Friday, December 30, 2011

Let's Hope She Takes Losing Well

Michelle Bachmann, just one of the nutjobs running for the Republican presidential nomination, is reported to be in trouble.  One of her Iowa campaign chiefs bolted to Ron Paul and another was sacked after contradicting Bachmann's claim the defector was paid to jump ship.  It's looking like the Iowa primary may be her last gasp.  Let's hope she takes losing well.

Meanwhile, the Ron Paul campaign, is working hard to assure Republican voters that Ron Paul "is not against war."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

We Need to Talk

In some ways my late dad was not a deep thinker.   Just crawling out from under the Great Depression and severe wounds from combat in WWII likely had more than a little to do with that.  Yet, to his eternal credit, he made the most of the object lessons he received from those experiences.

One thing he did pass along was that much of history was the struggle of some people for rights and freedoms and the struggle of others to take them away.  He told me that there wasn't a single right that hadn't been paid for, somewhere at some time, in blood and often more than once.   He also told me that we didn't have a single right that, if unexercised or taken for granted, couldn't, perhaps even wouldn't, be taken away.   For those rights, even if neglected by those who received them, all had real value especially to those who would take them away.

I sometimes wonder whether we haven't arrived at one of those eras of forfeiture of some, perhaps many of our hard won rights.   Try as I might I haven't persuaded my children of the critical importance of maintaining and defending their right of privacy which is ultimately what anchors the bulk of our other human and political rights.   To the contrary, they freely yield their privacy each and every day on Facebook and other social media sites.   They generously fill in the gaps that otherwise might remain from credit and bank card transactions, health records and the myriad other ways by which we are monitored and tracked.   I'm not even confident that either of them bothers to vote.  Both of them strike me as easy meat for someone determined to relieve them of their freedom.

An article in today's Guardian concerning US voter suppression efforts in the runup to the 2012 elections piqued my concern.   This sort of stuff used to be the preserve of progressive media outlets like HuffPost.   Now it's appearing with some regularity in European papers.   American parties that seek to win the right to govern their state are perverting their own democratic process.   So where is the mass uprising, the outpouring of anger, the fierce defence of American democracy?   Why aren't Americans of all political stripes taking to the streets to defend their constitution?

Worse yet, what does it say for the health of American democracy and American society that these outright attacks on the country and its people are met with such complacency, even outright indifference?  If nothing else it surely signifies a situation in which power will flow from the public to their masters in the public and private sectors.

A few moments ago I took a coffee break and flipped through the pages of the latest Vanity Fair.  There I came across an article, One Nation Under Arms, about the demise of American democracy and, in its place, the rise of today's "national security state."   The author, Todd S. Purdom, worked his way through the 350-boxes containing the private papers of the late US diplomat and Cold War architect George F. Keenan (1904-2005).

Keenan wrote of what he called the "extreme militarization not only of our thought but of our lives."

"We could not now break ourselves of this habit without the most serious of withdrawal symptoms.   Millions of people, in addition to those other millions that are in uniform, have become accustomed to deriving their livelihood from the military-industrial complex.  Thousands of firms have become dependent on it, not to mention labor unions and communities."

Purdom observes:

" is the twisting of national priorities that is the most pernicious ripple effect of this military spending.  It has become all but impossible to close any military base ... and it is always a heavy lift to cancel any weapon system because some community (or memeber of Congress) depends on it, econo9mically or politically.   ...Great corporate engines once worked to build the US civilian economy and the infrastructure that underlay it; now they are at the service of military power and its projection abroad."

And then, in his letters, Keenan wrote this prescient warning:

"We must have courage and self-confidence to cling to our own methods and conceptions of human society.   After all, the greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping."

More than 25-years ago, Keenan cautioned:

"There is much in our own life, here in this country, that needs containment.  It could in fact be said that the first thing we Americans need to learn to contain is, in some ways, ourselves:  our own environmental destructiveness, our tendency to live beyond our means and to borrow ourselves into disaster; our apparent inability to reduce a devastating budget deficit."

We are becoming what we once reviled just a few decades ago when we revered, venerated even our democratic society as "open" and free.   The very openness of our society was our bulwark against authoritarianism.  It was also our strength.   Today the malignancy of authoritarianism has triumphed and not merely in the US.   Our own ruler, for all his claims to the contrary, despises openness and champions one-man rule.   Well-placed Conservative insiders tell us that, to Harper, his caucus is little more than an assembly of obedient votes and his cabinet ministers exist solely to implement his dictates.   This is not a man unduly burdened by worries about protecting your or my rights and freedoms.

How are we to reverse this otherwise terminal disease?   How do we banish authoritarianism from our legislatures?  Perhaps it begins by openly acknowledging what has gone wrong.   It begins by talking about it and speaking out against it, loudly and clearly.  It begins by those we chose to lead from the opposition benches denouncing authoritarianism and showing us a path to return to normalcy.   It begins by revisiting our individual and collective rights and freedoms and taking stock of the extent to which they lie damaged and in disarray.   It begins by imagining a strong and open society, the one we let slip through our fingers.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Time to Break Our Growth Addiction

Imagine being trapped in a society that considers heretical the notion of living within its finite means.  That is very much the civilization within which you and I and the rest of humanity live.

Life on Earth, in all its many forms, lives within our biosphere which is today about the same size it was long before man as a species evolved.   Our unique traits allowed us to supposedly master and to manipulate our biosphere, to extract its riches and transform them to elevate our comfort and enjoyment.  But, rather than revere this biosphere as the very source of so much good, we instead turned it into our midden, our cesspit.

Now we stand in numbers unimaginable just a century ago, each of us consuming the bounty of our biosphere at levels undreamed of a century ago.   Compared to the beginning of the last century, we have grown from barely two-billion to seven while increasing our consumption levels to the equivalent of twelve billion or more.

During the 20th Century our per capita energy consumption grew enormously.  Buckminster Fuller created the concept of an "energy slave" to represent the output of a hard-working man that he figured at 150,000 foot pounds of work per day.   At the end of the century the average American had at his disposal the equivalent of 8,000 energy slaves.

"Moreover, Fuller pointed out, 'energy-slaves, although doing only the foot-pounds of humans, are enormously more effective, because they can work under conditions intolerable to man, e.g., 5000 F, no sleep, ten-thousandths of an inch tolerance, one million times magnification, 400,000 pounds per square inch pressure, 186,000 miles per second alacrity and so forth."

This cheap energy revolution also fueled enormous increases in America's population.   From barely 76-million in 1900 it closed the century at 275-million that has further swelled to 312-million in just the first decade of the 21st century.

Some, such as George W. Bush, lament that Americans have become "addicted to oil" when, in fact, oil dependence is a symptom, a manifestation of a much greater addiction - an addiction to growth.  It is our abuse of growth that has become modern society's heroin.

"The short-term effects of heroin abuse appear soon after a single dose and disappear in a few hours. After an injection of heroin, the user reports feeling a surge of euphoria (“rush”) accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth, and heavy extremities. Following this initial euphoria, the user goes “on the nod,” an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Mental functioning becomes clouded due to the depression of the central nervous system."

Growth gives us comfort, a warm euphoria and sense of well-being.   But it's illusory and short-lived.  Before long we crave more growth.   We must have more.  It's how we live.  It's a dysfunctional urge that turns increasingly ugly as our tolerance levels soar and our need for growth increases.

Hard core heroin addicts, especially the street variety, are known for resorting to all manner of anti-social and ultimately self-destructive behaviour to satisfy their addiction from prostitution to theft, sometimes even worse.  

Our hard core growth addiction reveals itself in similar, dysfunctional behaviour.   We embrace a promiscuous convergence of actual needs and insatiable wants.  We indulge wants to the point of overdose that eventually surfaces in garage sales, junkyards or landfills.  We steal to feed our addiction.   We steal from other peoples in distant lands by stripping the oceans, destroying their forests or corrupting our shared atmosphere.   We steal from future generations, bequeathing them a much worse future to supposedly improve our present.  We steal what we can, where we can, however and whenever we can.

We must steal if we are to feed our growth addiction because there's no other choice.   There is no other way.   There isn't enough to go around anymore.  We're stealing from our biosphere and we're stealing from each other and we're even stealing from generations not yet born.   For example, we're emptying our oceans of essential food species, depleting them beyond their baseline reproduction stocks.   And, as we fish one to the verge of extinction, we move on to the next most desirable species and find ways to market that.  We're draining our groundwater reserves to drive the hopelessly unsustainable Green Revolution and, in the process, subjecting farmland to massive amounts of fertilizers and pesticides that speed its exhaustion and transform it into useless desert.  With food scarcity already spreading through the world we're diverting vital farmland and increasingly scarce water to grow crops to make biofuels.

Yet we're beginning to hear voices calling for us to break our addiction to growth and end this madness.  We hear people like British scientist James Lovelock imploring mankind, especially in the West, to embrace what he calls "sustainable retreat", to become smaller.  Then there's former World Bank economist, Herman Daly, championing what he calls "steady state economics."

Daly's school of Ecological Economics departs from classical economics  in rejecting the delusional assumption of infinite growth.   The theory of economics idiots like our prime minister operate under are slaved to growth which is why their efforts are increasingly failing.

Economists like Daly argue that the myth of perpetual economic growth and "the iron cage of consumerism" are the chief causes of world economic dysfunction and environmental crisis -- and the biggest obstacle to our very happiness.

The problem, says Daly, is that the economy, once an inconsequentially small part of the natural world, has become so supersized that -- sort of like an ingrown toenail or an evasive Japanese knotweed bush -- it's now growing into the remaining ecosphere and jeopardizing our ecological life supports: things like drinkable water, fresh air and a stable climate.

...Those ideas can be found influencing, among other things, the slow money movement, D.I.Y. culture, modern barter systems, car sharing, and corporate sustainability rhetoric. They are also reflected in the views of ecologists such as Lester Brown and Jeremy Rifkin, the author, pundit and adviser to the European Union, as well as entrepreneurs such as Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, which ran an advertisement this holiday season urging consumers not to buy the pictured jacket and to think twice about making any purchases they don't really need. Even Unilever, the consumer goods conglomerate, has embarked on a corporate social responsibility campaign pledging to "decouple" its growth from its ecological footprint.

Obviously the threat of global warming is a powerful influence on Daly's "degrowth" movement but so are other drivers including resource depletion, the freshwater crisis, species extinction and overpopulation, among others.

A good deal, perhaps even most, of what we thought we understood or took for granted in the last century may not survive very long into the 21st, at least not if we're to live in harmony with our planet and with each other.  It is human nature to resist change, especially of this magnitude, but it's not a matter of choice and, from my own experience, I can vouch that getting smaller, doing with less, living more modestly, doesn't have to mean hardship. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Harper's Diabolical Christmas Gift to Big Oil - Selling Out Canadian Workers

Any doubt that the federal government has turned Canada into a petro-state beholden to Big Oil can be put to rest by this chilling account from yesterday's G&M.   The Alberta Oil Patch appears to have persuaded Ottawa to let them fill Tar Sands jobs with Third World labour.

Alberta is facing a shortage of 77,000 workers within the next 10 years, according to a recent report from Ernst & Young, which cited the provincial government. The oil sands’ projected growth is a key force behind the deficit, with bitumen production expected to double by 2020 as companies pour billions of dollars into their projects. While labourers enjoy higher wages as the employee pool dries up, rising salaries eat into corporate profits and put projects at risk of delay.

 “There obviously is an increasing gap between what we think we need to deliver these sorts of growth projects and the available work force,” Mr. Collyer said in an interview on Thursday. “The industry and governments, frankly, need to get ourselves better organized to deal with those issues.”

...Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has been working with employer groups and unions to speed the entry of temporary foreign workers, where no Canadian is available to fill the job, and has vowed to make changes to the immigration system that place a premium value on attracting skilled tradespeople. A spokesman for Mr. Kenney declined to comment about the skilled-worker challenge on Thursday.

This is a shell game, a con being operated by the Harper regime and their Big Oil patrons.   Paying Canadians to work in that hell hole is expensive, it eats away at Big Oil's bottom line.   The solution is to price those jobs at Third World labour rates just as the Kuwaitis and Saudis do, hire impoverished workers in Bangladesh or Sri Lanka and make damned sure that "no Canadian is available to fill the job" at the meagre wages offered.   Problem solved.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Not Your Standard Christmas List

The High-Tech Priests at CNET have published an unusual, Top 10 List that they describe as the 10 technology trends that "keep us up at night."

Most of their tech worries concern technological destruction of personal privacy and the spread of the surveillance society including geo-tracking.   Another was the development of an internet "kill switch" that would enable the White House to disable the internet during a national "cyber-emergency," the very sort of thing Hosni Mubarak attempted before his overthrow.

Autonomous killing technologies, "Terminator" style, are discussed.   The final entry is the erosion of our attention spans due to being overwhelmed with everything from social media to online communication and, of course, multi-tasking that results in, "a condensed culture of half-finished books and almost executed actions, constantly anticipating what's next."

And, with that, Merry Christmas!

If You Want to Fight Climate Change (and Harper) Get Loud About It

An interesting piece from suggests that getting action on climate change is a noisy business.  The trick, it claims, is to be outspoken and brutally honest about what's happening and what's coming because that's the only way to reach the magic, 10 per cent threshold

"...there's a whole cottage industry devoted to urging climate hawks not to talk like this. What good can it do? Terrifying people just elicits all sorts of defense mechanisms -- denial, disengagement, apathy, system justification, what have you. The forces at work are so colossal, so utterly out of scale with what any individual or group can hope to tackle, that the logical conclusion seems to be, "we're f*cked." Our overwhelming instinct is to ... change the subject.

When people are confronted with a message of fear and crisis that sounds apocalyptic and outside the bounds of the status quo, they don't like it! And that's what they tell pollsters and survey takers. Lots of folks have concluded from this that they should avoid the language of fear and crisis.

...what's relevant is not merely how people react to an out-of-bounds message-of-alarm (I need a handy word for that) at a given point, but how such messages become accepted (or don't) over time. We need to look to more longitudinal studies, historical and anthropological studies, to understand the temporal dynamics of public opinion.

...what matters is not how such messages are received in isolation, but what role they can play in a larger communications strategy.

 Scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute did a study on this recently -- "Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities" -- that attempted to determine "the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion." 

"When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority," said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. "Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.”

As an example, the ongoing events in Tunisia and Egypt appear to exhibit a similar process, according to Szymanski. "In those countries, dictators who were in power for decades were suddenly overthrown in just a few weeks."

In other words, if we're to have any chance of forcing meaningful climate change action from our government, we need to break through that 10% threshold.   Who knows how close we may be already?  All we need to realize is that it's worth turning off a great many people so long as we can reach and energize enough to get past that threshold.

So make yourself heard.   Be clear.  Be blunt.  Don't be intimidated by those who'll call you alarmist for merely stating fact and science.  There's nothing alarmist in yelling "fire" when you see smoke pouring out the windows.   This is not an economic issue.   It's not a political issue.   It's a scientific issue.  The science is in and more keeps flowing in week by week.   There is a scientific consensus and it's overwhelming.   Those who refuse to inform their opinion deserve to be called out and rejected.

That Was Fast. Iraq Stumbles Into Civil War.

Iraqis knew they were getting something special for Christmas this year, the departure of American combat forces.  And a good many Iraqis also knew that marked the time for settling old scores and balancing the books.

Power struggles are opening in Iraq, several of them.   That's largely because the central government of Nouri al-Maliki has failed over the past five years to consolidate power by integrating the Sunni and Kurdish minorities into the majority Shiite government.   Maliki himself threw in the towel within hours of the American departure by ordering Iraq's Kurdish vice-president arrested on terrorism charges.  Maliki admits he's known about the veep's alleged terror activities for three years but didn't act to help maintain political harmony.   That Maliki would move so abruptly against Tariq al-Hashimi, a Kurd, but stand mute about Muqtada al Sadr speaks volumes about the prime minister's cynical outlook on Iraqi unity.

Meanwhile the Sunni minority is effectively boycotting Maliki's cabinet, causing the prime minister to threaten to simply replace any Sunni who remains absent.  Sunni dissidents, thought to include al-Qaeda Iraq, are believed responsible for a wave of bombings yesterday in Baghdad that claimed 69-lives.

And, in the north, also known as the Kurdish Republic, Maliki's hapless and hopelessly corrupt government will probably spur the Kurds to solidify their claim to the oil-rich region of Kirkuk, something that has come so close to triggering Kurdish separation or factional civil war that a promised referendum to decide the area's fate has been repeatedly postponed by Baghdad.

If the Kurds were clever (and they are), they'll probably wait to see how the Iraqi Sunni versus Shiite tensions play out.  In the meantime I expect the Kurds will be extending overtures to Istanbul about settling the seemingly intractable Turkish/Kurdish conflict.   Turkey would do well to have a friendly, oil-rich neighbour on its border and the Kurds would benefit from Turkish protection against the southern Arabs especially over the Kirkuk issue.

A deal between the Turks and Kurds would be a powerful incentive for a similar arrangement between Syria and an Iraqi Sunni state.   That, in turn, would be almost certain to forge a closer alliance between Iraq's Shiites in the south and Iran.

A 3-way breakup of Iraq could enhance the positions of Turkey, Syria and Iran but at great loss to Washington that would find its dominance in that part of the Middle East eroded if not extinguished.  The ripple effect from relieving Iran of the American threat along its western border, the further isolation of Afghanistan and a reinforced Shiite challenge to the Saudis and Gulf States could further complicate the competition heating up between the Americans and the Chinese in that region.  Interesting times, indeed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

WTF? China is Driving Canada's Purchase of the F-35?

If you have any doubt about how feeble Canada's corporate media have become you need only read the PostMedia scribe Matthew Fisher's article proclaiming that "Canada will buy F-35 joint strike fighter, no matter the cost."

This joker has the critical thinking skills of a 6-year old at Christmas.  Who is feeding Fisher information is unknown but his appetite for gullibility is plainly insatiable.

Fisher says that Japan's decision to buy the F-35 means everyone else will too.

There is no chance that Canada will cancel its order for about 65 F-35 joint strike fighters.

That fact was underlined again this week with reports from Japan that before Christmas, Tokyo will announce its intention to buy as many as 50 of the state-ofthe-art stealth warplanes.

Fisher assures Canadian readers that Japan even considered rival aircraft including the Eurofighter Typhoon and the F-18 Superhornet.  In other words, Japan has done all the looking anyone needed.  It didn't occur to the astonishingly simplistic Fisher that Japan would have considered the competition, even if superficially, according to Japanese requirements or that Japan's situation might be vastly different than Canada's.  It's all one-size-fits-all for PostMediaBoy.

Hmm, now let me see.  Just how big is Japan?  How big is Canada? Who are its neighbours?   What sorts of potential threats do they present?  How does that compare with Canada?  How much space does Japan have to defend?   Canada?  What other aircraft does Japan operate and how will they be used in conjunction with the F-35s if they ever materialize?  What support aircraft - refueling tankers, airborne warning and control aircraft - does Japan operate?   How many US military airbases are in Japan?

The point is, Japan is entirely different than Canada and so are its military needs.  Only a buffoon would mask one with the other to blur the gaping differences.   The man is a fool or, worse, a shill.

That he's more shill than fool comes through when Fisher spins this whopper:

"Australia has been so keen to acquire the F-35 that when its order for about 100 of the new aircraft was delayed, Canberra chose to purchase a small number of F-18 Super Hornets, which are largely based on 30-year-old technologies, as a stopgap measure until it can receive its joint strike fighters."

Australia, in fact, is one of the countries most apprehensive about the F-35's abilities, drawbacks and costs.  Here, here and here and that's just for starters.  It opted for the new generation F-18 SuperHornet specifically so that it could defer a decision on the F-35.  The F-18 was how Australia bought breathing room.  It was the Australian military that war gamed the F-35 and found it didn't survive the first engagement of an air war against numerically superior, older and cheaper Russian fighters.

Then Fisher explains why the West needs the F-35 - China.

"Despite its staggering cost, the jets' capabilities have appealed to western governments deeply concerned with how quickly China is acquiring aircraft carriers and expanding its blue water and sub-surface navy to project military power far out into the Pacific Ocean. Beijing is also building a fleet of icebreakers to operate in the Arctic Ocean."

Oopsie, say what?  We're buying the F-35 in contemplation of fighting China?   China is our potential adversary which must, somehow, explain why Stevie Harper says Canada doesn't need the Keystone XL pipeline, we'll just sell all the Athabasca bitumen to our potential enemy, China, instead.

 "I am very serious about selling our oil off this continent, selling our energy products off to Asia. I think we have to do that," Harper told broadcaster CTV in a year-end interview.

Isn't this Steve, "we'll stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies" Harper?  Suddenly he's threatening his best ally, the US, with filling the fuel tanks of Chinese warships and jet fighters?   Steve wants to ensure that China is awash in the one thing without which it can't go to war with all those countries lining up anxiously to get their hands on F-35s to fight it?  Oh Canada.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dear North Korea. Sorry For Your Loss. Maybe We Can Help.

Our sincere condolences on your loss.  A guy like Kim Jong-Il doesn't come along every day and he'll be hard to replace.  Sure you've got his pork pie kid but he's untested, unproven and, let's face it, a bit of a long shot.  What if he turns out to be a dud?  What then?  Why your whole country could fall apart!

Don't fret.  There is a sure-fire, no-risk solution to your dilemma.   Canada has just the guy to meet your every need.  Say the word and he's yours.

Our guy has six years of on the job training in despotism.  He's got everything you could dream of - in spades.  He's grandiose.  He is secretive and a born manipulator.  He truly understands the power and majesty of fear.  He's a thoroughly nasty shit with a volatile temper but he never shows a trace of that in public.  He's power crazed and yearns to transform any nation in his own image.  He's an ardent believer in absolute, one-man rule.   He won't reform your economy.  In fact he'll be too busy staring at himself in a mirror, arranging his hair that he won't even notice that your economy exists.

Best of all, our guy is, well, pudgy.  Maybe not quite to the scale you're accustomed to but, don't fear, he can pork out in a heartbeat.  And, well, perhaps he's a bit on the tall side compared to those he'd replace but we can assure you that, inside, he's really, really small.   And did we mention shallow?

So think about that and get back to us.  But wait, there's more.  Order within the next 48-hours and the shipping's on us.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Future Thinking

If our civilization is to have a future we're all going to have to change the way we think.   We'll need a new way of seeing things, new values and principles - call it Future Thinking, thinking about what we need to do to ensure we can provide a future to our grandchildren and the generations to follow them.  It can't be all about us anymore.  Look around and see where that sort of thinking has brought us.

You need new ways of thinking when you run out of stuff and, like it or not, we're all running out of stuff.  Future thinking is all about how we're going to get along in a world where there's not enough to go around, not enough of a lot of things, really important things.

Future thinking is going to be front and centre at next summer's "Rio + 20" UN  conference on sustainable development in, you guessed it, Rio.   It's being organized by the United Nations Environment Programme office whose mandate is to inspire, inform and assist "nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations."  Okay, two things to note.   This is about sustainable development, not necessarily sustainable growth.   And it's also about how people can improve their quality of life but not at the cost of future generations.  Oh boy, my favourite subject - Posterity.

UNEP chief, Achim Steiner spoke with The Guardian about the focus of Rio + 20.

In Rio, equity and sustainability will be central parameters of thinking about the future of our economies. That allows us to address some of the crises before this [current economic] crisis. Some of the problems we are facing did not begin with the banking, financial or debt crises; they were beginning to be visible and driving our economies and societies beforehand.

 We have to make the link between the broader sustainable development agenda, which to some may seem a little bit abstract, and the very real crises of the moment but also not to simply get stuck in the symptoms. 

Steiner says the world needs a new model of economics one that fully recognizes the value of natural wealth - freshwater, unlogged forests - in their own right, a Green GDP.

You might well say we have done rather well without that in the last 200 years or 1,000 years where we could always turn to the next forest, the next valley, the next river. But the world today with 7 billion people has run out of places to turn to and therefore it needs to start managing, the priority being on sustainability.

 ...On the natural resources front, supply chains are becoming more and more vulnerable. Risk is becoming more pronounced for many businesses. Food–price markets are fluctuating violently because of extreme weather events.

People recognise the risks of environmental degradation: climate change, loss of ecosystems, scarcity of water and land to produce food. These are all factors that are putting the economy on a more unstable path, and that is why businesses with a degree of longer–term vision and strategy are increasingly looking to governments to address those risks. And they can be addressed only through the kind of scalable responses, such as moving from fossil fuels to renewables, that no individual business actors can actually bring about.

A well–functioning market is actually a regulated market, funnily enough, and not a Milton Friedman notion of 30 years ago of the less government the better. That is definitely emerging.

...environmental policy will increasingly be viewed not as a constraint on development but really the enabling factor for future development and that when we talk about environmental standards, pollution standards, and efficiencies, that they will be appreciated for what they really are – a driver for greater economic efficiency, productivity, while creating fewer risks for society.

To some, Steiner's remarks may be troubling, especially those mired in Milton Friedmanland like Harper and most of his cabinet.   Yet if we're to break free of that self-destructive pattern we're going to need a revitalized Left.   This is the worst possible time for the Libs to turn Conservative-Lite and for the NDP to transform into Latter Day Liberals, wrapping themselves in the very principles they rebuked for generations.   All the Libs and the NDP are doing is helping Harper cement Canada's political centre far to the right, in Friemanland.   They're helping Harper fix Canada in the very place it least needs to be.   We have to restore meaningful and effective progressivism in this country.  We have to accept the UNEP mandate that our quality of life must be achieved without compromising that of our future generations.

The Reviews Are In. Canada Sucks.

It's hard to believe anyone was surprised that the Harper regime reneged on Canada's Kyoto Accord commitments.   But even though they knew it was coming, at home and abroad people find Harper's actions repulsive.  From The Guardian:

"I regret Canada's withdrawal and am surprised over its timing," said the UN climate chief Christiana Figueres. "Canada has a moral obligation to itself and future generations to lead in the global effort." China, which agreed for the first time to legal limits on its emissions at the summit in Durban, denounced Canada's decision as "preposterous" in its state media and called it "an excuse to shirk responsibility" in tackling global warming.

...China dismissed Kent's claim that emission cuts damage economies as a "fallacy".  A UK government spokesman said: "It's true that taking action to reduce emissions requires substantial financial investment but it is far less expensive than the cost of inaction." Canada's decision was "deeply regrettable", he added.

Figueres said other Kyoto protocol members such as Australia and the EU had been investing in a green and sustainable future and Canada's rising carbon emissions put it in a "weaker position" to demand carbon limits on fast-growing countries such as China and India. In Durban all countries, including China, India, Canada and the US, agreed for the first time to be legally bound to cut carbon, although Canada was given the "colossal fossil" award by campaign groups in Durban for its "reckless arrogance".

 ..."The Harper government is more concerned about protecting polluters than people," said Greenpeace Canada's Mike Hudema. Pulling out of Kyoto was "a total abdication of our responsibilities", said Hannah McKinnon of Climate Action Network Canada. "Canada gave its word to the world and Canada broke its word," said the columnist John Ibbitson in Canada's Globa and Mail.  "No one should feel anything other than ashamed."

Japan, which like Canada had said it would not sign up to an extension of the Kyoto protocol, still condemned Canada's withdrawal from the existing protocol as "disappointing". China's foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said: "It flies in the face of the efforts of the international community for Canada to leave the Kyoto protocol at a time when the Durban meeting made important progress by securing a second phase of commitment."

An official in India said Canada's decision could jeopardise any gains made at the Durban meeting. The climate official Ian Fry, from the tiny South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, one of those most at risk from rising sea levels, said: "It's an act of sabotage on our future, a reckless and totally irresponsible act."

And every petro-pol deviant on both sides of the floor of the House of Commons shares responsibility for the shame they've brought upon our nation and our people.   Sure this was Harper's doing but no one truly had the courage to accept the political consequences of standing up to him.

It's Over. US Troops Leave Iraq.

The United States military mission in Iraq is over, eight years, eight months and 26-days after American tanks first poured in from Kuwait.  Some 4,500 US soldiers have died.  No one can be sure how many Iraqi civilians were killed.   The usual, obscene estimate is "more than 100,000."

The departure was marked by a flag ceremony at a corner of Baghdad airport.  Seats were reserved on the reviewing stand for Iraqi prime minister Nouri al Maliki and president Jalal Talibani but they were "no shows."

Obama has declared the Iraq occupation a success.   How can he know that when none of the truly important decisions has yet been taken.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Canada Needs Answers Or It Should Scrap the F-35 Deal

The recent Iranian downing of America's latest, high-tech stealth drone, the RQ-170, raises a load of questions that nobody is asking.

Begin by asking just how Iran managed to down the thing in the first place.   This technology is supposed to be so stealthy the bad guys aren't even supposed to know it's around.

The Americans say it malfunctioned over Afghanistan and glided in for a crash landing inside Iran.   The Iranians claim they detected the drone in their airspace and overrode its guidance systems to bring it down for a safe landing and capture.

Okay, was Iran able to detect this super-stealthy drone?   If so, how?  What stealth systems - structure, radar absorbent coatings, electronics - would they have to defeat in order to detect it?   What technology does Iran have that can defeat America's best stealth technology?

If the RQ-170 drone's stealth technology can be defeated what does that mean for the stealth technology in the F-35s we're planning to buy?   Will our potential adversaries have America's stealth secrets in their hands long before we even get delivery of Lockheed's uber-costly stealth fighters?

The F-35 is all about stealth.   Without its supposed radar invisibility it's a seriously flawed aircraft.  It can't out-turn, out-climb, outrun or outgun even 4th generation Russian aircraft like the SU-30 fighter family.   The F-35 compromises virtually every quality that makes a top fighter for the sake of stealth cloaking.  It gives up range, payload, agility, speed, twin-engine redundancy - the lot - for supposed radar invisibility.  If its stealth cloaking can be defeated (even before it rolls off the assembly lines) it's an aerial white elephant.

The F-35 has always been a high-stakes gamble and now it may be a sucker's bet.   A sure bet would be that Iran won't be wasting any time parceling out samples of America's stealth technology to the Russians and the Chinese.  They'll inspect and test it for a leg up in developing their own stealth and counter-stealth systems.

According to Navy Times, this is a giant problem for America's stealth programme:

...just an hour after Iranian state television aired images purporting to show off its prize, the Air Force’s top uniformed officer raised the specter of a foreign power copying the stealthy jet’s top-secret technology.

There is the potential for reverse engineering, clearly,” said Air Force Chief Gen. Norton Schwartz. “Ideally, one would want to maintain the American advantage. That certainly is in our minds.”

If the jet “comes into the possession of a sophisticated adversary,” there’s not much the U.S. could do about it, Schwartz said Thursday during a taping of “This Week in Defense News.”

The Iranian broadcast showed apparent footage of a mostly intact RQ-170 put on public display. While the craft showed some damage, it seemed to be in remarkably good shape.

One source said the aircraft in the footage was definitely the Sentinel, a subsonic, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft built by Lockheed Martin. The aircraft appeared to have sustained damage consistent with a wheels-up landing, he said.

...The capture of a mostly intact RQ-170 by a hostile power like Iran is “the biggest Christmas present to our enemies in probably a decade, at least,” Goure said

The captured aircraft will help adversaries copy U.S. stealth design techniques, coating materials, engine technology, and UAV command-and-control systems, he said. It will also help them develop countermeasures against stealthy U.S. aircraft.

If the F-35's stealth secrets are out, there's no reason for Canada or anyone else to buy it.   That's deeply unfortunate for Lockheed and the Pentagon but that is not Canada's problem.

Krugman Warns It's a Depression and Democracy Itself is at Risk

New York Times columnist and Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman is now calling the developed world's meltdown a depression.   And he's warning that we'd better wake up to the threat that poses to our democracy.

"True, it’s not a full replay of the Great Depression, but that’s cold comfort. Unemployment in both America and Europe remains disastrously high. Leaders and institutions are increasingly discredited. And democratic values are under siege.

"On that last point, I am not being alarmist. On the political as on the economic front it’s important not to fall into the “not as bad as” trap. High unemployment isn’t O.K. just because it hasn’t hit 1933 levels; ominous political trends shouldn’t be dismissed just because there’s no Hitler in sight. 

"...demands for ever-harsher austerity, with no offsetting effort to foster growth, have done double damage. They have failed as economic policy, worsening unemployment without restoring confidence; a Europe-wide recession now looks likely even if the immediate threat of financial crisis is contained. And they have created immense anger, with many Europeans furious at what is perceived, fairly or unfairly (or actually a bit of both), as a heavy-handed exercise of German power. 

"Nobody familiar with Europe’s history can look at this resurgence of hostility without feeling a shiver. Yet there may be worse things happening.

"Right-wing populists are on the rise from Austria, where the Freedom Party (whose leader used to have neo-Nazi connections) runs neck-and-neck in the polls with established parties, to Finland, where the anti-immigrant True Finns party had a strong electoral showing last April. And these are rich countries whose economies have held up fairly well. Matters look even more ominous in the poorer nations of Central and Eastern Europe. 

"...Taken together, all this amounts to the re-establishment of authoritarian rule, under a paper-thin veneer of democracy, in the heart of Europe. And it’s a sample of what may happen much more widely if this depression continues." 

Canadians have no reason to be complacent about the rise of authoritarian government in Europe, not while we have Stephen Harper's secretive, duplicitous and manipulative one-man rule.   The man who came to power promising transparency and accountability has revealed himself, instead, a prince of democratic darkness.  Harper's winning tactic is to devour Canadian democracy in little bites but his subtlety may mask a ravenous appetite.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Just Askin' That's All. Is the F-35 Still Stealthy?

Early American stealth technology, the F-117 kind, relied heavily on angled plates and special paint to prevent radar waves from being returned to enemy receivers.   The current stealth technology relies on curved surfaces and anti-radar coatings to prevent radar waves from beaming back to enemy receivers.   This technology is used on everything from the B-2 bomber, the F-22 Raptor super-fighter, the F-35 poor cousin stealth fighter, and - wait for it - the RQ-170 stealth spy drone.

Now here's the problem.

Even the Pentagon admits that the Iranians now have one of those fancy RQ-170 drones.   The Americans think it crashed inside Iran.   The Iranians claim they managed to electronically hijack the drone and bring it down for a safe landing.

Whether the Iranians have an intact RQ-170 drone or merely the wreckage may not matter much.   Either way they now have the keys to the materials, design and electronic stealth secrets the Americans devised.   With that information in Iranian (not to mention Chinese and Russian) hands, some of it may be able to be copied by our potential adversaries.   Worse yet, the more technologically advanced countries may well be able to explore this technology to discern vulnerabilities, weaknesses and then devise defensive and offensive systems to overcome the stealth advantage the US and her allies are paying oh so very dearly for in the F-35.

The question then becomes what impact does Iran's RQ-170 have on the lifetime usefulness and value of the F-35?   Is the F-35 now a lame duck?

Peter Kent, Harper's Grand Dissembler

Harper promised that His Canada would punch above her weight on the global scene, and he was right.  Oh sure he got us ramped up on a futile, inconclusive foreign war, but our true behemoth status is in greenhouse gas emissions.   Miniscule little Canada, with our 35-million population, is the 8th largest emitter in the world.  We're 35th in population, just behind Poland and Algeria but we're still ahead of Uganda and Morocco.  We're almost a full third the size of Mexico.   But size doesn't really matter when you're Numero Ocho.

Besides, Canada lags ahead in eight place only on total emissions.    Compare us on per capita emissions and then we're a real contender for the finals.

Following the UN climate change summit in Durban there was good news from Harper EnviroShill and Grand Dissembler, Peter Kent.   While the 194-party conference is still clinging to hope that an emissions treaty of some sort can be put into effect by 2020, Minister Kant said he's optimistic a climate change agreement can be struck by 2015.   In the same breath our Ruler's Dissembler added that Canada is walking away from its Kyoto commitments and won't be squandering "scarce dollars" on a global fund to help developing countries mitigate the impacts of climate change.   Apparently Kent didn't actually use the words, "let'em tread water," but his point was unmistakeable.

Climate Action Network Canada's Hanna McKinnon said Kent ensured Canada's legacy as the "poster child of inaction" at the climate change talks.   Kent's suggestion there could be a viable treaty by 2015 would be a bald-faced lie if he weren't part of a government for which truth is anything you choose to believe, not something you have reason to believe.

What the Harper regime's actions depressingly reveal is that global warming is still to be treated as a political issue, not a scientific problem.   And it is in the political forum that effective action on remediation, mitigation and adaptation will be smothered by kindly voices.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Way It Is - Slow Turning, Hiatt

I'm beginning to realize there aren't many of us mourning the demise of the Canadian Left.  Even veteran NDP'ers seem quite happy to watch their party become Latter Day Libs, helping the Conservative Lite Libs help Harper achieve his prime objective of shifting Canada's political centre well to the right.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Even the NDP Has Jettisoned the Left

Rick Salutin says what's been obvious for some time - the New Democratic Party has ditched the Left in favour of liberalism thus helping the "conservative-lite" Libs help Harper achieve his paramount goal of permanently shifting Canada's political centre well to the right.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

An Army of One? Well, Not Quite.

It sounds as though the Pentagon has had about a belly full of decadal, inconclusive ground wars of the sort it found in Iraq and Afghanistan.   Goodbye Army.   Hello Air Force, Hello Navy.

If armies make much sense at all today it's in the "whack a mole" mission of swatting at insurgents or anyone who happens to sort of look like an insurgent.   That last line is code for Afghanistan.  Armies just aren't a lot of good these days when you've got bigger fish to fry - and that's code for China.

Korea and Vietnam taught America to forget about land wars in the Orient.  Iraq and Afghanistan have conveyed a somewhat similar message concerning the Muslim world.   No point constantly winning a war that can always outlast you.  It's the military equivalent of treading shark-filled waters.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius writes that the Pentagon is about to give the Army budget a very trim haircut.

"Budget pressures have curbed the appetite for the ambitious, “protect-the-population” missions that were promoted with such enthusiasm by Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

 “It’s not going to be likely that we will deploy 150,000 troops to an area the way we did in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said one top Pentagon official, explaining the rationale for Panetta’s budget review.

"Panetta has been signaling for several months that the Army and Marines, which have carried the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be cut in his 2013 budget. His final recommendations won’t be finished until year-end, but the Army and the Marines are already planning force reductions, recognizing that new and prolonged, large-scale counterinsurgency missions aren’t likely anytime soon.

"A second big theme of Panetta’s review is an emphasis on Asia — and on countering China’s growing military power there.

"The practical impact of this Asia tilt will be to boost relative spending for the Navy and Air Force, which are America’s traditional means of projecting military power in the Pacific. Pentagon officials caution, however, that the Centcom region — an arc of instability from Morocco to Pakistan — will also remain a top priority, and won’t be starved for resources to pay for the new emphasis on Asia."

Bring on the drones.  This realignment away from divisions of ground troops deployed to little lasting avail in marginally consequential distant lands suggests America now may prefer to fight its foreign wars from home.  Drones "piloted" by satellite relay from some climate controlled trailer on a US air base in Florida may just be the new flavour of the month in American firepower.  Drones and guided missiles, submarines and cruise missiles, long-range bombers and aircraft carriers may provide the response of choice in the Third World.  It sounds that the US Army's own "occupy" movement is in imminent danger of eviction.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Inequality at 30-Year High

Inequality in wealth quickly metastasizes into other afflictions including inequality in income and inequality in opportunity.  It chokes off social mobility and nurtures the ascendancy of an oligarchy in which political and economic power is siphoned away, particularly from the middle classes, to a new ruling order.

Now the OECD reports that inequality among its membership, the developed nations, has reached a 30-year high.  Across the OECD, the richest 10% enjoys incomes nine times that of the poorest 10%.  That gap is 14-1 in the US, Turkey and Israel and, in America at least, it's growing rapidly.

As clearly shown in Wilkinson's and Pickett's, The Spirit Level, this sort of inequality rapidly undermines societies and manifests in a host of social ills including  mental health, drug use, physical health and life expectancy, obesity, educational performance, teen births, violence, imprisonment and punishment and social mobility.  It lowers the quality of life for all sectors, including the wealthy, except for the very wealthiest, what is referred to today as the 1%.   It lowers the nation, the society, the individual.  Yet for some reason, presumably anchored in ignorance, the Right persists in advancing policies that promote inequality.

Whether it's America's bought and paid for Congress or Harper's Conservative regime, the Right today is a devoutly corporatist movement.   Their interests are so at odds with the welfare of the public, including most of those who vote them in, that they must rely on a powerful corporate media to mislead, confuse and misdirect them.   The grand masters of this are the denizens of FOX News, the subject of recent studies that chillingly show that FOX viewers are more poorly informed on events than those who get no news at all.   In other words, FOX exists solely as a corporatist propaganda agency to manipulate voters through misinformation and misdirection.  To get a sickening look into the political perversion that is FOX News, just visit

This incestuous marriage of corporatist politics and corporatist media is the very outcome foreseen by those who championed in the 60s and 70s regulations to thwart concentration of ownership and cross-ownership in the media.   For a while we seemed to understand the obvious, that broad and diverse media ownership was the key to ensuring an informed voting public that was nurtured by ready access to the full range of political thought.   And that is why the key to breaking down this diabolical corporatist union and de-corporatizing our political institutions is to utterly dismember the media cartels, something the opposition is curiously leery of advocating.

Which leads to the next woe - the utter absence of opposition to the Harper regime.   Neither the Official Opposition NDP nor the Liberals are earning their parliamentary pay and Harper is grateful for their flaccid performance.  The three out of five voters who didn't support Harper are blatantly unrepresented in this Parliament.   And with that lack of representation, Parliament has lost its credibility, even its legitimacy.   Harper simply could not have bought a better opposition than the lame excuse that faces him across the aisle today.

The type of government Canada endures today - the secretive, manipulative, duplicitous and authoritarian regime in power riding herd over a gaggle of petro-pols on both sides of the aisle - should be rejected out of hand.   If we want our interests respected relying on Ottawa is counter-intuitive and self-defeating.   A perfect example is the Northern Gateway pipeline.

In late November, the Pembina Institute, the Living Oceans Society and the National Resources Defense Council released a damning report on the proposal to ship Athabasca bitumen across British Columbia for supertanker transport to Asia.   The report, in PDF format, is accessible by following the earlier link.  The 32-page report exposes Harper's scam in sickening detail.  The high point of the report is reference to a survey conducted in April, 2011 that found 80% of British Columbians solidly opposed to tanker traffic in our coastal waters.   That is why I believe if they proceed with this they will see a wave of civil disobedience previously unknown to Canada the scope of which is unforeseeable.

Any doubts about the Right's corporatist embrace are dispelled by their stated intention of fast-tracking this pipeline/tanker port project over the will of 80% of the people in the area affected.  That's about as undemocratic as it gets.  It is precisely the sort of authoritarianism that legitimizes mass civil disobedience.

We have to start dismantling  Stephen Harper's Canada limb by limb.  

Friday, December 02, 2011

Friday Night Drumming

Keith Moon.  "The Ox."   The video can't keep up with him.  Not even close.

And don't you just wish you had been there on this night?

The F-35 - "It Sucks the Wind Out of Your Lungs"

The Pentagon's F-35 programme director wants to slow down production because of the mass of problems turning up in testing.

"The analyzed hot spots that have arisen in the last 12 months or so in the program have surprised us at the amount of change and at the cost,' U.S. Navy Vice Admiral David Zenlet said in an interview with Web-based publication AOL Defense. 

"'Most of them are little ones. But when you bundle them all up and package them, and look at where they are in the airplane and how hard they are to get at after you buy the jet, the cost burden of that is what sucks the wind out of your lungs,' Zenlet added.

'I believe it's wise to sort of temper production for a while here, until we get some of these heavy years of learning under our belt and get that managed right,' he said.

Heavy "years of learning"?  Yeah, that's right.  This dog is years away from being remotely capable of serving anyone's air force and that goes in spades for Canada's.

No Wonder Harper Adores the American Right

How debased, how low-fallen has America become that a leading candidate for the Republican Party presidential nomination can get away with saying something like this?   Watch Newt Gingrich lament how America's poor children won't work "unless it's illegal."

Get'em out to work just as soon as they can hold a toilet brush, eh Newt?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Countries that Matter Most Throw in the Towel on Global Warming

It's a chilling story, one that, if true, has existential implications for life on Earth.  The Guardian reports that rich nations have "given up" on reaching a new climate treaty until 2020.

Ahead of critical talks starting next week, most of the world's leading economies now privately admit that no new global climate agreement will be reached before 2016 at the earliest, and that even if it were negotiated by then, they would stipulate it could not come into force until 2020.

The eight-year delay is the worst contemplated by world governments during 20 years of tortuous negotiations on greenhouse gas emissions, and comes despite intensifying warnings from scientists and economists about the rapidly increasing dangers of putting off prompt action.

...Postponing an operational agreement until 2020 would be fatal to hopes of avoiding catastrophic climate change, according to scientists, economists and green campaigners.

Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA), and one of the world's foremost authorities on climate economics, told the Guardian: "If we do not have an international agreement whose effect is put in place by 2017, then the door to [holding temperatures below 2C] will be closed forever."

The story comes just one day after the World Meteorological Organization released a report warning that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases have reached a record level and the rate of increase is accelerating.

The IPCC, WMO, NOAA, NASA and other science bodies are all speaking with one voice, all sounding the alarm, all warning that the exit door is closing and virtually no key decision maker is listening.  These leaders are writing the future of our kids and grandkids and generations to follow.  The worst part is it's quite possibly indelible.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Rise of a New Confederacy or Peering Into the Soul of Stephen Harper

Do you ever have trouble figuring out just what makes an authoritarian git like Stephen Harper tick?  An article from In These Times entitled "New Confederacy Rising" offers some helpful insights into why the radical, fundamentalist Right seem so bizarre.  They don't just act nuts, they are nuts.

What has recently come to the fore within the Republican Party, but has been building within it for decades as the religious right’s influence has grown, is a new Confederacy: a nation within a nation, certain of the degeneracy of the usurper “United States,” hostile toward its institutions of education and government, and possessing a keen sense of its own identity as a victimized, righteous remnant engaged in spiritual warfare. As Michele Bachmann put it when explaining her position as a tax accountant for the IRS, she took a government job because she wanted to infiltrate “the enemy.”

 ...For the pragmatic and progressive America that grew out of secularized higher education, truth has a provisional, this-worldly orientation. It’s more evolutionary than eternal in character—a fluid body of knowledge and interpretation, subject to revision and expansion.

For the Confederacy that now dominates the GOP, truth is solid and fixed and divinely embedded in the structure of the universe. Humanity’s responsibility is to accept and believe the truth rather than test ideas against actual experience. The Confederacy’s obsession with “originalist” interpretations of the Constitution—a twin of biblical literalism—is the classic example: truth must be eternal, universal.

Pragmatists and progressives defer to experts and professionals. They expect truth claims to be supported by evidence that emerges from research and testing. They put their faith in this process, and in the communities of inquiry—the disciplines—legitimized by secular institutions of higher education.

The new Confederacy rejects that process wholesale. Its leaders and authorities are the spiritual descendants of the conservative Christians and charismatic radio preachers who broke away from religious modernism in the 1920s and 1930s. For these leaders and their followers, faith justifies—and verifies—itself. You don’t believe an idea because it’s true. It’s true because you believe it.

The Sky is Falling - US Generals Warn America in Real Danger if Military Spending is Cut

A US Marine Corps general is the latest stuffed tunic to warn of dire consequences to America if the Pentagon's budget is cut.   Corps Commandant General James Amos says he's sure that something sort of awful will befall the American military from budget cuts.

We as a nation don’t even know, or have not got a sense of appreciation for, the impact that sequestration’s going to have on the Department of Defense,” Amos said, leaning in to drive home his point. “I don’t think we understand the magnitude of the impact that sequestration would have."

I would love to hear these generals explain how, with defence expenditures greater than every other nation on the planet combined, they have made such a total botch up of America's conflicts in/with Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and North Korea.   When was the last time these bozos actually won a war?   That's "won" in the sense of achieving their government's pre-conflict objectives?

It strikes me that, when you've had plenty of chances but have struck out every time, you don't get to bitch if someone wants to burst your bloated budget.   And you certainly don't get to scare the hell out of the public with vague threats of danger that doesn't exist.   And, if that's the best you can do, maybe you should just turn in your stars and take a serious interest in golf.

Propaganda Busting - Social Security

Anyone who follows American politics will have heard the Right's endless demands for "entitlement reform."   They argue that Social Security is on the verge of insolvency and therefore payouts need to be trimmed.   After all, how can you maintain insane tax cuts for the rich if you have to pay the poor?

The Brookings Institute has a telling contradiction of the Right's favourite fairy tale.  The article points out that while Social Security indeed went "cash negative" last year, the private pension industry has been cash negative for 25-years.   It also explains that while contributions to Social Security were less that payouts last year, the system also receives revenues from its investments, revenues that left the Social Security agency with a comfortable surplus.

Greenhouse Gas Increases Accelerating.

The operative word is "accelerating."   The World Meteorological Organization reported today that,
"the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit a new record in 2010 and that the growth of the buildup is accelerating."

 "The increase between 2009 and 2010 was above the average for the last two decades. “Between 2009 and 2010, its atmospheric abundance increased by 2.3 parts per million — higher than the average for both the 1990s (1.5 parts per million) and the past decade (2.0 parts per million),” the WMO states.

The report tracks several other gases, including methane, a potent greenhouse gas that’s again on the rise after a temporary period of “relative stabilization” between 1999 and 2006.

“Scientists are conducting research into the reasons for this, including the potential role of the thawing of the methane-rich Northern permafrost and increased emissions from tropical wetlands,” the WMO notes."

It seems everybody, even Canada, acknowledges the need for sharp cuts in greenhouse gas emissions yet with emissions not only increasing but the rate of increase accelerating they're heading full throttle in the opposite direction.  Can you find Easter Island on the map?  That's right, it's smack in the middle between Gloucester and Nepean.

Climate Change Isn't Happening If You Can't Learn About It

How else can you explain the extraordinary efforts of the Harper regime and its US Congressional counterparts to suppress climate change information getting to the public.

As chronicled in The Guardian recently, Steve Harper has been using spending cuts to undermine groups such as Climate Action Network Canada, a NGO that once served to coordinate some 80 other organizations even as Harper broke his own commitments to continue $1.4-billion in government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.

Now, south of the line, Congress has vetoed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's efforts to create a National Climate Service akin to the agency's National Weather Service.   The telling part is that the NOAA wasn't asking for any new funding.

" a political climate where talk of the earthly kind of climate can be radioactive, the answer in last week’s budget deal was “no.” Congress barred NOAA from launching what the agency bills as a “one-stop shop” for climate information.

"Demand for such data is skyrocketing, NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco told Congress earlier this year. Farmers are wondering when to plant. Urban planners want to know whether groundwater will stop flowing under subdivisions. Insurance companies need climate data to help them set rates."

"...with data spread across agency offices and Web sites, people are “often confused where to go for climate information,” said Mary Glackin, the NOAA deputy undersecretary heading up the proposal. The new service would streamline delivery, she said, and make it easier for people to find information, such as seasonal growing outlooks and drought, wildfire and flood forecasts.

The proposal has drawn wide-ranging support. NOAA’s administrator from 2001 to 2008 under Bush, Conrad C. Lautenbacher, urged Congress to approve it this year. So did scientific, weather and industry groups, including the Reinsurance Association of America, which represents huge firms that backstop home, car and life insurance companies.

Franklin W. Nutter, president of the RAA, said insurance companies are increasingly relying on the predictions of a changing future that NOAA provides. “It’s become clear that historic patterns of natural catastrophes — hurricanes, tornadoes, floods — are not good predictors of future risks,” he said. In other words, the future’s looking rougher."

America - Segregation is Back

The United States has been wrestling with racial segregation for decades and, while considerable progress has been made in some areas, plenty remains to be fixed.   But a new form of segregation is on the rise - wealth segregation.  The gap between rich and poor is more than statistical.

A study by Brown University finds that income segregation is quickly rising in the US.   It found that, in 1970, only 15% of Americans lived in communities that would be considered "affluent" or "poor."  By 2010 those percentages had doubled.  "Affluent" was defined as neighbourhoods in which the median income was 150% or more higher than the median income of their metropolitan areas.  "Poor" was a neighbourhood with a median income 67% or less than the median of its metropolitan area.   The rest lived in neighbourhoods of mixed income.

In other words, the rich are far more likely today to live with their own kind as are the poor. The report's authors found that the isolation of the rich today is much more intense than the evolving isolation of the poor.

The increasing concentration of income and wealth in a small number of neighborhoods,” the two authors note, “results in greater disadvantages for the remaining neighborhoods where low- and middle-income families live.”

In 1991, Robert Reich defined the trend as the "succession of the successful."

While gated communities have become fairly commonplace, they're now being superceded by gated municipalities with their own schools, fire, police and utilities services.   Within these muni-bubbles, the affluent essentially take care of themselves, free of the burden of supporting the less fortunate.  It is a money-saving option for those with all the money.   It also undermines social cohesion which, as argued here many times, is going to be one of the most critical factors in meeting the looming challenges of the 21st century.   This is not the moment in time for America to embrace a "let them eat cake" mentality.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Harper EnviroShill Kent Calls Opposition "Treacherous"

According to Harper's greasy EnviroShill, Peter Kent,  two NDP MPs who went to Washington to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline were "treacherous."

"One of the opposition parties has taken the treacherous course of leaving the domestic debate and heading abroad to attack a legitimate Canadian resource which is being responsibly developed and regulated," Kent told reporters.
The Regime obviously believes that it alone is entitled to speak on issues abroad and others failing to keep their mouths shut are treacherous.  Neither Kent nor Harper will comment on the remark.  Swine, both of them.

We're Causing Climate Change. It's Here and It's Going to Keep Getting Worse.

So, it's official.   The latest IPCC report is out and it does link man-made global warming directly to the climate change we've been experiencing.   The report also concludes that man-made global warming will lead to a continuation of severe storm events of increasing intensity and frequency; cyclical droughts and floods, and sea level rise.   In other words, bad as the weather has been the past several years, it's going to worsen for the foreseeable future - i.e. your lifetime, your kids' lifetimes and your grandkids' too.

It won't be the same everywhere.  What's happening is still often unpredictable.  Some regions will get inundated with rain when they don't need it and then suffer drought when they do.  Other regions are simply drying up.  Most places will be getting hotter, some a lot more so than others.   Only now are we beginning to appreciate that, for the past many centuries, we've been living in a meteorological Eden with quite moderate temperatures, precipitation patterns and storm events.  Now we're shifting into what, contrasted to our benign climate of the past, is considered extreme.

Take the American and Canadian mid-west, the heartland regions, the Great Plains, the prairie.  When Europeans showed up they had no way of knowing this vast region was enjoying a protracted and abnormal "wet" period.   There was a reason it was all grassland but we didn't twig to it.   Prairie grasses dominated instead of boreal forest because its normal climate state featured extended, severe drought cycles.   Some are now understood to have lasted up to 60-years at a stretch.   The absence of forests in an otherwise heavily forested continent ought to have been a giveaway but we didn't get it.  Oopsie!

Europeans stumbled upon an area ideal for agriculture.   Easy to plough under.   Flat.   Ample (for the time) precipitation.  Enormous stocks of freshwater in huge aquifers.  Good growing season.  And so we transformed it into our grain belt and for a good, long time it fed us and plenty of others abroad.  We built communities and then cities along the breadth and width of the region although, blessedly, the populations remained fairly small.

The Americans fell for it hardest.   They populated not only their prairie but even their deserts.  Masses flocked to the southwest for the dry heat always assuming that hot and dry though it was there was still plenty of water for their needs.  Another oopsie!

And it's hardly better in the US southeast.  McClatchey Newspapers last month reported that Florida, Georgia and Alabama are locked in a fierce dispute over water rights.   Unable to come to  agreement about sharing their watersheds, the states are each pressuring the Army Corps of Engineers to come through, even threatening to sue the Corps if they don't get their way.

The Corps said it's trying to steer clear of picking sides in the regional squabble.

"We don't own the water — the water is owned by the states," said Rob Holland, a spokesman for the Corps' regional office in Atlanta. "We encourage the states to resolve their problems, but we can't solve them for them."
 ..."The drought in the Southeast is far more widespread," said Mike Hayes, the director of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. "People wonder, 'Can I ask my neighbor for water if they are in the same boat?' Other natural disasters, like hurricanes and floods, bring people together. Drought, if people aren't careful, can really set one sector against another sector and can create chronic tension."

But in the historically water-rich South, the battle over dwindling water sources already has turned nasty.

Georgia's congressional delegation is pushing legislation that would give all states the power to suspend the Endangered Species Act during extreme droughts, a move that would cut short Florida's claims to extra water.

"While they're worrying about an endangered species of mussels in Apalachicola, we're worried about the endangered people," Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said Thursday.

The turmoil of the US southeast illustrates how the future impacts of climate change can compound problems in "me first" societies where inequality is embraced as a bulwark against supposedly tyrannical socialism.  It is why winning the battle against inequality - of wealth and opportunity - is a pressing concern.  Adapting to what's coming is going to require the most cohesive societies possible and inequality fractures that cohesiveness.

Bad as the water problem is in the southeast, conditions are worse in the US southwest.  A new report examining tree rings has found that megadroughts lasting upwards of 50-years and extending from New Mexico as far as Idaho can be found as far back as the second century.

Paleoclimatologist Connie Woodhouse, a co-author of the study that will be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, said scientists have wondered if the severe Western droughts that occurred between 900 and 1400 were unique.

The new tree ring record indicates they weren't -- and could occur again. “There is no good reason that we shouldn’t expect to have those,” Woodhouse said.

The southwest is currently reeling from a sustained, severe drought.   In Texas, where governor Rick Perry denounces the very idea of man-made global warming and prays for rain instead, horse owners, unable to provide either feed or water to their animals, are simply abandoning them to face starvation.

Even once ever-soggy Britain worries about droughts continuing into next year.

The latest drought scenarios follow some of the driest weather since the Met Office records began in 1910, with rainfall in much of central England below 60% of the average for the last year, and much lower than that in some pockets. The mild, dry weather has continued into November in much of the UK, though regions in the north and west have become much wetter and colder.

The Met Office has told government emergency planning groups that there is only a low risk of an exceptionally dry year, however the European Centre for Medium Range Forecasting expects above average pressure over the next few months, which would usually lead to lower rainfall.

In a new approach, Thames Water, the country's biggest water supplier, said it was planning what is thought to be the first poster campaign showing customers the local river their water comes from in a bid to persuade more of them to help protect it while levels are low. Posters showing a pretty-looking stretch of the Kennet will be put up around Marlborough and Swindon in December as part of the push.

We're caught in a dilemma.   Climate scientists, the people who warn us we have somewhere between 5 and 20-years to massively slash our carbon emissions, say it's too early to conclude what is already happening is the result of anthropogenic climate change.  It's their inability to close that circle that gives the fossil fuel industry and its bought and paid for political stooges the wiggle room to stall and dodge until the measures called for by the climate scientists are beyond our grasp.

Take even the most moderate front-runner in the Republican presidential race, Mitt Romney.

"Romney calls for greater U.S. production of coal, oil and natural gas. He'd block new pollution regulations and roll back some old ones. He'd also abandon federal subsidies for "green" technologies such as wind and solar power, deriding the Obama administration's "unhealthy 'green' jobs obsession."

There it is.  It just doesn't get much bleaker than that.  And at home we have a Parliament chock full of Petro-Pols who won't even talk about shutting down the filthiest, most dangerous fossil fuel project on Earth, the Tar Sands.

Herman Cain, Save Your Campaign. Shut Up!

Like Rick Perry, Herman Cain's worst political enemy is his mouth.   Once he opens that, gibberish pours out, decidedly unpresidential gibberish.

Herman has told the world that China is a threat because it is actively seeking nuclear weapons, oblivious to the fact China has had a nuclear arsenal for a scant half a century.   Then the pizzaman couldn't explain whether he supported the Libyan opposition that had ousted Muammar Gaddafi.  The best he could come up with was a rambling, incoherent explanation that Obama hadn't handled it right and he would do better.

Herman Cain apparently realized his Libyan gaffe had been serious so he wasted no time setting the record straight by claiming the Taliban and al-Qaeda are about to become part of the new Libyan government.

"Do I agree with siding with the opposition? Do I agree with saying that Gaddafi should go? Do I agree that they now have a country where you've got Taliban and al-Qaida that's going to be part of the government?"

I don't know, Herman, do you?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

When They Preach Austerity, They're Just Screwin' With You

Western leaders weren't listening in 2006 and 2007 when genuine "thinking" economists like Krugman and Stiglitz were warning that their house of cards was about to collapse.   Even self-proclaimed economists like Harper ignored them and later said no one could see the collapse of 2008 coming.  No one who couldn't be bothered to listen.

And they're not listening now - on either side of the Atlantic.  Genuine economists are warning this is no time for austerity crackdowns.  You don't go the austerity route, they warn, until your economy is back on its feet.  Premature cutbacks will only worsen the situation.

Now, it seems, the Euros are coming to realize these guys are right - austerity doesn't pay off.

"...suddenly, as investors’ fears mount that many euro area nations are about to tip into recession, even countries like creditworthy France are finding it much more expensive to borrow money in the open market. And with that development comes a dawning realization: that austerity, rather than making it easier for them to pay down their higher debts, could make it harder — and more expensive."

Ireland should have been the miners' canary.   The Irish government slashed spending and benefits and all it got for it was even higher costs on government bonds.    Austerity measures both undermined economic activity and increased the government's cost of borrowing.  Brilliant, eh?