Thursday, May 31, 2018

"The Greatest Threat Facing Mankind" - Not That You Would Know It, Not In Canada.

"Climate change is still moving much faster than we are." That's the pitch from UN climate change czar, Antonio Gutteres.

“Scientists are now worried that unless accelerated action is taken by 2020, the Paris goal may become unattainable,” the UN chief told reporters at the world body’s New York Headquarters.

“I am beginning to wonder how many more alarm bells must go off before the world rises to the challenge,” Mr. Guterres said, noting that 2017 had been filled with climate chaos and 2018 has already brought more of the same. 
“Climate change is still moving much faster than we are,” he warned, calling the phenomenon the greatest threat facing humankind.

Recent information from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the World Bank and the International Energy Agency shows the relentless pace of climate change. 
For instance, the UN chief said, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.4 per cent, to a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes.
Now I don't want to piss on Justin's Pipeline Parade but Canada has stepped into the Dark Side. We can't blame this on a bunch of foreign oil companies and Texas pipeline bandits. From now on in, it's pretty much "Made in Canada" and it comes with Justin's winning smile stamped right on it.
In social as well as economic terms, the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was devastating, washing away decades of development in an instant. 
In South Asia, major monsoon floods affected 41 million people. 
In Africa, severe drought drove nearly 900,000 people from their homes. 
Wildfires caused destruction across the world. Arctic sea ice cover in winter is at its lowest level, and the oceans are warmer and more acidic than at any time in recorded history. 
This tsunami of data should create a storm of concern,” Mr. Guterres said, noting that next year he will convene a climate summit in New York aimed at boosting global ambition to meet the level of the climate challenge.
Yeah, well, Antonio, not so much. The scientists have told us we have to leave that bitumen in the ground and we've answered with a resounding "fuck you, we'll do as we please."

No matter how many cowardly newspaper editorial boards cast this pipeline as an economic issue, it's much, much more than that. This is life and death, especially for the poorest, most vulnerable people on Earth and, at the very least, a brutal and ruinous future for our grandchildren and their kids.

This is a huge catastrophic threat to the coastline of British Columbia and the tens of thousands of jobs that would be lost from a tanker calamity in these treacherous, congested waters. An ordinary, conventional oil spill takes 50 years to clean up. Remember the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound, Alaska, a quarter century ago? It's still a mess and recently marine biologists warned that one of the two local orca pods will soon be no more.

There's no shortage of clean crude oil on the market but we're going to undercut that with rotgut bitumen at bargain basement prices. You've got to go low to flog that stuff. And you've got to be low to go low. Trudeau might as well revive the asbestos trade.

Man Who Chaired Brexit Campaign Relocates - to France.

He's Lord Lawson of Blaby (swear to God, "Blaby") has apparently decided to reward himself for helping to pull Britain out of the European Union by pulling up stakes and moving to the European Union. Folks, you can't make this up.
The ex-Conservative chancellor, who chaired the Vote Leave campaign during the EU referendum, has started the "tiresome" paperwork required for a carte de sejour.

He insisted he is not applying for French nationality.
Lord Lawson was Blaby MP for 18 years from 1974 to 1992 and served in Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet between 1981 to 1989. 
A carte de sejour shows a person is legally resident in France, and could help avoid complications after Brexit.
The notorious climate change denier and Brexiteer is also father to celebrity cook, Nigella Lawson.

"This Isn't Climate Change, It's Everything Change" - Margaret Atwood

Canada's greatest writer, Margaret Atwood, sees a bad moon rising, especially for women and children, from climate change. Atwood says it's not just the climate, it's "everything change."

“This isn’t climate change – it’s everything change,” she will tell an audience at the British Library this week. “Women will be directly and adversely affected by climate change.” 
The author, whose landmark novel The Handmaid’s Tale has been turned into an acclaimed TV series depicting a dystopian future in which women are deprived of all rights and turned into breeding machines for men, predicts conflict, hardship and an increasing struggle for survival for women as climate change takes hold. 
“[Climate change] will also mean social unrest, which can lead to wars and civil wars and then brutal repressions and totalitarianisms. Women do badly in wars – worse than in peacetime.”
Now, Margaret, honey, calm your troubled mind. Don't worry. We've got what Bill McKibbin calls the "cutest, progressivest, bandboyiest leader" in the whole wide world, Justin Trudeau and he'll protect us. Surely he will. He's even got a plan to sell bitumen by the boatload to defeat climate change. We're in safe hands with Justin.

How Kinder Morgan Played Trudeau Like a Harp

Reuters has done a little digging into how Kinder Morgan manipulated a naive prime minister, panicking him into buying out the slick Texas pipeline company.

Even before the bailout, the company had little to lose - despite the C$1.1 billion it has spent so far on a plan to add a second pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to British Columbia’s coast, according to a Reuters review of the project’s bank financing and oil-shipping contracts with producers reserving space on the proposed line. 
The documents show Kinder Morgan cut creative deals with lenders and oil producers to shield itself from massive write-downs like the ones taken recently by rivals TransCanada Corp and Enbridge Inc in canceling controversial pipeline projects. 
The arrangements, which have not been previously reported, gave Kinder Morgan unique leverage in threatening last month to walk away from the project by May 31 unless Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government guaranteed a path to construction over the objections of British Columbia officials, environmentalists and some aboriginal bands. 
The company’s cautious financial planning and hard-ball politicking combined to create a no-lose bet on what might have been one of the oil industry’s riskiest plays, given the volatility of Canadian pipeline politics. 
...Kinder Morgan’s leverage in the deal stemmed in part from careful risk management in earlier negotiations with the 13 oil producers who reserved capacity in the proposed line. The shippers agreed to cover about 80 percent of Kinder Morgan’s capital costs – even if the second pipeline never gets built, the contracts show
The shippers promised to pay those costs over time through tolls on shipments through the existing pipeline, and the contracts included an “early termination” clause to ensure the producers paid even if regulatory problems blocked the project
The firm also negotiated with 26 lenders led by Royal Bank of Canada and TD Bank for a clause exempting the firm from paying a 2 percent penalty on funds drawn from up to C$5 billion in construction loans if it halted the project because of political problems, the documents show. 
Another roughly C$220 million in financing, CEO Kean told analysts last month, came from assessments on oil producers shipping through Kinder Morgan’s Westridge export terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia, which is targeted for expansion to accommodate the second pipeline. 
Twelve of the 13 oil producers - including BP Canada, Teck Energy Sales, Andeavor and Canadian Natural Resources - did not respond to Reuters inquiries or declined to comment on their contracts with Kinder Morgan. Canadian oil producer Cenovus Energy did not comment directly on the contracts but issued a statement saying Canada’s oil industry would continue to suffer from low prices and exports without new pipelines. 
...Robyn Allen - a vocal pipeline opponent and retired chief executive of an auto insurance firm - has long predicted the expansion would end in a government bailout. She opposed it specifically for that reason, unlike most other opponents who have cited fear of oil spills. 
The Trudeau administration, she said, is paying C$4.5 billion “for a pipeline that is more than 65 years old” and assuming expansion costs she estimated could run as much as C$12 billion - far more than the firm’s latest estimate of C$7.4 billion
By using assets of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline to finance its expansion, Kinder Morgan made the two inseparable in the bailout, Allen said. 
“Now Kinder Morgan’s U.S. shareholders will be made whole,” she said. “They have offloaded all of these costs onto Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.” 
...The government hopes to quickly resell the project to energy firms, a task made much harder by its tortured political history. 
Though Trudeau asserts federal authority to approve the project, British Columbia officials could effectively bog it down for years in environmental studies, lawsuits and regulations that undercut its profit potential. 
Trudeau could theoretically nullify any provincial law that effectively kills a federally approved project under a constitutional provision that hasn’t been used since the 1940s. But that’s unlikely given that his Liberal party relies far more on electoral support from British Columbia than from conservative Alberta. 
The prime minister is already paying the political price
Those of us who knocked on doors for him will not forget that he took billions of dollars from Canadian families to buy out an oil pipeline,” said Tzeporah Berman, deputy director of, an environmental advocacy organization with offices in Vancouver.
We knew from the get go, when Trudeau pushed through the Saudi Death Wagon deal, dismissively calling the heavily armed and armoured combat vehicles mere "jeeps," that when principle clashed with opportunity, Trudeau would go with the money side. We saw that again when his government cut sweetheart deals for KPMG's Isle of Man tax scammers. He's the pretty face of some pretty ugly politics.

There's no reason anyone should have been surprised to see Trudeau outplayed by the sketchy Texans and forced to ride to the rescue of the Athabasca Tar Sands giants and Canadian banks. It's entirely in keeping with the policy of socializing the risks and privatizing profits.

It's Justin's Razor Wire Now

And my old friends, you Stepford Wife Liberals, seem to have fallen mute when your team - Trudeau, Carr and McKenna - have succeeded where Harper, Oliver and Kent tried but failed. Go Liberals, Go.

And not only that but, as Trudeau said on the floor of the Paris climate summit in 2015, "Canada's Back." We are indeed. We're back alright, back to where Harper had Canada. We're a climate change pariah again.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

$4.5 Billion? Try $20 Billion.

What a fitting legacy for a double dealing prime minister, a pipeline fiasco. He may not like it but Justin Trudeau's name will forever be tied to a bitumen tube.

Dick Hatfield had his Bricklin. Brian Peckford had his cucumber farm. Justin Trudeau blows them both out of the water with his Trans Mountain pipeline. Long after no one can remember what a Bricklin was, the memory of Trudeau and his pipeline will survive. Stains that big are hard to erase or forget.

Pierre Trudeau will forever be remembered for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Justin, well, he'll have to settle for a climate-wrecking pipeline.

Yesterday, Bill "Job Churn" Morneau, announced the feds had decided to shell out $4.5 billion to take the son of Enron, Texas-based Kinder Morgan, off the hook for the Trans Mountain pipeline. Yet this is a government that is not disposed to truth-telling. Remember when Junior called those Saudi death wagons mere "jeeps"? Better yet, do you remember Slick's election promises? Oh, weren't we royally suckered?

Now The Tyee's Tar Sands scribe, Andrew Nikiforuk, writes that the $4.5 billion price tag Morneau announced yesterday is just more Liberal bullshit. Try something closer to $20 billion. That's the cost according to economist Robyn Allan.
The $4.5-billion purchase price only buys a leaking 65-year-old pipeline, an aging tanker farm not built to withstand earthquakes, and a port facility as well as engineering plans and permits for the twinning of a high-risk expansion project.

In 2007, Kinder Morgan reported to the National Energy Board that it valued the Trans Mountain pipeline system at $550 million.

Let’s repeat that fact: the federal government will pay $4.5 billion for an old and compromised tanker and pipeline system that the company valued at $550 million in 2007.
“The federal government have overpaid for an aging asset that has huge integrity problems. Every year they have to spend more on maintenance to keep it running,” added Allan. 
Next, taxpayers are on the hook for the cost of twinning the project — an estimated $7.4 billion and climbing. 
Given the iron law of megaprojects (overbudget and over schedule over and over again), Allan expects the final construction bill to be more than $9 billion.] 
Then you have $2.1 billion in financial assurance that the government will have to put up for land-based spills. 
According to the Pipeline Safety Act, $1 billion in financial assurances for the existing pipeline was in place based on a $500-million parental guarantee from Kinder Morgan. 
As a condition of the pipeline expansion the federal government has required another $1.1 billion. 
Taxpayers will also be responsible for $1.5 billion for the so-called ocean protection plan — every five years.
“In the end the federal government is looking at a $15- to $20-billion bill for taxpayers,” concluded Allan.
...Kinder Morgan, which could no longer afford the $7.4-billion project, took advantage of a bitumen republic that foolishly proclaimed an unneeded pipeline a matter of “national interest” without so much as a risk analysis or simple cost benefit report. 
The only studies that say the Trans Mountain pipeline will make money for the Canadian economy are reports paid for by Kinder Morgan. Critics including Allan have described these biased reports as fraudulent.  
When Canadian taxpayers appreciate the scale of the federal abuse of trust here as well as the government’s blatant corporate welfare for a Texas pipeline company, there will be hell to pay from coast to coast.

Bill McKibben Sums Up Trudeau in One Sentence

"In case anyone wondered, this is how the world ends: with the cutest, progressivest, boybandiest leader in the world going fully in the tank for the oil industry."

That's how climate change campaigner, Bill McKibben, sees this prime minister, Trudeau. And I think he nailed it.
Justin Trudeau’s government announced on Tuesday that it would nationalize the Kinder Morgan pipeline running from the tar sands of Alberta to the tidewater of British Columbia. It will fork over at least $4.5bn in Canadian taxpayers’ money for the right to own a 60-year-old pipe that springs leaks regularly, and for the right to push through a second pipeline on the same route – a proposal that has provoked strong opposition.

That opposition has come from three main sources. First are many of Canada’s First Nations groups, who don’t want their land used for this purpose without their permission, and who fear the effects of oil spills on the oceans and forests they depend on. Second are the residents of Canada’s west coast, who don’t want hundreds of additional tankers plying the narrow inlets around Vancouver on the theory that eventually there’s going to be an oil spill. And third are climate scientists, who point out that even if Trudeau’s pipeline doesn’t spill oil into the ocean, it will spill carbon into the atmosphere. 
Lots of carbon: Trudeau told oil executives last year that “no country would find 173bn barrels of oil in the ground and just leave it there”. That’s apparently how much he plans to dig up and burn – and if he’s successful, the one half of 1% of the planet that is Canadian will have awarded to itself almost one-third of the remaining carbon budget between us and the 1.5 degree rise in temperature the planet drew as a red line in Paris. There’s no way of spinning the math that makes that okay – Canadians already emit more carbon per capita than Americans. Hell, than Saudi Arabians.
Now, in fairness, Canada is not going to flood the world markets with 173 billion barrels of bituminous sludge. The good and cheap stuff is already gone. From here on in, getting lower grade bitumen out of the ground is going to become increasingly energy intensive, carbon intensive to extract, more difficult to transport, and less desirable ($$$) on world markets. Costs will increase, emissions will increase, price and profits will decline. (Unless, of course, we go back to the plan they had in the 50s to use underground nuclear detonations to boil the stuff to the surface. There's an idea. Psst - keep that to yourself. Don't mention it to Justin.)

Canada is once again a climate change pariah. Can't be helped. That choice has been made for us and, of course, there was no mention of this when it might have mattered, when we went to the polls in 2015. Trudeau and company were talking an entirely different tune back then, back when they wanted our votes.

Have you noticed the eerie silence from the Liberal rank and file, what I call the Stepford Wife Liberals? Nary a peep.
Is this a clever financial decision that will somehow make Canada rich? Certainly not in the long run. Cleaning up the tar sands complex in Alberta – the biggest, ugliest scar on the surface of the earth – is already estimated to cost more than the total revenues generated by all the oil that’s come out of the ground. Meanwhile, when something goes wrong, Canada is now on the hook: when BP tarred the Gulf of Mexico, the US was at least able to exact billions of dollars in fines to help with the cleanup. Canada will get to sue itself. 
No, this is simply a scared prime minister playing politics. He’s worried about the reaction in Alberta if the pipe is not built, and so he has mortgaged his credibility. His predecessor, Stephen Harper, probably would not have dared try – the outcry from environmentalists and First Nations would have been too overwhelming. But Trudeau is banking on the fact that his liberal charm will soothe things over. Since he’s got Trump to point to – a true climate denier – maybe he’ll get away with it
But it seems like a bad bet to me. Faced with the same situation – a revolt over the Keystone XL pipeline – Barack Obama delayed for several years to avoid antagonizing either side. He ultimately decided he couldn’t defend the climate cost of building it, and so became the first world leader to explicitly reject a big piece of infrastructure on global warming grounds. Trudeau has made the exact opposite call, and now we’ll see if pipeline opponents cave.
Liberals, you're just going to have to wear it. Canada has now been shackled to high-carbon fossil energy for decades to come. It's going to take at least 30 years to recover the costs of this blunder and, if people like Harper and Trudeau continue to control this country, that pipeline could be spewing life-ending filth for half a century.

And, make no mistake, the sludge we're going to be selling abroad, almost a million barrels a day of it, will cause enormous suffering and dislocation among the poorest, most vulnerable people of the world. It will claim lives and lots of them. This is not a victimless crime. Pierre Trudeau cared deeply about the people of the world. They were at the heart of his "north-south" dialogue. Justin - not so much, no, not at all.

Faint Praise

I don't care very much for this prime minister, Trudeau. I don't care for his double-dealing. I'm fed up with his lying and his rank hypocrisy.

That said I want to commend this Trudeau for doing something un-Harper-like, at least for now, in response to Canada's striking railway workers. Some 3,000 CP Rail engineers and conductors have walked out although the union and management are still negotiating.

In the Harper era the government sprung into action whenever a strike notice was delivered for any industry within federal jurisdiction. The right to strike was neutralized. Collective bargaining was employer dominated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights notwithstanding.

Trudeau has said he won't legislate the CP strikers back to work, not now at least. The measure of his sincerity depends, of course, on how he responds if the strike becomes protracted. That's where you'll see Trudeau's true colours.

Right now it's one step up from the standard Trudeau photo-op. Whether that's all it is - more posing - remains to be seen. Still, credit where credit's due.


I might have been right. Trudeau's pro-labour stance might have been more of the typical window-dressing. The strike is over. It's highly unlikely Trudeau didn't know that a deal was in the works when he took his noble stance. This is Justin Trudeau after all, a consummate political huckster.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

You May Not Like These Odds

The odds aren't good. Three times out of four, the result is war. Such is the nature of superpower politics. Over the centuries superpowers have come and gone. There have been 16 instances where a dominant power was muscled out by an ascending power. 12 of those ended in war. It's called the "Thucydides Trap."

Today we're on the cusp of America's uni-polar moment being ended by the ascendancy of China giving rise to a multi-polar world in which America is still prominent but not dominant.

This transition would be perilous in ordinary times only we are not in anything remotely ordinary times. On the world stage there are no end of stressors that are in play and building. The circumstances of the key players are in flux and quite uncertain. They may make a peaceful transition much less likely.

There is the economic rivalry between China and America that will reshape access to markets and already scarce resources. China is already muscling into what had been America's sphere of influence from Asia Pacific to the Middle East to Africa and even South America. Russia is likewise moving to extend its influence into former American preserves. India, well India is just getting started but it is not developing its blue water navy to suit narrow parochial aspirations.

If all this sounds a bit much remember that it wasn't much more than 300 years ago that China and India were the world's two largest economies. They don't need our help remembering what once was or imagining what may be again. China is already there. India's GDP is now almost five times greater than America's as recently as 1980.

Economic and geo-political rivalries almost inevitably manifest in military rivalries. This is also underway.  On a daily basis America's unsurpassed military demonstrates its power but it also demonstrates its weakness. The conflicts since 9/11, called by some the "long war" or "perma-war" have revealed how often all the King's Men and all the King's Horses utterly fail to deliver meaningful victories despite costs running to several trillion dollars.

America still outspends the rest of the world on its military but it gets lousy bang for its military buck. Its military adversaries, China and Russia, get a lot more mileage out of their yuan and rubles. Both Russia and China focus their spending on gaining superiority in a few critical technologies such as hyper-velocity weapons that can neutralize America's numerical superiority. They don't waste their money on trying to match, neutralize or counter every American technology in every corner of the globe. China has focused on A2/AD - anti-access/area denial - to defend their sovereignty and their immediate sphere of influence and hegemony over the Chinese mainland and Asia Pacific.

The key adversaries are also well into a renewed nuclear arms race. Russia has deployed two new submarine designs said to be world-leading technology. It has deployed two new missile systems and new warheads to go with them. The Kremlin is known to have developed a nuclear powered, nuclear armed, robotic torpedo/submarine that is said to have a range of thousands of miles and is virtually unstoppable. The United States is rearming with new submarines and a number of new nuclear warheads including some low-yield, "mini-nukes" that risk lowering the "first use" threshold. Most recently China has announced it intends to develop newer, ultra-quiet technology submarines, new missiles and, of course, new warheads.

China still trails the US in "bleeding edge" technology but defence analysts and senior American officers warn they're catching up faster than anyone had imagined.

There are other stressors some global but some which will also impact and potentially destabilize the key adversaries. Climate change, overpopulation and over-consumption of essential resources are the big three but there are others.

China and the United States face serious problems with sea level rise, droughts and floods. Both countries face threats to fresh water resources and food security. China will have to contend with rivals for access to Himalayan headwaters, India and Pakistan, which are also nuclear armed.

Oh, and did I mention that the United States has a lunatic in the White House? That can't help.

At this point, let's turn to Foreign Policy's Graham Allison who offers five lessons the leaders of these key adversaries need to keep foremost in their minds.

Lesson 1: War between nuclear superpowers is MADness. 
The United States and the Soviet Union built nuclear arsenals so substantial that neither could be sure of disarming the other in a first strike. Nuclear strategists described this condition as “mutual assured destruction,” or MAD. Technology, in effect, made the United States and Soviet Union conjoined twins — neither able to kill the other. 
Today, China has developed its own robust nuclear arsenal. From confrontations in the South and East China Sea, to the gathering storm over the Korean Peninsula, leaders must recognize that war would be suicidal. 
Lesson 2: Leaders must be prepared to risk a war they cannot win. 
Although neither nation can win a nuclear war, both, paradoxically, must demonstrate a willingness to risk losing one to compete. 
Consider each clause of this nuclear paradox. On the one hand, if war occurs, both nations lose and millions die — an option no rational leader could choose. But, on the other hand, if a nation is unwilling to risk war, its opponent can win any objective by forcing the more responsible power to yield. To preserve vital interests, therefore, leaders must be willing to select paths that risk destruction. Washington must think the unthinkable to credibly deter potential adversaries such as China.

Lesson 3: Define the new “precarious rules of the status quo.” 
The Cold War rivals wove an intricate web of mutual constraints around their competition that President John F. Kennedy called “precarious rules of the status quo.” These included arms-control treaties and precise rules of the road for air and sea. Such tacit guidelines for the United States and China today might involve limits on cyberattacks or surveillance operations. 
By reaching agreements on contentious issues, the United States and China can create space to cooperate on challenges — such as global terrorism and climate change — in which the national interests the two powers share are much greater than those that divide them. Overall, leaders should understand that survival depends on caution, communication, constraints, compromise, and cooperation.
Lesson 4: Domestic performance is decisive. 
What nations do inside their borders matters at least as much as what they do abroad. Had the Soviet economy overtaken that of the United States by the 1980s, as some economists predicted, Moscow could have consolidated a position of hegemony. Instead, free markets and free societies won out. The vital question for the U.S.-China rivalry today is whether Xi’s Leninist-Mandarin authoritarian government and economy proves superior to American capitalism and democracy. 
Maintaining China’s extraordinary economic growth, which provides legitimacy for sweeping party rule, is a high-wire act that will only get harder. Meanwhile, in the United States, sluggish growth is the new normal. And American democracy is exhibiting worrisome symptoms: declining civic engagement, institutionalized corruption, and widespread lack of trust in politics. Leaders in both nations would do well to prioritize their domestic challenges. 
Lesson 5: Hope is not a strategy. 
Over a four-year period from George Kennan’s famous “Long Telegram,” which identified the Soviet threat, to Paul Nitze’s NSC-68, which provided the road map for countering this threat, U.S. officials developed a winning Cold War strategy: contain Soviet expansion, deter the Soviets from acting against vital American interests, and undermine both the idea and the practice of communism. In contrast, 
America’s China policy today consists of grand, politically appealing aspirations that serious strategists know are unachievable. In attempting to maintain the post-World War II Pax Americana during a fundamental shift in the economic balance of power toward China, the United States’ real strategy, truth be told, is hope. 
In today’s Washington, strategic thinking is often marginalized. Even Barack Obama, one of America’s smartest presidents, told the New Yorker that, given the pace of change today, “I don’t really even need George Kennan.” Coherent strategy does not guarantee success, but its absence is a reliable route to failure.

Thucydides’s Trap teaches us that on the historical record, war is more likely than not. From Trump’s campaign claims that China is “ripping us off” to recent announcements about his “great chemistry” with Xi, he has accelerated the harrowing roller coaster of U.S.-China relations. 
If the president and his national security team hope to avoid catastrophic war with China while protecting and advancing American national interests, they must closely study the lessons of the Cold War.
All good advice, especially the last part, except that Trump doesn't care to study anything - the man doesn't read - and he's surrounded himself with dangerous ideologues, people like Pompeo and Bolton, real freaks who think Dr. Strangelove was a documentary, in fact their favourite.

Adios, Roseanne - Don't Let the Door Hit Ya.....

Roseanne Barr's comeback is over. ABC has cancelled the "Roseanne" show after the loudmouth, rightwing nutjob tweeted that a former Obama aide, Valerie Jarrett, was what you get if the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes had a baby.

“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey said in a statement to TheWrap on Tuesday.

Donald's Choice - Ignore Climate Change Science

A leaked White House memo describes Donald Trump's approach to climate science reports generated by the US government's own agencies. He picked Door 3, just ignore it.
Last week, the Washington Post obtained a White House internal memo that debated how the Trump administration should handle federal climate science reports. 
The memo presented three options without endorsing any of them: conducting a “red team/blue team” exercise to “highlight uncertainties in climate science”; more formally reviewing the science under the Administrative Procedure Act; or deciding to just “ignore, and not seek to characterize or question, the science being conducted by Federal agencies and outside entities.” 
In short, the White House considered ‘debating’ established climate science, casting doubt on scientists’ conclusions, or just ignoring them. Accepting and/or acting on the findings of the scientific experts is not an option they’re willing to consider.

Well that just sounds reprehensible, doesn't it? Then again, what's worse - reprehensible or hypcritical - if the end result is the same? Trump, Trudeau - does it really matter? Less than you might like to imagine.

Morneau's Right, They've Already Listed the Pipeline for Sale

It's a honey of a deal.

Here, check it out:

h/t Deacon Jester

Now It's Time for Trudeau to Come Clean - At Last.

Since the Trudeau government decided to throw $4.5-billion to take Kinder Morgan off the hook on the Trans Mountain pipeline, it's time we got to see the books.

Let's start with the order books. Kinder Morgan said two-thirds of the expanded pipeline capacity was already sold. Show us the books. Let's see who has actually signed up for that capacity. This is a 30-year investment so there better be a lot of really long term contracts, 15 to 20 year deals.

C'mon Junior, show us the money. Then, when you're done that, show us this supposed "world class" clean up programme you've got in place. Every detail. Let's see what you're doing to us.

Then you can show us what you're going to do with all that revenue this pipeline will be generating, the profit. You've already linked this pipeline to Canada's path to a green future. The only way that can happen is if these legendary profits are earmarked for advancing that green future, i.e. not just tossed in the federal treasury that's already neck deep in deficit.

It's time to come clean, Justin. And that's long overdue.

Well Liberals, You're In the Bitumen Business Now

The Trudeau government has bought out Kinder Morgan. $4.5 billion. Canada is now a player in all things Tar Sands.

No private sector buyer was interested in picking up the Trans Mountain pipeline but it was important enough to Trudeau and whatever narrow interest he's representing to use government funds, probably your pension money, to handcuff your country to that dead hooker.

It's the culmination of a process that has been built on lies and massive deceit ever since Trudeau campaigned in the 2015 election. Stepford wife Liberals, the party's rank and file, were said to be immensely pleased with their little Justin.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Try to Come Up With a More Fitting Word than "Asshole."

Today is Memorial Day in America, the day each year when the people of the United States are supposed to venerate the country's war dead. As in people who actually went to war and died in service to their country.

So, how did Donald Trump show his reverence for those who went in harm's way, something he went to extraordinary lengths to dodge when it was his turn? Here's how:

Happy Memorial Day! Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today. Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18 years), rebuilding our Military and so much more. Nice! 
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2018
Nice, yeah nice. You total asshole.

Talk About Going Hog Wild With the Company Credit Card

You may remember her for helping Stephen Harper dodge a bullet when then governor general, Michaelle Jean, consented to Shifty Steve proroguing Parliament.

You're less apt to remember that she then went on to become secretary-general of La Francophonie. It seems she figured that was her ticket to the high life.

Her tenure as secretary-general of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie has been dogged by reports that the former governor-general of Canada was indulging regal tastes. 
There was a $500,000 renovation for the Paris apartment put at her disposal, a $20,000 grand piano to put in it, a chauffeur and car for her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond. France’s l’Opinion newspaper reported her entourage spent $50,000 in four days at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel.
Wow, that's Aga Khan grade indulgence. Sorry, my bad, I shouldn't mention the Aga Khan in conjunction with a story involving our beloved prime minister.
Ms. Jean has argued her expenses were for the good of the Francophonie, or even part of a disinformation campaign against her. The Canadian government defended her, and endorsed her bid to keep the job. 
But as the representative of an organization whose 57 members include some of the poorest countries in the world, the allegations were giving her a Marie Antoinette reputation.

And now, she can no longer escape the guillotine, anyway. 
Her tenure as secretary-general is doomed. France and some African members of the organization have already settled on a replacement
There’s no reason for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to keep supporting her bid to stay.

The Fox and the Hen House - Trudeau Hands Industry the Keys

It's not unfair to say that, when the Trudeau government talks about balancing resource development and the environment you can expect a giant thumb on the scale. When the two interests clash, the environment comes away with the shit end of the stick.

Even by Ottawa standards, Tuesday’s meeting of the House environment committee was a long and rancorous affair. 
Running more than 13 hours when it finally adjourned after midnight, the marathon session was the committee’s fourth and final day to vote on hundreds of proposed amendments to Bill C-69, the Trudeau government’s effort to overhaul Canada’s environmental laws. 
Few are happy with the result, including scientists who say the bill puts too little emphasis on the scientific rigour and independence of impact assessments.
...The omnibus bill includes separate acts on impact assessment, energy regulation and navigable waters, and is intended to replace the controversial rewriting of federal environmental regulations under Stephen Harper in 2012. ...But experts say the weaknesses in the bill mean that it is unlikely to improve impact assessment or strengthen public trust.
Harper environmentalism lives on.
“When you look at the actual legislative language, there’s very little change,” said Martin Olszynski, a lawyer and University of Calgary professor who was among the more than 100 expert witnesses selected to appear before the committee. 
Given that none of those experts were research scientists, Prof. Olszynski opted to focus his ten minutes of testimony on adding language to the bill that would require decision-makers to adhere to principles of scientific integrity. An amendment to that effect was later introduced by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and passed by the committee.

Yet even that step amounts to a half measure, said Aerin Jacob, an ecologist with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. Dr. Jacob was among those who sought, unsuccessfully, to speak to the committee in an effort to strengthen the science underpinnings of the bill. 
She said that while all persons involved in carrying out any part of an impact assessment should fall under the scientific-integrity provision, the amendment that the committee actually voted on only includes federal officials. 
“By and large that’s not the problem,” Dr. Jacob said, since the data that support an impact assessment is typically gathered and interpreted not by government scientists but by private consultants paid for by industry proponents. “The problem is that the fox is watching the hen house.” 
Petr Komers, a Calgary-based consultant, agreed that the bill does nothing to help those who are trying to provide a fair reading on the environmental impacts of proposed projects when they know that their clients are looking for a green light. “That makes our job really difficult,” he said. 
Jonathan Wilkinson, parliamentary secretary for the Environment Ministry and a non-voting member of the committee, said that the government had considered but ultimately rejected a more hands-on approach to environmental assessments.  
“The answer that we came to is it’s better for [industry proponents] to do the initial work, but of course government must have the resources and the capacity to effectively assess that work,” he said. “That’s the better way of doing it.”

Kai Chan, a scientist who specializes in environmental policy at the University of British Columbia, said experience suggests otherwise. 
In a paper published in March in Environmental Management, a research journal, Dr. Chan and colleagues examined 10 recent assessments and found that assessors typically underplayed the significance of environmental impacts and sought to rationalize why projects should proceed. Government officials were unlikely to questions their findings, even for controversial assessments such as the Northern Gateway pipeline, which was later cancelled. 
Dr. Chan added that stronger oversight and co-ordination of the assessment process by federal authorities would fix the problem. “It’s really a shame they were so quick to dismiss that,” he said.
Remember that we're talking about the Trudeau government whose own officials were caught out rigging the government assessment of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity with National Observer, [senior federal officials] say a high-ranking public servant [a Harper government holdover, Erin O'Gorman] instructed them, at least one month before the pipeline was approved, “to give cabinet a legally-sound basis to say ‘yes’” to Trans Mountain. These instructions came at a time when the government claimed it was still consulting in good faith with First Nations and had not yet come to a final decision on the pipeline. 
Legal experts interviewed by National Observer say these instructions could be a significant matter reviewed by the courts to determine if the government’s approval of Trans Mountain was valid. 
The government would neither confirm, nor deny that public servants were given these instructions to find a way to approve the project. But it described the allegation as “unsubstantiated” information.
Elizabeth May contends it's not just the National Energy Board that's in the bag for the fossil fuelers. National Resources Canada and Environment Canada are also aboard the petro-train.
I think NRCAN has become the Department of Oil and Gas and I think Environment Canada was converted under Harper from a public service agency to a corporate concierge service to speed along the approval of oil sands projects,” says [Elizabeth] May.
Nothing quite says "regulatory capture" better than letting the regulated industries provide government with the research and analysis on matters being regulated, especially when the government has its own internal fixers telling senior public servants what they need to report to their bosses.

If this skulduggery was Harper's doing, we'd be tearing him to shreds. But Stepford wife Liberals seem to prefer to look the other way when it's their boy doing the very same thing.

Blinding the Mind

Before long, if you want to remain connected to reality you may have to work for it.

We're already up to our alligators in fake news, sometimes by liars who label real news "fake news." You know who I mean and not just him either.

We're not built to handle change. Ask any flight surgeon. Human physiology is not suited to flight, especially high performance flight. Our respiratory system isn't equipped for it. Our pulmonary system isn't up to its demands. It can affect the functioning of vital organs. The more demanding the flying the more life support systems are needed, the failure of any one of which can end badly.

Now our minds are falling behind technology. Imagine if you couldn't discern black from white or up from down? Well that's sort of what's coming from the relentless advance of technology and, especially, artificial intelligence. From

Thanks to bigger data, better algorithms, and custom hardware, in the coming years, individuals around the world will increasingly have access to cutting-edge artificial intelligence. From health care to transportation, the democratization of AI holds enormous promise. 
Yet as with any dual-use technology, the proliferation of AI also poses significant risks. Among other concerns, it promises to democratize the creation of fake print, audio, and video stories. Although computers have long allowed for the manipulation of digital content, in the past that manipulation has almost always been detectable

A fake image would fail to account for subtle shifts in lighting, or a doctored speech would fail to adequately capture cadence and tone. However, deep learning and generative adversarial networks have made it possible to doctor images and video so well that it’s difficult to distinguish manipulated files from authentic ones. And thanks to apps like FakeApp and Lyrebird, these so-called “deep fakes” can now be produced by anyone with a computer or smartphone. Earlier this year, a tool that allowed users to easily swap faces in video produced fake celebrity porn, which went viral on Twitter and Pornhub.

Deep fakes and the democratization of disinformation will prove challenging for governments and civil society to counter effectively. Because the algorithms that generate the fakes continuously learn how to more effectively replicate the appearance of reality, deep fakes cannot easily be detected by other algorithms — indeed, in the case of generative adversarial networks, the algorithm works by getting really good at fooling itself. To address the democratization of disinformation, governments, civil society, and the technology sector therefore cannot rely on algorithms alone, but will instead need to invest in new models of social verification, too. 
At the same time as artificial technology and other emerging technologies mature, legacy platforms will continue to play an outsized role in the production and dissemination of information online. For instance, consider the current proliferation of disinformation on Google, Facebook, and Twitter. 
A growing cottage industry of search engine optimization (SEO) manipulation provides services to clients looking to rise in the Google rankings. And while for the most part, Google is able to stay ahead of attempts to manipulate its algorithms through continuous tweaks, SEO manipulators are also becoming increasingly savvy at gaming the system so that the desired content, including disinformation, appears at the top of search results.
Could it be that the net will become so corrupted that the only reliable source of news and information will again come from ink and newsprint? Will the internet be abandoned to the horde and those who prey on them?

Monbiot on Why Corporatist Government Doesn't Work

Neoliberalism is the cult of cowardly political incompetence. It was from the outset. It still is.

Even the IMF and the World Bank can't pretend any more. Neoliberalism doesn't bolster national economies, it wrecks them, and along the way it fuels inequality among its victim populations.

Justin, whose greatest political strength lies in issuing weepy apologies to every aggrieved group he can dredge up, imagines that he's going to tame neoliberalism, make it work for Joe Lunchpail, only he's still perfectly fine with ISDS clauses, investor-state dispute resolution shackles that prevent governments from legislating to protect workers or the environment, etc. If you can't make sense of that just think electoral reform, First Nations consultation, social licence, purging the corrupt National Energy Board, "jeeps" for Saudi Arabia to suppress its own people. See what I mean?

Our befogged prime minister is also fond of the P3 model of infrastructure development. That's where government puts up some of the cash, private contractors put up the rest and then the private operator monetizes the infrastructure to recover from - Joe Lunchpail - its investment, plus fees and interest, plus a healthy profit all with a guarantee that the government, i.e. Justin on behalf of Joe Lunchpail, will cover any losses and ensure a stipulated profit.
It's win-win-win-win for the private sector and, as we've recently seen in the UK, a potential nightmare for - you guessed it - Joe Lunchpail.

Britain's Conservative government (that doesn't seem any more conservative than our Liberal government) blew a tonne of money on P3 lap dances, especially with one company, Carillion. Carillion, the second largest construction conglomerate in the UK, became to Britain what Halliburton is to the US military. Alone and with partners, Carillion was involved in everything from high speed rail to road, hospital and school construction, to broadband infrastructure, to maintaining army installations. It employed 20,000 and thousands more working for subcontractors and suppliers. And, when in January it blew up, James Lunchpail was left with the bill for sorting out the mess.

The Guardian's George Monbiot is incensed powerful companies can pay out huge dividends and massive executive compensation and then its management and directors can simply walk away, taking their loot with them and leaving the public holding the bag.

The Commons report on this fiasco is one of the most damning assessments of corporate behaviour that parliament has ever published. But it’s still pathetic. While it scorches the company’s executives and board, and laments the weakness of the regulators, it scarcely touches the structural causes that make gluttony a perennial feature of corporate life. 
The problem begins with an issue the report does not once mention: the extreme nature of limited liability. To allow the owners of a limited company to risk nothing but the money they have spent on shares is to grant them free, uncapped indemnity against the risks they impose on others. It’s the equivalent of permitting drivers to take to the roads without buying insurance, knowing that if they cause a crash they will carry no more than the cost of replacing their own car, regardless of the expense, injury and death they might impose on others. 
The current model of limited liability allowed the directors and executives of Carillion to rack up a pension deficit of £2.6bn, leaving the 27,000 members of its schemes to be rescued by the state fund (which is financed by a levy on your pension – if you have one). This indemnity permitted the owners of the company to walk away from the £2 bn owed to its suppliers and subcontractors. The same free pass landed the cost of rescuing the public services so foolishly entrusted to this company back on the government. 
...Limited liability not only allows companies to act recklessly with regard to the interests of others – it obliges them to do so. Directors have a duty to use all legally available means to maximise shareholder value. Limited liability compels them to externalise risk. 
There is no way that fossil-fuel companies could pay for the climate breakdown they cause. There is no way that car companies could meet thehealth costs of air pollution. Their business models rely on dumping their costs on other people. Were they not protected by the extreme form of limited liability that prevails today, they would be obliged to switch to clean technologies.

Various estimates put the cost that businesses dump on society at somewhere between 4% and 20% of GDP. In other words, it exceeds the rate of economic growth. Were such costs internalised, the economy would have to be run on an entirely different basis. Human health and the survival of the natural world would come first; corporate greed would come last. 
Executive incentives also conflict with the interests of society. Even as Carillion spiralled down, pay and bonuses spiralled up. The UK corporate governance code recommends that directors who fail in their duties should forfeit some of the pay they were due to receive, but the details are left to the discretion of their companies. In Carillion’s case, the remuneration committee defined the terms so narrowly that even total failure did not trigger a clawback of the executives’ vast bonuses. 
Its long-term incentive plans were useless. The finance director, Richard Adam, had a stack of performance shares that were held back for three years, ostensibly to prevent reckless behaviour. But the Commons report alleges that “accounting tricks” propped up the value of the shares until the day they became payable, whereupon he sold them. Within two months, their value had fallen by three-quarters. Even when they work well, such incentives protect only the interests of the corporation, rather than the interests of society.
The Carillion fleecing of the British people offers a timely warning for Canadians especially now that our prime minister is offering guarantees and other incentives to a pipeline company with sketchy lineage and no money. What could possibly go wrong? Except for maybe everything.

They've got a saying about those cattle in Texas. You mess with the bull, you might just get the horns.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Trudeau's Bricklin

As Michael Harris puts it, "When companies with iffy projects begin to lose their nerve, they can always turn to government — the investor of last resort. History shouts as much from the leaky rooftops of multiple mega-flops." He's referring to - of course - the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The first person to invest in Malcolm Bricklin’s eponymous sports car was then premier Richard Hatfield of New Brunswick. 
The car came gull-winged for the gullible. After producing just 3,000 cars, the pipe-dream of an American millionaire died as a costly fiasco to Canadian taxpayers. 
...Former Newfoundland premier Brian Peckford invested boots and all in the now comical Sprung Greenhouse. He was trying to corner the market on English cucumbers in a place with one of the lowest levels of sunshine in the world. 
After a predictably short history, which mostly amounted to dimming the kitchen lights in Mount Pearl every time the greenhouse fired up, Sprung left the province. Newfoundlanders were left holding the bag for the most expensive cucumbers on earth — a whopping $30 million loss. 
 And so, the case for caution with Kinder Morgan, the Texas oil company with cold feet. With one toe in the water of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and one foot on Texas terra firma, the company is threatening to walk away from the $7.4 billion deal.
The federal cavalry, under the command of Gen. Trudeau, is trying to ride to the rescue. That is passing strange. This is the same Trudeau who dissed the Harper-era green light to Trans Mountain, declaring in 2015 that approval for the project needed “to be re-done.”
...If there is money to be made, an investor can always be found. If the project runs with the dogs, government should not take out the national credit card to feed it. 
There are already signs of how Trudeau hopes to get cash to Kinder Morgan. One place would be the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which sits on a fund of $356 billion as of last March. 
But why should Canada’s pension fund invest in a high-risk venture like a bitumen-carrying pipeline that cuts right through Canada’s third-largest metropolis? 
Why would the CPPIB risk pension funds on pipelines, when a growing number of banks internationally won’t touch tar sands projects? 
Why would the agency put money into a wave of the past, at a time when the rest of the world is transitioning away from fossil fuels — and we were supposed to be among them? 
Why should the CPPIB touch Kinder Morgan when surging shale production in the United States is set to produce 11 million barrels of “clean” oil a day by the end of 2019? The Americans are already poised to hit the 10 million barrels per day threshold this year. 
If Trudeau is truly desperate to get this project rammed through, here is something to watch for. He might turn to the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), that sketchy, new institution designed to champion so-called public-private partnerships, or P3s. 
Interestingly, the new CEO of the CIB is Pierre Lavallee. He spent six years at the pension investment board, where he managed assets worth $94 billion. The new bank has yet to invest any of its $35 billion fund in a single project, though its enabling legislation has been passed.
How long can it be before the telephone rings? “Mr. Lavallee, it’s Mr. Morneau on the line.” 
If the CIB invests in Kinder Morgan, it will instantly persuade the new bank’s critics that it is merely a giant slush fund for pet Liberal projects. Trudeau inspired much of the caustic reaction to the new bank himself. The way that the bank was created was shamelessly Harper-esque — buried in a 300-page omnibus bill, with only two hours in committee for opposition parties to study and amend it. 
Maybe Trudeau knew his adventure in P3s, which he admittedly promised in the 2015 election, couldn’t stand up to much scrutiny. Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk found that P3s in that province cost taxpayers an extra $8 billion. And if she has it right, it will get much worse.
And what about the Saudis?
And there is one more reason Trudeau should not commit taxpayers’ money to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — through the CPPIB or CIB. Though rising oil prices have recently made some tar sands operations marginally profitable, those prices are highly volatile and likely to come down. The reason is Saudi Arabia. 
The kingdom is on the cusp of selling shares in Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest and most profitable oil company, with an estimated worth of $1.5 trillion U.S. Though no date has been chiselled in stone for the IPO, the Saudis are now saying sometime in 2019. 
Whether it’s listed internationally or sold privately, the sale could be a global game-changer for the oil industry. With five per cent of the equity of this resource behemoth potentially on the table, it is hard to imagine how that would not siphon off investment from riskier Western energy projects that depend on high oil prices to be viable. 
And those prices could dramatically plummet if the Saudis decide that it is in their interests to turn on the oil taps again [which is in the works]. That would bring down the price of oil, allowing the kingdom to recover markets lost to shale gas and tar sands operations, while the Saudis were building the price for a potential IPO by cutting production. 
Some other reasons energy investors might prefer Riyadh to the land of tar sands? Dirt cheap production costs, no court cases, and no environmentalists: just the king and his buddies. 
Mr. Prime Minister, don’t invest in a Bricklin.

Social Cohesion is Our Best Hope For a Healthy Democracy

Young Canadians might have no experience of it but there was a time in this country when liberals and conservatives got along. They disagreed, to be sure, but they were both on the same page, they lived in the same reality - more or less. The other team were rivals, not enemies, and they sometimes borrowed (pilfered) ideas from each other.

Now we've got voices preaching hatred of "the other." That other side, why they're evil, vile, disgusting. They're to be feared, distrusted and loathed. It doesn't matter what side you're with, every group has them. And they've been remarkably effective.

What these zealots have achieved is to undermine social cohesion, the force that unites people, makes them stronger, less submissive and vulnerable to authority. Social cohesion is the glue of democracy.

There will always be issues on which people disagree but invariably we agree on far more than we dispute. By building on a foundation of consensus we build trust and a willingness to listen and confidence to discuss and debate. Both sides get heard and, from that act of listening, understood. We may find solutions based on compromise and accommodation that can heal divides.

There is money and power to be had, plenty of it, by those who can divide, confuse and weaken society. The real mischief of globalism is the rise of the corporate state in which narrow, special interests manage to insinuate themselves between the public and those they vote into office.

Globalism demands the surrender of certain incidents of national sovereignty to private sector interests, the ISDS or investor/state dispute settlement regime, being one example. Governments may be restrained from legislating or regulating for the benefit of the public by such means. Jurisdiction becomes shared between government and corporation.

A deeply divided society is weakened, less capable of defending the public interest against the special interest. Government becomes less responsible to the public, more patriarchal. The bond steadily erodes. In some societies it can reach the point where an alienated public fall prey to populist hucksters who feed their discontent and harness it to their own purposes.

My blog, the Disaffected Lib, is dedicated to the restoration of progressive democracy. I really can't see much future for Canada unless we manage to reinstate progressivism, the beating heart of liberal democracy that was pretty thoroughly expunged after the implementation of neoliberalism and the surrender to globalism. Progressivism is the key to restoring social cohesion.

Barack Obama has warned that American democracy and that nation's economy are in peril if the US cannot solve its political divisiveness.

"We live in a culture today where everybody feels the crush of information and the collision of worlds," Obama explained.

This is very different than how our ancestors lived, he pointed out. Humans have, for most of their history, lived their whole lives in the same basic geographic area where they were born, had a network of friends that stretched to maybe 150 people and lived in societies "with very clear rules and expectations," Obama said.

The challenge Americans face today is "how do we maintain that sense of common purpose, our 'in it together,' as opposed to splintering and dividing? As we are seeing in some debates in social media and elsewhere, it's harder to do today. But I think it becomes more necessary than ever, because if we don't figure it out, not only will it be hard for our economy to survive but it is going to be hard for our democracy to survive." 
Obama believes that one important way we can maintain and increase a national identity, where citizens view themselves as Americans first, rather than members of a particular tribe (like our political party, or race, or gender) is by sharing stories with each other. The more we can do that, the more we'll see each other as fellow humans, rather than as caricatures representing some other tribe. 
One place to start is to ask everyone, no matter where in the political spectrum you fall, to expand your media sources, he suggests. 
"Right now part of our polarization is that if you watch Fox News all day, or you read the New York Times, you are occupying two different realities. We have to be able to figure out, in this multiplicity of platforms, to have some common baseline of facts that allow us to meet and solve problems," he said.
A "common baseline of facts." Facts are facts. Beliefs, suspicions and ideologies are not facts. They obscure facts or blur fact and contrivance until the two become indistinguishable. Once facts are adulterated, you're left with narratives that are often irreconcilable, leading to suspicion, distrust and hostility. The separation is complete because the essential bond of fact is broken. Without restoring that baseline of fact we can only drift ever further apart, morphing from rivals into enemies. Then we're lost.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Dying On the Edges

Neoliberalism is not conducive to our health or to our survival.

Neoliberalism has brought us to a place where we have to choose to either step back or accept the butcher's bill to keep it going. We're running out of room, we're running out of stuff, somebody - a lot of somebodies - are going to have to die to keep this party going, to keep us in our big trucks, to keep us in our McMansions. There's simply not enough to go around.

We cannot pretend to bend the Earth to conform to our politics any more. We must now reconcile our politics to the imperatives of our planet. We are going to have to harness consciousness to conscience.

Even in generally affluent Europe there's a movement of people who say, "we can't see a future." These people, from across Europe, are suing the EU for failing to protect their fundamental rights to life, health, occupation and property. They are acting in their own right and on behalf of their children and generations to follow. They are saying that all governments have responsibilities now and to the future. Nobody gets to wreck the future. No government has that right. Not even yours. Implicit in that is that governments must heed "should" as much as "can." Yes they can do things, especially vote-winning things today, but should they do them if the immediate benefit is outweighed by future consequences.

Imagine you're in a lifeboat (which, as I'll explain you now are) and you're in command (you've got the pistol).  All of the survivors, a dozen in all, haven't eaten for a while and they're getting hungry and thirsty. You've got enough water to slake everyone's thirst and enough food to fill their tummies. They get angry and tell you they want that water and they want that food and you had damn well better deliver. You know if you go along they're not going to be happy by Day 3, the days following will be worse and by Day 6 they may be turning on each other. So are you going to ration that food, make it last, or will you let everything go all to Hell? Or, Option 3, you've got six rounds in that revolver. You could shoot the six people you like least, toss them over the side, and relieve the pressure - for a while.

We live on a very finite planet, Earth. It's our one and only biosphere. It operates much like a space ship hurtling through the universe at astonishing speed. (When you combine the speed Earth turns on its axis, the speed of Earth's orbit around the sun, the speed of our solar system's transit through our galaxy and the speed of our galaxy's travel through the universe, it's mind-boggling.) The point is, Earth is still our one and only. Earth - not Elon Musk, not Jeff Bezos, not the Koch Brothers - provides everything you own, everything you use, everything that keeps you alive and happy - the lot. The point is that you, me, all life plant or animal, have to live within the limit of what Earth provides. Go beyond that limit and your chances are about the same as an astronaut going on a spacewalk and removing her helmet. Not good - at all.

Here's the problem. We want everything Earth provides, all of it. We want all of it and more. We have found ways to get more. We now use the Earth's resources far beyond what the planet can sustainably provide. We do this by pillaging the Earth's resource reserves. You can't really argue with that because the evidence is tangible, calculable, some of it is even visible to the naked eye from space. It's visible in deforestation, the clearing of vast tracts of forests. It's visible in desertification, the exhaustion of once fertile farmland and its transformation into barren desert. It's visible in dried up lakes and rivers that no longer flow to the sea. NASA's Grace satellites record it in the subsidence of surface levels caused by the draining of freshwater from aquifers below. We see it in global fisheries that are being collapsed, one by one, as the industrial fishing fleet "fishes down the food chain." It's visible in the algae blooms that now regularly appear in our lakes and along our coasts. It is manifest in the global collapse of biodiversity of both terrestrial and marine species.

The signs are everywhere. They're inescapable, irrefutable. There ain't no getting around it. This is a planet in peril. We're now using the Earth's resources in excess of the planet's carrying capacity by a factor of 1.7.

The neoliberal model of political/economic governance holds that if you can still stock the store shelves it's okay, don't stop. The neoliberal model of governance cares little if at all for the future. That's what has those "we can't see a future" folks in Europe up in arms. They can't see a future. The difference between those brave few and the neoliberals who govern them is that those few have bothered to look to the future. Neoliberals don't look up. Neoliberals look down. Neoliberals can't look up because they know what they'll see utterly contradicts their ethos. It puts the lie to their mode of governance. They won't have that. They're already in too deep to worry about the future.

Look at what's happened during the era of neoliberalism (in addition to all that business about desertification, deforestation, fisheries collapse, etc.). We have doubled in population. We have significantly extended human lifespans. We have substantially increased our per capita consumption. So, more people, living longer, consuming more. As an equation that's more people X living longer X consuming more = the mess we're in today. It has exhausted Earth's resources and caused other life, terrestrial and marine, to plummet in numbers by 50%, half. The bottom is now falling out. The 2016 LivingPlanet Report found that we're on track to lose 67 per cent of wildlife by 2020. This has all happened since the era of Thatcher, Reagan and Mulroney.

Over that interval, China's population has grown from 982 million (1980) to nearly 1.4 billion. India has gone from 696 million to 1.324 billion. The US grew from 226 million to 323 million. Consider this. It took all but 200 years of the 12,000 year history of human civilization to grow our entire global population to one billion. It took the past 200 years to grow that to 7.5 billion and we're expected to hit 9 billion in just another two or three decades.

China's GDP grew from 192 billion (1980) to 11.2 trillion. India grew from 36 billion to nearly 2.4 trillion. The US grew from 543 billion to 18.6 trillion. India today has almost five times the total GDP of the US in 1980.

In 1980, GWP, Gross World Production, was about 18.8 trillion. In 2000, GWP was 41 trillion. By 2014 it had grown to 77.8 trillion dollars. By way of perspective, in 1900 GWP hit a blistering, all time record 1.1 trillion dollars.

Do you see a trend there?

Those figures - population, GDP, GWP - they're exponential. That's the course neoliberalism has us on, exponential growth. Not for nothing is it called "The Great Acceleration."  And that's the biggest problem with neoliberalism - it only comes with a gas pedal, the steering is shite and there ain't no brake. But even the most powerful locomotive, the greatest ship will stop - when it runs into something.

When I began this post I started with the title "Living On the Edges." Only we're not really living on the edges any more. We're dying on the edges. We don't notice it because we're killing off the rest of nature first. Those other species are dying so that we might live this way a little longer, but only a little. It caused George Monbiot to ask why mankind has chosen to go to war on our living world.
...In a society bombarded by advertising and driven by the growth imperative, pleasure is reduced to hedonism and hedonism is reduced to consumption. We use consumption as a cure for boredom, to fill the void that an affectless, grasping, atomised culture creates, to brighten the grey world we have created. 
We care ever less for the possessions we buy, and dispose of them ever more quickly. Yet the extraction of the raw materials required to produce them, the pollution commissioned in their manufacturing, the infrastructure and noise and burning of fuel needed to transport them are trashing a natural world infinitely more fascinating and intricate than the stuff we produce. The loss of wildlife is a loss of wonder and enchantment, of the magic with which the living world infects our lives. 
...A system that makes us less happy, less secure, that narrows and impoverishes our lives, is presented as the only possible answer to our problems. There is no alternative – we must keep marching over the cliff. Anyone who challenges it is either ignored or excoriated.
And the beneficiaries? Well they are also the biggest consumers, using their spectacular wealth to exert impacts thousands of times greater than most people achieve. Much of the natural world is destroyed so that the very rich can fit their yachts with mahogany, eat bluefin tuna sushi, scatter ground rhino horn over their food, land their private jets on airfields carved from rare grasslands, burn in one day as much fossil fuel as the average global citizen uses in a year. 
Thus the Great Global Polishing proceeds, wearing down the knap of the Earth, rubbing out all that is distinctive and peculiar, in human culture as well as nature, reducing us to replaceable automata within a homogenous global workforce, inexorably transforming the riches of the natural world into a featureless monoculture.
We are dying on the edges and we're killing off everything in our way to cling to our suicidal lifestyle for just as long as we can.
...farmed poultry today makes up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% being wild. The picture is even more stark for mammals – 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs, 36% are human and just 4% are wild animals
But comparison of the new estimates with those for the time before humans became farmers and the industrial revolution began reveal the full extent of the huge decline. Just one-sixth of wild mammals, from mice to elephants, remain, surprising even the scientists. In the oceans, three centuries of whaling has left just a fifth of marine mammals in the oceans.
The important question isn't how did we do this but rather why are we still doing this? If this neoliberal trap leads to our possible extinction, why don't we stop and find other ways of organization - political, economic, industrial, social - that can bring humanity back into harmony with our planet, our one and only biosphere?

We have a shared responsibility for our predicament and some bear more responsibility than others. It stops when we say it stops. It stops when enough of us say, no more. There's a lot to undo and it won't be painless or free of sacrifice. But when you're in a lifeboat, your ultimate survival depends entirely on sacrifice.