I recall how Jimmy Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence” speech of 1979, in which he argued for America’s need to develop alternative energy sources, was dismissed and lampooned at the time as a failure, with media commentators joking about putting on wooly sweaters and turning down the heat.  The overall message promptly went down the memory hole. (With the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, the solar panels came off the White House. They’re not likely to go up again under the current occupant, but even he can’t hold back solar power’s inexorable growth, and increasing take of the energy market share.)

I heard an extract of the speech in the recent Hollywood film, 20th Century Women, and was surprised at its power and prescience for a Presidential address.  Some of the transcript below…

“In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next 5 years will be worse than the past 5 years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.

As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.

These changes did not happen overnight. They’ve come upon us gradually over the last generation, years that were filled with shocks and tragedy.

We were sure that ours was a nation of the ballot, not the bullet, until the murders of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. We were taught that our armies were always invincible and our causes were always just, only to suffer the agony of Vietnam. We respected the Presidency as a place of honor until the shock of Watergate.

We remember when the phrase “sound as a dollar” was an expression of absolute dependability, until 10 years of inflation began to shrink our dollar and our savings. We believed that our Nation’s resources were limitless until 1973, when we had to face a growing dependence on foreign oil.

These wounds are still very deep. They have never been healed.

Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the Federal Government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our Nation’s life. Washington, D.C., has become an island. The gap between our citizens and our Government has never been so wide. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual.

What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.


We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.”


by Geoff Olson

Does British Columbia premier Clark deserve a second chance from voters?

Considering her personal record of alternative facts and flimflam, along with her government’s serial scandals and scams (some inherited from her Liberal predecessor Gordon Campbell) the answer has to be a resounding no.

For starters, there was Clark’s $50,000 annual stipend for attending BC Liberal fundraisers, a perk she dropped only after it became a “distraction.” Integrity BC’s Dermod Travis discovered that over 12 years, 177 companies donated more than $100,000 each to the BC Liberal party, for a total of $54 million. These companies netted $15 billon dollars worth of contracts from the government, Travis revealed in his recent e-book, May I Take Your Order?

Gifts from corporations, unions, and even foreign governments, illegal in jurisdictions across the world, is just business as usual in BC: a “cash for access” free-for-all that rebrands representative democracy as a high-end shopping spree.

The real estate sector has been responsible for the largest net donations the BC Liberals, to the tune of  $12 million dollars over 10 years. That  might explain the presence of real estate reps on Clark’s May 2016 junket to Asia, along with her government’s failure to adequately address BC’s housing affordability crisis.

The extraordinary cynicism of the Clark government was revealed prior to the last provincial election, with the leak of a memo sent from the email account of Clark’s good friend and then-deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad. The Liberal campaign strategy involved “quick wins” by targeting ethnic voters with public apologies for various “historical wrongs.” Nothing to see here folks, no independent investigation to follow – as in the 2015 case of a Liberal staffer triple-deleting emails concerning BC’s Highway of Tears.

Then there’s the premier’s nonstop posturing about “100,000 jobs” created by the vapourous LNG economy, with zero plants completed. Clark not only projected a Bizarro World $100 billion windfall from LNG, she has painted it as a green energy alternative, which is only possible by dismissing pesky externalities, like the massive energy inputs and environmental degradation involved in LNG extraction, processing and transportation.

On it goes: Clark’s false accusations of hacking attacks by the NDP, the firing of seven health care researchers under mysterious circumstances, nixing the disability bus pass annual fee, and the child deaths in foster care. Oh, and her farcical promise to run “the most open and transparent government in Canada.” Can’t forget that one.

But for my money – and yours as well, in the literal sense of the word –  the single biggest scandal is now underway, with construction of the Site C Dam in the Peace River region. Taxpayers will be shelling out $8.8 billion dollars for one of the largest infrastructure developments in Canadian history: a fiscal Rube Goldberg device pegged to supply energy to the fantasized LNG industry.

“You don’t even have to think very much about the environmental and aboriginal costs of Site C because the economics are so awful, ”Harry Swain told The New York Times. He should know, as a former federal deputy minister and chairman of a government environmental panel appointed to review the project.

In 2015, Christy promised to get Site C “past the point of no return” before this year’s election. Yet three researchers, including Karen Bakker, head of UBC’s program on water governance estimate, recently concluded that suspending or cancelling the project would save taxpayers between $500 million and $1.65 billion.

The BC Utilities Commission has rejected Site C once before; no doubt this is why the premier hasn’t submitted it for review by the public utility regulator. NDP Leader John Horgan, while dithering on a decision on Site C, has said he will put it before the commission if elected. No guarantee, but it’s better than what our debt-friendly Liberal leader is offering: a tide of red ink that will make the NDP’s infamous fast ferries from the late nineties seem like a child’s fleet of paper boats.

A second chance for Christy? Perhaps as an AM rage-radio host, but not as premier. We’ve had six years of her government attacking the commons while dispensing corporate welfare to big-money benefactors. Reelection will only encourage the Libs to go medieval on our assets.

The Vancouver Courier, May 4