Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday February 19, 2021
Texas, Land of Wind and Lies
Politicians are neither gods nor saints. Because they aren’t gods, they often make bad policy decisions. Because they aren’t saints, they often try to evade responsibility for their failures, asserting either that they did as well as anyone could have or that someone else deserves the blame.
October 3, 2014
For a while, then, the politics surrounding the power outages that have spread across Texas looked fairly normal. True, the state’s leaders pursued reckless policies that set the stage for catastrophe, then tried to evade responsibility. But while their behavior was reprehensible, it was reprehensible in ways we’ve seen many times over the years.
However, that changed around a day after the severity of the disaster became apparent. Republican politicians and right-wing media, not content with run-of-the-mill blame-shifting, have coalesced around a malicious falsehood instead — the claim that wind and solar power caused the collapse of the Texas power grid, and that radical environmentalists are somehow responsible for the fact that millions of people are freezing in the dark, even though conservative Republicans have run the state for a generation.
This isn’t normal political malfeasance. It’s the energy-policy equivalent of claiming that the Jan. 6 insurrection was a false-flag Antifa operation — raw denial of reality, not just to escape accountability, but to demonize one’s opponents. And it’s another indicator of the moral and intellectual collapse of American conservatism.
The underlying story of what happened in Texas appears to be fairly clear. Like many states, Texas has a partly deregulated electricity market, but deregulation has gone further there than elsewhere. In particular, unlike other states, Texas chose not to provide power companies with incentives to install reserve capacity to deal with possible emergencies. This made power cheaper in normal times, but left the system vulnerable when things went wrong.
Texas authorities also ignored warnings about the risks associated with extreme cold. After a 2011 cold snap left millions of Texans in the dark, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urged the state to winterize its power plants with insulation, heat pipes and other measures. But Texas, which has deliberately cut its power grid off from the rest of the country precisely to exempt itself from federal regulation, only partially implemented the recommendations.
And the deep freeze came.
January 31, 2019
A power grid poorly prepared to deal with extreme cold suffered multiple points of failure. The biggest problems appear to have come in the delivery of natural gas, which normally supplies most of the state’s winter electricity, as wellheads and pipelines froze. Nor was this merely a matter of the lights going out; people are freezing too, because many Texas homes have electric heat. Many of the homes without electrical heat rely on, yes, natural gas. We’re looking at enormous suffering and, probably, a significant death toll.
So Texas is experiencing a natural disaster made significantly worse by major policy errors — and the officials who made those errors should be held accountable.
Instead of accepting responsibility, however, officials from Gov. Greg Abbott on down, backed by virtually the entire right-wing media complex, have chosen to lay the blame on green energy, especially wind power.
November 29, 2018
Now, it’s true that the state generates a lot of electricity from wind, although it’s a small fraction of the total. But that’s not because Texas — Texas! — is run by environmental crazies. It’s because these days wind turbines are a cost-effective energy sourcewherever there’s a lot of wind, and one thing Texas has is a lot of wind.
It’s also true that extreme cold forced some of the state’s insufficiently winterized wind turbines to shut down, but as I said, this was happening to Texas energy sources across the board, with the worst problems involving natural gas.
Why, then, the all-out effort to falsely place the blame on wind power?
The incentives are obvious. Attacking wind power is a way for both elected officials and free-market ideologues to dodge responsibility for botched deregulation; it’s a way to please fossil fuel interests, which give the vast bulk of their political contributions to Republicans; and since progressives tend to favor renewable energy, it’s a way to own the libs. And it all dovetails with climate change denial.
But why do they think they can get away with such an obvious lie? The answer, surely, is that those peddling the lie know that they’re operating in a post-truth political landscape. When two-thirds of Republicans believe that Antifa was involved in the assault on the Capitol, selling the base a bogus narrative about the Texas electricity disaster is practically child’s play.
And if you’re expecting any change in the policies that helped cause this disaster, don’t count on it — at least as long as Texas remains Republican. Given everything else we’ve seen, the best bet is that demonization of wind power, not a realistic understanding of what actually happened, will rule policy going forward. (New York Times)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday October 16, 2020
Make Canada’s electric vehicle bet pay off
The federal and Ontario governments have just rolled the dice — using taxpayers’ money — in hopes of hitting it big in the electric vehicle industry.
November 22, 2019
After anteing up $295 million apiece, they recently convinced Ford Motor Co. of Canada to commit about $1.4 billion of its own money to start manufacturing these zero-emission machines and the batteries that power them at its Oakville plant by 2025.
It’s a smart, and admirably non-partisan, gamble on the part of these governments that could preserve thousands of Canadian auto-sector jobs and grow the economy while doing something just as important — fighting climate change.
But if they want this steep, $590-million bet to pay off, they have to do more than just put up money. It’s not as easy as saying if you build it they’ll buy it.
While there are plenty of hybrid and fully electric vehicles on the market, only about 0.5 per cent of the 23 million passenger vehicles on Canadian roads are electric. There are strong reasons more Canadians haven’t leapt behind the wheel of an EV, reasons Ottawa and Queen’s Park need to address.
October 3, 2020
For starters, electric vehicles are generally more expensive to buy than the ones driven by the internal combustion engines that are doing so much to heat up this planet. When it comes to range, most EVs can’t travel nearly as far on a full-charge as their gasoline-driven rivals on a full tank, though the gap is decreasing. And the number of electric recharging stations is pitifully small — just a fraction of the number of gas stations out there.
These negatives shouldn’t make anyone a naysayer about the future of Canada’s electric car and battery industry. It is, in fact, visionary for our nation to embrace what will surely be the technology of the future. Unfortunately there are no givens in the global auto sector and too often good intentions on the parts of governments and even industrial gurus don’t pan out.
February 27, 2020
Canada badly lags behind other countries, such the United States, Germany, Japan and especially China in making EVs. When the current federal Liberal government asked every single EV manufacturer in the world to move to Canada, the answer was consistently no.
But there’s an upside to the fact that Ford Motor’s first zero-emission vehicles won’t roll of the line in Oakville for another five years. That gives the federal and Ontario governments a half decade to ensure their — your — investment ultimately pays off.
Canada needs recharge stations, lots of them. Establishing and paying for more of this essential infrastructure should be part of the federal Liberals’ plan for rebuilding post-pandemic Canada.
Perhaps they could partner with existing gas stations. If their owners give the matter some thought they’ll realize they, too, have a stake in transitioning away from petroleum-based fuels.
Programs could be established or beefed up across the country to help homeowners as well as condo and apartment complexes, to install their own recharging facilities. In addition, the federal government should review its current rebate program for people buying electric vehicles to determine if it’s working and even if it should be enhanced.
Finally, attention must also be paid to the Canadian mining companies that produce the minerals, such as cobalt, nickel and lithium, that will go into the electric vehicle batteries. Do they require help in meeting what could be a significant new demand?
When it comes to electric vehicles, Ottawa and Queen’s Park may feel that, as Ford Motor once proclaimed, they have “a better idea.” They need to back it up. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday September 16, 2020
Wildfires and weather extremes: It’s not coincidence, it’s climate change
Right on the heels of arguably the West Coast’s most intense heat wave in modern history comes the most ferocious flare-up of catastrophic wildfires in recent memory. Meanwhile, just a few hundred miles east, a 60-degree temperature drop over just 18 hours in Wyoming and Colorado was accompanied by an extremely rare late-summer dumping of up to 2 feet of snow.
July 14, 2020
It’s not coincidence, it’s climate change.
These kinds of dystopian weather events, happening often at the same time, are exactly what scientists have been warning about for decades. While extreme weather is a part of the natural cycle, the recent uptick in the ferocity and frequency of these extremes, scientists say, is evidence of an acceleration of climate impacts, some of which were underestimated by climate computer models.
“This is yet another example of where uncertainty is not our friend,” says Michael Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State. “As we learn more, we are finding that many climate change impacts, including these sorts of extreme weather events, are playing out faster and with greater magnitude than our models predicted.”
July 21, 2020
On Wednesday NOAA released its latest State of the Climate Report, which finds that just during the month of August the U.S. was hit by four different billion-dollar disasters: two hurricanes, huge wildfires and an extraordinary Midwest derecho.
Just one such extreme event can strain emergency resources — a situation West Coast firefighters find themselves in now. However, in two dramatic cases this summer, the nation was hit simultaneously with concurrent catastrophes, some of which had no precedent in modern history. It’s a concept scientists call compound events, and it is necessary to factor these confluences into future projections to properly estimate risk, response and resources.
In mid-August the West suffered through an extended heat wave which saw Death Valley surge to 130 degrees, the hottest temperature ever reliably measured on Earth. The tinderbox conditions caused by the heat, along with a rare lightning outbreak, sparked the first round of major wildfires in California this season, escalating into three of the four largest fires in state history. At about the same time a powerful derecho caused billions of dollars in damage in Iowa and Illinois, and Hurricane Laura plowed into the Gulf Coast of Louisiana as a Category 4 with 150 mph winds and 16 feet of storm surge. (Continued: CBS News)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday March 11, 2020
Economic Prescription for Coronavirus: ‘You’ve Got to Go Fast’
The government can’t prevent the coronavirus from damaging the U.S. Economy.
February 28, 2020
The usual tools that economic policymakers rely on, like tax cuts and stimulus spending, won’t restore canceled conferences, unclog supply chains or persuade wary consumers to go out to bars and restaurants. Even if such policies would help, they conflict with the advice of health officials who are urging “social distancing” to slow the spread of the virus.
But that doesn’t mean policymakers are powerless. Economists say well-designed programs could limit the damage and help ensure a quick rebound.
President Trump said Monday that he would meet with congressional leaders to discuss a “very substantial” payroll tax cut and other measures. Many economists are skeptical of that approach, arguing that a payroll tax cut would be too small and too poorly targeted to be of much help.
June 28, 2018
Instead, they recommended a variety of other steps, some narrowly aimed at addressing the outbreak and some intended to bolster the broader economy. One lesson from the last recession is that the government has to move quickly.
“You’ve got to go big, and you’ve got to go fast,” said Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve staff member who is now director of macroeconomic policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a left-leaning research organization. “If you don’t go fast, you’re not going to short-circuit it.”
Here are some forms that such intervention could take: 1) Fight the disease. 2) Cushion the blow. 3) Stimulate the broader economy. 4) What about payroll taxes? (Continued: NYTimes)
CHRONOLOGY OF A CARTOON GONE VIRAL
This particular editorial cartoon has gone through several modifications than the original one published above on March 11, 2020, the day the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. The original double wave cartoon received attention around the world and was modified, rather crudely, with adaptations made to my Canada flag, and translations squeezed in to replace my English “be sure to wash your hands and all will be well.” Some of the changes were done fairly well. Some of the people behind the alterations took the time to ask for permission to do so, and preserved my moniker, while others did not.
Nettuno 1958 – 5 aprile 2020
Here’s a version drawn with credit for audiences in Mexico. Found on Twitter on account @adn40 and shared March 25, 2020:
Another adaptation done for audiences in France. Website called, Acheter en Espagne: Le meilleur site sur l’immobilier en Espagne pour la clientиle francophone.
If only I got a penny for everywhere this cartoon landed I’d be rich!
Possibly my most shared, cropped, and altered cartoon ever.
A crude repurposed image showing a third wave, with my moniker cropped out, appeared in wide circulation on various social media platforms in May, 2020. It appears someone with some knowledge of image editing software duplicated the recession wave, added a third wave by colouring it rather fluorescent green and replacing the wording to climate change. In doing so unfortunately, my signature, or moniker as cartoonists call it, was deleted out. It was on its way to being meme-ified – unsourced and unsigned, the bane of editorial cartooning. I believe the flag in this example is Argentina’s.
Meanwhile, a hemisphere over in the UK, someone revised the Argentinian version, and replaced the label recession with “Brexit”. Look closely and one will note the Union Jack flies atop the Palace of Westminster! Credit goes to Twitter account RRI Tools for pointing this out in June, 2020 with this tweet.
I thought these ideas behind modification were pretty good ones, but the crop jobs weren’t so great, and the flag of Argentina only caused confusion on an idea that could work for anyone around the world. So it was then that I decided to remove the flag and create an authorized version bearing my signature. Here it is:
Originally drawn for March 11, 2020. Revised May 23, 2020.
But it seems someone else in another corner of the planet, Ricardo Hurtubia, a teacher from Santiago, Chile, had added a third wave as early as April 4! Good on him for keeping my moniker in there. News to me by the time July rolled around:
con mis fantásticas habilidades para Power Point, he logrado esta obra de arte luego de un día entero de trabajo
(broma 😜, pero el mensaje de fondo va en serio🙁) pic.twitter.com/qPrmSaneRy
In September, 2020, this beautiful hand drawn rendering was flagged by someone in Venezuela on Twitter. This is an example of the old saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Thank you Alejandro!
Not long after the above tweet was posted, an anonymous twitter account holder going by the name of Cilantrófago, posted a re-adapted image in Spanish that cleaned up Mr. Hurtubia’s, somewhat, adding a 4th wave. His major failing, however, is chopping out my moniker, and unfortunately, for Cilantrófago, he or she qualifies as a Social Media Jackass.
In mid June, I was included in a tweet sent out by David Obura, a director of Cordio, East Africa, a marine ecosystem consultancy based in Mombasa, Kenya. He’s also a scientist with the Earth Commission. A 4th wave had been added as a further warning regarding the effects of climate change on the world’s ecology. He isn’t actually the person who added the “biodiversity collapse”, but liked what he saw and sent it out. The re-adapted version is quite a good one, with a thought provoking message, the lettering is close enough to my own, and the image retains my moniker. Thumbs up, but I would like to know who the person is behind the re-adaptation.
The readapted readapted version of the cartoon became the centre piece of a demonstration with a Samba Band on Paignton Promenade (in Torbay, Devon, England) Sunday afternoon, August 30, 2020 with the “Four Waves Banner” shown below and paraded by the Green Spirits group:
Enchanted by the passion of the Green Spirits, and after receiving more licensing permission to use the 4 waves, I decided to update the cartoon to include the biodiversity collapse wave. The caption bubble was also enlarged, and my moniker was placed in the top corner.
Dr. Madhu Pai, MD and McGill University Professor and Canada Research Chair of Epidemiology & Global Health convinced me to tweak the illustration a bit to advance his concerns of conditions such as TB, HIV, malaria, maternal health, etc. that have become worse due to COVID-19 and lockdowns.
As of Autumn 2020, according to google image search, there are more than 1680 posts of these variations across the Internet on various social media platforms and websites.
Finally and noteworthy is an overriding subject going beyond the pandemic, Healthcare distress, the economy, Brexit, Climate Change, war …the end of the world, it’s the chronology of this cartoon as a meme.
Who knows how much, from Finland, Svante Suominen’s effort using the illustration to promote #SavePondHockey helped his cause which he asked in a Twitter exchange, our group fights “climate change by organizing outdoor hockey tournaments and donating the profits to climate campaigns / action. We’d love to use a quickly hacked image that is based on your idea and design work as a featured image in our blog. Would that be OK for you?” He was given clearance to do so, merely for having the decency to ask.
SOUR NOTES on MEME-ification
Like so many images cartoonists offered up to the Internet, dark forces are at the ready armed with design software to butcher artists work and memes-ify them to serve their appetites for likes and retweets. Just as egregious to discover signed cartoons reworded to suit partisan stances effectively turning satire into propaganda, is the removal of monikers and the extraction of intellectual property. We learn as children not to do this when we hand in assignments for school and that we should always source words borrowed from others. Why is it when theft of imagery that’s turned into memes is taken so passively?
Tiger Sugar was not given permission readapt the messaging
Along comes a post on Instagram where an account run under the banner of a big international bubble tea chain called Tiger Sugar used this image to promote franchise expansion. A glance through the account shows an endless scroll of not so witty memes mixed with photos of their swirly brown syrup concoctions aimed at a younger smart phone addicted set. A message was left under the post requesting removal of the altered image. As of the time of this writing the post remains and thereby grants Tiger Sugar bestowal of recognition into the pantheon of intellectual property thieves, better known as the Social Media Jackasses.
Noted is this eerily similar looking version found on this page on a site called EcoMatcher. They aren’t based in any particular country but whether the renderer knew it or not, that’s pretty much exactly what I drew in the very first version (posted at the top of this page) to represent Canada, from the rockies in the west to the Toronto skyline in the east. Seems the readapters of the image had a pretty good idea of the original cartoon’s chronology. It bears a striking resemblance to Svante’s rendering above.
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday February 14, 2020
The Conservative Party’s moderate-centres have disappeared
Alone among the senior party elephants who in the past few days have fled the high veldt of the federal Conservative leadership campaign, former Quebec premier Jean Charest left behind disquieting words as he took the exit road. The party, he observed, has changed a lot since he was last active in it in 1998.
March 24, 2018
You wonder why Conservative strategists and the media have not made more of what he said.
They’ve stated that the party is confused; it has lost its identity, needs to find itself—when, for the most part, the party knows exactly where it is and how it got there. It’s the strategists and media who are living in something that looks a lot like a state of denial.
They’re engaging in a surreal debate about what the party needs to do to fix itself and grow its political message—make symbolic or mild policy nods toward the political centre, have its leaders walk in a pride parade, declare it won’t be re-opening the abortion debate, do something to hobble the party’s “extremist wing.”
Yet the Conservative moderate-centre has all but disappeared. Largely, the so-called Red Tories have left the party and gone elsewhere. There is no “extremist wing”—that’s imaginary. Fundamental changes have shaped the base of the party that reflect differences in outlook, preferences and values from the great majority of Canadians and have little to do with what someone thinks about gay pride parades. As in the U.K. and the U.S., authoritarian or ordered populism has polarized Canada into two incommensurable camps.
The Conservative Party that most Canadians have known—the political centre that previously had the ability to find centre terrain on the most divisive issues of the day—has disappeared. What contemporary Conservative strategists and the media seem to have significant difficulty recognizing is that Canadian politics has become much more like American politics—it’s become tribal. And just as two Americas have taken root and blossomed, two Canadas are appearing on this side of the border.
EKOS Research found that four years ago, there was a 10-percentage-point gap between Liberals and Conservatives who selected climate change as the top issue of political concern. That gap is now 46 percentage points.
More than 90 per cent of Canadians who identify with the political centre-left, which is 65 per cent of adult citizens, think that Canada now has a climate emergency (they don’t believe that it’s coming, but that it’s here now.) For people who identify as Conservative or People’s Party supporters, the figure is less than 30 per cent. Four years ago, there was a 20-percentage-point gap between Liberals and Conservatives on trust in science. That exploded to a 40 per cent gap following the last election.
Since 2012, the incidence of Conservative voters who think Canada is admitting “too many” visible minorities as immigrants has swollen from 47 per cent to 70 per cent . Meanwhile, the corresponding incidence of Liberals agreeing there are too many has dropped from 35 to 15 per cent. A modest 12 per cent gap has also expanded to a massive 55 per cent gap. (MacLean’s)