Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Frances Russell discusses the inevitable collateral damage to our planet from the Cons' war on science:
Over the past 200 years, Canadians built on flood plains because "we thought we had relatively stable climate -- the climate we experienced over the past century," Sandford told his CBC Radio audience. "We thought it would stay the same. We also thought we had a good grasp of how variable we could expect climate conditions to be based on what we've experienced in the last century.

"And now we've discovered that neither assumption was correct. We do not have adequate means to protect development in flood plains. Climate conditions are more variable than we thought. And that variability is increasing as climate changes and we've also discovered that our hydrologic conditions are changing."
Today, the atmosphere holds about seven per cent more water vapour than before for each degree Celsius temperature increase. North America is also experiencing disruption of the jet stream allowing climate events to cluster and remain in places for longer periods, causing more intense floods and droughts.

Sandford's most graphic analysis came when he asked his radio audience to imagine the unimaginable - "huge rivers, great courses of water vapour aloft that can carry between seven and 15 times the daily flow of the Mississippi River"- now flowing through the skies above our planet.

When these 'rivers' touch ground or are confronted by cooler temperatures, "that water precipitates out and what we see is huge storms of long duration and the potential for much greater flooding events."

The old math and the old methods and predictions of flood protection won't work anymore, Sandford warned. "Until we find a new way of substantiating appropriate action in the absence of this hydrologic stability, flood risks are going to be increasingly difficult to predict or to price, not just in Calgary and Canmore, but everywhere."

Sandford called the loss of hydrologic stability a "societal game-changer. It's already causing a great deal of human misery...We're...going to have to invest more in science so that we can improve our flood predictions."

But investing in more science is exactly what the Harper Conservatives are committed not to do - to serve the interests of multinational oil.
- But then, Sixth Estate notes that the Cons who are so eager to torch basic services for the needy in the name of fiscal probity see no problem with effective social insurance in the form of flood aid - while also highlighting the wider political problem:
In the meantime, thinking through the government’s obligations in the event of a disaster is obviously something that needs to urgently happen — and because of the rather decrepit nature of politics and the media in this country, we can be sure that the conversation won’t happen until after the fact, which is precisely the worst time to have it. If you think I’m being alarmist here, instead of thinking about the cost of a few homes in Calgary, try imagining what the cost of a property owner bailout will be when one-third of Vancouver is underwater, much of the rest has been toppled by an earthquake, and Vancouver Island is virtually inaccessible for months because all major harbours and airports have been destroyed. Relatively soon now, that will happen. And we have no plan for that either.

It’s worth noting the utter inability of our political system to plan in advance for something as incredibly and inanely simple as the fact that a mountain river which has flooded in the past might do so again. That’s precisely why we are so pathologically unable to prevent or mitigate climate change. Our brains simply aren’t evolved enough to handle problems of that magnitude.
- Charles Pierce writes that PRISM and other surveillance systems aren't the only disturbing form of top-down monitoring of individual action - as U.S. government employees are being ordered to spy on their co-workers in the name of avoiding the public disclosure of information.

- Meanwhile, Ryan Lizza (via David Graham) provides a window into the daily fund-raising routine of a member of the House of Representatives. And while the report offers a discouraging look at how a dollar-driven political system works, it should also raise serious questions as to whether we want to count on representatives to provide meaningful oversight on intrusions into individual rights.

- Finally, speaking of examples of how a political system shouldn't function, the Cons continue to set the standard. And while Michael Sona is outside the tent looking in, he's admitting that he and others on the Cons' Guelph campaign wanted to break the rules about identifying the source of robocalls:
“We were getting hit by unidentified robocalls, very, very negative stuff. We wanted to mount a robocall campaign against Frank Valeriote that couldn’t be traced back to us — Frank the Flip-Flopper. But none of us knew how to do it. So I asked John White (a fellow campaign worker) and he told me to contact Matt McBain (Conservative war room official) to find out. McBain emailed White to see if I was okay, White said I was on the team and a good guy and to go ahead and talk to me. We talked. I later texted McBain but never heard back.”

(Both White and McBain have told Elections Canada investigators that they advised Sona against any shady operations the party wouldn’t stand for.)

Although White and McBain apparently worried about breaking ethical and perhaps legal standards, Michael Sona reports receiving some nudge-nudge, wink-wink advice from senior party officials that was less rigorous when it came to playing politics by gentleman’s rules during the 2011 general election.

“We were told that that they weren’t telling us to go out and destroy the other guys signs, but if we did, the best thing to use was oven-cleaner. The guy said acetone would work just as well and we could get plenty of that from the printing company we were using. Then one of the top guys told us how to get around spending limits, which I thought was funny, since they were still tangled up in the In-and-Out thing.”

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