Saul said. “If you don’t understand power you get blown away by the guy who does. We are missing people who believe in justice and at the same time understand how tough power and politics are, how to make real choices. And these choices are often quite ugly.”



Sunday, October 19, 2014

We Dodged a Bullet - This Time.



The floundering of the Russian bulk carrier, Simushir, is bound to become some sort of benchmark for the debate over tanker safety off the British Columbia coast.  It shouldn't.  Here's why.

Simushir isn't a supertanker.  It's a bulk carrier.  Its manifest does include some bunker oil and some diesel but there's also mining equipment and "chemicals" in its holds.

500 tonnes of bunker oil and 60 tonnes of diesel does not a supertanker make. Modern supertankers come in two flavours - VLCC, or very large cargo containers, and ULCC, or ultra large cargo containers.  VLCCs can carry up to 320,000 deadweight tonnes of cargo.  ULCCs up that to 550,000 tonnes.

The Simushir and a supertanker - apples and oranges.

A supertanker catastrophe isn't likely to occur where Simushir floundered.  The Russian cargo ship wasn't in the treacherous waters of Hecate Strait, Dixon Entrance or Douglas Channel where the supertankers of Harper's dreams will operate.

The Simushir was drifting in the relatively benign waters on the seaward side of Moresby Island.  It's the equivalent of a kids' waterslide at a community park compared to white water rafting through Hell's Gate.

A potential, even if relatively modest, disaster was avoided when the Canadian Coast Guard coastal patrol vessel, Gordon Reid, managed to tow the Russian ship out to sea, 40 kms. from the coast of Moresby Island.  The Reid was just enough ship to tow the bulk carrier but, even then, it lost all three of its tow lines in the process.

In the well-documented, diabolical storms that rake the Hecate Strait, with an actual VLCC in distress, the Gordon Reid would probably be reduced to assisting survivors.

Bunker oil isn't Dilbit - diluted bitumen.  Bunker oil is oil.  Bitumen is diluted tar.  The sea is somewhat capable of dispersing conventional oil through surface wave action so long as the spill isn't too close to any shoreline.  Dilbit, however, doesn't have the physical properties of conventional oil.  Once spilled, the diluent or condensate separates out.  The diluent heads to the surface, the denser bitumen congeals and heads to the bottom, carried to its final resting place by deepwater currents.  Spread over a very large area and at great depths the bitumen is out of reach of oil spill responders and their "world class" equipment.

It took a massive and protracted effort to scrape most of the bitumen from the bottom of the shallow, slow-moving Kalamazoo River in Michigan.  You can think of the Kalamazoo fiasco as a best case scenario.  You can also think of a major bitumen spill on the northern BC coast as the worst of worst case scenarios.

At Kalamazoo, the burst Enbridge pipe dumped about a million gallons, just under 24,000 barrels, of dilbit into the river.  The Exxon Valdez, a large supertanker for its time, lost somewhere between 11 and 32-million gallons of crude oil (not bitumen).  Modern VLCCs and ULCCs carry far more still.

So, we dodged a bullet this time, several in fact.  The Simushir was no supertanker.  It was carrying a modest cargo of bunker oil and diesel, no bitumen.  It wasn't in the treacherous inshore passages of the northern BC coast. By local standards, the winds and sea state were moderate enough to allow a Coast Guard patrol vessel to tow the bulk cargo carrier out to sea and safety, buying enough time for an ocean-going tug to arrive on scene - eventually.

Simushir is a wake-up call but the point to remember, when it's held up as an example of our "world class" rescue services, this time we were holding all the aces.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

We Haven't Had This Much Fun Since the Cold War


Sweden's armed forces are hunting for a mystery (i.e. Russian) submarine in waters off Stockholm.

"We have begun an intelligence operation ... involving ships, helicopters and several ground units," Commander Jonas Wikstroem told reporters, adding that the operation was based on a tip-off from a "credible source."

Wikstroem did not specify how close the operation was to the Swedish capital but said that the military was informing the public as the area is "heavily trafficked.

In recent months, Swedish media have reported an uptick in Baltic Sea maneuvers by the Russian air force, including a close encounter between a Swedish spy plane in international airspace off Russia's Baltic Sea coast.

"As the government has said, the situation has deteriorated in the Baltic Sea," Wikstroem said, adding that no weapons had been used in the current operation.

At the height of the Cold War, Soviet submarines were regularly detected in Swedish waters.

Friday, October 17, 2014

How Many More?



"our society seems to have lost its way"


With that poignant observation, Florida judge Ross Healy, sentenced 47-year old Michael Dunn to life imprisonment without parole, for the "loud music" killing of a 17-year old  black American, Jordan Davis.

On the evening of 23 November 2012, Dunn and his fiancee parked at a convenience store in Jacksonville, Florida, after attending his son's wedding.
Davis and three other teenage boys, all African American, had stopped at the same place after visiting a shopping mall.
Dunn, a software developer, testified at his trial that the music blasting from the boys' sport utility vehicle, next to his, was so loud it hurt his ears, and he asked them to turn it down.
But Davis, sitting in the back, ordered his friend in the front seat to turn the music back up, Dunn testified. Dunn said Davis became verbally abusive and threatened his life.
Dunn claimed the teenagers inside the vehicle wore "menacing expressions" and told the court he saw Davis reach down for something that looked like the barrel of a shotgun.
Dunn reached into his glove box, withdrew a pistol and fired at the vehicle, killing Davis.
Dunn, of course, fired into the car, a very self-defensive ten times.

Disaster Averted? Simushir Under Tow. Long Night of Westerlies Ahead.



The Canadian Coast Guard coastal patrol vessel, Gordon Reid, has the crippled Russian cargo ship, Simushir, under tow and is slowly taking the ship away from Moresby Island in Haida Gwaii.

The Haida, however, remain decidedly unimpressed.

CHN President [kil tlaast’gaa] Peter Lantin said Friday afternoon that the possibility of an impact with land is their worst fear coming true. Lantin said the amount of time the response was taking casts doubt on the Northern Gateway pipeline project's promises of world-class oil tanker safety.
"There's nothing world class about it. The fact that 20 hours is the earliest estimated time of arrival for anybody just reinforces what we have been saying all along," Lantin said in a Skype interview from Haida Gwaii.
"The systems in place are not adequate, and it's a joke. It's a joke to think they could ramp up the amount of tankers through our territory and convince us that there's world class systems in place to respond. We're scared. We're scared about what this could mean. It's the worst scenario possible."

Something all you drylanders should consider.  We dodged a real bullet today. The gale force winds that swept along the coast were southerly - out of the south. That had the effect of blowing the Russian ship somewhat parallel to the shoreline.

More likely, at this time of year, would have been a westerly or north-westerly storm that, quite probably, could have seen the Simushir wrecked hours before assistance arrived.

We dodged a bullet today, probably, but it will quickly be extruded into disinformation as supposed proof that the north coast is safe for supertankers.

Bollocks!

This does not demonstrate that the "world class" oil spill response programme will be able to cope with a real northcoast marine disaster.  The amount of time it did take - in relatively stable afternoon weather - demonstrates one thing: in heavy seas there would never be any real hope of dealing with a floundering, heavily-laden supertanker.

Even tugs based in nearby Prince Rupert won't be able to reach the site until at least this (Saturday) morning.  In the Hecate Strait, with a heavily-laden supertanker adrift, the arrival of the most diabolical storm imaginable (and I have seen, pretty close up, three or four really decent tornadoes, once having to outrun one of the damned things on my motorcycle), would utterly overwhelm the ship and its berthing tugs.  

These are storms that most people would find demonic. Seriously, I mean that, I've been in one.  You never want to endure another day like that yet it never, ever lets you go and remains vividly in your mind for so long as you draw breath.
It's the purest expression of raw terror, the gripping fear that remains after the shock and adrenalin are long gone.


Ship Adrift Off Haida Gwaii



A Russian container ship, said to be laden with oil, is adrift in gale force winds approximately 15 kms. off  Haida Gwaii in the vicinity of where Harper wants to ply the waters with supertankers full of bitumen.

A Coast Guard ship is enroute and expected to arrive by 9 p.m. by which time the Russian ship's fate could well be sealed. The vessel is expected to be on the rocks at around that time.  A tug has also been dispatched but most ocean-going tugs of large capacity have to come from Washington state.  In stormy conditions the trip can take two to three days.

The vessel Simushir is reported to be laden with 500 tonnes of bunker oil and 60 tonnes of diesel.

Update:

The gale force winds gusting out of the south seem to have abated (here on Vancouver Island at least) but winds up in Haida Gwaii are expected to shift to westerlies that will push the ship directly toward Moresby Island.  The Russians are trying to get the Simushir's engine working again which appears to be their best hope of keeping the vessel off the rocky shore.



One of You is Unhinged. Is It You or Is It Your Prime Minister?


How do you source your reality?  Do you discern it out of the best facts available or do you divine it out of your beliefs?

A sane person finds reality anchored in facts.  A lunatic cares little for facts and anchors his notion of reality in the beliefs embedded in his psyche.  That pretty much sums up the cognitive path of our prime minister, Stephen Harper.

You can see our prime minister's dysfunction in both what seizes his attention and what, curiously, does not.

After 8+ years at the helm, Stephen Harper's agenda seems astonishingly truncated.  His focus appears narrowed to doing everything conceivable to promote Canada's fossil fuel resources, particularly bitumen; defunding the federal government; and exploiting the powers of office in the most unconscionable way to stifle dissent and punish opponents.

All in all, Stephen Harper is a nasty piece of work.  He's a true shitheel and very little else.  He's far from a leader of a nation.  He governs, not by anything resembling leadership, but through secrecy, falsehood, manipulation (especially of his supporters), coercion and intimidation.  He sees base instinct as opportunity.

Coming to power on promises of transparency and accountability, Harper immediately threw a blanket over government beneath which he wasted no time transforming the national police force, the public service and the armed forces, into his partisan political agencies.  For eight years we have seen how, as his personal property, these branches of government have been sequestered, marooned, isolated from the public, even from the press.  I do not know what sort of offices Joseph Stalin must have maintained but I suspect they bore at least a passing resemblance to today's PMO, Harper's den of skullduggery.

Even as grave problems loom and evolve that threaten the country and future generations, this empty vessel of manhood simply ignores them.  Climate change, inequality, the faltering of our economic, industrial, social and geo-political apparatus are simply irrelevant to a Canada as it exists in Harper's reality.

It would be one thing if this character's authoritarian instincts were benevolent but they're not.  He has not secured the future of our country and our people.  He has repeatedly advanced narrow interests over the public good.  We know from confidantes that Harper has a decidedly Jekyll and Hyde persona.  He cloaks himself in Jekyll for public consumption but those on the inside must stand dutifully as Hyde emerges when Harper is free from prying eyes.

It is difficult to understand why the opposition fail to attack Harper in the Commons, calling him out, denouncing him for his tyranny and despotism.  A dictionary definition of "tyrant" or "despot" fits Harper perfectly.  He's nothing if not authoritarian, autocratic, arbitrary, cruel and oppressive.

The opposition lacks the numbers to have any meaningful impact on Harper's authoritarian legislative initiatives.  Why not, then, organize a resistance?  Call him out on the floor of the House.  Denounce him as a despot, a chiseler, a liar. Accept banishment from the Commons and establish a resistance movement, akin to a government (in waiting) in exile at the periphery of Parliament.

Harper is unhinged but the Canadian people are not.  Create an example.  Show disaffected, disengaged Canadians that they too can rise up and resist this farce of a government.  I think they would find a welcoming audience from one end of this country to the other.


This Should Give You Something to Chew On

Remember that global warming target of keeping temperature increases within 2 degrees Celsius by 2100?  2C, you may recall, is supposed to be the point within which we might - just might - avoid catastrophic, i.e. runaway, global warming.  2C, it's thought (perhaps wishfully) will give us a better than even chance of keeping this party going.

Did I mention Barrow, Alaska?  Barrow is here, in the red circle:


You probably noticed that Barrow is near the northernmost point in Alaska, well within the Arctic Circle. It's actually because of how far north Barrow is situated that it has already logged 7 degrees Celsius (not Fahrenheit, real degrees - Celsius) of warming.

In the last 34 years, the average October temperature in Barrow has risen by more than 7°C − an increase that, on its own, makes a mockery of international efforts to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels.

A study by scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks analysed several decades of weather information. These show that temperature trends are closely linked to sea ice concentrations, which have been recorded since 1979, when accurate satellite measurements began.

The study, published in the Open Atmospheric Science Journal, traces what has happened to average annual and monthly temperatures in Barrow from 1979 to 2012.

In that period, the average annual temperature rose by 2.7C. But the November increase was far higher − more than six degrees. And October was the most striking of all, with the month’s average temperature 7.2C higher in 2012 than in 1979.

That's 7 degrees Celsius, 12.6 degrees Fahrenheit, of warming over the incredibly brief span of just 34-years. 

The sad thing is this is going to be music to the ears of the "Drill Baby, Drill" crowd.  Sarah Palin & Co., indeed our own Beelzebub, are going to see this as God's delivery to man of all that bountiful Arctic oil and gas wealth.  And what the Lord has given, they will not let languish untouched.

The Madness of King Stephen


As excuses for war go, claiming a conflict to be "noble" is really scraping the bottom of the barrel.  It's something you resort to when there's simply nothing left to pull out of your ass.  "Squires, attend your Lords.  Summon the Heralds. To the jousts! Ah, there's a noble scent to the air."

Perhaps Harper had to call our adventure in Iraq noble because the default option would have been "insane."  Insane in the popular sense of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  It's that sort of insane.

Over at Foreign Policy, Harvard international relations prof, Stephen Walt, serves up an op-ed, "Uncle Sucker to the Rescue," in which he explains that Obama is repeating the same mistakes that have plagued American excursions in the Middle East for decades.  While Walt focuses on Obama, his views do help make some sense of Harper and his Quixotic quest for a noble war.

Ever since the first Gulf War, U.S. leaders have routinely exaggerated the threat that the United States faced in Iraq and/or Syria. ...Why is threat inflation a problem? When we exaggerate dangers in order to sell a military, we are more likely to do the wrong thing instead of taking the time to figure out if a) action is really necessary and b) what the best course of action might be. When a great power gets spooked by some grisly beheadings and decides it just has to "do something," the danger is that it will decide to do something unwise.

A recurring problem in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy has been the insistence that no problem can be solved if Uncle Sam isn't leading the charge. By portraying IS as a direct threat to America and by rushing to attack it, however, we are telling the Iraqis, Kurds, Turks, Saudis, and everybody else that the cavalry is on the way and that they don't need to do much themselves. No wonder we can't get the Shiite-led government in Baghdad to be less corrupt, more inclusive, and more effective; no wonder we can't get Turkey to focus on IS instead of the Kurds; and no wonder we can't get the Saudis to do more to stop the flow of money and poisonous ideas to extremist groups. Simple equation: The more Washington promises to do for them, the less our local partners will do for themselves.

...Frankly, after all the resources we've poured into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the meager cooperation we got from our putative allies there, I would think America's "staying power" wouldn't really be an issue. Instead of pouring good money (and possibly U.S. lives) down that particular rat hole, I'd like to see the people who are most directly affected start fighting this one for themselves. Unless the Turks, Jordanians, Kurds, and other Iraqis are willing to get their acts together to contain these vicious extremists, even a protracted and costly U.S. effort will amount to little.

Sorting Out Conflicting Priorities

...the neoconservatives in the Bush administration hoped that toppling Saddam would be the first step in a campaign to transform most of the region into a sea of pro-American democracies. Once it became clear that Iraq had no WMD program, the goal of spreading "liberty" throughout the region took on greater salience. This objective led U.S. officials to focus more attention on holding elections than on achieving genuine reconciliation or creating political institutions that actually worked. Plus, we had no idea what we were doing.
A similar problem afflicts our efforts in the region now. Is it more important to defeat IS, remove Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria, or keep Iran isolated and halt its nuclear program forever? Because these goals are inherently contradictory -- weakening IS helps Assad, cooperating with Iran against IS might require compromising more on the nuclear issue, etc. -- it is almost impossible to pursue all three simultaneously. But I can't tell which of these (and other) goals the Obama administration regards as most important. And if we keep trying to pursue all three, we probably won't achieve any of them.

Today, the Obama administration seems surprised that the Turkish government is more worried by Kurdish nationalism than by IS, and that many Sunnis in Anbar think Baghdad and various Shiite militias are a greater threat than IS is. The reality is that other states, tribes, sects, and groups have their own interests, and those interests don't conveniently coincide with the prevailing orthodoxy in Washington, D.C. That doesn't mean their view is right and that U.S. politicians are wrong, but successful diplomacy has to start by recognizing that no two states see things exactly the same way and others sometimes understand their own interests better than we do. Then, you have to work to find whatever common ground might exist. And if there isn't enough common ground to make the strategy work, be ready to walk away.

The final error -- sadly, one all too typical of recent U.S. foreign policy -- is that we are promising the moon and delivering moon pies. The Bush administration promised that the invasion of Iraq would be short, easy, and would pay for itself. Bush also told us the United States would eliminate all "terrorists of global reach." Trying to eliminate a particular tactic used by many diverse groups was a fool's errand, especially when U.S. military intervention tends to reinforce the extremists' narrative and helps them replenish their ranks with new recruits. The United States is still in Afghanistan today -- and so are the Taliban -- and it is congratulating itself on convincing the Afghan government to let us stay for a few more years. And now we are headed back into Iraq. Osama bin Laden may be dead and gone, but the endless war that he foresaw would sap U.S. strength and weaken existing Arab governments is still underway.
...Obama now promises to "degrade and destroy" IS. He is succumbing to the same tendency to overstate what U.S. military power can accomplish in this context. Air power alone cannot "destroy" IS, because it is too imprecise an instrument and because the extremists can blunt its effectiveness by dispersing its own forces and mingling with the local population, thereby producing an unacceptable risk of civilian casualties. We can try training the Iraqi army again and we can back various Iraqi tribes and militias, but our earlier training efforts clearly failed and our experience in Afghanistan suggests that this is more likely to lead to warlordism and renewed sectarian fighting than it is to produce a stable political order

The bottom line.  It's a regional war being waged, to the suiting of both sides, by Western infidels.  The people who could put a lasting end to it aren't there - the Saudis, Egypt, the Gulf States.  They've got soldiers and tanks right up the yin-yang sitting back in their barracks watching endless reruns of old Eurovision contests.   

The oil sheikhs and princes are quite content to see the West dragged into an indefinite skirmish in Shiite-leaning Iraq and Syria even if we may leave their latest Frankenmonster, ISIS, a bit bruised and battered.  We have demonstrated that our "All the King's horses and all the King's men" style of war-waging, the "noble" kind is never decisive, never yields a worthwhile outcome.

I wonder if they think we're mad?  I wonder if they're counting on it?