Friday, May 27, 2016

America Suspends Supply of Cluster Bombs to Saudi Arabia

Thank God Canada doesn't produce cluster bombs or else Steffie Dion would have writer's cramp signing the contracts. From Foreign Policy:

Frustrated by a growing death toll, the White House has quietly placed a hold on the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia as the Sunni ally continues its bloody war on Shiite rebels in Yemen, U.S. officials tell Foreign Policy. It’s the first concrete step the United States has taken to demonstrate its unease with the Saudi bombing campaign that human rights activists say has killed and injured hundreds of Yemeni civilians, many of them children.

The move follows rising criticism by U.S. lawmakers of America’s support for the oil-rich monarchy in the year-long conflict. Washington has sold weapons and provided training, targeting information, and aerial refueling support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. It has also sold Riyadh millions of dollars’ worth of cluster bombs in recent years.

You know who else has a fondness for using cluster weapons against civilian areas? Our other really good ally, Israel.

National Observer - How Canadian Journalists Have Failed to Solve the Murder of Their Own Profession

Vancouver's alternative media outlet, the National Observer, says that Canada needs to go after Facebook and Google for millions of dollars in unpaid taxes.

Canada's newspapers are bleeding money. The problem is a slump in advertising revenue.  When Harper came to power the feds were spending 18% of their advertising budget on the papers. Today it's just 1%.

While the print media bleeds out, 27% of the government's ad budget is now spent online. The kings of online advertising are - you guessed it - Google and Facebook.

Yet despite their substantial sales and marketing operations in Canada, both companies process all transactions in US dollars directly to their US headquarters.

Neither charges GST.

So here are the Panama Papers questions Canadians should be asking:

Do Google and Facebook receive federal government ad revenue, and if so, are they taxed on that income?

Do they pay any tax here on their Canadian earnings?

Last year the Guardian reported that Facebook’s total 2014 UK tax remittance was less than $7000, which happens to be less than the tax bill of the average British wage-earner. Using its network of corporate entities in Ireland and Cayman, Facebook had reportedly collected more than $1 billion in UK earnings tax-free out of the country, according to the Daily Mail.
Facebook pays $7,000 tax to UK, hands out $534 million in employee bonuses

That same year, according to Reuters, Google sheltered some $15 billion (CAD) in Bermuda. Its corporate tax rate has been reported as low as 2.4 per cent. And it's not paid to the countries that generate the income.

The Guardian reported in March that the European Commission is set to table legislation forcing Google, Facebook, Apple and other large multinationals to publicly disclose their profit and tax arrangements with each of the EU governments where they operate.

When overwhelming public outcry drove tax reforms in the UK, Google wascompelled to pay $240 million in back taxes. This deal still drew harsh criticism. Meantime, Facebook has similarly been forced to invoice most sales through Facebook UK rather than the Irish affiliate.

Although that arrangement was expected to yield hundreds of millions in tax to UK coffers going forward, Facebook immediately offset its UK tax liability by declaring an award of $534 million (CAD) in bonuses to its UK employees over the next three years.

When asked to provide details about its tax planning in Canada and abroad, Facebook told National Observer in a statement: “We have always, and will continue, to meet our tax obligations everywhere we operate.”

France’s Tuesday gambit is a signal that Europe has had it with the shell games.

Canada should join them.

Instead of asking the federal government to provide his own company with tax incentives and subsidies, Paul Godfrey should ask them to level the playing field and tax Facebook and Google.

Major US Study Links Cell Phones to Cancer

A new report released by the US National Institutes of Health has reignited the cell phone/cancer issue. A major, multi-year study concludes that cell phone exposure is linked to two cancers, one a brain cancer, the other a heart tumor.

Researchers at the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), a federal interagency group under the National Institutes of Health, led the study. They chronically exposed rodents to carefully calibrated radiofrequency (RF) radiation levels designed to roughly emulate what humans with heavy cell phone use or exposure could theoretically experience in their daily lives. The animals were placed in specially built chambers that dosed their whole bodies with varying amounts and types of this radiation for approximately nine hours per day throughout their two-year lifespans.

“This is by far—far and away—the most carefully done cell phone bioassay, a biological assessment. This is a classic study that is done for trying to understand cancers in humans,” says Christopher Portier, a retired head of NTP who helped launch the study and still sometimes works for the federal government as a consultant scientist. “There will have to be a lot of work after this to assess if it causes problems in humans, but the fact that you can do it in rats will be a big issue. It actually has me concerned, and I’m an expert.”

The researchers found that as the thousands of rats in the new study were exposed to greater intensities of RF radiation, more of them developed rare forms of brain and heart cancer that could not be easily explained away, exhibiting a direct dose-response relationship. Overall, the incidence of these rare tumors was still relatively low, which would be expected with rare tumors in general, but the incidence grew with greater levels of exposure to the radiation. Some of the rats had glioma—a tumor of the glial cells in the brain—or schwannoma of the heart. Furthering concern about the findings: In prior epidemiological studies of humans and cell phone exposure, both types of tumors have also cropped up as associations.

In contrast, none of the control rats—those not exposed to the radiation—developed such tumors. But complicating matters was the fact that the findings were mixed across sexes: More such lesions were found in male rats than in female rats. The tumors in the male rats “are considered likely the result of whole-body exposure” to this radiation, the study authors write. And the data suggests the relationship was strongest between the RF exposure and the lesions in the heart, rather than the brain: Cardiac schwannomas were observed in male rats at all exposed groups, the authors note.

It's Not Just Americans Who Need to Fear Donald Trump. It's Humanity.

Where is Lee Harvey Oswald, now that we need him? Donald Trump vows to derail the Paris climate agreement, virtually ending any prospect of averting runaway global warming. This man is an abomination.

Now What Do You Think the Chances Are?

Was he trying to convey a message to the people that, if they vote to leave the EU, this is the future that awaits them?

There he was, Britain's own prime minister, David Cameron, in jeans and rough jacket buying a 3rd hand Nissan Micra for the little lady, Samantha Cameron, the mother of his children.

At 1,495 pounds, I'll bet Samantha has purses that cost more than the well used Nissan.

I guess Cameron was trying to go the humble, ordinary guy route to quell the controversy over his previous gift to Samantha, this, Rosie Lyburn:

Rosie is Mrs. Cameron's fashion (and social) advisor, and she costs the government some 53,000 quid a year.

The optics are ridiculous. There's an incredibly wealthy man, a child of privilege and advantage, buying a beater for his incredibly privileged and advantaged wife and apparently with little input from his "other half."

"Oh, don't worry about me dear. I'll make do with the Bentley and the driver."

Let's Remember Where and What We Were Back When

Something to dwell on over the weekend.

When It Comes to Climate Change, the Real Killer Is All In Your Mind.

It's not severe drought or epic floods, some of them lasting months or years. It's not severe storm events of ever increasing frequency, duration and intensity. It's not sea level rise. The real danger is in your mind, our minds, how we receive and process information, how we choose our fate.

When societies or civilizations collapse, one of the proximate causes is choices that either the entire community or some powerful segment of it has made. Sometimes those decisions are taken knowing that they mean eventual collapse. We are quite capable of acting in ways today that will imperil future generations. We're doing it now and we're doing it on a scale never before imagined or possible.

Jared Diamond's book "Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," is a lengthy tome running to some 525 pages. To me, the essence of it is found in the 14th chapter, "Why do some societies make disastrous decisions?"

Diamond focuses on how groups make disastrous decisions and identifies four categories of situations.

"First of all, a group may fail to anticipate a problem before the problem actually arrives. Second, when the problem does arrive, the group may fail to perceive it. Then, after they perceive it, they may fail even to try to solve it. Finally, they may try to solve it but may not succeed."

1. Failure to Anticipate

The author says there are several reasons for failing to anticipate a problem before it arrives. One is having no prior experience with what could go wrong. And, here, he cites the example of early Brits colonizing Australia and thinking it would be great to import rabbits and then foxes.

"Even prior experience is not a guarantee that a society will anticipate a problem, if the experience happened so long ago as to have been forgotten. 

"...In modern literate societies whose writing does discuss subjects besides kings and planets, that doesn't necessarily mean that we draw on prior experience committed to writing. We, too, tend to forget things."

Here Diamond uses the example of the 1973 Arab oil embargo and how Americans flocked to fuel efficient compact cars only to slowly return to fuel guzzling SUVs.

Next up is "reasoning by false analogy." We assume the present mirrors something from the past. He uses the example of generals who go into wars prepared to fight the last war and get caught unawares. Here he cites the French experience with the Maginot Line.

2. Failure to Perceive

The second situation is failing to perceive a problem that has actually arrived and for this he gives three categories.

"First, the origins of some problems are literally imperceptible. For example, the nutrients responsible for soil fertility are invisible to the eye, and only in modern times did they become measurable by chemical analysis. [In many areas of the world] most of the nutrients had already been leached out of the soil by rain before human settlement. When people arrived and began growing crops, those crops quickly exhausted the remaining nutrients, with the result that agriculture failed. Yet such nutrient-poor soils often bear lush-appearing vegetation; it's just that most of the nutrients in the ecosystem are contained in the vegetation rather than in the soil, and are removed if one cuts down the vegetation."

Another category is "distant managers" for which he gives the example of a Montana timber company operated by managers in Seattle who failed to see the degradation of their forest ecology.

The most dangerous situation, one that effects almost all of us today, is creeping change known as "creeping normalcy" or "landscape amnesia."

"The prime example in modern times is global warming. We now realize that temperatures around the world have been slowly rising in recent decades, due in large part of atmospheric changes caused by humans. ...As for the time that I write these lines, President Bush of the U.S. is still not convinced of its reality, and he thinks that we need more research. The medieval Greenlanders had similar difficulties recognizing that their climate was gradually becoming colder, andthe Maya and Anasazi had trouble discerning that theirs was becoming drier."

"Politicians use the term 'creeping normalcy' to refer to such slow trends concealed within noisy fluctuations. If the economy, schools, traffic congestion, or anything else is deteriorating only slowly, it's difficult to recognize that e4ach successive year is on he average slightly worse than the year before, so one's baseline standard for what constitutes 'normalcy' shifts gradually and imperceptibly. It may take a few decades of a long sequence of such slight year-to-year changes before people realize, with a jolt, that conditions used to be much better several decades ago, and that what is accepted as normalcy has crept downwards."

Diamond then explores the companion dilemma of "landscape amnesia." He uses the example of a glacier that he and his friends regularly climbed in his youth. Decades later he went back to climb it again only to find it greatly receded. His friends, who had remained in the area, had observed the decline gradually and through this had largely lost sight of what had occurred.

3. Perceiving a Problem but Failing to Try to Solve It.

"Many of the reasons for such failure fall under the heading of what economists and other social scientists term 'rational behavior,' arising from clashes of interest between people. That is, some people may reason correctly that they can advance their own interests by behavior harmful to other people. Scientists term such behavior 'rational' precisely because it employs correct reasoning, even though it may be morally reprehensible. The perpetrators know that they will often get away with it or if the law isn't effectively enforced. They feel safe because the perpetrators are typically concentrated (few in number) and highly motivated by the prospect of reaping big, certain and immediate profits, while the losses are spread over large numbers of individuals. That gives the losers little motivation to go to the hassle of fighting back, because each loser loses only a little and would receive only small, uncertain, distant profits even from successfully undoing the minority's grab."

"A frequent type of rational bad behavior is 'good for me, bad for you and for everybody else' - to put it bluntly, 'selfish.' As a simple example, most Montana fishermen fish for trout. A few fishermen who prefer to fish for pike, a larger fish0-eating fish not native to western Montana, surreptitiously and illegally introduced pike to some western Montana lakes and rivers where they proceeded to destroy trout fishing by eating the trout. That was good for the few pike fishermen and bad for the far greater number of trout fishermen."

"An example producing more losers and higher dollar losses is that, until 1971, mining companies in Montana on closing down a mine just left it with its copper, arsenic, and acid leaking out into rivers, because the state of Montana had no law requiring companies to clean up after mine closure. In 1971 the state of Montana did pass such a law, but companies discovered that they could extract the valuable ore and then just declare bankruptcy before going to the expense of cleaning up. The result has been about $500,000,000 of cleanup costs to be borne by the citizens of Montana and the U.S.  Mining company CEOs had correctly perceived that the law permitted them to save money for their companies, and to advance their own interests through bonuses and high salaries, by making messes and leaving the burden to society."

The author then explores the "tragedy of the commons" so instrumental in environmental disasters such as the collapse of fish stocks. There the mentality is "if I don't catch that fish, somebody else will come along and take it, so it makes no sense for me to refrain from overfishing." The obvious solution, anathema to free market fundamentalism, is regulation and meaningful enforcement. In most cases to date, one of the other has been neglected.

Worsening the situation is when commercial harvesters have no long-term stake in preserving the resource.  This is commerce by plunder. Hit an area, clean it out, and move on to somewhere else. Diamond chronicles how forestry companies pillaged the once lush rainforests by purchasing leases, clear cutting, and then leaving. He contrasts this with the behaviour of timber companies that actually purchase the land, anticipate repeated harvests and implement proper land and resource management policies.

Then there's the class factor in which the interests of the elite are pursued at the expense of the rest of society.

"Especially if the elite can insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions, they are likely to do things that profit themselves, regardless of whether those actions hurt everybody else.  Such clashes... are becoming increasingly frequent in the modern U.S., where rich people tend to live within their gated compounds and to drink bottled water.  For example, Enron's executives correctly calculated that they could gain huge sums of money for themselves by looting the company coffers and thereby harming all the stockholders, and that they were likely to get away with their gamble."

In other words, the way we think, the ways in which we perceive and process information, and human nature itself are mankind's ultimate Achilles' Heel.

That's about enough for now. I'll come back (I hope) to address Diamond's thoughts on how we may perceive a problem, try to solve it, yet fail no matter how good our efforts.

One thing I want to focus on is his chilling observation, directly applicable to our species today, that there are some problems that are so inter-connected that it is futile to try to solve any of them because success hinges on solving all of them.

There are three existential threats facing humanity today - climate change, overpopulation and excessive consumption of resources. You have to solve all three of them or else you will ultimately fail on all three. These are the common threads that run through every major calamity that besets us today.

We're becoming increasingly active on dealing with climate change but we're failing to address the other two. Yet it's only when you consider them collectively that the common solutions and the daunting change that portends emerge clearly.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Shell CEO - No Solar Until It's Profitable

Royal Dutch Shell CEO, Ben van Beurden, says the energy giant won't be moving into solar energy until it proves profitable.

I know something that might change Ben's mind. Eliminate all the subsidies, direct and indirect, that go to the fossil fuelers and direct that money, $34-billion each and every year in Canada (according to the IMF) into renewables, including solar.

We're currently paying the hydrocarbon giants not to switch to renewables and we're paying them royally with these unconscionable subsidies.  Pull the free money, top that with $30 a ton carbon taxes escalating $10 a ton every five years thereafter, and you won't have outfits like Shell sneering down their noses at renewable, clean energy.

Trudeau's Elbow From a Different Angle.

Sorry, Ruth Ellen.

Harper and Associates Consulting, Inc.

That's the formal name of Shifty Steve Harper's new company. Joining him are, oh so predictably, Ray Novak (unemployed prime ministerial ball scratcher) and Jeremy Hunt, veteran Harper advisor.

Actually, HAC Inc. is just the formal, company name. It'll be carrying on business under a different name, "STFU, Now You Listen Here!"

Don't Wanna Know. Keep It to Yourself.

Close, but no cigar.

Exxon and Chevron shareholders have voted down resolutions demanding that their companies explore their vulnerability to climate change action.

Chevron shareholders voted 41% in favour. Exxon shareholders came in at 38% in favour. Support does seem to be growing but the executive and directors remain off the hook - for now.

The number of shareholders supporting the climate-risk measures “is significant, and it will continue to grow,” said Beth Richtman,investment manager at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which manages about $290 billion. Calpers owns about $1 billion worth of Exxon shares and approximately $600 million in Chevron stock.

“There’s a groundswell of share owners who are going to keep pushing this forward,” she said. “We need to see them rise to the realm of best practices in terms of climate risk reporting, and we’re not there yet.”

While the shareholder votes aren’t binding, supporters of the measures declared victory even in defeat after the oil companies’ annual shareholder meetings Wednesday.
“You have to read this as a shot across the bow of the industry,” saidAndrew Logan, director of the oil and gas program at Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit group that advocated for the proposals.

Attack of the Psycho Sheep

This one's too good to pass up.

Dateline: Rhydypandy, a village in Wales.

A flock of sheep has gone on what is being described as a "psychotic rampage" through the village of Rhydypandy after apparently eating cannabis plants dumped by a local grow-op factory.

County councillor Ioan Richard raised the alarm, saying the sheep have been "roaming the village" causing havoc by breaking into homes.

"There is already a flock of sheep roaming the village causing a nuisance," he said.

"They are getting in people's gardens and one even entered a bungalow and left a mess in the bedroom."

He warned of the dangers of the rest of the flock discovering the remains of the cannabis plantation dumped at Rhydypandy, in the Swansea valley in South Wales.

He said: "I dread to think what will happen if they eat what could well be cannabis plants - we could have an outbreak out of psychotic sheep rampaging through the village."

Dreadful, ghastly, foul - relax, it sounds like they've got the munchies. Get some chips, maybe a bag of Oreos, - problem solved. Oh yeah, you should also confiscate their rolling papers and lighters while you're at it.

Would Napoleon Have Chosen Waterloo?

The Harper/Ambrose Conservatives are gathering in Vancouver for a whoop-up. Seems like an odd place for Tories to gather. Sure it's beautiful, much nicer than any place where they still reign, but it's sort of like Napoleon going back with the boys for a reunion at Waterloo.

Vancouver wasn't Tory-friendly in the last election. The whole coast, including Vancouver Island, sent Tory candidates packing.

I suppose it could have been worse. It could have been the Maritimes but, then again, we know what Tories think of those indolent folks down east.

I'm not sure nature wants the Conservatives out here either. We've been having balmy, sunny weather. It seems that'll end this afternoon. It's going to turn cold and damp and the sunny warmth won't be back until Monday.

Mr. Ambassador, You're Not a Cop

He rose to fame by taking down Michael Zehaf-Bebeau when the gunman stormed Parliament's centre block. That probably had something to do with former House of Commons Sergeant at Arms, Kevin Vickers, being appointed Canada's ambassador to Ireland. Nice gig.

Old habits, it seems, die hard. Ambassador Vickers was in attendance in Dublin today for a commemoration of British soldiers who fell putting down the October Rising when Irish Republicans tried to take Northern Ireland by force.

Protester, meet Mr. Ambassador.

A protester wearing an "Easter Rising" t-shirt got up and yelled "this is a disgrace." Vickers intervened, tackling the man and apparently holding him until the cops could arrest him.

Kevin, great catch and everything, but... you're an ambassador, not event security. That's why they had cops there. You have to leave it up to that other nation's cops to decide if and when they'll arrest somebody. That's not your call.

The video is better than the photo:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Another First for the Athabasca TAR Sands

You knew they're grotesque. You knew they're dirty. You knew they create massive amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The Athabasca Tar Sands are an environmental calamity.

All that and more, the "more" part being the emission of noxious, organic aerosols.

The aerosols are minute particles, roughly 1/10th the diameter of a human hair or less, that are created when chemical-laden vapours from the mining and processing of bitumen react with oxygen in the atmosphere and are transformed into solids that can drift on the wind for days.

While researchers have long thought that the oil sands must be a source of such particles, the new results, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, show that their impact on air quality is significant and of potential concern to communities that are downwind.

The oil-sands aerosols are similar in abundance to those that U.S. researchers recorded rising from the massive oil spill caused by the Deepwater Horizon drilling-rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. But they are ever-present.

“The oil spill lasted a few months, and the Alberta oil-sand operations are an ongoing industrial activity,” said Joost de Gouw, a Colorado-based research physicist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who led the oil-spill measurements.

“The take-away is that there’s more that’s emitted into the atmosphere than we’ve fully appreciated,” said Jeffrey Brook, an air-quality researcher with Environment and Climate Change Canada who participated in the oil-sands study. “There is a need to continue to improve our knowledge about where these emissions go.”

The researchers believe that many thousands of people living downwind of the Tar Sands are inhaling these invisible droplets with every breath, every day, year in and year out.

Scientists are still trying to understand the complex health effects those particles can trigger when inhaled, but they have been linked in previous studies to lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

How Do You Go From Emperor to Shopkeeper? Harper's AfterLife.

The rumour is everywhere. Shifty Steve Harper will resign his seat in Parliament this summer to pursue other opportunities.

One theory is that he'll set up some sort of foreign policy institute. Bad idea. While, on the international scene, Harper frequently liked to scold other leaders, he really didn't champion any notable initiative. He didn't build any grand alliances. He didn't bring peace to any troubled spot. He has no foreign policy legacy worth mentioning even if it could be recalled - and it can't.

The legendary foreign policy types tended to have vision. Harper, domestically or internationally, was never burdened by the weight of vision. No great statesmanship there - not at the United Nations (which he despised), nor at the
G7, NATO, APEC or just about anywhere else.

The alternative theory is that Harper is planning to enter business, pick up a few directorships, that sort of thing. Not sure he's cut out for that either. Personality problems. A person with dictatorial instincts might not be a good fit on a board of directors.

Brian Mulroney - there's a man who embodied directorial qualities. A jovial personality, a guy who could lean over and tell the next guy some dirty joke, a man who could seek out compromise or at least some accommodation.

Harper - he's convinced he is always, has always been, shall always be the brightest man in the room. He acts on belief, dispensing with evidence or fact. He has a low threshold for frustration, cussing out subordinates, kicking chairs across the room. He's a bully and, like all bullies, a coward - first one into the janitor's closet sort of guy. He's cold and lifeless, utterly joyless. He angers easily and cultivates grievance. Sum it all up, he really, really does not play well with others. He's a nasty, churlish little piggy.

What could he do? Maybe some third-rate burger joint franchise might work, the sort of place he could staff with guest workers from the Philippines, that sort of thing. He could hide out in the office/closet with the water heater; berate the staff all day and carry on his life as a professional shit.

I don't know. Any other ideas? Feel free to weigh in.

Unrepentant Sinner of the Year

And the award goes to - Chevron CEO John Watson.

While other top oil executives are on the run from angry shareholders and investors or snooping prosecutors, Watson says climate change could be good for Chevron.

Climate change - good for an oil company - how so? Well, according to Watson, he's expecting Chevron to wind up increasing its market share.

The oil industry sure is crazy. How crazy? This crazy:

A band of gutsy and resourceful truck drivers are crisscrossing dangerous front lines in wartorn Syria to deliver oil and other cargo, Raja Abdulrahim reports. Tanker trucks carry oil from Kurdish wells to Islamic State territory.

The Kurdish north is dependent for revenue mostly on oil and wheat, and wells are mostly idle because the Kurdish administration doesn’t have the ability to refine or export large quantities. Islamic State controls 10 oil fields in Syria but it has been forced to buy fuel from the Kurdish state, and that trade is indirectly funding the Kurdish militia fighting the extremists.

The Kurds have been selling their oil to ISIS to get money the Kurds need to fight ISIS. The Islamic State needs oil that it can refine and export to get money to fight its enemies and so it has to buy oil from the Kurds, one of its major enemies.


Okay, Next.

The American press is all over the story of the successful drone attack on Taliban commander, Mullah Mansoor, whose car was reduced to scrap metal by a missile fired from a stalking drone.

Why do these "we whacked their leader" stories so closely resemble "world's oldest person dies" stories? Both seem to happen with an almost boring regularity.

Yes, you're the new Taliban commander? Thanks, I'll write down your name and do remember to have somebody tell me when you're dead.

There's always another "world's oldest person" and there's always another Taliban or al Qaeda or ISIS commander.

Okay, next.


It seems that Georgetown University law prof, Rosa Brooks, also sees the futility in this whack-a-mole warfare and says it demonstrates magical thinking:

The “important milestones” come and go; we keep on killing bad guys, and the bad guys just keep on keeping on. In the three years since the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the group appears to have gotten stronger, not weaker: Afghanistan experts say the Taliban now control more territory in the country than at any time since before the 2001 U.S. invasion. The Islamic State, the target of intense U.S. attacks since 2014, has lost some of the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq, but the group still managed to pull off mass-casualty attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Kuwait, Pakistan, and Afghanistan — not to mention ongoing brutalities in Syria and Iraq. Al-Shabab and Nigeria’s Boko Haram continue to leave a trail of bloodshed across Africa, and even al Qaeda, which has surely had more “senior leaders” killed than any other terrorist group, continues to stage a zombie-like comeback around the globe, with recent mass attacks in Yemen, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.

So what’s the point of all these killings?

...U.S. counterterrorism strikes may be emotionally satisfying for White House and Defense Department officials, but they come with a cost: Their questionable legal status troubles even key U.S. allies while the death and destruction caused by U.S. strikes can breed resentment in affected communities, potentially boosting rather than undermining terrorist recruitment efforts. This is particularly true when U.S. strikes kill civilians, as some inevitably do.

...most counterterrorism programs undertaken by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local law enforcement are both expensive and pointless. The United States... has created at least 263 new counterterrorism organizations since the 9/11 attacks — a rather high number, given that those same organizations have so far apprehended fewer than 100 people for allegedly planning attacks within the United States. (And many of these terrorist suspects seem to have posed little serious threat: With a handful of exceptions, most were amateurs with grandiose plans far exceeding their competence levels.)

...Maybe, rather than viewing those counterterrorism efforts as policy and budget choices to which we can reasonably apply economic cost-benefit analysis, we should view them instead through the lens of anthropology.

After all, human societies throughout history have developed magical rituals designed to ward off real or imagined evil. Anthropologists call these apotropaic rituals. From ancient Greece to early Britain, numerous cultures sacrificed animals — and sometimes humans — to propitiate the gods and prevent misfortune. In medieval Europe, ancient China, and pre-European Native American settlements, groups developed elaborate dances and other rituals to prevent drought and dangerous storms. In Europe, medieval pilgrims displayed badges with bawdy images to ward off the plague; in colonial New England, women placed coins once held by corpses under their pillows to prevent male demons from impregnating them while they slept.

We modern Americans don’t believe in demons, rain dances, or the efficacy of sacrificing children or goats. We’ve developed our very own 21st-century magic rituals — and we call them “counterterrorism programs.”

Tony Blair Unveils His Defence

Tony Blair is looking increasingly nervous as he awaits the imminent release of the Chilcot Inquiry report into Britain's role in instigating and conducting the Iraq War that toppled Saddam Hussein and plunged the region into chaos. The report is set for release on July 6.

Blair is sticking to his fantasy that conquering Iraq was "the right thing to do" but his latest fallback is that the British and American governments "profoundly underestimated" the chaos that would arise during the occupation.

Blair has no choice but to stick to the justification defence. Anything else would be a confession to war crimes that could send him to a place with no Michelin star kitchens or Savile Row tailors.

The silly git doesn't have a lot of friends in the UK any more. Even his Labour Party, now headed by Jeremy Corbyn, is calling for a war crimes investigation into Tony Blair.

Blair's obvious and worsening nervousness may have something to do with the fact that he has already read the report's findings. He knows what's coming.

I wonder if Tony has his bags packed, ready at a moment's notice to bolt to Saudi Arabia or some other sanctuary?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Foreign Policy Wrap-Up - Saudi Arabia, Israel in the News

The Yanquis, it seems, are leaving Canada's federal government in the foreign policy dust.

First up, Saudi Arabia - or what Steffie Dion and Slick would call our "good ally."  In the course of debate over a new Senate bill that would allow the victims of the 9/11 (mainly Saudi) terrorist attacks to sue the Saudi monarchy, House members of both parties got together to castigate the Saudis for stoking extremism. That, in case you're wondering, is code for ISIS and al Qaeda.

“The Saudis and the Saudi royal family have been right up to their eyeballs in terrorist activity,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.).

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), the chairman of a House subcommittee on terrorism, noted that “Wahhabi followers are more easily recruited by terrorist groups.”

Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman of California accused Riyadh of funding religious leaders who “preach violent murder against those who they disagree with.”

During the hearing, Rohrabacher asked the four Saudi expert witnesses — who included former 9/11 commissioner Tim Roemer — to raise their hands if they believed the Saudi Royal family did not know of the 9/11 plot ahead of time. Two experts, Karen Elliot House of the Belfer Center and Daniel Byman of Georgetown University, raised their hands, while Roemer and Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute kept their hands down. Later, Roemer said the question was too complex to deal with in an up-or-down fashion, but Rohrabacher rejected that view. “The Saudis have been financing terrorism now for 20 years at least,” Rohrabacher said.

Meanwhile, as Israeli slips into the arms of fascism, its newest Democratic BFF, Hillary "what's in it for me?" Clinton was handed a bit of a setback today. The Dems know they've got a huge problem with Bernie Sanders who, unlike Hillary, consistently outpolls Donald Trump as the peoples' choice for president.

Hillary, for a lot of good reasons, is not well liked. Her negatives far outweigh her positives among American voters. Bernie is the opposite. The Dems know that if they throw the nomination to Hillary - and they will - they'll be vulnerable not only to Trump but, potentially, to Bernie supporters also who threaten to boycott the polls on election day.

Operation Placate Bernie is underway. The Democratic organization is trying to play nice with Sanders, inviting him in to help draft party policy. Sanders foreign policy advisor, Jim Zogby, says that would mean a tougher approach to Israel including calling Israel's half-century occupation of the Palestinian territory a - gasp - "occupation." Remember, this is coming from the strongest Jewish presidential candidate in American history.

We'll just have to wait for Bernie's shopping list to unfold but, chances are, it won't be Hillary-friendly.

To Zogby and other Sanders supporters, the independent Vermonter’s 20 states won in the Democratic nominating contest have given his message a mandate. In conceding appointments on the drafting committee, the DNC has acknowledged Sanders’s clout among the party electorate. And Sanders’s picks, sure to clash with those selected by Democratic leaders and the more hawkish Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and likely nominee, are his most powerful statement yet that he intends to fight for the party’s future beyond the convention in Philadelphia.

Think Of "Dr. Strangelove" on Steroids

The good news is that your chance of dying in a car accident isn't very high, about one in 120 in the United States.

The bad news is that the risk of an average person dying from an extinction event is five times greater than the car accident risk.

So we demand cars that have the best brakes, stability control systems, crash absorbing zones, air bags, seat belts and more. We spend a fortune to build and maintain our highways and hire police to enforce our traffic laws.

Well then, what are we spending on that extinction event risk, the far more dangerous threat? Well, when you add it all up, it comes out to just about bugger all.

When it comes to extinction-level risks there are several. Climate change and nuclear war are 1 and 2. Britain's astronomer royal, Baron Martin Rees, gives us a no better than 50-50 chance that we'll succumb this century to what he calls "bio-terror or bio-error." According to Rees, now that we've privatized scientific research, there's stuff going on in the big corporate labs, unmonitored, that could easily wipe us out if someone goofs up or should it fall into the wrong hands. He gives many examples in his book, Our Final Hour, that - trust me - you probably don't want to read.

I was born at the start of the Cold War and grew up under the constant threat of nuclear Armageddon. When the Soviet Union collapsed we felt a weight had been lifted off our shoulders. The Doctor Strangelove era was over. Well that didn't last long. It's back. More people have nuclear arsenals and some of them are much more likely to use them than anyone who had them back in the 70s. And now we've got all these other extinction-grade threats.

"[N]early all of the most threatening global catastrophic risks were unforeseeable a few decades before they became apparent. Forty years before the discovery of the nuclear bomb, few could have predicted that nuclear weapons would come to be one of the leading global catastrophic risks. Immediately after the Second World War, few could have known that catastrophic climate change, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence would come to pose such a significant threat."

There are no easy answers. Confronting these challenges, reducing the risks to something manageable, survivable is going to require a different model of organization and governance. We'll have to redefine society as we've known it right down to our notions of basic citizenship. That's because we'll never be able to reduce this plethora of risks nearly enough which demands that we also focus on building our resilience, our ability to cope and adapt. You can't do that with social cohesion in tatters as we have today. 

It will take real leadership and vision of a calibre we haven't known for years.

And They Attacked Michelle for Having Bare Arms.

Remember when Republicans criticized Michelle Obama for appearing in a sleeveless dress? Oh, that was so undignified, so unsuitable for America's first lady.

Well, look what they've got in store.

There she is, bare cheeks, in a thong with a gun on the wing of Her Donald's private jetliner. But wait, there's more. Here's a picture of Melania inside that jet, looking for all the world like some drug lord's moll with a briefcase overflowing with jewelry.

Thank the Lord on High that all them good, God-fearin Americans won't have to put up with this any more:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Now, More Than Ever - Boycott/Divest/Sanction

“If there is something that frightens me about the memories of the Holocaust, it is the knowledge of the awful processes which happened in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago, and finding traces of them here in our midst, today, in 2016.”

                                                                   General Ya'ir Golan
                                                                    Deputy Chief of Staff, Israeli Army

The appointment by Benjamin Netanyahu of ultra-right extremist, Avigdor Lieberman, to the second highest office in Israel's government, defence minister and de facto consul of Palestine, demonstrates that Israel is on a headlong dive into fascism.

General Golan's warning, delivered during a Holocaust Day speech, has effectively ended his career and put his life in danger - from the threat posed by his own countrymen. Speaking the truth in a state of fascism can be a death sentence.

Former member of the Knesset and peace activist, Uri Avnery, has seen the signs before as a young Jewish schoolboy witnessing the collapse of the Weimar Republic. He was lucky. His parents fled Germany just in time. The world knows what befell those who weren't as quick.

"I was there when it happened, a boy in a family in which politics became the main topic at the dinner table. I saw how the republic broke down, gradually, slowly, step by step. I saw our family friends hoisting the swastika flag. I saw my high-school teacher raising his arm when entering the class and saying “Heil Hitler” for the first time (and then reassuring me in private that nothing had changed.)

"I was the only Jew in the entire gymnasium (high school.) When the hundreds of boys – all taller than I – raised their arms to sing the Nazi anthem, and I did not, they threatened to break my bones if it happened again. A few days later we left Germany for good.

"General Golan was accused of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. Nothing of the sort. A careful reading of his text shows that he compared developments in Israel to the events that led to the disintegration of the Weimar Republic. And that is a valid comparison.

"Things happening in Israel, especially since the last election, bear a frightening similarity to those events. True, the process is quite different. German fascism arose from the humiliation of surrender in World War I, the occupation of the Ruhr by France and Belgium from 1923-25, the terrible economic crisis of 1929, the misery of millions of unemployed. Israel is victorious in its frequent military actions, we live comfortable lives. The dangers threatening us are of a quite different nature. They stem from our victories, not from our defeats."

"The discrimination against the Palestinians in practically all spheres of life can be compared to the treatment of the Jews in the first phase of Nazi Germany. (The oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories resembles more the treatment of the Czechs in the “protectorate” after the Munich betrayal.)

"The rain of racist bills in the Knesset, those already adopted and those in the works, strongly resembles the laws adopted by the Reichstag in the early days of the Nazi regime."

"By the way, when the Nazis came to power, almost all high-ranking officers of the German army were staunch anti-Nazis. They were even considering a putsch against Hitler . Their political leader was summarily executed a year later, when Hitler liquidated his opponents in his own party. We are told that General Golan is now protected by a personal bodyguard, something that has never happened to a general in the annals of Israel."

This has been building for a long time. The world was put on notice just over 20-years ago when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, put to death by a countryman, for his moderate beliefs and pursuit of peace.

"In Rabin's pocket was a blood-stained sheet of paper with the lyrics to the well-known Israeli song "Shir LaShalom" ("Song for Peace"), which was sung at the rally and dwells on the impossibility of bringing a dead person back to life and, therefore, the need for peace."

What does all this say about the government of the day and our prime minister? Trudeau chose to support the Tories' motion to censure the BDS movement when he should have been embracing Boycott/Divest/Sanction, adding Canada's voice to the international community's.  Instead Trudeau chose political expediency at the expense of everything else, including morality and the honour of Canada.

Wouldn't It Be Great If This Was Comedy?

It's a Big Club and you ain't in it.

The Impeachment of Donald J. Trump Or a Caisson-Ride Down Pennsylvania Avenue

Let's hope he doesn't pick Ted Cruz as his running mate. That said I doubt Trump would want a running mate whose popularity could drag down his own. Trump-Cruz, possibly the worst ticket imaginable.

There's been a lot of speculation about Trump in the Oval Office, most of it focusing on the rise of a fascist state. Some speculate that Trump would go extra-constitutional, dissolve Congress, suspend the Constitution. Me? I don't believe it.

Two things might happen. One involves a state funeral, the other a trial on charges of "high crimes and misdemeanours."

There are many powerful people in the United States, all of whom have taken an oath to defend their country and uphold its Constitution. Many hold their Constitution in near religious reverence and, to them, the state and their constitution are inseparable. Included in this group are America's military commanders and the key personnel in its national security apparatus. The latter group has already proclaimed Trump as a threat to American security and global stability should he become president. I expect that conversation has been echoed behind many closed doors at the Pentagon.

My guess is that some very powerful voices would speak very softly to president-elect Trump laying out some fairly stark options for his presidency. For all his bluster and eccentricity, I don't see much courage in Donald Trump, any willingness to sacrifice for a cause. No, he won't like it but he will do as he's told once he realizes what's at stake.

Kids, I Think You're Going To Have To Take Your Future Into Your Own Hands

Has there ever been a phrase more inviting of abuse than, "for their own good"?

People with power like to invoke that phrase to justify what they do to those without as much power. Things get done for, and quite often to, others "in their best interests." The powerful like to do that because they get to define "their own good" and "their best interests" almost invariably in ways that closely mirror the good interests of the powerful themselves.

In this way people with power justify clinging to power long after it should have passed to a new group, perhaps the next generation. After all those calling the shots are only acting in the youngsters' "best interests" and "for their own good."

Governance, however, is not parenting. Those who wield and broker power rarely meet any recognizable fiduciary standard. What is paramount to any government is to still govern after the next election.

Now there's your problem. The kids are still looking to the horizon. They're wondering what they can expect when 2050 or 2060 or 2070 rolls around. The more they look the less they like what they see.

For those in power, their horizon is the current term in office with an option to renew. They see things differently than the kids see things because the kids have to visualize the future, their future. Those in power, snicker among themselves, knowing they'll be taking the eternal dirt nap before the future descends.

Think of it in the context of a commercial airline flight. The passengers are all youngsters. The cockpit crew, however, they're geezers. They're not going to be around for the landing, they won't make it. How does that make you feel if you're enduring the torment of a centre seat in cattle class?

Wouldn't it make sense for all the passengers to get up and toss out the captain and first officer before they managed to get that aircraft off the ground? Shouldn't they demand a flight crew who would at least be around to handle the landing?

In these perilous times that we're entering, that's the predicament facing today's young people, the under 40s. They have to wrest power away and into their own hands. We have shown, time and again, that we're as responsible as drunken sailors when it comes to planning for the future and meeting our fiduciary obligations to our younger generation. We are showing no sign that will change, really change, either.

Time, as the near unanimous chorus of scientists reminds us, is not on our children's side. The Big Bad Wolf is coming and all we've got is a house made out of straw. The kids are going to need something a lot better than what we're planning to bequeath to them. If we're not going to provide it, then it's up to them to take it.

I don't know if they have a sense of their steadily worsening predicament and how urgent it is that they move us out of power and fill our positions with their own. For their sake, the sooner the better. For, once they displace us, they're bound to find they define "their own good" and "their best interests" much differently than we chose to for them.

There Goes the Neighbourhood. Chalk Another One Up for Fascism. And, Yes, It Has Nukes.

Washington is rightly concerned with who else has nuclear weapons.

North Korea is a case in point. The US has to fret that whatever iteration of lunatic Kim runs the place could get a bit twitchy and launch a warhead or two.

Pakistan likewise keeps Pentagon defence planners up at night. Two threats there. One is the outbreak of war between India and Pakistan leading to a nuclear exchange that might quickly spread to adjacent regions and then, who knows? The other is the prospect of Islamist radicals, either terrorists or from within the Pakistani military, commandeering some or all of Pakistan's arsenal.

Now there's a new name they'll be chalking up on their Worry Board, Israel. This follows Benjamin Netanyahu's embrace of  the Israeli ultra-nationalist party, Yisrael Beitenu, and the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as the country's defence minister. Critics claim the move represents the evolution of Israel into a full blown fascist state, one with its own substantial nuclear arsenal.

Former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, says Netanyahu has planted the seeds of fascism. Netanyahu's former defence minister, Moshe Yaalon, spurned a new portfolio, quitting instead, and warning, "Extremist and dangerous elements have taken over Israel and the Likud and are threatening (society)."

As the Jerusalem Post points out this means that Lieberman, as defence minister, now becomes Czar of the West Bank and occupied Palestine.

So how is this going down with Israel's neighbours, a.k.a. the Arab Muslim world? As you might expect. Egypt's military government, until now one of Israel's few friends in the region, is troubled by Lieberman's appointment and the shift in Israel's government and society.

Making the Egyptians deal with Lieberman is a slap in the face to Cairo, given that he once suggested destroying the Aswan Dam and sweeping the Egyptians into the sea. Knowing that the erratic and extremist Lieberman has his finger on the nuclear button must also be nervous-making for the al-Sisi government. The pan-Arab leftwing London daily, al-Quds al-`Arabi, reported that circles around al-Sisi were “shocked” at the prospect of having to work with Lieberman, and that they consider his appointment a “red line” after he threatened them with genocide.

On his way out the door, Yaalon warned that the extremism, violence and racism that has manifested in Israeli society is now spreading into the military.

The former prime minister, Barak, warned Israelis that there'll be a price to pay. "The outgoing defense minister, Moshe Ya'alon, was the victim of a purge. In the initial months, Liberman will give off the impression that he is moderate. Sooner or later, however, we will see the price we have to pay."

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Everyone Needs to See This.

Watch the video in slow motion. This puts paid to Angry Tom's fury and Brousseau's feigned martyrdom. It's all on the video once you get it slowed down. Dippers, you might not want to watch this - but you should.


Ah, the long weekend! Or, as they apparently now call it in Ontario, the May 2-4 weekend in tribute to the stalwart people of that province who innately understand that a case of beer, a real case of beer, is four six-packs all nestled inside one cardboard box. On this weekend the rest of Canada salutes you.

This is a non-news weekend. There's stuff going on but no one much cares. That's a good thing, I suppose. Good for the blood pressure, for sure. It's a weekend for relaxation and even a bit of reflection.

I took a few minutes to reflect on the week that was and, of course, visions of Ruth Ellen Brosseau drifted by. And then I got it. WWRMS? What Would Rick Mercer Say about this bone crushing affair, this affront to Canadian womanhood? We'll have to wait and see but I'm guessing he'll have some amusing insights on offer.

Then it dawned on me. I know the very person I'd want to hear from, Mississauga's legendary ex-mayor, Hazel McCallion. What's Hazel's take on this business?

Then it got even better. REMATCH! Three, three-minute rounds of wrestling, Greco-Roman, the sort where Trudeau could get "hit in the nuts." Rick Mercer officiating. Hazel McCallion on the bell. Patrick Brazeau as Brousseau's cornerman. In Trudeau's corner, Stephan Dion doing, as usual, as he's damn well told. Rex Murphy offering colour commentary. Wouldn't you pay a buck and a quarter to watch that on pay per view?

See, there you go. Now you've got something to look forward to. Happy Victoria Day.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Vancouver Mayor Slams NEB Pipeline Review And Trudeau's Added "Stopgap Measure."

You could say that Gregor Robertson doesn't much care for the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, the rigged National Energy Board approval process or Justin Trudeau's ploy to gloss it all over.

"The NEB process was a sham, basically, it was advanced with gusto by the Harper government, who were obviously strong proponents of this pipeline process," Robertson said in an interview with Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House.

"We put up a solid fight against it, but many of the interveners, many voices were shut out of that process and First Nations weren't consulted appropriately," he said, noting the board did not review the project's downstream climate change impact.

Robertson said he will fight tooth and nail to stop the project, and he has a simple message for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr: "The answer is no. This pipeline proposal should not be approved.

"They've got the rest of this year, they've got this ministerial panel, but there is no business case for it when you put the economics on the table and when you put the Paris agreement and our climate commitments on the table and the sensitive environment we're dealing with here on the West Coast — it's an absolute no," he said.

Justin Trudeau defrauded British Columbians into giving him a number of ridings - ridings that might otherwise have gone to the Harper Conservatives - on his express promise to rectify the rigged environmental review process of the industry loaded regulator, Canada's National Energy Board. Slick broke his promise to the province and people of British Columbia and he's trying to weasel his way around it.

If he goes through with this botched "sham" there'll be a price to pay for the Liberal Party for years, perhaps generations, to come.

Brousseau Clings Tenaciously to Her Moment of Fame

You gotta give it to Ruth Ellen Brousseau. The NDP MP knows how to wring every drop of attention she can get out of a non-event and she is sure going for it.

Brousseau, who claims she was elbowed in her chest by Justin Trudeau during a minor kerfuffle on the floor of the House of Commons this week seems to have contracted PTSD. She complains that she's still personally shaken by the incident. Maybe she could use an all expenses paid furlough to Vegas.

Now, to add insult to her non-injury, she contends the public is calling "bullshit" on her. Bad public, damn you all to hell.

Brosseau, who admits to still being personally shaken by the incident, says her office has received a number phone calls, many of them suggesting she is "crying wolf."

Brosseau also says the scrutiny she has received since Wednesday's encounter has been worse than in 2011, when as a rookie candidate she was ridiculed publicly for travelling to Las Vegas during the election campaign.

She said she's tried to focus on her work since becoming an MP and hopes that speaking out about the incident will make the story go away.

Yes, what would be more likely to "make the story go away" than continuing to whinge about it? From what I could see, Brosseau took the best dive anyone has seen since the World Cup.

It's good to see, here and there, as Montreal Simon suggests, that this clearly staged incident has backfired on the NDP and Angry Tom. People, like those calling Brosseau's office to her supposedly great distress, see right through it. That's why they're phoning her office, calling "bullshit" on her. As for Tommy, well he's just added yet another nail to his political coffin. Time to take out the trash.

Dont Ever Tell Jesse Jane McParland She Fights Like a Girl

Just sayin:

What, By Now, We Should Have Realized About Free Trade Agreements But Still Haven't.

Nothing has become so undeservedly imbued with the status of orthodoxy as free market fundamentalism embodied in today's free trade pacts and neoliberal governance. This has become our orthodoxy. We accept it, usually without a second thought. We have long forgotten the pitch they used to sell it to us at the outset. If we did remember the promises we would realize how we've been had. We wouldn't be nearly so complacent, and through that powerless, as we have become.

Harper approached market fundamentalism with the reverence afforded to scripture. It was his gospel and he clung to it as tenaciously as religious fundamentalists embrace biblical inerrancy. Harper may have been the hard case but those before him and since have also accepted rule by markets.

While free trade deals are inked by states, those states are really just a front for corporate interest and corporate power. A free trade deal embodies some form of "investor-state dispute resolution" mechanism, secret courts, the effect of which is to create a power-sharing relationship. State sovereignty is to some extent yielded. It doesn't just evaporate. It goes somewhere. It passes to some other entity.

One aspect of that sovereignty surrender is the planning power. If a government's plans intrude on perceived commercial rights, the government's power can be fettered by litigation and awards of massive damages. In the result, planning power is quietly and gradually ceded to the private sector. You can usually sense this when you detect a lack of vision, a lack of cohesiveness in government policy making. That's the telltale of sovereignty corrupted.

Economist James Galbraith offers this insight:

"The history of compulsory [state] planning cannot be purged of its warts; this is the conservative and libertarian case, and it does no good to deny the force of their argument. But this does not make planning unnecessary or mean that one can do without it.

"Again the issue is, In comparison to what? A state that does not plan does not, by default, turn this function over to the market. Even if the market is perfectly efficient, it still suffers from two ineradicable defects. The first relates to the distribution of income and power; the market conveys signals only in proportion to the purchasing power of the individuals transmitting them. The poor do not matter to the market. The second relates to representation: people not yet born do not turn up at the stores, They send no market signals at all.

"Defenders of markets talk about futures markets, or long-term contracts, arguing that these serve the needs of the future and obviate the need for planning. This is a misunderstanding. Such markets and contracts serve only the needs of today's economic actors; they are a way of projecting the needs and interests of the present forward into the future, of managing risks for today's market actors. They have nothing to do with preparing for, protecting, or representing the needs of the future. In the market economy, no one speaks for those who will follow. Speaking for the interests of successor generations is a function that has to be imposed on the market by outside agency and regulatory power; it is an act of imagination. The great fallacy of the market myth lies simply in the belief, for which no foundation in economics exists, that markets can think ahead. But they cannot. The role of planning is to provide that voice, if necessary against the concerted interest and organized power of those alive today.

"A country that does not have a public planning system simply turns that function over to a network of private enterprise - domestic or foreign - which then becomes the true seat of economic power. And that is why the struggle over planning is, and remains, such a sensitive issue; it is the struggle over power. It is a struggle not between democracy and the corporation, but between those - scientists, engineers, some economists, and public intellectuals - who attempt to represent the common and future interest and those - banks, companies, lobbyists, and the economists whom they employ - that represent only the tribal and current interest. It is an uneven struggle. It is a struggle in which, outside of wartime and the zone of permanent planning called the Pentagon, the planners have prevailed on only rare occasions, notably during the Great Depression. But it is an inescapable struggle. If the future is to be provided for, you must have a community of planners, and some way must be found to support them, to permit them to develop their plans and resolve their differences, and to give them access to the levers of public power. To walk away from this problem with a shrug about 'markets' is to disenfranchise the future. To enable planning guarantees nothing. But to 'rely on the market' is to guarantee that the interests of the future will never be provided for."

What is Galbraith telling us? He seems to be warning that the market forces so dominant in society today and the neoliberals in the political caste who serve them work together "to guarantee that the interests of the future will never be provided for." That should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying any attention to government especially since Harper came to power and, more disturbingly, the government that has since displaced him. Trudeau is, if anything, more worrisome than Harper because he represents a party whose members consider it progressive. There may be a progressive or two within Trudeau's cabinet but damn if I can name them.

A lot of us had hopes that Harper's successor would right Canada's badly listing political keel. That hasn't happened.

Pimping bitumen is a case in point. That is all about "the tribal and current interest" at the considerable expense of "preparing for, protecting and representing the needs of the future."

No we have to accept the fact that this government, flying its false flag, is only marginally less inadequate than the one it displaced.

Time for a break. Here's George Carlin explaining why bullshit is the glue that still holds us together.

How Much Trouble Are the Saudis In?

When you think of a place that must be drowning in petro-dollars, surely Saudi Arabia comes to mind.

Saudi Arabia's oil giant, Aramco, is a family business, a closed shop, and remained for most of us an enigma. Saudis + Oil = Unimaginable Wealth.

In recent years, the Saudis have been acting, well, weird. In the past they would throw a bag of money here or there. They funded the mujahadeen resistance during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. When Saddam's forces invaded Kuwait and drove right up to the Saudi border, the Saudi armed forces even got involved in Desert Storm. Mostly though they've fought their battles with money. Money to help Sunni Islamist fighters wage campaigns in the Middle East. Money to buy peace from Sunni Islamists at home. Let's not forget those 9/11 hijackers, eh.

Lately, though, they've been a little goofier than normal. They've become hyper-sensitive to Iran, their Shiite Muslim rival. Prince Bandar bin Sultan went positively ballistic when Obama refused to commit ground troops to overthrow Assad in Syria. That, by some accounts, seemed to have led to the organization and funding of this new ground force, the Islamic State, ISIS.

Around the same time the Saudis launched a bloody but incompetent air war in Yemen. The Saudi air force was ostensibly fighting in support of the ousted Sunni leader of Yemen by attacking rebel (Shiite) Houthi villages with American-made cluster bombs but that never managed to stop the Houthis who were simultaneously fighting both al Qaeda and ISIS fighters who had taken up residence in Yemen.

Meanwhile Saudi Arabia began stocking up with massive amounts of new military hardware of virtually every description short of fleet aircraft carriers. Tanks, Canadian death wagons, artillery, helicopters, jets and stockpiles of weapons to fire/drop from them.

Then came the crash in world oil prices as supply flooded the market, creating a glut of cheap oil. It was thought that the Saudi royals were trying to re-assert their dominance by undermining rival producers in Russia, the US (and Canada), while impeding the restoration of Shiite Iran's oil industry.

Now there's a move to privatize at least part of Aramco. It's believed that a 5% share could provide the Saudis with the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. The Saudis have stated a desire to break their country's addiction to an oil economy.

There's been an element of flailing to all of this, as though the Saudis were desperate to land some knock-out punch at least somewhere. It just made no sense. There was no immediate threat to Saudi security or sovereignty on the horizon so why all the bellicose maneuvering?

One of the lesser known causes of war is what I call the "while we still can" or "before it gets any worse" argument.  One situation is an arms race in which one side is perhaps being overtaken by a rival and can't find a way to stay ahead. It may then decide to attack its ascendant rival while it still can, before it loses its fleeting advantage.

Do the Saudis feel insecure, vulnerable?   Perhaps they should. Moody's this week downgraded the Saudi state's credit rating.
(link is external) 
“A combination of lower growth, higher debt levels and smaller domestic and external buffers leave the Kingdom less well positioned to weather future shocks,” Moody’s said in a note.

According to Business Insider(link is external), the Saudis have been burning through their mountain of cash.

Saudi Arabia is talking to international banks to start arranging a sovereign debt issue.

The size of the bond was not specified in the report.

The bond isn't the first round of borrowing for Saudi Arabia this year, as the country burns through its cash pile.

In April Saudi Arabia raised a $10 billion ($6.85 billion) bond from JPMorgan, HSBC and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in the form of a five-year loan, which was over-subscribed.

This loan will increase Saudi Arabia's debt levels from 7% of GDP in 2015 to 50% of GDP by 2020.

Saudi Arabia is desperate for cash because it is still heavily dependent on oil to bring in revenue.

No wonder the Saudis are keen to begin liquidating their oil reserves. They're cash strapped. Yet that begs the question of why the Saudis are buying such massive amounts of weaponry unless they intend to put them to good use against, oh I don't know, Iran?

India Clocks All-Time Heat Record - 51C

The past few years have seen something we never heard of before - temperatures breaking 50 degrees Celsius. A town in the Indian state of Rajasthan set an all time Indian record of 51C yesterday. That's about 124 Fahrenheit, sort of like sitting in a hot car on an 80F summer day with the windows up.  How bad is it?

Shiv Prakash Chanda, who works as a nursing officer in the [Phalodi] hospital, said: “It is incredibly hot. None of the air-conditioners or coolers are working. We have running water, but the water is stored in tanks on top the buildings, and when it comes out of the tap the water is so hot that you can’t even wash your hands with it. You can’t even go to the toilet.”

Ranjeet Singh, a local police constable, said: “The ground is so hot, you could cook chapatis on it.”

The heatwaves that have been rocking south Asia for weeks have been compounded by widespread, severe drought. There's no water for crops, no water for livestock. Armed guards have been posted on dams to protect what water remains for the needs of towns and villages.

It's not the heat, it's the humidity. There's some truth to that old saw. There's this thing called "wet bulb temperature" that is a formula involving air temperature, air pressure and relative humidity. It's all on a sliding scale. The oft-quoted magic number is 35C wet bulb. When the temperature hits 35 and the humidity is high enough what happens is that the body can no longer cool itself through perspiration and respiration. You literally cook and you're dead. 35C wet bulb is considered to be not survivable even by a young, healthy and fit person.  If you're older, not perfectly healthy and less than ideally fit, you'll be gone long before you reach 35C wet bulb.

For south Asia, relief is on its way - finally - in the form of the annual Monsoon rains that are already causing flooding in Sri Lanka and are expected to reach southern India early next month.

Israeli Defence Minister Quits. Says Extremists Have Taken Over Netanyahu Government. Who Knew?

Slick is not going to want to hear this. After pointlessly backing the Tory motion to censure the BDS, Boycott/Divest/Sanction movement aimed at fighting back against Israeli persecution of its Palestinian captives, Israel's defence minister leaves Justin looking like a chump.

Israel's defence minister resigned Friday, saying extremists had taken over the country, after he clashed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the army's handling of a wave of Palestinian violence.

Moshe Yaalon said he no longer had any trust in Netanyahu after the hawkish premier offered his post to a hardliner loathed by the Palestinians, in a bid to expand the governing coalition's majority.

The surprise move by the respected former armed forces chief follows a series of disputes over the military's values and role in society between ministers in Netanyahu's government and top generals backed by Yaalon.

Yaalon's resignation came two days after former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said he could bring his far-right Yisrael Beitenu party into Netanyahu's governing coalition if a number of conditions were met, including his being named defence minister.

Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party pressed talks with Yisrael Beitenu on Friday on the terms of a deal to boost the coalition's wafer-thin majority in parliament.

Yaalon's resignation does not take effect for two days and, hours after it was announced, he warned in a broadcast address of a rising tide of extremism in the ruling Likud party and the country as a whole.

"Extremist and dangerous elements have taken over Israel and the Likud and are threatening (society)," he said in Hebrew.