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Showing posts from January, 2022

By The Company They Keep

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Freelance columnist, Supriya Dwivedi , writes that "Canada needs a healthy Conservative party. Not whatever this is." There are consequences to peddling misinformation and refusing to overtly condemn extremist rhetoric, as any journalist who has had to counter misinformation can tell you. So it’s especially worrying to see CPC MPs who are explicitly egging the protesters on by calling the prime minister the “ biggest threat to freedom in Canada ,” stating he has a “ vaccine vendetta ,” all the while turning a blind eye or making excuses for the more troubling aspects of the protesters and the extreme, violent language they are using. The vast majority of truckers are fully vaccinated. The truckers who made their way to Ottawa represent a fringe minority. Political parties looking to be taken seriously do not usually try to pander to fringe minorities that are increasingly out of touch with the majority of accessible voters, though the Conservatives are certainly the excepti

A Weekend Chuckle (Truck-Free Entertainment)

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As China struggles to mount a Winter Olympics, here's a dandy alternative - the Average Games.  

Ice Road Truckers

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It was bitter cold that broke Napoleon's army in Russia in 1812. It was the murderous Russian cold that broke Hitler's army 130 years later. Today, Ottawa is blanketed in that same cold.  Minus 14 this afternoon. Minus 22 overnight.  According to Environment Canada, windchill will take that to somewhere between -30 and -35 C.  Mixed precip for the capital this week. Not ideal conditions for a massive protest. I expect some of these idiots will be looking for a warm place to shelter. That raises all sorts of possibilities, none of them pleasant. Protests on Parliament Hill are not that easy. I covered two of them, first in 1973, the other the following year.  Those were one-day events, the first in August, the next in September. 1974, near enough half a century ago. It was September 30, the opening of Parliament.  The  Native People's Caravan  had traveled from Vancouver to Ottawa to air a number of grievances. 200 showed up on The Hill. The year before had seen  railway wor

Jerry Falwell Jr. Comes Clean, Tells All to Vanity Fair.

He was a crown prince of the evangelical movement but he tells Vanity Fair it was a scam. “BECAUSE OF MY LAST NAME, PEOPLE THINK I’M A RELIGIOUS PERSON.  BUT I’M NOT.  MY GOAL WAS TO MAKE THEM REALIZE  I WAS NOT MY DAD.” For the first time, Falwell opened up about his true spiritual beliefs and how they diverge from those of his infamous father, who cofounded the Moral Majority and waged a scorched-earth cultural war for four decades. When I told Falwell that many people thought he, consciously or not, wanted to destroy himself, he considered it for a moment. “Subconsciously, yeah, I believe that’s true,” he said, nodding. “It’s almost like I didn’t have a choice.” He went on: “Because of my last name, people think I’m a religious person. But I’m not. My goal was to make them realize I was not my dad.” ...Looking back, Jerry said his dad adopted militant stands against drinking and homosexuality to prove to his wife that he would be a conservative Christian. “My mother was the only re

A Great Photo

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A Great Lakes bulk carrier heading downriver past Detroit on its way to Lake Erie.  

Tribal America

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  NYT  columnist, Frank Bruni, writes that Covid has brought out the worst in his fellow Americans - tribalism. The pandemic, which could and should have brought us together, has instead driven us further apart, exacerbating our tribalism, which is an enemy of real progress but a friend to all sorts of dysfunction, all manner of meanness. The irrational obstructionism in Congress and lawmakers’ taste for vitriol and vengeance are tribalism run amok. Cancel culture, be it on the left or right, is a tribal impulse, not merely abetted but amplified by the technology of our time. We humans are inherently tribal creatures. I get that. I’ve read and remember enough history and headlines not to be surprised. But the work of civilization — the advance of it — involves containing that tribalism, controlling it, moderating it with grander and more unifying ideals. That work in America is currently in a state of crisis. You saw that at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. You see it in public opinion sur

Anthony Fauci Looks Back on the Last Two Years and a Nation in Decline

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He hasn't had a day off since Covid-19 took hold in America and he's exhausted.  But the pandemic has not been Anthony Fauci's real struggle . “There is no truth,” Fauci says, for effect. “There is no fact.” People believe hydroxychloroquine works because an Internet charlatan claims it does. People believe the 2020 election was stolen because a former president says so. People believe that Fauci killed millions of people for the good of his stock portfolio because it’s implied by TV pundits, Internet trolls and even elected leaders. Fauci is unnerved by “the almost incomprehensible culture of lies” that has spread among the populace, infected major organs of the government, manifested as ghastly threats against him and his family. His office staff, normally focused on communicating science to the public, has been conscripted into skirmishes over conspiracy theories and misinformation. “It is very, very upending to live through this,” Fauci says, seated at his kitchen table

Playing To the Fringe. Like the Republicans Before Them, Canada's Tories Cozy Up to Extremists

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  It's no secret that the prairie provinces are the Conservative heartland. It's also no secret that some six million Canadians, ardent fans of Donald Trump and Trumpism, are mainly from those same provinces. Sadly, these far right loonies have become an indispensible part of the Tory base. The near-insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, when thousands of pro-Trump supporters swarmed the U.S. Capitol and left at least seven people dead , should have been a wakeup call for anyone who cares about the state of their own democracy. But if the Conservative Party of Canada’s recent behaviour is any indication, it’s more than happy to keep hitting the snooze button — and continue playing to the base instincts of an increasingly unhinged fringe movement. Conservatives’ habit of misrepresenting reality and riling up their base with false information and fake controversies, key ingredients in the toxic stew of Trumpism, has reached a dangerous new level with the truck convoy that’s currently w

O'Toole Autopsied. It Ain't Pretty.

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  Conservatives are wondering how in hell they lost the last election?  A post-mortem review might have them asking how they did so well. The last Conservative campaign suffered from eroded trust after years of party infighting, poor outreach toward ethnic communities in urban centres and disappointing communication from leader Erin O’Toole in the final weeks of the last federal election. Those are some of the highlights from an internal review conducted by former Conservative Party of Canada Alberta MP James Cumming that was presented to caucus members Thursday morning, according to two Conservative sources briefed on the much of the report’s content. As if he had any choice. Sources say the review also contains “dozens” of recommendations for Conservatives that aim to make the party battle-ready for the next federal election, and that O’Toole has already accepted “all” of them. One source pointed to three “major” negative points in the leader’s performance highlighted in the report:

Nikiforuk - Let's Just Pretend It's Over

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  Andrew Nikiforuk pierces the curtain of political obfuscation on Covid-19.  His message - it's all horsecrap. I come on behalf of many of Canada’s public health officials, along with our fearless political leaders. They have asked me to deliver some important news here on your screen in the form of a unicorn cat angel avatar, hiding my identity in order to protect my privacy and safety. What I have been charged to say is this: We have completely lost the plot on COVID. The plot, in case you forgot, was to control and reduce transmission of the virus so it wouldn’t kill lots of people, cripple citizens with long COVID, threaten the vulnerable, trash our hospital system and make more dangerous variants. Please, don’t be alarmed, but it is time to voice the obvious. We have decided to surrender and give up for the public good. Let’s admit it. Everyone is tired and done with COVID. Even Jordan Peterson . Especially Jordan Peterson. So the COVID nightmare is hereby declared officiall

Is This "Climate Departure"?

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  In 2013, climate scientists at the University of Hawaii, analyzing a small mountain of recent data, discerned change afoot. They named it "climate departure." It is a region's departure from its previous climate to a new, considerably hotter climate. After the departure point, there would be no more cold years. Every year after departure would be hotter than the hottest year pre-departure. The scientists thought departure could set in during the early 2020s, around 2023. It would begin in equatorial/tropical regions including the Caribbean and Central America, possibly the southern US included. Over the following 20 to 25 years departure would spread to the temperate zones. Phoenix, Arizona, considered America's hottest city , is already reeling from never before experienced heat. A surge in heat-related deaths amid record-breaking summer temperatures offers a “glimpse into the future” and a stark warning that one of America’s largest cities is already unlivable for

Africa's Population Bomb

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The climate emergency grabs all the headlines, obscuring the threats posed by our rapacious over-consumption of dwindling resources and our overpopulation problem.   On population growth, Africa is the great unknown but it's chilling. In 2022 the world’s population will pass 8 billion . It has increased by a third in just two decades . By 2050, there will be about 9.5 billion of us on the planet, according to respected demographers. This makes recent comments by Elon Musk baffling. According to him, “the low birthrate and the rapidly declining birthrate” is “ one of the biggest risks to civilisation ”. The populations of more than half of Africa’s 54 nations will double – or more – by 2050, the product of sustained high fertility and improving mortality rates. The continent will then be home to at least 25% of the world’s population, compared with less than 10% in 1950. Expansion on this scale is unprecedented: whereas the population of Asia will have multiplied by a factor of fou

So Much for Unbridled Optimism

In fairness, I did say it seemed counterintuitive when, yesterday, I wrote a piece on good news about how some were prediciting that the Omicron variant would transform Covid-19 from a pandemic to a manageable endemic virus. Within hours, the head of the World Health Organization , contradicted the optimistic assessments warning that Omicron is unlikely to be the last variant and it's dangerous to assume we're in some endgame. In today's Washington Post there's a piece on a new form of Omicron , BA2, that is sweeping Denmark where it accounts for 65 per cent of new infections.  The article quotes Danish virologist, Anders Fomsgaard, as opining that the world is five steps behind the coronavirus. With Covid-fatigue setting in it would be helpful if the experts and healthcare officials were reading from the same page. We all want to hear the "all clear" but this roller coaster is doing no one any good.

The Pyrocene

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Human civilization depended on many things. We usually consider the development of agriculture as a pivotal factor. However, even before that, man had to master fire. Humankind, alone among all species, has evolved thanks in no small part to putting fire to work for us. Thousands of years later we see where our connection to fire has brought civilization. We are now reaping what, for millennia, we have sowed. This is the pyrocene . It wasn't until the industrial revolution and the era of fossil fuels that the pyrocene turned on us. With increasing frenzy, humans are binge-burning fossil fuels. They are taking fuel out of the geologic past, burning it in the present with complex (and little understood) interactions, and then releasing the effluent into the geologic future. Industrial combustion has restructured the dynamics of fire on Earth. Fossil fuel combustion acts as an enabler, as a performance enhancer, and by its disrupting effects on the atmosphere as a globalizer. It has e

America Has Entered the Anocracy Zone

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  Barbara Walter has made a career out of studying civil war.  The UC San Diego professor and author of " How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them," claims that the United States has entered a new polity, " anocracy ." Anocracies are neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic; their citizens enjoy some elements of democratic rule (e.g., elections), while other rights (e.g., due process or freedom of the press) suffer. In the last weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, the respected Center for Systemic Peace (CSP) calculated that, for the first time in more than two centuries, the United States no longer qualified as a democracy. It had, over the preceding five years, become an anocracy. That rating improved to “democracy” just this month, but to put it in perspective, the current U.S. score is the same as Brazil’s 2018 rating (the most recent available for that country), which was two points below Switzerland’s. This might come as a shock to many Americans. While

Omicron, a Blessing in Disguise?

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  To me it sounds counterintuitive but, hey, if it's true it's welcome. There's a lot of talk about the Omicron variant of Covid-19 effecting a transition from pandemic into an endemic virus. It's on the front page of both the New York Times and National Post . So, what's the difference? The Columbia University web site lists the distinctions between epidemic, pandemic and endemic . The WHO defines pandemics, epidemics, and endemics based on a disease's rate of spread. Thus, the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic isn't in the severity of the disease, but the degree to which it has spread. A pandemic cuts across international boundaries, as opposed to regional epidemics. This wide geographical reach is what makes pandemics lead to large-scale social disruption, economic loss, and general hardship. It's important to note that a once-declared epidemic can progress into pandemic status. While an epidemic is large, it is also generally contained o

Too Good to Pass Up. In Ireland, These Three Guys Walk Into a Post Office...

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  This can't possibly be true , can it? GardaĆ­ have launched an investigation after two men carried a dead body into an Irish post office in an apparent attempt to claim his pension. The deceased pensioner was described in reports as being “propped up” by the men as they walked into the building in County Carlow on Friday morning. The outlandish series of events began when one of the men entered the post office at about 11.30am on Friday, asking to collect a pension payment for an older man, the Irish Times reported. He was refused, with staff informing him that the pensioner would have to be present in order for the money to be handed over. The man returned soon after with two other men, one of whom was in his 60s and appeared to be being supported by the two others. The younger men asked to be given his pension payment. No cash was handed over and the two men fled the scene, abandoning the man’s body after a woman who had become suspicious raised the alarm with a staff member. I

It's January and Big Sur is Ablaze

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  This is supposed to be the wet season on the Pacific coast, doubly so this year thanks to La Nina. This is the season of floods and mudslides.  This is not the season of wildfires or at least not until now. Big Sur is ablaze right down to scenic Hwy 1, the PCH or Pacific Coast Highway. On the day Vice-president Kamala Harris visited California to highlight new funding for fighting wildfires, residents more than 350 miles (560 km) away in the Big Sur area were told to evacuate from their homes due to a new blaze. Officials shut down Highway 1 in both directions from Andrew Molera state park to Carmel-By-The-Sea. The American Red Cross was setting up a shelter. Wildfire season used to run four months, late summer into the fall. Now you can experience it year round.

The Booster Pays Off

  The US Centers for Disease Control report that the Pfizer and Moderna boosters are paying off . The extra doses are 90 percent effective against hospitalization with the variant, the agency reported. Booster shots also reduced the likelihood of a visit to an emergency department or urgent care clinic . The extra doses were most effective against infection and death among Americans aged 50 and older, the data showed. Over all, the new data show that the vaccines were more protective against the Delta variant than against Omicron, which lab studies have found is partially able to sidestep the body’s immune response. It is generally accepted that booster shots keep people from becoming infected, at least for a while. Data from Israel and other countries have also suggested that boosters can help prevent severe illness and hospitalization, especially in older adults. “Data from other countries have also shown significant benefit of getting the booster, but this is really showing it in t

Mind Blowing. MoS Takes the Plunge.

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A subscription to Google Alerts is not for the faint-hearted. Untreated, it can lead to chronic depression. I've avoided it for three weeks, my New Year's resolution. Until today. I just had to peek under the carpet. Here's what I found waiting for me: From The Guardian. In Norway, the treeline is moving ever poleward , now displacing tundra and altering the way of life for humans and wildlife in the area. - meh.  Israel is buying three state of the art submarines from Germany for $4.8 billion CDN. Sounds like a bargain. Canada should look for a deal like that.  Hard to tell what the Israelis have in mind but they've recently doubled their surface fleet of frigates. Russia is developing a torpedo-carrying autonomous submarine hunter. The anti-sub submarine can operate autonomously, with a crew or by remote control from a mother ship or shore station. Just great. The World Economic Forum reports that 63 per cent of CEOs imagine their companies are leading on climate c

Climate Departure? Too Soon to Say.

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I wrote to Camilo Mora asking if the bizarre severe weather events that whipsawed British Columbia in 2021 evidenced the onset of what he termed "climate departure." About nine years ago Mora and his team of analysts from his climate lab at the University of Hawaii digested hundreds of research papers on our warming climate to find prescriptive patterns of disruptive climate change.  As they pored through the analyses and data they concluded Earth was on the cusp of entering a new climate that would be unlike anything known in human history. It would be a departure from human experience. Climate departure isn't about conditions getting hotter. It is about the absence of cold years. It is a new climate in which every year after departure will be hotter than the hottest year before the shift. No more cold years only steadily hot, extremely hot years.Mora phrased it rather eloquently: " The coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past .&q

Trump Wanted a Wall. Now He's Run Headlong Into One.

Donald Trump has exhausted his last chance to block the release of his records to a Congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. After losing to a unanimous judgment of an appeal court, Trump tried his luck with the Supreme Court but even  with that stacked deck he couldn't prevail.  It wasn't a unanimous judgment. Clarence Thomas dissented, finding in favour of Trump. The order turned aside Trump’s request to block the records release while the case continues through the courts regarding his assertion of executive privilege. It means there is no legal obstacle to release of the materials from the National Archives, and Trump’s lawyers have argued that would make the case moot. It was another defeat for Trump at the Supreme Court, where he chose a third of the sitting justices. The former president has said he is disappointed in the high court and that some of the justices lack “guts.” The court turned aside requests from Trump and his supporters to get in

Good News. Asia Loves Jellyfish.

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  For most of the world the influx of jellyfish in local waters has become a real problem. Like most marine life, jellyfish are migrating into waters once too cold for their liking.  For years, swarms of jellyfish have appeared off the coast of Ireland where they attack fish farms , devastating a once lucrative fishery. Around the world, jellyfish blooms are damaging the marine ecosystem.  The  culprits are many  - eutrophication (nutrients spilled into the marine environment), warming seas, climate change, overfishing and habitat modification, among others.  As jellyfish die off they contribute to ocean acidification and reduction of dissolved oxygen (hypoxia) that further damage marine environments. But, as I wrote, there's good news. Jellyfish are a popular foodstuff in many Asian countries.  According to Deutsche Welle, jellyfish have become a multi-billion dollar industry. Zero calories but oodles of protein. As we empty the seas of everything else, slime could become a delic

Too Cool for School. Jordan Peterson Ditches University of Toronto.

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Enough sour grapes to make cheap wine. Jordan Peterson has resigned his position as a tenured professor at the University of Toronto but he's not bowing out gracefully.  I can't recite most of this shit so I'll leave you to read it for yourself.  In a nutshell, he's just too damned good for U of T and his "qualified and supremely trained heterosexual white male graduate students" are getting a raw deal. Peterson laments that there are not enough "BIPOC" (black, indigenous, people of colour) students in the pipeline to fill the assigned slots so his "craven colleagues" must lie to secure research grants. And they do it constantly, with various rationalizations and justifications, further corrupting what is already a stunningly corrupt enterprise. Some of my colleagues even allow themselves to undergo so-called anti-bias training, conducted by supremely unqualified Human Resources personnel, lecturing inanely and blithely and in an accusator

If They Can't Handle a Pandemic, They'll Never Tackle Our Real Problems

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Two years and five waves reveal a dangerous pattern in the competence of Canada's provincial and federal governments as they struggle to balance the economy with the emergency. At first, in the opening months of 2000, it was a "one and done" problem.  We go into lockdown, Covid takes the hint, and then we live happily ever after. We've been dancing to the vacillation of our "leaders" five times now. But, don't worry, when this fifth wave is over, we'll be fine. This pandemic has left scars. We've drained our treasuries. We have watched our economies hobbled as the tap was repeatedly turned off then on then off.  We've discovered that our economies are not resilient, they're pretty fragile with their long and vulnerable supply chains. What lessons have we been taught? What lessons have we learned? Not much. We're still where we were two years ago. We're still playing this by ear through a filter of wishful thinking. That's a lo

Trump's Stacked Supreme Court Emboldens the Fossil Fuelers

America's fossil energy giants and their political minions have become really scrappy in their decades old fight to continue destroying our world.  No longer do they seem to fear either public outrage or their nation's now stacked Supreme Court. Exxon Mobile, the owner of Canada's Imperial Oil/Esso, says its climate denial is protected speech under the 1st Amendment. The US’s largest oil firm is asking the Texas supreme court to allow it to use the law, known as rule 202, to pursue legal action against more than a dozen California municipal officials. Exxon claims that in filing lawsuits against the company over its role in the climate crisis, the officials are orchestrating a conspiracy against the firm’s first amendment rights. The oil giant also makes the curious claim that legal action in the California courts is an infringement of the sovereignty of Texas, where the company is headquartered. Eight California cities and counties have accused Exxon and other oil firms of