Monday, April 30, 2018

Blood On Our Hands

As Canadians, we like to walk around feeling good about ourselves, convinced both of our good intentions and our innate rectitude. Ours is a generally peaceful society, the rule of law largely respected. We look to the violent domestic madness that is an undeniable part of the U.S., and we cannot help but feel smug. We fancy ourselves exemplars for the world, and nod knowingly when someone like Obama or Bono says that the world needs more Canada.

Sadly, there is a another, much darker truth about Canada that few acknowledge. We are merchants of death.

Our hypocrisy is not escaping notice:
When Global Affairs Canada announced another aid package to war-torn Yemen in January, it boasted that Ottawa had given a total of $65 million to help ease what the United Nations has called “the worst man-made humanitarian crisis of our time.”

What Justin Trudeau’s government did not mention in its news release is that since 2015, Canada has also approved more than $284 million in exports of Canadian weapons and military goods to the countries bombing Yemen.

“It’s a bit like helping pay for somebody’s crutches after you’ve helped break their legs,” said Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Ploughshares, a research and advocacy organization that studies Canada’s arms trade.
To whom is Canada selling these weapons? There is, of course, the much-publicized deal with Saudi Arabia, the leader in the coalition against Yemani insurgents.
The Star calculated Canada’s arms exports since 2015 to all of the countries in the Saudi coalition involved in Yemen’s war, as disclosed in Global Affairs’ annual report on Canadian exports of military goods. The bulk of the trade is with Saudi Arabia, to which Canada sold more than $240 million worth of weapons and other military goods in 2015 and 2016 — mostly combat vehicles, but also guns, training gear, bombs, rockets or missiles, drones and unspecified chemical or biological agents, which could include riot control agents.
The original deal with the Saudis, brokered by the Harper government and endorsed by Justin Trudeau's Liberals, is all about jobs, which the government clearly believes trumps the loss of innocent lives:
A $14.8-billion sale of Canadian-made armoured combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia — negotiated by the Conservative government in 2014 but given final approval by the Liberals — will reportedly provide work for about 3,000 people for 14 years in southern Ontario, where manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems–Canada is a major employer.
While our government continues to express concerns about weapons misuse, they give no indication of how they are monitoring things, which of course suggests they aren't.
The United States and United Kingdom are also arming Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, but they, and Canada, are increasingly isolated in their position. The European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution in 2016 calling on all member states to enforce an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia for its role in Yemen. The Netherlands was first to take up the call. Finland and Norway have since stopped selling weapons to the United Arab Emirates. Earlier this year, Germany declared an end to arms sales to all parties involved in Yemen’s war.

Trudeau’s government has suggested no such ban, despite expressing “deep concern” over reports of Saudi abuses. Ottawa’s official position is that it will stop the export of military goods if there is a “reasonable risk” of human rights abuses. What that has meant, in practice, is that even when a country has a demonstrably poor record on human rights, unless there is definitive evidence Canadian weapons were used to commit human rights abuses, Canada is open to their business.
There is a great deal more to this story, which I encourage you to read at The Star.

Canada is in the killing business. Unless and until Canadians come to understand that fact, expect much, much more blood to flow.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Full Of Sound And Fury

... signifying nothing.

So says Macbeth about life in Act V Scene 5 of Shakespeare's eponymous tragedy. He might also have been talking about the 'policies' of the Justin Trudeau government.

Watching Global News last night, I was struck by the sheer lack of substance so apparent in the Liberals' almost three years in office. Here is the story that prompted my ruminations:

To listen to Catherine McKenna and the mainstream media, one might infer that the federal government is "acting in the national interest" and with boldness in its carbon-pricing scheme, and that all is well with the world. Of course, if one is refuses to embrace such willful ignorance, one understands how dire climate change has become, and that no piddling carbon tax, which affects no one's fossil-fuel-consumption habits, is going to change the destructive trajectory we are on.

And of the Liberals' contradictory, hypocritical push for pipeline expansion and greater bitumen production, I will not even speak.

Human beings need direction and leadership if we are to mitigate the worst effects of climate change; otherwise, they will allow themselves to continue in the self-indulgent behaviours that are destroying the planet as we know it. Consider the recent decision by Ford Motor Cmpany to concentrate almost exclusively on the production of truck and SUVs:

The two key takeaways from the above are that by 2022, 73% of sales in the U.S. will be utility vehicles. The second is that low fuel prices are a large factor in the purchase of the gas-guzzlers.

So tell me that the world doesn't need strong and decisive leadership. The path of least resistance and the web of illusions spun by governments such as ours are no match for the unforgiving cascade of events currently being meted out by nature.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Resistance Lives

"And this you can know - fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe."

-From The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

As long as scenes like the following occur, I can never completely lose faith in my fellow human beings:

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Not Ready For Prime Time?

Given the current dearth of leadership within both the Trudeau government and the rudderless Conservative Party of Canada, this one really hurts:

Where Is The Walk?

Justin Trudeau's increasing propensity for talking the talk but not walking the walk has been noticed by the anti-poverty organization One Campaign, led by Trudeau's good 'friend,' U2's Bono, in a rather unflattering video:
Stuart Hickox, One’s Canada director, said the decision to “poke” Trudeau wasn’t taken lightly. But One and other organizations are worried that Trudeau’s gender agenda will fail because his government isn’t coming up with a firm plan that he can sell to his fellow G7 leaders in time for their meeting.

“It’s a missed opportunity if we get through the G7 with a just mere declaration or more framing language or more aspiration,” Hickox said in an interview.

Hickox said One is an activist organization that tries to end extreme poverty by providing options for government, and that’s what it is trying to do with Trudeau so he can “own the space that he has claimed for himself.”

“So this is a moment of pushing.”

Seasoned observers of our peregrinating prime minister will realize that the issue raised by the One Campaign is but one of many in which his rhetorical flourishes and promises have far outpaced his actions. This gross disparity between appearances and reality, one hopes, is something increasing numbers of people will be able to discern as time goes on.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

It's Time To Ask The Right Questions

The old myth that tax cuts, especially of the corporate kind, create jobs, continues to be circulated. Indeed, here in Ontario, PC leader Doug Ford is promising to reduce the corporate rate from the already historically-low 11.5% to 10.5% "to bring jobs back to Ontario."

In Australia The Canberra Times' Ben Oquist says it is time to reframe the tax discussion by posing a series of questions aimed at showing the destructive nature of such cutting:
Every proponent and lobbyist for the policy should be asked what social program or infrastructure project should be cut, or what other tax should go up to pay for boosting post-tax profits of large business. Indeed Treasury’s own modelling - often cited to support the tax cut legislation - assumes that either personal income taxes will increase or government services will be cut.

We hear almost exclusively from the "winners" of a company tax cut. But the public cannot be expected to make an informed choice as to whether this is the best way to create ‘jobs and growth’ if we do not know, specifically, where the off-setting cuts will be made. Will it be billions less for schools, or hospitals? Or will it be the infrastructure spend for our fast growing population that misses out?
Only the untutored mind will accept Doug Ford's bromide of tax cuts with no pain:
... while Ford likes the tax cuts, he doesn’t like the carbon tax (or any other tax), leaving a $10-billion hole in his budget.

Not to worry, says the self-proclaimed stopper of gravy trains. Ford insists the better part of the shortfall – about $6 billion – could be covered through the elimination of so-called inefficiencies.
In Australia, by contrast, some of the corporate sector is beginning to understand the folly of such short-sighted tax measures:
This week a survey of Australian company directors found that infrastructure spending, not tax cuts, should be the priority in this year’s federal budget.

Many company directors also know that ultimately business can only flourish if a decent society is maintained and that this requires a strong role for government providing quality services, training, education and modern infrastructure. This of course requires a strong revenue and taxation base to fund it.
Why don't corporate tax cuts work in creating jobs, jobs, jobs?
History shows that corporate tax cuts are largely spent on stock buybacks, increased dividendsand acquisitions, all of which only helps to benefit wealthier shareholders – not workers or the community.
That has been the Australian experience, and the same reality is unfolding in Trump's America:
Figures already released following Trump’s tax cut show that investment is down but there has been a frenzy of share buybacks, increased dividends combined with mergers and acquisitions that increase CEO power and drive inequality even higher.
For more discussion of the above, check out this New York Times article, which observes that
American companies have announced more than $178 billion in planned buybacks — the largest amount unveiled in a single quarter, according to Birinyi Associates, a market research firm.
Informed and serious discussion of taxation is hard to come by these days. Instead, shrill pronouncements from demagogues predicting financial Armageddon if fair taxation is imposed hold sway.

Clearly, it is time for all of us to put on our thinking caps, pierce through the hysterical proclamations and begin behaving like adults, not children who favour sweet lies over bitter truths.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

More Information On Yahoo/Rogers Email Accounts

Following up on yesterday's post, a friend of mine sent me the following, one that clearly demonstrates the ultimatum Yahoo and Rogers email account holders are being given. The parts I have bolded are especially noteworthy and may be all you need to read to understand the nefarious intent:
Dear Member,

In June 2017, Yahoo and AOL joined forces to create Oath, a media and technology company with a dynamic house of global brands, and a part of Verizon. It’s an exciting venture that we believe will bring a host of new innovations and digital experiences for our users. With Verizon, Oath can provide you with better experiences and services.

As part of this collaboration, we’re asking all users of Oath owned sites and services to agree to the new unified Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which will help us continue to deliver and build on great digital experiences for you.

Please take some time to review and agree to the new unified Terms of Service and Privacy Policy by clicking on the button below. If you have already agreed, no additional action is needed.

Review and agree now

To help you understand some of the key updates, we’ve provided a summary below as well as a description of what tools are available to you to manage your data and experience within Oath’s house of brands. Please note that this summary is not exhaustive and we encourage you to review the updated versions of our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Those terms and not this summary will govern your relationship with Oath. To learn more about our approach to privacy, click here.

Terms of Service Updates Summary

-We’ve specified the legal entity that provides each service to you. For some services, this may be a different entity than the entity that previously provided the service. We’ve also reserved the right to transfer the providing entity for each service in the future.
-General provisions that apply to billing, auto-renewal, and refunds have been added. Unless the additional terms for a service override the - -Terms of Service, these provisions apply to your use of our paid services.
-Applicability of Terms. If you are using our services on behalf of another account owner (e.g., as an administrator, consultant or analyst) or on behalf of a company, business or other entity, the Terms of Service apply to your activities and are binding on the account owner or entity.
-Indemnity for Non-Personal Use. If you are using our Services on behalf of a company, business or other entity, or if you are using our Services for commercial purposes, we’ve added an indemnity provision, which requires you and the entity to protect us against certain legal actions.

Privacy Policy Updates Summary

We’ve made it more readable! We took care to make it easier for you to understand our services and our privacy practices.
We’ve updated how we collect and use data. We’ve updated some of the ways we collect and analyze user data in order to deliver services, content, and relevant advertising to you and protect against abuse. This includes:
-Analyzing content and information (including emails, instant messages, posts, photos, attachments, and other communications) when you use our services. This allows us to deliver, personalize and develop relevant features, content, advertising and services
-Linking your activity on third-party sites and apps with information we have about you
-Providing anonymized and aggregated reports to other parties regarding user trends
-We’ve joined Verizon. By joining Verizon, Oath and its affiliates may share the information we receive among Verizon. Learn more about Verizon’s privacy practices.
-New information regarding personalization. We’ve included new information explaining how we combine data among our services and across your devices and Oath accounts. This allows us to provide more personalized content and services.
-We’ve updated user choices. We’ve provided additional information about your choices when using our services, and given you control in our Privacy Controls section.

What You Need to Do

We have designed these changes to help improve your experience with Oath and its brands. To review and agree to the new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, please click the button below. These changes go into effect as soon as you consent.

Review and agree now
Please note that although our services will continue to be available under the existing terms for now, you will eventually need to agree to the new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy in order to continue to use our services. If you have any questions or need additional help, please refer to this link.

Thank you for your continued loyalty and support.


Monday, April 23, 2018

A Little Lighter Fare

For Luddites and nostalgia buffs everywhere:

UPDATED: If You Have A Yahoo Or Rogers E-Mail Account

... you should be very, very concerned about the extortionate play they are making for your data, including your emails, your contact lists, indeed, your very identity.

Over the past week, Rogers and other Yahoo e-mail users have been receiving pop-up messages when they log in, outlining new unified terms of service that will apply to all Oath-owned sites. One of the terms specifies that Oath analyzes “content and information,” including e-mails, photos and attachments “when you use our services.” It explains, “This allows us to deliver, personalize and develop relevant features, content, advertising and services.”

The message concludes by stating that users “will eventually need to agree to the new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy in order to continue to use our services.” [Emphasis added]
If that last part sounds like extortion, that's because it is. Clearly, in attempting an end-run around future crack-downs on digital privacy, the company that administers both services, Oath, thinks it is being clever.
Stephen, a Rogers internet subscriber from Toronto who did not want his last name used because it could jeopardize his employment, said in an interview he has not been able to get satisfactory answers from Rogers on whether he could continue to use his e-mail account without being tracked.

“My concern is more about my data being fodder for behaviour manipulation, as we’ve seen with Cambridge Analytica.”
While Oath claims that account-holders will be able to opt out of this intrusion, there is nothing on its site to suggest it; likely they are hoping for a measure of indifference or forgetfulness as this story fades from the public view.

Globe and Mail letter-writer Jacques Soucie of Newmarket, Ontario, is not likely to be one who simply shrugs her shoulders:
After reading Christine Dobby’s article about Rogers’s invasive e-mail terms-of-service changes, I attempted to “adjust [my] customer preferences and settings” as the Rogers spokesperson you quoted suggested (Rogers E-Mail Users Hit With New Service Terms That Allow Data Monitoring, April 20). No way could I manage to find out how to do this, even after several Internet searches. I did, however, find this appalling item in the terms of service for Oath, the company to which Rogers has outsourced its e-mail service:

“Personal Data of Friends and Contacts. By using the Services, you agree that you have obtained the consent of your friends and contacts to provide their personal information (for example: their email address or telephone number) to Oath or a third party, as applicable, and that Oath or a third party may use your name to send messages on your behalf [emphasis added] to make the Services available to your friends and contacts …”

Daring to send messages on my behalf to my friends and contacts? This is an incredible invasion of privacy that should never be permitted. How can we fight back against this kind of intrusion?
My wife, who has a Yahoo account, is now in the process of migrating to Gmail. I would strongly suggest that others who take their privacy seriously consider similar measures.

UPDATE: Over at the Star, Ellen Roseman has this advice for Rogers Yahoo customers:
Rogers Yahoo email customers need to press for more information. What is the deadline for agreeing to Oath’s updated terms? Will they be cut off without access if they don’t agree? Can they get help moving all their emails to another provider?

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Man Of Courage And Principle

In a world given to self-interest, self-promotion and devastating cruelty, it is heartening to know that there are still giants who remind us of the goodness and principle our species is capable of. Colin Kaepernick, about whom I have written previously, is one such exemplar.

Time magazine reports that Kaepernick has won Amnesty International's highest award:
Amnesty International, the global human rights organization, gave Kaepernick its highest honor — the 2018 Ambassador of Conscience Award — in Amsterdam on Saturday. Past winners of the award, which “celebrates individuals and groups who speak out for justice,” include former South Africa president Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, the education activist from Pakistan who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban, and rock group U2.

The organization recognized Kaepernick for his protest against police violence: his action, kneeling during the national anthem before NFL games, sparked a movement replicated across America and the world, starting a debate about free speech and patriotism that was inflamed by the President of the United States, one of Kaepernick’s most relentless critics.
The former footballer's words are stirring and convey a brave truth that no state, however repressive, can ever really suppress:
“This is an award I share with all of the countless people throughout the world combating the human rights violations of police officers, and their uses of oppressive and excessive force,” Kaepernick said in statement released by Amnesty International. “To quote Malcolm X, when he said that he, ‘will join in with anyone — I don’t care what color you are — as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth,’ I am here to join with you all in this battle against police violence.

“While taking a knee is a physical display that challenges the merits of who is excluded from the notion of freedom, liberty, and justice for all, the protest is also rooted in a convergence of my moralistic beliefs, and my love for the people,” said Kaepernick. His former teammate Eric Reid, who knelt in solidarity with Kaepernick during the anthem — and remains unsigned as a free agent this NFL offseason — presented Kaepernick with the award.

God forbid we ever forget that resistance in its many forms is something to be admired, embraced and emulated.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

UPDATED: Our Self-indulgence Is Coming Home To Roost

Fifty years for a Styrofoam cup to break down. Four-hundred-and-fifty years for a water bottle. Those are but two disturbing facts you will glean from this very disturbing report on the increasing toll plastic pollution is exacting on our water. Now, the problem has entered the Great Lakes system, and thus, our bodies:

UPDATE: Many thanks to the Salamander for providing the link to the following. The footage is graphic and very disturbing, but dare we look away from it?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Words Versus Deeds

Our Prime Minister, always keen to appear as a progressive on the international stage, is decidedly less so at home, as recent events are demonstrating. Another reminder of the gross disparity between his words and deeds came when he met in London with Teresa May, who is planning to ban the sale of plastic straws in Britain.
“Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting,” May said in a statement ahead of a Commonwealth summit.

Leaders from the Commonwealth — a network of 53 countries, mostly former British colonies — are meeting in London this week. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also there and on Thursday was asked if he would join Britain in the ban.

What he says is a whole lotta nuthin'

Here is a closer examination of his capacity for platitudes, still apparently believing that empty words will carry the day:

Meanwhile, regular people are treading with the Prime Minister fears to tread:

Mr. Trudeau can talk all he wants about a "plastics charter." Talk is cheap, and clearly he thinks it is the politically safest route to take.

That is not leadership. It is abject capitulation.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

UPDATED: An Angry Planet

The future is rapidly arriving, and it isn't pretty, thanks to climate change that is causing rising seas and more volatile storms, of particular threat to low-lying nations of the world right now.

The first video shows what happened when a heavy storm hit Hawaii:

The second video, available with this link, shows the true peril facing people who live only a few feet above sea level.

UPDATE: The following video was originally posted on the Mound's blog but he is encouraging widespread distribution; it is yet another aspect of climate change that clearly relates to rising seas and other such disasters. Everything in this phenomenon is interrelated:

GLACIER EXIT from Raphael Rogers on Vimeo.

An Update To A Marriage Made In Hell

It is good to know that the mainstream media is finally paying attention to the new technology that I outlined in yesterday's post. And it seems that DARPA, a secretive Department of Defense agency, is building new software and artificial intelligence that will scan images to check for alterations in an effort to fight against fabricated news.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Marriage Made In Hell

Now this is really disturbing.

The Verge reports that Jordan Peele and Buzzfeed combined forces to make a fake Public Service Ad:
Using some of the latest AI techniques, Peele ventriloquizes Barack Obama, having him voice his opinion on Black Panther (“Killmonger was right”) and call President Donald Trump “a total and complete dipshit.”

The video was made by Peele’s production company using a combination of old and new technology: Adobe After Effects and the AI face-swapping tool FakeApp. The latter is the most prominent example of how AI can facilitate the creation of photorealistic fake videos.
Researchers have developed tools that let you perform face swaps like the one above in real time; Adobe is creating a “Photoshop for audio” that lets you edit dialogue as easily as a photo; and a Canadian startup named Lyrebird offers a service that lets you fake someone else’s voice with just a few minutes of audio. Technologist Aviv Ovadya summed up the fears created by this tech, asking BuzzFeed News, “What happens when anyone can make it appear as if anything has happened, regardless of whether or not it did?”
The implications of this technology are frightening. Consider, for example, that propagandists will now have a powerful new tool with which to virally undermine their targets with embarrassing or compromising 'videos'; moreover, those who are caught in all manner of malfeasance will, as the current president of the U.S. regularly does, be able to claim it is all "fake news."
Scientists are currently creating tools that can spot AI fakes, but at the moment, the best shield against this sort of misinformation is instilling everyone with a little more media savvy. If you see a provocative video, you should ask yourself: where does this come from? Have other outlets corroborated it? Does it even look real? In the case of AI-generated videos, you can usually see that they’re fake by telltale signs of distortion and blurring.
As always, critical thinking will be paramount. However, how many, no matter how fair and balanced they consider themselves to be, will be able to resist the natural urge to believe the worst about those whose views and practices are so diametrically opposed to their own?

Artificial Intelligence meets fake news: surely a marriage made in Hell.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Ball Is In Our Court

I am well past the age when I feel any real hope for the future of our species. Far too many of us are content to define our lives by the ease and conveniences afforded by technology, technology that is leaving us with an increasingly unstable environment and climate. And now, of course, we are beginning to see the effects, worldwide, of our self-indulgence. Hurricanes, tornadoes, unseasonable weather, fire and rain are but a foretaste of what is to come.

Nonetheless, like many others, I believe that we cannot abandon hope completely and must fight the good fight no matter its ultimate outcome. I read an article the other day which suggests a way that we can substantially reduce our collective carbon footprint. Unlike the ignoble lies told by people like Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau and, here in Ontario, Doug Ford, there may be a way to have our environmental cake while we more or less continue to consume as our prodigal lifestyles dictate.

Patrick Brown offers a partial solution to our woes:
Massive savings in carbon emissions are possible worldwide if governments adopt the highest energy efficiency standards for lighting and household appliances such as fridges, freezers and washing machines, researchers say.
Unlike the hot air Mr.Trudeau is happy to regularly release, this could go a long way toward the Paris agreement goal of keeping the global rise in temperatures as close as possible to the 1.5°C maximum world leaders agreed upon.
Many countries have already adopted higher energy efficiency standards, including the entire European Union (EU). But if the best standards were applied globally, more than 1,100 average-sized coal-powered generating plants, each producing about 600 MW, could be closed.

If low carbon electricity production were used to generate the remaining electricity needed, and fossil fuel plants were closed, then a reduction of 60% of all emissions from buildings would be possible by 2030, CAT [Climate Action Tracker]says. This is 5.2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, more than the EU’s entire current emissions.
Since we seem inextricably wedded to our convenience and comfort, this approach yields much and demands little. A good example is to be found in India, where efforts to boost the use of LED lights has led to dramatic reductions in energy use:
It meant at peak times that India needed 6,000 megawatts less electricity to satisfy demand than if ordinary bulbs had been used. The government was able to negotiate for better prices for mass orders of LEDs from the manufacturers, lowering prices and increasing jobs at the same time.
The trend to government intervention to cut energy use is catching on:
Other countries are also producing excellent results with different policies. In France lighting installations in non-residential buildings must be switched off at night, to reduce both energy waste and light pollution. The resulting energy savings are comparable to the annual electricity consumption of 750,000 households, lowering CO2 emissions by 250 kilotonnes and saving French businesses €200m in energy costs.

Professor Niklas Höhne of NewClimate Institute, one of the three members of the CAT consortium, said: “We found examples around the world where people are reaping the benefits by switching off lights in cities at night, switching to LEDs, smart lighting and smart metering, apps provided by energy companies to encourage customers to save energy or to use appliances at off-peak hours.”
As a species, we are very good at playing the victim, embracing a willful ignorance and helplessness, seeming to prefer that to an active participation in dealing with our self-made problems. It doesn't have to be that way.

The ball is now in our court.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Ahem, About That Second Amendment Thing

Clearly, this guy takes his rights very, very seriously, yet another reason to avoid the U.S. like the proverbial plague.

The Lie Deflector

This is a device critical thinkers probably don't need, but many others could benefit from. Simply click on the link within the box below to view the video:

Lie Deflector from MarkFiore on Vimeo.

On the other hand, we could dispense with such technology with this Spoiler Alert: You know Trump is lying when his lips move.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Last Gasps?

Some days, writing this blog is quite easy, as I only have to turn to the letters page of my newspaper to aggregate the well-considered thoughts of my fellow Canadians. Today is such a day.

To believe our Prime Minister, we can have our economic and environmental cake served upon the same plate. His fatuous assertions that pumping out more bitumen by twinning the Trans Mountain pipeline goes hand in hand with his climate change 'policy' is the stuff that will satisfy the untutored and the ideologues, but offers not even thin gruel to those prepared to open their eyes to our increasingly fraught world and engage in some critical thinking.

Today's Star letters are ample testament to the fact that some refuse to don the blinders that the federal government is so keen for the electorate to wear.

While I encourage you to read all of the letters online, here is but a sample:
Tim Harper has it right. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in a cul-de-sac of his own making. The social-permission requirement made sense when campaigning for office. So when Trudeau talked of “consultation,” it made sense.

To alter that promise in order to sell oil makes sense, except that it does not make environmental promises believable. Development doesn’t happen without side effects. So to invoke constitutional authority and say the federal government rules makes a mockery of “consultation.” Trudeau’s government is caught not in a cul-de-sac, but between a rock and a hard place. Or is it a political dead end?

The Liberals will lose seats in B.C. whatever they decide. If they go ahead and put coastal waters at risk, they will lose seats. When there is an almost inevitable oil spill, Liberals could be friendless in B.C. for a long, long time. They don’t have many real friends in Alberta and the phaseout of oilsands extraction is inevitable.

So why not create an environmentally friendly Liberal legacy now and say farewell to Texas pipeline companies?

To invoke the heavy hand of federal authority now will make a lot of enemies. Think of British Columbia and Quebec for starters and Canadians who care about global warming, too.

Bruce Rogers, Lindsay, Ont.

Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notely, what about your children? When they’re suffering from the effects of climate change, what will you say? “I’m sorry but, like John Turner, I had no choice?”

Canadians want investors for a sustainable country, not an oil-stained, disfigured landscape. It’s 2018. Isn’t it time for sustainable political leadership?

Barry Healey, Scarborough

In 25 years or so, if people in Canada and around the world are facing unstoppable species extinction, extreme weather events and flooding, widespread ocean acidification, mass displacement of people, epidemics of illness and disease, and an expanding civil war, we may have a hard time explaining to our children and grandchildren why we used taxpayer money to “rescue” an American company’s oilsands pipeline, despite wide opposition from Indigenous leaders, scientists and other citizens, and the fact that its construction undermined Canada’s international commitments to reduce greenhouse gases when it was still possible to avert catastrophe.

Perhaps we’ll just have to tell them that it was in the national interest, and leave it at that.

Michael Polanyi, Toronto

Thomas Walkom explains the Trans Mountain pipeline controversy very clearly. The hysteria around this project proves it is a last gasp of a dying industry. Unfortunately, the last gasp would involve more huge, expensive, damaging infrastructure, causing enormous environmental harm that Canadians would have to pay for, now and into the future. We have many difficult choices ahead as we change to a sustainable economy, but this choice is obvious: no new pipeline.

Martha Gould, North Bay, Ont.
If these engaged citizens are correct, perhaps the gasping you hear is not just those of a dying planet, but also a political party and government going the way of the dinosaurs.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Defining The National Interest

As the video included in yesterday's post shows, Justin Trudeau likes to defend the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline as in 'the national interest." The term itself is a contentious one, given its nebulous nature. For the Prime Minister, it seems to mean economic growth, moving Alberta's bitumen to port, and bolstering Rachel Notley's climate change initiatives.

As the following letter from a Toronto Star reader indicates, however, there is a more crucial definition that Mr. Trudeau and his fellow bitumen and pipeline enthusiasts are entirely dismissing, one that should take precedence:
PM’s pipeline woes of his own making, Harper, April 11

According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, B.C. Premier John Horgan should compromise because this pipeline is in the national interest. Why is that? He doesn’t say.

I see the national interest as one where all of us move in a planned and purposeful way toward an economy that does not depend on oil and gas. In that world view, giving oil companies breaks on environmental assessments or emissions rules or buying pipelines so they can move their oil is against the national interest. It is the interest of oil companies not to leave stranded assets. The national interest is to move forward into a low-carbon future in Canada and around the world.

Mr. Trudeau speaks out of both sides of his mouth. “Yes,” he says, “we will meet our Paris targets.” Then he approves drilling in Nova Scotia, refuses to sign on to an Arctic heavy-oil treaty and permits Alberta oil to triple production of a very inefficient, high-greenhouse-gas emissions product, and approves a pipeline without ever reviewing its climate impacts or demonstrating that bitumen can be cleaned up.

Meanwhile we have never reduced our emissions targets as a country and are not projected to meet those targets any time soon.

And how can he say he has consulted with First Nations when the B.C. Federation of Indian Chiefs is standing at the Watch Tower, committing civil disobedience, and getting arrested to make their voices heard? Yes, let’s act in the national interest. Let’s all of us move toward a low-carbon future in right relations with our first peoples.

Rev. Frances Deverell, Nanaimo, B.C.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

As The Mask Slips Away

My late father-in-law, a man of deep conviction and integrity, was fond of this saying: "Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor."

Although he did not originate the adage, he felt it firmly described the thinking of those who control the levers of power, our governments. And now that his mask is slipping away, it seems an apt description of Justin Trudeau's true sentiments and the policy decisions he is making.

As preliminary evidence, sauce as it were to the great corporate feast, consider his Canadian Infrastructure Bank scheme, about which I wrote last year. While its ostensible purpose is to raise private capital to fund various projects to rebuild our steadily decaying roads, bridges, etc., it can also serve as a neat little package of corporate welfare:
Federal investments doled out through the government’s new infrastructure financing agency may be used to ensure a financial return to private investors if a project fails to generate enough revenues, documents show.

What investors have recently been told — and what the finance minister was told late last year — is that if revenues fall short of estimates, federal investments through the bank would act as a revenue floor to help make a project commercially viable.
Experts say the wording in the documents suggests taxpayers will be asked to take on a bigger slice of the financial risk in a project to help private investors, a charge the government rejects.
All of that perhaps palls, however, now that Kinder Morgan has issued a May 31 ultimatum to the feds, threatening to suspend construction on the Trans Mountain Pipeline twinning project unless the impasse between the B.C. and federal government ends. As a remedy, a strong dose of socialism is now being considered to protect Trans Morgan's nervous shareholders:
Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the federal government will act on the Trans Mountain pipeline project in “short order,” sending the strongest signal yet that it will move to financially backstop the project to reduce the risks for its American-based backer.
[Rachel] Notley has already said her government is open to buying the Trans Mountain pipeline — meant to move Alberta oil to port near Vancouver for shipment overseas — to ensure the expansion goes ahead.

Morneau, who has been in touch with Kinder Morgan officials, said earlier in the day that Ottawa is “considering financial options” to ease those concerns. Speaking later, he wouldn’t provide specifics but said there was a need to “derisk” the project so it can proceed.
Significantly, but not surprisingly, the Finance Minister
framed the issue as an economic one, talking about the need to enhance opportunities and good jobs while saying nothing about the concerns around the environment or rights of Indigenous Peoples raised by the project.
As usual, his boss, Justin Trudeau, continues to speak out of both sides of his mouth, claiming his environmental vision is bound up with an economic one, insisting there is no contradiction between the two.

Mr. Trudeau likes to talk about what Canadians know and understand. I suspect he is speaking of those Canadians who go through life blithely and willfully unaware of the immense peril our world now faces thanks to climate change, not those of us who understand that a drastic reordering of our priorities is crucial if we are to survive what lies ahead.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

That Was Then; This Is Now

Funny about campaign promises. Most people take them with a large grain of salt, yet once in awhile, large segments of us are drawn in by the hope for a better day, hope fueled by an earnest politician who seems intent on upending the traditional shoddy, cynical and ultimately heart-breaking way of doing things that has become the default position of contemporary politics.

Such was the promise of Justin Trudeau.

But that was then, and this is now.

The Star's Tim Harper writes about the pipeline dilemma now facing Justin Trudeau, one, as I noted yesterday, is self-created:
For all the prime minister’s talk about how the economy and the environment go hand-in-hand, sometimes they become detached and action is needed, not a continuation of a Goldilocks not-too-hot, not-too-cold mantra that works as a sound bite, but not always as policy.

So here we are, a defining moment for the Trudeau government, with the clock ticking; a defining moment which Trudeau has largely brought upon himself.
The battle between Rachel Notley, desperate for a pipeline win if she is to have any chance at re-election, and B.C. Premier John Horgan, whose coalition with the Green Party will fall apart if he is not steadfast against the Kinder Morgan twinning, has grown increasingly acrimonious. Predictable, perhaps, but largely wrought by Mr. Trudeau himself:
It is important to remember how a campaigning Trudeau promised to deal with pipelines and other resource development compared to where he stood Tuesday.

On “social license” the Liberal platform read: “While governments grant permits for resource development, only communities can grant permission.”
Today, however, is a different story:
That was modified a year into the mandate with a more broad definition that dealt with consultation and dropped any reference to permission.
Another golden oldie from the Trudeau campaign trail:
...from the 2015 platform was a promise to Indigenous Canadians that they would be full partners on resource projects: “This will ensure on project reviews and assessments, the Crown is fully executing its consultation, accommodation and consent obligations, in accordance with its constitutional and international human rights obligations, including Aboriginal and treaty rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Words have consequences, and now Trudeau will have to wear that betrayal of the Indigenous people:
Trudeau is going to have to force an unpopular pipeline expansion by bulldozing it past a provincial government, Indigenous leaders and protesters.

Trudeau will expend much more than political capital. He will have his green bona fides shattered.
Justin Trudeau will hardly be the first politician to break his promises. However, given the great hope Canadians invested in his election, he can expect some long-lasting consequences to his betrayal of the public trust.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

That's Another Fine Mess He's Gotten Himself Into

In a post yesterday, The Mound offered a searing assessment of Justin Trudeau's abject failure on the climate-change file. Only the most ardent acolytes of the Prime Minister will fail to see that his soaring rhetoric has far outpaced his level of achievement. Says Mound:
Raising public awareness about climate change as needed to secure public support for carbon taxes only shines a spotlight on the hypocrisy of Trudeau's pipeline policy. You can't have people thinking too much about climate change when you're trying to ramp up the extraction, transmission and export of dangerous, toxin-riddled, environmentally devastating, high-carbon, ersatz petroleum. You simply cannot square that circle.
And Trudeau's dilemma is deepening as he is hoisted on the petard of his own pleasing rhetoric about social license, indigenous rights, etc., all of which some people, especially residents of British Columbia, have taken seriously, putting them on a collision course with both Alberta and the federal government.

Alberta's Rachel Notley is warning of an approaching constitutional crisis over B.C.s refusal to play ball with the twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline:
The lack of action followed Monday morning comments by Premier Rachel Notley that British Columbia’s actions to halt construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion aren’t “too far off” from a constitutional crisis.

“If the national interest is given over to the extremes on the left or the right, if the voices of the moderate majority of Canadians are forgotten, the reverberations of that will tear at the fabric of Confederation for many, many years to come,” Notley said.

In his determination to get the pipeline built, Trudeau has a panoply of unpalatable options, all of which would entail a huge political price. As the following clip states, he could suspend transfer payments to British Columbia, impose economic sanctions on the province, or, most draconian of all, invoke the Federal Emergencies Act, which would allow him to call a state of emergency in both B.C. and Alberta, enabling him to suspend provincial law, thus paving the way for the pipeline construction.

None of these options is desirable, but again, Trudeau has brought himself to this precipice by his love of his own public image and rhetoric. One thing is certain in my mind,whatever option he chooses: in 'going to the mats' for the petroleum industry, Justin Trudeau will be making abundantly transparent that he is little more than a servile enabler of the neoliberal agenda.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Kids Are Alright

You may note that in the title of this post, I chose the informal version of all right, lest there be any doubt about the ideology of many young people today. Hardly conservative in their propensities, it would seem that many of them are awaking to the potential for power that they have, as long as they are able to keep alive the surging outrage welling within them, the most recent catalyst, of course, being the Parkland shooting.

It would seem the survivors of that shooting are playing the long game in order to keep their mission for sensible gun laws alive. Here is their latest effort at deepening the momentum they have thus far achieved in raising crucial awareness that their country needs sane gun laws, the deep obstructionist efforts of the NRA and their supporters, including bought-and-paid-for corrupt politicians, notwithstanding.

Meanwhile, galvanized by the diseased leadership of Trump, and a sign that democracy is not entirely dead, a record number of women are running in the U.S. midterms.

Now, if we can only convince Canadians out of their complacency, maybe the least we can accomplish is strong turnouts in pending provincial and federal elections.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

This Is Hard To Watch

The following incident occurred in Toronto on February 18 of this year. It is difficult to watch, but I encourage you to do so, and use headphones so you can hear, not only the anguished cries of the pinioned Black youth, but also the response of the onlookers, likely the only bright spot in this whole sorry episode.

But first, a little background:
Part of the video of a violent takedown captured on YouTube shows 19-year-old John Doe crying desperately while pinned to the ground by three men in TTC fare inspector uniforms. “I’m hurting, I’m hurting,” and “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

When Toronto Police officers arrive, they swarm the scene, keeping him down and then haul him up to take him to the cruiser and handcuff him.

At one point there appear to be at least seven men piled on to him.

Such excessive force. Why? Nobody knows. He was unarmed. He was already pinned down by three grown men. He wasn’t in any position to run.
Was John Doe's 'offense' that he is Black?

The teen and his mother have launched a $3 million lawsuit against the Toronto Police Services Board, the Toronto Transit Commission, two unidentified police officers and three unidentified TTC fare inspectors.
The lawsuit alleges racial profiling, assault, unlawful detention and negligence among others.

John Doe, a student of paralegal studies also working as a food courier, was just another guy on the 512 St. Clair streetcar preparing to exit at Bathurst St. when he was grabbed.

“He was suddenly and without warning attacked and thrown to the ground by TTC fare inspectors despite crying for help, held there, not told what was happening,” said Hugh Scher, one of his lawyers.

There was never any indication that the fare hadn’t been paid. And he had paid, Scher said. Nor was he charged with any offence of TTC bylaw infraction [Emphasis mine].
For those who say he should have simply cooperated with the authorities, all I can ask is, "How would you have behaved had you been subjected to such an apparently unwarranted and Kafkaesque experience?

Friday, April 6, 2018

Lifeblood For A Moribund Democracy?

By any measure, I think it is safe to say that ours is not a healthy and vital democracy. One only has to look at election turnout statistics to see ready proof.
In the last two elections, barely half of Ontarians bothered to cast a ballot — an embarrassing 48 per cent voted in 2011, and a dispiriting 51 per cent turned out in 2014.
Federally, the last election saw increased turnout, but that was only due to the lofty but ultimately largely empty rhetoric of Justin Trudeau, who attracted the youth vote, a topic I will return to momentarily.

While the virus of demagoguery is most readily apparent in the United States, Canadians are hardly immune. One has only to look, for example, at the Toronto mayoralty of the late Rob Ford, the crack-smoking bad boy who many voters could not get enough of.

And of course now, in Ontario, many are predicting that his brother, Doug, will be the next premier, despite the fact that he will not allow media on his campaign bus and is skipping out on the first leaders' debate on April 11. His strategy seems to be to speak in generalities (finding new efficiencies - where, oh where, have we heard that one before?) promising everything to everyone, and at a very attractive cost - none. And on top of that, he promises to lower taxes.

What is the cure, or at least an effective treatment, for this rash of nonsense? Perhaps it lies in lowering the voting age to 16. Lance Copegog, one of those 16-year-olds, writes:
It is a shame that voters in Ontario do not cherish their democratic right to vote.

Liberal MPP Arthur Potts, who represents the Toronto riding of Beaches—East York, introduced a private members bill that proposes the voting age be lowered from 18 to 16 in provincial elections.
His arguments have a compelling quality as he looks at youth activism:
First Nations-led youth councils are holding the government to account on its promises to Indigenous people in Ontario, young activists involved in the Black Lives Matter movement are advocating for systemic change, and many others are making a difference in their communities.

Most young people do not deny that climate change is the most pressing issue of our time. The action that we take now will determine our very survival.
As well, Copegog takes encouragement from what young people are doing in the U.S.
The activism of the survivors of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting demonstrate that today’s young people are articulate, courageous, and passionate. Their activism saw them go head-to-head with the National Rifle Association and Senator Marco Rubio, a darling of the gun lobby.
I can see additional advantages to lowering the voting age. At 16, most are still in school, a wonderful venue to engage meaningfully on today's vital issues, promote discussion and foster some critical thinking amongst peers.

Voting at 16, whether through peer pressure or increased awareness, would likely further the chances of electoral participation as a lifelong habit.

Finally, such youth engagement might shame their indolent, disengaged parents into the same participation.

In his column today, Tim Harper offers sundry reasons for increased participation by young people who already have the right to vote, millenials:
They prefer government spending over balanced budgets (understood by Justin Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne), don’t believe corporations pay their fair share of taxes, don’t believe income inequality has been properly addressed and are more comfortable with big interventionist government.

They also want to see action on climate change, policies to lift people out of poverty and they back a more open immigration system.
Those very issues resonate with younger people as well. Theirs is a broken world that they will have to contend with far longer than someone of my generation will.

Why shouldn't they have a voice?

Thursday, April 5, 2018

He Talks A Lot

... but doesn't seem to say much.

Here is our Prime Minister on anti-Trump protests:

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Are Two Sellouts Pending?

He's loved of the distracted multitude,
multitude, who like not in their
judgement, but their eyes.

Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 3

As Claudius in the above states, there will always be those who suspend their deeper thinking when evaluating public figures, preferring to reflexively accept the public images the latter so carefully cultivate, often at the expense of some less attractive realities. Never has there been a more important time, however, for critical public vigilance.

For example, despite the soothing words of Justin Trudeau that his government will never accept a NAFTA agreement that is not in the best interests of Canadians, Thomas Walkom has some grave doubts amid reports that a deal is close:
In actual fact, Canada will be lucky to minimize its losses.

After having restructured its entire economy to become an integral part of the U.S. market, Canada has little appetite to walk away from even a diminished NAFTA.

I fear that the Liberal government’s brave talk about no deal being better than a bad deal is just that — talk.

Trump also needs a victory. He has called NAFTA the worst trade pact ever. He needs a deal that, to his supporters at least, plausibly seems better.

He must show that he has bested Canada and Mexico.
For example, Trump's
plan to bias government procurement in favour of U.S. companies, [is] blatantly detrimental to Canada.

There is a precedent for all of this. In January, the U.S. and South Korea began renegotiating a free trade deal that Trump claimed was unfair to the Americans. Last month, they reached an agreement in principle that gave the U.S. virtually everything it had demanded.

In return, South Korea was granted a permanent exemption from Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs — tariffs that never should have been imposed in the first place.
On another front, despite all the Trudeau talk about taking action on climate change, given the EPA decision to roll back vehicle fuel efficiency, environmentalists are wary of the pressure being put on our government to "go along to get along."
The auto industry wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to go along with U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to weaken fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. Environmentalists want Trudeau to refuse, immediately, and join forces with liberal American states.
Thus far the feds has been noncommittal on the matter, and Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna's office has said it will make a decision based on “careful considerations of environmental and economic impacts.”

It hardly sounds like she is on the side of the angels here, a suspicion that has prompted Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist for Greenpeace Canada, to observe that
“standing on the sidelines is standing with Trump” rather than with the march of history.
Stewart says it is time to take a stand.
Cutting auto emissions is a significant component of Trudeau’s plan to meet Canada’s target, under the Paris climate accord, of cutting emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. Canada is not close to being on track to hit the target, a report released last week showed.
Finally, those still besotted with the early promise the Trudeau government showed on issues crucial to our collective survival should take a few minutes to watch this recent 'performance' by Catherine McKenna:

The Russians have a saying: "Better a bitter truth than a sweet lie." Unless and until we are able to make that choice (and our time is running perilously short, cooing government reassurances notwithstanding) we can only expect more temporizing and political expedience from this and any other government.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A Thought For Today

“He was not of an age, but for all time!” - Ben Jonson

The above quote, written about William Shakespeare, is as true today as it was in Jonson's time.

I am currently reading a book about The Bard. Given the power of the unhinged evangelicals, the rise of Doug Ford in Ontario, and, of course, the madness in the Benighted States of America, the following sentence by Stephen Greenblatt resonated with me:

"Shakespeare was fascinated by the crazed ranting of those who hate modernity, despise learning and celebrate the virtue of ignorance."

Not much has changed in 400 years, eh?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Google And Android Phone Data Mining - A Guest Post

Commentator BM left a very useful analysis in response to my recent post on ways to protect online data. Here it is:

Extreme lack of privacy suspicion back in 2010 or so made me never sign up with Facetrash or Twatter. Thank goodness.

Got a new Android phone recently since I've never bought into Apple's jive talk. The old Samsung G4 croaked. A new G8 is $1300, an utter uselessness to me for the money. Got a Chinese phone from the carrier for $80, all aluminum case - makes the old S4 seem like trash.

Since I use Gmail, I turned off all the usual privacy traps, and all was well. Then, a week later, Google "upgraded" me, unasked, to Android 6 on ye olde wifi. Well, that reset all the permissions to ON. Unasked. Another hour to root through all lines, submenus etc. to turn them off again. Worse than before, because Android 6 has more built-in crud than Android 5.1.

Not content with that, two weeks later, Google delivered me an updated Assistant, unasked for. First I knew of it was a message telling me what my favourite way to work was! Being retired for five years, this was indeed a revelation. So another round of turning off permissions was needed.

But I was not thorough enough. As I prepared to comment here, the "comment as" box had my name staring back at me. So thanks for the alert. It has taken several hours to learn even more of the little cul-de-sacs Google has built in to trap the unwary. Some processes require pressing a Pause button for 5 seconds to opt out. No instructions, of course. It's trial and error. Thank you, Google. And when you're finally successful, a page pops up to advise you of the error of your ways, in the most mincing words imaginable. Squawk, we won't be able to send you directed searches based on your history, whine, you won't get the latest directed ads, blah, blah. So far as I'm concerned, Great.

Google makes you opt out rather than opt in. Bloody data pirates. Anyway, that's why I comment anonymously. Probably only cosmetic, no doubt we all are still tracked anyway, but I feel better.

Speaking of which, contemplating a new car. Vehicles have been a lifelong passion. Mine's 11 years old and has none of these new touchscreen data traps, but she's getting on. Don't ever plan to visit the US ever again. Not one reason to want to go. Got most roads in NS memorized, so navigation not required. Listen to CBC, but hey I'm supposed to consume boughten iTunes music. Need no electronic bells and whistles. Want a good suspension, good steering - driving is serious and I enjoy it. But I do realize that there is no opting out of location tracking on any new car, regardless. We're all stuck.

The car companies are now in the data-mining/flogging business too. Android Auto will latch onto my phone like a leech for targeted ads on the big car screen. I mean, how many bum fast food hamburgers can anyone swallow at one go? Or pizzas? Or dreadful Timmies coffee? The Brave New World of advertising and consumerism, with dope soon being legal to tranquilize us all, even as history is rewritten in 1984 fashion in other ways, something the Americans are already past masters at. I mean, who won WW1 and WW2? America. And who really believes in global warming, soil despoilation and running out of resources? Not Amerika. Under Dems or Elephantz.

Good thing I got to three score years and ten and enjoyed myself before I really rumbled the BS we get fed by the greedy elite every day. This world isn't destined for long, I'm afeared.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Pressure Builds

Following up on my post the other day, there is no sign that the pressure Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg has placed on Fox's Laura Ingraham is abating. Indeed, one wonders if she is now taking the same route that saw Bill O'Reilly's exit from the Fox News Network following a 'previously-scheduled vacation'.