Posts from our progressive community

It's Official: Trying To Protect Your Privacy Can Lead To Criminal Charges

Politics and its Discontents - 2 hours 59 min ago

Are Canadians really okay with this?
A Quebec man charged with obstructing border officials by refusing to give up his smartphone password says he will fight the charge.

The case has raised a new legal question in Canada, a law professor says.

Alain Philippon, 38, of Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, Que., refused to divulge his cellphone password to Canada Border Services Agency during a customs search Monday night at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

Philippon had arrived in Halifax on a flight from Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. He's been charged under section 153.1 (b) of the Customs Act for hindering or preventing border officers from performing their role under the act.

According to the CBSA, the minimum fine for the offence is $1,000, with a maximum fine of $25,000 and the possibility of a year in jail.
And the most chilling aspect of this, perhaps, is that it is entirely unrelated to the massive abrogation of privacy and citizen rights that Bill C-51 will make possible.Recommend this Post

Jimbo Prentice Pokes Albertans in the Eye With a Sharp Stick.

The Disaffected Lib - 6 hours 49 min ago

Well, this is certain something.  Alberta's unelected premier, Jim Prentice, better learn to bite his tongue.

Prentice has sparked a bit of a furor by blaming his constituents for the mess the province now finds itself in.

Premier Jim Prentice is facing a social media backlash after telling Albertans to "look in the mirror" to find who is responsible for the province's current financial woes.

Speaking on CBC's Alberta@Noon Wednesday, Premier Jim Prentice told host Donna McElligott that "in terms of who is responsible, we need only look in the mirror. Basically, all of us have had the best of everything and have not had to pay for what it costs."

Well, sure Jim, that's right - in part at least but only in part.  It was your own government that allowed the Big Energy gorilla to ass rape the province.  And it was your own government that decided it was a fine idea to depend on petro-royalties to fund its budget outlays.  
Your government didn't do those things because they were good for the province or for the people of Alberta, current and future.  Your government squandered your energy revenues like a piss-drunk sailor in order to buy your way through election after election with faux prosperity for - well, forever.
You knew better.  The last sentient premier that despoiled province had warned you.  Peter Lougheed drew you a map through the energy minefield, showing you how to use it as a bounty, not a curse.  Peter Lougheed was not only the last intelligent premier, he was also the last honest premier Alberta has known.  And, by trying to shirk the blame for your government's own policies, you're showing that its business as usual under your management.

UPDATED: A Comforting Illusion Shattered

Politics and its Discontents - 7 hours 20 min ago

When it comes to massive intrusions by the state, the kind reflected in legislation like Bill C-51, people frequently rationalize their acceptance and passivity by this comforting fiction: "I don't have anything to hide; I'm not a terrorist, so why should I worry?"

A story of one family's unpleasant experience may prove instructional in challenging that complacence.
Firas Al-Rawi, an emergency room doctor at Toronto General Hospital, said he booked the Family Day holiday trip [to Disney World] in early December so his wife and children could join him at a professional conference in Orlando that week. The family had taken numerous trips to the United States by air and car without incident.

"My kids were so excited, and they were counting down the days for the trip,” said Al-Rawi, 48, an Iraqi who immigrated to Canada with his family in 2006 via Qatar, where he and his wife, Asmaa Ahmed, both worked as physicians. They and their children are all citizens who hold Canadian passports.Alas, the trip was not to be:
The Al-Rawis became part of the 330 or more travellers a day who are refused entry to the United States under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which gives border officials the right to refuse admission of non-Americans — including Canadian citizens.The apparent grounds for their inadmissibility appears to be that they are Muslims:
According to the National Council of Canadian Muslims, 14 per cent of the 182 human rights complaints it received between 2011 and 2013 involved travel restrictions to the U.S.After being fingerprinted and photographed at the check-in counter, Al-Rawi said, they were asked to go for a secondary inspection.

As his family waited in a public area, Al-Rawi said he was questioned about the purpose of his visit, his employment and his family trips in 2014 to Qatar and Dubai.

“We didn’t really mind if it was a random check, given the typical screening with what’s happening with ISIS (the terrorist Islamic State group). We had nothing to hide,” he said. “But we were not prepared for the rest of it. We were stressed, not knowing what was going on.”

After a 10-minute interview, Al-Rawi said he and his family were fingerprinted and photographed again before uniformed officers came to inspect their suitcases.

During the inspection, the family said, their electronics — one iPhone, two MacBooks and three iPads — were confiscated, and they were ordered to provide passwords so officials could unlock the devices.The reason given to the family for refusal was that U.S. officials did not think they would return to Canada, despite the fact that Al-Rawi spent more than five years working to earn an Ontario medical licence and restart his stalled practice in Canada.

Of course, entry to another country is not an automatic right, but the fact that the refusal amounts to a denial of natural justice is disconcerting:
United States Customs and Border Protection refused to comment on the Al-Rawi incident, but said travellers are responsible for proving their innocence.Think about that - guilty unless proven innocent.

So what does any of this have to do with legislation that curtails one's civil liberties? It is, I suspect, a peek at what may be ahead for anyone who takes his or her citizenship responsibilities seriously and holds to them tenaciously, despite the kind of conformity that Bill C-51 will promote.

Of course, there will be other comforting illusions we can fall back on to discount the experiences of the Al-Rawi family: I'm a citizen (but isn't the entire Al-Rawi family as well?), I'm not a Muslim (Should that be a barrier?) I don't have a foreign-sounding name (Congrats! You won the birth lottery there).

But how long will it be before we have to come up with additional disclaimers, such as I have never joined an environmental protest, I have never stood up for any cause, I have never written a letter of criticism of my government, etc. etc.

Congratulations, Unknown Citizen, for living what will have been a wholly unexamined life.

UPDATE: if you think Canadian Border Services is more respectful of privacy, think again and click here.Recommend this Post

Coming Soon, the Great Warming Spurt.

The Disaffected Lib - 7 hours 54 min ago

You may have never heard of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) or, as its sometimes called, the Pacific multi-decadal oscillation.  Before long that will change.

There have been references to it here and there but it wasn't until this article was posted at Climate Central on the 27th of last month that I finally spent a bit of time exploring it.

You've probably heard of ENSO, the El Nino Southern Oscillation that brings us El Nino or La Nina conditions every seven years or so.  PDO is something like ENSO on steroids and for the past 15-years it's been sucking heat out of the atmosphere and burying it in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.  That, apparently, is soon to change.

Humanity is about to experience a historically unprecedented spike in temperatures.

That’s the ominous conclusion of a vast and growing body of research that links sweeping Pacific Ocean cycles with rates of warming at the planet’s surface — warming rates that could affect how communities and nations respond to threats posed by climate change.

Papers in two leading journals this week reaffirmed that the warming effects of a substantial chunk of our greenhouse gas pollution have been avoided on land for the last 15 to 20 years because of a phase in a decades-long cycle of ocean winds and currents. With Pacific trade winds expected to slacken in the years ahead, the studies warn that seas will begin absorbing less of global warming’s energy, and that some of the heat they’ve been holding onto will rise to the surface.

You see, for the past two decades we've sort of been running a tab on the extra heat generated by our growing greenhouse gas emissions.  That heat didn't go away, PDO merely stored it in the ocean.  Because that heat got sucked underwater we didn't notice how much we were actually warming the planet. But just as an ocean can absorb heat from the atmosphere so too can a warmed ocean release heat back into the atmosphere.  
Amid the questions left unanswered by the research, however, are whether communities are prepared for looming assaults of increasingly intense heat waves after the warming slowdown reverses, and how the expected spikes in surface temperatures could affect policy debates dealing with climate action and clean energy.

"A future speedup in warming is likely to affect public opinion about climate change if it results in changes at the local level that people recognize," Utah State University assistant professor Peter Howe, who has researched public perceptions of climate change, said. "I would also caution, though, that perceptions and experiences of local climate conditions appear to be related to some extent by pre-existing beliefs about global warming."

Along with rising tides caused by rising temperatures, intense heat and heat waves are the clearest signs so far that human activity is altering the climate. A suite of modeling studies have independently concluded that heat waves that ravaged Australia in 2013 would have been almost impossible without the warming effects of our greenhouse gas pollution. Scientists have also directly linked record-breaking heat in Europe with global warming.

Meanwhile, California’s record-breaking heat last year, which some research links more closely with ocean cycles than with global warming, substantially worsened the drought-inducing effects of low rainfall and snowfall rates. That’s a problem that will continue to worsen fire risks throughout the American West, and much of the rest of the world, as temperatures start to really spike. That could threaten the survival of entire ecosystems,including the spectacular high-altitude forests of the American Southwest.

This concern dovetails with recent research finding that our oceans' capacity to absorb atmospheric heat has peaked and is waning.  The oceanic heat sink that we've so relied upon may be less reliable than we had hoped.
So, brace yourselves.  The heating spike may be up to 5-years off which provides some opportunity to do things such as heat-proofing the house or going for that heat pump option.

Duffy's Sting

The Disaffected Lib - 10 hours 30 min ago

It's a tale with two scripts.  One is the story presented by Stephen Harper, his PMO, the RCMP and others.  The other is the account presented by disgraced senator Mike Duffy.  At least one side isn't telling the truth.

Who to believe?  We'll have to wait until all the evidence is in but I figure the truth has come, quite inadvertently, from senator Duffy.

There is one piece of evidence, the unintended disclosure of which, set this whole business in motion.  It's an e-mail - candid, descriptive and, most importantly, contemporaneous with the events.  When Duffy circulated the e-mail to his confidantes he believed, quite mistakenly, that they would hold it in confidence.  That's what confidantes do, isn't it?  Only somehow it wound up in the hands of CTV reporter, Bob Fife, and the rest is history.

The e-mail describes the events that we now know occured.  Duffy, perhaps boastfully, wrote that a deal was in place to make his Senate expenses problem go away.  He described four elements.  He would be given the money to cover his Senate tab.  He was to use that money to cut his own cheque for repayment. In exchange he was to say nothing further publicly and he was to stop co-operating with the audit team appointed by the Senate. He added that, as part of the deal he was also promised that the Senate audit report would "go easy on me."

It was a deal intended to continue Duffy's role as fundraiser for the Harper Conservatives.  Get Duffy off the hook and get him back out on the road where he was worth his considerable weight in campaign cheques.  The guy was an engine for the Tories.  They would point him in the right direction and hand him a ticket.  He'd show up, press the flesh, and collect the money.

It was because Duffy spent so much time on the road, fundraising for the Prince of Darkness, that he narrowly failed to meet the residency requirement that landed him in hot water in the first place.  He couldn't be in Prince Edward Island when he was in Calgary or Moncton or Nunavit.  Without being in PEI for the requisite number of days he wasn't entitled to claim a living expense allowance.

Back to the scandal.  The timing of that ill-fated e-mail is everything.  It happened contemporaneously with the events described.  Duffy said the Senate audit report would go easy on him and it subsequently did when it was laundered by Tory senators Carolyn Stewart-Olsen and David Tkachuk.

It's this promise, allegedly with Harper's knowledge, that constitutes the bribery that the RCMP, so conservatively chooses to ignore.  That was Harper or his very closest aides promising to intervene with, corrupt if you like, the Senate audit process to procure a favourable result for the Senator from Prince Edward Island.  When it comes to that the only conclusion is that the RCMP is choosing to look the other way.  Why?  That's easy.  Where does it lead?

The RCMP has to ignore the audit fixing element for it to justify not charging the principals to the deal - Nigel Wright, Benjamin Perrin, perhaps Harper himself. They've already said that Duffy is to be condemned for accepting a bribe but the people plainly involved in offering and facilitating that bribe - two of them lawyers - are not culpable of any criminal wrongdoing.

A bribe is many things but it's not unilateral.  It requires an offer or demand and acceptance, and the transmission of the bribe from one person, the giver, to another person, the recipient.

It's quite believable that Duffy did resist repaying the housing allowance.  He felt the party was responsible for keeping him on the non-stop. cross-Canada fundraising campaign that prevented him from logging enough days in PEI to meet the requirements.  Long before the expense issue even arose a mutual friend would tell me he worried about the strain that Duffy's party exertions might be taking on the senator's wonky heart.

Wright, Perrin, Harper and others have already made statements that stand to be weighed against that all-important e-mail, the one that wound up in Fife's hands. They tell a considerably different story, that doesn't match Duffy's account.  As I recall it, Perrin, Harper's personal in-house lawyer, at one point said he wasn't involved at all and yet it seems it was Perrin who effected the delivery of Wright's cheque to Duffy's then solicitor.

The Conservatives clearly hope the Duffy trial will put an end to this matter.  It might be just the beginning.

A Taste of Things to Come? Port Metro Vancouver Fire.

The Disaffected Lib - 11 hours 27 min ago

It's a scary feeling.  You glance out your office window overlooking the Port Metro Vancouver docks to see thick clouds of white smoke billowing your way.

That's what happened to my prospective son-in-law yesterday at his computer animation shop in a gentrified, former industrial building hard alongside the docks, right by the cranes.  He made a number of trips in his car ferrying his colleagues a safe distance from the fires.

They didn't know what it was, only that it was acrid and they wanted to get away as quickly as they could.  Vancouver Police phone lines were jammed so off they went.

They were lucky.  The container load of trichloroisocyanuric acid, while volatile and flammable, wasn't lethal.  Those exposed mainly sustained burning eyes and throats.  And they could see and smell the smoke.

This is nothing compared to what could lie in store if when a supertanker full of dilbit goes down in the treacherous Second Narrows, spilling its cargo into Burrard Inlet or Coal Harbour.  Experts warn that the diluent, mixed into the bitumen, would separate and rise to the surface where it would form into very toxic clouds of invisible and generally undetectable gas.  Undetectable, that is, until someone breathes it.  Then the people of Vancouver and the North Shore would have a real disaster on their hands.

Aviation Week Pays Homage to the Avro Arrow

The Disaffected Lib - 11 hours 57 min ago

Few people today know much about Canada's legendary foray into aviation high tech - the Avro Arrow that rolled out of the Avro Canada Malton plant in October, 1957.  Aviation Week's Bill Sweetman revisits that bittersweet moment in Canadian aviation that ended when the Arrow was put to the cutting torch by the conservative government of John Diefenbaker just two years later.

When Aviation Week reported on the fighter's rollout, in October 1957, the magazine called it "a serious contender for the top military aircraft of the next several years". High praise indeed, for a non-U.S. aircraft, given that the XB-58 supersonic bomber was in flight test and that new aircraft in the works included the A-5 Vigilante and the F-4 Phantom.

But the Arrow was extraordinary, and more so, given that the industry that produced it was less than a decade old when the prototype contract was issued in March 1955. Avro Canada had been formed by Britain's Hawker Siddeley Group after World War 2 and had quickly produced the CF-100 interceptor, the C-102 jet airliner (the world's second to fly), and the CF-100's Orenda engine, which was also fitted to Canadian-built Sabre fighters.

The CF-105 was a different kettle of fish entirely, designed to shoot down Soviet jet bombers over the Arctic, long before shorter-legged U.S. interceptors could touch them. Key requirements were a big radar, large missile load, long range and high speed, and agility at high speed and altitude. Translated: get out a long way quickly and accomplish multiple engagements before returning to refuel.

Chief designer Jim Floyd and his team produced a unique configuration, detailed in a 1958 lecture to the Royal Aeronautical Society. The delta wing was chosen for supersonic efficiency, and had a cambered and notched leading edge for better maneuverability. It was mounted on top of the fuselage (at the price of a complex landing gear) to gain the benefits of a continuous tip-to-tip structure and a simple fuselage design, with straight inlet ducts, easy engine access, and a large weapon bay. The missile bay was a drop-down pallet, offering the potential of interchangeable units for other missions.

The performance requirements meant that almost everything on the airplane had to be invented. No existing engine would do the job, so Avro spun off a new Orenda Engines subsidiary to produce the Iroquois, the most powerful supersonic engine of the 1950s. The airframe took Canada into the world of integrally machined skins, and both airframe and engine used titanium. The CF-105 was the first aircraft to use 4,000 psi hydraulics. Canada enlisted Hughes for help with the radar and missiles, but the radar was new and the missile was the active-homing Sparrow II. Management was a huge challenge, both because the aircraft was complex (the second-biggest Mach 2 airplane anywhere) and because of the program's sheer size: at its peak, Avro Canada was the nation's third-largest company and in the world Top 100.

Technically, it went quite well. The first four Arrows proved fast, even with interim J75 engines that delivered only three-quarters of the Iroquois' thrust: on the seventh test flight, the first CF-105 accelerated through 1,000 mph in a climb at 50,000 feet. By early 1959, the first Iroquois-powered Mk2 was in taxi tests.

Politically, the story was different. A new Progressive Conservative government had been elected in March 1957, sworn to rein in government spending. ...On February 20, 1959, prime minister John Diefenbaker announced the cancellation of the CF-105, and within two months almost all the hardware in the program had been destroyed and nearly 30,000 jobs eliminated.

The Arrow lived on in legend. Diefenbaker had scrapped the project under direct orders from Washington, which saw it as a threat to the U.S. industry. One of the prototypes had been spirited away before the wrecking crews arrived, and was hidden in Canada or in secret tests in the United States. The Arrow has been the subject of more books and movies than many successful projects. As recently as 2012, the Canadian government -- bumbling its way through another fighter procurement -- was forced to deny that a neo-Arrow was a candidate to replace the F/A-18.

Would it have worked? The late Bill Gunston, technical editor of Flight in the 1950s and a shrewd reader of programs, believed that it would have done, particularly with British support (and the existence of Typhoon today shows how wrong the British government was in 1957). Even with the Soviet Union's backing away from strategic bombers in favor of missiles, the Arrow would have been very useful in Western Europe for defense against Tu-22M regional bombers. But none of that, unfortunately, was foreseen in 1959.

► Read the article from the October 21, 1957 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology:CF-105 Displays Advanced Engineering (part 1)CF-105 Displays Advanced Engineering (part 2)It bears remembering that, today, it's the grandchildren of the Conservative peckerheads who killed off the Arrow and replaced it, bait and switch style, with Bomarc missiles, who are about to saddle the RCAF with the overpriced, overdue and underperforming F-35. I guess there are some things that are just in the blood.

A Little Perspective, Please

Politics and its Discontents - 12 hours 56 min ago
Are we losing all perspective on the threats posed by terrorism? While there is no doubt that all perils to public safety need to be taken seriously (yes, even those posed by pipeline ruptures that Enbridge seems to treat as state secrets), one cannot escape the conclusion that the Harper regime sees it in their best electoral interests to convince us that we cannot go about our daily lives without a massive surrending of freedoms, à la Bill C-51.

Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked classified information, suggests we need to get a little perspective.

In an online chat with Ryerson students yesterday, he had this to say about the Harper bill:
The former National Security Agency employee said only Canadians can decide on whether C-51 is a good or bad bill, but “Canadian intelligence has one of the weakest oversight frameworks out of any western intelligence agency.”

In Canada, terrorism kills fewer people than lightning strikes and it is extraordinarily rare, Snowden said.

“No matter what we do, no matter what laws we pass, we cannot throw away all of our rights, all of our liberties, all of our traditional freedoms because we are afraid of rare instances of criminal activity,” he said.Snowden sees Canada going down the same pernicious route as the United States, asserting that C-51 is
just like the U.S. Patriot Act, the law passed following the 9-11 terrorist attacks to bolster the powers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Under Bill C-51, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service would gain police-like powers to “disrupt” threats to Canada — including, but not limited to, terrorist threats.Despite the fact that most people are innocent,
the freedoms and liberties people enjoy are being changed without their consent, Snowden added.I think we can all rest assured that Snowden's warnings will go completely unheeded by the Harper regime.

Recommend this Post

For Harper, Fear Trumps Facts

Northern Reflections - 14 hours 16 min ago


Back in 2008, Stephen Harper decided to cut public funding to the opposition parties. As the head of a newly elected minority government, it was a stunningly stupid move. When they threatened to revolt and form a coalition government, he prorogued Parliament and went around the country declaring that coalition governments were illegitimate and would lead to political Armageddon.

Now, with his economic leadership in tatters, he has proposed two pieces of legislation to "keep Canadians safe." Bill C-51 vows to protect  Canadians from the jihadists who Harper claims are at the gates. Yesterday, he proposed legislation to protect Canadians from the "heinous" criminals who are within.

Both pieces of legislation are unnecessary. The second bill, which Andrew Coyne has dubbed the "Throw Away The Key Act," was announced at a campaign stop and underscores the new Conservative campaign slogan -- "Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid:"

According to the government, the measure is needed “to keep Canadian families and their communities safe” from “heinous” (that word again: has it ever been used except in front of “crimes” or “criminals”?) criminals, those “whose actions mean we cannot risk permitting them on the streets.” The suggestion is that Canada’s streets are menaced by a wave of elderly jailbirds, released on parole after a scant 25 years in the slammer.

This is — does it even need saying? — nonsense. Not every prisoner is paroled after 25 years: only those judged at low risk of re-offending. Those designated as “dangerous offenders” can already be kept locked up for life. Parole, further, does not mean prisoners are simply set loose in the community, or released unconditionally: rather they remain, as a backgrounder by the Parole Board of Canada explains, “subject to the conditions of parole and the supervision of a … parole officer.” For how long? “For the rest of their lives.”

What sort of risk do they represent? According to figures from Correctional Service Canada, of 658 “murder offenders” released on parole between January 1975 and March 1990, just five — an average of one every three years — were convicted of a second murder. None of the five had originally been convicted of what was then called capital murder, the equivalent of the Harper government’s “heinous” crimes.

To be re-elected, Mr. Harper has to convince Canadians  that they are at the mercy of the depraved. In his own mind -- like Richard Nixon before him -- he is surrounded by enemies. And all of them are depraved.

He is convinced that he sees the world as the majority of Canadians do. If that is true, the country is lost. Because in such a country, fear trumps facts.

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - 14 hours 22 min ago
Here, on the many problems with building social benefits and employment policies alike on a foundation of distrust.

For further reading...
- Rick Mercer rants about the obstacles the Cons are throwing in the way of veterans. And the CP follows up on the Cons' response to Paul Franklin's case here.
- CBC reports here on the Cons' plans to slash existing sick leave for the federal civil service.  Kathryn May points out the complete lack of any justification for that course of action, and has since noted that the plan is further being extended to out-of-scope positions. And Robyn Benson offers a thorough dismantling of the reasoning behind forcing people to work while sick.
- Emma Graney reports on the Sask Party's similar push to force sick Saskatchewan public-sector workers back to work sooner.
- Oliver Wright writes about Gus O'Donnell's observation that privileged politicians are often utterly clueless about the programs they oversee and the people who depend on them.
- Finally, Bryce Covert and Josh Israel discuss the utter waste of time and money involved in drug-testing welfare recipients.

Stephen Harper, Bill C-51, and the Harvest of Fear

Montreal Simon - 19 hours 15 min ago

For months Stephen Harper has been working day and night to try to create a climate of fear.

He has fanned the flames of paranoia and xenophobia, appealed to the beasts that dwell within us.

He is using the armed forces to help him portray the world as a dark and threatening place, with videos like this one...

Which is designed to dovetail with his own party propaganda, is full of the hollow words he uses every day, like "values" and "freedoms." And is being played over and over again on Canadian TV. 

So not surprisingly he is reaping his harvest of fear. 
Read more »

The Anti-Harper Ads the MSM Doesn't Want You to Watch

Montreal Simon - Wed, 03/04/2015 - 16:24

It's ironic that at a time when Stephen Harper is trying to ram his dangerous anti-terrorist bill through parliament.

Muzzle some of his most distinguished critics. 

A parliamentary committee will hear from strong supporters and vocal critics of the government’s anti-terrorism bill, but not from four former prime ministers who have decried the lack of increased oversight in the legislation.

And has terrorized Canadians more than any other leader in Canadian history.

It's ironic and outrageous, that our big TV networks won't run an ad like this one...
Read more »

Stephen Harper and the Con Law of the Jungle

Montreal Simon - Wed, 03/04/2015 - 15:16

At a time when half of his PMO has been subpoenaed to testify at the Mike Duffy trial, and he might have to go to court to argue why he should not join them.

At a time when his former parliamentary secretary Dean del Mastro is waiting to be sentenced for electoral fraud.

At a time when he is trying to beat the drums of fascism as hard as he can.

It follows that Stephen Harper would try to prove that he's tough on criminals. 
Read more »

Gwynne Dyer - Iran's Nuclear Bomb Programme Was Never About Israel.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 03/04/2015 - 13:34

It would be the height of suicidal folly for Iran to ever threaten Israel with a nuclear attack.  Israel has at least 80-nuclear warheads, possibly hundreds, far more than enough to turn Iran into glass.

Gwynne Dyer brings a breath of reality to the situation with Iran today pointing out that, not only does Iran have no current nuclear weapons programme, back when it did it was never about Israel.

There were two periods during which Iran seriously considered making nuclear weapons and did some preliminary work on weapons design and uranium enrichment, but in neither case was it about Israel.

The first time was in the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq attacked Iran (with American backing) in a war that ultimately cost a quarter-million Iranian lives. At that time Saddam actually was working on Iraqi nuclear weapons, and Iran felt obliged to follow suit.

But after Saddam was defeated by Western and Arab armies in the Gulf War of 1990-91 and the United Nations inspectors went in to dismantle Iraq’s nuclear programme, the Iranians lost interest in developing their own nuclear weapons. Then they got alarmed again and restarted the programme in 1998 when another neighbour, Pakistan, tested its own first nuclear weapons.

They didn’t make much progress, but they kept on working at the problem in a desultory way until 2002, when an anti-regime terrorist group called Mujahedin-e-Khalq (partly financed by Israel) revealed the existence of the weapons programme and Tehran shut it down. And for the past 13 years, nothing.

The Ad CBC Won't Air - Quelle Surprise!

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 03/04/2015 - 13:20
It's HarperLand 2015 which goes a long way to explaining why CBC has refused to run this ad.

What America's Military Leviathan Desperately Needs - Mo Money.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 03/04/2015 - 12:10

It already consumes more money than the next dozen or so largest militaries on Earth but it's not enough, not nearly enough.

According to the rightwing Heritage Foundation, the Pentagon needs mo money, a lot more.

The consistent decline in funding and the consequent shrinking of the force are putting it under significant pressure. Essential maintenance is being deferred; fewer units (mostly the Navy’s platforms and the Special Operations Forces community) are being cycled through operational deployments more often and for longer periods; and old equipment is being extended while programmed replacements are problematic. The cumulative effect of such factors has resulted in a U.S. military that is marginally able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests.
It's an interesting enough, albeit predictable, report.  It's based on America's ability to fight two regional wars simultaneously and has a questionable "All the King's Horses and All the King's Men" approach.
When it comes to American military preparedness, however, I prefer the Maserati analogy offered by Janine Davidson, senior fellow at Defense in Depth.
Imagine a gorgeous, gleaming Maserati, the sort of car that belongs on a showroom floor. The car is elegant, but it’s also extraordinarily capable—the Maserati GranTurismo goes 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds and tops out at 186 miles per hour. What do you do with a machine like this? You certainly don’t use it for your commute on the pot-holed roads or your grocery runs or all the other mundanities of daily life. Instead, the Maserati is to be reserved for only the most special occasions. Otherwise, you keep it in an air conditioned garage, to be admired from a polite distance.

Too often, planners and policymakers apply this same sort of thinking to the U.S. military. They think that the primary—indeed, the only—mission of the United States’ armed forces is to “fight and win the nation’s wars.” These wars, so often assumed to be quick, high-tech and decisive conflicts waged against a peer competitor, demand the most expensive force possible, armed with the most “exquisite” platforms that the nation can produce. When not called on to fight these decisive conflicts, the military, like the Maserati, should be preserved and protected in its enclosed garage.

There are two problems here. The first is that the vast majority of contingencies the U.S. military is called on to perform are not quick, decisive, one-versus-one “football games” where one side wins, the other loses, and they both pack up and go home. Instead, the United States most typically deploys its forces for peacekeeping, stability operations, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, mass atrocity prevention, drug interdiction, and more. U.S. foreign policy demands a wide range of options and mission sets; it’s the military that makes these happen.

The second problem is that these expensive, “exquisite,” platforms are not the best-suited for what we do most. Even if an F-35 can outfly and outshoot everything in the sky, or a Zumwalt-class destroyer can dominate a huge ocean stretch, we will never be able to build very many of them. Trading this much capacity for capability may not make sense when, for most missions, a lot of the older stuff works pretty darn well. The American military need not be a shiny Maserati. Most of the time it can be a Ford F-150: worn, reliable, and more than able to get the job done.
Indeed the F-35 is a military Maserati.  It's designed to do a very narrow range of things better than others (although even that is in doubt today) but it sacrifices an incredible degree of capability for the sake of stealth cloaking.  The Maserati is great but not when you need to move a cord of firewood.
There's a price to be paid for this sort of extravagance.  In the graphic above you can see the size of China's military expenditure contrasted with America's.  What that graph won't show you is how much more bang China gets for its military buck - and it's a lot.  
Canada may desperately want to be admitted to America's entourage, its posse, but with that comes pressure to field Maseratis when we really need those Ford F-150 pickups.  America can, and will, squander hundreds of billions of dollars on its supercar military.  Canada, with our defence budget choked almost into unconsciousness by Stephen Harper, can't afford to go that route.  

Do we Albertans ever get tired of being bent over and Punked you ask? (Spoiler: "Thank you sir, may I have another?")

Rusty Idols - Wed, 03/04/2015 - 11:16
The PCs finally face a tiny piece of reality and start talking about revenue, but since they are dedicated servants of the elite the goal of any new revenue generation will be to have it fall mainly, if possible COMPLETELY on the middle class and the poor.Cut spending, hike taxes, find a climate-change policy, reform health care, control public-sector pay— Premier Jim Prentice’s core agenda sure sounds familiar. 
That’s because so much of it was ex-Premier Alison Redford’s agenda, and Ed Stelmach’s before her. In fact, if you consider promises to diversify the economy and sock away cash savings, Prentice is still following the agenda Peter Lougheed pursued for 14 years from 1971 to 1985 .
The whole Prentice enterprise often looks like a dismal reflection on decades of PC rule. The same party keeps picking new leaders to solve the same old problems.Lame justifications about 'driving away investment' a bogieman of ancient vintage just keep slamming up against the fact that we could raise 10 billion dollars in new corporate taxation alone, filling our 7 billion dollar fiscal hole with enough leftover for long delayed infrastructure improvements BUT STILL have the lowest corporate taxes in Canada.The goal is to use the crisis du jour of low oil prices to protect ideologically based wealth distribution upwards and attack organized labour and public services.At some point we have to stop falling for this.sdnxry5z7g

The Salamander Has Some Questions

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 03/04/2015 - 11:13

The Salamander has been doing a lot of thinking, and has some questions. Read his post, and feel free to weigh in:

.. the other day, I was thinking about 'the Base' ..
that unusual group of committed voters for Stephen Harper..
plus truly fervent media.. Lilley, Levant et al
wondering what caused their odd shrill partisan malady

And I was also thing about the Harper apparatus - Party & Government
and the retinue of PMO, lawyers, RoboCall vendors, pollsters etc etc
and beyond belief wealthy corporate partners & think tanks
you know, the folks that truly benefit from their complicity

And then I thought about the rest of Canada.. voters, people, kids, elders etc
and within that group I guess falls Trudeau & Mulcair, May et al
all with some sort of perspective or belief in what exactly Canada stands for
province to province, urban rural, young old, employed or unemployed etc

I can't claim any blinding insight came from that particular thinking session
it was really just musing to myself on how laughable or insane the reality is..

I asked myself some simple questions though.. about what defines Canadians
now.. like right now.. A majority of Canadians.. and to a certain extent..
eligible voter Canadians.. When they vote.. what drives that decision?
Or even if not voting, what drives their perception of Canada
and their perception of the politics or politicians currently serving Canadians..
You know.. as elected public servants.. or paid public servants ?

I plan to write a 'rant' .. like the 'I am Joe' kind of rant..
and I want to write it correctly.. because I'm not Joe.. I'm me
and I want the rant to speak to and speak for current Canadians

And if I can't exactly put my thumb on what describes all Canadians
or what the particular dreams, needs or wishes of each or all Canadians are ..
I certainly want to identify what I'm certain they do not want or believe in..
as well as the issues or action or realities that give them pause, fear & doubts

I get that Canadians may not support Trudeau, Mulcair, Ms May etc
as being a clear improvement over Mr Harper & his record or promises
and that bothers me.. It really truly scares me, as a Canadian..
That we have no obvious and clear alternative to a despicable flailing government

How can this be? That we must even contemplate such a catastrophic failure?

I'll think on this some more.. work on my rant..
and hope Duffy & Harper's key associates' testimonies
at the very least send the toxic government, party and apparatus packingRecommend this Post

China Tells U.S. to Back Off over Ukraine

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 03/04/2015 - 09:51
The message was delivered by China's ambassador to Belgium, Qu Xing, but it pretty obviously came straight from Beijing - back off Obama.  Ambassador Qu went on to blame the conflict between Russia and Ukraine on 'games' played by the West, especially the United States.

He said the "nature and root cause" of the crisis was the "game" between Russia and Western powers, including the United States and the European Union.

He said external intervention by different powers accelerated the crisis and warned that Moscow would feel it was being treated unfairly if the West did not change its approach.

"The West should abandon the zero-sum mentality, and take the real security concerns of Russia into consideration," Qu was quoted as saying.

His comments were an unusually public show of understanding from China for the Russian position. China and Russia see eye-to-eye on many international diplomatic issues but Beijing has generally not been so willing to back Russia over Ukraine.

The Rise and Fall of America's Indispensable Ally - Israel

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 03/04/2015 - 09:32
Israel has always been America's indispensable ally in the Middle East.  That may be changing.  Benjamin Netanyahu's speech yesterday to the US Congress might have been less of a bold stroke and more an act of desperation.

The Sydney Morning Herald's international affairs columnist, Paul McGeough, writes that Israel's influence with Washington is in decline even as Netanyahu's object of terror, Iran, sees its fortunes rising.  In other words, there's more than the supposed threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb driving Netanyahu's crusade for an American war on Iran.

Washington's place in the world – and in the region – is very different. The Cold War is gone and the grind of nuclear tension with Moscow is so yesterday. Obama wants to pivot to Asia.

US and world dependence on Arab fossil fuel is not what it was and most of the Arab regimes have become trusted allies of the West – especially in the context of the crisis brought on by the so-called Islamic State. All are allowed to get on with their human rights abuse excesses, they are sold weapons worth billions and that thing called the Middle East peace process goes precisely nowhere – and nobody seems to mind.

...The neo-con argument as the US prepared for the invasion of Iraq was that democracy would finally be planted in the region. And when Netanyahu spoke to Congress at that time, he declared: "If you take out Saddam, Saddam's regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region."

Instead, Iran was planted in Iraq; and the impotence of the Sunni regimes was revealed, creating a vacuum in which Sunni jihadists challenged the entire nation-state model of governance, on which the West so relies in the region.

Now we've come full circle. The extent of Washington's crisis with the Sunnis repositions Iran more as part of the solution and less as part of the problem. And where Washington needs circuit-breakers right now, Iran has heft; Israel doesn't.

The threat to regional stability now is the conflict within Sunni Islam more than it is Sunni v Shiite or Islam v West.

Writing in Foreign Policy last year, analyst Trita Parsi observed: "Iraq is disintegrating. Syria is in flames. Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a failed state. The Taliban is making a comeback in Afghanistan. Libya is falling apart. The House of Saud is nervous about a potentially existential succession crisis. In this region Iran looks like an island of stability."

He makes his point – "meanwhile, the geopolitical enmity that has characterised relations between the US and Iran for more than three decades, now has been overtaken by events in Iraq and elsewhere".

This is the context in which Washington and Tehran need each other – but they will not achieve that until they get to the other side of a nuclear deal.

The language of Barack Obama and a growing army of officials and analysts now acknowledges Iran as a potential partner.

...Amidst all this regional change, the reality of Israel too is changing – in itself and in its relations with the world.

Netanyahu harks back to Washington's role as the first to recognise the new state of Israel in 1948. Recalling a small country with a huge and convincing argument, The Washington Post's Richard Cohen observes: "[Netanyahu] harkens back not only to a different America, but also to a different Israel – [in 1948] it was not yet an occupation power; it did not mistreat the Palestinians."

And in the context of what Washington needs in the region, as opposed to what the US might like or admire, Cohen adds: "The fact is that the US doesn't need Israel."


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