The Psychology of Junk

I love junk... I'm the kind of guy that just can't pass up some rusted bed-frame laying on the side of the road. I just 'gotta have it. It's metal, angle iron... I could make something from that. Of course, like all of my kind (except maybe those living out in the desert somewhere), I have more junk than space. In fact, I have so much junk that I don't have any room to do anything with it. If I want to do something, anything, I have to move a pile of junk out of the way before I can start.

Thus, I've been thinking about all this junk the last while. Why do I just 'gotta have it? Why can't I be like a normal person and just go to the store when I need something? Why would I rather store junk, with all the costs this entails, instead of paying the store to, well, store it for me? That's what stores do. Take my off-cut bin for example. When I make something out of wood, there are always little bits left over. Those bits can come in handy, when using a drillpress for example. It's always good to have a few bits of wood kicking around for whatever. So, I have a cardboard box up on a cabinet in front of my benchsaw. Yes, that box is overflowing, still, even after moving a bunch of this "good stuff" to a drawer in a shed that's buried behind a bunch of other good stuff. So, now, when I need the benchsaw, I have to clear all these stupid little bits of wood out of the way. Honestly, if I ran out of little bits of wood for backing boards while using the drillpress, I could go cut a chunk off the new 2x4 standing in the corner. Yes, this would be a waste of new material, I might even waste $2 worth in the course of a year. $2... or cutting a board with a handsaw because I'm too lazy to clear the junk and get to my benchsaw. Why do I have to have this junk around, instead of just cutting a bit off some new stock when I need it?

I think I have the answer. I used to think it was because I was efficient, the ultimate recycler. I didn't waste anything. But, reality is a lot less grandiose. I have all this junk around because I prefer to build things out of junk. No, not because I don't believe in waste, it's because I'm chicken. When I work with new material, I don't want to waste any of it. I plan, I measure, I make cut-lists, and I swear my head off when I inevitably screw it up. But, when I use found material, junk from the side of the road, I don't care. I throw stuff together, if it works, great. If not, who cares. I didn't waste anything, it was already junk. Easy come, easy go. That's the secret allure of working with junk. It's like spending found money. It's easy, no stress at all. The honest truth is that working with junk instead of new material is a lot more fun.

But, junk has a dark side too, there are a lot of hidden costs. First, you have to spend time processing the junk. I'm not talking about finding it, that part's fun - kind of like hunting. But, after you get it to the shop, you have to take it apart, and that takes time and consumables. Saw blades, drill bits, gloves, and the occasional knuckle all get used in this processing. Second, is the part we all know about, storage. Maintaining a large store of junk takes space, and that space costs. It may be in money, or arguments with the family, risk to people running about, or poor relations with neighbours. Maybe you're like me and have bought new material to build a shed to keep your junk. Heck, even all those tarps cost money. Third, and this is the real kicker, it creates a lot of constraints on new projects. Instead of having your pick of materials from the store, you get bits of this and that from the junk piles. So, the shelves can only be this big, or it can only use that kind of hinge, or it has to be made out of the wrong type of material. The list goes on. Basically, while it may be a lot less stressful working with found material, it's a lot more work, and the results are often less than ideal.

So, what am I going to do about this new found realisation, that all my problems with junk actually stem from me being too chicken to use new material. Well, I've already cleared all the off-cuts in front of my benchsaw. Yup, they went in the garbage. I know, a tiny first step, but it was hard to do. This isn't going to be an instantaneous behavioural change; no cold turkey for this guy. I'll start with wasting $2 a year on bucked up 2x4s, then try to be a little more casual about wasting other material. Maybe, I'll actually make some shelves for my shop out of a new sheet of plywood, without a cut-list even. I just have to keep reminding myself that keeping junk really costs more than going to the store, that it's okay to economise on the junk by wasting a little bit of new stuff, once in a while. It's either that move to a desert somewhere...


Climate Change Denier

I was just accused of being a "Climate Change Denier." I'm not. I acknowledge that the climate is changing (how could it not?). I acknowledge that human activity is quite likely driving this change, and driving it at a very dangerous rate. In fact, I'm not denying anything, other than that changing to florescent light-bulbs will make any difference. I know we're in trouble, but unlike my accusers, I've actually thought about the problem.

When I hear people prattle on about what we should do to reverse global warming, I think to myself "there goes another population denier." These people prattle on with nonsense like "we just have to reduce our carbon footprint by 20% and everything will be fine." These people need a remedial math course. Yes, global CO2 emissions must reduce, 20% is a great start, but that's 'global' emissions. These people conveniently forget that the population will hit 9 Billion or so in 50 years, so 'per-capita' emissions don't need to go down by 20%, it's 30%. Oh, and then they need to factor in that most people on earth can't lower their carbon footprint because they already use about 1/6th of our western amount, but they want more. They want to drive cars, and own refrigerators and TVs. So, their emissions are only going up, not down. Thus, our 30% now starts to get even higher, maybe even 80% or more. In my Canadian city, I keep hearing "every little bit counts." Well, not really. Really, wiping the entire population of Canada off the map, reducing our carbon footprint to 0, would reduce the world output by less than 2%. This would, at best, make a momentary blip in the global trajectory.

This trajectory towards increased carbon emissions is not going to reverse, not without some serious changes. With current technology, the only way to reduce global CO2 emissions is to either kill billions of people or force them into a carbon-neutral lifestyle through some brutal and repressive government. A government that would make the Burmese Junta seem positively caring. Pro-democracy is, at this point, pro-climate change. After all, if people are free to choose, they will expect to be treated fairly. To expect otherwise is absurd. If one person has 10 and another 90, do you really expect the person at 10 to be happy with 20? No, only 50 is fair. Now, this is okay, until you realise that there are not one of each, the ratio is more 10:1, soon to be 20:1. A fair distribution is not 50 for all, it is 15. Well, it's not 15 because we need to reduce from where we are, so it's 11 or 12. Do you think the people at 90 will be happy with 11? Let's rephrase that: do you think people at 90 will drop down to 11 without a fight? I don't think so.

Thus, I think climate change is inevitable. However, I don't see global warming as the issue, I see global cooling. I say this because we already have the technology to cool the planet; actually, we have several mechanisms. We could, for example, go the old-fashioned route, a small nuclear war. It would only take a few nukes to throw up enough dust to cool the planet down. Remember nuclear winter, that thing we were all told to be afraid of before terrorism and global warming came along? If it came right down to it, do you think the Chinese government would let millions of it's citizens drown or starve when all they would have to do is let off a series of above-ground nuclear tests. After the latest typhoon breached the city dikes and washed a million people out to sea, do you think the billion citizens that remain will give their leaders any choice? Now, this is pretty extreme but there are other technological solutions being proposed for cooling the planet down, ones that don't involve nuclear weapons. Some of these are so low-tech that relatively small nations, say Indonesia, could attempt them. Of course all of this deliberate meddling in the Earth's climate would cause problems of its own.

The biggest problem, besides our lousy track record when it comes to meddling in natural systems, is that "somebody" would have to decide just how much to cool things down. The problem with this is that there are places right now that are too hot, and I expect they would like things to be cooler than they are. So, do we decide to cool to 2009 levels, or maybe we should go a few degrees cooler, say back when the Middle East really was the Fertile Crescent instead of a desert. Who decides? Given that the majority of humanity currently lives in areas generally considered to be too hot already, I don't give northern countries much hope. Should the moral arguments against deliberate meddling in the Earth's climate be overruled, and I expect they will at some point, who will stop China, or even Indonesia, from continuing to cool below current levels. How could we stop them? War? No, that's just going to cool things down faster. Nothing can stop them; it's easier to cool the planet than warm it.

Thus, the real challenge for us northerners is to support the moral arguments against deliberate meddling in the Earth's climate. Doing so involves two things: First, we need to reduce our carbon footprint drastically, not a little bit, and quickly, not slowly. Of course, this still won't be enough. Thus, the second thing we need to do is bet on technology, a technology that might yet, as it has so many times in the past, spare us from our current Malthusian dilemma . We need to find an abundant and practical carbon-free energy source that the world can use. Then, we might be able to successfully argue against deliberate meddling in the climate. We need some kind of breakthrough technology, and we need it now. To do this, we need a massive research effort, an effort best made in the Northern countries. As odd as it may seem, the people in colder places have the most to lose from global warming.

We will not experience runaway global warming. The sea levels will not rise 20m. We will not be deluged with climate refugees from the equator. I say this not as a climate change denier, but as a realist. Long before we get to this point, those people, rather than being drowned, starved, and pushed from their homelands will do something about it, whether we want them to or not. Low-tech or high-tech, subtly or with brute force, the people holding the shitty end of the global warming stick will eventually take climate change into their own hands. They will shut down and reverse global warming. In the north, our only hope is to intercede through technology development, to make this deliberate climate meddling unnecessary. It's time to get off our butts and make that happen.


Legal Content

Keliso is about fueling the creation and distribution of legal content. It's about allowing the owners of content that is already being shared illegally to make money while making this sharing legal. It's about creating a way for content producers to make money in an age when content can be copied for free.

But, any site devoted to funding and distributing content is a target for abuse. There will be unscrupulous people trying to raise money for the release of content they don't own the rights to. There will be unsavory people trying to distribute content that is flat out illegal and disgusting. There will be people just trying to make a nuisance of themselves. This is a fact of life, and Keliso is ready for it.

Keliso has built-in mechanisms for dealing with these people. There is a system that allows the processing of take-down notices in a way that requires no intervention by website operators. Keliso has a complaint and take-down system that functions within the Keliso communities, leveraging these communities to deal with the problem both quickly and efficiently, including complaints, including appeals, and the restoration of content if required. Keliso is designed to work with the law-enforcement community such that illegal content can be removed as soon as anyone complains, where information on people attempting illegal activities can be in the hands of the police immediately. No court orders, no paperwork, just immediate results.

Keliso is designed to be a place where people can earn legitimate income; it is not a platform for free speech or artistic freedom. If the community doesn't want a producer's content, then they can kick it and the producer out, all without any assistance from the website operators. Keliso is a place where the producers of content can build a community of people that support their work. There is no place for troublemakers in these communities and there are mechanisms to kick those people out, quickly and easily.

What is Keliso?

Monetising Existing Content

Are you sitting on the intellectual property rights to a virtual mountain of content? If so, you need something like Keliso. Keliso isn't just about releasing new content, it can fund the release of existing content too. Yes, you've already published your content, it's already been pirated into the P2P Datastore, but that's okay. Keliso can still work for you.

Within the Keliso system, content is the focus of the community, but accessing this content is not the reason people contribute. Thus, your content can already be available while you raise money to make it legally free to share. Yes, you can still make money in the Information Age, and you can do it with the support of the file-sharing community.

All you need to do is give people a reasonable alternative that works with the new reality of the Information Age, that works with the P2P Datastore. You need to work with people, to build relationships. Keliso is a system that can give you that opportunity, an opportunity to have people work with you towards common goals. Keliso is also a system that could make you a lot of money, if you do it right.

What is Keliso?


Selling Value-Added

Keliso is a donation-based system where, once the creator is paid in full, the production is released to everyone; not just to the people that contributed, but everyone. This raises an obvious question: why donate? Why not wait for other people to donate first, or donate more? As someone asked within a forum debating recommendations for the new Canadian copyright laws, "How can one buyer PAY MORE, while another PAYS LESS, and yet they have the same 'product'?"

Excellent question. The answer is that people aren't paying for digital content, they are paying for something else, something tacked onto the content. People won't pay for something they can get for free; after all, that's a pretty silly thing to do. So, whenever people pay for what amounts to the common good, they are actually paying for something else. This is what Keliso does.

I have no intention of "releasing" the mechanism behind Keliso, not without being paid first, but I can show how several other existing value-added systems work. Let's take a limited edition print for example. The photographer signs and sells only 100 of them for a high price but, to gain interest, basically gives the actual print away on the net. Anyone can download the print and enjoy it for free, but if they want something more, the exclusivity of the signed limited-edition print, they have to pay for it. Take the limited-edition print and copy it, and it's worth exactly what the free print is worth - nothing. It's not about selling the print, the photographer is selling something else... the "limited" part.

The iTunes Store is another value-added system. Apple's not really selling the music, they're selling a convenient hassle-free download service. Apple then just tosses some money to the original artists so they can continue using the content, to sell the service. People will pay a dollar for ease-of-use, even if they can get the content elsewhere for free. This is the reason iTunes works.

Neither of these value-added mechanisms are how Keliso operates, but they are crude analogies. On Keliso, the people donating money aren't really paying for the content, they are paying for something else. Funding the content is just a byproduct of the system. Keliso needs content to operate; without content, Keliso is devoid of purpose. But, by tying the unique nature of Keliso communities to the work of content-producers, a lot of great things can happen. The communities can be self-moderating, without the need for oversight, people can deal with the inevitable troublemakers and trolls by themselves. Communities can operate anonymously while still making these anonymous accounts valuable, so that people will act responsibly with them. It's the way human communities are suppose to work.

A vibrant and healthy Keliso community will be a great place to be a part of. It offers all of the standard forum-based activities, yet offers mechanisms to deal with the troublemakers. And, as a byproduct of a functioning community, productions get funded, artists earn a living, and the creative commons, the sum-total of all freely-available content, gains in value.

This is what Keliso has to offer.

What is Keliso?

The Staggering Accomplishment of Simple Pirates

Web 2.0 is more of a slogan than a technical term; it's been used to describe so many things that it really doesn't have much meaning anymore. But, there are three projects that clearly define this new Web.

One is, of course, Wikipedia. Who'd have thought that a bunch of people could get together and build something that amazing. Criticised from the start; with calls of being hopeless, bound toward total inaccuracy, and an impossible goal; it has grown into the most complete and up-to-date repository of knowledge the world has ever seen. Excluding the obvious joke-entries that are bound to come up with such a system, it is on average likely to be the most accurate as well.

Another is Open Street Map. Who'd have thought that a bunch of people running around with their personal GPS devices could build the most comprehensive street-map that has ever existed. They did; over 160Gb of XML data, and counting. I say "over" because I don't want this article to be dated next week. Open Street Map now covers most of the developed nations on Earth, and a good part of the undeveloped ones too.

The third Web 2.0 project is something that most people don't think about, at least not in a positive way. It is the distributed data warehouse of content archived in the P2P networks. Most people think of piracy when the term P2P comes up, and they're right. The vast majority of content within the store is copyrighted and being used without permission. But, if you step back and look at it, the results really are stupendous.

Any casual browsing of torrent listings will show a staggering array of content. Basically, it contains pretty much everything that anyone has ever found interesting. Virtually every song, every application, every movie... TV shows, sporting events, scanned magazines and books, photos... the conglomeration of culture is astounding, and growing by the day. I wouldn't even hazard a guess at how many terabytes of data are available, searchable, and downloadable with a few mouse clicks. Any number offered would only be a guess, and even if accurate it would be obsolete within days. It is the single greatest aggregation of culture that humanity has ever created; the greatest libraries in the world are insignificant-nothings in comparison. In a day, a person could download more books that could be read in a lifetime, in a few weeks (only because data rates are often throttled by ISPs) more movies than could be watched in a lifetime, more applications than could be installed, more content that any human could ever consume. Not bad for a bunch of pirates.

Of course most of this content is there illegally, against the wishes of the rights-holders. But, how could this be any other way? There is no way such content could be legally collected, not without huge sums of money involved. For it to be done by people in their spare time, like Wikipedia and Open Street Map, it has to be free. Yes, the content isn't suppose to be free, but it will be.

Eventually, all the content in the P2P datastore will be legally free, either because the rights-holders have monetised those rights through a system like Keliso, or the copyright has expired. It won't be long before all new content will be released under pay-for-production systems, rather than the failed pay-for-consumption system we have now. Thus, eventually, it will all be legally free and waiting for us in the P2P datastore. Web 2.0 at its best. Who'd have thought a bunch of - insert your chosen expletive here - pirates could do such a thing.

What is Keliso?


Living In Denial

As a nonSequitur cartoon once put it... The World Ended, You're Just in Denial...
I am neither qualified nor have any interest in representing "the file-sharing community." Nor will I waste any effort on ethical arguments, because they're all pointless. They don't matter.
They don't matter because there are millions, if not hundreds of millions of people (and if not hundreds of millions yet, there soon will be) sharing files over the Internet. These people either don't believe or simply don't care that there is anything ethically wrong with what they're doing. The most perfectly-crafted and philosophically sound arguments will not change this. We're talking about millions and millions and millions of people.
The reality of the situation is that pretty well all available digital content will be freely copied, no matter the ethical arguments, no matter the digital rights management, no matter the laws built to prevent it. That's reality. The amount of content that is freely available now is staggering, and growing by the day. The peer-to-peer networks, built by millions of people sharing digital content, now amount to a massive decentralised data warehouse. It is the largest repository of culture that humanity has ever known.
Millions and millions and millions of people are using the peer-to-peer networks every day. They are not going to stop because of proclamations, laws, or technical blockades. These people are your future, a rising tide. They're not bullying you, stealing from you, they're just moving on by while you're failing to keep up.
The creators of digital content will realise, sooner or later, that selling copies of something that can be copied for free is a really, really dumb idea. They need a new business model. It's not hard to do, even I've come up with a viable model. It won't be long before artists can make money alongside the file sharing community; if people want the content that artists create, there will be a way.
It's not an ethical or legal argument, it's just reality. There's no point living in denial.


What is Keliso

Keliso is the answer to the question: How can artists earn a living when people can copy their work for free? Keliso is an exploit of human nature, a system that encourages people to donate their money, time, and effort towards the work of their favourite artists. It fuels the creation and distribution of productions.

Keliso is a system of multiple websites that form communities of people. These communities mimic the best parts of natural communities while still allowing anonymous access. These communities can be closed or open to new members, depending on how they are created. Members can move between communities or form new communities of their own. These communities have unique features that make them self-moderating. From creation onwards, they can run themselves without interference. Keliso supports self-creating, self-maintaining, and self-funding online communities of people.

Keliso is open, flexible, and distributed. Artists can join communities or build their own, website operators can host communities, and artists can be their own website operators if they wish. Website operators and the Keliso system as a whole have an immediate and self-sustaining revenue stream. Keliso communities pay their way, right from the start.

What is a Production

Within the Keliso framework, a production is anything that can be digitized, and more. The most obvious examples are recorded songs, movies, or stories, but these are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. A production could be a poem, a technical manual, a blog on investment tips, or journalistic reporting. It could be a program, or revisions to programs; Keliso is designed to fund the development of Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS). It could be pictures of flowers, pictures of pets, or pictures of adult content; Keliso is designed to support while at the same time segregating content not suitable for children, or those who would rather not bother with it. A production could be architectural drawings, or CAD/CAM designs. Keliso productions don't even have to involve content at all, they could collect donations for medical research or other charities. At its core, a Keliso production is just a focus point for a community.

If there is something that would benefit lots of people if it were done/released/created, then a Keliso production can bring people together to fund it.

What is Keliso?


Sharing Is Human

Imagine, if you will, a small tribe of hunter-gathers hole up in a winter cave in some long-ago time. The storyteller entrances his audience, sitting around the fire, with an inspiring tale of a fair maiden beset by an angry god and the hero that came to her rescue. Then, after he finishes, he tells them that he owns the story and if they want to repeat it to other people, they have to give him a banana each time they do.


Doesn't that sound stupid? How do you think the storyteller's audience would react to something that silly? I doubt they would even know how to react, the entire concept would be so out-there that they would probably think the storyteller was just possessed by demons or something. He was nuts. He certainly wouldn't be getting any bananas.

Welcome to the world of residuals, copyright law, and intellectual property. Where the hell did we go so horribly wrong? Why did we end up with such a nutty system?

Well, everything was just fine for a very, very long time. We were probably sharing information, freely, even before the time of Homo Habilis, certainly long before we became the humans we are today. For roughly 40,000 years after the first humans, like us, walked the earth, we shared information and culture. We traded stuff, but we shared information. Then came writing, and sharing information got much easier. Still, we shared. Then, along came the Industrial Revolution, and things changed. Suddenly, we could mass-produce items for sale; we traded lots more stuff. With the printing press, we could even package stories into neat bundles and trade them. Things started to get complicated.

First off, it took effort to design these thing for mass production. Inventions needed to be invented; books needed to be written. Mass production was actually the easy part. This caused problems because it was cheaper to just mass-produce someone else's idea than put the effort into making your own. So, to fix this, we started making laws. We made patent laws to protect innovative designs and we made copyright laws to protect artistic works, like the story part of a book. Both patent and copyright laws worked fairly well in protecting one corporation from another, which was all that was necessary at the time. After all, individuals couldn't mass-produce these things, and mass production made things far cheaper than any individual could make by hand. But, that changed too, at least for artistic works.

Along came the Information Revolution, and it became quite easy for individuals to make copies and share, just like in the old days when they repeated stories they had heard. In a very short period of time, the whole copyright system fell apart. They've tried to patch the laws, to enforce them in every way possible, but it just doesn't work. The laws try to prevent people from being human, from sharing stories, and songs, and ideas. Sharing these is what we've done, basically, forever. It was only during a tiny fraction of human history that we found ourselves in a position where ideas could be canned and sold like a product. This isn't normal, it was just a temporary artifact of the Industrial Age. But, that age is over, we're in the Information Age now. No amout of copyright law can change that; you can't pass laws against being human and expect them to be obeyed.

The Industrial Age is over, this is the Information Age, try to keep up.

What is Keliso?

Silly Laws

We need these laws to protect us, says RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) HBAA (Horse Breeders Association of America). If we allow these
pirates automobiles to continue, it will destroy our industry. If that happens, how will the artists stable boys earn a living?

These pirates drivers are a menace to society and we need these laws to protect us. These people flaunted our laws by providing a space where people could share copyrighted material not taking their cars apart and hiding them in the bushes when a horse and buggy wanted to pass. As such, they deserve jail time and a hefty fine, such that other pirates drivers will know to heed the law.

... you can fill in the rest.

In 50 to 100 years from now, people are going to be looking back at our copyright laws, laughing their guts out. What kind of idiots would pass laws making it illegal to copy digital information that's already being distributed? How stupid is that?

On the scale of all humanity, for a brief flicker of time it became possible to package ideas in a manufacturable product and sell it. It started with the invention of the printing press and ended with the invention of the photocopier and magnetic tape. It is not normal to package and sell ideas, it is not something that humans do. Just because it became possible, and profitable, for a little while does not make it right and proper.

In fact, it should be clear by now that attempting to sell copies of information when anyone can make their own copies for free is an absurd thing to do. Trying to enforce a legal system to prevent sharing of these free copies is even more absurd.

The entire book, recorded music, and movie industry is a product of the Industrial Age. It worked when it cost a lot of money to produce copies of things that contained these ideas, when copyright law could be used to make sure other manufacturers were playing fair. But, this is the Information Age now, the packaging for information is virtual, and nearly free. Anyone can copy it with little effort. The book, recorded music, and movie industries must adapt to this new reality. After all, there's not a lot of work these days for stable boys.

The Industrial Age is over, this is the Information Age, try to keep up.

What is Keliso?


Canada's Military - The Right Choice

I often hear people lament the "dark years" of the Canadian military, the '80s and '90s where the budgets were slashed. The budgets were actually slashed around 27% in order to eliminate the federal budget deficit and even pay down the balance. The military budgets were slashed far in excess of most other government programs. The Conservatives slashed, the Liberals slashed, and the NDP would have slashed too, had they been given the chance.

This was really, really hard on the military. Manpower was cut significantly and procurement was put off, as was infrastructure upkeep. Even the pay was kept from growing, up until the government was embarrassed by reports of active soldiers using food-banks to get by. Even worse, the military was reduced from staunch defender of freedom, as a committed partner in NATO, to Blue-Beret Peace-keepers that could only meet NATO requirements on paper. Military institutions run on reputation, and the Canadian reputation was taking a beating among soldiers.

Among Canadian civilians, there was still much pride to be had in the UN Peace-keeping operations, but even that took a kicking with the Somalia cover-up. It got so bad that the battle with Croatian forces in the Medak Pocket, a battle all Canadians should rightly feel proud of, was buried lest Canadians be reminded that they still had a military. Dark times indeed.

Times have changed, and the Canadian military is once again taking its rightful place as an honoured institution. Canadians generally feel proud of their soldiers; the fallen are rightfully remembered. While none envy the casualties it represents, the "Highway of Heroes" is often commended by other nation's soldiers wondering why their citizens don't show the same respect. Most politicians agree that military spending should be increased and that long-delayed projects should go ahead. The Canadian military has come a long way back; the times are not so dark now.

However, just because politicians are re-funding the Canadian military, it does not follow that slashing the budget originally was the wrong choice. The military may be a storied institution with a rich history and important tasks, but it is still a political tool. The military serves the needs of the times, and in the '80s, the times had changed. The mighty Soviet Union had collapsed, and the threat of European invasion along with it. People were talking about "Peace Dividends" and politicians were happy to oblige, especially the Canadians. The politicians in Canada were fearful of running up huge and unmanageable deficits, not the Soviets, and they were looking to cut anywhere they could get away with. In the late '80s, it looked like they could get away with a lot. The Canadian military reputation went from "meaningful deterrent" to "well trained and good at making do."

Many people, military and civilian alike, made quite some noise about Canada not being able to meet our NATO obligations, about not being able to support our allies in times of need. However, those times of need didn't happen. The Canadian politicians gambled that they would not need a strong and capable military, that they could get away with horribly slashing military spending, and they were right. Canada got away with it; we survived the "dark years" without a strong military. Instead, we put our financial house in order and are now the envy of the industrialised world, the most capable of weathering the current financial storm. It was a risky move, and it could have turned out bad, but it didn't. Be it luck or foresight, the Canadian politicians picked the right battle, and they won.

Times have changed again. We are approaching a period of instability brought on from a host of factors including climate change, food scarcity, energy depletion, and American aggression. Most Canadian politicians acknowledge this and are supporting a more-robust military. Budgets are up and this is starting to repair the damage from the dark years. The Canadian military has participated in Afghanistan, combat-hardening its soldiers, and will stand ready to deal with the potential troubles ahead. Who knows, maybe in another decade or two, the politicians will be able to declare another Peace Dividend and slash military spending again. It's just not something I'd bet on right now.