Who Knew?

 

I read just about everything written by Michael Lewis, starting with Moneyball, through all the  sports and financial tomes he published. He has interesting perspectives and is a good storyteller. The sports stuff is good entertainment and thought-provoking, the financial stuff is a little chilling, and his latest pronouncement on Canadian housing as outlined in an article in MacLean’s adds to an already disturbing picture of market manipulation on a grand scale leading to the destruction of liveability in much of Canada’s urban landscape. The recent revelations of casino money-laundering in B.C. only adds to the feeling that there are subterfuges being used to skirt both the letter and the spirit of laws and to pervert the market mechanisms that are supposed to provide a measure of affordability for those residents who need to work and live in our communities.

Studies seem to indicate that foreign ownership is not the major problem, but that doesn’t entirely eliminate the phenomenon of overseas capital as one of the exacerbating factors, especially when it appears that there are “underground banks” in play and that real estate developers constitute the largest group of those flushing large quantities of cash through the gaming system. Also in play is the accumulation of debt by those signing up for mortgages, some of which may not be within the realm of realistic repayment, particularly in case of a retrenchment of the market where the asset might become less valuable than the sum of the debt incurred to purchase.

The U.S. is being run by a clique of bandits who have assumed the reins of power and are busy ensuring that the satisfaction of their greed, as well as that of their puppet masters, is being satisfied to the detriment of society and the environment. We in B.C. have toiled under a government for the past decade and a half whose main mission seemed to be sequestering the benefit of the commons for the benefit on party donors, many of whom are in finance and real estate, either directly or indirectly. This has generated a socio-economic structure where there has been a pretty thorough decoupling of any relation between housing costs and salaries/wages, meaning that a lot of folks can’t afford to live anywhere within reasonable proximity to where the jobs are, and that, increasingly, jobs go begging because there is no one around to work them as they flee what are unrealistic markets for housing. The knock-on effects of twisted markets are being felt outside the urban centres as people sell out of the rich markets and take the resulting cash to lower-cost areas, but the real estate and finance people follow them, and prices rise sharply with the arrival of these newly-wealthy real estate refugees, pricing the locals out of their own market.

Real estate people love it, as both buying and selling causes the honey to stick to their hands, bankers love it, because the create money from nothing and take it back in as a representation of real wealth, and officialdom seems loathe to anything other than minor tinkering for fear of alienating powerful constituencies and not wanting to be tagged as having caused the pain that will inevitably result from a marketplace that is so out of kilter. However, that pain will come, and experience teaches us that those with the greatest political clout will be those who feel it least, while those who have pawns in the game will take it on the chin. After all, unless you live in Iceland, you haven’t seen any of the people responsible for the last crash held to account for it. The prospects for the next “correction” don’t seem all that rosy either.

Somebody Finally Got The Right Answer

 

Georgia Strait Photo

Times Colonist Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carole James pulled the rug out from under David Black’s bid to bring the Commonwealth Games back to Victoria. Black et al labelled the action a disappointment and a serious missed opportunity. Black, whose press organs dish out regular doses of corporate pap and local feel-good stories hidden among all the advertising, had, at one point, spoken of games that would be at no cost to the taxpayer, if I remember correctly, but in this instance the bill was to start at a cool $400 million with a guarantee of coverage for any cost overruns.

The original announcement that a group was seeking to host the Games had me jumping up and down out of my seat and shouting “no!” repeatedly at the screen as i relived the whole business of the Olympics, the referendum, the promise by Larry Campbell not to do it and the subsequent reversal and when do we actually get to see the books from 2010? Anything that hides under a rock the way that Gordon Campbell buried the process and all the financials so that no one could ever hold him to account.

Notwithstanding the secrecy surrounding our own IOC fest, it seems clear with a quick scan of installations in Brazil from last year and from the turmoil from within the IOC itself, that Games, on the whole, are a terribly expensive distraction from important business, and one might be lead to suspect that the IOC is not the only body using sport and high ideals to hide an agenda of land speculation and corrupt contracts, though that would be pure conjecture on my part.

Thusly do I raise a glass in celebration of the voice of reason that said, in this case, “No, thank you.”

 

Truth On The Loose

This article, as you can plainly see, is behind a paywall of Trumpian proportions, but we can let it engender a musing or two. Being a banking and fossil fuel insider, it’s likely that he will use a privileged pulpit to shill for development of fossil fuel resources. It just seems too blatant a shill for anyone to take it seriously. It’s rather like Global TV explaining that they should be the primary source of our questions about Why when they are a central pillar of the problem in the first place. But the gullible abound.

Look, Ma, Our Own Maginot Line

Part of the Maginot Line

Following the First World War, the French, thinking to forever ban the Hun from their fair soil, laid out and executed plans to build a line of fortifications that would keep them safe from the ravages of marauding spike helmets. There were voices who warned that this was fighting the last war, and that there was a good chance that their Maginot Line was an expensive folly that would solve nothing, especially since the French declined to wall themselves off from the Belgians, secure in the (?) knowledge that the Germans would never come into France through Belgium. We know how that worked out.

So here’s the latest plan from those in the Trudeau/Clark government bureau of Magical Maginot Musings, a great way to blow a big part of the loot allotted for protection from marauding Kinder Morgan tankers (the part being spend by Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, apparently not Trudeau’s $1.5 Bn-over ten years), a series of five oil-spill response bases, as outlined in this article from the Victoria Times-Colonist. These would be located at Ucluelet, Port Alberni, Beecher Bay, Saanich, Duncan, and Nanaimo, with an additional base on the Fraser River. These constitute a fabulous way of disbursing funds to Port Authorities, but there ought to be considerable skepticism about the effectiveness of these bases is redressing the effects of a middling to large dilbit spill along the tanker route through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and into the Strait of Georgia before entering into a terminal on Burrard Inlet or some such place. It really looks as though this plan has about the same real value as a pat on the head and a “There! There!” in averting the inevitablility of a discharge. Responsible people don’t talk about cleaning up oil spills, they talk about avoiding them. Those who do talk about cleaning them up are generally working hard to get to the money represented by the shipping of tar and are notorious for letting the dollar signs floating through their field of fantasy cloud the reality of an accident and a subsequent spill.

Our mayor’s quoted response is puzzling: Yes, he says he’d rather not have the tankers, but actually, we could do school tours through the facility and that would bring in tourist traffic and dollars. We can do better. Ruttan was at the forefront of efforts to protect the airshed when BC Hydro wanted to put in a gas-fired generating station, and an active participant in the fight to keep the coal port out of our community and to shut down the idea of the Raven Coal operation. Why so wishy=washy on this? It gives a glimmer of a somewhat unhealthy relationship that exists between the City and the Port Authority, where the Port Authority, as a proponent of all things Harperite, exerts almost total control over the waterfront and the City seems at least to be a weak sister in capitulating, and at worst to be an enabler to the kind of lack of long-term vision that would have the sense to eliminate the risk of dilbit spills by eliminating the tankers, by not approving pipelines.

The aforementioned lack of vision and the haste to get things in place has cost us dearly through history and continues to characterize our political and economic dealings, a phenomenon that is likely to continue until such time as citizens become aware that they can, and must, delay the gratification of all the shiny baubles and tackle the long, hard decisions first by working in concert with others of like mind.

Old School?

While I’m no longer an early adopter of new technologies, I find that I can adapt to and learn whatever of the shiny new gadgets I choose to incorporate into my own processes. However, there are aspects of new developments that I find somewhat disturbing and which, on the whole, might be taking us down a path to a learned helplessness and a loss of whatever shreds of control we might have had over our actions at whatever point in time.  Wired reports that all the biggies in the tech sector are hopping on the Personal Home Assistant bandwagon, likely because no one company can let any other company stake out a dominant position in a field where there might be chests full of pirate gold awaiting those who meet with early success. Everywhere, there are blandishments to adopt gadgets that let you lock your front door from your desk at work, check all those security cameras for intruders or partying teens, ensure that your progeny aren’t exceeding any speed limits, check out where your cat has roamed, and likely scan the inside of the fridge to put together a list of things you need to pick up on the way home from work. This is naught but an extension of the smartphone enabled digital life and will fit well with the checkout-less market and the self-driving car. At what point does the human will become irrelevant?

We bought a new car in 1993 and switched manufacturers because the model we wanted couldn’t be ordered with a standard transmission. My wife and I both prefer a manual transmission, not that we can’t drive the automatic, but we both feel that we have a degree of control with the manual that the automatic doesn’t necessarily make available. All of our cars since that model have come with a cruise control. We’ve both tried it out and mostly don’t bother, partly because of the kind of roads we have hereabouts, but also because it appears to be another layer of removal of the driver from the process of driving. And now, it seems, an increasing number of cars come with systems to alert the driver to wandering out of lane, to  traffic approaching from behind, and even apply the brakes should the driver fail to respond to a collision warning. As I see advertising for these features, I can’t help but think that the people driving the cars are either letting distractions interfere with their most important and immediate task, or are incompetent and ought not to have permission to drive a motor vehicle in the first place. I keep hearing how self-driving cars will revolutionize urban transport, but given the propensity of our advanced technology to succumb to the workings of Murphy’s Law, I’m not expecting that this will be a smooth transition and that there won’t be some twisted metal and blood on the streets before it’s too far along. I’m put in mind of the sea trials of a guided missile ship of the US Navy a decade or so ago where they ran the whole thing through a series of Windows NT servers, producing an early incidence of unrecoverable crashes which left the vessel dead in the water in the Chesapeake Bay in need of a tow. Likewise, it seems, with the newest vessel, the USS Zumwalt, recently shut down in Gatun Lake while in transit through the Panama Canal. Especially combined with the propensity of governments of all stripes to enact electronic surveillance and controls, I shudder to think of the possibilities inherent in driverless vehicles.

 

I really prefer to drive less, to share vehicles with other drivers, to walk, to bicycle, to ride transit, to stay at home, and do degadgetize to a great extent, just keeping well-built, high quality repairable and upgradeable tools in the shop, the yard shed and the kitchen. A modicum of comfort is definitely desirable, but the laziness of surrender to technological toys is beyond countenance.

 

 

 

F-35 Reflux

 

Interesting that a tweet from none other than Donald Trump takes Lockeed to task for the insane cost of the JSF program. Of course, everyone concerned knows that this has been an enormous pork barrel for decades now, and that there is considerable doubt about the “finished” product being able to effectively carry out several aspects of its broadly-defined bouquet of missions. The F-35 seems to stand at the top of that triad of principles that govern the cynic’s universe: Entropy (particularly as defined by Dave Small), The Peter Principle, and Murphy’s Law. As to the truth as spoken by the President-Elect, we must remind ourselves that even broken (analog) clocks tell the correct time twice a day.

I went looking for Dave’s Definition of Entropy and was not successful. This I recall from a computer magazine of c. 1987:

Entropy can be characterized thusly:

If you have a barrel of chickenshit and you add a tablespoon of fine Bordeaux wine, you have a barrel of chickenshit.

If you have a barrel of fine Bordeaux wine and you add a tablespoon of chickenshit, you have a barrel of chickenshit.

 

I’m not sure, but here is a page that may belong to THE Dave Small in question:

https://www.cise.ufl.edu/~dts/

Old Faithful Bites the Dust, Creates Turd Storm

fc

 

Castro finally succumbed to time, having dodged dozens of assassination attempts, an abortive invasion, a blockade, a missile crisis, and decades of animosity on the part of a colossus next door that remained overtly hostile for the whole of his tenure in the president’s chair and for all of his brother’s tenure, thus far, mild rearranging of relations of the past year notwithstanding. Dictator, yes, and a man who manufactured a bouquet of political prisoners along with other controversies, but also a man responsible for a régime that lifted his country out of the morass of inequality, ignorance and poverty that was bequeathed him by the Batista junta that preceded him and which has been the lot of, for instance, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Haiti, all of which have evolved under the tender tutelage of he Washington consensus. The jubilation in the streets of Miami’s Little Havana shows the depths of bitterness felt by those dispossessed by the revolution, and that from a coterie that profited handsomely from the privilege that kept so many Cubans in poverty. It infuriates many that Castro delivered Cuba into the Soviet Bloc, but was it not the refusal of the US to back any meaningful change that forced the Cuban revolutionaries to seek economic aid elsewhere?

One has to wonder what might have become of Cuba had there been some accommodation on the part of the US administration,, but Eisenhower and Dulles would seem unlikely candidates for cozying up to anything that looked like social progress, especially given the tense nature of relations between the US and the USSR, along with the rabid Red Scare tactics of official Washington and the general my-country-right-or-wrong attitude of the general populace.

One of the real ironies emerging from the aftermath of Castro’s death is the heat JT is taking for not condemning the man outright, when, in fact, Trudeau The Lesser is striving furiously to establish his credibility as a Free Trader and Privatizer, meaning that any dealings with a post-revolutionary Cuba would likely mirror our tarnished and tawdry dealings with Haiti, but you won’t get to read about that unless you search out the work of Yves Engler and others who’ve made it a point to document how nasty we’ve been to our Caribbean neighbours.

 

Oh, and here’s a little ditty that comes to mind whenever I find myself contemplating the dawn of the Trump era:

 

Role Models

An example to us all

An example to us all

I discovered Clay Bennet’s work around the time we saw the advent of George W. Bush in the Oval Office and have followed him ever since. When his gig at the Christian Science Monitor evaporated, he eventually resurfaced at the Chattanooga Times Free Press which has persisted in supporting his cartooning habit despite a fair level of vitriol in the comments section.

The Trump reference is telling, but no moreso than in the case of other leaders, and in my own mind, our own Christy Clark is top of the list. The example she sets for the people of her province and for all those who have to engage with us puts her squarely into Hillary Clinton’s basket of deplorable (a location Hillary should know well). With the old Biblical injunction about the casting of stones being the privilege of those without sin, it’s a wonder that Christy Clark gets to say anything at all. Shame on her for putting up this sterling example of general malfeasance and mendacity, and shame on us for putting up with this performance  and those of the rest of the gang at the Rockpile on Bellevue. We can only speculate as to whether we will come to our senses in time to undo the deep damages of the last fifteen years.

 

 

 

The Right Message

http://mackaycartoons.net

http://mackaycartoons.net

There is much in this cartoon from Graeme Mackay about how politics is practised in most jurisdictions with much room for commentary on how we should govern ourselves, what with politics having pretty much divorced itself from governance. The context for the cartoon could very well be explained in the blog post I read this morning from the Disaffected Liberal:

1.5 C by 2030. 2.0 C by 2050. Let’s Go Out and Get an Electric Car

 

I know people in our local community who’ve been working on the whole climate change file for a couple of decades already, and have made little in the way of inroads into the general consciousness. The sad fact is that even some of the staunchest proponents of reduction of atmospheric greenhouse gasses are still living a life that produces a healthy dose of said gasses, and no end in sight. In part, this could be attributed to the possibility of a complete loss of credibility in the eyes of Everyman in appearing to be too far out on the fringe, but I also suspect that some of it is just personal and societal inertia.

The Disaffected Lib’s words are important in that they are a warning and a reinforcement of the warnings of Bill McKibben, James Lovelace, James Hansen and the like that a crash is on the way, that we’re making the consequences worse as we fritter away time in political squabbles within an obsolete framework and shirk responsibility or just delay as we wait for the other guy to go first, or for some leader to step up and move the process forward with the expeditiousness appropriate to the situation.

This thought follows on the heels of a conversation I had with a certain local councillor that was more an exploration than a dialectic about the rôle that elected officials ought to play in society, a rôle that has a couple of channels. The first is to to get educated, and then to educate. Our adversarial system often leads officials  to work from a pre-set party platform, often the result of being beholden to a certain group of people in society, sometimes motivated by attempting to right the wrongs of previous groups of the elected, and, facts be damned, to work inside that administrative bubble that allows us to carry on with a dynamic balance that brooks no accounting for crises on the horizon, however close in that horizon might be.

Living as if there were no tomorrow, we are converting a carefree metaphor into a self-fulfilling prophecy.  
—John Whiting
Our own Christy Clark is a perfect example of an elected official who runs her show according to predetermined guidelines as set by her Liberal Party donor list and who wilfully ignores the evidence that cries out that her whole program is not only creating hardship for the majority of her constituents but is also hastening the onset of catastrophe, this in aid of keeping her in the limelight for another term. My sense is that she is at least somewhat aware of the hazardous path on which she has set her administration but that she is unwilling to acknowledge or act upon what she knows, indicating that her need to educate herself is more in the affective domain, in her need to develop empathy and a sense of general justice, than it is in factual scientific learning. Rachel Notley is another who seems more focused on staying in the driver’s seat than on doing what it will take for us to make the needed contribution from our little corner of the world. A clearer vision would see her educating her electorate in the benefits of a shift both immediate and radical to renewable energy and pipelines be damned. Not happening: it’s a daunting task in any jurisdiction, an eminently steeper climb in bitumen-soaked Alberta, especially given the nature of the fossil fuel business and its propensity to concentrate both profit and power outside Alberta. I don’t know if Brad Wall needs to learn the sad facts of physics or whether he is another who wilfully shuns knowdge in pursuit of long-term political power, and Manitoba’s Brian Pallister has, to the best of my knowledge, kept his head down somewhat, but with his party affiliation, it would be easy to plunk him squarely in the Brad Wall camp. Wynne and Couillard have opted for cap and trade schemes, a good idea, perhaps, but easily gamed. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have a lot of skin in the petroleum game and are likely to be somewhat recalcitrant in coming to the table when it comes to climate disruption.
Sadly, even when there is the best of intentions on the part of those who govern to educate their constituents about the do-or-die circumstances in which we find ourselves, the electorate itself has proven to be resistant to stepping up to accept the new reality. We’ve allowed ourselves to take the path of least resistance, to be lulled into indifference by the press whose stories have, by and large, downplayed any sense of urgency with respect to climate action, and, apart some exceptions, we are either too busy trying to scratch out a living from our current economic mess or just too comfortable to make the effort to readjust our expectations and our willingness to be active participants in what looks to be a monumental and painful march to sanity.
We can all draw our own conclusions. However, possible future generations will not look kindly on the sort of mess we seem on course to leave to those who survive whatever period of readjustment befalls us.

The Wrong Message

screwed

 

News comes this evening that the Liberal Government in Ottawa has signed an approval for a natural gas pipeline with its terminus at Lelu Island. This project, the Pacific Northwest LNG pipeline, was ushered through with Petronas, the Malaysian state-owned oil company that has seen its share of controversy of late through a web of what look like rather dubious payments to the highest echelons of governance in that country.

Current prices for LNG would indicate that there is little chance of this project going ahead any time soon. There is a glut on the market and, as many others in pertinent blogs have pointed out, BC is really quite late to the game. However, even if this is a clever ploy, approving a project that has little chance of coming to fruition so that the government can more easily reject others, it still sends a message far removed from the visionary pronouncements by Catherine McKenna and Justin Trudeau at COP 21 in Paris and leads us to believe that Trudeau will be to the Paris Agreement what Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin were to Kyoto: all talk and no action.

The message is that Trudeau will play politics with energy and environmental concerns, frittering away valuable time when he could be investing in infrastructure for renewable energy and conservation initiatives that might be contributing factors to setting us on a path to long-term survival. As it is, the window of opportunity is closing and, were we to believe a consensus of serious heavyweight scientists, the calculations give us less time than we might have thought, meaning that the current attitude of our “leaders” in Ottawa aligns with the destructive lot that currently inhabit the Rockpile on Belleville Street and who find community of interest with troglodytes like Brad Wall and Rona Ambrose, who now quips that she thinks that Justin now needs to be a champion for this project that will be a primary economic driver for the country.

In addition, there is the lurking approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership which, if pushed through by Trudeau and his international trade minister Freeland, obviates the need to approve individual projects as it will bring us to a state where national and provincial governments will be largely rubber-stamp simulacrums of government and enablers for corporate profiteering at the expense of both labour and the environmen

Pretty sad stuff, all in all.

I couldn’t find a YouTube video of Stephen Bruton’s “The Clock”. Too bad, it’s a great ditty on fiddling while the planet burns.