Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland: No wins.

Massive 84.5 % voter turn-out.

Close finish at 55 % for No.

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

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

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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scotland: Branding exercises and the No

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dangerous delusions . . .

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

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

Tomorrow's Scottish vote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

FIPA 2025

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Burger for Stevie . . .

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

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

Goths will love 'em . . . 

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

#indyref in Scotland

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

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

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

Fascinating times.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Food for thought: Harper, IS and terror in Canada

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The fate of Conservative parties

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

Monday, September 01, 2014

The Voters?

Where to begin.

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

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

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

I wonder how the NATO meeting in Cardiff will go?

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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Con Canuck cold warriorerness

Laurie Hawn must be feeling downright nostalgic these days, what with RCAF CF-18s in Europe squaring off against the Ruskies, again. He was there in the 1970s driving CF-104 Starfighters. In the linked Star piece, Hawn talks about being chased out of East German airspace by their MiGs. I thought this was interesting so I googled around and found a more complete account of Hawn's navigation moment that paints a less macho picture of events. Seems Hawn got lost and accidently found himself somewhere over East Germany where MiGs were scrambled to meet him. He turned around and zoomed back to West Germany only to be intercepted by NATO Phantoms. Read between the lines in the second, and you realise that he was likely nearly shot down by both sides.

However, for all the ridiculous swagger coming out of the Cons about the Russians, they're about as bad as it gets when it comes to defence spending. Take heart though because Canada's views and means matter little.

Where we used to have strength was in mediation and negotiation between adversaries.  At one point, we'd a lot of good thinkers and worldly people in our diplomatic corps. Peace was a national policy objective and something to be proud of, but for a few hillbillies in the hinterlands. Now Canada's got nothing but childish jingoistic hillbillies who will mouth off on Twitter (seriously!) about Putin and the Russians knowing they can scurry behind serious NATO members.

Keep this up, and the Germans, Americans, and British will tell Canada to keep its yap shut whilst they get on with the deadly serious business of avoiding a major war with Russia. Come to think of it, Hawn's experience may have been an uncanny foreshadow.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


Putin's Russia and the Islamic State are short-term distractions from the serious problems of climate change and resource depletion. We simply don't have time to fuck around with some new fangled Cold- luke-warm-War or to humour the Islamic State.

The global policy response should be robust, and aimed at walling off these two entities in every way possible so that we in the rest of the world can get on with the serious business of adapting civilisation to the worst crisis it has ever known.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gazonto . . .

Imagine if Stevie hammered the GTA like the Israelis have hammered Gaza? Toronto filmmaker John Greyson's efforts to give us a better and more personalized feel for how the bombing of Gaza would look, feel, and play itself out for all us ordinary citizens if it was happening right here in good old T.O. instead.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fantino lashes out at veterans ... once again.

It's hard to believe Julian Fantino's role is to champion Canadian Forces veterans at the Harper cabinet table. You can imagine how he describes those he represents to the national control-freak.

Deveryn Ross finishes him off. Fantino, whose service as a cop has always come with some questions, should be tossed in the gutter.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

America's Police State . . .

THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC has mutated into something ugly and carnivorous, not just in its policies with the rest of the world, but in the way it has turned on its poor. It's become a ghastly distortion according to Charles Stross*, who commented on his blog that American police have abandoned Sir Robert Peel's Principles of Policing. As you may know, the London Metropolitan Police was the first professional police force, created in 1829.

These principles are in stark contrast to what we have seen from Ferguson:
  1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
  2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
  3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
  4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
  5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
  6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
  7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
  8. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
  9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.
If this is not re-introduced to American police, Charles sees danger: "even if you’re not a member of one of the cultures on the receiving end of the jackboot today, the fact that the jackboot exists means that it may be used against you in future. Beware of complacency and apathy; even if you think you are protected by privilege, nobody is immune. See also Martin Niemoller."

Martin Niemoller's famous warning:
  • First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
  • Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
  • Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
  • Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
*Charlie is one of my favorite SF writers; I recommend his oeuvre "The Atrocity Archives", the first in his delightful "Laundry" series. Set in a parallel universe, an Earth identical to ours, with one difference: in the early 30's, Alan Turing discovers that certain mathematical processes produce "magic". Problem is, this "magic" is brain-eating dangerous.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Harper's ideology now presented with "acceptable casualties" ...

Shorter Lisa Raitt
The deaths of 47 people, the devastation of an entire Canadian community and the subsequent years of horrendous nightmares are acceptable collateral damage in the Harper Conservative war on reality. No amount of losses or devastated lives can prevent us from moving forward with our dangerous and seriously flawed ideology.
This may be just as "sexy" as Raitt's drooling over people dying of cancer because of a radioisotope shortage perpetrated by the Harper government. 

Since Raitt likes sexy issues involving people being killed, she can wear this one.