Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Dear Justin

Stand.earth, formerly Forest Ethics, has this message for Justin Trudeau. You can help spread the message by clicking here.

Guest Post: A Response To Flying Blind

Yesterday's post
dealt with the announcement that a degree of self-regulation is to be conferred on the airline industry by the Trudeau government. Given the fraught history of self-regulation in this country, it is alarming news. BM, a frequent commentator, offered an analysis of the situation as well as an interesting perspective on what is driving that change. I am taking the liberty of featuring his insights as a guest post:

Well, it would certainly argue against flying Air Canada to San Fran, where the existing pilots seem to be having a tough job as it is. That second incident where the pilot ignored 6 request/orders to go around and couldn't see the flashing red light either was a doozy. The short interview I heard with the pilot, equipped with a plummy British accent, was revealing. Radio trouble. Oh yes? With at least three radios available, according to other pilots in various pilots' online forums. Not mentioned - blindness to flashing red lights from the control tower.

In a proper quality assurance system, amply documented and thus verifiable to process under an outside audit, where procedures are detailed to a very fine degree, letting the industry "run" itself is just fine. Electricity and Gas meters are inspected under this regime in Canada - I was involved in setting such a system up. In the 1990s, not now. It does require that company executives be part of the system as well, and part of the audit. Everyone has procedures they must know inside out, no excuses. There are avenues for considering improvements, and documentation of everyone's training and ability to follow the system. In other words, some shop foreman in a lousy mood cannot come in one morning and change what everyone does, just because HE/SHE feels like it, or there is a recorded miscompliance report which anyone can make without fear of retribution. Keeps 'em all sane.

When it comes to meatcutting or piloting, you are dealing with situations that are not boringly standard, like instrument testing. Turnover of personnel is highly likely in the meat business, and low wages with perhaps poor English skills only exacerbate problems with written procedures. Oversight is necessary. And pilots, well they all believe they know what's best and which SOPs they can disregard. You just have to go to the TSB's website and read accident analyses to see that.

The driving force for self-regulation in industry is no doubt driven by the same Public Service pointy-heads who cannot see the difference between an ordered industrial process and situations where the humans require continual oversight. The politicians are merely attracted by the promise of saving money given them by their public service advisers, so I cannot blame either Liberals or Conservatives myself. Politicians sometimes have trouble tieing their own shoelaces, let alone understanding anything complicated. And the average person hasn't a clue about the difference between quality inspection and quality assurance, the latter being the self-regulation system, the first where outsiders check every bit. You don't need to inspect every single widget if the process is under control. That's the way cars are made these days, with the possible exception of FCA.

Lack of commonsense is the problem. One process is not the same as another and may not be amenable to auditable self-regulation.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Flying Blind

Many will recall that during the Harper era, our country moved toward greater self-regulation in various industries, often with disastrous results. From tainted meat to railway disasters, the lesson is clear: leaving safety up to the corporate sector, whose prime directive is to maximize profit for their shareholders, is a dangerous gamble with the health and lives of Canadians.

Now the neoliberal Trudeau government is taking a page out of the Harper agenda, a move that will put those who fly at greater risk.
Transport Canada is planning to stop evaluating pilots who perform checks on their counterparts at the country’s largest airlines and will instead give the responsibility to the operators, a change critics say erodes oversight and public safety.
The current practice of having Transport Canada evaluate those pilots who evaluate other pilots in the airline industry will stop as of April 1 for airlines with planes that fly more than 50 passengers. This, as reported today, is a drastic departure from accepted practices in other countries, which stipulates that pilots be evaluated twice a year.
Greg McConnell, chairman of the pilots association, said the changes are pushing Canada’s aviation safety system onto the industry itself.

“I think it’s very, very important that people understand we are getting closer to self-regulation all the time.” he said in an interview. “It’s just more cutting, more dismantling of the safety net.”
The safety compromise inherent in this decision is not going unnoticed:
New Democrat MP Robert Aubin, the committee’s other vice-chair, said the decision was “curious” because Transport Canada said it was doing more oversight, not less.

“I have concerns if the pilots who evaluate their pilots are not evaluated by Transport Canada. We have to have the same standards,” he said in an interview. “We have to increase the resources at Transport Canada to make sure we can do that job.”
For the Star article carrying this story, no Liberals were available for comment, hardly a surprise given the shameful nature of their decision here.

The fear of progressive taxation that the current government has shown seems to working its way through the system. It cannot be a comforting thought for those planning their next trip by air.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Not A Dirty Word

In his column the other day, Rick Salutin wrote a stout defence of taxes, making it very clear that for him and many others, the word and the concept are hardly obscenities.

Public programs need to be adequately funded and expanded, the opposite of the American mentality:
Take tax reform. To U.S. Republicans, it means one thing: cuts. It’s their ultimate “reason for existing” (Financial Times). They staggered into the light this week to say (again) that Americans should keep their hard-earned money to pay their medical and university bills. Ha ha ha. There’s no way tax cuts will cover most such costs, though you might be able to repave your carport. What would help? More taxes. That could fund national “free” health care or tuition. But it would mean bigger government, levying higher taxes.
Here in Canada, the need for an expansion, not a contraction, of government intervention in people's lives is becoming increasingly obvious. Salutin cites the sad situation of dismissed Sears workers who are facing loss of severance and reduced pensions as a result of the chain's bankruptcy. This dire situation is mirrored in larger society by the growth of precarious work and the fact that company pensions are fast becoming relics of an earlier era. Echoing a sentiment recently expressed by his colleague, Thomas Walkom, he offers this:
The obvious solution is the health-care model: public programs like CPP not to supplement private pensions but to replace and amplify them — i.e., bigger government.

The mystery is why anyone ever thought private companies were the way to cover huge costs like health or pensions. It’s costly and patchwork; public programs make far more sense. They’re stabler, better funded and include some democratic oversight.
The rub in all of this is that such transformation requires something far too many have become allergic to: increased taxation.
Public programs, however, mean you need revenues to fund them. And presto, you’re back to taxes...to run national programs, taxes must be accumulated, not just endlessly cut.

It’s a simple picture and it’s amazing how Finance Minister Bill Morneau managed not to paint it with his summer tax “reform” rollout: get more tax revenues from the rich, who can afford it, to fund big programs; and give cuts to those who’ll spend to stimulate the economy, generating more revenues.
Salutin ends his piece by a personal testament to the need for properly-funded programs:
In recent weeks I’ve had (public sector) fire trucks at the house twice — for a fallen branch on power lines, then two false CO alarms in two days. They came swiftly, cheerily and competently, unlike my private gas provider, who effectively said, from wherever on the globe, that they didn’t give a flying leap.
I will close with a letter from today's Star that echoes Salutin's sentiments:
The big government era isn’t over. It may just be getting started, Salutin, Oct. 27

For the love of our aging and long-lived demographic, Rick Salutin has nailed it. We need to reframe the tax conversation. I don’t know where we’ve lost our way about this as a country or even as a society, but I remain confused when people say such things as, “but taxes will increase,” like a venomous accusation, rather than recognizing what it means to enjoy things such as clean drinking water and not having to build in a $50,000 rainy-day fund just in case we slip and break our hip (in the middle of the forest, no less, with no one to sue).

It scares me to think that if Canada had tried to socialize health care in this day and age, society is at a point where we would have said no and cried out for “lower taxes, not my money” instead.

If all we ever hear about is scandals and corruption, it’s little wonder why no one trusts government to handle the public purse anymore. I say keep at it, let’s talk about the privileges our society gets to enjoy for the value of its tax money and how much we’re going to need it in the decades to come.

Jennifer Ng, Richmond Hill

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Time To Put Away Childish Things

For a nation that calls itself the greatest country on earth, the United States has a lot of growing up to do. That is the trenchant opinion offered by Heather Mallick in today's Star, one that is likely to earn her more than her usual quotient of hate mail from the usual suspects.

Mallick's evidence is both telling and vastly amusing:
The U.S. is — how can I put this tactfully? — childish, with all the charm and menace that entails. American adults dress like kids in baseball caps, sneakers and comfy pants, but add a semi-automatic rifle to the outfit and it’s... troubling.
As well, their eating habits and table practices cry out for correction:
Their cuisine is childish too, with huge servings of fried food loaded with high-fructose corn syrup and trans fat. Even their implements are primitive. “Consider the plastic drinking straw. Why do we suck so much?” the Washington Post asked this week of citizens unable to drink from the rim of a glass.

The reason must lie in the “shared psyche” of Americans, but what could it be, the Post wondered. “Laziness? Clumsiness? Germaphobia?” Infantilism went unmentioned. The drinking straw is the adult equivalent of a sippy cup.
Even their fantasies are jejeune and conceal some unpleasant truths:
And why the Disney fetish? “Americans long for a closed society in which everything can be bought, where labourers are either hidden away or dressed up as non-humans so as not to be disconcerting. This place is called Disney World,” was the journalist Adam Gopnik’s explanation. But he is an adult.
According to Mallick, American travel also shares in this puerile quality:
The cruise industry offers daycare for grown-ups, crass all-you-can-eat vacations with all the adventure of a car seat. Have you ever been on an island and seen American tourists flood at you off a ship? It’s not the mercilessness of the crowd that scares you, it’s the smiling.
Consider as well the culturally imperialistic but infantile institution known as the American film industry:
U.S. movies are aimed at childish audiences. They are quite literally cartoons — such movie franchises are worth gold — or computer-animation with renderings of extraordinary violence that never seem real, part of the reason the Sandy Hook child slaughter had no effect on U.S. gun laws. American culture is literal, with a poor grasp of irony and complication. It would be taboo to show photos of the dead victims but not taboo to have let them be shot.
Mallick has much more to say on this topic, and she expresses gratitude that despite our proximity to the southern lumbering giant, we as Canadians seem to be far more adult in our daily endeavours. However, that is something none of us can take too much comfort in, given that Americans still wield more might than any other nation on earth.

Picture a toddler armed with a Kalashnikov, and I think you get the troubling picture.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Corporate Greed and Political Collusion

If you haven't already done so, be sure to check out Owen's post on the Sears Canada bankruptcy. In it, he cite's Linda McQuaig's article in today's Star that deals with our wholly inadequate bankruptcy laws that leave many workers, in this case those losing their jobs with the 65-yeear-old department store chain, holding an almost empty bag.

Last night's report from Global National demonstrates both the human tragedy behind the bankruptcy, and the fact that unlike countries such as Britain and the U.S., Canada offers little protection for those who should qualify for both severance pay and pensions. And despite the usual platitudinous lamentations from the political class, it is obvious that the federal government is not interested in changing our regulations in order to protect the truly vulnerable.

Corporate bankruptcy is not a new Canadian phenomenon. Despite that, it seems that our neoliberal masters are intent only on protecting the corporate sector, not the citizens of this country.

You can read about the private members' bills seeking to address the situation here. However, bear in mind that such bills are almost always doomed to failure.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Glimmer Of Integrity

Although the denunciations of Donald Trump from members of the GOP are welcome, the fact that they come from Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, two U.S. senators not seeking re-election, mutes the impact of their words. Unqualified integrity, in my view, would be shown if those seeking re-election were to speak out as forthrightly.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Time For Reflection

Last evening, I received this beatifically-expressed post from The Salamander:

.. calm .. strong .. get there

slip aside from the words
he said or he said or someone else said..

feel that Canadian wind in your face
and take it as your fresh new reference point
and let the words fall like the leaves of autumn
& let em lie.. just let them lie ..

Bury your swords .. too
we're adults now.. eh ?

It was after reading the above that I realized, through the unfortunate nastiness that resulted from my post the other day, that I had seriously deviated from one of the principles I have tried to rigourly hew to on my blog: to treat people with respect. That principle is obviously not one I apply to the public targets of my blog entries. Most of them are politicians and other public figures who, through their misconduct, invite rebuke and derision from many sides. It is an essential part of holding our 'leaders' and their minions to account.

No, what I am talking about here is my belief that it is important to treat all who take the time to comment on my blog with a measure of respect. If one were to check through the years I have written this blog, I doubt that you would find me overreacting to the most egregious provocations, including one a few years ago that felt swearing at me was a just retort to my piece on those who violate strike actions. I published the comment with the observation that there was nothing of substance in the rebuke that would in any way cause me to rethink my contempt for scabs.

Obviously, in my exchanges with Simon, I abandoned those principles and saw an aspect of my personality I thought I had left behind long ago. I hope it will not happen again, and I want to take this opportunity to apologize to all readers I have offended by this serious breach of ethics and decorum.

Not to wear a hair shirt about this, but I have decided to spend a few days on the bench over this. It will give me an opportunity for further reflection, reading, and concentrating on the other things I do when not writing this blog. This self-imposed hiatus is not something I take lightly, as writing is a very important part of my life. Yet it is because I have had a lifelong respect both for words and their power that I am taking a short break.

I never want to repeat the mistakes I have so recently made.

P.S. While I will publish comments on this post, during my hiatus I will not reply to them.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Seeing With Clear Vision

H/t Toronto Star

Those who believe analysis must trump hyper-partisanship will enjoy this backgrounder provided in today's Star as part of its transparency series. The piece makes the point that The Star is guided by the progressive Atkinson principles and has endorsed in the 12 federal elections between 1968 and 2008 ... the Liberals nine times, the Progressive Conservatives twice, and the NDP once.

Those endorsements, however, do not give free reign to winning governments of the day:
Andrew Phillips is the Star’s editorial page editor. He and his team of writers and editors craft endorsements at election time.

“(While) it’s more likely that a Liberal or NDP government will be closer to the Star’s values than a Conservative one, all governments fall short,” he said. “We don’t let Liberal governments off the hook when they don’t live up to what we believe they should be doing.”
Speaking truth to power is the guiding ethos at the newspaper:
...a review of 180 editorials dealing with political matters written in the first half of 2017 shows that the Star’s editorial board is usually critical of the current provincial and federal governments.

While not exhaustive, the review found that 37 of 60 editorials dealing with Kathleen Wynne’s provincial Liberal government — 62 per cent — were overtly critical. Of 120 editorials concerning Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals, 70 — or 58 per cent — were overtly critical.
To ignore the wrongdoing of a government with whom one is ideologically akin would be an abdication of its responsibilities:
“Most of the editorials we write about the Liberal governments in Ottawa and Queen’s Park are critical, even though we endorsed the party in both cases,” said Phillips. “But governments have to earn the trust of voters every day, not just on voting day, and we reserved the right to call them out when they fall short. They have plenty of PR folks and spokespeople to defend them every day. That isn’t our job.”
The editorial board has come down hard on the federal Liberals on a range of issues, from the government’s retreat from an election promise to end the first-past-the-post system of voting, to its handling of “cash-for-access” fundraisers. The board wrote that the government’s “fumblings and reversals” on the electoral reform will likely do “democratic damage,” and called on the Liberals to end cash-for-access events entirely.

The board has also been critical of the federal government’s handling of First Nations issues, including calling out the Liberals for taking too long to fund mental health supports on reserves.
Now more than ever, having a newspaper of record present its views in logical and coherent analysis is crucial. Otherwise, we are left only with the strident ideologues who know only one truth: their own.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Blindness Of Some

Were Bill Morneau the Conservative Minister of Finance, you can rest assured that 'progressives' would be howling for his political blood. However, because he is part of Team Trudeau, some choose to entirely ignore his massive conflict of interest and instead distort my views for their own twisted purposes. One such misrepresentation is the claim that I have said Trudeau is worse than Harper, a complete fabrication.

Were I another sort of person, the offending blogger's many libelous comments about me would result in legal action. But I am a self-assured person who can take criticism; what I steadfastly reject, however, are outright lies about me, the only reason I am making any reference at all to his overwrought posts.

I also realize now that there is likely something quite pathological in his rants and attempts at online bullying, and he is more to be pitied than rebuked. I will speak no more of him or his screeds; he is not worth more than the two minutes it took to write these opening paragraphs.

Those who are willing to examine the facts of Bill Morneau's ethical mess clearly see the damage he has done to his and his government's credibility. Tim Harper writes:
One is left with the unmistakable sense that he got caught by some enterprising reporting. What if the Globe and Mail had not found that Morneau’s substantial holdings were not in a blind trust?

One could easily believe that Morneau would have continued on his path, using a loophole in the conflict-of-interest legislation that allowed him to hold shares in the family company through an arm’s-length holding company.

When Morneau introduced Bill C-27, legislation to make it easier for federal employees to move to a targeted benefit pension, a move that would benefit Morneau Shepell, the company’s stock went up 4.8 per cent within days, Cullen says. Morneau, he said, would have made $2 million in five days from that jump. But it’s not known if Morneau was holding or selling stock at that time.
And Justin Trudeau's 'defence' of Morneau was to attack those with legitimate questions.
A day earlier, Trudeau seemed to wilt while taking 30 questions on Morneau, falling back on familiar tropes — referring to opposition questions as “mud-slinging,” accusing Conservatives of trying to sully Morneau’s good name, of “shrieking,” and playing “petty politics.”

Accusing opponents of getting down in the mud doesn’t work here. The charges against Morneau were sufficiently serious that they deserved more substantive answers.
This entire fiasco makes the Liberal government look very bad and has seriously undermined whatever agenda it has, as pointed out in today's Star editorial:
Over the last week, Morneau has retreated from the small-business tax-reform fiasco that no doubt ruined his summer. In an effort to quiet the uproar over the initiative, the government will drop or scale-back several of the proposed measures and significantly cut the small-business tax rate.

The result is that the push for reform will have had the opposite of its intended effect. The government started out with at least two important aims: reduce incentives for professionals to incorporate as a way to pay less tax on income; and increase government revenue at a time of rising debt. But in the end, Morneau will have, on balance, increased the incentives to incorporate and cost the government significant revenues.
Finally, last night's At Issue panel discussed both Morneau and the larger record of the Trudeau government thus far. It starts just after the one-minute mark:

Engagement with the political process is crucial for a healthy democracy. Willful blindness to its shortcomings is in no one's best interests.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Foundering Ship Of State: A Followup

Following up on last evening's post, I am adding the comments of Gyor, who listed several more failures of the Trudeau government thus far:
You forgot Trudeau's attempt to increasingly centralize power in Parliament.

Many parliamentary posts still go unfilled 2 years in, the filling of which Chantal Herbert called the governmental equivant of tying ones shoe laces.

His questionable trip with the Aga Khan.

Minister Joly's Netflix boondoogle pissing off Quebec and the RoCs TV and Movie industry.

His MMWI is a mess, and should have included FN men, who are murdered and missing more often then FN women and who cases go unsolved more often.

Morneau's Villa in France in the name of a Corporation.

Trudeau's idea of boosting Foreign Aid was to take it from a general pool for all in need to give to only women, leaving men in need to die.

Lying about the combat role in Iraq, remember the Sniper shot that set a record.

Boosting military spending massively to appease Trump, while mismanaging the C-18 procurement.

NAFTA negiotations, period. Disaster.

The infrastructure bank he never promised, that will transfer wealth to the rich.

Oh and recently ambushing the Premiers recently with the idea for a special weed tax that they were not prepared for especially when the stated goal was to underprice criminal organizations.

Meanwhile, both the optics and the 'ethics' of Finance Minister Bill Morneau's situation continue to reverberate. Martin Patriquin offers this withering assessment:
Morneau, a multimillionaire banker married to a multimillionaire heiress, owns a villa in southern France. He also owns millions of shares in Morneau Shepell, the pension services behemoth founded by his father. Let us peruse how our finance minister has handled these particular assets.

Morneau’s French villa is owned by a holding company in which Morneau and his wife Nancy McCain are partners. Morneau neglected to mention the existence of this corporation to Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson until after the CBC’s Elizabeth Thompson started asking questions about it. Such corporations are particularly useful in France, where the inheritance tax is an expensive burden for the country’s wealthy landowners. Using a corporation to avoid said taxes is entirely legal — much like the loopholes Morneau wishes to close for a certain class of Canadian tax-avoiders.

Next, there is the matter of those shares. Morneau’s shares, which earn upwards of $2 million in yearly dividends, are owned by a corporation controlled by Morneau and his family. This set of circumstances, unearthed by CTV News, allows Morneau to deke the federal conflict-of-interest ethics laws. Because they are owned by a corporation, not a human being named Bill Morneau, the finance minister didn’t have to get rid of them when he took office. Again, it’s perfectly legal. It’s also a loophole to hold onto extremely valuable assets he otherwise would need to sell.
Finally, Global National gives us some insight into Morneau's conflicts of interest/hypocrisy:

In today's Star, Chantal Hebert blames much of the Liberals' misfortune on rookie ministers like Morneau. I would say that the problem with the Trudeau government runs much, much deeper. Platitudinous rhetoric, arrogance and ethical blindness do not make for government people can trust and respect.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Foundering Ship Of State

Were you to examine my blog posts prior to the last election, you would see that I had grave reservations about the fitness of Justin Trudeau for Canada's top office. He seemed wedded to platitudes, and there was little to indicate anything substantive in his thinking.

After he and his merry men and women were elected, I was cautiously optimistic, so glad was I to see the end of the Harper era. Indeed, to that end, I voted for the Liberals. Now it seems, my earlier reservations are being realized. The Trudeau government has little to show for its two years in office.

Granted, they made the right move by admitting so many Syrian refugees, a moment that made me proud as a Canadian. And their desire to achieve reconciliation with aboriginals is commendable; however, their efforts at achieving it have been ill-executed and unlikely to bear fruit in the foreseeable future.

Of the environmental file I will not even speak. Trudeau's insistence that pipelines and climate-change mitigation are compatible is simply contemptible.

Then there was the cruel charade of promised electoral reform, something I now believe was doomed the moment the Liberals achieved a majority government. Moreover, it may ultimately prove to be a Pyrrhic victory, given the widespread disillusionment and cynicism their betrayal has engendered.

Add to that the latest information about Bill Morneau and the fact that his shares in the family company, Morneau Shepell, are not even being held in a blind trust, thanks to a loophole in the ethics law that Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson says she flagged long ago.

Compounding the Finance Minister's woes is his ineptitude in bringing in tax reform that was to net a paltry $250 million. As of today, it appears it will be much less:
Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced changes to his proposed tax reforms for private corporations on Wednesday, saying they will now target only the "unfair" tax advantages used by the wealthiest Canadians.

The vast majority of private corporations — about 97 per cent — will not be affected by the changes, Morneau said during an event in Hampton, N.B.
And as far as I can determine, this is to be the extent of reform, meaning the large corporations and those with shell companies will be able to continue evading their fair of taxes. All in all, pretty pathetic for a majority government whose rhetoric promised soaring improvements to so many files. You can bet that the ever-increasing deficit will haunt us in the future, likely necessitating substantial cuts in spending; this neoliberal government lacks the will to raise taxes or close loopholes on corporations.

Perhaps Janice Kennedy best sums up the sad situation we see today:
Campaign promises broken or unfulfilled, bungling, displays of ineptitude, fiscal recklessness – all defiantly wrapped in a banner of staggeringly misguided self-congratulation, as if the sun were still shining – have left countless 2015 Liberal voters disillusioned with a government that has a genius for optics and rhetoric.
There will always be those so-called progressives ready to reflexively defend Team Trudeau because they are not Stephen Harper and his foul apostles. To do so, however, is to suggest that the present government is the best Canada can expect. That is to sell woefully short both our democracy and our citizens, and it is a position I shall never, ever accept.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

UPDATED: Sometimes It Doesn't Go Their Way

Upon the re-election of Naheed Nenshi, the neoliberals have a message for Canadians who haven't gotten with the program:
Not everyone was happy about Naheed Nenshi being re-elected to a third term as Calgary's mayor Monday night — including some members of the Calgary Flames organization, which recently broke off talks with the city regarding construction of a new arena for the NHL team.
Sean Kelso, director of communications and media relations for the Flames, voiced his ire on Twitter soon after the results were made public, saying Nenshi being re-elected mayor is worse than Donald Trump being president of the United States.

The tweet was deleted minutes later, but not before being captured and shared widely on social media.

Now what is that old saying? Vive la resistance.

UPDATE: Brent Rathgeber has some interesting reflections on the changing nature of Alberta politics:
The Flames organization wants a new arena. Talks with the city on building one haven’t gone well; the team’s ownership organization pulled out of what it claimed were “spectacularly unproductive” negotiations within days of Nenshi announcing his campaign for a third term. Nenshi’s just one vote on council but his public disagreements with Flames ownership over who should pay how much to replace the Saddledome made him a political target in the eyes of many.

Flames vice-president of marketing Gordon Norrie actually urged people on his Twitter account to vote for Smith. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman publicly suggested that the mayor would be indifferent if the team were to relocate to Seattle or Quebec City. After Nenshi won, Flames communications director Sean Kelso issued a tweet (later deleted) that said Nenshi as mayor was “worse than Donald Trump being president.”
Despite those efforts, Nenshi won a decisive victory:
It all proves what I’ve been saying for years: Alberta is changing. The province’s population is increasingly urban and demographically mixed — and much more progressive than many outsiders believe. That said, there’s still tremendous brand recognition in the name ‘Conservative’ and many Albertans still believe that’s what we are — even though that may not be as true as it once was.

Truly, Madly, Deeply Deranged

That is the only appropriate description of that old deranged felon and adulterer/alleged rapist, (a.k.a., the standard hypocritical misconduct for the unhinged evangelical set) Jim Bakker.
Not mentioning his time in the wilderness, after he spent time in prison after bilking his followers out of $158 million, Bakker boasted that he has made many predictions — including 9/11 — that have come true, and that he is not being treated like the prophet he is.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fighting Back

Colin Kaepernick, the young NFL quarterback about whom I have previously posted, has shown remarkable integrity and fortitude dealing with the furor following his decision to 'take a knee' rather than stand for the U.S. national anthem. His action, to protest the brutalization of Black people at the hands of the authorities, has been roundly condemned by reactionaries for 'disrespecting the flag'. (The fact that 'taking a knee' has been a traditional show of respect by those entering Catholic church pews, I guess, is neither here nor there in this fraught environment.)

That Kaepernick no longer has a team to play for reveals much about systemic racism, both in the league and throughout America. Now, he has decided to fight back. He has filed a grievance against the NFL on Sunday, alleging that he remains unsigned as a result of collusion by owners following his protests during the national anthem.

It would take mental gymnastics worthy of a denizen of Nineteen Eight-Four not to be able to see the cause-and-effect at work in the erstwhile quarterback's ongoing unemployment:
Kaepernick's supporters believe he's being punished for protesting police brutality by refusing to stand during the national anthem last season. This movement has spread throughout the NFL this season, drawing sharp criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Last week, CBS Sports reporter Jason La Canfora said that Kaepernick would be willing to go anywhere to work out for a team and wanted to be judged solely on his football ability.
While a difficult grievance to actually prove, all the evidence points in the direction of the NFL owners blackballing him:
San Francisco safety Eric Reid, Kaepernick's former teammate, has been kneeling during the anthem before games, including Sunday's 26-24 loss at the Washington Redskins.

"I'll have to follow up with him," Reid said after the game. "It sure does seem like he's being blackballed. I think all the stats prove that he's an NFL-worthy quarterback. So that's his choice and I support his decision. We'll just have to see what comes of it."

The NFL players' union said it would support the grievance, which was filed through the arbitration system that's part of the league's collective bargaining agreement.
Colin Kaepernick is clearly a deeply principled person who is likely running a real risk of further repercussions as he pursues this grievance. But that is often how the finest manifestations of personal integrity work, isn't it?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

What A Great Legacy

Jimmy Carter will not be remembered as one of the great U.S. presidents, but when his long life ends, he will be remembered for something much more meaningful: great humanitarian and environmentalist:

On Human Resilience

In a world growing increasingly grim, it is easy to succumb to cynicism and defeatism. That is why stories like the following need to be told, to remind us that there is much, much more to human nature than the darkness we so regularly see. Young Tori Brinkman attests to this:

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Apocalypse Explained

American news likes to focus only on the human drama that ensues when disaster strikes. In contrast, Global National, clearly less fettered by corporate fiat, takes the time to analyse the reasons behind the disaster. The following report by Eric Sorenson explains the science behind the apocalypse engulfing California, and yes, that science includes the use of a term one almost never hears in mainstream media south of the border, climate change.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Lest We Forget

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz reminds us of some unpleasant truths:

Responding To "Suppressing Dissent" - A Guest Post

This morning I received a comprehensive commentary from BM, who was responding to my post Suppressing Dissent, which expressed criticism of the visit by Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins' visit to the Donald Trump White House. If you missed it, you may wish to read it before enjoying BM's post below.

Following his comments, I reproduce my response. As always, I welcome a diversity of views:

This is about the most ridiculous post I've seen here. It's outright stupid. And mean-spirited to boot.

Immersed as we are in US culture, apparently Canadians think we are Americans. That is the only explanation I can come up with that eplains the moaning that Crosby should have snubbed the White House visit to in effect tell Trump off.

In what strange reality do you live? Seriously. Crosby, like any foreigner earning a living overseas remains in that foreign country at the forebearance of its government. He has no "right" to be there. And anyone with a thinking brain would realize that he has no right to insert himself in that foreign country's domestic affairs. Unless he wishes to commit career suicide.

The fuzzy thinking I've been exposed to in the media and now here on this matter is to me beyond belief. I'll say it again, neither we or Crosby are American. Therefore, he did what was necessary which was to sidestep the issue. Does Trudeau do any better?

To project your hopes and aspirations onto Crosby is ridiculous, and carries not one penny's worth of logical weight. To compound your profound disappointment, you slyly and snidely suggest he didn't stand up like the man you wish him to be because he is susceptible to concussion. That, I'm afraid, is contemptible.

Then we get the usual mishmash of snobby Upper Canadian finger-pointing about the way Nova Scotia was some 90 or more years ago. Yessir, we're all dumb racist hayseeds down here. We've got a lot to answer for, to be sure, about the way we have and still do treat blacks, but that requires no preachy lectures from Ontario pseudo intellectuals. Is Ontario blame free on its treatment of the indigenous population, or the current way blacks are treated in the GTA? I think not.

There is even a factual error about Africville. The "government" did not move Africville, the City of Halifax did. It has issued an apology to former Africville residents redolent of the same half-hearted and certainly not heartfelt apologies that Harper and Trudeau have given to indigenous people. Not good enough. We can and should do better.

The Coloured Hockey League's existence came back to light in 2012 locally. I'd never heard of it myself, and can think of no reason that Crosby growing up in Cole Harbour, a newish Dartmouth suburb should have either. Is it the responsibility of sentient citizens to continually check the historical record for signs of past societal sins and having found one, immediately do abject penance?

Furthermore, with the more recent ramp-up on the Coloured Hockey League, it comes to light that many prominent black citizens here missed the 2012 announcements when a book on the matter was published. On CBC Radio and TV, we have seen such people interviewed who were as ignorant of the CHL as anyone else, but glad to see it come to light again. What chance did Crosby have of knowing this story as he grew up, or me for that matter? Maybe we're both concussed.

I can detail what I and others did for the black community near the town I lived in here in NS way back in the early 1960s. With no internet, not a soul was running around brimming with knowledge of past injustices province-wide. We acted on what we saw, and we prevailed against prejudice.

This business of judging past history by today's standards without a thought to interpretation is surely the curse of the modern age. To compound the ignorance with the ruminations and innuendo you present here is poor work indeed.

My Response:

Clearly, my post struck a nerve here, BM, and you are certainly not alone in thinking that Crosby in particular, and Canadians in general, have no business opining on American politics. Former CBC News executive producer Mark Bulgutch penned an opinion piece in the Star on the weekend suggesting Canadians should restrict our observations and actions to our own backyard.

Again, because there really is no precedent for the kind of lunacy we are currently witnessing south of the border, I maintain that everyone has, at the very least, a moral obligation not to lend even a scintilla of legitimacy to such a dysfunctional administration.

Because I always welcome diverse views and opinions, I am taking the liberty, BM, of featuring your commentary as a guest post.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Too High A Price To Pay

This year, The Star has been running an Atkinson Series entitled The New Newsroom, which looks at both the challenges and the possibilities facing journalism in this age of Internet freebies. It is an excellent series that I hope you get a chance to check out. Here is an excerpt from a recent installment and the theme of today's post:
When the news industry and its supporters seek government funding to give it time to find a new business model, it’s because of the role news plays in maintaining a strong society — protecting democracy, in the phrase often used. If we don’t know what our governments are doing, we don’t control them. If we don’t know that hospitals have long waiting lists, we can’t find a solution. If we don’t know a development is planned, we can’t fight to protect the green space instead. Without information, we can’t have knowledgeable conversations with each other. We don’t have a voice. Our communities then belong to the powerful.
It is one of the key reasons I subscribe to The Toronto Star, which has a remarkable record in effecting change at the local, provincial and federal levels thanks to its many investigative reports. Without those investigations, public awareness of problems and injustices would have been quite limited.

To read a daily newspaper is to facilitate something all citizens should have: critical thinking skills. Without those skills, and without the information needed to inform those skills, we really are at the mercy of forces that would prefer us to be in darkness so they can carry out their agendas, agendas that rarely coincide with the public good. A column today on increases to the provincial minimum wage by provincial affairs reporter Martin Regg Cohn amply illustrates this fact.
Despite the scare stories, a proposed $15 hourly wage in 2019 is proving wildly popular. By all accounts, it is a vote-winner.

The usual suspects are upset: TD Bank, Loblaws, Metro, the Chamber of Commerce and the small business lobby are warning higher wages will hit hard, and hurt the working poor by costing them jobs.

It’s a recurring tale of two competing victimhoods — businesses at risk and jobs in jeopardy — but people aren’t buying it. The old fable about the boy (or business) who cried wolf is a hard sell when few believe the wolf is at the door.
Were the business perspective our sole source on this issue, we would likely be inclined to believe the hike is going to wreck our economy. Having a countervailing view assists us in making a more measured judgement. And, as Cohn points out, there are other factors to consider here, such as societal consensus:
Perhaps people are waking up to the impact of poverty amidst plenty. And are prepared to pay more at their local Dollarama — rebrand it Toonierama if need be.

Canadians who were content to live alongside the working poor are increasingly sensitized to the argument for a living wage. Times change.
For the longest time, people put up with second-hand cigarette smoke, drove while drunk, forgot their seat belts, or sneered at nerds who wore helmets for motorcycling, cycling, hockey or skiing. Now, cigarettes are taboo, drunk driving is anathema, seat belts are the law, and helmets are de rigeur.
Add to that some hard facts that demonstrate the one-sidedness of the business argument that the sky will soon fall:
A previous column about the business lobby pointed to the flaws in outdated econometric modelling that vainly tries to foretell future job losses from doomsday scenarios. Their conclusions are contradicted by more advanced research that looks retrospectively at recent history, showing negligible or unmeasurable impacts from minimum wage hikes.

Yet major retailers keep warning that automation is the inevitable result of higher wages. Been to a Loblaws, Sobeys, or Canadian Tire recently? Seen those automated check-out counters, even at today’s minimal minimum wage?

Automation is inevitable. Lowering the minimum wage won’t bring back full-service gas station attendants, or persuade the banks to remove automated tellers from your local branch.

Economic disruptions are also unpredictable. Even if business scaremongering about a wage hike were remotely true (at the margins), the reality is that a rapid increase in interest rates would have far more impact, as would a collapse in the housing market.
We all have our biases and values. The fact that I subscribe to The Star attests to mine. However, I also am free to reading countervailing views from conservative and pro-business organs like the National Post and The Globe and Mail, and frequently I will not dismiss out-of-hand some of their perspectives. The point is, however, that the more information I acquire from a legitimate news source, as opposed to fringe Internet sites that feel no obligation to abide by the rules of evidence and reason, the more equipped I am to draw reasoned conclusions.

Journalists do the heavy lifting for all of us. To lose them would be to lose any chance to have a healthy and sustainable democracy. That is surely too high a price to pay.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Suppressing Dissent

Like countless others, I support those protesting both the wicked legacy and current practice of North American racism. While more egregious perhaps in the United States, Canada's own shameful racist history and practices leave little to be proud of either. For that reason and others, I cannot support the decision of Sidney Crosby and his fellow Canadians to visit the Trump White House as the Stanley Cup champions.

Consider the following:
Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins view their trip to the White House on Tuesday as the final moment of celebration for a championship season, not some sort of statement about where they stand on President Donald Trump.

"From my side of things, there's absolutely no politics involved," Crosby said Monday. "Hopefully it stays that way. It's a visit we've done in the past. It's been a good experience. It's not about politics, that's for sure."
Perhaps the concussion-prone lad is not thinking straight or is unspeakably naive in thinking that interacting with Donald Trump is like past visits to the White House; in that he is sorely mistaken, as the following clip makes abundantly clear:

And let's face it. Crosby and the others are filtering an increasingly fraught reality through the prism of white privilege, something The Star's Emma Teitel takes him to task for:
Like any white person who shares Crosby’s “side of things” and whose government does not devalue his life on account of the colour of his skin, he has the luxury of regarding politics as a force too far away to complicate his day to day.

It was this luxury that enabled him to smile and shake hands with a U.S. president who recently asserted that “very fine people” existed on both sides of the summertime march in Charlottesville, Va., where neo-Nazis walked unmasked and triumphant down a city street and a 32-year-old woman died at the hands of one of them. (Very fine people indeed.)
Having been born and raised in Nova Scotia compounds the grievousness of Crosby's moral blindness:
Being Black was tough too for the more than 400 hockey players who comprised the Coloured Hockey League in Crosby’s home province of Nova Scotia from 1895 to 1930. CHL players did not have the privilege of political indifference when their league disbanded due to a number of factors, racism included. Later the government would demolish Africville, the African-Canadian village in Halifax, in which many of the league’s members lived and played.
Penguin coach Mike Sullivan is also complicit in this misdeed, despite his stout denials:

Sorry, Mike. You just can't have it both ways.

I shall leave you with a reminder of who ultimately has the real power and now seems intent on abusing it to suppress dissent, and this should come as no surprise to anyone: it is the predominantly white 1% who are committed to maintaining the status quo.

Both Mike Sullivan and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can talk all they want about respecting their players, but in the end, as always, actions speak far, far louder than words.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

This Is What A Complete Absence Of Integrity Looks Like

You can read more about this pathetic example of humanity and avid courter of political favour, William Wehrum, here.

UPDATED: On The Petering Out Of Pipelines

While Andrew Sheer's Conservatives will undoubtedly wring as much political capital as they can out of the cancellation of the Energy East pipeline, less partisan people will see it as the inevitable outcome of two facts: the current low price of oil and the necessity of phasing out fossil fuels if we are to have any chance of mitigating the worst effects of the climate change now well underway.

Fortunately, Star readers are sufficiently sophisticated in their thinking to understand that new pipelines have no place in our world today, as the following letters attest:
TransCanada pulls the plug on Energy East pipeline project, Oct. 6

Politicians fuming about TransCanada’s cancellation of the Energy East pipeline apparently believe that short-term profits for Big Oil trump not only the welfare of the communities the line would run through, but the welfare of all Canadians, since the bitumen it would have carried worsens the devastating impact of climate change. Mimicking U.S. President Donald Trump’s futile quest to bring back coal, Big Oil’s apologists try to focus the public’s attention on jobs, ignoring the fact that green energy already employs more Canadians than the oilsands. TransCanada’s decision is in line with a worldwide trend away from oil and towards a sustainable energy future. It’s time that politicians faced the truth and stopped propping up fossil fuels with billions of dollars in subsidies every year.

Norm Beach, Toronto

I expect Prime Minister Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna are now, finally, after all, getting the message. It’s time to stop approving and building more pipelines. This is not the way to the low-carbon economy, to the clean-energy future we desperately need.

In addition to other compelling reasons against pipelines, it is now abundantly clear that building more pipelines does not make economic sense. When called to give full account for the pollution up and downstream, considering the return on investment of extracting and processing the dirtiest fuel on the planet, the plug has been pulled on the Energy East Pipeline. And rightly so.

There are court cases currently underway in B.C. to challenge the seriously flawed decision to approve the Kinder Morgan expansion. I ask the Trudeau government to reconsider the Kinder Morgan approval and other such decisions as they come up. Extracting energy from tarsands is disastrous, doesn’t make economic sense and must be ended sooner rather than later. This means phasing out, not expanding, the extraction and use of fossil fuels, particularly from the tarsands.

We must not move forward with a project that does not assess and take into account the downstream as well as upstream emission impact. It’s not acceptable to export pollution and emissions. We must not continue to use, build or support the fossil fuel industry to finance the transition to a sustainable economy based on renewables. Rather than supporting jobs in tarsands extraction, help workers move toward greener occupations. We must honour our commitment to reduce our emissions.

Jill Schroder, Vancouver, B.C.
Meanwhile, today's Star editorial offers some astute observations:
Canada has been slower than other countries to see that climate change is changing the calculus of national interest. China, choked by air pollution, has aggressively invested in renewable energy, driving the price of wind and solar power precipitously down. Last year, renewables matched fossil fuels for the first time both in price and power capacity. [Emphasis added] As countries seek to meet their climate targets, demand for the sort of energy that depends on pipelines seems bound, even if slowly, to decline.

...our long-term competitiveness, including but not only in the $5-trillion global energy business, depends on our ability to look beyond fossil fuels and foster clean-tech and alternative-energy innovations and industry.
No one would suggest that there will be no economic repercussions of moving away from oil. But the longer we delay the transition, the longer we pretend that it can be business as usual, the greater that impact will be.

UPDATE: Thanks to The Salamander for providing this link to an excellent article analyzing the failure of Energy East.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Truly Alien Nation

This weekend we celebrate with family and friends our Canadian Thanksgiving. As is the custom, we reflect upon the things for which we are grateful, and duly give thanks for them. This day, I am particularly thankful for what I am not - a resident of the United States.

The benighted nation south of us, which calls itself, without a hint of irony, "the greatest country on earth," suffers from a serious rupture from reality. To me, it is an egregiously failed country, one so foreign from my experience and understanding of what constitutes a civilized and mature society that it might as well exist on a another planet. It is truly an alien nation.

In today's Star, Daniel Dales writes about the most conspicuous aspect of the United States' moral sickness: its insane gun laws which, signs suggest, are about to go even further down the rabbit hole.

Even with so many deaths and grievous injuring marring the American landscape, including the latest massacre of 58 people in Las Vegas, the full-court press to make guns even more accessible proceeds apace:
This year, for example, Missouri Republicans allowed people to carry guns without obtaining a permit. Georgia Republicans allowed permit-holders to carry on college campuses. Ohio Republicans allowed gun licence holders to carry their guns at daycares that don’t put up No Guns signs and to store their guns in their cars on school property.

Before the Las Vegas shooting, House Republicans had been pushing a bill to make it easier to buy gun silencers [the euphemistically-titled Hearing Protection Act] . They have now delayed that effort a second time. The first delay came after a shooter attacked party congressmen on a baseball field in nearby Virginia — which, tellingly, prompted some to talk about loosening gun laws, for self-defence.
While a few states have slightly tighted rules, most are embracing, even extolling, looser restriction:
Charles Heller, a spokesperson for the Arizona Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group, said Arizona has passed “58 positive bills, signed by three governors, over 13 years.” He is pushing for more — such as a law allowing people with gun licences to bypass metal detectors at government buildings, as at the Texas state capitol, and a law making it legal to brandish a gun against assailants who have not yet caused physical harm.
Americans, it seems, have become inured to statistical evidence of the carnage caused by guns:
More than 33,000 Americans were killed by guns in 2014 — more than 90 per day. In 2015, the Washington Post found, 23 children were shot every day. Almost two-thirds of the gun deaths were suicides, which tend to receive the least attention.
One always reads that the main obstacle to passing laws controlling and restricting these weapons of mass destruction is the NRA. Of that I am not so certain. Sure, that dark organization has an almost unlimited war chest when it comes to influencing and buying legislators, but I doubt its agenda could reign supreme without one other element: a citizenry so deeply flawed, so deeply divided and so deeply fearful of their neigbours that only brute force and personal arsenals can offer a balm to their deeply, deeply debased psyches.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

His Name Was Patrick Harmon

Only a failed nation perpetrates the kind of atrocity depicted in the following video. While difficult to watch, what other choice do we have but to bear witness?

Reaching Across The Divide

In an effort at ecumenical outreach, Mrs. Betty Bowers reaches out to the Real Housewives of ISIS to show that their religious sensibilities have much in common with those of the Religious Right in America.

Friday, October 6, 2017

In The Eye Of The Beholder

It is my practice each evening at 6:30 to switch back and forth between NBC Nightly News and Global National, in part because I like to see the differing emphases placed on common news stories. Generally, I find Global National superior for its depth and analysis of key items.

For example, NBC has largely devoted itself to the human drama that was played out during the Las Vegas massacre and its aftermath, telling survivors' stories and sundry tales of individual acts of heroism that occurred. Global National, while not neglecting such aspects, has also examined some of the factors contributing to mass murder, one of them being the thorny issue of gun control, something NBC has shied away from. As a rule, Canadian media will tread where Americans fear to go or are forbidden by corporate fiat.

However, last evening I was quite disappointed at Global's coverage of the Energy East pipeline cancellation. I am including two clips from that coverage, the first a straight-forward reporting of the cancellation coupled with the predictable political games of the Conservatives blaming it all on Trudeau, the second an analysis with a decided editorial bias.

The next clip, which explores the question of the future of energy projects, has a decidedly pro-pipeline bias, as David Akin looks at the impediments to such projects. Phrases such as "interest group activism" and "regulatory dysfunction" leave little doubt that stronger measures to monitor and control greenhouse gas emissions are obstacles to multi-billion-dollar investments and good-paying jobs. While those of us who care about the environment and climate change are heartened by 'impediments' to further fossil-fuel development, others consider it a major blow to all that is good and holy - continuous, unrestrained growth.

In the second video, you will also have noticed David Akin's attempt to conflate pipeline development with some of the great infrastructure projects of the past like the James Bay hydro-electric project and the Trans-Canada highway. He also invokes Sir John A. MacDonald and laments the lack of a "national vision" today, my interpretation being that we are are somehow the poorer for a lack of imagination when it comes to pipelines.

Global National may be content to live in the past and extol the old economic models in which environment factors are simply an inconvenient obstruction to unrestrained growth. The rest of us who take the time to educate ourselves about the climate-change perils we face today can only look on with bemusement that such an antiquated model still holds captive much of the national media.

UPDATE: For those who tenaciously cling to the belief that fossil fuels will always reign supreme, this article provides a sobering dose of reality:
The electric vehicle revolution has been supercharged by plummeting lithium-ion prices, which are half of what they were in 2014. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) forecasts EVs will be as cheap as gasoline cars by 2025 and keep dropping in price until EVs overtake them in yearly sales, by which time EVs will be displacing 8 million barrels of oil a day — more than Saudi Arabia exports today.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

UPDATE: Rosy Rhetoric Won't Get The Job Done

Those of us who pay even a modest amount of attention to the ever-increasing toll that climate change is exacting on the world know or sense that we have reached a reckoning point. People living in the Western Hemisphere see all too clearly the havoc being wrought by ever-more powerful storms hitting the Caribbean and the southern U.S. Looking farther afield, many parts of the world are afflicted by severe drought, raging wildfires, heat waves and monsoon floods of extraordinary dimensions. Yet to listen to Justin Trudeau and his sunny band of brothers and sisters, things are looking up.

Unfortunately, their rosy rhetoric will not save the day.

Several months ago Bill McKibben offered this piercing observation about our selfie-loving prime minister:
... when it comes to the defining issue of our day, climate change, he’s a brother to the old orange guy in Washington.

Not rhetorically: Trudeau says all the right things, over and over. He’s got no Scott Pruitts in his cabinet: everyone who works for him says the right things. Indeed, they specialize in getting others to say them too – it was Canadian diplomats, and the country’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna, who pushed at the Paris climate talks for a tougher-than-expected goal: holding the planet’s rise in temperature to 1.5C (2.7F).

But those words are meaningless if you keep digging up more carbon and selling it to people to burn, and that’s exactly what Trudeau is doing.
Ross Belot, writing about Trudeau's recent UN address, echoed similar sentiments:
”There is no country on the planet that can walk away from the challenge and reality of climate change. And for our part, Canada will continue to fight for the global plan that has a realistic chance of countering it,” Trudeau told the UN. “We have a responsibility to future generations and we will uphold it.”

Good words — until you notice what they’re not saying. Nowhere in his speech does Trudeau say Canada will hit its commitments under the Paris climate change accord. He says that Canada will “fight for the global plan.” He can’t say he’ll fight for the Canadian plan since … there isn’t one. Not one that suggests Canada can actually meet its targets, at any rate.
The most damning indictment of federal inaction comes from Canada's Environment Commissioner, Julie Gelfand, who leaves no doubt that the Trudeau government is whistling past the graveyard when it comes to mitigation efforts and preparations for an increasingly inhospitable climate:
In a blunt fall audit report tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Julie Gelfand said the government has failed to implement successive emissions-reduction plans, and is not prepared to adapt to the life-threatening, economically devastating impacts of a changing climate.

The government released the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change in December 2016, which was endorsed by all provinces and territories except Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

But instead of presenting a detailed action plan to reach the 2020 target for reducing emissions, Gelfand said the government changed its focus to a new 2030 target.

The government has also failed to adopt regulations to reduce greenhouse gases that could help limit the risks of pollution, natural disasters, forest fires and floods, the audit finds.
This is a damning audit, one that puts to the lie all of the social media and other propaganda efforts our government has engaged in to give us a sense of false security as disaster comes barreling toward us. It is a catastrophe that our increasingly vulnerable infrastructure will not be able to withstand:
In her report, Gelfand said measures to adapt to climate change can save lives, minimize damage and strengthen the economy, yet a 2011 adaptation policy framework was never implemented.

The federal government has not provided its departments and agencies with the critical tools and guidance to identify and respond to risks.

Only five of 19 departments and agencies examined by Gelfand's audit team had fully assessed risks and taken steps to address climate change. The other 14, including Environment and Climate Change Canada, Public Safety and National Defence, had taken "little or no action" to address the risks.
The following interview with Julie Gelfand is most instructive:

We are long past the time when soothing words and platitudes are of any utility whatsoever; it is only the woefully under-informed and those slavishly devoted to Mr. Trudeau who will find something to celebrate under this increasingly hollow administration. For the rest of us, if things continue on as they are, those dark clouds on the horizon will become ever-more threatening and ever-more destructive.

UPDATE: Many thanks to The Salamander for reminding me of a video many of you have probably seen that shows the ripple effect any change to the environment sets in motion. As you will see, the very deliberate reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park has a largely beneficial effect. The trophic cascade that ensues is fascinating, but, more pertinently, it underscores how sensitive our natural world is to alterations.

As The Salamander wrote, in response to the Trudeau government's pallid efforts to combat climate change:
.. I'm left wondering what happens when politicians allow keychain species such as wild salmon or boreal caribou to be extirpated..

.. yes.. yes .. jobs jobs jobs.. the economy stupid.. we must grow the economy.. but what happens (forever) to the land, the water, the air ?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Can You Imagine?

I have always believed, and still do, that one of the essentials for bringing about real political change is knowledge. To be aware of and informed about the key issues is, in many ways, to be engaged. However, I now also realize, after watching the George Monbiot video posted by The Mound the other day, and reading No Is Not Enough, by Naomi Klein, that there is another essential ingredient: imagination.

For far too long, as Monbiot explains, we have been given a binary view of the world which offers essentially two choices: there is the neoliberal perspective, which originated with the Chicago School preaching (and there is no better word than that if we consider their proponents' zeal) the virtues of free markets with minimal government interference; then there is the Keynesian model, which extols government expenditures and lower taxes to stimulate demand and pull economies out of recession and depression.

As Monbiot points out, neither is a viable model today. Neoliberalism has plundered our world and brought us to the brink of environmental collapse and an ever-widening social/economic inequity; Keynesian policies, which are predicated on constant growth, are no longer viable because we live in a world of increasingly finite resources that can no longer sustain the environmental consequences of unlimited growth.

So Monbiot asserts that we need a new narrative to compete against the old ones, a narrative that will revive and inspire our imaginations. And that begins with paying attention to an essential component of our natures: our altruism.

If we consider the cant of the neoliberals, we are little more than homo economicus, people who behave with almost a machine-like rationality that determines our behaviour as we go about 'getting and spending." It is a soulless depiction of who we are, and ignores the non-rational, 'human' side of our natures. Monbiot points out that we are the most altruistic creature on earth, far-surpassing that found in other animals, and it is the realization of that fact that can propel us towards a much better world, one whose foundation is cooperation, not ruthless competition. The video provides stirring examples of that altruism, including those who, at grave risk to themselves, harbored Jews from the Nazis in the Second World War, and the millions who marched in solidarity after the Charlie Hebdo killings. The key is for us to be reminded that we are so much more than the neoliberals would have us believe.

That better world begins with imagining its feasibility. Once we pierce through the miasma of neoliberalism and understand that life need not be a zero-sum game, that it need not be a Hobbesian world where life is "nasty, short and brutish," our imaginations are freed, and massive co-operation is possible.

A 'participatory culture' building from the ground up and establishing what Monbiot calls thick networks can mark the beginning of a community renaissance that culminates in an economy owned and operated by the community. Invoking the idea of the commons and enclosure, Monbiot talks about the value that land, in a municipal setting, for example, has thanks to all of the tax money spent on developing infrastructure, schools, hospitals, etc. Because developers benefit from these expenditures in terms of the added value of their land, a tax or 'community-land contribution' would see a return of some of that value to the community through money for local initiatives such as a new park or even a dividend paid to citizens, perhaps even in the form of a basic income, with some of the money redistributed by higher government levels to other, less affluent communities, etc.

Monbiot also talks about the need for electoral financing reform, mitigating the influence of the big players on our politicians. His vision is that the money for parties would be raised by selling memberships, supplemented by a government subsidy. This would force politicians to reengage with people and their priorities in order to sell more memberships. While there is some merit in this plan, I doubt that it would be a panacea, as the allure of lucrative post-political positions from the corporate sector would still be too tempting for the pols to abandon their masters' agenda. He also advocates abandoning the first-past-the-post system, a subject Canadians know all too well, given Justin Trudeau's betrayal of his promise to do the same.

Another component of renewal is the selective use of referenda, but ones that treat the voter as intelligent and informed. Such referenda offer not a binary choice on issues but a range of choices, ones that require people to educate themselves about the issue at hand. We are talking about the opposite of what transpired on the Brexit vote.

Citing the near success of Bernie Sanders, Monbiot also discusses the importance of what is called Big Organizing, a model that is predicated on grassroots volunteer efforts. Had it started earlier, he has little doubt that Sanders would have won, and the same could have been true of Labour's Jeremy Corbyn.

I have hardly done justice here to what Monbiot has to say. I sincerely hope you will take some time to view the video, even if your time only allows for a fragmented consideration of it. Being an informed and engaged citizen today is hard work, but when one considers where apathy has taken us, there really is no alternative if we truly care about the future and those who will live it.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Art Of Misdirection

While it is difficult in some ways to attribute anything resembling a method to the madness of the American Moron-in-Chief, it would be wrong to think he is totally unmoored and rudderless. Trump's tax-reform plan attests to this. As does the furor that was stoked over U.S. Health Secretary Tom Price's obscene and very expensive use of charter flights on the American public's dime, for which he has now walked the plank. Both serve, I believe, as a misdirection to obscure a much more sinister long-term goal, one that all citizens of so-called liberal democracies, including Canada, should be concerned about.

The first misdirection comes in the preamble to the tax plan:
It is now time for all members of Congress — Democrat, Republican and Independent — to support pro-American tax reform. It’s time for Congress to provide a level playing field for our workers, to bring American companies back home, to attract new companies and businesses to our country, and to put more money into the pockets of everyday hardworking people.
- President Donald J. Trump
I won't belabor the obvious here about the risible and false association drawn above between tax cuts and economic growth, but let's just say the fact that corporate Canada was sitting on about $700 billion in 2014 is a sterling example of how ineffective a low tax regime is in creating jobs.

And there is no doubt that corporations and the wealthy will disproportionately benefit from the proposed changes, which aims to:
- Cut the corporate tax rate to 20 per cent, down from 35 per cent. Conservatives are framing the lower corporate tax rate as something that will increase investment and help businesses create jobs.

- Lower the top tax rate for so-called "pass-through" businesses to 25 per cent. These businesses, such as partnerships, S corporations or limited liability companies (LLCs), are only taxed on individual income.

- Eliminate the state and local tax deduction for individuals, thus taking away a break for taxpayers in highly taxed states such as New York, New Jersey and California.

- Scrap the alternative minimum tax (AMT), which was designed to prevent high-income earners from using loopholes to pay zero tax.

- And repeal the estate tax, a provision that affects very wealthy people who leave money to their heirs. The tax is currently set at 40 per cent.
Then there is the Trump claim that he will not benefit from the tax cuts, something that is demonstrably false.

But the fiction surrounding these tax cuts conceals a far more diabolical truth, one that will become apparent, I suspect, in the not-too-distant future. But to get at that truth, one more fiction needs to be dismantled, the one that says this kind of deficit spending will burden future generations. That assertion presupposes that at some point, taxes will have to be raised, and one's children and grandchildren will be paying them.

Personally, given the neoliberal nature of democracies today, I think that is absolute rubbish.

Putting aside that politicians generally lack the fortitude or the integrity to rescind tax breaks (look, for example at the fact the Harper TFSA still exists under the Trudeau government), let alone raise taxes, the truth is that future generations will pay for these deficits, just not in the way one might expect.

Payment will be extracted, not through increased taxation, but with the gutting of American social programs, entitlements like Medicaid and Social Security, etc. This will be coupled with an increasing rate of privatization of public resources, the neoliberal wet dream. And who will feel these cuts the most? The poor and the working class, most immediately, followed by the middle class through the much higher rates they will pay for newly privatized services, utilities, etc.

Already we have seen this plan being enacted in Canada, with more just around the corner. Consider the great privatization of Hydro One that has taken place under Premier Kathleen Wynne, something about which I have posted in the past. A boon to Bay Street and a bane to Main Street, it was done under the pretense of allocating all of the profits to green infrastructure initiatives. Predictably and cynically, however, Wynne has instead used some of the money to balance the books while also serving as a willing vessel for the neoliberal agenda.

There is every indication that the federal government is watching such betrayals of public ownership with avid interest. I have previously written about Justin Trudeau's secret study to privatize Canada' major airports. Again, the argument being advanced is that it would free up billions for infrastructure projects; more accurately, as Craig Richmond, the chief executive officer of the Vancouver Airport Authority, says,
“This idea of a one-time payment, that’s like selling the family jewels and then regretting it forever..."
Except, of course, there is never any semblance of regret when it comes to the nabobs of neoliberalism and their government functionaries, all of whom view public assets as fit only for corporate plunder.

So yes, everyone should evaluate each policy and event on its own merit. People are right to be disgusted with Tom Price's profligate abuse of taxpayer money, and people should be outraged that Trump's "middle class miracle" will benefit mainly the wealthy. But they should also be acutely aware of and outraged by one other thing: the purposeful misdirection that all such things represent, and should consequently rise up in deep protest as more of the neoliberal agenda is carried out by their kleptocratic Commander-in-Chief and his assorted masters and minions.