Thursday, March 31, 2011

No "One on One" for Captain Weasel

Yesterday Harper was strutting his stuff, calling for a one on one debate with Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.   Oh yeah, baby, Harper was going to take Iggy to the woodshed for a good thrashing.

Until Iggy said, "fine."

That was Harper's "schoolyard bully" moment.  You know, that moment when someone finally stands up to the punk and says "let's go fatboy."   That ugly moment when the bully's is called and and shows he's a rotten coward.

Today bullyboy says he's not so keen on a one-on-one anymore.  He'd rather devote his time to campaigning, the venue where he doesn't have to answer questions he doesn't want to take.

Today Stephen Harper renamed himself.   He's no longer Prime Minster Harper.  Henceforth, "Captain Weasel" will do nicely.

Of Feet and Fires

Accountability is one of the cornerstones of our democracy.  We want a government that is accountable to the people and we expect our opposition parties to ensure that happens.   We expect the opposition to hold the government's "feet to the fire."   This isn't supposed to be just a matter of hollow, self-serving criticism or denunciation.  That sort of thing may benefit the opposition politicians but it holds little of any real use for the public.   We need, our democracy needs, legitimate criticism and thoughtful, realistic proposals for reform and improvement.  That's what works for the public.

But what happens when government policy is rotten and the opposition, for its own self-serving purposes, doesn't hold the government's feet to the fire, doesn't expose and criticize its failures, doesn't offer proposals to set the government back to the service of the nation and the public?  Surely when that occurs, what good is the legislature at all?   What  happens when Parliament falls silent, wilfully mute about pressing problems of the day?

We have no shortage of politicians wanting to rule our country but an astonishing dearth of those interested in governing.   Ruling is arbitrary, whimsical, unguided, reactionary.   It is building mega-prisons in an ongoing era of reduced crime.  It is creating fears where fear is unfounded and ignoring legitimate anxiety over real threats as though, by not speaking of them, they'll go away.

Governing is political husbandry.   It is administration and management.  It is acceptance of a fiduciary responsibility for the country and its people, both now and for generations to come.  Governing is acknowledging and confronting the challenges of the day and leading the public to the best solutions.  It is leaving the land better than we found it, the people stronger and more cohesive.  Even the architect of conservatism, Edmund Burke, espoused this.   It was wholeheartedly embraced by Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.

I like the Liberal election platform, as far as it goes.   I like the education proposal, the health care and pension platforms.   Yet, to me, those are all Tier 2 issues.  They're important, necessary but surely not the great issues and challenges of the day.   Education, health care, pensions are pretty thin gruel in contrast to the destructive problems that already beset our society - the growing gap between rich and poor, the need to arrest global warming, and the long-neglected imperative of assisting Canadians to meet the challenges, domestic and foreign, that the climate change already coming will pose.   These will affect the stability, strength and resilience of Canada and the Canadian people, qualities we need to bolster to meet the changes that are already setting in and will tax us greatly in the coming decades.   To me these are Tier 1 issues.

When Tier 1 issues aren't prominent on political agendas, aren't even incorporated in platforms, what it tells me is that I'm not looking at a party interested in governing but one merely seeking to rule.  It's not a party that genuinely wants to build a better Canada but merely wants to hold the reins of power for an intermediate term of years.   That's a party that stands, however unintentionally, to add itself as just another layer to all our other problems.

If our country didn't stand at a crossroads I might, as I have a few times in the past, accepted the "lesser of two evils" rationale and voted Liberal.   But we are at this crossroads and the two evils, Greater and Lesser, plan to steer us in the wrong direction.   I just can't go down that road.

Just In Case You Thought the World Wasn't Really Changing

We North Americans have had plenty of laughs at some of the stuff our British cousins eat - bangers & mash, bubble & squeak, spotted dick, blood pudding - maybe it's best to stop there.   Well, according to a Dutch entomologist, by 2020 - less than a decade from now - Brits will be expanding their diet to include heaping portions of bugs.   By then, animal protein - meat - is going to be in short supply and insects will be the protein of choice to make up the difference.

In an interview with Wired magazine, Prof Marcel Dicke of Wageningen University said: "The most important thing is getting people prepared, getting used to the idea. Because from 2020 onwards, there won't be much of a choice for us." He wants to persuade people to ditch prejudices about insects, and to persuade manufacturers and suppliers to come up with products that can be sold in "a reassuring and attractive manner". Dicke heads a Netherlands-based four-year programme aiming to produce a scientific and business plan to bring insects to western tables.

In the UK, the sale of insects for human consumption is part of what is still a niche food sector centred largely around novelty snacks. The specialist supplier Edible sells a range of delicacies ranging from Thai Curry crickets to BBQ worm crisps which are stocked by retailers such as Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols.

Tanya McMullen, grocery buying manager at Selfridges, said: "The Edible brand grows year after year. Our customers like it because it is so unusual. You don't find oven-baked tarantula and scorpion lollies in many places so it's a product most customers won't have seen before. It is difficult to say whether it's a current trend as it has always been a successful range for Selfridges but there is definitely an increasing number of discerning customers who are more and more willing to try something out of the ordinary. Sales are currently very strong having grown 20% in the last 12 months."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Who Knew? I'm Green!

I finally took the CBC's Vote Compass test.   All these years I thought I was a centre-left Liberal.  Apparently not.

The Vote Compass verdict?   I'm a Green.   Not a near Green but an "on the money" Green.   Not that it's the same as coming out of the closet or anything but I've had a nagging feeling in recent years that I had Green inclinations.

Which is not to say that I'll never be a Liberal again.   In fact I believe the Green movement is naturally suited to the Liberal Party if it wants to embrace sound environmentalism.  If, however, the LPC intends to remain resolute Bitumen Boosters they're politically unacceptable to me and, I'm sure, plenty of others.

It's unfortunate the Green movement is forging ahead at a time when the Libs desperately need every vote they can find.   If Ignatieff would champion the environment instead of the Tar Sands he might find those extra votes handy.

Steve Harper, Bruce Carson and the Koch Brothers

Canada's king of the petro-pols of Parliament Hill, Stephen Harper, is now firmly linked to ex-con Bruce Carson in what appears to be a perverse relationship.   While key government officials are prohibited from lobbying after leaving their government employment, Carson, it seems, was brought onto the government payroll and into the Prime Minister's Office to lobby for the Tar Sands.

It seems reminiscent of Dick Cheney when, after Bush was handed the presidency, wasted no time bringing the likes of Kenny Lay, Enron and the Fossil Fuelers into the White House to covertly write their own national energy policy.   Is that what Harper brought Gordon into his confidence to do, to be his direct line to the Oil Barons?   Until Harper comes clean we'll never know.   All we will know is that Harper chose to take on as a "political advisor" a defrocked former lawyer, caught stealing trust funds and convicted and imprisoned for his efforts who later twice resorted to Bankruptcy Act protection.   With that curriculum vitae who wouldn't turn to a guy like Carson for advice?   And leave out entirely the fact that this 66-year old is shacked up with a 22-year old "former" escort who was to be on the receiving end of the cash from a lobbying deal Gordon was pushing before he was caught out.

And if all this isn't scummy enough, let's bring in the Koch Brothers (tm), Charlie and Dave.   It turns out that one out of four barrels of Tar Sands bitumen is processed by Koch Industries.   They're big time Tar Sanders when they're not busy energizing the Tea Party and pumping megabucks into campaigns to derail action on global warming and sow doubt on climate science.

Talk about birds of a feather.   Make that "buzzards."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Even PostMedia Calling "Bullshit" on Harper

PostMedia's Montreal flagship, The Gazette, seems to have had its fill of Harper's rank hypocrisy on coalition governments.  In fact, the paper is calling Harper out:

Harper maintains that the only legitimate governing party is the one that wins the most seats. Again, however, there are numerous examples to the contrary. In Israel, for instance, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party did not win the most seats last election, but formed the government in coalition with a third party. Does Harper then mean the Israeli government is illegitimate? The first foreign leader of a country Harper received after becoming prime minister was Australia’s John Howard, a role model for Harper and his Tory strategists, who a few years previously had formed a government in the same way. There was no quibbling from Harper at the time about Howard’s legitimacy; on the contrary, he was accorded the signal honour of addressing the Commons.

...a coalition of the Liberals and the NDP, if they had more seats and votes between them than the Conservatives, would not only be legitimate, but also more representative of the Canadian electorate, especially if between them they had a majority of the popular vote.
...Harper’s bogeyman is more like a straw man. Voters deserve more substance in the campaign discourse. Enough with the coalition fearmongering; let’s instead have a clear and honest presentation of what the parties have to offer.
Do the Gazette editors fail to realize that's not Harper's style.   The closest he ever came to a "clear and honest presentation" of what he had to offer was when he promised "transparency and accountability" if allowed to govern.   Instead he delivered the most secretive, authoritarian and unaccountable government Canada has seen since WWII.  That was precisely why his government was found in contempt of Parliament.   Harper has no intention of clear and honest campaigning.  That goes against every fibre in his being, it offends his dubious character and flies in the face of his rancid ideology.

What Greased Bruce Carson's Slide Into Harper's Office?

More revelations about how Bruce Carson came to take pride of place in Stephen Harper's PMO.   I should have guessed the transition.  Thievery, disbarment, conviction, imprisonment, tar sands, Harper.   Talk about a linear progression.

Read Geoff Dembicki's expose in the latest Tyee and you'll see why Canada is falling into the cesspit of petro-statehood.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Who's Watching the Mounties?

When it comes to federal elections there's good reason to keep a careful eye out for electoral shenanigans from the RCMP.   Who can forget the leg up the then Commissioner gave Stephen Harper in defeating Paul Martin?

That was then, this is now and, at the moment, the national police service is headed by a Harper appointee in the form of a former Tory political functionnaire who is scheduled to gradually step down some time this summer after a very controversial reign.

Just prior to the election Harper's office tried to pre-empt a scandal by announcing it had called in the RCMP to investigate a former advisor to the p.m., Bruce Carson, for alleged illegal lobbying.   This was after the Aboriginal Television Network broke the story possibly forcing Harper's hand.

Harper tried to stay ahead of the scandal by floating the narrative that any skullduggery in his prime minister's office would be sent directly to the cops.  We were given the impression that Harpo had no idea of Carson's shady background.

That background included being caught misappropriating trust funds, disbarment, criminal conviction and imprisonment.   Harper's reaction seemed to be "Who knew?"   Now it seems there were plenty who knew and reason to believe that included plenty within the PMO as well, and quite possibly the RCMP too.

There is ample reason to question whether the RCMP is being used as a political firewall to shelter Harper from having to answer some pretty direct questions in the midst of an election campaign.  We need at least some assurance that the RCMP has not become a political agency of the Conservative Party and its leader.

Indeed, the RCMP in its role in the Carson affair may have as much explaining to do as the PMO.   Carson was well known around Ottawa long before Harper became prime minister.   It seems hard to believe that Carson's reputation wouldn't be known to a life long Tory insider like RCMP Commissioner Bill Elliott.  Did the RCMP vet Bruce Carson before he came aboard as a Harper advisor?  If not, why not?   If so, did the RCMP warn the PMO about Carson's chequered background?   If the prime minister wasn't informed, who in the PMO was told and what was done with that information?  What role did Harper play in the selection of Carson as his advisor?

These questions need to be raised - now.   They need to be raised in the midst of this election campaign.   Given the bizarre circumstances - facts, not smears - Harper needs to explain himself and give a clear accounting for the actions of his prime minister's office.   Given its own past record and the fact that the force is now headed by a Tory Party insider, the RCMP needs to do some accounting and explaining of its own.    Should the RCMP itself be investigated or is there some other means available to ensure the voting public it hasn't been transformed into an agency of the Conservative Party - again.

Look Mr. Ignatieff, this is a genuine scandal that has fallen into your lap.  Harper shamelessly contrives smears to take down his opponents.   You don't have to contrive anything here.   All you need do is start asking some pretty obvious questions and not accept any lame excuses in answer.  If you do any less you don't deserve to lead your party.

Is There More to Bruce Carson?

A usually-well informed Tory source has passed along a couple of interesting additions to the Bruce Carson saga.

It seems Carson's troubles go back to his tenure with the Ottawa Carleton Regional Municipality.  He apparently left OCRM under some sort of cloud.   From there he reputedly scarpered off to Soloway Wright & Co. where he got caught dipping into the trust funds which led to his disbarment, conviction and imprisonment.

The smoking gun, if it can be proven, is that Harper's PMO was warned "a number of times" not to let Carson anywhere near the prime minister.    If true, who decided to ignore those warnings and why?   What else was going on in Mr. Harper's office that would enable a guy with Carson's record to hop aboard?

It's almost impossible to believe that the RCMP would not have run a security check on Mr. Carson either immediately prior to or subsequent to his appointment.  What did the mounties report?   To whom?   Did the RCMP Commissioner, himself a lifelong Tory functionnaire, have anything to do with Carson's vetting?  It may not be possible to get the whole story through FOI requests but I'll bet it might be possible to get enough to require some clear explanations.

And, by the way, how does a 22-year old living with a 66-year old dodgy ex-con become a "former" escort?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

How to Kill a Tory in British Columbia

Enbridge.  Pipeline.   Oil tanker port.   Kitimat.

There's a smouldering anger among British Columbians about plans to bring oil tanker traffic through treacherous northern BC waters to a tanker port at Kitimat.  In the House of Commons the Tories unanimously voted in support of that pipeline, that port and all that tanker traffic.

The Americans are fighting tooth and nail to prevent a filthy bitumen pipeline running from Athabasca to refineries Texas and they just might win.   The pipeline will be as problematical, perhaps even worse, crossing British Columbia and then there's the prospect of a tanker disaster devastating the pristine coastline.

These Tory bastards are vulnerable on this and they deserve to be taken down for it alone.  Liberal and NDP candidates have to make this a central issue of their campaigns.  It may be the best weapon they have to take down Tory candidates in British Columbia.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fight's On. Harper Government Falls.

LPC, NDP and Bloc MPs forced through non-confidence motion.   Harper government found in contempt of Parliament.  Writ tomorrow.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Aspers May Be Gone But NatPo Is As Stupid As Ever

"Canada a Big Presence in Libya,
Despite UN Snub"
According to Post Media's brain trust, Steven Edwards,  "Surely Muslim states now regret having spearheaded the drive to keep Canada off the United Nations Security Council last October."

Steve notes that Canada is the only country that stood for that last Security Council seat that is now militarily involved in Libya.   Germany is keeping its distance and Portugal, he notes, hasn't contributed anything militarily.
But Canadians should expect no thanks from the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, the world’s biggest Islamic coalition, for already deploying a frigate and six fighter jets to help enforce the internationally authorized no-fly zone over Libya — and for announcing Thursday two maritime patrol planes will be added to the deployment.

A senior Islamic official said Muslims would be skeptical of Canada’s intentions, “if asked.”

Apparently those Arab ingrates are underwhelmed by Canada's adventure in Libya.   It seems, to them, that our indifference to the Palestinian cause is the yardstick by which we are to be judged.   Really?  Oh trust those Arabs to bring that up.   Sheesh!

Who is this Steve Edwards, a Glenn Beck wannabe?

Dear Iggy

Well buddy, it's time to grow a pair.   You've got an election coming and the John Kerry routine isn't going to cut it.

You want to win?  It's really not that difficult.   Get your staff to round up every news report they can find from the 1974 campaign - the Trudeau/Stanfield/Lewis runoff.

All you've got to deal with is Stephen Harper.   Trudeau had to defeat Bob Stanfield, a really good guy even though he was a Tory.

Trudeau understood campaigning but, then again, he was a lawyer.   He knew you've got to fight to win and fighting means taking apart your opponent.  It wasn't the Liberal Party's finest moment but Trudeau knew he could take down two birds with one stone by nailing Stanfield on his wage & price controls proposal.  He bloodied Stanfield and siphoned off much of the NDP base in one fell swoop.

Trudeau knew that campaigning required passion.   You've got to wear your heart on your sleeve.  You've got to connect with the voting public and not on some ethereal plane either.

Try to imagine how Pierre Trudeau would have taken on Stephen Harper.  He would have eviscerated Harper, gutted him and then shredded the remains.

Word is out that you want to make this election a debate over the economy.  Sit down Senator Kerry, that ain't going to work.   No, your target is Stephen Harper, prime minister.  You've got to cut him, again and again and again.  He's not a likeable guy.  You have to make the public revile him.  You have to paint Steve as this secretive, power crazed, manipulative, dishonest and anti-democratic bully boy.  You have to make voters hate the way Steve has treated them.   You have to make them want his head for what he has done to our Canada.

As Dion showed, this really isn't a game for academics.   It's a blood sport.  Don't waste your time giving lectures.  No feeble reaching out to the public.  They don't like you either.  Best not to remind them of that.  Even if we don't much like you, we're all fight fans at this point.  What you've got to do is put on that fight, show us you can take this punk down.  Or step out of the way and let somebody else in who can.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Parliament Unanimously Backs Libya Mission. Great, Just Great.

Yesterday the House of Commons unanimously approved Canada's participation in the ongoing no fly zone over Libya mission.  Unanimously.  Everybody's in.   Tory, Bloc, Liberal & NDP.

Approval wasn't automatic.  Questions were asked.  According to the G&M, the opposition asked when the mission would end, what would constitute success and what the whole thing would cost.   Apparently satisfied when the government couldn't answer even one of those questions, they all stood up on their hind legs, let out a manly "Hurrah" and voted to endorse the mission that, plainly, no one understands.

And that, kids, is what has gone so seriously wrong with your Parliament, the whole rotten shebang.  Meanwhile the so-called 'community of nations' that is supposedly backing this adventure is flying apart like a mobile home in a tornado.  The Arab League, the club of supposedly friendly dictators, is vascillating.  The African Union is flatly opposed to our mission.   So are key NATO partners Germany and Turkey.  China is against us, apparently India is too.  The Russians are split - Medvedev for us, Putin agin.  What's left?  A bunch of white Christians which, in Arab parlance, translates into "Crusaders."

Oh well, at least the New Democrats and Liberals are on side.  Brilliant.

Democracy if Needs Must West of the Suez, Just Not East

Asia Times' columnist 'Pepe Escobar' claims Washington and the Arab League despots are on the same page.  Revolution is tolerable west of the Suez but the status quo is to be maintained by whatever means in the Persian Gulf.

Saudi media may slam Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his lethal strategy against his own people. But Libya and Saudi Arabia are equals. Gaddafi has laid out the counter-revolution playbook; bomb the fight out of the protesters. His winning strategy is the same as Bahrain's, with crucial Saudi help.

As far as the inextricable Saudi/Washington nexus goes, democracy may be acceptable for Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. But it's a very bad idea for Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other friendly Gulf dictatorships. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a close meeting in Paris with special envoy of the Libyan transitional council Mahmoud Jabril. They discussed "how to step up the level of US outreach''. This after the Barack Obama administration had coined the neologism "regime alteration" for its new Middle East strategy.

So "outreach" means talking to pro-democracy "rebels", while "regime alteration" means endorsing brutal crackdowns against pro-democracy protesters. The proof that the policy is official is that Jeffrey Feltman, the assistant US secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, has been at the US Embassy in Manama since Monday - where he oversaw, live, the Saudi invasion and the subsequent bloody repression of the Pearl/Lulu roundabout (50 tanks, heavy armored vehicles, several helicopters). This is the fourth time Feltman visited Bahrain in one month.

The predictable Saudi-orchestrated counter-revolution has transformed demands for justice, dignity and equality into the newest, deadliest, incarnation of a Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian war, so that imperiled Sunni regimes may once again invoke the specter of a Shi'ite crescent.

I Know This Is a Bad Time, But Can You Answer One Little Question?

Over the past half century at all the nuclear reactors in the West how many have died from nuclear accidents?   Would it surprise you to learn that it's the very same number who have died from the Fukushima nuclear plant fiasco?  That's right, none.

I did qualify this by limiting it to reactors in what we consider the West.  We all know about Chernobyl or at least something about it.  Not too many realize how instrumental the attempted Soviet cover-up was in those deaths but, then again, nuclear critics don't much care about that either.

Here are a couple of more questions to give this discussion context and perspective.  How many commuters does the Ontario Medical Association estimate die every year from the effects of automobile emissions in the Greater Toronto Area?  What is the estimate of deaths worldwide due to the onset of global-warming driven climate change?  Maybe you see where this is headed.

Here are three of the prominent voices of the global warming/climate change movement - James Lovelock, George Monbiot, James Hansen.  The first and third, of course, are leading scientists, Monbiot is The Guardian's chief environmental writer.  What do all three have in common?   They all believe, with some reluctance, that nuclear power is the only viable bridge technology to allow the developed world to get off fossil fuels.   They wish there were viable alternatives.  They wish it didn't have to be nuclear energy.  Yet all three of them accept that nuclear is our only option if we're to have a chance of avoiding runaway global warming.

Usually when you hear "climate change" discussed, it's in the context of droughts or floods, famine and migration.   Isn't it quaint how we avoid mentioning the real threat, runaway global warming.  Runaway as in beyond mankind's control to stop it.  We lose sight of the concept of tipping points, any of a number of environmental changes that will trigger natural feedback mechanisms such as the release of massive amounts of carbon dioxide stored in permafrost, tundra and taiga or the discharge of once frozen methane stored on the seabed.   These are the events that will rapidly multiply atmospheric CO2 levels.  These are the events that will warm the earth to a new stable state, one to which our species will not have sufficient time to evolve to adapt.  Like most lifeforms on our planet, we're only capable of existing within a certain climate range.

The key to avoiding cataclysmic climate change is to wean ourselves off fossil fuels and especially coal and, by some estimates, we have precious little time left to achieve that - perhaps 15-years.   That is 15-years in which the global demand for energy (and pretty much everything else) is going straight up as the massively populated, emerging economic superpowers come looking for "theirs."  That's not a candle, it's a fuse burning from both ends with a potentially explosive climate in the middle.

Unfortunately we North Americans are saddled with a political class (of all stripes) that will not grasp the need to change.   The American legislators are bought and paid for minions of the fossil fuel industry.   Their Canadian counterparts simply see the filthiest fossil fuel on the planet, bitumen or tar sand, as our economic "don't worry, be happy" answer to future prosperity.  I guess it's corruption of a different variety.

If you're young, 15-years might see like an eternity.   At my age I know full well just how quickly 15-years comes and goes.  We seem to be able to do far more bad in 15 years than good.   Good, it seems, always takes much longer probably because it's harder and easier to shelve.  A 15-year window of opportunity to achieve something good should probably be treated more like a 5-year window.  That means we need to get rid of our emotional baggage, become informed of our options and determined to do what our contemptible political class won't - demand meaningful, effective and prompt action. 

There is no magic wand.  There are options, a range of options, but the best options are gone.   They started slipping through our fingers back in the 60's back when we didn't know any better.  They're gone and we do not get them back.  What we have to work with half a century later are the best remaining options and that's it.  Some of those won't be around much longer before they too are lost to us forever.  That's how serious our reality really is.

What can you do?  Start looking into options:  what works, what doesn't; what is viable, what isn't; what is best for the short term, what options may be available in the mid- and long-range; what is our bottom line and how are we going to meet it?

Here are a few articles on nuclear power that contain valuable information that's largely lost in the din over the Japanese reactor failures.  They're here, here, and here.   You might also want to read professor Barry Brooks' explanation why, for the immediate future, our choices are stark - nuclear power or global warming.

Averting runaway global warming is an enormous challenge but the price of failure is unimaginable.   That may be why our degenerate political classes avoid the subject altogether.  If you've got kids or grandkids or expect to have them you can't sit back and wait for the Petro-Pols of Parliament Hill to do - nothing.

What a Lovely Thought

First runner-up in Ironic News of the Day is this:  US State Secretary Hillary Clinton and World Bank president Zoellick have inked a deal committing (whatever that means) the bank and the US government to to address, "water scarcity and water quality, managing water resources, and reducing risks from floods, climate change and drought.  Access to water has reached crisis levels across the globe, Clinton said at a public meeting of the World Bank.  ...She told the gathering of 'water advocates', representatives of the United Nations and South Africa that the 'water crisis' needs to be addressed now.  She said it is a 'health crisis, a farmers' crisis, it's an economic crisis, it's a climate crisis and increasingly it's turning into a political crisis.'"

Full marks for stating the obvious Hillary but how do you "commit" your government to tackling the problem of floods, drought and climate change when you have a 'bought and paid for' Congress that is at war against climate science and securely in the pocket of the fossil fuelers?  In other words, you are the problem.   The health, farmers', economic, climate and political crises are merely the symptoms of a governmental and societal disease you're doing nothing to treat.

But first prize for Ironic Headline of the Day also comes from the World Bank news summary and reads:  "IMF Plan Sees Role for Fund in Crises."   Really?  I thought that was pretty much the net sum of what International Monetary Fund already did, jump in to make short-term problems into long-term nightmares for countries desperate enough to have to accept IMF aid.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Won't Our Politicians Discuss What Really Matters?

Is it really any wonder that so many eligible Canadian voters are so disengaged from federal politics?   What's happening is the entirely foreseeable result of the degenerated form of politics being practised by every major party today.  It's hapless, pathetic even and it simply doesn't connect with the electorate.

A couple of weeks back I came up with the term "mercantile politics"   to describe what seemed to be the use of a mishmash of policies, disjointed and sometimes incoherent, that seem to be clutched out of a bag and tossed out in the hope of getting traction with the public.   It's like fishing for votes, trying out this lure and then the next in search of whatever will get the voter to bite. 

To me, today's political scene is like going into a store for particular items and finding the shelves stocked with everything except the stuff you came in to buy.   You turn on your heel and walk out.

The Tyee's Murray Dobbins voices a somewhat similar complaint:

In trying to anticipate what a federal election campaign will look like is striking that the biggest issues facing humankind are not even on the radar, yet alone being framed as planks in any party's campaign platform.

This amounts to whistling past the graveyard with potentially fatal consequences. In our conventional political universe we are talking about jet fighters, corporate tax cuts, growing the economy and abolishing the Senate -- and if we are lucky some mention of climate change, poverty and the dire financial straits of seniors.

But the other universe is virtually invisible despite the fact that it is very real and well known. That parallel road that no one in authority wants to acknowledge is one which is taking us over a cliff. That universe tells us that we are rapidly reaching the planet's limits to growth, that we are well past the start of a global fresh water crisis, that we have already reached peak oil, that climate change will have ever-increasing planet-changing impacts and that rapidly rising food prices will lead to mass starvation in the developing world.

Why can't we talk about what really matters?

...It is as if we need a whole new set of institutions from civil society to the formal political level in order to even sensibly begin the conversation. The ones we have simply cannot cope with the looming human catastrophe because, in its totality, it tells us that everything we are doing now and are planning to do, and how we now think and talk about the present and the future are simply irrelevant.

Read the rest of Dobbin's column here.

I'm at that point in life where I should be set in my ways, seeking the assuring comfort of the familiar.   Yet reality has set in to show me that "my ways" were largely illusions, conveniences of a time that floated on untenable precepts.  We have become riveted to values that can do us no good.

I watched one of Steve Harper's nauseating promo ads, the one in which he steals a play from The Gipper.   Remember when Reagan trashed Calvinist Carter by promising his voters that America's best days were still to come?  Harper is using that same sideshow pitch today.   Yet it was bullshit when Reagan conned his people with it and it's bullshit when Harper uses it on us today.  It's the sort of fable that depends on the outright lie of infinite expansion.

Many Americans are waking up to the reality that they've been brutally conned by Reagan and his Age of Ruin.  They now begin to grasp the greatest transfer of wealth in American history -  wealth that has been siphoned from America's once robust middle class, the beating heart of their country's former greatness, into the pockets of the ultra-rich who have played such a dominant role in America's decline.   Income inequality, the enormous gap between rich and poor, has corroded America, undermined its society, sapped it of its strength and vitality.  Yet this too no one will discuss.

Canada is following in America's trail.   We, too, have seen an unhealthy growth in the wealth gap.

There's a huge difference between wanting to govern a country and simply wanting to control its political process.  Unfortunately, the latter seems to have eclipsed the former on today's political agenda.  Governing the country appears just too hard for the digestive tracts of Conservatives, Liberals or New Democrats.  They don't want to tackle the Herculean job of governing, managing.  They simply want to rule.

I have always winced when I read people rattling on about how the "important thing" is to get rid of Harper.  What matters is restoring the Liberals to power.  Who says?  Why?  I don't want a change of rulers, I want a leader who isn't so self-serving, dishonest even that he can't bring himself to address the enormous, looming problems confronting this country and that will plague my children's and grandchildren's future.   I'm sorry, Liberal supporters, but you haven't put that guy forward.  The guy you have on offer believes our country's future is tied to becoming a filthy fossil fuel superpower.  How bent do you have to be to believe we ought to support that?  No thanks.

It's World Water Day

As you may have surmised, today is indeed World Water Day, the brief and passing moment in which we recall that a billion plus of us lack access to safe water supplies and 2.6-billion live without basic sanitation.   Curiously enough, both of those things are becoming more popular with each passing year or at least their numbers are swelling - fast.

It's not as though there's really any less water.  It's just that it's not where we need it when we need it and, too often, it's where we don't need it when we don't want it.   The warming atmosphere, for example, is now holding a lot more of it in the form of water vapour (itself a greenhouse gas) where it actually fuels more frequent and more severe storms that too often tend to return it in the form of floodwaters.

Any farmer will tell you that water is a blessing but can also be a curse.  Getting enough water is vital but that means getting the requisite amount of water at the requisite times.   Too much, either too soon or too late, spells disaster or at least crop failure.   Too much too early the farmer may not be able to get on the land to plant.  Too much in mid season and the crops may rot in the field.  Too much late in the year and the farmer may not be able to get back on the land to harvest.  African herdsmen have learned the same lesson.   Drought leaves their cattle facing starvation.   Inundation leaves their cattle to drown.  Either way they're out of cattle.

It's all connected.  The world water crisis directly impacts crop yields.  That impacts food prices.  Food shortages cause staple prices to spike.  Spiraling food prices help put people like Hosni Mubarak out of work which gets people in other countries asking themselves why they're still putting up with the same kind of jackass.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed by Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe and others making the case that water is much too important to be managed by governments and must instead by allowed to be controlled by private sector giants like, oh surprise, Nestle.

"  We have the knowledge, funds, technology and experience to make this possible. That we do not is because of poor water management and governance practices, and the lack of political will.
"  For universal access to clean water, there is simply no other choice but to price water at a reasonable rate. The city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia has shown how good water management, including sensible water pricing, can assure clean drinkable water to all its citizens on a continuous basis. By improving its management, it can now provide clean water that can be drunk straight from the taps without any adverse health impacts. Through equitable water pricing, the water bills of poorest households in the slums have been reduced by 70 percent to 80 percent, and residents receive clean water 24 hours a day in their houses." 
I suppose it was just oversight that these jokers didn't mention their own track record on just what is "reasonable", "sensible" and "equitable" but, rest assured, you probably wouldn't see things the same way.   There's an insane amount of spin from these types.
We in Canada are truly blessed when it comes to water but that doesn't mean parts of the country won't face water problems and it certainly doesn't mean we can take our water resources for granted, not for a minute.

Just What Have We Gotten Into?

This Libya gig is making less sense with each passing day - and we're only getting started.   Once again it's the West saying, "Oh look, there's an open door.  We can push on that," only to discover it's a revolving door and you're stuck going around and around and around.

We're supposedly there to establish a "no fly zone."   Unfortunately that's a most inartful term of art.   It can mean just about anything you want it to mean.  It will accommodate most definitions even if it has to stretch a bit.   That's not a good thing when you've got a bunch of players who each think they're working from a different playbook.

The first sure sign of trouble showed up on N.F.Z. - Day 2 when it became apparent that "the boys" aren't really sure who is actually in charge of this rolling fiasco.

The Americans, who everyone is so accustomed to running these things, decided to step back and let someone else be in charge.   Clever move, Barack.  Full points.

Some figure this should be a NATO-operation.   Sort of like Kosovo or Afghanistan.  Nope, that ain't gonna fly.   Germany abstained at the UN Security Council and wants no part of it.  So, you've got a First Tier NATO partner saying "no."  Maybe the Germans learned something valuable from Afghanistan (just saying).  French president Sarkozy too isn't much interested in hitching up his military to a NATO wagon.   So, at least for the moment, NATO seems to be out of the deal and the day may soon arrive that we'll understand that's actually a good thing.

So, if the Americans are out and NATO is out, who's left?  Well, that'd be a gaggle of countries - Denmark, Italy, France, Britain, Canada and we hope, at some point, some Arab countries.   Only, if you were an Arab country, would you want to tie yourself to this dog's breakfast?

One enormous problem of having no consensus on leadership is that it makes it hard to reach consensus on just about anything else.   Really tricky questions like what is the mission?  How and when does this end?  What is the political staying power of the coalition partners?  Who ordered the chicken salad?   What in hell does this UNSC resolution actually mean?   This is not good.

Confusion reigns.  Some leaders openly avow that this is a "no fly zone" only mission.   There is no broader mission.   Then, as their heads turn away from the microphone, you can hear them mutter something about "Gaddafi has to go."

Well, if you want a permanent no fly zone, that's doable to some extent.  Bomb the living hell out of Gaddafi's airbases.  Take out his weapons bunkers, his towers and support buildings and, most importantly, flatten his aircraft shelters with his remaining strike fighters inside.  It's not like he'll be getting any more.  There, his air force is neutralized (as in "extinguished").   Maybe you also want to keep Muammar's tanks and artillery pieces from taking wing.   Fine, find them and extinguish them too.

Don't think for a minute that we're not handing Islamist radicals a lot of fodder for their propaganda mills.   The longer we loiter over Libya, the more convincing becomes their narrative.  Gaddafi, at the moment, likes to blame al Qaeda for the revolution but warfare, like politics, can make strange bedfellows.

Did we not think any of this through before we jumped into this mess?   If the bottom line is regime change, and we all know it is, why did we sign on to a UN Security Council resolution that falls far short of that?  If the real deal is ridding Libya of Gaddafi, why didn't we turn to the one army and air force that's easily capable of doing just that without triggering all the Crusader bullshit?

The way things stand, we've backed ourselves into a lose-lose proposition.  That's a fancy term for "stalemate" that is itself a preliminary term for "quagmire."  As Stephen Metz explains in The New Republic, Libya is shaping up to be an ideal site to host the next grand insurgency even if it's not clear as yet whether Gaddafi's forces will be the government or the insurgents.

History offers a number of sign posts that an insurgency will occur. Unfortunately Libya has almost all of them. At this point the political objectives of the government and anti-government forces are irreconcilable. Each side wants total victory—either Qaddafi will retain total power or he will be gone. Both sides are intensely devoted to their cause; passions are high. Both have thousands of men with military training, all imbued with a traditional warrior ethos which Qaddafi himself has stoked. The country is awash with arms. Libya has extensive hinterlands with little or no government control that could serve as insurgent bases. Neighboring states are likely to provide insurgent sanctuary whether deliberately—as an act of policy—or inadvertently because a government is unable to control its territory. North Africa has a long history of insurgency, from the anti-colonial wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to more recent conflicts in Chad, Algeria, and Western Sahara. Where insurgency occurred in the past, it is more likely to occur in the future. All this means that there is no place on earth more likely to experience an insurgency in the next few years than Libya.

Which is where Egypt comes in to this discussion.   A month ago, I think to the day, I wrote a piece arguing that Egypt and only Egypt could put a quick and effective end to this nascent civil war.  If you're looking for an air force, Egypt has Mirage 2000s and no fewer than 240 F-16s.  That's an air force.   If you want ground forces, Egypt has brigades of American M-1A1 main battle tanks.  Egypt and Libya share a common border, they even share trans-border tribes.  Egypt has tribes it needs to secure against Gaddafi.   On the other side of Libya stands Tunisia which, like Egypt, has recently become ill-disposed to tyrants.  Muammar is suddenly the meat in a revolutionary sandwich.   And it's time the neighbours took a bite.

But we may not get Egypt and Tunisia to clean up the mess in their backyards even though the blowback from their reticence may come back to haunt them.  What that means is that we, Canada's leaders (whom, you might recall, stood up and joined together in a mighty "Hurrah" when Harpo raised the CF-18 thing) need to figure out how we're going to weasel our way back out of this just as we weaseled our way in.   This fiction of us being an honest broker, neither against Gaddafi nor for the rebels, has a very limited shelf life.

That Harper fell for this is a no-brainer.  After all he could never pass up an opportunity to put on his long pants and go to a splendid sit down dinner with the Big Boys.  How Ignatieff, Layton and Duceppe fell for it remains a genuine puzzle.  And of those Three Stooges, what does this say about Iggy, the Harvard schoolboy, who is supposed to know all about this shit?  To my thinking, not much.

Update:  In case you somehow think this post a little light on context, here's a little more from Reuters:

Some allies were now questioning whether a no-fly zone was necessary, given the damage already done by air strikes to Gaddafi's military capabilities, a NATO diplomat said.

"  Yesterday's meeting became a little bit emotional,"   the NATO envoy said, adding that France had argued that the coalition led by France, Britain and the United States should retain political control of the mission, with NATO providing operational support, including command-and-control capabilities.

"  Others are saying NATO should have command or no role at all and that it doesn't make sense for NATO to play a subsidiary role,"   the diplomat said.

Underlining the differences in the anti-Gaddafi coalition, Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said if agreement was not reached on a NATO command, Italy would resume control of the seven airbases it has made available to allied air forces.

A NATO role would require political support from all the 28 states. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, whose country is a NATO member, said on Tuesday that the United Nations should be the umbrella for a solely humanitarian operation in Libya.

In a speech in parliament Erdogan said: "  Turkey will never ever be a side pointing weapons at the Libyan people."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Now Steve, Keep It In Your Pants

It's no wonder he comes across as a cold fish.   Nothing, it seems, gets our prime monster's blood coursing like some good, old fashioned bombing.  He reminds me of that John Candy hick character/movie reviewer and his line, "It blowed up goood, it blowed up reeeal goood."

Steve's short fuse was apparently lit by his decision to send six CF-18s to Sicily in support of the other white guys looking to kick a little Libyan ass.   It's made Steve so embarrassingly hot that he referred to it as an "act of war."   An act of war?  Really, Steve?

"We should not kid ourselves. Whenever you engage in military action - essentially acts of war - these are difficult situations."  

Sounds like real Crusader talk to me.   So, if Canada is now at war with Libya, committing "acts of war" and everything, isn't somebody supposed to sign off on this, get a Declaration of War or something like that?  I know the Americans don't like to do that but that's because they like to cover their tracks, call their wars something else entirely, retain a lot of diplomatic weasel room.

And just what is so difficult in sending six airplanes and a couple of hundred of the hired help over there?   You did, after all, get a convenient vacation from Ottawa.   You got to sit at a big table with all the real leaders and they even tossed in dinner to boot.

BTW Steve, if we were going to send Canadian CF-18s over there, why didn't we go to Spain?   They're the only Euro player that flies the F-18.   They've got all the F-18 gear and gizmos, not the Italians.   I guess that's just too difficult a situation to figure out.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why Libya But Not Bahrain? Britain Explains

Britain is deeply concerned about the Bahraini monarch unleashing his along with Saudi and Emirates forces against civilian protesters. Britain is profoundly saddened that these forces have gunned down unarmed Bahraini protesters. Britain is so very disappointed that Bahraini security forces have arrested opposition leaders and are holding them, somewhere.

But, even as the cruise missiles fly into Libya and Western air forces prepare to open a can of Crusader whupass on Gaddafi's military forces, it just wouldn't be right for us to give those Gulf Arab despots a taste of the same lash.

British foreign secretary William Hague said Libya and Bahrain are like apples and lawn furniture:

Any action that appeared to be 'the west' trying to impose itself on these countries would be counter-productive, as has been suggested,” the foreign secretary warned.

He later added that it was also “important not to view Bahrain and Libya as analogous” and that all the circumstances should “not be considered to be analogous.”

“In the case of Bahrain, the government have genuinely offered dialogue with opposition groups and offered a referendum on a new constitution. Colonel Gaddafi is not in the position of offering a referendum to his people on a constitution - he is at the other extreme,” he argued.

Oopsie, slippie.  If Gaddafi is "the other extreme" that would make Bahrain's royals the opposite extreme, no?   And as for the genuine dialogue bit, the king's men already have these guys under lock and key or else hiding from imminent arrest.  Is that an offer of dialogue, "genuine dialogue"?   And, of course, it just wouldn't do for the West to start meddling in Arab/Muslim affairs would it not when we've already got hundreds of thousands of Western troops in Bahrain, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Egypt.

No, it's best we leave these things up to the Arab countries even if it is the Arab countries that are persecuting, even slaughtering Bahraini protesters.   I'm sure they know best.

Somebody Shot Down Somebody Over Benghazi

BBC News has video of what appears to be a jet fighter shot down and falling in flames over Benghanzi. Stills from the video suggest it is indeed one of Gaddafi's dozen or so remaining Mirage F1s.

Fight's On

Muammar Gaddafi seems intent on sealing his own fate.   Numerous accounts claim that, despite calling an immediate ceasefire in response to a threatening UN Security Council resolution, Libyan military forces are proceeding to assault Benghazi.

If so, the "no fly zone" becomes irrelevant and Western air forces will proceed to dismember Gadaffi's firepower assets - his tanks, artillery and air defence hardware.  A scan of Libya's order of battle shows that most of his stuff is obsolete and the small fraction that is remotely battleworthy can be quickly reduced.

Maybe, just maybe, the old bugger has decided to go down in a blaze of martyrdom.  Maybe he's just crazy.   Either way, he's finished.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Science Doesn't Agree With You

Science doesn't agree with anybody.  It is what it is.  On the other hand you can accept science, you can dispute science, you can even deny science but, beyond that, your choices are limited.

How many times have we criticized the radical Right for climate science denial?  We routinely excoriate them for promoting false narratives that fly in the face of solid, scientific research - and rightly so.

Yet why is it, when it comes to nuclear science, the Left is as ridiculous as the Right?  Suddenly we're joining the chorus attacking the credibility of nuclear scientists as the atomic equivalent of fossil fuelers.    It's as though we've never managed to grow out of our "ban the bomb"/China Syndrome shells.   "Oh you can't trust them scientists, they're surely up to something, they're in it for themselves."


Do you really believe, even just for a minute, that climate change scientists/advocates of the stature of James Lovelock or NOAA's James Hansen or The Guardian's George Monbiot would support nuclear energy as the only vehicle to enable mankind to wean ourselves off fossil fuels if their decades of research and scientific knowledge didn't leave them convinced of it?   What do you think, they're like Loki out pulling your leg for the sheer fun of it?  Do you think?

One thing the Fukushima fiasco has brought home to me is that the radical Left is every bit as odious, closed minded, dishonest and hypocritical as the radical Right and they both deserve our heartfelt contempt.   Science isn't science when it conveniently bolsters your narrative, your dogma and garbage when it does not.   If your narrative is convincingly  dispelled by science, it's your narrative that's garbage and shame on you for pretending otherwise.

Who Needs Canadian Fighters in Libya?

Steve Harper has decided that it suits his "tough guy" self-image to order six Canadian CF-18 fighters to Europe, somewhere, to enforce the UN "no fly zone" edict over Libya.

This is about as blatant a stunt as they come.    Six jets, what is that?   Compared to Canada, Libya is on France's and Italy's doorstep.  It's just a carrier deck away for the US Navy.  It's barely a stroll around the block for the Brits.   They can run air patrols virtually out of their backyards.   For us, it's another matter entirely which is why we're sending just six aircraft and a legion of support personnel to some place to maybe do something, somewhere.

Think of the field day Gaddafi can have with this?   Look at the Crusaders doing what they always do, coming to kick Muslim butt.   And there are plenty of people predisposed by our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan and our blatant support of Arab tyrants who won't have any trouble believing it.

It's not like there's any shortage of Arab muscle to do the job.   Egypt is right next door and it has scads of every state-of-the-art vehicle and trinket necessary to deal with an old clown like Gaddafi.

But Canada?   To enforce a meaningless no fly zone?   With a massive force of six planes?  That's a joke.

George Monbiot - The Real Nuclear Disaster is in China

The Guardian's chief environmental writer, George Monbiot, warns that the nuclear disaster we need to fear is happening in China where the Japanese fiasco has caused the Chinese government to suspend approval of new nuclear power plants.

George Monbiot, pro nuke?  That's right you ninnies.

While nuclear causes calamities when it goes wrong, coal causes calamities when it goes right, and coal goes right a lot more often than nuclear goes wrong. The only safe coal-fired plant is one which has broken down past the point of repair.

Before I go any further, and I'm misinterpreted for the thousandth time, let me spell out once again what my position is. I have not gone nuclear. But, as long as the following four conditions are met, I will no longer oppose atomic energy.  

1. Its total emissions – from mine to dump – are taken into account, and demonstrate that it is a genuinely low-carbon option

2. We know exactly how and where the waste is to be buried

3. We know how much this will cost and who will pay

4. There is a legal guarantee that no civil nuclear materials will be diverted for military purposes

To these I'll belatedly add a fifth, which should have been there all along: no plants should be built in fault zones, on tsunami-prone coasts, on eroding seashores or those likely to be inundated before the plant has been decommissioned or any other places which are geologically unsafe. This should have been so obvious that it didn't need spelling out. But we discover, yet again, that the blindingly obvious is no guarantee that a policy won't be adopted.

...While producing solar power makes perfect sense in north Africa, in the UK, by comparison to both wind and nuclear, it's a waste of money and resources. Abandoning nuclear power as an option narrows our choices just when we need to be thinking as broadly as possible.

Several writers for the Guardian have made what I believe is an unjustifiable leap. A disaster has occurred in a plant that was appallingly sited in an earthquake zone; therefore, they argue, all nuclear power programmes should be abandoned everywhere. It looks to me as if they are jumping on this disaster as support for a pre-existing position they hold for other reasons. Were we to follow their advice, we would rule out a low-carbon source of energy, which could help us tackle the gravest threat the world now faces. That does neither the people nor the places of the world any favours.

So ban the bomb and kumbaya and all the rest of  that crap.  There, now if you've got that out of your system, let's turn our attention back to saving instead of destroying our civilization.

Japanese Nuke Meltdown - The Catastrophe Is Mainly In Your Head

The real damage from nuclear accidents is mostly psychological.  It's fear and fear can  have powerful manifestations.   Cambridge University prof and specialist in the public understanding of risk, David Spiegelhalter, says we fear most that which we cannot see:

Psychologists have spent years identifying the factors that lead to increased feelings of risk and vulnerability - and escaped radiation from nuclear plants ticks all the boxes.

It is an invisible hazard, mysterious and not understood, associated with dire consequences such as cancer and birth defects. It feels unnatural.

It has been estimated that 17m were exposed to significant radiation after Chernobyl and nearly 2,000 people have since developed thyroid cancer having consumed contaminated food and milk as children.
This is very serious, but nothing like the impact that had been expected, and a UN report identified psychological problems as the major consequence for health.

The perception of the extreme risk of radiation exposure is also somewhat contradicted by the experience of 87,000 survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who have been followed up for their whole lives.

By 1992, over 40,000 had died, but it has been estimated that only 690 of those deaths were due to the radiation. Again, the psychological effects were major.

Radiation does, however, feel acceptable when used in benign circumstances such as medical imaging. You can pay £100 ($160) and get a whole-body CT scan as part of a medical check-up, but it can deliver you a dose equivalent to being 1.5 miles from the centre of the Hiroshima explosion.

Because more than 70m CT scans are carried out each year, the US National Cancer Institute has estimated that 29,000 Americans will get cancer as a result of the CT scans they received in 2007 alone.

I've been really astonished at the "Chicken Little" reactions I've seen from progressives about the Japanese fiasco.   Ten thousand Japanese have either been swept out to sea or lie buried beneath rubble and yet our attention is seemingly riveted on a few failing reactors that have killed - oh, let me count - nobody.   What, this is Armageddon?  Nope, not really.

Yet widespread fear may rule out the use of nuclear power which may be our last best option for weaning ourselves off fossil fuels if we're to avoid a real catastrophe, runaway global warming.  Hey, wait, I've got an idea!  Let's compromise.  How about if we all agree not to build major nuclear reactor plants anywhere that four of the earths' major tectonic plates collide?  Hmmm, I wonder why the Japanese didn't think of that?

Fear is a real bitch.  That's why it has become the instrument of choice of today's radical/mainstream Right.   Fear weakens you.  It leaves you vulnerable, malleable. We no longer can afford that.   If we don't learn to reject fear (a.k.a. "grow a pair") we may be in for a brief and brutal century.  The ship has sailed and on this voyage it's going to take clear-headed courage to make it through.

So get on your best woolly sweater, have a soothing cup of jasmine tea and stop being such a bunch of fucking ninnies!

Gaddafi Rolls Over, Plays Dead - Crafty Old Dog

At the 11th hour, 59th minute, the United Nations Security Council ordered a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace and authorized all necessary measures short of invasion to protect that country's citizens.

Three weeks too late countries like Britain, France and even Canada - you know, all the Crusader states - came out swinging, announcing they're committing combat aircraft to enforce the UN resolution.

With the rebels largely driven back to the confines of Benghazi, Gadaffi made the smart play and declared an immediate ceasefire.   It's a pretty good win for Muammar.   His campaign over the past two weeks contemplated what has now happened.   Just as armies are known to ramp up fighting in the runup to a ceasefire, Gaddafi took the opportunity to drive the rebels back as far as possible, allowing him to consolidate his hold on most of the country including its airfields.  Resistance behind his new front line can be quietly cleaned up by his security forces.

This must be about the most half-assed initiative ever conjured up by the UN
Security Council.  It's ineffective, it's much too late, it may even consolidate Gaddafi's support and his control over the country.  Brilliant.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Harper Slammed for Missing Out on 150,000 Canadian Jobs

Steve Harper's stimulus budget, more properly called the "Pinata Budget," was a colossal waste of tax dollars.  Gee, really?  But wait, there's more.   With the money Harper squandered he could have used it instead to create 150,000 Canadian jobs.

A report by the Pembina Institute, funded by the British High Commission
"offers evidence that the Harper Government’s “Economic Action Plan” short-changed the environment and missed its primary objective of job creation."

"Not only did the government stimulus money produce too few green jobs, says the report, but it missed the chance to create at least another 150,000 jobs through a wise investment of that money.

"The British High Commission’s funding for the report, Reducing Pollution, Creating Jobs, came as no surprise to anyone who noticed the island nation’s growing alarm over global warming."

The Pembina report contends that, invested wisely, the stimulus spending could have created 238,000 jobs instead of the paltry 84,000 actually achieved.
But don't fret.  The stimulus spending was all borrowed money anyway meaning you can pass it along to your kids to repay.

"We Are Coming Tonight ...We Will Find You in Your Closets."

That was the greeting Libya's mad despot Muammar Gaddafi had for the people of Benghazi, the last major holdout of the anti-government uprising.  Gaddafi's resurgent forces are said to be preparing to move on the city.

The New York Times reports the UN Security Council may finally be ready to pass a resolution authorizing a "no fly zone" and other measures supposedly intended to halt Gaddafi's forces as though at this point that could possibly matter.

The paper says that Obama in his by now routine "dollar short/day late" approach to virtually everything finally realizes the proposed no fly zone would be ineffective and favours more direct aerial intervention including air strikes on Gaddafi's tanks and artillery.  Mrs. Clinton was in Tunisia today where she said the US really doesn't have any choice now but to support the Libyan rebels.

This is a man who has no conscience and will threaten anyone in his way.”
She added that Colonel Qaddafi would do “terrible things” to Libya and its neighbors. “It’s just in his nature. There are some creatures that are like that.”

Eliminating the mad Colonel's aircraft, tanks and artillery, is a job that ought to have been given to the Egyptians weeks ago.    If it had, Gaddafi & Company would already be out of business.

Faith & Begorrah - It's Happy Mulroney & Reagan Day!

When Irish Eyes Are Smilin - chances are they've got their hand in your pocket.

I'm sorry, don't mean to piss on St. Paddy but, really, those two characters have become emblematic to me of, well,  Irishness.    And, before you assure me they're aberrations, American and Canadian, take a close gander at what the local gang who ruled Eire these past years actually did to their country and their countrymen.   Like Reagan and Mulroney, they were a pack of get rich quick morons.   It's because of leadership like theirs that Ireland's biggest export is once again its young people.

Remember the Celtic Tiger, Europe's answer to Dubai?   Well that tiger has now been butchered and is slow roasting on EU spits, the countryside littered with unfinished housing estates that await the arrival of the bulldozers.

The now ex-Irish government could have let their wastrel banks fail and protected the Irish public by guaranteeing deposits, but chose to pledge the good credit of rank and file Irish taxpayers by guaranteeing bank bondholders instead.   In other words, those rich bastards who took a flyer on high-risk/high yield gambles on these Irish banks got their bad bets paid in full and paid on the backs of the Irish public.   And the Irish have been conditioned for so many centuries to take it in the neck, they didn't march in the streets in rage but resigned themselves quietly to their fate and, if they were young and educated, scraped up airfare to get the hell out.  And the Irish thought the Potato Famine was bad.

Read more about the majesty of St. Patrick's Day here.

Happy St. Paddy's Day to you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Canada - "The World's Waterkeeper"

The US-based, non profit Pew Environment Group is urging Canada to protect our boreal forests which they claim do more to reduce global carbon emissions than even the Amazon rainforests.

Steve Kallick, the director of Pew’s international boreal conservation camp, said American researchers were stunned to learn exactly how much fresh water and how many carbon-draining peat bogs are located in the forest that cover the top of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and the far north across to Alaska.

..The Pew study says the bulwark provided by boreal ecosystems against the loss of biodiversity and global warming have an estimated value of $700-billion annually.

 The forests contain half of the world’s lakes that are larger than a square kilometre in size; 50 of the world’s largest rivers; 200 million acres of surface water; and Great Bear Lake, the world’s largest remaining unpolluted body of fresh water.

In addition, the report says, the wetlands and peatlands store an estimated 147 billion tonnes of carbon, more than 25 years worth of current man-made emissions. The delta of the Mackenzie River alone stores 41 billion tonnes.

Boreal Aerials from Enviro on Vimeo.

White Trash, Nothing But White Trash

This is how I define "lowlife" - people who exploit the Japanese disaster, like these miscreants and reprobates:

And this:

And this:

It May Be Bahraini Soldiers Firing on Bahraini Protesters but Uncle Sam Is Passing the Ammunition

American foreign policy is a shambles.   That's hardly surprising when firepower has come to rival diplomacy as the country's prime instrument of foreign policy.  It sets up an inevitable and inconsistent struggle between the Pentagon and the State Department that sometimes produces the very result America acts to prevent. 

All you need do is take a look at how Washington has catapulted Iran into regional domination of the Persian Gulf area.   America toppled Saddam and Iran emerged the big winner.   Now the US is helping Iranian influence spread through the Arab side of the Gulf with its blundering in Bahrain.

Just how American bullets make their way into Bahraini guns, into weapons used by troops suppressing pro-democracy protesters, opens a wider window into the shadowy relationships between the Pentagon and a number of autocratic states in the Arab world. Look closely and outlines emerge of the ways in which the Pentagon and those oil-rich nations have pressured the White House to help subvert the popular democratic will sweeping across the greater Middle East.

A TomDispatch  analysis of Defense Department documents indicates that, since the 1990s, the United States has transferred large quantities of military materiel, ranging from trucks and aircraft to machine-gun parts and millions of rounds of live ammunition, to Bahrain's security forces.

According to data from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the branch of the government that coordinates sales and transfers of military equipment to allies, the US has sent Bahrain dozens of "  excess"   American tanks, armored personnel carriers, and helicopter gunships.

The US has also given the Bahrain Defense Force thousands of .38 caliber pistols and millions of rounds of ammunition, from large-caliber cannon shells to bullets for handguns. To take one example, the US supplied Bahrain with enough .50 caliber rounds - used in sniper rifles and machine guns - to kill every Bahraini in the kingdom four times over. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency did not respond to repeated requests for information and clarification.

In addition to all these gifts of weaponry, ammunition, and fighting vehicles, the Pentagon in coordination with the State Department oversaw Bahrain's purchase of more than $386 million in defense items and services from 2007 to 2009, the last three years on record.

"  We call on restraint from the government,"   Secretary of State Hillary ClintonLibya, and Yemen: "  The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries, and wherever else it may occur."

...In the weeks since, Washington has markedly softened its tone. According to a recent report by Julian Barnes and Adam Entous in the Wall Street Journal, this resulted from a lobbying campaign directed at top officials at the Pentagon and the less powerful State Department by emissaries of Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and his allies in the Middle East. In the end, the Arab lobby ensured that, when it came to Bahrain, the White House wouldn't support "  regime change",   as in Egypt or Tunisia, but a strategy of theoretical future reform some diplomats are now calling "  regime alteration". said in the wake of Bahrain's crackdown.

...The Pentagon's relationship with the Gulf Cooperation Council countries has been cemented in several key ways seldom emphasized in American reporting on the region. Military aid is one key factor. Bahrain alone took home $20 million in US military assistance last year. In an allied area, there is the rarely discussed triangular marriage between defense contractors, the Gulf states, and the Pentagon.

The six Gulf nations (along with regional partner Jordan) are set to spend $70 billion on weaponry and equipment this year, and as much as $80 billion per year by 2015. As the Pentagon looks for ways to shore up the financial viability of weapons makers in tough economic times, the deep pockets of the Gulf States have taken on special importance.

Beginning last October, the Pentagon started secretly lobbying financial analysts and large institutional investors, talking up weapons-makers and other military contractors it buys from to bolster their long-term financial viability in the face of a possible future drop in Defense Department spending. The Gulf States represent another avenue toward the same goal. It's often said that the Pentagon is a "  monopsony",  the only buyer in town for its many giant contractors, but that isn't entirely true.

This is the oldest Pentagon scam in the book.   When money is tight, find countries that are supposedly threatened, transfer the weaponry you no longer way to them, then get Congress to send you bags of money to buy new stuff to fill up your arsenals.

China, India's Demographic Time Bomb

When the current upheaval hit the Arab world it quickly emerged that one driving force was youth underemployment.   These countries had opened colleges and universities that churned out grads for whom there weren't nearly enough jobs to go around.  The kids weren't alright and eventually they took to the streets.

This underemployment phenomenon isn't limited to the Arab world.  It is also setting in with the emerging economic superpowers, China and India.   They too have been churning out grads faster than their economies have been able to absorb them.  That's one of the main reasons the Chinese censored internet accounts coming out of Egypt.

But India and China are facing another demographic time bomb - a surplus of young men and a deficiency of young women for them to marry.

Abortion of female foetuses has led to a massive surplus of young unmarried men in India and China, raising fears of an outcast group that could threaten the social fabric.

The trend took root in the 1980s when ultrasound technologies made it easier to detect foetal sex early, according to the analysis in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Sons have traditionally been preferred in parts of China, India and South Korea for social, cultural and financial reasons.

The phenomenon was first spotted in South Korea in the early 1990s, when the sex ratio at birth (SRB) - typically 105 male births to every 100 female - rose to 125 in some cities.

 ''These men will be unable to marry, in societies where marriage is regarded as virtually universal, and where social status and acceptance depend, in large part, on being married and creating a new family,'' said the study's authors, led by Therese Hesketh, of University College London's Centre for International Health and Development. 

Earthquakes & Tsunamis - Is the Pacific Ocean to Blame?

For years scientists have pondered the possible connection between spikes in the El Nino-Southern Oscillation [ENSO] and Pacific sea bed seismicity.  We're just about at the end of what has been a massive La Nina event.  Has this had some bearing on the devastating earthquakes that hit New Zealand and Japan?

Britain's prestigious Royal Society believes the link is statistically made out.

We observe a significant (95% confidence level) positive influence of SOI [Southern Oscillation Index] on seismicity: positive SOI values trigger more earthquakes over the following 2 to 6 months than negative SOI values.  
There is a significant negative influence of absolute sea levels on seismicity (at 6 months lag). We propose that increased seismicity is associated with ENSO-driven sea-surface gradients (rising from east to west) in the equatorial Pacific, leading to a reduction in ocean-bottom pressure over the EPR [East Pacific Rise] by a few kilopascal. This relationship is opposite to reservoir-triggered seismicity and suggests that EPR fault activity may be triggered by plate flexure associated with the reduced pressure.

The Royal Society has a collection of fascinating research papers exploring links between climate change and other events including gas hydrates, volcanology, geospheric and geomorphological responses and more.  You can find links and abstracts here.

Tar Sands Pipeline is No Done Deal Yet

The ambitious pipeline deal to ship bitumen sludge from Athabasca to refineries in Texas has hit a snag.

The US State Department has delayed a decision saying it wants additional public input and environmental reviews.  Washington had been expected to sign off on the project this month but now it looks as though the decision will be put off until the end of the year at the earliest.

The Keystone XL pipeline will run through Alberta, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.   It is being fiercely opposed by US environmentalists and landowners along the designated route.

Another Lesson from Japan. Globalization Leaves Every Country Very, Very Vulnerable

Who would have thought that a massive wave washing ashore in northeastern Japan would shut down auto assembly lines in North America?   That's what happens in today's world of lean and fragile globalized manufacturing.

All the big Japanese auto manufacturers build cars in North America and almost everything in those cars is also made here.   Almost.   But there remains some 7-8%  of the components that come from Japan and you can't build, much less sell a car that's only 92% complete.

Because the industry’s global supply chain is so integrated, analysts predict that short-term disruptions of both vehicle parts and some popular models are imminent.

Not only is Japan’s ravaged northeastern region a major hub for auto parts suppliers and critical infrastructure that traditionally ensured the flow of goods to overseas markets, but persistent power outages have not let up.

For those reasons, Nissan Inc. said some Infiniti models, as well as the GTR and 370Z, could face delayed shipment to Canada and the United States. The North American supply of fuel-efficient cars such as the Toyota Yaris, Toyota Prius hybrid and Honda Fit is at risk because those cars are only made in Japan.

Shutdowns could affect Toyota Canada Inc. and Honda Canada Inc., which each have two assembly plants in Canada. Toyota employs about 6,200 workers and Honda employs around 4,600.

Aiming Is An Intentional Act

Memo to NATO - Try harder when you're responding to complaints about dead civilians.

Last week a NATO gunship helicopter whacked nine Afghan boys out gathering firewood.  The bad news:  they've done it again.   The good news:  they only killed two kids this time.

The two boys, 11 and 17, were tending their family's farm when a helo showed up  and took them out.  NATO's response?  The crew "may have unintentionally engaged civilians who were working on road and field drainage."   Guess what?  There's nothing remotely unintentional about lining up a person in your sights, squeezing the trigger and sending them to Allah.  The death could be mistaken, negligent, criminally negligent, even murderous but the one thing it's not is "unintentional."   I'm sure the crew didn't mean to kill kids but they did mean to kill those two.

Can we go home now?