Tuesday, July 31, 2012

RCMP and social change

I sometimes have a quick and frustrated reaction for why victims of abuse, women in the latest case, might continue to endure it rather than rock the boat and assert themselves, even in numbers. But then I read things like this, and I think I understand a bit about why.

The statement denies all of Galliford's allegations and instead paints her as an alcoholic who refused treatment and rejected the RCMP's efforts to keep her away from one of the men she alleged harassed her.
Fighting back - and winning - means taking hits and enduring a struggle. It means burning bridges and having the personal made public. It can mean cruelling finding out who your friends really are. People scurry for the exits only to come back and thank you once you've won.

But one is rarely alone. The RCMP counter-attack of character assassination, in my view a reprehensible form of harrassment in its own right, may have actually backfired by encouraging more women to come forward. Hundreds of them, like the oft-repeated scene where the arrogant commander of some colonial army grossly underestimates the strength and capability of the indigenous forces.

A reaction from leaders that ignores the problem, attacks the victim, or closes ranks with the abuser like a glorified locker-room instead of adhering to their duty to remain impartial and investigate is stupid. The victim having now had their name dragged through mud has even less to lose, and may well be even more determined. Such action may also cause others to step forward and join them.

Such a vicious reaction to allegations of harrassment could only come from an organisation still dominated by men who really haven't managed to clue-in changes in society in the past decades. For close to forty years now women in Canada have surpassed men in participation in post-secondary education. Canadian medical schools now graduate more female MDs than males. This is nothing short of a radical social change. While there are still crippling glass ceilings, wage gaps, and misogynistic workplaces, the shear numbers of educated women participating in can only force change. The same might now be said for any other previously marginalised group.

Men and their organisations that are unable to change vulgar attitudes and practices are in for a shock when they discover (or fail to) the sexism and patriarchy upon which they rested their privilege is now a severe obstacle to their career progression and mating potential.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Big Game in Africa . . .

FABIUS MAXIMUS and The Tom's Dispatch gang can get a little hysterical, but it's a look at what Uncle Sugar thinks is necessary to be attended to in Africa, and is worthy of your attention. 

Is it possible that the U.S. military is present in more countries and more places now than at the height of the Cold War? It’s true that the U.S. is reducing its forces and giant bases in Europe and that its troops are out of Iraq (except for that huge, militarized embassy in Baghdad). On the other hand, there’s that massive ground, air, and naval build-up in the Persian Gulf, the Obama administration’s widely publicized “pivot” to Asia (including troops and ships), those new drone bases in the eastern Indian Ocean region, some movement back into Latin America (including a new base in Chile), and don’t forget Africa, where less than a decade ago, the U.S. had almost no military presence at all. Now, as TomDispatch Associate Editor Nick Turse writes in the latest in his “changing face of empire” series, U.S. special operations forces, regular troops, private contractors, and drones are spreading across the continent with remarkable (if little noticed) rapidity.

China has been courting various African regimes for over a couple of decades, now, and as a result, essentially, Kipling's Great Game continues with US and China replacing Russia and England, with Africa as the object of desire replacing central Asia. It's so new and improved, some pundits are calling it The New Great Game. I wonder what the MI6 Africa budget is? And India's RAW (CIA) is probably to be found all along the east coast as well as the Pakistani Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence and the Iranian MISIRI, and of course, Mossad, as African wealth is gazed upon by the covetous, and concerned governments get involved. Maybe Stevie will have CSIS try to set up a spy network?

When everyone is dead, the Great Game is finished. Not before.

—Rudyard Kipling, Kim

"If we hadn't a thorough understanding, I (British lion) might almost be tempted to ask what you (Russian bear) are doing there with our little playfellow (Persian cat)."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Size matters . . .

BUNKER-BUSTERS: big, designed to take out hardened targets. First designed by Barnes Wallis, the 22,000lb Grand Slam proved to be just the thing to take out Hitler's U-boat pens, the Tirpitz, and various viaducts.
— the MOP —

With the advent of various clandestine WMD projects by countries like Iran and Iraq, the USAF has developed their latest version of the Wallis weapon, now known as the MOP: Massive Ordnance Penetrator.

Critics wonder if the Iranian centrifuge sites may be too hardened, even for the MOP, but as 617 Squadron found with the Grand Slams, more damage could be done by close misses. The 12,000 lb Tallboys and the 22,000 lb Grand Slam would get through the U-boat pen roofs and cause considerable damage, but it was a Grand Slam that was some 50 yards off that killed the whole U-boat pen. Dropped from about 12,000 feet, it went about 120 feet into the earth beside the U-boat pen and exploded. The seismic pressure lifted the whole U-boat pen about 2 feet — then dropped it.

A B-2 drop would be from about 30,000 feet, so the terminal velocity could be way higher than the 617 Lancasters' Grand Slams.

— the Grand Slam —
Maybe they might sell a few to the Israelis? It's probably PAVE-GPS capable, so just dump one of 'em out the ass of an IAF trash hauler at 30,000 feet and the PAVE system'll take it in. The IAF does have Wild Weasel capability, so they could suppress any high-altitude SAM capability and their F-15's will take care of any aircraft the Iranians could try to operate.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The slippery slope . . .

A NATIONAL ENERGY POLICY means different things to different people. To Stevie and the gang from Alberta, it means "give us what we want"; to others, it means optimum sustainability and concern for the environment.

Alison Redford: a Black Hat?
Licia Corbella, at The Calgary Herald has a very interesting take on this, "Corbella: Redford so wrong about national energy strategy":

Way back in November when Alison Redford became leader of the Progressive Conservative party and therefore premier, I opined that her idea of bringing in a national energy strategy was wrong-headed. First, it would dilute Alberta’s dominant voice on the issue to becoming just one in a chorus of many. Second, that by seeking consensus on an energy strategy when the circumstances in each province are so divergent, national unity could be damaged.

This past week has proven that I was right and Redford was wrong. And yet, saying I told you so gives me no pleasure.

In November, Redford said the national energy strategy was “about ensuring we can talk about the use of energy in an integrated fashion.” I’m not even sure she knows what that means. It’s the kind of empty rhetoric that sounds great in the halls of the United Nations, but means nothing in the real world.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Something to watch...

This could get interesting.

Chris Roussakis says he was supposed to be in London as the official photographer for Canada's Olympic team, but he was told in June the job was no longer his.
The photographer who is now working with the team is a member of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's staff.
Jason Ransom will be among friends there; the COC's director of communications is Harper's former chief spokesman Dimitri Soudas.
Of course. If there's some sort of World Stage(tm) machination occurring, you know it's odds-on that our pocket-mirror PM will try to oil himself into the gears. More at Simon's.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Air Harper

Ugh. Harper wants his Air Force One. But here's the thing: The United States has a fleet of presidential and executive aircraft specifically designed and equipped to fly their high ranking states-people around the world and their country. Air Force One, the heavily customised Boeing 747 airframe is the signature contraption of the bunch. The RCAF maintains a fleet of Challenger and Airbus aircraft that perform a number of roles depending on their configuration, only one of which is prime-ministerial transport. They also move the Queen and other members of the Royal Family, troops and equipment as well as perform air-to-air refueling of Canadian and allied aircraft. It isn't Harper's Airbus. It is an asset of the RCAF, owned by the public, which may actually be needed in a real-world emergency. This isn't a new issue and Airshow in the past did the right thing and rebuffed the PMO about the paint-scheme. The dark-grey colour and low-visibility markings serve a tactical purpose when the jet flies into war-zones or other places where it might be unwise to advertise its presence on a ramp. I mean thanks to policy errors like Afghanistan and uncritically siding with Israel, there are a growing number of places on the globe where a big red maple leaf and Canada sticker might present a bit of a security problem.

What Harper wants is a flying photo-op backdrop to serve as nothing more than an officialised RCAF fishing charter.

Banksy’s Latest . . .

ACCORDING TO TAXI, "London Officials To Erase Banksy’s Latest ‘Olympic’ Street Art". The Nanny State at its intrusive worst.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pole-dancing pedestrians . . .

REALLY. ACCORDING TO THE TELEGRAPH, "Traffic signs in New Zealand destroyed by prostitutes performing stunts". Dozens of traffic signs have been destroyed by prostitutes performing pole-dances in the street to attract clients, officials in New Zealand's biggest city have revealed, and according to Paul Chapman in Wellington, the pole-count is climbing. Ya gotta love it, hope it catches on here. Holey-Moley, we got pole-dancing pedestrians! Now, that's a driving distraction, for sure: erotic pipe-bending. 

"The poles are part of their soliciting equipment and they often snap them.  "Some of the prostitutes are big, strong people."

No shit, Sherlock.

Surviving society's psychopaths . . .

WHEN THE POLICE CAN'T PROTECT YOU, WHAT DO YOU DO? If you're a politically-correct, 'progressive', you probably die, because guns are nasty. Everybody should know guns are nasty — but so are some people.

When you live in a would-be, could-be, should-be world spun for you by those you follow, it can be hard to realize that ultimately, you are responsible for your own survival. 

THE DAILY BEAST, a progressive blog, has an interesting article by Abigail Pesta, "Do American Women Need Guns? Self-Defense Pro Paxton Quigley Says Yes", contending that as the debate over gun control rages in the wake of the Colorado shootings, that handguns play an important role in society: they stop rape.

“Every 2 minutes, a woman is sexually assaulted in the U.S. There are 207,754 victims of sexual assault each year. Eighty percent are under the age of 30,” she says, citing statistics from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or RAINN. “That’s a lot of women walking around who are targets. They’re talking on their cellphones or texting, totally unaware of what’s going on. It’s part of the reason why people get themselves into trouble.”

Then again, when you have people who sincerely believe that the Long Gun Registry actually made Canada safer, it's a difficult topic to discuss.  Years ago, I had a student who had been stabbed over 70 times, and survived. Her perspective is entirely different from the fatuous, who emit brain-farts like "ban bullets", and other brain-dead ideas.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Chris Hedges on Moyers & Company . . . .

Commentary from me is unnecessary.

Suffice to say:  Moyers' questions are pointed, and Hedges' responses are powerful.



Act . . . .


There's a serious problem in the military these days. The evidence is mounting that they simply have no idea what they're doing and how it might be perceived by the public who signs their paycheques. It starts with helicopters and fishing trips and goes all the way to Afghanistan.

I read this today and was dumbfounded by unmitigaged bullshit in the Forces' excuse making, which seems these days to push ever closer to lying. "Survival training"? A while back, defending the indefensible especially by the method of scatter-shot excuses made you look weak and incompetent. Not in our Con-model Army.

This is not the way to maintain public support at a time when the CF needs it. Post-Afghanistan is going to be very hard for veterans and serving members as the budget cuts come down and reorganisation plans are implemented while the institutional culture tries to accomodate its involvement in a decade of pointless war.

Here Comes the Bride . . . .

From Seattle/Tacoma's NPR  KPLU.org Wednesday:

Angela Marie Vogel, a local activist with ties to #MicCheckWallSteet and a initiative campaign to nullify Citizens United’s effects in Seattle, used a figure from an art installation in a downtown Seattle park to marry “Corporate Person.”

 “The purpose of the wedding is to highlight the insidious concept of corporate personhood – and its damaging impact on our community and the autonomy of our city council's legislative powers,” according to a press release of the event.

 The ceremony was conducted by Pastor Rich Lang of University Temple UMC and was staged by Envision Seattle, the group behind Initiative 103. If enacted, the initiative would provide a community bill of rights which strips corporate personhood and other judge-made constitutional "rights" such as free speech within the city of Seattle, the group said.

The happy couple is registered at all the usual corporate retail establishments, no doubt . . . .

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

So it's the courts...

Vic Toews thinks the courts are to blame for the Toronto shooting.
"We are very concerned about the courts doing that, because illegal firearms — especially those smuggled in from the United States … minimum prison sentences are absolutely essential to create a strong deterrent against that kind of activity," Toews said in an interview with Prairie network Golden West Radio.
Yes, I'm sure the absense of a mandatory minimum is the first thing on a thugs mind when the testosterone kicks in and he feels obligated to open fire. Funny, they don't feel that way about registering firearms. Or promoting progressive social policy raises everyone's general well-being and lowers crime rates.

History, by Airshow

Canada's very special international moron of mystery, described in detail by our Kevin. Go now and read. But put down your coffee first.

I would love to know what other nations' classified assessments about our political leadership look like these days. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Vickie Problem . . .

VICKIE'S AT IT AGAIN. Thanks to DAWG'S BLOG, this is brought to your attention: CSIS wants to sit on your PC, Bill Blair's G-20 police are "carding" over a million brown people in Toronto, and Ontario's security forces are swapping data about people their orcs encounter. You should know more: go visit DAWG'S and find out more.  
Thanks for the heads-up.

Historical perspective . . .

80 YEARS AGO, HANS THILO-SCHMIDT needed money to keep his love-nest going. Seeing as Hans was working at the German Armed Forces' cryptographic headquarters, the Cipher Office, he had some secrets to sell. The German army and navy had adopted an improved Enigma cipher machine after the revelation that the US and the British had broken German codes in WW1.

So in 1932, Hans approached the French, and Captain Gustave Bertrand of French Intelligence seized the opportunity — to no avail, initially. The French looked at the Enigma manual and daily code key, and pronounced it unsolvable, as did the English. Things might have died right there, but Capt. Bertrand approached the Polish secret service's cipher office, who eagerly accepted the gift.
He furnished Gustave Bertrand of the French Intelligence service a booklet detailing the Enigma machine setup procedures. There was no mention of the rotor wiring or information on the keys. In fact, it was more than a booklet but seven documents with two important ones: User Manual for Enigma and Enciphering Procedure for Enigma with drawings and pictures . The French puzzled over this information, then consulted with the British, who agreed that it was insufficient to be of any practical use. No one knows why the this valuable information was rejected. Bertrand then offered it to Lt Col Langer, head of the cipher office in Poland who was overjoyed upon receiving even this small crumb. Rejewski (one of the three mathematics experts) asked Bertrand if he could obtain some outdated Enigma keys. The Frenchman relayed this request to Schmidt who readily obliged, and the keys were passed back to Poland.

With keys given them by the French, and using replica machines they had built, the Polish team of
Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rózycki and Henryk Zygalski were able to decode most German messages.

And then the Germans introduced an expanded Enigma rotor set, just before the outbreak of WW2. Adding 2 more rotors to the 3 already used, plus the addition of the plugboard meant that the solution of these new Enigma ciphers got vastly bigger, too big for the Poles to tackle. The Poles could see war approaching, so they passed their latest findings over to the British as Warsaw got pounded.

This time, the British got with the program, Bletchley Park came to be, and the Americans got up to speed with the new electro-mechanical tabulating machines, with National Cash Register supplying the machines that broke the most stubborn of all Enigma traffic, the German Kriegsmarine.  This left Bletchley to tackle other Nazi ciphers, including the Offizier cipher and the Lorenz cipher in which Hitler corresponded with his generals.

Out of this effort, Alan Turing invented the first programmable electronic computer, Colossus. From these beginnings, a new digital world appeared.
Colossus Mk 2

So, from the wellspring of venality and greed, the source of change. Historians have said that the Ultra effort shortened the war by two years, maybe more. Certainly the Enigma decrypts resulted in the defeat of the U-boat campaign, with the withdrawal of the wolfpacks by mid 1943.

But Ultra actually accomplished more than the mainstream historians would suggest. IMHO, without Ultra, the chances are very good that Russia would have collapsed in 1942-1943. Why? Because Stalin had purged the Red Army officer corps and the NKVD, and the survivors were easy pickings for the German veterans.

But the British did not share any details about Ultra with the Russians, except to give general warnings. It was the efforts of the Cambridge Five that got the decrypts to Moscow Center.  Kim Philby (cryptonym: Stanley), Donald Duart Maclean (cryptonym: Homer), Guy Burgess (cryptonym: Hicks) and Anthony Blunt (cryptonym: Johnson) and John Cairncross (cryptonym: Liszt) were ideological spies, who believed that Socialism was the future, in spite of Stalin. Their efforts, as recounted by one of their major "handlers", Yuri Modin, in his book, "My Five Cambridge Friends" were tireless in their efforts to pass along the Bletchley decrypts.

From their efforts, the Russians had the Wehrmacht "order of battle", the disposition and organization of Wehrmacht units, as well as Luftwaffe disposition. This last was extremely critical, as the Soviet air power was able to destroy a lot of Luftwaffe aircraft before the battle of Kursk, and the Luftwaffe was never able to catch up.

Without the chain of events unfolding as they did, the chances were very good that Russia could have collapsed, the US and the UK would have had to agree to an armistice with Nazi Germany that might have survived in some fashion until the US could have started irradiating German cities with A-bombs in 1946.

From chaos, venality and patriotism, we get to today. Everything has changed, and nothing has changed: we have Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and OWS, Occupy Wall Street.

It may be delusional, but I like to believe that more and more people are taking their freedom more seriously. Today's fascists have eschewed the funky Nazi uniforms for Armani suits, Rolexes and Porsche Designer Sunglasses, but like the fascists of old, the ruthlessness remains — only this time the ruthlessness is hidden in the smoke and mirrors of "patriotism". Meanwhile, the true patriots, the Bradley Mannings of this world keep appearing, to try to make things right and the eternal battle against fascism continues.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why is this man smiling?

This photo of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty with Canada's last penny cost taxpayers $56,000. 
That is more than many rank and file public servants make in a year. That is the annual salary of a nurse or government clerk or soldier.
So, the next time you get pissed off about how long you had to wait to get get your tax refund or passport processed, or why the hospital emergency room is closed on Sunday or why your friend got laid off from their government job, just remember that this is how the party of fiscal responsibility spends your money on themselves.

cross posted from The Woodshed, where we have "more tunes and fewer goons" than your average blog


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

MLVW 4ever! Updated with "cost concerns"

Wow. No tanks. No planes. No helicopters. No subs. Now, no trucks.

Those trucks are important. The Army cannot move without them. Just watch what happens when we have another Ice Storm and there's no transport. And by my read, this is the second cancellation. The first one was buggered last December, except this time, it looks like the entire contest has been shutdown, not just restarted.

There's a big fat story here clamouring to be told.

Anyone wanna bet those shiny new CCGS and HMCS they promised are next?

At this rate, the Conservatives are going to make the hungry years of the 1990s CF look like a feast.

Ok, so the emerging storyline is that the project was cancelled due to cost concerns. Well, subs, the F-35, etc have not been cancelled due such concerns, which far exceed any perceived or real issues with the cost of a few lorries. But then, with Ministers like this it is unreasonable to expect anything but "astounding incompetence"...

Rapacious Oligarchy, Indeed . . . .

The second segment of yesterday's The Current is a Chris Hedges interview which is excellent.  Take 24 minutes out of your day and listen to the audio here.

The man nails it once again using terms to describe "the people who essentially hold power in the US" as those "with unchecked central authority" and are members of "a tiny, rapacious oligarchic class."

Good stuff . . . .

DOH! . . .


Spinning on The World Stage (tm): the reviews are coming in

A bullet-riddled map of Afghanistan, painted on a wall of an abandoned Canadian-built school in Zharay district of Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, on June 9, 2012. (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov, via The Atlantic.

Brian Stewart has a piece up suggesting Canada's Kandahar mission was advocated and addled by yes-men and looking-glass heroes.
While most Canadians may have mentally turned the page on the Afghan war, happy to forget our military's long and frustrating struggle in Kandahar province, some of our allies have not.
Increasingly, foreign military and diplomatic assessments of the war are appearing in print, and what is surfacing is not a comforting picture as far as Canada is concerned.
At the very least, one finds little support in these assessments for Ottawa's boast that the Kandahar campaign won Canada much-needed new military prestige throughout NATO, especially with key allies such as Britain and the U.S.
Rather, the impression given is of a Canadian military mission that was deeply out of its depth and politically too hesitant to ask for significant outside help.
If this is even half-way true, it means the people responsible for Canada's participation in the war - politicians, civil servants, and generals - utterly failed in their duty to speak and act in unvarnished truth.

Yesterday was Pachino Day. On that day in 1943 the better men of this land stepped off ships and landing-craft to set foot on a sun-baked Mediterranean island and began to end of the horror that was Nazi-occupied Europe and Fascist Italy.  

Vichy Canada

One of the first US soldiers to die in Iraq after "liberation" was shot in the head while waiting to buy a coke somewhere in Baghdad. In the coming years, lots of hay was subsequently made about the various factions, Sunni, Shia, Hussein loyalists, and so forth who resisted the US-led invasion and occupation and their power-centred motivations for doing so.

Very little however was said in Western media about the simple fact that unsanctioned armed foreigners, with the powers of domestic security forces, on the streets are the supreme insult to the people who make their homes there. The factional loyalties and associated goals are simply products of a person's social environment and their own take on the situation. The ultimate driver is the imperative to kick out the invaders.

US police, armed and imbued with the authority to enforce laws in Canada? You are goddamned right there are sovereignty worries! Giving foreign police credentials in Canada is an abdication of sovereignty.

That the RCMP is saying they'll be under supervision of Canadian police matters not a whit. It just makes the RCMP look like an extension of US law enforcement. 

Canadians very likely won't be setting off bombs, but in doing things like this the Harper regime further delegitimises itself as well as Canadian police. They are only making things harder for themselves and 2015 is a long way off.

Happy Birthday . . .

50 YEARS AGO, the world changed, and nobody thinks about it anymore. WIRED has a fine little appreciation of the event: "Telstar 1: The Little Satellite That Created the Modern World 50 Years Ago"

Telstar 1 was built as an international collaboration between AT&T, Bell Labs, NASA, the British General Post Office, and the French National Post, Telegraph, and Telecom Office. The satellite launched on a Delta rocket on July 10, 1962.

The aluminum satellite was wimpy by modern standards. It used 14 watts of power – roughly one-seventh that of a modern laptop – generated by the 3,600 solar panels on its outer hull. As well, it could only carry 600 phone calls and one black-and-white TV channel, though not much more was really needed at the time.

The moment brought television journalism into the modern age. Before this, video reels had to travel across the ocean by airplane. Often, events shown in TV news were several days late – ancient history compared to newspapers and radio.

But from this 20 minute session-limit beginning, as satellite building chops improved, we got the first geosynchronous communications satellite, Syncom 3, two years later, in 1964. 

Satellite-building is difficult, and it takes time to get it right, but it is a tribute to the quality of engineering that in spite of solar flares, 99% of the time, satellite communications work so well they're invisible. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Clarence has a point . . .

The Super-Duper Hornet . . .

— Stevie's Turkey: the F-35 —
BOEING HAS ANNOUNCED a whole series of up-grades and improvements to the Super Hornet, according to MILITARY.COM's article, "Super Hornets Could Launch Their Own UAVs". The object of the exercise is to increase survivability to allow a service life to 2040.

Among the potential upgrades to the E and F-model jets is the ability to launch and control unmanned aerial vehicles.
• • •
Other potential upgrades to the Super Hornet could include the installation of a stealthy weapons pod; conformal fuel tanks along the upper fuselage that give the jet more than 3,500 gallons of additional fuel; enhanced General Electric engines that would provide increased fuel efficiency and up to 20 percent more thrust; and a bevy of avionics and sensor upgrades designed to improve the plane's ability to collect and share data as well as jam enemy sensors. All the information gathered by these sensors would be displayed in the cockpit on a giant, color touch screen resembling a large iPad.

While Boeing has no official contracts to install these features on any of its Super Hornets, it is conducting research and development work to ensure that it can do so, should a customer request them.

"As international customers buy Super Hornets, they can tailor it to their needs" as they evolve by taking advantage of the new features that Boeing is researching, said Chris Chadwick, head of Boeing's military aircraft division, during a June 7 meeting with reporters.

Do check the rest of the article; it seems Boeing wants to do business, and is courting all the buyers of older F-18's as well as owners of the E and F variants.

But Stevie just has to ram the F-35 through Parliament, his cronies need it. We can't afford it and we don't need it. We need F-18 "G" Super-Duper Hornets (or whatever Boeing wants to call them), then get with the USN's X-47B RPV fighter I posted details about a couple of weeks back. The 47 can eventually replace the F-18 for "harm's way" missions, as its capabilities get worked up.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Poor choice of metaphor, CBC.ca

"Vancouver police take aim at women's safety" does not inspire the image you're trying to communicate.

Gotta pass this on . . .

— 15 is THIS many —

NUMERICALLY-CHALLENGED AMERICA. Chatham County Online BBS in North Carolina reports the signage above with the comment:

Remember when America was dumbing down? No more. We have arrived...

Tries your patience . . .

THOSE KIND FUNDIES in Afghanistan are at it again, with a disturbing report from CNN, "Video: Taliban shoot woman 9 times in public execution as men cheer".

Officials in Afghanistan, where the amateur video was filmed, believe the woman was executed because two Taliban commanders had a dispute over her, according to the governor of the province where the killing took place.

Both apparently had some kind of relationship with the woman, said Parwan province governor Abdul Basir Salangi. "In order to save face," they accused her of adultery, Salangi said. Then they "faked a court to decide about the fate of this woman and in one hour, they executed the woman," he added.

The public execution is the latest and among the most shocking examples of violence against women in Afghanistan, but it is far from an isolated case.
Nearly nine out of 10 women suffer physical, sexual, or psychological violence or forced marriage at least once in their lifetimes, Human Rights Watch said in its 2012 annual report.

Then there's another CNN report (just one of many), "Official: 160 girls poisoned at Afghan school".

A hospital in northern Afghanistan admitted 160 schoolgirls Tuesday after they were poisoned, a Takhar province police official said.

Their classrooms might have been sprayed with a toxic material before the girls entered, police spokesman Khalilullah Aseer said. He blamed the Taliban.

The incident, the second in a week's time, was reported at the Aahan Dara Girls School in Taluqan, the provincial capital.

Par for the course, unfortunately. It's kulturkampf, of a kind, as a primitive mind-set rebels against the future, and it's going to be another fifty or seventy-five years to get the primitive into a 21st-century mind-set. And as we see with the American Gopper fundies, the Birthers and Baggers, some minds never change.

But we can, with time and patience (lots and lots of patience), create a world where these unfortunate women have a fair chance. But the solution cannot be military: the Muj love dying — it's the effect of TV and the Web and Rock and Roll and education that scares them, and these are the tools we must use.

Saturday, July 07, 2012


POLONIUM 210 is a nasty way to off somebody. The assassination of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 was the first known use of the radioactive isotope. WIRED's Deborah Blum has an article about the history of Polonium, "A Poison for Assassins", which takes a close look at the substance. The reason it's so lethal is that it radiates alpha particles (essentially Helium nuclei) intensely. Outside the body, alpha particles are quite innocuous; inside the body, they kill.

How bad is this? By mass, polonium-210 is considered to be about 250,000 times more poisonous than hydrogen cyanide. Toxicologists estimate that an amount the size of a grain of salt could be fatal to the average adult.
The Curies, the discoverers of Radium and Polonium

In other words, a victim would never taste a lethal dose in food or drink. In the case of Litvinenko, investigators believed that he received his dose of polonium-210 in a cup of tea, dosed during a meeting with two Russian agents. (Just as an aside, alpha particles tend not to set off radiation detectors so it’s relatively easy to smuggle from country to country.) Another assassin advantage is that illness comes on gradually, making it hard to pinpoint the event. Yet another advantage is that polonium poisoning is so rare that it’s not part of a standard toxics screen.

ALJAZEERA has paid for analysis of Yasser Arafat's personal artifacts, after rumors "somehow" emerged that Yasser had been assassinated. According to an article by George Galloway, the UK activist-politician, "The strange death of Yasser Arafat", while toxicology results are yet to be posted, apparently those artifacts were "hot".

The Al Jazeera report drew heavily on the hitherto silent widow of the late Palestinian leader, Suha Arafat. She provided the program investigators with his underwear, socks, toothbrush, even his ubiquitous kaffeyah which were then tested by a leading Swiss laboratory.
All showed that the Palestinian icon was positively glowing with radioactive material. Those of us who were at the hospital when Arafat died were in no doubt whatsoever that he had been poisoned. The only conversation between us - his veteran comrades - was on the subject of by whom?

This is where the fun starts. George, being the politically-correct activist that he is, automatically accuses the Israelis. Hating Israelis is fashionable these days amongst the intelligentsia, with some justification, when you look upon the trials and tribulations of the Palestinians. Problem is, it doesn't really account for why the Israelis would want to off Arafat especially when his Hamas successors were even more difficult to deal with.

And when you ask the question, "Who has a vested interest in keeping the Arab-Israeli hostilities at the boiling-point?", other possibilities appear: IMHO, that's Syria, you know, Vlad's "little buddy" — and Vlad sanctioned the Polonium hit on Litvinenko.

Syria has never gotten over the loss of the Golan Heights — and unfortunately, Bashar's Bullies just don't have what it takes to off the Israelis. This can be difficult for the politically-correct to accept, but tough noogies. As well, the Syrians were not supporters of the Fatah political party and Arafat, preferring Hamas.

So, whodunnit? 

Friday, July 06, 2012

Odious Kenney

Doing his thing. I wonder how fast his reflexes are.

h/t harebell

India tries GM agriculture . . .

GENETICALLY-MODIFIED plants have a lot of people very nervous: the subject brings up a lot of automatic negative knee-jerk, reflexive, unthinking, thanks to Monsanto and their GM tar-baby of Round-Up-resistant GM crops.

GM cotton
But GM plants are beneficial, and modifying genetics has been done by gardeners even before Gregor Mendel and his pea-pods, and later, with the discovery of the DNA double helix by Watson and Crick from Rosalind Franklin's X-ray diffraction image. And that's why India has started to get with GM crops, according to an article in io9 by  Tim Barribeau, "How genetically modified crops are helping poor farmers in India" — and no Monsanto shake-down.
Franklin's X-ray image

The debate about widespread use of genetically modified crops is still contentious. On one hand, you have the strong-arm tactics from the likes of the Monsanto corporation. On the other, there are stories like this. By using a special form of genetically modified cotton, smallhold farmers in India have been able to substantially increase their crop output — and quality of life.

The National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America has an abstract of this program in PDF that gives more details of how well this is working.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Infographic . . .

While we wait for events, Jim Harris' Huffpo article is worth a review.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Hey Donald Hayes!

A big paycheque does not correlate with a strong leadership. A big paycheque correlates with a massive ego and sense of entitlement.

Navy choppers

I don't know CBC, your typo might be quite accurate...

The helicopters, crammed with modern anti-warfare systems, are considered vital to naval operations, flying off the decks of Canada’s naval frigates to scan the seas for enemy threats.
...as the ultimate anti-warfare system might be an undelivered weapon system. I digress. Nowwithstanding the idea of some sort of supernatural jinx placed upon this country regarding new military flying machines, I wonder if we're better off cancelling with Sikorsky and going with something already in production and service elsewhere. Five years probably means no more Sea Kings.