Thursday, September 20, 2018

Manipulation 101

It is to state the obvious that politicians and their party apparatchiks are practiced manipulators. They target their demographic, employ experts to craft messages to that demographic and, sadly, seem to expend a disproportionate amount of time on the art of politicking at the expense of true democratic representation. Managing optics, not formulating principled policy, has become the raison d'être for far too many.

Combine this with an increasingly credulous and partisan populace, and you have a recipe for a decidedly unhealthy democracy. It is one in which increasing numbers of voters are forsaking critical thinking and the kind of challenge and critical analysis offered by traditional media for the much easier task of cheering on their favourite 'team' while embracing the animus directed at their opponents, skillfully cultivated by hired talent who see politics as a game to be strategized, with nary a thought for the public good. There are only Winners and Losers in this world of black and white, and the biggest loser is, of course, democracy's health and vitality.

Start at the seven-minute mark of the following news report, and you will see that the base art of manipulation is alive and well in Canada.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Who's Her Daddy?

Notwithstanding efforts at misdirection by Ontario's Progressive Conservative government, it's clear that she (Caroline Mulroney) is Daddy's (Doug the Thug) girl:

H/t Theo Moudakis

Monday, September 17, 2018

Just Who Is Protecting Who?

If you have never seen it, I highly recommend the Netflix documentary series Dirty Money. Of particular interest is the one detailing the massive fraud perpetrated by Volkswagen, in which the auto giant employed a diesel 'defeat device' allowing their cars to bypass environmental controls and thereby emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while claiming environmental rectitude. It was nothing less than a crime against humanity.

And they have paid a heavy price for their criminal fraud, except in Canada:
In the three years since the Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal was uncovered, governments in the U.S., Germany and elsewhere have fined the company billions of dollars and sent some of its top executives to jail for breaking environmental laws — but not in Canada.

“There has been nothing done,” said David Boyd, the United Nations’ newly appointed human rights and environment watchdog.
Given Canada's less-than-aggressive pursuit of offshore tax evaders who were exposed in the Panama Papers, this does not surprise me, but I am nonetheless appalled by my government's timidity in going after major criminals.
While the company said in a statement it settled a $2.1-billion class action lawsuit in 2017 with customers who purchased one of roughly 125,000 affected diesel vehicles sold in Canada — as it did elsewhere in the world — Volkswagen hasn’t faced any charges under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act so far.

There is concern among some observers that the federal government may not act, continuing what Boyd said is a longtime trend of leniency.

“Three years have gone by and Canada has a track record of not enforcing environmental laws,” he said.
To put government timidity into perspective, consider the following:
In 2004, Petro-Canada was fined $290,000 for the spill that saw 1,000 barrels of oil flow into the Atlantic Ocean from the Terra Nova offshore production vessel. By comparison, Brazil’s petroleum regulator fined Chevron $17.3 million (U.S.) for a 3,600-barrel oil spill in 2011, and the company also agreed to pay $150 million to settle civil lawsuits related to the case, according to Reuters.
Or how about this?
Boyd said Canada levied $2.47 million (Canadian) in fines for environmental infractions under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act between 1988 and 2010 — less than the $3.65 million the Toronto Public Library collected in overdue book fines in 2012.

In contrast, the U.S. — where Boyd said enforcement of environmental laws has been “much more aggressive” — the Environment Protection Agency levied $204 million (U.S.) in civil fines and won court cases securing another $44 million in criminal fines from environmental lawbreakers in 2012 alone.
While Canada continues to investigate Volkswagen, the company has paid very substantial penalties in other jurisdictions.
Volkswagen paid the equivalent of $1.5 billion (Canadian) in fines in Germany and $12 billion in the U.S., according to an analysis by Environmental Defence, which is launching a public campaign this month to pressure Ottawa to take action against the company.

In the U.S. case, Volkswagen also agreed not to contradict anything outlined in the plea agreement or statement of facts in other jurisdictions.
This sorry dilatory approach to criminal enforcement should offend every Canadian, given that it conveys a wholly inappropriate message of weakness to the corporate criminals of the world, one best summed up by David Boyd:
“It’s just indicative of how absolutely scandalous Canada’s failure to enforce environmental laws has been over the past 25 years”.
Clearly, this is not the kind of business Canada should be open for.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Ontario's Ongoing Shame

Ontarians are responsible for the election of this buffoon. Ontarians will have to wear this shame for the next four years.

H/t The Toronto Star

Friday, September 14, 2018

Democracy's Fragility

To be sure, the elevation of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario to government redounds to everyone's shame. Led by a buffoonish thug, Doug Ford, it is a party that seems intent on debasing not only its proud history, but also all citizens of the province, whether they voted for him or not. And therein lies an object lesson: the fragility of democracy.

It is the theme of Rick Salutin's column this week, one I recommend everyone read. He observes how profound Ford's ignorance about democracy is in light of his reckless invocation of the notwithstanding clause of our Charter to get his way with the size of Toronto city council:
He doesn’t get and never will, that democracy isn’t just about votes. It includes rule of law, free press, minority and human rights — which can’t always wait four years. They take flight pretty quickly.
And those rights are being violated, if the sad spectacle of protesting seniors being handcuffed in the legislature this week is any indication:
It’s been a grim reminder not just of the Charter’s fragility but of an entire edifice we grew up assuming was entrenched. It can blow away in a stiff breeze: democracy, civility, tolerance, and Ontario’s special target: law. Why are these venerable institutions going back centuries, so vulnerable? Because none of us, the living, go back that far. Each person is a new start on Earth.
It would seem that what we don't experience personally influences our perspectives:
It doesn’t take much to “forget” something you never lived through personally. True, history can lie on us like a weight, or blessing. Custom and tradition seem formidable. But only personal experience has a living grip — like the inequality and insecurity of the last 40 years, and especially the last 10.

The young for instance, have no experience of more hopeful times. For them, what’s so great about institutions that gave rise to this situation? No matter how far back democratic institutions stretch, in theory or history, none of us were there, we only heard about them after our arrival.
But there is a path to a more visceral appreciation of our democratic institutions:
Virtual Reality pioneer Jaron Lanier, says he once had an epiphany: every time we trust a traffic light, pay a bill, or “buildings don’t all fall down and you can eat unpoisoned food that someone grew” testifies to “an ocean of goodwill and good behaviour from almost everyone, living or dead.” We are, he says, bathed in a love that shows itself above all in “constraints” because they compensate for human flaws.
Never have those flaws been more obvious in Ontario than in the present situation, and it is time we once more recognize, right-wing cant notwithstanding, that as individuals, we are singularly vulnerable to the vicissitudes life has to offer; it is only through the collective that real hope is to be found:
Institutions like law and democracy rise (and rise again if they fall) through that sense of connectedness and need to trust each other, since there’s really no alternative. We’re nothing as individuals alone, though individuals can be damn impressive. It’s the human sense of solidarity, ultimately, that will (or may) save us and make us whole.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

When Disaster Bears Down

I doubt I am alone in assuming that people who ignore mandatory evacuation orders when disaster is impending do so out of either willfulness or hubris. As the following report makes clear, however, there are other factors that prevent people from fleeing; indeed, they are same ones that afflicted those during Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey - poverty and illness.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Nearer My God To Thee

While Donald Trump was yesterday holding forth on Hurricane Florence in a manner that might make even a fourth-grader cringe (“They haven't seen anything like what's coming at us in 25, 30 years, maybe ever. It's tremendously big and tremendously wet. Tremendous amounts of water," Trump said in the Oval Office), the grandfather of crazed evangelicals everywhere was offering reassurances to his flock.

In a remarkable act of hubris, old pastor Pat Robertson suggested that he will save all good white Virginian Christians and the Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia from impending doom:
“I don’t want that thing to come in,” Robertson said. “I don’t want it to hurt Regent, I don’t wait it to hurt CBN, I don’t want it to tear up the beautiful campus, I don’t want it to tear these trees down, I don’t want to see any damage, I don’t want a bunch of glass flowing, and I don’t want [damage] all over this area that is counting on us to pray for them.”

Robertson then commanded Florence, in the name of Jesus, to change its path away from land and to spin off into the Atlantic ocean.

We declare in the name of the Lord that you shall go no farther, you shall do no damage in this area,” he said. “We declare a shield of protection all over Tidewater and we declare a shield of protection over those innocent people in the path of this hurricane. In Jesus’ holy name, be out to sea!”
Unless you are gifted with a cast-iron constitution, I don't suggest you watch the full 3:25 minutes of the good pastor's exhortation: