Sunday, June 30, 2013

El Nino - Global Warming Link Found

The El Nino - Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has, for the first time, been linked to global warming. 

A team of researchers examining tree ring evidence from the past seven hundred years finds that ENSO events have increased in frequency since the onset of global warming.

Spawning droughts, floods, and other weather disturbances world-wide, the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) impacts the daily life of millions of people. During El Niño, Atlantic hurricane activity wanes and rainfall in Hawaii decreases while Pacific winter storms shift southward, elevating the risk of floods in California.

These proxy records all indicate that ENSO was unusually active in the late 20th century compared to the past seven centuries, implying that this climate phenomenon is responding to ongoing global warming.

"In the year after a large tropical volcanic eruption, our record shows that the east-central tropical Pacific is unusually cool, followed by unusual warming one year later. Like greenhouse gases, volcanic aerosols perturb the Earth's radiation balance. This supports the idea that the unusually high ENSO activity in the late 20th century is a footprint of global warming" explains lead author Jinbao Li.

"Many climate models do not reflect the strong ENSO response to global warming that we found," says co-author Shang-Ping Xie, meteorology professor at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa and Roger Revelle Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego. "This suggests that many models underestimate the sensitivity to radiative perturbations in greenhouse gases. Our results now provide a guide to improve the accuracy of climate models and their projections of future ENSO activity. If this trend of increasing ENSO activity continues, we expect to see more weather extremes such as floods and droughts."

Their study is published in today's issue of Nature Climate Change.


After reading this report I contacted the study's lead author, Jinbao Li, to enquire about how the newly energized polar jet stream may interact with the more active El Nino-Southern Oscillation.  His reply:

Many thanks for your interest in our work. Scientists generally believe that there is strong influence of the ENSO on the position of jet stream, as summarized here ( This year's unusual behavior of jet stream is challenging our current knowledge on this phenomenon. I myself haven't do much study on the interaction between ENSO and jet stream. But our current research suggests that ENSO will very likely get more extreme with global warming, which implicates that unusual jet stream will also become more frequent. I hope there will be solid studies on this topic soon.



Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Remember all the talk about western forces being out of Afghanistan in 2014?  Well, that deal is off now.   NATO has quietly decided it will keep advisers in Afghanistan until 2020 or until we totally take leave of our senses.

The problem is the Afghan army - the one we've had a dozen years to create which works out to twice as long as we took to launch, fight and win WWII.  It seems in the land of the most warlike peoples on the planet, twelve years isn't nearly long enough to establish a viable army capable of defending its central government.   Twelve's not enough, maybe eighteen is the answer.

We need to face facts even if that means admitting our hard-earned failure.  Afghanistan is a hopelessly failed state.   According to Foreign Policy's 2013 Failed State Index, Afghanistan is the seventh worst country on the planet.  It's a narco-state, a criminal enterprise, beset by the dual scourges of warlordism and tribalism.

We aren't going to eradicate Afghanistan's opium economy.  We aren't going to dismember the warlord structure that runs the place.  We aren't going to heal the open wounds of tribalism.  We aren't going to sort out the many external forces that help destabilize Afghanistan.

The place doesn't have a viable, credible central government.  What then is there for an Afghan army to support and defend?

Keeping NATO forces in Afghanistan until 2020 is about face-saving, nothing more.  It's about kicking failure down the street, leaving it for someone else to wear long after those actually responsible for it are safely at their ease in retirement.

But, if they want to keep advisers in Afghanistan until 2020, I have a suggestion.   Make sure those advisers, all of them, are senior officers - majors, colonels and generals, the lot.  They're the geniuses who created this situation, let them ride it out to the end.

PRISM's Conduit Into Your Life

The Washington Post has published a series of U.S. National Security Agency slides showing the conduits through which data flows into the American government's computer banks.

The first column, PRISM Providers, identifies companies actively in the PRISM loop - Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, YouTube, even Apple.   Fortunately none of us ever have anything to do with any of those outfits, right?

They Sell It But They Supposedly Have Nothing to Do With It.

When you buy Athabasca DilBit you're buying two fuels - a form of synthetic oil and a type of coal.   Alberta bitumen contains heavy oil and it contains petroleum coke also known as petcoke.

When buyers refine the bitumen into synthetic oil, they're left with a lot of petcoke, anywhere from 15 to 30% by volume.  As the mountain of the stuff building up on the Detroit waterfront from a small volume bitumen refining operation illustrates, you have to do something with it. 

Petcoke is sold, at rock bottom prices, to customers willing to burn the dirt cheap, high carbon and high sulphur crud.  Even Nova Scotia Power is burning the stuff although it claims it is using state of the art technology that minimizes emissions.

What's really remarkable is how far the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers will go to distance themselves from the petcoke they deliver to their customers.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers claims pet coke "is benign" and "not an oilsands issue."

"It's just carbon, similar to coal or a carbon product that would come out of [oil]," said Greg Stringham, vice-president of market and oilsands at CAPP. "It's found in the oil in the ground originally and then it's just a benign product that's one of the byproducts of that production process.

Benign?  No fossil fuel is benign, least of all the high-carbon stuff that just happens to be richly laced with sulphur.   There's nothing remotely benign about petcoke.

And to claim it's "not an oilsands issue" is beyond disingenuous.  It's part and parcel of the unrefined bitumen they sell and they know damned well it's going to be sold as fossil fuel.   They would dearly like not to have to deal with it as an "oilsands issue" but that's not reality.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Enbridge Tantrum, Oliver's Deceit

When it comes to the merits of the Northern Gateway pipeline, lawyers for the bitumen traffickers almost go apoplectic complaining about the lack of existing pipeline capacity.  They come across like little children throwing tantrums.

Question:  if it's capacity they're worried about, why are they squandering 50% or more of what they already have?

30% of what they're transporting is condensate, light hydrocarbon (oil) that has to be mixed with bitumen so that, with enough heat and pressure, it will move through pipelines.   They need condensate because bitumen is tarry sludge, hence the reference to "Tar Sands."

So there's your first 30% squandered capacity - condensate.   But, as they say on TV, there's more.

The bitumen we ship also contains 15 to 30% petroleum coke, a granular form of coal.  It's really wicked stuff, high in sulphur, high in carbon, too high to be burned by any scrupulous country, including the U.S.

There you have the two big lies.  It's not oil, it's tar.  It's not sand, it's granular, high-carbon/high-sulphur coke.

We can free up plenty of pipeline capacity simply by not stuffing the existing pipeline with condensate, petcoke, sulphur, acids, abrasives and carcinogens.   There's a way to leave all that stuff out - simply refine it all out - on site, in Athabasca.

Turn it into synthetic crude - on site, in Athabasca.  Then refine that crude into the standard variety of marketable products - on site, in Athabasca.  Keep those processing revenues and all those jobs - on site, in Athabasca.

More revenue and more savings.   Supertankers wouldn't be needed to deliver condensate to British Columbia so it could be piped out to Athabasca and piped right back again.   And, stripped of  the large volumes of condensate, petcoke and other contaminants, it would be possible to slash the volume of supertankers needed to transport the end product, fully refined petroleum products, to markets in Asia.

But wait, there's more.

When it comes to handling and inevitable spills, comparing refined oil products to bitumen is like comparing apples to hand grenades.  When spilled, the condensate quickly evaporates out and the sludgy bitumen sinks to the bottom which, in the Kitimat area, tends to be around 600-feet down, roughly six hundred feet beyond the reach of any spill recovery technology.   It will contaminate the area for decades, generations, slowly leeching out its acids, toxins and carcinogens into the marine habitat.

Bottom line - if you have the ability to ship apples or hand grenades, you owe it to us to send apples, not explosive ordinance.  So, Joe Oliver, don't claim it's apples all around when you've got the pin from that grenade clenched in your teeth.   Now, very slowly, let's see what's in your hand.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Harper Explores Geo-Engineering to Arrest Global Warming

The Harper cabinet has been meeting to explore options for geo-engineering our way out of climate change.

On June 5, 2012, then–Environment Canada deputy minister Paul Boothe convened a meeting to discuss geoengineering, according to documents posted online by Mike de Souza, a Postmedia national political reporter.

Geoengineering, which has been advocated by Straight columnist Gwynne Dyer in the past, was defined as "the intentional, large-scale intervention in Earth’s environmental systems". The list of invitees included the deputy minister of defence, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and the national security adviser to the prime minister.

Slides for the meeting acknowledge that the Earth’s climate is warming as a result of human activity, and warn that even a rapid implementation of emissions-reduction measures may not prevent a temperature rise of more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels by mid century. A graph projects a global mean temperature increase of 6° C by 2100, a change that scientists warn would likely be catastrophic.

Two classifications of geoengineering are presented as options to reduce future warming: carbon-dioxide removal (CDR) and solar-radiation management (SRM). CDR methods include afforestation, ocean fertilization, and the direct extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the slides explain. One example of an SRM approach is to install "space-based orbiting mirrors" that would "reduce solar input". Another is to continually inject sulphur aerosols into the atmosphere "to mimic the effect of volcanoes".

On the phone from Edmonton, Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Canada, told the Straight that it’s encouraging to see the Harper government acknowledge climate change as human-driven, but argued that the Conservatives have reached the wrong conclusion.

"If you admit that the climate crisis is happening and you agree with the scientific consensus that humans and greenhouse-gas emissions are the cause of it, then it is the government’s responsibility to reduce those emissions," he said.

In other words, we have a government that privately accepts the reality of man-made, emissions-driven, global warming but, instead of focusing on greenhouse gas emissions, prefers to pursue the darkest, most dangerous forms of disaster capitalism.

(Contrary to this report, Gwynne Dyer has stated that he believes geo-engineering is almost inevitable but not desirable.  He also believes that it will likely cause a major world war.)

NDP, Liberals - Your Summer Project

Thanks to Senator Hugh Segal, the opposition parties have a wonderful opportunity to do something useful over the summer recess - they can rally to the defence of Canadian labour and every working man and woman in the country.

Segal has reportedly infuriated the Harper regime by introducing an amendment supported by a handful of decent Tory senators and Liberal senators that effectively guts radical Tory MP Russ Hiebert's bill to compel union disclosure.

The bill now goes back to the Commons this fall for reconsideration.  That gives the New Democrats and the Liberals ample time to campaign for the rights of working Canadians, organized labour, and basic equality.   The Harper Tories have a horrible track record on these issues and deserve a good mauling.

It might also be a good opportunity for the opposition parties to reconnect with the disaffected electorate and persuade them that they actually give a tinker's dam about ordinary Canadians.  This could be a golden opportunity to begin fighting to reverse the spread of corporatism in our politics.   That is long overdue.

Now, Alberta, About That Pesky Carbon Bubble

Alberta is facing three immediate and potentially lasting problems - the prospects of frequent, severe floods; the likelihood of extended periods of severe drought; and the Carbon Bubble that hangs over the provincial economy like a Sword of Damocles.

By some accounts, the Carbon Bubble dilemma worsened yesterday with president Obama's climate change speech.  He said that approval of the Keystone XL pipeline would depend on ensuring it didn't "significantly increase" greenhouse gas emissions.  Obama could have but didn't clarify what that meant.

He might have meant total, overall emissions associated with the extra production of Athabasca bitumen - everything from extraction to refining to end-use combustion of the synthetic petroleum and its coke by-product.   In that case, barring the development of some wondrous (and yet very cheap) carbon sequestration technology that has seemingly eluded the Oil Patch for decades, Keystone is likely as dead a duck as those that land in Athabasca tailing ponds.

If he meant something far narrower in scope, something that excludes the processing and transportation emissions and the by-product emissions, Keystone might just have a chance.

What really matters, to the Bitumen Barons at least, is what a rejection of Keystone would say about their product, DilBit or diluted bitumen.  It won't be the pipeline that bothers Obama but what it's carrying.  Rejecting Keystone would be a body blow to bitumen, denouncing it as an unacceptable climate change hazard.

Think this doesn't worry Harper and Redford?  Look at the lengths they went to in cajoling the Euros not to label Athabasca bitumen a "high carbon" fossil fuel.  How much bitumen do the Euros buy?  Next to nil.   But, if the E.U.'s position on dilbit mattered so much to the Alberta and federal governments, what would it mean if bitumen's biggest customer, the United States, moved against it?

Athabasca bitumen is not merely high-carbon but also high-cost.  Extraction, processing and transporation is not only very costly but carries really big environmental costs that, to date, have largely been ducked.   Today bitumen is being squeezed, having to compete with lower cost natural gas and conventional oil energy produced through fracking.   There's a reason Alberta's royalties are so pitifully low, several reasons in fact.

Slowly but finally we are waking up to the realities of climate change and its impacts.  We've had several years in which to observe mega-floods, mega-droughts and severe storm events of increasing intensity and frequency.   We have come to understand that there's an immediate, direct and massive cost associated with our new climate.   In Canada alone it's estimated we will need to spend a trillion dollars to upgrade our essential infrastructure to withstand climate change impacts.  That's a million million dollars, a thousand billion if you like, a pretty hefty bill for a country of 35-million people.  It's also an amazing stimulus package even if we pare it down to just ten or twenty per cent.   Unless we want to live in caves, we're just going to have to bite the bullet.

Canada, of course, is not alone.  Just about every other country is facing its own infrastructure time bomb.   Every other country is having to cope with our new and more severe climate.  We're all getting a climate change smack upside the head and, being forced to confront it, we begin to ask questions.

Yes, the denialists are right, no matter what we do about our emissions we won't see any improvement in climate change impacts in our lifetimes.   We can't really make things better for at least a century.  What the denialists never want to talk about, however, is that we can certainly make conditions much worse, especially for our children and grandchildren, if we don't act - effectively and soon to decarbonize our societies and our economies.

So, as these realities spread and sink in, societies and nations are going to have to make choices.   They'll have to decide how much more fossil fuels we'll consume and, of those fossil fuel reserves, which should still be used and which should be left in the ground.

It's pretty obvious that, once you accept that the carbon economy is making your future painful, you'll decide that your essential carbon energy needs should be met with the cleanest, lowest-carbon sources and that it's best to leave the high-carbon fuels in the ground.  Which brings us to bitumen, the highest-carbon form of anything that could be considered petroleum.   Burning that, including the really high-carbon, high-sulpher petcoke by-product that's quietly shopped around to unscrupulous foreign customers, just doesn't make any sense at a societal level.

It's a good bet, therefore, that bitumen's days are numbered.  A recent report in Britain's prestigious Financial Times  noted market analysts already beginning to steer major clients away from high-carbon fossil fuels.

"...high-carbon assets will face increasing regulatory constraints and a growing risk of becoming stranded assets.

The only realistic method for asset owners to manage climate risk is to hedge their portfolios – to invest in low-carbon assets so that when carbon is re-priced, either directly or indirectly, the destruction of value in their high-carbon investments is offset by an increase in value in their low-carbon investments.

The first step in this rebalancing of portfolios is for institutions to find out how exposed their current investments are, and then to tell people about it.

This is a significant leap for the sector, which has a tendency to be secretive. “There is a crisis of transparency in this industry,” Mr Poulter says.

Asset owners have never been put on the spot before.

Yes, it's right there, in print, "stranded assets."   That is the likely fate of high-carbon fossil fuels.  They face becoming stranded, unmarketable, essentially valueless and, when they do, all of the deferred royalties, subsidies and grants,  and unfunded environmental costs will remain in the liabilities column.

And there is, indeed, "a crisis of transparency" in Canada's bitumen industry and its governmental minions, federal and provincial.  They don't want to discuss the risks and viability of high-carbon fossil fuels like Athabasca bitumen.  They don't want to acknowledge the danger of the Carbon Bubble or the risks of bitumen becoming a stranded asset.

When government works that hard not to discuss something obvious, you should ask why.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Failed States Index

Foreign Policy magazine and The Fund for Peace have released their 2013 Failed State Index.

Nations are rated by five categories, Critical, In Danger, Borderline, Stable and Most Stable.

Not many countries achieve the Most Stable rating - Canada, the Scandinavian countries including Iceland, plus Australia and New Zealand, that's it.   The United States, Japan and Britain, are among the second-tier or Stable countries.

Most of Africa; the Middle East; South, South East and East Asia, together with Russia fall into the In Danger or Critical categories.  Disturbingly, the emerging economic superpowers are included.  China is rated Critical.  India is listed as In Danger.  The other member of that nuclear-armed triad, Pakistan, is likewise Critical.

The interactive map, linked above, reveals a world beset by increasing instability.   Welcome to the 21st century.

Temporary Workers are a Fix, One That Keeps Us from Finding Solutions

Minister of Quick Fixes

When employers can't find workers at a time of high unemployment, we've got a problem.   Filling those vacant spots with guest workers is a low-cost fix, one that does nothing to solve our problem, perhaps even rendering it more intractable.

Currently, more than 330,000 workers live and work in Canada as part of the federal temporary foreign worker program — a number that has nearly tripled over the last 10 years, with the bulk of those job-seekers going west in search of work.
The program was originally designed to attract skilled employees, agricultural workers and live-in caregivers in order to address temporary labour shortages. The emphasis shifted in 2002 to low-skilled workers, such as those in the food and beverage industry, construction and retail.
The federal government's decision to open the program to lower-skill occupations came in response to pressure from employers, said Jason Foster, an Athabasca University academic co-ordinator who has researched the program's transformation.

"There was no evidence of any particular labour shortage in those occupations at the time," Foster said. "It was simply a matter of trying to provide these employers with other labour supply options in terms of how to address their labour concerns."

Today, most provincial governments and our federal government operate like political Chambers of Commerce.  We have morphed into a "what business wants, business gets" world.   One thing that business always wants is to improve the bottom line, the profit margin, and one thing that can really boost profits is to pay really low wages, preferably the uber-low sort that guest workers get.

Sure government sets a floor for guest worker wages at 10% less than the market wage but it's like a death by a thousand cuts.   Guest workers lower the market wage incrementally and from there on it's a race to the bottom.

...employers have become addicted to the program, said labour economist Erin Weir.

"Temporary foreign workers are tied to the specific job and the specific employer," he said. "It's often very convenient for employers to have people who they know aren't going to be able to take other jobs, and have little ability to push for better wages."
Critics of the program say it undermines the natural economic forces in Canada's job market by artificially filling low-paid, low-skill positions and removing the impetus for higher wage demands.

The worker shortage problem is worst, naturally, in Alberta where the provincial government has a rich history of so mismanaging its bitumen wealth as to overheat the economy.   When prices skyrocket in a boom, even unskilled workers need commensurately greater wages just to stay above water.  Employers don't want to pay that to hamburger flippers, not when they can fall back on cheap foreign labour.

Unfortunately we live in an era in which governments routinely go for the quick fix, preferring to kick problems - and their solutions - down the road for someone else to deal with.

We need a new politics for Canada.  Not just a change of parties but a major change in the way we consent to be governed.

Just a Little Bit of Global Warming Goes a Long, Long Way

Chain of Fools
A little warming goes a long way.  That might be the real message from the floods that have wracked Alberta over the past week.

It's a message much of the Third World has known, and endured, for quite a while but we really never much listened to them.  Most Canadians thought global warming, for Canada, mainly meant a little less cold - yippee!

Oh sure, the Innu have been warning about climate change impacts in the far north but we really haven't paid them much mind either.  But Calgary?  Well that's another matter altogether.

Now we're coming to realize that the loss of that Arctic sea ice carries a price that even those of us in southern Canada are going to have to pay.  We now have to cope with a new, more powerful, meandering and yet sluggish Polar Jet Stream that can draw Arctic air masses deep into the south or warm, wet southern air high into the north and leave them parked in one spot for a good long time.

Here's the thing.  We're not quite at one degree of warming yet, somewhat under half of what we're told is the "do not exceed" target for this century.   So, if this is what we get at the halfway mark, what will two degrees Celsius bring us?  And there's a lot of science that warns, if we follow the Conservative vision for the future, the Harper/Klein/Stelmach/Redford path, we could be looking at warming of four, even five degrees Celsius.   By that point, man-made emissions will be eclipsed by natural feedback mechanisms releasing stored greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  That's what is called "runaway global warming."

So, what do we do from here on in?  Probably nothing.  The Conservative confidence artists wasted no time in framing their narrative of the Calgary floods.  The event was unforeseeable.  No one could have known.   No one saw it coming.  No one is at fault, even those in power whose obligation it was to spot things like this coming.

"Nobody saw it coming" - that could be the Conservative mantra for the 21st century.  Whenever reality blows up in the face of Conservative ideology, the standard response is to duck responsibility by claiming no one could have seen it coming.

It's a pack of lies, of course.   Lies from Harper.   Lies from Alberta's Redford.   Lies from Redford's enviromin, Diana McQueen.

McQueen insisted the severity of the flood had rendered the question of preparation moot.

“What Alberta has experienced in this past week was unprecedented: More rain, more quickly over a larger area than has ever been seen before in this province. No report or recommendation looking at the lessons of the past could have prepared us for this event,” she said.

Why is it that the party that boasts it is all about responsibility never wants to take any?   Harper has Environment Canada scientists bound and gagged, held in some dank federal cellar in Lebreton Flats.   Alberta has its scientists working fulltime fudging figures to show that the Tar Sands aren't really all that bad and that Athabasca drinking water is safe (enough for the sort of people who live way up there in the heart of nothing.)

It's hard not to feel a tinge of schadenfreude  that a flooding event like this should hit the one province and home riding of the prime minister that have done their best to deny and undercut the reality of anthropogenic global warming while moving to ramp up production of the filthiest, most carbon-intensive unconventional petroleum product on the planet.

Harper, Redford and all of those just like them are in a race against time, one that they cannot win.  It's not the 2005 flood that's the problem or even the current one.  It's the floods to come that will pry power from their grasping, denialist fingers.


The Calgary Herald Discovers the Polar Jet Stream

It's a newspaper so far right that, to steal a line from Lawrence Martin, it should be delivered in a holster.   A couple of weeks ago the Calgary Herald scribes treated climate change as the delusions of the loonie left.  That was then, this is now.

The Herald is now running a feature all about the polar jet stream, how it's been fueled by the vanishing Arctic sea ice, even how "it's been wobbling and weaving like a drunken driver, causing havoc as it goes."

"There's been a lot interest in the jet stream in the last two or three years," said Dave Phillips, an Environment Canada climatologist.

But Arctic sea ice has been collapsing for the last several years. 

The Arctic Ocean itself is also growing slightly warmer.
It's not much, but the temperature gradient between the Arctic and equator has weakened. The jet stream is about 14 per cent slower in the fall now than in the 1990s, according to a recent study by Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University in New Jersey.
The continental and oceanic influences are now relatively stronger, causing the jet stream to undulate more north and south.
"What we're seeing now is more of the dipping and the diving, looking more like a roller coaster than a ribbon," said Phillips.

"When that happens, it tends to kind of slow down. It doesn't move as energetically as it did and so therefore the weather can back up."

Instead of what Phillips describes as typically Canadian "hit-and-run" weather, systems can hang around for days. And when those systems are wet, there's a risk of flooding.

The thing is there's nothing we can do to reverse this for the rest of the century at the very least.   What we can do, what's still in our power, is to make this even worse, far worse.   We can still do that and, indeed, that's the course that Conservatives like Alison Redford and Stephen Harper are determined that Canada should follow.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

No Telling Whether Obama's Okay with Keystone XL

President Obama has said the Keystone XL pipeline can only go ahead if it doesn't "significantly increase" U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.  There's enough wiggle room in there to delight almost everybody.

Define "significantly."  There you go.   What does it mean if you export the really filthy petroleum coke or petcoke bitumen refining by-product to Asia and let them burn it?  Is that okay?   Does that just go on someone else's carbon books and off America's?

And in a country with the rapacious energy consumption of the United States anything "significant" would be huge almost anywhere else.

What's on God's Mind Lately?

Recent throughts from The Tweet of God:

Well I've lost faith in you, too.

Sorry, rest of the world, Junior and I can't help you now. We're too busy helping some loon cross a canyon on a piece of floss.

"Atheist" is an anagram for "eat shit". Advantage, Me.

Paula Deen saying all that matters is "what's in your heart" is cardiologically hilarious.

Wow, I really enjoyed deciding who won the Stanley Cup.

Just because someone's richer or more famous or talented doesn't mean they're happy. It just means they're happier than YOU.

The big difference between me and Kanye is I impregnated a virgin, whereas Kanye... well, did not.

Sometimes Jesus asks himself, "What would some self-righteous hypocrite do?"

Canada, never elect mayors again.

If Only Man's Best Friend Could Speak Its Mind

Sad Dog Diary

Americans Begin to Ask If the F-35 Is Simply Unaffordable

The F-35's reputation for being over-priced, under-performing and overdue is etched in stone at this point.   For an aircraft that's been in development for a dozen years, no one still knows what it will eventually cost nor how well it will actually perform when it's ready to enter service.

Now a U.S. federal auditor is questioning whether the F-35 has become simply unaffordable.
...federal auditor Michael J. Sullivan, acquisitions director of the Government Accountability Office, told a Senate subcommittee in Washington current projections call for a $316 billion outlay from development to purchase of the Lockheed Martin fighter jet through 2037.

Operation and maintenance costs for the U.S. inventory of the F-35 alone could top $1 trillion over a 35-year lifespan, Sullivan told the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee.

"Congress may want to consider whether the funding assumptions are reasonable in our current fiscal environment," Sullivan said in a response to Subcommittee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Pentagon chief weapons tester J. Michael Gilmore says F-35 costs are rising also because of frequent fixes to problems reported during flight tests and warned the "most challenging portions" of the testing have not yet begun.

"We haven't actually tested any combat capability," Gilmore told senators, adding there may not be enough time or cash for full testing of crucial capabilities.

Harper's Building All Those Prisons. Why Aren't We Filling Them With Conservatives?

It's not like the Conservative ranks, federal and provincial, are short of miscreants who deserve a long stretch behind bars.

Yesterday the fellow who was in command on the bridge of the BC Ferry, Queen of the North, was sentenced to four years in prison for criminal negligence causing death in allowing the vessel to run onto rocks, leaving it holed and sending the ship, and two of its passengers, to the bottom, 600-feet down.  It was his duty to protect the passengers and crew aboard the ship and he didn't do it.  Two people paid for his negligence with their lives.  He now pays with his freedom.

Go one province over and look at the devastation caused by massive flooding throughout southern Alberta, what one scientist has attributed to "absurd hubris."   Hubris is an apt term for today's neo-conservative ideology that has captured the Alberta legislature and likewise holds sway in Ottawa.  Why, the guy who occupies 24 Sussex Drive, could fairly be called Captain Hubris.

At least three people have died so far in the current wave of Alberta flooding (there will almost certainly be more).   Tens of thousands of unlucky homeowners are looking at uninsurable flood losses.  So just what was the Alberta Conservative government doing to prepare the province and its people for this disaster?  Nothing.  In fact, as Calgarian Andrew Nikiforuk writes in The Tyee, they willfully and persistently ignored one warning after another.

In 2006 climate scientist Dave Sauchyn told a Banff audience that "droughts of longer duration and greater frequency, as well as unusual wet periods and flooding" would be the new forecast. Meanwhile researchers documented a 26-day shift in the onset of spring in Alberta over the past century.

Five years later the Bow River Council concluded that "Our rapidly growing population demands much of the land and water. Our climate is changing and the future of our water supplies is uncertain."

In 2010 the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, an agency that the Harper government killed last year because it didn't like its messages on climate change, reported that changing precipitation patterns were "the most common gradual, long-term risk from a changing climate identified by Canadian companies."

In particular oil and gas firms "with operations in Alberta expressed the highest level of concern. A number of them described potential water shortages due to decreased precipitation and runoff as the most significant risk from physical impacts of climate change that they are likely to face."

In 2011 the NREE published more inconvenient truths in a document called Paying the Price. It concluded that annual cost of flooding in Canada due to climate change could total $17 billion a year by 2050.  

The redundancy of the reports is startling. A 2011 document on climate change's impact on the Bow River warned that events could be far more severe than modern water management has previously experienced."

And then came the kicker. In 2012 Insurance Bureau of Canada produced a report by Gordon McBean, an expert on catastrophes. It bluntly warned that Alberta "will be greatly affected by drought and water scarcity under changing climate conditions, and can expect potential increases in hail, storm and wildfire events." Spring rainfall could increase by 10 to 15 per cent in southern Alberta too.

After the "once in a century" floods of 2005, the Alberta legislature set up a flood mitigation committee that in 2006 issued a report urging action to prohibit development on flood plains.   The Conservative government squelched the report, releasing it only last year.   Did that government not have a duty to the people of Alberta to release that report, to give them clear and prompt warning of these dangers and then prevent further development in at-risk areas?

In Ottawa, Harper has locked down government scientists and the warnings we should be receiving from them.  By what right?

It's not good enough to be able to throw the buggers out every five years (if you're lucky).  The record shows that's not nearly enough to make them accountable, to make them accept their responsibility to the public.   Worse yet, they can make decisions today or refuse to take essential action today, the consequences of which may not be evident according to election cycles.

And that's why we need laws that will punish those in high office for willful acts or omissions that lead to foreseeable major loss, injury or death.  Just like negligent ferry skippers.

Alberta Has Been Climate Changed - And It's Forever

"This is Pacific Northwest U.S. weather we're getting and we're not built for it. We didn't design our cities, our floodways, our flood maps, anything for this. " - John Pomeroy

The deluge that caused such massive flooding throughout southern Alberta has brought other impacts that will remain long after today's flood waters recede.  How long?  Try indefinitely, permanently.

Alberta apparently has just had a climate change makeover and this could be the first of many to come.

John Pomeroy, who holds a Canada research chair in water resources and climate change at the University of Saskatchewan, says the natural disaster has permanently altered everything from how the landscape will handle future flooding to the Bow River's status as a world-class trout stream.

"The Rockies have changed from this," said Pomeroy, who spoke from the Alberta mountain community of Canmore, where he works at a field research station. "They're even going to look a little bit differently."

"Even if the climate stayed exactly the same and we just had regular precipitation events in the future, the way the watersheds translate rainfall and snowfall into streamflow is going to be different now.

"The channels are different. The curves we use to figure out the height of streams are different ....

"This is Pacific Northwest U.S. weather we're getting and we're not built for it. We didn't design our cities, our floodways, our flood maps, anything for this. "

Alberta should build flood walls along the Bow River and manage its reservoirs for flood control as well as power generation, Pomeroy suggested. He said it was just luck that some reservoirs upstream from Calgary were unusually low and were able to hold back some of the water.

The province also will have to rethink what it considers developable land, said Pomeroy. The location of some developments in the Bow Valley are actually built on flood plains, something he calls "absurd hubris."

"We've got to live with it and that means not developing in certain areas," he said. "We can't engineer our way out of this."

Will this finally convince the Reckless Rednecks who control the Alberta legislature (including much of the Opposition) and populate the province's seats in the House of Commons to come to their senses and abandon their infantile delusions of Canada as a fossil fuel superpower?

As Richard Fantin at Canadian Trends points out, Alberta is a provincial Ponzi scheme.   Of all the provinces, Alberta was rated the most likely to default on its debts within 30-years.  It was given an 84% chance of default.   Quebec, by contrast, was assessed as having the lowest prospects for default at 28.2%.

Canada can't afford to have a national government or even an Alberta government in the hands of reckless, irresponsible ideologues.  They're already bringing everything down.  But, that said, we need a vastly improved Liberal and New Democrat opposition able to address the rot that has set in and wise enough to know how to rebuild out of the Tory ashes.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mandela's Family Praying For a "Smooth Transition"

Nelson Mandela is near death.   The great man's daughter, Makaziwie, says he is at peace and the family are spending "quality and sacred moments" at his bed side.

All I pray for as a daughter is that the transition is smooth. He is at peace with himself. He has given so much to the world. I believe he is at peace.”

Berlusconi Now Officially a Sex Offender

Sylvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to 7-years in prison for paying for sex with an underage prostitute.  He's also banned for life from holding public office.

Sly, you old dog, sounds like they've got you this time.

Berlusconi's lawyer is of course filing an appeal.   When your client is 76, go ahead and tie up the courts.

Shouldn't America Be Bombing Somebody? China? Russia? No, I Suppose Not.

America does not abide insubordination and the defiant often find themselves on the receiving end of U.S. firepower.

Washington is practically seething over the ease by which fugitive Edward Snowden keeps eluding America's grasp.   First he made it to Hong Kong.  When American authorities tried to move on Snowden there, he simply hopped a flight to safety in Moscow.

Now there's word he's trying to make it to political asylum in Ecuador, possibly via Cuba.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is reduced to muttering threats to Russia and China that there would inevitably be "consequences" for giving Snowden safe passage.   Consequences, really?  Like what?  Air strikes?  I don't think so.  Cruise missile attacks?  Can't see that either.

What we may be witnessing is the onset of "parity politics."  The U.S. needs China and, to a lesser extent, Russia about as much as they need it.  That rules out a lot of the Reagan-era playbook, mainly focused on the threat and use of military violence, that the U.S. relied on during its brief, Golden Era of global hegemony.

Ecuador foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, has described Snowden as a victim of persecution and further taunted Washington by adding that, if anyone has some explaining to do, it's the U.S. government and its spy agencies, not Snowden.

Ecuador, there's the ticket!  Finally, a place the United States can safely bomb.  Weigh anchor, fire up the carriers.  It's time for a serving of Salsa Smackdown.

Is This "Two Strikes" for Calgary?

Sorry, Calgary, but when once-a-century floods begin turning up once-a-decade (or even less) you need to realize that either climate change is very real and here to stay or that God just really hates you.  Okay, or both.

Calgary is, of course, Canada's oil town which I suppose lends a bit of support to the Hand of God argument if you're the superstitious religious type.   And God does, after all, have a pretty open history of sending floods to clean house.  Just sayin'.

In the course of civilization, mankind has settled in low-lying areas along waterways.  It's just easier that way not to mention all the side benefits like, well, water - something most of us like, a lot.  It's just that what was a fine idea for the stable climate conditions of the past two thousand plus years might not work so well for the next thousand or two.

It's not like the flooding Calgary and the rest of southern Alberta is experiencing can't be handled.  Of course it can.  Here I like to use my boxer analogy.  In a prize fight the question is never whether a boxer can take a punch.  Of course he can.  The question is how many punches can he absorb before he's flat out on the mat.  That's what you're betting on.

It takes time to get over a severe weather event.  Actually it takes time and money, and sometimes an awful lot of the latter.   But you put in the time and you put in the effort and all that money to make everything right again based on some reasonable expectation that you won't have to do it all again for a good, long time.   That's what you're betting on, that expectation you won't have to go through this again for decades, generations.

In recent years you might have noticed photos like the one above showing picturesque little British towns awash in flood waters.  They've been getting once in a century floods every year or two lately.  And now some of those towns are warning they can't take more than another one or two before they'll simply have to be abandoned.  It's not just the costly damage to those quaint buildings although that's bad enough.  It's also the costly damage to all that supporting infrastructure that's becoming too expensive to be made good again and again and again.

Abandoning little towns like the one in the photo is itself an extreme form of climate change adaptation, climate change dislocation.  You adapt by giving up and moving.  That could never happen here, right?  Wrong.

We're just beginning the process of dislocation.   Alberta's Tory government, as we now know, commissioned a flood mitigation study in 2006, right after the First Great Flood, and then sat on it until last year, just in time for the Second Great Flood.  The report identified flood plain risks and recommended a ban on development there.  "What?  No development?  Are you out of your frackin' mind?  This is ALBERTA for f--k sakes.  Ditch that report."

Well that 2006 study is probably useless now anyway.  It was based on the 2005 flooding, back when they thought that really was a once-a-century event.  By some estimates the 2013 floods could be three times worse and so "flood plain" has taken on a much larger dimension.  And that once-a-century business is now pretty much debunked.

Will the Alberta government do a new flood mitigation study?  That would involve thinking the unthinkable, the great conundrum that climate change forces on us.   How do we persuade people to prepare for things far outside of our experience?   Today's political classes don't work that way.  They don't have the political vision or the moral courage.

How will Alberta's municipal, provincial and federal representatives deal with this?   That is anybody's guess.  Climate change denialism is a powerful force in the Wild Rose territory, especially with the religious fundies, and loyalties are split between fealty to the Oil Patch and the well being of ordinary Albertans.  I'm pretty sure they won't be calling David Suzuki or Maude Barlow for advice.

Oh well at least the people of Calgary can look to their federal representatives to do what's right.  Oh, that's right, Harper's one of them.   Okay, forget it.

Canadian Infrastructure Not Ready for Climate Change. Calgary Gets Two Once-a-Century Floods in 8 Years.

Decades of neglect have left Canadian infrastructure vulnerable to severe weather events of the sort now ravaging southern Alberta.

The World Council on Disaster Management kicked off its annual conference this morning in Toronto, itself the scene or recent heavy flooding.

“How prepared are we? One way of answering that is that we will never be as prepared as we could be,” said Adrian Gordon, former President & CEO of the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness.

“We’re simply that much closer to the next big disaster. What it’s going to be, who knows? Right now it’s Calgary, tomorrow it could be something else.”

Dr. Saeed Mirza, emeritus professor at Montreal’s McGill University specializing in structural engineering, added that the monumental infrastructure costs accumulated over decades of negligence have left Canada particularly vulnerable to catastrophic events.

The frequency and intensity of these events has been increasing at an escalating rate and what was a one-in-100-year event at one time may become the norm,” he said.

When we look at Calgary, we had a flood there in 2005 and they called it a one-in-100-year flood, while this one according to some descriptions in the news has been three times as bad.”

Climate change has had a “significant effect” on both the intensity and frequency of these events, but denial of its existence and a lack of preparedness on the part of municipal governments have exposed the holes in our infrastructure system, Mirza added. 

Now brace yourself.  Mizra estimates the tab for properly upgrading Canadian infrastructure would be in the vicinity of a trillion dollars.   And here's the thing, the cost of not upgrading our essential infrastructure will be even greater unless, that is, you're willing to live in a cave.

A trillion dollars.  That's a lot of stimulus spending.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

An Updated Charter for Canada in the 21st Century

 Maybe it's time to treat Pierre Trudeau's, and all Canadians', Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a work in progress to be updated periodically but only for the purposes of enhancing its effectiveness and meeting threats to rights and freedoms not contemplated at its inception.

We may sometimes have to add  new, or simply complementary,  rights and expand upon freedoms.  The world in 1982 was much different from the world we inhabit today.  Canada has changed a great deal over the intervening 31-years.   Our democracy was much safer in 1982 than it is today.   We were a more cohesive society than we are today with a still robust middle class.

Equality - Perhaps it would serve us to enshrine equality rights to incorporate equality of opportunity through bolstering health care, relieving poverty and expanding access for all to education.   At a time when the old ladders of social mobility are being pulled up by those at the top, why not simply build new ones, stronger and safer than before?

Religious Freedoms - We might consider expanding religious freedoms to include not only freedom of religion but freedom from religion and the clear separation of church and state.

The Right to a Free Press - Why not grant to every Canadian the right to a free press as an instrument of democratic freedom.   Expressly state the need for the broadest possible ownership of media outlets offering the widest possible range of information and opinion.

Posterity - It should be possible to acknowledge that the rights and freedoms of Canadians today must recognize the interests of future generations of Canadians, including the rights and freedoms of those to follow.

Privacy, Transparency and Accountability - Canadians deserve from their government the protection of their right to privacy safeguarded by the right to transparency and accountability from their government.

Surely none of these is radical.  None threatens the social fabric of the country.  To the contrary, these ideas would be designed to heal the rents that have opened up to threaten our social cohesiveness.  Why not?   What do we have to lose?

Racing is Hard. Racing to the Bottom is Easy.

This may come as a jaw-dropper to you, but the country our Conservative leadership so wants to emulate is a pretty impoverished state.

This chart gives median wealth, by nation.  It is based on the net value, in 2012, of assets minus liabilities per adult person in each given country.  These are median numbers, the point at which half the population is wealthier and the other half poorer.   It's a loose way of looking at the state of a nation's middle class.

So, what do we have?   Well, the Australians are surprisingly (for me anyway) leading the pack.  You might expect that to change once global warming turns the land down under into a dessicated cinder, but hey.

Canada?  We're in the top half - barely, right between Austria and France.  $81,000, not too bad.

But the United States?   Bottom of the pile, 27th out of 27, with a median wealth of just $38,786.

So why are we in a race to be just as good as the Americans?  Maybe Jimbo Flaherty can explain that.  Maybe he'd rather not.

Saddam's Hangman Assassinated

Iraq's outlawed Baath Party has claimed responsibility for executing the masked man (in the blue shirt) who placed the noose over Saddam Hussein's head.

The hangman, identified as Mohhamed Nassif al-Maliki, was apparently tracked down to a city southwest of Baghdad and then killed.

After hanging Saddam, the man was given a captain's rank in the bodyguard of president Nouri al Maliki.

Like It or Not, We Live in a National Security State

A prescient warning from The Observer's John Naughton.  Western democracies have been overwhelmed by a technology flood and have been transformed, willingly or otherwise, into true national security states.   We have been caught unawares, taken to a place from which it may be extremely difficult to ever get back.

Will the revelation that GCHQ taps every internet communication that enters or leaves the UK mark the moment when ordinary citizens stop and say: "Oh, now I get it." A moment when people realise that the stuff that nerds and activists had been droning on about might actually affect them?

My hunch is that it isn't such a moment. Most people will just shrug their shoulders and get on with life. They will accept the assurances of those in authority and move on. If they do, then they will have missed something important. It is that our democracies have indeed reached a pivotal point. Ever since it first became clear that the internet was going to become the nervous system of the planet, the 64 billion dollar question was whether it would be "captured" by giant corporations or by governments. Now we know the answer: it's "both".

...Computer power has been obeying Moore's Law – doubling every two years – for nigh on four decades. Network bandwidth has been tripling every year. Ditto digital storage capacity.

...But it's not just citizens who are behind the technological curve. Our political leaders seem similarly clueless.

...But very few MPs seemed to appreciate that you can't "wiretap" email the way one can bug a phone. As a result, they were blind to the sweeping nature of the powers that Ripa would confer on the state.

...In the last two weeks, the adjective "Orwellian" has been widely deployed. But "Kafkaesque" seems more appropriate to the situation in which we find ourselves. The conversation between the state and the citizen has been reduced to a dialogue that the writer would have recognised. It goes like this.

State Although intrusive surveillance does infringe a few liberties, it's necessary if you are to be protected from terrible things.

Citizen (anxiously) What terrible things?

State Can't tell you, I'm afraid, but believe us they are truly terrible. And, by the way, surveillance has already prevented some terrible things.

Citizen Such as?

State Sorry, can't go into details about those either.

Citizen So how do I know that this surveillance racket isn't just bureaucratic empire building?

State You don't need to worry about that because it's all done under legal authority.

Citizen So how does that work?

State Regrettably, we can't go into details because if we did so then the bad guys might get some ideas.

What it comes down to, in the end, is: "Trust us." And the trouble with that is that in recent decades our political elites have done precious little to deserve our trust. Now we're being asked to suspend our disbelief as they eavesdrop on all of our online activities – to trust them, in a way, with the most intimate details of our social and private lives.

What we're witnessing is the metamorphosis of our democracies into national security states in which the prerogatives of security authorities trump every other consideration and in which critical or sceptical appraisal of them is ruled out of court.

In the UK, for example, we've watched GCHQ – the organisation that emerged from the huts of Bletchley Park, trailing clouds of Enigma glory – swell into a gigantic bureaucracy whose remit includes cyber-crime and cyber-espionage and, now, eavesdropping on its own citizens. In the world of organisational politics, there is a term for this: mission creep. And with it comes the kind of swaggering hubris implicit in the name chosen for the cable-tapping project: Mastering the Internet. Says it all, really.

Unfortunately in Canada this is an issue that is really struggling to get any political traction.    A few people are concerned, fewer still are concerned enough to want the problem exposed and resolved.  And, of course, summer is upon us and Parliament in recess.   With a collective memory span of the common fruit fly we'll have long forgotten about this come September.

And, don't forget, when they say "trust us" they're actually asking that you entrust your privacy to a person who might have the integrity of a Dick Cheney or his Canadian equivalent, Stephen Harper.

Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson Speak Out on the NSA and PRISM Spy Project

We got to know them when they stood defiant against the Bush/Cheney/Scooter Libby cabal over their government's cooked up claims about Saddam and his supposed arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

Joe Wilson was the former diplomat who exposed the "yellowcake" claim to be bogus.  His wife, former CIA spy, Valerie Plame, was outed as a consequence, her career ended and her contacts put in jeopardy.

So what do Val and Joe think of the NSA's PRISM metadata scandal?  Plenty.

Prism and other NSA data-mining programs might indeed be very effective in hunting and capturing actual terrorists, but we don't have enough information as a society to make that decision. Despite laudable efforts led by Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall to bring this to the public's attention that were continually thwarted by the administration because everything about this program was deemed "too secret", Congress could not even exercise its oversight responsibilities. The intelligence community and their friends on the Hill do not have a right to interpret our rights absent such a discussion.
 ...We are now dealing with a vast intelligence-industrial complex that is largely unaccountable to its citizens. This alarming, unchecked growth of the intelligence sector and the increasingly heavy reliance on subcontractors to carry out core intelligence tasks – now estimated to account for approximately 60% of the intelligence budget – have intensified since the 9/11 attacks and what was, arguably, our regrettable over-reaction to them.

Today, the intelligence sector is so immense that no one person can manage, or even comprehend, its reach. When an operation in the field goes south, who would we prefer to try and correct the damage: a government employee whose loyalty belongs to his country (despite a modest salary), or the subcontractor who wants to ensure that his much fatter paycheck keeps coming?  

On this spying business, officials from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to self-important senators are, in effect, telling Americans not to worry: it's not that big a deal, and "trust us" because they're keeping US citizens safe. This position must be turned on its head and opened up to a genuine discussion about the necessary, dynamic tension between security and privacy. As it now stands, these programs are ripe for abuse unless we establish ground rules and barriers between authentic national security interests and potential political chicanery.

The irony of former Vice-President Dick Cheney wringing his hands over the release of classified information is hard to watch. Cheney calls Snowden a traitor. Snowden may not be a hero, but the fact is that we owe him a debt of gratitude for finally bringing this question into the public square for the robust discussion it deserves.

Plame and Wilson touched on an important issue that usually goes unnoticed - the emergence of an intelligence-industrial complex

The bulk of American intelligence activity is now outsourced to private contractors, a bunch of them.   Not only has the U.S. government outsourced those jobs but, with that, it has absolutely lost the very skills base needed to do that work, leaving it dependent on and, hence, vulnerable to the private sector.  The U.S. no longer has the ability to perform many of its intelligence functions in-house.

Worse yet, by scattering its intelligence functions among a loose net of contractors, the U.S. government has left its intelligence apparatus far more vulnerable to infiltration and hacking by its potential adversaries.

Alberta Warned - Stop Development on Flood Plains - Nobody Listened, as Usual.

My views of Alberta's Conservative government were formed decades ago when the issue of mandatory infant car seats came up in the legislature.  Car seats - for kids - huge controversy, really.

Conservative members were quite outspoken.   Alberta motorists didn't need any more laws tying them down.   Sure infant car seats were a good idea but that should be left up to the parents, not forced on them by the government.   The good people of Alberta had the right not to be told what to do by their government.

It was astonishing.  They were speaking up for the parents, voters, instead of their children - those who needed protection, especially from parents who felt car seats were an intrusion on their individual liberty.   Eventually Alberta did make infant car seats mandatory but I think the legislature had to be shamed into it.

Which brings me from car seats to floods.   Back in 2006, the Alberta legislature had a flood mitigation committee that, among other things, looked into the risks of unrestricted development on flood plains.   The committee issued a report that recommended, not surprisingly, that construction not be allowed in places that were just going to flood anyway.

Now, here's the thing.   That report came out in 2006 but the Alberta government sat on it until just last year.  And that's got the former MLA who chaired that committee a bit angry.

"The one thing they could have done …they should have stopped building some housing and buildings on the flood plains. And that was a strong part of that report," George Groeneveld, who chaired the flood mitigation committee and report, told CBC News.
"If you’re going to build in those areas, you take on the responsibility yourself. That to me was the strength of the report, stop building where we shouldn't be building."

The 2006 Provincial Flood Mitigation Report, which was just released last year, recommended a cessation of the sale of Crown lands in known flood risk areas.

"Selling lands in flood risk areas is the opposite of flood mitigation," the report stated. "The province loses its say in the use of these lands and any protective measures would need to be taken through cumbersome mechanisms such as legislation or regulations.

"Undeveloped flood plains are the natural and most effective form of flood mitigation, and this recommendation will protect those areas."

Sale of flood-prone Crown lands creates the potential "for increased financial liability for the province in terms of Disaster Recovery Program funding that must outweigh the short-tem financial benefits of the sale," the report stated.

Whether it's infant car seats or houses built to flood it seems that, for Alberta, some things never change.   Is it any wonder they can't manage their Tar Sands?

By the way, here's a photo of Squadron Leader Harper, complete with pilot's wings, touring the devastation.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Do You See Where This is Headed? Tennesseeans Warned Complaining May Be Terrorism.

Hats off to Sherwin Smith, deputy director of the Tennessee Division of Water Resources for warning his fellow citizens to watch what they say, especially when complaining about their water.

"We take water quality very seriously.  Very, very seriously.  But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there's no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism."

Sometimes It's Art That Imitates Life

Remember Bobby de Niro's performance in Goodfellas?  You should, it's being aired on various networks roughly three times every week - every week.  In the movie, de Niro's character was loosely based on "Jimmy the Gent" Burke, this guy:

 Jimmy's New York home from those days is still in the Burke family (he died in prison of stomach cancer).  The cops showed up to do a little work on the place this week.

The cops went at the place with jackhammers and shovels, tore up the driveway and the backyard and left with unspecified "organic material."  

There's speculation the cops were looking for this guy:

In his mob days, Jimmy the Gent owned an operated Robert's Lounge, a saloon that the real life Henry Hill described as Burke's personal graveyard.   Various remains, including a skull and a leg bone were found by police beneath the bar floor in 1980.

On Owning Canadians - You Could Be Next

A friend sent this along and I thought it too good not to share

On her radio show, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.

The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, written by a U.S. man, and posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination ... End ofdebate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are from neighboring nations.
A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians.

Can you clarify? 

Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24.
The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a
pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors.
They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2clearly states he should be put to death.
Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an
abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality.  I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend).  He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16.

Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman, Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,
Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education
University of Virginia

P.S. It would be a damn shame if we couldn't own a Canadian.

Coyne- Have Tories Lost Their Way or Have They Simply Lost Their Minds?

Andrew Coyne sums up what won't but should be on the delegates' minds at next week's Conservative Party convention:

Do they get it? Do the delegates understand what a fix the party is in, and why? And are they prepared to push the party to mend its ways?

It has become a commonplace of late to say the Tories have “lost their way.” That’s not about their navigational skills but their state of mind: an acute lack of self-awareness that blinds them to what they have become, a blinkered conviction of their own superior cleverness, a closed loop of defensiveness that interprets every criticism as proof of the rightness of the course they are on.

For if everyone — the courts, the bureaucracy, Elections Canada, the media, oh yes especially the media — is biased against them (for what else could possibly explain this heap of opprobrium?) then of course they must constantly be on the attack, and of course they cannot allow themselves to be weakened by internal dissent, and of course they cannot be open with the public about their plans. For that would only provide their enemies with ammunition.

This is the laager mentality that has taken hold in the upper reaches of the Tory party. It is the attitude of parties that have lost touch, not just with their principles or their supporters, but with reality. Toryism, in its current incarnation, resembles less an ideology than a pathology.

...a great many people of all persuasions or none have lately formed the same impression, that the Tories have taken politics in worrisome new directions. One has the sense, not just that they do not respect limits that had previously been observed, but that they don’t know where they are.

How to put this into words? Perhaps it is best expressed by what is not the case. You simply cannot count on this government to do what it says it will; to be straight with people; to take the high road; to behave with anything resembling spontaneity or goodwill. I mean it may, but you’re almost surprised when it does. Its default demeanour is sullen, wary, bullying, moronic. Its characteristic face is that of Peter Van Loan or Pierre Poilievre, and it is very much the face it deserves.
Several of Coyne's observations about the Tory government's failures are spot on but I think he misses the larger problem -  it's not that they've lost their rudder, they've never really had one.

Tom Flanagan, Harper's old sidekick and confidante, pointed this out in remarks he made last summer to a gathering on Saltspring Island.  He said Harper doesn't have a vision, he's not a "vision guy," and, if anything, he finds vision antithetical.  He focuses on narrow subjects, mainly on his notion of a Western Canada-driven economy and wastes no time on the larger questions and problems facing the country.

Harper Vision
It's the sort of chronic deficiency that isn't going to be fixed by a party convention.  They can't operate on Stephen Harper.  They can't open him up to fix what's broken inside.  And, unless they get rid of Harper, they'll just have to put up with more of his "sullen, wary, bullying, moronic" ways.