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Dedicated to the Restoration of Progressive DemocracyThe Mound of Sound
Updated: 59 min 32 sec ago

Conspicuous By Our Absence

1 hour 41 min ago
I'm posting this because: 1) I just know nobody else will, and 2) it's important.

There are two military exercises underway in the Arctic right now.  Putin decided to stage his polar war follies and the West hastily responded.

The Russians are putting on the whole land/sea/air package in Siberia and elsewhere in their north.  Our side is staging air exercises, perhaps to show Putin we're ready and willing on short notice to push back if the Moscow strongman gets uppity.

Ready and willing, eh?  Well not entirely.

We've got an impressive coalition (isn't that what we call these things now) comprising NATO stalwarts - America, Germany, Britain, France, Norway and the Netherlands.  Sweden, Finland and even Switzerland are lending their aerial muscle also.  We're showing Putin that he'll not run roughshod over the Arctic on our watch.

Impressive as our coalition may be, there's one country missing and it just happens to be the nation that has far more Arctic coastline than any other.  That's right, the no-show is Canada.

Why?  Good question.  Who's asking?  Is Mulcair asking?  How about Junior? No, apparently not.

Yet it's a question that has enormous significance.  Are we the glaring no show for some reason?  Is it because, with our air deployments to Latvia and Kuwait, we're tapped out?  That's my guess.  I think we're running on empty, simply unable to muster the extra fighters and refueling tankers and support aircraft to join our allies in the collective defence of our True North.

This is on Harper's shoulders and his alone.  Putin is wasting no time re-militarizing the Arctic.  He's pressing claims to the Arctic seabed and he's very aggressive about it.  There are some important people in Moscow who have said that Russia should ignore the niceties of international law and just take whatever it wants on the Arctic sea floor.  We'd be reduced to Polar Palestinians.

Even China has stated that it has legitimate claims to Arctic resources and China is building the largest non-nuclear ice-breakers in the world and they're armed.

Canada has the most at stake, the most to lose.  As Putin has shown elsewhere - Georgia/Ossetia, Ukraine - if he considers Russia has a claim, he's not adverse to simply taking it by force.  When you're in a pissing match with Vlad Putin, military weakness is like blood in the water to a bull shark.

Harper has cut Canada's defence budget to barely 1% of GDP at the same time as the armed forces are running out of kit.  The army's gear is clapped out after a decade of pseudo-war waging in Afghanistan.  The navy has no anti-aircraft destroyers, no replenishment ships and an antiquated submarine force that's unfit to sail into combat.  As a result, Canada's navy is in a degraded condition that hasn't been seen since prior to WWII.  We can't deploy a single task force to defend even one of our three coasts.  The air force?  They're skint too.  If he had his way, Harper would buy the F-35 light attack bomber in small numbers that would be hopelessly unsuited to defending Canada's vast and now imperilled far north.

Remember that old saw about he who would have peace must prepare for war?   Maybe Justin and Tommy are oblivious to what's going on.  I know one guy who isn't.

Just Stopped By to Say "Hi"

Sat, 05/23/2015 - 09:46

I haven't posted anything lately and it's been a welcome respite one that may continue save for the occasional interruption.  I'd like to explain what this is about.

Not much has changed, save for the suspension of these posts.  I still devour the online newspapers, my favourite magazines, think tank web sites and so on.  I'm still churning through online courses - war studies, global food security, over-consumption and population challenges, foreign policy, environmental decline, stuff like that.

I just don't know what there is to say about a world coming apart at the seams; societies and governments increasingly detached from reality.

When I joined Dark Mountain a while ago I was drawn to this collective of artists, writers and thinkers who have "stopped believing the stories our civilization tells itself."  We feed ourselves nonsense and fairy tales because it's the only way we can keep this delusion of a civilization going.

I instinctively recoil from the word "manifesto" yet I encourage you to read the Dark Mountain Manifesto, which serves as the group's statement of purpose. While there is no end of research and literature and commentary about the myriad of challenges that will befall our civilization through this century, scant attention is paid to our resilience to meet them and almost none to our utter fragility.  Here are a few paragraphs from the opening of the Manifesto:

Those who witness extreme social collapse at first hand seldom describe any deep revelation about the truths of human existence. What they do mention, if asked, is their surprise at how easy it is to die.

The pattern of ordinary life, in which so much stays the same from one day to the next, disguises the fragility of its fabric. How many of our activities are made possible by the impression of stability that pattern gives? So long as it repeats, or varies steadily enough, we are able to plan for tomorrow as if all the things we rely on and don’t think about too carefully will still be there. When the pattern is broken, by civil war or natural disaster or the smaller-scale tragedies that tear at its fabric, many of those activities become impossible or meaningless, while simply meeting needs we once took for granted may occupy much of our lives.

What war correspondents and relief workers report is not only the fragility of the fabric, but the speed with which it can unravel. As we write this, no one can say with certainty where the unravelling of the financial and commercial fabric of our economies will end. Meanwhile, beyond the cities, unchecked industrial exploitation frays the material basis of life in many parts of the world, and pulls at the ecological systems which sustain it.

Precarious as this moment may be, however, an awareness of the fragility of what we call civilisation is nothing new.

‘Few men realise,’ wrote Joseph Conrad in 1896, ‘that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings.’

...It is, it seems, our civilisation’s turn to experience the inrush of the savage and the unseen; our turn to be brought up short by contact with untamed reality. There is a fall coming. We live in an age in which familiar restraints are being kicked away, and foundations snatched from under us. After a quarter century of complacency, in which we were invited to believe in bubbles that would never burst, prices that would never fall, the end of history, the crude repackaging of the triumphalism of Conrad’s Victorian twilight — Hubris has been introduced to Nemesis. Now a familiar human story is being played out. It is the story of an empire corroding from within. It is the story of a people who believed, for a long time, that their actions did not have consequences. It is the story of how that people will cope with the crumbling of their own myth. It is our story.
As a species organized into a civilization of sorts beneath the surface we're chaotic and rudderless.  The failure of our leadership and our institutions allows this fragility to surface and become our reality.

Canadians can and should see the signs of this decline in the rise of our increasingly illiberal democracy.  If you put your faith in Tom Mulcair or Justin Trudeau, you've largely written the place off even if you can't grasp it.

I don't know what I can contribute to a group who appear to believe that simply electing a different flavour of neoliberal government can do any significant good for our people and our country in a moment of such great need and looming danger.  It's like we're reading from different and irreconcilable texts.


The photograph is of Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who set himself ablaze on a Saigon street in June, 1963 in protest of the persecution by the South Vietnamese government.  It was an act of futility that was followed by a dozen more self-immolations before the Diem government fell to a coup engineered in collaboration with Washington.  While this photograph shocked the world, we became inured to this sort of thing.  During the American war, 13-monks burned themselves to death and it went largely unnoticed.

As Expected, Harper's Canada is Number Last

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 17:45
Stevie-Joe Harper's lame target for greenhouse gas emissions cuts - 30% from 2005 levels by 2030 - secures Canada's hold on dead last place among the developed nations.  Last, and by a good measure.  Dead last.

That is a far weaker target than the European Union or the US. The European Union pledged to reduce emissions by at least 40% from 1990 levels, and the US committed to cut emissions to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

The target is also less ambitious than the one Canada set in 2009 – and which it is unlikely to meet because of the vast expansion of Alberta tar sands production under the prime minister, Stephen Harper.

The environment minister, Leona Aglukkaq, who made the announcement in Winnipeg, said the new goals were in keeping with Canada’s economic conditions.

...Keith Stewart, climate campaigner for Greenpeace Canada, said the weak target made Canada an outlier in the international climate negotiations.

“The Harper government has not only ignored its existing reduction target, but the pro-tar sands policies it has adopted are taking us in the opposite direction,” he said.

But, hey, let's not get worked up. Sure they're meager targets, the worst of what's actually a bad lot, but let's not go overboard. Harper has no intention of meeting those targets anyway. If the premiers want to do it then good for them. By now we should all be used to classic Harper bait & switch - say anything that you figure people want to hear, do nothing. Even his old pal and mentor, Tom Flanagan, doesn't hesitate to label Harper an opportunistic and chronic liar. 

30 By 30 - Rachel, You've Got Some Catching Up To Do.

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 10:40
It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry but the feds have finally proclaimed Canada's target for greenhouse gas emissions cuts.  The figure is a 30% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030.

Harper & Co. are playing this true to form.  They're trying to take credit from the provinces that have taken action with precious little help from Ottawa.

As for Harper's pet, the Tar Sands, the feds are introducing regulations on methane emissions but have fallen strangely silent on CO2 emissions.  Did I say "strangely"?  I meant "predictably."

Yes, Yes! Scottish Independence, Round Two. Maybe Cameron Won't Bring Them to Kneel, Too.

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 01:22
It won't be the first time the Scots have saved the Brits from themselves.

David Cameron may be enjoying his fiendish (minority vote/majority seat) majority only to preside over the end - yes, the end - of the United Kingdom.

The arrogant bastard (Jeebus, there's no one as arrogant as a Tory with a majority) has not even given his supporters time to reflect and repent for what they have done before he launched a "Pearl Harbour" on his nation's Human Rights Act and set in motion, via his cabinet appointments, the machinery to shred Britain's social safety net.  This guy may be out to make Margaret Thatcher look like a pussy.

Yeah, well - there's one bunch of people who may not be "on" for this, the same bunch who regularly kicked English backsides and made possible this country into which I, my parents and ancestors going back several generations, my kids and theirs were (will be) born.

The Scottish National Party, in terms of raw numbers the biggest winner of them all in the latest elections, says they won't feel bound to get Cameron's consent to another independence referendum.  Nor bloody well should they.

If Cameron loses - or essentially forfeits - the Union in the early pursuit of his radical ideology, it could wipe out crippling conservatism going back to Thatcher.  The Scots could hand him a double defeat, a legacy twice besmirched.

A very sizeable percentage of Scots expressed 'buyers' remorse' after having defeated the first sovereignty referendum.  In the months afterward an enormous majority of Scots wanted another vote - for independence.

No, No - No. The King is Dead. B.B. Riley King, Dead at 89.

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 00:28
When he announced last week that he was out of hospital but in hospice care at home it was fair warning that the life of Riley B. King had come down to a matter of weeks, maybe a few months.  12 days later this legendary bluesman is gone.  That's a void that will take some time and some amazing talent to fill.

Yet that's the thing about blues.  It builds, legend upon legend.  Here's one for Mr. King, from 1964, Howlin' Wolf and Smokestack Lightning.


In case you didn't notice, the Wolf is about 6 feet wide and just over 9 feet tall and those hands?  They're the size of catchers' mitts.

Here, from The Telegraph about six years back, B.B. King, the last of the legendary bluesmen.

And this:

Last of the great bluesmen?  No, I don't believe it.  There'll be new talent, it's already there, and it will build on everything before it.  Just about every form of pop/rock can evaporate to nothingness but whatever lasts longest is what's closest to real blues.

This stuff goes straight to the slave south.  It was introduced to white culture during my adolescence by Brit bands, especially the Stones.  They got a generation of young people "discovering" Delta and Chicago blues.  Hell, we'd been brought up on Pat Boone and what was whitebread copies of "race music." Then, quite abruptly, we heard this music from The Beatles, the Stones (especially Richards/Jagger) and saw this whole new musical path that took us so far past but also forward.

No They Didn't. Oh Yes They Did.

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 19:19
The clown car that is today's NATO just upstaged itself.   After US State Secretary John Kerry had left the NATO ministers' meeting in Turkey for talks with Vlad Putin, the remaining ministers were left with nothing particularly useful to do so they instead broke into song - their rendition of "We Are the World."

Brace yourselves.

In High German there's a word for this - Gerfukt!


Beijing Benny Hill

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 14:28
Supposedly this is legit.  Chinese police stop a 6-person mini-van only to find there are 50-people riding in it.  I sure with there was video of the other side of the van.

Sure, It's Satire, Yet It Sounds So Familiar

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 09:51
From the pen of The New Yorker's Andy Borowitz:

Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.
“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”

More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”

While scientists have no clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data, they theorize that the strain may have developed the ability to intercept and discard information en route from the auditory nerve to the brain. “The normal functions of human consciousness have been completely nullified,” Logsdon said.

While reaffirming the gloomy assessments of the study, Logsdon held out hope that the threat of fact-resistant humans could be mitigated in the future. “Our research is very preliminary, but it’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,” he said.

What'll He Do Next, Bring Back the Work House?

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 07:58

You could say that Britain's newly minted Conservative majority prime minister, Dapper Dave Cameron, is on a rampage.  With his axing of Britain's Human Rights Act, Cameron seems intent on purging the Kingdom of the untidy vestiges of liberal democracy.  In its place he seems intent on building a decidedly illiberal democracy, one that harkens back to the dark days captured in Dickens' novels.

Take new Cameron cabinet minister Justin Tomlinson.  He's the government's new 'disabilities minister.'  It's a job that's mainly focused on slashing 12-billion pounds from benefits spending.

Mr Tomlinson has a record of voting against provisions that would see more support directed to the disabled and sick.

In parliamentary votes he has supported letting contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance expire for those undergoing cancer treatment.

In a separate vote regarding the new universal credit system he voted against a minimum floor on the amount of money that could be given to disabled children.

According to the department’s website Mr Tomlinson will have responsibility for child poverty and other cross government disability issues.

Scotland, be brave.  This might be the time to take the cross of St. Andrew back out of the Union Jack.

Channeling Robin Williams

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 07:41
Stevie-Joe Harper's pursuit of Omar Khadr is getting positively obsessive.  Now the feds are off to the Supreme Court of Canada over Khadr - yet again - this time to have him declared an adult offender for the supposed crimes he committed as a 15-year old.

The late Robin Williams put it best.

Did He Really Just Say This? Calling George Orwell. Come In Please.

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 12:13
'Screw the Plebs'
“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens 'as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone'.”
That warning from Britain's newly minted Conservative majority prime minister, David Cameron, in announcing his government's plan to ditch Britain's Human Rights Act.
And why not?  If you're planning on reducing the law abiding, civilian population to a state of political servility, why not come out and shove it straight in their faces?