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.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Memo To The Press

As usual, Robert Reich is spot-on in his insights. Here, he offers some solid advice to real journalists on how they should cover Trump:

Friday, August 24, 2018

About That Odour In The Air

While The Great Pretender and his faux Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, continue to utter platitudes about climate-change action while visiting formerly Beautiful British Columbia, smoke is not the only pollutant in the air. The unmistakable stench of a steaming pile of bovine excrement is also becoming decidedly pronounced, its source not hard to detect for anyone not blinded by unthinking allegiance to the Liberal Party of Canada.

Letter-writer Mike Ward, of Duncan B.C., believes he has found its source and offers up a solution to the miasma:
B.C. and Alberta are engaged in a carbon trading scheme of sorts, and it is to no one’s advantage.

Alberta sends carbon-rich bitumen to British Columbia, which, when added to the atmosphere, contributes to global warming.

Global warming in turn produces the warmer winters that allow pine beetles to thrive, together with the longer, hotter, drier summers during which B.C.’s disease-stricken forests ignite.

Prevailing winds spread this suffocating carbon smoke throughout both provinces, choking the tourism industry, impacting people’s health, threatening towns and destroying the livelihood of communities dependant on forestry and fishing.

It hurts to think that the new normal for our children may be smoky white summer skies, breathing masks and the eerie light of an orange sun.

Further investment in this perverse carbon trading scheme, such as in the proposed Trans Mountain expansion, defies reason as it can only accelerate global warming and amplify the enormous economic, social and health consequences we are already experiencing.

Clearly, it’s time for change. The cost of our stubborn reliance on fossil fuels has simply become too great a price to pay.
Also, your mendacious self-congratulatory rhetoric notwithstanding, this is no time to take a victory lap, Catherine.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

It's All Connected

Humans are a lamentably short-sighted species. Sure, we understand some of the basic underlying principles that govern our existence, but that knowledge seems to have little overall impact on the way we conduct ourselves.

Take, for example, cause and effect. We understand that if we hit our hand with a hammer, pain and possible fractures will ensue. Similarly, we know that if we toss a match into flammable material, a fire will follow. Ergo, unless there is something really wrong with us or our intent is to build a bonfire, we tend to avoid such behaviours. Beyond understanding such immediate consequences, however, our thinking tends to get a tad fuzzy.

Take, for example, the ever-increasing occurrences of forest fires. We know beyond a doubt that climate change is greatly exacerbating their threat, the fire season starting earlier and, in some cases becoming a year-round phenomenon. Yet when we think of the consequences of forest fires, we tend to think only of their relatively short-term effects: property destruction, carbon release and future mudslides, the absorption capacity of the land having severely been compromised.

As the following report shows, however, there are much more insidious cnsequences, ones that remind us that when we talk of ecological systems, everything is interconnected.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Days Of Outrage

The expression of outrage can serve a useful purpose, no doubt. It can promote new awareness that facilitates change; it can lead to levels of engagement that ultimately may improve the lives of many; it can change how we look at the world.

Or it can simply be an exercise that begins and ends on social media, a self-limiting foray that may make the participant feel virtuous but accomplishes little or nothing in the real world.

Today, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is no doubt celebrating what it must see as a massive victory:
After more than a century behind bars, the beasts on boxes of animal crackers are roaming free.

Mondelez International, the parent company of Nabisco, has redesigned the packaging of its Barnum's Animals crackers after relenting to pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The redesign of the boxes, now on U.S. store shelves, retains the familiar red and yellow coloring and prominent "Barnum's Animals" lettering. But instead of showing the animals in cages - implying that they're traveling in boxcars for the circus - the new boxes feature a zebra, elephant, lion, giraffe and gorilla wandering side-by-side in a grassland. The outline of acacia trees can be seen in the distance.
This change has come about as a result of pressure by the animal rights' organization. Forgive my cynicism, but this changes virtually nothing. It is cosmetic and, as most efforts at spin are, profoundly shallow. We continue to eat animals; big-game hunters, although under significant pressure, seem indefatigable in their bloodlust; homeless animals still abound. In other words, while people may feel virtuous over PETA's 'victory,' the status quo continues.

And that gets to the crux of the matter, in my view. We have entered an age where remote participation in causes has become a substitute for real involvement. Instead of people going out in the streets to protest, making principled boycotts of businesses, writing actual letters to CEOs, they instead merely sign online petitions, send out heartfelt tweets, post on Facebook, etc. (all of which I am guilty of, I might add.) While such 'spooky action at a distance' may promote short-term feelings of virtue, for far too many, they become ends in themselves.

The thoughtful reader may object. Isn't some involvement, however transitory or shallow, better than none? In my view, it is far too late for such gestures. The natural world is collapsing while we tweet our outrage. Temperatures around the world are rising; Arctic ice is rapidly melting; floodwaters are rising; drought is widespread; forests are aflame, and feedback loops are fully operational. Yet we still drive our cars everywhere and idle them with abandon in parking lots so we can have our air-conditioning to insulate us from some inconvenient truths.

Taking real action is hard, demanding time, commitment and real resolve. Expressing outrage is easy, and serves, if anything, as a powerful distraction from the real problems confronting our sorry world.

Monday, August 20, 2018

George Orwell Meets Rudy Giuliani

"Truth isn't truth," proclaims the increasingly zany and demented uncle known as Rudy Giuliani. Start at the 1:20 mark to take the full measure of the man, the man he represents, and the fulfillment of George Orwell's direst warnings:

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Jack Dorsey, Hypocrite

I am posting less these days, likely because I am losing faith in the possibility of positive change. I realize now, more than ever, that our fate is not in our hands, but rather in those of the powerful that have captured government and will protect and enhance their profits until the bitter end.

While this fact is most evidenced by the refusal of national governments to enact measures to meaningfully combat the ever-growing peril of climate change (disaster capitalism is alive, well and thriving!), it is also seen in less obvious ways. To get a taste of this truth, watch the following interview with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, conducted by Lester Holt. The interview initially revolves around Twitter's suspension (cutely called a 'time-out' by Dorsey) of hate-monger Alex Jones. The suspension itself, of course, is hardly a brave or principled stand, given Jones' removal from other social-media platforms already.

Dorsey's moral vacuity, bottomless hypocrisy and capacity for spin are pretty obvious here. And the fact that the CEO, a stand-in for so many other 'movers and shakers', will not let the public good interfere with his ceaseless march for greater and greater profits becomes very clear in the second part of the interview, when Holt asks him about Donald Trump and his Twitter account.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

On Canadian Hypocrisy

While many (but not our strangely silent allies) have cheered Canada's tweet critical of Saudi Arabia's abuse of human rights' activists, it has not escaped others that the gesture has the stench of hypocrisy about it. The Star's Tony Burman reminds us:
that it was this Liberal government that approved the $15-billion deal to sell military vehicles to Saudi Arabia originally worked out by the previous Harper government. There is reason to believe that some of these vehicles have been used by the Saudis to crush the very internal dissent that Canada embraces.

If the Middle East has taught us anything, it is that talk is cheap.
Similarly, Star letter writers offer some critical thinking:
The Canadian admonition of the Saudi government is evidently hypocritical, and lacks moral integrity.

Hamid S. Atiyyah, Markham

So Canada will have to stop selling weapons of war to the Saudi Arabians for them to use against their own people and against civilians in Yemen.


Alan Craig, Brampton

A year ago it was reported that Canada was Saudi Arabia’s second largest arms supplier. While Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland expresses outrage at Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses, she conveniently turns a blind eye to scathing reports by UN officials and a long list of civil society groups over Canada’s lucrative weapons trade in defiance of international norms.

Joe Davidson, Toronto
My guess is, had Canada known the kind of overreaction its tweet would provoke from the Saudis, it would not have issued such a public castigation of the dictatorial state. On the other hand, I'm sure there is a bright side to the whole situation, as a government and a prime minister hoping for reelection can now once more assert to a largely uncritical world that Canada is back; it certainly worked wonders for Justin Trudeau's image when he declaimed thus after winning the last election.

Lord knows, given the massive disappointment he has been on so many fronts, a little prolonged diversion may be just what the spin doctor ordered.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Hothouse Earth

Hot on the heels of the news that Justin's folly will now cost taxpayers at least another $1.9 billion comes widespread acknowledgement that we may indeed be reaching the climate-change point of no return. For specific details about this, check out The Guardian and The Mound's post yesterday. As well, Owen's post is well-worth the read.

Also, you can watch the following newscast to get a greater sense of our peril:

Still, our politicos fiddle while the world burns. This is the inevitable outcome of the plague known as captured governments, of course.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

I Don't Know Why

... but I never tire of watching lunatics like Jim Bakker and his brethren. Guess I am just desperate in these trying times for some comic relief, and believe me, the good pastor and his cretinous cohorts deliver it in abundance:

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Betrayal With Far-Reaching Implications

Despite the inspiring persona he peddled to win the last election, Justin Trudeau has turned out to be just another politician. As hard as that might be to accept, his betrayal of his promise to be something else, something better, is undeniable. For me personally, the sting of his failure to enact meaningful measures to combat climate change hurts the most.

And I am not alone in recognizing the fraud he perpetrated. Both The Toronto Star's editorial board and columnist Thomas Walkom offer lacerating assessments of the prime minister's perfidious antics. His most recent decision, to scale back the carbon tax, is emboldening the retrograde Doug Ford, Ontario's new premier with some very old (think 1950's) ideas:
... in scaling back one element of the national plan to put a price on carbon, Justin Trudeau managed to weaken an already too tepid program, and hand some provincial premiers — who are determined to oppose any carbon tax — more ammunition to fight in the court of public opinion, never mind, possibly, in the courts of law.

Emission-intensive industries that compete with companies in jurisdictions without a carbon tax, were already set to receive credits worth 70 per cent of what an average firm in their sector would pay under Ottawa’s plan.

Now, most won’t have to pay the carbon tax until their emissions reach 80 per cent. And four industries deemed to face particularly high competitive risks — iron and steel manufacturing, cement, lime and nitrogen fertilizer producers — won’t pay until they hit 90 per cent.
The Ontario government is running with this retreat:
Already, Ontario’s Environment Minister Rod Phillips is crowing about how this change is proof that his government was right to kill Ontario’s cap-and-trade plan, and right to fight Ottawa’s carbon tax in court.
All of which, of course, panders to a public that is far more eager to embrace willful ignorance than confront harsh reality, a hint of which was recently released by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, which revealed
2016’s record-breaking year of damage caused by natural disasters such as wildfires, floods and ice storms across the country cost $4.9 billion. And that was just in “insurable” damage.
Thomas Walkom comes at this issue from a different perspective but with the same underlying premise, that Trudeau's weak carbon tax will accomplish little:
Before Ford became Ontario premier, Trudeau was in danger of being outed as a fraud on the all-important climate change file. But Ford is such a laggard in this area that no matter how little the Liberal prime minister does, he seems active by comparison.

Ford’s decision to challenge Trudeau’s carbon tax in court serves to obscure the reality of the proposed federal levy, namely that it is too low to be effective. And it allows Trudeau to continue pretending that his climate change strategy is vastly different from that of former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper — when in fact it is not.
And Walkom offers compelling evidence that the emperor has no clothes, nor any real climate-change convictions as he echoes the old Harper way of doing things, such as mirroring U.S. behaviour:
In 2016, he very publicly matched Obama’s decision to reduce methane emissions. A year later, after Donald Trump reversed that Obama move, Canada’s Liberal government quietly announced it would delay implementation of its new methane rules until 2023.

Last week, Ottawa announced even more quietly that it plans to ease proposed carbon tax rules for big industrial polluters in order to match the new laissez-faire attitude of the Trump regime.
But surely Trudeau's carbon tax marks a bold departure from American inaction? Well, not so much:
Ottawa’s fallback carbon tax — set to start at $20 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions next year and rising to $50 per tonne by 2022 — is too low. If carbon taxes are to work, they must be high enough to discourage consumers from using products, like gasoline, that create greenhouse gas emissions.

Experts I’ve talked to say that, to be effective, carbon taxes must be set at about $30 per tonne now, rising to $200 a tonne by 2030.

There is no indication that the Liberal government is willing to be so audacious.
Supporters of the Trudeau government will argue that something is better than nothing, and that economic realities constrain Trudeau's hand. The only problem with that thinking is that it is much, much latter than we like to think, and smiles, rhetoric and half-hearted measures will not slow the tide of the earth's inexorable march to a new normal, one that already is proving decidely unpleasant and deadly for millions of people.

Friday, August 3, 2018

In The Realm Of Canadian Political Whoredom

I nominate Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine Mckenna as Queen:

And here is what she had to say after news of the Trudeau climate betrayal emerged:

Prostitutes are renowned for weaving fantasies. In that regard, McKenna is clearly and most eminently qualified.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Speaking Of Neoliberal Tools

It is never nice to shatter someone's illusions, but sometimes it is necessary. That is exactly what iPolitics is doing as it reports a not unexpected but nonetheless egregious betrayal of the environment and climate change mitigation as it dawns on our perfidious prime minister that an election is coming up next year:
Bowing to concerns about international competitiveness, the Trudeau government is scaling back carbon pricing guidelines for some of the country’s heaviest energy users, and signalling that more easing could come before the plan takes effect in 2019.

Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued new guidelines that increase the emissions threshold at which polluters will have to pay a carbon tax.

... after meeting with industry stakeholders, it determined that four industries in particular – cement, iron and steel, lime and nitrogen fertilizer producers – face a high competitive risk and will have their carbon price thresholds adjusted.

Draft regulations issued in January indicated a benchmark for when industries would start to pay the carbon tax at 70 per cent of average emissions.

However, the new rules set to take effect in the new year will increase the carbon tax threshold to 80 per cent of emissions intensity.

The four sectors assessed in the high competitive risk category will not have to pay the tax until they reach 90 per cent of emissions.

The government says other sectors may see adjustments to their greenhouse gas output measures, depending on further review of the impact of carbon pricing on their domestic and international competitiveness, with revised draft standards expected by fall.
Those who follow politics closely will not be surprised by this. Those who place their faith in sunny ways, pearly smiles and nice hair, however, will likely be shocked and seek solace in government propaganda justifying this sabotage of what already was a wholly inadequate plan.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Flying The Not-So-Friendly Skies

One of the major disappointments I have lived to experience is the fragility of democracy. That democratic traditions, customs and practices are so vulnerable to dismantlement, often with either the passive acquiescence or full-throated approval of 'the people' is something I never would have anticipated.

The latest example of this devolution is to be found in an investigation conducted by The Boston Globe:
Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior under a new domestic surveillance program that is drawing criticism from within the agency.

The previously undisclosed program, called “Quiet Skies,” specifically targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” according to a Transportation Security Administration bulletin in March.

... some air marshals, in interviews and internal communications shared with the Globe, say the program has them tasked with shadowing travelers who appear to pose no real threat — a businesswoman who happened to have traveled through a Mideast hot spot, in one case; a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, in another; a fellow federal law enforcement officer, in a third.
The criteria for such surveillance are remarkably broad:
The teams document whether passengers fidget, use a computer, have a “jump” in their Adam’s apple or a “cold penetrating stare,” among other behaviors, according to the records.
Additional criteria include whether passengers go to the bathroom, use their phone, eat, or talk to other passengers.

Will this Orwellian nightmare, now that it has been exposed, provoke outrage? I doubt it. As you will see in the following NBC report (advance to the 5:15 mark), the TSA assures the public that "ordinary Americans" are not being surveilled. I take it that is code for white citizens. Ergo, if you are an 'old-stock' American, step back and let the authorities protect you.

In The Second Coming, Yeats writes, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity."

Applying that to today's sad state of democracy, I'd say he got that right.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

My Catholic Upbringing

It is a long time since I believed in Hell, yet the following scenes are eerily reminiscent of what the nuns used to warn would be our destination if we weren't good Catholic boys and girls.

Advance to the 10:30 mark to watch the infernal action:

Meanwhile, the rest of the world, both Christian and non-Christian, isn't faring much better:

Friday, July 27, 2018

Sad Beyond Words

If you are at all familiar with Ansel Adams, you will know that much of the palette for his photographic genius was Yosemite National Park. Indeed, I have a framed print of one of his most iconic pictures, Yosemite Clearing Storm, hanging in my dining room.

To look upon his work is to look into the soul of a man with a deep and abiding affinity for the world of nature, a man who took great pains to interpret and depict that world through some very intricate photographic and printing techniques that conveyed both the majesty of nature and the awe that it inspired in him.

If you are unfamiliar with his work, I strongly encourage you to explore it.

It therefore pains me deeply to learn that Yosemite is now under threat. Although at this stage of my life I have learned to accept some bitter truths, this is one I would fain turn away from, if I could.

The report begins at the 4:40 mark:

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The New Normal

Watch or don't watch the following; it really won't make any difference, as the trajectory is already firmly set, momentum is building, and catastrophe can no longer be averted:

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Second Verse, Same As The First

The playlist is, I know, increasingly repetitive, but Earth-station has but a few records remaining on the turntable, and they will only be played louder and louder as the party winds down.

Meanwhile, the wildfires in Greece, fueled by heat and drought, have claimed more than 70 lives:

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Further Down The Road

For those whose sense of weather peril is somewhat muted, the following picture of a London park, the top part showing it in May, and the bottom part as it appears today thanks to prolonged drought and heat, may help awaken the senses and cognition about how far down the one-way road of climate change we have travelled:

Still not convinced? Perhaps something a little closer to home will help:

Very soon, of course, these images will lose their power to impress, so common are they becoming. The new normal, indeed.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Rising Tide

I have just begun a book called Extreme Cites, by Ashley Dawson. As I have discerned it thus far, its thesis is that the world's great coastal cities are destined for massive inundation and destruction because of rising sea levels. This likely now-irreversible fate is undergirded by the one of the central facts of contemporary capital: its rapacious appetite for continuous and unlimited growth. I won't bore you with the details except to recommend that you read the book.

Should you have neither the time nor the inclination, an article in The Guardian, about another book dealing only with American coastal inundation, can provide much useful information. It also explores the work of Harold Wanless, chair of the geology department at the University of Miami, who, in taking issue with the more conservative estimates of two to six feet sea-level rise over this century, has come to some damning conclusions about his city:
“The rate of sea level rise is currently doubling every seven years, and if it were to continue in this manner, Ponzi scheme style, we would have 205 feet of sea level rise by 2095,” he says. “And while I don’t think we are going to get that much water by the end of the century, I do think we have to take seriously the possibility that we could have something like 15 feet by then.”
Dig into geologic history and you discover this: when sea levels have risen in the past, they have usually not done so gradually, but rather in rapid surges, jumping as much as 50 feet over a short three centuries. Scientists call these events “meltwater pulses” because the near-biblical rise in the height of the ocean is directly correlated to the melting of ice and the process of deglaciation, the very events featured in the documentary footage Hal has got running on a screen above his head.
Fun fact:
From 1900 to 2000 the glacier on the screen retreated inward eight miles. From 2001 to 2010 it pulled back nine more; over a single decade the Jakobshavn glacier lost more ice than it had during the previous century. And then there is this film clip, recorded over 70 minutes, in which the glacier retreats a full mile across a calving face three miles wide. “This is why I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the largest meltwater pulse in modern human history,” Hal says.

A wealth of information and scientific studies demonstrates beyond doubt our headlong plunge toward disaster. Despite that, we argue incessantly over piddling and ineffective carbon taxes while ignoring the real work that mitigating disaster would require. It used to be said that knowledge is power. That is obviously no longer true as we choose to willfully, egregiously ignore that knowledge.

Our fate is all but sealed.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Blessed Are The Benighted

My good friend Dave in Winnipeg often rails sardonically against the twin curses of intelligence and critical-thinking. If you start the following video at about the 50-second mark, you'll see that some have 'blessedly' been spared such affliction.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Words Mean Little Anymore

While I realize it is not healthy to obsess over things over which I have no control, I find myself consistently astounded and dispirited by the dystopian reality we now inhabit. While the world has been deteriorating for many years, I find it hard to deal with the fact that we now live in a world which, were it a movie script, would be rejected by all major studios as so preposterous that it would have no chance of box-office success. A script that showed such complete contempt for the audience's intelligence would be a very tough sell.

And yet that is precisely the world that Donald Trump and his ilk inhabit and cultivate, a world where the president and his enablers utter the most outrageous falsehoods shamelessly and fearlessly. We have descended into a world where words have lost their meaning.

The Star's Daniel Dale keeps a running tally of Trump's mendacity which you can filter by topic. I urge you to visit the site. As well, today's Star explores this phenomenon,
the most comprehensive picture yet available of what historians say is an unprecedented avalanche of serial lying.
The following news story features Trump in his full mendacious 'glory,' his absolute contempt for truth and, by extension, people, made manifest:

Although it is likely apocryphal, the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times," has never seemed more relevant or more biting.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Feeling Like An American

Now that Ontario is in the thrall of Doug Ford and his Regressive Conservative Party, I am beginning to understand how sane and balanced Americans must feel having an obscene fool as their national leader. It makes everyone look bad.

While Ford and his merry band of obsequious MPPs secured their majority thanks to a minority of voters who were filled with "passionate intensity" while the "best lacked all conviction" and chose to vote in smaller numbers, all of us, because we live in a democracy,' must bear the shame and ignominy.

The tail wags the dog here in Ontario. And make no mistake - just as Trump plays to his base, Ford et al. have every intention of tailoring their time in office to the demands of the minority who elected them. Just take a look at yesterday's Throne Speech:
The Tories will ... free police from “onerous restrictions that treat those in uniform as subjects of suspicion and scorn,” [a return to carding and loose SIU oversight?] end “unaffordable green energy contracts,” and expand beer and wine sales to convenience and big-box stores.
Ignoring the fact that extensive consultation paved the way to the revised 2015 sex-ed curriculum, this benighted new government
... will replace the 2015 “sex education curriculum with an age-appropriate one that is based on real consultation with parents.”

In a sop to the social conservatives who helped him become Tory leader in March, the new premier’s administration will use the 1998 sex education syllabus, which predates Google, same-sex marriage, and social media, until a new lesson plan is developed.
Crazed evangelical leader Charles McVety is delighted, observing that
students can now “go and learn how to tie their shoelaces and do arithmetic and read and write and do what they should be doing in school instead of learning things that belong, really, in post-graduate studies.”
Others were not so kind:
Green Leader Mike Schreiner countered that Ford has “declared war on the modern world.

“I mean, to have no climate change plan and to take our sex-ed curriculum back to 1998 is taking the province backwards,” said Schreiner.
That old curriculum was woefully antiquated, in no way addressing the problems and concerns bedeviling 21st century children:
The 1998 health and physical education curriculum describes a society that few elementary school students would recognize. It does not mention the words cyber-bullying, social media, race, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. It only once mentions the word Internet, and only to say that kids can use computers to surf the “World Wide Web” for information.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture that our 'new' government has some mighty 'old' ideas and beliefs.

On a personal note, it is very difficult for me to be anything other than contemptuous of my fellow Ontarians. But that, I suspect, will be the subject of a future post.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Amerika's Formula For Success

As noted the other day, the United States or, as I like to call it, Trump's Amerika, no longer even bothers to conceal its contempt for the rest of the world. It's disgraceful threats at the the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly against Ecuador for sponsoring a resolution to encourage breastfeeding, thereby reducing the profits of the corporate behemoths that produce baby formula exemplifies its shameless corporate thralldom.

Today, Star letter-writers weigh in on the magnitude of Amerika's crime against newborns:
The World Health Organization estimates that 800,000 child deaths worldwide each year could be prevented by breastfeeding.

A 2016 Harvard study found that 3,340 infant and maternal deaths a year could be prevented by breastfeeding in the U.S. alone. In Third World countries where destitute moms dilute formula, often with dirty water, the rates are much higher.

They want their infants to look like the pictures of healthy babies on the advertising they are given by sales people dressed as medical professionals. So why would Trump threaten to withdraw military and other aid to Ecuador if they put forth a resolution supporting breastfeeding at the World Health Assembly?

Because Third World countries are areas of major growth for Nestlé and Abbott Nutrition, and they are big Trump supporters.

It is once again time to boycott the products from both of these companies, like we did in the 1980s. It helped then. Let’s make a difference now.

Gail Rutherford, Toronto

It is indeed stunning, but probably not surprising, that the Trump government would threaten countries with punishing trade measures to support American business interests against a breastfeeding policy that experience and science have proven to saves lives. Baby formula kills when mixed with polluted water that can be the only water available.

The U.S. is going back to the days when the American government would wage wars and depose elected governments to support an American company. We must acknowledge that Trump is at war with the rest of the world — except for the other strongarm dictators.

Ian McLaurin, Port Perry, Ont.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Signs Are All Around Us

How's that climate-change denial thing working for you these days?

Forecast: Expect more of the same and worse in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

Monday, July 9, 2018

American Thuggery

By almost any metric, the United States is a rogue nation. The depth of its depraved thuggery was recently made evident to the world:
A resolution to encourage breastfeeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly.

Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.

American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding” and another passage that called on policy-makers to restrict the promotion of food products many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.

Then the U.S. delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.
Captured by neoliberal forces, the once admired country resorted to mafia-like extortion to try to get its way:
Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross hairs.

The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.
Health advocates frantically sought another sponsor for the resolution, but none could be found as sundry countries cowered before the American behemoth. Then in a turn that amply demonstrates the inversion the world is currently experiencing, an unlikely ally came to the rescue:
It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure — and the Americans did not threaten them.
The move to thwart maternal health benefits is part of a much larger pattern of strong-arm tactics from a nation clearly unmoored from moral underpinnings:
The Americans also sought, unsuccessfully, to thwart a WHO effort aimed at helping poor countries obtain access to life-saving medicines. Washington, supporting the pharmaceutical industry, has long resisted calls to modify patent laws as a way of increasing drug availability in the developing world, but health advocates say the Trump administration has ratcheted up its opposition to such efforts.
God bless America? Not on your life.