Oh, The Audacity!

Yann Martel has decided to petition Stephen Harper to increase funding for the Canada Coucil for the Arts. His scheme is the height of audacity and condescension: "For as long as Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada, I vow to send him every two weeks, mailed on a Monday, a book that has been known to expand stillness. That book will be inscribed and will be accompanied by a letter I will have written."

I am a lover of books, and I value the vast repository of knowledge and wisdom contained in literature, scripture, and essays. I even value Yann Martel's writings. I've read his debut novel, Self, and read Life of Pi before it was endorsed by Oprah. We selected it for our book club as well.

But for Martel to appoint himself the Prime Minister's tutor, to publicly announce the humiliation he intends to heap on him, does nothing but hurt his cause. He may chuckle about it over Americanos at a Queen Street cafe, but he does not serve the Canada Coucil and Canadians by affixing a dunce cap to the Prime Minister's preternaturally coiffed head.

In justifying this stunt, Yann Martel recalls the day he attended the House of Commons as a member of the gallery to commemorate the Council's fiftieth anniversary, and the underwhelming recognition the Council's delegation received. Writes Martel, "Do we count for nothing, you philistines, I felt like shouting down at the House."

No. As you note, you count for precisely $182 million, $9m more than last year. This represents an increase of 5.2%, more than double the CPI for 2006, and a refreshing improvement on declining appropriation provided by Paul Martin's past Liberal government (see page 21 of the 2005-06 Annual Report).

You count for $5.50 from every Canadian, whether they're not old enough to read, too old to read, or don't want to read. Whether they love or hate opera. Whether or not they can tell the difference between a French horn and an English horn. Their $5.50 is yours to disburse to as many starving artists as you see fit.

By the way, I do plan to check out Martel's reading list.

Charter?! We Don't Need No Stinkin' Charter!

Twenty-five years ago today, on April 17, 1982—more than a hundred years after Confederation and about 200 years after the US went through the same exercise—Canadian legislators enshrined their analogue to the Bill of Rights: The Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The purpose of the Charter is to ensure that certain inalienable rights are respected by legislation and protected by the courts.

Naturally, it is the target of any legislator with contempt for those rights.

According to the CBC, events commemorating the Charter's anniversary will not be attended by Prime Minister Harper, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, Heritage Minister Bev Oda, or former Justice Minister Vic Toews, all of whom declined their invitations.

This is not surprising since Harper has for many years criticized the Liberals for appointing "activist judges." Hypocritically, he has also vowed "to make sure our selection of judges is in correspondence" with his government's objectives. Apparently, Harper regards the judiciary as "activist" when it upholds the Charter, and appropriate when it serves the neocon agenda.

Hmmmmm...I think you've got that bass-ackwards, Mr Prime Minister.


Oil Shale

digg directed me to a deliriously optimistic post by Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard regarding extracting "shale oil" at a cost of $30 a barrel. Royal Dutch Shell has applied for a patent on the extraction process. Allegedly, "there is more oil in the Colorado shale fields than the entire Middle East had at its peak."

The most optimistic production estimate suggested a capacity of "200,000 barrels a day from oil shale by 2011, 2 million barrels a day by 2020, and ultimately 10 million barrels a day." 10 million barrels a day.

Do you know how much oil the US consumes every day? More than 20 million barrels. Current domestic production is only 5m bbl/d and falling. Even if the shale oil pipe dream works, and even if the US holds its consumption level steady over the next fifteen years—hah!—the US will still be dependent upon the import of billions of barrels of oil each year.

Goldfarb closes the post with the following conjecture: "Wow. What would the world be like if all the oil in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, Iraq, Nigeria, and elsewhere was suddenly nearly worthless?" No such luck. With such paltry production levels, and rising international consumption, there is no way we can avoid the continuing ascendancy of the petro states.

Learn more about shale oil at the World Energy Council site.


A Rising Tide

You've probably heard the expression, "A rising tide lifts all ships." Have you heard what a rising tide does to the land?

The New York Times featured an article about the Sundarbans today, the mangrove covered islands that fringed the Ganges river delta at the border of India and Bangladesh. I use the past tense because the islands are no longer covered with mangroves, and they are slowly washing away, weakened by the clear cuts, and subsumed by a rising sea.

Last week I watched CBC's report from Egypt in the Nile's delta, part of its series, "Ready or Not: Living in a Warming World." Farmers there are watching helplessly as the marginal existence they eke out falters before the advancing Mediterranean.
It is an increasingly and depressingly familiar story: the world is not about to alter, it has already altered. The mechanisms are complex and mulitfactorial, but are primarily linked to human activity. The solution will require compromise, sacrifice, ingenuity, and co-operation. Even with a complex multifaceted solution, the stage has been set for calamatous change in the coming decades.
Stock your pantry and your gun rack. This ain't going to be pretty.

Imus vs Billboard's Hot Rap Tracks

I've got nothing more to say about the Imus uproar than Michelle Malkin has: "The Culture of 'Bitches, Niggas, and Hos.'"