Wednesday, February 29, 2012

McGuinty-Redford Dollar-Tar Sands Dance

Wouldn't a lower Canadian dollar encourage both foreign investment in Canada and investment and saving by Canadians in Canada where purchasing power would be stronger than in a foreign market? And wouldn't it also make Canadian export goods, no matter which province is their source, more attractive to foreign buyers since they would have greater purchasing power given our lower dollar vis-a-vis   the U.S. dollar, the de facto reserve and trade currency of the world? And, finally, wouldn't a lower dollar also speed up paying down the deficit because the lower currency would wipe out part of the debt automatically because of its lower value? 

We do indeed have a petrol dollar albeit driven by foreign demand for our tar sands oil and the Harper Regime's desire to sell to absolutely anyone regardless of their moral or political values.  That dollar is only going to get higher as the price of oil continues to rise because of the slow but inevitable process of depletion and the increasing costs of extraction as we move more and more away of necessity from conventional sources of oil.  We have indeed reached Peak Oil  in the sense not of reserves but of a maximum point before decline begins its inevitable process. 

And why, if we had a moral conscience, would we want to make that significant Canadian contribution to the destruction of the planet the centre of the Canadian economy? Redford's appeal to Ontario is embarrassing. It's understandable from a naked capitalist point of view, of course, a perspective in which profit trumps both the environment and morality - the basic modus operandi of  the Harper Regime, her partner in environmental crime - but does that make it right? Only if you're a neo-liberal bent on increasing the wealth of the investor class, oil executives, and banksters at the expense of the rest of us.

Note: Brent Oil crude, which determines the price of gasoline in Canada, has risen 30% since last October reaching a high price of more than US $125.00. WTI oil prices have also risen by 42% to US $110 a barrel. Something's got to give. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weaver's Data is on #tarsands is Incomplete: It's not the Whole Picture

As I predicted, there was much hype this week about Andrew Weaver's research from the oil industry and some specious logic from a few suckered journalists who hopped on the story as a repudiation of exaggerated claims made by environmentalists about the tar sands. But, as Weaver himself points out (, his findings are not a get out of jail card for the tar sands, which still have the fastest growing emissions rate of any project in Canada. The emissions findings do not take into account a host of other factors in the enterprise that contribute to GHGs - among them the well documented extraordinary extraction energy outputs, the costs and intensity of which are only going to  increase as conventional energy continues on its inevitable depletion path,  and the energy outputs associated with trying to combat the negative effects of the environmental and social damage of the project over time -  which are considerable - not to mention the obvious energy refining outputs, energy distribution, and energy transportation costs. So if we were to add all these outputs up plus Weaver's finding, the total emissions output would certainly be significantly higher.  Weaver simply did not handle the media release about his research well.

Note"Bitumen, from which oil is produced, takes more energy per barrel to get at than conventional oil pumped from the ground. Because it needs more energy, bitumen-derived oil produces more greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming than conventional oil." The difference here is what the Harper Regime fails to recognize, wilfully or not. " ... that gap will widen as more steam-driven in-situ production comes on line, since in-situ uses more energy than open-face mining of bitumen." Jeffrey Simpson 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Moral Distinctions Matter in the Toews-Social Media Brouhaha

It's important to make a moral distinction between the actions of Vikileaks30 and Anonymous - the latter's actions clearly constituting an overt and hostile threat -  instead of lumping them together, as some eager journalists have, in sanctimonious indignation. The effect if not the intention of Vikileaks30's tweets was to remind Mr. Toews that whether scandalous, innocuous, or publicly verifiable, the revelation of personal information is disturbing if not downright hurtful. In effect, since you want to toews others, invade their privacy without proper oversight, this is what it's like to be toewed. Your privacy has been invaded without proper oversight. I have no moral problem with such a tactic given the context of Toews' morally repugnant assault on those who have every right to criticize C-30 as supporters of child pornographers - and I would even stretch that context to include his earlier remarks about "extremists," which were equally -  maybe more so  -morally repulsive. Many would consider both of these actions a form of sleaze. Threats like Anonymous's are another matter.

Vikileaks30's anonymity doesn't trouble me either, and indeed I find  some journalists' obsession with that factor alone puzzling, though I do see the  point of their code not to reveal anything untoward about a a given minister unless, in their judgement, it affects his performance in his ministerial duties. Still what if those revelations speak, as they do in the Toews case,  to a given minister's character? Of course they have to work with these ministers as journalists, so there is an automatic chill factor always at work, a restraint that simply doesn't apply outside the journalistic bubble. Is there something contradictory too about going to the wall to defend an anonymous source but bemoaning the anonymity of a tweeter?

And, with respect to the legitimacy of the Harper Regime reign, while it is true that under our current electoral system Harper & Co have legally gained power, that legitimate democratic power is everyday being undermined by what so many see as profound immoral behaviour.  Even the indignant journalists would agreed with that view to some extent. In this context, then, working outside the system, as Vikileaks30  has, acquires substantial moral authority. Just because indignant journalists want to play by the rules of  the current corrupt game doesn't oblige the rest of to do so.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Response to Toews' List Should be one of Absolute Outrage The response from both the media and politicos to Toews' list seems remarkably tepid to me.  Shouldn't an appropriate response be one of absolute outrage? I certainly consider this threat to progressives to be the most heinous, the most openly articulated, the widest assault yet perpetrated by the Harper Regime against those who would democratically exercise free speech and their rights to speak out against what has now clearly become a repressive regime: we're all positioned in these remarks as fundamentally terrorists, as "enemies of the state." Look closely at this text from Toews and tell me it isn't worrisome: vigilance will be exercised against "domestic extremism" - a euphemism for "domestic terrorism" - “based on grievances – real or perceived – revolving around the promotion of various causes such as animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anticapitalism.”  Who determines what extremism is? Why of course the state. And Toews thinks of course he's being rhetorically clever dropping in "white supremacy," and note the weasel phrase "real or perceived." Even if your grievance against, say, Gateway pipeline is only a "perceived", not a "real," one, you're still an enemy of the state. And who determines what is real or perceived? Why of course the state, but the difference doesn't matter: you're screwed either way. Members of the occupy movement better look out too since they would clearly appear to be enemies of the state in their anti-capitalist, anti-neoliberal protests. Someone might want to phone Pamela Anderson as well.

It's way too early to invoke Godwin's Law, so I'll just say instead that I don't care whether the buses run on time. This is pure, unadulterated fascism. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Gateway is Certainly in Sinopec's Interests. It is in No way in Canada's National Interests

Defenceless: Selling Our Sovereignty 

Glavin's been writing a series of articles on our retreat from even gesturing in the direction of national security interests in our trade and foreign investment dealings. We are sacrificing both our natural resources and sovereign power in the interests of what is clearly a neoliberal agenda: trade and short term profits at all costs even if it means handing the reins to China in the case of the tarsands and the Gateway pipeline.  

And to think OGL(Our Glorious Leader, one of John Doyle's terms for President Harper) is on his way there right now even as I write with the expressed purpose of selling us out completely while the rest us are forced to sit idly by while Canada burns. I suspect we're going to have to become much more radical during the next three years. It really is getting to the unbearable point.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Overlapping Agendas and Neoliberal Markers

This is a brief addendum to my last post

Of course five other  obvious neoliberal markers that precede the four mentioned in that post are TFSAs, proposed PRPPs - both of which serve the financialization of the economy, a major global neoliberal project -  a series of corporate tax cuts,  the proposed (perhaps expansionary) austerity measures soon to be implemented, and, among trade initiatives,  CETA in particular. 

But we should also remember that neoliberalism is not restricted to the Harperites, for the Liberals were every bit as neoliberal in their policies but, unlike the Harperites, mitigated them with government supported social programs. And, to be sure,  the Harperities' neoliberal agenda clearly overlaps their conservative agenda, which involves incremental change to foreign policy, foreign aid, and military initiatives, for example, in addition to rewriting not so subtly selected social programs that serve both agendas  - for example, charities and support for women's groups.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Most Commentators and Economists Say Threshold Change for OAS is Unnecessary

Surveying recent media coverage including economists referenced or interviewed, one will discover that a substantial majority of commentators argue that the age threshold for OAS does not require changing to maintain sustainable funding for the program despite swelling seniors' ranks and a decreasing Canadian population.  Neither the argument  that seniors are living longer now nor the claim that the age threshold should be raised because other countries have done it is carrying much weight with economists or thoughtful journalists. Even Jack Mintz, frequently referenced by the Harper Regime itself, says it's unnecessary. It's clear, then, that it's not good fiscal management that's driving this agenda item, but, as I've argued,  good old neoliberalism. 

Four recent markers we have witnessed along the road to Canada's incremental destruction: 1) proposed changes to streamline environmental assessment on pipelines and other projects, 2) changing immigration policy to favour those who can contribute more directly to the neoliberal project, 3) abandoning a leadership roll in Health Care, and now 4) re-engineering our pensions. What next?