Friday, November 30, 2012

It's Too Late to Whine Now

One day after leading the charge to block the UN General Assembly from granting upgraded recognition to the Palestinian Authority, the United States is supposedly condemning Israel for retaliating by authorizing a further 3,000 settler homes to be built upon Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank.

You dumb humps.  You shot your bolt yesterday.   Israel got what it wanted out of you and Harper so Netanyahu has nothing to lose from turning on Palestine today.   And there's sweet Fanny Adams you can do about it.

Maybe you feel like Bibi's bitch.   Well you should, for that's precisely what you are.  It's not like you haven't had years of experience of this sort of Israeli betrayal.  Fool me once, shame on you.   Fool me again and again and again...

Top General Contradicts Boss, Airshow MacKay

Military bullshitter-in-chief, Elmer's backward boy, Peter MacKay, got taken to the woodshed by his own, newly-minted Chief of Defence Staff Tom Lawson.

In question was MacKay's outlandish claim that only the "fifth generation F-35" could meet Canada's needs.

For starters, the whole "fifth generation" schtick is the product of manufacturer Lockheed's PR/Marketing department.  It's a contrivance but one with obvious appeal to MacKay.

"Fourth and fifth generation is not a very helpful way of looking at that aircraft," Lawson told reporters in a scrum after his testimony.  Oopsie, Pete won't be happy with that.   Burn.

Lawson also noted, quite properly, that most fighters today have some degree of stealth technology.

"There are countries around the world flying the [other aircraft with stealth capabilities] to great success these days," Lawson told MPs on Thursday.

Lawson said that while other fighter jets offer an "element" of stealth capability, the F-35 is "better."

But when asked by Liberal defence critic John McKay whether there is only one airplane that can meet the standard of stealth set out in the Canadian military's requirements, Lawson said "no."

Lawson's honesty flies directly in the face of boss MacKay's dishonesty when he claimed two years ago that the F-35, "is the only plane that can fill the requirement laid out in Canada First Defence Strategy."

Despite General Lawson's refreshing candor, it appears the F-35 selection is still being gamed by the Harper government.

If You Chose Sarah Palin as Your Running Mate, You Can Never Pass Judgment on Anyone Else's Qualifications

Grumpy old man John McCain is at it - again.   He's objecting to Obama's nominee for Secretary of State, Susan Rice, contending she's not qualified for the job.

This is the same geezer who thought Sarah Palin was a dandy choice for Vice President.

Shut up, John, just shut up.   STFU.

Who Voted Against Palestine? A Bunch of Oddballs.

Here's a map showing the countries that voted against the vote to grant Palestine non-member, observer state status.  Res Ipsa Loquitor, the thing speaks for itself.

It's what the Max Fisher of the  Washington Post calls an "oddball coalition."

You've got Israel, of course.   Ditto the United States and, shamefully, Canada.   Add in the Czech Republic and Panama.  Round out the gaggle of oddballs with Nauru, Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

"So what does all of this mean? From the Israeli and American view, that the international coalition is so small does not augur well for Israel-Palestine peace process. But perhaps it also reflects the degree to which global opinion seems to be aligning in favor of the Palestinians – Europe’s much-watched votes are moving slowly but decisively in that direction – and away from the U.S.-led peace process."

Global Warming Hits Texas Longhorns

 Those shitkickers in Texas may bellow that global warming is a hoax but tell that to their cattle.   The U.S. "national herd," that peaked in 1975 at 132-million head of cattle (when the U.S. population was just 215-million), dropped to 91-million head this year (population now at 315-million) and is still in decline.

As BBC News reports, the herd of the future will also be smaller and thinner.

The US has been suffering a desperate drought that has affected around 80 % of the agricultural land across the country. It has been so severe that in certain parts, farmers have been forced to get rid of their cattle as they simply don't have any pasture for them to graze on.

The drought has also affected the yields of grain crops, which are estimated to be down around 13 % on last year. And because US farmers depend on grain to fatten their beef herds, this has increased pressure to get rid of cattle.

Adding further complication is the politics. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has had a mandate in place since 2005 that requires a certain percentage of US liquid fuel comes from renewable sources.

In practice this means blending ethanol made from grain with regular gasoline. This year, as the drought persisted, desperate farmers asked the EPA to set the mandate aside to help cut corn prices. They refused.

According to Dr Derrell Peel, from Oklahoma State University the current problems could have long term impacts on US beef. He thinks it is likely there will be changes in how cattle are fed. Less grain, more grass, lighter cattle.

"In general that's the tendency," he told me. "The incentives have changed to a more moderate animal size, we could well see finished weights moderate."

The future for American beef cattle is smaller, thinner, fewer.

And This Is Our "Ally"?

The U.N. acts to overwhelmingly upgrade the status of the Palestinian state.   Israel retaliates by stealing more Palestinian lands in the West Bank, enough to sever the West Bank itself.   This is what we call our "ally"?

 "Israel has authorised the construction of 3,000 more housing units in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to Israeli officials.

"It is also speeding up the processing of 1,000 planning permissions.

"The Palestinian Authority has said it will not return to peace talks without a freeze in settlement building.

"The decision comes a day after a vote at the UN General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians' status at the UN to that of non-member observer state.

"According to the Israeli Haaretz newspaper, some of the new units will be between Jerusalem and the settlement of Maale Adumim.
Plans to build settlements in the area, known as E1, are strongly opposed by Palestinians, who say the development will cut the West Bank in two, preventing the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state."

If this is Canada's ally, we've got a real scumbag for an ally.

Euros Strongly Back Assisted Suicide Laws

A poll of 12-European countries conducted for the Swiss Medical Lawyers Association found very strong majorities in all but one country in support of legalizing assisted suicide.

In almost all the 12 countries polled, three-quarters or more of those responding to questions posed by the Swiss Medical Lawyers Association (SMLA) said people should be able to decide when and how they die.

Two-thirds to three-quarters of them said they could imagine opting for assisted suicide themselves if they suffered from an incurable illness, serious disability or uncontrollable pain.

Germans were most open to letting people decide when and how they die, with 87 percent supporting the idea, and results slowly descended to Denmark's 71 percent in 11th place.

Greece was the only exception to this strong support, with only 52 percent backing the idea of allowing assisted suicide.

Spaniards were the most willing to consider asking for help to die, with 78 percent support, followed closely by Germans (77 percent) and the French (75 percent).

In Britain, 71 percent said they might seek assisted suicide while Greece was again the most reluctant with 56 percent saying they might do so.

More than three-quarters of those polled in all countries said only doctors or trained practitioners should perform assisted suicides.

A majority of all respondents said doctors should not lose their licenses if they help a patient die. Results ranged from 84 percent in Britain to 58 percent in Greece.

A Gallup poll in Britain found basically the same thing.   in Britain=of respondents opposed prosecution of physicians who assist patients to die.   82% actively supported euthanasia.

Physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in four Euro nations - Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg and Switzerland.   In the United States it has spread from Oregon to Washington and Montana.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What America Needs Now - It's Own King Canute

Americans are beginning to wake up to the realization that they're enormously vulnerable to the ravages of climate change.  The United States is already beset by massive flooding in some regions, protracted drought in a lot of the country, tornadoes, hurricanes, you name it.

And then there's sea level rise.  Even though some States have tried to legislate against it, sea level rise is one of those things you can't escape, can't hide.  It is what it is as the people of New York and New Jersey recently discovered.

Now there are satellite data showing that sea level rise is increasing no less than 60% faster than predicted just a few years ago by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC.   The radical right continues to scorn the IPCC as alarmist even as the panel's supposedly dire predictions continue to be proven to be understated.

 "Generally people are coming around to the opinion that this is going to be far worse than the IPCC projections indicate," said Grant Foster, a US-based mathematician who worked on the paper with German climatologist Stefan Rahmstorf.

The implications are serious – especially for coastal areas of the US. Large portions of America's Atlantic and Pacific coasts are regarded as "hotspots" for sea-level rise, with water levels increasing at twice the rate of most other places on the planet.

Scientists previously had expected a global sea-level rise of 1m by the end of the century. "But I would say that if you took a poll among the real experts these days probably they would say that a more realistic figure would be more than that," Foster said.

King Canute thought he could command the sea and thereby hold it back.   Maybe the Americans can find his successor.

The Narrow Scope of Climate Change Adaptation

The rearguard argument of the fossil fuelers is that "we'll adapt."   Don't make a big deal out of this, we'll find ways to cope.

It's the same argument that we, the major emitters, are making to the poorest and most vulnerable nations - learn to adapt.   We're even supposed to be (but aren't) putting up hundreds of billions of dollars to help them do just that.   There, problem solved, now let's move on.

Except we're now finding that adaptation strategies tend to have a limited threshold beyond which they simply no longer work.

"People in developing countries have been learning to adapt to increasing salinity, erratic rains and, in some instances, frequent flooding as the climate changes. But a new study has taken a closer look at some of these adaptation strategies and found that, past a certain threshold, they cease to work.

The study, by the UN University (UNU) for the Loss and Damage in Vulnerable Countries Initiative, dispatched researchers to locations in five poor countries - the Gambia and Kenya in Africa; Bangladesh and Bhutan in Asia; and the Federated States of Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean.

In Micronesia, 92 percent of respondents from the island of Kosrae, where sea levels are rising at alarming rates, were experiencing adverse impacts despite their efforts to adapt. This was also true of 87 percent of farmers interviewed in Punakha District, in Bhutan, where people have been trying to cope with increasingly erratic monsoon rains. About 70 percent of rice farmers in Bangladesh’s Satkhira District say measures taken to adapt to increasing soil salinity are failing.

In western Kenya’s Budalangi Division, 72 percent of respondents living near the River Nzoia and Lake Victoria, where people are exposed to frequent flooding, said their coping strategies were not working, and around 66 percent of residents interviewed in the Gambia’s North Bank Region said they were unable to cope with drought anymore, reported Koko Warner, a scientist at UNU and scientific director of the Loss and Damage in Vulnerable Countries Initiative.

No matter how tightly we screw our eyes shut, we in the industrialized world are directly responsible for this.   These truly vulnerable people are carrying the consequences of the idustrialization from which we profited so richly.   Like it or not, fixing this will be the test that defines what kind of people we really are.

When I Look At the World I Always See Canada

These days most of my political views of Canada are informed by what I learn about events and conditions outside Canada.   And, as I learn more of those events and conditions, I grow increasingly dissatisfied with how we conduct ourselves as Canadians.

Many of us try to give ourselves a pass.   We're just a tiny country.  Less than 40-million after all.   What we do or don't do really isn't going to impact elsewhere.  We're insignificant.   We can do what we like.

As I learn more of what is going on elsewhere in the world it becomes increasingly apparent how connected we all are and how events have a ripple effect sometimes far beyond our imagining.  In today's world nobody and certainly no nation gets a pass.

When I see the scope of environmental calamity spreading through so much of the world it reinforces my determination that we act to prevent similar, sometimes even avoidable disasters befalling us.

For example, in most corners of the world there's a huge freshwater crisis building.  Air and water, without them you cannot live.  Yet there's enormous water insecurity issues, especially in the densest populated areas from south to southeast to east Asia.   Then I look at Canada which has the third-largest freshwater reserve on the planet, the Mackenzie River watershed.   Yet just a few hundred miles distant in the Athabasca region are located massive tailing ponds, in some cases lakes, loaded with bitumen mining toxins that, if breached, could devastate the Mackenzie basin.   We have this precious resource and we simply take it for granted - out of sight/out of mind.

The corporatist, petro-state that Canada has become has little respect for our ecology and grossly discounts its value.   We freely give our resources to industry instead of valuing and pricing them.  We're subsidizing industries, usually foreign-owned, with resources that legitimately belong to the Canadian people.   Water is foremost in this.   We have no tradition of pricing resources such as water at fair market values.   How then can we move on to also effectively price carbon emissions and other pollutants and contaminants?  When the rest of the world is fast running out of resources, we ought not to be giving them away for pennies on the dollar.

Social upheaval is spreading throughout the world.  The Arab Spring was not a fluke.   The riots and unrest that have hit Europe are not aberrations.   The Occupy Movement was not a passing fad, it was merely putting us on notice of a very real, very serious social problem that is not going away.  As Chris Hedges recently noted, we ignore this at our peril.

It's hard to imagine unrest sweeping Canada, hard but not impossible.   Yet we seem oblivious to the insecurity that rises out of inequality (of income, wealth and opportunity) that is both the fuel and the spark that triggers the collapse of social cohesion.  These issues have great difficulty getting much traction in a corporatist, petro-state like Canada.

Democracy seems unable or unwilling to respond to public needs and interests even in countries that we have associated with the democratic tradition.   Britain itself is a hotbed of social unrest.  Much of Europe is in the same boat.   Only Scandinavia, with its strong, social democracy seems capable of forestalling this sort of upheaval.

Democracy is not safe in Canada.   The ascendancy of the corporatist, petro-state has seen to that.   We have a thoroughly undemocratic government whose weapons of choice are secrecy and deception that keeps getting elected.   We have a mass media that has evolved into a corporate media cartel, peddling messaging in lieu of information, to do the corporatist government's bidding.   Some of us still go to the polls.  Many do not.

So where is our champion in this our hour of need?   Where is the leader who will put environmentalism ahead of industrialism?  Where is the person who will rehabilitate our social cohesion, heal the social chasm of inequality?   Where is the leader who will rehabilitate our democracy and place it in service to the Canadian people?  I don't know where that person is but I do know that it's not Tom Mulcair any more than it is Justin Trudeau.

There's Only One Position and It's Filled

Call him what you like, Beelzebub, the Prince of Darkness, the Baron of Bland, today's Corporate Canada has its administrator in chief and we call him Stephen J. Harper.

Here's a secret:  the Liberals and New Democrats want Harper's job.  They want one of their guys to become the next C.E.O. of Corporate Canada.   They want Harper out.   They're not trying to dismantle the corporation.

I read a lot of nonsense about what the "left" should be doing or how the "progressive" parties should be doing this or that.   And each time I see those references I ask myself, "what 'left'" or "what 'progressives'?"

There was a time when most everything on the other side of the Conservatives could be considered left or at least slightly centre-left.   Then Harper showed up with his prime directive to shift Canada's political centre far to the right and fix it there.   And, with a great deal of help from people with names like Ignatieff and Layton, that's exactly what he's done.

Harper said we wouldn't recognize Canada when he was done with it and it turns out he was right.   He was so right that now it's also nearly impossible to recognize the Liberals and, even more so, the New Democrats for what they used to be.   Harper can be justly proud for beating the socialist stuffing right out of the New Democrats, sending them running for cover as Latter-Day-Liberals.  Sorry Dippers but you've been royally Tony Blaired.

Isn't it odd that the Canadian people don't much care for Steve Harper as a person.   They certainly don't trust him.   But that doesn't matter, does it?   They think that, overall, he's running the country more or less okay.  

The Canadian people think he's a somewhat competent administrator and that's what prime ministership has become today, administration.   And who can blame the Canadian people for seeing it that way when the opposition parties are looking to fill that same job?

So what are we reduced to?  We're waiting patiently for Steve Harper to screw up so badly that enough voters will turn up at the polls to turf him out.   That could be a while because Steve has shown us his greatest talent - engineering election wins out of thin air.   His campaign strategy has always been the same - "That guy,  are you serious?"

But there may be another way, one that doesn't depend on Steve Harper falling down a flight of stairs.   That's to do the one thing he can't.   That's to become genuinely progressive again.      And the neat thing is, once we restore progressivism to the heart of our politics, we can generate powerful policy platforms and present a vision that speaks to the concerns of Canadians, that resonates deeply with the voting public.   If that means leaving the security blanket of corporatism, and it does, then the country and our people are far better off for it.

If you're still not convinced, look at it this way.   Progressivism is the key to the future of the Canadian people as we, and the rest of the world, meet the challenges that this century has in store for us.  It is the glue that holds together and nurtures the strongest, broadest and most vibrant middle class, the very cohesiveness without which we are in for a very rough time very soon.  It's time for a bit of housecleaning on the left.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Just a Few Questions for the Liberal Party of Canada

How long can the Liberal Party duck the fundamental issue of climate change and what it means to our country, to our people and to our world?   Here are a few questions I'd like the party and those vying for its leadership to consider and answer.   And, once they're finished, I'd put the same questions to the New Democrats.

Does the Liberal Party acknowledge the fact that mankind cannot consume more than a small fraction, perhaps just 20 per cent or even less, of known fossil fuel reserves already on the books of energy companies, if we are to have any hope of keeping global warming within the 2 degree Celsius target?

If not, what percent of known fossil fuel resources, does the Liberal Party accept can be burned without endangering the very survival of our civilization?  Does the Liberal Party even have a position on this question and, if not, why not?

Does the Liberal Party acknowledge that, in the transition to alternative energy, we must choose low-carbon fossil fuels over high-carbon fossil fuel energy?  Again, if not, why not?

Does the Liberal Party favour extraction and consumption of high-carbon fossil fuels over low-carbon fossil fuels and, if so, why?

Does the Liberal Party recognize that, at current rates of global fossil fuel consumption, our world is expected to endure 4 degree Celsius warming by 2100?

Does the Liberal Party believe that civilization is sustainable at warming of 4 degrees Celsius?

Does the Liberal Party see the drive to exploit high-carbon, unconventional fossil fuels as inherently nihilistic?  If not, why not?

Arms Race Update - Asia, Again

India now appears to be on a permanent war footing, ready to respond to a simultaneous attack by China and Pakistan.  The strategy, known as "Cold Start" also envisions an optional surprise attack on Pakistan using blitzkrieg tactics.

Indian Army T-90s

The world’s second-largest army, which celebrated its 64th Army Day on January 15, is on the cusp of implementing a major transformation in its organizational structure and war strategies to meet a possible combined threat from China and its ally Pakistan.

The change follows more than half a decade of annual exercises involving one of India’s three strike corps and a desert corps, which have engaged in operations to fine-tune a strategy that would enable India to take Pakistan by surprise.

Pakistani F-16s

Under this concept, the defensive corps close to the border with Pakistan have been re-designated “pivot” corps, and have been handed enhanced offensive elements under integrated battle groups (IBG) that consist of division-sized forces comprising armor, artillery and aviation assets designed to swiftly hit Pakistan before the strike corps, located deeper inside India, would be able to mobilize.

While the Cold Start strategy contemplates initial, conventional warfare, there seems to be a clear nuclear dynamic to it also.

Cold Start’s subnuclear option recognizes the nuclear threshold explicitly.  The concept behind it is to fight below this threshold, if possible.  But Cold Start has a nuclear element, too.  Should Pakistan fire nuclear weapons at this Indian force, India can escalate with nuclear strikes of its own.

Cold Start provides fascinating insight into the dynamic interactions of the two military systems on the subcontinent.  It shows how both countries have shifted from conventional war-fighting to escalation strategies.  I do not believe this is a matter of a conscious choice by either country.  Rather, it is an emergent property of the interacting nuclear systems in South Asia.  They have little choice but to play the game this way, short of a sweeping arms control or disarmament initiatives.

Escalation as a strategy has come into being not because anyone wanted it to, but from the mutual interaction of both sides having nuclear weapons.  While escalation strategies have always existed in South Asia, they are now front and center.  This marks a fundamental change from the conventional attrition strategies of previous wars.

On India's eastern border, China's rearmament proceeds apace.   Having just demonstrated its first aircraft carrier landing and takeoff  with a Chinese-made combat jet, China has now unveiled its own attack drone below, oddly similar to the American Predator shown at bottom.

Chinese Wing Loong Drone

U.S. Predator Drone

A Turbulent Sea of People

Around the world nations are being seriously destabilized by the combined impacts of climate change and food insecurity.   One factor in this is population density, the number of people a nation must somehow provide for within a fixed area.

Canada has a population density of 9 people per square kilometer.   Australia comes in at 8.   The United States, 34 per sq. km.   Around the world the picture is far different.

Here is a list of countries facing serious population density issues.  I've chosen only nations with populations greater than 20-million and population density greater than 50 per sq. km.   Bangladesh, not suprisingly, tops the rankings at 1,034.  

From 650 to 300, the list comprises Taiwan, South Korea, India, Japan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

From 300 to 100 in declining order we have Vietnam, the U.K., Germany, Pakistan, Italy, North Korea, Nepal, Nigeria, China, Uganda, Thailand, Indonesia, Poland, Syria, France and Ghana.

From 100 to 50, it's Turkey, Spain, Malaysia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Ukraine, Morocco, Myanmar, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Uzbekistan, Mexico and Yemen.

What should be sending up the red flag is the number of countries on this density list that are considered most vulnerable, particularly in the short term, to the impacts of climate change and other environmental challenges.   They make up the overwhelming majority of the countries listed.   In other words, around the world the most densely populated countries also appear most likely to take it in the neck from climate change and other ills.  

This list also includes the emerging economic superpowers of India, China and Mexico plus the industrial powerhouses of Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia.   These are also countries where per capita consumption is rising very quickly.  And, leaving the U.K. and France aside, four of them - China, India, Pakistan and North Korea - have nuclear arsenals.

Make Them Stay

The Doha climate change summit now underway appears likely to end inconclusively as have all the international climate change summits that preceded it over the past 18-years.   About the only agreement may be where to hold the next climate change summit.

By now it should be obvious that the format being used doesn't work.   Recalcitrants, like Canada, can show up, drag their heels, get their tickets punched, and they're good to go until the next summit.  On and on and on.   18 years worth and counting.

Here's a thought.   Since anthropogenic global warming is the greatest threat facing our civilization and since 18-years of climate change summits haven't even slowed the growth of greenhouse gas emissions much less reduced them, maybe it has come time to gather up every country's environment minister, aides and negotiators; lock them all up in a big arena and tell them they're staying put until they have hammered out a deal that works.

Look, global warming is a huge problem but it's only one huge problem.   There are others.   And, once we do get a workable fix for global warming, we're going to have to turn our attention to the other threats to our survival as a species.

We need collaborative fixes for a host of problems, some global others regional, including overpopulation; population migration; air, water and soil contamination of all varieties; preservation of global fisheries; deforestation and desertification; species, disease and pest migration; the freshwater crisis; over-consumption, allocation and waste of renewable resources; and a host of security issues including terrorism, food insecurity, nuclear weapons proliferation and destabilizing arms races now underway.

In other words, global warming, no matter how critical, is just the floating tip of an iceberg of challenges and threats overdue for our attention as a family of nations.   Yet we're in a state of dysfunction so debilitating that we're not even talking about these much less making any genuine effort to find solutions.   Now, if you're still with me, ask yourself why not?

Believe it or not, with this ever towering tsunami of global woes, there are common links and, from them, common approaches to solutions.   There are common threads that run through all these problems.   The most obvious one is that they're all, to a significant degree, man made.   They're of our making.   The good news is that means we can undo them although that may not be as easy or pleasurable as it was creating them.

So what are these common threads?  You find them.  Take a look at the problems listed (bear in mind my list is representative, not exhaustive) and try to find the ties by which they're linked.   And then try to identify the most common solutions that come to your mind.   There is no one perfect solution, no magic wand.   There are, however, a handful that form a basic tool kit for cleaning up our mess.  Have a go.

Two things to bear in mind.   There are brilliant types, like anthropologist Jarred Diamond, who make a convincing case that the sort of problems I have listed here, including global warming, are of a magnitude that we cannot solve them in isolation of each other.  We cannot solve any of them unless we solve them all.

The second thing is that we don't have another 18-years to forge a workable, effective international consensus to slash carbon emissions.  Some give us no more than another four to five years to begin implementing major emissions reductions.   Are you really willing to bet they're wrong?

And, meanwhile, let's keep those buggers in Doha until they get climate change sorted out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thawing the Far North

1,700 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide.   That's twice the current record amount of atmospheric CO2.   1,700 billion metric tonnes is the estimated amount of CO2 held in the northern hemisphere's permafrost that is now at risk of being released.

A report of the U.N. Environment Programme released at the Doha climate summit warns that data from existing monitoring networks, "indicates that large-scale thawing of permafrost may have already started."

With Arctic temperatures warming twice as fast as the global average, scientists estimate thawing permafrost could release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere through the end of the century with significant climate impacts.

Thawing permafrost could emit 43 billion to 135 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2100, and 246 billion to 415 billion metric tons of CO2 by 2200, the U.N. report says.

"Uncertainties are large, but emissions from thawing permafrost could start within the next few decades and continue for several centuries, influencing both short-term climate (before 2100) and long-term climate (after 2100)," it continues.

Despite that risk, current climate models do not include the risk of emissions from thawing permafrost, the UNEP analysis warned.

As a consequence, the projections of future climate change made in the IPCC's next major report, due next year, "are likely to be biased on the low side," the new report says.

If You Think Rob Ford Is Off the Wall

Hairstyle by Batshit Crazy Salon

Meet Idaho Republican state Senator, Sheryl Nuxoll.  Ms. Senator Nutjob thinks it's still possible for Romney to become president if only enough states refuse to participate in the Electoral College.

Nuxoll contends that states are going to have to stand up for America's individual and collective rights because Obama is "depriving us of our freedoms."

The Tea Party braintrust figures if enough states boycott the Electoral College they can prevent the remaining electors from forming a quorum and, hence, giving Obama the nod.  How that would translate into a Romney victory is even more elusive.  In any case they got it wrong, there is no quorum stipulated for the Electoral College.  If Red State electors don't show up, the vote simply goes ahead without them.

Orange Won but the Real Winner was Green

New Democrat Murray Rankin won the by-election in Victoria last night but only just.   With the powerful and experienced federal and provincial NDP machines churning away in the previously New Democrat riding, Rankin was all but pre-ordained to triumph.   Yet that triumph eluded him as he barely squeaked through past the Green Party candidate, Donald Galloway.    During the night the lead changed hands several times between Rankin and Galloway.

At the end of the night, it was Rankin by the skin of his teeth.  The message for the Greens was crystal clear - we can have these guys with a little more time and a little more effort.

Arms Race Update - China Gets Into Naval Air Game

It's still a long way off from rivaling America's 11-carrier battle groups but China has demonstrated a successful landing and takeoff from its refurbished Ukranian aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.

The Chinese-built carrier jet, a Sukhoi 27 knock-off, comes complete with folding wings and folding horizontal tailplanes.

Observers believe the Liaoning is a training ship and that China has its own, indigenous aircraft carriers under construction.

Well This Is a Real Kick in the Schnitzel

Brace yourself (no pun intended).   Germany is about to outlaw sex between humans and animals.  Yeah, you got that right.   And, yeah, that means that up till now, it was okay in Germany to have sex with animals.

"The government plans to toughen animal protection laws - which currently only prohibit the practice if the animal is injured...

"The group Veterinarians against Zoophilia says thousands of Germans exchange information online about sex with animals and that some farms rent out animals for sexual exploitation.

"The new law would also ban such animal brothels and the training of animals for sex with humans."

Man, that is just so gross.
The government plans to toughen animal protection laws - which currently only prohibit the practice if the animal is injured - with fines of 25,000 euros ($A31,250), reported the daily Taz.
The Bundestag's agriculture committee will discuss the amendment on Wednesday. It plans to send the measure to parliament by mid-December, said the report, citing committee chairman Hans-Michael Goldmann.
The group Veterinarians against Zoophilia says thousands of Germans exchange information online about sex with animals and that some farms rent out animals for sexual exploitation.
The new law would also ban such animal brothels and the training of animals for sex with humans.

Read more:

What We're Really Fighting Over at Doha

Yes, you're right, it's carbon emissions we're fighting over at Doha but perhaps not in the way you imagine.

We, in the developed world, are fighting for our our continued domination of the atmosphere and the preservation of our monopoly on its remaining carbon-carrying capacity.

It's a simple question of mathematics.   In recent years we've learned a really critical fact - the amount of carbon dioxide our atmosphere can carry if we are to avoid blowing straight through the estimated 'survivable' limit of 2 degrees Celsius planetary warming.   The idea is, once we go through 2C, we set in motion natural feedback mechanisms (think methane release from the permafrost) that will trigger runaway, catastrophic (i.e. civilization ending) global heating.    (Isn't it curious how, in recent years, the "feedback mechanism" issue has been almost erased from the climate change debate?)

So, if we know how much CO2 is already in the atmosphere and we know just how much more the atmosphere can take before we hit the point of no return then you subtract A from B to get C, the emissions volume we have remaining.   The question then becomes "who gets C?"

We in the developed world have contributed the overwhelming share of existing atmospheric carbon.   Yet the Third World isn't clamoring for our heads, not yet.   In fact, they're willing to let bygones be bygones but (and you know there's always a "but") they want the remaining carbon quota allocated on an equitable, per capita basis.   They want the atmosphere treated as a commons to be shared equally around the world.

Whoa, not so fast little man.  Why if we were to share the atmosphere with you that would cause no end of problems, for us at least.  In case you haven't heard, we're broke.   Not broke as in the sense you're shit-out-of-luck broke, praise the Lord for that, but still broke in our sense.  And if we were to share that atmosphere with you that would mean we would either have to shut down our economies, stat, or buy your carbon quotas and that would lead to carbon taxes of one form or another and it would drive down the fossil fuel industry, our patron, and, well, it'd be a mess - for us.   And did we mention we're broke?

And that, in a nutshell, is the back story that ensures there'll be no meaningful breakthrough agreement at Doha just as agreement has eluded every climate summit before it.   We won't do it, perhaps we can't.

There's Your Problem - Too Damned Much Wiggle Room

 The wrench in the gears that prevents meaningful international action on global change is the enormous wiggle room in the debate.  This arises, in large part, because of the opportunity for the players to argue overall emissions versus per capita emissions.

China, for example, recently became the top CO2 emitter overall closely followed by the United States.   But compare China's population with America's.  China has 1,344-million people.  America, at 311-million, is only a quarter as big meaning American per capita emissions are roughly four times that of China's.  Beijing's ace in the hole is the argument that a good chunk of its overall emissions is from manufacturing commodities for other countries making it something of an emissions proxy for Wal-Mart shoppers.

India is in the same boat - overall big emissions but positively huge, heavily agrarian population giving rise to very modest per capita emissions.

The best example, however, comes to us from the host of this year's Doha climate change summit, Qatar.

Environmentalists found the choice of Qatar as host of the two-week conference ironic. The tiny Persian Gulf emirate owes its wealth to large deposits of gas and oil, and it emits more greenhouse gases per capita than any other nation.

Qatar has not even announced any climate action in the UN process. Former Qatari oil minister Abdullah Bin Hamad al-Attiyah opened the conference Monday, saying: "We should not concentrate on the per capita (emissions). We should concentrate on the amount from each country. "I think Qatar is the right place to host" the conference, he said.

Even Qatar gets it.   For the great majority of countries, Canada very much included, there's always an out.   Hey, maybe that's what we need - a third metric - carbon emissions per sq. km. of land mass.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ford Out

T.O. mayor Rob Ford has been given da boot.

US Disappoints World on Emissions Cuts, So Does Everyone Else

Barack Obama's campaign pledge to act on climate change is beginning to look like electoral hot air.   Despite the urging of poor countries at Doha, the U.S. is holding to Obama's old commitment of 17% emission cuts below 2005 levels by 2020 (even that still lacks Senate approval).

"'We're sleepwalking off a cliff,' Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists said. There was a lack of ambition to confront rising world greenhouse gas emissions at the two-week meeting, the first in an OPEC nation, he said."

"China's chief delegate Su Wei insisted that the rich should extend the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol, the existing plan that binds developed nations to cut emissions by at least 5.2 percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

"'If there is not agreement on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol ... I think that would be disastrous for talks on future enhanced action after 2020,' he said, referring to plans for a global U.N. pact meant to be agreed by 2015.

"'If we cannot agree on immediate actions, how can anyone agree on future actions?' he said, urging the rich to do more."

Coming from China which, together with India, has plans to construct many hundreds of coal-fired power plants in the near future, demanding emissions cuts from rich countries sounds a bit hollow.

The Kyoto Accords, from which Canada, Japan and Russia have already defected, may end despite demands they be renewed.  Kyoto is the only international framework ever reached to address global warming.  If it collapses the world will revert to a patchwork of uncoordinated and, ultimately, unworkable national programmes, objectives and promises.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Are Things Heating Up in the Himalayas?

For a while, India and China even claimed to have finally settled their dangerous border dispute.   If they ever had a deal, it seems that deal is in doubt.

The land in question is the northernmost Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and the Himalayan region of Aksai Chin.   In new Chinese passports those regions are shown as belonging to the People's Republic.   India has responded by stamping the Chinese passports with its own map showing the regions as Indian.

China and India went to war along this border in 1962.  Since then India has claimed China has illegally occupied its territory in Aksai Chin while China has claimed the state of Arunachal belongs to it.

There is a great deal at stake up here including access to freshwater resources both countries deem vital.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Suicide on a Grand Scale

Prince Charles states the obvious.

 "Mankind is on the brink of 'committing suicide on a grand scale' unless rapid progress is made on green issues, the Prince of Wales warned today.

"In very strong language, Prince Charles claimed the planet was doomed to an 'unimaginable future' if the problems in carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, intensive farming using pesticides, and the depletion of natural resources were not addressed."

Charles had a special word for the like of Canada's political leadership, criticizing those who, "cling to the disintegrating raft of 'business as usual'."
Mankind is on the brink of 'committing suicide on a grand scale' unless rapid progress is made on green issues, the Prince of Wales warned today.
In very strong language, Prince Charles claimed the planet was doomed to an 'unimaginable future' if the problems of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, intensive farming using pesticides and the depletion of natural resources were not addressed.

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Mankind is on the brink of 'committing suicide on a grand scale' unless rapid progress is made on green issues, the Prince of Wales warned today.
In very strong language, Prince Charles claimed the planet was doomed to an 'unimaginable future' if the problems of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, intensive farming using pesticides and the depletion of natural resources were not addressed.

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Mankind is on the brink of 'committing suicide on a grand scale' unless rapid progress is made on green issues, the Prince of Wales warned today.
In very strong language, Prince Charles claimed the planet was doomed to an 'unimaginable future' if the problems of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, intensive farming using pesticides and the depletion of natural resources were not addressed.

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Two Near Misses in Two Days

Two shipping near misses off Kitimat in two days.   Thursday the deep sea freighter, Tern Arrow, lost engine power and wound up drifting for three hours in Laredo Sound south of Kitimat.   You won't see this in any Enbridge ads but the ship was adrift in 40 knot winds and heavy seas, very far from the worst conditions that often prevail in that area.

On Tuesday night, a loaded German container ship had to alter course to dodge a fishing boat and ran aground on a sand bar south of Prince Rupert.   Fortunately it was only sand, the hull wasn't holed and the ship was able to be pulled off the sand bar by tugs.

What's important is to keep in mind that it will only take one supertanker sinking on the north coast to create truly unimaginable ecological disaster and that nobody - not Ottawa, not Alberta, not Enbridge, not our Chinese bosses - has any idea of what to do about; a spill of bitumen blanketing the rocky bottom 600 feet down.

The north coast seas are fierce.   120-knot winds can occur.   30-metre waves have been recorded.   The Hecate Strait is rated the 6th most dangerous to navigation on the planet.

The Missing First Step

Rona Ambrose has a typically Ambrosian approach to hunting down Canada's next combat jet to replace the stellar but aging CF-18s.

Rona's gonna chat.  She's going to talk to our allies - the U.S., Australia and Britain.   Maybe she wants them to tell us what they want Canada to buy. 

Then she will consult with competing fighter manufacturers and come up with some sort of list, presumably of each aircraft's strengths and weaknesses or how good it looks in Tory blue or something.

And only then will the Air Force wade in with its statement of requirements to identify the winner.

In other words, our artfully dodgy Air Force nobs will be able to tailor their "statement of requirements" for a skintight fit with the airplane they want, the F-35.   And then Rona and Peter and Steve can say that, this time, they crossed all the t's and dotted all the i's.

All that's missing is the critical first step.    That's when the government tells the Air Force just what it wants those planes to do.   What are the priorities for Canada?   Is it to be able to field a mere handful of light, first strike attack bombers and, if so, who are we planning to attack and on behalf of whom?   Is it to have the sort of robust, fast and long-range aircraft needed to patrol and defend Canada's vast north and our coasts?

You see, if we leave out that critical first step - the one where we tell the Air Force what we expect them to do - then they're free to game the process as they have from the get go.   The Harperites get their ideological fetish fulfilled without having to face any public debate and the Air Force boys get to join the Pentagon's aerial Foreign Legion.   Today neither of them is to be trusted.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fewer Lawyers = More Doctors

We're wasting precious tax dollars training too damned many lawyers, money we could be putting to good use training more doctors.

The Law Society of Upper Canada is tossing about the problem right now.

The law schools are now sending us flood upon flood of students,” said lawyer Bradley Wright. “Because no one fails any more, being accepted into first-year law school guarantees you a call to the bar. … Just show up at the door and you will be accepted into our profession.”

Marion Boyd, a former Ontario attorney-general, said the profession is risking its credibility by watering down its high standards.

“I think the public would be concerned to hear how many of us have reservations about how the current system is preparing them [young lawyers],” Ms. Boyd said.

Another council member, Mark Sandler, said the articling problem has added to a worsening problem.

“Judges increasingly report that lawyers appear in front of them without having basic legal skills,” Mr. Sandler said. These newly minted lawyers are unable to adequately argue a case, question witnesses or make calculated judgments on how to pursue a case, he said.

Even back when I began - when high-tech meant IBM Selectric typewriters and photocopiers and when even the fax machine was years away - it struck me there were too damned many lawyers and a good many of those were no damned good either.

Training a lawyer doesn't end when they're called to the Bar.  It takes years of "hands on" experience to achieve competence and that's best done under the tutelage of senior counsel.   Yet getting called officially makes you a "real" lawyer and you can hang up your shingle and start your own practice.   Unfortunately too many young lawyers are turfed out of the nest before they're really able to fly by established law firms that simply have no need for them.  And it's the public that suffers most from that.

Articling students are solemnly warned never to take a case they're not competent to handle.   Yet, when they're cut adrift from the firm where it all began, they usually have no clients.   While they may not have clients, chances are very good they'll have an office, equipment leases, probably a receptionist/secretary, a bookeeper to feed, and, of course, the mandatory insurance premium.  Did I mention food, shelter, clothing and the inevitable student loans?

It's really hard to do that on the cheap.   So when someone strolls through the door with a juicy bit of work, it's hard to say, "sorry, no, I'm not ready for that just yet."   Let the nightmares begin.   Chances are good you may lose the case because you don't know what you're doing.  Your client, who thought he was getting a great deal on cheap fees, goes to talk to the senior guy in the next block who quickly tells him to sue you.   He does.   He wins.   The insurer pays out and adds that to the premium for all the lawyers next year.  But that's hardly the worst.

In any event, we're churning out so many lawyers, some of them are earning incomes that a lot of trade unionists would sneer at.  The Law Society of Upper Canada, trying to help struggling female lawyers stay in the biz while having families, has implemented a fund that will pay parental leave benefits of up to $9,000 for lawyers who net less than $50,000 a year.   Here's a hint.  If you're making less than $50,000, chances are you should be doing something else, especially if you're raising a family.

Productivity in the legal profession has gone crazy since the 50's.  That trade has benefited massively from technology - computer word processing and accounting, the internet, digital communications, you name it.  I knew guys who told me about the idyllic "old days" when a lawyer could handle just a few files, dictated or even wrote out his correspondence by hand to be transcribed at a manual typewriter by a stenographer, kept sane hours and had a good expectation of a comfortable living out of just that.

Today's lawyers handle what, by comparison, is an insane volume of work and they're expected to work ever harder, to achieve really high monthly billings and cashflow to go with it.   The available work is getting concentrated which means there's less to go around for the excess lawyers, the ones who may be struggling to earn $50,000 a year.

Here's the worst part.   The law schools that churn out this unwanted surplus of lawyers are very expensive to staff and maintain.   They take a big chunk of taxpayer dollars.   But, like all professional schools, they also bring in badly needed revenues to universities - all of which would love to have a law school and a medical school, an architecture and engineering faculty and so on.  So they're not going to put the brakes on this.

I'll bet we could shut down half the law schools in Canada tomorrow and still never have a shortage of lawyers, including for legal aid work.   And all that money we save could then be invested into opening new medical schools, training more doctors.   Medical schools regularly turn away plenty of qualified applicants.   There are plenty of men and women who would make fine doctors who just can't get in.   A few of them even wind up, disappointed, in law schools.

So let's do a hard-nosed survey of just how many lawyers Canadians really need and how many law schools we don't need.  Let's take that money we're wasting and put it where it's so badly needed.   I don't know, that sounds sensible enough to me. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

UN Demands Israel Stop Ripping Off Palestinian Resources

The U.N. General Assembly, by a vote of 156-5, called on Israel to immediately stop its decades-old practices of exploiting, damaging, depleting and endangering the natural resources of the Occupied Territories.   Canada joined the U.S., Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Israel in opposing the motion.   For what it's worth, Israel's raping of the Palestinian lands is a flagrant and never-ending violation of international law.

Will BC'ers Back Pot Next Year?

The organization, Sensible BC, plans to place a marijuana policing referendum before British Columbians in 2014.

SBC has already had a test run, placing its Sensible Policing Act proposal before Elections BC to verify that the legislation was within provincial jurisdiction and was suitable for a referendum.  It cleared those hurdles whereupon SBC promptly withdrew it.

The way the initiative rules work, once approved, referendum proponents have 90-days to garner 400,000 signatures.   SBC wasn't prepared for that public campaign this year but plans to pre-register supporters next year prior to triggering the 90-day deadline.

With this approach, it's hard to imagine SBC won't get the stipulated 400,000 signatures next year.   Then the initiative will be added to the next scheduled referendum in September, 2014.

Is America Now Okay With the Post-Mubarak Egypt?

Did Benjamen Netanyahu just rebuild America's relationship with Egypt?

After the fall of the brutal, murderous Mubarak regime, many American pols seemed genuinely distraught when a candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi, was elected the first Islamist president of Egypt.

When Netanyahu unleashed the Israeli air force on Gaza the world eyed Morsi suspiciously, fearful of an Islamist retaliation against Israel.   Instead the Egyptians calmly backed the Gaza Palestinians and set about brokering a ceasefire that Netanyahu had no choice but to accept.   As the New York Times reports, president Morsi emerged as the real victor.

"The United States, Israel and Hamas all praised Egypt’s role in brokering the cease-fire as the antagonists pulled back from violence that had killed more than 150 Palestinians and five Israelis over the past week.

"...The deal demonstrated the pragmatism of Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, who balanced public support for Hamas with a determination to preserve the peace with Israel." 

Canada's theocratic government of the day can't be at all pleased with this outcome but, like the Americans, they're just going to have to accept there is a new political dynamic in the Middle East and that demonizing Islamism as a matter of course is of dwindling utility.   The Rapture freaks can remain mired in their religious fantasies that drive their dark world view but the future of the Middle East will be written by people with names like Edrogan and Morsi.

Netanyahu Steps In His Own Mess

Benjamin Netanyahu, with a looming date with Israeli voters, is doing his best to portray himself as the victor in Israel's 8-day, Operation Pillar of Defence but, in the minds of many Israelis, he's actually the loser.  Der Spiegel reports that a good many people, inside Israel and elsewhere, see the winners as Hamas and Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.

"...the Israeli press is not joining Netanyahu in praising Netanyahu. To be sure, most analysts agree that the current ceasefire bringing the Israeli Gaza operation "Pillar of Defense" to a halt is a positive development due to the return of calm to southern Israel. But in the Israeli press, Netanyahu's name was not among the victors listed on Thursday morning. Rather, leading commentators in the country agree that the primary beneficiaries from the week-long clash are the Hamas leadership and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who negotiated the truce.

"A member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi's summertime election had led to significant distrust in the West. Now, writes Anshel Pfeffer in the influential Israeli daily Haaretz, the crisis has propelled Mursi into the role of an important regional statesman. The proof: As the ceasefire was being finalized this week, US President Barack Obama telephoned with Morsi multiple times.
"Pfeffer emphasized that even Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman saw it necessary to thank Morsi for his role in bringing about a truce. Given Lieberman's hard-line stance, such a move counts as a mini-sensation in Israel. After all, the Israeli foreign minister is hardly a fan of Egypt or Hamas, having in the past called for the bombardment of the Aswan Dam and demanded that the Gaza Strip be treated as the Russians do Chechnya.

"Hamas too has managed to extract minor victories from the conflict, according to analysts. For one, the Islamist leaders of the Gaza Strip inserted a clause in the ceasefire agreement which calls for at least a partial lifting of the blockade Israel imposed on the Palestinian area after Hamas came to power in 2006. Furthermore, the fact that the Hamas leadership didn't collapse in the face of heavy bombardment, along with the fact that their rockets continued to rain down on Israel throughout the conflict, has been interpreted as a success.

"But even more important for the Islamists, according to Haaretz, is that their rockets were able to hit both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And they were able to position themselves as a negotiating partner for the Israeli leadership, guaranteeing them a role as an actor in the Middle East for at least the immediate future.

"...Simon Shiffer, the veteran writer for Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, writes that Hamas has now become the most influential Palestinian power because Netanyahu has undertaken negotiations with them while ignoring the Palestinian Authority and its President Mahmoud Abbas."

All of which raises the question of how much damage Netanyahu has done to his and Israel's influence in Washington.   After all, Bibi did everything but stuff ballot boxes for Mitt Romney and yet utterly failed to deliver the American Jewish vote to the Republicans.  Now his second act was a complete blunder in Gaza.  Anyone think America is keen to support Netanyahu attacking Iran?

What? Another Dire Report on Global Warming?

We used to get climate change reports once, perhaps twice a week.   Now they're flooding in daily.   That's not surprising given that scientific research papers on various aspects of anthropogenic global warming are now coming in at roughly five a day.

Today I'll pick the European Environment Agency.   A report by the EEA confirms that Europe is already reeling from the impacts of global warming and they're only going to get worse.

"...the agency says the past decade in Europe has been the warmest on record.

"It adds that the cost of damage caused by extreme weather events is rising, and the continent is set to become more vulnerable in the future. 

"'Every indicator we have in terms of giving us an early warning of climate change and increasing vulnerability is giving us a very strong signal," observed EEA executive director Jacqueline McGlade.

"'It is across the board, it is not just global temperatures," she told BBC News.

"'It is in human health aspects, in forests, sea levels, agriculture, biodiversity - the signals are coming in from right across the environment.'"

The report finds that climate change in Europe will "deepen socio-economic imbalances" among EU countries.   Some observers have speculated that global warming could drive a wedge between warming-ravaged southern Europe and the relatively advantaged northern European states including Scandinavia, the U.K., France, Germany, Holland, the Baltics and the Benelux countries.

As these reports flood in they place the cognitive dissonance of our petro-Parliamentarians in a glaring light.   Harper, Mulcair, Trudeau - they'll all admit they know the dangers global warming poses to our country and our people and then they'll all stand up on their hind legs and speak glowingly of the bright future of our insanely high-carbon oil substitute.   That's a sign of deep-seated, political/mental dysfunction, the sort of thing that should disqualify anybody from leading a political party.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oil Producing Countries Asked to Levy Carbon Tax on Exports

Oh this will go over well with Ol' Shifty Steve Harper.

A gaggle of poor nations are asking major oil producers to levy a 3-5% carbon tax on oil exported to affluent countries.   The receipts would then be deposited in a "green climate fund" to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries adapt to global warming.

The Ecuadorean president, Rafael Correa, proposed a carbon tax at a summit of Arab and South American countries in October in Peru which included the heads of state and energy ministers of nine of Opec's 12 countries. The Guardian understands the proposal was taken seriously and not dismissed out of hand. The idea was first mooted in 2001 by former World Bank senior economist Herman Daly – leading it to be dubbed the "Daly-Correa tax" – and will be further discussed by Opec countries at the UN climate talks which open on Monday in Doha.

"The first global tax on carbon emissions would achieve the most efficient and just way to do what [the] Kyoto [protocol] has failed to do: make carbon emitters internalise the effects of their actions and pay for the pollution they create," Correa told the summit.

Well There Goes the Nativity Set

Apparently "we" (that'd be the Vatican) really doesn't know when Jesus was born but they're guessing it was somewhere between 7 and 2 B.C.   Then again, how could he have been born before B.C.?  Wouldn't that be C.B.C. and, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that's spoken for.  I don't know, this is way too deep for me.

Anyway, Joe "The Rat" Ratzinger, better known as Pope Benny to the likes of you, says not only do we have the birth year of Jesus all wrong, there weren't any oxen, donkeys, sheep, goats or any other animals present at the birth?   Really?   It's an inn, the inn's stables.  What would a sold out inn have in its stables but animals?    I don't know, go figure.

In other earth shaking religious news, Rowan Atkinson has announced there'll be no more Mr. Bean.

"I suddenly think the job of acting is a difficult one,” says Rowan Atkinson. “It’s not as flip, irrelevant and shallow a calling as I thought it was in the Eighties.

Can't They See How This Ends?

The U.S. military has really fallen for this remote-controlled mayhem business.   The latest and greatest thing is the miniature, one-way drone.  It has a range of between 6 to 10-miles, it can loiter over the target from 10 to 30-minutes, and then it ends its service life by flying into the ground, detonating a couple of pounds of high explosive.   Some can be controlled by a ground operator sitting in the safety of a cozy bunker.   Others can use GPS guidance.   Others might even be robotic, flying to the designated spot and waiting until it detects something with the parameters of an enemy target - or a wedding party, something that needs killing anyway.

There are just a few problems with this.   One is that only so many will work before you have a dud and duds usually wind up in the other guy's hands.   Then the other guy gets to learn what makes them tick, how to build his own and, as often as not, how to make one even better than yours.

Another drawback is that small and disposable inevitably means cheap and that plays into your intended adversary's hands when you're rich and he's poor.   He won't be building a B-2 bomber any time soon but he can probably scratch up enough cash to start churning out your cheap and dirty whiz-bangs in big volume.

And being small means being relatively easy to smuggle so you can bet the farm your new device will be arriving in Gaza and the West Bank in no time or even outside your own base in Afghanistan or maybe in downtown New York or Washington.

In other words, you're developing the perfect weapon - for your enemy.  Brilliant.

Let's Make a Deal

What worries me whenever I see a poll suggesting that the Harper Cons might be toppled in 2015 is how far off that day is and what impetus that gives Harper to finish his dirty deeds.

Long have I suspected that Harper has calculated that, like a sneak thief, his days are numbered and thus knows that he has to get his agenda finished, if at all possible, within a single majority term in office.

First and foremost that means completing the CPC Triad - the Conservative Party of Canada, the Calgary Petroleum Club and the Communist Party of China - linking the Athabasca Tar Sands to Beijing via the Northern Gateway pipeline/supertanker trade route.

Harper has been working overtime to expedite that.   He has hammered out a Canada-China trade deal that leaves this country, its provinces and its people at China's mercy.   He has gutted our fisheries and navigation protections along the West Coast.   He's shuttering our Coast Guard stations.  He has exterminated entire departments at Fisheries & Oceans that were responsible for monitoring fish stocks and our coastal waters ecology.  He has uprooted the West Coast emergency oil spill response centre and relocated it to Quebec.  He has even assigned the pipeline operator, Enbridge, with a senior liaison section of the Department of Fisheries & Oceans.   He has streamlined gutted the environmental assessment regime.   He has villified as disloyal Canadians determined to safeguard our coast against his chicanery.   He has created a secret police agency comprising the RCMP, Calgary and Edmonton police and even our national spy agency, CSIS, to spy on pipeline opponents.

These are not the actions of someone who is anything but intent on forcing the Northern Gateway straight down our throats and very quickly.

There's not much the Libs and NDP can do to thwart Harper.  Harper has a majority and rules by fiat.   But that doesn't mean they get a pass on this either.

If Harper and Enbridge and China are to be stopped, it's going to take civil disobedience - ordinary, law-abiding citizens crossing the line, breaking the law, as many times as need be.   And since we'll have to do what the Libs and NDP can't, we need their undertaking, their promise that, once Harper is swept back into the gutter he came from, they will expunge all criminal records for non-violent civil disobedience in resisting the Northern Gateway.

So Tommy and Justin, what's it going to be?   Let's make a deal.

If Canadians Want a Liberal, It Won't be Mulcair

Sorry Dippers, your guy is a liberal and Canadians' Liberal of choice is the guy whose hair is on his head, not his face.

NatPo's latest poll finds if Canadians had a chance to vote today, they would elect a strong Liberal minority government led by Trudeau while consigning you New Dems to the cellar yet again.

The Lesson - the Layton/Mulcair shift to the right is the New Dems' death march.   That's just as Murray Dobbins foretold earlier this week in The Tyee.

The Good News - now, more than ever, Canada needs a strong voice from the left, the very thing the NDP has always done best.  When the NDP is at its best, Canada - the whole country - is better off for it.   You don't need to capture 24 Sussex Drive to best serve Canada.   But you still have a long way to go.   You have to clean house and sweep out this centrist bullshit.   Think Douglas, think Lewis, think Broadbent.

Going to Pot

There was a discernible jolt in the wake of election night when the good people of Colorado and Washington voted to decriminalize possession and use of marijuana.

Some folks here on the Left Coast were wondering how that would impact on our number one agricultural crop, B.C. Bud.   Surely if the neighbours can simply grow their own they won't be needing the high priced stuff from the True North.

Yet it turns out that all is not lost.  A new study finds that British Columbians themselves buy half a billion dollars worth of pot annually.   That's 500-million dollars per year in untaxed retail transactions.    That's 500-million dollars, a good chunk of it in the form of uncollected income taxes.   When you pile income taxes atop sales taxes atop other business activity taxes, that's a whole lot of taxes going uncollected.

Bad as the loss of that tax revenue is, regard must also be had to all the nasty things those pot scofflaws do with their untaxed windfall.  Selling Bud is one thing. Using those proceeds to import other consumables from weapons to heroin, cocaine or meth is another thing altogether.

So let's do what the people of Washington and Colorado have just done; let's grow up.

Drifting Ever Faster Away from 350

The figures are out for 2011 and they're record-breaking.   Last year we managed to drive atmospheric CO2 levels to 390 ppm.

The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record 390.9 parts per million (ppm) in 2011, according to a report released Tuesday by the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO). That's a 40 percent increase over levels in 1750, before humans began burning fossil fuels in earnest.

Although CO2 is still the most significant long-lived greenhouse gas, levels of other heat-trapping gases have also climbed to record levels, according to the report. Methane, for example hit 1813 parts per billion (ppb) in 2011, and nitrous oxide rose to 324.2 ppb. All told, the amount of excess heat prevented from escaping into outer space was 30 percent higher in 2011 than it was as recently as 1990.

And here's what we've accomplished over the past half-century.

But whether you're a Liberal, a Conservative or a New Democrat, you're going to go out and vote for somebody who will pat you on the head and pay lip service to getting this under control and will then get back to boosting Canada's bitumen trafficking.

We absolutely must lay down the law with those Chinese and those Indians and their massive carbon emissions.   Except that would be the pusher criticizing the addict for drug abuse.   And besides, our per capita emissions are still way higher than theirs.   And a lot of their greenhouse gas emissions result from stuff that we have them make to fill our shelves at Wal Mart and just about everywhere else.

There's Still a Chance

 Here's what you need to know.   Today there is 25 per cent more atmospheric CO2 than there was in 2000.

On the books right now are plans for the construction of 1,200 more coal-fired power plants that will create emissions equal to another China, today's greatest greenhouse gas emitter ahead even of the United States.

The world is straying further away from commitments to combat climate change, bringing the prospect of catastrophic global warming a step closer, a UN report said on Wednesday. The warning came as nearly 200 governments prepare to meet in Qatar for international climate negotiations starting next Monday.

The warning of increasing emissions came as fresh evidence was published showing the last decade was the warmest on record for Europe. The European Environment Agency (EEA) said all parts of the region had been affected, with higher rainfall in northern Europe and a drying out in the south, bringing flooding to northern countries including the UK, and droughts to the Mediterranean.

According to the United Nations report, drawing on research from more than 50 scientists, the widening gap between countries' plans and scientific estimates means that governments must step up their ambitions as a matter of urgency to avoid even worse effects from warming. "The transition to a low-carbon, inclusive green economy is happening far too slowly and the opportunity for meeting [scientific advice on emissions targets] is narrowing annually," said Achim Steiner, executive director of Unep.

This gap between the cuts needed and the cuts planned brings the prospect of dangerous levels of climate change - entailing more extreme weather including floods, droughts and fiercer storms, such as those witnessed this year - much closer.

Even if countries manage to change direction in time and meet the emissions-cutting targets they have committed to in the past three years, the gap will still be large - about 8 Gt by 2020. To meet scientific advice, countries would have to agree to much bigger curbs on emissions than they have yet done - and there is little chance of that happening at the next round of annual climate negotiations, which begin on Monday in Doha, Qatar. At the fortnight-long talks, ministers are expected to set out a few more details of how they will work towards their agreed plan of drawing up a new global climate change treaty by 2015, to come into effect from 2020.

Steiner put on his optimistic face and said "there's still a chance" that world governments could prevent the worst but only if governments avoid becoming "locked in" to high-carbon infrastructure (can you say Tar Sands?).

And what are Canadian leaders going to do with our remaining "chance"?   Well, from Mulcair to Trudeau to Harper, they're all going to support the expansion of the Athabasca Tar Sands production several times over.   They're all on the very same page when it comes to ensuring Canada is indeed "locked in" to a high-carbon economy.