Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Let Me Run This Through My B.S. Remover

I read a tweet from David Suzuki today. He wrote that we're not even keeping up with man-made greenhouse gas emissions. No, we're steadily falling further and further behind.

That got me thinking about our prime minister and his position that we can't take aggressive action on climate change because it could harm the economy.

Hmm, the economy. What economy? Oh yeah, I get it. He's talking about the "carbon economy." We can't let concern for the environment harm Canada's  carbon economy. We're a petro-state after all. A budding carbon energy superpower of sorts.

We must protect, nurture and expand the carbon economy. It's what petro-states do.

The Priciest Example of Buyer's Remorse in Human History

Is the hyper-expensive F-35 stealth light bomber a lemon? Have America and her allies been cajoled into buying a dud? Could just be.

When Lockheed began beating down doors to flog the F-35 it was selling the sizzle as much as the steak. Tactical invisibility. The invincible warplane. Muddled military minds were sold on the pitch that, however expensive the F-35 might be, no matter its many obvious limitations, this was the warplane they needed in their hangars.

No one paid much heed to the airplane's incredibly fragile technological edge. It was an absolute world-beater 20 years ago when it was ordered into development and production. It was designed to dominate a turn-of-the-century airspace against relatively primitive radar and aerial defences.

Unfortunately for the Pentagon and Lockheed, the F-35's intended adversaries, Russia and China, realized they had to up their game. They developed multiple-band radars and multiple-sensor fusion allowing income stealth aircraft to be located, identified, tracked and targeted at extended range. They also stole/hacked a lot of American and British contractor data - oodles of it - and began fielding their own stealth fighters. Then they began deploying a new generation of A2/AD (anti-access/area denial) missiles to target hostile forward airbases and naval units. It reached a point where no one could predict how the F-35 would fare in heavily defended hostile airspace, at least not until it sparked WWIII.

Over the summer the Pentagon's research agency, DARPA, started questioning the military's "reliance on increasingly complex, monolithic platforms" - i.e. the F-35 and its stealth big brother, the B-2 bomber.
Did the Pentagon just admit that stealth technology may not work anymore? Or that America must be ready to face a future where its airpower doesn't control the skies?

DARPA, the Pentagon's cutting-edge research agency, has quietly raised these possibilities as it searches for future technology to fight the next war. And stealth technology may not be the answer.

Platform stealth may be approaching physical limits,” says DARPA. 
The agency also admits that “our acquisition system is finding it difficult to respond on relevant timescales to adversary progress, which has made the search for next-generation capabilities at once more urgent and more futile.”
If that’s the case, then the next generation of aircraft—the designs that will eventually replace the F-22, F-35 and B-2 stealth aircraft—may not be any stealthier than their predecessors. Or, in the endless race between stealth technology and the sensors that seek to penetrate its veil, stealth may have hit a brick wall.
But DARPA warns against throwing out the baby with the bath water. The F-35's stealth may be wonky and its airframe horribly compromised but its electronics are truly amazing - still. Most of that stuff can be mounted in a more capable (speed, range, turn rate, climb rate, payload etc.), less costly warplane better suited to just about everything except a "first strike/end of the world" mission.

The DARPA report suggests it may be time to revisit the all-American notion of absolute air superiority everywhere and anywhere.
DARPA is looking for other ways that U.S airpower can accomplish its objectives even without air superiority, such as “lethality through a combination of overwhelming performance (e.g. hypersonics) and overwhelming numbers (e.g. swarming low-cost weapons).”
The message for Canada is obvious. If America is showing the first signs of buyer's remorse over the F-35, this is no time for Canada to jump in head first. We have our own muddled military minds to contend with, some of them recent retirees who have jumped aboard the Lockheed bandwagon to massively pump up their already hefty pensions.

A Dying Canadian's Unconscionable Predicament - Die Now or Face An Anguished Death Later

Our supposedly progressive prime minister (hint: he's not, not even close) didn't like the Supreme Court of Canada's per curiam ruling on the right to die with dignity in the Carter case.  Per curiam means that the nine-justice court spoke with a single voice and that's as powerful a decision as they come.

The Court ruled that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the rights of Canadians to death with dignity.  Here are the operative passages of the Carter decision:
"It is a crime in Canada to assist another person in ending her own life. As a result, people who are grievously and irremediably ill cannot seek a physician’s assistance in dying and may be condemned to a life of severe and intolerable suffering. A person facing this prospect has two options: she can take her own life prematurely, often by violent or dangerous means, or she can suffer until she dies from natural causes. The choice is cruel. 
"We conclude that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying is void insofar as it deprives a competent adult of such assistance where (1) the person affected clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) the person has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition. We therefore allow the appeal."
This is the part that Trudeau decided to overrule:
"The appropriate remedy is therefore a declaration that s. 241 (b) and s. 14 of the Criminal Code are void insofar as they prohibit physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition. “Irremediable”, it should be added, does not require the patient to undertake treatments that are not acceptable to the individual. The scope of this declaration is intended to respond to the factual circumstances in this case."
Trudeau fashioned his own law, in defiance of the Supreme Court of Canada, to stipulate that the individual must have a terminal condition and be likely to die within six months. That's not the law of Canada. That's the law of Trudeau. He did it knowing that there are certain diseases that will prevent the afflicted from communicating consent by the time they're on death's doorstep thus consigning them to a cruel death. He did it knowing that there are people who would be forced to endure inescapable intolerable suffering for years, decades, because of his whim.

The Court is clear - grievous and irremediable, not terminal and imminent.

And now a Nova Scotia woman, thanks entirely to Trudeau, is left with the cruel choice the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that none of us should have to face.

A Nova Scotia woman who is choosing a medically assisted death says she will end her life earlier than she really wants because she's worried doctors will deny her the procedure if she loses her mental capacity to consent before that time arrives.

In order to be eligible, a person must have a serious illness, be in an advanced state of decline, be experiencing unbearable suffering and be at a point where a natural death has become reasonably foreseeable. 
They also have to be mentally competent and able to consent — not only at the time of their request, but again immediately before the assisted-dying procedure. 
Audrey Parker, who has been approved for a medically assisted death, says those rules are unfair and extreme. 
"I think once I've signed the papers and have agreed, it should stand. But I still have to worry that if I lose my marbles, that they won't do it. And then I'm going to die poorly," said Parker.
She worries the cancer on her brain may cause her to lose cognitive capacity, which would mean doctors could deny her a medically assisted death when the time comes. 
It's a risk she's not willing to take, so she has taken the drastic step of choosing to die earlier. 
"We know that these cases do exist and they shouldn't," said former senator Jim Cowan, now chair of Dying with Dignity Canada's board of directors. 
Cowan is calling on the federal government to amend the legislation to permit advance requests. He also points out that sometimes medication is so powerful, it impacts a person's mental capacity. 
"In order to qualify for medical assistance in dying, those drugs have to be withdrawn from the individual, and the suffering returns, along with the capacity," he said. "That just seems inhumane to me."
Parker's death is now scheduled for 1 November at her home with her mother at her side.

This government loves to pretend that it's compassionate and highly moral. Audrey Parker's premature death reminds us, yet again, that it's neither.

Are the Democrats and America's Jews Headed for Divorce from Netanyahu's Israel?

Put it down to irreconcilable differences. The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, claims that,  "Netanyahu is accelerating the pace of his country’s estrangement from everyone but ethnocentric and anti-democratic nationalists and xenophobes."
Israelis may still believe they are a chosen and embattled people, a light unto start-up nations, a paragon of morality and virtue and the most unfairly maligned country on the face of the earth, but Israel is having an increasingly hard time convincing anyone who is not a right-wing ideologue or Evangelical believer of these supposedly self-evident truths. For all the rest, in varying degrees, Israel’s stature has steadily deteriorated from good to bad to worse.

Historically, we are nearing the end of a 70-year, 180-degree polar reversal of Israel’s positioning on the ideological spectrum. Forty years of Likud revisionism may have obfuscated who did what during the fight for Israel’s independence, but Israel, by and large, is a creature of the left. Its founders and builders were fervently committed Zionist socialists...
...Israel slowly but surely drifted away from its leftist roots and embraced a xenophobic religious and nationalist right instead.
...For reasons that may include the right-wing bent of his coalition, the surprise triumph of Trump, a heightened sense of victimhood, an urge for vindictiveness and a feeling that he is finally free to act on his core beliefs - Netanyahu has pushed Israel further and harder to the right, thus alienating, by definition, increasingly large sections left and center.  
...Somewhere around 2015, Netanyahu decided to shed his disguise, to stop pretending and to reappear on the world stage as the spiteful right-wing reactionary that his critics always claimed was the one true Bibi. 
In the process and as a result, Israel has changed its tune. ... Nonetheless, the traditional, open-minded accentuation of its positive qualities is no longer the main thrust of Israel’s PR efforts. It now takes a back seat to holier-than-thou self-righteousness, constant vendetta against detractors, a clear-cut effort to delegitimize any and all criticism and a blatant campaign to equate it with latent or open anti-Semitism. 
Netanyahu’s Israel rejects well-meaning liberal supporters who object to Israeli policies for all the right reasons and cuddles erstwhile allies who support it for all the wrong ones, including a supposedly shared hostility towards foreigners, immigrants and Muslims, as well as so-called universalist, cosmopolitan Jews who look like George Soros or work to improve civil society like the New Israel Fund
If one can judge a country by the company it keeps, Israel leaves no room for doubt: It is consciously and willingly reneging on the Western liberal values to which it committed itself at creation and plunging head-first into the fetid waters of the anti-democratic cesspool its founders and liberal supporters so clearly abhorred.
...The gap between Israel’s self-absorption and willful blindness and the basic tenets of enlightened liberals will soon become unbridgeable. They already amount to “irreconcilable differences” that, in many countries, constitute valid grounds for turning a trial separation into a no-fault divorce. Which is all fine and dandy, perhaps, as long as Trump stays in power, Evangelicals remain committed, Republicans offer blind support, Sheldon Adelson keeps his checkbook open, right-wingers are ascendant throughout Europe and widespread fear and loathing of emigrating Muslims translate into default support for the country whose leader openly boasts of serving as the forward Western outpost that keeps them at bay. 
Otherwise, Israel will ultimately and inevitably pay a steep price for its foolhardy neglect of the liberal world. The first accounting may come as early as November 6, if the U.S. Congress falls into the hands of a reinvigorated Democratic Party, depleted of its pro-Israeli stalwarts, increasingly beholden to its liberal, left-wing flank, eager to flex its muscles and to start exacting its revenge. 

Fascism for the 21st Century

We wince a bit when someone calls a modern leader a "fascist." It can bring up comparisons with Hitler and that sort of thing. It's considered a bit underhanded even loutish.

But it's not concentration camps or killing fields that define fascism.

Yale philosopher Jason Stanley offers an updated and somewhat expansive definition of fascism. He contends that fascism isn't so much an ideology as a technique.
I think of fascism as a method of politics. It’s a rhetoric, a way of running for power. Of course, that’s connected to fascist ideology, because fascist ideology centers on power. But I really see fascism as a technique to gain power. 
People are always asking, “Is such-and-such politician really a fascist?” Which is really just another way of asking if this person has a particular set of beliefs or an ideology, but again, I don’t really think of a fascist as someone who holds a set of beliefs. They’re using a certain technique to acquire and retain power.

Stanley rejects the right wing claim that fascism is at the heart of nanny-state liberalism.
If you think about fascism as a sliding scale, ordinary conservative politics is going to find itself somewhere on that scale — which is not to say that it’s fascist at all, any more than ordinary Democratic politics is communist. But just as extreme versions of communism suppress liberty on behalf of radical equality, so too do extreme versions of right-wing politics, namely fascism, suppress liberty in favor of tradition and dominance and power.

Calling George Orwell. Calling Mr. Orwell.
In the past, fascist politics would focus on the dominant cultural group. The goal is to make them feel like victims, to make them feel like they’ve lost something and that the thing they’ve lost has been taken from them by a specific enemy, usually some minority out-group or some opposing nation.

This is why fascism flourishes in moments of great anxiety, because you can connect that anxiety with fake loss. The story is typically that a once-great society has been destroyed by liberalism or feminism or cultural Marxism or whatever, and you make the dominant group feel angry and resentful about the loss of their status and power. Almost every manifestation of fascism mirrors this general narrative.

The Ultimate Weapon - the Destruction of Truth

It’s important because truth is the heart of liberal democracy. The two ideals of liberal democracy are liberty and equality. If your belief system is shot through with lies, you’re not free. Nobody thinks of the citizens of North Korea as free, because their actions are controlled by lies.

Truth is required to act freely. Freedom requires knowledge, and in order to act freely in the world, you need to know what the world is and know what you’re doing. You only know what you’re doing if you have access to the truth. So freedom requires truth, and so to smash freedom you must smash truth.

Does This Sound Familiar?

Part of what fascist politics does is get people to disassociate from reality. You get them to sign on to this fantasy version of reality, usually a nationalist narrative about the decline of the country and the need for a strong leader to return it to greatness, and from then on their anchor isn’t the world around them — it’s the leader.
... I think the current movement of leaders who use these techniques (Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, to name a few) all seek to keep the trappings of democratic institutions, but their goal is to reorient them around their own cult of personality.

Again, I wouldn’t claim — not yet, at least — that Trump is presiding over a fascist government, but he is very clearly using fascist techniques to excite his base and erode liberal democratic institutions, and that’s very troubling.

But the blame there is as much on the Republican Party as it is on Trump, because none of this would matter if they were willing to check Trump. So far, they’ve chosen loyalty to Trump over loyalty to rule of law.

Stanley's Call for Action.

We should heed the warning of the poem on the side of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which says, “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not Jewish. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.” At a certain point it’s too late.

We learned first from that poem who the targets are. The targets are leftists, minorities, labor unions, and anyone or any institution that isn’t glorified in the fascist narrative. And even if you’re not in any of those groups, you have to protect those who are, and you have to protect them from the very beginning. Simple acts of courage early on will save you impossible acts of courage later.

Generation Screwed

Many of us, a large majority, have lived most or all of our lives in the era of neoliberalism that was ushered in by Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney, the faithful disciples of such economists as Freidrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. They worked to reinstate 19th century ideas revolving around laissez-faire capitalism, austerity, deregulation, free trade, privatization and small government into a 20th century world. It involved a lot of pounding of an oversized round peg into a rather vulnerable square hole. They succeeded but not without a great deal of damage and lasting scars.

One of those lasting scars is the evolution of the "gig economy" and the emergence of a permanent economic underclass, the "precariat." This is the culmination of technocratic government that focuses on corporations and the economy instead of the populace and their wellbeing.  Another term for it, coined by finance minister, Bill Morneau, is "job churn." The Trudeau government, like the Harper regime before it, has quite happily consigned working class Canadians to this fate. It keeps the corporate sector happy. Low wage, worker insecurity is great for that balance sheet bottom line.

An article in The Tyee reports that 45 per cent of Canada's millenials are now in the grip of precarity and, as such, at increased risk of both physical and mental illness. Morneau's job churn claims victims.
As a society, we have previously assumed that if young Canadians invest in formal training and “pay their dues” in poor quality jobs early in their careers, they will work their way into better quality employment. A recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives suggests a different reality. 
The study, based on a national survey of 1,000 professionals, found that 22 per cent are working in precarious situations, characterized by contract work, part-time hours, unpredictable incomes and a lack of paid sick days. 
It reports that working in a professional job no longer provides Canadians with working conditions that are optimal for health, regardless of skills and training. And that Canadians are most susceptible to this job instability at the early stages of their career.
... In the late 1960s, studies of British civil servants uncovered important links between working conditions and mortality. They found that those working in more stressful jobs — characterized by lower pay, unpredictability and less skill — were more likely to experience chronic diseases ranging from heart disease to depression. 
Research among Canadians also shows employment to be a critical social determinant of health. Those who earn higher wages have more access to the safe housing, nutritious foods, social services and medical care that provide pathways to better health. 
This income-health relationship is reflected in recent data showing that the highest earning Canadians live three to eight years longer than the lowest earners.

Generation Screwed
In a new study of more than 1,000 Canadian millennials, 44 per cent reported job precarity. Close to half of those in precarious jobs also reported depression or anxiety directly related to their working situation. 
Job precarity can add to a number of social and economic challenges facing millennials including rising personal debts, growing costs of living, shrinking access to pensions and lower retirement savings. It is not surprising that some in the media refer to millennials as “generation screwed.”
If you think this is at all inadvertent, some sort of oversight, it's not. This is engineered. As Noam Chomsky points out, it took hold in the United States decades ago and was embraced by even the then chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, at the time when he was still “Saint Alan” -- hailed by the economics profession as one of the greatest economists of all time (this was before the crash for which he was substantially responsible) -- was testifying to Congress in the Clinton years, and he explained the wonders of the great economy that he was supervising. He said a lot of its success was based substantially on what he called “growing worker insecurity.” If working people are insecure, if they’re part of the precariat, living precarious existences, they’re not going to make demands, they’re not going to try to get better wages, they won’t get improved benefits. We can kick ’em out, if we don’t need ’em. And that’s what’s called a “healthy” economy, technically speaking. And he was highly praised for this, greatly admired."
I think a perfect name for this is "neo-feudalism." It's here and it's here to stay unless we stop electing the governments that empower it.

Monbiot's "One Planet Living"

On the face of it, it sounds incredibly logical. Mankind, and all the other species with which we share this Earth, must adjust to live within the limited boundaries of its ecology.

The tricky bit is how do we conform to the planet instead of what we're doing now? At the moment we're consuming the equivalent of just over 1.7 planet Earth's worth of resources. We're exceeding the Earth's ecological carrying capacity by a factor of 1.7, the ecological equivalent of squeezing blood out of a stone or a civilization collectively holding its breath to cavort in a place where there's no oxygen.

The nasty part is that we're absolutely dependent on slaughtering the Earth's resources forever at increasingly rapacious levels of consumption.  We're consuming - and wasting - way too much now and we want even more tomorrow. We define our success by our excess. And there are billions of newcomers in emerging economies lining up for their own share of the consumer class pie.

That won't go on because it cannot go on. Our politicians who pursue perpetual, exponential growth in GDP never address this reality. It would merely confound their plans and expose them as ecological charlatans. You have to include every Canadian prime minister at least as far back as Chretien in their ranks. The scientific alarm bells go back that far.

Today we have a young, moderately bright but far from brilliant, prime minister who has boasted his overarching priority is to accelerate the expansion of growth and consumption.

A good many of us today recognize climate change as an existential threat to life on this planet. We have not reached a similar recognition of our unsustainable levels of over-consumption as an equally existential threat to our survival. Jason Hickel refers to it as, "the unviability of absolute decoupling in order to advance an ecologically reckless insistence on growth."

We know that our irresponsible greenhouse gas emissions are largely 'out of sight/out of mind.'  Sure we get wildfires and droughts and floods but the really murderous part, the famine and the dying, that is offloaded on the weakest, poorest, most vulnerable people of the Third World so distant that we barely notice if we notice them at all. Hickel says we fail to see our excess consumption the same way as our excess GHG emissions.
Here’s the real “problematic political and ethical proposition”: to assume that it’s okay for rich nations to continue growing needlessly while knowing that this is actively destroying the lives of poor people across the South. If we want to be serious about eradicating poverty in poor nations, de-growth in rich nations is going to have to be part of the equation.
In his latest essay, Jason Hickel explains why, despite what we're told, growth cannot be green.

Warnings about ecological breakdown have become ubiquitous. Over the past few years, major newspapers, including the Guardian and the New York Times, have carried alarming stories on soil depletion, deforestation, and the collapse of fish stocks and insect populations. These crises are being driven by global economic growth, and its accompanying consumption, which is destroying the Earth’s biosphere and blowing past key planetary boundaries that scientists say must be respected to avoid triggering collapse. 
Many policymakers have responded by pushing for what has come to be called “green growth.” All we need to do, they argue, is invest in more efficient technology and introduce the right incentives, and we’ll be able to keep growing while simultaneously reducing our impact on the natural world, which is already at an unsustainable level. In technical terms, the goal is to achieve “absolute decoupling” of GDP from the total use of natural resources, according to the U.N. definition.
...But the promise of green growth turns out to have been based more on wishful thinking than on evidence. In the years since the Rio conference, three major empirical studies have arrived at the same rather troubling conclusion: Even under the best conditions, absolute decoupling of GDP from resource use is not possible on a global scale.
...We are nowhere near imposing a global carbon tax today, much less one of nearly $600 per metric ton, and resource efficiency is currently getting worse, not better. Yet the studies suggest that even if we do everything right, decoupling economic growth with resource use will remain elusive and our environmental problems will continue to worsen
Preventing that outcome will require a whole new paradigm. High taxes and technological innovation will help, but they’re not going to be enough. The only realistic shot humanity has at averting ecological collapse is to impose hard caps on resource use, as the economist Daniel O’Neill recently proposed. Such caps, enforced by national governments or by international treaties, could ensure that we do not extract more from the land and the seas than the Earth can safely regenerate. We could also ditch GDP as an indicator of economic success and adopt a more balanced measure like the genuine progress indicator (GPI), which accounts for pollution and natural asset depletion. Using GPI would help us maximize socially good outcomes while minimizing ecologically bad ones. 
But there’s no escaping the obvious conclusion. Ultimately, bringing our civilization back within planetary boundaries is going to require that we liberate ourselves from our dependence on economic growth—starting with rich nations. This might sound scarier than it really is. Ending growth doesn’t mean shutting down economic activity—it simply means that next year we can’t produce and consume more than we are doing this year. It might also mean shrinking certain sectors that are particularly damaging to our ecology and that are unnecessary for human flourishing, such as advertising, commuting, and single-use products.
George Monbiot sees one culprit that lurks behind our lethal addiction to ever more.
The problem is mass disposability. Or, to put it another way, the problem is pursuing, on the one planet known to harbour life, a four-planet lifestyle. Regardless of what we consume, the sheer volume of consumption is overwhelming the Earth’s living systems.
He cites the example of the campaign against plastics fueled by the Sargasso-like seas of plastic swirling in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans to demonstrate how easily we are distracted, our attention diverted.
Even marine plastics is in large part a fishing issue. It turns out that 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, that has come to symbolise our throwaway society, is composed of discarded nets, and much of the rest consists of other kinds of fishing gear. Abandoned fishing materialstend to be far more dangerous to marine life than other forms of waste. As for the bags and bottles contributing to the disaster, the great majority arise in poorer nations, without good disposal systems. But because this point was not made, we look to the wrong places for solutions.
...It is only as citizens, taking political action, that we can promote meaningful change. 
The answer to the question “how should we live?” is “simply”. But living simply is highly complicated. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the government massacred the Simple Lifers. This is generally unnecessary: today they can be safely marginalised, insulted and dismissed. The ideology of consumption is so prevalent that it has become invisible: it is the plastic soup in which we swim
One-planet living means not only seeking to reduce our own consumption, but also mobilising against the system that promotes the great tide of junk. This means fighting corporate power, changing political outcomes and challenging the growth-based, world-consuming system we call capitalism. 
As the famous Hothouse Earth paper published last month, that warned of the danger of flipping the planet into a new, irreversible climatic state, concluded, “incremental linear changes … are not enough to stabilize the Earth system. Widespread, rapid, and fundamental transformations will likely be required to reduce the risk of crossing the threshold”.
I post this with the near certainty that, while there is much truth in what Hickel and Monbiot contend, civilization, especially in the West, is not remotely ready to turn itself upside down, inside out. Their thinking is not out of line with the venerable (99 years old) James Lovelock who, many years ago, argued that mankind's last, best hope lay in what he called "sustainable retreat." The simple, inescapable fact is that we have to grow smaller, not ever larger, if we are to return to the safety of our planetary boundaries, Spaceship Earth. If not, we perish.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What Canada-US Trade Would Look Like if We Were Dealing With a Sane President

A recent analysis piece in TheWashington Post reveals that Canada is probably America's best trading partner.

Canada could even be called the United States’ best major trade partner. It’s the largest export market for U.S. goods, and the $4 trillion trade is by far the most balanced. The United States exports 94 cents’ worth of goods to Canada for each dollar of imports. In trade with the rest of the world, it’s only 62 cents.  
The pattern within U.S.-Canada trade in part reflects differences between the two countries. Although both have about the same area of land, Canada has only one-ninth the U.S. population, less than California’s. So while rich in natural resources to export as raw material exports, Canada doesn’t necessarily make the vast array of consumer goods, or the specialized machinery and equipment used to make many finished products, and those are more often imported.’s the U.S. workers making machines, not consumer goods, who could suffer the most in the blowback from an auto tariff. The United States last year exported to Canada $79 billion worth of production equipment, including machines for farming, mining and manufacturing, as well as computer and telecom equipment. The trade surplus: $36 billion.

Consider the forklift and other material-moving equipment that is central to modern just-in-time delivery. That category alone last year generated a $1.6 billion trade surplus with Canada. “It’s a very important market for us,” said Brian Freehan, president of the Industrial Truck Association, which represents forklift manufacturers and their suppliers. He said that without the North American Free Trade Agreement, U.S. manufacturers would lose business, probably permanently, to countries outside North America.

That could affect workers across the country. Forklifts are sold in Canada, for example, with wheels from Wisconsin, forks from Ohio, a frame from Kentucky, transmission from Indiana, oil pump from Illinois, seats from Michigan, lift cylinders from North Carolina, a counterweight from Texas and a tilt cylinder from West Virginia. 
...A study from leading Canadian think tank C.D. Howe Institute found that under a 25 percent auto tariff, Canada could lose 60,000 jobs, a blow that could cause a regional recession centered in Ontario. But the study also found that the United States would lose twice as many jobs, more than 120,000. Although U.S. jobs directly related to autos would get a boost, those gains would be more than offset by job losses in sectors such as machinery, electronic and transport equipment, and other manufacturing. In other studies potential job losses in both the U.S. and Canada have ranged higher. 
For Trump to impose the 25 percent auto tariff, the U.S. Commerce Department must find that auto and parts imports threaten national security. It’s widely viewed as a negotiating tactic, a U.S. threat to Canada to get NAFTA concessions by the end of September. Auto and parts manufacturers and a wide variety of other interests told the Commerce Department that they opposed the tariff. 
“A car put together with American-made parts is not a national security threat,” Toyota spokesman Ed Lewis said.
What the article overlooks is that trade between Canada and the United States is not merely in goods but also in services and it is America's surplus on the services side that tips the overall balance in America's favour.

If Mad King Donald remains intractable and menacing, Ottawa might consider firing a shot across Washington's bow. Our armed forces need a replacement for the vintage and rapidly time expiring CF-18 fighters purchased by the previous Trudeau government. The American options are Lockheed or Boeing aircraft. Lockheed's offering is overpriced and underwhelming. Even the Pentagon now admits that stealth is more gimmick than war winning breakthrough. Boeing is offering an updated version of the F-18 but that same company almost maliciously went out of its way to screw Bombardier's C-series regional jet. What's good for Boeing's goose is good for the Canadian gander. What an auspicious moment for Canada to take a serious look at SAAB's latest iteration of its state of the art, affordable Gripen. Great way to get Washington's attention.

Stormy Daniels' Dick Pic

Donald Trump's advice when it comes to women, especially wives, is to deny everything.
Donald Trump said you have to “deny, deny, deny” if you are accused of sexual assault by women, according to veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s new book.

According to the book, Mr Trump – who has been accused by more than a dozen women of inappropriate sexual behaviour – told the friend it is a mistake to display weakness in the face of such accusations. 
“You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women,” Mr Trump said, according to Mr Woodward. “If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead. That was a big mistake you made.”
Trump has been denying having anything to do with porn star Stormy Daniels and her claim that they had a sexual encounter. His word against hers. President versus porn star.

Unfortunately Donnie has an Achilles' - "heel" isn't the right word. According to Daniels, Trump has an unusually shaped todger and she's described it, size and shape, in detail in her new book.

Melania Trump will know if Daniels is telling the truth. Denial won't help her husband get his way out of this one. Things are going to get a little frosty for the Mango Mussolini.

Complacency Kills

Complacency can be a mortal threat to civilized society. That message is driven home by anthropologist Jared Diamond in his book, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail."

In the book Diamond explains how societies from the Mesopotamians to the Mayans to the Easter Islanders made decisions that essentially ruined future generations. They chose failure just not in their lifetimes. Failure was bequeathed to the future. Sound familiar?

It's beyond question that is precisely what we're doing today. We're inundated with weather porn - severe flooding here, flash drought there, wildfires everywhere, the Polar Vortex plunging eastern North America into a deepfreeze while, at the same time, in the permanent pitch dark of the high Arctic winter the polar region experiences a succession of heat waves.

There's still a novelty element to today's severe weather events. The newsies still talk of 'once in a century' natural disasters that are now showing up once every few years.

The science types issue dire warnings about how the latest disaster is our 'new normal' only that's not true. This is an ongoing, worsening process. This is the prize for allowing the climate to warm just one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. There are bigger prizes to come.

The consensus seems to be that we're headed for at least three degrees Celsius of warming, possibly more, perhaps a lot more. What we're struggling to cope with today is 1C severe weather. 2C severe weather is going to be an entirely 'new normal.' 3C is an order of magnitude worse yet. And, as these increasingly severe weather events set in, the chances increase that you won't be watching them on TV in the comfort of your home, you'll be an unwilling participant. In 20 years you might be those people you're now watching as they wade through what's left of their possessions.

This is about complacency and complacency, doing nothing, is a choice. That's what the title of Jared Diamond's book means. It's how societies choose to succeed or fail. Right now you're not choosing success.

What might choosing success look like? Perhaps things like demanding your government change course. It's time to give up our petro-economy. The science types, guys like Schellnhuber, tell us that we're not going to make it if we don't. It's time to rethink our pursuit of perpetual, exponential growth, young Trudeau's sacred quest. It's time we figured out just what we can do, must do, to least screw up our grandchildren's future. It's time we agreed not to rip them off any longer to engorge our own luxury, ease and comfort.

But, being self-centered and insatiably avaricious, we'll stick with the complacency option. We'll stick with the tried and true option of voting for the least worst politician especially if he's slick enough to tell us - to our faces - that we can have a burgeoning petro-economy and fight climate change at the same time. Don't worry, be happy - that's the ticket.

The world is changing. The 'new normal' is transitory, year upon year. Resilience should be our priority but it's not. Not just yet, anyway. Later, maybe. Yeah, sure.

Monday, September 17, 2018

What is Ford's Problem? I Don't Get It.

One of my first assignments as a fledgling reporter in Ottawa in the early 70s was to cover the local municipal governments, the City of Ottawa in particular.

Back then they had a mayor, a deputy mayor, alderman for every ward and an executive council called the Board of Control. I looked it up online and found the city had 24 elected representatives on council. Ottawa back then had a population of about 300,000.

As I recall it the city government functioned quite smoothly. Debates were lively and constructive and, overall, congenial.

Toronto today has a population just shy of three million, ten times more populous than Ottawa in the early 70s. But Ford thinks Toronto can be adequately governed by culling council from 47 wards to 25 wards. That would make each ward councilor the reeve of a small city.

I don't know about Toronto politics but how in hell is that supposed to work to the benefit of the people of Toronto?

What is Doug Ford's problem?

More Dirt on the National Energy Board's Stacked Deck

During the 2015 election campaign, Justin Trudeau didn't hesitate to attack the Harper National Energy Board as utterly corrupt. Then, once in power, he took a real shine to the NEB.

When garnering votes, Trudeau said a Liberal government would throw out the NEB's rigged assessment and start over, doing it right. Once in power he concluded that a few tweaks would suffice.  Then he got conned into buying the damned pipeline for a grossly inflated price and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Federal Court of Appeal quashed the Liberal government's approval of the TransMountain pipeline. Trudeau vowed to power through and see that pipeline built come hell or high water.

Now it seems the remainder of the NEB assessment, the parts that the government still relies on, is still rigged - biggly rigged.
In a letter sent to the National Energy Board on Sept. 8, [economist Robyn] Allan challenges the report’s claim that tanker traffic from Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby terminal would increase 680 per cent. 
The actual increase would be twice as much, she said.
Say what again?
...The tanker traffic issue will be critical if government asks the board to reconsider its impact in a new report, Allan says in her letter. 
“The board cannot rely on any of the tanker traffic risk evidence filed with it because that evidence is not based on an accurate and reliable estimate of incremental tanker traffic.” 
Allan said other errors in the original report could also be used to challenge any revised report from the NEB unless they’re corrected. 
The errors exist because “the board made serious mistakes in the preparation of its report,” says Allan in her letter. 
The original report also pegged the pipeline expansion cost at $5.5 billion, although Kinder Morgan had already revealed the cost had jumped to $6.8 billion prior to the end of the review. 
“The capital cost estimate had serious implications for the project’s financial and commercial viability, its economic impact, and whether the shippers could exercise termination rights in their Firm Service Agreements (FSAs),” notes Allan’s letter.
...The more it costs to build a pipeline, the higher tolls have to be for shippers. Higher tolls, in turn, affect the entire commercial feasibility of the project as well as any claimed benefits for the public. 
“Nowhere in the report did the board alert cabinet to the potential negative economic impact increasing project cost would be expected to have on oil producers and projected revenue benefits tabled by Trans Mountain.” says Allan’s letter.
The NEB pegged the TransMountain expansion cost at $5.5 billion. As if.
Earlier this year Kinder Morgan estimated the costs to be $9.3 billion just prior to approving the sale of the existing pipeline and the expansion project to the Canadian government for $4.5 billion. 
Allan suspects the final cost could be even higher and that escalating costs have nullified any economic benefits and existing shipper agreements. 
Allan notes the board also claimed in its 2016 report that shippers contracted to fill the pipeline expansion “said that it is in the best interest of Canadians to maximize the prices received for Canadian crude oil production.” 
Shippers never said any such thing during the Trans Mountain hearing, Allan says.
So let's see. KM fleeced the Trudeau government to the tune of $4.5 billion. Expanding the TransMountain line will add, by Kinder Morgan's estimate, another $9.3 billion, perhaps a good deal more.  All of that money, plus interest, is going to have to be recovered  from dilbit shippers. For a low-value, high-carbon, garbage product that's a pretty stiff toll for shippers to swallow.

What if the shippers decide "thanks but no thanks"? What happens to the Justin Trudeau Memorial TransMountain pipeline?

And what if, instead of 408 tankers a year, the NEB estimate, it will really be more than 800 tankers a year having to ply the often treacherous south coast waters? Surely that would increase the need to keep tankers moving even in the worst conditions lest the whole thing, including the inner harbour, backs up.

Will Harper/Trudeau just keep doing what they've done all along - bury the difficult parts and hope no one notices? Or will this government do what it pledged to do during the 2015 campaign and finally come clean with coastal British Columbians? For some reason I'm not optimistic.

Nikiforuk Slams "Trudeau's Sordid Pipeline Deal."

Andrew Nikiforuk, Western Canada fossil energy super-scribe, mocks the reaction of the fossil fuelers, corporate and political, to the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal quashing the federal government's approval of the TransMountain pipeline.

The debate about the Federal Court of Appeal decision that killed the approval for the Trans Mountain $7.4-billion pipeline expansion speaks volumes about the oily state of Canadian politics. 
The leaders of Canada’s die-hard petro republics, Alberta’s Rachel Notley and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe, predictably chaffed and frothed. 
They complained that they had been let down, billions of dollars are being lost and Parliament must address “this crisis.” 
Business types lamented that the courts had dealt another blow to Canada’s mining republic reputation by slowing down another noble megaproject promising jobs and prosperity — for China no less. 
The power of oil to construct narratives that bear little or no relation to the truth is a global phenomenon and, in Canada, a new boreal specialty. You can’t find a more entitled political player than a petroleum exporter
All in all, the media and Canadian politicians reduced the court decision to a dubious concession to pesky First Nations and environmentalists and another damned hurdle for “the national interest” and the pursuit of jobs. 
But that’s not the truth or the reality.
...Canada remains another unaccountable petro state when it comes to reducing emissions from fossil fuels. Canada won’t be able to meet any of its climate targets because of rising emissions from the oilsands and, for that matter, from proposed LNG production. When Notley, Alberta’s petulant petro leader, pulled out of the nation’s carbon pricing plan over the court decision, she merely abandoned an already doomed strategy designed by cynics to serve the status quo. 
The economist Jeff Rubin recently stated the obvious. “For the publicly climate-change-conscious Trudeau government, which seeks to eradicate widespread international perceptions of Canada as a climate change laggard, the country’s recent emission performance is no better than during the previous Harper government, which was ignominiously awarded a ‘Lifetime Unachievement’ Fossil award at the UN climate change conference in Warsaw in 2013.” 
Mark Jaccard has also called a spade a spade. “National studies by independent researchers (including my university-based group) consistently show that Mr. Trudeau’s 2015 Paris promise of a 30-per-cent reduction by 2030 is unachievable with oilsands expansion. His staff know this, so he knows it, too.”
...The real law-breaker in this sorry narrative remains the federal government. Trudeau and company have frequently attacked the B.C. government’s opposition to the pipeline expansion, arguing that “the federal government will not allow any province to infringe on federal jurisdiction over making decisions about resource development in the national interest.” But the Federal Court of Appeal found that it was the federal government that actually broke the law. 
It didn’t engage with First Nations in a rigorous or honest way and it failed to assess the impact of increased tanker traffic on B.C.’s wildlife and coastal economy. As such the court decision vindicates the 220 people who have been arrested at Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby facility for protesting the pipeline expansion
Before approving the pipeline, Trudeau had promised to fix the flawed National Energy Board process for reviewing such projects, but he didn’t. He emerges from this drama as a consistent law-breaker and promise-breaker — a weak and feckless leader with no moral code.
...The fictional billions that Notley, Alberta opposition leader Jason Kenney and Moe claim the industry has lost due to the stalled construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline remain the biggest lie now eroding Canadian politics and democracy.

Bitumen will soon be subject to more discounts that have nothing to do with pipelines or global markets. The International Maritime Organization plans to reduce the amount of sulfur in fuel used by ships from 3.5 per cent to 0.5 per cent by 2020. The change has major ramifications for the global refinery business and Canada, one of the world’s largest producers of high sulfur heavy crude. The Canadian Energy Research Institute even predicts that “the price discount on Western Canada Select (WCS) crude... will expand significantly due to the IMO regulation.”
...Partial upgrading of bitumen could solve this problem while improving quality and adding value. Such ventures are expensive, and would also be heavy carbon emitters. But they could free up 30 per cent more pipeline capacity. If Trudeau was interested in a political compromise and a deal good for the national interest, he would kill the Trans Mountain expansion and invest in partial upgrading in Alberta. 
In one blow he would remove an egregious pipeline that threatens B.C.’s coastal economy and put Albertans back to work by producing a higher value product for the marketplace. It wouldn’t be good for climate change but petro states don’t give a damn about the future or their children anyway. They live for oil, and only oil.
If you've got a slavish loyalty to the Liberal Party or just a raging crush on Justin Trudeau, that's your problem. His handling of this dilbit fiasco and the laughable TransMountain pipeline has stripped the mask off this self-proclaimed environmentalist prime minister. His claim that he can expand Canada's high-carbon petro economy and defend the environment is nothing more than another fraudulent pitch by a 21st century iteration of an alchemist.

Who is Leona Alleslev and Why Should I Care?

The honourable backbencher for Aurora-Oakridge-Richmond Hill has left the government bench for supposedly greener pastures on Andrew Scheer's side of the House of Commons.
“On behalf of my Conservative colleagues, I’m extremely pleased to welcome Ms. Alleslev to the Conservative team,” Scheer said. “She brings with her an extraordinary wealth of experience in military and foreign affairs, government procurement, and private sector leadership. She will be a strong asset in our growing Conservative team as we work toward 2019.”
In 2015 Alleslev defeated her Conservative opponent by well shy of a thousand votes, 47% to 45%.

American Democracy in Crisis - HRC

I know, I know - consider the source. People in glass houses, he who is without sin, yada, yada, yada. For all that, it's a message that deserves to be heard, albeit a very belated warning.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has penned an op-ed for Atlantic magazine analyzing Donald Trump's five-pronged attack on American democracy.

To summarize:

1.  Trump's assault on the rule of law.

2.  The constant undermining of the legitimacy of American elections.

3.  Trump's war on truth and reason.

4.  Trump's "breathtaking" corruption.


5.  Trump's undermining of national unity "that makes democracy possible."

Her points are well argued. Follow the link, read them if you like. They're persuasive but misleading in a somewhat simplistic way. Clinton omits any mention of her own party's failures and fundamental contributions to the political (legislative and regulatory) capture of the federal government.  The Dems were not exactly charging Capitol Hill with pitchforks and torches while that was going on for so many years. The Dems have been pretty wantonly opportunistic for decades as progressivism in American politics steadily waned.  It's not like there's just one "bought and paid for" party in Congress. The Dems may stop short of the excesses of their GOP brethren but they're hardly saints.

For all of that, American democracy is in crisis if not already extinct. I again fall back on the Gilens and Page study published by Princeton in 2014, back in the Obama years, that confirmed what many already suspected - that American democracy had succumbed to plutocracy, rule by the rich and powerful. The United States has not had a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" for a very long time.

This omission in Hillary's logic makes her prescriptive remedies seem a lot like "vote for us" bromides.

She begins by laying the entire blame for Trump's election on "the increasing radicalism and irresponsibility" of the Republicans. In other words, the Dems had nothing to do with it. Not even for fielding the least popular candidate they could find to go up against Trump. Sorry, Mrs. Clinton, that doesn't sell.

She argues for the mobilization of a massive turnout this November. Fair enough, good idea.

Then she wants future presidents to be required to make public their tax returns, and be subject to effective ethics requirements and conflict-of-interest rules. Okay, but the operative word has to be "effective."

She wants to improve and protect America's elections - paper ballots, vote audits, cyber security, etc. A restoration of the protections of the Voters Rights Act. All good suggestions. Ditto for overturning Citizens United and abolition of the Electoral College.

Conspicuous by its absence is any call for campaign finance reform, rule by the best, and generally most-compromised fund-raisers. Paper ballots and cyber security don't really matter much if elections are bought before the first ballot is cast. That, however, doesn't seem to be on Hillary's radar.

Mrs. Clinton addresses the need to "restitch our fraying social fabric and rekindle our civic spirit." Unfortunately the federal government cannot rehabilitate social cohesion when it is so deeply in thrall to special interests instead of the public interest. (See campaign finance reform, above).

She concludes:

In 1787, after the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman on the street outside Independence Hall, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin answered, “A republic, if you can keep it.” That response has been on my mind a lot lately. The contingency of it. How fragile our experiment in self-government is. And, when viewed against the sweep of human history, how fleeting. Democracy may be our birthright as Americans, but it’s not something we can ever take for granted. Every generation has to fight for it, has to push us closer to that more perfect union. That time has come again.

She is right in a way. It is time for Americans to fight to reclaim their democracy. Unfortunately it will take more than just returning the Democrats to power for the American people to regain what has been taken from them.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Diagnosis Seems Sound. The Prescription, Who Knows? "Beautiful Country Burn Again."

What is it about the American character that allows the long con of our politics to go on and on, electing crooks, racists, bullies, hate-mongering preachers, corporate bagmen and bald-faced liars? Not always, but often. The history is damning. We must on some level, want what they are offering.”

That is sometime Guardian scribe and novelist Ben Fountain's take on the people and politics of 21st century America.

I find it hard to argue with his assessment that Americans must want what their caste of political charlatans are offering. What else can explain how they persistently and, worse, reliably are herded into voting against their own and collective working-class self-interest?

Harper Collins reviews Fountain's new book, "Beautiful Country Burn Again."
Twice before in its history, the United States has been faced with a crisis so severe it was forced to reinvent itself in order to survive: first, the struggle over slavery, culminating in the Civil War, and the second, the Great Depression, which led to President Roosevelt’s New Deal and the establishment of America as a social-democratic state. In a sequence of essays that excavate the past while laying bare the political upheaval of 2016, Ben Fountain argues that the United States may be facing a third existential crisis, one that will require a “burning” of the old order as America attempts to remake itself
Beautiful Country Burn Again narrates a shocking year in American politics, moving from the early days of the Iowa Caucus to the crystalizing moments of the Democratic and Republican national conventions, and culminating in the aftershocks of the weeks following election night. Along the way, Fountain probes deeply into history, illuminating the forces and watershed moments of the past that mirror and precipitated the present, from the hollowed-out notion of the American Dream, to Richard Nixon’s southern strategy, to our weaponized new conception of American exceptionalism, to the cult of celebrity that gave rise to Donald Trump.

From The Guardian:
His eye for the absurd and ability to draw attention to the sheer strangeness of America made him a perfect observer of 2016: when politics met reality TV, where penis size briefly became a measure of suitability for high office and where a candidate for the White House was revealed weeks before polling day as a self-declared sexual predator, and still won. 
Fountain’s essays for the Guardian, which I commissioned, saw him move from the snows of Iowa through Dallas for the opening day of the baseball season and on to the National Rifle Association convention in Louisville, Kentucky. In Cleveland, Ohio, his coverage of the Republican convention drew a direct line to Norman Mailer’s view of the 1968 race, Miami and the Siege of Chicago. His year ended with an examination of the benefits of big government in rural Texas, just as Trump’s anti-Washington bulldozer was accelerating.
Two years on, in the whirling chaos of the Trumpian news cycle, his election-year commentaries could have seemed faded, almost quaint mementos. But in book form, expanded, they live up to his own description: they are both a diagnosis of America’s symptoms of stress and a record of developing crisis. 
...He is unsparing in scorn for the amped-up patriotism used to create the myth of American exceptionalism, the idea of a chosen land specially blessed and purposed with a world-changing mission. 
“It’s the I-Love-America-More-Than-You smackdown: America is and always has been the greatest, ever, at everything, and anyone who disagrees just doesn’t love America enough. Which is political discourse as fairy tale, a made-up story for children.
America had to remake itself twice to survive as a plausible constitutional democracy – first due to the crisis of slavery, then with the Great Depression. Now, Fountain warns, America is again in danger of becoming a democracy in name only.

“One wonders how close to hell we’ll have to come in our own time before a similarly drastic act of reinvention is attempted.”

Wow, We've Even Managed to Poison Babies in the Womb

Man-made pollution is managing to poison babies before they're even babies.

Scientists have found the first evidence that particles of air pollution travel through pregnant women’s lungs and lodge in their placentas.
Toxic air is already strongly linked to harm in foetuses but how the damage is done is unknown. The new study, involving mothers living in London, UK, revealed sooty particles in the placentas of each of their babies and researchers say it is quite possible the particles entered the foetuses too. 
...The research is being presented Sunday at the European Respiratory Society’s (ERS) international congress in Paris. “This research suggests a possible mechanism of how babies are affected by pollution while being theoretically protected in the womb,” said Prof Mina Gaga, who is ERS president and at the Athens Chest Hospital in Greece. 
“This should raise awareness amongst doctors and the public regarding the harmful effects of air pollution in pregnant women,” she said, noting that harm to foetuses can occur even below current European Union pollution limits. “We need stricter policies for cleaner air to reduce the impact of pollution on health worldwide because we are already seeing a new population of young adults with health issues.” 
Unicef executive director Anthony Lake recently warned of the danger of air pollution to babies: “Not only do pollutants harm babies’ developing lungs, they can permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures.” 
Separate research, also presented at the ERS congress, found that children with early onset and persistent asthma fared far less well in education than those without the condition. Asthma in children has long been linked to air pollution.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

We Better Get Used to It Because We're Not Fixing It.

How do twenty homes in three communities north of Boston just up and explode? It's easy, rotten infrastructure.

Infrastructure is more than roads and overpasses. It also is everything from water mains, fire hydrants, the electrical grid, sewer lines and, yes, gas lines.

Back in 2012, scientists took a ride through Boston streets identifying and mapping leaks from the city's ancient gas lines.

To take a snapshot of this problem, scientists from Boston University and Duke University took equipment that detects methane — the main constituent of natural gas — on a 785-mile van ride through Boston’s streets. The result, published today in the journal Environmental Pollution, is a map showing more than 3,300 spikes in gas concentrations representing leaks of various sizes.
What they found looks like this:

The video is spectacular. Using infrared camera technology you can see plumes of fugitive natural gas come up through streets and sidewalks, all day and all night, month upon month, year upon year.

The Duke team took their gear to Washington, D.C., where they found 5,900 leaks.

In this era of 'everyday low taxes' it's unclear where the funding will come from to repair our aging gas infrastructure which is going to have to compete for scarce revenues with badly needed repairs to everything else - our aging water and sewer lines, roads and highways, bridges and overpasses, the electrical grid, on and on. It's been estimated these repairs, replacements and upgrades would cost Canada upwards of a trillion dollars but far more than that in economic losses if we don't fix these things.

The fracking industry is another major source of fugitive methane emissions. Environmentalists equipped with infrared cameras have been monitoring large gas leaks on active sites where crews are still working. And then there are other leaks along transmission lines.

What looks like steam coming off is actually methane recorded on infrared.

It's Going to Take More than Wind Farms

It seems like an impossible challenge. A new study contends that Europe's chance of meeting its greenhouse gas emissions targets will require that consumption of meat and dairy be scaled back, way back, by 2050. How far back? By half based on today's numbers.

Population may grow, wealth may increase, no matter. Meat and dairy consumption has to be throttled way back.
The study calls for the European commission to urgently set up a formal inquiry mandated to propose measures – including taxes and subsidies – that “discourage livestock products harmful to health, climate or the environment”.

Livestock has the world’s largest land footprint and is growing fast, with close to 80% of the planet’s agricultural land now used for grazing and animal feed production, even though meat delivers just 18% of our calories
Europeans already eat more than twice as much meat as national dietary authorities recommend – far beyond a “safe operating space” within environmental limits, says the Rise foundation study.
Can it be done? I suppose anything is possible but, once again, it comes down to public acceptance and a greatly shored up political will, so often found lacking these days.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Conservative Columnist - Time for Trump to Panic.

The Washington Post's conservative columnist, Jennifer Rubin, thinks the jig is up for Donald Trump now that Manafort has cut a cooperation deal with special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

That’s the news Trump never wanted to hear. The prospect of just such a deal is why his lawyers reportedly dangled the promise of a pardon in front of Manafort’s lawyers. A plea deal that could put the Russians inside Trump’s campaign blows to smithereens the notion that only low-level, non-players or those distantly related to the campaign had Russian connections. Trump, who was praising Manafort to the heavens just weeks ago, will find it hard (but not impossible) to now smear him as a liar. 
“The relentless Mueller push continues — as does that of the rule of law,” observes former White House ethics counsel Norman Eisen. “The reported cooperation agreement could be devastating to the president — and those around him. Manafort for example could implicate not only the president in the Trump Tower meeting — but also others who were involved such as Don Jr. or [Jared] Kushner. The same is true on the mysterious [RNC] platform change, and indeed on all the possible collusion offenses.” 
The plea certainly explodes Trump’s claim that Mueller is engaged in a “witch hunt.” The only “hoax” here is the pretense that there was nothing out of the ordinary going on inside the Trump campaign or that it was too disorganized to have spent time colluding with Russians.
Trump also loses the argument that Mueller is wasting taxpayer money. As part of the plea deal, Manafort is going to cough up $46 million in forfeited assets, according to news reports. That more than pays for Mueller and his team (who at last glance had spent $20 million). Then again, it all depends how high a price you put on restoration of American democracy. 
Trump was already crashing in the polls and Mueller’s approval rising, in large part due to, in August, the trial and conviction of Manafort and the plea deal with Michael Cohen. The recording of Trump discussing a payoff with Cohen surely didn’t help his credibility. 
What we will find out in the days and weeks ahead is just how much Manafort knows and how much he can tell us about what Trump knew regarding Russian interference on his behalf. For Republicans who have been carrying water for the president, it might be time to put down the buckets and run for their political lives. Frankly, voting for impeachment and removal might be a good option for Republicans at some point. Before we get there, however, there are the midterms, which are shaping up to be a wipeout for the GOP.

Another Trump Weekend Ruined

I suppose Hurricane Florence will keep Donald Trump White House-bound this weekend. No time to be seen hitting the links at Bedminster while Red State voters are heading for high ground.  Besides, Trump has other things on his mind at the moment now that his former campaign manager (and more) Paul Manafort has agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation.

If you want to know what Manafort means to Trump, his family and top aides like commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, you really should watch the new documentary, "Active Measures." It's available on the American streaming service, Hulu. Apparently you can rent or buy it on iTunes. Even that, however, just scratches the surface. Team Mueller is certain to know more, probably vastly more than documentary maker, Jack Bryan.

Now imagine yourself as Donald Trump. You know some of what Manafort knows that could be problematic for you. You also know some of the other people, the Russians and Ukrainians and guys like Wilbur, whom Manafort also knows stuff about.

You've got mid-term elections looming and the prospect of facing a solid Democratic House of Representatives in the new year just itching to launch a tsunami of investigations into everything the Republicans have laboriously smothered for the past two years.

With Manafort singing like a canary, doing something as outrageous as killing the Mueller investigation would be political suicide. Mueller's popular support is rising rapidly and your numbers are tanking.

You'll also be wondering how much longer you'll be able to count on Congressional Republicans to sacrifice the party and their seats to save your backside. You already know those inside your White House are choosing, as they see it, to put country ahead of their president.

Maybe a few rounds of golf isn't such a bad idea after all.

Manafort Has His Deal. It's Big.

Paul Manafort has agreed to grass on Donald J. Trump. He will spill the beans. And he did not sell himself cheaply.

With eight felony convictions on the most minor indictments and a looming trial date next week on the serious indictments, Manafort and Mueller have struck a deal, one that will see the 'life behind bars' charges dropped.

Appearing in court for the special prosecutor was the legendary ball-buster the Trump campaign so fears, Andrew Weissman. The New York Times calls Weissman, "Mueller's Legal Pit Bull."

From The Washington Post:
“Manafort is effectively admitting to being an instrument of the Kremlin — something that didn’t stop when he was in charge of the Trump campaign,” says Max Bergmann, who heads the Moscow Project at the Center for American Progress. “This is what collusion looks like.” 
And once again, it reveals that the president’s assurance that no one from the campaign had Russian contacts was flat-out false.


The New York Times has published the entire plea agreement between the government and Manafort along with other court filings. Manafort is forfeiting several properties to the government including his apartment in Trump Tower, Soho and this modest getaway in Bridgehampton.

NBC adds this context to the Manafort plea deal.
After insisting that he would never flip — and earning praise from Trump as a stand-up guy — Manafort buckled under the weight of the legal burden facing him and cut a deal that requires him to cooperate fully and truthfully with Mueller’s team. 
He has to meet with investigators without a lawyer, turn over documents, testify in court, and delay his sentencing until Mueller is satisfied, court documents say. 
In exchange, he could end up with no prison sentence, instead of the decade or more he was facing, as long as Mueller tells the judge his cooperation was substantial. 
“They must know that he has something of value,” Goldman said of prosecutors.

Manafort was allowed to plead guilty to two charges — conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice. But prosecutors filed a document that summed up all the allegations against Manafort in both Virginia and Washington, and Manafort admitted in court that all of it was true, including the charges on which a Virginia jury failed to convict him last month.
...The question now is what does Manafort know, and who, if anyone, he can incriminate.

What will he tell prosecutors, for example, about his relationship with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to President Vladimir Putin? Emails show Manafort was offering Deripaska private briefings about the Trump campaign, trying to make good on $10 million Deripaska had lent him — a loan that prosecutors say was never repaid.
...Prosecutors will also want to know about loans made to Manafort by Trump supporters after he left the campaign in 2016, including some from a Chicago banker Manafort recommended for a job in the Trump administration. 
And they will want to know about any conversations Manafort had with the Trump team about defending the Mueller investigation, or about a pardon. Manafort, experts say, could be a witness not only in the Russia conspiracy investigation, but in the probe into whether the president obstructed justice.

“I think that Manafort likely was sent signals about a pardon,” Figliuzzi said. “It echoes right back to the obstruction-of-justice case.”