Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Anger Management

Facebook has all sorts of neat quizzes that tell you what kind of ___ you are or how kind you are etc. I like doing them, realizing that I am somehow passing on important personal information that can be used to target me with advertising.  Mostly it seems to target me with interesting news items which are 2/3 of my FB news feed. Advertising is wasted on me as money is a requirement, I understand, if you wish to buy things.

Today there was a quiz about anger that my cousin in law had done that said she was pretty laid back which is the truth.  Not quite comatose (she is in Calgary and can't reach me to beat me) but not easily disturbed.

Can You Pass an Anger Management Test?

I, on the other hand,... according to the test, had moderate anger management issues.  I take pills for that or they would not be so moderate, trust me.  As one who has never suffered fools gladly, I find that there are fewer fools when I take pills.

But these days they do not seem to be working.  Reading the news and comments on Ukraine makes my blood boil.  Dealing with EU bureaucratese makes my blood boil.  Dealing with idiots who cannot follow simple written instructions makes my blood boil.

I am so grouchy I could put my teeth in backwards and bite myself in the throat.  Mostly I just want to crawl in a hole and pull the hole in after me.  Slept to 10:30 this morning and had a nap this afternoon.  And it is not even February.

But it is winter, such as it is.  +5C, constantly cloudy, constantly foggy, constantly muddy.  I wish it would get cold and snow.  But then I think about those poor pensioners in eastern Ukraine with no heat or light and our poor army guys some of whom are still without winter equipment though that is changing.

Christmas!  Bah! Humbug.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Herding Cats

Life is pretty routine at our house.  Highlights are garbage pick up day (Tuesdays) and water delivery day which is roughly every 8 days. (We get two 18 litre carbouys of drinking water delivered for $5.30 CAD).  Saturday we take a taxi to town for groceries. Round trip 14 km total fare $6 CAD.

We don't have children, though our granddaughters live in town and we visit often; every day by Skype.  So we have a dog and three cats to brighten our days.  We had two dogs but Bobik met an untimely end over a female, leaving Volk quite lonely.  Our cats Bonya and Tigritsa I have blogged about before.  Their brother Vovochka or Vovo (Vladimir) came to live with us permanently when Lina was working long hours.

They never met a door they were on the right side of, especially bathroom and front door.  Bonya can open the downstairs bathroom door if it isn't locked as the latch doesn't work.  He thinks if you are just sitting there doing nothing you should at least be petting him.  The door swings open on its own weight and leaves you rather exposed to the world especially should someone come in the front door which is opposite the bathroom door across the big entry way.

They go in and out the front door several times a day.  They come in to use the litter box.  I kid you not.  There is a heavy grape vine that winds its way to the upstairs balcony.  They learned to climb it as kittens and now, if we are not downstairs to let them in, they climb the vine and snap the plastic frame of the balcony screen door until we hear them.

Boyna likes to be petted and will climb on Tanya's lap sometimes when she is watching TV. He is a suck.  Vovo also likes to be petted but at night when we are sleeping.  He climbs on the bed and crawls between us to where he can bunt my hand with his head indicating "wake up and pet me".

Tigritsa only wants to be petted when I am at my computer.  She sits and looks longingly at me until I push the keyboard away to make room.  Then she jumps up for a face rub.  She licks my thumb so I wash her neck and top of her head, cat style - lick, rub, lick rub.  Then she flops over and goes to sleep with her head on my wrist.  I am allowed to use the mouse IF there are no sudden sweeping moves. Else she digs her claws into my arm to hold it.

Sleeping on the keyboard tray, head on my arm, back against my tummy
I never knew cats could have colds but all three of ours came down with something during the coldest weather when we had snow.  I was afraid it was distemper but the vet said not.  Bonya started it, trying to cough up a lung.  Our vet, who was out twice to see the cats, gave us an immuno-stimulator which we injected (sub-cu) every day for a few days.  Tigritsa had a mild case of it but Vovochka who was not at all sick at first got it really bad, more sneezing than coughing with runny nose and eyes.  They are finally over it.

Our vet, Andrei, is a wonderful man.  His office is that of a civil servant which means he is extremely poorly paid, charging only for medicines and travel.  Tanya pays him double and usually feeds him supper as he comes after work.

Yesterday, Boyna gave us a scare.  We have no idea what happened but he came downstairs dragging his back leg and meowing in pain.  We put him on our bed and even in his sleep he was crying and twitching his leg with the pain.  Touching it hurt him so much.  It seemed swollen.  Andrei came after work to check him out, thought it might be an infection from an earlier fight but couldn't find a break or anything.  Poor Andrei didn't get much of a supper as we had already eaten and there was no bread in the house to even make a sandwich.

Late in the evening, Bonya woke up, jumped off the bed, dragged his leg to the door and demanded to go out.  When Tanya refused he threw a giant hissy-fit, including trying to dump the pail of dry dog food. For that he got pitched into the back porch, bad leg and all.  This morning he favoured the leg a little bit but seemed fine otherwise.  He immediately went outside.

We have been having mild weather after our snow and cold.  It went to +5C and everything melted and everything is wet and muddy.  It even rained.  With three cats going in and out it is impossible to keep their feet clean when they come in the house.  There are muddy tracks everywhere and we just get a damp mop and follow them.  It is easier than trying to catch them at the door ten times a day.

If we don't let them out they get bored and start chasing and fighting each other.  Usually they chase Tigritsa.  If they don't she runs up to one, smacks it upside the head and runs for it.  Once Vovo and Bonya were wrestling and she jumped in and took a round out of Bonya when he was down.

Bonya and Tigritsa are long haired cats, Vovo is smooth haired.  The house if filled with clumps of hair, enough to start a new cat every time we vacuum or sweep.

Tonight we heard a banging on the front door.  It was Bonya wanting in.  Mud to the hocks and carrying a headless mouse.  The muddy floors, the cat hairs and the dead mouse had just about got to Tanya.  Not a good time for me to discover I had stepped in something when I went to feed Volk.

"Dog shit.  Cat shit.  This isn't a house.  It is a barn".

Friday, December 12, 2014

I will do this but first I have to do that.

Tanya is making Christmas (New Years) cards.  Masha is coming Saturday but Tanya couldn't wait.  She asked me to help her find pictures on line and print them to use as decorations on the cards.  Finding was the easy part.

I have a new printer, bought two months ago.  My third Canon in a row had the print head pack it in.  A new one costs as much as the printer and buying Canon ink cartridges which may make the print head last longer is a shortcut to the poorhouse.  So I bought an Epson L355 with large ink reservoirs filled from bottles which are not expensive. So far it has worked great.

Until I went to print on heavy photo stock, which was all I had other than ordinary paper.  This was double matte 250 g/m2 and it would not load.  My one remaining piece of lighter photo stock loaded and printed but not the heavier.

Go to the manual trouble shooting section: nothing.  OK, contact the company.  The L355 is a European model so the website refused to allow me to talk to Canada.  OK, UK. Go to Live Chat.  Nope, my Java is out of date.  Download and install new Java.  Windows 7 has updates waiting so I had to download and install them too.  By the time that was all complete, the UK office was closed so no Live Chat.  Send email.  BUT you have to have a UK address, so I gave them my daughter's in London.  Auto-response says we got it and are open tomorrow.

Today I got a link to their knowledge base which told me that for heavy stock one must use only Epson brand paper.  Link to their website.  Fifteen sheets of A4 photo stock is 11 Pounds Stirling. Which is roughly $20 CAD. NFW.

Catch 22.  Canon prints on anything but ink is like gold.  Epson ink is cheap but their paper is gold plated.  I will see what I can buy tomorrow in the way of lighter stock.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pictures from the Maidan and other things

We found some photos on Tanya's mobile that she had taken on Maidan February 18th when we were in Kyiv.  That was the day the final battle began that ended with Yanukovych and some of his mafioso fleeing the country.  We were in Kyiv applying for Tanya's visa to visit UK, and decided to go to Maidan to see for ourselves what it was like.  At that time, all the news was pretty much controlled by Yanukovych so it was suspect.

We found the Square pretty peaceful, with people coming and going about their business in and around the tent city and barricades.  There were lots of Ukrainian flags and EU flags as well as flags of various parties, including Right Sector and others of the right and left.  This was about noon or somewhat after.  there was smoke pouring into the sky up on the hill in front of the Rada or parliament building and we knew there was action there.  On the train home that night we we sat with a young man from Dnipro who had participated in the fight on the hill.  He was a young businessman who realized the only future for Ukraine was one without Yanukovych and without the layers of corruption.

We got home and turned on the TV to see the Maidan in flames and the Berkut attempting to storm the place but held back by gasoline bomb throwing protesters.  The authorities had closed off the Metro (subway) to prevent reinforcements coming in or people from fleeing.  Anyhow, a few of Tanya's pictures from early afternoon are at the end of this post.

Some links to interesting sites:

NEWS FLASH - this JUST in, a perfect example of Russian lies.

Russia says small military mission in east Ukraine at Kiev's request: RIA

Paul Gregory writes for Forbes and does a wonderfully funny job of describing the trolls and how they work.  Read the comments too as the trolls come out of the woodwork and illustrate his article beautifully.
Putin's New Weapon In The Ukraine Propaganda War: Internet Trolls is a great website dedicated to exposing the lies on Russian media of which there are no end. Just go to the site and hop around to see the kind of thing we are up against.  If you find one of the Stop Fake newscasts, it has English sub-titles.

This video is not well made but does pick out the high spots of Russian fakery.  Especially their use of photos from anywhere which they then claim to be of Ukraine.  Syria, Chechnya, Russia, anywhere but Ukraine and age of picture doesn't matter or if the person is still alive or died years ago.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Round and round and round it goes...Where it stops no one knows

The war goes on and the talking heads go on and on.

The ATO is now on the defensive only, fighting off attacks from the Russian backed, armed and supported terrorists.  The Cyborgs at the Donetsk airport are still holding out as is the salient at Debaltseve.  Every time a new Russian "Humanitarian convoy" enters Ukraine there is an increase in shelling and rocket fire from the Russian side as they now have more ammunition.  the trucks do not go back empty, they are loaded with the bodies of Russian soldiers that the Kremlin continues to deny are in Ukraine.  They all died in "exercises" near Rostov.

At least the anticipated invasion has not happened yet, though Russian troops and heavy armament continue to be rotated into Ukraine and strategically placed in areas which would certainly come under attack in an all out invasion.

The Russian economy is in the tank with the continuing drop in oil prices which are taking the ruble with it. The joke making the rounds is that Putin, oil and the ruble will all hit 63 in 2015.  Putin approved the next years budget which was written by Hans Christian Anderson Consulting from teh look of it.  $80 oil for starters.

Here is a better summary of the situation than I could write, already written:

Three posts by Paul Goble:

But a better question, Andrey Piontkovsky suggests, is whether Putin himself is ready to die for that northeastern Estonian city at the eastern edge of NATO and the European Union given that the leaders of the West now see him not as a strategic partner but as a strategic “problem” 

Is Putin Prepared to Die for Narva?

 All of these people had sought assistance from state agencies, assistance that they are entitled to under the law. And all had been refused. But rather than allow them to suffer, the Union for the Rebirth of Pskov Kray raised money by various activities, helped with renovations, and secured access to those who would never have had a chance otherwise.

Vadim Shtepa, who lives in Karelia and who supports Ukrainian efforts to defend their nation against Vladimir Putin’s aggression, reflects on this anniversary? “What can one say? The only thing is to wish our Ukrainian friends [in this new Winter War] to be no weaker than the Finns!”

Also if you have an hour, please listen to this presentation by Timothy Snyder on the history of and current situation in Ukraine as it applies across a much broader scope.  He is an excellent speaker and very knowledgeable historian.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Holodomor and Other Anniversaries

Friday, November 21st,  marked the first anniversary of EuroMaidan, the dignity revolution.

Yesterday, Saturday 22nd,  was the 51st anniversary of the assassination of JFK.  It was also the 10th anniversary of the Orange Revolution that overturned a thoroughly fraudulent vote and frightened Putin to death as he realized it could happen to him, hence his vicious reaction to Euromaidan.

Yesterday was also the fourth Saturday of November, the day of remembrance for the millions of Ukrainians starved to death in Stalin's murderous famine, known as the Holodomor or Death by Hunger.

Timothy Snyder's book "Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin" contains one of the best histories of the "Ukrainian Holocaust" that I have read.

For brief summaries of the terror that was Stalin's planned starvation of millions of Ukrainians in 1932-33 to break any thought of Ukrainian nationalism, here are some links:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Murder in a small town

My mind has been otherwise occupied and multi-tasking is not a strong suit.  Not much has changed.  The cease-fire that never was is still "holding".  The Russian side continues to attack Ukrainian held towns and villages along the border between the Russian held area of eastern Ukraine and the rest of Ukraine.

Ukraine still holds the Donetsk airport and hundreds of terrorists and Russian soldiers have died trying to take it.  Supplies run the gauntlet of fire but are still coming through.  Russia continues to send "Humanitarian Aid" most of which is military supplies, and returns with cargoes of bodies and equipment looted from factories.  The Ukrainian government has shut down all services inside the Russian held area including pensions.  They want independence; they got it.

There are already reports of people starving to death and it will only get worse as winter comes.  There may be food but there is no money (and no jobs) to buy it. Russia has been busy moving troops and equipment into the area and Ukraine has been busy reorganizing its military and digging in for defensive purposes.  The expected attacks are still expected. the reason (Crimea) still holds.

After Putin got his ass kicked in Brisbane, he understands that the only person with less respect is Rodney Dangerfield and is seething for revenge.  Perhaps it will be served cold.

War of “evil” against Russia and “spiritual” mission of Russia in the world

Putin Jokes
Russian Culture
Russian News

We had a reminder in our town about a month ago of exactly what world Ukraine lives in.  A local businessman also involved in farming was murdered gangland style outside our best restaurant.  The man was well liked by everyone except a few big guys in whose side he was a constant thorn, fighting against corruption on behalf of small people.  The man parked his car outside the restaurant and went in to eat.  An old Lada parked beside it and two men got out and walked away.  Nothing unusual about that.

Inside the car was a high powered rifle on a remote.  When the victim came out of the restaurant and went to get in his car, he took three bullets in the back.  The old Lada then burst into flames and was completely consumed by fire, leaving no prints, no DNA, no nothing.  There is suspicion but no proof of who the Boss was who ordered the hit but the men who did it will never be found, even without corruption. Very professional.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Voting in the DNR

Ukraine voted Sunday Oct 26 for a new Rada (parliament).  We now have a parliament FOR Ukraine elected BY Ukrainians (of all ethnicities including Russian).  Deputies are elected half from party lists based on percentage of votes over 5% and half from first past the post.

The Pro-Russian parties have been reduced to one (Opposition Bloc) with about 11% of the vote plus a majority of the 100 "independent" deputies but will have no control.  President Proroshenko and Prime Minister Yatseniuk each had their own parties and each took about 22% of the popular vote though Proproshenko's candidates won more of the first past the post seats.  A new party (Self Help or Do It Ourselves) surprised everyone and came in third.  It is ALL new faces and will be a wonderful addition to the Rada.

Since the Proroshenko and Yatseniuk were unable to agree on uniting their parties before the election, they are faced with uniting them after.  There is some fear of another Yushchenko-Tymoshenko stand-off like the one which destroyed the opportunities of the Orange Revolution of 2004.  However it is unlikely that the citizens of this now united country will put up with that and will take to the streets.  Expectations are that they will work together and with a big enough majority they can make necessary constitutional changes as well.

Not to be outdone, the Russian Terrorist occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk are holding "elections" November 2.  A commenter, Brent, on a Euromaidan article listed some of the rules for the DNR election.  They are worth repeating.

Some other rules and facts about the November 2nd elections
1) all candidates must prove they have extorted from or kidnapped at least 3 innocent people in the last 6 months
2) candidates who are currently Russian citizens will get credit of 2 votes for 1 actual
3) anyone WITHOUT an automatic weapon will NOT be allowed to vote
4) free transportation in a stolen vehicle will be provided to all senior citizens
5) anyone with a neo-Nazi tattoo gets to vote as many times as they wish
6) all Cargo 200 Club members can proxy their vote to anyone remaining from their regiment
7) 127% turnout is expected
8) the Sergei Prokofiev airport polling station will not be open
9) don't be alarmed if you see the local militia set up their Grad rocket launcher next to a polling station
10) The winner will be declared November 1st....

Crimean Referendum Ballot

  • Cargo 200 is Russian military code for bodies of soldiers.
  • Sergei Prokofiev Airport is the Donetsk airport held by a handful of Ukrainian soldiers against repeated attacks by Terrorists, mercenaries and Russian military. 
  • Operating from civilian occupied buildings is a favourite trick of the terrorists to draw Ukrainian fire to kill civilians.

Friday, October 24, 2014

How to make a board

Years ago I read a funny article by a failed shop student.  Do they still teach shop in highschools?  You know where the girls took cooking and sewing and the boys took woodworking and mechanics.  If they do, I expect all take all and so they should.  A woman that can't at least check her own oil makes me crazy and every boy should know how to cook in case he gets married...but I digress.

The article was entitled "How to make a board" which was about as good as this person got in shop.  All I remember from it was the tools you needed to paint the board included a brush, a can of paint, a chisel, and a gun. The gun was to protect yourself when the shop teacher caught you opening the paint can with the chisel.

Anyhow I made a board or I should say an official dog house for Volk.  After almost 6 years.  It will not be as warm as the makeshift one that the dogs used for years, a lean to, made from old doors, covered with old carpet, with an old mattress inside.  Oh, and it was inside a room in our outbuilding to boot.  However the room got cleaned out and a new concrete floor this summer and all the material disappeared.

I do like to work with wood but have not done much for years.  When the kids were little, 35 years ago, I made wooden toys.  I started with a set of three Craftsman tools from Sears. A 1/4" drill, a pad sander and a jigsaw, all in a red tin box and did most of my work with them.  I gradually accumulated real tools but never had as much fun though did more precise work.

The train I made for my son out of 1x4 and dowels

No idea how many sets of these I made.
Now proper wood in Ukraine is a rare commodity.  We have a "sawmill" two blocks from our place that brings in a truckload of pine logs periodically and sells rough cut full dimension lumber, much of it not even edged as it is used for strapping on roofs to which metal or otherwise sheeting is attached.

So I ordered 12 meters of 2x4 (actually 50x100 mm) and 35 meters of 1x6 (actually 25x150 mm).  It was delivered on foot, two 4.5 meter boards at a time.  This is GREEN wood.  I cannot emphasize enough the word GREEN; it is wringing wet and heavy.

I had a vague idea of what I wanted to build, having sketched it out on a piece of scrap paper, but mostly made it up as I went along.  My tools consisted of a jig saw, a try square, a tape measure and a carpenters pencil. Oh, and my trusty 20 oz. Estwing leather tang hammer that I've had for 40 years.

Too late I learned that the edges of the boards were not necessarily square and that 150 mm width the full length of the board was a guideline not a specification.  By the time I finished there wasn't enough 1x6 left to make a small fire, only FOUR nails and not a square corner to be found anywhere on the dog house.  I blame it on the metric system.

Anyone who wants to steal it will need a forklift.  It took two strong men (not one of whom was me) to carry it to the dog run and that was with the roof off.  The roof is removable for easy access.  Whether Volk will use it or not remains to be seen.  He did pee on it so at least he knows it exists.  Tomorrow I will put some food inside to coax him into it.

Homesteader's shack or trapper's cabin

There is 2" of Styrofoam under the floor and also under the roof

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wake Up, Europe by George Soros

An excellent analysis by George Soros.  His prescriptions for assisting Ukraine are better in my mind than the ones proposed by Paul Gregory's article I posted yesterday.

Wake Up, Europe

by George Soros

Europe is facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence. Neither the European leaders nor their citizens are fully aware of this challenge or know how best to deal with it. I attribute this mainly to the fact that the European Union in general and the eurozone in particular lost their way after the financial crisis of 2008.
The fiscal rules that currently prevail in Europe have aroused a lot of popular resentment. Anti-Europe parties captured nearly 30 percent of the seats in the latest elections for the European Parliament but they had no realistic alternative to the EU to point to until recently. Now Russia is presenting an alternative that poses a fundamental challenge to the values and principles on which the European Union was originally founded. It is based on the use of force that manifests itself in repression at home and aggression abroad, as opposed to the rule of law. What is shocking is that Vladimir Putin’s Russia has proved to be in some ways superior to the European Union—more flexible and constantly springing surprises. That has given it a tactical advantage, at least in the near term.
Europe and the United States—each for its own reasons—are determined to avoid any direct military confrontation with Russia. Russia is taking advantage of their reluctance. Violating its treaty obligations, Russia has annexed Crimea and established separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine. In August, when the recently installed government in Kiev threatened to win the low-level war in eastern Ukraine against separatist forces backed by Russia, President Putin invaded Ukraine with regular armed forces in violation of the Russian law that exempts conscripts from foreign service without their consent.  
Read the rest HERE

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Letter That Obama Should Write To Putin On Ukraine--But Won't

This column by Paul Gregory in Forbes pretty much sums it up.  I question a few things like what approval of Keystone Pipeline has to do with it.  Guess you could call that paragraph an "earmark"? (Americans will understand the term).

The Letter That Obama Should Write To Putin On Ukraine--But Won't

President Obama’s failed reset and his weak response to Putin’s War Against Ukraine stuck him with a reputation of indecisiveness and naïveté, reinforced by cumulating foreign policy failures. Obama, unlike Angela Merkel, members of Congress of both parties, and, lately, Hillary Clinton, still appears to be late to understand Putin’s global threat and his goal to destroy NATO. With one intense bill-of-particulars against Putin, Obama coukd outline his plan to stop Putin’s expansionism before it is too late. Such a move could save the last two years of Obama’s presidency. Here is what Obama should say...

Friday, October 17, 2014

Best Ever or Worst Possible: The Canadian Oil Sands

My good friend, colleague and mentor, Wayne Dunn, originally from Big River, Saskatchewan has recently begun blogging about Corporate Social Responsibility.  His blog, Business Meets Society, can be found HERE. We have known each other for 15 years and worked on a number of CSR related projects over the years.

His personal profile (short version) reads thus:

Wayne Dunn is President & Founder of the CSR Training Institute and Professor of Practice in CSR at McGill.  He’s a Stanford Sloan Fellow with a M.Sc. in Management from Stanford Business School.  
He is a veteran of 20+ years of award winning global CSR and sustainability work spanning the globe and covering many industries and sectors including extensive work with Indigenous Peoples in Canada and globally.
He’s also worked oil rigs, prospecting, diamond drilling, logging, commercial fishing, heavy equipment operator, truck driver and underwater logging, done a couple of startups and too many other things to mention.  
Wayne has had big successes, and spectacular failures, and hopes he has learned equally from both.

His most recent blog is reproduced here by permission:

Best Ever or Worst Possible: The Canadian Oil Sands

This post might seem out of character for me but I have become so frustrated by such an important issue being communicated so badly.  

Development of the Canadian oil sands is the worst: unsound, unethical, anti-planet and pretty much everything else


Development of the Canadian oil sands is the absolute best alternative for our petroleum addicted world.

Let me start by saying three things.

1.      I really don’t know much about the development of the oil sands, at least not enough to claim any sort of expertise.
2.      I think that we are all addicted to petroleum and that is not a good thing.  But, have I haven’t seen anything from the stop the oil sands group that suggests that stopping the oil sands will help this issue.
3.      I don’t believe that stopping the development of the Canadian oil sands will curtail our global appetite for petroleum produced energy but would simply mean that we would get more of it from elsewhere.

For me this means that the central question in the oil sands debate is about should we consume petroleum energy from the oil sands, or from somewhere else.

Like many of you, or at least those of you from North America, I’ve been bombarded by terribly polarized opinions on the development of the oil sands.

It is frustrating.  This is important stuff.  Yet, neither side seems adult enough to present a well-reasoned argument, or at least they haven’t connected a well-reasoned argument to a communications plan which meant that you could actually hear it

·         We have some industry infomercial like ads on TV that make it seem like just the best thing ever.  No need to ever be concerned about anything.

·         We have a Canadian government who, in their clumsy attempts to assist the industry, have made it seem like they are willing to throw environmental regulations and safeguards out the window to support quick project approval.

·         And then there is the steady parade of over-paid movie stars and celebrities, prancing through the media telling us how absolutely earth and civilization ending terrible the industry is.

·         Can anyone tell me how being a famous celebrity makes you an expert on this subject?

Does anyone else wish that one or more of the key stakeholders was mature enough to trust that some comparative facts and objective (or even partially objective) information would be helpful?

Here are some things I wish that they would tell us

On Environment
Petroleum production has nasty, terrible even, impacts on the environment.  Not just in Canada but globally.  Sure, it is getting better, but not nearly fast enough. 

I wish we had a different way to power our planet and hope that we will soon get to one.  But, in the interim, let’s think about this rationally.

I want to know the comparative environmental impact of oil sands petroleum and that from elsewhere.

·         Carbon: What is the carbon cost per barrel of oil, delivered to where it will be used for oil sands petroleum?  How does that compare to petroleum from other major global oil fields
·         Carbon: How is the carbon cost per delivered barrel changing over time from the oil sands and other producers?  In other words, who is investing in reducing their carbon impact?
·         Water and other Natural Capital / Global Commons inputs: Similar to carbon.  How much is used per barrel (delivered to where it will be used) and how does that compare to other major global oil fields.  What are the trends?  Which fields are getting more efficient at using Natural Capital.

·         Overall impact: How can we quantifiably compare the overall environmental impact of energy from the oil sands with energy from alternative locations; including the cost of transporting it to the end user

And, while we are on the environment can anyone explain why nobody is assessing and monitoring the cumulative impact of oil sands development on the production areas and all the way downstream through the Athabasca, Slave and Mackenzie River systems.

On Human Rights
Much of our planets remaining petroleum reserves are in places that don’t win so many human rights awards. 

Syria, Iraq, Russia, Saudi Arabia and a host of other producing countries have some pretty dismal human rights records.  And, let’s be honest, our western companies and governments have cozied up to these regimes and their human rights track records to get access to their petroleum energy.

To me a key question is around whether we’d sooner use petroleum energy coming from countries and locations with better human rights records.

I think we need to figure out how we can quantifiably compare the human rights/petroleum energy issues so we can have a rational discussion about this dimension.

On Global Security
I’m probably in a bit over my head on this issue, but, on the simplistic side, when I hear that ISIS is funded by millions of dollars/day of petroleum revenue I think that isn't a good thing.

When I see the conflict all over Syria and Iraq that, as I understand it, is financed by if not fueled by petroleum, I think that is not a good thing.

There may be other relevant dimensions but these are three key ones.

Overall, I believe we are better off using petroleum energy that has less, rather than more environmental impact in its production and transport and that comes from more stable countries with better human rights records.

Intuitively I feel that this means developing the oil sands but I would really like to see some research and informed debate around it.

Surely it isn't asking too much of industry, government, NGOs and celebrities to be supportive, informed and conduct rational debate around such an important issue?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Trading Los Angeles for Narva

This is the blog post I have been trying to write for several weeks now but have not found the right words.  Still haven't but will try anyhow.

What does Putin want? The cottage industry of analysts, pundits, journalists and specialists have had a great time trying to figure that out.  Some say he is totally mad but insanity, real or feigned, is not a bad tactic in foreign affairs as it keeps the enemy off balance and afraid, because Lord only knows what they might actually DO. They all agree on one thing and that is he wants to stay in power indefinitely because any other alternative is too dangerous for him and his gang of "Crooks and Thieves".

To that end, he has turned Russia back into an almost Stalinist state with all the accouterments.  Stalin has been rehabilitated from the great butcher to the great manager.  The organization "Memorial" which has attempted to document the crimes against humanity committed during Soviet times and since (their mistake) has earned them the ire of the Kremlin which is in process of shutting them down country wide.  Furthermore, Putin is in process of rehabilitating Felix Dzerzhinsky. Even reading the linked article should give you nightmares.

Then there is the ideology necessary in any kind of totalitarian system.  Marxism (and iterations) is out; Nationalism is in.  Eurasianism, Russian World, National Boshevism, some kind of combination of Red and White, (keeping in mind the words National Socialism). While Putin is right about the "vaccination against Nazism" wearing off, it is in his own country where Nazism is strongest.

Russians opposition to Ukraine's independence began long ago, most recently including the support given to Yanukovych and "family" to drain the country dry and culminated in the events in 2014 leading to the current war in the Donbas can be interpreted two ways, possibly both right.  Putin cannot afford to have a successful liberal democratic country with economic ties to Europe on his western border serving as a reminder to Russians that they are missing out.  Putin also may well want to revive the Russian Empire to what ever previous borders he can get away with.

The "Putin Doctrine" is that Russia is honour bound to "Defend oppressed Russian (speaking) people where ever they may be".  (Especially in countries which used to be colonies of Russia/USSR, and whether they want it or not).  This was his cover for direct interference in Ukraine, both in Crimea and Donbas.  The tactics used in this asymetrical type of warfare have worked quite well and we can expect to see them repeated.

Recreating the Russian/USSR Empire and USA (NATO) and EU stand in his way. Russia blames all its problems and its aggressive actions on "The West" ("The Devil made me do it"). This of course is nonsense but rational logic rarely plays a role in politics, domestic or foreign.

So far none of the countries in which Russia has interfered militarily have belonged to NATO.  His next targets do belong to NATO, the three Baltic Republics, in particular Estonia and Latvia.  The same playbook is already being used, stirring up feelings already bitter among the ethnic Russian population as they have gone from being the ruling class to at best ordinary citizens or for many who arrived, after Stalin took over, as simple permanent residents.

But how, when or why would NATO come to their rescue?  Do not expect tanks to roll across the borders as in Czechoslovakia in 1968, but expect exactly the same creeping infiltration as occurred in Ukraine.  So what is the trigger mechanism and what is the response?  Putin expects NO response as he suggests that America will be unwilling to "trade Los Angeles for Narva" meaning if NATO interferes it will mean war.

Estonia, with Narva, an ethnic Russian enclave, in the upper right.

Latvia, with the % of ethnic Russians in red.
Putin is playing hardball.  He has warned USA/NATO not to interfere, and made no secret of his intent to use the nuclear option if Russia FEELS threatened. Russia has practiced nuking Warsaw and is willing to gamble that NATO will not launch nuclear retaliation in response to destruction of anything less than a national capital of the status of Berlin/Paris/London. He is confident that Moscow (the ONLY important part of the Russian Empire, the rest are colonies) is safe from a nuclear strike with its extensive protective anti-missile shield.

IF NATO does not respond, it is finished as is USA, as a guarantor of world peace, which is Putin's aim.  And if he can play the countries of the EU against each other and destroy it as a coherent decision making body (such as it is) then he will have achieved the ability to rebuild the Russian Empire and create Eurasia from Lisbon to Vladivostok under Russian control.

The sanctions, topped off with lower oil prices, are bringing the Russian economy to a grinding halt. But Putin cannot back down, nor does he want to.  He is taking the propaganda war to the world and putting pressure on European countries by reminding them that the sanctions imposed on Russia are hurting them far worse than they re hurting Americans.

This is true.  Russia is a European problem and Europe should be dealing with it BUT EU is indecisive at the best of times and Putin has driven wedges where ever he can, especially because he has economic and gas related leverage. Which means it is and will become more so an American problem.  Americans have been called in twice to clean up European problems.  A Eurasia under Putin, right out of 1984 is far more dangerous to the world than a bunch of cutthroats intent on taking over the Middle East and reestablishing a Caliphate because they believe going back to the 6th century will make Islam powerful again. Putin only wants to go back to the 19th century and he can and will destroy NATO to get there.

To quote Paul Gregory (article reference immediately above) if Obama did say: “Geopolitically…what happens in Ukraine does not pose a threat to us.”  (then) that remark may go down in history along with Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” statement.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Some good news for a change

In times of misfortune, one must learn to be thankful for small things.  There is peanut butter in Ukraine.  It is "Good Energy" brand and we ordered it on line, though it is carried in some shops according to their website.

It is not bad at all.  Paler than Kraft Smooth and dryer but still spreads well and tastes every bit as good.  And made in Ukraine.

We ordered four 250 gm jars to try it out and it cost $15.50 CAD or $13.85 USD including postage.  I forget what we paid for 2 kg at Costco but it cost $10 to ship it over here through MEEST, so we have to find a place to buy it locally.

And if there is one brand of peanut butter here there may be another and soon shops will carry it in stock on a regular basis and the price will come down.  Hurrah.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The War to Come

The "Truce" continues here in Ukraine. Both sides, fully realizing that the fat lady has not yet sung are using the lull to regroup, rearm and prepare for further combat when hostilities resume. Russian troops and equipment build on the Kherson border of occupied Crimea and to the east of Mariupol.  Donetsk airport, still held by the Ukraine Army, is under daily attack by the terrorists backed by Russian military. The importance of Donetsk airport to the breakaway region and to Ukraine is described in this article which compares it to the Grozny airport held by the Chechens during their war with Russia in the 90's.

In the meantime, the propaganda war continues with Russia seemingly winning that one.  There have been enough documented war crimes committed by the Russian side to haul the entire Kremlin to the Hague so Russia is determined to create a few they can blame on the Ukrainians.

The terrorists claim to have discovered three mass graves in areas previously controlled by the Ukrainian army. They contain something like 2, 4 and 9 bodies, likely of Russian fighters killed in action and initial information is that they were created AFTER the Terrorists regained the territory.  Russian TV is reporting 400 bodies, showing signs of torture and execution and using pictures of rows of bodies from the Malaysian airplane which was shot down over Russian occupied territory.

Russia is calling for creation of a forensic investigative commission to determine the truth, so they can have some Ukrainian war crimes to prosecute.  This is similar to the one Stalin used to determine that the Germans has massacred the 22,000 Polish officers at Katyn.  They stayed with that lie until Poland regained independence in 1989 when they were forced to admit the truth.

Mychailo Wynnyckyj, of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, provides 10 reasons why he forecasts a full scale overt invasion of Ukraine by Russia before the Parliamentary election scheduled for October 26.
1) Putin needs to establish a land link between the Russian Federation and Crimea before the onset of winter
2) Occupying territory in Ukraine without the use of air power is now impossible.
3) Once air power is used, all pretense as to the supposed non-involvement of Russia in military action in Ukraine (as if anyone still believed the Kremlin’s official line) will be lost.
4) Once Putin makes the decision to overtly engage Ukraine’s army and volunteer battalions, limiting his own use of air power makes no tactical sense.
5) During the past few days, Putin has expressly denied his intent to disrupt the election in Ukraine on Oct 26. Whenever Putin has expressed positive feelings towards Ukraine publicly during the past months, Ukrainians (with good reason) become intensely nervous…
6) Opinion polls show that the two pro-Russian political forces running in the current election (Serhiy Tihipko’s “Strong Ukraine” and the “Opposition Bloc” headed by former energy minister Yuriy Boyko) may not gain enough support to cross the 5% barrier required to be represented among the 225 MP’s elected by proportional representation.
7) According to Ukraine’s constitution, if a state of war is declared in the country, all elections are cancelled. and all existing MP’s (including, in the current case, those who largely support Putin’s anti-EU/anti-NATO policy for Ukraine) remain in office.
8) The longer Putin delays his inevitable invasion, the better armed, trained and organized the Ukrainian forces will become.
9) The war with ISIS/ISIL in the Middle East has begun, and US forces are fully engaged; China is preoccupied by protests in Hong Kong; the US public is preoccupied with ebola, and the US elite is in the final stages of the mid-term election cycle; the European Council Presidency and the EU Foreign Policy Commissioner posts are both in transition; NATO has a brand new Secretary General (as of Oct 1).
10) Protests in Russia against the war in Ukraine have already begun, and will only intensify during the coming months, unless a crackdown in Russia (under the pretext of war) occurs.
I sincerely hope I’m wrong in this prediction.

The full article is here.