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.