Sunday, September 30, 2012

Future considerations . . .

KURZWEIL ACCELERATING INTELLIGENCE is a thoughtful site, with a post by Amara D. Angelica, "Welcome to 2035…the Age of Surprise" that is worthy of perusal. Since its creation in 2001, Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence — 

explores the forecasts and insights on accelerating change articulated in Ray Kurzweil’s landmark books — notably The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity Is Near — and updates these books with key breakthroughs in science and technology.

The “AI” in KurzweilAI refers to “accelerating intelligence,” a core concept that underlies the exponential growth of the pervasive information-based technologies — both biological and machine — that are radically changing our world. These include biotechnology, nanotechnology & materials science, molecular electronics, computation, artificial intelligence, robotics, neuroscience, physics, Internet, energy, electronics, pattern recognition, virtual reality, human brain reverse engineering, and brain and body augmentation.

The article looks at a USAF study, Blue Horizons:

The U.S. Air Force just released today a jaw-droppingly impressive, fast-paced video on accelerating change, “Welcome to 2035…the Age of Surprise”.

Produced by the
U.S. Air Force Center for Strategy and Technology at The Air University, the video was based on Blue Horizons, a multi-year future study being conducted for the Air Force Chief of Staff, a “meta-strategy for the age of surprise.”

Staring at the future is an important pastime for planning staffs, because the danger of being caught with obsolescent technology has governments world round trying to figure out what's coming. Thus, Blue Horizon considers many aspects of future conflicts that might not seem that relevant, to the technologically-unaware. Here's a partial list:
• 2035 Biodeterrence: Problems and Promises for Biodefense
• High Power Microwaves on the Future Battlefield: Implications for U.S. Defense
• Cyberdeterrence in 2035: Redefining the Framework for Success
• Toward Cyber Omniscience: Deterring Cyber Attacks by Hostile Individuals in 2035
• Harnessing Light: Laser/Satellite Relay Mirror Systems and Deterrence in 2035
• Taking a Quantum Leap in Cyber-Deterrence
• The Impact of Nanotechnology Energetics on the Department of Defense by 2035
• National Energy Security and Reliance on Foreign Oil
• Rising Dragon: Deterring China in 2035
• Disaster-Proofing Senior Leadership: Preventing Technological Failure in Future Nano-War
• The Air Staff of Tomorrow: Smarter, Faster, Better
• Biodefense and Deterrence: A Critical Element in the New Triad
• Officer Education: Preparing Leaders for the Air Force of 2035
• Net-Centric Warfare 2.0: Cloud Computing and the New Age of War

It's been said that general staffs always plan for the last war. Maybe this is changing, at least for the US armed forces.  The Impact of Nanotechnology Energetics on the Department of Defense by 2035 is a PDF file that you should read. If half of the nanotech developments come to pass, there are going to be big changes coming. Nanotech has been hyped over the last decade, and people are becoming inured to enthusiastic proclamations about future tech. However, this is nanotechnology applied to chemistry: from micro-size molecules to nano-size molecules. Why? Because they have discovered that chemistry behaves differently at nano-size.

It's early days yet, but it appears to be possible to boost chemical reaction efficiency anywhere from 2x to 10x, compared with traditional micro-size chemistry.

This allows all sorts of things that weren't possible, like Single-Stage-To-Orbit space planes, because fuel becomes a LOT more powerful. Less fuel, lighter spacecraft, higher performance. The dark side is that warheads and their delivery systems can become a LOT smaller and lighter for the same-size bang. It means that the battlefield in 2035 could be as different from the Iraq campaign as the Somme was from Waterloo, almost 100 years earlier.

Friday, September 28, 2012

USian election ad


Freedom fighters . . .

MAYBE STUPID INSECTS aren't so stupid. According to George Dvorsky's article in io9, "Enslaved worker ants fight back through acts of sabotage", there are species that have developed effective resistance to slavery. 

The ant has been a creature respected by various cultures, and appears in the Bible in Proverbs 6:6 —

Which John Wyndham used as the title for a rather fine novella, now forgotten, "Consider Her Ways", which is worthy of your perusal (Alfred Hitchcock thought so, adapted it for his TV show). 

The story is mostly a first-person narrative. It begins with a woman who has no memory of her past waking up and discovering that she is a mother of some description, in a bloated body that is not her own. After some confusing experiences her memory gradually returns and she recalls that she was part of an experiment using a drug to see if it enabled people to have out-of-body experiences. It seems that the drug has worked far better than anyone could have anticipated: she has been cast into the future. She also realizes that she is in a society consisting entirely of women, organized into a strict system of castes. Her initial contacts have never even heard of men.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

These guys . . .

REMEMBER VALERIE PLAME? These guys sure do. The story ain't over, and it's gonna make a hell of a mini-series, working title, Washington Weasels.

H/T — Helmut

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jason Kenney,

Ok, Jason Kenney, game on.

Exhibit A: The evolving LGTB emails where the office of the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration is somehow tracking people who identify as LGTB.

Exhibit B: Mr. Kenney finds interested in questions of science and philosophy criminality (don't we have a Justice Minister and courts?) with his interest in when life begins, and supports M-312 which seeks to address this question for the good of something and the bad of whole a lot of that group known as "women". 

I want to know what goes on in your head, Jason Kenney. I want to know why what other people do with their sexual biology is something of concern to you and your office.

You're appearing like some bizarre mix between Nazi socio-biological thought and the medieval Church.

You see, with your lists of gay people and your questions that seem to want to link women's biology with criminality, you're starting to terrify people.

But then, maybe that's the point?  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lightning does not glide

This really should end all 'debate' on the F-35. Via MoS.

Jason Kenney, creep

Via Dawg, I learn the following:

An email extolling the Conservative government’s record on gay rights has some recipients wondering how Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney knows their sexual orientation.
The email from Kenney’s MP’s office sent Friday trumpets the Conservative government’s initiative to help and gay and lesbian refugees, particularly in Iran.
What other lists and information are stored on Conservative hard-disks and how did they come about that information?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thoughts on thoughts . . .

THE HUMAN BRAIN is astoundingly complex, according to a report on ScienceDaily, "Human Brains Share a Consistent Genetic Blueprint and Possess Enormous Biochemical Complexity". Indeed, the human mind is astoundingly complex in both construction and operation. Scientists at the Allen Institute for Brain Science reported in the latest issue of the journal Nature that human brains share a consistent genetic blueprint and possess enormous biochemical complexity. The findings stem from the first deep and large-scale analysis of the vast data set publicly available in the Allen Human Brain Atlas.

And while we all don't think alike, our minds are all pretty much the same:
This dataset profiles 400 to 500 distinct brain areas per hemisphere using microarray technology and comprises more than 100 million gene expression measurements covering three individual human brains to date. Among other findings, these data show that 84% of all genes are expressed somewhere in the human brain and in patterns that are substantially similar from one brain to the next.
• 84% of all genes are expressed, or turned on, somewhere in the human brain.
• Many previously uncharacterized genes are turned on in specific brain regions and localize with known functional groups of genes, suggesting they play roles in particular brain functions.

But it's when brains malfunction, that is of concern. Psychoanalysis is a process of conjecture, when contending with human minds and their mysterious motivations, and as the West became urbanized, it appeared that more and more people were experiencing mental maladjustment, indeed, head problems.

Then Miltown, or Meprobamate was discovered in 1950, launched in 1955, the first blockbuster psychotropic drug. Right after, came Thorazine, or chlorpromazine, and the side-effects blossomed, as the "thorazine shuffle" became the gait of the afflicted.

And Big Pharma jumped in on this with both feet. 

Decades later, the effectiveness of these psychotropics is being rightly questioned.

THE WILSON QUARTERLY is a delightful, thoughtful site, with a wonderful article by Tanya Marie Luhrmann, "Beyond the Brain", which looks at the failure of the pharmaceutical industry to deal with schizophrenia:

In the 1990s, scientists declared that schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses were pure brain disorders that would eventually yield to drugs. Now they are recognizing that social factors are among the causes, and must be part of the cure.
• • •
Psychoanalysis and even psychotherapy were said to be on their way out. Psychiatry would focus on real disease, and psychiatric researchers would pinpoint the biochemical causes of illness and neatly design drugs to target them.
• • •
Yet the outcome of two decades of serious psychiatric science is that schizophrenia now appears to be a complex outcome of many unrelated causes—the genes you inherit, but also whether your mother fell ill during her pregnancy, whether you got beaten up as a child or were stressed as an adolescent, even how much sun your skin has seen. It’s not just about the brain. It’s not just about genes.

But orthodox medical people are slow to change, and the prescription drug abuse and damage is becoming even more of a problem, according to Dr. Peter Breggin, whose web site, Psychiatric Drug Facts is a useful compendium of information and ideas, including his latest book, "Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families". So, why should you care? Because information and knowledge are your best defence against the horrors that could be prescribed for you or those you love.


...federists. Suddenly their obsession with the War of 1812 makes a whole lot more sense. This bit is cringing:
"As the Prime Minister [David Cameron] said when addressing the Canadian parliament last year: 'We are two nations, but under one Queen and united by one set of values,'" Hague said in a written statement to CBC News.
"We have stood shoulder to shoulder from the great wars of the last century to fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and supporting Arab Spring Nations like Libya and Syria. We are first cousins."
"Great" wars and Anglospheric bullshit, it's all trans-Atlantic Tories trading in other people's blood.

Incidently, the back inside cover of your Canadian passport already says Canadians are able to use British missions in the absence of a Canadian one. It doesn't state it, but Canada also has agreements with Australia to similar effect.

Unless this is a return to the days of visa-free right-to-work and shared passports, this is simply an enhancement of existing diplomatic arrangements.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Elasticity of demand

I got yer business model of higher edumacation right here: It seems there is an upper limit to how much people are able or willing to pay (or borrow) for their education. HM Goverment's appalling move to increase the upper limit on university fees has resulted in a decline of 54 000 admissions.

This should be a warning to governments playing with fee increases. Too much and you get Quebec, and lose. Or you get the UK, and lose.

Friday's futures . . .

SOME GOOD, SOME BAD. RSN has a chiller for your perusal: "Monsanto Corn Causes Tumors, Organ Damage in Rats". The study is disputed by some, but it sure looks scary.
A tumor problem

The French government asked the country's health watchdog to investigate the findings further, although a number of scientists questioned the study's basic methods and Monsanto said it felt confident its products had been proven safe.

Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen and colleagues said rats fed on a diet containing NK603 - a seed variety made tolerant to dousings of Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller - or given water with Roundup at levels permitted in the United States, died earlier than those on a standard diet.

On a positive note, the future of computing just got rosier. ScienceDaily has a report from Australia, "Single-Atom Writer a Landmark for Quantum Computing". This is heap big medicine, because now, information can be written to and read from quantum dots. Why should you care? Because the pathway has been opened to building computers that make anything that exists today, even the petaflop systems at Lawrence Livermore, look like 1980s calculators.
This is an artist’s impression of a phosphorus atom
(red sphere surrounded by electron cloud,
with arrow showing the spin direction)
coupled to a silicon single-electron transistor.

A research team led by Australian engineers has created the first working quantum bit based on a single atom in silicon, opening the way to ultra-powerful quantum computers of the future.

"For the first time, we have demonstrated the ability to represent and manipulate data on the spin to form a quantum bit, or 'qubit', the basic unit of data for a quantum computer," says Scientia Professor Andrew Dzurak. "This really is the key advance towards realising a silicon quantum computer based on single atoms."

TXECHNOLOGIST is a tech blog supported by GE, with a report on leather grown in the lab, "Laboratory Leather: Company to Mass Produce Tissue-Engineered Animal Hides within Five Years".

The last round-up?

But in an exclusive interview with Txchnologist, company cofounder and CEO Andras Forgacs has broken the silence and revealed some details about Modern Meadow’s goals. Their first project? In vitro leather production.

“Our emphasis first is not on meat, it’s on leather,” Forgacs says. “The main reason is that, technically, skin is a simpler structure than meat, making it easier to produce.”

My guess is that 50 years from now, they will be growing custom-size fur coats to order, along with Mastodon Chateaubriand, or T.Rex burgers, and no sentient animals will be involved.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The power of oil . . .

IRANIAN OIL has all sorts of political complexities, a lot of which are not immediately apparent to those of us who rely on orthodox news sources and commentary. Indeed, as we see, the Iranian nuke project and the posturing over Hormuz is rather a side-show, a distraction for American conservatives to dick-thump over.

ALJAZEERA has a report by Pepe Escobar, who is the roving correspondent for Asia Times, titled "All aboard the New Silk Road(s)", where he believes that Iran, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US are all scrambling to get the upper hand across Eurasia. Add Russia to the mix and we have a three-ring circus here, folks, as the Great Game continues.

In the complex chessboard where the New Great Game in Eurasia is being played, both Kings are easy to identify: Pipelineistan, and the possible, multiple intersections of a 21st century Silk Road.  

Few have noticed a crucial meeting that took place during the recent Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran, between senior Foreign Ministry diplomats from Afghanistan, India and Iran. Their ultimate goal; a new Southern Silk Road connecting Iran to Central and South Asia through roads, railways and last but not least, major ports.

The crucial Silk Road port in this case is Chabahar, in Sistan-Balochistan province in southeast Iran. Tehran has already invested $340 million to complete 70 per cent of the port construction - a decade-long project.

But with US and EU sanctions biting harder and harder, Tehran expects Delhi to come up with a closing $100 million. India has already invested $136 million to link Chabahar to Afghanistan's ring road system.

One does not have to be Alexander the Great to notice the fastest connection between Kabul and India would be through the fabled Khyber Pass. But that does not take into account the accumulated historical venom between Islamabad and Delhi - their constant promises to increase cross-border trade notwithstanding.

With Chabahar linking Iran directly to Afghanistan and India, in theory Pakistan is sidelined. But it's much more complicated than that.

• • •

Enter Pipelineistan - via the key Iran-Pakistan umbilical cord in the making: the 2,700 kilometre-long IP gas pipeline, from Iran's gigantic South Pars field through Balochistan and Sindh and into Punjab.

According to National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) managing director, Javad Oji, the stretch from Iranshahr in southeast Iran to Zahedan and the Pakistani border is 90 per cent ready. The 900 kilometre-long pipeline on the Iranian side should be active one year from now. It's up to Islamabad to finish its stretch.

Totally in character in terms of interminable Pipelineistan soap operas, IP used to be IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) - but Delhi pulled out, forced by relentless pressure from the Bush and Obama administrations.

And it's here that the going gets really tough - because there's nothing Beijing would love more than turn the former IPI into IPC.

Now, add the confrontation between China and its neighbors bordering the South China Sea and further North over deep-sea oil deposits, and the future has all sorts of interesting possibilities.

Pepe has another article, in Tom's Dispatch, "Tomgram: Pepe Escobar, Pipelineistan Goes Af-Pak", which points out that

Iran's relations with both Russia and China are swell -- and will remain so no matter who is elected the new Iranian president next month. China desperately needs Iranian oil and gas, has already clinched a $100 billion gas "deal of the century" with the Iranians, and has loads of weapons and cheap consumer goods to sell. No less close to Iran, Russia wants to sell them even more weapons, as well as nuclear energy technology.

And then, moving ever eastward on the great Grid, there's Turkmenistan, lodged deep in Central Asia, which, unlike Iran, you may never have heard a thing about. Let's correct that now.

Gurbanguly Is the Man

Alas, the sun-king of Turkmenistan, the wily, wacky Saparmurat "Turkmenbashi" Nyazov, "the father of all Turkmen" (descendants of a formidable race of nomadic horseback warriors who used to attack Silk Road caravans) is now dead. But far from forgotten.

The Chinese were huge fans of the Turkmenbashi. And the joy was mutual. One key reason the Central Asians love to do business with China is that the Middle Kingdom, unlike both Russia and the United States, carries little modern imperial baggage. And of course, China will never carp about human rights or foment a color-coded revolution of any sort.

The Chinese are already moving to successfully lobby the new Turkmen president, the spectacularly named Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, to speed up the construction of the Mother of All Pipelines. This Turkmen-Kazakh-China Pipelineistan corridor from eastern Turkmenistan to China's Guangdong province will be the longest and most expensive pipeline in the world, 7,000 kilometers of steel pipe at a staggering cost of $26 billion.

So, the players are making plans, but the future will be different from our expectations, it always is. My guess, my stupid opinion is that technology will have some surprises, and that 30 years from now, petroleum oil will be a 3rd world fuel of decreasing importance.

H/T — Daniel

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Up, up and away . . .

FLY WITH MITT: Enter for a chance to join Mitt on board the campaign plane for an exciting day on the campaign trail -- at 30,000 feet!

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go behind the scenes and see the campaign from the inside. Donate $3 for a chance to take off with Mitt for a day on the campaign plane.

Second prize is two days on the campaign trail.

Booming costs . . .

UNLIKE FINE VINTAGE WINES, nuclear warheads don't get better with age. According to Dana Priest's article, "The B61 bomb: A case study in costs and needs" at The Washington Post, Uncle Sugar is concerned, because the B61 is over 50 years old as a design. It's a two-stage radiation implosion design, officially dating to 1963, developed from the Swan Device of 1956, which was the first use of fusion-boosting, which is the key to dial-a-boost variable yield.

The B61 was once heralded as a cornerstone of the country’s air-delivered nuclear force. Developed as a major deterrent against Soviet aggression in Europe, it is a slender gray cylinder that weighs 700 pounds and is 11 feet long and 13 inches in diameter. It can be delivered by a variety of aircraft, including NATO planes, anywhere in the world.

Now, nearly five decades after the first version rolled out of Los Alamos National Laboratory 100 miles north of here, age threatens to make the workhorse of the arsenal unreliable. So the B61 is poised to undergo a major renovation to extend its life span, a project that could cost as much as $10 billion, according to the Pentagon, or about $25 million for each of the 400 or so left in the arsenal.

$25 million a pop? A lotta bucks for a lotta bang. There's even a high-shock armored penetrator version, which is an unbelievably difficult achievement, because implosion devices are extremely precise; everything has to time properly, function properly, or you get a "fizzle".

Anyway, do check out the article as it gives a good over-view of a key defence industry that is off most people's radar, that has driven the development of some of the most powerful computers on the planet: like petaflops of performance. That's a lot of flops, folks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gopper melt-down . . .

WHY ROMNEY AND RYAN ARE GOING DOWN, summarized forcefully by Robert Reich, reported on RSN, and an extensive look at the Gopper charge to oblivion:

Republicans are failing the central test of electability. Instead of putting together the largest possible coalition of voters, they're relying largely on one slice of America - middle-aged white men - and alienating just about everyone else.

Sums it up IMHO, and accounts for the increasingly psychotic state of non-rich conservatives, as the Goppers' sociopathic/psychopathic* mind-set is perceived by increasing numbers of Americans for what it is, and commented on. Check out how American Hispanics are reacting to the right-wing racist onslaught.

*Psychological tags are easily misused, but on the whole, I feel these are indeed accurate. The Goppers are sociopathic, in that their policies do have a negative effect on the society; they are psychopathic in that their self-absorption with economic entitlement has no empathy for anybody outside their immediate circle, with the demonstrated propensity for a malevolent attitude towards anybody who doesn't share their point of view. These people are actually mentally ill. When you get a double dose, you get Hitler and Stalin and their weasels.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Common denominators

I sometimes look at The Atlantic's In Focus section. The photos are compelling and represent a random snap shot of the world as it is and was.

This week there's a spread of photos on the protests in the Muslim world over that American nutter's video.

There's also a collection of photos of the US/NATO dead returning from Afghanistan.

The common denominator of between the two is the overwhelming presense of young men. Angry young Muslim men. Grieving young Western men. Another group of photos begins to reveal that which unites these two groups.

As a global society we are still ruled by old men with old ideas. These old men are monsters and destroy youth.

It needn't be this way.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The power of simplicity . . .

SOMETIMES, REALLY SIMPLE THINGS can change the world. Esther Inglis-Arkell has a fascinating article on io9, "How a Simple Glass Case Terraformed the Entire World" that is worthy of contemplation.

How do you keep an orchid alive on a ship that exposes it to salt spray, blazing sun, tropical gales, northern storms, and barely any fresh water for months at a time? You don't. Although botanists traveled the world for centuries, taking clippings, collecting seeds, and stowing plants on ships, they were lucky if anything ever made it back alive. Plants grew where they grew, and if you wanted what they could produce, you dealt (often unpleasantly) with the people who lived there.

And then Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward put a moth chrysalis in a sealed glass case to preserve it.

And the world was never the same.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mammaries in the news

Breasts are in the news today. The Duchess of York has a pair as a scandal-rag perilously confirms.

Across the Atlantic, a professor who nursed her baby in - of all things - a gender and sexuality class, is causing conniptions among people who struggle to understand basic human biological needs.

And out here on the coast, those denizens of Wreck Beach are concerned about ogling boaters noise and danger boaters coming too close. Funny, the original CBC piece seems to have been rewritten from a potentially breast-fixated frame: 

Vancouver nude beach patrons seek anti-ogling bylaw - CBC › HomeBC
2 days ago – Vancouver nude beach patrons seek anti-ogling bylaw ... The Wreck Beach Preservation Society is presenting the municipal authority with a ...

Easy Rider . . .

WHILE THE ISLAMIC WORLD shows us that they don't like crappy cinema (unlike The Message, with Anthony Quinn), here's something really neat to check out, created by RYNO Motors. If it doesn't snow very much where you live . . .

Thursday, September 13, 2012

In your future . . .

WHILE THE POLITICAL LUNACY continues, scientific and technological progress continues. It's easy to be oblivious to what's going on, but according to io9's article by George Dvorsky, "9 Overlooked Technologies That Could Transform The World", there are developments that could be as important as the development of the integrated circuit. Here's three of 'em, click on the link to check out the rest.

1. Cheap and fast DNA sequencing. In 2003, a human genome cost $3.8 Billion. Today? $1,000.00
— RNA interference —

3. Memristors. The first memristor was developed in May 2008 by HP, who plan on having a commercial version available by the end of 2014. And aside from memory storage, memristors could prove useful in signal processing, neural networks, and brain-computer interfaces.

7. RNA interference. Similar to gene therapy, RNA interference allows biologists to manipulate the functions of genes. 

So, why should you care? If you are under 40, you will be living with these developments soon enough, and because of them, your children or your grand-children could get very, very long life-spans.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wink at the moon

Created by some close friends of mine for one of humankind's greatest heroes.

Things get integrated . . .

— the first integrated circuit —
AND THE WORLD CHANGED: on September 12, 1958, Jack Kilby shows his Texas Instruments colleagues a little something he’s built. A very little something: a working integrated circuit on a piece of semiconductor material. 54 years later, we have its logical development below:

— INTEL Core i7 series 900 processor die —


Lesser Defence Minister Bernard Valcourt's rationale for not pursuing Bourdeau Industries' proposal to rehabilitate the Avro Arrow:
"The proposal to develop, test and manufacture what would effectively be a brand new aircraft is risky, and would take too long and cost too much to meet Canada's needs."
This is of course is completely different from the fantastically over-budget and delayed development, testing, and manufacturing of the brand new F-35 Lightning II fighter and CH-148 Cyclone naval helicopter. Completely different.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A military politics

Am just glancing through the CBC bits on the change of senior leadership in the Canadian Forces as the last of the Afghanistan era Chiefs of the Defence staff retires.
But the outgoing chief of the defence staff says he is most distressed by DND's inability to properly come to grip with the operational stress and mental health issues that are beginning to seem a plague on the force.
"We've come a long way, but we're not quite there yet with mental health. We're not there at all."
Yeah, that's a serious problem. Delayed onset brain injuries from IED blasts, PTSD (diagnosed or not), and the lot of it, including dissappearing from the public spotlight. Layered on an era of reduced operational tempo and training due to budget cuts, which means lots of bored young men looking for a rush, and things are going to get weird. I also think there's a better than even chance that the social unrest that follows yet another Harper term will see the Canadian Forces deployed against Canadians in ways that can't be undone.

This period will be easier for former and serving members if some of them (a lot of them) can stop falling for the pillow-talk and get over their Pavlovian Conservative politics.

Follow the money . . .

OWEN GRAY'S NORTHERN REFLECTIONS has a post you should ponder, with links to a disturbing article by the Toronto Star's Richard Gwyn, and the Tax Justice Network.

An important and quite stunning study has just been published by an organization called the Tax Justice Network. It has surveyed the holdings of the tax havens around the world, from Switzerland to the Cayman Islands and the rest.

According to the Tax Justice Network, the holdings in these tax havens now amount to an incredible $21 trillion. That sum is equal to the gross national product of the U.S. and Japan combined.

That unimaginable horde is owned or controlled by just 92,000 people in the world. They constitute not Occupy Wall Street’s 1 per cent of all taxpayers but a mere 0.001 per cent of them.

And there won't be consequences?

Monday, September 10, 2012

What what? Arrow you say?

OK, this a is most intriguing bit of fun in the F-35 drama.

A Canadian company is seeking to go back in time to help fly Canada's air force into the future.Documents obtained by Global News indicate an update to the storied CF-105 Avro Arrow was put forward as an alternative to the purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets. And among the project's champions is one of Canada's top soldiers, retired Maj.Gen. Lewis MacKenzie. The Arrow was an advanced, all-weather supersonic interceptor jet that was developed in the 1950s. Several prototypes were built and flight tests were conducted, but the project was abruptly shut down in 1959 and the aircraft never went into production. MacKenzie told Global that the Arrow's basic design and platform still exceed any current fighter jet and it is perfect for Canada's needs. "It's an attack aircraft. [Boris: Mackennzie is referring to the F-35] It's designed for attacking ground targets and its stealth is most effective against short range radar, protecting ground targets," MacKenzie said. "What we need in Canada is something that can go to the edge of our airspace, from a sovereignty point of view, and be able to catch up with intruders."

I have no idea how an updated Arrow design might compete with modern fighter aircraft in term of fine-grain performance, but it is a hell of a thought experiment. At a basic level the Arrow meets or exceeds the altitude and speed envelope of modern fighters. Like all modern stealth(ish) machines, it includes an internal weapons bay, giving an aerodyanamically clean design and potential for low-radar cross-section performance.

With the amount of money the government is prepared to spend on the bloated and inefficient exercise that is the F-35 program, I think it is a very fair question to ask what that sort of reinvestment in the Canadian aerospace industry might produce?

Sadly, because we're addled with national governments (Conservative or Grit) who insist on giving away our national defence to the Americans and our raw materials to China, we will likely never find out.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Quick note on Canada and Iran

I've been really put off commenting on these affairs lately. Fools commit foolish actions on all sides and there's not much to say about that. The bombs may fall or they may not. That stated I'll add my quick tuppence to the nonsense of closing diplomatic mission in Iran.

By removing our very small diplomatic presense in Iran, the Canadian government has done two things. First, it has left the three Canadians currently incarcerated in Iran to their fate. Without Canadian face-to-face contact with Iranian authorities, all the government can do is stonk loudly from afar. Second, as the big players pull their missions and support (or refuse to condemn) the Israeli government desire to attack the place, there is a may still be a need for a country like Canada to maintain or facilitate communication channels between sides as war edges closer as this might be key to avoiding it.

Of course, that point assumes that the key powers would prefer to avoid war and not embrace it. We are governed by madmen.

Friday, September 07, 2012

The Stevie Weenie . . .

REALLY. According to Andrew Moran at DIGITAL JOURNAL, in an article, "Ottawa investing $826,000 to protect us from exploding sausages" — 

It was announced earlier this month in a news release that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is investing taxpayers’ money in an “innovative” product that will prevent a sausage from “splitting or bursting while cooking.”

And these people are going to choose fighter aircraft?

Salty science . . .

THE AMERICAN COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND HEALTH has a report, "Sodium restriction may hurt, not help, cardiac patients" that you should read. It turns out that a low-sodium diet is dangerous to your health — even if you're not a cardiac patient.

For instance, a study published last year in JAMA found that, among nearly 30,000 patients with cardiovascular disease or diabetes who were followed for over four years, those who consumed less than 3,000 mg of sodium per day were at a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular events. Considering that the official U.S. dietary guidelines are even more restrictive than this — 2,300 mg of sodium per day for the average person, and only 1,500 mg per day for people over 51, African Americans, or those with other cardiovascular risk factors — this finding is cause for concern.

Check out the article, and the links within it, and enjoy those potato chips. Founded in 1978, ACSH is a consumer advocacy organization directed and advised by over 350 physicians, scientists and policy advisors. ACSH promotes the use of sound, peer-reviewed science in the formation of a full spectrum of public health policies, including those related to food, pharmaceuticals, environmental chemicals, lifestyle factors, consumer products and terrorism preparedness and response.

Where jurisprudence boldy goes . . .

STAR TREK has been cited by American judges in trials, according to io9's Jessica Mederson, whose article "8 Ways That Judges Have Cited Star Trek From the Bench", is worthy of perusal. I wonder what Erle Stanley Gardner would have thought?

5) The Klingon Dictionary may replace Black's Law Dictionary as the go-to dictionary for legal definitions:

Norwood v. Vance 572 F.3d 626, 630, 637 (9th Cir. 2009)
(The majority opinion)
The district court declined to give the proposed instruction because the meaning of deference would not be "clear to a lay person." But "deference" is not Urdu or Klingon; it is a common English word.

(The dissent)
I must, however, acknowledge that the majority is quite correct in intuiting that, unsurprisingly, there is no Klingon word for "deference." See generally Marc Okrand, The Klingon Dictionary (Star Trek 1992).

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Anthropocene explained

Welcome to the Anthropocene from WelcomeAnthropocene on Vimeo.

Gopper disinformation . . .

THIS COULD BE a Photoshop confection, but it's entertaining to ponder.

A brief note on the Marois/PQ victory shootings

The politics of division almost always result in bloodshed. It is only when all sides mutually agree to divorce that things may go peacefully. The Czechoslovakia is an example.

We live in a world of identities.  Nation-states, races, gender, classes, ethnic, religious, cultural identities inform to greater or lesser extent how people see themselves as individuals and individuals in society. We as a species have not quite managed to privilege ourselves as species first. 

We do not yet fully share a common sense of humanity and remain only partly emerged from our tribal caves.

As reprehensible and inexcusable as the shooting and murder are, they will not be the first if the PQ pushes for sovereignty. There are too many identities bound up in the equation for it go peacefully. Francophone, Anglophone. Canadian, Quebecois, Aboriginal. Sovereigntist, federalist.

Any party openly calling for secession in opposition to the national will is playing with lives. Any national government enacting policies that spawn secessionist rhetoric and acts is playing with lives.

I can't support any of them.

Toews the Inquistor

The Justice Minister's office does not think Wiccan chaplains are something that should be allowed into prisons.
But shortly after news broke Wednesday, Toews' office said the government isn't convinced that paying the salary of a witchcraft practitioner is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. 
I can only imagine what sort of images go through Conservative minds when someone says Wicca. It's probably very safe to assume Mr. Toews et al have no idea what they're talking about.

But more to the point, many organisations recognise and accept Wiccans. In Wales, there are pagan prison chaplains in prisons. In the UK in general, pagan police are granted leave for holidays and have their own organisation.

There is also a deeper issue at work here. Wicca is part of a growing neopagan movement. Ecocentric, matriarchal and feminist (in some cases to the exclusion of men), tolerant, healing, and life giving, it is a rejection of the newer faiths which use fear and punishment to divorce humans from each other and the planet. You couldn't find a more anti-Conservative cohort to join if you are religiously inclined. Indeed, as the social fracture expands between those of us who challenge the present world as unsustainable, and those who embrace or seek to worsen the status quo, then we are likely to see a continued to resurgence and revisiting of ancient practices.


Monday, September 03, 2012

The struggle continues . . .

98 YEARS AGO, on April 20, 1914, it was not a good day to be in Ludlow, Colorado, when the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards started shooting a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families, killing between 19 and 25 people. According to Wiki,

Ludlow after the shooting stopped
and the fires were extinguished.
sources vary but all sources include two women and eleven children, asphyxiated and burned to death under a single tent. The deaths occurred after a daylong fight between militia and camp guards against striking workers. Ludlow was the deadliest single incident in the southern Colorado Coal Strike, lasting from September 1913 through December 1914.

And this incident, known as the Ludlow Massacre, was merely one of the highlights in the struggle against the fascist plutocrats that were running the American economy. Kind, sensitive people, like Jay Gould, who was seen as the archtype of the Robber Baron. 

During the Great Southwest Railroad Strike of 1886, he hired strikebreakers. According to labor unionists, he said at the time, "I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half."

All over the US, working people were getting a raw deal. In the industrial East, working conditions were lethal, as Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911 so graphically showed.

It was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. It was also the second deadliest disaster in New York City – after the burning of the General Slocum on June 15, 1904 – until the destruction of the World Trade Center 90 years later. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling to their deaths.

Out of these challenges and outrages came the relatively benign polity of consensus that we have today. But the Jay Goulds of this world are eternal, only today, they are way, way more dangerous, with computerized money. Thanks to Occupy Wall Street, and Anonymous and WikiLeaks, the dream of an equitable society has not perished. The challenge, for those who care, is to reach the couch potatoes and get the lumpen proletariat involved. With the obesity epidemic we have, there's a lotta lumpen out there.

Kinky chemistry . . .

TRANS FATS ARE A NO-NO and kinks in the chemistry are good.  Keith Veronese, at io9, has a great explanation why trans fats are so dangerous with his article, "Trans fats and the chemistry of evil". If you care about what kind of chow you digest, do check it out as it shows how very, very small differences in molecules can have consequences.