Friday, August 31, 2012

That's It, We're Done - Sorry Guys

Women may soon not need men to procreate.   Welsh scientists have managed to create sperm from a female human embryo and figure they may do even better using female bone marrow.   The breakthrough suggests it may become possible for lesbian couples to have their own biological children, sans the standard male sperm donor.

But wait, that means that any woman, regardless of gender orientation, would be able to have children without the need for a male participant.   We're done.   We'll be as obsolete as mechanical typewriters or horse-drawn ploughs.   And, once we're seen as redundant, how long before we're seen as outcasts?   Then it will be women who only want us for one thing, maybe.

The Elusive Reality of Afghanistan

Now, after more than a decade of accomplishing astonishingly little, Western military leaders are working hard on polishing the narrative for their war in Afghanistan.  It's unclear who they plan to finger as the fall guy but it will undoubtedly begin with, "we won all the battles."

Yes, we won all the battles - the battles that didn't really matter.   How could we not have won?  We had our enemy outnumbered.   We alone had the artillery, tanks, armoured vehicles, attack helicopters, jet fighters and drones.   They were outnumbered farmers armed with Korean War vintage assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades plus masses of high explosive left over from the Soviet days.

Now we're supposedly packing up, getting ready to hand the war back to the Afghans.   We're supposedly training a new, effective Afghan army to continue the battle against the Taliban.  All's well that ends well, right?   Apparently not.

EVERY night, as the evening call to prayer ends its slow passage across the dusty Afghan army training centre on the outskirts of Kabul, hundreds of Afghan army recruits tread a weary path from the drill fields to the prefabricated barrack houses where they sleep. Once inside, a senior Afghan National Army officer goes from dormitory to dormitory locking the doors. From the outside.

The soldiers, who spend 10 weeks undergoing basic training before being posted into service, are sealed inside their barracks to try to stop them slipping off during the night. It is all part of the frantic effort by NATO-led forces to bolster the ranks of the Afghan National Army (ANA) in the lead-up to the withdrawal of most of the Western military troops by 2014.

Yet, the nightly lockdown lays bare the many uncertainties and contradictions that underlie the confident rhetoric of Western political leaders that they are building up the Afghan army to be the primary bulwark against ''re-Talibanisation'' of Afghanistan.

...Several senior ISAF officers in Kabul have recently confirmed to The Saturday Age that the issue of ''insider threat'' is the top priority for international forces during this fighting season.

All combat deaths are harrowing, but those caused by firefights and the now infamous improvised explosive devices do not sap morale in quite the same way as attacks from the people who are meant to be on your side.

What is worrying seasoned observers is that insider attacks are becoming, it seems, the latest tactic of choice for the Taliban, which cannot prevail against the vastly better-equipped Western forces in conventional combat. Last year green-on-blue attacks claimed the lives of 35 foreign soldiers under ISAF command.

This year, there have been 48 such deaths, including those on Wednesday - and there are still four months of the year to run.

 ...the evidence is mounting that the spike in green-on-blue casualties is all part of a deliberate strategy by the Taliban, backed by its allies in Pakistan and Iran's intelligence services.

Leading defence and strategic analyst Professor Alan Dupont, a former army intelligence officer now at the University of New South Wales, says the use of Afghan soldiers to attack the West is a ''thought-through strategy and program'' by the Taliban.

''It is supported by the intelligence services of, I believe, Iran and Pakistan as a way of inflicting the most psychological and political impact on the Western forces there,'' Dupont told The Saturday Age.

''And it's a clever strategy. There is no question that the Pakistani [intelligence service] is covertly supporting the Taliban and to some extent strategising and directing a lot of it.''

A former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, believes there is much more to come.

''It's a horrible thing to say, but it's just another insurgency tactic,'' he told ABC Radio yesterday. ''I think they [green-on-blue attacks] will increase. They [the Taliban] are determined to make sure that we appear to leave with a bloody nose.'' is becoming increasingly difficult to argue that the Afghan army is progressing with anything like the speed ISAF desires.

Recent data published by the Pentagon suggests the attrition rate in the ANA in the 12 months to November last year was a staggering 32 per cent, of which the overwhelming majority were soldiers deserting their posts.

And while the Afghan army has a listed strength of about 175,000 and must reach 300,000 soldiers by 2014, senior officers in Kabul suggest the reality is that there is probably something like 100,000 Afghan soldiers actually on duty.

If we can't even leave behind a functioning, reliable Afghan Army capable of defending the country into the foreseeable future, what have we achieved?  

We owe it to the men and women who served Canada so well in Afghanistan to get to the bottom of where this all went so wrong.   We need to explore and understand the utter failure of our civilian and military leadership and that is going to mean accepting the unvarnished truth and rejecting the spin that's already being readied to spoon-feed the folks at home.   We went there to achieve something, or did we?

What Romney-Ryan Might Mean to Canada

What would a Romney/Ryan win mean for the U.S. and for Canada?   No one can tell for sure, of course, but we can probably get a rough idea of what might lie in store.

Romney-Ryan might see a power-sharing between POTUS and VPOTUS even more powerful than under Bush-Cheney.   Today's radicalized Republican party insiders know an easy mark when they see one and they're going to be holding plenty of Romney's markers.   With Ryan as VEEP they don't just have the camel's nose under the tent, they've got the whole camel inside.

Romney's patented fecklessness would be challenged to defy Ryan radicalism backed by an equally radicalized Republican Congress.   Romney, by most accounts, is easy meat when faced with internal insurrection.  He chose Ryan to quell the doubts of Republicans who viewed him as weak and unreliable.   If he wins in November, Romney may reap the whirlwind of that decision.

Ryan is the unabashed agent of oligarchy.   The lie-riddled speech he delivered to the Republican convention demonstrated conclusively the ease with which he flies false flags even before the home crowd.   His purposes are effectively matched to those of the richest of the rich.   He would gut Medicare and Medicaid, grant further tax cuts to the rich and increase the tax burden of blue and white collar workers, slash government programmes and, if he ever got the chance, exempt dividends and capital gains from taxation altogether.   In effect he would create an America in which Romney and his kind would flourish, tax free.

Ryan and his Congressional allies would also accelerate global warming by blocking any and all initiatives to curb or tax carbon emissions or to promote alternative, clean energy.    There will be no global treaty on climate change from a Ryan-Romney administration.

In other words, Romney-Ryan could be expected to shackle American democracy; gut the country's already flimsy social safety net; sharply increase the already massive gap between rich and poor; worsen inequality in wealth, income and opportunity; nurture and expand America's hyper-militarism; alienate what remains of America's allies and grievously set back any hope for action on climate change.

Some hope that Romney, once elected, would revert to the moderate Republican of the past.   That would mean, however, standing up to the very interests that delivered him the White House and doing that with Paul Ryan at his back.   That would be a Herculean challenge for a man of great integrity and courage, a man decidedly stronger than Willard Mitt Romney.

The sort of social engineering and nation dismantling we might expect from Romney-Ryan would likely wreck the already wobbly United States and inflict incalculable damage on the international community.   None would find this more challenging - and dangerous - than Canada.

Harper would have to choose between following his heart and base ideological instincts, which would mean bringing Canada into compliance with an American lurch to the radical right as a dutiful branch plant operation or doing the right thing by Canada and the Canadian people and breaking from this madness, something Harper would probably find unimagineable.   With Canada already tightly lashed to the United States, it's almost inconceivable that Harper would take an axe to those ropes and cut us free.

The forces of corporatism in Canada would secure a powerful boost from a Romney-Ryan victory in Washington.  It would be much harder to resist the radical right's pull to conform with Harper holding power.  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

In Defence of Alarmists

It goes something like this:

"Hey, what's with that smoke coming from the kitchen?"

"Oh, relax. Don't be an alarmist. We're only halfway through the second period with the score tied.   We can deal with the smoke after the game."

The old denialist crowd, the Fossil Fuelers and their fringe sidekicks, have finally had the outright denialism beaten out of them but they're not finished yet.   Their second line of defence is the "alarmism" argument.   Yeah, okay, global warming is happening and it may be largely man-made but so what?  It's really nothing to get worked up about.    Don't listen to the other side, they're alarmists.

They may be down to scraping the bottom of the barrel but those scrapings can still have a useful impact on delaying meaningful action on arrest global warming.   Every child can play "is too, is not."

Striking the alarmism chord is appealing to a good many people, including plenty of intelligent types.  It gives them badly needed reassurance, however tenuous, that what they keep seeing and reading about really isn't as bad as it looks, as it is.

In the northern hemisphere it's only been the past few years that we've been experiencing a lot of really severe impacts of climate change.   Russia's drought, wildfires and crop failures.   Britain's sustained drought followed by sustained flooding.   Europe's deep freeze winter that reached south far enough to freeze Venice.   North America's super mild winter, early spring and summer mega-drought.   Heat waves, flash floods and cluster tornadoes but we're just getting the first taste of our new climate reality.

Besides, linking all these is, well, alarmist.   And there the flat-earthers are right on the money.   It is pretty damned alarming what's unfolding, deservedly so.   Then again, isn't everyone who spots the smoke and flames and pulls the fire alarm an "alarmist?"

Meanwhile, George Monbiot proclaims that yesterday marked the day the world went mad

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Now Imagine, Thousands of These Being Dropped On Your Town Overnight

They call it a "huge" bomb but it was nothing of the sort.   Just an ordinary 500-pounder of the type dropped by the thousands in bombing raids over Germany in WWII.  But, because there aren't many remaining who experienced that sort of mayhem, here's a video of a bomb the Germans had to detonate in Munich.   Remember, this is just one bomb, detonated under controlled conditions.  

Our Prime Minister's Warped Vision for the Arctic

When Stephen Harper looks at the ice-free Arctic Ocean he sees opportunity.   In the stunted mind of our petro-addled prime minister, no ice means one thing - access to untapped reserves of oil beneath the seabed and he means to have at it.

But what's really important to Canada and the future of our country is what Steve doesn't see, what he refuses to see and will not accept.   That is what's going on above his head in the skies over the newly ice-free Arctic.

It took the boffins at Britain's Hadley Meteorological Centre to figure out that something way up north must be causing global weirding across the northern hemisphere.   The droughts and wildfires that swept Russia.   The sustained drought followed by massive flooding that beset once climatically benign Britain.   The severe winter ice storms that pummeled Europe as far south as Venice.   The megadrought that struck America's breadbasket this summer.

The science types at Hadley put two and two together and realized that an ice-free Arctic would be a substantially warmer Arctic and that the warmer surface would then significantly warm the Arctic atmosphere and its usually docile jet stream.   And, as the northern jet lurched about like a loose cannon on deck, it would mess up seasonal conditions across the northern hemisphere.   So, like it or not, climate change has landed on our doorstep, big time, and so long as we continue to worsen our inputs, primarily greenhouse gas emissions, what we're experiencing will worsen.

As George Monbiot points out, we're now expecting to see changes by the end of this decade that the IPCC recently forecast to arrive, in its worst case scenario, by the end of the century.

Maybe, as Steve dreams of seabed petro-riches, he assures himself that we'll geo-engineer our way out of this mess somehow.   Well, he's almost ensuring that we'll eventually resort to some sort of "last resort" geo-engineering.   And, as we break the geo-engineering taboo, so will plenty of others in distant corners of the world in forms supposedly suitable for their local conditions.   And then we'll learn that geo-engineering doesn't offer a global fix to a global problem but merely shifts problems from one place onto others.  Worse yet, the mix of geo-engineering "solutions" may well make overall conditions more severe in short order.

Over the years I have come to accept that a problem of this magnitude cannot be tackled when it remains well down our priority list.  It's simply too big for that approach and it's getting much bigger faster than we had ever imagined.   So, how does it get moved to the top of the pile?   Who dares give it the priority without which our best efforts are doomed to fall far short?   How bad will conditions on the ground have to get before we finally act?   How far will we have fallen behind by then?  Who will pay for our neglect?  I'm pretty sure it won't be Steve.

Look, It's Here, Now Get Off Your Ass and Demand Action

The Guardian's lead enviro-scribe and author, George Monbiot, offers a realistic but troubling assessment of how mankind has allowed itself to become overrun by global warming.  Even progressives, probably out of feelings of haplessness, have remained largely passive.

What we are seeing, here and now, is the transformation of the atmospheric physics of this planet. Three weeks before the likely minimum, the melting of Arctic sea ice has already broken the record set in 2007. The daily rate of loss is now 50% higher than it was that year. The daily sense of loss – of the world we loved and knew – cannot be quantified so easily.

...This great dissolution, of ice and certainties, is happening so much faster than most climate scientists predicted that, one of them reports, “it feels as if everything I’ve learned has become obsolete.” In its last assessment, published in 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that “in some projections, Arctic late-summer sea ice disappears almost entirely by the latter part of the 21st century.” These were the most extreme forecasts in the panel’s range. Some scientists now forecast that the disappearance of Arctic sea ice in late summer could occur in this decade or the next.

...The melting disperses another belief: that the temperate parts of the world – where most of the rich nations are located – will be hit last and least, while the poorer nations will be hit first and worst. New knowledge of the way in which the destruction of the Arctic sea ice affects northern Europe and North America suggests that this is no longer true. A paper published earlier this year in Geophysical Research Letters shows that Arctic warming is likely to be responsible for the extremes now hammering the once-temperate nations.

The north polar jet stream is an air current several hundred kilometres wide, travelling eastwards around the hemisphere. It functions as a barrier, separating the cold, wet weather to the north from the warmer, drier weather to the south. Many of the variations in our weather are caused by great travelling meanders – or Rossby waves – in the jet stream.

Arctic heating, the paper shows, both slows the Rossby waves and makes them steeper and wider. Instead of moving on rapidly, the weather gets stuck. Regions to the south of the stalled meander wait for weeks or months for rain; regions to the north (or underneath it) wait for weeks or months for a break from the rain. Instead of a benign succession of sunshine and showers, we get droughts or floods. During the winter a slow, steep meander can connect us directly to the polar weather, dragging severe ice and snow far to the south of its usual range. This mechanism goes a long way towards explaining the shift to sustained – and therefore extreme – weather patterns around the northern hemisphere.

...Our governments do nothing. Having abandoned any pretence of responding to the environmental crisis during the earth summit in June, now they stare stupidly as the ice on which we stand dissolves. Nothing – or worse than nothing. Their one unequivocal response to the melting has been to facilitate the capture of the oil and fish it exposes.

The companies which caused this disaster are scrambling to profit from it. On Sunday, Shell requested an extension to its exploratory drilling period in the Chukchi Sea, off the north-west coast of Alaska. This would push its operations hard against the moment when the ice re-forms and any spills they cause are locked in. The Russian oil company Gazprom is using the great melt to try to drill in the Pechora Sea, north-east of Murmansk. After turning its Arctic lands in the Komi Republic into the Niger Delta of the north (repeated oil spills are left unremediated in the tundra), Russia wants to extend this industry into one of the world’s most fragile ecosystems, where ice, storms and darkness make decontamination almost impossible.

...Is this how our children will see it: that we destroyed the benign conditions which made our world of wonders possible, then used the opportunity to amplify the damage? All of us, of course, can claim to have acted with other aims in mind, or not to have acted at all, as the other immediacies of life seemed more important. But – unless we respond at last – the results follow as surely as if we had sought to engineer them.

In a sane world, progressives would see global warming as their dominant concern.   It eclipses reproductive rights, gender equality, the lot for it determines whether our world will remain capable of sustaining any civilization and not just in Africa or equatorial regions.  Climate change will be the defining factor for the world our children and our grandchildren will inherit.  We are writing their future today and it's being written indelibly.   Our political classes, the opposition included, are, at their best, catatonic.   The very notion of recognizing the enormity of this threat much less doing anything meaningful about it is utterly beyond them.   Meanwhile subordinate governments, provincial and municipal, are focusing on battening down the hatches, half-heartedly preparing to meet looming climate change impacts.   Our targets are set at slowing the spread of this malignancy, not beating it back, even as our parliamentary petro-pols work furiously to push through the export of the filthiest petroleum in the world, bitumen.

Yes, we have acted as though climate change was something we could simply export to the Third World.  Why should we worry too much when they endure the droughts and the floods, out of sight - out of mind?   Yet as we saw in the deep freeze that hit Europe last winter, the widespread flooding of Britain in the spring and in the scorching drought that hit North America this summer, we're suddenly in this right up to our necks.   Sure we're not at the point yet where 2012's mega-drought and agricultural collapse will recur constantly but it doesn't have to.   The impacts from this drought will be felt for at least one, possibly two more years.  If these droughts begin appearing every few years the effects will be cumulative and could become catastrophic.   Should that happen we might well wish we could take back those subsidies and direct investment Ottawa has poured into the Tar Sands.

Fortunately for us, the denialist community is now utterly discredited.   They waged their delaying action all too well but they relied on public relations, not science, and thus could never prevail.  But there's one denialist sector that's still holding out, the one we elect.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

BIC for Her - You Ladies Love'em

BIC has released a special, "Cristal for Her" ball pen.   Some of the reviews on have been hilarious.   Here are just a few:

"Someone has answered my gentle prayers and FINALLY designed a pen that I can use all month long! I use it when I'm swimming, riding a horse, walking on the beach and doing yoga. It's comfortable, leak-proof, non-slip and it makes me feel so feminine and pretty! Since I've begun using these pens, men have found me more attractive and approchable. It has given me soft skin and manageable hair and it has really given me the self-esteem I needed to start a book club and flirt with the bag-boy at my local market. My drawings of kittens and ponies have improved, and now that I'm writing my last name hyphenated with the Robert Pattinson's last name, I really believe he may some day marry me! I'm positively giddy. Those smart men in marketing have come up with a pen that my lady parts can really identify with."

"...when I saw these, I had to get them. The normal black pen casings are just so hard on the eyes. It was like a breath of fresh air to see lady colored pens. For once, I don't have to grip a giant, man-sized pen just to sign receipts at Saks. And the ink just hits the paper so smoothly, not at all like the rough, gritty man ink in Bic's normal pens. My only complaint is that they are a bit finnicky. When I was copying down recipes from my neighbor, it worked just fine, but as soon as I sat down with the bills, nothing. It wouldn't work! But that's okay, my woman brain gets all muddled trying to figure out finances anyway."

"I love BIC Cristal for Her! The delicate shape and pretty pastel colors make it perfect for writing recipe cards, checks to my psychologist (I'm seeing him for a case of the hysterics), and tracking my monthly cycle. Obviously, I don't use it for vulgar endeavors like math or filling out a voter application, but BIC Cristal for Her is a lovely little writing utensil all the same. Ask your husband for some extra pocket money so you can buy one today!"

"First of all I'm a male. I picked a pink one up by mistake to write a quick note... Next thing I know I'm sitting down to take a pee. Be careful."

"This product is fantastic for those days when my prose is suffering from that not-so-fresh feeling. It even fits conveniently in my purse, and I don't have to feel embarrassed if it accidentally falls out when I'm searching for the tight white pants I'm going to wear while horseback riding on the beach. If I could count that high, I'd give this product SIX stars."

Too Damned Dumb to Live

A redneck's last words?  "Here, hold my beer, now..  watch this."

44-year old Randy Lee Tenley of Montana apparently got himself liquored up and set out to fool people into believing he was Bigfoot.

Tenley donned a sniper "Ghillie" suit and then stood out in the highway where he encountered the first car that struck him.   A second car hit old Randy Lee as he lay in the roadway.

Trooper Jim Schneider said his motives were ascertained during interviews with friends, and alcohol may have been a factor but investigators were awaiting tests.
“He was trying to make people think he was Sasquatch so people would call in a Sasquatch sighting,” Schneider told the Daily Inter Lake newspaper on Monday. “You can’t make it up. I haven’t seen or heard of anything like this before. Obviously, his suit made it difficult for people to see him.”

Ghillie suits are a type of full-body clothing made to resemble heavy foliage and used to camouflage military snipers.

“He probably would not have been very easy to see at all,” Schneider told KECI-TV.

Tenley was struck by vehicles driven by two girls, ages 15 and 17, who were unable to stop in time, authorities said.

Are Our Forests the New Steel Mills of the 21st Century?

Great news for B.C.'s forest industry.  Wood pulp may be poised to become the new steel except cheaper, lighter and renewable.

 THE hottest new material in town is light, strong and conducts electricity. What's more, it's been around a long, long time.

Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC), which is produced by processing wood pulp, is being hailed as the latest wonder material. Japan-based Pioneer Electronics is applying it to the next generation of flexible electronic displays. IBM is using it to create components for computers. Even the US army is getting in on the act, using it to make lightweight body armour and ballistic glass.

To ramp up production, the US opened its first NCC factory in Madison, Wisconsin, on 26 July, marking the rise of what the US National Science Foundation predicts will become a $600 billion industry by 2020.

So why all the fuss? Well, not only is NCC transparent but it is made from a tightly packed array of needle-like crystals which have a strength-to-weight ratio that is eight times better than stainless steel. Even better, it's incredibly cheap.

"It is the natural, renewable version of a carbon nanotube at a fraction of the price," says Jeff Youngblood of Purdue University's NanoForestry Institute in West Lafayette, Indiana.

 Theodore Wegner, assistant director of the US factory, says it will be producing NCC on a large scale. It will be sold at just several dollars a kilogram within a couple of years. He says it has taken this long to unlock the potential of NCC because the technology to explore its properties, such as electron scanning microscopes, only emerged in the last decade or so.

NCC will replace metal and plastic car parts and could make nonorganic plastics obsolete in the not-too-distant future, says Phil Jones, director of new ventures and disruptive technologies at the French mineral processing company IMERYS. "Anyone who makes a car or a plastic bag will want to get in on this," he says.

In addition, the human body can deal with cellulose safely, says Jones, so NCC is less dangerous to process than inorganic composites. "The worst thing that could happen is a paper cut," he says.

Can America Imagine a "Post-Israel Middle East"?

An American intelligence community report is sparking outrage among pro-Israel factions in Washington.

It’s a paper entitled: Preparing For A Post Israel Middle East, an 82 page analysis that concludes that the American national interest in fundamentally at odds with that of Zionist Israel. The authors concludes that Israel is currently the greatest threat to US national interests because its nature and actions prevent normal US relations with Arab and Muslim countries and, to a growing degree, the wider international community.

The study was commissioned by the US Intelligence Community comprising 16 American intelligence agencies with an annual budget in excess of $ 70 billion. The IC includes the Departments of the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Defense Intelligence Agency, Departments of Energy, Homeland Security, State, Treasure, Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Agency, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency commissioned the study.

Among the many findings...  ...are the following:

· Israel, given its current brutal occupation and belligerence cannot be salvaged any more than apartheid south Africa could be when as late as 1987 Israel was the only “Western” nation that upheld diplomatic ties with South Africa and was the last country to join the international boycott campaign before the regime collapsed;
· The Israel leadership, with its increasing support of the 700,000 illegal settlers on the occupied West Bank is increasing out of touch with the political, military and economic realities of the Middle East;

· The post Labor government Likud coalition is deeply complicit with and influenced by the settlers’ political and financial power and will increasingly face domestic civil strife which the US government should not associate itself with or become involved with;

· The Arab Spring and Islamic Awakening has to a major degree freed a large majority of the 1.2 billion Arab and Muslims to pursue what an overwhelming majority believe is the illegitimate, immoral and unsustainable European occupation of Palestine of the indigenous population;

· Simultaneous with, but predating, rapidly expanding Arab and Muslim power in the region as evidenced by the Arab spring, Islamic Awakening and the ascendancy of Iran, as American power and influence recedes, the US commitment to belligerent oppressive Israel is becoming impossible to defend or execute consistent given paramount US national interests which include normalizing relations with the 57 Islamic countries;

· Gross Israeli interference in the internal affairs of the United States through spying and illegal US arms transfers. This includes supporting more than 60 ‘front organizations’ and approximately 7,500 US officials who do Israel’s bidding and seek to dominate and intimidate the media and agencies of the US government which should no longer be condoned;

· That the United States government no longer has the financial resources, or public support to continue funding Israel. The more than three trillion dollars in direct and indirect aid from US taxpayers to Israel since 1967 is not affordable and is increasingly being objected to by US taxpayers who oppose continuing American military involvement in the Middle East. US public opinion no longer supports funding and executing widely perceived illegal US wars on Israel’s behalf. This view is increasingly being shared by Europe, Asia and the International public;

· Israel’s segregationist occupation infrastructure evidenced by legalized discrimination and increasingly separate and unequal justice systems must no longer be directly or indirectly funded by the US taxpayers or ignored by the US government

· Israel has failed as a claimed democratic state and continued American financial and political cover will not change its continuing devolution as international pariah state;

· Increasingly, rampant and violent racism exhibited among Jewish settlors in the West Bank is being condoned by the Israeli government to a degree that the Israel government has become its protector and partner;

· The expanding chasm among American Jews objecting to Zionism and Israeli practices, including the killing and brutalizing of Palestinians under Israeli occupation, are gross violations of American and International law and raise questions within the US Jewish community regarding the American responsibility to protect (R2P) innocent civilians under occupation;

· The international opposition to the increasingly apartheid regime can no longer be synchronized with American claimed humanitarian values or US expectations in its bi-lateral relations with the 193 member United Nations;

· The Draft ends with language about the need to avoid entangling alliances that alienate much of the World and condemn American citizens to endure the consequences.

The report will probably bear little fruit with the radical right Congress or, for that matter, the White House staring an election in the face.   Yet it does present a remarkably candid and accurate take on America's conundrum with Israel.

No Matter What You Call It, It's Still Ethnic Cleansing

The Gaza Strip, refuge for nearly 1.7-million Palestinians, will be uninhabitable by 2020.

"Action needs to be taken now if Gaza is to be a liveable place in 2020 and it is already difficult now," U.N. humanitarian coordinator Maxwell Gaylard told journalists when the report was released on Monday.

Five years into an Israeli blockade supported by Egypt, and living under one-party rule, Gaza's population of 1.6 million is set to rise by 500,000 over the next eight years, say the authors of the U.N.'s most wide-ranging report on the territory.

Gaza has one the youngest populations in the world, with 51 percent of people under the age of 18.

"Action needs to be taken right now on fundamental aspects of life: water sanitation, electricity, education, health and other aspects," Gaylard said.

..."Despite their best efforts the Palestinians in Gaza still need help," he said. "They are under blockade. They are under occupation and they need our help both politically and practically on the ground."

In Climate Change News

The Radical Republican Party, or GOP(R), has denounced president Obama for stating that climate change presents a severe threat to America.

The strategy subordinates our national security interests to environmental, energy and international health issues, and elevates ‘climate change’ to the level of a ‘severe threat’ equivalent to foreign aggression. The word ‘climate,’ in fact, appears in the current President’s strategy more often than Al Qaeda, nuclear proliferation, radial Islam, or weapons of mass destruction. The phrase ‘global war on terror’ does not appear at all and has been purposely avoided and changed by his Administration to “overseas contingency operations.’”

It remains unknown from which hurricane shelter the Repugs issued this statement.

Swiss mountain guides are signing the global warming blues.

When mountain guide Walter von Ballmoos led a small group south of the Swiss border via the Maloja Pass to reach a hut in Bergell, Italy, everything went according to plan. It was on the way back that he experienced the shock of his career.

In Italy, he picked up a new group to lead back along the same route - or so he thought. Just one week later, it had drastically changed.

“A 100-metre long section of ice that I had just walked across was practically gone. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if we had been on that slab when it started to slide. There are some things you just can’t prepare for,” he said.

...Thawing permafrost is another consequence of climate change impacting mountain guides. Under the surface, year-round frozen temperatures keep the ground rock-solid. When it thaws, the ground becomes less stable, erosion can start and the chance of rockfall increases.

...More and more climbers are turning their backs on the challenge during the traditional summer season in July and August. Rather, they prefer to take it on in the winter or spring when loose rocks are held in place by ice.

And one of the last covens of climate change denialists, America's TV weathermen, have a new problem in the form of their own professional body, the American Meteorological Society

Saying that the warming climate is a direct result of human activity, the American Meteorological Society released a revised statement on climate change today. The new statement, adopted by the organization without a vote by its members, puts the organization at odds with much of its membership.

The AMS informational statement on climate change was last revised in 2007. The 2012 update draws much stronger conclusions about human influence on the Earth’s climate and the resultant global warming.

Oopsie, this won't go down well with the TV weathermouths.

In parts of the world where you don't need to convince them of the reality of global warming because they're living with it, big time, measures are underway to advance education on climate change.

Pacific nations have designated climate change as the  “most serious long-term threat” to the region’s future development and survival of its culture and people."

[Kosi Latu, Deputy Director of the Pacific Regional Environment Program said]  that “when bigger countries talked about climate change, it was really about changing their economy from being a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable energy-based economy because the burning of fossil fuels was the primary contributor to climate change.

“But for us here in the region, it’ s much more than that. It’s about our survival,” Latu added.

The University of Nairobi in Kenya is now offering masters and doctorate degrees in climate change studies.

According to Professor Shem Wandiga, acting chairman of the newly-established Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation, the university is proud to pioneer such a program.

"We found that there were a lot of gaps – nine gaps or areas – which needed tacklin," he explained. "For these reasons, we are putting all of these into a course which will address basically the gaps that are in Africa, ranging from agriculture and food security to human dimensions of climate change, and areas of policy gaps and gender gaps."

Professor Wandiga says the institute will offer Master’s courses in Climate Change and Adaptation beginning September. He said that the university board approved the degree program last December after realizing that climate change is a devastating reality in Africa.

In the Philippines, the government is training officials designated "climate change champions" to help the country cope with the impacts of global warming.

Being trained as climate change champions are key officials of local government units, state colleges and universities, and research and development and related institutions who go through the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Program (CChAMP).

I Don't Have a Problem with Crazy People

It's radical conservatives, people who act crazy to exploit others, that infuriate me.

You know they're acting crazy when they ramble on about "death panels" and socialism, "job creators" and endless tax cuts, supply-side or "trickle down" economics.   Only the truly crazy among them actually believe that crap but what's important isn't whether they believe but whether they can get you to believe it.

These radical conservatives are the altar boys of legislated inequality.   Nobel laureate economist Joe Stiglitz, writing in The Price of Inequality, issues scathing indictments against these elected handmaidens of the rich who so freely and persistently sacrifice the health and wealth of their country for the exclusive betterment of their patrons, the richest of the rich.  It's not al-Qaeda that the American people need fear, it's their Congressional Republicans (and a number of right-leaning Dems to boot).

Wilkinson and Pickett in their work, The Spirit Level, chronicle the social costs attendant on societies that embrace inequality - everything from crime and imprisonment rates to illiteracy, teen pregnancy, venereal disease, divorce, obesity and reduced longevity.   Wilkinson and Pickett are prominent British epidemiologists which accounts for why they explored inequality in the context of a societal disease.   Stiglitz, naturally, approaches inequality from an economic perspective to reveal the enormous and potentially lethal costs inequality inflicts on the state, the economy and democracy itself.

The radical (now mainstream, fringe no longer) right denounces those who attack them on inequality as socialist extremists when, in fact, they act in defence of democracy.  Movement conservatism is plainly undemocratic.  It recoils at the notion of government of the people, by the people, for the people.   Yet its purposes require that it presents itself as the defender, the very saviour of democracy and the American way.

The greatest problem is that there is no good ending to this scenario.   All that results from it is a transfer of inordinate economic and political power to the oligarchs that leaves the blue and white collar working classes impoverished, effectively disenfranchised and crushingly divided.   Just as social mobility is choked off, so are the traditional avenues for social and political reform.   And all this comes at the start of an era of climate change impacts that can only be effectively met by societies that are healthy, strong and cohesive.  It's small wonder that some observers are proclaiming this the Century of Revolution.   They would, they're not crazy people.

The Business of Killing

What else would you expect from the first true Warfare State in centuries?   American arms sales abroad tripled last year.   The Sydney Morning Herald puts the take at $66-billion or about $9.50 for every man, woman and child on the planet.

Of course $66-billion will be kid's stuff once Lockheed begins pumping out squadrons of overpriced, overdue and under-performing F-35 first-strike light bombers for foreign customers looking to join America's aerial Foreign Legion.

The sales by the US accounted for nearly 78 per cent of all global arms sales, which rose to $85.3 billion in 2011, the highest level seen since 2004, the report said.

Keeping in mind the United States is expected to reach a $16.4 trillion government debt by the end of the year, what does the figure of $66.3 billion in arms revenue represent?
- Earnings from weapons sales are expected to top spending on housing and urban development in the 2012 fiscal year ($49 billion), or homeland security ($47 billion), or energy ($43 billion) or justice ($33 billion).

- Those earnings are $4.7 billion shy of the government's spending on education ($71 billion).

- It is about one eleventh of US defence spending ($766 billion).

Who says America no longer makes what the world wants to buy?   And they're only just getting started.

Either Crazy or In League With the Dark Side

An Australian study has outed climate change deniers as falling within one of two categories - radical free marketeers or nutjobs.

The paper, titled “NASA faked the moon landing – Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science”, was based on a survey of more than 1000 visitors to blogs dedicated to discussion of climate change.

“We find that endorsement of a laissez-faire conception of free-market economics predicts rejection of climate science,” the paper says. “We additionally show that endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin Luther King or that NASA faked the moon landing) predicts rejection of climate science as well as the rejection of other scientific findings.”

The paper says that a staunch belief in free markets was an overwhelmingly strong factor in the rejection of climate science and was a stronger factor than conspiratorial thinking.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What A Difference a Year Makes

Just ask anyone who lives alongside or works on the Mississippi River.   This is what Big Muddy looked like last year.

And this is what the mighty river looks like today, down 14 feet from normal.

Barges Waiting for the Dredge

Who Really Created the Internet? These Cool Dudes

Brace yourself.  You owe it all to this dapper bunch.  Nice black knee socks, eh?  Or maybe you're more into the ankle socks.

Can You See Where This is Headed?

Apparently the world is on the cusp of the "Consumption Revolution."

The developing economies are surging, opening up what could be a $30-trillion a year demand for, well, stuff - stuff that affluent consumers sometimes buy.

A report by McKinsey’s business and economics research arm, McKinsey Global Institute, calls it “the biggest growth opportunity in the history of capitalism.”

“We think it’s bigger than when the plow was introduced,” report co-author and MGI director Richard Dobbs said. “And this is a thousand times the size of what happened with the British Industrial Revolution.”

Allow me to, politely, call "bullshit" on this story at this point.   For starters, to feed this sort of demand for products, will require a lot more resources than the Earth can provide and vastly more energy than our civilization can burn if we're to have a snowball's chance in hell of seeing this century out without a major war.

Consumer goods production inevitably demands two things - cheap fossil fuel energy and vast amounts of virtually free water - in addition to labour, plant and materials.   And, of course, all those consumers and the lesser folk who make the stuff they consume need food, shelter and the other necessaries of life, a lot of those things also in limited supply.

When it comes to food and water, emerging economies are staring at a massive wall.   Global warming has already broken the hydrological cycle that used to bring predictable, measured and sustained precipitation essential for agriculture, replacing that with regional droughts, floods or, in some cases, cyclical drought and floods.   It's gotten to the point that leading water science types are warning that, within the next forty years, mankind is going to have to go vegetarian if we're to feed the population predicted for 2050.

Humans derive about 20% of their protein from animal-based products now, but this may need to drop to just 5% to feed the extra 2 billion people expected to be alive by 2050, according to research by some of the world's leading water scientists.

"There will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in western nations," the report by Malik Falkenmark and colleagues at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) said.

"There will be just enough water if the proportion of animal-based foods is limited to 5% of total calories and considerable regional water deficits can be met by a … reliable system of food trade."

As the Global Footprint Network announced recently, Earth Overshoot Day, the date each year on which mankind exhausts a full year's supply of renewable resources, arrived on August 22nd.   Just six years ago that didn't arrive until October 9th.   The Consumption Revolution being forecast by the McKinsey business consultancy will propel Overshoot into overdrive.

Here's something else McKinsey has overlooked.   Of the BRIC countries, Brazil alone has the instruments of governance to wrestle with this transition.   China doesn't, India doesn't, even Russia doesn't.   How will they cope with the social and political dimensions of evolving into First World consumer societies?    Good luck with that and pass the poi.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Well They Need the Money to Buy Canadian Bitumen

China is flooding sub-Saharan Africa with cheap assault rifles and ammunition.

Weapons from China have surfaced in a string of U.N. investigations in war zones stretching from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Ivory Coast, Somalia and Sudan.

...China has stood apart from other major arms exporters, including Russia, for its assertive challenge to U.N. authority, routinely refusing to cooperate with U.N. arms experts and flexing its diplomatic muscle to protect its allies and curtail investigations that may shed light on its own secretive arms industry.

The stance highlights the tensions between China’s responsibilities as a global power and its interests in exploiting new markets. It has also raised questions about whether Chinese diplomats have a grip on the reach of the country’s influence in the arms industry beyond its borders.
Beijing has responded to the disclosures not by enforcing regulations at home but by using its clout within the Security Council to claw back the powers of independent U.N. arms investigators. Those efforts have helped undercut the independence of U.N. panels that track arms trading with Iran and North Korea.
...China has blocked the release of embarrassing U.N. revelations of illicit arms transfers, stopped the reappointment of an arms expert who uncovered Chinese weapons and sought to restrict the budget to fund investigations. It has also consistently refused to allow U.N. investigators to trace the origin of Chinese weapons discovered in war zones.
Now remind me again why Alberta and Ottawa are falling all over themselves to give China priority access to Athabasca tar, why they're even willing to wreak ecological devastation on British Columbia to do it?   Is it any wonder that a lot of British Columbians feel caught between a rock of petro-authoritarianism on our eastern flank and free-market totalitarianism on our western flank?  I suppose they've got a lot in common.

If You're a Liberal, Explain It To Me

If you're a real, committed Liberal, I could use your help.   As a truly disaffected Lib, I've become disconnected from the party, detached from whatever it supposedly stands for today.

For most of my life I considered myself a true Liberal.  I certainly wasn't a New Democrat, although I admired David Lewis, nor was I ever attracted to the Progressive Conservatives, although I had great respect for Robert Stanfield.  

No, I was pretty much a Trudeau Liberal and, to me, Lloyd Axworthy would have been a fitting successor to lead the party.   Instead it went to Turner, Chretien, Martin, Dion and Ignatieff as the party ushered itself out of Sussex Drive, out of Stornoway and, quite deservedly, into Motel 6 out on the highway near Kanata.

I was never fond of Dion but I still supported the Dion Liberals.  Ignatieff's coronation never sat well with me but I accepted a responsibility to give him a chance to earn my support.  He never did.   Instead it was Ignatieff's hapless machinations that severed my connection with the LPC.   Like Layton, Ignatieff carried Harper's water in shifting Canada's political centre well to the right.  The Liberals went to a spot on the political spectrum I could not accept.

So, what I'd like to know is why any of you Libs remain dedicated to this party or whatever remains of it?  What does the Liberal brand mean today?   How do you find any meaning, any purpose, and reason for existing in today's Liberal Party of Canada?   The easy answer is to say they're not Harper and his Cons or they're not Mulcair and his New Dems but defining them as what they're not doesn't establish meaning or purpose or even any reason for existing.

I know this may invite Dippers to wade in and slag the Libs but we don't need proof that the ranks of the New Dems have a generous stock of sphincters so, please, stay out of this.

North America's North Koreans

When I see Tea Party rank and file interviewed on television I'm often struck by how thoroughly indoctrinated they are.   They're sort of the white bread equivalent of North Koreans only obviously much better fed.

They've been taught things that they come to firmly believe and it seems they're programmed to auto-reject anything, no matter how factual or blatant, that conflicts with their received wisdom.

A telling example is the standard Tea Partier response to global warming and what should be done about it.   They're apt to dismiss it as a hoax and, like any serious hoax, it's for an ulterior motive.  What lies beneath the global warming issue, they claim, is a plot to effect a massive, unearned transfer of  wealth from the American people to those of the Third World, all under the auspices of the dreaded "world government."  It's downright Socialist that's bound to lead to gun control.

Oddly enough, these same Tea Partiers worship at the altar of Lord Reagan, the very president who set in motion a very real, truly massive unearned transfer of wealth from these same Tea Party rank and file into the pockets of America's ultra-rich; a pillaging that many, including Joe Stiglitz, contend has been going on for the past thirty years.

In The Price of Inequality, Stiglitz chronicles how government policy, not natural market forces, enabled the siphoning of wealth from working and middle-class America into the bank accounts of the richest of the rich.   Although per-worker productivity in terms of GDP increased a staggering 75% over those three decades, worker incomes stagnated and, for some groups, declined.   And where did the wealth those workers generated go to?   The question answers itself.   Take a bow, Mr. Romney.

The era ushered in by Ronald Reagan and his sidekicks Thatcher and Mulroney has been devastating to the middle class, especially in America.   The States' once healthy, vibrant and robust middle class has been hollowed out, gutted, forced to find comfort in debt instead of the deserved reward of their labours.  It's a national horror story but one that was entirely scripted in pages of bills enacted by Congress in the shadow and name of  Ronald Reagan.

While North Koreans are indoctrinated to blame their recurrent famines on the devious Americans, there's an even better scam underway in the U.S.   There the citizenry has it drummed into their heads that the source of their misfortune isn't their government and the elite it serves but actually themselves.   They learn to point a finger at liberals and, gasp, unions - the very institutions that seek to improve the lot of the working and middle-classes.   The illogic should be glaring but perhaps it's less so when you're struggling to hold down three, part-time jobs just to avoid default on your credit card balances.

And so, as Stiglitz and others observe, we're faced with an America that has terminal economic and social afflictions.   Not incurable but, left unremedied, certainly terminal.   Canadians need to become very aware of what's happening south of the border because it affects the health of our own economy and our own society.   As the Bank of Canada governor, Carney, warned, we have lashed the Canadian economy far too tightly to America's to escape the contagion.

Our garden gnome FinMin, Jimbo Flaherty, is the High Priest of Harper's Church of Conservative Corporatism.  He hears the pleas of Canada's CEO's who would wreck our middle class just as devastatingly as their American counterparts did in the States.   Canadian workers are overpaid, they claim.  Union powers must be suppressed.   We can't compete with America's diseased economy.

I have no interest in being transformed into a North American North Korean but I know with the regime currently in power, preventing that demands a public willing to stand up and speak out in defiance.  

The Man in Black Fades to Grey

This was apparently recorded at a small venue in 2003.   It is said to be the last recorded performance of Johnny Cash.   At this point he'd recorded a few Dylan songs.   This one seems to be written atop "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright."

I doubt Dylan would begrudge Johnny Cash pilfering a few chords and bars.   But that's not what this clip is about.   It's the chance to watch the last recorded performance of the Man in Black.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Will British Columbia be Harper's Waterloo?

British Columbia is shaping up to be the battlefield where the Conservative government will suffer the decisive defeat that will bring it down.

BC'ers of all political persuasions are massing in opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline initiative and, through it, Harper's Conservative government.   Even prominent Tories can smell what's coming.

"...observers struggle to pinpoint an example in living memory of a project that has gripped the public for such a sustained period as Calgarybased Enbridge Inc.'s proposed Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline to the West Coast.

"I have never in my experience observed such a reaction to any big project, probably since back when they were drowning villages" to construct the St. Lawrence Seaway in the 1950s, said former B.C. senator and ex-federal energy minister Pat Carney. During the Brian Mulroney era, Carney dismantled the deeply controversial and divisive national energy program. "It's like it touched an inner nerve."

Interest is fuelled in large part by the wide range of crucial issues: the pace of oilsands development, climate change, wealth-sharing, supertanker safety, first nations rights, fisheries protection and economic growth in an uncertain global climate.

A poll released Friday by Abacus Data Inc. found that British Columbians opposed the project by a 56-25 margin. More crucially, 41 per cent of B.C. respondents who said they voted Conservative in 2011 said they are against Northern Gateway.

That spells trouble for Harper, who took 21 of 36 B.C. seats last year and needs the province - which will have 42 seats in the 2015 election - to keep his majority, according to Abacus pollster David Coletto.

"I do think the Tories are risking support if they remain adamantly supportive of the pipeline," Coletto said.

Harper's government "needs all its seats in B.C. to keep its majority. If 2015 is about energy and the government doesn't sell the importance of the oilsands and energy transportation to Canadians, look out."

...Some argue that the federal government's problems with the issue began with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver's public letter in January on the eve of the Northern Gateway public hearings.
It lambasted "radical" environmental groups, saying they were using foreign funds to stymie Canada's need to export more resources to Asia.

But the attack has been exploited by critics who say the government has been insulting ordinary Canadians who legitimately oppose the project.

"I don't think Harper and his gang have figured out this is not an issue driven by a bunch of crazy radicals and environmentalists, funded by some foreign interests," said [former Tory fisheries minister Tom] Siddon.

British Columbian opponents may outnumber pipeline supporters by a 2 to 1 margin but we're only getting started.   Harper isn't going to get supertankers sailing out of Kitimat without first imprisoning hundreds, perhaps thousands, of us and when he starts tossing otherwise law-abiding British Columbians into jail for standing up for their province, support will coalesce around them and turn our province into electoral scorched earth for the Tories for a generation, possibly more.   Here on the coast there's a confidence building.    We know we can stop this damned thing.   We know that we will.   There's nothing out here but ruin for Harper and the rest of his Tar Heads.

The Price of Inequality - Your Last Warning?

If there's one message for you Gen X'ers and Millennials to be gleaned from Nobel laureate economist Joe Stiglitz' new book, The Price of Inequality, it's that you're not going to get your problems fixed at the ballot box.  If you want your due, you're going to have to find other ways and you're going to have to be prepared to take it.

You don't have to delve very far into Inequality to be convinced that the ladder is being pulled up and the door is being slammed shut on you through a combination of inequality of income, inequality of wealth and inequality of opportunity.   Social mobility, upon which is premised the myth of the self-made man, is being fiercely choked off.   If you want to climb the social ladder you're far better off moving to "Old Europe."

Another point that Stiglitz convincingly demonstrates is that the type of inequality that plagues North American society isn't market-driven.   It's mainly the creature of government policy harnessed into the service of a truly corporatist state.   Governments empower the forces of inequality.   By "government" I mean your government.

Stiglitz explains how his United States of America has reached levels of inequality shared only by the most dysfunctional nations and societies.   Unless and until it's reversed in the U.S., the nation has no future.

The author also discusses how the "CEO culture" undermines nations.   As I read his remarks I was chilled at recalling how Harper FinMin Jimbo Flaherty has just concluded his annual summer retreat for Canadian CEOs to deliver their legislative shopping lists to the government.   And, worse yet, I recalled the late Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff's "thinkers conference" where he consulted a supposed bevy of bright lights, dominated by CEOs and management consultants.

The once robust, healthy and vibrant middle class of my era is largely dismantled but the forces of its demise are far from finished yet.   Canada lags behind the United States in the ravages of inequality and Canadian CEOs clamor for Ottawa to catch up.  The signs suggest Ottawa is listening.    No one, Conservative or Liberal, seems troubled by our growing inequality or what it holds for our younger generations and those who will follow them.  And their silence reveals a political class no longer in service to their country.

If they can lull the Gen X'ers and Millennials into hapless complacency to their own fate, they will.   And so, to you younger generations, all I can say is that if you want what is rightly yours, you had better figure out how you're going to take it from those who have no inclination to part with it.

A Free e-book You Won't Take to the Beach

Think you know what you need to know about Enbridge, the pipeline giant behind the Northern Gateway project?   Chances are, you don't. has a three part feature on Enbridge and the Kalamazoo River bitumen catastrophe that you might find interesting.   You can even get it free in e-book format.

Harper's War on British Columbia

Is Stephen Harper waging a deliberate campaign to suppress British Columbia and her people?

I have been working on compiling a list of the measures Harper has imposed on British Columbia to facilitate the Northern Gateway pipeline and bitumen trafficking to China.

Taken individually, these measures are affronts, typical of this prime ministerial jackass.   It's when they're viewed in their totality, as they must be, that they can be seen for something far more sinister and oppressive.   Stephen Harper is waging an Alberta-centric war on British Columbia and our people.   He means to subdue us to his will.

Harper is the ultimate master of incrementalism.   Little things but lots of them that all add up.   And look at the list.   He waived the tanker exclusion zone created by the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards under the Trudeau government.  He moved the West Coast Oil Spill Emergency centre to Quebec.   He shuttered the bulk of our Coast Guard stations.   He gutted our fisheries protection regulations.   He laid off Fisheries and Oceans staff, entire departments, responsible for monitoring and protecting our coasts.  He transformed the environmental assessment process into an utter farce.   Layer, by layer, by layer, he's stripped away the people, the organizations and the laws that were just barely protecting the West Coast as it was.

Taken collectively, the most secretive and treacherous prime minister in Canadian history is waging a battle against one province to serve another and powerful corporate interests.   What Harper is doing is underhanded.   He acts against our will, without our consent, as though we were irrelevant to what he is proposing to do to our province.   He acts by fiat, without consultation.

Andrew Nikiforuk very eloquently and powerfully fleshes this out in his article, "Canadian Democracy, Death by Pipeline" published by   If you don't fully understand what we feel we're up against, I strongly urge you to read it.   And remember, what Nikiforuk has written here is just for starters.   There's more, plenty more.

h/t Regina Mom

Earth Overshoot Day - August 22, 2012

In 2006 when I first wrote of it, it happened on October 9th.   Just six years later it has crept up to August 22, almost seven weeks earlier.

"It" is Earth Overshoot Day, the benchmark of our planet's day of ecological reckoning.   It's the day on which mankind is determined to have consumed a full year's worth of renewable resources.

What that means is that, for 2012, for the balance of the year after the 22nd day of the 8th month, we'll be "eating our seed corn."   We'll be dependent on the Earth's reserves, consuming them at an ever increasing pace.

How can man be using more resources than the Earth can provide?   Quite easily.   The signs are everywhere.   They're tangible, they're measurable, some are even visible to the naked eye from space.   Among these many signs are deforestation, the logging off of essential forestlands.  That's easily spotted from space.   Then there's desertification.   That occurs largely through the exhaustion of once arable farmland and its transformation into barren desert.   Farmers overwork the land, supercharging it with heavy applications of fertilizer and intensive irrigation, until the soil itself gives up the ghost.   Other farmland is being lost due to irrigation with water containing trace amounts of salt that, over time, accumulates in the soil and turns it sterile.

Another form of overshoot is our widespread depletion of global fisheries through overharvesting and destruction of marine environments.   We have become so accustomed to it that many don't bat an eye at the introduction of new fish species in their shops.   It's the result of "fishing down the food chain," a process that refers to moving to a new, less desirable fish after exhausting the better option.

Then there's the destruction of renewable resources through contamination.   It's been reported in China that up to 40% of the country's farmland has been contaminated by arsenic and heavy metals released from industrial smokestacks.  Last year it was revealed that 12-billion kgs. of Chinese foodstocks were ruined by heavy metals contamination and there's no word on how much actually reached Chinese markets.   And an astonishing percentage of that country's lakes and rivers are also so contaminated by industrial discharge as to be unfit for human consumption.   The loss of renewable resources from man-made contamination is also factored into Earth Overshoot Day.

A critical form of Overshoot that is finally coming to widespread attention is the depletion of groundwater stocks, aquifers, that are drained to exhaustion for agricultural irrigation.   This is a serious threat to India which has relied on its groundwater stocks to implement the country's Green Revolution and which now faces the double whammy of groundwater depletion compounded by the newly unpredictable monsoon rains.   Even the United States isn't exempt.   There the mighty Ogallala aquifer that underlies eight states that comprise America's "bread basket" is becoming seriously depleted.

We can see Overshoot.    We can measure it.   We find its presence in our grocery stores and our wallets.   Yet it's not on the agenda of our political leadership except for piecemeal initiatives of marginal effectiveness.   And we can measure their indifference also.   It can be calculated by the annual movement of World Overshoot Day.   Six years ago, October 9.    This year, August 22.  The spread, the number of days that Overshoot has advanced, is the measure of global political neglect.

Overshoot is about excessive consumption and contamination of the Earth's renewable resources.   It is not the result of global warming although climate change does impact the speed by which Overshoot advances.   Unfortunately, any serious discussion of Overshoot introduces issues many politicians, especially our corporatist political classes in the West, would be loathe to consider.

Do we seek, somehow, to hold China and India accountable for their contribution to overpopulation?   Can we scrutinize them and endure being scrutinized ourselves?  We are, after all, the industrialized world that has bolstered atmospheric greenhouse gas accumulations sufficient to already warm the atmosphere enough to warp the planet's hydrological cycle, altering essential precipitation patterns and leaving flooding and drought in their stead.   And at whom do we point accusatory fingers for the rapacious pillaging of world fisheries stocks?   What of our gluttonous ravaging of our groundwater resources?

It's not finger pointing, however, that has global leadership terrified.   It's what must inevitably follow that playground diversion - an assessment of what lies in store if we continue to overexploit our planet's renewable resources and just what we're going to have to do to avoid that "worst scenario" outcome.

There are several reforms that could make a big difference, even if not nearly big enough to actually reverse Overshoot.   One, the source of angry controversy, is to "price" nature.   At the moment industry and industrial agriculture consume enormous amounts of essentially free, natural resources, particularly water.    If these resources were treated as a public trust and given a realistic market value to be levied against those who exploit them industrially it would be a game changer.  

Opponents rush to claim it would simply be turned into an additional cost to the consumer, a simplistic and only partly true retort.   Those consumers, through their governments, would have the offsetting benefit of the industrial levies.   Industrial behaviour would also be powerfully reshaped.   When resources are free, you treat them as though they're free.   When they have a meaningful value, you treat them as any other cost of production - very astutely and frugally.   Those who squander properly valued resources incur uncompetitive costs and suffer in the marketplace.   Those who don't, who find ways to reduce their consumption and waste, reap competitive advantages.

But, until our leaders are prepared to acknowledge the problem of Overshoot, we'll never have the essential discussions, consensus and reforms to even slow much less arrest or reverse Overshoot.  And so we'll be left to live in increasing imbalance with our ecosystem, something that is manifestly unsustainable.

We can't live this way.   Why do we pretend we can?

Update -

Here is an excellent discussion of the problem and what it means to all of us.  It's really worth a look.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why Bitumen Supertankers Are Far Too Risky for BC's Coast

The Globe & Mail has published a 7-screen graphic detailing the northern BC coast Enbridge/Harper want to expose to supertanker catastrophe.

From pointing out that the Hecate Strait is considered the fourth most dangerous for navigation in the world to the proven perils and pitfalls posed to supertankers plying the Douglas Channel for the 10 to 12-hour trip needed to get from Kitimat to the open sea (Hecate Strait), the madness of this high-risk venture of virtually no benefit to British Columbia is obvious.

Against our will, without our consent.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I'm not Sure We Need "by your leave" to Actually Leave

What if British Columbians decided we'd rather be independent than Alberta's and Ottawa's sodomites?

What if we actually told the "ROC" rest of Canada to f--k off with their pipelines and bullshit?

We could quite easily force you to leave us instead of the other way around as Quebec has endured.

Piss off, we will do quite well without you.  It won't happen overnight.  It will take perhaps a generation, two decades, to consolidate but we will get by very well without you. 

Screw you and your mega-droughts.   Up yours with your heatwaves.  If you won't defend our coast then your problems are irrelevant to ours.  We'll take care of ourselves. If you don't get that, just try to run that pipeline out here.

We are the most beautiful environment in Canada and despite the proximity of Hyper-Conservative Canada, we're becoming a lot more embracing of our Interior and our pristne coast.  Does Ottawa, even with Alberta and, apparently, the rest of Eastern Canada (you're all easterners to us) really want to see this happen?

Adios, Bob

I've waited but it's time to say farewell to the legendary bassist, Bob Babbitt.   He was an enormously talented musician but a far bigger man.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I Will Never Vote Liberal Again, Until...

I vow to never vote for a Liberal candidate again until the party puts forward meaningful policies to reverse the growing inequality in Canada and to deal with global warming, in all its aspects.

Inequality - of wealth, of income, of opportunity - is a malignancy that metastasizes the longer it goes untreated.  It undermines democracy and destroys the middle class.   Any party that ignores that reality and does not give it a top priority for real action tacitly supports the wasting of our democracy, our economy and our society.

As Joe Stiglitz writes, when the major parties dodge the issue of inequality, democracy becomes "one dollar, one vote" instead of "one citizen, one vote."   The Liberal Party has been shamefully reluctant to champion this cause.

Of equal priority must be global warming - anthropogenic climate change.   We now know that just 2% of Canadians, just one in fifty, continue to deny the reality of man-made climate change.   If Canadians so overwhelmingly "get" climate change they also get the role that CO2 emissions play in endangering our planet.  They get the link between our emissions and the increasing threat that results.   At this point, what they need is leadership from a party with genuine policies on adaptation and remediation.

We need a party that is prepared to decarbonize our economy, our society; a party that will decouple Canada from its dependence on fossil fuel energy.   Canadian municipalities are engaging the realities of what confronts their communities.   Some of the provinces are stirring to life on climate change.   Yet the Liberal Party lags far behind when it has no excuse for not leading.

If the Liberal Party cannot embrace these as top priorities, they're not fit to govern and they certainly don't deserve my vote - or yours.    They earned their way from Sussex Drive to Stornoway to Motel 6 and they damned well deserve to stay there until they earn their way back.