Thursday, February 28, 2019

Gerry Butts In

Trudeau's recently departed principal secretary, Gerald Butts, reportedly is asking for a chance to appear before the Commons Justice Committee.

Breaking Faith with Democracy in Canada

I knew, almost from the outset, that there was something deeply wrong with the government of Justin Trudeau.

The freshly-minted prime minister, perhaps in a moment of hubris, chose to publish online the mandate letters issued to all of his cabinet appointments. What came through from those letters was that ministers were given two co-mandates: one was the bailiwick of that particular ministry (i.e. transportation, defence, etc.) while the other was the Canadian economy. I can vividly remember Trudeau's enviro-min, Dame Cathy McKenna, proclaiming the duality of her role as both environment minister and economic minister.  We must not do anything on the environmental front that might impinge on economic growth in the petro-state. Take a minute to get your head around that.

Those mandate letters were a powerful expression of the hold the neoliberal order would have on the Trudeau administration. And so we had a prime minister who had promised to fight the good fight against climate change doing relatively little while continuing to subsidize fossil fuel production and, ultimately, pouring billions of dollars into an expanded bitumen pipeline. That's the economy utterly crushing the environment. Canada would remain, first and foremost, a petro-state.

What we're now witnessing is what happens when the economy butts heads with the rule of law, the administration of justice. With the SNC-L corruption the PMO had to choose - would it be the economy and the party's electoral fortunes in Quebec this October or would it uphold the rule of law and the administration of justice. True to form, the economy and partisan political advantage prevailed again. There were higher interests to be served than upholding the rule of law. Of course, like all skulduggery, that had to be done in private meetings, behind closed doors.

For years, critics of neoliberalism have warned that it's a degenerative disorder that, as it progresses into its final stages, undermines democracy and paves the way for authoritarian, anti-democratic takeover. That's a recurrent theme in Thomas Piketty's celebrated book, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century." (If you don't want to buy his nearly 500 page tome, follow that link to get it free in pdf.) More recently, Chris Hedges wrote of "Neoliberalism's Dark Path to Fascism." If you want something a bit more vintage, check out public intellectual Henry Giroux's prescient 2004 book, "The Terror of Neoliberalism: Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy."

There is no shortage of brilliant, powerful literature warning us of the ultimate price to be paid for sitting on our hands and doing nothing as the neoliberals corrode our democracy. Just because they're from your party and have a pretty face changes nothing. Even Justin Trudeau is a handmaiden of the neoliberal order. The proof is in the irreconcilable contradictions in his policies, the recurrent cognitive dissonance in his actions and his words. He's not Erdogan or Orban or Trump. We haven't reached that stage yet but do tell me that rightwing populism hasn't already achieved a firm toehold in Canada. There are plenty among us today who have developed a taste for authoritarianism and intolerance. The government of the day has done literally nothing to push back.

The era of Laurier, St. Laurent, Pearson and Pierre Trudeau is no longer with us. Progressive democracy in Canada has been usurped. Unless we reverse that, reconnect to the values of the past, we may have to kiss our own democracy goodbye. This is a perfect moment for Liberals to do a bit of soul-searching.


Brookings just released a paper on "The Anatomy of Illiberal States" - in Europe. The link takes you to the pdf. of the 55-page report. Amusingly it focuses on Europe and seems to have nothing to say about the Illiberal States of America.

I'm Sorry But the Dauphin Screwed Up

The Trudeau brand has taken a few hits since Justin became prime minister but this latest fiasco involving ex-Justice Minister Jody is an ugly, possibly even indelible stain on that once legendary name.

Justin screwed up, big time, and it's hard to see how he can steer the Liberal government back out of the ditch he drove it into in time for the October elections.

How many Canadians who have watched this unfold can doubt that this prime minister was ready to bend the rules when that became in his and SNC-Lavalin's mutual interests.

The calculus was simple. If SNC-L was criminally convicted of its overseas bribes it would be unable to bid on government contracts for a decade. Facing a similar, 10-year ban from bidding on World Bank contracts, this could cost Quebec several thousand jobs just in time for the federal elections.  For the sake of Liberal fortunes in October, SNC-L had to be taken off the hook. Jody wouldn't go along and so she was removed as A.G., presumably to make way for a more compliant successor.

Everyone smelled a rat, an odour that only worsened when Trudeau's principal secretary, Gerry Butts, abruptly took his leave.

The opposition, as is their job, went for it. Trudeau had no choice but to let Jody testify before a Commons committee and take his chances. That backfired on the prime minister and, so, here we are.

Trudeau's acolytes assure each other that this is a lot of nothing, it was only politics. Whether even they believe that it's apparent few Canadians agree.

There are calls for the prime minister to resign - in disgrace - and even a few calling for a criminal investigation.

If Trudeau has some plan to pull his fat out of the fire, he'd better not waste time and it had better be good. Meanwhile the party should start looking for new talent, someone a lot better than the last three.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Did SNC-Lavalin Try to Shake Down the Trudeau Government?

From what I've read in the funny papers, the Trudeau government, with an election just months away, twisted ex-justice minister Jody's arm after the prime minister's arm was twisted by SNC-Lavalin.

The coercion allegedly came in the form of a threat by the company to leave Montreal if it didn't get taken off the hook. The powers that be feared that such a move would cost the Liberals big time in the October elections and so they pressured J W-R to make their problems go away by somehow intervening with the Director of Public Prosecutions to go easy on SNC-Lavalin.

If that's the case it seems that SNC-Lavalin tried to 1) obstruct justice by 2) extorting the Liberal government and top Liberals then 3) attempted to pervert justice by trying to derail the criminal prosecution of a company too strategically important to Liberal electoral fortunes to resist.

Did that happen? I don't know but, given what's appeared in the papers, it does seem plausible.

If there is anything to this rumour then this scandal is about far more than justice minister Jody's demotion.

What churns my stomach is the idea of a not-ready-for-prime-time prime minister handing this on a platter to the endlessly creepy "Chuckles" Scheer. That would be unforgivable.

Can You Imagine a Canadian Government Without One of the Two Major Parties?

Could there come a day when either the Liberals or the Conservatives disappear from federal politics? It's hard to imagine but a UBC political science prof, Richard Johnston, thinks one of the two must inevitably succumb to first-past-the-post blowback.

Johnston’s theme is Duverger’s Law and Canadian politics’ refusal to obey it. Maurice Duverger was a political scientist who in the 1950s and ’60s argued that majoritarian democracies — those using first-past-the-post elections — tend to have only two parties. 
These might begin as liberal and conservative, but as such countries industrialize a labour party emerges as well. Liberals and conservatives then work out some kind of co-operation against the leftist threat, from coalition to outright merger. If that fails, one old-line party destroys the other, or both succumb to an “insurgent” right-wing party bringing a plague on both their houses. 
In the process, one party claims the right of centre and the labour party becomes the official left. The centre remains empty. 
Except in Canada, where the federal Liberals hold that ground. 
Duverger’s Law operates pretty reliably on the provincial level. B.C. is a good example: the rise of the old Co-operative Commonwealth Federation provoked a Liberal-Conservative coalition that held power through the 1940s before it fell apart and the insurgent Social Credit party replaced it. When the Socreds began to decay in the 1980s, a new Liberal party emerged and, hijacked by refugee Socreds, soon moved rightward. 
But provinces are singular polities. Federally, Johnston argues, Canada has been two polities: Quebec and everyone else. Quebec tends to vote overwhelmingly for one party — usually the Liberals. That reliable base puts the Liberals halfway to a majority. They can even lose much of the rest of the country and still survive as a minority centrist government. 
This puts the Conservatives in a predicament. Once in a great while the Liberals lose their grip on Quebec. Even if the Conservatives don’t get most of Quebec’s vote, they have a good chance of taking power anyway as a third party emerges. Diefenbaker, Mulroney and Harper all succeeded when Quebec fell out of love with the Liberals.
The urge to preserve FPTP
The elections of 2006, 2008 and 2011 were a slow-motion train wreck for the Liberals. By 2011 Duverger’s Law seemed to be working against them. The Bloc Québécois held the province as the Conservatives on the right and the rising NDP on the left began to crush the Liberal centre out of existence — very much as Stephen Harper had long dreamed. 
Justin Trudeau wrecked that dream in 2015 simply by regaining Quebec at the expense of the Bloc and the NDP. While leading a third party in Parliament he’d called for proportional representation, which would at least give each party a reasonable number of seats. But once in power with a comfortable majority, Trudeau became a first-past-the-post majoritarian again; under PR, he’d have had nowhere to go but down.
Could Johnston be right? Are the Liberals or the Conservatives doomed? Will the NDP become the "other party" in a new, two-party state? It does seem a bit far-fetched to me.

I'm unsure that conventional politics of the sort we've known in the post-war era will survive intact from the turbulent changes we know, with near certainty, are looming. We may want, even need, different things from our national governments than we have up till now. We may want a different relationship between the electorate and those they install in office or, alternatively, what we get may not be what we want at all.

What if the Liberals shed their Conservative-Lite ethos and regain their institutional memory of an earlier time before they became a centre-right party. That was a time when the party had enough muscle and flexibility to shift the political centre left or right to meet the needs of the day. There was a time when Liberals were adept at trespassing on the turf of the left or the right.

For the Liberals, that sort of leadership faltered after Pierre Trudeau stepped down. That sort of Laurier-St. Laurent-Pearson-PE Trudeau leadership may be beyond today's LPC. It is probably unwise for this current Liberal Party to depend on the right fracturing under the weight of its own factionalism. That can't save them forever.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

I Was Never a Fan, Before This. Sometimes Courage Shows Up at the Most Unexpected Places.

I'm not one for Hollywood stars and starlets. It's been at least 20 years since I last watched the Oscars.

Yet I saw something that happened Sunday night that was amazing. It occured at the Vanity Fair 'after party.' It was Selma Blair (I had to Google who she was) walking the celebrity carpet.

It turns out that Selma Blair has a pretty debilitating case of MS, muscular sclerosis. But, in obvious pain, she didn't let that disease stop her from attending the Vanity Fair soiree. The reaction from others with that disease and similar degenerative afflictions was an outpouring of thanks for her courage and determination. And did she ever look like a million bucks.

Jonn Has a Point. Sometimes Great Weather Should be Terrifying.

The buzzword in the British press has been "glorious" to describe the first time the UK has experienced 20 degree Celsius heatwave in February. To Jonn Elldge it's not glorious at all. It's terrifying.

On Monday, the temperature hit 20.3C in Ceredigion, west Wales: the highest February temperature ever recorded in Britain and the first time the thermometer had breached 20C in winter. The BBC weather account tweeted it out with a gif of the sunshine icon and the same excitable breathlessness with which Springwatch would announce it had found a new type of vole. My response contained a single word, repeated seven times. It began with F. 
Because this isn’t good, is it? However enjoyable the unreasonable sunshine feels, whatever feeling of relief it instils in you after weeks of grey sky and Brexit, the idea of beach temperatures in February should be scaring the living shit out of you. It shouldn’t be possible to wander round London half-naked in February without bits of you falling off. There is a fairly direct inverse correlation between your ability to go out without a jacket at this latitude in winter and a polar bear’s likelihood of surviving the winter – yet the population of Britain wandered round with their shirts undone looking pleased with themselves. Nation of animal lovers my arse. Something has gone wrong.

John Lanchester’s latest novel, The Wall, portrays a dystopian, post-climate change Britain in which the entire country has been walled off to prevent “others”, from the ruined, flooded world beyond, getting in. The young resent the old because the change happened on their watch; the state kills with ease, and slavery has returned. But it is set in a place that is still recognisable as this country, in which people go to pubs, get pissed, commute on crowded railway lines and think the Lake District is a nice place to go. It’s a vision that’s haunting precisely because it is so banal. You can believe in this future. The world is ruined, and the British people have conspired as much as possible to ignore the fact.
The country’s response to this unseasonably warm spell suggests Lanchester may be on to something. The 20 hottest years on record have all happened within the past 22 years; the five hottest were the last five. Yet the beaches and the beer gardens fill up, while the papers describe the weather as glorious and expend more words on the latest Westminster soap opera than on the looming climate crisis. The thing about an environmental apocalypse is that it doesn’t have a face.

Dianne Feinstein's Overdue Pink Slip

It was not Dianne Feinstein's greatest moment when the 85 year old senator from California bared her fangs at a gaggle of school kids beseeching her to support the Green New Deal.

Feinstein was not going to take any guff, especially from kids who won't be eligible to vote for one or two general elections.

To me, it was like nails dragged across a chalkboard when Feinstein glowered at the kids and said, "who is going to pay for this?"

I so wish someone had been there to tell Feinstein, "what will these kids have to pay if you don't?"

People who think like Feinstein, be they 85 or 55, have to go. They're making horrible decisions that they won't have to pay for. It's those kids she so angrily rebuked, they'll have to pay and that won't be pretty.

It's not just fossil fuels that have to go. The fossils occupying senior posts in our legislatures - they've got to go as well.

CBC (Finally) Calls Out Scheer as Soft on Racism

Andrew Scheer knew he wasn't dancing with the angels when he came out to greet the mixed crowd of pipeline supports and white nationalists (or worse) who journeyed together from Alberta to Parliament Hill. several observers noted watching the convoy make its way to Ottawa from Alberta, United We Roll had also become a space for far-right groups to spew racism and xenophobia. Signs denouncing open borders, protesting Canada signing on to the global migration pact and accusing the prime minister of treason hung alongside signs supporting pipelines. Some convoy participants wore hats that said "Make Canada Great Again," a nod to U.S. President Donald Trump's slogan that has become associated with denigrating Mexicans, asylum seekers and banning Muslims from entering the U.S.

Because the convoy has become affiliated with such unsettling rhetoric, unwavering support from high-profile Conservative politicians — such as Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who addressed the group last week — is troubling, and could potentially hurt the party's chances in the upcoming fall election.
Conservatives going soft on bigotry, who knew?
Scheer ought to have made a distinction between his support for Canadian oil workers, and support for the racism and violence that has been associated with United We Roll. Conservative Senator David Tkachuk even told the crowd to "roll over" Liberals across the country, and he has since refused to apologize.

The rally has also been associated with Yellow Vests Canada, a group whose Facebook page is rife with racist and xenophobic views, particularly towards Muslims and immigrants. In fact, the United We Roll convoy was originally named the Yellow Vest Convoy, but was changed due to the obviously problematic association.

Members of the Yellow Vests Canada Facebook group have advocated for MP Iqra Khalid to be deported, called visible minorities sub-human and scum, and made death threats against the prime minister. Despite that, United We Roll lead organizer Glen Carritt implied that everyone would be welcome to attend ("It doesn't matter — you can wear a yellow vest, or blue coveralls or black hardhat or suit and tie," he said) and Yellow Vest organizer Mark Friesen was indeed in attendance.

One of the speakers at the rally was Faith Goldy, who was fired from Rebel Media after appearing on a neo-Nazi podcast, and who regularly bemoans the erosion of "white identity." Scheer spoke on the same platform that she did, ignoring what should be a toxic association.
...During the presidential election in 2008, Republican John McCain defended Barack Obama against racist questions from audience members during a town hall event. Scheer could just as easily have spoken at the United We Roll rally by telling protestors he supports their efforts with regards to the oil and gas industry, while simultaneously chastising the racist and xenophobic rhetoric that was circulating.

Instead, Scheer simply stated: "We're standing with you."
Know who else is standing with Faith Goldy? This lout:

As for me, I blame Preston for legitimizing the bigotry that infests today's conservative movement in this country. They formed a coven inside Manning's Reform Party and they're still just beneath the surface.

I May Join "Team I Really Don't Want to Know"

Fresh from this morning's MIT Tech Review - we're all gonna die. Want the details? Why would you?

If you're still with me, here's the deal. Looks like the planet is in for a lot more sunny skies. The flip side (do you even remember vinyl records?) is that global warming may leave us with less cloud cover.

The kids from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are reporting a new study published in Nature Geoscience claims that global warming could cause enough loss of cloud cover over our oceans to trigger up to 8 degrees Celsius of warming.

Curiously, the normally fastidious crew at MIT overlooked mentioning that the research came out of rival CalTech which happens to manage NASA's legendary Jet Propulsion Lab.

Supercomputer simulations suggest that greenhouse gases are causing the disappearance of clouds over our oceans, and that could drastically speed up global warming over the next century, a paper in Nature Geoscience suggests. Specifically, the tipping point is predicted to come once atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations reach about 1,200 parts per million. The figure is currently about 410 ppm but could reach 1,200 ppm within the next century.
This scenario would be similar to an event that occurred about 56 million years ago during the Eocene period, according to the authors. During the so-called Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a sudden release of carbon into the atmosphere was followed by a sudden temperature increase of more than 5 °C. It had catastrophic effects. It caused mass extinction in the seas and was hot enough for crocodiles to swim in the Arctic.
Now, in fairness, if mankind makes it through the next thirty or forty years there's a decent chance we'll work out some means of artificial cloud cover if for no other reason than so we don't all die. That's called "geo-engineering" which is scary in its own right. But 8 degrees Celsius, that really doesn't leave you with a lot of options, right? Right?

Just How Did Jagmeet Win South Burnaby?

Every party needs a leader in the House of Commons so best wishes to NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, the honourable member for South Burnaby.

The nation has no shortage of those who cast bones and read entrails to make sense of these things. I'm not one of those. While I may not have answers, I do have questions.

What role did Trudeau's Trans Mountain pipeline play in the Liberal's defeat?

What role did the Jody Wilson Raybould fracas play in the Liberal's defeat?

What role did the first Liberal candidate kerfuffle play in the Liberal's defeat?

The folks in Burnaby, where the Trudeau Memorial Supertanker Tank Farm/Dock is based have been among the fiercest opponents of the prime minister's climate wrecking scheme to flood the world with toxic, high-carbon sludge petroleum. When they get in their boats to head out for a sail or a day salmon fishing they pass the fortified, razor wire compound. Not nice. Looks like a prison or a concentration camp.

What role did the supposed mauling of ex-Justice Minister Jody, another Lower Mainlander, play in Jagmeet's win? There's not a paper on the coast, all owned by staunch Conservative supporters, that hasn't filled its pages with the SNC-Lavalin business in recent weeks. I suppose that also gave Jagmeet a welcome leg up.

Of less concern was the Liberal candidate fiasco. The first offering was booted because of some unfortunate remarks she made about Jagmeet. She wasn't very impressive anyway. It seemed like a staged Asian (Liberal)/South Asian (NDP) standoff.

In any case, Jagmeet won with 38 per cent of the vote. Don't smirk. Hell, this is Canada. We can elect a majority government on 38 per cent of the vote. Think of it as Vox Populi Not.

Ordinarily I wouldn't dwell on a by-election win but October is drawing closer and the Trudeau Liberals, whose fortunes seem to be flagging in other parts of the country, may be desperate to keep as many of those coastal BC seats as possible in the general election. I'm not sure they deserve to hold onto any of them.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Senator Tkachuk, It's Cal Bahr On the Line. Says He's Outdone Ya.

It was just a few days ago that Tory senator Dave Tkachuk, addressing the white nationalist crowd who showed up on Parliament Hill, urged the truckers to run over every Liberal in the land.

Well, Dave Tkachuk has nothing on Minnesota state Rep. Cal Bahr. when he called on Minnesotans to push back on gun control advocates.
“There’s a lot of us in this room that have had enough, and it’s time to start riding herd on the rest of these people that want to take your rights away from you,” Bahr said during the Minnesota Gun Owner Caucus rally.

He added that advocates calling for gun control would "not go quietly into the good night." 
"They need to be kicked to the curb and stomped on and run over a few times,” Bahr said.
Hell's Bells, that's not just run over. It's kicked to the curb, stomped and run over repeatedly. Sort of makes Tkachuk look like a rank amateur, a moron.

Bahr, like Tkachuk, said his words were taken out of context. He didn't want anybody to hurt anyone - not really - just stomp them and run 'em over a little - two, maybe three times max.

If Memory Serves

There is one among our ranks who has pursued the prime minister and others for their conduct in the SNC-Lavalin affair. This person has even named it "LavScam."

Of course, LavScam brings to mind an earlier Liberal scandal known as AdScam or the Sponsorship Scandal that deeply damaged the Liberal brand for a decade.

The individual of whom I write is well aware of the earlier scandal that happened on then prime minister Jean Chretien's watch.

If memory serves, this individual later blamed the Liberal scandal thrashing on Chretien's successor, prime minister Paul Martin. I seem to recall this individual saying the fallout was Mr. Martin's fault because he launched a commission of enquiry when, according to this individual, Martin ought to have stonewalled the opposition critics until the whole business simply went away.

Sorry. Maybe it's just me but I'm having trouble reconciling then and now. Maybe it's just old fashioned cognitive dissonance. There seems to be a lot of that going around.

The Degenerate in Chief Strikes Back

The White House is out to undermine the scientific consensus on man-made climate change.
The National Security Council initiative would include scientists who question the severity of climate impacts and the extent to which humans contribute to the problem, according to these individuals. The group would not be subject to the same level of public disclosure as a formal advisory committee. 
It would represent the Trump Administration's most forceful effort to date to challenge the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions are helping drive global warming and that the world could face dire consequences unless countries curb their carbon output over the next few decades.
Attendees at the session, which included acting interior secretary David Bernhardt and senior officials from throughout the government, debated how best to establish a group of researchers that could scrutinise recent federal climate reports. 
More than one participant suggested that they might face a challenge establishing an independent outside panel that would question central findings of the National Climate Assessment and other landmark federal reports, said one official familiar with the discussion. 
William Happer, who headed an advocacy group called the CO2 Coalition before joining the Administration, has challenged the scientific consensus on climate change inside and outside of government. 
Public records show the coalition, which describes its mission as informing policymakers and the public of the "important contribution made by carbon dioxide to our lives and the economy," has received money from far-right organisations and donors with fossil fuel interests.
So, at long last there's going to be an independent review of this so-called scientific consensus only its proceedings will not be public, it won't have the customary obligations of public disclosure and it will be made up of hand-picked, declared doubters with money ties to far-right organizations and the fossil fuel industry. I can't wait to see what they'll conclude, can you?

Climate Change Consensus Hits "Gold Standard"

This must have caused a couple of hard swallows at The Globe & Mail. "Evidence global warming is man-made hits 'gold standard.'

Well, duh.
Evidence for man-made global warming has reached a “gold standard” level of certainty, adding pressure for cuts in greenhouse gases to limit rising temperatures, scientists said on Monday. 
“Humanity cannot afford to ignore such clear signals,” the U.S.-led team wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change of satellite measurements of rising temperatures over the past 40 years. 
They said confidence that human activities were raising the heat at the Earth’s surface had reached a “five-sigma” level, a statistical gauge meaning there is only a one-in-a-million chance that the signal would appear if there was no warming. 
Such a “gold standard” was applied in 2012, for instance, to confirm the discovery of the Higgs boson subatomic particle, a basic building block of the universe.
...Mainstream scientists say the burning of fossil fuels is causing more floods, droughts, heat waves and rising sea levels.
And not a bit of this will register on the policies of the petro-state be it in the hands of Liberals or Conservatives. That is the measure of how sordid, how perverse political leadership in Canada has become.

Floods, droughts, and heat waves are already killing people, mainly in the poorest and most vulnerable countries. There is a clear link between climate change impacts and war, including war of subsistence, war of survival. Research has found links between the ravages of climate change and the spread of terrorism. Hey, those people know it is the developed world, the industrialized nations that were instrumental in their suffering, dislocation, even death. Why wouldn't some of them want a little payback?
...violations of subsistence rights (to the material resources we need to lead a minimally decent life) provide victims with a just cause for war, partly because severe mass poverty undermines collective interests in collective self-determination, but also on the deeper grounds that threats to one's life, of which starvation is one, warrant defensive killing. The claim holds not merely when the rights violations take the form of a wrongful action, but also (more controversially) when they take the form of a wrongful omission. Having thus expanded on the account of just causes for war offered in Chapter 2, Chapter 3 makes a first foray into the issue of legitimate authority, and argues that the right to wage a subsistence war is held not merely by states whose populations suffer unjustly from severe poverty and which are not themselves responsible for that predicament, but also (controversially) by responsible states as well as by victims themselves. The chapter ends with an account of the grounds upon which individual affluent members of affluent communities who are derelict in their duty to the very poor are legitimate targets in war. It argues that some of those members are not protected by the principle of non-combatant immunity.
We, who already live in prosperity, ease and comfort, pursue an expansive energy policy to flood world markets with toxic, high-carbon bitumen with a now conclusive awareness of what that will do to the planet, how it will threaten others' basic subsistence. There may be consequences that attach to that, even if we only look the other way. You may become a legitimate target in a war of subsistence the Fossil Fuelers have caused. Your right to claim non-combatant immunity may be nullified.

Hedges' Anguished Plea

In his latest column, Chris Hedges calls for a mass uprising this April. He envisions a rebellion in major cities and capitols by thousands of people resorting to civil disobedience, a precursor of sorts to an overthrow of the very order that brought us to the brink of mass extinction. Yet there's an unmistakable desperation in his words:
If we do not shake off our lethargy, our anomie, and resist, our misery, despondency and feelings of helplessness will mount. We will become paralyzed. Resistance, especially given the bleakness before us, is about more than winning. It is about a life of meaning. It is about empowerment. It is a public declaration that we will no longer live according to the dominant lie. It is a message to the elites: YOU DO NOT OWN US. It is about defending our dignity, agency and self-respect. The more we free ourselves from the bondage of fear to throw up barriers along the forced march toward ecocide the more we will be enveloped by a strange kind of euphoria, one I often felt as a war correspondent documenting horrific suffering and atrocities to shame the killers. We obliterate despair in our acts of defiance, even if our victories are Pyrrhic. We reach out to those around us. Courage is contagious. It is the spark that ignites mass revolt. And we should, even if we fail, at least choose how we will die. Resistance is the only action left that will allow us to remain psychologically whole. And it is the only action left that has any hope of halting the wholesale extinction of the human race, not to mention most other species.
Resistance is about more than winning. Phyrric victories, we'll take what we can get. Hardly the lingo of those who might storm a Bastille. Yet it is about taking a stand, perhaps a last stand, in defence of our "dignity, agency and self-respect."

Hedges quotes Extinction Rebellion co-founder, Roger Hallem:

“There’s a fundamental difference between breaking the law and not breaking the law,” he went on. “It’s a binary difference. When you break the law, then you’re massively more effective in terms of material and psychological influence as well as media interest. The more dramatic the civil disobedience, the better. It’s a numbers game. You want people blocking the streets, but you need ten, twenty, thirty thousand. You don’t need 3 million. You need enough for the state to have to decide whether to use repression on a mass scale or invite you into the room. The gambit, of course, particularly in the U.K., is that the state is weak. It’s been hollowed out by neoliberalism. They’re going to find themselves overwhelmed. We will get in the room.”
How would Ottawa respond to a mass challenge to its authority? Repression on a mass scale or negotiation? Would it be a repeat of the Toronto G20 fiasco?  Riot cops, CS gas, kettling?

Would we even turn out, flooding major city streets with ten, twenty or thirty thousand people of resolve?

So many questions, so few answers? Can you imagine yourself answering the call, engaging in criminal acts to paralyze, if only temporarily, the state?

Then again, there is hope:

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Perilous Plight of the Southern Resident Orca

To the National Energy Board the TransMountain pipeline expansion is  "likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects on the Southern resident killer whale." The NEB went on to conclude, "yeah, but so what?"

So they get a little beat up, what's the big deal?

Even before Admiral Justin's armada of supertankers steams out onto the Salish Sea these orca are barely hanging on.  An article in today's Seattle Times explores the perilous plight of the southern orca. Will Justin finish them off?

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Nikiforuk - "A New Low" Even for the NEB

Canada's top energy journalist, Andrew Nikiforuk, sees a litigation-filled future for the National Energy Board's "reconsideration" report on Trudeau's Trans Mountain pipeline.
With its so-called “reconsideration report” on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the board has plunged into the shallows once again. 
After a federal court struck down the project’s original approval because it failed to consider the impacts of increased tanker traffic or consult meaningfully with First Nations, the board pretended to revisit these issues in 155 days. 
In doing so they conducted another flawed paper exercise that will be challenged in the courts again.
But this time around the board did admit that the pipeline and associated tanker traffic could devastate orcas, threaten the marine economy with the risk of oil spills and erode Indigenous cultural practices on the coast.

But hey, the benefits are so worth it, the NEB concluded. 
And how did the board calculate the benefits? 
The Canadian government, which now owns the 65-year-old pipeline, simply dug up the same 2015 Muse Stancil report commissioned by Kinder Morgan to justify the pipeline four years ago. 
How’s that for a new standard of laziness
And what assumptions did the outdated report make? 
Well, Muse Stancil said Canada stood to make billions provided that oil prices would be above $100; assumed the Canadian dollar would be on par with the U.S. greenback; that other pipelines would not be built; that increased supply will win higher prices in Asia; and that all bitumen is subject to a North American discount — when in fact only a third is subject to such pricing. 
None of these assumptions hold any water today.

Oil prices have slumped and entered a whole new era of volatility. At the same time the Canadian dollar keeps treading water.
Is the Canadian government, on behalf of a deleriously grateful nation, going to wind up subsidizing costs for pipeline customers?
...By refusing to take a fresh look at the economic data and changing global oil markets, the NEB is misleading Canadians who own the pipeline
David Hughes, a leading Canada’s energy analyst and a former researcher for National Resources Canada, says he is scratching his head at the report. 
All the NEB has to do is look at current oil prices to see the claim Asian markets will pay higher prices for oil sands crude is “just bogus,” he said. “The premium for heavy oil is the U.S. Gulf Coast, and not in Asia.”
It's hard to tell what is worse, the Trudeau government's duplicity or its incompetence.
As global heavy oil supplies have declined due to political chaos in Venezuela and other developments, Canada’s best market remains the U.S. Midwest and Gulf Coast where complex refineries exist to handle heavy oil, it found. “Lacking alternative markets, growing heavy oil supply from Canada has taken on an increasing role in meeting U.S. demand,” noted the report. 
And why would NEB ignore economic developments in China? 
Its ravenous industrial economy has made it the largest importer of oil, but that economy is now dramatically slowing.
The board also apparently didn’t look at the latest oil sands report from GlobalData. 
It warned that oil sands “processes are energy intensive, consume large volumes of water and result in emission of greenhouse gases in high volumes,” and that many financial service companies such as Equinor and HSBC will no longer fund such projects.

“Considering the overall complexity of the oil sands extraction process, global prices for crude oil will have to remain at comparatively higher levels to ensure profitability from oil sands projects,” it warned. 
And how is that supposed to happen in a world loosely committed to lessening oil demand?
Show me the money, honey.
Hughes said the idea Canada can get rich through oil sands exports is just not borne out by the data
Canadian governments collected $16.6 billion in royalties from oil and gas extraction in 2000, but that number had shrunk to $6.8 billion by 2017, according to figures provided by Canadian Association for Petroleum Producers. 
At the same time Canada doubled oil production, largely from the oil sands. 
We doubled production and got $10 billion less in royalties,” said Hughes. “We are not getting anything for the resource, and the export of oil is having a huge impact on our GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions.” 
“Obviously we have to ramp production down, and we have to ramp down personal oil consumption.” 
And obviously, the Canadian government and its servant, the National Energy Board, haven’t got a clue.

Manafort Memo Released

It's not a memorandum. It's not a booklet. It's an 800 page tome, most of it appendices. 

CNN has the lightly redacted memo, sans appendices, here.

Justin Tru - mp

Now, like good (as in docile) Canadians I suppose we should be saying, "oh shucks, I don't like that very much but, if they're saying it's for the greater good, I guess okay."

If that's what it means to be Canadian, thanks but no thanks.

The National Observer sums up the National Energy Board's predictable verdict on the Justin Trudeau Memorial Pipeline.

On Friday, the National Energy Board recommended approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, for the second time. Opponents were quick to mobilize against the recommendation. The Federal Court of Appeal quashed the original approval last August because the government hadn’t lived up to constitutional protections for Indigenous rights and hadn’t taken marine impacts into account. 
A new round of Indigenous consultation is still ongoing but the NEB ‘reconsidered’ other issues. Here are the key findings, in the NEB's own words: 
“... likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects on the Southern resident killer whale and on Indigenous cultural use associated with the Southern resident killer whale. 
"... greenhouse gas emissions from Project-related marine vessels would likely be significant." 
"While a credible worst-case spill from the Project or a Project-related marine vessel is not likely, if it were to occur the environmental effects would be significant." 
"While these effects weighed heavily in the NEB’s consideration of Project-related marine shipping, the NEB recommends that the Government of Canada find that they can be justified in the circumstances, in light of the considerable benefits of the Project and measures to minimize the effects."

Now, the feds have 90 days to decide whether to approve the pipeline they bought.
Even the industry shills that still dominate Justin Trudeau's National Energy Board can't avoid the truth - not entirely - although they gave it a good shot. It's still a stacked deck report, literally pre-ordained.

This whole thing has been cooked up and Justin Trudeau's own fingerprints are all over it. He rigged his own government's assessment of the Trans Mountain pipeline. Senior government officials tasked with assessing this cursed venture were summoned to a room where they were told that their "independent" assessments had to come out in favour of this pipeline. The fix was in.

Having gone to such lengths to corrupt the public service do you think Trudeau was expecting anything less from his jury-rigged National Energy Board?

I used to think that Trudeau was, in many ways, a lot like Harper. Now, on energy policy, he's coming to resemble Trump.

Both men have no qualms about flooding world markets with high carbon fossil fuels.

Both men are ignoring the understated warning of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the world has until 2030 to slash greenhouse gas emissions by at least half. If not we'll have to prepare for runaway global warming.

Both men govern nations that are major emitters of greenhouse gases and neither seems inclined to slash their country's per capita emissions. Trudeau isn't even on course to meet Harper's laughable emissions targets. He's falling further and further behind and that finding comes from his very own Environment Canada.

Both men ignore their own governments' science. Trump ignores NOAA, NASA and NCAR. He dismisses his own scientists' National Climate Assessment with a flippant, "I don't believe it." Trudeau tells us he's "done the science" but never produces it. Meanwhile experts - Alberta's Dave Shindler, the Royal Society of Canada, even Environment Canada - directly contradict the prime minister. The science has not been done and do you think there must be a reason for that. I do.

Donald Trump is in the bag for America's fossil fuel giants. Justin Trudeau has amply demonstrated that he is in the bag for Canada's fossil fuel giants. our petro-provinces and his petro-state.

I don't know if you stood them back to back there'd be any sunlight between them, at least when it comes to high-carbon fossil fuel.

Still can't believe this Liberal government is corrupt? Read this.
“I guess that's something that wouldn't have fazed me at all if the Harper government was still in power, but given the change in government, seeing as how we were told to provide serious advice, I was rather shocked at being given that kind of direction. It's not something that I would have expected from a Liberal government.”
Go ahead. Read the entire article. You might also want to read how Kinder Morgan, resigned to taking a big loss on a pipeline no one else would touch, discovered how desperate Trudeau was to push that pipeline expansion through and used Trudeau's desperation to turn Trans Mountain into a handsome, windfall profit, straight from the federal treasury.

When Justin Trudeau forked out $4.5 billion to Kinder Morgan, he locked himself in. The notion that the Trudeau government will "review" the NEB report is farcical. This is, after all, the same government that twisted its senior officials' arms to ensure they gave it their seal of approval. Put it all together and it's corruption writ large.

I hope this doesn't come to violence but there's no ruling that out. Some people don't like to be steamrollered and that's exactly what's happening. Jim Carr has already let slip that the Trudeau government might call in the army. Once he realized how stupid he was to let that out, he promptly but unconvincingly retracted his threat. So, between the federal government's secret pipeline police intelligence operation (RCMP and CSIS), all the lies and corruption that have become this government's stock in trade, and the threat of calling in the army to deal with pesky protesters, some people might say "enough."

Friday, February 22, 2019

Why Do the Scumbags Always Link Back to Trump?

This time it's Trump cronies Jeffrey Epstein and Alexander Acosta.

Epstein is a multi-millionaire juvenile sex predator and Trump play pal. Acosta was the prosecuting attorney who cut Epstein the sweetheart deal of all time and somehow wound up as Trump's labor secretary.

Here's the background to what transpired between prosecutor Acosta and Epstein's counsel back in 2007:
Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, 54, was accused of assembling a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day, the Town of Palm Beach police found. 
The eccentric hedge fund manager ...was also suspected of trafficking minor girls, often from overseas, for sex parties at his other homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and the Caribbean, FBI and court records show. 
Facing a 53-page federal indictment, Epstein could have ended up in federal prison for the rest of his life. 
But on the morning of the breakfast meeting, a deal was struck — an extraordinary plea agreement that would conceal the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and the number of people involved
Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement — essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records
The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes. These accomplices or participants were not identified in the agreement, leaving it open to interpretation whether it possibly referred to other influential people who were having sex with underage girls at Epstein’s various homes or on his plane.
Yesterday a judge said the deal Acosta fashioned was illegal. No shit. And last month, presumably responding to the heat this sham has attracted thanks to the Miami Herald, the justice department opened an investigation into Acosta.

Trump hasn't weighed in yet but, if he does, he'll probably say that he wouldn't know Jeffrey Epstein if he was standing next to the guy, not even if he and Melania were standing next to Epstein and a woman reputed to have recruited young girls for him.

Trump, Melania, Epstein, Robert Maxwell's daughter, Ghislaine.

Now this is not to say that Trump, a self-confessed serial sexual deviant, ever partook of Epstein's generosity or that he rewarded Acosta with the labour secretary job  for granting immunity to any "potential co-conspirators" because, after all, what president would do that sort of thing? Oh yeah.

Responding to the latest events, the White House said it's looking into Acosta's role in the Epstein case.
"My understanding is it is a very complicated case, certainly something we're looking into," [Sarah] Sanders told reporters a day after a federal judge in Florida ruled that prosecutors, led by Acosta, had broken the law by signing a non-prosecution agreement with Epstein without notifying his sex abuse victims.

Sanders said she believed prosecutors "made the best possible decision and deal they could have gotten at the time, but again, that's something we're looking into." Asked if President Donald Trump still had confidence in Acosta, Sanders said, "We're looking into the matter but I'm not aware of any changes."
The Trump labor department wasted no time coming to Acosta's defence:
After Judge Kenneth Marra's finding in the victims' case that Acosta's office had violated the notification law, a Department of Labor spokesperson released a statement Thursday defending his actions. 
Decisions made by Acosta's office "were approved by departmental leadership and followed departmental procedures. This matter remains in litigation and, thus, for any further comment we refer you to the Department of Justice," the statement said.
Also linked to Epstein are Alan Dershowitz, Ken Starr, Bill Clinton, Prince "Randy Andy" Andrew and, of course, Donald Trump.

It's Friday. Will the Day's Best be Last?

I realize some of you are nose-deep in the SNC-Lavalin business which, perhaps wrongly, is becoming a bit tedious to me.

My attention is on the federal court, DC district, where this afternoon Team Mueller is scheduled to file its sentencing submission on Paul Manafort's convictions for conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy witness tampering. This is not the fraud and tax evasion case.

Those who should know think Mueller's submissions may spill the beans on many aspects of the special counsel's investigation into Trump and Russian meddling in the 2016 election.  The idea is to get it out in the open before Trump's new Attorney General can bury it.

Prosecutors are set to outline all facts they believe the judge should consider at his sentencing, now set for March 13. That will likely include Manafort's criminal business schemes, his attempt to reach out to key contacts after his arrest and the lies he told to prosecutors and a grand jury after he agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation.

Often, in filings like these, prosecutors will pull together a complete retelling of the defendant's crimes, convictions and cooperation. Details about Manafort's cooperation have been especially guarded by prosecutors, since his interviews are a significant part of Mueller's investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.
Prosecutors will also likely suggest a range the judge could give him in prison time. 
The memo Friday will cover the two charges Manafort pleaded guilty to in September, conspiracy against the US and conspiracy witness tampering, which he committed after he was arrested by trying to reach out to former colleagues. 
At the time of his plea, he also admitted to a litany of money laundering and foreign lobbying crimes that encompassed his work for Ukrainian politicians and other clients over several years. Co-conspirators, Manafort said, were his long-time colleagues Rick Gates, who is still cooperating with Mueller, and Konstantin Kilimnik, whom prosecutors say is connected to Russian intelligence and who is at the heart of their inquiry. 
The memo will also likely cover his and Kilimnik's alleged contact with potential witnesses in his case after Manafort's October 2017 arrest, and his lies about his interactions with Kilimnik in 2016 and other topics. 
Previously, prosecutors said Manafort should face up to 25 years in prison and pay tens of millions of dollars for tax and bank fraud. Friday's sentencing memo will speak to consequences that could pile on top of the those.
Stay tuned.

Screw the Whales. Screw British Columbia.

The National Energy Board has predictably - yes, entirely predictably - concluded that the Trans Mountain Pipeline, a.k.a. the Justin Trudeau Memorial Pipeline, a.k.a. the People's Pipeline, is in the national interest even if it does screw over British Columbia's already endangered whales.

The NEB, bowing to the obvious, admitted the armada of extra supertanker traffic will have "significant adverse" impacts on the southern resident killer whales but, hey, so what.
“The considerable benefits of the project include increased access to diverse markets for Canadian oil; jobs created across Canada; the development of capacity of local and Indigenous individuals, communities and businesses; direct spending on pipeline materials in Canada; and considerable revenues to various levels of government,” the board said in a long-awaited report. 
Armed with the NEB report, the federal government will now continue its First Nations consultation to determine what precise concerns impacted communities have about with regards to the project, and how their views can be accommodated.
This was a stacked deck during Harper's reign. Despite his promises to clean it up, it remains a stacked deck under Harper's Liberal successor, Justin 'The Phony Pony' Trudeau.

This tears it. Even if you don't give a shit about the clear hazards to our coastal environment and our endangered marine life, you should at least have the decency to grasp what flooding world markets with high-carbon bitumen means to a planet on the very cusp of uncontrollable, runaway global warming. There are two sides here and, despite the bald faced lies of this prime minister, they're irreconcilable. You're either on the side of humanity and some viable future for our grandkids or you're on the side of this decrepit petro-state.  By the way, the default option, the let's look the other way option, that's pro-petro-state.

Your choice.

What Kind of an Allowance Is That for a 12-Year-Old?

It's funny what kids get up to in their parents' basements, especially pre-teens who can put their hands on ten large.

Consider the case of 12 year old Jackson Oswalt of Memphis, Tennessee who, with ten thousand dollars to spare, access to Ebay and a lot of creativity, became the youngest person to create a successful nuclear reaction, fusion, in his parents' basement.  What a busy little Beaver.
The Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, a hobbyist group, has recognised the achievement by Jackson Oswalt, from Memphis, Tennessee, when he was aged 12 in January 2018. 
“For those that haven’t seen my recent posts, it will come as a surprise that I would even consider believing I had achieved fusion,” Oswalt wrote on the forum.
The enterprising teenager said he transformed an old playroom in his parents’ house into a nuclear laboratory with $10,000 (£7,700) worth of equipment that uses 50,000 volts of electricity to heat deuterium gas and fuse the nuclei to release energy.
"I assembled a list of parts I needed. I got those parts off eBay primarily and then oftentimes the parts that I managed to scrounge off of eBay weren’t exactly what I needed. So I’d have to modify them to be able to do what I needed to do for my project.”

Theresa, It's Time to Get Off the Pot

Think back to your college days. The weekend parties. Eventually you nip upstairs to the can only to find a line of people anxiously waiting for that one person who hogs the loo and just will not get out. That, to me, is a metaphor for British prime minister, Theresa May.

Now admittedly she inherited a bad burrito from her predecessor, David Cameron. Every party has one of his kind too. In her case it was the habanero chicken with extra Monterey jack  called Brexit. That never ends well.

It's not that the poor dear isn't trying. She's just not getting any useful results. And now the "next in lines" are tired of waiting.

She's doing her best but it's not good enough. It's reached the point where even her buddies want her gone and who can blame them. In this weather nobody likes to nip out and relieve themselves in the shrubbery.
Cabinet ministers will make it clear they believe Theresa May should step down after the local elections in May and allow a new leader to deliver the next phase of the Brexit negotiations, the Guardian understands. 
Senior figures in government have suggested they want the prime minister to leave shortly after the first phase of the Brexit negotiations finishes – or risk being defeated in a vote of no confidence at the end of the year.
Poor dear. It doesn't sound like they'll be celebrating her career like they did for the Iron Lady. Then again, Thatcher won her war.

Dare to Dream. Imagine This.

Imagine if you were so rich, you could lose four billion dollars in one day on ketchup. That's Warren Buffett rich.

The bulti-billionaire ("multi" just doesn't do it justice) suffered - oh, the humanity - the loss when his shares in Kraft Heinz fell 25 per cent in a trice. (I threw in "trice" because I fear the word is falling into desuetude. Don't even get me started on "disquietude, assuetude" or "insuetude.")
“We were overly optimistic on delivering savings that did not materialize,” Kraft Heinz chief executive Bernardo Hees conceded on a conference call with investors, after the company announced it would slash its dividend. 
Investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has been particularly hard hit, losing more than $4bn in a day as shares in Kraft Heinz plunged. Kraft Heinz is one of Buffett’s largest positions, with 325 million shares at the end of 2018.
So, Mr. Buffett, would you like fries with that?

Anyone Up For a Little Crowdfunding?

There's one among our ranks who seems to be working overtime at grinding his axe on this Lavalin business. As far as I can tell, and I could be wrong, but it seems to be a "no one snubs me" sort of thing. Before long he's going to be down to the axe handle and then what?

If we all throw five or ten bucks into the kitty we should be able to cut a deal for a fresh supply of axes for this individual. Let me know if you're in.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

We're In No Mood for Listening

If someone gave you a credible warning that the road just around the bend was washed out would you hit the brakes or floor the gas pedal? What if you had a couple of toddlers in car seats in the back? I'll bet you would get on those brakes without hesitation.

So, when we're given very credible warnings that the world's food supply is in peril, isn't it odd how we just ignore them?

In 2014 the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned that intensive agriculture was exhausting the world's farmland so severely that we had, effectively, just sixty years of productive crop yields left. Just sixty years.

This wasn't something conjured up by some FAO wonk. I had read soil surveys from leading agronomists about this at least a couple of years before the UN report was released. Our industrial agriculture with heavy applications of agri-chems - fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides - was producing record crops even as it leeched the soil of essential carbon and microbial nutrients.  Guess what? We're still doing it.

Now we're compounding that with another threat - biodiversity loss.
The world’s capacity to produce food is being undermined by humanity’s failure to protect biodiversity, according to the first UN study of the plants, animals and micro-organisms that help to put meals on our plates. 
The stark warning was issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation after scientists found evidence the natural support systems that underpin the human diet are deteriorating around the world as farms, cities and factories gobble up land and pump out chemicals.
The toll from biodiversity loss - 20 per cent less productivity.
It noted a “debilitating” loss of soil biodiversity, forests, grasslands, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds and genetic diversity in crop and livestock species. In the oceans, a third of fishing areas are being overharvested. 
Many species that are indirectly involved in food production, such as birds that eat crop pests and mangrove trees that help to purify water, are less abundant than in the past, noted the study, which collated global data, academic papers and reports by the governments of 91 countries.
...Once lost, the species that are critical to our food systems cannot be recovered, it said. “This places the future of our food and the environment under severe threat.” 
“The foundations of our food systems are being undermined,” wrote Graziano da Silva, the director general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, in an introduction to the study. “Parts of the global report make sombre reading. It is deeply concerning that in so many production systems in so many countries, biodiversity for food and agriculture and the ecosystem services it provides are reported to be in decline.”
...Most countries said the main driver for biodiversity loss was land conversion, as forests were cut down for farm fields, and meadows covered in concrete for cities, factories and roads. Other causes include overexploitation of water supplies, pollution, over-harvesting, the spread of invasive species and climate change. 
The trend is towards uniformity. Although the world is producing more food than in the past, it is relying on ever-expanding monocultures.
...“Around the world, the library of life that has evolved over billions of years – our biodiversity – is being destroyed, poisoned, polluted, invaded, fragmented, plundered, drained and burned at a rate not seen in human history,” Ireland’s president, Michael Higgins, said at a biodiversity conference in Dublin on Thursday. “If we were coal miners we’d be up to our waists in dead canaries.”
It is important to bear in mind that loss of biodiversity is not merely an agricultural/food security issue. I won't go into that here but you can follow this link to get a list of what biodiversity means to our future.

Bitumen Blues on the Hill

The white nationalist rally masquerading as a pro-pipeline truckers' protest clogging the streets of Ottawa is, well, boneheaded.

They seem to have lost sight of the massive wildfire that nearly consumed their cherished Fort Mac and the climate change that turned the boreal forest into tinder. They don't care. All they're concerned about is fossil fuel, especially the highest carbon ersatz petroleum, bitumen.

It's clear that most climate change, especially in the northern hemisphere, is driven by the rapidly warming Arctic. Most of that is caused by the loss of snow, sea ice and the retreating Greenland ice cap. And what is causing the loss of all that reflective ice and snow? A lot of it is caused by black carbon being carried into the far north.

For a while it was thought that wildfires in the northern forests and tundra were the main culprits. That was wrong. New research has discovered that the main source of black carbon across the Arctic is fossil fuels.

The five-year study to uncover sources of black carbon was done at five remote sites around the Arctic and is published in the journal Science Advances. 
The Baylor team used radiocarbon to determine fossil and biomass burning contributions to black carbon in Barrow, Alaska, while their collaborators used the same technique for sites in Russia, Canada, Sweden and Norway.
You could say that trying to flood world markets with dirt cheap, high-carbon bitumen is like cutting our own throats. You could say that. Really, you could.

A Nation in Meltdown?

With its departure from the European Union less than six weeks away and the terms of Brexit unclear after years of negotiation and bickering, the UK seems to be on the verge of meltdown.

In the House of Commons there is no consensus to be found, not in the government ranks nor among the opposition. Prime minister Theresa May co-exists with an insurgency among her caucus. Opposition Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has seen a dissident group leave his party's ranks.

Watching the proceedings in the House of Commons affords a crash course in chaos. One faction wants a second referendum. Another has demanded a snap election. One wants to buy time for some delusional renegotiation of the EU terms for withdrawal. May and her supporters want Parliament to accept Brussel's terms and hope for a better deal later or at least some forbearance from the EU, especially over the Irish question.  Then there's a group, within the minority Tories' own ranks that rejects the withdrawal deal altogether and favours the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal. Some want the "Norwegian" option. Others want the same arrangement Canada negotiated with the EU. Northern Ireland wants this, Scotland wants recognition and respect. Speaker John Bercow grows hoarse from endlessly demanding "order" in the House.

For her part, Theresa May is desperately trying to stall Parliament, promising a serious vote on something at some time before the Brexit bell sounds. Her opposition, within and without her party, see through it. She is obviously buying time, hoping to leave MPs with just two options; the deal she has negotiated or no deal at all.  Meanwhile she furtively scurries to Brussels, begging bowl in hand, only to return with nothing.

Negotiating complex deals is rarely easy. Look at what Canada went through with Washington over NAFTA II.  When the Brits and the Euros negotiated the withdrawal agreement that seems to satisfy no one in Parliament, May was told  that was as good a deal as she was going to get and yet she keeps going back to plead for more.

May exudes the scent of despair, something that rarely plays out well in tough negotiations.  The Tories have recently bested Labour in the polls but it's hard to imagine they'll hold that edge after trucks carrying medicines and food from the continent begin backing up at Channel ports.

Britain's GDP could take a big hit. Some companies are already pulling up stakes and heading across the Channel, some, like the quintessentially British Dyson, are moving their headquarters to Asia.  Britain's pride and joy, its financial sector, is likewise leaking operations to Europe.

Wales, like Scotland, is against Brexit. Both want to remain in the EU. How that will play out in the devolution game will probably depend on the aftermath of the UK withdrawal. Then there's Ireland, Northern Ireland and the "backstop" that the EU insists it will not yield.

This is a scary situation for the peoples of the United Kingdom. There is no consensus only narrowing and increasingly unpopular options. It's a giant sh!t sandwich and everyone is going to have to take a bite. Rule Britannia - hardly.

For observers from the Western democracies, we are watching unfold something that a decade ago we would have considered unthinkable. This is more than the UK's chaotic withdrawal from the EU. It is the utter failure of governance on an epic scale. It is a constitutional union in peril, destabilized by its own hand.

I've been focusing on the decline in democratic governance lately. Britain isn't really unique. The spread of rightwing populism ushering in the rise of authoritarianism is probably a more dangerous manifestation. We have an extreme example in our next door neighbour. Decaying governance seems to go hand in hand with the decline of social cohesion. There's a real danger to this.

Poor governance and social division portend real trouble with the challenges we all will face in the coming decade and beyond.  A reluctance to bridge divides seems to be standard fare these days. Politics is no longer a contest of ideas aimed at bettering the nation and its people. It has now become hyper-partisan, tribal with occasional glimpses of a Lord of the Flies ethos. No one seems able to stop this slide into destabilizing uncertainty.

Readers of this blog will know that my concerns are not primarily political. I focus on the greatest threat facing our nation, our people, our families and ourselves, a threat that utterly eclipses and yet can be deeply worsened by political squabbling. I refer, of course, to mankind's savage and unrelenting attack on the planet itself.

Where are the visionaries that built this country, leaders such as Laurier, St. Laurent, Pearson and Pierre Trudeau? Most of what had been the leading democracies could ask the same question. What happened to statesmanship, where did it go? Has neoliberalism so sapped our political vitality as to leave us paralytic in the face of looming crises? Can we even understand each other any longer?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Climate Change Roundup

Here's a summary of recent climate change developments.

A conference on climate and security at The Hague has heard that climate change poses an "imminent" security threat fueling violence and terrorism.

“Climate change is not about something in the far and distant future. We are discussing imminent threats to national security,” said Monika Sie Dhian Ho, general director of the Clingendael Institute, a Dutch think tank.

The drying of Africa’s Lake Chad basin, for instance, has helped drive recruitment for Islamist militant group Boko Haram among young people unable to farm or find other work, said Haruna Kuje Ayuba of Nigeria’s Nasarawa State University. 
“People are already deprived of a basic livelihood,” the geography professor said at a conference on climate and security at The Hague. “If you give them a little money and tell them to destroy this or kill that, they are ready to do it.”
...The threat of worsening violence related to climate change also extends to countries and regions not currently thought of as insecurity hot spots, climate and security analysts at the conference warned. 
The Caribbean, for instance, faces more destructive hurricanes, coral bleaching, sea-level rise and looming water shortages that threaten its main economic pillars, particularly tourism. 
“We’re facing an existential crisis in the Caribbean,” said Selwin Hart, the Barbados-born executive director of the Inter-American Development Bank.
Australians are coming to grips with "uninsurable" homes.
Houses in flood-hit Townsville and other parts of north Queensland are “on track to become uninsurable”, according to analysis that shows the risk to homes from flooding will more than double under climate change. 
The modelling, based on current global emissions trajectories, says flooding in Townsville is already about 20% more to likely to occur than previously thought. The total flood risk in the region is likely to increase by 130% by the end of the century. 
Climate Valuation, which advises the property and finance industry, said the result would be that more homes would find flood cover difficult to obtain and too expensive.
In Miami, some homeowners are being told to sell while the market is good and before everybody else gets the same idea.
“Real estate is a huge economic driver here,” Laura Geselbracht, a senior marine scientist with the Nature Conservancy, said. “And it’s at risk from sea level rise. People don’t want to believe it. That’s a normal human condition – suspension of belief. 
“If you’re not a millionaire and you own a property in a vulnerable area, it may be a wise decision to think about moving before the masses think about moving,” Geselbracht said. She also owns waterfront property on a canal in Fort Lauderdale, and is deeply invested in her community, but has cautioned her child not to expect the same lifestyle in the future.
A report in the Harvard Gazette notes that parts of America's eastern seaboard are facing a double threat - sea level rise coupled with land subsidence.
In the coming decades, cities and towns up and down the eastern seaboard will have to come to terms with the impact of rising sea level due to climate change. A new study, however, is suggesting that rising sea levels may be only part of the picture — because the land along the coast is also sinking. 
That’s the key finding of Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences Peter Huybers, Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science Jerry Mitrovica, and Christopher Piecuch, an assistant scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who used everything from tide gauges to GPS data to paint the most accurate picture ever of sea-level rise along the east coast of the U.S. The researchers are co-authors of the study, recently published in Nature. 
“The fact that the mid-Atlantic is subsiding because of long-term geologic processes means that it will continue for centuries and millennia, in addition to whatever other changes in sea level occur,” Huybers said. “The mid-Atlantic is already having to cope with routine coastal flooding, and this problem is only going to get worse with time.”
A report out of MIT predicts climate change will bring stormier summer weather and more smoggy days to the Northern Hemisphere.
Climate change is shifting the energy in the atmosphere that fuels summertime weather, which may lead to stronger thunderstorms and more stagnant conditions for midlatitude regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including North America, Europe, and Asia, a new MIT study finds. 
Scientists report that rising global temperatures, particularly in the Arctic, are redistributing the energy in the atmosphere: More energy is available to fuel thunderstorms and other local, convective processes, while less energy is going toward summertime extratropical cyclones — larger, milder weather systems that circulate across thousands of kilometers. These systems are normally associated with winds and fronts that generate rain.
Look for muggy, hot, stormy, stagnant and - well - nasty, lots of nasty.