Sunday 22 November 2009

just trying to keep my head above water

(and I can't say I am succeeding ...)
Up, Down.

callous magotty scumbag Canadian bureaucrats & politicians, just letting the torture in Afghanistan go by ... I haven't got that much to add, there is already excellent coverage at the Contrarian blog by Parker Donham, in particular, he has posted the transcript of last Wednesday's proceedings at the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan, there is nothing like going to the source

I was caught by Rick Salutin's rant, and some of my questions (what kind of accent is that? is he gay?) were answered in Sonia Verma's profile, what is left for me then is to wonder about these people who let this torture go on? and my wonderment takes the form of trying to see what they look like, this is silly I know, Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil has already covered the ground, these people are not exactly monsters but they have done evil and they are 'off' - like sour milk, my curiosity may be nothing more than what they used to call 'prurient interest' exploited so well by internet purveyors of pornography, but there it is and here they are:
Arif Lalani, former Ambassador to AfghanistanArif Lalani, former Ambassador to AfghanistanArif Lalani, former Ambassador to AfghanistanArif Lalani, former Ambassador to AfghanistanArif Lalani, former Ambassador to AfghanistanArif Lalani, former Ambassador to AfghanistanCheryl Gallant, Conservative MP Renfrew-Nipissing-PembrokeCheryl Gallant, Conservative MP Renfrew-Nipissing-PembrokeCheryl Gallant, Conservative MP Renfrew-Nipissing-PembrokeCheryl Gallant, Conservative MP Renfrew-Nipissing-PembrokeColleen Swords, Assistant Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International TradeDavid Mulroney, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Afghanistan Task Force, now Ambassador to ChinaDavid Mulroney, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Afghanistan Task Force, now Ambassador to ChinaDavid Mulroney, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Afghanistan Task Force, now Ambassador to ChinaDavid Mulroney, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Afghanistan Task Force, now Ambassador to ChinaDavid Mulroney, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Afghanistan Task Force, now Ambassador to ChinaDavid Mulroney, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Afghanistan Task Force, now Ambassador to ChinaLieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, Commander Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM)Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, Commander Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) with David FraserLieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, Commander Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM)Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, Commander Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) with Gordon+O'ConnorGordon O'Connor, former Minister of DefenceGordon O'Connor, former Minister of DefenceGordon O'Connor, former Minister of DefenceGordon O'Connor, former Minister of DefenceGordon O'Connor, former Minister of DefenceGordon O'Connor, former Minister of DefenceJim Abbott, Conservative MP Kootenay-Columbia, formerly Reform PartyJim Abbott, Conservative MP Kootenay-Columbia, formerly Reform PartyLaurie Hawn, Conservative MP Edmonton Centre, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National DefenceLaurie Hawn, Conservative MP Edmonton Centre, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National DefenceLaurie Hawn, Conservative MP Edmonton Centre, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National DefenceLaurie Hawn, Conservative MP Edmonton Centre, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National DefenceLaurie Hawn, Conservative MP Edmonton Centre, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National DefenceLaurie Hawn, Conservative MP Edmonton Centre, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, with Cheryl GallantLawrence Cannon, Conservative MP Pontiac, Minister of Foreign AffairsLawrence Cannon, Conservative MP Pontiac, Minister of Foreign AffairsMargaret Bloodworth, National Security AdvisorMargaret Bloodworth, National Security AdvisorMargaret Bloodworth, National Security AdvisorPeter Goldring, Conservative MP Edmonton EastPeter Goldring, Conservative MP Edmonton EastPeter Goldring, Conservative MP Edmonton EastPeter MacKay, Minister of National DefencePeter MacKay, Minister of National DefencePeter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, with Gordon O'ConnorRick Hillier, former Chief of Defence StaffRick Hillier, former Chief of Defence StaffRick Hillier, former Chief of Defence Staff
as I was cropping these to make thumbnails I kept thinking, "a narrow fellow in the grass" ... and wondered who it was that brought the phrase 'pathological personality' to my attention - I think it was Kurt Vonnegut in Man Without A Country, I will check later if I remember, it's very like the situation around the RCMP & the murder of Robert Dziekanski - if they would just admit that they were wrong (and worse than wrong, callous & uncaring), ask for forgiveness, and display some credible change in their behaviour then at least we could respect them to some degree, as it is they are a shameful disgrace

their mission: "This mission is about Canadians and their international partners helping Afghans rebuild their lives, their families, their communities and their nation," what low-life hypocrites!

and here are some pictures of Richard Colvin, not quite so narrow:
Richard ColvinRichard ColvinRichard ColvinRichard ColvinRichard ColvinRichard ColvinRichard ColvinRichard ColvinRichard Colvin
at the moment there are numerous video links, conveying so clearly the qualities of Laurie Hawn & Peter MacKay, and of course Richard Colvin's remarkable accent (there are links to some of the best of these on Parker Donham's Contrarian blog but the links will break and disappear shortly and there is no easy way to preserve them like there is for text, things on YouTube tend to stick around for a while but the CBC clips have not shown up there and I don't know how to do it myself ... so, that's that, except maybe to say that whatever the personal reasons for Colvin's revelations may have been: boredom, chagrin, just wanting to spend quality time with his friend Lori ... there is also integrity, gumption, and courage in the man, God bless him.

and then there are the Canadian climate change deniers ... but a day before that I came across the Spiegel article below, and even though a glance at the graph shows temperatures well above 1950 regardless of the current dip the article is disturbing and I wonder why that is? obviously the debate has taken on emotional and psychological aspects, this is evident too in the comment responses to the two attached Globe articles: Canadians chagrined over status as climate-change dawdlers, & Ad campaign takes aim at climate change

I am compiling the comments and will post them later ... in the end there were over 1,000 comments but it was hijacked by Yahoos, the Houyhnhnms had the day but in the end it was mostly just boring moronic dreck ... hardly worth putting real work into, sad, in the process however I read Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism, and a bit of Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

got some friendly help from Real Climate on how to dispel the cooling myth see below: AP Impact: Statisticians reject global cooling; or a more detailed analysis at A warming pause?

and an editorial from NYT on Climate in the Senate

but the best thing to happen today was revisiting Metropolitain United Church, I was there in March and didn't go back, today he was talking about Kierkegaard so later on I sent him the clown essay by Boff, no telling what might come out of it? it was like this, as I was going there on the streetcar so deep in need I could hardly walk I was thinking, "What can I do for them?" and when the music played I was overcome and wept so I could not sing ...

Standing next to me in this lonely crowd,
There's a man who swears he's not to blame.
All day long I hear him cryin' out so loud,
Crying out that he's been framed.

     Bob Dylan, I Shall Be Released, with Norah Jones on YouTube.

O love, how deep, how broad, how high,
it fills the heart with ecstasy,
that God, the Son of God, should take
our mortal form for mortals' sake!

He sent no angel to our race
of higher or of lower place,
but wore the robe of human frame
himself, and to this lost world came.

For us baptized, for us he bore
his holy fast and hungered sore,
for us temptation sharp he knew;
for us the tempter overthrew.

For us he prayed; for us he taught;
for us his daily works he wrought;
by words and signs and actions thus
still seeking not himself, but us.

For us to wicked men betrayed,
scourged, mocked, in purple robe arrayed,
he bore the shameful cross and death,
for us at length gave up his breath.

For us he rose from death again;
for us he went on high to reign;
for us he sent his Spirit here,
to guide, to strengthen and to cheer.

To whom whose boundless love has won
salvation for us through his Son,
to God the Father, glory be
both now and through eternity.

     Puer nobis nascitur, who can say anymore?
     people tinker with the words ... this looks right but I could be wrong :-)

the sermon was about trust ... and other things too, but trust is what I remember today ... a rhetorical question and a rhetorical answer rooted in ideology, and then I came across Bob singing Trust Yourself ... no need to post the lyrics, here they are courtesy of Sony (choke on the word 'Sony'), oh well ...

1. Der Spiegel, Stagnating Temperatures:
1-1. Part 1: Climatologists Baffled by Global Warming Time-Out, Gerald Traufetter, Nov 19. 2009.
1-2. Part 2: The Difficulties of Predicting the Climate.
1-3. Canadians chagrined over status as climate-change dawdlers, Martin Mittelstaedt, Nov. 21 2009.
1-4. comments
1-5. Ad campaign takes aim at climate change, Martin Mittelstaedt, Nov. 17 2009.
1-6. AP Impact: Statisticians reject global cooling, Seth Borenstein, Oct. 16 2009.
1-7. The Senate’s Duty on Climate, NYT Editorial, Nov 21. 2009.

2-1. Our own little Abu Ghraib?, Rick Salutin, Nov. 19 2009.
2-2. Once the invisible man, now the centre of attention, Sonia Verma, Nov. 20 2009.
2-3. A Narrow Fellow in the Grass, Emily Dickinson, 1865.

Part 1: Climatologists Baffled by Global Warming Time-Out, Gerald Traufetter, Nov 19. 2009.

Stagnating TemperaturesGlobal warming appears to have stalled. Climatologists are puzzled as to why average global temperatures have stopped rising over the last 10 years. Some attribute the trend to a lack of sunspots, while others explain it through ocean currents.

At least the weather in Copenhagen is likely to be cooperating. The Danish Meteorological Institute predicts that temperatures in December, when the city will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, will be one degree above the long-term average.

Otherwise, however, not much is happening with global warming at the moment. The Earth's average temperatures have stopped climbing since the beginning of the millennium, and it even looks as though global warming could come to a standstill this year.

Ironically, climate change appears to have stalled in the run-up to the upcoming world summit in the Danish capital, where thousands of politicians, bureaucrats, scientists, business leaders and environmental activists plan to negotiate a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Billions of euros are at stake in the negotiations.

Reached a Plateau

The planet's temperature curve rose sharply for almost 30 years, as global temperatures increased by an average of 0.7 degrees Celsius (1.25 degrees Fahrenheit) from the 1970s to the late 1990s. "At present, however, the warming is taking a break," confirms meteorologist Mojib Latif of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in the northern German city of Kiel. Latif, one of Germany's best-known climatologists, says that the temperature curve has reached a plateau. "There can be no argument about that," he says. "We have to face that fact."

Even though the temperature standstill probably has no effect on the long-term warming trend, it does raise doubts about the predictive value of climate models, and it is also a political issue. For months, climate change skeptics have been gloating over the findings on their Internet forums. This has prompted many a climatologist to treat the temperature data in public with a sense of shame, thereby damaging their own credibility.

"It cannot be denied that this is one of the hottest issues in the scientific community," says Jochem Marotzke, director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg. "We don't really know why this stagnation is taking place at this point."

Just a few weeks ago, Britain's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research added more fuel to the fire with its latest calculations of global average temperatures. According to the Hadley figures, the world grew warmer by 0.07 degrees Celsius from 1999 to 2008 and not by the 0.2 degrees Celsius assumed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And, say the British experts, when their figure is adjusted for two naturally occurring climate phenomena, El Niño and La Niña, the resulting temperature trend is reduced to 0.0 degrees Celsius -- in other words, a standstill.

The differences among individual regions of the world are considerable. In the Arctic, for example, temperatures rose by almost three degrees Celsius, which led to a dramatic melting of sea ice. At the same time, temperatures declined in large areas of North America, the western Pacific and the Arabian Peninsula. Europe, including Germany, remains slightly in positive warming territory.

Mixed Messages

But a few scientists simply refuse to believe the British calculations. "Warming has continued in the last few years," says Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). However, Rahmstorf is more or less alone in his view. Hamburg Max Planck Institute scientist Jochem Marotzke, on the other hand, says: "I hardly know any colleagues who would deny that it hasn't gotten warmer in recent years."

The controversy sends confusing and mixed messages to the lay public. Why is there such a vigorous debate over climate change, even though it isn't getting warmer at the moment? And how can it be that scientists cannot even arrive at a consensus on changes in temperatures, even though temperatures are constantly being measured?

The global temperature-monitoring network consists of 517 weather stations. But each reading is only a tiny dot on the big world map, and it has to be extrapolated to the entire region with the help of supercomputers. Besides, there are still many blind spots, the largest being the Arctic, where there are only about 20 measuring stations to cover a vast area. Climatologists refer to the problem as the "Arctic hole."

The scientists at the Hadley Center simply used the global average value for the hole, ignoring the fact that it has become significantly warmer in the Arctic, says Rahmstorf. But a NASA team from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, which does make the kinds of adjustments for the Arctic data that Rahmstorf believes are necessary, arrives at a flat temperature curve for the last five years that is similar to that of their British colleagues.

Marotzke and Leibniz Institute meteorologist Mojib Latif are even convinced that the fuzzy computing done by Rahmstorf is counterproductive. "We have to explain to the public that greenhouse gases will not cause temperatures to keep rising from one record temperature to the next, but that they are still subject to natural fluctuations," says Latif. For this reason, he adds, it is dangerous to cite individual weather-related occurrences, such as a drought in Mali or a hurricane, as proof positive that climate change is already fully underway.

"Perhaps we suggested too strongly in the past that the development will continue going up along a simple, straight line. In reality, phases of stagnation or even cooling are completely normal," says Latif.

Part 2: The Difficulties of Predicting the Climate, Gerald Traufetter, Nov 19. 2009.

Climatologists use their computer models to draw temperature curves that continue well into the future. They predict that the average global temperature will increase by about three degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, unless humanity manages to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, no one really knows what exactly the world climate will look like in the not-so-distant future, that is, in 2015, 2030 or 2050.

This is because it is not just human influence but natural factors that affect the Earth's climate. For instance, currents in the world's oceans are subject to certain cycles, as is solar activity. Major volcanic eruptions can also curb rising temperatures in the medium term. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991, for example, caused world temperatures to drop by an average of 0.5 degrees Celsius, thereby prolonging a cooler climate phase that had begun in the late 1980s.

But the Mount Pinatubo eruption happened too long ago to be related to the current slowdown in global warming. So what is behind this more recent phenomenon?

Weaker Solar Activity

The fact is that the sun is weakening slightly. Its radiation activity is currently at a minimum, as evidenced by the small number of sunspots on its surface. According to calculations performed by a group of NASA scientists led by David Rind, which were recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, this reduced solar activity is the most important cause of stagnating global warming.

Latif, on the other hand, attributes the stagnation to so-called Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO). This phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean allows a larger volume of cold deep-sea water to rise to the surface at the equator. According to Latif, this has a significant cooling effect on the Earth's atmosphere.

With his team at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences, Latif has been one of the first to develop a model to create medium-term prognoses for the next five to 10 years. "We are slowly starting to attempt (such models)," says Marotzke, who is also launching a major project in this area, funded by the Federal Ministry for Research and Technology.

Despite their current findings, scientists agree that temperatures will continue to rise in the long term. The big question is: When will it start getting warmer again?

If the deep waters of the Pacific are, in fact, the most important factor holding up global warming, climate change will remain at a standstill until the middle of the next decade, says Latif. But if the cooling trend is the result of reduced solar activity, things could start getting warmer again much sooner. Based on past experience, solar activity will likely increase again in the next few years.

Betting on Warmer Temperatures

The Hadley Center group expects warming to resume in the coming years. "That resumption could come as a bit of a jolt," says Hadley climatologist Adam Scaife, explaining that natural cyclical warming would then be augmented by the warming effect caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

While climatologists at conferences engage in passionate debates over when temperatures will start rising again, global warming's next steps have also become the subject of betting activity.

Climatologist Stefan Rahmstorf is so convinced that his predictions will be correct in the end that he is willing to back up his conviction with a €2,500 ($3,700) bet. "I will win," says Rahmstorf.

His adversary Latif turned down the bet, saying that the matter was too serious for gambling. "We are scientists, not poker players."

Canadians chagrined over status as climate-change dawdlers, Martin Mittelstaedt, Nov. 21 2009.
Initially titled "Canadians find shame in status as climate-change dawdlers"

Poll finds three quarters are embarrassed that country hasn't taken international lead on cutting greenhouse gases

On the eve of major UN climate change talks next month in Copenhagen, a major survey of Canadians has found that more than three quarters of the public feel embarrassed that the country hasn't been taking a leadership role on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

The view that Canada is an international laggard when it comes to dealing with emissions blamed for global warming was felt across the country, even in oil-rich Alberta, the province that would likely bear the highest financial costs of complying with any rules to reduce the burning of fossil fuels.

The survey was compiled by Hoggan & Associates, a Vancouver-based public-relations firm that was researching Canadian attitudes toward the environment and sustainable development for a number of major corporations and other entities, including BC Hydro, Desjardins Group, Alcoa, and the David Suzuki Foundation. It is to be released next week.

Although Canadians say they are concerned about the environment, the survey found it ranked as the No. 3 issue after the state of the economy and health care.

But Hoggan also did a second survey of a group of about 1,000 people it termed “thought leaders,” or top members of business, universities, government and the media, and found that for these people, the environment was the most important issue, followed by the economy. The tracking of elite opinion was done because it often foreshadows views that eventually spread to the general public.

The finding that most Canadians are dismayed over the country's record on climate change is a message to federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice and the Conservative government, says Jim Hoggan, president of Hoggan & Associates.

Even in Alberta, 65 per cent of respondents agreed with a statement that “it's embarrassing that we are not doing more to curb emissions.” Support for the view favouring more action was highest in Quebec, at 86 per cent.

“I think they underestimate the levels of people's concerns about our international responsibility,” he said in an interview.

Mr. Hoggan, who is also chair of the Suzuki Foundation, said the Conservatives have been out of step with public sentiment on climate change virtually from the moment they took office in 2006. In his opinion, this represents a potential vulnerability for the government.

Early on, the Conservatives repudiated the Kyoto Protocol, the current international agreement on controlling greenhouse-gas emissions, to which Canada is a signatory. And rather than develop an independent Canadian position on combatting global warming, Mr. Prentice has said he wants to tailor domestic action on emissions to policies developed in the U.S. by the Obama administration.

“I still kind of scratch my head and wonder why the Conservatives don't have a strong sustainability platform, because I think they'd get a majority hands down and they won't have this issue” working against them, Mr. Hoggan said.

Even though the economy is in the doldrums, a substantial majority said that in tough times governments and business need to make a “top priority” of both economic and environmental issues, such as climate change. That view was held by 67 per cent, compared to the 33 per cent who felt that during a slump, the best course would be to fix the economy first.

“People, they don't buy this old argument that we have to take care of jobs now and once we have the prosperity, we can take care of the environment,” he said.

The polling also found an overwhelming majority of the public shares the assessment of the scientific community that global warming is a major threat to the planet. A total of 72 per cent thought the impacts of climate change “are going to be very serious,” compared to 28 per cent who agreed with the statement that such concerns “are exaggerated.”

There was also strong support for the view that “most scientists agree that human activity is the primary cause of climate change,” a position held by 62 per cent of the public, compared to the 38 per cent who felt there was “still much debate” among researchers.

The survey also found a great deal of public skepticism about corporate environmental claims, with 83 per cent believing that most company pronouncements on their sustainability claims “are more for public-relations purposes than actual results.” Only 17 per cent thought companies that talk about sustainability “are truly committed to achieving results.”

The survey was conducted on line in April and involved 4,368 Canadians. The company hadn't released the details earlier to allow the businesses that purchased the information to use it before it was divulged publicly, according to Mr. Hoggan.

The top issues Canadians said need to addressed, according to the general public surveyed:
Health care22
Crime, drugs3

The top issues Canada needs to address, according to elite decision makers:
Health care10
Infrastructure, transit4
Governance, leadership2

Compiled by Hoggan& Associates.

Our own little Abu Ghraib?, Rick Salutin, Nov. 19 2009.

It's one more proof, a uniquely Canadian one, that the war on terror has become the chief incubator of terror

The nauseating component in current claims and reactions about Canada's role in turning Afghan detainees over for torture does not lie in the betrayal of some mythic Canadian role as an idealistic actor on the world stage – as opposition questions implied in the House of Commons yesterday. We have always played an ambiguous, often duplicitous, role in international conflict. It began with our original peacekeeping foray at Suez in Lester Pearson's days, and continued in Vietnam, Haiti and now Afghanistan. Foreign policy equals deceit.

It doesn't lie in the Conservative refusal to call an inquiry. They simply learned from Jean Chrétien, who shut one down (on Somalia) and stonewalled others.

Nor does it lie in the odd absence from the debate of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, Mr. Human Rights. It's true his own writing on torture led to charges he was ready to accept versions of it, and he might like to avoid the predictable Tory gibes. But in that case, he may as well resign altogether.

Nor is the disgust due mainly to Defence Minister Peter MacKay's loutish claims that critics were accepting the word of “the Taliban,” by which he seems to mean prisoners turned over. The sorest point in allegations by Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin isn't that “bad guys” were sent for torture but that a lot “were picked up … during routine military operations, and on the basis typically not of intelligence [reports] but suspicion or unproven denunciation. … Many were just local people: farmers; truck drivers; tailors, peasants – random human beings in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The truly sickening part is that it provides one more proof, a uniquely Canadian one, that the war on terror has become the chief incubator of terror, and recruitment for it, post-9/11.

In this respect, it isn't crucial what is proven about Richard Colvin's accusations, though it's hard to imagine what reason he had for lying about any of it, especially his attempts to convey the truth and being told to shut up. The story is out there: A Canadian official says our soldiers handed over Afghans, innocent or not, for what they knew would be torture. It's like painting a fresh bull's eye on the backs of our troops, in addition to the ones already on them. Whatever good may have been accomplished by helping to build a school or road is counteracted. To the extent the charges are true, innocent people who have been tortured get out with a new grudge against Canadians, and pass that on to their families and communities.

The damage doesn't end there. These stories spread globally and spur reactions. The obvious comparison is Fort Hood. As Patrick Cockburn wrote, “Interrogation of would-be suicide bombers captured before they could blow themselves up reveals that their prime motive since 9/11 has been opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was evidently the motive of Major Nidal Malik Hasan.” The strategic intent of al-Qaeda was explicitly to cause these Western responses, and the backlash to them in the Muslim world. It is the Abu Ghraib effect, but now it has the imprint of a Maple Leaf.

By attacking and occupying two Muslim countries instead of selectively pursuing a small band of terrorists, decision-makers caused great, mounting danger to their own people, as well as devastating two societies. They must have known these would be the results. I have never been able to believe they didn't realize it. They went ahead because the gains to be made outweighed in their minds the costs.

In the case of the United States, the gains might have been in terms of oil, as well as ideology. In the case of Canada, the stakes may be pettier: to curry favour with the U.S. or rebuild what was seen as a wrecked military.

Who really cares? It ought to have been foreseen and probably was. No good could come of this war.

Once the invisible man, now the centre of attention, Sonia Verma, Nov. 20 2009.

Afghanistan whistleblower Richard Colvin's career and ‘undramatic' style belie the maverick image some are using to portray him

Strangers stop him on the street to shake his hand. Yesterday, the man who delivered the mail to his hotel room called him a hero.

But before Richard Colvin emerged as the high-profile whistleblower in Canada's detainee hearings – a label his friends say makes him uncomfortable – the British-born diplomat spent most of his career on the sidelines.

“Richard is a beta, not an alpha. He doesn't seek out the spotlight. He's never the guy you would notice in the room,” said one long-time associate, who requested anonymity to speak frankly.

Mr. Colvin declined to be interviewed for a profile. However, his supporters sought to paint a portrait of him as a dedicated civil servant who is driven, but not necessarily personally ambitious.

On paper, his 15-year-long career seems almost haphazard. His postings have taken him to some of the more troubled corners of the world – including Gaza and Sri Lanka.

There have, however, been long pauses. He dabbled in journalism after he failed his first foreign-service exam, and traded fieldwork in Ramallah for a desk job in Calgary to be closer to a woman he was dating, Lori Bokenfohr, now serving as one of his lawyers.

By most accounts, Mr. Colvin never courted controversy. Asked what stood out about him, one former colleague replied: “His meticulous note-taking abilities.”

Michael Semple, a former European Union official who served in Afghanistan at the same time as Mr. Colvin, said: “He is the opposite of flamboyant, which is why I am flabbergasted that he's being painted as a maverick. He's undramatic, decent, a good, solid person.”

However, others suggested Mr. Colvin's time in Afghanistan, where he was a senior Foreign Affairs staffer for seventeen months, somehow changed him. One source suggested Mr. Colvin had “some private axe to grind” and felt other, less qualified people had leap-frogged over him in the foreign service.

Mr. Colvin, now 40, was born in a village near Coventry and lived there until the age of 16, when his family moved to Canada, settling near Waterdown, Ont. His father was a marketing executive for Massey Ferguson, a farm equipment manufacturer.

Mr. Colvin attended high school in Waterdown. His dreams of one day becoming a diplomat were apparently inspired by an uncle, who served in Britain's foreign service.

Mr. Colvin studied international relations and Russian language at the University of Toronto, graduating with distinction.

He applied to join the foreign service straight out of school, but failed the exam, and subsequently moved to Moscow, landing a job with USSR Business Reports, a weekly newspaper where he worked for a year as a reporter.

He returned to Canada, completing a masters of journalism at the University of Western Ontario in 1994, and graduated at the top of his class, obtaining a gold medal in recognition of his achievement.

He still, however, nurtured dreams of a career with Canada's foreign service. He took the exam for a second time in 1992 and aced it, ranking first out of 7,000 applicants.

His friends say Mr. Colvin was drawn to troubled places because craved the “intensity” of such postings.

He worked in Sri Lanka, Moscow, Ottawa and the Palestinian territories, mainly for the Canadian government.

On more than one occasion, he took jobs that didn't necessarily advance his career, but kept him on the road. “He seemed happy as a mid-level guy. He's not a careerist,” one former colleague said.

He was married, briefly, to a Russian woman and took a job in Ottawa working on Canada-U.S. defence relations, a high-profile assignment in the wake of 9/11.

In 2002, he moved to Ramallah, where he served as head of a new political mission in the wake of Yasser Arafat's death.

His marriage failed, and he retuned to Canada in 2005, moving to Calgary to be closer to Ms. Bokenfohr, whom he had met in Moscow.

However, that relationship also floundered and Mr. Colvin was professionally bored, working on “long-range strategic planning” for foreign affairs.

He was on vacation in Whistler when he was offered a job in Afghanistan, a country he apparently knew nothing about.

Now, as he serves as deputy head of security and intelligence in Canada's Washington embassy, friends say he agreed to testify knowing it could be a career-ending move.

However, those close to him also say he is hoping the publicity surrounding the issue will shield him from reprisal.

He is said to be torn on whether he should remain in the foreign service, or “take some time off,” according to one friend. “I don't think he came to the decision to testify lightly. He knows full well the potential consequences of what he is doing,” she said.

Ad campaign takes aim at climate change, Martin Mittelstaedt, Nov. 17 2009.

Calgary-based group runs campaign claim the planet has actually been becoming cooler in the past 10 years

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail Published on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009 8:09PM EST Last updated on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009 2:47AM EST

Friends of Science, a Calgary-based non-profit group, is running a national radio advertising campaign mocking the whole idea of climate change that has mainstream environmental groups miffed.

The groups are claiming that funding for the anti-global warming effort is coming from the oil and gas industry.

James Hoggan, chair of the David Suzuki Foundation, lashed out Tuesday at Friends of Science in a speech in Toronto, calling it one of several “industry front groups” in North America that are trying to create uncertainty about the existence of climate change to undermine next month's United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen.

The ads, which claim the planet has actually been becoming cooler in the past 10 years, have been running this month in 15 cities, including Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary, according to the Friends of Science group.

A national campaign of this kind, if it featured 25 to 30 spots per day in each of the cities for its 30-second ads, would cost about $60,000 to $65,000 per week, according to an executive of an advertising agency, who did not want to be identified.

Mr. Hoggan said he tried to find out from the Friends of Science website where the money for the ads was coming from, but the group doesn't divulge its backers.

“They're not required in Canada … to declare who they represent,” Mr. Hoggan said after his speech. “If most Canadians knew that they represent the oil and gas industry or were heavily funded by the oil and gas industry” they would have a more objective view about the accuracy of the ads.

Friends of Science could not be reached through phone calls and e-mails seeking comment, but Marty Ball, wife of Tim Ball, an environmental consultant who is on its scientific advisory board, denied Mr. Hoggan's claims about oil industry funding. She accused environmentalists of launching a smear campaign against the group and people associated with it.

“He's not paid by the oil companies. He's never had anything from them and neither [have] the Friends of Science,” she said.

On its website, the group said it is run by volunteers, operates “on an extremely limited budget” and that it does “not represent any industry group.”

It says the purpose of its ads “is to demonstrate the futility of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They point out that global warming stopped about 10 years ago, and that the sun is the primary cause of climate change.” It called those concerned with warming “climate alarmists” and said there is “no evidence that man's emissions of greenhouse gases cause significant climate change.”

Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, a Toronto-based conservation advocacy group, contended that a national advertising campaign would be beyond the reach of any organization relying on small, individual donations.

“We're a shoe-string operation running on small donations and there is no way in hell that we can afford the kind of advertising campaign they're undertaking,” he said.

Environmental Defence, which is also a non-profit, reveals the names of those who give donations of more than $500 in its annual report.

Mr. Hoggan was speaking in Toronto at the Empire Club about a new book he has co-authored, Climate Cover-up, The Crusade to Deny Global Warming , about efforts by public relations companies and fossil fuel interests to create skepticism about the science of global warming.

A Narrow Fellow in the Grass, Emily Dickinson, 1865.

A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
You may have met him,--did you not,
His notice sudden is.

The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.

He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,

Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun,--
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.

Several of nature's people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality;

But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.

AP Impact: Statisticians reject global cooling, Seth Borenstein, Oct. 16 2009.

WASHINGTON — Have you heard that the world is now cooling instead of warming? You may have seen some news reports on the Internet or heard about it from a provocative new book.

Only one problem: It's not true, according to an analysis of the numbers done by several independent statisticians for The Associated Press.

The case that the Earth might be cooling partly stems from recent weather. Last year was cooler than previous years. It's been a while since the super-hot years of 1998 and 2005. So is this a longer climate trend or just weather's normal ups and downs?

In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time.

"If you look at the data and sort of cherry-pick a micro-trend within a bigger trend, that technique is particularly suspect," said John Grego, a professor of statistics at the University of South Carolina.

Yet the idea that things are cooling has been repeated in opinion columns, a BBC news story posted on the Drudge Report and in a new book by the authors of the best-seller "Freakonomics." Last week, a poll by the Pew Research Center found that only 57 percent of Americans now believe there is strong scientific evidence for global warming, down from 77 percent in 2006.

Global warming skeptics base their claims on an unusually hot year in 1998. Since then, they say, temperatures have dropped — thus, a cooling trend. But it's not that simple.

Since 1998, temperatures have dipped, soared, fallen again and are now rising once more. Records kept by the British meteorological office and satellite data used by climate skeptics still show 1998 as the hottest year. However, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA show 2005 has topped 1998. Published peer-reviewed scientific research generally cites temperatures measured by ground sensors, which are from NOAA, NASA and the British, more than the satellite data.

The recent Internet chatter about cooling led NOAA's climate data center to re-examine its temperature data. It found no cooling trend.

"The last 10 years are the warmest 10-year period of the modern record," said NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt. "Even if you analyze the trend during that 10 years, the trend is actually positive, which means warming."

The AP sent expert statisticians NOAA's year-to-year ground temperature changes over 130 years and the 30 years of satellite-measured temperatures preferred by skeptics and gathered by scientists at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Statisticians who analyzed the data found a distinct decades-long upward trend in the numbers, but could not find a significant drop in the past 10 years in either data set. The ups and downs during the last decade repeat random variability in data as far back as 1880.

Saying there's a downward trend since 1998 is not scientifically legitimate, said David Peterson, a retired Duke University statistics professor and one of those analyzing the numbers.

Identifying a downward trend is a case of "people coming at the data with preconceived notions," said Peterson, author of the book "Why Did They Do That? An Introduction to Forensic Decision Analysis."

One prominent skeptic said that to find the cooling trend, the 30 years of satellite temperatures must be used. The satellite data tends to be cooler than the ground data. And key is making sure 1998 is part of the trend, he added.

It's what happens within the past 10 years or so, not the overall average, that counts, contends Don Easterbrook, a Western Washington University geology professor and global warming skeptic.

"I don't argue with youthat the 10-year average for the past 10 years is higher than the previous 10 years," said Easterbrook, who has self-published some of his research. "We started the cooling trend after 1998. You're going to get a different line depending on which year you choose.

"Should not the actual temperature be higher now than it was in 1998?" Easterbrook asked. "We can play the numbers games."

That's the problem, some of the statisticians said.

Grego produced three charts to show how choosing a starting date can alter perceptions. Using the skeptics' satellite data beginning in 1998, there is a "mild downward trend," he said. But doing that is "deceptive."

The trend disappears if the analysis starts in 1997. And it trends upward if you begin in 1999, he said.

Apart from the conflicting data analyses is the eyebrow-raising new book title from Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, "Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance."

A line in the book says: "Then there's this little-discussed fact about global warming: While the drumbeat of doom has grown louder over the past several years, the average global temperature during that time has in fact decreased."

That led to a sharp rebuke from the Union of Concerned Scientists, which said the book mischaracterizes climate science with "distorted statistics."

Levitt, a University of Chicago economist, said he does not believe there is a cooling trend. He said the line was just an attempt to note the irony of a cool couple of years at a time of intense discussion of global warming. Levitt said he did not do any statistical analysis of temperatures, but "eyeballed" the numbers and noticed 2005 was hotter than the last couple of years. Levitt said the "cooling" reference in the book title refers more to ideas about trying to cool the Earth artificially.

Statisticians say that in sizing up climate change, it's important to look at moving averages of about 10 years. They compare the average of 1999-2008 to the average of 2000-2009. In all data sets, 10-year moving averages have been higher in the last five years than in any previous years.

"To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous," said Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution at Stanford.

Ben Santer, a climate scientist at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Lab, called it "a concerted strategy to obfuscate and generate confusion in the minds of the public and policymakers" ahead of international climate talks in December in Copenhagen.

President Barack Obama weighed in on the topic Friday at MIT. He said some opponents "make cynical claims that contradict the overwhelming scientific evidence when it comes to climate change — claims whose only purpose is to defeat or delay the change that we know is necessary."

Earlier this year, climate scientists in two peer-reviewed publications statistically analyzed recent years' temperatures against claims of cooling and found them not valid.

Not all skeptical scientists make the flat-out cooling argument.

"It pretty much depends on when you start," wrote John Christy, the Alabama atmospheric scientist who collects the satellite data that skeptics use. He said in an e-mail that looking back 31 years, temperatures have gone up nearly three-quarters of a degree Fahrenheit (four-tenths of a degree Celsius). The last dozen years have been flat, and temperatures over the last eight years have declined a bit, he wrote.

Oceans, which take longer to heat up and longer to cool, greatly influence short-term weather, causing temperatures to rise and fall temporarily on top ofthe overall steady warming trend, scientists say. The biggest example of that is El Nino.

El Nino, a temporary warming of part of the Pacific Ocean, usually spikes global temperatures, scientists say. The two recent warm years, both 1998 and 2005, were El Nino years. The flip side of El Nino is La Nina, which lowers temperatures. A La Nina bloomed last year and temperatures slipped a bit, but 2008 was still the ninth hottest in 130 years of NOAA records.

Of the 10 hottest years recorded by NOAA, eight have occurred since 2000, and after this year it will be nine because this year is on track to be the sixth-warmest on record.

The current El Nino is forecast to get stronger, probably pushing global temperatures even higher next year, scientists say. NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt predicts 2010 may break a record, so a cooling trend "will be never talked about again."

The Senate’s Duty on Climate, NYT Editorial, Nov 21. 2009.

The news that world leaders have abandoned hope for a comprehensive, legally binding climate change treaty in Copenhagen next month inspired no end of finger-pointing. Environmentalists blamed eight years of inaction under George W. Bush. The Europeans noted that the Chinese and several other big developing nations had done little to move the ball forward.

Our own candidate for criticism is the United States Senate. We cannot rewrite the Bush years any more than we can persuade the Chinese of the merits of a binding treaty to control greenhouse gases. What the United States can do is assume responsibility for its own emissions, and this the Senate has manifestly failed to do.

It is asking a lot of the Senate to address health care and climate change at the same time, although the House managed to do both. It is also true that a preoccupied White House has applied almost no pressure. But the indecisiveness of the Senate’s Democratic leaders is worrisome, as is the Republicans’ reflexive and virtually unanimous hostility to anything that challenges the way this country produces and uses energy.

There are exceptions. The Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer and Jeff Bingaman have produced bills that could form the basis of a broad measure curbing emissions and ushering in alternative energy sources. But Harry Reid, the majority leader, seems at times like a man who wishes the climate change issue would go away. Last week, he suggested that he could not bring a bill forward until “sometime in the spring,” and that even then it would be sold as an economic stimulus bill.

With very few exceptions, the Republicans have behaved terribly. They refused en masse to show up when Ms. Boxer tried to get a committee vote on a bill, claiming they had been denied an analysis of the bill’s impact on the economy. When Ms. Boxer summoned officials to provide such an analysis, they boycotted again.

This sends a bad signal to the rest of the world. In Beijing, Mr. Obama suggested that the United States would be willing to put some “emission reduction targets” on the table in Copenhagen. These would be aspirational, not binding, and would presumably reflect the goals contained in the House bill, which calls for a 17 percent reduction in United States emissions by 2020. Their main purpose would be to show that the United States is committed to change. But how credible can even this modest goal be if the Senate is largely indifferent?

Though there is no chance the Senate will produce a bill in the next three weeks, we have a modest suggestion. That is for Mr. Obama to appear quickly and publicly with Ms. Boxer, Mr. Bingaman, Mr. Reid, and climate stalwarts like John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham (a Republican outlier) and announce that climate change will be an early order of business next year and that he will not rest until he gets a bill.

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