Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Lesson In Ecological Humility

I saw the following last night on Global. It impressed me so much that we took a drive today to Long Point, an area I hadn't visited for over 45 years. The story is a singular illustration of can be accomplished at the local level.
A new research paper, published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, details the community of Long Point’s construction of roadway fencing and culverts – tunnels used for animal travel – to decrease the numbers of turtles and snakes dying on the Long Point Causeway in a southwestern part of the province.

The road connecting the Long Point Peninsula on Lake Erie and mainland Ontario was ranked as North America’s fourth deadliest site for turtle road mortality in 2003. Researchers also estimated that since 1979, as many as 10,000 animals per year were killed by traffic on the two-lane stretch, representing close to 100 species.

The study found, however, that the community’s work to protect the reptiles living in wetlands surrounding the causeway has reduced the number of turtles venturing onto the road by close to 90 per cent over 10 years, while the number of snakes going on to the road dropped by close to 50 per cent.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Saturday, May 27, 2017

President Trump's National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster: "I Smell Nothing"

It's sad to witness the total failure of the olfactory system.

Thanks to the work of The Washington Post for this:

On Public-Private Partnerships

Much has recently been written about the Trudeau government's plan to establish an Infrastructure Bank whose putative purpose is to leverage private sector money to help fund projects. One can legitimately ask why that is necessary, given the record -low rates at which the government can currently borrow money.

Trapinawrpool provided a Twitter link to an analysis that should give everyone pause. Perhaps its most salient point is this:
It appears that public private partnerships (P3s), and not low-cost financing, will be the focus of the bank. The likely impact will be interest rates of 7 -9% on Infrastructure Bank projects, instead of 0.8 per cent, the current federal borrowing rate.

In other words, the proposed structure will increase interest costs by a factor of 10: 8% instead of 0.8%. Those higher costs will be paid by governments, by higher user fees, or both. Municipalities are not blind to this issue, preferring public financing due to its lower costs and improved control over public infrastructure.
For a quick look at the forces of unfettered capitalism that may very well be unleashed by the cozy relationship that Mr. Trudeau seems intent on fostering and furthering with his corporate pals, the American experience with such dalliances may prove instructive, especially when the report describes the field day private interests are having with toll roads they financed:

Clearly, Canadians should be very, very worried about what lies ahead under Mr. Trudeau's plans.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Are Trump's Ties To Russia About To Be Made Transparent?

You can read the long version here, or watch the short version below. For a slightly different slant, The Raw Story's evaluation of the writer of the article cited provides a basis for some critical reservations.

The Cassandra Award

This is an interesting concept. Check out the website and watch the following brief video.

Monday, May 22, 2017

As The Orb Turns

Here we are in Canada, celebrating the Victoria Day long weekend. Meanwhile, in a land far, far away, sinister forces are at work:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

An Insurmountable Divide

These days I find myself writing less on this blog and curating interesting material more. In that spirit, I offer the following letters from Star readers.

The first one suggests the necessity of engaging the other side of the Trump polarity, while the ones that follow show why that is never likely to happen:
Re: New doc aims to take down Donald Trump, May 18

No matter how persuasive a Michael Moore documentary might be, he will never convince Trump’s hardcore supporters, now estimated at more than 30 per cent of the American population, that Trump is guilty of anything except standing up to the left-wing media and intellectual elites.

They see Moore is just one more “libtard,” “leftie” or any other of the pejoratives they save for anyone who disagrees with their personal issues. Moore unfortunately is destined to preach only to the already converted, and I doubt he will have any effect whatsoever on the so-called “unwashed masses” who give whole-hearted support to the embattled president, no matter how outrageous he is.

What is needed is dialogue, not more bear bating. If there is going to be any consensus in American public thinking, we must listen to each other. The extremists on both sides are unwilling. That leaves the large middle group to really sit down and dialogue with each other, one on one, two on two, to hear each other’s concerns and hopes.

We must not only hear, but listen, and I’m not sure there is any politician in the U.S. or Canada, or anywhere else for that matter, who can lead us to the consensus we need.

Are we destined to become more split, more angry and more lacking in cohesion until the system falls prey to dystopia?

Stephen Bloom, Toronto

“Look at the way I’ve been treated. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

These are the words of U.S. President Donald Trump, speaking to the graduating class of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday.

This says it all about the vain, ignorant and infantile man who occupies the Oval Office.

Trump embarks on his first foreign trip as an embattled and wounded president only four months into office. Not since Richard Nixon in 1974 has a president gone overseas so weakened. At least Nixon was six years into his presidency.

With the victory of Emmanuel Macron in France, western Europe seems to be stabilizing and the European project is safe for now. The wild card in international relations is the United States and its unstable president. And, of course, Vladimir Putin and the meddlesome actions of the Russian government.

Andrew van Velzen, Toronto

Trump asked me to stop Flynn probe, and Manning to remain on active duty, May 17

The fact that a soldier who shared secrets of the U.S. government has had to serve time in prison provides sharp contrast to a man who is perceived to have made improper efforts to influence an ongoing investigation within the U.S. government who gets to serve time as president.

Let’s hope he is let out on parole early.

Janet Lemon Williams, Guelph, Ont.

The 1964 movie The Fall of the Roman Empire ends with the prophetic comment: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

The American Empire is in decline. It will not collapse during the Donald Trump era, but his barefaced lies, managerial incompetence and psychopathic behaviour are accelerating the U.S. downward.

Trump is not a political genius; he is the byproduct of our times: corporate greed, political corruption, technological transformation, wealth inequity, global warming, regional wars, international terrorism, drug cartels, asylum seekers and social media.

Many distraught and disoriented people are willing to support a bombastic leader who promises simple solutions, especially if those solutions exploit prejudicial scapegoating.

Lloyd Atkins, Vernon, B.C.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Inside The Mind of Trump: A Salamander Guest Post

In response to yesterday's post, The Salamander offered the following analysis, which I am featuring as a guest post:

.. have a long background on the perimeter of 'mood disorders' ..
The Trump is easily found, though spattered within the DSM-4 & the updated DSM-5. ie he manifests comorbid or multiple symptoms. What is obvious throughout the diagnostic and treatment algorithims is that the patient cannot and will not 'heal' themselves. Will not, cannot.

One may as well suggest to a diabetic that they 'pull up their socks' or develop a new hobby, or eat more broccoli.. or 'give their head a shake'. The most common mistake of those suffering from mood disorders is - upon feeling better from therapy & medication.. they stop medication & of course cease attending therapy sessions. In other words they did not succeed in reaching full remission. Worse, they become locked in a vicious & shrinking circle. The disorder(s) & symptoms blooms faster and faster.. and is harder to ever attain full remission.

Trump is far from 'the healthiest President in American history' as he proclaims. The nation has no idea what medication(s) he is taking daily or the side effects. Leaving aside the obvious low hanging fruit of greed, vanity and deceit & likelihood of blood pressure issues & meds, we note a zero alcohol routine as well as possible scalp meds promoting hair growth. Not Good! Only then may we proceed to the somatic i.e., sleep issues, extreme narcissism & related fabrication. Then we hit ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder, ugh, as well as Possible OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. We could throw in Prostate and Erectile Dysfunction Disorder & medication such as Viagra.

Finally, we may also arrive at Mixed Anxiety with Depression, and if his vanity and anger issues preclude professional psychiatric therapy then rest assured he is managing such a comorbid mood disorder with medication alone. For many suffering from this debilitating disorder, withdrawal from medication & in the absence of therapy, the next stage is often a rapid or sudden spiral into psychotic states. It would be unkind & unwise to describe such a psychosis as 'fantasyland' or Donald in Wonderland.

Dare I mention the dreaded 'Side Effects' of any and all of these medications.. or absence of some of them? The Donald is hardwired from birth, as are all of us. Where he went or goes from there through life is mediated via environment, familial and peer events & now as he ages badly before our very eyes and he grows more and more addicted to listening to his own voice only.. and constantly, we see a bewildered, conceited, nasty and extremely ignorant megalomaniac in the White House. Land of the Free & the Home of the Brave.. right ... This loser in life, is attracting similar people.. ie., the GOP and their base, most of whom may not be at risk of growing dementia like Ronald Reagan or the Donald

Monday, May 15, 2017

This Is Explosive

Let's see Trump explain this away:
President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said that Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information Trump relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Truly, Madly, Deeply

Although the above title is taken from both a song and a movie title, it seems as apt a way as any to describe the current state of the American republic under the insane leadership of Donald Trump. It is truly, madly and deeply a nation in almost unfathomable crisis.

Last night, NBC's Lester Holt conducted an interview with the Orange Ogre, one you only have to watch a few minutes of to realize that almost everything Trump says is either a lie or a manifestation of his deeply unstable mind. With no regard for keeping stories straight, he readily admitted his firing of FBI director Comey had nothing to do with a recommendation by his deputy attorney general:
And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”
Another bald lie was his assertion that he had been reassured by Comey three times that he was not under investigation, something that would seem extremely unlikely.

In any event, watch a few minutes and see what you think.

If you have the stomach, watch a few minutes of a racist in Florida abusing and threatening a Muslim family in the name of Trump.

Only the most ideological or insensate will be unable to understand that Trump and his ilk are a terrible, corrosive and cancerous blight on the American body politic. The only question that really seems to matter now is, "Will the republic succumb to its aggressive disease, or will it do what is necessary to return to some semblance of health and normalcy?"

Thursday, May 11, 2017

We've Heard It All Before

With Conservative leadership hopeful Maxime Bernier recently resurrecting the widely discredited and tired trope of a rising tide lifting all boats, Star reader Salmon Lee of Mississauga offers all of us a timely dose of reality:
Tax cuts only help the rich

Re Maxime Bernier’s vision for Canada, May 8

Yet another politician selling the myth that the economy will grow with tax cuts. If Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier’s economics are sound, we should have been experiencing strong economic growth over the past few years. With corporate tax revenues having been reduced by more than $20 billion annually, thanks to the generous tax cuts from the Harper and McGuinty governments, we should be seeing 3-per-cent growth and millions of well-paying jobs. Instead, we see bigger paycheques for CEOs, stagnant wages and more lower-paying precarious jobs. And loads of uninvested cash in corporate coffers. Canadian politicians should learn from the social democratic Scandinavian countries on how to create a society that gives people a secure future and an economy that can support it.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Climate Change And Cities

This is a time when the credibility of national governments is at an all-time low. In the United States, Donald Trump openly denies climate science. Indeed, he has declared his intention to revive the coal industry and boost fracking, two very dangerous sources of environmental disruption. He is even musing about withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement Climate.

Here at home, things are not much better. While avoiding the harsh rhetoric of a climate-change denier, Justin Trudeau, by some feat of rhetorical legerdemain, insists that developing the tarsands is not incompatible with a cleaner environment. Such may sound good to the untutored mind, but for the critical thinker demanding specifics, the prime minister offers pretty thin gruel.

So where are we to look for real leadership? Even though they are at best very junior partners, because they have the most to lose as recent events have made very clear, cities may have far more ability to exert substantial influence on the climate change file than most people might think.

The late Benjamin Barber wrote a book, recently published, called Cool Cities: Urban Sovereignty and the Fix for Global Warming arguing that cities, not national governments, hold the key to real progress on the climate change file. An excerpt in The Guardian offers some of his thinking:
The list [of what municipalities can do] includes divestment of public funds from carbon energy companies; investment to encourage renewable energy and green infrastructure; municipal carbon taxes; fracking and drilling bans; new waste incineration technologies; regulation of the use of plastic bottles and bags; policies to improve public transport and reduce car use; and recycling.
Barber cites the city of Oslo, which is pursuing a zero-emissions campaign, as an exemplar:
The city is applying the goal with particular efficiency to transportation, and electric vehicle charging stations are plentiful. The plan is to make Oslo the most electric vehicle-friendly city in the world – one in four new cars sold in Norway are electric – and a champion of green housing and architecture: its new opera house is set in a neighbourhood that gleams with green infrastructure.
And cities in Asia are embracing some surprising initiatives as well:
The greater Seoul region has a population of almost 25 million, and in 2015 it was ranked the continent’s most sustainable city. Seoul has made a massive investment in electric-powered buses. It already has the world’s third largest subway system, but its carbon fuel bus fleet of 120,000 vehicles has been a massive source of pollution. Current plans are to convert half this fleet to electric by 2020, which would be the world’s most ambitious achievement of this kind.
One of the main impediments to a wider application of municipal green projects is the constraint on the power of local government:
There are two formidable obstacles blocking a larger role for cities: a paucity of resources and the absence of autonomy and jurisdiction. The European Union favours regions over cities, and works more on agricultural subsidies than affordable urban housing. In the United States, the structure of congressional representation means a suburban and rural minority rules over the urban majority.
Here in Canada, at least in Ontario, what a local government can do, as Toronto mayor John Tory found out to his great disgruntlement, is only what the provincial government will permit it to do. Road tolls in Toronto, as had been proposed and initially approved by the Wynne government, was ultimately vetoed, given that a provincial election is pending next year, and motorists have long memories.

There is only one answer, according to Barber:
If cities are to get the power they need, they will have to demand the right of self-governance...

Because urban citizens are the planet’s majority, their natural rights are endowed with democratic urgency. They carry the noble name of “citizen”, associated with the word “city”. But the aim is not to set urban against rural: it is to restore a more judicious balance between them. Today it is cities that look forward, speaking to global common goods, while fearful nations look back.
We, as a species, have a clear choice: continue on our present heedless course to planetary destruction, or start to make the hard, painful and expensive choices in order to live to fight another day.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Ultimate Throwaway Species

My mother was fond of repeating an old adage: "You've made your bed. Now lie it it."

While that advice, in one form or another, has probably been meted out for centuries, renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking apparently doesn't think very much of it.
In "Expedition New Earth" — a documentary that debuts this summer as part of the BBC’s "Tomorrow’s World" science season — Hawking claims that Mother Earth would greatly appreciate it if we could gather our belongings and get out — not in 1,000 years, but in the next century or so.

“Professor Stephen Hawking thinks the human species will have to populate a new planet within 100 years if it is to survive,” the BBC said with a notable absence of punctuation marks in a statement posted online. “With climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, our own planet is increasingly precarious.”
So essentially, since we have trashed this planet, it is time to export our diseased kind to other worlds.

We have become the ultimate throwaway species.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Weather Porn

Since few seem willing to confront root causes, I guess that's what these stories of weather disasters are becoming.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

It's Too Late

As of late, after reading and viewing all of the bad news the world has to offer, especially with regard to rising sea levels and increasingly violent and intense storms wrought by climate change, I have come to the conclusion that there is no hope for us as a species. This is a new conclusion for me; despite being an inveterate pessimist, I have always held to just a sliver of hope that things could change, that we can't be counted out of the game yet.

No one event pushed me over the edge; I think it was just the relentless refusal of our political caste to take seriously the crisis engulfing us. Donald Trump's passion to unleash even more fossil fuel into our atmosphere, and Justin Trudeau's facile, fundamentally dishonest and juvenile insistence that environmental amelioration and exploitation of the tarsands are not mutually incompatible are but two symptoms of a western population that insists on having its every whim and consumptive desire met post-haste. Perhaps deep down, there is also an egoistic and hubristic inability to contemplate our own demise.

I read Owen's blog this morning, a sobering post well-worth your time, and here is the comment I left with him:
Of late I have been forced to conclude that there will be no turning back from the precipice, that the dark forces unleashed by our heedlessness are leading us to our inevitable fall. A shame really, especially when I see on the news almost every night stories of personal bravery and compassion where people put their own comfort, safety and well-being on the line to help or rescue another in distress or peril. I see in those stories the narrative of what we could have been as a species.
Here is but one poignant example: