Living in interesting times

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Clay
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Living in interesting times

Post by Clay »

The covid thread seems to have (thankfully) gone dormant due the pandemic ~generally~ subsiding, but I like having somewhere to post where I could read about current events from other perspectives and countries.

This week has been a doozy. I'm usually unfazed, but the idea that the ex-president was keeping nuclear weapons intel in his resort, either to flaunt having it or to sell it off, is kind of a new bar of WTF. By that, I'm mean I'm not surprised by Trump at all, but I am surprised that I still have the capacity to feel angry and frustrated. Also, the political party/media apparatus around him is pouring gasoline on the fire, playing footsie with stochastic terrorism. We already had one nutter attack an FBI office yesterday; I'm sure there'll be more as they get more coordinated.

I had the thought today that, as someone who's going to be teaching composition and critical thinking skills to college freshman in a deep red state again this semester, there's a non-zero chance I'll be killed by some AR15-toting, MAGA hat nutjob trying to fight the evils of indoctrination in higher education, which is ludicrous because I spend the better part of a semester just trying to get students to put the titles of books and movies in italics.

It's... an interesting time to be alive.
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Skyquake87
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Re: Living in interesting times

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It's a depressing time to be alive.

Over here, we've a leadership contest to decide our next Prime Minister, which is down to two and decided by Conservative party members, who are hardly the most progressive thinkers. It's quickly turned into a race to the bottom to try and convince a bunch of ageing right-wingers in the Conservative party they're the best person to lead the country further into ignominy.

The best both of them can come up with is Tax Cuts of one form or another to encourage growth. For Truss, it seems to be a real bonfire of tax on everything (which would likely mean further privatisation of areas not already given over to private companies). Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak thinks our future lies in becoming a tax haven, with Freeports to be set up everywhere and cities to be turned over to unfettered capitalism (the likes of which gave us Hong Kong). The latter is a particularly worrying, as it would mean no governmental control of such places - i.e. the rule of law would not apply. Not that Freeports are a great idea, synonymous as they are with tax evasion, smuggling and other criminal enterprise.

Meanwhile, the Energy market is going nuts thanks to war in Ukraine and a reliance on Russian gas coming to bite Europe on the bum after Russia restricted supplies. We've decided that the best way of dealing with a lack of imports from a tyrant by getting imports from another tyrant in the UAE. So, yaay...?

This week, much of the country has moved into drought conditions, which has been fun in my line of work already. Folk have been asked not to use hosepipes or any other unattended garden watering device, as well as reduce any highly consumptive activities. The last times we had drought conditions imposed in 1976 and 1995, people were generally accepting of the seriousness of the situation,although not massively happy that the country's water resource management was poor. Today? Not so much; selfishness, conspiracy theorists and alternative truthers (alternative truths. Lies, then) have quickly created a poisonous and nasty atmosphere online (dull surprise) with anyone pointing out we all need to play our part being shouted down as some sort of drone in thrall to the authorities.
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Denyer
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Re: Living in interesting times

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The water industry was privatised... end of the 80s? So there might have been some understanding that alleged scope for improvement from that wouldn't come to fruition in five years or so. It's been another quarter century, firms have paid massive amounts to investors and a lot of that money's gone outside of the UK, in return seeing continuing leaks of hundreds of millions of gallons a day, the discharge of sewage into waterways with impact on wildlife and human exposure, etc.

Freeports add to tax haven and money laundering issues, but aren't a broad-brush dispensation to avoid all law any more than previous ones under Thatcher, the City of London, etc. There's been far more criminality by this government to date.

Speaking of which, skimming of this hashtag will cover a lot of it for overseas readers;
https://twitter.com/search?lang=en&q=%23TheWeekInTory

It's mildly amusing that Farage started by claiming Trump would never do what he admitted to very, very shortly after. Likewise the latter using his ex-wife's body as a tax scam, if reports about legal benefits of burial land are true.

The media's more or less moved on from Ukraine, hasn't it? Meanwhile, a large proportion of those in the UK are being faced with having to give up offering sanctuary to Ukraine refugees because the government has decided that allowing energy companies to suck billions out of the economy (again, a lot going to overseas owners) is something they can square with electors and industry.
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Re: Living in interesting times

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Over here in Canada, the Conservative party (having fired their previous leader for not getting into bed with antivaxxers) are about a month away from choosing their own new leader. The leading candidates are an elder statesman with a proven track record (deputy PM in the 90s, premier of Quebec for a decade in the 2000s) and a smarmy snake-oil salesman who marches with the Freedom Convoy wackos, whose campaign platform may as well have been crowdsourced on 4chan: heavy on "owning the libs", light on actual policy ideas. No prizes for guessing which one is more likely to win. :(

The Conservatives in Alberta are also going into a leadership election, and their new leader will immediately become premier. The frontrunner has declared that their first order of business will be passing a bill declaring that federal laws have no force or effect in Alberta unless she wants them to. From a few provinces away, it seems like her supporters are sexually aroused by how unconstitutional the proposal is, and are basically taunting Trudeau to send in the army to stop them.

It's really been an education, seeing the party slip so far right in such a short amount of time. We've gone through a transition where the people who were electorally radioactive right-wing nutjobs a decade ago became the mainstream five years ago, and are now on the left-leaning fringes of the party trying to walk the current batch back towards some semblance of sanity. Sadly, "insanity" is exactly what the party's base wants.

Thankfully, and very much unlike the US, there doesn't seem to be much appetite for this brand of politics here outside of rural western Canada. At this point I'm not even sure what Trudeau would have to do to lose an election, because the opposition seem to be intent on making themselves as unappealing as possible.

(For the record, I had no objections to our last Conservative government, I strongly dislike Trudeau, and I wouldn't vote for the current crop of Tory wackos if they were the only name on the ballot.)
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Skyquake87
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Re: Living in interesting times

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Denyer wrote: Tue Aug 16, 2022 5:41 pm The water industry was privatised... end of the 80s? So there might have been some understanding that alleged scope for improvement from that wouldn't come to fruition in five years or so. It's been another quarter century, firms have paid massive amounts to investors and a lot of that money's gone outside of the UK, in return seeing continuing leaks of hundreds of millions of gallons a day, the discharge of sewage into waterways with impact on wildlife and human exposure, etc.
Yup. Since privatisation, leaks have reduced by half, two-thirds of our beaches are cleaner (albeit in part due to EU legislation) and bills have (when adjusted for inflation) remained pretty stable at around £1 a day over that period. So it's been fairly successful on that front. I agree there's lots still to do; much of the leakage in this country is on customers pipework, which presents challenges (water companies are responsible for the pipes up to the boundary of each property), but overall the level of spend and investment has delivered real improvement, compared to a century or more of publically owned management, where water had to jostle with health, education, defence etc for funding, which successive governments prioritised over water and sanitation (Indeed, you only have to look at the poor state of Northern Ireland's water and sewer system to get an idea of what a state-owned water and sewer network would look like today).

The sewage situation is I agree disappointing, to put it mildly. The underlying issue is that in Britain, surface water (rainwater, basically) and the stuff you flush down the loo were designed to be carried away a single sewer pipe (known as a combined sewer) and when these get overloaded in storms, they were designed to overflow to watercourses to relieve pressure on the system (it's either that or have it discharge near settlements - which has happened). It was supposed to be an 'emergency only' brake, but with an increased population, climate change and a lower level of investment in waste assets than is required, these discharges (which are lawful, but restricted) are happening more and more frequently. Whilst in modern times, separate sewers are built when a new development is thrown up, that still leaves you with the problem of the older victorian and later combined sewers. To put that right would involve massive costs which would have to be funded ultimately by increases in bills. IIRC, when this was last looked at during David Cameron's time in government, the cost was put at £690 Billion, which would have to be ultimately funded through customers bills*. In 2019 Labour tried to add an amendment to the recent environment bill which would have put tighter controls on consented discharges with a deadline set to eliminate them altogether, but this was watered down (excuse the pun) as the bill made it's way through parliament, with water and sewerage companies only having to reduce discharges.

*Customers bills in real terms remaining at around £1 a day is arguably why investment and innovation hasn't proceeded at quite the pace seen in the energy sector, despite the overall improvement over the period.

Customers bills also pay for investment over a longer period of time too. Capital to invest in infrastructure is required immediately, hence the need to either borrow money or fund it through shareholder investment - or a combination of the two. So it's only right that a shareholder may then expect some return on their investment. For us, we've not paid dividends for years, as all the money's going into investment or repaying other loans. Disappointing though it is that pretty much all water companies are now owned through various webs of overseas interests, this is no different to how things have worked out in other privatised industries (the trains are a great example). The difference, of course, is that water companies were privatised as monopolies (unlike gas and electricity, there's no national gird system for water and sewer pipes to allow for true competition to exist, along with no compulsory metering for domestic customers, with even the little that is available for commercial customers being a fudge), which is fine, so long as you heavily, heavily regulate such companies.

Whilst this has broadly been the case, regulation hasn't been updated or reinforced in any meaningful way by successive governments - it took the EU to impose laws around cleaning up beaches and the Environment Agency has seen it's budget repeatedly cut over last decade, for example. So whilst it's fair to say privatisation has been largely positive, it needs government to take a more active and keener interest to keep companies sharp and on their toes, delivering more improvements. Particularly when we're now in an era where most legacy issues re: lack of investment in assets are well on the way to being addressed (much of our watermains have been upgraded and improved, moving from lead and cast iron to more resilient plastics). The recent changes in the industry at the start of the last investment period were a step in the right direction, but they weren't helpful - expecting companies to invest more without being able to raise prices to deliver increased investment. Hence the situation we have now. I'm hopeful all the recent media attention will lead to something positive, but much of that will rely on the will of our next prime minister as well as those of us working to improve things.
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Re: Living in interesting times

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Denyer wrote: Tue Aug 16, 2022 5:41 pm The water industry was privatised... end of the 80s? So there might have been some understanding that alleged scope for improvement from that wouldn't come to fruition in five years or so. It's been another quarter century, firms have paid massive amounts to investors and a lot of that money's gone outside of the UK, in return seeing continuing leaks of hundreds of millions of gallons a day, the discharge of sewage into waterways with impact on wildlife and human exposure, etc.
Yup. Since privatisation, leaks have reduced by half, two-thirds of our beaches are cleaner (albeit in part due to EU legislation) and bills have (when adjusted for inflation) remained pretty stable at around £1 a day over that period. So it's been fairly successful on that front. I agree there's lots still to do; much of the leakage in this country is on customers pipework, which presents challenges (water companies are responsible for the pipes up to the boundary of each property), but overall the level of spend and investment has delivered real improvement, compared to a century or more of publically owned management, where water had to jostle with health, education, defence etc for funding, which successive governments prioritised over water and sanitation (Indeed, you only have to look at the poor state of Northern Ireland's water and sewer system to get an idea of what a state-owned water and sewer network would look like today).

The sewage situation is I agree disappointing, to put it mildly. The underlying issue is that in Britain, surface water (rainwater, basically) and the stuff you flush down the loo were designed to be carried away a single sewer pipe (known as a combined sewer) and when these get overloaded in storms, they were designed to overflow to watercourses to relieve pressure on the system (it's either that or have it discharge near settlements - which has happened). It was supposed to be an 'emergency only' brake, but with an increased population, climate change and a lower level of investment in waste assets than is required, these discharges (which are lawful, but restricted) are happening more and more frequently. Whilst in modern times, separate sewers are built when a new development is thrown up, that still leaves you with the problem of the older victorian and later combined sewers. To put that right would involve massive costs which would have to be funded ultimately by increases in bills. IIRC, when this was last looked at during David Cameron's time in government, the cost was put at £690 Billion, which would have to be ultimately funded through customers bills*. In 2019 Labour tried to add an amendment to the recent environment bill which would have put tighter controls on consented discharges with a deadline set to eliminate them altogether, but this was watered down (excuse the pun) as the bill made it's way through parliament, with water and sewerage companies only having to reduce discharges.

*Customers bills in real terms remaining at around £1 a day is arguably why investment and innovation hasn't proceeded at quite the pace seen in the energy sector, despite the overall improvement over the period.

Customers bills also pay for investment over a longer period of time too. Capital to invest in infrastructure is required immediately, hence the need to either borrow money or fund it through shareholder investment - or a combination of the two. So it's only right that a shareholder may then expect some return on their investment. For us, we've not paid dividends for years, as all the money's going into investment or repaying other loans. Disappointing though it is that pretty much all water companies are now owned through various webs of overseas interests, this is no different to how things have worked out in other privatised industries (the trains are a great example). The difference, of course, is that water companies were privatised as monopolies (unlike gas and electricity, there's no national gird system for water and sewer pipes to allow for true competition to exist - along with no compulsory metering for domestic customers - with even the little that is available for commercial customers being a fudge), which is fine, so long as you heavily, heavily regulate such companies.

Whilst this has broadly been the case, regulation hasn't been updated or reinforced in any meaningful way by successive governments - it took the EU to impose laws around cleaning up beaches and the Environment Agency has seen it's budget repeatedly cut over last decade, for example. So whilst it's fair to say privatisation has been largely positive, it needs government to take a more active and keener interest to keep companies sharp and on their toes, delivering more improvements. Particularly when we're now in an era where most legacy issues re: lack of investment in assets are well on the way to being addressed (much of our watermains have been upgraded and improved, moving from lead and cast iron to more resilient plastics). The recent changes in the industry at the start of the last investment period were a step in the right direction, but they weren't helpful - expecting companies to invest more without being able to raise prices to deliver increased investment. Hence the situation we have now. I'm hopeful all the recent media attention will lead to something positive, but much of that will rely on the will of our next prime minister as well as those of us working to improve things.
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Re: Living in interesting times

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Water arguably fits in the same bracket as health, and I don't think Northern Ireland as the reference site is necessarily a reasonable comparison. Scottish Water is highly regarded, public ownership is common in a lot of France, and in the Netherlands it's famously illegal to privatise utilities.

You could certainly argue the moribund failures in power for the past decade plus would have failed to invest as has been the case with other public services, but privatisation facilitates a lot of buck-passing.
with an increased population, climate change and a lower level of investment in waste assets than is required
What percentage is attributable to each of those, would you say?

Picking an area I know, I'd tend to doubt the first two factors were major contributors in a Midlands constituency like this, in 2021; https://top-of-the-poops.org/map.html?c=Dudley%20North
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Re: Living in interesting times

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A lot of people really seem to find Trudeau physically attractive here in Alberta at least- "F**k Trudeau" vehicle decals are everywhere!
Warcry wrote: Wed Aug 17, 2022 3:06 am Thankfully, and very much unlike the US, there doesn't seem to be much appetite for this brand of politics here outside of rural western Canada.
I can't speak on that, being in Alberta it may be that I'm just exposed to more of it. But there doesn't have to be, there's enough people who vote Conservative because "that's what their family does" and enough people who are apathetic when it comes to politics and voting to sway it either way. People in the US thought they were safe with Trump vs Hillary too.

I had no objections to our last Conservative government

Harper was awful in terms of climate issues, reconciliation, he basically made it so any sort of scientific discourse had to be approved by his government before it could be released and his government gutted several research libraries related to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in an attempt to put our natural resources (not just oil... funding and legislation created to protect freshwater resources were dismantled and removed, both to sell water and build pipelines) up for sale, and not to mention that he endorsed Kenney for Premier of Alberta and recently endorsed Poilievre. That's just my short list. He's also partially responsible for the slip of the party to the far right, as he is one of the chairs for an international Conservative think-tank. I'd be concerned considering he still has a heavy hand in Canadian politics.

With Poilievre being elected (and assuming everyone sticks around until 2025) I'll most likely be voting Liberal again. I don't think the NDP can take on the Cons, the Cons themselves have a terrible track record when it comes to Indigenous concerns and there's been a bit too much pandering to the far right from Poilievre for my comfort. Plus I'd rather try to slow the progression towards privatization of our education and healthcare.

It's likely that unless he has some really good policies regarding reconciliation that involve Indigenous leaders, Poilievre being backed by Harper, condemning Indigenous blockades but leading a march and bringing coffee and doughnuts for the Convoy in Ottawa, and saying that Residential School survivors need to develop their work ethic rather than receive compensation probably isn't going to endear him to the majority of Indigenous Canadians. It's a shame, as he seems sharp. Bit of a snake, though.

I hate politics. I don't like any of the choices we have to choose from. I would lean more towards the NDP as I have in the past but after what they've done in regards to the old growth forests of BC, that won't be happening. But then again this shit is happening under a Liberal government, so there's that.

About the only good thing politics has brought lately is the Brian Jean "Did You Know" series. This is my favourite, a member of the community his "family" lives in later commented saying that this family that he speaks of has zero connection, they've never even met him. Also this man looks very shopped, whoever did it has never set foot anywhere near a Tipi (of that size, based on guesstimation it appears to be an 18-footer), or they'd know that they made him hilariously small. Or maybe he's just really short? I suppose that's a possibility. Anyway, still funny, and sad. So very sad.

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Re: Living in interesting times

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Sades wrote: Sun Sep 11, 2022 3:56 am A lot of people really seem to find Trudeau physically attractive here in Alberta at least- "F**k Trudeau" vehicle decals are everywhere!
Can you blame them? Dude's pretty handsome. If we've had a better-looking politician in this country in my lifetime, it must have been some obscure backbencher that I've never heard of.

(My sister's ex drives around with one of those stickers on his pickup truck and it's super embarrassing to be seen with. I'm not a fan of Trudeau, but seriously, grow up, people!)
Sades wrote: Sun Sep 11, 2022 3:56 amI can't speak on that, being in Alberta it may be that I'm just exposed to more of it. But there doesn't have to be, there's enough people who vote Conservative because "that's what their family does" and enough people who are apathetic when it comes to politics and voting to sway it either way. People in the US thought they were safe with Trump vs Hillary too.
I would say that in the places where Poilievre or "Mad Max" are popular, they're very popular. But those are also the places where they're already winning the seat with 60% of the vote, and winning those seats by an even bigger margin isn't going to get them any more votes in parliament. Rural Manitoba is a lot like Alberta in that regard, I think. The CPC could crowdsource their entire platform form 4chan and they'd still win 90% of the seats between Whistler and Winnipeg. But they can't even hit minority territory without winning big in the Ontario suburbs.

I'm not as plugged into the political side of the business as I was a few years ago, but the polls I've seen are saying that the voters they need to bring on-side are seriously put off by the "convoy" nonsense the Tories are embracing.
Sades wrote: Sun Sep 11, 2022 3:56 amHarper was awful in terms of climate issues, reconciliation, he basically made it so any sort of scientific discourse had to be approved by his government before it could be released and his government gutted several research libraries related to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in an attempt to put our natural resources (not just oil... funding and legislation created to protect freshwater resources were dismantled and removed, both to sell water and build pipelines) up for sale, and not to mention that he endorsed Kenney for Premier of Alberta and recently endorsed Poilievre. That's just my short list. He's also partially responsible for the slip of the party to the far right, as he is one of the chairs for an international Conservative think-tank. I'd be concerned considering he still has a heavy hand in Canadian politics.
Number one on my personal shit list would have been selling off the Wheat Board to foreign interests to appease the fringes of his own party, but I won't disagree with any of the things you said. The thing is that I'd still compare his time in power positively to both Chretien's and Mulroney's, even after all of that. The bar for governments in this country has been really, really low in my lifetime.

One good thing I will say about the man is that he was the first PM in my lifetime who managed to govern for a decade without antagonizing separatists and endangering our national unity. The Quebec situation actually calmed down a lot during his time in office, ironically mostly because he just didn't care enough to keep poking the bear like his predecessors did.
Sades wrote: Sun Sep 11, 2022 3:56 amPlus I'd rather try to slow the progression towards privatization of our education and healthcare.
Those are more a provincial thing than a federal one, so the best thing you can do on that score is to give the UCP the boot!

(The Manitoba Tories are also slowly strangling public education and health care.)
Sades wrote: Sun Sep 11, 2022 3:56 amIt's likely that unless he has some really good policies regarding reconciliation that involve Indigenous leaders, Poilievre being backed by Harper, condemning Indigenous blockades but leading a march and bringing coffee and doughnuts for the Convoy in Ottawa, and saying that Residential School survivors need to develop their work ethic rather than receive compensation probably isn't going to endear him to the majority of Indigenous Canadians. It's a shame, as he seems sharp. Bit of a snake, though.
My favourite fact about Poilievre is that he's constantly repeating rabble-rousing talking points about career politicians and bureaucrats stealing hard-working Canadians' wealth...while having never held a job outside of politics himself. A snake, like you said.

Shitting on Indigenous people is another thing that's going make him a darling to his base, but I don't think that kind of talk will play very well with Canadians as a whole anymore. The racism out here in Winnipeg can still get crazy sometimes, and I won't pretend that it doesn't, but no one's going to be brought on-side by "Hey, how about those lazy natives, amirite?". Anyone who's still receptive to that sort of talk in 2022 is already firmly in PP's camp.
Sades wrote: Sun Sep 11, 2022 3:56 amAbout the only good thing politics has brought lately is the Brian Jean "Did You Know" series.
Isn't he also the "less crazy" option? Most of what we hear about the UPC race out here is people dunking on Danielle Smith for being a maniac.

[EDIT] Just about sums it up...
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