Gwynne Dyer: Germ Changer

They teach you in journalism school never to use the phrase “…X has changed the world forever”. Or at least they should. Covid-19 is certainly not going to change the world forever, but it is going to change quite a few things, in some cases for a long time. Here’s eight of them, in no particular order.

1. The clean air over China’s cities in the past month, thanks to an almost total shutdown of the big sources of pollution, has saved 20 times as many Chinese lives as Covid-19 has taken. (Air pollution kills about 1.1 million people in China every year.) People will remember this when the filthy air comes back, and want something done about it. India too. Continue reading “Gwynne Dyer: Germ Changer”

An Important Message From Prairie Dog

For most of us, the Coronavirus pandemic is like nothing we’ve ever seen. COVID-19 has totally disrupted Reginan’s lives and livelihoods.

It’s hitting us, too.

Earlier this week, Prairie Dog made the difficult decision to cancel our March 26 print edition. Between the near-total collapse of advertising and the loss of, what, maybe half our distribution points in restaurants, coffee shops and pubs, putting out a paper next Thursday just doesn’t make sense. We  plan to roar back with, hmm, let’s call it a special collector’s edition on April 9. In the meantime, we’re bringing Dog Blog–remember that?–out of cold storage so you’ll have lots to read. Stay tuned!

Collectively, we’re at the start of something that, for better and/or for worse, will fundamentally change our understanding of the society and world we live in, but there are a lot of challenges ahead. If you’re able, please consider donating to help us continue publishing. Prairie Dog has a lot to offer Regina and Saskatchewan, but we flat-out can’t do it without your help.

As a lot of people are suddenly discovering, it turns out we all really ARE in this together. Let’s make it work.

Weekly Reckoning: Riveting Local Reading Edition

Weekly ReckoningThere’s a cat in my lap and a burning curiosity in my brain. Let’s do this.

1. ONE THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-THREE WORDS. That’s how many words the Leader-Post’s Andrew Matte needs to tell you that mayor Michael Fougere is low-key, ambitious and from Nova Scotia. Also that he “even quit smoking because running with a smoker’s lungs became problematic.” Come on, mayor: you just drape the smoker’s lungs around your neck and bring them together over your chest with a clip or something. Otherwise it’s smoky lungs flopping everywhere.

2. BRAD WALL VS. BILL DOYLE. The titans have clashed! Stern words have been exchanged! Meanwhile, 440 Saskatchewanians are out of a job. Where does L-P business columnist Bruce Johnstone land in the battle between Big Potash and Big Rest Of Us? The answer may surprise you! No it won’t.

3. NEW ADJECTIVE HORRIBLE, SEASONAL. Here is a gallery of the most mistletoe-able women in 2013. Nine clicks to reach Jennifer Lawrence? Come on.

4. AND I WAS JUST ABOUT TO RECORD MY POLITICAL COMEDY NOVELTY SINGLE “YOU DON’T TOPPLE STATUES ANYMORE.” Over in Ukraine, where citizens are agitating for the closer integration of Ukraine into the European Union, protesters toppled a statue of Lenin in Kiev. I’m happy to see that central Europe is still cultivating its statue-toppling skills. They even beat that thing with a sledgehammer.

5. “THE WOOL IS WET AND YOU HAVE TO KINDA YANK AT IT.” How are you spending your weekend? Whatever you’re up to, it’s probably not knitting from your vagina.

Regina: Slightly Occupied

Today was the anniversary of the start of Occupy Wall Street. But hey, Regina was occupied for a while too, remember? And sure enough, the occasion was marked by a small but boisterous group of protesters on the Scarth W. Frederick pedestrian Hill mall. Speakers–including Sask Green Party leader Victor Lau, Ward 9 (northwest Regina) candidate Dawn Thomas and recently rebooted mayoral candidate Chad Novak–spoke on topics including citizen engagement, the new stadium and the general total trashing of the environment that’s popular these days. All in all it was feisty and well-organized, and the speakers were articulate.

Hey look! Photos!

Colorado Springs Residents Are Probably Too Stupid To Live

Whitworth’s Global Warming Post was The Theory, Here’s A Look At The Evidence

Bob Cesca is one of my favourite American bloggers, and one of his most recent posts – with information from Bloomburg News – perfectly illustrates how the ‘don’t tax me, ever’ crowd and the global warming deniers in the United States have sown the seeds of their own destruction.

Colorado Springs is the Ground Zero for the American conservative movement – home to Focus On The Family, home of the United States Air Force Academy (the USAF is home to the greatest concentration of religious nutbars in the American armed forces) and the political base for one Dick Cheney. Last week, wildfires ravaged suburbs around the city, and, well, take it away Bloomberg News …

The city where the Waldo Canyon fire destroyed 346 homes and forced more than 34,000 residents to evacuate turned off one-third of its streetlights two years ago, halted park maintenance and cut services to close a $28 million budget gap after sales-tax revenue plummeted and voters rejected a property-tax increase.
The municipality, at 416,000 the state’s second-largest, auctioned both its police helicopters and shrank public-safety ranks through attrition by about 8 percent; it has 50 fewer police and 39 fewer firefighters than five years ago. More than 180 National Guard troops have been mobilized to secure the city after the state’s most destructive fire. At least 32 evacuated homes were burglarized and dozens of evacuees’ cars were broken into, said Police Chief Pete Carey.

Sounds insane? Yeah. It gets better:

Six of the nine candidates in last year’s nonpartisan mayoral election, including the victor, Mayor Steve Bach, signed a pledge to oppose any tax increases.
Richard Skorman, one candidate who didn’t, was flooded with angry e-mails after saying in a debate why he opposed such a pledge. What, he asked, if the city got hit by a major wildfire?
“Resources have been very stretched, and we were always worried,” Skorman, a 60-year-old small business owner and former city councilman who lost to Bach in an April 2011 run- off, said in a telephone interview.

If you live in a house like this, then you have no farking business complaining about the amount you’re paying in taxes.

If I’m an insurance company, there’s no way in Hell I would authorize a damage claim payout. The citizens of this community refused to pay for the basic level of fire and police protection – that’s negligence.

I wonder if any of those Bible thumpers in Colorado think that God is punishing them, the same way many of them thought God was punishing New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina. I wonder if any of those Tea Party activists who decry any form of government spending now wonder whether it would have been better to spend their money on paying for firefighters and police. Or maybe when scientists say that global warming is a problem, you don’t tell the world to look the other way because it might interfere with your lifestyle.

Naw. Not while there are gays and abortion seekers around. This is America, remember?

So who pays when people can’t pay – or in this case, who WON’T pay? That’s right. Everybody else. The state of Colorado sent in National Guardsmen to patrol the area and assist firefighters because the municipality’s voters voted in politicians who LAID OFF MUNICIPAL POLICE OFFICERS AND FIREFIGHTERS! So, who are the freeloaders? Who are the ones sucking off the public teat, expecting the world to pay for their mistakes? That’s right: Mr. And Mrs. Tea Party.

If they don’t learn anything from this disaster – that public works are an important way to keep you homes safe, that you’re not safe unless your community is safe, and that nobody wins until everybody wins – it’s possible that Tea Party types in general, and Colorado Springs residents in particular, probably are too stupid to live.

Six In The Morning: Well, Kind Of

1 AIR CANADA IS FALLING APART, LITERALLY Monday afternoon’s incident at Toronto Pearson involving an Air Canada 777 passenger jet was not the aircraft’s first, apparently. A frighteningly thorough CBC story outlines the plane’s other two incidents that preceded Monday’s ENGINE SHUT-DOWN on the way to JAPAN.  Efforts to instill consumer confidence are going exceptionally well.

2 CLINCH OF THE MITT Pardon the phrasing, just trying to instill some snazz into what is being called the “most boring election ever“. Mitt has secured the Republican nomination following a big win in the Texas primary, and it’s hard to even care. We should. This guy has the potential to direct our country’s biggest economic partner, a relationship which will only get stronger with the unilateralism in Ottawa these days.

3 THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING Facebook shares have dipped to a new low this week, losing almost a quarter of their value. Meanwhile RIM, the Canadian company behind Blackberry has announced it will making making “significant” job cuts, following a rough quarter.

4 WAR CRIMINAL GETS FIFTY Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was sentenced to fifty years in prison for his role in the 2002 massacres in Sierra Leone. This is the first time a former head of state has been convicted by the ICC since WWII, and is a big step for humanitarian interventionism on the international stage. You know, all that stuff Canada used to stand for…

5 HORROR POLITICS Authorities have confirmed that the foot and hand sent to Conservative offices this week had belonged to the human torso found in Montreal’s west end yesterday morning. More here.

6 SPEAKING OF HORROR MOVIE SH*T Police are releasing more details following what has been described as a “cannibal attack” between two men on a Miami causeway Saturday afternoon. The attacker, 31 year-old Rudy Eugene is now believed to have been overdosing on a potent new LSD-variant called ‘bath salts’. The relatively new drug has been linked to high body temperatures, extreme aggression, superhuman strength and fixation involving the jaw and mouth. Check it out. Or don’t, I didn’t sleep last night.

Four In The Afternoon: Late Edition

1 ROYAL VISIT Woop woop, Prince Charles and Camilla spent last night in Regina. Victor Sawa is conducting a special Regina Symphony Orchestra performance for the royal couple this evening. They’re in town for a couple more hours, and if following them around is your jam, their itinerary can be found here.

2 EVEREST WOES There’s been a massive influx of hikers scaling Mount Everest recently, and fatalities are on the climb.  CBC released a story this morning with Canadian climber Sandra Leduc comparing the mountain to a “morgue”. Yikes.

3 AND THE MARKETS REEL More EU related market instability as the future of Greece and the single currency remain uncertain. New French President Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel bumped heads over key issues in the Brussels summit. Flaherty announced at a Senator’s committee today that our fine country may feel the backlash from the political and economic instability overseas. Doubt Jim’ll be missing any meals.

4 ET FINALEMENT! Okay, I know I’m always on about how impossible it is to access politics with any level of influence, and I generally blame crappy coverage of important issues. Not in this case. Couture’s Star Phoenix article does decent job in covering Wall’s cabinet shuffle, expected later this week. Culture Minister Bill Hutchinson is out, a move some see as an effort to appease film industry advocates.

Margaret Wente, What The Hell?

From today’s Globe And Mail:

Not all boomers are as lucky as we were. I know plenty of folks (especially women) who can’t afford to retire and need every cent of Old Age Security they’ll get. Yet I also know that lots of younger people won’t have it as good as we did. You want a union job at a car plant? You’ll make a lot less than your elders do, and you will never catch up. The airline industry will never pay what it once did either. Students today typically graduate with $25,000 worth of debt, then take a few more years to latch on to the job market. The modest house my mom helped me buy now costs a modest fortune.

Full column here.

I. Am. Stunned. I agreed with every word in this article. I never read MW. When I finally get around to cancelling my Globe and Mail subscription in the near future, it’ll be mostly because of the editorial board’s pro-Stephen Harper bullshit, but Wente’s oft-myopic columns play a role, too. Not this one, though.

Is this some kind of early April Fool’s joke? No, seriously?

Now, I don’t believe for a minute that Wente recognizes the role Canada’s rich-people-friendly governments of the last 30 years had in this generational robbery. She probably believes that changing global economics and some kind of magical historical inevitability are the big reasons the post-boomer generations are screwed (check out her snide dismissal of social democratic policy here). She’s wrong.  Our interests have been deliberately attacked with calculated policy choices by business-controlled puppets from Mulroney to Chretien to Paul Martin to, worst of all, Stephen Harper.

The rich keep getting richer. It’s obviously not an accident. The problem is clearly plutocracy.

But still, her observation of the details, if not the causes, is bang on this time.

It’s too little, too late, but damn, Margaret Wente sure nailed it today.

Captain Jean Luc Picard And Commander William Riker Contemplate Stephen Harper’s Foreign, Military And Economic Policy

Okay. Canada needs to sell bitumen and uranium to The Peoples Republic of China in order to afford stuff like the F-35. It doesn’t matter that we’re selling our resources at a firesale price. Canada needs the F-35 in order to defend our country from … China. Whose military will be fueled by … Alberta bitumen and Saskatchewan uranium.

Except that the Chinese military already knows most of the F-35’s secrets.

Yes, he have that kind of government.

Four In The Afternoon: Winds Of Change?

4 in the Afternoon1 DAVOS DOWNER Today the World Economic Forum kicked off in the Alpine town of Davos, Switzerland. The Canadian agenda, which has been called a “major trade charm offensive” seeks to pressure the EU into solving its debt crisis but also to establish new bilateral trade agreements in emerging markets. Stephen Harper attended in the company of some of Canada’s biggest business leaders, which happens to include representatives from Barrick Gold, whose business practices have earned the company a wretched international rep. It might be just me, but maybe the PM should choose his entourage more closely when trying to woo his way into emerging markets.

2 STATE OF THE UNION In last night’s presidential address, Barack Obama looked pretty sharp in calling for less American income inequality with an emphasis on tax reform. The president cheekily made this platform election-ready by pointing out that Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney’s paid a lower tax rate than the average American on $45M in earnings in the last two years. Though most of his address was bemoaned by the Republicans of the House, it was (perhaps strategically) wrapped up by appealing to American patriotism on broad palatable topics, giving the address a campaign kick-off feel.

3 A YEAR LATER There is a massive gathering in Cairo’s Tahrir Square today celebrating the year anniversary of the Egyptian uprising to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak. While largely perceived as a celebration, many in attendance feel that the revolution continues and is growing in strength.

4 SPEAKING OF CELEBRATIONS! Looks like Air Canada — who is known for cancelled, overbooked and delayed flights — got a wee bit of payback at the hands of a pesky cat this morning. The feline apparently escaped from the cabin and lodged itself in the cockpits’ wiring causing a four-hour delay in the morning flight to Toronto. Good on ya, wee one.

THEMED BONUS Fitz and the Tantrums will be playing at Coachella 2012 alongside Saskatoon’s the Sheep Dogs. Check out where indie meets big band.

Happy 18th Birthday NAFTA, The Demon Child Of The North American Economy

One of my favorite American bloggers, Lawyers Guns and Money, does the best critique of NAFTA and why free-trade agreements actually prolong recessions.

Here’s the kicker:

The loss of manufacturing jobs due to NAFTA, other free trade agreements, and globalization more broadly has, I believe, helped contribute to the longevity of the economic downturn and threatens larger problems in the future. The promise of NAFTA was cheap products and information-based jobs that were easier on our bodies and allowed us to use our minds. But those jobs have hardly replaced well-paid manufacturing jobs and have left millions of older and poorly educated (disproportionately people of color) Americans behind. We managed to keep the charade of a successful new economy going for awhile, through the housing bubble and personal debt, but both have busted. Now we don’t know how to put people back to work. We have literally dismantled the infrastructure that would allowed us to put people to work in industrial labor. If the information economy doesn’t work and if there is little to no incentive for industries to open factories (or a government that doesn’t make it a priority), what is the long-term employment solution?

Four In The Afternoon: Also Unwilling To Talk About It

4 in the Afternoon1 ARMAGEDDON AVOIDED Since the wounds of the election are too fresh, and will for today remain unaddressed, we can all take encouragement from the fact that a 400m wide asteroid narrowly missed the earth last night.

2 RUSSIAN DEFIANCE Following a report indicating that UN weapons inspectors found evidence of a Iranian nuclear program, Russian officials stand up to Israeli, French and American pressure to impose sanctions. Why can’t EVERYONE go to lunch??

3 THE EUROZONE CRISIS (Though ever-worsening, AT LEAST the issue now has an appropriately catchy name). A sullen Berlusconi has informed the Italian President that he will be resigning after a controversial 17 years in politics and as Italy’s longest serving Prime Minister. At least he looks exquisite for his recent photographic bombardment at 75 years young.

4 NOT FAILURE, FLEXIBILITY In his fall economic update yesterday, Flaherty blames economic conditions for wavering on budget promises and projections which see Canadian debt rising from 550.3-billion to 640.6-billion in 5 years. This may affect health transfers, a situation which has Brad Wall pointing instead towards health care ‘innovation’ – without much imagination, privatization…

BONUS NEWS #1: WHAT ELECTION?? Okay, IT IS unreasonable to avoid the topic entirely. Here we go: voter apathy appears to be alive and well in Saskatchewan, Lingenfelter has resigned after losing his own constituency, and the ‘immovable Wall’ has won his second majority reinforcing what has been termed the ‘year of the incumbent’ in Canadian politics. Sigh….

BONUS NEWS #2:  NO MORE DOOM AND GLOOM! For all the fellow caffeine addicts out there: Studies have shown that consuming between 1 and 3 cups of coffee a day has been linked to anti-depressant effects. At least there are hopes of mitigating the downer impact of the aforementioned stories with a cup of java.

Adbusters’ Micah White On The Occupation (Full Interview)

As promised in our Occupy Wall Street/Regina coverage, here’s my complete interview with Adbusters senior editor, Micah White.

prairie dog: I hear you’re to blame for all this Occupy stuff.
Micah White: We catalyzed the idea but other people ran with it and that’s why it was a success.

pd: How did it come about?
MW: It came from a brainstorm between Kalle Lasn and myself. We kind of were watching the Egyptian and the Spanish revolutions and wondering what would it take to kick off something like that in America.

pd: What did you do to pull this off?
MW: The basic tactical approach is for a while we’ve been developing a critique of Clicktivism, which I think is the old model this way of market testing everything and putting an emphasis on clicking links and email petitions and all those Move-On Avaz type models and we’ve been advocating for a return to visceral art and passionate words and that’s basically what we did. We made an awesome poster and we created a listserv that got people excited and we threw it out there and it captured the public’s imagination and they ran away with it.

Continue reading “Adbusters’ Micah White On The Occupation (Full Interview)”

Ultrasonic Alarm Call Episode 11: Regina Goes Boom!

This week’s episode isn’t merely a podcast, it’s our submission to the Design Regina process.

The city is out to revamp its Official Community Plan and we’re getting involved. But instead of just filling in the little “Citizen Circle” workbook the city sent us, we recorded our discussions and we’ll be sending in this mp3 as well.

What’s with that look of trepidation, city? It’s not like council is ever going to see more than a point-form summary of what’s offered up by the Citizen Circles, anyway. Don’t worry. Carle’s crazy ideas about how the city should take over parking again, our hand wringing about heritage buildings being demolished, our shared rage about how unaffordable housing has recently become, our discussion of where the zombie apocalypse will begin and what it has to say about good urban form, all of that will wind up as nothing more than a few bowdlerized remarks in a list of hundreds.

But you know who I pity? It’s the poor intern who’s going to have to slog through all those Citizen Circle submissions. At least when they get to ours, they’ll get to listen to some awesome intro and outro music by the Lazy MKs.

Ultrasonic Alarm Call Episode 11 — Regina Goes Boom: At the table, Carle Steel, Vanda Schmockel, Cassie Ozog, Karen Meagher and me as host. Bonus interview with Cookie Madill. Music by the Lazy MKs. Runtime: 45 min 53 sec.

To download, click on the radio above. And when you’ve finished with this, you might want to check out last week’s episode, Signal To Noise, which is a companion piece to the feature on the paranormal in the current issue of prairie dog.

You can also check out our archive of past episodes.

Frum To Krugman: “Oops. Maybe We Shoulda Listened.”

Stock markets went completely to shit today. Not a good sign. But if you want to read something really apocalyptic, we have bigshot conservative talking head David Frum wondering aloud on his blog:

Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Wall Street Journal editorial page between 2000 and 2011, and someone in the same period who read only the collected columns of Paul Krugman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of the current economic crisis? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?

Ack. So you’re suggesting maybe everything the U.S. and European governments and all those global financial institutions have been doing to pull the globe (or at least most of the northern hemisphere) out of recession has been a big ol’ mistake?

Whoops. Sucks to be you. And, well, sucks to be us too. Thanks for that.

That said, I guess it’s good to see there’s at least one rational mind on the right-hand side of things who’s finally realizing it’s the liberal economists they should’ve been listening to all along and not those goons from the Chicago School. Hope it’s contagious. (But it probably isn’t.)

Meanwhile, what are those liberal economists saying?

Just that Obama’s debt deal compromise thingy is bullshit. Caving to the Tea Party and constricting government right now by cutting services and not raising taxes is bullshit. That, as Krugman points out, “Policy makers have been worrying about the wrong things, obsessing over deficits when the real problem was lack of growth.”

And that these are exactly the same mistakes that were made in the early ’30s and the key reason that the Great Depression was so Great (but not in a good way).

In other words, while Regina happily blunders along in this “boomtime” we keep hearing about, the rest of the world is burning. And if you don’t find today’s market plunge convincing, Krugman points to the growing likelihood of a total collapse of the eurozone.

This Summer Of Recovery really isn’t looking like it’s going to end on a high note.

Anyway, after all that, you’re probably wondering how Krugman replied to Frum’s sorta mea culpa? With a, “Yeah, you should’ve listened.”

Debtlimitpocalypse 2011: Teevee President Has Things To Say

The President of the United States will address the country tonight about Congress’ refusal to raise taxes as part of a solution to get the U.S. deficit under control. Will Barack Obama be a big weenie or will he chew bubblegum and kick ass and be all out of bubblegum? He needs to do the latter.

From The New York Times:

The president’s decision to intervene comes after House Republican leaders pushed for a vote Wednesday on a two-step plan that would allow the federal debt limit to immediately be raised by about $1 trillion and tie a second increase next year to the ability of a new joint Congressional committee to produce more deficit reduction.

But top Senate Democrats called the proposal a “non-starter” and said they would advance their own plan to reduce the deficit by $2.7 trillion and raise the debt ceiling until after next year’s elections, saying it met the conditions that Republicans had laid down during the ongoing debt fight.

“We’re about to go over a cliff here,” Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who serves as majority leader, said Monday afternoon as he outlined his proposal.

What a mess.

Too Many Testicles

If your ears have been in the same room as my mouth in the last week you’ve probably heard me complain about my fellow man. The culprits in a new report on the  five worst countries countries to be female in? Fucking Men. Stabbings in Regina’s bar strip? Fucking men. Riots in Vancouver? Fucking Men. Climate change deniers? Fucking Men. The accused killer in an especially awful Seattle rape and murder case I’ve been reading about lately? A Fucking Man. Stephen Harper supporters? More likely to be Fucking Men.

Most of the violence, murder and crime you read about in newspapers? Fucking fuck men, men men, men, men.

My fellow penismen often seem like an out-of-control ethnic group bent on murder and mayhem. (Rwanda? Men. Yugoslavia? Men.)

Well, here’s another one article about male failure (malure?) from yesterday — a 4000-word piece about the idea that men caused the 2008 financial crash, titled “Testosterone And High Finance Do Not Mix: So Bring On The Women.  Here’s a small sample:

A more recent study of 2.7 million personal investors found that during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, men were much more likely than women to sell any shares they owned at stock market lows. Male investors, as a group, appeared to be overconfident, the author of this study suggested. “There’s been a lot of academic research suggesting that men think they know what they’re doing, even when they really don’t know what they’re doing.” A fact that will come as a surprise to few of us. Men, it seemed, typically believed they could make sense of every piece of short-term financial news. Women, never embarrassed to ask directions, were on the whole far more likely to acknowledge when they didn’t know something. As a consequence, women shifted their positions far less frequently, and made significantly more money as a result.

The article goes on at length about neuroscience, testosterone, learned helplessness and all sorts of interesting reasons that men are fucking stupid. Definitely worth your time.

As for this man, I’m a man in a crabby mood and see no reason to say anything other than the basic truth: men are prone to be reckless and insane and shouldn’t be allowed near money, or weapons, or alcohol, or hockey games or other people.

Men ought to be rounded up and locked in man-sized hamster cages. Fucking men.