Monday, May 21, 2018

Okay, I Think We Can See Where You're Going With This.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, has announced a milestone. April was the 400th consecutive month of warmer-than-average temperatures.  The last time NOAA logged a cooler-than-average month was 1984 during Ronald Reagan's second term in office. So that would be Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and the Trump administration - hot, hot, hot, baby.

400 consecutive months. That send a message. Maybe that's our new normal. Might we not come up with a new metric to make this warming a bit more meaningful?

A Question Worth Asking - Has Canada Been Captured?

As analysis and reports stack up laying bare how much we know and everything we don't know about dilbit and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline, it is looking like this has nothing to do with the "national interest" as claimed by prime minister Trudeau. Instead it looks as though Trudeau is in service to some rather powerful special interests.  Who is he serving?

An article in The Tyee suggests that perhaps we're seeing the face of Canada's own Deep State, the Fossil Fuelers.

It all began with a Greenpeace energy researcher and a bundle of freedom of information documents he received that somehow had briefing notes for Andrew Leslie, parliamentary secretary to Christia Freeland. One set was for a meeting Leslie had with the CEO of a major pipeline company. The other was for a meeting between Leslie and officials of the oil patch lobby, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
...the briefing notes revealed that while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government was presenting itself publicly as a stalwart defender of all things Canadian against the bullying new regime south of the border — on the environment, trade and NAFTA especially — in this instance there was celebration of the fact that Donald Trump and his administration were pro-oil and pro-pipelines.
In particular, they expressed delight over the U.S. president’s decision to approve building the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline, which TransCanada is constructing, overturning Barack Obama’s rejection of the project. 
“We support TransCanada’s KXL project and efforts to expand its market in North America” was one of the notes’ talking points Leslie was given, consistent with the government’s public position on the pipeline. The briefing notes omitted any hint that climate change was on the agenda — and CAPP confirms the topic was not discussed during its meeting with Leslie. TransCanada and Leslie refused to respond to questions about these meetings.

For years Stewart has seen this sort of language in internal government memos, with cabinet ministers, MPs and civil servants seeing themselves as allies and partners of the energy industry. 
It’s one reason Stewart believes the oil industry constitutes a so-called “deep state” in Canada. 
“When we’re talking about a ‘deep state,’ it’s usually when supposedly democratic institutions and the will of the people is being replaced by the will of special interests,” he observes. “And I think if you look at the development of environmental policy in this country, the oil industry is so powerful, their influence is so pervasive that I think it’s fair to call it a deep state.” academics, deep state is another way to refer to governments that have been captured by corporate or military/intelligence interests, or both
Captured state is a term political scientists have used for a very long time to characterize the relationship in which the government is essentially under the influence of the dominant sector of the economy,” explains Laurie Adkin, a political scientist at the University of Alberta. 
Has the federal government — along with certain provincial governments — been captured by Canada’s energy sector? 
Kevin Taft, a former leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party (2004-08) believes so. He’s the author of a new book, Oil’s Deep State. “In Canada, the fossil fuel industry has captured really key democratic institutions and in some ways has captured so many of them that it has formed what I call a deep state,” explains Taft. “So democracy stops functioning for the people and begins to function first and foremost for the fossil fuel industry.” 
Those who believe the oil industry has become a deep state point to how the political elites, whether Liberal, Conservative or NDP — from Justin Trudeau to Stephen Harper to Rachel Notley — go to bat for the industry, even if it means Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions rise and jobs are needlessly lost. Or how Canada has never forced the oil industry to curb emissions — even as the impacts of global warming become more catastrophic. And why Canada is highly unlikely to reach its targets under the Paris climate agreement.
...Deep states ...emerge in countries that are democracies. “With a captured state, there is a strong heritage of democracy,” notes Taft. A deep state occurs when numerous government departments and regulators are captured and serve specific corporate interests at the expense of public interests. “When that happens, you end up with the appearance of democracy but really you have a state within a state,” says Taft. affects all political parties, no matter whether they’re on the left or right. Hence, elections become less relevant as political parties who win office eventually succumb to the fact so many government agencies are captured.

Oil sand development was largely created by government fiat. After Peter Lougheed became Alberta’s premier in 1971, the sole oil sands operation, Suncor Energy, was producing a mere 30,000 barrels a day. Now the oil sands produce 2.5 million barrels a day. 
While Lougheed encouraged development of the oil sands, he took an interventionist approach with industry, making the oil companies abide by laws, regulators and legislators. When the industry boomed in the mid-’70s, Lougheed raised royalty rates, while the federal government hit it with taxes. 
But by 1993, the balance of power was shifting. Both Premier Ralph Klein in Alberta and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien were desperate to ramp up oil sands production to boost the economy. In return, the oil industry wanted less regulation, oversight and taxation. 
Chrétien and Klein obliged. Royalties were dropped to one per cent and taxes rolled back, while environmental regulations were weakened. 
“From then on, oil sands projects would have fewer standards of accountability to democratic institutions and more accountability to investors,” says Taft. “The system of governing and managing the publicly-owned oil sands had been captured by private interests.” 
The industry boomed. By 2015, one quarter of all business investment in Canada was going to the energy sector, while oil and gas topped Canada’s exports.
The Harper Era.
The impact of this lobbying was visible when Harper was in office. From 2008 to 2012, 27 oil companies and eight industry associations registered 2,733 meetings with federal government officials. During this time, the Harper government withdrew Canada from the Kyoto climate accord, government scientists were discouraged from doing climate science and barred from speaking to the media, while the RCMP, CSIS and Canada Revenue Agency were tasked to spy on and audit groups and activists opposed to pipelines and the tar sands. 
But the coup de grâce were two omnibus bills Harper rammed through Parliament in 2012 that gutted Canada’s environmental laws, most notably the Fisheries Act and Navigable Waters Protection Act, which were viewed as impediments for building oil pipelines.
Think Tanks - Captured
The most famous is the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute, which has received funding from the U.S. oil billionaire Koch brothers and long campaigned in favour of the oil sands and pipelines while opposing climate change measures. Its staff produce a relentless stream of oped pieces for newspapers across the country. 
Canada 2020, the Ottawa-based “progressive think tank” closely allied with Trudeau, has been instrumental in shaping the Liberals. It lets industry leaders and lobbyists rub elbows with cabinet ministers and senior government officials. Among the corporate “partners” of Canada 2020 are CAPP and oil industry giants Shell, Suncor and Enbridge. 
The influence of think tanks is not to be minimized: representatives from Canada’s 10 leading think tanks appeared at least 216 times before parliamentary committees between 2000 and 2015 and were cited in the Canadian media almost 60,000 times. “It gave them and their research priceless exposure and influence in shaping government policy,” noted the Globe and Mail in December.

The Media - Captured

The oil industry advertises heavily in newspapers, on television and online. In 2013, CAPP and the Postmedia newspaper chain struck a deal whereby the media company promised to further the industry’s interests. The Postmedia papers are famous for championing the energy sector while belittling the environmental movement. A study published in 2013 by University of British Columbia and Memorial University researchers found that the Globe and Mail and National Post were failing to provide readers with a complete picture of global warming issues and underemphasizing the impacts.
Academia - Captured
The oil industry also pours millions into universities — in particular in Alberta. The University of Calgary has been beset by scandals in this regard. 
In 2011, one of its political scientists, Barry Cooper, was discovered to have transferred research funds to a climate change denial group called Friends of Science. (Cooper was also a long-time columnist with the Calgary Herald, where he poured relentless scorn on the environmental movement and any opponents of the oil sands.) 
But the topper was the Bruce Carson scandal. The federal government spent $40 million to finance a University of Calgary think tank chaired by Carson, a former senior advisor to Harper and a convicted fraudster. The institute worked with the industry on a plan to rebrand the oil sands as responsible and sustainable, and Carson co-ordinated some of his activities with CAPP. 
In 2016, Carson was found guilty of violating lobbying laws in connection with his work at the University of Calgary and fined $50,000.
Trudeau's Regulatory Agencies - Captured
Some critics believe key elements of the federal bureaucracy are under the industry’s sway — in particular Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) and Environment and Climate Change Canada
“I think NRCAN has become the Department of Oil and Gas and I think Environment Canada was converted under Harper from a public service agency to a corporate concierge service to speed along the approval of oil sands projects,” says [Elizabeth] May. 
In 2015, after the Liberal government was elected, Jim Carr, the new natural resources minister, appointed Janet Annesley as his chief of staff. Annesley had spent five years working for CAPP as a vice-president, and nine years at Shell Oil before that. (Annesley was replaced earlier last year by Zoë Caron, a long-time environmental activist). 
When Catherine McKenna became environment minister, her deputy minister was Michael Martin, who had been appointed by the Harper government as chief climate negotiator for the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, which set no firm targets for reducing greenhouse emissions.
May feels Martin pressed the Liberals to stick with the former government’s target. “There was a shift and suddenly Harper’s target was Trudeau’s target.” 
But it’s not just the federal government. Last year, internal B.C. government documents [Christy Clark's Liberals] were unearthed that revealed the province’s climate plan unveiled in 2016 had been secretly drafted jointly with CAPP and its members — in part at CAPP’s offices in Calgary.
The Crown Jewel - Captured
Then there is the National Energy Board (NEB), which has the task of reviewing things like pipeline applications. 
In recent years, the board has been accused of being heavily biased in favour of the oil industry. In 2015, for example, NEB board members met privately with Jean Charest, a former Quebec premier, who was a lobbyist for the pipeline company, TransCanada. This led to the resignation of NEB panel members when the meeting was exposed the following year. 
The NEB is also accused of not upholding the public interest when it comes to pipelines. Unifor, a trade union that represents nearly 12,000 workers in the oil industry, is opposed to pipelines designed to ship raw bitumen out of Canada, arguing it should be refined and upgraded in Canada. Over the past 30 years, nearly 20 refineries have been shuttered in Canada. 
Unifor has argued before the NEB that it should stop this trend. In a brief presented to the NEB in 2016, the union noted that by exporting raw bitumen “Canada will forego the enormous economic and employment benefits of adding value to Canadian resources through upgrading, refining, and secondary manufacturing. Not only does the bitumen export model undermine investment in value-added production over the long term, it actually threatens the security of supply to existing Canadian refineries… Incredibly, in 2014 Canada actually became a net importer of refined petroleum products: with imports of product now more than offsetting our own exports.”
The Biggest Capture of Them All - Justin Trudeau - Captured

As I argued recently, with Trudeau, just like Trump, you have to judge this prime minister by his deeds, not his words. All too often one has no relation to the other.

At the Paris climate talks his government pushed for a higher-than-expected goal — holding the planet’s rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius rather than two degrees. Trudeau also announced a plan to reduce methane emissions by up to 45 per cent from 2012 levels within the next seven years. 
But Trudeau has also undermined those goals by supporting three pipelines the industry desperately wants — Kinder Morgan, Enbridge Line 3 and Keystone XL. He also approved the $11.4-billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project to convert fracked gas in B.C. 
Prior to the election, Trudeau had promised to cut $1.6 billion in federal subsidies to the oil industry. More than two years later, this has still not happened. While recommendations to overhaul the NEB have been made, they’ve not been implemented. And the environmental laws Harper gutted have not been reinstated, although are under review.
Even the promised carbon tax on industry has been altered to give big breaks to industrial emitters like the oil and gas sector. And regulations on methane emissions have also been delayed. 
Most crucially, Trudeau has refused to place limits on the oil and gas sector’s greenhouse emissions
If you take a look at the climate plan that Canada articulated… it lays out very aggressive and ambitious plan for decarbonizing the nation,” says Abreu of Climate Action Network. “It impacts almost every sector of the Canadian economy — except the fossil fuel sector.”
A Government Wearing Petro-Blinders
Canada’s capture by the oil and gas industry’s deep state is proving ill-timed. 
“The harsh reality is that global warming is real,” says Kevin Taft. “And while much of the rest of the world is moving aggressively away from fossil fuels, Canada is going to get left behind in that transformation if we’re not really careful.”
The Tyee article provides a wonderful backdrop to help make sense of the Trudeau government's energy policy so riddled with contradictions, inconsistencies, outright falsehoods and, ultimately, cognitive dissonance.

It makes sense of the radical transformation from Trudeau 2015 to Trudeau 2018. Liberals, I'm sorry but your boy has been processed, remanufactured, and reissued to someone's liking - just not Canada's.

A Venture Capitalist on Why Kinder Morgan's Pipeline and the Tar Sands Make No Sense.

The CEO of Chrysalix Venture Capital says "let's get honest about the outlook for the Alberta oil sands and Trans Mountain." In Wal van Lierop's opinion, neither makes any financial sense any longer. In other words, Trudeau and Morneau appear to be leading Canada into a huge economic blunder.

If we were to think of the energy transition as a baseball game, we could see the stages of its progression over the past decade. In the first inning, coal lost to gas in the competition for power generation in North America and Europe; solar and wind lit up the scoreboard with incredible cost reductions in the second inning; but in the third, shale oil and gas rallied, creating an energy boom in U.S. gas and making that country the international swing player -- supplanting OPEC in that position.

Now we are entering the fourth inning, with a playing field of abundant cheap energy and midway through the ball game it looks like the players highest on the cost curve will be the ones striking out. Those players will likely include both new projects in Arctic oil and the oil sands, as their business case makes them weak in a game where cost is key.
Not all oils are equal: 
When oil prices rise above $50, shale producers can make a profit. Theoretically, oil-sand producers can compete at that price level but the upfront capital intensity and long scale-up times put oil-sand producers in a very disadvantaged position for any new projects. 
The costs of converting oil-sands oil to gasoline or jet fuel means there will always be about a $10 or more discount; so that discount has nothing to do with pipelines: oil-sands expansions should actually be competitive at $40 for new capital investments to make sense.
Trudeau's wobbly Trans Mountain gamble:
This leads to considering the business case for the Kinder Morgan pipeline: 
Terminal and shipping infrastructure adds another negative of $2-$3 on this line because receivers on the demand side have in the past years created new facilities to quickly load and unload massive ships of a size that cannot sail below the Vancouver bridges. As a result, Alberta needs to be able to compete below $37, while in new projects, it most likely needs north of $50 to be in the money. 
To make things worse, not just the cost of supply has changed in the past four years; there are also significant changes on the demand side with the targeted refineries on the east coast of China recently benefiting from the improved economic relationship with Russia, while on the other hand environmental regulations have tightened. Both give Alberta oil a further disadvantage. 
Historically, a pipeline builder would like to see off-take agreements for more than 50 per cent of the capacity for at least 15 years, preferably 20, before giving the go-ahead. The Chinese don’t do this type of off-take contracts. At maximum you’ll get an agreement for a few years, which is then followed by another round of tough negotiations. Energy is a commodity business where cost is king. 
On this basis, we would have to presume that the Alberta and federal governments hadn’t seen the Kinder Morgan order book before they announced an intention to financially support the company’s pipeline, because that may show a rapidly deteriorating business case. Of course, some will argue that my numbers are incorrect, and there could be a margin of error. My point is that all stakeholders need clarity on this matter. They need a better understanding on how strong the business case for Kinder Morgan is, or if this investment could turn into a “soon to be stranded“ asset. The departure of all oil majors and many large financial institutions from the province of Alberta is also a sign that should be taken into account.
There is some group Trudeau is trying to help, perhaps salvage. Could it be Canada's banks or institutional investors? He's doubling down on a bad bet so it's plain he's not looking out for the interests of the Canadian public.

It's becoming increasingly apparent that the people of BC are getting sold out by our prime minister and it sure as hell isn't so he'll have a "compromise" that secures token carbon taxes either. The incoming premier of Alberta is going to tell him where to shove his carbon taxes. The premier of Saskatchewan will sing the same refrain. Depending on the Ontario election coin toss, Trudeau may face the leaders of provinces equaling half the country against him and, let's face it, we know how quickly he folds when the political winds are not at his back.

Isn't it time Justin came clean with us?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Dammit, Do Something. America's Sea Level Rise Whinge.

It's hard to feel too much sympathy for people whose main concern is their multi-million dollar beachfront home. Yet, all along the American coastline, you can hear them grumble and grouse.

News reports tend to focus on America's southeast, especially Florida, mainly from Miami and points south. This one is a story of the beach colony at Del Mar, California. It concerns Herb and Janet Montgomery and their $3+million beach house.

The Montgomerys and their neighbours are upset that their municipality's sea level rise plan includes an option - retreat from the sea.

But considering a strategy that allows for the eventual removal of threatened structures, even as a last resort, would be tantamount to financial ruin for him and other property owners in the small, wealthy coastal city. 
“It won’t work for Del Mar,” Montgomery said.

The mere mention of the strategy known as “planned retreat” in the city’s planning documents will “put a cloud of doubt over the future” and cause property values to plummet, he said last week. Beachfont homes in Del Mar typically list for more than $5 million, and a new blufftop mansion on Stratford Court sold for $21.5 million last year. 
Current owners would be reluctant to invest in improving and maintaining their homes, Mongomery said, and banks would be unlikely to loan money to buy or improve homes that the city has acknowledged could be removed or destroyed.
Many of the city’s residents have fought long and hard against including planned retreat as part of their strategy. They say seawalls, sand retention and beach replenishment are better ways to preserve their coastal homes, and that their property values would plummet if they acknowledge that someday their property could be inundated by the sea. 
However, the California Coastal Commission requires all coastal cities to have a sea-rise adaptation plan, and to include planned retreat as part of their strategy. 
Failure to comply could result in the Coastal Commission refusing to certify the city’s plan, thus robbing Del Mar of the authority to approve permits for developments such as seawalls, homes, businesses, roads and other structures. Instead, that authority would fall to the Coastal Commission.
Socialism - For the Rich.

“We may see five feet of sea-level rise earlier than previously thought,” states a letter dated April 16 to Del Mar Mayor Dwight Worden from Coastal Commission program manager Garbriel Buhr. 
The California Ocean Protection Council adopted statewide guidance in March that recommends planning for a 7.1-foot sea-level rise by 2100 for the Del Mar area, the letter states. Seas could rise as much as 10 feet by 2100 if the polar ice sheets melt significantly. And by most accounts, the water will continue to rise for centuries. 
Typically, the retreat strategy is used with other planning techniques such as identifying high-risk areas, regulating types of structures, and instituting buy-back programs or financial aid for relocation.

The State as Indemnitor
Montgomery said cities around the world have found ways to hold back the sea. 
“Look at Holland,” he said. “They have been below sea level almost forever, and they are dealing with it.” 
Montgomery said if the state forces the city to include a retreat policy, “They better come along with a big heavy bucket of money. People should be remunerated for the investments they made.”
This is going to become one of the great challenges of climate change and not just in swank coastal communities. Sea level rise, sustained and cyclical floods and droughts, severe storm events of increasing frequency, duration and severity. the broken hydrologic cycle and disruptions to fresh water supply. That's a pretty tall shopping list for governments in this era of "everyday low taxes." State and municipal governments are often tapped out from decades of catering to miserly residents. Those governments will have to struggle just to replace and maintain essential public infrastructure.

There is going to be no free lunch. The money to do that doesn't exist. Ordinary folks, living well back from the sea, probably aren't going to be okay with the idea of picking up this sort of tab.

And somebody needs to tell Herb Montgomery that Holland has faced reality and is retreating from the rising sea.

Whether it's Del Mar, California, or the Florida Keys or the Jersey Shore or beachfront homes in the Maritimes or Vancouver's toney West Point Grey there are a lot of affluent people who are going to have to realize not all investments pay off.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

How Ottawa Got Hustled by the Boys from Enron

The popular narrative is that British Columbia is sabotaging Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline. BC is Justin Trudeau's whipping boy. The province is Rachel Notley's whipping boy. Even Calgary mayor, Naheed Nenshi, is in on the act.

What is that really all about? They're using BC to mask how Kinder Morgan played them for chumps. Veteran economist, Robyn Allan, lays it all out in today's National Observer. That's what can happen when you send a drama teacher to a Texas gunfight.

What Does This Say for Canada's Economy?

Back in February, I did an item about the largest corporations in the US and Canada respectively:

Here are the current standings 
 1. Apple - $849 billion
2. Google - $746 billion
3. Amazon - $ 702 billion 
4. Microsoft - $699 billion 
5. Facebook - $521 billion. 
Boeing, which chose to leave Washington for Chicago, comes in at a paltry $205 billion. 
By contrast, Canada's top 3 are banks: RBC, TD and Bank of Nova Scotia, at $113, $102 and $74 billion (Canadian) respectively. Pretty small potatoes and not an innovator or tech giant among them. Hewers of wood, drawers of water and bank tellers. Great.
That post came to mind as I re-read James Galbraith's book, "The End of Normal," and his discussion about banks. I'm not a banker nor an economist but I put Galbraith's assessment out there for you to decide the role of banks in Canada.

In Canada, chartered banks are creatures of statute, given certain very advantageous rights. Every year, it seems, they announce record profits while ordinary Canadians complain they're getting the shaft. This is how Galbraith sees banks in the 21st century:

Banks are intermediaries. They provide nothing that contributes directly to current consumption or business investment. They are useful only insofar as they support either household consumption or business investment - and then only so long as they do so in an effective, responsible, low-cost way. Business underwriting was once such a function, but it entered a deep decline during the mortgage boom, if not before. Otherwise banks serve mainly to consolidate control and power, and they support this by exacting tribute, in the form of interest, from their borrowers. ...From a social standpoint, this is predation: no net benefit to anyone outside the banking sector comes from it.

Perhaps the country would be better off without its big banks. The basic functions of banking for most of the public - deposits, payments, credit and debit cards - could be handled by a low-cost public facility, perhaps run by cities or states at municipal pay scale or by the postal service. Smaller and regional and cooperative banks could grow into the work of business lending and of sorting good from weak household risks. Since executives of small banks are paid on a less lavish scale, the reduced cost of the financial plutocracy would be a social savings. There is no guarantee that these changes would bring financial stability: small banks can run in herds, and given the experience that bankers have acquired in distributing and hiding risk and fraud, there may be no solutions in the computer age to the dysfunctions of finance. But a decentralized system with smaller top-level units, less powerful bankers, and stronger controls could not be a worse bet than the system that exists now.
Galbraith, of course, writes of banking in the United States. Thanks to people such as Paul Martin, Canadian banks were reined in, held in check, when they lobbied for permission to leap into American style Casino Capitalism that ruined so many banks in the US and Europe during the sub-prime mortgage bubble.

Canada escaped the American contagion - barely - because the crash came before Stephen Harper could remove Martin's prudent constraints. However, unlike the States, our big banks have become the largest corporations in Canada and they've grown immensely profitable while generating very little no no economic activity to benefit the country.

And banks may now be playing a detrimental role in Canada. Some speculate that behind Trudeau's pipeline fetish is concern that Canada's banks are so heavily invested in the soon to be stranded asset, bitumen, that not pushing the bitumen trade could have a devastating impact on the Canadian economy.

It's like riding a tiger. Great fun until you fall off. The bitumen barons have Canada in a real jam and, the recent Kinder Morgan ultimatum that sent Morneau scrambling to Texas, hat in hand, suggests they know it and won't hesitate to play hardball with the Liberal government.

Canada's chartered banks are supposed to serve the country, not the other way around, and yet, by their very size, they may now be dictating government policy. They've grown too big for our own good. Perhaps it is time to put them to pasture.

How sound can a nation's economy be when it is dominated by corporations that produce nothing?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Michael Harris on Israel's "Eye for an Eyelash" Slaughter in Gaza

Michael Harris sums it up as well as any:

When the only thing refugees can do to advance their cause is present themselves at someone’s border to be shot, you know the world has lost its way on this file. 
When 60 human beings are gunned down in cold blood, when a doctor is shot while tending to wounded civilians, and people want to talk about the dress Ivanka Trump wore at the U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem, you know a whole class of people has been dehumanized. 
When 2,800 people are hit by live fire or tear gassed by drones for protesting an illegal occupation that has gone on for more than 50 years, it is a strange time to announce that history would look back on this despicable day as a step towards peace. 
Yet Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s gruesomely green Middle East envoy, made that statement with just 40 miles between the embassy celebration and the border slaughter, and the bubbly and the barbarism. 
It was Kushner’s “let them eat cake” moment. The president’s son-in-law delivered his lines like an extra out of the cult film “Night of the Living Dead.” It was as if the mass shootings didn’t register with him. 
It was as if Israel’s “eye for an eyelash” policy, as Special UN Rapporteur, Canadian Michael Lynk called it, was perfectly justified in Kushner’s mind. 
How else could he blame the Palestinians for their own slaughter? Men, women, children, doctors and journalists. 
Remember that fascist-tinted moment in Toronto in 2010 when police rounded up and detained more than 1,000 people protesting the G-20 Summit? It was called “kettling.” 
No one liked seeing fellow citizens put under the jackboots of the police. Former Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee wrote that the security fiasco of that year “left a permanent emotional scar” on him. 
Imagine, though, if the authorities had opened up on the crowd with live ammunition and killed 60 people on the spot? All of it captured on video. 
Remember those recent TV clips of a few hundred Mexicans pushing up to the U.S. border, hoping to get a piece of the American Dream? 
What would have happened if the National Guard, which Trump dispatched to “defend” the U.S. from illegal immigrants, had mowed down 60 of these poor and unarmed people? All of it captured on video.]  
In all these cases, we would not be scolding or expressing our disapproval or having a discussion about independent investigations in a country that doesn’t permit them. 
We would be arranging murder trials.
As for Canada, Trudeau and Scheer:
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer utterly disgraced himself and the country by trivializing the mass shootings, and attacking Justin Trudeau for his strong words about Israel’s use of “excessive force.”
Scheer has proven he has both a wooden head and a wooden heart. He’s a remote control northern Republican, just like his ideology-soaked predecessor. 
Trudeau has done a far better job of capturing the revulsion that many ordinary people around the world, including in Israel, are feeling. He charted a wise course in opposing the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and made the right call not to attend the ceremony.
For all that, he deserves credit. 
But his call for an independent investigation into Israel’s possible “excessive force” against civilians was tepid stuff. Possible? Really? 
Although the prime minister and his foreign affairs minister both said the right things, their words don’t change the bottom line. Canada took the minimal diplomatic action under the circumstances — far less than Turkey and South Africa, which both recalled their respective ambassadors. 
So far, Canada has done no more than dutifully echo the secretary general of the United Nations, who is calling for an independent investigation. That’s not terribly inspiring. What are the chances the country that did the shooting is likely to embrace the idea of a third party murder investigation involving its military and political establishment? 
You would think that the circumstances would speak for themselves. 
Thousands wounded. 
Sixty killed. 
Eight dead kids. 
All in one day. 
But this is 1984. That’s why Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador at the UN, is able to say that no country would show the “restraint” that Israel had. 

When You're Trying to Get Out Of a Hole...

It's that old adage - when you're trying to get out of a hole the first thing is to stop digging. You don't make the hole even deeper. You don't make your own job that much harder.

Let's up the ante. What if it was either get out of that hole or die? That would give you a bit more incentive to put down the damned shovel. Or at least it should.

So what does this have to do with butterflies? Quite a bit
Global warming is on track to cause a major wipeout of insects, compounding already severe losses, according to a new analysis.

Insects are vital to most ecosystems and a widespread collapse would cause extremely far-reaching disruption to life on Earth, the scientists warn. Their research shows that, even with all the carbon cuts already pledged by nations so far, climate change would make almost half of insect habitat unsuitable by the end of the century, with pollinators like bees particularly affected
However, if climate change could be limited to a temperature rise of 1.5C - the very ambitious goal included in the global Paris agreement - the losses of insects are far lower.

The new research is the most comprehensive to date, analysing the impact of different levels of climate change on the ranges of 115,000 species. It found plants are also heavily affected but that mammals and birds, which can more easily migrate as climate changes, suffered less.
We're really up against it this time.
In October, scientists warned of “ecological Armageddon” after discovering that the number of flying insects had plunged by three-quarters in the past 25 years in Germany and very likely elsewhere. 
“We know that many insects are in rapid decline due to factors such as habitat loss and intensive farming methods,” said Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex, UK, and not part of the new analysis. 
“This new study shows that, in the future, these declines would be hugely accelerated by the impacts of climate change, under realistic climate projections. When we add in all the other adverse factors affecting wildlife, all likely to increase as the human population grows, the future for biodiversity on planet Earth looks bleak.”
“We showed insects are the most sensitive group,” said Prof Rachel Warren, at the University of East Anglia, who led the new work. “They are important because ecosystems cannot function without insects. They play an absolutely critical role in the food chain.”

“The disruption to our ecosystems if we were to lose that high proportion of our insects would be extremely far-reaching and widespread,” she said. “People should be concerned - humans depend on ecosystems functioning.” Pollination, fertile soils, clean water and more all depend on healthy ecosystems, Warren said.
Warren said that the world’s nations were aware that more action on climate change is needed: “The question is to what extent greater reductions can be made and on what timescale. That is a decision society has to make.”
Well there's one thing Canada is not short of - decisions. We've decided (well, some of us have) that it's in our "national interest" to flood the world markets with the most toxic, high-carbon fossil fuel on the planet, bitumen, as much and as fast as possible.

We're going to keep digging that hole deeper, just as fast as we can.

So, You've Got Your Enquiry. Now What Are You Going to Do, Prime Minister?

It's not that hard to figure out. You've got somewhere between 1,400 and 2,400 dead and wounded on one side and, on the other, zero - no dead, no wounded. That tells you something. You had a few people haplessly throwing stones on one side and four army sniper emplacements on the other side. A couple of stones going one way and thousands of bullets going the other. That tells you something too. See how quickly it all adds up? Then you notice that the dead and wounded are all within their own territory, the Gulag we call Gaza. No dead, no wounded on the Israeli side. The Gazans have the dead and wounded. The Israelis are up to their arses in spent shell casings. Hmmm, yeah.

It didn't take the UN long to deliver the verdict:
The UN’s senior human rights official has castigated Israel, saying there is little evidence that its armed forces attempted to minimise casualties during protests by Palestinians this week during which dozens of demonstrators were killed.

As a special session of the UN human rights council voted to set up a commission of inquiry to look into Monday’s violence, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that while 60 Palestinians were killed and thousands injured in the day of protests, “on the Israeli side, one soldier was reportedly wounded, slightly, by a stone.”
Hussein told the UN meeting in Geneva that many of the Palestinians injured and killed in the protests “were completely unarmed [and] were shot in the back, in the chest, in the head and limbs with live ammunition.” He said there was “little evidence of any [Israeli] attempt to minimise casualties”.
So you take all your evidence and the UN findings and see what the laws of war and laws of humanity prescribe. Oh dear. Did you know that armies don't have the right to waste civilians by the many hundreds no matter what political group they belong to? Did you know there's this thing called "proportionality" that limits the amount of violence a military force can inflict? Did you know that it's a war crime to target civilians? Did you know it's a war crime to target essential civilian infrastructure - power plants, water supplies, sewage plants? Did you know it's a war crime to target hospitals and schools? Did you know that's what Canada's ally, Israel, considers strategy? Did you know that Canada has repeatedly condoned those war crimes by our ally, Israel? Did you know that first Stephen Harper and now Justin Trudeau just chose to look the other way? That's Stephen Harper's Canada. That's Justin Trudeau's Canada. And they're making that your Canada. How does that feel?

I first noticed this the last time Israeli forces devastated Beirut. There was an opening air campaign, three to four days. Israeli jets took out Beirut's power stations. They took down the water system. They destroyed the sewage treatment system. It was so calculated, so methodical that it was obviously deliberate. Then the jets moved on to attack hospitals and schools. Finally they turned on residential neighbourhoods. The neighbourhood they chose to devastate had a name, Dahiyeh. This is what it looked like when the Israeli jets were done:

And a lovely "before and after"

And what did Canada do? F#@k all.

And then, a few years later, Israel visited this living hell on Gaza. Again the very same pattern. A few days of air strikes and artillery fire on power plants, water plants, sewage plants, moving on to hospitals and schools, and then devastating residential neighbourhoods. Why? Because Hamas, the inmate population of the Gaza Gulag had fired some rockets into Israel that killed almost no one.

And what did Canada do? Sweet f#@k all.

Today they've named this monstrous, rolling war crime "Dahiyeh" after the Beirut neighbourhood where the Israelis perfected their technique. It even has its very own Wikipedia page.

That this is entirely deliberate was made plain when WikiLeaks released US embassy cables in 2014:

Israeli army officers mentioned the “Dahiya Doctrine”. One of them, General Eisenkot, said that, in relation to the doctrine, “Israel will use disproportionate force upon any village that fires upon Israel ... causing great damage and destruction."

Eisenkot was very clear that it was not a recommendation, but an already approved plan 
From the embassy cable: 
6. (8) Eisenkot labelled any Israeli response to resumed conflict the "Dahiya Doctrine" in reference to the leveled Dahiya quarter in Beirut during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. He said Israel will use disproportionate force against any village that fires on Israel, "causing great damage and destruction." Eisenkot made very clear: this is not a recommendation, but an already approved plan.
There's an Old Testament element to this where David goes into the region and slaughters all the local tribes to ethnically cleanse the land for the state of Israel. There's a real parallel to Benjamin Netanyahu's plans for the place. He's methodically transforming Gaza into a death camp.

So how bad is it in Netanyahu's Palestinian death camp? A UN assessment warns Gaza is going to be uninhabitable perhaps as early as 2020.

Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 due to war, its economic blockade, debilitated infrastructure, and environmental concerns, according to a new UN report on Palestine released this week. 
The findings of the UN's Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) echoed an earlier assessment made by the UN in 2011, which determined that Gaza would not be livable by the start of next decade "without herculean efforts" to improve health, education, energy, water, and sanitation.
This is ethnic cleansing at its worst.
"The most recent military operation, in 2014, impacted an already paralyzed economy at a time when socioeconomic conditions were at their lowest since 1967," wrote UNCTAD. The Israeli assault, called Protective Edge, coupled with others in 2008 and 2012, "shattered its productive base, left no time for meaningful reconstruction or economic recovery and impoverished the Palestinian population in Gaza, rendering their economic well-being worse than the level of two decades previous." 
In July, the chief of the UN's Relief and Works Agency said none of the more than 12,000 houses totally destroyed during Protective Edge had been rebuilt.
The combined effects of isolation, a lack of resources, and an economy that is beaten down by war every few years have led "accelerated de-development" in Gaza, which the UN defines as "a process by which development is not merely hindered but reversed." The only thing growing in Gaza, said the UN, is its population, which is expected to rise from 1.8 million to 2.1 million by 2020. 
Years of extraction from a coastal aquifer has also left Gaza's water supply dangerously depleted. Salt water and the remnants of 33 million cubic meters worth of wastewater dumped annually into the Mediterranean have also filtered back into the aquifer thanks to a low water table, and 95 percent of the remaining water is reportedly undrinkable without treatment.
How can they get away with this? Easy. Netanyahu may have only two legitimate backers, Canada and the United States, but the US has a veto at the Security Council and it never fails to derail any effort to hold Israel to account. Canada and the United States backstop Netanyahu.

Justin Trudeau is so far up Netanyahu's ass that one of his government's first acts was to throw their support behind the Tories' motion to "condemn" Canadians who - because of Dahiyeh, because of this carnage, because of this slow-motion ethnic cleansing - joined the Boycott/Divest/Sanction or BDS movement. Oh my Loki, that was the height of anti-Semitism.

A lot of Liberals still imagine theirs is the party of Laurier, St. Laurent, Pearson and Trudeau. No, sorry. You're the party of Michael Ignatieff, Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau. Different party altogether. It's a more straight-up commercial party, one that has been purged of all that messy progressivism, principle, integrity and conscience. You are definitely something else altogether.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Vice Runs the Trans-Mountain Numbers. The Results are Shocking. has analyzed the unmentioned but very real costs associated with the Trans-Mountain pipeline and the numbers are, dare I say it, "appalling."

What's interesting is that the Vice numbers only encompass "upstream" costs, extraction and transmission to "tidewater." Not included are the "downstream" costs, the refining of this crud and the emissions from  burning the high-carbon petro-sludge.

Kinder-Morgan promises that the pipeline will bring a windfall of $2.3 billion a year shared among the federal government, and the provincial governments of Alberta and British Columbia. That's where it all gets very murky.
Although Canada’s government agrees there are real costs to decisions that result in releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere—costs that are reflected in our tax bills, insurance claims, and ill health—politicians never seem to total up those costs. Here, we gave it a shot.
SCC - The Social Cost of Carbon
Canada and the US have assessed the cost of those impacts at C$45 per ton of CO2 (all figures in Canadian dollars). This is known as the social cost of carbon, or SCC: a monetary measure of the incremental damages expected from an additional ton of CO2 in the atmosphere. 
Some experts say $45 is far too low. One Stanford study, published in 2015, concluded that $275 is closer to the mark.
Production and processing of an additional 590,000 barrels a day to fill the new TMX pipe would emit 13 to 15 million tonnes of CO2 a year, according to a 2016 report by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). These are called upstream emissions, while downstream emissions are produced by the refining and burning of the product.

Still, upstream emissions of 15 million tonnes of CO2 a year is lot: It’s equivalent to adding another 3,750,000 passenger vehicles on Canadian roads. 
So 15Mt of CO2 per year, at a social cost of carbon (SCC) of $45 per tonne, means TMX would result in $675 million a year in economic impacts. That number will climb over time: As emissions accumulate in the atmosphere, so does the cost of damage from every additional tonne of CO2 emitted. In 2030, the SCC is expected to rise to $54.50, pushing the climate damage from the pipeline to $817 million a year. 
Of course, it’s not just Canadians who will have to deal with this. The impacts will be global, with the poorest countries hit hardest.
Experts continue to debate how accurately SCC reflects the real costs of climate change. Economists Joseph Stiglitz and Nicholas Stern, for example, wrote in 2017 that current SCC estimates “fail to consider many vitally important risks and costs associated with climate change.”

Specifically, the SCC used today fail to account for biodiversity losses, ocean acidification, long-term impacts on labor productivity and economic growth, impacts on the poorest, as well as the possibility of extreme and irreversible changes, they said.
This suggests the $45 SCC is likely too low. I ran the numbers with the $275 SCC estimate published by Stanford University. In that case, the economic costs of the upstream emissions of the TMX expansion that Canadians and the rest of the world will pay is just over $4.1 billion a year. For comparison, Alberta’s entire royalties from all tar sands operations totalled $1.48 billion in 2016-17, which was more than the previous year.
To summarize: The climate impacts of the TMX will cost at least $2.1 to $8.7 billion upfront, and at least $675 million a year [up to $4.1 billion per annum], for as long as the pipeline operates. As for the downstream emissions of 105 Mt per year, maybe someone else will foot the bill?
Maybe we should do the planet a favour. Scrap this pipeline and just go back to flogging asbestos to the Third World again.

I Agree. There's No Place Any Longer for Identity Politics.

When Justin Trudeau spoke to graduating students of New York University yesterday he criticized the growth in identity politics. I commend him for that. It's a phenomenon that fosters clannish partisanship that, in turn, can undermine social cohesion at the very moment a society may most need cohesiveness to meet serious challenges.

We've all probably heard the term but we may have quite different understandings of what it means. Here's one definition taken from a University of Michigan dissertation on the subject:
The classic definition of identity politics implies that individuals participate in politics on behalf of their specific social groups. Racial, religious, gender, and sexual orientation are all forms of identity that fall under the general rubric of identity politics, which conveys that individual, non-political group identities can motivate group members’ political behavior.
The paper concludes that as racial, religious and other group identities merge with partisan politics an "increased ideological consistency" develops that "corresponds to an increase in partisan bias and intolerance across the electorate, particularly over time."

More recent thought holds that hyper-partisanship is another form of political identity. We can see this today in Trump's base although there could be a chicken/egg dynamic in play.

Back in the day of Liberals and Progressive Conservatives, hyper-partisanship was much less prevalent than it is today. There were more people who were willing to vote according to each party's policies and platform, switching periodically from PC to LPC or NDP not promiscuously but with some deliberation.

Now we seem to have moved into camps, formed tribes.

It was the tribalism I found in New Dem supporters that always caused me to steer clear of the NDP. To me it reflected a certain unquestioning loyalty that I found off-putting.

I became a Liberal just not a joined-at-the-hip Liberal. When Paul Hellyer unified the armed forces and threw us into those ungodly green uniforms, unlike some, I remained a Liberal supporter.

I supported Trudeau despite what many in the military tribe viewed as his leftist pacifism. I knew there was no shortage of people and nations all too willing to bomb each other into oblivion but there was a keen shortage of intermediaries, "honest brokers" available to intercede and defuse situations that were otherwise headed for shooting conflicts. I was proud of Canada's role in launching the peacekeeping initiative under Lester Pearson.

I saw no contradiction in Canadian participation in NORAD or NATO as both alliances were inherently defensive, another form of peacekeeping on a superpower level.

There were a few bad Liberals and plenty of good Conservatives. Bob Stanfield was a fine Tory. Despite his failings, so was Joe Clark. I didn't vote for them but they were people I could respect. No party had a monopoly on good ideas. Even Mulroney, scoundrel that he was, was to be admired for standing up against South African apartheid and for his environmentalism.

My loyalties remained with the Liberals under Chretien, Martin and Dion. I even supported Ignatieff as opposition leader but my affiliation with the Liberal Party was unraveling.  I broke with the Liberals on Monday, May 2nd, 2011, choosing to vote strategically in a riding contest the Tories couldn't possibly lose. Afterward, I wrote this:
I came out of the booth feeling crappy, utterly dispirited, while realizing that the true measure of my disappointment won't be known until the results are announced tonight. The only thing that could possibly have been worse would have been to vote for the pathetic Conservative incumbent. For the hapless weevil who received my vote, his/her good fortune is completely undeserved and is owed entirely to the fundamentalist mouthbreather of an empty suit we keep sending to Ottawa to doze fitfully at his Conservative master's feet until the next election.
That election campaign wasn't a total loss. It forced me to realize that the Liberal Party I had supported for about four decades was a thing of the past. After a bit of navel-gazing, I joined the Greens.

The Liberal Party is now a conservative party, its progressive wing expunged. It has also become more tribal than it has ever been in my lifetime, less questioning, far more hypocritical. It has become a party steeped in identity politics.

The only proof I need is to go back to those old posts and recall how freely and roundly we castigated Harper for his excesses and then see how many of those same policies that we Liberals once scorned so vociferously have been perpetuated under the current government. Liberals who so unhesitatingly attacked Harper have fallen mute when their boy trods the same path. You could say that's hypocrisy but it's much more than that. It's tribalism. It's hyper-partisan identity politics. Bad if they do it. Not so bad when we do it.

It's laughable when today's redneck, race-baiting Republicans proclaim themselves the "party of Lincoln," the great emancipator. It's pathetic when today's conservative Liberals proclaim themselves the party of Laurier, St. Laurent, Pearson and Trudeau. Sad, really.

"The West, As We Once Knew It, No Longer Exists."

Der Spiegel has called upon Europe to join the resistance to Trump America. The editorial says Trump's unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear pact has undermined the North Atlantic consensus.
...what are the benefits of Washington's radical move? There are none. Just chaos where there was once order. Just American capriciousness after decades of stability
The most shocking realization, however, is one that affects us directly: The West as we once knew it no longer exists. Our relationship to the United States cannot currently be called a friendship and can hardly be referred to as a partnership. President Trump has adopted a tone that ignores 70 years of trust. He wants punitive tariffs and demands obedience. It is no longer a question as to whether Germany and Europe will take part in foreign military interventions in Afghanistan or Iraq. It is now about whether trans-Atlantic cooperation on economic, foreign and security policy even exists anymore. The answer: No. It is impossible to overstate what Trump has dismantled in the last 16 months. Europe has lost its protective power. It has lost its guarantor of joint values. And it has lost the global political influence that it was only able to exert because the U.S. stood by its side. And what will happen in the remaining two-and-a-half years (or six-and-a-half years) of Trump's leadership? There is plenty of time left for further escalation. 
...The difficulty will be finding a balance between determination and tact. Triumphant anti-Americanism is just as dangerous as defiance. But subjugation doesn't lead anywhere either -- because Europe cannot support policies that it finds dangerous. Donald Trump also has nothing but disdain for weakness and doesn't reward it. 
Clever resistance is necessary, as sad and absurd as that may sound. Resistance against America.

He's "Appalled" - What in Hell Does That Mean?

Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, says he's "appalled" at the massacre of protesting Palestinians by Israeli army snipers inside the gulag that is Gaza. Somebody apparently slipped JT a note that one of the guys shot was a Canadian, a doctor at that, Tarek Loubani. Not only was Loubani shot, along with 18 other medical workers plainly targeted by Israel's snipers - bright reflective vests, that sort of thing, really stand out from the crowd - but he's also something of a hero, having brought 3D printing into play to produce the stuff Palestinians can't get due to the Israeli blockade, stuff like stethoscopes and tourniquets which are kind of handy when those snipers start putting bullet holes in demonstrators - by the hundreds, many hundreds.

But haven't we heard very sincere pleas from Justin before only to find out he was just messin' with us? Of course we have, many times. How do we know whether he's being straight with us this time?

When you're dealing with someone of sullied credibility you can always see how the plaintive words match up with his deeds. That's a pretty good litmus test. So, what deeds can we look at? I know, let's look at the UN General Assembly. The General Assembly periodically votes on resolutions pertaining to Israel and Palestine. They're usually massively approved and invariably quashed by an American veto when they reach the Security Council.

Under the Harper regime, Canada's votes in the General Assembly were predictably pro-Israel and anti-Palestine, every time without fail. You expected as much from Harper. That guy was a dick. But there's a new sheriff in town, Justin. So, how has Canada's voting record in the General Assembly changed since Harper was cashiered?

I won't keep you in suspense and I won't bore you with statistics either. Here, this is from The Globe a week ago:

For all the talk about Mr. Trudeau wanting to re-establish Canada’s multilateralist and honest-broker bona fides, the evidence suggests he is our most unequivocally pro-Israel prime minister since, well, Stephen Harper.

“Whatever the reasons, Trudeau has, like his Liberal predecessors, sought to support both UN multilateralism and Israel, but his policy toward Israel has also borrowed heavily from the Harper playbook,” Dalhousie University professor Steven Seligman argues in a new paper published in the American Review of Canadian Studies. “Overall, Canada’s voting record at the UN under the Trudeau government thus far is among the most pro-Israel in the world and is markedly different than Canada’s voting record under [Jean] Chrétien and [Paul] Martin.” 
Indeed, the Trudeau government is near the opposite end of the continuum on Israel to the largely pro-Palestinian bent Canada adopted at the UN under Mr. Chrétien. As a member of the UN Security Council in 2000, Canada backed a resolution condemning Israel’s “excessive force against Palestinians” during the second intifada. Canada’s vote caused Mr. Chrétien considerable grief within in his own caucus – much, on the eve of a federal election, to the delight of the then-opposition Canadian Alliance. ...
Under Mr. Harper, Canada systematically voted against all UN resolutions on Israel. After all, Mr. Harper famously insisted he would never do the “easy thing” and “just get along and go along with this anti-Israel rhetoric.” Mr. Trudeau might not use quite the same words, but he has acted in sync with his predecessor
“The idea of using votes in the United Nations to isolate or condemn Israel … is not productive in international relations. And Canada avoids taking sides in that,” Mr. Trudeau said after Canada abstained on a UN resolution declaring Mr. Trump’s embassy decision “null and void.” 
In truth, Canada does take sides under Mr. Trudeau. During the two regular sessions of the UN General Assembly after he became Prime Minister, Prof. Seligman notes, Canada voted against 18 resolutions on Israel and abstained on only two.
And let's remember that Trudeau's government hardly avoided "taking sides" when, in February, 2016, the Liberal caucus overwhelmingly supported the Conservative motion to "condemn" fair-minded Canadians who supported the BDS, Boycott/Divest/Sanction movement. Condemning us for having the "wrong opinion." We stand condemned by our own government for exercising our conscience while it persistently chose to look the other way. That was certainly appalling.

You see, out here on the west coast, perhaps more than in other parts of the country, we've been taught the lesson that Trudeau is a sketchy little f#cker. Like Trump it's best to ignore his words and judge him by his deeds because, far too often, one proves to have no relation to the other.

Pierre Trudeau's motto was said to be "reason over passion." Judging by what he's shown us so far, Justin's could fairly be "political opportunism over principle - each time, every time."

Now I'm sorry if this gets under anyone's skirts but res ipsa loquitor, the thing speaks for itself.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

More Climate Change Woes for the Great Northern Petro-State

We're in for a ripper of a wildfire season. I suppose they're all "rippers" these days for the Great White Northern petro-state in this the era of anthropogenic climate change.

Can you feel it? C'mon, can you? Look at the climate stories just from today: American fish stocks heading north. The world running out of fresh water. Now another crazy wildfire season is upon us.

Federal wildfire researchers say most regions in Canada could be facing a long, hot, fiery summer. 
Wildfire starts and the amount of land burned were below average for the first few weeks of the season, but dry weather is turning things around, said Richard Carr, a fire research analyst with Natural Resources Canada. 
"We've had a long, lingering winter and a bit of a slow start to the fire season, but the numbers are higher than the same time last year."

Cap that off with a deranged government whose focus is to expedite the extraction and export of as much high-carbon, toxin-laden sludge petroleum as possible as quickly as possible and it's pretty easy to get overwhelmed by the nihilistic lunacy.
Two provinces have already had their first evacuations of the year. About 40 people in Crutwell, Sask., have had to flee their homes at least twice. Seven families in Lac du Bonnet, Man., also had to leave. 
Manitoba has counted 119 fires so far. Last year at this time, the figure was 27 and the year before that it was 58. 
Nationally, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre says Canada is about 100 fires ahead of the 10-year average for early May. 
Although some parts of the country are flooding, much of the forested area remains dry, said Carr. 
"It's pretty dry across that whole stretch, right from British Columbia to western Ontario."
Burn baby, burn. 

If You Have Even the Slightest Doubt that Global Warming is Real, Ask a Fish.

I've been writing about this for years as I've watched the arrival of southern fish species into British Columbia's coastal waters, everything from humpback whales to sardines. Fish and marine mammals don't listen to Donald Trump or Andrew Scheer. They don't listen to anybody. If it gets too hot they head to cooler waters. Northern hemisphere, southern hemisphere, the migrations are the same - toward their respective poles.

A new report out of Rutgers says that hundreds of species of fish are moving out of American waters. At the moment they're heading to Canada but some will be going to Alaska and beyond.
The biggest changes are expected along the West Coast, where some economically important species like rockfish will move some 900 miles from their traditional grounds off Washington and Canada to Alaska. 
Even if global warming is limited to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, as intended under the Paris climate agreement, there will still be increasing disruptions to fisheries. The shifts have already caused conflicts over the regional fishing quotas, said Rutgers University researcher Malin Pinsky, co-author of the new study published this week in the journal PLOS One. 
Like other species, fish are trying to keep cool in the face of global warming, but since they are highly mobile, they are occupying new habitat 10 times faster than species on land, Pinsky said.
We know where our prime minister stands on this with his petro-state mentality, his pipelines and his anchors aweigh supertanker policy. Once again, Trudeau's dilbit fetish trumps British Columbia's coastal fishery and our coastal First Nations. 

Well, We've Got the Answer to Overpopulation.

Thanks, NASA, although you could have learned as much over lunch with Maude Barlow.

A "groundbreaking" (pun, sorry) study by NASA concludes that water shortages will be the key environmental challenge of the century. Really, ya think?

Water shortages are likely to be the key environmental challenge of this century, scientists from Nasa have warned, as new data has revealed a drying-out of swaths of the globe between the tropics and the high latitudes, with 19 hotspots where water depletion has been dramatic. 
Areas in northern and eastern India, the Middle East, California and Australia are among the hotspots where overuse of water resources has caused a serious decline in the availability of freshwater that is already causing problems. Without strong action by governments to preserve water the situation in these areas is likely to worsen.
Some of these hotspots were previously undocumented or poorly understood: a region in north-western China, in Xinjiang province, has suffered dramatic declines despite receiving normal amounts of rainfall, owing to groundwater depletion from industry and irrigation
The Caspian Sea was also found to be showing strong declines owing to similar forces, which is resulting in a shrinking shoreline. Previously, this change had been attributed to natural variability, but the new report demonstrates it was caused in large part by the diversion and extraction of water from rivers that feed it, for agriculture and industry. This depletion mirrors the well-known fate of the disappearing Aral Sea in the same region: because the Caspian Sea is much bigger it would take millennia to disappear altogether, but its shrinking shoreline and pollution will cause major problems throughout its borderlands.
There was a time, back in the early 70s, when mankind's environmental footprint was in balance with Earth's environment. That was roughly when the global population reached three billion. Since then we've been in "overshoot" and that looks just like this:

See the point where the red line, consumption, first crosses the dotted black line? That was the early 1970s. See the point where the dotted black line begins to curve downward? We're there now. The Earth's carrying capacity is in decline even as humanity's footprint continues to massively expand. Some estimates conclude that the Earth is now capable of sustaining a human population of two billion - not three, not 7.5, not nine billion - just two billion, for now. But you see that dotted black line keeps declining. It takes a while for the red line to catch up but, when it does, it's more abrupt, rather sudden - oh, let's just call it what it is, "collapse."

So how do we fix this? Well, even if we had the political will to confront this (and we so don't), we're locked in. People are going to have to die off - by the billions. It makes our leaders' fetish for perpetual, exponential growth look purdy stoopid, don't it? Yeah, Justin, that includes you.
The comprehensive study, the first of its kind, took data from the Nasa Grace (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellite mission to track trends in freshwater from 2002 to 2016 across the globe. 
What we are witnessing is major hydrologic change. We see for the first time a very distinctive pattern of the wet land areas of the world getting wetter, in the high latitudes and the tropics, and the dry areas in between getting drier,” said James Famiglietti, of the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, and co-author of the paper published today in Nature. “Within the dry areas we see multiple hotspots resulting from groundwater depletion.”
Disturbing as this is, it's only one part of a bigger picture that collectively is now called "the Great Acceleration." If you've got the stomach for it you can follow the link and peruse the graphs.  Somewhere on this blog there are a couple of posts of industrial water consumption - how much is used to make a set of tires, a car, a pair of jeans. I'll see if I can find the posts.

Then there's that really massive waste of water - fracking and bitumen. Not only do those industries use enormous amounts of free or nearly free freshwater their waste water often contaminates the nearby water resources, surface and underground. That's why the IMF warns Canada's federal and provincial governments are subsidizing the fossil fuel industry to the tune of 46 billion dollars a year. You'll never hear mention of that pass Justin's lips. Hey, it's only water, who cares?
First, the total unpriced natural capital consumed by the more than 1,000 “global primary production and primary processing region-sectors” amounts to $7.3 trillion a year — 13 percent of 2009 global GDP.

Of the top 20 region-sectors ranked by environmental impacts, none would be profitable if environmental costs were fully integrated. Ponder that for a moment: None of the world’s top industrial sectors would be profitable if they were paying their full freight. Zero
That amounts to an global industrial system built on sleight of hand. As Paul Hawken likes to put it, we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP.
Then there's this eye-opening 2010 report on the water catastrophe we fondly know as the Tar Sands from Greenpeace.
Water allocations for tar sands production now account for 76 per cent of the water taken from the river each year.10 When currently planned tar sands projects go ahead, this demand for water will increase by more than 50 per cent. Together, the planned and existing projects are expected to withdraw 529 million cubic metres of water from the Athabasca annually,11 more water than is used each year by the City of Toronto, which has a population greater than 2,500,000.
Again, if you've got a strong stomach you can read the whole thing at the link above.

I could spend the rest of the day, perhaps another day or two, writing about this but to what end?  The energy policy our governments are pursuing is essentially nihilistic. 15, 20 years ago governments really weren't aware of this. Since then there's been no doubt. Justin Trudeau is all about stealing the future, selling it in the present and calling it GDP.

"A Significant Public Health Concern"

Science is fast closing in on Monsanto's controversial weedkiller, "RoundUp."

A chemical found in the world’s most widely used weedkiller can have disrupting effects on sexual development, genes and beneficial gut bacteriaat doses considered safe, according to a wide-ranging pilot study in rats.

Glyphosate is the core ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and levels found in the human bloodstream have spiked by more than a 1,000% in the last two decades 
The substance was recently relicensed for a shortened five-year lease by the EU. But scientists involved in the new glyphosate study say their results show that it poses “a significant public health concern”. 
One of the report’s authors, Daniele Mandrioli, at the Ramazzini Institute in Bologna, Italy, said significant and potentially detrimental effects from glyphosate had been detected in the gut bacteria of rat pups born to mothers, who appeared to have been unaffected themselves.
The US firm, which recently merged with Bayer in a deal worth more than $60bn, argues that it is being unfairly targeted by activist scientists with ulterior motives. 
Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s VP for global strategy told the Guardian: “The Ramazzini Institute is an activist organisation with an agenda that they have not disclosed as part of their crowdfunding efforts. They wish to support a ban on glyphosate and they have a long history of rendering opinions not supported by regulatory testing agencies.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

And the Trudeau Government's Reaction Is? But A Real Canadian Hero Emerges in Gaza.

Dr. Tarek Loubani in blue scrubs.

A tweet. That's how the government of Justin Trudeau responded to yesterday's massacre of Palestinians by Israeli snipers and Justin's bestie, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Deeply concerned by violence in Gaza Strip. We are saddened by deaths + injuries that occurred today + over past weeks. It is inexcusable that civilians, journalists + children have been victims. All parties to the conflict have a responsibility to ensure civilians are protected.
— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) May 14, 2018

The "all parties" business has a touch of Trump's response to the Charlottesville violence last August that led to the murder of a protester. Trump tried to claim some moral equivalence for both sides, including his white supremacist supporters.

Chrystia is not just "deeply concerned" but even "saddened" by this ongoing carnage. What a load of whitewash made all the worse by the fact that Israeli snipers deliberately targeted medical personnel at the protests, bagging 19 doctors and paramedics for the day, one of them, a Canadian doctor from London, Ontario, Tarek Loubani.

Dr. Tarek Loubani said it happened during a "lull" in the protest Monday, as he was standing with a group of paramedics about 25 metres away from the protest area 
"There were no fires, there was no smoke. We had clear lines of sight to all three fortified sniper posts," said Loubani.

"All of the sudden I heard a bang, and I found myself on the ground. I looked at my leg, I saw blood."
Loubani said his colleague, a paramedic named Musa Abuhassanin, came over and began working on his injured leg. 
About an hour later, Abuhassanin was shot [in the throat] and killed while attempting to rescue another person, Loubani said. 
"The first rule of medical rescue is that you don't become part of the situation, you're no good to anybody if you're shot too," said Loubani, adding that his team had taken extraordinary measures to identify themselves to snipers as medical professionals. 
Loubani wore a full green outfit; the paramedics wore high-visibility vests.
"Deeply saddened." Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Sure.

UPDATE - Canada's own hero in Gaza.

Well there is an uplifting story for Canada in this after all. It has to do with noneother than Dr. Tarek Loubani who is featured in an interview with and the tourniquets that have saved so many civilian lives in Gaza.

Dr. Loubani is known for creating a 3D printed stethoscope that recently received clinical validation and was made for about 30 cents. Because of the blockade, hospitals in the Gaza region have faced a critical shortage of medical supplies, even simple ones like stethoscopes. The goal of the open source Glia Project is to create those much-needed medical supplies using 3D printing and make them available to whoever needs them. As Dr. Loubani, along with Dr. Mohammed Al-Attar and 25 other trained first responders entered the field at the protest site, they brought with them hundreds of 3D printed tourniquets, ready to attend to those with severe limb injuries.

“Reducing hemorrhagic deaths from limb exsanguination became a cornerstone project of the newly formed Hayat Center for Emergency and Crisis Management, based at the Islamic University of Gaza,” Dr. Loubani said. “The center has been engaged in projects like Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Basic Life Support (BLS) and Trauma Life Support (TLS). When the center tried to obtain CAT tourniquets for its new ‘Stop Bleeding’ campaign, they were almost impossible to obtain.”
This was due to the high cost of the tourniquets as well as the blockade – however, as Dr. Loubani points out, even if they could obtain Combat Application Tourniquets, CATs are specifically designed for soldiers, grown men with larger limbs. The Gaza population is mostly children, with nearly 45% under the age of 14.

“CATs do not work on a pediatric population, which would have automatically excluded most of the patient population we expect,” Dr. Loubani said.
So when the Glia Project team was approached by the Hayat Center and members of Gaza’s disaster committee, they readily agreed to develop a tourniquet using their locally manufactured, solar powered Prusa i3 MK2 3D printers and locally available and recycled filament. The team created the tourniquet for both adult and pediatric use, beginning about a year ago and reaching the field trial stage by early 2018.

“We dry-tested the tourniquets in laboratory conditions. Even in initial paramedic field trials, tourniquets were generally deployed in single-victim situations with controlled scenes,” he said. “In the field, we were trying to put tourniquets on patients while literally running, under live fire, being teargassed, or occasionally all three. This was suboptimal.”
The team returned to the field on May 14th, armed with 200 tourniquets. The old models were pulled, and the 100 units at the Hayat Center were recovered for field use. 78 of the tourniquets were used on patients whose injuries met the criteria, and not a single one failed. That didn’t mean it was a good day, though – 17 paramedics from the team were wounded and one was killed, and Dr. Loubani himself sustained a gunshot wound to the leg. Overall, 52 people were killed and 2,410 wounded on May 14th. 
The pain and violence happening in Gaza are ongoing, and no one can say how long the crisis will stretch on, or how many more lives will be lost. But because of brave and resourceful individuals like those working on the Glia Project, the number of lives lost is fewer than it would have been without them and their 3D printed medical tools.

“If you would like to participate in this project, please don’t hesitate to contact us at If you are more technically inclined, check out the tourniquet project’s Github page, where you can file issues or make pull requests,” Dr. Loubani concludes, as more help is always needed.
If anyone deserves the Order of Canada it is surely Dr. Tarek Loubani even if it does embarrass the government of the day.