Thursday, April 30, 2009

Know Your Limit - A Trillion Tonnes. Global Warming Gets New Metrics.

Climate scientists have come up with a new approach to measuring anthropogenic (man-made) global warming. They've worked out the maximum quantity of carbon dioxide we can cram into our atmosphere if we have any hope of staying within the 2-degree celsius target. It's a trillion tonnes.

Now that's not another trillion tonnes, but a trillion tonnes all in. A second study just released puts the ceiling at 0.9 trillion tonnes. From the Environmental News Network:

Rather than basing negotiations on short-term goals such as emission rates by a given year, the researchers say the atmosphere can be regarded as a tank of finite size which we must not overfill if we want to avoid a dangerous temperature rise.

Climate policy has traditionally concentrated on cutting emission rates by a given year, such as 2020 or 2050, without placing these goals within the overall context of needing to limit cumulative emissions.

...The first study, led by Myles Allen from the University of Oxford, UK, found that releasing a total of one trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere between 1750 and 2500 would cause a "most likely" peak warming of two degrees Celsius. Emissions to 2008 have already released half of this.

Allen said in a press briefing this week (27 April): "It took 250 years to burn the first half trillion tonnes and, on current predictions, we'll burn the next half trillion in less than 40 years."

David Frame, a co-author of the Allen paper and researcher at the University of Oxford, said that these findings make the problem "simpler" than it's often portrayed.

"[The findings] treat these emissions ... as an exhaustible resource. For economists, this way of looking at the problem will be a huge simplification," Frame said.

"Basically, if you burn a tonne of carbon today, then you can't burn it tomorrow've got a finite stock. It's like a tank that's emptying far too fast for comfort. If country A burns it, country B can't. It forces everyone to consider the problem as a whole."

What's not mentioned directly in the article is the enormously powerful significance of a global ceiling on carbon emissions - rationing. It makes possible arguments we haven't heard much of before. For example, we've got around 6.7-billion people today. If we allocate the remaining half-trillion tonnes on a per capita formula it would be disastrous for the industrialized nations. Even under an international cap and trade system, carbon quotas could become enormously expensive. It brings to mind the situation in California where farmers with water quotas choose to simply sell their quotas to desperate municipalities and give up farming altogether.

I expect these studies could be right. After all, there has to be some limit to the atmospheric emissions the earth can sustain. Everybody pretty much already knows that. But to put a number on it gives the debate an entirely new dimension, a clear yardstick against which each nation can be measured and, in seeking co-operation, clarity could be toxic.

What's Going on With CanWest?

Is it just me? I can't open the web sites for any of the CanWest papers - NaPo, VanSun, OtCitz - the whole bundle.

Every other news site opens just fine. Anyone else having this problem?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Don't Count on America to Save The World

The Europeans may be stumbling along independently but the rest of the world, including the three guys who pass themselves off as Canada's political leaders, waits for America to take the lead in the fight against anthropogenic global warming.

Brian Mulroney, to his credit and to what ought to be Canada's embarrassment, was the last Canadian prime minister to seriously embrace environmentalism. His counterpart, Margaret Thatcher, was the first British prime minister to really take global warming seriously.

Canada signed on to the Kyoto Accords and then pretty much put the freshly inked document in some cabinet in Ottawa to gather dust. I'm willing to cut the Libs a good deal of slack. It took time to get Kyoto ratified and, when they took over from Mulroney, they were left to save a nation staring into an abyss of debt and deficits.

Then along came Big Oil's own Stephen Harper who derided Kyoto as a "socialist plot" to effect a massive transfer of wealth. I guess we have to thank everybody's Gods that Harper wasn't from tobacco country or we might be selling cigarettes in elementary schools today. Harper knew the strongest bond he had to his American idols, Messrs. Bush and Cheney, was the Athabasca Tar Sands, a mega project that was the key to Canada's ascent to energy superpowerdom, a dream that would never be fulfilled if Kyoto was enforced.

Steve might not have delivered a majority government to his Conservative Party but he certainly ran interference for Big Oil for more than three years until the rival Liberal Party could come up with its own Athabasca-friendly leader.

When it comes to the global warming issue both Messrs. Harper and Ignatieff (along with their pound hound "Scrappy Jack") have been playing it safe. Iggy, oblivious or indifferent to the distinction between 'informed' and 'misinformed,' has even pronounced that an informed Canadian public has said "no" to carbon taxes and that's an end to the idea. So our (giggle) leaders have decided to await their climate change cues from Washington where, curiously enough, the people with actual ideas now reside while Ottawa remains an empty vessel.

But don't count on America to lead the world out of this mess. There's more than enough opposition in Congress, generously egged on by the Carbon Lobby, to thwart any meaningful action to even marginally reduce America's overall carbon emissions. R.J. Samuelson, writing in today's Washington Post, says the best-possible scenario still sees emissions growing through 2030.

Re-engineering the world energy system seems an almost impossible undertaking. Just consider America's energy needs in 2030, as estimated by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Compared with 2007, the United States is projected to have almost 25 percent more people (375 million), an economy about 70 percent larger ($20 trillion) and 27 percent more light-duty vehicles (294 million). Energy demand will be strong.

But the EIA also assumes greater conservation and use of renewables. From 2007 to 2030, solar power grows 18 times, wind six times. New cars and light trucks get 50 percent better gas mileage. Light bulbs and washing machines become more efficient. Higher energy prices discourage use; by 2030, oil is $130 a barrel in today's dollars. For all that, U.S. CO2 emissions in 2030 are projected to be 6.2 billion metric tons, 4 percent higher than in 2007. As an example, solar and wind together would still supply only about 5 percent of electricity, because they must expand from a tiny base.

If Samuelson is right and this is America's bottom line on global warming, start investing in those companies that want to put huge mirrors in the upper atmosphere. Because if America takes this position it's going to be almost impossible to get China and India to slash their carbon output. The fate of the world is very much in the hands of those three nations.

If Washington isn't going to take the lead someone else has to and in North America, that comes down to Canada. We have to at least try to lead by example or else accept our fate and the far worse fate we've bequeathed to our children and grandchildren. This is a moment in which we need the strongest possible leadership and it's nowhere to be found.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Republicans' Tortured Logic

The Republican leadership, or what's left of it, has gone off the deep end in its response to the Bush administration torture memos. They all follow the same predictable, even hackneyed pattern we've seen so often over the past eight years. First deny and then justify and attack your critics.

The denial at first was a blanket, "America doesn't torture" rebuttal. Oh there might have been a couple of waterboardings but no biggie because America doesn't torture. Now that we learn that one Qaeda operative was waterboarded a mind-boggling 183-times in the span of two months that story has moved on down the denial line.

Now the denial tactic is to claim that waterboarding isn't torture anyway. They point to the SERE programme, an acronym that stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, in which some military personnel experience waterboarding - sort of. It's the "sort of" that's overlooked although it reflects the difference between being shot with a gun or shot with a water pistol.

I watched the Vanity Fair clip of Chris Hitchens enduring a staggering 10-seconds of waterboarding and it drove home how what Hitchens experienced was nothing remotely like waterboarding. Yes he was strapped to his board. Yes they put a towel over his face. Yes they poured water onto the towel. But Hitchens trial by torture didn't begin to resemble what the al-Qaeda suspects received.

The essence of torture is to make the subject helpless. All power passes to his tormenter. The victim has no control. His fate is totally in the torturer's hands. The victim is psychologically prepared for the experience - incarceration, isolation, beatings, stress positions, deprivations and abuse of all varieties. By the time he comes before his torturer he's been well and truly tuned up. He never knows when his ordeal will end nor does he know how it will end, whether he will even survive.

Hitchens, like the US military's SERE students, were never placed in that position of desperate helplessness. They knew they were there to experience something, to become somewhat familiar with some aspects of it, but never to truly endure it. Hitchens, for example, never lost control, not for a second. He was given a safe word, 'red.' As soon as he said the word the demonstration (the name actually used by his instructors) would immediately stop. He was given two metal rods, one for each hand, that he merely needed to drop and that would also bring the demonstration to an immediate end.

What the Republicans say their own military personnel experience and what the Republican leadership and functionaries inflicted on their captives were as night and day. It's pure sophistry to dismiss one as the same as the other. It's a cowardly, baldfaced lie.

Those more directly in the spotlight, Dick Cheney and former CIA Director Porter Goss, are playing a different game. In a wicked double-team, Cheney is calling for the release of sensitive CIA reports while Goss attacks Obama for exposing the CIA's secrets to America's enemies. This is truly standing logic on its head. What the government has released so far doesn't compromise the CIA's operational secrets unless it's now become a torture agency instead of an intelligence agency. However it's entirely conceivable that the reports Cheney wants made public could well expose CIA operational secrets. Once the bad guys know what the torture victim actually said and put that together with what happened, they'll know what else may be coming and what tactics they need to do to counter the threats.

I have no doubt that Cheney knows Obama can't release the reports he claims will justify his misdeeds. It's because Cheney knows it that he's challenged Obama to do it, to create his excuse. He'll be able to say that anyone prosecuting him is out on a political vendetta that has nothing to do with the waterboarding. Which is precisely why Cheney ought to be the very first indicted. This cowardly, devious bully has done too much, dodged too much to be allowed to get away with this.

What's never mentioned by the Repugs is just what Cheney had in mind when he ordered an individual waterboarded nine score times. The veep who has never been known to be honest says he was after 'intelligence' on the terrorists and their other plots against the United States. The intense scheduling of these inquisitions, however, supports an alternate account of the whys and wherefores. This comes from the interrogators themselves who have come clean and said they were under constant and heavy pressure to extract a confession from their victims of a link between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.

And that explanation is consistent with the very nature of torture because that's what torture has always been about - manufacturing facts that didn't exist before the thumbscrews were turned. Torture is used for extracting admissions about things real or imaginary. The only thing that matters is what the torturer wants to hear, not what the subject truly knows. That's why torture is the tool of monsters and why its victims are normally executed quiety afterward.

Cheney's lies became too much for an FBI interrogator, Ali Soufan, who recently went public in The New York Times:

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use. It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.

--There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.

--One of the worst consequences of the use of these harsh techniques was that it reintroduced the so-called Chinese wall between the C.I.A. and F.B.I., similar to the communications obstacles that prevented us from working together to stop the 9/11 attacks. Because the bureau would not employ these problematic techniques, our agents who knew the most about the terrorists could have no part in the investigation. An F.B.I. colleague of mine who knew more about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed than anyone in the government was not allowed to speak to him.

False confessions, false accusations, trumped up excuses for war - a veritable vipers' nest of lies, manipulation and betrayal. And how many innocent lives have fallen victim to the connivances of these monsters?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Election Scandal Hits BC Libs

Two scandals have given the British Columbia NDP a chance to get their own back. Turns out our Solicitor General likes to speed - a lot - but isn't so keen on paying his fines. He's had to forfeit his driver's licence.

"He has to go," said Mike Farnworth.
"He is the province's top cop - the minister responsible for road safety and the enforcement of the traffic code. It is unacceptable. He has lost all credibility."

And then there's Mission candidate Marc Dalton and the matter of an e-mail he sent a decade ago that seems to equate homosexuality with pornography.

In an interview, he said his views have changed over the years and that, in any event, he would not impose his views on the public should he be elected an MLA.

"Yes. I have changed. Why? I have gotten older. I've become more open minded. That's where I am as life progresses," he said. "I've changed in the sense of tolerance."

Unlike NDP leader Carol James who pretty much dumped Ray Lam cold after two embarrassing photos came out on Facebook, Premier Gordo Campbell - very much a sinner himself - has decided he'll stand by his man, er men.

Yeah, But It's Still Toronto

Sometimes it's hard for other Canadians to give Torontonians their due but, an experiment conducted by the Toronto Star did find they're remarkably honest.

The paper dropped 20 wallets with identical contents at various spots in the Toronto area. 15 were returned and the paper is trying to get back to two other callers who've said they've found wallets.

Only three wallets have disappeared without a trace. One, it seems, had been dropped in the prestigious Osgoode Hall Law Library. Two others were returned sans the money that had been inside. One of those had been dropped in the lobby of the Globe & Mail.

So, fair enough, Torontonians are genuinely an honest bunch. Now, if they just weren't from Toronto they might even be likeable.

Alberta - You're Number One!

Not that being the top of The Guardian's "most viewed" stories list is really something to brag about. Not when that numero uno story is about the environmental catastrophe called the Athabasca Tar Sands. Not when that Tar Sands story is about how the government needed a promo video showing a beautiful, pristine seaside beach.

Seaside Beach? Wait a minute, when did landlocked Alberta get any kind of seaside? From The Guardian:

"We think it's quite funny - a landlocked province in Canada presenting an image of itself as an island," said Sheelagh Caygill of Northumberland Tourism, which is now fondly hoping to piggy-back on the international campaign. News of the gaffe is spreading like wildfire on the internet with tags such as: "Come to Alberta - no, wait, it's Britain."

The curious choice of a seaside beach for a place which has none, was spotted by Peter Bailey, a Canadian looking for places to take his dinghy. He initially thought that the scene might be set on one of Alberta's many lakes, whose sandy shores and unpolluted water are important to the tourism drive.

Oil extraction is concentrated in Alberta's Oil Sands region, which include landscapes vaguely similar to Northumberland's unspoilt coast. But Bailey tracked down the real setting - halfway between the drama of Bamburgh castle and the kipper-smoking village of Craster - after a marathon email session with the Canadian government, tourist authorities and their PR advisers.

Ottawa has responded by suggesting that the choice of Northumberland symbolised the fact that "Albertans are a worldly people". Tom Olsen, head of media relations for Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper, said: "There's no attempt to mislead here. The picture used just fitted the mood and tone of what we were trying to do."

I suppose Exalted Furious Leader really didn't intend to make himself and his home province the laughingstock of Britain. As for the atrociously lame excluse that Albertans are a worldly people? Maybe, that is if you could find an alternative world where everyone had ginormous-assed pickup trucks and drove as though red lights were just one man's opinion.

Friday, April 24, 2009

They've Known All Along - Denialist Lobby Scam Exposed

They called themselves the "Global Climate Coalition," a group of climate experts who represented the fossil fuel industry and their message was clear: "The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood."

But, within their closed ranks they understood well enough to write this in an internal memo from 1995: "The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.”

Cannot be denied, it seems, was subject to interpretation depending on who was paying and how much. From The New York Times:

The coalition was financed by fees from large corporations and trade groups representing the oil, coal and auto industries, among others. In 1997, the year an international climate agreement that came to be known as the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated, its budget totaled $1.68 million, according to tax records obtained by environmental groups.

Throughout the 1990s, when the coalition conducted a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign challenging the merits of an international agreement, policy makers and pundits were fiercely debating whether humans could dangerously warm the planet.

Today, with general agreement on the basics of warming, the debate has largely moved on to the question of how extensively to respond to rising temperatures.George Monbiot, a British environmental activist and writer, said that by promoting doubt, industry had taken advantage of news media norms requiring neutral coverage of issues, just as the tobacco industry once had.

“They didn’t have to win the argument to succeed,” Mr. Monbiot said, “only to cause as much confusion as possible.”

They weren't mistaken. They knew the truth, knew it was undeniable, and then proceeded to line their pockets by denying it. Who can tell just how much damage these bastards have done, how many lives will be needlessly lost to their perfidy, how much suffering they and their patrons have inflicted.

Read more here:

All in Good Fun?

It's become a popular cartoon in Israel - Ahmed and Salim. The South Park-style characters spend their days playing computer games and posting rude messages on Facebook. In the afternoons, however the Arab brothers always find time to bomb buses, gun down Israeli girls and incinerate cafes.

What is this, Rin & Stimpy Wage Jihad?

Since posting this I checked out a couple of other episodes of this on YouTube. They really are pretty racist and are definitely designed to dehumanize Arabs.

Aw, Grandpa! Another McCain Senior's Moment

Poor old John McCain, getting dumber by the day.

Yesterday, on FOX News, McCain came to the defence of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's gaffe about 9/11 terrorists entering the United States through Canada. Even though Napolitano had already apologized for her mistake, it didn't stop McCain from putting both left feet in his mouth: "Well, some of the 9/11 hijackers did come through Canada, as you know."

Coming from a guy who believes Shiite Iran fosters Sunni al-Qaeda and that Iraq borders Afghanistan and that the American economy should be entrusted to Phil Gramm, I guess this delusion is to be expected.

Thank god this guy didn't become president.

Somebody Please - Conduct a Poll So Harper Knows What to Do on Khadr

The Harpies have been up and down like a toilet seat at a frat house party over whether they'll appeal a Federal Court directive that they get off their swollen backsides and stand up for Omar Khadr, the Canadian child soldier abused by his American captors at Guantanimo.

Yesterday, Foreign Affairs min Cannon told the Commons the Harpies wouldn't be pushed around by any damned judge or any damned laws or even what is just plain right and would appeal the ruling. Then they said they might not, then they would, then maybe not. Naturally nobody thought to flush.

Late yesterday, CBC News got the word from Cannon's office that the appeal was definitely "on." Today CBC News got the word from the office of the Exalted Furious Leader that his minions will be "reviewing the decision" and then deciding whether to appeal.

Can't somebody simply conduct a poll so these buttheads can figure out what to do?

In Canada, Britain's Prime Minister Could Be a Dead Man

British PM Gordon Brown had better keep his temper on his own side of the Atlantic. Over here, we kill men for less. From The Guardian:

The strain shows, say current and former Brown aides: among other things, it has inflamed a temper that has always been the subject of gallows humour among those who work with him.

The prime minister, 58, has hurled pens and even a stapler at aides, according to one; he also says he once saw the leader of Britain's 61 million people shove a laser printer off a desk in a rage.

Another aide was warned to watch out for "flying Nokias" when he joined Brown's team.

Pens and a staper, even cell phones? In Canada this guy would be dead meat. He'd be Tasered straight into the Afterlife or, as it's known at "A" Division headquarters, given "The Full Mountie."

The Right's Psychoses - An Epidemic?

Why has America's Right turned psychotic? Seriously, they're mentally ill. They've lost contact with reality. From Boehner to Limbaugh, Hannity to Beck, these people are babbling on about things that have no grounding in reality. This is the level of rationality you sometimes get from strange folks in torn clothes on street corners in big cities. This is truly the Tinfoil Hat Brigade.

From Wiki:

People experiencing psychosis may report hallucinations or delusional beliefs, and may exhibit personality changes and disorganized thinking. This may be accompanied by unusual or bizarre behavior, as well as difficulty with social interaction and impairment in carrying out the activities of daily living.

Consider a sobbing Glenn Beck leading a taxpayer revolt with the unfortunate name of "teabagging" against a president who is cutting taxes for 95 per cent of the population. If the people who embrace Beck's lunacy aren't themselves delusional, cut off from reality, then reality has ceased to exist.

Bill Maher wrote this in today's Los Angeles Times:

The conservative base is absolutely apoplectic because, because ... well, nobody knows. They're mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore. Even though they're not quite sure what "it" is. But they know they're fed up with "it," and that "it" has got to stop.

Here are the big issues for normal people: the war, the economy, the environment, mending fences with our enemies and allies, and the rule of law.

And here's the list of Republican obsessions since President Obama took office: that his birth certificate is supposedly fake, he uses a teleprompter too much, he bowed to a Saudi guy, Europeans like him, he gives inappropriate gifts, his wife shamelessly flaunts her upper arms, and he shook hands with Hugo Chavez and slipped him the nuclear launch codes.

Do these sound like the concerns of a healthy, vibrant political party?

...It's sad what's happened to the Republicans. They used to be the party of the big tent; now they're the party of the sideshow attraction, a socially awkward group of mostly white people who speak a language only they understand. Like Trekkies, but paranoid.

...That's what you are, the bitter divorced guy whose country has left him -- obsessing over it, haranguing it, blubbering one minute about how much you love it and vowing the next that if you cannot have it, nobody will.But it's been almost 100 days, and your country is not coming back to you. She's found somebody new. And it's a black guy.

The healthy thing to do is to just get past it and learn to cherish the memories. You'll always have New Orleans and Abu Ghraib.

These lunatics are so missing the point. The Right's flight out of reality isn't Obama's doing, it's Bush's doing - well Bush and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center were sufficiently traumatic as to leave many Americans a tad unhinged and unable to defend their connection with reality. They no longer discerned, they believed. They believed what they were told by George w. Bush, by Dick Cheney, and by the rightwing media types such as Limbaugh, Hannity and O'Reilly. They wrapped themselves up in a shroud of deception woven by these characters and remained there huddled against the chill of their fears. Reality was uncertainty, a discomfort to be avoided. Debate was unpatriotic, dissent treasonous.

They were told that the 9/11 attacks were the failure of the Democratic president, Bill Clinton, and they believed. They were told that bin Laden's group was aided and abetted by Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and they believed. They were told that Hussein was a monster who was concealing biological, chemical, perhaps even nuclear weapons of mass destruction with which he intended to attack the American homeland either with his own long-distance weaponry or by handing the devices over to al-Qaeda, and they believed. They were told that debt didn't matter, and they believed. They were told that borrowing money from foreigners to fund tax cuts for the rich would trickle down into a new prosperity for them, and they believed. They were told that the path to security and comfort didn't depend on new, well-paid jobs but on home ownership, and they believed. They were told that their homes would just keep skyrocketing in price allowing them to fund extravagance on the equity, and they believed. They were told what to hate and who to fear and never to question their land's God-given exceptionalism, and they believed.

These people were fed an entire social and political construct that was nothing more than a manipulative diet of lies and, yes, they believed. Now that they are reaping the whirlwind of this litany of false beliefs, they're confused and outraged.

True conservative Republicans understand they have a big job ahead of them. Reagan and Nixon knew a good thing in the South when they saw it but they grabbed it without losing their support everywhere else. Bush/Cheney took 'everywhere else' for granted and, for a while, 9/11 made that possible, a real freebie. But Bush/Cheney got too dependent on the South, on the Stupid Vote and, as their numbers steadily tanked, they clung tenaciously to it once they discovered it was the only lifeboat that would have them.

The SS Republican now lies on the bottom. All that remains is that humble lifeboat with Sean Hannity at the bow and Rush Limbaugh at the helm and all those angry and confused people at the oars who don't know how to row and can't stop muttering about teabags.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Just One of My Faves

I don't have anything approaching a really extensive music library but, that said, I've got a lot and I do know what I like, even if I sometimes have to dust this stuff off to remind myself. Just in case you're not familiar with some of these wonderful artists I'm going to start posting some random picks of stuff it can't hurt you to hear. Like John Hiatt:

Best Browser? IE8, Firefox, Mozilla, Chrome?

Anyone who's read my blog knows all too well that I'm not 'up' on technology these days. I've been thinking about all the browsers that seem to be out today, including the latest Internet Explorer 8. Is there one of these that's head and shoulders over the others? Does the operating system make any difference (I'm Vista 64X).

Please let me know what you prefer and why.


FOX (Naturally) Runs Interference for Cheney

You knew this had to be coming from the network that's sure Dick Cheney's reputation needs defending more than America's.


This is why we need the CBC.

A CBC News investigation has found some older models of Tasers prove to be far more powerful, as much as 50% more, than specified. The X26 models were manufactured by Taser International before 2005. Roughly 10% of the weapons sampled proved to be excessively powerful.

Scientists who performed the tests noted that Tasers are unlike other electronic devices in that there are no international standards governing their production.

Taser International, true to form, denies everything.

Alberta ran tests that also came in with 10% results. The province has now sent the first batch of its Tasers to Ontario for testing and is moving to set up a testing facility in Alberta. It plans to eventually test all 1,100 Tasers in service in the province.

Saskatchewan Weasels Out of Greenhouse Gas Pledge

Like no one saw this coming. Hey, it's Saskatchewan, what did you expect?

The Canadian province that's doing the best during this recession says it can't afford to meet its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions 32 per cent by 2020.

The flatland province's supposed EnviroMin, Nancy Heppner, said Saskatchewan will come up with a new policy pretty soon, one that will feature Alberta-style intensity based targets. The message? Don't expect anything good from Alberta's mini-me anytime soon.

Afghanistan Stalemated

If the past eight years have taught us anything, it's that our military commanders in Afghanistan have been consistently unduly optimistic. That makes it really hard to believe American commander, Maj-Gen Michael Tucker, when he announced that our side is now in a 'stalemate' with the insurgents in the key battlefield regions of southern Afghanistan.

The problem is that, even if General Tucker is totally accurate, we're losing badly. Why? Because in this type of warfare, time is not on our side and we've squandered eight years - far more time than we ever really had - to arrive at a stalemate.

The general alluded to this when he said that a surge of foreign troops isn't really going to make much difference. From CBC News:

Asked if that would suffice, Tucker said it should because "you can only put so many foreign troops in Afghanistan." He is the deputy chief of staff for American military operations in Afghanistan.

"This country does not - they're somewhat xenophobic in that regard," Tucker said. "They don't necessarily like to have a lot of foreign troops. And so we think what we have is enough to get the job done as efficiently and as quickly as possible without breaking through some of those thresholds that they have."

Reading between the lines, all that's missing is the phrase "at this late stage." In that context it becomes, "[at this late stage] you can only put so many foreign troops in Afghanistan" and at this late stage the Afghan people are 'somewhat xenophobic' and no longer 'like to have a lot of foreign troops."

When the population turns xenophobic about foreign troops in their land to the point that you're pushing their thresholds of tolerance, you've lost the political war, the only war the Taliban are interested in winning, the only war they need to win to claim eventual victory. More troops would allow you to escalate and expand the military war, the one we've been fighting since we arrived eight years ago, but that won't decide the issue except to decide it against you.

What a godawful mess.

A Glimmer of Hope in America

There's a momentum building in some American media this morning to finally get to the bottom of who ordered the waterboarding of al Qaeda suspects and why. Best of all, those calling for an inquiry aren't looking at hapless Justice Department stooges any longer. Not any more. Now all eyes have shifted to Dick Cheney and his minions.

McClatchey Newspapers, the former Knight Ridder news service and the only American news organization to steadfastly dispute their president's lies in the runup to the invasion of Iraq, has broken the story of documents indicating that Cheney used torture in the fullest medieval sense to extract false confessions, not intelligence, and that he directed Justice Department lawyers to furnish legal opinions to suit his vile purposes. This is, of course, the same creep who pressured America's intelligence agencies to cherrypick information in order to create a warped justification for invading Iraq.

As soon as word leaked out of one al-Qaeda captive who'd been waterboarded 180 times and another who got the treatment 83 times it was obvious that his torturers and their bosses weren't after 'reliable intelligence.' They were torturing these people for the same reason the Khmer Rouge tortured their own people, for the same reason that medieval monarchs had unfortunates tortured - to extract false confessions.

Barack Obama had to have known and feared what would happen with the release of these documents. He had to have known they would shine a veritable spotlight on key players within the Bush regime. He must have feared the prospect that an investigation and prosecution, once begun, could spiral out of anyone's control and even disrupt his efforts to undo much of the damage bequeathed America by the Bush charlatans. He had to have feared the guilt, the angry recrimination and the social division this dark truth would inflict on his countrymen. What a frightening prospect for someone trying to stop a runaway locomotive.

But the deed, it appears, is done. The genie is out of the bottle. This leaves FOX and the gaggle of miscreants such as Hannity, Beck and Limbaugh no option but to make themselves look even more disingenuous, more loathsome, by denying what happened or, worse, finally trying futilely to justify it. This could be the wheel on which they too are finally broken.

There is now a glimmer of hope.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dick Cheney's Grand Inquisition. Cheney's Dirty, Rice Too.

Obama's release of CIA torture memos sent Dick Cheney and Karl Rove into full flight to FOX News studios to announce that, okay, they tortured but it was to gain important intelligence that kept America safe from further terrorist attacks.

It turns out Dick and the gang were a lot more Old School than that. They were using torture in the run up to their invasion of Iraq to get known al-Qaeda bigwigs to falsely admit to an Iraqi involvement in the terrorist movement.

You see, everyone - from the top prelates of the Spanish Inquisition to the worst monsters of the Khmer Rouge - has used torture for the same purpose, to extract confessions, false confessions. Britain's Tower of London was in that very business too. You charge somebody, torture them into confession and with a volley of a firing squad or the swoosh of a headsman's axe, all your problems are over.

Once again the story filtered out via McClatchey Newspapers and their veteran correspondent Jonathon Landay:

The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who advocated the use of sleep deprivation, isolation and stress positions and waterboarding, which simulates drowning, insist that they were legal.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.

"There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

"The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."

So what's a guy to do when he can't get his captives to volunteer any link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein? Why torture him and just keep torturing him until he says whatever you want to hear. When reports came out about people being waterboarded 180-times, it didn't make any sense. Now it does. These monsters were trying to extract false confessions to bolster their designs to wage an illegal war of aggression. The truth didn't matter. They wanted a justification as cover for an obvious war crime.

But wait, there's more! Remember those Justice Department lawyers now under the crosshairs for their memos justifying torture? McClatchey reports that newly declassified documents show these sycophants "...were operating not on their own but with direction from top administration officials, including then-Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice."

Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters that he'd "follow the evidence wherever it takes us" in deciding whether to prosecute any Bush administration officials who authorized harsh techniques that are widely considered torture.

There's no longer any cutout to protect Dick Cheney. This isn't going to wind up at a dead end with a handful of sacrificial Justice Department lawyers. Cheney was telling them what to write just as he was telling his torturers to get these captives to say what he wanted them to say. It's precisely the same way as he pressured the intelligence agencies to say what he wanted them to say too. This creep is positively medieval. There's a word for people like Dick Cheney. It's "Evil."

This isn't over, not even remotely. We're told there are more documents, more disclosures to come.

Lovelock Coming to Toronto

He's one of the foremost environmental scientists of our era, the man who literally sounded the alarm and drove the debate on global warming. Dr. James Lovelock himself is coming to Toronto on May 26 for a lecture sponsored by Corporate Knights. Tickets are $75. Details at the Corporate Knights web site -

Lovelock will be explaining the thesis of his latest book "The Vanishing Face of Gaia."

Extending an Open Hand to Hamas

Bush's idea of dealing with Hamas was to send in arms and money to spark a civil war among the Palestinians hoping to overthrow the Palestinian's democratically elected government.

Today's Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has brought Hamas a different message. Where Bush/Cheney said we won't deal with Hamas, Clinton has said we won't deal with Hamas unless...

"We will not deal with nor in any way fund a Palestinian government that includes Hamas unless and until Hamas has renounced violence, recognized Israel and agrees to follow the previous obligations of the Palestinian Authority," Clinton told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committee.

Clinton said she has made the U.S. position clear during conversations with Arab and other allies. The United States has pushed for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where an independent Palestinian state exists alongside Israel.
"We want to leave the door open" to including Hamas, Clinton said.

With that, Mrs. Clinton has very deftly put the ball right in the middle of Hamas' court.

Re Dziekanski - Elliott Has Some Explaining to Do

Earlier today I wrote an item about a curious statement RCMP Commissioner Bill Elliott made during an interview with the Toronto Star. Here's what Elliott said:

"We will make submissions to the inquiry," said Elliott. "I think it's fair to say that we will say if we had to live life over again, and I'm sure that our members would say – I've never discussed this with them because I've never discussed this incident with them – if they had to live life over again, there are things that they would do differently."

At first I thought that Elliott was saying that he'd never discussed the Dziekanski business with members of the RCMP. That sounded patently ridiculous so I concluded he must have meant that he hadn't discussed it with the four officers involved - keeping his distance so to speak in contemplation of an investigation. Then I got this comment from Dr. Dawg:

"A day after the release of an eyewitness video of the events leading up to Dziekanski's death, the RCMP commissioner called the four officers involved in the incident and expressed his support, according to the partially redacted e-mails.

"I have just now placed calls to all four members. I spoke to three of the four," Elliott wrote in an e-mail dated Nov. 15 to Gary Bass, the RCMP deputy commissioner for the Pacific region.

"I know this is tough on you and all our folks in E Division. Please be assured of my ongoing support," Elliott wrote.

One of the several troubling aspects of the Dziekanski affair has been the persistant efforts of the RCMP to mislead the Canadian public.

The CBC story revealed that, far from not talking to members about Dziekanski, Elliott moved with the speed of a veteran political functionary to bring the controversy into his Ottawa headquarters where he could institute damage control:

Dziekanski died after being zapped with a stun gun at the Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007, by RCMP officers who were called to help deal with the Polish immigrant, who apparently became agitated from spending 10 hours at the airport. From that day, RCMP e-mail exchanges obtained by access to information requests suggest the force moved quickly to create a strategy.

The strategy involved all answers being vetted in Ottawa, including ones described by RCMP Commissioner William Elliott as "tough or dirty questions" from the media.

You can read the entire CBC News report from last July, here:

This erases any remaining doubt that Elliott was and is directly and fully responsible for the way the RCMP misled the Canadian public and our media. It's time he moved on.

Moonwalker to US Government - Bring Out the Little Green Men

Okay, he has a PhD in aeronautics and 'astronautics' from MIT. And okay, he was an astronaut and he did walk on the surface of the moon and holds the record for the duration of his moonwalk.

I get all that BUT the guy's from Roswell, New Mexico!

Former Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell has added his voice to the chorus saying that alien life does exist and that his government should stop the cover-up. From The Guardian:

"We are being visited," he said. "It is now time to put away this embargo of truth about the alien presence. I call upon our government to open up ... and become a part of this planetary community that is now trying to take our proper role as a spacefaring civilisation."

Growing up in Roswell, New Mexico - where some UFO experts believe a crash took place in 1947 – Mitchell said residents of the town "had been hushed and told not to talk about their experience by military authorities" and were told they would suffer "dire consequences" if they did.

Residents relayed eyewitness accounts of alien sightings to him because they "didn't want to go to the grave with their story. They wanted to tell somebody reliable. And being a local boy and having been to the moon, they considered me reliable enough to whisper in my ear their particular story."

RCMP Commish Didn't Discuss Dziekanski?

The RCMP's new Tory boss, Commissioner Bill Elliot, gave an interview to the Toronto Star in which he's quoted as making this curious statement about the Tasering death of Robert Dziekanski:

"We will make submissions to the inquiry," said Elliott. "I think it's fair to say that we will say if we had to live life over again, and I'm sure that our members would say – I've never discussed this with them because I've never discussed this incident with them – if they had to live life over again, there are things that they would do differently."

Bill Elliott has never discussed the Dziekanski killing with members of his very own RCMP? That strikes me as quite astonishing in that this one incident has brought international disgrace on his force and has plainly undermined the public's support and trust in the RCMP.
I hope what Elliott is trying to say is that he hasn't discussed the incident with the four officers directly involved.

"Frankly, as commissioner of the RCMP I'm concerned about our officers not using enough force and putting themselves in danger."

Elliott acknowledged he is concerned about the "potential" erosion of public confidence in the RCMP, insisting he doesn't take Canadians' support "for granted."

But, citing anecdotal evidence, he said he does not believe the Dziekanski affair or all the scrutiny on the RCMP's use of Tasers has significantly damaged people's confidence in the national police force.

Asked if part of the problem for the RCMP has been its refusal to admit any mistakes were made, Elliott said: "Well, maybe it is."

If Elliott hasn't spoken to serving members of the RCMP about the homicide of Robert Dziekanski, it's pretty obvious that he hasn't bothered to find out what the Canadian people think either. Throughout this sorry business, Commissioner Elliott has seemed contentedly oblivious, even indifferent. Someone needs to remind him of "the buck stops here" rule. It was very much Commissioner Elliott's RCMP that continued to insist on its bogus account of what actually happened until it backed down and apologized just this past Monday. Elliott needs to figure out that the responsibility for having misled the public is first and foremost his own.

The Sad State of America's Supreme Court

There was a time when American courts thought the American Consitution defended 13-year old girls against strip searches by overeager school officials. Then George w. Bush stacked his country's highest court with uber-right zealots. The result? Dahlia Lithwick, writing in Slate, says that's all going to change today:

After [yesterday's] argument, it's plain the court will overturn a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion finding a school's decision to strip-search a 13-year-old girl unconstitutional. That the school in question was looking for a prescription pill with the mind-altering force of a pair of Advil—and couldn't be bothered to call the child's mother first—hardly matters.

...even if you were never a 13-year-old girl yourself, if you have a daughter or niece, you might see the humiliation in pulling a middle-school honor student with no history of disciplinary problems out of class, based on an uncorroborated tip that she was handing out prescription ibuprofen. You might think it traumatic that she was forced to strip down to her underclothes and pull her bra and underwear out and shake them in front of two female school employees. No drugs were found. But even those justices lacking a daughter, a niece, or a uterus had access to an amicus brief in this case documenting the fact that student strip searches "can result in serious emotional damage" and that student victims of strip searches "often cannot concentrate in school, and, in many cases, transfer or even drop out." Savana Redding, herself a data point, described the search as "the most humiliating experience" of her life. Then she dropped out of school. And five years later, at age 19, she gets to listen in on oral argument in Porky's 3: The Supreme Court Says "Panties." recent years, the high court has slowly chipped away at the privacy rights of students—frequently based on the rationale that there were drugs!!! Somewhere in America!!! Drugs!!! Creating danger!!! (This led an annoyed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to dissent in a recent case that the court was peddling "nightmarish images of out-of-control flatware, livestock run amok, and colliding tubas" to justify drug tests for any student with a pulse. )

Ah, bless Ruth Bader Ginsburg. With Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas wiping their jackboots on America's consitution at every opportunity, Barack Obama needs to take back the keys to what's become America's Supreme Court clown car.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Open Letter to Michael Ignatieff

What follows is a letter I sent by e-mail today to the Liberal Party Leader, Michael Ignatieff. I will promptly post any reply he may chose to make.

Dear Mr. Ignatieff.

Congratulations on the success you're showing. It looks as though you have a fairly good chance at becoming the next prime minister.

I'm writing because I'm troubled by a couple of aspects of your leadership that, for the only time in more than 40-years, are undermining my ability to support the Liberal Party. I know that I'm not alone in these concerns.

I gravely dislike your tendency, when you get on the wrong side of an issue, to dismiss your critics or impugn their motives. You did this when you had to retreat from your support for the totally illegal conquest of Iraq. More recently you did this same thing on the Tar Sands. After declaring the Tar Sands the cornerstone of Canadian prosperity for the 21st century and a key to national unity itself, you smeared Tar Sands critics within the Liberal ranks as being anti-Alberta. Do you really believe that is the only motivation anyone could have for being steadfastly opposed to the Tar Sands? Your blithe suggestion that environmental concerns relating to the Tar Sands were a mere matter of carbon emission controls betrayed either a grave lack of understanding or an indifference to this environmental disaster.

Mr. Ignatieff, our country and our world are facing enormous problems. When you were born the earth's population was about two million. Today it's nearly seven and headed within just a few decades to somewhere in the high nines. As the experts say, we've exceeded our carrying capacity. We're eating our seed corn. Our global, ecological deficit is manifest in our collapsed fisheries, spreading deforestation, species extinction, desertification and salination of coastal regions, resource exhaustion, a looming and global freshwater crisis, air, water and land contamination and global security threats from terrorism to nuclear proliferation to disease migration.

Canada is blessed. The worst of these impacts are being felt elsewhere but they are spreading, in some cases quite rapidly, and their reach is global. Yet we're focused on but one problem - global warming and, even on that, we're not getting beyond the talking phase. As Jared Diamond explains in his excellent book Collapse it does mankind little good to solve one of these problems. Each and every one of them must be solved if it is not to present an existential threat.

There are organizations that take this very seriously even if their political masters do not. Among them are the Pentagon and the British Ministry of Defence. On the CBC programme Ideas, Gwynne Dyer presented many of their voices in a 3-part series entitled Climate Wars. If you genuinely care about Canada and our children's future, you need to listen to these. You'll find them at this link:

There's really nothing new in them except for one thing. Dyer explains, very convincingly explains, how the prospects of getting the necessary international consensus to respond to our problems is going to be derailed by war. In fact, the odds of this happening are very high. That is because some very large and very powerful nations feed their people from farmland irrigated by glacier-fed rivers. The stability of China and India very much depends on the Himalayan glaciers and those are right now in full retreat. Not only will water shortages destabilize China and India but they will put them at odds with their respective neighbours, Russia and Pakistan. One thing all four of those nations have in common is that each fields a nuclear arsenal. I assume you have a working knowledge of the theories of nuclear escalation and what is commonly known as nuclear winter so I won't go into them here.

History abounds with nations or tribes that have collapsed when they're suddenly overtaken by an inability to feed their people. One of Dyer's guests familiar with these things says that each of these entities had one thing in common. When their resources became inadequate, they attacked their neighbours. Wars of subsistence at times transform into wars of extermination.

But Dyer's series isn't entirely negative, not at all. He concludes that we need to get off fossil fuels now. Not sometime later in this century but now. Then his guests go on to describe alternate energy sources that are both practical and affordable and either non-carbon emitting or carbon neutral that are proven and available today. Two powerful forces stand in the way. One is obstruction by the fossil fuel industry. The other is an absence of political leadership. One who foresees projects such as the Tar Sands continuing through the 21st century would seem to fall into that second category.

For the sake of Canada and the sake of our children and their children, I would ask you to listen to those radio documentaries and use them to inform your opinion. You seek the position to lead our country into the future. The Climate War broadcasts show the leadership we need so urgently if we are to have a future and what probably lies in store in just a decade or two if we don't get it. I urge you to visit these issues not as an annoyance or a burdensome obligation but as a genuine opportunity, perhaps the best you will ever have, to become the great leader Canada needs at this very moment in time.

Thank you for giving this your consideration.


Obama Keeps Door Open on Torture Prosecutions

Barack Obama says it's up to his attorney-general to decide whether to prosecute the directing minds behind the CIA's torture of suspected terrorists. From BBC:

US President Barack Obama has left open the possibility of prosecuting officials who wrote CIA memos allowing harsh interrogation methods.

...the president's comments marked a change of tone amid growing pressure from the Democratic Party not to rule out potential prosecutions.

They reflect the increasingly complex political situation around the decision to release the memos, he says.

"With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws," Mr Obama said.

He also said he could support a congressional investigation of the issue if it was conducted in a bipartisan way.

Clearly Obama has yielded to unexpected outpouring of anger, even outrage, at the announcement by his chief of staff on Sunday that the president would not allow anyone to be prosecuted, including those who gave the orders to torture. It's obvious that he's aware of the danger of the Repugs rallying to defend their own and, if necessary, making martyrs out of them.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Chrysler's Problems - Boardroom Not Shop Floor

There's been no end of bitching lately about the stubborness of Chrysler's union employees in resisting the concessions demanded by Italian automaker FIAT. But when it comes to the automaker's downfall, there's plenty of blame to spread around and a lot of it goes straight up to the boardroom.

The Washington Post is reporting that Chrysler Financial's top brass turned their noses up to a $750-million loan package from the US government because, "executives didn't want to abide by new federal limits on pay."

The government had been offering the loan earlier this month as part of its efforts to prop up the ailing auto industry, including Chrysler, which is racing to avoid bankruptcy. Chrysler Financial is a vital lender to Chrysler dealerships and customers.

In forgoing the loan, Chrysler Financial opted to use more expensive financing from private banks, adding to the burdens of the already fragile automaker and its financing company.

A Self-Fulfilling Nightmare?

The advent of cell phone cameras may have ushered in a new dynamic in the relationship between police and the public.

In Western societies, law enforcement by police depends largely on voluntary compliance. Cops generally expect a significant level of obedience from the citizenry. That's reflected in criminal laws prohibiting us from obstructing police officers. OPO can definitely land you in jail. But surely our cooperation with our police is based more on our respect for them than fear of punishment for disobedience. I think most cops are all too well aware of that.

What happens, then, when the population comes to lose that respect for the police, when that essential trust in their legitimacy and intentions falters? For most of my life I held the RCMP in high esteem but no longer. The majority of the people I speak with seem to feel at least somewhat the same way.

Once that trust is gone, what remains? What else is there but fear or at least some mild apprehension? That's a pretty dramatic shift from a positive to a negative relationship. It seems to me that fear of another person is like a petrie dish to grow anger, resentment, even hostility.

Back when most people respected the cops there was a small minority who simply loathed them and wished them ill. Surely this breakdown in the public's relationship with our police has to have swelled those ranks.

And how does this play out from the cops' perspective? It can't be morale building to feel the chill coming from the man on the street. They must know that hidden among the ranks of the law abiding there is now a larger group that wishes them ill. Can that do anything but increase their own fear of the civilian community?

Our police live in fear and they let us know it. Even in the quietest, most peaceful little town, the cop who sits down in Tim Horton's has a state of the art pistol at his side, mace in his belt and a bulky bulletproof vest protecting his vital organs from threats unseen. He might even have a Taser in his arsenal.

Somehow over the past couple of decades we've transformed cops from law enforcement officers into urban combat warriors. There's something chilling about seeing a riot shotgun clipped into the front seat of a cruiser as though the occupant was on his way to the OK Corral.

It's bad enough that more of us are coming to distrust, some even fear our police but it's worse yet when we're reminded so vividly that these guys with all the firepower fear and distrust us. That can readily cause some of them to overreact, some of which will be caught on a passerby's cell phone camera, that will heighten our distrust in and fear of the cops, and on and on it goes.

While doing my undergrad studies in the states, twice I was pulled over by traffic cops while riding my motorcycle to school. Both stops were over very petty matters. Neither resulted in so much as a ticket. But on both occasions the cop approached me with a drawn pistol. Maybe the Canadian flag I'd sewn on the back of my jacket when I rode through Europe somehow alarmed these people. Their drawn guns sure as hell alarmed me. But that was a particularly bad time for the cops in that area, a number of them had been shot, and they had grown very fearful of the public. This is how the cycle seems to work.

This is an ideal opportunity to nip this in the bud, so to speak. The remedy lies with the police themselves. They need to find a new way of interacting with the public, one that understands some civilian might be recording just about everything they do. I don't suggest they all don sackcloth and ashes but I do think they need to reach out the Canadian people, acknowledge that they need to change and, above all else, convince us to again give them our trust and support.

George Will, Peggy Noonan - Torture Is Something You Do Really Quietly, Now Move Along

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Vancouver Dipper Dumb As A Post

If you want to become a member of the legislative assembly it helps if you don't post pictures of yourself with your pants down on Facebook. From the G&M:

“An issue was made regarding inappropriate material on my private Facebook page,” Ray Lam, NDP candidate for Vancouver False-Creek, said Sunday night in a statement.

“I regret this material and the associated comments that have now become public.

“I do not want this to be a distraction in the election campaign and have advised the party that I am stepping down.”

Is this guy really so stupid that he didn't realize that anything you post on Facebook is effectively public?

The photos were posted Sunday on media websites after being spotted on Mr. Lam's Facebook account.

By late Sunday, the photos were no longer posted on the social-networking site.

In one, a smiling man tagged as Mr. Lam hugs a woman in a low-cut dress, his hand on her breast.

In another, the same man is with friends, his pants pulled down to display his underwear.

Is Mr. Lam so bereft of judgment to not understand that posing for pictures of himself copping a feel and dropping his drawers wouldn't eventually blow up in his face?

Stephen Harper - Author, Economist, Lecturer Extraordinaire

That's how Furious Leader Steve lists his occupation on the Parliament of Canada web site. Author, Economist, Lecturer.

Now I've always understood that one's occupation was directly, even intimately related to how one earns his/her income. To channel George w. Bush, your occupation is what you do to put food on your family.

Well I was curious about Steve's authorship so I took a look at and, surprise, surprise there is a Stephen Harper listed and he is indeed a prolific author. Here are some of the titles of recent works by Stephen Harper:

The Quest for the Wicker Man, Historical Folklore and Pagan Perspectives; Insanity, Individuals and Society in Late Medieval English Literature - The Subject of Madness; Capturing Enigma - How HMS Petard Seized the German Naval Codes; Ek Was Dar; White Christmas in Saigon; and everybody's all time favourite - Miracle of Deliverance - The Case For The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Wow, that's a lot of books but the focus on madness, pagan folklore, espionage and nuclear holocaust is just a tad creepy, no?

I've looked through several biographies and haven't found much on Steve's sterling career as an economist. Presumably if his talents as an economist were every bit as good as his abject failure to see this freight train of a recession barreling down the track, he probably wouldn't have lasted very long. He did drop out of University of Toronto after two months and went from there straight into the mail room at Imperial Oil in Edmonton but he studied economics at the University of Calgary (Chicago North) well after that.

As for lecturer, Wiki has a notation that Harper has been an occassional guest lecturer at his alma mater, University of Calgary but that doesn't sound like much of an 'occupation.'

What am I missing here? Where does the 'author, economist, lecturer' business come from?

Think Big Oil Has Folded On Global Warming?

In public Big Oil may be saying all the right things, but it's no accident that Republicans in Congress are still working furiously to fend off any meaningful action to slash America's carbon emissions. Why would Big Oil give up? Big Tobacco sure hasn't.

In Defence of Obama on Torture

Barack Obama has stirred up a hornet's nest of angry indignation from the left over his decision not to prosecute CIA officers who tortured terrorism suspects.

I think he is right.

It's a facet of 'victor's justice' that the only people ever prosecuted for following orders are those from the vanquished's side. The other side doesn't prosecute its own people because that calls into question the very legitimacy of the state and the chain of command. That's not to say there should be no prosecutions. To the contrary, you prosecute not those who carried out the orders but those in authority who issued the orders.

Obama has said he's not going to prosecute the CIA officers who did the dirty deeds. He has not said that he won't be calling to account those who aithorized and directed these crimes.

I suspect he's cognizant of the risks of taking on too many challenges all at once. He's put an end to torture. That, for now, ought to be enough. Dealing with Gonzales, Feith, Rumsfeld and perhaps even Cheney can wait until the immediate crises confronting America and the Obama White House are under control.

When you prosecute the little guys it paves the way for scapegoating and cover-up. That's a common tactic of the right. It's what they did at My Lai and what they did at Abu Ghraib. They used the proles as whipping boys while the real criminals, the directing minds, drifted back into the safety of obscurity.

On Their Way Out

One facet of troubled times is a spate of economic Darwinism that accelerates the demise and disappearance of familiar names. Huffington Post has a list of 12-brands expected to depart this mortal coil before the end of 2010 including Crocs, GM's Saturn, Avis and Budget rent a car, Hearst, one of Gap, Old Navy or Banana Republic (nod to ON), United Airlines, Eddie Bauer (no, say it ain't so), Palm, a slew of Conde Nast's stable of magazines and Chrysler (although Dodge and Jeep are expected to survive).

Servants, Not Masters - What a Novel Idea

With our own police controversies boiling over, it's been easy to lose sight of the killing of bystander Ian Tomlinson by British police responding to a rowdy protest at the last G20 summit in London.

Taking a page out of the RCMP handbook, the British cops made up a story about how Tomlinson died and why. Like the Vancouver airport quartet, there happened to be a bystander, an American, who used his cell phone camera to video the final police assault on Tomlinson determined that the man's family know the truth.

Britain's police watchdog says it's time for a shake up in the way police wield their power. From The Guardian:

Nick Hardwick, chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), called for a national debate over how police maintain public order and demanded much tougher political accountability, warning that police should remember they were "the servants not the masters" of the people.

He made clear his concerns about incidences of officers disguising their identifying numbers, which should always be displayed on the shoulders of their uniforms, arguing that colleagues should have reported such wrongdoing.

"I think that raises serious concerns about the frontline supervision," Hardwick said. "Why was that happening, why did the supervisor not stop them? What does that say about what your state of mind is? You were expecting trouble?

"I think that is unacceptable. It is about being servants, not masters: the police are there as public servants."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Name Your Tune

Here's the deal. Name your favourite (or, if you can't decide, one of your very favourite) Canadian songs. Since I opened this thread, I get first dibs. Mine is The Mary Ellen Carter by the late Stan Rogers. What I like most about it is that it's a song that speaks to struggle, perseverence, fierce loyalty, collective dedication and redemption. There's nothing sophisticated about it and it doesn't ascend any grand musical heights but it does enshrine what I like to believe are core, Canadian values. If you're not familiar with it, just click on this:

So what's your favourite Canadian song and why?

Are We On the Road to War?

We've all had that feeling. You're going down the wrong road, heading in the wrong direction. It's a predictable process that begins when you first suspect you're not on the right path but you don't stop and turn back on a mere doubt. You keep on going as that doubt steadily grows often hoping that another block or another mile will dispel that doubt even as it continues to build. Finally you reach the point of resignation where you accept that you need to go in another direction, you need to be on another road.

I think that stands as a metaphor that pretty much sums up the path our Western society has taken over the past three decades at least, perhaps more. It explains a great many misfortunes and perils that confront and, worse, confound us today. We've been travelling down the wrong road, in the wrong direction and we've been doing it just as fast as our feet will carry us.

Does a society have any greater core purpose than its own continuation? Surely that must be the sine qua non of our astonishingly intricate community of nations. Nations come and go but societies must continue for there to exist anything to replace the old, the dysfunctional, the obsolete.

If you accept the premise of continuation, ask yourself why, then, are we heading down a road that may well lead to the failure of our prime purpose? Why would any society or any community of nations pursue a path that may lead to rendering our one and only biosphere uninhabitable? We're heading down the wrong road and the doubt is far more than strong enough that we should be changing course, getting back on the right road, travelling in the right direction.

The apparently no longer scruffy, Scruffy Dan, sent me a link to a documentary series by Gwynne Dyer that aired on CBC radio's Ideas programme. The documentary consists of three segments. You can listen to it here:

The series, entitled "Climate Wars" examines global warming induced climate change from the military perspective. If you're planning on being around for another two or three decades or you've got kids or grandkids or the expectation of same, you really need to listen to these recordings.

Dyer shatters a number of lies we've been telling ourselves so that we can keep racing down this wrong road. The first is that we're somehow going to keep temperature increases within the 2 degree target. He concludes that we're going to 'blow right through that.' The next lie is the notion of achieving an effective, international consensus on fighting climate change. The third lie is that global warming is an environmental issue rather than a global security nightmare.

As Dyer quite rightly points out, most credible climate scientists are, to be crass, scared shitless. Again and again they're finding their most dire predictions proven unduly optimistic. This business is hitting us harder and much faster than anyone believed possible. Worse yet, our leaders are still shuffling along, hoping to reach some international action plan based on the 'best possible' predictions that are already long irrelevant. Essentially, we're all geared up to keep heading in the wrong direction and doing that knowingly. Because we're not meeting the problem head on, it's already getting out of our control. A likely outcome is 4 degree warming this century. We may see 2 degrees by 2040 which is when the wheels will begin falling off.

No international consensus, at least nothing that might work, is going to be achieved. That's because the impacts are already happening and what's already in the atmosphere is going to make conditions worse even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases entirely today. That, of course, is not going to happen. Ours is a carbon-based civilization. Now we have two nations representing a third of mankind transitioning from agrarian states to industrial powerhouses. Think the Chinese can run those factories and smelters on solar panels and windmills?

As Kyoto critics complain (quite correctly) really fighting global warming won't be fair and equitable. Those societies which are actually among the least affected would have to give up the most. That would be you and me and pretty much every other country where there's an abundance of white people. It's a tough sell, especially when we tend to see the really dire impacts as being a long way off, possibly a century. Maybe we would be more open to suggestions if we weren't the most affluent and the best armed.

And then there's the military face of global warming. (Here's a hint - it ain't the weather that's going to kill you) Dyer's calling them 'climate wars' and they've already begun. These are wars of survival and it's amazing what people are willing to resort to in order to save their own tribe. Right now it's pretty much limited to folks with sharp sticks and Kalashnikovs but that's not going to last.

Shift your attention to the Himalayan glaciers and then start thinking about Pakistan, India and China. They all have two things in common; (a), a looming, potentially existential water crisis and (b), nuclear arsenals. Dyer quite correctly notes that India is facing the loss of its key, agricultural rivers. This could leave the country with no food for upwards of 250,000,000 Indians. Now, do you think India is going to voluntarily share its declining water resources with Pakistan?

China faces a similar loss of agricultural production and the resultant instability caused by mass famine. One of the places that will actually benefit from global warming is Siberia, a region to which China has never relinquished its claim. That could be the next nuclear war.

Now I don't want to go into the theories of nuclear escalation. Believe me, if you don't know them, you probably don't want to. Nuclear Winter is not really an ideal answer to global warming.

Then there'll be enormous tensions between North and South America and regional issues within continents. As Dyer brilliantly put it, when it comes to global warming, each nation's greatest threat is the nation it borders that stands between it and the equator. All of us up here in the True North Strong and Free should dwell on that for a minute.

It's not going to take more than a couple of metres of sea level increase to create masses of climate refugees within the United States. That means the Americans are facing the prospect of having to relocate inland masses of their own people and a lot of that inland territory is facing either drought or freshwater exhaustion. There's nothing for them looking south so what do you think their alternative is? Yes they're hillbillies but those hillbillies have all the guns.

It's when you finally take the blinders off and have a good, long look around that it becomes brutally obvious that we're on the wrong road, headed in the wrong direction. Once you have that epiphany you'll never look at our political leaders the same way again. Suddenly stories about how the Tar Sands are Canada's path to prosperity through the 21st century and the key to national unity sound worse than idiotic gibberish.

Do yourself a favour. Follow that link and listen to those documentaries. It just might be the most valuable time you'll ever spend.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ontario, Rest Easy

So, you're up against it. Our biggest, most populous and influential province has now slipped into the ranks of a Confederal 'have not.'

Looks like you're poised to become a real drain on Canadian prosperity. Oh dear, whatever shall we do with the Trillium Blight?

Maybe it's time that the rest of us - or at least the most advantaged in the current circumstances - paid our dues. After all, which among us hasn't been on the equalization dole, in one form or another, over these past many decades? And who, alone, has stood there and freely shared its treasure with everyone else? That, I believe, would be Ontario - Scotland's very 'Revenge" against the British.

Please, Ontario, don't feel bad about this. Proud British Columbia, with all our natural advantages, was on the 'have not' list not all that long ago. Alberta, our national and notional engine of energy superpowerdom, has slipped beneath the storm-tossed waves of hubris. Saskatchewan, it's jawbones warped by decades tethered to the public teat is now doing okay. Newfoundland too.

You've stood by us all through this and now you're perfectly entitled to call in your markers. Let's see if we're as generous in giving as we expected others to be while we were taking.

Susan Boyle - A One Hit Wonder?

If you fear that's even remotely possible, follow the link below to hear her sing "Cry Me a River" recorded in 1999 for a charity CD.

So, there were only 1,000 CDs sold by the charity involved. Question: What are they going to become worth to her fan base? I personally think they're going to fetch an awfully good price.

Another Step Backward for Canadian Society

If, while jogging down a forest trail, you run into a menacing, psychotic-looking stranger who starts running after you, don't wait until after someone else is murdered there to notify the authorities.

Wendy Ladner-Beaudry might well be alive today if any of the three witnesses who earlier encountered a scary stranger at the very murder scene had notified the cops. The three came forward as callers to a CBC radio on line programme discussing the case and the safety of the Spirit Regional Park near the University of British Columbia. If there were three witnesses who called a radio show, how many others must have seen this guy and also did nothing about it?

"We were chased by a man who initially was just hanging around near a trail intersection," said a caller who didn't want to be named.

"As soon as we went by the intersection and turned deeper into the woods, he went pounding after us," she said.

Another caller said she was walking through the park two days before the homicide and crossed paths with a man near the same spot where Ladner-Beaudry's body was found.
She said the man looked at her with a "chilling, almost psychotic expression" that left her shaken.

She said the encounter was so disturbing she reported it to police two days after news of the homicide was reported in the media.

With citizens this responsible I guess it's not surprising that the Vancouver Police still haven't come up with a suspect in the killing. As a society are we becoming so insular, so disengaged that we're losing the collective power to protect ourselves?

Don't Give Guns (or Tasers) To the Reality Challenged

A supposed 'expert' from the Vancouver Police force has told the Braidwood inquiry that his four RCMP colleagues acted reasonably in killing Robert Dziekanski.

If this is the way cops think, we've got a problem.

VPD sergeant Brad Fawcett told Justice Braidwood that, because the officers perceived Dziekanski was about to attack them, as all four so conveniently claimed in the post-killing debrief before they were aware a bystander had video recorded the events, then that's good enough for him.

Sergeant Brad said we shouldn't second guess the cops. If they said they were under attack, of course they must be telling the truth. No point letting some dumb video make them out to be total liars. But wait, there's more. The Toronto Star reports that Sarge Fawcett testified that the video (yes, the one we've all watched) corroborates the officers' accounts:

The inquiry has heard that those statements conflict with the video, but Fawcett found the officers' statements were supported by the video.

For example, his report appears to accept the officers' claims that Dziekanski remained standing immediately following the first Taser jolt, with his hands clenched around the stapler. The video shows Dziekanski flail about for a few seconds before collapsing on the ground.

When one of Dziekanski's arm lifts above his head, the stapler visibly flying away, Fawcett's report describes the action as ``consistent with striking or throwing."

The report brushes aside other inaccuracies – for example, that Dziekanski had to be wrestled to the ground – as "minor in nature."

Fawcett agreed with the officers that Dziekanski appeared to be fighting back after he collapsed to the floor.

He said it doesn't matter whether Dziekanski was actually resisting or if he was reacting to the pain of the Taser.

"If the officer perceived it to be a response to the push-stun (Taser deployment), that would be one thing," he testified.

"If the officer's perception was it was conscious resistance on the part of the subject, then that's another matter."

If this is the basis on which cops investigate cops, we have a very serious problem. You shoot 50,000 volts through a man's body and, when he spasms, you're entitled to claim he's resisting and shoot him again? Perhaps you can just keep going until the body is so stone cold dead it won't twitch any more when you blast it with electricity.

Memo to the cops. Perception isn't an excuse unless its entirely consistent with the evidence of what actually happened. You don't get to put people to death on misperception. "Oopsie" isn't good enough nor is perception to be a vehicle of convenient contrivance to mask culpability

If cops aren't able to mix it up when they're in a four on one situation with a guy holding a stapler, we're relying on a defective batch of cops and we'd do well to discard them and recruit replacements who can do the job without resorting to potentially lethal force at the hint of someone waving a stapler. These guys are useless, they're bums. Worse yet, none of us is safe with guys like these in our midst carrying guns. You just never know when they might have a perception.