Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Things break down - Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I came across a link during my research for what was going to be a post solely on the U.S. election, I didn't link it then however. The significance of this particular post needs to sit within the context of other, perhaps lesser, but similar events to start to paint the picture.

I titled this series 'Thing break down", as that is really what's happening here. This presidential election (and the scenes outside) combined with the amount of other divisive issues, the Brexit, the civil strife, the wars... the sheer volume of it. The photos of riot police and protesters used to be somewhat rare just 5-6 years ago. It was a big event. Now it's everyday. In more places.

Much of the world has already reached the violent stage of this collapse. We're hearing a lot about Venezuela in the news and their collapse - for instance, but little as to the major contributor of what set it off instead most articles focus on the government's response to a situation they are increasingly powerless to control which is that they are quite near to the point where they will no longer be able to generate electricity due to a drought and haven't built the infrastructure to prepare for this problem. Their currency is hyper-inflating, and their society is falling apart. The corruption in the government means nothing ever gets done and their focus is on maintaining control.

Much as ours will be.

You'll notice no matter how much currency they print, they can't buy wealth. What their electricity shortage hasn't destroyed economically has been by the oil price dilemma.

Venezuela of course is an extreme example. They are much, much further on the curve of decline and much less robust than the advanced western world. However, the same principals apply to us - just as they can't print their wealth into existence neither can we. The oil price is only a problem because the overall cost to produce this oil is much greater than it used to be due to peak conventional oil which means the margins are much smaller or as in the case of a much of our extreme energy production: negative.

This means we have less surplus energy everyday to work with, to apply to sciences, to technology, to improvement, to maintenance. Venezuela squandered it's returns for it's surplus energy. It should have invested in new infrastructure. You don't just dream that shit up overnight it takes time to build it good and build it right.

It's difficult to build good infrastructure when you are in a state of collapse. You need to invest in it before that collapse, when you actually have the wealth. This is something that the western world also didn't do, but our mass of infrastructure is vast, and old and the amount of time it would take to repair it all is frankly, staggering. If we had the money to do it that is.

The scope of the world we live is really astounding when you think about it, isn't it? What we've built in the last 100 years is just mind boggling. That we haven't just built the physical structures, but computing devices which now model in incredible fidelity smaller versions of that same massive scope of a world is mind boggling. That I can play Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, on my phone (which I like to call my "Star Trek pad" - you know, cause they called them pads?) is mind boggling. Unfortunately there are also downsides to this scope and scale... maintenance, which is also mind-boggling in it's scope and scale.

Let's start with a small example and work our way up to the article I was mentioning earlier and in the last post.

Whitemud Drive flooding likely too expensive to fix, city officials say

So the basic premise here is that with the anticipated increase in extreme weather events and the increase in flooding not to mention the potential damage and costs that flooding may do the City of Edmonton is instead opting to look to the cheapest solution which does the bare minimum of the objectives which is to reroute traffic and ensure no one gets stuck under there again. A noble cause, but also shortsighted with it's minimalist objectives as another should be to maintain infrastructure to the highest standard at the lowest cost.

Things always seem to be "too expensive" and yet we exist within a monetary paradigm that *hopes* for inflation - that is, for them to get even more expensive and at the same time we complain about how expensive things are. It isn't going to get significantly cheaper, so the modifications should probably be done now and since we squandered all of our real wealth we will probably have to borrow from the future to do it and hope the wealth we're borrowing actually manages to exist when the bills come due.

This is of course but one overpass in a sea of overpasses. And this is also an example of a decision, deliberately made because of cost. Because of budgets. Whenever political talk of budgets arises two unproductive commentator camps emerge, both militant in their belief. One cares only for 'balanced budgets', the other cares only for 'adequate spending', and neither try to really... understand, each others position. For they are opposites. Aren't they? We act as though they are.

Rarely do I see anyone ask: what if both positions are true, at the same time? I don't see many people asking that question I believe because the answer isn't a very nice answer. It has no light at the end of the tunnel for those that feel they are entitled to infinite growth like the faith in one of those ideologies or the other does. This revelation instead presents a stark mindfuck, a reminder, that what we are doing and how we are living and the resources we are consuming at the rates we are consuming them at, is not sustainable.

Next up we have an interesting little piece on the state of elevators in Canada, lets take a gander.

Broken elevators reaching 'crisis' proportions across Canada

This link not only provides a great example of the scale that I am talking about, it also provides a great example of collusion and corruption, along with general greed for profits, hampering what should be considered to be critical infrastructure to all types of operations across Canada. This situation should hardly be considered to be unique to Canada though I'm sure if similar investigations were conducted in other "advanced" western nations you'd see the same thing. The scale and money required today to fix these problems is simply staggering, but we're not fixing them today and tomorrow doesn't look good either.

You can see it everyday in the discussions about infrastructure and it's pretty hard for anyone to deny the truth that we just can't keep up when every day new cuts are made, the economic situation worsens, and the wear and tear of ill-maintained infrastructure becomes more apparent. From the oil spill in Saskatchewan and our aging pipeline infrastructure, to New York's fragile subway to a collapsing bridge in India to Fukushima to nuclear plants in the U.S. where according to the EIA "Almost all U.S. nuclear plants require life extension past 60 years to operate beyond 2050". Where exactly do people think the "money" to do all this is going to come from? And yes while the maintenance of this infrastructure temporarily creates jobs it doesn't create wealth. We already have a bridge, for instance, and after we deploy the materials, time, and effort to maintain that bridge we still only have one bridge. This is what the death of growth and the reality of that looks like. Until we accept that rebuilding the same things over and over again isn't growth  - and is in fact an expense as the banks like to claim it is - we've got some serious problems on the horizon.

Fort McMurray fire won't devastate economy, says new report
"Overall, we expect the rebuilding efforts to add roughly $1.3 billion in real GDP to Alberta's economy in 2017 — or about 0.4 percentage points to economic growth. Construction will likely remain elevated in 2018, and possibly into 2019 as well until rebuilding is completed," states the report.
 Oh yea, "hardly noticeable". Rebuilding what they once had will even add GDP! Today's growth. You can almost picture the bankers licking their lips at the destruction, some much needed stimulus. And if your entire purpose in life is to employ people in jobs rebuilding the same old 1960s and 1970s tech over and over again while racking in tons of printed currency then all is well. But if your view of a healthy economy is improvement in standard of life and well being, surpluses of energy and time to do what you love, you're shit out of luck.

But here's the big one.

Inside the aging lock that is one breakdown away from crippling North America’s economy
In other words, the Poe is the only link from Lake Superior to the lower Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean beyond, and it’s living on borrowed time. In two years, the Poe turns 50, and, with Congress reluctant to fund a new lock, concerns are growing about its reliability. The lock broke earlier this week, blowing an O ring on a hydraulic line that feeds the gate activator. Luckily, mechanics fixed it in 45 minutes. 
It was not a moment too soon. The North American economy needs this lock. The iron ore that passes through here each year becomes more than US$500 billion worth of cars, trucks, fridges, bridges and other things made of steel. A bigger failure would spell catastrophe and it’s an increasing probability. 
This spring, the Detroit Free Press obtained a classified report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which calls the Poe, “the Achilles’ heel” of the North American industrial economy. 
“A six-month shutdown of the Poe Lock … would plunge the nation into recession, closing factories and mines, halting auto and appliance production in the U.S. for most of a year and result in the loss of some 11-million jobs,” the report warns. 
Alarm bells are already ringing for U.S. ship owners. 
“Last year, we had the MacArthur Lock down for two weeks and the Poe Lock went down for an hour,” says Jim Weakley, president of the Lake Carriers Association, whose 17 members own 56 ships. “For the first time in my memory, you had the Army Corps of Engineers unable to move a ship. The scenario of a six-month outage isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem.” 
Canadian steel mills also depend on the lock. More vitally for Canada, eight million metric tonnes of prairie grain travelled by train last year to Thunder Bay, and then loaded onto ships headed to the St. Lawrence Seaway. Much of the grain then moved across the Atlantic to help feed Africa and Europe. 
“What’s concerning me is that the Mac lock is the same vintage as the Poe and has had a noticeable failure,” says Kirk Jones, president of the Canadian Shipowners’ Association and a vice-president at Montreal-based Canada Steamship Lines. (The Mac actually opened in 1943 and the Poe in 1968). “We’re nervous that the same thing could shut down the Poe and shut down shipping in its entirety.”
We're going to leave it here, I want that to sink in. See you in part 3 where we will start to get into the U.S. clownshow as Tom Morello is so elegantly putting it..

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Things break down - Part 1

My posts this year have been becoming increasingly unfocused, and the reason for this is that the sheer number of events that are occurring around the world - all connected - is also increasing. It comes down to time as each post as is takes me hours to compile, write, and connect the dots and even still I leave information out as to include it would mean more hours on top of those. I do have a life outside of this blog and the lengthy posts are taking a toll. Information quality has gone down, and the length of my posts I find tends to scare off readers. Historically it's been my shorter posts that do well while my longer posts don't, for understandable reasons.

I was originally going to write a post tonight about the U.S. election, even though I promised myself I wouldn't write one much earlier in the year. I promised myself I wouldn't write one because frankly my forecasts for this U.S. election are so disturbing that I'd honestly hoped they weren't true. I didn't want to put it out there as just it's very existence may have created the situation I feared may happen which considering the whole point of writing my forecasts is to avoid these events, it seemed counter-productive. Sadly many of my internal forecasts seem to be coming true anyway and so the harm factor in writing these forecasts has greatly diminished. We will get to what these forecasts are.

In my research phase for this post I came across an interesting, and very indirectly related article, which has caused me to rethink my approach. In my day job as a programmer we refer to this as "scope creep", and as I mentioned earlier is the reason largely my posts have become so unfocused. The number of links I post to Twitter has increased ten-fold, and what's worse the links I post are simply a fraction of the links I am finding to be of importance to the trends at play. As the number of events have increased I've had to become increasingly selective of the criteria that signifies a significant event (the links I tweet all have some significance to the grand story I've been trying to tell, they often indicate turning points or confirm trends I've written about in the past) meaning that links I would have posted in the past no longer meet the minimum criterion I use to determine what is a significant event.

That all said, I feel that I've been sitting on a lot of important information that I really wish to share with my readers, I just haven't been able to figure out how. Until tonight.

We've covered a lot of ground over the years. From the root causes of much of the world issues: peak oil and infinite growth, to forecasts of the probable symptoms of these issues (Alberta's increasingly dire financial situation being a prime example), to descriptions of the steps the various states will take to mitigate these issues most of which involve an increasingly Orwellian surveillance and police state, to the current trend of the great deflation and the inevitable arrival of negative interest rates in "strong stable" Canada. Our next stop due to all of the above is going to be a period of time where things break down (and where there's no money to fix them).

This phase will likely be the phase in which the infinite growth monetary paradigm is exposed as ineffective, and counter-productive. Over the next few years I anticipate that the question of "what is solvency?" will take shape in various forms as the status-quo appears increasingly incompetent in face of mounting critical failures, and where "free market" (in reality rigged market) economics fails to transition us to anything other than procrastination.

However, these topics are all to be covered in later parts of this series, as the very first thing that's breaking down is the ability to simultaneously comprehend all of the problems we are facing, and design insulation to them that is not showered in cognitive dissonance. The more complex the situation becomes the harder it's going to be to see the big picture, and the harder it becomes to see the big picture the more likely it is that people are going to expend energy on supposed "solutions" that are doomed from the start due to simple oversight.

My realization tonight was that my inability to focus my posts coherently is in itself a symptom of things breaking down as complexity ramps up. So for this series each post is going to be small, and focused on a single specific topic. I hope it turns out better, and that you all enjoy it. Part 2 coming soon.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Canada's housing hotbed of denial

Writing about Canada's housing situation is always a frustrating experience for me. For years many of us, sceptical of Canada's debt-fuelled "recovery", have said Canada's housing situation is absolutely insane. Cheap loans have been allowing us to limp along on the back of what we're likely to discover is a bunch of fake wealth we conjured up out of thin air.

Bank Of Canada Warns Of "Higher Possilbity" Of Housing Downturn, Sees Vancouver, Toronto Prices Unsustainable

Governments terrified of popping foreign-buyer housing bubble: Don Pittis

It's ironic isn't it, that the bank of Canada is only now warning that Toronto and Vancouver are "unsustainable" since other overheated parts of Canada - like Calgary - are already "un-sustaining"? Even this admittance by the Bank of Canada is a better sounding understatement than the true situation. The Bank of Canada, along with the federal government, has manufactured this situation and for years they have been using this artificial asset bubble to "prove" the recovery is real.

A few years ago I wrote some commentary titled 'The magic of minimum wage and inflation hocus pocus'. It is without a doubt one of the most important things I've written about the state of our economy and the belief in economic fixes that attempt to fix the unsustainable within that same unsustainable box. A significant portion of the piece is spent on housing, in which I show that the author of the work I was commenting on actually believed that devaluing your purchasing power to create the illusion of rising equity was a "good thing" because it supposedly fought off "evil deflation". How so-called "economists" are blind to the unsustainable and inevitably deflationary nature of that arrangement I'll never know, yet here we are. The rabbit is out of the hat now.

Back in September of last year I caught a little-noticed article.

Canadian banks helping clients bend rules to move money out of China
Some Canadian banks allow wealthy Asian investors to skirt Chinese law by helping them bring in large amounts of money that is often used to buy real estate in Vancouver. 
Financial institutions in the area have flagged more than 8,200 suspicious transactions since January, 2012, the year China began cracking down on citizens they suspect of corruption. 
Ninety-six per cent of those transactions were also facilitated by the banks, however, even though the vast majority of that business involved suspected money laundering, according to FinTRAC, the federal agency responsible for tracking money laundering. 
These findings, obtained by The Globe and Mail through an Access To Information Request, come as a debate rages over the source of foreign investment and Vancouver’s soaring luxury housing markets. A recent study by Macdonald Realty said 70 per cent of clients who paid more than $3-million for Vancouver houses last year were from China.
This housing situation didn't happen by accident, the government and the banks have been relying on foreign currency to prevent it from collapsing in the first place. It's been obvious as day with millennials moving home and wages stagnating that there was a disconnect between reality and the housing market. It was clear with Canadian household debt hitting ever increasing highs and constant low interest rates to "spur borrowing" that this would be the result. All those who have been saying "don't worry" for the last 3 years as they drank the economic koolaid should be ashamed of themselves; if they call themselves an economist? resign. This situation couldn't have been more obvious for those not mesmerised by the belief in infinite growth or easily fooled by non-sensical "there's no bubble" propaganda.

"The Whole Shebang Is Broke" - The Only Thing That's Growing Is Debt

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

"Cancellation fees and jobs", "empty words and double standards"

Central to the international human rights system is the essential principle of universality. States are committed to fulfill their obligations to promote universal respect for and the observance and protection of all human rights for all. The international system does not declare that the rights of individuals and peoples matter more or less because of where they live, or that there should be more or less international level concern about human rights protection in certain countries over others. From the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 to the advent of the Universal Periodic Review 60 years later, in 2008, universality has been fundamental to international human rights protection. An important dimension to the principle of universality is that Canada’s implementation of human rights should be measured against its capacity and history: whether it is progressing, regressing or stagnant, and in light of what should be reasonably expected of a country with such an abundance of resources and wealth.
From "Empty Words and Double Standards: Canada's Failure to Respect and Uphold International Human Rights" / Amnesty International
 I've been observing an exchange on Progressive Bloggers that I can't help but interject on. The subject matter covered in the last volley is of particular interest to me as I don't particularly feel that either has provided a true analysis. Montreal Simon's is written in partisanship, and Mound of Sound's in haste - while also failing to correctly identify the issue.

Rather than quote and comment on those posts though I'm instead going to comment on the source material they are both commenting on.

Canada would face multi-billion dollar penalty if it cancelled armoured vehicle sale to Saudis

The focus here will be on the issues with Simon's post as Mound's entire take was based on a statement I'm assuming he either misread, or misunderstood, and which is actually attributed to John Baird - Montreal Simon explains this aspect within his own response so I won't explore that further.

The reason I call his post written in partisanship is that he deliberately omits certain quotes and re-frames the Liberals actual position as "getting screwed".
When Harper announced the $14.8-billion sale in 2014, he and land systems officials touted the 3,000 jobs to be created — mostly in London, Ont. — and the importance of Canada working with Saudi Arabia, a key regional security ally in the Middle East. 
The Liberals did not oppose the sale during last year’s federal election, with a campaigning Trudeau at one point calling it a commercial contract for a bunch of “jeeps.” 
Once in power, foreign affairs minister Dion signed off on export permits in April to approve the shipment of the LAVs based on an assessment the Saudis would not use them against its civilian population but would use them to defend Canada’s common security interests with the desert kingdom.
Here is another one missing from Simon's post:
On Thursday in the Commons the NDP demanded to know why the government would not create a committee to oversee arms exports to guard against human rights abuses
Pam Goldsmith-Jones, Dion’s parliamentary secretary, said “the government takes every opportunity to raise critical issues with senior Saudi officials with respect to humanitarian issues, consular issues, and human rights, as the minister did in his visit to the region last week.” 
Asked later how the government intends to monitor whether the LAVs would end up being used by Yemeni military forces against civilians, she said, “We’re watching that situation very closely. Of course, as you know, with regard to our permit process, monitoring the human rights situation is of utmost importance, so that’s all I can tell you at this time.
My personal favourite:
In fairness to the Liberals,” Baird said, “this was successfully negotiated by General Dynamics Land Systems under the previous Conservative government and you shouldn’t blame the Liberal government for that. Contracts should be sacrosanct, and the new government is honouring that and it’s the right thing to do.” 
Fast’s and Baird’s views are in sharp contrast to the position taken by the Conservatives’ current foreign affairs critic, Tony Clement, who said information now available about Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen wasn’t available at the time the deal was struck. He said the deal should be shelved.
And there it is, the false left/right paradigm and continuity of government wrapped up in a simple two paragraphs. As I wrote yesterday:
It's how the system manipulates the public: a politician comes in, makes many unpopular changes then a popular one comes in and doesn't change much at all and simply utilizes the changes passed by the previous government. The anger about those changes leaves with the previous political party but the changes themselves? Those remain.
And there is Baird telling you to do exactly that, while the "opposition" takes on their role pretending to give a shit as with nearly every other major issue we never see change on.

Ironically just today the Saudi-led coalition has been removed from the blacklist, "pending review":
Following a complaint by Saudi Arabia, however, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon agreed to a joint review by the world body and the coalition of the cases cited in the annual report of states and armed groups that violate children's rights in war. 
"Pending the conclusions of the joint review, the secretary-general removes the listing of the coalition in the report's annex," Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement. 
But Saudi Arabia's U.N. ambassador, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, said the removal of the coalition from the blacklist was "irreversible and unconditional." 
"We were wrongly placed on the list," he told reporters. "We know that this removal is final." 
Mouallimi, who described the removal as a vindication, earlier on Monday said the figures in the U.N. report were "wildly exaggerated" and that "the most up-to-date equipment in precision targeting" is used. 
Saudi Arabia had not been consulted prior to the publication of this year's report, Mouallimi added. 
Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri said in a statement sent to Reuters late on Sunday that the U.N. had not based enough of its report on information supplied by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government. 
The Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign in Yemen in March last year with the aim of preventing Iran-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen's ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh from taking power.
Yes, you read that right, the U.N. "had not based enough of its report on information supplied by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government". And we're supposed to believe that Canada "is watching the situation very closely"? That we take "every opportunity to raise critical issues with senior Saudi officials with respect to humanitarian issues, consular issues, and human rights"? If you believe that I have a bridge to sell you.

Deals always have cancellation fees. Considering Canada spent 1 billion dollars beating it's own citizens, I think we can probably afford a "multi-billion" cancellation fee, don't you? To ensure we are not involved in the oppression? This is of course if that fee can actually be enforced. I'm sure if Canada is actually "watching things closely" it wouldn't be hard to fight the legal ramifications at the WTO or whatever secret corporate court would handle it. If we actually had any interest in doing so, anyway. We don't.
So who's he to pretend he's a great defender of human rights? Why would he twist my words? When he's the one who is siding with the Saudis by suggesting that we should pay them billions so they can buy armoured cars from another country.

So we could lose $20 billion dollars, and throw thousands of Canadian workers into the street, for nothing.
First of all, the deal is only worth $14.3 billion. The cancellation fee is cited at "multi-billion" - probably less than the value of the deal. Second, the Saudi's don't need our billions - in fact they are trying to dump their reserves in preparation for a new monetary system that is not based on the USD. This deal is just one of many that the Saudi's, the Russians, and the Chinese are carrying out sending their stored U.S. debt back to the west where it came from and getting real material and assets in return. Third, it's not "for nothing" - if not for at the very least Canada and Canadians having a legitimately clean conscious about our involvement.

As I've been writing about over the past year, the Saudi's along with the Russians, and the Chinese are all moving away from trade with the U.S. dollar. Canada is working to establish itself in this new alliance. "Screwing the Liberals?", no, this about serious things - not the political circus. Governments everywhere love to talk about human rights, meanwhile the neoliberal agenda works to eradicate them and turn everyone into a debt slave in a new world of feudalism as the industrial age and the control system of a taste of luxury disintegrate due to limits to growth taking hold. We're up against very powerful forces here and they don't play the same political bullshit we do.

The Amnesty report on Canada is named perfectly "empty words and double standards". The Canadian public gets all in a huffypuff that a journalist was "berated" by a Chinese ambassador here on a business trip representing the very same alliance our Saudi deal is connected to and yet when our government that claims to "uphold the value of human rights" has a real chance and window to actually make a difference all it takes is the mention of some debt based fiat currency and some jobs to change our tune, even though "money and power" is where most human rights violations stem from anyway.

"Empty words and double standards", indeed.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Struggles of a non-partisan

The posts I write in the next few years aren't going to be very popular. I'm ok with that. I didn't create this blog to be popular in fact quite the opposite: I made it to make you think and self-contemplate. I often compare politics to a team sport where the team you play for is more important than the issues being dealt with. The internet is a sea of meaningless terminology that passes for political discourse.

"Oh those libtards, they something something blanket statement"

"Oh those dippers, they something something blanket statement"

"oh those RWNJs, they something something blanket statement"

"Leftists do this", "Righties do that". Everyone points at each other and nothing serious really gets done. The changes that do occur are superficial and are more meant to drive immediate public perception rather than effect real lasting beneficial change for the population as a whole.

Perhaps a tweet to demonstrate:
Engineered. What an excellent choice of description, it's what I'd call it myself. But not to make "Stephen Harper's balls ache", but to portray the perception of "change" when little has actually changed at all. Here is an example:

Public being misled about Canadian special forces in Iraq, says Ambrose
“Is the Prime Minister finally prepared to admit that Canada’s mission in Iraq is combat?” Ambrose added. 
But Trudeau maintained that the “mission in Iraq is support and assist. It is focused on training. It is not a direct combat mission. It is not a combat mission, it is focused on empowering local troops to counter ISIL.” 
The interesting part is that when this issue came up in the fall of 2014 and early 2015 when the Conservatives were in power, they insisted the same mission was also training….not combat.
Even the article couldn't help but note how interesting it is that the tables seem to have turned. Or maybe it's that the party in power isn't really different at all. That there is an agenda at play that extends beyond party ideology. The government and opposition pretend to be at odds with each other, pretend to be opponents, but in reality the differences are minor, and superficial. Those good old "people issues" while the issues of importance to the state and banking sectors continue unabated.
I found this tweet of the "fancyness" of the parliamentary gallery having both Coke (red) and Pepsi (blue) in the same ice bucket an apt metaphor for the sham we call a democracy. Out here in the consumer world it's Coke or Pepsi, The difference between the two? minimal. There is a difference, and people have their preference and each establishment (district) has their preference, but ultimately what is it? Cola. Coke Cola, or Pepsi Cola, but it's always gunna be Cola. The mental construct of the brand is so much bigger and more prevalent than the product.

Stephen Harper is doing just fine. I can assure you he isn't losing any sleep over the reign of the Liberals. His time as a lackey of the banks' agenda simply provided a springboard for the real power he will now have as a member of whatever international corporations he decided to join. You know, the type of global businesses that collude with governments to create trade bills we sign on to like the T.P.P. A TPP Trudeau fully supports, of course.

And how about C51?
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in November that finding the right balance between national security and individual rights is critical. 
"We recognize that it's an urgent matter," he told reporters then. "Canadians are expecting to see those proposals quickly but the principle is clear… that balance between making sure Canadians are safe and making sure their civil rights and the values of Canadians are properly protected." 
Since then, the government has appointed Liberal MP David McGuinty to study how other countries, such as the United States and Britain, oversee the activities of their intelligence agencies and to make recommendations for a Canadian system.
Oh good, the U.S. and Britain! Excellent models don't you think?

Hidden Microphones Exposed As Part of Government Surveillance Program In The Bay Area
Governments Turn to Commercial Spyware to Intimidate Dissidents

Like, do people not remember that it was the U.S. and U.K. and the Snowden revelations that have created the heightened concern about intelligence agencies going way beyond what they should be able to in the first place? But creating an oppressive surveillance state is again another one of those agendas that transcends the party line.

When it comes to the Saudi arms deal even the CBC can't help but note how similar the current and previous governments are:
Well. If further proof was needed that the sunny new regime in Ottawa is perfectly capable of behaving just like the un-sunny previous regime, we now have it, in a memo that was stamped "Secret," then rather inconveniently laid bare in the Federal Court of Canada. 
The document, signed by Foreign Affairs Minister St├ęphane Dion, is a gem of hair-splitting, parsing, wilful blindness and justification for selling billions worth of fighting vehicles and weaponry to Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive regimes on Earth.
Again, another important state and banking issue that continues right along with the old agenda.

Even Jodie Emery is realizing the Trudeau government isn't going to be the legalization utopia she had dreamed of.
Yet prior to the election Mark Emery just didn't want to hear it (and as you can see Press for Truth totally nailed the scam that is marijuana legalization):

Coke, or Pepsi. Red, or Blue. The same, or the same.

If Harper was our Bush, Trudeau is our Obama. We think "change" is finally here, but it's Harper that implemented the "change". It's how the system manipulates the public: a politician comes in, makes many unpopular changes then a popular one comes in and doesn't change much at all and simply utilizes the changes passed by the previous government. The anger about those changes leaves with the previous political party but the changes themselves? Those remain.
In the meantime, CSIS director Michel Coulombe told a Senate committee two months ago that the spy agency has used the new powers granted under C-51 about two dozen times. And he told senators he expected they would use those powers again. 
But for what, and how many times, he wouldn't say. Protecting national security remains, for now, beyond the scope of parliamentary oversight.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The "growth funk" and feelings of security

I put my dog down yesterday. Humble Pie. It was quite possibly one of the hardest moments of my life. My dog was a free dog, she never had a leash she never had a collar, she stayed by my side of her own free will. She trusted me, that I would keep her safe right up to the very moment I nodded and the vet put her to sleep for good.

I took her to her favourite park before going to the vet. She died on her favourite blanket, in her favourite position, cuddled in my arms thinking she was safe.

Humble Pie
She wasn't.

Whether this was the right decision at the right time is a question that is going to haunt me for a long time. The timing was due to other aspects of my life, combined with her already being quite old. I feel selfish, I feel like I betrayed her and her trust and I should have tried harder. But most of all I wish I could have asked how she felt, warned her it was coming, anything. I couldn't, it was my decision and mine alone. It's the feeling of betrayal which is haunting me most of all. But what else could I do? The worst part is I think even if I could have warned her, I wouldn't have, for her sense of security. It's been a very conflicting day as I battle with the different point of views that insist on infiltrating my head.

The feeling of security is a powerful influence on life. In the moment of her death she felt totally secure, not afraid, and then it just happened. She never saw it coming. The feeling of security (and insecurity) however is also an excellent tool of manipulation.

It's a constant theme in movies, agents working above the law to protect the public from unknown evils, governments being aware of events and not providing a warning to their people. Usually in some form to keep the public "safe" from certain chaos if the stupid peasants found out. Mass manipulation of this sort is often portrayed as for the good of the people. Much as ultimately the involuntary betrayal of Humble's trust was for the good of her (I hope anyway) and my desire for her to not die in fear, pain, or alone.

The status-quo wields the weapons of security, and insecurity quite effectively. The feeling of security is inherently anti-change while the feeling of insecurity is inherently pro-change. Feeding the population a balance of the two can produce any desired results. Using the feeling of security Humble Pie had no desire to change her situation, despite being in a strange place with a strange person at the most dangerous moment of her life yet the slightest feeling of insecurity throughout her life would send her skittering away even though it was all mostly harmless.

False security is a blinder, and Canadians are chalk full of false security.

I had an interesting Twitter exchange today about the Chinese diplomat "berating" our poor journalist for asking about human rights violations. An interesting choice of words isn't it? "berates"?

I found one thing the diplomat said to be very interesting:
"Other people don't know better than the Chinese people about the human rights condition in China and it is the Chinese people who are in the best situation, in the best position to have a say about China's human rights situation," he continued. 
"So I would like to suggest to you that please don't ask questions in such an irresponsible manner. We welcome goodwill suggestions but we reject groundless or unwarranted accusations."
We over here look at such statements likely with disbelief, because we know the Chinese indoctrinate their people with propaganda in fact our media ensures we know it. However I think it's also probably safe to say that many Canadians would believe the statement if it were said about us. Even if we were called out on human rights abuses, we know better, because we're Canadian. Surely us being Canadian must mean we are in the best situation, the best position, to have a say about Canada's human rights situation. But where are the journalists asking about it at every opportunity?

And round and round it goes. Of course if it didn't happen on your T.V. it didn't happen, did it? Do you really believe the Chinese are being indoctrinated with pro-nationalist crap and you aren't? What do you hear more about China's abuses? Or Canada's? From who? Now go read China's news.

Every country does it, the world does it, and why? The feeling of security. Not security from the terrorist boogymen but security of self, of purpose, of that feeling that you're the "good guy", that you're right and they're wrong.

What's funny is the diplomat is totally correct, it was irresponsible to ask, Canadians just don't understand why. We see that as some sign of journalistic freedom, while the Chinese view it as a form of disrespect. He was here because we want to do business with the Chinese. As I warned in my piece "Canada may be preparing to decouple from the USD":
These nations we are aligning with however do not cherish democracy as we do. We will be a minority in this new alliance, and of this we should be wary.
We want in with them, not the other way around. But it makes for a great drum-beating headline as Canadians are once again fed the false security of the supposed international concern Canada has for human rights. It makes us feel good and feeling good is essential to maintaining control and a feeling of trust, even if the actions being taken are knowingly harmful and against our best interests.

Take the Flint water crisis, for example, it has all the trademarks. The government not warning the people, the false sense of security in the idea that the U.S. is an "advanced nation" so something like that couldn't possibly be happening, and yet.. there it is. It is happening, and will continue to happen, and if you think that's the only one you're still lying to yourself.

The government knowing about the ultimate non-viability of oilsands and not warning Albertans is another example. Hell it seems half the population still thinks theres a boom coming any day now. Instead it was pushed and pushed as the future for short term gain and even today is pushing a belief system to keep Canadians invested in a failed endeavour:
"Barring an economic collapse, therefore, Canada will have to reconsider its planned oil and gas production growth and demand real emissions reductions from the oil and gas sector in order to have any hope of meeting its ... commitment," Hughes writes. 
Alex Ferguson, a vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said technological change in the oilsands is likely to prove Hughes's assumptions wrong. 
"You're going to see something in the next three, four, five years or so in terms of proving some of that out," he said. "We, collectively, need to make a conscious bet that technology is going to help us in this challenge."
Yes. Instead of prepare for the inevitable what we should do instead is make a "collective conscious bet" on the future. And if we lose that bet? Well, no one really knows, do they? By the way how are those tailings reclamations coming? Got any new ones besides the fake one you just moved the tailings out of to "prove" you could reclaim one? Of course as I've discussed in previous posts what they are just glossing over is that most of these "innovations" translate to automation as well. The belief that the oilsands will come roaring back to life is wrapped in the security that the jobs will return with them. They won't - but hey I give them an 'E for effort' coming up with their excuses why not..
In fact if global growth doesn't return, oil demand won't either which brings me to my next article of interest on another topic that is wrapped in a false security with statements like "best recovery in the G7" or "Strong regulated banks": The absolute gong show the global economy has become.
I caught an interesting sponsored article in the Financial Times, which closes with something quite profound. That the FT would publish it, sponsored or not, is quite interesting unto itself. This isn't ZeroHedge but the FT and the second question I couldn't help but ask was, who is this for? It was written by an investment firm BlackRock but I'm finding it difficult to find a clear reason why they would pay for it to be published.
As central banks exhaust their ammunition, some countries are turning to debt-driven fiscal stimulus. Canada’s own stimulus program may help boost the domestic economy, says Aubrey Basdeo, managing director and head of fixed income at BlackRock Canada. On the other hand, it may lead to unintended consequences, including rising interest rates and an overvalued currency. (RF: Which also means an undervalued USD relative to the countries they would import from (read more))
Central bank monetary policy has helped drive asset prices higher with the help of interest rate cuts and quantitative easing since the financial crisis,” he says. “But the effectiveness of these policies may be starting to wane and the ability of global central banks to respond to the next downturn appears limited.” 
Interest rate cuts could lose their effectiveness if borrowers become accustomed to a low-interest-rate landscape because there’s no rush to borrow or invest. Low rates also make savers poorer, reducing consumer demand. 
“Negative interest rate policies by the likes of the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank that are targeted at depreciating currencies may also be close to hitting a limit,” says Basdeo. “It may make sense to weaken your currency if you’re an exporting nation seeking growth, but when everyone else moves in the same way, it starts to lose its efficacy.”
Just a note, notice that his reasoning for why consumers won't borrow even more is that they're "accustomed" to a low-interest rate environment yet also admits it makes savers poorer. Well, if you're not a borrower, and you're not a saver, what are you? Admitting that the emergency low interest environment isn't working is because consumers are tapped is a media no-no. They will talk about one, or the other, but never both at the same time which is absurd isn't it being that clearly your capacity to borrow more and more is obviously directly associated to your ability to service that debt.  Anyway, moving on...
One policy option is a mix of broader credit easing by central banks, combined with either government spending on infrastructure projects and/or tax rebates. However, many governments are wary of deficits.
“When you come out of a debt binge like the one preceding the financial crisis, the last thing you want to do is go on another binge,” says Basdeo. 
Governments and consumers have reduced debt loads since the financial crisis. Corporations, however, have borrowed heavily. Yet instead of investing in new plants and equipment to improve productivity and spur growth, they have leveraged inexpensive debt to buy back stock and pay dividends to investors. (RF: aka "the recovery")
Basdeo says the world will be looking carefully at the Canadian government’s gambit to rack up a stimulus debt of $113 billion over the next five years, most of it earmarked for infrastructure spending. Australia has also pulled the trigger on a A$37-billion stimulus program and a rate cut. 
“If Canadian and Australian fiscal stimulus boosts economic growth and bolsters consumer and corporate spending, then other countries may adopt similar fiscal approaches,” he says. 
The downside risk? When governments spend, interest rates could rise. That would increase capital flows into the country, pushing up currency values. 
“For a small, open economy dependent on trade, this scenario would be particularly negative to Canada when we are trying to boost our economy through manufacturing exports that benefit from a lower loonie,” says Basdeo. 
Japan, the poster child for deficit infrastructure spending, also offers a note of caution. After more than 20 years, the policy has resulted in little growth. 
The growth funk miring most major developed economies remains a headwind to future growth in Canada, Basdeo adds. 
“As a result, the Canadian deficit experiment may lack the punch on its own that would sustain it as a model for others to follow,” he says. “Rather than wait to see if it works, the optimum solution is likely a coordinated, comprehensive global policy response which relaxes excessive dependence on central bank policy and begins a renewed effort to achieve good growth via deficit spending.”
The "growth funk". Cute, isn't it? And despite no modern economics reason for it we continue to believe infinite growth is possible. The last paragraph is the kicker: "the optimum solution is likely a coordinated, comprehensive global policy response which relaxes excessive dependence on central bank policy and begins a renewed effort to achieve good growth via deficit spending". He is calling for the start of a centralized global economic system, which naturally is going to be presented as the "solution" to the problem governments and central banks are knowingly creating, the prosperity they are stealing from the future with not one ounce of evidence it can be paid back. We're doubling down on the bet that the future will be incredibly larger than the present when the evidence suggests everything but, and those in charge know this. There will be no warning.

The attempts by governments to push people more and more into debt to prevent the credit markets from deflating are becoming ever more aggressive. Take this interesting quote about the recent gas tax hike in Newfoundland:
People will have to make other arrangements to ensure they are carrying a bit more cash or extend their credit or ensure they have enough on their Visa to pay for gasoline,” said Dan McTeague, a senior petroleum analyst at “Newfoundland is now home to the most expensive gasoline in North America and likely the Western Hemisphere.”
As I've pointed out before, even the "feminist" Justin Trudeau is well aware how this system works:
I opened my campaign last month with the argument that, if the Liberal Party is to become a positive force for change in Canada, we need to give voice to the aspirations of our middle class. 
Personal income for middle-class Canadians has stagnated for more than a generation. This deeply troubling development is masked by a rise in family income, due to the entry of a new generation of well-educated, hard-working women into the workforce. While this phenomenon is overwhelmingly positive, we must be clear-eyed in understanding that it is a one-time benefit.
It all sounds great until you reach that last line. A "one time benefit", just as new suckers entering into a ponzi are a "one time benefit". His article went on to say:
So, we’re left with the vexing question: where will the next wave of growth for the middle class come from?
The "next wave of growth". As in what new suckers will we find to keep the unsustainable "disturbing trend" of wage stagnation and a consumer economy going. His article went on to describe how Canada's economic future resided in China, and emerging markets. The same China Canada's journalist insulted by raising the issue of human rights on a business trip. We just don't get it, democracy is a game and our new business partners -- which we are relying on for the "next wave of growth", despite the fact all indicators show that China will likely not be the source of growth we'd hoped -- aren't playing it. Nor do they need to.

Our own concern for "human rights" is absolute bullshit as our government sells Saudi Arabia military equipment who was just added to a U.N. blacklist for killing children in their war on Yemen while making excuses for that human rights record. And who can blame us, we need that "next wave of growth" don't we? There's good money to be had.

And how about our TFW's where in a recent article the program was described as "worse than slavery"?
Hundreds of those workers have been sent home from Canada in similar circumstances, a practice known as "medical repatriation." 
"It's worse than slavery — they dispose of them," Barrett told Go Public.
Where's the outrage, huh?

Meanwhile the global game continues. Russia and Saudi Arabia dumped $50 billion in U.S. assets last year and it doesn't look like they're going to slow down. The OECD, knowing that the jig is up on growth, is now preparing people for feudalism saying "don't worry about the wage gap, worry about jobs". Which shouldn't surprise anyone as western corporations fight fiercely against any sort of increase in wages.

But nevermind. Back to your regularly scheduled feeling of security.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Open letter to 'Albertans First'

I've been observing your movement mature for some time now George Clark. I'm not writing for the purpose of focusing on the miss-spelling of coup d'etat, or to talk about your sign. I want to address your position, and reasoning, regarding Alberta's current issues as frankly I think you're putting the blame in the wrong place and are simply wasting the government's time, and depleting reserves, in your efforts. I deeply care about Alberta's future, I've been writing on the culmination of numerous issues for nearly 6 years many of which cross-over with your hasty, and incorrect, observations.

The movement you have created is contributing heavily to what is becoming an increasingly divisive, and toxic, political climate with few if any actual solutions to the real problems which as hard as it may be for you to hear have existed and have been building for quite some time. Not because of "the Liberals", or "the leftists", or whatever blanket label you want to throw around as though there are only two strict sets of rules for political ideologies to follow but because Alberta's perceived prosperity was always assuredly time limited and I intend to show you these issues exist across the political spectrum. While you may admit that the PCAA made many mistakes contributing to Alberta's situation your movement did not choose to exist while those mistakes were being made. I have been vocal for a long time, George, no one was listening.

To demonstrate what I mean by this here is a post I made prior to the election of the NDP. As you can see it discusses what I viewed as some of the upcoming problems Alberta would be facing (Canada too, really) such as abandoned oil& gas wells skyrocketing and an interesting quote from Jim Prentice, a Stephen Harper favourite where he called what we can see today is essentially an imploding labour market "an opportunity" for oil & gas companies to take advantage of favourable conditions.

I've been following this descent from grace for some time, George, for instance here is one of my favourite links few Albertans ever want to seem to acknowledge, or address, from 2012, discussing a memo about the soaring costs of oilsands development:
A confidential government memorandum obtained by CBC News warns that soaring costs of developing the Alberta oilsands could put the brakes on the massive project, stalling one of the main engines of the Canadian economy. 
The booming oilsands industry supports tens of thousands of Canadian jobs, and pumps billions of dollars a year into the national economy. 
The memo written by Mark Corey, one of the highest-ranking officials in the federal Department of Natural Resources, warns that if the current trend of spiralling labour and other costs continues, investors may start to turn off the tap on the massive amounts of money needed to develop the oilsands. 
"Although current crude prices promote oilsands development, ever-increasing capital and operating costs could make this price insufficient to support oilsands development at forecast levels," Corey writes. 
Cost increases are currently "the biggest risk to investment in the sector," and could jeopardize the viability of some projects, he says. 
Rising labour costs 
The memo estimates that operating and capital costs to extract a barrel of oil from the tar-like sands have both more than doubled over the past decade. 
It blames a chronic shortage of workers and resulting sky-high labour costs as the main cause of increased operating expenses. 
Corey's memo reflects a growing concern inside government over the future of the oilsands, and specifically the massive amount of capital investment that will be needed to fuel their continued development. 
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver recently estimated the oilsands would need $650 billion in capital investments in the next decade alone — almost five times what's been spent there over the past 50 years. 
The memo written in April this year was obtained under the Access to Information Act and appears to have been prepared for Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. 
The document pre-dates the Harper government's current review of foreign takeovers of two Canadian energy companies. 
It nonetheless bolsters the contention of many in industry and government that Canada can hardly afford to turn away foreign investment in the oilsands.
In the latter half of 2014 I caught this article from the Financial Post titled 'Cost-cutting fever grips oil sands players as economics called into question' and as you'll see in the article itself was published before the collapse in oil price:
Canadian oil companies are ruthlessly enforcing capital discipline as project costs creep up and shareholders pressure management to focus only on the most profitable ventures. 
Suncor Energy Inc. announced a billion-dollar cut for the rest of the year even though the company raised its oil price forecast. 
Others such as Athabasca Oil Corp., PennWest Exploration Ltd., Talisman Energy Inc. and Sunshine Oil Sands Ltd. are also cutting back due to a mix of internal corporate issues and project uncertainty. Cenovus Energy Inc. is also facing cost pressures at its Foster Creek oil sands facility. 
“Given that the low-bearing fruit have already been developed, the next wave of oil sands project are coming from areas where geology might not be as uniform,” said Dinara Millington, senior vice president at the Canadian Energy Research Institute.
The NDP government is not making the situation worse, George, you just didn't realize how bad the situation already was. With oil at $100 and a PC government the industry was still barely turning a profit. I've seen a lot of statements from you that say things like "we were doing fine when oil was $10 barrel", read those articles and you will understand why.

I don't disagree with every single one of your positions on specific issues particularly in regards to the Carbon Tax (from a certain point of view which can be found here). Nor do I disagree with some of your points on wind turbines (in fact I believe environmentalists have some hard truths to account for). But what I do disagree with is your whole movement sat on their hands when "times were good" while the prior governments gambled on the futures market and called that a budget or "action plan", whichever you prefer. Where were you then?

Your clear bias against the NDP government and the very disproportional amount of blame you've laid at their feet is irresponsible, uninformed, and regardless of the political football outcome will not solve Alberta's problems because it does not address them. Simply saying "no carbon tax" doesn't address the myriad of other issues actually creating the problems you're complaining about - the carbon tax not being one of them. If you're truly concerned about Albertans, their futures, their jobs, and their prosperity then you will be honest with yourself about our situation and put your political views aside. There is no easy way out of this situation, and we're in for many years of pain if we ever recover at all.

The industry and governments bought by the industry intentionally lied to Albertans George. They knew, and they didn't tell you. Increasingly they are looking at automation, and there will be no more 4000 man camps, did they tell you that? Is that because of the NDP too? No, it's because the oilsands are expensive to produce and the profits for foreign owners mean more than your job, your house, your future, George.

This is why people like me have been screaming for years for the PCAA government to do anything, raise royalties, enforce environmental regulations, anything, to protect our future and the prosperity of our children and you know what George? No one listened.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for eQube gaming systems.

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.