Posted by: Tony Carson | 13 December, 2009

COP15: The huge crowds we don’t hear about

Funny. We aren’t hearing about huge crowds at COP15 over here, just of the demonstrators who get arrested. But the warmers seemed to be out in numbers, comforted by their belief in science.

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Posted by: Tony Carson | 10 December, 2009

War President Accepts Peace Prize

If US President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a few weeks ago for the leader the world hoped he would be, he accepted the prize today as the leader he is.

In defending his wars in a speech in Oslo today, Obama neatly fits the predictable, packaged persona of the US Commander-in-Chief in thrall to the be-ribboned military, which itself is the face of the obese military industrial complex.

And he leads a country that has become so accustomed to war, and its pathetic knee-jerk to jingoistic patriotism, that in seeking new adventures the leader preaches to the eager converted.

While the world is appalled by the US escalation of the war in Afghanistan, a majority of Americans are in favour of it, even though the war, like the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, is unwinnable by any conventional definition and will cost much needed treasure, not to mention much cherished blood.

The long history of war as a useful tool in international relations came to an end when the vast majority of countries, including the US, signed a UN declaration that made it illegal to acquire land by means of war.

The inspiration for war, then, has become either brutal all-encompassing punishment (as many as a million people have died helplessly in Iraq) or an act of empire-building or, more in the American style, a means of building military bases to thereby gain economic (read ‘energy’) control of a country and region.

The rest of the world has pulled away from the hammer of war by making acts of terror, based from foreign countries, police-keeping operations: using intelligence and other means to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Not so the US which uses its $680 billion annual military budget to express its militant dissatisfactions around the world while building its military installations.

In endowing Obama with its highest honour, the Nobel committee has done irreparable harm to the Nobel brand.

Awarding a prize for what might be, only to find out that what is was always destined to be, cheapens the memory of those who actually deserved the prize and it tarnishes the gloss of any future awards.

And it encourages the war-monger.

Posted by: Tony Carson | 9 December, 2009

America’s privacy laws written by Nancy Grace

I once knew a woman who called for an ambulance (she really needed) from her home but told the 911 dispatcher that the ambulance could only come if the driver didn’t use the siren: she couldn’t handle the embarrassment.

If this woman had been an American, there would have been no chance she would have called. And not just because of the siren. Because her every word could have been made public the minute she did and subjected her to ridicule thereafter.

The Swedish mother-in-law of Tiger Woods, who is a person of some importance in Sweden, is shown carted off on a stretcher after a panicked daughter calls for help, a call that is heard round the world.

Where was her privacy? Why was she stripped of her dignity? Why do you lose your rights as soon as you seek help?

Or fall into trouble.

The minute you get arrested in the US your picture with the number under your chin is whistled through the ether with ill-disguised glee.

This doesn’t happen in other countries. Of course, other countries don’t execute, either.

This whole Tiger Woods thing is a fiasco on two levels: it exposes him as the real person he is, not a pretty sight, while exposing the US as a nation of voyeurs, hardly an honourable characteristic.

It’s as if the laws were written by Nancy Grace.

Posted by: Tony Carson | 9 December, 2009

Tar Sands, not just a national, but an international disgrace

Just how environment-destroying are the Alberta Tar Sands?

Who knows. But we do know now that they are at least 5 times more lethal than the industry is admitting, natch, and they are getting worse — directly covering an area of 450 sq kms today; 1,000 sq. kms in 30 years.

Alberta has just 15% of Canada’s population yet accounts for over 30% of the entire country’s greenhouse gases.

The Tar Sands are the major reason Canada failed to honour its Kyoto promise.

And as long as the Tar Sands continue to devastate the landscape, Canada will have no chance of meeting even minimum commitments it will pretend to agree to in Copenhagen.

The Tar Sands cannot be a provincial matter when its pollution impacts the entire country … and the entire globe.

Enabling the oil companies to act so recklessly is a provincial, national and international disgrace.

It’s kind of like American elections: if the US is going to so radically de-stabilize the world, everyone on the planet should have a vote on who will lead the superpower.

Ditto Alberta: if the province is going to so seriously impact the world’s climate people from Bangladesh to Bimini, from St John’s to Victoria should have the right to vote on who will lead the rogue province.

Posted by: Tony Carson | 9 December, 2009

US move to the bloodless war

Do the American people have a right to know what weapons are being developed and deployed in their name?

No. Obviously not. Weapons, like information and intelligence, are classified. They are only outted when used, like the atom bomb, or when spotted in photos, like the “Beast of Kandahar.”

With a budget of $680 billion and an industrial complex that pervades every aspect of US corporate life, developing new ways to kill is one of the few remaining growth industries in the US, as David Patreaus has pointed out.

And weapons development feeds into America’s last remaining near-monopoly: international weapons sales, of which the US has cornered almost 70%.

Increasingly, weapons are taking the place of humans with the obvious advantage that fewer US bodies are flown home to Dover.

And they are cost-efficient. Even if a drone or bot costs a $1 million, that’s no more than a soldier costs for a year in Afghanistan … and there isn’t the hassle of feeding and housing it.

So the military loves the unmanned robotic troops, no muss, no fuss — no conscience, no morality.

Increasingly, lethal robotic machines are being developed in labs all over the US and used by the American military, not only in their theatres of war, but covertly in countries throughout the world.

And this is being done in the name of the American people who have neither a clue nor a say in what the military does on their behalf.

The move towards the bloodless war will remove the last reason to avoid force.

But, inevitably, just like with nukes, the bots and drones will come back to bite the builder. What the US can send out, the US can receive and when they do, Americans will again be shouting ‘cowards,’ just as they did with the 9/11 suicide attackers.

Funding an overwhelming force of bots and drones: short-term gain, long-term pain.

Posted by: Tony Carson | 8 December, 2009

Not standing by her man: most fascinating woman of year?

What does it say about our times when Barbara Walters presents her 10 Most Fascinating People of 2009 and includes a woman whose ‘fascination’ is that she wouldn’t stand beside her husband, South Carolina’s Governor Mark Stanford, while he admitted his philandering at a presser?

Of course, Walters knows of what she speaks, given she famously admitted to her own affairs in a recent memoir.

These things happen, obviously and while it’s all very noble sporting to pillory the philanderer, it’s preposterous to ennoble the aggrieved.

By, in effect, choosing sides like this (no more standing by your man), Barbara Walters seems to be making this a sexist issue and, given that stats show women are increasingly catching up on the cheating curve, it’s hard to see how this serves a greater social morality … whatever that is any more.

Jenny Sanford didn’t stand beside Mark at the presser because she wasn’t asked to … but she claims she wouldn’t have anyway. Good for her. But the fascinating aspect of these things is that some women do … and some women hold out for $55 million to prolong their agony for a couple of years.

Now that’s fascinating.

Posted by: Tony Carson | 8 December, 2009

A look at emissions

Interesting graphs from the NY Times. With about the same population, the US is responsible for vastly more emissions than Europe (as is Canada and Australia.)

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Posted by: Tony Carson | 8 December, 2009

Paper battery, no more turning the page?

The birthplace of an ideal starts in the lab for some, but in the back pages of newspapers for the vast majority of us.

Take the paper battery, for instance. Reuters has a short piece on it: Scientists say paper battery could be in the works.

Basically, I lament, it’s a bunch of gibberish to me, something about carbon nanomaterials, you know, the way ink sticks to paper. Anyway, this paper battery would be light-weight and low-cost, perfect for powering cars and anything else “that requires instant high power,” and “they are also good for grid-connected energy storage.”

The technology could be commercialized within a short time, the article concludes.

Are we so immuned to inventions that something like a cheap, light paper battery that will power our future is introduced to us as a 9 paragraph tid-bit buried meaninglessly between Tiger and Baghdad bombings?

Or is this just another hot air balloon coming out of the scientific community to scam investors or threaten competitors?

It isn’t easy any more: understanding the technology, never mind understanding the motive of why science is talking about it. Still … a paper battery sounds pretty neat, whatever the hell it is.

Posted by: Tony Carson | 8 December, 2009

Men: feeling your angst

You know how women are taking everything men used to have? Like jeans and suits and neckties and jobs. Ya, well, we’re fighting back.

We’re getting postpartum depression, too.

Posted by: Tony Carson | 8 December, 2009

The left coast is gayer

There isn’t much surprising about this map from the Economist with the possible exception that Texas isn’t dark green.

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Posted by: Tony Carson | 8 December, 2009

Timeline of war in Afghanistan

Looked at from 2001, the climb to get out of Afghanistan seems to be getting increasingly steeper. Go here for an explanation of all the events. (From WashPo.)

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Posted by: Tony Carson | 8 December, 2009

US consumer spending over 25 years — a push

On a tight budget one or two percent can mean a lot but in the general scheme of things it looks like consumer spending in the US has been distributed remarkably evenly over 25 years. (from Flowing Data)

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