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CETA - A Threat We Should All Be Aware Of

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 07:17


A recent post I wrote contrasted the apparent indifference/ignorance of Canadians toward CETA with the furious involvement of the Europeans, most recently the Germans, in open protest against the deal. It is a pact that will see even greater erosion of our ability to enact strong legislation to protect labour, the environment and a host of other realms thanks to the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions that protect multinationals at the expense of citizens. It will further undermine our increasingly fragile sovereign rights.

And sadly, it is a deal the the Trudeau Liberals are avidly embracing.

Scott Sincleair and Stuart Trew write a trenchant reminder of CETA's dangers:
Much more than a trade deal, CETA is a sweeping constitution-style document that will restrict public policy options in areas as diverse as intellectual property rights, government procurement, food safety and environmental protection, financial regulation, the temporary movement of workers, and public services.My previous post noted the weak language governing some of the above, including platitudes like commitments to cooperate, provisions encouraging Canada and the EU to continue developing our resources in a way that is environmentally sustainable, establishes shared commitments to promote trade in a way that contributes to the objectives of sustainable development in Canada and the EU, etc.

All part and parcel of what Liberal International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland calls "a gold-plated trade deal."

As Sincleair and Trew observe,
While CETA’s safeguards for labour and the environment are mainly voluntary and weak, the investor protections are strong and fully enforceable. Such an agreement could only be considered enlightened in an upside-down world.The devolution of our sovereignty began long before CETA, however.
Canada’s experience with investor-state arbitration under NAFTA is pitiful. We are the most-sued NAFTA party despite our highly developed legal system and strong protections for private property. Many of these challenges involve environmental protection policies that were legally enacted, but which upset an investor’s plans or profits.

Just last year, Canada lost a disturbing NAFTA dispute over an environmental assessment that recommended against a massive quarry in an ecologically sensitive part of Nova Scotia. Canada currently faces a raft of claims as a result of progressive policies, such as banning natural gas fracking in the province of Quebec.The pending deal promises more of the same, a source of puzzlement to European progressives:
European labour unions, environmentalists and human rights advocates question why Canada and the EU would want to expand this anti-democratic process through CETA. Despite being rebranded as an “investment court system” with pretenses to judicial independence, the substantive protections afforded to foreign investors remain largely intact. This will expose taxpayers in both Canada and the EU to huge financial liabilities and have a chilling effect on future progressive public policy.

European progressives are also asking important questions about the interplay between CETA and public services. CETA contains no clear protections for governments hoping to expand public services into areas where there is currently private sector competition, or to bring previously privatized services back under public control. Doing so can actually trigger foreign investor claims for compensation, effectively locking in privatization.All the warning signs are there. Whether the vast majority of Canadians can rouse themselves enough to care is an open question.
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When It Becomes A Headwind

Northern Reflections - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 05:24

The Liberals' Achilles heal -- a sense of entitlement -- is once again becoming the subject of public discussion. Stephen Maher writes:

The latest nugget the Tory researchers have dug up was revealed Tuesday during question period, when Conservative MP Blaine Calkins repeatedly asked the Liberals to explain $1.1 million in moving expenses for political staffers, including one payment of $126,000 to an unnamed staffer in the prime minister’s office.

The Conservatives, brimming with righteous indignation, applauded Calkins as he accused the Liberals of lining their own pockets with these mysteriously large payments, and mockingly applauded Liberal House Leader Bardish Chagger when she responded with boilerplate about how “Canadians expect public resources to be used responsibly and economically.”
The Liberals have a reputation when it comes to this kind of waste. It's toxic and it brought down their last government:

The Liberals have a brand problem with this stuff. At the end of the Paul Martin era, the government seemed to spend half its time either defending Liberals who had pocketed excessive amounts while following the rules, or prosecuting others who had pocketed excessive amounts while not following the rules. This led to a lot of nasty in-fighting within the party as people in the second category lawyered up and tried to find ways of damaging people in the first category.

At the moment, Justin Trudeau is riding high in the polls. He may be tempted to brush this kind of stuff aside. But he would do well to remember the fate of former Liberals premiers Jean Charest and Dalton McGunity -- and present premier Kathleen Wynne.

All of them can testify to just how quickly the wind at your back can become a headwind.

Image: road.cc

Bernie Sanders Sets Out To Save Hillary Clinton

Montreal Simon - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 04:13


As we all know Bernie Sanders was treated unfairly by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment. 

And he has every right to be bitter.

But with the shadow of the fascist Trump looming over America.

Bernie is hitting the campaign trail and urging his supporters to vote for Hillary.
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Donald Trump's Hellish Day On the Campaign Trail

Montreal Simon - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 04:01


As you may know Donald Trump has been trying to reach out to to African American voters, by visiting black churches and asking one wacko preacher after the other to bless him.

But it doesn't seem to be working, with his support still mired in the single digits and falling...



And his visit to a black church in Cleveland yesterday can only drive that support down further.

Because it began weirdly, and ended disastrously.
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Is This the First Crack in Fossil Fuel's Dike?

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 16:29

The Amalgamated Bank of America is divesting its fossil fuel holdings.  It's not a big deal, just 4-billion dollars, but it's the bank's reasoning that could spark seismic change.

The decision to divest its $4 billion USD commercial assets from fossil fuel holdings is supported by new legal research presented on Wednesday by global investment consultant Mercer and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). Their research bolsters the recent decision by leading Canadian foundations to drop high-risk fossil fuel holdings and decarbonise their investment portfolios.

Mercer’s analysis of fiduciary duty suggests that pension trustees should now be factoring in climate change and energy transition risks into their decision-making process.

According to new legal analysis, investment fiduciaries who overlook the implications of the transition to clean energy and the wind-down of fossil fuels now underway could face legal challenges. With the world expecting Canada to ratify the Paris Agreement any day, Canadian institutions and philanthropic investors are only just coming to grips with the investment risks and opportunities linked to the low carbon energy transition.
...From the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock to the Amalgamated Bank, global leaders agree that the transformation of our energy system is both urgent and a great investment opportunity. According to Ed Waitzer, Professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, “trustees are increasingly expected to look beyond portfolio performance to the intentional management of systemic risks and rewards, reflecting the longer term interests of their beneficiaries. Over time, this will likely become an enforceable obligation.”
While modern portfolio theory and related standards of fiduciary prudence require maximum diversification to spread financial risk, this does not have application to a dying industry like the fossil fuel sector. "The structural shift away from fossil fuel assets is a real phenomenon. This makes climate changeand the Divest-Invest movement an inextricable part of the dialogue for institutional investors who have a fiduciary duty to maximize returns for investors over a long-term horizon," said Wayne Wachell, the CEO and chief investment officer of Genus Capital Management. "Our recent research substantiates that divesting from fossil fuels doesn't entail sacrificing returns or taking on undue risk, even in a resource-based market like Canada."
Clara Vondrich, Global Director of Divest-Invest Philanthropy stressed that “old guard investment managers claim divestment violates fiduciary duty because it constrains diversification. But independent analyses from prominent legal scholars in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada flips this idea on its head. Today, at this brink of climate chaos, it is a nonprofit [i.e. pension fund] fiduciary’s duty to divest from fossil fuels and sidestep the carbon bubble.”

Sounds Like Putin Wants His Own CSIS

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 16:17



I think this paragraph from Foreign Policy speaks volumes:

Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Kommersant, is planning a major overhaul of the country’s security services. The Russian daily reported that the idea of the reforms is to merge the Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR, with the Federal Security Service, or FSB, which keeps an eye on domestic affairs. This new supersized secret service will be given a new name: the Ministry of State Security. If that sounds familiar, it should — this was the name given to the most powerful and feared of Joseph Stalin’s secret services, from 1943 to 1953. And if its combination of foreign espionage and domestic surveillance looks familiar, well, it should: In all but name, we are seeing a resurrection of the Committee for State Security — otherwise known as the KGB.

Remind Me, Why Do We Put Up With This Garbage from China?

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 12:22

Imagine a drug so potent and dangerous that the US government limits production of it to just 19 grams, barely half an ounce.

Now imagine why someone in China tried to smuggle a kilo of it into Vancouver. A kilo, enough to kill every person in Canada with enough left over to wipe out most of Scandinavia.

Early this summer, the Canada Border Services Agency intercepted a kilo of a drug called carfentanil in Vancouver. It was in a package sent from China to a Calgary address. CBSA, the RCMP and the Vancouver and Calgary police forces conducted a joint operation and arrested the addressee, Joshua Wrenn, 24.

For veterinary purposes, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration allows an annual carfentanil production of just 19 grams — a little over half an ounce.

...The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reports that “Carfentanil is said to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine.” As a dust, it could be inhaled or attach to mucous membranes, like the tongue, with almost instantly fatal effect.

Chinese opioid manufacturers can evidently produce large quantities of carfentanil without running into occupational health and safety issues, and they know how to mail it to Canada without leaving a telltale trail of dead postal clerks, parcel handlers, and CBSA inspectors.
...A recent Pennsylvania health department news release warned first responders to use “appropriate personal protective equipment” when treating known or suspected heroin overdoses.

“The Department of Health recommends that first responders and health professionals who treat an individual suspected of taking the drug, or encounter the drug itself, should use extreme caution. Carfentanil is absorbed through skin contact, inhalation, oral exposure, or ingestion, which may lead to an accidental drug poisoning.”

Worse yet, carfentanil’s effect is so toxic that one spray of naloxone isn’t enough. According to the New York Times, Ohio first responders are having to use up to four or five doses to save a single overdose case.



Too Much Truth to Bear?

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 11:57
From AlterNet:

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday that black men in Boston who avoid run-ins with police officers may be justifiably motivated by a desire to “avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled,” and their flight should not be automatically interpreted as evidence of “criminal activity.” The ruling throws out an unlawful firearm possession conviction against Jimmy Warren, whose arrest nearly five years ago appears to be a case study in racial profiling.
Warren was apprehended and searched by police, who “found no contraband on his person,” according to the ruling. Immediately following the arrest, police spotted a .22 caliber firearm nearby, and Warren was eventually charged and convicted of illegally possessing the gun.

In its Tuesday ruling, the high court determined that police were not justified in stopping Warren. “Lacking any information about facial features, hairstyles, skin tone, height, weight, or other physical characteristics, the victim's description 'contribute nothing to the officers' ability to distinguish the defendant from any other black male' wearing dark clothes and a 'hoodie' in Roxbury," the decision states.

In perhaps its most far-reaching determination, the court then argued that Warren and other black men in Boston may be justified in running from law enforcement, given the city's poor track record with racial profiling.


America's Institutional Racism

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 11:08

I caught a few moments of live coverage of US Secretary of State, John Kerry's lecture to the UN Security Council this morning in response to an apparent Russian or Syrian bombing of a UN relief column.

It's as tragic as it is outrageous, no question, but what got me was when Kerry described Syria as the greatest humanitarian crisis since WWII.

Really? What about the 800,000 innocents butchered in Rwanda? What about the 5-million victims of sectarian slaughter in Congo?

Oh, sorry, I get it. Those were black people, Africans. Which might explain why America didn't lift a finger to help them.

Update: 
Here are a few more for Kerry's memory list: 1966, Nigeria, 3-million; Vietnam War, 3-million; Afghanistan (post 1999), 2-million; 1983, Second Sudanese civil war, 2-million; 1971, Bangladesh liberation war, 3-million; 1975, Cambodian "killing fields", 1.4-million; 1947, massacres of the Indian partition, 2-million; 1950, occupation of Tibet (China), 1.2-million; 1971, Bangladesh genocide, 3-million. The list goes on. Syria may, however, be the greatest humanitarian disaster the U.S. gave two shits about.

Harper's Favourite Jailbird - A Man of Many Convictions.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 09:43


Bruce "The Mechanic" Carson has added to his score. This time it's three counts of illegal lobbying.

Carson broke the law while pushing Harper’s fossil fuels friendly agenda from two perches. One was an oil lobby group, and the other was a federally funded think tank at the University of Calgary billed as a clean energy research centre before Carson helped bend it to oil sands advocacy.

Under Canada’s weak and little used Lobbying Act, it is illegal for public office holders to communicate or influence other public office holders for at least five years after they have left office. The act also requires anyone being paid to influence decision-makers to register their activities.

In a lengthy 97-page decision, Justice Catherine Kehoe found that the Harper aide broke the law by repeatedly communicating with public office holders for payment about oil sands issues during the five-year prohibition period. Despite warnings, Carson never bothered to register as a paid lobbyist either.


Carson's hidey-hole, the University of Calgary, didn't come out unscathed either:
David Keith, now a Harvard professor, worked as one the University of Calgary’s top energy and climate experts while the Carson affair unfolded at the University of Calgary.

In a 2015 Tyee interview, Keith emphasized that Carson’s thinly disguised political lobbying promoted a one-sided and distorted perspective on the oil sands and climate change in Canada that ignored national risks.

“What disturbed me most was that a university think tank refused to do what a university should do: bring in diverse views and have strong debate. The government and industry didn’t want that.”


Unfortunately, no one has much appetite any longer for exploring who egged Carson on, who aided and abetted his efforts on behalf of the federal government's Tar Sands initiative. I suspect there could be a really great book chronicling the relationship between Stephen Harper and Bruce Carson.

Elizabeth Warren Eviscerates Wells Fargo CEO

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 08:28
The world may need more Canada, but it also needs more Elizabeth Warren. A tireless defender of the unrepresented, i.e., the majority of Americans, the Democratic Senator, as you will see in the following videos, is relentless in her systematic pursuit and evisceration of the self-serving rhetoric of Wells Faro CEO John Stumpf as he avers complete innocence in the scandal that has rocked his institution.

First, some brief background which saw the bank firing some 5300 frontline employees
roughly 1 percent of its workforce — for signing up customers for checking accounts and credit cards without their knowledge. Authorities said about 2 million sham accounts were opened going back to 2011, complete with forged signatures, phony email addresses, and fake PIN numbers — all created by employees who were hounded by supervisors to meet daily account quotas. The bank then charged customers at least $1.5 million in fees for the bogus accounts. The greater scandal is that Ceo Stumpf knew about this practice going back to at least 2013 and did nothing. Indeed, his performance bonuses only grew, and Carrie Tolstedt, who oversaw the banking division responsible for the fake accounts, just left in July with a $125 million retirement package.

The following videos are brief; the first one shows Senator Warren masterfully outlining the parameters of, as she calls it, "this scam;" the second shows her eviscerating the no-longer-smug CEO.



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Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 07:31
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Paul Wells argues that climate change and First Nations reconciliation - two of the issues which the Libs have tried to turn into signature priorities - look set to turn into areas of weakness as Justin Trudeau continues his party's tradition of dithering. And Martin Lukacs writes that Trudeau's handling of continuing injustice facing First Nations has involved an awful lot of flash but virtually no action:
The extractivist worldview—bent on treating everything as a commodity—that lay behind Stephen Harper’s resource agenda just as powerfully shapes Trudeau’s. In fact, the Liberals’ attempt to wrap themselves in the UN Declaration without embracing its central right may constitute a new, more subtle form of extraction: the extraction from Indigenous territory of consent itself.

Liberal moves to extract and manufacture consent and support for outdated policies are evident elsewhere: restoring funding to the Assembly of First Nations, a government-dependent organization that has since plumped frequently for them; appointing an Indigenous Justice Minister, even though Indigenous critics argue she has sided with the government agenda throughout her political career; and agreeing to call an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, but with a mandate far short of what impacted families wanted. As the weight of reality presses against Trudeau’s rhetoric, the ability to generate consent is crumbling.

Reconciliation is a powerful hope, an uplifting prospect, a deeply desired new relationship that Trudeau has compellingly invoked. But if reconciliation does not include the restitution of land, the recognition of real self-government, the reigning in of abusive police, the remediation of rivers and forests, it will remain a vacant notion, a cynical ploy to preserve a status quo in need not of tinkering but transformation. It will be Canada’s latest in beads and trinkets, a cheap simulation of justice.- Guy Caron discusses the CRA's role in Canada's two-tier tax system. Stephen Punwasi comments on the connection between Canada's willingness to facilitate tax avoidance, and the real estate bubbles driving housing prices far beyond what working-class Canadians can afford. And Marc Lee then highlights the connection between soaring urban real estate prices and increased inequality. 

- David Ball notes that many municipalities are retaking control over their own services after learning that the promises of efficiency through privatization are entirely illusory.

- Richard Orange points out Sweden's intriguing idea of reducing taxes on repair services to discourage people from throwing out consumer goods. But I'd wonder whether that step alone would make a dent if it isn't paired with a concerted effort at training potential repair workers for a job which the corporate sector would prefer to eliminate.

- Finally, Paul Mason makes the case for economics to be based on real-world observations of human behaviour, rather than insular mathematical models whose assumptions about market efficiency bear no relationship to reality. And Branko Milanovic discusses the need to measure and reduce inequality as part of a global development strategy.

An Awkward Fit

Northern Reflections - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 06:30


Last week, Tom Mulcair declared that the four pillars of the New Democratic Party were environmentalism, pacifism, feminism and socialism. Gerry Caplan -- who has been a Dipper longer than Mulcair -- writes:

I join the applause, or at least three-quarters of it. I can march behind the banner of socialism, feminism and environmentalism with pride and conviction. But pacifism, not so much. In fact pacifism has never been an NDP value, assuming that words have any meaning.
It's true that J.S. Woodsworth, on the eve of World War II stood in the House and declared that he could not support the resolution to go to war because he was a life long pacifist:
But this was not CCF policy and he stood alone. His party revered him enough to allow him to take this idiosyncratic stand, but no other CCF MP joined him. Prime Minister Mackenzie King also generously expressed his deep respect, calling Woodsworth an “ornament to Parliament.”
One can work for peace and not be a pacifist:
Pacifism is not merely a strategy or approach to be applied to a particular crisis. It’s much more: a philosophy or theory, and if you embrace it, it applies in all situations. A great deal has been written on this surprisingly complex subject, including by one writer who explains that “a pacifist rejects war and believes there are no moral grounds which can justify resorting to war. War, for the pacifist, is always wrong.”
As well, in practical terms, for genuine pacifists violence is never the right answer to any crisis, because it always makes things worse. So its use must always be opposed even when it seems naive or foolish. Hitler and the Second World War are the shorthand examples of this naïveté. You can believe in non-violent resistance to injustice without being a pacifist. And sometimes, force can only be met with force.
And, thus, we have another illustration of Tom Mulcair's problem. For all his talent, he never quite fit in his party.
Image: huffingtonpost.ca

TPP - the TFW Program on steroids

Creekside - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 05:30

The Human Resources Committee, HUMA - 6 Libs, 3 Cons, and 1 NDP - released its report on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program yesterday, after a month of hearing from 43 witnesses as varied as Lululemon and the Migrant Mothers Project.
Industry complaints initiated the study. The committee was asked to find a balance between employers desperate for TFWs for jobs they are unable to fill with Canadians and the rights of workers.  
I looked up a few of those desperate employers on various Canadian job search sites. If they're not desperate enough to be advertising these job vacancies where Canadians can find them, why exactly is government in the business of engineering TFWs to fill them? 
Here's just part of the dissenting report submitted by the lone NDP committee member alongside the main report : 
International Mobility Program and the Trans-Pacific PartnershipThe previous Conservative government split the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in two – the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), which covers streams requiring a Labour Market Impact Assessment, and the International Mobility Program (IMP), in which no assessment of the impact on the Canadian labour market is required. The IMP is actually much larger than the TFWP (nearly twice the size in 2014), yet the committee review paid no attention to the IMP, the role that the IMP plays in the Canadian economy, and the impact that it has on workers. This is very disappointing. This is of particular concern since the Liberal government is looking to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. In addition to harming our economy, this agreement will expand access to the IMP, allowing employers to bring in foreign workers without any assessment of the impact on the Canadian labour market, even if Canadian workers are available to do the job. This has led some to describe the TPP as “the temporary foreign worker program on steroids.”You gotta admit I called it.Back in 2013, 38% of foreign nationals came in under the TFWP, but 62% came in under the IMP. 
Then there's the ICTs, or Intra-Company Transfers, which Jason Kenney helpfully told us when he was Employment Minister were "often hard-wired into trade deals". 
ICTs "enables international companies with a presence in Canada to transfer their existing employees to their Canadian location".  And if you don't already have a branch in Canada - well, we got an app for that:"Foreign businesses wishing to establish a Canadian enterprise may use the ICT Start-Up Visa program to bring key workers to the country to open a new office and begin doing business."Back in June, Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk told a room full of union officials that she plans to toast the day the Liberal government shuts down the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, but in the meantime they've "already quietly made one change, removing restrictions on the number of workers seasonal employers can bring in through the program this year."

Of course all this will be moot if the TPP goes through. 12A :
Canada shall grant temporary entry and provide a work permit or work authorization to Professionals and Technicians and will not:(a) require labour certification tests or other procedures of similar intent as a condition for temporary entry; or(b) impose or maintain any numerical restriction relating to temporary entry.. 

The Trudeau Summer and the Slow Death of the Cons

Montreal Simon - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 04:42


It still feels like summer in the place where I live, but fall officially arrives tomorrow.

So I have been spending as much time as I can soaking up every precious ray of sunshine.

And I am finding it very hard to get excited about the return of Parliament.

For just one quick glance at Question Period was enough to send shivers down my back.
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Scottish Independence and Some Lessons For Alberta

Montreal Simon - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 04:42


Last Sunday was the second anniversary of Scotland's independence referendum, which as you may know, was for me a day of great disappointment.

And one I'll always remember.

But I haven't dared even mention the anniversary when talking to my family in the Scottish highlands, because for them it's a day best forgotten.

They don't want to talk about it. It's too traumatic.

And they all voted NO.
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Is the Carbon Tax Talk Just Hot Air?

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 19:04

According to sustainable energy professor, Marc Jaccard, all the talk about carbon pricing is just hot air. The Simon Fraser prof has crunched the numbers and concludes that for Canada to meet its commitments from last year's Paris climate summit, the carbon price would have to come in at about $200 per tonne or almost seven times the $30 per tonne levied in British Columbia. That, in Dr. Jaccard's view, would be political suicide.

Jaccard points instead to a tool that is already reducing carbon in some of the world's largest economies — regulation.

"All climate policies that are actually effective are politically difficult," he said. "The only issue is which ones are more politically difficult.

"Taxes are more difficult than regulation."

Ottawa is grappling with climate-change policy in advance of an expected federal-provincial meeting on the matter later this year. Canada is on the hook to devise a way to meet its Paris goal of 30 per cent carbon reduction over 2005 levels by 2030.

Cabinet ministers have mused about imposing a national carbon price, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has suggested regulations could be part of the mix.
Jaccard proposes what he calls flexible regulations on industries, vehicles and power generation that focus on setting caps or standards rather than imposing solutions.

The regulations would phase out coal-fired power, require car builders to sell an increasing number of zero-emission vehicles, force trucks and buses to use more biodiesel and would cap the amount of carbon manufacturers are allowed to release per unit of production.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 17:59
Feline escapes.



You Want a Carbon Tax? Then Do It Right.

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 10:47

One of the greatest hurdles facing mankind in the struggle with climate change is the political factor. It's a terrible thing to leave the major decisions on this up to our political caste.  They're far more focused on getting elected in three or four years than they are in what might befall your grandkid 40 years down the road. Of course it's a massive conflict of interest and of course they get to decide whether they'll come down on their own side or your grandkid's. How do you think that's bound to turn out?

Carbon "pricing." Apparently Justin Trudeau intends to go that route. It's actually carbon taxing but what politician can bear to be that honest?

This is where we run into trouble. Carbon pricing is an exercise in political number fixing. Most of the numbers that constitute climate change orthodoxy are political numbers. That's because politics overrides science. We'll have no scientific numbers thank you very much. That would be irresponsible.

It'll be a gathering of the sphincters. Justin will pull a number out of his ass. Rachel will pull another number out of her ass. Brad will hunt around endlessly before angrily insisting there is no number up his ass.

The idea is that a carbon price discourages consumption of fossil fuels and it does, somewhat. Yet it only works if it hurts and if it hurts you've got another political football. Brad Wall has chosen to kick.

The sop for the hurt is to claim the tax will be revenue neutral. You're paying more at the pump but that'll be offset by cost reductions elsewhere. At the end of the day you'll come out about the same. Don't worry, be happy.

I've got a better idea. The first one concerns Canada's ailing, aging infrastructure. Even if we hadn't kicked Earth's climate into overdrive, a lot of our once awesome infrastructure is crumbling. Highways, overpasses, bridges, electrical grids, sewers and water mains - that sort of thing. It has served us well in the post-war era. It has allowed us to enjoy incredible prosperity. Yet now it's nearing terminal mode.

That infrastructure is what keeps the economy ticking over. It goes down, the economy goes with it. Think of it as the roof that keeps the rain out of your house. It doesn't last forever. Every 20 to 40-years it has to be replaced. Your house won't last long if you don't.

Climate change makes our infrastructure predicament much worse. I was reminded of this last night when we received another of our newfound biblical downpours. My eavestroughs were doing fine until the series of squalls passed overhead and then they quickly were overrun. Message: if we're going to be getting rains like this, and worse, I need new, larger capacity eavestroughs, downspouts and, probably, drainage tiles. Think of it as the first greeting card from the Anthropocene.

Climate change will be bringing the same reality to our core (can't live without it) infrastructure. Our aging infrastructure was designed by engineers to meet conditions of their day. It was not designed for today's severe weather events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration. The deluges that swamped first Toronto and then Calgary, utterly defeating their storm sewer systems demonstrates how vulnerable we've become. When a once-a-century flood starts turning up once in every five or ten years, you're facing a new reality and you have to figure out how to cope with it.

From sea to shining sea to shining sea we've got a looming infrastructure crisis of massive proportions. Think several hundreds of billions of dollars to do the job. One Canadian expert suggested it could reach upwards of a trillion Cdn. He also pointed out that the cost of not dealing with it will be far greater, potentially an economy killer.

Money isn't the only problem. As with most aspects of climate change, there's a big time factor. Time is not on our side. Even a Herculean effort would probably take 20 to 30-years. There's a lot of process involved - study, analyze, propose, evaluate, decide, contract and implement. That takes time.

What if, instead of fixing our carbon price based on some half-assed, negotiated political number reflecting a notional revenue-neutral pipedream, we decided to be honest? What if we decided the carbon taxes should be used, federally and provincially, for essential infrastructure rehabilitation and replacement? Why not take those carbon taxes and invest them in assets, infrastructure, that will yield economic dividends for decades to come?

If we're not going to let the economy and, with it, our society to collapse, we're going to have to find the money somewhere for a massive infrastructure makeover. That's code for "tax." Why not get some estimates for how much this is going to cost and work out what percentage of that cost should and could be realized through carbon taxes?

See what that does? That cuts out a whole lot of political numbers. Politicians instead would have to use numbers of calculated precision formulated by engineers, scientists and contractors. It won't be pretty but at least it will be grounded in reality.


"His Life Mattered"

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 06:40
“The big bad dude was my twin brother. That big bad dude was a father ... That big bad dude was a son. That big bad dude was enrolled at Tulsa Community College, just wanting to make us proud. That big bad dude loved God. That big bad dude was at church singing with all of his flaws, every week. That big bad dude, that’s who he was.”

- Tiffany Crutcher, talking about her brother who, unarmed and posing no threat, was murdered by Tulsa police on Friday.

Sometimes, all we can do is bear witness.





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