Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Safe Bet

Mother Jones predicts that the next episode of Cosmos will inflame the climate-change deniers. I think that is a safe bet:

Sometimes You Just Have To Hold Your Nose

It would never occur to me to withhold my vote in any election. Yet the one occurring in Ontario on June 12 is particularly striking in its paucity of real choice. I can't remember a campaign for which I have felt less enthusiasm.

Of course, Tim Hudak's extremism disqualified him as anyone worth considering long ago. His palpable anti-unionism, although muted in this campaign, would surely resurface in full bloom should he ever become premier. Coupled with his contempt of public service, he is a viable candidate only for those with blunt minds, those who take comfort in stark choices and worldviews.

The Liberals come with some terrible baggage and the ennui that inevitably characterizes a regime too long in power. While the gas plant debacle has had the most prominence, there have been many others that call into question their fitness to continue in office. And then there is the latest reminder of their way of doing business, the MaRs planned bailout that is just gaining traction as we move into the final stretch of the campaign.

The third major party, the NDP led by Andrea Horwath, also offers real problems for the conscientious voter. Her failure to support a Liberal budget that had much to offer progressives, on the pretext that she doesn't trust them to keep their word, along with her devolution into populist politics and policies, have led many to abandon any hope for her party. It is hard to escape the notion that power at the expense of principle is the NDP's defining characteristic under her leadership.

Because we are soon going away for a week to visit our kids in Alberta, we will likely vote today in an advance poll. Since I always try to be honest in this blog, I will tell you who we are casting our vote for, in case you are interested. It is Kathleen Wynne's Liberals who, despite the above, seem the least odious of the three major parties on offer.

Hardly a ringing endorsement, I'm sure.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Everything Is So Simple

That is, if you have a fundamentalist cast of mind like Pastor Matthew Hagee, who says this whole climate change thing is ordained by God, and to pay no attention to those environmentalists trying to tempt you from the true path.

Perhaps the good pastor should bone up on his Bible, given that his 'proof' resides in things he claims were said by Jesus in Matthew, Chapter 25, that just aren't there. Even if you go to the previous chapter, 24, the closest Jesus gets to mentioning calamity is when he says, There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

But then, I guess this wouldn't be the first time that Hagee's ilk have taken liberties in their unwholesome zeal for The Apocalypse.

UPDATED: Lonely At The Top?

If Stephen Harper isn't 'feelin' the love,' it is a situation of his own making. Two brief excerpts from Tim Harper's column in today's Star, entitled Stephen Harper's slide into isolation, are instructive.

Tom Flanagan, former best-buddies with Dear Leader, wrote in his recent book, Persona Non Grata, this about Harper:

“He can be suspicious, secretive, and vindictive, prone to sudden eruptions of white-hot rage over meaningless trivia, at other times falling into week-long depressions in which he is incapable of making decisions.’’

Also getting in on the tell-all craze, disgraced former senior Harper aide Bruce Carson, in 14 Days, describes his former boss this way:

... a man who was prone to temper tantrums, dressing down aides heatedly, swearing at them, but also getting as good as he gives.

He wouldn’t go as far as Flanagan in describing Harper as prone to bouts of depression — something Harper’s office dismissed as “ridiculous,” — but agreed the prime minister does have his ups and downs.

As well, perhaps his claim that Harper knew all of the details of his troubled past is equally revelatory of the Prime Minister's character.

Whether the state of Harper's psyche is of personal interest or not, getting some insight into the mind of one who has been systematically unraveling so much of what is good about Canada since he first came to power is doubtlessly worthwhile. If the subject is of sufficient interest, you may also wish to view last night's At Issue discussion on these books and whether such are good or bad. Bruce Andersen seemed to be the only one with reservations, as you will see:

UPDATE: Thanks to the link provided by Anon, here is a tune by Randy Newman that perhaps puts everything in perspective:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

UPDATED:I Have A Simpler Solution

The headline reads, Restaurant owners seek meeting with PM over foreign worker freeze

The group representing Canada's restaurant owners is calling for an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss the freeze on temporary foreign workers in the restaurant industry.

"The recent moratorium on temporary foreign workers in the food service industry has turned the labour shortage into a crisis," Restaurants Canada CEO Garth Whyte said during a news conference in Charlottetown today.

The solution proposed by Restaurants Canada is threefold:

- Lift the moratorium on the food service industry immediately.

- Strengthen the rules of the program "to ensure there is no abuse."

- Allow restaurants that can't find Canadian workers to hire foreign workers at all skills levels.

Perhaps because of their fraught condition, they have overlooked a simpler solution:

Pay their workers more instead of pressuring the government to allow them to hire cheap foreign workers.

UPDATE: In her post this morning, Alison at Creekside does an excellent job piercing the hysterical hype being disseminated by Mr. Whyte on behalf of the restaurant industry.

Putting The Climate-Change 'Debate' Into Perspective

I think John Oliver does this rather effectively:

And on a more sobering note, you might like to gnaw on this ominous nugget.

Forecast: Very Cloudy Indeed

Mike de Sousa is a former Post Media reporter now operating his own website continuing his investigative work into energy and the environment. He is well-worth paying attention to.

His latest piece, Government’s weather forecasters shouldn’t discuss climate change, says Environment Canada, while perhaps not breaking any new ground, is a potent reminder of how inimical the Harper regime is to science as it continues to ignore climate change in its mad pursuit of policies promoting and facilitating tarsands' extraction.

Succinctly expressed, Environment Canada doesn't permit its meteorologists to comment on climate change because it lacks 'expertise':

“Environment Canada scientists speak to their area of expertise,” said spokesman Mark Johnson in an email. “For example, our Weather Preparedness Meteorologists are experts in their field of severe weather and speak to this subject. Questions about climate change or long-term trends would be directed to a climatologist or other applicable authority.”

Officially, these scientists cannot be trusted to connect the dots that their years of study would seem to entitle them to do:

...the department’s communications protocol prevents the meteorologists from drawing links to changing climate patterns following extreme weather events such as severe flooding in southern Alberta or a massive wildfire in Northern Quebec in the summer of 2013.

While Environment Canada's official position is that their employees are eminently satisfied, de Sousa includes a link to a union-sponsored survey that paints an altogether different picture. Here is a snippet of the responses:

“I am outraged by the Orwellian restriction of information under the current government. I cannot see any justification for preventing scientists from speaking about publicly-funded, published research to the media. The data were paid for by all Canadians and in my view belong to all Canadians. For us to work in the public interest, we need to be able to express our findings to non-scientists through public presentations and news media.

“The development of carefully crafted "Values and Ethics" codes across government are resulting in silencing the scientific community for fear of breaching their "Duty to Loyalty" (and are becoming synonymous with gag order).”

And there is this sad surrender:

“Leaving public service for academia. Won't have a muzzle anymore.”

Writes de Sousa:

The quotes from government scientists were released in support of the union’s internal investigation into allegations of muzzling of federal scientists. Its survey found that 90 per cent of federal scientists and professionals felt they couldn’t speak freely in public about their work and that 24 per cent had been asked to exclude or alter information for non-scientific reasons.

There is much more worth reading in this investigative piece. Mike de Sousa's website is surely one worth bookmarking for regular visits.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Timely Reminder of Young Tim Hudak's Faulty Math

While much of the media seem to give young Tim Hudak a free pass on his ludicrouse claim that he will create one million jobs in Ontario over eight years by slashing both jobs and corporate taxes, Paul Boothe at Maclean's is offering a more critical perspective:

A very surprising and, for voters, unfortunate thing became apparent last week in the Ontario election campaign. The Progressive Conservatives’ central campaign proposal, the million jobs plan, collapsed when analysts looked closely at the math. Elementary, but critical arithmetic errors in their calculations resulted in the Progressive Conservatives vastly overestimating the number of jobs their plan would create. These errors demolished the underlying economic rationale the party had put forward for its smaller-government, lower-tax plan.

It seems that a fundamental error occurred in the Tory brain-trust's calculations:

...the planners confused person-years of employment with permanent jobs. This confusion led them to vastly overestimate the effect of their proposed job-creating measures. The result was that the half million jobs the Progressive Conservatives were promising to create with their plan (base-case economic growth was expected to provide the other half-million jobs) was really only about 75,000—fewer than the 100,000 public-sector jobs they were pledging to eliminate.

Or to put it another way, as explained by McMaster economist Mike Vealle,

Mr. Hudak appears to have conflated person years of employment – how many people would be employed for a single year – with permanent jobs. As a result, he counted many projected jobs multiple times.

Tim's predictable response?

“We strongly disagree with that interpretation,” he said while touring a factory on the outskirts of Niagara Falls. “I stand behind our numbers.”

While no one has yet demanded studies to back up Tim's basic premise, that austerity and tax cuts create jobs as discussed in two previous posts, this discovery of error at least represents a good use of journalistic time.

A Mound Of Sound Guest Post: The Relentless Growth of CO2

I put this item together a while ago but I was reminded of it today while reading a report from the WMO, the World Meteorological Organization, that April will go in the books as the first month in which atmospheric CO2 topped 400 ppm throughout the northern hemisphere. Not just one nasty region here or there, the entire bloody northern hemisphere. That's change you can believe in (sorry Barack).

Scientists say emissions will need to peak by 2020 and then decline rapidly to limit warming to 2C, a target agreed at the 2009 round of UN talks in Copenhagen.

According to the UN climate science panel, the world has already used between half and two-thirds of its “carbon budget” the amount of CO2 that can be released before the 2C goal is impossible.

This got me thinking about our chances of peaking our emissions by 2020 and then slashing them rapidly after that. At that point a quiz I recently spotted in The Globalist popped to mind.

The Globalist website posts a weekly quiz and they're generally pretty thought-provoking.

A recent one dealt with automobile manufacturing in 2013. How many cars were built in 2013? How about 83-million! China accounted for 27% of global sales. More telling was the fact that it wasn't until 2010 that we reached the 73-million auto mark. That's an increase of 10-million in just three years. Even more depressing is the forecast of 100-million cars to be produced in 2018, a third of them for the Chinese market.

What does that information tell you? In eight years we're going to go from producing 73-million cars to building 100-million. That means we'll be adding another hundred million cars a year to the hundreds of millions of older cars already prowling the planet's roads and highways. Now imagine what that's going to mean in the context of oil and gasoline consumption, water consumption (it takes 39,000 gallons of water to build a car), and of course greenhouse gas emissions. Hey kids, we're so screwed!

Another Globalist quiz looked at energy rich Nigeria and how much electricity the average Nigerian consumes in a year. It's about as much as the average person uses to power their microwave over the course of a year. That's because Nigeria is a corrupt petro-state and all that oil wealth mysteriously never makes it down to the ordinary folks.

How about electricity production from renewables? Brazil is the winner in the clean power contest at 82%. Canada comes in at 63% clean electricity, mainly through provincial hydro-electric generation (no thanks to Ottawa). The United States? Under 13%, well below the global average of 20% which also happens to be China's renewable electricity level.

You can find all the quizzes, including archives, here. If, like me, you're interested in issues pertaining to globalization, you can subscribe to their daily e-mail briefing. It's as timely as it is insightful.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Nature And The Heavy Hand Of Humanity

As difficult as this is to watch, we all have a responsibility to bear witness to our collective folly:

New Enemies, New Misdirections

Last week I wrote a post about the fraught fund-raising letter sent out by Conservative Party director of political operations Fred DeLorey. The letter stressed the need to build a substantial war chest because a cabal of leftist media (essentially all of them - media concentration at its worst, eh?) is preventing the regime from getting out its message of good, sober, and responsible government.

In today's Globe and Mail, Lawrence Martin, one of the few journalists left at the once mighty paper worth his salt, offers his perspective on this extraordinary and ludicrous claim:

The point about concentrated media power will raise eyebrows. Is Mr. Harper looking to break them up?

And the notion that media conglomerates are doing the bidding of the liberal left? That would be news to the likes of Postmedia, Sun Media, Shaw Communications, Rogers and Bell: Their headquarters aren’t exactly overrun by Noam Chomsky disciples. And more than 90 per cent of Canadian newspapers endorsed the Conservatives in the last election.

But like a growing number of our system’s institutional checks and balances, the fourth estate is on Mr. Harper’s hit list. The CBC has been there a long time; it would be gone if the PM had his druthers. If he wins the next election, it very well might be, as the fundraising letter’s line of questioning suggests.

While Harper's hatred for the CBC is well-known, representing as it does central Canadian liberalism, elitism and big-government values, the fact that our mad prime minister has turned his sights on the broader media suggests someone who has lost both his balance and his perspective (if he indeed was ever in possession of such), blaming everyone except himself for his spate of recent misfortunes:

When it comes to coverage, Mr. Harper has, in fact, been getting a rough media going over in recent months. He might wish to consider that perhaps the Senate scandal, the elections bill blundering and the Supreme Court debacle have something to with it.

The Prime Minister isn’t trending well with journalists. Years ago, there were a few scribes who took exception to his excessive controls and billy-club style of democracy. Now the majority of pundits are of that view – left, right and centre.

Martin concludes his column on an ominous note, reminding me once again of the disturbing Nixonian rage and paranoia that seem to define Mr. Harper's mental state:

We’ve seen how Mr. Harper reacts when challenged. Going forward, we can probably expect more than just fundraising letters.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Why Do They Do It?

For the sheer joy of it, I suspect:

To know and respect nature is to know and respect ourselves. All is connected.

Contempt Of The Electorate - Part 2

As I continue to ponder the question my friend Tom posed about why discredited economic theories are not vigorously opposed and exposed as such by political parties and media, two articles perhaps offer some helpful contextual information.

The first is by John Barber in today's Star, entitled Hudak’s discredited doctrine a lucky break for Wynne. In it, he remarks on the good fortune that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is enjoying by having an ideologue, Tim Hudak, helming the party of her chief opposition, The Progressive Conservatives of Ontario:

Hudak has presented her a chance once again to make righteous war on Mike Harris’s amply discredited Common Sense Revolution.

Barber speculates that embracing such an extreme austerity program that will see the elimination of 100,000 public service jobs in order to balance the books a year or two earlier than Wynne intends suggests one of two motives: either it is a strategy to gain a majority government by mobilizing true believers more likely to turn out in an election than others, or Hudak and his brain trust are mad, an explanation Barber favours, given that it reflects a worldwide trend of neoconservatives:

The boldness of the policy is the product of assumptions so ingrained the zealots see no need to explain them. Fixated by their own mechanistic ideology, they blandly expect voters to understand intuitively — or religiously, as they seem to do — that destroying jobs will create jobs and that cutting taxes will increase revenue. It’s all so clear to them. Don’t you see, Ontario?

Barber then provides a link to a recent column by Paul Krugman, entitled Points of No Return. In it, the economist writes about how facts, reason and informed cerebration seem to be losing out to crazed ideology and contempt for science and others sources of empirical data, bringing us to the point where the process of intellectual devolution seems to have reached a point of no return.

It, too, is a piece well-worth reading, as Krugman examines the Republican Party and its wholesale embrace of an ideology that reveres patently false economic ideas (austerity would be one such example), and offers reflexive rejection of inconvenient scientific truth (the notion of human-caused climate would be an example). The more obvious the falsity of the outlook, the more adherents become

more, not less, extreme in their dogma, which will make it even harder for them ever to admit that they, and the political movement they serve, have been wrong all along.

Strikingly like a certain domestic federal regime I could also name, no?

Admittedly, this does not offer a direct answer to Tom's question. But is it possible that those politicians who oppose such flawed doctrines are afraid of enraging those voters who do, a reaction that might strengthen their already motivated resolve to be a present en masse at the ballot box?

I would more than welcome input on this perplexing issue.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Mound Of Sound Guest Post: Libya - We Screwed Up Good, Real Good

Libya, remember that place? That's where NATO waged a bombing campaign against the forces of the late dictator, Muamar Gaddafi. When Gaddafi was ousted we figured we'd done real good.

If you judge our warfighting prowess by the outcomes, Libya ranks right up there with Afghanistan. The country has become ungovernable, plagued by militias and Islamist terrorists. Foreign consulates have closed down in Benghazi and even Arab embassies are clearing out.

The Libyan military, fed up with the government's refusal to move against Islamist militias, has mutinied. General Kalifa Hafter, supposedly with the backing of Egypt's military government, is waging a campaign to clean the Islamists out of eastern Libya. Whether he has much chance of succeeding is far from clear. Militias are tough to take out. Like guerrillas, they can dissolve, melt away and return as insurgents.

Sad to say but I saw this coming back in February, 2011 when I wrote that the only effective way to deal with Gaddafi was for Egypt's army and air force to take him out. Gwynne Dyer came to the same conclusion a month later. This became especially urgent when al Qaeda announced they intended to use the Libyan civil war to get a toehold in north Africa that they missed during the Egyptian uprising that toppled Mubarak. And that, as our bombing campaign dragged on for week after week, was exactly what al Qaeda did. Even before Gaddafi was toppled, Islamist fighters assassinated the rebels’ top general.

Now, three lost years later, the Egyptian military wants a say in how Libya should be run. Now Islamist radicals are well entrenched across north Africa. Now we see plainly how little NATO really accomplished in Libya.

Embarrassing as this rightly is for NATO, it's far worse for Washington. Both sides, Hafter and the Islamist militias, blame the United States for the bloodbath now taking place in Libya.

Contempt Of The Electorate?

Tom, a friend of mine, posted the following on Facebook yesterday:

Kind of tired of all the polemical posturing in the latest election. However, can anyone provide one instance in history -- at least, since the advent of the Industrial Revolution -- where, corporate or business tax cuts, the basis of trickle down economic policy, have been primarily responsible for an upsurge in hiring or the oxymoronic fictional concept of job creation.

I replied:

Tom, you are asking a question that the media refuse to ask. Considering who owns most of the media in this country, this is perhaps not so surprising.

To which Tom replied:

I think that's partially true, Lorne. However, how come politicians and supporters of those on the other side [of the] argument don't keep asking the question and insist upon an answer. I've been looking for such an historical antecedent and can't find anything.

I wrote back:

A good question. Perhaps it reflects their belief that the attention span of the average citizen is short, and boring them with facts is counter productive? Sound bites do seem to rule the day.

Tom makes an excellent point about the dearth of questions asked about the right's underlying premises. Indeed, the Liberals have only gone so far as to ridicule the accuracy of the job-creation numbers Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak claims will ensue from both his gutting of public service jobs and reduction in corporate tax rates. Nowhere is his philosophical foundation questioned.

Kim Campbell, in her short career as Canada's first woman prime minister, once infamously observed that political campaigns are not the time to discuss policy. She was much pilloried for that comment, but perhaps it was simply an oblique expression of disdain for the very people whose support politicians seek on their road to power. That contempt seems to be more and more the default position of those who lead us or aspire to.

In his column this morning, Martin Regg Cohn laments the fact that Tim Hudak will not be taking part in the Ontario leaders' debate in Thunder Bay, attributing crass political calculation to his boycott, and not the 'scheduling conflict' Team Hudak claims.

Cohn calls his decision a disrespect for democracy, and yet I have long given up on such debates, reflecting, as they do, the very contempt that is the subject of this post. Far too frequently, instead of engaging in the thrust and parry a real debate entails, politicos are all too content either to simply rework their stump speeches into their responses or answer the questions they wished had been asked, rather than the actual queries. Avoidance and obfuscation seem to rule the day, and the journalists moderating the panels rarely seem to hold them to account.

How we arrived at this sad state is not an easy question to answer, but undoubtedly the pernicious influence of the Harper regime and its worship of ignorance is a factor.

Two brief letters in today's Star make this point:

Gutting Statistics Canada is a pound-foolish strategy, Opinion May 19

Anyone with brains could see that gutting Statistics Canada would be a disaster for future governing of this country. To me, it represented one of the first major steps of Stephen Harper’s “secret agenda” of remaking this country into his little fiefdom of conservative domination into the future ruled by ideology not evidence-backed policies.

It will be the ruination of this once small but proud country.

Ann Goodin, Burlington

I don’t think money is the main motivator behind gutting StatsCan, although it’s a great excuse. It’s been obvious for years that the Conservatives don’t like pesky facts getting in the way of their ideology.

They’ve also figured out how to data mine us so they have info we’ll never see (those pesky facts again).

Ellen Bates, Toronto

That is not to see that any of us gets a free pass when it comes to embracing ignorance. Far too many have stopped taking the political process seriously, seeing it more as a source of soap-operish entertainment than as fundamental to the health of our country. Anyone who doubts that need only refer to the antics of a Rob Ford and the tenor of so many reactions to them. Or ask yourself this: What comes to mind when you think of Maxime Bernier and the misplaced government documents?

I will end what has been perhaps a bit of a meandering post with one final letter from today's Star. During this Ontario election campaign, both Mr. Hudak and Ms. Horwath have made much about our hydro rates. It is taken as undeniable that we pay some of the world's highest rates thanks to Liberal incompetence and corruption. Here are the facts:

Business shifts election focus to power prices, May 15

Most people realise that just because a politician (or party rep) says something, it doesn’t mean it’s true. The latest scuttlebutt is the “sky-high” prices we pay for electricity in Ontario making us uncompetitive and putting a strain on working families.

Let’s face it: nobody wants to pay more for anything, but before voting for political parties who are promising to lower your hydro rates, consider the fact that electricity prices in Ontario are actually not high at all.

Hydro Quebec routinely surveys electricity rates for consumers/small business and large industrial customers across North America. In 2013 it may surprise many people to know that at a kw/h price of $0.1248, Toronto has lower hydro rates than Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Halifax, Charlottetown, and St John’s. In addition, it has much lower rates than Boston (0.165), Detroit (0.1554), New York (0.2175), and San Francisco (0.2294).

If one looks further abroad, a 2011 comparison of electricity rates (all in U.S. dollars per kw/h) world wide indicates that after adjusting for relative purchasing power, Canada has the lowest rates in the entire world. Not adjusting for purchasing power, we have the fourth lowest rates in the world at $0.10, just above India and China at $0.08 each and tied with Mexico and South Africa.

The average price in the U.S. in 2011 was actually $0.12, more than we pay in Toronto. The top five? Denmark: $0.41, Germany: $0.35, Spain: $0.30, Australia: $0.29, and Italy: $0.28. Even Brazil has higher rates at $0.17.

Ontario has a massive electricity grid to maintain relative to its population. Part of this cost is offset by relatively cheap hydro electric power and the artificially low cost we pay for nuclear power, but maintenance on a system this large requires substantial and on-going investment.

Before voting for a party promising to cut prices, ask yourself this question: Who is going to pay for them?

Rob Graham, Toronto

Saturday, May 24, 2014

An F-35 Update From The Mound Of Sound

The Mound of Sound sent along this note, followed by his guest post on the F-35:

I thought an update on the F-35 would be appropriate after reading Bill Sweetman’s latest piece in Aviation Week. He writes that this warplane’s Canadian backers are desperate to convince us that we don’t need to put the F-35 through an actual competition.

Canadian supporters of the F-35 marginally stealthy, light attack bomber are so convinced that the F-35 would trounce its rivals in an actual, head-to-head competition that they argue fiercely we should have no such competition.

Aviation Week says we're being conned.

F-35 backers point to various foreign orders as proof that the Lockheed bomber is a world-beater but the truth is that the Joint Strike Fighter has never flown against the other aircraft on the market. Why not? Partly because the problem-plagued warplane is so far behind schedule. Partly because it can't out-turn, out-climb, outrun or out-distance its opposition. What paltry advantage it may eke out in stealth is more than offset by its lack of the Holy Grail of aerial combat, Supercruise - the range-extending ability to achieve sustained, supersonic speeds without fuel-guzzling afterburner.

Aviation Week's Bill Sweetman discussed the F-35's mythical stealth in an article entitled, "Smoke and Mirrors":

To suggest that the F-35 is VHF-stealthy is like arguing that the sky is not blue - literally, because both involve the same phenomenon. The late-Victorian physicist Lord Rayleigh gave his name to the way that electromagnetic radiation is scattered by objects that are smaller than its wavelength. This applies to the particles in the air that scatter sunlight, and aircraft stabilizers and wingtips that are about the same meter-class size as VHF waves.

The counter-stealth attributes of VHF ...were known at the dawn of stealth, in 1983, when MIT's Lincoln Laboratory ordered a 150-ft.-wide radar to emulate Russia's P-14 Oborona VHF early warning system. Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth division should know about that radar - they built it.

VHF-stealth starts with removing the target's tails, as on the B-2, but we did not know how to do that on a supersonic, agile airplane, when the (F-35) specifications were written.

Sweetman adds that the threats of the mid-90s that the F-35 was designed to thwart are, like the F-35 itself, a thing of the past.

The threats of the late 2010s will be qualitatively different. Old VHF radars could be dealt with by breaking the kill chain between detection and tracking: They did not provide good enough cueing to put analog, mechanically scanned tracking radars on to the target. Active, electronically scanned array (AESA), high-power VHF radars and decimeter- and centimeter-wave trackers are more tenacious foes.

We would do well to remember that America did not invent stealth technology. The mathematical formulae for angles and ratios were the brainchild of a Russian mathematician. American defence experts had the paper translated and they were off to the stealth races. The point is that stealth is not some magical technology as we're often given to believe. There are no 'invisible' airplanes and never will be. What that means is that, in evaluating warplanes, stealth should be given its due but no more, and we cannot overlook sacrifices it requires in cost and performance. When it comes to the F-35, you're shelling out a lot and giving up a lot for the sake of a far less than invincible technology.

UPDATED: Gerald Caplan's Lament

The NDP exists for a reason: to express certain principles and to represent certain voters. Today it is not easy to say what the Ontario party’s principles are or for whom it speaks.

This lament, which Gerald Caplan places near the beginning of his open letter to Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, expresses both the sadness and the frustration I suspect many feel. For those of us who still believe that government can be a force for positive social change, Andrea Horwath's direction and leadership as it is emerging during the Ontario campaign has been a profound disappointment. No vision. Just what many call populist policies or 'chequebook issues' that promise a modicum of relief from a few financial burdens, while leaving the fundamental underlying issues untouched and unspoken.

Her rejection of a progressive Liberal budget in the hope, presumably, of pursuing political gain, disappointed many, as Caplan makes plain:

Here was a win-win for the party: Many of those in need – the NDP’s people – would have directly benefited, and the NDP could have taken the credit. It would’ve been an entirely plausible claim, since it was true. The Liberals crafted it expecting your support. I expected it too, as did many others. Our disappointment was compounded when you could offer no sensible rationale for doing the opposite.

Pointedly, he chides her for what is missing in the current incarnation of the NDP:

No coherent theme, no memorable policies, nothing to deal with the great concerns of New Democrats everywhere: increasing inequality, the precarious lives of so many working people, reduced public services, global warming.

Instead, here is where her sights seem to be set:

...your real target seems to be business people large and small. Yes, they have their needs too, some of them legitimate. But they also have their parties who cater to those needs. If business want a sympathetic party to support – and they do – you can be sure they don’t need and won’t buy the NDP.

There are, of course, those die-hard NDP politicos who will be outraged by Caplan's letter. A circling of the wagons seems a natural reaction when attacked by one of your own. But what they need to remember is that he speaks for many who have grown disaffected with a party apparently more interested in pandering than in adhering to principles that provide a voice for those who have none.

For me, he speaks a sad but undeniable truth: the NDP has lost its way.

UPDATE: The discontent expressed by Gerald Caplan is spreading:

You may also like to check out these links here, here and here.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Harper Enemies List: A Prominent Member

Yesterday I wrote about a fund-raising plea that the Harper machine has sent out to its true believers with deep pockets; the missive stressed the need for big dollars to get out the truth to Canadians about what a fine job the regime is doing, a message that is, according to the neocons, being impeded by a leftist media apparently in the thrall of Justin Trudeau.

While that letter places the media in general on the Harper Enemies List, an individual who occupies a prominent place in that august pantheon surely is Linda McQuaig, a journalist I have long admired for her piercing insights and refusal to tow the corporate line.

McQuaig's latest piece for iPolitics, entitled For Big Oil, Harper’s door is always wide open, makes for some interesting reading tying, as it does, Harper, Nigel Wright, and disgraced lobbyist Bruce Carson together in a shameless pandering for oil interests. I shall say no more, since Owen wrote about it yesterday on his blog, which, along with McQuaig's article, is will worth reading.

Prognosis: Grim

Kevin Farmer, the lead letter-writer in today's Star, captures nicely, I think, the irrational nature of humanity that does not bode well for our collective future:

Re: Antarctic melt greatest in 1,000 years, May 16

As humanity continues to avoid meaningful action on climate change, an unavoidable future of climate catastrophe continues to take shape. In that regard, it has been morbidly fascinating to watch people simultaneously over- and under-react to reports that the West Antarctic ice sheet is destined to collapse, committing spaceship Earth and all of its passengers to a rise in sea levels of up to four meters from this impact alone.

Some people are receiving this news as proof of the urgency of climate change. Others are dismissing it as an unstoppable phenomenon the impacts of which will be felt only over a long period of time. They are resigned to climate change that is out of our hands and a problem for future generations. Ironically, it is the former who are under-reacting and the latter who are over-reacting.

The collapse of this ice sheet was set in motion years ago, perhaps decades. This event is not an indication of how urgent climate change is today, but rather how urgent climate change was before the collapse was triggered. To “take the temperature” of the climate crisis today according to this particular news is to under-react to the implications of this event.

We are setting future climate catastrophes in motion today. The urgency of climate change today is properly measured against those outcomes. To consign future generations to the consequences of inaction in the present, because we are already consigned to the consequences of inaction in the past, is to over-react to the implications of this event.

As long as we wait for catastrophes to inform our environmental awareness, these catastrophes will likely be permanent features of a new normal. By all credible accounts, the future impacts of climate change will continuously accelerate and worsen.

The collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is part of the new normal. What else are we waiting for? Whatever it is, do we really want it?

Kevin Farmer, Toronto

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Is El Niño Set To Return?

Although he is taking a hiatus from his blog, The Mound of Sound is keeping very active in his research and studies. Those who read him regularly know of his ongoing deep concern with our terrible and heedless treatment of the world and its resources, pursuing lifestyles that cannot be sustained if we are to have any hope of survival as a species.

The Mound has alerted me to a couple of things that I would like to share on my blog. One is a story from today's Times-Colonist that predicts that all of Vancouver Islands glaciers will be gone within 25 years, yet another casualty of climate change.

The second point of concern rests with the possibility of an El Nino return that could rival the one in 1997, meaning the effects could be devastating. You can read more about it here, and watch the following brief video that offers a clear explanation of the phenomenon:

A New Enemy Of The State

When it comes to the media, it is common knowledge that the right-wing sees the CBC as a repository of leftists bent on perverting all that is sacred in Harperland. Hence the ongoing funding cuts, despite the Mother Corp's repeated efforts at appeasement. What is surprising, however, is the fact that now the broader media have joined the Harper Enemies List.

In a letter to significant Conservative Party contributors, the Harper regime is asking them to reach deeply into their pockets, warning of next year's election battle that will be a choice between Stephen Harper’s economic record and “inexperienced Liberals like Justin Trudeau” or the “leftist ideologues like Thomas Mulcair.”

The battle will be be complicated by the perfidy of, you guessed it, the media, specifically, media concentration:

“Despite all his verbal flubs, lack of experience, and his failure to outline any practical economic policy for Canada, Justin Trudeau is still awarded a shining halo by liberal-minded journalists and pundits who are bedazzled by their own hopes of a Liberal second coming,” says the letter by Conservative Party director of political operations Fred DeLorey.

The root of the problem, the Tories tell supporters, is that a few corporations control much of Canadian media.

Hinting at a dark conspiracy to deprive the Conservatives of their long-sought goal of becoming Canada's natural governing party, the letter observes,

“Over 80 per cent of Canadian media is owned by a cartel of just five corporations – each of which owns dozens of publications and networks under various subsidiaries and affiliates”.

“The Canadian newspaper industry today is largely controlled by a small number of individual or corporate owners, which often own the television networks.”

And the proof of this de facto conspiracy is obvious to all who have eyes:

DeLorey noted good economic news such as March, 2014, job growth and asked “how much of that good news has come to you in the press and media?”

For the more obtuse inhabitants of Harperland, the letter leaves nothing to interpretation:

“Media convergence has greatly complicated our Conservative Party efforts to present the unfiltered facts and foundations behind our policies for economic growth, our faith in family values and our commitment to jobs, free trade and prosperity,” Mr. DeLorey wrote.

Ho hum. Another day. Another addition to the Enemies List. Another ort for the red-meat crowd to chew upon.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Spoof, Or Not A Spoof?

Were it not for the telltale insignia on the bottom-right of the screen, it might be hard to tell.

High School Student, Teacher Applying For Same Summer Waitressing Job


While I have never been one to use the term fascist profligately, the creeping authoritarianism that has been the hallmark of the Harper regime gives pause for reconsideration. As the above graphic shows, and as any well-informed citizen knows, the cabal has been intent for many years on tearing down confidence in some institutions while exalting others. The nuances, variety and diversity of a healthy society are discouraged, even suppressed. Cultivating a black-and-white mentality within the population makes it easier to maintain and further control.

Perhaps the most recent and egregious examples of institutional attack has been Harper's attempt to undermine the integrity of the Supreme Court, the court of final arbitration and justice, by questioning and assailing the integrity and motives of Canada's Chief Justice, Beverly McLachlin. While much has been written as to his motives in this attack, it does conform to the above-described pattern.

The road to fascism is made easier by a compliant and docile population. Fortunately, not all dissent has yet been quelled in Harperland. Two former prime ministers, Joe Clark and Paul Martin, are speaking out:

In interviews with the Star, former prime ministers Paul Martin (Liberal) and Joe Clark (Progressive Conservative) and the top aide to former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien delivered scathing reviews of Harper’s comments.

Martin — Harper’s immediate predecessor — offered an unequivocal defence of Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin’s recent actions in flagging a potential legal issue with a Supreme Court appointment.

“The chief justice acted perfectly appropriately. The prime minister has not,” said Martin, who named two judges to the top court during his tenure.

Clark, who appointed one judge to the high court during his brief time in the prime minister’s seat, said: “My gut (reaction) and my considered reaction was it’s very inappropriate.”

Said former Chretien chief of staff, Eddie Goldenberg:

“I actually find it despicable”... “I can disagree with a lot of his policies or agree with some of them but this is just an attack on institutions — I’m trying to think of a word — to try to ‘swift boat’ the chief justice. We’ve never seen this in Canadian history.”

While Harper and his minions have been trying to undermine McLachlin by saying that her attempt to call the prime minister was “inappropriate and inadvisable,”

the two former prime ministers and Goldenberg all said McLachlin had a duty to flag a potential legal question about a judicial candidate’s eligibility under the act that governs such appointments.

Martin said it is a long-standing tradition for a government to welcome a chief judge’s input. He said during the search that ultimately led to two Ontario appointments on the same day — Rosalie Abella and Louise Charron ... [Irwin] Cotler consulted McLachlin twice.

Former prime minister Joe Clark sees a distubring pattern in Harper's behaviour, citing

how Harper has dealt with a litany of institutions, starting with the Commons and the Senate, landing repeated omnibus bills on the agenda, diminishing the role of private members, making Senate appointments “some of which were good and some clearly bad … it did not indicate a respect for the role and the rules of the Senate."

And Clark observes what is the most insidious aspect of this bad behaviour:

“Institutions have statutory lives of their own, but they depend upon legitimacy, and if public opinion and the legitimacy of our most basic institutions is gradually narrowed by whatever source, that’s a danger for democracy. And when the source is the prime minister himself, I find that quite alarming.”

It is reassuring that these former top politicians are sounding the alarm. We can only hope that the message will have reached a large segment of the electorate by 2015.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

And Speaking Of Tale Tales

Here's a whopper from one of young Tim's chief disciples, Lisa MacLeod:

Political Rhetoric Pierced

Hyperbole is, of course, a mainstay of political campaigns, as those vying for public office offer a blunt message to potential voters. Keep it simple and repetitive seems the overarching strategy, never more apparent than in young Tim Hudak's 1 million jobs plan. Will people be fooled by his claim that with the destruction of 100,000 good-paying jobs that provide much-needed services to Ontarians, Phoenix-like from their ashes will arise more jobs than there are people seeking them?

Judging by these recent letters from Star readers, I suspect he has his job cut out for him:

Re: Hudak’s popularity takes a hit over jobs plan, May 14

So on the one hand, Tim Hudak is going to create 1 million jobs in Ontario. On the other hand he is going to eliminate 100,000 jobs from the civil service. One can only wonder what kind of jobs he’s going to create. Minimum wage? Part time? No benefits? No pensions?

This is war on the working people of Ontario. We’ve seen this kind of politicking before under the inimitable Mike Harris, Hudak’s mentor and go-to boy. One can only hope that the electorate doesn’t buy into this kind of small mindedness.

Stephen Bloom, Toronto

Tim Hudak has revealed his platform, and his great plan for Ontario is to lay off 100,000 civil servants. It is hard to believe the audacity of this man. Not only has he decided to let these people go, he’s inferred that they are just rather worthless employees, living off the fat of the government, and of course, running up the poor taxpayer’s tab.

Mary Pucknell, Whitby

Hudak’s promise of a million jobs is like my 3-year-old telling me that one cookie is not enough, she wants a million. I for one am tired of politicians glibly using terms like unemployment without giving any thought to the underemployment of our precariat class. Let’s not oversimplify a complex and serious problem with meaningless talk and myopic platforms.

Matthew Ferguson, Oakville

Tim Hudak, a trained economist, would have us believe that supply-side economics works despite the evidence in recent years. That we are still in anemic economic growth six years after the Great Recession is sufficient evidence to prove that low corporate taxes in Ontario and Canada will not boost the economy.

Canadian businesses have tens of billions of cash to invest but they are not investing. Why? The opportunity to profit is not there because economic growth is driven by consumption and the ultimate consumer is us. Business investment depends on consumers buying.

Hudak repeats daily that he will create a million jobs by reducing corporate taxes further and eliminating 100,000 public sector jobs. He operates with a blind belief that this would increase profits for business and thus attract them to invest in Ontario.

Where Hudak fails is identifying who is going to buy the stuff and services that business is selling. As more wealth is shifted to the top 20 per cent, leaving 80 per cent of the population with less to spend, overall consumption is going to be stagnant at best if not decline. If consumers are not buying, there is no profit for business to make. Even if corporate tax is reduced to zero, when there is no demand, business will not invest.

Plants of U.S. companies are moving back to the U.S. It is not because we are not competitive. These plants were here because they cater to a sizable Canadian market then as well as the U.S. market. As consumption here decreases due to unemployment and lower incomes, there is no reason for those plants to be here.
Business need us to buy. If we don’t have the means to buy, business won’t have a reason to invest, or to exist. That’s basic economics which right-wing politicians don’t seem to get.

Salmon Lee, Mississauga

You can read more of these well-considered rebuttals to Hudak's fantasies here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Reveling In Ignorance

It is perhaps the supreme irony of our age; for the first time in history we have access to a world of information and data literally at our fingertips; it is an era when profound ignorance should be quickly receding into the status of historical artifact; yet we are led by a federal government that revels in and promotes profound ignorance. This is not the way the twenty-first century should be.

In today's Star, Carol Goar begins her article with some damning facts about the Harper regime's relentless campaign of disinformation:

For the past year, Canadians have laboured under the misapprehension that thousands of jobs go begging because no one in this country has the skills to fill them. It turned out the government was using faulty online data.

For two years, people struggled to figure out how Ottawa could close prisons while ordering judges to impose more jail sentences. The auditor general solved that riddle last week: it couldn’t. Canada’s prisons are dangerously overcrowded.

For eight years, the government has been cracking down on lawlessness, despite a steady drop in the crime rate. Former cabinet minister Stockwell Day insisted “unreported crime” was rising.

Through three federal elections, Stephen Harper has campaigned as the prime minister who brought fiscal discipline to the nation’s capital. In fact, federal spending ballooned on his watch. He burned his way through the $13-billion surplus left by the previous government, leaving no rainy-day fund when the 2008 recession hit.

One of the key reasons the cabal has gotten away with these lies and carefully crafted pieces of propaganda is the downsizing of Statistics Canada, an agency that was once the envy of the world:

Half of the agency’s workforce is gone. Hundreds of its programs have been dropped. The mandatory long-form census has given way to a voluntary household survey. It would cost tens of millions of dollars to reverse these changes...

Auditor general Michael Ferguson's annual report offers some sobering insights into the costs incurred from the Stats Can decimation:

His most troubling finding is that StatsCan’s job vacancy survey is vague and unreliable. “It is not possible to determine where in a province or territory job vacancies are located,”...

Regarding the cancellation of the mandatory long-form census, whose response rate dropped to 69 per cent from 94 per cent in 2006, Ferguson says,

In parts of the country, so few households filled out the questionnaire that StatsCan could not produce reliable data. So it withheld the results in those areas, leaving municipalities, school boards, urban planners, developers, businesses and social agencies in 25 per cent of Canada without up-to-date information.

The Harper regime has, by stealth, changed the function of Stats Can, thereby eliminating the tremendous value it offered a wide array of people:

It has curtailed its consultations with entrepreneurs, academics and non-government organizations. It has narrowed its focus. “We found the agency primarily consults with the federal, provincial and territorial governments”

I suppose none of this should come as a shock to any of us. The greatest enemy of a regime intent on ruling through lies, fear and propaganda is truth. The Harper cabal is well on its way to eliminating that pesky problem.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Common Sense Revolution Redux ( A.K.A. Tiny Tim Roars)

H/t Theo Moudakis

If you have resided in Ontario for some years, and were of a certain age when Ontario's Common Sense Revolution was conducted by Mike 'The Knife' Harris, you will recall it was a time of great upheaval that, contrary to the mythologizing that the right-wing so much enjoys fabricating, left the bulk of Ontarians worse off.

It was a time of job cuts, dissension, the sowing of hatred against various groups that fell into Harris' crosshairs, monumental downloading of provincial responsibilities to municipalities for which property owners are still paying dearly in their tax bills, the selling off of Highway 407 to cover fiscal ineptitude and balance the books, etc. etc. And yet, Harris was wielding a mere hatchet in his reductionist zeal compared to the battle axe that his acolyte, young Tim Hudak, plans to use should he win the election.

With the magical thinking so favoured by the extreme right, Hudak says that to balance the budget he will slash 100,000 public sector jobs out of whose ashes, along with more corporate tax cuts, will emerge one million 'good-paying jobs.' Forget for a moment that both strategies has been amply discredited and look closer at the numbers.

In a piece in today's Star, Kaylie Tiessen and Kayle Hatt analyse what will be involved in these cuts:

Statistics Canada indicates there were 88,483 Ontario public servants in the general government category in 2012, the most recent year of data available.

This includes the core public service, agencies, boards and commissions (such as Metrolinx, the Ontario Municipal Board, the Niagara Falls Bridge authority and several hundred other organizations), provincial police and judicial employees.

Eliminating 100,000 jobs would amount to 15.3 per cent of Ontario’s provincial public servants — 1.5 per cent of the total jobs in Ontario.

And this means the broader public service, including those involved in public education and health care, and would likely range from teachers, educational assistants, community home-care providers, nurses, etc.

The writers also make a point that Hudak conveniently chooses to ignore: the multiplier effect:

The federal ministry of finance estimates the multiplier effect of government spending is approximately 1.5. That means every dollar the government spends generates an additional 50 cents in economic activity through increased consumer spending, business activity and other second order effects.

Using that multiplier, we estimate the impact of cutting 100,000 good jobs out of Ontario’s economy would result in the loss of an additional 50,000 private sector jobs — because those who used to be employed in the public sector would no longer have the money they need to participate in the local economy, go to movies, eat at local restaurants and shop in local stores.

Essentially, the boy who would be premier demands that we bow at the twin altars of austerity and corporate tax reduction. Hudak tells us that it will be good for all of us, although it is truly difficult to discern any beneficiaries in this mad gambit.

The more people who understand these facts, one hopes, the less support Hudak's demented vision will receive on June 12.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Following Politics Too Closely Takes Its Toll

I imagine that many people who follow politics closely do so in the belief that it is one of the few arenas that offers the possibility of change on a wide scale. Enlightened public policy, backed by the appropriate fiscal measures, can help bring about greater social and economic equity, thereby contributing to a more balanced and compassionate world. Unfortunately, perhaps inevitably, that hope is almost always dashed. Consequently, many of us fall victim to a deep cynicism about human nature.

In the current Ontario election campaign, there is much about which to be cynical. Three parties, all deeply flawed, all vying for our vote. There is the prospect of voting for a government long past its best-before date, the Liberals, whose leader, Kathleen Wynne, has thus far been unable to lay to rest the ghost of Dalton McGuinty. Next, Tim Hudak, leading the Progressive Conservatives, seeks to resurrect the ghost of Mike Harris, accompanied by an egregious contempt for the electorate's intelligence, reflected in his facile use of a fictitious number, one million, for the number of jobs he will create by cutting 100,000 of them.

At one time, solace might have been found in the New Democratic Party. Sadly that time is no more.

Its leader, Andrea Horwath, now inhabits an unenviable category. Having abandoned traditional progressive principles, like a pinball caroming off various bumpers, she emerges as one wholly undone by a lust for power.

Having forced this election by rejecting a very progressive budget on the pretext that the Liberals cannot be trusted, she is floundering badly as she tries desperately to reinvent herself and her party as conscientious custodians of the public purse, promising, for example, to create a new Savings Ministry, cut $600 million per annum by eliminating waste, and lower small business taxes.

Few are fooled by her chameleon-like performance. Carol Goar's piece in today's Star, says it all: Ontario NDP sheds role as champion of the poor: Andrea Horwath campaigns for lean government, forsaking the poor, hungry and homeless.

Horwath, says Goar, is so preoccupied with winning middle-class votes, assuring the business community she would be a responsible economic manager and saving tax dollars that she has scarcely said a word about poverty, homelessness, hunger, low wages or stingy social programs.

She continues her indictment:

She triggered the election by rejecting the most progressive provincial budget in decades, one that would have raised the minimum wage, increased the Ontario Child Benefit, improved welfare rates, and provided more support to people with disabilities. She parted ways with the Ontario Federation of Labour and Unifor, the province’s largest private-sector union. And she left MPPs such Cheri DiNovo, a longtime advocate of the vulnerable and marginalized, without a social justice platform to stand on.

No vision. Not a scintilla of progressive policy. Only the perspective of an uninspired and uninspiring bookkeeper.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here, is what Dante said was inscribed on the entrance to hell. These days, it could equally apply to those who have thrown in their lot with the Ontario NDP.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ronald McDonald's Secret Agenda

As Johnny Carson used to say, "Folks, I merely report these things".

Love 'Em, But Don't Accept Their 'Lifestyle'

Thus speaketh that irascible and crazy old televangelist, Pat Robertson.

Pat Robertson: ‘Love’ your lesbian family member by refusing to accept her (via Raw Story )

On Thursday, televangelist Pat Robertson counseled a 700 Club viewer that the most Christian way for her to behave toward a lesbian in her family is to refuse to be her niece’s “enabler,” and to refuse to give her blessing to her niece’s relationships…

The Ontario NDP: The Party of No Damn Principles?

That is the conclusion Rick Salutin recently came to in a column entitled Andrea Horwath's right-wing populism.

Describing her as a right-wing populist, full out, Salutin explored the framework within which this unpleasant and inconvenient truth emerges:

She’s Rob Ford, thinking always about saving taxpayers money simplistically by cutting waste and public salaries, in order to hand out $100 Hydro rebates: that’s gravy train talk, province-wide.

She’s Mitt Romney appealing to his base when she invokes concern for “the job creators and small business,” i.e. the makers not the takers.

She’s Margaret Thatcher when she opposes any meaningful revenue increase for public projects like Kathleen Wynne’s pension plan and transit expansion.

And she’s Mike Harris when she advocates “a government that makes sense” and emblazons “Makes Sense” on her campaign bus. That’s no coincidence, it’s an evocation of Mike Harris’s “Common Sense” motto. These things don’t just happen, they’re focus grouped to within a breath of survival.

With each passing day, Salutin's acerbic analysis rings increasingly true.

On Wednesday, continuing her slow tease out of 'policy,' Ms. Horwath promised to encumber the cabinet with a new ministry for 'cutting waste' at Queen's Park:

The Minister of Savings and Accountability would be charged with finding a half a per cent of savings – about $600-million – in the annual budget each year.

With little more than her usual rapid blinking that accompanies each departure from traditional NDP principles, the leader averred “There are a lot of people around the cabinet table whose business it is, whose job it is to spend the money,” but “What I want is someone there who’s going to be able to save the pennies.”

While those pennies saved be put toward progressive programs? Apparently not. Aware of the difficulty in finding $600 million in savings each year, Horwath said it could mean “hard decisions” about social programs.

So there you have it. Trimming the 'fat.' Saving the taxpayer money. Funding business to hire people. Apparently those are the new 'principles' of the Ontario NDP under Ms Horwath's 'leadership.'

Or perhaps Liberal party spokeswoman Rebecca MacKenzie put it even more tartly and accurately when she said, “It's impossible to know what Andrea Horwath stands for any more. She has gone from calling herself a socialist to mimicking Rob Ford and Tim Hudak.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Why I'm Glad I Wasn't A Math Teacher

While those heard-headed pragmatists who rule the world today often disdain 'soft' subjects like English literature, sociology, and a host of other disciplines that require nuanced, as opposed to blunt thinking, I am glad that I was an English teacher instead of one dispensing the wonders of mathematics.

Even though he might have been what we used to euphemistically call 'a difficult-to-serve client,' young Tim Hudak these days must be causing his old math teachers (and probably their entire brethren of colleagues) some embarrassment and grief, for one simple reason: they just did not meet his needs, clearly reflected in the fact that his figures just don't add up.

During this Ontario election campaign, the would-be but failed wunderkind is traipsing throughout the province promising a remarkable 'million jobs' if only less enlightened souls entrust him with the task on June 12. But whatever arcane formula he is using to rescue us from our weaker moments of compassion for our fellow citizens and the necessary accompanying progressive legislation seems, to put it politely, flawed.

First, to his figures as reported in The Toronto Star:

Based on the previous decade’s average, 523,200 jobs would develop over eight years if he did nothing.

Lowering corporate taxes from 11.5 per cent to 8 per cent would generate an additional 119,808 jobs.

Ending wind and solar energy subsidies would spark another 40,364 jobs and cutting the regulatory burden of red tape would mean an extra 84,800 new private-sector positions.

Revamping Ontario’s restrictive apprenticeship programs would mean 170,240 jobs.

Hudak believes another 96,000 jobs would come from public transit expansion in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

In his second mandate — after the 2018 election — he would reduce personal income taxes to generate 47,080 jobs.

Have these numbers been vetted and approved by economists? Well, kinda, sorta, not really.

Apparently, as reported in The Ottawa Citizen, the Tories sought the imprimatur of one Benjamin Zycher, a Californian who’s associated with the Pacific Research Institute and the American Enterprise Institute, intellectual cousins of Canada’s Fraser Institute.

The only problem is that Zycher never looked at the Hudak plan:

His work was done months before the current election campaign and it’s not based on the specifics of what Hudak says he would do as premier. It’s a more philosophical take on eliminating regulations, giving up on green energy, cutting corporate taxes, and reducing trade barriers with other provinces.

Is this kind of faith-based, aspirational plan something that the voters of Ontario want to embrace?

As reported in today's Star, it would seem that young Tim has underestimated the discernment of the Ontario electorate:

Nearly two-thirds of Ontarians disapprove of Tim Hudak’s plan to cut 100,000 public servants to streamline government, a new poll suggests.

The Forum Research survey also found‎ 63 per cent do not think the Progressive Conservative leader will be able to create his promised 1 million new jobs, while 26 per cent feel he can deliver and 11 per cent don’t know.

Similarly, 26 per cent approve of cutting 100,000 public-sector workers — such as teachers and bureaucrats — while 62 per cent do not and‎ 11 per cent aren’t sure.

Parenthetically, one can't help but wonder if disapproval would be even higher if people knew that Tim's plan doesn't involve just the dismissal of faceless bureaucrats but also includes nursing home caregivers, educational assistants, front-line educators, homecare workers, etc., while upping corporate welfare through a 30% reduction in the corporate tax rate.

Rarely are voters offered such a dramatic and opposing vision. The embrace and elevation of the self to the exclusion of concern for the collective. I guess at least for that, we should thank Tim Hudak.

For more about young Tim, check out this comment by one of my blog readers.

Meanwhile, Back In The Land of Ontario Election Campaigns....

The mask of boyish innocence was slowly slipping away from young Tim Hudak.

H/t Toronto Star

H/t Ray Mirshahi

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Don't Worry; Be Happy

Apparently those of us who fret about the ever-growing magnitude of climate change effects are just not grasping the truth. As The National Post's Peter Foster recently explained at a gathering of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the oil industry just isn't adequately communicating why climate change skeptics are right:

What Stephen Harper, Tim Hudak And The Rest of The Neocons Really Think

Monday, May 12, 2014

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Electorate?

Some critical thinkers might conclude it is the Harper regime, given the curious date they have assigned for four federal byelections.

We're Not Paying You To Tell Us Something We Don't Want To Know

That would seem to be the mentality behind the Harper regime's chopping of $1.2 million from the federal Justice Department's research budget.

As reported by the CBC, the cut, which represents 20% of the department's research budget and will result in the termination of eight very experienced legal researchers, seems to have been prompted by its penchant for uncovering some inconvenient truths that run counter to the regime's simplistic law-and-order agenda:

Previous legal research in the department sometimes caught senior officials "off-guard ... and may even have run contrary to government direction," says an internal report for deputy minister William Pentney.

What was the nature of that research? The internal memo, obtained by the Canadian Press under an Access to Information request, doesn't offer specifics, but observes that past projects have "at times left the impression that research is undermining government decisions."

The fact of the Harper cabal's fondness for fostering ignorance over knowledge is suggested by a department report last year on public confidence in the justice system [that] appeared to be at odds with the Conservative government's agenda.

Researcher Charlotte Fraser found many Canadians lacked confidence in the courts and prison system, but suggested it was the result of misunderstanding rather than any failures in the system, and that education could rectify the problem.

Critics said the finding was contrary to the government's approach, which is to pass tougher laws and impose harsher penalties rather than to cultivate a better-informed public.

Other research also offered refutation of the Harper Hammer of Justice approach so favoured by the red-meat set:

Another 2011 study, on the sentencing of drunk drivers, found that harsher terms for first offenders had little bearing on whether they re-offended — a finding critics held to be contrary to the government's agenda of tougher sentencing through mandatory minimums and other measures.

It is often said that good help is hard to find. And of course good help in Harperland consists of those who follow Dear Leader's imperatives without question. So the regime has sent out a powerful message to those who would enter public service under its aegis: Those with integrity need not apply.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


But at least young Tim manages to retain his boyish grin during yet another campaign gaffe.

UPDATED: The 'Robin-Hood Tax' Gains Traction

In a declaration that will likely earn him the designation 'Enemy of the Capitalist State,' Pope Francis recently called upon the world to redistribute its wealth in order to reduce what is likely the greatest socio-economic scourge of our times, income inequality.

In his address to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other U.N. leaders, the Pope said:

“Specifically, this involves challenging all forms of injustices and resisting the economy of exclusion, the throwaway culture and the culture of death which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted” .

While Francis hinted that a more equitable tax regime would help in this goal, he was short on specifics. Perhaps progressive states in Europe have hit upon an elegant yet simple solution: the Robin Hood Tax, a.k.a. The Tobin Tax, also called, within its Eurpoean context, the European Financial Transaction Tax.

The levy, about which I have written previously on this blog, would be a painless and very progressive measure that could be used not only to address the aforementioned inequality, but also a host of other urgent issues confronting the world. It could create jobs; spur economic development beyond the financial industry; and combat climate change, global poverty and HIV/AIDS.

While it would be naive to believe that any one measure could solve all of our problems, the ability to mitigate them is clearly within the tax's purview.

In the current proposed version backed by an 11-nation coalition, here is how it would work, as reported by Katrina vanden Heuvel in The National:

The proposed tax includes a 0.1 percent tax on stock and bond trades and a tax of 0.01 percent on derivatives. It’s now expected that the tax will indeed be phased in, with the levy on stock-trades comprising the first step. Reportedly, the finance ministers involved in the negotiations plan to use the rest of the year to negotiate over taxes on derivative-trading, which could be introduced later in a second phase. While the German government is reportedly determined to get an agreement from the outset to include derivatives, there has been some resistance, including from the supposedly more left-wing French government.

Its benefits would be many. Opposition to it is fierce and passionate. But with every indication that it is rapidly moving toward a European implementation, a critical mass is being reached. The fact that progressivity is not dead in Europe should give us all enough heart to reignite our passion for a more equitable world, a world in which the neo-liberal agenda no longer completely holds sway as it gives to the few while willfully withholding from the many.

UPDATE: Well, it certainly didn't take long for the right-wing to react to the Pope's suggestion. Let's just say, they didn't take it well:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"I've Gone To The Dark Side": A Guest Post From The Mound Of Sound

I received this essay from Mound yesterday. He asked me to read it carefully before deciding whether to post it, given its dark, apocalyptic overtones. I acquiesced in the Mound's request and concluded there was no way I would not put it on my blog, dealing as it does with issues and truths that, as a species, we have far too long been willfully blind to. My philosophy has always been, 'Better a bitter truth than a sweet lie.'

So, just as Neo does in The Matrix, prepare to swallow a pill that will point you to the harsh realities of our existences:

I have fallen in league with The Dark Mountain.

If you read the final post on The Disaffected Lib you'll understand how effortless it was for me to convert. The Dark Mountain is a place for disaffected artists, writers and thinkers "who have stopped believing the stories our civilization tells itself."

Here (in italics) are excerpts from the Dark Mountain manifesto you may find helpful:

‘Few men realise,’ wrote Joseph Conrad in 1896, ‘that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings.’ Conrad’s writings exposed the civilisation exported by European imperialists to be little more than a comforting illusion, not only in the dark, unconquerable heart of Africa, but in the whited sepulchres of their capital cities. The inhabitants of that civilisation believed ‘blindly in the irresistible force of its institutions and its morals, in the power of its police and of its opinion,’ but their confidence could be maintained only by the seeming solidity of the crowd of like-minded believers surrounding them. Outside the walls, the wild remained as close to the surface as blood under skin, though the city-dweller was no longer equipped to face it directly.

Bertrand Russell caught this vein in Conrad’s worldview, suggesting that the novelist ‘thought of civilised and morally tolerable human life as a dangerous walk on a thin crust of barely cooled lava which at any moment might break and let the unwary sink into fiery depths.’ What both Russell and Conrad were getting at was a simple fact which any historian could confirm: human civilisation is an intensely fragile construction. It is built on little more than belief: belief in the rightness of its values; belief in the strength of its system of law and order; belief in its currency; above all, perhaps, belief in its future.

Once that belief begins to crumble, the collapse of a civilisation may become unstoppable. That civilisations fall, sooner or later, is as much a law of history as gravity is a law of physics. What remains after the fall is a wild mixture of cultural debris, confused and angry people whose certainties have betrayed them, and those forces which were always there, deeper than the foundations of the city walls: the desire to survive and the desire for meaning.

Over the six plus years I maintained The Disaffected Lib I explored at some length this business of climate change and the impacts it would inflict on our world. That process led to a host of related realizations, an awareness that anthropogenic global warming, enormously dangerous as it may be, is but one of a matrix of challenges that must all be fixed if we're to resolve any of them.

I gradually became aware of the incredible fragility of this global civilization we have crafted and that its assumed prowess is illusory. As Joseph Conrad and Bertrand Russell warned, our global civilization indeed rests on a foundation of beliefs that, for several decades, have become detached from fact and reality. We have constructed our civilization on myths and probably lethal fantasy.

It's one thing to accept that mankind is using renewable resources at 1.5 times the planet's replenishment rate. It's another thing altogether to realize that our civilization has become dependent on that excessive consumption and that dependency is growing faster with each passing year. We simply cannot do without ever more of something, so many things that can only destroy us.

Proof of the mortal fragility of our global civilization is made out in this addictive dependency on excessive, utterly unsustainable consumption. The evidence is palpable, tangible, even visible to the naked eye from space. From the orbiting International Space Station we see rivers that no longer flow to the sea; spreading deforestation; desertification evidenced in dust clouds that rise in China and are carried on the winds across the Pacific to North America; the contamination of coastal waters from agricultural and industrial runoffs; the tailing ponds of the Athabasca Tar Sands. Satellites record surface subsidence caused by the draining of aquifers for irrigation. At our docks we have the measure of the collapse of global fisheries around the world. Around the world, air, water and soil contamination attests to the ease with which we now overwhelm the environment's capacity to absorb and cleanse our waste. These things, jointly and severally, stand as conclusive proofs of our steadily worsening addiction to excessive, unsustainable consumption.

This is the hallmark of the fragility of our global civilization. In the span of just two centuries, a blip in the history of mankind, we have grown our population sevenfold and we're proposing to extend that to 9 or 10 times or more. At the same time as we're adding new mouths by the hundreds of millions, we're increasing their per capita consumption.

We have grown our global population to such gargantuan proportions through our amazing ability to exploit cheap, abundant, non-renewable resources, especially fossil fuels. We never stop to ponder where those fossil fuels came from. We don't realize that they are the end product of organic life laid down over hundreds of millions, perhaps a billion years or more. How could dragging that resource to be burned at the surface over just a couple of centuries possibly destroy the environment? How could it not?

Growth. Growth, growth, growth. Growth in population. Growth in consumption. Growth in production. Growth in every way imaginable. We are slavishly addicted to exponential growth and it will be the end of us for ours is a decidedly finite planet with finite, life-sustaining resources that we're racing ever faster to exhaust. We have long ago outgrown our planet, our biosphere. If you don't get that, go back three paragraphs to the one that begins "Proof of the mortal fragility...".

I cringe whenever I come across climate change activists touting renewable, alternative energy as the solution to future growth. What growth? What can they possibly mean except growth in production, growth in consumption and, presumably, even further growth in population? When we're already dependent on consuming far more resources than our planet can provide where do we find the room to grow?

Never in the history of our species has there been such wealth. Yet a lot of the wealth manifested in modern luxury and indulgence has been stolen from the generations who will follow us. We're living large and they'll have to pay for it - socially, economically, environmentally. There's an enormous and ugly price they'll have to bear from the degraded environment we're bequeathing them through our selfishness, gluttony and indifference. Even the great Khan did not pillage the future.

Taking up with Dark Mountain is not, as Monbiot, Klein and others suggest, throwing in the towel on environmentalism. It is not capitulation. Does it negate the fight to salvage the environment? Not at all, far from it. The fact remains that, while we probably can't give our grandchildren much better than a severely degraded environment, we can make it far worse than it need be by our business as usual approach.

The fight - to decarbonize our society and our economy - must go on because the alternative is too horrible to tolerate. The fight, however, must not be allowed to eclipse the greater challenge of which climate change is but a part. That greater fight may already be lost before it even began. The fight that may have slipped through our fingers was the struggle to control and direct the means by which mankind shall be restored to harmony with our environment. It was never more than a fight to mitigate the suffering and dislocation in the transition to Mankind 2.0, the species that will survive to rebuild after our civilization collapses.

It is, it seems, our civilisation’s turn to experience the inrush of the savage and the unseen; our turn to be brought up short by contact with untamed reality. There is a fall coming. We live in an age in which familiar restraints are being kicked away, and foundations snatched from under us. After a quarter century of complacency, in which we were invited to believe in bubbles that would never burst, prices that would never fall, the end of history, the crude repackaging of the triumphalism of Conrad’s Victorian twilight — Hubris has been introduced to Nemesis.

...Increasingly, people are restless. The engineers group themselves into competing teams, but neither side seems to know what to do, and neither seems much different from the other. Around the world, discontent can be heard. The extremists are grinding their knives and moving in as the machine’s coughing and stuttering exposes the inadequacies of the political oligarchies who claimed to have everything in hand. Old gods are rearing their heads, and old answers: revolution, war, ethnic strife. Politics as we have known it totters, like the machine it was built to sustain. In its place could easily arise something more elemental, with a dark heart.

...Even within the prosperous and liberal societies of the West progress has, in many ways, failed to deliver the goods. Today’s generation are demonstrably less content, and consequently less optimistic, than those that went before. They work longer hours, with less security, and less chance of leaving behind the social background into which they were born. They fear crime, social breakdown, overdevelopment, environmental collapse. They do not believe that the future will be better than the past. Individually, they are less constrained by class and convention than their parents or grandparents, but more constrained by law, surveillance, state proscription and personal debt. Their physical health is better, their mental health more fragile. Nobody knows what is coming. Nobody wants to look.

Nobody knows what is coming. Nobody wants to look, indeed. Our prime minister doesn't want to look. He certainly doesn't want anyone else looking. His salvation is that his rivals aren't interested in looking either lest they be caught surveying the obvious. It is perhaps unfair to single out our country's political leadership when it's a universal failing that brings us to the edge and over.

We are the first generations to grow up surrounded by evidence that our attempt to separate ourselves from ‘nature’ has been a grim failure, proof not of our genius but our hubris. The attempt to sever the hand from the body has endangered the ‘progress’ we hold so dear, and it has endangered much of ‘nature’ too. The resulting upheaval underlies the crisis we now face.

We imagined ourselves isolated from the source of our existence. The fallout from this imaginative error is all around us: a quarter of the world’s mammals are threatened with imminent extinction; an acre and a half of rainforest is felled every second; 75% of the world’s fish stocks are on the verge of collapse; humanity consumes [50%] more of the world’s natural ‘products’ than the Earth can replace — a figure predicted to rise to 80% by mid-century. Even through the deadening lens of statistics, we can glimpse the violence to which our myths have driven us.

And over it all looms runaway climate change. Climate change, which threatens to render all human projects irrelevant; which presents us with detailed evidence of our lack of understanding of the world we inhabit while, at the same time, demonstrating that we are still entirely reliant upon it. Climate change, which highlights in painful colour the head-on crash between civilisation and ‘nature’; which makes plain, more effectively than any carefully constructed argument or optimistically defiant protest, how the machine’s need for permanent growth will require us to destroy ourselves in its name. Climate change, which brings home at last our ultimate powerlessness.

...Of all humanity’s delusions of difference, of its separation from and superiority to the living world which surrounds it, one distinction holds up better than most: we may well be the first species capable of effectively eliminating life on Earth. This is a hypothesis we seem intent on putting to the test. We are already responsible for denuding the world of much of its richness, magnificence, beauty, colour and magic, and we show no sign of slowing down. For a very long time, we imagined that ‘nature’ was something that happened elsewhere. The damage we did to it might be regrettable, but needed to be weighed against the benefits here and now. And in the worst case scenario, there would always be some kind of Plan B. Perhaps we would make for the moon, where we could survive in lunar colonies under giant bubbles as we planned our expansion across the galaxy.

But there is no Plan B and the bubble, it turns out, is where we have been living all the while. The bubble is that delusion of isolation under which we have laboured for so long. The bubble has cut us off from life on the only planet we have, or are ever likely to have. The bubble is civilisation.

Dark Mountain is a challenge of imagination. It is to imagine survival and going forward.

This is a moment to ask deep questions and to ask them urgently. All around us, shifts are under way which suggest that our whole way of living is already passing into history. It is time to look for new paths and new stories, ones that can lead us through the end of the world as we know it and out the other side. We suspect that by questioning the foundations of civilisation, the myth of human centrality, our imagined isolation, we may find the beginning of such paths.