Friday, June 30, 2017

UPDATED: A Gratifying Trump Take-Down

Republican strategist Ana Navaro has had it with the Infant-in-Chief. His latest tweet has left her, and many other Republicans, outraged.

UPDATE: Morning Joe responds to Trump's disturbed and disturbing behaviour:

A Little Balance

Since yesterday's post was about the terrible excesses our cossetted and selfish species is capable of, I thought it might be nice to post today about someone who clearly respects her environment and has established a home with what we would call a very modest environmental footprint:

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Just Imagine

Just imagine what could be accomplished if people drank tap water, not bottled water. It is, unfortunately, all too symptomatic of the egocentric and selfish lives we lead that few are willing to give up even something as minor as this. The pleasure principle surely prevails, eh?

Oh, and cutting back on soft drinks would help reduce not only plastic pollution but also runaway obesity.

Reports The Guardian:
A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change.

More than 480bn plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300bn a decade ago. If placed end to end, they would extend more than halfway to the sun. By 2021 this will increase to 583.3bn, according to the most up-to-date estimates from Euromonitor International’s global packaging trends report.
But what about recycling?
Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean.

Between 5m and 13m tonnes of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms, and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Humans are not immune to the effects of this environmental degradation:
Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium recently calculated people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year. Last August, the results of a study by Plymouth University reported plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish. Last year, the European Food Safety Authority called for urgent research, citing increasing concern for human health and food safety “given the potential for microplastic pollution in edible tissues of commercial fish”.
As always, the fate of the world and all of its creatures is largely in our hands. And as always, warnings like The Guardian's will likely be ignored by the bulk of humanity whose personal preferences and comforts command such an unforgivably high premium.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Thing Of Beauty: Rick Perry's Comeuppance At The Hands Of Al Franken

If you start at the two-minute mark, you will see the start of Senator Al Franken's public humiliation of Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, as the latter amply demonstrates both his intellectual deficiencies and his abject obeisance to the oil industry.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Powerful Oration!

His denunciation is powerful and passionate. Watch as Keith Olbermann excoriates those who are aiding and abetting Trump's foul agenda.

Dispatches From Hell

... with a little water thrown in at the end to balance things out.

Meanwhile, Fortune Magazine predicts that things will only get much, much worse in the years to come.

Monday, June 26, 2017

UPDATED: A Litany Of Failure

While I normally do not read the National Post, a tweet by @trapdinawrpool about a column caught my attention. Written by Kelly McParland, the article offers an uncompromising assessment of a Liberal political landscape littered with broken promises coupled with a return to the party's traditional arrogance.

Why is this important? Because with its brilliant campaign to win power, the party was, in many Canadians' minds, the antidote to the poison that had permeated our political system thanks to the long and dark rule of the Harper Conservatives. A "new way" of doing politics was heralded, and hopes were high.

Now, soon coming up to the two-year mark of the Trudeau administration, those hopes have waned, and how that is affecting the many young people who voted for the first time in the last election is at this point unknown. Even old warhorses like me were disappointed, but it is a disappointment borne, and thus tempered, by many years of political observation, so the effect on people like me is likely less dramatic than on less-seasoned voters.

McParland writes:
Balanced budgets have been abandoned. Limited deficits are a thing of the past. Electoral reform crashed and burned like a damaged drone.

Canada’s indigenous people have refused to be jollied along with happy talk and photo ops, signalling that it will take more than a renamed office block in Ottawa to reverse generations of built-up anger.

Better relations with the provinces ran aground on Trudeau’s decision to stick with the Tory funding formula on health care, as well as its decision to side with Alberta on pipelines rather than British Columbia, which is determined to put such projects in their graves.

Trudeau’s victory in 2015 was supposed to be the last election ever held under the first-past-the-post system. What will voters think when they head to the polls in 2019 and awaken to the fact nothing has changed? If they start looking for answers they may have trouble getting factual information, as the Liberals’ pledge of better transparency and openness has been shovelled onto the growing heap of stuff they’re not really going to do.

The inquiry into murdered and missing women? After months of delay, indigenous leaders have complained loudly of poor leadership and bad communications. The justice minister’s own father denounced the affair as “a bloody farce” and demanded firings.
Attempting to explain this sad state of affairs, this chasmic disparity between rhetoric and reality, McParland looks to the Liberals' traditional Achilles heel, hubris,
a chronic ailment that afflicted so many previous Liberal regimes and seems particularly virulent among prime ministers named Trudeau – is a big reason. Trudeau simply shrugged off the possibility that governing might be harder than he thought, or that the world was trickier to deal with than the application of some sunny ways. It didn’t take a genius to recognize that many of the pledges dangled before the electorate were simply impractical or unrealistic, and that no rookie government could push through so much change in so short a time in a democratic system where opposing opinions proliferate and are meant to be respected.
Whatever the cause, the effects are bound to reverberate, and the ultimate damage to our political hopes and sensibilities is yet to be determined.

UPDATE: Thanks to The Mound for pointing out this article in today's Globe which is also less than laudatory of Mr. Trudeau and his merry men and woman. The writer, Andrew MacDougall, offers an interesting view of our prime minister's persistent perambulations:
For anyone peeking into politics occasionally – that is to say, most voters – they continue to see a smiling, upbeat Justin Trudeau on the national and global stages, getting mostly positive ink outside Ottawa. There’s a reason Mr. Trudeau devotes so much time and effort to polishing his image: it keeps the messes hidden from view.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Corporate Gift?

Recently, the Star's business editor, David Olive, offered some cautious optimism about the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, the scheme dreamed up by the Trudeau government,
to “leverage” its $35 billion in CIB seed money by a factor of four, creating roughly $140 billion in infrastructure spending. It will do this by enticing private-sector partners to put up most of the infrastructure funds, backstopped by Ottawa.
Seen in a charitable light, Ottawa means to stretch taxpayer dollars in a way not possible with the traditional model of purely public spending on publicly owned infrastructure.

Less charitably, the CIB looks like a device for nationalizing the risk and forfeiting the profits from CIB projects that will be largely owned by private interests.
It is the later interpretation I have written about previously, as it seems to me that all of the risks will be borne by the taxpayers who will also, conversely, receive few of the benefits.

Apparently I am not the only one dubious of the benefits of this proposal. A Star letter writer offers his concerns:
Re: Feds bet on bank as social justice tool, Olive, June 17

David Olive’s proposal that public pension funds provide financing for infrastructure is flawed.

First, there is no shortage of low-cost government funds when we own the Bank of Canada — witness the recent $200-billion bailout of big banks and corporations after the 2008 financial crisis, or the government’s sudden decision to increase defence spending by $62 billion.

Second, while pension funds may be non-profit, the public-partnership model eats up enormous accounting, legal and management charges, and pension funds expect a 7- to 9-per-cent return. Such financing is expected to double the cost of projects.

Third, while helping retirees may seem admirable, the monies are extracted through tolls and fees, largely from overstretched middle-class families when they can least afford it.

However, Olive makes a good point regarding CPP’s meagre investments in Canada. At a time when 1.3 million Canadians are unemployed, why is our national pension fund sucking money out of the domestic economy and building up competitor companies overseas?

Larry Kazdan, Vancouver
As the old saying goes, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Signs, Signs, Everywhere A Sign

With apologies to the Five Man Electrical Band:

Would it be fair to say we are drowning in our excesses?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I Wonder

When even the dimmest and most ideologically bent among us realize they backed the wrong pony when they ignored the warnings about climate change, and when it is far too late to do anything about it (as it almost is now), who will they blame? Will it be their political 'leaders', the corporate obstructionists, or themselves for being so wedded to unsustainable lifestyles?

I fear we will have the answer sooner rather than later:

This report on air turbulence is not unrelated to climate change:

Finally, consider the full implications of this:

All of the above, of course, is centered around North America. Imagine the plight of developing countries, where shade and air-conditioning are often non-existent.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Omnibus Bills: Another Liberal Betrayal

When Justin Trudeau and his merry band of men and women were campaigning for our vote, they railed against the Harper propensity for passing omnibus bills; those documents, being so dense and long, meant that almost anything could be slipped in.

Said the erstwhile earnest Trudeau in 2015:
We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny.

Stephen Harper has used prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances. We will not.

Stephen Harper has also used omnibus bills to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals. We will change the House of Commons Standing Orders to bring an end to this undemocratic practice.
Sadly, the Liberals'return to power has dulled the appetite for change, with the use of the omnibus bill now enjoying the government's full fervour:
The Senate has narrowly defeated a motion to divide the Liberal government’s budget bill, following a personal appeal from Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

In a late-night 38-38 vote with one abstention, senators defeated a motion to split Bill C-44 in a way that removes the proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank Act from the main budget bill.
The motion to split the bill had come from independent Senator André Pratte, who argued that it would give the senators more time to study the proposed $35-billion infrastructure bank about which I have written previously. In typical neoliberal fashion, the Infrastructure Bank appears to be a gift to the corporate world, backstopped as it will be by the taxpayer.

Senator Pratte's desire to separate the Bank legislation from the budget bill appears to have arisen from noble motives:
Mr. Pratte promoted his motion as a vehicle for the Senate to draw a line in the sand against the use of wide-ranging omnibus bills that make it more difficult for Parliament to thoroughly study all of the bill’s component parts.
Alas, the pressure from Finance Minister Morneau appears to have been too great:
Mr. Morneau spent nearly two hours last week as a witness before the Senate national finance committee, where he urged Mr. Pratte and other senators to approve the budget bill intact before Parliament rises for the summer recess.
It would appear that even though Liberal senators are no longer part of the Liberal caucus, their affiliations and gratitude still tend toward placating their former political masters.

Monday, June 19, 2017

When I Was A Lad

... had this appeared in a film, it would have been regarded as a rather crude and obvious satire. Unfortunately, it is today's reality:

You can read a detailed L.A. Times report about this here, including the fact that such comforts are sometimes extended to those who commit violent crimes.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Trump's Benighted Cuba Stance

Donald Trump is attempting to curry political favour in Florida by turning back the clock on warming U.S.-Cuba relations initiated by Obama. However, that cynical move is likely to have unintended consequences that go well beyond economic hardship for the slowly-emerging private sector on the island nation.

Watch this brief report, made the day before the announcement, to learn the kicker at the end, one that could mean some deep trouble ahead for the world, assuming the Orange Ogre somehow manages to remain in office.

And The Independent offers this chilling dose of reality:
By retreating from Cuba, Trump risks creating fresh space for Russia to reassert itself there. Just last month Russia resumed oil shipments to Cuba after a hiatus of over a decade – its saviour in the interim has been Venezuela. As Venezuela falls apart at the seams, Cuba needs someone else to stop it collapsing too. If not America, then Russia. Putin recently forgave 90 per cent of Cuba’s debts to his country. There are reports that Russia is in talks about opening a military base on the island again. You get the picture.
Just one of the many consequences of having a tantrum-prone baby in The White House, along with a plethora of 'caregivers' enabling, aiding and abetting him.

Friday, June 16, 2017

He Can Talk The Talk

But his sandal-clad feet cannot walk the walk.

After the disastrous tenure of Paul Wells as national political affairs commentator, it was a real pleasure to see that The Toronto Star has called Tim Harper out of retirement. In his column today, Harper reminds us of some things that Justin Trudeau acolytes would prefer to ignore.

Among Trudeau's less-than-stellar achievements thus far,

Constitutional Debate, Anyone?
... this government is now facing the prospect of having a budget bill split, or stalled, in the non-elected, non-accountable Senate. It has wandered into this muck by tabling the type of omnibus budget bill it railed against in opposition when it was done by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and by appointing independent senators who have taken that label literally.

Sen. André Pratte may have been quite right in pushing to have the government’s infrastructure bank yanked out of the Liberal budget bill for separate scrutiny. And Trudeau’s point man in the Senate, Peter Harder, may have been quite right in arguing that splitting the bill would mean a spending bill would originate in the Senate — powers the upper chamber does not have.
Harper suggests as with other issues, this one will escape the public's scrutiny thanks to the impending summer recess.

But when we all return from our summer holiday, there are other issues that the public will likely notice.

The Federal Deficit
On the economy, they will see that behind what looks to be a chugging locomotive is a federal deficit that goes much beyond — almost three times beyond — the $10 billion or so Trudeau promised in 2015. It conjures memories of a mocking Harper holding his thumb and forefinger almost together and laughing at Trudeau’s plan for those “tiny” deficits.
Indigenous Issues
... the Trudeau Liberals lifted expectations sky high for historic national reconciliation with First Nations.

But they have not walked their talk on spending on health and social services for Indigenous children living on reserves. They have instead ignored a series of non-compliance orders from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which ruled in January 2016 that Ottawa was discriminating against the children. It is also seeking individual hearings for thousands of children taken from reserves and placed with non-Indigenous families in the so-called ’60s Scoop, despite losing a court battle over compensation.

The inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women has turned into a morass, way behind schedule, certain to miss its deadline, sure to seek more money and losing the support of frustrated family members. Thursday, it lost another key member, Tanya Kappo, one of the Idle No More founders, who resigned as a community relations manager, one more dropping shoe indicating the commission is floundering.
The Environment
...the Trudeau government is still operating under the Harper emission targets, and it faces challenges with Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord. So far, the Trudeau environmental package includes a carbon tax in return for a pipeline, and the future of that Trans Mountain pipeline is clouded by the chaotic politics of British Columbia.
I feel bitter about this government, given the fact that it rose to majority status thanks to the promise of doing things differently. Thus far, outside of a more pleasing manner, I see little to distinguish Justin Trudeau from the neoliberal policies of the Harper government.

Time for people to start paying attention again.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Depraved Indifference

When you think about it, almost all of us are guilty of it.

Toronto Star 14 Jun 2017
Re Caution: children at work, June 13

Recognizing child labour as a violation of children’s and workers’ rights, trade unions are joining with families and community organizations to combat child labour, to move children out of work and into school, and to support core labour standards.

Everything old is new again. The over-privileged Canadians will tsk tsk and the corporations will apologize profusely and come up with yet another “child-slave-labour” certification scam and a feel-good logo on the product, and the consumer monkeys will once again spread their cancer guilt-free.

Do the privileged humans care? Sure. They wish the kids and peasants had a better life and there was no runaway climate change and overpopulation, but they don’t stop consuming and breeding.

Mohammed Olukolu, Toronto

I’d argue that Canadians knowingly buy goods made by workers, including many children, who have been forced into servitude and have little to no rights.

It appears that the Rana Plaza disaster (which killed more than 1,100 garment workers in Bangladesh in 2013) did precious little to open consumers’ eyes as to how callously fast-fashion is produced.

They just gotta have all five colours of those poor-quality, fast-fashion blouses, instead of a couple of high-quality, fairlysourced ones.

Richard Kadziewicz, Scarborough

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

On Hiatus

I'll be out of town for the next several days. Be back soon.

Monday, June 5, 2017

On Fact-Resistant Humans

MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”

More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”
While scientists have no clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data, they theorize that the strain may have developed the ability to intercept and discard information en route from the auditory nerve to the brain. “The normal functions of human consciousness have been completely nullified,” Logsdon said.

While reaffirming the gloomy assessments of the study, Logsdon held out hope that the threat of fact-resistant humans could be mitigated in the future. “Our research is very preliminary, but it’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,” he said.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Opera We Can All Appreciate

Thanks to my friend Jonathan for sending this along:

This Just In

From The New Yorker:
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In a dramatic announcement from the White House Rose Garden on Thursday, Donald J. Trump pronounced the planet Earth a “loser” and vowed to make a better deal with a new planet.

“Earth is a terrible, very bad planet,” he told the White House press corps. “It’s maybe the worst planet in the solar system, and it’s far from the biggest.”

Trump blasted former President Barack Obama for signing deals that committed the United States to remain on the planet Earth indefinitely. “Obama is almost as big a loser as Earth,” Trump said. “If Obama was a planet, guess what planet he’d be? That’s right: Earth.”

When asked which planet he would make a new deal with, Trump offered few specifics, saying only, “The solar system has millions of terrific planets, and they’re all better than Earth, which is a sick, failing loser.”

Trump’s remarks drew a strong response from one of the United States’ nato allies, Germany’s Angela Merkel. “I strongly support Donald Trump leaving the planet Earth,” she said.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Climate Change Variables

Now that Donald Trump has formally announced that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, will the efforts of individual states and municipalities be enough to limit the damage of his benighted decision? This report provides some basis for hope:

Meanwhile, back home, Canadian mayors are not buying what Trump is selling.

Additionally, California's powerful leadership role in combating carbon emissions cannot be easily dismissed.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Infrastructure Bank: Another Taxpayer-Funded Subsidy To Big Business

There are undoubtedly those who will never accept the fact that in electing Justin Trudeau and his sunny band of men and women, they were, in fact, putting into power a group as neoliberal as the outgoing Harper regime. It is a hard truth, one that I have had to accept despite the fact that mine was one of the many votes that put the Liberals back into power.

The latest evidence of this sad truth is found in new information about the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, a scheme ostensibly designed to raise private capital to fund various projects to rebuild our steadily decaying roads, bridges, etc.
Federal investments doled out through the government’s new infrastructure financing agency may be used to ensure a financial return to private investors if a project fails to generate enough revenues, documents show.

What investors have recently been told — and what the finance minister was told late last year — is that if revenues fall short of estimates, federal investments through the bank would act as a revenue floor to help make a project commercially viable.

Experts say the wording in the documents suggests taxpayers will be asked to take on a bigger slice of the financial risk in a project to help private investors, a charge the government rejects.
The devil, as they say, is in the details:
An October briefing note to Finance Minister Bill Morneau ahead of the fall economic update where the government unveiled the financial plan for the bank, said federal funding could be structured in such a way that the bank’s “return on investment will only materialize if defined institutional investor revenue thresholds are met.”

“The infrastructure bank could enter in the capital structure to bridge the gap between reasonable returns on investment for investors and the revenue generation capacity of specific infrastructure projects,” reads the briefing note, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
In other words, if I interpret this correctly, should revenues for private investors fall below expectations, we, the taxpayers, will be propping up their profits.

Despite my aging olfactory system, I am forced to conclude that this scheme does not pass any reasonable smell test.