Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Worrisome Trend

Thursday's post lamented the fact that opinion and personal beliefs are increasingly being regarded as legitimate challenges to facts. As was noted, accepting the facts of evolution and climate change are now often presented as a matter of choice. If the signs are any indication, these worrisome affronts to critical thinking are likely only to grow.

Toward the end of the post, I offered several possible contributing factors to this elevation of irrationality. One of them was this: Perhaps people take living in a supposedly democratic age as license to suggest that any view is valid.

Two columns by The Star's Katherine Porter suggest that this wrongheadedness may, in fact, be aided and abetted by the education system, at least here in Ontario. Her first column, entitled My kids' report cards get failing grade, criticized the increasingly cryptic and euphemistic nature of the report card comments that teachers are currently forced to use:
My son “has demonstrated having had some difficulty following a series of specific instructions or steps to establish priorities and manage time to achieve goals.”

I think that means he’s unfocused.

“At times,” my daughter “is reminded to stay on task, particularly for literacy centres, so that other peers also benefit from this work time.”

Does that mean she chats too much during reading time?
There is a simple and perhaps obvious explanation for such obscure and at times impenetrable language. They are designed not to offend parents who, over the years, have become increasingly confrontational and reactionary about their dear ones' academic and behaviourial shortcomings:

I was reduced to tears,” said one primary school French teacher, describing the call she had with an irate father. She had phoned to say his daughter was coming home with a D on her latest test. She had wanted to talk about what they could do to help her. I’d call that awesome.He screamed at her. “He accused me of not helping her and said I wasn’t doing my job,” she said.
While it has been almost a decade since I left the classroom, I remember the kinds of computer report comments that were coming into play at the high school level, and they were of a similar ilk, causing teachers much consternation for their opacity. And those comments were motivated for the same reasons that Porter identifies thanks to emails from irate teachers:

conflict-averse principals, school board policies and angry mother-hen parents.

Contrast this with 'the old days,' as recalled by Porter:
When I was in middle school, I spent a year warming the bench before I’d proven my volleyball skills were worthy of playing time. Now, every kid gets equal time. Every kid gets a soccer trophy, no matter how much time they spend picking dandelions on the field.
'Better a bitter truth than a sweet lie' is the philosophy by which I have conducted my life, but it is not one shared by all.

I won't launch into a tirade here with personal stories about the careerists in education whose sole motivation these days seems to be their personal advancement at the expense of educational principles, but rest assured they were much in evidence in the latter part of my career. Unfortunately, the advancement they seek often involves shielding parents from the truth, while upbraiding teachers for their candour. The effects, however, are and will be pernicious.

Which brings me back to my earlier post and my concluding statement. If people are now being inculcated with the idea that they are special, that the world revolves around them and what they think, how will we ever achieve a society that prizes objective and critical thinking over self-centred indulgences?

I suspect you know what my answer is.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Something All Canadians Need To Hear

Many thanks to The Salamander for alerting me to this video, which Richard Hughes posted on his blog, Cowichan Conversations. I am reposting it here, and encourage all progressive bloggers to consider doing the same on their sites.

This eloquent message by Sandra Harris reminds all of us of the myriad failures of the Harper cabal, and gives voice to all who are striving for regime change.

Who's Watching The Spies?

This from the folks at

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Something For The Winter Weary


Others may find find they speak precisely for them:

Why Has Accepting Scientific Fact Become A Matter Of Choice?

Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. They speak different languages and use different powers of the brain.

-Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, The Great Partnership

As the quotation above suggests, the schism between scientific fact and religious belief is, in fact, one that shouldn't exist. Yet, given the kinds of absolutist thinking that permeate the world today, demagogues and zealots suggest the two are mutually exclusive, an invalid proposition if one's belief in transcendent truth manages to rise above seeing the narratives of the world's religions as literal truths.

It is always unseemly when people parade and exult in their intellectual limitations, often presenting them as virtues. For example, in Ontario, people like Progressive Conservative MPP Rick Nicholls has suggested that evolution should not be taught in schools, as he doesn't believe in it.

Sadly, such benighted positions, masquerading as informed opinion, do a disservice both to science and religion, not to mention public discourse in general. And it seems to be spreading, despite the fact that we live in an age unprecedented in its access to knowledge. Consider the almost religious fervour with which people disavow climate change, despite these facts:
The debate over climate change is over. The U.N.‘s Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report, written by 800 scientists from 80 countries, that summarized the findings of more than 30,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers and concluded: “Human influence on the climate system is clear; the more we disrupt our climate, the more we risk severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts; and we have the means to limit climate change and build a more prosperous, sustainable future.”
Like the facts that make evolution irrefutable, the facts of climate change are treated by some as optional, a matter of belief, based on all kinds of specious reasoning, including religious ones such as asserting that God is in control of the planet. Perhaps people take living in a supposedly democratic age as license to suggest that any view is valid. Perhaps the right wing, emboldened by their ability to stir up emotion and hysteria, and enjoying so much influence in North America, feel that they have the politicians cowed. Perhaps the truly rational see little profit in getting down to their level to dispute with them. Perhaps it is because the uninformed and unsophisticated comprise such a large part of our population and show no interest in learning how to think critically, dismissing those who do as elitist leftists and alarmists.

I really have no answers here, but to countenance ignorance in any form, in my view, is to abdicate our responsibilities as both human beings and as citizens, and these are obligations we cannot afford to shirk.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Where There's Smoke....

H/t Mary Ellen Davis

On Hatred And Fear

Those of us who follow Canadian federal politics with a critical eye and mind will likely glean nothing new from Carol Goar's article in today's Star, yet it is nonetheless comforting to know that the depredations and demagoguery of Stephen Harper et al. are not being lost on the national press stage.

They hate our values, Goar notes, has become a new tagline in the Harper narrative. He used it on a Richmond Hill audience when talking about terrorists.

He used it when talking in Quebec about employees of Radio Canada.

He had his pull toy, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, use it in Washington.

As Goar points out, the language is all of a piece, to be placed alongside of past gems used against those who dare question Harper policy: imprecations such as 'soft on terrorism,' 'Taliban Jack', 'siding with child pornographers' all attest to the manifest unworthiness of this regime to lead Canada.

The sinister effect of such language is extensive, as Goar points out:
It has already migrated from the realm of terrorism to the practice of journalism. It could easily be applied to pipeline opponents (already branded “environmental terrorists”). It could be used to deport unwanted immigrants or foreign-born citizens (already warned “citizenship is not a right; it’s a privilege”). It could be employed against parliamentarians who challenge the scope and constitutionality of government legislation (already labelled the “black helicopter brigade”).
Such demagoguery has other effects as well:
-It yanks out a piece of the national mosaic, subjecting Canada’s 1.1 million Muslims to unwarranted suspicion and drawing a direct link between their religion and terrorism.

-It lowers the standard of political discourse. Canadians don’t normally use words such as hate, despise and abhor in the public arena.

-It precludes rational debate. It is entirely possible that ISIS and its followers are targeting Canada because its warplanes are bombing them in Iraq, not because of its values. But who would dare suggest that in the current us-versus-them atmosphere?

-It legitimizes the kind of discrimination that is surfacing at lower levels of government. In Shawinigan, city councillors blocked an application by local Muslims to build a cultural centre .... Across the country, people who know little about Islam are angrily impugning Muslim women who cover their faces.
Being a demagogue is easy. History amply demonstrates this. Real leadership, cultivating the best in people's natures, is long and hard work. The Harper regime is clearly not up to the latter, as it has amply demonstrated time and time again.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Harper's Contempt For Thinking Canadians Is Egregious

That is the only conclusion I can draw, based on the unseemly hurry the regime is in to pass its 'anti-terror' bill:
The Conservatives are pushing to devote just three meetings to hearing expert testimony on the government's proposed anti-terrorism bill when it goes to the public safety committee for review, CBC News has learned.

Sources say that one of those days would be taken up by Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and departmental officials, leaving just two meetings to hear from outside experts.
For obvious reasons, the Harperites want nothing to do with the witness list the NDP wants to put forward, which includes former prime ministers Jean Chrétien, Joe Clark, Paul Martin and John Turner and six retired Supreme Court justices. As well, they
also want to hear from three former members of the secretive Security Intelligence Review Committee that oversees CSIS operations: Bob Rae, Roy Romanow and Frances Lankin.
The depth of Harper contempt for thought, reflection and reason, as opposed to his preferred method of reflexive campaigning and reactionary legislation, is evident in his response to Thomas Mulcair during question period:
Tom Mulcair challenged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to commit to a full review at committee — one in which, he said, "security experts and human rights experts [will be] not only heard, but listened to."

In response, Harper called Mulcair's criticism of the bill "ridiculous."
Precisely the reaction I have when anyone suggests our Chief Demagogue has been good for Canada.

More Warnings About Bill C-51

H/t The Globe and Mail

Increasingly disenchanted Globe readers weigh in with their thoughts:
Re Kenney Spurns Calls To Increase Security Oversight (Feb. 23):

The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) only reviews security-agency operations after the fact. Defence Minister Jason Kenney and the Prime Minister maintain that we don’t need oversight of the agencies’ day-to-day operations. That’s like saying we don’t need referees in professional hockey, it’s sufficient for someone to review the tape after the fact and penalize the players if they broke the rules. Does anyone seriously think the players wouldn’t behave differently without referees?

The PM says judges will provide the necessary oversight, but that’s only required if the security agencies plan something illegal. Continuing the analogy, it’s like expecting the players to check in with the referee before the hit.

National security shouldn’t be a self-policing game of shinny. This is serious.

Jason Scott, Ottawa


Once lost, freedom is hard to regain. As Canadians, we must demand that our politicians protect our society – not just from the threats of the few, but most importantly from the threat we impose on ourselves when we give too much power to too few people, with too little oversight and too little accountability.

John Rudan, Kingston


Stephen Harper wanted to run on his economic record, but the economy is heading south. So the new anti-terror legislation will have to do. He just has to convince enough people he can protect them. Then they’ll not only accept giving up their Charter rights, but will vote for his party.

Almost anything can qualify as terrorism under Bill C-51, especially now that the RCMP has set its sights on environmentalists (RCMP Express Alarm Over ‘Anti-Petroleum’ Ideologists – Feb. 17).

I’m scared, but it’s not terrorism in Canada that scares me.

Tia Leschke, Sooke, B.C.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Canadian Political Reporting Suffers Another Blow

But this time, the blow comes from within.

Thanks to Ed Tanas for bringing the following to my attention:
Ottawa reporters, photographers and cameramen face expulsion from Parliament Hill on the complaint of any politician or federal employee, with grievances to be heard at closed-door disciplinary hearings. The unprecedented measures are proposed by the Parliamentary Press Gallery, a volunteer group representing media.

“We thought we’d bring the proposal,” said Laura Payton, Gallery president, a CBC writer; “We’re leaving it quite open because the executive needs some discretion.”
On first blush, the proposals might seem reasonable, given the prevalence of harassment claims these past many months:
Under proposed amendments, members may be expelled for a range of new offences including:

•“personal harassment”;
•“sexual harassment”;
•“threats of violence”;
•“a criminal offence that was or could have been tried by way of indictment and for which the member has been found guilty”.
But, as the hackneyed saying goes, the devil is in the details. Perhaps the most telling detail:
The Gallery proposed to amend its own constitution, with the approval of Industry Minister James Moore, [emphasis mine]to suspend or banish media from Parliament Hill for a range of new offences including “harassment” and “intimidation”.
A reasonable person will immediately see that any involvement, let alone approval, of a politician cannot bode well for freedom of the press. Consider, for example, Herr Harper's recent inflammatory remarks about Radio Canada employees hating conservative values. Consider his government's egregious contempt for the media and the fact that the only time Harper seems even remotely accessible is when he is outside the country. Consider the fact that we are groaning under the most vindictive and paranoid prime minister this country has ever known.

So what do the experts think of these proposed amendments?
“The press should be held to account, but is this the instrument?” said Prof. Sean Holman, of Mount Royal University’s school of journalism. “I think it’s open to abuse.” Holman, a former member of the British Columbia Press Gallery, said he was unaware of any Canadian gallery with such an enforcement code.

“Reporters covering legislatures are often treated like parasites and barely tolerated by the administration,” Holman said. “The administration has enormous power. We should really think about that. How is it that this space that is supposed to be a public space is so often treated as anything but? That is troubling.”
Especially worrisome is the readiness with which the Press Gallery will cede authority to the politicians it is charged with covering:
The amendment also states the Gallery may defer to “House administration” if complaints against a journalist are deemed a “security concern”. The head of House administration is Conservative MP Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle), Speaker of the House of Commons.

In the past, parliamentary journalists never deferred to the Speaker and operated as a self-regulating association in a custom dating from 1867, noted Mark Bourrie, a 21-year gallery member and author of the bestseller Kill The Messenger: Stephen Harper’s Assault On Your Right To Know.
I am completely dumbfounded by this development. The amendments go to a membership vote February 27. Let us hope that they will act accordingly against this unprecedented assault on their independence.

Thomas Mulcair And Joe Clark On Bill C-51

H/t The Toronto Star

Yesterday, Tom Clark on The West Block asked both Mulcair and Clark for their thoughts on Harper's 'anti-terror' legislation. You will note that by the end of the interview, it would seem that Mulcair's 'principled' stand against the bill is perhaps less than what it seems as he hedges his political bets:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

More On The Harper Record Of Contempt

H/t Peter Ormond

I've Made My Decision. What More Is There To Discuss?

H/t Occupy Canada

It would seem that our supremely arrogant confident demagogue, Dear Leader, feels little need to waste his time in the House of Commons talking about a bill (C-51) that represents a substantial threat to the rights of all Canadians. That, apparently, is a task for lesser mortals, but only if they can talk fast.

The Ottawa Citizen reports the following:
Despite hailing new anti-terror legislation as fundamental to the fight against “the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not attend either of two days of debate on the bill in the House of Commons this week.

Bill C-51 is expected to head to committee Monday after the Conservative government voted to limit the hours allotted in the Commons on what Justice Minister Peter MacKay called an “important debate (over) …. extraordinary powers.”
For anyone who might be puzzled, even outraged over Stephen Harper's absence from this “important debate (over) …. extraordinary powers”, these reassurance came via email from PMO spokesman Carl Vallée:
“The prime minister has spoken at length with regards to the bill when it was announced and in the House during Question Period.”
But what about the curtailment of debate, also known as closure?

I suppose a couple of considerations influenced the Great One there. First, of course, is the fact that Justin Trudeau, no doubt influenced by the polls, is supporting the bill, and really has nothing to add to the 'debate.' And then there is Thomas Mulcair, who, now that he has rediscovered some principles and found out he is opposed to the bill, has much to say. However, as Mr. Harper observed in his usual style when presented with a substantive question about whether the bill could be used against the government's political enemies, employed his usual contemptuous denigration by characterizing the NDP as 'the black helicopter crowd' always game for conspiracy theories:

And so Canada's very own Ozmandias continues on his merry way, content in his belief that his personal vanity production, the Government of Canada, will continue far into the future under his mighty vision.

A shame that Stephen Harper is not a reader of poetry.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ralph Nader On Harper's Politics Of Fear

The following is a letter that the iconic American activist Ralph Nader has written to Stephen Harper regarding his 'war on terror.' Following the letter is a video of an interview Evan Solomon had with him. As you will see, there is little doubt that Nader views Harper's exploitation of fear as decidedly unCanadian.
Many Americans love Canada and the specific benefits that have come to our country from our northern neighbour’s many achievements (see Canada Firsts by Nader, Conacher and Milleron). Unfortunately, your latest proposed legislation — the new anti-terrorism act — is being described by leading Canadian civil liberties scholars as hazardous to Canadian democracy.

A central criticism was ably summarized in a February 2015 Globe and Mail editorial titled “Parliament Must Reject Harper’s Secret Policeman Bill,” to wit:

“Prime Minister Stephen Harper never tires of telling Canadians that we are at war with the Islamic State. Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.

“Canadians should not be willing to accept such an obvious threat to their basic liberties. Our existing laws and our society are strong enough to stand up to the threat of terrorism without compromising our values.”

Particularly noticeable in your announcement were your exaggerated expressions that exceed the paranoia of Washington’s chief attack dog, former vice-president Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney periodically surfaces to update his pathological war mongering oblivious to facts — past and present — including his criminal war of aggression which devastated Iraq — a country that never threatened the U.S.

You are quoted as saying that “jihadi terrorism is one of the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced” as a predicate for your gross overreaction that “violent jihadism seeks to destroy” Canadian “rights.” Really? Pray tell, which rights rooted in Canadian law are “jihadis” fighting in the Middle East to obliterate? You talk like George W. Bush.
How does “jihadism” match up with the lives of tens of millions of innocent civilians, destroyed since 1900 by state terrorism — west and east, north and south — or the continuing efforts seeking to seize or occupy territory?

Reading your apoplectic oratory reminds one of the prior history of your country as one of the world’s peacekeepers from the inspiration of Lester Pearson to the United Nations. That noble pursuit has been replaced by deploying Canadian soldiers in the belligerent service of the American Empire and its boomeranging wars, invasions and attacks that violate our constitution, statutes and international treaties to which both our countries are signatories.

What has all this post-9/11 loss of American life plus injuries and sickness, in addition to trillions of American tax dollars, accomplished? Has it led to the stability of those nations invaded or attacked by the U.S. and its reluctant western “allies”? Just the opposite, the colossal blowback evidenced by the metastasis of Al Qaeda’s offshoots and similar new groups like the self-styled Islamic State are now proliferating in and threatening over a dozen countries.

Have you digested what is happening in Iraq and why prime minister Jean Chrétien said no to Washington? Or now chaotic Libya, which like Iraq never had any presence of Al Qaeda before the U.S.’s destabilizing military attacks? (See the New York Times’ editorial on Feb. 15, 2015, titled “What Libya’s Unraveling Means”.)

Perhaps you will find a former veteran CIA station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, Robert L. Grenier more credible. Writing in his just released book, 88 Days to Kandahar: A CIA Diary, he sums up U.S. government policy this way: “Our current abandonment of Afghanistan is the product of a . . . colossal overreach, from 2005 onwards.” He writes, “in the process we overwhelmed a primitive country, with a largely illiterate population, a tiny agrarian economy, a tribal social structure and nascent national institutions. We triggered massive corruption through our profligacy; convinced a substantial number of Afghans that we were, in fact, occupiers and facilitated the resurgence of the Taliban” (Alissa J. Rubin, Robert L. Grenier’s ‘88 Days to Kandahar,’ New York Times, Feb. 15, 2015).

You may recall George W. Bush’s White House counterterrorism czar, Richard Clarke, who wrote in his 2004 book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror — What Really Happened, “It was as if Osama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long-range mind control of George Bush, chanting, ‘Invade Iraq, you must invade Iraq.’”

Mr. Bush committed sociocide against that country’s 27 million people. Over one million innocent Iraqi civilians lost their lives, in addition to millions sick and injured. Refugees have reached five million and growing. He destroyed critical public services and sparked sectarian massacres — massive war crimes, which in turn produce ever-expanding blowbacks.

Canadians might be most concerned about your increased dictatorial policies and practices, as well as this bill’s provision for secret law and courts in the name of fighting terrorism — too vaguely defined. Study what comparable practices have done to the United States — a course that you seem to be mimicking, including the militarization of police forces (see The Walrus, December 2014).

If passed, this act, piled on already stringent legal authority, will expand your national security bureaucracies and their jurisdictional disputes, further encourage dragnet snooping and roundups, fuel fear and suspicion among law-abiding Canadians, stifle free speech and civic action and drain billions of dollars from being used for the necessities of Canadian society. This is not hypothetical. Along with an already frayed social safety net, once the envy of the world, you almost got away with a $30-billion purchase of unneeded costly F-35s (including maintenance) to bail out the failing budget-busting F-35 project in Washington.

You may think that Canadians will fall prey to a politics of fear before an election. But you may be misreading the extent to which Canadians will allow the attachment of their Maple Leaf to the aggressive talons of a hijacked American Eagle.

Canada could be a model for independence against the backdrop of bankrupt American military adventures steeped in big business profits . . . a model that might help both nations restore their better angels.

Stephen Harper To Canadians: Just Trust Me

Of course we will, Stephen. Of course we will.

H/t Graeme MacKay

Friday, February 20, 2015

Harperian Hypocrisy: The Family Values Regime Disappoints Yet Again

While the Harper regime always touts itself as a government that stands up for family vlaues, evidence once more indicates this is little more than rhetoric and rank hypocrisy, aided and abetted by an almost completely politicized RCMP.

The CBC reports
RCMP have been holding back millions of dollars from the force's vaunted program to fight online child pornography, partly to help the Harper government pay down the federal deficit.
CBC News has learned that over a five-year period, Canada's national police force Mounties withheld some $10 million in funds earmarked for its National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre and related projects, linchpins of the government's anti-child-pornography agenda.

The cuts, made partly as an RCMP contribution to the government's so-called deficit reduction action plan, have occurred even as the number of child-exploitation tips from the public increase exponentially.

The systematic underfunding is highlighted in a draft report prepared for Public Safety Canada, and obtained through the Access to Information Act.
For its part, the Harper regime denies that the underexpenditures have anything to do with fiscal matters; it's just that the force can't find good people to do the job.

Really? And this problem goes back to 2008? Past evidence suggests that explanation simply won't fly.

Rex Murphy Praises Thomas Mulcair's Stand on Bill C-51

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have no particular use for Rex Murphy. Yet last night I found myself in total agreement with him as he offered an eloquent rebuke of Harper's Bill C-51 by praising NDP leader Thomas Mulcair's opposition to it. You can watch his reasons below:

At Issue - Harper's Terror Bill

I happened to catch last night's At Issue Panel discussing Harper's (anti) terror legislation, Bill C-51. One of the interesting points that emerged was that although polls show the vast majority of Canadians seem to support this legislation (based, I suspect, on little or no knowledge of what it contains), another poll shows that Canadians put at the top of their concerns jobs and the economy. This led to the observation that simply because Canadians back the bill does not readily translate into a vote for the Harper regime in the next election.

All in all, an interesting parsing of the politics surrounding Bill C-51 by Andrew Coyne, Chantal Hebert and Jennifer Ditchburn.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ah, The Sleep Of The Just

And Just When You thought It Was Safe To Go Back To Facebook

Pastor Pat has a warning for those given to 'abhorrent' practices.

Diseased Leadership

Almost four years ago I wrote a post on failed leadership, using the Elizabethan notion of The Great Chain of Being as it pertained to the relationship between the governed and those who govern. In essence it postulated that if the leader was good, the nation would prosper, but if bad, it would suffer. That suffering could take many forms, including the corruption of the people.

In many ways, it echoes what has happened in our modern age. Instead of inspiring and cultivating the best in the people, our leaders often seem far too intent on bringing out the worst in us, appealing not to our nobler impulses but our darker ones. Greed, self-interest, and suspicion abound as our demagogues bray about 'the other' and ignore the collective.

A letter in today's Star, I think, very effectively captures how Canadians and the larger world have been adversely affected by the diseased leadership of Stephen Harper these past long nine years:
Re: Harper plays politics of hate, weakens our democracy, Opinion Feb. 15

Thanks for the excellent column on the damage that Stephen Harper and his ilk are doing to our society. People who I always thought were tolerant and open are picking up on his hateful venom. Even worse, he is cynically using this to get votes.

I hope it backfires and people see through it. I’m dismayed that the opposition parties are not calling him out on this but they too seem to be afraid to call it what it is — hate mongering.

I lived in three Muslim countries — Nigeria, Algeria and Oman — for a total of two years in the 1970s and now hardly recognize them. I lived in the northeast of Nigeria for almost a year while leading a Canadian and Nigerian team of surveyors and explorers mapping the whole northeast part of Nigeria. The situation there has almost brought me to tears when I see the terrible things that Boko Haram is doing to innocent people in the name of religion.

I felt the same way a few years ago when Muslim fanatics were killing entire villages in Algeria. Many of the towns where the violence is taking place in Nigeria are towns that I spend months in and where I made many local friends. They were peaceful places when I was there in 1974.

The whole Muslim world is suffering from the collapse of the world’s 19th century empires and the battle for control of oil in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the stability provided by the Ottomans has not been replaced and this battle for control will continue for some time yet.

Yuval Noah Harari in his book Sapiens points out that the situation in the Middle East since the end of World War I, with no empire in control, is unprecedented in the last 2,000 years or more. Islam has suffered the same damage in this battle as Christianity did in the European religious wars of the 16th century. Protestants and Catholics killed each other for a long time and their theology is far closer than Sunni and Shia Islam. It really wasn’t about religion but for control of political power and resources, as it is today in the Muslim world.

Canada needs to recognize this and, at the very least, do no more harm, like Harper is doing both here and in the Middle East. We may not be able to achieve much in the short term in settling this huge problem of bringing stability to the region but being cheerleaders for Israel certainly isn’t helping.

We need to be even-handed and do all we can to support those who wish to bring peace and stability through democracy, the rule of law rather than dictators, tolerance, economic development and many more building blocks of civil society.

Maybe the collapse of the oil market and ultimately the replacement of oil by renewable electricity for transportation will allow the citizens of the Muslim world to begin solving their problems without interference from others protecting their grip on oil.

I went to the movie American Sniper and was saddened by the glorification of the killing of Iraqis who, misguided or not, were protecting their country from foreign invaders there to take their oil. It’s going to take some time to change attitudes.

Alex Miller, Toronto

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cry Me A River

The frequently lachrymose Dean Del Mastro has yet another reason for tears:
An Ontario judge has dismissed former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro’s attempt to have a mistrial declared in his election overspending case.

Del Mastro will appear before Cameron in Lindsay, Ont., on Thursday, where sentencing arguments are expected to be made in his case.

He was found guilty of exceeding spending limits, failing to report a personal contribution of $21,000 to his own campaign and knowingly submitting a falsified document.

He faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine on each of the three convictions.
It would seem that Justice Lisa Cameron did not agree with the assertion of the disgraced former top Harper operative and defender that her finding him guilty was only her opinion.

And that of millions of other Canadians, he might have added.

On Egregious Stupidity And Willful Ignorance

I readily admit to being intolerant of people at times. Not for me are the excuses that others may make for their shortcomings, such as the limitations of their upbringing, their education, or their natural abilities.

At the top of my list are those who either embrace or promote egregious stupidity and willful ignorance. And while no part of the political spectrum is exempt from such offenders, they do seem to be disproportionately represented by the right. Anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, and ardent supporters of the Harper regime readily come to mind.

Lazy thinking is no substitute for critical thinking, and while the latter, I am convinced, cannot happen without a a good education, whether formal or acquired through wide reading, there is no assurance that those who call themselves educated are in fact able to think critically. Bias, tunnel vision, and a myriad of other factors can militate against that capacity.

Given how much the Harper regime has invested in promoting and exploiting ignorance and stupidity (a look at some of its convoluted rhetoric around Bill C-51 offers ample illustration), now seems to be a propitious time to examine a few basic guidelines that can help promote better thinking.

My first source is an article from The Hamilton Spectator whose purpose was to help people think more rigorously about the science around vaccinations, but most are readily transferable to other topics as well:
Here are 10 questions to ask yourself when you read a piece about science and medicine:

1. Who's saying it and what's their reputation?

2. Where and how are the results being presented?

3. Who paid for the work and who pays the researcher?

4. Are you reading anecdotes or evidence?

5. Are there comments from an arm's length unbiased expert? How does that fit in to the picture?

6. What do the numbers really tell me?

7. How large was the study? (Generally, the bigger, the better.)

8. How was the study carried out? A test tube? Mouse? Dying patient? Healthy patient? (The closer the results are to the general population, the more important they are.)

9. How substantial are the benefits and how big are the risks?

10. Are opposing viewpoints included? If so, what's their reputation?
An even better and more comprehensive set of guidelines is taken from a university website:
1. Ask questions; be willing to wonder. (Re. research problems)

To think critically you must be willing to think creatively - to be
curious about the puzzles of human behavior, to wonder why
people act the way they do, and to question received wisdom and
examine new explanations of why things are as they are.

2. Define your terms. (Re. operational definitions)

Identify the problem in clear and concrete terms, rather than vague ones like "happiness," "potential," or "self-esteem."

3. Examine the evidence. (Re. data: empiricism, reliability, and

Consider the nature of the evidence supporting various
approaches to the problems under examination. Is there good
evidence one way or another? Is it reliable? Valid? Is the
"evidence" merely someone's personal assertion or speculation,
or is it based on replicated empirical data?

4. Analyze assumptions and biases - your own and those of others. (Re. empirical/objective observations: biases and

What prejudices, deeply held values, and other
biases do you bring to your evaluation of a problem? Are you
willing to consider evidence that contradicts your beliefs? Can
you identify the assumptions and biases that others bring to their

5. Avoid emotional reasoning. (Re. empirical observations)

The fact that you feel strongly about something doesn’t make you
right! Remember that everyone holds convictions about how the
world operates (or how it should operate), and your opponents
are probably as serious about their convictions as you are about
yours. Feelings are important, but they should not be substitutes
for careful appraisal of arguments and evidence.

6. Don't oversimplify. (Re. Generalizations)

Look beyond the obvious; reject simplistic thinking ("All the evil in the world is due to that group of loathsome people") and either-or thinking ("Either genes determine everything about personality and behavior or they count for virtually nothing"). Be wary of "argument by anecdote," taking a single case as evidence of a larger
phenomenon. For example, reading about one chilling case of a man who murders while on parole should not be the basis on
which you assess parole programs in general.

7. Consider other interpretations. (Re. alternative explanations,or hypotheses; mutual exclusiveness and exhaustiveness)

Before you draw a conclusion from the evidence, think creatively
about other possible explanations. When you learn that two
events are statistically correlated, for example, be sure to think
carefully about which one is the cause and which the result - or
whether a third factor might be causing both of them.

8. Tolerate uncertainty. (Re. Theories and data: testing and

This is probably the hardest step in becoming a critical
thinker, for it requires that we hold our beliefs "lightly" and be
willing to give them up when better evidence comes along. It
requires us to live with the realization that we may not have the
perfect answer to a problem at the moment, and may never have
it. Many people want "the" answers, and thy want science to
provide them: "Just tell me what to do!" they demand.
Pseudoscience promises answers, which is why it is so popular;
science gives us probabilities that suggest one answer is better
than another - for now - and warns us that one day we may have
to change our minds.

What's Stopping Them?

Compelling reasons exist for putting a price on carbon. Three Star readers offer theirs:
Re: Ontario carbon price policy in the works, Feb. 13

I was struck by the total disconnect between two of your news articles on Friday.

One was on the Wynne government’s decision to put a price on carbon, which is clearly essential given the urgent need to reduce our emission of greenhouse gases. In this article, the Conservative leader, Jim Wilson, is quoted as saying that a price on carbon will “hurt the economy and kill jobs” even though both claims have been disproven by the B.C. carbon tax.

The second article reported the scientific study that shows that climate change will bring decades-long droughts to the American Midwest that will devastate its agricultural economy by mid-century. We can expect similar disruptions in Canada.

How can the Conservatives, both provincial and federal, continue to claim fiscal responsibility and yet totally ignore the future costs of climate change by opposing action to reduce greenhouse gases?

Alan Slavin, Peterborough

Environment Minister Glen Murray notes in a strategy paper that, “Climate change is already costing Ontarians by threatening our communities, businesses and way of life. While Ontario is showing leadership in fighting climate change, we know we need to do more and we need to act fast.”

We agree. The time to place a fee on carbon is now. A fully refunded greenhouse gas pollution fee can be used to fund tax reductions on jobs and income, and levels the playing field, encouraging all players to reduce their pollution.

We win by reducing pollution at least cost, by having more money in our pockets and by encouraging clean technology business with price signals, not subsidies.
As citizens of Ontario we should advocate growing the economy by implementing a greenhouse pollution fee that is: fully refunded, simple, competitive, transparent, predictable and priced right. It’s a win, win, win.

Andreas Kyprianou, Canadians for Clean Prosperity, Toronto

What if world governments put a rising fee on carbon, and gave the revenue to their people? The rising fee would improve industrial productivity and drive innovation in clean technologies. It would produce quality jobs and help clean the air and water, improving people’s health.

The money returned to citizens would help take the edge off the rising cost of living and stimulate spending. It will also help reduce carbon pollution that is disrupting the global climate.

The World Bank and IMF are calling for a fee on carbon. It’s time the G20 do the same.

Cheryl McNamara, Toronto

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Go Ahead, Say It: "Climate Change"

Bill Nye, an eloquent advocate of critical thinking and rational discussion, urges newscasters to use the words 'climate change' now and again. There is nothing at stake except the reduction of ignorance.

And For Those Who Think Bill C-51 Is A Good Thing

Think again.
The RCMP has labelled the “anti-petroleum” movement as a growing and violent threat to Canada’s security, raising fears among environmentalists that they face increased surveillance, and possibly worse, under the Harper government’s new terrorism legislation.
In highly charged language that reflects the government’s hostility toward environmental activists, an RCMP intelligence assessment warns that foreign-funded groups are bent on blocking oil sands expansion and pipeline construction, and that the extremists in the movement are willing to resort to violence.
The report, dated January 24, 2014, was obtained by Greenpeace and uses the kind of language one would expect from a police force that has become deeply politicized.

[M]ilitants and violent extremists who are opposed to society’s reliance on fossil fuels, and violent environmental extremists are but two of the phrases that should give all of us pause.

The RCMP issued their usual disclaimers, averring that they do not surveil peaceful groups. Said RCMP spokesman Sergeant Greg Cox:
“There is no focus on environmental groups, but rather on the broader criminal threats to Canada’s critical infrastructure. The RCMP does not monitor any environmental protest group. Its mandate is to investigate individuals involved in criminality.”
Yet, perhaps tellingly,
... Sgt. Cox would not comment on the tone of the January, 2014, assessment that suggests opposition to resource development runs counter to Canada’s national interest and links groups such as Greenpeace, Tides Canada and the Sierra Club to growing militancy in the “anti-petroleum movement.”
For a force whose mandate is public safety, the report veers into areas that can only be described as economic and political:
The report extolls the value of the oil and gas sector to the Canadian economy, and adds that many environmentalists “claim” that climate change is the most serious global environmental threat, and “claim” it is a direct consequence of human activity and is “reportedly” linked to the use of fossil fuels. It echoes concerns first raised by Finance Minister Joe Oliver that environmental groups are foreign-funded and are working against the interests of Canada by opposing development.
Just coincidence that the language echos that of Joe Oliver?
“This document identifies anyone who is concerned about climate change as a potential, if not actual – the lines are very blurry – ‘anti-petroleum extremist’ looking to advance their ‘anti-petroleum ideology,’” said Keith Stewart, a climate campaigner for Greenpeace.
Greenpeace, and the rest of us, should be very, very concerned.

Are these the faces of the new terrorists?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Don't Canadians Deserve Better Than This?

Dear Demagogue (a.k.a. Stephen Harper) is out and about sowing his usual hateful divisiveness:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says "a lot" of Radio-Canada employees "hate" conservative values.

Harper says those values that are loathed by many employees of CBC's French-language network are the same ones that he says are supported by a large number of Quebecers.

Harper made the comments during a French-language interview with Quebec City radio station FM93, conducted last Friday and aired today.

His remarks were described as "petty" by an NDP MP.
Pay no attention to this little man. He does not speak for the majority of Canadians.

The Harper Attack On The Environment - Part Three

H/t Michael Nabert

Never should one industry get to write Canada's environmental law. Never should one industry get to rewrite Canada's treaties. Never should one industry be listened to over the voice of tens of thousands of protesting citizens.

Yet that is exactly what has happened, according to Yan Roberts and others who have studied the systematic dismantling of tough environmental regulations under the Harper regime.

In this third part of a series exploring the devastation that the Harper regime has wrought on the environment, I am departing from Elizabeth May's book to examine the consequences of Bill C-45, one of the regime's infamous omnibus 'budget' bills that carried within its bulk all kinds of non-budgetary items.

One of the biggest of those non-budgetary targets was the Navigable Waters Protection Act, since changed to the Navigation Protection Act. The omission of waters in the act is a clue as to what happened as a result of lobbying by the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association which, some claim, in fact dictated the terms of the changes.

Two years ago The Toronto Star reported the following:
The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association met with senior government officials in the fall of 2011, urging them not just to streamline environmental assessments, but also to bring in “new regulations under (the) Navigable Waters Protection Act,” a CEPA slide presentation shows.

A copy of the Oct. 27 presentation made to then-deputy minister of trade Louis Levesque was obtained by Greenpeace Canada and shared with The Canadian Press.
These were their demands:
•Regulatory reform so that each project goes through just one environmental review;

•Bolster the Major Projects Management Office (tasked with steering resource projects efficiently through the bureaucracy);

•Speed up permitting for small projects;

•Make government expectations known early in the permitting process;

•Support an “8-1-1” phone line to encourage construction companies to “call before you dig”;

•Modify the National Energy Board Act so it can impose administrative penalties, in order to prevent pipeline damage;

•New regulations under the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
It seems the Harper enablers responded quickly to most of these 'troublesome' regulations:
The first budget omnibus bill [C-38] in June contained a replacement for the Environmental Assessment Act and also a provision to remove pipelines and power lines from provisions of the Navigable Waters Protection Act. [Emphasis mine.] Predictably, reaction from environmentalists was negative, while business and the natural resource sector reacted positively to the changes.
But the Harper wrecking crew was not yet finished:
...the government surprised many close observers by going even further in a second omnibus bill, C-45. The Navigable Waters Protection Act was changed to the Navigation Protection Act, significantly reducing its scope over Canada’s waters.
As Yan Roberts points out,
This new acts leaves 99.9 per cent of our rivers and 99.7 per cent of our lakes without basic protection.
And, as Fasken Marleau made clear in an environmental bulletin,
...the government will limit the application of the new law to the three oceans flanking the Canadian borders as well as 97 lakes and 62 rivers that have been qualified as important commercial and recreational water courses. The building of works on any body of water not mentioned in Schedule 2 of the new legislation will no longer be governed by federal law.
Perhaps the clearest sense of the potential consequences of this legislation is imparted by Vancouver - West Coast Environmental Law Executive Director and Senior Counsel Jessica Clogg:
Bill C-45 transforms the Navigable Waters Protection Act into the Navigation Protection Act. Historically, the Navigable Waters Protection Act protected the right to navigate without interference from logging operations, bridges, pipelines, dams, and other forms of industrial development. In this manner it provided an indirect tool to protect water and the environment.

Now only water bodies specifically listed in a schedule to the act are protected. The Navigation Protection Act excludes 99.7% of Canada’s lakes and over 99.9% of Canada’s rivers from federal oversight. Pipelines are also specifically exempted...
How did we come to this terrible state of affairs, where the gutting of environmental regulation is directed by oil lobbyists whose activities are largely hidden from public view? It would certainly be easy to blame it solely on the Harper regime's unethical use of omnibus bills. It would be easy to blame a regime that is so ideologically driven that it recognizes value not in our natural capital, but only the capital that accrues from destroying that heritage.

But that would be only part of the truth. The other part resides with all of us, too busy 'getting and spending' to take note of or care that the ephemeral is no replacement for the deep natural riches our country has been bestowed with, riches that are being systematically destroyed by the philistines among us.

For Further Reading:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Wheels On The Bus....

have been very busy of late:

More On The Dangers of Bill C-51

Well, leave it to The Star's redoubtable readers to remind us of the peril implicit in Bill C-51, Stephen Harper's anti-terrorist bill designed to make us all 'safer' and in a constant state of paranoia. Here is but a small sampling of their sentiments:
I called the Prime Minister’s office to ask why Stephen Harper is so intent on stripping away Canadians’ civil liberties, our rights to privacy, our right not to be arbitrarily detained without charge or trial, and so on, and on, and on. I got a recording. It said:

“Thank you for calling the Prime Minister of Canada. Freedom, the rule of law, and your civil liberties are important to us. Please stay on the line, in your home under house arrest, and your call will be answered by the first available CSIS agent, who will remain anonymous and will not tell you why you are under house arrest. Your estimated wait time is five years. Thank you for calling the Prime Minister of Canada. Freedom, the rule of law, and your civil liberties are important to us.”

Stuart Rogers, Toronto

Harper’s new powers to CSIS, CRA are the start of police state powers. The new powers allow CSIS to examine any group called “terrorist” – terrorist defined broadly as any criminal act that is ideology, or religious based.

CRA also is allowed to pass on information to law enforcement and CSIS without warrant if it is suspected terrorist activity. Harper has called environmental and social justice groups economic terrorists.

CRA is investigating unions, social justice and environmental groups for possible tax violations, which could be considered criminal; given their “ideological” stance in this possible criminal activity it defines them as terrorist. This allows free range to CSIS spy to their heart’s content, which is sadly lacking in oversight.

How long before it becomes used to suppress political enemies, and when you choose to exercise your rights to speak out, will you be the next terrorist?

Joe Healy, Toronto

....With the complete lack of oversight, the almost total abandonment of our Charter Rights and Freedoms and the further erosion of our civil liberties with C-51, I’m led to wonder whose influence the Canadian government is under? The bill itself is classic Harper but what other influences are at work here?

With past U.S. influence on Canadian national policies, examples include the case of Steven de Jaray by the Canadian Border Security Agency, the Maher Arar case and many others, I’m left to wonder when this bill passes, and it will with Harper’s majority and Trudeau’s Liberals in tow, will the oversight of our new “Patriot Act” really be coming from the American State department or the U.S. Homeland Security department?

Janice Meighan, Toronto

Bill C-51, brought to you by Stephen Harper, libertarian, who believes that the long-form census was too invasive. Hmm?

William Thachuk, Toronto

Saturday, February 14, 2015

How Much Do I Not Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

These pictures are courtesy of Press Progress:

One hopes that the entire crew will find their hearts broken come October.

A Definitive Rejection Of Bill C-51

It is only human nature, I suppose, that when crisis strikes, our immediate reaction is that we would do almost anything to protect ourselves and our loved ones. When Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measure Act in 1970 as a response to the FLQ crisis, the vast majority went along with the measure, I suspect, for that reason.

The world we live in today is vastly different. Thanks to grisly images on the Internet and crass manipulation by 'democratic' governments, many perceive us as being in a perpetual war that threatens all of us. A war without end. A war in which many consider the surrender of certain rights and freedoms as the cost of confronting an 'enemy' that "hates us because of our freedoms." Such jingoistic crap can be pretty compelling when the coin of the realm is fear.

Those able to achieve perspective and resist the demagoguery of their political overlords recognize that these are indeed dangerous times, the greatest peril coming not from external threats, but from those posed within in the guise of protective and proactive measures. Hence Bill C-51.

Two individuals able to see through the fog of hysteria perpetrated by the ruling class are Ed Boadbent, the former leader of the federal NDP, and Roy Romanow, the former premier of Saskatchewan who also served as a member of the Security and Intelligence Review Committee.

A joint essay in The Globe and Mail makes clear their adamant opposition to Stephen Harper's latest legislative initiative to promote conformist thinking and quell dissent within our country. They call for its immediate withdrawal:
Terrorism is designed to provoke governments into making damaging mistakes. It is conducted through brutality and rooted in the belief that killing ordinary citizens will cause nations to abandon their most basic commitments.

Terrorism demands a sustained and effective response. Resources must be allocated to enable police and intelligence agencies to find its perpetrators and to discover potential terrorists. Those who are guilty of offences must then be brought to justice.

Canada already has mechanisms, practices and laws necessary for dealing with terrorism. These include surveillance, immigration controls, preventative detention and incarceration for criminal activity.
The authors cite a lack of resources and funding for our police and security forces as the real problem, but that, of course, is not something that galvanizes people or gives Mr. Harper the political wedge he is always seeking.
The bill attacks the civil rights of all Canadians, and places the protections guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms under the shadow of wider powers to interfere with lawful and legitimate conduct.

The general tenor of the bill is to expand the definition of threats to national security and add to the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Any interference with financial or economic stability could now be considered to violate national security. Such activities are a daily occurrence and in truth could include just about anything.
Who potentially, could now be considered fair targets under this legislation?
Any interference with financial or economic stability could now be considered to violate national security. Such activities are a daily occurrence and in truth could include just about anything.

Other new national security offences include influencing any government in Canada by unlawful means or “interfering with infrastructure.” Neither of these is a rare practice. Neither is necessarily connected to terrorism.

And now persons can be held in custody as a preventative matter if officers believe that a terrorist activity “may” occur. This makes detention a matter for the purely subjective views of security officials.
One cannot help but remember Joe Oliver's chilling references to "environmentalists and other radical groups".

Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that there really is no informed debate being conducted on this bill. One hopes that the efforts of people like Broadbent and Romanow will change that.

Maybe There Is Some Reason To Hope

H/t Gus Andrikopoulos

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Harper Strategy

H/t Marry Ellen Davis

The Harper Attack On The Environment - Part Two

Continuing the series I started the other day, here is another excerpt from Science Under Attack, a chapter in Elizabeth May's memoir Who We Are.

Much of that chapter is devoted to the science of climate change, a science that, although constantly under attack by the ignorant and the well-funded climate-change denial industry, is essentially irrefutable. The foundation of its credibility, of course, is research. It is that research that the Harper regime has been systematically hobbling since it came to office:

March 2012 marked the end of all funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (now the Canadian Climate Forum). The funds put in place in 2000, $110 million over ten years for autonomous research funding in Canada's major universities, had been spend expanding our understanding of the climate crisis in its multi-faceted disciplines of inquiry.

As reported in The Star at the time of its closure,
the Harper government promised a new program to replace the foundation. It committed itself to delivering $35 million to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada over five years...
But, for reasons that were never explained, that funding never materialized. The result?
The ensuing funding gap has caused many university-based climate and atmospheric science activities to collapse. With scientists already reeling from draconian cuts to Environment Canada, widespread layoff notices have resulted in a brain drain the like of which has not been seen for a generation. Rather than “attracting world-leading talent,” Canada is quickly divesting itself of its best and brightest.
Stay tuned for the next installment on the Harper wrecking crew.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

On The Prospects Of Political Probity

Anyone who follows politics on a regular basis cannot help but be cynical. Cynical about politicians' motives. Cynical about political rhetoric. Cynical about, well, just about anything that comes out of our overlords' mouths. Despite that, many voters soldier on in the hope that maybe something they say they will actually mean.

Well, a new website offers something other than blind faith to sustain us. Called FactsCan, this nascent site, which is just completing a crowdfunding campaign, describes itself as a nonpartisan fact-checking site on Canadian politics that will be fact-checking the 2015 federal election.

The CBC reports the following:
According to co-founder Dana Wagner, who also works as a researcher at Ryerson University in Toronto, the team behind the site wants to help voters "separate out the truth from spin, distortion, omission, error and lies."

"Our goal is to enable Canadians to critically engage in political-speak, and to encourage politicians to be honest and accurate with their words".

A quick check of their website confirms that FactsCan is indeed non-partisan. Already caught in false statements are Stephen Harper (no surprise there), Thomas Mulcair, Elizabeth May, and yes, Stephen Harper yet again.

Nothing yet on Justin Trudeau, but that is likely because he tends to deals in platitudes more than policies in his pronouncements.

For those interested in a closer involvement with the organization, there are opportunities for volunteering and donations. You can also 'like' its Facebook page.

One hopes that news of this site will be distributed broadly. Anything that offers the hope of injecting even a modicum of probity into the behaviour of current and future office-holders deserves our full support.

This Is Terrible

Disgraceful. Absolutely disgraceful. (Heh, heh heh)

H/t Murray S. Grant

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Are Americans Ever Embarrassed?

I know I would be if this kind of regular and much-watched commentary portrayed my nation as so egregiously stupid:

The Harper Attack On The Environment - Part One

I am currently reading Elizabeth May's Who We Are: Reflection On My Life And Canada, a political memoir in which her love for her adopted country, Canada, is apparent on each page.

Since we are now in an election year, I believe it incumbent upon all of us to remind as many as possible of the terrible record of the Harper rule these past nine years, a record that should alarm everyone for so many, many reasons. To this end I plan to regularly post small excerpts from May's chapter entitled Science Under Attack. Although most of what I will use is likely well-known to progressives, the abuses of the regime are so numerous that it is sometimes hard to recall all of them. Hence, this ready reference. As well, each post will include some relevant links.

The Attack Begins In Earnest

The position of science advisor to the prime minister was eliminated in 2008. By 2012, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) was also was the last governmental advisory body on science, nature, or sustainable economics. Ironically, after Brian Mulroney established the NRTEE, its existence was used as an excuse to eliminate the Science Council, the Canadian Environmental Advisory Council, and the Economic Council. When Harper killed the NRTEE, his environment minister, Peter Kent, said it had been rendered unnecessary by the advent of the internet.

There is, of course, much, much more to come.



Dr. 'Chaps' Strikes Again

Needing a break from discussing the sleazy world of politics, now seems an opportune time to turn to the sleazy world of Satan.

Always on the lookout for the ploys of the wily one seeking souls for his sulfurous kingdom, Dr. Chaps (a.k.a. Gordon Klingenschmitt) warns us about one of his diabolical stratagems:

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

When The Flames Are At Your Door...

... it is pretty hard to deny reality.

Australia’s scorching heat wave of 2013, which triggered fierce bushfires and broke more than 100 temperature-related records, including one for the country’s hottest day ever recorded, would have been virtually impossible without climate change, a new report says.

“The evidence on the link between climate change and extreme heat is stronger than ever and, in fact, is overwhelming,” said the report, adding “there is a ‘calculable’ human influence on the record hot summer of 2012-2013.”

It also pointed out that the number of record hot days in Australia has increased strongly since 1950 and particularly sharply in the last two decades.

The heat wave of 2013 — which later came to be known as the “angry summer” — would not have happened if it hadn’t been for climate change, Will Steffen, a climate expert and author of the report, told The Australian Associated Press.

Expect the denialist industry to confront these statistics:
- In Sydney, Australia’s most populated city, heat waves now start 19 days earlier.

- In Canberra, the number of heat-wave days has more than doubled.

- In Hobart, heat-wave days start 12 days earlier.

- In Melbourne, the hottest heat-wave day is 2C hotter and the heat wave now starts about 17 days earlier.

- In Adelaide, the hottest heat-wave day is 4.3C hotter and the number of heat-wave days has almost doubled.
And about that picture at the top:

Tim and Tammy Holmes were babysitting their five grandchildren in the small Tasmanian fishing town of Dunally when a wildfire engulfed the town. According to multiple reports, there was no escape for the family, so they ran for the water.

Tim took a photograph of the family cowering in the water, with a wall of flames behind them.

Photoshopped, no doubt, would be the claim of the professional naysayers.

Perhaps They Were There For Crowd Control?

Given their losing ways, on one level it is not surprising that the Toronto Maple Leafs brought in the military the other night. But on another level, it is a disgrace that they have allowed themselves to become mere cogs in the Harper propaganda machine.

Special thanks to The Salamander for bringing this to my attention:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Past Hits Of A New Cabinet Minister

Lest we forget some of the past gems from newly appointed Minister for Employment and Social Development, Pierre Polievre:

Health Canada Mandate: Protect Pharmaceuticals' Profits Instead Of Canadians' Health

Health Canada continues to extend a metaphorical middle finger to average Canadians. As has been clearly established by an ongoing Toronto Star investigation, the protectorate persists in placing the fiscal health of the pharmaceutical industry above that of Canadians.

Today's Star reports:
Canada’s biggest pharmacies are selling allergy pills made with ingredients from a drug facility in India that hid unfavourable test results showing excessive levels of impurities in their products, a Star investigation has found.

Recently, the Star purchased packs of over-the-counter desloratadine tablets from Toronto-based Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall, Walmart and Costco stores.

One month before, on Dec. 23, Health Canada had announced these antihistamines — made by Pharmascience — were under quarantine after serious problems were unearthed during an inspection of the company’s drug facility in India. Inspectors found unsanitary conditions at the facility, including high growth of bacteria and mould.
Despite the fact that these data were uncovered by inspectors in 2012, the quarantine only applies to products made in the last month and a half.
“How can a medicine be too dangerous to import but safe enough to consume? This makes no sense,” said Amir Attaran, a law professor and health policy expert at the University of Ottawa.

By not ordering a recall, Attaran said, “Health Canada is knowingly leaving adulterated medicines on the pharmacy shelves.”
For their part, the pharmacies are hiding behind the fact that Health Canada has not ordered a recall of the products currently on the shelves, the same subterfuge that Pharmascience, the manufacturer of the drugs, is using.

This should be cold comfort indeed (no pun intended), given what FDA inspectors uncovered in the Indian plant where the ingredients come from. In addition to finding problematic test data being deleted from hard drives, they
also raised concerns about the water used to manufacture the drug ingredients. A probe of the microbiology lab found “significant growth of both bacteria and mold, and appeared to be TNTC (too numerous to count).” The company’s data used for detecting worrisome trends did not mention the problem, inspectors found.
Equally chilling,
the facility failed “to have adequate toilet and clean washing facilities supplied with hot water, soap or detergent,” inspectors found.
Asks the University of Ottawa’s Attaran,
“The cheapest greasy spoon in Toronto would be shut down if it had these conditions, but the pharmaceutical company sending stuff to Canada is allowed?” he said.

He questions why the government is allowing products originating from the facility to remain on pharmacy shelves, considering Canada’s Food and Drugs Act prohibits the sale of any drug manufactured under unsanitary conditions.

“The law is very clear on this,” he said. “We have evidence here that the product was manufactured under unsanitary conditions, and they’re selling it.

“What more does Health Canada want?”
These are questions all concerned Canadians should be demanding answers to. Given that an election is pending, perhaps our government will stop treating us, even temporarily, in such a contemptuous and cavalier manner?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Friend Or Foe?

You decide.

A message from Anonymous to ISIS:

We will hunt you, take down your sites, accounts, emails, and expose you…
From now on, no safe place for you online…
You will be treated like a virus, and we are the cure…
We own the internet…
We are Anonymous; we are Legion; we do not forgive, we do not forget, Expect us.

What, Me Worry?

H/t The Toronto Star

According to Star readers, there is plenty that could go wrong. Here is but a sampling of their concerns:
In his anti-terrorism speech, Stephen Harper said: “Over the last few years a great evil has been descending upon our world ... Canadians are targeted by these terrorists for no other reason than that we are Canadians. They want to harm us because they hate our society and the values it represents because they hate pluralism, they hate tolerance, and they hate freedom....the freedom we enjoy.”

Might I offer an interpretation of his remarks quoted above:

“Over the last few years a great evil has been descending upon Canada. So while purporting to protect Canadians, my government is targeting them simply because most of my fellow citizens are sheeple. More to the point, we can do what we like. We seek to strike fear into hearts in the hopes of winning the coming election. We hate opinions that stand in opposition to our own, we hate having to tolerate any opposition at all, and we are committed to diminishing further the remaining personal freedoms Canadians enjoy.”

Unfair? Too harsh? I invite anyone who believes so to examine the documented undermining of our democracy and its institutions wrought by Mr Harper over the past decade.

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders. All you have to do is tell them that they are in danger of being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.” (Hermann Goering)

Jan Michael Sherman, Halfmoon Bay, B.C.
Once the state usurps the authority to punish citizens prospectively for crimes that they allegedly “may” commit in future but have never actually committed or conspired to commit, this without due legal process: without formal charges being laid, without a hearing or a trial, much less before obtaining a conviction from a presumably still independent judiciary, we abandon all pretense of living as free citizens under a democratic system of government. It is the hallmark of every authoritarian regime at either end of the political spectrum to want to persecute, punish or “disappear” its political opponents extrajudicially: alleged “terrorists” today, “Banditen” as the Nazis called all those who opposed them or “Enemies of the State” under Stalin. Even a child knows how ridiculous and recklessly dangerous Harper’s proposed new powers, worthy of a Vladimir Putin, really are:

“Sentence first - verdict afterwards”, said the Queen to Alice. “Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly. “The idea of having the sentence first!” “Hold your tongue!” said the Queen. “I won’t!” said Alice. “Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved. “Who cares for you?’ said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”

If only. It seems that no one in Ottawa has learned anything from the Maher Arar debacle and is hell-bent on creating the perfect political climate for such travesties of natural justice to be repeated. Bill C-51 may protect the state from its citizenry (which our current government apparently lives in fear of) but fails to protect the presumptively innocent from malicious and unaccountable persecution by the state. It is a law antithetical to democracy and a betrayal of our most cherished human values.

Edward Ozog, Brantford
All of this puts me in mind of a 2002 movie called Minority Report. Anyone seen it?