Friday 6 January 2012

They must be thinking they'll thread the needle.

(A-and win the Trifecta!)
Up, Down, Appendices, One more thing (or so).

Five Stars!Peter F. Sale - Our Dying Planet: An Ecologist's View of the Crisis We Face from University of California Press; with an excerpt: Chapter 1 (including the story of the Newfoundland cod fishery).

Our Dying Planet: An Ecologist's View of the Crisis We Face.Peter F. Sale.At, Amazon US, and at Abe's. (Still not at the Toronto Public Library?)

A review of 'Our Dying Planet' in The Independent, September 11 2011; and, a November 29 2011 audio interview (40 minutes) with Michael Stone on KVMR Nevada.

Watch his schedule for upcoming events. More links in the previous post.

You raise up your head and you ask, “Is this where it is?” and somebody points to you and says, “It’s his,” and you say, “What’s mine?” and somebody else says, “Well, what is?” and you say, “Oh my God, am I here all alone?”

Reality Check #1: A researcher, or a scientist, or several teams of researchers & scientists ... someone ... takes the H5N1 bird-flu virus - now called 'A(H5N1)'? - and plays with it; and the next thing you know, we have:
"Biosecurity advisers to the American government, which paid for the research, have urged that full details not be published for fear that terrorists could make use of them. The World Health Organization warned Friday that while such studies were important, they could have deadly consequences."
     (NYT recently here & here)
So ... where are these 'security advisers' when it comes to the likes of Not-Lord Monckton & Nigel Lawson Baron of Blaby? Why are these purveyors of pernicious information not threatened with prevention?

Deadly consequences you say? Peter Sale guesstimates a balanced population for earth at about 3 billion. Is not the fate of the other 4-6 billion important enough for the security experts?

(A few more details on H5N1 from Gwynne Dyer: ... and creation of a deadly flu, December 26 2011.)
Reality Check #2: In a New Year's Day rant, Paul Krugman does 'the little black dress' of spiels for growth (a patter with pearls):
First, families have to pay back their debt. Governments don’t — all they need to do is ensure that debt grows more slowly than their tax base. The debt from World War II was never repaid; it just became increasingly irrelevant as the U.S. economy grew, and with it the income subject to taxation.
     (NYT recently below)
So ... it's not 'debt' at all then (if we believe the OED which stresses 'obligation to pay or render') and we need another word for whatever it is. What shall we call it? Let's stop calling it 'debt' because that is (understandably) confusing.

A-and what about the interest? The dragon Oroborus is eating its own tail. Interest, presumably compound, nicely represents the necessary acceleration in its rate of eating. If it eats quickly enough won't mouth meet anus eventually? This seems such a fitting image for current circumstances ... Waidaminit! Wasn't there a porno/horror flick with that plot recently? Is that it Paul?Th-th-th that's all folks.

Or ... it's the end of a Looney Tunes and Porky Pig is saying "Th-th-th that's all folks," and vanishing into a black hole (with a flush).

Rick Salutin: Politics as Entertainment video.Rick Salutin's rant: A minute and a bit - or the original (if you want to watch the ad). Amusing that a glitch at The Star silenced the ad for me - otherwise good production values were evident; and Noam Chomsky can't match him on understated sarcasm.

(Interesting ... I grabbed this video - poor quality, hand held - and posted it on YouTube so I could link to it here; and the next thing I find is an 'official' copy on YouTube from The Star with no ads, go figgure?! So I have now thrown away my copy - good for The Star.)

I spend a fair amout of time trying to imagine what people like Stephen Harper and Peter Kent (and Not-Lord Monckton & Nigel Lawson Baron of Blaby & Bjørn Lomborg & ...) can possibly be thinking.   (?)

Where can they be 'coming from'? Oh I know: it's greed, it's venality, it's habit, even it's fear, false pride, ignorance, stupidity; but none of these quite satisfy. For me it's like trying to imagine what drives a kiddie-diddler.

And once in a while I get a clue:

Back in the day I was hard up for cash in Peterborough - and with dependents.

First try was as a nude model at the local art school - 15 bucks an hour sounded good (for that time). I was worried that I might get an erection which would be embarassing. What I found was that I got chilled - the room was cool. But the woman running the show knew how to do things and called a break about the time I began to shiver. A skinny girl came over. I knew her by sight because she had out-bid me at an auction the week before on a cardboard box full of sheet music and records - the auctioneer called him 'Bobbie Dye-lon' - she went to $10 and I couldn't go $11, didn't have it. Anyway, she came over during the break and said, "You know that line in Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat?" and I said, "Which one?" and she said, "I'd like to jump on it sometime." I was only saved because it so happened that I did not understand this idiom at the time.

Eventually, after a long and bitter struggle with the Chief of Police (over my long hair) I got a taxi licence and began to drive for City Cabs. It made $15 an hour look like a fortune.

One night - I had the big Merc, a full-sized car with all the fins which was the boss's personal ride most of the time - there was a bus, and a stale yellow light, and another car slowing for the light, and I tried to slide through between the car and the bus to run the yellow. Just about made it - didn't. The bus got me on the passenger side and about turned the taxi up on its side. Missed the other car - it stopped and then turned right around the front of the bus and went on. The bus backed up and the taxi came back to earth. Surprisingly the damage was not severe - passenger door & rocker panel completely crunched, that was it. Cops came - I got a ticket for something; the car was driveable so I went on back to the stand.

The next day the boss and I went up to the wrecker and got a door and put it in; pulled & beat at the rocker panel; sprayed on some primer to keep it from rusting. The door was a different colour but you couldn't really see the rocker panel and at the end of the day the car was OK. He got it repainted later that week.

All he said to me about it was: "Never pays to try and thread the needle - better just to take it slow and steady." He didn't even try to make me pay for it. That could have been difficult since I was just making it from one week to the next and the ticket alone about did me in - I guess he knew that. He was a 7th Day Adventist - I don't know if that had anything to do with it. A kind man. An adult. I never forgot him.

Ai Ai AI! These old-farts and their fricking stories!

Anyway, that's what I was wondering about this week. Stephen Harper & Peter Kent must know what is coming and they must be thinking if they can just gun that big Merc they'll thread the needle, slide through and deal with reducing CO2 emissions later-on another day. And maybe there are just enough back-seat sycophants around to make 'em feel OK with it. And the scientists are too measured by half - personally despairing but publicly equivocal except for a very few. And the environmentalists are so shrill an' lame an' all ...

Hell of a risk; deadly risk for so much and so many. Not even a risk; rapidly becoming a dead certainty:



(Is there anyone out there?     Anyone at all?)

How perverse is it?

I keep coming back to Paul (not Krugman, the other one) and his coals in Romans 12; not quite corresponding with a proper notion of what loving your enemies might mean. Twisted. Or ... There was a vision someone had in a bar one time of "God loving snakes!" but I can't know how true it was.

Or ... is all of this a fit of pique? In bold & CAPS an' all but substantively nothing more than bourgeois hand-wringing? A carry-on of childhood temper tantrums & 8-fold moxie transcendence morphed into a way to total self-destruction? Now that would be perverse, wouldn't it eh?      It's a possibility.

I like the term 'doom-monger', 'doomer' even moreso.

As a kid the 'weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth' of the whoremongers in the Old Testament got my attention. Given that iron-mongers sell, I thought whoremongers must be pimps. This made the moral clear & kept things safe & simple until the OED gave it away - a monger is a trader, trade could be buying or selling, maybe just kibbitzing in the marketplace - Uh Oh!

Eventually of course I met some whores - bound to happen - and that turned the whole thing on its head when they didn't: rob me, carry foul diseases, gibber with satanic glee, try to steal my kidneys - or not all of 'em at least. Could be I was lucky and clever enough to be chosen by gooders - who treated me kindly, laughed at my jokes, took me home to meet their kids; and continue truer friends to me (long after the money ran out) than, say, the bourgeois women I married. (All estimations of character being based upon qualities proven over time; and estimations being all we have.)

Curmudgeon can be imagined to have a derivation running through corn-monger (or not, see below) making it a Daily Double. And now ... doom-monger, doomer: someone who thinks the lemming-meisters are driving us towards the cliff and that the cliff is not far off. Whoopee! It's a monger Trifecta!

Yee-haw! Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump here we come! Yep. That sounds like it - or close enough for the girls I go with.

If anyone has a clue, the merest whisper of a rumour of a clue, a tiny hint, the wildest speculation around what to do about all of this I sincerely wish they would run it past me.

Be well gentle reader.

(Simply wrong according to the OED: The occurrence in Holland's Livy, 1600, of cornmudgin has led to a suggestion that this was the original form, with the meaning ‘concealer or hoarder of corn’, mudgin being associated with Middle English much-en, mich-en to pilfer, steal, or muchier, Norman form of Old French mucier, musser to conceal, hide away. But examination of the evidence shows that curmudgeon was in use a quarter of a century before Holland's date, and that cornmudgin is apparently merely a nonce-word of Holland's, a play upon corn and curmudgeon. The suggestion that the first syllable is cur, the dog, is perhaps worthy of note; but that of Dr. Johnson's ‘unknown correspondent’, coeur méchant for French méchant coeur, ‘evil or malicious heart’, is noticeable only as an ingenious specimen of pre-scientific etymology.
Wishful thinking on my part: Some may refer to certain species of evangelist and other rapture-seekers as 'doomers' but as time goes on and the language evolves these scurrilous definitions will be abandoned.)

One more thing: (or at least several, definitely)

Ahh, I see I forgot about Murphy the last time ... Oh well.

Five complicated stories:

1) A robbery (for cash & painkillers but they don't say which one) reported in the NYT with private guns everywhere ends with the robber & an interloper dead.

Barack Obama & Richard Cordray & onlooker.2) The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in the NYT here & here: Obama, Elizabeth Warren (now a senate candidate), Richard Cordray. I like the expression on the guy clapping.

3) Tyler Brûlé - Mister Zeitgeist (in the NYT). A great idea, ideas, a small private fortune - except ... A 50's childhood so unconscious that we didn't even learn to hate gays - howJack Gerard, CEO of API. could we hate what didn't exist? And by the time they tried it on us it was too late for hate. But the 'except' stays.

4) More of Barack and the Keystone Trolls (it is definitely 'and' not 'vs.'): "Oil chief issues threat" says the Guardian. I guess it's a line of scrimmage metaphor but who watches football well enough to understand all of this shite?

Yvo de Boer, Durban COP17.5) If anyone has despaired it might well be Yvo de Boer; and yet he just keeps on putting his best foot forward (see below). A 1%-er who is pulling his weight.

I don't believe for a minute he thinks Durban was any kind of success. 'Breakthrough' could be a tactful slip of the tongue - preceded by one of his patented Dutch pauses.

A-and, a very long story:

I got interested in the Frade (pronounced 'fraud-ge') FPSO when it was looking like I would have to leave Brasil. I can't remember what the draw was - a rotating turret? And later on I gathered some information on it here.

Then I noticed that Brazil is having ructions with Chevron over a spill involving Frade to the tune of $20 billion; which led to a Guardian article on the $18 billion Chevron/Texaco/Equador judgement: Chevron accused of racism as it fights Ecuador pollution ruling with a picture of a guy I recognized, Pablo Fajardo.

"Racism?" I thought? Seems an odd accusation (not that it isn't true). And a bell went off - hadn't I already posted his story somewhere? I was sure I had researched Pablo Fajardo before - sure enough, back in my October 2009 archive I found some photographs & the Vanity Fair article but no evidence that I did anything with it. A few posts tagged 'Equador' showed me that I didn't even know how to spell it - Ecuador doh! But an hour or more searching line-by-line for traces led nowhere. Google is so undependable at searching - supposed to be their raison d'être too.

Oh well; you have to laugh, it's all so funny.

So, here's a very good article from May 2007 on the situation: Jungle Law by William Langewiesche; a good short video 60 Minutes - Amazon Crude (15 minutes) that aired May 1 2009 and definitely turned up the heat; a full-length movie in theatres September 2009, Crude (downloadable at Demonoid); a-and a few interesting personalities:

Steven Donziger.

Richard Cabrera.

Silvia Garrigo, Chevron lawyer.Silvia Garrigo, Chevron lawyer.Silvia Garrigo, Chevron lawyer.Silvia Garrigo, Chevron lawyer.Silvia Garrigo, a Chevron lawyer and 'Corporate Responsibility' person. I have known women with that shape of face who were not terriers - and if you watch the 60 Minutes clip carefully you will see that she is not tall. Here's something she said in 2011:
"Guided by The Chevron Way, which is anchored in getting results the right way—ethically and with integrity—our unyielding goal is to show that we can lead in providing safe and reliable supplies of energy and providing tangible and sustainable benefits to the communities in which we operate."
     (Corporate Responsibility at Chevron, final sentence)
David O'Reilly, Chairman and CEO of Chevron during some of the period of the struggle.

Ibsen's Peer Gynt (pronounced 'pair hoont') falls down in despair but then, at the last possible moment, the great Boyg disappears in a fizzle just like The Wicked Witch of the West saying, "He was too strong. There were women behind him."

And if it so happens they're women who were once upon a time in the game ... so be it, no problem.


1. Nobody Understands Debt, Paul Krugman, January 1 2012.

2. Ex-UN climate chief says business should get ready for low-carbon world, Fiona Harvey, Thursday 5 January 2012.

Nobody Understands Debt, Paul Krugman, January 1 2012.

In 2011, as in 2010, America was in a technical recovery but continued to suffer from disastrously high unemployment. And through most of 2011, as in 2010, almost all the conversation in Washington was about something else: the allegedly urgent issue of reducing the budget deficit.

This misplaced focus said a lot about our political culture, in particular about how disconnected Congress is from the suffering of ordinary Americans. But it also revealed something else: when people in D.C. talk about deficits and debt, by and large they have no idea what they’re talking about — and the people who talk the most understand the least.

Perhaps most obviously, the economic “experts” on whom much of Congress relies have been repeatedly, utterly wrong about the short-run effects of budget deficits. People who get their economic analysis from the likes of the Heritage Foundation have been waiting ever since President Obama took office for budget deficits to send interest rates soaring. Any day now!

And while they’ve been waiting, those rates have dropped to historical lows. You might think that this would make politicians question their choice of experts — that is, you might think that if you didn’t know anything about our postmodern, fact-free politics.

But Washington isn’t just confused about the short run; it’s also confused about the long run. For while debt can be a problem, the way our politicians and pundits think about debt is all wrong, and exaggerates the problem’s size.

Deficit-worriers portray a future in which we’re impoverished by the need to pay back money we’ve been borrowing. They see America as being like a family that took out too large a mortgage, and will have a hard time making the monthly payments.

This is, however, a really bad analogy in at least two ways.

First, families have to pay back their debt. Governments don’t — all they need to do is ensure that debt grows more slowly than their tax base. The debt from World War II was never repaid; it just became increasingly irrelevant as the U.S. economy grew, and with it the income subject to taxation.

Second — and this is the point almost nobody seems to get — an over-borrowed family owes money to someone else; U.S. debt is, to a large extent, money we owe to ourselves.

This was clearly true of the debt incurred to win World War II. Taxpayers were on the hook for a debt that was significantly bigger, as a percentage of G.D.P., than debt today; but that debt was also owned by taxpayers, such as all the people who bought savings bonds. So the debt didn’t make postwar America poorer. In particular, the debt didn’t prevent the postwar generation from experiencing the biggest rise in incomes and living standards in our nation’s history.

But isn’t this time different? Not as much as you think.

It’s true that foreigners now hold large claims on the United States, including a fair amount of government debt. But every dollar’s worth of foreign claims on America is matched by 89 cents’ worth of U.S. claims on foreigners. And because foreigners tend to put their U.S. investments into safe, low-yield assets, America actually earns more from its assets abroad than it pays to foreign investors. If your image is of a nation that’s already deep in hock to the Chinese, you’ve been misinformed. Nor are we heading rapidly in that direction.

Now, the fact that federal debt isn’t at all like a mortgage on America’s future doesn’t mean that the debt is harmless. Taxes must be levied to pay the interest, and you don’t have to be a right-wing ideologue to concede that taxes impose some cost on the economy, if nothing else by causing a diversion of resources away from productive activities into tax avoidance and evasion. But these costs are a lot less dramatic than the analogy with an overindebted family might suggest.

And that’s why nations with stable, responsible governments — that is, governments that are willing to impose modestly higher taxes when the situation warrants it — have historically been able to live with much higher levels of debt than today’s conventional wisdom would lead you to believe. Britain, in particular, has had debt exceeding 100 percent of G.D.P. for 81 of the last 170 years. When Keynes was writing about the need to spend your way out of a depression, Britain was deeper in debt than any advanced nation today, with the exception of Japan.

Of course, America, with its rabidly antitax conservative movement, may not have a government that is responsible in this sense. But in that case the fault lies not in our debt, but in ourselves.

So yes, debt matters. But right now, other things matter more. We need more, not less, government spending to get us out of our unemployment trap. And the wrongheaded, ill-informed obsession with debt is standing in the way.

Ex-UN climate chief says business should get ready for low-carbon world, Fiona Harvey, Thursday 5 January 2012.

Last month's Durban climate talks have given a strong signal that governments are serious about tackling global warming

Businesses should be putting plans in place this year to prepare for a low-carbon economy, having been given a strong signal from the latest climate change negotiations that governments are serious about tackling global warming, according to the former United Nations climate chief.

Yvo de Boer said the message from the Durban climate talks in December, which ended with a dramatic last-minute deal to forge a new legally binding climate agreement, was that businesses ought to press ahead with moves towards operating in a low-carbon world. He said that businesses should interpret the talks as a "clear signal that the international community is committed to taking the climate change agenda forward, that market-based mechanisms [such as carbon trading] will continue and that there will be clear reporting guidelines" on carbon dioxide emissions, which will affect companies.

De Boer, now special adviser on climate change to KPMG, was the architect of the Copenhagen climate summit of 2009, at which countries made voluntary commitments to cut their emissions by 2020. Many countries, green campaigners and businesses complained that the system of voluntary commitments did not provide the certainty needed to spur the development of a low-carbon economy across the globe.

The breakthrough at the Durban climate conference was that all countries, developed and developing, agreed to start work on a new worldwide agreement, to be signed in 2015, that would stipulate legally binding – not voluntary – emissions cuts to kick in from 2020.

De Boer told the Guardian that moves to create a global legally binding agreement were good for businesses. He said business leaders had stressed to him that they needed greater certainty from politicians, in order to make the right decisions to stay prosperous in the future. Only a global, legally binding agreement on the climate could provide the sort of guarantee that generates a wave of investment in greener technologies, and meaningful efforts to cut greenhouse gases. Such an agreement would also help to ensure there was a level playing field across in terms of business regulation – and this too would work to the advantage of companies, which could be reassured that their rivals were facing the same constraints.

He said that it was a "mistake" to think, as some people have argued, that a "bottom-up" approach – whereby countries and industry would make voluntary commitments to cut emissions – would be sufficient to reduce emissions by the drastic amounts needed in order to keep temperature rises within relatively safe levels.

His views are broadly shared by Lord (Nicholas) Stern, author of the landmark 2006 Stern review of the economics of climate change. Stern told the Guardian that the efforts of many businesses and nations so far to cut emissions would not have happened without the impetus given by the international negotiating process.

However, some close observers of the talks, including the UK's former chief scientific adviser Sir David King, take an opposing view, arguing that the annual climate talks that have been running for nearly two decades have borne little fruit and that nations should focus instead on a series of voluntary, non-binding pledges and on encouraging industry to cut emissions.

Stern also warned that the current pledges on greenhouse gas emissions from governments around the world would not be sufficient to stave off dangerous climate change, and must be strengthened.The Durban agreement was snatched at the last minute after the talks, which were supposed to end at teatime on 9 December, carried on through two more nights into the early hours of Sunday morning. A last-ditch compromise among the European Union, India and China over the wording of how a new agreement should be described – the words "legally binding" were replaced by "an agreed outcome with legal force" – enabled the talks to end in consensus.

"Slowly but surely, like it or not, the world is moving forward on climate change, with business now able to seriously calculate the implications of a low- carbon economy," De Boer said. "The meeting in Durban was its usual roller coaster ride, ending with a surprise commitment to continue the Kyoto Protocol, along with a raft of other climate change agreements. While the outcome has signalled a breakthrough for a political consensus on climate change, the outcome for business is only just becoming clear."

He said the agreement at Durban to continue with the Kyoto protocol beyond 2012, when its current provisions expire, would also have a big effect on many companies. "Business can be confident that market-based mechanisms such as the clean development mechanism [under which carbon credits are issued and sold] will continue," he said.

The clean development mechanism has generated billions of dollars in investment in low-carbon technologies around the world since it came into force in 2005, but in the last two years the investment pipeline has all but dried up, because of the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Kyoto protocol.

De Boer said the "Durban platform", the name given to the deal reached there to negotiate a new legal agreement, showed that "an international agreement for global action on climate change is within our reach and should therefore be considered within every forward looking business strategy".

He said: "With a pinch of luck, by 2015 [when the new agreement should be signed] the current economic crisis will be behind us, creating a more benign climate for governments to make commitments the world needs in order to tackle climate change effectively and business needs to survive and prosper."

But he warned that the science of climate change was becoming clearer, making it more obvious that our current efforts to cut emissions have been insufficient, and that much more needs to be done. "Our concrete actions have not taken us anywhere near where we need to be to keep temperature rises below 2ºC [which scientists regard as the limit of safety]," he said.

De Boer stressed the key role for business in tackling global warming, for instance through investments geared to cutting emissions in the developing world. At Durban, countries agreed most of the terms by which money can start to be released under the "green climate fund", under which $100bn a year in financing should flow from the rich to the poor world by 2020. "Prior to the conference it was unclear what role business would play in the fund; the worry was that the private sector would be sidelined," he said. "Thankfully, Durban saw confirmation that the fund will have a facility to fund private sector initiatives. It will seek actively to promote business involvement and catalyse further public and private money."

De Boer said this should mean more public-private partnerships in developing nations working on green growth, which should create jobs, alleviate poverty and improve infrastructure as well as tackling climate change.


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