Thursday, September 25, 2014

Night Moves . . .

SOME FOLKS REALLY EARN THEIR PAY. Like the pilot of that Harrier AV-8B landing at night on the flightdeck of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island somewhere in the Arabian Sea. Do visit David Cenciotti's site, The Aviationist, which has fine pictures of aircraft and events from around the world, to see the video. Brave people.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pointers . . .

Speakers in Houses

Well, we've always suspected The Mouthpiece takes his orders from the Great Grey Glans. Mr. Mulcair finally called him out on it, and duly punished. On Iraq no less, where the Harper Regime has deployed Canadian troops but won't tell us anything else about it. Trudeau the enabler apparently changed the subject. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Baubles, RCAF edition

The news yesterday was about the RCAF (officers, mostly, save for 'aviators') joining the RCN and the Army (officers, entirely) in the back to the future schtick of reverting to pre-Trudeau unification ranks and symbolism.

Judging by the RCAF Facebook and Twitter comments, it is slightly controversial. Some pragmatists saw nothing wrong with the yellow-gold bars that were the norm until now and see this sort of exercise as a waste of money when, you know, wounded vets are being seriously fucked out of pensions and badly needed ships, planes, and trucks remain unrealised. Others wax wistfully about how some sort of 'honour' is now restored and recall with fondness the pre-1968 uniforms tucked away in closets. Still others are less than satisfied because this looks like a  compromise between the old RCAF of Wing Commanders and Pilot Officers* (because the last really big War, Commonwealth, at so on), and the post-Hellyer Majors, Colonels and Generals, with updated versions of the rank insignia of the former superimposed on the latter. To me, it seems like a very made in Canada solution where competing traditions were compromised. Former privates, who are most definitely not pilots, are now something called 'Aviator' which is meant to be a gender-neutral variation of the 'Leading Aircraftsman'  - nevermind 'aviatrix' I guess. (Will the army finally drop the weird MCpl rank/appt thing, and reinstate the lance jack? Unlikely.) I also don't quite understand why RCAF Air Commodores and Marshals Generals require TWO distinct versions of their rank insignia on their DEUs (seriously, why?).

The NCOM ranks haven't changed save for the lowest symbolised rung.  This stuff really is all about the officers (and politicians).

Yet, the RCN just officially lost FOUR of its most important warships, the RCAF's Hornet replacement is unknown, and the wounded are cast-off, and Canada quite literally just got sold to Chinese investors by the Harper government. Who this shiny back-to-the-future Canadian Forces are meant to serve now remains an open question.  Could get weird in ten or twenty years.

*CTV is reporting that maintaining the Army, sorry, uh, "Royal Flying Corps" officer rank titles is because a return to the RAF-type ranks (ahem, also in use in many other air forces!) is "too confusing". Not sure I buy that.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland: No wins.

Massive 84.5 % voter turn-out.

Close finish at 55 % for No.

Verdict: Good result. Further devolved powers are clearly on the radar, democratic participation is renewed, and Scotland can now serve as an inspiration to serious constitutional reform in other parts of the UK, which could create more regionally relevant representation and governance.

If, if, if, the momentum can be harnessed and any sore feelings got-over by those who hold them. There are more than a few people 'blaming' on the web and in some of my circles blaming the trio from Westminster for their last minute devolution promises that swayed the vote. There's no proof they had an effect, and it is actually an act of indirectly blaming fellow Scottish residents. This country does not need division now.

More soon, but I have a pile of work to get through.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scotland: Branding exercises and the No

The final referendum result won't be known until breakfast tomorrow.

Someone mentioned today over coffee that Yes side scored a major PR victory by co-opting the Saltire, Scotlands blue and white flag, early on and using it as a de facto YES/SNP logo. That flag has sadly now become a biased political statement, rather than the neutral symbol of national unity and regional identity it ought to be.

The No side for some reason has gone with a weird colour scheme that involves yellow and purple, and reminds of UKIP every time I see it. There are also a lot less No signs around where I am. It is actually hard to voice scepticism about independence about this here, even for many Scots let alone poor expats. In my workplace, there are one or two quite vocal and jovial Yes supporters, and I've met some really upbeat and lovely people who are active Yes campaigners.  You end up feeling like you'd really hurt their feelings if you asked some harder questions, regardless of which side you were actually on.  Canadians are known for our apologetic politeness and this is where we get it from! No one ever wants to say no, instead people make declining mumbles or say nothing at all. Tricky business, this mix of culture and rhetoric. I haven't actually met a No campaigner, although I see them around. I wonder if that says something.

Questioning comments are sometimes uttered in quiet voices behind closed doors lest others be offended. There's a subtle unpleasantness to it all that I find myself more aware of in these closing hours.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dangerous delusions . . .

SOMETIMES, IT'S NOT WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW THAT'S DANGEROUS, it's what you believe true that isn't so.

This is a failing in all of us, but it seems to be most pernicious with the socially and politically conservative in societies, wherever they may be.
— HIV —
AlterNet is a fine site, with a thoughtful article by Cliff Weathers, “How Denial Caused One Major Health Catastrophe, and How It May Trigger More Crises”, which describes the costs of this mind-set with the HIV crisis in South Africa — and more important, perhaps, if you live in North America, the increasing vulnerability of all of us on this continent because of cutbacks to vaccination and other public health programs in states with GOP governments.
So, instead of administering the cocktail of HIV medications known to be effective, Mbeki had his health minister contrive alternative remedies for AIDS, including beetroot and garlic.
The results were devastating for South Africa. More than 330,000 people died prematurely from the disease between 2000 and 2005 due to Mbeki’s AIDS denialism, and at least 35,000 babies were born with HIV, infections that could have been prevented using conventional medicine, according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health.
— Whooping Cough —
In the US, the challenge is a whole host of critters:
While there is no direct institutional denialism of conventional medicine here in the U.S., the denialist movement is active and spreading nonetheless. Vaccine denialism—especially in states with lax public-health laws—has already shown to have a negative effect on public health in some regional pockets, and it’s leaving those communities open to outbreaks of diseases that had been all but eradicated, including measles, polio, whooping cough (pertussis), and even smallpox.
In 2013, researchers confirmed that a 2010 whooping cough outbreak in California—the worst in the U.S. in more than 50 years—was spread primarily by the children of parents who received non-medical exemptions for school vaccinations from the state. The study showed that the outbreak was found exclusively in clusters where children were not vaccinated. There were more than 9,000 cases of the disease in California in 2010 and 10 deaths. In San Diego County, where there were about 5,000 immunization exemptions, there were 980 cases of whooping cough.
Meanwhile, some states were slashing programs for children's vaccinations. In 2011, the year after the whooping cough outbreak in California, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott cut a state program that provided whooping cough vaccines for poor mothers of babies too young to get their first whooping cough vaccines. There has since been a whooping cough outbreak in Florida with a six-week-old boy dying from the disease. 
These whooping cough outbreaks have been followed by a measles outbreak that began in Texas this year, which is now spreading throughout the U.S.
Smallpox? Yikes!! They just don't get it, so now we're going to get it . . . and thanks to Stevie and his orcs and their anti-science attitudes, voting CON could be really, really dangerous to your health.

Tomorrow's Scottish vote

It's been a noodle-baker to be sure.

I've gone from a clear 'no' to a clear 'yes' to fence-sitting, to leaning marginally one-way or the other, to thinking that there are really no good options in front of me.

In practical terms, I don't think either side has made the case, because they can't. It is impossible to know the final terms of independence at this time and anything said is propaganda. Whatever the politicians and campaigners say now is meaningless. There will be a negotatiation period in the event of a Yes win during which the issues around currency, resource revenues, and the other nuts and bolts issues of divorcing states of are sorted out. There is a risk that this could get very nasty and disadvantageous indeed if a sentiment of 'to hell with Scotland for wrecking Britain' set in. In the event of Yes, I would prefer a second vote on the final terms but I don't trust this sort of thing to happen. 

I'm too much of a realist to trust the emotional resonance alone, which is what much of the Yes camp seems to be about. It's appeal may be in that Yes is a much more confident term than No (could give a new weight to the term yes-man!). The vision of some kind of Celtic Scandanavia (Orcadians and Shetlanders exempted) is very, very appealing, but again this is a fantasy until the final terms are known.

The Yes side does not acknowledge the people in the UK inside and outwith Scotland who rely on a stable pound and economy for their day to day lives. Some people without a vote may be deeply harmed through no fault of their own and they will resent Scotland for it and support a punitive approach to negotiations. The lack of clarity on such critical items like EU membership is also a major problem, and the Scottish economy could stumble severely should countries like Spain block membership. Recovery could be difficult without access to key markets and not enough people are interested in rapid alternative economic experimentation at a national scale to pursue that option. Even I think it's too dangerous. We may be in for a shock regarding just how deeply the relationships go between Scotland the rest of the UK, EU and the world when these are threatened and made visible.

I'm also aware that political moods change with each generation. Give it ten or twenty years, and it's possible that the appeal of independence will have waned, as with Quebec. 

In the same theme, the polling is pretty much 50/50 right now, and the terms are only a simple majority for a decisive result. This is a grossly unfair criterion and it is recipe for pretty vicious conflict because it will effectively leave a country divided. Without a very strong majority win for either side, barely half the country may well determine the future for the other half. I can't support either outcome under those conditions because it is flagrantly irresponsible democracy.

For me, the existence of such a close race starkly emphasises the need for constitutional reform across the UK and I think a No win would be guaranteed if this were put on the table by Cameron et al.  Peripheral regions like Scotland and the north of England haven't done well since Thatcher and there's a serious question of representation in and relevance to NewLaboCon run Westminster.

Then there's climate change and the way the world is heading. I don't believe that creating new borders is ultimately adaptive. There will be migrations of people to and within Europe as some regions become inhospitable and borders simply reinforce us-and-them dynamics that facilitate wars and conflict instead of cooperative, or at least tolerant problem solving and accommodation. The rest of the UK and Scotland may need each other rather desperately under these conditions. [Nigel Farage would probably blame and invade an independent Scotland under these conditions.]

What do I want then? I want options that aren't presently on the table. In the event of a no, constitutional reform. In the event of a very clear majority Yes, second a vote on the final agreed terms or a series of options.

Monday, September 15, 2014

FIPA 2025

14 January 2026
In retrospect, the US military occupation of the Tar Sands and northwest BC coast to Kitimat and Prince Rupert in 2025 was a little predictable. The confrontation with China over energy resources had been brewing for years.

The 2014 ratification of FIPA by then Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper placed Canada on US defence planners' 'potential adversary' list as it gave an economic and military peer competitor to the US a far more lucrative deal than NAFTA.

When Harper was finally ousted, the new Canadian coalition government attempted to shred the FIPA in the face of overwhelming pressure from the electorate, which in turn had largely sided with the massive anti-pipeline protests that culminated when 37 people were killed in related violence. China sued Canada under FIPA for obstructing its investment in the tar sands and pipelines. The risk of a Chinese win, which would have effectively severed the United States from Canadian energy suppliers due to the shear magnitude of Chinese investors' control of that supply, prompted the US annexation.

Chinese and US carrier battlegroups are presently in a tense stand-off in the North Pacific as negotiations toward peaceful resolution continue in Geneva.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Burger for Stevie . . .

Burger King Japan’s Kuro Pearl burger,
which has a black bun, black sauce and black cheese
in addition to black-pepper heavy beef patties.

ACCORDING TO SALON, Burger King Japan is re-introducing its pitch-black cheeseburger.

Goths will love 'em . . . 

If I ran any of the anti-Harper parties, I'd air-freight 400-500 of 'em from Tokyo. Put each one in a nice re-cycled cardboard box with Stevie's picture on it . . . hand 'em out to the Press Gallery and such . . . call it the Harper Tar Burger . . .

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

#indyref in Scotland

Simon is all over it. James Laxer gets it. The Westminster politicians of all stripes manifestly do not.  The Scottish independence referendum is not nationalist paranoia like Quebec, nor is it some reactionary anti-English 'decolonisation' movement rooted in Braveheart narratives of historical defeat, conquest, or exploitation (Canada, PLEASE take note!).  Instead, it is probably best viewed as a stark, inclusive, future-oriented challenge to the business-as-usual-usually-business approach parties take to contemporary parliamentary democracy that subordinates democracy and social and ecological justice to the whims and worries of economic fetishists and fascists. 

The fact that the Yes side is gaining much traction despite, or perhaps to spite, the dire predictions of economic luminaries like Mark Carney and Paul Krugman, to international financial institutions like Credit Suisse should worry these kinds of people, but for different reasons.  The power of economism is typically such that any progressive movement or policy initiative will fizzle to nothing the minute someone suggests that it could harm the economy. Scotland by and large has lost its fear of this threat. This is the first step in creating an environment where bold and progressive initiatives can be tried. It is without doubt supremely risky, but utterly necessary if the Scottish (and the rest of us) are really serious about creating a better future.

In this light, I agree with Will Hutton that the Yes votes potentially winning traction should be read as a failure of Britain's national government to ensure the well-being of all UK citizens, especially those most distant from London. #Indyref didn't happen by accident, and wouldn't be happening if the central government, beholden to US military adventurism and economism hadn't failed on such an epic level. 

Fascinating times.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Food for thought: Harper, IS and terror in Canada

Until now, Canada is not a country that has openly committed military forces to conflicts where the adversary uses terror attacks on our soil as a weapon. Yes, there have been the occassional half-arsed terror plots in the past decade or so, but unlike some European countries and the US, we've not had commuter trains, subways, airports, and buildings bombed by radicals.

The number of European and North American passport holders fighting with Islamic State (IS) means the organisation is capable of attacking countries in these regions through terror. By way of comparison, the Taleban are a regional tribal entity, not an international terror organisation or Caliphate-bound army, and therefore posed little actual threat to Canadians on our home turf. They merely hosted a terror group and were punished severely for it.

The undemocratic decision by the Harper government to commit Canadian military units and arms to fighting IS increases the likelihood that sympathisers and returning combatants will launch attacks in Canada and kill Canadian civilians. This is an enemy that can hit back.

We shouldn't be surprised. It's not like Canadian lives ever matter to these fuckers anyway.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The fate of Conservative parties

Heh. It isn't opposition parties or alternative ideas and ideologies that move conservative parties into discombobulation, it's completely succumbing to the the blubbering reactionary encephalitis that most conservatives suffer from, but retain enough cognitive function to survive if not thrive in a complex political playscape.  It happened in Canada when Reform occurred. Now it's happening in the UK thanks to UKIP.

Monday, September 01, 2014

The Voters?

Where to begin.

The Globe is reporting Harper is resisting a NATO-wide call to increase defence spending to two per cent of GDP. He says it's our fault apparently because us voters wouldn't support such an increase in defence spending. Maybe so, but concern about what the voters think has never really stopped him from doing anything before. [Hmm, I wonder if the F-35 is actually now too expensive use?]  If he doesn't want voters to have an opinion on something, he tries to hide what he's thinking and doing.  Still, as a voter, I can't help resent being scapegoated by such a despicable little shit.

If you can't blame Trudeau (I or II) or Chretien, or Martin, blame the voters? Good luck with that.

Further, the same government that's been frothing like a rabid pitbull regarding Putin and Ukraine has shown itself to be nothing but a skittish barking lapdog.

I wonder how the NATO meeting in Cardiff will go?

Update: Or as Terry Milewski/CBC call it, Harper has a big mouth and small, uh, stick.  [wow, that's actually the headline.]