Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pack Up Your Bags - The Weather's Coming. Word Is Canada is Still Nice This Time of Year.

As the world transitions into a new and dangerous climate state, no nation is going to be immune to extreme weather event disasters.  That's the conclusion of the latest IPCC report.

"One of the striking things, when you look at the report, is that there is disaster risk almost everywhere," said Christopher Field, a Stanford University professor who led the IPCC's working group on climate change impacts. "A focus on disaster risk and a focus on reducing disaster risk should be a priority in every country in every region."

That includes the United States, which suffered $55 billion in disaster-related damage last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That includes 14 extreme weather events that each caused more than $1 billion of damage.

Those changes include "substantial warming" through the end of the century, with longer, stronger and more frequent heat waves over most of the Earth's land area, more frequent heavy rainfall events, and more intense and longer droughts in large swaths of Europe and Africa.

Some of the shifts are already evident, the report says, including an overall dip in the number of cold days and nights and a rising number of warm days and nights since the middle of the last century.

But the effects of those changes are influenced by different communities' ability to adapt, said IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri.
Some areas may be rendered uninhabitable by changing patterns of extreme weather, says the new report, which identifies small island states and large coastal cities threatened by sea level rise as likely examples.

"As we look toward the future, probably the most difficult decisions are going to involve whether there should be a large-scale migration or mobilization of communities," Field said. "The decision about whether or not to move is achingly difficult, and I think it's one the world community is going to have face with increasing frequency in the future."

Over at, Christopher Mims has this advice for his fellow Americans - move to Canada.

If you like cool weather and not having to club your neighbors as you battle for scarce resources, now’s the time to move to Canada, because the story of the 21st century is almost written, reports Reuters. Global warming is close to being irreversible, and in some cases that ship has already sailed.

Here’s what happens next: Natural climate feedbacks will take over and, on top of our prodigious human-caused carbon emissions, send us over an irreversible tipping point. By 2100, the planet will be hotter than it’s been since the time of the dinosaurs, and everyone who lives in red states will pretty much get the apocalypse they’ve been hoping for. The subtropics will expand northward, the bottom half of the U.S. will turn into an inhospitable desert, and everyone who lives there will be drinking recycled pee and struggling to salvage something from an economy wrecked by the destruction of agriculture, industry, and electrical power production.

Water shortages, rapidly rising seas, superstorms swamping hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure: It’s all a-coming, and anyone who is aware of the political realities knows that the odds are slim that our government will move in time to do anything to avert the biggest and most avoidable disaster short of all-out nuclear war.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Trial of Stephen Harper, Part II

As suggested I have now contacted and the Council of Canadians seeking their assistance in organizing a petition demanding our federal and provincial governments take immediate action to decarbonize our economies and our society.  This can't be done overnight but that doesn't mean we can't do it.

Earlier this week Scientific American published a warning that we may have less than a decade before we reach tipping points that will trigger irreversible, and largely unsurvivable, global warming.

Yesterday in The Trial of Stephen Joseph Harper, I tried to make the case in which Harper and those like him who have the power to act yet do nothing could be held liable for prosecution for crimes against humanity.   Surely anthropogenic global warming is the most deadly weapon of mass destruction and those who allow it to be unleashed should be held accountable under both domestic and international law, civilly and criminally.

Somebody has to do something.   I absolutely refuse to become an Easter Islander or to sit by while the petro-pols of Parliament Hill write a miserable fate for my grandchildren and their kids.

Let's put them, the lot of them, squarely on notice that we intend to see them held accountable for the future consequences of the decisions they make or refuse to make today.   There is no other way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Trial of Stephen Joseph Harper

I imagine the day, probably within twenty years, when Stephen Harper, former prime minister of Canada, will sit in the prisoner's dock to stand trial.

Harper and his co-defendants will be tried for crimes against humanity and treason.   He will be tried for his instrumental role in subverting action to arrest global warming both within Canada and internationally and causing the otherwise avoidable deaths of thousands, perhaps millions, of innocents.

I know this all sounds ridiculously fanciful - today.   Harper on trial?  Over climate change?  Preposterous.   Sure, today.   But twenty years from now we may well see his actions much differently.   Indeed we may be living with the exceedingly unpleasant and even dangerous consequences of his perfidy.

Law students are taught the doctrine of retroactivity in criminal law.  You cannot convict someone of a crime that wasn't a criminal offence at the time it was committed.   Yet, as with all legal doctrines, there is much grey area.  And within that, I propose this.

As the consequences of inaction are potentially so catastrophic for our children and grandchildren and, as they have no current voice politically, and as those deciding their fate are those in power today, let us subscribe to and circulate a petition, placing these people on unequivocal notice, that they shall be held responsible, civilly and criminally, in future for the actions and decisions they take today that could be foreseeably hazardous to our future generations.

It's not as though we're asking them to take stabs in the dark.   The science exists, the consensus is patent.   What conceivable right have they to ignore it in pursuit of their very passing, short-term interests?

I need to find some organization capable of undertaking this sort of online petition.   We and our children and our grandchildren, need to fix responsibility for their future through the balance of this century on the decision makers of today.   They need to be held to account and, for the life of me, I cannot and have not thought of a better way to do it.

If Harper & Co. and their New Dem and Liberal successors knew they would face having to answer for their callous and self-serving neglect, they would damn well think twice on it.  Iron bars and forfeiture are the only way to control this sort of political excess.

We must make this gang of petro-pimps, whether Conservative, Liberal or NDP, once again fear us, the Canadian public.   We have too long lived in fear of them.

And to make this idea go down just a little easier, try this:


We've Been Warned

We're down to the home stretch in the fight to save civilization from the ravages of runaway global warming.   A report in Scientific American warns we're within just one decade of tipping points that will trigger natural feedback mechanisms to drive irreversible warming.

The headline speaks volumes - "Global Warming Close to Becoming Irreversible."

As emissions grow, scientists say the world is close to reaching thresholds beyond which the effects on the global climate will be irreversible, such as the melting of polar ice sheets and loss of rainforests.

"This is the critical decade. If we don't get the curves turned around this decade we will cross those lines," said Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University's climate change institute, speaking at a conference in London.

Despite this sense of urgency, a new global climate treaty forcing the world's biggest polluters, such as the United States and China, to curb emissions will only be agreed on by 2015 - to enter into force in 2020.

"We are on the cusp of some big changes," said Steffen. "We can ... cap temperature rise at two degrees, or cross the threshold beyond which the system shifts to a much hotter state."

What a time to be under the heel of radical fundamentalist republicanism.   Yet will the opposition rise to this challenge?   The NDP?  The Liberals perhaps?   Hardly.   Those feckless petro-pimps don't see any percentage in doing what's right for the country and the Canadian people much less the rest of the world and mankind.

Time to Take Stock - On Turning 500,000

Stay or go?  I feel like a Bill Moyers zygote.  I have never achieved his serene altruism, not even close.  I don't aspire to his higher moral purpose.  Yet I've always felt a deep affinity for the man since I encountered his work four decades ago.  He seemed to find a gentle yet powerful and intensely principled clarity in his take on the world.

By contrast, I have always resorted to the baser instincts I evolved as a reporter and litigation lawyer.   Far less understanding and gentile, far more pugnacious and uncivil.

When we start these blogs we're fascinated as the "hits" begin to dribble in.  A few a day at the outset, eventually a few dozen.  Over time we begin to develop an odd sort of relationship with our readers, even those who cloak themselves in anonymity.

The following is still modest, averaging between 400 and 900 per day, yet I'm always at a loss to understand why I get even that many.  The fact is I write these posts mainly for myself and the blog is a vehicle to vent my passion in all its forms.

When I began this blog (at the urging of another, I never would have done it otherwise)  I considered myself a devout Liberal.  I had been drawn to the LPC when I got to vote in my first election which happened to be PET's first campaign as Liberal leader.  What a time that was.  How we've declined ever since.

I was always a rounder.  I scored super high on the SATO and OSAT tests but was too busy with my motorcycles to go to high school much more than 3-months a term.  I think I majored in absenteeism.  It was going, quite deservedly, downhill and that was salvaged only by the Golden Hawks and the burning desire to fly they instilled in me when I was a child and first watched an airshow team.

So, never believing I stood a chance, I underwent RCAF aircrew selection screening and testing and - voila - I tested positive for both pilot and navigator.  I naturally chose pilot with preference for fast jets.  What 17-year old kid wants anything else?

With parental consent (what other choice had they?) I was sworn in at 17.  My dreams and hopes came to an end in advanced flight school when I was beset with migraines, a condition that plagues me to this day.  I remain convinced, however, that I was the real deal, the guy who could have bested Bishop and Collishaw.

But life stops for no man until the moment it actually does just that.  I buggered off to Europe, living in London for a couple of years and Spain for about 4-months.  I rode my gallant but thoroughly untrustworthy steed, a modified BSA, A65L Lightning through Europe - north, south and central - and into North Africa all before returning to Ontario for my 21st birthday.   Fast jets and fast motorcycles - the perfect combination for a young, testosterone-driven kid.  God but I had some good times and some close scrapes; some two-wheeled, some romantic.

Then I came back and went to study journalism at Michigan.  The Vietnam War was heading straight into the shitter.  I had read about Kent State in the international edition of Time while languishing in a 19th century bathtub in Madrid.  Detroit burned in '67.   America was spiritually afire in '70.

I went to study in the States believing all white, middle class Americans were racist.   I soon discovered that racism was a plague that transcended race and ethnicity, something powerfully borne out today.  In the States I had white friends and I had black friends.  I didn't have white and black friends and the pain that realization caused was searing.  The curious thing is that the natural instinct in that dilemma is to turn against your own.  Unless you're someone named Newt or Mitt or Rick.

I went from journalism in Ottawa to law school in Ottawa to lawyering in Vancouver to retirement on the island and to blogging.  I became more progressive and more environmentally attuned.  I also watched the party I had cleaved to for decades degrade.  And now I watch the party I had always thought alone firmly anchored in principle, the NDP, cast adrift.

Unlike any of the major parties with a realistic chance of forming a government in the near future, I see climate change as the greatest challenge confronting our nation, the true sine qua non.  The science and research were conclusive six years ago when I began this blog.  The science and research have flowed in relentlessly ever since then only reinforcing what was previously maintained.

When I began blogging I didn't end the day dispirited.  I do now.  The change over the past six years has been profound and demonstrable yet I see little acknowledgement of that among Liberals and New Democrats and none at all from the Conservatives.

Maybe it's time to hang up these spurs and find more productive venues.  I'll think on that for a while.

BTW - the "Mound of Sound" appellation was given to me by the students at the last, and largest, law firm that had me.  I'm assured it was only referenced to my dulcet yet strong baritone voice.  Of course those same shits also called me "LEO" an acronym for "Large Evil One".  Such is life.  None of them survived.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Green on Blue Now #2 Cause of Allied Death in Afghanistan

Three more Western soldiers gunned down by their Afghan counterparts today, two Brits, one American.   Attacks by our Afghan allies on Western forces now rank second only to improvised explosive devices in our fatalities.   Almost one out of three recent fatalities has been from 'green on blue' attacks.

The problem escalated last month after American soldiers burned Qurans at a military base outside Kabul in an attempt to get rid of books they said contained secret notes shared between prisoners. The incident sparked a deadly backlash.

The Taliban-led insurgency has tried to capitalize on the anger by urging Afghan forces to turn their weapons on their coalition counterparts.

Since the year began, more coalition service members have been gunned down by Afghan troops than by insurgents. A total of 16 members of the U.S.-led coalition were killed this year in nine such "green on blue" incidents, representing nearly one-third of the 50 coalition fatalities caused by hostile action.

Since May 2007, more than 80 members of the coalition have been killed in such attacks, according to the coalition training mission in Afghanistan.

Since 2001 we have persistently and steadfastly violated every fundamental precept of counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan.   Now the last tenet is coming into devastating effect - counterinsurgency forces have a sharply limited shelf life after which they go from liberator/defender to occupier/oppressor in the minds of the local population.   And once your shelf life has lapsed it's virtually impossible to turn the situation around.  We're not even trying.   They know we're leaving and they have a lot of scores to settle.   They're also keenly aware of the new/old reality almost on their doorstep.

It's time to bolt.

American Support for Afghan War Tanks

Four months ago a bare majority, 53% of Americans, thought US soldiers should no longer be fighting that conflict.   Today that number stands at 69%. 

In November less than half of Americans surveyed thought the war was going "badly or very badly."   That's up today to 68%.

The CBS News/New York Times poll found Republican support sagging also.  54% thought the war was going well in November compared to just 34% today.

All the Enviro-News Fit to Print

There's a new climate news aggregator, the Climate Desk,   It's a joint effort of The Guardian, Grist, Wired, Mother Jones, the Atlantic, Need to Know, Slate, and The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Mother Jones offers a tale of the mutant heat waves of March depicted in the chart below:

Although it looks as though people spread across most of North America don't need charts to know they've been abnormally warm lately.  I'm from that little corner in the upper left where we have to read about these things.

Mother Jones also offers up a report on a new law in Pennsylvania that allows doctors to access information on chemicals used in natural gas fracking but prohibits them from sharing that with their patients.

And the ClimateDesk has produced this hope inspiring video of this year's crop of GOP climate hawks:

The video apparently touched a lot of nerves.  MIT researcher Kerry Emanuel  received a lot of hate mail following the video including veiled threats to his wife.

Emanuel notes that in the full video he went on to explain that the Republican candidates “have either been misled in which case it’s not great to be part of the political system where candidates for the president of the United States could be so misled on such an important issue, or they were dishonest, in which case equally bad in my view: How could we live in a country where candidates are being dishonest about an issue of such importance?”

Washington Post Off Its Perch on Climate Change

The editorial policy of the Washington Post now acknowledges that global warming is not only real but a very real threat to the United States that demands urgent action.   The paper has also come out unequivocally in favour of effective carbon taxes.

 No word yet how the paper's official policy is sitting with Denialists in Chief George Will or Charlie Krauthammer.

How A Degree or Two Makes a Huge Difference has published a very informative article, "Extremely Hot" by Stefan Rahmstorf and Dim Coumou that explores the impacts of even modest one or two degree C warming on severe climate events such as heatwaves.

The article uses these graphs to demonstrate that the impacts of even modest warming create non-linear repercussions.  This is part of what is often described as shifting the world's climate into a new steady state.

What you see is that the mild or mid-range between very cold and very hot diminishes to produce somewhat fewer very cold events and substantially more very hot and record hot events.   And that's where we're heading if we don't soon take meaningful action to arrest global warming.

Dobbins on Mulcair - Serious Doubts

Tom Mulcair makes Murray Dobbins uncomfortable.  In the latest Tyee, Dobbins succinctly lays out the problem:

Two things shocked me about this race and its final two days. The first is that so many NDPers, part of a tightly-knit, hyper-loyal political culture steeped in progressive values could so casually elect a man who contradicts so many of their principles. Besides the disastrous result for the party and all progressives in the country, the election of Mulcair raises profound questions about the health of the party. There are two possibilities, neither attractive. One is that NDPers, like increasing numbers of Canadians in general, simply don't read as much and that information about Mulcair did not get through to them. To what extent did NDPers devote time and energy to finding out about the candidates? In general, what is the state of member education and engagement in the party? 

 More worrisome is the possibility that many thousands of NDP members had indeed heard the negative aspects of Mulcair's politics and voted for him anyway. That's a very different problem. It reflects what I have observed about the NDP for decades now: its decreasing emphasis on policy and philosophy and the increased -- political machine driven -- preoccupation with winning seats in elections, often out of context of the political moment and oblivious to unintended consequences. One prominent NDPer I spoke to responded to my shock that he was supporting Mulcair with a sort of football game enthusiasm. "I think he can take on the bastard [Harper]."

Facing a ruthless tough guy? Get your own ruthless tough guy. And possibly create a monster you can't control. It is as if policy, philosophy, and vision for the country have simply been devalued to the point where they are an afterthought or some vaguely interesting historical relic. There seems to have been a kind of "We'll worry about policies later, let's pick someone who can win first."

...How will Mulcair's "negatives" play out now that he is leader? These are significant negatives: his vicious, public attack on Libby Davies in 2010 showed unforgivably bad judgment. His failed negotiations with the Harper Conservatives for a cabinet position should by itself be a deal breaker for what it reveals about Mulcair's ethics. When finance critic, he barely said a word about Harper's destructive economic policies, and so one has to suspect he was in basic agreement. He boasted in 2007 about having slashed the work force of the Quebec environment department by 15 per cent, referring to himself as first and foremost a manager. That fits with his history of union-bashing -- and support for NAFTA -- while in Quebec's Liberal cabinet.

...How hard will the caucus fight, for example, on the Palestinian question? Will the caucus be willing to allow a fight to get out into the public? Mulcair has demonstrated that he is more than willing to do so, the consequences be damned.

...Mulcair's rigid fiscal conservatism may be another problem that comes up very quickly. Mulcair's economic views are closer to Harper's than they are to Jack Layton's or any other recent NDP leader. How convincing will he be in attacking deficit slashing if he actually believes in it?

...On the critically important issue of Quebec, NDPers hoping that Mulcair is the man to retain what Jack built may quickly be disappointed. You would be hard-pressed to find a social activist in Quebec who thinks Mulcair is a progressive. He is widely disliked. With the Bloc resurgent, open rejection of Mulcair's leadership by NGOs and movement groups could be disastrous.

If Dobbins is remotely accurate, the NDP may have just shot itself in both feet.   This guy sounds nothing like a natural successor to Jack Layton, anything but.   And if his past portends his future the strains within the party are bound to turn fractious.  A guy who tried to wangle a cabinet post in Harper's government is now the leader of the New Democrats?   An austerity booster and union basher?  You may just have elected the first NDP leader who loathes progressivism.   Good luck with that.

Right out of the blocks Mulcair vehemently denounced any prospect of cooperating with the Liberals.   Now I understand why.  He may prefer Harper over the Libs.

The Fundamentalist Dominion of Canada

Another warning that our federal government is "beholden to a religious agenda averse to science and rational debate."

This time it's Andrew Nikiforuk writing in the latest Tyee.

Any Canadian listening to the news these days might well conclude that the Republican extremists or some associated evangelical group has occupied Ottawa. 

...transparency and full disclosure has become the issue of paramount importance. To date, Harper has refused to answer media questions about his beliefs or which groups inform them. If he answered media queries about his minority creed (and fewer than 10 per cent of Canadians would call themselves evangelicals) he'd have to admit that he openly sympathizes if not endorses what's known as "evangelical climate skepticism."  

No one knows this fossil fuel friendly ideology better than Dr. David Gushee, a distinguished professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and a Holocaust scholar. The evangelical Christian is also one of the drafters of the 2006 Evangelical Climate Initiative. It declared climate change a serious threat to Creation that demands an ethical Christian response.

But that's not the wing of the evangelical movement that Harper listens to. Given his government's pointed attacks on environmentalists and science of any kind, Harper would seem to take his advice from the Cornwall Alliance, a coalition of right-wing scholars, economists and evangelicals. The Alliance questions mainstream science, doubts climate change, views environmentalist as a "native evil," champions fossil fuels and supports libertarian economics.

Nikiforuk reviews what have come to form the 7 tenets of evangelical climate skepticism described by Dr. David Gushee, professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University:

1. Disdain for the environmental movement
2. Distrust of mainstream science in general
3. Distrust of the mainstream media
4. Loyalty to the party
5. Libertarian economics as God's will (God is opposed to government regulation or taxation
6. Misunderstanding of divine sovereignty (God won't allow us to ruin creation)
7. Unreconstructed Dominion theology (God calls on humans to subdue and rule creation)

In the end of the interview, Gushee summarized the purpose of this new evangelical Republicanism: "God is sovereign over creation and therefore humans can do no permanent damage... God established government for limited purposes and government should not intervene much in the workings of a free market economy... The media is overplaying climate change worries... The environmental movement is secular/pagan and has always been a threat to American liberties...

Reading this article and other treatments of our Furious Leader's radical fundamentalist creed you have to wonder if Canada doesn't have its very own Jim Jones installed in 24 Sussex Drive.

Nikiforuk's piece is a timely and important warning to us all.  I strongly urge you to read it in its entirety.   If you missed the link about, you can access it here.

Sayonara Time for Christie Clark's Neo-Con Liberals

When trying to make sense of some of BC unelected premier Christie Clark's recent machinations I was left wondering whether she's indifferent to offending voter sensibilities because she knows her government, and party, are heading down the drain in the next election?

Is Christie Clark determined to make hay while the sun shines knowing that dusk is drawing nigh?   If so, she may be embracing reality.

A report in the latest Tyee finds that, were an election called today, the BC New Democrats would not only rise to government but could likely take 75 of the 85 seats in the legislature.   The neo-con Libs could be reduced to just 9 seats.

The Forum Research poll found the NDP at 47% with the BC Libs and BC Conservatives tied at 21% each.   We can only hope the numbers hold and herald an exodus of the far right, provincially and federally, from our province.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mitt's Cousin Denounces Mormonism as a "Cult"

Park Romney was once a Mormon high priest.   Unlike his more famous cousin, Mitt, Park Romney left the church that he now labels a fraud.

"There's compelling evidence that the Mormon Church leaders knowingly and wilfully misrepresent the historical truth of their origins and of the Church for the purpose of deceiving their members into a state of mind that renders them exploitable," says Park.

Such accusations are rarely heard in the US, a nation founded on the principle of freedom of religion.

"It's not something you're supposed to talk about," says Prof Robert Putnam of Harvard Kennedy School.

"Whenever the issue of Romney's Mormonism has come to the surface, there's been lots of condemnation across the political spectrum for raising the issue of his religion," says Putnam.

"I'm not saying it's not relevant, but it's not talked about in polite company."

Well, polite or not, Mormonism will be in play right up to election night this November.  It's why, for example, a  Catholic like Santorum has readily captured the evangelical fundamentalist vote in the Deep South.   Americans may just not be willing to accept a man who lives and sleeps in magic underwear.

The Magic 2C By 2100? We'll Hit 3C by 2050.

A joint BBC/ simulation relying on mid-range emission scenarios concludes it's likely global warming will exceed 3 degrees Celsius by 2050.   That pretty much blows out the long-established target of just 2C by 2100.

The forecast was based on 10,000 climate simulations run on volunteers' computers.

Our Buggy Stealth Buggy

Okay, the F-35 isn't a buggy, it's a bomb truck - a very buggy flying bomb truck.

The F-35 has had more than its share of lurches, stumbles and controversy along its path to become the most overpriced, overdue and underperforming fighter aircraft in history.  Originally intended to be operational in 2010, it's now faintly hoped the F-35 will be combat ready in 2018.

A story that didn't get much attention in Canada is a report of new bugs or major flaws, thirteen of them, have have surfaced in the F-35.   These flaws were outlined in a report leaked just before Christmas.   One of these is described as a "classified deficiency" which some aviation types are sure means the F-35's stealth performance.    The F-35 might just not be nearly as stealthy as Lockheed promised it would be.

The late Chalmers Johnson presciently forecast that the F-35's elaborate onboard computer software, all 10-million lines of it, would plague the airplane.   It has.  The previous software record holder, the highly capable F-22, has just 5-million lines of onboard software.   The US General Accounting Office zeroed in on the F-35s software glitches in its recent scathing criticism of the project.

The Sin of Political Despair

In some people's holy book, despair is a sin.   I always figured that idea came from somebody who wasn't quite done with you yet.

Is Stephen Harper the Prime Minister of Despair?  Is that his secret agenda, to get Canadians so despairing of their government that they become alienated, detached from the political process and, thereby, no threat to the one guy nobody really likes, Steve Harper?

That's not to say Steve is the sole instigator of this vexing misfortune.  It sometimes feels like Steve is playing the disaffected Canadian voters with his left hand at the bottom of the keyboard, while his right hand is busy playing the opposition in the higher octaves.

The future of Canada, to me at least, looks mighty grim if we don't even quest to restore the political centre to its pre-Harper position.   Without defending the Canadian left, what remains - the centre, the centre-right and the hard-right?   Win, lose or draw that makes Canada a conservative country something with ominous overtones to an emerging petro-state.

I worry that a Canada without a firmly anchored commitment to social democracy will devolve into a country with great inequality and divisive regionalism in which the nation and people are left permanently weakened and vulnerable to powerful interests.  This is the Canada that Stephen Harper envisions as ideal.

This is shaping up to be the most challenging and dangerous century in the history of mankind's civilization.   It will be a century in which social cohesiveness will be of immense importance to nations and societies.  Harper's approach is a body blow to that essential cohesiveness.   Why then is the opposition following him in trail?  Is the left now truly indefensible?  Has it become devoid of utility and meaning?   Was it ever valid?  I despair of discovering the answer.

How Far, How Fast, How Hard?

We now have a new liberal NDP leader and he's wasting no time pronouncing himself his party ready to govern Canada.   Fair enough and more power to Mr. Mulcair.  If he can take down Harper, I'll vote for him.

But let's not forget about Harper and his pre-emptive ways.   If there's one thing Steve absolutely believes in, it's wasting no time, no opportunity to undermine his adversaries.  It keeps them off balance and, over time, saps the public confidence in them.  Steve looks for vulnerabilities to exploit.   The question then becomes how Steve will exploit weaknesses he sees in Mulcair, how soon he will go after the NDP leader and how hard he'll hit.

The obvious tactic would be to sow dissension in the NDP ranks.  That could be as simple as forcing Mulcair to take a position on socialism.   It would be difficult to conceive of the Canadian voting public choosing an avowed socialist today.  

If there was one thing that Harper, with the able assistance of Ignatieff and Layton, achieved it was to shift Canada's political centre well to the right.  And what's the point of doing that if you can't take advantage of it at a timely moment?

Mulcair, by most indications, seems intent on steering a centrist course, the very peril Ed Broadbent warned of.   He surely knows that old school socialism does not lead to power today more than ever.  Mulcair doesn't want a deal with the Liberals, he wants to become leader of Canada's next liberal government.   Can he do that without alienating his party's "true believers", the harcore that has always sustained the NDP in good times and bad?

This poses a real problem for Mulcair all on its own.   With Harper bringing his own match to Mulcair's gasoline there's no telling what could happen.

Remember this also.   Mulcair's NDP will not form the government of Canada with only their own party supporters.   They're going to need to draw a lot of Liberal and undecided voters to their side.  It's said that Mulcair has a quick temper, something that Harper knows how to exploit.  It's also the very sort of character flaw that could make the NDP much less attractive to those new voters they need.

This may not be the time for a headstrong NDP leader.   With his decisive pronouncement rejecting any deal with the Liberals, Mulcair has revealed an iron fistedness he has not yet earned the support to wield.  It's this sort of thing that perfectly suits Harper's play book.

I don't think Harper is going to waste any time going after Mulcair to sow dissension in the NDP ranks and suspicion among the general voting public.   Let's nope the NDP leader can handle it.   If not he may just give the Liberals the break they so badly need.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I Hope They Incinerated the Old One

Dick Cheney has had a change of heart - no, really, he has changed his heart.   The old one was cut out and a dandy new one implanted.  The rotten Dick has survived five heart attacks, the first suffered at age 37.

What a waste of a perfectly good heart and, presumably, some perfectly good human being whose life could otherwise have been saved by it.   Then again if Cheney had gone for a dirt nap back when he was 37 our world might look a lot different today.

Words of Wisdom

Back in the early 70s I got to know the then Reeve of Gloucester Township outside Ottawa, Bob "Doc" MacQuarrie.   I was thinking of Doc today and I was reminded of something he told me back then, the key to politics.

He said the secret to politics was always knowing "the difference between scratching your ass and tearing it all apart."   I figure there's something to that.

Congratulations to the New Democrats and your new leader, Thomas Mulcair.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul - Vegas Style

From the "how f__king stupid can they get?" file.  Las Vegas is fast running out of water.   The city fears it may not even have drinking water next year.  Its reservoir, Lake Mead, is already at dangerously low levels.

So, what to do?  The answer is to pump massive volumes of water from distant parts of Nevada across three hundred miles of desert to Las Vegas.

Environmental groups, cattle ranchers and native groups from eastern Nevada have joined forces to oppose the decision.  They maintain there is no unappropriated water available in the targeted areas.

Bizarre as this may seem, this will not be the last time we'll see this sort of predicament occur in the drought-stricken US southwest.  This is a long odds gamble that the drought will end and surface water will be restored in time to avert collapse.  What is the alternative, shutting down Las Vegas?  

Water Wars Warning, Part Deux

Yesterday it was US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning that many parts of our world are on the brink of instability and warfare triggered by global warming and the world freshwater crisis.

Now it's Britain's secretary of state for energy and climate change, Ed Davey, sounding the warning.

"Countries have not tended to go to war over water, but I have a fear for the world that climate instability drives political instability," he said. "The pressure of that makes conflict more likely."

Even a small temperature rise – far less than the 4C that scientists predict will result from a continuation of business as usual – could lead to lower agricultural yields, he warned, at a time when population growth means that demand for food was likely to be up by 70% by 2060. By the same time, he noted, the number of people living in conditions of serious water stress would have reached 1.8 billion, according to estimates.

"Climate change intensifies pressures on states, and between states," he told the conference, gathered to discuss whether climate change and natural resources should be regarded as a national security issue. "[Its effects] can lead to internal unrest … and exacerbate existing tensions. We have to plan for a world where climate change makes difficult problems even worse."

Of course the Canadian government and a great many of our citizens remain conveniently oblivious to this.   Their attitude is what happens to those people is unfortunate but it's their problem and we have nothing to do with it.  In a pig's eye we don't.  Our carbon fingerprints are all over it.

While the impacts of our profligate carbon emissions are relatively minimal here, they're massive elsewhere.   And, if the impacts of our massive carbon emissions could somehow be redirected back to us alone, we'd be absolutely racing to decarbonize our societies and our economies.  It's only because we can export most of these impacts, spread them around to distant parts of the world, that we can act with smug indifference.   And that makes Stephen Harper truly Canada's Prime Monster.

All I Want In a Political Party

There are many things I'd like from a political party but, for now, there are two key priorities.   One is a total ban on bitumen tanker traffic through BC inshore waters.  

The other is a commitment to dismember the media cartels that are poisoning Canada.  If we've learned anything from Stephen Harper's regime, it's that far right politics and dominant, corporatized media make fast bedfellows.  We've seen that corporatized media does not hesitate to abandon its essential job as watchdog of government to instead serve as lapdog of government, shamefully betraying the public interest.

Face it folks.   The one thing that will keep Harper in power is a collaborative mass media serving as his partisan political agency.

That's it.  I'll settle for just those two things.  

The Face of Vesta

A photograph from NASA showing the 500 km. diameter asteroid Vesta.   The photo was taken by NASA's orbiting spacecraft Dawn which is now moving on to a scheduled encounter with asteroid Ceres in 2015.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Night Blues - Britain's Bluesman

And this is why old Keith Richards is considered Britain's true bluesman - Little Red Rooster

Christ, where did the years go?

Mountie Corporal Monty Guilty of Obstruction

RCMP corporal Monty Robinson, has been convicted of obstruction of justice in killing motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson in October, 2008.  Robinson was one of the RCMP officers at Vancouver Airport who killed Robert Dziekanski in 2009.

After hitting Hutchison with his SUV, Robinson gathered up his kids and walked home where he proceeded to drink hard liquor, supposedly to calm his nerves.   Supreme Court Justice Janice Dillion didn't buy that line, finding that Robinson knew damned well that getting some more booze in him would prevent him from being charged with drunk driving and worse.  Robinson was bringing his kids home from a birthday party where he'd consumed five beers.

Obstruction is a pretty mild charge for a guy who killed a motorist in these circumstances but Robinson knew what he was doing. 

Australia Steps Back from F-35 Buy

Another day, another F-35 fiasco.   This time it's Australia that's getting cold, make that colder, feet on the overdue, over priced, under performer. 

The Canberra Times reports that Australia's defence minister has directed a delay in orders for Australia's second batch of 58 F-35s.

Lockheed Martin vice-president Tom Burbage told an Australian parliamentary defence committee the postponement of plane orders by the U.S. and other countries was ''the single largest contributor to the increases in the unit cost of the F-35."

 ...According to Reuters, the U.S. government decided to delay its order of F-35 jets in order to save $15.1 billion through fiscal year 2017 and allow more time for testing and development.

...Last month, Italy announced plans to cut its order from 131 planes to 90 planes.

Harper Gives the Great White North a Cold Shoulder

Remember when Steve Harper couldn't stop talking up Canada's north and what he was going to do to defend our sovereignty and interests up there?   Well, he was bullshitting.

That should have been apparent when Harper tried to take credit for pre-existing plans to replace three aging ice breakers.   And then, of course, came the laughable suggestion that a few dozen single-engine, short range fighters would somehow be capable of defending our northern airspace.   Now PostMedia has found that our Born Again Blowhard has thrown in the towel on the Arctic again.

The Tories have talked a good game about Canada being an Arctic country. Prime Minister Stephen Harper never misses a chance to tag along with the military during Operation Nanook, an annual military exercise in the Far North. We get touchy when anyone calls into question our sovereignty over northern waters. We worry about Russian bombers and American submarines going where they aren’t wanted. As part of projecting Canada’s power, the Tories promised a major naval base in the Arctic way back in the long-ago era of 2007.

And then we didn’t hear much about it. Until now, that is. The government has announced their plans for the major northern naval base. Wait, did we say major base? Sorry, we meant a few trailers and a guy with a satellite phone. And not all the time, of course. Just in the summer. Do you have any idea how cold is gets up there in the winter?

You know who isn't throwing in the towel on the Arctic?   Just about everybody except Canada.   That includes the Americans and even the Chinese.   The Russians, who are aggressively claiming most of the Arctic ocean seabed and its vast mineral wealth, are also heavily militarizing their northern regions.   Harper has extensively identified the problem for Canada but he plainly can't be bothered to actually do anything about it.

HarperLand's View of Organized Labour - They're "Animals"

Harper LabourMin Lisa Raitt apparently got into it with disgruntled Air Canada employees last night at Toronto airport.   Three Air Canada employees apparently greeted Raitt with a round of slow-clapping, saying "Great Job."

Raitt reportedly took exception and asked that the RCMP "arrest these animals."   Then again, they were union members, and in HarperLand that's more than enough to be deemed anti-Canadian.

Afghanistan - Rags to Riches to Rags

Iran, China, Russia and India are poised to become the real beneficiaries of the blood and treasure we've poured into the Afghan War.

An investigation by the British newspaper, The Independent, finds that these countries will be moving in to exploit Afghanistan's mineral riches when we move out in 2014.

"The potentially lucrative task of exploiting Afghanistan's immense mineral wealth – estimated to be worth around £2trn, according to the Kabul government – is only in the early stages. But already China and India in particular are doing deals and beginning work. Facilities already established are being protected by local army and police, part of whose funding, and most of whose training, has been a US/UK responsibility.

"The anomaly of two Afghanistans – one of massacres, roadside bombs, and battles with the Taliban, the other of commercial deals in the hundreds of millions – is not lost on observers. Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell, a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said: "The Chinese are self-interested. I don't blame them for that. But it is on the backs of the sacrifice made by [the] British and Americans and others, the sacrifices we have made which we hope after 2014 will lead to a more stable and secure Afghanistan, and for the Chinese to capitalise on that doesn't go down well."

Initiatives to exploit enormous mineral wealth from a nation run by a dysfunctionally corrupt and hapless central government in the throes of an unresolved civil war usually exact a pretty nasty toll on the helpless civilian population, the Afghan peasant.

Can You Smell the Hypocrisy?

NATO, stalwart defender of Afghan democracy, is planning to slash its financial support for the Afghan army and police by two-thirds.  And, yes, that would be the very same Afghan army and police we're expecting to take over our security role in their country when we di di mau in 2014.

The Nato mission to build the forces has a budget of $11.2 billion (£7.1 billion) in 2012 but that figure is set to slump precipitously.

Hamid Karzai gave the figure in a speech to graduates of a Kabul military academy on Thursday. He said: "It's set that post 2014, for the next 10 years until 2024 the international community, with the US in the lead and followed by Europe and other countries, will pay Afghanistan security forces $4.1 billion annually." 

Afghan generals believe the cuts could jeopardize security.  Really?  Well, if nothing else, we should be making it much less financially onerous for Pakistan to fund the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan.

Brilliant, just f__king brilliant!

Situation's Predicament

Even if you're one of us who has never watched an episode of MTV's Jersey Shore reality show, you've probably been exposed to some of the cast through other programmes like The Daily Show.   Judging by what Jon Stewart observes, the two most ridiculous cast members are Snooky and a guy who calls himself "The Situation", Mike Sorrentino.

Now it seems Sorrentino has got himself in a real situation.  He's currently in rehab for drug and alcohol abuse.   But his biggest source of income these days comes from nightclub appearances, some of which represent six figure paycheques.  It's these same club appearances that are said to have escalated his alcohol abuse.

So what does that make The Situation, a for-profit alcoholic?

Top General Nails CTV Reporter as Harper Mule

Oh, this is juicy.  Chief of Defence Staff, General Walt Natynczyk saw the Harper government's hand at work when CTV reporter Bob Fife got his hands on flight logs showing the general had used an armed forces Challenger jet to attend sporting events, the Calgary Stampede and to meet up with his family for a Caribbean vacation.

Whenever (blank) is involved in a story I tend to suspect a certain source, placed high in Government,” Natynczyk wrote to his chief media adviser on the afternoon of Sept. 15, 2011.

That evening, CTV reporter Robert Fife broadcast his report, inciting a parliamentary fury over the use of government aircraft.

Natynczyk’s adviser, Lt.-Col. Norbert Cyr, wrote minutes after viewing the report that night that it was “a hatchet job” that inflated the Challenger’s true costs to between $10,000 and $12,000 when the military pegged the flight as costing just $2,630.

This was well-orchestrated,” he wrote to his boss.

Mike Duffy was instrumental in transforming CTV into the Conservative Television Network and apparently it was worth a nice little appointment to the Senate.   Fife then seemed to pick up right where Duffy left off.

Cyr later referred to the incident as "an ambush."

Something to Ponder

"He who opens his eyes to the possibilities of evolution
in their endless variety will abhor fraud and violence
and disdain prosperity at the expense
 of his fellow creatures."

                                                   - Svante Arrhenius, 1909

I came across that bit of wisdom in reading Tim Flannery's new book, Here on Earth, a Natural History of the Planet.  
Arrhenius (1859-1927) was a Swedish scientist, a physicist who became a chemist and then was a founder of the science of physical chemistry.   He was also a founder of the Nobel Institute.   He's best known today for his work in 1896 in which he posited that changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could substantially affect surface temperatures, the Greenhouse Effect.

if the quantity of carbonic acid increases in geometric progression, the augmentation of the temperature will increase nearly in arithmetic progression.

I wonder what Svante Arrhenius would think of our society were he alive today?

Water Wars Warning

Hillary Clinton looks at water and doesn't like what she sees.  The US Secretary of State warns that competition for increasingly scarce water supplies may will fuel terrorism, political instability and wars in the coming decades.

'''I think it's fair to say the intelligence community's findings are sobering,'' Mrs Clinton said about the report that focuses on the potential water problems between now and 2040.
"A summary said North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia ''will face major challenges coping with water problems'', particularly as a result of population growth and increased economic demand.

"Climate change is a third factor likely to be more strongly pronounced in the later decades.

'''As the world's population continues to grow, demand for water will go up but our fresh water supplies will not keep pace,'' Mrs Clinton said.

"She underscored concerns in the report that terrorists could attack dams and other infrastructure ensuring supplies of water to people, agriculture or industry. Or water could be used as a ''political tool'', she said."

Water insecurity is one reason why there'll be no peace between Israel and its neighbours.  Israel is dependent on aquifers beneath Arab lands.  It's why Israel prevents West Bank Palestinians from access to their own groundwater even as it freely takes their water itself.  That's the 800-pound gorilla in the room and it's not going anywhere.

And if that isn't bad enough, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has just moved the Doomsday Clock one minute closer to midnight.  It's now at 11:55 pm.   The organization blames lack of progress on nuclear proliferation and climate change for the downgrade.

Faced with clear and present dangers of nuclear proliferation and climate change, and the need to find sustainable and safe sources of energy, world leaders are failing to change business as usual. Inaction on key issues including climate change, and rising international tensions motivate the movement of the clock. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sailing Into Uncharted Waters

You don't have to like it but you're going to have to live with it.

Climate change is setting in - hard.  It's already here and we're going to have to come to grips with what it means.

I spoke with my daughter in Chicago on Tuesday.  It was 80F there.  On my end of the phone, here on Vancouver Island, it was snowing.

I went with a friend yesterday to help him pick up some materials.  We were both stunned at the snowpack on our local mountains.   Not only did we see massive amounts of snow, the snowpack reached far lower on the mountains than either of us had ever seen it before.

While I was admiring the beauty of the snow-clad mountains I was struck with the thought of what might befall us if the weather turns suddenly and we get a warm snap.  We've had that sort of thing in the past and it's caused plenty of flooding in low-lying areas.

Now Reuters reports that farmers in Illinois are, for the first time ever, planting their fields.   They're reacting to the warmest March in their state's recorded history.

[Farmer Ethan Cox'] crop may miss the peak summer heat of July and reap an extra 60 cents a bushel in September if his gamble pays off. Robust ethanol demand and years of low domestic inventories have placed a near-record premium on corn that can be delivered at the end of summer, when grain bins are empty and before the main harvest.

But the risks are high too: planting so early means forsaking some types of crop insurance; and despite the exceptionally mild winter, odds favor another chill at least once this year. Only once in the last century has the Midwest avoided frost between mid-March and mid-April.

At some point we're all going to have to realize that "normal" no longer applies to many aspects of our lives or to our future and the future of our kids and grandkids.  It's gone and we'll not see its return.

While this may sound pessimistic, it's actually mere realism and it is only in realism that we are going to be able to formulate viable policies for adaptation and remediation.   The only thing we can achieve by avoiding reality is to ensure that we allow these impacts to become unnecessarily worse.

Some took the recent European cold snap as proof that global warming isn't real.   The British meteorological office studied the cold drought conditions the UK has experienced this winter.   What they found is that this has been caused by a newly-arrived climate phenomenon, the Arctic Oscillation.    The loss of Arctic sea ice is changing upper latitude wind currents.   Now cold Arctic air is descending differently, unpredictably.  That's why you in the East experienced such a mild winter.   That's why you in the East are experiencing such an unnatural warm spell right now.  It's also probably why we on the west coast aren't enjoying our typical early spring.  It's probably why we have such a massive snowpack right now.

Things are changing and we're only just getting started.   Isn't it time our government opened up and had an intelligent, informed conversation about this with the Canadian people?  Isn't it time that the leaders of the Opposition parties demanded as much of Steve Harper?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Israel Risks Plunging Middle East Into Regional War

This must be music to the ears of those who dream of Armageddon and impatiently await The Rapture.   The Americans recently ran a war game simulation of what would follow an Israeli air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.   Apparently they were rocked by the predicted results - a regional war that would quickly drag America into its maelstrom.

It seems the Americans needed a war game simulation to realize that an Israeli airstrike on Iran would probably trigger an Iranian missile attack on one or more of the aircraft carriers the US Navy has cruising rather menacingly near Iran in the Persian Gulf.   Who'da thunk it?   That would, of course, be the act of war or Casus Belli that the hawks in Washington would need to then launch their own war on Iran.

American officials believe Israel would probably give Washington little or no advance notice of launching a strike against Iran.  And, of course, there's no mention in this of the enormous havoc that would be caused within Iran from the nuclear debris of these attacks or how Russia and China could exploit the chaos or find themselves dragged into the conflict.

Catholic Priests Castrated Dutch Kids

Is there a week that goes by without another sordid revelation or scandal involving the Roman Catholic church?   And these assholes see fit to lecture the rest of the world about morality.   What a farce.

This time it's the Dutch priesthood.   The newspaper, NRC Handelsblad, reports that, in the 1950s, 11-boys in the care of the Dutch Roman Catholic church were castrated to rid them of homosexuality.

Henk Hethuis, a pupil at a Catholic boarding school, was 18 when he told police in 1956 he was being abused by a Dutch monk. He was castrated on the instructions of Catholic priests, NRC Handelsblad said, and told this would "cure" him of his homosexuality.

The same happened to at least 10 of his schoolmates, the newspaper said.

I suppose this one will send the Pope into his predictable, now standard performance where he throws up his hands and moans about the Vatican having been betrayed, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Meanwhile the Vatican, in another standard effort at damage control, has recommended that every Catholic priest in training in Ireland should be required to attend child protection classes.   So Catholic student priests need classes to learn that they're not supposed to diddle kids?   Really?

Aspirin May Ward Off Cancer. You're Welcome

Three studies published in Britain's most authoritative medical journal, The Lancet, suggest that low doses of aspirin taken daily may prevent, perhaps even treat cancer.

Prof Peter Rothwell, from Oxford University, and colleagues, who carried out the latest work, had already linked aspirin with a lower risk of certain cancers, particularly bowel cancer.

But their previous work suggested people needed to take the drug for about 10 years to get any protection.

Now the same experts believe the protective effect occurs much sooner - within three to five years - based on a new analysis of data from 51 trials involving more than 77,000 patients.

And aspirin appears not only to reduce the risk of developing many different cancers in the first place, but may also stop cancers spreading around the body. 

Taking a low (75-300mg) daily dose of the drug appeared to cut the total number of cancer cases by about a quarter after only three years - there were nine cancer cases per 1,000 each year in the aspirin-taking group, compared with 12 per 1,000 for those taking dummy pills.

It also reduced the risk of a cancer death by 15% within five years (and sooner if the dose was higher than 300mg) 

And if patients stayed on aspirin for longer, their cancer death risk went down even further - by 37% after five years. 

Low-dose aspirin also appeared to reduce the likelihood that cancers, particularly bowel, would spread (metastasise) to other parts of the body, and by as much as half in some instances.

Oh yeah, the "you're welcome" part?   You see, a distant relative of mine, let's call him 43rd cousin Heinrich, led the team at AG Bayer that developed what we know today as aspirin.   Heinrich went on to develop yet another miracle drug - heroin.  He thought it would have all the heroic qualities of a first-rate opioid but without being addictive.   Oopsie!   Forget about that part and take your aspirin, dammit.

The Cost of Social Engineering

The economic 'miracles' sweeping emerging ecopower giants like India and China were always more apparent than real.  In large part that happened because we were distracted by the bright, shiny thing - their burgeoning economies - and largely overlooked the wobbly social, environmental, agricultural and political foundations that lay beneath.

China, for example, is now facing a powerful population bomb.   Not the one that led the Communists in the 60s to impose the One Child policy, the bomb that has been created by that very same policy.   A terrific article in The Guardian reveals how One Child was instrumental in China's industrial revolution but now threatens it in the future.

Life expectancy has soared in China, while fertility has plummeted due to strict birth control policies. In 2009 there were 167 million over-60s, about an eighth of the population.  By 2050 there will be 480 million, while the number of young people will have fallen. "It's a timebomb," warned Wang Feng of the Brookings-Tsinghua Centre for Public Policy in Beijing.

China's economic miracle has been fuelled by its "demographic dividend": an unusually high proportion of working age citizens. That population bulge is becoming a problem as it ages. In 2000 there were six workers for every over-60. By 2030, there will be barely two.

Other countries are also ageing and have far lower birth rates. But China is the first to face the issue before it has developed – and the shift is two to three times as fast.

"China is unique: she is getting older before she has got rich," said Wang Dewen, of the World Bank's China social protection team.

The article notes that Chinese leaders have used the economic boom to raise money for investment in infrastructure but at the expense of ignoring pensions and the healthcare system.  And now many experts are said to advocate scrapping One Child in favour of a two-child policy.

This is but one of the headaches wracking China.  It also must deal with a looming freshwater crisis; air, soil and water pollution; energy security; food security; and the need to find ways to ease class pressures that are building, especially between rural and urban populations.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why No Fighter Competition for Canada?

Critics for the F-35 routinely slam the Harper government for single-sourcing the choice for Canada's next fighter aircraft.   They argue there should have been an open competition to assess all the options including the French Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the SAAB Griffen among others.

What no one has looked into is just why the government and Canadian Forces have been so resistant to staging a competition.  The standard line is that the F-35 is the only stealth option and, therefore, it has no competition.  End of story.  But, is that just a convenient smoke screen?  It probably is.

What would a competition reveal?  Among other things it would demonstrate each aircraft's strengths and weaknesses.   These aircraft are expected to do a number of things - ground attack, dogfighting, patrol and interception, reconnaissance, and of course training.   Characteristics such as speed, service ceiling (operational altitude), range, radar and avionics, maneuverability and weapons load are all critical factors.   Stealth - the ability to avoid detection or defeat enemy defences - is another but just one and all modern aircraft offer some degree of both qualities.

So a comprehensive, "fly off" competition would show how each aircraft stacks up in each type of operational setting, its strengths and its weaknesses.   And, of course, as quantity is a quality in itself, you get to factor in costs and the number of aircraft you would be able to deploy for a specified sum.

And there's the rub.   A competition would not only highlight the F-35s key technical advantage, stealth, but also its lacklustre qualities on just about everything else - range, speed, maneuverability, weapons load and, of course, cost, cost, cost.  A competition would reveal both how brittle is the technological edge that alone justifies the F-35 but how irrelevant (unusable) that edge is in most operational flying.

That sort of comparison would also reveal that the F-35 is intended for a specific purpose - penetrating some distant enemy's airspace to bomb the hell out of some remote enemy target.  It would also reveal just how mediocre the aircraft would be at every other, non-stealth critical, mission including just about everything at home in defence of Canada.

Now as Canada isn't likely to decide to launch wars against any country in Asia or Africa or the Middle East, then the F-35 is probably intended for the sort of campaign we joined in Desert Storm or over Serbia or Libya.   And, of course, we had to go to war with unstealthy CF-18s and who can forget how many of those we lost to enemy air defences.  Oh, I did.  I forgot.  Can you remind me how many airplanes we lost?  I can't think of even one.

That's not to say there aren't countries with modern air defences considerably superior to Iraq's or Serbia's or Libya's.  China and Russia come to mind.  Oh, right!   We need the F-35 so that Canada can maintain a first-strike offensive capability against China and Russia.   And we need that, why?  Oh dear.

So there's a reason, several of them, for the Harper government and the Canadian defence department to forcefully resist holding an open fighter competition.   They've got several reasons, and not one of them any damned good for Canada.


In keeping with the "this deal reeks" theme, John Ivison today offers insights from now retired Alan Williams who was deputy minister for acquisitions in the early days of the F-35 adventure.

"Mr. Williams is outraged that the government wants to spend $30-billion of taxpayers’ money without even publishing the statement of requirement, which says what the air force needs and why it needs it. “It is unacceptable for any government not to share this information,” he said.

"...The F-35 experience does suggest a process that is out of control. And we know that it is not an isolated incident. Mr. Williams said that former Chief of the Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, once indicated to him that he wanted Chinook heavy lift helicopters. “I said to him, ‘don’t tell me that you want Chinooks, tell me your requirements’. Almost the day I left, they ordered Chinooks,” he said. These are the same Chinooks that are at least three years behind schedule and 100% over budget — the aircraft where former auditor-general Sheila Fraser said the deliberate understatement of risk by DND was “totally unacceptable.”'

Why no "statement of requirement"?  The original post explains that.  The government and DND don't want to discuss what they 'require' the F-35 to do.   Not only would that show it's needed to a role that Canadians probably wouldn't like but it would also show how poorly suited the plane is for roles we expect our air force to perform.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

In Case You Didn't Get Enough St. Patrick's Day - the Real Housewives of South Boston

Afghan Murder Spree Blame Lies on Capitol Hill

Following the recent killings of 16-Afghan civilians by a US Army sergeant, the critical details began rolling in.  Married man, father of two.  Ten year veteran.  Three tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan.   Two previous head injuries sustained in combat.   Sent to Afghanistan against his will.   Tick, tick, tick. 

The soldier's name isn't important.   What matters is his profile.  He enlisted in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  He wanted to defend his country.  He thought he'd do his bit.   What he didn't understand, what no one told him before he signed on, is that he'd be sent to war for a country that wouldn't stand behind him.

The U.S. government has shamelessly exploited those volunteers.   They were never enough for the job handed to them, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  More were needed but the supply of volunteers dried up.  So they had two choices.  Reinstate the draft or take the politically cowardly way out and simply keep recycling the existing volunteers, sending them back into war again and again and again.

Head injuries are a signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.   The concussive blast of an improvised explosive device can be more injurious and longer lasting than the shrapnel.  We're a lot better at patching up torn bodies than we are fixing pulped brains.   This sergeant in Afghanistan had been pulped, twice.   He thought his combat days were safely behind him.  He was promised as much.   And then he got his orders to Afghanistan.

Does this mean he's not responsible for killing those Afghan civilians?   No, a court will have to decide that on the medical evidence.   What it means is that there are others who are probably just as responsible, perhaps even more so.   This guy shouldn't have been sent back into combat.  His commanders shouldn't have been left so short-handed that they had to send him back.   Someone, at the very top, should have stood up for this guy and all the other walking wounded like him and at the very least resigned in protest.   And, above them, the political leadership is morally if not criminally liable for dodging the draft that, of itself, ensured this man was sent to Afghanistan.   And that indictment includes Congress and the White House.

On Being Declared "Anti-Canadian"

So, when do they come for my passport?

Those of us who support the environmental movement in Canada have been denounced as "anti-Canadian" by Conservative members of the Canadian Senate.   Given that none of their fellows rose to challenge that outrageous slur they can be fairly taken as agreeing with it.

According to Harper's attack swine, Mike Duffy, groups like the David Suzuki foundation and the Sierra Club (and, presumably, those who stand with them) are "all anti-Canadian."

There was a time Duffy's remarks would have been beyond the pale.  Demonizing a significant portion of our population as anti-Canadian, disloyal to their homeland, is serious stuff.  Yet it is the rancid sentiment that ferments naturally out of the wedge politics, the "us or them" foundation of  Stephen Harper's administration.   These people really believe it.  You're either with them or you're a traitor to your country.

That message came shining through recently from Harper's morally-slack and hypocritically-boundless Vic Toews who demonized those objecting to his flawed legislation as "either with us or with the child pornographers."

And don't think for a minute that Duffy or Toews have gone rogue.  The tone of their remarks has been carefully set by their Ruler, Steve himself.   Harper, after all, shamelessly milked every drop of political juice he could get out of the blood of our soldiers in Afghanistan and then used what was left to hammer those Canadians opposed to the Afghan war as disloyal to the troops.

This "us or them" approach, the wedge politics, the persistent loyalty challenges - topped off with the secrecy, the dishonesty and unaccountability, the fearmongering and manipulation - that is anti-Canadian, about as anti-Canadian as it gets.  It's the stuff of tyrants and demagogues from times past, bullies with names like McCarthy or Stalin.

We have a government of bullies, thugs and reprobates.   Your kind - and mine - aren't fit for their Canada and they're sure as hell not fit for ours either.   The time for respectful disagreement and civil discourse is over.  They have seen to that.  

Steve Harper's Personal Freak Show - the Senate of Canada

Steve Harper has some curious thoughts.   Not a lot of them, admittedly, and what there are tend to be astonishingly shallow and always just a bit quirky.  That certainly comes through from the maladjusted freaks and lunatics Steve has packed into the Senate apparently for his personal amusement.

PostMedia's Sue Riley has done an excellent job in her latest op-ed piece, "Gloves are off in the war against the greens", in which she chronicles how Harper has unleashed his flea-bitten attack dogs against Canadian environmentalists.

"At a recent meeting of a Senate committee examining foreeign contributions to Canadian charities, Conservative Senator Percy Mockler described some respected environmental organizations - including the Sierra Club and David Suzuki foundations - as 'bad, not to mention ugly.'  ('They're all anti-Canadian' chimed in Conservative Senator Mike Duffy.)"

Senator Don Plett queried whether the environmental movement would accept funding from anyone.  "Would they take money from al-Qaeda, the Hamas, or the Taliban?"

Anything that stands in the way of the Tar Sands, notes Ms. Riley, is to be denounced and demonized, something entirely suitable for Harper's handpicked Senatorial swine.   She concludes by aptly summing up our Senate's Team Harper.

"There is a lunatic fringe, of course, anti-Canadian zealots unconcerned how many jobs are shipped offshore or how much we poison the planet.  They fiercely defend foreign oil companies' right to exploit our resources without limits or conditions.

"You won't find them at clandestine gatherings of green extremists, however.

"They sit in the Senate of Canada."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Harper Cons - Sucked In Again by DND

A Con conned?  Say it ain't so.  But it's now emerging that those grifters at Canada's Department of National Defence knew a couple of marks when they saw them and pulled the wool over the eyes of Steve "Rambo" Harper and his boy child/DefMin "Meathead" MacKay on the supposed merits, cost and performance of the F-35.  As Gordon Lightfoot said, "That's what you get for loving me." 

Now the former head of military equipment purchases, Alan Williams, says he has no doubt the Canadian military intentionally distorted the facts on the F-35.

"This is the first case that I can recall of a clear and unambiguous hijacking of the process."

So now Steve "the brightest man in the room" Harper has been transformed into DND's bitch.   And he can't blame anybody but himself.   Two years ago then Auditor General Sheila Fraser sounded the alarm when she slammed the armed forces for misleading the government in order to push through purchases of  Cyclone and Chinook helicopters.

Fool me once, shame on you.   Fool me twice, shame on...   oh, how does that go?

Sorry, George, but Steve sure can. 

Kony 2012 Campaigner Nabbed for Public Masturbation

I'm sure it was for a good cause.  One of the guys behind the controversial San Diego envango-charity, Invisible Children, has been detained by the cops for being naked and masturbating in public.

Film maker Jason Russell (the guy with the crazy eyes in the red shirt in the clip below) was picked up yesterday morning after police received complaints of a guy apparently under the influence and making sexual gestures.


An Invisible Children press release said Russell has been hospitalized for malnutrition, dehydration and malnutrition.  Yeah, right.

Harper Won't Let BC Salmon Stand In His Way

With BC salmon stocks showing signs in recent years of serious troubles Steve Harper seems intent on making their plight much worse yet.  If the name Enbridge comes to mind, you're on the right track.

The Victoria Times Colonist's Jack Knox has written a chilling account of plans by the Harper regime to gut environmental protections of coastal fish habitats and to 'modernize' environmental assessment legislation to fast-track industrial development.

Knox refers to a story out of Ottawa that, "dealt with the leak of a proposal to weaken 36-year old rules protecting fish habitat, the intent being to clear some of the barriers faced by projects such as the proposed Enbridge pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat."

"The fisheries minister's office reacted to the leak with a statement saying 'federal fisheries policies designed to protect fish are outdated and unfocused in terms of balancing environmental and economic realities.'"

What a thinly veiled admission that, if it comes to British Columbia salmon or Athabasca bitumen, for Steve Harper it's the Great State of Alberta all the way.  That peckerheaded prime minister means to have his way no matter the danger or cost to B.C.

Dud Subs, Dud Torpedoes

Those four second-hand subs the Defence Department duped the Canadian government into buying?   18-years after we got stuck with them, one of them, HMCS Victoria, actually managed to fire a torpedo.  Victoria is the only one of the four to fire a torpedo which is probably a good thing because the other three aren't even in the water.

A Canadian Navy comedian couldn't restrain himself at the joyous event.  "As the submarine fleet achieves steady state it will be ready to act decisively at sea in defence of Canada, when and where needed", Capt. Luc Cassivi, director of the Canadian Submarine Force, said in a news release.

The Victoria fired her torpedoes at the Nanoose underwater weapons range in the waters north of Nanaimo.   Funny, I drove right past there and didn't see a thing.  Oh way, I get it, the sub was underwater.

The Victoria began life as HMS Unseen in a Scottish boatyard in 1987.    It was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1991 and mothballed after just three years in service in 1994.  They were fobbed off on Canada in 1998.  The Canadian Navy hopes the Victoria will become fully operational this summer.  If it does, Canada will have a submarine force of exactly one boat out of the four we bought 14-years ago.

And a British MP, government backbencher Mike Hancock, the Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South, is asking awkward questions about the sub deal in his Parliament.

"Why were the Canadians daft enough to buy them?"

"My God, it's a sad tale, isn't it? 'Buyer beware' should have been painted on the sides of these submarines."

The subs were based in Hancock's riding before the Royal Navy unloaded them on us.   Now he's suggesting that Canada should ask for its money back.  Of course before we could get to the point of demanding a refund, we'd have to track down the slack bastards at DND who are responsible for persuading the government to purchase these disasters in the first place.

Canada probably does need a submarine capability because it's almost certain our northern territory is going to be disputed, commercially if nothing else, in the decades ahead.  The Arctic is losing much of its ice and may become ice free, something that encourages both shipping through the Northwest Passage and seabed resource exploration.

Pouring billions into early 1980s technology submarines and expecting them to meet operational requirements for decades to come sounds foolish at best.  Today's state of the art, non-nuclear submarines are being built by the Germans like the 200 Series and Gotland class boats  built by Thyssen Marine that feature high-performance, long-range fuel cell propulsion instead of the air dependent diesel engines on Canada's antique subs.

Let's Not Throw in The Towel on Canada's North

And by "throw in the towel" I'm referring to the F-35 possibly-stealthy fighter bomb truck.

We're finally seeing through the malarkey that Harper, MacKay and that dumb-assed ex-cop have been spinning about this aircraft defending Canada's northern frontier.   We know it's for anything but that job.  Well, not anything exactly.   It's to allow us to engage in offensive ground strikes in distant lands in support of multinational American adventures abroad.   We'll send six of our fighters, that other country will send nine of theirs, the next guy will chip in four and eventually we'll assemble a small air force of F-35s to bomb the hell out of whoever is the target of the month.

What's wrong with that?  E-ver-y-thang.  Everything is wrong with it.   Let's start with our de facto commander, America.  As Andrew Bacevich so powerfully chronicles in The New American Militarism, the United States has become a country so engorged on militarism that the use of military force has supplanted diplomacy as that country's principal instrument of foreign policy.   And when you buy the F-35, you're signing on to that policy.  You're part of their Foreign Legion.

The F-35 is no stand-alone combat aircraft.  Consider it as the very point of the spear head.   Without the rest of the weapon and the eyes to guide it and the muscles to launch it, it's not much to speak of.

The F-35 is an offensive weapon.  Its sole purpose is to go into some other country's airspace undetected, bomb something and then leave, again hopefully undetected.  It uses stealth technology to avoid detection by the target's air defences.  But it also needs something to guide it en route to its target.  It can't use onboard electronics because they would give away its presence.  So it needs a large airborne warning and command ship, AWACS, to be its eyes and ears.  And we don't got none of those.

Because the F-35, to be stealthy, has to store all its consumables (weapons, fuel) inside where they can be hidden, it has serious range limitations for an aircraft designed to strike deep inside someone else's country.  That means it's going to have to rely on forward positioned tankers to refuel it on its way in and again on its way out.

The Australians did the F-35 math and they found that the F-35s Achilles' Heel was its dependence on those tankers and AWACS support aircraft.   They're big and slow and ungainly, easy meat for enemy air defences especially when they have to operate so close  to the action.   So you need other fighters to defend them or try to anyway.  And we don't got none of those neither.

What the Australians found is that this critical vulnerability could easily give rise to a one-mission air war.  The defenders accept their losses, sacrifice plenty of their own fighters, but take out the tankers leaving the F-35s no fuel to get home.   You don't have to worry about locating and shooting down F-35s once they're out of juice.   They crash all on their own.

And, of course, we have good reason to question how much longer the F-35s stealth technology will work.   Just before Christmas the Iranians managed to electronically hijack and capture intact a Lockheed RQ-170 stealth drone.   That drone is expected to give the Iranians (and the Russians and Chinese) the keys to a lot of America's latest stealth technology, the secrets that make the F-35 so costly and, supposedly, invisible.

But this is about the True North Strong & Free, Canada's vast and effectively unpopulated northern frontier.   What does the F-35 bring to the table for operations up there?    First you have to give up that stealth advantage.   It doesn't go very far so you're going to have to sling outboard fuel tanks which immediately make it visible to any sort of radar.   So stealth is for some other place, not Canada.

And you're going to have to think twice about wandering too far from home.   The F-35 has just the one engine which turns out to be precisely half of the twin-engine reliability we have traditionally thought necessary for interceptor aircraft (think CF-100, CF-101, CF-18) operating in that inhospitable (dangerous) vastness.  If it's January and that single engine quits, you're going to want to get to that pilot in a hurry and you had better hope she's not far from home base.

But if we are going to rise to the challenge of Arctic development and territorial disputes, we're probably going to need a far greater military presence up there.   Which means more bases and more aircraft.  But wait, we're only buying 65 of these F-35s and may well wind up with a lot fewer as prices keep going up.   How can we do the northern sovereignty/air defence job with so few aircraft?  Well we can't and we won't.   We will, however, absolutely command the airspace over Cold Lake, Alberta and everything within a 500-mile radius of the tower.   That should shake up Vladimir Putin.

But let's not throw in the towel on Canada's north.  We need aircraft, there's nothing else that can do the job, but we need the right type of aircraft in sufficient numbers.   That job demands everything the F-35 can't deliver.

And there's your talking point.  Stephen Harper can't have it both ways, he isn't even trying.  He would rather squander Canada's defence budget on an aircraft tailor-made to work overseas  at the cost of leaving Canada's north undefended even as the resource-hungry wolves gather at the edges of the icepack.

Update - Lorne at Politics and Discontents picked up on a National Post blockbuster from John Ivison about a soon to be released report from the Auditor General that finds senior defence officials willfully misled Parliament on the F-35 deal.

The first draft of the report on replacing Canada’s fighter jets by new Auditor-General, Michael Ferguson, is said to charge the Department of National Defence with misleading Parliament...

...People familiar with the procurement process say the Air Force simply ran with Lockheed Martin’s numbers and did very little due diligence of its own. This lack of legwork is not a new phenomenon. Liberal ministers were said to have been surprised to find out that DND accepted the British military’s statement of quality assurance when Canada bought four second-hand submarines from the Royal Navy. The submarine purchase has been an unmitigated disaster and whole fleet has been out of commission in dry dock for much of the past eight years.

The department has a similarly long-standing predisposition for bamboozling its political masters. Previous Auditor-General reports in 2006 and 2010 have blasted DND for deliberately low-balling costs, in order to get the kit it wants. Two years ago, Sheila Fraser concluded National Defence knew the Chinook heavy lift helicopter it wanted to buy was not an “off the shelf” model, with a relatively low risk of cost and time overruns. Yet the department did not reveal this to Treasury Board when it sought project approval. As a result, the cost of the 15 Chinooks more than doubled to $4.9-billion and the helicopters still have not been delivered.

The Canadian military appears to be broken.   It has "gone rogue" again and again.  Senior officers' heads should have rolled for this, plenty of them.   They have crossed the Rubicon repeatedly and with a sense of impunity, something they must have picked up from their Big Brothers at the Pentagon.   In a healthy democracy this sort of abuse is intolerable and if we're to have a healthy democracy again we must resolve to cut out the rot, military and civilian.