Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Cannabis Beacon

For those seeking to ingest 'the herb' legally and are looking forward to the opening of bricks and mortar stores in Ontario April 1st, Premier Doug Ford has taken all of the guesswork out of finding such emporiums. Conveniently, they will be be found within 150 metres of schools.

The real story for me, however, is the brazen contempt for truth and language that Doug and his enablers are indulging in as he betrays an election promise:
“I won’t put it besides schools like you did,” Ford said in a spring election debate to then-premier Kathleen Wynne. The Liberal government had planned to open its first state-run marijuana outlet 450 metres from Blantyre Public School in Scarborough."
That the Ford government is betraying basic safety measures to keep cannabis out of the hands of young people is not lost on some people:
“It’s troubling that Doug Ford’s latest back-door decision — this time to allow pot shops to move within a stone’s throw of kids’ schools — was done without any consultation with parents or communities,” said Deputy NDP Leader Sara Singh.
However, in the world we now inhabit, black is white and white is black. Consider the words of Attorney General Caroline Mulroney who, each time she speaks, seems to slide further and further into self-induced whoredom, as she
... insisted the guidelines, including the smaller distance buffer from schools, are in the best interest of the public.

“The purpose of these regulations is to keep kids safe and to ensure all people operating in this tightly-regulated retail system behave with integrity, honesty, and in the public interest,” she said in a statement released over the supper hour.

The hours of opening “are consistent with on-site retail stores for alcohol and will provide retailers with the flexibility to respond to local market conditions and consumer demands,” the statement added, referring to LCBO agency stores that are part of convenience, hardware and other stores in rural and remote areas where there are no liquor stores nearby.
In the corrupted currents of this world, Mulroney's words no doubt will be lapped up by those insensate Ford supporters who, like their Trump counterparts in the United States, stand by their man and his underlings unconditionally. In their cult-like devotion, they can see only one 'truth', that which is pronounced by their dear leader.

It must be nice to live with such certitude. However, for those of us who retain some critical faculties, these are bleak days indeed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"What Do I Have To Do To Earn A Decent Life?"

As my disenchantment with humanity and myself grows, I look for things to counteract the deep cynicism that has gripped me, things that demonstrate the resilience, strength and compassion that groups may no longer possess but individuals still do. The following is an example, the story of Jen Powley, a woman who has had MS since her teen years. Now completely immobilized at the age of 41, she faces some wrenching decisions about her future as she asks the question in this post's title.

While many might throw in the proverbial towel at this point, given the Nova Scotia government's unwillingness to allow her the means to live a decent life, she struggles on, her spirit undiminished.

She is someone we could all learn a lesson from.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Trump Picks A Fellow Traveller: Matt Whitaker

The NYT reports the following:
Matthew G. Whitaker, the acting attorney general, served on the advisory board of a Florida company that a federal judge shut down last year and fined nearly $26 million after the government accused it of scamming customers.

The company, World Patent Marketing, “bilked thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars” by promising inventors lucrative patent agreements, according to a complaint filed in Florida by the Federal Trade Commission.

Court documents show that when frustrated consumers tried to get their money back, Scott J. Cooper, the company’s president and founder, used Mr. Whitaker to threaten them as a former federal prosecutor. Mr. Cooper’s company paid Mr. Whitaker nearly $10,000 before it closed.

Mr. Whitaker’s role in the company would complicate his confirmation prospects should President Trump nominate him as attorney general.
Here is a video of Whitaker shilling for the company:

Invention Evaluation by Matthew Whitaker of World Patent Marketing from World Patent Marketing on Vimeo.

The trade commission complaint said that consumers were told they had to spend about $3,000 for a “Global Invention Royalty Analysis” to begin the process of examining an invention with the goal of getting a patent. After making the payment, the company’s clients were then pitched various packages ranging from approximately $8,000 to about $65,000.

After the company took the money, it typically began ignoring customers, who became frustrated that they were left in the dark. Mr. Cooper would often berate or threaten them when they asked questions or wanted their money back.

“Defendants and their lawyers have threatened consumers with lawsuits and even criminal charges and imprisonment for making any kind of complaint,” the trade commission’s complaint said.
And it appears Whitaker wasn't shy about throwing his wight around when people complained about the scam:
Mr. Whitaker, using his Iowa law firm’s email, told a man who had complained to Mr. Cooper that he was a former federal prosecutor and served on the company’s board.

“Your emails and message from today seem to be an apparent attempt at possible blackmail or extortion,” Mr. Whitaker wrote in August 2015. “You also mentioned filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and to smear World Patent Marketing’s reputation online. I am assuming you understand that there could be serious civil and criminal consequences for you.”
Clearly, in appointing him Acting Attorney General, Trump sees Whitaker as a kindred soul; he is now probably resting easier about the Mueller probe, given that he has now found just the man to end that pesky investigation.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Protecting Those In Power

It is to state the obvious that there are many actions going on in the background to which we are not privy. Only occasionally do we see the man behind the curtain. Some actions may simply involve efforts to protect reputations, while others have a more sinister cast, a cast that stabs at the heart of contemporary democracy. It is about the latter I write today.

As people already know, Minister of Economic Development and Trade Jim Wilson has been bounced from the Ford Ontario government, along with Andrew Kimber, Ford’s executive director of issues management and legislative affairs. The initial explanation, that Wilson was leaving his cabinet post and caucus to seek treatment for addiction issues, was put to the lie by some sterling sleuthing by Global News. It turns out that the real reason Wilson left had to do with sexual impropriety. When caught in the lie, Ford said he did it to protect the identity of the complainant, a risible ruse that merits no further discussion, but only complete contempt.

Party and political machinations being what they are, the effort to conceal the real reason for Wilson's departure is hardly surprising. What does become both surprising and alarming is when those forces whose ostensible job is to protect people become enablers of government.

Such would appear to be the case in the miasma surrounding the contentious nomination of PC Ben Levitt, who ran and lost in the riding of Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas in the last election. While the allegations about irregularities and ballot-stuffing during his nomination are not new, what is new is the report that Hamilton Police have made two arrests, but are keeping all the information about them under wraps.
Hamilton police made two arrests – yet laid no charges – in their investigation of alleged voter fraud at a Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario nomination meeting, but the lead officer said details of the probe should be kept under wraps to avoid creating “undue negative bias” toward the government. [Emphasis mine.]
Fortunately, this wholly inappropriate attempt to protect the powerful is not going unchallenged:
The Globe and Mail and CTV are seeking to unseal court documents related to the case, a move the Crown is opposing.
While the police are claiming unsealing the information could contaminate their investigation, one fact keeps emerging:
Det. Constable Jefferess ... noted twice in his affidavit the allegations involve the party that forms the province’s government.

“As this investigation involves a political party and the current sitting provincial government, the release of the contents of the applications for judicial authorizations to the various media outlets may cause the media outlets and/or the public who read the subsequent news stories to come to their own conclusions or draw inferences based on the information,” he wrote.

“This could lead to a prejudice of the potential jury pool (if charges are laid) and/or undue negative bias towards the current sitting provincial government.”
In other words the public, which should have expectation of transparency here, cannot be trusted with the information.
The Globe is seeking to unseal records relating to the search warrants and other authorizations, including information to obtain (ITO) documents, which are compilations of evidence that police present to a judge.

“This application is to further transparency because there is overwhelming public interest in ensuring that nomination rules and procedures are followed when political parties nominate persons to stand for election,” said media lawyer Peter Jacobsen, who represents The Globe.

The Globe and Mail reported previously there was a printer at the nomination meeting cranking out fake Rogers utility bills and Scotiabank statements that enabled people who were not eligible to vote to illegitimately cast ballots, according to multiple sources. In addition, there were irregularities at the credentials table, which is typically where voters are sent after encountering problems at the standard alphabetical registration stations.
It becomes increasingly apparent in this day and age that our belief that our political 'leaders' and their underlings are held in check by both internal and external processes is little more than a cruel illusion. Outside the press, an increasingly beleaguered, undervalued and underfunded check on the powerful, there seems little reason to believe that our democracy is being well-served today.

But then again, like so many other abuses to which we are privy today, will this just be met with a societal shrug of the shoulders as our increasingly infantile populace turns to the next diversion, be it found on social media, reality television, or the next titillating celebrity scandal?

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Is Left-Wing Populism The Answer?

While I personally don't see anything on the horizon to resurrect the fortunes of the federal NDP, Avi Lewis thinks he has a winning strategy: embrace populism, something he thinks could galvanize Jagmeet Singh's leadership. The key, he says, is to keep things simple:
“Why go for something that you have to explain? What populism tells you is that there are simple truths about our economy that can be communicated with great power,” said Lewis, who co-authored the environmental and social democratic treatise, the Leap Manifesto, with his wife, author and activist Naomi Klein.
While populism today seems to be the purview of the extreme right, exemplified by Trump's presidency, it is important to remember that the left has had its own practitioners:
Jan-Werner Mueller, a politics professor at Princeton University, told the CBC last week that populists can come in different ideological shades, so long as they trade in a rhetoric of divisiveness that questions the legitimacy of those who don’t share their views. “It’s always about excluding others,” he said.

For that reason, Mueller considers Hugo Chavez, the late Venezuelan socialist strongman, a populist of the left. He doesn’t use the label for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and U.K. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn — politicians who rail against inequalities perpetuated by unbridled capitalism, for instance, but who don’t necessarily vilify their opponents as illegitimate contenders for power.
According to David Laycock, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University, the essence of populism is the division it sees in society:
He said one of populism’s central tenets is an argument that the fundamental division in society is “between the people and some sinister elite.”

For right-wing leaders, that elite tends to be heavy-handed government bureaucrats, a media maligned as progressive and out of touch, or groups that benefit from the largesse of state handouts, Laycock said. On the left, it is the corporate elite or the wealthy few who abuse their power at the expense of the wider populace.

Laycock believes Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives are gently experimenting with populist messages, including recent statements about how the media is biased against their party. He said the NDP could do something similar with more aggressive arguments for distributing wealth or slashing subsidies to big corporations.
Michael Adams, president of the Environics Institute, questions the enthusiam wth which such an approach would be met, given how different we are from other countries:
Canadians are more likely to be union members than Americans, for instance, while people here have universal health care and more generous social programs than south of the border, he said. At a time of relatively robust economic growth and low unemployment, all this could dampen the prospects of a left populism about a corporate elite ripping off the general population.

Avi Lewis' idea is a provocative one, but I find myself made uneasy by the prospect of left-wing populism. While the right under Harper and Scheer have not been shy about 'dog-whistle politics,' all-too obvious attempts to manipulate and control their base, the suggestion that the same techniques can redound to the left's benefit suggests to me the adoption of the same kind of political cynicism that the other parties are all too happy to practise, a politics that, at its heart, sees the electorate, not as people to respect and lead, but rather to be exploited for the sole purpose of acquiring power.

We have surely had enough of that already.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Worse Than We Thought

Yesterday, friend Mound posted a disturbing piece on the fact that the oceans have absorbed 60% more heat than expected. The implications for global warming are significant, and suggest, among other things, that we have far less than 12 years to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. If you haven't yet read it, I urge you to.

Last night Global News did a piece on the crisis, explaining in a very accessible manner the situation:

But as the Mound so tartly observes in his post, our political leaders are, of course, missing in action when we most need them. We cannot look to them for environmental salvation.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

On Personal Hypocrisy

"The price of admission to the climate-change battle is hypocrisy."

I interpret those words, as best as I remember them from a book on climate change I recently read, as the stark admission that we all fall short in the battle against climate change. They are offered, however, not as excuse, but rather as prologue to a personal admission I would like to express in my first blog post since my hiatus. More about that momentarily.

The reason for the hiatus was twofold: I was (and still am to a large extent) feeling burnt out, my hope for any constructive change in the world at this point pretty low. In light of that, I had to ask myself whether it was right to continue posting, a question which forced me to analyse why I have been writing this blog for so long. I concluded that the following are my reasons:

1. To serve as a personal catharsis. Throughout my life I have found that writing about something over which I have little or no control serves as a kind of safety valve, in that it lessens ever so slightly my sense of powerlessness in particular situations.

2. To keep my mind and my writing skills sharp (although some might questions the efficacy of the latter given my sometimes opaque, even convoluted, style).

3. To share with readers my own commentary on aggregated material. We live in a very busy world, and I like to think that some of the things I have found in my reading of newspapers, books, online publications, etc. might be of interest or value to those who might not have the time to read as much as I can, given my status as a retiree.

The second reason that covers part of the time the blog was on hiatus is that I was out of the country.

Out of respect to readers, I have always tried to be honest in what I write. I have made no secret of the fact that I still fly once or twice a year, despite the well-known greenhouse gas costs of such an activity. My personal admisssion today is that I did it again; we went to England, a very socially troubled country (although the people we encountered were very kind) which I may write about in a future post. The fact that I do still fly makes me uncomfortable, forcing me as it does to question how seriously I can really be taken when I post about the impending catastrophe we call climate change. Even though I try to drive as little as possible and take other measures to limit my carbon footprint, I know that those efforts pall in comparison to taking even one flight. Hence my hypocrisy.

This has been an obviously brief piece, but one I thought important to publish. I will likely still continue to post about issues involving our rapidly-deteriorating environment, but only readers themselves can decide whether or not, in light of my own hypocrisy, they are worthy of consideration.

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Brief Programming Note

I'll be taking a break from the blog for the next little while. See you soon.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

On Short Attention Spans And Political Expediency

The climate catastrophe bearing down on us serves to underscore the fallibility of our species and the shortcomings of our politics, as these Star letter-writers ably point out:
The news cycle is a funny thing. The UN has issued a “life-or-death” report about the clear and present danger of climate change. The Star has given it front-page coverage. But we all know it’ll be gone by next week.

I guess it doesn’t matter. Ordinary people don’t get it anyway, or get it for about five minutes, then move on. Political and corporate leaders don’t get it either. In fact, they don’t want to get it.

So we wait for Trump’s next rant, the next oil leak or terrorist attack, the next royal wedding or sports spectacular, and watch them all disappear just as quickly as they brighten our screens.

Climate change? People running from coastal cities? Droughts, floods, wicked storms and broken food chains? Who cares. It’s a fantasy, just a flicker on the news channel and it’ll all be gone tomorrow.

Stephen Purdey, Toronto

The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints a grim picture of what is in store if we don’t start to significantly reduce carbon emissions within the next dozen or so years. The consequences of climate change have beaten us over the head in recent years — from extended heat waves and drought to more intense wildfires and flooding. Yet many of our political leaders are merely paying lip service to the crisis.

Doug Ford says he “believes” in climate change, but is opposed to carbon taxes. Jason Kenney is sitting on the fence, but he knows that he doesn’t like carbon pricing. Andrew Scheer says he will have a “very detailed and comprehensive plan” to get us to our Paris commitments — without a carbon tax.

We know what they don’t want, but what are they in favour of? For Scheer, in particular, with an election a year away, the luxury of cheap talk is over. He needs to tell us exactly what he proposes and let us judge if it is better than what is currently on the table.

Richard Schertzer, Milton

Climate change is affecting Canadians as much as a buzzing fly in the room. It is annoying and in the back of everyone’s mind and yet ignored in the belief that it will eventually dissipate once some new technology comes along.

Many people do not have this luxury, however. Natural disasters are sweeping mostly impoverished, developing nations, including the recent Haitian and Indonesian earthquakes. These disasters are headed our way and that fly in the room will soon become a hungry lion. Yet politicians seem to be more concerned about wearing a headscarf to work or having beer cost a buck than the fate of our survival on this planet.

If we want to have any chance of keeping the increase in temperatures to a maximum of 1.5 or even 2 degrees C, we need to put pressure on those in power to shift their focus. We must stop pushing this under the rug and take greater measures than those we’re taking now.

Emma McLaughlin, Montreal

Friday, October 12, 2018

Politics And Climate Change

Sad to say, climate change and politics in the worst possible sense are inextricably linked. Even as we face the defining crisis of human existence, the question remains one of optics. The Star's Susan Delacourt wonders whether ordinary Canadians can be sold on climate change.

On the one hand are people like Stephen Harper who, in his new book,
warns that standing up for the environment makes for bad politics, especially in a populist age when parties are looking for the votes of “ordinary” people.

“Political parties, including mine, have won elections just by opposing a carbon tax,” the former prime minister writes in the newly released “Right Here, Right Now.” “The reason is simple. It is ordinary voters who pay carbon taxes.”
On the opposite polarity is Green Party Leader Elizabeth May:
In a speech to her party’s convention in Vancouver last month, May said ordinary Canadian voters are more than ready to hear the truth about the climate crisis in the 2019 campaign.

“We really do need to level with Canadians,” May said. “If the one issue is survival, it’s kind of the issue.” She intends to build her campaign around the idea that Canadians are ready, even eager, to have politicians telling the truth to them, and climate change is a perfect entry into that discussion.
Given the latest doom-laden but all-too-real Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, May says the time is right:
“We’re no longer talking about future generations,” May said in an interview yesterday. “We’re talking about the life span of our own children, who are alive right now.”

May wonders why the IPCC report cannot become the Dunkirk of the current generation — a call for citizens and government to work together for a common aim. In the “darkest hour” of the Second World War, she said, people came together to fight a common enemy. May believes that citizens are ready to hear the same message when it comes to saving the planet within the next dozen years.
May's historical allusion is a good one, but it ignores something vital: with Dunkirk, a sense of national purpose was instilled by a strong leader, Winston Churchill, in response to an immediate threat, a threat that was all too real to the British people.

So far, we haven't sufficiently personalized the threat posed by climate change. Will it take a series of Canadian catastrophes similar to what is happening in the United States and other parts of the world before our leaders, and our people, find that sense of purpose? Were the Western forest fires this past summer, the 2016 Fort McMurray conflagration and last month's tornadic destruction in the Ottawa area not sufficient foretaste?

If we are waiting for more dramatic destruction on our home soil to move us, it will, in all likelihood, be far, far too late, and the earth will continue on its current course of ridding itself of a good portion of its greatest affliction - the human species.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

It's Almost Too Late

Without doubt, the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a sobering call for urgent action to prevent complete climate catastrophe. The 12-year window provided by the report should leave no one in doubt about the dire situation the world is facing. And yet, the decisive political leadership required to mitigate that disaster is lacking, as the following two letters from Star writers amply demonstrate:
How can any leader of any party in any country deny the inconvenient truth that the biggest threat to all people everywhere right now, including Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta, is climate change?

How can they say carbon pricing is taking money away from the people and taking away jobs? Some jobs close and others open. Carbon pricing made polluters pay for ways to fight pollution. If you can afford a vehicle and the costs of driving it, why on earth do you think you can’t afford a dime a litre to offset your carbon footprint?

Time is running out — the latest figures, based on 6,000 scientific studies — give us only 12 years to get rising temperatures locked into a 1.5-degree C increase. More than that, which is where we are headed, causes the unthinkable.

Our oceans are already turning to acid. With a slight increase in temperature, we start to lose insects. And without insects we have no food.

Anyone who has a child, a grandchild or is under the age of 45 should not squander the slim margin left for offsetting disaster. Each of us should be taking whatever measures we can right now to help save this threatened planet.

Do not trust any leader who is not working with the federal government as an ally on policies aimed at mitigating the damage we are causing. Wake up. Pay up. It is not about jobs. It’s about lives.

Demand more integrity. More facts. Perhaps if the Star started putting climate change information on the front page every day, readers would start to realize that all other news is inconsequential by comparison.

Janice Lindsay, Toronto

In light of the report issued Sunday by the UN panel on climate change, Ford and Kenney appear as buffoons on the deck of the Titanic entertaining a drunken mob of ignorant upper-class twits with jokes about conspiracy theories, while Trudeau and McKenna scurry around rearranging deck chairs.

A scared hysterical crowd of steerage passengers are trapped below chanting, “What do we want? Carbon fee and dividend. When do we want it? Yesterday!”

For the sake of my granddaughters and all that is bright and beautiful in the world, will you clowns move your bums and fix this mess!

John Stephenson, Toronto

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

No Words Seem Adequate

I haven't been posting much lately; words seem inadequate in light of world events, and their power appears to fork little lightning no matter how dire things are.

With the latest superstorm bearing down on Florida, the following seems a pertinent reminder of our peril:


Monday, October 8, 2018

A Public Service Announcement - Facebook Hoax Alert

If, like me, you are on Facebook, I would like to alert you to a hoax currently circulating, one that I received in my Messenger this morning. The best thing to do if you received the following is to ignore the message and delete it:
The latest Facebook hoax is causing concern and confusion among many users.

Users receive a message from a friend that says “Hi…I actually got another friend request from you yesterday…which I ignored so you may want to check your account. Hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears…then hit forward and all the people you want to forward too…I had to do the people individually. Good Luck!”

Confused? Well you wouldn’t be the only one and there is a simple way you can avoid it. Tech Expert Burton Kelso said this is all a hoax and you can stop forwarding this latest warning to your friends about being hacked.

Kelso said the best thing you can do is just ignore it and delete it.

“Occasionally Facebook accounts are cloned and the hackers will send your friends phishing emails to dupe them into clicking on a link that will infect them.”

Kelso said the best way to keep your Facebook account form getting cloned is to hide your friends list.

The best way to keep your Facebook account from getting cloned is to hide your friends list. As of now, ignore the ‘Got Another Friend Request from You’ message.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Rabid Right Revealed

This demonstrates a great deal about the extreme right, doesn't it?

Monday, October 1, 2018

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Genuflecting At The Digital Altar (Or, Is Nothing Sacred?)

They say that age is but a number, and there are many days I believe that. Often, I awake feeling relatively youthful, and the daily walks I undertake are conducted with vigor and strength of purpose. Other days, I feel rather keenly the aches and pains (still relatively minor at this point, thankfully) that age imposes, and my walks take on the character of prescribed medicine, nothing more.

But that is just the physical aspect of age. The other, more important one, in my view, is the thinking and attitudes we bring to each day of our lives. In that regard, I like to think that I am more youth than aging man.

I try, for example, to stay conversant with and engaged in important issues, although admittedly at more of a remove than when I was younger. As well, rather than regret my generation's waning influence on life, I welcome it. When it became feasible, I retired, partly because the job and all of its attendant politics had become a heavy burden; the other reason was the moral obligation I felt toward the young people coming up in teaching. Full-time jobs were and still are hard to find, and to continue occupying a spot a younger person could do with more energy and creativity struck me as wrong. Unlike some of my generation, I harbour no delusions about indispensability.

However, there are other times when I feel old, because there are some things I doubt I shall ever embrace, my beliefs confronting and contradicting the perceived wisdom of our time. A prime example is my feeling about smartphones in the classroom, about which I recently wrote. To me, the putative educational benefits are far outweighed by their costs in terms of attention and focus. Being wirelessly connected to the outer world sacrifices or at the very least severely compromises our attention to the world of our immediate environment and, even more importantly, to our inner world. Digital distraction hardly facilitates reflectiveness.

Sadly, educational institutions are not the only ones that have prostituted themselves in the rush to demonstrate relevance in the digital age. That mania is now spreading to organized religion. The Campbell River Baptist Church has decided to genuflect at the altar of the digital god:
Pastor Jeff Germo ... is among the first pastors in the world to use a Swedish developed communications technology, Mentimeter, to make online, real-time spiritual connections with his flock while preaching. Mentimeter, used widely in corporate board rooms and academic lecture settings, is an interactive survey tool that posts instant answers and results to the mobile devices of those connected to the event.
On the surface, some might say this is a divinely inspired idea:
Germo started his sermon by asking parishioners to take out their smartphones and tablets, click on a Mentimeter link and punch in a code.

Moments later an email arrived asking parishioners if they had ever failed terribly.

Just two per cent replied: “No, I’m a winner.”

Germo expressed amazement that any member of the congregation said they had never experienced failure.

“If you are more than a year old, you probably would have failed at something,” said Germo as a man at the back of the auditorium of about 250 people raised his hand to acknowledge he chose the no failure answer.
A large display showing the survey results allowed the good reverend to drive home his point:
... most people are experiencing some difficult things and have a hard time getting over failure,” Germo said. “So, you are not alone.”
So what am I on about here? Is this a reactionary rant, or an opinion borne of age and experience?

Some years ago at a staff meeting, we were each given a handheld device that would achieve the same kind of survey input available to the Campbell River congregation. We were told such technology would revolutionize the classroom experience, making it far more interactive and relevant. After a few 'rounds', I think most of us felt more like game-show participants than educators undertaking some professional development. The medium indeed was the message. Needless to say, the idea gained no traction and was never implemented.

So far, the Campbell River church attempt at digital relevance seems to be an isolated incident. I sincerely hope it stays that way. In this connected age, people very much need refuge from distractions and sensory overload in order to rediscover their centres. Churches have traditionally offered such refuge, but like so many social media adherents today, will they now be tempted to increase their number of 'followers', not by anything deep or meaningful, but by embracing the latest trends? This particular one, if followed to its logical conclusion, will achieve no such thing.

How long will it be before part of Sunday services involves checking your email, your Twitter account and, last but not least, the ever-present Facebook? Once the genie is summoned, it cannot be put back in the bottle.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

An Unreliable Narrator

In fiction there exists what is known as the unreliable narrator, which can be defined in this way:
It is a character who tells the reader a story that cannot be taken at face value. This may be because the point of view character is insane, lying, deluded or for any number of other reasons.
It is a useful convention for a number of reasons, including the misdirection it allows the author to engage in. An example of such a narrator would be Anna Fox, the protagonist of the recent bestseller The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn.

It seems to me that politics, by its nature, encourages the unreliable narrator. All leaders and their surrogates tell their version of truth, a truth diluted, even perverted by their electoral and policy goals. For example, the Conservatives regularly rail against what they see as Liberal fiscal profligacy, while the Liberals are always keen to portray Andrew Scheer et al. as crypto-racists. As for the the federal NDP, well, I'm not sure what story they are trying to tell these days.

Here in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford (and believe me, I abhor using that particular word combination) is proving to be an unreliable narrator extraordinaire as he strives to convince Ontarians that the former Liberal government was nothing more than an extended exercise in flagrant, unrepentant criminality.
Perhaps emboldened by weekend chants of “Lock her up!” the premier convened his caucus first thing Monday, and summoned the media to make a melodramatic announcement:

Doug Ford told Ontarians to “follow the money.” He boasted of a forensic “line-by-line audit” that would prove incriminating. And he claimed the numbers tell a damning story of Liberal “corruption” and enrichment.

Invoking his majority muscle, Ford announced a special “select” committee to “compel” evidence in a legislative witch hunt, lest Liberals “walk away from this.”
The foundation for this exercise in damagoguery is the claim by Finance Minister Vic Fedeli that he has discovered a coverup that puts the provincial deficit at $15 bullion, $8 billion more than was disclosed.

The only problem with this claim is that it is orchestrated nonsense, because
the outside report he ordered up, and relied upon for those claims, said no such thing. For all the overheated allegations that the last government “cooked the books,” the undisputed truth is that its pre-election budget was an open book, fully vetted by the province’s auditor general (even if she disagreed with the bottom line Liberal analysis).
Unreliable narrators rely on people getting swept up in the story, so much so that they do not think about what they already know or should know.
As for that supposedly damning forensic audit, it was no such thing. Peter Bethlenfalvy, the minister who ordered it up, sheepishly admitted to reporters later that it was produced by private sector “consultants” at EY Canada — not qualified auditors in the firm’s audit department. It was “not a forensic audit, not a line by line review,” he acknowledged.
And, in a classic technique employed by the unreliable narrator, Doug Ford is glossing over something the report did reveal:
...the quickie study noted that spending increases within the Ontario public service were virtually zero during the Liberal years. What has risen, significantly, is spending on health care and education — precisely what Ford promised not to cut on the campaign trail.
The Star's Martin Regg Cohn says that these exercises in deception and demagoguery serve only to debase our democratic discourse. That may well be true, but unfortunately, amongst the electorate, there are far too many happy to engage in that kind of destructive conversation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Conveniently Ignoring History

While I am sure there are some interests within Canada who will applaud Justin Trudeau's latest effort at placating Donald Trump, I am not one of them. As history well demonstrates, policies of appeasement never work.

Trudeau's latest attempt at taming the insensate Toddler-in-Chief is to be found in his craven signing on to the United States' renewal of its demonstrably and profoundly-failed war on drugs, a war from which a Stanford University study drew the following conclusions:
By making drugs illegal, this country has:

1) Put half a million people in prison : $10 Billion a year

2) Spent billions annually for expanded law enforcement

3) Fomented violence and death (in gang turf wars, overdoses from uncontrolled drug potency & shared needles/AIDS)

4) Eroded civil rights (property can be confiscated from you BEFORE you are found guilty; search and wiretap authority has expanded.)

5) Enriched criminal organizations.
It is apparent that such facts don't seem to matter to our government if we examine what Trudeau has leapt to endorse:
The statement reiterates the primacy of international “narcotics control” efforts, with an emphasis on criminalization and the role of law enforcement. It does not contain the word “human rights”; advocates for harm reduction and against mass incarceration have been trying to inject a rights-focused approach into international drug policy.
That our naif-like prime minister chooses to embrace such a retrograde approach has resulted in some very appropriate jeering:
Canada was rebuked on Monday by a group of world leaders and experts on drug policy for endorsing a Trump-led declaration renewing the “war on drugs” and for passing up a critical moment to provide global leadership on drug regulation.

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark said she believed that both Canada and Mexico − which also signed the declaration even though president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has repeatedly said that the “war on drugs” has failed and he will pursue new policy − likely have signed on reluctantly, held hostage by the North American free-trade agreement talks in Washington, over which a critical deadline looms.
Fortunately, some countries held on to a modicum in integrity.
... 63 did not [sign]; the dissenters include major U.S. allies such as Germany, Norway and Spain.
The expedient nature of Canada's endorsement was not lost on Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister of Britain, who sees the decision as a
diplomatic, not a policy-based decision:
“I guess there was a judgment to be made, which from my days in government I can understand, why they did it – if you’re fighting lots of battles at once, you probably decide which battles to choose,” he said.
I am sure many others would argue that antagonizing Trump yields no benefit. But then, perhaps they choose to ignore history.

Does the name Neville Chamberlin ring a bell?

Monday, September 24, 2018

Pleasing Words Mean Nothing

Unless they are in the thrall of rabid partisanship, nice hair, sunny smiles or pleasing but empty rhetoric, most people, I suspect, would agree that the Trudeau government has been a massive disappointment. And while the list of its failure to live up to its promise is long, for me its greatest failure has been on climate change. Its purchase of an aging pipeline at public expense is a clear disavowal of climate-change integrity, as is its anemic carbon tax policy, one that likely has had the unfortunate result of convincing many that paying a little more for the fossil fuels they use will make a major dent in the peril that is quickly overtaking the world.

David Suzuki, for one, has called for Environment Minister Catherine Mckenna to resign.

Michael Harrris writes that, while Mckenna clearly will not resign, Suzuki's words have impact:
What the country’s leading environmentalist has done by calling out McKenna is call out the Trudeau government on its signal failure — the environment. And that could significantly alter the coalition that delivered a majority government to the Liberals in 2015.
The hopes raised by the government and then dashed are consequential:
In Trudeau’s case, the aspirational notion to move Canada toward a green economy has been eclipsed by policies worthy of a ‘fossil award.’ The only thing more dubious than the Trudeau government’s initial support of the Kinder Morgan pipeline was the unpardonable sin of buying it.

Publicly acquiring a leaky, decrepit pipeline for $4.5 billion and facing construction costs approaching $10 billion — all to carry the dirtiest fossil commodity of them all, bitumen, is hardly consistent with the greening of Canada or saving the planet.

But it is perfectly consistent with what Trudeau told an audience of oilmen in Houston who gave him a standing ovation.

“No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and leave them there,” he said.
Susuki is not the only one calling out the Trudeau government for its arrant hypocrisy:
In a recent study by U.S. advocacy group Oil Change International, the authors concluded: “There is no scenario in which tar sands production increases and the world achieves the Paris goals… If he [Trudeau] approves a pipeline, he will be the one to make the goals impossible to reach.”
Other actions by this government are equally damning:
Canada continues to spend the most per capita of any G7 country subsidizing oil and gas development — $3 billion in Canada and $10 billion through Export Development Canada in foreign countries.

Last February, Catherine McKenna approved permits for British Petroleum to drill as many as seven exploratory wells off the southwest coast of Nova Scotia. The water is up to twice as deep as the ocean where BP had its Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2010. Eight years on and people around the Gulf are still suffering the consequences.

Then just months later, McKenna approved the first actual deepwater well for BP 300 km off of Nova Scotia.
As well, the much-vaunted carbon tax is looking increasingly anemic, as Trudeau eases the burden of the worst polluters:
The carbon tax on the worst of them will now be triggered at higher levels of emissions.

The threshold at which the tax would kick in was moved from 70 per cent of an industry’s emissions all the way to 90 per cent in certain cases.

The explanation for abandoning his environmental post? Trudeau was worried that certain industries would lose their competitiveness.
Harris hopes that condemnations from people like Suzuki will lead people to realize that the Liberal Party is not the environment's friend, but rather what it always has been, the party of the economy. He ends his piece with this acerbic observation:
When it comes to the environment, the only growth industry in Ottawa these days is spin doctoring.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

On The Carbon Tax

Now that Ontario, under the thuggish leadership of Doug Ford, is in the process of withdrawing Ontario from its cap-and-trade alliance with Quebec and California, baring a failure of political will, next year will see Justin Trudeau imposing a carbon tax here and in other recalcitrant provinces. Despite the fact that Andrew Scheer is salivating at the prospect of making it a key issue in next year's federal election, John Ivison suggests it may not go according to the Conservative leader's plan:
The National Post obtained an advance copy of a paper to be released by Canadians for Clean Prosperity, a non-partisan group led by Mark Cameron, ex-policy director to Stephen Harper, that promotes putting a price on pollution and cutting taxes.

The Liberals’ Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act requires Ottawa to return tax revenue to the province where it was raised in cases where it has imposed a “backstop” carbon tax in the absence of a recognized provincial climate plan. Trudeau has indicated that, rather than sending a rebate to the governments of those provinces, he may choose to send the money directly to its households.
This plan will go a long way toward undermining the populist-right's claim that fighting the tax will mean less money in people's pocket. In fact, it seems the tax itself will be a net benefit to Canadians' bottom line, according to research done by Research by environmental economist Dave Sawyer of EnviroEconomics.
Sawyer’s research indicates that the carbon tax will cost consumers more when it comes to gasoline and home heating — at $20 a tonne,roughly 4.5¢ more per litre of gas.

...for example, in 2019 an Ontario household earning $60,000-$80,000 a year would pay an average of $165 more in increased direct carbon costs for energy, while in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where there is more coal-fired electricity, that figure would rise to $249 and $259 respectively.

However, the study estimates the rebate per household would be $350 in Ontario in 2019, rising to $836 in 2022; $868 in Alberta in 2019, rising to $1,890; and $1075 in Saskatchewan, rising to $2,394. If this scenario plays out, in five years the net benefit per household at that income bracket would be $328 in Ontario, $1,231 in Alberta and $1,711 in Saskatchewan.
And there is a solid reason for these numbers:
Carbon taxes will be collected not only from households but also from business and industrial emitters, and Sawyer’s modelling assumes that while the federal government would return some industrial revenues to large emitters, most would be rebated directly to households.
The trued-and-true fiscal scaremongering tactics of the right-wing, it would appear, will have limited efficacy with the voters. Who doesn't like receiving cheques in the mail?

While I am of the view that our current climate peril means carbon taxes will be as effective as using a dust-pan to clean up after an elephant, it will at least quite possibly raise some awareness about the situation we are in, however late in the game that may be.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Manipulation 101

It is to state the obvious that politicians and their party apparatchiks are practiced manipulators. They target their demographic, employ experts to craft messages to that demographic and, sadly, seem to expend a disproportionate amount of time on the art of politicking at the expense of true democratic representation. Managing optics, not formulating principled policy, has become the raison d'être for far too many.

Combine this with an increasingly credulous and partisan populace, and you have a recipe for a decidedly unhealthy democracy. It is one in which increasing numbers of voters are forsaking critical thinking and the kind of challenge and critical analysis offered by traditional media for the much easier task of cheering on their favourite 'team' while embracing the animus directed at their opponents, skillfully cultivated by hired talent who see politics as a game to be strategized, with nary a thought for the public good. There are only Winners and Losers in this world of black and white, and the biggest loser is, of course, democracy's health and vitality.

Start at the seven-minute mark of the following news report, and you will see that the base art of manipulation is alive and well in Canada.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Who's Her Daddy?

Notwithstanding efforts at misdirection by Ontario's Progressive Conservative government, it's clear that she (Caroline Mulroney) is Daddy's (Doug the Thug) girl:

H/t Theo Moudakis

Monday, September 17, 2018

Just Who Is Protecting Who?

If you have never seen it, I highly recommend the Netflix documentary series Dirty Money. Of particular interest is the one detailing the massive fraud perpetrated by Volkswagen, in which the auto giant employed a diesel 'defeat device' allowing their cars to bypass environmental controls and thereby emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while claiming environmental rectitude. It was nothing less than a crime against humanity.

And they have paid a heavy price for their criminal fraud, except in Canada:
In the three years since the Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal was uncovered, governments in the U.S., Germany and elsewhere have fined the company billions of dollars and sent some of its top executives to jail for breaking environmental laws — but not in Canada.

“There has been nothing done,” said David Boyd, the United Nations’ newly appointed human rights and environment watchdog.
Given Canada's less-than-aggressive pursuit of offshore tax evaders who were exposed in the Panama Papers, this does not surprise me, but I am nonetheless appalled by my government's timidity in going after major criminals.
While the company said in a statement it settled a $2.1-billion class action lawsuit in 2017 with customers who purchased one of roughly 125,000 affected diesel vehicles sold in Canada — as it did elsewhere in the world — Volkswagen hasn’t faced any charges under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act so far.

There is concern among some observers that the federal government may not act, continuing what Boyd said is a longtime trend of leniency.

“Three years have gone by and Canada has a track record of not enforcing environmental laws,” he said.
To put government timidity into perspective, consider the following:
In 2004, Petro-Canada was fined $290,000 for the spill that saw 1,000 barrels of oil flow into the Atlantic Ocean from the Terra Nova offshore production vessel. By comparison, Brazil’s petroleum regulator fined Chevron $17.3 million (U.S.) for a 3,600-barrel oil spill in 2011, and the company also agreed to pay $150 million to settle civil lawsuits related to the case, according to Reuters.
Or how about this?
Boyd said Canada levied $2.47 million (Canadian) in fines for environmental infractions under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act between 1988 and 2010 — less than the $3.65 million the Toronto Public Library collected in overdue book fines in 2012.

In contrast, the U.S. — where Boyd said enforcement of environmental laws has been “much more aggressive” — the Environment Protection Agency levied $204 million (U.S.) in civil fines and won court cases securing another $44 million in criminal fines from environmental lawbreakers in 2012 alone.
While Canada continues to investigate Volkswagen, the company has paid very substantial penalties in other jurisdictions.
Volkswagen paid the equivalent of $1.5 billion (Canadian) in fines in Germany and $12 billion in the U.S., according to an analysis by Environmental Defence, which is launching a public campaign this month to pressure Ottawa to take action against the company.

In the U.S. case, Volkswagen also agreed not to contradict anything outlined in the plea agreement or statement of facts in other jurisdictions.
This sorry dilatory approach to criminal enforcement should offend every Canadian, given that it conveys a wholly inappropriate message of weakness to the corporate criminals of the world, one best summed up by David Boyd:
“It’s just indicative of how absolutely scandalous Canada’s failure to enforce environmental laws has been over the past 25 years”.
Clearly, this is not the kind of business Canada should be open for.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Ontario's Ongoing Shame

Ontarians are responsible for the election of this buffoon. Ontarians will have to wear this shame for the next four years.

H/t The Toronto Star

Friday, September 14, 2018

Democracy's Fragility

To be sure, the elevation of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario to government redounds to everyone's shame. Led by a buffoonish thug, Doug Ford, it is a party that seems intent on debasing not only its proud history, but also all citizens of the province, whether they voted for him or not. And therein lies an object lesson: the fragility of democracy.

It is the theme of Rick Salutin's column this week, one I recommend everyone read. He observes how profound Ford's ignorance about democracy is in light of his reckless invocation of the notwithstanding clause of our Charter to get his way with the size of Toronto city council:
He doesn’t get and never will, that democracy isn’t just about votes. It includes rule of law, free press, minority and human rights — which can’t always wait four years. They take flight pretty quickly.
And those rights are being violated, if the sad spectacle of protesting seniors being handcuffed in the legislature this week is any indication:
It’s been a grim reminder not just of the Charter’s fragility but of an entire edifice we grew up assuming was entrenched. It can blow away in a stiff breeze: democracy, civility, tolerance, and Ontario’s special target: law. Why are these venerable institutions going back centuries, so vulnerable? Because none of us, the living, go back that far. Each person is a new start on Earth.
It would seem that what we don't experience personally influences our perspectives:
It doesn’t take much to “forget” something you never lived through personally. True, history can lie on us like a weight, or blessing. Custom and tradition seem formidable. But only personal experience has a living grip — like the inequality and insecurity of the last 40 years, and especially the last 10.

The young for instance, have no experience of more hopeful times. For them, what’s so great about institutions that gave rise to this situation? No matter how far back democratic institutions stretch, in theory or history, none of us were there, we only heard about them after our arrival.
But there is a path to a more visceral appreciation of our democratic institutions:
Virtual Reality pioneer Jaron Lanier, says he once had an epiphany: every time we trust a traffic light, pay a bill, or “buildings don’t all fall down and you can eat unpoisoned food that someone grew” testifies to “an ocean of goodwill and good behaviour from almost everyone, living or dead.” We are, he says, bathed in a love that shows itself above all in “constraints” because they compensate for human flaws.
Never have those flaws been more obvious in Ontario than in the present situation, and it is time we once more recognize, right-wing cant notwithstanding, that as individuals, we are singularly vulnerable to the vicissitudes life has to offer; it is only through the collective that real hope is to be found:
Institutions like law and democracy rise (and rise again if they fall) through that sense of connectedness and need to trust each other, since there’s really no alternative. We’re nothing as individuals alone, though individuals can be damn impressive. It’s the human sense of solidarity, ultimately, that will (or may) save us and make us whole.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

When Disaster Bears Down

I doubt I am alone in assuming that people who ignore mandatory evacuation orders when disaster is impending do so out of either willfulness or hubris. As the following report makes clear, however, there are other factors that prevent people from fleeing; indeed, they are same ones that afflicted those during Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey - poverty and illness.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Nearer My God To Thee

While Donald Trump was yesterday holding forth on Hurricane Florence in a manner that might make even a fourth-grader cringe (“They haven't seen anything like what's coming at us in 25, 30 years, maybe ever. It's tremendously big and tremendously wet. Tremendous amounts of water," Trump said in the Oval Office), the grandfather of crazed evangelicals everywhere was offering reassurances to his flock.

In a remarkable act of hubris, old pastor Pat Robertson suggested that he will save all good white Virginian Christians and the Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia from impending doom:
“I don’t want that thing to come in,” Robertson said. “I don’t want it to hurt Regent, I don’t wait it to hurt CBN, I don’t want it to tear up the beautiful campus, I don’t want it to tear these trees down, I don’t want to see any damage, I don’t want a bunch of glass flowing, and I don’t want [damage] all over this area that is counting on us to pray for them.”

Robertson then commanded Florence, in the name of Jesus, to change its path away from land and to spin off into the Atlantic ocean.

We declare in the name of the Lord that you shall go no farther, you shall do no damage in this area,” he said. “We declare a shield of protection all over Tidewater and we declare a shield of protection over those innocent people in the path of this hurricane. In Jesus’ holy name, be out to sea!”
Unless you are gifted with a cast-iron constitution, I don't suggest you watch the full 3:25 minutes of the good pastor's exhortation:

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Kaepernick Effect

I recently wrote a post entitled, The Vindication of Colin Kaepernick, in which I opined on the decision by Nike to use the former NFLer for a new advertising campaign. I subsequently received a request by an American website entitled Writer Beat to use the piece. The commentary it received from readers there says a great deal about how polarizing a figure the former football player is. You can read that commentary here.

It is to state the obvious that some Americans are far more interested in observing the outward forms of patriotism than they are in practising true love of country and the principles it purports to represent. Otherwise, the widespread intolerance expressed toward someone engaging in a protest against discrimination and police mistreatment of Black people by genuflecting during the anthem can only be reduced to the most obvious conclusion: Kaepernick is simply an excuse for racist rants.

The good news, however, is that despite the outrage and the burning of Nike shoes, Nike is seeing a definite increase in sales of their products:
After an initial dip immediately after the news broke, Nike’s NKE, +1.10% online sales actually grew 31% from the Sunday of Labor Day weekend through Tuesday, as compared with a 17% gain recorded for the same period of 2017, according to San Francisco–based Edison Trends.
Those in a particular consumer bracket seem to explain this boost in sales:
People in that bracket are generally successful in their careers and personal lives, are typically single with robust social lives, and like to spend money on entertainment and travel, as well as online streaming services.

“Racial equality is a top concern for this audience, along with causes like clean-water access and gun control,” [4C Chief Marketing Officer] Goldman said.

Sentiment toward Kaepernick actually improved by 40% this week, he said.

“You can be darn sure that Nike has done its research and knows what will move its product and who this campaign will resonate with,” said Goldman. “They are the ones [Nike has] decided will be its future customers, so, if others are getting upset, [Nike has] planned for that, and it doesn’t care.”
In other words younger, more educated and socially engaged people are the target for this campaign, although it is hard to see how anyone could resist the allure of this recently-released commercial:

It would be naive to think that Nike is motivated by altruism in taking the bold step it has, and there will always be those who fight vigorously against progress. Nonetheless, if some inspiration and reduced barriers are the result, isn't it all to the good?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Truth In Parody

Last year, the Parody Project produced a stinging rebuke of Donald Trump and his acolytes through a song entitled Confounds the Science. If you haven't yet seen it, please click on the link. The following is a sequel to that effort, a sobering meditation on the mad heedlessness of our ways:

Saturday, September 8, 2018

France Has The Right Idea

I am a member of an increasingly endangered and probably peculiarly-regarded minority. I do not have a smartphone. While I am an avid user of the Internet via my laptop and generic tablet, the thought of constant connectivity has never appealed to me. I value the kind of focussed solitude that promotes true connectivity with the world around me far too much.

I therefore applaud the bold step that France has taken: it has banned phones from all state middle schools.
“I thought I would be freaked out, but it has been fine,” said one 13-year-old girl, who got an iPhone when she was 11. “I left my phone in my bag all day and I was surprised to find it didn’t bother me. Normally I’d be on Snapchat and Instagram. But my friends are here at school so it’s pretty easy to just talk instead.”
To prepare for the ban, Claude Debussy middle school in Paris started with Monday bans on phones. And one of the results I suspect they hoped for, increased social interaction, emerged early in the ban, according to principal Eric Lathière.
“About four or five weeks into our phone-free Monday experiment, we saw children bringing packs of cards into school to play in break time...We hadn’t seen cards at school for years. Children brought books in to read and pupils stood around chatting far more than they had before.”
The logic for the ban is compelling:
The French education minister has called the ban a detox law for the 21st century, saying teenagers should have the right to disconnect. Children’s phones were already banned in classrooms – except for teaching purposes – but under the new law they are banned everywhere inside the gates, including playgrounds and canteens. The French senate expanded this to allow high schools to ban phones if they choose, but few, if any, are expected to do so. Many suggest 18-year-old pupils with the right to vote can make their own decision on phones.
I doubt that the political will for such a ban exists in Canada. For example, going completely in the opposite direction is the Toronto District School Board which last week restored access to Netflix, Instagram and Snapchat. The blocking of access to those services had nothing to do with educational principles but was prompted by the high amount of bandwidth such services require.

The board's egregious vacuum of leadership is perhaps best reflected in this statement by board spokesperson Ryan Bird:
“We leave the decision up to individual schools and individual teachers to put in place guidelines that work best for them.”
It is heartening to know that at least in France, that kind of buck-passing has yielded to educational integrity that puts the real needs of students first.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A Verbal Tap Dance

Talk, as they say, is cheap. Watch the following clip to see Environment Minister Catherine McKenna further debase its value by her non-answer regarding the now-stalled Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and the threat West Coast oil tanker traffic poses:

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Vindication Of Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick is someone I admire. As previously noted in this blog, the former NFL player, whose decision to protest police brutality against blacks by taking a knee during the American national anthem, has paid dearly for his integrity. But vindication has finally arrived, vindication sure to end Donald Trump into new paroxysms of outrage:
Last week, an arbitrator ruled that Colin Kaepernick’s collusion grievance against the NFL can go forward. This week, Nike unveiled a new ad campaign starring the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, who rose to prominence in 2016 when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence against black Americans.
Given that Nike is the official uniform supplier for the NFL, this move is not without risk, but one the company believes is worth taking. And the backlash has already started. Take a look at the Twitter hashtag #JustBurnIt or #BoycottNike for some examples:


Ripping my Nike Air Max to own the libs #BoycottNike

Bloomberg News reports:
Nike shares slipped as much as 3.9 percent to $79 as of 9:31 a.m. Tuesday in New York -- the biggest intraday slide in five months.
They had climbed 31 percent this year through Friday’s close.
The fallout was no surprise but Nike may be betting that the upside of a Kaepernick endorsement is worth angering conservative Americans and supporters of President Donald Trump.
To its credit, this is not the first time Nike has waded into controversial waters:
Just a few weeks after Trump’s inauguration last year, the company launched a high-profile “Equality” campaign featuring LeBron James and Serena Williams. The campaign’s ambassadors included Ibtihaj Muhammad, a Muslim American fencer who wears a hijab when competing, and transgender triathlete Chris Mosier.
Now, all of this, of course, is about market share, but it is nonetheless refreshing to see a company taking a calculated risk while so many in Trump's America seem so keen on hewing to a very conservative, even reactionary, line.

And of course, for students of human nature, the reactions to this campaign constitute a fascinating Rorschach test, yet another conduit into the tortured and fractured American psyche.

Not to mention another dog whistle for the increasingly beleaguered Trump to blow.

Monday, September 3, 2018

A Pattern We Cannot Ignore

As I write this on the morning of Labour Day, it is already 38 degrees Celsius with the humidex in Southern Ontario, another day of oppressive heat and humidity in a long line of them this summer. Scientific consensus points to the ever-increasing effects of climate change as the chief agent responsible for a summer that has seen extreme temperatures worldwide. The key, if there still is one, to mitigating this unfolding disaster, is to wean ourselves as quickly as possible, off of fossil fuels.

And yet ....

.... our government chooses to ignore reality by buying a stranded asset, the Trans Mountain pipeline, whose expansion has been stopped for the time being by a Federal Court of Appeal ruling. The Trudeau Liberals seem stalwart in their intention to soldier on with this project, but perhaps they need to listen to voices outside their own echo chamber for a more realistic assessment of the situation:
Pipeline ruling shockwaves felt across Canada, Aug. 31

Last week, the Federal Court of Appeal told the government what they should have already known about the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — the National Energy Board vetting process was horribly flawed, and there was inadequate consultation with the Indigenous people who are affected by it.

The proposed pipeline expansion is simply unfathomable. Even without citizen protests, the financial community knows that investment in the oilsands has no future. Bankers are pulling out and current investors are looking simply to recover their existing investments.

Canada has wasted billions in subsidies to oil companies instead of building the infrastructure for a renewable energy industry. Even when the oil industry was viable, Alberta failed to recover the revenues it was entitled to with too low taxes and too low royalties.

Meanwhile, Norway has made its citizens millionaires by nationalizing its oil industry and undertaking development in an environmentally sustainable way. Canada has given its resources away for a song and now has little to show for it. Compounding the mistake by continuing to prop up a failing industry is a crime against future generations.

Canada and its citizens will have to make wrenching adaptations just to survive when the true cost of climate change hits us. I fear for my children and grandchildren.

Our resources should be directed to building renewable energy and transitioning the workers who will be affected. Those currently employed by the fossil fuel industry should not bear the brunt of the transition. They should be supported by all other Canadians through our tax dollars as they are retrained and find new jobs.

I implore the government to end the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project now, for the sake of our future generations.

Patricia E. McGrail, Brampton

Friday, August 31, 2018

Some Refreshing Leadership

Now that Canada's plan to increase its greenhouse gas emissions and further threaten coastal waters has been dealt a massive blow by the Federal Court of Appeal, I suggest it is time to adopt an approach that embraces the future, not the past.

Such an approach is to be found in California. With a population roughly equivalent to Canada's, the state has made a bold, visionary and necessary decision that serves to show all of us what is possible when leaders have vision and a concern for future generations:
California lawmakers approved a measure mandating that all electricity come from wind, solar and other clean-energy sources by 2045, marking the state’s biggest step yet in the fight against global warming.

The Assembly voted 43-32 in favor of the legislation Tuesday. It would eliminate the reliance on fossil fuels to power homes, businesses and factories in the world’s fifth-largest economy, accelerating a shift already under way. The state currently gets about 44 percent of its power from renewables and hydropower.
Unlike other jurisdictions, California has come to the realization that fossil fuels demand too dear a price, while alternative sources of energy are quickly becoming cost-competitive:
“It’s already happening for economic reasons,” said Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James Financial Inc., who noted that solar and wind are the cheapest sources of electricity in some regions.
Bold state initiatives that buck the Trump-led efforts to role back environmental protections are also helping in this transition:
Earlier this year, California became the first U.S. state to mandate solar rooftop panels on almost all new homes. It would be the second state to require 100 percent carbon-free power after Hawaii.
Success, it would seem, rests on two related foundations: decreasing costs of batteries and increasing their prevalence. The following explains how this is likely to happen:

So Canada, like so many other countries, has a choice to make: continue to chase after white elephants or take a bold leap of faith and technology into the future.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

UPDATED: Please Watch This, Catherine McKenna

As Minister of Environment and Climate Change, I think it is important for you to see what the practice of real integrity, as opposed to the mouthing of inane platitudes, looks like.
French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot has resigned on live radio, in a dramatic announcement that caught even President Emmanuel Macron by surprise.

The former TV presenter and green activist said he had quit after a series of disappointments in attempts to address climate change and other environmental threats.

Mr Hulot said he felt "all alone" in government.

The decision was taken on the spot and, he added, even his wife did not know.

"I am going to take... the most difficult decision of my life," the minister said in an interview on France Inter radio.

"I am taking the decision to leave the government."

UPDATE: Meanwhile, 'Minister' McKenna, I guess you have more important things to do with your time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Pray For Jimbo

Apparently, crazed televangelist evangelical Jim Bakker has enemies that are legion.
“I don’t dare wear a Trump hat. The evil in this country is so bad if I was a Republican — which I have been my whole life — I couldn’t wear a hat with my candidate on it without concern about being murdered in the street,” Bakker said.

Monday, August 27, 2018

These Are Brave Ladies

When you are young, it is easy to find heroes, people whose daring exploits elicit awe and wonder. When I was a kid, Superman was my comic book hero. Although fictitious, he was an exemplar people could admire. Indefatigable, strong and incorruptible, Superman, although an alien, showed the best qualities humanity is capable of.

And that, to me, is the essence of a hero.

In my adult life, Nelson Mandela, about whom I have written on this blog, was my hero. His grace, dignity and refusal to compromise during all his years of imprisonment showed us the best that human nature has to offer.

Now that Mandela is gone, it is hard to find real inspiration in this fractured world, a world in which avarice, dissension, hatred and pettiness have seized centre stage, a world in which real leadership seems absent.

In Canada, our politics is one of opportunism and hypocrisy, something we were all reminded of during this past weekend's Conservative Party convention in Halifax. And the Liberal Party, despite the bright promise they seemed to present during the last election, have proven they learned nothing during their years in the wilderness. Justin Trudeau's betrayal of his environmental promise, in my view, was the coup de grâce to optimism about the future.

And yet ....

There are those brave and principled souls who refuse to be consumed by despair and yield to forces much bigger than themselves. People who know that their obligation goes beyond themselves and their immediate families. People who care about the generations that will come along after they are gone. People like the 'sinister seniors'. People like Charlotte Gyoba:
Gyoba was one of the protesters who broke a court injunction filed by Kinder Morgan that set limits on how close people could be from the gates. The protesters stood right in front of the gates at one of the Kinder Morgan facilities at the Burnaby Mountain tank farm.

Of the group of nine that faced initial jail time for convictions on July 31, the first to be sentenced was 70-year-old grandmother Laurie Embree. Indigenous elders have also been arrested at the gates.

Meanwhile, the penalties for defying the injunction continue to increase, with the people arrested this week facing a sentence of 14 days in custody from the B.C. Supreme Court.
Gyoba herself wound up spending four days behind bars with four other protesters, all over the age of 65, and she has no regrets:
“I won’t be here much longer, but I worry about what kind of planet the next generation will inherit from us,” the 74-year-old said. “People have to stand up when they see an injustice. If they don’t, then democracy doesn’t work for anybody.”
The thought of incarceration frightens the hell out of me. Am I capable of such courage? I don't know. But as long as there are people like Gyoba and the others profiled in the above-linked article, it is clear that heroism is not dead, and there is still some hope for humanity.