Friday, December 26, 2008

The Day After...

I on a walk to Oak Bay Village sadly noted that Santa had taken a turn for the worst. Upon stumbling down the stairs of an Oak Bay home after drinking one too many glasses of rum infused egg nog and crashing into a festively lighted tree, he met his demise by being electrocuted.

Hopefully everyone received what they wanted before this fatality occured.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Very Sad News

There will be no Nativity Scene in Ottawa!
The Supreme Court has ruled that there cannot be a Nativity Scene in Canada's capital this Christmas season. This isn't for any religious reason, they simply have not been able to find three wise men in the Nation's capitol.

P.S. There was no problem, however, finding enough asses to fill the stable.

The Day The Shoe Stood Still

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Finally someone gave Bush the boot!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

One Step--Just One--That Can Help Us Now

White roofs could lower global emissions

Changing the color of roofs and pavement worldwide could potentially offset nearly a year’s worth of global CO2 emissions, according to a study released this week at the Conference on Climate Change in Sacramento, Calif.

Painting a single 1,000 square-foot dark roof white would reduce carbon
emissions by 10 metric tons, according to Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory scientists Hashem Akbari and Surabi Menon and California
Energy Commissioner Art Rosenfeld. And changing the color of roofs and
pavement in 100 of the world’s largest cities could reduce global
emissions by 44 billion metric tons, the researchers said.

The world produced 49 billion metric tons of emissions in 2004, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"This simple and effective idea can organize the world into taking
measured steps to mitigate global warming,” Akbari said in a news
release. “Our findings will help city leaders and urban planners
quantify the amount of CO2 they can offset using white roofs and cool pavements.”

White roofs could cut energy use by buildings by 20 percent, the
researchers said. The equivalent energy reduction would save the U.S.
$1 billion a year in energy costs.

California has already adopted energy-efficient roofing standards. It
has mandated since 2005 that flat roofs on commercial buildings must be

In 2009, the state will expand the regulation to require
cool-colored roofs for flat and sloped roofs on residential and
commercial buildings, as well as retrofitted buildings. The state has
no similar regulations for the color of pavement.

And you can find the report here.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Keep Reading--It Just Gets Better

This is from the CBC:

A documentary that takes a critical look at the oilsands is raising a big stink at the Alberta legislature.

It turns out that Downstream, by U.S. documentary maker Leslie Iwerks, was funded in part by the provincial government.

That's prompted the government to take a closer look at how films get funded in Alberta.

Downstream features the story of Dr. John O'Connor, who
blew the whistle on the health effects of the oilsands on residents of
Fort Chipewyan, a town downstream from the project.

The film is on a shortlist of documentaries nominated for an Academy Award in 2009.

Like Passchendaele, which recreated Calgary during the First World War, and the steamy love story of gay cowboys, Brokeback Mountain, it got financing through the Alberta Film Development Fund.

All the films that are approved under the fund are signed off by Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett.

Blackett told CBC News he may have to rethink how he approves films for funding.

"Even though all the projects come to me for my final signature, you
get a couple of lines as to what that film is and … we're looking at
now how do I get more information about it because — oh, it's a film
about Alberta, it's a film about the oilsands — but who knew what it
meant at the time?" Blackett said.

Blackett said he might have considered withholding funding if he'd known how critical the film would be of the oilsands.

Downstream comes at a time when the government is sinking millions into improving Alberta's reputation around the world.

However, there is no mechanism in place now that would allow him to deny funding.

The Alberta Film Development Fund offers money to films that use Alberta producers actors or technicians.

Now it's considering adding an element of creative control to the criteria.

"Because if I'm going to actually invest money on behalf of
Albertans into a film, the whole idea is to show Alberta in a better
light, to create an economic diversification to help them, so anything
that's going to be negative is only going to be a negative impetus on
this province," he said.

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Merry Christmas, Detroit!

From here...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

WTF, Indeed

Robert J. Sawyer has noted on Facebook that the world is facing a huge economic crisis but our Prime Minister has decided to sit it out for the next two months.
As Sawyer said, "WTF? Peace, order, and NO government?"

Harper Speaks

Prorogue has been granted. Harper will stay for the next while. Parliament will resume on January 26th/09, and a budget will immediately be introduced.
Harper will not discuss why it took two hours with the GG to get his prorogue.
This is still a poor decision on the GGs part. So we can expect the lie machine to go into overdrive for the next 7 weeks.  No indication that any limits were put on Harper by the GG. harper doesn't sound the least humbled or understanding that he is in a minority situation. This guy really isn't the person we need for PM at this time--we might have trouble surviving him.
Harper is defending his decision to withdraw public funding from political parties. He indicates that he is still intending to remove public funding from political parites--why not just give up, Stephen, and put the corporate assholes in charge of Canada? We know you'd be happy with that.

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So Just What's Up?

Like  so many others, I've spent the last way too long watching pictures of a door on television. Harper has spent the last two plus hours talking with the Governor General, Michelle Jean, and word has just come out that she has granted a proroguing of this parliament. The PM hasn't addressed the public yet--although a couple of minutes ago a podium was set up!!!!! (see what watching a door will do to you?)--so we still don't know if any conditions were set on the prorogue.
I don't think this was the best decision on the part of the GG. If Harper has received his proroguing, it means that any subsequent PM, facing a confidence vote in the house that s/he is expecting to lose, can approach the GG and, by precedent, get a prorogue. This means the primary element of democratic accountability will have been removed from parliament and, by extension, the Canadian public.
The GG may have set limits on what Stephen Harper can do during the next however many weeks--similar to during an election campaign when there can be no major spending or laws passed. We shall see. Harper is not known for allowing rules or laws to stand in his way....

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Groundhog Day

So the Governor General looked out her window this morning and saw her shadow.
That means at least six more weeks of a Harper government.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Notes From a Constitutional Crisis Zone

In our system of parliamentary democracy, we do not elect a government; we elect a parliament. The government is formed when a group of members of the parliament can demonstrate that they have the support of the majority of the members to carry on a legislative agenda: to govern.
When the government no longer has the support of the parliament, the government falls and is replaced. The creation of a coalition of opposition parties to defeat and replace a sitting government is not illegitimate; it's how our system is meant to operate.
What it is, of course, is highly unusual in Canadian politics. Nothing like this has been done in the memory of most living Canadians. That doesn't make it illegal.
Canadians did not give Harper's Conservatives a mandate to run the country single-handedly. Canadians may be willing to let Harper sit in the driver's seat for a while, but after two elections they sure don't seem willing to let him have the keys on his own. Harper has spent the last three years forming coalitions; in a minority situation, the survival of his government has depended on it. Not one piece of his legislation could have passed the house without at least some opposition members voting along with the government. Harper may not have formed a formal coalition as the opposition has now done, but every piece of government business he presented to the House necessitated the forming of an ad hoc coalition with one of more opposition parties.
Harper's mistake is the age-old mistake of hubris. With Dion a lame-duck leader of the weakened Liberals, Harper believed he could push through with his damaging agenda, using a crisis to push through ideologically-driven economic measures.
Harper's economic statement originally proposed a three-year ban on the right of civil servants to strike, limits on the ability of women to sue for pay equity and eliminated subsidies for political parties. How does denying pay equity for women help stave off the effects of the worldwide economic meltdown? It doesn't, of course. It's just classic neo-conservative tactics -- use every chance to propel your ideological agenda. It's not about the economy, stupid; it's about using the economy to score every little political point you can.
Harper follows every page of the neo-con text book. He says one thing, but does another. Fixed election dates, anyone? He spent two years (and millions of dollars) on an ad campaign deriding Stephan Dion with personal attacks before the election was even called, despite his previous campaign promises on returning civility to politics. He accuses Dion of sharing power with seperatists, yet he and his party suck up to them in Quebec every chance they get. They have to, because that's the only group where he will get any support from in Quebec. His party has a long history of courting with the seperatists; it was Brian Mulroney's inability to control the seperatists MP in his Tory ranks that resulted in the formation of the Bloc.
In his acceptance speech this year, he said we work with the other parties in the House, yet his first economic announcement includes the cutting of party subsidies. How is this going to return civility to the House? Or more importantly, how does this help stimulate the economy when opposition parties have to lay-off low-level party workers during a recession? This is just petty nastiness.
And he lies, of course. He lies when he says that the coalition agreement was not signed in front of Canadian flags because of the presence of the separatist party (a lie - there were two Canadian flags). He lies when says he would never enter deals to govern the country with separatists. He signed a deal with the BQ to do just that in 2004, and his predecessor Stockwell Day arranged one with the BQ in 2000.
When confronted with criticism, he and his lackeys do not confront the issues, instead they issue personalize attacks on the messenger. How many Harper ads did you hear during the last campaign attacked Dion the person, yet how few did you hear actually debating the merits of Dion's proposals and presenting alternatives?
The crisis here is one of a reckless leader over-reaching for his dubious goals. It is a crisis of agenda, not process. You may argue that the Liberal/NDP coalition (with Bloc support) is fraught with dangers, and it is. They have matches and there's a lot of gasoline pooled about. But even that does not make their proposed actions any less legitimate.
And I'll take that over a leader who gives every indication of his intention to burn down the progressive house that we Canadians have spent 141 years building.

Percentage of Canadians who did not vote for Harper's Conservatives in the 2008 election: 62.4%

Naomi Klein on Harper's "Crisis"

As seen at

What I think is really amazing about this moment is whatever happens next - whether we end up with this coalition or not, we will have an extremely chastened Harper. So the attempted shock doctrine has failed. I think we can say that decisively.
Just to be clear, what I mean by the shock doctrine, as you know, is the use of crisis to push through unpopular pro-corporate policies. This bundling of a whole package of policies: denying the right of public sector workers to strike, the attack on public financing of political parties, with the economic program - that is what failed, and people were offended by the opportunism of it.
This is what so many of us were worried about during the election - the context of a Tory victory in an economic crisis, because we know that there is this pattern of using an economic crisis to push through policies that were nowhere during the campaign.

Crisis? What Crisis?

I am, I confess, something of a political junkie. Not quite hardcore enough to watch CPAC when the house is sitting, but certainly trying to keep up with much of what is going on in Ottawa at any given time. So the last week has been, well, a lot of fun for me.

The only current “crisis” that I see in the capital is that the Harper Conservatives have been humbled. That's pretty much it. That the current governing party may no longer be governing after the 8th of December, well, that's not a crisis. The circumstances may be almost unprecedented in Canadian parliamentary history, and the uncertainty surrounding the current Prime Minister's ability to govern may be a problem, but this is not a crisis for anyone except the Harper Conservatives.

This has happened before: the King-Byng affair, as it is called, occurred when Mackenzie King's Liberals fell in 1926. They were a minority government supported by the Progressives and lost a confidence motion (based around a scandal). King moved to dissolve Parliament and go to an election, but Byng, the Governor General, refused King, and instead allowed Aurthur Meighen to form a government with the support of the Progressives. The coalition fell five days later on a motion questioning the legitimacy of the government and an election was then called, resulting in King returning with a bare majority (128 seats, with 127 for all opposition parties). To quote Claude Bélanger of Marianopolis College:

"The Canadian people had vindicated King who had claimed that Meighen and Byng had acted improperly and had undermined responsible government in Canada. The electoral decision might have been politically wise but it was constitutionally unsound. The Governor-General might not have acted wisely but there is no doubt that he had the right, given the circumstances, to refuse to follow King's advice. It is one of the royal prerogatives that, given certain circumstances [...] it can refuse to follow the advice of the Cabinet to dissolve Parliament and can choose an individual who has a reasonable chance to be supported by the House to lead the government. “

A Liberal/NDP coalition would be perfectly legitimate—even and especially because they would be formally supported by the Bloc, who would not be a part of the government, but have signed a formal agreement not to vote against the coalition on a confidence motion over the next year. What our current Prime Minister seems confused about (as do most Conservative and conservative commentators) is that in Canada we do not elect a Prime Minister, we elect a parliament. Prime Ministers are expendable and replaceable—witness Westminster where Gordon Brown has replaced Tony Blair without an election. Both were sitting members, but the party lost confidence in the sitting Prime Minister and replaced him. The government didn't fall (nor did the sky), just the Prime Minister.

The biggest problem faced by the country now is not the legitimacy of the government—that will be dealt with by a confidence vote in the House and, should the sitting government fall, by the Governor General—but by the attacks by the Conservative party on the legitimacy of the coalition. We will see and hear things like this quote (from the Sydney Morning Herald): “We will be fighting this with every legal means at our disposal," a senior government official said. "It's an attack on Canada. It's an attack on Canada's democracy. It's an attack on our economy.” This is, of course, total bullshit. A lie, if you will. A falsehood. A knowing misstatement of the truth. But a lie that will get traction.
When our current PM says: ''We will use all legal means to resist this undemocratic seizure of power,'' [Harper] told Conservatives at their annual Christmas party at an Ottawa hotel. ``My friends, such an illegitimate government would be a catastrophe, for our democracy, our unity and our economy, especially at a time of global instability.'' (quoted in the Miami Herald), he is lying. Such an action will be a catastrophe for him personally, as he will no longer be PM and, one assumes, very quickly no longer leader of the Conservative party as well, but the formation of a coalition government is neither illegitimate nor is it a catastrophe for the country. (Said coalition may be a disaster, but until it has had a chance to govern, it is an open question as to its competence). If anything, such a coalition could be seen as being more legitimate, as the member parties of the coalition will represent a larger percentage of the popular vote in Canada than do the currently-governing Conservatives. But what we face is not a crisis of government, but rather a crisis of truth from the Conservative propaganda machine in full panic mode.It has already begun—John Ivison wrote in The National Post that Canada's about to become "the world's coldest banana republic." What a load of horsecrap. The proposed coalition has been aboveboard (or at least as aboveboard as such things tend to be) in their decision. They have announced what they intend to do, have formally signed agreements about what the Canadian public can expect from the coalition, and have laid out in those agreements a division of powers and responsibilities ahead of their proposed action.
It should be noted that the BQ has no part nor representation in the proposed governing coalition. What they have formally agreed to do is to not defeat the coalition on a confidence vote for a set period of time. That's it. That's all. That there is a quid pro quo is certain--just as there was between the BQ and the Harper Conservatives during the Martin government. In this case, the BQ will expect a certain amount of input into plans made by the coalition—as it should. As should the Conservatives for that matter; a minority government cannot and must not govern from an ideological basis, but rather from one of co-operation and consensus building. That is one of the reasons why Canadians like and elect minority governments.
Most certainly, this is not over. Monday will prove to be a very interesting day—particularly for political junkies like me.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

I'm so embarrassed....

Listening/reading/viewing the commentary on current developments in parliament, I am left banging my head against the wall at the apparent total ignorance of the vast majority of Canadians about how a parliamentary system works. Every time I hear/read/see someone calling the coming change of government/Prime Minister a "coup" or "undemocratic" or whatever, I can't help but thinking it an indictment not of the opposition parties, but of Social Studies teachers everywhere who failed to teach their students the fundamentals of how democracy works in this country.

I'm fully sympathetic to Conservative supporters who say, "darn, I never saw that coming!", just as they were understanding that I was disappointed that the Conservatives managed to hang on to another minority government (for a while anyway). We all have to put up with it when the majority vote against what we think is the obvious best policy. But to characterize current developments as undemocratic, or as a 'coup' or 'treason' is just, well, embarrassing.

The majority of us did not vote for Harper. He did NOT get the mandate from the people for a majority government that he had hoped for. Even then, he got his chance to form a minority government, but any minority government has to win over at least a few of the opposition MPs/parties each time to survive. Harper's mistaken belief that he could introduce any legislation he liked and that there was nothing anyone could do about it (because the other parties could not dare force another election) strongly suggests both an undemocratic stance (i.e., not valuing the fundamental Canadian value of compromise) and a dangerously arrogant/naive understanding of Canadian parliamentary procedure. But parliament is working exactly as intended. The majority of MPs, representing the majority of Canadians, are ousting a Prime Minister and cabinet that no longer hold the confidence of the House. This is how the system works, and has worked stretching back to before there was a Canada to British parliamentary precedents. How could anyone in this country graduate high school and not understand this?

It's embarrassing.

They don't have to like the way things have played out, but they should at least be able to understand it.

January I get a new crop of Social Studies student teachers -- and they had better, by god, be ready to demonstrate that they take Social Studies seriously, not just a way to kill an hour between English and Mathematics. They had better be prepared to stand up and say, "No, you can't cancel Social Studies this week for school assembly because Social Studies is important. Can we cancel Phys Ed instead?" Or words to that effect. Because right now, it doesn't look like the previous crops have been doing their job.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

another sign of the apocalypse

Goth Punk Barbie

(see brief analysis here)

A Transportation Alternative

Let's put the cartoonists in charge!

Today I came across a post on Professor PZ Myer's blog that he calls "Let's put the cartoonists in charge." Not a bad sentiment, if they come up with ideas like the one he found by Keith Knight:


Yes! Rebuild the railroads and put together a national mass transit system! Now there's a public works project that would put people to work and improve our infrastructure. I'd also really like to be able to climb onto a train at the local station when I have to travel.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Quote of the Day

On Don Newman's CBC Newsworld show today, someone said:
In early October Harper said it would be a good time to buy into the market and if you'd listened to him you would all be bankrupt today.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A few ways to turn green or greener

The Food and Water Watch Web site offers a Take Back the Tap Pledge. On this Web site you can join their campaign to eliminate your use of bottled water. For more information, go to

Also visit the following:

We talk the talk, now let us all walk the walk.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Didn't Get Your Copy?

Didn't get a copy of the NY Times paper yesterday? Well, head on over to their website!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Faux News

According to this BBC story, over 1,000,000 copies of a spoof edition of the New York Times were distributed in New York and Los Angeles. The fake paper, dated July 4, 2009, had the motto "all the news we hope to print." In addition to the Iraq War story, another story trumpeted the arrival of free health care for all Americans. A group called The Yes Men claimed responsibility.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

That Didn't Take Long, Did It?

Available at Amazon...

William Shatner...Governor General?

There's a Facebook group looking for support to nominate The Shat as our next GG.

World will struggle to meet oil demand

Output from the world’s oilfields is declining faster than
previously thought, the first authoritative public study of the biggest
fields shows.

Without extra investment to raise production, the
natural annual rate of output decline is 9.1 per cent, the
International Energy Agency says in its annual report, the World Energy
Outlook, a draft of which has been obtained by the Financial Times.

The findings suggest the world will struggle to produce enough oil to
make up for steep declines in existing fields, such as those in the
North Sea, Russia and Alaska, and meet long-term de­mand. The effort
will become even more acute as prices fall and investment decisions are

This from the Financial Times Published: October 28 2008 23:32

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Worst. President. Ever.

CNN and Opinion research Corporation released a survey Monday that shows that outgoing US President George W. Bush has now reached unprecedented levels of unpopularity--he is now more unpopular than Richard Nixon was when he resigned. Bush's disapproval rating has now gone over 70% three times this year--no other president has ever gone over 70%. Nixon was resigning from office in disgrace and was still more popular than the shrub. Heckuva job, Georgie.

Presidential Popularity
% DisapprovalDate
G.W. Bush 76Nov. 2008
Clinton54Sept. 1994
G.H.W. Bush60July 1992
Reagan56Jan. 1983
Carter59June 1979
Ford46April, Nov., Dec. 1975
Nixon66August 1974
Johnson52March, Aug. 1968
Kennedy30Nov. 1963
Eisenhower36March 1958
Truman67Jan. 1952

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is the Republican Fix Already In...?

CNN is reporting that irregularities are already showing up in advance polling for Tuesday's US election. Mistakes by voting machines have already been reported in three states.
"You can be almost certain that there will be irregularities in some places around the country," said Rep. Rush Holt, D-New Jersey. "The problem now is that roughly a third of voters nationwide will use unverifiable electronic machines. So if there are uncertainties, there will be no way to resolve them."

CNN futher reports that:
For this presidential election, 55 percent of American voters are casting ballots via optical-scan systems, up from 49 percent two years ago. One-third of Americans are voting by electronic touch screen. The state of New York still votes largely by mechanical lever machines -- those curtained relics from the 1960s -- while several small counties in Maine and Vermont still use old-fashioned paper ballots, counted by hand.
Some observers believe this patchwork quilt of electronic, mechanical and paper balloting from state to state -- even county to county -- makes it more difficult to regulate voting systems. According to a joint report released this month by three nonprofit democracy groups, including Common Cause, 22 states use electronic voting machines that produce no voter-verifiable paper record.

You'd think that after the huge voting frauds in 2000 and 2004 that the United States, the so-called "Leader of the Free World," would adopt the easist and safest method to insure against voting fraud: the paper ballot. And an X. It isn't that difficult.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

BC's Orcas Suffer Their Worst Die-off in a Decade

British Columbia's endangered population of orcas is facing its worse die-off in a decade.
Seven orcas from the local resident population are believed to have died in the last year. This lowers the number of resident orcas to 83. Historically, the number has been around 120, until it reached a low of 71 in 1973.
What is worrying is that two of the deaths are breeding-age females. Infant mortality among the three local pods is normally around 50%. As well, chinook salmon stocks, the orca's main food source, are disappearing and many biologists are fearful for the whales' survival.
Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research executive director said, "They need to eat and that means they need chinook salmon. We have to manage our wild salmon properly and that means for the benefit of the ecosystem and natural world, rather than jobs. It's going to be at least 20 years of nail-biting to see if they are going to make it."
Howard Garrett of the Orca Network also fears for the local pods' survival. He said, "This is a drastically steep drop-off and, if the conditions don't improve, meaning more chinook, we might see this for the next few years and this population can't stand that. It's hard to imagine they could disappear."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Some great documentaries about climate change and food are out there...Slow Food Canada will be presenting An Island at the Edge about Vancouver Island food security in November and this film will be included as well at their first Film Festival.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Michael Palin Is Number 2, Says Cleese

John mentions who is the number one funniest Palin at about 1:02 into the video. Nice to see he's still paying attention....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And We Spent $300,000,000 For What Exactly....?

2008 Voter Turnout:
59.1% of registered electors (or about 41% of all Canadians)
- one of the lowest in recent history

Total Conservative vote percentage:
2006 - 36.3%
2008 - 37.6%
- A 1.3% increase after governing for 2 years
- From 127 to 143 seats (gained 16 seats)

Percentage of Canadians who did not vote for Harper's Conservatives: 62.4%

Times Stephen Harper has attempted to get a majority and failed:
Three times (in 2004, 2006, and 2008)

Overall Seat Count 2008:
Conservatives: 143
Opposition: 163

Liberal vote percentage:
2006 - 30.2%
2008 - 26.2%
From 95 to 76 seats

NDP vote percentage:
2006 - 17.5%
2008 - 18.2%
From 30 to 37 seats

Bloc Québécois
2006 - 10.5% (Canada-wide)
2008 - 10% (Canada-wide)
From 48 to 50 seats

Green vote percentage:
2006 - 4.5%
2008 - 6.8%
No seats

Under a Proportional Representation system, the seat totals would have been:
Conservatives: 116
Liberal: 81
NDP: 56
BQ: 31
Green: 24
When a party like the BQ gets 10% of the vote and 16% of the seats, while the Greens get 7% of the vote and no seats, that clearly shows the flaws of the current first-past-the-post system.

All five party leaders have some thinking to do this morning. While many of them had a bright side to look at, none of them really got anything they wanted.
The Green's Elizabeth May got her wish: she was in the debate. The Greens increased their popular vote more than any other party. And were still nowhere near electing anyone. The Greens need a leader who will run for Prime Minister, not offer up advice on strategic voting.
Speaking of running for Prime Minster, that's what Jack Layton of the NDP did. He took dead aim at Harper's job. And finished fourth. Yes, the NDP did gain some seats, but how many more fight does Jack have in him?
Then there's Gilles Duceppe, The Man Who Would Not Be King. He's got to feel good. His party gained a couple of seats, and clearly his plea to Quebeckers to stop a Harper majority worked. It's too bad for him that all those voters who listened to him chose to block Harper by voting Liberal. How many more elections does Duceppe have in him? Can the Bloc survives if he leaves, or has it become irrelevant and does it survive only by the force of Duceppe's personality?
The only bright side to the Liberal's performance is that they did make some gains in Quebec, but otherwise it was a dismal show. Dion is toast. The knives are out. The Liberals need to make some big changes soon, or they will disappear has a force in Canadian politics. Who will be the next leader? I'm thinking Ignatieff. But the leader after him will have a familiar name: Trudeau.
Harper and the Conservatives had a reasonable night. But this is Harper's third time at the plate and he couldn't close the deal with a majority. And if he couldn't do it this time, with the center/left vote split three ways, an ineffective opposition leader, and an economist's perfect issue dropped into his lap in mid-campaign, can he ever? The knives may not be out yet for Harper, but I'm sure some Tories are going through the knife drawer.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

John is hoping Louise knits...

Oh yes, there's more. I love this blog--Why Would You Knit That? Check out what happens when biologists learn to knit. And then there's the Dark Roasted Blend collection of knitted weirdness.
A similar blog, different topic, is over here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Is it a lion motorbike or a motorbike lion?

BC's Southern Resident Orcas Starving

The local population of killer whales might be starving to death. According to this Victoria Times-Colonist report, members of the three local pods of orcas are showing obvious signs of starvation. Salmon runs are down again this year, and orcas are desperately trying to find food. That desperation is forcing them in to unusual behaviour patterns. "A small group from L Pod have been traveling with J Pod all summer long, and twice J Pod has split into two completely separate groups, out of acoustic range from each other," said a researcher. "It's an indication that they are searching high and low and in every nook and cranny for fish."
This may explain why today eight leading environmental groups have launched a legal action against the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. They allege that the DFO ignored a September 10 order to protect the whales under the federal government's Species at Risk Act. The DFO helps to enforce the Act, which protects species considered at risk.
There are about 87 southern resident whales in British Columbia waters and they are considered endangered.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Save the Planet: Stop Harper

Canadian artists have joined together to attack Harper's record (what little record these is) on climate change.

After checking out the song, check out the website.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

That Canadian Guy on the election(s)

Brief stand up bit on American vs Canadian Elections etc

And for the "undecided" voter,try his "Random Voter" -- now with both US and Canadian versions available.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I've Said it Before....

...and I'll say it again:
If Gilles Duceppe would forget about sovereignty, run a national slate and change the name of the party to Bloc Canada, he'd get my vote.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Interesting tidbits on the sub-prime problem

Despite the right-leaning tendencies of this video it does bring up some interesting info on the Dems and Obama in particular.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What am I missing?

So I'm listening to their president scare the pants off people by saying that if the Wall Street bastards go under, their economy could collapse and people could lose their houses to foreclosure and so on. And I can't help wondering, how stupid are they? Was Lincoln wrong? Can you fool all of the people all of the time?

Forget that the bailout is being proposed by the same ideologues who created the crisis by insisting that government should never intervene in the market, and that regulation is undesirable because it might, um, distort market forces leading to, oh, I don't know, some kind of unspecified crisis. Forget that such a bailout is a betrayal of their most basic beliefs and all the self-righteously motivated suffering they imposed on everyone else all these years in the name of a free market. Forget that such a massive intervention in the economy is the American equivalent of Lenin admitting communism didn't work . The question is, having decided to intervene in the economy at the 11th hour, is this the plan that makes sense?

Sooner or later, somebody should ask, if you're going to hand out 700 billion dollars to avert the crisis, how about you give it to the people endangered by the crisis -- say, by setting up an American equivalent of the CHMC to insure mortgages-- rather than giving it to the very bozos who created the crisis? "Hey, we just lost 900 trillion dollars by being so greedy we put our personal commissions ahead of the well being of 300 million other Americans -- hell, the whole rest of the world -- but not only did we get out with our own personal fortunes thanks to contracts that give us millions of dollars in bonuses, EVEN IF WE SCREW UP so spectacularly that the entire world's economy may collapse, but we'd now like you to trust us with another 700 trillion because we did such a great job with the last batch....

How does Main Street swallow this? How do American leaders say with a straight face, "You have to trust us on this, because this is complex, too complex for you to understand You just have to trust in our leadership (again) and let us fix it by handing all your cash and the cash of the next four generations over to the Wallstreet experts." Why doesn't Main Street rise up and say, lets tax the rich investment bankers and bailout the poor slobs who were tricked into mortgages there was no possibility of their ever paying off."

But of course their is no left wing left in the states to stand up and say stuff like that. Without it's left wing, the American Eagal can only fly in circles....

A New Word is Born

Electile Dysfunction:
The inability to become aroused over any of the choices for PRIME MINISTER put forth by any party in the 2008 election year.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Michael Moore's "Slacker Uprising" released today

Available for free download today only. Also available for purchase on dvd for $10.

The whys and wherefores:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008


Here's brilliant piece of political bafflegab by the Republican VP nominee.

Can anyone understand what she just said? (This blog tries to figure it out.)
And if you can divine a coherent thought in the Palin clip, try your hand at something a little harder: McCain talking about Palin.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Harper Plays the National Unity Card

Conservative leader Stephen Harper, in a brazen example of unexpected hyperbole, has played the National Unity card, claiming that Liberal leader Stephan Dion's carbon tax plan will threaten nation unity. He says that "by undermining the economy and by re-centralizing money and power in Ottawa, it can only undermine the progress we have been making on national unity."
Even if Harper is right, hating Ottawa can only bring the the rest of the country closer together.
But seriously, what Harper never discusses is how much the economy will be undermined if we do nothing about climate change, which seems to be Harper's idea. How much of an economy will we have when there's 1,000,000 refugees from Vancouver because their expensive condos are under a rising sea?
And in an unexpected case of politics making strange bedfellows, NDP leader Jack Layton joined Harper in blasting Dion's plan. This is twice this week that Layton had been on the same side of an issue as Harper, the first being the question of whether the Green Party should take part in the televised debates. Layton sided with Harper to not allow the Greens, until the Canadian public reminded Layton that the "D" in NDP stood for Democratic.
Will Dion's plan cause economic havoc? Not according to Matthew Bramley of the sustainable energy think-tank Pembina Institute, who says, "Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton's opposition to carbon taxes is contradicted by leading economics and business organizations who say taxing pollution is a good way to harness market forces to fight global warming. There is no evidence to support Mr. Harper's claim that a modest carbon tax would cause a recession. In fact, Mr. Dion's proposed tax would need to be further increased to enable Canada to meet science-based targets for greenhouse gas reductions." reports that both Norway and Sweden have had a carbon tax plan since the early 1990s, and according to an April 29, 2008 Guardian article, Sweden cut its overall carbon emissions by nine per cent between 1990 and 2006. Its economy grew by 44 per cent in that period.
CTV also reports that John Williamson of the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation said on CTV Newsnet Thursday that Dion's plan was not truly "revenue neutral."
"This is a fiscal transfer from taxpayers to low income Canadians. That is not the definition of a tax neutral plan."
Yes, god forbid that low income Canadians should ever benefit from the tax system.

Let's end with this insightful piece describing Harper's blatant "Republican"-styled campaigning and dirty tricks. That crap doesn't play well north of the border. If he keeps it up, he may be in for a surprise in 33 days.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It Might Just Be Me....

...but I have a feeling that Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams is no fan of Stephen Harper.
Here's some choice quotes from his speech today to a St John's business group.

"Make no mistake — you won't hear Stephen Harper admit he may win a majority government because he is terrified that people might actually stop and think about the consequences. Well, I beg you all today — stop, think and decide if that is what this country deserves...
"A majority government for Stephen Harper would be one of the most negative political events in Canadian history. Even without a majority, he has cut funding for minorities, cut funding for literacy, cut funding to students, volunteers, museums and arts and culture groups right across the country [and] his government cut funding to women's groups and … actually went so far as to remove the federal mandate to advance equality for women. This all happened under a minority government. What in heaven's name will happen if he gets a majority?"

Don't hold back, Danny. Tell us what you really feel.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Strong Leadership My Ass

Harper, the STRONG leader (at least according his ads), is too scared to debate the Green Party's Elisabeth May.
Click here to tell him how you feel about that.
And tell him whatever else is bugging you, too.

Oliver North Rides Again

An American raid on the Afghan village of Nawabad on August killed only 7 civilians, according to the US Army. However, both Afghan and UN officials say that 92 civilians were killed, including 60 children, making it one the biggest losses of civilian life in the war.
The US military continued to insist until September 7 that only seven civilians had been killed. They reconsidered their count when the video came out.
Why was the US count so low? According to the TimesOnline:
The US military said that its findings were corroborated by an independent journalist embedded with the US force. He was named as the Fox News correspondent Oliver North, who came to prominence in the 1980s Iran-Contra affair, when he was an army colonel.

Yes, Oliver North. Yes, that Oliver North.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Consortium Rules Agianst the Greens

This is ridiculous.
According to the CBC, "Canada's broadcasters will not allow Green Leader Elizabeth May to participate in the leaders debates during the federal election campaign, the networks announced Monday afternoon. The consortium of networks, which includes the CBC, said three of Canada's parties were opposed to May's inclusion, but did not give more details."
Bouchard represented the BQ in their first debate despite the fact that none of the BQ MPs had been elected as BQ members.
Manning represented Reform in their first debate with they had only one MP, and he did not have seat in the house.
All parties with MPs should be represented. If that means that some of the other parties don't want to participate, that's fine -- just leave an empty chair for them in case they change their mind.
This just shows that the old-line parties have forgotten that they are supposed to be serving the democractic values of our country, not themselves.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

All You Need to Know About Stephen Harper

"Fixed election dates stop leaders from trying to manipulate the calendar.
Hopefully in the next election we can run on our record and we won't need the manipulation of the electoral calendar."
-- Stephen Harper, after the 2006 election

Harper wants an election because, he argues, that Parliament cannot function. I don't understand this rationale because it seems to be functioning. The Conservative government is introducing bills and the bills are passing through Parliament. That sounds like it's working to me. The Tories haven't lost a confidence vote yet, and Reform/Alliance/Conservative polices are flourishing. Harper has killed Kyoto, given big tax cuts to corporations and the rich, and begun to introduce long-standing Reform/Alliance policies like the fixed election date.
I'm not in favour of a fixed election date, but I don't get my knickers in a knot about it. It's not part of the British Parliamentary tradition, and the ability to call an election when you want is one of the perks of being Prime Minister. Use it or abuse it at your own risk. And many thought that former Prime Minister Chretien did abuse this privilege during his term as PM, basically calling elections at his whim.
This is why the concept of the fixed election date gained some popularity, particularly with the Reform/Alliance/Conservative opposition. The fixed-term idea was a plank of the Reform Party from the beginning. Harper ran promising a fixed-date election law, which appealed to his core group of supporters.
But now, his own law, the law that his supporters clamoured for, is now in the way of his political ambitions. So this morning he's going to ask the Governor General to break his law and dissolve Parliament so he can have an election.
I doubt that the Governor General will refuse Harper's request to dissolve Parliament, but I hope she rakes him over the coals for the position that he has placed her in: asking the Queen's representative to break the law.
This is all you need to know about the integrity of Stephen Harper. He used his supporters to win the last election, but he's betrayed them by breaking the law his own supporters have been wanting for years.
What a way to treat your followers. If I was I Tory, I would be livid.

Monday, September 01, 2008

McCaim Picks Aardvark as Running Mate

Once again, CNN shows its class with this headline. They trumpeted the news that Presidential candiadte John McCain had chosen Alaska Govermor Sarah Palin as his running mate with the a headline that read, "McCain picks Woman as Running Mate."
If McCain had picked, say, Mitt Romney as his running mate, would the CNN headline have been "McCain picks Man as Running Mate"?
Nice, CNN.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sauce for the Goose

While commenting on the current conflict between Russia and Georgia, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said:
"I am deeply concerned by the notion . . . that Russia has a say or some control over a country outside of its border. This is a very worrisome development. I hope Russia will reconsider its actions."
The American Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said, "This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbors, occupy a capital, overthrow a government, and get away with it."
The irony should be apparent to all.
But it won't be.

Michael Hall

I just heard this week that Mike Hall, editor of the Fort McMurray Today newspaper, member of the Gang of Four, and, more personally, a friend and mentor, passed away August 1st of a heart attack.

[photo from the Fort Record website]

Mike was a hell of a record collector, faned, and writer, and introduced me to a wide variety of progressive music in the 80's. He also gifted me with stacks of fanzines, plenty of chat, and suggested I might want to look into this internet thingie that was just springing up.
I'm not the one to write Mikes obit, there are many others who knew him better than I did, but he was a friend and, more importantly, a big influence on me during the 80s. He eventually found his way into journalism, becoming the managing editor of the Fort McMurray Today. And being a reporter wasn't enough; Mike blogged as well--his last post being only five days before his unexpected death.

Monday, August 11, 2008

John Will Love This...

Worse Faster Than Anyone Thought Possible

From The Guardian:

"[...]scientists say that the disappearance of sea ice at the North Pole
could exceed last year's record loss. More than a million square
kilometres melted over the summer of 2007 as global warming tightened
its grip on the Arctic. But such destruction could now be matched, or
even topped, this year."

Storms over the Beaufort Sea are sucking warm air north, accelerating melting. it is expected that the Northwest Passage will be ice free withing the next week or so for only the second time in recorded history. the first time was August of last year. Ice coverage in the Arctic reaches its minimum (normally--not a word we can reliably use about the north any more) in mid-September. It is expected that the loss of Arctic sea ice will cause related weather effects--such as increased storm activity in Britain. And, I assume, Canada.
This loss of ice creates a feedback loop, where loss of ice results in less solar radiation being bounced back into space, meaning more warming, meaning less radiation bounced back, etc. Climate change scientists are now talking about a 4°C rise in global temperature, meaning humans have to start thinking not about adapting to a new climate, but rather about significant die-back. There is no way the new world climate is going to allow for six billion humans. If we're lucky--and I mean really lucky on a cosmic scale--we might top out at a billion. worst case, this is a species wiping event. After all, that is the point of running a fever--the death of the infecting organisms, which are only designed to survive in a narrow range of temperatures. And Gaia is clearly running a fever. After all, new studies by Professor Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California suggest there will be no ice left between mid-July and mid-September in the Arctic by--get this--2013.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

From HuffPo

Ron Suskind: The Forged Iraqi Letter: What Just Happened?
What just happened? Evidence. A secret that has been judiciously kept for five years just spilled out. All of what follows is new, never reported in any way:

The Iraq Intelligence Chief, Tahir Jalil Habbush -- a man still carrying a $1 million reward for capture, the Jack of Diamonds in Bush's famous deck of wanted men -- has been America's secret source on Iraq. Starting in January of 2003, with Blair and Bush watching, his secret reports began to flow to officials on both sides of the Atlantic, saying that there were no WMD and that Hussein was acting so odd because of fear that the Iranians would find out he was a toothless tiger. The U.S. deep-sixed the intelligence report in February, "resettled" Habbush to a safe house in Jordan during the invasion and then paid him $5 million in what could only be considered hush money.

In the fall of 2003, after the world learned there were no WMD -- as Habbush had foretold -- the White House ordered the CIA to carry out a deception. The mission: create a handwritten letter, dated July, 2001, from Habbush to Saddam saying that Atta trained in Iraq before the attacks and the Saddam was buying yellow cake for Niger with help from a "small team from the al Qaeda organization."

The mission was carried out, the letter was created, popped up in Baghdad, and roiled the global newcycles in December, 2003 (conning even venerable journalists like Tom Brokaw). The mission is a statutory violation of the charter of the CIA, and amendments added in 1991, prohibiting the CIA from conducting disinformation campaigns on U.S. soil.

Ron Susskind is the author of The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11

Friday, August 08, 2008

good reasons to not drink bottled water

Canadians wanting to do something about the environment can start by drinking tap water, environmentalist David Suzuki says.

I have purchased 3 stainless steel canteens to use for my water--filtered TAP water. One is for kayaking, one is for work and one is for using at the gym. I've given up spending money on bottled water not just because of the price of paying for what may be filtered tap water, but for the following reasons:

Bottled water generates up to 600 times more CO2 than tap water

Most plastic bottled water bottles are not recycled but end up in landfill

Drinking a bottle of water has the same impact on the enviroment as driving a car for a kilometer

A Swedish study calculated that the environmental impact of bottled water was 90 to 1,00 times greater than tap water and could be higher

Britons use 275,000 tons of platic bottles (includes drinks other than water) each year. 15 million a day in the UK, 3 billion litres of bottled water every year. The plastic bottles left over would fill the new Wembley Stadium three times over. Imagine how much Canadians produce in plastic bottle waste.

Bottled water costs more than gasoline per litre.

And just because I like this Canadian study statistic (and I have some university but certainly am not earning a ridiculously high salary plus I live in an apartment)

University-educated households were less likely to drink bottled water than households with a lower level of formal education. The lower rate of bottled water drinking among university-educated households, set against the higher rates seen in high income households, shows that behaviours associated with income are not necessarily also associated with level of education.

(full article at:

Friday, August 01, 2008

Another Find...& somewhere to live...

I think when the ocean levels rise I will go live in a tree. This doesn't look too bad. Might have to downsize a lot or one might be able to have more than one linked by rope bridges.

Or, try one for a romantic getaway.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Music videos...

I like clever and imaginative videos....this one got me..and the song's not bad either

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another farm under threat

The UBC Farm is the last working farm in Vancouver. The farm provides fertile ground for a wide mix of learning, research, and and community projects for learners of all ages. The farm is currently embarking on a new project entitled, "Changing the Food System to Change the Climate."
If you haven't had the chance to vote for the farm in the Tyee's Green your Campbell Cash competition, now is the time!

There are just 3 days left to vote (voting closes on July 25th). Especially with the tone of the op-ed piece that UBC published in the Vancouver Sun this Tuesday, it is absolutely vital that we send them a clear signal that this place really matters to people.

Please click on the link below to give the farm your five stars!

Or vote for the one on

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I Know, I Know. Hard To Believe

According to this story from the CBC, crime is down again in Canada. Down seven percent, in fact (based on StatsCan data).

"StatsCan data released Thursday shows a seven per cent drop in the
national crime rate, which the agency said also stems from fewer
serious violent offences like homicides, attempted murders, sexual
assaults and robberies."

Check that--FEWER violent offences. Overall crime rate has been declining since 1991, number of robberies with a firearm down 12% since last year, and a long-term downward trend since the mid-1970s. Hell, even youth crime--which rose slightly last year--dropped, with non-violent offences falling and violent crime remaining stable.
But none of this promotes "fear and consumption" (to quote Marilyn Manson--not something I do often). It even indicates that maybe our much maligned court system isn't doing so badly. This also corresponds with more women on police forces, more targeted policing (rather than more fascist police-state tactics), and the rise of bike cops. Fewer choppers, more bike cops! No flak jackets and sunglasses, more bike shorts! A mock-able cop is a cop who has to learn to get respect from the quality of their work, not the intimidation factor of their clothes.
The StatsCan report is here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Nice One, Matt!

I don't know where the hell Matt is...or who the hell Matt is, but he's probably done more to promtote world peace in 4:24 than George Bush has in eight years.
Check this out.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

New Cash Crop

America’s Food-to-Fuel Gamble
By Michelle Perez, EWG Senior Analyst, June 2008

When the Bush administration and Congress required gasoline refiners to blend in 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol by 2015, they made the impossibly rosy assumption that American farmers would always enjoy good weather. But as every farmer knows, years with perfect growing conditions are uncommon and getting more rare.

In early April, Environmental Working Group Founder Ken Cook warned that the government’s food policy amounted to “hope for good weather.” However, hope is not a policy. And it now seems likely that some of the worst weather since the historic 1993 floods will mar the 2008 growing season. With the potential for widespread corn production loss due to this spring’s prolonged cold, heavy rains and flooding in the Corn Belt, and with crop and food prices soaring to new records almost every week, the disastrous cost of Washington’s lack of commonsense is apparent.

Most experts agree that the corn ethanol mandate plays a key role in higher corn and soybean prices and inflated U.S. and global food prices. The Washington ethanol mandate to convert food to fuel, a key provision of the 2005 and 2007 federal energy bills, put the full weight of U.S. policy behind the corn ethanol boom. Add to the equation the extreme weather already inflicted on the Corn Belt, and the likelihood of summer heat and a fall freeze, and an even sharper food and fuel price spiral seems inevitable.

If this scenario plays out, inflation is likely to worsen throughout the foundering U.S. economy. And many experts predict that the pace of food price inflation is likely to quicken in 2009, in line with the ethanol mandate’s climbing food-to-fuel targets.

Congress has only one recourse: re-open the debate on the ethanol mandate.
This week, Ron Litterer, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has suggested his organization might support changes in the ethanol mandate if supply shortages cause “severe economic impact.”

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Here comes everybody

Clay Shirky's book, "Here Comes Everybody: The Power of organizing without organizations may be of interest to Ganglion readers.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Going Green

I'm reading, or rather scanning, Gillian Deacon's Green For Life, 200 Simple Eco-Ideas for Every Day. Good thing I'm moving as it will give me an opportunity to do more towards having a green home and taking more steps towards living green.

One step I took on my computer, although I should have purchased a to change my search engine to rather than using Google or Dogpile.

I no longer us my Swiffer..well I don't buy the dry or wet cloths for it. I still use it but I use it with old facecloths attached. Works just as well if not better at cleaning the kitchen and bathroom floors, and the facecloth gets put into the laundry to be used again. Next time I cut up old tshirts or flannel pjs to make rags, I will cut some made to measure the Swiffer.

A great book with loads of tips, which I will probably share in the next months...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Green TV

There is a price to going green. Hopefully green products will come down in price on day. I thought this was the first in a list of green electronics and homeware.

What is OLED
OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. The "organic" in OLED refers to organic material. Carbon is the basis of all organic matter. Examples of carbon-based substances include sugar, wood and the majority of plastics. The "LED" stands for "Light Emitting Diode" and describes the process of converting electric energy into light. There are two types of OLED ? small molecule OLED and polymer OLED. Sony uses the small molecule type because it has a longer lifespan.
How does OLED work
A layer of organic material is sandwiched between two conductors (an anode and a cathode), which in turn are sandwiched between a glass top plate (seal) and a glass bottom plate (substrate). When electric current is applied to the two conductors, a bright, electro-luminescent light is produced directly from the organic material.
How is colour created
OLED has more control over colour expression because it only expresses pure colours when an electric current stimulates the relevant pixels. The OLED primary colour matrix is arranged in red, green, and blue pixels, which are mounted directly to a printed circuit board. Each individual OLED element is housed in a special “micro-cavity” structure designed to greatly reduce ambient light interference that also works to improve overall colour contrast. The thickness of the organic layer is adjusted to produce the strongest light for each of the colours ? red, green and blue - used to render the colour picture. The three colours are further refined by a colour filter, which purifies each colour without the need for a polarizer, rendering outstanding colour purity

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Hate To Say This, But Now I'm Really Scared

This is not hyperbole, just the way I feel at this minute. Knowing about something and seeing it in your backyard are two different things. Check out this article in the New York Sun: there's food rationing in the US. I'll say that again: THERE IS FOOD RATIONING IN THE USA. And this does not look like it's going to get any better.

Admittedly, there's no militia at the door, no line-ups, no panic. But this is one of the richest countries in the world with the most elaborate industrial food system on the planet--a place that literally eats from the whole planet--and they are having trouble supplying staples like rice and flour.

Living on the farm for a decade and a half, I'm used to having two to six months of food put by--separate from the two-week's-worth of food in the pantry. Depending on the time of year (more in November, less in April) we would have bags of flour, ten kilos of rolled oats, rice, pasta, canned goods, extra olive oil by the litre or gallon, honey, just stacks of food binned up or canned or frozen.

Now, living in a city again, we don't take the same care with our food security. We sorted through the bins yesterday--before I read this article--and while it was good to see a week or two of food on hand, it was still only a week or two. I've felt off-balance all winter, knowing that there wasn't enough food in the house. I've told myself "It's okay. We're not likely to get snowed in for a week in Victoria, there's money on a semi-regular basis, we'll be okay." And we have been.

But the system has not been. We've stressed our food supply chain worldwide. No one has bothered with local food security, relying instead on the continued availability of unsustainably cheap fossil fuels. Canada, Canada cannot feed itself. We produce enough calories, but not in a broad enough spectrum of foods. We rely instead on providing inputs into the industrial food chain, exporting things like hogs and beef by the (yes, really) mega-tonne. But how is all that exported protein raised? At the expense of broad-based food crops. The money is in industrial food exports, not in feeding ourselves.

We've developed this insanely complex system that relies on cheap fossil fuels and the movement of commodities to maximize profits, and there comes a point where such complex systems become chaotic. With climate change racing ahead (and the developed world really ignoring the problem) and oil prices touching $115/barrel as I write this, we've introduced new variables
and new uncertainties into an over-stressed system. We may be fucked.

We might get lucky, it might be a great growing season this summer in the northern hemisphere. Maybe. But I'm not holding my breath. I don't
foresee any problems over the next five months here--even with only a
mediocre season--but any weirdness on the part of the weather this
summer and we could be seeing rationing by winter solstice.

"[...]Costco members were being allowed to buy only one bag. Moments earlier, a clerk dropped two sacks back on the stack after taking them from another customer who tried to exceed the one-bag cap.

"Due to the limited availability of rice, we are limiting rice purchases
based on your prior purchasing history," a sign above the dwindling
supply said.

Shoppers said the limits had been in place for a few days, and that rice supplies had been spotty for a few weeks. A store manager referred questions to officials at Costco headquarters near Seattle, who did not return calls or e-mail messages yesterday.

An employee at the Costco store in Queens said there were no restrictions on rice buying, but limits were being imposed on purchases of oil and flour. Internet postings attributed some of the shortage at the retail level to bakery owners who flocked to warehouse stores when the price of flour from commercial suppliers doubled.

The curbs and shortages are being tracked with concern by survivalists who view the phenomenon as a harbinger of more serious trouble to come.

"It's sporadic. It's not every store, but it's becoming more commonplace," the editor of, James Rawles, said. "The number of reports I've been getting from readers who have seen signs posted with limits has increased almost exponentially, I'd say in the last three to five weeks."" (from the New York Sun article)


I see there has been a lot of discussion about this rationing on the mainstream news outlets."There is no shortage of rice" they repeat, trying to avert panic. And a good thing, too. Americans are prone to panic--see 9/11.
But the original article pointed out that there were restrictions also on the purchase of cooking oil and flour (note also that Canadian farmers have moved away from growing wheat destined for bread). Again, this is in the world's most voracious consumer population. And the one that dominates the world's food supply. And this was not just at Costco, but also at Sam's Club outlets. These are not the problems of some corner grocer, but of some major wholesale heavyweights.
And this is not an isolated problem. The world food shortage--well, as usual, more of a distribution problem with radically higher prices--cannot help but impact us here in North America. We've buggered our food supply system, concentrating on industrial food at the expense of secure supply. Saskatchewan's PotashCorp., the world's largest supplier of potash for agricultural uses (it's a feedstock for fertilizer production), cannot supply enough potash to meet the current demand.
The U.N. World Food Program is having its own difficulties as well;

In a video conference from Rome, WFP Executive
Director Josette Sheeran told UN reporters that soaring food prices and
tight supplies are endangering the efforts of the agency to feed
millions of hungry people around the world.

"We can buy 40 percent less food than we could last June with the same contribution," Sheeran said." [reported by the Xinhua News Agency]

North Americans are going to have to get used to the idea that not only is the price of gas going to rise to $1.50/litre this summer (although possibly easing come fall), but natural gas prices, home heating oil prices, and the cost of electricity generated from oil, gas, or coal is also likely to rise, and we are no longer going to be able to count on food costs being less than 10% of our household budget.

There are the usual suspects in all this--Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times details a few of them:

"Governments and private grain dealers used to hold large inventories
in normal times, just in case a bad harvest created a sudden shortage.
Over the years, however, these precautionary inventories were allowed
to shrink, mainly because everyone came to believe that countries
suffering crop failures could always import the food they needed.

left the world food balance highly vulnerable to a crisis affecting
many countries at once — in much the same way that the marketing of
complex financial securities, which was supposed to diversify away
risk, left world financial markets highly vulnerable to a systemwide [sic]

There's more, and it's a not-bad short read. But to get some deeper insight into where the problems are coming from, I can't help but recommend by standbys: Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and, funnily enough, Planet of Slums by Mike Davis to get a sense of how badly we handle systemic problems.

The storm is here: global climate change (see Australia's major drought), higher prices for petroleum products (everything from gasoline to ethylene), higher commodity prices (potash in particular), and an industrial food system unlinked from the populations they're supposed to serve, mean that we are in for a bumpy and desperate ride over the next few years. With luck and foresight--the latter not something I count on our corporate and political masters to provide--we might come out the other end alive and with an improved system of agriculture. But I'm not holding my breath. In the meantime, become friends with a farmer, buy local, and grow (where possible) and preserve your own food. It can't hurt, and, who knows, it might even help save your family, your community, and the planet.

(posted Friday, April 25th)

News That's Really Useful

Okay, maybe not. But where else are you going to hear about a Brazilian priest that filled a thousand party balloons with helium and tried to set a record for time in the air?
Of course, the wind shifted and blew him out to sea, he's now lost and there's a search on for him, but even so.... there's even a short video over at the Guardian article.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Monsanto's Harvest of Fear

Great new article on Vanity Fair's website about the history of Monsanto and the litigation factory it has become.

Required reading for anyone concerned about their food supply.

Monsanto's Harvest of Fear

Bush Still Doesn't Get It. So What Else is New?

According to this CBC report, "President" Bush has set a goal of 2025 for the United States to stop increasing its carbon emissions.
Let me repeat that.
Bush's plan to combat climate change is to allow the United States, the biggest carbon polluter on the planet, to continue to increase its carbon emissions until 2025.
The 1997 Kyoto Accord targets called on industrial nations to cut their emissions to an average five per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. Bush called the Kyoto Accord flawed, then said it would have limited U.S. economic growth and shifted American jobs to other countries while letting new industrial powers such as China and India increase rather than reduce their emissions, conveniently ignoring the fact that the second round of Kyoto, to click in 2013, is to include all industrial nations in the new emissions cuts.
I don't know what sort of economy he thinks the US will have left when New York is underwater, the mid-west suffers from a never ending drought and California becomes a desert (oh wait, California already is a desert).
Maybe we should get ahead of the game and declare anarchy now.