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Showing posts from September, 2021

It's Depressing. I Get It.

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The clans are on the move. They're heading for Glasgow.  Brace yourselves. You're about to be COPped. Ordinarily I'd be posting a lot about the upcoming COP26 climate summit that opens in early November, this year in Glasgow. It's not like there's any shortage of materials, new reports, dire warnings, etc. It's just that  this year the tone is discernably different, with a more urgent and apocalyptic sense that's, frankly, depressing. They're not pulling punches. I watched a guy, Rupert Read, some variety of environmental philosopher, addressing an assembly of Cambridge university students.  He described the climate crisis as a "here & now" emergency. Then he said that a good many of them could not expect to enjoy old age. "I fear for you. I fear some of you are unlikely to grow old."  Dr. Read conveniently sums up his dire prescription in the first few minutes of this address.  YouTube is flooded with interviews of various wonks

America's Vanishing Ladder

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  Some Americans still boast of their country as the "land of opportunity."  The place where anyone with guts and a bit of willpower can make it, where prosperity can be had by all if they really want it. In the wake of WW-II it sounded plausible. The US emerged with its industrial and production base, much of it just a few years old, intact, ready to switch back from guns to butter.  Former rivals in Europe and Asia stood devastated, their economies wrecked.  It was an era that saw the broadest based middle class in history emerge in North America. It was an engine of social mobility that propelled the working class from factory floor to the trades to the professions, sometimes within just one generation. If you wanted it badly enough you just pulled yourself up by your bootstraps. Unlike today, the hurdles were manageable. With that came a lot of political stability and belief in democracy and the "American way." Then Reagan, Thatcher and, yes, Mulroney, brought d

Is That What It Is? The Roots of Malignant Populism.

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  I am developing a morbid fascination with the spread of malignant populism throughout not just the United States but also many other countries, Canada included.  We were once the staid, even boring, bunch seemingly immune to extremism in public discourse. Now we have those among us who rise up against knowledge itself as some sort of plot or hoax. Andrew Potter's book, "In Decline," addresses this stagnation and the concurrent decline of liberal democracy. I'll have more on that in future posts. For now let's consider Fiona Hill's warning that Britain's social divide and lack of social mobility has become a security crisis. A lack of social mobility in Britain’s “left behind” communities risks fuelling populism and becoming a national security crisis, according to Fiona Hill, the coalminer’s daughter who became a top White House adviser. The 55-year-old, who shot to prominence as a witness in the Donald Trump impeachment trial, where she described how

It's True

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  Next, and this is the best part, is Lungta's contribution.   h/t Lungta

That Flashing Red Light - Failure to Adapt.

  Take it from the Brits - mitigation without adaptation is ruinous. As governments pretend to be behind the effort to slash greenhouse gas emissions, they're doing next to bugger all about the shorter term imperative, adaptation.  Cutting emissions is vital but if we're to come through on those solemn promises we have to defend what we have. Britain should be our poster boy .   Over the past few days the country has been thrown into panic, as soaring gas prices threaten to plunge hundreds of thousands more households into fuel poverty, joining the 2.5 million already there . For others, uncomfortably tight budgets will be further squeezed. Any country reliant on the worldwide gas market faces the risk of perennial price shocks. The UK is a difficult country to keep warm. It has some of the oldest and leakiest housing stock in western Europe, ensuring that heat dissipates through walls, windows and doors quickly after leaving radiators. Nine in 10 households rely on gas boil

Choose Yer Poison

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Chris Hedges sees two options in America's future - oligarchy or autocracy . The competing systems of power in the United States are divided between oligarchy and autocracy. There are no other alternatives. Neither are pleasant. Each have peculiar and distasteful characteristics. Each pays lip service to the fictions of democracy and constitutional rights. And each exacerbates the widening social and political divide and the potential for violent conflict. The oligarchs from the establishment Republican party, figures such as Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, George and Jeb Bush and Bill Kristol, have joined forces with the oligarchs in the Democratic Party to defy the autocrats in the new Republican party who have coalesced in cult-like fashion around Donald Trump or, if he does not run again for president, his inevitable Frankensteinian doppelgänger. ...The liberal class, fearing autocracy, has thrown in its lot with the oligarchs, discrediting and rendering impotent the causes and issues

The Problem with Carbon Removal

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  This is Orca, the world's largest carbon removal plant to date. It's expected to draw 4,000 tons of airborne CO2 per year.  It has two drawbacks. It's expensive to build and expensive to operate. The real problem is that 4,000 tons of CO2 represents just three seconds of global emissions . Carbon capture, that scrubs CO2 out of industrial exhausts is also costly but more effective. The drawback is that it does nothing about removing existing CO2 from the atmosphere. Bill Gates is putting his money on a Canadian company, Carbon Engineering. Its technology could remove 25 times what Orca achieves. 25 times 3 seconds is what, 75 seconds? That's a solid 1:15 in terms of global emissions. At that ration, Carbon Engineering would need to construct something in the range of 420,000 to 450,000 plants worldwide. Back to the drawing board.  Maybe not. UPDATE: The Guardian's environment editor, Damian Carrington, writes that the companies building these plants  want just tha

The Madness Contagion is Spreading Among Us

  It took hold in the United States as the "Sovereign Citizen" or "Freeman on the Land" cult and now it's spreading in Canada , making common cause with our anti-vaxx/anti-mask movement. The anti-vaccine movement in Canada is becoming increasingly radicalized thanks to a bizarre legal theory spreading through its ranks, according to multiple experts. Last week, protesters entered a school in Salmon Arm, B.C., to "serve" school officials with what lawyers say are bogus legal documents. The documents are based on the ideology of the Freemen-on-the-land, an anti-government movement with links to white nationalism. "This is very worrying," said Edwin Hodge, an expert on right-wing extremism at the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria. The pseudo-legal ideas of the Freemen have ebbed and flowed over the years, but the philosophy has typically been relegated to the fringes of society, according to experts. Not anymore. The pande

Canadian Hostages En Route Home.

To those idiots who suggested that Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig weren't being held hostage to secure the release of Hwawai CFO Meng Wanzhou but maybe were real spies, there are two planes in the air at this moment that say otherwise. Meng has departed Vancouver for the Peoples Republic. At some point her plane may cross paths with the jet carrying Spavor and Kovrig home .  The two Michaels spent three years banged up in a shitty Chinese prison. That's an outrage we should never soon forget. China is a rogue state and worse. Ask its Uighur population . Ask the people of occupied Tibet. Ask its neighbours who share the South China Sea. Liberal Canadians who are so quick to rally to China's defence of these bully tactics need to get their heads on straight.

About that Volcanic Eruption in the Canary Islands

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  When I read "La Palma" the story got my attention. Some years ago there was a documentary about a mega-tsunami threat to the US eastern seaboard resulting from a huge slide into the sea at the seismically volatile La Palma.  The documentary was based on a research paper by two American geophysicists, Steven Ward and Simon Day . Steven N. Ward and Simon Day in a 2001 research article proposed that a Holocene change in the eruptive activity of Cumbre Vieja volcano and a fracture on the volcano that formed during an eruption in 1949 may be the prelude to a giant collapse. They estimated that such a collapse could cause tsunamis across the entire North Atlantic and severely impact countries as far away as North America . Their theory was that the Cumbre Vieja volcano could trigger an en masse  collapse of the western side of La Palma triggering a massive tsunami that could sweep the Atlantic coast of North America. Since Sunday La Palma has endured a volcanic eruption. A qui

Monbiot - How Did the Left Follow the Right Down the Conspiracy Theory Rabbit Hole?

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  Guardian columnist, George Monbiot, sees the far left unwittingly making common cause with the far right across a broad range of issues from anti-vaxxing to a variety of conspiracy theories. A few years ago, dreadlocked hippies spreading QAnon lies and muttering about a conspiracy against Donald Trump would have seemed unthinkable. Today, the old boundaries have broken down, and the most unlikely people have become susceptible to rightwing extremism . The anti-vaccine movement is a highly effective channel for the penetration of far-right ideas into leftwing countercultures. For several years, anti-vax has straddled the green left and the far right. Trump flirted with it, at one point inviting the anti-vaxxer Robert F Kennedy Jr to chair a “commission on vaccination safety and scientific integrity”. Anti-vax beliefs overlap strongly with a susceptibility to conspiracy theories. This tendency has been reinforced by Facebook algorithms directing vaccine-hesitant people towards far

Bolsonaro's Amazon

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  On the right is the Amazon rainforest of the region's indigenous tribes.  On the left is the Amazon as Jair Bolsonaro prefers it.  This does not end well.

Rule Brittania? No, Nay, Never.

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In response to Canada's half-assed efforts to defend its sovereignty in the Arctic, the Brits have offered to throw us a lifeline.  Nobody in Ottawa has been paying much attention to the militarization of the high Arctic by Russia and also China.  To counter this, Canada's underwhelming response has been to order a bunch of over-priced Arctic patrol vessels, what any possible adversary would call "targets."  It's been a real boost to the security of Irving shipyards but that's about it. If they were ever needed to resist an adversary they could well be resting on the bottom within 24 hours, 48 at the outside. Her Majesty's Royal Navy wants to put some teeth in Canada's Arctic defence with a nuclear submarine presence and taking part in land and air exercises while there's still some ice up there. Canada fears that its Arctic sovereignty, that it's not prepared to defend, will be compromised if the Brits pick up our slack.  The Brits operate si

Oh Please, Now Can You Release Those Hostages? Please?

  Meng Wanzhou is expected to make a virtual appearance in a U.S. court to enter a guilty plea to some sort of plea-bargained charges today.  The Hwawai CFO has been living in luxury on house arrest in Vancouver since 2018 as her lawyers fought extradition proceedings that would have delivered her to American authorities. Apparently the deal is she'll pay some sort of fine and be on her merry way. Meanwhile the two Canadians Beijing nabbed as hostages, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, remain in some Chinese hellhole. Spavor has been sentenced to 11 years for "espionage." Kovrig has yet to be sentenced on his trumped up charges. It sounds like an ideal time for a prisoner exchange. Out in the open, at Vancouver airport. The Chinese send a plane with the hostages. We get them back. The Chinese get Meng Wanzhou and fly her merrily home.

Mein Gott! He Said What? Glavin, Really?

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I can't think of the last time I agreed with National Post columnist, Terry Glavin. This could be a first . In his latest column, Glavin agrees with a former mentor, Andrew Potter, that the western world is indeed in decline. It’s not what you would call a cheerful book, but it may be taken as a vindication by those of you who are already persuaded that the world seems to be going to hell in a handcart. Andrew Potter’s “On Decline” provides an abundance of hard evidence that you’re not just being a miseryguts about everything, and it’s not just the company you keep, and you’re not, in fact, wrong. ...it’s long past time to give our heads a shake and come to terms with reality. No matter how willingly we surrender to the delusions our political elites encourage in us, sooner or later the facts will intrude and force us to face them. As potter says, “It’s time we accepted that we’re in a state of decline.” It’s not as though there’s anything new about the future looking grim. The boo

On the Road to Glasgow

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  COP26, the 26th attempt to get the community of nations to do something effective about the climate crisis, opens in about six weeks in Glasgow.  There will be no end of hot air about carbon emissions cuts, carbon neutrality and "carbon zero." Expect a lot of "this time for sure." It's telling how narrowly the debate has been framed. It's all about emissions, man-made emissions.  We won't discuss man-made emissions in the context of the natural emissions, tipping points, we have triggered over the last two decades. And we definitely won't waste breath talking about existing GHG emissions and the impacts already baked in. Canadians think of the climate emergency in a national sense. What's it mean to me? We don't waste much time pondering what's going on elsewhere, like just next door in the land of Uncle Sam. Next door. Now. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting more about the climate emergency we're not talking about and what

Can the Greens Ever Come Back?

Whether she stays on or takes the honourable route and leaves, Green leader, Annamie Paul, may have dealt her party a lethal blow. Ms. Paul not only lost her third bid to take her Toronto-Centre riding, she came in fourth place with 8.5%  although she handily trounced the PPC candidate (2.5%) and the Animal Protection Party's Peter Stubbins (0.2%). 

Looking Back

  When he ran on Stephen Harper's record, promising a new dawn, a Liberal renaissance, we gave him a majority. Sure it was a "false majority" but, hey, it would be the last. He would end first-past-the-post. In future every vote would count. A small price to pay for democratic restoration. You may recall that didn't happen. Electoral reform went the way of "social licence" and First Nations reconciliation and other solemn election promises. When he had to run on his own record, under the same old first-past-the-post regime, it was a different story. He got one minority and then, last night, another. In both runoffs the Conservatives took a greater share of the popular vote than the Trudeau Liberals. That's not to say the Tories were better, just that they were the first choice of more Canadians than Mr. Trudeau. I'm glad that Peter Scheer and Andrew O'Toole didn't prevail to form government but that's small comfort overall. Now it's b

The Dumbest Line Of The Evening

The election that no one wanted, Justin Trudeau excepted, ended predictably.  The award for the dumbest line of the evening has to go to perpetual bridesmaid, Erin O'Toole, who claimed that the still undefeated incumbent will send us back to the polls as soon as he can. Maybe that's just the Tory leader's wishful thinking. For the second election running, the Conservatives took a bigger share of the vote, 34 per cent to the Libs' 32 per cent. Undoubtedly that will be proclaimed a solid mandate by the Libs. Now we get to see if Justin was sincere about reconsidering electoral reform or if that was just more bullshit. As for a cascade of rolling heads, don't count on it. Annamie Paul once again failed to claim a seat and she might be out. Maxime Bernier's PPC was yet again scoreless. Who knows, third time lucky? I so hope not. Back to square one. Let's start the four year clock on another minority government.  

Don't Stay Up Tonight

  If the predictions are right and this election turns out to be a nail-biter, save those nails for tomorrow. Elections Canada says the 1.2 million mail-in votes it received won't be counted until Tuesday. Unless the Liberals or Conservatives score a breakaway victory tonight the winner won't be known until tomorrow. Suffice to say this election has not gone smoothly.  There have been reports of frustrated voters waiting in long lineups at the polls. Elections Canada's website has had glitches that can leave some voters confused about where to go to vote. First results from the Globe have the Libs with a 4 ridings to 1 lead. NatPo has it 4 to 2. That's Atlantic Canada, a Liberal bastion. All of this in the middle of the deadliest wave of the pandemic and we will probably still not know the winner until tomorrow. Well done.

On This, Our Electoral Sabbath

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 As we go to the temple of the ballot box, it's an appropriate time to reflect on the imperiled state of democracy in  the 2020s. There's an idea making the rounds about "inverted totalitarianism." Think of "managed democracy" which is, itself, a more respectable name for illiberal democracy. The idea that the United States has long ceased existing as a democracy was the subject of the late Sheldon Wolin's 2017 tome, "Democracy Incorporated." Here is Chris Hedges review: Democracy is struggling in America — by now this statement is almost clichĂ©. But what if the country is no longer a democracy at all? In Democracy Incorporated, Sheldon Wolin considers the unthinkable: has America unwittingly morphed into a new and strange kind of political hybrid, one where economic and state powers are conjoined and virtually unbridled? Can the nation check its descent into what the author terms “inverted totalitarianism”? Wolin portrays a country where citiz

In Search of a Real Government

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  There was a time when governing Canada meant dealing with all issues critical to the wellbeing of the nation. No prime minister was ever entirely successful at that. All had their priorities. Yet it was Stephen Harper who truly put paid to the idea, favouring ruling the country over governance. In 2013 I wrote of Canada's " fractional prime minister ."  Based on important issues that Harper flatly ignored I rated him as 3/8ths of a prime minister. To expedite his fundamentalist-driven policy making, Steve loves to clear the decks of unwanted, extraneous factors like facts and science. Extraneous things, like the census . That's nothing but a huge bag of those dirty facts. And science! Why the federal public service is full of scientists busy doing, well, science things. We can't be having that bunch of loudmouths spouting off information. Nobody needs to hear that, especially our fractional prime minister. Best we simply gag them . The one thing ab

And They Wonder Why They're Barely Clinging to Life

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  Depending on whose numbers you like, the Trudeau Liberals are up on O'Toole's Conservatives a full 0.3% or down around 1.0%. It's enough to have Mr. Trudeau and his Liberal zealots whinging that a vote for the New Dems is a vote for O'Toole. Sorry, you Liberal fanatics, but a vote for the New Democrats is a vote for the New Dems. That's what happens in a democracy. People vote for their party of choice. New Dems have never taken a loyalty oath to the Liberal Party of Canada and if their leader, thrust into an election of no one's choosing but Mr. Trudeau's, sees fit to attack the prime minister, so be it. That's kind of his job, idiots. I'm not voting NDP. I might have if David Lewis or Ed Broadbent was in the NDP wheelhouse but that's another fantasy. Justin figured he could snatch a majority by forcing the nation into an election in the midst of a fourth wave of a pandemic. He sacrificed the wellbeing of the nation for what he calculated was

Scab Pickers. That's All They Are.

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  I don't know that it matters much who wins on Monday. The country will muddle along undefended, unprepared, neglected by Team Trudeau or Team O'Toole, grey suits stuffed with wet cardboard. I heard an ad yesterday. It was Justin assuring voters not to waste their votes on the Greens or New Dems because it was only the Liberals that had a clear policy on climate change.  My first thought was haven't you been in power for the past six years? Where has this magical-policy been all these years?  Of course Trudeau has shown us repeatedly during his reign that he's a pathological bullshitter. He'll say whatever he thinks will work. Here's a great one. Canadian Press is reporting that Trudeau is now saying he's open to reconsidering electoral reform if only we forget about his past betrayal and leave him in power. This guy has balls of brass and he's a scoundrel, a very sincere, soft-spoken ratbag. I've spent a bit of time recently pondering what the next

Gunter, You've Lost Gunter?

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I guess Lorne Gunter simply can't hold his tongue, even with an election just three days away.   No doubt about it. O'Toole has lost The Grunter. Time and again, O’Toole seems to cower and say, “Oh, please forgive me for daring to have alternate ideas. Give me a minute and I’ll cut and paste the relevant pages from the Liberal Red Book into the CPC policy manual.” The latest example is the Conservative leader’s ever-evolving stance on carbon taxes. To win the Conservative leadership last year, “True Blue” O’Toole was steadfastly against carbon taxes, especially the Liberal government’s federally imposed “carbon pricing.” This which-way-is-the-wind-blowing vacillation only serves to make O’Toole look weak with his own voters, while I suspect at the same time it fails to win him new voters among suburbanite Ontarians and Quebecers. By mimicking the Liberals at every turn, maybe — maybe — O’Toole is convincing voters they can have Liberals policies without having to have the smarm

The Artful Dodger

  One thing you can say for Justin Trudeau - he's a pretty good liar.  Erin O'Toole , on the other hand, could learn a few things from his nemesis.  Maybe it's an Irish thing. It’s tough to choose the best metaphor for Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s campaign. Chameleon works. O’Toole thinks Canadians should be able to own assault rifles . Or he doesn’t. He supports vaccines to save lives in the pandemic. Except for Conservative candidates. He backs Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s disastrous COVID response. Or not. O’Toole can shed principles and policies far faster than the artful lizard can change colours. But you could argue a pig in a poke is even more apt. The expression, more than 500 years old, is based on the idea tricksters used to dupe people into buying what they promised was a young pig in a burlap bag, which turned out to be a scrawny cat. (Also leading to the expression letting the cat out of the bag.) He’s positioned himself as a champion of workers’ righ

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up.

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 Good Grief! It's nearing that time again when the community of nations gathers to figure out what in hell to do about climate change. Round 26, Glasgow, November 1-14, 2021.  It reminds me a lot of Lucy and Charlie Brown and that damned football - if Charlie Brown fell for Lucy's empty promises 26 times. This year is going to be different. Where have we heard that before, 25 times before? In 2015 a star rose in the east and a newly minted prime minister with a celebrated name strolled onto the floor of the Paris climate summit to boastfully proclaim "Canada's back." No longer would Canada be a climate pariah. Stephen Harper had been vanquished, sent packing.  Canada was to again become a leader in the fight to arrest global warming.  Yeah, well.  This year will be differen t, right? Sure. Every one of the world’s leading economies, including all the countries that make up the G20, is failing to meet commitments made in the landmark Paris agreement in order to st

Well, That Was Certainly Discouraging

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 The CBC captured a photo of Elizabeth May campaigning, sitting in her walker waving at passing cars.  Elizabeth May, whom Susan Riley extolled as the "hardest-working MP on Parliament Hill" now apparently laid low, alone at the side of the road. This may be a metaphor for the party itself that has managed to take last place, behind Maxime Bernier's PPC, even as the climate emergency rages unchecked across the world, pole to pole. Meanwhile the Greens' erstwhile leader, Annamie May, has campaigned in just two ridings - the one she's trying to win and a neighbouring riding in Toronto. Here come the Cops. As Ms. May enjoys the last of the summer sunshine, the Glasgow climate summit, COP 26, is just three months away. This summer has seen climate breakdown go into overdrive. Temperature records broken, entire towns literally erased, torrential rains triggering floods that resemble ocean breakers as they race through towns in Europe and eastern U.S. sweeping away cars