Senile

The UK right now is where Canada was in 2015. After almost a decade and a half of spectacularly corrupt and incompetent “Conservative” government the UK has gotten so fed up that, in the next general election, their “Tories” are going to get wrecked. They have already been getting wrecked in by-elections. And anyone centuries from now, in full possession of the facts might wonder how that would not be the end for the Cons.

In 2015 in Canada the first ever CPC government under Stephen Harper fell after nearly a decade of simultaneously unbelievable and yet completely predictable political, social and economic sabotage. It was surely a relief to Brian Mulroney that Prime Minster Harper and his Canadian government had become the worst in modern history. And that should have been the end of that awful party that had only formed in 2003.

But here we are, less than a decade later and the CPC under its new wholly unscrupulous leader ConPiePol is stirring every dirty pot full of people’s worst selves trying to unseat the Liberal government and get their Right-wing Extremist doom-train back on track. And, people being what they are, it could work. We could see another decade of sabotage and chaos, designed to destabilize government, democracy, the rule of law, long before there has ever been enough time to clean up the mess from last time.

And who knows, after the Labour Party in the UK form the next government in the UK, swallowing the poisoned pill that the defeated ConGov have left in the government’s cup, and after a decade of struggle in already perilous times trying to remediate all the harm the Con parade of clowns and idiots have done since 2010, Brits may again be foolish enough to elect another “Conservative” government. And the whole cycle of national suicide can start over.

It is a cycle. Canada and the UK are just at different stages in it. In the UK the Cons have fucked up just enough to lose power for now. In Canada apparently we have forgotten what a mess the Cons had made by 2015. And like a codependent in an abusive relationship enough Canadians are willing to BELIEVE that their abuser really LOVES them that they go running back.


I was listening to a palliative care nurse talk about the end-of-life decline of people with dementia today. The stair-steps down and down from plateau to crash, to new plateau to new crash. And I cannot help but see the parallel to the decline of great nations afflicted with senile Conservatism.

Stop it!

Right now, in the UK, a ConGov that has been in power for 14 years is coming to the end of its rope. They have fucked the UK perhaps worse than any government before them. And Labour will probably form the next government and inherit all the problems that Conservatives caused. Labour gets saddled with swallowing that poisoned pill.

And this is cyclical. Labour will be in power for a few years of struggling to recover from what Cons have done and people will become dissatisfied with a lack of progress climbing out of a hole that government never dug. And Cons will start promising that it was all really Liberals’ fault and only Cons can clean up the mess. The mess they made the last time they were in power.

But right now the UK is in that phase of this cycle where they are likely in the next election to replace deranged saboteurs with a government that at least might wish to fix the mess, but realistically will never be in power long enough to really recover from almost a decade and a half of Cons fucking everything up.

Canada is at a different point in this cycle. We had Mulroney, but we never recovered from that damage. Later we had the HarperCPC, literally the worst, most corrupt and destructive government of my lifetime. And they held onto power by the skin of their teeth, shitting the bed and poisoning the well as long as they could before we got so fed up that we came to the point where the UK is now and replaced the monstrous fuckers with something less bad.

And despite Justin Trudeau’s Liberals good intentions, it is impossible to fix all the damage ten years of Conservatives can do in twice that much time. So Canadians have become dissatisfied with a lack of progress. And right on time, PiePolCons are promising that only they can fix the mess. The mess they mostly made. They can fix it with racism and with injustice and with massive tax breaks that only benefit the rich. And if they con enough voters they will slither back into power and make the situation ten times worse again.

And this is a cycle. A violent cycle of abuse of power. We, like the people of the UK are in a serial abusive relationship with a deviant political party that lies to get back in our bed, then shits that bed quite thoroughly.

We have to put an end to this cycle.

A lesson in bullshit about why things cost so much…

If you go into a Chapters, you may be astonished by the prices on books. And, particularly if you are listening to someone from the corporate management side of a publisher, you may hear that it is not profitable to publish books.


Thirty years ago the two biggest costs of publishing were paper and film. The film was used to make printing plates, also a large expense, from production artwork. A decade earlier that production artwork was also expensive as it had to be done on boards with wax to stick stuff down and knives to cut out type that was typeset separately in galleys.

By the time I entered the industry the manual page assembly cost had all but gone. I saw two people doing that work, briefly in two different studios. But my arrival meant that all the cost of typesetting and manual page assembly had disappeared, to be replaced with Quark XPress. By the time I was working in the 1990s, the cost of producing a book had already dropped quite a bit in a decade.

Another big cost of printing complicated books was proofing. But around the turn of the century, PDF proofing eliminated that cost. Then printable paper plates replaced costly metal plates, and therefore film. The cost of producing books had at that point decreased dramatically.

When I was still doing book composition work, I was being payed between $7 and $24 per page depending on the complexity. That work dried up when publishers started to offshore their production to India at $2 per page. Book publishing got cheaper again.

I was at a writer’s seminar, years ago now, where I learned that publishers typically do not foot the bill of any editing anymore and if an author wants that, they have to pay for it themselves. So the cost of producing a book is less, again. By the way, everyone needs an editor.

And we come to e-books and audio books. Since paper was typically the biggest cost of producing a book, here is an enormous savings. The publisher can stop at the stage where a South-Asian sweatshop produces an electronic document, or the author themselves often, records the audiobook. And again, the COST of producing a book is significantly decreased.

But here we are. A suit from a publisher can say in an interview or and article that book publishing is too expensive and they cannot make a profit on it. And people will uncritically accept that lie and justification for high prices because they are unaware of what that price increase really is.

And what it is is profiteering. Since 1990, the very successful publishers I took my school portfolio to show, have become publicly traded and amalgamated and they have been turned from makers of books into makers of dividends for rich people. They are an extractive mechanism for making the rich richer. And the high cost of books, like the high cost of almost everything else, is their exploitative profiteering.

Wage Theft is Theft

A colleague of mine, their union discovered, during recent contract negotiations, that for many years their employer was shorting them wages by not following the seniority schedule they had committed to. For some employees that wage theft, and it is theft, amounted to between $20,000 and $30,000.

So as part of their new contract the employer is settling that “oversight” by paying out something like $7000 to the people they stole from. That is between 24 and 33¢ on the dollar.

And this applies to many employees. Even if it were twenty, that could be $600,000, stolen, for which the only punishment is having to pay as little as one quarter of it back.

And to add insult to injury, because the restitution is a lump sum, it is subject to maximized withholding. So $25,000 turns into $7000 turns into $5000. That is some bullshit.

Wage theft, in the US at least, represents a dollar value greater than ALL OTHER THEFT of every kind COMBINED. Most theft is wage theft. And even though this is the most pernicious and commonplace form of stealing, no one gets arrested, no one goes to jail.

If you took $100 from the till at work, you could spend a decade in prison. If your boss takes $25,000 from your paychecks, well… that is no big deal, right? “Here is a check for a fifth of what we stole. Now get back to work.”

It sure is a big deal. And we need to start treating this kind of theft, the most common kind of theft, at least as seriously as any other property crime.

Zero Emissions by 2035


Some years ago now, there was a More or Less episode investigating a claim that in order for the UK to electrify cars, just cars, that they would need to build an additional ten full-scale nuclear generating plants just to joule for joule replace the energy required to charge those vehicles instead of fuelling them with gas.

That turned out to be an overestimate. The actual figure was SIX. Six additional nuclear power stations, just to charge cars. Only cars.

Canada is a sprawling country most of which is sparsely populated. That makes our electricity situation much more difficult than the compact dense and tiny UK. While we no doubt have fewer cars to electrify, our density makes providing that electricity much more costly and problematic.

So, if we were gonna make all new cars zero emissions by 2035 it would be difficult to back that up with generating capacity for most of Canada because the ONLY technology we have for generating that much electricity works best in densely populated energy intensive areas. And while we are frantically working toward developing SMRs that could help, those are not nearly deployable yet. I would be happy to get a surprise, but SMRs in place lighting up the country by 2035 seems like wishful thinking.

Even if we started, shovels in the ground, today, eleven years is a big ask. We would struggle to hit this target for increased electricity generation. But the problem is that we are not as yet starting to do anything about building out the massive increases in electricity generation that would be necessary to achieve this goal. I do not foresee any start in 2024 and we would have to have a sea-change in policy and support to be doing site selection in 2025 or 6 or 7…

And for the love of all the old gods, don’t try to sell me your wind and solar fantasy. When we bring Pickering back up to full production that alone will dwarf all of our investments in that short-lived unsustainable delusion.

Bullshit urban sprawl

While, of course, decarbonizing means that most future vehicles will someday be electric, this is inevitable if we are to depreciate fossil fuels, the main problem with transportation is NOT that cars burn gas. Cars are vastly more efficient and less polluting than they were when I was born.

No, the main problem with cars is that we design everything around and for cars, instead of around and for people. And because of this, there is no way for the advent of electric cars to solve any of the problems caused by cars and car-centric urban design. And the main problem there is that this focus on cars is utterly unsustainable and is bankrupting cities all over North America.

To fix those problems we have to change the way we do urbanism. We need to redevelop and restore our traditional dense walkable urban centres and rebuild out the transit that we pulled up in the 50s and 60s as a subsidy to the auto industry.

And this is not in any sense optional. The current status-quo of car-dependent urban sprawl is not just awful in that it lays waste to all our productive land. That kind of development is a net financial loss to cities and has to be effectively subsidized by older, denser development, typically where poorer people live, in order to exist. And that is a battle many many cities, particularly in the US are losing badly. Cars are bankrupting them.

And we do not need to discuss if this is true. It is just sums on spreadsheets. Numerical data that cannot be wished or beliefed away.

Scotland: A mighty wind…

Yesterday I was reading some news about Portugal’s “renewable” energy, that upon closer examination also turned out to be, not true. And under that post, in exclusively glowing praiseful comments I found this, “Scotland has been producing more than twice the power it consumes since 2014 (from renewable alone).”

Now, normally I would say that anyone can easily check this kind of thing. But I must admit that Scotland is very very good at obfuscating data that doesn’t shine with righteous “Green” purpose. So while I searched over and over for information about Scotland’s overall energy production and consumption, I was almost invariably channelled into information exclusively about the “renewable” electricity sector.

But in one of those documents I did find a useful graph. I mean, it is a very problematic graph. But it is the best carefully-buried, close-to-whole data I could find. And I will no doubt add a screen capture of it below. The first thing to notice is that there are no units. The second thing to notice is that the scale of the Gas bar is drawn at almost exactly 50% of the scale for Electricity. So, what can we learn from this graph, none the less.

Scotland’s electricity sector is indeed dominated by wind. And that sector totals 22,927 units. The gas sector, which is a source of CO2, is 46,999 units. So mostly-wind electricity is ONE third of Scotland’s energy, while natural gas is TWO thirds of Scotland’s energy. And while this must not be the whole story, for instance where is gasoline in that, or wood burning and etc… Let’s take that data and acknowledge that fossil fuels provide a MINIMUM of 67% of Scotland’s energy. It could be much more.

And let us examine a few problems with the “renewable” numbers.

First of all, a relentless mendacity of “renewable” data reporting is to state the capacity rather than the actual generation. Renewables are more honestly called “intermittents” because that is what they are. In practice wind and solar are often operating at a fraction, or a small fraction of their capacity. Sometimes that is 0% of their capacity for days or weeks at a time. This is such a problem that it has its own term, “dunkelflaute.”

But worse than that, the UK’s wind industry is in crisis. It was news just a couple of weeks ago that even with massive subsidies and guaranteed very-high-rate electricity contracts, the UK government could not find any private investors willing to take their subsidies and build more wind capacity. It is estimated that in order to get more offshore wind built the government is going to have to sweeten the pot by increasing the subsidies from £44 per megawatt-hour to £75. That would be a total increase of more than 200% over 2022 prices. And Scotland has some of the most expensive energy already. And all that wind is probably almost all of the cause.

So, here is the thing. I hate that it is true. I hated it the first time I read a promising headline about fifteen years ago that turned out, on closer examination, to be an obscene falsehood. But when you hear glowing statistics about the success of “renewable” energy, be skeptical. Because for some interests wind and solar are cash cows, troughs of subsidies that they can feast upon. And for many other people, people who genuinely want a sustainable future, belief in this LARPing Green nonsense is a religion. And they will say anything in praise of it, whether it is true or ridiculous.


Finally, and just for reference, so you can get a feel for the zealous mendacity, Lazard says the “average UNSUBSIDIZED levelized cost of energy” for wind is $50 USD. But the UK has just proved that it is at nearly twice that at $94.51 USD. And in light of the UK government’s rich subsidies, please note the use of the word, “UNSUBSIDIZED!” £75 or $94.51 IS the guaranteed subsidy, not the whole cost, which, again for clarity, has doubled since 2022, that was less than a year ago.

If wind farms were viable, corporations would be building them on their own initiative, fighting with the government for permits, just out of a profit motive.


And… a postscript…

For additional reference the Canadian LCOE for new nuclear is between $55 and $85. The actual UK LCOE for wind @ £75 is $128.85 CAD. But wind incurs a Levelized Cost of Storage (LCOS) which increases the cost by 80 to 94%. So that $128.85 inflates to between $231.93 and $249.65 CAD. That’s something like 3 to 4 times the cost of new nuclear.

Teamspeak

“Been reading some forum stuff about designers ‘taking input’ from non designers and the majority is, “that’s how things work in an office. Suck it up and collect your paycheck or find another job.”


We don’t do this to other qualified professionals. We don’t do it with electricians or cooks. The only reason this can happen in graphic design studios is because nothing gets broken and no one dies when it happens. No one would think, “ok,” that soccer mom is gonna be under the hoist ‘sharing’ with the mechanic who is diagnosing their car problems, or that hospital admin is gonna be in the room ‘collaborating’ with the surgeon.

These are non-designers ‘playing’ at being designers by exploiting the technical skills of an actual designer to facilitate their affectation. This is why a lot of studios use, and get better work from freelancers. You give a professional their assignment and let the professional do their job. This micromanaging interference with all its pop psychology rhetoric and team-speak bullshit is unprofessionalism wearing a pretty dress.

And what can happen when a studio or art department is run this way is that everything takes longer and is terribly frustrating. And good creative people leave. And dull, unimaginative robots stay. And that affects the work.

And it is not ‘different’ because it is ‘creative.’ Indeed, good creative actually depends on people being free to work creatively. Imagine Picasso working if a committee of his art buyers sent a delegate to his studio to day-to-day ‘collaborate’ with the artist to ‘help’ him to produce more marketable stuff…

This is in some very real sense a garbage-in micromanagement style. One I was very familiar with in the early ’90s. It is not a productive model. The only thing it serves is the ego of the people playing at being ‘creatives.’ And this structure to some extent guarantees garbage-out.


What you read on forums illustrates this beautifully. Does “that’s how things work in an office. Suck it up and collect your paycheck or find another job,” sound like a creative, productive workplace to you?

Taxing Carbon

Just for clarity. A carbon tax is literally the least the government can do to gently and wishfully encourage industry to decarbonize. The absolute minimum. It is not very effective, and populists can easily lie about it to leverage ignorant deplorable anger, but it is ‘technically’ very very slightly more than doing nothing.

As a more useful alternative, we could discourage oil and gas investment by levying a 100% corporate income surtax. We could set minimum standards for making our cities more walkable and… transitable (?) instead of sprawling automobile hellscapes that cannot help but bankrupt us. We could rebuild our passenger rail system and electrify it all, like civilized countries, and add useful reliable frequent high-speed service.

But just to dip a toe in the prospect of saving the habitability of the whole fucking planet, we have a quite moderate carbon tax that is revenue neutral for the federal government and costs no individual earning less than six-figures anything.

But instead we are collectively having an apoplectic fit over this trivial, minimal, alternative to active punitive and restorative legislation that could save us from this shit-show we have manufactured through petulant greed and irresponsibility.

Not gonna happen…

I want the wind and solar dream to be true. Everyone does. Just like everyone wants the PET bottle they put into the recycling to be “recycled.”

Durham Region the other day quoted a statistic, “Since the 1950s, 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been generated around the world and only 23 per cent of those plastics have been recovered or recycled.”

To which I responded, “I want to know where you got the 23% figure. Prior to about 30 years ago exactly 0% of plastics were even being attempted to be recycled. Today as little as 5% of plastics are getting “recycled,” and that is down from 10% which itself may have been wishful thinking. And all that depends on allowing only the most generous use of the word “recycled,” because we do not have an industrial-scale method of cost-effectively breaking down plastics into constituent polymers so that they can be actually recycled into new plastic.”


And essentially the same wishful thinking is happening with “renewable” energy (wind and solar) advocacy. I would be absolutely fucking delighted if this were happening. But it isn’t and it is not possible.

If we stay this course, what is more likely is that rich people, who can afford to pay ten or one hundred times more for electricity, will afford their private Tesla roof and their rapacious lifestyle, while everyone else can do without. Wind and solar are perhaps opening the door to the greatest regression into inequity that humanity has ever seen.

I would love a free-energy wind and solar future. But that is not really a logistical possibility and every day we waste on this dream is a day we continue not to do what must be done to mitigate this worsening climate emergency.

Pretending a thing is true when it isn’t is religious belief not science.


Moreover green-washers inevitably tout electric cars as a big advantage for a sustainable future. But a huge part of why are cities are not sustainable is that the car-centric sprawl, that is taken for granted in Canada and the US, is inherently ridiculous. Car dependency is one of the main reasons why we are in this mess. And it is not the gas that cars guzzle and spew into the atmosphere as exhaust that is the worst part of cars. More than anything it is that car-centric development precludes efficient, compact, walkable human-scaled cities and towns. Seas of parking and vast rivers of stroads and highways are, and always will be, unsustainable.

Electric cars CANNOT save the planet and that is not what they are here to do. They are here to save the auto industry and the obscene urban sprawl that that industry foisted upon us. And even though almost all the vehicles we need will eventually have to be electric, the manufactured “need” for so many ubiquitous cars is a huge part of this catastrophe.