Friday, October 28, 2016

Could This Be How Trump Wins the White House?

Is the FBI pulling a Zaccardelli on Hillary Clinton?

You may recall how then RCMP commissioner, Giuliano Zaccardelli, gave Harper a leg up by announcing, in the midst of a general election, that then Liberal finance minister Ralph Goodale was under criminal investigation for allegedly leaking information on the Martin government's income trust policy.

After the election was over and Harper had defeated Martin, it emerged that there was no evidence of wrongdoing but that the commissioner himself had directed the groundless accusation be leaked. Even when summoned before Parliament, Zaccardelli refused to answer questions or explain himself.

Now, with less than two weeks before Americans choose their next president, the FBI have announced a fresh criminal investigation into more Clinton emails.

The FBI's head said on Friday that the agency would investigate additional emails that have surfaced related to Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email server to determine whether they contain classified information.

In a letter to several US congressional committee chairmen, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director (FBI) James Comey said that he "cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work."

The timing of this announcement and this investigation doesn't smell, it reeks. Assuming the FBI was aware that Americans would be going to the polls on November 8th, it has to at least explain when it got these emails and how it's only investigating them now.

The FBI says it stumbled across the emails in connection with another case. What case? How are Clinton's emails connected to this other case? For how long have the FBI had these documents in their possession and control? 

The Clinton camp haven't responded to this announcement but they can't ignore it for long.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

It's Got Everything, Even a Sarah Palin Cameo

If you liked "The Producers", you'll love this:

The Republican Civil War. It's Already Underway.

Donald Trump has stopped fundraising for the Republican Party that he feels has openly betrayed him.

The Republican leadership is turning on the outsider candidate who captured their party, inflicted immeasurable damage to the brand, and is failing to defeat a Democratic rival the public neither likes nor trusts.

Trump loyalists, particularly Giuliani and Gingrich, are turning on the Republican leadership and the rightwing press, feverishly trying to deflect blame in advance of the trainwreck that is looming.

From Sydney Morning Herald columnist, Paul McGeough:

There's blood in the water. Traditionally, a losing party might go to the mattresses after an election, but just days before an election that was its to win, the Republican Party is already tearing itself apart.

Privately, Donald Trump is demanding that House Speaker Paul Ryan, the most senior elected Republican in the country, be forced to pay for his disloyalty, and on Tuesday Trump made clear he'll not take any blame for defeat – "the people are very angry with the leadership of this party, because this is an election that we [could] win if we had support from the top," he told Reuters.

Riven and demoralised, the party is splintering into two camps – an establishment-led faction that will disown Trump as it attempts to make peace with the minorities abandoned in his pitch to a shrinking white America; and the Trump and Tea Party diehards who cling to the candidate's ethno-nationalist xenophobia.

The GOP's post election dilemma is nerve-racking – a whole leadership generation will have been discredited for not pushing back hard enough as Trump emerged as the likely nominee – and in that, they created their own combustible Catch-22.

...Here's how New York Times columnist Ross Douthat parses it: "The party's leaders were afraid Trump would rage against them if they denied him the nomination; instead, he is raging against them for refusing to go to the mat for his caught-on-tape misogyny and pornographic boasts.

...Ryan is among a GOP who's-who of likely presidential candidates for the 2020 election.

But Trump, always a modest man, seemed to argue to a rally in Florida this week that that only he can defeat Clinton – "all these characters, they want to run in four years. They can forget it. They're wasting their time. You don't have even a little bit of a chance."

...If Trump is guided by a self-congratulatory claim he made in old audio-recorded interviews that surfaced this week – "I never had a failure, because I always turned a failure into a success" – he's likely to hang in with the GOP at a time when it must decide, in the words of conservative commentator and Never Trumper, Peter Wehner, whether it needs a dose of amoxicillin for a bout of pneumonia or chemotherapy to treat its cancer.

If the conduct of Trump's presidential campaign is a guide, that is guaranteed to be brutal, self-destructive process.

If Paul McGeough's take is accurate, and he does have a pretty good record of getting things right, this is getting very ugly and could be a setback the GOP won't overcome anytime soon.

Would a Clinton presidency and a Democratic Senate seek to fan the flames of Republican discord? How could they not. If Republican solidarity collapses and their energy is diverted to internecine battles, that's all good news for the Dems.

Trade, Trade, Trade

I recall an interview with prime minister Trudeau at the 6-month mark of his ascent to power. He told the interviewer that his overarching responsibility was to be an agent of trade. Trade to grow the economy. Trade to generate prosperity.

Trudeau's Harperesque pursuit of CETA and TPP demonstrates that he means business. This goes straight back to those mandate letters he issued to his freshly minted cabinet ministers as they were sworn in. Even Catherine McKenna's marching orders stipulate that her priorities are to be the economy and the environment. There's no doubt that she meant it when she said she was "as much an economic minister as an environmental minister."

Trade it is then. But, if you're going to make trade your priority, your dominant responsibility, then surely you have to accept full responsibility for the fallout from that pursuit. That's on you, Slick.

One element of that fallout is the rise of Canada's homegrown "precariat." It's a term used to describe the future this free-trading government has bequeathed to our youth. In case you're wondering, that's a future fraught with insecurity and economic peril.

Earlier this week, Trudeau finance minister, Bill Morneau, delivered the bad news telling Canadians that they would just have to get used to "job churn" - a future of intermittent employment and a constant scramble for the next job, that essential paycheque to meet the rent and heat the apartment.

Morneau defined his government's focus will be to train and retrain and retrain regularly laid off Canadians as they're tossed "from job to job to job."

What Morneau avoided was any mention of why he's consigned Canada's most vulnerable to a nomadic working life, always wondering when the current job will end and where they'll find the next temporary spot, how long it will take to find and how they'll avoid falling through the floorboards when that inevitable dislocation happens again and again and again.

Morneau won't mention how his own government and its predecessors laid the foundation for this upheaval and uncertainty through its obsessive pursuit of neoliberalism and global free trade, the constant downward spiral. He won't explain why, when even the World Bank and International Monetary Fund can no longer remain silent on the social and economic damage inflicted by globalism, his government remains a faithful adherent to this toxic ideology.

I'm sorry Morneau and you too, Trudeau, but, when you tell Canadians to forego their hopes and resign themselves to a future in the precariat, what you're really telling them is that you won't change course and liberal democracy be damned.

It wasn't always this way. Here are a few observations from two real American Idols - Lincoln and T. Roosevelt.

Let's begin with Abraham Lincoln who declared:

“I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind.

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

If it is, indeed, man's duty "to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind," how is he to do that when his government consigns him to the precariat and tells him to "get used to it"?

If Labour is "the superior of capital" how is it that your government chooses to stack the deck so that capital prevails at the direct cost and damage to labour and our society?

Now let's turn to Teddy Roosevelt who observed:

"In every wise struggle for human betterment one of the main objects, and often the only object, has been to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity. In the struggle for this great end, nations rise from barbarism to civilization, and through it people press forward from one stage of enlightenment to the next. One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privilege. The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows."

"At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress. In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will. At every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity, destroy privilege, and give to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the commonwealth."

"Practical equality of opportunity for all citizens, when we achieve it, will have two great results. First, every man will have a fair chance to make of himself all that in him lies; to reach the highest point to which his capacities, unassisted by special privilege of his own and unhampered by the special privilege of others, can carry him, and to get for himself and his family substantially what he has earned. Second, equality of opportunity means that the commonwealth will get from every citizen the highest service of which he is capable. No man who carries the burden of the special privileges of another can give to the commonwealth that service to which it is fairly entitled."

"There is a wide-spread belief among our people that, under the methods of making tariffs which have hitherto obtained, the special interests are too influential. Probably this is true of both the big special interests and the little special interests. These methods have put a premium on selfishness, and, naturally, the selfish big interests have gotten more than their smaller, though equally selfish, brothers. The duty of Congress is to provide a method by which the interest of the whole people shall be all that receives consideration."

"Of conservation I shall speak more at length elsewhere. Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us. I ask nothing of the nation except that it so behave as each farmer here behaves with reference to his own children. That farmer is a poor creature who skins the land and leaves it worthless to his children. The farmer is a good farmer who, having enabled the land to support himself and to provide for the education of his children, leaves it to them a little better than he found it himself. I believe the same thing of a nation."

"Now, with the water power, with the forests, with the mines, we are brought face to face with the fact that there are many people who will go with us in conserving the resources only if they are to be allowed to exploit them for their benefit. That is one of the fundamental reasons why the special interests should be driven out of politics. Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us, and training them into a better race to inhabit the land and pass it on. Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation. Let me add that the health and vitality of our people are at least as well worth conserving as their forests, waters, lands, and minerals, and in this great work the national government must bear a most important part."

"The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted. Let us admit also the right to regulate the terms and conditions of labor, which is the chief element of wealth, directly in the interest of the common good. The fundamental thing to do for every man is to give him a chance to reach a place in which he will make the greatest possible contribution to the public welfare. Understand what I say there. Give him a chance, not push him up if he will not be pushed. Help any man who stumbles; if he lies down, it is a poor job to try to carry him; but if he is a worthy man, try your best to see that he gets a chance to show the worth that is in him. No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so after his day’s work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load. We keep countless men from being good citizens by the conditions of life by which we surround them."

"The object of government is the welfare of the people. The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so long as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens. Just in proportion as the average man and woman are honest, capable of sound judgment and high ideals, active in public affairs, — but, first of all, sound in their home, and the father and mother of healthy children whom they bring up well, — just so far, and no farther, we may count our civilization a success."

Now, I know these passages carry a certain homespun-ness that can seem awkward but I dare you to tell me - whether you're a Conservative, New Democrat, Liberal or Green - would you really prefer a government that doesn't embrace every one of these principles? What would you give to have a government that did, a genuinely progressive party?

Climate change is, or should be, a non-partisan issue. It's the ultimate scientific question spanning the gamut of Earth sciences - geology, climatology, atmospherics and meteorology, hydrology and oceanography, physics, agronomy, epidemiology, on and on and on. Those disciplines are all separate voices. They have their own scientific focus, their own scientific history, and they each test the "hypothesis" against the best research, analysis and knowledge of their own discipline. Discipline, by discipline, by discipline - without exception - they have all tested the theory of climate change against their own strictures and found in that ever more corroboration.

Progressivism, like climate change, can and should be a non-partisan issue. You shouldn't have to be a Conservative or Liberal or, even, New Democrat to reach out and grab these precepts and notions. Even Edmund Burke wrote of matters progressive.

And so how do our Latter Day Liberals and Conservatives justify so abandoning the Canadian people and, especially, our younger generations? Who elected them to give the future the finger?

This, of course, brings us back to Morneau's finger to young and future Canadians to just "suck it up." If you were one of those kids, you might look at us and the governments we imposed on them as truly predatory acts.

I can only defend some of what we've done by claiming "we didn't know." We really didn't know the scope or the nature or the self-destructive qualities of neoliberalism. But we've had our eyes opened now,  at least other than those who chose to turn their heads, and we don't have any excuse to keep tolerating the Morneau's and the Trudeau's and Harper's of this world who see no obligation to ensure the Canada bequeathed to our young and future generations won't be a much degraded remnant of the country we have exploited for our ease and comfort.

It's not unfair to say that Morneau's dystopian vision is, in a word, revolting. That's "revolting" as in justifying resistance, civil disobedience, perhaps even upheaval. If this government isn't leaving our young people and generations to come the best possible future it can provide, if it isn't even attempting to fix this crisis of our own making, why should any young person accept it? Why should they find any legitimacy in such a government?

If I stumbled across an act of civil disobedience underway today, I would be very tempted just to look the other way. This form of governance is not legitimate to me either.

Where Has All the Wildlife Gone?

The latest Living Planet Report has been released.

A few years ago the World Wildlife Fund in conjunction with the London Zoological Society and other groups issued a LPR that found terrestrial life on Earth had declined 50% in total since 1970, The following year's Living Planet Report surveyed marine life - fish, marine mammals, sea birds - and found a similar 50% decline since 1970.

The 2016 Living Planet Report finds that global wildlife has now dropped by 58%  and is on track to reach 67% by 2020.

Global wildlife could plunge to a 67 per cent level of decline in just the fifty-year period ending this decade as a result of human activities, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016. The report shows how people are overpowering the planet for the first time in Earth’s history and highlights the changes needed in the way society is fed and fuelled.

According to the report, global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have already declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012, the most recent year with available data. This places the world on a trajectory of a potential two-thirds decline within a span of the half-century ending in 2020.

“Wildlife is disappearing within our lifetimes at an unprecedented rate,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. “This is not just about the wonderful species we all love; Take away species, and these ecosystems will collapse along with biodiversity forms the foundation of healthy forests, rivers and oceans. the clean air, water, food and climate services that they provide us. We have the tools to fix this problem and we need to start using them now if we are serious about preserving a living planet for our own survival and prosperity.

Human behaviour continues to drive the decline of wildlife populations globally, with particular impact in freshwater habitats. Importantly however, these are declines, they are not yet extinctions – and this should be a wake-up call to marshal efforts to promote the recovery of these populations,” said Professor Ken Norris, Director of Science at ZSL.

The good news is that we still have time to reverse the worst of this. That would involve a resolution to avert species collapse and an assessment of how to go about ensuring that.  As the decline is human driven, reversing it would mean changing ourselves. It's hard to imagine that we can cling to perpetual exponential growth and do anything but worsen the problem. Unfortunately Canada, like most developed and emerging economies is led by a political caste still in the embrace of constant growth.

We really have to wake up. On a civilizational scale, this massive decline carries ecological impacts that may not be survivable. It's like nature is trying to call and get our attention but nobody's listening.

The important thing to remember is that, when it comes to the decline in wildlife, we have no idea where the tipping point is or even how resilient our global civilization can be to a challenge of this magnitude. We're continuing to grow in numbers, in consumption of already overtaxed resources, in our demands on habitat, in the pollution of all descriptions we leave in our wake. These are the things that are crowding out all other species that share our planet. These are the things that are already savaging their numbers.

We have no interest in stopping.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Rise of Canada's Precariat. Thanks Morneau.

The natives are restless. There's a powerful anger simmering among the masses echoing a great and persistent discontent. Like the motto of that TV show, "winter is coming."

Just for a lark I went through the post captions on ProgBlog going back several days. Not a lot of happy campers there. Even the banishment of Beelzebub no longer is enough to lift spirits. The Selfie Sprite's wings are beginning to falter.

It's not hard to understand. There aren't may rays of sunshine these days. Most things seem to be trending in the wrong direction.

Now we've got a finance minister, some guy named Morneau, telling the kids that their job security is going to be a lot like the Arctic sea ice - vanishing and then gone. "Sorry kids, but you're fucked. Thanks for playing." Then, like Pilate, he washes his hands of their plight.

The rise of Canada's "precariat" is a lot like the rise of inequality in that it's engineered, legislated. Nobel laureate economist, Joe Stiglitz, demonstrates that inequality is neither merit nor market-based. It's legislated. It's the inevitable side effect of government policy. not necessarily intended but not unforeseeable either. If you're not familiar with it, check out his woefully under read book, "The Price of Inequality."

Precarity is both hammer and anvil. Those who fall into it are crushed between the two scourges of employment insecurity and financial insecurity. They live paycheque to paycheque, a lot of them chasing two or more jobs to make ends meet.

Morneau's announcement is a capitulation, a brazen dereliction of duty. He didn't say, "This is a nightmare for our kids. We have to deal with this." No, the Trudeau government's response is a simple, "Sorry kids, you're fucked."

Which brings me back to Osawatomie, Kansas in the summer of 1910 when Roosevelt delivered his Square Deal speech. A good part of that speech dealt with the struggle between labour and capital. He observed that a good worker was an asset to the employer but, more importantly, an asset to his family, to his community and, ultimately, to his nation. The wellbeing of the worker was the foundation of democratic governance. The duty of a democratic government was to regulate the constant struggle between labour and capital in accordance with Lincoln's declaration that, of the two, labour must be "by far the superior" of capital.

It strikes me that doesn't sound anything like what came out of the mouth of that guy, Morneau. Just what kind of a country does he think we will have when this precariat becomes the new normal? Let's face facts. The name "Liberal" has no meaning. This is a government in the "movement conservative" model. Laissez-faire leaches, the whores of neoliberalism.

If this government doesn't make bile rise in your throat, consider these passages scavenged from this blog and beginning with a 2012 piece on remarks by Noam Chomsky:

"In 2005, Citigroup came out with a brochure for investors called “Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances.” It urged investors to put money into a “plutonomy index.” The brochure says, “The World is dividing into two blocs -- the Plutonomy and the rest.

"Plutonomy refers to the rich, those who buy luxury goods and so on, and that’s where the action is. They claimed that their plutonomy index was way outperforming the stock market. As for the rest, we set them adrift. We don’t really care about them. We don’t really need them. They have to be around to provide a powerful state, which will protect us and bail us out when we get into trouble, but other than that they essentially have no function. These days they’re sometimes called the “precariat” -- people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. Only it’s not the periphery anymore. It’s becoming a very substantial part of society in the United States and indeed elsewhere. And this is considered a good thing.

"So, for example, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, at the time when he was still “Saint Alan” -- hailed by the economics profession as one of the greatest economists of all time (this was before the crash for which he was substantially responsible) -- was testifying to Congress in the Clinton years, and he explained the wonders of the great economy that he was supervising. He said a lot of its success was based substantially on what he called “growing worker insecurity.” If working people are insecure, if they’re part of the precariat, living precarious existences, they’re not going to make demands, they’re not going to try to get better wages, they won’t get improved benefits. We can kick ’em out, if we don’t need ’em. And that’s what’s called a “healthy” economy, technically speaking. And he was highly praised for this, greatly admired."

"As for the rest, we set them adrift." That sounds exactly like what Morneau was saying. And notice what Chomsky was divining from Greenspan's remarks? Capital has now learned how powerfully it can monetize precarity. Not forever perhaps, but for long enough. You can read the complete Chomsky piece here.

In June, 2015, Brian Stewart did a piece on a UN report on the rise of the global precariat

[The UN report] warns of "widespread insecurity" spreading as momentum shifts from societies with full-time jobs to shaky short-term employment across much of the globe.

Another scary fact the study unearths is how many people these days have stable work contracts of any kind. That's barely one in four of the globe's workforce.

The overwhelming majority of people on the planet struggle with temporary work, informal or illegal jobs, long spells of unemployment and unpaid family work.

In other words, most are caught in a disadvantageous spiral where exploitation is a real risk.

...What was once viewed as a passing crisis now seems to be the new normal, producing deep psychological unease within the workforce and growing inequality between those with stable incomes and those without.

Global financial officials are worried to the point they've again started using the term "hysteresis," borrowed from physics, to warn that long-established unemployment is becoming "structural" and therefore harder to correct, as the jobless lose skills and companies grow addicted to cheaper, temporary labour.

...It's hard to escape the feeling that even as our societies grow richer we are, bizarrely, looping backwards.

"The GDP per capita keeps going up. The problem is that we're not sharing the wealth at all equitably," says Wayne Lewchuk of McMaster University who researches precarious employment. "In many ways we've gone back to a 1920s mentality."

The Twenties did not have an encouraging outcome, as we know.

Still, looking at these striking global trends in joblessness and precarious work, as well as at the soaring refugee numbers and widening inequality, it's difficult to get around the nagging feeling that this century's forward movement has stalled and is on slippery ground.

The critical point is that, as Morneau throws our kids to the unregulated wolves of the market place and into the precariat, this has knock-on effects of an even greater magnitude. You throw in the towel, as this Liberal government has so shamefully done, and this malignancy becomes truly structural, an integral part of your economy. As that happens, it is accompanied by a structural shift in governance, the gradual and quiet end of democracy making way for the inevitable rise of plutocracy. 

Morneau is signalling Trudeau's refusal to defend Canada's democracy and the wellbeing of our society. Plain and simple. I'll end with a few remarks I wrote just before our 2015 election:

Look at what's happened in the States and realize that's where we're headed too if we continue to lay on these tracks waiting for the train.

If you want to get up off those tracks, you had better do it soon. What do you really know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP? Personally I don't know that much about it but I know someone who does, Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, and he's written a dandy warning for all of us in The New York Times.

Read his warning. Then read his book, "The Price of Inequality." Learn what we're up against, what awaits us and our kids, and who is really responsible for making servitude our reality. Then, when you've had your fill, go to your stooge of choice - Tommy Boy or Junior - and ask them how they're going to undo this national headache before it becomes a full blown and permanent migraine.

If they won't act, don't vote for them. If you do, don't complain about what you've got coming.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"You Can't Respect People Because Most People Aren't Worthy of Respect."

So says the man who proclaims himself the "voice of the people," Donald J. Trump, Republican nominee for president of the United States. The New York Times, no fan of The Donald, has obtained five hours of interviews with Trump conducted in 2014. Part one is now available online at the link above.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Justin, Andrew Would Like a Moment of Your Time

Is petro-statehood the path that leads to the Americanization of Canada? It kind of looks that way to Canada's top petro-journo, Andrew Nikiforuk.

The Tyee energy scribe sees Justin as "Harper-lite with a surfboard." Rachel Notley is one who thinks a bad bet can be transformed into a winner if only you double down. As for Brad Wall, he offers this:

In Saskatchewan, Premier Brad Wall has compared pipelines to economic miracle workers even as his petro-province flounders thanks to the overproduction of heavy oil in a glutted market.

(Wall’s subservience to petroleum interests, by the way, has taken on Trump-like proportions. The province’s recent Throne Speech even dubbed proposals to limit climate change as “misguided dogma.”)

For these misguided petro-pols, Nikiforuk offers up "four hard truths."

Numero Uno - first and foremost, there is no way, as in none, to clean up a bitumen spill.

There's a reason the Harper government and now the Trudeau government have resolutely dodged this issue. They know it can't be cleaned up. If they could the easiest way to respond to opponents would be to demonstrate that they can clean it up. 

Yet our bitumen-besotted politicians would have British Columbia gamble with its fisheries, tourism and coast on the bold lie that diluted bitumen, a dirtier product than crude, can be cleaned up in a timely and tidy fashion.

Because the low-grade heavy oil must be diluted with a gasoline-like product to move through a pipeline, it presents an even graver logistical challenge than a conventional spill.

A 2015 report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences summed up the nature of the dirty problem: “Spills of diluted bitumen into a body of water initially float and spread while evaporation of volatile compounds may present health and explosion hazards, as occurs with nearly all crude oils. It is the subsequent weathering effects, unique to diluted bitumen, that merit special response strategies and tactics.

So what do Justin and his enviromin, Dame Cathy, have in mind for a bitumen spill on the B.C. coast? They've authorized the use of Corexit for chrissake! Corexit, the thalidomide for marine habitats. It's promoted as an oil dispersant but it's really a highly toxic, persistent chemical brew that causes oil to sink, out of sight/out of mind. And, once stuck to the bottom, which around here can be 600 feet or more below the surface, it can leach out its heavy metals, acids and carcinogens for decades, possibly generations, fouling the marine habitat.

Numero Dos - the economic case for pipelines has totally collapsed.

According to the lovestruck politicians, bitumen exports to China will make Canadians rich, and the sulfur-rich crude will miraculously command a higher dollar with marine access.

But bitumen will always require higher transportation costs and more upgrading and processing due to its appalling quality. As a consequence, it has always sold at a price differential of around $6 to $7 dollars to conventional oil.

This historic differential widened when the Alberta government rubber-stamped so many projects that industry flooded the North American market with bitumen between 2000 and 2008. The differential dropped again to historic norms as more and more refineries in the U.S. retrofitted to process heavy oil.

The Parliamentary Budget Office explained these elementary facts in 2013, but politicians beset by hydrocarbon hallucinations have trouble reading. The PBO emphasized that eliminating the discount paid for bitumen relative to conventional oil “is not realistic, as there is a significant difference in the quality of these crude oil benchmarks that is reflected in the price difference.”

Now you have to ask yourself why would oil companies keep pushing bitumen if it has become uneconomic? A corporate finance guy explained that they have to keep it going, even at a loss. That allows them to keep harvesting executive salaries and bonuses. It allows them to avoid having to tell shareholders that bitumen is no longer really viable, especially without massive government subsidies. That could lead to greater problems - a bursting of the carbon bubble foremost among them. All of those hard truths may come out, just not on their watch. Leave it to the next guy or the one after him. Let them take the heat.

Numero Tres - bitumen cannibalizes the economy.

Nearly 100 years ago, it cost but one barrel of conventional crude to find and pump another 100 barrels. Today those energy returns now average about one to 20. In the U.S., they’ve fallen to one to 10 and in the oil sands they have collapsed to one to three, or in some cases close to zero. In simple terms, bitumen doesn’t bring home the bacon.

Our world was built on easy energy returns the same way, say, grizzly bears once depended on easy salmon fishing for comfortable winter living. Abundant energy returns from cheap oil fed the growth of government, funded healthcare and encouraged much civility. Expensive energy constricts that flow and shrinks the public sphere.

Unfortunately, mined bitumen and fracked oil aren’t easy, cheap or carbon neutral. Companies extracting fracked oil from Texas and North Dakota typically spend four times more than what they make. Bitumen miners aren’t much better. They burn more energy and capital, and all to deliver fewer returns and surpluses to society. It’s like cycling backwards.

Yet no one in Alberta or Ottawa talks about declining energy returns or its political and economic implications. The consequences generally include words like collapse, ruin and volatility.

Numero Quatro"Climate disruption and carbon anarchy aren’t a distant threat... they’re here now."
How many times must ordinary people be slapped in the face before our politicians grasp the gravity of the insult?

Climate disruption, driven by oil consumption and forest destruction, has become a global insurgency that can only be combated by rapidly changing patterns of energy consumption. That means using less energy and living locally. Pipelines and their political champions now look and behave like horsemen of the apocalypse.

The emissions math on climate change in Canada is now pretty simple. Environment Canada states it boldly: “Emissions of GHGs from the oil and gas sector have increased 79 per cent from 107 megatonnes (Mt) in 1990 to 192 Mt CO2 in 2014. This increase is mostly attributable to the increased production of crude oil and the expansion of the oil sands industry."

What this all boils down to is that Harper stuck Canada with a lousy bet on bitumen. He's gone but now the new guy, Trudeau, along with Alberta's Notley and Saskatchewan's Wall, want to double down on that same lousy bet.

From my perspective on the west coast the fact that these hucksters - Trudeau, Notley and Wall - know that there's no way to clean up a bitumen spill off our coast is enough for me to see them, not as fellow Canadians, but as a threat. They know that if they had a shred of decency and consideration for the coast and for the territory between the Tar Sands and "tidewater" they want pipelines to cross, the very least they could do to even partly reduce the catastrophic damage of an oil spill is to refine that bitumen into synthetic crude oil on site in Alberta. They won't entertain the idea and that's why we've got nothing to talk about.

From the perspective of central and eastern Canada, it's still a lousy deal. It's an economic boondoggle and an enormous waste of federal and provincial subsidies, money that could be put to something, anything useful.

In the context of climate change, it's lousy for the nation and lousy for the world. Even for today's already sullied Canada, it's a disgraceful thing for us to do.

Why Does the Federal Department of Fisheries Condone This?

I know, I know. So you're in Ontario and you think this doesn't matter to you. Think again. Go to your grocery store and buy that great looking "Atlantic salmon." Only it's not from the Atlantic. It's from a pen along the B.C. coast where this goes on before it gets to your dinner table.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Death March of Donald J Trump

It has been one of the few graces common to American politics that presidential candidates, Democratic and Republican, have been graceful in defeat. John Kerry, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Al Gore are all deservedly known for their concession speeches.

Then there's Donald Trump.

The communications director for Jeb Bush, Tim Miller, writes that the signs that the Trump camp is ending the campaign in Death March mode are everywhere.

Donald Trump is going to lose this election. His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, is going to lose this election. Even if they would never admit it, they know Donald Trump will never be president. Trump and Conway are on the political death march. (This, to be clear for the Trump fans, is a political metaphor, not an actual death wish.)

This is the part of a losing campaign that exposes the true character of all those involved. So it should come as no shock that Donald Trump and his staff are failing this test in the most shameful and divisive manner imaginable.

...The death march is why Conway has begun to resurrect a time-honored practice: duplicitous political operatives throwing their boss under the bus to try to save face. In an attempt to preserve a lucrative fee on the public speaking circuit after the campaign, Conway has sent a series of tweets over the past week trying to position herself as both in on the joke with Saturday Night Live and the conscience on Trump’s shoulder trying to get him to behave. As a fellow anti-Trump conservative pointed out, Conway is officially playing the role of “punch clock villain.”

To a casual observer, this behavior might seem counterproductive to the goal Trump and Conway share: winning the election. But the reality is the only goal either has in mind now is self-preservation.

Miller has no doubt that Trump won't be a graceful loser. He breaks down Trump's Death March into three sections labelled, Shameful, Despicable, and Pathetic.

In today's Sidney Morning Herald, Nick O'Malley explores the ashes and embers of the final days of Donald Trump, would-be president of the USA.

Speaking with Fairfax Media [former Romney advisor, Avik] Roy notes that Trump is not in any real sense a Republican. He conducted a hostile takeover of the party by identifying and catering to an under-served section of the GOP vote – resentful older whites. It was marketing genius.

As an outsider he had no Republican staff to help build his campaign, and instead hired a crew of mercenaries. They have little loyalty to Trump, and none to the party. So as the death march begins they have little capacity or inclination to curb Trump's excesses, to force him to observe the basic traditions of American presidential politics, such as the gracious acceptance of defeat rather than the dangerous indulgence of claiming a rigged election while exciting racial animosities.

...As the death march goes on the Republican establishment has already started letting blood.

A sign of it was a spat on the MSNBC program Morning Joe on Thursday morning. The guest was Bill Kristol, the leading neoconservative editor of The Weekly Standard, the host was the former Republican Congressman, Joe Scarborough.

Kristol, one of the earliest and staunchest of the Republican's "Never Trump" faction, asserted that Trump was a "fluke candidate" who should be ignored come election night.

Scarborough and his co-host Mika Brzezinski scoffed at the suggestion that Trump was a fluke and declared the Republican Party needed to "come clean" about his candidacy. Kristol, angry, accused Scarborough and Brzezinski of going soft on Trump and giving him free uncritical and very high-rating airtime during the primaries, in effect helping him win. The segment deteriorated into an angry, ugly slanging match, each blaming the other for the rise of Donald Trump.

Back in North Carolina, the young Republicans were divided on who to blame for a candidacy one group's office-holder called "a joke". Some pointed the finger at Paul Ryan, the House Speaker who the establishment hopes will lead them out of the wilderness, some at Ted Cruz, the Tea Party-er who railed for years against the party hierarchy. None had any real idea at what would come next.

...The most optimistic Republicans view the death march as a necessary ordeal.

When other Republicans were calling for Trump to somehow be forced from the Republican ticket earlier this month, the Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist George Will wrote that he must remain in place.

He argued the nation needed the pleasure of seeing Trump being made the thing he most disdains, "a loser," and that his presence would serve as a reminder to the party that "perhaps it is imprudent to nominate a venomous charlatan".

Trump was the GOP's chemotherapy, he said.

If so, Roy is not sure that the death march will be curative.

Still a staunch Republican, he believes that over a period of years his party has lost its way, turning from the tenets of classical liberalism towards a dark nationalism.

Weighed down by the angry old white men that dominate its constituency, he says, the party has no interest in governing a large diverse nation, and therefore has no moral right to.

According to Roy, the Republican Party must first tackle its moral problem before it does its political one.

Greenwald and Snowden Versus Assange

There's not a lot of love going around for WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, these days. It seems his friends list is down to perhaps just Donald Trump.

Even his hosts, the government of Ecuador that has granted Assange refuge in their London embassy, may have had about enough of him. That was clear when they recently cut off their guest's access to the internet to keep him from continuing to dump emails and other documents, supposedly hacked by the Russians, said to be embarrassing - or worse - to Hillary Clinton. Ecuador said it didn't want Assange dragging them into American electoral politics.

Assange might be worried about slipping into obscurity, irrelevance. Since he's gone in hiding he's been somewhat eclipsed by Edward Snowden and journalist, Glenn Greenwald.

Greenwald doesn't think much of Assange's antics.

"You'd have to be a sociopath to think that we ought to just take all of this material and dump it all on the internet without regard to the impact that it will have for innocent people."

For his part, Snowden weighed in on the running battle between Greenwald and Assange with a tweet that noted, in part: "Opportunism won't earn you a pardon from Clinton and curation is not censorship."

I feel almost sympathetic to Assange but he has brought this on himself.

An Affliction of the Mind or Why We Can't Handle Climate Change

We're just too set in our ways to have any real hope of tackling the basket of looming existential challenges facing mankind and, for that matter, pretty much all life on Earth.

Forget everything else. Forget overpopulation, over-consumption of essential resources, terrorism and nuclear proliferation, forget everything except climate change. The thing is, if we can't respond effectively to climate change we don't have a snowball's chance in hell of resolving the others. As a global civilization, we're going down.

Which leads me to Andrew Simm's essay in The Guardian in which he explores the self-defeating process of using conventional thinking in response to the climate change dilemma.

The problem with ...scenarios that emerge in the mainstream, is the intellectual editing that occurs before they even begin. Most share two overwhelming, linked characteristics that strictly limit any subsequent room for manoeuvre. Firstly the demand for energy itself is seen as something innate, unchallengeable and unmanageable. It must be met, and the only question is how.

Secondly, the assumption remains that the principles and practices of the economic model that has dominated for the last 30 years will remain for at least the next 30 years. There is no sign yet of the ferocious challenge to neoliberal orthodoxy happening at the margins of economics shaping mainstream visions of our possible futures. The merest glance at the history of changing ideas suggests this is short-sighted.

There are reasons why we need to get a move on with tackling energy demand. Extreme weather events abound. Record flooding in North Carolina in the United States follows record flooding in Louisiana earlier in the year. While no individual event can be described a direct cause and effect relationship, increasingly heavy rainfall and flood events are consistent with climate models for a warming world.

...What sort of scenarios should we be looking at then? We can learn from the impoverished Brexit debate that was marred by binary choices cloaked in wilful misinformation. For the whole population to fully understand our options, and the choices and challenges embedded in them, we should be thinking as openly and broadly as possible. We can look at how far techno-fixes will get us, and at the maximum speed and scale of change that market mechanisms and the pricing of carbon are likely to deliver. In both, the different impacts on rich and poor need assessing.

But we should go further to assess the pros and cons of radical scenarios for changing how we live and work.

Rarely considered but important variables come from new economics, including the shorter working week, the share economy, shifts in corporate ownership and governance, and intelligent but deliberate measures for economic localisation. Compare these to the “stumble on”, or business as usual scenario, in which we give up control of our future to a permanently destabilised climate change, but also assess seriously the consequences of the argument for planned so-called “de-growth” of the economy.

At the height of the 2008 financial crisis, the UK government promised to “go beyond the conventional thinking” to put things right. It never did, but with the climate crisis there is no choice. Conventional thinking is off-course and contradictory.

Without a balanced, comparative assessment of strategies to align energy use and industry with inescapable climate action, we won’t be able to choose the best possible future.

Now, assuming that climate change became an imperative at least 20 years ago, look at how each of our governments, Conservative and Liberal, over that period approached this problem. A good place to start, perhaps, is to look at where Canadian government has come today. Today they're talking about some token carbon price that may or may not take effect in 2018. I think Simms could have been describing the Trudeau regime when he wrote, "Conventional thinking is off-course and contradictory." Yet that is where we are and, so long as our petro-pols on both sides of the aisle pack the House of Commons, that's where we're going to remain.

This is Canada where our environment minister proclaims she is "as much an economic minister as I am an environment minister." Dame Cathy doesn't even grasp the inherent conflict in that. It's as though she's the minister for tobacco production and the minister of health in some blended portfolio. She's oblivious to Canada's urgent need for a full time and powerful environment minister ready and able to go toe to toe with reluctant premiers and with her cabinet colleagues who are entrusted with economic matters whether that be trade, resources or foreign affairs. We're a petro-state, Cathy, and we can't get by with a part-time environment minister who folds at every scowl of some provincial tyro. Maybe that's why Trudeau singled her out for that portfolio. Maybe he wanted a reliable milquetoast. If so, he chose wisely.

Friday, October 21, 2016

America's Hair Apparent. Vanity Fair Takes the Piss Out of Donald Trump And That Thing On His Head

It's an understatement to mention that there's no love lost between Donald Trump and Vanity Fair editor, Graydon Carter.

Carter has a lengthy history of poking fun at The Donald's stubby fingers and his other shortcomings.

Now VF has published a photo-essay, a trip down Memory Lane with Trump's hairline. America's Narcissist-in-Chief ain't gonna like this. Enjoy.

Hypocrisy, Your Name is Trudeau

Remarks by Natural Resources Minister, Jim Carr, and Environment Minister, Dame Cathy, have erased any lingering hope that the Trudeau government is serious about climate change and the world future generations of Canadians will have to endure.

First up, petro-resource minister Jimmy who said, "People say, ’Leave the oil in the ground,’ they don’t want any development. Our view is we use the wealth of the old economy to finance the new energy economy."

Okay that's the standard line that the way to a clean energy future is to ramp up production of the dirtiest, most energy intensive hydrocarbon resource on the planet - bitumen. Carr's predecessor, Joe "Leatherback" Oliver, couldn't have said it any better.  Of course there is no link between bitumen royalties and alternative clean energy. That's something in Carr's mind and he wants it in yours also. It's an illusion. If he actually believed it that would be a delusion. I'm pretty sure he doesn't.

Then there's Trudeau's environment minister, Cathy. It was beyond galling when she described herself,  "as much an economic minister as I am an environment minister." Oh Cathy, no need for such modesty. With you the petro-economy trumps the environment. That's obvious.

Perhaps the hallmark of this government is weasel words and wiggle room. Sort of like how they justify Canada's role in flogging death machines to war criminals in charnel house conflicts abroad. Now we'll "balance" their supposed human rights violations and war crimes against our industrial benefits. "Cash talks, innocent blood walks" or something along those lines.

Not for nothing did Thomas Juneau refer to Canada as "the definition of hypocrisy."

Speaking of the Surveillance Society

Anyone remember Gigapixel, the Vancouver company that developed the 4-billion pixel photograph that could capture an entire crowd with resolution suitable for face recognition software?

Look at the picture below, a Gigapixel rendering of a 420 pot protest on Vancouver's waterfront. Go to their web site and call it up. Use your mouse pointer, click and scroll in. See every face in the crowd up close and personal. This is our world today.