The Disaffected Lib

Subscribe to The Disaffected Lib  feed
Dedicated to the Restoration of Progressive DemocracyThe Mound of Sound
Updated: 39 min 31 sec ago

Democracy on Death Watch

13 hours 32 min ago

It wasn't supposed to end up like this but liberal democracy is reeling around the world, the United States included. Harvard prof and Foreign Policy columnist, Stephen Walt, puts it down to a bit of miscalculation and a whole lot of hubris.

Once upon a time — that is, back in the 1990s — a lot of smart and serious people believed liberal political orders were the wave of the future and would inevitably encompass most of the globe. The United States and its democratic allies had defeated fascism and then communism, supposedly leaving humankind at “the end of history.” The European Union seemed like a bold experiment in shared sovereignty that had banished war from most of Europe. Indeed, many Europeans believed its unique combination of democratic institutions, integrated markets, the rule of law, and open borders made Europe’s “civilian power” an equal if not superior counterpart to the crude “hard power” of the United States. For its part, the United States committed itself to “enlarging the sphere of democratic rule, getting rid of pesky autocrats, solidifying the “democratic peace,” and thereby ushering in a benevolent and enduring world order.

...In Russia, China, India, Turkey, Egypt — and yes, even here in the United States — one sees either resurgent authoritarianism or a yearning for a “strong leader” whose bold actions will sweep away present discontents. According to democracy expert Larry Diamond, “between 2000 and 2015, democracy broke down in 27 countries,” while “many existing authoritarian regimes have become even less open, transparent, and responsive to their citizens.” Great Britain has now voted to leave the EU; Poland, Hungary, and Israel are heading in illiberal directions; and one of America’s two major political parties is about to nominate a presidential candidate who openly disdains the tolerance that is central to a liberal society, repeatedly expresses racist beliefs and baseless conspiracy theories, and has even questioned the idea of an independent judiciary. For those of us committed to core liberal ideals, these are not happy times.

...The first problem was that liberalism’s defenders oversold the product. We were told that if dictators kept falling and more states held free elections, defended free speech, implemented the rule of law, and adopted competitive markets, and joined the EU and/or NATO, then a vast “zone of peace” would be created, prosperity would spread, and any lingering political disagreements would be easily addressed within the framework of a liberal order.

When matters didn’t go quite so smoothly, and when some groups in these liberal societies were in fact harmed by these developments, a degree of backlash was inevitable. It didn’t help that elites in many liberal countries made some critical blunders, including the creation of the euro, the invasion of Iraq, the misguided attempt to nation-build in Afghanistan, and the 2008 financial crisis. These and other mistakes helped undermine the legitimacy of the post-Cold War order, open the door to illiberal forces, and left some segments of society vulnerable to nativist appeals.

...It is also abundantly clear that post-Cold War liberals underestimated the role of nationalism and other forms of local identity, including sectarianism, ethnicity, tribal bonds, and the like. They assumed that such atavistic attachments would gradually die out, be confined to apolitical, cultural expressions, or be adroitly balanced and managed within well-designed democratic institutions.

But it turns out that many people in many places care more about national identities, historic enmities, territorial symbols, and traditional cultural values than they care about “freedom” as liberals define it.

Most important of all, liberal societies are in trouble today because they are vulnerable to being hijacked by groups or individuals who take advantage of the very freedoms upon which liberal societies are based. As Donald Trump has been proving all year (and as Jean-Marie Le Pen, Recep Erdogan, Geert Wilders, and other political entrepreneurs have shown in the past), leaders or movements whose commitment to liberal principles is at best skin-deep can take advantage of the principles of open society and use it to rally a popular following. And there is nothing about a democratic order that ensures such efforts will invariably fail.

Okay, Right. Now China Wants More Babies.

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 23:50

Chinese authorities seem eager to scrap the "one child" policy for the nation of nearly 1.4-billion. They want more babies.

On Sept. 17, officials in the central Chinese city of Yichang sent an open letter urging Communist Party members to have a second child and help replenish the city’s falling birth rates. This follows a nationwide move to a two-child policy in early 2016, prompted by fears the country’s shrinking worker base could act as a continuing drag on economic growth.

In short, China’s unpopular and controversial system of population control known as “one-child” policy is becoming “have one more child” policy. But the move may be too little and too late for a country that has become synonymous with the most restrictive birth policies in the world.

As a policy matter, China’s switch to the beginnings of a pronatalist policy is sensible. As with many other modern societies, family sizes in China have shrunk due to the combined forces of urbanization and female empowerment, which has created more opportunities for women.

Several countries have tried to stem the downturn in their own birth rates by offering financial incentives — cash payments called “baby bonuses,” as well as tax breaks. Others have been more blatant in telling their citizens to, quite simply, do it for their country. Italy just launched its first annual “Fertility Day,” a much criticized campaign that follows on the heels of similar movements in Denmark, South Korea, and Turkey. In 2010, South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare designated days when it turned off office lights early as “family days” in hopes its workers would go home and make babies.

Okay, whatever. More Chinese babies it is then even though some credible studies by Chinese experts contend the country is already well on its way to hit 1.5 billion by 2035. 

The Natives are Restless. Be Grateful.

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 00:07

First Nations groups have earned a lot of respect from other Canadians for their stalwart leadership in the fight against the fossil fuelers. Now Canadian tribes have signed a treaty with their American counterparts to unite in the fight against further Tar Sands pipelines.

The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion was signed by 50 aboriginal groups in North America, who also plan to oppose tanker and rail projects in both countries, they said in a statement.

Targets include projects proposed by Kinder Morgan Inc, TransCanada Corp and Enbridge Inc.

While aboriginal groups have long opposed oil sands development, the treaty signals a more coordinated approach to
fight proposals.

And the Ig Nobel Goes To...

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 00:07

Hang your head, Canada. This year's Ig Nobel peace prize has been awarded to a team of philosophers from the University of Waterloo for their research paper entitled, "On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit."

In a fairly damning passage from the paper, it says that those who were more receptive to the bulls*** statements and who tended to rate them higher were "less reflective, lower in cognitive ability(i.e verbal and fluid intelligence, numeracy,) and are more prone to ontological confusions and conspiratorial ideation."
This year's prize winners became instant trillionaires. The prize consisted of a $10tn Zimbabwean note equivalent to about 40-cents U.S.

Christ Killers Burn in Hell, So There.

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 13:04
Catholic bishops from Alberta and the Northwest Territories have weighed in on the issue of assisted dying with a 32-page missive about who will and won't be going to Heaven. Cut to the chase: Catholics who go the assisted dying route are Christ killers and will definitely not be heading to the Pearly Gates.

“If the penitent, having been made aware of the gravity of the situation, is open to learning the Church’s teaching on this issue, and open to reconsidering the decision, the priest can absolve,” it says. “There is at least the beginning of contrition, a willingness to reconsider and thus possibly rectify their situation.”

“If they are not open at least to prayerfully considering the rescinding of their request — now that they know it is a grave sin – they would be choosing to do something gravely wrong, that is to say, deciding to remain in a situation of sin rather than seek to amend their life,” the bishops write.

“In this case, the minister would need to delay absolution to a later time when the person may be properly disposed.”

The anointing of the sick usually follows reconciliation or confession, the bishops write, but it can be given to an unconscious person. It presumes repentance. Those who refuse to repent, who are not contrite, are not “properly disposed” to receive the sacrament.

“The request for euthanasia or assisted suicide is in direct contradiction to the baptismal call of the dying believer to proclaim at all times, especially at the approach of death, that ‘It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me,'” the bishops write. The priest is encouraged to “implore the sick person with gentle firmness to turn away from this determination in repentance and trust.”

If you're looking for a full-dress Catholic funeral it seems your chances are better if you just off yourself - gun, knife, rope, pills - that sort of thing. Go the assisted dying route and you're on your own, pal.
“The Church does, in fact, celebrate Christian funerals for those who have been found after the fact to have committed suicide,” they write. “We are not able to judge the reason the person has taken that decision or the disposition of their heart.”

“The case of assisted suicide or euthanasia, however, is a situation where more can sometimes be known of the disposition of the person and the freedom of the chronically ill man or woman, particularly if it is high-profile or notorious,” they write.

“In such cases, it may not be possible to celebrate a Christian funeral. If the Church were to refuse a funeral to someone, it is not to punish the person but to recognise his or her decision – a decision that has brought him or her to an action that is contrary to the Christian faith, that is somehow notorious and public, and would do harm to the Christian community and the larger culture.”

That "Carbon Budget"? It's Gone.

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 12:29

Because the battle against climate change is predominantly a political question, reality often gets marginalized if not ignored entirely. When you hear our political leadership discuss climate change it's always about cutting greenhouse gas emissions by some percentage of some past year's emissions by some year in the future - maybe. Politicians set "goals" that provide enough wiggle room that their commitments are nonsense, pure bullshit.

Justin Trudeau is using Stephen Harper's numbers of a 30 per cent reduction from 2005 emissions levels by 2030. To hear him tell it, anything above that would destroy the country or at least our economy. Pure bullshit.

Then there's a new article from Bill McKibbon in The New Republic. You'll be wanting to sit down to read this:

The future of humanity depends on math. And the numbers in a new study released Thursday are the most ominous yet.

Those numbers spell out, in simple arithmetic, how much of the fossil fuel in the world’s existing coal mines and oil wells we can burn if we want to prevent global warming from cooking the planet. In other words, if our goal is to keep the Earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius—the upper limit identified by the nations of the world—how much more new digging and drilling can we do?

Here’s the answer: zero.

That’s right: If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, the new study shows, we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields, build any more pipelines. Not a single one. We’re done expanding the fossil fuel frontier. Our only hope is a swift, managed decline in the production of all carbon-based energy from the fields we’ve already put in production.

The new numbers are startling. Only four years ago, I wrote an essay called “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” In the piece, I drew on research from a London-based think tank, the Carbon Tracker Initiative. The research showed that the untapped reserves of coal, oil, and gas identified by the world’s fossil fuel industry contained five times more carbon than we can burn if we want to keep from raising the planet’s temperature by more than two degrees Celsius.

...“What we found is that if you burn up all the carbon that’s in the currently operating fields and mines, you’re already above two degrees,” says Stephen Kretzmann, OCI’s executive director. It’s not that if we keep eating like this for a few more decades we’ll be morbidly obese. It’s that if we eat what’s already in the refrigerator we’ll be morbidly obese.

...To have just a break-even chance of meeting that 1.5 degree goal we solemnly set in Paris, we’ll need to close all of the coal mines and some of the oil and gas fields we’re currently operating long before they’re exhausted.

“Absent some incredible breakthrough in mythical carbon-sucking unicorns, the numbers say we’re done with the expansion of the fossil fuel industry,” says Kretzmann. “Living up to the Paris Agreement means we must start a managed decline in the fossil fuel industry immediately—and manage that decline as quickly as possible.”

A "managed decline." In Paris last December, Potsdam Institute director, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, used a different term, "induced implosion," in imploring our political caste to use their power to shut down the fossil energy giants as soon as possible.
There's your problem - a scientific diagnosis that is unacceptable politically. That goes, in spades, for Canada. If you're going to have a "managed decline" or an "induced implosion" you would begin by shutting down the dirtiest, highest-carbon fossil fuels. Coal is one. Then there's the highest-carbon variety of ersatz petroleum, bitumen. That means the Tar Sands. 
A "managed decline" means that we have to put ourselves on a carbon diet which begins by switching to conventional, lower-carbon fossil fuels while we speed up the transition to alternate, clean energy. That may be good news for the sweet crude resources of the Middle East but that only gives us cause to redouble our efforts to transition off fossil energy.
Or we can take the politically favoured alternative, the one our grandkids will pay dearly for in the decades to come. That's the clear choice of the government of Canada.

Is This the First Crack in Fossil Fuel's Dike?

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

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?

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?

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

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.

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.

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.

Is the Carbon Tax Talk Just Hot Air?

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.

You Want a Carbon Tax? Then Do It Right.

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.

If You're a Liberal, This Question is For You.

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 12:41

Your guy has been in power for almost a year now. We all recall his promises from last year's election campaign and we've seen how he's dealt with those commitments.

To be sure I think most of us are glad to see Stephen Harper gone. Many of us, however, have reason to lament he's not gone but lives on in his successor, Justin Trudeau.

So here's the question. If you have to put up with three more Harper-esque years like the past one, will you still be voting Liberal in the next election?

Because We Need to Hear This Again - and Again.

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 11:56
The world is pretty thoroughly screwed up and a big part of that is the fallout of fundamentalist Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The late Chris Hitchens makes the point we must never overlook.

Has the 2016 Election Debased America?

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 10:30

That's "debase" in the sense of lower the moral quality, degrade, cheapen, discredit, tarnish.

We all sensed that America was on a new path when it elected the buffoon, George w. Bush. Ditto when the American people actually elected him the second time around.

This year Americans are gearing up to select a new president, choosing between two candidates neither of whom is even liked.

On one hand you've got the Orange Behemoth who daily demonstrates that his presidential attributes are limited to racism, misogyny, shocking ignorance and a pathological aversion to truth in any form. On the other hand you have Hillary who, while competent enough, is simply not very likeable.

Yet today Trump is closing in on Hillary in the polls and an increasing number of pundits are warning he could in fact win in November. Who are these Americans who think a guy like Trump should be their president, the erstwhile leader of the "free world" (whatever that is today)?

In a way it feels like we've just been warned of an approaching asteroid but no one is sure if it's going to hit us or just give us a damn good scare. We won't know until election night whether the world as we knew it has ended or it was just a near miss.

Either way, when the sun rises on November 9, America will be a different place. Even a win for Hillary won't be a reset to America as it was. All countries change from one generation to the next but America has undergone pretty seismic changes since the Reagan era and the rise of neoliberalism, oligarchy and corporatism vanquishing the middle class and undermining their democracy. The Hillary/Trump squabble is just another chapter in this decline which has shown itself a true work in progress.

When the dust settles, Trump's "deplorables" may have cemented their control of the Republican Party. Even if they don't there'll still be some sort of civil war as the Republican establishment struggles hard to reclaim their party. One way or the other, somebody is leaving.

And what of us? How will outsiders see America the morning after? The appearance of stability is largely gone. It's no longer reliable, trustworthy. It's become something else but what isn't clear. Like the mouse in bed with the elephant, a little uncertainty can go an awfully long way.

Back to Bullshit City

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 09:18

Is our new prime minister just the old prime minister only with a friendlier face? So far, writes Michael Harris, it looks that way and it's time that Justin Trudeau proved otherwise.

"Selfies, canoe sorties, sunrise rituals and tattoos all have their place in post-substance politics. But they do not replace credible legislative action in the long run."

"...Trudeau may have appointed a former regional chief, Jody Wilson-Raybould, justice minister of Canada, but that won’t trick First Nations peoples into believing he has their interests at heart. Buckskin jacket and all, Trudeau is beginning to make them wonder.

"Instead of acknowledging aboriginal rights, Trudeau has allied himself on the infamous Site C dam project with one of the most unpopular politicians in the land, B.C. premier Christy Clark. He granted federal permits to allow BC Hydro to flood 83 kilometres of the Peace River Valley, a highly controversial project opposed by Treaty 8 Indian bands, farmland advocates, and Amnesty International.

"Worse, Trudeau has done this while Indigenous Peoples are arguing against Site C in the courts. Until the courts decide whether the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations gave their “free, prior, and informed consent” to the project, no one knows if this decision by two levels of government is even constitutional.

"And then there is the country’s foreign policy, which was supposed to announce to the world that Canada was back. It really looks like Stephen Harper never left.

"The Trudeau government has denounced any Canadian who agrees with the Boycott, Divest and Sanction strategy proposed by many people around the world to force Israel to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and return to the negotiating table.

"Global Affairs minister Stephane Dion has mimicked the foreign policy of the previous government in Ukraine, where the main thrust seems to be to provoke the Russians.

"Most disturbing of all, the Trudeau government proceeded with the Harper government’s immoral arms sales to Saudi Arabia, granting export licenses to make the delivery of Canadian-made armoured vehicles to that country possible."

"...Trudeau’s moment of truth begins with this new session of parliament. He can change house-leaders and make best-dressed lists till the cows come home, but he has some real governing to do.

"What pipelines, if any? What will electoral reform look like and how will it be advanced? When will Bill C-51 be amended and what will it look like? Will there be a new health accord with the provinces and will it guarantee a national Medicare system for all? And will these measures be truly debated in the House of Commons, or jammed through using the same dictatorial process trotted out so often during the Harper years?"

And, of course, Harris wrote this before word got out that on climate change, Harper's laughable emissions reduction targets are now Trudeau's targets.

Then there's the latest from The Star's Tom Walkom who writes that the much cherished tool of Canadian business for suppressing wages, the temporary foreign worker programme will be returning with relaxed conditions very soon. And you thought Liberal had some connection with liberal. Silly you.

And, since it's piling on day, The Guardian has a detailed piece on Trudeau and Canada's First Nations or what it calls "turning the language of liberation into a contraption of conquest."
It's telling that during the Harper decade of deep darkness, Liberals didn't hesitate to denounce the Conservative prime minister for acts that his Liberal successor continues and yet nary a peep out of those Whig scolds today.

Another Empty Promise?

Sun, 09/18/2016 - 11:50

The federal government has indicated it wants a ratification vote on the Paris climate pact sometime in the next week or two. With the U.S. and China already on side, Trudeau/McKenna don't want to show up at the next summit, in Morocco, with empty hands.

The Prairie Poindexter, also known as Brad Wall, is furious. How dare the federal government exercise its power to make and ratify treaties without Brad's say so? With a population of 1.13 million, Saskatchewan is less than a fifth the size of greater Toronto. Maybe it doesn't exactly deserve a veto.

That said, ratification of the Paris climate pact doesn't mean much. It's essentially saying, "I promise to do better." And if you don't? Well, nothing really. There is no binding enforcement mechanism in the deal and no such thing on the horizon either. We just have to take it on faith that the major emitters, Canada included, will voluntarily begin to slash their greenhouse gas emissions just as soon as they get the go-ahead from the United Nations. You can also take it on faith that the cheque for that 50 bucks you loaned me is indeed in the mail. I mean it. I oughta know, right?

Then there's the bottomless well of cognitive dissonance also known as the Trudeau government. Don't forget that it was the Dauphin who assured Canadians that ramping up production and export of the highest carbon ersatz oil, bitumen, would give the feds the money they need to slash emissions. Huh? Oh dear.

And who can forget our freshly minted environment minister, Dame Catherine McKenna, flush from her triumphant campaign in Paris last December, who, on meeting Alberta's enviromin promptly curled up into a fetal ball, bleating "national unity, national unity."

Ratification of the Paris climate pact will be as meaningful or meaningless as Justin Trudeau chooses. Unfortunately, every time he's come up against a tough issue he's turned all wobbly and folded. He's done the easy stuff, the low hanging fruit, brilliantly, and he's a virtuoso of the photo op, but I think the western premiers have the measure of Justin and they're ready to give him a mauling.

Paris is a beautiful city. So too is Kyoto.

Another Liberal Loser - EnviroMin Catherine McKenna

Thu, 09/15/2016 - 18:47

She's failing as an environment minister and she's failing Canada. After a grand (perhaps "grandiose") start full of promise, Catherine McKenna has squandered her opportunity and morphed into an enviromin Stephen Harper could be proud to call his own.

Dr. Eoin Finn, PhD, has taken the measure of McKenna. Here is a partial list of her failures.

  • Failure to clarify what, exactly, Canada’s GHG emissions target should be if we are to play our part in meeting the COP21 goal of limiting climate change to an increase of less than 20C. There is a looming gap between Environment Canada’s 2030 GHG emissions estimate of 817 megatonnes and the Copenhagen target of 524 millions. Nobody in McKenna’s remit (or Energy Minister Carr’s) seems to wants to grasp that 300 megatonne nettle, nor venture an estimate of what further reductions will be needed to meet COP21 commitments
  • Maintaining the Harper Government’s unambitious and inadequate GHG emission targets of 17% reduction by 2030, which, without swift action, we have no hope of meeting
  • Bowing to the desires of a few Premiers to kick the carbon-tax proposal down the road and (they hope) out of sight
  • Inaction on the review of the Oil & Gas industry emissions that successive Environment Ministers in the Harper Government had promised year after year. This industry contributes over 26% of Canada’s GHG emissions. Singling it out for inaction suggests that this Government is also a “captive regulator”
  • A decision to continue the 30% accelerated capital cost allowance for LNG facilities – a fossil-fuel subsidy granted by the Harper Government in 2014
  • Approval of the Woodfibre LNG plant in Howe Sound, despite its almost 1 million tonnes of annual GHG emissions. This puzzling and highly-unpopular decision also belied another Trudeau promise – that of “politicians may issue permits, but only communities can grant permission”
  • Cabinet’s approval of NEB’s decision to approve Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline extension, LNG Canada’s 40-year license extension for its Kitimat plant and Steelhead LNG’s 5 export licenses – each of which represents a vast expansion of Canada’s GHG emissions
  • Publicly supporting the Keystone XL and Energy East pipeline proposals
  • Silence and inaction on repealing any of the Harper Government’s egregious environmental legislation – particularly the omnibus Bill C-38, which shredded environmental protections in the Species at Risk Act, Navigable Waters Act, NEB Act and 60+ others
  • Promises to reform the National Energy Board and its farcical review process replaced with nominating yet another dubious set of second-guessers. This is hardly the stuff of meaningful reform to “restore public confidence” in the NEB;
  • Not one concrete legislative or regulatory action on Liberal energy efficiency promises –boosting renewable alternativessetting tighter automobile emission standards, elevating building insulation standards, promoting public transit initiatives, and inaction on the PM’s lofty promise to the U.N. that “Climate change will test our intelligence, our compassion and our will. But we are equal to that challenge. I encourage other signatories to move swiftly to follow through on their commitments”. Since then – nothing, nada, zilch.
You would have to be a wilfully blind Liberal or else our prime minister to not see McKenna for what she has proven to be.