Is This The Best We Can Do?

To no one’s great surprise, the NEB put its stamp of approval on the “revised” application for the construction of the TransMountain Pipeline, even the ‘new-and-improved’ model looks an awful lot like the original shabby sham of an oil-lobby grease job. This represents an utter failure of governance in Canada (not to mention the effect this will have on our atmosphere, oceans, storms, wildfires, sea-level rise and the rest of the disruption catalogue). None of these parties seems to get that, for our society to continue to exist, we have to leave this gunk safely buried in the ground, and, while the time to begin the process of weaning ourselves off our present addiction was several decades ago, we didn’t do that, so that makes now the next best option.

Justin Trudeau, campaigning in the last general election, deployed the full-spectrum Liberal strategy of saying most anything to get elected, particularly at the expense of Tom Mulcair, knowing that many were just so tired of the Conservative wet blanket of the previous decade that they would go to great lengths to unseat the Harper crowd. All those glowing campaign promises and the soaring rhetoric that filled the earliest of the sunny days disappeared into a morass of same-old, same-old once the rubber hit the road. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party settled on a brand new face for the same blood-sport capital sell-out that characterized the Harper years, but with dimples and a complete lack of either gravitas of intellect. The New Democrats turfed Mulcair and replaced him with Singh, a seemingly decent guy who seems to need to check the weathervane before making a policy pronouncement, and even then, doesn’t necessarily stick to it.

These three stooges have taken centre stage in Canadian governance against the backdrop of an economy that serves only a relative few, a frayed social fabric, simmering internal divisions, and an environment that threatens to become entirely inhospitable to life in general, and specifically a teetering technological human society. All three major national leaders continue to play in the sandbox of Canadian politics as though it’s 1950 and a new era of prosperity and progress awaits us, rather than recognizing the crises into which we’ve already entered and educating  us as citizens as to the necessary steps in mitigation, adaptation and revamping that will be necessary to ensure that the numerous offspring of the Trudeau and Scheer households have a shot at a decent life. Instead of mining more goop from the tar sands, why not put those yellow vests to work doing something constructive, building renewable energy infrastructure, reforestation and agricultural rejigging to ensure that we all get fed and that more people can work the land in a regenerative fashion?

This isn’t happening because none of our leaders has the courage to say what many of us know and then to take the steps necessary to throw off the ties that bind them to their handlers and the people whose interests the handlers represent: banking, pharma, Big Ag, the arms dealers, tech companies and, above all, fossil fuel concerns. Those whose good gigs are suffering because so much wealth has already left the country and even the slightest steps toward sanity feel like persecution. No one has been able to decouple a good living from the insanity of the oilfields, and it’s unlikely at this point that people are going to lend much credence to anything that comes from the mouths of our most august leaders.

Elizabeth May stands out as the only leader to do the right thing: she went and got herself arrested protesting TMX, and so need say little else. It would be too much to hope for a minority government next October with May and several colleagues holding the balance of power. Ephemeral though it might be, it would at least have a chance at airing some serious concerns in the kabuki theatre that is the Commons.

 

A Hopeful Sign From the Press? Though Far Away

It seems a matter of routine that Frederich Hayek and his crowd get cited when some economist of another wants to echo the championing of what we wishfully call the Free Market. Hayek built some of the foundation for the Friedman/Buchanan/Thatcher/Reagan/Etc/Etc philosophy of the golden shower trickle down theory of economics used so frequently to stock the Kochs’ larders and kiss DJT’s posterior.

Hayek had an evil twin, Karl Polanyi, who, along with Hayek, was graced with a “Nobel” in economics, but whose book, The Great Transformation, has been mouldering away in corners of libraries, collecting dust, when not being used as fire starter, bird cage liner and more ignominious uses by the victims of Hayek’s triumphant selfishness. Simply, Polyani posited that collective action was more likely to produce general prosperity than rugged individualism. I read this twenty years ago following up on some things I had read in Linda McQuaig’s works, and I had to read it in French because that was the only copy available on inter-library loan.

This all comes up because Manny Mac over in the Elysée Palace is having to come to grips with some economic/social, hence political. conundrum, and imagine my surprise when I saw this as a head on the front page of Libération:

 

My concern, of course, is that the whole planet could spiral down the crapper even in the infinitesimal amount of time that the sharpest of French minds would consume in reading the Polanyi treatise. Too bad, so sad, but we could perish knowing that help might have been headed our way.

 

Mail It In

From linked site.

 

A friend sent a link to the news that BMW has developed the technology for a completely autonomous motorcycle. I used to indulge in cycling for both transportation and pleasure and mostly gave it up when I realized that climate stabilization and blowing fuel out the tailpipe for fun were not compatible.

So I wrote back:

This ranks right up with my other favourite automated activities, like eating, sex, and, why not? drinking wine. Think of all the snotty wine-tasting vocabulary you can forget, and God! the lack of hangovers after too much enthusiasm at the tasting bench…

Imagine sex without the need for dating, foreplay, birth control, STDs, messy relationships…

Food without having to buy, prepare and serve, no more chewing swallowing, gastric distress, voiding and defecating, no more spice-burn, salmonella and ptomaine poisoning, contented belching, low-flying ducks, fibre requirements, cholesterol, diets…

Feel free to weigh in on other activities!

A Comment

 

I left this comment on an article posted by the Disaffected Liberal whose stuff I read on a very regular basis. It’s not cute, but he often says the things that others avoid.

Disaffected Lib’s post

Article by Guy Dauncey

Long time follower of French politics (long story). Nicolas Hulot quit yesterday as minister of the environment. He came out of EELV and has a rep as a serious enviro. His appointment was obviously part of the window-dressing by Manny Mac as an enticement to elect his fledgling Les Républicains En Marche as an alternative to the failed Socialists (he worked for a spell as minister of the economy under Hollande) and their failed Sarko counterparts. Surprise! As with Horgan, Trudeau and so many others, Macron has turned out to be more of the same crowd that kisses the toes of the rich and demands sacrifices for the serfs. Watching the rationale of pretty much all government agencies reminds me of watching post-game conferences with athletes: you can almost cite the page from the Book of Excuses, Lauds and Other Clichés.
You’re correct that no one wanting power will tell the increasingly awful truth, sacrifiicng the future on the altar of power now, and making the requisite sacrifices unbidden is like resigning from society, besides which I have to furnish my own tin hats.
Update:
Further Update:
I saw part of the interview in the course of which Hulot announced his resignation, apparently without letting anyone (wife, president of the republic) know, and the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was the presence of an uninvited lobbyist at a meeting at the Élysée Palace, and a subsequent announcement in favour of the group represented by the lobbyist. He finds it repugnant that lobbyists can be so close to the centre of decision making, and that they can wield the sort of influence that seems unavailable to the voters.

(Intentionally?) Missing The Point

Methinks Dame Cathy and her Court have missed the lectures on climate disruption, but are still willing to attempt to score political points trying to wrap themselves in a cloak of the greenest of fig-leafery. In this race, the Crudeau crowd wants to win by taking six giant steps backward before the opening gun goes off. Sadly for them, and well and good for the rest of the planet, there are others who have been tortising along for a couple of decades and have splendid results to show for it. But, hey, we’ve got a crud oil pipeline and fossil fuel subsidies and Alberta has found the magic spell that’s keeping Canada working, or at least those in the advertising industry who are best at half-truths and outright fabrications. It’s a good thing that Scheer’s goose steppers are going to start talking about abortions again so that Justin can get re-elected on a raft of recycled and new promises that he can then break. So sad.

End note: It’s good that we now know (via the Lancet) that we can commit slow and blissful suicide by single malt.

 

 

 

Another ‘New” “Free Market” Party

 

Huffpost pic

 

Many sources have indicated that Maxime Bernier is quitting the caucus of the Conservative Party of Canada, likely because it isn’t a true libertarian paradise. The trigger irritant seems to have been the idea that our own JT is practicing extreme multiculturalism, and that too much diversity will destroy Canada. He says, or one of his spokespeople said, that he wants to create a party based on free market principles, along the lines of the Wild Rose Party in Alberta, and yada yada. He doesn’t like supply management, unions, public anything and definitely not the idea of The Commons in any form. Let the market decide.

 

The problem with the market is that it already exists and is a creation of capital controlled by a small and very entitled group of people. So when we start this free market, there’s never a reset where everyone starts out with the same resources and the same opportunities, but we carry on the fiction of a free market, even though our executive, legislative and judicial apparatus uses a set of scales with a heavy thumb on the side of those already most well-off. It would be laughable that Bernier finds the current CPC to be morally corrupt, given that his major objection is that they don’t stand for a vision based on a pure enough version of greed. As John Kenneth Galbraith quipped:

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

Bernier’s Free Market Party would strive to take us to greater depths of economic and social disparity. My sense is that we’re already teetering on the edge of the abyss as it is without having someone like Mad Max pouring further combustible on the flames.

It’s Like Vietnam, A Little, All Over Again

 

 

Back in the days of my USian existence, it was a bit frustrating during the course of the 1960s, my teen years, to watch the Vietnam engagement grow in scope, gravity and bloodiness, as well as in the consciousness of some of us coming out of the chrysalis of childhood. All around us, there was surf music, burger joints, game shows, big-bore V-8s and a whole lot of business as usual. It wasn’t a war, there was no declaration, it wasn’t even a police action like Korea a decade earlier. Everything on the home front seemed to perk along without the war bonds, rationing, and the exhortations on every street corner to traipse off to a foreign tar pit to put an end to your miserable little life for the good of God, democracy and the American Way. The home front never went to war, so it was easy to ignore the signals.

Of course, as the decade came to a close, the murmurs morphed into chatter and then to a roar to the point where even those legislators in the hallowed halls of power began to waver in their determination to see an end to the resistance of these black-pyjama clad little brown people until “we” finally tucked our tail between our legs, told our South Vietnamese allies that they were on their on, and high-tailed it out of Dodge in the last helo  to depart the roof of the embassy compound.

Now there’s smoke all around me. The signals that we’re waging war on ourselves are plain to see, hear, smell: it has never been so obvious that we are, in the name of convenience and consumption, fouling the only nest we have and setting up a gruesome end for civilization and for most life on this planet. And now, there begins that transformation from whisper to chatter as people wake up and discover that our collective complacency and procrastination have brought on the crisis foretold by phalanxes of climate scientist Cassandras, just when we reach the point where there may be no method to remedy the situation without major suffering, if at all.

 

It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.
                                        —Sir Josiah Stamp

“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” – H.G. Wells

 

Living as if there were no tomorrow, we are converting a carefree metaphor into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
—John Whiting
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. 
—Douglas Adams

Sir John A., We Hardly Knew Ye

 

Mayor Lisa Helps announced yesterday that the statue of our first PM will be removed from its podium of honour in front of the entrance to Victoria City Hall pretty much forthwith. This has, of course, generated a good deal of tsking, finger wagging, and jaw flapping, much of it to do with the reverence we feel for our founding father, to borrow a USism. But let’s have a bit of context, by perhaps considering Johnny Mac in his own context, but somewhat transposed into our current status.

 

Do we hold Justin Trudeau to be worthy of the same level of reverence and Sir John A.? How about Stephen Harper? Paul Martin? Jean Chrétien? Kim Campbell? Brian Mulroney? John Turner? PET? Joe Clark?Mike?

With few exceptions for exceptional circumstances, the answer is no. I haven’t done the required research and reading to really nail it down, but my sense is that these folks, and all the rest of their ilk, were, first and foremost, politicians, with all the mixed connotations that that term carries on its overloaded back. They were people both revered and reviled, depending on your political stripe, your policy outlook and how deeply you were embedded in the system that produced them.

 

Perhaps a gentle step back to consider all facets of admiration and condemnation might help us to keep our blood pressure in check as we navigate possible attempts to reconcile settlers and First Nations, as well as our past with our present and future.

Deflection of Necessary Perspective

Photo by Ihor Malytskyi on Unsplash

 

There is an old Chinese proverb:

Quand le sage montre la lune, l’imbécile regarde le doigt.
When the wise man points to the moon, the idiot looks at his finger.
Paraphrased this morning in Libération:
Quand le sage montre le climat, l’économiste regards l’inflation.
When the wise man points to the climate, the economist looks at inflation.
No wonder they call it “the dismal science”. This is the very picture of pretty much all out national and regional leaders who still don’t seem to get the urgency of the situation in which we find ourselves. This is Trudeau/McKenna claiming to mitigate climate disruption while buying/expanding dilbit infrastructure, Horgan building Site C, and a whole whack of premiers fracking merrily away and giving away to energy to foreigners without bothering to collect royalties or taxes. It’s clear that Trump and Ford aren’t the only idiots, they just have less of the veneer of sanity.

Do grow-ops Belong on ALR Land?

Pic From Victoria Times Colonist

 

It seems that our outgoing head of the ALC believes this to be the case, that concrete slab based bunkers ought properly to be situated on ALR land, because, well, it’s a form of agriculture. I disagree vehemently. In a conversation with a relative in Ontario last winter, it came out that his brother had sold a hundred or so acres of farmland, the kind of black dirt land that requires almost no amendment to produce food crops, and that the highest bidder was a grow-op. Now all that soil is under cement, and I gather that there is never any chance that there will ever be a recovery. The grow-op could have been situated on marginal land, or on utterly unproductive land, without altering the nature of cultivation. In our area, the land under ALR is protected because it is deemed to be potentially productive soil, and the paving over for whatever reason flies in the face of the spirit of ALR.

The time where the justification of the Agricultural Land Reserve is apparent is upon us as our supply lines to California and Florida become more tenuous due to energy concerns, and where those areas are threatened by drought and sea level rise. If we are to be able to have a chance to feed ourselves, we must protect not only the geographic locations under ALR, but also the soil they host, including areas such as, say, the Peace River Valley.

The current scheme for the legalization of marijuana is in large part to blame for this blunder as it continues a régime of restricted supply and subsequent over-valuation of a crop due to induced scarcity and control.

“Economics is a form of brain damage.” 
–Hazel Henderson
This is what is driving our civilization to decay, the idea that this abstraction called the economy takes precedence over the physical conditions that allow the economy to exist. Our margins for existence are pretty thin, and we’ve used up most of the room for error. We continue to err.