Monday, August 19, 2019

A Journal's Sad Decline

Readers of this blog will probably know that I am a big supporter of newspapers. In my view, they are the best bulwark against the ignorance that seems so prominent in Western society today. As a subscriber to The Toronto Star and a financial contributor to The Guardian, it is fair to say that newspapers have been a daily part of my life for a long time.

Having been born and raised in Hamilton, the newspaper of record when I was growing up was The Hamilton Spectator which, for the longest time, was an afternoon journal my family eagerly consumed after school and after work. It had a proud and long history in the Steel City, bringing to our doors both local and national news of note. Few homes went without it.

Now part of the Torstar chain, it is a paper I only buy on Saturdays. as I am addicted to the large weekly and the large New Your Times crossword puzzles contained therein. It is thanks to these once-a-week purchases that I have noticed the journal's sad decline. Not only does it rely increasingly on content from the Toronto Star, but also, it seems, on incendiary letters that, in my view, no responsible paper would publish, reliant as they tend to be on ad hominems and unsubstantiated assertions.

I offer the following as sad example of what may be a misguided attempt to increase circulation:
Obama, not Trump, was the great evil

As America's first black president, it was hoped Barack Obama would end the racial divide and bring unity to the country. Instead, the United States is more polarized than ever. He was a narcissist who wanted to change America. Everything about him was phoney. He was a demagogue whose speeches were high on rhetoric and empty promises. His actions divided the country and fanned the flames of racism and anti-Semitism. Don't look at what Obama said or how he said it. His actions belie his words. Democrats calling Trump Hitler and his supporters Nazis demonize half of Americans for the simple reason they don't support their insane leftist policies. Having a different political opinion shouldn't make you a target for verbal abuse or physical assault.

Is that what Obama meant when he said he wanted to "fundamentally transform the United States of America"? I guess he did and the result is not pretty.

Harold Pomerantz, Dundas

Blame the left, not Trump

Henry Giroux writes that, "Under the presidency of Donald Trump, the nightmare drumbeat of a fascist and racist tinged politics is getting louder and more consistent." Yes, except the drumbeat he cites is coming from the left, as their efforts to unseat the president become increasingly unhinged.

How can a man in the glare of publicity for decades suddenly be a white supremacist? How can there be a Nazi in the White House who's celebrated in Israel and has a half-Jewish family? How can Trump be uniquely evil if it's necessary to distort his actions and policies in order to show it? How can the Russia collusion stuff all be true, and then forgotten?

Get a grip, everyone. If Trump had run as a Democrat and still won the presidency, we'd be getting on with our lives.

Stuart Laughton, Burlington

Hero Trump protecting North America

The Spectator's recent columnist from the American Civil Liberties Union is spewing fake news. Chris Rickerd falsely stated that President Trump is anti immigration. Trump is not anti-immigration because America continues to accept over one million legal immigrants every year. Trump is against open borders. Trump isn't for illegal immigration, he is anti-illegals.


North America is the world's lifeboat and it must not be swamped. When we think about immigration we should ask ourselves, "Were the sailors who manned the Titanic's lifeboats racists because they didn't risk losing their survivors by going back for more survivors?" President Trump is only protecting Americans from illegal activities in order to preserve the Union.

George Rooney, Hamilton
It is beyond sad when a once-respected newspaper chooses to pander to shrill, inflammatory, populist but essentially empty rhetoric. Yellow journalism has no place in any responsible journal.

Friday, August 16, 2019

A Thousand Words ....


Because the political reactions from the right and the left are so tiresomely predictable, I thought I would offer a few examples from one of the so-called progressive groups that I monitor, thereby sparing those so inclined to label me for my refusal to bow before Trudeau and his sham liberalism. Out of respect for the privacy of those who post their comments within a closed forum, I leave out both source and identities. From a CBC story on Jane Philpott's reaction to the Ethic's Commissioner's report on the SNC-Lavalin scandal that I posted to the group come the following:
Another Schmeer campaign. I find it interesting that this reporting surfaces as Schmeer drops like a rock in Ontario.

Poor irrelevant Philpott.... lololol

a Pity she is still with the smear campaigners! !!

JP knows very well that JWR twisted her truth. JWR spoke to Campbell & that was the only former AG that JWR admitted to speaking to about the SNC case. Campbell did not see the info on the case, she went only by what JWR told her. Mulroney had something different than Campbell to say. The PM wanted JWR to bring an expert in to work on the case with JWR & to give advice & JWR refused to do that, so without another insight on the case, The PM did not feel that JWR's decision was the right way to go. JT did not interfere in any way, he just wanted JWR to fully do her job & use every tool that was available to her. Then there is the important information about the SNC case that JWR purposely with held from the PMO. Why is that not mentioned & the case files on JWR desk that had been sitting on her desks for months. The poor man who was in prison & finally found innocent & had to stay in prison for almost a year waiting for JWR to have him released. David the AG now had the man released with in 2 weeks after David took the AG position. There is much more & JP knows it all as well as JWR. Nope, if JWR had of been a man in the AG position, he would of been fired a lot sooner. JWR blew it her self, she let the power go to her head just like she is doing now. That alone will take her down again.

What about investigating Mr Andy Smear`s visit to Lavalin`s HQ ! What was the name of Harper`s man on the Lavalin Board of Directors!
Reacting to a story on the actual report by the Commissioner, some of the following illustrate the obdurate, uncritical support Trudeau commands from extreme partisans:
Enjoy PM Scheer.
Hillary's emails don't matter now anymore, do they?
I have sent this happen too many times with one single commissioner (who could be easily influenced by outside forces) bring down a government.

As much as it does suck, it is still better than the über-corrupt alternative, the Conservatives. Heck, in an interview on Canadaland (either Oppo or Commons) even Jodie Wilson Raybould was on the record saying she hopes Trudeau wins
In response, I wrote,
Rather than saying the Liberals are the best we've got, it is time for all Canadians to demand better government. Defending Trudeau as the least odious choice does nothing for the cause of good government.
This was followed by, for what is worse advances the cause of bad government.

... but you don't have to vote for the tories, we don't live in a two party system.
And it goes on and on, including the usual dismissal of Trudeau criticism as coming from 'the haters.'

All of this is as utterly predictable as it is dispiriting. Funny, isn't it, how partisanship on either poles of the political spectrum seems to require the suspension of critical thinking skills that we need now more than ever, all of which leaves me with little hope that we will ever see any improvement in a political landscape currently populated by hacks, Pavlovian loyalties, and a paucity of any real cogitation.

Now where have I seen this before?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

UPDATED: Patently Ridiculous

That is my assessment of our faux Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, in her latest political statement in answer to the question of whether or not Canada should ban the export of our plastic waste:
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says she has asked her department to look at what else Canada can do to reduce the amount of Canadian garbage that is ending up overseas.

As recently as Aug. 1, McKenna’s officials dismissed the idea of banning plastic waste exports entirely, fearing such a move could be economically harmful to countries with recycling industries that rely on the material. [Italics mine.]

Canada pointed to Australia, New Zealand and Japan as countries with similar policies.

But last week, Australia’s federal and state governments came together to start planning for an eventual ban of plastic waste exports.
While some might be fooled by McKenna's expressions of concern for jobs in other countries, others are not:
Kathleen Ruff, founder of the online advocacy campaign, wants Canada to agree to stop shipping plastic waste out of the country. She has been critical of the federal Liberals for refusing to agree to amend the Basel Convention to stop plastic waste exports. The convention is an international agreement to prevent the world’s wealthiest nations from dumping hazardous waste on the developing world.
Ruff said she was happy to hear McKenna say there was room to do more — and suspects the Oct. 21 federal election may have something to do with it.
Politics, indeed. I think I would have more respect for McKenna if she took the almost unheard of route of speaking honestly to the public and state that a ban of plastic exports would require the elimination of a wide array of single-use products that Canadians are addicted to, ranging from plastic water bottles to bubble wrap to takeout containers to coffee cups (lined with plastic). Such a move would take real courage and vision, but the initial public backlash might be politically costly.

Instead, we have a visionless shill masquerading as the Environment and Climate Change Minister taking faux pride in the fact that we will ban plastic straws in another year or two.

In closing, it is useful to remind ourselves that we are all complicit in this minister's posturing:
Canadians are among the biggest producers of waste in the world, churning out as much as two kilograms per person every day.
Not a pretty picture

UPDATE: Now here is something we should all find sobering about plastic pollution:
Abundant levels of microplastic pollution have been found in snow from the Arctic to the Alps, according to a study that has prompted scientists to warn of significant contamination of the atmosphere and demand urgent research into the potential health impacts on people.

Snow captures particles from the air as it falls and samples from ice floes on the ocean between Greenland and Svalbard contained an average of 1,760 microplastic particles per litre, the research found. Even more – 24,600 per litre on average – were found at European locations. The work shows transport by winds is a key factor in microplastics contamination across the globe.

The scientists called for research on the effect of airborne microplastics on human health, pointing to an earlier study that found the particles in cancerous human lung tissue.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Eating Ourselves To Death

If you want to read a comprehensive report about another dire crisis humanity is facing, be sure to check out this post from the Mound.

There is something of a solution, but it is one most will just ignore. Here is the Coles Notes version:

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Will Hysteria Or Rationality Prevail This Fall?

As we wind ou way through the dog days of summer, it is a truism that no one will pay attention to politics and the upcoming election until after Labour Day. That may well be, but the Green Party is seeking to allay fears that its climate action plan would result in massive job loss for those working in fossil-fuel industries.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has unveiled a multi-pronged plan to help workers in the gas and oil sector transition to a renewable energy economy, working to allay fears that her climate action plan would bleed jobs as she ramps up pre-election campaign efforts.

The Green worker transition plan, which includes skills retraining programs and massive retrofit and cleanup projects designed to create employment, fleshes out details from the Green Party's climate action plan called Mission: Possible, that was released in May.
A canny move in anticipation of the fear-mongering about the Greens that will inevitably increase as their momentum in the polls grows, May wants to spread the message that there will be plenty of work for those who will be displaced as we decarbonize. Her platform includes
- Investing in retraining and apprenticeship programs to refocus the skills of industrial trade workers for jobs in the renewable energy sector.
- Start[ing] a massive cleanup of "orphaned" oil wells; some of which can be transformed to produce geothermal energy.
- Creat[ing] a national program to retrofit all buildings to optimum energy efficiency.
May said the party's plan for retrofitting buildings would create four million jobs for tradespeople such as carpenters, electricians and plumbers, and said there is an "immense economic opportunity" in moving to green jobs.

"People may think when we talk about climate emergency that we're hoping to have people be afraid. People are already afraid. We want to give them hope and the tools to know that their future is secure."
While rabidly partisan 'progressives' will no doubt continue advocating a surrender to 'group-think', insisting that a vote for anyone but Trudeau is a vote for Scheer, it is to be hoped that independent, critical thinkers will base their voting decisions on more measured, less hysterical grounds.

Time will tell.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Only The Beginning

While the average cossetted North American may feel smug about the following, since the water shortages discussed seem far, far away, they are the stuff that social unrest, rioting, regime change and mass migrations are made of:
Countries that are home to one-fourth of Earth’s population face an increasingly urgent risk: The prospect of running out of water.

From India to Iran to Botswana, 17 countries around the world are currently under extremely high water stress, meaning they are using almost all the water they have, according to new World Resources Institute data published Tuesday.
Greatly exacerbated by climate change, floods and droughts are becoming more volatile:
Water-stressed places are sometimes cursed by two extremes. São Paulo was ravaged by floods a year after its taps nearly ran dry. Chennai suffered fatal floods four years ago, and now its reservoirs are almost empty.
Unfortunately, the short-term solution many countries have adopted, tapping deep into their aquifers, only promises a deferment of the crisis:
Mexico’s capital, Mexico City, is drawing groundwater so fast that the city is literally sinking. Dhaka, Bangladesh, relies so heavily on its groundwater for both its residents and its water-guzzling garment factories that it now draws water from aquifers hundreds of feet deep. Chennai’s thirsty residents, accustomed to relying on groundwater for years, are now finding there’s none left. Across India and Pakistan, farmers are draining aquifers to grow water-intensive crops like cotton and rice.
Are there any solutions? Not really. officials can plug leaks in the water distribution system. Wastewater can be recycled. Rain can be harvested and saved for lean times: lakes and wetlands can be cleaned up and old wells can be restored. And, farmers can switch from water-intensive crops, like rice, and instead grow less-thirsty crops like millet.
Given the world's ever-increasing population, the quickening pace of climate change and humans' reluctance to alter their profligate ways, it is a safe bet that things will get worse. Clearly, this is only the beginning of the horrors that await the planet.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Global Population Gets Greedier By The Day

That is the opening line in the following report that deals with Earth Overshoot Day, the day our species uses up the Earth's finite resources that should take a year to use. As my friend Mound often says, the climate-change disaster rapidly bearing down on us is but one part of a trifecta, the others being overpopulation and overuse of said resources. Our rapaciousness will be the death of us all, including many innocent non-human species.

Start the following at the 12:20 mark:

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Be Very Afraid

I remember in 1975 seeing the film Jaws. Like most people, it terrified me, so much so that it was many year before I got up the courage to go into the ocean.

Perhaps it is time for a re-release of the film, given that warming waters due to climate change are increasing the chance that those venturing into the waters off the eastern seaboard could fall victim to the fierce marine predators.

The message? Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Sadly, all of this is yet another sign of the unfolding ecological collapse that the world's leaders will continue to ignore.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

But Is Anyone Listening?

The Star has been running a series on climate change that I have read with some interest, offering as it does a good and extensive primer on the peril we face. Ultimately however, it fails, especially in the last part which talks about what we can do to combat it.

There really is only one solution, which letter writer Norm Beach of Toronto articulates. However, one has to ask a fundamental question: Is anyone in a position of power listening?
The Star’s series on our climate emergency notes that, despite Canada’s small population, we are among the top 10 biggest greenhouse gas emitters in the world. It’s important to add another inconvenient truth: Our emissions on a per-person basis are more than 20 tonnes annually, the highest of these ten largest-emitting countries, three times the G20 average and 20 times that of Bangladesh.

The good news: Our carbon footprint is getting smaller. The bad news: We’re not doing enough to avert global disaster.

If we keep on electing politicians dedicated to preserving market share for fossil fuels, our flag will get as much international respect as an oil-soaked rag and our children will inherit a devastated planet. Years ago, the Pogo cartoon put it best: “We have met the enemy … and he is us.” Canada, it’s time to get our heads out of the sand, stop squandering our hard-earned reputation, mobilize for the greater good and reclaim our right to be proud of our country.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Time For a Pre-Election Climate-Change Debate

Millenials, and those who follow them, are rightfully growing increasingly concerned about climate change. Thanks to the gift of mortality, it is unlikely that my cohort will be around to deal with most of the civil unrest, food shortages, skyrocketing prices, coastal flooding and the hordes of people fleeing their low-lying nations seeking sanctuary on our shores, but they will be.
Dozens of people rallied at CBC stations in Whitehorse and Yellowknife, among other Canadian communities, to demand the public broadcaster host a federal leaders' debate on climate change and a proposed Green New Deal.

"There's lots of questions to ask our federal leaders, and I think that this debate is the perfect opportunity to ask those hard questions and get those hard answers," said Braden Lamoureux, the organizer of the Whitehorse rally.

"Everybody deserves to know which of our leaders has a strategic plan to tackle this climate crisis."
Their concern is proving to be contagious.

A new poll finds that a majority of Canadians
want the government to take action to address climate change, even if the economy suffers....

...61 per cent of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement that it’s more important for the government to solve the issue of climate change even if that means that the economy suffers. That number was even higher in Quebec (76.8 per cent), Atlantic Canada (67.3) and B.C. (62), and among women (66.1), 18-35 year olds (64.4) and those aged 65 or older (64).
Other numbers from the poll are equally telling:
Over 85 per cent of respondents agreed that private companies should have to pay to pollute, including 69.1 per cent who strongly agreed. Support was highest in Quebec (89.1 per cent) and lowest in Alberta, though at 75.2 per cent agreeing, opposition to the concept is still rather marginal.

Also, just under 68 per cent of respondents agreed that theres’s a collective moral duty to future generations to not destroy the environment further, even if it means paying more taxes in the short term. As with the other responses, support was highest in Quebec (70.2 per cent), above the national average in B.C. (71.5) and Ontario (69.9), and lowest in Alberta (53).
Will any of this change the disastrous trajectory we are on? I doubt it, unless the major party leaders do agree to a separae debate on climate change during the campaign. This, of course, is highly unlikely, in that the Greens' Elizabeth May would without a doubt mop the floor with people like Trudeau and Scheer.

Nonetheless, it is a worthy pursuit, and for the the sake of their futures, I hope the young succeed in their efforts.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

2019: What A Year So Far

With the Arctic now on fire, and the pace of climate change accelerating rapidly, even the dimmest or most ideologically bent amongst us must realize the peril we are in, and yet, remarkably, nothing seems to move us to do anything beyond giving lip service to the crisis. What a species we are, eh?
Wildfires are raging across the Arctic as warm, dry conditions persist across the region. Satellite images have revealed wildfires burning in Alaska, Greenland and throughout Siberia.

Whereas an Arctic forest fire typically lasts just a few hours or days, peat fires, which burn deep into the ground, can last weeks.

Peat also stores large amounts of carbon. As the Arctic's fires continue to burn, record amounts of CO2 are being released into the atmosphere.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Is Paris Burning?

The title question of a famous 1966 movie about the liberation of Paris from the Nazis is also an apt one to ask about the contemporary Parisian city, given the heat dome that has settled over a wide swath of Europe. As the following report (start at the 12:20 mark) makes clear, many are suffering, except for an American woman, who exults in the opportunity that climate change is offering. A good exemplar of the heedlessness of Americans, isn't she? Or perhaps a testament to their 'can-do' attitude, making lemonade out of the lemons Mother Nature is bringing our way?

While you're at it, be sure to watch the piece on Alaska, which immediately follows the Paris report.

If you crave a more global perspective on the climate crisis, be sure to read this sobering piece by climate science lecturer Tom Matthews.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Post-Partisanship (A.K.A., This Will Inflame Many)

In a move sure to enrage those 'progressives' who see a vote for anyone other than the Liberals as an attempt to subvert the natural order, Green Party head Elizabeth May says that she would consider supporting the Conservative Party or anyone else should the upcoming federal election result in a minority government:
“People change their minds when they see the dynamic of a way a Parliament is assembled and maybe think, ‘Killing carbon taxes isn’t such a good idea if the only way I get to be prime minister is by keeping them,’ ” May said.

“I think it’s really important to communicate with Canadians how our democracy works and that a minority Parliament is the very best thing, if, and this is a big if, you have parties and MPs in Parliament who are committed to working together,” she added.

“By ‘working together’,” CP adds, “she specifically means to slow climate change with policies that drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, don’t build any more oil pipelines, and replace fossil fuels with renewable energy as fast as possible.”
May's declaration comes at a time when there are many within the environmental movement, including Greens themselves, who are upset about her plan to continue with the tar sands rather than rely on imported oil:
Earlier this month, [Alex] Tyrell [leader of the Green Party of Quebec] launched a website,, urging May to change the platform to support a “rapid shut down” of the tar sands/oil sands in the first mandate of a Green government, “while investing heavily to support the estimated 140,000 people who work in the industry,” the Star states.
While I find May's idea about continuing with the tar sands quite disconcerting, she defends it by saying it
“would also halt all new development of fossil fuels in Canada—including multi-billion-dollar natural gas export projects—and stop all oil and gas imports from other countries. ... In their place, May proposes that Canada use energy that’s already produced here for domestic needs while the country shifts to 100% renewable energy. By 2050, the Greens would ensure all bitumen produced in Canada would be used only for the petrochemical industry, but May said the country will need to stop burning fossil fuels ‘well before’ that.”
No political party is perfect, and while I don't support May's idea about the tar sands, I do applaud her willingness to play well with others. In a political landscaped riven by hyper-partisanship, it is good to see someone with a vision that goes beyond simply acquiring power for its own sake. The common good, so long sacrificed on the altar of venal, craven ambition, may once again give people a modicum of hope for the future.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

America The Beautiful, Eh?

Georgia State Representative Erica Thomas was subjected to a vicious racist verbal assault while shopping. Painful to watch, it once againt attests to how primitive our species really can be. Notably, the racist who attacked her quoted Trump:

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Yesterday Man

Those with undying affection for, and advocacy of, fossil fuels are indulging in a venal nostalgia for the way things were. They cling to past truths about price differentials that allegedly make green energy too costly. They continue to claim that green energy, if produced during the day via solar panels, cannot meet night-time demand, a problem rapidly being addressed by quickly-evolving storage systems, the very same systems utilized when there is no wind powering wind turbines.

Their arguments, designed to protect assets doomed to become stranded are, to put it succinctly, running out of steam.

Indeed, Toronto Star letter-writer Sheri Kimura, of Toronto, is of the view that the federal government's purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline truly makes Justin Trudeau a yesterday man:
Since the Trudeau government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline (meaning that we, as taxpayers, funded the purchase), it seems like good business to ensure that the Canadian public is educated about how much the project costs, what the expected profit might be and which markets we are serving. China plans to convert all it’s vehicles to clean energy in this generation, and Volkswagen — the single-largest car manufacturer in the world — is planning on making it’s entire fleet electric by 2025. Seems like a strange move to push a commodity that the largest available markets are phasing out. When Canada has so much money and potential for clean energy, why is anyone in our government, from any party, still pushing an antiquated commodity?

Even if we doubt the economic windfalls of clean energy, we cannot deny the weakening of the carbon-based industry and the decline in demand for oil. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a terrible business decision on behalf of Canada. Any politician who pursues increased oil development is not making an economically-sound decision — they are simply sentimental about Canada’s oil-rich past and aging identity. We need political leaders with the clarity of mind to embrace (and make profitable) the inevitable change in Canada’s natural resources sector. Only then will our country truly progress, and our country’s identity will finally be free to evolve as well.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Closer Than You Think

In his latest series of racist tweets, Donald Trump urged four congresswomen of colour, all but one born in the U.S. to go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places [a.k.a. s**t-hole countries] from which they came. In the same tweet, he described the United States as the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth.

Many, for whom cogitation is not such a chore, beg to differ with that assessment:

Re Trump digs in against Democratic congresswomen, July 16
Toronto Star17 Jul 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump is quoted as saying that if lawmakers “hate our country,” they can go back to their “broken and crimeinfested” countries. Doesn’t he realize they are already living in one?

Mike Forster, Toronto

Is Donald Trump finally right about something?

The four congresswomen of colour he attacks as coming from “broken and crime-infested” countries unfortunately do come from such a country: the United States of America.

Can Canadians learn lessons from that degraded nation’s decline about setting limits on our own populist demagogues?

Douglas Buck, Toronto

I choked back tears as I read this compelling story about Donald Trump’s overt sexism and racism. How is it possible that the U.S. president could be saying to the world that “four Democratic congresswomen of colour … need to get out of the U.S. “right now”?

Trump has no qualms about exploiting racial divisions once again, and continues to alienate people of colour. If this latest folly is not enough to rid the U.S. of such poisonous words and ways, I don’t know what is. I beg U.S. senators and representatives to end this madness and return civility and intelligence to the White House.

Susan Kohlhepp, Toronto

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Epitome Of Moral Cowardice

They don't get much more craven than Mitch McConnell:

Meanwhile, Theo Moudakis graphically represents the pathetic state of the Republican Party:

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

This Is What John Lewis Speaks So Feelingly Against

John Lewis spoke from the heart about this:

And John Conway 111, husband of chief Trump defender Kelly Ann Conway, has this to say about her boss:
Naivete, resentment and outright racism, roiled in a toxic mix, have given us a racist president.

Telling four non-white members of Congress — American citizens all, three natural-born — to “go back” to the “countries” they “originally came from”? That’s racist to the core. It doesn’t matter what these representatives are for or against — and there’s plenty to criticize them for — it’s beyond the bounds of human decency. For anyone, not least a president.
One can only hope that America, despite all odds, finds its way to regurgitating up this president from the dark part of its psyche he has such a tenacious grip on.

From The Heart

In light of the rampant racism that seems to be engulfing Western nations, John Lewis utters words we all need to hear.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Whither Goest The NDP?

In his column today, Rick Salutin offers a withering assessment of the NDP that I fear is all too accurate. In a phrase, what most ails the party is what might be termed ideological abandonment:
You start noticing what they’re not, and haven’t been for a while. At their start, in the Depression of the ’30s, as the CCF, they knew they had the answer to the questions the country was asking: How did we get into this mess and how do we get out? The answer was something like socialism or co-operation.
The allure of power has corrupted that ethos:
They’re more like: “We’re a grown-up party too and dammit, we deserve our turn.”

That was the tone of Thomas Mulcair’s 2015 campaign. When candidates in the recent leadership race were asked what distinguishes their party from the Liberals, none said: We have the answer to what the country needs — as Elizabeth May surely would have. Their responses were pathetic. “We mean what we say … We follow through … We have principles … They just want power …” Pathetic, and laughable.

Then Mulcair, who vowed not to run deficits — at which point Liberals say they knew they’d won. It was crazy. The NDP’s main appeal had been their perceived fealty to principle — whether it was true or not. Leader Tommy Douglas even bucked many of his own members to oppose military rule in 1970.
On a personal note, when I attended an NDP rally leading up to the last election, what I noticed most about Mulcair was his use of a teleprompter (I know they all use one, but it does dampen any illusion of passion and spontaneity) and the way he worked the room - a rather plastic smile/grin on his face that didn't reach his eyes as he shook people's hands without looking them in the eye.

This is not to say that the party's ideological abandonment began with Mulcair. No, it was the revered Jack Layton who led the charge on that front:
He was serious about power, helping purge “socialism” from their constitution. His first three elections achieved little though the last, due to Quebec’s unique way of deciding to vote tout ensemble, made him opposition leader.
All of which amounts to a massively-missed opportunity:
The desertion of past principle is ironic since the “left” position has surged back, especially among the young. They aren’t prey to the mythos of private property for good reasons: they won’t have much. They don’t expect to own houses, cars or even bikes — and have decided it’s fine to share. Not just socialism but a “co-operative Commonwealth” — the CC in CCF — might make sense to them.
Mulcair's replacement, Jagmeet Singh, fails to impress. His late-stage advocacy for the environment, surely of vital concern to millenials, once again smacks of political opportunism. If the young are to be a force in the next election, my guess is they will go with the party that has been most consistent and has its eyes on the long-term, not just the next political cycle: The Green Party.

I know that's where my vote is going.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Air Travel And Climate Change

Having recently returned from Newfoundland to attend my son's wedding, I can claim no green virtue when it comes to flying. Indeed, I know there will be more flights in the future when we visit him and his wife in Edmonton. So I really am a hypocrite when it comes to this mode of transportation, the one with the highest carbon footprint, especially on short-haul flights.

Indisputably, we all need to be more aware of the impact of our choices, as the following short report makes abundantly clear:

You can read more about this issue here, and you can complete a questionaire that will help assess your carbon footprint here.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

D.C. Disaster

What more can be said about climate change than hasn't already been said? Video, however, continues to compel people's attention before they are once again diverted by the latest on social media and other trivialities. Begin at about the 5:00 mark:

Sunday, July 7, 2019

A Good Idea

But, given our current peril, it is likely too little, too late, a mere drop in the vast but shallow sea of environmental ideals put into practice. However, the following brief story does serve to illustrate what we could accomplish if we were seriously engaged in the rapidly-deteriorating world around us:

Friday, July 5, 2019

Distinguishing The Forest From The Trees

An interesting article in The Guardian suggests massive tree plantings could go a long way toward solving our climate change crisis. For those seeking a kind of natural deus ex machina to solve the problem, it is likely hopeful news. However, it seems to me that the idea is doomed to failure:
Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists, who have made the first calculation of how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas.

New research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as “mind-blowing”.

The analysis found there are 1.7bn hectares of treeless land on which 1.2tn native tree saplings would naturally grow. That area is about 11% of all land and equivalent to the size of the US and China combined. Tropical areas could have 100% tree cover, while others would be more sparsely covered, meaning that on average about half the area would be under tree canopy.

The scientists specifically excluded all fields used to grow crops and urban areas from their analysis. But they did include grazing land, on which the researchers say a few trees can also benefit sheep and cattle.
While the entire article is well-worth the read, in my view there are serious flaws to this grand scheme.

First, while the study shows that two-thirds of land throughout the world could support this program, it would require a global co-operation on a scale that has never existed and likely never will. That most nations now recognize the peril we currently face seems to have little effect, if judged only by our current inertia and ubiquitous divisions.

Secondly, the costs involved in such an undertaking would be massive. That it would be the most cost-effective mitigation we could undertake likely forks little lightning. We need only see the results of recent polling for proof that we are a decidedly short-sighted species:
... while nearly two-thirds of Canadians see fighting climate change as a top priority, half of those surveyed would not shell out more than $100 per year in taxes to prevent climate change, the equivalent of less than $9 a month.
Next, the worldwide planting being advocated would require regular monitoring and constant nurturing. War-torn countries and current political realities would make this very difficult, if not impossible. Would someone like a Kim Jong Un or Donald Trump (and I use them only as examples of a widespread intractability) really be open to such 'intrusions'?)

Finally, the plan fails to take into account the massive damage already being wrought by climate change. Floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes and massive wildfires that affect millions of hectares of land currently would surely make this scheme more of a pipe dream than a feasible approach to the crisis. And don't forget about the feedback loops already well underway.

All that being said, I still support the effort this report advocates. However, it would be a massive mistake to regard it as the solution to our climate woes and believe that we can continue partying as if it were still the 1950s. At best, it represents but a modest beginning, just an arrow in the quiver we so desperately need.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Scheer's Climate-Change Plan - A Reality Check

While the Trudeau government engages in public double-think exercises (expansion of pipelines AND climate-change mitigation!), those hoping for climate salvation from the Conservatives under Andrew Scheer would be well-advised to watch the following. It is part of an ongoing Global News series evaluating the plans of our federal parties as we soldier on toward complete environmental collapse:

Anyone who thinks this critique of the Scheer plan somehow vindicates the approach the Liberals have taken really should read this:
The federal government recently made two truly awful decisions.

One exposes its obeisance to Big Oil, misguided notion of national interest, bad faith with regard to Indigenous peoples and devil-may-care attitude to the inevitable gushes of filthy black muck irretrievably defiling the supernatural beauty of British Columbia — possibly driving wildlife from its shores and making Canada look like a dangerous and untrustworthy clown on the world stage.

But that wasn’t the worst of the two decisions announced recently. The worst news was from Environment Minister Catherine McKenna when she said the government will freeze the carbon price at $50 per tonne.

A price on pollution is pointless without a firm commitment to continue increasing the price until there is no more pollution. That’s how carbon fee and dividend is supposed to work. It’s the only message that will get the captains of industry to change course to a no-carbon future in time to avert annihilation.

As Dr. James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, and a climate scientist, said about the Paris Agreement: “It’s just bulls--- … as long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will continue to be burned.” We must change that. It’s not about doing our best, it’s about doing what is required, as Winston Churchill said at a previous critical juncture.

John Stephenson, Etobicoke

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

UPDATED: The Crux Of The Problem

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

- Mark Twain (possibly)

The above quotation, often attributed to Mark Twain, seems more relevant than ever, especially if we substitute climate change for weather.

The ever-increasing toll exacted by 'weather events' that are only growing in intensity is impossible to ignore, as is the warning that we have only about 11 years left before the changes become irreversible. Despite that doomsday scenario, people are, to say the least, ambivalent about paying the cost necessary to avert total disaster. A survey commissioned by CBC News in which 4,500 Canadians were interviewed
found that while nearly two-thirds of Canadians see fighting climate change as a top priority, half of those surveyed would not shell out more than $100 per year in taxes to prevent climate change, the equivalent of less than $9 a month.
... 38 per cent of respondents said that "our survival depends on addressing" climate change and 25 per cent said it is a top priority. Another 20 per cent said "it's important, but not a top priority," while 11 per cent said it wasn't a priority.
The good news is that many Canadians are willing to take some measures to combat climate change, as long as they are not too painful:
The most popular options were buying local (75 per cent) and reducing the thermostat (66 per cent), while 55 per cent said they were willing to purchase fewer things in general. Just under half, or 47 per cent, said they would be willing to drive less, while 37 per cent would take public transit or use a bicycle more often.
The bad news is that people are less enthused about measures that require more 'heavy lifting.'
Just 34 per cent said they would go without air conditioning, 30 per cent would purchase a vehicle with an energy-saving mode and 25 per cent would fly less frequently. Fewer than one in five respondents who were willing to make changes to their lives said they would purchase an electric car (20 per cent), move to a smaller house or apartment (19 per cent) or give up eating meat (17 per cent).
Respondents were asked how much they would be willing to pay to combat climate change,
Nearly one-third, or 32 per cent, said they were unwilling to pay anything at all, while 17 per cent said they would be willing to pay less than $100 in taxes every year. Netflix's most basic plan comes in at a yearly price tag of $120.
Another 16 per cent of respondents were willing to pay between $100 and $500 per year — the equivalent of between $8.33 and $41.67 per month. Just seven per cent were willing to pay between $500 and $1,000 per year, while only three per cent would pay more than $1,000 per year in taxes to help prevent climate change.

First-time voters were a notable exception. They were half as likely as the general population to want to pay nothing and markedly more willing to pay extra taxes.
I have said it before: people are their own worst enemies. Coupled with a craven political class all to happy to exploit the electorate, it is surely a recipe for disaster that will grow even greater as the years unfold.

For those climate-change scofflaws who believe we still have time to debate mitigation, a little something for your consideration:
Permafrost at outposts in the Canadian Arctic is thawing 70 years earlier than predicted, an expedition has discovered, in the latest sign that the global climate crisis is accelerating even faster than scientists had feared.

A team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks said they were astounded by how quickly a succession of unusually hot summers had destabilised the upper layers of giant subterranean ice blocks that had been frozen solid for millennia.

“What we saw was amazing,” Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the university, told Reuters. “It’s an indication that the climate is now warmer than at any time in the last 5,000 or more years.“

Saturday, June 15, 2019

More From The Land Of Nod

Warning: The following contains hateful messaging from the land of the free and home of the brave:

Friday, June 14, 2019

UPDATED: Meanwhile, In The Land Of The Free And The Home Of the Brave

You can read details of this sordid incident here as well as here.

UPDATE: Here is the story from the perspective of the victimized Black family:
"A police officer, we don't know who he is, a guy, random guy came up to the door banging on the window with a gun, says he's going to shoot us in our face, telling us to get out of the car. He hasn't alerted us that we're being pulled over anything," Ames said.

"If you look at the video pretty good I'm snatched out the car and I fly back and that's when he grabs me out the car.

My hands were up the whole time," Ames said. "It was just a very scary situation I never thought I'd be in. Traumatizing for me and my daughters," said Aesha Harper, the girls' mother.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

UPDATED: An Emotional Plea From John Stewart

For a number of reasons, I don't feel much like writing these days. Instead, I will let the stories I link to speak for themselves. If you start at the 1:25 mark of the following, you will see one that amply illustrates the great gulf that separates governments from the people they purport to serve.

UPDATE: If you want a Canadian version of government contempt, click here.

For Your Consideration

We need undeveloped, pristine land now more than ever to help offset rapidly escalating climate change. Please consider signing this petition.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Shifting Patterns

We now can say what we couldn’t say four years ago: a vote for Green isn’t automatically a wasted vote. If you vote with your heart and you vote Green, you might actually get a Green and so that shows a momentum shift, with greater credibility than there was four years ago.

- Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute

Being a tribalistic species, probably one of our biggest challenges is to rise above our natural affiliations, be they cultural, sociological, religious, political or ideological. We tend to identify strongly with our own kind; if we are Liberals, we look upon the Conservatives and NDP with suspicion; if we are Catholic, the road to salvation lies in that dogma, all others regarded as not-quite-legitimate. But now, facing the greatest crisis the earth has ever seen, can we override the many things that separate us in order to work for the common good and the salvation of humanity?

That is the hope of Elizabeth May and her Green Party. Mitch Potter writes:
A polling surge shows upwards of 10 per cent support nationwide and, perhaps more importantly, surveys suggest a substantially higher portion of Canada’s restless electorate — dispirited by hyperpartisanship in Ottawa as the global climate crisis becomes undeniable reality — are, for the first time ever, open to voting Green. If not for themselves, for their kids.
One recalls that in the last federal election, Justin Trudeau's appeal was to young voters, who responded enthusiastically to his message of hope. Now that his patina is tarnished, an opportunity for electoral gains has opened for the Greens:
What the Greens see now is an unprecedented number of Canadian millennials, as they arrive as the most potentially powerful voting cohort, demanding aggressive climate action now — something on the scale of the Green New Deal proposed south of the border by Democratic rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
With the unprecedented gains made by the Green Party in the European parliamentary elections, Elizabeth May is hopeful of a critical mass of seats in Ottawa. And her message should resonate with those voters massively disaffected by the partisanship that cripples politics today:
May’s party laid its bold ambitions bare last month, unveiling “Mission Possible” — an all-hands-on-deck approach that would strip divisive politics from the climate crisis, empowering an inner cabinet of all parties to guide the country through stringent new emissions targets, including net-zero by 2050.

Canada’s Greens say their plan echoes the war cabinets of Mackenzie King and Winston Churchill, when the need for victory transcended partisanship. Such all-party collaboration is appropriate and necessary, May argues, in the face of a threat greater than any war Canada has known.
And there are signs of a significant shift in public perceptions:
In the Greens’ favour, polling suggests that four months out, the party has a degree of momentum that presently eludes its rivals. One Abacus Data snapshot last weekend showed May and her party eclipsing the NDP in many parts of the country, suggesting a “rapid ascent of the Green party in both vote intent and, more importantly, vote consideration.”
Will Canadians do what is necessary to ensure the election of a sufficient number of Greens to have an impact in Ottawa? There is no crystal ball that can offer us a glimpse of the electoral future, but the increasingly ominous and destructive path of climate change demonstrates a horrifying future that we would be supremely foolish not to avoid with all of the means at our disposal.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

If You Follow Ontario Politics

... this requires no explanation:

H/t Patrick Corrigan

If you need a bit of a primer, however, allow me to introduce the chief sheep:

(Parentetically, Ms. Elliott was promoting a store that was convicted of selling an e-cigarette to an underage customer.)

Those who have sold their souls to Dear Leader may very well be experiencing considerable psychic and moral pain; one hopes, however, that Ms. Mulroney, Ms. Elliott, Mr. Fedelli and all others in the sheep brigade seek professional help for their alcoholic preoccupations.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Shameful Self-Abasement

The Toronto Star reports that there has been a furious social media backlash against shameful propaganda displays like the following, as the Ontario government seeks to break a 10-year-deal with the Beer Store:

Here are some samples of the jeering responses by voters:
“Cannot believe they are back at their stupid photos. Thought the general mocking of the gas station selfies would have maybe taught them something?” said a tweet from Barb Hickey, a self-described “political junkie and rebel” in Toronto.

That was one of several references to a previous social media campaign in which Conservative MPPs pictured themselves filling up at gas stations before a federal carbon tax took effect on gas prices.

“Nope, not needed, won’t change my mind. Spend as much time on health care and education as you do on booze,” wrote Frances Mote, a human resources consultant.

Health Minister Christine Elliott came under fire from well known emergency physician and media personality Dr. Brian Goldman for tweeting a picture of Andrew’s Convenience in her Newmarket riding and touting the “choice and convenience” of wider beer and wine sales.

“What in the Sam Heck is a HEALTH MINISTER doing tweeting this,” Goldman said.
Meanwhile, the province continues down its chaotic path. A mere year after its election, the Ford government has done much, much damage, aided and abetted by a coterie of supine cabinet ministers, of which the above Caroline Mulroney is but one. You can read more about the whole sorry set of collaborators in this editorial.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Friends In High Places Are Good (For Some)

Having friends in high places is certainly something the wealthy must savour as they continue to hide money in offshore tax havens. Yes, the very same havens the Trudeau government promised to crack down on. And the very same tax havens that, as I recently posted, seem to inspire timidity in our Canada Revenue Agency.

A new report by the CBC/Fifth Estate suggests that timidity is deepening:
The Canada Revenue Agency has once again made a secret out-of-court settlement with wealthy KPMG clients caught using what the CRA itself had alleged was a "grossly negligent" offshore "sham" set up to avoid detection by tax authorities, CBC's The Fifth Estate and Radio-Canada's Enquête have learned.

This, despite the Liberal government's vow to crack down on high net-worth taxpayers who used the now-infamous Isle of Man scheme. The scheme orchestrated by accounting giant KPMG enabled clients to dodge tens of millions of dollars in taxes in Canada by making it look as if multimillionaires had given away their fortunes to anonymous overseas shell companies and get their investment income back as tax-free gifts.
Apparently, who you are and what you are worth entitles you to special privileges, including a totally sealed record of your settlement with the CRA:
... tax court documents obtained by CBC News/Radio-Canada show two members of the Cooper family in Victoria, as well as the estate of the late patriarch Peter Cooper, reached an out-of-court settlement on May 24 over their involvement in the scheme.

Details of the settlement and even minutes of the meetings discussing it are under wraps. A CBC News/Radio-Canada reporter who showed up to one such meeting this spring left after realizing it was closed to the public.
Quite understandably, many are outraged by this:
Toby Sanger, executive director of the advocacy group Canadians for Tax Fairness, says the CRA should never have agreed to settle the case.

"I think it's outrageous," he said. "We've had a lot of tough talk and promises from this minister [National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier] about how they will crack down on tax evasion by the wealthy and corporations, but unfortunately we've seen no evidence of this so far."
The Trudeau government's previous tough talk on the so-called KPMG sham had come after a document leaked to The Fifth Estate/Enquête showed the CRA itself had offered a secret "no penalties" amnesty in May 2015 to many of the other KPMG clients involved in the scheme.

The CRA offered to have them simply pay the back taxes owed — but with the condition they not tell the public about the offer.
Apologists for the Trudeau government will insist that the CRA was acting independently of the government, but that clearly flies in the face of reality, given Trudeau's promises in 2017 to do a "better job of getting tax avoiders and tax frauders."

Like their attempts to influence the course of justice in the SNC-Lavalin affair, this latest report is yet one more arrow indicating where the sympathies and loyalties of our federal government really lie.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Too Good Not To Share

Rabid partisanship being what it is, Twitter user Mike Vlasic offers this perspective:

Monday, May 27, 2019

UPDATED: You're A Mean One, Mr. Ford

In a move that will surely swell the tiny hearts beating within the breast of Ford Nation, the Ontario government is eliminating a benefit that helps children of the poor, especially those claiming refugee status:
The cut, buried in April’s provincial budget, will end the Transition Child Benefit which provides up to $230 per month, per child in families on welfare who are not receiving the Ontario and Canada child benefits, such as refugee claimants.

The move, scheduled to take effect Nov. 1, will affect an average of 16,000 children a month province-wide, according to the government.
Those who favour tighter refugee and welfare rules will likely be exuberant over the deprivations they cuts will wreak. Others, with their humanitarian instincts intact, are horrified:
“To me, this is the nastiest cut,” said Toronto Councillor Shelley Carroll, a member of the city’s economic and community development committee, responsible for the local welfare system.

It is part of an estimated $177 million in provincial budget cuts to the city that threaten child care subsidies, school nutrition programs and free dental care for low-income children, among others services.
In Toronto, the loss of the Transition Child Benefit will mostly hurt kids in families making refugee claims, said City Manager Chris Murray in a memo to councillors earlier this month.
One such victim will be Eritrean refugee claimant Samu Abdel, 37,
who has three young sons, including one with spina bifida, the benefit has been critical to her ability to support her children.

“I don’t know what I would do without it,” says the single mother who fled her war-torn homeland in 2017. “I have a disabled son. I can’t work. I need this money to buy food and diapers.”
But such concerns seem to matter not to those wielding ever-sharper hatchets as they seek to cut the deficit, insisting that they are actually improving the system:
“We are replacing parts of the social assistance system that provide complicated and unequal support to those in need, with simpler rate structures for everyone,” said Derek Rowland [spokesperson for the provincial ministry of children].

“The government believes that all Ontarians should have equal access to children’s benefits, regardless of whether they are or are not receiving social assistance.”
Increasingly, Ontarians are seeing through the facade that the Ford regime has tried to erect. The question that remains, however, is whether, this early in their mandate, anyone in the Ford government is paying attention.

UPDATE: Hmm, it appears someone in the Ford administration has been listening.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Piercing The Propaganda

It is indeed heartening to see so many young activists now regularly protesting the inertia that our political masters are mired in when it comes to climate change mitigation. If anyone has a right to feel outraged, it is the younger generation that will find life on our planet far less hospitable than the one their elders knew growing up.

Equally heartening however, is the growing realization of the economic consequences of the widespread costs being incurred in these still early-days of global warming:
...the Bank of Canada... has just announced that it will incorporate climate change and its effects on business and the economy into its ongoing assessments of financial stability, growth and inflation.

In its report on financial stability last week, the central bank has finally recognized that even though environmental concerns are a bit outside of its wheelhouse, the risks are too consequential to be ignored. Extreme weather hurts infrastructure and the daily functioning of the economy, but it can also affect the stability of banks, pension plans, insurance companies and other financial institutions.

More broadly, however, because the world is moving to a low-carbon economy, Canadian companies that don’t measure their exposure to carbon and figure out how to handle the shift could suffer deeply, the bank points out.
This, of course, begins to pierce the propaganda promulgated by many of the economic consequences of a rapid move to a low-carbon economy.

And speaking of the low-carbon economy, Don Pittis offers some interesting insights as he cites a report called Missing The Bigger Picture: Tracking the Energy Revolution 2019.
Not only is Canada’s clean energy sector growing faster than the rest of the country’s economy (4.8% versus 3.6% annually between 2010 and 2017), it’s also attracting tens of billions of dollars in investment every year.

And perhaps most importantly for the average Canadian, it’s a huge, and growing, employer. In 2017, clean energy accounted for 298,000 jobs in Canada—roughly equal to direct employment in the real estate sector.
The fact that the role clean energy is playing an increasingly important role in our economy is hidden from most Canadians, largely because it is
not even classified in most statistics as a sector at all.

As the executive director of Clean Energy Canada, Merran Smith says in her introduction to the report, "Put simply, it's made up of companies and jobs that help to reduce carbon pollution — whether by creating clean energy, helping move it, reducing energy consumption, or making low-carbon technologies."

... the concern of Smith and her group, and the reason for assembling today's report, is the blinkered view of many Canadians that the energy industry and the economy are somehow in conflict with green principles.
But nothing could be further from the truth:
Economic research has shown that making the world more energy efficient is exactly what successful businesses have done throughout history, because energy is a cost, and cutting costs is what thriving businesses do.

"The clean energy sector isn't just about fighting climate change — it's also about using Canadian innovation to create better and cheaper solutions for everyday life," said Smith.
And there is real economic heft to be found in that sector:
Studying the period from 2010 to 2017, not only did the sector outgrow the entire economy by more than one full percentage point, but jobs in that component of the economy increased by 2.2 per cent a year, compared to an annual increase of 1.4 per cent in jobs overall.
No doubt, the old canard about climate-change mitigation measures being inimical to economic imperatives will persist for some time. However, the louder young people scream, and the more economic data that becomes available to us, one hopes that blinkered and inaccurate mindset will weaken and ultimately disappear.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Historical Factors that Led to The Current Opioid Crisis - A Guest Post By Patrick Bailey*

The opioid crisis has captured the attention of policymakers and the public. It is becoming increasingly apparent that this is a multidimensional societal challenge that requires a new approach. Such an approach should include patient and community level intervention. Access to care for mental health conditions, private alcohol rehab and substance abuse treatment is also important if we are to curb overdose deaths.

The history and events that led to the opioid crisis are explored in this article.

History of Opioid Abuse

As early as 1980 Carter’s White House had identified prescription opioid medication to be responsible for “as many as seven out of ten drug-related injury or death”. Yet the issue of the opioid prescription medication crisis was not brought to the limelight until two decades later. More and more people were looking to join private alcohol rehab and addiction recovery centers or were struggling with health complications.

In the 80s, before policymakers and the public understood the full adverse effects of this medication, there were virtually no regulations to stop opioid prescriptions. Propoxyphene was one of the most prescribed drugs in the 80s.

Propoxyphene was initially considered to be a weak opioid that could be used as an analgesic. It was later pulled out of the market after it was discovered that it could cause irregular heartbeats. By 2011, it was banned in the US and Canada.

Despite the obvious dangers of opioid medication and the impact they have in the community, opioid-related deaths continue to rise. The CDC reports that opioid overdose deaths have increased fivefold since 1980.

Overdose deaths are caused by drug abuse and misuse of prescription medication. In recent years, the CDC report points out that overdose deaths caused by prescription medication outnumber those from illicit drugs. The factors behind overdose deaths from prescription medication include:

● Insurance and Pharmacy benefit Policies

● Lack of oversight in the prescription of opioids

● Problems with provider clinical practices

The impact of prescription medication dependency is significant and far-reaching. It has complicated chronic conditions further, leads to addiction and financial loss. The impact was slowly starting to become apparent. But many in the health industry felt that new policies shouldn’t be so restrictive that they prevent patients in pain from accessing care.

But what happened between the 90s when cases of opioid adverse effects were being highlighted and the present day when it has become an epidemic? A series of events paints a picture of medical practitioners who were unwittingly giving way to profiteering pharmaceuticals.

Profit over People

When Insurance companies started to withdraw cover for opioid medication, pharmaceutical companies came up with ways to go round it. This included extended-release formulas, transdermal patches, and pain modulating implants. Many non-opioid pain medications were being questioned for their potential cardiovascular risk. At this point, pharmaceutical companies would start pushing back opioid pain medication much more ruthlessly.

In 2016, seven employees of Insys Therapeutics, Inc, including its former CEO, were arrested for running a scheme to defraud medical practices and practitioners. The department of justice claims that the former executives conspired to push a fentanyl-based drug to health care providers.

The executives went ahead to develop a scheme that involved many conspiring practitioners. They would give kickbacks to professionals in the healthcare industry to push their fentanyl-based drugs to non-cancer patients. The report alleges that some practitioners were bribed to change the patient’s diagnosis.

Fentanyl is a powerful analgesic that can be used to help people cope with chronic pain. But it is 50 times more powerful than heroin. If not properly prescribed, it can lead to serious complications and often death. This drug alone handles "nearly half of all overdose deaths".

Disease of Despair

However, even as opioid pain prescriptions decreased by 13% between 2011 and 2016, overdose deaths continued to rise. This may be attributed to the entry of drugs such as fentanyl which are less bulky and easier to distribute.

However, some researchers feel that the focus on drug distribution and incarceration also contributes to overdose deaths. This single focus reduces response to prescription opioid overdose and complications. Understanding how addiction to opioid prescription medication starts is limited.

Another issue is access to treatment. Treatment requires an understanding of what addiction is and why it happens. Factors such as underlying mental conditions, physical health, lack of employment, are some of the factors that ought to be considered.

Access to mental health treatment, substance abuse, and private alcohol rehab is critical for addressing the issue conclusively. Patients require access to alternative pain medication that is effective. One of the nonopioid drugs that has been proposed is Buprenorphine.

Unfortunately, the drug can also cause dependency. It demands due to caution when prescribing to those with opioid addiction. Congress is yet to approve the drug for addiction to prescription medication.

Meanwhile, the opioid crisis continues to affect the poor disproportionately. Lack of access to professional care can increase the risk of opioid-related complications. The environment where many of the poor live, makes them more susceptible to mental health conditions.

The rate of death is the same in both urban and rural counties. But the report shows a clear difference in poor counties and counties with high rates of divorce and separation. Addiction is a social and psychological illness that needs more than tough laws to curb.

The opioid problem has grown exponentially over the last decade. Partly because of the lack of effective oversight on pharmaceutical companies, and partly because of an economy that puts profit over people. The main problem is that we have failed to acknowledge the multifaceted nature of the problem.

* Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoys writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

Patirck can be reached at the following address:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Kindest Cut Of All?

Given the butcher's blade Doug Ford and his trained seals are taking to crucial services and programs in Ontario, perhaps the following best reflects the widespread disenchantment people are expressing with the government they helped elect.