November 20, 2014

Modern accounts are instruments of deception: The Western Axis financial and economic system has become distorted beyond belief

The financial and economic system has become distorted beyond belief by artificially low interest rates, excessive leverage and countless fast-buck hedge fund operations sustained by the financial bubble. The costs of these distortions have been enormous. - Martin Hutchinson. Martin Hutchinson covers emerging markets and economic policy, drawing on 25 years of experience as an international merchant banker. He ran derivatives platforms for two European banks, before serving as director of a Spanish venture capital company, advisor to the Korean conglomerate Sunkyong and chairman of a US modular building company. In Zagreb he established the Croatian debt capital markets and set up the corporate finance operations of Privredna Banka Zagreb. Since 2000 he has been a financial journalist.

Modern accounts are instruments of deception
Martin Hutchinson The Prudent Bear, The Bear’s Lair blog USA November 17, 2014

One of the courses I took at business school was “Analysis of Financial Reports,” in which we learned to deconstruct all the scam accounts that had proliferated in the late 1960s boom. Most of these companies, undone by negative cash flow, went bust after 1970. We were informed by the professor that the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), set up in 1973, was introducing new and more rigorous accounting principles, so that pretty soon all the accounting scams of the late 1960s would become impossible. Accounts would become readily comprehensible, with few differences in approach between those of different companies.

Well, that didn’t last long!

Since the 1970s, not only has finance become vastly more complicated, but so has accounting. The principle of “mark to market,” originally introduced only to value properly the trading portfolios of securities brokerages, has been extended again and again until it has made accounts incomprehensible to the ordinary investor. Combine this technique with the complexities of modern finance, in which derivatives are used to “hedge” all imaginable operations, and we saw perfectly simple, “vanilla” companies suddenly record huge profits or losses for no conceivable reason. We also witnessed banks recording large, spurious profits in 2008, as their credit quality collapsed and the “mark-to-market value” of their liabilities declined commensurately.

Add to that the skewed incentives produced by a decade of negative real interest rates and the ethical decay of managements who know that the regulators are plodding along at least five years behind them, and you have accounting visibility below that of the South Sea Bubble days. Needless to say, the prospects for mass fraud and chicanery are even grimmer than in 1720.

The purpose of accounting is to reflect to shareholders a realistic picture of the company’s operations and its assets. There will always be distortions. For example, in the inflationary 1970s, buyout artists were always on the lookout for companies whose headquarters or main plant had been recorded at cost in say 1926 and not revalued since. However “market to market” of fixed assets in particular destroys the historical record of how the company has been built, and makes all subsequent earnings and asset figures both meaningless and impossible to relate to either reality or competitors’ operations. For example, [the iron and coal mining company Cliffs Resources’] operations will show an artificially low depreciation charge in future quarters, making it impossible to determine its true costs compared to competitors.

The financial and economic system has in the last 20 years been distorted beyond belief by artificially low interest rates, excessive leverage and countless fast-buck hedge fund and private-equity fund operations sustained by the financial bubble. The costs of these distortions have been enormous and will need to be paid for decades to come. Accountants have contributed greatly to this mess. The profession needs to get its house in order, fast.

Posted at: November 20, 2014 - 3:17 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Stonewalling: Kiev won’t negotiate with Donbass separatists & Dutch government refuses to reveal ‘secret deal’ into MH17 crash probe

Uncooperative, obstructive, and evasive—no wonder they’re our puppets, er, pals.

Ukraine rules out direct negotiations with rebels to end war
Jason Ditz News USA November 19, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded link.

Underscoring exactly why the eastern Ukrainian Civil War still hasn’t been resolved, the Ukrainian government today reiterated that it will never directly negotiate with the eastern rebels.

The comments were a response to Russian FM Sergey Lavrov urging the two sides to hold talks to reach “mutually acceptable agreements.” As usual, they included angry condemnations of Russia.

Ukrainian Premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk insisted the call for talks amounted to Russia trying to push Ukraine into recognizing the rebels’ legitimacy, saying it was tantamount to ‘legitimizing terrorists.’ He went on to condemn the rebels as “Russian mercenaries.”

Lavrov said that talks without the rebels were “counterproductive” and criticized Ukrainian hawks looking to exclude them from any potential peace deal.

Dutch government refuses to reveal ‘secret deal’ into MH17 crash probe
RT Russia November 20, 2014

The Dutch government has refused to reveal details of a secret pact between members of the Joint Investigation Team examining the downed Flight MH17. If the participants, including Ukraine, don’t want information to be released, it will be kept secret.

The respected Dutch publication Elsevier made a request to the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) agreement, along with 16 other documents. The JIT consists of four countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine – who are carrying out an investigation into the MH17 disaster, but not Malaysia. Malaysian Airlines, who operated the flight, has been criticized for flying through a war zone.

Despite the air crash taking place on July 17 in Eastern Ukraine, very little information has been released about any potential causes. However, rather than give the public a little insight into the investigation, the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice is more worried about saving face among the members of the investigation.

“I believe that this interest [international relations] is of greater importance than making the information public, as it is a unique investigation into an extremely serious event,” the Ministry added, according to Elsevier.

Other reasons given for the request being denied included protecting investigation techniques and tactics as well as naming the names of officials who are taking part in the investigation. The Ministry said it would be a breach of privacy if they were revealed. “If the information was to be released then sensitive information would be passed between states and organizations, which would perhaps they would be less likely to share such information in the future,” said the Ministry of Security and Justice.

Malaysia is the only country to have directly negotiated with the anti-Kiev militias in the East of Ukraine, while the country’s Ambassador to the Netherlands said he was unhappy that Malaysia had not been included within the JIT. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte flew to Kuala Lumpur on November 5, but Malaysia says it still did not receive an invitation to join.

“We must first be included in the JIT, otherwise it would be hard for us to cooperate in the investigation. The parties inside the investigation must include us in the team, right now we are just a participant,” said the Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, which was reported by the New Straits Times.

A preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board, which was released September said the MH17 crash was a result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that struck the Boeing from the outside.

Dutch investigators added that “there are no indications” that the tragedy was triggered “by a technical fault or by actions of the crew.”

Related: Noted on the news wires,

The provocative statements made by Latvia’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė directed at Russia over the Ukrainian crisis complicate the conflict’s settlement, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich. “In her remarks Grybauskaite surpasses even the most extremist statements made by radical nationalists in Kiev,” he added. “Sensible politics of most countries that are not trying to please marginals, and are really concerned about the situation in Ukraine and the state of affairs in Europe and the world, are guided by a different, responsible approach.” According to the ministry’s website, Grybauskaite called Russia a “terrorist state” in an interview to a local radio station. She also urged support for the Kiev government, including providing military aid.

Posted at: November 20, 2014 - 2:40 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

How will radical change occur, and what will it look like? You’ll get an inkling from what is happening on Burnaby Mountain today: “These are really good people who are really the leaders of our society…They’re leading the way for the society we need to go, and they’re being arrested”

Nick Filmore is an award-winning investigative reporter and a founder of the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ). Nick was a news editor and producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for more than 20 years. One of the founders of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), he was involved in helping press freedom organizations in developing countries for several years. Acclaimed U.S. journalist, author, radical and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges is one of the great moral voices of our age. He has the rare combination of decades of experience reporting from conflict zones in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans and the erudition one would expect from a student of Christian ethics and the classics at Harvard University.

How will radical change occur, and what will it look like?
Nick Filmore A Different Point of View Canada November 19, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links.

Journalist Chris Hedges is one of my favourite rabble-rousers. This article is re-printed from Truthdig.

By Chris Hedges
TORONTO—I met with Sheldon S. Wolin in Salem, Ore., and John Ralston Saul in Toronto and asked the two political philosophers the same question. If, as Saul has written, we have undergone a corporate coup d’état and now live under a species of corporate dictatorship that Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism,” if the internal mechanisms that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible remain ineffective, if corporate power retains its chokehold on our economy and governance, including our legislative bodies, judiciary and systems of information, and if these corporate forces are able to use the security and surveillance apparatus and militarized police forces to criminalize dissent, how will change occur and what will it look like?

Wolin, who wrote the books Politics and Vision and Democracy Incorporated, and Saul, who wrote Voltaire’s Bastards and The Unconscious Civilization, see democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States, as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power. Wolin and Saul excoriate academics, intellectuals and journalists, charging they have abrogated their calling to expose abuses of power and give voice to social criticism; they instead function as echo chambers for elites, courtiers and corporate systems managers.

Neither believes the current economic system is sustainable. And each calls for mass movements willing to carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience to disrupt and delegitimize corporate power.
“If you continue to go down the wrong road, at a certain point something happens,” Saul said during our meeting Wednesday in Toronto, where he lives. “At a certain point when the financial system is wrong it falls apart. And it did. And it will fall apart again.”

“The collapse started in 1973,” Saul continued. “There were a series of sequential collapses afterwards. The fascinating thing is that between 1850 and 1970 we put in place all sorts of mechanisms to stop collapses which we can call liberalism, social democracy or Red Toryism. It was an understanding that we can’t have boom-and-bust cycles. We can’t have poverty-stricken people. We can’t have starvation.”

“The reason today’s collapses are not leading to what happened in the 18th century and the 19th century is because all these safety nets, although under attack, are still in place. But each time we have a collapse we come out of it stripping more of the protection away. At a certain point we will find ourselves back in the pre-protection period. At that point we will get a collapse that will be incredibly dramatic. I have no idea what it will look like. A revolution from the left? A revolution from the right? Is it violence followed by state violence? Is it the collapse of the last meaningful edges of democracy? Is it a sudden decision by a critical mass of people that they are not going to take it anymore?”

This devolution of the economic system has been accompanied by corporations’ seizure of nearly all forms of political and social power. The corporate elite, through a puppet political class and compliant intellectuals, pundits and press, still employs the language of a capitalist democracy. But what has arisen is a new kind of control, inverted totalitarianism, which Wolin brilliantly dissects in his book Democracy Incorporated.

Inverted totalitarianism does not replicate past totalitarian structures, such as fascism and communism. It is therefore harder to immediately identify and understand. There is no blustering demagogue. There is no triumphant revolutionary party. There are no ideologically drenched and emotional mass political rallies. The old symbols, the old iconography and the old language of democracy are held up as virtuous. The old systems of governance—electoral politics, an independent judiciary, a free press and the Constitution—appear to be venerated. But, similar to what happened during the late Roman Empire, all the institutions that make democracy possible have been hollowed out and rendered impotent and ineffectual.

Wolin and Saul, echoing Karl Marx, view unfettered and unregulated capitalism as a revolutionary force that has within it the seeds of its own self-annihilation. It is and always has been deeply antagonistic to participatory democracy, they said. Democratic states must heavily regulate and control capitalism, for once capitalism is freed from outside restraint it seeks to snuff out democratic institutions and abolish democratic rights that are seen—often correctly—as an impediment to maximizing profit. The more ruthless and pronounced global corporate capitalism becomes, the greater the loss of democratic space.

Wolin and Saul said they expect the state, especially in an age of terminal economic decline, to employ more violent and draconian forms of control to keep restive populations in check. This coercion, they said, will fuel discontent and unrest, which will further increase state repression.

Resistance, Wolin and Saul agreed, will begin locally, with communities organizing to form autonomous groups that practice direct democracy outside the formal power structures, including the two main political parties. These groups will have to address issues such as food security, education, local governance, economic cooperation and consumption. And they will have to sever themselves, as much as possible, from the corporate economy.

Wolin and Saul … agreed that creating a class devoted full time to radical change was essential to fomenting change.

There must be people, they said, willing to dedicate their lives to confronting the corporate state outside traditional institutions and parties. Revolt, for a few, must become a vocation. The alliance between mass movements and a professional revolutionary class, they said, offers the best chance for an overthrow of corporate power.

“It is extremely important that people are willing to go into the streets,” Saul said. “Democracy has always been about the willingness of people to go into the streets. When the Occupy movement started I was pessimistic. I felt it could only go a certain distance. But the fact that a critical mass of people was willing to go into the streets and stay there, without being organized by a political party or a union, was a real statement. If you look at that, at what is happening in Canada, at the movements in Europe, the hundreds of thousands of people in Spain in the streets, you are seeing for the first time since the 19th century or early 20th century people coming into the streets in large numbers without a real political structure.

“These movements aren’t going to take power. But they are a sign that power and the respect for power is falling apart. What happens next? It could be dribbled away. But I think there is the possibility of a new generation coming in and saying we won’t accept this. That is how you get change. A new generation comes along and says no, no, no. They build their lives on the basis of that no.”

But none of these mass mobilizations, Saul and Wolin emphasized, will work unless there is a core of professional organizers.

Related: Police arrest a dozen Kinder Morgan protesters on Burnaby Mountain
Jenny Uechi and Mychaylo Prystupa Vancouver Observer British Columbia Canada November 20, 2014

Brigette DePape, a Vancouver-based activist, is among 12 protesters against Kinder Morgan getting arrested on Burnaby Mountain. Photo: Mychaylo Prystupa. Visit this page for its embedded links.

RCMP arrested 12 protesters on Burnaby Mountain this morning and are enforcing Kinder Morgan’s injunction against pipeline opponents. According to protesters, Kinder Morgan has now arrived on site.

“I’m really sad. I’ve been fighting tears all morning,” said Lynne Quarmby, an SFU scientist who is one of six citizens that Kinder Morgan has filed a multi-million dollar civil suit against.

“The injustice of it all. I know police are doing what they need to do. It’s just the whole process is unjust.”

“These are really good people who are really the leaders of our society…They’re leading the way for the society we need to go, and they’re being arrested,” she said.

Below: UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

UBCIC stands in support of those arrested at Burnaby Mountain
News release Union of BC Indian Chiefs British Columbia Canada November 20, 2014

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, BC – November 20, 2014) Earlier today the Burnaby RCMP entered unceded Coast Salish Territories on Burnaby Mountain, enforced an injunction and arrested twenty-four protectors that were there to safe-guard public parklands from Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

“The Union of BC Indian Chiefs stands in solidarity with those that have been arrested and we will continue to stand in support with those on the Mountain to uphold and defend Indigenous rights, land rights and human rights,” stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “It is infuriating and beyond frustrating that we are faced with this provocative and heavy handed approach by the RCMP when at this time the City of Burnaby’s court proceedings have not even been completed. Kinder Morgan is despoiling the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area to brazenly push ahead with their proposed expanded pipeline in the face of massive opposition.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip concluded “The Union of BC Indian Chiefs stands with those on the Mountain protecting this area from further development and we call on the provincial and federal governments to reject the Kinder Morgan proposal and to respect the laws and authority of the Coast Salish to protect their respective territories, land, fisheries and surrounding ecosystem from the very real potential and increased risk of oil spills and increased coast tanker traffic travelling the Salish Sea.”

Posted at: November 20, 2014 - 2:07 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Eight foods you’re about to lose due to climate change: A list of the foods to enjoy now – while they’re comparatively plentiful

As worsening drought and extreme weather devastate crops, you may begin seeing climate change when you open your fridge.

Eight foods you’re about to lose due to climate change
Twilight Greenaway Guardian UK October 29, 2014

Drink up: Coffee is on the endangered foods list affected by climate change. Photo: David Levene/Guardian. Visit this page for its embedded links.

What does climate change taste like?

It’s an odd question, but an increasingly pertinent one. After all, as temperatures rise and extreme weather becomes the norm, many food production systems are becoming threatened. As that trend increases, it’s worth asking which foods consumers will have to cut back on – or abandon entirely.

According to David Lobell, deputy director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, “The general story is that agriculture is sensitive. It’s not the end of the world; but it will be a big enough deal to be worth our concern.”

One major issue is carbon dioxide, or CO2. Plants use the gas to fuel photosynthesis, a fact that has led some analysts to argue that an increase CO2 is a good thing for farming. Lobell disagrees, noting that CO2 is only one of many factors in agriculture. “There’s a point at which adding more and more CO2 doesn’t help,” he says. Other factors – like the availability of water, the increasing occurrence of high and low temperature swings and the impact of stress on plant health – may outweigh the benefits of a CO2 boost.

Lobell has already noticed the effect of climate change on some crops. For example, he says, yield data from corn and wheat production suggests that these two staples are already being negatively affected by the changing climate. Similarly, fruit and nuts are also showing the impact of climate change. Fruit trees require “chilling hours”, or time in cold, wintry environments, for optimum production. If they don’t hit their required number of cold, wintery days, their production – and quality – drop. These reduced yields, Lobell explains, lead to more frequent price spikes in many foods.

Here’s a list of the foods to enjoy now – while they’re comparatively plentiful.

Related: Climate change and declining ocean health: Acidic ocean deadly for Vancouver Island shellfish industry & Sea star wasting disease likely caused by virus; warming ocean temperature suspected as a causative factor. (On the surface, climate-induced sea ice conditions threatening Polar Bears)
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada November 19, 2014

Five links. The deteriorating health of B.C.’s oceans is impacting not only the province’s marine life, but also its economy.

Posted at: November 20, 2014 - 12:17 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

British Columbia ferry traffic drops to lowest level since 1991. Latest chapter in the slow but steady destruction of an essential ferry system and, with it, the economies of ferry-dependent communities

Intro: Strangling a province: The British Columbia Liberal Party (also referred to as the BC Liberals) was elected to government in 2001 under Gordon Campbell. It is not affiliated with the Liberal Party of Canada. The party is commonly described as a “free enterprise coalition”. It is, in fact, a clique of crony capitalists. Its de facto economic corporatism is used to reduce opposition and reward political loyalty. In “The Discovery that Business Corrupts Politics” (1981), Richard McCormick posited that crony capitalism arises when business cronyism and related self-serving behavior by businesses or businesspeople spills over into politics and government, or when self-serving friendships and family ties between businessmen and the government influence the economy and society to the extent that it corrupts public-serving economic and political ideals.

During the Liberal years the provincial debt and other hidden “taxpayer obligations” – which are a debt, just by another name – have more than quadrupled! Secondly, I want a government of people for people, not political hacks governing for the few. During the Liberal era, we’ve seen the privatization of BC Ferries, the giveaway of BC Rail and the essential bankruptcy of BC Hydro. - Rafe Mair, April 9, 2013. Rafe Mair’s political career began in 1975, when he was elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of the British Columbia Social Credit Party representing the riding of Kamloops. He held that seat until retiring from politics in 1981. Mair served as a cabinet minister in the government of Premier Bill Bennett under a variety of portfolios including health and education. During the patriation of the Constitution of Canada, he was BC’s chief delegate on constitutional matters.

Item: Ferry traffic drops to lowest level since 1991
Stephen Hume Vancouver Sun British Columbia Canada November 18, 2014

There has been a steep decline in traffic on the BC Ferries system since a policy of big fare hikes and reduced route services began. Photo: Mark van Maren.Vancouver Sun. Visit this page for its related links.

The latest traffic numbers are in and they paint a gloomy picture for BC Ferries and its owner, the province, which clings to the fiction that somehow it has nothing to do with any of this.

It’s what this trend says about overall health in the coastal economy that we should worry about.

The post-2004 decline completely reversed a half decade of vigorous growth — and the economic buoyancy that the activity indicated — which helps explain the painful contractions now reported in so many coastal communities by municipal and regional economic reports.

Last spring, for example, the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities tabled reports that showed population declines in almost all smaller coastal communities to which ferry services had been cut and to which fares were raised steeply to compensate for shrinking ferry traffic.

The association reported that more than six out of 10 respondents had warned that draconian service reductions announced by B.C. Transportation Todd Stone in late 2013 would have yet more serious negative effects on employment and business activity.

It presented evidence of rapidly eroding property values in 14 sample communities such as Comox, Powell River, Bowen Island and others.

All had showed healthy growth before enactment of the province’s reduced service and higher fares policy. But by 2014, double-digit growth had reversed into double-digit declines in value. Losses averaged 10 per cent. In some communities they were 20 per cent.

The latest portent was Monday’s report from the Cariboo Regional District, the Northern Development Initiative Trust, Community Futures B.C. and the West Chilcotin Tourism Association. It said economic activity in the mid-coast and northern Vancouver Island region’s tourism sector had cratered in the 12 months following Route 40 service reductions and fare increases on the heavily promoted Discovery Coast Circle Tour.

[Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure for British Columbia,] danced the hornpipe of denial in response. He blew off the study as inaccurate, simplistic and over-stated, as he did an earlier study for the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

From the archives: Collective punishment: British Columbia’s ferry-dependent coastal communities not only have to combat false and misleading statements from the corporatist B.C. government but also from some members of the media & BC Ferries austerity program is based on false assumptions
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada August 10, 2014

Two links. From one of those links:

BC Ferries was conceived by [Premier] WAC Bennett as an extension of the highway system and it remains that today.

By the way, remember the federal subsidy mentioned earlier? The primary reason for this is that B.C. was able to convince Ottawa that the ferry route between Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo is an essential link in the Trans Canada Highway. That’s right — HIGHWAY.

I feel compelled to write this as I am fed up with hearing distortions of the truth and just plain falsehoods. We in ferry-dependent communities having nothing to apologize for. We pay, at the fare box, much more than our fair share of the cost of supplying and maintaining transportation infrastructure in B.C.

The problem is we have been ever so quiet and ever so reasonable for far too long. We have been lectured about “lifestyle choices” and scolded for siphoning away hard-earned tax money from the folks up north. We have to fight back. Arm yourselves with the facts and confront people who play fast and loose with the truth on ferry issues.

Unfortunately, the propaganda machine has done a remarkable job of reinforcing the myth that people in ferry-dependent communities are excessively subsidized freeloaders. The blunt truth is that a great many British Columbians have bought into that nonsense and have very little sympathy. And, given the shape of the electoral map, getting tough on ferry users comes at a very low political cost.

So ferry users, get active and stay active. Get the message to our fellow B.C. citizens that we are definitely not the parasites we have been described as, and demand fairness from the government of B.C.

Posted at: November 20, 2014 - 10:07 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

November 19, 2014

Eurasian consolidation and India’s policy

Sustaining a balance between the Atlantic and Eurasian worlds has become an ingrained feature of Indian foreign policy practice, but the contemporary alignment of Russia and China and prospects of a stronger global East complicate India’s position. The strategic elite may welcome a test of Western dominance, but the regional challenge China poses is still difficult to pin down. Zorawar Daulet Singh is a research scholar at King’s College London. Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Singh concludes: “India needs a more sophisticated outlook and domestic conversation on global and regional affairs, and, the skill and poise to work constructively with a variety of great powers who appear unlikely to get along with each other for the foreseeable future.”

Eurasian consolidation and India’s policy
Zorawar Daulet Singh Asia Times Online, Speaking Freely Hong Kong November 14, 2014

Since English geographer and geopolitician Halford Mackinder’s published a Russia containment strategy disguised as a grand theory in 1904, the Eurasian heartland has been perceived by the Anglo-American world as a threat to its global position.

Ironically, as Mackinder was writing his paper, the heartland power, czarist Russia, was in its death throes – Japan’s 1904-1905 naval victories in the Pacific had removed all illusions about Russia’s status as a first-rate power.

Yet, within three decades, a revolutionary and industrializing Russia was emerging as a potential superpower. Stalin’s crushing, albeit costly, annihilation of Hitler’s Third Reich established the Soviet Union as the second global pole. China’s own revolution, inspired and financed by Stalin’s Russia, produced the first major consolidation of the Eurasian heartland.

Led by America, the West initiated a sustained grand strategy of countering this new force in world politics. Nicholas Spykman offered a theoretical precursor to this strategy in his 1942 book, America’s Strategy in World Politics, which argued for America to project its strategic influence on the “Rimland” regions around the Soviet periphery.

Middle powers like India located on the Eurasian Rimland, however, reacted differently and consciously chose an approach that sought to maintain friendly and constructive ties with both these formidable blocs.

Despite some material costs, the overall developmental and security advantages of such an independent approach has never been credibly challenged. Indeed, this notion of sustaining a balance between the Atlantic and Eurasian worlds became an ingrained feature of Indian thinking and foreign policy practice.

During the interlude between 1991 and the resurgence of the Eurasian powers in the last decade, any notion of a balance between the two worlds became irrelevant. But the dramatic revival of the Eurasian world, and, its ongoing second phase of consolidation since the 1940s and 1950s, has revived the logic of balance in global geopolitics.

How should India view the contemporary alignment of Russia and China?

First, US policies have played an important part in driving Russia away from the West. But China’s new post-Dengist identity as a great power seeking to improve its own bargaining equation with the US is also a factor in Beijing’s outreach to Moscow.

As Gilbert Rozman of Princeton University perceptively notes, “Moscow and Beijing have disagreements about the future order they envision for their regions. But they agree that the geopolitical order of the East should be in opposition to that of the West.”

Unlike the US, India has absolutely no problem with a stronger Russia, and, a Moscow buttressing its Asian identity. A Moscow-Beijing alignment, however, poses some challenges – although not nearly as serious as this development is for America’s global position.

What are the implications of this global triangular development for India?

Posted at: November 19, 2014 - 1:12 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

The keyword is Khurasan: Af-Pak a frontline against IS goals & Commentary on IS’s November 4 attack inside Saudia Arabia’s eastern province

The Islamic State’s efforts to obliterate nation states to create the Khurasan caliphate as a Sunni heartland is likely to culminate in a showdown in Afghanistan, especially at the Pakistan border. Afghanistan could emerge, together with Shi’ite Iran and the Central Asian countries, as a torchbearer in halting the militants’ territorial ambitions. Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy is research officer and member of the editorial board of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in India and a member of the advisory council of the Research Institute for Women Peace and Security in Afghanistan. Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.

Af-Pak a frontline against IS goals
Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy Asia Times Online, Speaking Freely Hong Kong November 17, 2014

Early in October, six leaders of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a terrorist group based in northwestern Pakistan, announced their allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) and to the self-declared Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. While this was yet another indication of the steady percolation of IS into terrorist groups based in Pakistan, the implications will not be limited to national security alone.

The porous borders, historical narratives, and ideological leanings of the group will ensure that the effects will cut across social, economic, and humanitarian lines, unless there is an understanding of the IS’s perspectives towards the region. Pakistan is more vulnerable to that risk than other countries.

The IS believes that all territories historically ruled by Muslims and later conquered by non-Muslims and/or allegedly non-Islamic forms of governance were wrongfully taken from them; and intend to reclaim it. When the IS unilaterally declared a “Caliphate” in Syria and Iraq, it also released a map highlighting the territories it aims to control in future.

The present-day territories of Afghanistan and Pakistan form the heart of the historical Greater Khurasan region highlighted in the map, which includes parts of modern-day Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and parts of western China.

Given the IS’s specific ideological leaning and approach, today’s nation-states are irrelevant for the group. The IS views the region only as Khurasan and will try to replicate precisely what it has done in Iraq and Syria: to undo modern political borders that separate countries in the region.

Already, IS propaganda material and declarations of allegiances have begun to crop up in various parts of Pakistan, with the latest being wall-chalking supporting the group, not too far from Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Lahore residence.

However, the IS is not the only group that has its eyes set on the coveted Khurasan. The new TTP chief, Mullah Fazlullah, who fancies himself as the father of the Khurasan movement in Pakistan, and the relatively unknown group, Jaish-e-Khurasan, among others in Pakistan and Afghanistan, are also reclaiming Khurasan in their agendas.

Although the Pakistani military launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb to flush out militants from the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas earlier this year, the result has been to bring closer together the militants with like-minded counterparts in the bordering Afghan provinces of Kunar, Khost and Nuristan.

These provinces and the region along the Durand Line will become the epicenter of the turf war between these groups and the IS in the attempt to reclaim and control the historical Khurasan. While it is unlikely that the scale of breakdown of law and order will be on the lines of what is unraveling in Iraq and Syria, other implications will threaten to rip the very fabric of society in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the neighboring Central Asian countries.

Afghanistan is the linchpin that has the potential to play decision-maker, as the fight for Khurasan is likely to culminate in a showdown in the country, especially at the Af-Pak border along the Durand Line. If all regional countries work together in conjunction with Kabul to ensure the stability in Afghanistan post the withdrawal of Western troops, the region will be better guarded to fight the new threat.

The Khurasan narrative is extremely central to dealing with this menace, for, the terrorists view the region from the point of view of a single construct, and their planning will be on similar lines. Therefore, if the Khurasan narrative is studied and understood thoroughly, and if planned well, Afghanistan could, together with Iran and the Central Asian countries, be the torchbearer in halting the eastward advance of the IS.

Related: Viktor Titov’s analysis of the recent “trained in Syria” Sunni takfiri warriors coming home to Saudi Arabia to shoot Shias down in cold blood with no coalition drones and fighter bombers to worry about. The Saudi-backed terror coming home to Poppa had just been a matter of time. When you keep major terror operations like IS going on for year after year, that they would spin out of control eventually seemed a certainty. Viktor Titov holds a Ph.D in Historical Sciences. He is a political commentator on the Middle East

ISIL attacked Saudi Arabia
Viktor Titov New Eastern Outlook Russia November 11, 2014

Saudi Arabia has recently witnessed the aggression that should have happened sooner or later due to its short-sighted policy in Syria, Iraq and Iran. As an old saying goes: “If you dig a hole for others, you’re sure to fall in it yourself.”

A few days ago the Saudi town of al-Dalwa, situated in the oil-rich Eastern Province, suffered an attack of a group of armed Sunni terrorists, which resulted in seven civilian deaths. Most of the attackers were citizens of the kingdom. The prompt response of the local security forces allowed the servicemen to detain 20 members of an underground terrorist group, consisting mainly of those who had previously fought under the black banner of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Law enforcement agencies of Saudi Arabia have managed to capture the head of the armed group, his name is kept secret. The only information that has become available to journalists is that this commander has recently returned from Syria where he was fighting against the pro-Assad forces.

Riyadh is now facing a harsh dilemma: on the one hand, the House of Saud is actively oppressing its Shia citizens, on the pretext of their disloyalty and their alleged attempts to undermine the national security of the kingdom due to the “evil Iranian influence.” On the other – Sunni terrorists, that Saudi Arabia is fighting today alongside with its closest ally – the US, have assaulted Shia civilians on the Saudi soil, and the latter were virtually enjoying the same rights as the rest of the population, including the right for protection. It is now official: Saudi citizens motivated by religious hatred are commiting manslaughter of their fellow citizens.

The only question is how Riyadh may react when the Sunni terrorists that it had trained and funded will unleash a wave of terror against the Shia population of KSA (Kingdom Saudi Arabia)? A similar course of events has already taken place in the neighboring Bahrain back in 2011, but Saudi regular troops were fast to cross the border in an attempt to prevent the violence from spreading.

It is no coincidence that the events in the city of al-Dalwa are completely ignored by the international media. Should this fact become widely known then the Saudi authorities will be forced to recognize the threat ISIL poses to Saudi Arabia along with acknowledging the underlying instability of Saudi society that can endanger the ruling Wahhabi regime.

Now that the Shia population of the Eastern Province is buzzing with discontent, the House of Saud has found itself in a tight corner. Should the authorities fail to prosecute terrorists, a violent unrest of the Shia population, similar the one that shook Saudi Arabia in 2011 -2012, in the wake of the above mentioned events in Bahrain, will be quick to follow. But if the terrorists are to be punished to the fullest extent of the Sharia law, then the Wahhabis and Salafis will accuse the royal family of “betrayal” of the Sunnis. This course of events will end no better, with a massive wave of violent terrorist attacks, carried out by ISIL militants all across Saudi Arabia. Now that ISIL thugs have faced harsh resistance in Syria and Iraq, they will be eager to move south to start a “sacred struggle against the corrupt pro-American reign of Al Saud family“. As for the Iraqi Shia population, they can only welcome this U-turn in their ongoing struggle against Islamists. Moreover, it is possible that the indignation of the Saudi Shia population of the Eastern Province will find some form of support in Tehran and Baghdad. This means that the fate of the kingdom’s territorial integrity will be put to the test. The nightmares of the Saudi ruling family seems to be coming true — Saudi Arabia can be split into several parts, which were joined together to create the kingdom back in 1929. This trend can be accelerated by the fact that a couple of weeks ago the Shia Houthis rebels seized power in Yemen, on the south-western borders of KSA.

When Riyadh joined the US “anti-terrorist” coalition back in October, along with a number of NATO and GCC countries, political analysts predicted the imminent revenge of ISIL.

So the events of November 4 may only be the first steps. On top of all, Saudi authorities have yielded to the US demands of dumping oil prices in an attempt to undermine Russia’s economy. This led to the narrowing scope of social initiatives being implemented in the Kingdom, since money have suddenly become scarce in the royal treasury.

By agreeing to support the US global ambitions, the House of Saud has clearly shot itself in the foot. Especially now, when Washington has displayed its willingness to sign an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in two weeks time. This step will force Saudi Arabia to kiss it oil monopoly goodbye along with the role of the main strategic partner of the US in the region. At this point Riyadh couldn’t care less about the US military adventures in Iraq and Syria, it going to try to save its skin

It is clear that the coming days will put the Al-Saud dynasty’s survival skills to the test. Should the KSA authorities fail to keep the situation in the Eastern Province under control — the kingdom is doomed. With each passing day the Shiite arc becomes more apparent on the political horizon of the Middle East, just like the US miscalculations.

Every time Washington is trying to project its influence in the region, Arab regimes are beginning to crumble and fall apart. One can recall the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, along with the civil wars in Syria and Iraq to illustrate this statement.

It is now safe to say that Obama has screwed everything up again by putting its strategic partner in danger. It seems that the defeat in the US midterm elections was a failure all right, yet he never stops to surprise his followers. And it is unlikely that the Republicans will be fascinated by the sight of Saudi Arabia going down in flames.

Posted at: November 19, 2014 - 12:57 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Living with insanity: Harper, Abbott, and Cameron at the Brisbane G-20

Below: John Chuckman is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. He has many interests and is a lifelong student of history. He writes with a passionate desire for honesty, the rule of reason, and concern for human decency. John regards it as a badge of honor to have left the United States as a poor young man from the South Side of Chicago when the country embarked on the pointless murder of something like three million Vietnamese in their own land because they embraced the wrong economic loyalties. He lives in Canada. John’s writing appears regularly on many Internet sites. He has been translated into at least ten languages and has been regularly translated into Italian and Spanish. Several of his essays have been published in book collections, including two college texts. We received the following submission Tuesday afternoon.

Harper, Abbott, and Cameron at the Brisbane G-20

By John Chuckman

Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is reported by a spokesman, to have had the following exchange with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin during the Brisbane G-20 summit: “Well, I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.” Putin is said to have replied, “Impossible. Since we are not there.”

A graceless bit of diplomatic crudity from a truly graceless man, Stephen Harper, someone Canadians know has a history of underhanded practices at home, from introducing ugly personal-attack campaign advertising, using secretive and bullying tactics in parliament, failing to deal with corrupt practices by subordinates especially an American-style election scandal of robo-calls which sent some voters to the wrong polls, to having appointed several unbelievably incompetent and corrupt ministers. He is known for a ferocious temper in private, a very controlling man who grants his political associates absolutely no freedom of expression, and is reported by insiders as having on at least one occasion thrown a chair in a meeting. His silencing of Canadian government scientists from offering their opinions on issues in areas of expertise has been a simmering international scandal, as has his complete suppression of environmental issues.

Before Harper, Canada enjoyed for many decades a reputation for fairness and decency and intelligence in international affair with statesmanship and openness exhibited by figures like Lester Pearson or Jean Chretien or Paul Martin. Harper has destroyed a great deal of that as he pursues a single-minded role as American junior partner in almost all things.

He completely abandoned Canada’s traditional policies of fairness and balance in the Middle East, literally shocking many Canadians at times with fervent outbursts about Israel, including suggestions that Canadian critics of Israel are anti-Semitic. He does this, as any astute political observer recognizes, to solicit increased campaign funds from Canada’s financially successful Jewish community, taking his cue from Republicans in the United States such as Newt Gingrich who alone received $18 million dollars from one wealthy supporter of Israel for his last nomination campaign in exchange for inserting into his speeches that there was no such thing as a Palestinian, an utterly insincere and ridiculous statement. Since Israel is no admirer of President Putin’s, he being too independent-minded and opposed to the American exceptionalism Israel tightly embraces and by which it prospers, this activity of Harper’s puts him in an anti-Russian frame of mind from the start.

Harper has made an annual photo-op journey to Canada’s North, always trying to appear to voters as the man most concerned with a future there of melting ice creating free access through the Northwest Passage. Ironically, he periodically mentions Russia as the nation he is most concerned about, but Canada’s recent history couldn’t make it clearer that it is the United States which represents the great threat to our Northern waters and shore. Everything from unauthorized American atomic submarine prowling to a giant American oil tanker passing to published American charts showing this future open water as international tells a pretty harsh story. But in every detail, Harper only pretends America is a great and non-threatening friend.

Harper is the single most obsessed leader in Canada’s history with pleasing, almost fawning over, the United States. Had the history of Canada, which included a great deal of disagreement and contention with the United States over its many imperialistic behaviors, included many leaders of Harper’s character, there quite likely would not be a county called Canada today.

So here are the demonstrated qualities of the man performing as Canada’s diplomatic ass at the G-20 in Brisbane. He demonstrates a genuinely anal-retentive temperament, is intolerant of differences of opinion, and embraces a wilful blindness to the world’s greatest threat to peace, the United States in its self-appointed role as imperial arbiter among nations.

In case you wonder why a man like Harper even holds office in Canada, it is because the effective opposition was split with internal battles and because the last leader they selected in desperation following those battles was a man of no political intelligence or even experience and a totally unattractive personality to the public, Michael Ignatieff, someone who managed to do almost everything wrong. It also reflects a democratic deficit in our parliamentary structure where a party with just over 39% of the vote can be a parliamentary majority. So despite Canadians consistently being about 60% or higher inclined to somewhat progressive parties, Harper has had a free run at pole-axing the country’s traditional international reputation. Every day we come to be seen as a bit more like the deceptive and brutal American colony in the Middle East he embraces so closely.

We unfortunately live in a time utterly lacking statesmen in the West. I don’t know the detailed backgrounds of those other aggressive fools at the G-20, Abbott of Australia and Cameron of Britain, but I know they are both men who have lied exceedingly and been intimately involved with such nasty business as favors for the unsavory Rupert Murdoch empire. I can think of nothing which recommends either of them as statesmen. Indeed, they both, quite literally, kowtow to America.

Putin is head and shoulders above these men in intellect and focus, readiness to communicate clear views to the world, someone demonstrating considerable patience, and, from all evidence, someone notably free of the blowhard ideology which virtually characterizes Harper, Abbott, and Cameron.

Putin’s moves in Ukraine seem to me appropriate for dealing with a deliberately-induced crisis in an important neighboring country, and one with a long history of connections and associations. He has not invaded Ukraine, something which he could easily do were he so inclined. I suspect he has supplied weapons to East Ukraine, but that is something the United States does all the time, including supplying weapons to some of the most brutal groups and governments on earth, as it is right now doing in Syria, with secret night cargo flights out of Turkey to terrorist cutthroats. Just ask yourself what America would do about a comparable situation in Mexico: patience simply would not exist, and Mexico City would be quickly overrun by tanks.

The people of East Ukraine, Russian in background and sympathies, deserve protection as much as they deserve the huge amounts of emergency supplies Russia has supplied in a conflict owing its origin entirely to the covert acts of America. Had the coup-established government of Ukraine originally offered protection of Eastern interests, including language rights they openly tried suppressing, the story might have been different, but they did precisely the opposite, passing unfair laws, making threat after threat, and attacking their own citizens. Who wouldn’t rebel in that environment, including any of the states of the United States? How easily people forget past rebellions in the United States, the greatest of which was the Civil War, still the bloodiest war Americans ever experienced.

It is quite clear that the United States is responsible for destabilizing Ukraine. Its CIA funds have been invested into many unsavoury projects, perhaps most disturbing is its paying support to a collection of neo-Nazi groups ranging from extremist parties to violent militia forces, some of the very groups who have committed atrocities such as murdering many hundreds of civilians and some of whom actually march under swastika-like flags. It does seem more than a bit strange that men like Harper, Abbott, and Cameron implicitly support that kind of filthy work while charging Putin with dark acts, dark acts which are stated ambiguously and certainly never proved.

It is also clear that the United States has pressured all authorities involved to delay and obscure the investigation into the destruction of Flight MH17, and the only explanation for that can be America’s preventing, for as long as possible while the new coup-created government of Ukraine consolidates its position, the highly embarrassing finding that Ukraine in fact shot it down. The United States has said over and over it has evidence about the crash, yet it has never produced a scrap of it. Just as it never produced evidence for so many past claims from what actually happened on 9/11 to the assassination of a President.

The great irony of the G-20 summit in Brisbane is that its only substantial agreement concerned doing everything possible to promote growth in a world whose economy is dangerously stagnating, yet it wasted time and energy on America’s fantasy stories about Russia and Ukraine, insulted Russia’s President, and threatened in some cases further growth-suppressing sanctions. Nothing could be more contradictory and unproductive or, frankly, just plain stupid.

Related: Contrasting levels of maturity. Putin says that there is a “good chance of resolution” in the Ukraine conflict, outlines how & Gorbachev despairs as Obama once again puts Russia on the list of the greatest threats to the world
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada November 17, 2014

Three links. From one of those links:

Moscow will not allow the defeat of … rebels in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned, arguing that both sides need to make concessions for a floundering peace deal to succeed.

Putin’s statement in an interview with German ARD television came as European Union foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss a response to the continuing fighting in Ukraine and German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that the conflict was not just about Ukraine but about peace across Europe.

Obama remains high-handed—and wrong—about Ukraine
William Pfaff Truthdig USA November 19, 2014

For a man who had taken a stunning electoral blow two weeks earlier, Barack Obama completed his Asian trip with an air of unperturbed leadership of the world—whatever the Republicans at home thought about who was in charge of what now will happen in the United States

The nation and its politicians have since the Cold War been so confident of American supremacy over the whole of Western civilization that not only allies have ceased to count but enemies. Americans are the leaders who make the decisions on how the world should work, even when this clearly is not what experience teaches, as one might think had been learned in recent years in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The president signed a carbon emissions agreement with China. He went to Myanmar hoping to bestow a gold star for merit on Aung San Suu Kyi but found it necessary to chide the generals in power in the country that they must do better in matters of human rights—at a moment when a scandalous forced expulsion of a Burmese Muslim minority was taking place. Another time for Madame Aung San Suu Kyi.

In Brisbane for the G20 discussions, the president oversaw David Cameron of Britain (who has become the new Tony Blair) reiterating the State Department script, and issuing a lordly warning to Vladimir Putin that he must do as he is told concerning Ukraine or there will be still more sanctions.

Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, presented to the Russian president, insulted him by saying: “I guess I’ll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you. You need to get out of Ukraine.” The other members of what in espionage circles are known as the Five Ears (not a new band, but the U.S., U.K., Canada, New Zealand and Australia) gave a version of the same speech. Mr. Obama was pleased. Stars for all!

President Obama’s final words to Mr. Putin set the pattern for hypocrisy: “(We are) very firm on the need to uphold core international principles, and one of those principles is you don’t invade other countries or finance proxies … to break up a country that has mechanisms for democratic elections.”

Is it possible that no one in his own government has yet worked up the courage to tell Mr. Obama that it was his own United States State Department that arranged a public uprising in Kiev last February, against a democratically elected (if corrupt) president of Ukraine, and sponsored the coup d’etat that made Arseniy Yatsenyuk (known as “Yats” in the department) prime minister? The Washington-sponsored coup occurred before there were any Russian troops in Ukraine, and before either government had as yet dreamed that Mr. Putin would annex Crimea in retaliation.

Obama, had he wished, could have read the whole story of the affair in a recent issue of the journal Foreign Affairs, written by the noted historian John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, or by Princeton’s Russia expert Stephen Cohen in other current publications.

Or he could have read an interview, published on the website Nov. 9, with Ray McGovern, a retired 27-year CIA veteran, who was the agency’s presidential daily briefer during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. McGovern explained how the affair was initiated at the NATO meeting in Bucharest in April 2008, which resolved to make Ukraine and Georgia NATO members (despite assurances to the contrary given by two American presidents; the Georgia attempt was made but failed in 2008). The president could even have read the inside story in this column, but I am certain did not.

As the West European members of NATO surely gave their agreement to this secret effort to overthrow and replace the Ukrainian government, it strikes me as not only hypocritical but dishonorable for them to have continued at Brisbane to berate Vladimir Putin for Russia’s supposed aggression against Ukraine.

Fortunately, many of the other Europeans, led by Angela Merkel, seemed aware of the story behind the Ukraine affair, and dealt with Vladimir Putin as if they preferred peace with Russia rather than war.

The host himself, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, greeted the Russian president with the accusation that he was attempting “to recreate the lost glories of czarism or of the Soviet Union.” On his departure, Mr. Putin replied that Prime Minister Abbott had been “an excellent moderator and professional partner,” and thanked the people of Brisbane for “having welcomed him with such hospitality.”

Unfortunately, too many NATO members in Brisbane seemed to share what Dimitri K. Simes of the Center for the National Interest in Washington and Robert Blackwill of the Council on Foreign Relations say is the mood in Washington: to treat the Russian leader as if he were Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Moammar Gadhafi. Writing in the issue of The National Interest just out, the authors recognize that the crisis in Ukraine must be resolved in a manner that respects the dignity and national concerns and interests of both sides. Hasn’t anyone told Barack Obama?

Posted at: November 19, 2014 - 11:44 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Canada’s military procurements blunder along: Royal Canadian Navy will rely on allies in short-term, may lease vessels as it awaits new ships

Intro: Ill-informed, intolerant and irrational overall. Just one example, the titanic blunders of military procurement during Stephen Harper’s benighted reign
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada November 17, 2014

Three links one of which is a 50-page report, “Titanic Blunder: Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships on Course for Disaster”. We introduced the three links thus:

In December 2005, then opposition leader Stephen Harper announced that, if elected, he would budget $5.3 billion over five years “to ensure sovereignty over our land, waters, and airspace in Canada’s north.” Conservatives expected a clear, consistent approach to the military that would make up for the Liberals’ era of neglect. Yet there are no new fighter aircraft because of bureaucratic bungling, no new ships despite dozens of giant novelty cheques and ribbon cuttings, and some of the navy’s existing frigates have been tied up in harbour because the country doesn’t have the trained personnel to crew them.

Item: Navy will rely on allies in short-term, may lease vessels as it awaits new ships
Paul McLeod, Ottawa Bureau The Chronicle Herald Nova Scotia Canada November 19, 2014

HMCS Preserver approaches the jetty in HMC Dockyard in 2002, as it returned following a six-month deployment in support of the war against terrorism in the Indian Ocean. The retirement of the Preserver, along with sister ship HMCS Protecteur and the Iroquois-class destroyers HMCS Iroquois and HMCS Algonquin was announced this year. Photo: STAFF/File

OTTAWA — Canada can rely on its allies to prop up its navy for a little over a year before it must find an in-house solution, the commander of the Royal Canadian Navy said Tuesday.

The navy is trying to find its way forward after decommissioning four ships ahead of schedule.

In particular, the loss of two Protecteur-class resupply ships is causing problems. Canada had planned to lean on its allies for up to two years to fill the gap before new resupply ships are operational.

But now that gap is much larger than expected, perhaps lasting up to seven years.

“The challenge we have now is that the gap is here today, and in addition to that, it’s longer 20 to 24 months, it’s several years,” Vice-Admiral Mark Norman said Tuesday after meeting with the House of Commons defence committee.

“No matter what we do, we don’t see a long-term, sustainable solution coming from our allies.”

Norman said the navy has up to 16 months to figure out a permanent solution. He would not say what that would be but did say Canada will acquire temporary ships rather than buying new ones. That may involve leasing ships for a few years.

“There are some commercial options that seem worth exploring.”

The new Queenston-class resupply ships being built by Seaspan Marine in British Columbia may not be ready before 2021.

The navy is also decommissioning two Iroquois-class destroyers early, HMCS Iroquois and HMCS Algonquin.

Norman told the defence committee that means Canada will have to rely on its allies for long-range defensive capabilities during overseas missions. It also limits training missions, since the navy cannot bring together full formations.

“Given that there’s this lack of capacity, Canada doesn’t have what it takes to support our ships at sea if we need to deploy them elsewhere,” said Norman. “We need to make sure there are other allies with us. We can’t do it all by ourselves.”

The next generation of surface combatant ships, being built by Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, aren’t expected to start operation until the middle or latter part of the next decade.

In the meantime, Norman said, the navy has been refocusing its resources, including modernizing the Halifax-class frigates.

Posted at: November 19, 2014 - 11:40 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Keystone XL pipeline a forest killer. Andrew Nikiforuk explains why & Obama’s climate deal: Your move, Mr. Harper

Keystone a forest killer: Tyee contributing editor Nikiforuk in New York Times
David Beers, The Hook blog British Columbia Canada November 18, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded link to the NYT op/ed.

Acclaimed Canadian author and Tyee contributing editor Andrew Nikiforuk writes in the New York Times today with an angle on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline most Americans likely don’t dwell upon. In an opinion piece, Nikiforuk notes:

“Environmentalists typically fret about the prospect of adding monstrous new amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere if the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, and for good reason… But for a vast stretch of western Canada’s boreal forest, the fight over extracting bitumen has already been lost. The question is, how much more will we lose?”

Nikiforuk goes on to offer a crash course in the two methods of mining bitumen — scraping the earth bare and injecting steam underground to melt and suck up the tarry substance — and tallies the damage to nature done.

“Since the mining frenzy for this garbage crude took off in 2000, nearly two million acres of this ancient forest have been cleared or degraded, according to Global Forest Watch — a swath more than six times the size of New York City. If Keystone XL and other proposed pipelines are approved and bitumen production grows, much more forest will be lost.”

Read the entire article here.

Related: Canada tops all: Lack of of political interest in conserving virgin forests among Canada’s federal and provincial governments is a foundational cause of Canada’s leading the world in forest degradation
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada October 1, 2014

Four links. We introduced them thus:

Them damned aggressive, imperialistic Ruskies are interfering in Canada everywhere you look. They played a key role in the Franklin expedition search and discovery thereby undercutting Stephen Harper’s pompous posturing. Now it has come to light that the conservation group WWF-Russia and Transparent World, a Moscow-based non-profit that helps other groups use space imagery for research and education, has provided some of the evidence revealing Canada leads the world in forest degradation. No wonder Stephen Harper and John Baird spew their anti-Russian hate propaganda every chance they get.

And in one of those links, Stephen Leahy, the senior science and environment correspondent at Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS) based in Rome and Montevideo writes in part:

However, despite all the media attention on deforestation in the Amazon forest and the forests of Indonesia, it is Canada that has been leading the world in forest loss since 2000, accounting for 21 per cent of global forest loss. By contrast, the much-better known deforestation in Indonesia has accounted for only four per cent.

Obama’s climate deal: Your move, Mr. Harper
L. Ian MacDonald iPolitics Canada November 18, 2014

The good news in the China-U.S. climate change accord is that the world’s two largest economies and emitters — together responsible for more than 40 per cent of global emissions — are committed to reducing greenhouse gases.

The bad news is that the agreement is voluntary and non-binding — so it may come to nothing.

It’s also a very asymmetrical deal in that the Chinese can continue spewing emissions at current levels until 2030, while the Americans are now committed to reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2025.

Barack Obama has just set the agenda for the December 2015 Paris conference seeking a global agreement on climate change. He has also raised the bar from the Copenhagen Accord of 2009, which required only voluntary pledges by 2010. The U.S. and Canada both committed to GHG reduction of 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. The policy alignment was deliberate and — given the integration of the two economies — entirely sensible.

The question, then and now, was whether the U.S. and Canada could hit their Copenhagen targets. The question going forward is how they can achieve the higher goal set by Obama of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction in emissions by 2025.

The answer to that question is: only with great difficulty. By most accounts, Canada is on track to achieve only about half of its Copenhagen target, to say nothing of the 2025 goal just put on the table by Obama.

Which is not to say that Alberta and the industry have been doing nothing about it — though they probably could do a better job of getting out the story. For example, innovations have resulted in 40 million tonnes of emissions avoided since 2007. Alberta has created a $400 million clean technology fund, allocated $1.3 billion for carbon capture and storage and imposed a $15 per tonne carbon tax for large emitters. The oil patch also has established the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, bringing together 13 producers representing 90 per cent of production, to share R&D across the industry.

Alberta also has a new premier, Jim Prentice, who has often said that energy and the environment “are two sides of the same coin.” In a previous life as federal environment minister in the Harper government, he was at the table in Copenhagen in 2009, and has a deep grasp of the Canada-U.S. and international environmental files.

As for Stephen Harper, he may be reluctant to engage on Obama’s new targets — if only because of the obvious difficulty of achieving them. Harper is also heading into an election cycle in which the environment is not expected to be a ballot question.

For his part, Obama has made it very clear that he regards climate change as a legacy issue. After the bilateral deal with China, he flew on to the G20 in Australia, where he announced $3 billion in U.S. funding for the $10 billion UN Climate Change Fund for less developed countries. Japan immediately said it was on board for $1.5 billion.

Harper said Canada would support the fund, but didn’t say how much money Ottawa would put into it. But a $500 million commitment would put the fund halfway there.

Any discussion of Obama and the environment brings us to the Keystone XL pipeline project, an issue that followed him around Asia last week. He got a bit annoyed about it when it came up in Myanmar at a news conference with fellow Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Understand what this project is,” he said. “It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else.” (Emphasis on their oil, our land.)

It’s pretty clear that when, not if, Congress sends Obama a bill on Keystone, he’ll veto it. A Keystone bill easily passed the House of Representatives last week but failed to meet the 60-vote threshold for approval in the Senate on Tuesday. For Senator Mary Landrieu, the bill’s Democratic proponent, this was largely about positioning for a run-off election in Louisiana next month against Rep. Bill Cassidy, who sponsored the Keystone bill in the House.
But this is also a lame-duck sitting of Congress, and the main event will still come in January, when the new Republican majority assumes control of the Senate. Leaving aside the fact that they need two-thirds of each house to override a presidential veto, the Republicans could simply attach Keystone to a money bill.

To be continued.

Posted at: November 19, 2014 - 11:37 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post