Thursday, October 31, 2019

Searching for Signs of Life

Here are today's 'big' stories.

We have underestimated by a factor of nearly four the number of people at risk from sea level rise by 2050. It was 80 million. The new estimate is 300 million.

A study out of the University of Queensland finds that greenhouse gas emissions from tropical rainforest destruction has been underestimated by a factor of six.

California is still afire. Some bright light has brought a herd of goats to eat up the dry grasses surrounding the Ronald Reagan presidential library in hope of holding the approaching fires at bay.

It's all anecdotal, incidental stuff. There'll be more soon. It pours in, week by week, from Asia, the Arctic, Central America, the Pacific coast, Europe, Antarctica, the eastern seaboard, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, just about anyplace you can imagine. It's the most global reality of them all. We are all affected and you can expect that next year you'll be more affected, more vulnerable, less resilient.

Yesterday I took a look at a letter written by Kurt Vonnegut in 1988 to the people of 2088. The part that stuck with me was this:
I hope you have stopped choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership. They were useful only so long as nobody had a clue as to what was really going on.
We're still ignoring that advice from 30 years ago. We're still "choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership." We did that again just last week. Sorry, Kurt, we ought to have listened.

What all these updated numbers of persistently underestimated projections show me is a lack of the will to live. There's virtually no discernable reaction. The direst warnings have the shelf life of a fruit fly. They're flushed down the Memory Hole. Three days seems to be the norm lately. "50 per cent of terrestrial life has been lost in 30 years." Three days and it's gone, almost never to be mentioned again. The pollinators are dying off, killed by agri-chems. Bang, smash, gone.

'We can't harm the economy.' There's a line that's never going away even  though it's becoming as perverse as a stage four lung cancer patient rejecting a crackdown on the tobacco industry because it might harm the economy. Not much will to live there, eh?

The legendary WWII war correspondent, Ernie Pyle, was felled by a bullet in the closing days of the war in the Pacific. In his pocket was found what was to have been his final column. He wrote, in part, of death on an industrial scale and not just of the enemy.
Dead men by mass production - in one country after another -
month after month and year after year. Dead men in
winter and dead men in summer.

Dead men in such familiar promiscuity that they
become monotonous.

Dead men in such monstrous infinity that you come to
almost hate them.
I'm having trouble defining the analogy from Ernie Pyle's closing words to what is underway today. There are still too many variables, unknowns. Yet, with each passing year, the image that emerges becomes clearer, less uncertain, steadily more ominous. And, as this sets in we greet it with a yawn because - for now - we still can or at least that's what we choose to believe. Our indifference is the breeding stock of a callousness to the suffering of others much as Pyle related.

The march of this climate crisis is fearsome. It's one thing to be 15 or 20 per cent out but when you discover you are constantly underestimating the risks, the threats, by a factor of two or three or six times, that should be sounding the alarm bells. But it's not.

Our will to live, our survival instinct, that threshold of urgency, lies dormant. We are in a crisis torpor.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Peter MacKay. Let the Feeding Frenzy Begin.

Having sold out the Progressive Conservatives to Stephen Harper, Peter MacKay is looking to climb over Andrew Scheer's moribund corpse to capture the Tory throne. And he has the gall to say that Andrew Scheer "stinks."
One-time and possible future leadership contender Peter MacKay says the “stinking albatross” of Andrew Scheer’s social conservative values cost the Conservatives the election. 
He offered the devastating critique of Scheer’s campaign performance during a panel discussion Wednesday hosted by the Wilson Center in Washington. 
“To use a good Canadian analogy, it was like having a breakaway on an open net and missing the net,” MacKay said. 
An increasing number of Conservatives, disappointed that Scheer was unable to defeat the Trudeau Liberals, have begun openly calling for him to resign and make way for a new leader who can expand the party’s base and gain more traction in Ontario and Quebec. MacKay — who briefly led the Progressive Conservatives before they merged with the Canadian Alliance to form today’s Conservative party — is prominent among those named as a potential successor.
Daft Peter, son of 'Airbus scandal' Elmer, proves that the apple rarely falls far from the tree.

MacKay, shown above shaking Andy's hand, demonstrates that it only takes one hand to shake, leaving the other free to wield the skinning knife.


What a difference a day makes.  Pete, it seems, had a late-nite change of heart. A few pointed phone calls perhaps?
"I've repeatedly said I support Andrew Scheer and I worked very hard to help in the campaign," he wrote.

"Reports of me organizing are false. Recent comments are about our party's shortcomings and making the necessary improvements with modern policies and better coms so we can win the next election."
But, Pete, you've got a history of repeatedly saying things. Remember that solemn pledge never to betray the Progressive Conservatives to Harper? I'm sure you said that repeatedly. Eh, Pete? D'incha?

A Golden Age for Despots and Thugs

Some, such as the king of Thailand, are more blatant than others such as Hungary's Viktor Orban, but despotism is staging a comeback worldwide. From Egypt's el-Sisi, Turkey's Recep Erdogan, Brasil's Bolsonaro, civil and human rights are being rolled back. In many countries, the US included, liberal democracy is on the ropes.

In Thailand, saying something, anything, deemed derogatory of the monarch earns you a lengthy stay in the Greybar Hotel. Erdogan punishes his critics in a similar fashion.

Even the United States has fallen victim to an imperial presidency.  Donald Trump sees no distinction between himself, qua president, and the nation itself. They are merged, the nation subsumed into the man in the Oval Office.
A dark assumption seems baked into Donald Trump’s effort to strong-arm foreign leaders into unearthing dirt on Joe Biden: that Trump’s reelection victory is in the nation’s interests, because he and the nation are one and the same.

When that is a president’s mind-set, schemes that might seem unsavory and possibly impeachable become necessary acts of national service. Legitimate investigations into his behavior become plots against the state. An impeachment inquiry isn’t so much a constitutional process for determining whether a president violated the oath of office as a coup—a crime against country.
As Trump tries to preserve his presidency, he’s talking in just these grandiose terms, erasing the distinction between country and self, and grooming his base to see things the same way. That sort of thinking could ultimately portend a crisis, if Trump’s actions in the months ahead mirror his rhetoric. If Trump thinks of himself as the state, would he leave office were the Senate to convict him in an impeachment trial, or were he to lose the 2020 election? Or would he count on an embittered electoral coalition to rise up and repudiate the verdict?

The notion that a president won’t step aside when the time comes has always been unthinkable. Now it’s a question that’s openly debated—and will take on new urgency in the year ahead.

...Perhaps the most extreme expression of Trump’s vaulting self-conception is his use of the word treason. Treason is a crime so serious that the framers took steps to ensure that it wouldn’t be misused for partisan purposes. It is a betrayal of one’s country, defined in Article III of the Constitution as levying war against the United States, or “adhering to” enemies and giving them “aid and comfort.” That’s not how Trump has sought to define it: disloyalty to a political leader or antipathy for that leader’s behavior.
...Trump’s use of the word is anachronistic in the modern era, echoing the way monarchs deployed it in centuries past. Carlton Larson, a professor at the UC Davis School of Law and an expert on treason, told me that Trump has misused the term in ways that “confuse loyalty to the country with loyalty to Trump, which is the old English idea that treason was betrayal of the king. 
“I can’t think of another president who has tossed around that term so casually. In many countries, treason is used as a way to execute political opponents—and it’s because of that that we have a more limited definition.”
...Last year, Trump decried Mueller’s investigation as “an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.” In an appearance in Florida earlier this month, Trump said that CNN, whose pundits dissect his misstatements and stumbles, is “a terrible thing for our country.” So is the House impeachment inquiry into his efforts to pressure Ukraine, as he told reporters at the White House recently.

...It’s possible, of course, that Trump’s rhetoric is just that—rhetoric. But what’s clear is that he’s been laying the groundwork for his base to be angry whenever it is that he leaves office. By signaling to his core supporters that his ouster would be a grievous injustice they shouldn’t tolerate, Trump is upending the basic premise that the president is a temporary custodian of the office and subject to laws and oversight. In a recent tweet, he quoted one of his prominent evangelical backers in saying his removal through impeachment would create an irreconcilable split reminiscent of the Civil War. He’s said that two years of his presidency were “stolen” from him by Mueller’s Russia investigation. His ex-lawyer and onetime confidant, Michael Cohen, warned at a congressional hearing in February that he worried that if Trump were to lose the 2020 election, he wouldn’t permit a “peaceful transition of power.”
To me Trump is a symptom of a new paradigm that's setting in, our collective inability to believe what is happening, the reality shifting beneath our own feet. We can handle change in small doses, gradual change. When it comes to truly seismic change - the retreat of democracy, the rise of tyrants, the ascendancy of oligarchs, the hydra of climate change impacts up to and including the prospect of a possible extinction event - we become as a deer caught in the headlights.

When we lose, through fear or manipulation, our ability to push back, we steadily forfeit control over our own lives, our communities and our society. We resort to Lord of the Flies tribalism, our society deeply divided as we're herded into corrals that exacerbate our divisions, our weaknesses. It is what Lincoln meant when, quoting scripture, he said that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

A Murder of Convenience?

It's the stuff of conspiracy theories. Did perverted multi-millionaire, Jeffrey Epstein, really commit suicide in his jail cell or was he murdered?  Celebrity pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, says the autopsy results point to strangulation, not hanging.

The New York City medical examiner’s office concluded Mr. Epstein hanged himself in his jail cell while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

But the private pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, said on the morning TV show “Fox & Friends” that Mr. Epstein, 66, experienced a number of injuries — among them a broken hyoid bone — that “are extremely unusual in suicidal hangings and could occur much more commonly in homicidal strangulation.”

“I think that the evidence points to homicide rather than suicide,” said Dr. Baden, who observed the autopsy done by city officials.

Dr. Baden, a former New York City medical examiner and a Fox News contributor, added, “I’ve not seen in 50 years where that occurred in a suicidal hanging case.”

Good News for The Donald

It's obvious now that Donald Trump is averse to reading. He may be the first functional illiterate to receive a degree from Wharton. There's a story there that we still have not heard.

So what's the good news for the Cheeto Bandito, the Mango Mussolini, the Great Orange Bloat? Illiteracy seems to be catching on in America.

The average eighth-grade reading score on a nationally representative test declined among public school students in more than half of the states, according to data released Wednesday by the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the Education Department. 
The dismal results were part of the release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the “nation’s report card.” The test assesses a sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students — more than 290,000 in each subject in 2019 — every other year. 
“Over the past decade, there has been no progress in either mathematics or reading performance, and the lowest performing students are doing worse,” Peggy G. Carr, the associate commissioner of the center, said in a statement.
In other words, the dumbing down of America proceeds apace. Which brings to mind an op-ed in today's Guardian by the two joint winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in economic sciences.  They write that the public has become dangerously estranged from the views of economists.
This trust deficit is mirrored by the fact that the consensus of economists (when it exists) is often systematically different from the views of ordinary citizens. The Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago regularly asks a group of about 40 prominent academic economists their views on core economic topics. Working with the economist Stefanie Stantcheva, we ran a survey: we selected 10 of the questions that were asked of the Booth panel and put them to 10,000 Americans. 
On most of these issues, our respondents were sharply at odds with economists. For example, every single member of the Booth panel disagreed with the proposition that “imposing new US tariffs on steel and aluminium will improve Americans’ wellbeing”. Only a third of our respondents shared their view. And the gap is not only because people are not informed of what economists think: telling them does not seem to change their opinion one bit.
... Part of the problem is that there is plenty of bad economics around. The self-proclaimed economists on TV and in the press – chief economist of Bank X or Firm Y – are, with important exceptions, primarily spokespeople for their firms’ economic interests, who often feel free to ignore the weight of the evidence. Moreover, they have a relatively predictable slant towards market optimism at all costs, which is what the public associates with economists in general. It does not help that there is a class of economists who make predictions about broad trends in the economy, which often turn out to be wrong.

Another part of the problem is that, especially in the UK and the US, a lot of the economics that has filtered into government thinking is the most beholden to orthodoxy, and the least able to pay attention to any fact that does not square with it. Economists are therefore naturally seen as those who keep repeating that regulations, taxes, and public spending all need to be slashed to let the market be, and that eventually everything will all “trickle down” to the poor, even as we watch inequality exploding.
No wonder it is branded "the dismal science."

Roubini - When the Next Crash Comes

Economist Nouriel Roubini skyrocketed to fame as the first to foretell the crash of 2007/2008 (a claim that overlooks the even earlier warnings from Stiglitz and Krugman).

In 2011 Roubini sparked controversy by writing that capitalism was self-destructing, much as Karl Marx predicted.

Now, writing in The Guardian, Roubini warns of what may befall us in the anticipated crash of 2020. This time there'll be no repeat of 2007-8. Back then governments were relatively flush and able to fund bailouts and stimulus spending. Today, they're broke, their treasuries bare.

Roubini can't predict what our governments will do when the public demands they 'do something NOW, but he warns that "'crazy' policy will become a foregone conclusion." The only question is whether they'll do more harm than good.

In other words, we're heading for a crap shoot.

And Nobody Listened

It was Kurt Vonnegut. The year was 1988.

Vonnegut wrote a letter to the citizens of Earth in 2088. He wrote of future perils that, in some ways, have already come to pass. It was advice that almost no one heeded.
Now that we can discuss the mess we are in with some precision, I hope you have stopped choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership. They were useful only so long as nobody had a clue as to what was really going on—during the past seven million years or so. In my time they have been catastrophic as heads of sophisticated institutions with real work to do. 
The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appears to be Nature’s stern but reasonable surrender terms: 
1. Reduce and stabilize your population. 
2. Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil. 
3. Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems. 
4. Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it. 
5. Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars. 
6. Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid. 
7. And so on. Or else.
Vonnegut's letter was published in Time magazine and has been recently recycled. Like so many things, KV did "see it coming." And, yes, we are still choosing "abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership," people skilled in just one thing - telling us what we want to hear.

h/t Danneau

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Clock Runs Out on Little Bay Islands

A sad tale of outport Newfoundland.

The provincial government has decreed that the isolated community of Little Bay Islands is over, finished. As of the 31st of December, all life support - ferry service, electricity and water - will be no more.

The province found it much cheaper to buy out the homes of the remaining residents and relocate them to more convenient, less costly towns. From The Guardian:

The tiny island community in Canada’s easternmost province, Newfoundland and Labrador, is home to 54 year-round residents, and more in the summertime. 
Most families have been here for generations, subsisting on the once-booming fishing industry. 
But on 31 December, electricity and water will be switched off and ferry service discontinued. Little Bay Islands is the latest isolated village to agree to resettle on the mainland as part of the province’s community relocation policy, which offers government compensation to people who leave remote areas.
Are we losing our connections to our past? It sometimes does feel that way.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Many Facets of Climate Change

How do you inform yourself about climate change? Do you ignore it to the extent possible, try not to think about it? Do you look at it as a scientific issue? Do you see it from an economic perspective? Or do you think of it as a political problem?

The climate crisis is multi-faceted. Despite the steadily growing mountain of research and analysis, the deniers and delayers continue to wage a rearguard action to sow doubt and outright lies. They're still using every trick in the book, stuff tried and tested in the tobacco wars.

The science types keep delivering dire projections or at least they seem dire at the time. Yet, before long, we learn that what we thought was dire, even alarmist, was actually understated. Several studies have found that the scientific community is often reluctant to give it to us straight lest that somehow blow back on them.

The economists are now fully engaged in the climate crisis. They're doing stress analyses and costing out impacts. They too have been understating the measure of climate change costs but, we're told, they're working to catch up. Their central theme is that it'll be costly to take the bold action the climate crisis demands now but several times costlier down the road if we don't act quickly.

Then there is the worst of them all, the political caste.  What makes them the worst of the lot? It's their blatant conflict of interest that pits their own, short term partisan interest above the long term public interest and jeopardizes the future.

Environment minister, Cathy McKenna, has repeatedly said that action to thwart climate change must not harm the economy. Missing from that pithy line is the price future generations will have to pay for our government's self-interested betrayal.

Andrew Nikiforuk recently summed up our major parties' villainy:
Andrew Scheer, a conservative Catholic, offered a rehashed version of Stephen Harper’s oil evangelism, based on deregulating the fossil fuel industry, demonizing environmentalists and promoting a Matthew Effect social agenda: let those who have more already earn even more. 
Canada’s petroleum evangelicals now wrap themselves in the flag and demand that we drill more with fewer regulations, even though the market is oversupplied and the climate has reached a tipping point.
Conservation and reduced energy use are ignored.
...The Liberals think they can twin an uneconomic bitumen pipeline largely for Chinese markets and somehow battle climate change. Conservatives may be anointed by oil but Liberals are anointed by rank dishonesty
The Liberals (and the BC NDP) also think they can subsidize liquified natural gas plants and still claim they’re fighting climate change by supplying $680-million subsidies to electrify fracking operations in B.C.’s northeast.
...Our pathetic politics reflects the inertia in the fossil fuel system, the moral poverty of the status quo and a popular denial about the scale of change required to prevent an unending emergency. 
We are living the storm before the storm.
The deniers and the delayers are the imperial storm troopers of the carbon cabal. They work for corporations that have no fiduciary duty to the planet or its people. Modern capitalism is a "by hook and by crook" business and we try to tame it by regulation.

Contrast that with the political caste. Our politicians do have a fiduciary duty, a duty to protect us and future generations, and these solemn obligations they routinely honour in the breach, not compliance. We invest them with the power and resources to perform their fiduciary duties and they alone exercise sovereign powers supposedly on our behalf except, too often, they don't.

Justin Trudeau and his government will not be remembered for the apologies he so freely issues or for his selfies nor even for the parades in which he marches. Future generations will have a clearer and more critical view of the Dauphin and they'll be living his legacy.

Friday, October 25, 2019

"Living the Storm Before the Storm" Nikiforuk on Blue Canada Versus Red Canada.

The Tyee's petro-scribe, Andrew Nikiforuk, digests the indigestible aftermath of our federal election. Hint: it bodes no good.
Once again we have been reminded that Canada’s political parties behave like organizations “publicly and officially designed for the purpose of killing in all souls the sense of truth and of justice,” as Simone Weil characterized parties seven decades ago. 
What they have left us are political divisions that have now painted the face of Canada red or blue. 
And just as in the excited United States, the conservative blue largely spreads across oil-producing regions suffering from low prices, while the red occupies oil-importing provinces.

...The energy divisions in both countries tell a story of appalling leadership, the strength of propaganda and political inertia. 
One-third of the blue nation not only doesn’t believe that climate change is an emergency, but remains in denial about the increasing volatility of oil and gas prices. 
Low prices and overproduction of high cost bitumen and fracked oil and gas have eroded the economics of the fossil fuel industry, throwing some people in Alberta and Saskatchewan into cauldrons of resentment, stoked by the propaganda manufactured by “wildcat Christians” and the oil industry. 
Darren Dochuk, an Edmonton-born history professor at the University of Notre Dame, brilliantly explained in his book Anointed with Oil that places like Texas, Saudi Arabia and Oklahoma have interpreted the extraction of fossil fuels as an act of divine providence. They are God’s people.
Scheer Madness and Liberal Expedience.
...Andrew Scheer, a conservative Catholic, offered a rehashed version of Stephen Harper’s oil evangelism, based on deregulating the fossil fuel industry, demonizing environmentalists and promoting a Matthew Effect social agenda: let those who have more already earn even more. 
Canada’s petroleum evangelicals now wrap themselves in the flag and demand that we drill more with fewer regulations, even though the market is oversupplied and the climate has reached a tipping point.
Conservation and reduced energy use are ignored. 
...Only religious fervour allows people to blindly ignore the economics of supply and demand as well as the aging nature of the west’s hydrocarbon bounty. And it takes religious fervour for Alberta’s oil and gas cult to ignore the red elephant in the room — $260 billion worth of leaking wells, pipelines and old gas plants that need to be cleaned up.
...The province’s biblical ardour makes it hard for the rest of Canada to understand the incessant hand-wringing and complaining in a province that has failed to collect royalties that would have given citizens fair payment for oil and gas resources; failed to save for a rainy day; and failed to manage its resources wisely. 
Albertans aren’t alone. Across Canada, about one-third of voters apparently believe that we can build pipelines and LNG plants and still somehow fight climate change. And not just Conservatives — this bunch includes federal Liberals and BC New Democrats. 
The Liberals think they can twin an uneconomic bitumen pipeline largely for Chinese markets and somehow battle climate change. Conservatives may be anointed by oil but Liberals are anointed by rank dishonesty. 
The Liberals (and the BC NDP) also think they can subsidize liquified natural gas plants and still claim they’re fighting climate change by supplying $680-million subsidies to electrify fracking operations in B.C.’s northeast.
...The reality of the physics is not comfortable. 
We have used fossil fuels to support a global population that is at least eight times above any sustainable level. 
In the last 150 years we have deployed hydrocarbons to construct a highly complex economic system that is consuming all life, respects no limits and is poised for collapse. It has one religious mantra: technology, the source of maniacal complexity, will save us.
...Greta Thunberg is right. We need a new kind of politics and a new way of thinking. And a new way of living. We won’t get there without co-operating and working together. 
We will have to take steps back, not forward. 
That’s the wisdom of a Swedish teenager. Children can always see what squabbling adults can’t. 
But Canada will not be leading the way anytime soon. 
Our pathetic politics reflects the inertia in the fossil fuel system, the moral poverty of the status quo and a popular denial about the scale of change required to prevent an unending emergency. 
We are living the storm before the storm.

Amen, Andrew.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Liberals Serve Notice on Jaggy. The Pipeline Is Not Negotiable.

The word comes from none other than Bill "Job Churn" Morneau who traveled to (where else?) Calgary to proclaim the Justin Trudeau Memorial Pipeline is not up for discussion.

In a powerful brain fart Morneau proclaimed, "We purchased it for a reason." Good to know the Liberals have a reason before they shell out that many billions of dollars to facilitate what, with any luck, may soon become a 'stranded asset.'
"We now see how it can help us accelerate our clean energy transition by putting any revenues that we get from it into a transition to clean energy. We think that is the best way we can move forward in our current context."
See? They "now see." I wonder when that happened? And they're pledging to put "any revenues" into a clean energy transition.

Okay, let's see. They paid $4.5 billion to a gaggle of Texans whose lineage traces straight back to EnRon but that's just for the land, the route. It'll take another six, some think closer to nine, billion to build the new and expanded TMX pipeline. Again, that's coming out of the public purse.

It's said that it takes decades, a bunch of them, to earn enough in user fees to cover the cost of building a pipeline. Now when Job Churn talks it pays to listen closely. Is he talking gross revenues or net revenues? There's a quote, wrongly attributed to Mark Twain, about how "figures never lie but liars figure." That's true enough, especially in 21st century Canadian politics. The point is, if Morneau is talking net revenues then the climate emergency may be at meltdown before there's a dime for clean energy transition. We've had four years to test the Liberals' credibility and, well, if that was your teenage son he would not be getting the keys to the family car on Saturday night.

But what about Jaggy? He's talked pretty tough about Trudeau's pipeline. Then again, experience teaches us that you'll never get a New Dem more committed to the environment than during the run-up to an election. They tend to get a little weak kneed afterwards. Besides Trudeau can toss a bauble or two his way, maybe pharmacare?

In fairness to Jagmeet there's really not a lot he can do. That pipeline is about the only area where Justin is on solid ground. Anyone think 'Summer Help' Andy won't back him?

He Said What? Colorado?

One of the first things he did on assuming office was to have his lawyers issue warnings to every school he'd attended not to release his records. We'll never know how well or poorly Donald Trump fared as he passed through the educational machine. One professor from Wharton has said he found Trump pretty stupid but, beyond that...

One subject Trump didn't master was geography. That much emerged at a Trump rally in Pittsburgh where Trump delivered the now obligatory update on his wall along the US-Mexico border.
“You know why we’re going to win New Mexico?” Trump told the crowd on Wednesday, talking about a bona fide border state, which he lost in 2016. “Because they want safety on their border. And they didn’t have it. And we’re building a wall on the border of New Mexico, and we’re building a wall in Colorado. We’re building a beautiful wall. A big one that really works, that you can’t get over, that you can’t get under.”
Colorado. The nearest Colorado gets to the Mexican border is 400 miles.  Maybe the folks from Colorado have something against the folks from New Mexico or Texas or Oklahoma. Maybe they figure why should they not have a wall, some sort of wall?

I guess we shouldn't be too hard on Trump. Denver is a long way from Mar-a-Lardo.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Anybody Remember Joe Clark?

Joe Clark, the 16th prime minister of Canada.

In May, 1979, Joe swept Pierre Trudeau's government out of power, winning a minority government. The PCs swept pretty much everything west of the Ottawa River. It wound up 136 Conservative to 114 Liberal, 26 NDP and 6 Social Credit. There were 282 ridings back then.

I was sitting at home watching TV when Joe came on and told an interviewer that, he might only have a minority but he was going to govern as though he'd won a majority. He was, in effect, daring the opposition to risk incurring the wrath of the Canadian public by bringing him down. Now, in fairness to Joe, he wasn't apt to get a lot of help governing from Pierre Trudeau or Ed Broadbent so he didn't have a lot of choice. Still, the "my way or the highway" approach was pretty gutsy.

Clark's Waterloo came nine months later when, refusing to seek a deal from the SoCreds, he lost a confidence vote on his budget and the country again went to the polls. In February, 1980, Pierre Trudeau's Liberals were returned to office with a majority.

Like Joe, Justin Trudeau says he's not interested in any coalition and he'll govern as a minority. He too is daring the opposition to take him down and force another general election.

How far the Dauphin is prepared to go to test the opposition remains to be seen. One thing Monday's vote showed is that the Canadian public is very concerned about climate change. It's a priority. Scheer's inability to accommodate that may be why the Cons lost critical seats in Ontario and Quebec. Some think it cost him victory.

Justin, of course, is trapped by the infernal Trans Mountain Pipeline. If they play their hand well, the New Dems and Bloc might be able to use that controversy to  bludgeon Trudeau like a Newfie on a baby harp seal.

He may not like it, in fact I'm sure he won't, but Junior is going to have to steer well to the left of where he's been since 2015. And he's going to have to keep his nose very, very clean - prim and proper just like "Caesar's wife."

We'll see soon enough what the Dauphin is made of but he is starting with a bit of baggage.

If Scientists Can Get It Wrong, Why Not Economists? What Does This Say About Politicians?

Scientists have been wrong about climate change since that became a household term. They just keep getting it wrong but not in the way you hear it from odious people like Donald Trump and Jason Kenney and Scott Moe. What scientists get wrong is the rate of climate change - it's worsening pace and severity. They understate what's happening. They understate what's coming. They almost sugar coat it.

In today's New York Times, Nick Stern and Naomi Oreskes write that economists have done no better than the science community in considering climate change. Stern, professor of economics and government at LSE's Grantham Institute and Oreskes, Harvard professor of the history of science, say that economists have underestimated the costs we'll bear from a severe climate and rising seas.

How and why this has occurred is explained in a recent report by scientists and economists at the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Earth Institute at Columbia University. 
One reason is obvious: Since climate scientists have been underestimating the rate of climate change and the severity of its effects, then economists will necessarily underestimate their costs. 
But it’s worse than that. A set of assumptions and practices in economics has led economists both to underestimate the economic impact of many climate risks and to miss some of them entirely. That is a problem because, as the report notes, these “missing risks” could have “drastic and potentially catastrophic impacts on citizens, communities and companies.” 
...Typically, our estimates of the value or cost of something, whether it is a pair of shoes, a loaf of bread or the impact of a hurricane, are based on experience. Statisticians call this “stationarity.” But when conditions change so much that experience is no longer a reliable guide to the future — when stationarity no longer applies — then estimates become more and more uncertain.
A second difficulty involves parameters that scientists do not feel they can adequately quantify, like the value of biodiversity or the costs of ocean acidification. Research shows that when scientists lack good data for a variable, even if they know it to be salient, they are loath to assign a value out of a fear that they would be “making it up.”

Therefore, in many cases, they simply omit it from the model, assessment or discussion. In economic assessments of climate change, some of the largest factors, like thresholds in the climate system, when a tiny change could tip the system catastrophically, and possible limits to the human capacity to adapt, are omitted for this reason. In effect, economists have assigned them a value of zero, when the risks are decidedly not. 
A third and terrifying problem involves cascading effects. One reason the harms of climate change are hard to fathom is that they will not occur in isolation, but will reinforce one another in damaging ways. In some cases, they may produce a sequence of serious, and perhaps irreversible, damage.
...In a worst-case scenario, climate impacts could set off a feedback loop in which climate change leads to economic losses, which lead to social and political disruption, which undermines both democracy and our capacity to prevent further climate damage. These sorts of cascading effects are rarely captured in economic models of climate impacts. And this set of known omissions does not, of course, include additional risks that we may have failed to have identified. 
The urgency and potential irreversibility of climate effects mean we cannot wait for the results of research to deepen our understanding and reduce the uncertainty about these risks. This is particularly so because the study suggests that if we are missing something in our assessments, it is likely something that makes the problem worse. 
As I read this I realized two things. One, what the scientists and economists tell us is unreliable. We may dismiss them as "alarmist" but they actually err on the side of caution, leave out what's not adequately clear yet and often understating what is, and, with the best of intentions lull us into what could be a lethal degree of complacency. It's Two that most bothers me.

Two is the realization that there's one group that perceives climate change with near absolute certainty and clarity. Among this group there really are no experts. Most of them are not highly educated. Some of them aren't well educated at all. A few are borderline moronic.  More are deeply dishonest and manipulative. This is the group we elect to high office, the very folks who seem bent on driving us over the cliff.  They come with names such as Justin and Jagmeet, Andy, Jason and Moe, or Double-D Doug.

It doesn't take much book learnin' for them to deal with climate change. That's because, to them, it's not a scientific problem, it's not an economic dilemma. It's a political problem and there's always a political solution to a political problem. You can pull them by the dozen straight out of your backside.

Proof that the pols are not competent to address climate change is abundant. It's plain from reading the op-ed of Stern and Oreskes. It is manifest from reading the works of the scientific community. The scientists and the economists are doing one critical thing the politicians are not. They're adapting to the latest knowledge, incorporating it into their own work.

While our knowledge of the climate crisis has changed, deepened, even worsened, our leadership, if you can call it that, has remained stagnant. Justin Trudeau is still working from emissions targets reluctantly set by Stephen Harper and, even on those numbers he's falling further behind. Trudeau is operating on Harper's understanding of climate change as it stood in 2012. He's not even attempting to address climate science as we understand it today - more urgent, more threatening. That's because, to him and the rest of them, it's a political matter but you're not going to resolve a scientific problem, an existential threat, with political measures.

To them, the issue of certainty boils down to certainty that something won't bite them in the ass before the next election. Ten, twenty years down the road - who cares? In the political realm, at least today's political realm, those timelines are meaningless, irrelevant. We don't do "future" any more.

Their interests and your children's and grandchildren's interests are not coterminous. The future of the country and their interests are, in many ways, inconsistent and, hence, incoherent.

Let that sink in a while and then consider whether our elected "deciders" are to be trusted.

Now There's an Idea! Every Vote Should Count.

Now, if you're one of those people who doesn't spot the obscenity in some guy who just won 33 per cent of the vote crowing about the grand mandate he had received - that is if you're a Liberal or a Conservative - this probably isn't for you.

Elizabeth Renzetti has a fine op-ed in today's Globe
At a time when concerted international action is required on many issues, climate change paramount among them, our election felt like a food fight at a toddler’s birthday party. So much screaming; so many insults. We’re all ready for a nap – just when the real work of cleaning up has to begin. 
Does anyone feel today that the country is pulling together toward that goal? As I write this, the ugly word “Wexit” is trending on social media, in reference to Western Canada’s feeling of alienation from the diminished but still ruling Liberal elite in Ottawa. (That anyone could think Brexit is worthy of emulation suggests a lack of attention to the news in the past three years.) 
We should not discount that frustration. Where is the representation for Conservative voters from the West? The Conservatives, with more than 34 per cent of the vote, have 121 seats. The Liberals, with 33 per cent of the vote, have 157. The NDP went down four per cent in the popular vote – and lost 20 seats.
The Ghost of 2015 - Electoral Reform.
...Is there any chance that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals will revisit their once-popular policy/now infamous betrayal? That direction seems profoundly unlikely, because from a purely cynical, short-term perspective it would gain them nothing. So what if electoral reform, an issue that’s popular with young voters and might go some way to restoring trust in our democracy, took such a kicking in this election? 
The Liberals have buried electoral reform in a lead-lined coffin, under a pyre of stones, behind a barbed-wire fence. (Although you can still read about the government’s online consultation on the subject, which drew a remarkable 383,000 submissions between Dec. 2016 and Jan. 2017, and which showed that almost one-third of respondents were dissatisfied with our country’s democracy.)
Renzetti places her hope (not her confidence, just her hope) that Jaggy Singh's quid pro quo for supporting the Dauphin will be electoral reform but wonders if he might settle for concessions on pharmacare or wealth tax instead.

It's called democracy and the Liberals should really give it a try.

It'd Serve the Bastards Right

Why is Justin Trudeau our prime minister, not Andrew Scheer?  According to an item I picked up on CBC this morning it could be that 'Summer Help' Andy was laid low by climate change.

As the story goes the total lack of any viable plan on climate change put off enough Ontario and Quebec voters to cost Scheer the premiership. Scheer, being a godly man, would have to write that off to Divine Retribution, I suppose.

I did choke a bit when the reporter used the term "viable" plan. You see, the only viable plan that was put before the public came from the Green Party but they got little mileage out of it.

You can't have your pipeline and eat it too and, if the Bitumen Boondoggle doesn't collapse under its own weight first, as the climate emergency worsens and the impacts spread voters will increasingly see straight through the nonsense being spun by the Dauphin and Jaggy too.  Eventually, and very probably too late to do any good, you won't get far in an election without an effective climate strategy but you might have to wait for another election or two. Even then it's probably going to be an ill-fitting political answer to a scientific peril.

They say (who are "they"?) that every cloud has a silver lining. In this case the gathering clouds of climate change seem to have delivered Canada from the clutches of Scheer. I guess we should take what we can get and be at least a little grateful for our deliverance.

While you're waiting for that climate change epiphany to sweep through the land, maybe you should consider the suggestion from Stephen Lewis and David Suzuki and join an Extinction Rebellion march to occupy parliament.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Everyone Has a Mandate. Where's Yours?

Now, let's get this right. Justin Trudeau's Liberals got 30 per cent of the vote, slightly less in total numbers than Andrew Scheer's Tories. Because of FPTP that translates into a minority win for the Libs.

Yet you would never know it from Trudeau's victory speech last night in which he spoke about some grand 'mandate' he had received from the Canadian people. If seven of ten voters don't support you where do you find this mandate, how far up?

It was like Sports Day at the pre-school. Everybody got a blue ribbon last night for participating and, to hear them tell it, everybody was a winner.

No wonder Canada is so screwed up. I'm with Suzuki and Stephen Lewis on that score.

Well, We Repelled All Boarders

Our community, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, denied the barbarians even a toehold last night. Not one seat was to be had by Liberal or Conservative.

The Tory 'home on the range,' the oil and gas areas of central and eastern BC grew a bit. Vancouver and BC's Lower Mainland is still Liberal territory of a sort. They lost seven seats including the crown jewel, Vancouver-Granville, that went to Jody Wilson-Raybould. The NDP dominates the coast from Washington to Alaska.

The big losers last night were the Trudeau Liberals and the Singh New Dems. The Libs dropped 20 seats but the NDP dropped a proportionately far greater 15-20 seats from 44 in 2015 to 39 at dissolution to just 24 today.

Monday, October 21, 2019

While You Focus on Who Should Govern, Suzuki and Lewis Talk About Storming Parliament

Stephen Lewis and David Suzuki have joined forces. They've concluded that what ails Canada won't be solved at the ballot box. Michael Harris writes that it may be time to storm Parliament.

The postmortem of national elections usually comes after voting day.

But the first reading of the entrails of Election 2019 is already in — at least on the mother of all issues, climate change. It was performed by a pair of public policy soul whisperers, David Suzuki and Stephen Lewis. 
Their conclusion? 
The politicians and the media continue to bellyflop on the climate change crisis. Though their rhetoric acknowledges the need to lower the planet’s fossil fuel-induced fever, politicians and the media still have their eyes tightly shut against reality.
Suzuki's take.
“It’s clear the media still act as if climate is an issue subservient to the economy. When the Green Agenda was released, the first question was how she [Elizabeth May] will pay for it? It’s a crisis for Christ’s sake, like Japan attacking Pearl Harbour! You have to win regardless of cost, but I am sure the savings will be huge, the opportunities immense. But the fossil fuel industry will have to be shut down.
...With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the UN now giving humanity just a dozen years to get it right, Suzuki’s mission has taken on a new urgency. 
So Suzuki decided to mount up like Don Quixote and take one last tilt at what a lot of people still see as a windmill — the world’s lacklustre response to global warming. Never mind that Suzuki is 83 and well into what he calls the “death zone” in his public speeches. There is a planet to save, and what better time to get your message out than in the middle of a federal election?
...Suzuki simply loves Lewis, a champion of fighting AIDS in Africa and all-round prodigy of humanitarianism. But he also knew that Lewis was 81 and in poor health. Suzuki being Suzuki, he asked anyway. Lewis being Lewis, he agreed. 
Though Lewis is mostly known for his political, diplomatic and humanitarian career, he is no slouch on the climate file. Back in 1988, prime minister Brian Mulroney asked him to chair what was up to then the largest gathering in Canada of climatologists, economists, and activists looking into environmental issues.
...And so two of Canada’s iconic octogenarians hit the road with their message, visiting five Canadian cities — Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. Their mission was to scare the pants off anything that had pants on the subject of climate change.

...And they tried to reinforce their five-alarm warning that we’re all running out of time, saying that if the best our politicians can do is argue about carbon taxes and pipelines, we will all end up like the citizens of Pompeii after Mount Vesuvius blew. Buried metres under the ashes of our ignorance. 
Suzuki and Lewis put it this way in a joint quote: 
“The best scientists in the world are telling us we have just a few years to dramatically cut emissions to avoid the most frightening aspects of climate change. Our message to Canadians and political parties is clear: We must work together to put the climate first in this critical election.”
Sadly, the message didn't get through. The proof is that either Andrew Scheer or Justin Trudeau with Jagmeet Singh as his sidekick will be forming our next government. Either way that's proof that climate is by no means first in this all-too critical election.

The Letdown.
The two warhorses exchanged letters after the dust of their tour settled. Suzuki holed up at his cabin in B.C. with his two daughters and their families. He went fishing but there were no salmon. So they dropped their prawn traps into the water hoping for a shrimp feast. As for the tour and its effect on the election, Suzuki was disappointed and said so in a letter to Lewis: 
“Greta [Thunberg] and the huge marches in Montreal, Vancouver and around the world should have been a turning point for governments everywhere. Yet the media act as if it’s all stale news. Hell, I don’t think that any of the media even bothered to cover our events to report what we had said. I am stunned at the vicious attacks on Greta.” 
While his friend retreated to his cabin after their tour, Stephen Lewis “boycotted” his computer so that he and his wife Michele could take one of their grandsons to the Stratford Festival over the long weekend. Like Suzuki, Lewis had a faint sense of letdown, acknowledging that “the media paid little attention to the events themselves.”
Time For an Uprising.
Suzuki had hoped that the Climate First Tour would be the end of his exertions on behalf of the planet. In reality, he and Lewis are already talking about their next collaboration — taking over Ottawa. 
“The other approach I would like to see is continued strikes (another big one is planned for November) and work towards an actual takeover of the Parliamentary buildings by youth. They could then conduct Parliament based on priorities for future generations and make decisions and pass laws to mandate reductions, etc. Of course, it would all be for show,” Suzuki said, “but I think it would be stunning if they forced their way in and acted as if they had the power.” 
What else would you expect from a force of nature posing as an octogenarian cruising the shady boulevards of the Death Zone?

Five Billion - Does That Get Your Attention?

Five by fifty - there's a catchy way to remember it. Five billion by 2050 will be beset by hunger and a lack of clean water if we stay on the current path. That'll be about half the world's population in 2050, if wars and plagues don't clean them out long before that.

The good news - most of the loss and suffering will be focused on Africa and Asia. The bad news - we live in a global civilization that tenaciously clings to a global economy that enshrines perpetual exponential growth and so we can expect to feel the knock-on effects.
Climate activists have been telling us for a while now that global warming isn’t just about the polar bears, so it’s hardly breaking news that humans are going to suffer because nature is suffering. But what is new about this model is the degree of geographic specificity. It pinpoints the places where projected environmental losses overlap with human populations who depend on those resources and maps them with a nifty interactive viewer
This model identifies not just the general ways climate change harms the environment and how people will feel those changes, but also where these changes will likely occur, and how significant they’ll be. It’s an unprecedented degree of detail for a global biodiversity model. 
The model looks at three specific natural systems that humans benefit from: pollination (which enables crops to grow), freshwater systems (which provide drinking water), and coastal ecosystems (which provide a buffer from storm surges and prevent erosion). Using fine-scale satellite imagery, the team of scientists mapped predicted losses to these natural systems onto human population maps. The resulting map allows you to see how many people could be impacted by environmental changes, and where. 
“We were specifically trying to look at how nature is changing in delivering [a] benefit, and then where it overlaps with people’s needs,” said Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, the lead scientist at the Natural Capital Project, a Stanford University-based research group that produced the study.
To understand why the Natural Capital Project’s model is groundbreaking, you need to understand a little bit about past attempts to gauge how the environmental effects of climate change will impact people. It’s a pretty hard thing to do — natural processes are interconnected systems, and many of the ways that humans benefit from these natural processes (what scientists call “ecosystem services” or “nature’s contributions to humanity”) aren’t obvious. 
“The real challenge, with nature’s contributions to people, is that it benefits us in so many ways that it’s sort of mind-boggling,” Chaplin-Kramer said. “It’s just so abstract that it tends to be disregarded.”
You see, natural capital is what keeps people alive. It's what keeps pretty much everything alive. And what keeps you alive, you might agree, has value. That's not hard to grasp, is it?

But natural capital has almost no value to the guy you will elect as our next prime minister today. We've been treating nature, natural capital, as a giant freebie especially when it comes to those massively profitable fossil energy giants. We're afraid if we dare ask them to pay for what they freely take and what they freely foul, they'll bugger off. They've got us by the cojones and they know it.  That's why, kids, the IMF claims Canadian governments are subsidizing the energy giants to the tune of $60 billion every year but our governments lie to us and tell us it's a mere $2 billion.

The thing about democracy is that every voice is to be heard and our rulers are to govern with the informed consent of the public. That shit all goes out the window when they mask the truth and their real intentions by feeding us fabrications, distortions and distractions.

Today you get to vote and, like it or not, you may be putting your thumb on the scale. We've all got our thumb on that scale now. Act like it.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Assembly of First Nations Says the Choice is Clear. It's the Green Party, By a Landslide!

You can read the AFN's entire 2019 federal election analysis here.  Jagmeet Singh has the nascent Dippers all tumescent with his one-liners but he's just peddling greenwash. If you're truly concerned about the climate crisis, voting New Dem is almost as bad as going for the Liberals or the Tories.

The CBC hired consultants to examine the parties' climate platforms. Three of them, 'if' they kept their promises (as if) would leave Canada in the narrow 600-650 ppm GHG category and that's catastrophic. Going from  bad to worse to worst, it's the NDP, the Liberals, and everyone's favourite, the Conservatives.

There's another party, one that has been working on the crisis for years. Their platform would bring Canada into  450 ppm territory. And, for all the Liberals who'll howl how that would wreck the economy, the experts conclude that's a load of crap.
The NDP’s plan, which is being touted as "A New Deal," only outperforms the Liberals by about 12 megatonnes. Meanwhile, their plan would have a more significant negative impact on economic growth. The party's plan relies on government funding for many of the policies — things like $1.5 billion for green innovation, $2.5 billion for home retrofit incentives and $6.5 billion for electric vehicles and transit.

...The Greens have proposed policies that radically transform some Canadian industries. They propose, for instance, banning oil fracking, which means shutting down most oil production in Canada outside of the Alberta oilsands. 
"The Green Party is the only party that is taking us to deep levels of decarbonizing the economy and deep emission reductions," said [Waterloo prof, Angela] Carter.  
"They give us a fighting chance of doing our part in the global community of keeping global temperatures to a 1.5 C of warming." 
..."When I look at that GDP data I'm actually pretty reassured," said Carter. "I mean even the Greens have what we've been calling the most radical policy here. They are not bringing us into recession. This is not a recessionary picture at all."
The bottom line. There's only one party taking the climate crisis seriously and, unless you're a Green, it's not yours.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

If You Think This Election Must Place the Environment First, There's Only One Choice

When it comes to climate change this election has been swamped in greenwash. Justin promises action - haven't we heard that before? Andy, well he's not really promising anything.

Jagmeet has been drowning himself in green paint but his plan isn't much better than Trudeau's.

The three of them, if they lived up to their own hype, would still leave Canada in the 600-650 ppm range and that is the path to climate catastrophe.

There is another party and it has a plan that would take Canada back down to 450 ppm. That, of course is the Green Party, the only one that's not feeding you horse shit.

CBC hired the economic modelling firm, Navius Research, to scrutinize each party's platform on greenhouse gas emissions.
The NDP’s plan, which is being touted as "A New Deal," only outperforms the Liberals by about 12 megatonnes. Meanwhile, their plan would have a more significant negative impact on economic growth. The party's plan relies on government funding for many of the policies — things like $1.5 billion for green innovation, $2.5 billion for home retrofit incentives and $6.5 billion for electric vehicles and transit.

"The NDP relies on inefficient government intervention, but also on the myth that reductions can happen by hitting large industry instead of final consumers of coal-fired electricity, gasoline, diesel, natural gas, et cetera," said Mark Jaccard, a professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management.
Then there's the Green Party.
The Greens have proposed policies that radically transform some Canadian industries. They propose, for instance, banning oil fracking, which means shutting down most oil production in Canada outside of the Alberta oilsands. 
"The Green Party is the only party that is taking us to deep levels of decarbonizing the economy and deep emission reductions," said Carter.  
"They give us a fighting chance of doing our part in the global community of keeping global temperatures to a 1.5 C of warming."

"When I look at that GDP data I'm actually pretty reassured," said Carter. "I mean even the Greens have what we've been calling the most radical policy here. They are not bringing us into recession. This is not a recessionary picture at all."
Jagmeet is a nice guy. I get that. But he's 'orange' and orange has never done green very well. He threw something together because he figured it was a vote winner but the Dippers haven't thought it through. They simply looked the other way for years while the Greens really focused on giving Canadians "a fighting chance."

Has the Worm Turned On Donald Trump?

The Washington Post's conservative columnist, Jennifer Ruben, figures impeachment of Donald Trump is now a "slam dunk."

When Trump's chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, admitted the administration withheld $400-million in military aid to the Ukraine while Trump implored the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden's son the ox was gored. Mulvaney freely admitted the quid-pro-quo and told reporters they do it all the time and they should "get over it."
Every member of the U.S. House and Senate knows that this is not done all the time, and that a quid pro quo to further a president’s political interests is verboten. Trump and his cronies are making it increasingly difficult for Republicans to find a reason not to vote for impeachment and removal. Compulsive confessions are a major stumbling block to retaining the loyalty of congressional Republicans.

Second, as if one confession were not enough, the ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, reportedly told the House impeachment panel “that President Trump outsourced the job of handling U.S. policy on Ukraine to Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, a decision that made Sondland uncomfortable but one he still carried out.” ...The evidence of a quid pro quo is piling up, giving Republicans one more reason to jump ship on Trump.

Finally, in an unprecedented display of chutzpah, Trump announced that next year’s Group of Seven summit would be held at his Doral golf resort near Miami, one of the clearest instances yet of self-enrichment and unconstitutional receipt of emoluments. The emoluments controversy had receded in light of the Ukraine scandal, but such a blatant example of Trump’s willingness to smash government and reap personal financial benefits weighs heavily in favor of removing him. We’d better get him out of there before he makes off with any more loot. The urgency of his removal is intensified when he displays an ever-increasing appetite for unethical, unconstitutional and illegal conduct, about which his aides tell us to “get over it.”
...A steady stream of witnesses continue to testify in the impeachment inquiry, increasing the volume of evidence of what is already an air-tight case. At some point House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will need to decide that there is enough evidence to convince most persuadable voters of goodwill that Trump’s continued presence in the Oval Office is a danger to the republic. Frankly, that might be any day now.
And the Trump factor has a number of Republicans facing re-election next year feeling the heat, including legendary pig castrator, Joni Ernst. The Iowa senator's approval numbers have taken a big hit, especially among Republican voters where she's down 13 points. Several others are in the same boat.
“Republicans representing Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, Maine and Iowa all saw their net approval — the share of voters who approve of a senator’s job performance minus the share who disapprove — decline between the second and third quarters of 2019.” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who could not manage to tell us whether it is wrong for the president to enlist a foreign government to influence our elections, are down 9 points and 3 points, respectively.

Ernst is in particular trouble. “The slide places her underwater with Iowa voters (39 percent approve and 43 percent disapprove) for the first time and among the 10 most unpopular senators in the country,” the polls found. “Iowa voters of all partisan leanings soured on the first-term senator, but GOP voters were most likely to take a dimmer view of her job performance. Her net approval dropped by 13 points among Republicans, compared with respective 9- and 7-point drops among Democrats and independents.” Uh-oh.

Ernst is not alone. “Ernst is not the only Republican up for re-election next year with a home-state approval below 40 percent: Among the vulnerable incumbents, Martha McSally of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Thom Tillis of North Carolina are all below that threshold following a quarter where each saw little movement.”

Meanwhile, vulnerable Democratic incumbents are rising in polls. Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) are up 1 points and 3 points, respectively. If these sort of numbers persist, or get even worse for Republicans, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will lose his majority.

McConnell, infamous for his shameless, ice-water-in-his-veins brand of politics, will do whatever he must to save his members. If that means shoving Trump off-stage, he will gladly do it. (Notice his especially tough condemnation of Trump’s Syria debacle.)

A mound of evidence of plainly impeachable conduct. A GOP majority at risk. One could reasonably expect to see indications that a significant number of Republican senators would kick Trump to the curb to save their own necks and the GOP Senate majority. The game of chicken (“Resign, or we vote to remove you!”) might begin in earnest. Alternatively, Trump could decide that he has accomplished more in three years than any other president accomplished in eight (the best ever!). Why not retire early, grab a pardon from Mike Pence and spend all his time golfing? It is not as far-fetched as it used to be.

If Nothing Else, 2019 Might Get Us What We Were Promised in 2015.

Maybe that's what Justin Trudeau always needed, a boot up his backside.  He did seem to take us all for granted after he won his false majority in 2015. He welshed on electoral reform. He went ahead with pipelines, even buying the damned thing. He played fast and loose with our Charter rights to death with dignity. One by one they added up until another majority was not in the cards for Justin Trudeau.

If, as we're told, Jagmeet's NDP emerges on Monday holding the balance of power, we might just get Trudeau to deliver on all those broken promises. That, in its own right, would be just dandy.

Help Me Out Here. Is There a Grade Lower Than "F"?

I ask the question having absorbed the dinner speech delivered by retired Marine General and former US defence secretary, James Mattis, earlier this week. If Trump had been in the room while Mattis systematically shredded him, I think he might have been found slumped in a corner bleeding out. It's a great speech. You should watch it.

Then, over at the New York Times, there was another piece eviscerating Trump by celebrated admiral and former commander of US Special Operations Command, navy Seal, William McRaven.

Both commanders dismiss Trump as an abject failure, the worst ever to occupy the White House.  Mattis quoted widely from Abraham Lincoln to reveal the Ogre-in-Chief as America's greatest misanthrope.  McRaven went further, calling Trump an enemy of the American republic.

The admiral framed his remarks by describing attending two gatherings to honour some of his nation's finest servicemen and women. He continued:

But, beneath the outward sense of hope and duty that I witnessed at these two events, there was an underlying current of frustration, humiliation, anger and fear that echoed across the sidelines. The America that they believed in was under attack, not from without, but from within
These men and women, of all political persuasions, have seen the assaults on our institutions: on the intelligence and law enforcement community, the State Department and the press. They have seen our leaders stand beside despots and strongmen, preferring their government narrative to our own. They have seen us abandon our allies and have heard the shouts of betrayal from the battlefield. As I stood on the parade field at Fort Bragg, one retired four-star general, grabbed my arm, shook me and shouted, “I don’t like the Democrats, but Trump is destroying the Republic!” 
Those words echoed with me throughout the week. It is easy to destroy an organization if you have no appreciation for what makes that organization great.  
...But, if we don’t care about our values, if we don’t care about duty and honor, if we don’t help the weak and stand up against oppression and injustice — what will happen to the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Syrians, the Rohingyas, the South Sudanese and the millions of people under the boot of tyranny or left abandoned by their failing states? 
If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us? If we can’t have faith in our nation’s principles, why would the men and women of this nation join the military? And if they don’t join, who will protect us? If we are not the champions of the good and the right, then who will follow us? And if no one follows us — where will the world end up? 
President Trump seems to believe that these qualities are unimportant or show weakness. He is wrong. These are the virtues that have sustained this nation for the past 243 years. If we hope to continue to lead the world and inspire a new generation of young men and women to our cause, then we must embrace these values now more than ever.

And if this president doesn’t understand their importance, if this president doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office — Republican, Democrat or independent — the sooner, the better. The fate of our Republic depends upon it.
They're all but calling Trump a traitor. Will that have any impact on congressional Republicans, the party that lays claim to being the real friend of America's military?

Oh, So That's the Burr Under Warren's Saddle

Our friend wrote a cryptic post this morning, "The Source."

It seemed to attack CBC and the Globe for using an unnamed source who allegedly is/was anti-Semitic and light-fingered. Apparently WK had a falling out with a Daisy staffer who, on his way out the door, made off with a few documents.

Hard to make any sense of it but it did invite a visit to the CBC and Globe web sites. And there it is.

Our friend's Daisy Group, it is claimed, has been working for Scheer's Tories to derail Maxime Bernier's PPC campaign.

Both news outlets report having received a raft of Daisy Group documents laying out the plan, one being an invoice for services rendered.

From his start as a Liberal stalwart, WK has become, in recent years, politically promiscuous. Business is business. He's not the first to play the political field nor will he be the last. I wouldn't read much into that. But there was this part from the Globe story that caught my eye:
A Daisy Group document describing the project says “Daisy’s war room campaign goals will be to place Bernier and PPC on the defensive” and to “work to attempt to ensure that Bernier and the PPC are not included in national leaders’ debates. If unsuccessful in blocking his participation, Daisy will work to ensure that Bernier and his party are weakened to the point of being ineffective.” 
Senior Daisy Group employee Rob Gilmour outlined the plan in the document. 
He noted that Daisy Group’s role could meet Elections Canada’s definition of third-party activity, a move that would require the filing of disclosures on its political activities. “Daisy will create an arm’s-length organization that cannot be linked to the client or any participating organization,” he wrote. He later added, “If possible, Daisy will work to ensure this campaign is not named as a third party.”
What this means I surely don't know. It could be nothing more than innuendo and who knows better on that score than our friend. Still it raises some interesting questions that could use some answers.

We may get those answers before long. CBC reports that Maxime Bernier has filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Elections Canada to get to the bottom of this. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has filed a complaint to the Commissioner of Canada Elections to get to the bottom of what he called a "secret" smear campaign waged against him. 
During a news conference Saturday, Bernier said the party will retain legal advice and will use all tools at its disposal to get answers on the Conservative Party of Canada's potential role in that campaign.
I'm not sure what just happened but WK has announced that he's quitting twitter and facebook. He says he's ill but that could mean anything. Most of the folks I know who reach a certain age have some sort of condition or illness. That's life.

What I found curious was his contention that he can't respond to questions about the controversy lest he be disbarred. He seems to be raising the defence of solicitor-client privilege but this hardly seems to have anything to do with rendering legal services. Serving as a political operative through Daisy, a public relations firm, is a very far stretch from a legal relationship. It seems that he's reaching. It sounds seriously contrived.

As the day closes, my take on this whole thing is that, providing Daisy did not run afoul of our election laws, it's really not a big deal. Trudeau's fan boys are gushing in delight that their guy's tormentor has perhaps been brought low. WK has earned their enmity with his over-the-top campaign against JT. It concerns me that he is raising this solicitor-client confidentiality business. That sounds a bit desperate. From Scheer's remarks, Daisy was at best a "vendor" and that's far from being counsel.

Let's not kid ourselves. Nobody cares about Bernier. He's an odious character and his operation attracted a core but limited group of sordid followers. If he's got a grievance the commissioner can sort it out. All we know is that Daisy et al set out to derail Bernier's campaign but what they actually did in furtherance of that remains to come out. That could be interesting. It might not be.

As for our friend and his pull on our heartstrings - ditto. He too is an odious hack, a shameless tout, utterly undeserving of compassion. His pity party is abhorrent. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Meanwhile, Across the Pond

Another bad day for Boris Johnson. He presented his "deal" with the EU to the Commons only to see it derailed. A last minute amendment allowed by outgoing Speaker John Bercow blocked today's vote. The amendment passed 322 to 306.

It seems Parliament expected the blockage would send Boris back to Brussels to seek another extension. Boris doubled down declaring that he would not negotiate another delay with the EU. He's playing "my way or the highway" in a very high-stakes game of constitutional chicken.

I wonder what Theresa May is thinking? She had a deal, better in some ways than her successor's, and it was voted down again and again. Boris and company sent May packing, promising to negotiate a better deal with the Euros. It didn't work out that way. The Europeans held firm on Ireland and offered, instead, a customs border, an aquatic border running down the Irish Sea.

So, if Boris won't go back, cap in hand, to ask for another extension and his nerve holds for the next 11 or 12 days, the default option is "hard Brexit."

Things are getting tense. They're calling out the cops. Shadow home secretary, Dianne Abbott, got a police escort home.  House leader, Jacob Rees-Mog, and his 12-year old son, left Westminster with a police escort as a mob shouted "traitor."

On Monday, Scotland's Court of Session, will resume hearing an application for an injunction to order Johnson to apply for an extension as stipulated under the Benn Act.  Bercow says he'll sign the extension request letter if Johnson ignores the Scottish court.

I think what they need now is another Gunpowder Plot. This time, one that works.

Friday, October 18, 2019

For Boeing, It Only Gets Worse.

Long before two Boeing 737 Max jetliners nose dived into the ground extinguishing the lives of all aboard, the company's chief technical pilot knew the jet's automated MCAS system had critical problems.

Boeing's chief technical pilot on the 737 Max project told another employee in 2016 that there were "egregious" problems with the jet's automated MCAS system, two years before the first of two fatal crashes attributed to the system, The New York Times reported on Friday.

Internal instant messages sent by Mark Forkner, the chief technical pilot, and another Boeing employee in 2016, were found by Boeing "some months ago," according to a report from Reuters, which first reported on the messages. However, Boeing did not turn them over to the FAA until Thursday. 
The FAA told Reuters it found the messages "concerning" and "is reviewing this information to determine what action is appropriate."
Forkner was previously reported to have pleaded the fifth after being subpoenaed for documents as part of the Justice Department's investigation into the Max.
Boeing execs appear to face criminal liability. They knew the MCAS system was defective, potentially lethal. They concealed the defect from the FAA. They concealed it from their customers who operated the type, even after the first disaster. They guarded their secret as the second jetliner was driven into the ground. Hundreds of deaths can be associated with that concealment. Surely that's some form of mass homicide.

The Solutions Aren't Any More Radical Than the Thinking That Created This Mess.

If we want to solve all of our existential threats the solution is quite simple. Mankind, our global civilization, has to find ways to live within the very finite limits of our biosphere, Planet Earth.

We're already far past those limits. There are too many of us. The Earth cannot bear our weight and it is showing signs of serious breakdown. What we do collectively to overburden the planet we echo on an individual level reflected in excessive consumption and waste.

The good news is that science provides a fairly precise understanding of just how much Earth can bear. We know, for example, how much additional greenhouse gas we can emit to the atmosphere before we trigger massively catastrophic global warming. We know how much more heat and carbon we can expect the seas to absorb before they too become acidic, anoxic.

The bad news is that we don't want to change. We don't like change. We're leery of change. Sometimes we deeply fear it. Our fears can become so powerful that we freeze. Instead of getting on the brakes and gearing down for the hairpin we keep on the throttle and try not to think about how that may turn out.

That's a reasonable metaphor for how we're approaching the matrix of existential threats looming ever closer.

We didn't know it at the time but as a civilization we reached the point where we needed to brake and downshift around 1970 when our numbers reached a record 3.7 billion.

We didn't know it a decade later when Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Brian Mulroney ushered in their new economic theology we now call neoliberalism. Here we stand in 2019 with a failed economic philosophy and a population closing in on 8 billion. My but we do not want to change. We want the problems to go away but we do not want to change. Why, we would sooner die and so, perhaps, we shall.

Winston Churchill had great dangers in mind when he said, "it is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required."

It's not at all clear that we can avert the worst but it is clear how we must change, "what is required." The solutions seem radical but they're not. They only appear radical because we have normalized the truly radical change that brought us to the edge of this abyss.

When I was born the global population reached a record 2.5 billion. 12 thousand years of human civilization to reach 2.5 billion. Today, less than one average lifetime later, we're closing in on 8 billion. We've grown our numbers three fold in one lifetime. That is radical change, growth on a scale resembling a malignancy.

We've roughly doubled our lifespan from where it stood at 1900 to where we're at today in 2019. Over that same span our per capita consumption has soared even more. That's radical, all of it.

It's population growth X increased longevity X increased per capita consumption. It doesn't get more radical than that. We're destroying our life support system, our environment, to the point we have degraded Earth's carrying capacity. Yet we've made that our 'normal' and we're not interested in finding balance again, learning to live within the limits of our environment. No, we're still in pursuit of perpetual exponential growth. That's sick. It's madness.

The first radical measure we must take is to abandon the radical and destructive practices we have normalized. There's nothing 'normal' about them. You don't have to be an admirer of Winston Churchill to see the wisdom in his observation that, in dire circumstances, it's not enough that we do our best. We must do what is required. There's nothing radical about that.