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Dedicated to the Restoration of Progressive DemocracyThe Mound of Soundhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/09023839743772372922noreply@blogger.comBlogger10890125
Updated: 20 min 11 sec ago

Lord Martin Says the Anthropocene Doesn't Have to Be All Bad

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 10:10

He's one of the best scientific minds Britain has produced in the postwar era. Lord Martin Rees (Baron Rees of Ludlow to the likes of you) has been Britain's Astronomer Royal for the past 20 years, former Master of Trinity College, Cambridge and past President of the Royal Society. In other words, he's got a lot of cred.

Responding to the announcement that Earth has now entered a new geological epoch, the man-made Anthropocene, Rees has penned a commentary in The Guardian. His message is that all is not lost but it's our choice.


Should we be optimistic or anxious? It’s surprising how little we can confidently predict – indeed, we can’t predict as far ahead as our forebears could. Our medieval ancestors thought the Earth was only a few thousand years old, and might only last another thousand. But they didn’t expect their children’s lives to be very different from theirs. They built cathedrals that wouldn’t be finished in their lifetime.

...Our time horizons, both past and future, now stretch billions of years, not just thousands. The sun will keep shining for about another 6bn years. But ironically we can’t forecast terrestrial trends with as much confidence as our ancestors could. Their lives and environment changed slowly from generation to generation. For us, technological change is so fast that scenarios quickly enter the realm of wild conjecture and science fiction.

...The darkest prognosis for the next millennium is that bio, cyber or environmental catastrophes could foreclose humanity’s immense potential, leaving a depleted biosphere. Darwinian selection would resume, perhaps leading, in some far-future geological era, to the re-emergence of intelligent beings. If this happens, or if there are aliens out there who actually visit and study the Earth, then, digging through the geological record (and applying archaeological techniques as well) they would uncover traces of a distinctive transient epoch, and ponder the all-too-brief flourishing of a species that failed in its stewardship of “spaceship Earth”.

But there is an optimistic option.

Human societies could navigate these threats, achieve a sustainable future, and inaugurate eras of post-human evolution even more marvellous than what’s led to us. The dawn of the Anthropocene epoch would then mark a one-off transformation from a natural world to one where humans jumpstart the transition to electronic (and potentially immortal) entities, that transcend our limitations and eventually spread their influence far beyond the Earth.

Even in a cosmic time-perspective, therefore, the 21st century is special. It marks our collective realisation that the Anthropocene has begun – and it’s a century when human actions will determine how long that epoch lasts.

So, what does all that mean? To me, he's saying, "no more drunk driving." We have to sober up, realize we alone are at the wheel, and start figuring out where we're going and how we'll get there. It's the Anthropocene. We made it. On a geological time scale we made it in the briefest of instants. That doesn't matter now. We're here. It's ours while it lasts and we get to decide how long what we have created will last or how quickly it will end.
The modes of organization that got us here have lost most of their utility and threaten our continuation. These modes - social, economic, geopolitical, industrial, environmental, the lot - need a major overhaul to reflect this new reality. We can't afford the "game of chance" mentality of the past. That's the worst bet of all.





Them's Fighting Words

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 09:27

You can go but the furniture stays, all of it.

That's sort of the message from German economy minister, Sigmar Gabriel, in response to Brexit, the UK's departure from the European Union.

The world now regarded Europe as an unstable continent, said Gabriel, who is the deputy to chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany’s governing coalition.

“If we organise Brexit in the wrong way, then we’ll be in deep trouble, so now we need to make sure that we don’t allow Britain to keep the nice things, so to speak, related to Europe while taking no responsibility,” Gabriel said.

...EU leaders are refusing to countenance a “Europe a la carte” by letting Britain select the parts of its future relationship that it may like, such as access to the bloc’s single market of 500 million consumers, while dispensing with EU principles such as the free movement of people.

Who Knew? The Anthropocene Is Here. It Arrived in 1950.

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 09:27


The results are in. After extensive research and debate a team of scientists has concluded that Earth has moved into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, and they've backdated its arrival to 1950.

This is the first geological epoch triggered by a lifeform and it turns out that was just one of countless thousands of species. It was us, you and me and the folks who came before us. That's why it's called the Anthropocene, because it's man-made.

The previous geological Epoch, the Holocene, lasted a mere 12,000 years. Before that, epochs lasted from 1.5 to 20 million years at a stretch. The Holocene, which I like to think of as the 'Heaven on Earth' epoch featured a relatively gentle climate perfectly suited to things such as the development of human civilization which, not surprisingly, it did. Then, not content with a good thing, we went ahead and rubbished it.

To define a new geological epoch, a signal must be found that occurs globally and will be incorporated into deposits in the future geological record. For example, the extinction of the dinosaurs 66m years ago at the end of the Cretaceous epoch is defined by a “golden spike” in sediments around the world of the metal iridium, which was dispersed from the meteorite that collided with Earth to end the dinosaur age.

For the Anthropocene, the best candidate for such a golden spike are radioactive elements from nuclear bomb tests, which were blown into the stratosphere before settling down to Earth. “The radionuclides are probably the sharpest – they really come on with a bang,” said [professor Jan Zalasiewicz, chair of the Working Group on the Anthropocene]. “But we are spoiled for choice. There are so many signals.”

Other spikes being considered as evidence of the onset of the Anthropocene include the tough, unburned carbon spheres emitted by power stations. “The Earth has been smoked, with signals very clearly around the world in the mid-20th century,” said Zalasiewicz.




Other candidates include plastic pollution, aluminium and concrete particles, and high levels of nitrogen and phosphate in soils, derived from artificial fertilisers. Although the world is currently seeing only the sixth mass extinction of species in the 700m-year history of complex life on Earth, this is unlikely to provide a useful golden spike as the animals are by definition very rare and rarely dispersed worldwide.

In contrast, some species have with human help spread rapidly across the world. The domestic chicken is a serious contender to be a fossil that defines the Anthropocene for future geologists. “Since the mid-20th century, it has become the world’s most common bird. It has been fossilised in thousands of landfill sites and on street corners around the world,” said Zalasiewicz. “It is is also a much bigger bird with a different skeleton than its prewar ancestor.”


...The term Anthropocene was coined only in 2000, by the Nobel prize-winning scientist Paul Crutzen, who believes the name change is overdue. He said in 2011: “This name change stresses the enormity of humanity’s responsibility as stewards of the Earth.” Crutzen also identified in 2007 what he called the “great acceleration” of human impacts on the planet from the mid-20th century.


...Prof Chris Rapley, a climate scientist at University College London and former director of the Science Museum in London said: “The Anthropocene marks a new period in which our collective activities dominate the planetary machinery.

“Since the planet is our life support system – we are essentially the crew of a largish spaceship – interference with its functioning at this level and on this scale is highly significant. If you or I were crew on a smaller spacecraft, it would be unthinkable to interfere with the systems that provide us with air, water, fodder and climate control. But the shift into the Anthropocene tells us that we are playing with fire, a potentially reckless mode of behaviour which we are likely to come to regret unless we get a grip on the situation.”



Can We Undo Our Colonial Tragedy?

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 13:56


Africa, the Middle East and South Asia are the worst afflicted. Go to the maps, find all the borders. The straight lines are the tell tales. That's the fingerprint of European colonialism from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Whether it's the handiwork of Sykes and Picot or Durand or any of the other European planners,  those lines were drawn to demark spheres of European control in distant lands and they were invariably drawn with scant regard for ethnic, religious, even tribal realities. Some people, such as the Kurds, saw their ancient homeland carved up and divided among a half dozen or more "states" from Iraq and Iran to Syria and Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. In the process the Kurdish land was wiped from the maps. We know what Saddam did to Iraq's Kurds. We know what Turkey has done to them. We know what has befallen Syria's Kurds. We should know. We, the West, were instrumental in their fate.

Damaging as those Euro-centric borders have been for the locals, even bigger problems loom.

A new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looks deeply at the link between ethnic division, violence, and natural disaster data. It found that between 1980 and 2010, 25% of conflict outbreaks in "ethnically highly fractionalized countries" coincided with climate calamities, like drought, or heat wave. Globally, armed conflict and climate disasters only coincided 9% of the time.

Experts are usually careful to avoid saying that climate factors directly leads to war—usually it is described as an important exacerbating or escalating factor, and even that can be controversial or hard to prove. But as the study’s authors, based in Germany and Sweden, note: "Ethnic divides might serve as predetermined conflict lines in case of rapidly emerging societal tensions from disruptive events like natural disasters."

...this is bad news in some of the world’s most fragile places—which happen to be where climate change is expected to hit hard. Of the 33 countries predicted to experience "extreme water stress" by 2040, 14 of them are in the Middle East. Security experts, the authors write, are going to have to pay closer attention to these dynamics.

Says one co-author, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber: "our study adds evidence of a very special co-benefit of climate stabilization: peace."

Can we undo our colonial tragedy? Probably not. No country, especially not Turkey, Syria or Iraq, would tolerate a reconstructed Kurdistan.  They consider the Kurdish ancestral land extinguished, subsumed.  The same thinking applies to the mish-mash of Sunni and Shiite states.
Some, such as Peter Galbraith, think the only future for Iraq lies in its dismemberment into a Shiite state in the south, a Sunni state in the middle and a Kurdish state in the north but that hardly seems feasible with endless conflict tearing at that region.
And so these mangled nations shall remain primed for climate change-driven ethnic, tribal and sectarian violence that could resemble the butchery we saw in Rwanda.

On Canada's East Coast, a Mirror Image

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 12:32


I've written a number of posts on the influx of marine life into our local waters around Vancouver Island. It's like the entire food chain has shifted north, away from the warming Pacific waters to the south. It begins with bigger schools of herring and the arrival of sardines. As the prey fish migrate so too do their predators. As a result we've seen large increases across the board from prey fish to schools of dolphins, transient orcas, seals and sea lions, various once rare fish species, even pelicans.

Not surprisingly, Eastern Canada is witnessing the same thing. CBC News reports there's been a big uptick of marine biodiversity in the St. Lawrence River. Again it seems that the migration of prey fish, in this case capelin, may be the proximate cause.

[Quebec marine biologist Lyne Morisette] said observers have spotted more capelin than in summers past. Capelin are small fish that serve an important role in the ecosystem, feeding whales, seals, cod and sea birds.

She said in some places off the Gaspé coast, there are so many capelin that if you take a bucket out into one foot of water, you could catch a few.

One explanation could be the warmer water — the water temperature is about two degrees higher than it was a decade ago, she said.

"All species will adapt to that, either physically [to] be able to live in the warmer environment, or they'll move somewhere else" and be replaced by warm-water species moving north, she said.

Even Maine's vaunted lobster fishery is being hammered by warming waters. Fishermen there are coming up empty-handed as the lobsters are migrating into cooler Canadian waters.
This should be a warning to the world that climate change is upon us and it's coming on faster than we had imagined. There's no hoax behind the migration of fish, marine mammals and seabirds. They do pretty much as they like and we're damned fools if we don't heed their warning.

Two Takes on Shifty Steve

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 16:02
 You would never know they were talking about the same guy, Stephen J. Harper.

According to Kinsella, Shifty was an okay guy deep down. If only we had been as privileged to know him as WK did, we'd see him much differently and so it's "farewell, good luck and God speed."

For a slightly different take there's Michael Harris' eulogy, "Goodbye Harper, Good Riddance. How do you sum up the career of a guy who betrayed every ideal he claimed to cherish?"

In this passage, Harris lays bare our once prime ministerial malevolence:

Stephen Harper was Donald Trump before Trump was Trump, right down to the bigotry, fear-mongering, divisiveness, scapegoating, and profound anti-democratic impulses that had Canada’s entire parliamentary structure tottering, according to experts like Peter Milliken and Robert Marleau.

While others will remember amusing episodes involving personal encounters with Harper, I will remember the look on the face of Canada’s former nuclear safety commissioner, Linda Keen, while she recounted her personal destruction at the hands of his government because she wouldn’t sell out her mandate.

It was the same look I saw in Richard Colvin’s eyes when the former diplomat was smeared by Harper and Peter MacKay for the high crime of telling what he knew about the as-yet-unresolved Afghan detainee affair.

WK may fawn over the guy but Harper was a mean-spirited, brutal prick as a prime minister and, as Harris notes, the country is well rid of him. Even the dregs of the Conservatives who carry on admit as much.

What Will Be Stephen Harper's Legacy?

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 13:23

I'm not sure Stephen Harper will leave any particularly lasting impression on the Canadian public. Thinking back on his near decade in power, what do you consider his cardinal achievement?

Becoming prime minister provides no assurance you'll be very good at it. Many are fairly mediocre. I think Harper falls squarely in that category.

Pierre Trudeau stands, perhaps unfairly, as the yardstick by which later prime ministers are measured and found lacking. There have been three major governments since Trudeau - Mulroney, Chretien and Harper. For what shall they be remembered?

Mulroney gave Canada the GST and, even with this additional revenue flooding into Ottawa, nearly bankrupted the nation. He desperately sought to carve out his niche with first the Meech Lake and then the Charlottetown Accords to amend the constitution. He brought Lucien Bouchard into federal politics only to drive him back out into the arms of Quebec separatism. Mulroney's legacy is encapsulated in Stevie Cameron's book, "On the Take." Any residual doubts about the seedy side of Mulroney's regime were put to rest with the Karlheinz Schreiber affair and cash-stuffed envelopes crossing tables in Montreal coffee shops.

Next up was Jean Chretien, the gruff, straight-talking guy from Shawinigan. Chretien did deliver three majority governments but that was largely pushing on an open door. Mulroney was enough to ensure that his majority Progressive Conservatives were handed a crushing, 2-seat catastrophe in Chretien's first win. After that the Right ruptured. Western conservatives were lured away to Preston Manning's Reform Party. In Quebec many supporters drifted to the Bloc Quebecois. With the Right in disarray, Liberal victories were all but assured.

The Chretien government did wrestle Canada's near lethal national debt and deficit to the ground. They went from an annual deficit in the $37-billion range to annual surpluses, paying down a significant chunk of the national debt along the way. In fairness this was largely the work of Chretien's finance minister, Paul Martin. It was also achieved by slashing federal transfers to provinces, municipalities and territories.

On Chretien's watch Canada came within a hair of losing a Quebec sovereignty referendum. The federal government was pretty blase about the whole business, confident of success, until the polling numbers showed the sovereigntists were winning. It took a massive effort by Canadians of all walks from all corners of the country to save Canada's bacon. Not exactly Chretien's greatest moment.

And then there was the scandal that Stephen Harper rode to power, the Sponsorship Scandal. This happened on Chretien's watch. Fortunately for Paul Martin it occurred while he was sidelined by Chretien over his ambitions to replace the prime minister.

Add it all up and you wind up with another mediocre premiership. In terms of the nation's collective memory, it's pretty much already forgotten.

There were no real achievements for Harper either. No Constitution, no Charter of Rights and Freedoms. No flag. No Nobel prize. Nothing much really.

He rode to office on the Sponsorship Scandal to which he promised transparency and accountability and proceeded to deliver neither - a lot of neither, nine years' worth of neither.

He wasted no time defunding the federal government and ordering slot machines and roulette wheels for Canada's chartered banks but the crash of 2008 arrived just before Harper could manage to leave Canada's financial system undefended.

Perhaps Harper's legacy should be measured by the attributes with which he governed - secrecy, deception, fear mongering and incrementalism. You always felt like he was sizing you up, ready to make his move on your wallet.

Democracy eroded significantly under Harper's rule. He gagged first the public service and then the armed forces, cutting them off from the Canadian public and transforming them into his personal partisan agencies. He used fear as a powerful weapon but he used it against his own supporters to coerce their backing. Harper was a devious manipulator.

What did he accomplish? In what way did he leave Canada a better place than he found it? I really cannot think of anything. I can't. There's a logical explanation for that. It comes from Harper's BFF(N) (Best Friend for Now), Tom Flanagan who years ago let the cat out of the bag in an address to a gathering on Saltspring Island. Flanagan described his long time friend as a man to whom vision was anathema. He utterly eschewed vision and, hence, strove to accomplish nothing of any significance. Perhaps Harper had watched Mulroney flounder on the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords and resolved never to take that sort of risk himself. Who knows?

No, I think that Mulroney, Chretien and Harper will be consigned to footnotes in history books. Mulroney at least strove for the brass ring but he failed. Harper will be remembered for the scars he left but in a decade or so they'll heal and fade and, with them, so will the memory of Stephen Joseph Harper.

Taking Responsibility for the Carnage

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 10:55

Our federal government - not the last one, the new one - the Liberal government, has to accept that Canada is now complicit in the carnage and humanitarian disaster of Yemen.

Just because we don't acknowledge the existence of the "coalition" or that it's headed by Saudi Arabia, not the United States, doesn't mean we're not part of it, a partner. In today's Globe and Mail, Elizabeth Renzetti writes that Yemen is the war Canada cannot afford to ignore

This brutal conflict should be in the spotlight, especially in countries that supply arms to Saudi Arabia, which leads the coalition accused of causing most of the civilian deaths. Countries such as Canada.

This year, the Liberal government approved $15-billion in sales of light-armoured vehicles (LAVs) to the Saudi kingdom, a sale that gave this country the dubious honour of being the second-greatest exporter of arms to the Middle East, The Globe and Mail’s Steven Chase reported in June. Earlier versions of Canadian-made LAVS seem to have been used in the war against Houthi rebels in Yemen, The Globe reported in February.

Human-rights groups protested against the sale, but otherwise there has been little public outcry.

The government’s argument for selling the combat vehicles to a country with an abysmal human-rights record boiled down to, “it creates jobs,” and “if we don’t, someone else will.” Those are lousy arguments for a country aiming to be a leader in global freedom and progress.


...The war in Yemen is said to be a proxy war that Saudi Arabia is waging with Iran through the Houthi militia, but there’s nothing proxy about a bomb landing on a wedding celebration.

“The resilience of the Yemeni people has been stretched beyond human limits,” the UN report warns. It calls for an independent report into the civilian devastation, which may be cold comfort to the people who are being bombed in marketplaces, schools, factories and hospitals.

A ceasefire ended in early August, which has caused the destruction to increase again. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) recently withdrew its staff from six hospitals in northern Yemen, after a devastating hospital bombing on Aug. 15 killed 19 and injured 24.

MSF said it gave the GPS co-ordinates of its facilities to the warring parties. Announcing its pullout from the region, the medical aid group said: “MSF is neither satisfied nor reassured by the Saudi-led coalition’s statement that this attack was a mistake.”


...“The United States is complicit in this carnage,”The New York Times wrote in an editorial about the war in Yemen this week.

If the United States is the No. 1 supplier of arms to the Middle East, Canada is now No.2, according to figures compiled by the defence-industry publisher IHS Jane’s and reported in The Globe in June.


Let's be honest. If this was going on under the Harper government, Liberal critics would be having a field day of righteous indignation. When it's their team holding the reins they either rationalize it or look the other way.


In case you're wondering about the picture above, that's a Saudi F-15 pilot's flight suit and behind him, slug on a stores rack, is a cluster bomb.

Hoist on His Own Orange Petard

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 09:39

Poor old Donald Trump just exploded in his own face. He is, as Shakespeare would say, hoist on his own petard.

A bit of history. A petard was the original shaped charge device. It was a bell-shaped explosive that, when pressed against a fortified door and ignited, would blow a hole clean through it. However, if the petardier wasn't careful, it could explode in his face and he'd be hoist on his own petard. See dandy depiction below:


So, what does all this have to do with the Orange Bloat? Well, plenty. Early on, Donny Loudmouth got a lot of support by promising, once in the White House, he'd expel the roughly 12-million illegal aliens living in America. And then he promised to build a wall to keep them from coming back. And didn't the White Trash eat that shit up.

Now Dumbo is backtracking. Apparently he saw how his numbers in a certain essential ethnic community are tanking. So now he's only going to deport those who have committed crimes while in the Promised Land. The rest, says his Beneficence, can stay.

Oooh, not so fast. Trump White Trasher in Chief, Sarah Palin, doesn't like that kind of lefty talk. She's warned Trump, via the Wall Street Journal, that Bloato's support will just erode away if he abandons his core promises -  i.e. if he fails to make America great again for angry white folks with marginal reproductive standards.

And if Sarah has her knickers in a bunch, that's nothing compared to the fury of another Trump backer, Ann Coulter. Just this week, Coulter's latest book, "In Trump We Trust," hit the bookshelves. Now she's barking mad over Trump's betrayal. And Annie's not alone. Some are saying Trump just threw away his last chance at winning in November.

“Incorrect descriptions of this: pivot, softening, moderating. Correct descriptions of this: 180, total reversal, flip-flop,” Tim Alberta, chief political correspondent for the conservative National Review, wrote on Twitter.

“Trump probably just threw away his only remaining chance to win in November with Wednesday’s Jeb Bush impersonation,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, wrote in the National Review. “Many of the voters who stuck with him through his various antics will start drifting away.”


Now I'm sure that Ann Coulter, being a lady of high and resolute principle, will have already been on to her publisher with directions to have every copy of her new book pulped forthwith. Nah.

It'll Be Good to See His Heels

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 07:07

Stephen Harper will officially take his leave from Parliament today.  He will be missed by a few - energy producers, pipeline operators, and the Tar Sanders to be sure. The Fraser Institute may mourn his passing. Ditto for the Sun media guys.

All in all, it'll be a pretty minuscule lot that will offer Shifty a moment of silence. For one who clung to power tenaciously, Stephen Harper left the country visibly unchanged - certainly not a better place.

Perhaps he did a lot to douse the embers of progressivism  in the Liberal ranks and the NDP to boot. On Harper's watch our mainstream political parties abandoned labour in Canada. Even the New Dems stopped fighting for unions. That's a huge loss because one of the most important roles of any democracy is to bring balance to the constant struggle between labour and capital. Even Teddy Roosevelt knew that.

Stephen Harper won't live on in our hearts, mainly because we were never truly in his. It remains to be seen but there's a real chance he will live on, unacknowledged but real, in the minds of Canada's political caste. His embrace of neoliberalism will be carried on in their embrace of neoliberalism and, so long as that is perpetuated, progressivism in Canada will be just a collection of ideals shelved and gathering dust. That just may be Stephen Harper's real legacy.

Hell's Bells, let's get it over with. How about a trip down Memory Lane?

















And, we can always remember him by this:


Practice What You Preach, Junior

Thu, 08/25/2016 - 18:35


Justin Trudeau is talking "vision." CBC reports he had this to say at a caucus meeting in Saguenay, Quebec:

"As a government, we need to look 40 years down the road, not just four. To the next generation, not just to the next election."

Nice talk but does he mean it? Given his track record to date Trudeau hasn't shown much, if any, regard for the next generation.

For example, with the Earth's temperatures already soaring to one record high after another, his government insists on pimping the world's highest cost/highest carbon fossil fuels, bitumen. What does he imagine that's going to do for the next generation?

Despite a growing consensus that now includes the International Monetary Fund that globalism is both a drag on world economies and fueling dangerous levels of inequality, the Dauphin prides himself on being a free trader in the global markets.

The hard truth is that there can be nothing good for the next generation premised on a continuation of neoliberalism, the default operating system Slick inherited from Shifty and seems determined to perpetuate.

It's nice talk but we had plenty of that from Junior in the last election campaign and, ever since, whenever he's come up to the hard issues, he's buckled and retreated.

He's lost my trust and, with it, my respect. He can always earn it back and I so wish he would but it's going to take more than words. I know the value of his words.

Bankrolling Islamic Extremism

Thu, 08/25/2016 - 11:08

The House of Saud has plenty of money to splash around whether it's billions of dollars to buy Canadian built death wagons or to fund radical, often violent, Islamic fundamentalism around the world. A New York Times report shows that our esteemed customer and supposed ally in the war on terror is also the state that primarily sponsors Islamist theocracy and its often violent movements.

Don't like barbaric practices? Can't stand state sponsored Islamist terrorism? Well, I guess you could always start by selling the culprit billions of dollars of armoured fighting vehicles.

Follow the link, read the report, ask yourself how hard does Justin Trudeau have to look the other way to support Saudi Arabia.

Why the F-35 Is a Lousy Idea - For Everyone

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 09:16


Not for nothing has Lockheed's "joint strike fighter" been called America's "kick in the front door" weapon.  That's what it is designed to do, penetrate hostile airspace with sophisticated air defences and take down that air defence network.

That narrows the F-35's intended adversaries to Russia or China or key satellite states they're willing to go to war to defend. For the sake of this discussion let's leave it at Russia and China.

When you bleed your treasury to buy the F-35 what you're really after is the sizzle, not the steak. The stealth sizzle or whatever remains of it. Because, while it does have some intriguing electronic wizardry, stripped of the stealth factor its really a pretty mediocre light bomber. It gets about a C+/B- on standard strike fighter attributes such as range, speed, payload, agility, that sort of thing.

Let's not debate whether this warplane's stealth remains viable after its intended adversaries have had two decades to develop and refine countermeasures (and they have). Let's pretend it works as advertised. Let's pretend Russia and China are somehow stuck technologically in the 1990s.

Now let's create a scenario where the United States and its obedient allies, its aerial Foreign Legion, decide to attack China. Fortunately we have America's roadmap to such an attack in the 2012 dress rehearsal known as "Operation Chimichanga." Even though they had to use F-16s reprising the role of the then unavailable F-35s it was a roaring success. The F-35 force with F-22 Raptors flying cover went in and obliterated the critical air defence infrastructure, clearing the way for an armada of stealth and then conventional bombers to work their magic. Look at that, they're invincible.

Only this scenario leaves out what the other side might be doing at the same time. You see here's the problem. You can't mobilize an effort of this magnitude without attracting a lot of attention. That gives the other side time to assess the gathering threat and prepare both defences and possibly pre-emptive strategies.

If you want to attack China, you'll first have to deploy squadrons, perhaps even wings, of warplanes for the attack. They carry a lot of baggage - refueling tankers, electronic warfare aircraft (AWACS), electronic surveillance aircraft, and all the people and stuff they need on the ground for an air campaign.

You can't deploy these damned things without analysts being able to discern what you're about to do with them. To use them you have to place your entire military on high alert and that's all but impossible to conceal. You must prepare for everything from a pre-emptive strike against your forward bases by jittery defenders to a nuclear launch on detection of the 35's essential support aircraft nearing your airspace. They're not stealthy. You can't hide them.

For defenders it can trigger the "use'em or lose'em" mentality. Do you simply wait until the stealth attackers take down your air defences and leave your strategic weaponry vulnerable to destruction or do you prepare to launch your missiles, both land based and on your subs?

This reminds me of nothing so much as the strategic destabilization of the Cold War, first when the Americans toyed with the idea of adding the neutron bomb to their arsenal and then when both sides got into the Dr. Strangelove scenario of "launch on detect" nuclear tipped short and intermediate range missiles - one faulty circuit and the robots end the world.

There are still nuclear tripwires. You trigger one of them and we finally get to find out which of those theories of nuclear escalation is the most accurate. Only we may not survive for the debate afterwards.

Nuclear warfare is a confidence game. The more confidence you have that your adversary is not planning an attack the less bellicose you too become. That was the magic gift of so much of the espionage of the Cold War, building confidence between the Soviet Union and the U.S. They knew what we were up to, we knew what they were up to and it was pretty much, "okay, that's cool."

The F-35 undermines that essential confidence. The Americans don't talk about it much but the Lightning II is also a nuclear strike bomber. So when you see squadrons of those things massing in Kadena you might wonder if any of those will be coming your way with tactical nuclear weapons to take out your entire command and control system. A nuclear first-strike. Wouldn't you want to eliminate that threat preemptively? I sure would if I was responsible for the air defence of the People's Republic.

For so many good reasons, the F-35 is designed to fight battles we don't fight any more. For the air wars we do wage, we get by just fine with cheaper, more rudimentary and robust multi-role fighters. Using the F-35 to whack insurgents is like leaving the pickup in the garage and taking the Lamborghini to Home Depot to get a load of plywood. Now that might make a lot of sense to your 16-year old son with his raging hormones just as the F-35 makes a lot of sense to certain generals with their own raging martial hormones. Yet it's not difficult to figure out which one you would take.

Does it strike you as odd that we haven't begun to discuss these issues - not in Canada, not in Britain, not even in the United States. Nobody in line to arm themselves with the F-35 is discussing what it would mean to use them for their intended purpose. That strikes me as more than a little curious.

For me, the F-35 is a lousy idea - for everyone.

Will the Real Donald Trump Please Stand Up

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 14:42


By now everyone is familiar with Donald Trump's use of Twitter to communicate with his supporters. Trumps tweets are a regular source of outrage among his opponents. They're a vehicle for spreading anger, bombast, threats, even racism.

But what if only some of those tweets were really Trump's? According to a report in Scientific American, Trump has been using ghost-tweeters. An analysis has been able to distinguish the tweets that Trump has sent from those written by others using his account. The creepy part is that the really nasty tweets, the worst of the lot - they're Donald Trump's.

Earlier this month visual effects artist Todd Vaziri put forth the idea that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump likely shares his Twitter account with campaign ghostwriters. The assumption was based on the curious differences in tone and message of @realDonaldTrump on the social media platform. According to Vaziri, Trump most likely used his Samsung Galaxy Android smartphone to tap out the most inflammatory microblog messages whereas the more toned-down tweets came from his staff using their iPhones. Now a quantitative analysis has proved him correct.

Data scientist David Robinson saw Vaziri’s speculation, which was neither new nor terribly shocking, as the perfect opportunity to test new tools he had developed to analyze the emotions behind social media posts. After mining nearly 1,400 messages from @realDonaldTrump, Robinson confirmed that the account’s Android and iPhone tweets were from different people who posted at different times of the day and used hashtags, links and retweets in distinct ways. He also found that Trump’s Android tweets were for the most part angrier and more negative than his staff’s iPhone messages, which generally featured benign announcements and images. “My goal was to determine the difference between the iPhone and Android tweets—and to see whether the suspicion of Todd Vaziri and others could be backed up quantitatively,” says Robinson, who last year earned a PhD in quantitative and computational biology from Princeton University and now works for Stack Overflow, a question and answer site for computer programmers.

Robinson found that Trump himself uses nearly double the number of words related to disgust, sadness, fear, anger and other negative sentiments than tweets posted to his feed via iPhone. In addition, the iPhone tweets were 38 times more likely to contain either a picture or a link, which Robinson attributes to the campaign’s interest in calling attention to significant events and projecting some semblance of diplomacy, such as wishing the U.S. Olympic team good luck.

Our Federal Government is "Missing the Boat" on Climate Change

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 10:37

It's fair to say that successive Canadian federal governments, Trudeau's included, and most of our provincial governments, Christy Clark's included, have failed their people on climate change. We're still a petro-state ruled by petro-pimps who show no sign of turning the page to usher in alternative, renewable, clean energy. You'll know when they do. That'll be the day they finally cut off support, estimated by the IMF at $34 billion a year, to Canada's fossil fuel producers.

Now the Canadian Medical Association is warning that our governments' lack of action on climate change is putting Canadians' health in jeopardy.

At the CMA's annual general counsel meeting, keynote speaker, Dr. James Orbinski spoke of climate change as "the greatest global threat to health of the 21st century." He said Canada "has missed the boat" on climate change.

“There are direct impacts of the effects of climate change on health,” said Dr. Orbinski, past president of Medécins sans Frontièrs and a leading scholar in global health, referencing the catastrophic impact of forest fires, flooding and drought, the increase in certain infectious diseases and the effects of air pollution.

You Can See It From Space

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 09:56


The inland waters separating Vancouver Island from the mainland are beset by a massive algae bloom.  The image above was captured by a NASA satellite.

So far the bloom is not considered dangerous to human or marine life.

The scientist behind Vancouver Island University's harmful algae monitoring program, says coccolithophorids are the cause.

Haig says coccolithophorids bloom near B.C. during the summertime are normal but where it's blossomed this year, is notable.

"It's a group that blooms quite often off the west coast of [Vancouver] Island in June or July of most years, but we don't usually see it in the Strait of Georgia."

She says she doesn't think warmer ocean temperatures are the cause, but it could be related to increasing ocean acidification which signals climate change.

With the bloom ongoing, she says more time and research is needed to truly understand what is going on in the water.

"It could be a climate change story, but it could also be a once in 20 year or 50-year event," she said. "We're still trying to figure that out."

For those familiar with the dark emerald green waters of majestic Desolation Sound, here's what the place looks like today:



The Problem We Won't Admit Even Exists

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 09:32

There's a security scandal underway concerning the French manufacturer of the stealth submarine, Scorpene. The Australians, who recently ordered similar boats, are particularly vexed. From The Australian:


There is almost no breach of ­national security more serious than the disclosure of the stealth secrets of a country’s submarine fleet.

A submarine is only as effective as the secrets it keeps. If an enemy knows those secrets, the game is over. As the old wartime saying goes, “loose lips sink ships.”

That is why Australia should be deeply concerned by the Snowden-style leak of 22,400 secret documents written by the same French shipbuilder, DCNS, that will design Australia’s future submarine fleet.

The leaked DCNS documents describe in excruciating detail — line by line and bolt by bolt — the entire combat abilities of India’s new six-boat Scorpene submarine fleet. It has dealt a hammer blow to India’s national security and it begs the question; if it has happened to India, why couldn’t it happen to us?

Australia cannot afford to spend $50 billion on the biggest defence project in the nation’s history only to have it potentially compromised by sloppy security about confidential information.

Hmmm, sloppy security. Serious business. But not when it comes to another amazing bit of stealth warfighting gear, the Lockheed F-35 joint strike fighter.
Someone (everybody knows it's China) had a field day hacking Lockheed and British Aerospace computers downloading (stealing) massive amounts of data (secrets) and millions of lines of computer code (stealth operating system) of the F-35. Then Iran managed to hack a Lockheed RQ-170 super secret stealth drone, bringing it in for a crash landing. Chinese aerospace types didn't waste any time getting to Tehran. They scoured the drone for Lockheed's stealth secrets - shaping, materials, coatings and such and they went home with plenty of parting gifts, mainly the drone's electronic wizardry.
The hacks and the RQ-170 capture caused a big kerfuffle for a while but then the noise went silent and nobody has had much to say about it since. It's as though a blanket was thrown over it. After all the F-35, like American banks, is too big to fail.
The Australians are grappling with a legitimate security concern in the French sub leaks. It's a good thing, F-35 customers don't seem to care.

Hamsterkaufe, Bitte

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 21:53


Nobody is sure what this is about but the German government is urging residents to stockpile food and water - Hamsterkaufe - in the event of a national emergency.

Citizens are advised to store enough food to last them 10 days, because initially a disaster might put national emergency services beyond reach.

Five days' water - two litres (half a gallon) per person daily - is advised.

The German news website Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ) said the new concept was set out in a 69-page German Interior Ministry document.

The document said "an attack on German territory, requiring conventional defence of the nation, is unlikely". But, it said, a major security threat to the nation in future could not be ruled out, so civil defence measures were necessary.

Stephane Dion Dropped from Environment Committee

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 18:26

The Liberal who is probably most associated with environmentalism has been dumped from the Commons environment committee.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has removed Global Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion from the environment, climate change and energy committee which he chaired.

 Although he will continue to serve on some cabinet committees studying other issues, Dion's removal from the environment committee was notable. He is a renowned environmentalist and advocate for climate action, and was among the team of delegates who attended the Paris climate summit in 2015, during which Canada endorsed a 1.5 degree limit to global warming. As Liberal party leader in the 2008 federal election, he campaigned for a "green shift" carbon tax as part of a strategy to combat climate change. Dion was defeated by Stephen Harper who formed a minority government.


Maybe Uncle Steffie was seen as a potential problem to the government's bitumen-pimping policies.

May Stays

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 11:28

Elizabeth May has chosen to remain leader of the Green Party. It's not entirely clear what that means to the party or Green members.

She said that while many well-intentioned groups (i.e. the United Church of Canada and the Quakers) have supported the BDS movement, it's no place for a "serious" federal political party. Ouch, wince.


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