Sunday, April 30, 2006

Galileo: An Alternate GPS

In December Europe launched the first of thirty so called Galileo satellites from Kazakhstan. This new system, set to be fully in place by 2010, will compete with, indeed improve upon, the current Global Positioning System (GPS), public version, provided free by the U.S. military, which is good for locating objects on the earth's surface to a distance of about 10 metres. Galileo will allow navigation capabilities to be enhanced and location accuracy will jump to within a metre. The probability anywhere on earth of receiving four satellite signals simultaneously, necessary for accuracy, should now surpass 90%. Orbit is 23,200 km above the earth.
Source; The Times, London, Thursday, December 29th, 2005.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Greening the Harper Government

Below is the edited letter I wrote to the Ottawa Citizen which they published on Wednesday, April 26th, 2006.

"Kudos to the Ottawa International Writers Festival for bringing in such reputable authors on Earth Day. In particular, Australian scientist Tim Flannery, who spoke convincingly on the subject of climate change. To Earth watchers, Arctic ice-melt, devastating forest fires, record hurricane seasons and Alberta tarsands pollution make for a bleak future. While Nero fiddles Rome burns.

Mr. Flannery gives us hope, however, by explaining that as oil reaches $75 a barrel it creates a double edged sword. On the one hand is a pocketbook issue, but more importantly it allows alternative energies their day in the sun because they are competitive. Biofuels and cellulose-based technologies offer a way to absorb carbon dioxide, the most damaging greenhouse gas, and yet give a huge boost to our farmers. The $65 billion the U.S. spends on fossil fuels each year could be going to sustainable agriculture which, according to Mr. Flannery, is even more effective than a hydrogen economy.

Brian Mulroney has urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to green his government policies. What a way for Harper to get re-elected. He should rethink the shortsighted tarsands mania but boost farming across the nation. It sounds like a savvy approach. And I don’t even vote blue."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Pacific Gateway

Through the Pacific Gateway Strategy, investments in multimodal transportation — air, roadways, ports and rail — as well as in human resources, will ensure that Canada is the first choice where economies meet to do business with the world's fastest growing markets. At the same time as this new srategy comes into play Canada is apparently negotiating secret agreements with China and India behind the scenes. Virtually no public debate. Shades of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) of the late eighties. Remember Maude Barlow and the fight to counter that secretive world economic strategy? Here is a quote;
"For instance, granting national treatment and most favoured nation status to foreign investors eliminates the ability of any level of government to prefer local businesses over foreign investors.....Foreign investors who believe their rights have been violated through the use of performance requirements or some other violation, are authorized by the MAI to directly sue the government. For example, if company land was expropriated or standards to protect Canadian citizens were imposed that negatively affected corporate sales, a law suit could be launched for millions of dollars in damages." In that case multinationals were seen to be making incursions into the ability of national governments to legislate as they saw fit. Now it may be China and India will dictate to Canada regulations and policies in fields such as banking, telecommunications, public utilities, natural resources and the environment. Here we go again.
Sources: Luke Eric Peterson, Embassy, April 12th, 2006 and Major Issues, Transport Canada website.

Red Star Rogue

Red Star Rogue, the title of a new book to hit the shelves. Apparently in 1968 we, the world, could have been in a cataclysmic war which according to the authors would have resulted from a nuclear strike against Pearl Harbour. Deja vu all over again. The book documents how the Russians attempted a missile launch from a submarine in American waters off Hawaii but the attempt failed and the sub sank in the process. Not only that but they tried to fake it as if the strike had come from the Chinese. The intent was to pit the USA against China at the height of the Cold War with consequences we can only surmise. The submarine was of the Golf design whose line was built in Darien, Liaoning Province (former Port Arthur), northeast China. The naval base is just up the road from where I laid my head for three nights last summer. Guide book had suggested any wayward tourist headed that direction might be on a one way trip! Incidentally the USA recovered the sunken sub at a cost of $500 million. That could buy a lot of baking powder which is what Kelloggs recommends to float subs (ask any six-year-old boy).

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Prince Harry graduated from Sandhurst last week. Already, you say? They can't learn much more than how to chew gum in the British Forces if you ask me. Camilla got a peck on the cheek from him for her trouble to attend. Turns out young Butcher boy graduated at the same ceremony. Never heard of him? Well neither had I but he is the son of Terry Butcher, coach of that blue blooded outfit Motherwell Football Club. Good on you Terry lad, I see you showed up that day too, leaving your Motherwell charges to run riot at Fir Park in your absence. The football wisdom you didn't impart in training that day is in all likelihood the reason for the subsequent defeat. But the question of the day is did Camilla get a big smoochie from you too?

Lord Stanley of Preston

The oldest trophy in north american professional sports is in London, England, to-day revisiting the store, sorry, shop, on Regent Street where Lord Stanley purchased it by forking over the equivalent of a mere $50. On an annual basis the worst player in the National Hockey League earns about ten times what our prime minister does. But of course the world is unfolding as it should and of the four Canadian entries left in the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring the politicians, the Ottawa Senators, are tipped to go furthest, maybe to the point of bringing home the silverware. It is 1927 since last Ottawa won. Meanwhile the Toronto Maple Leafs fired their coach to-day because the buds failed to qualify for the post season. So Ottawa is spared being eliminated in the first round by them, as has happened more than once dammit in the recent past. Since you were asking, the last time Toronto won the Stanley Cup was the year Elvis went on his honeymoon (1967). Ottawa of course did not exist for 60 years or so since last they won but what is the Toronto excuse? Some of their fans may wish they hadn't existed many a year.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Trinidad, Cuba. UNESCO World Heritage Site Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sign on the Dotted Line

When does the signature on and ratification of an international treaty really mean anything? When does a President really speak for a nation? As our new Conservative Government in Canada shapes foreign policy and makes its way in the world it might do well to consider this when dealing with the elephant to the south. Under George W. the USA has thumbed its nose at the following;
The Geneva Convention, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, The Kyoto Protocol, NAFTA, the anti-land mine convention, attempts to control the traffic in small arms, The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the treaty banning biological weapons, the International Criminal Court. Iraq is deemed more important than the humanitarian disasters of the Congo and Darfur, despite the recent experience of Rwanda. "Preventitive War," or the first strike principle, rules at the expense of dialogue and consensus. The New World Order is a very dangerous place and Canada should be very cautious about rapprochement with US foreign policy.
Source; Lawrence Martin, the Globe and Mail, March 23rd, 2006.

Friday, April 07, 2006

General Progress Indicator (GPI)

Western society is oriented around short term gain and borrowing against the future. Rather than using the inadequate measure of GDP or GNP to point to success, we should embrace a much more comprehensive evaluation such as the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) to determine the state of human welfare. Unlike GDP and GNP, the GPI would not be a calculator that can add but not subtract. GPI would offset positives with the countless negative activities mankind undertakes. Forty years ago the late Senator Robert Kennedy had this to say;

"The Gross National Product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes and the ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. GNP includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads…it does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and of the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, or the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials…it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile."
Source; Jeremy Rifkin, The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Baby Boomers

The first of the Baby Boomers turn sixty this year (1946-2006). Was the generation that preceded it the Greatest Generation? After all from our perspective in North America it engineered the rebound from the Dirty Thirties, fought and beat back the tyranny of Fascism in the Second World War, sent Man to the Moon and generated untold personal wealth. On the other hand Baby Boomers have promoted great progress in civil rights, civil society and overseen the transition from an industrial society to a technological one. Meanwhile Generation X and Y have come along to be faced with climate change and indebtedness. And what of the Millenials (new term to me too!)? What do they think of their inheritance and the politics of the day?

Source: The Current, CBC Radio, April 4th, 2006.