Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Rex Murphy and the #ymmfire

Rex Murphy is talking the Fort McMurray fire. Despite a virtually universal outpouring of support and sympathy from across the land for the victims of the fire, he with his exhausting logorrhoea is doing his best to sow division. Referring to anyone of an environmentalist or activist strand who has criticised the Tar Sands, he utters:
And just to blow pepper into the sad eyes of those dispossessed and thrown on the road, there was the predictable troupe of gloaters and sadists — a bleak and wretched lot, though, thank God, small — gloating about karma, and “whadyja expect” and “Nature’s revenge” on the oilsands. Miserable bastards, whose brains are missing and whose hearts are dead. 
OK, Rex. Nobody, but nobody, is gloating about Fort McMurray fire. It is a disaster and an emergency with few parallels in Canadian history. More than 80 000 people are displaced and much a town destroyed. Nobody I have seen, and believe me, I have been watching this closely since it began, has said anything untoward about the fleeing people. An environmental activist might have a sibling working on the rigs in the Tar Sands and many workers in that community understand the environmental hazard that their industry represents. Even industry knows, path dependent as it is.

The criticism levelled by environmentalists about Fort McMurray has ALWAYS been about the industry that town has boomed around. Where criticism has been voiced about the people who live and work there, it's in relation to the vice and social problems that high-wage boom towns attract, which is a form of care. That Rex would suggest otherwise - in the middle of a humanitarian emergency - means he's either bone stupid or maliciously trying to politicise and position this disaster from the getgo as a conflict between his partisans and 'environmentalists'. I won't insult him by assuming he's stupid.

Now, having said that, make no mistake that this disaster is political.

One, Fort McMurray is a single-industry resource town. Like every other resource town in Canada, it is deeply affected by the market boom and bust cycles that plague the natural resource sector. Should  Fort Mac have got rich on a timber or diamond boom, the bust would inevitably come as global markets did their thing - even without climate change. It was well bust when this fire hit, making the practical economic incentive for rebuilding and repopulating a very serious problem.

Two, the role of Fort McMurray's industry in the fire cannot be overlooked. Boreal forests are likely in a very different fire regime due to climate change (and this year, the addition of El Nino weather patterns). There is no shortage of solid scientific research on this and is extremely likely to be the causal mechanism. Discussing this is not the same as gloating. With any other disaster there are two sets of conversations that happen at the time. One is concern for the victims, and the second is the discussion of causes. Hurricanes, earthquakes, plane crashes, tsunami and we're immediately talking about weather systems, engineering, building codes, pilot error, tectonic slips, anything that could have caused the event, or protected or made vulnerable the victims or certain victims. It's how we learn and cope with the awfulness of it all and try to prevent or prepare for the next occurrence.

Three, people are impacted. The lives and livelihoods of at least 80 000 have been immediately and radically disrupted. This will have a profound impact on people's short and long-term well-being. No one is laughing at or mocking this fact. Make no mistake that the casualty list over the coming years will grow from the two tragic car-crash deaths in the evacuation, but no one will really notice. Some evacuees, men mostly, will never recover from the shock to their well-being and sense of place and identity, and self-destruct. Some to the point of suicide.  Women will take on additional burdens and some will face abuse as the men with strong occupational identities and used to very high provider-wages struggle with loss identity and income. Children and youth will face their own challenges of dislocation, broken marriages, and the loss of friends and stability.

Not so for The Beast, according to the Rex Murphys of Canada. For them, climate change and disaster impacts beyond the immediate hero-worship of victims and anyone in a uniform is like the violent blowback from foreign policy misadventures. Discussion of causes and long-term consequences is off-limits and results in vicious name-calling and deflection when attempted. They'll also stop paying attention in the weeks, months, and years ahead where the full impact of the disaster on displaced people manifests.

Contrary to Rex, progressives and activists who protest the Tar Sands largely amplify the voices of scientific research evidence that show our fossil fuel dependence leads to tragedies like this fire - and much worse. Contrary to Rex it is a deeply-rooted desire to see humanity have a future that drives this informed commentary. Quite different from gloating sadism and dead hearts.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

That LAV deal

Frankly, the LAV deal is a shitty deal for anyone in Canada but the Tories, and I honestly don't believe the Trudeau, Dion, and the rest like it any more than of us. I think they probably know they've got no good defence for their decision. They've got advisors looking at the tea leaves and wondering what the next of war in the region will look like. We've got no idea where and how any weapons in the region will be used and by whom.

Dion, Trudeau, others, and their advisors would have done a cost-benefit analysis around this, I'm sure. It might have come up with the following:

First, if they'd cancelled, the Americans and Europeans would have made noises because it impacted their arms industries too given the distributed global supply chains involved (e.g. for LAV gun turrets).

Next, the Saudis (and General Dynamics Land Systems) would have sent a fleet of Suezmax tankers full of lawyers to compel us to fulfil the order or compensate them into the gazillions, probably both. I'm the contracts have pretty nasty penalties written in. We might have had a serious diplomatic spat too, and watched Canadian investments in the Kingdom run into serious trouble. There's $4 billion in trade between the countries and we weren't going to mess with that by axing the armour deal.

Despite having a majority, the Grits are also worried about public opinion. If we'd squashed the deal, a few (but not all!) of the same folks now vexed at them for signing it would have been yelling at them for not signing it. They'd cite protecting Canadian manufacturing jobs, screwing-over a key partner in the fight against ISIS (and therefore coddling up to the terrorists!), opening Canada up to lawsuits, and so on. The PR mess is bad now, but I wonder if it would be a hell of a lot worse if Canada was faced with penalty payments in the middle of a loud public protest about cancelling the deal.

Here's the thing: Canada makes a lot of weapons. We have a sizable, top-shelf arms industry. We mostly export to NATO allies and other friendly liberal democracies. But there are customers who aren't in that category and buy big ticket weapons from our allies too.  The ugly fact is that selling big ticket items to employs a lot of people and brings in a lot of cash. The LAV platform is the major heavy weapon system made in Canada in large numbers and it sells very, very well around the world.

What should they have done? Revoke the export permit and faced the kind of backlash that would have material impact in terms of industry and labour relations, penalties and lawsuits? Let the deal go ahead, and face the rhetorical lashing from the public and the perhaps comparatively minor cost of facing off a court challenge?

My sense is that there was no good answer in front of them, and they defaulted to spin and mistruths.  What would have been a better way for the Liberals to handle it? Perhaps being more direct about the pros and cons of the deal and the whole rationale for their decision, whatever decision it was. They can definitely revisit Canadian arms manufacturing and export law.

The arms trade is a dirty business for everyone involved. Best to stay the hell out of it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Transparency is hard

Lying about major arms deals to illiberal regimes.

Dion, please resign.

Trudeau, we expected this of your predecessor.

If your hands were tied or your government were pressured by things we haven't seen, such as industry lobby pressure, petitions from other states, or something else entirely, explain it to us.

That's called transparency. It's hard, I know.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

OK, Liberals

Fix this. 

It doesn't matter how many mayurasana JT can do on his desk or how gender-balanced your cabinet is.

Lying to us about the state of the nation's finances or how you spend our tax money, or anything really, is despicable.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Panama papers

Reading the rolling accounts of the Panama Papers (Iceland's PM just resigned, David Cameron's family has some 'splaining to do), I think we're a scandal away from a popular revolt. Each one of these fucking document dumps nakedly shows how much of the game is rigged against us. 

Monday, April 04, 2016

Silly people

Good grief.  The perpetual and tiresome CF identity crisis continues.

Pips will be removed and replaced by metal maple leaves, according to Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse, commander of the Canadian Army. Gold braid will be returned to the uniform cuffs. These changes reverse some of the insignia changes brought about three years ago by the Conservative government.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Blue Lives Matter?!?!@£$*%($)£)


Cops in the town of Port Hope, Ontario have launched a "Blue Lives Matter" campaign that critics argue is tone-deaf at best and an egregious form of appropriation at worst.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Cons can't help themselves

Yep, you just keep doing what you're doing, Conservatives. 

Crass, insensitive, completely oblivious to context and lacking in basic decorum: they still haven't figured out this lost them the last election. 

Perhaps they've forgotten how to do politics any other way? 


Tuesday, March 08, 2016

F-35, IT edition

The latest fun from the plane that just refuses to work is that the radar sometimes fails and needs to be rebooted.

There are rumours that Lockheed Martin is proposing to install a direct line to their tech support in all production F-35s.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

New Con boss on the Twitters

I think it's going to take the Cons a long time to climb out of the pit their last boss and his pals dug them into.

They've maybe got an intractable problem now in that their vision of the country is simply unpalatable to 60 to 70% of the electorate. The Conservative share of the vote is likely to shrink further as the older generation (60+ years) of hardline Tory voters passes on. Younger Canadians, X-ers, millennials, and so on are very liberal in their outlook and lives and to them, the Tories have almost no appeal. 

The environment matters, health and welfare matter, social diversity matters. 

Conservatism, as it stands in opposition to these things, is obsolete. 

To find its feet again, the CPC will have to become something other than conservative.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Trudeau and ISIL: some guesses and thoughts

Just watching the press conference about Canada withdrawing CF-18s from Iraq and increasing the number of special forces and logistical support...some quick thoughts.

- Half a dozen CF-18s bombing the odd truck or position every few days is not massive air campaign. I'd venture to guess that there is an oversupply of strike aircraft in the region relative to available targets. Unless a significant ground battle is joined by forces the West supports, news reports suggest allied strike aircraft are largely hitting targets of opportunity. Removing our more charismatic weapons (CF-18s) from the fight will not impact anything other than domestic public opinion. Bombing sounds exciting and less boring than a long slow enabling of local forces, which in turn is more politically palatable that admitting there's no real strategy at work and whatever we do is probably pointless.

- Local forces are whatever they are and are the key to keeping ISIL at bay if not deating them. Supporting key actors there to - for now, to some extent - is probably the only real way to be involved if Canada insists it wants to be involved militarily, let alone any other way.

- Local forces are diverse, often oppositional, and shift in the winds. Some constants are the Kurdish forces who have a territorial base and a coherent mission. Turkey plays an ambiguous role. Russia is present and will largely do as it pleases and backs Assad. Mix in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and so on and whatever Canada does or doesn't do, it won't be in any way decisive.

- We're there for show, because all our big showy friends (who made the most recent mess, re invading Iraq 2003) are there. No one knows or has known what they're doing because everything is complex, non-linear, and superpositioned where allies and enemies can be one and the same.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Brave "Albertans" cowardly lost an election

The stuff being posted about Notley and other women in her government is appalling. Death threats, threats of violence are criminal because they have no place in a civilised society. This much should be obvious to the lawnorder conservative crowd.

But again, not really. So much is so lost on them.

Instead, we get yet another flavour of the cheetoh-crumb basement misogyny currently in vogue. 

Grown men threatening violence against the women with whom they disagree. 

Imagine that. 

Men with sisters, mothers, girlfriends, wives, colleagues and friends bashing out stuff on their facebooks and chatrooms. 

Tough guys, these "cowboys"

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Fascist aesthetics in North America

Between the gaudy American and O'Leary, North American fascism has a distinct and tacky aesthetic compared to the martial notes of its European and Latin American ancestors. Instead, our wazzocks are fond of expensive ties and a Vegas aesthetic from about 1975.

Friday, January 08, 2016

IlLiberal advice

So the Grit briefing book suggests "deepening" ties with Saudi Arabia, hence the deal for the little tanks.

Seriously, who gives this advice? And why in good heavens would a Liberal listen to it? (Dion, you're a sociologist and should get this.)

LOOK at the trend, the violence across the region is worsening, spilling over borders along Sunni and Shia lines.  Well armed regional powers, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, the actors in the strange civil war in Syria, are the defining actors. Powers like Russia and the US are playing supporting roles, largely reacting to events, trying leverage one favourite or another. The are not really dictating to or controlling anyone or anything.

Supplying arms to any side simply lubricates the downward slide. If (WHEN!) things slide further, there is not guarantee whatsoever that the 'side' anyone backs now will continue to look in any way favourable.

Canada has no dog in this fight beyond the role of peacemaker. We are not arsonists.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Strait of Hormuz 2017

[Speculative news, 2017] The internal disintegration of Saudi Arabia continues apace, with the monarchy attempting to hold on to power amid violence between radical Islamist movements spilling over from Iraq, Syria and moderate Saudis pushing for democratic reform.

Troops with newly supplied Canadian-made armoured vehicles were filmed yesterday firing on unarmed protesters in what Twitter has rapidly coined the Riyadh Massacre. This follows intensifying exchanges between the air and naval forces of Iran and Saudi Arabia resulting military casualties and the loss of a number of ships and aircraft. These include the three Saudi Typhoons shotdown this week to what are thought to be Russian-supplied Iranian S-400 surface to air missiles.

In Canada, the Liberal government has come under sustained criticism for its failure to cancel the armoured vehicle deal made under the previous Conservative government. The Canadian foreign minister, St├ęphane Dion announced his sudden resignation in a brief press release, and the prime minister's office has not yet responded to Dion's announcement or events in middle-east, although an announcement is scheduled for tomorrow.

Many experts interviewed by the media have stated that yesterday's events were entirely predictable given the steady disintegration of region since the post-9/11 invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq by US-led forces.

"Why the Trudeau government continued such awful Tory policies in the region is a bloody mystery. I warned them!" complained one source, an early advisor to the Trudeau government who said he  resigned after he felt his advice was ignored. Others have suggested that pressure from international allies and domestic pressure around manufacturing jobs contributed to the Liberal decision not to cancel the vehicles deal.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

Line up, you lying, cheating Harperistas ... here comes the bus

Remember this?

How about this or this?

So, from the mouth of a Harper conservative we get this:
“Basically what happened was that they used robocalls to misdirect NDP voters, to split the vote and allow Gary Lunn to win,” Duffy said.
“He knew nothing about it, except that they phoned him afterward and said ‘You’re welcome Gary.’ He said ‘What?’ (They said) ‘We got you in’.”
Lunn told The Canadian Press on Thursday that he has no recollection of the June 2009 lunch, never knew who made the misleading phone calls and never told Duffy that it was Conservative headquarters.
Somebody is lying. 

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Accounting hangovers from the last government

Well, last week we discovered the last government's projections on the budget were off by over $5 billion, moving from surplus to deficit.

Today we discover the shipbuilding programme for the Navy was using cost estimates from nearly a decade ago(?!) and the cost of sorting out the senior service is likely to be much much higher. (Good-bye F-35 & Eurofighter; hello cheapest(?) we can get.)

There's more to come, I'm sure.

I figured a while back that the last government probably had some shifty ledgers...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Problem kids on NATO's flanks

I'm not talking about Syrians or Russians. Hungary and Turkey are both NATO member states. Unlike most other NATO members, which are liberal democracies of some form or another,  these two entities are now ruled by hardline nationalists. Perhaps in international realism, this would be OK for the alliance as there's not real requirement that your country's politics look like the UK, France, or the USA.

The problem is with IS and Syrian refugees and how Turkish and Hungarian domestic policy is making European security more difficult.

Hungary has taken a hard stance against masses of refugees escaping Syria (and a few other places). This as seen closed borders, which have directed masses of refugees to overwhelm other state borders and in the short-term, the civil infrastructure necessary to effectively process and resettle refugees. This isn't a military security problem so much as a civil one, as ineffectively controlled borders apparently means that it possible for one of the Paris terrorists to transit from Syria to Paris without notice. Note, this is not to say the European born terrorist was refugee, but he may have have been able to use an over-stressed system compounded by things like Hungarian policy to hide his movements.

Which brings us to Turkey, and its leaky border with Syria, campaign against various Kurdish groups, support for the ethnic Turks in Syria, and disruptive influence on the campaign against IS and other Islamist militant groups in Syria, and so on. This is not a country acting in line with the general policy of most NATO countries against IS. It is a country that may put NATO in direct conflict with Russia, given the recent downing of a Russian aircraft by Turkish F-16s and the likely Russian response.

Something to think about.