Tuesday 22 January 2013

Totally Different (Not!)

It's midnight and I really should come clean.                                         Up, Down. 
Saturday, January 26, 2013.

1) Toronto City Hall, Queen & Bay, at 10:30 am.

2) Allan Gardens at 12:50 pm.
     Gerrard Street East at Sherbourne Street, details.
350.org     (See also: OFL Rally.)

3) Yonge St. and Hendon Ave. at 1:00 pm.
     1 block north of Finch on Yonge, details.
[Trying to hold onto that positive LUCKY '13 energy gentle reader ... and it is a struggle (in an Aikido 'avoid-the-thrust' sort'a way) but ... it's midnight and I really should come clean.]

I believe this nonsense about humanity's doom because I want to. Simple as that. Rhetorically I might say, "I have to believe it," implying something positive about both the strength of the evidence and the depth of my knowledge and understanding; but no. It was about the same quasi-transcendent language when I believed in Jesus in a magical way. I am a stupid knucklehead, silly; and I can prove it (beyond the obvious proof that almost no one speaks to me anymore).

Patrick White, 1980, a face consumed by wondering.Miles Davis, 1985.Mind you, less stupid as time goes on - f'rinstance, the recent article in Nature: 2020 emissions levels required to limit warming to below 2 °C; reported in The Guardian, showing that the peak in CO2 emissions must be 'round about 2015 to avoid a 3° or 4° world (or apocalyptic catastrophe, 'doom' as I call it, Ragnarök). Consider what is necessary to accomplish such a flattening of the Keeling Curve by 2015. (Do you really think a letter to your MP is enough? And how silly is that? :-)   
[I exaggerated somewhat; please see the note on the Nature article below.]

There is a lot more to wonder about here: the function of bourgeois forbearance & euphemism; Ubuntu vs individualism in a thoroughly atomized society; and so on. Another time.

And of course that damned 13th fairy in the story of Sleeping Beauty: righteous anger at not being on the guest list, and that because there were not enough golden plates to go 'round. Doh!
I was chatting one day last April, towards the end of a short fast, with Adriana Mugnatto (the Green Party environment critic) and Daryl Hemingway (a leader of the anti-wind movement from Scottsdale, Arizona) and threw in a comment about wind supplying base load requirements. A gaffe, a faux pas - she shut me up quickly. I acquiesced because I do in fact humbly bow to her superior knowledge; but I was clever enough to keep the business card he gave me and subsequently the three of us had a lengthy email exchange ... which eventually ended on all sides.

I have a theory of stupidity (particularly supported by idiots) that we are all numbskulls at one moment or another (and often most of the time) and that we can forgive, remember or not, and get on with it if we choose to (see Matthew 18-15).

So it didn't cut me, not really, until later when she refused steadfastly to even entertain what I have come to call 'the question' viz. "Why can the environmental movement not get its thumb out?"
Adão Iturrusgarai: Amor ... precisamos conversar! / Sweetie ... we need to talk!Adão Iturrusgarai: Amor ... precisamos conversar! / Sweetie ... we need to talk!

Anyway, QED on 'stupid knucklehead'. 
This belief in general doom, 1) suits my age; 2) suits my situation; and 3) suits my brand of guilt (on at least several axes):

You get old, inevitably, and mortality, from being an off-hand acknowledged bromide, gets very specific and comes into focus. You can't get it up; you can hardly piss with it ... and so on. It can be comforting to know that it happens to everyone in the end; but more satisfying by far to believe that it is the fate to be shared with one's entire species.

I walked away from a fat position when I finally realized that my efforts supported the kind of thing going on in Fort Chipewyan. It was not noble - I was overcome by cognitive dissonance not conscience. Even so I thought I might contribute to the counter force somehow - but all that has happened is a slow downward spiral into ignominy. So, as "the seasons tear off and condemn" it is a vestigial sweetness to imagine the simultaneous stopping of the whole infernal shebang.

You can simply blame others, 'project' guilt as it were. And it doesn't have to be entirely simple - there are so many clever redirecting fallacies to employ - I'll leave it to others to mark & precisely delineate this territory. It's a 'suffices-to-say' thing - I have used more than a few of them. At least I do not blame God - not the easiest 'out' but a common one - or the inverse, think that God will save us. (You can submerge into the warm bath of shame too - but it doesn't wash :-)

Just one thought, implied in Martin Buber's so eloquent "he must lay his hand in the wound of the other and learn: this concerns you," that it takes at least two, working together to get anywhere with anything - or (and my 2nd ex-wife so hated it when I would say this :-) "It takes two to tango." 
Alas, contrary to popular perception, ostriches don’t actually bury their heads in the sand – this is just an optical illusion caused when they put their very small heads to the ground to feed.   
[Thanks to The Daily Maverick for this nugget.]

Paul Ehrlich 1974.Many eminent (and otherwise) minds long ago turned, and more are now beginning to turn towards the question of how to get the collective thumbs out and humanity off its stump and away from this problématique cliff-hanger.

The latest I have seen is the Ehrlich's - who provided early impetus with 'The Population Bomb' in 1968. In this recent essay: Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided? they conclude with a "Yes" though they qualify it so heavily as to mean "No." Even these two are equivocal - they don't want to bring their readers to the point of vomiting in fear (I guess) - so they hedge, using hope to counter collapse ... 
... when it's either collapse, mitigated by as much resilience as we can muster or nothing (and I believe they know it) and hope has nothing to do with it.

When a-a-all of, your advisers heave their plastic
At your feet to convince you of your pain
Trying to prove that your conclusions should be more drastic

(Bob Dylan, Queen Jane Approximately, 1965)
Last year saw the IEA & World Bank trying to shift the greed-heads out of the ditch (or trough or whatever it is); trying desperately even. We could call them 'rightards' to couple with the 'leftards' you often read about - because they too imagine that there is a gradual, tweaking, change of course to steer us away from the abyss - but ... there's not.

Your Cadillac
Has got a wheel in the ditch and a wheel on the track

(Neil Young, Alabama, 1972)
Hope as a bourgeois value dies hard (see the Ehrlich's essay), and despite many converts to Lester Brown's way of thinking and a gradual colouring of economic thought with the hues of décroissance, the shift to a 'war regime' is not happening - neither at all nor quickly enough.

The gates of love they budged an inch
I can't say much has happened since
But closing time

(Leonard Cohen, Closing Time [watch out for the ad], 1992)
[No. And not fast enough neither.] 
I came across this the other day: "Criminals, like the rest of us, aren’t much influenced by things they might have to experience far in the future."    (a New York Times pundit)

But for some reason I am. (?) Maybe it is an extension in the virtue of Frye's observation on Thomas Pynchon: that his vision is driven by paranoia (of a polite and inoffensive kind). Ditto Will Self when he writes about Kafka (or is it Kafka writing about Will Self?). Dunno.

The positive energy of LUCKY '13 - This is the year we are going to turn it around! morphed into trying to see what, precisely & exactly, has to become 'totally different' in the environmental movement for it to ... move. That effort is still mostly mired in beholding the mote that is in my brother's and sister's eyes (although the beam in my own is also getting some attention :-). I'm sorry gentle reader, I'm just not a very nice person.

Glen's hand.A prof of mine used to stand up on a chair which was up on a desk at the front of the class and (perilously) bend over and look at small models and drawings between his legs - "trying to look at things differently" he would say. That's his hand in the picture there.

So it goes.

Three examples: Idle No More, 'The Media', and Blogger: 
Idle No More, Theresa Spence & Raymond Robinson:     I have never gone hungry for very long, a few days at most and then intentionally fasting - but enough to know what it feels like; so my admiration for Theresa Spence & Raymond Robinson is large.

There is a continuum of protest that runs from letters to the editor, letters to your MP, attending rallies and marches, civil disobedience, (maybe sabotage and destruction of property fits in here), symbolic fasting, hunger strike ... and so on to insurrection, revolution, and war. It seems (to me) that such situations evolve, quickly or slowly, and that participants tend to move along the continuum one step at a time.
  [This may seem elementary - I am really just making notes here.]

Two videos: Chief Spence interview December 18, 2012 (15 minutes); and, Raymond Robinson interview on his way to sit in solidarity with Theresa Spence December 31, 2012 (10 minutes).

Not Ghandi: Canadian chief is no Gandhi, but hard truths are being revealed (and here). And this: Do Not Disturb.

"Oh, she went to the meeting with Governor-General David Johnston," I thought, "That's it then." I underestimated her. "It didn't feel too good inside that house ..." she said afterwards, and I saw some of the toll that such a length of time on 200 or 300 calories a day takes. And as the days pass - more than 40 days now - Theresa and Raymond show no sign of relenting.    Good on them! 
Murray Clearsky.Murray Clearsky.The “fundamental transformation” being talked about is largely economic.    Shawn Atleo says, "a better revenue sharing model for resource development," and many other comments by chiefs echo this. There are also statements by some of the Idle No More initiators and others, that the environment is important, that what the government is doing and allowing to happen there is key; but it does not come across as being at the true centre. An exception (maybe) is Murray Clearsky who says, "It’s going to be so damn polluted none of us are going to survive."

There is also infighting & petty politics around who speaks for whom - which is mostly competition for the political salaries rather than statesmanship (it looks like to me). A text reportedly from one of Theresa Spence's supporters to Shawn Atleo on his way to meet Stephen Harper: "Since you have decided to betray me, all I ask of you now is to help carry my cold dead body off this island." Harsh.

In the disappointment and despair following the Doha COP 18 fiasco, I was coming around to thinking about hunger strike just before I learned about Theresa Spence's action. A moment of clarity soon buried in contradictory details.

Now I am thinking (and others are thinking along similar lines - see Alex Himelfarb) that Theresa & Raymond have opened a door, shown an example, made the situation liminal - and who knows where that may lead? 
Day 41:   It was a toss up whether to put this with Media or the hunger strike - somewhere in between I guess, If I am a knucklehead, what is Kevin Newman I wonder? Watch this 20 minute interview on Question Period last Sunday: Part 1 & Part 2 (originally here) and find out.

Raymond Robinson on Question Period Sunday January 20.Theresa Spence on Question Period Sunday January 20.Danny Metatawabin on Question Period Sunday January 20.He actually tries on the motherhood argument! Doh?! Every word out of his mouth reveals a sensibility so lame that one has to imagine it is entirely scripted by Stephen Harper. So then, an indication that Mr. Harper is worried; another is that he arranges for The Globe to declare in an editorial on the 21st (in rhetoric on par with Kevin Newman's): "The hunger strike has run its course," which it most evidently has not. Roger Augustine may have laid down, others not so much; even Shawn Atleo looks like he might stand up.

As for Kevin Newman, I guess he figgures, "If Peter Kent can do it, so can I." 
The (Evil) Media:     The Guardian reports: New York Times dismantles environment desk, and the same day NYT's Andrew Revkin responds & amplifies with The Changing Newsroom Environment. It ain't necessarily bad, but it don't look very good.

I have noticed The Guardian toning down their environmental coverage in the last 9 months or so. I imagine there are circulation pressures affecting all newspapers. I didn't think The Guardian covered the brouhaha around Brazil's Código Florestal last March very well, mis-translations and worse; and the headlines during and after COP 18 in Doha:

         Why the Doha climate conference was a success,
         Why a global climate treaty remains worth fighting for, and,
         Global warming talks progress is 'slow but steady';

aside from self-serving the reputations of these very well paid bureaucrats, seems too 'balanced' by far - the damned thing was an out and out flop!

Why haven't the alternative media picked up the slack? Why don't sites like Rabble & Tyee & Straight Goods work very well? Or maybe you think they do? I'll leave it to you. One that does work reasonably well by my lights is The Daily Maverick.

[An interesting digression from them this morning: 'stop nonsense' being a South African slang update to Robert Frost's 'good fences make good neighbours' in Mending Wall.] 
More importantly, the networking and 'social media' sites are not what they are cracked up to be.

There is a long list of networking sites, not one of which has the least idea of how to establish much of a network, nevermind foster it. But you see, networking takes place between individuals not Noms de Plume or 'Display Names' or avatars. That, and the software is generally shit. One that has promise is the comment interface at The Globe and Mail, powered by Pluck and (I believe) ScribbleLive. Of course software of any quality is not a silver bullet either - you have to have an intention to foster communication, to listen, connect, share. There are lots of case studies which I'll spare you - but here's one you can see for yourself: just compare and contrast the Occupy Wall Street (about unchanged in format from day 1) and Occupy Toronto (on its umpteenth platform) sites.

None of this is at all evil of course. These sites are just what they are, which is ill-coordinated, under-staffed, and under-funded; owned and operated by bog-standard humans ... and so on.

As for Facebook & Twitter & LinkedIn and the rest of the so-called 'social media': they are shills and barkers, paid for by advertising. There's no 'there' there. QED.

We go in the streets chanting "The people, united, can never be defeated!" But we are not united, and consequently we certainly can be defeated - sorry to tell you.

Problem is that time is so short - the old adage "fish or cut bait" is perfectly apt. 
Blogger:     I thought I would try the 'Read more »' feature in Blogger - to make more space on the first page and as a sort of natural index. But I ran into a glitch because of the black lines I use to separate this blog into lumps and skip through them more easily.  
[The struggle to make those internal jumps work properly is described somewhere else in here (at the top of this).]

I was surprised because the whole thing seems to work off a single tag "<!--more-->" BUT I failed to remember that you must be on the Compose tab (never never send cash in the mail, and never never ever go into 'compose' mode unless you want all of your Html mangled beyond recognition) to get at the button to insert the jump break. At first I was just interested, programmer to programmer, to see how it works: create a second URL, a 'token', for the continued part of the post and qualify any '<A' internal link tags (like the ones in the black lines) with the token - straightforward enough. But he or she was, you know, in a hurry I guess; the code to convert the links was supposed to work - then I noticed the mess it had made.

If someone shows up and claims to be a hot-shot programmer you can give them some simple tasks to code and then look at the algorithms they write - and their hot-shot-ness (or not) becomes immediately apparent. F'rinstance: write a loop that will turn "1, 2, 3, 4, 5" into "4, 3, 2, 1, 5" (which is what the Google image uploader does).

A confusion on how to use a variable as an index to a loop - unforgivable. This time it is more understandable - converting elements in a free-form string of text is problematic at best - but it is still shit. 
HTML has been around since 1990 but there is still no wysiwyg interface I know of that actually works. This is good for programmers because it means that you must code in HTML in order to get what you want. HTML is a rudimentary tool, but it doesn't work very well either so you need a huge kit of mostly counterintuitive tricks to accomplish even elementary formatting. No TAB f'rinstance, or try a hanging paragraph. Very comparable to SQL - still impossible to write in anything like 'natural language' (which was the intention as I rememmber it).

Try this: Do a Google News Search for anything, say 'Theresa Spence Attawapiskat' and use the Search Tools to limit it to 'Past 24 Hours'; here . This morning I get 3 pages, 30-40 items. But now change 'Sorted by relevance' to 'Sorted by date'; here. I get 9 items. (?!)

Back up a bit and consider that these guys have built a huge company, with unquestioned dominance in searching the Internet - and basic features don't work very well. I'll see your 'advanced technology' and raise you 'bungling incompetence'. 
Louis Lesosky aka Crowbird, November 2012.Louis Lesosky aka Crowbird, November 2012.There is at least one guy out there doin' it:

Louis Lesosky aka Crowbird: Occupation Apple Tree and a short video (3 minutes).

"We've gotta occupy the spaces we need to do things, that's all there is to it," and, "The whole world needs help so the thing is until we get together on it and start doing stuff that makes sense then we're all in trouble."

And a video (2 minutes) of part of an all-candidates meeting during the Canadian federal election in May of 2011 in Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

Meanwhile a McCain scion puts out 175,000 a month in alimony in Toronto, Berlusconi is reportedly paying 132,000 a day In Italy ... so ... just think of how much fun they're having :-)

Be well. 
Joeri Rogelj at a UNFCCC meeting in Bonn, Germany, in 2009.'2020 emissions levels required to limit warming to below 2 °C':   Buy it for $35 CDN from Nature; or read the commentary in The Guardian, or ask me for a copy (I have one thanks to the generosity of one of the authors, Joeri Rogelj, at ETH Zurich).

Aaron Swartz 1986-2013.Worthwhile giving a moment's thought to Aaron Swartz at this point, and maybe this comment in The Globe.

Initially I was only able to read the abstract, and the commentary; and I confused a peak in the growth of CO2 emissions with a peak in the absolute quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere. (OK-okok, I jumped to the conclusion that my twisted psychology was craving.)

Clip from Figure 1 of the report.Even then, my guesstimate of 2015 is not completely off the wall - you can see in the clip from Figure 1 that most of the trend-lines begin to go down before 2020 (though this may be just a function of tidy graphics). And anyway, what's likely to change in five years unless we get lucky and the economy collapses?

In any event, best is always to read the original and form your own understanding and judgement; as they say in the Discussion, "the range presented here contains much richer information."

Keep in mind that the models used here deal in probabilities, odds. You might ask yourself if you would cross the street on a 2 out of 3 chance that you would get to the other side eh? What about 1 in 100?

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