Friday, December 02, 2016

Yeah, They Really Were "Gullibillies"

Krugman on Trump, "Millions of Americans have just been sucker punched. They just don't know it yet."

"The white working class is about to be betrayed," Krugman declares in no uncertain terms. "The evidence of that coming betrayal is obvious in the choice of an array of pro-corporate, anti-labor figures for key positions. In particular, the most important story of the week — seriously, people, stop focusing on Trump Twitter — was the selection of Tom Price, an ardent opponent of Obamacare and advocate of Medicare privatization, as secretary of health and human services. This choice probably means that the Affordable Care Act is doomed — and Mr. Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters will be among the biggest losers."

Trump famously promised to "drain the swamp," a phrase the Gullibillies took to mean whatever they wanted. To some it was jailing Hillary for imagined crimes. Others thought he would reform Congress or break up the incestuous relationship between Wall Street and Washington. Guess what? They were had.

So, you don't know my brother John? He lives in San Francisco, he's as smart as a whippet and when I called this week he had a question – "what do George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have in common?"

"Goldman Sachs," he answered his own question, with an implied baboom!

John's right. It seems that no recent aspiring or elected US president dares to broach the White House without their hand being held by someone who has done time at this obscenely rich, multinational corporate behemoth. Still building out his cabinet team, Donald Trump already has recruited three of them and there's speculation more are in the pipeline.

But far from yanking a plug to empty [the Swamp], Trump is happily doing bombshells in the murk, gathering in playmates whose corporate and political credentials, not to mention their multibillion- and multimillion-dollar fortunes, suggest little empathy with the "forgotten men and women" that Candidate Trump promised to protect from rich guys looking after rich guys and, as they go, demolishing the financial regulations that might have prevented the Great Recession – or which were reinstated in its aftermath, in the hope of preventing a repeat of the 2008 financial collapse from which the US is still recovering.

...Not only were they too pally with "crooked" Hillary Clinton, who he claimed was "under their total control", but according to one of Trump's TV ads, Goldman Sachs and its ilk comprised a "global power structure" that was "responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.

"Our movement is about replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you, the American people," Trump declared.

...Paul Waldman writes in The American Prospect: "So in order to take on that global power structure, Trump is hiring a bunch of billionaires and Wall Street tycoons, cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy, scaling back regulatory oversight of Wall Street, and offering an infrastructure plan that consists mostly of tax breaks to corporations to encourage them to build projects that they'll then charge the public tolls in order to use."

...America's estimated 500 billionaires might be unlikely candidates for a White House team that working-class Americans were promised would look out for them – at his last campaign rally in Michigan, Trump told supporters: "We're fighting for every citizen that believes that government should serve the people, not the donors and not the special interests."

But already Trump, the first billionaire President-elect, has appointed three more billionaires to a team that, even incomplete, is the richest administration in modern American history – prompting Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank to dub it "Trump's Team of Oligarchs".
Trump got elected on the "stupid" vote and they were warned that he believed he could do anything, even grab them by the p##sy. They didn't have long to wait for their turn.

The Generals - Again - Sound the Warning Siren on Climate Change.

Climate change is on the mind of every professional military across the world. They know it impacts the threats they face and multiplies the challenge they must meet to defend their nations.

In the run up to the American election, two "commanders" groups, one made up of US generals and admirals,  the other made up of senior commanders of the US and other nations, warned of the threat climate change posed to world security.

Now, another military warning that, unless we act immediately to eliminate carbon emissions, we will experience mass migration on a scale most a decade ago would have thought unimaginable.

“Climate change is the greatest security threat of the 21st century,” said Maj Gen Munir Muniruzzaman, chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on climate change and a former military adviser to the president of Bangladesh. He said one metre of sea level rise will flood 20% of his nation. “We’re going to see refugee problems on an unimaginable scale, potentially above 30 million people.”

He's talking 30 million migrants from Bangladesh alone. That's just a fraction of the global figure. A lot of those eyes will be looking for safe refuge, preferrably in some large, relatively unpopulated territory.


Getting It Right - Sadly

He didn't say a word about changing into Harper.

Three years ago Damien Gillis of The Common Sense Canadian speculated that Justin Trudeau might be worse than Harper for Canada's environment. Now it turns out he was right. Three debacles, all of them in British Columbia, show that Trudeau is not the leader he pretended to be.

...barely a year into his reign Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is batting almost .1000 when it comes to approving controversial energy projects, from liquefied natural gas plants in Squamish and Prince Rupert to permits for the Site C dam — and now Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and Enbridge’s Line 3.

In that 2013 editorial, my main concern about the new Liberal leader was that his energy and trade policies were nearly identical to those of former prime minister Stephen Harper — they just looked and sounded better coming from Canada’s prodigal son.

Moreover, I already had the sense Trudeau wasn’t guided by a clear set of values, making him vulnerable to persuasive political advisors and powerful lobbies. With Harper, I noted three years ago, at least we had “a sense that his zeal for expanding Canada’s fossil fuel industries through foreign ownership is something in which he believes on a deep, ideological level.” With Harper, you knew exactly what you were getting — he loathed environmentalists and didn’t care much for “radical” First Nations either.

...His first year in office was all about trying to have his cake and eat it, too.

In Paris, he committed Canada to serious climate action. “Canada is back, my friends,” he crowed.

More like right back to where we started.
Since then, we’ve seen him default to Harper’s climate targets and approve pipeline and LNG projects which ensure it is impossible to meet even those low standards.

Trudeau campaigned on rebuilding Canada’s relationship with First Nations, but on respect for Indigenous title and rights, especially when it comes to energy projects, he’s all but forgotten them. His government pledged to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, then earned rebukes from leaders like Grand Chief Stewart Phillip when Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr dismissed one of its key principles: free, prior and informed consent to any development on traditional territories.

Finally, the contorted thesis of the Trudeau government appears to be that it’s possible — even necessary — to grow the fossil fuel economy in order to facilitate the transition to a green economy.

...Though he makes frequent mention of his “B.C. roots,” Trudeau clearly does not understand this place one lick, especially its wild coastline. No one who does believes for a second that it is possible to recover anything from a major spill, especially one involving bitumen.

...Trudeau has proven adept at running from the left and governing from the right.

Yet there is a reckoning headed his way — perhaps bigger than even his predecessor faced. Because while no one expected wine and roses from Harper, Trudeau gave them high hopes.

The disappointment is that much greater when it’s rooted in a deception — just ask former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell about the HST and BC Rail, or look back to the Liberal sponsorship scandal of the early 2000s. Trudeau’s cutesy tweets, shirtless photo-ops and million-dollar smiles will prove no match for this kind of outrage.

The approval of Kinder Morgan has awakened B.C., and there’s no end to the Vancouverites and other supporters ready to stand on the line.

Think Idle No More meets Standing Rock meets Occupy meets the War in the Woods meets Burnaby Mountain — all unfolding in a major urban centre, under the watchful eye of tens of thousands of camera phones, drones and social, grassroots and mainstream media.

At this point I would usually add a para or two of personal thoughts. Not this time. I'm too damned angry with that lying thug of a prime minister and his cheap threats.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

An Impassioned Plea to Tear Down the Walls of Inequality from Stephen Hawking.

The neoliberals who have driven the western world into the ditch over the past three decades need to decide whether to rehabilitate liberal democracy or allow themselves to be erased from memory by generations of strongman rule.

Yeah, Justin - you too.

First up, theoretical physicist extraordinaire, Stephen Hawking. In an opinion piece in The Guardian, "This Is the Most Dangerous Time for our planet," Hawking warns, "We can’t go on ignoring inequality, because we have the means to destroy our world but not to escape it."

Referring to Brexit and the Trump victory, he writes it was, "the moment when the forgotten spoke, finding their voices to reject the advice and guidance of experts and the elite everywhere."

The concerns underlying these votes about the economic consequences of globalisation and accelerating technological change are absolutely understandable. The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.

...We need to put this alongside the financial crash, which brought home to people that a very few individuals working in the financial sector can accrue huge rewards and that the rest of us underwrite that success and pick up the bill when their greed leads us astray. So taken together we are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing. It is no wonder then that they are searching for a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent.

...It is also the case that another unintended consequence of the global spread of the internet and social media is that the stark nature of these inequalities is far more apparent than it has been in the past. For me, the ability to use technology to communicate has been a liberating and positive experience. Without it, I would not have been able to continue working these many years past.

But it also means that the lives of the richest people in the most prosperous parts of the world are agonisingly visible to anyone, however poor, who has access to a phone. And since there are now more people with a telephone than access to clean water in sub-Saharan Africa, this will shortly mean nearly everyone on our increasingly crowded planet will not be able to escape the inequality.

...For me, the really concerning aspect of this is that now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans.

Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it. Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it.

Be honest. Does it sound to you as though your government was on this course, resolved to save liberal democracy, humanity and the environment, or on another course fretting about spreading as much bitumen as conceivably possible to every Third World-grade power generation technology that demonstrates how completely oblivious they are to the reality setting in today, now.

And we and our governments should wake up to the decline of liberal democracy and what that may hold in store for us. Former London mayor and now the UK's foreign minister, Boris Johnson, writes of the defeat of democracy.

There is no doubt that the neoliberal order still fervently perpetuated by our "new" prime minister has driven a wedge between the populace and those they choose to govern on their behalf. It fails to adequately defend state sovereignty and, in the process, leaves the working classes, blue and white collar, in a state of precarity.  Until we do what the political caste will not - until we even the keel again - this will only worsen and become more intractable.

Nikiforuk - "Kinder Morgan Approval Insults Democracy, Science and Economic Logic"

 If there's anyone able to give prime minister Slick a boot in his petro-ass, it's The Tyee's columnist, Andrew Nikiforuk.

Alberta-born Nikiforuk is Canada's hands down best writer on the Tar Sands and the bitumen initiative. He's been delving into it for years.

Excerpting his analysis would only detract from it so follow this link to read it for yourself.

When you're done ask yourself what kind of a man we have in this prime minister who would do this to Canada, our young people and generations of Canadians to come.

In defending his decision to push bitumen to tidewater, Trudeau remarked that there's "not a country on Earth" that wouldn't exploit such a bitumen bounty. If he's right, he's just admitted there's not a hope in hell we'll arrest catastrophic, runaway climate change even though we've been warned, repeatedly warned, that's an extinction event.

Trudeau will go through the motions of revenue-neutral carbon pricing which, at this point, is simply pushing food around on a plate and then he'll say he's done something meaningful to fight climate change.

Harper saw to it that the pipeline process would be a stacked deck. He did that by allowing the fossil energy giants to capture the regulator, the National Energy Board. Trudeau promised voters he would clean house but the Harper National Energy Board remains industry captured as the Trudeau National Energy Board. Trudeau is as corrupt as Harper.

Free Trade, Okay. In What?

Ever since the FTA, the Free Trade Act between Canada and the United States, Canada has inked a succession of trade deals - NAFTA, separate deals with countries such as Panama (that worked out well, eh?), and most recently CETA, our trade deal with the European Union or what may remain of it in a few years.

We were sold on the idea by Mulroney who assured us that free trade meant more jobs and better wages all around. There would be prosperity for everyone, more than we could dare imagine.

So, where are all these wonderful, high-paid jobs today? It seems they haven't materialized. Yet, according to the Dauphin, the answer to that is more free trade, as much as we can sign on to.

Canada's multi-billion dollar monthly trade deficit suggests that we're importing a lot more than we're exporting. That can't be a good thing, can it? Buying more than you're selling is like spending more than you're earning. How does that end up?

However if you're a devout neoliberal, like prime minister Slick, globalism is sacrosanct even if it isn't working, even if it's blowing up in your face,  even if more open minds have proclaimed it a giant, failed experiment that damages economies and fuels inequality. If you're our prime minister, you'll keep driving the national bus into that ditch, again and again and again. Sort of like how they pitched the Trans Pacific Partnership by telling us we would be worse off if we didn't sign on. Now globalism has become a matter not of more jobs and better wages and ever greater prosperity. It's now about being slightly less worse off with it than without it.

Look, let's face it. He's not an intellectual. He's not his dad. The Greater Scheme of Things is more than a few notches above his pay grade. Think of him as Trudeau-Lite.

Now we've got to worry about the governor of the Bank of Canada, Stephen Poloz. It seems Steve has done undergone some sort of mental tide change about Canada's economy.

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz’s story of the Canadian economy has been sent to rewrite. There are no sleeping beauties in the revised tale: if the factory in your community closed during the Great Recession, it is likely staying closed. (Although if it has exposed brick, some hipsters might come along and turn it into shared workspace.) If there was a Prince Charming who thought he could make money doing whatever that facility used to do, he probably would have shown up by now. It is time to move on.

...When he was appointed three years ago, Poloz assumed non-energy exports and business investment would take over from household spending and housing as drivers of economic growth. That hasn’t happened to the extent the central bank thought it would. Officials have spent a lot of time this year trying to understand why their assumptions were off. It appears Canada suffered from a lack of champions; companies and entrepreneurs with the combination of guts and capital to make it in a tougher global economy. But if Poloz is right, the wait may be over. Canada’s heroes have arrived.

Poloz said ...that if anyone is using a “sleeping-beauty model” to think about exports, then they are misguided. Many of Canada’s exporters already were struggling to keep up and the financial crisis finished them off. That event wiped out billions of dollars worth of manufacturing potential. (in his speech,Poloz put the figure at $30 billion.) Think of it this way: if Canada’s manufacturing industry was once a full-sized pickup, it now is a a compact SUV.

[Poloz said]  ...the central bank has identified a new Prince Charming. Poloz’s narrative now stars the services industry, and in particular information technology (IT) and tourism. The central bank surveyed a group of IT companies and found they were more confident than the average Canadian company, probably because most of them were reporting sales growth in the double digits. Tourism spending has been rising steadily for more than two years.)

The central bank governor reckons Canada has a comparative advantage in services. “We have the necessary ingredients: a highly educated labour force supported by strong universities and colleges; entrepreneurs with access to business incubators; a beautiful and interesting country that many would like to visit; a multicultural workforce that helps us to serve domestic and international markets,” he said in his speech. That advantage is enhanced by a depressed currency. The weaker dollar isn’t an unambiguous gain for a Canadian company that wants to make things. Modern manufacturing requires buying robots and other expensive equipment and building facilities overseas, so Canada’s exchange rate makes expansion harder for some companies. But for IT firms, consultancies, and tour guides, the exchange rate is a windfall. Said Poloz: “That comparative advantage has been strengthened by the decline in the Canadian dollar in the past couple of years—a symptom of falling resource prices, and a facilitator of the rotation of growth from resource production to other sectors.”

So the future lies with the IT guys, tour guides, chambermaids and the folks who man the counters in fast food joints (sorry, I forgot that last one has already gone to guest workers). To Poloz' credit, his outlook does sound like a pretty good prognosis of a smaller economy nation state in the grip of neoliberal globalism.

And, by the way Steve, how does Canada's weak dollar compare to that other country that provides bargain basement IT services - India? If you're going to grab a big chunk of the global IT market, it's India and countries like it you'll be bidding against. Oh well, there will still be a demand for tour guides and chambermaids. 

If This Is So Goddamned Important

If this "pipeline to tidewater" is so goddamned important, why do the beneficiaries have so little skin in the game?

Why isn't Alberta defusing the dilbit bomb by refining the toxins and the heavy metals and the carcinogens and the petcoke out of their crud on-site, in Alberta? It's one thing to subject the BC coast to a conventional oil catastrophe, a la the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound (that's still not cleaned up) but it's an order of magnitude worse to create the conditions of a dilbit disaster. Alberta can refine their vile shit at home but they would rather "externalize" that cost by massively increasing the risk to coastal British Columbia. And that petro-pimp Trudeau, in the most despicable betrayal of the province and people of British Columbia, is going along with it.

I don't know but if we're going to gamble with the marine ecology of coastal British Columbia for generations to come, shouldn't the players be putting some money on the table? Big money.

How about this? In the event of a spill, both Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ottawa will immediately transmit every and all royalties they receive from fossil energy to British Columbia until all contaminants are cleared, including from the seabed. Every last dime. Think of it as "polluter pays." We're all into that, surely.

And, to make sure they'll be serious about cleaning up their mess, why not have Alberta agree to cede to British Columbia all that area stretching from the foothills of the Rockies to the BC border including Jasper and Banff? If the spill isn't cleaned up within ten years that territory is permanently forfeit by Alberta.

Right now, Ottawa and Alberta and Saskatchewan have no skin in the game when it comes to the catastrophic risk they want British Columbia to endure. That's bullshit.

I Got Myself a Date

I'm almost giddy to announce that I've finally got myself a date. It wouldn't be gentlemanly to tell you who she is, not yet at least.

Where would you go for a first date? How about jail?

My friend and I have decided that our first date should be spent in the Greybar Hotel along with as many friends as we can muster to join in. It's all for a good cause - doing what we can to stop Trudeau's perfidious betrayal of our province in his quest to pimp bitumen to Asia.

A lot of people, especially those I know from back east, think this is about an "oil" pipeline. They've been fed that line for so long they believe it. Maybe they just don't want to know.

I've been a lifelong law-abiding citizen, more than 60-years. No charges, no convictions. Only now I have to contemplate being convicted for my convictions to do what's right for my community, my society and generations to come of British Columbians of the coast.

I thought long and hard about this during the Harper years. Who wants to run afoul of the law, especially if you're not looking to "get away with it"? Not me, certainly. That said, I know it's the right thing to do and it's the necessary thing to do. Besides, we've already got our song.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Just When We Thought Harper Was Gone

I guess we somehow knew all along -

Preserving the legacy of Stephen Harper and Joe Oliver - bringing bitumen to tidewater. Makes me feel a lot more British Columbian and, strangely enough, a lot less Canadian.

A Pipeline Plebiscite in 2017?

BC premier, Christy Clark, wasted no time in coming aboard. One day after Trudeau announced his government's approval of the Kinder Morgan megapipeline project into the Lower Mainland, Clark has said that Trudeau is close to fulfilling her conditions for approval.

Clark is no friend of coastal British Columbia or the Lower Mainland since she got thrown out of her posh Vancouver riding and was forced to seek refuge in Kelowna.

Until now the opposition NDP has been languishing, unable to connect with BC voters. Clark may be about to fix that problem, giving the NDP traction. Same, same for the British Columbia Greens if Andrew Weaver can get his head out of his backside on the BDS issue.

My New Year resolution this year will be to work to make BC a Liberal-free zone in 2019.

In today's Tyee, the headlines read, "Trudeau Just Sacrificed BC for Big Oil," and "Climate Change, Not Spills, the Real Kinder Morgan Disaster: Trudeau's Orwellian pipeline approval ignores looming threat to our grandchildren," are the stuff to get the blood to boil.

Trudeau also has the National Observer snapping at his greasy heels. "British Columbia Prepping for Battle After Major Pipeline Approvals," and, "Trudeau Pipeline Approval Could Harm Relations for 'Generations' Says Chief Thomas."

Trudeau has declared war on British Columbia. Trudeau, like Trump, is waging war on mankind.

This is only going to intensify as the media revisits the old stories of just what bitumen is, the associated dangers, and the peril coastal BC is exposed to so that Alberta won't have to refine their toxic crap on-site, in Alberta.

The fight is on.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

This Is Trudeau's Idea of a Bitumen Supertanker Route

"In this recent government-commissioned risk-analysis report on tanker traffic safety in Canada, figure 3 shows in vivid red the “very high risk zone on Southern Vancouver Island. Within that area lie 17 of the province’s 33 Ecological Reserves which have a marine component within their boundaries. The report indicates that the Kinder Morgan proposal would essentially double the volume of oil passing through an already vulnerable marine environment, the area south of Vancouver Island where Washington-bound [conventional crude] oil tankers are common. The Trans-Mountain project website indicates there will be up to 34 tanker visits per month in this already crowded marine vessel area by 2017."

"Four marine Ecological Reserves in particular at the Southern tip of Vancouver Island would be directly exposed to contamination in the event of a marine accident in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The most northerly and only colony of breeding and pupping elephant seals in Canada is in the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Also it is a winter haulout site for two species of sea lions, and a birthing colony of harbour seals. . Three seabird species have nesting colonies on the island and the subtidal marine life in the Rockfish Conservation zone has extremely high biodiversity values. The risk for these rare colonies and populations from increased tanker traffic within a few kilometres is very high. Containment of an oil spill in adverse weather conditions and with tidal currents running daily up to 7 knots make clean up in this reserve impossible. Moreover, the population of marine birds and mammals is highest in the winter months."

The supertanker route threads the archipelago formed by BC's Gulf Islands and the adjacent San Juan Islands of Washington State. From there it's out through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, literally scraping American territorial waters. 


That's it. Prime minister Slick has greenlighted the Kinder Morgan pipeline initiative that will ship 900,000 barrels of toxic, lethal dilbit a day across British Columbia, through the Lower Mainland municipalities, and into an armada of supertankers that will become a daily feature as they ply the waters of Burrard Inlet, Coal Harbour, English Bay and coastal British Columbia through the Juan de Fuca Strait scraping along the US boundary.

All that business about First Nations approval and social licence, like just about everything else that has come from Trudeau, was a pack of lies. All that bold talk about fighting climate change - more lies. Bastard.

The good news is that the Tsleil-Wauthuth Nation on Burrard Inlet has vowed to block the deal. The less than good news is that the Green Party was all over the announcement, wasting not a second to notify the membership to send more money to Elizabeth May.  

Trump Has Germans Thinking a Lot About Democracy

The German people have not forgotten their past and president-elect Donald J. Trump has them revisiting those painful memories of a darker time.

An article in Der Spiegel asks "How Much Mussolini Is There in Donald Trump?" The writer reviews a number of fascism checklists and the results aren't promising for American democracy. He concludes that Americans should wait - and hope.

The article was obviously written before Trump's latest tweet on protesters who may burn the American flag:

"Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!

"— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016"

Of course, since 1989 the US Supreme Court has held that burning the Stars and Stripes is protected under the First Amendment. Trump, however, has repeatedly shown how little he cares for the First Amendment or dissent generally. 

Which brings us to former justice Robert Jackson's warning:

Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Executive pay might be the biggest scandal of the day in Big Business. We regularly read of CEOs earning five to six hundred times the average wage of their employees.

The Brits are tossing about the idea of having shareholders decide matters such as executive compensation. Take the decision-making out of the hands of the bloated boards of directors and transfer that power to where it belongs - those who own the companies.

Monbiot Tackles Neoliberalism's Death Grip on the West

Neoliberalism has been the default operating system of western governments, Canada included, since it was ushered in during the Thatcher/Reagan/Mulroney era.

Justin Trudeau is a neoliberal as were his predecessors over the last three decades.  Canada remains in the clutches of neoliberalism and no one, no leader, no party is putting forward an alternative vision.

We see the muddy footprints of neoliberalism in the latest news about how most of the new jobs in Canada are low wage, real precariat stuff and how huge our monthly trade deficits have become. We make increasingly less of the stuff we want to buy and foreign demand for the stuff we do make isn't great enough to even the books. No wonder Slick is so desperate to build bitumen pipelines to the coast. Silly bugger.

In today's Guardian, George Monbiot argues that neoliberalism is what has put America's democracy in such dire peril.

The events that led to Donald Trump’s election started in England in 1975. At a meeting a few months after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, one of her colleagues, or so the story goes, was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. She snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table. “This is what we believe,” she said. A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun.

The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek. Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism. It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone.

[Hayek] begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands.

Democracy, by contrast, “is not an ultimate or absolute value”. In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take.

...Thatcherism and Reaganism were not ideologies in their own right: they were just two faces of neoliberalism. Their massive tax cuts for the rich, crushing of trade unions, reduction in public housing, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services were all proposed by Hayek and his disciples. But the real triumph of this network was not its capture of the right, but its colonisation of parties that once stood for everything Hayek detested.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not possess a narrative of their own. Rather than develop a new political story, they thought it was sufficient to triangulate. In other words, they extracted a few elements of what their parties had once believed, mixed them with elements of what their opponents believed, and developed from this unlikely combination a “third way”.

...As I warned in April, the result is first disempowerment then disenfranchisement. If the dominant ideology stops governments from changing social outcomes, they can no longer respond to the needs of the electorate. Politics becomes irrelevant to people’s lives; debate is reduced to the jabber of a remote elite. The disenfranchised turn instead to a virulent anti-politics in which facts and arguments are replaced by slogans, symbols and sensation. The man who sank Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency was not Donald Trump. It was her husband.

The paradoxical result is that the backlash against neoliberalism’s crushing of political choice has elevated just the kind of man that Hayek worshipped. Trump, who has no coherent politics, is not a classic neoliberal. But he is the perfect representation of Hayek’s “independent”; the beneficiary of inherited wealth, unconstrained by common morality, whose gross predilections strike a new path that others may follow. The neoliberal thinktankers are now swarming round this hollow man, this empty vessel waiting to be filled by those who know what they want. The likely result is the demolition of our remaining decencies, beginning with the agreement to limit global warming.

Neoliberalism Out, Neofascism In?

Cornel West says America is in for a makeover, Trump style.

White working- and middle-class fellow citizens – out of anger and anguish – rejected the economic neglect of neoliberal policies and the self-righteous arrogance of elites. Yet these same citizens also supported a candidate who appeared to blame their social misery on minorities, and who alienated Mexican immigrants, Muslims, black people, Jews, gay people, women and China in the process.

This lethal fusion of economic insecurity and cultural scapegoating brought neoliberalism to its knees. In short, the abysmal failure of the Democratic party to speak to the arrested mobility and escalating poverty of working people unleashed a hate-filled populism and protectionism that threaten to tear apart the fragile fiber of what is left of US democracy. And since the most explosive fault lines in present-day America are first and foremost racial, then gender, homophobic, ethnic and religious, we gird ourselves for a frightening future.

Look Justin, Cut the Bullshit

Today's the day when we learn whether the federal government will put our north coast in jeopardy or merely threaten our south coast with disaster.

Which pipeline will Trudeau approve? Will it be the Enbridge Northern Gateway or the expanded Kinder Morgan line through the Lower Mainland? Maybe it'll be both. Maybe he'll kill off both, the least likely option.

Whether it's Enbridge or Kinder Morgan or both, the decision will be heavily larded with Trudeau's favourite bullshit line about how it is the federal government's sacred duty to get Canadian resources to market. Sure, fine, but let's take a minute to scrape the crap off that before swallowing it whole.

The devil is in the details and Trudeau's definition of "resources." The resource he'll tell you he wants to move is Athabasca oil. That's a damned lie. What he wants to move is something much more than oil. It's bitumen.,

There's oil in bitumen and with enough processing, refining, it can be extracted and turned into burnable petroleum products. The end product, heavy oil, is bad for the environment, bad for the planet, an affront to Trudeau's promise to cut carbon emissions, but that's only part of the problem.

The bigger problem is what else makes up bitumen. The stuff is jam packed with other goodies such as petcoke, abrasives, acids, heavy metals and various carcinogens.  Even after initial upgrading the sludge has to be mixed with light oil, diluent, just to help it move - with the benefit of added heat and high pressure - through pipelines.

Now if Slick had a shred of honesty in his bones he would admit that the greatest jeopardy comes from getting dilbit to market instead of shipping fully refined heavy crude. He would admit that, when his dilbit reaches Asia, that heavy-carbon petcoke is refined out and also burned for power generation.  He would admit that the heavy metals, acids, and carcinogens no one is willing to refine out on site in Alberta are what pose the gravest risks to BC's marine ecology. He would admit that they're willing to put our coast at such great, long-term (generational) risk because no one wants to foot the refining bill in Alberta.

This is where you see the real face of Justin Trudeau and it's ugly. The rest of Canada may be willing to swallow his bullshit but we can't get past the smell.

Maybe Hillary's Not So Bad After All.

Hubba, Hubba

Hillary Clinton's email scandal cost her heavily in the last election. Trump never went to a rally without feeding the Gullibillies the promise that he would see her in irons.

I'm not sure Trump wasn't just feeding his supporters a load of horseshit on that Hillary business. After all, who did he invite over yesterday to discuss filling the Secretary of State slot? That would be noneother than Dave "Pillow Talk" Petraeus who took time out from his duties as commander in Afghanistan to bed and pass along classified info to Paula Broadwell.

The guffaws were heard across the capitol. Kentucky senator Rand Paul quipped: 

“they spent a year and a half beating up Hillary Clinton over revealing classified information and then they would appoint somebody who the FBI says not only revealed it, but then lied about it in an interview and purposefully gave it to someone who did not have the clearance to have that.”

Monday, November 28, 2016

Does Robert F. Kennedy Have Justin Trudeau's Number?

Kennedy explains what's really behind the petro-states' pipeline fetish.

Great, Just Great. Watch Trump Jump All Over This.

The man who injured 11 people at Ohio State was a refugee from Somalia.

Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, rammed his car into a group of pedestrians at the college then got out and began stabbing people before police shot him dead.

The Thing Is, We Don't Know.

We don't know what it means when, for the second consecutive year, the Arctic is experiencing a dark winter heatwave. In the pitch black, what should be the coldest time of the year, Arctic temperatures are 20C/36F above normal.

We don't know what's actually happening, what's triggering this dark winter heatwave. We don't know what it portends.

There are all sorts of warnings that the global economy is about to tip into another 2008-style meltdown only this time world governments won't be able to find money for bailouts. Is this looming? We don't know. If it is, we don't know what it portends.

In The Guardian last week, George Monbiot listed "13 impossible crises that humanity now faces." 13, that's not a good number.

19 is worse. That's the number of "tipping points"  that we may have crossed or are about to cross in the Arctic according to researchers behind the Arctic Resilience Report also released last week. 19 tipping points, many of them anchored in positive feedback loops, that we're told could be the precursor to runaway, catastrophic climate change in places many thousands of miles distant from the Arctic. Is this disaster really in the cards? Is it imminent? We don't know.

This morning, a Chris Hedges piece, warned that America is entering a post-democratic era, some form of authoritarian/totalitarian statehood. Is that even possible? We don't know.

I was never a big fan of Buffalo Springfield but their lyrics keep running through my mind. "Something's happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear." For What It's Worth, indeed.

Something is happening here. That much I think we all know. It's tangible, palpable. The thing is, we - you and I - don't know. We don't have teams of world class experts at our beck and call to explain what is truly going on and what strategies and options we have for responding. There's no one around to give us the odds.

But we elect people who do have access to those experts and advisors. They know the risks and the options and the odds and there's a lot of information they should be sharing with us right now. 13 impossible crises. 19 tipping points. What else? What does it all mean? We don't know. But the people we elect who should be letting us in on it, they prefer to just keep us in the dark, as dark as winter in the Arctic.

Chris Hedges Says All Roads Lead To....

No, not Rome. Hedges thinks they lead to a post-democratic America.

We await the crisis. It could be economic. It could be a terrorist attack within the United States. It could be widespread devastation caused by global warming. It could be nationwide unrest as the death spiral of the American empire intensifies. It could be another defeat in our endless and futile wars. The crisis is coming. And when it arrives it will be seized upon by the corporate state, nominally led by a clueless real estate developer, to impose martial law and formalize the end of American democracy.

When we look back on this sad, pathetic period in American history we will ask the questions all who have slid into despotism ask. Why were we asleep? How did we allow this to happen? Why didn’t we see it coming? Why didn’t we resist?

...The failure of our capitalist democracy was collective. It was bred by ignorance, indifference, racism, bigotry and the seduction of mass propaganda. It was bred by elites, especially in the press, the courts and academia, who chose careerism over moral and intellectual courage. Our rights as citizens were taken from us one by one. There was hardly a word of protest.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

How to Look Your Very Best - After the Old Man Tunes You Up.

This is a screen capture from a Moroccan state TV programme showing women make up tips for concealing those tell tale signs of a damned good thrashing by the hubby.

Really, seriously? Oh, f@#k me.

Is It Time We Recycled This?

All we have to do is change the face:

British Columbia voters made Harper pay dearly in 2015. The Liberals' support is almost entirely in the very region, the southwest corner, where opposition to pipelines and supertankers is fiercest. Trudeau treads on those voters at his peril.

Ten Long Years, What Will the Next Ten Hold?

Who could have foreseen the changes our species, our civilization and our planet have undergone over just the last 10 years?  It was 10 years ago that I started this blog and today I glanced through some posts from that first year.

2006, the year Saddam Hussein went to the gallows. It was the year of the Stern Report that warned of the massive economic costs we would face if we refused a rapid transition to alternative, clean energy. Iraq and Afghanistan were still in the grip of chaotic violence (some things never change). Jeb Bush got it right when, replying to reporters asking about his political plans for the future, said, "no tengo, futuro," which translates as "I have no future." Unintentionally prescient. The now "late" Fidel Castro stepped down handing power to his brother, Raoul. Jack Kevorkian got out of prison just as Enron's Jeffrey Skilling was going in. Myron Thompson, remember him? Augusto Pinochet, gone. The Times of London caused a stir with a story claiming the Arctic could be open for navigation as soon as 2040. We thought, nay believed, that America never had a worse president than George w. Bush and could never have one worse in the future. The Globe's mastermind, Marcus Gee, wrote, "the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan did not predate the 9/11 terrorist outrage against U.S. civilians, but were a response to it" as though the Bush/Cheney gang didn't already have Iraq in Washington's crosshairs from the day they took office. I began referring to The Globe as "the toolbox."

But that was then. This is now, a full decade later. Some things haven't changed such as the breathtaking stupidity of many of our leaders. Still, last week let us know that some things have changed, dangerously so.

The Guardian's George Monbiot brought us "The 13 Impossible Crises that Humanity Now Faces," warning that "this multi-headed crisis presages collapse." Then the Stockholm Environment Institute, in conjunction with the Arctic Council, released the Arctic Resilience Report that carried the shocking news that dramatic environmental change across the Arctic were triggering no fewer than 19 climate "tipping points" that could lead to imminent, runaway global warming.

By sheer happenstance I came across Thomas Homer-Dixon's 2006 book, "The Upside of Down," yesterday as I made another ill-fated attempt to clear the clutter from my office. I was planning to shelve it along with the other books stacked all over my desk when I spied a protruding bookmark that I thought I should scavenge for my next read. Looking at the page it was a commentary on what Homer-Dixon referred to as "contingency" that, in light of those two reports from last week, seemed chilling:

"A moment of contingency is a moment of choice, like the fork in the pathway encountered by the traveler in Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken." Frost's traveler had an advantage: he could see ahead where a road 'bent in the undergrowth.' the aftermath of a globe-shaking social earthquake ...we'll have trouble seeing anything at all. The comfortable old road behind us will have vanished, but the new ones in front of us will be barely visible in a fog of fear and uncertainty.

"In moments of contingency, nothing is definite, and everything is tentative. Choices made by societies, groups, and individuals may be less constrained than previously, but the consequences of choices are far more opaque. Social reality loosens its grip on us. It becomes more fluid. Long-standing relations of authority between people, groups, and institutions weaken, while deeply ingrained patterns of social behavior lose purpose and meaning. Actions and futures that were once unthinkable - because they were too wonderful or too horrible - are suddenly possible. In moments of contingency, surprise and bewilderment create mental polarities; anticipation alternates with fear, and hope with despair. And these polarities evoke the best and worst attributes of human character - courage and cowardice, generosity and greed, kindness and malice, and integrity and deceit.

"Moments of contingency are thus easily exploited for good or ill. Fear, hope, and greed are unleashed at the same time that social reality becomes fluid. This means that people's motivation to change their circumstances soars just as their opportunities to accomplish change multiply. Whether the outcome of this powerful confluence is turmoil or renewal hinges - in large measure - on how the situation is framed.

"People will want reassurance. They will want an explanation of the disorder that has engulfed them - an explanation that makes their world seem, once more, coherent and predictable, if not safe. Ruthless leaders can satisfy these desires and build their political power by prying open existing cleavages between ethnic and religious groups, classes, races, nations, or cultures. First they define what it means to be a good person and in so doing identify the members of the we group. Then they define and identify the bad people who are members of the they group. These are enemies such as immigrants, Jews, Muslims, Westerners, the rich, the poor, the nonwhite, who are the perceived cause of all problems and who can serve as an easy focus of fear and anger.

"Particularly receptive to such stereotypes are people who already feel humiliated or victimized; so too are those who feel alienated or marginalized and who believe, as a result, that they have no stake in society and no peaceful means to express their unhappiness. These people are not necessarily the destitute; rather, they're people who see a rapidly widening gulf between what they're getting and what they think they rightfully deserve. "

In the context of the Arctic Resilience Report and Monbiot's "13 impossible crises,"  Homer-Dixon's discussion of "contingency" in his now 10 year old book sounds as if it could have been written today. Some of it seems to be straight out of Donald Trump's campaign playbook. We live in an era where wedge politics works for those who turn this weapon against us, those who reap immeasurable gains from the dismantling of social cohesion.

Homer-Dixon's point is that we need to be able to identify what societal collapse will look like. We need to grasp the pitfalls and be ready for them. It's our ability to roll with the punches and bounce back, just as often as necessary, that will determine how, even if, we can renew our civilization.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Weasel Words For the 21st Century

Changes are overtaking us rapidly and the people we trust to safeguard us from the worst are not keeping up. The political growth industry of the moment is inventing words of self-absolution to cover almost any disaster contingency.

The hands-down favourite so far is "no one saw it coming." The variation is "no one could have seen it coming." Bush Jr. used it when America got rumbled by the 2008 Great Recession. Harper and Redford used it when downtown Calgary was turned into a marine park by torrential flooding in 2013.

These are weasel words, phrases intended to disguise the great lie. No one could see the 2008 meltdown coming? Nouriel Roubini clearly foresaw it. Paul Krugman did too. Just read his 2005 book "The Great Unraveling." Nobel laureate economist, Joe Stiglitz, saw it coming. They saw it and they were warning anybody willing to listen that it was coming, soon, and it was going to hit hard.

Here, "no one saw it coming" translates into "no one I was willing to listen to saw it coming" or "no one who embraces the same wobbly ideology I cling to saw it coming" or "no one wanted to see it coming and so we didn't look."

When Calgary was hit by the second "once in a century" flood in less than a decade, that too was foreseeable. Climate scientists had warned that we were going to experience severe storm events of increasing intensity, duration and frequency. They knew that climate change was increasing the content of water vapour in our clouds. They knew how the warming Arctic atmosphere was creating these Rossby Waves that plunged high into the north and then far into the south and would periodically simply stop moving which meant that a torrential rain storm could be parked over the same area for days on end.

But Harper is gone and so too is Bush. Today we have a new cast of characters but are they one bit better than the last bunch? Leave Trump out of it. We've got a new guy who now has a year in power under his belt, the namesake of one of the greatest political minds in our nation's history. What might we expect from him? Will he be just another "no one saw it coming" leader, another purveyor of the great weasel words?

In a word, "yes." Ignoring the warnings from the IMF and World Bank, Trudeau remains a globalism free trader, fang and claw. He clings to the neoliberal experiment that Milt Friedman, before his death, admitted was a failed ideology. He believes that Canada has a road to play in the world and it's a road paved with bitumen.

Trudeau had barely been sworn into office before scientists began to sound the alarm about a "climate emergency" underway in the Arctic. They revealed that, in the middle of the pitch-black Arctic winter, the region was experiencing a heat wave powerful enough to trigger cyclonic winds that thinned the Arctic sea ice by an astonishing 4 inches.

This prime minister watched as eastern Canada endured a summer of sustained drought that damaged agricultural production. Now, for the second consecutive year, the Arctic is experiencing a dark winter heat wave. Correct me if I'm wrong but I've not heard a word from Trudeau or his EnviroMin, Dame Cathy, about the climate emergency underway in the Arctic. Just yesterday we learned from the Arctic Resilience Report that conditions in the far north have brought us to the brink of triggering no fewer than 19 climate change "tipping points" which could send us on the path to catastrophic, runaway global warming.

So what's our government's response at this critical moment? In a picture, this:

Of course they'll tell us they couldn't see it coming. You can't see much of anything when your head is up your ass. Look at it this way. With a government like this, you're on your own. We all are.

This May Sound Radical But There's Really No Other Choice

With backward thinking governments still in the neoliberal embrace of constantly growing GDP, a different vision, one based in reality, is beginning to take hold.

There's a new economic movement, "degrowth." From Deutsche Welle:

With the planet reaching its biophysical limits on what it can provide us, a growing number of economists and environmentalists say we need to switch focus from economic growth to human and ecological wellbeing.

...Currently, few question the pursuit of economic growth. From national economic policies to international programs for sustainable development, growth has typically been the goal.

But some economists now argue that on a planet with finite resources, we may have to stop growing in order to survive.

"More economic growth means more and material extracted out of nature, and more and waste after we use these materials," sais Giorgos Kallis, an ecological economist and editor of "Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era."

"With the current level of economic growth - and aspired levels of growth - there is no way to avoid dramatic and catastrophic change of the climate."

Here's what Justin Trudeau, and every prime minister, Liberal and Tory, going back at least to Brian Mulroney, refused to accept.

Man's resource footprint has outgrown the planet by a factor of 1.7 times and that's still growing. We are exhausting the Earth of the resources, renewable and non-, necessary for the continuation of life on our planet. We are now in what is called "overshoot."

This graphic illustrates our problem. Our consumption is already in overshoot well above the planet's carrying capacity which is, predictably, degrading. The evidence is manifest, everywhere. It is tangible, measurable, and it's even visible to the naked eye from the International Space Station. It takes many forms including deforestation and desertification (the exhaustion of farmland and its transformation into desert). It can be seen in dried up lakes and rivers that no longer run to the sea. It takes the form of algae blooms in our lakes and rivers and coastal oceanic dead zones. NASA's tandem Grace satellites reveal surface subsidence caused by our rapid depletion of our groundwater, our aquifers. We see it as our industrial fishing fleet collapses one fish stock after another. The examples go on and on and on.

We have embraced the delusion that our economy, nationally and globally, can exceed the bounds of our planetary ecosystem, our environment. Those who make the argument that intelligent life is self-extinguishing have proof aplenty in that.

Several years ago, renowned British scientist, James Lovelock, said that mankind's survival depended on accepting what he termed "sustainable retreat." But try telling your neighbour that the future of our grandkids and theirs hinges on our willingness to reduce our standard of living by 40 per cent, perhaps more.

The degrowth movement is welcome and long overdue but with our governments in the grip of magical thinking the odds against it are monumental.

Now There's a Snag. Trump May Have to Choose - His Real Estate Empire or the Presidency,

Festung Trump

They're a plainly bipartisan duo: the former chief ethics council to #43, George w. Bush, and the former chief ethics counsel to #44, Barack Obama. But they speak with one voice when it comes to Donald J. Trump.

The former ethics lawyers for president Barack Obama and George W Bush have asked the electoral college to not appoint Donald Trump as the next president due to his potential conflicts of interest.

Richard Painter, former chief ethics counsel for Mr Bush, and Norman Eisen, former chief ethics counsel for Mr Obama, said that the president-elect must sell out from his real estate and business holdings before 19 December, when the electoral college officially appoints the next president.

As reported by ThinkProgress, Mr Eisen pointed to Article 1, Section 9 of the US constitution which prohibits presidents from accepting "any present, emolument, office, or title, or any kind whatever, from any king, price, or foreign state".

The most recent up-and-running example of a Trump business is the new hotel in Washington DC, which hosted a group of 100 diplomats this month, providing food and a tour of the expensive suites.

"The notion that his (through his agents) solicitation of those payments, and the foreign governments making of those payments, is unrelated to his office is laughable," Mr Eisen said.

Mr Trump recently told the New York Times that he "could run [his] business perfectly, and then run the country perfectly". He added that the "law [was] totally on [his] side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest".

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe shared the view that Mr Trump must divest to prevent potential conflicts of interest.

Mr Trump has already asked favours from politicians to help his businesses profit, including UK politicians to scrap wind farm proposals which would block the sea views from his Aberdeenshire golf course.

He has also come under fire for allowing his daughter Ivanka to sit in on meetings with heads of state, including Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.