Thursday, March 30, 2006

Lantern Day. We have Xmas but do we really know how to lighten up in winter like the Chinese? Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Chop Chop

One of the first Chinese words I learned was kuaizi, chopsticks. I went around the country with my own set which I would reuse whenever possible. China has just announced that it is to tax the items from now on. Like me, the government is concerned at the needless deforestation to feed the enormous appetite for disposable chopsticks. About 15 billion pairs (one source said 45 billion, whats a few billion here or there) are made annually consuming 71 million cubic metres of wood. The new tax is five percent, whereas a new tax on golf balls will be double that.
Source; Globe and Mail, March 23rd, 2006.

Gulf Stream Breakdown

Be afraid, be very afraid. The latest Time Magazine issue dated April 3rd, 2006, which may not yet have hit the newstands, is warning that the unthinkable is unfolding; the breakdown of the Gulf Stream. Here in abridged format is my friend Mike's letter to various news outlets. The link to a suppressed Pentagon report on the subject is at the end.

In November 2003, the Pentagon issued a report on the national security threat of Climate Change presciently subtitled "Imagining the Unthinkable". This report was received by environmentalists with a kind of perverse relief: finally the Pentagon and the Sierra Club were singing from the same song-sheet! This encouragement was only partly dimmed by the fact that the military chiefs buried the report for four months. Surely, the logic went, the reason for hiding the report was that the White House would need to act on it if it became public. Well whatever elation there was faded fast.
Remember the Bush, Kerry presidential campaign? That Pentagon report was custom-made to attack Bush’s inaction on climate change, but I never heard it mentioned. Climate Change got the smallest of references and Kyoto got even less. Either nobody read the report or Americans have short memories.
The report itself is a cold-blooded description of the devastation that will flow from "abrupt climate change", and the self-interested defensive actions the US will take to keep the worst at bay. A typical quote reads: "As abrupt climate change lowers the world’s carrying capacity aggressive wars are likely to be fought over food, water, and energy. Deaths from war as well as starvation and disease will decrease population size, which overtime, will re-balance with carrying capacity." (Page 15)
The writers of this report had every reason to claim Climate Change was less serious than it is, as they knew that is what Bush wanted to hear. That they had the courage to write the disturbing truth about what they saw is testament to the conclusiveness of the evidence. This was the paper the environmental movement could not write – they could never achieve this level of credibility: it had to come from the belly of the beast.
So if it is so believable, what else does it actually say? Well the key thing we should be watching for, the necessary prerequisite of the looming climate disaster, is the breakdown of the Gulf Stream. The melting of vast amounts of Arctic and Greenland ice and the consequent desalination of the North Atlantic would cause this. They describe the science in some detail and predict the collapse of the Gulf Stream between 2010 and 2020.
Be that as it may, we must have thought that was far enough off to put it right out of our heads, because when it actually began to happen last November, there was barely a notice. In late 2005 scientists announced that the Gulf Stream had diminished for the first time since measurement began in 1957. It had dropped by a surprising 30%. The preannounced harbinger of probably the greatest natural disaster humanity will ever face was almost totally ignored, and five months later we still do not seem to have connected the event with the prediction.
If we want to continue in the age of climate stability we have come to know, we will need to quickly and drastically reduce our fossil fuel use. This will be difficult and cause much suffering, however if we consider the alternative it is the only rational choice. Think how it will look to future generations: As they suffer unending climate degradation they will legitimately ask, "Couldn’t the citizens of the 21st Century have reduced their fossil fuel use for a few decades to regain a stable climate for the whole of humanity’s foreseeable future?" If we continue, as a species, on the lethargic track we are now on for fighting climate change, future generations will know us as the most self-centred generation the world has ever known. We know we will only get one chance. We know what is needed to avoid this disaster, and we are not doing it.
In recent months a few voices are beginning to be heard outside the environmental movement, especially inside the United States. Some Evangelicals are offering to help fight the cataclysm. Time Magazine has a front-page story that should convince any reader that action is needed; even ABC and the Houston Chronicle are getting onside. However, the action is needed right now -- we can afford no further delay.
Stopping climate change will require a total world mobilization. Think second world war, think the Great Wall of China. But we won’t do it without the Americans. They are responsible for the greatest share of the problem and they have the greatest resources to fight it. We need their strength of character and can-do spirit to lead the way.
George Bush must be confronted so strongly that he can no longer stand in the way of Global Recovery. The rest of the world knows that Americans must carry this fight to the White House. We are already banging the drum -- we need you to join us. The leadership of your country is just a few individuals and you are a agazine) are agreat nation. The future of our planet depends on your response. We pray it is not too late.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dashan is in Town

Yep, back to his hometown Ottawa to-day. Perhaps the best known foreigner in China to-day (that is amongst those who reside there, although he flees back to Canada half the year just to get some anonimity) Mark Roswell, known through TV as Dashan to 1.3 billion Chinese, is home to present a Charity Show at the Nepean Centrepointe Theatre. Now lets see, if I can get a few yuan to rub to-gether, left over in my pockets from my trip, do you think they would let me in?

Chinese Invented "Ye Golf"

First the French, now the Chinese. James II of Scotland must be rolling over in his grave. So who indeed invented the game of golf? A professor in Lanzhou, north central China which is hilly but has rather sparse grass if you ask me, claims to have uncovered records dating to 495 CE (note the modern notation everyone) which show the Chinese using clubs and sticks to negotiate circular balls into round holes. Sounds like golf to me. Last year was "The Year of France in China" and I think the two nations got to-gether at the Shanghai links and decided to upstage the Scottish Tourist Bureau. France has made claims to books illustrating golf being played in the Loire in the 15th Century, a few years prior to the 1497 edict of James to ban the game in Scotland (because - get this; people were taking time away from their duties to play the idle game!). Cor Blimey, we can have none of that. There were 3500 events in China with some connection to "The Year of France in China". I have it on good authority 3000 of these involved tee and club.
Source: Sports Illustrated web site; The Hour, CBC Television.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Canada: America's New Gas Jockey!

The US of A cannot rely like it once did on Saudi, Venezuelan nor indeed its own oil. Its appetite remains voracious. Canada has the largest remaining accesible oil reserves left on the planet, after Saudi Arabia, in the form of the Alberta Tarsands. Are we now selling out? Development of the Tarsands goes ahead full steam at one million barrels a day, moving to six. Forgive the pun, for the method of extraction is to use natural gas to produce steam that makes the oily compound viscous and allows for extraction. Hey, isn't natural gas another finite fossil fuel? And how about the huge volume of permanently polluted groundwater which is now part of Alberta's heritage (fund, for those Canadians who see the inside joke). Apparently more energy is used in the extraction than is garnered in the final product. Go figure. So now we need the often nixed Mackenzie Valley Pipeline to bring down the gas from the Arctic. Justice Berger must be wincing to hear that one. Meanwhile Alberta's czar Murray Smith is going all out to promote as much development as possible, get this, before a scourge (my term I do admit) such as cold fusion (his example) comes along and spoils it for Alberta. But just might save the planet.
Sources: National Post, March 8th, 2006 and The National, CBC TV, March 21st, 2006.

Iraq Primer

Are you like me in that the complexity of the Iraq situation leaves you scratching your head? Here is a primer on some of the internal elements involved that have helped me piece it to-gether.
4 major distinctive poulations - 1. Shia muslims (majority) 2. Sunni muslims (minority) 3. Kurds (2nd minority) 4. Turkmens (smallest minority).
Sadaam Hussein is a Sunni whose secular government ruled the majority and more religious Shiia with an iron fist. His political party is named the Baathist Party and since the March 2003 American invasion it is the remnants of this party that has led the nationalist insurgency. The insurgency is presumably spearheaded by the core of a reconstituted Republican Guard which you will recall virtually melted away in the so called defense of Baghdad. The other major opposition to the invasion has come from the broader insurgency led by a Jordanian al-Zarqawi. This sector is considered even more hard line and has involved the infiltration of untold thousands of foreign fighters in a Jihad (Holy War). Infiltration has come through Syria and Iran. Since Iran and Sadaam's Iraq are bitter enemies the former has looked to destabilize Iraq and at the same time confront the Great Satan (USA) by infiltrating from the south and east. Many more of al-Qaeda have entered from the northwest. Iran is mostly Shia but remember is not an Arab state, rather is Persian and its national language is Farsi not Arabic.
Sunni Triangle - to the north and west of Baghdad, this forms the heartland of the resistance, is where Sadaam is from and includes cities in the news such as Fallujah, Ramadi and Samara.
Kurdistan - this is not a state rather the area occupied by Kurds which covers contiguous territory in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and even the former Soviet Union. The Kurds of northeast Iraq were repressed by Sadaam, were gassed by him in that famous incident, and have been protected by the no-fly zone instituted by the Allies after the first Gulf War overseen by George Herbert Bush. They sit on a lot of oil in the Kirkuk area and are stable and prospering under current conditions.
Turkmens - the smallest ethnic group, they are mostly in north central Iraq. Their roots go back to East Asia and a big swath of this Turkish speaking group to this day trails back to their homeland in the Turkmenstan area. Mosul, Arbil and Kirkuk are the main cities they inhabit in Iraq.
Nineveh, Babylon - Any of you that are historians, archaeologists, biblical scholars etc. will know the importance to the world of Mesapotamia. The Garden of Eden, the Exile of the Jews, the Hanging Gardens, all happened along the banks of the twin rivers Tigris Euphrates. The wanton destruction of present day Iraq is slowly blowing away our links with antiquity.
Source: inspired by an article in Time Magazine (sorry about that), December 12th, 2005.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


I met Helen almost a year ago to the day strictly by chance at Beijing airport. She has since graduated second in her year and been moved south by her new employer to Shenzhen, a long way away both physically and psychologically for this daughter of Beijing. I knew vaguely of the city by name but only now am I unmasking my ignorance. Helen has since moved on to Chang'sha but that is a story for another day.
Economic prosperity fuels the rivalry between Hong Kong and Mainland China. Shenzhen is the mainland place where two ideas come to-gether. It fuelled the vision of Deng Xiaoping as China moved away from its communist model. Shenzhen embodies the new national mantra "To get rich is glorious." In 1980 it was a fishing village of barely 25,000 inhabitants. Now it is eight million strong. The twin cities are merging into a megalopolis which is fast becoming ground zero for global economic activity. Within the decade it will be home to thirty million people. Despite underwriting much of the frenetic expansion, Hong Kong looks on with trepidation at its neighbour. The invasion from the mainland has something of "the barbarians at the gates" ring to it. Shenzhen for all its growth will always convey the symbol of cheap knock-offs, big box stores and pirated software compared to the brand name sophistication of its Kowloon partner. Although many international business people head directly there now, by-passing Hong Kong, there is no doubt Shenzhen is also amassing the pollution, the poor and the tired masses also so much the scene in the uneven expansion of the People's Republic. Undoubtedly one part of the globe to keep tabs on.
Source: article by Don Gillmor, The Walrus, March 2006.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Country Songs I've Yet to Record

Someday you have to believe these lyrics will be known to countless fans, notwithstanding John Fogerty from Creedence who believes Someday Never Comes.

1. I Gotta Tell Ya, Sweetness, The Only Thing Holding Us To-gether Is The Gum You Spat At Me Last Week
2. If The Phone Don't Ring Then You'll Know It's Me
3. My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend And I Sure Do Miss Him
4. It'll Be A Little Sticky Honey The Day I Tell You I Can't Breed
5. Mama Get The Hammer There's A Fly On Papa's Head
6. If I'd Shot You When I Wanted To I'd Be Out By Now
7. How Can I Miss You If You Refuse To Go Away?
8. I'm So Miserable Without You It's Liking Having You Here
9. I'll Know For Sure You Are Gone, Pussycat, When I Don't Smell The Cat Pee No More!
10. Get Your Tongue Outta My Mouth 'Cos I'm Kissing You Goodbye!

Source: Mark, me and anyone else who can contibute a song to make the Top Ten

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Decline of the American Dream

Europe has become a giant laboratory for rethinking humanity's future. In many respects, the European Dream is the mirror opposite of the American Dream.
"The American Dream puts the emphasis on economic growth, personal wealth, and independence. The new European Dream focuses more on sustainable development, quality of life, and interdependence. The American Dream pays homage to the work ethic. The European Dream is more attuned to leisure and deep play. The American Dream is inseparable from the country's religious heritage and deep spiritual faith. The European Dream is secular to the core. The American Dream is assimilationist. We associate sucess with shedding our former cultural ties and becoming free agents in the great American melting pot. The European Dream, by contrast, is based on preserving one's cultural identity and living in a multicultural world...... Americans are more willing to employ military force in the world, if necessary, to protect what we perceive to be our vital self-interests. Europeans are more reluctant to use military force and, instead, favor diplomacy, economic assistance, and aid to avert conflict......America is even envied, but it is no longer admired as it once was. The American Dream, once so coveted, has increasingly become an object of derision. Our way of life no longer inspires.... "
Source; Jeremy Rifkin, The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream

Spring Breakup - not quite as tearful a scene though as chez Aniston and Pitt last Spring Posted by Picasa

Almost makes you want to live in a cold country! Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 13, 2006


As Iraq descends into further chaos here are insights into what has led to the quagmire based on Jacob Weisberg's review of the book America at the Crossroads by Francis Fukuyama ; "While he remains sympathetic to the democracy-spreading mission, Fukuyama castigates the unilateral and militaristic turns that gave us such concepts as preventive war, benevolent hegemony, and regime change. Neoconservatives, he contends, have abandoned their fundamental political insight, namely that ambitious schemes to remake societies are doomed to disappointment, failure and unintended consequences (ed's. note aka Blowback). "Opposition to utopian social engineering," Fukuyama writes, " the most enduring thread running through the movement." Yet neconservatives to-day are bogged down in an attempt to remake a poorly understood, catastrophically damaged, and deeply alien semi-country in the Middle East. How did these smart people stray? The reviewer traces steps from the Vietnam War of the 1970s up to 1989 and the fall of the Iron Curtain which highlight the "tragic flaw," hamartia, made famous in many Greek dramas. His answer is that neocons have basically remained on the sidelines as the question of how government-led democratic transitions are accomplished. The concrete mechanics of how the United States would promote either democratic institutions or economic development were not debated. People that should have known better came to believe that one place is like another, and that historic inevitability would do the heavy lifting for them." Source: National Post, Wednesday March 8th, 2006

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Tower of London

The hero of the Dicken's novel Martin Chuzzlewit crosses the ocean to America to seek his fortune. Unwittingly on the rough pioneer frontier he finds himself fenagled into buying a desolate, festering swamp, not the rich pioneer land he was lead to believe would make his fortune. Just prior to his depressing discovery he encounters on the train a certain General Choke who estolls the virtues of the New World and capitalism as practiced by land agents. After insisting (wrongly of course) that Queen Victoria was living in the Tower of London, the General addresses his British acquaintance thus; "Well, you come from an old country: from a country, sir, which has piled up golden calves as high as Babel, and worshipped 'em for ages. We are a new country, sir; man is in a more primeval state here, sir; we have not the excuse of having lapsed in the slow course of time into degenerate practices; we have no false gods; man, sir, here, is man in all his dignity. We fought for that or nothing."
The General was in fact part of the fraud, ignorant of the world, proud of America having fought Britain and not about to admit any national flaws. Was this 1840s novel precient of the U S of A government in 2006 or what?

Wrong Club

"Weir must have used one iron too many lobbing that one in, Jim!" was the commentator's observation. No, this was not at the Doral Blue Monster, Miami, with Mike Weir approaching the eighteenth green as any golf fan might suppose. Rather it was a sarcastic comment on David Weir, Everton's fullback, sailing an apparent cross for his teammates way over the crossbar as his team pressed to score a goal in the dying minutes of an English League Premiership match. If I could chip in my two bits - wrong club suggests a transfer is in order.

The Clash of Civilizations

The fundamental source of conflict in the emerging world of politics will not be primarily economic or ideological, rather cultural. The fault lines of civilizations will be the battle lines of the future. There are seven or eight major civilizations including Western, Confucian (Chinese), Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and possibly African. China is a civilization pretending to be a state.
Source: Samuel P. Huntington, Council on Foreign Relations Inc., 1993