Monday, April 30, 2012

It's So Much More Than Just a Dismal Failure

The War on Drugs is increasingly accepted as a hopeless failure.  Yet even those who do get it often act like a kid standing at the end of a high diving board for the first time.   They look down and freeze.  Nobody wants to go on the hook for decriminalizing drugs, not even for simple possession of soft drugs (although Paul Martin was man enough for that) and so the War on Drugs goes on and on for want of any idea what to try next.

But what we really need to keep in mind is not just that the War on Drugs has failed but that the War on Drugs, of itself, has provided the essential fuel for a tsunami of criminality around the world.   Our war is itself what makes so many really bad people so insanely rich.   We feed their criminality.   The last thing they want us to do is to stop our/their War on Drugs.   They need us.  They need our War on Drugs.   Without the War on Drugs, most of them are just farmers and, in their homelands, farmer is another word for peasant.

A former deputy head of Britain's MI6 has released a book published by the International Institute of Stategic Studies that drives home this very point.

"Drugs have been the commodity which more than any other has primed the pump for the massive rise in organised criminality witnessed since the end of the cold war", writes Nigel Inkster, former MI6 director of operations and intelligence, and author, with Virginia Comolli, of Drugs, Insecurity and Failed States published by the IISS this week.

Drugs still account for about 50% of the profits of organised criminal groups even though many of these groups have diversified into other lucrative activities such as people-smuggling, counterfeiting, and cyber crime, they say.

In principle, therefore, collapsing the black market in drugs ought to have a significant beneficial impact on levels of violence and criminality.

The IISS study is the result of a growing realisation that levels of violence fuelled by narcotics are getting worse, and growing pressure from Latin America for a rethink of current laws prohibiting drugs. It quotes a UN report which warned in 2009: "Collusion between insurgents and criminal groups threaten[s] the stability of West Asia, the Andes, and parts of Africa, fuelling the trade in smuggled weapons, the plunder of natural resources and piracy".

Maybe, just maybe, at some point we should smarten up and realize we're not helping ourselves by banging up kids in Harper's dandy new prisons for drug possession.   Maybe it's time for a political leader who doesn't have his head jammed up his ideological ass.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Boneheaded Britain

The big problem with ideologues is their propensity to do genuinely stupid things that leave others paying the price for years, sometimes decades.

With Harper at the helm, Canada has no cause to be smug, but it's Britain that provides the best example of conservative boneheadedness at the moment as the Cameron government plunges the UK into a double-dip recession.   The Guardian's Will Hutton points out how utterly unnecessary this all was:

Yet [George] Osborne – the kamikaze chancellor – and his coalition partners decided that the prime aim of government policy had to be eliminating the structural public sector deficit in just one parliament. Caution was thrown to the wind. The assumption was that the economy would quickly get back to business as usual; after all, as long as markets were free and flexible, what could go wrong? 

Osborne, a laissez-faire economic dry, would repeat Sir Geoffrey Howe's budget of 1981, opening the way for tax cuts in the runup to the general election. He would keep the Murdoch press onside – and repeat the years of Margaret Thatcher's hegemony.

The result has been as inevitable as it is desperately sad. On Wednesday we learned that Britain has experienced a double-dip recession just two years after the biggest decline in output since the early 1930s. Worse, it will not be until 2014 that output will return to 2008 levels – a six-year recession not equalled since the 1870s. What is happening is a disgrace.

Moreover, it is totally unnecessary. Britain has a very strong public balance sheet. The stock of our national debt, accumulated over decades, is modest compared with other countries and our own past. The rate of interest is the lowest since the 1890s. The debt is exceptionally long term and does not need to be refinanced with any sense of panic. Total debt service costs have been higher for only a few decades over the past 200 years.

Britain was supremely well placed to take a measured approach to budget deficit reduction. ...Only an innocent or a fool would insist on it being done in four years, with four-fifths of the burden assumed by spending cuts. It was clear that a vicious circle could be created in which the severity of the programme would so puncture the growth in demand that the weakened banks would stay weakened – and business confidence would remain flat. Britain would be deadlocked in stagnation.

That is what is happening. The Office for Budget Responsibility's forecast of a return to growth next year, driven by a surge in investment and exports, has looked absurd for months. The idea that business investment will jump 40% by 2015/16, the biggest since 1945, is risible.

A collective madness seems to have descended on our policymakers. Too few understand that what besets capitalism is unknowable risk – the risk of transformative new technologies, the risk of making epic business mistakes, or the risk of there being no demand for the goods and services a business produces. 

But it's not really a collective madness, it's the appearance of a class of ideologues who persistently ignore facts in favour of their gut instincts.  And that, in a nutshell, is the recipe for a ruler of the small stature of Stephen Harper.   He has been indulged and pampered by his rightwing acolytes so long that he has thrown caution to the wind in pursuing his illogic.   That he has descended into megalomania was almost pre-ordained.   That we and our kids will pay dearly for his boneheadedness is virtually assured.

New Global Landgrab Study

Picture a map of the United Kingdom.   Now picture eight United Kingdoms.   That's how much prime farmland has been "land grabbed" by investors at rock bottom prices from the world's poorest nations - in just one decade.

Researchers estimate that more than 200m hectares (495m acres) of land – roughly eight times the size of the UK – were sold or leased between 2000 and 2010. Details of 1,006 deals covering 70.2m hectares mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America were published by the Land Matrix project, an international partnership involving five major European research centres and 40 civil society and research groups from around the world.

 The report describes the rise of a "new intra-regionalism" characterised by growing south-south investment. Overall, researchers found more than 30% of documented agricultural deals involve investors coming from the same region as their "target" country. Expanding agribusiness companies from Brazil and Argentina seem to prefer to invest in other Latin American countries, they said, while South African investors appear particularly involved in projects in nearby east, central and southern African countries.

Little evidence of job creation or other benefits to local communities could be found among the hundreds of largely export-oriented projects, said the report. In some cases, it adds, investors have secured hundreds of thousands of hectares of prime farmland at little to no cost. One deal in South Sudan, for example, has reportedly granted a Norwegian investor a 99-year lease for 179,000 hectares at an annual cost of just $0.07 a hectare.

Governments eager for foreign investment have often gone to great lengths to advertise vast tracts of available "vacant" land in their countries. But the report says almost half of the agricultural deals studied showed the areas concerned were already being farmed before investors moved in. Competition between powerful foreign investors and local farming communities seems "inevitable", it said.

Bear in mind this is only getting started.   When the UN Food and Agriculture Organization recently announced our world has moved into permanent food insecurity, the investment vultures really swooped in.  It's said the biggest trading desk at Goldman Sachs is in food commodities.   That this sort of speculation wreaks havoc on the poorest and most vulnerable peoples and is a powerful force destabilizing smaller governments is just someone else paying the cost of doing business.

I wonder what Charles Dickins would make of our world today?

Israeli Spy Chief Slams Netanyahu, Barak as "Messianic"

The recently retired chief of Israel's Shin Bet intelligence agency is warning his countrymen not to buy prime minister Netanyahu's and defence minister Barak's justifications for bombing Iran.

Yuval Diskin says he has no faith in the ability of either man to lead Israel in a war against Iran.

"I don't believe in either the prime minister or the defence minister. I don't believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings. Believe me, I have observed them from up close ... They are not people who I, on a personal level, trust to lead Israel to an event on that scale and carry it off.

"They are misleading the public on the Iran issue. They tell the public that if Israel acts, Iran won't have a nuclear bomb. This is misleading. Actually, many experts say that an Israeli attack would accelerate the Iranian nuclear race."

Friday, April 27, 2012

What Will You Give Up to Save the World?

This has been coming for years.   Science is speaking out.  It's time to redistribute the wealth, globally.

The world's most renowned population analyst has called for a massive reduction in the number of humans and for natural resources to be redistributed from the rich to the poor.

Paul Ehrlich, Bing professor of population studies at Stanford University in California and author of the best-selling Population Bomb book in 1968, goes much further than the Royal Society in London which this morning said that physical numbers were as important as the amount of natural resources consumed.

The optimum population of Earth – enough to guarantee the minimal physical ingredients of a decent life to everyone – was 1.5 to 2 billion people rather than the 7 billion who are alive today or the 9 billion expected in 2050, said Ehrlich in an interview with the Guardian.

"How many you support depends on lifestyles. We came up with 1.5 to 2 billion because you can have big active cities and wilderness. If you want a battery chicken world where everyone has minimum space and food and everyone is kept just about alive you might be able to support in the long term about 4 or 5 billion people. But you already have 7 billion. So we have to humanely and as rapidly as possible move to population shrinkage."

"The question is: can you go over the top without a disaster, like a worldwide plague or a nuclear war between India and Pakistan? If we go on at the pace we are there's going to be various forms of disaster. Some maybe slow motion disasters like people getting more and more hungry, or catastrophic disasters because the more people you have the greater the chance of some weird virus transferring from animal to human populations, there could be a vast die-off."

 "Most of the predictions [in Population Bomb] have proved correct. At that time I wrote about climate change. We did not know then if it was warming or cooling. We thought it was going to be a problem for the end of this century. Now we know it's warming and a problem for the beginning of the century; we didn't know about the loss of biodiversity. Things have been coming up worse than was predicted. We have the threats now of vast epidemics".

"I have a grim view of what is likely to happen to my children and grandchildren. Politicians can control the financial mess we are in but they don't have control over the systems of the planet that provide us our food, our welfare, those are deteriorating and it will take us a long time to turn it around if we start now. It's hard to think of anything that will pop up and save us. I hope something will but it really will be a miracle."

"We have too much consumption among the rich and too little among the poor. That implies that terrible thing that we are going to have to do which is to somehow redistribute access to resources away from the rich to the poor. But in the US we have been doing the opposite. The Republican party is wildly in favour of more redistribution, of taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich."

F-35 Tale of the Tape

How does the F-35 stack up against the competition today?   That depends on who you ask and how badly they want to buy/sell it.

First off, let's leave the stealth business out of this.   Like most emerging technologies, it's brittle and subject to being overcome or otherwise rendered obsolete.

One important aspect of any fighter aircraft is maneuverability which, in dogfighting terms,  means the ability to escape being shot down by your adversary but shooting down your adversary instead.  In general terms this is a function of power, thrust to weight, and wingloading.   On this score, the F-35 is mediocre at best.

Thrust to weight - Rafale, 1.13; Eurofighter Typhoon, 1:12, F-22, 1.2; Mig29, 1:12; F-35, 0.83.   Anything 1.0 or greater means the aircraft's thrust exceeds its weight, meaning it can go straight up if necessary.   It's also an indication that the aircraft can probably achieve "supercruise" - the ability to cruise at supersonic speeds without having to resort to fuel-guzzling afterburners.  The Typhoon, Rafale and F-22 are all known supercruisers.  The F-35 is not in that league.  As the numbers show, the F-35 is really sub-par on thrust to weight.

Wingloading measured in kg/sq. metre.   Rafale, 304; Typhoon, 300, F-22, 342; Mig-29, 411; F-35A, 446.   Once again the F-35 finishes a solid last.   In other words, with the F-35's poor thrust to weight performance coupled with its high (poor) wingloading, it simply won't turn with the opposition meaning, in a dogfight, it's dead meat.

The RAND Corporation concluded long ago that, placed head to head with any top competitors, the F-35 couldn't "out turn, out climb or out run" them.   That, however, doesn't mean the F-35 would ever have to do any of those things.   In fact it's supposed to be able to use its advanced electronics to avoid that sort of dogfight challenge.   Whether that's realistic is another matter.

When the United States introduced the legendary F-4 Phantom the Americans also believed the day of the dogfighter was over.  The F-4 would rely on its (for its day) advanced electronics and long-range Sparrow missiles to do its killing.   And then along came Vietnam and America learned it couldn't always dictate how it would fight and that the F-4 would have to dogfight and that having been designed without a cannon left it at a mortal disadvantage.

The F-35 is intended to play to its strengths, stealth and advanced electronics.   But the other guys play that same game.   They try to match up their strengths against the F-35's considerable weaknesses.   They look for ways to make the F-35 fight on their terms.   Every F-35 advantage they can neutralize enhances the significance of their own performance advantages.

Potential adversaries can and will make steady advances in their own radars and avionics and missile technologies but the F-35's shortcomings on power, agility and range are engineered into the aircraft and will probably remain until the 35 is retired 36-or more years after it enters service.    That's an awful long time when you're starting already in the hole.

What Do We Buy After the F-35?

I'm convinced that, badly as the air force boys want the F-35, even if they got it they would soon be back, begging bowl in hand.

Everyone, especially those air force guys boosting the F-35 option at the moment, knows this airplane is "tits on a boar hog" useless for the Canada First, defence of Canada mission.  It just comes up short on everything needed for Canada's vast north - range, speed, payload, twin-engine reliability.  It is sort of like the antithesis of what Canada actually needs.   The F-35, however, is what we need to participate in American-led air wars abroad.  It's what we need to be "players."

Those same F-35 boosters know that the demand for a viable Canadian air presence in the far north is going to become much greater as the Arctic ice recedes and the area is opened up to resource exploration and global shipping.   We'll need meaningful numbers of capable aircraft up there if for no other purpose than to demonstrate to those who have not accepted our territorial claims that we're serious about our northern sovereignty.

My guess is that once they get those F-35s in Canadian hangars these air force boys, or whoever has their job by then, will be coming back saying, "Oh no, those things are no good for the north.  They can't do the job and, even if they could, there's not remotely enough of them.   We need another jet."  And then they'll proceed to make the case for why Canada needs another jet, the same case that opponents of the F-35 have been making all along.  And, by then, the need for that other jet will be obvious to just about everybody and we'll sigh deeply and sign another cheque to buy the jets that we needed all along.  Game, set and match - Royal Canadian Air Force.

If we're going to avoid that scenario, there's only one way to go about it.   We need the air force to do what it should have done all along - produce a list of operational requirements for its CF-18 replacement.   That requirement statement should receive at least a cursory Parliamentary examination and debate.   Then aircraft manufacturers should be invited to offer whatever they have that seems to meet our requirements.

That is how we acquired the CF-18.  The Trudeau government initiated the NFA or New Fighter Acquisition programme.   Specifications were stated, proposals were invited.   A short list of candidates then brought their aircraft to Canada for flight demonstrations.   We had a look and negotiated deals.   We got the CF-18, unquestionably the most successful Canadian combat aircraft in generations.

Canada really lucked out on that one.   The US Air Force had the F-15 as its key fighter/interceptor.   The US Navy had the F-14 Tomcat.    Both services were looking to supplement their heavyweights with a lower cost, lightweight option.   General Dynamics came up with the highly-successful, single-engined F-16.  Northrop produced the F-17 Hornet.   The F-16 won. 

Northrop had a great design though so they joined with McDonnell Douglas and beefed it up for naval service and transformed it into the F-18 which was accepted into the US Navy inventory.  When we looked at it there had been no foreign buyers for the F-18 so the makers were in a mood to bargain.   The Canadian deal was followed by sales to Australia, Spain, Finland, Switzerland, Kuwait and Malaysia.

In other words we know how to do this stuff.    We have our experience in selecting and purchasing the CF-18 as a template.  There is absolutely no justification in single-sourcing a fighter that is so obviously inadequate to our needs.   If  we do buy the F-35 it won't be long at all before we're once again shopping for another aircraft to do the job the 35 simply can't.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

This Is Beyond Gross

I have deleted the entire text of the original post.  Readers have pointed out that it was a hoax story by anti-Islamics in Egypt that was picked up and carried even in mainstream Canadian media.

Canada in Distress

Many thanks to Paul Morrison for this:

Paul would like any and all to take this image and put it up on their blogs as a way to get this armband thing off the ground.

How Many More Canadians Does Harper Want Killed?

"When planning a military expedition into Pashtun tribal areas, the first thing you must plan is your retreat. All expeditions into this area sooner or later end in retreat under fire.”
So wrote British general, Andrew Skeen, in the early 1900s in his guide to military operations in the Pashtun tribal belt.
Now our Born Again Buffoon says he'll wait until the 2014 deadline to decide whether Canadian soldiers should stay on in Afghanistan.
The Dutch are already gone.   Britain has announced today it's beginning the pullout of British soldiers, starting with 500.  Everybody else is getting out of Dodge in 2014.
So who is going to be left for Taliban target practice?  You guessed it.   If Harper doesn't direct the withdrawal of our Afghan contingent very soon there's a real chance they'll be stuck there after everyone else has gone.  Getting cavalier and announcing he'll get to that decision some time in 2014 is beyond reckless.

Analytical Thinking Curbs Religious Conviction

Duh, really?  We now have a scientific study, courtesy of UBC, that shows analytical thinking can be really bad for clinging to religious faith.

The psychology report, published today in the prestigious journal Science, reveals that religious belief drops after subjects perform analytical tasks or are exposed to Rodin's sculpture, The Thinker.

However, UBC social psychologists Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan insist they are not debunking religion or promoting atheism. Instead, they are trying to figure out the psychological origins of spirituality.

The dynamic UBC research duo, who have earned international reputations for their groundbreaking studies into religion in the past six years, maintain all humans use two valuable types of thinking - intuitive and analytical.

How much you rely on one kind of thinking over another generally determines how religious you are. People who are highly intuitive tend to be more religious.

Intuitive thinking helps people recognize the difference between the body and the mind, imagine life after death and discern purposes in the universe, said Gervais, lead author of the Science article, titled "Analytic Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief."

And intuitive thinking helps people recognize non-existent crime waves that, in turn, leads to the development of  PPF disorder, also known as Punishment & Prison Fetish.

"...Gervais cited the Danish existential philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who encouraged people to use their rational minds in shaping their spiritual convictions.

Kierkegaard also suggested, in the midst of analytical thinking, people often need to take "a leap of faith" to experience the universe's deeper transcendent mysteries.

Most people don't recognize there is a key difference between the "irrational" and the "non-rational," Kierkegaard taught.

The "irrational" describes that which is illogical and unreasonable. The "non-rational," on the other hand, refers to intuition; the sphere of the imagination, emotions and the arts.

We know from his utter lack of vision that Harper isn't burdened by an excess of "non-rational" intuition.   No, his intuition falls squarely into the "irrational" category.

Focus on Fewer and Smaller

The Royal Society, which is celebrating its 350th anniversary, has a warning for mankind - there are too damned many of us and we're all consuming too damned much of everything.   That's the abbreviated version.   If you would prefer to peruse the 132 page report, it's here.

The Society posits three critical challenges - raising the 1.3-billion poorest out of extreme poverty; urgent and dramatic reduction of unsustainable consumption in the developed and emerging nations; and the slowing and stabilization of global population.

What they're saying to us in the affluent world is that we have to live with less, a lot less.   You can't keep living at today's standards because you're taking so much air out of the room there's not enough left over for everyone else to breathe.   You're taking more than you need, more than you deserve, and, because you're taking so much, people who need it far more can't get their share.   Your ability to consume no longer means you deserve to consume.

" the most developed and emerging economies unsustainable consumption must be urgently reduced.   This will entail scaling back or radical transformation of damaging material consumption and emissions and the adoption of sustainable technologies, and is critical to ensuring a sustainable future for all.  At present, consumption is closely linked to economic models based on growth.  Improving the wellbeing of individuals so that humanity flourishes rather than survives requires moving from current economic measures to fully valuing natural capital.  Decoupling economic activity from material and environmental throughputs is needed urgently for example by reusing equipment and recycling materials, reducing waste, obtaining energy from renewable sources, and by consumers paying for the wider costs of their consumption.   Changes to the current socio-economic model and institutions are needed to allow both people and the planet to flourish by collaboration as well as competition during this and subsequent centuries.  This requires farsighted political leadership concentrating on long term goals."

What planet are these dudes from?   Don't they know guys like Stephen Harper are running the world?   Sustainable energy, consumers paying for the real costs of their consumption?  My ass.

The Exxon Valdez? Child's Play.

For decades we've used the Exxon Valdez incident to define oil supertanker disaster.  Yet what Harper is planning for coastal BC, south and north, will make the Exxon Valdez disaster a perversely fond memory.

Let's get one thing straight right now.   When you introduce several hundred mega-supertanker sailings through treacherous B.C. waters it's not a question of "if" something goes wrong, but "when" and "how often."   As sure as the sun rises and sets we are going to experience supertanker disasters on British Columbia's otherwise pristine coasts.   And when that happens you can be damned sure those responsible will fold up their tents and scurry off.

Jack Knox, writing in this morning's Victoria Times Colonist sheds a little light on what shipping traffic and, especially oil supertankers, mean to our coast.

"U.S. government statistics show 548 tankers entered Juan de Fuca Strait bound for Washington state ports in 2010.   Another 252 came in bound for Canada.

"Now, depending on whether you're a tanker half-full or tanker half-empty kind of person, you might find those numbers either reassuring or alarming as you consider the Kinder Morgan proposal, which would increase the number and size of vessels from Vancouver.

"Reassuring in that tankers regularly pass by without turning Oak Bay into a Greenpeace commercial.  Alarming in that every extra ship ups the odds of one driving into the ditch."

Knox points out that we have had close calls, enough that we created the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force to explore the risks.   One of the first crises the Task Force had to deal with was the incident on December 23, 1988 when the tow cable pulling the fuel barge Nestucca parted near Gray Harbor, Washington, causing the spill of 875,000 litres of fuel oil.

"On the U.S. side, tens of thousands of birds died and the oil fouled the shore from northern Oregon to Dungeness Spit, right across Juan de Fuca Strait from Victoria.  The gunk also scummed up Vancouver Island beaches from Sooke to Nootka Sound.

And, Knox points out, the Nestucca spill was just 1/50th  the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.   The new supertankers to carry Alberta bitumen sludge will be several times larger than the Exxon Valdez.

"On Vancouver Island, we're lucky to be getting a free ride from a rescue tug based in Neah Bay, Washington, right at the mouth of the strait.  Between 1999 and 2010, it was deployed to help 46 ships that had lost steering or otherwise ended up in trouble, on 11 occasions taking them under tow before they drifted on the rocks."

The City of Vancouver is wrestling with how to stop the Kinder Morgan tanker traffic through its inner harbour.  They know how Exxon screwed the victims of the Valdez disaster.   In 2010, 21-years after the spill, Exxon was still dragging its feet in court.  At that point, 8,000 of its victims had died without seeing a penny in compensation.   Vancouver knows better than to trust scumbags like Harper and Alberta's Oil Patch to do any better and the city knows its potential losses would utterly dwarf the damage in Prince William Sound.

Auditor General - Tories Ducking True F-35 Costs

You can never go far wrong by underestimating the integrity of the Harper regime.   They seem to lie when it would be easier to tell the truth and what they can't lie about they simply omit or hide.  If you've ever lived in a really old house you've probably heard the rat behind the baseboards - you'll know what I mean.

Now the Auditor General, Michael Ferguson, is slamming the Harper regime for "significant things" missing from their F-35 numbers.

In particular, he said Ottawa has to factor in costly upgrades to the aircraft, as well as the need to replace some of them in the case of accidents, when it eventually restates the program’s full budget. 

“There were some significant things that were missing from the life-cycle costing in this, for example attrition, for example upgrades, and the fact that these aircraft were going to last for 36 years, not just 20 years,” Mr. Ferguson told MPs. 

But there's an even bigger "significant thing" nobody is even mentioning, a really huge thing.  It's just what Canada will have to do when it discovers the stealth thing was a hyper-expensive gimmick.   What will some future government have to do when it inherits a few squadrons of prematurely obsolete airplanes utterly unsuitable to our "Canada First" defence policy?   What that government will have to do, if we're going to maintain some sort of sovereignty credibility in the north, is go back to the market and find some other aircraft that is capable of doing that job.

So, yeah, let's include that other "significant thing" - the tens of billions of dollars of value we'll have to simply write off when we find ourselves with aerial white elephants.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Look, I'm Only Trying to Start a Revolution

Yes, yes, I want you to rise up in revolt against Stephen Harper's malignant regime.  I want you to stand up - in public - and tell everyone around you that he's crossed the line.   I want you to proclaim that Canada won't be governed - or perverted - by  Stephen Harper.

All I want you to do is wear an armband, a band of black cloth with an embossed red maple leaf.  I want you to wear that, leaf turned upside down in the international symbol of distress.

But first I want every opposition MP - NDP, Liberal, Bloc and, yes, Lizzie May, to walk into the House of Commons, together, wearing that same armband to announce that the three out of five Canadians who didn't vote for Harper and a significant percentage of those who did will not tolerate his perversion of our democracy.  They alone can imbue those armbands with legitimate, civil dissent.  They have to do that for us on the floor of the House and damn them straight to hell if they won't.

So, if you're a Dipper, or a Green, or a Bloc or, especially, a Liberal, I need you to use your connections to get your organization behind us to make this a genuine movement to stop Harper and repudiate publicly his democratic abuses.  Yeah, time to put that party shit aside and put Canada first.

This is shaping up to be an extremely challenging situation for our grandkids and their children.  If they're to have any decent shot, we really have to start this now.

Will you back this?   Will you throw a bit of money at it?   Will you buy - and wear - the armband?   Will you use your connections to get your political movement behind it?  What's it going to be?  With total honesty I can say that these things begin or die right where we are at now.   The difference is up to you.

Harper's Afghan Surprise - We're In Afghanistan Until 2016.

Okay, we're supposed to clear out in 2014, right?   Maybe, maybe not.   Now, according to CBC, Harper is saying he'll examine all options when the deadline nears.

Wait a minute.   2014 is no longer a deadline for the withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan.   It's now Harper's deadline to decide what to do next.

If we are to get out in 2014, we have to be preparing for that now just like everybody else who's leaving in 2014.   To get out of Afghanistan you have to have your mind made up about  18-months or more in advance.   But Harper isn't going to make up his mind until somewhere in late 2014 which means Canadian forces may be stuck in Afghanistan well into 2016.

"Our plan at the current time is obviously for the mission that goes to 2014, but we will examine as we approach that date, we will examine all options, and we will take the decision that is in the best interests of this country and in the best interests of our security objectives for the globe and not an ideological, knee-jerk response like the NDP," Harper responded.

F-35, the Wrong Plane at the Wrong Time

A retired RCAF Colonel who served as fleet manager of our CF-18s has said the obvious - the F-35 has no place in the defence of Canada.

Retired colonel Paul Maillet, an aerospace engineer and former CF-18 fleet manager, said the F-35 does not meet the needs of the government's Canada First Defence Strategy, a key pillar of which is Arctic sovereignty.

``How do you get a single engine, low-range, low-payload, low-maneuverability aircraft that is being optimized for close air support to operate effectively in the North?'' he asked.

Maillet called the F-35 a ``serious strategic mismatch'' to Canada's military needs, and suggested the Royal Canadian Air Force would be better off purchasing a fleet of F-18 E/F fighters.

Hmm, let's see - single engine unreliability, check.   Short range, check.  Small payload, check.  Sub-par maneuverability, check.   The Colonel added that it's possible the F-35 will be obsolete soon after it enters service, checkmate.

The F-35, the airplane that transforms boneheadedness into a virtue.

Seriously, We Have to Fight Back

Gagging the armed forces, gagging the public service and, now, sending minders to shadow government scientists at an international forum, this is too much.

We are ruled by a regime.  It has institutionalized the suppression of democracy in Canada.  It has done it for so long and so persistently that there's no reason to hope it will stop unless we stop it.

The Liberals did shite about it when they were the Official Opposition.   Will the NDP also fail the Canadian people?  Will they too choose not to fight back, to let Harper get his way with our  government, yours and mine - with us?

Harper has a majority, what can they do?   Plenty.   They can make a stink about this within Parliament every day it sits and outside Parliament every day it does not.

Here's something really simple they could do.   Armbands.   Black armbands, embroidered with a red maple leaf  worn upside down in the symbol of distress.   Wear them onto the floor of the House of Commons.   Wear them outside Parliament.   Get the public wearing them.  I'd wear one, wouldn't you?  Wear it in everywhere in public, wear it at the mall, wear it at work or at school, wear it in church if you're so inclined.

This Sort of Thing, Only a Maple Leaf

Let the armband symbolize resistance to an authoritarian, undemocratic and repressive regime.   That's a message people will get.

Let Harper know the government is ours, not his.   Let him know we're not going to be afraid of standing up to him and that he'd damned well better be afraid of us.

And I really believe we can start it with a black armband.

Humanity - A Lower Form of Life

We sit at the top of our planetary food chain but, when you're at the top it's easy, even natural, to imagine yourself far bigger and greater than you truly are.   After a while you might just start thinking that God looks just like you or, pardon me, that you're made in God's image.

Just what form of life are we really?   Are we truly demi-gods?  There's been some attention paid to this lately that suggests your demi-god status is wishful thinking.

Tim Flannery in his book, Here on Earth, explores how humanity, like other superorganisms such as ant colonies, has lost ground on the individual level.   We have organized ourselves into very sophisticated systems of distribution or division of labour.   Most of us get paid to do a thing and with what we earn we pay others to do everything else.  We have others to grow, package and deliver our food to convenient collection centres, grocery stores.   We pay others to build our conveyances, construct the roof over our heads, deliver our modern fuels through pumps and pipes and wires.

We actually do very little for ourselves and, with that, argues Flannery, we have become incredibly inept and totally dependent on the orderly functioning of our human superorganism.   The author contends that, because of this, the human brain has, over many thousands of years, actually shrunk 10% from that of our distant ancestors.

By now you're asking, "but what does this have to do with climate change?"   Exactly.

An article in today's Victoria Times Colonist by U. Vic. psych professor Robert Gifford explores what he labels the "seven dragons for climate inaction."

Number One on Dr. Gifford's list is "limited cognition."

"Humans are less rational than once believed.  The human brain has not evolved much for millenniums (sic).  When it reached its current physical development, our ancestors mainly were concerned with their immediate tribe, immediate risks and immediate exploitable resources.  Here-and-now concerns are incompatible with solving environmental problems, which often involve distant risks and delayed impacts.

"...Uncertainty reduces the frequency of pro-environmental behaviour.  People interpret uncertainty in ways that serve their self-interest.  We undervalue geographically distant risks.

The Second Dragon listed is "Ideologies"

"Some broad belief systems act as barriers to behavioural change.  One such system is belief in unfettered free-enterprise capitalism.  Another is 'system justification,' the tendency to defend the societal status quo.  Another is belief in suprahuman powers, that some religious deity or nature is in complete control.   Others place too much faith in techno-salvation, that engineering alone can solve the problems."

Third is "Significant Others."

"We are social animals who are influenced by others.   We derive our norms about what is the 'proper' course of action from others.  ...Perceived unfairness often is a reason for inaction.'

Fourth - "Sunken Costs" 

"...If I own a great car and am now paying for all its costs, why should this cosy portable living room be left at home?  Many habits that contribute to environmental degradation have strong behavioural momentum."

The Fifth Dragon - "Discredence"

"Distrust in experts leads to unwillingness to heed their suggestions.  When trust is absent, as it is between some citizens and scientists or government officials, resistance to their policies follows.   Mistrust easily slides into denial, and action is unlikely to follow.  Some policies are well intended, but if citizens decide that they are inadequate, they will not participate.  Reactance occurs when people believe that policies threaten their freedom."

Six - "Perceived Risk"

"All behaviour change involves risk, but we are risk-aversive creatures.  Changing behaviour holds at least five kinds of potential risk:  Functional (will it work?), physical (will this be dangerous?), financial (will my capital outlay be worth it?), social (will I be ridiculed?), and temporal (will change be a waste of my time?)."

The Seventh Dragon - "Limited Behaviour"

"I'm doing some good things (but it's not enough).  Most people are engaged in some pro-environmental action.   So far, it's not working.  'I recycle, so I'm done' won't cut it.  The rebound effect often means that after some mitigating effort has been made,, its benefit is outweighed by bad choices."

Thanks for that, professor Gifford.   But this is no time to go sit in the tub and open a vein.  All the Dragons Gifford has raised can, he argues, be slain.   What's important is to acknowledge all of these hurdles in shaping our communications and actions to fight climate change.   If we don't work to kill off these dragons now, climate change itself will, eventually, when it's too late to matter.

Hey Chairman Harper, We're Not North Korea Yet

In North Korea it's standard for visiting journalists to be accompanied by North Korean 'minders' who keep and eye on where they go and who they talk to.  These minders also make sure visitors don't hear what they don't want them to hear.

Stephen Harper has obvious North Korean instincts as evidenced by federal scientists attending a polar conference in Montreal being shadowed by "media liason staffers" which is a fancy term for minders.

Hundreds of researchers from around the globe arrived in Montreal this week to attend the International Polar Year Conference, but those scientists working for Environment Canada were also accompanied by so-called "media relations contacts" tasked with monitoring and recording interactions with the press.

Ahead of the conference, the Canadian participants were reportedly sent a memo ordering them to have a government liaison present during conversations with reporters.

While none of the government scientists would speak on record about their media monitors, one researcher told CBC's Dan Halton off-camera that the strict communications measures were an embarrassment to Canada.

Climatologist Andrew Weaver, with the University of Victoria, called the tactics excessive.

"The current administration probably has a fear about science," said Weaver, who compared the monitoring of scientists to something out of the Soviet era.

Anyone who had the least respect for democracy and transparency would be ashamed to be caught at these stunts but not Comrade Steve.   That fiend doesn't even bother trying to conceal utterly despotic measures like this.

Yet Steve Harper can't pull this off alone.   The people who make up his caucus, his cabinet and his party let him get away with these anti-democratic abuses and that makes them every bit as responsible.   The whole goddamned Conservative operation is corrupt.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Taking Out the Trash, Bringing Home the Bacon

Mexico City has introduced a novel approach to dealing with its trash problem - food for trash.   Under the plan, Mexicans can take standard recyclables to a recycling centre where they're exchanged for "green points" that are redeemable for locally grown produce including fruits, vegetables, even flowers.  So far, no bacon - sorry.

And a h/t to Dan Moutal for pointing out that Mexico has done what the US and Canada can't - it has passed a powerful climate change law that mandates substantial reductions in carbon emissions and the introduction of large-scale renewable energy.   Working from 2000 levels the law calls for 30% emissions reductions by 2020 and 50% by 2050.

The bill made it through Mexico's lower house by a 128 to 10 vote and received unanimous approval in the Senate.

Lovelock's Curious Turn

At 93, James Lovelock chose a curious moment to call himself an "alarmist" over global warming.   Yes, he was a good bit over the top when he predicted mankind would be reduced to a "few breeding pairs" eking out a subsistence living in the Arctic by 2100.  But a lot of his other statements simply fly in the face of a great deal of data and science that have been pouring in over the past couple of years.

For example, Lovelock says there's been no discernible warming during this 21st century.   Yet governmental agencies responsible for monitoring warming show just the opposite.   The combined land and ocean surface temperature has actually increased 0.92 degrees since 2000.   The data for 2000 to 2011 puts each and every year among the 13th warmest in the 132-years on record.

Has Lovelock lost his marbles?   I don't know.

The insurance industry world-wide certainly disagrees with him.  The global consulting giant, KPMG, just released a report on global megaforces that is at odds with Lovelock.   And then there's this report from two weeks ago by a Reuters market analyst, Gerard Wynn, canvassing "a clutch of recent studies" reinforcing evidence of man-made climate change.   He cites this article in the journal, Nature.  And this article from the British Meteorological Service's Hadley Centre.  And this report published in Nature Geoscience that assesses global warming by 2050 to range somewhere between 1.4 to 3C.  And updated temperature data from the Climatic Research Unit factoring in more than 450-additional weather stations from the Arctic released by Canada and Russia showing that contrary to earlier findings that 1998 was the hottest year on record since 1850, 2005 and 2010 were the hottest years.  These data put an end to skeptic's claims that the planet hasn't been warming since 1998.

As all this research, data and facts keep pouring in, it's curious that Lovelock at this moment declares himself incredible, an alarmist.  If, of course, that is what he actually said.

If his last book was alarmist that raises a great many questions.   When did he realize his writings were misleading?   What did he and his publisher decide to do about it?   Why are they allowing such a misleading book to remain on sale?   Why hasn't it been recalled?  And, above all, why, if he has admitted he simply isn't credible, should anyone buy his new book soon to be released?

It seems Lovelock and his publisher have a lot of explaining to do.

Lovelock the Alarmist

Earth science guru and creator of the Gia hypothesis, James Lovelock, says his take on global warming was alarmist.   And, on reading an op-ed piece Lovelock wrote for The Independent in 2006, he probably was.   In it he envisioned global warming killing off almost all of mankind by the end of the century:

"We are in a fool's climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable."

Yeah, the image of mankind being reduced to "a few breeding pairs" by 2100 due to global warming is over the top.  Presumably Lovelock was out to make a point, perhaps frustrated by our inertia.

“The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened,” Lovelock said.

“The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now,” he said.

The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time… it (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising -- carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that,” he added.

He pointed to Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and Tim Flannery’s “The Weather Makers” as other examples of “alarmist” forecasts of the future.

So has James Lovelock declared the "all clear" on climate change?

Asked if he was now a climate skeptic, Lovelock told “It depends what you mean by a skeptic. I’m not a denier.”

 He said human-caused carbon dioxide emissions were driving an increase in the global temperature, but added that the effect of the oceans was not well enough understood and could have a key role.

“It (the sea) could make all the difference between a hot age and an ice age,” he said.

He said he still thought that climate change was happening, but that its effects would be felt farther in the future than he previously thought.

“We will have global warming, but it’s been deferred a bit,” Lovelock said.

The scientific community, however, doesn't seem to share Lovelock's view.

 Asked to give its latest position on climate change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement that observations collected by satellites, sensors on land, in the air and seas “continue to show that the average global surface temperature is rising.”

The statement said “the impacts of a changing climate” were already being felt around the globe, with “more frequent extreme weather events of certain types (heat waves, heavy rain events); changes in precipitation patterns … longer growing seasons; shifts in the ranges of plant and animal species; sea level rise; and decreases in snow, glacier and Arctic sea ice coverage.”

NOAA reports its data in monthly U.S. and global climate reports and annual State of the Climate reports.  

Its annual climate summary for 2011 said that the combined land and ocean surface temperature for the world was 0.92 degrees above the 20th century average of 57.0 degrees, making it the 35th consecutive year since 1976 that the yearly global temperature was above average.

“All 11 years of the 21st century so far (2001-2011) rank among the 13 warmest in the 132-year period of record. Only one year during the 20th century, 1998, was warmer than 2011,” it said.

Lovelock has neatly played into the hands of the denialist industry and the fossil fuelers.   The old guy has now given them a powerful weapon to discredit climate science as "alarmist" and with the many billions of dollars at stake in the campaign to curb carbon emissions, they'll wring every once of doubt they can extract from his statement - or at least a few words of it.

Yet there have always been problems with those who take global warming in isolation, a  favourite tactic of the denialist community.  The warming is just part of man-made climate change and a host of interconnected challenges.   Many of these are tangible, indisputable, some are even visible to the naked eye from space.  Here's my list:

Desertification; deforestation; cyclical and protracted floods and drought; severe storm events of increasing frequency and intensity (the insurance industry will vouch for that); the depletion of natural resources and, in particular, the freshwater crisis (multinationals like Nestle and Vivendi will vouch for that one); species extinction and migration; disease and pest migration; overpopulation and population migration; sea level rise and coastal inundation and the basket of global security challenges including terrorism, arms races, nuclear proliferation, and even widespread food insecurity.

But, James Lovelock, is unquestionably right on one point.   Global warming won't annihilate mankind.  We have long reserved that privilege to ourselves.


The denialists haven't missed a beat pouncing on Lovelock's "alarmist" statement and transforming it into proof that all climate science is bogus.   Some, like energy expert Andrew McKillop, denounce Lovelock as a total charlatan.    Yet, toward the end of his screed, even McKillop acknowledges that climate change is already here.

The next stage is on us already. The breakdown of climate into random weather events, reversing the old one-liner that "Climate is what you expect; weather is what you get". No longer being able to expect anything predictable from climate only leaves weather to bet on. And we know how that is getting mightily unpredictable, and dangerous on all continents.

Put another way, we can have a pure and absolute zero change of so-called "average global temperatures", but the world's climate can become totally disturbed, with no easy way to remediate or mitigate the change from predictable, to random. Ever-growing evidence says we are in that random state now: what you thought was your regional climate no longer exists.

One immediate and direct result of this will be crop yields and harvest totals: these cannot be expected to hold firm, as farmers battle to decide when or if to plant and when to harvest, in a vastly more complex set of changing variables - which formerly ran together and were called "climate". Rainfall and cloud cover, already changing but given the pat one-liner "Global warming", will most surely and certainly get ever less predictable, with more negative consequences than the opposite.

Israel Metastasizes in West Bank Again

Israel has supposedly legalized three more illegal settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority strongly condemned the decision.

"Every single settlement built on Palestinian land is illegal", Chief Negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told the BBC.

The Israeli government had told the Supreme Court that it would regulate the status of the three outposts, which have a total of about 830 residents.

On Sunday, Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, formed a new committee, made up of four ministers, to look into the sites.

The statement said the "three communities... were established in the 1990s following the decisions of past governments".

Israel, with our tacit blessing, is the only country in the world allowed to steal its neighbour's lands and they do it again and again and again and they're not finished either.   It's probably no coincidence that the lands Israel is taking by force of arms sit atop a Palestinian aquifer Israel deems essential to its needs.  It's not just the land they're stealing, it's the water too and, in that region, water is gold.  Jackboots.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Iggy, STFU. You Buggered Up the Liberals, Don't Bugger Up Canada.

The Liberal Party's celestial fuckup, Michael Ignatieff is at it again.  Not content with consigning the once great Liberal Party to a rump, he's now stirring up Quebec separatism.

In an interview on BBC Scotland, His Igness opined that a victory by Scottish nationalists in their 2014 referendum will ignite separatist renewal in Quebec.

"He also said Quebec and the rest of Canada have little to say to each other and that the two are already “almost” separate countries.
Ignatieff told BBC Scotland that devolution of central powers, whether from London to Edinburgh or from Ottawa to Quebec City, will likely be only temporary.

“'It’s a kind of way station.  You stop there for a while, but I think the logic eventually is independence – full independence,” Ignatieff said in an interview in his home last month.

"Asked by interviewer Glenn Campbell if he was referring to Quebec as well as Scotland, Ignatieff replied:  “I think eventually that’s where it goes.”

And who ever thought this dipshit was fit to lead Canada?

And You Promised God Not to Piss It Away

The Alberta bumper sticker read, "Dear God, give us another oil boom and, this time, we promise we won't piss it away."  Maybe that just says what Albertans really think of God.

Now they're about to elect the Queen of Rednecks to be their next premier, Danielle Smith, and she's bound and determined to piss away all the harder.

Wildrose wants to grant further concessions to the oil and gas sector in spite of repeated independent reports calling for increased resource rents -- and three successive budget deficits. In the midst of an oil boom, the richest province in confederation and the engine of what Prime Minister Harper calls a "global energy superpower" can't seem to balance the books. 

...The province stopped contributing any money to the iconic Alberta Heritage Fund in the 1980s. Draw downs from the Sustainability Fund -- a more easily accessible pot of past oil wealth -- will total 90 per cent from 2009 to 2014. What is left of Alberta's total retained oil savings will be cut almost in half during this period -- even as the government closes hospital beds and schools.

...It didn't have to be this way. A recent report from the Parkland Institute showed that if the royalty target of former premier Peter Lougheed of 35 per cent had been met, Alberta would have collected almost $200 billion in extra revenues between 1971 and 2010. The authors state "The Alberta government will forgo some $55 billion in potential revenue over the next three years as a result of overly generous royalty cuts and the government's failure to meet even the modest targets set by previous administrations."

...Norway ...has grappled with how to best manage an infusion of oil wealth. In order to avoid artificially inflating their currency from the economic malady of Dutch Disease, Norwegians set up a sovereign wealth fund in the early 1990s and hired a philosopher to help decide what to do with all the money.

This fund now has more than $570 billion -- 37 times more than the now moribund Alberta Heritage Fund. This massive pool of wealth is also legally isolated from general revenue so that present and future Norwegian governments do not become dependent on short term royalties to balance the books -- or politically beholden to the oil industry. Interest revenue from this pile of cash totals about $25 billion annually and climbing, supporting enviable social programs. 

Wildrose and the oil sector are so entwined they recently launched a joint campaign called Protect the Patch that opposes Stelmach's modest royalty increases and is running a slate of 13 candidates specifically from the oil and gas sector. While co-sponsored by Wildrose, the campaign seems to self-identify more with the oil sector than the people of Alberta, stating "Our industry has virtually no direct representation on the floor of the legislature in Edmonton... we're determined to change that."

Former Republican Presidential Candidate Compares GOP to Communist China

John Huntsman thinks his Republican Party acts a lot like the Chinese Communists if you get out of line

From the "They Did WHAT" File, Part Deux

Telegraph writer Emma Barnett found a surprise in her boyfriend's pants.   This:

According to, Barnett's discovery set off a firestorm:

"...the revelation that somewhere, men’s trousers are telling them to pawn off their dirty laundry on the nearest set of ovaries was not met with universal amusement. On Monday, Barnett tweeted a photo of the tag, saying she was “so shocked at this label in my boyfriend’s new trousers.”

"She wasn’t the only shocked one. As the image was retweeted across the world, it was declared “horrible” and a “disgrace” by disgusted consumers. But even more horrible were the other commenters — the ones who blithely pleaded that they were “not sure what the issue is here” or told her to get back to doing the wash.

Are They Working for You? No? Well They're Working for Somebody.

There's a thought-provoking article by New York philosophy prof Simon Critchley in the latest AdBusters that goes to a theme that appears periodically on this blog - no one is at the controls.   We go to the polls, hand people the reins of power and the exclusive right to use them for our collective benefit and then they do nothing, or next to it.  It's not that they can't help us, it's that they won't.  They lack both inclination to intercede on our behalf and, worse, power to act.

"Why do we have this feeling of not being in control?  Why can't we pinpoint the source of our fear?  Why do we have a general feeling of powerlessness?

"One reason, not the only reason but one important reason, is the profound separation of politics and power.

"...Representative Liberal democracy on the Western model is premised on the idea that we exercise political power through the vote and that these votes would be aggregated by parties, representatives would be elected, governments would be formed, and these governments would have power to get things done.

"The fact is that today politics and power have fallen apart in liberal democracy.  They are separated, maybe even divorced.

"...Democracy at this time in history, even representative liberal democracy, risks being no more than a word, a kind of ideological birdsong.  Power has evaporated into supranational spaces.  these are the spaces of finance, obviously, of trade, obviously, and also information and information platforms, obviously.  But these supranational spaces are also those of drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal immigration, the many boats that cross the Mediterranean, and so on.

"...yet power still feels local.  We feel english or Greek or Tunisian, but power has migrated beyond those boundaries.  Sovereignty lies elsewhere.  It is certainly not populist or people-centered.  Politics does not have power.  Politics serves power."

What Critchley seems to be describing is a form of supranational corporatism that has already supplanted democracy even as we continue to go through the motions of politics and elections.  If he's right, and it certainly feels that he is right, then our political process has become a problem, not a solution.   Answers will have to be sought and found outside of government and that's especially true for the bound and gagged governmental apparatus administered by undemocratic hucksters like Stephen Harper.

When critical issues such as the environmental future facing today's kids can't make it to the floor of the House of Commons you can be damned sure those petro-pols on both sides of the aisle are working for someone and surer still that someone isn't you.

Why Does Canada Need a Hyper-Expensive Light Bomber?

As the F-35 fighter-bomber debate returns to the House of Commons today the opposition parties, forever chasing the shiny thing, will be all over the government about costs and who knew what and when.

What if they're chasing a false scent?   What if they're not asking the questions that really need answers?  It's not as though they haven't done this before.   Look at how poorly they understood our Afghan war when Parliament debated extending the mission.  They were utterly clueless, something others paid for quite dearly.

What is really important about the F-35?   Is it cost?  Is it misleading Parliament?  That may have opposition members cranked up but it's not what truly matters to Canada.   There are other questions that are far more important.

Here's one.   Just what exactly is the F-35?  The spin is that it is a one-size-fits-all warplane.   You name it, the F-35 can do it.   Well it can't and, what's more, it was never designed for that.   The F-35 was designed in conjunction with the F-22 Raptor.   The '35 was designed to be a cheaper, shorter-range, slower, less agile and less stealthy bomb delivery system to be used in company with the longer-range, faster, highly maneuverable and more stealthy F-22 fighter.

Money comes into play here.   The F-35 and the F-22 were both developed by Lockheed Martin.   The F-35 was a low-budget follow-on to the F-22.   Lockheed had expectations of building large numbers of both.   Then reality came crashing down and the White House canceled F-22 production in mid-run.   Suddenly Lockheed's investment in the success of the F-35 skyrocketed.   And, as the F-35's importance to the Lockheed balance sheet soared, so too (oddly enough) did the airplane's supposed prowess.

A lot of Lockheed's investment in the F-35 is in the airplane's stealth technology.   An odd sort of invisibility is the bang you're supposed to get for your buck.   But there's invisibility and there's invisibility and, with the F-35, a lot of that depends on how you're looking at it.  When it's picked up by a radar head-on, the F-35 is really, really small.   Seen from the sides or the back, top or bottom, it's far more detectable to radar.  And the F-35 is specifically designed to defeat X-band radars which is why the Russians are fitting their new fighters with L-band radars which render the F-35 far more detectable.

With the F-35's supposed stealth capability buyers really are putting all their eggs in one basket.  It's only worth the big bucks so long as that stealth edge can be maintained and, when it comes to that, it's entirely possible the F-35's stealth could be obsolete before Canada even gets one in our hangars.   Now you wouldn't buy a new car without a warranty would you?   Most of us wouldn't buy a toaster oven if it came without a warranty.   So why are we buying hyper-expensive stealth technology that comes without a warranty?

We're going to need this thing to be stealthy from Day One to Year Thirty One.  Why?   Because if you eliminate the supposed stealth advantage you're left with a pretty sad, overpriced, underperformer.  The F-35's stealth comes partly from its shape, partly from the materials used, partly from electronics systems.   But the same shape that helps deflect enemy radar waves limits the aircraft's speed, climb rate and agility.   Those are things the F-35 sacrifices to have a stealthy shape.   And, because stealth demands that everything it needs for a mission be carried internally, the F-35 sacrifices both range (fuel load) and payload (weapons).   In fact the F-35 sacrifices every quality that defines a great warplane for the sake of a stealth capability that no one is willing to guarantee.  Is this deal beginning to sound a little thin?

There's an important geopolitical dimension to the F-35 that no one, including the opposition, wants to discuss.   It's the fact that the F-35 effectively enlists its buyers into America's aerial Foreign Legion.   To use its stealth capability to deliver bombs on targets in hostile territory (which is what the F-35 is designed to do) takes three other types of aircraft.   It takes refueling tankers deployed well forward to top up the F-35s on the way in and to give them the juice they need to make it home on the way out.   It takes airborne radar and command aircraft like the AWACS and Joint Stars to be the F-35's eyes and ears so it doesn't have to use its own radars and systems.   And it takes F-22 stealth fighters to sweep the skies clean of enemy fighters that might otherwise shoot down the F-35s.  Canada has a couple of tankers but we don't have any F-22s, any AWACS, any Joint Stars, so we really need to work for someone else and that someone else, the country that does have all those support aircraft, is the United States.

So the question becomes should Canada really become part of America's aerial Foreign Legion?  That question has to be weighed in the context of today's hyper-militarized, US warfare state where military violence has supplanted diplomacy as the preferred instrument of foreign policy.

And it's not just what the F-35 does and what it doesn't do.   And it's not what the F-35 means and what it doesn't mean - to the US, to Lockheed, to Canada and to the other "partner" countries.  And it's not just why no one is putting up any warranty on this dodgy, brittle technology.  It's also the question of what Canada actually needs in our own right.

Canada has obligations as part of NORAD, the North American Air Defence Command.    We share with the Americans a responsibility for mutual defence in the air and space over North America.  One aspect of this is patrolling and defending the sovereignty of our airspace.   Given the vastness and miniscule population of Canada's north, that dictates an aircraft that is fast, long range, reliable and very combat capable.   The F-35 simply doesn't fit that bill, not even close.  It has but one engine which is completely unsuitable for use over such a sparsely populated area with such extreme climate challenges.  It doesn't go very far and especially if it has to go far fast.  We won't be able to meet our NORAD obligations with a force of 65-F-35s unless we simply hand over effective control of Canadian airspace to the United States.

But, if the F-35 isn't what we need, what are the alternatives?  Actually there are plenty and they range from the latest European fighters to upgraded, redesigned variants of proven American fighters or, albeit politically unthinkable, the latest Russian aircraft.  All would provide better bang for the buck and all would come with a high expectancy of their performance well into the future.

But what about future coalition air wars?   For the sort of penetration bombing role the F-35 handles the alternative would be cruise missiles.   They have far better range than the F-35.   They are known to be extremely difficult to intercept or shoot down.  They have a proven ability to strike targets with great precision.  And they greatly minimize the risk to both fighter and tanker crews.  Best of all they're cheap by comparison.   For the cost of one F-35 you can pick up about 150-cruise missiles which seems like a real bargain.   Stealth requires a two-way trip.   Cruise missiles are a one-way weapon.   Stealth takes a crewman through hostile territory to the target and back out again.   Cruise missiles mean our aircrews can probably stay well back from hostile territory entirely.   And, here's the best part.   Those fighters that launch those cruise missiles can then be brought back home to serve as fast and powerful, long-range interceptors.

To me these arguments all point to the same conclusion - the F-35 is a gimmick.  You're buying a supposedly unbeatable technological edge that may, in fact, be obsolete before the aircraft enters service.  Once that stealth is countered, all that extra money evaporates and, with it, the value of the aircraft our aircrews will be saddled with for the next generation or two.

These are the questions that need answering.   This is the debate needed on the floor of the House of Commons.   This is what matters to Canada and to the school kids today who will be joining our air force to fly these things.

Remember this.   When you hear the opposition drone on about what the F-35 costs and who knew what and when, you're listening to an opposition that isn't standing up for Canada.   You're listening to an opposition that isn't doing its job.   You're listening to an opposition vainly trying to score political points.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fifty Billion Dollars on a Handful of Dodgy Fighters and My Coast, the One Facing China Remains Undefended.

Stephen Harper finds blowing craters in distant countries infinitely preferable to actually defending Canada, or at least my part of it.

That Canada's west coast remains undefended was embarrassingly demonstrated when a Korean Airlines flight was the subject of a bomb threat as it cruised near the Queen Charlotte Islands or Haida Gwai on April 11th.  When the jetliner was diverted to land at RCAF base Comox on Vancouver Island it had to be escorted by two trusty USAF F-15 jets out of Portland, Oregon.  You see, we don't have any aircraft of that description in British Columbia.  The airspace along Canada's entire west coast is undefended except by the United States Air Force.

The worst part is that the RCAF boys' wet dreams of stealth light bombers don't include any fantasies of defending British Columbia in the future either.   Bombing the next Libya that needs a whacking, sure.   Defending Canada, boring.

Sure, whether the price tag is $9-billion or, more likely, $50-billion (including replacement aircraft, spares, etc. over its full lifespan) is important and so is how we were misled (deliberately) on this through the last election.   Those are important matters.

But what's even more important is whether this aircraft is a massively overpriced underperformer and whether it will do what Canada needs beginning with national defence.   The answer to the first question is probably yes.   The answer to the second question is certainly not.

The F-35 is for playing in someone else's backyard at the expense of leaving our own undefended.   That is just plain wrong.  If our political and military leadership cannot understand that their first obligation is to defend Canada then they're self-interested, self-serving charlatans and nothing more.   And that goes double for the guys in uniform.

Why Does Harper Hate British Columbia?

Don't answer that, it's a rhetorical question.

Early last week it was announced that Harper's EnviroCan was relocating its Pacific emergency oil spill operations to Quebec which a suspicious mind might connect somehow to Harper's insane obsession with ramping up British Columbia's probability of massive oil spills from his bitumen oil tanker initiative.

But Quebec wasn't far enough for the Canadian navy Acoustic Data Analysis Centre (Pacific) that collects and analyzes acoustic intelligence from the Pacific Ocean.  ADAC-P is now being shut down and moved to, wait for it, Halifax.   Just as British Columbia's emergency oil spill problems are to be left to a team in distant Quebec, so our Pacific naval intelligence can be left to the Atlantic Command.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but the U-boat threat ended in 1945, right?   And the Soviet subs were pretty much beached when the CCCP broke up, eh?  "The Hunt for Red October" is, after all, just a movie.  But the Threat du Jour is supposedly China, isn't it?   And that's why the US is shifting its attention from the Middle East to East Asia and the Pacific, right?   So why in hell are we consolidating any defence function, especially a Pacific Ocean acoustic intelligence operation, to Halifax?   Shouldn't the Atlantic guys be moved to Esquimalt?

British Columbia is relatively undefended.   When a Korean-bound flight out of Vancouver had to be turned around over the Charlottes due to a bomb call, we had to rely on American fighters from Oregon to escort the aircraft to our very own Royal Canadian Air Force base, Comox.   That's because we don't have any fighter/interceptor force on the left coast.   Except for the Americans it's undefended airspace.   And the F-35 isn't going to change that one bit.

The focus of this century won't be Fort McMurray.  It's the Pacific and, for Canada, that means British Columbia.    There's not much good that can come to Canada by ignoring that.

Standing In a Policy Desert

I was born into a politically useless family.

When voting day rolled around the only thing certain was that my mother and my father would always vote.  They'd get in the car, drive to the poll and cast their ballots.   They made a point of never discussing who they planned to support.  On the way home, however, it seemed they talked about little else.   Often my mother would break the news saying, "well we canceled each other out - again."  See, politically useless.

My Dad more often than not voted Tory.  Mom tended to vote Liberal.  But neither of them was married to either party and every once in a while something happened where they both changed sides.  One thing this led to was discussion, debate, focused on policy instead of parties.   Their understanding of policies and underlying circumstances might be rudimentary, perhaps even incomplete, but they tried to make sense of what these policies were and what they meant and whether they were good or awful for themselves, their family or their country.   And it was by being involved in these discussions that their children became politically aware, engaged.

For what is politics absent policy?  Surely it must be as pointless as trying to breath in a vacuum.   Stripped of policy, politics becomes about as relevant as hitting the three-dollar window at the horse track.   Yet, today, I think policy has become something of a spent force and, increasingly, we're left simply voting for the home team.

Paul Martin, bless him, had too many policies and a number of them were brilliant.   Focusing federal health care spending on serious conditions such as cancer and heart disease - terrific.   Responsibility to Protect - great.   The Kelowna Accords - long overdue.  Decriminalizing marijuana - a breakthrough in common sense.   All of those would have truly improved Canada had it not been for that damned, Chretien-era Sponsorship Scandal.

Dion had a policy, the Green Shift.  It was a sound idea and even today it's the one idea that's expected to prevail throughout the developed world.  But Dion was much too politically clumsy to handle his signature policy.   He wasn't the prime minister, merely opposition leader.  That meant he lacked the resources of government without which it was impossible to sell the Green Shift.  He was weak in appearance, slightly arrogant and less than fluent in English.  Before Dion was prepared to unveil his Green Shift policy, Harper pounced pre-emptively.   Harper, not Dion, framed the narrative of the Green Shift and Jack Layton was right there with his own shovel helping Harper dig Dion's grave.

And then along came the second train wreck, Ignatieff.    If there was ever a guy who ought to have been able to sell bold policy, it was the Harvard professor.   Yet he was an utter, contemptible failure.   If he had any success it was limited to stabbing Dion in the back.

The global meltdown of 2008 fell straight into Ignatieff's hands like political manna from heaven and dropped right through his fingers.   Harper was so overwhelmed, so out of control, he prorogued Parliament.   He called "time out."

With Canada facing the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and Parliament sent home for an extended recess, one would have thought the leader of the opposition would use that opportunity to help the country and his party.   He could have and he should have used it to gather the best and the brightest he could attract to take the measure of the problem and come up with a Liberal stimulus/recovery budget proposal, something that made sense to Canadians.

Ignatieff and his handlers should have known they were looking at an opportunity in which Harper was truly vulnerable, at his worst.  This was a moment demanding vision, something Harper has never had.  It was a moment requiring the government to massively borrow and wisely spend, truly Herculean challenges for someone as ideologically strangled as the Born Again Buffoon.

Let Harper put up an inept budget.   Throw a really well thought out, viable alternative in his face and then bring down the government.   If there was ever something to fight an election on, something in which Harper was vulnerable, that was it.

So what did Ignatieff and his handlers do?  Sweet Fanny Adams, that's what.   He took the opportunity as paid leave and used it to finish a book on his maternal ancestors.  HE DID WHAT?  Yes he did.   And when Parliament returned, Iggy hadn't done his homework.   He had nothing to offer, nothing to hold over Harper's head, nothing for the country or his party.  He was so totally unprepared to bring down the government that he had no choice but to support the godawful Harper budget and then embarrass himself and the Liberal party by boasting he was putting Harper "on probation."

And that was the moment when Harper completed his mission of moving the Liberals from Sussex Drive to Stornoway to Motel 6.  Iggy, having been transformed from a bull into a steer, meandered along whiling away the time with cross-country bus trips and barbeques and a ridiculous "thinkers' conference", setting himself and the party up for Harper to turn the next election into a referendum on this lazy, useless ass of an opposition leader.   All Layton had to do was wait for someone to yell, "next."

It's been a succession of bad and weak policy that has consigned the Liberal party to a roach motel out on the highway.   And they won't be coming back until they've got something to offer Canadians.  And now here's the thing.

Earlier this week, the global consulting giant, KPMG, released a study identifying 10 "megaforces" that will be confronting business over the next twenty years.   The report stresses that these are interconnected - they all have to be effectively dealt with starting with the most powerful megaforce, climate change.   So if business is going to have to deal with these challenges, who can possibly believe Canada and our fellow Canadians won't be confronted with similar megaforces over the next twenty years?   There are huge challenges, some of them threats, looming but you would never know it from the leadership of the Conservatives, Liberals or NDP.  It's all "out of sight, out of mind" to them.

I don't much care who leads the Liberal party.   If they can't even acknowledge the problems that are beginning to impact not only the world but also Canada and if they can't come up with clear policies to respond to these challenges, it doesn't make a damned bit of difference who supposedly leads the party.   Because that person in reality won't be leading the Liberal party.   He or she will merely be babysitting it hoping that everybody else explodes.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

MoTown Music

I grew up about 10-miles as the crow flies from Hitsville USA.  It spawned amazing music like this, "Shotgun" performed by the late Gerald Levert.  About as good as it gets.

The Funk Brothers f-Gerald Levert - Shotgun by Final_Camelboy

But, if you want to dig, you have to go back to 300 Pounds of Joy, the one, the only, Howlin' Wolf and "Smokestack Lightning"

And, if you still don't get it, try this:

Will Religious Fundamentalism Become the Last Bastion of Climate Change Denialism?

One by one, the doors are slowly closing shut on the climate change denialists.  They've had a good run.   They have perpetrated a highly-successful scam and have bought a great deal of time and profitability for the fossil fuelers but time was never on their side.

Time has seen the steady influx of actual climate change research, for the sake of argument let's call it "science", from the broadest spectrum of scientific disciplines including geology, hydrology, botany, biology and zoology, atmospherics and meteorology, epidemiology, physics, chemistry, even math - all corroborating the central thesis of anthropogenic global warming.   And all of this theoretical research is being borne out by actual climate change impacts taking place that are being measured, recorded, analyzed and chronicled.   And, on the other side, the denialists - nothing but a bunch of old crackpots with long discredited delusions.

For much too long the corporate sector was inclined to view the global warming issue as a "reputational" problem.   That favoured dealing with it more as a public relations matter rather than a serious threat to business itself.   There was an incredible inertia to overcome to change that approach.

Then the corporate sector began to shift albeit very slowly at first.  It seemed to begin within the global insurance industry.   These businesses had to pay out on physical losses due to climate change impacts.  They had to sit up and take notice.   And they did.  They began to factor climate change into their risk assessments and that narrowed the range of risks they were willing to cover.   For example, they stopped writing hurricane coverage - all the way north to New York state.   They stopped providing flood insurance coverage forcing the US government to institute its own flood insurance system to help save the asses of all those rednecks who go for their guns at the mention of "socialism."

Now, for good and for bad, the corporate sector is waking up to the enormous perils and potential opportunities that climate change creates.  It's said that Goldman Sachs' key investment desk is into food commodities.  Many accuse GS and other investment houses of exacerbating global food insecurity through market manipulation.  And multinationals are also moving to introduce a bit of disaster capitalism to the world water crisis.   Giants such as Vivendi and Nestle are moving aggressively into the water supply industry.   These companies have no interest in denying the reality of climate change.   They're riding on the massively profitable back of it.

But now the corporate sector is also coming to recognize its own vulnerability to the two-edged sword that is climate change.   The recent report of the global consulting giant, KPMG, identified climate change as the most prominent and pressing of 10, interconnected 'megaforces' that will challenge business globally over the next 20-years.   Buried in the report was a "change or die" warning.  It noted that the days of freedom to exploit natural resources and to foul the environment are nearly over and pointed out that, should business be handed the tab for its environmental and ecological excesses, it would consume 41-cents of every dollar of net earnings.

But if the denialism industry is losing its utility to the corporate sector, it's still in demand by its main client, the fossil fuelers.   In fact they probably need it more than ever.   And the denialists still have one important ally - the science-hating fundamentalist/political class.   So long as they can help maintain that bond between the funamentalist/political extremists and the fossil fuelers, the denialists will continue to earn their keep.  It's a rearguard fight, to be sure, but it's one that won't surrender.   It will have to be put down.