Saturday, June 30, 2018

Of Course You're a Big Deal.



Having trouble getting over yourself? Think you're the center of the universe, that everything revolves around you? Perhaps we all do, a little bit, in a way.

The problem is perspective. We really don't have any. This might help to understand where you, where each of us stands in "the greater scheme of things."


Notice What You Haven't Heard from Donald Trump Lately?


After proclaiming a great and joyous victory for America following his Singapore summit with Korean despot, Kim Jong Un, the Mango Mussolini can no longer utter the words "North Korea."

Kim, it seems, has outmaneuvered Trump and turned him into his personal capon, a juicy morsel ready to pop into the oven.

Trump set out to "denuclearize" the Korean peninsula and he figured his irresistible personality and deal-making skills had convinced Kim to give up his missile and nukes. Americans could sleep peacefully in their beds once more. The Nobel Prize was surely to be his for Trump had outshined all others - again.

Yeah. Mmmm-no. American intelligence agencies report that Kim has wasted no time getting back to the business of building up his stocks of weapons-grade nuclear materials and building more and more missiles.
U.S. intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months — and that Kim Jong Un may try to hide those facilities as he seeks more concessions in nuclear talks with the Trump administration, U.S. officials told NBC News. 
The intelligence assessment, which has not previously been reported, seems to counter the sentiments expressed by President Donald Trump, who tweeted after his historic June 12 summit with Kim that "there was no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."

Analysts at the CIA and other intelligence agencies don't see it that way, according to more than a dozen American officials who are familiar with their assessments and spoke on the condition of anonymity. They see a regime positioning itself to extract every concession it can from the Trump administration — while clinging to nuclear weapons it believes are essential to survival.
Trump was played - badly. He was conned. But, having assured his base that he had tamed the little "rocket man," he can't even open his mouth without making himself out to be a fool.

If Only He Had Kept His Word


It seems the Trudeau Liberals are in for a bumpy ride to the polls in next year's general elections.

When Trudeau marked his first Canada Day as prime minister, he was still enjoying his post-election honeymoon. The Liberals held a 16-point lead over the Conservatives and Trudeau's approval rating was 31 points higher than his disapproval score. 
The honeymoon was over by the time his second Canada Day rolled around in 2017, but the Liberals were still in a strong position — ahead of the Conservatives by five points and with Trudeau's net approval rating at +11. 
The Liberals held good leads in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada — the same kind of numbers that gave them a majority in 2015. 
That's no longer the case. 
The CBC Poll Tracker puts the Liberals at just under 35 per cent support, with the Conservatives at just over 34 per cent. The New Democrats, at 19 per cent, are up four to five points over where they stood on Canada Days past. 
We shouldn't have to be anxious about Scheer edging out Trudeau in 2019 but here we are. The next election was Trudeau's to lose and he screwed it up - royally.

Trudeau's retreat on electoral reform was unforgivable. His explanation unconvincing. On that alone, Trudeau deserves to get his ass handed to him.

Then there was all the talk - no, promises - about First Nations consultations, social licence, scrapping the rigged pipeline approvals issued by the egregiously "captured" National Energy Board. Lies, lies and lies. He's been lying about that damned pipeline virtually since the day he was sworn into office.

Trudeau argues "compromise" in pitting bitumen against the environment and rapidly worsening climate change. There's a compromise all right. He's chosen to compromise his promises on the environment to clear the way for a megapipeline to "tidewater." And, when that project foundered, there were Trudeau and Morneau writing a cheque to a sketchy Texas outfit to buy that pipeline. Every Canadian should be disgusted by that.

And so, if Trudeau loses his majority in 2019 or Scheer ekes out a minority, all the blame - every scrap of it - goes to Justin Trudeau. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Suzuki Wants to Save the World


David Suzuki has a plan to save the world. Boiled down, it's rather simple. All we need do is reverse our priorities, the same pursuits that got us into today's mess.

In the era of neoliberalism, the environment was to be accommodated within the economy. This is Justin Trudeau's vaunted "compromise" only the economy always comes first, as in here and now, and the environment will be taken care of later - perhaps by the next government or the government after that or... whenever. A booming economy solves every ill.

Trudeau, unconvincingly, claims he supports both - economy and environment - yet he plainly subordinates one to the other in every case, at every turn. And most of us just play along. Cue, Suzuki:

Approximately 70 percent of our residents live in cities, where jobs—and thus the economy—become the highest priority. The result is that we no longer feel connected to nature, and we do not realize we are embedded within it. So we make decisions that cost nature dearly, under the misguided notion that they won’t harm our well-being.

...Economics and ecology come from the same root, oikos, meaning “household” or “domain.” Ecology is the study of the rules of sustainability, while economics is the management of our domain. Economics, therefore, should be applied under the laws of ecology. In other words, our economic choices should make sense within the natural world’s limits. Investing in nature is best for the environment and the economy. And yet we’re still fighting the reality that powerful industries can stall progressive environmental decision-making. The approvals of the Site C dam in BC and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline project come at a time when Canada is already unlikely to meet its Paris climate accord commitments.

The transition to clean, renewable energy must be immediate. The sun and wind generate monumental energy, and increasingly affordable technologies now exist to help us harness it. To move these forward, we should enshrine the right to a healthy environment into Canadian law. More than 100 countries have done so. What is our federal government waiting for?

Monbiot on Vanishing Life and The Curse of Creeping Normality



The Guardian's eco-scribe, George Monbiot, bemoans the rapidly accelerating disappearance of wildlife and, worse, how we come not to notice.

I have lived long enough to witness the vanishing of wild mammals, butterflies, mayflies, songbirds and fish that I once feared my grandchildren would not experience: it has all happened faster than even the pessimists predicted. Walking in the countryside or snorkelling in the sea is now as painful to me as an art lover would find visits to a gallery, if on every occasion another old master had been cut from its frame.

The cause of this acceleration is no mystery. The United Nations reports that our use of natural resources has tripled in 40 years. The great expansion of mining, logging, meat production and industrial fishing is cleansing the planet of its wild places and natural wonders. What economists proclaim as progress, ecologists recognise as ruin. 
This is what has driven the quadrupling of oceanic dead zones since 1950; the “biological annihilation” represented by the astonishing collapse of vertebrate populations; the rush to carve up the last intact forests; the vanishing of coral reefs, glaciers and sea ice; the shrinkage of lakes, the drainage of wetlands. The living world is dying of consumption.
We have a fatal weakness: a failure to perceive incremental change. As natural systems shift from one state to another, we almost immediately forget what we have lost. I have to make a determined effort to remember what I saw in my youth. Could it really be true that every patch of nettles, at this time of year, was reamed with caterpillar holes? That flycatchers were so common I scarcely gave them a second glance? That the rivers, around the autumn equinox, were almost black with eels?
Out of Sight really is Out of Mind.
When our memories are wiped as clean as the land, we fail to demand its restoration. Our forgetting is a gift to industrial lobby groups and the governments that serve them.
... I will not allow myself to forget again: I will work to recover the knowledge I have lost. For I now see that without the power of memory, we cannot hope to defend the world we love.

If We're Insistent on Extinction What Gives Us the Right to Impose that Fate on Other Creatures?



While we proceed apace at rendering Earth uninhabitable for humans, conservation scientists think maybe we should let other species have a shot at surviving. There are several ideas but one that's been bandied about recently is divvying up the planet so that there's a human territory and another half that we leave to all the other billions of lifeforms. Hey, we're still taking our half. That would be ours to destroy however we damn well choose.

Let’s be honest, the global community’s response to the rising evidence of mass extinction and ecological degradation has been largely to throw crumbs at it. Where we have acted it’s been in a mostly haphazard and modest way — a protected area here, a conservation program there, a few new laws, and a pinch of funding. The problem is such actions — while laudable and important — in no way match the scope and size of the problem where all markers indicate that life on Earth continues to slide into the dustbin
But a few scientists are beginning to call for more ambition — much more — and they want to see it enshrined in a new global agreement similar to the Paris Climate Accord. They also say that the bill shouldn’t just fall on nations, but the private sector too.
...Last year, 49 scientists wrote a landmark paper exploring how feasible Half Earth might be across Earth’s different terrestrial ecosystems. But the head-line news of this paper was really this sentence: “We propose a Global Deal for Nature — a companion to the Paris Climate Deal — to promote increased habitat protection and restoration, national — and ecoregion — scale conservation strategies, and the empowerment of indigenous peoples to protect their sovereign lands.”

...“A number of empirical studies are telling us that we need to set aside about half of the terrestrial and marine realms to avoid the worst of the two great environmental catastrophes — climate change and the sixth extinction crisis — looming on the horizon,“ Eric Dinerstein, the lead author on the paper, said. Previously with WWF, Dinerstein is today the Director WildTech and the Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions Program with the NGO, RESOLVE.
The biggest problem is, you guessed it, our political leadership the very people who, in their relentless (and utterly futile) pursuit of perpetual, exponential growth (GDP) have steered us into today's mess.

Regular readers will probably be expecting me to rail on about Justin Trudeau at this point and, honestly, I don't intend to disappoint. There's a reason why the total numbers of terrestrial and marine creatures - mammals, reptiles and birds; fish, marine mammals and seabirds - has declined by far more than 50% since the advent of neoliberalism and its companion scourge, globalization.

It's been us versus everything else for 40 years and, in that time, our numbers have more than doubled even as our longevity has increased and our per capita consumption has soared.  We crept past the Earth's ecological carrying capacity in the early 70s. And so, to keep feeding our rapacious demand for more and more of everything, we've resorted to sleight of hand. We have stolen what we could take from other creatures and we have stolen from future generations, our own descendants. We are the contagion. We are Earth's plague. And we're heading for the exits.

You could say that Trump is a manifestation of our problem. His America is the most affluent major country on Earth. Yet he wants more, a lot more. He wants everything he can skin every other country for. Perhaps Trump knows that we're in a Ponzi scheme/death match in which the strongest must diminish those weaker. It is a "net sum" game.

Justin doesn't want to rob other countries. He's content to rob Nature and rob future generations but, then again, he thinks we're still in the 80s. There's the problem. Whether it's Trump or Trudeau, Merkel or Xi, nobody wants to give up any territory that's not all but useless and absolutely no one wants to pick up the tab for restoring Nature's half of Earth.
“As with any public good, biodiversity conservation suffers from a free-riding problem, in which governments have an incentive to provide less than the optimal level of funding in the hope that others will cover the costs,” said Edward Barbier, an economist with Colorado State University, adding, “the current global biodiversity crisis is in large part due to the lack of international commitment and funding over the past 25 years.” 
“It will take around $100 billion a year to protect the earth’s broad range of animal and plant species, and current funding fluctuates around $4-10 billion annually,” he said, illustrating the massive shortfall for global conservation.

In order to raise $100 billion a year — ten times more than is currently spent in the very least — Barbier argues we can’t just depend on governments but must turn to the private sector. He and his co-authors argue a any new agreement through the CBD should create a mechanism that would allow private corporations to join with their own targets and funding goals.
It's all peachy, in theory, but...  This is the era of "everyday low taxes." $ 100 billion a year, even spread around a bit, is serious money. That's war-waging level money. Of course this is where the private sector supposedly comes in.

“Corporations depend on the health of our eco-systems and are therefore at risk of losing the very foundations upon which their businesses rely,” explained Thomas Dean, co-author of the paper and sustainable develop professor at Colorado State University. ”Growing awareness of this challenge will increasingly motivate corporations to engage.” 
The paper points to industries where biodiversity is vital to their bottom line such as fisheries, forestry, agriculture and insurance. 
“For too long we have viewed corporate and environmental interests as adversarial. However they need to become aligned if we are to be successful both economically and environmentally,” Dean said. “After all, this is the fundamental purpose of an economic system — serving the needs of society in the short and long term.”
What? Did he just say our economic system works to serve "the needs of society in the short and long term"? Maybe on some other planet but not this one, not ours. I think somebody should tell this guy about shareholders, executive compensation and inequality. And the idea that the corporate sector serves anyone's long term interests, even its own much less society's, is risible.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

And Now, a Few Timely Thoughts from Bob Rae


A fellow blogger* drew my attention to an important article by Bob Rae published in The Walrus, "When it Comes to Trump, Business as Usual is Impossible."

Here are a few excerpts from this timely essay:

After a lifetime in Canadian politics, I know first-hand the unique nature of our relationship with the US. It is not an easy one. Canadians often feel we know the US, and we see its problems and politics as if they were extensions of our own. We are beginning to understand that America is now a very different place. The insistence on “America First,” the vitriolic language against immigration, and the association of immigrants with crime are not messages we can support or even ignore. The use of the entirely bogus argument of “national security” to slap punishing tariffs on our steel and aluminum exports takes the US down a path of trade lawlessness and bullying that is unprecedented in the post–Second World War era. 
If Canada’s well-being was not so tied up with its relationship with the US, it could stand back and enjoy the late-night comics. But that is not the case. We Canadians do not have the luxury of being either bemused spectators or freelance commentators. There is too much at stake. We are economically vulnerable because so many jobs are in industries—like lumber and auto manufacturing—that depend on reliable access to the American market. The integration of our two economies has intensified since the signing of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement in the 1980s and its expansion into nafta in the following decade. If we are denied secure, long-term access to the American market, we stand to lose in two ways: immediate job losses would likely be followed by international investors turning away from Canada. nafta allowed Canada to develop a strategy of investment attraction that made a point of emphasizing its advantages as a base of activity in the broader North American market. The threats and uncertainty of the past year have cast a pall on those arguments. Trump’s countermessage is crystal clear—there is no assured base for access to the United States outside his borders.
...The toxic quality of his administration’s rhetoric and actions on immigration, race relations, human rights, and world events generally make it clear that we have an American government that sees itself as leader of a right-wing populist, nationalist movement, rather than the leader of a coalition of countries and governments that share common values. Trump’s recent attack on German chancellor Angela Merkel’s openness toward refugees, his full-throated support for Brexit, and his embrace of nativism wherever in the world he sees it—these are all reflective of a political strategy that is intended to disrupt. That this leadership is being exercised in an incompetent, erratic, and utterly mean-spirited way does not take away from its goal and impact. This is neither the America, nor the world, we want or need.
...We need to understand that President Trump means what he says and says what he means. He believes that trade is a zero-sum game and that the US has been outpriced and outsmarted not just by us but by everyone else too. He thinks trade wars are “easy to win.” He knows his base has a steady appetite for racism, protectionism, and populism, and he feeds those things to them. He likes and admires strong leaders, like Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan, Rodrigo Duterte, and Kim Jong-un and has recently shown more respect and affection for a North Korean dictator who starves his people and kills his opponents than for any of his Western allies. The only saving grace may be the profound incompetence of Trump’s administration. But bear in mind, Trump’s team could get better at actually achieving what it is it wants to do. 
The most recent fiasco—the forcible separation from their families of thousands of migrant children seized on the US border with Mexico—is a case in point. This act of desperate inhumanity was met with a barrage of negative publicity unmatched by any other domestic act of the Trump administration (and it reached fever pitch the same week the US withdew from the UN Human Rights Council). The blowback will likely continue until families are reunited. But Trump will just as likely keep tweeting and upping the anti-immigration rhetoric, for the simple reason that he is in the fight of his life and has nowhere to go but to his base. He doubles down because he only has one pitch, aimed straight at the head of whoever gets in his way.
America's vaunted system of "checks and balances" has utterly failed, betrayed by a Congress in the control of cowardly Republicans lacking the courage to hold the executive branch at bay. America has endured "unitary" Republican governments before, almost all of which have ended in recession or worse. This time, however, is different in that the sadist-in-chief has utterly cowed his Congressional minions into dutiful, unquestioning obedience. What they used to brag was the "party of Lincoln" is no more. It is now the party of Trump and whatever clone succeeds him.

Not since 1814 have we had such menace at our border, our one and only border. We must now accept, no matter how reluctantly, that this America, Trump's America, is not our friend.

Yesterday Stephen Harper, sullenly returned from the dead, argued that we must placate Trump, bend to his will. That Quisling bastard is on his way to a private audience with Trump at the White House. Harper is wrong, dead wrong. If we throw ourselves at Trump's feet, he'll be back, demanding that we do it again on some other contrived grievance. Harper would sell us down that river.

It's a piss poor country whose people will not accept disruption and, yes, pain to defend what is theirs. Those who will not are little more than prey for the predator and perhaps even deserve to lose it all. Better, in my view, that we follow Bob Rae's prescription for this perilous moment.
Trudeau is right to rally Team Canada—the country’s business and labour leaders, provincial politicians, and a broad alliance of political and economic interests—in engaging our American partners beyond the Trump administration to help them understand their future is as much at stake as ours. Pinpoint the states, industries, and companies most affected by the tit-for-tat tariff skirmishes. Build alliances internationally in favour of multilateralism and the rule of law. Negotiations will happen, and concessions will be made, but we need to present an alternative view to the administration in private as well as in public. We need to define our ground and keep defending it as surely as we work whatever back channels still exist. This is not about anyone’s electoral future. It’s about the future of our country and our world.
And, as for that Quisling bastard, my greatest hope is that he finds some reason to stay down there.

*h/t Scott @ Tattered Sleeve.

The Only Thing You Can Count On From Here on In Is - Nothing, Really.


Those who keep an eye on the dazzling breadth and pace of the onset of climate change impacts know that 1) there's nothing linear in this process, and, 2) we're constantly caught unawares, taken by surprise.  Based on what has transpired over the last 20 years, it's a safe bet that if someone gives you a "worst case" scenario for the next 10 or 20 years they'll probably be proven wrong and, in most cases, that won't be a good thing,

So, what's up this week? The big news is what is being called the "Atlantification" of the Arctic Ocean.

The Arctic Ocean is warming so rapidly that it may soon transform into an upper arm of the Atlantic Ocean, researchers say. 
A study published this week in Nature Climate Change shows how the Barents Sea in Scandinavia, where Atlantic waters enter the Arctic basin, has become a warming "hot spot," with temperatures spiking 2.7 degrees F since 2000. 
The changes and accompanying loss of sea ice have caused the sea to exhibit qualities more in common with the Atlantic ocean, including most notably a sharp upward tick in salinity. "Model simulations have indicated Atlantic-type conditions in the northern Barents Sea by the end of the century, but according to our results, this is likely to happen much faster," researchers wrote. 
As reported by Earther
What that means for the region and the Arctic as a whole is an open question. We're already witnessing weird happenings in the Arctic every year at this point, from bizarre winter sea ice disappearances to heat waves at the North Pole to massive storms. Scientists are racing to understand these changes. What saltier, warmer seas mean for the ocean creatures that inhabit the region, the fisheries that have relied on them, and the future of ice are just a few more questions that need urgent attention.

And we think we can fix this with a smidge of carbon pricing? That's rich.

For Decades We've Been Whistling Past the Graveyard, Hoping Someone Like Trump Wouldn't Come Out of His Crypt.


Trudeau (the real one) opined that living next to America was like a mouse sleeping beside an elephant. He was right but it didn't matter, we would dutifully march in lockstep with our American overlords. With time we more deeply integrated our economy, our foreign policy, even our military adventures with America's, transforming Canada into another of America's branch plants, smug that we were the biggest and therefore bestest of the bunch.

And so we lashed our skiff of state ever more tightly to America's wobbly and dangerous ship of state, akin to an Andean mountain tribesman accepting that his fate was not in his own hands.

In the decade plus since I began this blog I've been railing at this bizarre integration, arguing that Canada loosen the lashings a bit, carve a more independent path. We did pursue other opportunities but never really liberated ourselves from the branch plant peril. Now, writes John Lorinc, it's time to pay the piper.

Trump’s bellicose rhetoric after the G7 summit offers a stark reminder that Canada, despite its culture of prudence, has pursued a risky path when it comes to trade. We’ve tethered our quality of life to the whims of one large and apparently mercurial customer. And now we may have to face the consequences. 
For generations, a combination of geography and convenience has helped foster Canada’s deep reliance on trade with the US. In the 1950s, economic nationalists began bemoaning Canada’s resource-dependent branch-plant economy. In response, Lester B. Pearson’s Liberal government negotiated a trade arrangement designed to boost Canada’s struggling automotive industry; the deal turned out to be a huge boon for Ontario in particular. But an unfortunate side effect of the Canada-US Auto Pact was that it gave Canada all the more incentive to focus its trade south of the border. In the decades that have followed, our dependence on the US has become noticeably more pronounced, particularly since the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement in 1989 and its successor, the North American Free Trade Agreement, in 1994.

For ordinary Canadians, the events of the past two weeks should feel like an ice-water wake-up call. After all, those huge US export numbers are linked to nearly 2 million Canadian jobs, and such exports also ensure the profitability of countless businesses. “This is a potential fork in the road for the country,” says retired BlackBerry co-ceo Jim Balsillie, a critic of Canada’s economic-prosperity strategies. “We have to ask ourselves, Are we as autonomous as we need to be? It could be an awakening moment. 
..While the Liberals signed ceta in 2016 and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership this year, our dependency on the US is as intense as it’s ever been. According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s 2016 merchandise exports to the EU and China combined—regions with a population of 1.9 billion people—add up to just 16.4 percent of what we sell in the US.

There’s considerable irony about this somewhat self-inflicted crisis. If you own even a modest investment portfolio—some mutual funds socked away for retirement—you’ve likely heard that a diversified strategy is the safest way to go. Don’t bet the farm on one sure-fire stock! 
And yet, as a country, we’ve done exactly that with our economic future. What’s more, Canada’s reliance on exports to a single market makes us quite unique among G7 nations—though not at all in a positive way. 
Economists and policy makers use a metric called the Herfindahl-Hirschman index (hhi) to gauge the degree of concentration of a country’s exports.  ...The hhi measures international trade concentration using a complex economic formula: the higher the resulting percentage, the greater a country’s dependency on a single market (or product). The majority of developed economies—including the US and most European Union countries—scored below 10 percent in 2015, which is considered to be a healthy level. 
Canada and Mexico, however, hover in the 50 to 60 percent range. According to World Bank data for 2015, the only other country with a higher hhi than that is Mongolia. Last year, StatsCan dutifully published a fact sheet detailing the concentration of our exports, which does cite our hhi score, albeit somewhat shorn of context. While it does mention that Canada is the least diversified among G7 nations, the document conveniently neglects to show how we rank globally—hardly surprising, given that these comparisons verge on the absurd for a country that claims to be one of the world’s wealthiest nations.
Balsillie, for his part, adds that while twenty-first-century wealth is being built on the ownership of valuable intellectual property and data, Canada lacks a robust and intentional strategy for ensuring that all the world-beating innovation and discovery generated in Canadian university research labs doesn’t just get scooped up by foreign firms. Citing yet another depressing international ranking, Balsillie says that, from 2015 to 2016, Canada saw the largest percentage drop among G7 nations in patents registered with the World Intellectual Property Organization, a measure which is used to show how different countries do when it comes to exploiting their own inventions.
Trump is a predator. He can smell vulnerability, he despises "weakness" and knows how to fully exploit an opportunity. He approaches it with all the empathy of a sociopath (that's probably no coincidence).

Right now we're easy meat. Decades of visionless leadership, Liberal and Conservative, have seen to that.

A Glimpse at the Risks We Must Bear for Your Pathetic "National Unity."



Two things: the Deepwater Horizon disaster involved conventional, crude oil. They were not dealing with tar-like sludge laced with toxins, acids, heavy metals and carcinogens. Secondly, it was a fairly easy site for oil spill response crews and vessels to get at. No mad currents, no huge swells, no tides, no rocky projections and inaccessible coastlines.

For all that, it was a catastrophe. That much should have been obvious as soon as they used military-grade transport aircraft, C-130 Hercules, to spray an even more lethal chemical, Corexit, not to disperse the oil or render it harmless, but to sink it out of sight.

Oil spills, even conventional crude oil spills, are catastrophic. More than a quarter century later the Exxon Valdez oil still confounds clean up crews in Prince William Sound, Alaska. It's on the shoreline, it's in the water. It's now expected to claim one of the two resident Orca pods in that area. That's a quarter century plus.

What about the Deepwater Horizon? It is now allowing researchers to chronicle how even a conventional oil spill can savage the marine ecology - for ever.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster may have had a lasting impact upon even the smallest organisms in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists have found – amid warnings that the oceans around America are also under fresh assault as a result of environmental policies under Donald Trump. 
Lingering oil residues have altered the basic building blocks of life in the ocean by reducing biodiversity in sites closest to the spill, which occurred when a BP drilling rig exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers and spewing about 4m barrels of oil into the Gulf.
Researchers took sediment samples in 2014 from shipwrecks scattered up to 150km (93 miles) from the spill site to study how microbial communities on the wrecks have changed. On two shipwrecks close to the source of the outpouring of oil – a German U-Boat and a wooden 19th-century sailing vessel – scientists saw a visible oil residue. 
At the sites closest to the spill, biodiversity was flattened,” said Leila Hamdan, a microbial ecologist at the University of Southern Mississippi and lead author of the study. “There were fewer types of microbes. This is a cold, dark environment and anything you put down there will be longer lasting than oil on a beach in Florida.
The BP oil disaster fouled more than 1,300 miles of coastline, caking seabirds and killing sea creatures and other wildlife, leading to huge financial losses for the tourism and fishing industries. But Hamdan said the oil’s impact on microbes, each measuring just a fraction of a millimeter, could prove even more significant given their foundational role at the base of the ocean food chain.

“We rely heavily on the ocean and we could be looking at potential effects to the food supply down the road,” she said. “Deep sea microbes regulate carbon in the atmosphere and recycle nutrients. I’m concerned there will be larger consequences from this sort of event.”
The marine ecology begins at the sea bed. Ocean food chains begin with the smallest creatures on the sea bed that are eaten by the next biggest creature in a process aptly described as a "food chain" in which the top predators are usually found toward the surface.

As the smallest creatures are eaten, the contamination they have absorbed into their bodies or cells passes on to their immediate predators in a process called "bio-concentration." That contamination keeps concentrating at each successive link in the food chain, straight up to the top. It attacks everything, every species, along the way. It's a direct path from microbe to orca or the great whales.

Maybe you believe prime minister Trudeau's most outrageous and deliberate lie - that there's some magical oil spill response that will keep British Columbia's coastline and our productive marine environment safe from a bitumen spill. Where is this world class oil spill package? Given that oil spills, on average, take 50 years to clean up, "world class" is a euphemism for catastrophe. And, besides, why did his own EnviroMin, Dame Cathy herself, authorize the use of Corexit in BC waters?

Trudeau assures us that his government has "done the science" on these environmental hazards. That's a lie. His very own Environment Canada says the science hasn't been done. Canada's pre-eminent scientific body, the Royal Society of Canada, says the science hasn't been done. They both put the lie to every dodgy and maliciously false claim this prime minister makes. He's simply not to be trusted, especially by the very people his petro-greed most imperils, coastal British Columbians.

Now, of course, Trudeau has even more incentive, 4.5 billion of them (and that's just for starters), to lie and obscure, confound and confuse. He's bought himself a goddamned pipeline, the J. Trudeau Memorial Pipeline, 65-years old and prone to leaking like those middle age women dancing around in those TV ads. He likes that pipeline so much he paid a sketchy outfit from Texas more than six times its actual value. There's a guy who's not looking to give any straight answers on environmental questions.

Even the former Bank of Canada governor, David Dodge, says some British Columbians protesting the pipeline will have to be killed before urging the Trudeau government to find the courage to take those lives.
"we have to be willing to enforce the law once it’s there … It’s going to take some fortitude to stand up.”
No, Dave. What will take fortitude is to take those bullets and fall down.

Justin Trudeau, his entire cabinet and all the horses they rode in on; Rachel Notley, the outgoing premier of Alberta; Jason Kenney, the incoming premier of Alberta; some stooge from Saskatchewan named Moe; that former governor of the Bank of Canada; those Kinder Morgan bandits who fleeced the Dauphin and the entire roster of the Calgary Petroleum Club, they're all - oh what's that word?

Which brings to mind an article in Vox by  Stanford psychology professor, Robert Sutton, who has now defined the term, "asshole" -
There are a lot of academic definitions, but here’s how I define it: An asshole is someone who leaves us feeling demeaned, de-energized, disrespected, and/or oppressed. In other words, someone who makes you feel like dirt. 
Christy Goldfuss, former environmental advisor to Barack Obama, now with the Center for American Progress, summed it up in a way that should resonate with the people of British Columbia, our First Nations and our provincial government:
“In the absence of a president [prime minister] who is willing to lead, it is now more important than ever that coastal governors [premier Horgan], tribal leaders, state legislatures the [B.C. legislature] and local communities take up the mantle of leadership and work together to defend and restore the health of [Canada's] oceans."

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

How Profoundly Stupid Are Trump Supporters?


Damned stupid, that's how stupid.

Stupid enough that they can't tell a restaurant in Collingwood, Ontario, Canada, from a restaurant with a similar name in Lexington, Virginia, God Bless the USA.

The Canadian owner of the Canadian Olde Red Hen restaurant was alarmed after her TripAdvisor page was flooded with negative reviews from Trump trolls who had obviously never been in her establishment and apparently couldn't remember what country they were in.

Their intended target was the Red Hen restaurant of Lexington, Virginia that had shown Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her party the door over Trump's immigration/separation calamity.

Lexington, Virginia - Collingwood, Ontario, how can you tell them apart. That's just an 11-hour drive and an international border crossing between them.

Trump's posse prevailed in the end.  Red Hen owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, today resigned as a director of Main Street Lexington, a business council which works to improve the city's downtown.

Wilkinson's restaurant has been the scene of protests by typical Trump supporters such as this old white guy:




A Death Sentence for Being Gay in America.



If this wasn't from The New York Times you would never believe it.

Some of the jurors who imposed the death penalty on Charles Rhines, who was convicted of murder, have said they thought the alternative — a life sentence served in a men’s prison — was something he would enjoy as a gay man. 
During deliberations, the jury had often discussed the fact that Mr. Rhines was gay and there was “a lot of disgust” about it, one juror recalled in an interview, according to the court petition. Another said that jurors knew he was gay and “thought that he shouldn’t be able to spend his life with men in prison.” A third recounted hearing that if the jury did not sentence Mr. Rhines to death, “if he’s gay, we’d be sending him where he wants to go.”
But, fortunately, that's why the United States has a Supreme Court - to intervene in cases just like this. Nobody would sit by and see a guy put to death because he's gay, right?
The justices rejected Mr. Rhines’s plea to hear his bias claim, allowing his death sentence to stand despite disturbing evidence that it may have been the result of anti-L.G.B.T. animus. As usual, the court gave no explanation for its decision not to review the case. But its silence sent a deeply troubling message about the value placed on the lives of L.G.B.T. people.
Troubling? How about outrageous.

There's Hope for Old Stoners



If you're old enough, you may come to like your prime minister a lot more on October 17. That's when the recreational use of marihuana will become legal in Canada.

If you're old enough as in "old" enough.

Researchers in Germany have found that an active ingredient unique to cannabis produces some remarkable effects on the minds of really old mice.  After a few weeks of low dose THC, Methuselah mice, 16 to 18 months old, were mentally rejuvenated.
We implanted so-called osmotic mini-pumps—tiny pumps that we put under the skin of these mice—and they constantly released the drug that we wanted to administer. And then, after four weeks, we stopped the delivery, waited for a week, and then afterwards, there were several tests on learning and memory.

A very simple test, for example, is that mouse needs to learn how to find a hidden platform. And mice learn this typically within a few days—actually, they're quite good. 
And what we observed was quite staggering. They remembered where the platform was just as well as a young animal—and also, their working memory was absolutely indistinguishable. Then we tested the animals in many different paradigms that also test memory function, and we basically couldn't distinguish [between] the old mice and young mice. These [old mice] were between 12 and 18 months, which is very old for a mouse.
But there's a hitch. There's always a hitch. The mental improvement was only found in old mice.
Cannabis is a drug that has opposite effect on young animals as opposed to old animals. It worsens memory in young mice. It also worsens memory in young humans.
So, how does it work on geezers? It reverses your endocannabinoid decline, whatever that is.

We had previously observed that the endocannabinoid tone declines as we age, so the levels of endogenous substances decrease in older individuals. And this means they're present inside our bodies to begin with. So what the plant compound does is just mimic our endogenous compounds. What we were attempting to do is to normalize the level, or bring it back to the level of young individuals.






That Sounds Like Pretty Good Advice.


It's not every day you come across an article that beings like this:
The world is full of assholes. Wherever you live, whatever you do, odds are you’re surrounded by assholes. The question is, what to do about it?
What to do? The first step is to find someone who has done some research into, well, the sphincters among us.
Robert Sutton, a psychology professor at Stanford University, has stepped up to answer this eternal question. He’s the author of a new book, The Asshole Survival Guide, which is basically what it sounds like: a guide for surviving the assholes in your life.

Asshole survival, Sutton says, is a craft, not a science, meaning one can be good or bad at it. His book is about getting better at it.
Can you really tell an asshole when you see one?
There are a lot of academic definitions, but here’s how I define it: An asshole is someone who leaves us feeling demeaned, de-energized, disrespected, and/or oppressed. In other words, someone who makes you feel like dirt.

I would make a distinction between temporary and certified assholes, because all of us under the wrong conditions can be temporary assholes. I'm talking about somebody who is consistently this way, who consistently treats other people this way. I think it’s more complicated than simply saying an asshole is someone who doesn’t care about other people. In fact, some of them really do care — they want to make you feel hurt and upset, they take pleasure in it. 
Sutton won't call Trump an asshole, not openly, but admits he checks off all the boxes. He offers various strategies for dealing with sphincters that can vary according to whether the offender is in a position of power, a boss, or just an associate or co-worker. If you're struggling with someone of that exaggerated anatomy, you might find this article worth a read.




Back in the News - the Justin Trudeau Memorial Pipeline.



Let's say you're trying to sell your old car, a real beater. You hope you can get some sucker to give you five grand for it. And then along comes this young guy and, before your head can stop spinning, you're $32,000 richer.

Only you're not a guy with an old car. You're a sketchy Texas company with a beat up old pipeline, some rights of way and a few other assets. The young guy is none other than the Dauphin himself, Justin Trudeau. And Justin makes you an offer for your 60+ year old pipeline that's about 637% of what the damned thing is really worth. And then you do your Happy Dance.

HuffPost reports on a study that found Kinder Morgan made a 637% return on the sale of the TransMoutain pipeline to Deep Pockets Trudeau.

Texas-based Kinder Morgan made a seven-fold return on the sale of its Trans Mountain pipeline system to Canada's federal government, according to a new report that also warns the federal budget deficit could jump by 36 per cent because of the purchase
The report comes from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), which is funded by a variety of philanthropic groups dedicated to climate and energy issues, including the Rockefeller Family Fund.
Morneau, of course, called it a $4.5 billion "investment for Canadians" and even said it was a "fair price."

Morneau has said that the Liberal government plans to quickly flip the pipeline to a new owner, Alberta perhaps or the private sector.  The only problem is it's going to be what's called a "distress sale." Nobody is going to pay the crazy money that Trudeau lavished on Kinder Morgan. It's highly unlikely that anyone will pay anything approaching whatever the real fair market value of TransMountain might be.

What is the fair market value of the J. Trudeau Memorial Pipeline today? What is a mega-bitumen pipeline worth when the Sword of Damocles, the Carbon Bubble, hangs over its head? When you're buying a pipeline you're paying for a 60-year asset. That's a pretty big risk when you look at the volatile state of world oil markets and the inevitable transition to alternative clean energy options. You're going to need to get your money back fast and that means you won't be paying multiple billions of dollars.

UN State of the Climate Report for 2017 Debuts Online


The United Nations has released a web version of its first annual report. It covers the state of the climate as of 2017.

While the report reveals how action and financing of mitigation and adaptation measures remains stubbornly aspirational the web site does offer a library of documents that can be searched country by country back to 1989.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

But Wait, That's the Scene of the Crime !!



It's house arrest for two convicted polygamists.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has sentenced Winston Blackmore to six months of house arrest and James Oler to three months of house arrest for practising polygamy. 
Justice Sherry Anne Donegan handed down the sentence in Cranbrook Tuesday morning. 
Blackmore will be under house arrest in his Bountiful area home, with allowances to go to work and attend to medical emergencies, while Oler will be able to serve his time where he works and lives in Alberta. 
Both sentences will be followed by 12 months probation.
House arrest? Isn't that where these guys committed those crimes? Just sayin.

"None of the Above" - Starting with Trudeau



What's worse, Italy now joining other European states that have succumbed to the far right, Erdogan cementing strongman rule in Turkey or the growing concern that Trump might win the presidency again in 2020? It's probably not the rise of the far right in Germany or France or Britain, at least not yet. And we're not losing much sleep over what has spread through Poland or Hungary or the Philippines either. Did I mention Burma or India?

It's all of these things taken together that should trouble us. There's an inescapable truth to these developments - liberal democracy is under attack and, in my opinion, it's supposedly well-intentioned but myopic leaders unable or unwilling to steer their nations clear of the scrap heap that awaits democracies beset too long by neoliberalism who must bear the blame.

Neoliberalism benefits the few, not the many. It shifts not only economic but also political power into the hands of those who control commerce and finance. The populace, left on the outside looking in, lose their faith in liberal democracy for having failed them.

Only their problem isn't liberal democracy. By the time the economic and political power shift happens, liberal democracy remains in name only, a mere trapping of popular legitimacy.

Globalism, of the sort we've endured these past 30+ years, treats progressivism as obsolete, a quaint vestige of times past. Yet it is that very progressivism that binds the political caste to the public and their wellbeing in service to the public interest instead of the narrow, private interest. It is progressivism that bonds the people to their nation.  It is the glue of social cohesion so essential when hard times arrive.

Alas we have a generation of political types suckled on the idea that globalism, multi-national trade pacts, agreements among governments that really serve a silent third party, the private sector, are imbued with  some inevitability. They pursue this path, failing or refusing to see the devastating role neoliberalism has played in undermining liberal democracy in so many other nations.

This is the way of the world. We must not deviate. Perpetual, exponential growth must be pursued at all costs. Who says, Justin Trudeau? Bill Morneau? The far-from-liberal Liberal caucus? Or is it Andrew Scheer or even Jagmeet Singh?  The fact is they all say it. We are shackled to it.

When Morneau warned young Canadians to accept that their fate was one of "job churn," life in the precariat with little hope of security, he was speaking from a corporate sector perspective. He didn't say we're going to prevent this, we're going to fight this so that you can have a good chance of a secure, worthwhile future. There was none of that.

If you're a young person listening to Morneau's crap, how endeared are you to liberal democracy in the age of neoliberalism? How must it feel to be written off as the "collateral damage" of neoliberalism, taking one for the team that won't be making a place for you? Do you feel your government has your best interests at heart? How could you possibly feel good about a government that so indifferently throws your future under the bus? Unless you come from Trudeau-grade wealth and privilege, how could you not feel disaffected, alienated from your government?

Earlier this month former Bank of Canada governor, David Dodge, predicted that some Canadians protesting the TransMountain pipeline will pay for it with their lives. He followed that urging that the government hold fast, keep the courage to take those lives:
“Nevertheless, we have to be willing to enforce the law once it’s there … It’s going to take some fortitude to stand up.”
Those opposed to this dark farce know the Trudeau government is incredibly selective about the laws it will enforce and the laws it skirts shamelessly where this pipeline is involved. You're not enforcing the law if you only enforce the bits that work for you.

So, how does that make you feel about liberal democracy in the age of neoliberalism or any form of democracy in a petro-state?

Do we really imagine that we're that much better than the people of other nations? Is our democracy immune to the contagion that has spread through former liberal democracies?

That Justin Trudeau cares very little about rebuilding democracy in Canada was manifest in his quick and facile rejection of his campaign promise for electoral reform. All the excuses he gave were pap, self-serving bullshit.

Where is Trudeau's commitment to defending Canadian democracy in this era of spreading authoritarianism and illiberal democracy? He remains the loyal servant of neoliberalism and globalism, despite all the evidence of how much those two forces have done to foment disaffection, undermine democracy and clear the path for the rise of authoritarian pimps stoking xenophobia and nativism.

You'll never have the measure of this prime minister until you manage to discern the difference between platitude and principle. This prime minister goes heavy on the first and extremely light on the second. He's offered us no grand vision for steering Canada safely through the tumult that's sweeping so many other nations. Perhaps he imagines that Canada will safely tick along without more. We're suckers if we fall for that.





Monday, June 25, 2018

Will the Last Sane Man in the White House Please Turn Out the Lights When Leaving.


When Trump landed in the White House observers found consolation in the fact that the place was under the heavy had of a reliable crew, "the generals." Of these, James "Mad Dog" Mattis, Trump's defense secretary was seen as the most powerful and most able to restrain this president's mood swings and brain farts. Now Mattis may have fallen from Trump's grace. From NBC News:

In recent months, the president has cooled on Mattis, in part because he's come to believe his defense secretary looks down on him and slow-walks his policy directives, according to current and former administration officials. 
The dynamic was exacerbated with Trump's announcement in March that he had chosen John Bolton as national security adviser, a move Mattis opposed, and Mike Pompeo's confirmation as secretary of state soon after. 
The president is now more inclined to rely on his own instincts or the advice of Pompeo and Bolton, three people familiar with the matter said.

One defense official said there is no indication Trump is unhappy with Mattis, just that he is not in the inner decision-making circle anymore. The official said Mattis does not contradict the president publicly or in the media and does not draw the president's ire. 
Trump's estrangement from Mattis drew these comments from The American Conservative:

Mattis is regrettably successful at keeping U.S. forces engaged in unnecessary wars, but he has no luck when it comes to persuading the president not to make colossal foreign policy errors. The Secretary of Defense is just influential enough to stop Trump from withdrawing troops from a pointless war in Afghanistan, but not nearly influential enough to prevent U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Unfortunately, supporting the war on Yemen is one policy where Trump and Mattis seem to be fully in agreement, and so the administration continues that completely indefensible support for the Saudis and their allies. 
It is not really surprising that Mattis’ influence has diminished in recent months. Since Tillerson and McMaster left, Mattis has no natural allies inside the administration. Meanwhile, their replacements are much more aligned with the president and have done a good job flattering him. The hiring of Bolton over his objections was a sign that Mattis was losing ground. He disagrees so often with Trump that it was just a matter of time before the president stopped listening to him. It is possible that Mattis will hang on as long as he doesn’t contradict Trump publicly, but it seems likely that he will become increasingly irrelevant within the administration as time goes by.


This Is Bound to Piss Off Trump


It's one of those iconic things that has become a symbol of America - the Harley Davidson motorcycle.  Foreign rivals have tried and tried to copy it but they're still seen as cheap imitations on the "real thing." Founded in Milwaukee in 1903, Harley's are sometimes called "Milwaukee iron."

Now, faced with countervailing tariffs from the European Union, Harley is moving production and jobs to Europe, the company's second largest market. The Wall Street Journal reports that Harley-Davidson has been hammered on both fronts. At home it has been hit by higher prices for steel and aluminium due to Trump's tariffs. To add insult to injury now it's facing European tariffs on its motorcycles.

From Slate.com:

Europe is Harley-Davidson’s second largest market; riders there purchased more than 39,000 bikes last year, accounting for 16 percent of the brand’s total sales volume.

Whether or not the move leads to any job cuts, “iconic American brand moves manufacturing overseas” is almost certainly not the sort of headline the Trump administration was hoping its aggressive trade tactics would generate. It was also foreseeable: Our trade partners have a long history of responding to American protectionism by targeting politically sensitive products with tariffs of their own. While Harleys may not be a huge U.S. export, they are important in Wisconsin, which Trump carried by a hair-thin margin in 2016. As the Guardian notes, China also seems to be strategically placing tariffs on politically important exports, such as soybeans, which are produced in Trump-voting states like Iowa. 
But hey, at least steel prices are rising in the U.S. thanks to the tariffs. That has to be good for American manufacturing, right? Right? Oh.







Sunday, June 24, 2018

Could the Unthinkable Happen Again? Sure.



Like most of us, Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan has lived her entire life during the era known as the "Long Peace." The term describes the past 70-years without war between major world powers. It also encompasses the nuclear age.

All good things must end, we're told. Could the Long Peace be one of them?

There's certainly a major superpower re-alignment underway. America is looking at a world in which its supremacy is being challenged economically, geo-politically and, potentially, even militarily. The world has seen these transitions before and they usually, about two-thirds of them, are accompanied by war between the rival powers and their respective allies.

After nearly 20-years of chasing its tail in the Middle East, the Pentagon wants to move on by shifting its focus from counter-insurgency to what is known as "peer on peer" warfighting. They want to prepare for another Clash of Titans - i.e. the United States and whatever allies would still be willing to jump in alongside it versus China, Russia or China and Russia and whatever allies they could get to march to the sound of the guns.


Much of today’s war is low level, fought with submachine guns, portable rockets, even machetes and hoes, but the great powers continue to prepare for advanced technological war on a massive scale. Moreover, war is making one of those technological leaps that it has made so often in the past, from bows and spears to gunpowder, or from horses and mules to the internal combustion engine. The current generation of fighter planes is probably the last that will have pilots. They will be replaced by computers with increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence. And while in the 19th and 20th centuries war moved increasingly into new dimensions, whether below the sea or into the air, it is now moving into cyberspace.

The range of weapons at the disposal of military powers is terrifying in its capacity to damage the world and its inhabitants, perhaps even to bring humanity’s long story to its end. Nuclear proliferation has never entirely been brought under control and the arsenals of nuclear powers contain bombs far more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are treaties governing the development of biological and chemical weapons, but they are only as effective as the will to enforce them. At the other extreme among weapons of mass destruction are drones and killer robots, which are cheap to make, easy to manipulate and often tiny but deadly.Yet many in the military and their civilian masters continue to think and plan as if war remains a feasible option. John Bolton, the US national security adviser, who seems to have the president’s ear for the time being, has talked about invading North Korea or Iran. Equally worrying, officials and opinion makers in the US and China talk with resignation – or perhaps anticipation – about how history shows that declining and rising powers are bound to fight each other. Once you accept that something is inevitable, you risk bringing it closer. History is not much help when it comes to predicting the future, but it can remind us of the warning signals that always come before wars – the heightened rhetoric, for example, or the inability to understand the other side. What both sides learned in the cold war, sometimes nearly too late, is that they needed to grasp how the other side was thinking and feeling and how it might read or misread signals. In 1983, the Soviet Union became convinced, wrongly, that the United States and its allies were planning a sneak nuclear attack in retaliation for the Soviet shooting down of the Korean airliner KAL 007. Luckily, the west realised this in time and called off a planned military exercise.
The past can show us how wars start, how rarely they turn out as planned and how difficult they can be to stop, much less end in ways that won’t provide fertilisation for future wars. Much has changed about war, but certain things remain constant.

Nations and the individuals who lead them fight out of greed, when they think they can wrest something – land, spoils or people – from another. Conversely, we fight to protect what we have and hold dear. Or wars can be about political ideology and religion, which can have many of the same features. Some of the most terrible wars we have seen have been fought in the name of making a perfect society. When you are creating utopia, existing lives are the price to pay for a future in which everyone is happy. Finally, wars are fought for the most basic of human emotions. Fear, for example, of what others might do. In 1914, the German high command felt the timing was good for war because by 1917, so they calculated, Germany would no longer be able to take on a rapidly strengthening Russia. Feelings about honour – maintaining it, defending it, showing it – have led to wars between countries, just as they do between gangs.
This reminds me of an article published in the Proceedings of the US Naval Institute by a mid-grade officer who worried that America might let China grow more powerful than the US "without a fight." He perceived it was the American civilian and military leadership's obligation to at least try to put Beijing in its place, with force, before it displaced the US to become the dominant power.

And that business above concerning "feelings about honour" also comes into play in the Chinese military's high command. American commanders reporting on interactions with their Chinese counterparts have warned of great hostility lingering over China's "Century of Humiliation" when their country was reduced from the largest economy in the world to a peasantry state through Western intervention, the Opium Wars, seizure of Hong Kong and Macau, etc.

In other words, you've got fear on one side - loss of prestige, dominance, having to share the world stage - and a potentially deep-seated urge to restore honour sullied on the other side. What could possibly flow from that?

Elsewhere we're seeing the unraveling of liberal democracy, credited in many circles with seven decades of peace in Europe. The far right has taken hold in Hungary, Poland and, most recently, Italy while it is on the upsurge in Germany, France, the Netherlands, even Britain. The European Union, imprudently expanded, is viewed by some as about to come apart at the seams.


Unintended Wars of Blunder
As history reminds us again and again, wars are not always made on the basis of rational calculations; often the contrary. Many commentators pointed out before 1914 that Europe risked a massive and costly stalemate if its powers went to war and that, in the end, no one would benefit. Four years later, that had been demonstrated in the tally of lives lost and resources wasted. War, as Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz said, has its own logic and once started cannot be easily stopped.

We will never agree on the causes – who, what, why – of the Great War, but we should remember that mistakes and incorrect assumptions played a key role in the final crisis in July. Austria-Hungary was determined to destroy Serbia and Germany gave its infamous blank cheque without properly thinking through the consequences. In Vienna and Berlin, they deluded themselves that Russia would not enter a war in defence of Serbia and that, if the war spread, Britain would not intervene to protect France. They could not predict, and we cannot predict today, how nations and their leaders will react in moments of extreme crisis, especially if public opinion is taken into account. If, say, American and Chinese vessels clash in the South China Sea, will those at home insist on standing strong? 
So we in the west need to beware of complacency. We are as much a prey to violent emotions, to blundering into war, as the Spartans and Athenians once were. We need to remember war, not so we can draw from it lessons about how to use it and how to win, but to understand how easily it can happen and escape control and how hard it can be to end in a way that gives some basis for a lasting peace. We really do need to think about war if we want to avoid it.

A Better Way to See the World


Maps can allow us to see more clearly the true face of everything from sea level rise to light pollution to where the world's migrants are really headed.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Doug Ford Doesn't Know How to Sell Weed? Are We Talking About the Same Guy?


Ontario premier Doug Ford seemingly can't figure out how weed should be sold in the province once recreational pot use becomes legal in October.

Oh, I see his problem. You just can't do it out of the trunk of your car any more.

Is the Darkness Descending Again?



Are Donald Trump and his authoritarian "Mini-me's" across Europe setting the stage for a return of the 1930's. The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland sees the signs that history may be resetting itself.

You don’t have to go to back to 1930s Germany to know that the first step towards catastrophe is the dehumanisation of a reviled group. It happened that way in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s, and it’s happening in today’s United States. “These aren’t people, these are animals,” the US president said last month. They want “to pour into and infest our country”, he tweeted this week. “Infest” is a word reserved for rats and insects. This is the language of those seeking to choke off human sympathy, by suggesting those suffering are not even human. 
Trump’s defenders reinforce the message. It was a jolt to see Steve Hilton, onetime shoeless guru of David Cameron’s Downing Street, now reinvented as a Fox News host, grinning away as pundit Ann Coulter called the crying infants “child actors”. Her message was repeated on Fox by Nigel Farage, who similarly urged Trump not to be swayed by the “screams coming from the liberal media” and to “stay tough”. 
Farage is a reminder that this phenomenon is not confined to the US. Referring to refugees, Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has called for a purification, or perhaps a cleansing, of his country, “neighbourhood by neighbourhood, street by street”. His plan is to draw up a register of Roma living in Italy. Those with Italian citizenship, “we’ll have to keep, unfortunately”, he said.
The signs are there, if only we can bear to look. Something is happening to our world. Others have noted the way the post-1945 global architecture is beginning to crumble, as Trump undermines the western alliance in favour of authoritarian tyrannies. But the postwar order is unravelling in another, more insidious way too. 
Put starkly, the norms and taboos established after the world witnessed the Holocaust are eroding before our eyes. For 70-odd years, roughly the span of a human life, they endured, keeping the lid on the darker impulses that, we had seen, lurked within all of us. It steadily became taboo to voice undiluted racism and xenophobia. Those fears, those loathings of the stranger, never went away, of course. But they were held in check, partly by the knowledge of where such hatred, unrestrained, could lead. 
Now, in the US, Italy, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere, the restraints are off. There even seems to be a macho thrill in breaking the taboo, in echoing the words and deeds of that darkest era in human history. It’s as if the boundaries that were drawn after 1945, demarcating acceptable human behaviour, were mere lines in the sand – and now the tide is coming in. 
It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens bit by bit, word by word, each step taking us lower into the pit. It’s why every one of us has to fight today’s horror. Because if we don’t, who knows what terrors lie ahead?

Nikki Haley Unleashes the Flying Monkeys



They were only supposed to say good things.

America's ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has unloaded both barrels on a report criticizing Donald Trump for worsening the plight of Americans living in poverty. 

Haley, the former Republican governor of South Carolina, said she was “deeply disappointed” that the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, had “categorically misstated the progress the United States has made in addressing poverty … in [his] biased reporting”. She added that in her view that “it is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America” – which prompted puzzlement as Alston carried out his investigation at the formal invitation of the Trump administration.
[Bernie] Sanders on Thursday issued a further response to Haley’s attack on the UN rapporteur. The 2016 runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination agreed with Haley that Burundi and the Democratic Republic Congo faced far worse problems, but pointedly remarked that America’s poverty was taking place “in the richest country in the history of the world and a time when wealth and income inequality is worse than at any time since the 1920s”. 
Sanders said it was appropriate for the UN to focus on America, given that 40 million people in the US still live in poverty, more than 30 million have no health insurance, and 40% of Americans cannot afford $400 in an emergency. 
“I hope you will agree that in a nation in which the top three people own more wealth than the bottom half, we can and must do much better than that,” Sanders said. 
The sharpness of tone in Haley’s criticisms of the UN rapporteur raises questions about whether the timing of the Trump administration’s decision to quit the UN human rights council was motivated in part by irritation over Alston’s decision to put his spotlight on American inequality. 

First it was Roseanne. Now it's Tom - and Michael. Vice Goes After Trump.


We know which side Roseanne is on. Now her ex, Tom Arnold, is jumping in and he's on the other side. Arnold is now working for Vice to track down long rumoured tapes and other evidence about Donald Trump - "unplugged" if you will. And he claims to have picked up one partner already - Michael Cohen.




President Donald Trump's embattled personal attorney, Michael Cohen, retweeted a photo of himself with comedian Tom Arnold — who happens to be working on a show with Vice that features him hunting for unflattering video of Trump. 
Arnold told NBC News early Friday that Cohen ― who is under investigation by federal prosecutors ― talked to him for the show, which is expected to air later this year.

"We’ve been on the other side of the table and now we’re on the same side," said Arnold, an outspoken Trump critic. 
"It’s on! I hope he [Trump] sees the picture of me and Michael Cohen and it haunts his dreams." 
Vice announced in May that it had tapped Arnold to helm a show called "The Hunt for the Trump Tapes," and investigate whether rumored tapes from the past showing the president in a negative light actually exist. 
"The host will draw on his high-profile network of celebrity friends, entertainment executives, and crew members he's met over more than 35 years in showbiz to dig for evidence on Trump's most incriminating moments — and, being a comedian and all, he'll have a little fun along the way," Vice said in the announcement of the show
"He'll be backed up by a handful of experienced journalists, and — aside from trying to uncover the tapes themselves — he'll look into the companies and tycoons who have allegedly fought to keep the damning recordings a secret."
Arnold would not say whether Cohen was planning to give him any tapes he might have of conversations with Trump. 
But he added, "This dude has all the tapes — this dude has everything." 
"I say to Michael, 'Guess what? We’re taking Trump down together, and he’s so tired he’s like, 'OK,' and his wife is like, 'OK, f*** Trump,'" Arnold said, laughing.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Trudeau's Tar Sands Gamble Worsening By the Day.



Bill McKibbin has some news - good news to some, bad news to others.  Fossil energy markets are falling apart. The environmental activist (350.com) says energy stocks are suddenly weak.
Researchers at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis minced no words: “In the past several years, oil industry financial statements have revealed significant signs of strain: Profits have dropped, cash flow is down, balance sheets are deteriorating and capital spending is falling. The stock market has recognized the sector’s overall weakness, punishing oil and gas shares over the past five years even as the market as a whole has soared.”

The IEEFA report labeled the industry “weaker than it has been in decades” and laid out its basic frailties, the first of which is paradoxical. Fracking has produced a sudden surge of gas and oil into the market, lowering prices – which means many older investments (Canada’s tar sands, for instance) no longer make economic sense. Fossil fuel has been transformed into a pure commodity business, and since the margins on fracking are narrow at best, its financial performance has been woeful. The IEEFA describes investors as “shell-shocked” by poor returns.
Two other developments McKibbin notes: the rapid transition to electric power and successful efforts being made by the environmental movement to undermine fossil fuel investment.
Tesla, sure – but Volkswagen, having come clean about the dirtiness of diesel, is going to spend $84bn on electric drivetrains. China seems bent on converting its entire bus fleet to electric power. Every week seems to bring a new record-low price for clean energy: the most recent being a Nevada solar plant clocking in at 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, even with Trump’s tariffs on Chinese panels.
...the third problem for the fossil fuel industry? According to IEEFA, that would be the climate movement – a material financial risk to oil and gas companies. “In addition to traditional lobbying and direct-action campaigns, climate activists have joined with an increasingly diverse set of allies – particularly the indigenous-rights movement – to put financial pressure on oil and gas companies through divestment campaigns, corporate accountability efforts, and targeting of banks and financial institutions. These campaigns threaten not only to undercut financing for particular projects, but also to raise financing costs for oil and gas companies across the board.”
Sorry, Rachel. Sorry, Jason and you too, Justin, sorry but you're all arriving to the party 20-years too late. It's just bad luck that when Manitou was distributing energy resources around the world he gave Canada the shit end of the stick - bitumen.

"Time" Lowers the Lumber on America's National Disgrace



Time magazine launches its July 2nd edition with a gut-wrenching and long overdue look at how Donald Trump has debased America.
Presidents have many jobs, and one is telling us who we are. 
For the first 240 years of U.S. history, at least, our most revered chief executives reliably articulated a set of high-minded, humanist values that bound together a diverse nation by naming what we aspired to: democracy, humanity, equality. The Enlightenment ideals Thomas Jefferson etched onto the Declaration of Independence were given voice by Presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama. 
Donald Trump doesn’t talk like that. In the 18 months since his Inauguration, Trump has mentioned “democracy” fewer than 100 times, “equality” only 12 times and “human rights” just 10 times. The tallies, drawn from factba.se, a searchable online agglomeration of 5 million of Trump’s words, contrast with his predecessors’: at the same point in his first term, Ronald Reagan had mentioned equality three times as often in recorded remarks, which included 48 references to human rights, according to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 
Trump embraces a different set of values. He speaks often of patriotism, albeit in the narrow sense of military duty, or as the kind of loyalty test he’s made to NFL players. He also esteems religious liberty and economic vitality. But American’s 45th President is “not doing what rhetoricians call that ‘transcendent move,'” says Mary E. Stuckey, a communications professor at Penn State University and author of Defining Americans: The Presidency and National Identity. Instead, with each passing month he is testing anew just how far from our founding humanism his “America first” policies can take us. And over the past two months on our southern border, we have seen the result.

...A week after his return from the June 12 summit with North Korea’s dictator, family separation dominated the national conversation like no other political story since former FBI chief James Comey was shown the door. A steadily building wave of revulsion washed over the political spectrum, from MSNBC to the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal to Franklin Graham and into the White House living quarters, when a spokeswoman for the First Lady said she called for “a country that governs with heart.”
Which leaves us facing a question: What kind of country are we? The world has been nervously asking that since November 2016. And while Trump ultimately capitulated on the forced separation of children, his new order suggested that families would be detained not only together, but perhaps indefinitely. For many Americans, the forced separation of immigrant families left them looking into the void from which the brutal policy emerged: the dark space left by the words Trump does say.
...What’s lost in Trump’s approach is any expectation of higher purpose. He makes no apology for lavishing praise on authoritarian leaders that past U.S. Presidents dealt with at arm’s length—Egypt’s Abdul Fattah al-Sisi (“somebody that’s been very close to me from the first time I met him”), the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte (“great relationship”) and Russia’s “strong leader” Vladimir Putin. When China’s Xi Jinping announced he would be President for life, placing 1.4 billion people deeper under government control, Trump offered congratulations.
...The story we tell the world is also the story we tell ourselves. Trump began June by blowing up the G-7 gathering of the world’s leading democracies by refusing to sign a joint statement endorsing “shared values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and our commitment to promote a rules-based international order.” He slapped tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union, advised France to drop out of the E.U., and urged Germans to support right-wing anti-immigrant parties intent on deposing Chancellor Angela Merkel. The leaders of France and Canada replied by citing “values,” but Trump had moved on to Singapore, where he praised North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un, whose regime actively operates a network of gulags, as “a funny guy … very smart … his country does love him. You see the fervor.” 
...It was Alexis de Tocqueville, the French observer of the early American character, who recognized the danger of placing too much value on business, law and order at the expense of the higher values. Warning of the country’s obsession with material gain and the enforcement of order necessary to pursue it, he wrote, “A nation that asks nothing of its government but the maintenance of order is already a slave at heart.”

Which is why the test posed with Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy is as much about our future as it is about the tragedy of the families separated by its implementation. Trump may have backed down on the specific practice of family separation, but the larger question remains. In the balance between the integrity of the U.S. border with Mexico and a parent’s love for a child, where will we come down? 
“Without a Border, you don’t have a Country,” the President wrote on June 19. Everyone knows that. The question is, what kind of country?