Friday, February 12, 2016

Rex Pontificates - Trolls Proliferate

Rex Murphy, the CBC's purveyor of profound polemics, unleashed an attack on anyone concerned about climate change.

Trolls popped out of their holes in near-record numbers.

It was so much like a Republican convention.  And the "discussion" was just about as intelligent.

Reading through the comments to the article on Facebook (why, oh why do I bother?), the usual cogent points appeared, again and again.  Not a scintilla of sense, or facts.  "The climate is always changing", "it's -40C in Calgary today - what warming?", "it's not warming", "Arctic ice is expanding", "we produce so little CO2 in the grand scheme of things... How could it possibly affect the climate?", "30,000 scientists say it isn't happening".

What can one say in the face of such profound nonsense?  Maybe only this: Actually spend some time reading Skeptical Science.  If you have an open mind, you may find something useful.  Also consider that NASA might know more about the atmosphere than Rex Murphy.

This got me wondering, though.  Rex has done this before.

He got all serious about the niqab "debate" during the all-too-recent longest election campaign in Canadian history.  Remember that one?

He tried to calm fears about the evil Stephen Harper, in an article appearing in the National Post back in 2012.

He appeared on Strombo, trying to reassure us that Harper was "just an ordinary guy".

It goes on.  And on.  Rex retired from "Cross Country Checkup" last September.  He should retire from commentary as well.  Some things have a best before date and Rex has passed it already.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Behind Closed Doors - Taxing Taxpayers' Credibility

Behind Closed Doors.  How the Rich Won Control of Canada's Tax System... and Ended Up Richer.

by Linda McQuaig

This rather entertaining read was published almost 30 years ago.  Oddly, the situation hasn't changed very much, other than to continue the trend of allowing the rich to enhance their financial situation to the detriment of everyone else in the country and the hollowing out of the nation's fiscal resources and, consequently, it's ability to do what needs to be done to run the country.

Way back in 1988, this brief review appeared.

Not all were positive.  McQuaig obviously takes a quite ideological stand (according to some) on the need for fairness and equity in the tax system.  It could be argued that allowing the continued existence of a tax system that allows huge amounts to income to remain completely un-taxed is an ideological position, but there you are.  

A much more recent interview with Linda McQuaig makes it clear what her concerns are with the tax system.

And this analysis, from 2005, examines the data from a slightly more recent perspective.

Don't call it class warfare to demand better treatment of employment income and cuts to the generous perks handed out to the rich.  The class warfare has been going on for decades and the top 1 or 2% have been the main beneficiaries.

It may have been published nearly 30 years ago but it's well worth a read.

Monday, February 08, 2016

To Pipeline or Not to Pipeline

Coincident with the plunge in the price of crude oil (and commodities in general), has been an increasingly virulent debate over pipelines.

Supporters claim that pipelines are safer than rail for transporting crude oil.  Perhaps so, but is that the full extent of the argument?

Even if pipelines are better than rail, they aren't perfect, and more and more people are demanding something much closer to perfect when toxic substances are being shipped past their doors, under their soil or across their waterways.

Pipeline proponents wave the national unity flag and claim that Energy East would be able to supply all of Eastern Canada's energy needs so we wouldn't need to keep supporting that nasty Saudi regime, even though we seem quite happy selling them weapons.  The problem is.... Energy East would be for export, not domestic consumption.  And that's assuming, at the present price of crude, that it would make ANY economic sense to sell a product well below it's cost of production.

The elephant in the room is still climate change.  But we're still having this old argument being put forward that there isn't a scientific consensus.  It's the same old song and dance, even though the Science IS in.  So why are some people content to keep doing everything the way we've always done things?  Since climate change IS the world most pressing problem, why is anyone still listening to this same old nonsense?

What about a carbon tax?  What about alternative sources of energy?  What about increased efficiencies? What about a different discussion?

Speaking of BC's Carbon Tax.  Those on the side of doing nothing about climate change assert that it hasn't worked.  Ignore for a moment the fact that the tax hasn't been increased for years and needs to be much higher, consider this: Studies show that it IS working. 

As the article points out: 
"Yet Cross argues (without evidence) that it is “a fantasy” to think we can reduce fossil fuel use (and greenhouse gases) without harming the economy. This is a bizarre claim. Canadians know from everyday experience in their homes and businesses that there are many economically sensible ways to conserve energy and reduce fuel use – like switching to fluorescent light bulbs, or fuel efficient cars and furnaces.
If putting a price on carbon is such an economically bad idea, why is it being recommended by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the World Bank, and the CEOs of major oil companies?”
Other opponents point out that solar power (or wind, or geothermal, or whatever) has it's own carbon footprint.  Very true.  Nothing we can do, as humans on this planet, will be perfect.  Everything will have an impact at some level.  But let's consider that some forms of energy production are considerably better than others.  The Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology in the UK recently came out with this article, the "Carbon Footprint of Electricity Generation".   Of course some will look askance at such reports.  This is Canada, after all, and acknowledging science disappeared under the Harper regime.  So obviously, appeals to science-based decision-making wouldn't work here.

Or in the USA, where the Congressional Committee on Science is headed by a gentleman who uses snowballs in Congress to "prove" that climate change and global warming isn't happening.  

Despite the obvious fact that a decade of Harper failed to get any pipelines built, some Albertans rant constantly about how Trudeau isn't helping to get Alberta crude to market.  Now that Harper has been defeated, Michael Harris has turned his acerbic wit on the oilpatch supporters, taking a quote from the former, short-lived, Alberta premier, Jim Prentice.

There is talk of a revolution.  An overthrow of government....  A kudatah, no less.

And here we are.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Fixing Harper - Part 9 - The Conservatives as Soap Opera

It's like the CONservatives think nobody remembers last season - the last 10 seasons, for that matter.  But here it is.  The National Soap Opera on Parliament Hill.
Rick Mercer Calls On Tories To Cut The Harper-Era Amnesia Shtick
Rona Ambrose said that this session of Parliament would be better.  Less heckling and behaving like children.  That's not what's happening.

Tony wants the Liberals to"be more transparent".  $50M on gazebos, Tony?  Remember that?

The CONs in general are upset that pot isn't legal yet.  Remember how they claimed legalizing pot would usher in the end of the world?

And Jason can't stop acting like a racist, bigoted, jackass.  Not much has changed, obviously.  Certainly not for Jason....

So, here we are.


You'd think the CONservatives would take October 19, 2015 as a learning experience.  You'd be wrong about that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Those Advancing Years

By the time I awoke this morning, it had already arrived.

According to family legend, my quite pregnant mother was staying at her parents' place awaiting "the time".  There was a winter storm of sorts, her doctor happened to visit her at home (are you old enough to remember home visits?) and told her that it was time to get to the hospital.  So she was driven, in the doctor's jeep, to the hospital, the better part of an hour away.  I was born, around 6 am, in the hospital that later became a nurses' residence.

That happened 65 years ago.

So I've been contemplating all of this.  The arrival at the time of life where you are actually referred to as a "senior citizen" and not just an old fart.

I remember commenting a few years ago about some complaints by some much younger folk, so I dug it out to read again.  I don't think much has changed.  Certainly none of the things I mentioned in the original post have gone away.... and I was so hoping....

I know, it's just a number I've passed and it's just another name that I can be called and it's probably better than being called "jackass" or late for dinner, but there it is.

I now get discounts at the local store on certain days.  The provincial vehicle insurance system gives me a 25% discount.  There are breaks on property tax.  I start to receive government "pogey" in the form of CPP.  I can ski at some places for a reduced rate.  All very nice.  After all, I might need the money saved for prescription drugs....

I still have most of my hair, and I'm not just counting the fuzz on my face.  I have most of my own teeth (no false ones yet).  Most of the collection of body parts still work pretty well, at least most of the time.  I managed to stay well ahead of a much younger fellow on the return loop of the local ski trail earlier today.  Once I'm in condition, I can still climb the ski uptracks out in the backcountry at least as fast as everyone else.

So I guess I don't need to complain.  So I won't.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Fixing Harper - Part 8 - Conservatives Still Whining

Yes, the new government has been in power for a mere 3 months and a few days and to listen to the Conservatives, you'd think the sky was falling.  Of course, as they predicted.

Conservative supporters and former government ministers have been heard bleating about how "...friends of the Trudeau PMO go to the front of the line everywhere."  As Michael Harris responded: "Oh no...not patronage, not in the Federal Government!  How did all those Cons end up in the Senate?  The Stork?"

The "Rona and Tony show" are being ridiculed on other fronts as well.  Michael Harris is at his best, again, as he pillories the two former Harper acolytes over their reversals on the long-form census, science, pot, arms deals with the Saudis..... and on it goes.

Other editorials are starting to point out that actually, the Liberals are pretty much doing what they promised to do.  An op-ed in The Star put it this way
But Trudeau’s early days have not been the fiasco the Tories make out. There’s fresh energy and purpose in Ottawa. For the first time, the cabinet is gender-balanced. Relations with premiers, First Nations and cities are much better. The Liberals are bringing in more tax fairness, and more support for a greener economy. MPs and scientists are free to speak their minds again. Draconian security laws are being reviewed.
There's just no pleasing some people. 

Even on the issue of falling oil prices, articles are starting to appear that suggest, pretty clearly, that this might be an opportunity, even in the midst of a economic disaster for Alberta and the country.  Alberta's Clean Energy Shift is a Massive Economic Opportunity, comments an article in the Huffington Post.

There are obvious reasons why oil at $30/bbl (or lower) create some problems, and not just the budgetary and employment ones that everyone might think of.  This article takes a look at 10 problems that low oil prices create and the mismatch between oil supply and demand.

Meanwhile, employment related to solar power are exploding even while jobs related to the oil & gas industry are disappearing, as discussed in Fortune Magazine on-line.

Pointed barbs and nasty comments are flying back and forth over the possibility (or not) of the Energy East pipeline.  Quebec mayors say no.  Alberta's Wild Rose Party blames it all on the Alberta NDP government.  The ex-HarperCons do more arm-waving.  Alberta and Ontario's premiers seem to be on the same page.  People keep talking about the safety record of oil pipelines.

And Parliament gets back into session this week.

As Canadians, though, there is at least one thing that we can be thankful for, as summed up in this charming image: 

New friends. Former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Iowa State University on Tuesday. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Fixing Harper - Part 7 - The Checklist

It's just so refreshing to be able to talk about how some of the damage of the past 10 years is being reversed, where possible.

So, in the interests of keeping track, here is a list of some of the Harperisms that the new Liberal government might/could tackle.  Some have already been announced.

Undoing the Tories: A Complete Guide to All the Harperisms That the Liberals Might or Have Killed.

There is also this article from Abacus Data: "Promises, Promises: Which Liberal campaign promises do Canadians want the government to follow through on?"

Some readers might recall Allan Gregg.  He was a former Tory strategist and he recently offered some not-very-flattering opinions about what the Harper regime did during it's tenure.  You can read about his comments here.  In particular, he slammed the regime's attack on evidence-based research.

It will be a big job.