Friday, September 28, 2012

MacKay Marches on Asia

Chronic prevaricator and Harper DefMin Peter "Airshow" MacKay obviously got a double shot of testosterone while in Washington for meetings with his counterpart, Leon Panetta.   MacKay rushed from the meeting to the Canadian embassy where he got on the telephone to gushingly call for Canada to establish a "permanent, visible [military] presence" in Asia.

"We have to be there in quality and quantity in the coming years," MacKay told QMI Agency during a call from the Canadian embassy in the United States, following meetings with his American counterpart.

Now if there's one thing that region needs it's more military to stir up the already simmering pot.   South and East Asia are undergoing massive and potentially destabilizing arms races as India and China lurch unsteadily to economic, political and military superpowerdom.

True to form, MacKay offered no rational explanation of exactly why Canada needs a high-profile and permanent military presence in Asia, possibly because no such rationale actually exists.   Perhaps he feels that rattling a few sabres and banging away on drums would be a great way to distract Canadians from his government's utter inability, perhaps even disinterest, in securing Canada itself.

My guess is that MacKay fancies the notion of Canadian F-35s deployed to Asia as part of America's aerial Foreign Legion, proving, in his mind at least, that we're one of the Big Boys.

The Fifth Estate Shoots the F-35 Down in Flames

CBC's The Fifth Estate aired one of its all time best episodes tonight, "Runaway Fighter."   The programme laid bare the rank dishonesty and duplicity of the Harper government and its obsession with Lockheed's aerial "turkey."   Clips showed both Harper and MacKay lying through their teeth about fictional competitions and supposed contracts to order 65 F-35s. 

The episode takes a critical look at the deeply flawed warplane that suffers from substandard speed, agility, range and payload, all for the sake of supposed stealth invisibility that one retired U.S. Defense Department expert denounced as a "scam" technology.

Another point the programme brought out was the claim by the 35's Canadian boosters that it will serve our country for 50 years.   A half-century lifespan for a frontline "fighter" ranks right up there with immaculate conception.

If you missed the first airing, be sure to watch out for the next broadcast or visit The Fifth Estate web site and view it there.

Criminal Cartels Behind Global Trade in Illegal Timber

Organized crime may be behind 15 to 30% of global timber trade.

A U.N. report finds organized crime responsible for half to 90% of illegal logging in the Amazon basin, Africa and Southeast Asia.

Japan, the United States and the European Union remain targets of illegal wood trafficking but the lion's share is destined for China.

The much heralded decline of illegal logging in the mid-
2000s in some tropical regions was widely attributed to
a short-term law enforcement effort. However, long-term
trends in illegal logging and trade have shown that this was
temporary, and illegal logging continues. More importantly,
an apparent decline in illegal logging is due to more advanced
laundering operations masking criminal activities, and not
necessarily due to an overall decline in illegal logging. In
many cases a tripling in the volumes of timber “originating”
from plantations in the five years following the law enforcement
crack-down on illegal logging has come partly from
cover operations by criminals to legalize and launder illegal
logging operations. Other cases of increased illegal logging
involve road construction and the cutting of wide corridors,
which facilitates land clearing by impoverished settlers, who
are later driven away by ranchers and soy producers, such as
has occurred in the Amazon. 

Was Mitch Romney Another Rightwing Chickenhawk?

Dave Letterman refers to him as "Mitch" Romney.  I like it.  Think it should stick.

Jim Webb, a highly-decorated Vietnam Marine combat officer, has raised the notion that Mitch must have glommed on to a few deferments in his day to avoid getting called to Vietnam.

The former Marine and Navy secretary appeared to poke at Romney for receiving draft deferments during the Vietnam War.

"Gov. Romney and I are about the same age. Like millions of others in our generation, we came to adulthood facing the harsh realities of the Vietnam War," Webb said, adding that he didn't envy or resent choices people made about how to handle the draft as a long as they did so under the law.

"But those among us who stepped forward to face the harsh unknowns and the lifelong changes that can come from combat did so with the belief that their service would be honored and that our leaders would, in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, care for those who had borne the battle, and for their widows and their children."

The veterans of that war "are not bitter. They know what they did. But in receiving veterans' benefits, they are not takers. They were givers, in the ultimate sense of that word. There is a saying among war veterans: 'All gave some, some gave all.' This is not a culture of dependency. It is a part of a long tradition that gave this country its freedom and independence."

Oops Mittsy, Mitch, Mittens, whatever, that's gotta burn.   You gotta be careful when you mess with that 47%.   Some of them bite back.

Obama's "Double Tap" War Crimes

Barack Obama is very probably a war criminal.  As Commander in Chief of a military behemoth that kills without regard to international law, Obama should be on trial if that sort of thing was conceivable in a world run on Victor's Justice.

The Obama White House is big, very big on the use of heavily-armed drones to take out perceived enemies, particularly in Pakistan.  We don't hear too much about what actually goes on but the drone programme is structured that way, to minimize public scrutiny.

Gwynne Dyer has written an eye-opener on a favoured tactic of American drone operators - the "double tap" attack.

Double tap” is what mobsters do when they put somebody down. One bullet in the heart, one in the head. That way they stay down. It’s practically standard operating procedure among hitmen.

Then there’s a different, nastier kind of “double tap”. Suppose you live in some hill village in western Pakistan, and one of the families nearby has a boy fighting with the Taliban who has come home for a visit, bringing several friends with him. It’s worrisome, because you are always hearing American drones overhead—and sure enough, one day there is a terrifying explosion and his house is destroyed.

What do you do now? There was a whole extended family living in that house: children, old folks, a cousin or two. Some of them are probably still alive under the rubble, perhaps badly injured. Do you rush over and help to dig them out? Better not. The Predator or Reaper drone (lovely names) will wait until all the neighbours have gathered round, and then launch a second Hellfire missile onto the site. Double tap.

“These strikes are becoming much more common,” Mirza Shahbad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who represents the victims of drone strikes, told the Independent newspaper recently. “In the past it used to be a one-off, now and then. Now almost every other attack is a double tap. There is no justification for it.” 

Double Tap drone attacks are executions, plain and simple.  They're murder and smack of the punitive measures the Germans employed on uncooperative civilian populations during WWII.  They absolutely beggar the Americans' claims that drone strikes are surgical and minimize collateral deaths of civilians.   That's precisely what the second missile is intended to cause.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

100,000,000 To Die by 2030 from Climate Change

And that's if we're lucky.   A study commissioned by 20-governments finds that, unless our leaders reverse course on climate change, it will claim the lives of 100-million people by 2030.

And, for those like our own miscreant government, that argue it would be economically unwarranted to move quickly to decarbonize our economy and our society, the report finds that, in addition to those 100-million dead, the world economy will take a 3.2 per cent hit in GDP as well.

As David Suzuki was reported to have quipped in Toronto recently, you simply can't have a healthy economy without a healthy biosphere.   It can't be done.

The report seems to embody the deficiencies that tend to prevail in these discussions.   Foremost of these is that it addresses global warming in isolation and doesn't factor in the gamut of associated and building threats and challenges including deforestation; desertification; air/soil/water contamination, especially across Asia; resource depletion and exhaustion, particularly the rapidly building freshwater crisis; overpopulation and population migration; disease and pest migration; species migration and extinction, particularly the collapse of global fisheries; sea level rise and salination of coastal freshwater resources; severe storm events of increasing frequency and intensity; both cyclical and sustained floods and droughts often on a regional scale; and a host of resultant security threats including food insecurity, terrorism, nuclear weapons proliferation and the intensifying arms races, notably in South and East Asia, two regions in the crosshairs of climate change.

Where the study is almost certainly correct is in the assertion that not acting effectively to propel ourselves into a low-carbon economy will be vastly more costly than action.   In other words, the path that Harper has set Canada upon is socially and economically perilous in the mid-range and devastating in the long-range.

Responding to the report, Oxfam International said the costs of political inaction on climate were “staggering.”

“The losses to agriculture and fisheries alone could amount to more than $500 billion per year by 2030, heavily focussed in the poorest countries where millions depend on these sectors to make a living,” said executive director Jeremy Hobbs.

British economist Nicholas Stern told Reuters earlier this year investment equivalent to 2 per cent of global GDP was needed to limit, prevent and adapt to climate change.

His report on the economics of climate change in 2006 said that without any action to tackle climate change, the overall costs and risks of climate change would be equivalent to a cut in per-capita consumption of perhaps up to 20 per cent.

What also tends to go unsaid is the deteriorating security situation  resulting from global warming sparking the likelihood of regional wars and perhaps even world war and the inevitable drag on GDP that will result from rearmament.

Monday, September 24, 2012

200 Reasons to Say No to the F-35

There were at least 200-instances since 1988 when CF-18 pilots had to shut one engine down and return to base on the remaining engine.

Put another way, the Canadian Air Force had two hundred examples over the past 24-years when, had they been flying the F-35, their aircraft might have been lost.   When you're talking a total buy of 65 F-35's Canada proposes, that means running out of air force awfully quickly.   Bad for the airplanes, worse yet for the poor buggers flying them.

If we have to chip in to save Lockheed Martin from disaster, shouldn't we be telling Washington to get off its high horse and agree to sell us the plane that makes sense, the F-22 Raptor?

The F-22 does everything the F-35 doesn't.   It's twin-engine.  It has a larger payload.   It is very fast and capable of super-cruise.  It is far more agile.  It's a bona fide fighter, not a light bomber passing itself off as a fighter.  And, it's far more stealthy than the F-35 can ever hope to be.

Sure the F-22 would cost more than the F-35, at least if you believe Lockheed's latest figures, but you can do so much more with far fewer of them.   And, unlike the F-35, you won't be writing them off when they lose one engine.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Shocking Truth About Inequality in the U.S.

Brace yourself.   A report by two professors, one from U.C. Davis, the other from Harvard, contends that income inequality in the United States today is more severe even than it was during the Revolution - with slavery factored in to boot.

The conclusion comes to us from an newly updated study by professors Peter Lindert of the University of California - Davis and Jeffrey Williamson of Harvard. Scraping together data from an array of historical resources, the duo have written a fascinating exploration of early American incomes, arguing that, on the eve of the Revolutionary War, wealth was distributed more evenly across the 13 colonies than anywhere else in the world that we have record of. 

Suffice to say, times have changed.

Before we dive into their findings, a word of caution about the study. When economists reach back this far into the thinly recorded the past, they're not so much taking a snapshot of what life was like as they are making a messy collage, collecting the disparate bits and pieces of information we have available and fashioning them into a coherent picture. In this case, Williamson and Lindert use occupational directories, tax lists, post-revolutionary census documents, and earlier scholarship, among other resources to build approximations of what people earned when we were getting ready to start turning our muskets on the British. Inherently, such a process involves lots of conjecture.
In the end, the pair find that the colonies were an exceedingly egalitarian place, financially, if not politically.  read more here.


Well This is Certainly Awkward for Washington

A cabinet minister from America's close ally in the War on Terror, Pakistan, is offering a bounty of about $90,000 for the killing of the guy behind the  "Innocence of Muslims" film that has inflamed the Muslim world.

Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Balor said at a news conference in Peshawar that he would personally finance a bounty aimed at the maker of the crude, low-budget video that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad.

Mr Balor acknowledged that incitement to murder was illegal but said he was ''ready to be hanged in the name of the Prophet Muhammad''. And he invited the Taliban and al-Qaeda to be ''partners in this noble deed'', according to news reports.
Mr Balor did not name the target of his bounty, but it was widely presumed to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, who lives in California and has been linked to the 14-minute video, described as a trailer for a movie named Innocence of Muslims. Nakoula has not confirmed reports of his involvement but has been questioned by police near his home near Los Angeles.
Of course Balor isn't serious.   Anyone willing to put up a $90,000 purse would know you don't have to import al Qaeda killers to get a hit on someone in the U.S.

Houston Cops 1, Double Amputee 0

Imagine the horror.   You're being threatened by a double amputee (one leg, one arm) in a wheelchair brandishing a pen (presumably in the one hand he uses to propel his wheelchair).  

What are you going to do?   Well, if you're a heavily armed, Houston cop, all alone (except for your partner), you draw your gun and plug him.  Problem solved.

Houston police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said the man cornered the officer in his wheelchair and was making threats while trying to stab the officer with the pen.

At the time, the officer did not know what the metal object was that the man was waving, Ms Silva said.

 "Fearing for his partner's safety and his own safety, he discharged his weapon," Ms Silva said.

Police did not immediately release the name of the man who was killed. They had been called to the home after a caretaker there called and reported that a man in a wheelchair was causing a disturbance.

 The owner of the group home, John Garcia, told the Houston Chronicle that the man had a history of mental illness and had been living at the house about 18 months.

"He sometimes would go off a bit, but you just ignore it," Mr Garcia told the newspaper.

Wow, do the math - four arms, four legs, two guns, two truncheons, two Mace canisters versus one arm, one leg, a wheelchair and a pen.

The USDA Knows Global Warming When It Sees It

It's the U.S. Department of Agriculture's business to monitor climate change and changing conditions for agriculture in America.

That's why the USDA has released an updated plant zone map informing the public what plants can be grown in what areas of the country.   Unfortunately the latest map, the first update since 1990, is already obsolete.

The new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which predicts which trees and perennials can survive the winter in a given region, was a long time coming. Temperature boundaries shown in the latest version have shifted northward since the last one appeared in 1990. But the true zones have moved even further, according to [City University of New York] Professor [Nir] Krakauer’s calculations.

Over one-third of the country has already shifted half-zones compared to the current release, and over one-fifth has shifted full zones,” Professor Krakauer wrote this summer in the journal “Advances in Meteorology.”

This means that fig trees, once challenged by frosty temperatures above North Carolina, are already weathering New York City winters thanks to changing temperatures and the insulating effect of the metropolis. Camellias, once happiest south of Ohio, may now be able to shrug off Detroit winters.

...“What is happening is that the winter is warming faster than the summer. Since [my] hardiness temperatures are based on minimum temperatures each year, they are changing faster than the average temperatures,” Professor Krakauer said. He found that these lowest yearly temperatures warmed roughly two and a half times faster than the average temperatures.

His analysis also showed that the country is changing unevenly; more warming is occurring over the eastern interior and less in the Southwest.

Mitt Romney - Class Warrior

Mitt Romney wouldn't be the first really rich man to enter the White House.   But, as Robert Reich points out, he'd certainly be a lot different.

America has had hugely wealthy presidents before — think of Teddy Roosevelt and his distant cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt; or John F. Kennedy, beneficiary of father Joe’s fortune.

But here’s the difference. These men were champions of the working class and the poor, and were considered traitors to their own class. Teddy Roosevelt railed against the “malefactors of great wealth,” and he busted up the oil and railroad trusts.

FDR thundered against the “economic royalists,” raised taxes on the wealthy, and gave average working people the right to form unions — along with Social Security, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, and a 40-hour workweek.

But Mitt Romney is not a traitor to his class. He is a sponsor of his class. He wants to cut their taxes by $3.7 trillion over the next decade, and hasn’t even specified what “loopholes” he’d close to make up for this gigantic giveaway.

And he wants to cut benefits that almost everyone else relies on — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and housing assistance.

He’s even a warrior for his class, telling his wealthy followers his job isn’t to worry about the “47 percent” of Americans who won’t vote for him, whom he calls “victims” and he berates for not paying federal incomes taxes and taking federal handouts.

...Money means power. Concentrated wealth at the top means extraordinary power at the top. The reason Romney pays a rate of only 14 percent on $13 million of income in 2011 — a lower rate than many in the middle class — is because he exploits a loophole that allows private equity managers to treat their income as capital gains, taxed at only 15 percent.

...So much wealth and power have accumulated at the top of America that our economy and our democracy are seriously threatened. Romney not only represents this problem. He is the living embodiment of it.

It's time Americans busted this myth of the "self-made man" Romney and his clan steadfastly hide behind.   Nobel laureate economist Joe Stiglitz in his recent book, "The Price of Inequality", traces how government policies, not normal market forces, have created the inequality that plagues today's America and has resulted in the undeserved transfer of wealth and power from the middle classes to the richest of the rich.   The government "of the people, by the people, for the people" turned its back on the people, lining its pockets richly in the process.

The frightening thing is that there a great many Americans, especially the prominent and affluent, who don't think this is corrupt.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Angry White Men Go Crazy, Keep Aged Leader, Lose Sole MLA

The Gods must be smiling down on Crispy Clark.  Her right of centre rivals, the B.C. Conservatives, have imploded.  After the Cons' leader, Geriatric John Cummins, was backed by a 71%  vote, the party's sole MLA, former Lib John van Dongen got into a car and sailed off into the sunset.  JvD says he'll sit as an Independent but won't return to the B.C. Libs u so long as Clark is premier.

If the B.C. Cons can't attract viable candidates to run an effective campaign next year, the Libs will be in a much better position to fight the NDP challenge.

Only in B.C.

Homer Votes - 2012

You might as well laugh

The One Reform that Enables All Others

Bill Moyers has the key to restoring democracy to his United States of America. 

This is a racket, plain and simple. A new report from Moody’s Investor Service says that all that spending by the parties, corporations, super PACs and other outside groups will push political ad spending up this year by half a billion dollars — 25 percent higher than 2010 – the biggest increase in history. That prompted the CEO of CBS, Leslie Moonves, to lick his chops and tell an investors conference last December, “There’s going to be a lot of money spent. I’m not saying that’s the best thing for America, but it’s not a bad thing for the CBS Corporation.” Yes, the media giants and the TV stations they own are in on the racket.

So are all those highly paid political consultants who as part of their fees skim a percentage of the cost of local TV airtime, usually around ten percent. The pickings are better than ever, thanks to all the dark money being thrown around since the Citizens United decision. One Democratic consultant has called it “the greatest windfall that ever happened for political operatives in American history.” You bet it is: By the time the primaries were over this year, the top 150 political and media consultants already had raked in an estimated $465 million — or more. When Election Day finally rolls around, chances are that number will have at least doubled.

So we can’t stop reporting on this, even though we’re often told: “Please change the subject. Everyone’s tired of this one.” Don’t be so sure. There’s a groundswell for rooting the money out of politics, as Americans come to see that this is the one reform that enables all other reforms. Two polls released in the last few days report large majorities — as many as eight in ten — are in favor of clamping down on the amount of money that corporations, the super-rich, and those shadowy outside groups are pouring into the campaigns. It’s up to all of us to put a sign on every lawn and stoop in the land: “Democracy is not for sale.”

Naomi Wolf's Eulogy for the American Dream

Naomi Wolf saw something horrid in the Mitt Romney "behind closed doors" video - the last gasp of the American Dream.

...I find [Romney's] remarks fascinating and important to deconstruct because they affirm – as insider discourse captured for the public often can – the fact that a new kind of narrative for America has taken over from one of our oldest and most cherished national myths. What Romney's comments reveal is that the American Dream is dead, killed off by skepticism from the bottom up – by the 99% of lower-income and middle-class people who no longer believe in it – and by cynicism from the top down – by the 1%, top-earning people who don't believe in it., the injunction to "work hard and play by the rules" is more likely to elicit a cynical cough of derision than a rush to the polling station. Post Tarp,  post Libor scandal, post Madoff scheme, post justice department's pass for Chase, post HSBC money-laundering, post Occupy, post the ever-widening income gap in this country, and post the evisceration of civil society and public institutions that protect the middle class, the entire underpinning of the American Dream has been uprooted. And everyone knows it.

...What Romney's remarks show is that the wealthy are handling the corruption of a system that benefits them by assigning blame for the destruction of the American Dream to the have-nots. In the Reagan years, only "welfare queens" and the small percentage of people actually on food stamps were targeted as drains on the system – needing "government handouts" and failing to "take responsibility for their lives". Now, as Romney admits, the wealthy deem virtually half the voting public as irredeemably shiftless moochers. Notable, too, is Romney's use of an Occupy-echoing phrase, "the 47%", whom he feels free to objectify and dismiss.

...I have been noticing, with sadness, that politicians do not even bother invoking the American Dream anymore. They know that we know that everything is rigged against it now, and that the language no longer persuades even the most naive and idealistic; the best you'll get from a politician is a pledge, playing to nostalgia, to restore its lost promise. But what is striking about Romney's remarks is that they have replaced that commitment with a willingness to blame a vast swath of striving, middle-class Americans for their plight.

We thus see a turning-point in American conservative philosophy. This was the moment when the wealthy elite stopped believing its own PR, the self-affirming myth of that economic success can always be had for those who want it and are willing to work. Mitt Romney has told us that it's now simply class war: a struggle to stop the other half getting what "we" have. Thank you for your candor, Mr Romney.

A Brit MD Blows the Whistle on Big Pharma

The allegation is simple.   Pharmaceutical companies provide doctors with studies favourable to their products but don't publish studies that show the drug to be worthless or worse.

I did everything a doctor is supposed to do. I read all the papers, I critically appraised them, I understood them, I discussed them with the patient and we made a decision together, based on the evidence. In the published data, reboxetine was a safe and effective drug. In reality, it was no better than a sugar pill and, worse, it does more harm than good. As a doctor, I did something that, on the balance of all the evidence, harmed my patient, simply because unflattering data was left unpublished.

Nobody broke any law in that situation, reboxetine is still on the market and the system that allowed all this to happen is still in play, for all drugs, in all countries in the world. Negative data goes missing, for all treatments, in all areas of science. The regulators and professional bodies we would reasonably expect to stamp out such practices have failed us. These problems have been protected from public scrutiny because they're too complex to capture in a soundbite. This is why they've gone unfixed by politicians, at least to some extent; but it's also why it takes detail to explain. The people you should have been able to trust to fix these problems have failed you, and because you have to understand a problem properly in order to fix it, there are some things you need to know.

Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques that are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don't like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug's true effects. Regulators see most of the trial data, but only from early on in a drug's life, and even then they don't give this data to doctors or patients, or even to other parts of government. This distorted evidence is then communicated and applied in a distorted fashion.

In their 40 years of practice after leaving medical school, doctors hear about what works ad hoc, from sales reps, colleagues and journals. But those colleagues can be in the pay of drug companies – often undisclosed – and the journals are, too. And so are the patient groups. And finally, academic papers, which everyone thinks of as objective, are often covertly planned and written by people who work directly for the companies, without disclosure. Sometimes whole academic journals are owned outright by one drug company. Aside from all this, for several of the most important and enduring problems in medicine, we have no idea what the best treatment is, because it's not in anyone's financial interest to conduct any trials at all.

It's a disturbing article, one that deserves to be read in its entirety.   The article alleges this is happening in every country.   I could easily see it going on in the United States where Big Pharma and its teams of lobbyists hold such sway on Capital Hill but it's somewhat harder for me to believe that it goes on at Health Canada.   If it does, then it must be stopped, now.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Herman Cain Says Even He Would Be Doing Better than Romney

Former Republican presidential contender Herman Cain doesn't like what he sees in his party's nominee, Mitt Romney.

Cain told members of the media after the speech that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's recent “47 percent” comment was a “non-story” being blown out of proportion by the media. But Cain said he would have been doing better if he was the nominee, saying that he'd probably have a “substantial lead” on President Barack Obama at this point.

The reason is quite simple: I have some depth to my ideas,” he said.

Sounds like Herman got word there'll be no plum spot for him in a Romney administration.   Remember when he told Barbara Walters he thought he should get Defense Secretary?

The Third Man in America's Presidential Election

You might have thought the contest was between Obama and Romney.  Wrong.   It's actually between Obama, on one side, and Romney and Israeli thug Benjamin Netanyahu on the other.

Netanyahu has abjectly failed at pressuring Obama into attacking Iran.   Romney, it seems, doesn't share Obama's qualms and is therefore Netanyahu's BFF.   It's a high stakes gambit but, if Obama wins, it could rewrite America's relationship with Israel.

Israel’s blow-hard right-wing prime minister, the US-raised zionist Benjamin Netanyahu, openly trying to topple Obama, has propelled Israel directly into US politics, and has also been trying to push the US into a  war against Iran,  and he’s been doing all this in a manner so clumsy and overt that he may have fundamentally undermined the long-standing “special relationship” between the US and Israel.

As the long-respected American newspaper of American Jewish opinion, the Jewish Daily Forward, editorialized a few days ago:
It’s difficult to recall a time when an Israeli prime minister has inserted himself into a presidential election campaign in the way that Benjamin Netanyahu has. It’s even harder to recall a time when a trusted ally openly urged the American president to undertake a questionable, unpopular and highly risky war. We sure hope Netanyahu knows what he’s doing, because the stakes for him — and for the two nations he professes to care about the most — could not be higher.
The editorial goes on to note:
He may be overplaying his hand. Americans are deeply wary of another military involvement in the Muslim world. Most Americans oppose a military strike against Iran. Most even oppose coming to Israel’s aid should it be attacked by Iran. A recent poll by the nonpartisan Chicago Council on Global Affairs posed this hypothetical situation: Israel attacks Iran, Iran retaliates and and the two nations go to war. Only “38 percent say the United States should bring its military forces into the war on the side of Israel. A majority (59%) says it should not,” the poll showed.
 ...Obama and the Democrats, increasingly dependent upon the votes of Latinos and African Americans, younger people, women and left-leaning people of all races, are recognizing that slavish support of Israel, and particularly for an Israeli desire to launch a disastrous war against Iran, are not positions that are likely to win national elections. Polls show that the American people are tired of endless wars in the Middle East, as the Daily Forward editorial correctly notes. They are also troubled when they hear American politicians say that Israel’s policies are America’s policies.

...If Obama, as looks increasingly likely, manages to win re-election while continuing to resist Prime Minister Netanyahu’s blistering criticism and blustering calls for war, the longtime unseemly grip of AIPAC on US Middle East policy will likely be broken, and with it will go the influence of the neocons who have been pushing relentlessly for American imperial domination of the Middle East.  Once a presidential candidate successfully stands up to AIPAC and to Israeli political threats and succeeds in nonetheless winning election, the lobby’s power to threaten and intimidate dissolves.

But Bibi may have a lot of hard work ahead of him.   Recent polls
show Obama with a substantial and apparently growing lead over Romney with American Jewish voters.

According to the polling data culled between July 1 and September 10, 70 percent of registered Jewish voters planned to vote for President Obama. Only 25 percent of voters said they were planning to vote for Mitt Romney, with 5 percent undecided.
These results indicate a decline from earlier this spring, when 64 percent of registered Jewish voters said they would vote for Obama and 29 percent said they would support his Republican contender.

...The rise in Jewish support for Obama, seems to indicate that American Jews are less concerned with Israel than might be thought. Accusations that Romney has been making, such as accusing Obama of "throwing allies like Israel under the bus," and failing to deal with Iran's nuclear program, don't seem to be helping garner Jewish support for the Republican candidate.

With numbers like this, Netanyahu's gambit acquires an air of fear and desperation.

Ralph Nader Weighs In on Mitt Romney - "A Corporation Running for President Masquerading As an Individual"

Ralph Nader isn't pulling any punches when sizing up Mitt the Twit Romney.

Hey, Mitt, why start with the 47 percent? Fully 100 percent of the nation’s 500 biggest corporations are dependent on various kinds of corporate welfare – subsidies, giveaways, bailouts, waivers, and other dazzling preferences – while many pay no tax at all on very substantial profits (see their familiar names – General Electric, Pepco, Verizon etc. – here)

Are the corporations that receive this corporate welfare going to vote for President Obama? (Mr. Romney has declared that corporations are people.) Of course they’re not. Nor are all of the 47 percent of people who are “dependent upon government.”

Mr. Romney doesn’t understand the double standard where government checks, whether already paid for or not, to people are called “entitlements” while far bigger checks to corporations are called “incentives.” Romney has lost control of his self-consciousness. Here is a man who talks about 47 percent of American households paying no income taxes (more on this later) while he has refused, unlike his father, to release back years of tax returns because they’ll show he has parked much of his wealth and income in foreign tax havens like the Bahamas precisely in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

Indeed, as tax expert and former New York Times Pulitzer prize-winner David Cay Johnston said on Democracy Now, Romney has maneuvered the tax laws so that his five sons will continue to receive millions of tax-free dollars from their parents’ enormous pot of wealth.

...either ignorance, callousness or both infected Mitt Romney’s pejorative characterizations of the “government dependent” 47 percent with victim mentalities who believe that they are entitled to the government providing them the necessities of life without paying income tax. Let’s see who these people are in these recessionary times. Unemployed Americans. Americans who are too poor to pay income taxes. Elderly Americans who live on their social security checks from money for which they spent their decades of working years paying. Americans using the “earned income tax credit,” so vigorously supported and extended by President Ronald Reagan. And disabled Americans who have no dollars for any income tax.

...The avarice of Romney and his buddies at the strip-mining, job-exporting, bankrupting private equity company called Bain Capital has no bounds. He thinks it’s perfectly fine for companies like Verizon, Boeing, Duke Energy, Navistar, Wells Fargo and Pepco to use all of our country’s government funded public infrastructures and services, and yet not only pay no income tax but actually rig the tax system so they can get billions back in “benefits” from the U.S. Treasury, as General Electric has done for years. At the same time, Romney never speaks out against 35,000 super-wealthy Americans who also do not pay any federal income tax. He rarely questions crony capitalism, wants to maintain an even bigger bloated military budget, and spearheads the many-sided supremacy of corporations over real people throughout our entire political economy. He is, essentially, a corporation running for president masquerading as an individual.

How Safe Are Genetically Modified Products?

The French government has directed its scientists to verify a study that found a genetically modified corn developed by Monsanto could be toxic.

Even at low doses, the GMO studied was highly toxic and even fatal for rats, to the point where if it was a medicine, it would be immediately suspended pending further investigation. It is this same GMO that ends up on our plates, when it is used to produce meat, eggs and milk.

In the 13th month of the experiment […] the incidence of tumours in rats of both sexes fed on GMO corn was two to three times higher than it was in rats on a GMO-free diet.  

...The French government has demanded that the study be verified by the French National Food Security Agency, while the European Commission has instructed the European Food Security Agency (EFSA) to do likewise.

Some Americans Are Living Longer. Not So for Uneducated White Americans.

Maybe that's why they joined the Tea Party.   America's least educated white population is not faring particularly well.   A study has shown their life expectancy has fallen by four years since the 1990's. 

Researchers have long documented that the most educated Americans were making the biggest gains in life expectancy, but now they say mortality data show that life spans for some of the least educated Americans are actually contracting. Four studies in recent years identified modest declines, but a new one that looks separately at Americans lacking a high school diploma found disturbingly sharp drops in life expectancy for whites in this group. Experts not involved in the new research said its findings were persuasive. 

 The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance.

The steepest declines were for white women without a high school diploma, who lost five years of life between 1990 and 2008.

We Need More Andrew Weavers, A Lot More

Leading Canadian climate scientist, Andrew Weaver, will be running for the British Columbia Green Party in next year's election.

Here's hoping Dr. Weaver inspires his colleagues to follow his lead.  It would be great if the Greens could put up a scientist in every riding, federal and provincial, to put the environment and global warming on the debate agenda and to discuss these issues intelligently with the voting public.

It would be terrific to see other candidates, not just Conservatives but also Liberals and NDP, squarely under the gun defending their parties' climate change policies against a credible member of the scientific community.   We get plenty of electoral greenwashing these days, far too much, and our nation is running out of time and options.

The Tories have already taken Mulcair to the woodshed over his carbon policy and the Libs seem divided, wobbly and unable to present a coherent, meaningful climate change policy.   The Conservatives, despite EnviroMin Peter Kent's poorly manicured denials, is in league with Big Oil in the creation of a true petro-state.

We'll have to wait until next year to see how effective Professor Weaver proves to be in shaping the debate in the riding he contests.
Even if he doesn't win, campaigning for the Greens and shaping the debate can be a genuine victory for the Greens and for Canada.

Even if the Greens can't get enough scientists to run everywhere they could run strategically.   Imagine having Andrew Weaver run in Calgary against Harper and challenge him to debate his government's record on climate change and its policies for the future.   Target Harper, target Kent, target Mulcair and whoever winds up leading the Libs.     Get into their ridings.   Force them to deal with reality.

Biggest Threat to World's Biggest Economy? Republican "Cranks and Crazies"

It took an Australian to state the obvious but Aussie treasurer and deputy prime minister, Wayne Swan, sees Republicans as the greatest threat to America's economy.

"Let's be blunt and acknowledge the biggest threat to the world's biggest economy are the cranks and crazies that have taken over the Republican party."

"Despite President Obama's goodwill and strong efforts, the national interest was held hostage by the rise of the extreme Tea Party wing of the Republican party," he said.

Nobel laureate economist, Paul Krugman, added his own observations about Republicans today, noting that the remarks that landed Mitt Romney in such controversy were mainstream Republican sentiments.

...the fact is that the modern Republican Party just doesn’t have much respect for people who work for other people, no matter how faithfully and well they do their jobs. All the party’s affection is reserved for “job creators,” a k a employers and investors. Leading figures in the party find it hard even to pretend to have any regard for ordinary working families — who, it goes without saying, make up the vast majority of Americans.

Am I exaggerating? Consider the Twitter message sent out by Eric Cantor, the Republican House majority leader, on Labor Day — a holiday that specifically celebrates America’s workers. Here’s what it said, in its entirety: “Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.” Yes, on a day set aside to honor workers, all Mr. Cantor could bring himself to do was praise their bosses.

Lest you think that this was just a personal slip, consider Mr. Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. What did he have to say about American workers? Actually, nothing: the words “worker” or “workers” never passed his lips. This was in strong contrast to President Obama’s convention speech a week later, which put a lot of emphasis on workers — especially, of course, but not only, workers who benefited from the auto bailout.

Needless to say, the G.O.P.’s disdain for workers goes deeper than rhetoric. It’s deeply embedded in the party’s policy priorities. Mr. Romney’s remarks spoke to a widespread belief on the right that taxes on working Americans are, if anything, too low. Indeed, The Wall Street Journal famously described low-income workers whose wages fall below the income-tax threshold as “lucky duckies.” .

Definitely Worth a Listen

One of the greatest guitar solos you may ever experience.    Keith Richards, Sympathy for the Devil.

I may be biased.   I will, however, pass up concerts to go out of my way to watch this:  The self-styled "World's Greatest Bar Band" - George Thorogood and the Destroyers.

If you don't like this, get used to it.   Ten, twenty years max and this is what people will listen to.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Difference Between a CF-18 and the F-35

If Canada had been operating the F-35 since 1988, we'd probably be hard pressed to find any still flying.   Over the past 24-years, the twin-engine CF-18 has racked up plenty of bird strikes.   In fact the amazing fighter, selected by the Trudeau government, has, during that period, had 67-instances where its engines ingested birds.

A bird in the burner is always serious business.   But a bird in the engine of a single-engine airplane such as the F-35 is a far different thing than a bird in one engine of a twin-engine fighter like the CF-18.  Let's do the math.   Two minus one equals one.   One minus one equals game over.  One fighter has a chance of getting its pilot safely home.   The other - not so much.

And, since we can expect these bird strikes to continue, and the government and its military shills are talking of the F-35 as meeting Canada's needs for thirty years or more, and as we're buying just 60 of the overpriced, overdue and under-performing aerial White Elephants, logic and math suggest we can expect to be making do with a rapidly dwindling force once they actually become operational.

But, of course, when attrition sets in and we begin writing off the 35 in big numbers, we'll either be going back to Lockheed to buy ever more or maybe, just maybe, we'll come to our senses and cast about for a replacement suited to Canada's needs and purposes.  Maybe.

Cops For Pot

Police officers gathered with judges and prosecutors in Denver today, coming out to support Colorado's marijuana legalization initiative.

Tony Ryan, a 36-year veteran Denver police lieutenant and LEAP, told reporters that the marijuana-related calls his department received were rarely threatening, and more likely the result of an axe to ground than serious concern. Marijuana use, he says, is not related to crime, and legalizing it would reduce the strain on officer resources.

“Beyond just being ineffective, these laws waste important law enforcement resources that could instead be going to things that actually protect public safety, like solving and preventing murders, rapes and robberies," said Ryan.

In a sign-on letter, law enforcement explained how legalizing marijuana would have positive consequences. They write that Amendment 64, which legalizes and regulates marijuana for adults over 21, would:
  • Put our police priorities where they belong, by ending the arrests of non-violent marijuana users and enabling police to focus instead on preventing violent crime
  • Cut off funding to violent gangs and drug cartels, who generate the majority of their revenue from illegal marijuana sales
  • Protect the lives of police officers now in the line of fire in the "drug war"
  • Reduce marijuana access to children by instituting strict age-limits and public safety controls
  • Restore mutual respect and good relations between law enforcement and communities bearing the brunt of the current marijuana laws

The Colorado Center on Law and Policy estimates that by taxing weed and saving law enforcement resources, Amendment 64 would generate $60 million in tax revenue and savings annually. The initiative states that the first $40 million raised each year will be spent improving education.

A close friend of nearly 40-years is a recently retired Detroit cop with a PhD in criminology.  He has always advocated decriminalization of pot.  He talked of going into homes and finding one family member shot dead and a nearly empty bottle of whiskey on the table but he never saw that with anyone who had been smoking weed.

Jon Stewart - Chaos on Bullshit Mountain

Jon Stewart elegantly dismembers FOX News

Stewart hits this right out of the ballpark.

Texas Republican Symbolically Lynches Obama

A Texas Republican has strung up an "empty chair" from a tree in his front yard.   That the chair symbolizes Obama, a la Clint Eastwood,

The homeowner was contacted about the gruesome display and responded,  "I don't really give a damn whether it disturbs you or not. You can take [your concerns] and go straight to hell and take Obama with you. I don't give a shit. If you don't like it, don't come down my street."

Looking Inside Mitt Romney

It may be a bit premature but New York Times columnist Charlie Blow offers an elegant autopsy of Mitt Romney.

Romney is trapped by a desperate desire for legitimacy. He is a square — in more ways than one — trying to squeeze himself into the conservative circle of trust.

In so doing, he says all the right things the wrong way. His facts are off. His timing is off. His pitch is off. He’s just off. Try as he may, he just doesn’t fit in. But he’s now so lost in his thirst for high office that he has also lost himself. Co-opted convictions will always betray you.

Romney, whose economic plan is titled “Believe in America,” demonstrated with brutal efficiency that he doesn’t in fact believe in America.

I once wrote the following:
I have no personal gripe with Romney. I don’t believe him to be an evil man. Quite the opposite: he appears to be a loving husband and father. Besides, evil requires conviction, which Romney lacks. But he is a dangerous man. Unprincipled ambition always is. Infinite malleability is its own vice because it’s infinitely corruptible by others of ignoble intentions.
But Romney’s taped comments open the door to doubt. I’m no longer confident in the basic goodness of his constitution.
One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient. In fact, a man convinced of his virtue even in the midst of his vice is the worst kind of man.

The Victoria Times Colonist Calls "Bulls__t" on Christy Clark.

You Go Girl.  No, Seriously, Just Go.

The untested, unproven and unbelievable premier of British Columbia is paying dearly for her cracks about her very own legislature.   The centre-right Times Colonist is having a field day with Clark and her unfortunate remarks.

Pundit Les Leyne volunteered that Clark may have Romneyed next year's election.  "To 'Romney' is to speak from the heart during an unguarded moment and say something so fantastically stupid that it winds up destroying your campaign."

And the main editorial today is even harder on Premier CC:

When she was running for the leadership of her party, she was excited about bringing new respect to the legislature. She said she loved question period and the debates in the house. She wanted to bolster legislature committees and she wanted to find co-operative ways to help ensure that more private members' bills were passed.

What a difference a year makes. Since Clark took her seat on May 30, 2011, private members have brought 24 bills to first reading. How many of them have passed? None.

While the premier is right to push her new ministers to get a grip on their departments and put their budgets in order, voters can be forgiven for thinking that a major reason for avoiding the house is to keep the government away from too much examination in the run-up to next spring's election. The sick culture and beltway debate sound a lot like people asking questions she doesn't appreciate.

 Goodbye, Christy.  We barely knew ye.  I guess we owe you thanks for that.

Weaver to Run for Greens in Victoria

One of Canada's top climate scientists, University of Victoria prof Andrew Weaver, is going to run for the Green Party in Victoria in the next provincial election.

Finally the Greens will get the scientific credentials muscle that only a guy like Dr. Weaver can offer.   With May, federally, and Weaver, in B.C., the Greens look like a very attractive alternative to the NDP and Liberals in Victoria and in Ottawa.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Crispy Clark's Sarah Palin Moment

British Columbia's unelected, unelectable and outgoing premier, Christy Clark, apparently doesn't like her job any more.  She's beginning to sound like a mid-term Sarah Palin.

...Clark says she tries to avoid working at the legislature because there's "no real people in Victoria" and the "sick culture" is unhealthy.

Clark, whose government cancelled the regularly scheduled fall session of the legislature, blasted working conditions in the provincial capital during an interview with a Vancouver-based columnist for the National Post.

"I try never to go over there. Because it's sick. It's a sick culture. All they can think about is government and there are no real people in Victoria, and you get captured by this inside-the-beltway debate, and it's really unhealthy."

Clark's apparent disdain for the legislature contrasts with comments she made while running for the B.C. Liberal party leadership in 2011.

Then, she told reporters she loved the daily cut-and-thrust of question period. After she won the party leadership, she expressed a desire to run in a byelection as quickly as possible to get her seat in the house. "As you know, I love question period and I hate to miss it," she told reporters.

When Clark was resigning as an MLA in 2005, during her first stint in office, she also professed love for the job in her last speech in the chamber.

"I have a deep, deep love of politics. I love question period. I love debate. I love the people I've met. I even love the protesters. I love politics."

Don't worry, Christy, it'll be all over soon.   In fact the people of British Columbia can't wait to set you free from your burdensome responsibilities in Victoria.   Why, you'll never have to see the place again.   Ever.

They're Like Junkies, They Really Are

We know that existing, known fossil fuel reserves already on the books of global energy companies are five times greater than the maximum amount of fossil fuel we can consume and hope to remain within the 2C safety mark for global warming.

Put another way, four fifths of the known resources need to be left in the ground, unused, at least until we have in place the necessary systems to strip massive volumes of CO2 and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Western governments and the emerging economies say they get it.   Global warming must be acted upon.    We have to sharply curb carbon emissions.  Oh yes, absolutely, we get it.   But they don't.

Take two prominent fossil fuelers - Canada and Australia.   Canada styles itself a petro-power thanks mainly to its reserves of bitumen.   Australia is all about coal.

The Australian government is implementing a carbon tax.  Yeah.  At the same time it's clearing the way for the development and export of massive quantities of coal to China and India that, when burned, will guarantee our grandkids face a 6C future.

Plans to open up a new Australian "coal export rush" would turn a single Queensland region into the seventh largest contributor of carbon dioxide emissions on the planet, undermining international efforts to keep global warming below 2C, a new report has warned.

Nine proposed "mega mines" in the Galilee Basin would, at full capacity, result in 705m tonnes of CO2 released into the atmosphere, according to a Greenpeace Australia analysis. This level of emissions would surpass those of all but six nations in the world. By comparison, the UK emitted 549.3 million tonnes of CO2 from all sources in 2011.

...Greenpeace warns that a growth in coal-fired emissions represented by the nine Queensland mines would be in line with the International Energy Agency's model of a "catastrophic" 6C rise in temperatures.

"At a time when the science could not be clearer on the need to reduce global carbon emissions, and when governments worldwide are shifting to a low-carbon economy, exploiting the Galilee Basin is a reckless proposition," the report states. "It is imperative that the Galilee Basin coal reserves remain in the ground."

And there's the rub.   Yes this Aussie coal needs to remain in the ground.   So should all the filthiest fossil fuels, including Athabasca bitumen.   Future fossil fuel consumption should be restricted to the lowest carbon forms such as light, sweet crude oil and they should only be a bridge to alternate, clean energy.

But find a government sitting stop major fossil fuel fields that will acknowledge much less embrace the notion of their resources being left unexploited.  It's like asking a coke addict to leave that line unsnorted.

If we are to have any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change the first sign will be when some national government proclaims that it will not allow its fossil fuels to be extracted.  You'll know when it happens by the sound of the world's biggest crack pipe being smashed to smithereens.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

BC Opposition to Pipelines - Solid and Building

A new poll has discovered that British Columbians take bitumen pipelines very, very seriously.   In fact, the pipelines come second only to the economy in priority and  even ahead of healthcare.

“It is very unusual to see a single issue top health care or come so close to tying with the economy as the most pressing issue in B.C.,” said Stratcom president Bob Penner, who was hired by the anti-pipeline Living Oceans Society to survey attitudes on pipeline matters. “This has become a critical issue in B.C.”

The telephone survey began with an open-ended question: “What, in your opinion, is the most important issue facing British Columbians today?”

The economy got the nod from 14.9 per cent of respondents, while pipelines and tankers was a close second at 14.1 per cent. Health care was third at 12.2 per cent.

The provincewide online survey of 1,012 British Columbians, done August 8-10, found that 60 per cent of respondents opposed the Northern Gateway project, compared to 20 per cent in favour. The rest were either neutral or wouldn’t say.

That same poll found that 50 per cent were against Kinder Morgan’s project, compared to 22 per cent in support.

With barely one out of five supporting the bitumen pipelines, opposition is firming up and growing.   The rest of Canada may be content to gauge the pipeline according to its supposed economic importance to the country but British Columbians believe the safety and environmental dangers in our home province trump economic development elsewhere.  It's our province and we'll decide what happens here.  You're just going to have to live with that.

Look For a Star in the East - FOX News Throws Romney Under a Very Luxurious Bus

Even FOX is losing its patience with Mitt Romney.  An editorial takes Romney to pieces for his attack on the 47%, those who don't pay U.S. income taxes.

The governor is wrong to say that the 47% don't pay income taxes.  Sixty-one percent of those people are paying payroll taxes at a rate of 15% or more, which is higher than the 13.5% rate that the governor himself has paid. These are people who almost certainly would like to pay income taxes.  They are typically under employed, or are earning less than a family of four needs to support itself. 

They are just as hardworking and committed as people making a lot more money.  So, the governor is simply wrong.

Another 22% of people in this category are those receiving senior citizen benefits like Medicare and Medicaid, and presumably a large percentage of them have been in the work force previously. 
To think that the country is divided into “Haves” and “Have-nots,” with the Have-nots being victims, is a profound misreading of America, it represents bad political thinking, and it represents the worst form of paternalism. 

FOX being FOX, the editorial goes on to slag Obama for, wait for it, pointing out the obvious - that the rich in America don't pay their fair share.  This, to FOX, is class warfare.   And then, to prove they can defy gravity, this:

This is not a country that is divided, and it is wrong for both candidates to do so on the basis of class, or level of taxation paid.

America.   Not a country divided?   Really?

Ryan To the Rescue

With a team like Romney-Ryan, it's no wonder other Republicans facing election in November are becoming alarmed.

In the wake of the backroom video of Romney gaffes leaked by Mother Jones, Romney's vice-presidential sidekick rode to his rescue by, essentially, doubling down on the Romney parasite attack.

Representative Paul D. Ryan, held a town-hall-style meeting in New Hampshire, where he defended the ticket’s desire to fight against dependency on the federal government, which he said had become worse during Mr. Obama’s tenure.

“We should be measuring the progress of our social programs by how many people we transition off of them,” he said at the meeting.

"Transition off" seems to be code for "kick off" which is probably just what Ryan was trying to say to his own upper class supporters.  That's it, Paul.   When you're in a hole, just keep digging. 

What Moscow and Beijing Are Reading in Romney

Vlad Putin has expressed his gratitude for Mitt Romney's candor.  It has, Putin says, justified his wariness of dealing with America's leadership over missile defence systems deployed in Europe.

Moscow and Beijing know that Romney has fallen under the guidance of warmongers like John Bolton who recently wrote this delightful piece in National Review Online.

First and foremost, we should cut Syria off from its major supporters. The television images from Syria will not change permanently until the underlying strategic terrain changes permanently. Russia should be told in no uncertain terms that it can forget about sustained good relations with the United States as long as it continues to back Assad. We should resume full-scale, indeed accelerated, efforts to construct the limited missile-defense system designed by George W. Bush to protect American territory not against Russia but against rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. But we should immediately make it clear to Moscow that we will begin to consider broadening our missile-defense program to deal with Russian and Chinese ballistic-missile capabilities. We should also announce our withdrawal from the New START arms-control treaty, and our utter disinterest in negotiations to prevent an “arms race” in space. Let Moscow and Beijing think about all that for a while.

The magnitude of such a shift as a response to the conflict in Syria may seem startling, but each of these proposals is meritorious on its own terms. Wrapping several major policy redirections around the Syria problem thus advances multiple objectives simultaneously. Both Russia and China think Obama is weak, that America is declining, and that they can ignore our views on Syria and many other issues with complete impunity. It is time for a wake-up call to the Kremlin and Zhongnanhai.

Next, we should tell Iran that our patience with their decade-long ploy of using diplomacy to gain time to advance their nuclear-weapons program has ended. Tehran should face a stark choice, and we can leave to their imagination what will happen if they fail immediately to dismantle all aspects of their existing nuclear effort. We should also reverse the fantasy still trumpeted by Obama that, despite its repeated violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty over 20 years, Iran is somehow entitled to a “peaceful” nuclear program. Until there is a new, trustworthy regime in Tehran, there can be no claim to benefits or “rights” under a treaty Iran has grossly abused. We should introduce this new reality to our European friends as well, perhaps by simply being unambiguous with them.

Finally, in Syria itself, we should do now what we could have begun to do ten years ago (and what the Obama White House at least says it is doing now): find Syrian rebel leaders who are truly secular and who oppose radical Islam; who will disavow al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups; and who will reject Russian and Iranian hegemony over their country. We will need some reason to believe that this opposition can prevail against not only the Assad regime but also the terrorists and fanatics who also oppose Assad. This must be not a faith-based judgment but a clear-eyed assessment of reality. Such is the kind of opposition that, assuming it exists, we should support, aiming for regime change in Damascus when — and only when — it becomes feasible on our terms. On this matter, too, we should tell our European allies that we want their support for something other than semiotic diplomacy.

Classic, rabid John Bolton.  It has never crossed his tortured mind that America's unrivalled military superiority has utterly failed to deliver success ever since the neo-cons succeeded in foreign policy "bait and switch" substituting the threat and use of military force as a substitute for diplomacy.   That Bolton now has Mitt Romney's ear is genuinely sad.

Romney's Problem Isn't What He Says But What He Believes

As David Brooks points out in the New York Times, Mitt Romney has a profoundly flawed belief system.   He has a feeble knowledge of the country, its people, its culture.   He doesn't "get" the American social compact.

Mitt Romney is an astonishingly shallow man.   His ill-considered candor has already alienated Moscow and the Muslim world to boot without achieving any offsetting benefit for Romney, much less for his country.

He's written off 47 per cent of the American public, dismissing them as parasites.   He wants to govern for the others, the truly advantaged Americans.

The video released by Mother Jones reveals a candidate leveling with his well-heeled backers at a $50,000 a plate dinner.  He's telling them what he believes, what they also believe.   Should we be alarmed that Romney is an oligarch?  Why?

Romney is only following a path carved out of the forest of democracy by a corporatist Supreme Court and then paved with money from his wealthiest benefactors.   They have blazed Romney's trail.   They have charted his course.   He is their man.  They made him.   He is the intended instrument of their will.

NYT's Brooks Slams "Thurston Howell Romney"

If  you're the Republican presidential candidate and yet you've lost New York Times conservative columnist, David Brooks, you're in serious trouble.   Brooks slams Romney's remarks disparaging half of Americans as, essentially, parasites.   Brooks may have just written Romney's political obituary and it's wonderful:

This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?

It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America. Yes, the entitlement state has expanded, but America remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth. Americans work longer hours than just about anyone else. Americans believe in work more than almost any other people. Ninety-two percent say that hard work is the key to success, according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey. 

It says that Romney doesn’t know much about the political culture. Americans haven’t become childlike worshipers of big government. On the contrary, trust in government has declined. The number of people who think government spending promotes social mobility has fallen.

The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor.

Romney’s comments also reveal that he has lost any sense of the social compact. In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62 percent of Republicans believed that the government has a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, only 40 percent of Republicans believe that.

The Republican Party, and apparently Mitt Romney, too, has shifted over toward a much more hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view — from the Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of makers and takers. There’s no way the country will trust the Republican Party to reform the welfare state if that party doesn’t have a basic commitment to provide a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.

I wonder how anguished Brooks must have been to write these things about the Republican nominee?   He must realize that his party, the GOP, has been hijacked by lunatics and needs to be taken out into the woods and put down.   Romney's litany of blunders shows he knows the way.

Oh Damn! The American Case for an Israeli Attack on Iran.

Asia Times correspondent "Spengler" argues that, for Washington, an Israeli attack on Iran might not be a bad thing.

...consider the possibility that all-out regional war is the optimal outcome for American interests. An Israeli strike on Iran that achieved even limited success - a two-year delay in Iran's nuclear weapons development - would arrest America's precipitous decline as a superpower.

Absent an Israeli strike, America faces:

  • A nuclear-armed Iran;
  • Iraq's continued drift towards alliance with Iran;
  • An overtly hostile regime in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood government will lean on jihadist elements to divert attention from the country's economic collapse;
  • An Egyptian war with Libya for oil and with Sudan for water;
  • A radical Sunni regime controlling most of Syria, facing off an Iran-allied Alawistan ensconced in the coastal mountains;
  • A de facto or de jure Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the Kingdom of Jordan;
  • A campaign of subversion against the Saudi monarchy by Iran through Shi'ites in Eastern Province and by the Muslim Brotherhood internally;
  • A weakened and perhaps imploding Turkey struggling with its Kurdish population and the emergence of Syrian Kurds as a wild card;
  • A Taliban-dominated Afghanistan; and
  • Radicalized Islamic regimes in Libya and Tunisia.

    Saudi Arabia is the biggest loser in the emerging Middle East configuration, and Russia is the biggest winner. Europe and Japan have concluded that America has abandoned its long-standing commitment to the security of energy supplies in the Persian Gulf by throwing the Saudi monarchy under the bus, and have quietly shifted their energy planning towards Russia. Little of this line of thinking will appear in the news media, but the reorientation towards Moscow is underway nonetheless. 
  • Parting Company

    Has NATO cried "uncle" in Afghanistan?

    Apparently reacting to the ongoing spate of "green on blue" killings of Western forces by supposed Afghan allies, NATO has cut back on operations with Afghan forces.

    The move to curtail joint on-the-ground operations throws the coalition's military strategy into disarray and could further undermine public support in Australia for the war.

    ...NATO says 51 coalition soldiers have been killed by Afghan soldiers and police this year.

    The suspension of joint operations threatens the plan to train an effective Afghan army to hold off the Taliban after the total withdrawal of foreign troops.

    It sounds very much like NATO has had a "bugger this" moment with time fast running out, the Afghan forces thoroughly infiltrated, desertions running at about the same rate as recruiting and a hopeless government in Kabul that defies any hope of salvation.

    But, as the West is packing up the dishes and linens in preparation for leaving Afghanistan, Russia is steadily ramping up its presence.

    A period of intense high-level exchange is commencing this week between Russia and its Central Asian allies - and Pakistan. What characterizes the Russian strategy is a robust attempt to develop comprehensive partnerships with these countries in preparation of the post-2014 scenario in Afghanistan with the expected withdrawal of the troops of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

    The Russian focus is, not surprisingly, on the three countries to the north and south of Afghanistan - Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan.


    How Much American Stealth Technology Does China Already Have?

    Recent images of two Chinese stealth fighters, the J-20 that appeared almost two years ago and the J-21 that surfaced this past week, have stymied American observers.   No one knows how advanced these aircraft may be.   They look like carbon copies of America's top stealth fighter, the F-22 (no, not the dog F-35 the U.S. wants to saddle us with).   But there's no way as yet of evaluating whether the Chinese have the keys to the inner temple - the secrets of American stealth coatings that are radar absorbent and the electronic wizardry that is also instrumental in making stealth work.

    What is known is that the Chinese have been actively pursuing these technologies.   Since 2009 there have been incidents in which hackers, believed to be Chinese, have broken into American and British computers to filch massive amounts of F-35 data and code.

    Chinese Hackers were able to penetrate into computers belonging to BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence company, and to steal details about the design, performance and electronic systems of the West’s latest fighter jet, the costly F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The hacking attack has raised concerns that the fighter jet’s advanced radar capabilities could have been compromised and comes few weeks after papers about the future British-French drone were stolen in Paris. 

    Three years ago, the Wall Street Journal revealed the F-35 had been compromised by computer spies.

    The Joint Strike Fighter, also known as the F-35 Lightning II, is the costliest and most technically challenging weapons program the Pentagon has ever attempted. The plane, led by Lockheed Martin  Corp.  relies on 7.5 million lines of computer code, which the Government Accountability Office said is more than triple the amount used in the current top Air Force fighter.

    Six current and former officials familiar with the matter confirmed that the fighter program had been repeatedly broken into. The Air Force has launched an investigation.

    And then there's Lockheed Martin's state of the art stealth drone, the RQ-170, that Iran managed to seize just before Christmas.  As expected, the Chinese have pored over the aircraft at length and presumably taken samples of its stealth coatings.

    In mid-August, a team from China removed electronic components from the drone that were taken back to their homeland for reverse engineering.

    China, it seems, doesn't have to re-invent the stealth wheel.  It can simply steal much of the technology online and can fill in many of the gaps when American forces deliver the latest and greatest stealth drone into their very laps.

    While we don't know how stealthy China's J-20 and J-21 fighters will be, the Chinese well may have copied enough of America's secrets to make their aircraft highly capable.   That bodes very badly for the F-35 which was intentionally designed to be far less stealthy than America's super stealth fighter, the F-22.   America's allies are getting stuck with the Plymouth when even the Chinese may be flying around in Corvettes. 

    When someone sells you something that is supposedly exclusive or super-secret but you subsequently discover that it's no longer exclusive, no longer super-secret, isn't it time to question the giant size price tag?