Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Enbridge Shut Out Again

Ottawa, Alberta and the rest of Canada want to ram Enbridge down British Columbia's throat as operator of the environmental calamity they call the Northern Gateway pipeline but the Americans aren't so indifferent.

Following Enbridge's latest pipeline failure, in Wisconsin, the U.S. transportation secretary has ruled Enbridge won't be allowed to restart the pipeline until it can prove it's safe.   In other words, what Enbridge says about the safety of that pipeline means diddly squat.

"Accidents like the one in Wisconsin are absolutely unacceptable," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement Tuesday.

"I will soon meet with Enbridge's leadership team and they will need to demonstrate why they should be allowed to continue to operate this Wisconsin pipeline without either a significant overhaul or a complete replacement."

This is, of course, the same outfit that the Alberta government, the federal government, and just about all the provincial governments other than British Columbia's argue should be allowed, without objection, to run a potentially catastrophic bitumen pipeline across remote and seisimically active British Columbia wilderness and out to Asia via supertanker traffic through insanely treacherous coastal waters.

Really.  Are you f--king serious?  This is precisely where the rubber meets the road.  This is where this nonsense ends.  Alberta is one thing but the way we see the rest of Canada and our bond to confederation will be directly impacted by the response of the other provinces.  If you allow us to be trampelled underfoot by the petro-pols in Alberta and Parliament Hill, our response will be utterly predictable.  Your choice.

They Bought Manhattan. They Bought Louisiana. They Bought Alasaka. Just a Thought.

What would the Americans give Canada for Alberta?  Let's say everything east of the Rockies to the Saskatchewan border and everything from the north end of the Athabasca tar fields down to the U.S. border.  Yep, Edmonton and Calgary are included in the package.   And if the Americans didn't offer enough, invite bids from the Chinese.   The Americans would pay anything to keep that from happening.

Look at it this way.   Albertans are far and away the closest bunch we have to Americans anywhere in Canada.   Overall they're rude and crude and oh so fond of conspicuous consumption.   They've got a bounty of bible thumpers and bigots (collectively known as the Reform Party).   Albertans seem tailor-made for FOX News and Rush Limbaugh.   Of course there are plenty of exceptions and they might want to relocate to stay in Canada but they could sell out to incoming Americans.

And America has had a greedy eye on the tar sands.   Why Dick Cheney eerily called them "ours."   All we'd be doing is formalizing the deal on a cash basis.   The U.S. could even put up one of those walls like they have along their Mexican border to keep Canadians out (and Albertans in).   We could even split the cost of something like that.

It would solve a lot of problems.   There'd be no pipelines to fuel Chinese communism, that's for sure.  The British Columbia interior and coast would be spared Alberta's depredations.   The Americans would finally have what they've longed for - real energy security, freedom from those damned Arabs.   And, quite frankly, I'd trust the American EPA to keep an eye on those tailing ponds and carbon emissions over the Alberta government's see no evil/speak no evil/hear no evil environmentalism any day.  It'd cure the Dutch Disease and allow our manufacturing base to recover under a realistically valued Loonie.

And Steve Harper might take that as his cue to di di mau back to Calgary to run for governor of the 51st State of the Union.

This is like win-win all around.  No?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ex EnviroMin David Anderson - Northern Gateway Bad but Enbridge Even Worse

Former Liberal Environment Minister David Anderson has slammed both the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal and the would-be pipeline operator, Enbridge.    Anderson says the pipeline is not in Canada's best interests and the proposed operator, Enbridge,  is the least trustworthy company to get the job done.

Is It Too Late to Bring Back Herman Cain?

The Republicans are obviously stuck with the notion that it takes a business whiz to make a good president of the United States.   That's how they wound up with Mitt the Twit Romney as their presidential nominee.

But Mitt, or as Jeremy Clarkson calls him,"the American Borat," is proving to be anything but presidential.    In fact, he's an idiot in magic underwear.

Romney decided to showcase his presidential acumen by visiting Britain, Israel and Poland, three countries decidedly pro-American, and he screwed up at every turn.   He got the British prime minister pissed off with him, the Lord Mayor of London too.   Worse, by far, he got the main presenter of Top Gear,  Jeremy Clarkson, up in arms.

Then, fresh from that profound fiasco, it was off to Israel, where Romney again stepped squarely in it.  At a speech to select Jewish campaign donors, Romney declared Israel's relative success compared to the Palestinian's poverty and squalor was the historically inevitable result of a superior culture and providence.   Romney said that was why per capital GDP in Israel was a healthy $21,000 per annum contrasted with just $10,000 for the average Palestinian.   (the actual figures are $31,000 versus $1,500)   To Romney the fact that the Palestinian territories are occupied and repressed by Israel wasn't part of the equation.   Not surprisingly, Romney was criticized as a racist.

And then off to Poland where Romney met with Lech Walesa, who led the Solidarity movement that topped Polish Communism.   The Solidarity boys and girls, however, wanted no part of the Mormon Moron.

“Regretfully, we were informed by our friends from the American headquarters of (trade union federation) AFL-CIO, which represents more than 12 million employees … that Mitt Romney supported attacks on trade unions and employees’ rights,” Solidarity said in a statement.

Mitt Romney is a walking public relations disaster for the United States.   Like Sarah Palin, he hasn't bothered to study up for the job he's seeking.   And he can't help saying really stupid things, the sort that can leave scars.

But wait.   Remember that Godfather's Pizza guy, Herman Cain?   Is it too late to bring him back?

Megadrought the New Normal

It's here - to stay.   Let's call it "megadrought."  And what the States is getting now could be considered, "the wet end of a drier hydroclimate period."   From the oh-so corporatist Globe & Mail.

Anyone who weathered the stubborn dry spell that enveloped western North America from 2000 to 2004 knows it was harsh, but now a group of researchers has concluded it was the most severe drought in 800 years – bone-dry conditions that the scientists believe could become the “new norm” in this vital agricultural region.

“Projections indicate that drought events of this length and severity will be commonplace through the end of the 21st century,” the group of 10 scientists from several American universities and the University of British Columbia wrote in a study published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

If so, a “megadrought” that severely cuts crop production could be on the horizon, the scientists warn. Many farmers now in the throes of an extreme drought in the U.S. Midwest that is devastating corn and soybean crops and threatening to send food prices soaring might concur, although it’s not yet clear whether this dry spell is part of the broader trend, noted Beverly Law, a professor of global change biology at Oregon State University and a co-author of the study.

But climate change and megadrought are just part of the agricultural story.   There is also the one mighty Ogallala aquifer that underlies eight states of America's bread basket.   It has been the key to irrigation of crops, particularly water-intensive corn, for decades.   But it's drying up, pumped out.  With drought sweeping the region and the vital Ogallala nearly drained out, bountiful agriculture of the Great Plains is coming to an end.   This too is the new normal.

First Nations Fiercely Reject Northern Gateway

"We're here to stay. We'll do anything that we need to, to protect our land and sea."
                                               - Hieltsuk Chief Councilor Marilyn Slett

B.C.'s unelected, unelectable and outgoing premier, Christie Clark, may have bitumen dollar signs in her eyes but the province's First Nations, especially coastal bands, see the Northern Gateway much differently.   To them the bitumen pipeline/supertanker project cannot be allowed to happen.

"The Heiltsuk will never support this pipeline." Standing on the Bella Bella breakwater overlooking Lama Passage, Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett is calm but emphatic. No amount of reassurance or compensation, Slett says, will change her community's stance on the proposed Northern Gateway project.

People in this community of 1,500 say they have relied on the surrounding ocean passages since time before memory. Like many places in B.C., the coastal ecosystem provides Bella Bella with food, transportation, and jobs in fishing and tourism -- a way of life residents fear would be wiped out in an instant by a tanker spill.

The New York Times - America's Tar Sands Complicity

An  editorial in The New York Times, "Canada's Oil, the World's Carbon" stresses that the climate change impacts of Athabasca bitumen  trafficking must not be ignored.

"...the climate question must be addressed, if only to give a full accounting of the range of consequences of developing the tar sands, an effort in which the United States will be complicit if it allows the pipeline. That includes the effect of destroying 740,000 acres of boreal forest (a vital sink for greenhouse gases); the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted in extracting the oil from the tar sands (a highly energy-intensive process); and the gases emitted by burning the oil.

The point was reinforced this month when 10 leading climate scientists sent a letter to Hillary Rodham Clinton asking the State Department to consider how helping to open Canada’s tar sands would affect the planet’s climate. “The vast volumes of carbon in the tar sands ensure that they will play an important role in whether or not climate change gets out of hand,” the letter said.
“Understanding the role this large-scale new pipeline will play in that process is clearly crucial.”

We hope, of course, that the State Department is rigorous in addressing all relevant questions: whether America needs this oil now or in the future; how many jobs the pipeline will actually provide. The department will also be asking about the danger of oil spills. But its report will be incomplete if it does not also consider what the oil flowing through the Keystone XL would spill into the skies — both now and in the future.

Eventually, Canadians will have to accept the link between bitumen trafficking and the climate change impacts that will drive genocide and mass killings elsewhere in the world.   Yes, it's Canada's oil, but that also becomes the world's carbon.   We, all of us, have to wear responsibility for exporting the filthiest fossil fuel on the planet.

Climate Change Will Drive Genocide

By 2030, more than half the world's population will live in areas under "severe water stress."

Unmet demand for food, water and energy, are now seen as reliable indicators of looming genocide or mass killing.

 “We must remain open to the possibility that the past is not necessarily a predictor of where and when mass atrocities will occur, or the means by which they will,” said Chris Kojm, chairman of the National Intelligence Council, a government agency, which will release its first estimate on the threat of genocide and mass killings later this year.

...In areas where there are disproportionate numbers of young men, Mr. Kojm said, the risk of genocide also rises. And, in much the same way that democracies are less likely to go to war than autocracies are, so too, participants said, are autocratically governed countries more likely to engage in genocide or other mass atrocities.

Climate change acts as a “multiplier of other resource crises,” according to Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale University, causing uncertainty about resources, leading to “the ecological panic that I’m afraid will lead to mass killings in the decades to come,” Mr. Snyder told the symposium.

“We’ve entered into this moment of ecological panic,” he said. “Global warming will itself almost certainly directly cause mass killing, but it will likely indirectly cause it” as major states like China and the United States seek to feed their citizens, possibly touching off shortages elsewhere, in places that would then be at risk. China has already begun to act and, in a potential harbinger of future problems, has been investing in farmland in Ukraine and in parts of Africa for a few years.

 With the specter of mounting violence in some countries, the threat of future mass killings was a prime concern.

“The United States and our partners must act before the wood is stacked or the match is struck,”[Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton said, “because when the fire is at full blaze, our options for responding are considerably costlier and more difficult.”

The remarks were made at a conference of foreign policy experts in Washington/

Prosperity = Cultural Superiority, says Romney

As DailyKos puts it, Mitt Romney couldn't order a hamburger without insulting the ketchup and the mustard.

The Prince of Gaffe was at it again in Israel where he told an Israeli audience that the difference between their per capita GDP, $21,000, and that of Palestinians, a mere $10,000, reflected a "dramatically stark difference in economic vitality."

Romney went on to claim that economic history shows that "culture makes all the difference."

The Palestinians were a little miffed that Mitt the Twit didn't figure out that an entire population under occupation might not achieve its full potential quite as easily as its occupiers.   Or the fact that Israel, with its 8-million population, gets a boost from $2.4-billion in US aid annually.

DK wondered whether in light of his fanciful notions of cultural superiority, the American Borat will return home to explain to Republican red state citizens that it's the cultural superiority of the Democratic blue states that leave them so much better off.

Honestly, this guy can't help himself.   He is an utter buffoon and proves it just about everywhere he goes.  Romney stands for nothing, including his own record.   The guy just says whatever he thinks the crowd he's currently addressing wants to hear and when he can't figure that out, he tells them their trees are "just the right height."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ya Think?

Dick "go fuck yourself" Cheney says John McCain's decision in the 2008 campaign to pick Sarah Palin was his vice-presidential running mate was "a mistake."

“I like Governor Palin. I’ve met her. I know her. She – attractive candidate,” Cheney told ABC’s Jonathan Karl. “But based on her background, she’d only been governor for, what, two years. I don’t think she passed that test … of being ready to take over. And I think that was a mistake.”

The former vice president, in his first interview since a successful heart transplant, suggested that Palin’s selection wasn’t well-handled.

“The test to get on that small list has to be, ‘Is this person capable of being president of the United States?’” he said.

Really, Dick, ya think?   Guess what?   John McCain agrees.

Hey Canada, Do You Really Want to Talk?

Having a conversation with a bitumen booster is like talking to a climate change denier.  It's impossible to have a broad-reaching discussion, covering all the bases.   That's because the Tar Sanders have some bases they want to bypass.   They want to narrow the conversation to play into their greatest strengths and ignore everything else.   And are they ever great at playing loose with facts.

Right now they've taken advantage of the B.C. premier's blunders and transformed the Northern Gateway debate into an issue of shakedowns and the constitution.   That lets them avoid discussing what really matters to pipeline opponents, the merits and perils of piping bitumen, or rather dilbit, at all.

The safety and environmental issues are swept aside with a nod.   Sure, fair enough, end of discussion.    They agree that the environment must be safeguarded but they don't want to talk about the reality of that problem.   They don't want to get into how Harper has effectively stripped the B.C. coast of Fisheries and Coast Guard monitors and defenders.   They don't want to explore this supposed oil spill response fleet of vessels that has been assembled; how it can operate only in good weather and calm seas (a relative rarity in the north) and how long it takes to deploy; or how the technology deployed is intended to be used on conventional oil spills and won't work on a bitumen spill.   They don't want to explain how anyone is going to deal with a heavily-laden tanker that loses power or steerage in a Hecate Strait storm where waves can reach 30-meters in height.  They don't want to talk about the closest, ocean-going tugs capable of handling a laden, supertanker failure being based in Anacortes, Washington, three to four days sailing, in good conditions, to northern B.C. They don't want to get into the pipeline operator, Enbridge's sullied and extensive safety record.   They don't want to discuss the seismic and topographical challenges the pipeline would be subject to crossing the B.C. wilderness or the problems associated with cleanup of pipeline spills in that vast emptiness.   They don't want to refute what the Coast Guard types out here are saying, that a supertanker disaster in the Hecate Strait or Dixon Entrance isn't a matter of "if" but a matter of "when and how often."   They don't want to talk about what a bitumen spill would do to the seabed 600-feet down, what it would do to the local ecology or how there's no technology in existence or coming down the pike to do anything about it.   And they sure as hell don't want to talk about the liability cut-outs planned for the Chinese supertanker operators, for Enbridge, for Big Oil and for Alberta and Ottawa that will leave British Columbia on the hook.   Why if this is such a damned good thing for Canada, such a safe venture, have all the key players put in place means to escape liability when it all goes wrong?  If the tanker operators are afraid of it, and Enbridge is afraid of it, and the oil producers are afraid of it and Alberta and Ottawa are afraid of it, shouldn't British Columbians be allowed to ask why?

They claim to agree on environmental protection and then ignore the litany of environmental perils that underlie the bitumen pipelines.   They must be working straight from the old R.J. Reynolds playbook.

They want to pretend that British Columbia's opposition is all about shaking down Alberta.   The rest of the provinces may be content to line up behind Alberta and Ottawa and demand that B.C. lie down and play dead.   We need to talk - about all the issues listed above and more - but unless we can have a discussion on these and some straight answers, there's really nothing to talk about.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The World Sees Romney Just a Bit Differently Today

It was supposed to be what one Guardian pundit called an "easy date."  He meant Mitt Romney's visit to Britain, about the friendliest foreign milieu an American presidential aspirant can hope to find.  But Mitt blew it.  He offended the prime minister, the mayor of London, MI6 and a good chuck of the British public.

Now "Mittens" has some new nicknames from his British visit.   He's "Mitt the Twit" or my favourite, from Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson, "The American Borat."

Romney managed to best some of George W. Bush’s best “hey, did I do that?” moments during his visit when he first dissed the country’s Olympic preparations in an interview. He continued, doubting the country could pull together a proper Olympic brouhaha, and said the people might not “come together” to celebrate the games.

Then he revealed a supposedly secret meeting with Britain’s intelligence agency MI6 to press, further being a general doofus. Amid all the scrutiny, it came to light that Romney cast Britain in an unflattering light in his book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness – a bit of a riff on Mittens’ continued and erroneous assertion that the current POTUS likes to spend his free time apologizing for America in all corners of the globe, a fib that appeals to a certain segment of voters.
In the book, Romney sneers of England:
“England [sic] is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn’t make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn’t been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler’s ambitions. Yet only two lifetimes ago, Britain ruled the largest and wealthiest empire in the history of humankind. Britain controlled a quarter of the earth’s land and a quarter of the earth’s population.”
Clarkson's final tweet sort of said it all -  "Mitt Romney. Go fuck yourself. We are better than you."

If America is Israel's Best Friend, Why Does Israel Respond with Treachery?

The CIA deems Israel America's greatest counterintelligence threat in the Middle East.   This is America as in Israel's hands down greatest benefactor and defender.

The CIA considers Israel its No. 1 counterintelligence threat in the agency's Near East Division, the group that oversees spying across the Middle East, according to current and former officials. Counterintelligence is the art of protecting national secrets from spies. This means the CIA believes that U.S. national secrets are safer from other Middle Eastern governments than from Israel.
Israel employs highly sophisticated, professional spy services that rival American agencies in technical capability and recruiting human sources. Unlike Iran or Syria, for example, Israel as a steadfast U.S. ally enjoys access to the highest levels of the U.S. government in military and intelligence circles.

...Israel is not America's closest ally, at least when it comes to whom Washington trusts with the most sensitive national security information. That distinction belongs to a group of nations known informally as the "Five Eyes." Under that umbrella, the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand agree to share intelligence and not to spy on one another. Often, U.S. intelligence officers work directly alongside counterparts from these countries to handle highly classified information not shared with anyone else.
Israel is part of by a second-tier relationship known by another informal name, "Friends on Friends." It comes from the phrase "Friends don't spy on friends," and the arrangement dates back decades. But Israel's foreign intelligence service, the Mossad, and its FBI equivalent, the Shin Bet, both considered among the best in the world, have been suspected of recruiting U.S. officials and trying to steal American secrets.

...During the Bush administration, the CIA ranked some of the world's intelligence agencies in order of their willingness to help in the U.S.-led fight against terrorism. One former U.S. intelligence official who saw the completed list said Israel, which hadn't been directly targeted in attacks by al-Qaida, fell below Libya, which recently had agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

...Some CIA officials still bristle over the disappearance of a Syrian scientist who during the Bush administration was the CIA's only spy inside Syria's military program to develop chemical and biological weapons. The scientist was providing the agency with extraordinary information about pathogens used in the program, former U.S. officials said about the previously unknown intelligence operation.

At the time, there was pressure to share information about weapons of mass destruction, and the CIA provided its intelligence to Israel. A former official with direct knowledge of the case said details about Syria's program were published in the media. Although the CIA never formally concluded that Israel was responsible, CIA officials complained to Israel about their belief that Israelis were leaking the information to pressure Syria to abandon the program. The Syrians pieced together who had access to the sensitive information and eventually identified the scientist as a traitor.

Before he disappeared and was presumed killed, the scientist told his CIA handler that Syrian Military Intelligence was focusing on him.


Sometimes It's the Hot Button Moments that Smoke Out Scammers

And by scammers I'm referring to the Alberta and Harper governments.   When B.C. premier Christie Clark pushed the revenue-sharing hot button in opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline/supertanker proposal, the scammers showed their hand.

Oh the country would fall apart, they crowed, if provinces could erect walls against inter-provincial transport of goods.  Imagine, they said, if Alberta began levying charges on truckloads of B.C. lumber heading to eastern markets.

Yeah, imagine that?  Only imagine those B.C. trucks plying Alberta highways, not with lumber, but with loads of hazmat cargoes, the type that can wreck ecosystems.   And imagine those B.C. trucks driven by truckers with really bad driving records who just happen to be driving without any insurance.   And imagine those trucks being owned by trucking companies that have no assets to make good on losses they inflicted.   

Imagine that because the scammers won't let on that it's true.   They don't want those details messing up their perfectly lovely straw men.

But, you see, B.C. trucks transiting Alberta do have insurance.   Alberta insists on it.  And they do have to comply with Alberta safety standards and traffic regulations.   Alberta insists on that too.  And if they cause losses while in Alberta, those losses are made good.   But they don't want the same deal for British Columbia on their pipeline scam. 

The margins on this deal are slim.   Athabasca bitumen is expensive stuff.   It's expensive to extract out of the ground, expensive to put in a transportable state, expensive to transport, expensive to process into synthetic petroleum products.   So the bottom line, if it's to be kept in the black, demands corner cutting and an awful lot of looking the other way.

The proposed pipeline operator, Enbridge's safety record is well documented and speaks for itself and it's lousy.   Yet they want British Columbia to look the other way at pipelines crossing truly remote and challenging, seismically active, mountainous terrain to be pumped into the holds of supertankers that will then ply the treacherous waters of the Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance.   And they want British Columbia to ignore the liability cut-outs they have crafted for this scam so that, when catastrophe occurs, they can get away cheap.

From the east we hear a chorus of "jobs, jobs, jobs" and the accusations that British Columbia is a greedy spoiler trying to subvert the best thing Canada has going for it.   Maybe that's the way some see it when they don't have to bear the risks and face the losses.   That's certainly the way Alberta and Ottawa see it.   But they've opened a delightful window that lets us see through them.   We can see this thing is a set up.   Is it really our fault if we don't play along?

Everything You Need to Know About DilBit

Confused about diluted bitumen, the stuff Ottawa and Alberta are so determined to push through British Columbia?  It's not easy to find balanced information on dilbit so it was great to find a "Dilbit Primer" published by Inside Climate News

The primer doesn't answer every question and is remarkably candid about issues that remain uncertain.   Yet it's more than enough to show that we need some answers to some pretty tough questions before leaping headlong into bitumen pipelines to the west coast.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dumb Shit Dies

Some people don't deserve to live.   Michael Bayless was one of them.   The 33-year old from Indiana died when his 3-year old son squeezed the trigger on his dad's loaded handgun.   A family friend is reported to have said Bayless was warned to keep the gun in a safe place. 

Imagine what that 3-year old's life is going to be like from here on in.   He'll grow up knowing that he killed his father and widowed his mother.

Mountie Monty Off the Hook

Recently resigned RCMP coporal Monty Robinson will serve no time for killing a young motorcyclist, Orion Hutchinson in Delta, B.C. in 2008.   Evidence revealed Robinson was driving home from a party where he'd downed five beers.   After hitting Hutchinson, Robinson fled the scene of the accident for his nearby home where he took himself out of a manslaughter charge by drinking liquor there before police officers could arrive.  That way it was impossible for the police to prove Robinson had been drunk behind the wheel.

The best the cops could do was charge Mountie Monty with obstruction of justice which is punishable by up to ten years imprisonment.   The Crown argued for a jail term of a few months but the judge, noting that Robinson was a first offender, an alcoholic and aboriginal, let him off with a month of house arrest and a less restrictive 11-month follow on term.

I think it was completely right for the judge to take the first offender/alcoholic/aboriginal factors into account but she ought to have offset that by the facts that Robinson was a veteran police officer who perverted the system to dodge a manslaughter charge.

Robinson is also facing a perjury charge relating to the killing of Robert Dziekanski at the hands of four RCMP officers at Vancouver Airport.

Why Buy Obsolete Warplanes?

The F-35 is about one thing, stealth.   This light attack bomber sacrifices everything for that one quality, stealth.   It sacrifices payload and range, two pretty important abilities for a penetration bomber intended to attack important targets in heavily defended enemy airspace.   It also sacrifices every quality that makes a great fighter - speed, climb rate and turn rate.   According to a RAND Corporation assessment, the F-35 is an aerial turkey that can't out run, out turn or out climb even older vintage Russian fighters.   But, the argument goes, that all doesn't really matter so long as the bad guys can't detect the F-35, so long as it is cloaked in stealth invisibility.   Does that sound like putting all your eggs in one basket?   It should.

Stealth technology is essentially a gimmick.   The other side already knows how to work around it.  They know that American stealth technology is designed to defeat, under a narrow set of circumstances, X-band radars of the type carried in warplane nose cones.   They also know that this stealth technology remains quite detectable to L-band radars and the Russians have figured out how to retrofit L-band radar arrays into the forward or leading-edge of their fighters' wings.

The Russians know the score.    So do the Americans.    That much was apparent from this passage in a recent article in Aviation Week about Israeli and American defense planners .

"...defense planners in both countries have accepted the fact that stealth is a perishable product with today's designs good for 5-10 years."

Now, do the math.   It's going to be five years, more likely seven, possibly even ten before the F-35 arrives at RCAF hangars.   So it's more than likely that the Canadian F-35s will be effectively D.O.A. - dead on arrival.   Why then are the Conservatives and the RCAF so keen to get our aircrews saddled with the Joint Strike Fighter?

Could it be that the F-35's main mission isn't combat related at all?   Could it be that the F-35 has a political mission, for the government and the armed forces?   Is it Canada's gesture to display our fealty to the U.S., our military's admission ticket to America's Foreign Legion and the upcoming foreign wars?  It's got to be something to get us to squander tens of billions of dollars on a high-tech white elephant with a perishable advantage without which it's just a crummy performer.

He's Back. Stevie Boy's BFF, Bruce Carson, Charged with Fraud

I've been wondering what rock Harper aide Bruce Carson has been hiding under of late.

Bruce Carson, 66, has been charged with one count of what's formally referred to as influence peddling, RCMP said Friday.

He served as Harper's chief policy analyst and fixer from 2006 to 2008 and returned to the prime minister's office briefly in 2009.

Carson is alleged to have accepted commission from a third party in connection to a government business matter.

It's believed Carson was trying to set up a water purification deal to benefit his then 22-year old stripper/escort/girlfriend Michelle McPherson.

American Olympic Hero on "Mitt the Twit" Romney

Nine-time gold medalist Carl Lewis had a pithy comment on Mitt Romney.

I swear, sometimes I think some Americans shouldn’t leave the country. Are you kidding me? Stay home if you don’t know what to say.”

At least Mitt didn't tell the Brits that their trees were just the right height.

And We're Fueling China for What Exactly?

China Operates the Largest Non-Nuclear Icebreaker in the World

Stevie Boy Harper is dead keen on exporting Athabasca bitumen to China, just as much and as fast as he can.   But why is Steve suddenly so fond of China, except perhaps for the way it might let Canada game the U.S. on bitumen prices?

It wasn't long ago that Steve was ready to denounce China and its totalitarian ways at the drop of a hat.   He wasn't reluctant to tell anyone that he didn't like the People's Rep or what it stood for.   Now, somehow, China is Steve's BFF.

But what is the state of Chinese-Canadian relations?  There does seem to be some serious friction.   We have China in the crosshairs when we buy the F-35 stealth light attack bomber.  We're rushing headlong to join America's military "pivot" to Asia.   America wants to get in China's face and we want in on America's action.

That said, maybe our concerns about China are misplaced.   Rather than focusing on military power projection in East Asia, maybe we should be looking to the role China wants in our own far north.  A recent report, from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, "The Arctic Policies of Canada and the United States, Domestic Motives and International Context," suggests that China may be prepared to challenge Canadian Arctic sovereignty

Canada, together with Russia, strongly opposes involving new actors in the Arctic, arguing that Arctic affairs are best left to the Arctic states. This attitude has frustrated a number of actors who perceive that they have a legitimate interest in the region and should be allowed to observe or participate in the Arctic cooper ation. The Canadian attitude to Arctic out siders is clearly illustrated by its reluctance to accept new observers on the Arctic Council. Negotiations on observers—decisions on which are based on consensus—have dragged on for years, with no agreement as to whether ad hoc observers such as China and the European Union (EU) should be granted permanent observer status. Canada has openly opposed granting the EU permanent observer status because of the latter’s ban on imports of seal products, while the current permanent participants—six organizations representing indigenous groups—fear marginal ization if large actors like the EU and China are granted a permanent seat at the table.

Recent statements by China have led to Canadian unease over China’s motives in the Arctic and a fear that it may even be willing to challenge Canada’s sovereignty over the Northwest Passage.8

...Canada’s inclination to exclude is visible not only in the framework of the Arctic Council. In discussions with Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO, Harper stated that he saw no role for NATO in the Arctic and that those non-Arctic members of NATO that sought such a role were looking to increase their influence where ‘they don’t belong’.

Although national security was named as a top priority in the USA’s 2009 presidential directive, it is clear that the US Government does not anticipate any military confrontations in its Arctic areas in either the short or medium terms. Although this view is shared by most observers, a forum to discuss military security is needed to avoid suspicion and misinterpretations. The Arctic Council’s mandate is limited on this issue and Canada has made it clear that NATO is not the venue for these discussions. Canada and the USA can still address military issues bilaterally through NORAD and multilaterally through the annual meetings of Arctic defence chiefs that Canada has initiated.

And the Chinese have been pretty open about their views of China's interests - resource, commercial and military - in the Arctic.

Chinese researchers are publicly encouraging the government to actively prepare for the commercial and strategic oppor-tunities that a melting Arctic presents. Li Zhenfu of Dalian Maritime Uni-versity has, together with a team of specialists, assessed China’s advantages and disadvantages when the Arctic sea routes open up.  ‘Whoever has control over the Arctic route will control the new passage of world economics and international strategies’, writes Li, referring both to the shortened shipping routes between East Asia and Europe or North America and to the abundant oil, gas, mineral and fishery resources presumed to be in the Arctic.

...Li points out that the Arctic also ‘has significant military value, a fact recognized by other countries’. In a rare open-source article about the Arctic by an officer of the People’s Liberation Army, Senior Colonel Han Xudong warns that the possibility of use of force cannot be ruled out in the Arctic due to complex sovereignty disputes.

If China is poised to become a strategic rival to Canada in the Arctic even to the point of wielding military muscle in the far north, why is Canada focusing on East and Southeast Asia?   Why are we so driven to buy a hyper-expensive, underperforming warplane that is so obviously unsuited to the very place we will most need an airpower presence?   And why are we allowing China to snap up Tar Sands assets and building them a pipeline to access this strategic resource?   This may be of genuine and highly lucrative benefit to foreign-owned oil companies that dominate the Tar Sands but are their interests, China's and Canada's coterminous?

About That Link Between CO2 and Warming

A team of Australian and Danish researchers has shown that CO2 was more instrumental in ending the last ice age than previously believed.   The scientists examined ancient air trapped in Antarctic ice.

''The results show that the temperature rise and the CO2 increase were much closer than what was believed before,'' said the study's lead author, Joel Pedro, a researcher at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Hobart. ''It shows that the process of warming and CO2 rises in the past were actually very fast - though what's happening now is much faster.''

The study, published in the journal Climate of the Past, narrows the window of uncertainty around how long it took for slight natural changes in the Earth's temperature to be propelled by rising levels of greenhouse gases. Instead of an estimate of thousands of years, the results show a period of about 400 years in which the world switched from a frozen place to one which was decisively warming up.
It implies that the changes in the Earth's climate, now being driven by human emissions of greenhouse gases, could happen more suddenly.

A US ice core expert from the University of Washington, Eric Steig, said the paper represented a significant advance. ''I cannot emphasise enough how important this result is,'' Professor Steig said in a statement, after reviewing the findings.

Climate Skeptics Really Are the Tin Foil Hat Brigade

New research confirms the nutjob factor is alive and well among those who refuse to accept the reality of global warming.

People who endorsed conspiracy theories such as "9/11 was an inside job" and "the moon landings were faked", were also more likely to reject established scientific facts about climate change, such as "I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years has increased atmospheric temperatures to an appreciable degree."

...The findings provide yet more evidence that a rejection of climate science has more to with ideological views than scientific literacy, bolstering the well-supported finding that climate change scepticism is more likely to be found on the right, than on the left of politics. But they go a step further, adding an important layer of detail to the crude characterisation of climate change scepticism as a "conservative" issue.

The link between endorsing conspiracy theories and rejecting climate science facts suggests that it is the libertarian instinct to stick two fingers up at the mainstream – whatever the issue – that is important. Because a radical libertarian streak is the hallmark of free-market economics, and because free market views are popular on the political right, this is where climate change scepticism is most likely to be found.

The SEC Weighs in on Climate Change

Climate change is a fact and, according to the powerful U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, it's a material fact that companies must disclose to their investors in SEC filings.  Agribusiness has obvious climate change vulnerabilities, everything from floods and droughts to pests.   This vulnerability to climate change impacts now has to be addressed, brought out in the open.

This has led the Ceres business consultancy, in conjunction with Oxfam USA and Calvert Investments, to issue a report, "Physical Risks from Climate Change."  The report, available free in pdf format, canvasses both disclosure obligations and specific risks to industry by sector, including agriculture, apparel, electricity, oil and gas, insurance, mining and tourism.   The document ends with a discussion of risk management strategies and an investor disclosure checklist.

Politicians can continue to duck and weave on climate change.   A good many of them are paid to do just that.   But it's the private sector and the regulatory agencies that are overtaking the political classes.   They can't pretend that climate change is a myth, a hoax.   They have to work from the bottom line.

A Common Sense Admiral

Jonathan Greenert says he supports the F-35 light strike bomber but the man does have reservations.

Admiral Greenert has whipped up a storm by saying that advantages from America’s prized stealth technology will be “difficult to maintain”. The other side’s sensors, he argues, may operate at lower electromagnetic frequencies than stealth technologies are designed to frustrate, and may use exponentially increasing processing power to work out where the stealth platform is from different angles or aspects. In other words, in the continuing struggle between hiders and finders, America will increasingly labour to keep the advantage it has enjoyed for two decades.

The admiral therefore calls for a shift from relying solely on stealth to using stand-off weapons, fired from such a distance that adversaries cannot shoot back, or by unmanned systems; or employing electronic-warfare devices to confuse or jam the other side’s sensors, rather than trying to hide from them. The unstated implication is that there are other ways of doing the same job as the stealthy F-35 more cheaply and more successfully.  

...the admiral’s argument, outlined in Proceedings, published by the United States Naval Institute, also has a wider theme. Military procurement is too focused on building ever-costlier new ships and aircraft of complex design, with built-in capabilities to meet specific threats. Instead of procurement being “platform-centric”, he wants it to be “payload-centric”: highly adaptable platforms able to carry weapons and sensors that can be added or removed, depending on the mission or on technological progress.
The “luxury-car” platforms designed in the last days of the cold war (and which still dominate much military procurement) have not adapted well to changes in security and technology, he says. Such platforms must always carry the sophisticated equipment to defeat a sophisticated foe. Yet much of this may be irrelevant to the navy’s typical missions in the past 20 years: counter-terrorism, anti-piracy, mine-clearing, maritime patrolling and carrier operations in support of counter-insurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

...Peter Singer, an expert on future weapons at the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, is more sceptical. He fears that advances in Chinese and Russian air-defence systems are eroding the advantages of stealth, and that the F-35 is further hobbled by its limited range. “It has very short legs,” he says, shorter than some planes from the second world war. It may be better “to play a different game”, relying more on precision strikes from afar, perhaps using hybrid transport-bombers carrying cruise missiles or swarms of drones. Because the F-35 has turned out to be so costly (after years of delays and cost overruns, the bill is now $396 billion), he fears it could blight the development of more capable systems. But whatever reservations the navy may have about the F-35, he notes that the Pentagon has deemed the programme “too big to fail”. Agreeing with Admiral Greenert’s analysis, Mr Singer asks: “Will it lead to any change in policy? That is the test.”

Greenert's arguments are sound.   The F-35's advantage is high-tech.   High-tech has a short shelf life before it's overtaken, superseded.   It is important to evaluate the F-35 according to how it would perform if that one advantage was nullified.   Without "stealth" what is it?   Will it work?  What will it do?  And we have the answers to all those questions.   Basically, without stealth the F-35 is aerial dead meat.   As the RAND Corporation noted a few years ago, it can't outrun, out-climb, or out-turn even its existing adversaries.  It has limited range and limited payload.   Yet it's so costly, so over priced, that our aircrews are going to be saddled with it for 30-years minimum.  The F-35, at year 10, could be an insurmountable obstacle to getting our aircrews something much better.

We've seen what "too big to fail" means and, even if that holds true for the F-35 and the Pentagon, there's no reason Canada needs to pile on.   At best, the F-35 does one thing well but it doesn't and it won't do the very things that Canada needs and will increasingly need in the far north.   On that score, the F-35 will be a net loss for Canada. 

Update - I found this Aviation Week link over at Mark Collins' blog.   It relates to discussions between Israeli and American planners that accept the reality of a short shelf-life for the F-35's stealth advantage.

Moreover, defense planners in both countries have accepted the fact that stealth is a perishable product with today's designs good for 5-10 years, while the airframes themselves will operate for 30-40 years; this will drive them to adopt advanced cyber and electronic warfare options to protect their aircraft as they mature.

Five to ten years, that's it.   And when will Canada's F-35s become operational?   Somewhere between five to ten years from now.   These slow, unmaneuverable, short-range and small-payload light attack bombers will be largely obsolete by the time they reach Canadian air force hangars.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

This Is Greatness

Since I was 14, maybe 15, this was my favourite band.  40-years later it still is. This was probably this band at it's peak - 1978.   Magic.

The Northern Gateway Liability Trap

A major part of Harper's perfidy lies in the way the Northern Gateway is structured with liability cut-outs to let the major players escape liability.   IslandTides.com has an eye-opening feature on how coastal B.C. is being hung out to dry.   In another column, retired CBC journo Patrick Brown outlines the truly diabolical nature of the diluted bitumen Harper and Enbridge want to bring to British Columbia and our coast.

Read these reports.   Read how badly we're being set up.   Then explain what kind of government would do this to its own people.

What's Up? Flash Floods, That's What.

From Britain to Africa, America to China and Russia, India to Canada, no corner of the world seems immune to flash flooding.   Is global warming the culprit?   In most cases, probably.

We done gone and broke the hydrological cycle.

How we broke it is as easy to understand as it is to prove with basic meteorolgical instruments.   We have warmed the atmosphere.   Not as much as we will warm it over the balance of this century but already enough to alter the hydrological cycle.   A warmer atmosphere coupled with global warming increases the evaporation of surface water into water vapour.   You wind up with more water vapour heading into the atmosphere which, as luck would have it, is likewise warmer so it can hold more water vapour.   Think of it as shifting the Earth's water from the ground to the sky.

Because the warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapour it doesn't have to return that to the surface as rain or snow as it once did the way we came to expect it over the past centuries.   Now it's more likely to skip some places altogether and hit others with deluges that cause flash floods.

So, what are we going to do about it.   In the worst-hit spots we can implement adaptation measures, floodways and such, but the real cause is warming and we're not on track to do anything about that.  How bad could it get?   Well the Brits have been warned that they could have a four fold increase in flooding by 2035.

As severe floods continue to batter parts of Britain after the wettest June since records began, around one in seven homes and businesses face some kind of flood risk, the climate advisers said.

Around 160,000 properties would be at risk by 2035 if better planning and more investment was made in flood defenses, compared with 610,000 at risk if no action was taken, they said.

Like every other climate change impact, we in Canada - especially our political classes - are paying no heed, none whatsoever.   We're just whistling past the graveyard.

Are You Part of the Problem?

Chris Hedges' latest column for TruthDig explores how western society has degenerated into myopic careerism in which facts and reality are impertinences.

David Lloyd George, who was the British prime minister during the Passchendaele campaign, wrote in his memoirs: “[Before the battle of Passchendaele] the Tanks Corps Staff prepared maps to show how a bombardment which obliterated the drainage would inevitably lead to a series of pools, and they located the exact spots where the waters would gather. The only reply was a peremptory order that they were to ‘Send no more of these ridiculous maps.’ Maps must conform to plans and not plans to maps. Facts that interfered with plans were impertinencies.”  

Here you have the explanation of why our ruling elites do nothing about climate change, refuse to respond rationally to economic meltdown and are incapable of coping with the collapse of globalization and empire. These are circumstances that interfere with the very viability and sustainability of the system. And bureaucrats know only how to serve the system. They know only the managerial skills they ingested at West Point or Harvard Business School. They cannot think on their own. They cannot challenge assumptions or structures. They cannot intellectually or emotionally recognize that the system might implode. And so they do what Napoleon warned was the worst mistake a general could make—paint an imaginary picture of a situation and accept it as real. But we blithely ignore reality along with them. The mania for a happy ending blinds us. We do not want to believe what we see. It is too depressing. So we all retreat into collective self-delusion.

...Blaise Pascal wrote in “Pensées,” “We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us from seeing it.”

...These armies of bureaucrats serve a corporate system that will quite literally kill us. They are as cold and disconnected as Mengele. They carry out minute tasks. They are docile. Compliant. They obey. They find their self-worth in the prestige and power of the corporation, in the status of their positions and in their career promotions. They assure themselves of their own goodness through their private acts as husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. They sit on school boards. They go to Rotary. They attend church. It is moral schizophrenia. They erect walls to create an isolated consciousness. They make the lethal goals of ExxonMobil or Goldman Sachs or Raytheon or insurance companies possible. They destroy the ecosystem, the economy and the body politic and turn workingmen and -women into impoverished serfs. They feel nothing.  

Metaphysical naiveté always ends in murder. It fragments the world. Little acts of kindness and charity mask the monstrous evil they abet. And the system rolls forward. The polar ice caps melt. The droughts rage over cropland. The drones deliver death from the sky. The state moves inexorably forward to place us in chains. The sick die. The poor starve. The prisons fill. And the careerist, plodding forward, does his or her job.

Oh Those Wacky Conservatives

From McClatchey Newspapers

Harper Ditches the Snitches

Why has Stevie Boy Harper gutted fisheries and marine protection services and staff, leaving the British Columbia coast seriously unprotected, just as he's pushing through the greatest environmental threat our coast has ever seen?

Firing monitoring and research staff, entire departments, at Fisheries and Oceans.   Relocating the west coast oil spill emergency centre from, well, the west coast to Quebec?   Closing major Coast Guard stations?   Why all of this?   Why now?   There's only one answer.  To Harper, the people who protect our coastal environment and our fisheries are potential snitches who'll blow the whistle on him and his Alberta pals.

In today's Times Colonist, Jack Knox interviewed Allan Hughes, who represents 100-Coast Guard members who serve as our marine traffic controllers.

They have a lot of questions about Enbridge's proposal to ship Alberta heavy oil from Kitimat, particularly with Ottawa reducing safety measures on the coast.

Much ado has been made about the federal government's budget-cutting plan to shut the coast guard operation in Vancouver. Less attention has been paid to the closing of two other marine communications and traffic services centres in Comox and Ucluelet, which will leave just the two remaining stations in Sidney and Prince Rupert to handle the entire West Coast. Not only does that mean a loss of local knowledge, but half of the coast could go unmonitored when communications systems fail, Hughes says.

...It can take several minutes to extract even the most basic information from bridge watch-keepers whose grasp of English is tenuous - and when you're in congested waters, you don't have minutes to react.

Hughes' members tell him language issues mean some foreign-flagged ships pose a higher risk of grounding or being involved in collisions, which makes those members wonder whose tankers would carry the heavy, gooey Alberta bitumen from Kitimat.

Note that B.C.'s northern waters are sufficiently treacherous that for decades tankers carrying Alaska crude have complied with a voluntary ban on sailing them. Instead, oil-carriers stay well out to sea before turning into Juan de Fuca Strait. How is it that an area deemed too dangerous for U.S. tankers is safe enough for others?

"The fact they intend to transit Hecate Strait or Dixon Entrance in winter is a disaster waiting to happen," Hughes says.

Knox asks a question that's had a lot of us wondering.   Just what is our premier, Christie Clark, playing at?   Is she actually Harper's and Enbridge's Judas Goat?

Funny how in a single day the debate moved from whether B.C. should back the pipeline to how much we should get for doing so.

Before fighting over how to divide the pie, shouldn't we decide whether to bake it at all?

And shouldn't we be asking Ottawa why it is cutting coastal safety at the same time it raises the risk?

Names such as Hecate Strait, Dixon Entrance or Second Narrows don't mean much east of the British Columbia/Alberta border but they mean a great deal to those who have navigated them and know how treacherous they can be.   Yet they're not nearly as treacherous as Steve Harper, Enbridge, the Alberta government, our Petro-Parliament and a nation largely indifferent to the perils of the west coast.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bitumen's Oh So Dirty Little Secrets

There are some things that never come up when discussing the Athabasca Tar Sands or shipping bitumen to China.

The difference between bitumen and conventional oil never comes up.  Bitumen isn't oil.   In it's processed, or upgraded, form its a sludge that has to be diluted and heated in order to pump it through pipelines. 

Bitumen is diluted with a chemical soup brought to our shores in tankers and pumped via pipelines to Alberta.   Once they're combined you have a product called "dil-bit" or diluted bitumen that can then be heated and pumped at high pressure through pipelines.

Dil-bit is nasty stuff.   It contains high levels of pipeline eating acids and abrasives.  It literally scours the pipeline walls as it passes through them.  It also contains high levels of heavy metals, carcinogens and other toxins.  It's wicked stuff.

Dil-bit is necessary for just one purpose - to enable bitumen to be transported to distant refineries where it can be turned into synthetic crude oil and other petroleum products.

By now you may be asking the routinely unasked and never answered question, why dil-bit?   Why bother transporting this dangerous product to refineries thousands of miles away, placing everything between the Tar Sands and the distant refineries at unnecessary risk?   Why not simply complete the refining of bitumen in Alberta and then ship much more benign, far less hazardous synthetic crude to overseas markets?   Interesting question and the key to this whole sordid business.

Foreign customers want the raw stuff delivered to them because they have excess refining capacity.   It's actually cheaper to ship dilutent in tankers to Alberta and the mixed dil-bit back to these remote refineries than to pay to have the stuff refined, on site, in Alberta.  And because, dangerous as that might be, it greatly improves the bottom line royalties that Alberta and Ottawa get for nothing.  In other words, it's better to leave British Columbia  at enormous risk of environmental catastrophe than to do the right thing and refine the gunk in Alberta.

You see, bitumen as a petroleum source is a dodgy proposition.  It's expensive stuff to extract and process and ship.   That really narrows the profit margins.   Andrew Coyne inadvertently made the point in his latest piece where he discussed the suggestion that we "should build a pipeline to carry oil from Alberta to the eastern provinces and beyond," which he noted the powers that be admit, "the economic case isn't there."

In other words it's not economical to ship Alberta sludge east.   That's a losing proposition.   But it is economical, profitable, to send it to tankers at docks on the B.C. coast.   Yet that too is only profitable if you don't have to carry the cost of British Columbia's environmental risks on your books.

But there's another reason why Ottawa and Alberta don't want to refine their crud in Alberta. The refining process would require a great deal of energy and generate significant amounts of carbon emissions neither Ottawa nor Alberta want to carry on Alberta's already overburdened books.   So, out of sight/out of mind, just so long as British Columbia carries the risks.

Bitumen or refined, synthetic crude.   That ought to be what this battle is about.   At least synthetic crude can have the abrasives, acids, carcinogens and heavy metals refined out of it.   And synthetic crude oil, unlike bitumen, floats and so gives us a chance of containing coastal spills.   And with only refined, synthetic crude being shipped we would need just half the tanker trips, cutting the already high risks by almost half.   But Ottawa and Alberta don't want to do that.   They don't want to do the right thing.   So long as British Columbia carries the risks, why should they trouble themselves with carbon emissions, energy demands and putting their bitumen into a relatively safe form?

Are We Going This Alone?

Will British Columbians stand alone against Alberta's bitumen pipelines?

What I'm reading is that the populations of other provinces seem to support the Northern Gateway and Kinder-Morgan pipeline/bitumen-supertanker initiatives.   And that's certainly the way Ottawa and Alberta are attacking British Columbia.

Our unelected, unelectable and outgoing premier, Christie Clark, isn't helping matters.   She argues, correctly, that it's unfair that Alberta and Ottawa get all the gravy out of these ventures while British Columbia has to bear the risk inevitable environmental catastrophe.   Unfortunately, Clark is using that indisputable point to demand a cut of the action.

Jason Kenney came to Victoria to play frontman for Harper.

"I think taking a balkanized approach to the federation is unhelpful," Kenney said. "The notion that there are 10 separate fiefdoms and you have to tollgate everything you move from east to west would massively undermine the whole concept of an economic union and efficient operation of the Canadian economy," he said.

Yet the threat is very "Balkanized."  It is British Columbia that is imperiled - our lands and our coast.   Ontario isn't affected by that, nor is Quebec, Nova Scotia, Manitoba or Nunavut.  Only one province, one people are in the crosshairs of this goddamned business.
 It may well be that, within Confederation, British Columbia is powerless to stop this monstrosity from being forced on us.   If we can't as a province safeguard our land and our coasts from this, then it's obviously going to have to be civil disobedience on a large scale and, if that doesn't work, revolt and the end of this Confederation.

For all Alberta grumbles about western separatism, British Columbians aren't necessarily adverse to the idea only without Alberta in the mix.   No one is championing the cause now but that could change easily if Ottawa uses force and imprisonment to push this down our throats.

I wholeheartedly believe these pipelines will cause civil disobedience on a scale vastly beyond anything in the Canadian experience.   Try to get your mind around hundreds, probably thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens being jailed again and again and again.   That sort of sustained confrontation Ottawa cannot win and Canada might not survive.

How to Fight Climate Change Deniers

Our problem coping with climate change skeptics could be solved, perhaps, by bringing them out in the open - the lot of them, all at once.

Climate change science mainly goes in one direction.   Whether the discipline is geology, biology, botany, atmospherics, hydrology, glaciology, epidemiology, oceanography, chemistry, you name it, the research is mostly corroborative of the central theory of anthropogenic global warming.

Climate change denialism, however, is not cohesive, anything but.   Instead of coming to a premise based on collective knowledge and facts, denialism begins with a premise - man-made global warming is untrue - and then tries to create facts to support it.   And, when it comes to creating those supporting facts, almost anything goes - conspiracy, hoax, sunspots, natural variation, socialist plots, men from Mars - it's all good.

When denialists gather, once or twice a year, you can have all these whacko theories presented and they're all accepted, even though they're widely inconsistent and often contradictory.    What emerges are a dozen or more people gathered in the same room each with a different reality.   Now in the real world we call that an asylum.

A lot of people don't grasp the importance of the multi-disciplinary corroborative element to climate science.   That needs to change.   Somehow the message must get out that the theory of global warming is being put to the test within all of these scientific fields and the resulting research is confirming the basic theory of global warming.   These scientists are seeing what should exist based on the theory of global warming.   Hydrologists are finding it.   Geologists are finding it.   Biologists, botanists and zoologists are finding it.   So too are chemists, oceanographers, glaciologists, even epidemiologists.   And all their independent research and knowledge is confirming the central theory.

Denialists don't confirm anything.   They conjure up theories, dozens of them, to refute the one theory they can neither contradict nor disprove.   So let's get them out in the open, collectively, and let's show them for the scoundrels and lunatics they are, and let the public truly see them for what they are.

Every Man for Himself - Canadians Losing Faith in Government

We have lost confidence in government, provincial and federal, to tackle pressing issues.   It seems we have finally realized the people who are at the driver's seat are asleep at the wheel and content to remain that way.

"... a new Institute for Research on Public Policy-Nanos Research survey suggests a lack of confidence in the ability of provincial and federal governments to solve some pressing issues.

The findings, to be published next week in Policy Options magazine, attempt to connect issues Canadians identified as their top priorities with the confidence they felt in federal and provincial governments' ability to find solutions.

"When Canadians see their elected officials gathering, they expect them to do something. They expect them to accomplish something," he says.

"Canadians are more likely not to have confidence, and the sad thing is that confidence relates to many issues that are very very important to them. I think it’s almost a public policy despair," Nanos adds.

Not surprisingly, Nanos found the Harper Conservatives are "cherry picking" issues that are easy to deliver results on and dodging the tough problems such as climate change, education and improving living standards.   Collecting cheques form foreigners extracting and peddling bitumen, however, seems entirely suited to this government's abilities.   Just don't ask them to do anything to make Canada a decent place for your grandkids.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is Vic Toews Responsible for Hikes in Canada's Homicide and Child Abuse Crimes?

To hear the Minister of Family Values and Random Diddling, Vic Toews tell it, he's responsible for the overall drop in Canada's crime rate even though it has been declining steadily since 1992.  Well, if Toews is to claim credit for the by now predictable drop in overall crime, surely that means he should be held responsible for the spike in homicides and sex crimes against children on his watch.

As the graph reveals, Canadian crime rates have been dropping pretty steadily for the past 20-years.

Toews may want to credit the Conservatives' omnibus crime bill for the decrease but, then again, that's what they would do even though the bill was only passed in December and therefore had no impact whatsoever on these statistics.

Will Israel Take Out Assad?

It sounds like a bad dream until you factor in two things.   One, Assad has announced he has WMDs, chemical and biological, at his disposal and he's prepared to use them to thwart potential foreign intervenion.   Two, Assad's days are probably numbered and it's possible those WMDs could fall right into the hands of Islamist radicals who might be all too willing to use them against Israel.

I don't ordinarily have much sympathy for Israel but this situation is one in which that state faces a plausible existential threat.

Perhaps the most ominous words uttered in recent months by Ehud Barak, the influential Israeli defense minister, came in the form of a paradoxical reassurance. "I believe and hope that there will be no war this summer, but that is all that can be said at this time," he said in a televised interview on Friday.

Conventional wisdom has it that the louder the Israeli threats of war, the less likely that a war is imminent - and, in certain situations such as the present one, vice versa. Earlier this year, threats were flying - Barak was talking about the Iranian nuclear program entering an "immunity zone" by the end of the summer - but more recently this has changed dramatically. As Reuters observed two months ago, Israeli officials have gone into anominous "lock down."  Now comes Barak's statement.

The million-dollar question is, which war. From a narrow Israeli perspective, war may in fact be avoidable and all the threats - Barak is certainly aware of the ripple effect of his words - could be primarily defensive in nature. With the entire region in flux and its home front underprepared (only 53% of Israelis, for example, are equipped with gas masks), Israel might ideally prefer to save its shots.

From a broader regional perspective, the civil war in Syria is already a fact, and it looks as if the violence, both there and elsewhere, can only explode further. At some point in the near future, somebody will likely feel compelled to intervene, if not against the Iranian nuclear program, then against the Syrian chemical and biological weapons, if not through a full-scale attack then by a "surgical strike". If not Israel, this would most likely be the United States, though other regional players also stand ready to weigh in. In many ways, it's a war of nerves as much as it is a diplomatic bazaar, and it is hard to tell who will blink first and what deals will be struck.

...any Israeli intervention, save perhaps for a very brief and pointed strike, could rally popular support behind Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and thus backfire spectacularly. Other Arab states might face public pressure to shift their stance as well, and the coalition against Assad may come under strain. (During the First Persian Gulf War, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein sought to exploit this dynamic by firing Scud missiles at Israel.)

Also, Syria's response to an Israeli incursion could escalate much more quickly and to much more gruesome levels than that against other aggressors. As the Syrian foreign ministry spokesman put it on Monday, "These [chemical and biological] weapons are stored and secured by Syrian military forces and under its direct supervision and will never be used unless Syria faces external aggression."  It should be noted that the Syrian regime is almost as unlikely to use weapons of mass destruction against another Muslim country as it is against its own population, which leaves Israel the main target of its current threats.

There seems to be no way to predict what could happen but this is definitely a high stakes game, the biggest in the M.E. in a long, long time.

Afghan Cop Squad Defects to the Taliban

An Afhgan police commander and 13 of his officers have joined the Taliban.   The commander apparently poisoned 7-officers who refused to defect.   The party fled taking heavy weapons, radios and vehicles including several Hummers.   The defection occured in Farah province, a territory that adjoins Iran.

British Columbia's Sordid Premier

There's something really sleazy about BC premier Christie Clark.   Faced with growing public opposition to the Northern Gateway and Kinder-Morgan bitumen pipeline trafficking, she sat mute for months as her own and her party's fortunes tanked.

Finally she stood up on her hind legs and announced the pipeline/supertanker business was just too environmentally risky for British Columbia.   Then the other shoe dropped when Crispy said she might look the other way if Alberta and Ottawa cut Victoria in on the action and, of course, pretended to make the whole thing environmentally safe (har, har).

Our unelected, unelectable, outgoing premier gave Alberta premier Alison Redford a perfect opportunity to scream "shakedown."  Redford said there'll be no backdoor profit sharing with B.C.  

Opposition Wildrose leader Danielle Smith made it sound like a hostage taking.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said sharing energy revenue with B.C. would be “problematic for Alberta because we don’t do that.”

“Alberta can’t allow any of its resource revenue to be shared with other jurisdictions because that’s not how it works,” she said. “If B.C. wants to have that discussion, they need to have it with Ottawa.”

And, to keep the fires stoked in British Columbia, Alberta Intergovernmental Relations Minister Cal Dallas compared leaky bitumen pipelines crossing British Columbia and supertankers threatening our coast to Alberta allowing British Columbia forest products to be shipped across the Wild Rose province.  Nice one, you sphincter.

Now it's Harper who has his nuts in a vise.  He's got to cut some deal with B.C. very soon because Crispy and her pack of used car salesmen will be out of work next year and the incoming NDP government has promised to kill the pipelines.   So now you've got cheesy meeting greasy.   Hey, isn't that the recipe for political poutine?

The State of the Plate Report - Slim Pickins

Where do global warming, water scarcity and overpopulation collide?   On dinner plates around the world.

When everything works as we want it to, year in and year out, we can realistically feed 7, perhaps even 9-billion people.   But everything isn't working quite right these days.

The hydrological cycle is broken.   The evidence of that is in the floods and droughts that are hammering just about every corner of the world.   Some places get whipsawed between the two.   Britain, for example, went through a year of severe drought only to transition into severe floods that have swept the country from Scotland to Wales.   Australia has had a similar experience.

Sometimes it doesn't matter.   To a pastoral herder in Africa, it doesn't matter whether his cattle succumb to drought or deluge.

The hydrological cycle is vital to agriculture.   You can't grow food in fields that are flooded or in fields that are baked and parched.  You need rain - not too much, not too little - at every stage of the growing cycle between planting and harvest.   If you don't get it when you need it or get too much of it, you don't get a good crop and perhaps none.

Food insecurity may turn out to be the sharp edge of the climate change wedge.   World leaders, especially those in the pocket of the fossil fuelers, can shuck and jive over CO2 emissions but the destabilizing effects of food insecurity can't be swept under a fossil fuel carpet.

The Arab Spring was the result of a culmination of influences of which food insecurity was a key factor.   Food insecurity throws a glaring floodlight on inequality and despotism and can spark popular uprisings.

With the severe drought sweeping the U.S. this summer and devastating what was to have been a bumper corn crop, that leaves China, Russia and America - three of the four top grain producers - in a bad way.   Only India has fared better but this year's Monsoon has been disappointing.  Indian authorities warn that unless rainfall improves India faces a drinking water and crop planting crisis

The elusive monsoon in 2012 has caused a water shortage of 61% from a year ago and threatens to cause a drinking water and crop sowing crisis.

The total deficit so far this season is 22%, but rainfall has been 40% below average in key crop-growing areas in the north and northwest.

India's 84 important reservoirs are filled only to 19% capacity, which is 41% lower than last year.

American authorities have already warned that this year's crop failures will result in a sharp drop in corn exports.

America is the world's largest producer of corn, dominating the market. Corn is also connected to many food items – as feed for dairy cows or for hogs and beef cattle, as a component in processed food – expanding the impact of those price rises.

That means the effects of the drought will travel far beyond the mid-western states baking under triple-digit temperatures, said Robert Thompson, a food security expert at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs.

"What happens to the US supply has an immense impact around the world. If the price of corn rises high enough, it also pulls up the price of wheat," he said.

He went on: "I think we are in for a very serious situation worldwide."

Some analysts are predicting a repetition of the 2008 protests that swept across Africa and the Middle East, including countries like Egypt, because of food prices.

Maybe, just maybe, it will be a collapse of global grain reserves that finally pressures world leaders into meaningful action on climate change.