31 October 2006

Here are the real people that don't give a crap about you or anything else

A Look at the Numbers: How the Rich Get Richer
By Clara Jeffery
May/June 2006 Issue

IN 1985, THE FORBES 400 were worth $221 billion combined. Today, they’re worth $1.13 trillion—more than the GDP of Canada.

THERE’VE BEEN FEW new additions to the Forbes 400. The median household income has also stagnated—at around $44,000.

AMONG THE FORBES 400 who gave to a 2004 presidential campaign, 72% gave to Bush.

IN 2005, there were 9 million American millionaires, a 62% increase since 2002.

IN 2005, 25.7 million Americans received food stamps, a 49% increase since 2000.

ONLY ESTATES worth more than $1.5 million are taxed. That’s less than 1% of all estates. Still, repealing the estate tax will cost the government at least $55 billion a year.

ONLY 3% OF STUDENTS at the top 146 colleges come from families in the bottom income quartile; only 10% come from the bottom half.

BUSH’S TAX CUTS GIVE a 2-child family earning $1 million an extra $86,722—or Harvard tuition, room, board, and an iMac G5 for both kids.

A 2-CHILD family earning $50,000 gets $2,050—or 1/5 the cost of public college for one kid.

THIS YEAR, Donald Trump will earn $1.5 million an hour to speak at Learning Annex seminars.

ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION, the federal minimum wage has fallen 42% since its peak in 1968.

IF THE $5.15 HOURLY minimum wage had risen at the same rate as CEO compensation since 1990, it would now stand at $23.03.

A MINIMUM WAGE employee who works 40 hours a week for 51 weeks a year goes home with $10,506 before taxes.

SUCH A WORKER would take 7,000 years to earn Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s yearly compensation.

ELLISON RECENTLY posed in Vanity Fair with his $300 million, 454-foot yacht, which he noted is “really only the size of a very large house.”

ONLY THE WEALTHIEST 20% of Americans spend more on entertainment than on health care.

THE $17,530 EARNED by the average Wal-Mart employee last year was $1,820 below the poverty line for a family of 4.

5 OF AMERICA’S 10 richest people are Wal-Mart heirs.

PUBLIC COMPANIES spend 10% of their earnings compensating their top 5 executives.

1,730 BOARD MEMBERS of the nation’s 1,000 leading companies sit on the boards of 4 or more other corporations—including half of Coca-Cola’s 14-person board.

THE BIDDER who won a round of golf with Tiger Woods for $30,100 at a 2004 Buick charity auction could deduct all but about $200.

TIGER MADE $87 million in 2005, all but $12 million from endorsements and appearance fees.

THE 5TH LEADING philanthropist last year was Boone Pickens, in part due to his $165 million gift to Oklahoma State University’s golf program.

WITHIN AN HOUR, OSU invested it in a hedge fund Pickens controls. Thanks to a Katrina relief provision, his “gift” was also 100% deductible.

LAST YEAR 250 COMPANIES gave top execs between $50,000 and $1 million worth of wholly personal flights on corporate jets.

THIS PERK is 66% more costly to companies whose CEO belongs to out-of-state golf clubs.

THE U.S. GOVERNMENT spends $500,000 on 8 security screeners who speed execs from a Wall Street helipad to American’s JFK terminal.

UNITED HAS CUT the pensions and salaries of most employees but promised 400 top executives 8% of the shares it expects to issue upon emerging from bankruptcy.

UNITED’S TOP 8 execs will also get a bonus of between 55% and 100% of their salaries.

IN 2002, “turnaround artist” Robert Miller dumped Bethlehem Steel’s pension obligation, allowing “vulture investor” Wilbur L. Ross to buy steel stock and sell it at a 1,000% profit.

IN 2005, DELPHI HIRED Miller for $4.5 million. After Ross said he might buy Delphi if its labor costs fell, Miller demanded wage cuts of up to 63% and dumped the pension obligation.

10 FORMER ENRON directors agreed to pay shareholders a $13 million settlement—which is 10% of what they made by dumping stock while lying about the company’s health.

POOR AMERICANS spend 1/4 of their income on residential energy costs.

EXXON’S 2005 PROFIT of $36.13 billion is more than the GDP of 2/3 of the world’s nations.

CEO PAY AMONG military contractors has tripled since 2001. For David Brooks, the CEO of bulletproof vest maker DHB, it’s risen 13,233%.

AT THE $10 MILLION bat mitzvah party Brooks threw his daughter last year, guests got $1,000 gift bags and listened to Aerosmith, Kenny G., Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, and 50 Cent—who reportedly sang, “Go shorty, it’s your bat mitzvah, we gonna party like it’s your bat mitzvah.”

FOR PERFORMING IN the Live 8 concerts to “make poverty history,” musicians each got gift bags worth up to $12,000.

OSCAR PERFORMERS and presenters collectively owe the IRS $1,250,000 on the gift bags they got at the 2006 Academy Awards ceremony.

A DOG FOOD COMPANY provided “pawdicures” and other spa treatments to pets of celebrities attending the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.

ONE OF MADONNA’S recent freebies: $10,000 mink and diamond-tipped false eyelashes.

PARIS HILTON, who charges clubs $200,000 to appear for 20 minutes, stiffed Elton John’s AIDS benefit the $2,500-per-plate fee she owed.

ACCORDING TO Radar magazine, Owen Wilson was paid $100,000 to attend a Mercedes-Benz-sponsored Hamptons polo match. When other guests tried to speak with him, he reportedly said, “That’s not my job.”

You want to know what's really wrong? These people and their proponents have convinced the rest of us that this is the type of personality we want to emulate. Even though it is impossible for the rest of us to achieve this unbelievable wealth and prestige, we are all borrowing from the future in order to try.

I love the references to gift bags here. Nothing makes me angrier about award shows and such. First of all, award shows are essentially self-gratification, no different than blowing smoke up your own ass, but then as a final indignity, the organizers give all of these ridiculously wealthy people a bunch of frivolous shit for free! It's disgusting, all of it.

...it seems like only certain people want to listen.

What the hell is wrong with the Conservatives, and the American politicians and media? This was a major story around the world yesterday, however it didn't even show up on the radar screen of American media. I honestly think Americans are convinced they are completely insulated from the effects of global climate change. More of those isolationist feelings, to be sure. They've believed that the entire world is against them and that everyone is wrong except for them. It is really disheartening to see this when you have doubts that humanity is smart enough to solve the biggest challenges our species has faced in thousands of years. It is further evidence that humans have neither the foresight or intelligence to be the rightful custodians of the planet. I'm ashamed to be human sometimes.

Blair calls for 'bold' action after stark climate change warning
Last Updated: Monday, October 30, 2006 | 12:56 PM ET
CBC News
Calling for "bold and decisive action," British Prime Minister Tony Blair has endorsed a new report that warns failure to act on climate change could trigger a worldwide economic slowdown along the same level as the Great Depression.

Written by former World Bank economist Sir Nicholas Stern at Blair's request, the 700-page report was released on Monday.

Speaking about the Stern review into climate change at the Royal Society in London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair called for bold and decisive action.
(CBC) "Our actions over the coming decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century," says the report.

Blair quickly endorsed the report, saying the consequences of ignoring climate change would be disastrous.

"And this disaster is not set to happen in some science fiction future many years ahead, but in our lifetime," he said.

The report warns that unless the issue of climate change is immediately addressed, global economic growth could shrink by 20 per cent and cost the world economy close to $7 trillion US.

The report suggests other effects could include:

200 million new refugees as people are displaced by severe flooding or droughts.
Water shortages for one in six people.
A spike in world temperatures of up to 5 C.
Melting glaciers that could lead to water shortages.
The extinction of 20 to 40 per cent of wildlife species.
The international community must spend one per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) to address the issue of climate change within 10 to 15 years, said Stern.

"Action is urgent since stocks of greenhouse gases are rapidly approaching dangerous levels," said the report.

Many environmentalists believe capping greenhouse gas emissions is key to tackling climate change.

Among the measures Stern advises are stabilizing greenhouse gas levels by decarbonizing the power sector by as much as 70 per cent through new energy sources, eliminating deforestation and cutting transportation emissions, especially from aircraft.

Stephen Smith, an economic professor at University College London, said the report is a "solid review of the range of things that could happen" if climate change is left unchecked.

"I think it's a very serious and … thoroughly argued report with … very detailed and serious evidence," said Smith. "I think it will have a big impact on thinking in Europe and elsewhere."

The report is expected to increase pressure on the Bush administration — which never approved the Kyoto Protocol climate change accord — to step up its efforts to fight global warming. Washington says it can't buy into a deal that hasn't been signed by two of the world's biggest polluters, India and China.

Kyoto targets call for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 5.2 per cent from 1990 levels by 2012. Canada agreed to a slightly higher target of six per cent, a goal the federal government says it can't reach.

Blair, who will leave office within a year, called for "bold and decisive action" on the issue.

"The Stern review has done a crucial job. It has demolished the last remaining argument for inaction in the face of climate change," said Blair.

"We know now urgent action will prevent catastrophe and investment in preventing it now will pay us back many times."

Blair called for Europe to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 and 60 per cent by 2050. The British government is considering new "green taxes" on cheap airline flights, fuel and high-emission vehicles.

Blair also said his government has enlisted the support of former U.S. vice-president Al Gore to promote the issue in North America. Gore recently produced An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary on climate change.

The report comes days before United Nations talks on climate change in Nairobi on Nov. 6, which are aimed at finding a successor to Kyoto.

I am impressed that Tony Blair - despite all of his bad decisions - and the British people have taken the initiative on this and are forerunners in meeting their Kyoto obligations. Quite a bit different take on things than the American and Canadian governments. Wow - the appearance of attempting to make an effort. Amazing.

UK calls for bold environmental reforms

Raising the stakes in the global-warming dispute with the US and China, Britain called yesterday for “bold and decisive action” to cut carbon emissions after issuing a sweeping report warning that the Earth faces a calamity unless something is done urgently. The British government also hired former US vp Al Gore, who has emerged as a powerful environmental spokesman, to advise it on climate change - a clear indication of Prime Minister Tony Blair's growing dissatisfaction with US environmental policy. The 700-page report argues that environmentalism and economic growth can go hand in hand in the battle against global warming. Prepared by Sir Nicholas Stern, a senior government economist, it represents a huge contrast to the US government's policies.

On a local level, Richmond upon Thames, one of the prettiest and greenest of London's boroughs has a less honourable distinction: It is one of London's highest carbon-emitting areas. Town authorities blame the long rows of gleaming SUVs parallel-parked in front of nearly every house. In the first scheme of its kind in Britain, municipal leaders have announced plans for what is effectively a carbon tax on residents who drive gas-guzzling vehicles by charging them hefty prices to park outside their own homes. Someone who used to pay about $200 for a single car now faces fees up to $620 a year, while those who own a second high-emissions car would pay a total of $1,500 annually. Serge Lourie, leader of the Richmond upon Thames Council, said the plans are designed to encourage people to buy fuel-efficient cars, which won't be charged as much. “What we're hoping is it will make people think seriously about what they are driving,” Mr. Lourie said. “When they come to renew their permits, hopefully they will think about how much it costs and they will move to more efficient cars which burn less.”
(Globe and Mail 061031)

...and the smugness of some Canadian groups is appalling. They think Canada is pulling its weight because our carbon emissions are negative according to the Kyoto protocol's accounting? The only reason we appear to have a negative environmental burden in Canada is because we're sparsely populated on a huge landmass with a plethora of natural resources. It's not because we are more conservative in our energy use or consumption than any other developed nation -- it's only because of a 'natural accident' that we are in this situation. Americans surpassed us on consumption of energy per capita only a few years ago - probably around the time Hummers became the new soccer-mom vehicle. This smug attitude is embarrassing and destructive.

WWF report wrong about Canada's 'print'

Opinion -- Canada is one of the worst environmental nations of the world. And also one of the best. Those are among the mixed messages that can be taken from last week's report from the World Wildlife Fund. According to the Living Planet Report 2006, Canadians' per capita ecological footprint is the fourth-highest in the world. The document states that the planet's resources are being used faster than they can be renewed -- by about 25%. One of the predominant features of the report (and the WWF press release) is a list of worst-offender countries ranked by size of their per capita ecological footprints. Seven of the top 10 are Western nations: the US, Finland, Canada, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand and Norway. (The others are the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Estonia.) This list easily confirms the prevailing world view of the international environmental intelligentsia that the world's environmental problems are the fault of Western industrialized countries, each of which owes a debt to developing nations. This idea has found its way into a multitude of international programs and instruments (including the Kyoto Protocol, which places the initial burden of reducing greenhouse gases solely upon the shoulders of the developed world), and has become so well-established that it is now accepted as self-evident.

But it isn't true. On a careful reading of the report, Canada is one of a minority of countries that lives within its biological capacity. In fact, the same can be said for six of the seven Western nations in the list above (the US is the exception). In other words, even given the large amount of environmental resources consumed by each of their citizens, the total ecological load in these countries is still smaller than what their natural resources are able to provide. These are not the nations imposing massive environmental externalities on the rest of the world. The US is in ecological deficit, but so are China, India and the oil-producing countries of the Middle East. These nations create significant environmental burdens upon the globe because their impacts exceed the capacity of their own ecosystems.

Canada's membership in the club of ecological "creditors" should not be misconstrued as having achieved a good environmental record. Canada's environmental laws are incomplete, poorly enforced, provide an extraordinary degree of political discretion and subject the Canadian population to a multitude of hazards. The country conserves its resources poorly and subsidizes environmentally detrimental industries. It is in ecological credit not because of superior environmental governance or resource management skills, but because it has a small population in a large, resource-rich territory. That's an accident of history. But Canada and these other developed countries are not the main culprits for global environmental problems. The findings described in the WWF report should lead to the conclusion that the conflict between ecosystem capacity and human civilization is a profound and vexing problem that requires imagination and principled thinking. The international blame game does not help with this task -- especially when it's wrong.
(National Post 061031)

27 October 2006

Mwah haw haw haw! Halloween's here!

Thank gob another week has gone by. I am pretty disengaged at work these days so getting through the week feels like torture. I'm pretty sure I am ready for a change in role, whether it be at my current company or somewhere new. I just can't figure out where I want to go next. I think I could find a new analyst position somewhere interesting, but then I realize that the problem may not lie in where I work rather than the fact I am disenfranchised with the corporate world as a whole. When I consider that, the questioning really starts. What would I do instead? Start following something that I've dreamed of doing? Nothing really ends up being how you imagine. Then comes the restrictions of previous investment. I've spent a lot of money, effort, and time getting to the place I am today, and with my resume showing five years of IT experience, it would be pretty difficult to just up and leave the whole industry. I don't know what to do. I've been trying to figure it out for half a year now, but I still haven't come any closer to a definitive answer.

I had a Synergy Exec meeting tonight in preparation for the AGM on Thursday. I have a bit of work to do at the beginning of the week to prepare for that. I also attended a Frontrunners meeting last night to get updates on the status of our planning for the running events at Easter for Outgames. Things are progressing - slowly. There are still a lot of outstanding things we need definition on from the Outgames organizing committee as far as sponsorships, funding, registration go, but we've got the routes hammered out as well as our initial planning budgets. I've been trying to contact a few companies that could provide timing and equipment for estimates, so hopefully that will be a bit more defined in the coming week.

At any rate, the chance to unwind for a few days is finally here. No plans for tonight except to watch the season premiere of South Park, but tomorrow is busy with running in the morning, attending the Knobby Gobbler cross race at Shaganappi Park in the afternoon, then onto Tim's 40th b-day party (which is Star Trek-themed since the show turns 40 this year too), and finally to Doug's place for the annual Halloween blowout. It's gonna be a long day, but I'm planning to sleep all day on Sunday since the weather is supposed to be turning to shit tomorrow night and there will be absolutely nothing else to do. Hopefully I'll remember to take lots of pics to post early next week.

Then it's Monday again, and back to the grind. BOO...

Have a fun Halloween, everyone!

And I repeat (the same as last year):

If you need any inspiration not to eat too much candy or drink too many candy liqueurs.

And once the candy is burned off post-Hallowe'en:

You're back to your normal tight-assed self!


26 October 2006

The irony runs fat...

Heavier drivers seen using more gasoline
Study concludes costs will become 'more significant' as obesity increases.
October 26 2006: 1:08 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The widening waistlines of Americans have increased the consumption of gasoline since 1960 according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Virginia Commonwealth University.

A report by Laura A. McLay of VCU, concludes that Americans now pump 938 million gallons of fuel more on a yearly basis than they were in 1960 because of their increasing weight.

As American's waistlines continue to grow, so does their consumption of gasoline.

"Although the amount of fuel consumed as a result of the rising prevalence of obesity is small compared to the increase in the amount of fuel consumed stemming from other factors such as increased car reliance and an increase in the number of drivers," the report stated, "it still represents a large amount of fuel, and will become even more significant as the rate of obesity increases."

Americans' reliance on cars for private transportation has increased as low rise construction, single-family homes and highways associated with suburbs have grown since the end of World War II.

McLay began the study as a doctoral student of Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science and director of the simulation and optimization laboratory at Illinois.

The report's conclusions are drawn from mathematical computations of weight gain applied to passenger vehicles, including cars and light trucks driven for non-commercial reasons.

The study ruled out increased cargo weight or poor performance through lowered maintenance of cars as contributors to increased consumption. The report will be published in a forthcoming issue of The Engineering Economist.

In spite of a recent dip in gas prices, oil companies such as BP, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil have enjoyed rising profits, based in part on Americans' dependence on their product.

Pretty obvious, but I'm sure no one has quantified the actual number before.

25 October 2006

Good for us, Canuckleheads

Canada among worst resource abusers

The world's natural ecosystems are being degraded at a rate unprecedented in human history, and it's the First World behemoths doing most of the damage, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The conservation group said in an international report yesterday that if current global consumption plans continue, the world will need two planets worth of natural resources every year by 2050. The group has studied each country's impact on the environment, as well as changes in the world's biodiversity. Both parts of the report deliver bad news. Despite having enough natural resources to be an “ecological debtor,” Canada came fourth on the list of countries putting the heaviest burden on the environment. The only countries with a worse ecological footprint were the United Arab Emirates, the US and Finland. The report states that impact on the planet has more than tripled since 1961, and society's footprint now exceeds the world's ability to regenerate by about 25%. Reliance on fossil fuels continues to grow, and climate-changing emissions now make up 48% of that global footprint. The carbon-dioxide footprint from the use of fossil fuels was the fastest growing component of world change, increasing more than ninefold from 1961 to 2003. Even with moderate projections of population, food and carbon dioxide impacts, the WWF says that humanity's resource demand will be double the Earth's capacity by 2050. The average per-capita environmental footprint is 2.2 global hectares per person, a hectare with average ability to produce resources and absorb waste. Canada averages 7.6 global hectares, while the US uses 9.6. One saving grace is Canada's vast wealth of resources. Thanks to its massive bio-capacity, the WWF says, Canada does have plenty up its sleeve, and unlike most countries, has a positive ecological deficit and puts very little stress on its freshwater systems.
(Globe and Mail 061025)


The world is becoming more fantastical and less realistic everyday. Look at the way things are interpreted at the highest levels of power. You'd think that their perceptions of things would be the most realistic of all, but even they fall into the clutches of fantasy more often than they should (or, if they know things that we don't know, play the ignorance card very well). It's very unnerving. Being greeted by the vanquished as liberators with showers of flowers (sounds more like Stockholm syndrome to me), or thinking that spewing CO2 from hundreds of millions of cars doesn't have some sort of negative consequences (sounds more like complete idiocy) come to mind.

The evil media relish in portrayals of fantasy. 'Reality TV' is the furthest thing from reality.

"You can be on TV and be a star"
"You too can have your 15 minutes of fame"
"If you get that facelift, you'll be just like Jennifer Aniston"
"Anyone can be a idol - fame and fortune are just an audition away"

Why do you think Las Vegas is the unofficial capital of America now? It's the pinnacle of fantasy - a fantasy world existing in a fantasy place, an oasis in the desert. Americans trust that they have a better chance of winning a lottery or a lawsuit that will bring them fame and fortune long before their leaders will bring them something better than they already have. Remember we're all entitled to fame and fortune. It's a way of life that's non-negotiable. If that option doesn't play out then there's no doubt that Gob will bring us the fantasy that we so deserve.

Fuck. I know that fantasy has its purposes - the real world can be a nasty place sometimes. But is pretending reality doesn't exist necessarily the best way to approach things? To me, denying that bad things don't happen, refusing to monitor and question things, and immersing yourself in a fluffy comfort zone could potentially be dangerous, even lethal if you deny thing as they really are for long enough.

This is poignant when applied to a personal level. Have you ever known someone that you held in a position of confidence because they appeared to be steadfast, only to find out later that the entire time you've known them, it's all been a cock and bull story and that they really aren't the person they told you they were? Everything you had believed was an illusion. It's a very vulnerable, frustrating feeling. Most people feel that they are good judges of character and this sort of situation really throws those social skill assumptions into question. The same goes with our coping mechanisms. I've been having a conversation with a few people as of late trying to determine whether people are honestly getting more insane as there are more people on the planet and we're getting crowded out and our problems are getting more complicated and dire, or if it is something that has always been there but as you get older, you simply see more of it. Are people's coping mechanisms simply failing them, or are there new obstacles people are facing in today's world that some people just don't have the coping mechanisms to deal with?

Maybe that partly explains the proliferation of fantasy on TV, in the media in general, and the explosion of video games and home entertainment. People are having an increasingly difficult time coping with the increasingly complicated world we live in, and trying to find any types of escape they can. People used to escape because the world outside their door was shit. People today escape because the world outside their door appears to be shit, but how can they be certain? One thing for sure is that the speed and complexity of everything is hitting a breaking point for many. It is becoming more and more difficult to determine what is real and what isn't. The media doesn't tell you the truth anymore (or they have lost their legitimacy - whichever is the case), neither do our leaders, celebrities, heroes, authorities. Everyone is feeding everyone else bullshit because they believe they have a sense of how things are really unfolding, yet most people really have no idea at all what's going on.

Either that or reality is becoming so bleak that denial is becoming the norm. Coincidentally, denial maintains the status quo, which with very little effort on 'their' part works out just fine for particular parties.

Here's a very interesting article from good ol' Mark Morford:

If We All Vanished Tomorrow
What would *really* happen if all humans disappeared? The Earth grins at the thought
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Friday, October 20, 2006

Of course you already know. Of course you can merely look out the window and see the traffic and the plastic and the smog and the bad haircuts and the war and the Paris Hilton and the Bush and say, well duh.
But imagine the result anyway. Imagine for a moment that every human on the face of the planet was suddenly whisked away to the divine gurgling ether in one big blast of cheery Armageddon nothingness, all the Bible-waving True Believers carted off to a giant sex-free harp-filled cosmic Wal-Mart while the rest of us leap to the next luminous transformational echelon of timespacelove.

What would happen, really? How would the planet respond if all bipeds disappeared tomorrow?

You can probably guess. Almost immediately, the planet would shudder, shift, align itself anew. Immediately, all endangered species would begin to recover. Light pollution (that is, pollution caused by industrial light) would soon vanish, followed by a great reduction in air pollution, methane gasses, chemicals in fresh water. Soon, all bridges and dams would collapse, roads would become overgrown, buildings would decay, corals would regenerate, most organic landfill would decay and vanish. And that's just the beginning.

In other words, as the fascinating/depressing cover story in the recent issue of New Scientist points out (along with this nifty graphic from the Times U.K.), the Earth would quickly begin to recover mightily from the deep disease that is human existence. What's more, the planet would, by every estimate, quickly become a whole lot healthier, more balanced, back in harmony with itself.

Translation: We have wreaked just a horrific amount of damage and done just about exactly zero good for the place while we've been here. It is, obviously, not the most heartwarming thing to accept.

Perhaps the good news is, with the exception of some nuclear remains, were our species to vanish entirely, most traces of man's existence would wink out within about 50,000 years, and almost all traces within 200,000. Not bad at all, considering the extent of our damage. Pretty much a blip on the geologic timescale, really. Don't you feel better?

Humans are the single most dominant and destructive species in planetary history. But sentient man has been around for what, a million years? The Earth has been here for roughly 4.5 billion. No matter how you slice it, the Earth still sees us as just another fly in its bedroom. A particularly obnoxious one, no doubt, but still a fly. Isn't that reassuring?

There are two ways to react to such a viewpoint: One is to say oh my God what the hell is wrong with us and just look at how much damage we've wrought and the pain we've inflicted, look how much better off the place is when we're out of the picture and what can we do to make less of a violent impact and improve our karmic outlook while we're here because oh my God this can not be good.

Option 2 is to ask: Who the hell cares? If all our remains vanish in a couple of hundred thousand years, does it really matter how much damage we inflict? After all, there's no way to say whether or not the planet really gives a damn one way or the other about our species, given how our entire existence has taken up but a flutter of an eyeblink of time anyway. Hell, we could nuke the whole place tomorrow and the planet would merely shudder and shrug and pause for a few million years and start all over. Right?

How do we really measure our impact? Soulless GOP warmongering oil execs see this planet as merely one giant oil well to be sucked dry. Millions of humans, if they think of it at all, merely view the Earth as a giant sandbox, a mute playground to be trammeled and paved over and drilled into and burned through and sliced up like so much ecological pie until it's all gone and we're forced back into the caves to beat each other with clubs over the last scraps of beef jerky and nuclear Twinkies. I mean, who cares?

I have friends who don't exercise. I know plenty of people who still smoke and drink a ton of beer and get stoned frequently and eat gallons of processed foods and watch TV like it was pixilated cake and the last time they truly got their hearts pumping was when they had to walk five blocks from their house to the sushi joint because their car broke down.

They just laugh. What's the point of eating right and exercising? they say. Why the hell spend all that money on yoga and gyms and vitamins and try to take excessive care of the body when we're all just gonna break down and die anyway? What's the point? Just to live a little longer? Who wants to live to 90 anyway? Why not enjoy life's vices now and let the body wallow and slump? This is what they say.

It is the cutest viewpoint, like, ever. The initial reply is almost too obvious to explain: The point of a healthy lifestyle is not to live longer. It is to live better, right now, in the moment, to breathe deeper and dream more lucidly and step lighter and orgasm stronger and be able to touch your toes and touch your lover's toes and try, just try, to evolve, just a little, while we're here, in fits and spurts and groans and via healthy snifters of Oban 14 and lots of tongue kissing in the street.

It's about paying attention. It's about tuning in. It's about respecting the physical so as to connect more profoundly with the spiritual so as to try and hone the interdimensional so as to prepare, somehow, maybe, if this is at all possible and many, many gurus and healers and mystics and wise ones truly believe it is, for some sort of massive cosmological transformative goobleslamdinglewhap. Hey, it's your choice.

Maybe the planet is no different. Maybe we should take care of it because it makes our lives better and our orgasms stronger and the trees look at us without cringing and begging for a divorce. You think?

We take care of it because it's the vessel. It's the womb. It's our collective body and it's the place that holds us and feeds us and plays with us in the park while at least some of us try to prepare to get sucked back up into the grand Mystery to see what the hell happens next.

But truly, the Earth may not really care. If we abuse her to death, she might merely shake us off like a bad rash, a nasty head cold, a giant whining bipedal kidney stone. After all, despite all our bitching and stomping, we really ain't all that.

But your soul. Your soul cares. But you knew that already. Right?

24 October 2006


“An excess of anything in life promotes wastage until its decline becomes evident and irreversible"


"The longer an event fails to happen, the easier it is to assume it is not (while odds of occurrence rise)"

(Silar Marner)

Insanity = “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.

Efficiency is key - for now

Coal-fired energy condemned

The government of British Columbia should rethink its support for coal-fired electricity generation and instead require all future additions to BC's energy supply to come from renewable sources, says a report to be released today by environmental groups. BC should set targets for lowering greenhouse gas emissions mirroring those already endorsed by municipal governments across Canada, says the report which was co-authored by Pollution Probe and the Pembina Institute. BC should also set targets for both energy efficiency and energy conservation through building design codes, and redesign the mandate of the BC Utilities Commission. The regulatory agency's mandate includes consideration of the social, environmental and health impacts of energy consumption along with the cost of electricity and natural gas delivery, says the report. The report argues that BC still has "significant untapped renewable energy resources and energy efficiency potential" that renders unnecessary the development of coal-fired generation and its attendant adverse impacts on air quality. Two coal-fired generation projects were recently listed by BC Hydro on a list of successful applicants in an open call for new private sector sources of power to contribute to the province's electricity grid. Pembina and Pollution Probe said in a prepared statement that the plants "will provide approximately 2,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity per year and will increase BC's greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production by almost 120%." In contrast, the report shows that BC Hydro has identified nearly 6,000 GWh/year in currently untapped potential energy efficiency that could be achieved by 2015 - almost three times the energy provided by the coal plants with no increase in emissions."
(Vancouver Sun 061024)

There is much room for improvement of efficiencies in our power generation systems as well as our transportation systems, from the old technologies like coal-fired power to wind turbines (I saw a report on TV yesterday that said wind turbines being manufactured today for wind farms are 30% more efficient than those built even 10 years ago). As well, infrastructure technology is much more efficient than that of 20 years ago, it's just that replacement of old systems takes so long to implement. The amount of untapped efficiencies in the archaic North American grid is amazing. If we could tap into all that potential and switch from AC to HVDC without even having to expand the current system, it would probably unleash huge amounts of power that has basically been wasted up to now as heat, friction, resistance, radiation, and/or transmission/conductor loss. And we wouldn't have to build a single new coal-fired generation plant. I don't think the government incentives are set up to improve old systems versus simply building new ones. Another thing that's wrong.

Sustainable transport: A glaring omission from Ottawa's "Green Plan"

On Saturday, Transport 2000 Canada, the advocacy group for sustainable public transportation, celebrated its 30th Anniversary at its board meeting in Regina, SK, and unanimously called on the Harper government to re-think its new "Green Plan". The board echoed criticisms by other organizations, citing a serious lack of practical measures to address pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions now. "Canada is lagging behind the rest of the world in adopting public transport measures to reduce emissions and greenhouse gases", said David Jeanes, president of Transport 2000 Canada. "We call on the government to take practical steps now to promote sustainable transportation. Setting goals to be achieved more than forty years in the future does not address the reality of global warming or the expectations of Canadians." The government must foster sustainable public transport by rail and bus to encourage a reduction in personal automobile use, one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases and urban smog. Urban transit, long-distance travel, and rural transport must all be part of the strategy. Tools to create a balanced transportation network could be available with sustainable funding for VIA Rail, retention and development of underutilized rail corridors, and investment in urban transit systems. Transport 2000's board calls for such policies as an urgent priority.
(Canada NewsWire 061023)

Passenger rail is another huge point of contention. North America's rail system is abysmal from decades of neglect and the entrenched idea that it isn't profitable. However, the other side of this is that we now have an overdependence on personal vehicles to move us from place to place, which albeit profitable for the governments and corporations they sleep with are not the best solutions from a social or environmental view. Which is more important? Giving the average Joe an additional safe, (relatively) environmental option for personal travel? Or keeping the inefficient, stupid car manufacturers of North America in business for the sake of providing employment for lots of people (and lots of cash for government coffers (or is the car industry really as beneficial to North American economics as claimed))? These guys have been pushing back on demands for increased efficiencies and environmental controls for decades. Instead they'd rather push out the new and inefficient - built for planned obsolescence so that consumers are forced to replace much sooner than they would have had the vehicles been built well in the first place.

I wonder when/if Calgary will ever get passenger rail service back again? I hate the airlines so much, and flying is so wasteful from a fuel perspective. If I had the option to take the train and it cost the same as flying, I'd definitely get on the iron road.

23 October 2006

My Own Private Existential Crisis

"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"

Mario Savio, Leader of the Student Anti-Vietnam War Movement Sproul Hall Steps, University of California, Berkeley, December 3, 1964

I can't take the machine anymore. It has control of all of us and all we do and all we consider 'normal'. If normal = reasonable, then anyone who claims what we do as a species as normal is in fact the furthest removed from it, IMHO. There's not much we do as a civilization anymore that makes rational, logical sense.

We're not free at all. We're all caught in a race to the bottom that isn't having the desired effects 'the powers that be' thought it would, or at least is having unintended consequences - good for the few in power, bad for the rest of us.

If we were all able to wake up from our consumption slumbers and see what harm the machine is doing to us, our relationships and our world, we'd very quickly demand change or incite it ourselves.

I'm ready to jump into the gear teeth to stop the fricking thing, are you? SABOTAGE, THY NAME IS REID!

Income Trusts and Rainy Day funds

Manley sounds alarm on rush to income trusts

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is growing increasingly concerned with Corporate Canada's love affair with income trusts, but is unwilling to move against the sector for fears of a political backlash, according to his predecessor, John Manley. Manley is one of a growing number of business leaders who fear Canada's competitive position is threatened by the shift to trusts, highlighted by the conversion plans of leading telecom companies Telus and BCE. Under the tax-efficient trust structure, most of the cash a company generated is handed out to shareholders. “The overriding concern here is does this move to trusts leave Canadian enterprises with the flexibility they need to compete? That's the problem, the lack of flexibility,” Manley said. To date, Flaherty has refrained from commenting on the government's plans for a trust sector that has grown from nothing a decade back to be worth $250-billion once BCE and Telus convert. Flaherty has said Ottawa is keeping an eye on the conversions, and that tax cuts on dividends contained in the last federal budget were meant to level the playing field between corporations and trusts. According to Manley the recent rash of conversions “is driving Flaherty nuts.” But Manley said Flaherty likely doesn't have political support from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to tackle the issue while still in a minority government, with an election always on the horizon.

Fears that business trusts are a wrong structure for the times are echoed throughout the Canadian business community. “These trusts misallocate the capital, the savings of Canadians, and that capital is the primary source of our economic growth,” said Peter Godsoe, the former chairman and ceo at Bank of Nova Scotia. While admitting he owns trusts, Godsoe said: “We are using a structure that the Americans looked at, and shut down. The Australians had trusts, they shut them down. The British looked at this, and decided not to allow it. What do we know that everyone else doesn't?” Godsoe and Manley, along with a great many Bay Street financiers who didn't want to go on the record because they make a living selling trusts, said wholesale adoption of the structure will, over the long-term, inflict damage on Canada's competitiveness. Manley said trusts make sense for real estate and mature oil fields but do not suit businesses such as phone companies. “What happens if you have a huge change in technology?” he asks, referring to the need to invest billions into networks. “Long term, this will cost us.” A trust, he said, implies that shareholders don't trust managers to manage their companies. Yet in the absence of changes in the tax act, more trust conversions seem inevitable, with pipelines and CPR touted as the next potential candidates for the switch.
(Globe and Mail 061023)

There you go again. Income Trusts bring out additional value to be distributed to shareholders, but at what cost? Nothing matters anymore but quarterly results. No one believes in civic responsibility whatsoever anymore. It's pathetic.

Can Alberta learn from Norway?

Friday's inflation data highlighted a problem that has engulfed Canada for the past year: Prices rose at a 0.7% pace on a national level, but in Alberta, where the global commodities boom has set the provincial economy on fire, inflation was up 3.7%. The disparity holds true for almost every economic statistic, as Alberta's fortunes surge while Central Canada and the East plod along listlessly, ground down by high energy prices, a strong dollar and now, a US slump. And since monetary policy looks to national levels of inflation, and doesn't take into account that Alberta's economy distorts national figures, interest rates have risen over the past year, mainly to quell the Alberta inflation fire. Now, there's a partial solution blowing in the wind - all the way from Norway. A consensus is forming among economic and political leaders that Alberta could learn from a successful and time-tested Norwegian fiscal policy of setting aside all its oil and gas revenue and investing it outside the country.

Norway has set up a special fund to stabilize the economy today and make sure oil revenue works for the country's future. Norway puts all of its oil and gas revenue, plus earnings from its state oil and gas interests, into the fund every year. All of the fund is invested outside the country in stocks and bonds, and interest earned in the fund is reinvested. Only 4% is made available for government spending. Norway's Petroleum Fund, worth more than US$250-billion, serves a dual purpose. By investing all government earnings from non-renewal natural resources, the government ensures an income flow for the country even after the earnings abate. And by removing the windfall from the country's books and economy, the fund imposes an immediate and strict fiscal discipline on budget makers and removes much of the inflation-fuelling heat that would result from the spending of such revenue. The result: Growth is strong and steady, not boom-and-bust, like a typical oil power. Inflation is very low, unlike in Alberta, and Norway's exchange rate does not rise and fall in tandem with oil prices, like Canada's. The fund is so huge that it could cover all of government spending for two years.

In theory, at least, Canada could use some results like that. Alberta's inflation rate has soared in recent months and has been well above the national average for more than a year. Inflation in most of the rest of the country is well under wraps, and is forecast to average only 0.9% in Ontario next year. The loonie has soared on Alberta's oil riches, driving down profits and cutting into employment in the manufacturing in Central Canada. And the country's economy has become so dependent on the spinoffs from oil and gas that many analysts wonder how it will cope when the prices inevitably fall. So now, leading Alberta politicians and think tanks are proposing Norway-style hybrids for the province. Several of the candidates to replace Ralph Klein as head of the Progressive Conservative Party support a savings plan of some kind. The perceived front runner, Jim Dinning, has been pushing the idea for years, and a proposal to legislate at least 30% of annual oil and gas revenue to the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund is a central plank in his campaign.
(Globe and Mail 061021,061023)

Doesn't this sound really, really smart? Like controlling your growth to reap benefits in the future? This concept is way over the heads of the yokels in power in Edmonton, which would rather have everything go full bore until the entire system runs out of steam and crashes and burns. Remember economic cycles, anyone? Oh right -- in the good times, the unalterable laws of economics get thrown out the window because they don't apply anymore, right?

20 October 2006

Nobody said it was going to be easy

Emission rules begin in 2010

The Canadian federal government released its long-awaited environment plan yesterday, pledging mandatory restrictions on smog levels by 2010 and a plan to cut greenhouse gases in half by 2050. The plan disappointed critics by failing to set immediate limits on large industrial polluters. Instead, it sets out a schedule that begins immediately and commits the government to a series of regulatory efforts it says would dramatically reduce pollution. It would begin within 12 months with tougher restrictions on pollution from motorcycles, recreational vehicles, watercraft and a range of other smog-producers. Ottawa would also begin planning mandatory restrictions on industrial polluters, to take effect in 2010, and set targets for greenhouse gas emissions to take effect between 2010 and 2015. The centrepiece of the Conservative plan is the Clean Air Act. The plan indicates specific caps and targets for industry will be determined through "detailed consultations" with the provinces, industry, native groups and others.

The lack of immediate restrictions and the new round of consultations angered environmentalists and opposition politicians, who say the plan is a delaying tactic. All three opposition parties said they would vote against the bill, casting doubt on whether it will ever become law. Even groups that applauded the elements dealing with air quality expressed disappointment that measures kick in only in 2010. Under the Tory plan, large emitters, such as oil and gas producers and power generators, would not face hard caps on carbon emissions until 2020. Instead, they would face targets based on "emissions intensity," which forces industry to lower emissions per unit produced, while allowing the total volume to rise in tandem with growing production. However, speaking at a convention in Niagara Falls, Prime Minister Harper offered a sweeping defence of the energy sector. Harper said the contributions of energy industries to the Canadian economy sustain the nation's high quality of life. "For international investors, the most important sector story I have to tell is energy," he told a packed convention hall. "Canada is an emerging energy superpower." With energy security an increasing preoccupation for countries all over the world, Alberta's oil sands, he said, are the "second-largest proven petroleum reserves on the planet." Without ever addressing the concerns of the critics of the environmental plan directly, Harper suggested that caps on energy production that could curtail oil and gas production would create hardship for Canadians. Business groups from various sectors applauded the legislation, even though it is light on detail.
(Globe and Mail, National Post 061020)

Avoid the tough questions, Stephen. You don't care and never wanted to do anything to address Kyoto. Your entire proposal is a bunch of hot air...lots of proposals to proclaim intention to study things further. You have done nothing to steward true change of economic processes in this country. 'We'll wait and see what works' = There's far too much profit at stake by questioning the actions of the status quo - if the Americans don't have to, we don't either. Bullshit. Get on the boat NOW, Harpoon! All this concern about hardship is going to be but a drop in the bucket of what the definition of hardship will be for our descendants as they traipse through the sand dunes looking for water.

19 October 2006

Can we pull it off, sweeties?

Patsy & Edina = Reid & Joe?

Absolutely nothing

...going on.

Last weekend was the annual Banff Ekiden Relay race. Frontrunners sported two teams this year. The weather was great and the winning times were very fast. I ended up doing Leg 5 again this year - Tunnel Mountain Long. It's a 12.4km route over Tunnel Mountain and back into the Banff townsite via Tunnel Mountain Road. This year I did it in the high 54:00 range - pretty slow. I looked at some of my previous times and five years ago, I did the route in 49:30 - I was running a lot back then (back in the triathlon days), and now five years later and focusing on the bike has lost me five minutes...sad.

Saturday night Doug and Ryan came over. We hung out until Raymond and Nick came by to pick us up and head to Twisted Element. It was Nick's birthday, but Joe and Doug wanted to leave pretty much as soon as we got there so we were home before freaking midnight...double sad.

This week has been pretty quiet. I've ran two nights this week - two loops of Edworthy trail. BK and I did 17km last night - amazingly I was feeling pretty good today. Reid and I met up for coffee yesterday and discussed doing some running together this winter. Since the Craig, Chris and I are committed to doing the Peak Power program again this winter on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday again , Reid and I planned out that we will run Mondays at lunch, and every other Friday. I'm still obligated to organize the Frontrunner Wednesday night run from Eau Claire all winter, and Saturdays will continue as usual. It looks to be another hectic off-season!

Jeff got back from San Francisco on Monday, so we chatted on the phone for quite a while last night catching up on things. I think a bunch of us are going to meet up for drinks at the Backlot tomorrow night. Doug and Darren are heading up to Edmonton for a change of scenery this weekend so it will probably be another quiet one. The following weekend is Halloween - Doug's party and Tim's big 4-0, so maybe that's a blessing! The gang is planning on heading back to SF for Pride in June 2007, but I think it might overlap with Nationals in Bromont. I hope not - it would be fun to go with (a combination of) Joe, Jeff, Doug, Kelly, Matt, Calvin, Curtis to SF in June! But it will be just as awesome to head to Montreal/Bromont for a week or two at the same time.

That seems so far away right now.

Joe finished his mid-term last week for Course 2 (Oil Production Accounting -- whee!)of his CAPPA certification and is writing the final next week. I hope it goes well and he can continue to pick up the pace. I think he's getting quite tired of the service industry and is ready to move to something that will pay him more closely to what he's actually worth. The guy's a whiz with numbers and has the memory of an elephant!

My dad's surgery went about as well as it could have and the test on his prostate and lymph nodes after the surgery showed no cancer cells outside the gland, so everything sounds very positive. I'm glad it's over. God this aging of the parents thing really sucks. Inevitable but shitty.

What else? Not much. I've got some Western Cup and Synergy meetings plus the ABA AGM coming up in the next few weeks. More paperwork, more action items. Keeps one out of trouble, I guess.

Halloween is going to be fun. Joe and I were originally planning on dressing as Patsy and Edina from Absolutely Fabulous (like, who could pull that better off than us?), but since we've slacked on the preparations, I doubt it's going to happen. I picked up a Spiderman suit costume on eBay for cheap in the summer that I'll have as a backup!

Tomorrow the work group are getting together for a farewell lunch for our manager Jeff. He's moved on to the Business Intelligence project that is starting up. His position hasn't been filled in the interim but Rod, the End User Application Support team lead, is filling his shoes indefinitely. Quite a few people in our department have jumped on the opportunity to telecommute so the office is sort of looking empty these days. The company is releasing the 19th and 20th floors of Gulf Canada Square (apparently they are making a LOT of money in the process), so they're really pushing the telecommuting thing to get people out of the office and squeezing everyone else into spots on the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th floors, which are the only ones fully or partially occupied by the company in the building anymore. Quite a difference from five years ago! I was hoping the party was going to turn into an afternoon of drinking, but it looks like we're going to be expected to return to the office in the afternoon. Boo-urns. I've been working on modifying XSLFO stylesheets this week for a new PDF generation product that the company wants to implement as a corporate-wide web service, and as you can tell by the description, an afternoon of drinking is much more preferable.

That's about it from here. Maybe if something less than absolutely nothing happens in the next few days, I'll freaking post about it. The Conservative 'Clean Air Act' that was introduced in Parliament yesterday has me pretty livid. Maybe I'll talk about that in a future post....no hard caps on greenhouse gases until 2020? Pul-lease. That's the definition of doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Who is fucking Rona Ambrose anyways? Do any of the Conservative ministers have any experience in any of their portfolios? What a bunch of goons.


Gang of goons - PM Stephen Harper, Environment Minister Rona Ambrose (both front), Health Minister Tony Clement (top left), Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon (centre) and Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn.

12 October 2006

An Open Letter to Rona Ambrose

Contributed by: Reverend Blair

October 6, 2006

My Dear Ms. Ambrose:

I just finished watching your appearance in front of the Environment Committee on CPAC, and have noted your meetings with oil and auto industry executives earlier this week. I felt compelled to write, since you seem to have little or no contact with real Canadians.

I was wondering if you plan on making your next career professional tap dancing or magic. I ask because the way you evaded giving actual answers to the Environment Committee could be described as either sleight of hand or tap dancing. What it could not be described as is open and accountable, or even the least bit responsible.

In fact, when I see a politician engage in subterfuge, double-speak, and evasion to the extent that you did during that short meeting, the only thing I can think of is that they are desperately trying to hide something. I actually wondered while viewing your performance if a committee could find its own minister in contempt, because your performance was certainly contemptible.

I realize that you don't like speaking or answering questions in front of the cameras. That is evidenced by your propensity for skipping out the back door during press conferences and your general recalcitrant attitude to both the press and those who seek answers from you on the floor of the House of Commons.

Hopefully you are just a little camera-shy, though, and will take the time to answer some questions from a concerned Canadian.

1. Why do you need a whole new act instead of working through CEPA? Professional after professional and expert after expert has said that CEPA contains the tools you need to clean up both air quality and meet our Kyoto goals.

A new act will take 5 years to put into place. Since our Kyoto goals are to be met by 2012, you will be leaving yourself, or more likely the Environment Minister from another party, only 1 year to reach those goals.

How can you criticize the Liberals for their inaction when all we know of your plan looks to be another half-decade of stalling tactics?

2. About your plan, or approach, or whatever you are calling it today. What is it? I really want to know. I also want to know how it differs from the plan you said you had when you were in opposition and the plan you said you had during the last election. Mostly I want to know how much it is going to cut GHG emissions by though, and by what date we will meet our original Kyoto goals.

3. Why do you keep trying to shift the conversation away from Kyoto and into clean air? My suspicion, having watched George Bush in action, is that you are going to concentrate on particulates as a way of avoiding taking substantive action on greenhouse gas emissions. I realize that your government does not like being compared to the corrupt and incompetent Bush regime, but I also realize that your party has spent a lot of time listening to their backroom boys tell you how to campaign and how to run a government. It wasn't that long ago that the man who taught the Republicans how to lie about global warming was up here giving your political brethren lessons, after all. The advice he gave the Republicans was to do what you appear to be doing right now...to muddy the waters and hope nobody notices.

4. Why is it that you have talked to oil and gas industry and the auto industry, but have not talked to Canadians? Not to put too fine a point on it, but most of us voters aren't really happy when our politicians engage in closed door meetings with executives and refuse to tell us exactly what was said. It carries the stench of corruption and elitism, something your government said it was going to change.

I realize that you ran some focus groups earlier in the year, but focus groups are not the same as the general public. Advertising executives know that and so should you.

It was rather comical that the party that doesn't believe in polls and had been saying they had a plan for two years needed to run focus groups before they could tell anybody what that plan was. Unfortunately, what Canada's environment does not need is more fodder for political humour.

5. When will regulation come in? 2010 is too late. It is, in fact, no better than what the Liberals gave us. They said that they'd use voluntary measures until 2010, then bring in regulation if necessary. You are doing the same.

You seem to be developing a habit of criticizing Liberal inaction while the only action you take is to adopt a few Liberal initiatives as your own. You did it with your five percent bio-fuel promise and you are doing it with regulation.

6. Unfortunately, you don't steal enough Liberal initiatives. My understanding is that you've screwed up carbon sequestration initiatives for farmers even worse then the Liberals did and that it is unlikely that a workable credit program will be available to farmers anytime soon. Of course that is only my understanding because there is no information available. You seem unwilling to share your plans with those directly affected by those plans. Why is that?

This is of particular concern to my friends and relatives in rural Saskatchewan and rural Manitoba who see carbon sequestration both as a way they can contribute to the environment and a possible way to add value to their farm businesses. Surely you understand the importance of this type of information to those who make a living farming.

You cancelled several other Liberal programs that were beginning to have a positive effect. I realize that the Liberals didn't accomplish much, but they did have some things that were working. You axed those around the same time you were hassling a climate scientist for writing a work of fiction in his spare time. You asked for bi-partisan cooperation when you met with the Environment Committee, but all indications are that your own actions on the environment have been based on nothing more than petty, ill-considered partisanship of the worst kind.

So the question is, since you have cancelled so many environment programs, what do you intend to replace them with and, more specifically, what are you going to do about carbon sequestration in the agricultural industry?

7. You have stated categorically that Canada will no longer contribute aid in the form of green technologies or money for green development in the developing world. You, more than a little dishonestly, quoted from a report on the World Bank when attempting to justify this bizarre and contradictory stance. The report had not been written about Kyoto in general or the green development plan within Kyoto specifically, but about the greater problem of tracking money in the developing world.

Providing green technology to the developing world is an integral part of meeting Canada's Kyoto goals. We get credit for it and real gains can be made in reducing GHG emissions. More than that, green energy technologies are often much more suitable in developing nations because they do not require the same ongoing supply and maintenance costs as diesel and gasoline generators do, for instance. The same can be said of farming practices designed to reduce GHGs or sequester carbon because those same practices reduce erosion and desertification. All of that while building the potential for tade and export in green technologies and you just tossed it out the window.

I realize that your friends at Exxon, Cargill, General Motors, and Monsanto prefer that we provide environmentally harmful technologies to the developing world in the name of corporate profits, but citing corrupt governments in the developing world as an excuse for the corrupting influence corporations have on governments in the developed world is hardly an improvement.

Will you rethink your misbegotten approach in this matter?

8. Your party has been against Kyoto since the very beginning. First you tried to deny the science, then you tried to deny the process of Kyoto, and now you are using the Liberals' poor performance as an excuse for what appears to be your own reluctance to act. Your connections to the oil industry are well known, as is that industry's propensity for funding purveyors of junk science that seek to misinform and confuse the debate on what to do about global warming. Tim Ball, scientific contrarian and global warming denier, is rumoured to be recruiting for your party in British Colombia. The University of Calgary, which Stephen Harper is so closely connected to, has been laundering money from the oil patch to fund The Friends of Science, a group that is neither a friend of science, nor truthful in its many shenanigans.

You say, Ms. Ambrose, that we cannot meet the Kyoto goals and must have new targets. Many in your party, both those that sit in the House and those that spin your partisan message in the press and on the internet, have said that Kyoto is everything from a communist wealth transfer scheme, to a plot by Maurice Strong to take over the world, to a Liberal attempt to reinstate the National Energy Program.

While I find these conspiracy theories from the climate change deniers entertaining, I find your position confusing. You have shown little or no dedication either to the protocol or to the science that shows global warming to be an increasingly urgent issue that will affect future generations. At the same time, you have aligned yourself with the charlatans and frauds who deny global warming, the Kyoto Protocol, and the scientific method. All that and yet you now claim to support Kyoto, but not the rather pedestrian goals that have been set for Canada?

Do you believe in climate change? Do you believe that climate change is anthropogenic? Do you understand the science behind climate change theory and are you willing to listen to expert opinion from scientists instead of meeting with corporate hacks who have a vested interest in seeing you do nothing? Do you understand Kyoto? Do you believe in the Kyoto Protocol? Are you capable of comprehending that once we ratified Kyoto, it became international law?

You have given no real answers to those question, Ms. Ambrose, and it is high time you did.

So, I think that's about it for now. Eight questions, give or take. I have many more, of course, but these are the ones that I am most curious about. I realize that you prefer to meet with men in suits who can provide corporate boardrooms and expensive snacks, but I'd like to invite you to come and answer these questions at my house, in person. I make the offer partly because I think that you've lost touch with average Canadians, as witnessed by your claim that smog is a higher priority for Canadians than climate change, but also because I want to see if you can look me in the eye and refuse to answer my questions the way you do with your colleagues in Parliament.

At any rate, let me know when you can swing by. I'll have some cold beer waiting, and maybe some kielbasa and crackers, and we can have a civilized chat where you answer the questions asked and provide reasons for those answers instead of empty rhetoric and evasions. You can bring whoever you want with you, and perhaps I'll invite a couple of friends. It'll be like a party.

If you are unwilling to meet with a real Canadian in person, perhaps because of my lack of corporate influence, I will be more than happy to receive your full answers via e-mail or regular mail.


Blair Korchinski.

11 October 2006

What we need are more thirsty monkeys

The freshwater boom is over. Our rivers are starting to run dry

We can avert global thirst - but it means cutting carbon emissions by 60%. Sounds ridiculous? Consider the alternative

George Monbiot
Tuesday October 10, 2006
The Guardian

It looks dull, almost impenetrable in places. But if its findings are verified, it could turn out to be the most important scientific report published so far this year. In this month's edition of the Journal of Hydrometeorology is a paper written by scientists at the Met Office, which predicts future patterns of rainfall and evaporation.
Those who dispute that climate change is taking place, such as Melanie Phillips of the Daily Mail, like to point out that that the predicted effects of global warming rely on computer models, rather than "observable facts". That's the problem with the future - you can't observe it. But to have any hope of working out what might happen, you need a framework of understanding. It's either this or the uninformed guesswork that Phillips seems to prefer.

The models can be tested by means of what climate scientists call backcasting - seeing whether or not they would have predicted changes that have already taken place. The global climate model used by the Met Office still needs to be refined. While it tracks past temperature changes pretty closely, it does not accurately backcast the drought patterns in every region. But it correctly reproduces the total global water trends over the past 50 years. When the same model is used to forecast the pattern over the 21st century, it uncovers "a net overall global drying trend" if greenhouse gas emissions are moderate or high. "On a global basis, drought events are slightly more frequent and of much longer duration by the second half of the 21st century relative to the present day." In these dry, stodgy phrases, we find an account of almost unimaginable future misery.
Many parts of the world, for reasons that have little to do with climate change, are already beginning to lose their water. In When the Rivers Run Dry, Fred Pearce, who is New Scientist's environment consultant, travels around the world trying to assess the state of our water resources. He finds that we survive today as a result of borrowing from the future.

The great famines predicted for the 1970s were averted by new varieties of rice, wheat and maize, whose development was known as the "green revolution". They produce tremendous yields, but require plenty of water. This has been provided by irrigation, much of which uses underground reserves. Unfortunately, many of them are being exploited much faster than they are being replenished. In India, for example, some 250 cubic kilometres (a cubic kilometre is a billion cubic metres or a trillion litres) are extracted for irrigation every year, of which about 150 are replaced by the rain. "Two hundred million people [are] facing a waterless future. The groundwater boom is turning to bust and, for some, the green revolution is over."

In China, 100 million people live on crops grown with underground water that is not being refilled: water tables are falling fast all over the north China plain. Many more rely on the Huang He (the Yellow river), which already appears to be drying up as a result of abstraction and, possibly, climate change. Around 90% of the crops in Pakistan are watered by irrigation from the Indus. Almost all the river's water is already diverted into the fields - it often fails now to reach the sea. The Ogallala aquifer that lies under the western and south-western United States, and which has fed much of the world, has fallen by 30 metres in many places. It now produces half as much water as it did in the 1970s.

All this was known before the new paper was published. While climate scientists have been predicting for some time that the wet parts of the world are likely to become wetter and the dry parts drier, they had assumed that overall rainfall would rise, as higher temperatures increase evaporation. At the same time - and for the same reason - soils could become drier. It was unclear what the net effects would be. But the new paper's "drought index" covers both rainfall and evaporation: overall, the world becomes drier.

Even this account - of rising demand and falling supply - does not tell the whole grim story. Roughly half the world's population lives within 60 kilometres of the coast. Eight of the 10 largest cities on earth have been built beside the sea. Many of them rely on underground lenses of fresh water, effectively floating, within the porous rocks, on salt water which has soaked into the land from the sea. As the fresh water is sucked out, the salt water rises and can start to contaminate the aquifer. This is already happening in hundreds of places. The worst case is the Gaza Strip, which relies entirely on underground water that is now almost undrinkable. As the sea level rises as a result of climate change, salt pollution in coastal regions is likely to accelerate.

As these two effects of climate change - global drying and rising salt pollution - run up against the growing demand for water, and as irrigation systems run dry or become contaminated, the possibility arises of a permanent global food deficit. Even with a net food surplus, 800 million people are malnourished. Nothing I could write would begin to describe what a world in deficit - carrying 9 billion people - would look like.

There are four possible means of adapting to this crisis. One is to abandon regions that are drying up and shift production to the wettest parts of the world - the Amazon and Congo basins, for example. But as these are generally the most forested places, this will lead to a great acceleration of climate change, and of the global drying it's likely to cause, as the carbon in the trees is turned to carbon dioxide. Another is to invest in desalination plants. But even the new desalination technologies produce expensive water, and they use a great deal of energy. Again this means more global warming.

Another is to shift water, on a massive scale, to the drying lands. But vast hydro-engineering projects have seldom succeeded in helping the poor. Giant dams and canals - like the Narmada system in India, the Three Gorges in China and Colonel Gadafy's "Great Man-Made River" - are constructed at stupendous cost. Then, when no further glory can be extracted by the government officials and companies who built them, the fiddly work of ensuring the water reaches the poor is forgotten, and the money is wasted. As Fred Pearce shows, perhaps the best method, which in the past has kept cities alive even in the Negev desert, is the small-scale capture of rainwater in ponds and tanks.

But to stand a high chance of averting this catastrophe, we must ensure that the drying doesn't happen. The predictions in the new paper refer to global warming in the middle or at the high end of the expected range. Beneath that point - 2C of warming or so - a great global drying is less likely to occur. As the figures I've published show, to keep the rise in temperature below this level requires a global cut in carbon emissions of 60% by 2030 - which means a 90% reduction in rich nations such as the United Kingdom. It sounds ridiculous . But then you consider the alternative.

· George Monbiot's book Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning is published by Penguin monbiot.com

Overpopulation is by far the most pervasive and potentially destructive problem facing humanity and the planet. It is the underlying issue that dictates all others. In a nice happy perfect democratic world, human life should be exalted, but in the real world (which is pretty much everywhere but the developed Western countries), life can be brutish, harsh, and not-so-nice. All of our institutions uphold the preservation of life at all costs which comes into direct conflict with the issues of overpopulation and all of the 'sub-problems' that derive from it (so many...where to begin?).

We would require a sea change in the attitudes of our most fundamental civil institutions fundamentally to steer us away from this looming crisis. Could you picture government, the Church, and/or the medical profession/industry starting to think that in some cases, maybe the culling of the herd is not only preferable, but even crucial to our long term survival as a species? Who gets to decide who gets to stay and who gets to go? What a fucked situation.

There could be as many reasons for arguing against the preservation of life as there are against it. These are ideas that have huge moral implications. But no one wants to have an open dialog about this and I think that is basically why there is so much foot-dragging about all of the other problems. We all intrinsically know what the source cause is, but we just want to deny that it is true. We will believe anyone that will say, "oh the carrying capacity is much greater than six billion", or "no problem - technology will eventually allow everyone to live comfortably". That's a big gamble to be riding on something as flimsy as hope. Denial is not a healthy or constructive attitude. I'm not sure what we should do. Where do we begin? The consequences of doing anything will be difficult, but to do nothing will be much, much, worse. Witness to something unlike anything ever seen before.

Do the ruling monkeys (in fact, all the monkeys within their locus of control) have the wherewithal to look beyond themselves, their own selfishness and pettiness, to a collective ideology where the common good outweighs the needs of the self? That it's only logical to live within the carrying capacity of the planet that sustains them? That taking more beyond that level means they are using up the inheritance of future generations for short-term selfish gain? That an economic model of continual growth is flawed in a finite world? That in order to have an advanced, post-industrial society they need to start thinking and acting like they deserve one?

I think we're already too late, Mother Earth Gaia is finally heaving in her death throes, overcome by a simian cancer. So as Marvin the Paranoid Android said:
"I told you this would all end up in tears".

WHO'S TO BLAME? The (second) favorite monkey pastime

Consumers to blame for botulism outbreak, juice maker says
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 | 11:01 AM ET
CBC News

A California company involved in the carrot juice botulism outbreak that has left six people in hospital, including two Toronto residents, is shifting responsibility onto some consumers for failing to ensure proper refrigeration.

Two Toronto residents remain in hospital in serious condition with paralysis. A Florida woman has been in hospital and unresponsive since mid-September. Three people in Georgia suffered respiratory failure and are on ventilators since drinking carrot juice a month ago.

"It appears that it was consumers that did not take the good counsel to keep the product refrigerated," Bolthouse Farms spokesman Tim Warner said in an interview with the Toronto Star on Tuesday. He was referring to the cases of botulism in the U.S., not those in Toronto.

"We have validated that our process of keeping our juice refrigerated through the distribution channel is a good one and of high quality."

But Alain Charette, a spokesman for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said it will be some time before officials can pinpoint what precisely caused the outbreak. He also noted that the toxin can spread when a product hasn't been stored at a proper temperature, but said it must have been present in the juice in the first place.

"We are investigating this along with Health Canada and the U.S. FDA," Charette told CBC.ca. "This could be a way that the toxin has developed but until we have a full picture, we won't point to one cause as the cause."

Discuss: How much culpability does a company have for its own products? The blaming process in this case could go on forever - the consumers blame the company, the company blames the consumers. If the consumers failed to follow the suggestions (are they only suggestions?) on the product's packaging (to refrigerate in this case), are they responsible, do they win a Darwin Award, or should the responsibility go to the company to ensure their product stays fresh enough long enough after going through the supply chain? At any rate, Earthbound Farms, with their E.coli and botulism are in a bit of trouble. That's too bad since I typically eat their produce and live under the mantra that 'shit happens'. It's very unfortunate that five or six people in a population of almost 350 million get sick, but christ - doesn't shit happen sometimes? This probably applies to everyone until it's their own shit that is happening.

I guess we're supposed to be inspiring to keep every fricking person alive on this planet at any cost - you know, the sanctity of life crap. Even though our population numbers began overshooting the carrying capacity of the planet back in the 1980s and now we're three times over the limit, according to some. But I digress...

10 October 2006

tryptophan and all that jazz

2300km. That's what I drove to get back to me roots in Manitoba over the Thanksgiving weekend. It was a great chance to visit with my dad who just got out of hospital and to hang with my family (and get to see a lot of people I haven't seen in a very long time) at my cousin's 40th birthday party.

And the food! I love going home. You get to eat SO MUCH good food! It was just a good weekend to get away and relax. I got some reading done and some thinking too...22 hours in a car by yourself gives you lots of time to think about lots of things - crazy things....I didn't figure anything out though!

Back to reality today. I had a dentist appointment this afternoon to get four teeth bonded. The time: 45 minutes (after waiting 15 in the waiting room). The cost: $450. That equates to $10 a minute, or 17 cents a second. Wow, am I ever in the wrong line of work.

Happy Thongsgiving

Fizzle fo shizzle me drizzle

Sizzle turns to fizzle as Alberta's growth cools

Alberta's super-boom is gearing down to cruising speed as the pullback in commodity prices reduces the torrid pace of economic growth. Oil prices have dropped below US$60 a barrel, and natural gas has fallen further than that. OPEC is worried enough to talk about cutting back production. In Alberta, particularly in Calgary, some of the sizzle is fizzling. The housing market is returning to more normal operations. Energy companies, especially those focused on natural gas production, are cutting spending. And the flood of migrants from other parts of Canada into Calgary is predicted to dwindle next year, falling by more than half from record levels this year, according to Calgary Economic Development. But the most telling sign of a return to merely good times is this: A year ago, Albertans were caught up in endless speculation about how large a cheque the government would be cutting in the rebate program that was quickly dubbed Ralphbucks; this year there are no Ralphbucks in Alberta. Instead, there is worry that the province's surplus, although still substantial, could fall below budget forecasts. According to Toronto-Dominion Bank chief economist Don Drummond, there is scant chance that Alberta's boom will turn into a bust. But he does predict a significant decline in the rate of economic growth, with the 6.8% expansion in Alberta this year dropping to just under 4% in 2007.Although that is a significant cooling for Alberta, in any other part of Canada such growth would mark a major economic boom. Alberta will expand at close to twice the national average next year, a far quicker pace than Ontario and Quebec, Drummond noted. A less incandescent Alberta economy should be seen as a welcome respite from the breakneck expansion of this year, he said. Next year, inflation pressures will ease and unemployment will rise slightly to 3.7% in Calgary, Calgary Economic Development predicted. Even with a lower level of migration from other provinces, the growth in the labour force will outpace job creation, it said.
(Globe and Mail 061006)

Nice to see sanity finally returning. It's been an exciting 12 months though!

03 October 2006

Holy shit!

Threatmeter.com (Company motto: "We profit from your fear") is hilarious! I grabbed this link from Zach's site. The look on the guys face is enough to buy the shirts.

Normally being low is sad and why we start drinking, but this low is good..... the low of a Terror free world. Will it ever happen? We don't know. Maybe the terrorists know. But not us.

We know to always use protection in having sex, but shouldn't we also use protection against Terror?????!! When America is guarded, shouldn't you be guarded too????? Now you can be. Don't wait!!

The Terrorists are plotting Terror. We don't know how, or when, or where, but we know theire plotting something, those rascals! Thank goodness The Government warns us, so we know when to be worried and when to not relax or take walks.

Holy Shit!!! Things are getting bad!!! Terror is rampant like a rhino running! Stop the rhino!!!!!!

This is no laughing matter. Terror has won if Severe is ever implemented. This is a day when the Government has to make speeches and not argue. Let's hope you never have to wear this shirt, but it's good to have anyway, for peace of mind.

Check out all the office products you can get to keep your place of work safe from terrorists.

02 October 2006

Pretty quiet

Low-key weekend -- I didn't do anything Friday night. I waited at home for Joe to get off of work since we had talked about going out for awhile for his birthday, however he decided to stay after work for a few drinks with co-workers. This didn't bother me at all. I went to bed and got up early to head up to the track for the last race of the season, Hammerfest. It was a beautiful day and quite a few people showed up, so that made things even better. I headed home in the mid-afternoon, had a nap. Joe and I got ready and headed out with Jeff and Lisa to Marowshka's party. We stayed there until midnight or so. Jeff drove us home and he and Lisa came up to the apartment where we had a few more drinks and more conversation.

Yesterday I didn't do anything. Did some chores around the house, watched movies, CBC Newsworld. Boring. Nice.

I'm heading to Manitoba on Friday, maybe even Thursday evening. It will be good to go and visit the family. Apparently Dad might be getting released from the hospital today. I know that he is anxious to get home as well, so hopefully things work out and he and Mom will be Grandview-bound today.