Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sammy Yatim: One More Word

While I can't promise this will be my last post on Sammy Yatim, I do want to direct you to Rosie DiManno's column and a few comments from The Star's readers that remind us of the real nature of this tragedy.

Writes DiManno:

I am sickened by the content of civilian-shot videos which captured that episode in and around the 505 streetcar. Notice that officers on the scene never established a perimeter — cars continuing to drive by, curious pedestrians approaching closely.

I am sickened that a situation so obviously limited in threat, so prime for sensible management and a peaceful outcome, erupted in lethal gunfire by police.

I am sickened that, rather than de-escalate the situation, rather than wait for the SWAT team or a cop expert in negotiating stand-offs, those present — one present — went feverishly ballistic.

I am sickened that a teenager with a small knife, who’d done nothing more hostile than shout profanities, was felled by a hail of bullets.

You can read full piece here.

The letters:

I was a member of the OPP for 34 years and watched the tactics utilized by the Toronto police in “disarming” this individual. It was an execution!

There wasn’t any threat to anyone when he was alone in the bus. Surely, the officers could have backed off, waited for a police/counseling team to intervene and get him some help.

Instead, one more person dead, at the hands of a trigger happy cop, who now has to live with what he did.

Barry Ruhl, Southampton

I have always been a keen supporter of the Toronto police as I believe are most Torontonians. But these are not the same officers I grew up with in decades past. They are not nearly as approachable, friendly or helpful as their predecessors of past years. I hate to use the word “arrogant” but unfortunately this is what I feel.

Having travelled abroad and with particular to England, I can tell you there is a palpable difference in almost every aspect of how the police interact with the public. Perhaps the investigation of this shooting should be looking at police attitude and interaction with the public.

There is a disconnect and I am sure this is partially responsible for this event and similar events of recent years.

Ian Rattner, North York

There is additional converage to be found on The Star's website, and while there, be sure to check out Joe Fiorito's column that suggests a pattern of police shootings, many of which were indeed questionable.

Sammy Yatim Killing: The Spin Cycle Has Begun

There is no question that the police and their supporters are desperate to 'change the channel' from the murder of Sammy Yatim to the terrible pressures police officers face. As I noted in a blog posting last evening, that organ of the right, The Globe and Mail, started the process with an editorial that can only be described as defensive and patronizing, urging all of us to just calm down.

Last evening, I was watching, and a Critical Incident Support Team member, Sgt Mike McAllister, talked about how devasting it can be for officers who take a civilian's life. To watch the accompanying video, click here.

In today's Star (which, by the way, has been providing excellent coverage of this tragedy) the officer involced in the shooting, Const. James Forcillo, a six-year-veteran of the force, is described by Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack as distraught. “He’s having a tough time with it.” McCormack said the officer’s family is also “devastated” by the event.

Feelings of sympathy for the officer seem to abound: When asked Tuesday night if Forcillo was devastated by the turn of events, a colleague at 14 Division said: “That’s an understatement.”

Says Forcillo's lawyer, Peter Brauti:

“Like any officer involved in a loss-of-life incident, this officer is devastated,” Brauti said. “All we can do at this point is wait for the investigation into the matter to conclude. It is important that people not rush to judgment in this matter.”

By the way, Brauti said his client has not yet been interviewed by the SIU. He is still reviewing the information provided to him before advising his client whether he should exercise his right to remain silent. He may be devasted, but clearly doesn't necessarily believe that confession is good for the soul.

Meanwhile, perhaps we should limit the word devastated and its variants to Sammy Yatim's family who, for the rest of their lives, must live with the loss inflicted upon them by an officer apparently too quick to shoot and too slow to ask questions.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sammy Yatim Killing: Once More, The Globe And Mail Is Out Of Step

Thanks to a tweet from Dr.Dawg, I became aware of an odious, but ultimately not very surprising editorial from The Globe and Mail on the shooting of Sammy Yatim. I have written numerous times of how I view the paper as the organ of the establishment and the status quo, as well as why I cancelled my subscription some years ago.

Today's editorial confirms that the decline of the paper is proceeding apace under the sychophantic stewardship of Editor-in-Chief John Stackhouse, a man who abandoned any semblance of journalistic integrity when he failed to fire Margaret Wente for her serial plagiarism.

The editorial essentially says let's all calm down, police have to make split-second decsions, police don't usually fire just one shot because the chances of hitting the 'target' are only about 25%.

Perhaps the following excerpts best catch the flavour and bias of the piece. The bolded parts are mine:

The videos show that the officer fired nine shots toward 18-year-old Sammy Yatim, as the teenager, who had ignored repeated commands to drop a knife he was holding, began moving toward the front steps out of the streetcar. Two officers had their firearms aimed into the streetcar; one fired three shots, there was a pause, and then six more shots were heard.

...But the public should not overreact to the images seen on the Internet before all the facts are known.

Perhaps these on-line commentators say it best as they express their disdain for the Globe's propagandistic piece:

Tom Philip, 9:09 PM on July 29, 2013:

I have been considering cancelling my subscription to The Globe and Mail for some time, chiefly because of the dramatic decline in quality in recent years. This editorial has made the decision for me. The slaying of Sammy Yatim -- no threat to anyone, confined as he was on a streetcar in what amounted to a jail cell on wheels -- was as brutal, callous and ugly a crime as I can recall. Did it not cross the minds of the dozens of police officers as they aimed their 9mm automatic pistols at this boy with a knife that here was someone's child, someone with a father and a mother, sisters and brothers, a young man with his life ahead of him and every right to live that life? In the moments before he so casually gunned his victim down, did it not occur to the officer who fired the fatal shots to display some simple humanity? Spare me the tired bromide about police having to make split-second decisions. The police in this instance had all the time in the world to de-escalate the situation, but without even taking the time to think, opted instead to end it with an overwhelming display of lethal violence. Spare me, as well, the nonsense about allowing the SIU, as gutless and toothless a body as ever existed in this province, to complete its investigation. The proper venue for this case is a court of law, with the evidence presented in public and the officers involved judged by a jury composed of the citizens of Toronto. That is what this editorial ought to be calling for, and what it would have called for before The Globe and Mail and most of the rest of the media in this country became a mealy-mouthed lapdog to power and authority. Sammy Yatim could have been any one of us. He could have been your child or mine. Until justice is done and seen to be done, his death will be a stain on this city and on everyone who wears the uniform of the Toronto Police Service. That's my name up there, by the way. No Internet anonymity for me. Now I'm going upstairs to call the Globe's circulation department. I won't have this rubbish in my home one more day.

And this from KevinBrown2011:

9:18 PM on July 29, 2013

What moron wrote this editorial?

So we should not form any opinion on what is clearly shown in the video until the SIU issues its findings?

The writer tries to justify the number of shots fired when clearly NO shots should have been fired. Also it is obvious that the first 3 shots felled the victim as the officer changed his trajectory and fired 6 more shots while the victim was on the floor. There was no need to fire at the victim when he was injured on the floor the street car. And after filling the young man with lead an officer jumps in and tasers him?

How could anyone believe that the actions of the cops were reasonable and justified?

How, indeed.

New Footage Of Sammy Yatim's Killing

The first shots are fired at about the 55 second mark on the video. They continue after he has fallen, his body jerking with each bullet. Sure looks like an execution to me, given that he clearly posed no threat to anyone, something the video also makes clear:

Standing Up To Police Abuse Of Authority

I remember a story my son told me of being in a coffee shop in Toronto during the notorious 2010 G20 Summit, about which I have written extensively on this blog. Two police officers came into the shop, one of them noticing my son had his smartphone out. He said to him, "You'd better not be filming us," the threat of confiscation being the apparent subtext. I have always thought of that incident as emblematic of the arrogant abuse of authority that was so much in evidence that weekend, abuse that is becoming increasingly common in our country today. It was also a threat with absolutely no legal basis.

In today's Star, Antonia Zerbisias writes about the public's right to document police actions, a right often impeded by police threating videographers with the rather nebulous obstructing justice charge. The issue has become especially germane in light of the police killing of Sammy Yatim, whose death was captured on video. Were it not for the existence of the video, who knows what 'official story' the public would now be hearing about this tragedy?

... there is no law, says Halifax-based lawyer David T.S. Fraser, that stops citizens from taking photographs or video in a public place. That includes shopping malls, airports, retail outlets and subway stations — unless management, not police, prohibit photography.

“I think it’s as close to an unequivocal right as you can get,” insists Fraser, whose practice focuses on privacy legislation. “As long as you’re in a public place, as long as you are not obstructing the police in the execution of their duties, and as long as you are not creating new risks and dangers, then you have the right to photograph and video-record anybody, including the police — and I would say especially the police.

Fraser goes on to say that for the charge of obstructing justice to stick, “You have to actually intend to obstruct —not just be on the sidelines, but actively interfere.

Concludes Fraser: “I would call for citizens to take more pictures of police officers, to make it more normal and make it more difficult for police officers to intimidate individuals.”

I suspect most of us couldn't agree more.

UPDATE: There is a reasonably interesting piece written by Margaret Wente, whose work I normally disdain and seldom read, on the issue in today's Globe.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Oh, How The U.S. Right Must Hate Him

If you're not sure why, watch this short Noam Chomsky video, in which he shares his thoughts on Edward Snowden and American hypocrisy:

Wisdom Through The Ages

I have nothing to add to this:

Murder By Police?

Rarely at a loss for words, I find myself in that state as I think about Sammy Yatim, the 18-year-old killed just after midnight Saturday night aboard a TTC streetccar. As the video posted last evening shows, police, under no apparent threat, opened fire on the teen a few seconds after they ordered him to drop his three-inch bladed knife.

The usual words and phrases, such as outrage, out-of-control police, unnecessary police violence seem wholly inadequate as expressions of digust over what has transpired. I therefore leave the job to the professionals, in this case The Star's Rosie DiManno, who offers her assessment here.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What Does The Toronto Police Force Have In Common With The BART Transit Police Force? UPDATED

The following execution by Bay Area Rapid Transit Police happened in Oakland, California January 1, 2009.

This killing, aboard a Toronto Transit streetcar, was executed by the Toronto police. Any apparent differences between the two videos, other than the fact that the 18-year-old in the second one refused to drop his knife at police command, elude me.

UPDATE: Thanks to The Disaffected Lib for pointing out a Star video in which an eyewitness describes what happened at the streetcar from his perspective.

Another Portrait Of Engaged Citizenry

There are many causes worth fighting for. This is definitely one of them.

Pensée Du La Jour

Saturday, July 27, 2013

This Is What Engaged Citizenship Looks Like

On Friday, fifty-four members of the global climate movement were arrested in Washington, DC after blockading the offices of an environmental engineering firm responsible for contributing to what protesters see as a deeply flawed impact statement on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial tar sands project that has become a focus of the climate change debate in the US.

Demanding that the State Department’s final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) of Keystone XL be fair, balanced, and free from the influence of the fossil fuel industry, the activists surrounded the offices, locked arms, and refused to leave until they were arrested by local police.

You can read the full story here.

H/t trapdinawrpool

For All the Union-Bashers Out There

Ninety-year-old Joy Taylor asks all of us to 'be the voice':

Chris Spence's 'Performance': The Reviews Are In

I realize that the subject of Chris Spence is likely of little or no interest to readers of this blog outside of the immediate area, but I cannot apologize for writing what is now my tenth entry on the disgraced former Director of the Toronto District School Board. My anger at his betrayal of education remains unabated, despite the fact that I have been retired from teaching for several years now.

As I observed yesterday, Spence's first steps on his 'redemption and comeback tour' left much to be desired, given the general tone of self-pity and self-justification that permeated his interview in The Toronto Star.

I was pleased to discover this morning that I am not alone in that assessment. In a column entitled Chris Spence seems only somewhat sorry, the Star's Rosie DiManno is unconvinced of the fallen Spence's contrition. Referring to him as a situational fraud, she observes that his disingenuous and blame-shifting spin on events can’t go [sic] be allowed to stand as mitigating epitaph to a career in ashes, reminding us of a rat-a-tat of exculpatory factors he offered during the interview, all of which, in my mind, amounts to a slightly more elaborate 'the dog ate my homework' excuse offered by students over the years.

Interviews at The Globe and Mail and The National Post show Spence offering similar justifications and rationalizations for his 'errors'. Indeed, he goes so far as to proclaim, despite much evidence to the contrary, that he is absolutely not” a serial plagiarist and “never” deliberately lifted any uncredited passages from other people’s work into his own.

The reviews of their former Director are decidedly mixed at the Toronto District School Board. As reported by Louise Brown, Trustee Jerry Chadwick believes that young people still need people like him who believe in them, while Trustee Sheila Ward had this to say:

So he was busy ... “What’s that got to do with plagiarism?” She said she thinks Spence can find a productive role in society in time, but warned, “I don’t think his comments yesterday moved that forward.”

For those interested, there is a more general assessment of the challenges faced by public figures on the road to rehabilitation by the Star's Laura Kane, who wonders whether people like Spence and Adam Giambrone are motivated more by a thirst for power than they are by a desire for redemption.

In any event, whatever the ultimate motive, most, I suspect, would agree that whatever public relations firm Chris Spence has hired has a lot more work to do with their client before he is ready for prime-time.

Friday, July 26, 2013

I Believe This With My Whole Heart

"Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave."
-Chris Hedges

H/t Occupy Canada

When Is Claiming To Take Full Responsibility Just A Platitude?

When it is proclaimed by Chris Spence, the disgraced former Director of the Toronto District School Board who lost his job earlier this year for extensive plagiarism.

In what the Toronto Star describes as a 'far reaching interview,' Spence says “there are no excuses for what I did; I didn’t give credit where credit was due.” Yet in the next breath he blames the work of a number of assistants over many years for the unattributed material.

Spence talks about the 'soul-destroying depression' that has engulfed him since the scandal broke, but also blames his own “blind ambition” and relentless Type-A drive that left him little time to write his own work.

“I’m not looking to point fingers, but did I write everything? Absolutely not. I had support … as early as 1994,” said Spence, who by then was a full-time teacher, full-time grad student and writing movie scripts and books.

“When I look back at the blogs, the speeches, the presentations, I’m going to say that a large, large percentage, you had support to get some of that work done. But I recognize that I approved everything, I signed off on everything. I take full responsibility for that.

“I was out in the community a lot, presenting a lot, and I never really had the kind of time that you need to sit down and put pen to paper.”

I guess this is the 'blame the underlings' defence, made famous by politicians and senators.

Yet Spence claims to take 'full responsibility.' The man is clearly contrite.

Never admitting that he purposely stole other people's words and ideas, something that is obvious when the evidence is examined, Spence suggests that he read many things, and those ideas just kind of jibed with his own thinking and then - presto! Quite frankly, I used to hear more creative excuses from my students.

Oh, and he also adds that he was juggling too many professional tasks to be thorough in his footnotes. And what footnotes might they be, Dr. (at least until his plagiarized Ph.d is completely reviewed) Spence?

Clearly delusional, the plagiarist hopes some day to be “back working with kids. I’m an educator at heart, that’s who I am. I think I have some gifts and talents; I hope I get an opportunity to share and make a difference in the future.”

My disgust with Spence remains unmitigated. His betrayal of both educational principles in general and his position as Director in particular renders him unfit for any further public position.

But there may be some light ahead for the disgraced one. Perhaps a new career awaits him. Confessionals in this day and age are very popular on the road to rehabilitation. Can an appearance on an Oprah-type show be expected as the next step? He has certainly laid the groundwork for it here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Water, Water Everywhere

Something to think about from the folks at Operation Maple:

Climate Change Poll

The Disaffected Lib continues to do stellar work on the climate change file. Visiting his site will arm anyone interested with some solid information about what is, in my view, the most dire threat facing humanity today. Yet I can't escape the dispiriting conviction that despite such invaluable efforts and resources, little is going to change.

Today's Toronto Star reports that 53 per cent of Canadians polled July 23 by Forum Research believe that the recent Alberta flooding and the torrential storms in Central Ontario were the result of climate change attributable to human activity. That conclusion in itself is problematic, given that no specific weather event can be attributed to climate change, given the historic natural vagaries of weather. As well, drawing one's belief in human-caused climate change from such spectacular and destructive weather events suggests a very shallow conviction. If, for example, the rest of the summer proceeds in a more conventional way, with no more such storms and no more sustained and debilitating heat waves as afflicted Ontario last week, isn't it most likely that many of the newly converted will just dismiss those events as merely atypical weather and once more put climate change on the back shelves of their thinking? The attention span of our species can, at times, be deplorably short.

Some other interesting numbers emerged from the poll as well:

- A belief in human-caused climate change is more common among women (59 per cent) than men and the least wealthy (63 per cent).

- Conservative voters are least likely to believe human activities are causing climate change (38 per cent), compared with Liberals (66 per cent) and New Democrats (71 per cent.)

- Many Conservatives polled (71 per cent) don’t believe climate change even exists, while New Democrats are the most likely to believe it does (92 per cent.)

With statistics like this, and the fact that none of the three major political parties is led by people with the courage and integrity to confront the dire threat we are all facing, leaves me with the steadily-growing pessimism about the prospects of our long-term survival as a species.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Conservative Hypocrisy

Please forgive the redundancy of the title. I just came across this little gem from Harper's 2006 campaign via Bill Oates on Twitter, who also offered this observation:

In 2006, Harper and the cons lied about "100s of millions of missing $" Now they're missing $3.1B.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

Now, for my weekly edition of nutty evangelicals, I thought I would give Pat Robertson a break and offer you this:

More On The E.I Whistleblower

The other day I wrote a post on Sylvie Therrien, the government employee suspended because she leaked documents that revealed federal investigators were told to find $485,000 of Employment Insurance fraud every year.

The “fraud quotas” were just one aspect of an office culture that encouraged cutting benefits from as many people as possible to save money, Therrien said in an interview Monday.

“My values just wouldn’t allow me to do that,” she said. “It was so unfair. These people are like everyone else. They have children, and we send them to the streets.”

Her act of conscience means she will likely be fired (and no doubted added to the ever-growing Harper regime's 'enemies list.')

Steve McCuaig, national executive vice president of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union, promised to defend Therrien if she is wrongly dismissed.

“The message (to whistleblowers) is: ‘Be afraid, be very afraid,’ ” he said. “Employees are asked to do jobs, and they’re asked to never say anything about that job. We wonder why.”

Typical of the soulless and technocratic regime that masquerades as our government, Harper enabler Amélie Maisonneuve, spokesperson for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, offered the following justification for the harsh measures taken against Therrien:

Civil servants are allowed by law to disclose information to the public only if there is “insufficient time” to contact the integrity commissioner, and it constitutes a serious offence or poses an imminent risk to public health or safety.

Sometimes there are moral imperatives that transcend such narrow allowances, prompted by circumstances that I doubt few supporters of Mr. Harper's cabal could ever understand.

You can read the full story here.

Our Hands Are Not Entirely Clean Either

Last evening I wrote a very brief post with a link to pictures depicting the violence that ensued in St. Petersburg, Russia recently at a small gay pride gathering. I opined that one might want to carefully consider whether to spend one's tourist dollars in a country where hatred and prejudice against gays is widespread. Getting ready for bed, I said to my wife that I suppose if one were to use national behaviour as a travel criterion, while Canada would likely fair reasonably well in attitudes toward the gay community, it would not come out very well in its treatment of many other groups, Aboriginals coming immediately to mind.

Reading this story in today's Star, however, made me realize that we still have some distance to go in welcoming the gay community into full society:

Karen Dubinsky was shocked when she opened the mail and found a letter laced with homophobic slurs that said her family was not welcome in the city and they should leave “before it is too late.”

“I just had this chilling, weird sense of the contents,” said the Queen’s University professor who lives in the city with her partner Susan Belyea, 48, and their 13-year-old son.

The letter claimed to be authored by a “small but dedicated group of Kingston residents devoted to removing the scourge of homosexuality in our city.”

While I suspect the claim that the hate mail was authored by a dedicated group of Kingston residents is more the product of the author's diseased imagination, it is nonetheless shocking that such retrograde and twisted perspectives continue today.

The letter's ominous tone continues:

“We will watch and wait, and then strike, at home and office, as need arises,” the letter read.

While the matter is now in the hands of the Kingston police, friends, family and community are rallying:

Dubinsky said her family and friends have taken to sitting on the front porch to “be visible.”

She added that her family is grateful for the community response, which has included flowers delivered to her doorstep, phone calls and support rallies.
“That helps us meet this kind of hatefulness,” she said. “It makes it easy to find courage.”

I suspect that such collective action and support are indeed the most effective responses to such unhinged mentalities.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Contemplating A Trip To Russia?

You might want to consider these pictures before you make your decision.

H/t Antonia Zerbisias

The Ad the CBC Refuses To Air

Are they right or wrong? You decide.

You can read the full story here.

Privacy Concerns Or Just Plain Secrecy?

I started working on a post the other day about government and institutions' penchant for claiming 'privacy concerns' as an excuse for withholding the kind of information that true democracies are entitled to. However, I haven't had a lot of energy the past few days, so I think I will let Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian speak for me through a letter that was published in Today's Star.

Re: Unlicensed daycare complaints kept secret in Ontario, July 19

It really disturbs me when people hide behind privacy, using it as a shield to prevent much-needed scrutiny. Accordingly, I take issue with the statement by the Minister of Education that safety-related information of unlicensed daycares cannot be released due to “privacy concerns.” Privacy laws are not meant to protect individuals who break the law, nor to prevent the enforcement of safety requirements.

While I acknowledge there is a wide range of informal unlicensed daycare arrangements, it is the responsibility of the ministry to determine what it can release to parents proactively, according to the principles I have issued on Access by Design or the legislated provisions on disclosing information in compelling circumstances affecting health and safety. Parents should not have to file formal access requests for information the ministry holds that has an impact on the health and safety of children in unlicensed daycares — this should be made freely available. The ministry should not use privacy as a shield.

Ann Cavoukian, Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ontario

You may also find this Star editorial of interest as well.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Coffee Workers Unionizing

Many of us are abundantly aware, as both parents and citizens, of how hard it is for young people to establish meaningful career paths these days. Part-time and contract work abounds, as do minimum wage jobs, despite the fact that we have a very educated population. Corporations continue to sit on record profits as they enjoy low corporate tax rates that fail to create jobs.

Many of the lowest-paying positions are in the service sector, especially coffee shops that continue to grow at very healthy rates. Although I am sure the right-wing will be consternated, there is good news out of Halifax. The Globe and Mail has a story detailing a push by those working in coffee emporiums to unionize:

Employees at a Just Us! coffee shop in Halifax successfully joined Local 2 of the Service Employees International Union.

Workers at two Second Cup outlets in the city also recently voted whether to join the same union, though the Labour Board has yet to release their results.

Personally, I think it is long overdue, largely because such jobs, although traditionally part-time positions, are turning into long-term jobs thanks to the dearth of career opportunities today.

Not everyone, however, feels this way:

Labour organizing in the service industry has been traditionally low for both ideological and economic reasons, said David Doorey, a professor of labour and employment law at York University in Toronto.

“It is a highly competitive industry, and employers believe unionization will pose a threat to their profit margins,” he said in an email.

To get a flavour of some Globe reader reactions, take a look at a few of the comments accompanying the story, which range from sarcasm to mockery to outrage fueled by the fear that unionization will lead to higher prices for coffee. To say such blinkered outlooks disgust me would be an understatement.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Government Suspends Whistleblower For Revealing E.I. Wichhunt

Ordinary Canadians are assumed to be criminals while the Harper government turns a blind eye to Senate corruption. Sylvie Therrien, a federal fraud investigator, has been suspended without pay after she leaked documents showing that investigators had to cut people off their employment insurance benefits in order to meet quotas.

Harper's hypocrisy has no limits:

H/t Glyn Humphries

Score Another One For The Star

I rather like this, don't you?

Friday, July 19, 2013

How Much Do We Really Pay For Those Bargains?

There is a segment in the documentary, The Corporation, where Michael Walker of The Fraser Institute extols how corporations help developing nations by using their labour to make their products. If you watch the video below from 3:15 to about the 6:00 mark, you will hear his explanation:

While the claims made by Walker were nonsense in 2003, when the film was made, ten years later workers are experiencing even more exploitation. As reported in today's Star, based on a report published by the Center for American Progress, despite increasing orders from the West, the wages being paid to third-world workers are getting worse, and no one is receiving anything even remotely approaching a living wage.

Amongst the report's highlights:

Garment workers in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Cambodia saw the largest erosion in wages. Between 2001 and 2011 wages in these countries fell in real terms by 28.9 percent, 23.74 percent, and 19.2 percent, respectively.

In 5 of the top 10 apparel-exporting countries to the United States—Bangladesh, Mexico, Honduras, Cambodia, and El Salvador—wages for garment workers declined in real terms between 2001 and 2011 by an average of 14.6 percent on a per country basis. This means that the gap between prevailing wages and living wages actually grew.

Much more information is available through the above links for those interested, but perhaps one of the most important inferences we in the affluent part of the world can draw is that we really are paying much much more than we think whenever we seize upon 'bargain' garments, and contrary to popular corporate propaganda, the lives of those who help us indulge in our cost-saving passions are not being improved as a consequence.

Tim Speaketh Yet Again

I doubt that Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has ever met a neoconservative nostrum that he doesn't like. The latest pontification from the lad who would be Premier comes from his 'bold' assertion that Ontario must subsidize electricity costs for manufacturing if the province is to keep and attract jobs.

Claiming his plan would be cost-effective (simply end the 'subsidies' to wind and solar power) the lad is sure that Ontario would thus win at least 300,000 manufacturing jobs from the five million new jobs that the Americans are going to get. (Sorry, Tim didn't deign to explain where either figure comes from, such is the ardent faith of the free market advocate).

Also missing from his strange figures is acknowledgement that Ontario currently offers heavy industrial discounting under its Industrial Incentive Electricity Progrtam. Nor does he explain that despite tax rates that are lower than those of the U.S., business is sitting on its profits instead of creating and retaining jobs.

And how would he deal with pesky unions who have an unseemly habit of wanting living wages and benefits? Well, as he has previously announced, a flourish of the legislative pen would enact right-to-work laws, thinly disguised as 'workplace democracy' that would eventually end unions in the workplace.

A bold man of vision. A leader who is not afraid to make the hard decisions. Neither of those descriptions will ever apply to young Tim.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The NDP - Just Another Political Machine - UPDATE

Although I will likely vote NDP federally in the next election, I am under no illusion that the party is much different from its two major competitors. Indeed, I see it as occupying the middle ground that the Liberals once laid claim to, and quite frankly, compared to the latter's leader's apparently policy-less platform, Thomas Mulcair looks statesmanlike and intelligent.

Of the NDP in Ontario, the province in which I reside, I am less certain. While leader Andrea Horwath has made noises about doing politics differently, increasingly she and her party appear to represent nothing except the same old backroom machinations aimed at maximizing seats at the expense of principle. A strong case in point is found in today's Star column by Martin Regg Cohn. Entitled NDP fights for its soul in Scarborough civil war, it tells the rather sordid tale of how disgraced former Toronto City Councillor Adam Giambrone, wending his way back from political purgatory, essentially 'muscled out' Amarjeet Kaur Chhabra, the very person he thought best to contest the upcoming Scarborough byelection.

But at the 11th hour, Giambrone had second thoughts — concluding that he was the best choice. He telephoned his fresh recruit, Chhabra, to confess that he would challenge her for the nomination.

In no time, Giambrone rounded up a posse to push him over the top at the weekend nomination meeting.

Unfortunately, these new supporters did not appear on a printed list of members signed up before the 30-day cut-off, and 12 names are being contested. Given that she lost by only two votes, the betrayed candidate, Amarjeet Kaur Chhabra, by all accounts an ideal choice, is prepared to take legal action to invalidate the nomination that Giambrone 'won.'

Party leader Horwath appears to be missing in action on the whole issue.

Unquestionably, when party democracy takes a back seat to political expediency, it cannot bode well for the future.

UPDATE: Amarjeet Kaur Chhabra has announced that she will not be pursuing legal action over the subversion of her bid for the NDP Scarborough nomination. She said that while she remains “disappointed” in the NDP over the debacle, she is letting the matter drop because the Aug. 1 vote is so close.

He Said, She Said ....

Yesterday I wrote a post detailing a CTV report on the obstruction from the PMO over its refusal to hand over an email pertaining to the the Wright-Duffy Senate payoff scandal. The RCMP was reported as having been trying to obtain it for two months.

It seems the PMO has now moved into high propaganda gear, claiming it has not been asked for any such email:

Contrary to CTV’s reporting, our office has not been asked for this email,” spokesperson Julie Vaux said in an email statement.

“As we have always said, we will assist investigations into this matter.”

However, Vaux refused to say whether the RCMP has asked for other emails or documentation regarding the $90,000 cheque Wright wrote to Duffy or whether the Mounties have interviewed anyone at PMO.

Sounds to me likes its time for a supoena, which apparently would be a first:

Reg Whitaker, University of Victoria professor emeritus who has studied and written about the history of the RCMP .... said he’s unaware of any instance in the history of the RCMP when it had to resort to legal instruments to compel criminal evidence from a sitting prime minister or his office. Nor could he think of any justification the PMO could use for obstructing the investigation.

But then again, many sad precedents have been set by this government, the likes of which Canada has never before seen.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Politician To Respect

Although she is not one of ours, Democratic Senator Elizabethan Warren is one of those rare politicans who commands respect. Calm, even unflappable, and eminently logical, she handles herself with great aplomb in the following video as she defends her efforts to bring back the Glass-Stegall Act, legislation that was enacted as a response to The Great Depression to create a firewall between investment and commercial banking. It was repealed by Bill Clinton in 1999, and is widely blamed for the 2008 financial crisis that eventually engulfed the world.

Canadians can only wish we had that calibre of politican here in a position to influence public debate. As good as our Eliabeth May may be, I do not see The Green Party rising to prominence in near future.

Sometimes Mockery Is The Only Fitting Rebuke

H/t The ChronicleHerald

If the Prime Minister Obstructs Justice, Isn't It Still A Criminal Offence?

CTV reports the following:

The Prime Minister’s Office has been withholding from the RCMP an email about the $90,000 cheque Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff wrote to Sen. Mike Duffy...

RCMP investigators have been trying to obtain the email ever since CTV News first revealed its existence two months ago.
The prime minister’s communications director, Andrew MacDougall, confirmed that the email exists.

The story, with accompanying video, goes on to reveal that one of the key architects behingd the deal to silence Duffy and pay off his debts, Harper’s former legal counsel Benjamin Perrin, has not made himself available to be interviewed by our federal force.

Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner has suggested that the RCMP obtain warrants to get the email, but Robert Fife reports that the Mounties would prefer to see the PMO voluntarily provide all of the relevant information and require anyone with knowledge of the Wright-Duffy deal to come forward.

Fat chance of that happening.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Separated At Birth?

Both Richard Nixon and Stephen Harper certainly seem to have been raised with the same bedtime story, and to have taken it at face value.

It's All One Big Coincidence

Glad that Ontario Premiere Kathleen Wynne has put to rest that ugly speculation that the province's change in attitude toward a subway for Scarborough has nothing to do with the upcoming provincial byelections.

The Harper Loyalty Rewards Program: Updated

While I await with less than bated breath for the announcement today of Dear Leader's cabinet shuffle, the press has been all agog about it, offering rampant specualtion as to who will provide the new and fresh facade over the crumbling and morally bereft regime.

If the pattern of past autocracies holds true, we can expect those most unflinching in their loyalties, no matter the price they have had to pay in pre-existing integrity (a big assumption, I know) and public disdain, to be amply rewarded. Using that criterion, I can think of no worthier recipients of government elevation than Kellie Leitch and Pierre Poilivre, both of whom I have written about previously in this blog.

Note the deftness with which Leitch avoids giving anything remotely resembling an answer in the following interview, while perfectly extolling party propaganda:

Mind you, not everyone has been impressed by Ms Leitch. Her performance regarding the Wright payoff scandal left some listeners to As It Happens unsatisfied:

It is, however, a toss-up with Pierre Poilievre as to who merits the bigger reward. Note young Pierre's ideological purity:

Or how about this?

Despite his stellar service and loyalty to Dear Leader, there are those who question him:

For any who might have lost sleep pondering the possibilities, we are told that the suspense will end at around 11:00 a.m. today.

UPDATE: Of the two, it appears Kellie Leitch accumulated the most loyalty points, securing the cabinet post of Minister of Labour, while Pierre gets the minor reward of Minister of State for Democratic Reform. (I never heard of that one either, but can't think of a better Orwellian choice.)

I know; I can barely contain my excitement either.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Judgemental? Yes

But true nonetheless:

You can read more about our perilous state here.

Humour Amidst The Darkness

I know that it is never seemly to force humour from tragedy. However, owing to my sometimes rather twisted (and sometimes quite puerile) perspective on life, I offer this story and video for your discernment. Without apology, I will admit that I laughed uproariously.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pat Robertson's Unified Theory

In which the ex-pastor kindly shares his comprehensive 'gay' theory:

And Speaking Of Walmart ...

Some days, corporate megaliths just can't catch a break:

P.S. I could only get this video to play in Internet Explorer, not Chrome.

Another Walmart Injustice Story

It might be worthwhile to bear this story in mind the next time we contemplate the 'bargains' at Walmart:


Did Someone Say 'Byelection'?

I'm certainly glad that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is adhering to her commitment to a new way of doing politics.

I'm sure the Toronto District School Board also appreciates her integrity.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Star Readers Opine On Harper's Self-Reported Ignorance (I Didn't Do It) And Mike Duffy's Avarice

Some days, all I have to do is open my newspaper for my blog post. Today is one of those days. Enjoy.

Harper kept public in dark, July 6

When the stuff hits the fan, “plausible deniability” allows politicians to say, “I didn’t know; no-one told me.” This is what our Prime Minister would have us believe about Mike Duffy’s bailout with Nigel Wright’s cheque.

But now we hear from the RCMP that at least three others in his office, besides Wright, knew about it. This contradicts the Prime Minister’s claim that it was all Wright’s doing.

By all accounts, Stephen Harper is a control freak, so his denials stretch credibility to the breaking point. The real question is not what he did or didn’t know, but rather: how could he not have played a role in this comedy?

Perhaps this is a case of “implausible deniability.”

Salvatore (Sal) Amenta, Stouffville

In the best case scenario — gross negligence and incompetence — Mr. Harper expects us to believe that there is this big conspiracy going on right under his nose and he is wilfully blind to it.

In the worst, he is part of a criminal conspiracy and cover up.

Thomas Wall, Whitby

Senator Mike Duffy’s alleged use of taxpayers money to increase his wealth is only the symptom of a culture of entitlement by politicians of all parties. Politicians use our money as if no one owns it. The average Canadian citizen is becoming more mistrustful of politicians for that very reason. The government wants every penny that they can get from taxpayers of this country and this how they spend it.

It is unfortunate that Senator Duffy appears not to have learned a simple rule: “The pig that remains at the trough longest gets slaughtered first.”

Calvin Lawrence, Ottawa

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Conservative And F-35 Myths

I have written numerous past posts both on the F-35 jets and the Minister of Incompetence who presides over the file in Canada, Peter MacKay. Despite the fact that the aircraft has had problems from almost the beginning, the myth of its superiority and the myth that it would cost our government $75 million dollars each persisted long after compelling evidence was adduced to disprove both.

Although it looks impressive, as the following short video illustrates, the accompanying story quite succinctly inters those two aforementioned falsehoods, along with the big whopper that somehow permeates the brains of the ideologues, i.e. the myth of Harper Conservative fiscal and administrative competence.

Confronting Climate Change/Ignoring Climate Change

Dr. Blair Feltmate, the program director of sustainability practice at University of Waterloo, says Canada needs to be prepared for extreme rainfall, which will occur more frequently with accelerating climate change:

Meanwhile, over in Hamilton, city officials are partying as if it were still 1955. They are exultant over the fact that the Ontario Municipal Board has given the final go-ahead to reclassify hundreds of hectares of farmland around the airport for development — the largest urban boundary expansion in Hamilton's history.

The Ontario Municipal Board has agreed with the city's argument that 555 hectares of developable employment land is required for the so-called aerotropolis, dismissing appeals from Environment Hamilton and Hamiltonians for Progressive Development in a decision dated July 3.

The decision to destroy farmland that would undoubtedly be invaluable to our future food supply in favor of pavement that will be unable to help absorb runoff from the next '100-year-storm' once more amply attests to our species' extraordinary myopia.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Food For Thought

H/t Canadians Rallying To Unseat Stephen Harper

Is Shortsightedness Our Tragic Flaw?

Rubber dinghies rescuing flooded train passengers. Cars submerged to their roofs. Raging river torrents. This could easily be a snapshot from India during monsoon season, but no, that was the situation in Toronto last evening as the city received more rain in a short period of time than had been experienced over 50 years ago during Hurricane Hazel.

Even the most obdurate, assuming they haven't completely surrendered their cognitive abilities to ideology, must realize we are in deep climatological trouble. Whether we look to this year's weather events or the increasingly volatile weather over the last decade, an obvious pattern supporting the climate-change models clearly emerges. But our public response remains muted.

Nary a word from any level of government about climate change. Nary a word from any level of government about amelioration and adaptation. Nary a word from the usual suspects on how we are going to pay for these increasingly common and incredibly expensive disasters.

We need definite measures that will force us to pull our collective heads out of the sand. My wife offered me an interesting suggestion. Since tax increases per se are verboten, no matter the party, perhaps it is time to have what could be termed an 'infrastructure renewal levy' that we pay after our income taxes have been calculated. Such a levy, while it would doubtless be decried by the right as 'just another tax grab,' would be designated only for its stated purpose and could very well serve to awaken people to the reality that we all have to pay for our collective folly in ignoring all of the warnings; the resulting anger might very well force government to start confronting the reason for the levy and we can finally get on to the massive job of reducing our emission as the first but absolutely necessary step in ameliorating the even worse consequences of climate change to come.

And of course, it goes without saying, that corporations will also have to pay this levy, since sound infrastructure is crucial both to the economy and their own profits. The threat of relocation will grow increasingly hollow. No part of the world escapes this self-inflicted curse of unscathed, especially those low-tax and low-pay jurisdictions the corporations always hold over our heads.

The hour is late. We are out of options. Concrete action must begin immediately. Taking the long view is long-past due.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Forced Feeding At Guantanimo

I really questioned whether I should put the following video on my blog, so graphic is it in its depiction of the forced feeding that 40 of the detainees in Guantanimo are currently being subjected to. Rapper Mos Def volunteered to undergo the procedure, for purposes that I think will become obvious if you have the stomach to watch it. Frankly, I had to look away twice.

Pat Robertson's Digestive Problems

Oh, how the (self) righteous do suffer:

A Betrayal Of The World's Food Supplies

Monsanto has just received The World Food Prize, which is supposed to be awarded in recognition of the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. To many, it is the most prestigious prize in food and agriculture. Their mandate is to emphasize “the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people.”

Watch the following brief video as two food experts denounce what is surely a gross perversion of the award:

H/t Sandra Harris

Are You Psychologically Fit To Be The Next Parliamentary Budget Officer?*

The Globe and Mail reports that those vying to replace Kevin Page, the man who so distinguished himself as our last Parliamentary Budget Officer, are being asked to undergo psychological testing.

I understand there is also an asterisked portion at the bottom of the application.

* Those with integrity need not apply.

'Tis A Consummation Devoutly To Be Wish'd*

H/t The Toronto Star

* Hamlet - Act 3 Scene 1 - Apologies for the use of literary arcana, but you know what they say: Teachers never retire; they just lose their class.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Digital Life

The Disaffected Lib recently wrote a post expressing ambivalence about the ubiquitous role that technology plays in our lives. It is an ambivalence I think many of us, especially those of an older generation raised on typwriters, print and analogue television, feel. On the one hand it has been an undeniable benefit, connecting us with a much wider world than we could ever know without the digital technology we now take for granted. On the other hand, the question arises as to whether or not a generation raised on instant access to information may have missed out on key critical-thinking skills that develop as a result of slow, deliberate and careful contemplation and processing of information.

Personally, I am not sure of the answer to that question. Every generation thinks that upcoming ones are not made of the same solid stuff of their elders. I do know, however, that there is the potential of great distraction thanks to today's technology, distraction to which none of us is really immune.

In today's Star, an opinion piece by Doug Mann entitled It's almost midnight for print culture posits a thesis that can be best reflected in this excerpt:

...the midnight of print is only a symptom of a more sinister cultural darkening brought about by digital media. This is a decline of the complex narrative as the centre of public life, the midnight of depth meaning.

Essentially, he argues that society's boredom threshold has declined as a consequence of the digital age, and that boredom is chiefly reflected in the declining interest in three key components of the examined life: complex arguments in theoretical thinking, extended adult narratives in fiction, and long serious conversations in everyday life.

From my perspective as a person of a certain 'vintage,' complex arguments may take a bit longer to process and grasp, but I am still very much interested in them. Mature fiction still appeals to me, and long serious conversations are an ongoing source of delight for me with certain select individuals. However, Mann's concern is not for my generation, but for the aforementioned young people without the larger context that we older guys and gals have.

Is he correct? I hesitate to embrace his thesis wholeheartedly, and even if my instincts suggest his logic is compelling, I could also argue that the above criteria have never had a wide appeal and may not necessarily be a victim of our current digital age, but rather a function of education and extensive and varied reading. While that observation may sound a bit elitist, I think it is true.

I would be very interested in hearing other people's views on this matter. Feel free, as always, to comment.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Globe and Mail: A Study in Vindictiveness

As one well-acquainted with the scourge of depression and the toll it takes on both the sufferer and his/her family, it was with great interest that I recently read Jan Wong's account of her struggle with the disease in Out of the Blue. In what I view as an act of personal courage, the former Globe and Mail reporter whose wide-ranging work certainly enhanced the Globe “brand,” reveals at length the story of her mental descent as a result of toiling in what ultimately became an unsupportive and toxic workplace.

Even those whose lives have not been either directly or indirectly marred by this insidious sickness will doubtless be fascinated by the vindictive, almost Machiavellian machinations of the Globe's upper management once it no longer had any use for Wong, amply illustrating the sad fact that the newspaper business is just that, a business, with no tolerance for anyone who 'rocks the boat' in ways that discomfit 'the bosses.'

In her book, management at The Globe, both present and past, including Sylvia Stead, John Stackhouse and Edward Greenspon, come across as especially venal, petty and cowardly, essentially 'hanging Wong out to dry' after a story she wrote about the 2006 Dawson College shootings included a comment about cultural alienation in Quebec, linking it to two previous tragedies in La Belle Province. Controversy and condemnation of Wong ensued, and the Globe went into full defensive mode, ultimately essentially abandoning Wong to the rabble.

But the Globe wasn't quite through with Wong. Because the paper carries a great deal of clout and has substantial reserves with which to litigate, Wong wound up self-publishing her chronicle after her publisher, Doubleday, ultimately wanted her to censor her story, excising most references to her experiences at The Globe, an impossibility since her depression was caused by workplace stress.

Eventually, Wong won a severance package from The Globe, on the condition that she not discuss the details of it. In her book, after being fired by the Globe for time missed due to her depression, she talked about how she “fought back and won,” that her former employer “had caved” and that she had received “a pile of money.” It would appear that those comments were too much for the Globe, which will now receive back the severance after an arbitrator ruled that by saying those things, she breached her confidentiality agreement with the paper.

The self-proclaimed 'newspaper of record' would have us believe that they took this action based on principle; others could just as cogently argue that it was simply a continuation of the vindicativeness that essentially drove Wong from the Globe.

If you get the chance, I highly recommend the book; not only does it give valuable insight into mental illness, but it will also enable you to decide for yourself who is in the right and who is in the wrong in this matter.

Some Low-Hanging Fruit

Or should I say pork? I have a bit of a busy morning, so I am taking the easy route for now by dedicating this photo to our 'friends' in the Red Chamber and their federal government enablers:

Friday, July 5, 2013

I Just Couldn't Resist This One

H/t Canadians Rallying to Unseat Stephen Harper

All Good Pets Deserve A Reward

Having owned a magnificent Landseer Newfoundland dog in the past (the most human pet I ever came into contact with), I am well-aware of the importance of rewarding good behaviour. For example, if you ask him/her to shake hands, you toss your pet a treat. Rolling over, 'speaking', etc. all call for positive reinforcement.

I awoke this morning wondering what would be a lovely gift for those pets in the Harper government who, throughout the last parliamentary session, spoke faithfully in their master's voice. While the list is long, and perhaps others will be the subject of future posts, I will highlight here only one of the many who merit the highest of accolades:

Kellie Leitch

This hippocratic oath-taker has, this year and since her election in 2011, given all to her party, even her medical integrity, refusing, as she did, to condemn the export of Canadian asbestos to developing nations despite its highly carcinogenic properties. She also walked and talked the party line over Harper cuts to refugee health care, describing the measures as 'fair and necessary.'

Perhaps Kellie's greatest achievement and irrefutable evidence of her fealty to her dark lord, Harper, is her ability to spin a variety of permutations on the very limited talking points (on average, two or three sentences) she is permitted whenever she appears on television to defend the indefensible. Her extolment of Mr. Harper is stellar, and I think you get the full measure of the lady within the first three minutes or so of this video, which may also suggest a cabinet post in her future for her unwavering loyalty:

Since it is not within my power to confer political reward to Ms Leitch, I offer this humble yet highly symbolic gift to her and others in her pack:

Apparently this particular choke chain comes in a variety of sizes, and is therefore suitable for widespread gifting, no matter what size pet vies for one in the Harper caucus.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Is Trudeau's Poll Lead Such A Good Thing?

The latest polls show the Trudeau-led Liberals leading the Harper Conservatives 36% to 29%, with the NDP at 23%. Coincidentally, this petition from Forest EthicsEthics suggests it is not necessarily an occasion for celebration:


Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has been in office just a couple of short months and already he's making friends with folks on the wrong side of the tar sands issue. High-fiving Alberta Premier Alison Redford for spending billions to lobby for the tar sands industry and then slamming Prime Minister Harper for not doing enough to promote the Keystone XL pipeline... really? Really?!

Does Justin Trudeau stand behind Canada’s First Nations and Canadians from coast to coast who are saying no to pipelines and tankers, or does he stand behind Big Oil?

Send your message to Justin Trudeau using our handy email tool. Use the sample message or write your own. It's time we let Justin know we're watching his support for tar sands very closely.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s only been on the job for a couple months – and already he’s getting off on the wrong foot by sounding like he’s showing support for the tar sands industry by promoting the Keystone KXL pipeline.

As Canadians, we must let him know that he is wading into waters that we don't support by high-fiving Alberta Premier Alison Redford for spending billions lobbying for the oil industry. In the same breath he slammed Prime Minister Harper for not doing enough to promote the Keystone XL pipeline. As if billions in oil subsidies and massive cuts to countless environmental regulations weren’t enough?!

“We Are Sleepwalking To Disaster . . " *

Many in the blogosphere are doing a stellar job covering the climate-change beat, including The Disaffected Lib, who has had several recent thought-provoking posts on the subject. So I really have nothing new or insightful to add, other than to draw your attention to a story covered in today's Star, written by its environment reporter, Raveena Aulakh.

Writing her story around a new report released by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization covering the world's climate from 2001-2010, Aulakh reports the following:

It was the warmest decade for both hemispheres.

There was a rapid decline in Arctic sea ice, and an accelerating loss of net mass from Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

Sea levels rose about 3 millimetres annually, twice the 20th-century rate.

Deaths from heatwaves increased dramatically to 136,000, compared with fewer than 6,000 deaths in the previous decade.

The average global temperature was 14.47 C, which is 0.21 degree warmer than 1991-2000.

Almost 94 per cent of countries logged their warmest 10 years on record.

Rising sea levels, acidification of oceans, and glacial melting at a rate far faster than had been anticipated in earlier models - it would seem that we have entered into a kind of recursive loop that will be very difficult, indeed, impossible to break, if all of our politicians continue to shy away from both the financial and political capital expenditures required, and we continue our personal complicity in that inaction.

My wife often opines that the human race is turning out to be a failed experiment. It is a perspective I have long resisted, but I am beginning to think she is correct. Our collective capacity to ignore the obvious and shy away from remediation, even while the world both burns and drowns, seems ample testament to our monumental failure as a species.

* John Smol, a researcher on environmental change at Queen’s University.