fine view of natural building with bamboo and split bamboo!
fine view of natural building with bamboo and split bamboo!
As explained by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, through TPP, U.S. corporations and their K-Street lobbyists seek to by-pass the legislative process and democratic accountability in order to undermine Internet freedom, U.S. environmental laws and regulations and local laws protecting the health and safety of our citizenry. "Many of those corporations that have failed to get what they want from Congress are now getting their way through the secret back door of the TPP," they write. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has also issued a warning that Wall Street is attempting to gut Dodd-Frank through trade agreements such as TPP.
But, as government watchdog group Public Citizen observes, TPP --- which is now augmented by a joint U.S./E.U. call for a similar Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement --- threatens not only U.S. sovereignty but the ability of all nations to protect their own citizenry through the expansion of an already "notorious investor-state system". Such a system allows ethically compromised international business arbitration tribunals to compel nation-states to fork over "taxpayer-funded" penalties to predominantly U.S.-based, multinational corporations as the result of "domestic regulatory frameworks concerning nuclear energy and currency stability, revocation of mining and oil licenses (often in response to contract violations), and numerous other government measures affecting public health, financial stability, access to essential services and the environment."
What, you hadn't heard about this? Perhaps because the corporate media, and both major political parties, would prefer you keep your eyes on the shiny, pretend objects (Benghazi "scandal"! IRS "scandal"!) rather than the policies supported by both parties that will actually have a very real impact on your life and our country...
Business tribunal system
Even without the adoption of TPP, one can find a significant and growing threat to both the sovereignty of individual nation-states and to anything resembling democratic accountability in both currently existing "free trade" agreements and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Flowers and Zeese cite two examples: 1) A WTO ruling that Ontario, Canada violated WTO rules by adopting "a renewable energy program that requires energy generators to source solar cells and wind turbines from local businesses so as to cultivate a robust supply of green goods, services and jobs." 2) A NAFTA-based suit brought by Lone Pine Resources against the Canadian government seeking $250 million in lost profits because Quebec adopted a moratorium on fracking. Flowers and Zeese add, quoting from a Huffington Post article by Sierra Club Trade Representative Ilana Sullivan:
By the end of 2011, corporations such as Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical, and Cargill have launched 450 investor-state cases against 89 governments, including the United States. Over $700 million has been paid to corporations under U.S. free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties, about 70 percent of which are from challenges to natural resource and environment policies.
As illustrated by this chart, from the May 2013 report [PDF] of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, investor-state arbitrations, filed with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), have been on a precipitous rise since the passage of NAFTA and have since exploded to their highest number ever in 2012....
Where Public Citizen points to a disturbing order that Ecuador pay more than $2.4 billion to Occidental Petroleum ("roughly the government's annual expenditure on health care for half the country") for its unilateral "termination of an oil contract that Occidental had violated," the truly disturbing ruling entailed a decision by a bilateral arbitration tribunal to exercise jurisdiction in a case where Chevron was attempting to block an $18 billion judgment against it for its devastating contamination of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest and the poisoning of its inhabitants --- contamination that was so extensive that it has been referred to in the documentary film, Crude: The Real Price of Oil, as the "Amazon Chernobyl."
Chevron sought to shield itself from that judgment even after the U.S. 2d Circuit Court of Appeal, in Republic of Ecuador vs. Chevron Corp., ruled that the giant oil company could not do so because the individual victims of the massive contamination --- some 30,000 indigenous members of several Amazon tribes --- were not parties to the Bilateral Investment Treaty between Ecuador and the U.S.
Chevron's efforts to use U.S. courts to block the $18 billion Ecuador judgment ultimately ended when the U.S. Supreme Court summarily denied its petition for a writ of certiorari.
Growing resistance to TPP
Public Citizen has mixed the good news with the bad. A growing number of countries are rising to the occasion:
Australia has already refused to sign on to any investor-state provisions. Other countries may follow their lead. In the meantime, global resistance to the extreme investor-state system is growing, with countries like Brazil, India, South Africa, and Ecuador rejecting its threats to democratic policymaking in the public interest.
To be truly effective, that resistance must be joined by democratic forces within the United States, which serves as the heart of the global corporate empire. Instead of TPP, our nation would be better served to move in the opposite direction, repealing NAFTA-like "free trade" agreements and replacing them with fair trade agreements that respect human rights to a livable wage and a sustainable environment. It was a goal that was embodied in The Trade, Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act, as introduced in both the 110th and 111th Congress. TRADE had 148 co-sponsors in the House and 9 in the Senate but was never allowed to come up for a vote after being bottled-up in committees in both chambers. TRADE failed to receive an up-or-down vote despite polls showing that the American people favor fair trade over the chimera of so-called "free trade".
* * *
PREVIOUSLY RELATED BRAD BLOG COVERAGE:
• 8/5/2011: "Next 'Giant Sucking Sound': U.S. Senate Leaders Reach Accord on Three New 'Free Trade' Agreements"
Which may suggest the real stakes here. The government’s multiplying, metastasizing scandals — from Duffy’s improper expense claims to the efforts, apparently coordinated between the Prime Minister’s Office and senior Tory Senators, to cover these up, to the robocalls affair, to the arrest on charges of fraud and money laundering of Arthur Porter, the prime minister’s choice for chairman of the Security Intelligence Review Committee — are not, in my view, wholly unrelated. Rather, they stem from a culture that has taken root among the Conservative hierarchy — a culture of expediency.
People don’t make ethical choices in isolation. They take their cues from those around and above them
People don’t make ethical choices in isolation. They take their cues from those around and above them. Maybe Duffy’s expense padding had its roots in the Senate’s historically lax culture: indeed, given the absence of controls on senators’ expenses, it would be astonishing if only a couple of senators had succumbed to the temptation this presented.
But the efforts to cover this up, like the obstruction of the robocalls investigation or the curious lack of due diligence in the Porter appointment, are suggestive of something else: a habit of looking the other way at bad behaviour, if not actually encouraging it; and, when it is brought to light, of denying, and minimizing, and explaining it away.
This isn’t about a few senators padding their expense accounts, or criminal acts on the part of one or two individuals, or even what the prime minister knew when. It’s the whole moral code of this government that’s in question. This isn’t just a problem, something to be fixed: it’s existential. Whatever the various official investigations may or may not turn up, questions about the government’s character are now deeply planted in the public mind, in a way it shows no sign of being able to deal with, or even comprehending.
Indeed, if you want to know how a government gets into this kind of mess, you’ve only to look at how it tries to get out of it. The government persist in thinking this can all be treated as a matter of spin and bluster, much as it has dealt with most problems.
But you can’t spin your way out of something you spun yourself into. If you are generally perceived as devious and duplicitous, more deviousness and duplicity are not going to help. Only transparency and honesty can. But, as I’ve said before, if that were what this government were about, we wouldn’t be here.
But increasingly, there is an outrageous element to Conservative partisanship — a craziness that borders on pathology.
Think Richard Nixon.
Like the former U.S. president, Harper has an ambitious agenda.
Nixon normalized relations between the U.S. and Communist China. Harper recalibrated Canada’s relationship with NATO, Israel, the United Nations and South America.
Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard. Harper has made the boldest effort of any prime minister in living memory to wean Canada from its economic dependence on the U.S.
In a long, bloody and roundabout way Nixon extricated most American troops from a war in Vietnam that he supported. For his part, Harper effectively ended Canadian military involvement in the Afghan War — a war he once called both just and necessary.
While Nixon wasn’t adored, his followers respected him. That and the utter disarray of his political opponents allowed him to win two elections handily.
Ditto for Harper, except that he won three.
By 1973, Nixon was headed for the history books as one of America’s great, if controversial, presidents.
But then he was derailed.
The proximate cause of Nixon’s derailment was the scandal known as Watergate. The real cause was his own paranoia, his insistence on political overkill and his willingness to have operatives commit dirty tricks that were beyond the law.
Is Harper heading down this path? Let’s just say there are worrying signs.
Like Nixon, Harper has a bitter side. He is unforgiving. His visceral dislike of his political enemies — particularly the Liberals — can be over the top
Nixon had an enemies list. As my colleague Tim Harper pointed out this week, so does Canada’s Conservative government.
Cindy Blackstock, an advocate for aboriginal children, ended up on this enemies list for criticizing Ottawa’s approach to natives.
Nixon used the resources of the White House to commit burglary. The Harper government, according to a report by Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, used its information technology staff to access Blackstock’s private Facebook page and monitor her postings.
Indeed, the most chilling element of Stoddart’s report on the Blackstock affair is the suggestion that this government routinely uses its IT professionals to monitor the on-line musings of private citizens.
There is even an official “website access request form” that would-be bureaucratic snoops must fill out.
Nixon had his henchmen commit dirty tricks against political enemies. Canada’s equivalent is the robocall scandal. The final word on this is still not in. And no political party is entirely innocent. But we do know two things.
First, a federal court judge found that the Conservative party database was used to commit electoral fraud. In particular, Justice Richard Mosley found that unknown persons used automated telephone calls to deter non-Conservative voters from casting ballots in 2011.
Second, we know from both Mosley and chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand that the Conservative party has done its best to obstruct any investigation into this robocall scandal.
Finally, the Senate. Harper wants to close the book on this scandal. It is still open. Again the elements have a Nixonian quality. The plot goes something like this:
Sen. Mike Duffy is a valued Conservative stalwart. But his spending irregularities threaten to embarrass the government. As a result, the prime minister’s chief of staff approaches two Conservative senators — including one Harper loyalist — charged with investigating Duffy.
The chief of staff then pays Duffy $90,172 to cover th
No similar statistics are available for Harper's responsiveness, but Canada's prime minister is almost a professional hermit by comparison.
A cursory search of the public record by CBC News turned up only five full-fledged Harper news conferences in the past six years.
Now that Harper has a majority government, he doesn't appear to bother at all with wide-open sessions with reporters; the last one we could find was in 2009.
The prime minister does allow some short question-and-answer sessions in which he will take a couple of quick queries, and he does grant interviews. But again, these are only a tiny fraction of the presidential average.
And when he doesn't like questions on a particular subject, he just ignores them, no matter how much the Canadian public would appear to want explanations.
Take his response to the mounting questions about the resignation of his chief of staff and the expense controversies surrounding former Conservative senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin.
Early in this affair, when Duffy's expense claims began to look questionable, Harper supported him. When Duffy announced, disingenuously it turned out, that he would reimburse the public to the tune of $90,000, Harper stood in the Commons to praise the senator's "leadership."
Then, when it emerged eight days ago that Harper's own chief of staff, Nigel Wright, had paid the bill, and much more serious questions arose over the circumstances of the payment, Harper simply went silent.
He remained mute when Duffy was forced out of the Conservative caucus, and when Senator Wallin followed her colleague the next day.
On the weekend, when the chief of staff himself resigned, Harper issued a short written statement expressing regret. Again, no substantive answers to what was becoming a deafening uproar of questions.
Finally, on Tuesday, the PM appeared before his caucus to address the matter and, exceptionally, reporters were allowed in to record his remarks.
Harper's only direct comment on the matter: "I'm not happy, I'm very upset, about some [of the] conduct we have witnessed. The conduct of some parliamentarians and the conduct of my own office."
He then launched into a self-congratulatory speech about his government's "accountability," taking a shot at Liberal party ethics for good measure.
When reporters began yelling questions, Harper ignored them, a smile fixed on his face, while party officials had them kicked out of the room.
wonderful diffused light after a good rain!
Countries with huge reserves of valuable natural resources often suffer from economic imbalances and boom-bust cycles. They also tend to have low-innovation economies, because lucrative resource extraction makes them fat and happy, at least when resource prices are high.
Canada is true to type. When demand for tar sands energy was strong in recent years, investment in Alberta surged. But that demand also lifted the Canadian dollar, which hurt export-oriented manufacturing in Ontario, Canada’s industrial heartland. Then, as the export price of Canadian heavy crude softened in late 2012 and early 2013, the country’s economy stalled.
Canada’s record on technical innovation, except in resource extraction, is notoriously poor. Capital and talent flow to the tar sands, while investments in manufacturing productivity and high technology elsewhere languish.
But more alarming is the way the tar sands industry is undermining Canadian democracy. By suggesting that anyone who questions the industry is unpatriotic, tar sands interest groups have made the industry the third rail of Canadian politics.
The current Conservative government holds a large majority of seats in Parliament but was elected in 2011 with only 40 percent of the vote, because three other parties split the center and left vote. The Conservative base is Alberta, the province from which Prime Minister Stephen Harper and many of his allies hail. As a result, Alberta has extraordinary clout in federal politics, and tar sands influence reaches deep into the federal cabinet.
Both the cabinet and the Conservative parliamentary caucus are heavily populated by politicians who deny mainstream climate science. The Conservatives have slashed financing for climate science, closed facilities that do research on climate change, told federal government climate scientists not to speak publicly about their work without approval and tried, unsuccessfully, to portray the tar sands industry as environmentally benign.
The federal minister of natural resources, Joe Oliver, has attacked “environmental and other radical groups” working to stop tar sands exports. He has focused particular ire on groups getting money from outside Canada, implying that they’re acting as a fifth column for left-wing foreign interests. At a time of widespread federal budget cuts, the Conservatives have given Canada’s tax agency extra resources to audit registered charities. It’s widely assumed that environmental groups opposing the tar sands are a main target.
This coercive climate prevents Canadians from having an open conversation about the tar sands. Instead, our nation behaves like a gambler deep in the hole, repeatedly doubling down on our commitment to the industry.
Gosh, that sounds familiar. Guess there are two petro-states in North America.
The Washington Post killed my assigned piece for its Outlook section this weekend which mainly covered media failures re: Iraq and the current refusal to come to grips with that (the subject of my latest book)--yet they ran this misleading, cherry-picking, piece by Paul Farhi claiming the media "didn't fail." I love the line about the Post in March 2003 carrying some skeptical pieces just days before the war started: "Perhaps it was too late by then. But this doesn’t sound like failure."
Here's my rejected piece. I see that the Post is now defending killing the article because it didn't offer sufficient "broader analytical points or insights." I'll let you consider if that's true and why they might have rejected it.
Now let's revisit my recent posts here on when probe in the Post itself by Howard Kurtz in 2004 showed that it failed big time. For one thing, Kurtz tallied more than 140 front-page Post stories "that focused heavily on administration rhetoric against Iraq"--with all but a few of those questioning the evidence buried inside. Editors there killed, delayed or buried key pieces by Ricks, Walter Pincus, Dana Priest and others. The Post's David Ignatius went so far as offering an apology to readers this week for his own failures. Also consider Bob Woodward's reflections here and here. He admitted he had become a willing part of the the "groupthink" that
Alas, right now both sides are trying to inflict maximum pain on the other, rather than framing the debate as: âoeHereâs the world weâre living in; hereâs what we need to thrive; and, if we cut and tax here, we can invest in these 21st-century growth engines over here.â Our goal is not to balance the budget. Itâs to make America great.
SO how come the best ideas are off the table? (Blessedly, Representative Henry Waxman, a Democrat of California, is now working to get some kind of carbon tax on the table.) Several reasons, argues Adam Garfinkle, editor of The American Interest and author of a smart new e-book, âoeBroken: American Political Dysfunction and What to Do About It.â
First, because our democracy today is perverted more than ever by deep-pocketed lobbies and oligopolies. So, âoein order to get and stay elected today, you have to raise huge sums of money from corporations, wealthy individuals and dues-laden unions,â Garfinkle notes, and all that money leads to âoetwisted decision-making at the high-politics levelâ and âoeregulatory captureâ at the bureaucratic-administrative level. The fossil fuel, auto and power companies have bought a lot of politicians to block a carbon tax.
Part 2: Bark beetles threatening more than just lodgepole pines
Posted: Dec 12th, 2012
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British Columbia pine beetles
pine beetles in BC
This article is the second of a two part series on the book "The Insatiable Bark Beetle" by Dr. Reese Halter. The first article covered the grand sweep of our rapidly warming forests and the attacking strategies of the bark beetles. This second article gives a taste of Dr. Halter's tours of several magnificent forest types and the dire future awaiting them if we continue to overheat our planet.
For a few years I've been reading a lot -- and writing occasionally -- about the mountain pine beetle's epic attack on BC's lodgepole pines. All this time I've been bothered by the lack of discussion about: "what comes next?"
The media and politicians talk as if BC's epic beetle kill is a one-time event that is now winding down. But how can that be if the climate continues to warm rapidly, humans are doing nothing effective to slow it down, and the bugs certainly aren't going away? Clearly there is more to this story that isn't getting reported or discussed.
Fortunately I finally stumbled upon this tiny gem of a book -- "The Insatiable Bark Beetle" by Dr. Reese Halter. Dr. Halter spent months reading "a couple thousand scientific papers and several dozen books." He compiles all that into an extremely readable and engaging series of chapters devoted to many different kinds of conifers in harm's way:
The Piñon Pines
The Whitebark and Limber Pines
The Bristlecone Pines
I have read this book three times now, amazed at what I'm learning about our magnificent forests and the threats our native bark beetles pose in a rapidly warming world. Finally someone has laid out for the general public the larger picture of "what comes next?"
Here are a few insights and excerpts from the book's later chapters on specific tree species.
The Lodgepole Pines
The shocking tale of how the tiny mountain pine beetles devoured half of BC's lodgepole pine forests in just the last decade is fairly well known. (see: Half of BC pines dead from fossil fuel pollution. Is it over?)
Dr. Halter tells that story briefly and goes on to make it clear that it is much larger than just in BC:
Mountain pine beetles have also been on an epic all-you-can-east smorgasbord in the US, across eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and South Dakota… mortality rates in excess of 90 per cent, as many smaller-stemmed trees have also been killed from intense infestations.
What is much less well known is that the remaining BC lodgepole pine forests in our colder northeast are next on the menu as the climate warms. Even worse, they lack a critical "terpenoid" resin defense mechanism because they have never faced mountain pine beetles before. Global warming is now allowing the bark beetles access to these "naïve" and unprepared forests.
Any subsequent temperature rise of between 1 and 2C will be endgame for many lodgepole pine forests; the species would likely survive in only 17 per cent of its current range.
And the wholesale destruction doesn't stop with lodgepole pines. As this chapter makes gruesomely clear, when lodgepoles are in short supply the mountain pine beetles are happy to attack and devour:
western white pine
eastern white pine
As we warm the planet, vast new landscapes are becoming accessible to these insatiable bark beetles:
There is every reason to believe that jack pines, red pines and eastern white pines along the lake states in the northeastern United States will, with rising temperatures, also face mountain pine beetles incursions.
This chapter tells the story of six rugged and long-living species of spruce that have thrived where the climate has been cold enough to prevent the Spruce Bark Beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) from reaching dangerous levels.
Over the past two decades, though, something appears to have gone very wrong. Not only have there been massive beetle outbreaks far beyond any historical records, but the infestations are also occurring across larger, regional networks of forest – on a regional scale. Moreover, vast tracts of moisture-starved mature spruce have stopped growing. A warming climate is disassembling the far northern boreal forests at a pace that is truly alarming.
Piggy backing on the warming-driven chow fest,
...the western spruce budworm is also on a feeding frenzy. This aggressive defoliator is eating its way through Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia and the Yukon.
Already the spruce-rich boreal ecosystem in Alaska has started dying faster than it is growing. It has switched from a carbon sink to a carbon source. Meanwhile, over in a climate-warming Europe the European Spruce Bark Beetle (Ips typographus) has erupted into killing sprees covering millions of hectares of Norway spruce.
The Piñon Pines
Slow growing piñon pines can live hundreds of years, constantly pumping out large nutritious seeds that are a staple food for local humans and wildlife.
[T]he incredible piñon pines and their constant companions the junipers spread across the American Southwest … the third largest wooded ecosystem in the USA ... revolves around the health and well-being of the piñons, as they nourish life throughout the Southwest.
Dr. Halter tells the remarkable history of the piñons and their co-evolution with the intelligent jays and nutcrackers. Sadly, like the other ancient forest ecosystems he covers, the piñon-juniper forests are being unraveled by our fossil fuelled climate changes:
Nowhere in North America better exemplifies the effects of a global-change type of drought than the US Southwest. In 2002 the region experienced an extreme drought, and in many areas 90 per cent of the trees were killed. Water-starved, heat-stressed piñon were completely incapable of fending off the onslaught of Ips bark beetles, which during outbreaks can breed at least three generations in a year.
Global warming is now cooking up a particularly deadly combination of drought plus extreme heat. Many plants, including many of our major crops, succumb quickly. Death rates multiply rapidly:
…when temperatures increased by 4 degrees, piñon pines died five times faster. When the climate is warmer, it takes a much shorter drought to kill trees.
As this chapter closes, Dr. Halter describes what in my view is the most significant -- yet rarely reported -- threat to our forests. Fossil fuelled warming is not just killing today’s forests, it is also turning the landscape deadly for future forests.
The new hotter and rapidly changing climate favours both more bark beetles and more competition from short-lived, weedy plants. Beetles are breeding faster allowing an exponential increase in their attacking populations. In addition, new species of bark beetles are being welcomed north to join the killing:
Elevated temperatures have also enabled bark beetles that live in more southerly regions to march north into Arizona, southern Utah and Colorado. The round-headed pine beetles have attacked a number of pine species in the southwest, including ponderosas. Populations of southern and Mexican bark beetles have an extraordinary ability to produce in excess of five generations within one year.
Conversion to simpler, weedy ecosystems:
…not only did at least 100 million mature trees die but invasive species like cheatgrass muscled into the ecosystem. Overall, woodland forests are dramatically changing, in some cases reverting to prairie.
A new study just out shows that the invading cheatgrass is significantly increasing the size and ferocity of wildfires. It gains a competitive advantage by helping burn down its forest competitors.
As these forests -- and others such as BC's lodgepole pine forests -- try to grow back they face a long-term regime change that often excludes them from the landscape. The weeds and the bugs are winning.
Whitebark and Limber pines
Talk about tough. These “tenacious” trees live for over a thousand years in the brutal high-elevation climate of the Rockies, Sierras and Cascades. Their ancestors migrated very slowly from the old world across the Bering Strait land bridge. Along the way they have formed an ongoing partnership with one of nature’s most amazing birds: the Clark’s Nutcracker.
One Clark’s nutcracker can easily place 98,000 whitebark or limber seeds in over 30,000 caches and later recover half for food for themselves
These birds literally plant the next generation of these forests. The “Insatiable Bark Beetle” tells the page-turning story of how these remarkable pines and birds survive and thrive to anchor and feed a massive ecosystem. In just one of the anecdotes, we learn
In the tree’s lifetime, say 700 years, it can provide over 504,000 individual seeds …[an] imperative food source in Yellowstone National Park for interior grizzly populations. [These seeds] determine the fate of the bear population … three times as many grizzlies die in bad whitebark pine years as good ones
Like the repeated tolling of a funeral bell, the story eventually shifts to the bleak future our fossil fuelled warming is bringing these keystone species:
[T]heir very existence is perilously close to its end, as rising temperatures have enabled their predator – the mountain pine beetle – an opportunity to wipe them off the face of the Earth.
…whitebark pitch is loaded with myrcene, which appears irresistible to the ravenous bark beetles.
…the whitebark’s only refuge was in the high mountains forests, where they could survive but the beetles could not…the protective cold barrier has lifted.
Mortality rates in the whitebark and limber pines are as high as 90 per cent.
As in other chapters, Dr. Halter uses the unfolding story of one particular tree species to explain a larger climate threat. Here we learn that long lived organisms -- like trees -- can not adapt as quickly to climate changes as short lived competitors.
At least one theme is applicable across the gameboard of biology: long-lived organisms are in no hurry to reproduce. Whitebarks, for instance, do not produce their first cones until they are about half a century old.
Bark beetles however can produce fifty to a hundred generations in the time it takes whitebark pines to produce just one. No contest. In a rapidly changing climate the short-lived bugs and weeds will adapt first.
I've often heard people say they aren't overly concerned about our forests and other ecosystems because the earth has seen big climate changes in the past, and yet the plants and animals adapted. For example, Canada used to be covered from coast to coast with a mile-thick sheet of ice that melted away and yet the forests survived and thrived.
What these people don’t understand is that the threat this time isn't the size of the climate change but the unprecedented speed it is happening at. As NASA climate scientist James Hansen points out, we are pushing the climate 100 times faster than what it took to end the last ice age and melt the great ice sheet from Canada. Scientists have never found any warming in the Earth's past even close to the pace our fossil fuel pollution is currently causing.
Yes, when past climate changes slowly crept across the landscape some forests were able to move and adapt at that slow pace. It took thousands of years to melt the ice caps. Today we have seen half of the arctic sea ice disappear in just eight years. The jaw-dropping disappearance of spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere has been more rapid than that. As late snow cover disappears, summer droughts increase. Global temperature records show that extreme heat now covers fifty times more of the planet during the summer months than just few decades ago. Droughts, extreme heat, freak weather … rapid climate changes are now sprinting into ancient, slow-to-adapt, forests.
Here is a conservative view of what awaits BC if we keep burning up fossil fuels as we have been doing:
I say these maps are conservative because the latest data shows that the actual fossil fuel consumption path we are on will lead to a far more rapid climate shifts than these maps from a few years ago envisioned. As Natural Resources Canada says about the climate threats to our forests: "One thing is clear: the future will not be like the past."
Whether the future will still include large landscapes full of healthy forests depends on how rapidly we reduce our climate pollution.
The Bristlecone Pines
The three species of Bristlecone pines include the oldest living trees on earth. Individual trees have been living for an amazing 48 centuries. The habitat they live in is improbably ferocious. I think "The Insatiable Bark Beetle" is worth the price for this chapter alone. I'll leave you with just two teaser quotes about these trees:
Unlike any other known living thing, these trees and the ancient cliff cedar of the Niagara Escarpment show no signs of degenerative aging. [They are the] gatekeepers to the Holy Grail: the secret to eternal life.
The fact that the most exquisite trees on Earth, the Great Basin bristlecone pines, are in a perilous position due to rising temperatures and an emerging onslaught of bark beetles has kept me awake for far too many nights.
Beyond the beetles
At one point Dr. Halter steps back to survey the other damages our fossil fuelled warming is inflicting on the world's forests. Increasing drought, extreme heat, freak storms and expanding wildfires are battering forests around the world.
All forest types are suffering from a deadly combination of at least three factors: insects and diseases associated with elevated temperatures; the drying out of plants; and carbon starvation, that is water stressed trees unable to photosynthesize, or make food….both old and young trees are affected.
Here is just a sample:
Extreme droughts in North Africa are killing Atlas cedar from Morocco to Algeria.
Heat and drought are battering the high-elevation tropical moist forests in Uganda, mountain acacia in Zimbabwe and centuries-old aloe plants in Namibia.
Drought as also lambasted the tropical dry forest of northwest and southwest India, fir in South Korea, the junipers of Saudi Arabia, and pine and fir in central Turkey.
Australia has seen widespread death in acacia woodlands and eucalypt and Corymbia forests.
Oak, fir, spruce, beech and pines across Western Europe are dying too.
Quaking aspen [are] dying en masse….warmer temperatures and dry weather have proven again to be lethal for these remarkable trees.
In Canada, quaking aspen (aka trembling aspen) is the most abundant deciduous tree in our boreal forest and the primary tree in the vast parkland zone bordering our prairies. It is an extremely important tree, both ecologically and commercially.
The recent die off of these aspens has been so extreme and so widespread that the Canadian government has started a multi-province study -- the Climate Impacts on Productivity and Health of Aspen -- in the hope that something can be done to save these iconic and valuable ecosystems.
Even this book's long list of climate damages to the world's forests is far from complete. For example, a favourite tree of mine -- our yellow cedar -- is being killed off as its rapidly warming habitat becomes deadly. (See: Freezing to death in a warming climate: yellow-cedars in trouble)
As Dr. Halter urges, consider that all this is happening with only 0.8 C of global warming. Institutions like the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the United Nations and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have all recently warned that we are on course for a "catastrophe" of 4.0 C to 6.2 C during the lives of today's children. This is five to eight times the amount of warming we have seen so far. Beyond 2.0 C the climate science and the nations of the world have said human civilization faces dire threats.
Forests in particular require centuries of climate stability to develop and thrive. They move and adapt very slowly. Yet the warming we are now unleashing by burning coal, oil and natural gas is far faster than anything science has uncovered in our planet's past. The future for our forests is indeed grim unless we act with haste to leave most of the world's known fossil fuels in the ground. Our rapid transition to a sustainable renewable energy system is the forests' best hope.
Despite the dire threats, Dr. Halter preserves his optimism that a solution can be found in time:
Humans are exceptional problem solvers – it’s what we do best.
Knowing what is happening in our wild ecosystems empowers us to embrace change and make an effort to adapt in our own lives. Change is opportunity…
There is hope if each of us lends a helping hand.
For me this short book opened a clear window into the ancient splendour and recent fragility of our forests. It helps explain "what comes next?" I've only scratched the surface of what it serves up. I recommend it to anyone interested in the future of our magnificent conifer forests in North America.
Link: "The Insatiable Bark Beetle" website
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Before one gets very
Leigh December 12th 2012 | 8:20 PM
Before one gets very depressed about this, read and follow the links below. The truth isn't as described above. No question climate is changing like it always has but the rate and amount of change is nothing at all out of the ordinary. Why are some scientists singing the gospel of man-made climate change driven by CO2? Just follow the money. They have to toe the line to keep their grants coming. http://www.climatedepot.com/a/18662/125-International-Scientists-Rebuke-UN-for-Climate-Claims-in-Open-Letter-Global-warming-that-has-not-occurred-cannot-have-caused-extreme-weather-of-past-few-years
I Agree (17) I Disagree (26)
Climate change is only part
Rondo December 14th 2012 | 6:18 PM
Climate change is only part of the problem. The root of the problem (at least as far as the Mountain Pine Beetle in BC) is monoculture in our forests. We have be cutting down diverse forests and replanting with nothing but pine. So really, there is no Mountain Pine Beetle infestation, there is only a Pine infestation and nature's response is to send out the Mountain Pine Beetle to restore the balance.
So what are the logs showing? In my opinion they're pretty convincing. First, here's how Tesla summarizes the key facts (sorry it's long, but I don't want to cut out anything important):
As the State of Charge log shows, the Model S battery never ran out of energy at any time, including when Broder called the flatbed truck.
The final leg of his trip was 61 miles and yet he disconnected the charge cable when the range display stated 32 miles. He did so expressly against the advice of Tesla personnel and in obvious violation of common sense.
In his article, Broder claims that âoethe car fell short of its projected range on the final leg.â Then he bizarrely states that the screen showed âoeEst. remaining range: 32 milesâ and the car traveled âoe51 miles," contradicting his own statement (see images below). The car actually did an admirable job exceeding its projected range. Had he not insisted on doing a nonstop 61-mile trip while staring at a screen that estimated half that range, all would have been well. He constructed a no-win scenario for any vehicle, electric or gasoline.
On that leg, he drove right past a public charge station while the car repeatedly warned him that it was very low on range.
Cruise control was never set to 54 mph as claimed in the article, nor did he limp along at 45 mph. Broder in fact drove at speeds from 65 mph to 81 mph for a majority of the trip and at an average cabin temperature setting of 72 F.
At the point in time that he claims to have turned the temperature down, he in fact turned the temperature up to 74 F.
The charge time on his second stop was 47 mins, going from -5 miles (reserve power) to 209 miles of Ideal or 185 miles of EPA Rated Range, not 58 mins as stated in the graphic attached to his article. Had Broder not deliberately turned off the Supercharger at 47 mins and actually spent 58 mins Supercharging, it would have been virtually impossible to run out of energy for the remainder of his stated journey.
For his first recharge, he charged the car to 90%. During the second Supercharge, despite almost running out of energy on the prior leg, he deliberately stopped charging at 72%. On the third leg, where he claimed the car ran out of energy, he stopped charging at 28%. Despite narrowly making each leg, he charged less and less each time. Why would anyone do that?
The above helps explain a unique peculiarity at the end of the second leg of Broderâs trip. When he first reached our Milford, Connecticut Supercharger, having driven the car hard and after taking an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan to give his brother a ride, the display said "0 miles remaining." Instead of plugging in the car, he drove in circles for over half a mile in a tiny, 100-space parking lot. When the Model S valiantly refused to die, he eventually plugged it in. On the later legs, it is clear Broder was determined not to be foiled again.
Tesla further implies that Broder was biased against electric cars based on a piece that her wrote for the NYT a year earlier, where he writes: "Yet the state of the electric car is dismal, the victim of hyped expectations, technological flops, high costs and a hostile political climate.â Did Broder change the facts when they didn't conform to his expectations? Here's what the logs show:
The Tuareg desire for self-determination cannot be dismissed despite the desire of many to do so for the past hundred years. This is a conflict that has been ongoing since 1962 and is just the latest of four Taureg rebellions in Mali. The Tuareg, the fabled Blue Men of the Desert, have demonstrated repeatedly that they won’t disappear quietly into the Sahara.
The current Tuareg rebellion, by far the most organized, equipped, and successful of them all, has given the Tuaregs the best opportunity for self-determination that they have ever had. They may never be in this position again, flush with arms and ammunition and their ranks dominated by veteran fighters returning from war in a neighboring country. The military wing of the movement, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad(MNLA), has learned the mistakes of past Tuareg rebellions and will not repeat them. This time they have also learned some lessons of the Arab Spring and are supported by a virtual army of Tuareg activists around the world who use social media to communicate, coordinate, and propagandize the conflict to carry it far beyond the sands of the Sahara.
The Tuareg want to establish their own country, Azawad, in northern Mali. Their traditional homeland in the Sahara was carved apart by the French during the Scramble for Africa and divided among Mali, Niger and Algeria, all of whose borders were carefully drawn by France to pursue its own interests in Africa. The Tuareg of Mali, a nomadic desert people, were lumped into a country twice the size of France and quickly fell under the dominance of their former slaves, the black Africans living in tropical Mali south of the Niger River. Like many of the colonial borders drawn in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia by European powers in the 19th and 20th centuries during the period of New Imperialism Mali was destined for perpetual strife.
Unlike many other intrastate conflicts, the Tuareg aren’t fighting for resources or valuable land. The conflict is primarily ideological, a matter of cultural pride to a people with simple needs and interests. Mali is already one of the poorest countries in the world and Azawad would be even poorer, at least for the first several years. However, the geology of the Taoudeni Basin in northern Mali suggests that significant oil and gas reserves may lay beneath the sand. Companies have been unable to conduct adequate surveys of the area due to poor security in the region, but there is little doubt that there is enough oil to allow Azawad to survive as an independent nation. Cynical observers with no sense of history have suggested that those oil reserves are behind the current rebellion, an argument that doesn’t stand when one considers that the Tuareg have been fighting for independence in Mali for 50 years.
Resistance by the West, Mali, and its Neighbors
The arguments in favor of preserving Mali’s territorial integrity at the expense of the Tuaregs are difficult to justify. The West’s primary interest in Mali is fighting Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and preserving Mali’s 20 year history as a democratic country and stabilizing force in West Africa. Mali is active in several programs, initiatives, and organizations in the region and has been a valued and reliable partner of the West. The US and EU are also concerned that unrest in Mali could spread and that a lack of central authority in the Azawad region could lead to a safe haven for Al Qaeda as existed in Afghanistan prior to 2001.
Algeria and Niger believe that the creation of Azawad would incite Taureg rebellions in their own countries (and in the case of Algeria, perhaps a Tuareg-inspired Berber rebellion as well). This is similar to the arguments made by Turkey and Iran about Kurdish independence – that it would inspire the Kurds in their own countries to also seek independence. Like Turkey and Iran, Algeria and Niger will do everything they can to crush the aspirations for self-determination in a neighboring country in the pursuit of crushing them at home.
The government of Mali is panicked, despite enjoying the overwhelming support of non-Tuareg Malians (and a limited number of Tuaregs as well). The Tuareg rebellion has been so successful that it prompted a coup d’etat by military officers desperate to stop it, ending 20 years of democracy in Mali. The Malian government and most of its citizens believe that preserving their multi-ethnic, territorially vast, democratic country is in the best interest of everyone. They also don’t want to lose whatever natural resources might lay hidden beneath the sands of northern Mali.
Intelligence and Policy Failure
The scandal in all of this was that the Tuareg insurgency of 2012 was entirely predictable and could have been prevented by Mali and its allies. Tuareg fighters were able to haul a massive arsenal of weapons and ammunition over a thousand miles from Libya to Mali, through Algeria or Niger, without interference by Mali’s allies in the West, Algeria, or the Malian government. It was an extraordinary display of incompetence by all involved.
That a Tuareg insurgency would follow the Libyan civil war was entirely predictable. The Mali civil war (1990-96) was begun by Tuareg fighters supported by Libya, including Tauregs who returned to Mali after serving Gaddafi in his war against Chad. A veteran of the civil war, Ag Bahanga, led the failed 2006 uprising and was forced to flee to Libya in 2009. He became a close confident of Muammar Gaddafi. Another Tuareg leader, Mohammed Ag Najm, became a commander of one of Gaddafi’s elite desert units, and many Tuaregs enlisted in the Libyan army.
Bahanga and Najm waited for their opportunity to act. Once the Libyan civil war began to turn against Gaddafi in early summer 2011 Bahanga and Najm led the Tuaregs to raid the arms depots and then headed southwest back to Mali. They were in command of elite desert units that had the men, equipment, and knowledge of the desert necessary to transport their massive stockpile of weapons over a thousand miles through three countries. It was a time-consuming and difficult operation that allegedly took several trips over a period of months and is rumored to have had the consent of the Libyan rebel government (the NTC) because it reduced Gaddafi’s arsenal and took Tuaregs off the battlefield.
The United States clearly had an interest in preventing this through either direct action or by coordinating with the Algerian or Niger authorities to stop it, especially since Bahanga and Najm’s arsenal may have included surface to air missiles.
Once again the US intelligence community has dropped the ball despite overwhelming technology and funding simply because they lacked the ability to think a few steps ahead and have the wrong people (with the wrong type of experience) working as analysts.
What happens next?
This time the proverbial genie is out of the bottle and it isn’t getting put back. The Mali government strategy, if one can call it that, appears limited to waiting for the Tuaregs to run out of ammunition. This is unlikely to happen anytime soon as the MNLA will successfully negotiate for the surrender of towns and garrisons as they proceed south and capture the weapons left behind. Tuareg soldiers from the Malian army have also defected to the rebels bringing with them vehicles, weapons, and ammunition.
The coup d’etat, intended by the conspirators to better enable the military to crush the rebellion, will at least for now have the opposite effect. The government is weaker than ever, which will hurt the morale of government forces and lead to more surrenders and defections from army ranks.
Years of cooperation between the US and Malian government are going down the drain and analysts are typing away on their keyboards generating assessments of what the latest Tuareg rebellion means to the United States and the War on Terrorism. A determination will likely be made that short-term regional stability trumps all other concerns, as usual; even the right to self-determination which is part of our national ethos.
The State Department will frantically start pulling the levers of diplomacy to find a negotiated solution to end the conflict – a negotiated solution that will certainly not allow for the creation of Azawad as a new country. The US military may even cooperate with the Malian military to crush the rebellion which will do far more than anything to push Tuaregs, who have historically shown little affinity for AQIM, straight to their neighborhood jihadi recruitment office.
Red, White, and Blue Men of the Desert?
The current situation presents a historic opportunity for the United States. The coup d’etat was counterintuitively fortuitous by giving the US government an excuse to withhold support for the Malian government. This will provide more time to assess the situation, avoid angering the Tuaregs, lessen AQIM’s ability to capitalize on the insurgency with propaganda against the West, send the message that coup d’etats against democratic governments will not be tolerated, help the US walk the fine line of not angering Algeria and Niger, and most importantly allow the Tuaregs to achieve their goal of establishing Azawad.
How is the creation of Azawad possibly in the interest of the United States? The time to stop this from happening was when Bahanga and Najm set off from Libya. Tracking their movements and having the Algerians stop them, or alternatively, making sure those convoys mysteriously disappeared in the desert with nothing but charred, smoking wrecks of vehicles left behind, would have solved this before it started. Now, it is too late.
Within the next few weeks Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu will fall to the Tuaregs. With the acquisition of the three capitals of the three regions that will compose Azawad the territorial aspirations of the Tuaregs will be largely complete. Entrenched in favorable terrain and enjoying the support of the local population, the Tuaregs can defend Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu against any counter-offensive by Mali’s small army of 7,000 (now likely only 4,500 if estimates of casualties and desertions are accurate).
The war is lost.
If policymakers in Washington have learned anything from the Arab Spring (and they appear to be learning, slowly) they should realize this and will soon begin tapping every connection they have with the Tuaregs to convince them to stop at the Niger River, to negotiate a ceasefire with Mali, and to guide the Tuareg leadership towards democracy, self-governance, and further cooperation with the US against AQIM in exchange for political and economic support. They’ll push for the federal solution to the conflict that grants the Tuaregs semi-autonomy over northern Mali, which might not be acceptable to either side. The Tuaregs have been burned before by the Malian government refusing to honor the terms of previous agreements.
The US government will be reluctant to support the creation of Azawad as a new country. Those working at the State Department, Pentagon, and the intelligence agencies have never understood this part of the world, as revealed by Wikileaks documents on Mali. A career government analyst will have a hard time wrapping his head around how dispersed desert nomads would be better partners in the fight against AQIM than the government of Mali.
The reason why should be obvious even to those who haven’t spent time among the people of the Sahara. Mali has never had any real control over the Azawad territories. The Tuaregs are culturally, racially, and politically foreign to the central government, and the Sahara is hostile territory to the vast majority of Malians. They have never been able to tame it, understand it, or function in it. Mali was never going to be a truly effective partner against AQIM.
Azawad, on the other hand, will be. Nobody knows the desert better than the Tuaregs. They have lived there for two thousand years, know every route and every track in the desert, are connected by tribal and family ties that make it impossible for someone to join AQIM without others knowing, and most importantly have shown little desire for either radical Islam or terrorism in the past. The MNLA has made it very clear that they intend to create a secular, democratic state. With no history of radical Islamism, the majority of Tuaregs opposed to the imposition of sharia law, and a matrilineal society that respects the rights of women, there is no reason to doubt their intentions.
Most importantly for the United States, the Tuareg are the only people who can effectively police that region of the world, and since the Tuaregs are dispersed over 5+ nations their reach and potential as a partner in the War on Terrorism should not be underestimated.
The Sahara is their sandbox, and they know everyone who plays in it.
Fighting AQIM is the only significant strategic interest the United States has in this fight, other than maintaining good relations with Algeria and Niger or preventing instability from spreading beyond Mali’s borders. Every effort should be made to reach out to the Tuaregs and gain influence and favor with them to ensure that the United States has influence in Azawad when this war is over.
It won’t be easy. The Tuareg are fiercely proud and independent. Whatever we do they won’t ever love us – they even fight among themselves. They’ll always question our intentions and the Sahara is notorious for conspiracy theories that will only bolster their suspicions. However, the Tuareg relationship with Gaddafi should serve as a model for a US-Azawad relationship.
The Tuareg can be bought. They have replaced their ancient camel caravans transporting salt across the Sahara with Toyota pickup trucks smuggling cocaine, weapons, and migrants. They’ve been involved in kidnapping foreigners for sale or ransom. Corruption and criminality have spread among the Tuaregs as the Mali and Niger governments have failed to integrate them into modernity and the rest of society. When Gaddafi stepped into this void by funding development projects, employing Tuaregs in his armed forces, declaring support for a Tuareg state, and identifying himself with the Tuareg by sleeping in tents and various other displays of tacky showmanship, the people loved him for it.
Therein lies an opportunity for the United States. Obama doesn’t need to sleep in a tent, but supporting the Tuareg’s Azawad aspirations would go a long way if accompanied by economic development projects. Stepping into the void left by the removal of Gaddafi would position the United States to have real influence in the region and monitor a part of the world that is often obscured in darkness.
This might be achievable through the likely outcome of this war: the federal solution of Tuareg semi-autonomy in Azawad, while remaining part of Mali. This would resemble the situation of Kurdistan in Iraq and might satisfy enough Tuaregs to take the steam out of their rebellion. Regardless of whether the Tuaregs achieve semi-autonomy or independence (and one of these outcomes will be the result of this successful rebellion) the United States must position itself as a friend of the Tuaregs and aggressively support the region with aid and development to buy the support of the people.
The United States cannot risk Azawad resembling Afghanistan pre-2001, where American reach was so limited that Al Qaeda was able to operate with impunity. If the US reaches out to the Tuaregs now we will gain influence over the emerging Azawad government and create bonds that could be among our most significant victories in the fight against Al Qaeda.
Japan’s new leader, Shinzo Abe, has the toughest job in the world right now. Not only does he face another recession, near-zero interest rates, falling wages, deflation and the highest debt-to-GDP ratio (220%) in the world—he’s also vowed to reverse these trends. His approach has so far involved mainly bravado and the bullying of anything that stands in his way, including the country’s central bank, which he recently threatened to relieve of its independence.
Markets are thrilled—the Nikkei is up over 20% since mid-November, buoyed by what investors call the “Abe trade“(paywall). Western commentators seem similarly enamored of Abenomics. But though a key part of Abe’s heroic narrative is the broad popular mandate that he won in a “landslide,” that was mainly due to the crumbling of its opposition. In fact, if the record post-war low in December’s election turnout is anything to go by, the Japanese people have largely given up hoping for a reversal of fortune. And who could blame them? Japan’s churning cast of prime ministers have tried it all, and to little avail.
But what they haven’t tried is everything all at once. That’s exactly what Abe’s now gearing up to do.
Among Abe’s plans:
A ¥12 trillion ($136 billion) infrastructure-focused stimulus, to end March 31, including:
Lending ¥150 billion to businesses with new technologies
Investing ¥5 trillion-6 trillion in public works
Creating a ¥200-billion fund for foreign mergers and acquisitions
Earmarking ¥83 billion for loan guarantees and credit for small businesses
Lifting the ¥44 trillion ($520 billion) cap on debt
Making asset-purchases “unlimited” to target a 2% inflation target and likely either 3% growth for nominal GDP or a job-growth target
Cheapening the yen to boost Japan’s declining exports
Spending ¥1 trillion to buy and lease back ailing industrial plants to encourage investment
Abe’s aggressive strategy seems smart—after all that Japan has been through, why not go all out? The problem is that these tools might work for run-of-the-mill business cycle recessions, but Japan has made many of them ineffective through years of misuse, to the point that Abe’s effort risks exhausting fiscal and monetary resuscitation altogether.
The three pillars of monetary unwisdom
Even Abe’s relatively straightforward plans for stimulating growth have pitfalls. Take his effort to weaken the yen. This will likely involve a combination of printing money and strategic buying of foreign assets, and it should be a boon to Japan’s long-suffering exporters. The historically strong yen has steadily winnowed down the country’s trade surplus as exporters became less competitive and moved factories abroad. In December, exports were down more than 19% over last year, while the trade deficit widened by over 280%.
But even with a cheaper yen, countries aren’t exactly lining up to buy Japan’s cars and electronics—just look at the state of Europe’s consumer demand. And a weakened yen carries risks. Chief among them is due to the fact that Japan imports almost all of its energy. As this gets more expensive it could crimp corporate margins even further, especially in the industrial and manufacturing sectors that Abe is angling to revive with fiscal stimulus. So much for bolstering the economy through trade.
In theory, monetary stimulus should also give Abe real firepower in creating investment-led growth. But Japan’s chronic deflation suggests that decades of debt-fueled investment and loose money haven’t been productive. One key reason, as ING’s Tanweer Akram points out, is that credit hasn’t grown along with the expanding monetary base, despite the fact that Japan is largely out of its deleveraging cycle. While bank lending has shown signs of pick-up, the sluggish economy means there’s little demand for credit from small- and medium-sized businesses. Abe’s recent plan to set aside ¥83 billion in funding for these struggling businesses bodes well for generating productive investment. But given anemic global and domestic demand, some corporations say there’s little worth investing in, even with rates so low.
An even bigger impediment to investment-led growth is excess capacity. As Akram argues, the large output gap has been the core problem throughout Japan’s lost decade, making investment—even trillions of yen worth of it—wasteful. And some of this overcapacity is deeply entrenched. For one thing, there’s the government’s support of “welfare society,” whereby it loans to private companies to avoid shouldering the burden of unemployment benefits. Then there are the bailouts of banks and, more recently, an electric utility. There’s little to suggest that this is changing.
So if both foreign trade and investment are unsure bets, then what about the third traditional pillar for boosting growth: consumption? That looks similarly bleak. Private consumption has been dropping year-on-year for the last two quarters (pdf). This is due to deflation, but also because wages growth is largely flat.
All this suggests that there’s little demand for the excess money, from either businesses or consumers. As for government-led spending, Abe’s wallop-packing stimulus should spur demand through the first quarter of 2013, but whether it can sustain growth will depend on how much of the investment flows into wasteful projects and overcapacity-saddled sectors.
Inflation at all costs?
Excess money that isn’t channelled into productive growth is likely to bring about inflation sooner. Along with higher energy import prices, monetary expansion and stimulus spending should help put a stake in the heart of deflation—something Abe has rightly made a core objective.
But the trick to playing with Keynesian fire is the ability to douse inflationary bursts. Rising inflation will induce interest-rate hikes, which means higher borrowing costs. With the Bank of Japan (BoJ) already shelling out 4.5% of Japan’s GDP on servicing its debt each year, an inflation spike could mean Japan suddenly owes bondholders much, much more than it’s used to paying. The current yields on two-year bonds are a mere 0.1%; Barclays calculates that paying interest rates of 2.0% would cost the government all of its annual tax revenue.
Even if inflation remains under control, Abe’s funding gush could prove problematic. As of late September, the BoJ held a record ¥105 trillion ($1.2 trillion) in Japanese government debt, 11.1% of the outstanding total. It plans to buy more, and that’s not counting the open-ended asset-purchasing that Abe has pressured the BoJ to take on. Aside from the sheer quantity of government debt this will saddle the bank with, there is a more serious problem, argues Tim Duy, an economist at the University of Oregon: that in caving to Abe’s pressure the bank will in effect find itself monetizing the government’s debt—i.e., printing money to pay it off—and thus becoming a handmaiden of the government’s fiscal excess instead of, as central banks are meant to be, a check against it.
As long as the bank keeps soaking up new government debt, yields will stay low. But what happens when it’s time to wean the economy off its bond-fuelled spending spree? Once investors see that coming, expect a bond selloff and rising yields. That would put an extra burden on the government’s debt-servicing, but also on Japan’s banks, due to the sizable share of government bonds on their balance sheets.
Two ways this could go
The key question, therefore, is what might spark panic. Here are some possibilities:
High inflation: Abe’s guns-a-blazing approach will probably achieve its goal: inflation. But if prices then rise at more than about 2%, can he and his captive central bank tame them? Higher prices will drive up interest rates, raising the specter of fiscal insolvency, which could in turn prompt a larger selloff in bonds and equities—a classic vicious circle.
Rising yields: The risk of Abe’s all-out assault on Japan’s economic woes is that if it doesn’t seem to be working, investors may wonder if Japan can ever grow at all. That could prompt a fear-driven bond sell-off, leading to a similar vicious circle.
The fiscal solvency tipping point: Though this is a longer-term risk, the debt market relies to a large extent on household demand. That demand shrinks as the population ages and wages fall. As government debt eclipses household financial assets, the nation becomes insolvent as a whole.
Despite these risks, there’s a chance things could turn out well. Some signs to watch out for:
Open-ended asset-purchases from the BoJ: If the bank does commit to buy enough assets to reverse deflation it will quell fears about more economic decay and boosting confidence, even if there are long-term risks.
Low-level inflation, and expectations thereof: A pick-up in consumers’ price expectations would suggest they are thinking about spending more. Rising core inflation, below 2%, would signal a genuine rebound in consumption. As long as the rise is gradual, it would suggest the monetary stimulus is having a productive effect.
Depreciating yen/growing global demand: If the yen reaches Abe’s target of ¥90:$1 it should stoke confidence. Steady growth and debt reduction in the EU and US would mean more demand from two of Japan’s biggest export markets (pdf). If Japan can improve relations with China, that would help too (though so far, Abe has shown signs of belligerence.) Export orders should be a leading indicator of overall economic revival.
Growth in private-sector credit: More demand for credit in the private sector, particularly from small- and medium-sized businesses, would be a sign of businesses spending. Rising mortgage loans (along with rising housing starts) and loans on durable goods should hint at a revival of consumer confidence.
It won’t be easy to tell how well things are going, at least not straight away. Improvement on one front could come at the expense of another—for instance, rising bond yields would be bad news for the government but good for exporters. And good news on inflation could quickly sour if the inflation gets out of hand. Perhaps only one thing is at all clear: that Shinzo Abe is arming Japan for a showdown, and it’s fixing to be epic.
Press Release Idle No More
Press Release Idle No More
Idle No More began with 4 women, Nina Wilson, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdam and Jessica Gordon, sharing a vision of bringing together all people to ensure we create ways of protecting Mother Earth, her lands, waters and people. The women began discussing the possible impacts that some of the legislation would carry if people do not do something. It became very evident that the women MUST do something about the colonial, unilateral and paternalistic legislation being pushed through the Government of Canada’s parliamentary system. They began with a piece of legislation called Bill C-45 which attacked the land base reserved for Indigenous people.
The women decided that they would call a rally to inform the public that this bill intended to, without consent give the minister of indian affairs power to surrender the lands reserved. They felt that this would ultimately make room for oil, nuclear and gas industries to tear up the land for profit. From this rally they also informed the public on other legislation that affected and ignored the treaties made with the crown but also the waters, land and people that it would impact in very harmful ways.
The women then helped other communities to coordinate efforts to hold similar rallies with the same goal in mind - Stand up and speak up against undemocratic and internationally illegal government acts. These rallies took place all across the country.
The women seen that there were many other communities that needed to come together in an act solidarity and resurgence to assert their inherent rights as a sovereign Nation, thus The National Day of Solidarity and Resurgence was called for December 10, 2012. This was an enormous event that never in history seen many nations and diverse groups of people come together. These events and acts have continued to grow and from the talk of grassroots has no intention of slowing down. The group called Idle No More have witnessed these events spreading out internationally within the united states as well as the United Kingdom sharing in helping to support our cause of opposing the government’s actions as well as support to asserting our Nationhood.
The women will continue and remain in a position to have the grassroots voices be heard by;
Supporting and encouraging grassroots to create their own forums to learn more about Indigenous rights and our responsibilities to our Nationhood via teach-ins, rallies and social media.
Build relationships and create understanding with allies across Canada.
Take steps to contribute to building relationships with international agencies such as the UN to raise awareness to the conditions Indigenous people have been subjected to and assert our sovereignty in the international arena.
Acknowledge and honor the hard work of all grassroots people who have worked, and continue to work towards these goals. They are the inspiration for IDLE NO MORE
Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth. On December 10th, Indigenous people and allies stood in solidarity across Canada to assert Indigenous sovereignty and begin the work towards sustainable, renewable development. All people will be affected by the continued damage to the land and water and we welcome Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies to join in creating healthy sustainable communities. We encourage youth to become engaged in this movement as you are the leaders of our future. There have always been individuals and groups who have been working towards these goals – Idle No More seeks to create solidarity and further support these goals. We recognize that there may be backlash, and encourage people to stay strong and united in spirit.
We contend that:
The Treaties are nation to nation agreements between Canada and
First Nations who are sovereign nations. The Treaties are agreements that cannot be altered or broken by one side of the two Nations. The spirit and intent of the Treaty agreements meant that First Nations peoples would share the land, but retain their inherent rights to lands and resources. Instead, First Nations have experienced a history of colonization which has resulted in outstanding land claims, lack of resources and unequal funding for services such as education and housing.
We contend that:
Canada has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world by using the land and resources. Canadian mining, logging, oil and fishing companies are the most powerful in the world due to land and resources. Some of the poorest First Nations communities (such as Attawapiskat) have mines or other developments on their land but do not get a share o...
f the profit. The taking of resources has left many lands and waters poisoned – the animals and plants are dying in many areas in Canada. We cannot live without the land and water. We have laws older than this colonial government about how to live with the land.
We contend that:
Currently, this government is trying to pass many laws so that reserve lands can also be bought and sold by big companies to get profit from resources. They are promising to share this time…Why would these promises be different from past promises? We will be left with nothing but poisoned water, land and air. This is an attempt to take away sovereignty and the inherent right to land and resources from First Nations peoples.
We contend that:
There are many examples of other countries moving towards sustainability, and we must demand sustainable development as well. We believe in healthy, just, equitable and sustainable communities and have a vision and plan of how to build them.
Please join us in creating this vision.
Response to Legislation
Idle No More calls on all people to continue to oppose and reject all imposed legislation originating from the federal government. The unilateral imposition of these Bills is in direct violation of the Treaties and the Treaty relationship that the Original peoples of Turtle Island made with the British Crown. Indigenous peoples and nations have not been consulted and therefore, the actions taken by the federal government does not reflect the international standard of Free Prior and Informed consent. The continued imposition of federal legislation on Indigenous peoples and governments’ is not in line with the legal principles of “acting in good faith” and maintaining the “honour of the Crown”. There are many nations taking action(s) to reflect acts of Indigenous nationhood, sovereignty and jurisdiction in response to the passing of legislation such as Bill C-45 and we must continue on this path. When we stand strong and believe in our ways and assert acts of Nationhood, it does not matter what amount of legislation the federal government introduces or passes because it is not with our consent and therefore, is not applicable. Stand strong and believe in the spirit and intent of our Treaties as that’s what our ancestors are calling us to do.
We must continue to assert acts of nationhood premised on ancient ways and teachings that were given to us in our original instructions by Creator when we were placed here on Turtle Island. We encourage people to advocate for our Mother (the land), the Water (giver of life) and those generations that have yet to come. We must keep that warrior spirit alive and continue the advocacy efforts as there are other Bills in parliament and our energies must be directed towards fighting against them. We will continue to rise up and make our presence known across Turtle Island, the land that is rightfully ours as Creator put us here. Stand Up and Rise UP - this Fight is NOT Over. We need you all in this - we shall PERSEVERE!
The confluence of this week’s anniversary of Rosa Parks’s arrest, which sparked the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the recent cease-fire in the Gaza conflict reminded me of “On Courage and Resistance” — the timeless Oscar Romero Award keynote address Susan Sontag delivered on March 30, 2003, originally published in the 2007 posthumous anthology At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches (public library). In honoring the Israeli soldiers who defied orders and refused to serve in the occupied territories, Sontag examines the osmosis between individual acts and collective fate, the interplay between morality and courage, and the role of fear in violence:
Fear binds people together. And fear disperses them. Courage inspires communities: the courage of an example — for courage is as contagious as fear. But courage, certain kinds of courage, can also isolate the brave.
The perennial destiny of principles: while everyone professes to have them, they are likely to be sacrificed when they become inconveniencing. Generally a moral principle is something that puts one at variance with accepted practice. And that variance has consequences, sometimes unpleasant consequences, as the community takes its revenge on those who challenge its contradictions — who want a society actually to uphold the principles it professes to defend.
The standard that a society should actually embody its own professed principles is a utopian one, in the sense that moral principles contradict the way things really are — and always will be. How things really are — and always will be — is neither all evil nor all good but deficient, inconsistent, inferior. Principles invite us to do something about the morass of contradictions in which we function morally. Principles invite us to clean up our act, to become intolerant of moral laxity and compromise and cowardice and the turning away from what is upsetting: that secret gnawing of the heart that tells us that what we are doing is not right, and so counsels us that we’d be better off just not thinking about it.
very elegant and colorful macro of dewdrops!
Silencing Dissent: The Conservative Record
by Maria Gergin
National Office | Commentary and Fact Sheets
Issue(s): Law and legal issues , Other
April 6, 2011
Over the past five years, exercise of the fundamental freedom of speech in Canada has been curbed and discouraged by a federal government increasingly intolerant of even the mildest criticism or dissent. Particularly affected have been organizations dependent on government funding which advocate for human rights and womenâs equality. Their voices have been stifled, some completely silenced, by cuts to their budgets. Also financially throttled have been individuals and groups that speak out for reproductive rights, humanitarian immigration policies, and for changes in Canadaâs foreign policy in the Middle East.
The Harper governmentâs now lengthy record of silencing â" or attempting to silence â" its critics also includes the removal of heads of government agencies, commissions, and tribunals who insist on making independent decisions. Academics who have spoken against government actions or policies have also been targeted.
This blatant suppression of basic human rights by a government constitutionally responsible for guaranteeing their expression is unprecedented in Canadaâs history.
Human Rights Advocacy Organizations
The Harper government has systematically eroded the ability of equality-seeking groups to exercise their Charter rights by dramatically defunding human rights organizations advocating on behalf of such groups. An early indication of the governmentâs stance on advocacy came in 2006 when it discontinued the Court Challenges Program. For over 20 years, that program had been advancing the rights and equality of women, immigrants and refugees, gays and lesbians, and other disadvantaged groups by funding the costs of challenging discriminatory laws in court.
Even those CCP-funded challenges which were lost at the Supreme Court often led to changes in legislation because the legal issues they highlighted were so seminal. The cancellation of the program has greatly compromised the ability of equality-seeking groups to challenge discrimination, leaving only a few of them still having the necessary financial means to bring lawsuits to the Supreme Court.
In response to wide-ranging protest, the government in 2008 partially reinstated the Court Challenges program, but only for claims dealing with language rights.
John Gordon, National President of PSAC, says the federal government has increasingly opted for self-regulation, which places reliance on employers to voluntarily meet employment equity obligations and address discrimination, while the government abandons its responsibility to promote the protection of human rights.
The past several years have also seen the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) make severe funding cuts to several long-standing international development and human rights advocacy organizations. While the cuts have challenged these groupsâ ability to advocate on behalf of underprivileged individuals in the developing world, they have also contributed to the steady erosion of Canadaâs reputation as an international development leader. Most recently, the government cut funding for the Teacherâs Federation Program, which for the past 50 years had allowed Canadian teachers sent to Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean to assist at least 1.4 million students and teachers in the developing world.
Also defunded was the Canadian Council on International Co-operation (CCIC), an umbrella group that represents over 90 organizations which engage in Canadian voluntary aid efforts overseas, and which often criticizes foreign aid policy. Even though previous governments had been funding the CCIC for the past 40 years, the Harper government in July 2010 withdrew its funding, forcing the CCIC to lay off 17 of its 25 employees.
In May 2010, CIDA also cut all federal funding to MATCH International, a Canadian aid organization that supports womenâs rights in the developing world. The organization, which works to prevent violence against women, facilitates the availability of reproductive choices, and helps women gain leadership and business skills in developing countries, had been receiving federal funding for more than 30 years, and had relied on it for two-thirds of its budget. Kim Bulger, executive director of MATCH, is convinced the cuts are part of a pattern of âoeideologically drivenâ punishment against womenâs groups which advocate for reproductive rights.
The governmentâs ideological intolerance also wreacked havoc at the highly respected Rights and Democracy Agency, which since 1988 has been monitoring human rights and facilitating democratic transitions around the world. In 2009, the Harper government appointed to the organizationâs board new members who had opposed the organizationâs decision to provide three small grants to Middle East groups that had been critical
Aldous Huxley began his article by describing the major challenges that would confront the world at the dawn of the 21st century. He predicted that the global population would swell to 3 billion people â" a figure less than half of the 6.1 billion that would prove to be a reality by 2000.
During the next fifty years mankind will face three great problems: the problem of avoiding war; the problem of feeding and clothing a population of two and a quarter billions which, by 2000 A.D., will have grown to upward of three billions, and the problem of supplying these billions without ruining the planetâs irreplaceable resources.
Let us assumeâ"and unhappily it is a large assumptionâ"that the nations can agree to live in peace. In this event mankind will be free to devote all its energy and skill to the solution of its other major problems.
Cover of the Jan 1950 issue of Redbook
Huxleyâs predictions for food production in the year 2000 are largely a call for the conservation of resources. He correctly points out that meat production can be far less efficient than using agricultural lands for crops. Moreover, he discusses the growing importance of synthetic materials (a reality we take for granted in so many ways today). His description of synthetics was incredibly prescient, if not very surprising, coming from a man whose most famous novel imagined a high-tech world built on mass production.
By 2000, let us hope, the peoples of the world will have adopted a program to increase the planetâs output of food and other necessities, while conserving its resources. Because all available land will be needed for food production, concerted efforts will be made to derive all the fibers used for textiles from inorganic materials or vegetable wastes. Food crops will be cultivated on the land now devoted to cotton, flax, hemp and jute, and, since wool will no longer be used, the huge flocks of sheep which now menace Australian and North American watersheds will be greatly diminished. Because of the need to give overworked soil a rest and to extract the greatest possible number of calories from every acre under cultivation, meat production, which is fantastically wasteful of land, will be cut down, and increasing attention will be given to the products, vegetable no less than animal, of the ocean. Landlocked inlets, lakes, ponds and swamps will be scientifically farmed.
In many parts of the world forests are being recklessly destroyed. To conserve them we shall have to develop new types of synthetic building materials and new sources for paper. That the production of a comic supplement should entail the death of thousands of magnificent trees is a scandal which cannot much longer be tolerated.
How will individuals be affected by all this? For many farmers the changes will mean a shift from one kind of production to another. For many others they will entail a transfer to the chemical industry. For the chemical industry is bound to grow more important as world erosion compels us, for the sake of the land, to rely increasingly on synthetics derived from practically inexhaustible inorganic materials.
The housewife of 2000 receives cooking instruction by TV (illustrated by George Englert)
The world of 2000 A.D. was seen by many to be one of increased leisure. But Huxley sees that potential for better working conditions and increased standards of living as obtainable only through a sustained peace. These same predictions of a leisure-oriented society, by Huxley and others living mid-century, would inspire the push-button cliche later parodied in the 1962 TV show âoeThe Jetsons.â
Perhaps Huxleyâs most inaccurate prediction is his assumption that an increase in productivity will mean an increase in wages for the average worker. As weâve seen over the last half a century, increased worker productivity has not led to a dramatic increase in wages.
That enormous technological advances will be recorded during the next fifty years is certain. But to the worker as a worker, such advances will not necessarily be of great significance. It makes very little difference to the textile worker whether the stuff he handles is the product of a worm, a plant, a mammal or a chemical laboratory. Work is work, and what matters to the worker is neither the product nor the technical process, but the pay, the hours, the attitude of the boss, the physical environment. To most office and factory workers in 2000 the application of nuclear fission to industry will mean very little. What they will care about is what their fathers and mothers care about todayâ"improvement in the conditions of labor. Given peace, it should be possible, within the next fifty years, to improve working conditions very considerably. Better equipped, workers will produce more and therefore earn more. Meanwhile most of the hideous relics of the industrial Middle Ages will have been replaced by new factories, offices and homes. More and more f
The return of Jim Crow politics at the voting polls.
Struggle, is a film about what happens in US elections when the forces of racism, corruption, technological manipulation and old fashioned ballot-box stuffing coalesce to deny Americans their right to vote and steal elections.
A chilling, foreboding documentary on U.S. Presidential Elections.
Struggle is a case study of the 2004 Presidential Election in Ohio, the deciding swing state which delivered the presidency once again to George W. Bush. Diligently researched by the key contributors to the film, Struggle is a bold film that challenges the legitimacy of that Presidential Election and brings the entire U.S. electoral process into question.
This gripping documentary is filmed with a mix of expert testimony and first-hand accounts of voters whose votes were suppressed or manipulated, and community members who protested for election reform and justice in the State and National Capitals. This informative, engaging and tense film is told from a grass roots perspective, from the ground up, without the filters of mainstream media framing the dialogue. Filmed with a handheld style that reflects the intensity of the moment, this film identifies the practices of Individual and State entities to silence protest and manipulate elections in the United States.
In 1904 Mississippi and across the South, African-Americans were denied their rights to vote because their grandparents weren't registered to vote, or because they couldn't afford the poll tax, or because they feared vigilante violence in reprisal for their votes; In 2004 hundreds of thousands of African-American and other minority and liberal leaning voters in the state of Ohio, and elsewhere across the country, were denied their right to vote because they couldn't wait in line for 2 to 7 hours on a workday, or because their names were inexplicably removed from the poll books, or because an electronic machine flipped their votes from Democrat John Kerry to Republican George or Bush, or because of one of several other dirty tricks which both changed the outcome of the Presidential Election, and set the country back one hundred years to an era of Jim Crow politics. This is a system that reaps favor and fortune upon those who manipulate class differential in their favor, and place the burden on the backs of an ever-growing oppressed community that once again must rise up and struggle for justice.
This informative, and at times tense, film follows a chronology of events from the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, where an over-zealous police force instituted shocking tactics for stifling citizens constitutional rights to assemble; through election day and the aftermath of the deciding swing state in that year's presidential election, Ohio. We not only hear from experts about the tactics of suppressing the votes of African-American and other Democrat leaning urban and student voters. But we feel the weight of the denial of basic rights, as we at times agonize and empathize with voters waiting in lines for hours on end, or voters who were flat out told they were not allowed to vote for one reason or another, and we hear from these would-be voters in their own words without the filters of mainstream media along the way.
Struggle is currently airing on Link TV and can be seen online for Free by visiting the project page on Kickstarter, on our MentalRev Productions and on Vimeo and Youtube. Please Like us on Facebook, share and consider donating to the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign as this film was made possible through the scant resources of the filmmaker. Kickstarter
About a third of Gaza’s electricity is supplied by Israel, as part of its treaty obligations under the Oslo accords and because it is still considered the Occupying authority in the Strip. Israeli governments have sometimes tried to wriggle out of this obligation, but even the Israeli courts found those plans cruel and illegal. As recently as September, Israeli Minister of the Environment Gilad Erdan again proposed cutting electricity supply from Israel to Gaza.
Gaza hospitals are all too often on the brink of going dark. They have back-up generators, but often there are shortages of gasoline, as well. Israel’s blockade of the civilian economy of Gaza is preventing the kind of infrastructural improvements needed to give the hospitals guaranteed power.
Why can Americans sympathize with the patients at the Langone Hospital in New York, but are actively complicit in the energy shortages afflicting Gaza hospitals? Are not the patients in both equally human beings? Aren’t there premature babies in both and patients on a lifeline, who would be endangered by a loss of electricity? If the US Congress is willing to vote disaster relief for New Yorkers, shouldn’t it at least object to the Israeli blockade on Gaza?