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Updated: 43 min 42 sec ago

Hillary as Groucho

2 hours 29 min ago

Grist has a report of how Hillary Clinton now opposes oil drilling in the Atlantic,  a bid to siphon some of the environmental vote away from Bernie Sanders.

It brought me back to that line of Groucho's - "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."

The Royal Canadian Navy to Begin Refugee Patrols in the Aegean.

3 hours 7 min ago
South of the Rio Grande they're called La Migra, the U.S. Border Patrol agents who intercept illegal immigrants heading for the States.

Europe will soon have its own La Migra only it's an outfit we already know as NATO. Naval vessels will patrol to stop smugglers moving migrants from Turkey to Greece. Other NATO units will step up surveillance of the Syrian-Turkish border.

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg insisted "this is not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats." Yeah, right, Jens.

Guess whose ships have been ordered to start refugee boat patrols? You got it, Canada. We'll be joining vessels from Germany, Greece and Turkey in the Aegean. Odd that, isn't it? One of those countries is not like the others.

BC Throne Speech - Be Vigilant Lest We Become Another Alberta

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 14:03

The burn. Christy Clark's message to British Columbians is to be vigilant so we don't become another Alberta. Madam premier then went on to add that Alberta has "lost its focus."

Ms. Clark repeatedly made Alberta the poster boy for how not to run a province.

"Consider our neighbours in Alberta – a province of similar size, and also blessed with natural resources," Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon said, in delivering the B.C. Liberal government's vision for the new legislative session.

"Over the decades, Alberta lost its focus. They expected their resource boom never to end, failed to diversify their economy and lost control of government spending."

The speech goes on to urge British Columbians to "stay vigilant" in the face of low oil prices, global market uncertainty and a falling Canadian dollar, "and resist the temptation to spend our way into trouble."

Take that, ya Wild Rose "losers".

Sorry to Piss on Your Parade, But...

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 12:34

We've had a gutfull of wonderful, inspiring words from the new Liberal prime minister but sometimes reality gets in the way to shred that tissue of comfort.

There's this, for starters.  Under the new management, Canada won't even be making Harper's emissions target.

Canada’s Second Biannual Report on Climate Change projects greenhouse gas emissions reaching 768 megatonnes in 2020 and 815 megatonnes in 2030. These estimates mean Canada would fail to meet previous goals set by the Harper government in Copenhagen in 2009 — 622 megatonnes by and 524 megatonnes for 2030.

“Without additional measures, continued strong emissions growth” in the oil and gas sector will push the emissions to the above limits, the report stated.

Within the fossil fuel sector, the oil sands are seen as the leading cause of the increase in emissions.

Meanwhile, prime minister All Things to All Men is assuring Big Fossil that he'll work to get pipelines through to carry their high-carbon sludge to vulnerable coastlines and on to world markets. This is, of course, the same bitumen that climate scientists have bluntly told us must be left in the ground (i.e. stranded) if the world is to have any remote chance of limiting global warming to somewhat less than 2 degrees Celsius (as if).
And, of course, this is the same prime minister who thinks Canada should go ahead and sell $15-billion worth of high-tech death wagons to that bastion of democracy and human rights, Saudi Arabia.

So Much for Democracy, Mr. Brooks

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 11:47
New York Times' conservative columnist, David Brooks, knows that American politics is in the hands of an elite, the "donor class." Listen as he urges the Republican donor class to ride to the rescue of Marcus Rubio to shut out Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Pick it up around 4:25

That Nagging Thought in the Back of My Mind

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 11:29
After the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary the pundits are going crazy. Hillary narrowly squeaked past Bernie Sanders in Iowa only to get flushed straight down the storm sewer in New Hampshire where Bernie took 60% of the vote.

Cruz took heavily evangelical Iowa only to get hammered by Trump in New Hampshire.

The pundits are starting to talk about America heading into a very weird election where conventional thinking may not hold true.  The New Republic opines that Trump's win in New Hampshire is a crippling blow to the GOP.

Trump’s victory, and the magnitude of his victory, is a political cataclysm for the Republican Party. When it became clear that Trump would win, the GOP establishment’s parting hope was that Trump’s margin would thin, and he’d once again face a storyline about his inability to meet expectations; that he’d lose by winning. Instead he more than doubled the support of the second-place finisher, John Kasich. This gives Trump an early delegate lead going into nominating contests in South Carolina and Nevada, where he also enjoys commanding advantages in public polls.

Trump’s path to the nomination just expanded back to its pre-Iowa thickness. And the biggest contributing factor to Trump’s resurgence—the second biggest story out of New Hampshire—is the Republican Party leadership’s near-total loss of control over its candidate pool. Had Senator Marco Rubio, rather than Kasich, finished second in New Hampshire—had he managed to capitalize on his third-place showing in Iowa—the story tonight would be dramatically different.

As for Hillary, The New York Times reports that her team was expecting as much as a 15 point defeat in New Hampshire, confident that even with a small win, Bernie would be "brought back down to Earth." 
Meanwhile, Chris Matthews has shredded the Clinton campaign:
"This campaign is badly run... it hasn't even been thought through," Chris Matthews of MSNBC charged. "When you ask her why you're running, you don't get a clear answer and there's no joy. There's no Clinton fun. It's totally missing a soul. And if you've got a campaign without a soul, you've got a real problem, no matter where you're running."
Some say Clinton has relied too much on "feminism" and the appeal of potentially being the first woman president, rather than policies such as free tuition that are appealing to young voters, including women. Only 35% of Democratic women voters younger than 45 supported Clinton, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC/Marist College poll. No showing how many female votes she's gained due to Madeleine Albright's threatening words at a Clinton rally she attended with the candidate. I'd venture to say zero.

"There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other," Albright warned, to which female Sanders supporters shrugged off brilliantly: "I'll Bern," they said. 

All this uncertainty leaves me with that nagging thought. Will these presidential nominations and the outcome of the November election be decided by the Slave States voters?

This Should Be Interesting - Netanyahu to Delineate Israel's Border.

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 10:20

Israeli prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu, has announced a plan to encircle the state of Israel with a security fence saying, "In our neighbourhood, we need to protect ourselves from wild beasts."

I'm not sure whether Bibi has really thought this one through. Fortifications don't just keep people out, they keep people in.

The bigger problem is this security fence effectively claims whatever territory it incorporates as part of Israel which, I suspect, will mean most of the Palestinian or occupied territory also known as the West Bank.

Reality Check - Man Made Climate Change Will Last for Thousands of Years

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 09:08
We have left our mark on the Earth and our environmental footprint is going to last probably 10-thousand years or more.

We typically think in terms of a decade, perhaps a century, when considering anthropogenic global warming and its impacts but that's just us doing what we do best - thinking in terms of "us." We're a very us-centric bunch. That limits the scope to us, the kids, the grandkids and maybe just a smidgen of concern for great-grandkids too. After that, not so much.

From The Washington Post:

A large group of climate scientists has made a bracing statement in the journal Nature Climate Change, arguing that we are mistaken if we think global warming is only a matter of the next 100 years or so — in fact, they say, we are locking in changes that will play out over as many as 10,000 years.

“The next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far,” write the 22 climate researchers, led by Peter Clark, from Oregon State University.

“In hundreds of years from now, people will look back and say, ‘Yeah, the sea level is rising; it will continue to rise; we live with a constant rise of sea level because of these people 200 years ago that used coal, and oil and gas,’ ” said Anders Levermann, a sea-level-rise expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and one of the paper’s authors. “If you just look at this, it’s stunning that we can make such a long-lasting impact that has the same magnitude as the ice ages.”

The key reason for this is that carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for a very long time before being slowly removed again by natural processes. “A considerable fraction of the carbon emitted to date and in the next 100 years will remain in the atmosphere for tens to hundreds of thousands of years,” the study noted. Meanwhile, the planet’s sea levels adjust gradually to its rising temperature over thousands of years.

...From 1750 to the present, human activities put about 580 billion metric tons, or gigatons, of carbon into the atmosphere — which converts into more than 2,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide (which has a larger molecular weight).

We’re currently emitting about 10 gigatons of carbon per year — a number that is still expected to rise further in the future. The study therefore considers whether we will emit somewhere around another 700 gigatons in this century (which, with 70 years at 10 gigatons per year, could happen easily), reaching a total cumulative emissions of 1,280 gigatons — or whether we will go much further than that, reaching total cumulative levels as high as 5,120 gigatons.

The good news is that the authors believe that, at some point, mankind's predicament will become sufficiently perilous that we will develop some technology for stripping atmospheric carbon dioxide - if, by then,  we can afford what will probably be a massive cost. The better news is that, if we do get to that point, the people with the greatest wealth will be those on the hook to clean up the very mess that they in fact made.

The Game's Afoot - Again

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 08:31
What is it with unattached feet, sneakers and Vancouver Island?

Another solo pedibus in a shoe has washed up, this time at Port Renfrew's beautiful Botanical Beach.
Between August 2007 and November 2011, nine feet belonging to seven people were discovered along the B.C. coast.

One foot was linked to a man who had gone missing 25 years earlier when his boat overturned near Port Moody.

Okay, there's the set up. You write the punch line.

Iggy Doesn't Just Want an Air War Over Syria. He Wants a Shooting War with the Russians.

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 23:05

Thank God and Greyhound he's gone. It's in the Washington Post. The Count, Iggy, former Liberal clown prince, wants NATO to declare part of Syria a "no fly" zone. Ignatieff seems to be spoiling for a showdown with Putin's and Assad's forces in Syria.

It seems the twerp doesn't realize that Syrian airspace is already controlled by Russian S-400 missile batteries. Put simply, we won't be imposing a no fly zone without risking a major conflagration with Russia and if that starts in Syria it won't end there.

Just for background, an analysis of NATO's forces in the Baltics has concluded the Russians could roll us up there in 3-days.

h/t Chris a.k.a. CRF

Those Who Would Bomb...

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 10:26

Apparently a good many Canadians, even a majority, would have the federal government continue our bombing campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Let's unpack that curious thinking.

It strikes me that, let's call them the "Bombers", must believe that either the bombing campaign is working, that it will work at some point or that it's irrelevant whether it accomplishes anything meaningful and effective.

Some of the Bombers, if pressed, would probably admit they support bombing for the sake of bombing. I've written about their type before, those who see war, not as a route to victory but as a gesture. They're the dangerous type because whether they realize it or not, they're the sort of Bomber that is okay with PermaWar. War without end. War without victory or defeat. War for the sake of war. It's an odious, reprehensible mentality that doesn't understand that military violence must always be a purposeful, last resort.

I read today how broad the ranks of PermaWar Bombers have become. Mona may be leading the charge but she's ably abetted by rightwing scribes such as Ivison and Coyne. They're the whack-a-mole brigade who do not trouble themselves with either outcome or consequence provided they're not yet bored with it. You would have found them in full support of our bombing campaign in Libya that was so instrumental in turning that place into a failed state just tailor made for the establishment of Islamist extremism. We made the down bed for ISIS to settle into northwest Africa. Brilliant.

What the Bombers never quite grasp is that bombing without a workable strategy is self-defeating. All it earns you is long-lasting enmity.

As Harvard prof, Stephen Walt, recently wrote in Foreign Policy, our efforts in the Muslim world are pointless because they're in support of a demonstrably failed American foreign policy.

The playbook we’ve been using since the 1940s isn’t going to cut it anymore. We still seem to think the Middle East can be managed if we curry favor with local autocrats, back Israel to the hilt, constantly reiterate the need for U.S. “leadership,” and when all else fails, blow some stuff up. But this approach is manifestly not working, and principles that informed U.S. policy in the past are no longer helpful.

America’s track record in the region over the past 20-plus years also raises serious questions about its ability to identify realistic goals and then achieve them. Global influence rests in part on an image of competence, and the past three administrations have done little to burnish that image. Indeed, when it comes to the Middle East, the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations have been King Midas in reverse: Everything they touch turns not to gold but to lead or, even worse, into a violent conflagration. is hard to figure out what the U.S. role should be because the policy instruments that are easiest for Washington to use are increasingly irrelevant to the problems now convulsing the region. The United States’ most readily usable instrument is its still-powerful military, whether in the form of material aid, training, airstrikes, naval task forces, drones, Special Operations Forces, or in extreme cases, the full Rapid Deployment Force. Unfortunately, the central problem facing most of the Middle East is not a powerful conventional army (i.e., the kind of enemy we’re good at defeating) but the lack of legitimate and effective institutions of local governance. As we’ve seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military is not designed for or good at creating local political institutions, and the more we use this tool, the more fragile, fractious, and violent local politics usually become.

Well, here’s a radical thought: If the strategic importance of a region is declining, if none of the local actors deserve unvarnished U.S. backing, if our best efforts make both friends and foes angry at us, then maybe — just maybe — the United States ought to stop trying to fix problems that it has neither the wisdom nor the will to address. In the end, the fate of the Middle East is going to be determined by the people who live there and not by us, though we might be able to play a constructive role on occasion. And the sooner Americans recognize that they’re better off coaching from the sidelines, instead of getting bloodied on the field, the better off they’ll be.

These core arguments do not occur to the Bombers. It hasn't dawned on them that near limitless bombing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen has failed at every turn. Whether it's Coyne or Ivison, Mona or Kinsella, these people don't think this through. They don't look at what winning or losing means or how we're going to achieve anything meaningful. 
Where do the Bombers want to go next? Shall we bomb ISIS in Senegal or Libya or the Philippines, perhaps in Afghanistan or Indonesia?

Is the Petro-Economy a Millstone Around Canada's Neck?

Mon, 02/08/2016 - 14:04

Didn't we imagine that this was going to be our ticket to Easy Street? Hell we had almost as much oil as Saudi Arabia and the world was going to be beating a path to our doors, begging us to take their wealth and treasure. Even Ignatieff proclaimed Athabasca bitumen the "beating heart of the Canadian economy for the 21st century."

Now it turns out that our bet on bitumen may go from being Canada's petro-blessing to the ruin of our national economy.  Andrew Nikiforuk looks at the perils we face from our bitumen bounty in the latest Tyee.

"...the descent of oil has become a sort of Sherman's March on globalization.

"The status-quo pundits say don't worry. The world is awash in oil due to the brute force of fracking and Alberta's faltering bitumen boom.

"Markets are just experiencing another wacky correction in supply and demand, and business as usual will continue. Relax, add the pundits -- lower energy prices tend to revive economies by putting more money in the hands of consumers, and all will be well.

"But the global economy is now confounding academic theorists. Falling gasoline prices haven't propped up the economy, or stimulated growth for that matter. In fact, global finance appears to be driving into another recession while debt grows, innovation disappears, capital investment recedes and wages stagnate.

"So there must be another story."

There is, and it's a rather grim energy fairy tale. This one shows how the world's economy depends on the quality of energy burned, and not the amount of money spent. When economies spend cheap oil, GDP rises; when they switch to costly and unconventional stuff, growth comes to a screeching halt.

In this unfolding story, cheap credit played a big role. It allowed an industry to carelessly borrow trillions to chase ultra-expensive and risky resources such as bitumen and shale oil.

An energy industry laden with toxic debt is now earning less money than what it costs to shovel bitumen or frack shale. And this kind of debt is not going to end well for financial markets. Or for ordinary people.

But the darkest character in this fairy tale is the monster called diminishing returns.

On a diet of cheap oil, the world financial system grew on energy surpluses like a wildfire dines on trees in a forest.

But no more. The cheap stuff is gone, and companies are now frantically fracking North Dakota at a cost of $60 a barrel or mining northern Alberta's heavy bitumen at costs as high as $80 a barrel. With oil at $30 a barrel, many companies are, as respected Houston analyst Art Berman recently put it, "losing their asses."

...The implications of diminishing returns for oil are stark: the more society invests in unconventional hydrocarbons, warns [David Murphy of St. Lawrence University], the more "growth will become harder to achieve and come at an increasingly higher financial, energetic and environmental cost."

As society switches to energy resources of lower and lower quality, simply maintaining the flow of net energy to society will require that companies and nations accrue more debt to spend a proportionally larger amount of capital on gross energy extraction that comes with dirtier environmental impacts, such as carbon-spewing bitumen.

Diminishing returns from oil production "indicate that we should expect the economic growth rates of the next 100 years to look nothing like those of the last 100 years," writes Murphy.

That reality now seems to be unfolding on a global scale. The trouble really became apparent when oil prices leapt beyond $90 a barrel in 2010 and remained at unprecedented highs for four years. These high prices, in turn, put recessionary pressures on the global economy. Costly oil forced people, nations and firms to scale back and put on the brakes.

Meanwhile, Big Oil continued to borrow billions to extract difficult and unconventional hydrocarbons such as deep-sea oil, bitumen and shale oil. All required more capital and more energy to pull out of the ground.

In 2000, companies spent $400 billion a year chasing hydrocarbons. But by 2013 they were spending nearly $900 billion with little change in production.

...In 2014, federal energy bean counters in the U.S. revealed that the energy industry was actually spending more than it was earning. The U.S. Energy Administration reported 127 of the largest oil and gas firms generated $568 billion in cash from their operations during 2013-2014, while their expenses totaled $677 billion. To cover the difference of $110 billion, the energy giants increased their debt load or sold off assets.

Given that the gap between earned cash and spending stood at a modest $10 billion in 2010, that's a significant change for the industry as well as the global economy it fuels. Since then, the toxic debt load has grown larger.

Wood Mackenzie, an oil consultancy, now estimates that 2.2 million barrels a day of Canadian production is unprofitable with oil at US$35 a barrel, and most of that debt-inviting extraction is coming from the high cost and complex oilsands.
...Gail Tverberg, an accountant and energy blogger, has an interestingtheory about all this.

She believes that "all economies have finite lifetimes, just as humans, animals, plants and hurricanes do." She thinks that we may be "in the unfortunate position of observing the end of our economy's lifetime."

A senior Ikea executive, Steve Howard, recently acknowledged the possibility: "If we look on a global basis, in the West we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I'd say we've hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff... peak home furnishings."

Economists used to believe that when societies peaked, prices would rise, and energy products would become scarce. But Tverberg reckons the networked economy won't necessarily behave that way. "High energy prices tend to lead to recession, bringing down prices. Low wages and slow growth in debt also tend to bring down prices. A networked economy can work in ways that does not match our intuition; this is why many researchers fail to understand the nature of the problem we are facing."

She adds that high oil prices expertly disguised the brutal reality of diminishing returns. Whenever an industry or society blows up the principles of efficiency by getting on a treadmill with no efficiency or gain in energy returns, there is no growth. But there is stagnation and political unrest.

Tverberg worries about toxic debt loads, too. As energy gets more expensive (and renewables are expensive and fossil fuel dependent, too), society has to borrow more money to keep a global clunker on the road. Tverberg notes that you can only dial up the debt for so long before you "discover that debt growth has a lot of adverse effects. And one of the big ones is that it tends to funnel money to the wealthier class and take money away from the poor members of society."

A peak world and complex society faces a conundrum: high oil prices shrink the economy while low oil prices destabilize it due to diminishing energy returns.

There may be some temporary solutions, but they involve ending cheap credit, shutting in at least a million barrels of oil, and regulating the price of oil as the Railroad Commission did in the 1930s. But our politicians cling to the myth of constant growth and have no idea what the real problem is.

...Diminishing returns, just like rising expectations, do not bring out the best in people: expect violent reactions and revolutions in petro-states and indebted nations. Expect the unexpected and a narrative of volatility.
"Unfortunately, what we are facing now is a predicament, rather than a problem," reflects Tverberg. "There is quite likely no good solution. This is a worry."

The Ponzi Economy and The Ride of the Looter Class

Mon, 02/08/2016 - 13:27

We're already well into our eventual environmental meltdown. Are we now also on the cusp of a global economic meltdown? There is a growing chorus of voices warning that the end really is nigh for this enormous House of Cards we built for mankind in the wake of WWII.

Like most of us, I didn't dwell much on the environmental or economic State of the Planet until the twitch first set in somewhere around the turn of the century. Since then the looming perils have indeed materialized.

The fact is, we've been on a multi-generational bender of sorts and now it's hangover time. CBC business reporter, Don Pittis, writes that, "If you ever thought there was a group of smart people who really understood the economy and you were just too stupid to figure it out, now is the time to disabuse yourself."

It's an interesting article, a worthwhile read. Pittis focuses on British economist/journalist Martin Wolf of the Financial Times. Wolf suggests Britain's redemption lies in either a full-blown purgative depression or "helicopter money" which is a term for a guaranteed annual income plan.

Pittis concludes that the real problem isn't with the economy or the various proposed solutions.  Our Achilles' Heel, is a terminal problem.

"For leaders who make policy, it is almost impossible to try radical and unproven medicine that might work, for the simple reason that it might instead precipitate a crisis for which they would be blamed.

"So long as the global economy seems to be muddling on, governments and central bankers prefer to kick the can down the road just a little further, and keep praying for a miraculous, spontaneous cure."

What Pittis and Wolf and the rest of the like-minded cannot seem to grasp is that our economic model has a systemic, mortal flaw. Neoclassical economics of the sort taught to Wolf and Harper by Friedman and Hayek resting on a foundation of perpetual, exponential growth is a hoax introduced in the post-war era that worked really, really well but only for a few decades and only for those it was aimed at benefitting.

Sometime in the next century, when mankind's population has stabilized at somewhat under one billion, our era may be named something like "The Great Bloat," the era in which civilization swelled to the bursting point - and then burst.

The whole growth-based paradigm was a hoax, a contrivance crafted from some unsustainable circumstances and assumptions. Things that, by logic, didn't fit were dismissed, labeled as "externalities." Resource shortages, cost of resources, damage to the environment - mere externalities that must never be permitted to cloud the model.

This gave rise to the theory, the belief that was enshrined as orthodoxy, that the economy could and should grow larger than the environment. It has. That's the world of 7+ billion heading for 9+ billion we live in today. We're already consuming the planet's resources at 1.7 times their natural replenishment rate and still our appetites are growing. The miners' canary in this is that all other forms of life, marine and terrestrial, have declined in total number by half over the past thirty years. We're taking so much of everything they also need to survive that their numbers are collapsing.

Pittis may write of "leaders who make policy" but he abuses the word "leader." We don't have leaders today - not in the Liberals, nor the Conservatives nor the New Democrats. They're all self-interested, feckless can-kickers, the lot of them.

The tragedy of this is that you can no longer rely on the head of your preferred political party for leadership. You're going to have to self-educate. You've got to make up your own mind on just about everything - social, political, economic and environmental.

There's plenty of top-quality information out there. Read Joe Stiglitz. Read Phil Mirowski. Read James Galbraith. Read John Ralston Saul.  Below is an interesting lecture by Galbraith to the Post-Keynesian Conference. Pick it up around the 19-minute mark.

Of particular interest is Galbraith's description of the American economy and, to a lesser extent, the economies that are driven by it, in the post-2008 world. He describes it as a Ponzi economy exploited by a class he calls "looters" by which he means the 1%. He contends the looters see what's going on and they know it can't last so they're using their wealth and their influence, economic and political, to bleed the whole thing dry.

Fortunately we have fearless political leaders to keep us safe from these predators. What's that? Oh...

Mulcair's Opening Salvo - and It's BullS__t

Mon, 02/08/2016 - 08:45

I feel badly for Tom Mulcair but who wouldn't? He was supposed to be farting through silk right now but the last election sent him instead to the cellar where he has to make do with burlap.

When you're the Old Man of the crowd, time is probably not on your side. Canadians seem to prefer new and shiny and most of the shine got scrubbed off Tom a long time ago. I don't think the beard and the beady black eyes help much either.

The one thing you can't be doing when you're hanging on by your fingertips is to show desperation. Never let the plebs know you're running on fear. If they smell fear they can turn on you - in a heartbeat.

I smelled the fear in an email Tom sent me this morning.

"While the Trudeau government has gone ahead and signed the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, there remains many uncertainties about what's in store for Canada.

"The Harper government first negotiated this deal in secret. Now we have the Liberals agreeing to a deal that can't be renegotiated! Any concerns or changes raised in future consultations won't matter."

Tom, I'm at best ambivalent about the Trudeau gang and I stand opposed to the TPP. That said, we don't need your bullshit scare tactic. The Liberals have signed to verify the text of the deal comports with the terms negotiated. They didn't agree to a deal - and you know it. 
Ratifying TPP takes more than a signature on paper. It's a Parliamentary process, Tom, and you know that too. I would be delightfully surprised if the Liberals, with their majority, gave TPP the thumbs down although that's a long shot. 
You'll get your chance, Tom, right there on the floor of the House of Commons where you actually do your best work. Wait till the wedding night, Tom. In the meantime try to leave yourself alone.

The Complete History of Japan - In a Matter of Minutes

Sat, 02/06/2016 - 00:17
It's fast, it's fun - and it's sort of accurate. The history of Japan. Sit back, relax, enjoy.

Which Explains Why Assange Must Remain in the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Fri, 02/05/2016 - 11:25

The Swedes say they want WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange brought to justice on sexual assault charges. Assange says it's a ruse intended solely to get him in American custody.

Who to believe? I'd put my money on Assange. The Danish government has revealed that it cooperated with the Americans in 2013 when they thought they had a chance at snatching another whistle-blower, Edward Snowden.

A US government jet was lying in wait in Copenhagen to extradite the whistleblower Edward Snowden if he had come to Scandinavia after fleeing to Moscow in June 2013, the Danish government has revealed.

The twin-engined Gulfstream aircraft, which had previously been used to fly Abu Hamza to the US from the UK, landed shortly before the FBI called on Scandinavian police forces to arrest Snowden and hand him over for extradition.

Søren Pind, the justice minister, wrote to Danish MPs (pdf): “The purpose of the aircraft’s presence in Copenhagen airport is most likely to have been to have the opportunity to transport Edward Snowden to the United States if he had been handed over from Russia or another country.”

It's pretty easy to spot the CIA Gulfstream. It's the twin-engine job sitting on the far side of the airfield with only a tail number for identification.

Galbraith on "What Ever Happened to Conservatives?"

Fri, 02/05/2016 - 11:13
Political economist, James K. Galbraith, wrote The Predator State toward the end of the Bush/Cheney fiasco. In this book he dissects what today stands as our economic orthodoxy - globalization and free market fundamentalism.

Galbraith doesn't denounce the High Priests of modern neoliberalism - Hayak, Friedman et al - as charlatans. To the contrary he contends they all started out as true believers who just happened to catch the attention of Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney who found this economic ideology entirely suited to their ideologies.

What Galbraith points out is that long ago even Friedman and his apostles realized they were wrong. Their theories were tried and they failed. They did not deliver the predicted outcomes even if, as critics argue, they never were more than wishful thinking.

The issue is not whether the great conservative ideas once had appeal or a foundation in reputable theory. The issue is whether they have a future. And on that point, there is general agreement today, largely shared even by those who still believe passionately in the conservative cause. The fact is that the Reagan era panoply of ideas has been abandoned as the intellectual basis of a political program. ...The economic conservative still reigns supreme in the academy and on the talk shows, but in the public realm, he is today practically null and void. He does not exist. And if he were to resurface today in the policy world offering up the self-confident doctrines of 1980, he would be taken seriously by no one.

... There is a reason, in short, that principled conservatives find themselves in the political wilderness once again: they belong there. They are noble savages and the wilderness is their native element. They do not belong in government because, as a practical matter, they have little to contribute to it; they are guilty of taking the myths they helped create too seriously, and to sophisticated people, that makes then look a bit foolish.

A Flawed Ideology that Became a Contagion that Infects Us to This Day.

...few politicians in either party have yet publicly divorced themselves from the Reagan Revolution, in particular from the idea of the free market. Politicians notoriously say what is convenient and act along different lines entirely, causing problems for those who try to write about their views in a careful and serious way. But perhaps on no other issue is this tendency more pronounced than in matters relating to the markets, a word one apparently cannot use in the United States without bending a knee and making the sign of the cross.

And here the political world is divided into two groups. The are those who praise the free market because to do so gives cover to themselves and their friends in raiding the public trough. These people call themselves "conservatives," and one of the truly galling thing for real conservatives is that they have both usurped the label and spoiled the reputation of the real thing. And there are those who praise the "free market" simply because they fear that, otherwise, they will be exposed as heretics, accused of being socialists, perhaps even driven from public life. This is the case of many liberals. Reflexive invocations of the power of markets, the "magic" of markets, and the virtues of a "free enterprise system" therefore remain staples of political speech on both sides of the political aisle. However, they have been emptied of practical content, and the speakers know it.

...the Left has been doing too little thinking of its own. Liberals have yet to develop a coherent post-Reagan theory of the world, let alone a policy program informed by the political revelations, world policy changes and scientific realities. ...In consequence, new economic issues emerging under the influence of pressing events are dangerously underexamined. These issues include war, climate change, energy supply, corruption and fraud including election fraud, the collapse of public governing capacity, the perilous position of the international dollar and the position of immigrants in American society. These issues form the crux of the future of economic policy ...but none of these issues is geting more than passing development as yet from those to whom liberals look for ideas.

Re-read that last passage and ask if you haven't felt that same way, particularly since the ascendancy of Stephen Harper. There are so many issues that should be shaping our national policy - economic, social, military and international - that seem discarded by those who chart our nation's path, those who today write our grandchildren's future.

It seems as though, with each grand trade deal (they're not "free" trade, nothing of the sort), we give up aspects of state sovereignty to the corporate sector until, eventually, the state becomes only partially governable without the acquiescence of the new multinational power partner. The political caste has enfeebled its ability to govern coherently by shackles it freely clasped to its wrists and ankles.

That may be the undercurrent that will lead today's government to yield to one more fetter, the Trans Pacific Trade pact. The best argument I've heard in favour of TPP is that while it won't do Canada much good, we'll be really buggered if we don't sign on, if we refuse to succumb.

We have allowed transnationals to become more than super conduits of trade. We have established them as political powers in their own right and, in the process, we are creating what Galbraith calls "the Predator State."

What If Assad Wins, What Then?

Fri, 02/05/2016 - 10:48

Russia's intervention in Syria may have turned the tables in favour of strongman, Bashar Assad. Russian airpower has been pounding the daylights out of Assad's opposition, the rebels (our guys), the Kurds (also our guys) and the Islamists (al Nusra/ISIS - not our guys).

From Vice News:

With a healthy assist from the Russian air force, the Syrian military and its allies cut a key rebel supply line to Turkey on Wednesday, dealing a serious blow to the rebels in the country's north and getting closer to creating a chokehold that could turn the course of the war.

Regime forces and militias in two Shi'ite towns seized the midpoint of a strip of rebel territory running north of Aleppo, Syria's largest city and economic hub, to the Turkish border. Regime forces had launched a new offensive north of the city on Monday, according to pro-government and opposition sources. By Wednesday, they had come within a few kilometers of the two partially besieged towns of Nubl and al-Zahraa and their forces were able to converge on the rebels in the middle.

The vital rebel supply line from Aleppo City up to the Bab al-Salameh border crossing with Turkey has now been cut by the regime. Rebels and civilians told VICE News that intense bombing and shelling had taken a heavy toll on the local population; many fled north but were stranded at the still-closed border crossing, or had camped in surrounding farmlands.

The West, of course, isn't at war with the Syrian regime (Assad) although we are providing backing to the rebels in a half-assed way even as the rebels get the other half of their asses bombed to pieces by Russian warplanes. The fact that Russia is backing Assad and has those S-400 surface to air missile batteries in place pretty much guarantees that we, the West, won't be getting any deeper into this conflict - i.e. we're not going to take on the Russians for the sake of Syria. Besides, if we did get frisky with Russia, our forces in the Baltics would be overrun in about 3-days.
In Canada there are some, usually found in the shallow end of the gene pool, who insist Canada must be ass deep in the "fight against ISIS", whatever that is. These "whack-a-mole" warriors never have any viable solutions for defeating ISIS nor, to them, does that even seem relevant. Intellectually these characters are one ratchet away from embracing PermaWar.
ISIS isn't Syrian nor is it Iraqi. ISIS is in Libya, the sub-Saharan Sahel (Senegal), Tunisia, perhaps now Egypt. It is in south Asia (Afghanistan), possibly Pakistan too. It is in the Philippines and it is in Indonesia. Both Russia and China contend that ISIS has spread into their southern territories. All the King's Horses and All the King's Men don't seem to be causing ISIS too much grief.
ISIS represents a radical, fundamentalist strain of Islam which is not all that distinct from the radical form of Islam promoted by our entirely respectable Middle East ally, Saudi Arabia.
Here's a question: when was the last time a 500-pound high-explosive bomb or endless numbers of them defeated a radical, well-dispersed, decentralized and expansive ideology?
As for me, I'm with Harvard prof Stephen Walt. It's time to admit that the Emperor has no clothes. America has no viable Middle East policy. For us, it's like climbing into the backseat knowing the driver has a blood alcohol level of 2.8. Stupid, just stupid and not at all likely to end well.
We need to sit this war out and maybe the next two or three that are bound to sweep through the Muslim world. Remember, Rule #1 - don't fight wars you have no means or will to win.

The Greatest 60s Cover Band?

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 01:40

Twin sisters, Mona and Lisa. Austrian girls now living in Liverpool. They went public at the age of 13. I've never heard anything quite like them. Now I think I'm hooked.