Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

If Halloween grisly is your thing, check out these photos by Nick Brandt.  He found the dessicated, preserved bird and bat remains at an alkaline lake in Tanzania where the pH runs from 9.0 to 10.5.  Brandt said the waters are extremely high in soda and salt.  He took the carcasses and posed them for these images.

How Can the Wealthiest Nation on Earth Have 47-Million People Dependent on Food Stamps?

When does this madness stop?  When will the public rise up against it?  Read these numbers and try to grasp what is going on in America today. 

In 2007, a staggering 26-million Americans were dependent on food stamps to stave off hunger.  Today, as the richest of the rich grow ever richer, faster than ever before, 47-million Americans have become dependent on food stamps.

Even as government legislated inequality squeezes the middle class into the lower class and what had been the lower class into penury, they're not nearly done beating up on the weakest and most vulnerable.  Tomorrow, congressionally-mandated cuts trim $5-billion from the food stamp programme with more cuts to follow.

The cuts were supposed to be implemented when blue collar America had recovered from the 2008 meltdown.  The only snag is that hasn't happened.

Conservatives like to say “Those who do not work shall not eat, misquoting and misusing the Bible to justify cutting food stamps, and implying that Americans who rely on food stamps are so lazy they’d rather rely on the government to feed them.
The truth is that sometimes those who work still can’t eat. Many food stamp recipients have jobs. They are the working poor, whose wages are not enough to lift them out of poverty. They are low-wage workers for highly profitable companies that refuse to pay living wages. They rely on food stamps to stave off hunger. Some employers, like McDonald’s tell workers to apply for food stamps if their wages aren’t enough to put food on the table.
These are the people who will be going over the “Hunger Cliff” while members of Congress negotiate even more cuts to food stamps.
The program is back on the chopping block this week as Congress begins negotiations over the Farm Bill. Last month, House Republicans passed a bill that could cut nearly $40 billion from the food stamp program over the next decade. (Not to mention eliminating free school meals for over 200,000 children.) The Senate bill cuts just a tenth of that amount. It’s likely that final farm include cuts to food stamp benefits that fall somewhere between the House and Senate bills.
Some day the American people may come to the realization that the greatest threat to their security and wellbeing isn't some bunch of Islamic extremists but the radicals within their own government who have abandoned the welfare of the public to bolster the welfare of the most privileged.  The United States military is already preparing to put down the unrest that will follow.

This Is Not Good, Not At All.

Chinese researchers are catching proper hell for playing around with potentially lethal viruses, developing hybrid variations of influenza  that would be easily transmissible between mammals.  The Chinese claim they're only developing these hybrids so they can create vaccines against them   Their Western counterparts say that's bullshit.

Robert May, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government, told The Independent:
“They claim they are doing this to help develop vaccines and such like. In fact the real reason is that they are driven by blind ambition with no common sense whatsoever. The record of containment in labs like this is not reassuring. They are taking it upon themselves to create human-to-human transmission of very dangerous viruses. It’s appallingly irresponsible.”
It remains unclear how easily the hybrids would spread between humans, and for that matter how lethal they would be if they did. But to an extent, that's not really the point: the concern here is over the fact that the researchers are even trying to create a virus which combines transmissibility and lethality in the first place. 
Maybe Shifty Steve should give his buddies in the Politburo a call and tell them to smarten the hell up.

Nigel, Nigel, Come In Nigel

TorStar's Chantel Hebert ponders whether former Harper chief of staff, Nigel Wright, will turn out to be the man who takes down our prime minister.

Once known around Ottawa as "Mr. Integrity", Wright has been supposedly laying low since he was fired resigned over the Wright-Duffy scandal.  No one seems to know much about the former PMO Wunderkind since he left Parliament Hill in May.  It's a safe bet that he's back in Toronto making millions and wondering why he got involved with that lying, manipulative, self-serving bastard in the first place.

Hebert seemed to be trying to flush Wright out of the weeds with this line:

Only a saint or alternatively someone with a guilty conscience would continue to play dead as his former boss wreaks irreparable damage on his or her reputation.

Sorry, Chantal, that's way too obvious.  Look at it this way.  Nigel is super-connected.  You have to be to make the kind of money he earns.  In Toronto, super-connected comes in two flavours - Conservative and Liberal.  Ideally, if you play your cards Wright, you can have a bit of both.

Nigel is a young man.  He has a long and productive life ahead of him. Storming back to Ottawa with sword raised to smite a lying prime minister would probably be seen by Wright's partners as bad for business.

Stephen Harper isn't playing to the Bay Street crowd when he turns on Wright.  Shifty is playing to the Gullibillies, the Conservative base who desperately need to believe all this is not happening.  No way, no sir, not Steve Harper.  No.   They're not exactly on the same cocktail circuit as Nigel.

None of this is to say that we've heard the end of Nigel Wright.  Hardly. There are said to exist, in various hands including the RCMP's, copies of electronic communications, contemporaneous to the events, that indicate Mr. Harper, contrary to his wobbly denials, was fully aware and approved of the Wright-Duffy, under-the-table cash deal.

If these accounts are true, all and sundry are waiting to learn whether Shifty can figure out some way to keep those messages from ever surfacing in public.  That will influence how events and players go forward.

Wouldn't you love to know how many times Shifty has conferred, either telephonically or in person, with his pet RCMP Commish Paulson over the past couple of months?  I'll wager they don't communicate via e-mail or letter.

That said, I still think Hebert is on to something.  It is time to focus on Nigel Wright.  Tie Harper down.  Keep NigelWright alive in Question Period.  Force Harper to squirm on the resigned/fired issue.  Clarify Wright's supposed 'deception.'   Deceiving is a deliberate misleading.  It's intentional.  Harper is contending that Wright intentionally misled him. Why would he do that?  To what end?  When Wright knew that so many others knew, how could he assume he could conceal the truth from Harper?  Now it seems there were a dozen people, key Tories all, in on it. Did they all deceive Shifty too?   They must have done just that.  And what fate befell them?

A few have resigned from posts and committees - LeBreton, Stewart-Olsen, Tkachuk, Woodcock - but that seemed to have happened as the flames began to lick at their feet.  Harper didn't take their scalps.

What Harper is alleging is actually a conspiracy by a dozen top Tories to deceive him.  A conspiracy, a solemn pact, to mention nothing about any aspect of this backroom deal to the prime minister.  What are these people, Druids?

This is Ottawa, a place where nothing is secret that is known by three people.  Duffy, keep a secret, really?  We don't even know how many Ottawans received the e-mail that broke this scandal, the one that was leaked to CTV's Bob Fife.   Hell, that could be half of Conservative Ottawa.

When you put it all together, Harper is saying that he was one of the few Conservatives in Ottawa who didn't know.  Even though it was all going on just a few doors down the hall from his own desk.

Explore, develop, confront and by all means keep the pressure on Stephen Harper in Question Period.   Bang that gong until his ears bleed.

Meanwhile, check out what Nigel is up to these days.  Is he getting any business from prominent Conservatives or even the party itself?  Has he truly become persona non grata in Conservative circles?  Who knows where that could lead.

Over to You, Toronto

Looks like it's Rob Ford Day today.  I'll say this for him.  Rob Ford is the only person who has ever made me feel sorry for Toronto.

What's the difference between Ford and Harper?  Crack and waistline, apparently.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Naomi Klein - Your Choice, Revolt or Die!

Pretty tough talk from Naomi Klein.   She writes that science is telling us that we either revolt or destroy the planet.

She writes of a presentation by UC San Diego geophysicist Brad Werner at the fall session of the American Geophysical Union entitled "Is Earth F**ked?"

Standing at the front of the conference room, [Werner} walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

I have a very strong feeling that Werner is right.   If we're going to pass along anything worthwhile to our kids and grandkids we have no right any longer to rely on our political apparatus.  Our political classes are the problem, not the answer.  They have yielded to embrace corporatism from the Conservatives straight through to the NDP.

Five years ago I could never have imagined myself participating in any form of mass resistance.   I certainly can now and I expect there are quite a few of you at that same point or just a year or two behind.  We're all in the backseat in a remake of the closing scene from Thelma & Louise.  Somebody has to get in the front seat and grab the wheel while there's still time.   The forces of corporatism are not going to leave a future for your grandkids.  That's now your job.

A Loyal Soldier Snubs Peter MacKay's Handout

The Harper government is reneging on a promise to Canada's wounded veterans. That's what happens when the shooting dies down and there's no more political capital to be wrung from their shot up bodies.

Gravely injured troops are being booted from the military before they qualify for a pension, despite assurances to the contrary from the Harper government.
A former reserve combat engineer was let go last Friday on a medical discharge after begging for months to remain until hitting the 10-year mark.
Among those also leaving is Cpl. Glen Kirkland. His plea to remain in the army last June was answered by former defence minister Peter MacKay with an a pledge he could stay until September 2015 — and that no members are released until they are ready.
But the offer turned out to be exclusive to Kirkland, who chose within the last few days to leave rather than be given special treatment.
"I joined as a member of a team, as a family," Kirkland said in an interview from Shilo, Man.
"So, when I was offered an opportunity when no one else was, it just goes against everything I joined for."
He will be formally discharged in March.
As if you needed another reason to despise our treacherous Harper regime.

Of Gas and Quakes

It's often interesting when two inter-related news stories come out on the same day.

There were two such reports today.   One conveyed a warning from Canada's insurance sector that a 9.0 magnitude quake on the west coast could result in losses upwards of $75-billion, a hit that could take down Canadian insurers.

The second story dealt with Port Alberni, a mill town situated at the seismic business end of the roughly 80-mile long Alberni Inlet.   British Columbia premier, Christy Clark, has proclaimed Port Alberni to be a perfect site for a major liquid natural gas (LNG) port.

Premier Christy Clark said she’s excited about a proposal to modernize and expand port facilities in Port Alberni, which could include a new deep sea shipping terminal and a liquefied natural gas facility.
..Port Alberni is “geographically just perfectly located” for export, with access to the west coast, the Pacific ocean and on to Asian markets, she said.
Now the Insurance Bureau warning came with the assurance that a major west coast earthquake is a 1-in-500 risk.  And that's probably true in a way.  Seismologists now know that the Cascadia subduction fault lets her rip about once every three to five hundred years. What the insurance story leaves out is that we're already three hundred years into the count and that this isn't a risk but an eventual certainty.  My house is always at risk of a fire but it may never burn down.  It may eventually just be torn down to make way for something else, who knows?  The Big One isn't a possibility.  It's a certainty.
So what does this have to do with Port Alberni?  As I said, the port town is right at the business end of the Alberni Inlet.   In 1964 there was a massive, megathrust earthquake in Alaska that devastated Juneau and Anchorage and coastal towns in that state.   The resulting tsunami swept out across the Pacific and down the west coast.   This tsunami entered the Alberni Inlet and swept down the lengthy inlet, gathering force as the waterway narrowed and shallowed.    There was enough warning to avoid deaths or injury but the wave that hit Port Alberni tossed fishing boats into the town streets, left 375 homes damaged and washed away another 55.   And that was from an earthquake in Alaska.

If or when the Big One hits, some experts warn it could hit right out from the entrance to the Alberni Inlet.  It would be tough getting out of town on short notice and it's almost painful to imagine what a major tsunami would do to an LNG plant at water's edge or the people in the vicinity.
I think this is a situation that cries out for the application of the Precautionary Principle. Too bad nobody remembers what that is any more.

The Economics of Climate Change.

This is an eye opener.  From the CNBC business desk:

Around one-third of the world's economy by 2025 will be based in countries at "high" or "extreme" risk from the economic impact of climate change, according to risk consultancy Maplecroft.

Thirty-one percent or $44 trillion of output will be based in countries classified as most at risk from climate change in Maplecroft's Climate Change Vulnerability Index, which considered a nation's exposure to extreme weather events over the next 30 years alongside its capacity to cope with the impact.

"Future projected changes in the frequency and intensity of forest fires, severe weather events, droughts and flooding will affect the population, economy and infrastructure of a country. The effects of rising temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns and rising sea level will also be felt globally, impacting coast lines, plant and animal species, agriculture and human health," the consultancy said in a report on the index published on Wednesday.

Emerging economies were most at risk, the report found, with India, Vietnam, Indonesia and China among those set to feel the economic impact of climate change.

However, several developed world cities were also judged as vulnerable, including Osaka and Tokyo in Japan and Sydney in Australia.

Okay, did you get that?  2025?  That's just over a decade from now, the blink of an eye.   And it won't be like flipping a switch either.   The onset is already underway and it's coming on fairly rapidly.

Oh, but that's all going to happen in Asia, right?  Wrong.  A huge downside of our globalized economy is that what happens on the other side of the world rebounds in connected markets.  That's where you begin to see the until now barely noticed downside of dependency.

These are events, probabilities that can be assessed and prepared for provided you're willing to act in time.  Countries like Canada can do an inventory of vulnerabilities that need to be addressed, contingencies that need to be monitored.

The most troubling aspect is that we're saddled with a government that cares little about such things.  We saw that in the global meltdown of 2008.  The Harper government was caught unprepared for that rolling juggernaut.  Harper absolved himself by declaring that nobody could see it coming, apparently not having heard the loud and clear warnings from Joseph Stiglitz, Nouriel Roubini or Paul Krugman.

When the meltdown did hit Canada, Harper had to take cover by proroguing Parliament as he hobbled together a disgraceful and woefully ineffective stimulus budget that did little more than add to the debt our children and grandchildren will have to repay.

And so we shall go on blindly, again utterly unprepared for this next economic battering of the global economy.  That's more than a shame.  That's  a crime.

A Government All Canadians Can Be Rightly Ashamed Of

Harper's Trained Seals

Even stalwart Conservatives have every reason to consider the Harper government a genuine disgrace and a blight upon our country.

Remind me, what is it now?  Going on eight years of barely detected crime, perversion and corruption?

Imagine if a bank robber could lock down all the security cameras so there would be no incriminating video to lead to his detection, arrest and conviction.  Imagine that.  Yet the Harper regime has done much the same thing by gagging the public service and the armed forces for the sole purpose of preventing the Canadian people discovering (detecting) the truth and ousting the lying buggers at the polls, the political equivalent of trial, conviction and lethal injection.

Ask yourself "why, oh why is Stephen Harper so obsessed with getting Mike Duffy turfed from the Senate immediately if not sooner?"  Isn't he the same pudgy guy that he was in April and May when Steve was in no rush to deal with him or anyone else?   What possible harm to the Senate or the country can Duffy cause at this point?  Everything has already happened.   The scandal is complete.  The only thing remaining is to discover what really went on and who were the players.

What has happened to change the prime minister's mind so abruptly?  Well, for starters, this supposed miscreant and grievous wrongdoer has started spilling his guts.   What cop ever tries to make a crook stop confessing?  That completely defies logic and reason.  You have to have a powerful motive to derail a free confession.  You have to have an extremely guilty mind, fearful of what you know the confessor will reveal.

An innocent, blameless prime minister would sit back and tell Duffy "fill your boots" knowing that the more fables he spun, the easier they would be to repudiate and thereby exonerate himself as quickly as possible.   Harper needs to get this behind him - if he can - and that's the best way to do it.  But this is no innocent, not our Stephen Harper, and his own conduct screams of his guilt.   The harder he pushes, the more certain his culpability.

We should all be ashamed of this government, utterly disgusted.   Stephen Harper, his entire caucus, the Conservative Party and everyone who carries a CPC membership card in his wallet should be deeply, profoundly ashamed of this, their government.

Canada is not known for thug governments but we've got one now.  It's time to put that government down.

Our Democratic Deficit Begins In Canadian Newsrooms

We have to recognize that Canada's democratic deficit will not be made right until we tear down the corporate media cartel.  Right now, government and journalism are in bed.  That's because of the unique and devastating qualities of corporate concentration of media control.

Here's an example of an e-mail I just got from The Tyee:

Canada is fundamentally changing. It's happening at a time when our national media are in collapse. Newsrooms are shrinking. Good reporters are leaving the business or having their best work locked behind paywalls. Every newspaper seems to run the same wire stories.

Why is this happening?

It appears the industry is more concerned with shareholder profits than your values. For example, three weeks ago the publisher of the Globe and Mail was quoted as saying, "We are really only interested in readers who earn more than $100,000."

Shocking statement. Could it be true?

The editor-in-chief later clarified: "the paper's target audience is people with a household income of $120,000, and retired or young people who either had, or are on their way to, a six-figure income."

Phewf! Glad he cleared that up.

Do you get the drift?  This is a media that has stopped delivering hard information, the oxygen of democracy.  It's in the business of flogging messaging to specific demographics.  It's a subtle form of infomercial journalism.  That's why corporate media outlets transition so effortlessly from government watchdog to government lapdog.  Because they're so concentrated, they have something to sell of immense value to governments and that can range from editorial slant to stories that get watered down or not run at all.   The worst part is that most people have no idea that it's happening.

There's been a reluctance to go after Stephen Harper on the Wright-Duffy-Harper scandal.  I haven't seen a major media outlet that has compared Harper's shifting behaviour on Duffy and Wright to his parallel dissembling in the Bruce Carson scandal.  The pattern is obvious so why not?  Why aren't we revisiting Cadman and Grewal or the G20 slush fund or any other Harper debacles?   What better way is there to bring context to what Harper is doing now?  

Harper pleads innocent, they report it.  Harper accuses everyone else, duly noted on the front page.  Harper himself?  There they report what they have to in order not to give themselves away but very little more.

Who is really questioning why Harper is in such a rush to bury Mike Duffy now that he's finally talking and releasing documents?  Who is reminding us that Duffy's counsel, a top criminal lawyer, has clearly stated that there are documents that establish Harper was in on this under-the-table deal?  Who is asking how a prime minister directly implicated in this scandal can be so insistent on staunching the outpouring of evidence even as he changes his own story again and again?

Why are we still focusing on Duffy?  He's finished, done.  Once Harper's pet, he's now the prime minister's pet peeve.  Let's hear what he's got to say and read the documents he's dishing up, then analyze them and see where all that evidence leads.

But I digress.   This is about the corporate media cartel and democracy.  My point is that we need the parties vying to be our next government, NDP and Liberal, to commit to restoring a free press in Canada.  We need them to commit to taking apart the media cartel through forced divestiture of media outlets.  We need Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau to unequivocally acknowledge the democratic deficit that plagues Canada today and drives so many Canadians from their political process.  We need these two guys to acknowledge that our corporate media has been instrumental in the public's widespread apathy.  We need them to champion the principle that democracy cannot function without an informed electorate and that, to achieve that quality of public awareness, we need a broadly owned media that presents to the public genuine information coupled with the widest possible range of opinion.

And we need them to do this now.   Not later, not after one of them gets elected, for afterward it's far too easy for them to succumb to the corporate media cartel and its Sirens' Song.

Closing In For The Kill

Anyone who has done much fraud litigation will be familiar with that moment, that sweet spot, where you get to close for the kill.

You've given your target a pretty thorough working over, you've forced him to commit to a very specific story, you've boarded up all the exits, and then you go to town.

Stephen Harper is not there yet.  He needs a bit more tuning up.  It's time for the Opposition to earn their paycheques.

Ask Harper why he's in such a rush to get Duffy turfed from the Senate?  Pressure him on that point.

Ask Harper why now?  Why now, when Duffy has just begun to spill his guts and release documents for public scrutiny?  What's the rush?

Ask Harper why he's so fearful of what Duffy has to say and reveal?  Come right out and ask if Harper isn't trying to cover for himself.

Raise the Don Bayne press conference where this senior counsel told reporters that Harper is directly implicated in the Wright-Duffy scandal.  Then ask if it's appropriate for someone implicated in this scandal to be using his influence to shut down one of the key witnesses just when that person is ready to talk.

Sure, keep hammering away about due process and the presumption of innocence and all the stuff that's boring the public and fueling their apathy.  But try to emulate how Congressional Democrats went after Nixon.

Start treating Harper like a suspect instead of simply a bully.

There was a time when MPs were willing to get thrown out of the House for calling an obvious liar a liar.   Since Stephen Harper ascended to the throne has there ever been a better moment?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Michael Harris Catalogues (most of) the Crimes and Sins of Stephen J. Harper

A dandy little digest from iPolitic's Michael Harris.   Call it a trip down the soiled and sullied Memory Lane of the Harper Imperium.   A quick glimpse or two to whet the appetite:

"Consider the prime minister’s bizarre statement that a person doesn’t necessarily have to be charged to be punished. That’s a truism, of course — in China and Brunei.
"But here? It now appears so. We have a punisher-in-chief who plays whack-a-mole with anyone he wants, anytime he pleases. For this guy, being in politics means never having to say you’re sorry.
"No one should be surprised that the PM wants the three amigos hanged high. Remember, Harper has led the lynch mob before without waiting for the RCMP to complete their investigations.
"...Let no one be fooled. No matter how Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau may have transgressed, we don’t bury people in the sand, coat them in honey and let the ants get to work under the noonday sun because the PM has been caught out in a tacky scheme.
"That’s right — I’m one of those quaint fellows who believes one elected to office is responsible for the actions of his senior staff. The “Nigel Did It” narrative is horse balls under a parliamentary democracy founded on ministerial responsibility. As for the morality play some Harper puppets want to make of this, the wise words of Oscar Wilde apply: “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”
It's a dandy column.  Follow the link above or here.

Call It "The Carbon Coast"

Oregon and Washington have now signed on to a carbon-pricing regime bringing those states into line with California and British Columbia.

The B.C. tax adds a levy of about 7-cents per litre at the pump.  The revenue generated then funds personal and business tax cuts.  It's really just another form of user or polluter pays, something, that in other forms, is often pitched as wonderful by austerity-driven rightwing governments.  Put polluter-pay into effect at the gas pump, however, and opponents (including a good many Dippers) howl like vampires dragged out into the noonday sun.

Earlier this year, California introduced a carbon pricing mechanism as part of its carbon cap-and-trade system.
"California isn't waiting for the rest of the world before it takes action on climate change," California Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement. "Today, California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia are all joining together to reduce greenhouse gases," Brown said.
Polak said introducing carbon pricing throughout North America's west coast was one of the Pacific Collaborative's aim in achieving national and international leadership in fighting climate change without harming economic growth.
But she said the Americans were also keenly interested in the potential electoral fall out from the introduction of a carbon tax or carbon pricing regime.
"That's one of the concerns, can you get a carbon tax, a carbon pricing policy, that not only makes environmental sense, but can be supported by the public at large," said [BC EnviroMin Mary] Polak.
You did catch that, didn't you?  The Pacific Coast Collaborative?  You might want to keep that in mind for the day when the peoples of the Collaborative figure we've had enough of the rest of you.
With a combined population of 52 million and a GDP of $2.5 trillion, Alaska, British Columbia, California, Oregon and Washington are poised to emerge as a mega-region and global economic powerhouse driven by innovation, energy, geographic location and sustainable resource management, attracting new jobs and investment while enhancing an already unparalleled quality of life.

On June 30, 2008, the leaders of the five jurisdictions signed the Pacific Coast Collaborative Agreement, the first agreement that brings together the Pacific leaders as a common front to set a cooperative direction into the Pacific Century.  Out of this agreement was born the Pacific Coast Collaborative -- a formal basis for cooperative action, a forum for leadership and information sharing, and a common voice on issues facing Pacific North America.

52-million?  That's a lot bigger than Canada.  $2.5 trillion (US) GDP.  That too is a lot bigger than Canada's.  Collectively we are the world's fifth largest economy. We've got resources up the yin-yang, energy up the yin-yang too including a host of options for abundant, clean, renewable energy. And the Collaborative is the world leader in high tech and innovation.  Did I mention we've got a really good fishery and most of the region has lots of water too.  Hmm, Pacifica, that has a nice ring to it.

Help Please

New machine, Intel i7, Windows 8.l, Norton 360 protected.

While typing a post this morning on Google Chrome the screen went grey, the sort of thing that happens when a computer freezes.   Up popped this little tan box telling me that I had just logged out from another location.  It then gave me the option of somehow logging back in or canceling the notice, I suppose.

Now I know I hadn't logged out from another location because I have only one location.  Just the one.

I called my IT friend in Vancouver, read to him what I was seeing on my monitor, and asked if he knew what was going on.   He's been in the business, mainly in networking, for almost 30-years and, during its good years, was Nortel's network guy for B.C. for a few years.   He knows his stuff.

My buddy said he'd never seen such a thing and began the remote access process so he could get into my computer.  For the first time ever that remote access software balked.  It would not let him in.   It would not even let me push the screen button to proceed on my end.

Any ideas?  Suggestions?  Is it possible that somebody elsewhere is logging in to my computer?   I know I've been hacked more than once.  In one case a hacker got in to very successfully take down both my GoDaddy web sites.

A Tale of Two Cities

Berlin, 1945

Detroit, 2013

The Big Difference?

The Americans didn't need thousands of heavy bombers and most of the Red Army to do this to Detroit.   Oh yeah, so what must Berlin look like in 2013?

But, but - but they lost the war, didn't they?

The Thing Is...

At some point some academically inclined chronicler of Canada's Parliament is going to sift through records of decades past to discover how many prominent Canadian senators, notionally representing distant provinces, were in fact permanently resident in Ottawa.

That person will discover that this resident/non-resident business was never an issue until, quite recently, it became an issue.

The "ordinarily resident" business harkens back to an era past when senators were required in Ottawa for a modest number of days each year and then, when they awoke in their club chairs, would board a train and head for home.  If they stuck to the actual business of the Senate they could probably still do that.  However they've become political mules for the elected side of their parties.

Although the Senate has no elections, senators are expected to get involved in electioneering.  They're supposed to make the rounds, shake hands, be seen with candidates.  They're also expected to get involved in fundraising, as much of that as possible.   Duffy, it was said (albeit it was said by me) was worth his considerable weight in campaign donations.

So, when you add the days the Senate is actually sitting and they're required to be in Ottawa to the days they're slogging around the country, end to end, fundraising and electioneering for their parties, there's no way in hell some of them can be ordinarily resident in a province except Ontario or Quebec.

Now, Shifty Steve could have addressed this issue openly and honestly when it became an issue.  He could have explained the facts and called for amendment of the outdated legislation.  The public would have understood.   The Liberals couldn't complain for they had plenty of this in their turn.

But it's not in Shifty's nature to be open and honest, certainly not with Parliament much less the Canadian people.  He's instinctively a lying bastard with no illusions about his ability to persuade the public with honesty.   The convoluted Duffy-Wright scheme demonstrates exactly that.  Shifty Steve would rather lie and manipulate than come clean with the public.  It's his way and he's shown us that, over and again, for years.

Does that mean we should forget about the Wright-Duffy-Harper scandal?  No, not at all.  You play the cards you're dealt.  You live with the laws in effect at the time, especially those laws that are the only defence we have against corruption of our parliamentarians.   This is about an under-the-table scheme to pass money to a senator in connection with that senator's official status.   It is about a gift of money that came with threats and inducements - carrots and sticks.  It is about a very seriously illegal and corrupting transaction undertaken within the prime minister's own inner sanctum and, we're told, at his personal direction.

We can't condone this sort of law-breaking any more than we should tolerate a scofflaw prime minister.

Before I forget, one other thing.   Just because Shifty Steve Harper has so wantonly corrupted the Senate of Canada offers no justification whatsoever for abolishing the Senate.   He has, after all, corrupted the House of Commons even more thoroughly and no one is calling to abolish that.

How Will Duffy Speak from the Political Grave?

The rush to suspend senators Brazeau, Wallin and Duffy from the Senate has almost nothing to do with Wallin or Brazeau and everything to do with that troublesome priest, Mike Duffy.

Although he's far from a latter day Beckett, Duffy defies his own king's throne and power and must be squashed like a rather porky bug.  Harper wants him gone, disappeared, before the Conservative convention in Calgary this weekend.

Here's a thought.  Harper's stooges can suspend Duffy from the Senate.  They've already turfed him from the Tory caucus.  But doesn't that still leave him a member in good standing of the Conservative Party of Canada?  Doesn't that entitle him to attend the party convention this weekend?   He might have to pay his own expenses, granted, but I suppose there are at least a few who would gladly cover that too.

Ooh, ooh child.   Can you picture Duffy strolling across the floor of the convention, making the rounds of the hospitality suites, attracting at least a few supporters?  I can.   Can you imagine the cellphone videos of convention security strongarming the heart-weakened Duffy off the floor?  Oh my, my, wouldn't that be a sight fit for a king?

Yet, if Harper does raise the drawbridge and flood the moat of the Centre Block to keep Duffy out, what's the poor senator to do to keep tabling documents into the parliamentary record?   There's probably not another Tory senator willing to risk a severe mauling from the PMO.  No one wants a touch of Shifty Steve's lash.

Maybe it's time to take the scandal right where Shifty lives, onto the floor of the House of Commons.   Maybe there are a few stalwarts in the Opposition ranks who would be happy enough to continue the heavy lifting in Duffy's absence, who knows?   Maybe Mondays could become Scandal Day in the Commons.   And, if Shifty decides to absent himself on Mondays, then it can always be deferred to Tuesday or Wednesday - whatever, the guy can't be seen to be hiding forever, what would the neighbours say?

Duffy spoke of "a trail of e-mails" that have yet to be made public and that could turn into Shifty Steve's very own "trail of tears."  Question Period plus e-mails plus TV cameras - what's not to like?

Monday, October 28, 2013

And Your Answer Is?

Pretty straightforward question, "Have you heard enough or do you want to hear more?"

That's the question posed to the Senate by their beleaguered colleague, Mike Duffy, as he tabled a first batch of documents for their consideration.

Do you want to hear more?   What does that imply except that there's more to tell. There's more to be known about the Senate expense scandal as it relates to the Cavendish Cottager, more to be known about Wright-Duffy-Harper scandal, more to be known about the senior Tory leadership within the PMO and the Senate itself.  Who can say what else there's more to know about?

So, what are the senators going to do?  Do they want to hear more?  Sure, if there's more to hear, and the documents tabled today suggest there must be, then of course they want to hear more, they want to get down to the bottom of this. They owe no less to Parliament and the Canadian people.

But what if they don't want to hear more?   What are we to make of that?  The guy who's offering to tell them more, to share more documents with them, is the guy who is also pointing fingers at some of them who just happen to be those most keen to shut him up, to bury him.   That doesn't seem quite right, does it?  Doesn't seem Canadian at all.

You see, if after this guy produces documents that support or are at least consistent with what he's been saying all along,  they still don't want to hear more they had better come up with a solid explanation of why not.   And if they don't do that we are right to assume they're trying to save their own skins and maybe their prime minister's too.

The Conservative convention doesn't open until Friday.   There's plenty of time left to hear more, to peruse more documents, to ask and answer important questions.  All they have to do is say yes, they want to hear more.  Don't hold your breath.

An anonymous commenter drew my attention to this delightful clip that should lead every newscast in the country, every night until the Great Dissembler comes clean.  Enjoy, if you can avoid weeping.

Duffy's First Batch of Documents Begins to Tell the Tale

You can read them in pdf. here.

Let's put it this way.   Duffy did not table these documents because they contradict what he's been saying from the outset and they do nothing to corroborate Shifty Steve's meandering tale of woes ever since.

As I wrote last May there were bound to be letters exchanged with Duffy's counsel who received the cheque(s).  The thing is we haven't seen the important letter yet. Nor have we seen the LeBreton correspondence or anything but just the surface of the Wright correspondence.

This is beginning to get ugly, kids, and there's plenty more to come.

Is Duffy Past the Point of No Return?

What are we to read into Mike Duffy fingering the Conservative Party's chief counsel, Arthur Hamilton, today?

Duffy disclosed that Hamilton negotiated at least a small part of the Wright-Duffy deal with the senator's counsel.  If, as appears to be the case from a plain reading of the statute, it is an offence to give or loan money to a senator in connection with that person's office, then it appears that the Tories' legal top gun may have facilitated the commission of an offence.  It's not clear as yet but it's a possibility.

Now that's the sort of thing that law societies take seriously.  Lawyers can readily find themselves disbarred for that type of conduct.   With Don Bayne as his counsel it's hard to imagine that Duffy didn't fully understand the implications of his disclosure.  At the very least it's not the sort of thing that's going to be forgiven or lead to some gushy reconciliation between the Conservative Party and its pudgy prodigal  son.

It adds context to Duffy's words to his fellow senators today when he asked, "Have you heard enough or do you want to hear more?"  It's sort of like he asked if they really wanted to find out who's next.

I had thought he'd be taking down Marjory LeBreton today.  Maybe he'll leave that for later in the week, closer to the opening of the Conservative Party convention on Friday.   My guess is that there'll be a lot of powerful rightwingers scrambling to come up with a real nice severance package for the Cavendish Cottager before the convention opens.


Duffy Fires Another Salvo, Claims More Tory Scalps

There might not be much of Shifty Steve Harper left by the time the Conservative convention rolls around on the weekend.

Duffy is back, as expected, with the revelation that there were two cheques from Nigel Wright and the deal was negotiated by infamous Conservative legal gunslinger Arthur Hamilton, the Conservative Party's own lawyer.

"Have you heard enough," asked Duffy, "or do you want to hear more?" as senators in the chamber listened.

Apparently there's more, a good deal more, in Duffy's powder magazine.  Plenty enough to consign a number of senior Tories to the political gallows.

"Do you want to hear more?"  There's an ominous overtone to those six words, depending on how you take them.

Your move, Shifty.  

NATO's Afghan Mission Reduced to Bean-Counting

NATO is going to keep thousands of personnel in Afghanistan post-2014 but the only fighting they'll do will be to try to keep their Afghan counterparts from pilfering the ongoing 4 billion dollars a year in military aid.

Basically we're going to defend our money against our allies.  Sounds like a great way to go to war, doesn't it?

Any enduring NATO military presence in Afghanistan “is tied directly to the $4.1 billion and our ability to oversee it and account for it,” a senior NATO diplomat said. “You need enough troops to responsibly administer, oversee and account for $4 billion a year of security assistance.”

Western military commanders fear that, left to their own devices, Afghans could raid that funding which, in turn, might lead Western governments to simply cancel the funding altogether, leaving Afghanistan's floundering military totally screwed.

Helluva way to fight a war.

How Will the Senate Vote If...

What if documents surface today that show Mike Duffy has been set up and this is all a carefully orchestrated scheme to get rid of that troublesome priest?

What if documents surfaced showing that the Tory Senate leadership cleared Duffy on the PEI residence issue at the outset and expressly approved his housing allowance claim at the same time?

How does that Tory Senate vote to suspend the guy?  How do they even leave him ousted from their Tory caucus?   Why they'd be screwed, blewed and tattooed.

And then everybody would have to look past ol' Marg LeBreton to that other lyin' bugger, Shifty Steve Harper, the guy who has worked so very hard to stuff the Duff under the Conservative Party bus.

Four out of five Canadians already believe their prime minister is dirtier than hell on this one.  A seismic jolt like this might be enough to drive that wooden stake straight through his dessicated old heart.  My, my, sad, sad - so sad.

Just Sayin'

Former Tory Senate leader, Marjory "The Wig" LeBreton, may get  a touch of comeuppance today.  If she does, it won't be the start of a good week for Shifty Steve Harper.

Sorry Enbridge, Oil Pipelines Are Simply Not Safe

If you build them, they will fail.

It had to be pried out of the National Energy Board by freedom of information demands but the figures released show pipeline 'incidents' have doubled in Canada over the past ten years.

For some reason  (I don't know, could it be the mountainous terrain, the quakes, the rock and mud slides maybe?) British Columbia suffered the greatest number of 'incidents' between 2000 and 2012 - 279, or at least that's how many were reported.

By 2011, safety-related incidents — covering everything from unintentional fires to spills — rose from one to two for every 1,000 kilometres of federally-regulated pipeline. That reflects an increase from 45 total incidents in 2000 to 142 in 2011.

Nathan Lemphers, who was recently a technical and policy analyst with the Pembina Institute's oilsands program, doesn't believe that better reporting is the only reason for the apparent increase in reported incidents.

"The pipelines that are in the ground are getting older and, in some cases, there's more products flowing through them. So you're going to see increasing incidents, and increasing defects," he said.

So the next time the hockey game is interrupted by one of those soothing Enbridge commercials assuring you of how there's nothing more important to them than British Columbia's safety, feel free to yell "bullshit."  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed Dead, 71 is reporting Lou Reed died today, age 71.

 The cause of death has not been announced, but Reed underwent a liver transplant in May. Reed joined up with John Cale to form the band that would later become Velvet Underground with guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker. Although their debut album was “met with total commercial indifference when it was released,” a characteristic that mostly continued with the band’s three subsequent albums, “they’d be embraced by future generations, cementing the Velvet Underground’s status as the most influential American rock band of all time,” notes the Rolling Stone.

Canada's Camo Coup

One of Canada's most widely known contribution to 21st century warfighting has been the invetion of pixelated camouflage patterns.  It became widely used by combat troops in the West's south Asian wars.

The original pattern looked like this:

The desert pattern looked like this:

But now the Americans have discovered this Canadian, pixelated camouflage is pretty successful to hide buildings, even aircraft:

The idea behind this camouflage isn't to keep you from seeing something but to keep you from spotting it at the outset.  If you don't spot it, you'll move on and look somewhere else.    The longer you look at something the less effective the camouflage.

Stephen Harper's Book of Fables - Logged and Chronicled

The closer Shifty Steve Harper gets to the political gallows, the better, the richer and more fulsome his memory becomes.  It all flows out in a progression of fables, each more obviously contrived than the last.

Fable One

When the Wright-Duffy scandal unexpectedly broke in the media, Steve said his prize assets - his top drawer chief of staff, Nigel Wright - had merely done the Wright thing in getting his "most valuable" senator, Mike Duffy, the funds to make good his debt to the Senate and Canadian taxpayers.

That's Steve getting caught off-balance, taken by surprise before he can conjure up a suitable fantasy that his base, the faithful Conservative gullibillies will swallow.

Fable Two

A few days after exonerating Nigel Wright, Shifty Steve said the guy had to go (as though that was Steve's decision - laugh, giggle).  But Shifty assured Parliament and the Canadian people that Wright acted alone and that nobody else in the top tiers of his prime minister's office who could have, should have and would have tipped him off knew anything about Wright-Duffy.  They didn't know so how could he, Shifty Steve?

Shifty was quick to add that the transaction between Wright and Duffy was unacceptable or worse and had he any inkling of it, he would have reared up on his hind legs in righteous indignation and put an immediate end to it.

Fable Three

As the scandal refused to just go away and continued to close on him, Shifty recanted Fable Two and admitted that Wright-Duffy wasn't quite the secret he had said a few months earlier.  Shifty said there were a few people inside the PMO who knew of it but just not him.

Wait a minute, when Shifty rolled out Fable Two, he insisted that no one inside the PMO new anything about Wright-Duffy.  No one as in no one, nobody, no staffer. It was all Wright's doing and he kept it secret.  How could he make that claim unless he got all his little minions together and asked them?  Did he not ask them or did they just lie their asses off to the nation's ultimate control freak?  Of course there's a third possibility.  Shifty Steve may have been lying through his teeth from the get go and is still telling whatever lie seems necessary to fit the constantly emerging facts and yet still prevent the scandal from morphing into Wright-Duffy-Harper.

At times like this it can be very helpful to look at how a person has behaved in the past.   Hmm, let me see, let me see.  Oh, I know, what about that guy, Bruce Carson?  Yes, Bruce Carson,  the disbarred lawyer, convicted fraudster, ex-jailbird that Shifty personally admitted to the top tier of his prime minister's office.  The old geezer with the 22-year old 'former' escort girlfriend.  Shifty's most valuable fixer.

Ah, yes.  Bruce Carson.   The guy who longtime Tory operative, then RCMP commish, Bubbles Elliott, swept through the security vetting despite five fraud convictions, disbarment, jail time and two bankruptcies - that Bruce Carson.

As your humble scribe wrote in April, 2011:

Harper says he didn't know, he was let down, Privy Council procedures failed. Maybe that sort of bullshit is palatable in Red Deer or Moose Jaw but don't try to peddle it in Ottawa.  One of my Tory friends volunteered that there were repeated warnings given to Harper's staff.  Apparently everybody failed, everybody that is except Harper.

Does this sound familiar?  Discern any patterns yet?  This is Bruce Carson, Fable One.  Blame unnamed staffers and plead complete and total ignorance.  Claim that if you had only known, none of this ever would have happened.  You would have seen to that.  Just add water, stir, and wait for the scandal to magically disappear.

But it was in the Bruce Carson affair, perhaps we should call it Carson-Harper, that we saw how effortlessly Shifty moved on to Fable Two when his first pack of lies wasn't quite enough to kill off the scandal.  Within the month, Shifty's Fable One denial ran up on the rocks of reality and that's when Shifty Steve transitioned to Fable Two mode.

Suddenly Shifty came back with a straight face and said, well okay, he knew about some of Carson's criminal record, the fraud, the disbarment, the misappropriation, the jail time but he thought a stretch inside the Harper PMO would rehabilitate old Bruce.  Yeah, right.  Sending Carson to the PMO for rehab is sort of like sending a wayward girl to a brothel to mend her ways.

It was an audacious, bald-faced lie - and yet it worked.  The prime ministerial lap dogs, a.k.a. the parliamentary press gallery, went back to their labours of rewriting government press releases, Carson hightailed it to Calgary and the whole thing died just like the stench eventually departs the dung heap.  Shifty Steve didn't even have to make a ritual sacrifice of his top aides.

It must be pretty obvious that our prime minister is an inveterate liar who will say whatever he thinks he must to get himself out of a jam, tailoring his lies to conform to changing facts on the ground, confident that the media scribes are just too cowed to ever call "bullshit" on him.  It's something of an artform for Shifty Steve.  Wright-Duffy-Harper is an obvious carbon copy of Carson-Harper, only with one or two extra chapters.

Did the Tory Senate Just Flinch?

Wallin, Brazeau and, especially, Duffy - Stephen Harper wanted them gone, dead and buried, and he sent his Tory senators very clear marching orders.   Steve told them to vote and get it over with.

Seems the Tory Senate leader doesn't quite see it Steve's way, at least not any longer.   Senator Claude Carignon now says he'll seek a consensus solution from the Tory caucus on Monday morning.

Carignan told Radio-Canada's television political program Les Coulisses du pouvoir that there is the potential to change sanctions that would be levelled against senators Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau if the motion is approved.
He suggested there was merit to what Wallin and Brazeau said as they defended themselves in speeches to their colleagues over the past week.
Carignan said he believed Brazeau did not interpret financial administration documents properly, and that in his case there was an "element of good faith."
Carignan said Wallin "made an impassioned plea, a good plea" against the sanctions, but added that Duffy "chose to settle political scores rather than answer to the accusations."
What Claude is really saying is that Wallin and Brazeau aren't worth the bother and the blowback that could come the Tories' way from suspension.  Duffy, on the other hand, he's an ongoing threat to the Oily Throne.  It's still the guillotine for Harper's "most valuable" senator.
Do you see Carignan's logical disconnect?  Wallin was the biggest piggy at the trough but it's Duffy, the one senator singled out for special treatment, hustled inside the PMO for an under-the-table handout, the senator whose audit report was then laundered - the shining beacon of the rampant corruption of the prime minister, the PMO and the Tory leadership in the Senate - he's the one who'll be singled out for a little more special treatment - suspension.   And no, Claude, no one will see through that.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Christie Blatchford's Creepy Logic As To Why Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau Must Go.

Even for Christie Blatchford this is one for the books.   Blatchford struggles to make the case that senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau should quietly fall from the face of the Earth.  To make her point she begins by telling us about her booty call affair with some married chump back when she was, "young and single and not too scary naked."
Which prompted some guy going by the handle MoS to leave the following comment:
"Trust Crusty Blatchford to ignore the real issue here, the utter rot within the PMO.   As though her being 2nd Booty Call for some married guy gives her some particular standing. In my day, we used to just call that a tramp.  Sorry, Crusty, you tossed it out there."

Jeffrey Simpson Takes the Measure of Marc Nadon and Finds Him Seriously Wanting

The Globe's Jeffrey Simpson neatly sums up why Marc Nadon falls far short of the standard needed for the Supreme Court of Canada.

Justice Nadon is undoubtedly a nice man and perhaps a competent judge, but he is not qualified enough to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada. Residency questions aside, his record in law and on the bench does not make him what the Supreme Court needs. His is at best an ordinary appointment, and at worst sub-par.

...Justice Nadon was a supernumerary judge at the age of 64. For those not familiar with the term, it means he was part-time. Supernumerary judging is one of the biggest boondoggles in the public sector. It allows judges, after a period of full-time service, to collect salaries while working only part-time.

Going supernumerary is what many judges do when they want partial retirement. If Justice Nadon was in semi-retirement at 64, how is he going to handle a Supreme Court judge’s workload?

...It is said that Justice Nadon has a special knowledge of maritime law. Which is good, except that maritime law cases might make it to the Supreme Court once in a quarter-century.

...The Commons committee charged with questioning Justice Nadon was given just two days to prepare and flubbed the job by not asking hard questions. The country’s law associations and professors knew so little about such an unknown judge that they fell silent. The Supreme Court deserves better.

Having a weak judge is problematic even at the motions or trial level.  Once the problem moves up to the appellate level the problems become exponentially greater.  At the very top, the Supreme Court of Canada. it's intolerable.  We don't need our own Clarence Thomas.

Ekos Polling the Senate Expenses Scandal, Focus On Stephen Harper

Somebody wants to gauge the depth of Stephen Harper's vulnerability on the Senate expenses scandal and, in particular, the Wright-Duffy affair.

Ekos is running an interesting poll asking respondents whether they think the country is heading in the right direction, how much or little they trust the Harper government, how the Senate expense and RoboCall scandals stack up to the Sponsorship Scandal, whether Harper should immediately  resign if he's found to have been lying about his personal involvement in Wright-Duffy.

Steve, do you really need Ekos to tell you how hot the water is?

The Best Fighter Jet in the World?

Russia's SU-35 seems to be a world beater.   Now that supposed stealth invincibility is being rapidly degraded through new technology counter-measures, you have to wonder how a marginal performer like the F-35 would fare against the Russian jet?  Actually you might try to figure out how long the F-35 would last.

I've seen a lot of jet fighters going back to the F-86 Sabre and the CF-100 and pretty much everything since but I have never seen one that performs like the Russian SU-35.  To the Sukhoi, a flat spin is a maneuver, not a lethal emergency.   Here's the Russian jet at this year's Paris Air Show.

Now They Want Our Media Gagged

What's the opposite of open and accountable democracy?  Governments that operate secret, domestic spy and police agencies.

Secret police and domestic spying are the hallmarks of totalitarianism.  And they're taking hold in both the United States and Canada.   The gold standard of these malignancies is, of course, America's NSA or National Security Agency.  Thanks to Edward Snowden we've had a glimpse into what goes on behind NSA closed doors and what we've seen isn't pretty.

This embarrassment has to stop.  No, that's not the innocent speaking but the guilty.  The head of the NSA, general Keith Alexander (shown below), wants the media muzzled, gagged, forbidden to report anything about him and his rancid outfit.  He's not just talking about American journalists either.

"I think it's wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents, the 50,000 - whatever they have and are selling them and giving them out..   We ought to come up with a way of stopping it." 

No, general, it's you and your agency that need stopping, reining in.   There's not enough breathing room in America for democracy and the NSA.   One or the other has to go.