Showing posts from January, 2021

Biden Democrats Feeling Fat and Sassy. Why?

According to the New York Times, the Democrats are flush with cash and hope it's a sign they can hold on to the House in the mid-terms. It seems the DNC is sitting on $75 million .  Not wanting to rain on the Dems' parade but the paper also reports that the Mango Mussolini made hay while the sun shone, i.e. right up to Biden's inauguration, to the tune of $255 million in donations ostensibly to help him overturn Biden's election win. It remains to be seen what the "Donor Class" will do in the runup to the mid-terms. Some of them were put off  by Trump but that doesn't mean they'll abandon the RNC next time.  

For Those Keeping Score

  On Saturday, Britain logged 600,000 Covid-19 vaccinations . 600,000 - one day. Just Saturday. Since vaccines first became available about six weeks ago, Canada has administered 954,000 doses. That's all in.  Now the UK is more populous at 66 million compared to Canada's 37 million.  Britain is also handicapped by its woefully incompetent prime minister, Boris "BoJo" Johnson and the Brexit chaos that reportedly plagues the kingdom. The National Health Service says it expects to see the effects of these vaccinations starting in about two weeks. Closer to home, the US recorded 1.5 million vaccinations on Saturday , its third consecutive 1.5 million day.  Most Canadians should get their first shots in mid- to late summer. Well done, us.

There's an Idea! Let's Make Our Own Vaccines.

  Dr. Alan Bernstein, head of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, says Canada needs something we haven't had since Mulroney allowed Connaught Labs to be sold off. He wants Canada back in the business of producing vaccines . '" We need domestic vaccine production capacity in the country for the next pandemic, and also for this pandemic. If there are variants arising, we may be designing second, third-generation vaccines and vaccinating the population for the next two or three years ." "On Friday, Moderna announced that production delays would cut into its upcoming deliveries of vaccine doses to Canada. That followed Pfizer and BioNTech having cancelled an entire shipment of its COVID-19 vaccine to Canada this week, after reducing its previous shipment by 20 per cent, due to a temporary slowdown while its production facility in Belgium is being upgraded. "Bernstein said "hiccups" are to be expected with vaccine shipments, but that shouldn&#

Trump Unmasked?

  It has become popular in  some circles to dismiss all the evidence that Donald Trump was, perhaps unwittingly, in service to the Kremlin. These types seem to overlook how much Trump did in his four years in the White House to weaken America's institutions and fray its relations with the country's historic allies. He sought to undermine NATO and the European Union. He aligned the United States with anti-democratic and authoritarian regimes from Asia to the Middle East and Europe. Like it or not, Trump was the Kremlin's waterboy. Now a former KGB spy is speaking out, claiming that Trump was cultivated as a Russian asset for more than 40 years. " Yuri Shvets, posted to Washington by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, compares the former US president to “the Cambridge five”, the British spy ring that passed secrets to Moscow during the second world war and early cold war. "Now 67, Shvets is a key source for American Kompromat, a new book by journalist Craig Unger, w

Public Confidence in Trudeau is Flagging

  The longer the Covid vaccine fiasco drags on the worse it becomes for Justin Trudeau.  Mr. Trudeau has been long on assurances, the more vague the better, but falls far short on results.   The bottom line is the percentage of the population vaccinated. The UK leads the way with 10% vaccinated, by some accounts that's 12%. The US, which despite its supposed rollout fiasco, still has a respectable 5%. Canada, at 1.1% comes well behind Malta, Denmark, Slovenia, Spain, Ireland, Lithuania, Portugal, Iceland, Serbia, Romania, Italy, Cyprus, Estonia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Finland, Hungary, Croatia, France, Greece, Belgium, Sweden and Norway. Yes, as Mr. Trudeau regularly reminds us, Canada has many tens of millions of vaccine doses on order. In today's Guardian there's a lovely graphic of which countries have contracted for how much vaccine by number of doses per resident.  The UK orders equal 5.5 doses per person. EU, 3.5. US, 3.7. Japan, ba

Isn't This How Most of Us Feel Today When Someone Mentions Climate Change?

  I've struggled to put my finger on how people respond when the subject of climate change comes up. This excerpt from a piece in Pro Publica captures the dilemma we all face. "George Marshall opened his book, “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change,” with the parable of Jan Karski, a young Polish resistance fighter who, in 1943, met in person with Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, who was both a Jew and widely regarded as one of the great minds of his generation. Karski briefed the justice on what he’d seen firsthand: the pillage of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Belzec death camp. Afterward, Frankfurter said, “I do not believe you.” "The Polish ambassador, who had arranged the meeting on the recommendation of President Franklin Roosevelt, interrupted to defend Karski’s account. '" I did not say that he is lying ,” Frankfurter explained. “ I said that I didn’t believe him. It’s a different thing. My mind, my heart — they are

And Trump Will Still Get Off the Hook

The US Department of Homeland Security issued a domestic terrorism warning today. The warning specified a growing risk of attacks by "ideologically-motivated violent extremists" agitated about President Biden's election and " perceived grievances fueled by false narratives ."  The Republican gift, it seems, just keeps on giving. Trump may be gone, for now at least, but his venom remains potent. Trump, of courses, is being aided and abetted by Republicans in the House and Senate who perpetuate the 'stolen election' lie. These are not people seeking reconciliation  and unity. They, instead, stoke the fires of conspiracies and aggression.  Since the January 6 attack on the Capitol building, poll after poll of self-identified Republicans show that "stop the steal" lives on and not very many Republicans will admit that Trump should be held accountable for launching the insurrection. On the last RealTime, Maher interviewed a retired FBI agent who ar

You Can Forget About an Early Election.

  Canada may have to wait six months longer for Covid vaccines than America  or Europe. What we were told was "a few weeks" lag is now looking like a disaster for the country, the people of Canada and the government of Justin Trudeau. The majority of Canadians may have to wait six months longer than Americans and Europeans for their COVID-19 vaccine, a new forecast says. In a report released Wednesday, the U.K.-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) warned it will take lon ger to immunize the world against the novel coronavirus than expected, with many middle-income countries not seeing a COVID jab until 2023, and lower-income countries waiting until 2024, “if it happens at all.” The Americans have vaccinated barely 5% of their population. Blame it on Trump, I suppose. They got off to a sluggish start. The UK has reached 10%, the best in Europe . Canada has achieved a stellar 1.1% vaccination rate . That puts Canada embarrassingly well behind Malta, Denmark, Slovenia, Spa

Oh, Those Poor Deluded Fools. They're Not to Blame.

  There's a growing effort underway in the ranks of America's left to excuse the sins of Trump's legion of useful idiots. It's not their fault. They're to be pitied, not scorned. They've been handed a bad deal so they lashed out and latched on to the first smooth talker who promised to lead them to the Holy Land. You hear that shit from Bill Maher. You can hear it from Chris Hedges. It seems to be in the air. It's bullshit. Sure they've had it rough. America is no longer the Land of Opportunity. Republicans, their political flavour of choice, have economically gerrymandered America. Life in the precariat is a tough gig. What's a guy to do when all he has to cling to is his whiteness? Trump's followers remind me of the "Good German." That's a term defined as "someone who turns a blind eye to criminal atrocities committed by the government. It includes needless war, lying to the public, stripping civil rights, ignoring laws held

America's Original Sin - Conspiracy Theory

  Conspiracy theories propelled Donald Trump to power but it's been the stuff of American politics since the 1776 Revolution .  The United States of America was founded on a conspiracy theory. In the lead-up to the War of Independence, revolutionaries argued that a tax on tea or stamps is not just a tax, but the opening gambit in a sinister plot of oppression. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were convinced — based on “a long train of abuses and usurpations” — that the king of Great Britain was conspiring to establish “an absolute Tyranny” over the colonies. “The document itself is a written conspiracy theory,” says Nancy Rosenblum , a political theorist emerita at Harvard University. It suggests that there’s more going on than meets the eye, that someone with bad intentions is working behind the scenes. If conspiracy theories are as old as politics, they’re also — in the era of Donald Trump and QAnon — as current as the latest headlines. Earlier this month, the Ameri

What If They're Right, What Then?

  There are few things good about becoming a senior citizen except that this is probably a good time to be nearing the station. I do not envy those who will be living in 2050 or even 2040. I have a reasonable prospect of making it to 2030 and I'm not eager to see what that will bring. Today there's a story in most of the papers. Big news. The ice caps, the glaciers and the sea ice are melting 60 per cent faster than they did in 1990. For years I've followed climate science quite closely but, as I read the latest report, all I could muster was a "so, so what? All we're seeing is what we've been warned for year after year that we would see. This is a story that merely proves that dire predictions past were accurate.  Isn't the element of accuracy the real story behind today's headline? The science types got it right - again. They keep getting it right and, when they're wrong, it's almost always an underestimation. They sugar-coat it. They self-cen

How the Liberals Botched the Covid Crisis and Left Canadians Exposed

  There's no two ways about it. Justin Trudeau screwed up. That became undeniable when Pfizer announced disruptions in the scheduled supply of vaccine doses while it retooled some plant in Belgium. That's when we discovered that Canada, instead of being at the front of the line as the prime minister told us, is well down the line. Shipments of the Pfizer vaccine won't resume for another two or three weeks - if we're lucky. Pfizer will be restoring deliveries to the European Union on Monday, the 25th of January. I'd love to hear the prime minister come up with a plausible explanation of why Canada has become tail-end Charlie. How did the Trudeau government screw up? How many will die because of it? I'm not used to agreeing with Andrew Coyne but his op-ed in yesterday's Globe is on the money. Per capita, the United States has distributed – under Donald Trump, let us remember – more than four times as many doses as Canada, and administered nearly three times a

Payette's Parting Gift - $150 Large for Life

  Disgraced former Governor-General, Julie Payette, will leave Ottawa with a ridiculously generous  parting package . Julie Payette submitted her resignation as Governor General on Thursday, but despite leaving early due to a workplace scandal she’ll still qualify for a lifetime pension of at least $149,484 per year. The lifetime annuity is set out in legislation called the Governor General’s Act and it applies to anyone who has held the office, regardless of how they leave it. It rises slowly over time, currently standing at $149,484. “An annuity payable under this section shall commence on the day the annuitant ceases to hold the office of Governor General and shall continue thereafter during his life,” the legislation says (using outmoded gendered language). On top of that, former governors general are entitled to a lifetime expense program that gives them access to up to $206,000 per year from the budget of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General. Now I don't wa

The Bloom Is Off the Rose, the Wild Rose That Is.

For some time Alberta has been a provincial Ponzi-scheme, robbing the future to pay dividends today. Tens of thousands of orphan wells, dangerously contaminated groundwater and those Tar Sands tailing ponds are Alberta's IOU for its future generations. But, as has been foretold repeatedly - and repeatedly ignored - the era of fossil energy is drawing to a close. Alberta loves to blame Ottawa for its woes but it is world oil prices, that are definitely not set by Ottawa, that undermine Alberta's once mighty natural resource. High-cost/high-carbon/low-value fossil fuels are becoming economically unviable. Alberta has already seen a Tar Sands exodus by major fossil energy companies and investment houses. That wasn't Ottawa's doing. To maintain the illusion that Tar Sands bitumen remains a successful venture both Alberta and Ottawa have had to throw billions into rescuing pipelines that the private sector won't touch. The invisible hand of the market has pulled back fro

The Other Shoe Drops, New Covid Variant More Lethal

  Wouldn't it be great if Canada still had a world-class laboratory manufacturing vaccines? We did but we don't, not any more. Word coming out of the UK that the more contagious Covid variant that's now spreading around the world is also more deadly. That warning comes from none other than Britain's beleaguered prime minister, Boris Johnson . Mr Johnson told a Downing Street briefing: "In addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant - the variant that was first identified in London and the south east - may be associated with a higher degree of mortality. "It's largely the impact of this new variant that means the NHS is under such intense pressure." Thanks to the neglect of Canadian prime ministers going back to Mulroney, Canada's world class pharmaceutical company, Connaught Labs, is no more. We threw away that critical resilience when our governments allowed it to be sold. Privatization

Ah, the Fragrant Scent of Pines

Remember the days of "no drama Obama"? Despite the still unresolved disasters of the past four years, those days of relative tranquility seem to be coming back. It's sort of like that first Spring weekend at the family cabin on the lake after you've spent the winter sharing a dorm room with a flatulent frat boy. 

It's Utterly Electrifying. EVs Arrive at Critical Mass.

  It's a terrible week to add to Jason Kenney's woes but the days of internal combustion are growing shorter with each passing year. Six years ago the Swiss bank, UBS, sent a letter to its top clients warning them to get out of conventional energy investments and put their money instead into renewable energy. The days of fossil fuels were numbered. Advances in clean energy generation and storage would send oil, gas and coal back to where they came from, that age of the dinosaurs. So much has happened over the past six years, especially in battery capacity and cost, that, as UBS predicted, electric vehicles are becoming cheaper than the internal combustion alternative . That's happening even without government subsidies on EV purchases. Global sales rose 43% in 2020 , but even faster growth is anticipated when continuing falls in battery prices bring the price of electric cars dipping below that of equivalent petrol and diesel models, even without subsidies. The latest anal

Julie, er, Your Excellency, Don't Let the Door Hit Your Ass On Your Way Out

  Governor General Julie Payette and her muscle, Assunta di Lorenzo, are toast. Both have resigned following the release of a scathing report of workplace culture at Rideau Hall .  Julie and Assunta were said to be shit bosses, heaping abuse and vitriol on their plebs. And now they're gone. Adios, Julie.

Oh, Please. Please, Please, Please. Do It. Go For It.

Before Donald Trump departed Andrews Air Force base yesterday, he told the relatively small gathering of well-wishers that he would be back "in some form." That cryptic line sparked a lot of speculation.  There was talk about a Trump TV channel to compete head to head with Rupert Murdoch's feckless FOX News.  The Wall Street Journal claims Trump is considering forming a breakaway political party, the Patriot Party, that would draw radical rightwing candidates to take seats in the House and Senate. Presumably the Mango Mussolini plans to bleed the Republican ranks as payback for what he sees as the party's betrayal over the election. I expect he's planning to poach the Treason Caucus from the GOP. I so wish Trump would do this. Either way it would be a great thing for America. If it failed it would likely consign Trump to obscurity. If he won, it would gore the GOP and split the rightwing vote, opening a path for the Dems for a decade or more. Of course it would t

One Day. So Many Smiles.

It seemed like the world was smiling yesterday as the United States shed one president and greeted another. No one can tell how president Biden will fare in dealing with the truly Herculean challenges that beset America and, in many cases, much of the world. All we do know is that he won't act with malice or impulse. There's no sadism to this man, unlike his predecessor. Smiles all around. Smiles at the inauguration. Smiles on television. Smiles in my own home. Smiles, unseen but heard, on the phone. But there was one smile, a great beaming smile, that left a unique impression. It was the smile on the face of Melania Trump. It radiated joy, her delight at leaving the White House for good. It was a smile of relief. Gone was the stony grimace, the standard fare for the last four years. Does this mean that she's changed, that she's become a better person? Hell no. All it means is that she's happier to go somewhere else, probably almost anywhere other than the White Hou

Keystone XL is Dead, Again.

  That didn't take long. President Joe Biden has revoked the presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline expansion.  Word was out he'd kill KXL on Day One. He did just that.  Justin Trudeau added a touch of hilarity to the situation: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he discussed the pipeline issue with then-president-elect Biden in a conversation “a number of weeks ago.” “We have highlighted, including in a direct conversation I had with president-elect Biden a number of weeks ago, that Canada has… become a global leader on the fight against climate change… and that Keystone XL continues to be an important project for us,” he said. Good one, Justin. I bet the "global leader" line got a few giggles. 

Now the White Supremacists Go Fishing

  Who knew? Apparently the QAnon crowd were expecting fireworks today in the form of Trump forces swooping down and arresting Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and their lackeys under a declaration of martial law. Only Trump bummed a free ride out of town and nobody showed up to put the cuffs on Deep State Biden. According to NBC news, the conspiracy theorists were crestfallen . They felt they had been betrayed, let down by a feckless Trump & Co. Some of the QAnon crowd feel the whole business was a hoax. They had been punked.  But, when one door closes, another opens.  AI researcher Nick Backovic said that while it does appear many QAnon followers are giving up after this last failed prophecy, he has seen white supremacist recruiters “raid” QAnon groups with the explicit goal of recruiting disillusioned and hopeless conspiracy theorists. “There are lots of people feeling shocked, cheated and angry. As scary as that is on its own, it’s the rest I’m most worried about,” Backovic said. “We’re

"We'll Be Back, In Some Form."

 We can only hope that it's a spectral presence. As Trump bid farewell to a modest crowd gathered at Andrews Air Force base, his parting words were "We'll be back in some form." Then, as the Mango Mussolini and a beaming Melania climbed the steps for their final hop on Air Force One the speakers played the Village People's "YMCA." It was a modest enough event. Even Trump's vice president, Mike Pence, gave it a pass. It was unclear how many of the well wishers were made up of the freshly pardoned.

McConnell - Capitol Insurrection was "Provoked" by Trump

  Maybe it's because he knows Trump will be gone from the White House in less than 24 hours but, for whatever reason, still Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has come out with his harshest verdict on Donald Trump's role in the January 6th attack on the Capitol building. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, said on Tuesday that the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 had been “provoked by the president and other powerful people,” stating publicly for the first time that he holds President Trump at least partly responsible for the assault. “ The mob was fed lies ,” Mr. McConnell said, referring to attempts by Mr. Trump to overturn the election based on bogus claims of voter fraud. “ They were provoked by the president and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like .” It sure sounds as though Mitch figures Donald Trump did exactly

Too Hot To Handle

  They're roasting. They're poor and they're vulnerable. No, they're not Honduran or Guatemalan. They're Americans. Yesterday I wrote about how parts of Central America are becoming increasingly less habitable. Heatwaves, severe storm events, droughts, floods of increasing frequency, duration and severity and their knock-on effects, especially food insecurity, are causing the poor to migrate for the sake of survival.  Americans, some of them anyway, are all too familiar with the impacts of climate change. What they have in common is that they tend to be poor to low-income and live in southern states , especially Florida and Arizona. Mario Wilcox won’t set out in the summer without an emergency kit in his car trunk: a cooler with an ice pack and a blanket. He learned this improvised life saver from his time in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; ice and a wet cloth can cool down an overheated body. Now he finds it vital in the intensifying heat of Fort Pierce, Florida, an

Just a Thought on Pipelines

  Here's an idea. When a government has to pump billions of dollars into a pipeline because the private sector won't touch it then we should ask "why?"  Kinder Morgan, the Texas doppleganger of the EnRon crew, was preparing to fold its hand on the Trans-Mountain pipeline project. It wasn't a bluff either. Even when Ottawa went to the cowboys with offers of profit guarantees, all it got was nyet.  Finally the Trudeau government folded and bought the pipeline for the cowboys' inflated asking price. The rest is rather dreary history. In the land next door, a frisky premier, Jason Kenney, ignored his government's fiscal embarrassment to cough up 1.5 billion scarce dollars to resuscitate the Keystone XL pipeline. That was an act of desperation. Obama had nixed the deal but there was a new guy in the Oval, Kenney's kindred spirit, Trump. So Kenney went all in and rolled the dice. If the KXL was such a good deal, what was the private sector overlooking? Why w

At Some Level, Each of Us Knows This

We've left it much too late to stop it and we're just going to have to face the consequences of our folly. It's one thing to recognize that our high-carbon economy is creating climate perils elsewhere, especially in places where the brown and black people live. It's beyond stupid to proceed on the assumption there won't also be a price for us to pay. Climate change, global warming, is rendering some peoples' homelands uninhabitable. Too many hurricanes, too much drought, too much heat - the human organism can't evolve fast enough to cope with all the changes. And then there's food insecurity, famine.  People aren't going to sit put and watch their kids die. Would you? Do you think they should just stay put? Think about that as you mull over Jason Kenney and Justin Trudeau and the pros and cons of bitumen pipelines. They're connected, almost joined at the hip. A court in France wrestled with whether a Bangladeshi man with severe asthma could be de

The On-Again, Off-Again KXL Pipeline

CBC is reporting that Joe Biden intends to move quickly after his inauguration this Wednesday to cancel the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline . U.S. president-elect Joe Biden has indicated plans to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit via executive action on his first day in office, sources confirmed to CBC News on Sunday. The purported briefing note from the Biden transition team was widely circulated over the weekend after being shared by the incoming president's team with U.S. stakeholders. The words "Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit" appear on a list of executive actions supposedly scheduled for Day 1 of Biden's presidency.

Creeping Illiteracy Across Canada

  It seems literacy isn't a top priority for hewers of wood and drawers of water. Literacy skills that a student  develops in school can be lost in jobs where muscle memory is more important than reading comprehension. Literacy, it seems, can be a "use it or lose it" proposition. Automation is no friend to the marginally literate. Unfortunately, automation is also targeting jobs where illiteracy rates can be highest. Recent studies have found that upwards of half of Canada's adult population has some literacy/numeracy impairment .  The Oil Patch created a high school drop out problem, luring young people out of school with high wage jobs that required on-the-job skills but not formal education. Now, even those jobs are being automated as the bitumen traffickers need to slash operating costs to continue mining high-carbon/low-value pitch. Another problem associated with weak literacy is a vulnerability to online disinformation - conspiracy theories, etc. Governments to

Bill Maher Shows He's Still a Pompous Bag of Hot Air

I caught a little of Bill Maher's RealTime season opener last night. I used to be a regular follower until Maher's ego got the best of him as he launched into pedantic diatribes, absolutist editorials built on cherry-picked facts. Last night's show continued in that vein. Maher chose for his opening interview guest Trump shill Kellyanne Conway.  Predictably, Conway made up a stream of excuses for Trump and the events of the 6th on Capitol Hill and, of course, pointed out that 74 million Americans had voted for Trump and the insurrectionists were a piffle, a few thousand or slightly more. Maher immediately jumped in, telling Conway that he would be making that very point in his closing monologue which he often uses to chastise liberals for not having reached his level of personal enlightenment. Maher's closer was as promised. America needed reconciliation and that would never happen so long as "smug liberals" kept blaming Republicans for the sins of a few. Libe

Pfizer Tells Canada, "Sorry." Remember When Canada Was a World Leader in Developing Vaccines?

  Just as the number of Covid-19 infections is rising, the promised supply of Pfizer's vaccine is turning into just that - a promise. It seems the American giant is having production troubles in Europe so Canada may not be getting the promised doses we were counting on. There was a time Canada wasn't dependent on foreign pharmaceutical giants or vulnerable to the vagaries of global supply lines. We had Connaught Laboratories .  With the implementation of globalism in the neoliberal era, government lost its appetite for strategic industries and moved to unload them on the private sector. That's how Mulroney wrecked aviation in Canada - how we lost Canadian Pacific Airlines, Ward Air, Pacific Western Airlines and others until Air Canada emerged the tattered victor. The government thought it could privatize Connaught Labs and yet keep the company in Canada. Maybe they didn't think that at all. Maybe that's what they said for public consumption. In any event that didn&

A Trip Down Memory Lane

  Theresa May was a truly mediocre prime minister of the United Kingdom. She was weak, hesitant and grasping.  Yet, of all her sins, perhaps the worst was her decision, weeks after Donald Trump's inauguration to invite him for a state visit, an honour infrequently bestowed on American presidents.  The British public did not take May's blunder lightly.  The visit was on, then it was off, then it was delayed.  Nate White, a British writer penned an explanation of why his countrymen were appalled at rolling out the red carpet for the Orange Ogre. "A few things spring to mind. Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem. For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace - all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed. So for us, the stark contrast does rather th