Monday, February 18, 2013

Feb. 18: hurry, hurry, hurry, getcher piplines....

This weekend saw demonstrations across the US, the largest one of 35,000 to 50,000 in Washington, DC. They were protesting against the Keystone Pipeline, the one that is proposed to carry the world's dirtiest oil (from Alberta) to Texas. Protests like that are the reasons why Alberta is looking for people, like us, who are willing to transport the world's dirtiest oil (hoping nothing will ever go  wrong) to create the world dirtiest atmosphere as we refine it.

(The reserve route, also to an Irving refinery, is one to Portland, Maine.)

The World Bank has recently issued severe warnings that climate change is coming - and fast. The bank warns it will kill millions, possibly billions. We have, maybe, 10 years to somewhat weaken the impact.

Now, refining and burning the world dirtiest oil was probably not the World Bank's idea of weakening the impact. But, luckily, we have Mr. Alward and Mr. Irving and Mr. Irving's newspaper who are much, much smarter than the World Bank.

Today's issue of the Moncton Irving Mouthpiece has two and a half pages of Alward spouting brainless propaganda about the pipeline. His interviewer was, of course, Brent Mazerolle.

Mr. Alward, close your eyes and think real hard.
1. Even if the pipeline were perfectly safe (and nothing is perfectly safe), but even if it were, the world cannot CAN NOT go on burning oil or shale gas without destruction. It is not possible. Can you get that through your head? It doesn't matter if it will provide a few jobs. It simply cannot be done without terrible consequences for all of us - and soon.  (I know. That doesn't sink in, does it?)

2. Shale gas and oil will not provide us with a safe supply of fuel. Most of the world is just coming on line. (Well, in the first place, there is no safe supply. All resources run out.) But, more important -
our leaders in the west have decided we must control the whole world supply. That's what the turmoil in Africa and the middle east is all about. That's why the US is taking aim on Iran. That's why the US has been hostile to oil-rich Venezuela under Chavez.

Mind you, one could never guess any of that from reading the NewsToday section of this miserable paper. By the way, this section has less than three pages of (irrelevant) news, and over five pages of ads and obituaries.

The editorial and op ed pages are the little engines that couldn't. Not quite.

The editorial is the usual boosterism. Alas, it completely ignores essential issues Moncton has to face just in the next two decades. An events centre will not solve the problem of a world fuel crisis. A pipeline will not meet the challenge of severe climate change.

Norbert almost redeems himself in his column. His understanding of Keynesian economics and job creation is, to say the kindest, primitive. Job creation, he says is bad. Okay. So why doesn't he attack the Irving papers for their defence of the pipeline as job creation? Be consistent, Norman.

He also says we have to stop giving corporate welfare. I agree. But do you have any particular corporations in mind, Norbert? Were you thinking of Ir....? You know.

And he praises our super low taxes for corporations and the wealthy. How is that different from welfare for the rich and powerful? His views on healthcare are sloppy, vague and shallow. He focuses on a recent technique that could ease the pressure on some facilities. Okay. But this hardly solves all the problems of a system that he suggests (without any evidence) is wasteful.

Craig Babstock writes a column about child pornography. Almost all of his column is spent in saying there's lot of it and it's not nice. We know that, Craig.

The only useful part is at the end when he offers some advice on how to deal with it. Unfortunately, that part is just one sentence. What would have been useful is a whole column on how to help our children deal with the threat of child pornography.

Allen Abel is his usual, irrelevant self.

Alec Bruce aims for a kind of grim humour this time. It seems light. But it left me with an uncomfortable feeling there was something terribly true behind it.

But what I really want to talk about today is not the crud that fills the pages of the TandT. It's an article I received from a friend. What follow is not my idea, but an idea I think worth considering. I'm just summarizing it.

The article appeared in Business Week. (Not a radical left publication). It is dated June 20, 2009. It is by Shoshana Zuboff, a retired and very distinguished professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. - not your typical rabble rouser.

She opens, "A long list of business executives have reaped sumptuous rewards even though they fractured the world's economy, destroyed trillions of dollars in value, and disfigured millions of lives."

She relates this to the "...terrifying human breakdown at the heart of this crisis."

Our business leaders are not evil  monsters. They are, as so many of the Nazi leaders were, terribly banal people. An example of this banality is Adolf Eichmann, the leading figure in the murder of millions of Jews in the holocaust.

As was shown at his trial, he had no sense of doing wrong. He had a powerful sense of self-advancement, but after that, no sense at all of the reality and the horror of what he was doing, no sense of moral judgement.

This attitude is common in today's dominant business model which produces behaviour that is throughtless and remote from reality. made worse by a complete lack of moral judgement, that feels no  responsibility for the consequences of its actions. There is no sense of empathy for the victims of business decisions.

Without morals or ethics, business leaders fail to meet minimum standards of civilized behaviour. They represent what Hannah Arendt called, "the banality of evil". These are the zombies of our time.

The article adds that there is a dreadful lack of moral leadership for these people - especially the moral leadership that should come from government. (I have long since given up on the churches.)

What business leaders have done, according to the author, are economic crimes against humanity.

I would only add that it's worse than that.  The business model is so remote from reality that the future does not extend beyond the next three months. That's why the judgements of our business leaders have been so bad in politics, in foreign affairs, in war, in social services, even in economic development.

As a result, we live in a world that is, much of it, a living hell. Africa and the middle east are suffering death, starvation, poverty, shattered nations, slavery, almost all inflicted by "our side", and almost all encouraged by our business leadership.

And at the heart of it are newsmedia like the Irving press, run by the Adolph Eichmanns of our time, and with their own camp commandants (editors), their own executioners (reporters and columnists) stoking the furnaces.

There is, indeed, a crisis. On the surface, it seems to be an economic crisis. But at root, it's a moral one.

The banality of evil - corporate bosses like those of the oil companies, politicians  like Harper and Alward, most journalists....

That's what we have to fight. That's where we have to restore a sense of ethics, of responsibility, of moral judgement.


  1. We praise and lavishly reward the Barons of Business for their "economic crimes against humanity." In their service our political class has effected the greatest transfer of unearned wealth in history, gutting the blue and white collar working classes to financially engorge the already bloated richest of the rich. Stiglitz explains this in great detail in "The Price of Inequality."

    We have created our own Frankenstein's monster, an economy in which maximized consumption and production is all that matters and growth the answer to all of tomorrow's problems and challenges. It's a dead-end strategy for a very finite world and we're already crashing into the walls of our one and only biosphere. Piping dilbit to New Brunswick is simply stomping ever harder on the gas pedal, a la Thelma & Louise.

  2. Yes, we're heading for that cliff fast.

    Here's a very interesting speech with a few basic solutions regarding society's lost direction by Dr. Benjamin Carson at the National Prayer breakfast.

  3. Right on, The Mound of sound. I couldn't agree more...