Archive for December, 2009

Airline security, terrorists and Fort Hood

December 31, 2009

My post on the attempted terrorist attack on the Christmas flight into Detroit beat on the officials who, in the aftermath, put numerous ridiculous restrictions into place that in no way improved security for the flying public but did manage to make the miserable experience that commercial flying has become into a more miserable experience.

My theory was that having done little to nothing meaningful to improve real security in airports since the tragedy of 911 they had to come up with some kind of a short-term plan to convince the world that in actual fact they had a handle on the situation. Their solution was to come up with a lot of dumbass restrictions on the paying customers that would make air travel so inconvenient and so difficult that the flying public could only assume that their new rules and regulations had merit. After all, why would anyone deliberately make your life that miserable for no good reason?

But then I looked at the killings on the Fort Hood army base in Texas by another terrorist and the security measures that were put in place after it was over.

There is a pattern.

On November 5, this year, an army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Malik went on the Fort Hood army base and shot and killed 13 people and wounded 30 more. He was stopped by the courageous action of a female police officer, the first armed responder, who engaged Malik and with the help of a 2nd officer put him out of commission, although she was wounded as well in exchange. Malik lived.

As the investigation of the event progressed it was discovered that Malik had sent e-mails to a radical Yeman cleric where discussed the killing of American soldiers by Muslims serving in the US forces. This information was intercepted by US Intelligence who passed it on the the army, but nothing further was done.

There were other hints as well.

There was the classroom presentation that justified suicide bombings. Comments to colleagues about a climate of persecution faced by Muslims in the military. Conversations with a mosque leader that became incoherent.

[snip]

Danquah assumed the military’s chain of command knew about Hasan’s doubts, which had been known for more than a year to classmates in a graduate military medical program. His fellow students complained to the faculty about Hasan’s “anti-American propaganda,” but said a fear of appearing discriminatory against a Muslim student kept officers from filing a formal written complaint.

There were problems, people knew there were problems and nothing was done.

So when the facts were in and all was said and done, what solution did the military come up with to make sure nothing like this could happen again on the Fort Hood army base?

Fort Hood officials announced Thursday a new command policy regarding registration requirements for privately-owned firearms was signed into effect Tuesday by Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, III Corps and Fort Hood commander.

The policy, and Fort Hood Regulation 190-11, requires all service members and their families living, residing or temporarily staying at Fort Hood to register any privately-owned firearms kept on post with the Directorate of Emergency Services, a Fort Hood press release states.

The announcement comes more than a month after the Nov. 5 massacre on post claimed the lives of 13 and injured more than 30 – victims were shot by a soldier using a privately-owned firearm.

The new policy details how soldiers, family members and even civilians must go about reporting privately-owned weapons being taken on post.

“Service members living in barracks or in post temporary housing must notify their immediate commander of the possession of POFs and keep the weapon in their respective unit arms room in accordance with Army Regulation 190-11 and Fort Hood Regulation 190-11,” the policy reads.

Under the new policy, service members and their families living, residing or temporarily staying at Fort Hood are required to immediately notify DES of any “sale, purchase, trade, gift, exchange or any other action that changes the ownership or long-term possession of a POF kept on the installation.”

Besides detailing the responsibilities of service members, the policy additionally states that “all persons, whether service member or civilian, who intend to transport a privately-owned firearm onto Fort Hood must first register that firearm with DES.”

It goes on to state that when entering Fort Hood, all persons are required to declare to access control point personnel that they are bringing a privately-owned firearm onto the installation.

“POFs being transported onto Fort Hood will, at all times, be accompanied by post registration documentation and are subject to inspection,” the policy states.

The announcement Thursday specified that the new policy is “punitive in nature” and applies to all III Corps and Fort Hood service members, major subordinate units, tenant activities and family members across Fort Hood.

In the aftermath of a tragedy that was begun by an army officer who came on to the base with the sole intent of murdering as many people as possible and was only stopped by the arrival of two armed police officers, the army’s solution is to crack down on legitimate gun ownership on the base.

Unlike the new restrictions on the flying public that would inconvenience them even further while actually providing no increase in actual security, the army brass went one step further. Their new security regulations would ensure that a terrorist of the same ilk as Hasan would again have the opportunity to gun down his comrades with impunity until hopefully someone who was allowed to be armed on the base came forward to stop the carnage.

If this is the clearheaded military thinking that is leading the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq then the troops are in serious trouble.

In a 4 part article (1,2, 3,4) in the Examiner.com on the new Fort Hood firearms regulations, the author concludes:

Unfortunately, “the obvious” solution is not necessarily the easy solution; anyone who tries to create a culture that demands loyalty and willingness to follow orders in the U.S. military will certainly face charges of fascism, McCarthyism, racism, and any other -ism that seems likely to damage a reputation.  Although there’s still time for more substantial changes to be made, Fort Hood’s new regulations are worrisome signs that the powers that be think they can avoid doing the hard work of getting rid of terrorists in their own midst if only they make a convincing show of cracking down on the weapon the last terrorist used . . . but even if the next terrorist grants us the courtesy of doing only what he saw on TV the last time, it’s hard to see how that could be enough.

All of which leads me to modify my thinking to accept the fact that there is probably no deviousness in the new airline regulations nor the Fort Hood gun rules. I think, as the author of the Examiner article says, there is a natural inclination to look for the easy solution but apparently little to no ability to analyze that solution to assess whether it will actually have any effect on the problem. And there is absolutely no inclination to try and deal with the realities.

It is always easier and safer to penalize the innocents and simply ignore those that cause the problem.

Terrorists and the sad state of security

December 30, 2009

As is the norm, in the aftermath of the terrorist attempt to blow up Northwest Flight 253 flying into Detroit on Christmas  day, those who would save us from ourselves proclaimed a new set of rules for passengers flying in or into the US.

Also, as is the norm, the new security rules did not make any of those passengers any safer while they were in the air (or anywhere else).

The rule (again, as is the norm) just made what has become a miserable traveling experience even more miserable for those so unfortunate to be flying the past few days.

In a bit of brilliant analysis these security experts put into place a number of restrictions as their solution to avoiding any further attacks on the flying public.

  • Because the perpetrator got up from his seat in the last hour of the flight and went to the washroom, all passengers were relegated to their seats for the last hour of their flight.
  • Because the perpetrator covered his lap with a blanket in order to hide his attempt to activate the explosive he had strapped to his thigh, in the last hour of the flight no passenger could have a blanket or a pillow at their seat. (In fact on some flights passengers were told to keep their hands in full view).
  • They initially banned all carry-on luggage with only a few exceptions, such as computers, cameras, medication and small purses for example. (They seem to have now moved back to one carry-on bag but I heard reported today that they would not allow carry-on luggage with wheels. I suppose that somehow the wheels on a piece of luggage presents a clear and present danger to passenger safety).
  • Then, to add insult to injury, some flights told passengers that they could not access their carry-on material during the last hour in the air – even magazines to read.

None of these precautions – if you can call them that – have anything to do with safety. In fact they are simply put into place as feel-good measures to make the public think that they are in fact doing something and to direct the attention away from the real issue,which is the fact that the security procedures that they currently have in place are a failure.

Because, in fact, security was already screwed when this terrorist made it on to the plane.

This was a guy who was already on the watch-list, whose father had contacted authorities with concerns about his son, and was able to board, apparently without a passport. But while you and I can’t get through airport security with a bottle of water, this turkey, who should have merited some extra-special consideration, breezed through with an explosive device strapped to his crotch.

Once you have let a terrorist on the plane, with a bomb ready to go, all of the stupid rules and regulations that the bureaucrats put in place to make us think they are taking security seriously are simply for show.

Christopher Hitchens puts it in historical perspective and also notes:

Why do we fail to detect or defeat the guilty, and why do we do so well at collective punishment of the innocent? The answer to the first question is: Because we can’t—or won’t. The answer to the second question is: Because we can. The fault here is not just with our endlessly incompetent security services, who give the benefit of the doubt to people who should have been arrested long ago or at least had their visas and travel rights revoked. It is also with a public opinion that sheepishly bleats to be made to “feel safe.” The demand to satisfy that sad illusion can be met with relative ease if you pay enough people to stand around and stare significantly at the citizens’ toothpaste. My impression as a frequent traveler is that intelligent Americans fail to protest at this inanity in case it is they who attract attention and end up on a no-fly list instead. Perfect.

That is the sorry state of government action and not only as it applies to airport security.

In addition, not only were many of the new rules ridiculous, it was also confusing to everyone.

You are now free to move about the cabin. Or not.

After a two-day security clampdown prompted by a thwarted attempt to bomb a jetliner, some airline officials told The Associated Press that the in-flight restrictions had been eased. And it was now up to captains on each flight to decide whether passengers can have blankets and other items on their laps or can move around during the final phase of flight.

Confused? So were scores of passengers who flew Monday on one of the busiest travel days of the year. On some flights, passengers were told to keep their hands visible and not to listen to iPods. Even babies were frisked. But on other planes, security appeared no tighter than usual.

The Transportation Security Administration did little to explain the rules. And that inconsistency might well have been deliberate: What’s confusing to passengers is also confusing to potential terrorists.

“It keeps them guessing,” transportation expert Joseph Schwieterman said.

[snip]

If the objective was to befuddle, then on Monday it was mission accomplished.

On one Air Canada flight from Toronto to New York’s LaGuardia Airport, crew members told passengers before departure that they were not allowed to use any electronic devices – even iPods – and would not be able to access their personal belongings during the one-hour flight.

The questions came as President Obama ordered a review of air-safety regulations. TSA spokeswoman Sterling Payne declined to offer details other than to say the agency would “continually review and update these measures to ensure the highest level of security.”

An hour before a US Air flight from Manchester, England, to Philadelphia landed, flight attendants removed passengers’ blankets and told them to keep their “hands visible,” said passenger Walt Swanson of Cumbria, England.

Even bathroom visits were affected on some flights.

On Continental Flight 1788 from Cancun, Mexico, to Newark, three airport security agents frisked everyone at the gate, including babies, prompting one to scream loudly in protest. On the plane, crew announced that the toilets would be shut down the last hour of the flight and passengers would not be able eat, drink, or use electronic devices.

The warning that the bathrooms would be shut down led to lines 10 people deep at each lavatory. A demand by one attendant that no could read anything either elicited gasps of disbelief and howls of laughter.

And here’s a dandy.

One of the Transportation Security Administration restrictions that most annoyed the airlines was an order to shut off in-flight entertainment systems on international flights. Airlines objected, and on Sunday night, the TSA apparently relented and left it to the discretion of airline crews to decide whether to turn off the systems.

I wonder who the hell thought up that key security measure?

Some further comments.

Here’s what’s not being addressed during all of this:

• On U.S. domestic flights, while the TSA is still strip-searching nuns looking for tweezers, a majority of the cargo carried in the very bellies of those flights is not inspected.

• Most technology being used at airport security screening checkpoints is not able to recognize PETN or other chemical explosives. And let us not forget that a syringe is not a prohibited item.

And the TSA is fighting this by prohibiting us from having a blanket, book or pillow during the last hour of our flight — all because one person tried — unsuccessfully — to blow up a plane and he used a blanket during the last hour of HIS flight to try to conceal his poor attempt at detonating a chemical device?

This has nothing to do with what we do on the plane. It all has to do with how we are supposed to clear security ON THE GROUND before we ever get on the plane!

The REAL key here is that either you clear through security and the security systems are effective, or they’re not. Denying me an extra carry-on bag, or a book, or a blanket, or not allowing me to leave my seat during the last hour of flight does little to camouflage the weakness of current airport security systems on the ground.

And so, once again, as well-intentioned as these new rules may be, they are reactive in nature, have no basis in common sense, and are punishing us in the air for the failure of security agencies on the ground. Thousands upon thousands of passengers will be delayed and / or inconvenienced, and the actual level of security will essentially remain the same, at best.

And some travel advice.

And in the meantime, my advice: Get to the airport two- to-three hours early for domestic fights, four hours early for international flights and, if at all possible, on domestic flights, do what I do — courier your bags ahead of time. I use FedEx, but there are 16 other services, including UPS, that can do this for you. In the past, I’ve saved two-and–a-half hours PER FLIGHT by not checking bags. Now, I’ll probably save even more time.

Things will gradually work back to normal, but the message is clear. No-one learned anything of any real value from 911.

There is the technology out there to make a significant improvement to airport security. Somebody just has to make it happen. But judging from this latest experience, it probably won’t be the hacks that are currently running the show.

Golf Fees: Frugal is as frugal does

December 24, 2009

I think I have done this rant before, but a column (no link) in the January issue of the Golf Digest has set me off again.

It has been a continuing annoyance for me in golf magazines where the writers seem to think that $150 to play a golf course is an ‘affordable’ greens fee. I beg to differ.

But the Frugal Golfer column in the aforementioned magazine has now made mockery out of the word ‘frugal’. The shame of it!

Initially, the unnamed writer says that many of the top public courses in the U.S. are too rich for his blood, with the exception of Bethpage Black in New York which ‘only’ charges $120 for out-of-state residents. That pretty much tells me that he has a lot more money than me, or he has a very nice company expense account.

I do recognize that golfers are willing to pay higher fees while they’re on vacation, justifying it as part of the cost of the trip. But don’t tell me that $120 a round is anywhere in the ‘frugal’ category. Although compared to some of the more stratospheric rates you find on some courses, it is most certainly on the bottom end of ‘too expensive’.

Then he goes on to determine whether some of the more heavily hyped courses give any bargains during the period that their greens are being aerated.

He finds that Pebble Beach ($495) gives a $100 gift card that can only be spent in their gift shop.  That probably gets you a golf shirt with the golf course logo on it that you can wear to show your local golf buddies what a sport you are. But you’re still paying half a thousand to walk those rarefied fairways. I dial in as biased on this, but I don’t think there is a golf course on heaven or earth (or even hell for that matter) that is worth laying down that kind of bread. Although there are no doubt those who would disagree.

He found that Pinehurst #2 reduces its green fees by 20% which takes them from $400 to the incredibly low price (that really was sarcasm, just in case you wondered) of $320 for 18 holes. While TPC Sawgrass in Florida closes the front 9 and lets golfers play the back 9 twice for $275, down from the regular price of $375.

Now, other than giving this guy material for a column, none of this information spells out ‘frugal’ to me. It smacks of damned expensive golf  on bad greens.

On my home course, guys playing their 100th game of the year still complain about putting on punched greens. Common I am sure, at any club on the continent. Would those same guys go play on punched greens for multi-hundreds of dollars for a one-shot play? The answer must be ‘yes’ for at least some of them, or those discounts wouldn’t be offered. But you can bet that these same guys would complain bitterly if their yearly dues went up by $100.

I think the real reason that golfers plunk down big dollars to play what are considered ‘high-end’ courses is the perception that if the greens fees are low, the course can’t be very good. And on the other side of the fence, if the fees are high the course has to be better than the lower priced ones. Of course, that’s not necessarily the case, although those more expensive courses may be better groomed and give you personal service from their staff. Which may be what some are looking for, but doesn’t make any difference to the quality of the course once you are standing on the tee box.

I have seen it happen locally, where some golf courses never got the level of outside play they wanted until they jacked up their rates and then the tourists – particularly those from the south of our border – started to show up.

On the other hand, I play whenever possible in the US because I can always find very good courses anywhere I go down there at very reasonable prices.

Over the years I have found very few golf courses that I wouldn’t want to play again. I have particularly come to love the munis that I have played in the US. Not only for the golf they offer, but also for the opportunity to play and talk to local golfers.

So while the golf magazines will continue to annoy, as they shill for the resort courses and the like that advertise on their pages, I (and I am sure others like me) will continue to seek out those wonderful courses that offer an excellent golfing experience for rates that may not be frugal – whatever the hell that is supposed to mean – but are priced reasonably. Reasonable? $60 max and usually less than that. My criteria.

The Joke in Copenhagen

December 23, 2009

I have now gone from being merely skeptical of the global warming frenzy to being angry by the revelations that we have been defrauded by people who have manipulated data and stonewalled any critical analysis of their findings and who have had the unmitigated gall to call themselves scientists. I am angry because  politicians and bureaucrats seem determined to forge ahead with policies that will do mortal damage our economies in spite of the information now becoming available that data was doctored in order to prove a predetermined hypothesis.

To add to all of this, after the e-mails out of East Anglia and just when the “scientists” and the global warming theorists were getting into their damage control mode attempting to explain that what the e-mails said meant something entirely different than what it sounded like, they were hit by a report from Russia that the temperature database from that country had been manipulated by the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) to show greater warming in Russia that was actually the case.

From there we went to the circus in Copenhagen where demagogues such as Venezuala’s president Hugo Chavez received standing ovations for his attacks on capitalism and his arch-enemy the U.S.

Assembled world leaders cheered on Chavez Wednesday during his first, scheduled speech, a ringing attack on all things capitalist that earned him standing ovations from leaders of the Third World.

Chavez berated developed nations for creating an “imperial dictatorship” that rules the world and urging his audience to “fight against capitalism,” the “silent and terrible ghost” that was haunting the elegant conference chambers in the Danish capital.

“I promise I won’t talk more than others have talked this afternoon,” he said at the start of a rambling, 25-minute diatribe that outshot other speakers by a full 20 minutes. In the wide-ranging speech, he called capitalism the “road to hell” responsible for poverty, murder, AIDS — and even unfair climate agreements, the Toronto Star reported.

And there were others -

Over in Copenhagen, we have Robert Mugabe, perhaps the most brutal and corrupt despot in Africa, whose life’s work has been to destroy the once-prosperous country of Zimbabwe, lecturing the West on the “hypocrisy” of its position on climate change. (Zimbabwe doesn’t have to worry about greenhouse gas emissions, because, thanks to Mugane, its economy is in a state of collapse.) Update: Here’s Stephen Lewis talking about a new report on Mugabe’s use of rape as a weapon.

We have the government of China, which won’t allow its citizens free access to the Internet, complaining that the climate summit is “not transparent.”

We have Hugo Chavez, who took time off from shutting down Venezuela’s radio stations to fly to Denmark, complaining about western “dictatorship.” (If anyone back in Venezuela disagrees, he’ll toss them in jail).

Of course we also have the patriotic Mayor of Toronto, David Miller, standing up for Canada – sorry, my mistake. You have David Miller slamming Canada by volunteering to accept a Fossil award in Canada’s name.
“Like most Canadians, I’m embarrassed … our government continues to be one of the biggest obstacles to reaching agreement,” Mr. Miller said as he accepted two “Fossil of the Day” awards on behalf of Canada last week.
Two other commentaries that are well worth reading.
As always, a well-written, thoughtful column by Rex Murphy, which says in part:

If the hard science of global warming, or at least as much of that emergent discipline that may be called hard science, is to be the factual and scientific fulcrum on which policies for the world’s energy are to be decided, then it logically follows that such science must be absolutely untainted. That it not be infused with the activist spirit, that advocacy follows the science, not that science seeks to comport with advocacy. It is really impossible to read some of those e-mails and not to take, from both their tone and their substance, that the necessary neutrality and disinterest of true scientific enterprise – the essential virtues of science – have been severely disobliged.

Has the science been tainted, is the question of our time. Has the authority and prestige of scientific practice been invoked at the very moment when its methods – its practice – has been, to any degree, corrupted or degraded? This would be a reasonable question – and let me stress it is still a question – even if the project or subject was one of far less consequence and scope than the planet’s climate and its economic practice.

That question is not being asked with the rigour we should expect. There is something about the great cause of global warming that tends to disarm scrutiny, to tamp down the normal reflexes of tough questioning and investigation that the press brings to every other arena. The great conference at Copenhagen seems to have whistled by the quite momentous challenge that the East Anglia e-mails presents to the centrality of the claims made by the global warming cause. Lots of fossil-of-the-day moments – not many hard press conferences.

Then another by Roger J. Simon on Pajamas Media, who was in Copenhagen for the conference and who observes that the conference was less about CO2 reduction than about moving power into the hands of the UN.

It will say the same of Copenhagen, no doubt. At least the presence of the various despots (Chavez, Mugabe, the re-upped A-jad, etc.) was not as damaging this time. It was more of sideshow, compared to the true objective of COP15 – the cementing of UN bureaucratic power under the guise of CO2 regulation. That was why the Climategate revelations were particularly poorly timed for the United Nations. Yes, they were largely ignored or dismissed at press conferences, but they were an overwhelming presence about which many were aware.

But much of the reality of the conference seemed to me to be an opportunity for third world countries to try and extract money from the west to use for their own purposes. This comment from a US agricultural reperesentative at the conference had the same take on the proceedings.

“To me, it appeared like they wanted our money to fix the problems they have that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with greenhouse gases or climate change,” he says. “It’s just the fact that they wanted to redistribute the wealth.  They wanted our dollars because we were the ‘rich Americans’.”

I think that pretty much sums it up: redistribution of wealth. That’s the plan.

Tiger missing in action, but the story rolls on

December 17, 2009

I told myself that I would not write anything further on the trials and tribulations of Mr. Woods. But it just won’t quit!

In recent weeks, women have been falling out of the sky trying to get their 15 minutes of notoriety, although it’s probably more like 5 minutes these days.  However, I am fascinated by what kind of person wants and needs this kind of public exposure? There are, I do believe, a lot of sick cookies out there. Give them the sniff of a scandal and they seem to line up, yelling, ‘me too’! ‘Me too’!

There is no question that we have long gone past the stage where you can even believe less than 1% of what you read. Actually, that probably happened after the first day. We have heard stories about financial agreements between Woods and his wife and talk about divorce, but it is very hard to believe that any of that information is based on any verifiable facts.

There is probably no-one who has kept his personal life closer to his chest than Woods and anyone that breached that trust knows that they would find themselves shivering out in the cold, and lonely, Tigerless woods before they could blink. Look at what happened to his original caddy Fluff, when he started to get some publicity and started talking about his financial arrangements with Tiger. It’s quite possible that he suffered whiplash on his way out the door.

Mind you, what still baffles me is how Woods could have let himself get into this situation. Was he unaware that he was a celebrity – no, a HUGE celebrity – and it would be just a matter of time before some inquisitive muckraker would meet some disgruntled bedmate and he would be burnt toast.

It’s surprising that it didn’t come to light that way, although the story has been told that the Enquirer did have the story and sat on it for the benefit of Woods appearing on one of its other magazine’s covers. So was Woods picture on a magazine cover worth more than the magazine sales for a scandal on the most recognizable athlete in the world? Very hard to believe., but maybe the Enquirer chief was a fan and was looking for golf tips.

It’s also obvious that Woods’ management people knew what was up. What a sleazy job – arranging rooms for trysts and the like.

So there we were, thinking of Tiger as this consummate family man, sitting around home and playing with the kids on his weeks off. But when you stop and really think about it, that was really our fantasy. We thought he was a normal guy – a better golfer to be sure (well, way better) – but basically a normal guy raised with good family values but with a lot of money. And that was the difference. He had a whole lot of money.

Here we had a man with more money than some small countries, off doing photoshoots for commercials, showing up at big sporting events, golfing with high-flying buddies, off to Dubai to look at golf course designs, all the while everyone fawning over him and treating him like royalty. At some point I suppose you begin to feel that you really are special and totally protected. And you probably don’t get much in the way of good, personal advice. Who’s going to tell the King that he has no clothes?

Greg Stewart of the Peoria Journal Star writes about Mark Steinberg, who heads the global golf division for International Management Group, of which Tiger is their client:

As for Steinberg? Odds are you won’t hear him issuing any statements like Williams did.

Steinberg was with Woods last month in Australia, where his alleged affair with Mistress No. 1,Rachel Uchitel, was first reported. It is incomprehensible that a person who manages every aspect of Tiger’s public life had no knowledge of his now-disastrous private life.

Yet it is understandable how Steinberg might feel helpless in this situation. Advisors earn their keep before the shot hits the fan, not after. But Steinberg is all-too-aware of how he landed this job in the first place. At the 1998 British Open, Hughes Norton, then Tiger’s agent at IMG, told Woods that it wasn’t a good idea to be photographed with then-girlfriend Joanna Jagoda.

Not long after, Woods fired Norton and replaced him with Steinberg.

So there is a history. And thanks to Geoff Shackelford for that link and for his postings giving me more information on the Tiger Woods saga than I ever wanted to know.

And now, as if Tiger didn’t have enough problems with family, the media is hyping a possible steroid taking scandal (at least they seem to hope it is) involving Canadian Doctor Anthony Galea. Although this story gives Tiger a break.

There is no evidence at all, not a known shred, that Woods used an illegal substance or cheated on the golf course in any way.

We do know this from a New York Times story this week: A Canadian doctor who says he went to Woods’ Windermere, Fla., home four or five times in February and March of this year to treat Woods’ left knee with a legal, cutting-edge technique known as platelet-rich plasma therapy is under criminal investigation in the United States.

It’s enough to almost make you feel sorry for the guy.

First Nations, Environmentalists and diverging agendas

December 15, 2009

Macleans magazine has an interesting article on an emerging difference in agendas between British Columbia First Nations and environmental groups that had partnered with them on numerous protests against development on what at the time both groups considered to be environmentally sensitive areas.

Last month, the Squamish Nation okayed a controversial plan to erect a series of billboards on scenic native land. They weren’t just any signboards, but 300-sq.-foot blinking, digital billboards to advertise cellphones and cars. Negative reaction to the planned signs—some of which are set to line the spectacular route to Whistler—was so visceral the band was forced to scale back the design. Its opponents, the Citizens for Responsible Outdoor Advertising, say they are having to take on the role of “guardians of mother nature”—a role traditionally played by their “Squamish neighbours.”

Aboriginals are hardly the typical environmental bogeyman, but Squamish isn’t the only band making environmentalists barking mad. Last month, Coast Tsimshian Resources, a fledgling Aboriginal logging company based in Terrace, B.C., began shipping western hemlock to China. The company, which recently harvested its millionth cubic metre, is already one of the largest licence holders in B.C., with another sale to China in the works, and it has handily given Canada’s blighted logging industry a shot in the arm. But by exporting raw logs—so-called high-volume, low-value industrial forestry—it is igniting controversy. That the company is providing vital jobs and revenue to the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation hasn’t done much to earn it the sympathy of environmentalists. They are “destroying forests, and jobs,” says Wilderness Committee director Ken Wu; like the Sierra Club and ForestEthics, it supports a total ban on raw-log exports.

While the media was reporting how the environmental movement and First Nations were working hand in glove for a common cause, they were in fact using one another. The environmentalists were using the powerful image of the First Nations as being protectors of the land to achieve their goals of limiting or outright stopping logging in large areas of the province. At the same time, the First Nations were using the media skills of the environmentalists to promote their claims to ownership of, if not the land itself, at least the resources it held.

Fittingly, perhaps, the split between natives and greens began at Clayoquot Sound—where their marriage was celebrated a decade and a half ago. Environmentalists and the Nuu-chah-nulth, Clayoquot’s five tribes, had united in 1993 to protect the ancient temperate rainforest from the industrial logging that had razed so much of Vancouver Island. And what an alliance it was. B.C.’s War in the Woods became an international cause célèbre—“one of the defining environmental battles of our time” according to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.—recording the largest protests in Canada’s history, and over 800 arrests. Last year, however, when two Aboriginal logging firms, Iisaak Forest Resources and Ma-Mook-Coulson, began clearing logging roads into Clayoquot’s undeveloped valleys, a powerful alliance of brand-name environmental NGOs including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Committee and ForestEthics banded together, threatening a return to its feted blockades. A truce has been called—but it is unlikely to hold for long. “Within a few years, we’ll have to go into the pristine valleys,” says Iisaak spokesperson Gary Johnsen. Otherwise, “neither company will survive.”

It has always amazed me that the various environmental groups involved were so naive to not see this coming. Did they really believe that in the long run the First Nations leaders would maintain their alliance with a bunch of non-native, elitist activists? Or did they really believe that the long-term needs of First Nations would be satisfied by some back-to-the-land philosophy.

I wonder if the First Nation leaders of that time saw the eventual route that they would eventually take or whether they honestly bought into the preservation agenda of the environmental community and their successes there simply left them in a strong position to act independently when their new agenda became jobs and income streams.

The environmental community has said that they will fight the First Nation’s resource extraction in areas that they fought to keep undeveloped. I suspect that they will not as successful fighting against them they were fighting with them.  In fact, I would wager that they have lost that battle already.

Climategate and an angry reaction

December 7, 2009

Some strong words from Lorrie Goldstein in the Toronto Sun.

If you’re wondering how the robot-like march of the world’s politicians towards Copenhagen can possibly continue in the face of the scientific scandal dubbed “climategate,” it’s because Big Government, Big Business and Big Green don’t give a s*** about “the science.”

They never have.

What “climategate” suggests is many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t either. Apparently they stifled their own doubts about recent global cooling not explained by their computer models, manipulated data, plotted ways to avoid releasing it under freedom of information laws and attacked fellow scientists and scientific journals for publishing even peer-reviewed literature of which they did not approve.

Now they and their media shills — who sneered that all who questioned their phony “consensus” were despicable “deniers,” the moral equivalent of those who deny the Holocaust — are the ones in denial about the enormity of the scandal enveloping them.

[snip]

Big Government wants more of your taxes. Big Business wants more of your income. Big Green wants you and your children to bow down to its agenda of enforced austerity.

What about saving the planet, you ask? This was never about saving the planet. This is about money and power. Your money. Their power.

If it was about saving the planet, “cap-and-trade” (a.k.a. cap-and-tax) — how Big Government, Big Business and Big Green ludicrously pretend we will “fight” global warming and “save the planet” — would have been consigned to the dust bin of history because it doesn’t work. We know it doesn’t work because Europe’s five-year-old cap-and-trade market — the Emissions Trading Scheme — has done nothing to make the world cooler.

You can’t much plainer than that.

Military trap shooting

December 4, 2009

This is just too funny. Thanks to Phil Bourjaily over at The Gun Nuts.

The key to freedom

December 4, 2009

Why Switzerland has the lowest crime rate in the world


Enough, enough with Tiger Woods

December 3, 2009

OK, I have had it with the Tiger Woods story. I am sick of instant experts being trotted out to tell me how Tiger OWES it to the public (read that to mean the media) to go public and tell all; bare his soul to the world.

Well Tiger isn’t going to do that – at least I hope he doesn’t get pressured into doing that. This is something that he has to deal with at home and privately. Why the hell would he come on TV and embarrass his wife and family further.

We have seen an endless line of politicians doing that, with the long-suffering wife standing beside them, giving their ‘support’ and forgiveness for the pol’s transgressions. How humiliating!

But Tiger isn’t looking to get re-elected or even keep his job. He is still the greatest golfer in the world and people will still come out in droves to watch him dominate.

Right now some idiot is on the golf channel spouting off that “we” need to see Tiger “ourselves” although I am not sure why. What Tiger does with his personal life is his business and has nothing to do with anything that affects me.

There is nothing that Woods can do about the media stories that have been written already nor those that will be written in the future. All he can do is control his own actions from here on in.

The only thing that blows me away – and this is not just with Tiger – is how these high profile athletes and politicians and the like really expect to step out of line and get away with it. Tiger has been called the most recognizable athlete in the world. Really, how dumb-assed was he to think that something like this wouldn’t become public at some point. I’m just surprised that it played out the way it did.

But this too will pass. It’s not like he’s the only rich and famous person to stray from the straight and narrow and he sure as hell won’t be the last.

Was it Lee Trevino who early on in Tiger’s career speculated that the only things that could stall Tiger’s march to become the greatest golfer in history was an injury or a bad marriage? So far he’s survived the injury.

Probably a damned good thing that Earl isn’t still around though.


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