Friday, July 31, 2009

Stimulating the Funnybone . . .

Apparently the Canadian Medical Association has weighed in on the new economic stimulus package.... 

The Allergists voted to scratch it, but the Dermatologists advised not to make any rash moves.
The Gastroenterologists had sort of a gut feeling about it, but the Neurologists thought the government had a lot of nerve.

The Obstetricians felt they were all laboring under a misconception. 

Ophthalmologist considered the idea shortsighted. 

Pathologists yelled, "Over my dead body!" while the Pediatricians said, 'Oh, Grow up!' 

The Psychiatrists thought the whole idea was madness, while the Radiologists could see right through it. 

Surgeons decided to wash their hands of the whole thing, and cut their losses. 

The Internists thought it was a bitter pill to swallow, and the Plastic Surgeons said, "This puts a whole new face on the matter."

The Podiatrists thought it was a step forward, but the Urologists were pissed off at the whole idea. 

The Anesthesiologists thought the whole idea was a gas, and the Cardiologists didn't have the heart to say no.
In the end, the Proctologists won out, leaving the entire decision up to the assholes in Ottawa. 

Oy Vey . . . .

A trip south of the 49th to the United States of Expensive Health Care was required due to some still-retained properties in Florida.

While here, between accomplishing some outside chores in the 90+F (32+C) heat and matching humidity, I dash in to the air-conditioned comfort of the house for a break periodically. I flip the TV on to check on the local news, weather, etc. Typically, the ads on TV here are mainly promoting the wonder drug du jour to fix your restless leg, fungus-infected toe nail or limp penis. To my surprise (?) the past couple of days the local television station has been running nearly non-stop advertisements for the "Gun and Knife Show" that is to be held this weekend. Please note how they cater to the "ladies."

Can I go home to Vancouver now, please ? ? ? ?

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

first against the wall when the revolution comes

Stop the presses!

The President had a beer with a professor and a policeman! Why is it that I can't read these stories without this song going through my head?

Meanwhile, back in the American heartland, in the shining city on a hill, there is good news as the the latest minimum wage increase kicked in last week. The federal minimum wage is now $7.25 per hour (about $15,000 a year based on a 40 hr week) Of course some states don't even have minimum wage laws. About 13 percent of the population of the United States lives below the poverty line (set in 2001 at $18,000/year for a family of four).

There are about 45 million americans without health insurance of any kind and millions more with wholly inadequate insurance. Kids are dying of toothache because their family doesn't have the money to take them to a doctor. The current health care proposal in front of congress now is estimated to cost $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion over the next ten years and some people oppose it because it would be funded by a one percent increase in income taxes for people making more than $200,000 a year. That's in addition to the roughly 3% income tax hike Obama already has proposed for the top tax bracket, bringing their tax rate to 38%.

Handing over 38% of your taxable income to the government sounds like a lot until I see stories like this:

Bank Bonus Tab: $33 Billion

Nine Lenders That Got U.S. Aid Paid at Least $1 Million Each to 5,000 Employees


Nine banks that received government aid money paid out bonuses of nearly $33 billion last year -- including more than $1 million apiece to nearly 5,000 employees -- despite huge losses that plunged the U.S. into economic turmoil.
Wall Street has shown little sign of slowing down the pay train this year. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley recently disclosed that they have set aside $11 billion and $6 billion in compensation and benefits, respectively, for their employees so far this year. Goldman's second quarter was among its best ever. Morgan Stanley lost money for its third straight quarter.Goldman and Morgan Stanley declined to
comment on the report.Meanwhile, some big banks that received government bailouts, including Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., are offering handsome pay packages to lure stars. Citigroup -- which received about 25% of the aid going to the nine banks -- has the No. 1 pay recipient. Andrew Hall, who heads Citigroup's energy-trading unit Phibro LLC, received $98.9 million in 2008, according to a government official. Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit, by comparison, received more than $38 million last year."

Poor Vikram, he's the CEO and he has to struggle along on a paltry $38 million a year.

The U.S. government in the past year has spent about $1.8 trillion on bailing out and proping up the banking industry: $31.1 billion on bank takeovers, $117.9 billion on bailing out AIG, $1.4 trillion on Fed financial rescue efforts including the Bear Stearns bailout effort, $40 on the capital investment in Citigroup and Bank of America, $20.4 billion on the Capital Purchase Program to bail out banks, and another $5 billion in assest guarantees for BoA and Citi. This is money spent, not just money committed or earmarked for bailout programs - those numbers are even higher. And it doesn't include the more than $1 trillion spent on the GM bailout or the stimulus plan or the money spent on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and mortage relief for homeowner facing foreclose. Nope, that $1.8 trillion is just what has been forked over to shore up the banking industry. (figures from here)

And that's just the financial sector payoff. How about the military industrial complex?

They say if you aren't angry, then you aren't paying attention.

People often wonder why the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution were so brutal. How could ordinary French peasants and townsfolk cheer to see people they formerly respected as their "social betters" being marched to guillotine? How could the Bolsheviks be so hardhearted as to machine-gun to death the Tsar and his family, even the young children?

I think I might understand it.

Run-of-river "for profit" gets a kick in the bag

Oh goodness me, hard to believe.

The idea that we could produce self-sufficiency in hydro-electric power gets whacked?


Except, as our own Alison explains, it had diddly squat to do with self-sufficiency.

Oh yes, you thought "run-of-river" hydro power was a little flume-stock on a creek. Not likely. This is a major dam, on a major river, and if they don't get the water they need, they hold it back.

The graphic above is a run-of-river project. Omigod! That looks like a dam!

There ya go princess.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ships! We will have ships! Many ships...


Petey "Life Is Like A Box Of Chocolates" MacKay was making bold with his announcement of 50, that's right count 'em, fifty ships to be built in Canada by the Canadian shipbuilding industry.
Canada's shipbuilders have agreed to a radical change in the way contracts will be doled out by the federal government.
Good. Because the current system, the one streamlined by the Harper government, quite frankly, sucks. The Harper government has cancelled or shelved every single ship procurement contract on the books and have seriously jeopardized the frigate mid-life modernization.
The government plans to spend $40 billion over the next 30 years to build as many as 50 large ships, in addition to 70 ships under 1,000 tonnes that have been earmarked for revamps.
Let's start with the "50 large" number. On the shelf are naval requirements for three Joint Support Ships and six to eight Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels. That's it. The former project was cancelled and the latter is on hold after being seriously watered down. (Let's not play the eight number. If these things ever materialize, six will be the maximum number.)

There are no other actual new construction projects in play - not even on hold.

The Coast Guard Mid-Shore Patrol Vessel project and Off-Shore Fisheries Research Vessel project were both dropped at the same time as the Navy's JSS project. You might not have heard it because it was mumbled out of the side of some boffin's mouth. Whether these are included in the "50" raises a question. The proposed size of the MSPV (37 - 42) meters sounds very much like an under-1000 tonner to me. It doesn't qualify under MacKay's announcement. And nobody really knows if the OFRV was larger or just another version of the MSPV. Let's pretend that it was intended to be over 1000 tonnes.

That makes 11 total possible ships with project status, even though the Harper government dropped all of them. (After big, loud promises to build them and, yes, even more!)

Now let's look at another number. The "30" years.

That presumes that the same government will be in power for the next 30 years because, as anyone in the ship procurement business can tell you, when governments change, so do plans.

The Harper Conservatives have a best-before-date that won't give them 30 more weeks without having to go to the voters and the shipbuilders know that.

"There is going to be enough work with 50 ships on order for every shipyard in the country to be going full steam, and that's good news in terms of the economy," said Defence Minister Peter MacKay.
I'm calling bullshit on MacKay. There will never be 50 ships on order. MacKay is playing with words and numbers that would make a dishonest accountant blush. Notice, the absence of "over 30 years" in his pronouncement.

... a new process that theoretically will allow the government to pick and choose in a more direct way which Canadian shipyards will build which ships. The agreement is meant to end the often intense bickering that has killed some government contracts.
Which is hardly the "conservative" way. What happened to the good old conservative maxim of "let the market reign"? This sounds like government controlled, government subsidized shipyards.
The agreement itself still requires scores of questions to be answered and many details to be ironed out.
Bingo! And one of the details is, what happens Peter, old boy, when you get turfed out of office and the "50" number changes? What happens if over 30 years requirements change?

Enact legislation making it mandatory? Give it a try.

Alan Williams, former head of procurement for the Defence Department, called the deal historic.

"I think the notion for revisiting the government's shipbuilding policy makes good sense," he said.

However, he added that if the program is not managed properly it could become a disaster. He said the government needs to make the process transparent to ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely.

That seals the fate of any deal with Harper's hillbilly government. I shouldn't have to say this, but if I were a shipbuilding company or a head of procurement basing a decision on the need for good management, one look at the Harper government track record would send shivers down the spine of any rational individual.

It would be too limiting to call this announcement nothing but smoke and mirrors. It is, in actual fact, complete bullshit and MacKay is an empty shirt.

Intuition and survival

THE NEW YORK TIMES has a very interesting article by Benedict Carey, "In Battle, Hunches Prove to Be Valuable". It's a look at the experiences of the U.S. Army and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how a small segment of them are much more adept at finding and avoiding IED's and ambushes.

The United States military has spent billions on hardware, like signal jamming technology, to detect and destroy what the military calls improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, the roadside bombs that have proved to be the greatest threat in Iraq and now in Afghanistan, where Sergeant Tierney is training soldiers to foil bomb attacks. 

Still, high-tech gear, while helping to reduce casualties, remains a mere supplement to the most sensitive detection system of all — the human brain. Troops on the ground, using only their senses and experience, are responsible for foiling many I.E.D. attacks, and, like Sergeant Tierney, they often cite a gut feeling or a hunch as their first clue.

So, now, they're trying to find out more:

Everyone has hunches — about friends’ motives, about the stock market, about when to fold a hand of poker and when to hold it. But United States troops are now at the center of a large effort to understand how it is that in a life-or-death situation, some people’s brains can sense danger and act on it well before others’ do. 

Experience matters, of course: if you have seen something before, you are more likely to anticipate it the next time. And yet, recent research suggests that something else is at work, too. 

Small differences in how the brain processes images, how well it reads emotions and how it manages surges in stress hormones help explain why some people sense imminent danger before most others do.

• • • • 

The men and women who performed best in the Army’s I.E.D. detection study had the sort of knowledge gained through experience, according to a preliminary analysis of the results; but many also had superb depth perception and a keen ability to sustain intense focus for long periods. The ability to pick odd shapes masked in complex backgrounds — a “Where’s Waldo” type of skill that some call anomaly detection — also predicted performance on some of the roadside bomb simulations.


TASER™ media template

As reports of gratuitous TASER™ abuse by police pile up daily, here at The Beav we are pleased to provide this handy template to the media for all future TASER™ stories :
Officers who used a Taser on a ___ in a ___ found out only later he was ____ and didn't understand ____, police said Tuesday.
A spokesman for the Police Department said the officers' actions were justified
because the man was armed with a potential weapon -- a ____

In this story the blanks featured "man", "store bathroom where he worked", "deaf and mentally disabled", "what they wanted him to do" and "umbrella".

Previous options have included :
Blank A : new immigrant, young woman, 83 year old man, fare dodger, handcuffed child.
Blank B : airport, wedding party, hospital bed, Skytrain, jail cell
Blank C : distraught, pregnant, ill with pneumonia, mentally disabled, terrified
Blank D : English, what was being asked of them, ditto, ditto, ditto
Blank E : stapler, nothing, 3" knife, nothing, nothing.

There is apparently almost no situation that can't be further fucked up by a little escalation of farce.
At Taser International's annual bunfest this month, CEO Rick Smith explained:
"We are the new technology – it's splashy because of the electricity, you can make it scary."
Spaceman Spiff couldn't have put it any better.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Conservative yapper Bill Kristol gets his pants removed...

By Jon Stewart.

Kristol claims that Stewart trapped him somehow.

Somehow?! Stewart did it with maneouvre and exceptional skill. Kristol was, as usual, totally unarmed and unable to defend his ridiculous position.

Ridiculous? Yeah. Because if any American believes, based on the ruminations of the likes of a highly priviledged William Kristol, that single-payer health care doesn't deliver is listening to the wrong people.

Stewart didn't go where others had gone and attempt to defend the eleven different systems that exist under the Canadian scheme of health care. No, he took a road closer to home and pointed at the US, government-operated, military health care system. He dangled it in front of Kristol who was only too happy bite... until he realized there was a gigantic barbed hook attached and Stewart was ripping his gill plates out.
“So no public option, even though that’s good enough for the military — not good enough for the people of America?” Stewart asked.

“They do not deserve the same quality of health care the soldiers fighting deserve, and they [the soldiers] need all kinds of things we don’t need,” Kristol said.

“Are you saying that the American public shouldn’t have access to the same quality of health care that we give to our better citizens?” Stewart asked.

“To our soldiers? Yes, absolutely,” Kristol responded, to a chorus of boos from the audience.

An incredulous Stewart asked: “Really?”

Moments later, Kristol added that “one of the ways we make it up” to soldiers that they receive relatively low pay is by “giving them first class health care. The rest of us can go out and buy insurance.”

That’s when Stewart struck.

“Bill Kristol just said … that the government can run a first-class health care system and a government-run health care system is better than the private health care system.”

“You trapped me somehow,” a visibly uncomfortable Kristol responded.

Raw Story has the video, well worth the watch.

Kornkob Kory's election prediction.

Isn't it funny how they always put it on "The Family".

If I may project...

Little Kory sees an election being triggered this Fall. He's looked at the polling numbers and the "best scenario" stuff. He's been the front-man for a series of attack ads which have put this country into an endless election campaign. Canadians see the Conservatives as a pack of mean-spirited, lying, pricks who are unable to restrain themselves - even on the international stage.

Kory figures, one way or the other, he's going to lose his job before Christmas.

Better to tell lies for the ethanol producers and the oil industry.

Sweating one's (fill in appropriate body part) off

Right now, in British Columbia, it's hotter than the right element of my barbeque. When the temperature difference in Victoria is a mere 2 degrees C lower than a typically hot Kamloops, things are cooking. In fact, inland Vancouver Island is actually hotter at the time of writing than the BC southern interior.

Not that such a thing indicates anything truly abnormal. Meteorologically, this is a spot condition brought on by the existence of a strong high pressure ridge. Using this "heat wave" (by definition it doesn't yet qualify) as evidence of anything except a short term met anomaly would be wrong and, more extensively, dishonest.

If I were to engage in the typical head-in-the-sand, dumb-ass Rex Murphy approach, I could blast away that the ability to grease the sidewalk and fry an egg, in a place where that would usually be impossible, is proof of global warming. It isn't.

Meteorology differs from climatology in a number of different ways but, since I am rather involved in both, an easy demonstration is to look at the length of forecast.

To a meteorologist five days is a long time and the sustainability of a long-range forecast is difficult. Too much changes too fast to achieve a high level of accuracy over that "long term".

To a climatologist, three months is a very short time. Too short a time, in fact, on which to base any assumptions or arrive at any conclusions. Three years is better and a solid gauge is three centuries of data from which one might be able to forecast the next 20 years. That would be an ideal situation - if we could afford the time. The truth is, in terms of good data and verification of climate models, we have about 20 years worth of model hindcasting with which to make forecasts.

Stupidity enters the picture when some climate denier (self-labelled "skeptics") puts a finger on any given point of a climate model result and says "That didn't happen." True enough, but that's a "user" view of a weather forecast. Take a step back and look at the longer model result and the accuracy is remarkable. Further, when one of these clowns points at a model forecast "spike" event which occured either later or sooner than forecast they commit a heinous sin - they ignore the obvious trend which is a consistent rise in global temperature and the fact that, while the model might have gotten the precise date wrong, the event actually did occur.

This video, produced by Peter Sinclair provides information on the how and when of one particular model.

The problem of the swatting off of climate deniers is further exacerbated by their pointing at one portion of a larger event. The latest one being that "Arctic ice is increasing; not decreasing". That's cherry-picking of the highest order. The truth is quite different and the scientists explain.

Things become even more egregious when complete knobs like Mark Steyn enter the debate. Instead of anything resembling research or, for that matter, the lay reading of the research of others, Steyn offers this bit of dross.
Lowell Ponte (who I believe is an expert climatologist and, therefore, should have been heeded) wrote his bestseller, The Cooling: Has the new ice age already begun? Can we survive?
Yeah, well, as Paul Wells will happily point out, Steyn is "fact challenged" on almost any subject you want to name. But to suggest Lowell Ponte is an "expert climatologist" is a demonstration of where Steyn belongs when it comes to discussions on anthropogenic induced global warming: back in school. Lowell Ponte has never published anything scientific in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Anything. That's because he's not a scientist. His formal education is in English and Journalism with an equivalent in International Relations. For Steyn to suggest otherwise is either just plain dishonest or, (and I tend towards this), he's just plain too stupid and too lazy to actually check facts.

Steyn then goes on to quote University of Adelaide professor, Ian Pilmer. That's nice. I like Pilmer, in an abstract sort of way. He's probably an excellent geologist. His contribution to climate change research is considerably less collaborative than those closer to the coal face and his criticism of climate models brought a sharp rebuke from the scientific community at large. His suggestion that natural forces were not included in models is quite frankly not true. The first video above demonstrates that.

Enough of Steyn though. The prince of the deniers is Anthony Watts who created his surfacestations survey. What Watt's never tells you is that his supposedly damning survey actually has climate collection data from surface stations falling within the NOAA margin of error. A video was produced which essentially annihilated Watts' digital-camera theory and lo-and-behold, Watts executes a DMCA take-down.

As this diarist points out:
Well, the video must have been really on target -- it stung Anthony Watts so badly that he initiated a DMCA "takedown" action and got the "Watts Up With Watts" video removed from!
That's an assumption, but one can see how it is easily made.

So, no, this little spell of hot weather doesn't prove anything... except that it's hot at the moment. This, however, is something I watch closely. And despite the warped station data mythology issued by the likes of Watts, the data collection is carried out by satellites and ocean buoys. (I'm sure someone will produce a picture of an air conditioner exhausting onto a few of those eventually.)

Still, it should be fun to sit in the local Tim Horton's and listen to all the ball-cap and mullet festooned idiots who were pointing at last winter's snowfall as proof of global cooling attempt to explain why, on the northwest sea coast, the air conditioning can't keep up with the heat.

A little point: All these journalists and out-of-field contributors to the community of vocal deniers of scientific research need to get a definition straight. They are climate deniers - not skeptics. I am a skeptic. I expect several points of proof before I will allow myself to be sent down a road, and I always accept that I may encounter a dead end - when another bona fide researcher produces it. Attempting to gentrify your position only serves to strengthen mine given that you think denying the effects of global warming is somehow shameful. Wear it with pride and continue to believe - even if your heroes knew better and were intentionally lying to you.

Pomp and stomp on the Radcliffe Line

When the Border Commissions of Cyril Radcliffe decided on the border between Pakistan and India in 1947, he and his group of lawyers proceeded in true British colonial fashion - without a thought or care for the actual outcome.

The commission was comprised of lawyers, not boundary experts; the commission took no consultation from any previous boundary exercise; the commission had no survey information on which to base their final decision. Radcliffe had never even been to India before and, after finding the climate a bit tough, rushed to a decision in order to scurry back to England. Before he left, he destroyed all papers which might have provided a historical look into the considerations (if there were any) which led to the final lines drawn on the map.

What followed the drawing of the Radcliffe Line was a magnitude 5 human disaster.

In the end, one border crossing existed between Pakistan and India, at Wagah. The Grand Trunk Road passes through the village which is split by the border and is the only road crossing between the two countries.

Hostilities exist between India and Pakistan today. There are frequent border skirmishes and incessant nuclear sabre-rattling.

And there is a ceremony at Wagah. Something which demonstrates the animosity... right until the end, when a small bit of humanity creeps in.

Shatner does Sarah Palin

Sort of.

William Shatner is so much better.

Yes, there is something vaguely familiar about the Shatner touch with poetry. The, now famous, Rocketman by Bill Shatner.

H/T Gawker

Hmmm... If the embedded video of Shatner interpreting Palin doesn't work, go here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Money, Military and Madness . . . .

Currently I'm reading and just about to finish
The Sorrows of EMPIRE – Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic by Chalmers Johnson.

It's a great book with a look at US militarism and global monetary manipulation and their repercussions both at home and abroad. The author's explanation and history of the Pentagon's influence on US government policies is eye-opening for the those not familiar in the ways of Washington. Written in 2004, some of his references are uncanny in their relevance today.

Some excerpts follow as a teaser for you:

After the 1992 election, Cheney left the Defense Department, and between 1995 and 2000 he was the chief executive officer of Halliburton. Under his leadership, Brown & Root took in $2.3 billion in government contracts, almost double the $1.2 billion it earned from the government in the five years before Cheney arrived. Halliburton rebuilt Saddam Hussein's war-damaged oil fields for some $23.8 million, even though Cheney, secretary of defense during the first Gulf War, had been instrumental in destroying them. By 1999, Halliburton had become the biggest nonunion employer in the United States, although Wal-Mart soon replaced it. Cheney also appointed Dave Gibben, his chief of staff when he was at the Pentagon, as one of Halliburton's leading lobbyists. In 2001, Cheney returned to Washington as vice president, and Brown & Root continued to build, maintain, and protect bases from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf.

During Cheney's term as Halliburton's CEO, the company advanced from seventy-third to eighteenth on the Pentagon's list of top contractors. Its number of subsidiaries located in offshore tax havens also increased from nine to forty-four. As a result, Halliburton went from paying $302 million in company taxes in 1998 to getting an $85 million tax refund in 1999.


In other words, feed at the taxpayer's trough, but never replenish it. Perish the thought, that would be un-American! “Profit=Good, Taxes=Bad” . . . .


Dick Cheney, Bush Senior's secretary of defense and Bush Junior's vice president, helped broker the deal, while out of office, between Chevron and Kazakhstan as a member of Kazakhstan's Oil Advisory Board. James A. Baker III, former secretary of state, mastermind of the scheme to get the Supreme Court to appoint bush Junior president in 2001, and senior partner of the Houston and Washington law firm of Baker Botts, had a hand in the negotiations. Baker's firm maintains an office in Baku staffed by five attorneys. He is a member of the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce's advisory council, as is Cheney. During the 1990s the council's cochairman was Richard Armitage, a veteran administrator of the American-sponsored anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan during the 1980s and undersecretary of state in the second Bush administration. Brent Scowcroft, Rice's boss and mentor when he was Bush Senior's national security adviser, is a member of the board of Pennzoil, an active investor in the Caspian Sea oil consortia.


Is anyone else seeing a pattern here? High government positions and multi-national contracts. Who woulda thunk it ? ? ? ?


Clinton camouflaged his policies by carrying them out under the banner of “globalization.” this proved quite effective in maneuvering rich but gullible nations to do America's bidding – for example, Argentina – or in destabilizing potential rivals – for example, South Korea and Indonesia in the 1997 economic crisis – or in protecting domestic economic interests – for example, in maintaining the exorbitant prices of American pharmaceutical companies under cover of defending “intellectual property rights.” During the 1990s, the rationales of free trade and capitalist economics were used to disguise America's hegemonic power and make it seem benign or, at least, natural and unavoidable. The main agents of this imperialism were Clinton's secretary of the Treasury, Robert Rubin, and his deputy (today, president of Harvard University), Lawrence Summers. The United States ruled the world but did so in a carefully masked way that produced high degrees of acquiescence among the dominated nations.


Now where have we heard those last two names? Oh yeah, I know: Rubin was also a former Goldman Sachs and Citigroup big wheel and advisor to the current US president on the economic crisis, and Summers is actually a member of the current administration. Great how this is working out so far . . . .


Starting in approximately 1981, the United States introduced, under the cover of globalization, a new strategy intended to accomplish two major goals: first, to discredit state-assisted capitalism like Japan's and prevent its spread to any countries other than the East Asian NICs, which had already industrialized by following the Japanese model; and second, to weaken the sovereignty of Third world nations so that they would become even more dependent on the largesse of the advanced capitalist nations and unable to organize themselves as a power bloc to negotiate equitable with the rich countries.

The United States's chosen instruments for putting this strategy into effect were the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Like the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the World Bank and the IMF were created after World War II to manage the international economy and prevent a recurrence of the beggar-thy-neighbor policies of the 1930s. What has to be understood is that both the fund and the bank are actually surrogates for the U.S. Treasury. They are both located at 19th and H Streets, Northwest, in Washington, DC, and their voting rules ensure that they can do nothing without the approval of the secretary of the Treasury. The political scientist Thomas Ferguson compares the IMF to the famous dog in the RCA advertisements listening to “his master's voice” - the Treasury – on a Victrola.


Appears to be a bit incestuous, don't you think? Probably not too much of a problem, though. These guys are trustworthy, or they wouldn't be in these positions, right ? ? ? ?


Thus was born the weird phenomenon of “moral hazard,” meaning American bankers could make outrageously irresponsible loans without any risk of having to absorb the loss or make good the money they had mismanaged. Before it was over, the 1970s loan bonanza produced a disaster of exactly the sort Keynes and the reformers at the end of World War II had sought to avoid. Virtually every country in Africa and Latin America was deeply in debt. In August 1982, Jesus Silva Herzog, the Mexican minister of finance, announced that his country was bankrupt and would no longer be able to pay interest on any of its loans. Just as the bankers had assumed, the U.S. Government stepped in – not to save Mexico but to ensure that American banks did not collapse. At no time, then or later, did our government suggest that the people who made the bad loans bore some responsibility for the results.


Well, golly gee whiz. Where have we heard that tune before? Perhaps during the end of the bush regime and now at the beginning of the new one? One would think that learning by past mistakes would be a no-brainer, but I guess not . . . .

(Remember this book was written in 2004, not 2009.)


The United States was the architect of and main profiteer from these efforts. From 1991 to 1993, Lawrence Summers was the chief economist at the World Bank and the man who oversaw the tailoring of “austerity measures” to each country that needed a loan. He decided exactly what a country had that Washington wanted to open up. On December 12, 1991, Summers became notorious for a leaked memo to senior officials of the bank encouraging polluting industries in the rich nations to relocate to the less developed countries. He wrote, “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage countries is impeccable and we should face up to that.” Brazil's secretary of environment, Jose Lutzenburger replied, “The best thing that could happen would be for the Bank to disappear.”


There's that Summers guy's name again. What's he doing nowadays? Oh yeah, he's currently the Director of the White House's National Economic Council. This oughta work out just great . . . .

As my friends hear me say on a semi-regular basis:

We're doomed! Doomed!”

Get the book or check it out at your local library like I did.

Tell your friends . . . .

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

Ancient History

ONCE UPON A TIME, starting in the mid 30's, five Cambridge students were recruited by the NKVD: H.A.R. (Kim) Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, John Cairncross and Anthony Blunt. They were amazing, unique characters living in an amazing, unique era, when "isms were wasms", and loyalties were passionate, and they came to be known, once their treason had been discovered as The Cambridge Five

It is now 25 years since Anthony Blunt's death, and the British Library has released a 30,000 word memoir, written by Blunt as a somewhat evasive apology.

Blunt wrote the 30,000-word document after former prime minister Margaret Thatcher exposed his treachery in 1979. 

The revelations had led to a man who had worked as Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures being stripped of his knighthood. 

His version of events was given to the library in 1984, the year after his death, on condition that it was not displayed for 25 years. 

In it, he describes his recruitment by Moscow: "I found that Cambridge had been hit by Marxism and that most of my friends among my junior contemporaries - including Guy Burgess - had either joined the Communist Party or were at least very close to it politically."

The most interesting thing to my mind, is the complete lack of detail on his WW2 activities, both in his memoir, and in the literature about the Cambridge Five. Why? Some sources have stated that in May-June 1945, immediately after the German capitulation, Blunt went into Germany at the behest of the Royal family to obtain "documents" that would confirm Eddie the 8th's (and Wallie's) treasonous dealings with the Nazis, after his abdication, when they moved to France, and later, Portugal.

Thus, some contend, as a result of pulling the Windsors' chestnuts out of the fire, the Intelligence establishment refrained from any punitive action, when his treason came to their attention, probably in the late 50's, as a follow-up to inquiries about Burgess, Maclean and Philby.

Will we ever know? Probably not. Some interesting Cabinet papers do exist in the UK, but they have "Do Not Open Until" — dates vary, like 2020+. Oh well, we've got CSIS (Can't See Intelligent Solutions) to keep us entertained, so time will pass.

Declare an operational pause,

Give everyone a 30 leave and wait for summer to cool. Then come back and start over.

Last week a French Foreign Legion unit stationed at Carpaigne near the southern French port of Marseille was conducting a live-fire exercise and let loose a few tracer rounds into a forested area around the camp. The problem was, the forest fire hazard level was "extreme".

French soldiers have been branded "imbeciles" for firing shells into parched woodland - and sparking a massive forest blaze that threatened up to 1000 homes.

The Foreign Legion unit started one of the worst fires in recent years when it blasted tracer ammunition into tinder dry trees at their base near Marseille.

At about the same time, the Russian Navy was preparing to celebrate Navy Day in the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok. Things didn't go quite as well as hoped.

A missile fired from a military vessel during a Navy Day parade rehearsal has hit an apartment block in the Far Eastern city of Vladivistok, Russia.

News agencies said the missile hit a nine-storey block of flats in Leonova Street, but that noone was injured. Other reports said the missile fell a meter short of the building, leaving a wide crater on the ground and breaking the windows of the ground floor apartments.

In the profession of arms, shit happens. Usually because someone executed a really stupid idea.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Elizabeth II and the economists

As Ma'am is no doubt aware...

A group of eminent economists has written to the Queen explaining why no one foresaw the timing, extent and severity of the recession.

The three-page missive, which blames "a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people", was sent after the Queen asked, during a visit to the London School of Economics, why no one had predicted the credit crunch.

Signed by LSE professor Tim Besley, a member of the Bank of England monetary policy committee, and the eminent historian of government Peter Hennessy, the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Observer, tells of the "psychology of denial" that gripped the financial and political world in the run-up to the crisis.

...some people have been talking about it for years.

Hmm, while she's at it perhaps HRH could ask her Canadian ministers (through a court if necessary) why they appear to be going out of their way to violate the Charter rights and endanger the lives and wellbeing of her brown-skinned Canadian subjects abroad.

The lips are different

Dr. Dawg asks, "who is Lawrence Cannon?", wondering if 'Mr. Cannon' is really a Canadian and not some sort of imposter.

The question has bugged me since I read it. I keep thinking that I've seen that face somewhere before. Only I think the lips the lips and hair are a little different. Still, they might want to double check that guy in The Hague.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wrong Answer!

Seems the pony soldiers and their current federal bosses have a bit of a problem with Braidwood's recommendations. Surprise, surprise. Comments mine.

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Tim Shields said it's too early to say whether the RCMP will comply with the Heed's directive to adopt Braidwood's recommendations immediately. "Although the RCMP is B.C.'s provincial police service, it's also Canada's national police service. Recommendations that are sweeping, involving training and policy, will also affect RCMP right across the country," Shields said. That non-committal approach was echoed by federal Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan in Ottawa.

"I am asking [You're ASKING?!?! You mean like giving them the option of refusing? Jesus.] the RCMP to review the findings and recommendations... with the objective of improving upon current RCMP policies and procedures with respect to Taser use," Van Loan said following the release of the first Braidwood report. B.C.'s contract with the RCMP is up in 2012, and Braidwood wants the province to require the federal force to comply with provincial guidelines before renewing the agreement.

Heed said it's premature to start talking about consequences if it doesn't. "We're operating from the position that we will get some kind of agreement with respect to that and we will try to enshrine it in the contract," Heed said.

Perhaps it's time BC fired the RCMP and got its own provincial force. Maybe the rest of the provinces too. Let the RCMP stick to something harmless like riding horses in circles. As for the Conservatives, can't they do anything without a court order? Useless, the lot of them.

UPDATE: Cathie coins a term: "Police Entitlement Syndrome" or PES. Known to afflict police, politicians and the general public, symptoms include but are not limited to victim blaming, uniform fetishism, machine fetishism, weapon fetishism, state sanctioned violence, lying, cover-up, and cognitive dissonance. Provisional treatments include radical institutional reform aimed at securing substantive civilian oversight and redress procedures, as well as internal police organisational culture change. These treatments, however, are in short supple due to a significant dearth of democracy resulting from socially and politically entrenched power inequalities and hegemonic ideologies.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Sudan will be your Guantanamo" CSIS told Abdelrazik

Abousfian Abdelrazik spoke out this morning about his exile, his torture, the false charges against him, the harrassment of his dying Canadian wife and her family by CSIS before he returned to Sudan to care for his ailing mother in 2003.
He could identify by sight, he told us, the Canadian agents who questioned him while he was in captivity in Sudan, including the one who told him "Sudan will be your Guantanamo" and that he was never coming home.
He describes being interrogated in Sudan in 2008 by Foreign Affairs parliamentary secretary Deepak Obhrai, who questioned him about Osama bin Laden and what he thought of Israel.
I watched it on tv.
Paul Koring, Dr. Dawg, and Kady were there.
There's a sense in which this case is more important than that of Maher Arar in terms of how Canadians, at least Muslim Canadians, can expect to be treated by our government, and whether CSIS can legitimately be said to be under anyone's control any more.
There was no US middleman here, no wiggle room in which Canadian intelligence agencies could claim to have been overpowered or misled or shut out of the proceedings by US security forces.
This one is all ours.
In the meantime, Abdelrazik is still on that 1267 UN blacklist : he cannot work, he cannot receive money or medical attention, he cannot fly, he cannot receive gifts.
He is currently an exile in Canada.
UPDATE : "NDP foreign-affairs critic Paul Dewar called on the government to launch a public inquiry even more far reaching than the judicial probe into the imprisonment and torture in Syria of Maher Arar. ... there was no middle man," Dewar said.
Deepak Obhrai is currently away in Asia.

Kucinich and Cronkite : Department of Peace

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thin Man?

Riding home from work, I was listening to the lawyer of alleged disgraced moneyjuggler Earl Jones, discussing how Jones has been in Canada for 10 days, how he is suicidal, depressed, and afraid of being attacked or killed.

What I did not hear was anyone else stating, much less proving, that Jones is in fact in Canada, or even alive. I found the horrible denouement of the Hammett novel "The Thin Man" rising in my consciousness like a body out of a lake.

So, I will listen with interest to what happens next, hoping no-one has to dig up the cellar floor.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Now, you know

Tobacco Smoke Enema (1750s-1810s)
The tobacco enema was used to infuse tobacco smoke into a patient’s rectum for various medical purposes, primarily the resuscitation of drowning victims. A rectal tube inserted into the anus was connected to a fumigator and bellows that forced the smoke towards the rectum. The warmth of the smoke was thought to promote respiration, but doubts about the credibility of tobacco enemas led to the popular phrase “blow smoke up one’s ass.”

More Taser(tm) madness downunder

Oh come on Australia!

Police say they used the Taser on Ronald Mitchell, 36, when he ran at them carrying a container of petrol and a cigarette lighter.

They said that Mr Mitchell, who lives in a remote Aboriginal community, had been sniffing petrol. They suggested the cigarette lighter started the fire.

Mr Mitchell is in a critical condition in hospital with third degree burns.

Mr Mitchell's sister told The Australian newspaper that her brother had been sniffing petrol.

"He must have put petrol on his face, then the policeman shot him with the Taser, that's when the flames happened," she said.

Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said Mr Mitchell was a known violent offender, and defended the police officers' deployment of the Taser.

He told reporters: "The only other choice they would have had is to use a police-issue firearm, and the consequences would almost certainly have been far more grave."

He said the police internal affairs department would investigate the incident, saying there was "a very strong possibility that the fire was caused by the lighter in the hand of the offender".

Taking a page from our four horsemen, I'm sure. Word of advice to the Western Aussie cops: Try not to blame the victim from the start, it'll only make it worse later.

WIngnut colonels, PoWs, and recurrent themes

(h/t RT)
Supporting the troops, US wingnut style (and this, from one their own!):

Wow. Let's unpack this: Retired US Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters, citing unverifiable hearsay gossip has essentially disowned and advocated the murder of Private Bergdahl because by the enemy 1) the soldier a p p a r e n t l y just wandered off base and this somehow equates to desertion, 2) got his weak self captured, 3) didn't follow a Hollywood script of defiance or the standard name-rank-service number-DoB when he found himself before a Taliban camera, and 4) was probably some sort of commie pinko queer anyway. Further, I can't seem to find anything that suggests Peters has ever seen a shot fired in anger, let alone spent times in the custody of a wartime enemy. However, I'm sure his armchair must feel like Colditz some days, so he clearly knows what life is like as a prisoner.

A bit of googling finds this man is something a violence afficionado and logic pretzler:
The paradox is that our humane approach to warfare results in unnecessary bloodshed. Had we been ruthless in the use of our overwhelming power in the early days of conflict in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the ultimate human toll—on all sides—would have been far lower. In warfare of every kind, there is an immutable law: If you are unwilling to pay the butcher’s bill up front, you will pay it with compound interest in the end. Iraq was not hard; we made it so.
Hmm, I thought that whole "shock and awe" thing was about "overwhelming power"... Anyway, moving along, Peters' likes lots of violence against the enemy real quick like, got that. He even takes this thinking beyond the realm of the battlefield, and feels the military should also attack domestic media:
Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media. Perceiving themselves as superior beings, journalists have positioned themselves as protected-species combatants. But freedom of the press stops when its abuse kills our soldiers and strengthens our enemies. Such a view arouses disdain today, but a media establishment that has forgotten any sense of sober patriotism may find that it has become tomorrow’s conventional wisdom.
So I guess it is no surprise he feels, it seems through his somewhat paradoxic and twisted logic, that the enemy should be used to cull friendly soldiers who fall into their hands because these troops are too weak and/or stupid and their loss will only harden the rest of the army who must then go on to smash that same enemy with as much violence and blood as possible. Perhaps here is a good spot to introduce this juicy little morsel:
After graduating from Penn State University, he enlisted, at age 23, as a private with two flat feet, curved spine, and intermittent asthma. "The military was so desperate in 1976, that's why I got in."

I'll let the psychologists in the audience do the sums here.

Of course the lighter- than-air-colonel Peters, is being entirely consistent with the mission of what I can only assume is some form of Wingnut Internationale. I mean, if you look at the behaviour of our governing sadists up here, if you get yourself in trouble, they'll just make it worse, or if you aren't in trouble already but happen to belong to a cohort they don't like for political reasons, personal life-philosophy, or just plain old bigotry, they'll find some trouble for you.

And just so we're clear, if there is any doubt about the utter bollocks of Fox/Ralph Peters' sick, twisted, macho shitpumping, identical situations occurred in the first Gulf War with captured British and American aircrew and a completely different (ie "normal" or "sane") reaction from the media - watch the footage below:

AFTERTHOUGHT: As I mentioned at JJ's deserting in a theatre like Afghanistan sems a bit like deciding to exit an airliner in flight. The notion is absurd. However, if not deserting in a combat zone on the other side of the planet might be more of a sign of mental health or deeper contextual problems.

Con-sular services

Once upon a time I had a late evening date with the official security forces of an otherwise beautiful South East Asian country. Canada has no consular representation in that country, so the Australian embassy handles Canadians needing assistance.

After dressing my wounds, and locating my terrified travelling companion, I headed to the Australian embassy. Their assistance and advice proved to be invaluable in both advising me of the best course of action and securing replacement cash. The key piece of advice they gave me was to not, under any circumstances, approach the local police about this as I would likely be disappeared.

Now, after reading two posts this morning at Dr. Dawg's, (here and here), I am left seriously wondering if had the embassy been Canadian, whether I would have been turned over to local authorities and vanished. If my skin were a little darker than my northwest European ancestory allows, I don't think there would be any doubt about my fate.

The policy standard emerging from Conservative government is to side with the local authorities (no matter how diabolical) under all circumstances. Indeed, it seems to go farther than that, where the policy is now to actively or passively assist local authorities in their efforts against Canadian citizens in trouble. This goes beyond any measure of objective statecraft. Senior members of DFAIT up to and including the minister are now taking a personal and active extra-judicial role in the fate of individual Canadians.

I've picked a lot of apples. Fuji apples are susceptible to a particular form of core rot where they look healthy and feel firm on the outside, but cut one open and the inside is a slimy rotten pulp. An experienced picker can detect a hollowness in the fruit through his or her fingers indicating this condition. These must be dropped to the ground or otherwise discarded as they are unfit for human consumption.

The Weatherill Report oozes into summer

The report of the inquiry into the listeriosis outbreak last year is slowly working its way to the streets. The way the initial "leak" is being reported by CTV it would give you the impression that food inspection had always been deficient in Canada.

That impression would be wrong.

Food inspection and the safety of the food supply was a responsibility of the federal government which was dumped as a part of the ideological shift imposed by the Harper government. Those who died or became ill were the collateral damage of the Harper push to get rid of government.

In order to understand that, you need some context. Right here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More on the Juche Joint

THE WASHINGTON POST has a disturbing article by Blaine Harden on the giant Gulag system that has been operating for some fifty years in Socialist Wonderland. 

A distillation of testimony from survivors and former guards, newly published by the Korean Bar Association, details the daily lives of 200,000 political prisoners estimated to be in the camps: Eating a diet of mostly corn and salt, they lose their teeth, their gums turn black, their bones weaken and, as they age, they hunch over at the waist. Most work 12- to 15-hour days until they die of malnutrition-related illnesses, usually around the age of 50. Allowed just one set of clothes, they live and die in rags, without soap, socks, underclothes or sanitary napkins. 

The camps have never been visited by outsiders, so these accounts cannot be independently verified. But high-resolution satellite photographs, now accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, reveal vast labor camps in the mountains of North Korea. The photographs corroborate survivors' stories, showing entrances to mines where former prisoners said they worked as slaves, in-camp detention centers where former guards said uncooperative prisoners were tortured to death and parade grounds where former prisoners said they were forced to watch executions. Guard towers and electrified fences surround the camps, photographs show.

Sad, and forgotten.

Tired old thieves

A difference (there are many), dear Conrad, between "tired lefties" and common thieves is that one group tends to end up in prison (or worse) for their political thinking, and the other for taking that to which they are not entitled. Further, the prison writing by old leftists tends to be anything but tired, and is apparently of much greater calibre than name calling squeals by fancified fascist fraudsters.

This is a drill...

If this were a real emergency, it would look more like a nail gun.

Basically, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), under the US Department of Homeland Security, will be carrying out a top level national exercise (now known as a tier 1 exercise) to test intelligence and information sharing among various federal, state, county and other agencies, presumably right down to publicly employed dog-catchers.

As big a deal as this may appear, these things are paper exercises with an operational function added. In short, local command centres will be activated to see if they... you know... work. Once it's over, all the stuff goes back into the container until the batteries die in the portable radios and the emergency water bottles go dry.
NLE 09 will be an operations-based exercise to include: activities taking place at command posts, emergency operation centers, intelligence centers and potential field locations to include federal headquarters facilities in the Washington D.C. area, and in federal, regional, state, tribal, local and private sector facilities in FEMA Region VI, which includes the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
Note: Of the areas included, neither Arizona nor Alaska are involved. Those states are in FEMA regions IX and X respectively. This exercise is taking place in region IV.

That little fact, however, didn't stop the wingnuts from crawling out of their sandholes. The Arizona Citizens Militia gives this exercise in paper shuffling and "can you hear me now" production the Michelle Malkin treatment - along with a suprising connection.
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has announced that she will leave office on 26 July 2009, one day before the start of the FEMA National Level Exercise 2009
Because, according to this group of "concerned" citizens, she knows what is going to happen. According to the group, which offers Alphie Omega training (no shit!), Palin knows that she was going to be rounded up and put into a concentration camp with all the other wingnuts on 27 July.

It gets better.

Canada, having an obvious surfeit of combat troops laying around doing nothing except dreaming about their next rotation to sunny Afghanistan, is apparently involved.
The Obamunist White House has directed that armed Canadian, Australian, British, and mexican troops will be on our streets.
Do we need passports, or will an enhanced driver's licence do the trick? And really... Mexico is capitalized; so is Mexican.

Apparently the Arizona Citizens Militia will upgrade to "ribbon" status right after work this coming Friday. That should give them enough time to down a half-dozen chili beers before the spouses start lighting up the cell-phone system with advice that "Dinner is now being kept warm in the oven. And dinner was a green salad."

The wealth of fun at the ACM site is almost too much to handle. The Yosemite Sam quote did me in. And I've got a busy week ahead.

You may have read it here first, but I read it at Jesus' General.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Moyers on Health Care . . . .

Once again, Bill Moyers of PBS puts current events in their respective places.

His essay this week was on the winners and losers in the debate over US health care "reform."

If anyone has doubts that there will be substantial "reform" I'm with 'ya. There is WAY too much $$ involved on the corporate side to allow it. That $$ funnelled to elected "representative's" political campaign funds was and is not $$ wasted. Politicians know it, lobbyists know it, political "talking heads" know it and the for-profit health industry knows it.

So why does the MSM continue to report the story like there is actually a snowball's chance in hell of "reform"? Probably the same reason they:

Insisted there were meaningful debates during the presidential campaign;
Had wall to wall coverage of Michael Jackson's death;

Cover Britney Spears' lastest breakdown ad nauseum;

Convince everyone to run for cover from
swine flu H1N1;
Warn that professional sports is coming to an end due to steroid use by the athletes;

Blah, blah, blah, blah blah.*

It all boils down to ratings/commercial ad rates which - as is the case with the for-profit health industy - means profit$.

They're all playin' for the same team.

Wanna know who the losers are gonna be in this "debate"?

Look around. Unless you're in the corporate boardroom, you are . . . .

(As a side note, can you imagine Walter Crokite reporting on MJ's funeral or BS' breakdowns in any way, shape or form? Nah, me neither . . . . )

(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)

One small step...

Frankly I think the Onion headline understates it.

40 years ago, June 20, 1969, humans walked on the Moon. The MOON. Maybe you've seen it? Big yellow thing in the sky? said to hit your eye like a big pizza pie? Yeah, that thing. As a species, we've been there and done that. We went to The Moon.

In the history of human endevour, that is still the big one, our greatest technological achievement. Seriously, the Pyramids - mere sandcastles. The artificial heart - a bit of biomechanical clockwork. Splitting the atom - okay, impressive and dangerous, but also some pretty nasty side effects. The computer and the internet - yeah, just like the human brain, 90% of it is used for porn. Cracking the code and mapping human DNA is going to be a bigger and bigger deal as time goes by, but if you told DaVinci or Newton or Galileo about it, they wouldn't know what you were talking about. If you told them "Len, Issac, Gal - we went to the moon" they would be all "no way! that's fucking amazing! Holy crap, wait until we tell the Pope - he'll freak out!"

I don't mean to disparage the early astronauts: Guys like Yuri Gagarin and the Right Stuff boys were beyond brave - early space travel was a dicey business that involved getting shot into the sky in a box built by the lowest bidders - or the astronauts currently living in the International Space Station, who are still a long way from home. Manned satellites are going to become more and more common and the zero gravity/vacuum enviroment has enormous industrial and scientific potential. But we're talking about the difference between sailing up and down the coast and sailing across the ocean. In orbit, you go round and round the Earth, the Apollo 11 boys actually went someplace. I feel sorrier for Michael Collins than just about anyone - imagine going all that way and having to wait in the car.

All the reasons people invariably give for opposing space exploration - it's too expensive, it's a "waste" of resources, more pressing problems on the ground - are all reasons to go to space. Space exploration costs a fraction of what is spent on the military. The money spent in Iraq probably would have bankrolled a Mars colony. This rock we live on is eventually going to run out of resources, no matter how careful we are. We will eventually use up all the oil, all the iron, all the water - you name it we will run out of it sooner or later, including real estate and elbow room- so we better get out there and find some more. A lot of those more pressing problems are likely to be solved by technological development driven by space exploration and colonization - and if they can't be, it might be nice if humanity had a lifeboat.

40 years ago, we finally proved we didn't need to keep all of humanity's eggs in one increasingly fragile basket. Why no further progress has really been made is anyone's guess. Financial costs have a lot to do with it, but NASA is the rare government effort that has actually made money (You think all those communication satellites were put in orbit for free?). The only reason we don't have permanent manned bases on the moon, launching manned missions to Mars is a lack of political will. We could have done it by the mid 80s or at least the mid 90s if we as a species hadn't been busy squandering money on ways to exterminate ourselves via the nuclear arms race.

So we went to the Moon and all we got was this lousy, soon-to-be-shut-down space shuttle program and the nobody seems that interested in going back at the moment except the Indians and Chinese. We left behind some probes and a couple of golf balls and and worst of all, a plaque with Richard Nixon's name on it. We should at least go back to clean up that kind of embarrasing shit.

There are even people out there whacked out enough to think that Capricorn One was based on a true story and that we never landed on the moon. Their tiny minds just can't handle the idea that his is something humans could have done. I think Buzz "the second man on the moon" Aldrin deals with such critics in the most appropriate way.