Friday, January 24, 2020

The Rise of the "Useless" Class. How to Survive the 21st Century.

I recently came across an article predicting that critical thinking was/is on its way out. Reality is becoming blurred. The news media has long switched from disseminating information to peddling messaging, opinion, with a chosen slant. We're about to embark on a new world that will feature things such as "augmented" or "blended reality" in which the reality you experience and perceive will be supplemented by additional streams of information to create a partially manufactured perception in which the line between the two can become increasingly difficult to discern.

It was suggested that, as our connection with reality is manipulated we will gradually shift into a world in which we choose to follow feelings rather than knowledge. This may be what we're seeing in play in the United States today, even in the American Congress where some are struggling to defend the Constitution from erosion into irrelevance.

Change is upon us and it is going to intensify with every passing decade.  Which is why I offer you the latest out of Davos from historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari in which he discusses survival strategies for the 21st century.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

America Lost Its Mind after 9/11. Martin Indyk Wants to Restore Sanity to US Foreign Policy

For years Andrew Bacevich has lamented how his country allowed military force or the threat of military force to displace diplomacy as its principal instrument of foreign policy. It's no wonder then that he should embrace Martin Indyk's proposals for a reformation of Washington's approach to the Middle East.

Indyk has had a storied career in American diplomatic circles. He also twice served as US ambassador to Israel. Now he wants a sea change in America's approach to the Middle East.  Bacevich clearly approves:

In an extraordinary op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal (of all places), [Indyk] asserts that “few vital interests of the US continue to be at stake in the Middle East.” Policies centered on ensuring the free flow of Persian Gulf oil and the survival of Israel have become superfluous. “The US economy no longer relies on imported petroleum,” he correctly notes. “Fracking has turned the US into a net oil and natural-gas exporter.” As a consequence, Persian Gulf oil “is no longer a vital interest — that is, one worth fighting for. Difficult as it might be to get our heads around the idea, China and India need to be protecting the sea lanes between the Gulf and their ports, not the US Navy.”

As for the Jewish State, Martin notes, again correctly, that today Israel has the capacity “to defend itself by itself.” Notwithstanding the blustering threats regularly issued by Tehran, “it is today’s nuclear-armed Israel that has the means to crush Iran, not the other way around.” 
Furthermore, Martin has had his fill of the peace process. “A two-state solution to the Palestinian problem is a vital Israeli interest, not a vital American one,” he writes, insisting that “it’s time to end the farce of putting forward American peace plans only to have one or both sides reject them.” 
Martin does identify one vital U.S. interest in the Middle East: averting a nuclear arms race. Yet “we should be wary of those who would rush to battle stations,” he cautions. “Curbing Iran’s nuclear aspirations and ambitions for regional dominance will require assiduous American diplomacy, not war.” 
That last sentence captures the essence of Martin’s overall conclusion: he proposes not disengaging from the Middle East but demilitarizing U.S. policy. “After the sacrifice of so many American lives, the waste of so much energy and money in quixotic efforts that ended up doing more harm than good,” he writes, “it is time for the US to find a way to escape the costly, demoralising cycle of crusades and retreats.” 
Martin deserves our congratulations. We must hope that his heresy catches fire and spreads throughout the Blob. In the meantime, if he’s in need of office space, the Quincy Institute stands ready to help.

Welcome to the ranks of the truth tellers, comrade.

Nikiforuk Dismembers the LNG Myth

Veteran energy scribe, Andrew Nikiforuk, tackles the lies that our federal and some provincial politicians spin about liquefied natural gas

The Big Lie is that Canadian natural gas will wean Asia off thermal coal energy and thereby slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Representatives of the British Columbia, Alberta and federal governments are making the global rounds these days to sell the notion that liquefied natural gas exports can help the climate crisis.

The pitch goes like this: According to LNG Canada, the big Shell project now under construction in northern B.C., could replace 20 to 40 coal-fired plants in countries like China and India with Canadian methane, and reduce their emissions by 60 to 90 million tonnes.

And so, while the blockaders of northern B.C.’s LNG Canada pipeline await police eviction while claiming to stand up for Indigenous sovereignty and climate protection, backers of the project lay claim to their own moral high ground.
Such claims are problematic, if not false. The best evidence to date reveals two quite inconvenient truths. 
One, B.C.’s LNG is not cleaner than coal, due to leakage rates in our fracked shale fields of three per cent. 
Two, there is no guarantee that China will use Canadian gas to actually displace coal power production, given that coal-fired plants already operate as efficiently as methane-fueled ones.
The extraction (fracking) industry lies. The transmission (pipeline, storage, liquefaction, shipping) industry lies. The provincial authorities lie. Their federal counterparts also lie.

Adding insult to injury are the paltry revenues we're earning from this scam. As Norm Farrell pointed out recently on his excellent blog, In-Sights, LNG is not the windfall British Columbians were promised.
British Columbia’s January 2020 sale of Petroleum and Natural Gas Rights returned $61,195 to the provincial treasury.
That ranks seventh worst in the 278 months since 1996. The best monthly sale produced 728 million in today’s dollars.
Eight of the last ten monthly sales of rights rank among the worst in 23 years.
 Somebody is making money only it's not the province and people of British Columbia. As Norm puts it, "we're fracked."

Don't you think these endless lies are getting old?

Stop Clinging to Politicians Who Are Hanging You Out to Dry.

There was an item in the papers about how our federal government will be providing handouts to farmers who need extra fuel to dry out their sodden grain harvests. That's what can fairly be called climate change relief.

I wonder if Ottawa will be issuing grants to those of us who now need air purifiers to keep our homes safe from damaging wildfire smoke, another climate change impact?

To say that the federal government's climate change and energy policies are schizophrenic is a massive understatement. A recent article in The Narwhal, for example, pegs our governments' overall subsidies to the climate wrecking fossil fuel industry at $1,650 per year for every man, woman and child in Canada. Per year, every year.

Speaking about climate wrecking, there's a new report from Yale 360 about how man-made climate change is terraforming the Arctic. It warns that some 2.5 million square miles of permafrost could disappear by the end of this century. That's 647 million hectares or 6.47 million square kilometres. That's a lot, especially when you take into account the volume of once safely-sequestered methane that will be released as that permafrost melts.
...if the Arctic continues to warm as quickly as climatologists are predicting, an estimated 2.5 million square miles of permafrost — 40 percent of the world’s total — could disappear by the end of the century, with enormous consequences. The most alarming is expected to be the release of huge stores of greenhouse gases, including methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide that have remained locked in the permafrost for ages. Pathogens will also be released. 
But less well appreciated are the sweeping landscape changes that will alter tundra ecosystems, making it increasingly difficult for subsistence indigenous people, such as the Inuit, and Arctic animals to find food. The disintegration of subterranean ice that glues together the peat, clay, rocks, sand, and other inorganic minerals is now triggering landslides and slumping at alarming rates, resulting in stream flows changing, lakes suddenly draining, seashores collapsing, and water chemistry being altered in ways that could be deleterious to both humans and wildlife. 
“We’re seeing slumping along shorelines that can drain most of the water in a lake in just days and even hours,” says Marsh, a former Canadian government scientist who is now a professor of hydrology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario. “It’s not surprising when you consider that as much as 80 percent of the ground here consists of frozen water. When that ice melts, the frozen ground literally falls apart.” As a result, says Marsh, indigenous communities, the resource industry, and the government need to better understand how a warming climate is impacting water resources and permafrost ecosystems.”
It is estimated that the Arctic permafrost holds 1,400 gigatons of CO2. Scientists figure if we're to have a slightly better than average chance at holding global warming to 1.5 degrees C, the carbon budget/atmospheric loading remaining is somewhere around 120 gigatons of CO2. Given recent increases in man-made CO2 emissions and projections by OPEC and the International Energy Agency that we'll be using ever more fossil fuel at least into 2040, man-made emissions are poised to blow straight through that 120 gigaton 'budget' even without what we can expect from the disappearing permafrost.

I know, I know, all these posts seem so gloomy, apocalyptic almost and they might turn out to be apocalyptic if we don't change course. Will we? Not until we make our politicians understand their jobs depend on doing the right thing, not the easy thing, now.

Who Knows? Maybe It Builds Character. But Probably It Just Kills.

No, probably it's just another lethal toxin or rather a family of persistent toxins.

Residents of Miami, Philadelphia and New Orleans are most at risk from PFAS or perflouroaylkyl substances in their drinking water. And they're called "forever chemicals" because they simply don't go away.  And they're associated with cancers, liver damage, lower birth weight and a variety of other maladies - but who's counting?
The findings here by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show the group’s previous estimate in 2018, based on unpublished US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, that 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFAS, could be far too low. 
“It’s nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the report. 
The chemicals were used in products like Teflon and Scotchguard and in firefighting foam. Some are used in a variety of other products and industrial processes, and their replacements also pose risks. 
Of tap water samples taken by EWG from 44 sites in 31 states and Washington DC, only one location, Meridian, Mississippi, which relies on 700ft (215m) deep wells, had no detectable PFAS. Only Seattle and Tuscaloosa, Alabama had levels below 1 part per trillion (PPT), the limit EWG recommends.
Naturally, Diabolical Donald Trump's administration is fighting this one bloody fang and claw.
In 2018 a draft report from an office of the US Department of Health and Human Services said the risk level for exposure to the chemicals should be up to 10 times lower than the 70 PPT threshold the EPA recommends. The White House and the EPA had tried to stop the report from being published.
Remember, kids, a fucked-up America is a Trump America.

As for Canada, we've got the same problem, albeit perhaps not as severe as the American experience. The linked article discusses PFAS in Canada and how little we've done about them. The only province to regulate them so far is British Columbia.

Is It Time to Mobilize Canada, the Canadian People, and Our Economy?

I know you don't want to hear this. I know you would rather bury your head in the sand. But you need to know that kind of thinking is about the very best way to seal your (our) fate.

In today's National Observer, retired professor (anthropology), Dennis Bartels, and Natasha Bartels (his daughter?), are calling for the federal government to mobilize the nation to ready Canada for the onslaught of climate change. (Dr. Bartels is no newcomer to this cause. A bit of searching turned up a paper that he wrote on this same subject in 2001.)
There have been numerous calls from scientists, news media and public figures to change our ways on a massive scale. These calls have not, however, provided a large-scale blueprint for sustained and organized change. This desperately needed blueprint for massive, effective and rapid social and economic transformation can be found in Canadian socio-economic mobilization for the Second World War.
The Second World War mobilization included wage and price controls, food rationing and establishment of Crown (government-owned) corporations to produce war materials and supplies the private sector was unable or unwilling to provide.
Taxation of the wealthy and private businesses was dramatically increased to support the war effort during the Second World War. Amounts in excess of government-imposed profit levels were taxed away.
The components of Second World War mobilization which should be updated and adapted to meet the climate crisis are:
1. Planned resource management and development, created in partnership with Indigenous communities, aimed at reducing carbon emissions and repairing environmental damage.
2. Taxation of wealth to fund the restructuring of the economy.
3. Reorienting education and training toward development of green industry and technology.
4. Creation of new Crown corporations to meet industrial production needs and protect access to necessaries of life.
5. Building co-operative international relations to reduce carbon emissions and protect shared environmental resources.
Well, isn't that quite a 'wish list.' The Bartels go on to add another recommendation, naming the enemy.
During Second World War mobilization in Canada, Hitler’s Germany was the enemy of Canada and the other Allied countries. In the climate crisis, fossil-fuel corporations and related industries are the enemies of all countries because they have created the crisis we now face. It is clear they intend to continue their practices that now threaten the existence of human life on our shared planet.

Fossil-fuel companies are now claiming we are all responsible for the climate crisis because most of us use fossil fuels. This is a diversionary tactic by fossil-fuel companies to distract the general public from the basic fact that it is these companies who are to blame for what we now face. It has now been revealed that major oil companies such as Exxon knew for decades combustion of fossil fuels causes global warming. Instead of changing their industries, they funded climate-science denial on a massive scale. 
Every person currently alive was born into a fossil-fuel economy and infrastructure. We did not give our consent to be part of this destructive system, and numerous attempts by both scientists and ordinary people to change it have been aggressively suppressed and undermined by the economic giants of the fossil-fuel industry.

Trump's World Bank Turns Its Back On the World.

It has become an informal protocol that the White House gets to appoint the president of the World Bank while the EU gets to nominate the leadership of the International Monetary Fund. Think of it as another dubious artifact of the post-war world order.

One of the first things the most diabolical president in American history implemented was the appointment of David Malpass to head the World Bank. Ever since, Malpass has focused on taking the "world" out of the World Bank.

Hopes of using Davos to forge a new international consensus to tackle poverty and the climate crisis have been thwarted by the decision of the World Bank president, David Malpass, to boycott the event. 
To the surprise of the other multilateral institutions, Malpass turned down his invitation to attend despite being in Europe this week for the UK government’s Africa investment summit in London. 
One source said Malpass’s decision not to attend the World Economic Forum reflected the Bank’s go-it-alone approach under his presidency. “He has effectively declared UDI [unilateral declaration of independence],” the source said. “We saw it at last year’s G7 summit in France. President [Emmanuel] Macron wanted a collective statement from the international organisations but Malpass vetoed it. He wouldn’t have the word multilateralism in the statement.”
So who is this joker, Malpass? Wikipedia has a rich rundown on this character. Among the highlights are his six year stint as chief economist at Bear Stearns that appears to have ended with the firm's collapse. He's got a bit of the "Wrong-Way Corrigan" in him.
Malpass has been noted for his forecasts before the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and in the time period following the Great Recession. In 2007, before the housing market collapse, Malpass wrote for the Wall Street Journal that "Housing and debt markets are not that big a part of the U.S. economy, or of job creation...the housing- and debt-market corrections will probably add to the length of the U.S. economic expansion." He also called for the raising of interest rates in 2011 at a time when others believed this would be harmful to the economy. Bruce Bartlett cited Malpass's 2008 forecast of economic growth and his 2012 forecast of recession as specific examples of partisan bias in economic forecasts.
By all appearances the World Bank is now transformed into an in-house organ of the Trump White House. And we know what Trump thinks about the calamities now setting in around the world.

Okay, That's Not a Good Sign. The Doomsday Clock Gets a Second Hand.

The Doomsday Clock no longer marks our future in minutes. They're working in seconds now. And, as the venerable Union of Atomic Scientists now sees it, we're 100 seconds away from, well...

The risk of civil collapse from nuclear weapons and the climate crisis is at a record high, according to US scientists and former officials, calling the current environment “profoundly unstable”.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced its symbolic “doomsday clock” has moved forward to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest to catastrophe that the scientists have judged the world to be at any point since its creation in 1947, at the outset of the cold war
“The world needs to wake up. Our planet faces two simultaneous existential threats,” said Mary Robinson, chair of an independent group of global leaders called The Elders, and the former president of Ireland and former UN high commissioner of human rights. 
Robinson said that countries that don’t aim to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions heating the planet and instead exploit fossil fuels are issuing “a death sentence for humanity”
She said while public pressure presents a “sliver of hope” for the climate, there is no such pressure on leaders to avert nuclear threats.
Robert Rosner, chair of the Bulletin’s science and security board, said society has normalized a very dangerous world, and that “information warfare” is undermining “the public’s ability to sort out what’s true and what’s patently false”.

Yeah, well, there you go.

Do They Really Have to Ask? Big Fossil's "Dine and Dash"

Alberta wants to know how it got so screwed by abandoned oil and gas wells. 3,406 as of today and that may just be the tip of Alberta's hydrocarbon iceberg.
As Alberta struggles to clean up thousands of oil and gas wells left behind by bankrupt companies, the province's auditor general is set to investigate how the problem became so big and why the industry regulator's efforts to collect security deposits came up so short, CBC News has learned. 
Often referred to as orphan wells, there are currently 3,406 such wells scattered around the province, usually on the properties of rural landowners, where they lie untended. 
There are another 94,000 inactive wells in the province, with the worry that many of these may become orphaned as their owners struggle — and taxpayers could be left with the bill. 
The auditor general's office will look at whether the province is doing enough to prevent wells from becoming orphaned in the first place, and whether it is prepared for more to be added to the list due to ongoing pressure on Alberta's energy economy.
Alberta is the most fiscally reckless province in Canada. A land of "everday low taxes" and even lower fossil fuel royalties. A province that consigns its people to a perpetual boom and bust economy where the government is never short of whipping boys to blame for its own breathtaking incompetence.

These wells are great, at the outset, when they're big producers but eventually they fizzle. That's when their owners, knowing the provincial governments will turn a blind eye, quietly transfer the wells and all their environmental liabilities into shell companies, Potemkin businesses that have no assets and soon go bankrupt - stiffing the taxpayers for the clean up.

Just wait until those Athabasca tailing ponds get dumped in the taxpayers' laps. That's when they'll have to turn to a nationwide bailout. Do start putting aside your loonies now.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

They're Shittier Than We Imagined. What About Us?

Since the election of DJ Trump to the presidency most of us have seen the American people in a different light. The US is no longer the land of Ozzie & Harriet, of Ward and June, Wally and Beaver Cleaver. It was as though the "wholesome goodness" had evaporated, displaced by Trump's "base" with its seemingly unlimited capacity to tolerate his increasingly cruel buffoonery.

NYT columnist, Thomas Edsall, writes that even his country's seasoned political analysts are surprised by the transformation of American society. The glue that once held the country together may be failing.

The election of Trump and his first three years in office have revealed a nation deeply ambivalent about immigration, race, equality, fairness — even about the ground rules of democracy itself. 
What if the belief systems used to justify anti-immigrant policies and to justify race prejudice, for that matter — hostility to outsiders, insularity, high sensitivity to external threat — are as deeply ingrained in the American body politic as belief systems sympathetic to immigration and to racial equality — openness, receptivity to new experiences, trust? 
Karen Stenner, a political psychologist and behavioral economist best known for “predicting the rise of Trump-like figures under the kinds of conditions we now confront,” responded to my emailed inquiries by noting the conflicting pressures at play:

"I don’t think I would agree that Trumpian conservative stands on immigration, race and homelessness are a more “natural” or “default” position. Communities with a good balance of people who seek out diversity, complexity, novelty, new and exciting experiences etc., and those who are disgusted by and averse to such things, avoid them, and tell others to do likewise, tend to thrive and prosper in human evolution." 
Finding the right balance, Stenner said, “is vital to both societal cohesion and human flourishing.” But, she warned, “we may have tipped the balance too far in favor of unconstrained diversity and complexity,” pushing the boundary beyond “many people’s capacity to tolerate it.”
Abraham Lincoln, falling back on scripture, warned that "a house divided against itself (over slavery) could not stand." Today America has succumbed to a degree of tribalism that, to me, at times seems to resemble a Lord of the Flies animus.

Many have observed that the American Left appears hapless, unable to push back against the radical right ascendancy.  Edsall offers an explanation:

Linda J. Skitka, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and four colleagues conducted an intriguing set of tests to determine the durability and strength of liberal and conservative beliefs on poverty in a 2002 paper, “Dispositions, Scripts, or Motivated Correction? Understanding Ideological Differences in Explanations for Social Problems.” 
They found that in troubled times, when competition for limited goods intensifies, liberals move to the right: 
"It is much easier to get a liberal to behave like a conservative than it is to get a conservative to behave like a liberal. Liberals act like conservatives when resources are scarce, cognitive load is high, and aid serves secondary rather than primary needs. Conservatives only act like liberals when they are asked to consider helping a person with internally controllable causes of need who has convincingly reformed."

Skitka and her fellow authors received strong support for their argument in a 2012 paper, “Low-Effort Thought Promotes Political Conservatism,” by Scott Eidelman, a professor of psychology at the University of Arkansas, and three co-authors. 
Skitka and her colleagues conducted a series of tests comparing the answers of two groups to ideologically revealing questions. The first faced time pressure or were forced to answer with distracting background noises, in environments “taxing, limiting or otherwise disengaging effortful, deliberative thought.” The second group was asked the same questions with plenty of time to think and without noise or other distractions. 
In each case, those tested under favorable circumstances provided more liberal answers than those tested under more hostile conditions. The adverse conditions forced those participants to perform what the authors called “low-effort thinking,” and the results showed that “low-effort thinking promotes political conservatism.”
Then they added alcohol to the mix:
In one of their four experiments, the authors went to an unidentified bar in New England and persuaded 85 drinkers to take the test and have their alcohol levels measured. The results:

"Bar patrons reported more conservative attitudes as their level of alcohol intoxication increased. Because alcohol limits cognitive capacity and disrupts controlled responding, while leaving automatic thinking largely intact, these data are consistent with our claim that low-effort thinking promotes political conservatism."
...Why does all this matter? What difference does it make if liberals and Democrats are more ambivalent than conservatives and Republicans? 
For one thing, it means that in elections that are increasingly negative, ambivalent partisans — Democrats in this case — will be more vulnerable to attacks designed to generate conflict, to weaken enthusiasm and to increase the likelihood of nonvoting. President Trump and the proponents of the Republican Party he dominates are certain to do all they can to capitalize on this vulnerability. 
Most importantly, Democratic ambivalence, in a year when high turnout is mandatory, reflects the larger problem facing a political party that is now focused on its shared animosity to Trump. That animosity may or may not be enough to propel its presidential candidate to victory, but the inherent tension between different sectors of the center-left coalition over ideological, economic and social issues — not to mention glaring levels of intraparty income inequality — calls into question exactly what common ground holds the Democratic coalition together. How common is it?

The Last Resort - Eco-Extremism

Sooner or later it was bound to happen.

Guardian enviro-scribe, George Monbiot, writes that if those holding the reins of power choose to treat environmental activists as extremists then so be it.  I suppose we always knew it would come to a fight eventually. The only question was when.

First, the Guardian revealed that counter-terrorism police in south-east England have listed Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the youth climate strikes as forms of “ideological extremism”. Then teachers and officials around the country reported that they had been told, in briefings by the anti-radicalisation Prevent programme, to look out for people expressing support for XR and Greenpeace. 
Then the Guardian found a Counter Terrorism Policing guide to the signs and symbols used by various groups. Alongside terrorists and violent extremist organisations, the guide listed Greenpeace, XR, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, CND, the Socialist party, Stop the War and other peaceful green and left organisations. Then the newspaper discovered that City of London police had listed XR as a “key threat” in its counter-terrorism assessment. 
...The police have always protected established power against those who challenge it, regardless of the nature of that challenge. And they have long sought to criminalise peaceful dissent. Part of the reason is ideological: illiberal and undemocratic attitudes infest policing in this country. Part of it is empire-building: if police units can convince the government and the media of imminent threats that only they can contain, they can argue for more funding. 
...But there’s another reason, which is arguably even more dangerous: the nexus of state and corporate power. All over the world, corporate lobbyists seek to brand opponents of their industries as extremists and terrorists, and some governments and police forces are prepared to listen. A recent article in the Intercept seeks to discover why the US Justice Department and the FBI had put much more effort into chasing mythical “ecoterrorists” than pursuing real, far-right terrorism. A former official explained, “You don’t have a bunch of companies coming forward saying ‘I wish you’d do something about these rightwing extremists’.” By contrast, there is constant corporate pressure to “do something” about environmental campaigners and animal rights activists.
Think of the federal government's pipeline Stasi set up by Stephen Harper but now in service to the Trudeau government. It's a taxpayer funded secret police service that combines the RCMP, CSIS and private security interests to monitor, intimidate and even strongarm peaceful environmental activists. Even under the supposedly progressive Trudeau peaceful dissent is unacceptable.
It is hard to think of any successful campaign for democracy, justice or human rights that would not now be classed by police forces and the government as an extremist ideology. Without extremists such as Emmeline Pankhurst, who maintained that “the argument of the broken window pane is the most valuable argument in modern politics”, Patel would not be an MP. Only men with a certain amount of property would be permitted to vote. There would be no access to justice, no rights for workers, no defence against hunger and destitution, no weekends. 
In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr, subjected to smears very similar to those now directed against XR and other environmental groups, noted: “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?” 
Good citizens cannot meekly accept the death of the living planet. If seeking to defend life on Earth defines us as extremists, we have no choice but to own the label. We are extremists for the extension of justice and the perpetuation of life.
Eventually we all must decide which side we're on. With what we're seeing underway today, the petro-state is an abomination. It is, as some scholars contend, a crime against humanity. The choices are stark. You can acquiesce, you can support it or, on the other hand, you can oppose it.

The Wrecking Crew - We're All Part of It

While the world wrings its collective hands over how little we must do to thwart climate change, two other sinister threats lurk in the wings - overpopulation and our rapacious excessive consumption of very finite resources, renewable and non-renewable. Any one of those three, on its own, is more than enough to bring humanity crashing down. Let's talk about over-consumption, the existential threat standing in the corner that is usually overlooked entirely.

What better way to begin than to herald a new record. For the first time ever, humanity has consumed 100 Billion tonnes of materials in a single year. And the cherry on the sundae is that recycling rates are falling at the very same time.
The climate and wildlife emergencies are driven by the unsustainable extraction of fossil fuels, metals, building materials and trees. The report’s authors warn that treating the world’s resources as limitless is leading towards global disaster. 
The materials used by the global economy have quadrupled since 1970, far faster than the population, which has doubled. In the last two years, consumption has jumped by more than 8% but the reuse of resources has fallen from 9.1% to 8.6%.
You see, we're not only taking "our" share but we're now pillaging "their" share - the resources every other species needs to survive. That's why, whether it be marine or terrestrial, the overall numbers of our fellow creatures are in a lethal nosedive. In just 30 years we cut their total numbers by more than half, a number of species reduced to extinction. Yeah baby, that was us. We showed them a thing or two, eh?

What's our response to this? I know - veggie burgers. Hell, we'll eat insects if it comes to that. Anything to keep this bacchanal rolling.

Climate change, overpopulation, over-consumption - they're all tightly interwoven. So tightly, in fact, that you can't solve even one of them if you don't solve them all. And we can't even succeed at one - our current preoccupation, climate change.

Anyway, here's the report, released just in time for Davos. In typical form, it's jam packed with bollocks about how "we can still do this," ignoring all the squishiness inherent in our human nature, the "I've got mine buddy. You get yours the best way you know how." syndrome that has played such an instrumental role in the collapse of so many societies over the ages.

And, if you're thinking maybe we can clean this up by going back to "meatless Fridays," think again. Think the "Great Acceleration." Go ahead, open the link. Check it out. Watch the videos, look at the charts (about 49 of them). Then draw your own conclusions.

The Spirit of a Python

Director, author and Python, Terry Jones, has died, aged 77.

While he is and will remain best known for his work in comedy, especially Monty Python, I will remember him for his final film, "Boom, Bust, Boom," available on NetFlix.  Here's the trailer:

The New Oracles

We've got new oracles to advise the government how to get out of the current high-carbon death spiral with our asses more or less intact.

They're called the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices and the feds have funded them for five years to the tune of $20-million.

No one knows how quickly the world is going to cut carbon pollution, CEO Kathy Bardswick said in an interview, and Canada must make decisions that account for the uncertainty, rather than be paralyzed by it. 
In either a high-carbon or low-carbon future, “there’s a substantial impact on the country,” Bardswick said. “What we’re trying to say is, ‘Yes, we agree there’s uncertainty, and we agree that these scenarios can play out quite differently, and the implications can be quite dramatic. But that doesn’t mean that we wait and see — we’ve got to be able to plan within that context.’”
CICC opened with an 80-page report  that may or may not steer the petro-feds in the right direction. (Hint - let's see what Ottawa does with the proposed Teck mega-mine in the Athabasca Tar Sands. If they greenlight that this is probably a waste of $20-million on another silly gesture.)
Drawing on extensive economic and scientific research, the report sketches out two broad scenarios, with two possible outcomes in each one. 
In the first scenario, a massive economic metamorphosis has occurred. Nations around the world cut their pollution severely over the next 10 years, reaching the Paris Agreement goal. Global demand for fossil fuels has plummeted, and proven reserves are left in the ground. A majority of electricity comes from renewables like solar, wind and bioenergy, while nuclear capacity triples and heavy industry is largely decarbonized.
In the other scenario, carbon pollution continues to be pumped into the air unchecked, and the world fails to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal, leading to runaway climate change: collapse of ecosystems, accelerating global heating, coastlines that sink underwater, relentless extreme weather and mass societal unrest. 
Canada must be prepared for that world, too, the report says, or it will become “caught in a continual cycle of impact and recovery.” People will be injured or killed, or suffer poor air quality and contaminated water, as insurance skyrockets and companies lay off workers. Food and water shortages drive war, conflict and humanitarian disasters, which reach Canada’s shores.
As the saying goes, you can lead the feds to water but you can't make 'em drink.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

And So It Begins. Wuhan Virus Crosses the Pacific.

The first case of the Wuhan coronavirus has been reported in Seattle.
A person in Washington State is infected with the Wuhan coronavirus, the first confirmed case in the United States of a mysterious respiratory infection that has killed at least six people and sickened hundreds more in Asia. 
The man is a resident of Snohomish County, Wash., who experienced symptoms after returning from a trip to the region around Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began. He was hospitalized with pneumonia last week, and infection with the coronavirus was confirmed on Monday afternoon. 
Local officials declined to identify the patient, who was said to be quite ill. 
News of the first case in the United States comes amid growing evidence that the virus spreads from person to person, although it is not clear how easily.
I intended to do a post asking whether Canadian health authorities were doing anything enough to screen the steady stream of arrivals that enter Canada daily from China, especially through Vancouver. Surely we haven't forgotten the experience Toronto endured with the SARS virus, a similar contagion.

At the Risk of Being Branded an Anti-Semite...

Israel's prime thug, Bibi Netanyahu, has again shown his perfectly fascist face. He's calling for sanctions against the International Criminal Court, its prosecutors and its judges for having the temerity to consider investigating Israeli war crimes (which, by the way, are legion).

“I think that everybody should rise up against this,” the Israeli prime minister said in an interview with Trinity Broadcasting Network, the world’s largest Christian television network. 
“The US government under President Trump has spoken forcefully against the ICC for this travesty, and I urge all your viewers to do the same. To ask for concrete actions, sanctions, against the international court – its officials, its prosecutors, everyone.” 
Netanyahu’s calls come months after Washington used a similar tactic to block a separate potential ICC investigation into its troops’ conduct in Afghanistan. It announced in March that it would deny entry to ICC officials, and later revoked a visa held by the ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.

The Blowhard-in-Chief Releases Another Bag of Gas at Davos

Is it just me or is this guy truly demonic? If it's a way to undermine the environment, usually by scrapping protective measures, Donald J. Trump doesn't hesitate to unleash his presidential powers. He has that familiar "I won't be around when it happens" attitude.

The Cheeto Benito stayed true to form today in Davos, Switzerland for the annual gathering of the knobs.
US President Donald Trump has decried climate "prophets of doom" in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where sustainability is the main theme. 
He called for a rejection of "predictions of the apocalypse" and said America would defend its economy. 
In his keynote speech, Mr Trump said that it was a time for optimism, not pessimism, in a speech that touted his administration's economic achievements and America's energy boom. 
Speaking of climate activists, he said: "These alarmists always demand the same thing - absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives." 
They were, he said, "the heirs of yesterday's foolish fortune tellers".
The speech must have been written by Trump's personal Renfield, Stephen Miller.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Trump Tells NYC - Try Mops and Buckets

When it comes to sea level rise, New York city, and Donald Trump, it's a 'perfect storm.' As far as the Mango Mussolini is concerned, the burghers of Manhattan can just take mops and buckets in hand the next time they're flooded. They're on their own.

He announced his position, naturally, in a tweet:
"A massive 200 Billion Dollar Sea Wall, built around New York to protect it from rare storms, is a costly, foolish & environmentally unfriendly idea that, when needed, probably won’t work anyway. It will also look terrible. Sorry, you’ll just have to get your mops & buckets ready!"
But, when it comes to his golf course in Ireland, Trump is singing a very different tune.
As Politico detailed during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump International Golf Links sought to build a seawall to protect a golf course he owns in Ireland from “global warming and its effects.” 
In a permit application for the wall, Trump International Golf Links cited scientific studies indicating that a rise in sea level could result in damaging erosion in a bay near the golf course. 
“If the predictions of an increase in sea level rise as a result of global warming prove correct ... it is likely that there will be a corresponding increase in coastal erosion rates not just in Doughmore Bay but around much of the coastline of Ireland,” the application says. “In our view, it could reasonably be expected that the rate of sea level rise might become twice of that presently occurring. ... As a result, we would expect the rate of dune recession to increase.”

NYT Endorses Two Candidates for President in 2020

For the first time, America's "Grey Lady" has endorsed two candidates for president in the 2020 elections. Not surprisingly, they're both Democrats. More surprisingly, they're both women.

This year the New York Times is co-endorsing Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar to become the next and first female president of the United States of America.

You Broke It, You Bought It - Climate Change and the Pottery Barn Rule

The United Nations has fired a rocket up the arse of the developed world by ruling that climate refugees cannot be sent back to their homelands.

Given that the developed world, the industrialized nations, are responsible for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions fueling global warming that is rendering the poorest and most vulnerable nations increasingly uninhabitable, leaving their beleaguered people the grim choice of migrating or staying put to die, it does seem only fair that we don't add mortal insult to lethal injury for these folks, especially their little kids. (I don't think I've ever written a sentence so complex)

Don't worry. It's only the UN. We'll find some excuse, plenty of them in fact, to reject this ruling. We'll bundle them up as "terrorists" or a threat to our beloved economies, you know, the bounty that God bestowed on us but not them, that sort of thing. And, yes, we'll look like utter swine but isn't that what the lipstick is for?

Friday, January 10, 2020

Pompeo - Screw You, We're Not Leaving

Trump secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has served notice on the government of Iraq - 'we don't care what you say, we're staying.'

The State Department on Friday rebuffed the Iraqi government’s request to begin discussions on pulling out troops, saying that any American officials going to Baghdad during a state of heightened tensions would not discuss a “troop withdrawal,” as the Iraqi prime minister had requested. Instead, discussions would be about the “appropriate force posture in the Middle East.” 
The statement from Washington was a direct rebuttal to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq, and was certain to add to the friction between the two nations. 
The prime minister said earlier on Friday that he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to send a delegation from the United States to discuss steps for the withdrawal of the approximately 5,200 American troops from his country, in the aftermath of a deadly American military strike ordered by President Trump that many Iraqis say violated their country’s sovereignty.
So much for the illusion of Iraqi sovereignty. That was all a pretence. Iraq remains an occupied land, its government's wishes subject to American veto.

Krugman on a "World Gone Mad."

Paul Krugman writes that the wildfires savaging Australia are terrifying but they can't compare to Australia's leadership.
In a rational world, the burning of Australia would be a historical turning point. After all, it’s exactly the kind of catastrophe climate scientists long warned us to expect if we didn’t take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a 2008 report commissioned by the Australian government predicted that global warming would cause the nation’s fire seasons to begin earlier, end later, and be more intense — starting around 2020.

So this should be the moment when governments finally began urgent efforts to stave off climate catastrophe. 
But the world isn’t rational. In fact, Australia’s anti-environmentalist government seems utterly unmoved as the nightmares of environmentalists become reality. And the anti-environmentalist media, the Murdoch empire in particular, has gone all-out on disinformation, trying to place the blame on arsonists and “greenies” who won’t let fire services get rid of enough trees.

These political reactions are more terrifying than the fires themselves.
...You might be tempted to dismiss Australia as a special case, but the same deepening partisan division has long been underway in the United States. As late as the 1990s, Democrats and Republicans were almost equally likely to say that the effects of global warming had already begun. Since then, however, partisan views have diverged, with Democrats increasingly likely to see climate change happening (as indeed it is), while Republicans increasingly see and hear no climate evil.

Does this divergence reflect changing party composition? After all, highly educated voters have been moving toward the Democrats, less-educated voters toward the Republicans. So is it a matter of how well informed each party’s base is? 
Probably not. There’s substantial evidence that conservatives who are highly educated and well informed about politics are more likely than other conservatives to say things that aren’t true, probably because they are more likely to know what the conservative political elite wants them to believe. In particular, conservatives with high scientific literacy and numeracy are especially likely to be climate deniers. 
But if climate denial and opposition to action are immovable even in the face of obvious catastrophe, what hope is there for avoiding the apocalypse? Let’s be honest with ourselves: Things are looking pretty grim. However, giving up is not an option. What’s the path forward? 
The answer, pretty clearly, is that scientific persuasion is running into sharply diminishing returns. Very few of the people still denying the reality of climate change or at least opposing doing anything about it will be moved by further accumulation of evidence, or even by a proliferation of new disasters. Any action that does take place will have to do so in the face of intractable right-wing opposition
This means, in turn, that climate action will have to offer immediate benefits to large numbers of voters, because policies that seem to require widespread sacrifice — such as policies that rely mainly on carbon taxes — would be viable only with the kind of political consensus we clearly aren’t going to get.

"A Betrayal Against Life Itself"

They're not the first to call for it but the Greta Thunberg  contingent at Davos is demanding that world leaders end the fossil fuel madness.
“Anything less would be a betrayal against life itself,” said Thunberg and colleagues in an article in the Guardian. “Today’s business as usual is turning into a crime against humanity. We demand that you play your part in putting an end to this madness.” 
The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest driver of the climate emergency. Scientists predict catastrophic impacts unless deep cuts in emissions are made rapidly, but global emissions are still rising.
Their demands echo the warning from renowned climate scientist, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, at the 2015 Paris climate summit that our only chance of averting climate catastrophe depended on the "induced implosion" of the fossil fuel industry. It would be up to world governments to shut down the fossil fuel industry or else set the planet on fire. 

One by one the petro states have chosen the fire option. That includes Canada where a supremely hypocritical prime minister passed a declaration of climate emergency one day and, less than 24 hours later, greenlighted a massive, taxpayer funded, bitumen pipeline.  A betrayal against life itself, check. A crime against humanity, check. Putting an end to this madness? Hell no, we're cultivating madness.

From wildfires that burn hundreds of miles inside the Arctic Circle all the way to Australia in the southern hemisphere, we're running headlong into a wall - a wall of fire. And, despite their lofty pronouncements, that's not a matter of necessity. It's a choice they have chosen for us and everyone else on this planet.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

John Ralston Saul Wrote of an "Interregnum." Could This Be What It Looks Like?

In his 2005 book, The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World, John Ralston Saul proclaimed the end of neoliberalism as just another failed political-economic ideology. He wrote that we were in an "interregnum." An interval between regimes in which we sort of drifted along awaiting the next great thing.

Apparently JRS spoke too soon. Neoliberalism and the insane quest for perpetual exponential growth are still here. This malignant creed still holds sway in congresses and parliaments from Washington to London, Ottawa to Canberra.

Fifteen years is a pretty wide miss but, for all that, I'm not sure that Ralston Saul was necessarily wrong. Perhaps he just failed to understand that the nature of the next interregnum would be like none other before it.  It would look like this:

Australia, today

Fort McMurray

Paradise, California

This is Ralston Saul's interregnum. This is the end of neoliberalism because it's either neoliberalism or us. At some point either we choose to change on our own terms or we will be changed regardless. Time is definitely not on our side.

What's your idea for the next great thing? Or would you prefer to just keep electing the same political hacks who have quite knowingly delivered us into this global hell?

Here's a YouTube pundit who calls himself Ozzy Man to introduce you to their leader, Scott Morrison.  This is definitely NSFW. There's plenty of coarse language. It's not for delicate ears.