Tuesday, May 31, 2011

At the going down of the sun...

With condolences and respect to the family and friends of Bombardier Karl Manning, 5e Régiment d'artillerie légère du Canada, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, Valcartier Quebec.

Honi soit qui mal y pense 


Generation moxie

This is fascinating.

A group of more than 200 Japanese pensioners are volunteering to tackle the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power station.The Skilled Veterans Corps, as they call themselves, is made up of retired engineers and other professionals, all over the age of 60. They say they should be facing the dangers of radiation, not the young.
It was while watching the television news that Yasuteru Yamada decided it was time for his generation to stand up. No longer could he be just an observer of the struggle to stabilise the Fukushima nuclear plant. The retired engineer is reporting back for duty at the age of 72, and he is organising a team of pensioners to go with him.

"I am 72 and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live," he says.
"Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance of getting cancer."
Mr Yamada is lobbying the government hard for his volunteers to be allowed into the power station. The government has expressed gratitude for the offer but is cautious.
I find myself wondering if this could or would happen here? Would something like this be too unpalatable for the young to let the old participate? Or would the old not form such a movement, thinking the response is best left to younger professionals?

It would be interesting to see how our risk adverse, highly individualist culture would respond to such a proposal here.

Can you imagine...

...a world without cell phones?

Using cellphones is considered a possible cause of malignant brain cancer, an international panel of scientists says.
"The WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use," the group said in a statement Tuesday from Lyon, France.
"Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings," said IARC director Christopher Wild, "it is important that additional research be conducted into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands-free devices or texting."
I grew up without them, but took the city bus not long ago and it was for whatever reason, packed with school children. They were maybe between 7 and 12. Most of them had a mobile or smart-phone and were actively using it.

At $200 to $700 a pop, these devices are not something my parents could have afforded even if they did exist at the time.

Mass cell-phone use has not been around long enough to know for certain the long-term health ramifications of these. With reports of radio-cancers like this one, might we see our confirmation born out in the coming decades through spikes in certain types of cancers?

Is it worth the risk to keep using cellphones despite these concerns? Could we stop using them given the dependency of much of our economic activity on their use?

They're a bit like fossil energy aren't they? We won't stop burning ancient sunlight and poisoning our lands, seas and skies even though the impacts of these activities might very well do-in the very civilisation that produced them.

A comment from George . . .

George Mortimore - Goldstream News Gazette has some observations on Stevie that are worth consideration:

Sixty per cent of active Canadian voters rejected Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Yet there he is, managing Canada.

The “60 percenters” can modify Harper’s hidden agenda, which is in plain sight.

Job No. 1 for Harper is weakening the power of parliamentary government while strengthening the prime minister’s power to command and control and slashing social programs.

He is aiming at the weak-government target just as steadily now as he did when he was a leader of the far-right-wing Reform and Alliance. He tried to kill a national campaign for cheaper and more readily obtainable medicines. Stopping federal work on a national pharmaceutical strategy (NPS) was one of Harper’s moves as a minority prime minister.

Luckily for patients who need medicines, the provinces met in August 2010 and went ahead on their own with planning. They created a flexible new federation, overlying the rigid, rusted-up federal structure.

Even without Ottawa’s participation, NPS seems tricky but achievable. What will it take to persuade Harper to offer co-ordination and startup money?

Encouragement by the NDP opposition might do it. National pharmacare, including reduced prices through mass purchasing, might save $10 billion a year, the NPS draft documents suggest.

Harper wants weaker government and cheaper social programs. Jack Layton wants to make public health care increasingly efficient and sensitive.

This particular conflict could be diplomatically settled, but the policy gulf between Harperism and the majority of Canadians remains wide and deep.

Majority opinion favours public health care, and mainstream expert analysis shows how public care can be upgraded; but Harper continues to trash popular and scholarly input and encourage provinces to privatize.

So how did a parliamentary majority of Conservatives get elected? Mainly because of Harper’s clever electioneering, with its false “trust me” message implying that Conservative management kept Canada’s banks and economy safe from U.S.-style panic. In fact Canada’s greater financial stability was determined long ago by stricter regulation, a policy that runs counter to Harper’s “free market” preference.

It's going to be interesting . . .

Monday, May 30, 2011

One of these things does not belong ...

Harper, Obama talk plans for perimeter security

Manley, CEOs, propose details on perimeter security

CATSA airport security screening measures tightened

Government of Canada enhances aviation security

CATSA lays off 15 to 20% of airport security screeners

The Cons have directed every airport in Canada to reduce its security screeners by 15-20%

Vancouver International Airport - 120 screening officers laid off May 16th

Greater Toronto Airports Authority - 400 laid off

Montreal Pierre-Elliott Trudeau airport - 80 laid off

Ottawa International Airport - 11 laid off

Calgary and Edmonton - 15% reduction in screening staff
Hey, I'll bet the screening staff reductions are because they'll be using those new full-body scanners instead ...
Chair of the BC Association of Aerospace Workers :
"newly purchased multi-million dollar full body scanners will be left unmanned and unused ... because there is just not enough staff to operate them."
And you just know that even if we all consented to having Trusted Traveller barcodes tattooed on our foreheads, you still wouldn't be allowed to board if you're packing Astroglide, although apparently handcuffs are still ok.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Creativity . . .

Pachelbel is so pleasing. Canon in D played on glass harp by Robert Tiso. The first voice is the cello part (bottom right), Clockwise there is 1st, 2nd and 3rd violin. Enjoy.

New Blog Flog: Thinking Aboot

Thinking Aboot by Steve! Blogs on the Habs and some righteous social and political commentary. Give 'im a read!

The G8 meets Stephen Harper

Change is sweeping the Middle-East and the old walls are crumbling. The masters of the universe at the G8 seem to understand this and wish to convey as much to the world. Well, most of them. Not that Stephen Harper asshole from Canada.

Stephen Harper blocked G8 leaders from declaring in their summit statement that Middle East peace talks should be based on returning to Israel’s pre-war 1967 borders, plus negotiated land swaps.
U.S. President Barack Obama had made that stand a key part of his campaign to re-launch peace talks, making the call for talks based on 1967 borders in a May 19 speech that was endorsed by most leaders of the Group of Eight countries gathered here.

Hint to G8: Next time just don't invite him.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"failure to comply with a probation order"

Ah, so it seems - if I'm reading this right - that in this age of terrorism paranoia induced genital pat-downs, full-body scanners, personal data-sharing with foreign governments, no-fly lists, and other knicker-knotting craziness, you can still get a job as a subcontracted CATSA airport screener while you're on probation.

"In the days following the first arrest, an intensive RCMP investigation uncovered a conspiracy to export MDMA through the Vancouver airport. The conspiracy allegedly involved two uniformed pre-board screening officers working for a company contracted by CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Security Authority)," said the statement.
Ten days later, the RCMP arrested Gurvinder Singh Pahl, 24, of Richmond, and Ajitpal Singh Judge, 31, of Surrey, on charges of trafficking in a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, conspiracy to traffic in a controlled substance, and breach of trust. Pahl is facing an additional charge of failure to comply with a probation order.
Epic fail.

Rivers and Bridges


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Disaster response, Con-style

Ottawa is withdrawing the troops from flood clean-up in Quebec. The locals, naturally, are less than pleased. It isn't beyond the Harper government to "punish" Quebec for voting orange instead of blue but that's not so much the part that gets me. It is the reference to the exchange of letters between Vic Toews and the Quebec government that got my goat.
The Quebec government has released an exchange of letters with Ottawa, where Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the military would not help with the cleanup.
Toews suggested that the military's role includes placing sandbags to protect property, but not picking up sandbags to clean up.
Toews also explained that the military should not stay behind because, if it performed any cleanup work, it would be competing with the private sector.
He wrote that he and MacKay had agreed on the subject — and, as a result, he never even transferred Quebec's request to the defence minister.
The military role in aid to the civil power, disaster response, ends when it smacks into a possible business opportunity?  Since fucking when?

A rumour went around the troops during the Ice Storm of 1998 that Ontario Hydro was preventing Canadian Forces electricians and linesmen from restoring power to various areas because the former wanted the overtime hours. The military gets paid the same regardless. I have no idea if it was true, but that sort of selfishness pissed us off something fierce. Now, if this reads right, the Cons seem to be trying to privatize disaster response.

Here's a little bit of reasoning I was going to include in a different post. Climate change is inducing extreme weather events which are very likely worsen in the coming years. This month we've seen Slave Lake torched and major flooding in two provinces requiring military intervention. The Americans this month have lost entire towns and suffered three-figure mortality from tornadoes. Because we live in developed nations, we have an awful amount of "property" vulnerable to these events. More property and more severe environmental phenomena mean more deployments of the armed forces in response to natural disasters.

Thus domestic disaster response will be an increasingly important task for the armed forces in the coming years, utilising significant numbers of troops. The Ice Storm saw 15 000 soldiers mobilised, along with countless firefighters, police, hydro workers, and other skilled public services.

If the Conservative response to these events is to look for the 'market-based solution' or attempt to punish regions for not voting for them, they will exacerbate the severity of problem.

Then again, this is the MO of that class and we shouldn't be surprised.

The end of Canadian democracy

The removal of the per-vote subsidy for party funding is back on. CBC commenter bluevladivostok probably sums up some of the baser sentiments behind the move.

Elated to see that for the first time in a long time, Conservatives reign supreme in Parliament.

NDP are mere benchwarmers.

Liberals have become impotent.

The Bloc have been slayed.

The Greens are just for appearances.

And for four more years! I love it!!!
It is fair to assume that this is only the beginning. In the next four years the Conservatives will do everything they can to destroy the opposition parties' capacity to defeat or resist them.

Meanwhile, at least one of the major opposition parties is spending its days mumbling at its navel about which leader will return it to its former glory.

Plastic army men

Sociological Images highlights the following take on the ubiquitous plastic army men so many of us played with as children. I'll repeat the SI's "trigger warning for those sensitive to war, suicide, domestic violence, or people suffering from war-related ptsd."

Whinging Wind-ows

I haven't used the Windows OS for any significant length of time since I bought my first Mac about 7 years ago. However, I've recently put it on my machine so I can run some specific data analysis software that for reasons of capitalism only works with Windows.

So I find myself for the umpteenth time in the past fortnight not analysing data, but watching the green "Installing updates..." bar move across the screen at a snail's pace. If it isn't Windows itself demanding the update, it's the anti-virus program. Oh look, clicking the "click here to restart" button in the software update program generates an error message that says Windows can't restart until I close the update program where I clicked the restart button.

Madness. This is madness (Albeit madness that gives me a few minutes to blog about it).

I wonder if anyone has looked at the social psychology of the mass use of the Windows OS.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Via Kung Fu Monkey.

Volcanic Eruption in Grimsvotn, Iceland May 21 2011 from Jon Gustafsson on Vimeo.

Boiling a CADPAT frog

This is gonna sound harsh.

Pimps, gangs, and cults all prey on the vulnerable. Their recruitment methods follow a similar pattern: show the presents and flattery, draw them in with welcome arms, slowly co-opting their trust and confidence. Eventually they'll be brainwashed putty and can be convinced to do all sorts of nasty things.

In the 1990s the animosity in the Canadian Forces toward the Liberal governments of that time. Somalia and the Airborne Regiment, the mess in the Balkans, budget cuts, the perceived lack of public support for the institution all took their toll. As I recall the feelings of bitterness and resentment toward the public and the government, neither of whom 'got it' were often voiced. Folk wisdom said it was a mistake to disband the Airborne, it was a mistake to close the bases in Germany, it was a mistake to introduce anti-racism training, let gays in, put women in combat arms, send troops on peacekeeping. Framed one way it really was quite a self-indulgent nobody-loves-us-every-body-hates-us refrain for a public institution. To be fair, an organisation with a strong cultural identity saw itself, sometimes rightly, under assault by the very people who it was meant to serve.

The Reform Party promised respect and bullets and likely managed more than a few votes for their trouble - at least among my peer group. There was something wrong with you if you didn't vote for those guys because all the other politicians hated us.

Fast-forward 15 years or so. Budgets and salaries higher, the military has a well-defined purpose, internationally participating as equals with all the other shiny well-equipped forces mucking about in Afghanistan. Reform has become the Harper Conservatives and they trip over themselves with public displays of flattery for the institution.

The institution thinks "Finally, somebody loves us." Presents and flattery that play on the emotions of CF members and public. Sacrifice and service are powerful narratives for the public and feed into the popular conception of Remembrance Day. Don't get me wrong, I think some of these might be very worthwhile ventures especially for the families and loved ones involved. Although I have to wonder why now the importance of such things when the country and institution fought two world wars with dead and wounded in the hundreds of thousands without need for such things.

But there's another side to the story. These measures have an impact on institution culture and perception. As has been documented on this blog and elsewhere, Harper and his ministers have made a practice of photo-opping themselves in military settings and uniforms beyond the pale of just about any previous government. Harper himself has gone so far as to take the type of salute meant only for the Crown. 

More recently, this post caught the attention of commenters at the army.ca forum. The list of excuses for the PM wearing the jacket goes on and on. "He was cold." "Aircrew lend dignitaries PPE all the time." Jesus, the man has been PM for 5 years and flown countless times on CF aircraft. The idea that the aircrew 'needed' to lend him (what about the poor aircrew member that had to go without their coat?) the coat on two separate occasions and that Harper then needed to keep wearing that coat as he toured about with media cameras clicking away is fantastical. Did the sensitive flower need to be watered with the Queen's salute too?

Witness too the Air Force shilling for the Harper decision to buy the F-35, completely abandoning its method of rigorous competitive bidding. And the lack of attention the substance of CF operations.

This is how institutions, like people, are co-opted and corrupted by crass and manipulative operators. The Harper Conservatives, framing themselves as the party of the troops and heaping institutionally symbolic flattery on them, will eventually have an effect on the culture of the CF. Theirs isn't a single major political intrusion like Unification, but a slow accumulation of contentious but seemingly innocuous steps. Oh, wear a uniform here, send a Don Cherry there, bit of a mis-salute once or twice, and then suddenly there's no-bid fighter contracts, and supposedly tough professional soldiers muffining-up excuses for a politician's behaviour. In four more years, will the CF have Prime Minister's decorations and units named after cabinet ministers?

What'll be the excuses then?

Signs of the times . . .


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Water, water everywhere . . .

Scott Olson / Getty Images

YA GOTTA DO WHAT YA GOTTA DO. From the Washington Post pictorial display.

A levee protects a home surrounded by floodwater from the Yazoo River May 18, 2011 near Vicksburg, Mississippi. The flooded Mississippi River is forcing the Yazoo River to top its banks where the two meet near Vicksburg causing towns and farms upstream on the Yazoo to flood. The Mississippi River at Vicksburg is expected to crest May 19.

National Household Survey

So here I am filling out the online census form for my household. Just a few questions that didn't take long at all to complete and I'm given a confirmation number. Then suddenly I find myself at new screen responding to questions that look a lot like those on the defunct long-form. Welcome to the 1 in 3 household National Household Survey.

The National Household Survey (NHS) contains all of the questions that Statistics Canada contemplated for inclusion in a 2011 Census long-form. The NHS is therefore identical in content to what would have been collected in a 2011 Census long-form...
In its initial planning, Statistics Canada assumed a response rate for a mandatory 2011 Census long-form of 94%, identical to that achieved for the 2006 Census.
Statistics Canada has assumed a response rate of 50% for the voluntary National Household Survey...

Statistics Canada, in consultation with the Minister, has fixed the sampling rate for the National Household Survey at one in three households, a 65% increase relative to the initial plan.
Sampling error
Like the previous long-form census, the objective of the National Household Survey is to produce accurate estimates from the questions asked for a wide variety of geographic areas ranging from very large (such as provinces and census metropolitan areas) to very small (such as neighbourhoods and municipalities) and for various population subgroups such as aboriginal peoples and immigrants. Such population subgroups will also range in size, in particular when cross-classified by geographic areas. These groupings are generally referred to as “domains of interest”.
...We have never previously conducted a survey on the scale of the voluntary National Household Survey, nor are we aware of any other country that has. The new methodology has been introduced relatively rapidly with limited testing. The effectiveness of our mitigation strategies to offset non-response bias and other quality limiting effects is largely unknown. For these reasons, it is difficult to anticipate the quality level of the final outcome.
The significance of any quality shortcomings depends, to some extent, on the intended use of the data. Given that, and our mitigation strategies, we are confident that the National Household Survey will produce usable and useful data that will meet the needs of many users. It will not, however, provide a level of quality that would have been achieved through a mandatory long-form census.
 Good on Statistics Canada for trying.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Feel the Rapture?

WELL, IT'S SATURDAY, MAY 21, and it seems that we're still here, contrary to the predictions of radio host Harold Camping and his Family Radio fundies. According to Cyriaque Lamar at io9,

massive earthquakes should have already begun in the mid-Pacific and will be wending their way around the globe all day long. New Yorkers can expect seismic horror at approximately 6 PM. And just as your Friday night hangover loses its venom. Rats!

Anyway, Cyriaque lists a top-ten of failed End-of-the-World predictions:

  • 1.) Harold Camping: 1994-1995;
  • 2.) Elizabeth Clare Prophet: April 23, 1990;
  • 3.) The Unarians: 2001;
  • 4.) Pat Robertson: 1982, 2007;
  • 5.) Benjamin Creme: 1982;
  • 6.) Richard Noone: May 5, 2000;
  • 7.) Wang Chao-hung: May 11, 2011;
  • 8.) Yisrayl "Buffalo Bill" Hawkins: 2006-2008;
  • 9.) Pyotr Kuznetsov: April-May 2008;
  • 10.) Jeane Dixon

And that's just the 20th and 21st centuries. The 19th century produced a whole horde of end-of-the-world types.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Welsh for "whirring"...

The Joy Formidable

Misrepresenting himself...yet again.

Note the wings on the breast of Stephen Harper's bomber jacket as he visits Slave Lake with Ed Stelmach. A badge with two wings is worn by a member of the Canadian Forces who has completed a course of training qualifying them as aircrew (non-aircrew like engine or airframe techs wear a half-wing badge). These full-winged trades include pilots, navigators, and loadmasters.

The courses are arduous and train the badger wearer to very high, world-class, degree of competency. The wings are not awarded until the courses have been successfully completed in the same way the title Doctor or the post-nominal PhD or MD are not used by people who have not earned the associated parchments.

Stephen Harper has not completed a course of training culminating in the awarding of such a badge, yet this is the second time we see media images of him in the same jacket. The first was several days ago during the Manitoba flooding. If you look closely, someone had the wherewithal to remove the wings from this particular garment before the PM donned it. Not so most recently, as we see above.

The last time I checked, misrepresenting your qualifications like that was a crime with jail-time. Moreover, it demeans the integrity of the institution and slights every aircrew member who has qualified for their wings or died wearing them.

I don't know what he's doing for the Air Force on those long flights that they let him keep the coat...but I can tell you that in the army I joined, a politician walking onto an installation wearing half a uniform and jump wings, or HMC Dockyard or Ship wearing submariner's dolphins, would likely need the medics to carry him out...

The Sixth Estate

- an excellent blog by the way if you haven't yet discovered it - has just launched a WikiLeaks Cablegate Watchlist of documents pertaining to Canadian politics and foreign affairs, searchable by topic and linking of course to the WikiLeaks originals. An invaluable resource.
Sixth Estate's Top Picks from the cables can be found on his blog here.

While you're over there, check out that top right hand corner link to the Sixth Estate Canadian Newswatch - an aggregate of blogs with some decent mainstream newsers as well. All the news that's fit to pixel.

So, Sixth Estate Dave, when do you sleep?

Thursday, May 19, 2011


So says the Pentagon about the F-35. 
The cost of building the F-35 fighter jet, set to replace a large part of the US warplane fleet, is "unaffordable" in its current version and must be reviewed, the Pentagon's top acquisition official said Thursday.
"Over the lifetime of this program, the decade or so, the per-aircraft cost of the 2,443 aircraft we want has doubled in real terms," said Ashton Carter, the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
"That's our forecast for how much the aircraft's going to cost.
"Said differently, that's what it's going to cost if we keep doing what we're doing. And that's unacceptable. It's unaffordable at that rate."
The cost of the plane has jumped to $385 billion, about $103 million per plane in constant dollars or $113 million in fiscal year 2011 dollars, said Christine Fox, the Defense Department's director of cost assessment and program evaluation.

I doubt Lockheed Martin can make it anywhere near "affordable" without eating a crippling loss.

I smell a massive and scandalous project cancellation in the air. Nope, I don't think that bird is gonna fly with anyone's air force.

One does hope the seemingly tunnel-visioned Conservative Canadian Air Force is finally, seriously, looking at alternatives!

Mercenary forces II: secret things

The somewhat hyperbolic argument I made in this post about the subordination of Canadian Forces to the personal interests of the Prime Minister has prompted some interesting discussion in the comment section.

I might introduce a few other points to support my argument. At the present time the Canadian Forces is engaged in combat operations in two countries. Most recently CF-18s are bombing Gaddafi's forces in Libya. This is a very recent mission and very similar in context and deployment to the 1999 NATO campaign against Serbia and Serbian forces in the break-away province Kosovo. Canadian Hornets participated in that one too.

There were daily televised public briefings from NDHQ on Canada's role in the operation. However if you look at the DND website today, you will find it's been almost a month since the last update. Existing updates are relatively vague at that. Some of the images are stock photos of CF-18s and other aircraft, not images of the present operation. The war has largely disappeared from the news.

Funny then today, when reporters start asking questions about it, they're lectured on the need for operational secrecy.
The Canadian military is refusing to say how many bombs its fighter pilots have dropped on Libyan targets. The Canadian Forces lead spokesman Wednesday told reporters the information was protected because of operational security concerns. Brig.-Gen. Richard Blanchette says disclosing the number of bombs dropped might be useful to Libyan intelligence agents, though he couldn't really say why. "How could they use it?" Blanchette asked. "It's not necessarily clear right off the bat. But, it could be used in a way that would be going against the effort that we're having in the theatre of operation." The question was fairly precise, and it came from Ottawa Citizen reporter David Pugliese. "I was wondering if you could discuss the amount of munitions that have been dropped by Canadian war planes, during this operation so far."

But it was a question Blanchette simply wouldn't answer.

"For operational security reasons we cannot divulge the number," he said. "There's a risk of having that information being used by regime forces." Blanchette launched into a lengthy discussion of what intelligence-types call "the mosaic effect." It's the suggestion lots of tiny bits of information can be collected by foreign intelligence and woven together like a mosaic into a much more complete picture. "A very basic principle of intelligence is not to underestimate what the opponent's forces can gather from this information," Blanchette said. "But piece by piece it would help (Libyan) regime forces to continue their negative actions against civilians." That answer had reporters listening to Blanchette by teleconference reaching for the key pads of their phone to register for follow up questions.

Blanchette was asked to clarify: What sort of useful intelligence could Libyan regime forces learn from knowing Canada's seven CF-18 war planes had dropped, say, a hundred bombs, or a thousand? If the Libyans knew how many bombs were dispatched onto how many targets, Blanchette said, "they would be able to deduce whether we were successful in what we were doing, and they would be able to adapt their tactics." Of course, the question wasn't about how many bombs, on how many targets. It was about how many bombs, period. Blanchette's steadfast refusal to either answer that question, or clarify precisely what the intelligence threat was, only puzzled reporters.
Odd because further down the article we find out that NATO itself is quite happy to tell the media what they bombed and where they bombed it. Sure, stuff likely gets left out of the briefings, but at least there's information there. Moreover, Gaddafi's forces, being the recipients of all that Canadian and NATO ordnance, know better than anyone the effects of those munitions. Canada is mute and evasive.
Secretive little wars.

This secrecy also brings to mind the F-35. This is an aircraft with very serious cost and delivery timeline problems and serious deficiencies regarding stated Canadian mission requirements. The first issue could see the CF-18 fleet age out of service before the first F-35 is delivered, let alone operational leaving Canada and NORAD with a significant air defence gap. The normal evaluation procedures for procuring aircraft have been skipped, and the plane is effectively being forced upon the country. Generals are acting as publicity hacks for the thing. Not a single critical voice is heard from places that matter; all we hear from Conservative politicians and air staff are sweet sweet lullabies. We're not told a bloody thing. Criticisms are not addressed. More secrets and untold stories. There's a stench wafting through vents around this thing something awful.

Under this  government, the constitution and deployment of the Canadian Forces are fading from public and parliamentary access. Wave the flag, mourn the casualties, and otherwise STFU.

North American Intelligence Security Perimeter

CBC, via WikiLeaks :

SECRET 2/10/2009
Subject : Visas Viper : The "Toronto 18" as candidates for Visas Viper Program

SUMMARY At Embassy Ottawa's monthly Visas Viper meeting on September 09, 2009, a list of 27 indidivudals (sic) who were involved in the so-called "Toronto 18" conspiracy, a plot to engage in terrorist activities in the Toronto metropolitan area, was submitted for consideration. All of these individuals are watchlisted in the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS). Post is submitting their names to be included in the Visas Vipers program.
The Visas Viper program is the entry level into US terrorist watchlists.

Pogge, yesterday : Apparently we need to hold the Arar inquiry all over again
"The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada's principal intelligence agency, routinely transmits to U.S. authorities the names and personal details of Canadian citizens who are suspected of, but not charged with, what the agency refers to as "terrorist-related activity."

In at least some cases, the people in the cables appear to have been named as potential terrorists solely based on their associations with other suspects, rather than any actions or hard evidence."
Evidently even working as an undercover police informer busting terrorists will get you on that list.
In addition to the Toronto 18, the embassy cables name nine others.
Among those nine names is Mubin Shaikh.

Mubin Shaikh, a Canadian Muslim, was recruited by CSIS in 2004 to infiltrate possible terrorist groups.
Shaikh infiltrated the Toronto 18, secretly taping them and setting up the RCMP sting resulting in their arrest.
He testified against them at their trial as the Crown's star witness. Without him there would have been no trial, no convictions.
And now he's in the US terrorist database.

I'm sure other Canadian Muslims will be really keen to help CSIS out now.

So did CSIS put their own mole on that list? Or do they just have no autonomy at all over their own data.

“Clearly it’s a mistake,” Mr. Shaikh said in an interview. He argued that most people who are on watch lists belong on the lists, and that he has “compete confidence” in Canada’s ability to safeguard intelligence sources.
Good for you. I don't.

Yesterday CSIS gave a damage-control response to breaking news of their continued handing over of Canadian names and personal details to US watchlists :
" ... any decision to hand over names is the result of a detailed process, in which an individual's threat level is assessed by a committee of Canadian security officials, including a senior executive at CSIS.

Lawyers from the Department of Justice also participate, and often a representative of the RCMP.

As part of the process, someone plays the part of devil's advocate, challenging the information gathered on the individual being considered.

Even then, said the official, the decision to hand over a name to the Americans is subject to written ministerial directives and internal CSIS policies.
None of which explains how Mubin Shaikh got on there.
But as Evan Dyer pointed out during RCMP Commissioner Zaccardelli's grilling about Maher Arar four and a half freakin' years ago, all that rigorous bureaucratic bullshit doesn't mean fuck all if US security forces are already physically present in the room when "persons of interest" are being discussed at INSET meetings.

INSET, the Canadian Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams, are the Canadian counter-terrorist forces comprised of CSIS, the RCMP, Border Services, and other security groups. They handled both the Arar and Toronto 18 cases.

As Pogge put it : "Our "principal intelligence agency" doesn't work for us; it works for American intelligence agencies."
"We don't want another Arar," said the security official. But at the same time, he said, CSIS is acutely aware that if it did not pass on information about someone it suspected, and that person then carried out some sort of spectacular attack in the U.S., the consequences could be cataclysmic for Canada.
U.S. authorities, already suspicious that Canada is "soft on terror," would likely tighten the common border, damaging hundreds of billions of dollars worth of vital commerce.
So we're just haggling about the price of our sovereignty and Charter rights then.
Or, as most of the WikiLeaks-released Ottawa Embassy cables usually sign off :

"Visit Canada's North American partnership community at
http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/nap /"

Yeah. Thanks. How's our security perimeter coming along?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Them was the good ole days . . .

THE VICTORIANS HAD A FIXATION, actually, they had lots of 'em, but male masturbation was a hard-point of concern for Christian moralists, back in the day. IO9's Cyriaque Lamar has a look at two patented "solutions", which you see above. Check it out.

Indeed, Mr. Long was patenting a boner-activated anti-wet dream machine (or perhaps an an anti-wet dream alarm).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The key to memory . . .

FOR THE FIRST TIME, science is getting a clear picture of how your memories are stored. According to Ed Yong's article in DISCOVER, "Exposing the memory engine: the story of PKMzeta", your memories are stored through a protein called PKMzeta, which you see above.

In the last decade, scientists have found that it takes active and unrelenting effort to keep our memories intact. Even long-term memories are constantly on the verge of being erased. To keep them stable, we need to continually recreate a protein called PKMzeta. This molecule is the engine of memory, constantly whirring to store information in our brains. Give the engine a boost, and old memories gain a new lease on life. Switch it off, and we forget things…. permanently.

When we learn new things, PKMzeta shows up at the gaps between neurons (synapses) and boosts the signals that go across them. This strengthens the connections between the neurons on either side, and this network of bolstered connections is the physical embodiment of our memories.

Why should you care? They can erase memories permanently. There are very important implications in this research, for medicine, and new, truly effective treatment for mental problems — but it could bring about a method for mass mind-control, if you are paranoid.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mercenary forces

The NYT has an investigative bit documenting the present whereabouts and whatabouts of Blackwater (or Xe or whatever it is now) head weirdo Erik Prince. In case you were wondering, the nasty little sod has popped up the Emirates and is presently struggling to set up a mercenary legion tasked in part with protecting the local royals from all that revolution sweeping the region. Seems the Emirati don't even trust their own forces with protecting them...

At least Mr. Prince is a bonafide war-whore. None are in doubt about his loyalties and interests.

However, in Canada our elected leaders are much less honest about their mercenary tendencies. Indeed, see, they've taken the men and women in the units that make the Canadian Forces and, without telling the public or parliament, sought to employ them in a war instigated by one of our neighbours and allies. One could say that Jean Chretien and probably Stephen Harper conspired to steal an armed forces to use for their own personal causes. Your neighbours, relatives and tax dollars provide the blood and treasure for this army, but you nor your elected representatives have much of a say in how they're used if the Prime Minister sees fit not to inform you.

Now to be fair, members of the armed forces have at various times been deployed to places that the public has not been told about. This is common practice across most major and intermediate powers who like to stick their fingers in the world. But these doings are often very low key, low risk, below the radar affairs. They are NOT full on invasions and occupations of foreign states. And especially not those trumping international law, and rationalised on lies.

That reality makes the Canadian Forces a publicly subsidized mercenary legion for prime ministerial whims. That a prime minister can stand before parliament and the public who put him there and lie about the participation of the armed forces in a major war (or two) is beyond the pale.

No wonder they like to play dress-up in military uniforms: It's their army now.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Party partisanship...

...is bullshit. Because they're all a duplicitous bunch of fucks. At least the Aussies were up front about wandering into Iraq in their limited way.

I've run into that level of power a few times and sensed acutely that it's largely a elite boys club where, in these great liberal democracies we have, the run off cliffs like so many lemmings. Wait. I should correct myself. It isn't those paper-skinned men in suits who fall into the sea. No, it's the poor plebes that happen fall under their bombs, or put a flag on their arm and a rifle butt in their shoulder thinking they're out to do some good. Queen and country, peace and democracy? No fucking way, sir. At the end of the day, even a Prime Minister Jack Fucking Layton would likely get drawn into packing the troops off on whatever great crusade the other international intellectual defectives come up with next.

Why anyone would become a card carrying member of any political party is beyond me.

Advertising . . .

Maybe there's a tradition: 110 years ago, it was the Great White Fleet and Billy Hearst's rags thumping for it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Engineering for Change

YOUR BASIC MACHINE-SHOP can be sorely needed in many parts of the globe. Engineering for Change is an outfit that is trying to do something about it.

Among many interesting designs is a $200 multimachine, which you see above. JALOPNIK's article on the device calls it

This fascinating design is a ten-in-one tool made from engine blocks and other recycled parts that works as a grinder, mill, lathe, saw and other tools. It alone can perform all of the functions of a decently-equipped machine shop. And it costs only $200 to build.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Soul survivor . . .

POPMATTERS has something you must read: "The Story of a Soul Survivor: 'Private Dancer' at 25", by Christian John Wikane. It's a fascinating account of how Tina Turner's astounding oeuvre came to be.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Waterfront perspective . . .

LOTS OF BALLOONS, ACCORDING TO A Daily Dose of Architecture, the picture above is the 2015 Pan American Games Award Pavilion for the games to be held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The geese are going to love 'em.

There's no reason...

...why the infinitely insufferable Stephen Fucking Harper needs to wear an Air Force issue bomber jacket to tour flood-addled Manitoba. These are functional, purpose designed workwear for aircrew, not cock-conscious politician-poseurs. That stunt is so Bush era.  Doesn't he know Putin is the new standard for dude-ranch warrior weirdo autocrat posing?


Shirtless, on a horse, in subarctic Siberia. I'm almost afraid to see PMSH top that. He'll be stacking sandbags in a loin cloth.

I have to add: Just where do we find these people? They're like Barbie dolls, with features so out of proportion to reality that they couldn't stand up in normal life. If you left them alone too long with the general population, they'd start chewing their toenails and neglect to bathe.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Take a minute or two . . .

JOHN LEE HOOKER & MILES DAVIS. Turn it up. Here's another, called "Murder". Way, way cool groove. Yum, even.

Dear BBC...

The government of Quebec has unveiled a massive plan to develop a largely inhospitable but untouched area in the north of the province.
The "Plan Nord" aims to turn 1.2 million sq km of land into a major area of mining and renewable energy.
The plan also aims to ensure that half of the area will be environmentally protected.
"It is one of the world's last virgin territories," said Quebec's Premier Jean Charest.
"It's also a fragile territory and a territory of great richness and it's also a responsibility."
Don't repeat the neocolonial and frankly racist mindset of the Quebec government. The north of the province is not "inhospitable" and "untouched" as it has been home to Aboriginal people for millennia.

The only things 'virgin' here are Jean Charest's archaeology and history.

Monday, May 09, 2011

And with that [Updated with more wankery!]

...former Minister for Former-err-Foreign Affairs Larry "Lost" Cannon confirms - thankfully - for the final time that he is, in fact, a consummate wanker.

After going down to ignoble electoral defeat last week, soon-to-be-former Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon is set to deliver a farewell speech to his soon-to-be-former staff at his soon-to-be-former ministerial stomping grounds at the Lester B. Pearson building on Sussex. 

For those of you who may be wondering idly whether this is standard practice for ministers who go down without the ship, the answer, as far as I know, is no. We may be about to find out why -- that, or establish a quaint, if bittersweet new tradition for such awkward departures.
Jesus, I bet he even charged taxpayers for his little I-got-fired party. Someone might want to check that. 

If this is what a mere ex-CON cabinet minister does when he loses his job, can you imagine what'll happen when Lord Stephen eventually loses his job? We'd withdraw from Afghanistan just so there's enough troops available for the parade!

The Grope and Flail flies ever closer to the Sun and uses the word "Magnanimous" to describe Lost Cannon's unprecedented ego-feeding key turn-in party.  The virus clearly spreads. Also this gem from mouth of the Displaced One:
The outgoing minister, in a speech to diplomats at his department’s Ottawa headquarters, underlined support for democracy and human rights around the world as the most important role for Canadian foreign policy. And he slipped in a joke at his own expense.
“The force of the instinct for democracy can sometimes surprise us, as has been the case in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Libya, and Syria – and I’m almost tempted to add, in Pontiac,” he said. “But I don’t think anybody ever thought of me as Maniwaki Gadhafi.”
No, none thought of him as the Maniwaki Gadhafi, but we should probably thank him for the correction as some of us had drawn other comparisons.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Ralph Nader Speaks . . . .

On the Canadian election, U.S. politics, the "security perimeter" and proportional representation.

All in less than 8 minutes.

Concentrated, rational analysis . . . .

Boogity boogity . . .

THINGS ARE STARTING to get crazy in Tehran. According to the Guardian, one of I Need a Dinner Jacket's chief fart-catchers got busted for sorcery. Yup, sorcery.

Several people said to be close to the president and his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, have been arrested in recent days and charged with being "magicians" and invoking djinns (spirits).

Djinns? Well, let the bells ring out and the banners fly, like the genie in the Looney Tunes cartoons, used to say.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Black Bird of Happiness . . .

Something creative to ponder. Check out the radio-controlled SR-71. It's a real jet, and sounds glorious in the air. It also flies really, really well, and you can see why the US Army and the USAF are diving into developing a host of pilotless aircraft. Small, quick and really hard to shoot down.

Not to Worry 'Bout a harper Majority . . . .

Two weeks from tomorrow it'll all be moot, anyway.

Stock up on emergency supplies and offer to take care of your "believing" friends' pets when they are released from their earthly ties . . . .

Thursday, May 05, 2011

On living...

My friend Henry Martin reflects on his anarchism...
because i'm in such good company. anarchism is fluid, hard to pin down, resuscitated back to life only with each person who takes it on. this makes it politics spun in poetry. each human being creates their life, and we all therefore create civilization, and one day when we stop trying so hard to be slaves to an ideal we might become poets of each other instead of good soldiers to our masters, whoever we have decided they are. anarchism is the belief that all authority is a delusion, part of the dream, part of the sweat-blind struggle just to survive. anarchism is a belief in one's life apart from its trade value, as a thing belonging to a great mystery and not subject to strange human made rules. anarchism is a paradox, a lovely growing and dying spirit that exists everywhere and has not yet blossomed. some of my favorite people are anarchists, sometimes only for a couple of years, before they went back to being things: (click the link above for the rest)

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


As I look over prog bloggers, comment threads and this and that, I see blaming from the Liberals, blaming from the Dippers, blaming from the non-aligned. Blaming on each other, blaming on the Cons, blaming on the shitty winner takes it polling system we've got in this country.

Fine. Have your "moment". But when you stop sniffling about how bad it's all going to be, you damn well better start talking to each other about what you're gonna do to set things right today, not in four years. Like it or not, the political map in this country has been redrawn. The Conservative Party under Harper is not the Conservative party of yesteryear. The Liberals are not the same, and neither are the Dippers. Spending time gazing rearward at what was or what might have been only goes so far. Look forward at what might yet become, in a year, four years, eight years, 12 years.

This will be harder for some of you than others. Some of you have built personal and political identities around what is, at the end of the day, a brand. A social construction, an imagined community. A team, side, and club; full of legacy but essentially devoid of lasting meaning.

It is time to shed your partisan allegiances. The old parties no longer exist in practice. It is time to start talking to each other about just what kind of Canada you want to build, and just how you're going to do it.

I am as disappointed as many of you at last night's result, but I also can't help feeling liberated by it. The NDP, despite of their record win, have no power in the House. The Liberals even less so, and the Bloc and Liz might as well not exist. You know what Harper will do now. You know what he'll try to turn this country into. The old order is dead and we are in transition. There is opportunity in crisis to build something new.

It is up to you whether you're going to obey that demagogue and his coterie of piss-ignorant used car salesmen. Sixty per cent of you did not vote for this man or his lunatics. It is up to you whether you see that government as legitimate.

It is up to you to choose whether to live your lives in fear of what they will do, or despite what they will do.

It just happened here

To paraphrase Sinclair Lewis: When fascism comes to Canada, it will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a hockey stick.

Coach Harper won his majority last night thanks to smears, lies, obfuscation, vote suppression and dirty tricks on his part, vote splitting on the part of his opposition and a staggering display of selfish bourgeois Babbittry on the part of a good many Canadians. In any democracy, we get the government we deserve.

There is good news and bad news in last night's election result: The NDP won 102 seats and will form the official opposition, an opposition that will -- with 60 newly minted MPs many of whom never expected to get elected - be as hapless as it will be irrelevant. The Conservatives won only 39.6 percent of the popular vote, but 167 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons - they can do whatever they want with no real restraint on their actions. Harper has made his contempt for parliament abundantly clear already, so don't expect the opposition to be anything but a noisy decoration in Ottawa now that he has his majority and carte blanche.

The sun will still rise and set and the earth will still turn, though I for one expect a user fee to be levied for that sometime soon, so that the country can be run more like a business.

 On the bright side, Toronto will probably get a new mayor in the next year or two after Rob Ford is appointed to the Senate and joins the cabinet as the Minister of  Commonsense Gettin'er Done Tax-cutting or some such post.
On the bright side, Elizabeth May won a seat in Parliament - the first time the Green Party has ever elected a member to the house of commons. I watched here victory speech last night - she is looking forward to working in Parliament to make big changes! She also plans to ride her unicorn that eats carbon emissions and shits ice cream to work every morning.  At least we can be sure that the Greens will be part of the next leaders debate, after which they will cease to exist once the per-vote party subsidy is eliminated.

No, I'm afraid there is no amount of polishing that is going to turn this turd into a diamond. In the words of Hunter S. Thompson "Big darkness, soon come."
There will be no sudden declaration of martial law or dramatic day when CPC stormtroopers surround Stornaway or round up dissidents in the night - there won't need to be. That nice, soft-spoken, Christian economist and hockey dad who just wants to protect us from the bad guys doesn't work that way. There will just be a steady drip of manufactured small crises that lead to privatization, deregulation, and "temporary" security measures, until we get back to the good old days of the robber barons.

George Orwell described a distopian future in 1984 describing it through the mouth of one character thusly: If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.

Naturally, this has been adjusted to fit Canadian content regulations.


Harper will stabilize markets.

A headline on the soon to be erased CBC this morning:

Harper win will stabilize markets: economists

Oh, I don't know about that. Outside of generally poor economic performance record from Conservatives, there's a good chance of a Canada-wide General Strike under this new government. Maybe one or two other actions that do not boost 'market confidence.'

Monday, May 02, 2011

Con majority: a country divided

Canadians have elected a majority Conservative government despite their record of unprecedented scandals and dishonesty.

The fact that this Con majority was picked by 40% of the voting population speaks volumes about the legitimacy of that vote. The fact that some votes are worth more than others under this system speaks volumes about this result. SIXTY per cent of this country did not vote for Stephen Harper. There is solace in the fact that the result of this election, like the many before it, does not represent the popular distribution of the vote. This is not democracy.

The Liberals especially, theoretically the ideological champions of democracy while duplicitously benefiting from an unfair distribution of the vote, are probably regretting their back down from the endless opportunity to form a coalition with the NDP and defeat the Conservatives.

Because now, now, the Conservatives will legislate the removal of public funding for Opposition parties and plunge the country into 4 years of their blinkered fascistic and fanatical social and economic engineering.

Them's the apples. Sigh.

In the meantime, the rest of us, 60% of us voting plebes have bit of work to do. Because fuck these fucking fuckers.

Harper campaigning on Election Day

The Examiner :
"In an interview this morning with Bill Good on CKNW in Vancouver, Stephen Harper openly campaigned for the Conservative Party of Canada, asking listeners to "vote Conservative" in defiance of Elections Canada rules and regulations that state no campaigning may be done during the media blackout on election day."
Well, you know, Harper never much cared for Elections Canada and its silly rules anyway.

Update : There's some duking it out in comments below The Examiner article as to whether Steve actually is in violation of the Canada Elections Act here.

Canada Elections Act : Communications :

Blackout period

323. (1) No person shall knowingly transmit election advertising to the public in an electoral district on polling day before the close of all of the polling stations in the electoral district.


(2) The transmission to the public of a notice of an event that the leader of a registered party intends to attend or an invitation to meet or hear the leader of a registered party is not election advertising for the purpose of subsection (1).


324. Subsection 323(1) does not apply in respect of

(a) the transmission of a message that was transmitted to the public on what is commonly known as the Internet before the blackout period described in that subsection and that was not changed during that period; or
(b) the distribution during that period of pamphlets or the posting of messages on signs, posters or banners.
Notice that in 'Exceptions' there is no (c) being Steve.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Dear Liberals: what Stephen Harper said

"You can have an NDP government or a Conservative government." 

Please vote wisely tomorrow.

The assault on democracy

Read this excellent summary by Lawrence Martin and then tell me we can afford to give Stephen Harper another term as president prime minister.
Have a look at the regional polling numbers, the Conservatives are the choice of the majority in only Alberta and narrowly in the Prairies. They are at about 40% in Ontario and BC, but a distant fourth place in Quebec. Do the right thing tomorrow and vote for the candidate in your riding that has the best chance to beat the conservative. Local polling numbers can be seen here until midnight.
And no, I don't think the title is overstating things. All parties have their good and bad points but there is a difference between them -- so stop telling me that "both sides do it."
Both sides don't try to suppress the vote.
Both sides don't have crowds that shout down journalists when they ask questions.
Both sides don't throw people out of rallies for what might be on their facebook page.
Both sides don't want to cut corporate taxes while cutting programs for the poor.
Both sides don't fire the nuclear watchdog for doing her job.
Both sides don't pander to the religious right.
Both sides don't prorogue parliament.
Both sides haven't been found in contempt of parliament.
Both sides don't engage in specious personal smears and intimidation.
Both sides don't cancel the court challenges program.
Both sides aren't afraid to speak to the press or answer unscripted questions from voters.
Both sides don't issue manuals to their MPs on how to obstruct the work of parliamentary committees.
Both sides don't question the patriotism of those who disagree with them.
Both sides don't villify immigrants and expatriates as somehow being "less Canadian"

Think about which side you want to be on.


A Harper Government

Who does this man think he's fooling?

It isn't you and I who should be afraid of Harper subverting the Governor General, or winning another maj/minority.

It is Harper who should fear what happens to him in a 3rd term should two-thirds of the electorate again reject him and his band of orcs.

A Harper government of any sort will be resisted in the minds and actions of individual Canadians.

A Harper government will be subverted in the families and communities across the country.

A Harper government will be challenged in the towns, villages and cities from coast to coast to coast.

A Harper government will meet opposition in the provincial legislatures and constituency offices.

A Harper government will be countered in Canada's nursing stations, doctors' offices, and social service providers.

A Harper government will be disrupted in the union halls.

A Harper government will be called to account in schools and universities.

A Harper government will not govern easily because it will not have the respect and consent of a majority of Canadians.

A Harper government will not govern effectively because most of the country will see our system as illegitimate for allowing him to remain in power.

The rise of the NDP and the fall of the Liberals demonstrates a population that is restively anti-Harper. We are moving in large numbers to the national antithesis of the Harper regime and redrawing the political map.

This is mobilised resistance. And it will continue.

Where better to spend election eve?

FSM willing and the skype doesn't crash, Scott Tribe will be my guest tonight to talk Canadian politics on Virtually Speaking Sunday: Maple Syrup Edition at 8 pm EDT/5 pm PDT You can listen live here or click on the VSS player on the sidebar at The Woodshed
If you can't make it tonight or you want to check our prediction against reality later on, the show will be archived here.
You can join the virtual studio audience in Second Life or follow the IRC (internet relay chat)  to be part of the studio audience chat stream w/o using SL.

  1. Connect to http://webchat.freenode.net/ 
  2. Give yourself a name.
  3. Enter #vspeak into the channel field.
  4. NOTE: 'Relay Rinq' is not a person but a bridge to IRC chat.
  5. While listening to a live program on BlogTalkRadio, type comments and questions into the text field. Read what others write.
  6. Begin your question with 'QUESTION' so it's easy for the host to spot.