Thursday, May 31, 2018

Nathan Cullen's Peerless Takedown Of The Hapless Justin Trudeau

Enjoy (or not, depending upon your political/philosophical/environmental orientations):

Meanwhile, Star letter-writers offer some much-needed reality checks about Trudeau's betrayal:
Your editorial highlights the political risks in the Justin Trudeau government’s decision to buy the Kinder Morgan pipeline, but there is also a major economic risk involved.

If the government had read the fine print of Kinder Morgan’s security filings, it would note that the company warned its investors last year about the threat posed by successful action on climate change, in response to a formal complaint from Greenpeace on inadequate disclosure of climate risk.

According to the filing, serious progress on achieving the Paris climate agreement’s decarbonization goals would reduce oil demand and thus oil companies might not be able to honour their contracts with Kinder Morgan or sign new ones.

So Ottawa has bought itself a pipeline that only succeeds economically if the Paris agreement fails. Quite the Faustian bargain.

Keith Stewart, Greenpeace Canada, Toronto

Not only is this pipeline in direct violation of the constitutional rights of Indigenous peoples, but the bottom line is there is no viable market for bitumen transported by tankers. It’s not a product the world wants to buy.

HSBC and other big players know this and they are divesting from Alberta’s difficult oil because it’s not a valuable product, and even they are saying loudly that they want to steer clear of the oilsands because of the heavy consequences to the environment and Indigenous rights.

It’s shocking to see Paris climate “rock star” Justin Trudeau showing his true colours.

David Quigg, Toronto

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

UPDATED: Call Him By His Real Name

I hope Justin Trudeau has a vivid imagination and total recall. That way, he can revisit the fall of 2015, depicted above, a time, you may remember, when he was exultant, having won his a majority government after posing as a man who was going to bring Canada into the 21st century. It was a time he fooled so many of us. With any luck, he will not do so again.

That the clown prince/neoliberal stooge's gambit in buying out the Trans Mountain pipeline is not going over well is evident on a number of fronts. Following are but a few illustrations of that fact:

Star letter writers offer this:
As an atmospheric physicist and an active climate-change researcher, I find the conduct of the Justin Trudeau government in this regard disgusting and appalling. If we are looking for a visionary leader who would lead us from a fossil-fuel-based (and environmentally destructive) economy to a sustainable and clean low-carbon economy in Canada, then Trudeau is not that person.

When Trudeau was elected, there was a sense of hope in doing our part as a nation to really start reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I have followed the United Nations’ COP meetings with a great deal of interest, and Canada promised achievable objectives in the Paris Agreement. These objectives do not seem achievable now.

Kaz Higuchi, environmental studies professor, York University, Toronto

I find it appalling that the government is using taxpayers’ money to benefit a corporation. This makes me realize how influential the corporations really are and how insignificant are the voices of Indigenous people and the thousands of others opposing this pipeline.

How can the government turn a blind eye to the harmful effects this pipeline may pose? Oil spills are an inevitable consequence.

I wish there were some mechanism to determine how I want my taxes used. I am definitely not paying them so a corporation can build an oil pipeline to endanger the environment of a province with some of the most beautiful coastlines in the country.

Sneha Singh, Mississauga

Pierre Berton’s The Last Spike captured a moment when the Canadian government was in the railroad- building business. Now, Ottawa has entered its pipeline era. Will, at some point, Berton’s book get a sequel, perhaps The Last Spill?

Ken Luckhardt, Etobicoke
Across the country, the sense of betrayal and incredulity at this asinine purchase was palpable:
“We are absolutely shocked and appalled that Canada is willingly investing taxpayers’ money in such a highly controversial fossil fuel expansion project,” said Grand Chief Stewart Philip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, in an emailed statement. “We will not stand down no matter who buys this ill-fated and exorbitantly priced pipeline.”

On Parliament Hill, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May called the purchase “an historic blunder with taxpayer dollars,” citing a document from the National Energy Board that says Kinder Morgan bought the existing pipeline from its previous owner for $550 million in 2007 — a far cry from what the Texas company will get by selling it to Ottawa, she said.

She also accused Trudeau’s government of writing a “blank cheque” for the pipeline’s construction costs, which Kinder Morgan has previously pegged at $7.4 billion.

“It seems completely insane,” May said. “I’m quite certain that this will go down as an epic financial, economic boondoggle.”
Environmental groups were equally unimpressed:
The Council of Canadians, meanwhile, attacked Ottawa’s purchase as a “Big Oil bailout” that would not remove obstacles to the pipeline expansion. Greenpeace, in its own statement, said Trudeau’s government has “signed up to captain the Titanic of tar sands oil pipelines, putting it on a collision course with its commitments to Indigenous rights and the Paris climate agreement.”
Columnist Gary Mason calls it a Faustian bargain:
Environmentalists who once applauded Mr. Trudeau and his enthusiastic embrace of the Paris climate targets feel deceived. Celebrity crusader Naomi Klein promised the PM on Twitter his decision would “haunt him” everywhere he travels now. He was called a climate fraud by influential activist Bill McKibben.
But the immediate and long-term political fallout is only part of Trudeau's problem:
The government’s chance of finding a private investor to buy the project before the end of summer is unlikely. The threat of lengthy, potentially violent protests and the impact that had on creating a reliable construction timetable is one of the reasons Kinder Morgan wanted out. Any new investor is going to wait until Ottawa gets most of the dirty work done, gets the project built through the most contentious areas of B.C., before feeling comfortable enough to take it on.
Clearly, if the feds ultimately succeed, the only happy campers will be the investors who buy it back from the government.

Thomas Walkom points out a flaw in the plan few want to acknowledge:
... the real weakness in Ottawa’s nationalization scheme is economic. The Trans Mountain expansion was conceived at a time when petroleum prices were hitting record highs and before shale oil had become an important source of energy.

In those heady days, it made some economic sense to build a pipeline devoted to developing Alberta’s high-cost oil sands for export. Now it makes less sense.
What’s more, as Alberta’s Parkland Institute points out, the Trans Mountain expansion was conceived at a time when there were fewer pipelines bringing tar-sands oil to market. Since then, the Keystone XL pipeline, which is meant to take heavy oil from Alberta to Texas, has been approved.
Educating oneself about important issues is a key responsibility of all citizens in a healthy democracy. To abdicate that responsibility is to encourage reckless, irresponsible government policy and action. Today, we reap the results.

However, for those informed on the issues, to say that Trudeau's name is mud is perhaps to date myself. How about updating it to bitumen?

UPDATE: In The Guardian, Bill McKibben says the only thing differentiating Donald Trump and Trudeau on climate change is that the former is not a hypocrite about his disdain for the environment. Considering the latter's lofty rhetoric, the analysis fits:
Trudeau says all the right things, over and over. He’s got no Scott Pruitts in his cabinet: everyone who works for him says the right things. Indeed, they specialize in getting others to say them too – it was Canadian diplomats, and the country’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna, who pushed at the Paris climate talks for a tougher-than-expected goal: holding the planet’s rise in temperature to 1.5C (2.7F).

But those words are meaningless if you keep digging up more carbon and selling it to people to burn, and that’s exactly what Trudeau is doing. He’s hard at work pushing for new pipelines through Canada and the US to carry yet more oil out of Alberta’s tar sands, which is one of the greatest climate disasters on the planet.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

UPDATED: Trudeau Betrays Canada And The World

If you know anything about the climate-change peril within which the world lives, you will see this announcement by Justin Trudeau and his cronies as nothing less than a betrayal of the entire world.
The federal Liberal government has agreed to buy the troubled Trans Mountain expansion project from Kinder Morgan to ensure the controversial expansion of an Alberta-to-B.C. crude oil pipeline gets built.

The price tag is less than the company’s estimated $7.4-billion projected cost but taxpayers will be on the hook for $4.5 billion according to details released by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr at a news conference Tuesday.

Ottawa will take over the expansion and the existing pipeline and assets in a deal that will see Kinder Morgan immediately begin construction. But Ottawa will immediately seek new buyers in the private sector and has promised to also extend insurance to them for any politically-motivated delays.
Even the right-wing is appalled by this obscene parody of government responsibility:
The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation condemned the move, saying it would saddle taxpayers with costs that should be borne by the private sector.

“This decision represents both a colossal failure of the Trudeau government to enforce the law of the land, and a massive, unnecessary financial burden on Canadian taxpayers,” the federation said in a statement.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May sees it for what it is:
“Kinder Morgan laughing all the way to the bank. KM gets $4.5 billion and walks away. Canada to raise money to build $7.4 billion project,” May said on Twitter.
Even the most ardent Liberal supporter must be starting to see the path this government is leading us down. It is one that culminates in greater debt and, more worrisome still, greater greenhouse gas emissions and despoliation of the B.C coast.

Hardly a legacy these renegades can ultimately be proud of.

UPDATE: If you watch even the first two minutes of Elizabeth May's response to the Trudeau betrayal, I think you will share my outrage.

The Second 'Thousand-Year' Storm In Two Years

Try telling the people of Ellicott City, Maryland, that climate change is a hoax.

The Washington Post, in a detailed analysis of this flood, has this to say about the role climate change played:
Climate change did not “cause” this thunderstorm complex.

However, climate change has probably altered the larger environment in which these small thunderstorms are embedded. Notably, the water vapor content of the atmosphere, as a whole, has increased and scientific studies have shown a statistically meaningful uptick in the frequency of extreme rain events over the eastern United States. Statistically, over the long term, these types of extreme floods are probably becoming more common, in areas that are normally rainy as a result of global warming.
Emerging patterns are undeniable, revealing climate-change deniers for the antediluvian fools they truly are.

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Few Impressions

I realize that Ontario's pending provincial election is likely less than riveting for those living outside the province; however, the fact that a demagogue like PC leader Doug Ford has been leading in the polls until recently should concern all of us.

As Canadians, we like to feel smug vis-à-vis the United States, saddled as it is with its choice of an imbecile for president. However, that smugness needs to be tempered both by the election of populist crack user Rob Ford, who was the mayor of Toronto, and the realization that brother Doug's robotic presentation of himself as "for the people" has yielded him quite a following. To ignore those realities does no one any service.

Last night's debate, featuring the leaders of all three major parties, was a study in contrasts. Both the NDP's Andrea Horwath and (outgoing?) Premier Kathleen Wynne acquitted themselves quite well (although I thought Horwath interrupted too frequently), displaying a poise and a depth of knowledge that one would hope for in a leader. On the other hand, Doug Ford relied on boilerplate promises to lower taxes and find efficiencies, at the same time 'guaranteeing that no one would lose their jobs.

And it got even better, as he
promised a 20-per-cent cut to the second-lowest income-tax bracket, an end to the province’s cap-and-trade system, and a 10-cent-per-litre cut to the gasoline tax.
Welcome to Magical Thinking 101.

To compound his amateurish bluster, Ford warned of dire consequences should the NDP form government:
“I travel around, I’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds of companies — they are terrified of the NDP coming in,” Ford told viewers during the raucous 90-minute televised debate.

“They’ve told me personally, ‘We will pack up and we will go down south in half a second.’ God forbid the NDP ever get in, they will destroy our province,” he said, predicting Horwath “would annihilate the middle class” and “bankrupt this province.”
To the thick-headed, this strategy (Hyperbole/Fearmongering 101) would surely strike fear and loathing of those godless socialists. To drive home his point about the perils of an NDP government, repetition being his forte, Ford Added,
“They will destroy our province, destroy our economy. That’s a fact..."
This has been but a brief reflection by one who has followed politics for many, many years. As a student of human nature, I find all elections fascinating, offering as they do a kind of Rorschach test of one's fellow citizens.

Elections help determine the kind of society we live in. For those who feel strongly (and everyone should) about such matters, their responsibility to cast a vote is undeniable. Otherwise, of course, you are letting someone else impose their vision.

Ah yes, the beauty of democracy.

For those who didn't see the debate and might want to dip into it, here it is in its entirety:

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Guest Post: A Response To Be Careful What You Wish For

As I indicated in my last post, I have been having problems with readers' comments. I have not been receiving them. I have found a workaround the situation; although I am still not being notified of them, I went into the dashboard and looked under Comments Awaiting Moderation, where I found several. The following is one of them, a response from BM to my post, Be Careful What You Wish For:

Walmart has been pulling off the same manoeuvre for years. Come into an area just outside town to get cheap real estate, ruin local businesses with cheap prices, employ people at minimum wage so that municipalities and state/provincial governments end up effectively having to provide top-ups - and the ruin is complete. Of everybody and everything.

Amazon merely does it on an even lower cost base. Get stupid local governments to bid (can you imagine the utter stupidity of anyone actually "paying" for an Amazom warehouse?), then running a military operation of having people running around filling orders with no breaks for no money. There are many descriptions online of the hell it is, from the UK and US. Gernany has no Walmarts because they insisted on work standards that Sam's boys could not tolerate - don't know about Amazon.

Still your average modern twit sails blindly to their doom blissfully unaware that hailing Uber sends money to California instead of local taxi drivers. Money gaily sent off to a central collection house instead of being spent locally,the only rationale being it's a bit cheaper for you personally upfront. Gradually, all these centralized businesses hollow out local economies. Then you pay for more welfare as taxi firms go bust. Enjoy your cheap ride! Disruptors, these firms call themselves. Spot on.

The whole thing is an extension of the offshoring of jobs to China. Now the offshoring is to send money to some app developer in a place far away who is feted as a business hero.

And so we blindly march to the destruction of our societies apparently saving a loonie at a time, until eventually nobody can afford anything because we all work crap jobs. The rich get incredibly richer and the plebs stand around wondering what hit them.

And people slave to develop apps that will let them hit the hackpot, screw everyone else.

Nobody ever claimed the average dude or dudette wandering down the street glued to their phone actually had reasoning power, after all. They might have a PhD, but they're still terminally stupid, because they simply do not bother to think, and say "hang on a minute!". No, saving a nickel now means they regard themselves as smart.

And Bezos laughs at hundreds of millions of dummies, collects their data as well as money, and becomes a de facto emperor.

I buy local, I use the post office. I would not pay a dime for an Amazon warehouse in land or subsidies. Let the predator pay his own way.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

UPDATED: Technical Problems

It has come to my attention via email that the comments function is not working properly. If you made a comment and I did not publish it, it is because I did not receive it. I understand that at least one other blog, Northern Reflections, is experiencing the same problem. I shall let you know when the issue is resolved.

In the interim, feel free to use the blogger contact form here to send along comments. Your anonymity, if you request it, I guarantee.

UPDATE: While I haven't found the source of the problem, I have found a workaround, so please feel free to start sending comments again.

The Power Of Real Communication

Friday, May 25, 2018

UPDATED: A True American Hero

Colin Kaepernick speaks a truth that, unfortunately, too many of his fellow Americans refuse to acknowledge.

UPDATE: Thanks to The Mound for the following which, I think you will agree, puts things into their proper perspective:

Careful What You Wish For

With so many cities, including Toronto, vying to become Amazon's second headquarters, they might be mindful of some basic truths about Jeff Bezos and his business practices:

Now what was that thing Jesus said about rich men, camels and eyes of needles?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Rediscovering Democracy

Since I became eligible to vote many years ago, I have participated in every federal, provincial and municipal election that has been called. Even though it has become something of a cliché, the assertion that voting is a sacred duty has never been far from my mind.

And yet, for all of that, up to a few months ago, I was seriously considering doing something I had never done before: going to the polling station and officially declining my ballot. In that contemplation, I felt a righteous justification.

Why did I consider that option? First of all, of course, the Progressive Conservatives were never a consideration. Just like those who are gun-shy about the NDP after Bob Rae's Ontario premiership, I have never forgiven nor forgotten the depredations of the Harris years, an era when government sought to pit citizen against citizen, stigmatizing people according to socio-economic status and drastically cutting funding for an array of programs, an experience from which we have never fully recovered. And of course, there was the bone-headed move by these self-proclaimed fiscal masters of selling a 99-year lease on the lucrative highway 407 for a mere pittance.

Kathleen Wynne's Liberals were off my radar, having betrayed all Ontarians by the majority sell-off of Hydro One, the publicly-owned power transmission utility. Her justification? To broaden ownership and raise cash for green infrastructure, all without raising taxes. Of course, the first billion dollars was used to eliminate the government's deficit. Currently the government receives about one-third of the revenue from Hydro One it was receiving before privatization, and estimates are for the loss of billions over the longer-term, billions that government can ill-afford to surrender.

So that left the NDP for me to consider, and for the longest time I discounted offering them my support. The last election was triggered by Andrea Horwath's greed for power, despite the fact that the party held the balance of power over a minority Liberal government. And Horwath ran a campaign where the term small businesses was uttered regularly to the exclusion, if memory serves me, of any reference to the working class or working folks (the latter term seeming to have become part of today's political nomenclature). The closer they thought they were to power, the more to the right they tilted, the same error Thomas Mulcair made in the last federal election.

So prospects for voting seemed dim. What changed my mind? It was this column by the Star's Martin Regg Cohn, a journalist for whom I have a great deal of regard. Written at the end of February, it was a piece lamenting the increasingly low turnout in Ontario elections, a trend he sees as a real threat to democracy:
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.

They were the worst showings by civic no-shows in our democratic history. And far worse turnouts than in any other provincial or federal election ever.

With the next election coming in roughly 100 days, Ontario’s democratic deficit is creating a crisis of confidence that no party can solve alone. No matter who wins on June 7, the worsening turnouts will prove a losing proposition for everyone — the politicians and the people.
This downward spiral undermines the very assumptions upon which democracy is based:
More than six in 10 Ontarians (62 per cent) believe that “the legitimacy of the government is called into question” if less than a majority of eligible votes are cast in a general election, according to the polling by Campaign Research.
I hope you will read Cohn's entire piece, plus other articles he has written within the past year on democracy. Simply go to the search function on The Star website and put in his name.

In closing, I cite his final sentence in the above-referenced article:
Democracy is an opportunity. Which is why a vote is a terrible thing to waste.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The "Perils" Of Socialism

If you have a few minutes, check out the following video. Enlightened, witty and amusing, its message will, of course, be lost on many citizens of the Benighted States of America, as well as those most peculiar denizens of that entity known as "Ford Nation."

Monday, May 21, 2018

UPDATED: What The Fossil Fuel Industry (And People Like Justin Trudeau) Want To Keep You In The Dark About

Methinks most of us can all use a bit of good news.

UPDATE: For an interesting answer to those who claim that renewable energy cannot be relied upon in all situations, take a look at this article.

Those Star Letter-Writers

They never disappoint. They can spot a shyster a mile away.

It’s sad that Doug Ford’s solution to the high cost of gas is to reduce the gas tax. A much better solution would be to incent people to not buy the largest, heaviest and most powerful SUV they can afford. When I switched from a turbo Volvo wagon to a Toyota hybrid, my gas bills dropped by 60 per cent. But what else could we expect from someone who bought his brother a Cadillac Escalade. It doesn’t get any less environmentally friendly than that.

Michael Yaffe, Toronto

Doug Ford’s policy on gasoline shows that he doesn’t care about the environment. Reducing the price of gasoline will only make air pollution worse, as people who are buying more gas-guzzling SUVs and pickup trucks will consume more fuel.

Rene Ebacher, Toronto

PC Leader Doug Ford claims to be upset with the excessive compensation being paid to board members and executives at Hydro One. However, he also vows to cut the corporate tax rate by 8.7 per cent. Who does he think will benefit from this corporate windfall? No doubt already highly paid corporate executives will receive a big slice of it. And who does he think will have to pay more to make up for the loss of tax revenue? No doubt many of the taxpayers he pretends to be looking out for. What a hypocrite.

Peter Bird, Toronto

... Contrary to Ms. Horwath’s posturing, the NDP and Liberals could, and should, find many points of agreement on a plan to govern if the opportunity presents itself. It is only being fair to the majority of Ontario voters to have confidence that such an outcome is indeed possible and would be chosen when and if the election results permit it.

Back in 1985, the Liberals and NDP agreed to a legislative accord when the Tories had the most seats but not a majority. Ontario was well served by this arrangement and it may well be needed again. The very notion and real possibility of a Doug Ford government should be sufficient reason for any progressive person to not pre-emptively and arbitrarily rule out this option.

Simon Rosenblum, Toronto

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Setting The Record Straight

Robert Reich is one of America's true heroes. He seems indefatigable in his efforts to educate the American public as a counter to the lies and distortions of Donald Trump. Given the prodigious challenges involved in bringing people toward the light, I have no idea where he gets either his resolve or his energy.

The following is but one example of his work:

Saturday, May 19, 2018

See Doug. See Doug Run.

Bullies, con artists and cowards all have something in common: they live in fear that they will be exposed for what they are - weak, manipulative people who try to mask their massive inadequacies through bluster, empty rhetoric and false bravado. That Doug Ford, leader of the Ontario PCs, seems to epitomize these traits is becoming increasingly evident to those who care to open their eyes rather than respond like the Pavlovian dogs his kind prefer.

How else to explain the muzzle that has apparently been placed on so many PC candidates in the run up to June 7?
More than 20 PC candidates have skipped debates since the beginning of the provincial election campaign, a trend that recalls similar absenteeism among federal Conservative candidates under Stephen Harper. Candidates from other Ontario parties, meanwhile, have been far more likely to show up.
Consider these few examples of candidate muzzling/cowardice:
Meredith Cartwright, the Toronto Centre candidate who hired actors to pose as Ford supporters at a leadership debate, was a no-show at an all-candidates’ meeting in Corktown on Tuesday that was attended by the Liberal, NDP and Green party candidates ... She has not spoken publicly since the crowd-for-hire controversy erupted.

PC candidates skipped four separate debates held this week in Scarborough, including Gary Ellis in Scarborough Southwest, who claimed a long-standing prior commitment; Sarah Mallo in East York; Christine Hogarth in Etobicoke-Lakeshore and Vijay Thanigasalam in Scarborough Rouge-Park, who cancelled the day of the event, according to an organizer.

Four out of five PC candidates did not participate in public debates held by the Brampton Board of Trade on May 11, and three of them cancelled on the same day.
What does party central have to say about these no-shows?
Ford spokesperson Melissa Lantsman declined to confirm or deny.

“We work with candidates to ensure they are effective in their voter outreach, be it phone calls, door knocking or debates,” she said.
If you would like a fuller sense that the PCs are fearful and in hiding, check out PressPrgress, which details 23 MIA PC candidates.

This kind of shielding of candidates from the voters is nothing new, of course. Along with limited access to the leader, it is the same cowardly tactic employed under Stephen Harper, whose contempt for the press was legendary.

It is a contempt that does not sit well with the tenets of democracy:
This is not how our parliamentary democracy is supposed to work, says Duff Conacher, director of Democracy Watch. “Any campaign that tries to control access and control the message is a campaign that is hurting the voters’ right to choose the person they really want to represent them,” he said.

Doug Ford wants you. He is, after all, for the people. Of course he is, as long as they are kept ignorant about anything that might challenge his overblown rhetoric and his increasingly tattered credibility.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Setting The Record Straight

In theory, this primer should cut through climate-change denialism. In practice, of course, it will do no such thing. Conspiracy theories, junk science and muddled thinking, after all, are so much easier to spout.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Your Neo-liberal Government At Work

Included in the Trudeau sellout is the following:
- Prepared to indemnify the project from any financial loss;

-Is willing to offer this financial security to any company who wants to build the pipeline, should Kinder Morgan back out;

-and, the financial backing must be fair, and beneficial to Canadians.

"If Kinder Morgan isn’t interested in building the project we think plenty of investors would be interested in taking on this project, especially knowing that the federal government believes it is in the best interest of Canadians and is willing to provide indemnity to make sure that it gets done," Morneau said, noting that he is “confident” an agreement will be made.
If you aren't outraged yet, I suggest you check your vital signs.

In Case You Were Wondering

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Can Anyone Imagine Such A Speech In Our House Of Commons?

In a similar vein, this seems an appropriate description of the atrocity:
GENEVA (Reuters) - Israel’s use of force against protesters at the Gaza border fence is akin to “an eye for an eyelash” and may amount to a war crime, Michael Lynk, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory said in a statement on Tuesday.

“This blatant excessive use of force by Israel – an eye for an eyelash – must end, and there must be true accountability for those in military and political command who have ordered or allowed this force to be once again employed at the Gaza fence,” said Lynk, an independent expert who reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Trudeau and the gang can whistle all they want past the graveyard that Gaza is quickly becoming, but his cowardly lack of leadership is being duly noted.

Monday, May 14, 2018

How Self-Aware Are We, Really?

My cynicism is never far from the surface, but during election campaigns, it is front and centre. For me, those are times in which my faith and belief in my fellow human beings are sorely tested. And believe me, I do not exclude myself in my darker deliberations about our nature.

For the past few days, I have been reflecting upon self-awareness, which evolutionary pathways defines as the following:
Self awareness basically describes a situation where the light of awareness is turned onto ourselves. While awareness is our ability to take note; self-awareness is our ability to take note of ourselves.

When we turn our awareness to shine on ourselves, we may become conscious of a great deal of internal activity. We may notice specific thoughts or thought patterns. We may notice particular emotions or flows of energy. We may awaken to physiological processes happening in our body such as heartbeat, heat, sweating. We may notice intuitions or gut feelings.
Awareness, on the other hand, is this:
Simply put, awareness is our capacity to notice things. We may be aware of the time or aware of a particular situation - we may notice that we are late or that someone is watching us. Being aware of such things means we have taken note of them.
All of which leads me to think that many of us are merely aware, a condition traditionally attributed to lower animal forms. The inability to reflect means there is no possibility of positive change. Only by being able to rise above ourselves and recognize others as important components of existence can anything substantive be accomplished.

Where is this leading to? How about a screed against that thing called "Ford Nation'? Touted by Doug Ford as 'for the people'or 'for the little guy.' they are people to whom the bromide of new efficiencies, tax cuts and better service appeal. They are people who, apparently caught in a solipsistic feedback loop, seek to impose their view of reality on all. How else to explain their rowdy support for people like PC London West candidate Andrew Lawton?
A longtime radio host and blogger whom Ford chose to be the Progressive Conservative candidate in London West, Lawton used his platforms from 2010 to 2015 in ways opponents say disparaged the disabled, homosexuals, Muslims and the mentally infirm, among others.
He now attributes those denigrations to mental illness.

As someone well-familiar with depression, I can tell you that mental illness is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, just as drunkenness is hardly the genesis for racist screeds.

Here are some of the things Lawton said when "he wasn't in his right mind."
-In 2015, Lawton responded to a poll that found homophobia was a concern for London’s gay community, writing on Facebook, “Number of sexual orientation-motivated hate crimes in Canada per year: 185. Number of HIV/AIDS infections from men (who) have sex with men in Canada per year: 1,450. Who is the real enemy?’

-Accused of mocking the deaf on his show in 2015, he tweeted, “I don’t think anyone impacted heard the segment.”

-In a 2010 podcast, when his guest, flame-throwing conservative Ann Coulter, said of censorship, “It’s sad to see ‘retard’ go, but at least we have ‘negro,’ ” Lawton laughed and said, “Yeah. Exactly.”

-A screen grab of an apparent Lawton tweet from October 2011: “An immigrant, a Muslim and a communist walk into a bar. The bartender says ‘Hello Mr. President’”

-A screen grab from an apparent Lawton tweet in November 2011: “I left the Anglican church when they made the decision to allow gay marriage.”

-A screen grab of a Lawton tweet in July 2011: “The official internet code for gay sex is ‘ENTER : ###’ (sound it out)”
There is yet another dandy of a Ford candidate running in Kanata-Carleton, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton:
According to her website, Fullerton is a doctor who stands for “values of responsibility, compassion, integrity and accountability.”

A look at her past writings provides some guidance regarding these values. A tweet in November 2015 pulled out a quote from a story on Islamic radicalism: “Usually it is not the first generation (of refugees or immigrants) that is the most dangerous, it’s the second.”

Before that was a tweet referencing Breitbart News exhorting people to watch a march by thousands of supporters of the anti-Islam group PEGIDA in Dresden, Germany.

Another tweet reads: “the ghetto.” And it goes on to define that as “home to almost 20,000 immigrants, overwhelmingly Muslim, almost half of them jobless.” This tweet, which appears to refer to the Rosengard housing scheme in Sweden, is taken out of context from a story in the Guardian five years prior about a Swedish backlash against immigration.

In others tweets, she rails against a “wear-a-hijab” day in Ottawa in 2016.
Not surprisingly, those endearing tweets by the good doctor no longer exist.

So, to end where I began, there are questions one can ask about voters who are attracted to such candidates:

Do they believe that by electing a Lawton or a Fullerton, they will be advancing anything other than hatred and racism? Are those the values that define them?

Do they believe that having such people in the legislature will somehow send gays scurrying back into the shadows, and that Muslims will be put on notice that they are under suspicion and surveillance and thus be recognized for the 'threat' they pose to all 'good Christians'?

Do they believe electing such miscreants will lead to a new world order that will reflect their 'values'?

Those are but a few questions one could ask of a benighted group of people who do not even seem to be making an effort to achieve true self-awareness.

Of course, to them, any criticism I or others make simply means we are part of the 'elites.' But then again, why would I care what they think?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Truth In Advertising

I don't know why, but I find something extraordinarily appealing about this campaign. The cynicism it has engendered, however, is sad.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

This Should Make Us Cringe

Yes, unfortunately this is the face of Canada too.

The woman identified by Lethbridge News Now as Kelly Pocha from Cranbrook, B.C., told the news site the men “were kind of talking to each other in their own language and then they all started laughing at me.”

“We were speaking in our own language,” Omerzai tells me. “Talking about ... playing video games. And some parts were funny, so we were laughing. This lady looked at us two or three times. My friend was sitting across from me. I did not see him glare at her. She thought we were talking about her and that’s how the whole thing exploded.”
Lethbridge News reports:
On his personal Facebook page, Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman writes, “I am embarrassed to learn that this incident happened in Lethbridge. We are working hard to address racism and bigotry but can not prevent ignorance and the hostile behaviour of individuals. Most Lethbridge citizens are proud of our reputation as a city that welcomes immigrants and refugees."

Dodge Chrysler in Cranbrook, B.C. has now posted a message to its site, indicating that Pocha is no longer employed there. Here is the statement in full:

"We have recently become aware of a disturbing video that involves one of our employees. We are deeply concerned about the content of this video and want all of our friends, families, colleagues, and customers to know that this behaviour does not reflect the values of Cranbrook Dodge in any way. We strive to be a welcoming and inclusive company with no room for hate or intolerance.

The employee in question has been terminated and we deeply apologize for her actions.
It is chastening but probably ultimately good to be periodically reminded that we, as Canadians, shouldn't be so smug when we decry racism to the south of us, eh?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Much To Scream About

Edvard Munch had it right:

Toronto Star letter-writers tell us why:
Tues., May 8, 2018
Earth’s carbon dioxide levels reach highest point in 800,000 years, May 5

The front page of the Sunday Star includes a large colour photo of the Raptors game and an article on left-handed hitters in baseball. It’s not until page four that we learn of Earth’s CO2 levels reaching a historic high. Is there really no one at the Star who understands the extent of the impending disaster facing global human civilization caused by the war against the biosphere in general, and climate change in particular? How might the public’s consciousness change if this were front-page news every day of the week, every month and every year?

Raphael Vigod, Toronto

If you are sure climate change has already begun, as I am, then you know how deep the denial of vested interests goes. Their denial is more about money probably than smarts, I bet. But they are playing with fire nonetheless. If Greenland were to melt the oceans would rise 20 feet and even worse if Antarctica were to melt ocean levels would rise another 200 feet. This would be unconscionable and simply cannot be allowed to happen in a logical world. The vested interests will not let go of their entrenched capitalist views. Even the oil companies such as Exxon and BP are currently being sued for rising sea levels. It is too late to change the trend toward CO2-caused climate instability, but that does not mean we cannot turn things around before the big melt.
Greg Prince, Toronto

Sunday, May 6, 2018

A Damning Documentary

Active Measures is the name of a new documentary about Donald Trump and his ties to the Russian mob. It is also a term used to describe a series of covert measures (Twitter examples of which you can find here) Russia uses to influence global policies. According to documentary-film maker Jack Bryan, Trump was the perfect vehicle for the latter.

Active Measures shows how foreign investments made by Russian oligarchs bolster the Kremlin's ambitions to exert influence in the west. The key is money laundering — the export of Russian wealth with the knowledge and approval of Putin.
In an interview with Day 6's Brent Bambury, which includes a podcast, Jack Bryan says that Russian money-laundering efforts with Trump go back to at least 1985:
"He sells three condos to a man named David Bogatin, who's a Russian mobster," Bryan says. "This is in Trump Tower. And the reason they did Trump Tower is that it was the second building in New York where a shell company could purchase a condominium. And so it makes it much more easy to launder dirty money."
When the fortunes of the self-described real-estate genius begin to falter, the Russians go for the kill:
"Once he loses out in Atlantic City, once he can't get a loan from a bank, that's when the Russian mafia says: 'We have an opportunity here,'" says Bryan.

That's when Trump becomes less of a partner for Russian mobsters and more of a mark.

Bryan's film alleges that Trump needed Russian mob money to reinvent himself after his disastrous string of bankruptcies. Without it, the film alleges, he would never have won the presidency.

"The Russians saved him. They rescued him. He would not have gotten back in business without them," journalist Craig Unger says in the film.
Essentially, as revealed in the following, the Russian mob is an arm of the Russian government:

Trump's bankruptcies multiplied; the Russians were presented with an unparalleled opportunity, and Bayrock Group moved into Trump Tower:
"Bayrock Group is a Russian real estate firm. The manager was this guy Felix Sater, and he is very connected to the Russian mafia," Bryan says.

Sater, a convicted felon, also has ties to Trump's recently fired attorney, Michael Cohen. Bryan says Cohen entered the Trump organization at the same time as Bayrock.

"Cohen is childhood friends with Felix Sater. They went on their first date together," Bryan says. "They did a lot of business together."

Bayrock operated from offices two floors below Trump's and partnered with him on a wide variety of real estate deals from 2002 to 2011. Bryan says Bayrock likely didn't see Trump as a political player or a potential president. They saw him as a shield.

"I think, at that point, they're seeing him as: he's a really famous guy and it's great cover because nobody's going to question a lot of money going into the Trump organization. And they knew that he needed the money. And also they knew he's really litigious. And so it would be really hard to go after him. And I think that he just became this sort of perfect place to stash money."
Through this period, Sater remained in contact with his old friend Michael Cohen. A series of emails between the two, written during the campaign, appeared last year in the New York Times.

The FBI raided Michael Cohen's office and home on April 9th. Bryan says it could mark turning point in the investigation of the president.
Al Capone was ultimately imprisoned due to tax evasion.The noose around Trump is tightening, and he may well go down, not for campaign collusion with the Russians, but for the more prosaic crime of money laundering.

And given what he knows, Michael Cohen should be very, very careful of what he eats and drinks well into the future.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Will We Ignore The Evidence Until The End?

Yesterday, Southern Ontario saw some pretty wild weather, with winds reaching 110 km per hour. Power outages were widespread, trees were felled at an alarming rate, Pearson Airport had to shut down, and at least two people lost their lives. I have not yet checked my roof for damage.

Meanwhile, in New Brunswick, flooding continues.

I do wonder, as these events become increasingly frequent, and it dawns on even the dimmest among us that we are screwed, how people will react. Will some continue to party like there is no tomorrow? (In that, their predictive capacity will likely be proven right.) Will others fall on their knees, seeking a deus ex machina deliverance from their tribulations? Will some get angry and ask why no one did anything to prevent this? Or will some look in the mirror and see a rueful but knowing image staring back at them?

I fear that far too soon, we will know the answers.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Aerial Porcine Presence Reported

Must be true, since Fox is now criticizing Trump:

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Can A Giant Ferris Wheel (Or Something Even More Grand) Be Far Behind?

These must be heady times indeed for those visionaries amongst us who, when they look at hectares upon hectares of greenspace, farmland, etc. see massive value-added opportunities for another kind of green, the kind salivated over by developers. One man, the putative next premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, is leading the charge:

As revealed in the above, Dougie is taking his direction from some of the country's biggest developers, the ones who see little value in preserving farmland, despite its necessity given the wild gyrations climate change is already imposing on food production everywhere. Cash in the hand, it would seem, trumps stewardship of the land.

As reported in The Star, Ford
said the 800,000-hectare swath of environmentally sensitive and agricultural land known as the Greenbelt is “just farmer fields.”

“It’s right beside a community. We need to open that up and create a larger supply,” he said, noting that will lead to “price drops” in housing in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
Note how the demagogic leader of the Progressive Conservative Party is couching his plan in the usual cant of his ilk: it is for the people and will lower housing costs.
“I support the Greenbelt in a big way. Anything we may look at to reduce housing costs — because everyone knows housing costs (are) through the roof and there’s no more property available to build housing in Toronto or the GTA — it will be replaced,” he said.

“Anything that we will look at on the Greenbelt will be replaced, so there will still be an equal amount of Greenbelt.”

It was unclear how Ford could expand the Greenbelt if the preserved land is paved over for development.
Details, mere details.

Ford's logic doesn't fly upon closer scrutiny:
Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, said “the Greenbelt does not constrain housing supply or cause high house prices.”

“Municipal data shows that there is enough land available to provide for housing development within existing Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area urban boundaries until 2031,” said Gray.

“There are also abundant lands outside of towns and cities that are not within the Greenbelt that could be available for expansion after that date.”
Ontario Housing Minister recalls his time on Toronto city council when Ford had another 'grand idea':
as a city councillor when his late brother Rob Ford was mayor, the Tory leader wanted to redevelop Toronto’s port lands and build a massive Ferris wheel.
Now that he is poised to become the next premier, perhaps Mr. Ford will dare to dream even bigger:

All of which serves to remind me of something else: democracy is a fine system of government, as long as the people are paying attention to something more than the rambling, disingenuous rhetoric of hucksters.