Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Think Of "Dr. Strangelove" on Steroids

The good news is that your chance of dying in a car accident isn't very high, about one in 120 in the United States.

The bad news is that the risk of an average person dying from an extinction event is five times greater than the car accident risk.

So we demand cars that have the best brakes, stability control systems, crash absorbing zones, air bags, seat belts and more. We spend a fortune to build and maintain our highways and hire police to enforce our traffic laws.

Well then, what are we spending on that extinction event risk, the far more dangerous threat? Well, when you add it all up, it comes out to just about bugger all.

When it comes to extinction-level risks there are several. Climate change and nuclear war are 1 and 2. Britain's astronomer royal, Baron Martin Rees, gives us a no better than 50-50 chance that we'll succumb this century to what he calls "bio-terror or bio-error." According to Rees, now that we've privatized scientific research, there's stuff going on in the big corporate labs, unmonitored, that could easily wipe us out if someone goofs up or should it fall into the wrong hands. He gives many examples in his book, Our Final Hour, that - trust me - you probably don't want to read.

I was born at the start of the Cold War and grew up under the constant threat of nuclear Armageddon. When the Soviet Union collapsed we felt a weight had been lifted off our shoulders. The Doctor Strangelove era was over. Well that didn't last long. It's back. More people have nuclear arsenals and some of them are much more likely to use them than anyone who had them back in the 70s. And now we've got all these other extinction-grade threats.

"[N]early all of the most threatening global catastrophic risks were unforeseeable a few decades before they became apparent. Forty years before the discovery of the nuclear bomb, few could have predicted that nuclear weapons would come to be one of the leading global catastrophic risks. Immediately after the Second World War, few could have known that catastrophic climate change, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence would come to pose such a significant threat."

There are no easy answers. Confronting these challenges, reducing the risks to something manageable, survivable is going to require a different model of organization and governance. We'll have to redefine society as we've known it right down to our notions of basic citizenship. That's because we'll never be able to reduce this plethora of risks nearly enough which demands that we also focus on building our resilience, our ability to cope and adapt. You can't do that with social cohesion in tatters as we have today. 

It will take real leadership and vision of a calibre we haven't known for years.

And They Attacked Michelle for Having Bare Arms.

Remember when Republicans criticized Michelle Obama for appearing in a sleeveless dress? Oh, that was so undignified, so unsuitable for America's first lady.

Well, look what they've got in store.

There she is, bare cheeks, in a thong with a gun on the wing of Her Donald's private jetliner. But wait, there's more. Here's a picture of Melania inside that jet, looking for all the world like some drug lord's moll with a briefcase overflowing with jewelry.

Thank the Lord on High that all them good, God-fearin Americans won't have to put up with this any more:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Now, More Than Ever - Boycott/Divest/Sanction

“If there is something that frightens me about the memories of the Holocaust, it is the knowledge of the awful processes which happened in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago, and finding traces of them here in our midst, today, in 2016.”

                                                                   General Ya'ir Golan
                                                                    Deputy Chief of Staff, Israeli Army

The appointment by Benjamin Netanyahu of ultra-right extremist, Avigdor Lieberman, to the second highest office in Israel's government, defence minister and de facto consul of Palestine, demonstrates that Israel is on a headlong dive into fascism.

General Golan's warning, delivered during a Holocaust Day speech, has effectively ended his career and put his life in danger - from the threat posed by his own countrymen. Speaking the truth in a state of fascism can be a death sentence.

Former member of the Knesset and peace activist, Uri Avnery, has seen the signs before as a young Jewish schoolboy witnessing the collapse of the Weimar Republic. He was lucky. His parents fled Germany just in time. The world knows what befell those who weren't as quick.

"I was there when it happened, a boy in a family in which politics became the main topic at the dinner table. I saw how the republic broke down, gradually, slowly, step by step. I saw our family friends hoisting the swastika flag. I saw my high-school teacher raising his arm when entering the class and saying “Heil Hitler” for the first time (and then reassuring me in private that nothing had changed.)

"I was the only Jew in the entire gymnasium (high school.) When the hundreds of boys – all taller than I – raised their arms to sing the Nazi anthem, and I did not, they threatened to break my bones if it happened again. A few days later we left Germany for good.

"General Golan was accused of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. Nothing of the sort. A careful reading of his text shows that he compared developments in Israel to the events that led to the disintegration of the Weimar Republic. And that is a valid comparison.

"Things happening in Israel, especially since the last election, bear a frightening similarity to those events. True, the process is quite different. German fascism arose from the humiliation of surrender in World War I, the occupation of the Ruhr by France and Belgium from 1923-25, the terrible economic crisis of 1929, the misery of millions of unemployed. Israel is victorious in its frequent military actions, we live comfortable lives. The dangers threatening us are of a quite different nature. They stem from our victories, not from our defeats."

"The discrimination against the Palestinians in practically all spheres of life can be compared to the treatment of the Jews in the first phase of Nazi Germany. (The oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories resembles more the treatment of the Czechs in the “protectorate” after the Munich betrayal.)

"The rain of racist bills in the Knesset, those already adopted and those in the works, strongly resembles the laws adopted by the Reichstag in the early days of the Nazi regime."

"By the way, when the Nazis came to power, almost all high-ranking officers of the German army were staunch anti-Nazis. They were even considering a putsch against Hitler . Their political leader was summarily executed a year later, when Hitler liquidated his opponents in his own party. We are told that General Golan is now protected by a personal bodyguard, something that has never happened to a general in the annals of Israel."

This has been building for a long time. The world was put on notice just over 20-years ago when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, put to death by a countryman, for his moderate beliefs and pursuit of peace.

"In Rabin's pocket was a blood-stained sheet of paper with the lyrics to the well-known Israeli song "Shir LaShalom" ("Song for Peace"), which was sung at the rally and dwells on the impossibility of bringing a dead person back to life and, therefore, the need for peace."

What does all this say about the government of the day and our prime minister? Trudeau chose to support the Tories' motion to censure the BDS movement when he should have been embracing Boycott/Divest/Sanction, adding Canada's voice to the international community's.  Instead Trudeau chose political expediency at the expense of everything else, including morality and the honour of Canada.

Wouldn't It Be Great If This Was Comedy?

It's a Big Club and you ain't in it.

The Impeachment of Donald J. Trump Or a Caisson-Ride Down Pennsylvania Avenue

Let's hope he doesn't pick Ted Cruz as his running mate. That said I doubt Trump would want a running mate whose popularity could drag down his own. Trump-Cruz, possibly the worst ticket imaginable.

There's been a lot of speculation about Trump in the Oval Office, most of it focusing on the rise of a fascist state. Some speculate that Trump would go extra-constitutional, dissolve Congress, suspend the Constitution. Me? I don't believe it.

Two things might happen. One involves a state funeral, the other a trial on charges of "high crimes and misdemeanours."

There are many powerful people in the United States, all of whom have taken an oath to defend their country and uphold its Constitution. Many hold their Constitution in near religious reverence and, to them, the state and their constitution are inseparable. Included in this group are America's military commanders and the key personnel in its national security apparatus. The latter group has already proclaimed Trump as a threat to American security and global stability should he become president. I expect that conversation has been echoed behind many closed doors at the Pentagon.

My guess is that some very powerful voices would speak very softly to president-elect Trump laying out some fairly stark options for his presidency. For all his bluster and eccentricity, I don't see much courage in Donald Trump, any willingness to sacrifice for a cause. No, he won't like it but he will do as he's told once he realizes what's at stake.

Kids, I Think You're Going To Have To Take Your Future Into Your Own Hands

Has there ever been a phrase more inviting of abuse than, "for their own good"?

People with power like to invoke that phrase to justify what they do to those without as much power. Things get done for, and quite often to, others "in their best interests." The powerful like to do that because they get to define "their own good" and "their best interests" almost invariably in ways that closely mirror the good interests of the powerful themselves.

In this way people with power justify clinging to power long after it should have passed to a new group, perhaps the next generation. After all those calling the shots are only acting in the youngsters' "best interests" and "for their own good."

Governance, however, is not parenting. Those who wield and broker power rarely meet any recognizable fiduciary standard. What is paramount to any government is to still govern after the next election.

Now there's your problem. The kids are still looking to the horizon. They're wondering what they can expect when 2050 or 2060 or 2070 rolls around. The more they look the less they like what they see.

For those in power, their horizon is the current term in office with an option to renew. They see things differently than the kids see things because the kids have to visualize the future, their future. Those in power, snicker among themselves, knowing they'll be taking the eternal dirt nap before the future descends.

Think of it in the context of a commercial airline flight. The passengers are all youngsters. The cockpit crew, however, they're geezers. They're not going to be around for the landing, they won't make it. How does that make you feel if you're enduring the torment of a centre seat in cattle class?

Wouldn't it make sense for all the passengers to get up and toss out the captain and first officer before they managed to get that aircraft off the ground? Shouldn't they demand a flight crew who would at least be around to handle the landing?

In these perilous times that we're entering, that's the predicament facing today's young people, the under 40s. They have to wrest power away and into their own hands. We have shown, time and again, that we're as responsible as drunken sailors when it comes to planning for the future and meeting our fiduciary obligations to our younger generation. We are showing no sign that will change, really change, either.

Time, as the near unanimous chorus of scientists reminds us, is not on our children's side. The Big Bad Wolf is coming and all we've got is a house made out of straw. The kids are going to need something a lot better than what we're planning to bequeath to them. If we're not going to provide it, then it's up to them to take it.

I don't know if they have a sense of their steadily worsening predicament and how urgent it is that they move us out of power and fill our positions with their own. For their sake, the sooner the better. For, once they displace us, they're bound to find they define "their own good" and "their best interests" much differently than we chose to for them.

There Goes the Neighbourhood. Chalk Another One Up for Fascism. And, Yes, It Has Nukes.

Washington is rightly concerned with who else has nuclear weapons.

North Korea is a case in point. The US has to fret that whatever iteration of lunatic Kim runs the place could get a bit twitchy and launch a warhead or two.

Pakistan likewise keeps Pentagon defence planners up at night. Two threats there. One is the outbreak of war between India and Pakistan leading to a nuclear exchange that might quickly spread to adjacent regions and then, who knows? The other is the prospect of Islamist radicals, either terrorists or from within the Pakistani military, commandeering some or all of Pakistan's arsenal.

Now there's a new name they'll be chalking up on their Worry Board, Israel. This follows Benjamin Netanyahu's embrace of  the Israeli ultra-nationalist party, Yisrael Beitenu, and the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as the country's defence minister. Critics claim the move represents the evolution of Israel into a full blown fascist state, one with its own substantial nuclear arsenal.

Former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, says Netanyahu has planted the seeds of fascism. Netanyahu's former defence minister, Moshe Yaalon, spurned a new portfolio, quitting instead, and warning, "Extremist and dangerous elements have taken over Israel and the Likud and are threatening (society)."

As the Jerusalem Post points out this means that Lieberman, as defence minister, now becomes Czar of the West Bank and occupied Palestine.

So how is this going down with Israel's neighbours, a.k.a. the Arab Muslim world? As you might expect. Egypt's military government, until now one of Israel's few friends in the region, is troubled by Lieberman's appointment and the shift in Israel's government and society.

Making the Egyptians deal with Lieberman is a slap in the face to Cairo, given that he once suggested destroying the Aswan Dam and sweeping the Egyptians into the sea. Knowing that the erratic and extremist Lieberman has his finger on the nuclear button must also be nervous-making for the al-Sisi government. The pan-Arab leftwing London daily, al-Quds al-`Arabi, reported that circles around al-Sisi were “shocked” at the prospect of having to work with Lieberman, and that they consider his appointment a “red line” after he threatened them with genocide.

On his way out the door, Yaalon warned that the extremism, violence and racism that has manifested in Israeli society is now spreading into the military.

The former prime minister, Barak, warned Israelis that there'll be a price to pay. "The outgoing defense minister, Moshe Ya'alon, was the victim of a purge. In the initial months, Liberman will give off the impression that he is moderate. Sooner or later, however, we will see the price we have to pay."

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Everyone Needs to See This.

Watch the video in slow motion. This puts paid to Angry Tom's fury and Brousseau's feigned martyrdom. It's all on the video once you get it slowed down. Dippers, you might not want to watch this - but you should.


Ah, the long weekend! Or, as they apparently now call it in Ontario, the May 2-4 weekend in tribute to the stalwart people of that province who innately understand that a case of beer, a real case of beer, is four six-packs all nestled inside one cardboard box. On this weekend the rest of Canada salutes you.

This is a non-news weekend. There's stuff going on but no one much cares. That's a good thing, I suppose. Good for the blood pressure, for sure. It's a weekend for relaxation and even a bit of reflection.

I took a few minutes to reflect on the week that was and, of course, visions of Ruth Ellen Brosseau drifted by. And then I got it. WWRMS? What Would Rick Mercer Say about this bone crushing affair, this affront to Canadian womanhood? We'll have to wait and see but I'm guessing he'll have some amusing insights on offer.

Then it dawned on me. I know the very person I'd want to hear from, Mississauga's legendary ex-mayor, Hazel McCallion. What's Hazel's take on this business?

Then it got even better. REMATCH! Three, three-minute rounds of wrestling, Greco-Roman, the sort where Trudeau could get "hit in the nuts." Rick Mercer officiating. Hazel McCallion on the bell. Patrick Brazeau as Brousseau's cornerman. In Trudeau's corner, Stephan Dion doing, as usual, as he's damn well told. Rex Murphy offering colour commentary. Wouldn't you pay a buck and a quarter to watch that on pay per view?

See, there you go. Now you've got something to look forward to. Happy Victoria Day.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Vancouver Mayor Slams NEB Pipeline Review And Trudeau's Added "Stopgap Measure."

You could say that Gregor Robertson doesn't much care for the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, the rigged National Energy Board approval process or Justin Trudeau's ploy to gloss it all over.

"The NEB process was a sham, basically, it was advanced with gusto by the Harper government, who were obviously strong proponents of this pipeline process," Robertson said in an interview with Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House.

"We put up a solid fight against it, but many of the interveners, many voices were shut out of that process and First Nations weren't consulted appropriately," he said, noting the board did not review the project's downstream climate change impact.

Robertson said he will fight tooth and nail to stop the project, and he has a simple message for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr: "The answer is no. This pipeline proposal should not be approved.

"They've got the rest of this year, they've got this ministerial panel, but there is no business case for it when you put the economics on the table and when you put the Paris agreement and our climate commitments on the table and the sensitive environment we're dealing with here on the West Coast — it's an absolute no," he said.

Justin Trudeau defrauded British Columbians into giving him a number of ridings - ridings that might otherwise have gone to the Harper Conservatives - on his express promise to rectify the rigged environmental review process of the industry loaded regulator, Canada's National Energy Board. Slick broke his promise to the province and people of British Columbia and he's trying to weasel his way around it.

If he goes through with this botched "sham" there'll be a price to pay for the Liberal Party for years, perhaps generations, to come.

Brousseau Clings Tenaciously to Her Moment of Fame

You gotta give it to Ruth Ellen Brousseau. The NDP MP knows how to wring every drop of attention she can get out of a non-event and she is sure going for it.

Brousseau, who claims she was elbowed in her chest by Justin Trudeau during a minor kerfuffle on the floor of the House of Commons this week seems to have contracted PTSD. She complains that she's still personally shaken by the incident. Maybe she could use an all expenses paid furlough to Vegas.

Now, to add insult to her non-injury, she contends the public is calling "bullshit" on her. Bad public, damn you all to hell.

Brosseau, who admits to still being personally shaken by the incident, says her office has received a number phone calls, many of them suggesting she is "crying wolf."

Brosseau also says the scrutiny she has received since Wednesday's encounter has been worse than in 2011, when as a rookie candidate she was ridiculed publicly for travelling to Las Vegas during the election campaign.

She said she's tried to focus on her work since becoming an MP and hopes that speaking out about the incident will make the story go away.

Yes, what would be more likely to "make the story go away" than continuing to whinge about it? From what I could see, Brosseau took the best dive anyone has seen since the World Cup.

It's good to see, here and there, as Montreal Simon suggests, that this clearly staged incident has backfired on the NDP and Angry Tom. People, like those calling Brosseau's office to her supposedly great distress, see right through it. That's why they're phoning her office, calling "bullshit" on her. As for Tommy, well he's just added yet another nail to his political coffin. Time to take out the trash.

Dont Ever Tell Jesse Jane McParland She Fights Like a Girl

Just sayin:

What, By Now, We Should Have Realized About Free Trade Agreements But Still Haven't.

Nothing has become so undeservedly imbued with the status of orthodoxy as free market fundamentalism embodied in today's free trade pacts and neoliberal governance. This has become our orthodoxy. We accept it, usually without a second thought. We have long forgotten the pitch they used to sell it to us at the outset. If we did remember the promises we would realize how we've been had. We wouldn't be nearly so complacent, and through that powerless, as we have become.

Harper approached market fundamentalism with the reverence afforded to scripture. It was his gospel and he clung to it as tenaciously as religious fundamentalists embrace biblical inerrancy. Harper may have been the hard case but those before him and since have also accepted rule by markets.

While free trade deals are inked by states, those states are really just a front for corporate interest and corporate power. A free trade deal embodies some form of "investor-state dispute resolution" mechanism, secret courts, the effect of which is to create a power-sharing relationship. State sovereignty is to some extent yielded. It doesn't just evaporate. It goes somewhere. It passes to some other entity.

One aspect of that sovereignty surrender is the planning power. If a government's plans intrude on perceived commercial rights, the government's power can be fettered by litigation and awards of massive damages. In the result, planning power is quietly and gradually ceded to the private sector. You can usually sense this when you detect a lack of vision, a lack of cohesiveness in government policy making. That's the telltale of sovereignty corrupted.

Economist James Galbraith offers this insight:

"The history of compulsory [state] planning cannot be purged of its warts; this is the conservative and libertarian case, and it does no good to deny the force of their argument. But this does not make planning unnecessary or mean that one can do without it.

"Again the issue is, In comparison to what? A state that does not plan does not, by default, turn this function over to the market. Even if the market is perfectly efficient, it still suffers from two ineradicable defects. The first relates to the distribution of income and power; the market conveys signals only in proportion to the purchasing power of the individuals transmitting them. The poor do not matter to the market. The second relates to representation: people not yet born do not turn up at the stores, They send no market signals at all.

"Defenders of markets talk about futures markets, or long-term contracts, arguing that these serve the needs of the future and obviate the need for planning. This is a misunderstanding. Such markets and contracts serve only the needs of today's economic actors; they are a way of projecting the needs and interests of the present forward into the future, of managing risks for today's market actors. They have nothing to do with preparing for, protecting, or representing the needs of the future. In the market economy, no one speaks for those who will follow. Speaking for the interests of successor generations is a function that has to be imposed on the market by outside agency and regulatory power; it is an act of imagination. The great fallacy of the market myth lies simply in the belief, for which no foundation in economics exists, that markets can think ahead. But they cannot. The role of planning is to provide that voice, if necessary against the concerted interest and organized power of those alive today.

"A country that does not have a public planning system simply turns that function over to a network of private enterprise - domestic or foreign - which then becomes the true seat of economic power. And that is why the struggle over planning is, and remains, such a sensitive issue; it is the struggle over power. It is a struggle not between democracy and the corporation, but between those - scientists, engineers, some economists, and public intellectuals - who attempt to represent the common and future interest and those - banks, companies, lobbyists, and the economists whom they employ - that represent only the tribal and current interest. It is an uneven struggle. It is a struggle in which, outside of wartime and the zone of permanent planning called the Pentagon, the planners have prevailed on only rare occasions, notably during the Great Depression. But it is an inescapable struggle. If the future is to be provided for, you must have a community of planners, and some way must be found to support them, to permit them to develop their plans and resolve their differences, and to give them access to the levers of public power. To walk away from this problem with a shrug about 'markets' is to disenfranchise the future. To enable planning guarantees nothing. But to 'rely on the market' is to guarantee that the interests of the future will never be provided for."

What is Galbraith telling us? He seems to be warning that the market forces so dominant in society today and the neoliberals in the political caste who serve them work together "to guarantee that the interests of the future will never be provided for." That should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying any attention to government especially since Harper came to power and, more disturbingly, the government that has since displaced him. Trudeau is, if anything, more worrisome than Harper because he represents a party whose members consider it progressive. There may be a progressive or two within Trudeau's cabinet but damn if I can name them.

A lot of us had hopes that Harper's successor would right Canada's badly listing political keel. That hasn't happened.

Pimping bitumen is a case in point. That is all about "the tribal and current interest" at the considerable expense of "preparing for, protecting and representing the needs of the future."

No we have to accept the fact that this government, flying its false flag, is only marginally less inadequate than the one it displaced.

Time for a break. Here's George Carlin explaining why bullshit is the glue that still holds us together.

How Much Trouble Are the Saudis In?

When you think of a place that must be drowning in petro-dollars, surely Saudi Arabia comes to mind.

Saudi Arabia's oil giant, Aramco, is a family business, a closed shop, and remained for most of us an enigma. Saudis + Oil = Unimaginable Wealth.

In recent years, the Saudis have been acting, well, weird. In the past they would throw a bag of money here or there. They funded the mujahadeen resistance during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. When Saddam's forces invaded Kuwait and drove right up to the Saudi border, the Saudi armed forces even got involved in Desert Storm. Mostly though they've fought their battles with money. Money to help Sunni Islamist fighters wage campaigns in the Middle East. Money to buy peace from Sunni Islamists at home. Let's not forget those 9/11 hijackers, eh.

Lately, though, they've been a little goofier than normal. They've become hyper-sensitive to Iran, their Shiite Muslim rival. Prince Bandar bin Sultan went positively ballistic when Obama refused to commit ground troops to overthrow Assad in Syria. That, by some accounts, seemed to have led to the organization and funding of this new ground force, the Islamic State, ISIS.

Around the same time the Saudis launched a bloody but incompetent air war in Yemen. The Saudi air force was ostensibly fighting in support of the ousted Sunni leader of Yemen by attacking rebel (Shiite) Houthi villages with American-made cluster bombs but that never managed to stop the Houthis who were simultaneously fighting both al Qaeda and ISIS fighters who had taken up residence in Yemen.

Meanwhile Saudi Arabia began stocking up with massive amounts of new military hardware of virtually every description short of fleet aircraft carriers. Tanks, Canadian death wagons, artillery, helicopters, jets and stockpiles of weapons to fire/drop from them.

Then came the crash in world oil prices as supply flooded the market, creating a glut of cheap oil. It was thought that the Saudi royals were trying to re-assert their dominance by undermining rival producers in Russia, the US (and Canada), while impeding the restoration of Shiite Iran's oil industry.

Now there's a move to privatize at least part of Aramco. It's believed that a 5% share could provide the Saudis with the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. The Saudis have stated a desire to break their country's addiction to an oil economy.

There's been an element of flailing to all of this, as though the Saudis were desperate to land some knock-out punch at least somewhere. It just made no sense. There was no immediate threat to Saudi security or sovereignty on the horizon so why all the bellicose maneuvering?

One of the lesser known causes of war is what I call the "while we still can" or "before it gets any worse" argument.  One situation is an arms race in which one side is perhaps being overtaken by a rival and can't find a way to stay ahead. It may then decide to attack its ascendant rival while it still can, before it loses its fleeting advantage.

Do the Saudis feel insecure, vulnerable?   Perhaps they should. Moody's this week downgraded the Saudi state's credit rating.
(link is external) 
“A combination of lower growth, higher debt levels and smaller domestic and external buffers leave the Kingdom less well positioned to weather future shocks,” Moody’s said in a note.

According to Business Insider(link is external), the Saudis have been burning through their mountain of cash.

Saudi Arabia is talking to international banks to start arranging a sovereign debt issue.

The size of the bond was not specified in the report.

The bond isn't the first round of borrowing for Saudi Arabia this year, as the country burns through its cash pile.

In April Saudi Arabia raised a $10 billion ($6.85 billion) bond from JPMorgan, HSBC and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in the form of a five-year loan, which was over-subscribed.

This loan will increase Saudi Arabia's debt levels from 7% of GDP in 2015 to 50% of GDP by 2020.

Saudi Arabia is desperate for cash because it is still heavily dependent on oil to bring in revenue.

No wonder the Saudis are keen to begin liquidating their oil reserves. They're cash strapped. Yet that begs the question of why the Saudis are buying such massive amounts of weaponry unless they intend to put them to good use against, oh I don't know, Iran?

India Clocks All-Time Heat Record - 51C

The past few years have seen something we never heard of before - temperatures breaking 50 degrees Celsius. A town in the Indian state of Rajasthan set an all time Indian record of 51C yesterday. That's about 124 Fahrenheit, sort of like sitting in a hot car on an 80F summer day with the windows up.  How bad is it?

Shiv Prakash Chanda, who works as a nursing officer in the [Phalodi] hospital, said: “It is incredibly hot. None of the air-conditioners or coolers are working. We have running water, but the water is stored in tanks on top the buildings, and when it comes out of the tap the water is so hot that you can’t even wash your hands with it. You can’t even go to the toilet.”

Ranjeet Singh, a local police constable, said: “The ground is so hot, you could cook chapatis on it.”

The heatwaves that have been rocking south Asia for weeks have been compounded by widespread, severe drought. There's no water for crops, no water for livestock. Armed guards have been posted on dams to protect what water remains for the needs of towns and villages.

It's not the heat, it's the humidity. There's some truth to that old saw. There's this thing called "wet bulb temperature" that is a formula involving air temperature, air pressure and relative humidity. It's all on a sliding scale. The oft-quoted magic number is 35C wet bulb. When the temperature hits 35 and the humidity is high enough what happens is that the body can no longer cool itself through perspiration and respiration. You literally cook and you're dead. 35C wet bulb is considered to be not survivable even by a young, healthy and fit person.  If you're older, not perfectly healthy and less than ideally fit, you'll be gone long before you reach 35C wet bulb.

For south Asia, relief is on its way - finally - in the form of the annual Monsoon rains that are already causing flooding in Sri Lanka and are expected to reach southern India early next month.

Israeli Defence Minister Quits. Says Extremists Have Taken Over Netanyahu Government. Who Knew?

Slick is not going to want to hear this. After pointlessly backing the Tory motion to censure the BDS, Boycott/Divest/Sanction movement aimed at fighting back against Israeli persecution of its Palestinian captives, Israel's defence minister leaves Justin looking like a chump.

Israel's defence minister resigned Friday, saying extremists had taken over the country, after he clashed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the army's handling of a wave of Palestinian violence.

Moshe Yaalon said he no longer had any trust in Netanyahu after the hawkish premier offered his post to a hardliner loathed by the Palestinians, in a bid to expand the governing coalition's majority.

The surprise move by the respected former armed forces chief follows a series of disputes over the military's values and role in society between ministers in Netanyahu's government and top generals backed by Yaalon.

Yaalon's resignation came two days after former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said he could bring his far-right Yisrael Beitenu party into Netanyahu's governing coalition if a number of conditions were met, including his being named defence minister.

Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party pressed talks with Yisrael Beitenu on Friday on the terms of a deal to boost the coalition's wafer-thin majority in parliament.

Yaalon's resignation does not take effect for two days and, hours after it was announced, he warned in a broadcast address of a rising tide of extremism in the ruling Likud party and the country as a whole.

"Extremist and dangerous elements have taken over Israel and the Likud and are threatening (society)," he said in Hebrew.

Duffy Has Taken Everybody Off the Hook

Pamela Wallin got her early Christmas gift yesterday. Today Mac Harb found his under the tree. Nobody - nobody else - is getting prosecuted in the Senate expenses scandal.

The RCMP and the Ontario Crown seems to have lost their appetite for political show trials after getting their ass handed to them by the Cavendish Cottager, Prince Edward Island's very own senator Mike Duffy.

They went into that one loaded for bear. 31-charges, everything including the kitchen sink. Imagine the judge ruling that the wrongdoer wasn't the guy they hauled up before him but the guys who told them to charge him. Hmm, oooh, burn. Sizzle.

Charges of fraud and breach of trust have been dropped against former senator Mac Harb, a Liberal appointee and central figure in the Senate expense scandal whose housing expenses were deemed unjustifiable by the upper chamber.

One month after the sensational acquittal of Sen. Mike Duffy, prosecutors made it official Friday that Harb, 62, would not face a criminal trial because the Crown did not see a reasonable prospect of conviction.

Well, maybe it's too early to say "nobody" is facing prosecution. There's still badboy Tory senator Patrick Brazzeau but, really, how would that look. All the white dudes walk and First Nations Brazzeau gets thrown into the prisoners' dock. Oh no, no, no.

You See It, You Know What It Is.

The first time I saw one overhead I knew instantly what it was. The twin boom, high tail, stubby winged aircraft could only be the OV-10 Bronco, a twin turboprop job that did yeoman's service in Viet Nam.

I wonder what the ISIS boys in Syria must have thought when they first spotted it overhead. My, my, my.

The US military is looking for a new close-support aircraft and decided to dust off a pair of OV-10s for a try out against Islamic State forces. Apparently they did just fine if not really, really well.

The twin-engine Broncos—each flown by a pair of naval aviators—completed 134 sorties, including 120 combat missions, over a span of 82 days beginning in May 2015 or shortly thereafter, according to U.S. Central Command, which oversees America’s wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Central Command would not say exactly where the OV-10s were based or where they attacked, but did specify that the diminutive attack planes with their distinctive twin tail booms flew in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led international campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon has deployed warplanes to Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, among other countries.

The US currently relies on F-15s and F-18s for most of its ground attack missions in the war against ISIS. An F-15 can swallow up $40,000 per hour just for fuel and maintenance costs. The Bronco comes in closer to $1,000.

The OV-10s proved incredibly reliable in their 82 days of combat, completing 99 percent of the missions planned for them, according to Davis. Today the two OV-10s are sitting idle at a military airfield in North Carolina while testers crunch the numbers from their trial deployment. The assessment will “determine if this is a valid concept that would be effective in the current battlespace,” Central Command spokesman Davis said.

After Viet Nam, the USAF and USN Broncos were snapped up by foreign air forces and civilian buyers. The Marines got rid of their last OV-10s in 1999. In other words, the military doesn't have hundreds of them sitting out at the warplane graveyard at Davis Monthan AFB. Boeing has a proposal to build a new, massively updated OV-10, if...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Is Trudeau Double-Crossing British Columbia? Sure Looks That Way.

Our prime minister, Slick, may be suffering from dementia because he can't remember what he told us just a year ago.

Mr. Trudeau ...argued that pipeline projects have failed to obtain “social license” because impacted people don’t trust the government to protect their interests, including providing adequate regulatory oversight or respecting the rights of aboriginal people.

He also said he learned from the mistakes of his father, who introduced the National Energy Program in 1980.

“I’m the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, my last name is Trudeau and I’m standing here at the Petroleum Club in Calgary,” he said.

“A federal program that harms one part of the country, harms us all."
Except, it seems, if the part of the country harmed is British Columbia and then, tough shit.

As recently as March of this year, Trudeau's natural resources minister, Jim Carr, was parroting the nonsense about "social licence."

There's a term for what's going on. It's called "regulatory capture." That's when a regulatory body gets taken over with appointments drawn from the industries regulated at which point they cease acting in the interests of the public and instead serve the industry from which they came and to which they shall return. That fits Canada's National Energy Board to a T. Trudeau could have and obviously should have cleaned it up, forced an independent board to make the call, but he didn't.  And so the process he promises, by which he purports to build social licence, is corrupted from the get to.

Trudeau is in the bag to the fossil fuelers which means something else also. It means that Canada's climate emission targets - set suitably low by Stephen Harper - will never be met.

It's On. The Harper/Trudeau Stacked Deck Approves Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion.

It was obvious that the fix was in when Slick chose to retain Shifty Steve Harper's industry-captured National Energy Board. All of Justin's earnest campaign promises were sheer electoral bullshit.

Now, just as the prime minister knew, sure as hell knew, the Harper/Trudeau National Energy Board has approved the Kinder Morgan hazmat pipeline expansion, ensuring an armada of up to 400 supertankers a year heavily laden with hazmat bitumen will travel through downtown Vancouver's Coal Harbour and onward, via the first and second narrows, to cross the south coast carrying Athabasca's carbon bomb to waiting, and none too scrupulous, markets in Asia.

That little shit was lying to us throughout the election and it won him badly needed seats in coastal areas of B.C.

The NDP's Nathan Cullen nailed it when he said:

“The Liberals swore on a stack of Bibles to fix the Conservatives’ failed environmental assessment process,” said the party's environment critic, Nathan Cullen. "The Kinder Morgan pipeline is exactly the kind of project that needs a serious and credible environmental review.

"This is a Conservative pipeline under a Conservative review process, with just a Liberal fig leaf hiding over top of that fact. So where are all the BC Liberals that promised to do things differently? Will just one BC Liberal stand up today and justify the unjustifiable?”

Here's something else that lying little shit won't mention. The technology doesn't exist to clean up a bitumen spill in British Columbia's deep coastal waters. Bitumen sinks to the seabed, eventually gluing itself to some rock or natural depression.  Who is going to clean it up? Who is going to foot the bill? When, when-not if, it happens those vermin in Edmonton and Ottawa will be fast to crawl back underneath their rocks.

Now comes the crackdown. The Harper/Trudeau secret security service that harnesses the power of CSIS and the RCMP to the suppression of Canadian dissent will go into high gear to disrupt local unrest along the B.C. coastal communities. Kinder Morgan security, aided and abetted by CSIS, hands the RCMP its marching papers and they, in turn, pay "friendly visits" to the American pipeline giant's targets. A little friendly intimidation/interrogation. That's Justin Trudeau's Canada and it's the spitting image of Stephen Harper's Canada.

Morley Safer Dead at 84

Canadian-born, Morley Safer, was a fixture on 60 Minutes for decades. He logged some 919 reports for the CBS network's flagship news magazine. The New York Times calls him a Sunday evening staple in American homes.

Safer was born and raised in Toronto. His career began as a reporter for various Ontario newspapers. He joined CBS in 1964 and opened the network's Viet Nam bureau the following year. His stint with 60 Minutes spanned a staggering 46-years.

From The New York Times:

...to an earlier generation of Americans, and to many colleagues and competitors, he was regarded as the best television journalist of the Vietnam era, an adventurer whose vivid reports exposed the nation to the hard realities of what the writer Michael J. Arlen, in the title of his 1969 book, called “The Living Room War.”

With David Halberstam of The New York Times, Stanley Karnow of The Washington Post and a few other print reporters, Mr. Safer shunned the censored, euphemistic Saigon press briefings they called the “five o’clock follies” and got out with the troops. Mr. Safer and his Vietnamese cameraman Ha Thuc Can gave Americans powerful close-ups of firefights and search-and-destroy missions filmed hours before airtime. The news team’s helicopter was shot down once, but they were unhurt and undeterred.

In August 1965, Mr. Safer covered an attack on the hamlet of Cam Ne in the Central Highlands, which intelligence had identified as a Vietcong sanctuary, though it had been abandoned by the enemy before the Americans moved in. Mr. Safer’s account depicted Marines, facing no resistance, firing rockets and machine guns into the hamlet; torching its thatched huts with flame throwers, grenades and cigarette lighters as old men and women begged them to stop; then destroying rice stores as the villagers were led away sobbing.

Making an Example of Fort Mac

The Fort McMurray wildfires have garnered attention around the world. Indonesia may be ablaze from one end of the country to the other but all eyes are on Canada.

Some think that the Fort Mac fires should be seen as an invaluable lesson to others.

"The Alberta wildfires are an excellent example of what we're seeing more and more of: warming means snow melts earlier, soils and vegetation dries out earlier, and the fire season starts earlier. It's a train wreck," Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist from the University of Arizona, said.

The global fire season increased in length 19 percent between 1979 and 2013, resulting in a rash of large fires from the late 1990s to the start of the 21st century. However, the total amount of land lost globally to these blazes has decreased, at least in part due to improved firefighting techniques. However, in the United States, the amount of land consumed in these fires has risen dramatically. The 10-year average, which stood at 3 million acres 30 years ago, sits at 7 million acres today.

A Small Step in Defence of Evidence-Based Thinking

Whatever happened to critical thinking - reasoned, rational, evidence-based thought? That it's gone, or at least it's been suppressed, is plain for all to see.

Interesting report in today's Washington Post. A group of climate science types decided to expose the denialists for the scheming liars which they are.

We've spent the last decade, perhaps 15+ years, in a he said/she said rut. Research is done, statistics are produced and then the fun begins. One side says this proves X. The other side says, no, that's not right - look here, this proves Y. And, with that, there is no proof, merely a debate and we're all free to take sides.

Now these climate scientists have arranged what you might call an elaborate "blind taste test." They've taken the statistics that both sides are using and dress them up to appear as something else, something other than climate data. Then they take each side's arguments, adapt them accordingly to suit the non-climate scenario, and submit them to experts in non-climate fields.

During the test, the researchers featured such a statement, along with the corresponding climate data — but they changed the labels and wording, making it appear that they were displaying information about entirely unrelated topics, such as agricultural output or business profits. They then asked the expert participants to answer a series of questions about whether they thought the given statement confirmed or contradicted the accompanying data; whether the statement seemed misleading; and whether the statement was appropriate for use by policymakers or industries...

“Across two groups of experts and across six different scenarios, contrarian claims were judged to be misleading, inaccurate, and unsuitable for policy advice,” the researchers wrote in the paper. “Conversely, mainstream scientific interpretations were found to be accurate and suitable for policy advice overall.”

“It’s a huge effect,” [the University of Bristol's Stephan]Lewandowsky added. “They are about as far apart as anything I’ve seen.”

As an added test, the researchers asked the participants to predict what the masked data should look like in the future — and in general, the experts made predictions in line with what’s been projected by mainstream climate scientists.

“So no one thought the Arctic was going to recover — they thought it was going to continue melting, because that is what the data show,” Lewandowsky said.

Some are criticizing the study for its methodology but, ultimately, the criticisms don't really matter. The study would only be truly relevant in a society governed by evidence based, rational, reasoned, critical thought. That ship has sailed and it's well over the horizon.

Of Danger and Betrayal

Imagine you lived in south London. Bermondsey, down by the docks. It's 1941 and the night is full of the drone of German bombers overhead as you hustle the kids down into the coal cellar for shelter as the floor shakes from the bombs blasting your neighbourhood.

Now, imagine that you learned on your way to work the next morning that your government was selling the Luftwaffe the fuel they needed to fly those bombers over your house night after night.

Then you read a story in the morning paper that your government said they couldn't stop the sale of all that aviation gas, not right away. It would be too devastating to the economy. Besides, they needed the revenues they pocketed from that avgas in order to fight the Hun. Your country's victory, they said, depended on keeping the German bombers and tanks and submarines full of fuel.

How long do you think it would take you to locate a pitchfork and a torch and join your neighbours as they marched on Westminster?

Well, of course, this isn't 1941 Britain. It's Canada, 2016. It's Canada and, for that matter, the world. The danger overhead isn't squadrons of Heinkels but greenhouse gases. The threat isn't defeat, surrender and subjugation; it's plague, pestilence, famine, war and extinction.

And, of course, Churchill would never have had a policy like that or made such preposterous arguments. If he had he would have been banged up in the Tower for high treason awaiting his end.

And, of course, we don't have a Churchill, we have someone who had a famous father on the strength of which we expected great things. In these immensely dangerous times we (well, not I) put him in control.

Now he tells us that the way to defeating our existential menace is to double down on what's fueling it. We must build more pipelines - failure-prone metal tubes - so that we can increase the extraction and export of world destroying fossil fuels, among the very worst of the lot, and get that to tidewater, rolling the dice that the inevitable supertanker disaster(s) won't happen on his watch.

The real high treason in this is that he knows, beyond any doubt he knows, that what he intends to do will foreclose any prospect that Canada will meet it's already paltry emissions reduction promises, Stephen Harper's laughable commitments.

And then he looks us straight in the face and tells us that this is for our own good. Going ever blacker will make us green. Jeez, I think I've got a pitchfork in the garden shed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Has Slick Lost It?

A bizarre spectacle in the House of Commons during the debate on the Liberal government's blatantly unconstitutional assisted dying legislation.

Video shows Trudeau crossing the floor, taking the Tory Whip, Gord Brown, by the arm and ushering him back to his seat. There was apparently some further scuffling in which Trudeau allegedly elbowed NDP MP Ruth Brosseau. That led to a shouting match between Trudeau and Angry Tom Mulcair following which Trudeau apologized "unreservedly" to Brosseau. It's not apparent from the video that the Brosseau incident was intentional.

CTV's Don Martin explained that Trudeau saw that the Tory Whip was being blocked, apparently intentionally, by several NDP MPs to prevent Brown from taking his seat.

At one point Liberal MPs rose from their desks and a number crossed to the opposition side of the House.

This is pretty bizarre. A prime minister crossing the floor to take the Tory Whip, like some errant schoolboy, by the arm and send him back to his seat. Is Trudeau cracking up? Does he imagine he truly is the Dauphin?

As for Ms. Brosseau, she seems to have all the dramatic skills of a World Cup footballer.

Sorry but the CBC clip wouldn't embed. Follow the link above and watch it for yourself. What do you think?

On reflection I think the incident revealed that the NDP stunt revealed that Trudeau allowed them to push his buttons. Angry Tom's feigned indignation was pure bullshit and Brosseau's plaintive whinge about how she was so distraught that she had to leave the House to collect herself was befitting a World Cup footballer staging a foul.

Trudeau's Stealth Dilbit Pipeline Campaign Continues

We know when it comes to hazmat pipelines running across British Columbia, Trudeau is dealing from the bottom of the deck. The NDP's Nathan Cullen aptly summed it up:

“The Liberals swore on a stack of Bibles to fix the Conservatives’ failed environmental assessment process,” said the party's environment critic, Nathan Cullen. "The Kinder Morgan pipeline is exactly the kind of project that needs a serious and credible environmental review.

"This is a Conservative pipeline under a Conservative review process, with just a Liberal fig leaf hiding over top of that fact. So where are all the BC Liberals that promised to do things differently? Will just one BC Liberal stand up today and justify the unjustifiable?”

Meanwhile, our suddenly slack-jawed environment minister, star of the Paris climate summit last December, Catherine McKenna has turned into a windbag just full of weasel words.

Federal Liberal cabinet ministers stickhandled around accusations of breaking election campaign promises on Tuesday, as they were pressed by media and opposition members of Parliament about pipeline projects in Western Canada.

The two major pipelines in play, Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion and the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, both involved meaty promises from Prime Minister Trudeau during the election campaign — first, that he would fix a flawed federal review process for new energy projects, and second, that hewould stop Northern Gateway.

But with rumours suggesting that the Enbridge pipeline may yet live, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna declined to give a straight answer on whether the government had changed its mind:

"Transport Minister Garneau is looking at ensuring marine safety, which is really key," she told National Observer after a discussion about climate change with high school students in Vancouver. "The prime minister has also been very clear about Northern Gateway — it’s not appropriate that it goes through the Great Bear Rainforest."

Garneau should get himself into a small boat and go out onto the Hecate in one of its Biblical storms. Then he'll learn all he will need to know about "marine safety" and Trudeau will be able to find himself a new transport minister.

No, Justin, Don't Screw With the Vets. Just Don't.

I hope this isn't as bad as it sounds. From CBC News:

The federal government is taking veterans back to court to try to block certain benefits for injured and wounded soldiers, despite a Liberal campaign promise to better support them after an era of Conservative cuts.

"It's a betrayal," said Donald Sorochan, the lawyer representing the six Afghan war veterans who initiated a class-action lawsuit over pensions and other benefits.

"They have turned the Liberal election campaign into a lie. I sat at tables [during the campaign] with some of the people who are now in cabinet. Those ministers have been turned into liars by the Department of Justice," he said Tuesday, noting the election platform explicitly promised that no veteran would have to "fight the government" for the support and compensation they have earned.

...The plaintiffs have argued in court that the government has a sacred obligation to its injured soldiers and that the lump-sum payment wounded veterans receive under the New Veterans Charter — as opposed to the pension that was previously offered to veterans before 2006 — is inadequate compensation, as they receive less money over the course of a lifetime.

...Government lawyers outraged veterans by asserting that the federal government has no extraordinary obligation to those who have fought for the country, and therefore the litigation has no merit.

Harper veteran affairs min Erin O'Toole also removed the lead government lawyer, Paul Vickery, from the case and replaced him with Joel Watson, a litigator from the private sector and himself a former veteran.

But Sorochan told CBC News that the government lawyers have told him they will now revive the argument that the government does not have a sacred obligation to veterans — to try to kill the class-action lawsuit once and for all.

The Liberal government has also put Vickery back on the case.

When are the Liberal rank and file going to give Trudeau and Co. a smack upside the head?

The Wind at Our Backs

You can't do science with politics. Razors cannot slice glue. Science is a razor. Politics is glue. Everything, no matter how sharp, gets stuck in it.

The "climate change debate" illustrates the problem. There's really no debate about what we need to do. We got past that last December in Paris where it was agreed, much belatedly, that our "never exceed" temperature limit had to be 1.5C. That's 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Anything beyond that invites, perhaps even ensures, climatic calamity. 

1.5C it is then.

Everyone came away from Paris patting themselves on the back. Not sure why. What they left in Paris were national commitments, promises, by each nation of the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions it was willing to implement by specified dates. Such and such a percent by such and such year.

Unfortunately, when you add up all those promised cuts what you're left with is 3.5 degrees Celsius of warming and not to put too fine a point on it but that's not survivable for most life on Earth, including you and me and our kids and theirs.

The problem with a political approach to climate change is that it gets bogged down with man-made (anthropogenic) global warming. It's as though we're the only players at the table. That 1.5C is for us. We don't have to share it. That ignores who else is sitting at the table - nature.

Nature, represented by physics, geology, chemistry, hydrology, biology, zoology, botany, meteorology, glaciology, atmospherics, and every other Earth science, also has a handful of cards and that hand is also in play.

We don't know how Nature will play its hand. We do know that it's upping the ante.

That 1.5C goal reached at Paris? There's a hitch. We're already there. We've already loaded the atmosphere with enough man-made greenhouse gas that we've locked in 1.5C of overall warming. Every fossil-fuel generating station, every wildfire, every tank of SUV juice, every truckload of cement - that's all atop the existing 1.5C loading. Congratulations. We've set ourselves an ambitious target we have already exceeded. 

Don't worry, we're working on a plan and it's going to be a dandy. We'll have carbon taxes even as we ramp up the extraction and export of bitumen to world markets. Oh yeah, and we're still selling coal to boot.

But what about Nature? Well, what about it? The 1.5C target? That's all about preventing catastrophic, runaway climate change. What does "runaway climate change" mean? It means Nature, natural processes that we cannot control that will overheat the Earth. Science tells us these natural impacts can eclipse anything man-made.

Well, we're at 1.5C or we soon will be so what then? The mechanism of runaway global warming is thought to involve triggers known as "tipping points" that, when reached, will activate "natural feedback loops" that are unstoppable. Our best guess is that those tipping points will be passed at 1.5C of man-made global warming or at least that's the political narrative.

When this whole scenario was first floated (not all that long ago) it imagined the Arctic being ice free - by about the year 2100. No one imagined it could happen by 2016, more than 80-years sooner than anticipated. Oopsie!

So, what happened? Natural feedback loops, that's what happened. The Arctic warmed, sea ice thinned and then disappeared. In place of that white, reflective ice cover that once bounced solar radiation safely back into space, dark green ocean water began absorbing that solar energy, heat. The Arctic Ocean got warmer and it warmed the atmosphere above it and that set a whole bunch of wheels in motion.

There are knock-on effects, one feedback loop triggering others. As the Arctic warmed, boulders of frozen methane, "clathrates" a.k.a. "fire ice," lining the ocean floor and many lakes began thawing, releasing plumes of methane gas to the surface and upwards into the atmosphere. Methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. It's not as long-lasting as carbon dioxide but it's persistent enough (about 12-years) to do a lot of damage.

Much of the terrestrial Arctic is comprised either of exposed rock or tundra, which is basically ancient peat. Peat, of course, is rich in hydrocarbons and makes a dandy fuel, ask any Irishman. Until now most of the CO2 held in the tundra has been safely sequestered by cold temperatures. However the warmer Arctic temperatures have been causing the tundra to dry out which transforms it into dandy fuel for wildfires. As you might imagine, we don't have much firefighting capacity in the Arctic, no way to extinguish tundra fires.

A tundra fire has three knock-on effects. The combustion releases CO2 to the atmosphere. The fires also produce "black soot" that is blanketing the surface, absorbing heat to speed up the melting of snow and ice. This is a big problem for the Greenland ice sheet, accelerating the melting which contributes to sea level rise around the planet. The third, knock-on effect is that, as the tundra burns, it exposes the layer beneath it, the permafrost. That is a huge methane trap. As it becomes the perma-no-more-frost, as it thaws, that methane is also released to the atmosphere.

So there you have a neat little bag of feedback loops. If you reverse engineer it, the existence of feedback loops evidences tipping points that were passed some time ago. There may be other, perhaps slower onset feedback loops that haven't come to our attention yet.

Two that are in evidence are the retreat of glaciers and the broken hydrological cycle. We have warmed the atmosphere. 15 of the 16 hottest years on record have occurred during this century. Heat melts glaciers. It also causes physical changes in the atmosphere. 

A warmer atmosphere is capable of holding more water vapour, a lot more as it turns out. That disrupts the hydrological cycle. Surface water is released to the atmosphere as water vapour through evaporation, perspiration and respiration by animals, and by plants through transpiration. It goes up into the air, condenses into clouds and then into rain and falls back to the surface where, among other things, it gives agriculture the water needed to grow our crops.

Once you have a warmer, wetter atmosphere it changes things. More water retained in the atmosphere means less water on the surface. This new reality contributes to precipitation changes. A warmer, wetter atmosphere is a more powerful atmosphere capable of triggering severe storm events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration. Bummer. Gives new meaning to "it never rains but it pours." Some places get sustained and severe drought. Other places get increasing precipitation, sometimes floods (thinking of you, Calgary). Some places get cyclical droughts and floods which, due to the soil compacting of drought can lead to destructive flash flooding. Double bummer.

Today's broken hydrological cycle can play utter hell on one of our most important carbon sinks, our forests. Trees absorb a lot of CO2 as they grow. Even when they die they can rot and create humus for the soil, another form of captured carbon that nurtures microbial growth - the "circle of life" thing. What keeps that all going is rain, precipitation.

Drought causes trees to dry out, even die off, which transforms the forest from immensely valuable carbon sink into disastrous carbon bomb. As the forest dries out it becomes fuel for wildfires (thinking of you, Fort Mac). These fires are also increasing in frequency, intensity and duration beyond our ability to control them. We're now dependent on rain to put them out. What a terrific time to have a broken hydrological cycle, eh?

Oh yeah, one more thing. Water vapour, of which we now have ever more in the atmosphere, thanks to anthropogenic global warming, is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. There's more of it up there and it's accelerating the power of the atmosphere to trap solar radiation, blocking its escape back into space.

So, we've got these powerful feedback loops already in play (in an early-onset way) but the political narrative ignores them entirely. No, the political narrative focuses on how we cut, no "reduce," greenhouse gas emissions to stay within a target that we have already exceeded in order to avoid tipping points that we've already tipped that could trigger natural feedback loops that are already looping. Hmm, what's with that?

Well then what's the point of this political exercise after all if it's only Kabuki theatre? Ask yourself this. How would the public react if the government said, "Oh, to hell with it. What's the point?" Yet isn't that what they're actually saying through their actions?

Alberta's Top Court Shoots Down Trudeau Assisted Death Legislation

The Trudeau government's watered down proposal on assisted death isn't going to pass judicial muster. In fact, the Alberta Court of Appeal, the highest court in that province, has ruled that the federal government's proposal is flouting ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter case.

A panel of three appeal court judges says the government is flouting last year's landmark ruling by the Supreme Court when it argues that assisted dying should apply only to those who are close to death.

It's also not complying with the top court's ruling, known as the Carter decision, when it excludes people suffering solely from psychiatric conditions, the judges say.

The judicial smack-down comes at a particularly inopportune moment for the federal government, just as it is trying to persuade MPs and senators that its restrictive new law on assisted dying complies with the Supreme Court's ruling and with the charter of rights.

The bill is expected to be put to final vote in the House of Commons, where MPs are being allowed a free vote, by the end of this week.

The law is the law, Justin, even for you and your government. This isn't the first time you've been warned. Your own MP, Rob Oliphant, who co-chaired the Commons committee into the issue told you he won't vote for your legislation because it doesn't comply with the Supreme Court ruling. Before Oliphant spoke out, B.C. lawyer Joe Arvay, said your bill is plainly unconstitutional and demonstrates how you allowed your government to become captured by special interests.

It's called the Rule of Law, Justin. Your soul mate, Harper, didn't like it either. Tough.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Deeds, Not Words

Climate change denialism is a hallmark of a rightwing mind. Cognitive dissonance is no excuse. Neither is hypocrisy. If your actions are consistent with climate change denialism, fanciful talk to the contrary is irrelevant. You're in the camp of the rightwing.

This goes for Justin Trudeau and his Liberal caucus and, like it or not, to the Liberal rank and file. Your party is effectively an agent of climate change denialism just like the crew before it was.

For all the sunny rhetoric surrounding the Paris agreement and a new Canadian climate plan, our federal government is still pretending dirty fossil fuels have a future in a world where we meet our climate goals. They push for LNG terminals and tar sands pipelines as if these projects won’t propel us to a climate disaster.

Scientists tell us we must abandon fossil fuels as fast as possible to have any hope for a safe climate. Building new fossil fuel infrastructure in a climate crisis is like digging the hole we’re in – even deeper.

Our leaders perform verbal acrobatics to justify the continued expansion of the tar sands and the creation of a brand new polluting LNG industry. They fall over themselves to promote pipelines while paying lip service to renewable energy. At least the last government was unapologetic about its vision for a fossil fuel future.

Harper never disguised his admiration for the Republican Party and he sought to recast the Conservative Party in its image. Trudeau hasn't said as much but he plainly wants the Liberal Party to emulate today's Democrats. The problem with that, as Noam Chomsky points out, is that today's Democratic mainstream is, at best, moderate conservative.

"There used to be a quip that the United States was a one-party state with a business party that had two factions: the Democrats and Republicans—and that used to be pretty accurate, but it’s not anymore. The U.S. is still a two-party state, but there’s only one faction, and it’s not Democrats, it’s moderate Republicans. Today’s Democrats have shifted to the right."

"[Political scientist] Norman Ornstein simply describes the Republican Party today as a 'radical insurgency that doesn’t care about fact, doesn’t care about argument, doesn’t want to participate in politics, and is simply off the spectrum.'"
Sound familiar? Liberals need to understand that their party's progressive era, the years of St. Laurent, Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, are over, finito. That courageous vision no longer resides within the Liberal Party. The ghost of Ignatieff lives on in Justin Trudeau. It's all neoliberalism now.

Saudi Feel-Good Festival Flops

The goal was to make Saudi Arabia a bit more palatable to Canadians infuriated over Canada's Death Wagon deal. The plan was to stage a festival in Ottawa, a celebration of Saudi 'culture' (of some highly sanitized variety).

Kaboom. Didn't work. Operation Make Nice cancelled.

The May 18-21 festival appeared to be a Saudi charm offensive aimed at federal policy makers as the Trudeau government fields questions about its decision to grant export permits for the armoured vehicles to a country that U.S. watchdog Freedom House regularly ranks among “the worst of the worst” on human rights.

The Saudi embassy blamed “logistical reasons” for its last-minute change of plans when contacted Monday and a spokesperson said the country’s decision was not motivated by fear of protesters. Foreign Affairs Minister St├ęphane Dion’s office had already said he would not be attending the “Saudi Cultural Days in Canada.”

I guess that's maybe why Saudi men dance alone. What woman would want to tango with a dude who's always waving around a sharp sword?


If you're gutted that the Saudi embassy pulled the plug on their festive stunt and jonesing for a taste of that legendary Saudi culture, The Guardian has just the thing for you. It's the report on the first installment of 50 out of 1,000 lashes to be inflicted on blogger Raif Badawi during his 10-year stretch in a Saudi prison for "insulting Islam." These are the same Saudis who Steffie Dion and his boss, Slick, are proud to proclaim Canada's allies. Yeah, right.


The retreat from coasts threatened by sea level rise has just begun. Around North America, coastal communities are studying what awaits them and planning for it. In many cases planning amounts to preparing to surrender coastline that cannot be defended to the sea. Zoning is changed. Nothing new can be built. Nothing existing can be replaced. It's over. That's even happened in my little town to a beautiful, but low-lying, waterfront neighbourhood.

Now another retreat looms. This one being a retreat from the forests. Just as lots of people desire waterfront homes, many others crave the privacy and serenity of living past the 'burbs in forest acreages. It's what experts call the "wildland-urban interface."

Fort McMurray has focused attention on what can happen to homes situated in the wildland-urban interface in this new age of worsening forest fire hazards. With steadily warming winters, less snowpack, and hotter, drier summers, the fire season is growing longer and the wildfires are increasing in frequency, intensity and area. It's a problem far bigger than many realize.

The US Forest Service recently released a detailed report and map of the country’s wildland-urban interfaces, made by comparing satellite imagery with housing and population data from the US Census. In total, about one-third of its houses and population are in a wildland-urban interface zone, according to the report’s lead author, Sebastian Martinuzzi from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“That’s a huge number,” he says, attributing much of it to exurban sprawl and the desire to live close to nature in locations such as the fringes of Los Angeles, the “front range” of Colorado, and exurban parts of Texas and Florida. Not all of these houses and people are at risk of a fire, Martinuzzi says, but many could be given the right conditions.

By now we're familiar with the annual California wildfires that sweep through the luxury homes built in the hills. They make great TV.  Southern parts of Europe, especially along the Mediterranean, are in the same boat, including France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Croatia and Turkey. So too are regions in South America. Australia, well, that needs no elaboration. 

As fire losses in the wildland-urban interface increase it will put added pressure on governments for disaster relief that will be compounded as insurers begin their own retreat from unacceptable risks. Perhaps man and nature are losing their ability to co-exist.

At First It Sounds Terrible

Here's the line: "Half of Canada's submarine fleet out of commission."

Here's how you put the water in that wine. Half means exactly two out of a paltry four which is minuscule to the point of irrelevance when you have the world's longest coastline to defend. And it's not like they were great boats even before they were taken out of commission. They're old, obsolete, unreliable trash. Chretien's Folly.

It seems the Royal Canadian Navy has been using a contractor that has botched a number of welds on the subs and on surface ships, frigates, as well.

The wonky welds are the latest troubled chapter in the story of Canada's four Upholder subs, acquired used from the British in 1998. The Liberal government of Jean Chretien touted the price tag of $750 million as a bargain.

The tiny fleet has been a maintenance and repair headache from the start. HMCS Victoria arrived in Halifax in 2000 with a dent the size of a pizza pie in its hull. HMCS Chicoutimi had a serious electrical fire during its 2004 voyage to Canada from Britain, which killed one crew member and required extensive repairs. HMCS Windsor had a hydraulic malfunction on its first training mission from Halifax.

The latest round of problems actually arose in 2014, when some bad welds were noticed on a surface ship, the frigate HMCS Ottawa. Further inspections showed the same welding issues with two more frigates, Vancouver and Winnipeg, as well as in the air pipes and hydraulic pipes in the two West Coast subs.

UBC defence analyst, Mike Byers, points out that these awful, horrible subs have been in service for an average of one month a year over the 20-years we've been saddled with them.

"These are unusually bad submarines. These are submarines that were rejected by the British Royal Navy, which tried to sell them to South Africa and Greece, both of which rejected them," Byers said.

With the Upholders nearing the end of their lifespans, Byers said the new Liberal government must decide whether to buy new diesel-electric subs from French, Spanish or German shipyards — or follow the example of Denmark, which has decided not to operate any submarines either at home or in Greenland.

These boats are Jean Chretien's brain fart. Wouldn't it be nice if we did Jean a favour and saw to it that nobody else had to die in them? 

The photo above is HMCS Victoria in what has been her customary station - an Esquimalt drydock.