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Gwynne Dyer Explains Why the Lima Climate Summit Failed and Why Paris Will Too.

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 19:15
When it comes to thwarting catastrophic global warming, we won't have it.  It's that simple.  On climate change - as on the companion dilemmas of over-population and over-consumption - the people of the developed world and our leaders will not accept the obvious solutions.

Gwynne Dyer explains why the Lima Summit ended in failure and dooms the Paris Summit next year to more of the same.

This is the deal killer. You cannot get the developing countries to cap their greenhouse gas emissions unless they get subsidies from the rich countries to help them build “clean” energy sources instead. And the developed countries regard this demand for subsidies ($100 billion a year was the figure on the table at Copenhagen five years ago) as outrageous.
It is not really outrageous at all. In view of the history of greenhouse gas emissions, it is quite fair. But almost nobody in the developed countries knows that history.It’s quite simple. The developed countries are rich because they started burning fossil fuels between 100 and 200 years ago and industrialized early. The developing countries only started burning fossil fuels in a big way 30 or 40 years ago, and are still climbing out of poverty. So 80 percent of the greenhouse gases of human origin in the atmosphere were put there by the rich countries.The rich countries caused this climate crisis; the developing countries only inherited it. So the responsibility for dealing with it—and paying for it—rests mostly with those who caused it.Until public opinion in the developed world understands that this deal is fair, no government in the rich world will dare to sign up for it. It would be political suicide. And until that deal is signed, no major developing country will agree to cap its emissions.In the developing world, everybody who counts politically understands the history of greenhouse gas emissions very well. One does sometimes wonder if the rich world’s apparent ignorance of this history is a little bit self-serving.It is the same intransigence on the climate change front that will undermine any effective action on over-population and excessive consumption of our planet's resources.  We can't solve any of these truly existential threats without solving them all and no one is willing to accept the peaceful solutions.  We'll mumble and dither and drag our heels as those best solutions, difficult as they may be, those peaceful solutions, one by one slip through our fingers and are foreclosed forever.

Is Stephen Harper's Golden Ride Finally Over?

Montreal Simon - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 14:18

The other day I told you that Stephen Harper's roller coaster rise in the polls appeared to have finally ended.

And today there is more evidence of that.

This poll from Ekos...

And this even more encouraging one from Forum. 
Read more »

BC Liberals Praise Coal and Ask All British Columbians to Feel Blessed.

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 10:38
I guess it's the Christmas Spirit seen through the eyes of British Columbia's neo-Liberal government.  BC mines minister, Bill Bennett, issued a press release, "Stuff Your Stockings with BC Coal."

No matter whether you light the menorah, trim the tree or setup the Festivus Pole, your holiday activities likely have a connection to a lump of coal mined right here in British Columbia.From the planes, trains and automobiles that are used to transport holiday gifts, to the stores where those gifts are sold - they all require steel. That steel is made using metallurgical coal. Upwards of 90% of the coal produced in British Columbia is metallurgical coal.In 2013, B.C. exported more than 28 million tonnes of metallurgical coal. Planning to drive to the mall over the holidays? There are approximately three million cars in B.C. and it takes roughly 630 kilograms of metallurgical coal to produce a single vehicle.Nothing says Canadian winter like lacing up the ice skates for a game of hockey. The steel blades that make breakaway goals possible start out as metallurgical coal. Coal production is a mainstay of the province's economy, generating billions of dollars in annual revenue and supporting thousands of well- paying jobs. Coal production currently represents over half of the total mineral production revenues in the province. 
I guess Bennett never learned that coal in the stocking is for naughty kids.

Harper Races to Abbott's Aid in Australia's Moment of Need

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 09:37

Stephen Harper has pledged that "Australia will not stand alone" as he revealed that Canada's six remaining CF-18 fighters have been dispatched to an airbase "down under" from where they'll begin bombing strikes against ISIS targets in Sydney tomorrow.

Even though the hostage incident ended with Australian police storming the cafe and shooting the gunman, Harper said it's important the cafe be leveled as a warning to Islamic extremists around the world.  He promised reconstruction aid to establish a Tim Horton's in its place.

Harper said while mosques will remain "more or less off-limits" a team of Canadian special forces is already scouring Sydney to identify targets for air strikes such as fallafel stands or halal butcher shops.

Canada's bombing mission to Australia is expected to last no more than six months but Harper said he won't be tied down by deadlines.

Harper angrily denied that the deployment will leave Canadian airspace undefended, saying that Canadian sovereignty will be protected by the United States Air Force, "just like they've been doing all along, ya ninny."

The prime minister has also dispatched foreign affairs minister, John Baird, and several dozen aides to tour the devastation.  For his part, minister Baird said he's heard the after hours scene in Sydney is simply amazing.

Harper Exposed Once More

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 09:34

Those of us who follow politics closely and with a critical eye have long seen through the myth his handlers have perpetuated that Stephen Harper is a wise and reliable steward of the economy. Doubtless that gross mischaracterization will continue to be applied, and with greater frequency, as we move closer to next year's election. Happily, more and more people are recognizing the fallacious and fatuous nature of such claims.

In her column today, The Star's Carol Goar offers ample evidence that this emperor has no clothes by examining his 'crazy' approach to our economy and his obdurate refusal to take meaningful action against climate change:
It would be “crazy economic policy” to regulate greenhouse gases in the oil and gas sector with petroleum prices dropping, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Parliament last week. “We will not kill jobs and we will not impose the carbon tax the opposition wants to put on Canadians.”

About as crazy as putting all the nation’s eggs in one basket: Canada becoming a global “energy superpower.”

About as crazy as ignoring the boom-and-bust history of the oil and sector.

About as crazy as assuming people will allow pipelines to snake under their land, carrying bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to refineries in Texas and tankers on the Pacific coast.

About as crazy as forbidding federal scientists to say anything about climate change and threatening to revoke the charitable tax status of voluntary organizations that seek to protect the environment.

About as crazy as neglecting the price Canadians are already paying for climate change: power outages, damaged homes, spoiled food, lost productivity, higher insurance premiums, the cost of stocking up on everything from generators to non-perishable food.

About as crazy as pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent at a 2009 climate change conference in Copenhagen without any plan to limit the carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide spewed into the atmosphere by the oil and gas industry.
To complicate the web of lies regularly spun by the regime, Goar points out some other inconvenient truths:
Public opinion is shifting. More than half of Canadians expressed deep concern about climate change in a poll conducted by the Environics Institute in October. Three-quarters said they were worried about the legacy they were leaving for future generations.

The provincial premiers, tired of waiting for leadership from Ottawa, have hatched their own plan to build a low-carbon economy by putting a price on pollution, developing renewable energy and capping greenhouse gases.

The central pillar of Harper’s economic strategy — being an aggressive fossil fuel exporter — has crumbled in a world awash with petroleum. Investors are cancelling their commitments. Employment in the oil and gas sector is shrinking. Government revenues are dropping.It is to be hoped that as we move into 2015, more and more Canadians will realize that on these and so many other fronts, Stephen Harper is clearly yesterday's man.
Recommend this Post

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 07:44
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Barrie McKenna comments on how far too many governments have bought into the P3 myth with our public money:
Governments in Canada have become seduced by the wonders of private-public partnerships – so-called P3s – and blind to their potentially costly flaws. In a typical P3 project, the government pays a private sector group to build, finance and operate everything from transit lines to hospitals, sometimes over decades.

These projects almost always cost significantly more than if governments just put up the money themselves and hired contractors to build the same infrastructure, under conventional contracts. Ontario Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk found that the province may have overpaid to the tune of $8-billion for 74 major infrastructure projects, dating back nine years.

A key factor is financing. Private-sector companies can’t borrow as cheaply as governments can, adding significantly to the cost, especially on contracts that may run for decades.

Other transaction costs, including lawyers and consultants, are also typically higher with P3s. But the biggest variable is the substantial price tag put on the risk shifted from governments to the private sector. Ontario is convinced the risks of cost overruns, delays, design flaws and the like are substantially lower with public-private partnerships, and it’s willing to pay a premium for that peace of mind.

Unfortunately, the government has struggled to accurately price that risk, relying on the murky and potentially inflated calculations of outside consultants. As Ontario Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid sheepishly admitted: “It is a bit of an art, identifying risk, as much as a science.”

Ontario’s Auditor-General is blunter, suggesting the government’s so-called “value assessments” are little more than junk science.
The allure may have a lot more to do with politics, than sound financial management. These projects give governments the ability to push spending down the road, with ribbon cuttings today and most of the bills due later.

They also allow governments to duck the inconvenient responsibility when things go terribly wrong. No politician, or bureaucrat, wants to have to explain why a high-profile project is late or over budget.

Taxpayers may have a very different perspective on the responsibilities of public officials, and a few good suggestions on what to do with an extra $8-billion.- And James Bagnall notes that it's also a regular practice for the Cons and other governments to write the rules of supposedly neutral competitions to favour their preferred bidders.

- Jim Tankersley reports on the devaluation of the American worker over the past few decades. And David Climenhaga finds that Jim Prentice's idea of getting input about the needs of workers is to gather seven executives in a closed-door "blue ribbon" panel.

- Allan Maki interviews Ted Clugston about Medicine Hat's success in eradicating homelessness - though the most important lesson to be drawn from the story may be that we shouldn't let naysayers (which Clugston once was) stand in the way of vital public policies. And Cory Weinberg discusses San Francisco's push to make sure that underused public land directed toward meeting housing needs, while David Ball reports on a creative effort to make home ownership more affordable in Calgary.

- Finally, Gerald Caplan explains what he'd tell Stephen Harper if given the chance. But in light of the tiny odds of Harper having interest in a word of it, I suspect we're better off making the same statements to the general public.

On unjust cause

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 07:14
Shorter Peter Kent, Stephen Harper Talking Point Dispenser Level Infinity:
The Dear Leader fired me for making some effort to do a job with the work "environment" in the title, rather than merely going through the motions. And through much re-education, I've come to see that he was right to do it.

Stephen Harper's Word

Northern Reflections - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 05:44

Newfoundland Premier Paul Davis was not happy after his meeting last week with Stephen Harper. "It really solidifies that you can’t trust the federal government, you can’t trust Stephen Harper’s government," he said. "We bargained in good faith. We believed that we had an agreement in place, that we had a deal set."

Davis sounded eerily like another premier from Newfoundland, Danny Williams. Michael Harris writes:

Former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Danny Williams, once believed he had a deal that would allow his province to keep its offshore oil revenues while still being eligible for full equalization payments from Ottawa. When Stephen Harper changed that arrangement, Williams went on the war path. With the full backing of the premier’s office, word spread across Newfoundland and Labrador — vote for anybody but Harper at the ballot box.
And then there was Harper's alteration of the Atlantic Accord. When Bill Casey met with Harper, he discovered that the agreement meant what Stephen Harper said it meant:

Casey visited the prime minister personally, armed with legal opinions from the justice department confirming that the deal had been changed and that it was illegal.

“Harper swept the opinions off his desk and said that the words meant what he said they meant. He said that I had never been with the program,” Casey told me.
Jack Layton said he discovered early on that you couldn't take the prime minister at his word. That, Harris writes, is what the next election will be all about: Stephen Harper's word.

Stephen Harper's Hugely Embarrassing Jewish Problem

Montreal Simon - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 03:15

The fuse has been burning ever since Benjamin Netanyahu set out to make Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people.

A controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people has been approved by cabinet despite warnings that the move risks undermining the country’s democratic character. 

Opponents, including some cabinet ministers, said the new legislation defined reserved “national rights” for Jews only and not for its minorities, and rights groups condemned it as racist.

It's an issue that is bitterly dividing Israelis, and Jews all over the world. 

But from Stephen Harper and his Con regime, who like to pose as Israel's best friends ever, there has been only silence. 
Read more »

What Would You Tell Stephen Harper If He Tried to Shake Your Hand?

Montreal Simon - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 23:01

It's a horrible thought, and it could only happen in a nightmare.

But what if you were wandering through a deathly dreamscape, and suddenly there was Stephen Harper, offering to shake your hand?

What WOULD you say to him?

And while that could never happen to me, because I'd rather cut off my hand than shake his, or run in the opposite direction, or moon him.

I have to say I think Gerald Caplan has a list of very good suggestions. 
Read more »

Oh, you shouldn't have!

Cathie from Canada - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 22:54
Just a little bloggy roundup of some really bad gift ideas from here and there on the web.
First, a jolly old elf, from Mock Paper Scissors:

Hummer for a White Christmas

From Dr. Grumpy, a really cute little toy giraffe which you should definitely give to someone with really awful kids:

And what real guy wouldn't love this calendar featuring girls, and fish:

From Marie Claire, a "Life Gem" -- it looks sort of pretty, doesn't it?  But then you find out what its actually made of....

//" target="blank">LIFE GEM</a></strong>, $2,699-$24,999.<br /><br />You can't go wrong with diamonds — unless those diamonds are a by-product of recently deceased Fluffy's remains. Life Gem cremates departed pets, using the carbon to create a unique gem with a creepy backstory.

Finally, this...

The Scots Give Steve Harper a Thistle Up the Kilt.

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 14:37

The Scots are doing it.  Their expansion of renewable energy allowed them to displace fossil fuels by 14% last year.

Joss Blamire, a senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, added: "This means that not only are renewables now the number one source of electricity in Scotland, but we have achieved this milestone while preventing a record amount of harmful carbon emissions from being released into our atmosphere."Renewable energy in Scotland is doing exactly what it was designed to do - creating jobs, securing our energy supplies and, most importantly, reducing our carbon emissions to help limit climate change."WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said the results were "fantastic news".'Leading the way'
Speaking from the UN's climate change conference in Lima, Peru, Mr Banks added: "That renewables in Scotland are now helping to displace almost a million tonnes of climate pollution every month is proof that a renewable power sector is the foundation of a truly low carbon economy - keeping the lights on, creating jobs and cutting emissions."Did you hear that Steve (and you too Justin, ditto for you Tommy) - they're creating jobs, securing energy supplies and reducing carbon emissions.  Jobs and energy security - isn't that what you guys are all about?  Or is it only petro-jobs and fossil energy security?

Observing Patterns and Drawing Correct Conclusions

Anti-Racist Canada - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 14:35
Sometimes when we're bored we like to write about the people who have amused us for some reason or other. Over the years we've published articles on the blog we've had one individual who, as a frequent reader, has often tried to rhetorically cross swords with us:

This wide-eyed waif is a young Tomasz Winnicki pictured at a time when he was innocent, hopeful, and had a full head of hair. Eventually Tommy would turn into this:

The years have not been very kind to Tom. Like the boy he was in the first photograph, this nearly 40 year old man-child also still live with his mother and still has difficulty cleaning his bedroom.

Does the term "arrested development" have any meaning, Tommy?

Our long time readers are by this point aware of Tommy and his unjustifiably inflated ego. In short, Winnicki believes himself to be a particularly brilliant chap and that that his ideological foes cower in the face of an obvious intellectual giant. Tommy certainly isn't shy about sharing with others how clever he believes he is:

The above post is based on Winnicki's perception of a discussion found here on the "London Free Press." In the echo chamber that is VNN, there are those who will likely believe that he is "schooling" the folks he describes as anti-racists. Then again, he also thought this was a legitimate argument concerning the recent national elections in Sweden:

We often like to poke Winnicki because.... well.... it's lots of fun. We also know that challenging his intelligence will result in a temper tantrum and Tommy did not fail to disappoint us:
Read more »

Wo Bist Du, LeDaro?

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 14:26

It's been a while since I've seen anything from friend, LeDaro.  His last post was on 26 October and he had been a regular commenter on several other blogs - but he seems to have fallen silent?

Anybody know what's up?

First, do no harm...

Dammit Janet - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 13:19
Upon successfully completing their basic training, and before they take on the years of residency that will allow them to practice their science, skills and craft in a medical specialty of their choice, medical students pledge to the principals of the Hippocratic Oath*.

In Ontario, the specific application of that pledge came under scrutiny in the last year with regard to women's reproductive health rights. In its modern form, the Oath is centred upon patient care. "... Above all, I must not play at God."

DJ! has been covering this issue from the outset, here, and here

Ontario’s new policy is unlikely to put the discussion to rest, said Carolyn McLeod, professor of philosophy at the University of Western Ontario. Patients, particularly women, will undoubtedly find it troubling if a doctor refuses their request for birth control. Doctors who object to abortion might feel uncomfortable or complicit providing patients with a referral, but setting out a clearer policy could help connect patients to care providers who can best serve their needs, Prof. McLeod said.

“To receive abortion care from somebody who is morally opposed to abortion, I think, is harmful,” she said. “I think for patients’ sake, if for no one else’s, there should be the ability for the provider to give the referral.”

Ontario’s new policy has not yet been finalized and could still be changed, depending on what the college hears during the feedback period.

Marc Gabel, former president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, said doctors could face disciplinary action if they do not comply with the new guidelines and cannot use unfounded medical reasons to withhold birth control, abortions, vasectomies, blood transfusions or other treatments.

“What we’re trying to do, I think, is set a tone to remind physicians and the public we will act professionally in ensuring their access to care and their safety,” Dr. Gabel said.

From here.

This vivid graphic

accompanied anti-Choice Pro-lies groups spin on the 'debate'.  This is their response to regulatory bodies reminding anti-Choice physicians of their professional obligations, responsibilities and duties.

No matter how the fetushists and their acolytes spin their concerns, the basis for their shrieking is fundamentally religious. Yes, a professional can abstain from engaging in activities that compromise her/his beliefs. There are nonetheless job requirements that require that she/he assist a patient in finding a practitioner who will care for, and address the needs of that patient in a timely manner. 

If Gawd-worshippy physicians won't do this, let them move on to a medical specialty or a practice where they won't be tempted to play at being Gawd.

*In my research, I came across this interesting opinion piece about the Oath. There's a relevant point about abortion.

BC RCMP at it again

Dawg's Blawg - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 12:50
It’s not enough to pepper-spray infants or slaughter a new immigrant holding a stapler. Why not drag a 61-year-old woman from her walker (to the right in the photo) and throw her on the ground—for the made-up “crime” of refusing... Dr.Dawg

Not Like They Weren't Warned

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 12:00
"The means of defence against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home."
                                                                   - James Madison

Americans revere their "founding fathers."  Their Supreme Court constantly cites them as authority for its decisions.  Their politicians rely on their words to defend their actions and attack those of their rivals.  The only thing nobody seems to have much interest in is listening to their actual words.


Oops, sorry - that's the Wehrmacht

Diversity in the atheist/skeptic communities: An evidence-based approach

Terahertz - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 11:38

The mainstream media has picked up that within the atheist community, there’s been a growing discussion about a perceived lack of diversity among the people viewed as leaders of this movement. I’m not going to rehash the entire discussion (Ashley Miller’s 2013 article "The Non-Religious Patriarchy: Why Losing Religion HAS NOT Meant Losing White Male Dominance" provides a good starting basis) but much of it has focussed on (the important) discussions of why and how the movement should build diversity, with not as much being said about whether things are actually changing.

In the spirit of Sense About Science’s Ask For Evidence campaign (though unaffiliated in any way), Chris Hassall asked me while I was living in Leeds if I could help him research trends in diversity among the leadership of the skeptic/atheist community. It’s a question he’s been thinking about for a couple years (at least) and one I was eager to help answer (particularly being unemployed at the time).

Using as much data as I could find from Google and getting in touch with organisers, we compiled a list of 630 people who have spoken at almost 50 different conferences over the past decade. We made our best estimates of age, sex, education, and ethnicity and were able to show that diversity has increased over the study period.

Once the work was done, we submitted to the journal Secularism & Nonreligion and after some edits from the reviewers, we’re published. It’s an open source journal and our data is available through figshare for those who have novel ideas on how to reuse our work.

What did we find?

Compared to the global gender-balance of the non-religious community, significantly more of the speakers are men and more of the slots available to speak at have gone to men.

Diversity among the speakers has increased

Why is this important?

There’s been a dearth of evidence in the discussions about diversity in the atheist community. Most focuses either on personal anecdotes or specific events/people and their actions or commentary. These discussions are clearly important – personal stories tell us that sexual harassment has happened at atheist and skeptic conferences and those making sexist comments should be challenged. But to make our efforts to change things – particularly at the systematic level – we need to mirror the successes of the evidence-based medicine movement (and by extension the more recent science-based medicine movement). This should seem obvious to a community that prides itself on using reason and evidence to guide its worldview, yet such a discussion has been slow to come.

Similar thinking motivated the BC Humanists to commission a poll into the state of the broader non-religious public in BC in 2013 and I suspect it also motivated American Secular Census and the Atheist Census projects.

We hope that this paper starts a discussion on how to better use evidence in our efforts to improve the community. While the trendline is positive, there is still work to be done.

I’m hoping to follow up this work with a talk I can give at Skeptics in the Pub (or elsewhere) and possibly future investigations. I’m also happy to answer any further questions about this work. Send me an email or leave a comment below (or on the paper itself).

Sidebar: The sad ironies

I fully recognise the irony of a sociological paper being published by a PhD in Biology and a MSc in Physics. I also realise that this is a discussion about diversity coming from two white men. Nevertheless, I hope it still proves a valuable contribution to the broader discussion and I encourage everyone to listen to people from different backgrounds with different perspectives. Comments are welcome on the paper itself and both Chris and I are eager to discuss this work further.

Reference: Hassall, C and Bushfield, I 2014. Increasing Diversity in Emerging Non-religious Communities.Secularism and Nonreligion 3:7, DOI:


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