Saturday, December 31, 2011

Perspectives . . .

FROM THE ISS. In spite of humanity's foibles, it's a beautiful world, even if some parts of it suffer from too many Stevie portraits. Have a fortunate 2012.

Northern Aurora
Nile Delta

Friday, December 30, 2011

Historical failure . . .

ONCE UPON A TIME, THE USAAF got a bright idea for a bespoke night fighter, which resulted in the Northrop P-61 Black Widow. Not one of John Northrop's successes. Over-weight, overly complex, the USAAF European theater generals wanted the de Havilland Mosquito, instead, but they got the P-61 because that's what the procurement process had produced. Mind you, it was not a Brewster Buffalo failure, the P-61 did OK, but it was an unnecessary redundancy and economic waste. For what it's worth, the USAF isn't the only beneficiary; the Navy and Army get their opportunities, too. A classic case is the expensive frustration of the M247 Sergeant York self-propelled antiaircraft vehicle.

Well, according to Dina Rasor at TRUTHOUT, the tradition is alive and well. Her article, "F-35 Fighter Is Latest in Long Line of Wasteful Weapon Failures", describes the stumbling to date.

There has been a flurry of articles in the defense press Tuesday about an internal Department of Defense (DoD) report on how the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon's newest attempt to buy a fighter jet, is skating toward potential mechanical and monetary disaster. The DoD top civilian weapons buyer put together a team to do a quick look at how the fighter was doing in its journey to become the next main fighter in the DoD arsenal. The report has the usual DoD hedge wording and qualifiers, but the answer is: not too good.

• • •

Now, the newest fighter is falling under its own bloated procurement weight. Is the system, which has given us generation after generation of overpriced and technically dubious fighters, tanks, and other weapons finally succumbing to its own folly? 

• • •

To understand why this keeps happening to our weapons acquisitions and to try to change it, you have to know some history on how the system works and what has happened in the past. It is a sad tale of déjà vu all over again.

Ernest Fitzgerald, the well-known Pentagon whistleblower who fought the bureaucracy in hand-to-hand combat for better weapons and realistically priced weapons from the 1960s to 2006, came up with a simple law of why this sordid history keeps repeating itself. Fitzgerald's first law of weapons procurement is: "First it is too early to tell, second, it is too late to do anything about it." I have found that this is the way that the DoD, the military services and the defense contractors squeeze every last dime out of the procurement budget and then even more, while making sure that their weapon doesn't get so obviously gross as to go on the rare weapons' chopping block.

It's like watching a slow-motion train-wreck, and thanks to Stevie and Airshow, we're paying for a ring-side seat. Think of it as a solid gold plank in the gallows that is being built for the Conservative Party.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Times are tough, and friends are few?

The R.A.N.'s the place for you!

That would be the Royal Australian Navy which, in case you hadn't been approached by some digger with a funny looking cap, is making some interesting offers.

Apparently the Aussies are feeling a bit pinched.

As it competes with industry for skilled personnel, the ADF has focused its recruitment effort in Britain, which is cutting back heavily on defence as part of a government-wide austerity drive.

However, Australian navy chief Ray Griggs has given an undertaking to his British counterpart, First Sea Lord Admiral Mark Stanhope, that Australia will not recruit personnel the British need to maintain their capabilities.

And to find enough trained personnel to crew its submarines and the fleet of new warships now being built, the navy is also recruiting from the US, Canada and New Zealand.
 Their own sailors are heading for the Never Never to cash in.

The RAN is facing tough competition for engineers from the booming resources industry.

It is preparing to provide crews for a new fleet that will include potent Air Warfare Destroyers and giant 28,000-tonne landing ships, bigger than Australia's past aircraft carriers.

But many comprehensively trained naval engineers deployed to submarines based at HMAS Stirling, south of Perth, have found themselves quickly moving on up to the Pilbara mines after being offered big pay rises and less arduous working conditions.
 To sweeten the offer, there's this:

Applicants must apply for a permanent resident visa before coming to Australia.
They must also give a written undertaking that they will apply for Australian citizenship as soon as they are eligible. This is normally two years after permanent residence is granted, but an exception will be made for these service personnel, who will become eligible after three months' service.
The army is asking for a rather specific lot:

The army is looking for bomb-disposal experts and is also particularly keen to recruit Catholic chaplains.
Odd mix, that, but you're a figjam bombo with a rosary and you haven't got a brass razoo to you're name, well it might be time to go walkabout.

Or, you could just bypass the whole uniform thing and apply for double the pay.

Still, the Oz navy looks like a bonzer go, what with their own TV series and all.

(Not to mention we had a hand in training some of their officers).

Those of you who are dashing about packing a tucker and booking a Qantas flight should practice this.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How much crap do you need?

CONSUMERISM. You look at the Boxing Day ads, ya gotta wonder, doesn't everybody have a flat-screen TV? Like the song goes, buy, buy . . .

More on the "Blessed" Season . . . .

As Rodney King would say:  "Why can't we all get along?"

From the CBC and other sources today:

Clergymen brawl at Bethlehem church
Fight erupts at traditional site of Jesus' birth

The annual cleaning of one of Christianity's holiest churches deteriorated into a brawl between rival clergy Wednesday, as dozens of monks feuding over sacred space at the Church of the Nativity battled each other with brooms until police intervened.

The ancient church, built over the traditional site of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, is shared by three Christian denominations — Roman Catholics, Armenians and Greek Orthodox. Wednesday's fight erupted between Greek and Armenian clergy, with both sides accusing each other of encroaching on parts of the church to which they lay claim.

A fragile status quo governs relations among the denominations at the ancient church, and to repair or clean a part of the structure is to own it, according to accepted practice. That means that letting other sects clean part of the church could allow one to gain ground at another's expense.

Although the roof has needed urgent work for decades, and leaking rainwater has ruined much of the priceless artwork inside, a renovation has been delayed all these years by disagreements among the denominations over who would pay.

Why is this not at all surprising?

How very moral and upright of them . . . .

Dragon's Den ? ? ? ?

Michael Byers has an excellent analysis on China, the Arctic, oil and international relations in today's Al Jazeera:

The dragon looks north
China grows hungry for Arctic resources and shipping routes as northern ice melts.

Snubbed by Arctic countries

China's laissez-faire approach to Arctic legal disputes has, however, been shaken by the recent actions of Arctic countries.

In 2009, China applied for permanent observer status at the Arctic Council, a regional organisation composed of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US. It was a reasonable request, since countries as distant as Poland and Spain had already been accorded that status.

However, the Chinese request came at the same time as one from the European Union, which was caught up in a dispute with Canada over restrictions on the trade of seal products. When Canada retaliated by blocking the EU's request for permanent observer status at the Arctic Council, China's application was collaterally suspended - and has remained so ever since.

China is respecting international law and has legitimate interests in the Arctic. Its request for permanent observer status should be granted forthwith.

Dragons, even well behaved ones, do not appreciate being snubbed.

Indeed . . . .

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Corporate history . . .

OCCUPY WALL STREET has created an extended awareness of the corporation as enemy of the people, a viewpoint shared by most thoughtful people. However, while a lot are concerned, a lot of us have no real idea how the corporation came to be.

RIBBONFARM is a site that proclaims its purpose "experiments in refactored perception". One of its principals, Venkatesh Rao, has a fascinating post, "A Brief History of the Corporation: 1600 to 2100", chronicling the rise and fall of the corporation.

On 8 June, a Scottish banker named Alexander Fordyce shorted the collapsing Company’s shares in the London markets. But a momentary bounce-back in the stock ruined his plans, and he skipped town leaving £550,000 in debt. Much of this was owed to the Ayr Bank, which imploded. In less than three weeks, another 30 banks collapsed across Europe, bringing trade to a standstill. On July 15, the directors of the Company applied to the Bank of England for a £400,000 loan. Two weeks later, they wanted another £300,000. By August, the directors wanted a £1 million bailout. The news began leaking out and seemingly contrite executives, running from angry shareholders, faced furious Parliament members. By January, the terms of a comprehensive bailout were worked out, and the British government inserted its czars into the Company’s management to ensure compliance with its terms.

If this sounds eerily familiar, it shouldn’t. The year was 1772, exactly 239 years ago.

• • •

In its 400+ year history, the corporation has achieved extraordinary things, cutting around-the-world travel time from years to less than a day, putting a computer on every desk, a toilet in every home (nearly) and a cellphone within reach of every human. It even put a man on the Moon and kinda-sorta cured AIDS.

So it is a sort of grim privilege for the generations living today to watch the slow demise of such a spectacularly effective intellectual construct. The Age of Corporations is coming to an end. The traditional corporation won’t vanish, but it will cease to be the center of gravity of economic life in another generation or two. They will live on as religious institutions do today, as weakened ghosts of more vital institutions from centuries ago.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The ghastly Gipper . . .

THE ENDLESS VENAL LUNACY OF THE GOP can overwhelm, and it's easy to lose track of where a large part of this originated. SLATE has a reprise of a delightful article by the late Christopher Hitchens, "Not Even a Hedgehog / The stupidity of Ronald Reagan".

Ronald Reagan used to alarm his Soviet counterparts by saying that surely they'd both unite against an invasion from Mars. Ronald Reagan used to alarm other constituencies by speaking freely about the "End Times" foreshadowed in the Bible. In the Oval Office, Ronald Reagan told Yitzhak Shamir and Simon Wiesenthal, on two separate occasions, that he himself had assisted personally at the liberation of the Nazi death camps.

• • •

I only saw him once up close, which happened to be when he got a question he didn't like. Was it true that his staff in the 1980 debates had stolen President Carter's briefing book? (They had.) The famously genial grin turned into a rictus of senile fury: I was looking at a cruel and stupid lizard. His reply was that maybe his staff had, and maybe they hadn't, but what about the leak of the Pentagon Papers? Thus, a secret theft of presidential documents was equated with the public disclosure of needful information. This was a man never short of a cheap jibe or the sort of falsehood that would, however laughable, buy him some time.

Like Gil Scott-Heron said, the man is cheap-steak tough. 

bennie Speaks . . . .

But should anyone listen?

From Global Post yesterday:

Pope Benedict XVI urges faithful to see through "superficial glitter" of Christmas

Pope Benedict XVI has urged worshipers to see through the "superficial glitter" of Christmas during the traditional Christmas Eve Mass at St Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI lamented the commercialization of Christmas during the traditional Christmas Eve Mass at St Peter's Basilica in Rome.

“Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God’s humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity,” he said, Euronews reported.

He went on to urge worshippers to "see through the superficial glitter of this season" and to discover its true meaning, "the child in the stable in Bethlehem," according to the BBC.


Of course, he was surrounded by the glittering gold in the pic above and in the article itself while making this astute observation.

No doubt wearing the nifty little red numbers to the left, also.

His hypocrisy knows no bounds . . . .

Saturday, December 24, 2011

T'is dark,
And I like it.

T'is silent,
And I am reflective.

T'is peaceful,
And I am reminded of my friends.

To all of you, may you and all who surround you have a joyful holiday season.

* About the graphic: We are not snowballs, it's not the correct size family and I would never wear a hat like that.

Deborah Grey gives Harper a reformer wedgie

On CBC's The House, Evan Solomon asked Reform Party matriarch Deborah Grey about Harper. Harper used to be her legislative assistant so we can probably safely assume she has some insight into the way he thinks. While she waxed on about how wonderful Harper is and how he's a Conservative and therefore the neatest thing since the invention of peanut butter, she slipped from referring to "conservatives", in a general sense to "Reformers", specifically. Solomon latched on:

Solomon: Is he still a Reformer?

Grey: Pardon?

Solomon: Is Stephen Harper still a Reformer?

Grey: Oh, I'd say so.

So much for the "mellowing" his supporters keep trying to foist on us. If you go to link and listen to the audio you can pick it up at about minute 18.

Something they would rather not discuss ...

Unless you live in British Columbia you might not consider yourself affected by the goings on at BC Ferries. That would be until you realize that, while BC Ferries fares have skyrocketed since they became not-quite-a-Crown-corporation at the hands of Gordon "privatize-everything" Campbell, they also receive provincial and federal taxpayer subsidies.

On 22 December the relatively new Coastal Inspiration slammed into the berth at Duke Point, just outside Nanaimo. The result was about 12 people with minor injuries, a ship that is out of service until the vehicle deck weathertight doors are repaired and a shut down of the strategically important Duke Point terminal for months.

I have a pretty good idea what happened but, unlike the grossly uninformed commenters to the various media outlets carrying the story, and the failure of those media outlets to actually blow away the dust to see the real story, there is a story out there.

On The Waterfront started by looking below the surface. Tidal Station reaches in and pulls out some guts. What is interesting is that BC Ferries, once Campbell had crowbarred it away from government oversight, had refused to cooperate with any Freedom Of Information requests on the basis that they were a "private" company. In October 2010 they were compelled to behave as what they actually are - a government-owned operation - and started answering FOI requests. They didn't come along nicely either.

What Tidal Station produces is something that BC Ferries probably did not want you to know (since it was kept hidden away until forced into the light by an FOI request). The propulsion system on those awesome Super C ferries was a source of concern before they even finished building. In fact, the potential problem described in the 2007 report is likely exactly what happened.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Message From America's Rich . . .

AND YOU WON'T LIKE IT. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi has a posting, "A Christmas Message From America's Rich". These people are evil. Really.

The very rich on today’s Wall Street are now so rich that they buy their own social infrastructure. They hire private security, they live on gated mansions on islands and other tax havens, and most notably, they buy their own justice and their own government.

• • •

Just look at how Chase behaved in Greece, for example.

Having seen how well interest-rate swaps worked for Jefferson County, Alabama, Chase “helped” Greece mask its debt problem for years by selling a similar series of swaps to the Greek government. The bank then turned around and worked with banks like Goldman, Sachs to create a thing called the iTraxx SovX Western Europe index, which allowed investors to bet against Greek debt.

In other words, Chase knowingly larded up the nation of Greece with a crippling future debt burden, then turned around and helped the world bet against Greek debt.

Does a citizen of Greece do that deal? Forget that: does a human being do that deal?

Kinda puts a new spin on "Greek Style", don't it?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Y'know, I have never voted so someone could tell me what to do

That premise may not sit well with the fuckwad beer drinkers who think Steve Harpers "Lawnorder" agenda is cool.

They haven't read any of it and that's what Brother Harper is counting on. They just keep on doing, (racking up credit card debt), and ignoring whatever changes are happening around them. Brother Harper is counting on that too.

Eventually one of them will walk into a hospital and be asked for a credit card. They'll hand it over and three weeks later we'll see some whining prick complaining that it cost him $10,000 for a 4 hour visit to the emergency room.

What happened to universal health care? Well, you voted it out ... shithead. You bought shiny bright fighter jets because, if nothing else, you support the troops.

So do I. But then, I was one of the troops. I expected that being one of those people meant I was trying to preserve what this country was all about. We looked after each other and, because we have unimaginable wealth (something I learned because I went to the shitholes of the world you sent me to) we were more than able to take advantage of it.

I read a lot. Sorry if that disturbs you. I don't hate you for being politically unengaged. Hell, I may actually admire you. But I will never forgive you for electing an unimaginative, ideological demagogue into office.

You don't care now ... but you will. Eventually, after it's far too late, you'll pay the price for not being a corporate executive. You'll look at your meager existence and wonder why a hospital wants to attach your house. And the only person to blame will be you.

You want more prisons. You want more punishment. You approve of your taxes going down a hole you cannot even identify.  And then you'll wonder why the crime rate is increasing. Stupid you.

You'll reject science. Well, not all science. Just the science which makes you uncomfortable. The rest of of it you'll use to support your arguments for why the same science today isn't valid. That makes you a hypocrite, but that word is never spoken at morning coffee. And then you tell us that snow is proof that global warming is not happening. As if you actually paid attention in grade 10 science class. It was always your life's dream to make Fords. Something I will only buy if the price is right and the warranty guarantees a 10 year life span. Science is a pointless exercise. Spin that bolt and dream of the next sports event - on TV. You don't play; you watch.

You claim to be informed. You wouldn't know a fact from a Magic Bullet ad.

Lie to yourself. Or let somebody else do it for you.

I don't hate you for your politics. I hate you because you're lazy.

I've had it with you

An Engineer's Guide to Cats . . .

HAVE A SAFE, WARM AND HAPPY CHRISTMAS. There are three things I wish for 2012: 1) Stevie gets his; 2) the US Navy's fusion project gets green-lighted; and 3) that we are all here this time next year to bitch and complain.

ENGINEERS AND PUDDY-TATS: I once had the pleasure of co-habiting with a very large, white, fluffy long-hair by name of Fred (you had to groom him 2-3 times a week to keep knots from forming). On dry winter days, he could build up a static charge on wool carpet that could've started a Peterbilt. A visiting friend, an electronics engineer, surveyed the problem and the room and advised grounding Fred as necessary against the mesh fireplace screen. Worked like a charm. Anyway, the video proclaims —

Two professional engineers illustrate the proper care and practical benefits of cats. None of the cats, humans, or engineers were mistreated in the making of this film. They were however, slightly annoyed.

Does this mean she doesn't like him anymore?

There are a lot more other important things going on, but this is truly smile worthy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Are you paying attention, Bob Paulson?

This is only going to grow.

At least 25 current and former female RCMP officers are seeking to join a possible class-action lawsuit against the force for alleged mistreatment on the job, a lawyer involved in the budding legal action says.
Lawyer Alexander Zaitzeff, of Thunder Bay, Ont., who is building the case with six other lawyers in Ontario and B.C., said he's heard from Mounties in every province with stories to tell.
"Constant terrible bullying, a hateful work environment, a tough place to actually show up and do your job, all the way to sexual assaults," Zaitzeff said Tuesday. "That's the gamut."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Uh oh, Sheriff Joe. Hello Mr. Harper.

The US Department of Justice has issued a report taking the bigot Sheriff Arapaio of Maricopa to the cleaners. The document makes really interesting reading in its descriptions of the systemic profiling and abuse of Latinos in Maricopa county. Hispanic residents are routinely and disproportionately targetted through random arrests and harassment by Joe Arapaio's deputies. It makes for interesting reading, and one does start to wonder how long the miserable little prick will remain outside of his own prison cells.

But something else struck me when I read the following bit on pages 11 and 12.

Contrary to standard policing practices throughout the country, MCSO supervisors have made a variety of statements undervaluing the usefulness of statistics and data collection for effective law enforcement. MCSO does not require deputies on patrol to keep a log of their activities, but instead requires them only to enter a highly limited amount of data into the Computer Aided Dispatch system and to produce records only for their citations and arrests. Consequently, whenever one of its deputies stops a motorist without issuing a citation, MCSO cannot review the basis for the stop, nor can it directly track the ethnicity of the stopped driver. MCSO's decision to allow its deputies to go about their traffic work without having to report many of their stops ensures that MCSO will be unable to properly monitor its deputies' traffic work or identify officers engaged in racial profiling. In the jails, MCSO has no reliable practice of documenting which inmates are LEP, leaving detention officers to guess at the language needs of the inmates.
MCSO has failed to put in place meaningful oversight and accountability structures. Such structures include systems for documenting deputy or detention officer activity and for handling complaints. MCSO departs significantly from generally accepted policing standards in its implementationof these systems...Consequently, MCSO does not track complaints directed at deputies or units within the organization. Further, because deputy misconduct often reflects poorly on the actions or inactions of the first-line supervisor, MCSO's system of relying on first-line supervisors places the critical determination of whether to go forward with an investigation in the hands of someone who has an inherent conflict of interest in having a matter thoroughly investigated.
I was reminded of the Harper regime's behaviour around information and data. They are as know one of the most secretive governments this country has ever seen. They ignore crime statistics and research and dismiss the heretofore mandatory nature of census compliance. They deal in smarm and lies about climate change and economics. They target women and, like Arapaio, visible minorities, in direct spite of the Constitution.

The obvious rationale here is that the Harper government does not care for the collection of information which may contradict their claims and policies. But if you look at the example Arapaio's goons, without detailed records of their actions or the requirement to keep them, they gain greater licence for individual thuggery.

Like Arapaio's department and the Hispanic population Maricopa County, the Harpermacht sees itself at war with most of the Canadian population in general and specifically certain groups within it such as women, LGTBQ identified people, Aboriginals, and Muslims. Two things happen here.

First, "winning" any war tends to involve a great deal of effort to destroy the command, control, and communication systems of the enemy, and strike fear and disarray into rank and file. Dismantle or defund, women's groups, target Muslims with legislation and rule changes, and seize control of troubled First Nations communities. These tactics do great harm to the capacity of target groups to organise and collect intelligence and use it against their harassers.

Second, these tactics strategically socially 'other' the target populations and make it permissible to openly discredit them in the public discourse. The frothing nutters gain implicit permission to froth and nut. Over time, the enemies become de facto second class human beings and citizens. Sure they might officially have the same rights and privileges as everyone else, but when they are publicly and specifically named and sanctioned by the government, it sends a message that is is now OK to discriminate against them. This discrimination then becomes much harder to show as the government will have eliminated funding and resources (e.g. Census) that can be used to show explicit or systemic bias.

We're a hopefully a long way from angry mobs torching neighbourhoods, let alone pink triangle or yellow star arm-bands, but the combination of these elements with this government points us in that direction. They've already trialled mass detention in Toronto and now they're building mass prisons. They've put forward legislation that compels prison for minor and victimless offences. Whether there is calculated intent or this is simply the nature of reprehensible people who cannot help themselves, they are fast creating the social and legal infrastructure for a very dark turn.

Discrimination . . .

UGLY PEOPLE ARE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST; the human mind has a hard-wired appreciation for facial symmetry, for example (and the reason I don't draw caricatures anymore). Like the old joke goes, she was so ugly, they had to tie a pork-chop around her neck to get the dog to play with her. . . cruel? Yes, life is hard, then you die.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a thoughtful appraisal of this part of the human condition, with an article by Rachel Shteir, "Taking Beauty's Measure"

Once upon a time, long, long ago, a man I worked for said to me, "You're beautiful." Then he quickly added, as if he regretted paying me such an expansive compliment, "in your category."

Had I read the new crop of scholarly books on beauty, I would have considered legal action. Or I would have contemplated a makeover. Either I had been a victim of "lookism"—a form of discrimination as toxic as racism, sexism, or classism—or I needed to spend more time applying mascara.

It says much about the 21st century that these books—aka "beauty studies"—regard beauty less as a noble, an aspirational, or even a sentimental ideal than as either an injustice that can be handled only by the law or something that women must slyly turn to their own advantage. After the waves of 20th-century feminism, we seem to have circled back to the notion that beauty hurts. But what is new about these books is their reliance on social-science methods to expand that point of view: Now beauty is often viewed through economics, particularly, to calculate its harm to anyone—not just women—who is not a perfect 10.

Please park the knee-jerk, and check out what Rachel has to say. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Creationism creep

Genie Scott explains how the christian conservatives are trying to sneak their way into the US school curriculum with bogus "academic freedom" laws.

As Panda's Thumb points out, it could be called "Academic Anarchy" without any loss of meaning.

Murphy: Harper is as bad as all preceding prime ministers ... at their worst.

I don't pay much attention to Rex Murphy. While able to wax eloquent on most any topic, that is, in my opinion, his only strength. He calls himself a "skeptic" on the topic of global warming. I submit that an earth scientist is a skeptic on that subject; Murphy is a denier by any test and unqualified to assess the science of climatology.

He is, however, qualified to opine on topics political. We all are.

The problem with Murphy is that he sprays himself with the same eau de toilette when pontificating on Canadian politics as he does when he spouts on about things climatological. He attempts to portray himself as a pundit with no particular champion to promote.

I have never accepted that premise and Murphy's latest defence of Stephen Harper is sufficient enough evidence to impeach Murphy as a Harper flack.

Read it at your leisure. Try not to vomit while absorbing Murphy's new definition of tinkering.

Then read James Morton, who makes the singular point which underscores the salient feature of the Harper government: ... at best Murphy's argument suggests the Conservatives have been corrupted by power and corrupted badly.

Murphy's assertion that Harper has never showed the kind of disrespect for MP's (and by extension the electorate) as that of Pierre Trudeau is laughable. Setting aside the fact that the reason Harper's government fell in March 2011 was because it was found in contempt of parliament, Harper is smart enough to know that Trudeau's exhibited arrogance was unpalatable to almost all Canadians.

When Harper wants to smear somebody or demonstrate his contempt, he has somebody else do it for him.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Just because....

It might be the most breathtaking protest song I’ve ever heard.

My true love drowned in a dirty old pan
Of oil that did run from the block
Of a falcon sedan 1969
The paper said '75
There were no survivors
None found alive

Come Fly With Me!

Peter (Airshow) MacKay just keeps on feeding the beast.

Defence Minister Peter Mackay spent $4,752 for two one-way plane tickets to go to the 2010 Grey Cup in Edmonton.
I wonder what retired brown-noser MacKay's office will troop out this time to defend Mr. Indefensible? 

Justin time . . .

MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, we have the ANTI-STEVIE . . .

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sheer audacity

"We're in the business of getting Conservatives elected and ending Liberal careers. We're good at it."
Campaign Research is the polling firm 'hired' by the Conservatives that falsely told Montreal constituents that their MP, Liberal Irwin Cotler, may resign. 
Andrew Sheer is the Speaker of the House and Conservative MP who bought the services of Campaign Research during his election campaign. 
Andrew Sheer is the Speaker of the House who found no breach of privilege when Irwin Cotler formally complained to him about Campaign Research's lies. 

Andrew Sheer is not someone I know, but he wears the same Harpermacht* uniform of clean-cut well-fed fanatical youth in a suit. See Baird, Kenney, del Mastro, the lunatic McVety for the same look. Odds on Sheer isn't in the Speaker's chair by accident. Reprehensible indeed.
Dippers and Grits: Do you understand it now? THEIR firm will call your constituents and tell lies about you. Their Speaker will make impotent noises, or perhaps by that point just openly mock you. Their MPs will sneer and snicker as they ram through more legislation that cripples your capacity to wage election. They will break law and convention everywhere they can get away with it -and that's a rapidly expanding field.
In their minds they're at war with you, me and anyone else remotely objecting to their fanatical misanthropy. They're not going to stop until they have absolute and permanent power, which means using any measure they can to crush their opposition. Us, in other words. 
This is what fanatics do. 
But you don't have to let them.

*Godwin be damned, this exactly what they are.

Indian defences . . .

INDIAN DEFENCES are chess openings characterised by the moves: 1. d4 Nf6 as you see:

Well, Indian defence is top-of-mind for more than chess players. This has to do with the Seychelles, the red spot on the map below.

CHINA MILITARY POWER MASHUP: kind of mashed-up moniker, but a way interesting site for those interested in the Chinese part of realpolitik. The article, "Is China's Naval Base in Seychelles a Threat to India?" gets right to the question.

Type 039B Submarines

There's been much talk in the media of an apparent offer by the Seychelles of a base for Chinese ships deployed to the Gulf of Aden and the West Indian Ocean, to help combat piracy. While it's not yet clear if the offer has been accepted, Chinese media reports suggest that Beijing is actively considering it as a "resupply" base.
• • •
With this in mind, it's clear that the Chinese naval presence in this part of the Indian Ocean is not in India's interest. But what's China's interest in establishing a base in the Seychelles?

For a start, it satisfies China's hunger for a firm foothold in the Indian Ocean. The Seychelles provides the PLA Navy an ideal platform from which to counter any threat to its sea lines of communication from Africa by the U.S. Navy operating out of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean region. In addition, to assist with the resupply, rest and refit of PLAN ships undertaking anti-piracy duties in the region, China requires a large logistics depot, which can be supplied by air and merchant/naval ships. The Seychelles base could therefore eventually be developed into a permanent naval base.

Checking out other sections of the site, the confrontation with Taiwan is going to be very interesting, when it arrives. One report "Hu Jintao orders China navy to speed up its development" is rather ominous, for sabre-rattling:

China's navy should speed up its development and prepare for warfare, President Hu Jintao has said. He told military personnel they should "make extended preparations for warfare".

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christopher Hitchens. Gone.

Never met him but, oh, how I wish I had. He will live on in ways I don't think even he could imagine.

Jail the fat white man with the disgusting hat

Jason Kenney believes that the Charter of Rights, established under the Constitution of this country is something stupid. 

"I'm sure they'll trump up some stupid Charter of Rights challenge. That's democracy. They're welcome to object. "

In short, he has expressed the belief that the governing party trumps the Constitution.

Every bullet fired from the barrel of a police pistol was my bullet. If you call that murder, then I am the murderer. Finally I alone created, on my own initiative, the State Secret Police Department. This is the instrument which is so much feared by the enemies of the State, and which is chiefly responsible for the fact that in Germany and Prussia today there is no question of a Marxist or Communist danger.
Herman Goering
Jail him now. Don't bother with a trial. Don't concern yourself with his rights. If it's a problem for him he can make a stupid Charter challenge. That's democracy. He spends time in jail and we ignore him until he resurfaces. 

Caveat emptor . . .

THE LAST F-22 HAS BEEN BUILT. According to David Axe, at WIRED, in an article, "Buyer’s Remorse: How Much Has the F-22 Really Cost?". Scary stuff:

So what’s the cost? As little as $137 million per jet and as much as $678 million, depending on how and what you count. The thing is, the best way of calculating the F-22′s cost may be the most abstract. But any way you crunch the numbers, the world’s best dogfighter has also been one of the most expensive operational warplanes ever.

OUCH! So, why should you care? Well, the article has an interesting comment on the F-35:

By contrast, the F-35′s unit cost should stabilize at around $157 million, owing to a massive 2,443-plane production run. That’s assuming the Joint Strike Fighter doesn’t get canceled or curtailed following revelations of new design flaws.

• • •

F-35 lifecycle plus unit cost, assuming nothing else goes wrong? $469 million, according to Air Force figures quoted by the GAO.

So: F-35's are going to be around 157 million dollars a piece, and almost $500 million EACH over their service-time? The Super Hornet gets better and better.

Marketing 101 . . .

TRUTH IN ADVERTISING. Really. According to Matt Hardigree at JALOPNIK, "How a mom came up with the ‘Condoms prevent minivans’ bottle cap slogan":

Images of a Magic Hat Brewery bottle cap with the slogan "Condoms prevent minivans" have been floating around the Internet for a while so I decided to track down the story behind this insightful slogan. It turns out a mom came up with it!

Vermont's Magic Hat Brewery produces more of the #9 "not quite pale ale" fruit brew than any other beer. They describe it as an "ale whose mysterious and unusual palate swirl across your tongue and ask more questions than answers."

• • • 

It may be funny, but it's more than a joke. Magic Hat has partnered with safe sex advocacy groups in the past and even sells their own condoms with the message "Get tested, get a condom, get it on!"

Just do it safely so you don't end up with a minivan.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Monsanto's superweeds . . .

The corn rootworm.  Photo: Jimmy Smith

"THE BUGS THAT ATE MONSANTO", by Tom Laskawy, at GRIST, is worth checking out. Monsanto's been one of the majors in bringing genetically-modified crops to market, and they've pissed off legions of farmers on both sides of the border. It's been high-tide-and-green-grass for Monsanto, but it seems there's problems . . .

Now that 94 percent of the soy and 70 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, Monsanto -- one of the companies that dominates the GMO seed market -- might look to some like it's winning. But if we look a little closer, I'd say they're holding on by a thread.

Their current success is due in large part to brilliant marketing. The company's approach was both compelling -- their products were sold as the key to making large-scale farming far simpler and more predictable -- and aggressive: Monsanto made it virtually impossible for most farmers to find conventional seeds for sale in most parts of the country.

• • •

Over the last several years, so-called "superweeds" have grown resistant to the herbicide RoundUp, the companion product that's made Monsanto's herbicide-tolerant (aka RoundUp-Ready) corn, soy, and alfalfa so popular. Those crops were supposed to be the only plants that could withstand being sprayed by the chemical. Oops.

The superweed problem is so bad that farmers in some parts of the country are abandoning thousands of acres because the weeds are so out of control, or dousing the crops with ever more toxic (and expensive) combinations of other herbicides. Thankfully, it's an issue that's getting more and more media attention.

And now Monsanto's other flagship product line, the pesticide-producing "Bt crops," named for the pesticide they are genetically modified to emit, is in trouble.

Go visit to find out more. The site has all sorts of interesting things.

Andrew Sheer!

Your sense of ethics appears to be lacking.

House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer was a client of the firm linked to calls in Irwin Cotler's riding that falsely claimed he was about to step down, Elections Canada records show.
Cotler asked Scheer to rule on whether the calls breached his parliamentary privilege, interfering in his ability to do his work as an MP. Cotler said his office was forced to deal with calls and emails from people in his Montreal riding wondering whether it was true. He also argued it made Parliament as a whole look bad, breaching privilege for all parliamentarians.

 You're not one of those "25 year old jihadis" are you?

Monday, December 12, 2011

F-35 JSF and the consequences of poseur governments

Uh oh. RCAF Air Marshall Lieutenant General Andre Deschamps makes warning noises about problems meeting operational requirements if the government buys less than 65 F-35s. Julian Fantino, the ex-copnow holding a job with the Harper Government (tm) related to defence is saying, well, final numbers 'are uncertain blah blah, and blah, but we're buying the F-35!' Hmm, one wonders if there's not just a little friction between the politicians and the generals?

And then, oh, what's this? Something about "Cracks of Doom" or "hotspots" in the air-frames? Production slowdowns?

You know, the armed forces of authoritarian states tend to be rotten apples, shiny exterior but rusting guts. Full of low-tech, outdated kit. Gaddafi's forces had lots of bullets, sure, but their air defence was useless when it found itself in a serious war. Saddam-era Iraq: all conscripts and obsolete tanks and planes. Sure you get examples of freshly painted trucks and polished boots that look good marching past the politicians' review stand, but that's where all the energy goes. There's footage of Iraqi troops pre-war looking really tough marching up and down the square. But that's all optics.  The Harper government is consolidating power, ignoring or weaseling around law and custom. True to form, they are foolishly gambling on big shiny pieces of military kit, and well, they might well end up with a grounded fighter fleet when the F-35 project officially fails and the CF-18s fatigue out of service.

There's something else too. These types of "leaders" don't really understand what it means to care for the troops (or anyone else!) they claim to love so much. They like their soldiers looking hard and polished, decked out in slick sounding acronyms and numbers. They don't do looking after the troops after they use them to attack Iran Afghanistan.

Right now the army is entering its post-conflict period. The density of combat veterans is very high. There are non-apparent combat wounds from PTSD to blast injuries to the brain which won't manifest right away. The budget cuts are coming down. Follow on support will be cut. There are homeless vets. These won't be acknowledged by this parade square government of Don Cherries. "Tough guys" don't need social workers or disability pensions.

The Conservative handling of the F-35 is just a symptom of what happens when fanatical politicians get their own armed forces to play with. There's very few political leaders with a martial uniform fetish who've ended up doing good things for their armed forces (First Sea Lord Churchill possibly excluded). Hitler and Mussolini saw their armies smashed and countries destroyed. Hussein of Iraq and Qaddafi of Libya ended up the same way. The Cons may not see Canada invaded, but their macho-minded poseur idiocy will see no good come to the Canadian Forces or the the country.

Making enemies

Canada's formal withdrawal from Kyoto will have consequences for Canadian foreign policy and relationships with other nations. It places the Harper-led government at odds with nearly the entire rest of the world, which is desperately trying to find a solution to the commons problem and issues of fairness that are hamstringing climate talks. Canada is not withdrawing in good faith; we are withdrawing because a bunch of older angry white men high on functionally obsolete economics don't understand what's at stake.

We may find other states punishing Canada through trade barriers, passport restrictions and other measures. At home, the public, and other levels of government may well push forward with their own climate initiatives. Some legal, some acts of resistance and sabotage against the tar-sand driven oil economy.

Here there be weasels . . .

THE TIMES COLONIST has a couple of pages you must read. They sum up the egregious behavior of the Stevie government so far. The first, "Political honesty a fading value" asks common-sense questions:

Has lying become acceptable behaviour for politicians? It's a serious question. Society is, at its core, a network of relationships. Relationships rely on honest communication for survival. If dishonesty and amorality become the norm in politics, than democracy and society are threatened.

And recent behaviour by federal Conservatives raises questions about whether the governing party considers dishonesty normal and nothing to apologize for.
• • •
Finally, there is Conservative house leader Peter Van Loan, who defends a party operation that has flooded the riding of Liberal MP Irwin Cotler with calls telling people he is resigning and there will be a byelection and asking for their support. Cotler has not resigned. The calls are sleazy and dishonest. Yet Van Loan maintains his party's right to free speech includes spreading misinformation.

 Yet Van Loan maintains his party's right to free speech includes spreading misinformation — YIKES! My simple mind equates misinformation with lying. You know, like ol' Joseph Goebbels, the original "Big Lie" Spinmeister.

The second Times Colonist page, a cooment by Robert Radford, "Politicians are wasting money" is a nice summation of grief to date.

What is most disheartening is that the spokespeople for Canada's, I mean, Stephen Harper's government, don't seem to be concerned about the reputation or credibility of the government in the eyes of Canada's "99 per cent," whose hard-earned wages they are squandering.

Except, of course where Stevie decides to abolish or neuter by budget obliteration. Well, this may be a good thing because at this rate, just about every sentient voter will be fed-up in time for the next election. Disturbingly, the Stevie mind-set has a bloody-mindedness in his government's sleaze that is different from the Liberals' trough-raiding, but maybe it's just all those Stevie portraits.