Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Canadian Effect...

There has always been a lot of discussion about the effect of cross border traffic and trade on Whatcom County's economy. The reality is that global trade can erase borders quickly. Canadian's shop here like nobody's business.  Tonight, my wife and I parked in the first row of Costco's parking lot. To either side of us were BC (British Columbia) license plates.  So I checked the six car group that we were parked in. We were the only Americans!  As we drove down the first row with our usual $180.00 Costco run intact, we counted the BC license plates in the first and second row that we could see: 18!!  If that percentage held up, then nearly 20% of all the Costco shoppers that night were from BC.

With Bellingham ready to sue WA state to repeal a recent ruling that will allow Canadians to shop  in US without paying  sales tax, this type of observation is important.  Canada is changing the tax structure in Ontario and British Columbia, merging the PST and GST to create the "Harmonized Sales Tax" (HST).  The reform is creating anything but harmony in British Columbia. However that works out, the Canadians are here in big numbers and they are now (and always have been) an important part of our economy.  The irony about Canadians being forgiven sales tax in Whatcom County is that such a deal really quadruples their bottom line. They are here to take advantage of a the current favorable exchange rate, cheaper groceries, cheaper gas and now less taxes!

I think I will get to know more  Richmond, Surrey, Burnaby, Abbotsford, and Langley based Canadians. It occurs to me they could buy what I need at a discount and carry it to my house before they go home.  Perhaps in exchange I can lease them my spare room for the night!  Would that be black market activity or just one individual optimizing their profit in the global economy?  Heck, if the Costco backed liquor reform goes through in WA state, I think I would exchange their purchase of my bulk wine for a wonderful night here in Bellingham and a free ticket to a Bells game!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"not well equipped to prevent...damage"

It could continue for quite awhile if we can believe William Engdahl or Vladimir Kutcherov.   I find it stunning that the oil industry response is to stress prevention and admit there is little hope for containment:

"Mr. Tillerson admitted that the only way to deal with major spills was to keep them from occurring. “The point is,” he said, “we have to take every step to prevent these things from happening, because when they happen we are not well equipped to prevent any and all damage. There will be damage. There is no response capability that will ensure that you won’t have an impact.”
For a moment, pretend that this was testimony from the management of Chernobyl or a future runaway nuclear accident. The world is wondering, "What do we do about this?" and (arguably) the highest paid oilman in the world says, "we are not well equipped" to prevent damage. In a 2008, Exxon and Chevron made $69 B in profits.  How is it possible that corporations this profitable don't have a good solution to an underwater blowout?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The next time someone wants to drill off the West Coast...

What a complete worldwide ecological disaster. How could such a well-endowed, profitable industry be so unprepared for a deep sea blow-out. NCAR has produced a simulation of the flow of oil from BP Macondo site:

“I’ve had a lot of people ask me, ‘Will the oil reach Florida?’” says NCAR scientist Synte Peacock, who worked on the study. “Actually, our best knowledge says the scope of this environmental disaster is likely to reach far beyond Florida, with impacts that have yet to be understood.”...
“We have been asked if and when remnants of the spill could reach the European coastlines,” says Martin Visbeck, a member of the research team with IFM-GEOMAR, University of Kiel, Germany. “Our assumption is that the enormous lateral mixing in the ocean together with the biological disintegration of the oil should reduce the pollution to levels below harmful concentrations. But we would like to have this backed up by numbers from some of the best ocean models.”

What a complete worldwide ecological disaster this will become. As I have commented in a previous post, producing energy based on carbon and uranium is archaic. The relevant comparison to the BP Macondo disaster is Chernobyl, but since the the well is still spilling into the gulf, it is unclear how devastating the leak will be on the environment.  Should you wish to voice your opinion about this, an "Oil Spill Vigil" will be hosted tonight by MoveOn in Zuanich Park.:

Today is the 50th day since the oil spill began. Join MoveOn tonight (Tuesday, June 8) at 7:00 PM at Zuanich Park, 2600 Harbor Loop, Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, for a gathering to express outrage, to demand change, and to stand in solidarity with the people, land, and animals devastated by this corporate irresponsibility.
MoveOn believes that if enough people speak out, we can make this tragedy a turning point and finally start to do what is necessary to stop our nation’s addiction to oil.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex

'No one ever needed to explain to [RFK] the revolutionary ferocities in the developing countries...."The worst thing we could do," he said, "would be to take as our mission the suppression of disorder and internal upheaval..." No one can doubt that our country  has lost immeasurably in the years to come through the murders of John and Robert Kennedy.'  
from a magazine article entitled "The Statesman" by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. January, 1969

To put yourself on one hell of a cinematic ride for two hours, rent the two-set DVD The Baader-Meinhof Komplex from Film is Truth in Bellingham, WA.  Somewhere in post movie interviews on Disc 1, Bernd Eichinger (both the writer and producer) comments that it is hard today to imagine the chaos of world events between the years 1967 - 1977.  Maybe it is, but you can get a flavor for some of that chaos by watching a wide array of brilliant young German actors and actresses portray the RAF ("Red Army Faction"). To describe the RAF as an American equivalent of the Weather Underground doesn't quite do them justice.

There's something shocking to post World War II Democracies about revolutionary violence initiated by white, middle-class youth and there is good reason it should be so. It is simple to distance yourself from the poverty and revolution initiated by Western imperialism abroad.  When that war is on your doorstep, it is unavoidable. The RAF brought war to the doorstep of West Germany throughout the sixties and seventies. They played "hard ball" as one of their young members says in the film.  Surprisingly, each "generation" of RAF played "harder ball" than the previous generation.

Could the Weathermen or the RAF re-emerge in America and West Germany? Watch The Baader-Meinhof Komplex and speculate...Be forewarned: violence is a frequently chosen option.