Sunday, February 18, 2018

Another Kind Slave Master

The indigenous people of Canada have been fighting for rights through the courts for decades. Now Canada has a Prime Minister who wants to change the narrative. But facts on the ground? Some Native leaders are not so sure.

“It’s almost easier to fight the bully government than it is the oozing ‘we love you so much’ government,” she says. “But the facts of the matter, and their actions, speak far different.”

And by "the ground" I mean mining, logging, fishing, hunting and building pipelines. I mean tar sands. Justin Trudeau is Canada's Barack Obama- talks a good game, delivers just enough piece meal reform to woo liberals, but falters on the system change level because he believes deep down that it works.

The paradox the Natives must work through, much like the Valve Turners here in the US, is claiming the system is broken while using the courts. Yes courts can provide remedy, yes there is tension between courts, government and capital, but they are also the kindness of the slave master. Many of the tribes are in desperate straits. Like they are down here. And in Latin America. They can't have their old life back- too much has changed. What does the new life look like?

The Gates Foundation saves many many lives through its global health initiative. It relieves suffering "on the ground". But with a warming planet disease will spread and thrive. A walk through the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh will tell you why. Bill and Melinda believe the system works.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Labour's Crucible

From the New Politics site, a discussion of the latest AFL-CIO convention:

On climate change, undoubtedly the victors were a conservative bloc composed of the building trades and the extractive industrial unions. The UMW, despite its militant tradition, from spearheading the CIO to the Miners for Democracy movement, stuck by their immediate interests in defending the coal industry from environmental constraints.

Yeah, this is a big problem in terms of the traditional left or even Democratic Party coalition building. Because beyond just the guys building pipelines or mining coal there are lots of workers spread throughout the entire economy who are justifiably nervous about the coming climate disruption. Because for decades the leadership has tried to have it both ways; in solidarity with the "green turtles" when it come to globalization while also protecting their fossil fuel infrastructure jobs, now they have no allies to turn to. We can cry about a "just transition" all we want but there is no organized labor threat to back it up. It's called long term strategic thinking, something they just never got.

As for background checks and assault weapon bans, that train left the station a long time ago as well. We could put every sociopath who owns weapons under surveillance but that would be tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of citizens you would have to keep track of. There's probably twenty here in my little town, twisted, damaged bastards with arsenals just ready to go off. The NRA is right on this one; if you want to be safe in America you want to be armed.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Roller Coaster

What if the stock markets are sub-consciously reacting to climate change? There are a dozen differing explanations out there for the "sudden volatility" by a dozen different economists with degrees in economics but not a one mentions the thing that actually looms most catastrophically on the horizon. My pet theory is that traders see it, if only in their mind's eye or in their dreams, in the slip-of-the-tongue. All their arcane theories and algorythms and jargon help obscure the fact their monster has unpredictable moods and reacts to signals we mere mortals can't always perceive.

As I write this many serious scientists around the globe are working on geoengineering. They are trained to think rationally and they can see clearly that no major state or government can defy the growth imperative inherent to capitalism and that emissions will continue to rise. They can't say it loudly or they will lose their research funding but they know how this is going down and economists have that same awareness, they run in lots of the same circles, talk candidly over drinks.

The Montana Wilderness Ass. keeps calling me. They want me to go to a meeting and voice opposition to our corporate-lacky-right-wing ideologue Senator and his plan to open up public land for capitalist extraction. These same people have been doing this same thing over and over again ad nauseum but they must actually enjoy the sheer repetitiveness of it, in some perverse way they must find it comforting. They will tell of their soul-enriching experiences in the wilderness, how it is our duty to preserve the last .02% of untrammelled landscape in this lovely museum. The loggers will grouse about "multiple-use" and good paying jobs for their kids. Just re-wind the tape and play it again and again. If I was in need of abuse I would go and say wilderness is actually a dangerous symbol

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Never Had It So Good/ Bad

They were the best of times they were the worst....In the upside down world the optimists want us to see "the positive"; global economic growth, rising confidence, soaring stock market, a decrease in "extreme poverty", a decrease in over-all "violence"- the many indicators they will point to as a reason to take heart. They admit there are "problems, of course", but with increasing wealth and new technologies we should be optimistic. Many see this as the triumph of libertarian ideology, getting the administrative state out of the way so that competition can unleash innovation. They read stuff like this from "The scientific case for radical optimism

The soon-to-be-released title is the latest from renowned Harvard linguist Steven Pinker, and it's not hard to see why the book appeals so much to Gates. Lately, the billionaire-turned-philanthropist has been using his popular blog and even the pages of major magazines to argue for more optimism. The world, he insists, might seem like a total mess sometimes, but we're actually making steady progress making it a better place for all of us."

Liberals are basically in agreement although they bemoan the state of our "politics", the mean tone and demeanor; they would like to see poor people have decent shelters to go to while conservatives are fine with cardboard street houses and effective policing. Of course the non-ideological "muddling class" also celebrates economic growth and after all the years of recession, a little happy news. A tax break, maybe a raise. They focus on gains in the cultural sphere; the me-to movement, gay marriage, a DACA deal, solar panels.

Pessimists are much harder to be around. On the right you have preppers, worry over discrimination against whites and conspiracy kooks, on the left it's those with all the gloomy studies and statistics, those using C words like catastrophic and collapse and crisis and capitalism. They blame America and "The West" and think technologies all have hidden problems. They don't even like the good leaders like Obama.They read stuff like this, from David Spratt in Resilience:

"The problems posed are wickedly exquisite. The former NASA climate science chief James Hansen has long warned that 2°C is a “recipe for disaster”. It is clear that we now face an existential threat to human civilisation as the climate teeters on the edge of passing further system tipping points that would make the task of avoiding that threat tremendously difficult."

Monday, January 22, 2018

Sagebrush Redux

Groundhog Day! The alarm clock rings and we keep waking up to the same wretched farce day after day after year after year after decade after decade ad nauseum. Instead of Reagan and Watt we have Trump and Zinke and Cliven Bundy. Who will no doubt soon have his own line of survival gear and western wear. Grazing rights, States rights, Sagebrush rebellion, blah blah on and on.Cliven is now on the lecture circuit and just gave a talk in Big Sky Country. Our local Patriot Representative Theresa Manzella was there, reassuring the crowd that she was "not a politician, I am one of you." Except of course she holds political office and does politics. Luckily the crowd is not overly burdened with discernment or coherent thinking.

The crux of the matter is private property and the individual vs the collective. The classic Left/ Right antagonism, though rarely articulated, because it is so contentious and divisive. Bundy, who just visited Sanders County Montana, came at the behest of a group calling itself the Coalition of Western Property Owners. Other sponsors are the American Lands Council and Freedom Works and Western Tradition Partnership (there are dozens of these)whose guiding philosophy is: "strongly protected property rights are the key to any free society." It is also the key to capitalism itself.

In Latin America social movements still talk about latifundia, or land reform in terms of redistribution. Every once in a while you might hear about workers occupying a factory and taking over production. In the USA private ownership of productive property is sacred and supported by every class. We can talk about socialized medicine or public utilities, Obama can even take control of a car company for a while, but no one talks about nationalization or collectivization. No one.

Because the individual and their individual rights are the supreme law of the land. Their is no "collective" subject, except when it comes to public land, where "We the People" are owners. Which is why Bundy & Co. have their eye on it. Bundy, not unlike ISIS or the Taliban, sees his mandate coming from God (manifested in the US Constitution) How can he lose?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Goodbye Tuna

Flyfishing magazines are not known for their radical critique but I stumbled across an article on salt water fishing that surprised me. Bemoaning declining sport fishing opportunities, the author takes on the environmental movement in general, writing: "the environmental movement hasn't even managed to slow down the rate of destruction, never mind halt with regulatory bodies everywhere, the pressure from politicians and industry ensured it (the ICCAT) never followed the recommendations made by environmentalists."

From here it would only be a short leap for this liberal writer to condemn "democratic capitalism" as a contradiction and the profit system as a failure. Maybe next issue he'll write that the state is subservient to capital, is not just "captured" by lobbyists but ideologically integrated at every level. So wild fish don't stand a chance in the race for economic growth.

Trout fishing magazines, their "conservation" writers and the organizations still cling to the belief they are "winning" the fight to save habitat and fish stocks but they choose not to mention climate change. Since they are not struggling against industry profits in a direct sense ( no commercial trout fishing) they can pretend their regulatory efforts and volunteer stream restoration projects will preserve the resource.

Friday, January 12, 2018


Does Trump really imagine there is some big line of Norwegians waiting to get into this shithole country? People tired of good healthcare and education and public transportation and clean energy? People looking for a place with no vacation pay or retirement or maternity leave. Just not enough gun crime in Oslo, I'm headed for Philly.

As for all the outrage, if you elect Rodney Dangerfield to be your President you should expect some embarrassingly candid moments. Since he has no filters, he's going to say out loud what everyone thinks. It's all about ratings. Like when Rodney claimed Mexico is going to pay for the wall, you get a big bump, and then you move on to other topics, a little shape shifting, some sleight of hand.

I just finished a book about the early tribes that inhabited the San Francisco Bay Area. Talk about blessed- abundant game, fisheries, acorns, grass seeds, you name it- the perfect climate and relative peace among neighbors. They had the technologies they needed but no more. And then came the Spanish with all their "civilization" and religion and the psychosis that went with it. Turned Paradise into a shithole in a little over two hundred years. You're welcome.