Friday, August 18, 2017

A Very, Very Timely Message

Arnold Schwarzenegger has a timely and very powerful message for Donald Trump and his racist supporters:

If you go to the YouTube page where this video is posted, you will see by the many vile comments that his message needs to be spread widely.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Will This Saudi 'Explanation' Give Freeland And Trudeau The Cover They Desperately Seek?

As I recently wrote, I am very doubtful that the Trudeau government will rescind its $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, damning evidence of the Saudi deployment of the weaponry against their own people notwithstanding. It is my suspicion that both Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland hope that their sanctimonious expressions of concern prompted by this evidence will be sufficient for the Canadian people.

Now Saudi Arabia has admitted using the armoured vehicles in their Eastern Province, but guess what? They claim it is to fight terrorism.
The Saudi Arabian government is defending the recent deployment of Canadian-made armoured vehicles against residents of the kingdom’s Eastern Province, saying security forces found it necessary to use “military equipment” to fight terrorists who threatened the safety of its population.
Interestingly, the vehicles have been unleashed in al-Qatif, which is predominantly Shia, a sect that finds no favour in Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia. And while it is true that tensions abound in the area, the Saudis are not keen to talk about any of the reasons.

Consider the following event from June of this year:
A Saudi soldier has been killed and two others wounded when an explosive device went off during a patrol in the kingdom's restive Qatif province, the interior ministry said.

In a statement carried by Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the ministry said that the blast occurred late Sunday evening in the Masoura district in the village of Awamiya.

It described the explosion as a "terrorist incident".
What led to this 'terrorist incident'?
The oil-rich eastern province of Qatif is mostly Shia, a minority in the Sunni-majority kingdom.

The SPA has reported an increase in clashes between Shia fighters and security forces in Masoura in recent weeks after the Saudi government sent in workers to demolish a 400-year-old walled neighbourhood there.

UN rights experts have urged the Saudi government to halt the demolition, saying the planned commercial zone threatened the town's historical and cultural heritage and could result in the forced eviction of hundreds of people from their businesses and residences.
Nothing to see here, claim the Saudis:
“The terrorist groups in Awamiyah are equipped with military equipment and they are attacking civilians in the area,” the embassy said in a statement.

Cesar Jaramillo, the executive director of Project Ploughshares, a disarmament group that tracks military exports, said the Saudi explanation for what took place merits skepticism.

“The Saudi government’s depiction of military operations in civilian areas as being part of its war on terrorism has become routine, and increasingly suspect,” he said.

“The fact is that there are too many red flags. A country consistently found to be among the very worst human-rights violators on the planet is now categorically denying any human-rights violations in the siege of Awamiyah. The Canadian public needs to know how much credence Ottawa gives to this claim and whether it is consistent with its own findings.”

Ali Adubisi, director of the Berlin-based European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights, said the Saudi government criminalizes any form of dissent. Many civilians were targeted and killed in Awamiyah, he said, while the government is saying it’s fighting armed men. “Portraying themselves as the protectors of civilians in Awamiyah is a mockery.”

Human Rights Watch said in a statement this week that residents in Awamiyah told them Saudi security forces fired into populated areas from Al-Masora, killing residents, occupying a public school, closing clinics and pharmacies and preventing essential services such as ambulances from reaching the area. The group called for an investigation into whether Saudi authorities “used excessive force in Awamiyah.”
There has been long-standing evidence of the almost genocidal hatred the Sunnis have for the Shia. For Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Freeland to cherry-pick the evidence and stand behind the deal would not only be indefensible, but also yet another indication of an amoral government with contempt for principles and human rights.

For Your Consideration

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

UPDATED: No, Mr. Trump, There Aren't Two Sides

Although issues of justice and equity have concerned me throughout most of my life, as I move through my final decades I find matters becoming more, not less, pressing. Clearly, history is not on an upward trajectory, and as the saying goes, we can rest when we are dead.

Like most, I suppose, I can only bear witness to the suffering that injustice, prejudice and hatred impose and, when opportunities and venues materialize, speak out and write about them and personally intervene if witnessing untoward acts. We all have a deep moral and social obligation not to turn away from but to confront evil in its many forms. Silences gives consent.

One of the most accessible venues for speaking out is a blog, although I am under no illusions about the efficacy of such methodology. However, if it serves to convey information that a reader might not otherwise have, I feel it at least accomplishes something, however little that might be in the larger scheme of things.

In that spirit I offer a clip from NBC News that includes an excerpt from a Vice News documentary exposing what went on behind the scenes in Charlottesville last weekend; it is a clip that puts to the lie everything the diseased leader of the 'free world', Donald Trump, had to say yesterday about some of the fine people who were marching with the white supremacists there. After watching the clip, you can follow this link to Mother Jones, where you can view the entire 22-minutes of the piece.

UPDATE: There is nothing more pathetic than a whining Nazi. Watch below as Christopher Cantwell, the white bare-shirt supremacist who so proudly extolled violence in the Vice clip, now sings a different turn:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

This Is Chilling

Make no mistake. If you are against Trump, you are an enemy of the state.
The US government is seeking to unmask every person who visited an anti-Trump website in what privacy advocates say is an unconstitutional “fishing expedition” for political dissidents.

The warrant appears to be an escalation of the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) campaign against anti-Trump activities, including the harsh prosecution of inauguration day protesters.

On 17 July, the DoJ served a website-hosting company, DreamHost, with a search warrant for every piece of information it possessed that was related to a website that was used to coordinate protests during Donald Trump’s inauguration. The warrant covers the people who own and operate the site, but also seeks to get the IP addresses of 1.3 million people who visited it, as well as the date and time of their visit and information about what browser or operating system they used.

The website,, was used to coordinate protests and civil disobedience on 20 January, when Trump was inaugurated.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been advising DreamHost, characterized the warrant as “unconstitutional” and “a fishing expedition”.

“I can’t conceive of a legitimate justification other than casting your net as broadly as possible to justify millions of user logs,” senior staff attorney Mark Rumold told the Guardian.

Logs of IP addresses don’t uniquely identify users, but they link back to specific physical addresses if no digital tools are used to mask it.

“What they would be getting is a list of everyone who has ever been interested in attending these protests or seeing what was going on at the protests and that’s the troubling aspect. It’s a short step after you have the list to connect the IP address to someone’s identity,” he said.
If none of this disturbs and appalls you, your autopsy is likely pending.

They Never Disappoint Me

'They' would be Star readers who write letters to the editor. The following demonstrate that, like many others, they have taken the full measure of Donald Trump and found him manifestly wanting.
Re: Trump slow to respond to violence in Virginia, Aug. 13

U.S. President Donald Trump’s response to the rioting is hypocritical and hard to stomach. Calling out racist organizations who supported his political campaign and who responded to his attacks on Mexicans, Muslims and many more is a blatant corruption of the facts. Trump himself has incited Americans to hatred, and now violence.

Canada needs to be vigilant about the spread of hate propaganda and the recruitment of youth who feel disenfranchised and are looking for scapegoats. Haven’t the wars of the 20th century taught the world the consequences?

Diane Sullivan, Toronto

What a strange reality it is to come from the 1950s, when the U.S. still imposed racial segregation in schools, buses, washroom facilities, concerts, restaurants, stores and an endless list of public services.

We would see the Ku Klux Klan on television covering their faces like the cowards they were. And now I see their successors, the same group of disenfranchised, mindless hordes that used to show up at public lynchings and hangings for entertainment.

The biggest shock to me is how many of us don’t learn from history. That hate is taught in the first place is enough to sicken even the hardest heart.

These are strange times, brought on by a man who is sick in his heart and mind. He is a harbinger of what may come if we don’t keep those who would embrace hate and intolerance in check. These people look upon him as entertainment because they’re bored with the status quo. They have a longing, a hope for an alternate reality beyond what they have created with their miserable apathy and bland mediocrity.

What a strange reality it is to witness the most powerful man in the world stand aloof and seemingly indifferent to the things taking place on his watch that assault our sensibilities.

Donald Trump is not fit to hold the office of The President of The United States.

Jay Paul Baldwin, Mississauga

Athough Donald Trump’s failure to call out white supremacists in Charlottesville is reprehensible, it provides one more reason why the nation should ignore him and look for leadership elsewhere.

Hopefully, he will become largely irrelevant, a large boulder in a river, impeding but not stopping the water’s flow. Unable to lead and addicted to self-aggrandizement, he is already being sidelined — even by some in his own cabinet.

Shakespeare said, “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” In the case of Trump, it’s the American public that is getting more than a little uneasy.

Geoff Rytell, Toronto

Monday, August 14, 2017

UPDATED: A Timely Message

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland continues to treat the Canadian public as children, revealing nothing as to what our country's goals are in the upcoming NAFTA renegotiations. The only peek behind the curtain she is allowing is that they are striving for
provisions to strengthen protections for labour and the environment [and] language that sets out ambitions around gender equality...
While those may be laudable goals, notably absent is the promise to do anything about the horribly flawed Chapter 11 Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions that The Council of Canadians reminds us
grant private investors from one country the right to sue the government of another country if it introduces new laws, regulations or practices – be they environmental, health or human rights – that cause corporations’ investments to lose money.
Those provisions
- Protect foreign investors, but no one else. Domestic corporations, civil society, unions or governments do not have the same rights to challenge government decisions.
- Cost $4 million on average to defend a case. Chapter 11 cases are heard by three arbitrators, an elite group of investment lawyers who only look at investment issues, behind closed doors.
- Create a public “chill” that may dissuade governments from enacting policy. An in-depth study showed that policymakers will delay or shelve decisions because of the threat of potential ISDS lawsuits.
Canada has faced 38 Chapter 11 ISDS lawsuits – the most amongst the three NAFTA countries. At the moment, Canada faces ISDS lawsuits claiming $2.6 billion in damages. Canada is the most sued country in the developed world because of NAFTA. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, two-thirds of the ISDS lawsuits against Canada are over environmental policies.
Now would seem to be a good time to be reminded of how anti-democratic those provisions are, and how all of Freelands talk about improved environmental standards is just that - talk.

UPDATE: According to CTV News, Freeland has announced that Canada wants improvements to Chapter 11:
Specifically, Freeland referred to Chapter 11 -- which involves companies suing governments. She said she wants reforms so that "governments have an unassailable right to regulate in the public interest." This is not to be confused with Chapter 19, which regulates disputes between companies over dumping, in cases like softwood lumber, and which the U.S. administration might seek to eliminate.
I am heartened to hear this, but will withhold any celebration, as it may only be a motherhood statement that will disappear early in the negotiations.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Unfit For Office

I am not writing as much these days, preferring to read, learn and reflect. Perhaps serendipitously, I am currently half-way through a book entitled The Blood of Emmet Till, a wrenching examination of the murder of a 14-year-old black lad visiting Mississippi in the summer of 1955, an event that galvanized the civil rights movement. His murderers were found not guilty due to the systemic racism of the South, a racism that clearly is alive and well today if the the horrible events in Charlotteville, Virgina are any indication.

One thing is certain, however, despite the cant of the white supremacists who are now playing the victim card: their lord and mentor, Donald Trump, is manifestly unfit for office:

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Outrage Grows

I suspect that, if they had their druthers, both Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and her boss, Justin Trudeau, would much prefer that we trust their administration to always do the right thing and just go on enjoying the always-too-short days of summer. But the electorate can be fickle, even unpredictable, engaging in issues that always threaten to tatter to shreds the carefully-woven cloak of compassion and morality their 'leaders' dress in public with.

In other words, the immoral and disastrous Saudi arms deal is showing no signs of going away.

Now a new player has entered the mix, determined that the deal which so egregiously violates both national and international standards, is ended. Daniel Turp, a Montreal law school professor, says
he's ready to go all the way to the nation's top court to stop the sale of Canadian-made armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
... Daniel Turp says he's ready to go all the way to the nation's top court to stop the sale of Canadian-made armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

“I am ready to go to the Supreme Court of Canada because the issue at stake — the issue of the sale of weapons — is so fundamental, it’s worth it," Turp told National Observer. "(The government) is not done hearing about us and our fight."
The law would appear to be on Turp's side:
Saudi Arabia is widely denounced as one of the world's worst abusers of human rights and has been censured by the European Union and a number of western countries. Saudi Arabia's embassy in Ottawa didn't immediately respond to a request from National Observer for comment.

​Canadian export controls prohibit the sale of arms to countries with a "persistent record of serious violations" of their own citizens' human rights. Yet the Trudeau government issued export permits in 2015 for the sale of General Dynamics armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a $15-billion deal that had been approved by the previous Conservative government.
September 5 is the deadline Turp has given to Freeland:
“We gave her this deadline which seems reasonable and we understood the minister wants to investigate (the matter)...but I hope it’s not just (for the government) to stall and to (claim) again that there’s no reasonable risk that Canadian armoured vehicles are being used (in Saudi Arabia),” he said.
Canadians are fortunate indeed to have a fellow citizen willing to stand in for the rest of us in the pursuit of legal and moral conduct, especially when the government they elected seems to have veered down a very, very mercenary and unprincipled path.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

UPDATED: On Cheap Talk And Photo-Ops

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible.
-George Orwell

Regarding the misuse by the Saudis of armoured vehicles Canada sold them, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says all the right words. She says
... she’s “deeply concerned” about recent videos that appear to show Canadian-made armoured vehicles being used by Saudi Arabia in a crackdown against its own citizens.

.... she has instructed her officials to “urgently” investigate the matter

She said the investigation must be done energetically but also “very carefully”.
And, for good measure, Freeland reassures us that she and her government
are absolutely committed to the defence of human rights and we condemn all violations of human rights,”.
All fine words, to be sure, but talk is cheap, and, as Orwell was fond of pointing out, can be used to defend the indefensible.

Notably absent in the Foreign Affairs Minster's rhetoric is what Canada plans to do about the situation, once it is verified, beyond this rather anodyne statement:
“[W]e will respond accordingly.”
Now, some may take me to task for intimating that except for some expressions of outrage, her Trudeau government will do nothing once the abuse has been verified. The reason I rush to judgement is that the Harper government that brokered the deal, and the Trudeau government that gave its stamp of approval to it, knew the deal with the devil they were getting into.

A piece recently written by Shannon Gormely sets such facts out in stark relief:
Representatives of not one but two Canadian governments – a previous Conservative government that in its steadfast avarice struck a $15-billion arms deal with the devil, and a current Liberal government that in its flippant cynicism signed off on it – are, with great conviction, taking turns promising and demanding the most rigorous of investigations into the alleged war criminal they have each aided and abetted.

They speak of Saudi Arabia, which apparently paused its targeting of schools, hospitals, marketplaces and weddings in Yemen to reload with some made-in-Canada ammo in its own Eastern Province. If video footage is to be believed, Canada, through yet another weapons deal (beyond that $15-billion one), has facilitated a multiple homicide by handing the murder weapons to a killer.
Gormley suggests that with full knowledge of the Saudi proclivity for using weapons against their own people, both the Conservative and Liberal governments should have followed one ironclad and very moral rule:
Don’t sell weapons to murderers.

It doesn’t matter if the murderer offers you a lot of money – lives are worth more than money. It doesn’t matter if the murderer could perhaps find another willing seller – better not, overall, to race to the bottom when the bottom is a mass grave. It doesn’t even matter if the murderer may, in theory, decide to use a weapon to defend your friends after using it to murder innocent people, or if they aren’t as bad as other murderers, or if they ask for the murder weapon really, really nicely. Don’t sell weapons to murderers.
Politicians' talk is cheap, and Trudeau's distracting propensity for peddling sunny selfies cannot conceal an ugly and indisputable fact:
The Liberals and Conservatives allowed Canadian companies to sell weapons to a murderer, and whether or not there is already blood on their hands, there is shame of the highest order.

UPDATE: From the pants-on-fire-department:
... rules call for restrictions on arms exports to countries with a “persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.” Shipments are supposed to be blocked unless there is “no reasonable risk” the buyer could turn arms against its own population.

A Canadian arms-export researcher, Ken Epps, says the Saudi arms sales reveal the contradictions with the department of Global Affairs, which is supposed to promote business with other countries but also police military and defence shipments.

Also, Mr. Epps said what’s unfolding now in Saudi Arabia exposes how Ottawa has long failed to meet the test set out in arms-control guidelines: The government is supposed to have “demonstrated there is no reasonable risk” that military goods may be used against the local population before it signs export permits.

In the case of the $15-billion deal, the Liberal government never met this threshold, said Mr. Epps, with Project Ploughshares, a disarmament group. It merely stated it was not aware of any abuse of citizens with Canadian-made goods.

“It appears that the Canadian government isn’t even using its own standards.”
You can read the full story here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

What Would You Be Willing To Sacrifice?

Ed Finn has a blog entry at that I highly recommend. His thesis can roughly be summarized in this excerpt:
The glue that holds any society together is faith in its governments, courts, churches, unions and non-profits -- faith that these organizations, no matter how flawed, will always be committed to serving their basic needs, to protecting them from the worst effects of poverty, unemployment, and sickness.

That glue comes unstuck when governments put private interests ahead of the public interest; when corporations put the uncontrolled pursuit of profits ahead of the well-being of workers and their communities; when unions are stripped of much of their capacity to help their members.

No wonder, then, that so many people have concluded that they can no longer depend collectively on these institutions -- that they are now on their own as individuals, each locked in a struggle for survival, with little or no help from any quarter.
The disastrous result, Finn suggests, is that we increasingly adopt a very selfish outlook on life, moving, if you will forgive a bit of hyperbole, into a stark survival-of-the-fittest lifestyle, a reversion to an almost Hobbesian state of nature.

There can really be no doubt that Western governments, including our 'new' one under Justin Trudeau, are neoliberal in nature. And the kinds of selfishness those governments foster are, without any hyperbole, facilitating the destruction of our world. The notion of sacrificing anything in service of the collective good is being steadily eroded, replaced by a widespread self-indulgence that has been transformed into a virtue.

My immediate concern here is the ever-accelerating rate of climate change, the greatest peril our planet has ever faced. While acknowledging that there are still some very good people today, I cannot escape the notion that the majority would obdurately refuse to make even the smallest sacrifice or lifestyle change that could, if done in sufficient numbers, slow down that rate. And quite significantly, our governments, beyond some paltry carbon taxes, are requiring nothing from us. That vacuum in leadership, in turn, gives licence to the very self-indulgent lifestyles that neoliberalism demands.

The kinds of sacrifices I am talking about are small ones we all could take: not idling our car while waiting for our spouse in the grocery store; combining errands to reduce GHG emissions; walking to the store instead of driving; eating one less meal of beef or pork per week; turning the air-conditioning temperature up one degree and heating temperature down one degree; buying energy-efficient products upon replacement; buying energy-efficient cars; air-drying clothes instead of using the dryer, etc.

All of the above require conscious choices, but none of them is onerous. I shall leave you with some video that highlights the peril we face, as well as this question: What small sacrifices are you willing to make or have made to reduce your carbon footprint?

If you go to approximately the five-minute mark on the following Global National newscast, you will see the impact climate change is having on Vancouver:

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Are There Cracks In The Liberal Fortress?

Justin Trudeau and his band of sunny men and women have had, up to this point at least, a pretty easy ride with the Canadian electorate. After years of darkness under the Harper regime, the liberating promise of an open government bent upon truly representing citizens had an allure and cachet too strong to resist. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly apparent that the swap we made at the last election was more cosmetic than substantive, as I have observed many times in this blog.

No fortress is truly impermeable, and cracks are beginning to form in the Liberal one, thanks to some solid journalism and critical thinking. The latest breach in the walls comes via a story on the CBC website.
The Prime Minister's Office received a flood of emails opposing the government's bill to implement new pre-clearance measures at Canadian airports and other departure points following a CBC News story on concerns about the powers the bill grants to U.S. border agents, documents show.

It's been eight months since the U.S. Congress passed its version of a law to implement the latest cross-border agreement with Canada.

The U.S. law authorizes its Customs and Border Protection officials to set up pre-clearance locations at more Canadian locations, allowing Canadian travellers to bypass immigration and customs procedures on arrival at their U.S. destination.
Despite the convenience such a law would seem to promise, there is also something quite disquieting about the Canadian version that was passed by the House but is being held up by the Senate, and Canadians are making known their displeasure:
CBC News has obtained a trove of public communications, mostly emails, sent over a 10-day period following the a CBC News story on controversial aspects of C-23, particularly the new powers it would grant to U.S. border agents working on Canadian soil.
Most of the letter writers express concern about parts of the bill that grant new powers to U.S. border agents working in Canada. Those include the right to bear arms and, most controversially, the discretionary power to detain Canadians for further questioning if the U.S. agent is unhappy with their answers.

Until now, Canadians passing through U.S. Customs pre-clearance in a Canadian airport have had the right to simply withdraw their request to enter the U.S. if the encounter goes badly, and leave the pre-clearance area.

Section 31 of Canada's legislation takes away that right.

Government insiders say the volume of mail received was "unprecedented" and took officials at Public Safety by surprise.
And it is not just the usual suspects who are expressing their discontent:
The documents show the negative feedback included many missives from people who described themselves as Liberal supporters.

"I have been a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal, but you lose my support if you pass this bill," wrote one person from Burlington, Ont., on Feb. 12.

The same morning, a Coquitlam, B.C., resident warned that after reading about the bill, they now "regretted any financial or political support I've ever given the federal Liberal Party in the past, and have resolved, until I see this one modified to prevent detentions of Canadians or permanent residents, never to support your party again."

"I have voted Liberal all my life but will do evering (sic) to bring this government down if this bill is passed or any version of it," wrote another.
You can read some of the specific comments made about the bill by clicking on the first link above, but the one of the strongest objections seems to be that the bill entails an infringement upon our rights as Canadian citizens "by allowing a U.S. authority to detain Canadians while on Canadian soil."

Mr. Trudeau has said that we live in a post-national age. Clearly, there are many Canadians who refuse to accept his facile assessment.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Fast-Approaching Abyss

While North American politicians give us either sunny platitudes or outright denials, the reality of the climate-change abyss we are quickly approaching should now be becoming apparent to even the most benighted among us:

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

UPDATED: Will It Be All Talk And No Action?

There will always be those who see Justin Trudeau only through the public image he has so assiduously cultivated. Others, however, refuse to suspend their critical faculties despite the Prime Minister's fine hair, sunny rhetoric and public earnestness. They demand that his 'sunny ways' be met with the kinds of actions a leader with character and integrity takes in difficult situations.

The latest test for Mr. Trudeau comes with the apparent proof that Saudi Arabia is using the Canadian-made armoured vehicles we sold them against their own citizens.
For the first time, video footage and photos have surfaced on social media allegedly showing the Islamic kingdom using Canadian weaponized equipment against Saudi civilians – a development that spurred calls Friday for the Liberal government to halt defence exports to the oil-rich nation.
The Canadian government is now investigating, but it is a move I take little reassurance in, given that allegations of misuse of the vehicles have been around for quite some time.

I am reproducing the editorial in today's Hamilton Spectator, as it addresses the implications of this issue well:
When Justin Trudeau's Liberals were elected, they inherited an odious legacy: a 2014 deal to sell armed military vehicles to Saudi Arabia. The deal, worth $15 billion, rankled many because it meant Canada would become a major arms supplier to a regime that has a record of brutalizing its own citizens in the name of quelling dissent.

Trudeau acknowledged he didn't like the deal, but he felt compelled to honour it for the sake of preserving Canada's reputation as a reliable business partner. That didn't satisfy the most strident critics, but many people could at least see the logic in his rationale.

However, all through that controversy, there was a hard stop. Reasonable people, and the government, could tolerate the deal-with-the-devil provided we could be guaranteed the Saudis wouldn't turn the armed might against their own citizens.

Now, credible media reports from the region claim Saudi Arabia has deployed Canadian combat hardware against civilians. There are photographs showing a vehicle that looks exactly like the Canadian product, called an 'Armoured Gurkha.' Military experts, including a retired and anonymous Canadian general, have verified the claim.

The company that makes the Gurkha says it can't comment. The government is aware and investigating. The Globe and Mail reported a statement from the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland which says: "If it is found that Canadian exports have been used to commit serious violations of human rights, the minister will take action." It also says: "The end use and end user of exports, as well as regional stability and human rights, are essential considerations in the authorization of permits for the export of military goods from Canada."

If these reports are true, the worst fears of peace advocates and others critical of such deals will be realized. Canada will again be supplying lethal military equipment to be used against civilians.

Those advocates, as well as opposition parties, are already calling on the government to halt further exports. Obviously, the government won't act on media reports alone, so if a moratorium is necessary it won't happen overnight. But it shouldn't take months, either. And the government had better not rag the puck on this. If the reports are true, the government needs to stop further shipments, kill the deal and tell Canadians in no uncertain terms it has done so and will not support new deals that carry the same risk.

Justin Trudeau was elected on wave of optimism and idealism that looks naïve in hindsight. Trudeau can restore some bruised credibility by doing the right thing in this case. We may not be able to stop tyrannical foreign governments from slaughtering their own people, but we don't have to supply the bullets.

Howard Elliott
Photo-ops are fine, but it is time that Mr. Trudeau start acting with resolve and integrity in this urgent matter.

UPDATE: Former federal Liberal cabinet minister Irwin Cotler says,
... Saudi Arabia’s apparent deployment of Canadian-made combat vehicles against Saudi citizens demonstrates why Canada should end all arms sales to the Islamic kingdom.

“I am not saying we shouldn’t be trading with Saudi Arabia. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be engaging with Saudi Arabia. I’m just saying we shouldn’t be selling any more arms to Saudi Arabia”.
You can read the full story here.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Parsing Conservative Lies

Recently, newly-selected Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer wrote a column condemning the compensation awarded to Omar Khadr for the violation of his rights as a Canadian citizen. Not only did his piece send a message to his base that the animus so regularly cultivated by the party's former overlord, Stephen Harper, is alive and well, but it also attested to the Tory tendency to fabricate and conflate 'facts.'

Fortunately, ever-sharp Toronto Star readers are giving him no quarter:
Re: Justin Trudeau had a choice on Khadr settlement, Opinion, July 26

In answer to federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s emotionally overwrought attack on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to make a payment to Omar Khadr in respect of the heinous behaviour of several Canadian governments responsible for his illegal incarceration at Guantanamo Bay, I can find agreement with one statement: “Principles are worth fighting for.”

Principles set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply to all Canadians. That is indeed a principle worth fighting for.

Sadly, Mr. Scheer and his like-minded followers believe they have a right to apply those Charter rights selectively. This emotional response is the same as that exhibited by the government of the day’s delegitimization/incarceration of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, and the denial of entry to Jewish refugees prior to the war, to name just two examples of demonizing, hate-mongering behaviour of Canadian governments.

Nevertheless, there are many Canadians, I believe a majority, who reject that past behaviour and agree with the current government’s payment to Mr. Khadr.

Indeed, the former Conservative government led by Stephen Harper approved a similar payment to Maher Arar. I do not recall Mr. Scheer sanctioning interviews to discredit the Harper government with U.S. news outlets or writing columns to the Star to evoke hatred against Maher or Harper.

That he engages in this behaviour now reveals his need to mimic the political rants so disgraceful south of the border. It demonstrates that he will make self-serving political decisions that benefit only some Canadians, but not all. Who is next to lose their Charter rights? Be careful, it could be you.

Liz Iwata, Pickering

Andrew Scheer says the Supreme Court ruled that Omar Khadr’s rights were violated and that the Conservatives recognized and accepted that finding.

His inconvenient truth is that the Supreme Court issued its finding in January 2010, and Khadr was repatriated in September 2012. It appears to have taken the Conservatives 2-1/2 years to accept the finding. Khadr then spent a further 2-1/2 years in prison before being finally released on bail in May 2015, after the government failed in a last-ditch attempt to deny bail.

Yes, the settlement was a Liberal decision. But the actions of the Conservative government were a large part of the decision.

Cheryl Adams, Toronto

Although Andrew Scheer has some counterpoints to the Omar Khadr debate worth discussing, he unfortunately leaves out one pressing detail to his entire argument: Khadr was a child soldier and his rights as a Canadian were violated, period.

No matter how much the Conservative Party spins this debate, it’s a strong and valid point that will always rise to the surface.

Bobby Leeson, Brampton

Monday, July 31, 2017

My 15 Minutes Of Fame (Or Infamy) Gets An Unexpected Extension

Originally, I had no intention of writing about this story, since it pertains to something I became involved with over a year ago. Some readers may recall that last year, I wrote a letter of complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council about a Superior Court Justice, Toni Skarica, over a t-shirt he was wearing extolling Donald Trump. You can read the background here.

My concern was, and still is, the issue of judicial impartiality. How can a man extolling a demagogue who advocates against the Mexican, the Muslim, the transgendered and the gay be trusted to judge impartially any such individuals who may come before him in court?

In any event, last week a Star reporter called me to discuss the issue. I was surprised, given that the events unfolded over a year ago, but apparently, in response to a request by a lawyer, the Judicial Council only recently published its decision on its website, a decision that saw no sanctions against Skarica, who offered an interesting explanation for his terrible lapse in judgement.

The interview resulted in a story, which unleashed a measure of online fury and vituperation directed against me, some of which involved physical threats, but most of which offered assessments of my character, none of which were flattering.

So why am I writing this post? Primarily to show the rabid and insensate 'free-speech warriors' that their pathetic attempts to bully into silence those who hold views contrary to their own are just that - pathetic. While the issue of online bullying is not something to be dismissed lightly, it is misdirected at people who are mature adults and reasonably sure of themselves. Silence in the face of such attacks is just not in keeping with my nature, and it would send the wrong message to the intolerant that I have been coerced into submission.

This morning, I received an 'endearing' message on Facebook by one Edward Louis Guy Shea who, in response to a Star column link on Omar Khadr that I posted, wrote:

"EH LORNE GO FUCK YOURSELF". Judging by the all-caps, I would hazard a guess that Edward is mightily exercised. Edward then kindly supplied a link to Rebel Media, with which I will end this post, except for this final observation: The rabid-right, either by choice or intellectual incapacity, seem unwilling/unable to grasp the concept of judicial impartiality, as evidenced in the following video:

Sunday, July 30, 2017

"Reclaiming My Time"

I think I have just fallen in love.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Although hardly the greatest peril to come about as a result of climate change, the following is likely to get many people's attention.

What is it The Bible says? "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."

If the above is too sedate for your sensibilities, take a look at this American report which has, shall we say, a more 'visceral' quality to it:

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Guest Post: A Provocative And Fascinating Thesis

I recently published a guest post by BM entitled, The Creep Of Corporatism. In a followup, he has written something that I think many will find both fascinating and thought-provoking:

Thank you for featuring my comment as a blog post. In line with your other recent post on Canadian sovereignty, and my mention of the monetary crisis in India which everyone glosses over, I'd like to expand on the latter situation a bit, since new information has come to light, and it rather puts Bill Gates and parts of the US government in a very bad light if one values personal and own country freedom as I do. In other words, I'd like someone other than myself to have a read and a think about what's going on. Forget Trump, he hasn't even heard about this well-advanced scheme of the ultimate oligarch.

You may recall this Paypal controversy from February this year. A similar horror story occurred in the UK earlier btw. " A Canadian community newspaper wanted to enter a feel-good story about a family of Syrian refugees in an awards competition and sent a fee to the organizer of the competition. As the purpose of the payment it gave the name of the article, which included the word Syrians. This prompted PayPal to freeze the account of the media organization and to send a letter stating: “You may be buying or selling goods or services that are regulated or prohibited by the U.S. government.” It then asked some entirely impertinent questions of the paper.

What happened? Bugger all. Everyone went back to sleep. If only Freeland could concentrate on Canada instead of Ukraine!

So, anyway, India is being used as a testbed for a World ID. That's right, we''ll all have an ID unique to us if Billy Gates' scheme goes through and it's almost there. Do I sound like a mad conspiracy theorist? On the face of it, yes, but read on. The idea was hatched by Obama back in 2010 or so either as a poodle of Gates or the other way around.

The entire story can be read here. Get over a billion Indians to go cashless by the end of next year, and use only mobile phones for payment. Every transaction scrutinized by nameless dicks in the good ole USA. It's the ultimate 1984. The author is German. Read it in disbelief until you realize it's coming down the line. The U.S. is worried that the Chinese will have alternative reserve currency besides the dollar. Can't have that, now can we?

The author doesn't speculate much - he quotes publicly available source. And you know, when every transaction is monitored by the U.S. bureaucracy, just like our phone calls and emails, well freedom does not exist. Revolution not allowed - the rich must get richer. And Trump will still be firing staff not knowing a thing about his bureaucracy. This is ultimate NeoCon territory, I'm afraid tied in with the Democratic Party, ISDS provisions of free trade.

So what do you think of this coming basic attack on our individual and sovereign rights? All done that we may become poodles for our U.S. lords and masters. Completely sickening, but sold as efficient and personal. The drones of the smartphone world will suck it back like a Starbucks, and I've read articles here in Canada with Visa saying that purely cashless payments could occur in Canada by 2022, but darned if I can find them.

Friday, July 28, 2017


Sometimes, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I find myself thinking about the sad state of the world today, a state infinitely exacerbated by the current politics of the failed American Empire. Indeed, I had planned this morning to discuss at some length some of its spillover effects into our own country, not least of which is evident in the current incompetent and decidedly demagogic direction of the Conservative Party under Andrew Scheer. To suggest that Trump is responsible for this would be inaccurate and facile, but the permission the Orange Ogre has granted to the bigoted and the simple-minded to trumpet and revel in their ignorance is undeniable.

Although I am not really developing that theme today, I want to take a moment to make the following observation before getting to my purpose. That there was plenty of gutter politics under the old Harper regime is unquestionable, but I was initially a bit surprised that the Con Party under its new leader, Andrew Scheer, has embraced such a robust continuation of the same divisive themes; currently, the Omar Khadr compensation is the subject of his demonization. But then I realized that the kind of political 'narrowcasting,' the playing to the base at the expense of any pretense of representing Canadians in general, has gotten new life, given that Trump is making an art of it in the U.S.: Galvanize the base, ensure their blind, reflexive loyalty by appealing to their worst instincts, and make certain their hatreds and prejudices are so stoked that they vote.

What is, however, missing from the cynical calculations of Team Trump and the Scheer Stooges is the assumption that other people on both sides of the border, people of sanity, deliberation and a highly-developed sense of fair play, will sleep while the rabble have their way.

The following letters from today's Star give me hope for that quieter, but very potent, segment of our respective populations:
Re: Justin Trudeau had a choice on Khadr settlement, Opinion, July 26

In answer to federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s emotionally overwrought attack on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to make a payment to Omar Khadr in respect of the heinous behaviour of several Canadian governments responsible for his illegal incarceration at Guantanamo Bay, I can find agreement with one statement: “Principles are worth fighting for.”

Principles set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply to all Canadians. That is indeed a principle worth fighting for.

Sadly, Mr. Scheer and his like-minded followers believe they have a right to apply those Charter rights selectively. This emotional response is the same as that exhibited by the government of the day’s delegitimization/incarceration of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, and the denial of entry to Jewish refugees prior to the war, to name just two examples of demonizing, hate-mongering behaviour of Canadian governments.

Nevertheless, there are many Canadians, I believe a majority, who reject that past behaviour and agree with the current government’s payment to Mr. Khadr.

Indeed, the former Conservative government led by Stephen Harper approved a similar payment to Maher Arar. I do not recall Mr. Scheer sanctioning interviews to discredit the Harper government with U.S. news outlets or writing columns to the Star to evoke hatred against Maher or Harper.

That he engages in this behaviour now reveals his need to mimic the political rants so disgraceful south of the border. It demonstrates that he will make self-serving political decisions that benefit only some Canadians, but not all. Who is next to lose their Charter rights? Be careful, it could be you.

Liz Iwata, Pickering

Andrew Scheer says the Supreme Court ruled that Omar Khadr’s rights were violated and that the Conservatives recognized and accepted that finding.

His inconvenient truth is that the Supreme Court issued its finding in January 2010, and Khadr was repatriated in September 2012. It appears to have taken the Conservatives 2-1/2 years to accept the finding. Khadr then spent a further 2-1/2 years in prison before being finally released on bail in May 2015, after the government failed in a last-ditch attempt to deny bail.

Yes, the settlement was a Liberal decision. But the actions of the Conservative government were a large part of the decision.

Cheryl Adams, Toronto

Although Andrew Scheer has some counterpoints to the Omar Khadr debate worth discussing, he unfortunately leaves out one pressing detail to his entire argument: Khadr was a child soldier and his rights as a Canadian were violated, period.

No matter how much the Conservative Party spins this debate, it’s a strong and valid point that will always rise to the surface.

Bobby Leeson, Brampton

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

So Many Possible Labels, None Of Them Positive

There are many labels one could affix to the Conservative Party of Canada: opportunistic, divisive, demagogic, dishonest and principleless are but five that readily come to mind. However, perhaps the most immediately appropriate and withering is hypocritical.

Hypocrisy is to be found in political parties of all stripes, but it appears that the others are mere pretenders to the crown worn by the Conservatives. Cloaking themselves in the self-righteous garment sported by the morally weak, it is surely only the untutored mind that fails to see through their shameful dissembling.

Take, for example, the recent displays of Peter Kent and Michelle Rempel, pretending to channel Canadian outrage over the Khadr settlement as they practised their own political opportunism through American media.

That, according to the Star's Tim Harper, is a damning indictment of their seemingly endless capacity to speak out of both sides of their mouths.

Citing the time that Tom Mulcair went south to express his opposition to the Keystone pipeline, Harper reminds us of the Conservative fury that met his return:
A senior minister of the day, John Baird, accused Mulcair of “trash talking” and “badmouthing” Canada. Another former minister, Joe Oliver, marched to the microphones in the Commons foyer to denounce Mulcair for not leaving politics at the border. He also took to the keyboard for the Globe and Mail to tell the country “a responsible politician would not travel to a foreign capital to score cheap political points.”
You can see where this is going, of course.

Speaking specifically of the quisling-like behaviour of both Rempel and Kent, Harper says,
Both Kent and Rempel have ignored an old, time-honoured dictum which has now been repeatedly discredited — you stash your partisan politics on this side of the border.

For years, Canadian prime ministers did not take partisan shots at opponents back home while travelling abroad because they were representing Canada, not the Liberals or the Conservatives.

Rempel didn’t need to fly to the U.S. to tell Tucker Carlson on Fox that Canadians were outraged. Kent didn’t need to write an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal to be, as he said, “honest” with our allies and inform them.

Yes, this is the same Kent who, as Harper’s environment minister, attacked two NDP MPs, Megan Leslie and Claude Gravelle, for speaking about Keystone in Washington — yes, that issue again.

According to Kent, they were taking “the treacherous course of leaving the domestic debate and heading abroad to attack a legitimate Canadian resource which is being responsibly developed and regulated.”
Perhaps the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. They are, after all, only doing what their former leader and master, Stephen Harper, did:
As leader of the Canadian Alliance, he and Stockwell Day took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal in 2003 to assure Americans Jean Chrétien had made a mistake in staying out of George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing” invading Iraq, and to tell them Canadians stood with them. (They didn’t.)

When he represented Canada at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, Harper couldn’t wait until his plane landed in Canada to take a poke at Trudeau over the then squeaky new Liberal leader’s comments about “root causes” of terrorism in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

No one in the press pack asked him about Trudeau’s comments. Harper raised them unsolicited.
Those who follow politics closely are not likely to be surprised by any of this, given that faux outrage and deceit are two of the black arts practised so adeptly by the Conservative Party of Canada. However, even the uninitiated and the cultishly Con Party faithful should at least occasionally put on their underutilized critical-thinking caps to see the massive and shameless manipulation being perpetrated on them.

It beats being mindless mouthpieces for a party that hardly has their best interests at heart.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Whose Sovereignty Is It, Anyway?

He’s loved of the distracted multitude,
Who like not in their judgment, but their eyes.

-Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 3

For a long time I have found little to fault in Justin Trudeau's tactful dance around the Trump administration. Rather than denigrate a particular benighted American initiative like the Muslim travel ban, for example, the Prime Minister promotes Canada's openness to the world and impressive acceptance of Syrian refugees. Why provoke the Orange Ogre for no good reason?

However, scratching beneath the surface, one must wonder if there might be more at work in this dynamic.

Take, for example, the opaqueness that has enveloped Canada's priorities on the upcoming NAFTA renegotiation, about which I posted the other day.
The Liberal-dominated House of Commons trade committee has quashed a move to invite the prime minister and other high-ranking cabinet members to answer questions about Canada’s NAFTA renegotiation priorities, as calls continue for more transparency about how the government plans to handle upcoming talks on the deal.
Couple that with the worrying assertion made the other day by Canada's ambassador to the U.S.
Canada needs to allow U.S. President Donald Trump to “declare victory” on the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton said Thursday.

“This was such a big part of the president’s campaign last year, and I think for any of us to think that we can sort of just ignore that would be crazy. We have to find ways where he can declare victory without it being seen in either Mexico or Canada as being a loss,” MacNaughton said.
Appeasement, by any other name, is still appeasement.

Then there is the recent announcement by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland that, on the one hand, seems to suggest that Canada is forging an independent foreign policy direction because the U.S. can no longer be relied upon:
Canada's new foreign policy will involve spending billions on "hard power" military capability because the country can't rely on an American ally that has turned inward, says Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Sounds impressive, doesn't it (although one can only imagine vividly the howls of outrage that would have ensued had this decision been made by the Harper government)? And this apparent independence of policy initiative certainly appears to be at odds with the theme of this post.

However, seen through the lens of critical thinking provided by Linda McQuaig, this new commitment to massively increased military spending is not what it seems.
... the Trudeau government’s announcement last month that it would dramatically increase Canada’s military spending — as Donald Trump has loudly demanded — was risky, given the distaste Canadians have for big military budgets and for prime ministers who cave in to U.S. presidents.

But the Trudeau government’s pledge to hike military spending by a whopping 70 per cent over 10 years succeeded in winning praise from Trump while going largely unnoticed by Canadians. Sweet.
Much of the media seemed swept up in Ms. Freeland's words, ignoring the fact that Canada is doing exactly what Trump wants, massively increasing its military spending:
It sounded feisty and bold, with a touch of swagger, a willingness to defy The Man.

Meanwhile, all was quiet on the Canadian front where the media, still high on Freeland’s soaring oratory, was awash in stories about the Trudeau government’s determination to “set its own course” and “step up to lead on the world stage.” Its keenness to please Trump mostly got lost in the hoopla.
And lest we forget,
The military spending hike, although introduced without much controversy, is in fact a major development with devastating consequences, imposing a massive new $30 billion burden on Canadian taxpayers over the next decade and relegating pressing social needs to the back burner.

It’s also a significant departure for Trudeau, who made no campaign promise to increase Canada’s military spending, which, at $19 billion a year, is already the 16th largest in the world.
Doubtless, that money could be used for something better:
My guess is that, given a choice between spending that money on fighter jets or on social programs, most Canadians would favour social programs.

But then, they’re not holding the leash.
In the play Hamlet, the title character is described as being loved by the masses, despite the fact that he has killed the King's counselor and threatened the life of the King. That mindless adulation, says the King, affords Hamlet considerable latitude.

Are we seeing the same phenomenon unfolding here at home?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

What A Mess

I suspect that most people in the West realize to some extent the self-indulgence of drinking bottled water, not to mention the many other liquids that are conveyed to the consumer in just the same manner.

The next time we reach for one, we should all feel suitably ashamed of and disgusted with ourselves.
Industry has made more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic since 1950 and there's enough left over to bury Manhattan under more than two miles of trash, according to a new cradle-to-grave global study.

Plastics don't break down like other man-made materials, so three-quarters of the stuff ends up as waste in landfills, littered on land and floating in oceans, lakes and rivers, according to the research reported in Wednesday's journal Science Advances.

Plastic waste in water has been shown to harm more than 600 species of marine life, said Nancy Wallace, marine debris program director for the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. Whales, sea turtles, dolphins, fish and sea birds are hurt or killed, she said.

"It's a huge amount of material that we're not doing anything about," Wallace said. "We're finding plastics everywhere."

Friday, July 21, 2017

Open And Transparent, Eh, Justin?

While no one would argue that the government should conduct an open-house on their impending NAFTA renegotiation, the cone of silence that has characterized Mr. Trudeau's approach to the talks is disquieting, especially given his pre-election promises to conduct an open and transparent administration.
The Liberal-dominated House of Commons trade committee has quashed a move to invite the prime minister and other high-ranking cabinet members to answer questions about Canada’s NAFTA renegotiation priorities, as calls continue for more transparency about how the government plans to handle upcoming talks on the deal.

The committee, instead, approved a Liberal plan to hear from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is the lead member of cabinet for NAFTA and Canada-U.S. relations. She is slated to attend a meeting on Aug. 14, two days before negotiations are set to begin in Washington.

NDP MP Tracey “not happy” with the result of Friday’s meeting, especially after Trudeau said this week that he would be willing to share Canada’s strategy on NAFTA with the opposition.

“We’re not asking for the specifics on how they’re going to negotiate every item, but we can clearly see from the 18 pages of priorities with the U.S. that they’ve made public — we could do the exact same thing,” Ramsey said.

Like the secret study he has commissioned to study airport privatization, one must ask an unavoidable question: Exactly what is Mr. Trudeau hiding from the voters?

The Creep Of Corporatism

Responding to my post on the secret study conducted by the Trudeau government on privatizing our major airports to raise much-needed cash, BM offered the following, which I am featuring as a guest post today:

Well, this is the usual way corporatism works. Change a capital investment into an eternal loan with rent due sharpish at the beginning of each month, paid for by the citizens. When paper money is abolished in the next five to ten years (already started as an experiment in India by withdrawing low-denomination notes to see what happens - disaster - but who cares, they're brown people and not in the West; full story on the Indian site last fall, studiously unread by white men in the West of all political persuasions), we'll be well on the way to mere electronic representations of our paid-for labour. Every transaction under full surveillance by our masters, no under the table cheapy house-painting, no cash at the farmer's gate for decent veggies and real eggs, taxes paid in full, citizens in thrall, and so on. It'll be sold as the Bright New World, like a super-duper schmarty-phone. All will cheer at how advanced we are.

No wonder Bitcoin thrives.

But as Amazon flogs groceries online, takes over Wholefoods, ruins supermarkets, what happens to old people? I see it all the time when I run from my rural lair into Halifax, old ladies carrying full shopping bags miles. Halifax is a food desert city, bus routes are organized at right angles to where people live to get to a supermarket, that is, they are 100% utterly useless. These old folks don't have PCs or even mobile phones. They're screwed in our brave new world, slain on the fields of corporatism. I drive them if they'll accept a lift, those old gals still dressing up to look presentable, living on OAP and a supplement if they're lucky, trying to keep up appearances. Makes me weep in frustration. The destruction of civil society on the bed of profits and eff-you attitude.

Don't know if JT has the brains to understand the consequences of flogging off public property, or doing the Canadian internal equivalent of an ISDS governed free trade pact called the Infrastructure Bank, I really don't.

But Morneau does, look at that Economic Council of his, set up in February last year with all the corporate and university academic wannabe rich types "advising" him. Telling him, more like. A $1 a year each, such noble types donating their valuable time, reduced to eating sandwiches from the caff at their Ottawa meetings in order to do their bounden duty for Canada, chaired by a man from a big accounting firm. It was then that I knew we were truly effed, seduced by hair and a smile.

Nothing has occurred in the last 18 months to make me change my mind at the neoLiberal's canny backing of JT, the intellectual waif with an aw shucks um and an ah at public speaking events that makes people buckle at their knees in abject adoration. Behind his back, the people that matter are planning ways to pilfer our back pockets.


And we love it!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Canadians Are Outraged

The outrage is once again stoked by Omar Khadr, but, as I wrote the other day, it is Peter Kent's shameful performance that is earning their scorn. These two letter-writers reflect that scorn:
Re: Omar Khadr payout gains traction in U.S. media after Conservative MP’s op-ed, July 17

It seems that Conservatives and their base just don’t want to let this go. And now some of Canada’s politicians are taking to American media outlets to air out their beefs.

It’s bad enough that the Conservatives have made this an issue they are going to ride until the next election. But now, Thornhill MP Peter Kent has decided to go play partisan politics in the right-wing American media. Shameful, shameful, shameful!

I find it incredibly un-Canadian that Conservatives would go anywhere abroad and sell out their own government for the sake of pandering to their hateful, racist base. The right-wing media outlets down there are, of course, going to milk this for U.S. President Donald Trump’s own base. It seems that reporting facts has long been forgotten for the sake of partisan politics.

If Kent wants to continue making this an issue, he has a seat in Parliament where he can do as part of his job. It is disgusting that he chose to put down his own country through the American right-wing media.

Phil Marambio, Oakville

Peter Kent is following in his old boss’s pen prints with his opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

How is it he feels entitled as a representative of Canadian citizens to bring back his flawed journalist skills to disagree with the federal government, using an American newspaper?

How is this in the best interests of Canada, with NAFTA negotiations in full gear? Is he using his past journalist code of ethics? Did the good voters of Thornhill implore him to write it? Who paid him?

Mr. Kent is entitled to his opinion on any issue. But he is certainly not thinking about Canada, which pays him his salary.

J.L. Isopp, Nanaimo, B.C.

And speaking of village idiots, one from Alberta, Michelle Rempel, displayed her bona fides the other day on Fox. If you haven't seen the report, here is her stomach-churning Fox News debut:

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Justin's Secrecy

There will always be those unable to see beyond the obvious when it comes to Justin Trudeau. His sunny smile, his platitudinous assurances that we can have our pipelines and climate change remediation simultaneously, and his opaque insistence upon the necessity of an Infrastructure Bank seem to carry the day for some, apparently happy to suspend whatever critical-thinking capacities they may possess.

Unfortunately, this blanket belief in Trudeau's sincerity means that his neoliberal agenda is being under-scrutinized by the public. One of its most egregious manifestations is the secrecy around which the government has hired consultants to study the deliverance of our airports to private interests.

H/t trapdinawrpool for his twitter alert about the following:
A secretive project to generate billions of dollars from the sale of major Canadian airports is pushing ahead with the hiring of consultant firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The firm is to "act as a commercial adviser assisting with additional analytical work with respect to advancing a new governance framework for one or more Canadian airports."
The shield of secrecy was peeled back only due to a freedom-of-information request from the CBC, coupled with some stellar sleuthing. The very fact that this project was withheld from public eyes is the first red flag.

But wait! There's more!
The new contract follows a report delivered last fall by Credit Suisse Canada on how Ottawa might gain billion-dollar windfalls through the sale of its interests in Canada's Big Eight airports and 18 smaller airports. The eight are in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Halifax.

Credit Suisse was hired by CDEV, [Canada Development Investment Corp.] acting on behalf of Finance Canada, in a contract announced in a terse two-sentence release on Sept. 12.

The Crown corporation and Finance have since refused to release the Credit Suisse report, the contract terms or even the cost to taxpayers, despite requests by an opposition MP and by journalists.
And, again typical of the neoliberal orientation, private entities were given veto power over the release of information:
... the contracts with Credit Suisse and PwC contain clauses that give the firms vetoes over the public release of any information, including the cost of the work.
Why should any of us be bothered by any of this? There are many reasons, but Craig Richmond, the president and CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority, recently addressed one of them when he said,
... prices for airlines and passengers would only increase as for-profit entities seek to make back their investments.

[He understands] the attraction of a one-time big profit for Ottawa, but "that's like selling the furniture in your house to cover your credit card debts."
Mr. Trudeau's government euphemistically refers to this whole process as "asset recycling." Those less enamoured of the Prime Minister and his band of sunny men and women, I suspect, would call it something else entirely.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Canada's Ted Baxter

If you are old enough, you will likely have very fond memories of the Mary Tyler Show, you know, the one set in a TV newsroom staffed with an array of memorable characters. Perhaps most memorable was the station's newsman, Ted Baxter, played by the peerless Ted Knight. His antics, both on the air and off, fueled by a less than ample intellect, ensured continual amusement.

Whenever I see former newsman Peter Kent, I cannot help but think of Ted Baxter. Also of limited intellect and ability, Kent parlayed his genetic shortcomings into a post-news career in politics, where he shone dimly in the Harper government, reaching his nadir as anti-Minister of the Environment, championing as he did the development of Alberta tarsands.

Not content to rest on his 'achievements', Kent has now decided to do his civic duty to the U.S. by alerting them to the compensation awarded to Omar Khadhr via a Wall Street Journal article.
The item began with a description of Khadr killing an American army medic, Christopher Speer, when he was 15 years old and fighting alongside al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

It explained how Khadr won a court fight in Canada, was repatriated there, released on bail and then sued the Canadian government for $20 million.

The Conservative MP criticized the Trudeau government for settling with Khadr, while the victim's family got nothing.

By Monday afternoon the issue was the No. 1 story on the Fox News website.

The Fox News item quotes Kent's op-ed under the headline: "Gitmo Lottery: Canada makes millionaire out of terrorist who killed U.S. soldier."
As reported by The Globe, Kent's mischief had its intended effect:
“This story is repulsive,” said a Fox News host. To which former pizza entrepreneur and presidential candidate Herman Cain replied: “It is a pathetic interpretation of the law. Canada basically rewarded a murderer.”
The good folks at Fox, like the ravenous dogs they are, took Kent's bait, as you will see in the link.

Personally, I don't care what the Americans think of us. What I do care about is that a simpleton like Peter Kent feels compelled to try to fight a divisive issue in the U.S., where opinion and outrage seem to matter far more than the rule of law. In doing so, he is stoking more Canadian outrage, leading more and more people into some very, very dark waters.

Monday, July 17, 2017

UPDATED: I Become Increasingly Disappointed

Only a naif would believe the myth that Canada is a country with a proud tradition of openness and acceptance. Attempts at indigenous assimilation, the the despicable treatment of west coast Japanese and Italian-Canadians during the Second World War are but three examples attesting to our checkered past.

That being said, I have always taken pride in the fact that, relative to many parts of the world, we now do reasonably well in accommodating people from diverse lands and backgrounds. Now even that assumption is cast into doubt. Sadly, in Quebec, it would seem that the pure laine ethos is alive and well.
Residents in Saint-Apollinaire, Que., have rejected a proposal to open a Muslim-run cemetery in their town, dealing a setback to a Muslim community still recovering from a tragic mass shooting six months ago.

The fate of the contentious cemetery project rested in the hands of only 49 eligible voters, and in the end, only 36 turned out to cast ballots. In a referendum on a zoning change that would have allowed the burial ground, 16 people voted Yes and 19 voted No; one ballot was spoiled.

“Ignorance and misunderstanding have won the day,” Mohamed Labidi, president of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, said in an interview on Sunday night. “This is very disappointing. It was just a cemetery. How could we arrive at this result?”

Mr. Labidi said his group would consider going to court to challenge the case. “We are Canadian citizens just like everyone else. Why are we being treated differently? We’re now starting over at zero. We will fight.”
It appears that Mr Labidi is making a discouraging discovery. At least in Quebec, not all Canadian citizens are equal. I grow increasingly disappointed in my fellow-Canadians.

UPDATE: CBC offers the following report:
A far-right group in Quebec is being warned against further political meddling after it was tied to a referendum campaign that successfully managed to block the construction of a Muslim cemetery.

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume issued a stern rebuke Tuesday to La Meute, a secret Facebook group with more than 43,000 listed members that believes radical Islam is growing in influence in the province.

The group played an active role in the early stages of a campaign against a proposed Muslim cemetery in Saint-Apollinaire, Que., a town of 6,400 that's 35 kilometres southwest of Quebec City.

La Meute supported efforts by resident Sunny Létourneau to gather enough signatures to force the required zoning changes to be submitted to a referendum.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

But Are They Listening?

Unless we live in complete and willful ignorance, all of us are aware, on at least a minimal level, of the perils currently confronting and engulfing our world. Those perils, which some refer to as the sixth extinction, are real, and their magnitude is such that few seem willing or able to confront them in any meaningful way.

In response to yesterday's post about 'the new normal' in the age of Trump, The Mound of Sound wrote an assessment of our present situation and the steps necessary to mitigate the worst of what is overtaking our world. I am taking the liberty of reproducing those comments below:

I think the days of normal, as we experienced that in most of the post-war era, is over. We have embarked on a new era of instability and upheaval. Climate scientists now tell us that our only hope of surviving at least somewhat intact from what has already landed in our laps demands radical action. I'm so pleased, immensely pleased, that we're now hearing them incorporate all the threats. Not just climate change and greenhouse gas emissions but also overpopulation and our rapacious over-consumption of rapidly diminishing resources. Now, at last, they're speaking of the urgent and imperative need to abandon the neoliberal model of perpetual exponential growth, the orthodoxy that all Canadian political parties embrace.

Yet our government won't have this adult discussion with our people. It won't give us a candid assessment of what lies in store for Canada or how Canadians can best cope with it. Trudeau, and I fault him only because he's the sitting prime minister, believes that increasing economic activity is his foremost responsibility as leader. His arguments might have seemed plausible in the 80s but clinging to them now and into our near future could cause Canada irreparable harm.

The science types have written us a prescription and it entails sharp cuts in our standard of living, growing smaller. There is much in steady state economics that addresses how best to do this. The focus is on improving quality of life, enjoyment, while reducing consumption. Growth in knowledge, not consumption. Growth in the quality of what we need. Products that are repairable, upgradeable. I think of the last two stoves I had to send to the recycling yard, my use and enjoyment of them prematurely terminated as essential spare parts were nowhere to be found.

We, and by that I include the next generation and the one after that, must become our government's priority, not trade. Changing that core priority is going to demand big change and sacrifice from all of us whatever our station in life. You can't achieve that with a government that tolerates inequality. Fortunately we have a manual of principles that were established in the golden years of progressivism.

You can read more of The Mound's thoughts on this by clicking here.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

When The Outrageous, The Unethical And The Criminal Become 'Normal'

In the months since the Orange Ogre became the American President, I am sure that, like me, many have become inured to his daily debasement of the fundamental values that most profess to hold dear, justice, dignity, truth and respect being but four of them. What was once an esteemed office, the presidency, has been reduced to the equivalent of a wrestling arena, where over-the-top stereotypes of villains abound. American politics, and perhaps the larger American society, will never be the same again.

Henry Rollins, an American actor and musician, has penned an interesting piece in LA Weekly that examines this phenomenon.
It feels like a long time since the election of comrade Trump. I remember the first few days, the frustration and accompanying exhaustion I felt knowing that the country was going to go backward. Several weeks later, I was resolved to “reconfiguring my pack,” as I like to say. I had to do my best to understand this new landscape as America now lurched toward greatness. There were some familiar echoes of the Bush years: the homophobes and misogynists taking a victory lap now that they had one of theirs in the executive position, the environment with a target on its back, science getting sucker-punched in the schoolyard once again. All part of the greatness.
The outrageous behaviour continued and accelerated, but Rollins realized something:
Late last year, the first few tweets — the comrade’s seemingly preferred way of communicating to his base — struck millions of people as the actions of a rank amateur. A president wouldn’t do that, right? It took me I don’t know how many news broadcasts to become accustomed to variations of, “The president tweeted today that ....” Then the shock wore off and it became how it is.

An administration with zero accountability. Took a while, but it registers as normal now.
I will leave you with one more excerpt from his essay:
No matter what, we adapt — but most important, we forget and then repeat.
Perhaps not a profound insight, but surely an illustration of how, in this case, human resiliency has become a decided liability.