Monday, November 30, 2015

Aye, and There's The Rub.

Environmental activist, Bill McKibben, of, has written a piece for Scientific American that cuts through the chaff to reveal what any hope of forestalling runaway climate change is going to mean. It's all in this paragraph:

...researchers have made it relatively simple to understand what we can and can’t do going forward. If the planet is to hold its temperature increase to two degrees Celsius—and almost every nation agreed to that target in 2009 at the international talks in Copenhagen—then we simply have to leave most of the carbon we know about underground; it can’t be burned. In fact, a powerful article in Nature last January listed all the carbon deposits that would need to go untouched: places like the tar sands of Canada or the oil and gas reservoirs beneath the Arctic.

Wait, did he just mention Canada's very own Tar Sands? Why, yes he did. Sorry, Alberta. Sorry, Saskatchewan. That stuff has to be left in the ground. It can't keep feeding into the fossil fuel stream. It's just too carbon intensive with today's technology.

Every developed country is going to have to make some pretty big sacrifices, especially the fossil energy exporters.

Fresh Insights into Turkey's Shootdown of a Russian Bomber.

Chris Kilford has written an excellent opinion piece in The Ottawa Citizen.  The former Canadian Forces colonel served as air attache to Turkey from 2011 until 2014, experience that gives him some clear perspective.

"The thing is that Turkish airspace is “violated” all the time and the Turks, equally, enter Greek airspace uninvited and conduct bombing missions into northern Iraq whenever it suits them. As the Turkish General Staff noted in a press release, Turkish airspace had been entered 114 times before the Russian incident – mostly by the Greek air force – without anyone being shot down.

"Why now then? Some observers say the whole affair was cleverly pre-planned by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to end any sort of alliance between Russia and the anti-ISIS coalition and the possibility of Assad remaining in power. In the aftermath, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg certainly said the obligatory words of support for Ankara but privately, I suspect, was as dismayed as everyone else with Turkey’s behaviour.

"...The fact is that because of Syria, Turkey and Russia have become adversaries. On one side sits the Syrian regime with their Russian allies who have been relentlessly bombing Turkmen positions for several weeks. On the other side are the Turkmen and their Turkish allies who have done everything they can, short of a ground invasion, to help them.

"In desperation, it’s likely the Turkmen leadership made one final appeal to Ankara to rescue them and, lacking any other viable options, the absurd idea of shooting down a Russian aircraft was about the best anyone could come up with. This was no wider geo-strategic strategy on the part of Turkey, just a Turkish “face-saving” exercise in front of their allies and one last angry lash-out before Syrian government flags are likely to begin popping up all along the Turkish border.

"As for the Russian sanctions designed to punish Turkey, one wonders if Moscow isn’t actually punishing itself. It’s also likely Putin is engaged in a little domestic face-saving of his own. How many sanctions will actually see the light of day is debatable. Indeed, if Russia was really that outraged, it could do far worse — cutting back on its substantial gas and oil supplies to Ankara, for example.

"But why bother? The Russians have the initiative. Assad isn’t going anywhere and Syria’s Kurds are well on their way to some sort of independence or autonomy.

"Erdogan is furious on both accounts and his judgement, as witnessed with the shooting down of the Russian jet, clouded. Besides, Turkey has its own significant domestic issues, and it would be better for all involved if Erdogan simply offered an apology and accepted that this fight is one he will not win."

For a Liberal, It's Sort of "Family Furniture"

Nice Belt Buckle, Pierre. Wait, Are Those Cords?

Justin Trudeau has done a bit of redecorating. Gone into storage is the desk used by Stephen Harper.

The prime minister wanted something a little smaller. He might not have asked for something a bit more Liberal but that's what he got. It's the desk his father - and a lot of other Liberal prime ministers, including Laurier, Pearson, Chretien and Martin used. The desk is believed to date back to around 1880.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Remind Me Why We're Rubbing Elbows with the States Sponsoring ISIS.

Kinsella reminds us today to be very afraid of ISIS, that we're all in the terrorists' gunsights, and he's even got a link to the New York Times to prove it.

Pardon me if I'm somewhat underwhelmed by this imminent danger. Our governments, current and past, didn't and don't much care so why should I worry?

How can I say that? Easy, because while they're always at the ready to slap sanctions on outfits like Iran, branding them as state sponsors of terrorism, they turn a blind eye to the countries that are actually supporting Islamist terrorism - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the rest of the Gulf States, and Turkey for starters.

Now the New York Times has its tits in the wringer over the presence of ISIS in the now failed state of Libya. OMG, how did that happen? It happened in part because we allowed it.

In February, 2011, I did an analysis of Libya's deteriorating civil war against Gaddafi. I argued that the US needed to tell Egypt to invade Libya and oust the tyrant, pointing out it would be an easy week's work for the Egyptians with their divisions of modern M-1A1 Abrams tanks and squadrons of late model F-16s. The reason I advocated a quick, decisive invasion was that Sunni Islamists had quite openly announced they intended to move into Libya to establish a toe hold in North Africa. They even blamed themselves for missing the opportunity to get in when Egyptian crowds forced out Mubarak but insisted that was a mistake they wouldn't repeat.

A few weeks later Gwynne Dyer came to the same conclusion, arguing that Egypt was Libya's last chance to avoid becoming a failed state.

So, what did we do? Bugger all or close enough to it. We decided to send the now ubiquitous sixpack of CF-18s to join an allied bombing campaign against Gaddafi forces, an effort that dragged on for eight months and one day before Gaddafi was finally toppled and butchered. By the time the civil war was over, Libya was a true failed state. Islamist forces were deeply entrenched, able to challenge the Libyan opposition forces, and that's where it remains today. The Islamists were even skilful enough to have killed off the one rebel leader who might have formed a post-Gaddafi government.

Today this might not sound too surprising. None of the Sunni states that could have brought the Libyan civil war to a quick end and sealed off the place before Islamist radicals could become entrenched saw fit to intervene. Sounds a bit like Syria, doesn't it? Or Iraq or even, more recently, Afghanistan.

What it comes down to is that it's not ISIS that scares me but Western governments that still coddle the Sunni states that are the lifeline to the Islamist terrorists. They scare me because they're perpetuating this madness by continuing to prop up these ISIS-friendly generals, sheikhs, emirs and princes.

Our Liberal friend recently wrote about his first trip to Israel. It began with this:

So, flying el Al into Israel for the first time, two miles up, I could literally see where Israel started, and where it ended. Israel, from the air, is green and lush. It is an oasis. All the countries arrayed around it mostly aren’t: they are a vastness of parched and barren dirt. They are landfill disguised as countries. Looking down at it all, I said to my traveling companion: “Well, that explains a thing or two.”

I would have left a comment but I'm not welcome on his site so I'll address it here. From the air you don't know where Israel starts and where it ends. Chances are the first lush territory you identify as Israeli is actually part of the West Bank now overrun by illegal settlements.

The Palestinian territory sites atop one of the three largest aquifers in the region, one that Netanyahu has already said is so vital to the future of Israel that it can never be returned. The Israeli army generously pipes water to the settlers. Palestinians have to apply for permission to access their own water resources, permission that isn't approved.  "Landfill disguised as countries." That's no accident. It's anything but. However our Liberal colleague is welcome to take a peek at this pictorial from The Guardian showing how Palestinians get access to water.

Here are a few other links he might be well served to check out:

This is Dark, Very Dark.

One of the few, powerful weapons Palestinians have against Israel are video clips of Israeli military abuses posted to YouTube and Facebook. You don't have to see many of them to know they're pretty gut-wrenching.

Israel has now gone after Google and YouTube asking them to censor the "inflammatory" videos.

Deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotoveley, will be working with Google and YouTube officials in a joint mechanism that will be in charge of “monitoring and preventing” any publication of materials deemed by Tel Aviv to be “inflammatory.”

Hotovely announced in a Hebrew-only press release that she met with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and Google’s Director of Public Policy, Jennifer Oztzistzki, at Google’s Silicon Valley Offices.

Hotovely said that she received a comprehensive review mechanism for companies to monitor the films that allegedly incite violence, claiming that the supposed ‘incitement videos’ drive young children to go out and stab: "The attacks daily in Israel are the result of youths and children incited by the education system and the social networks, this is a daily war of incitement."

She said that Google agreed to strengthen the bilateral relations with Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and build a mechanism of “collaborative work” that would make both parties partners in monitoring the published materials and censoring them.

All foreign journalists who report in the Occupied Territories are required to register with the Israeli military, and any footage that they film is required to go through the Israeli Military Censor’s office before it can be released.

With the recent advances in technology, many Palestinians and other civilians have been able to post videos uncensored online.

The Israeli government has frequently voiced its discontent with this development, and have worked to find ways to continue to censor videos coming out of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Here's the thing. Israel isn't out to blind the Palestinians. It's you they're worried about. They don't want anybody seeing what really goes on in the Gaza Ghetto. There's a reason for that.

I Wonder What He's Asking For The Bike?

Sausalito, California man, Henry Wolf, has a dandy 1993 BMW motorcycle complete with custom Corbin seat that he's probably looking to unload.

Wolf just walked out of a California court house empty handed after unsuccessfully suing BMW and Corbin, claiming that a 2-hour ride on the bike left him with priapism, "a painfully prolonged erection."

On Tuesday -- in a 14-page decision laced with medical language about Doppler ultrasounds, tumescence and aspiration of the corposa cavernosa -- a three-judge 1st District Court of Appeal panel affirmed a San Francisco Superior Court decision to dismiss the case.

The judges found that Wolf's appeal "fails to comply with the rules of appellate procedure" by failing to cite the relevant cases or statutes, and it "contains no intelligible argument." The panel ordered Wolf to pay the defendants' costs on appeal, a sum likely to be many tens of thousands of dollars.

Henry ought to look into marketing that bike. I rode my 2006 beemer from Lethbridge, Alberta to Kenora, Ontario in one day and all I got was a sore ass.

Climate Change Playbook Online

Would that there were more signs of life in the upcoming COP 21 climate summit in Paris.

As it is, next week may be the most important week in the future of your children and grandchildren in the decades to come. The nations of the world will gather to decide if we're really to have any realistic chance of averting runaway global warming.

We'll hear a lot of talk about two degrees Celsius, 2 C - the bastard child of politics and science, but what really matters is how extensively and rapidly our community of nations is prepared to decarbonize. We've got to abandon fossil fuels and rather quickly. We're choosing whether our civilization shall survive and nothing less than that.

Make no mistake, all the rhetoric boils down to truly revolutionary change. There's no one who experienced the pre-fossil fuel era. We're all children of fossil energy. By extracting and burning the organic residue of hundreds of millions of years of solar energy we've been able to enjoy seemingly boundless prosperity and we've grown our population more than seven-fold. It's damned hard to give all that up. Kicking heroin might be easier.

The writing is one the wall. It's right there in front of our eyes. There's no point trying to pretend we can maintain a "business as usual" approach to our societies and our economies. The status quo is over. It's already gone. It's not coming back. Finis. The thing is, it doesn't matter whether we act decisively or not. We ditch the status quo or nature will do it for us - the hard way.

It's becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the tell tale signs.  The ice caps are melting, glaciers retreating, sea levels are rising, the tundra is drying out and burning, the permafrost is being exposed, methane is bubbling out of lake and sea beds, the hydrological cycle is genuinely broken visiting heavy floods here and sustained droughts over there, species are migrating ever further from the equator, the impacts are everywhere and we're just getting started.

Those of us of an elegant age remember a gentler environment and, on reflection, have a stronger sense of what once was and now is no more. We grew up in the relatively stable and human-friendly Holocene, the geological epoch that allowed human civilization to take hold and flourish in a very nurturing environment. We, mankind, you and me, brought the Holocene to a very abrupt and truncated end as we created our own geological epoch, aptly named the Anthropocene. It's already not very nice and it's set to get a whole lot less nice in the coming decades. Goodbye Holocene. You will be missed.

Because of the only very recent passing of our previous government, Canadians haven't had much opportunity for a truly national discussion about climate change and what we ought to do about it. We have reason to hope that the new bunch will take it a lot more seriously than the fossil fuelers dispatched less than two months ago. However it's all still very vague and intents are ambiguous.

In lieu of that national discussion you might wish to explore the climate change playbook prepared by the UN for the crowd gathering for next week's summit entitled, "Climate Action Now."  It identifies "good practice policies, initiatives and actions that could be scaled up and replicated by Parties to realize significant mitigation potential in the pre-2020 period."

"Pre-2020" refers to what we can do, should do and must do within the next four years. Four years. Not very long even in politics. Here's a big part of the problem facing us.

The fact is we have to reverse most of this greenhouse gas loading and we don't have a lot of time to make that happen. The nations that are gathering in Paris next week have already submitted their reduction proposals to the UN. They're woefully short of what is needed even to keep within the 2C mark and that's if, a big IF, the parties come through on their promises. The UN figures if those pledges are met, we're still looking at 3.7C of warming, far into runaway global warming territory.

Now, here's the thing. To have any hope of meeting that 2C target we know that upwards of 80% of already known fossil fuel reserves will have to be left in the ground. We can't dig it up. We can't sell it. We can't burn it. It has to stay in the ground, untouched. If you're only going to use 20% you're going to go for the low-cost, low-carbon fuels. Coal is low cost but it's very high carbon. It has to go. Bitumen is high cost and relatively high carbon. It, too, has to go. These ideas will not get a warm reception among petro-states, including at least some provinces of Canada.

They can ink any deal they like in Paris but ink won't fix what ails our planet. The deal has to be approved by all the signatories' legislatures and then it has to be implemented against the will of a lot of powerful individuals and their corporate clout. These people are seasoned professionals at beating back action on climate change and they're expert at sowing doubt and confusion. Expect them to bring their A- game on this one. That could just seal the demise of one side of the other. Let's just hope it's them, not us.

Well, What Did She Expect, a Tip?

From the "Only In America" file.

Scene: A waffle house in Biloxi, Mississippi. It's 1 a.m. A waitress is working the graveyard shift. 45-year old Johnny Mount is scarfing something, probably waffles, looking to soak up a gutload of cheap booze.

That's when Johnny decides he'd like to finish off his repast with a soothing cigarette. The waitress asks Mount to either put out the cigarette or at least smoke outside.

Johnny doesn't like his options or her tone of voice so he pulls the ever-popular, 9 mm. handgun concealed beneath his shirt and fires one round right into the woman's head, ending her final graveyard shift at the all-night diner.

The accused was arrested as he tried to leave the eatery and is now charged with first degree murder.

Johnny is probably en route to a lethal injection unless it turns out the waitress was black or something. In that case maybe the "stand your ground" defence might work. "Hell, Bubba - er, judge - she had a coffee pot. I thought she was going to pour it all over me. Had to put her down, no choice."

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Silicon Valley's Acid Trip

To some of Silicon Valley's best and brightest, micro-dose LSD has become a popular, performance enhancing drug.

Young professionals in the technological hub are microdosing on lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and magic mushrooms to help them to concentrate, increase productivity and enhance creativity, according to Rolling Stone.

By routinely taking a minuscule amount – about 10 micrograms of LSD, or 0.2-0.5 grams of mushrooms, a tenth of a normal dose – users are said to benefit from the illegal drugs' "subperceptual" effects.

Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies told the magazine that the dose, usually taken in the morning before starting work, is enough "to feel a little bit of energy lift, a little bit of insight, but not so much that you are tripping."

"It's like the coffee to wake up the mind-body connection. When I notice it is working, depending on the dosage, time seems to be slowing down a bit, everything seems covered with a layer of extra significance," said Amsterdam-based Martijn Schirp, adding that the experience gave him the positives of using hallucinogens (magic mushrooms are legal to purchase in Amsterdam) without feeling overwhelmed.

Erdogan in the Limelight. He Doesn't Like It.

Just a day after boasting that he personally gave the order for Turkish fighter jets to down a Russian bomber, Turkish president Recep Erdogan seems to be having the political equivalent of "buyer's remorse."

Erdogan has dropped the bellicose rhetoric a good couple of octaves and now says he regrets the shootdown. He's also put out word that he's hoping for a one on one, "kiss and make up" with Putin at the Paris climate summit.

Putin, meanwhile, isn't showing any inclination to let bygones be bygones. If anything he seems intent on ratcheting up the pressure on his Turkish counterpart. Putin aides are again raising the claim that Erdogan's son is running a conduit to get ISIS oil out of Syria and onto world markets.

Putin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, says Putin is busy grinding his axe.

Peskov said the crisis had prompted Putin, whose ministers are preparing retaliatory economic measures against Turkey, to “mobilize” in the way an army does in tense times.

“The president is mobilized, fully mobilized, mobilized to the extent that circumstances demand,” said Peskov.

“The circumstances are unprecedented. The gauntlet thrown down to Russia is unprecedented. So naturally the reaction is in line with this threat.”

Peskov, according to the TASS news agency, also spoke of how Erdogan’s son had a “certain interest” in the oil industry. Putin has said oil from Syrian territory controlled by Islamic State militants is finding its way to Turkey.

Erdogan has spoken of slander and asked anyone making such accusations to back up their words with evidence.

Peskov said he “noted” that Turkey’s newly-appointed energy minister, Berat Albayrak, was Erdogan’s son-in-law.

Perhaps to demonstrate Moscow's fist in a velvet glove, Peskov reminded reporters that there are currently about 200,000 Turkish citizens on Russian soil.

Erdogan seems to be squirming. He's been told by NATO leaders that, if Turkey does decide to ring the Article 5 doorbell, it shouldn't expect NATO countries to be coming to the door.

Friday, November 27, 2015

If You Have Trouble Making Sense of this Fiasco Now, You'll Want to See This.

Now that ISIS is still running all over the Caliphate (borderland of Iraq and Syria) and the blood feud is underway between the Hatfields (Russia) and McCoys (Turkey), you might want to have a look at this heavily-redacted American intelligence summary from 2012.

In the overview section, it describes the Western supported "opposition" to the Syrian Assad regime as comprising the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda Iraq operating as al Nusra.

In paragraph D it notes that the Syrian opposition is fighting because of what it claims is Assad's war on the Sunnis and its support of Infidel regimes (Shiites) such as Hezbollah, Iraq and Iran that it collectively labels "dissenters."

Paragraph 7B outlines the protagonists of a larger, proxy war with Russia, China and Iran aligned in support of Assad while the United States, the Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, etc.) and Turkey are backing the opposition - already defined as the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda in Iraq (al Nusra).

Then there's paragraph 8C which discusses the establishment of a Salafist principality, the very thing we now call with dread the "Caliphate" in eastern Syria. It goes on to say, "this is exactly what the supporting powers to the Opposition want." The 'supporting powers' - that's us, Saudis and the Turks. Why do we want it? It's all about containment - of the Shiites. Gotta contain those Shiites even if it means handing over a vast swathe of Syria and Iraq to Salafist Islamist dominion.

It's all wrapped up in paragraph 8D where it's acknowledged that, for the Salafist radicals, this is all about "unifying the Jihad among Sunni Iraq and Syria, and the rest of the Sunnis in the Arab world, against what it considers one enemy, the dissenters."

In other words, as far back as 2012, our head office (Washington) was backing what would emerge as ISIS in the launching of a Muslim holy war pitting the Sunni Muslim (Islamist) states against the smaller and weaker Shiite Muslim states.

And that, kids is what this f__ked up air war of ours has been all about. Only now we're going to supposedly lay into the Islamists, sort of. Only we won't attack their oil tanker convoys until Putin puts us under the spotlight and we won't admit our allegiance to the state sponsors of Islamist terrorism, our allies.

We're up to our necks in this murderous mess.

Hollande's Turn to do the Terrorists' Bidding.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, president Hollande ordered a French bombing campaign against the Islamic State's 'headquarters' in Raqqa, Syria. In The Guardian, Jurgen Todenhofer writes that Hollande is playing straight into the terrorists' hands.

The Syrian city of Raqqa, which is now populated by only 200,000 citizens, has become one of the favourite targets of the French president, Fran├žois Hollande. American, Jordanian, Russian and Syrian military jets have been reinforced by French bombers. British ones could soon be joining them, dropping their deadly load on what remains of the city’s foundations – even though out of 20,000 Isis fighters who used to hide in the city, only a couple of thousand remain at most. The majority have long ago fled to Mosul, in Iraq, or to Deir Ezzor, also in Syria.

France is currently bombing everything that looks like camps or barracks: small factories, communal buildings, hospitals. The majority of the Arab world has seen photos of dead children in Raqqa – Isis is doing everything it can to spread them. And for every murdered child, there will be new terrorists. War is a boomerang, and it will come to hit us back in the form of terrorism.

Of course, Hollande has to react. But no one is stopping him from reacting with a bit of brains. As a head of state he should know that urban guerrillas cannot be defeated with bombs. He should know that Isis fighters only march in tight orderly lines or drive in convoys in their propaganda videos. Off camera, they avoid hanging around in large groups and spend their time among the local population, preferably in apartment blocks that house families. That’s the very first chapter in the dummies’ guide to terrorism.

In October 2014 I was the first western journalist to spend time with Isis and return safely. During my stay, we were repeatedly targeted by American fighter jets and drones. It’s hard to overemphasise how quickly our Isis escorts managed each time to disappear among the local population. While driving through the territory of the “Islamic State” with three cars – one of which was usually a decoy for the drones – there was always a 10km distance between the vehicles. We frequently switched positions. The mantra of the Isis fighters was: never be a target.

A bombing strategy employed by France – which, potentially, will now be joined by Britain – will above all hit Syria’s population. This will fill Isis fighters with joy. Hollande could only make them happier if he were to send in ground troops as well: western boots on the ground in Syria is the ultimate Isis dream. Instead of mainly killing Muslims, they are desperate to live out their imaginary apocalyptic showdown between good and evil, in which they can at last fight against the US, the UK and France – on the ground.

Todenhofer suggests a few things that might actually undermine ISIS.

America has to stop Gulf states delivering weapons [and funding] to the terrorists in Syria and Iraq

...Isis can only exist because it has managed to ally itself with the suppressed Sunni population of Iraq and Syria. They are the water that carries the Isis project. If the west managed to bring about a national reconciliation in Iraq and Syria, and integrate Sunnis (which in Iraq would have to include former Ba’athists) into political life, Isis would be finished, like a fish out of water.

Is it really so hard to see that the attempt to defeat terrorism with wars has failed? That we have to rethink the war on terror? That we have to finally start treating the Muslim world as true partners, and not as a cheap petrol station we can raid when we feel like it? Bombing civilians will recruit new terrorists. Again and again.

We need to focus on what has radicalized so many young Muslims in the Sunni population. What has taken their hope? Could it be our support of vicious, despotic, pro-Western regimes that brutally suppress their own people - the very outfits we call our allies? There's a reason Israel also backs the Saudi princes and Emirs and the generals of Egypt and it's not to advance the welfare and aspirations of those Arab populations.

We kept those slugs in power, let's end that. The best part is, it's easier to take them down than it is to defeat radical Islam.

Poking the Russian Bear with a Sharp Stick Might Not Turn Out Well. The Czar and the Sultan.

Turkish president Recep Erdogan has thrown fuel on the fire by claiming he personally ordered Turkish jets to shoot down the Russian Su-24 bomber on Tuesday.

The facts strongly suggest this was a setup.  Even by Turkey's account the Russian warplane was in Turkish airspace just 17-seconds. The profile it was flying left no doubt it was not hostile, to the Turks at least.

The Turks - make that president Erdogan - set this up to ambush the Russian bomber.

It's no simple matter to make a fighter intercept in these circumstances. It takes time, positioning, geometry. You pretty much have to be in a firing position, your missiles armed and ready, as soon as the target plane enters your airspace if you've only got 17-seconds to destroy it.  That means you have to get set up well before the target reaches your airspace.

It speaks volumes that the Russian warplane crashed well inside Syrian territory. It could not have been very far inside Turkish airspace when Erdogan's fighters fired on it.

In 2012, the Syrians shot down a Turkish jet which had entered its airspace, and Erdogan’s furious response at the time was that “a short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack”.

(At the time, Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen called it “another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms”. There hasn’t been a similar critique of Ankara.)

While the overt clashes may be headed off by the usual machinery of diplomacy, both countries – with large, extensive, secretive and brutal intelligence apparatuses and a history of working with both gangsters and terrorists – may well instead simply transfer these tensions to the covert arena.

In Syria itself, the Russians are likely to put greater emphasis on attacking those groups under Ankara’s patronage. A strike on a Turkish aid convoy may be the first manifestation of this.

Meanwhile, the Turks will presumably arm and encourage those groups most able to give the Russians a bloody nose.

In this way, what wasn’t really a proxy war before is likely to become one.

This is a conflict that Ankara triggered and while it is being managed it is not going to go away. Nor is it just going to become another chapter in the histories of Russo-Ottoman rivalry. Expect to see this play out in snide, deniable, but nonetheless bitter actions for months to come.

Well the Russians do have a thing for revenge well chilled. Some day you may read about something untoward befalling a former Turkish president as the old man sat sipping sweet tea in a beautiful olive garden.R

The Depravity of the Far Right. Surviving the Age of Fear.

What gives terrorist leaders sleepless nights? It's not us. It's not their enemies. What they fear most is becoming invisible, boring - losing the support of their base, rich and poor alike. They need headlines, they need to stay in the public eye and they need to provoke over-the-top outrage and hyperbolic threats from the big bad Infidels, that's us. There's nothing better to keep those kids signing up and those cash stuffed envelopes pouring in.

Terrorists were tailor made for the far right. The 2001 World Trade Center/Pentagon attacks were perfectly timed for the arrival of America's first rabidly neo-conservative government, the Bush/Cheney regime. And so began the Age of Fear. It suited radical Islam and neo-conservative hawks perfectly, played straight into their respective hands. For both sides it was the answer to their dreams.

According to Foreign Policy CEO and editor, David Rothkopf, the Age of Fear has now given us its inevitable love child, Donald Trump.

"Trump has undergone a metamorphosis as a candidate from being a joke to a curiosity to a phenomenon to a full-fledged force with a chance to win. That he now seems to be unwittingly playing directly into the hands of terrorists by producing just the kind of rhetoric that is certain to stir outrage across the Islamic world and drive recruitment efforts upward — as he clearly has not concerned himself with either the lessons of past attacks or the moral implications of his proposed plans — is maybe the most disturbing development of this distended, perverse campaign so far.

"Nonetheless, Trump’s actions are even more unsettling because they are symptomatic of a broader, deeper, and much more profound problem. Terrorism has, since 9/11, mushroomed into a greater global threat than it has ever been before — and it has been a problem in one form or another since the dawn of history. But as bad as terrorism is, our reactions to it have triggered a kind of worsening risk spiral that has made the world a much more dangerous place. Not only are we playing into the terrorists’ hands, and thus giving them needed momentum, the countries of the world are reacting in such an uncoordinated and even conflicting fashion that new geopolitical fissures are emerging that are far more worrisome than any strike or campaign extremists could orchestrate.

"In 2002, the year after 9/11, there were fewer than 1,000 deaths from terrorist attacks worldwide, according to the U.S. State Department. This past year, that number was more than 30,000. Al Qaeda delivered a shocking blow to the United States in 2001, but it was a small organization, incapable of repeating such an attack. Today, the terrorists of the Islamic State have changed the game, controlling territory in Iraq and Syria, recruiting fighters globally, and essentially offering the world’s first open-source terrorist organization. Download a flag, embrace the name, and you are basically in. As open-source enterprises in other sectors have found, this is a great force multiplier. Suddenly, we are confronted with a “group” capable of brutality across many countries, and the threat posed by them and other terrorist groups that align with them or seek to rival them (see the recentNew York Times article on the competition between al Qaeda and the Islamic State) only seems to be growing.

"...since [the ill-conceived conquest of Hussein's Iraq] we have seen a stunning lack of strategy, coordination, or even coherent thinking about how to deal with the threat. We have had the “Obama doctrine”; a “light footprint”; the employment of a surgical approach when force was needed; massive overreach on the surveillance front; rhetoric about restraint; confusion about red lines; tactical half-measures; and strategic incoherence. In the Middle East, we continue to see a wide variety of approaches linked to some variation on the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” doctrine and a kind of national hierarchy of hatreds and fears. This is complicated by the proliferation of terrorist groups with conflicting agendas. So, in Syria, we have the real possibility that Bashar al-Assad’s regime helped stoke the fires of the Islamic State through prisoner releases, etc., to justify its cause — which seemed to have worked to some degree as we now have the world’s leading powers being more patient with the Syrian strongman if he will help fight the Islamic State. We might even see, after a political deal in Damascus (which will likely create an “Assad-lite” regime after a transition period and provide amnesty for the brutal dictator currently in power), an alliance between that regime and major powers and an al Qaeda spinoff, al-Nusra Front, to work to defeat the Islamic State.

"The problem stems not from the terrorists directly but from the conflicts and instability that are being left in the wake of our responses to their attacks. Invading Iraq was step one. Pulling out too quickly compounded it. Failure to address the issues of Sunni representation in that country compounded it and led to the rise of the Islamic State. Failure to address the problems in Syria when they were early enough to contain compounded it. Belated, uncoordinated halfway measures against the Islamic State were another problem. Failure to stand up to allies funding extremists compounded it. Conflicted policies in Afghanistan did too. Conflicting policies among allies on issues like Mohamed Morsi’s government, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iran nuclear deal, the future of the Assad regime, the situation in Libya, the situation in Yemen, inaction in the face of spreading threats in Africa, and a host of other related problems now have us in a grave situation. In the Middle East, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya are in chaos. Lebanon and Jordan are bending under the weight of the refugee burden. Refugee flows are posing a major political challenge in the EU. Nationalists and political opportunists are inflaming the situation and further weakening alliances with their rhetoric. There is very little alignment and very serious conflict among a wide-ranging group of powers that are allegedly in some areas working together. This list of collaborators at risk of coming to blows with one another includes the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Israel, France, Iraq, and others."

And so we, the West, stand as a house divided - reactionary, incoherent and dangerously ineffective. We're losing this asinine War on Terror because it is creating fissures among us, divisions that can grow into chasms.  Europe is charting its own path that is often divergent from ours on this side of the Atlantic. They're increasingly fed up with Israel and its turn to the far right while Canada and the United States kowtow to Netanyahu and turn a blind eye to the Palestinians. These divisions create welcome maneuvering space for Russia and China to exploit.

Our political and military leadership have badly failed us with their embrace of "whack a mole" warfare, oblivious to the dangers that inflicts on us. They want to play "old war" or military war with jets and helos, tanks and artillery against enemies who know they don't need any of that stuff to win. Our leaders are too vain, too arrogant, too stupid to realize that even as they're winning all the battles they're decisively losing the wars. As T.E. Lawrence put it, we're 'trying to eat peas with a knife.' 

Still, whack-a-mole warfare has fueled the far right's Age of Fear. It's a convenient response to an engineered threat you really don't want to simply go away. There's no risk of victory in it. No one is even looking for some sort of victory which is why we just don't put any effort or resources into preparing for such a conclusion. It's so much easier to send a handful of fighters here and a shipload or two of bombs right after them. To revive a term I coined a while back, it's the "war of gesture."

Only it's worked out far better for the other side than it has for us. They're much better at fighting their wars, the wars that matter and determine outcomes. As the article notes, they've got this thing franchised now and it's growing even as we're pinned down in Afghanistan or in the skies over Iraq and Syria.

This article supports my earlier argument that we must stop getting into wars that we have neither the ability nor will to win, whack-a-mole wars that transform into wars without end that only nurture and expand those we seek to confront. This is beginning to resemble the movie, "Groundhog Day." That's not a good thing. Enough. Let's put the Age of Fear where it belongs. Bury it.

We're losing unwinnable wars and we're losing by our own hand. It's beginning to divide us and could soon tear us apart.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

I'm Just Not Sure Anyone Who Matters Really Believes It.

We should all defer to the science types and their powerful consensus when it comes to us, the laity, having to make decisions on complex issues such as climate change. I have no scientific background in these things but I do follow these issues, take a course every now and then and read what can seem to be a river of 'executive summaries' of new research studies and reports.

We live in a world that has become managed by administrators following belief-based ideologies, often little more than dogma. It's the confusion, the inconsistencies and contradictions that give it away. When something doesn't seem to be working you can usually find some sort of belief-based thinking at the root of the problem. It's a world of fundamentalism fueling ever more fundamentalism. That is why evidence-based information is so refreshing, even reassuring. It means the guy behind the wheel actually has his eyes on the road ahead. That's a good thing.

It can also be a source of great worry. For example, next week's global climate summit, COP21, in Paris.  COP21, that's a lot of COPs, too many. The number reflects, in no small way, the obstructive power of belief-based thinking of the sort we experienced from our man, Harper, Australia's Harper clone, Abbott, and the neo-conservative Bush administration. There was a bag of fundamentalists and, thanks to their handiwork, any chance at an effective agreement on forestalling the worst impacts of climate change was kicked down the road, again and again and again. Which is why we're at #21.

The important thing is what the science types are telling us is the unique significance of COP21 that distinguishes it from, say, COP7 or COP16 or any previous COP.  What a lot of them are saying is that this one, COP21, being held next week in Paris, is our "last best chance" to find a solution that could fend off catastrophic, runaway global warming. Scientific American has labeled COP21 a "do or die" summit. SA has loads of articles on what we need to do in Paris next week.

"We have entered what might be called the Anthropocene thermal maximum, an era of global warming driven by one species penchant for burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests. Right now in 2015 may be the last time anyone breathes air with average CO2 concentrations below 400 ppm, as this number marches seemingly inexorably upward. But we don't have to keep adding to that number forever."
Over at, COP21 is heralded as the "last best chance for the world to save itself."

"We are out of time to start swiftly cutting emissions and regrowing our forests and grasslands. There may be ways in which climate change isn’t as dangerous as nukes, but one way in which it is even more so is its irreversibility. If you fail to strike a nuclear non-proliferation deal with Iran in 2014, you can make one in 2015. As long as they don’t yet have nukes, the crisis has been averted for the time being. Climate change doesn’t work like that. If you fail to strike a climate deal and coal plants and tankers and cars keep spewing carbon pollution, you cannot undo those emissions. The failures of Kyoto and Copenhagen and the years that followed have left us up against a wall. The countries of the world must come together now or they will suffer together later."

Our current prime minister is promising a new and invigorated approach to fighting anthropogenic global warming and, with the possible exception of Saskatchewan, he seems to have the premiers onside. What is unclear is whether any of our leaders, federal or provincial, really believe this is our last best chance, our do or die moment. Can they somehow wrench this issue from the gaping maw of partisan politics? Will they do what the crisis demands or settle for as much and as little as they think they can get away with? If, when they return to Canada you begin hearing weasel words and the sound of cans being kicked down the road you'll have a pretty good indication.

Oh, I Get It. This Is How You Try to Spin War Crimes Into Human Error.

The establishing point:  the U.S. military command has issued such a string of inconsistent explanations and excuses, effortlessly shifting from one to another as they were disproven that it doesn't get the benefit of the doubt this time around.

The issue: the devastating attack on a hospital operated by Medecins san Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) in Kunduz, Afghanistan  that appears to have been aimed at exterminating Taliban wounded being treated inside.

Now it's "Shucks, gosh - it was human error. Now, for the first time, we'll explain it away by convincing you that we were really trying to destroy the building beside the hospital. We missed. Sorry. These things happen."

Sorry but when you make a firing run on a building with an aerial Death Machine like the AC-130 Hercules, "oopsie" is no defence. The attack went on and on while MSF was on the phone to 'allied' headquarters pleading (to no avail) to call off the airstrikes.

If you want us to believe it was all a mistake, it's on you to prove that. Explain how that happens in your AC-130 with all its electronics and communications gear. Maybe this is your worst possible defence which is why you left it to last.

A Couple of Historic Insights to Help You Make Sense of the Fiasco in Syria


Some Russians have described [Wednesday's] shoot-down in larger historical terms: it is the first time that there has been a real, military conflict between Russia and NATO, wrote the liberal Russian officialdom, however, is framing this squarely as a conflict between Russia and the hotheaded, trigger-happy Turks. Wednesday’s evening news, dedicated almost exclusively to the incident, made much hay out of the fact that Washington and Europe, even NATO, spent all of Tuesday chastising Turkey and throwing cold water on the idea that one plane and one territorial incursion would lead to a wider conflict.

If anything, NATO and the Europeans are the good guys in this interpretation of events — certainly a first in recent Russian history. Why? Because Turkey, the villain in this story, is trying to derail a grand, historic coalition against terrorism, one that has Russia as its main axis. The de-escalation facilitated by Western powers, the evening news report noted, “is needed so that this conflict doesn’t harm the fight against terrorism in general and against ISIS specifically.” That is, Russia sees itself as doing the work necessary to protect the civilized world against the threat of terrorism, work that benefits France, Britain, and the United States as much as it benefits Russia. (Left unstated is the assumption that it doesn’t benefit Turkey, or its Islamist-sympathizing government.) It is analogous to the way Russia has portrayed its role in World War II, especially recently: Russia fought back the menace of fascism for the good of the ungrateful West, which would have drowned if not for Moscow’s help.

This is why, beneath the propaganda and cynical geopolitical maneuvering, Moscow finds Western critiques about its role in Syria so deeply frustrating, insulting even. To Russia, such complaints are as old as time, centuries-old efforts to block Russian imperial ambitions at every possible turn for no apparent reason — even to the point of lining up with the Muslim Ottomans against Christian Rus in the mid-19th century. 

Forcillo's Fairy Tale

It's hard to imagine what the jury is going to make of this James Forcillo's explanation of why he emptied his service pistol, nine rounds in all, into Sammy Yatim while the young man was standing in the aisle of a Toronto streetcar. According to Forcillo:

"The first sets of shots were fired because I believed Mr. Yatim was armed with a knife and was in the process of coming off the streetcar at me," Forcillo told Ontario Superior Court yesterday.

"The second shots were fired because I believed Mr. Yatim was in the process of getting off the streetcar to continue his attack."

Forcillo's sworn evidence is plausible except for three or four minor problems. These are the videos from the streetcar onboard cameras and the cellphone recordings made by bystanders who witnessed the execution.

The videos show that Yatim never even set foot in the streetcar stairwell. He remained by the driver's station in the aisle. They also show that Forcillo's first shot put Yatim down. The kid never got up again as the Toronto cop fired the remaining eight rounds into the young man. Sure, his legs seemed to flinch with each subsequent bullet, but bullets do that to bodies.

Forcillo "believed Mr. Yatim was in the process of getting off the streetcar to continue his attack." What attack? There was no attack either before or after Yatim was cut down. There was nothing that could be continued. 

The onboard streetcar security camera shows Yatim going down with the first shot and it's obvious from the image of Yatim's running shoe at the bottom of the screen that he doesn't get up even as Forcillo keeps firing. Finally an entire pack of Toronto's finest storm the bus, the first cop in pausing to taser the mortally wounded young man twice before another cop rolls Yatim's body over like a sack of potatoes thereby completely messing up the crime scene.

I'm sorry, Toronto, but if that's what you've got for cops you've got a problem, a cop problem. How many more Forcillos are on the police roster? I'll bet there are plenty.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Oh Dear. Putin Orders S-400 to Syria

This is rapidly becoming an international knife fight in a phone booth. In reaction to yesterday's downing by Turkish fighters of a Russian Su-24 light bomber and the subsequent shootdown of a Russian search and rescue helicopter, president Vladimir Putin has ordered batteries of S-400 advanced surface to air missiles deployed in range of the Syrian border with Turkey.

The S-400 is widely considered to be the best missile of its kind, better than anything the West fields. The system can detect aircraft at 600 km. and engage them at 400 km. or less. In other words, parking S-400 batteries about 50 km. from Turkey's border gives the Russians heavy anti-aircraft coverage deep into Turkish territory.

It's unknown just yet whether the S-400s will be deployed within threat range of coalition strike aircraft operating against ISIS.

Because I Stumbled upon This Just Before BedTime

And, because, as today's events in Syria gave us a glimpse into how easily this all could unravel, it's just a tad therapeutic. It gets your mind off Sarajevo.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What Brad Wall Would Prefer You Ignore

Alberta's Rachel Notley has vowed to shut down her province's coal-fired power plants and implement meaty carbon pricing levies. Her colleague next door, Saskatchewan's Brad Wall, is already squealing like a pig, whinging about how slashing his province's greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to a clean energy regime will ruin Saskatchewan's economy.

Here, courtesy of the National Observer, is a graphic that tells you all you need to know about the provinces' electrical energy generation. Dirtier even than Chins? You betcha.

New Media Celebrates the Passing of Old (as in "Post") Media

The National Observer, outshoot of the Vancouver Observer, is making a name for itself as an up and coming new media outlet carrying real news, conducting real investigations, doing the very sorts of things that Canada's corporate mass media cartel jettisoned long ago.

And so it is fitting that the National Observer observe "the Tawdry fall of the PostMedia newspaper empire."

Postmedia is ...a ship taking on water, due to both self-inflicted and industry-wide wounds.

Of the self-inflicted variety, Postmedia was pilloried last month in the run-up to the federal election after its Toronto executives ordered 16 of its major daily newspapers to run editorials endorsing Stephen Harper. (Postmedia did the same thing last spring during Alberta’s provincial election, forcing its papers there to back Jim Prentice’s Tories).

In a surprising move, John Honderich, chair of Torstar Corp., which publishes Canada’s largest daily paper, The Toronto Star, devoted an entire op-ed pagearticle two weeks ago heaping scorn on Postmedia’s decision, decrying “the negative impact this affair is having on the newspaper industry in general. At a time when the relevance and impact of newspapers are under attack, this doesn’t help.”

Then there was the stunning resignation of Andrew Coyne as the National Post’seditorials and comments editor. Coyne quit on the eve of the election – although he remains a columnist with the paper – when his superiors told him he was not allowed to publish a column dissenting with their endorsement of Harper. Coyne, who declines to discuss the matter, tweeted his disapproval of the censoring, saying “I don’t see public disagreement as confusing. I see it as honest.”

“[Postmedia’s] handling of the Andrew Coyne affair was disgraceful,” says Ken Whyte, the founding editor-in-chief of the National Post, former publisher ofMaclean’s magazine and currently senior vice-president of public policy with Rogers Communications Inc. Whyte said that the former owners of the Post, the Asper family, “even in their worst moments would still have allowed Andrew to write a column stating his own views and the Aspers had some pretty bad moments.”

Meanwhile, last week, the editorial board of the Ottawa Citizen suddenly resigned without citing a reason.

The silencing of Coyne was not an isolated incident either. In August, acclaimed novelist Margaret Atwood watched as a column she wrote for the National Postcriticizing Harper was posted on-line, then removed, and then edited before being reposted with some of her criticisms deleted. “Um, did I just get censored?” Atwood asked afterwards.

Three days before the election, Postmedia also permitted the Conservative Party to buy yellow ads that covered the entire front pages of most of the company’s major daily newspapers, direly warning about voting for the Liberals. This action, says Marc Edge, a Richmond, B.C.-based journalism professor and author of the 2014 book Greatly Exaggerated: The Myth of the Death of Newspapers, suggests Postmedia is “poisoning their brand.”

...Postmedia’s reputational hits are stacking up. Last winter, two of its top business columnists, Terence Corcoran and Peter Foster, and the National Post, lost a defamation lawsuit brought by Andrew Weaver, an esteemed climatologist at the University of Victoria and a Green Party MLA in the BC legislature. Corcoran and Foster wrote false information about Weaver, suggesting he exaggerated the dangers of climate change. The judge awarded Weaver $50,000 in damages. The decision is being appealed and Weaver will not discuss the matter.

...Since being founded in 2010, Postmedia seems to have bled copious amounts of red ink. In its most recent financial statement, it posted net losses of $263-million for this year alone, on revenues of $750-million, while weighed down with $646-million in long-term debt.

Before it bought the Sun Media chain of newspapers this past year, Postmedia’s revenues had fallen from $899-million in 2011 to $674-million in fiscal 2014 – a plunge of 25 per cent in just three years. Meanwhile, its shares, which rose to $17 in 2011, are now penny stock and no longer actively trading.

...Ironically, though, the most serious threat Postmedia faces might be from its owners and debt-holders. The company is controlled primarily by two American hedge funds – GoldenTree Asset Management LP and Silver Point Capital LP. Hedge funds are pools of capital that hunt for investment opportunities, but also have a reputation for being destructive and remorseless sharks within the financial industry.

Indeed, the hedge funds controlling Postmedia specialize in buying so-called distressed-debt companies. For them to profit from faltering businesses, however, often means slashing costs to the bone, sucking out cash flow and selling off assets for scrap to recoup their investment. “Basically that's what they do,” says Martin Langeveld, a former American newspaper publisher and industry expert with Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab. “They take a company, they have different ways of getting their money out even if they don't really fix it… You are cannibalizing, you’re consolidating.”

...Postmedia’s roots go back to the Southam Inc. newspaper chain that was founded more than a century ago. In 1996, Black bought the Southam papers and soon created the National Post as its flagship paper. His term as boss would be short-lived, however: pressed by his bankers to chop debt, Black sold the papers to the Asper family’s CanWest Global Communications Corp. in 2000.

Seven years later, the New York-based hedge fund GoldenTree—co-founded by Steven Shapiro, a former manager with CIBC World Markets—began buying up CanWest’s debt issues. As CanWest floundered, GoldenTree acquired more of its debt. Poorly managed by the Aspers, weighed down by $4-billion in debt and pummeled by the credit crisis, CanWest declared bankruptcy in 2009.

A year later, GoldenTree and 19 other foreign and domestic lenders, mostly hedge funds, paid $1.1-billion for the CanWest papers, created Postmedia and made Paul Godfrey its CEO.

...At Postmedia, as revenue and circulation declined, it has downsized staff, sold off assets, consolidated and outsourced operations, cut Sunday editions and shuttered bureaus. Now all of its dailies are copy-edited and laid out, and even stories selected, in offices located in a strip mall in Hamilton, Ontario.

Despite these cuts, Postmedia has never earned any net profit, suffering combined net losses of $624-million since 2010. For the hedge funds who control it, on the other hand, Postmedia is a profitable investment. Because the company’s debt is owed to them, they receive interest payments at rates ranging from 8.25 per cent to 12.5 per cent.

...As long as Postmedia is paying interest on its debts and generating cash flow, the hedge funds will remain happy. The problem, though, is that Postmedia’s revenues keep falling. “It’s very difficult to stay healthy when you have less money every year,” insists Toughill. “Last year alone print advertising dropped 18 percent. That's a huge amount of money to have disappear out of the budget in a single year.”

Thus, in order to keep interest payments flowing to their American owners, the chain must continue cutting costs. But at a certain point, that’s no longer an option either. “If they continue to record net losses they will ultimately consume themselves in order to pay down the debt – unless they can turn themselves around,” says Mitchell Weiss, a former American financial services executive. “So they are in a race against time.”

...So what’s the long-term prognosis for Postmedia? According to Doctor, the hedge funds have likely figured out how they can get their money back by “managing [Postmedia’s] decline profitably.” Which might mean returning it to receivership and selling off its assets, with the hedge funds first in line as creditors to collect.

...One victim of the fall of Postmedia has been its journalism.

A former National Post journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, recalls that by last year, reporters were being asked to produce more and shorter stories, with less in-depth coverage. Another former Post reporter said “they would look for a regional CBC stories, get that and put a Post spin on it. That's how they found stories.”
(Back in the day, the CBC poached a lot of its evening news stories out of the morning papers. Times, it seems, do change.)

...Another victim of Postmedia’s crisis is the Chinese wall separating advertisers from editorial content.

Once upon a time, newspapers could afford to alienate the odd advertiser because there were so many others to pay the bills. No longer. Former National Post editor Ken Whyte says it’s now commonplace for advertisers to demand favourable editorial content in return for their money. “Before, [newspapers] might've stood up and said we will let that million dollars go, we won't prostitute ourselves,” he remarks. “Now they'll see they will be way short on their budget and need the money.”

Last year, Greenpeace stumbled across a Powerpoint presentation that someone had leaked on-line. Produced by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) for Postmedia’s board of directors in 2013, the presentation proposed a close alliance between the media company and the oil industry’s main lobby group. “We will work with CAPP to amplify our energy mandate and to be a part of the solution to keep Canada competitive in the global marketplace,” it said. “Postmedia will undertake to leverage all means editorially, technically and creatively – through the Financial Post, Postmedia market newspapers and affiliated media partners – to further this critical conversation.” It’s unclear if this alliance ever materialized, although Postmedia said it would never surrender editorial control.

...Indeed, with a declining and aging readership, taking political and social positions that seem out of step with the majority of Canadians doesn’t appear to be a recipe for attracting new readers and a broad audience. In short, not a smart business plan. Yet the recent actions of Paul Godfrey and his American bosses suggest they are oblivious.

From a century as Southam the once great newspaper chain fell into the hands of the likes of Black, the Aspers of CanWest and then the vulture capitalists and their PostMedia. It's like one long, drawn out wasting disease first contracted in 1996 that metastasized in 2000 and went terminal in 2009, taking its credibility and reputation down with it. Good riddance.

Oh, Damn !!

Turkish warplanes have shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border. Vlad Putin has vowed that Turkey can expect to find itself on the receiving end of "significant consequences."

The Turks have called an emergency meeting of NATO members that is now scheduled for 11:00 eastern time.

Putin has confirmed the aircraft, an Su-24, was downed by Turkish F-16s, calling the shootdown a "stab in the back carried out by accomplices of terrorists." At the recent G20 summit Turkey was one of the nations identified by Putin as the principal backers of ISIS.

No word yet on whether the 2-man crew of the Su-24 survived but there's a strong chance they were killed when the missiles detonated.


From bad to terrible.  Turkmen rebels inside Syria now claim to have shot and killed the Russian crew who had apparently ejected safely from their stricken plane.

Turkey's private Dogan news agency is quoting a Turkmen commander as saying Turkey brought down the Russian plane after it had dropped a bomb in a Turkmen region of Syria and entered Turkish airspace.

The fighter, who was identified as Alpaslan Celik, the second-in-command of the Turkmen Coastal Division, said the Turkmen forces had re-captured a Turkmen mountain region from Syrian forces.

Celik also said the rebels shot and killed both Russian pilots who parachuted from the plane after it was shot down.

The rebels had previously said they killed one of the two pilots and were searching for the second one. The AP couldn't immediately confirm the claim that both pilots were dead.

Ah, Jesus, that won't go unpunished.  Putin is going to have to retaliate for the wanton execution of his airmen.

Second Update:

It's starting to sound as though the Turks acted recklessly. From BBC News.

The Turks say the aircraft was warned about entering Turkey several times, and, when it did not change course, was shot down.

The problem is that according to a radar map released by the Turks themselves, the Russian Sukhoi could at best be described as crossing over Turkish territory.

It flew over a small piece of Turkey that projects into Syria - a tiny isthmus of land that would have taken the fast jet only a few moments to fly over.

So if the plane was shot down, as the Turks say, after entering Turkish airspace, you could equally say it was downed on the way out of Turkish territory too.

Monday, November 23, 2015

"It was pretty remarkable, and it was a pleasure to be able to do it."

"A pleasure to be able to do it." That's how a senior research scientist from Environment Canada, Greg Flato, described the experience of finally being allowed to brief the premiers and prime minister on up to date climate science and then be permitted to appear at a press conference and actually answer questions.

Our chief elected officials got quite an earful of science today, the straight goods. Yes, climate change poses a severe danger, several in fact, to Canada. Yes, climate change is largely man-made. Yes, we must decarbonize, free ourselves from our dependence on fossil fuels and time is not on our side.

Scientists being allowed to brief elected officials on science. Pretty remarkable indeed.

Sorry, Naomi, Climate Change Can't Be Your Sociology Project. BTW, Nice Hair.

Naomi Klein has her designer knickers in a bunch because, with some pretty nasty individuals floating around Paris lately, Hollande has banned protest marches at next week's climate change summit.

Klein asks, accusatorially, "Whose security gets protected by any means necessary? Whose security is casually sacrificed, despite the means to do so much better? Those are the questions at the heart of the climate crisis, and the answers are the reason climate summits so often end in acrimony and tears."

Let me clear the cobwebs for you there, dear. The security that gets protected by any means necessary next week has to be that for the delegates whom we all need to conference, undisrupted by acts of terrorism, so that just maybe - at this final opportunity - they can arrive at some meaningful agreement to forestall climate change cataclysm also known as runaway global warming.

Sorry, Naomi, I know that won't give a voice to the little people, especially those who are already reeling from the early onset impacts of climate change, and we can all feel deeply for their plight but this summit isn't some three ring circus or street festival much as you might like it to be.

This is the summit that has to work. We're just out of time to fail yet again. It takes time to slash emissions. It takes time to decarbonize our economies and societies. It takes time to transition to reliable, clean, alternative energy. It's a process - commitment, study, development and implementation - that has to be completed before we trigger runaway global warming (if we haven't already).

There will be more climate summits, plenty more, at which these many other important issues that have somehow become your priority will need to be addressed. We'll have to tackle justice and inequality, wealth and resource allocation, overpopulation and overconsumption and a whole host of other challenges. But, Naomi, if we don't get this summit right all those other issues will be moot.''

I understand you're feeling left out of the limelight. I read your book, "This Changes Everything." Hell, I even bought it. Your message came through loud and clear, we need to develop a post-capitalist society. Got that. You were a little wobbly on the details but don't worry - all the detail work was done long before you tweaked to climate change by folks like Herman Daly, Thomas Prugh, Paul Craig Roberts as well as Costanza, Cumberland, Goodland and Norgaard. You might want to check out their ideas rather than trying to reinvent the wheel in your own image.

Still I think you might want to sit this one out. Leave it to the delegates and their science advisors. It's their turn.

Just When I Thought Canada Was Short One Asshole

Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall popped up to let us know we're in no danger of running a rectum deficit anytime soon.

Wall served notice again today that he's going to be the climate change bad boy in Canada's federal-provincial contingent at the Paris climate summit.

Poindexter plainly doesn't like this talk about carbon taxes. Alberta premier Rachel Notley's carbon pricing plan announced yesterday seems to have Biff a bit worried. In Ottawa, premier Wall said he wouldn't support climate change measures that harmed the economy which, for Brad, is code for "fossil fuel exports." That pointy headed little bugger doesn't seem to understand that, if we extract, sell and burn the highest carbon fossil fuels there isn't going to be an economy especially if climate change brings sustained, severe drought to the Prairie.

Later on, Green Party leader Elizabeth May very diplomatically told CBC that she hopes Brad will benefit from next week's climate summit and will have an epiphany bordering on a religious conversion. Let us pray.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Sorry JT But the Honeymoon's Over

Even the New York Times can't look the other way any longer. America's "grey lady," put it on the record today. Saudi Arabia is no ally to the West. It is, by contrast, the greatest "state sponsor of terrorism" on the planet and the radical Islamist outfits it backs are the same murderous gangs we're fighting - al Qaeda, al Nusra, ISIS and their affiliates who are sowing chaos through the Muslim world, Europe and even in North America.

If you need more details you can check out this trip down Memory Lane from Foreign Policy in Focus.

So, prime minister Trudeau, you're on notice. Unlike your predecessor, Harper, you can't duck this. You'll know that Harper approved the biggest arms deal in Canadian history for the supply of $15-billion worth of armoured fighting vehicles to the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the increasingly chaotic Middle East.

Harper tried to duck his, and by extension all Canadians', abject moral failure with the greasy excuse that, if Canada didn't sell these combat vehicles to the Saudis, another country would. That's the talk of a moral reprobate but, unless you act Mr. Trudeau, you'll also have to own it.

It's not just the Saudis either. It's the Kuwaitis too. Apparently this is how they express their gratitude for our war to drive Saddam Hussein out of their homeland. And it's the Qataris and, it seems, our NATO ally, the Turks. Oh well you know all the players from that dossier Vladimir Putin handed to you at the G20 summit.

What exactly did the Saudis tell us they had in mind for all those armoured fighting vehicles? I wonder if it's got anything to do with their extermination campaign against the Houthi people of Yemen? Those Saudis are going through a massive amount of ordinance. When it comes to the Yemeni people they prefer smart munitions and cluster bombs. It's about all the Americans can do to keep up with demand.

You see, Mr. Trudeau, here's the thing. When the Saudis are placing an order that massive with Canada's defence industry, it's a good bet this state sponsor of terrorism has a pretty clear plan to use that high-tech death hardware before long and, with what we know of Saudi Arabia and the murderous swine it sponsors, whatever they do with those combat vehicles will be on our heads and I really don't like that idea.  We can't feign innocence. Harper says he swore not to talk, a condition of the sale insisted on by the Saudis. Why? What did Harper and his Saudi pals not want the Canadian people and the world to know?

Stop this, Mr. Trudeau. Stop it now before one of those fighting vehicles reaches the hold of a ship.

The New York Times Nails It - Saudi Arabia is Just an ISIS That Made It.

At last, a voice pointing to the cognitive dissonance bordering on madness in the West's (including our own) military adventurism in South Asia and the Middle East. I've been arguing this, well, forever. You want to kill the snake, you cut off its head and whether it's the Taliban, al Qaeda, al Nusra or ISIS, the head is always the same only we consider it our ally.

We're getting into the second half of the second decade of our high-tech futility over there, our pointless but endlessly lethal wars of gesture. There's a reason that all the King's horses and all the King's men haven't won anything, not one goddamned thing.

Here are excerpts from an op-ed written by Kamel Daoud reprinted in today's New York Times. When are we going to wake up?

Black Daesh, white Daesh. The former slits throats, kills, stones, cuts off hands, destroys humanity’s common heritage and despises archaeology, women and non-Muslims. The latter is better dressed and neater but does the same things. The Islamic State; Saudi Arabia. In its struggle against terrorism, the West wages war on one, but shakes hands with the other. This is a mechanism of denial, and denial has a price: preserving the famous strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia at the risk of forgetting that the kingdom also relies on an alliance with a religious clergy that produces, legitimizes, spreads, preaches and defends Wahhabism, the ultra-puritanical form of Islam that Daesh feeds on.

The West’s denial regarding Saudi Arabia is striking: It salutes the theocracy as its ally but pretends not to notice that it is the world’s chief ideological sponsor of Islamist culture. The younger generations of radicals in the so-called Arab world were not born jihadists. They were suckled in the bosom of Fatwa Valley, a kind of Islamist Vatican with a vast industry that produces theologians, religious laws, books, and aggressive editorial policies and media campaigns.

Saudi Arabia remains an ally of the West in the many chess games playing out in the Middle East. It is preferred to Iran, that gray Daesh. And there’s the trap. Denial creates the illusion of equilibrium. Jihadism is denounced as the scourge of the century but no consideration is given to what created it or supports it. This may allow saving face, but not saving lives.

Daesh has a mother, the invasion of Iraq. But it also has a father: Saudi Arabia and its religious-industrial complex. Until that point is understood, battles may be won, but the war will be lost. Jihadists will be killed, only to be reborn again in future generations and raised on the same books

You Know Better. The Head is in Riyadh.

But wait, there's more !!! The United States just released a large quantity of sophisticated ground attack weapons to the Saudis who are running low because of their endless bombing campaign against Yemen's Houthi population.  The Houthi rebels are waging battles with al Qaeda and ISIS units. In other words the Saudis are informally delivering air strikes in support of the same murderous Islamist bastards we're trying to defeat in Syria and Iraq.

The important point to remember is that these outfits, al Qaeda, ISIS, al Nusra and the rest can come and go.  You can't defeat them and they won't give up and they won't surrender. They just dissolve, disappear and reform at some place of their choosing. Their lifeline - the sheikhs and princes of the Persian Gulf - just keep them going and going.