Saturday, February 29, 2020

A Tonic For The Spirit

The older and more resigned about the world I get, the more I need this kind of story.

I posted recently about Quaden Bayles, the young Australian lad who has dwarfism. At nine years old, he wanted to die due to the relentless bullying he has experienced in his young life. After his mother posted a deeply disturbing video about the bullying, the better angels of the world descended in full force, starting a gofundme page to send Quaden and his mother to Disneyland.

But the story doesn't end there.
The family of Quaden Bayles, an Australian boy with dwarfism seen crying and expressing a desire to kill himself in a social media video last week, has declined a trip to Disneyland following a GoFundMe campaign, saying it will donate the funds to charity instead.

"What kid wouldn't want to go to Disneyland, especially if you have lived Quaden's life. To escape to anywhere that is fun that doesn't remind him of his day to day challenges," Bayles' aunt Mundanara Bayles told Australia's NITV News on Thursday.

"But my sister said 'you know what, let's get back to the real issue'. This little fella has been bullied. How many suicides, black or white, in our society have happened due to bullying?" she added. "We want the money to go to community organizations that really need it. They know what the money should be spent on, so as much as we want to go to Disneyland, I think our community would far off benefit from that."
While I really think they should use a bit of the money to take the boy to Disneyland, his mother's heart is in the right, life-affirming place.
The family noted Dwarfism Awareness Australia and Balunu Healing Foundation as two organizations they would like to see benefit from the fund.

"We need to come together and work out how to make sure young people like Quaden don't have to deal with what they have been dealing with," Bayles said. "We've had seven kids at the Murri School in Brisbane, where I am on the board, take their lives in the last ten years."
In these dark days, I appreciate whatever rays of light I can catch.

Friday, February 28, 2020

A Vile Image

It is good that this pathetic, disturbing attempt by Alberta energy company X-Site to incite hatred and sexual violence against Greta Thunerg is being widely denounced within Alberta. Surely, there is no place in our country or anywhere else for this kind of violent, misogynistic backlash against someone corporate Canada feels threatened by.

Rocky Mountain House, Alta., Councillor Michelle Narang summed up the revulsion all right-thinking people should feel this way:
“This company represents everything that the oil and gas industry needs to fight against,” Narang said to Global News while reading what she had posted online.

“I am absolutely sickened that X-Site Energy Services would think that the hard-working men and women in the energy industry would condone this representation of a child clearly being raped.”

“We do not rape women and girls to teach them a lesson. This is not our oilpatch,” Narang said to Global News. “We can’t have this representation of the oil patch and the oil companies and of our industry be accepted as normal. People need to start speaking out about it.

“It’s not OK.”
I guess X-Site just didn't get the memo, eh?

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

This Is Unbelievable

I've seen a lot in my life, but I am still trying to process this story:
At a carnival procession in Spain, participants dressed like Nazis and Jewish concentration camp prisoners while dancing next to a float evoking crematoria.

A video of the procession shows the participants marching in their fake Nazi uniforms. Behind them, dancers wearing striped outfits evoking concentration camp uniforms followed while waving flags of Israel. They were followed by the float shaped like a train locomotive with two large chimneys.

On Sunday, a carnival procession in Aalst, Belgium, featured costumes of ultra-Orthodox Jews depicted as ants. Dozens of other participants wore fake hooked noses based on Jewish stereotypes.
And here's the kicker:
The group that created the float said it was meant to protest the rising cost of living.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

This Is Heartbreaking

... and believe me, I am not one easily moved. It is must-viewing for anyone who has ever bullied or been bullied, but it is very, very hard to watch:

Bullied boy's heartbreaking video sparks support - and suspicion

Hearts have been breaking across the internet over a viral Facebook Live video of Quaden Bayles, a nine-year-old Australian boy with dwarfism who tells his mother he'd rather die than endure the bullying he faces at school. "I want someone to kill me," Quaden says in the video, as he sits and cries out of an open car door.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Forgetting Their Purpose

There is little doubt that politicians' constituency work can be onerous, eroding personal/family time while home on the weekends and perhaps compromising the work they do in Ottawa. It is not a task I envy.

Nonetheless, there are those who, obstructed by overweening ego and ambition, refuse to acknowledge that serving their constituents is or should be their primary task. This might seem to be stating the obvious, but it is a truth some would-be Titans of the political universe seem to largely ignore, local scutt work apparently beneath their political dignity.

This is the tale of one such person.

I speak from personal experience here as I write about the consistent unresponsiveness of my Liberal MP, Liberal Filomena Tassi, to my phone calls and emails, and it stands in marked contrast to the relationship I had with my former MP (we had boundary changes in our area), Conservative MP David Sweet. Although he and I never saw eye-to-eye on any issues I raised with him or his office, the fact that Sweet would always respond to my emails, either by email or personal phone calls, earned my deep respect, and I like to think that we had some quite civilized exchanges.

Unfortunately, Ms. Tassi is an entirely different story. After a career helping others as a chaplain at a Catholic high school, her leap into politics looked like a good transition, one that would enable her to help even more people. Sadly, that has not turned out to be the case. Rising quickly within the government power structure, she is currently the Minister of Labour, a position she no doubt attained through both talent and party fealty.

And that fealty was obvious from the beginning, not only through the many photos of her with the movers and shakers of her government, but also what I regard as her strategic decision to refuse to acknowledge those who ask where she stands on an issue. That I am not alone in being ignored is attested to by a letter to the editor that appeared in The Hamilton Spectator back in 2017:
My MP ignored my voice

RE: Pensions in crisis

As a longtime resident of Ancaster, and a former Sears employee for over 30 years, I thought it was important to write my member of Parliament regarding my concerns about the financial future of thousands of fellow Sears pensioners locally and across Canada. It would have been nice to know that my elected representative from the Liberal government, shared my concern, and may have some input into its final conclusion.

This is the first time that I have contacted an MP on anything, and unfortunately, after an initial email over three weeks ago, a followup email and then a phone message to her Ottawa office a week ago, there has been no reply. I guess Ms. Filomena Tassi does not place a high priority on aging pensioners problems, but politeness and common courtesy should have resulted in some sort of followup!

I would like to thank MP Scott Duvall of the NDP for his efforts to bring this plight to the forefront and to The Hamilton Spectator for printing articles on pension shortfalls.

Ms. Tassi — is anyone manning the communications in your office — do you care?

Don Backman, Ancaster
Backman's letter prompted me to write one of my own, a truncated version of which follows:
Liberal MP Filomena Tassi must have missed the orientation given to all newly-elected federal representatives when she took office just over two years ago. Had she attended, she would have understood that one of the most important roles of parliamentarians is to represent and help their constituents on both big and small issues.

Her failure to even acknowledge Don Backman's emails and calls on the very important pension issue do not surprise me in the least. The emails I sent her on two separate occasions, one shortly after she was elected and another about six months later, netted me the same result. Her failure to respond to the first I attributed to the fact that she was new to office. The silence that met my second missive, regarding Canada's unconscionable sale of arms to the Saudis, was harder to explain away.


Perhaps the current representative of Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas has reasons for her silence. Is it possible she is angling for a role higher than that of backbencher in the Trudeau government, her strategy being to avoid any contentious matters in order to demonstrate unflinching fealty to Justin Trudeau? Cabinet positions are often built on such absolute loyalties.

If that is the case, Ms. Tassi has a gross misunderstanding of where her first allegiance should lie: her constituents.
I might add that I recently wrote to her again, despite her communications embargo, expressing my opposition to the Teck Resources' Frontier Mine and asking where she stood on the issue. Again, no response.

So is this post simply an expression of egoistic frustration, an old guy angry that he is not being heard or acknowledged by his Member of Parliament? Not at all.

It has become increasingly apparent that our governments no longer feel responsible for representing and advancing the public interest, unless that public interest happens to coincide with economic and corporate health. The wants, needs and expectations of the general public are rarely regarded as imperatives except during election campaigns; such a cynical manipulation of the electorate, in my view, goes a long way toward explaining the alienation and disengagement far too many Canadians feel.

Whether or not MPs agree or disagree with their constituents' views and values is ultimately secondary here. It is their failure to even acknowledge them that betrays one of the basic tenets of democracy and the implicit covenant our elected representatives have with all of us.

Monday, February 17, 2020

An Effective Rebuke Of Trumpland Republicans

Filmmaker Matthew Cooke provides much-needed perspective and context as a counter to the far-right rhetoric that relentlessly seeks to undermine faith in government.

Well-worth five minutes of our time:

H/t Penny Gill

Saturday, February 15, 2020

An Unhinged And Unbound President

"...a president is fully above the law in the most dangerous kind of way. This is how democracies die.”

- Former U.S. attorney Joyce White Vance

Those who have been reading this blog over the years will have noticed that I post far less than I used to. The reason is a simple one: my disenchantment with the world and its politics has reached new depths. Consequently, I do wonder if writing about this broken world is the best use of whatever time remains to me, given that if I am very fortunate, I likely have little more than two decades left.

Nonetheless, like a moth drawn to a flame, I read things that erode what little faith I have left in this world but also sometimes demand a catharsis that only writing about them can on occasion provide.

Case in point: Edward Keenan writes about how, post-impeachment, the unhinged Donald Trump is now also unbound, using the levers of power to punish all who have crossed him:
Trump has always had strongman tendencies — the grandiose rallies and military parades, proclaimed admiration for dictators, declarations that his actions are beyond scrutiny — but his actions this week amplified that affinity in ways that could do lasting damage. Jason Stanley, a Yale University professor and the author of “How Fascism Works” told Business Insider that the tactics employed by the president and his Republican Party are “straight from the literature on authoritarianism.”

First there was the punishment of his perceived enemies: Trump dismissed his ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, and marched decorated war veteran Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman out of the White House — along with Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeny, who also worked in the White House but played no role in the impeachment trial.
His chilling message of retribution is a clear warning of the consequences of crossing him in any way, something only worthy of the world's worst dictators.

And it's not just to individuals that this message is directed:
More explicit was Trump’s proclamation that he would use policy to punish New York unless it dropped investigations and lawsuits into his taxes. New York’s attorney general has been investigating several matters related to Trump and his businesses; recently, the Department of Homeland Security suspended the state’s access to trusted traveller programs that speed entry at border crossings. Trump appeared to connect the two when he tweeted that Gov. Andrew Cuomo needs to understand, in the context of the “national security” issues, that “New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits & harassment.”
Then there is the special attention directed toward those who Trump perceives as his loyalists:
On Monday, the U.S. attorneys who successfully prosecuted former Trump adviser Roger Stone for crimes related to Trump’s 2016 campaign suggested a prison sentence of seven to nine years, which was in line with the standards set out in federal guidelines. On Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted that the recommendation was “horrible and unfair,” and insisted that “the real crimes were on the other side.”

Hours later, the Justice Department intervened to overrule its own staff and suggest leniency for Stone. In response, all four prosecutors withdrew from the case, with one even resigning from the department.
So much for the rule of law and the independence of the Justice Depart, a tradition that dates back to the Watergate era.

Perhaps Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown sums it up best:
Trump’s “retribution tour” shows he has indeed learned something from acquittal: “The lesson is he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.”
After the election of Trump, I made a pledge not to visit the U.S. as long as he was in office. I am beginning to think that that pledge will wind up being a long-term one, not just because of the very real possibility that he will be re-elected in November, but also because under his presidency, he may in fact be making changes to the very complexion and nature of American politics and society that his successors will either be unwilling or unable to reverse.

Truly, the United States is a nation in precipitous and likely irreversible decline.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Going, Going ......

I posted recently about the Teck tarsands development that is seeking the Trudeau regime's approval. If the government gives its go-ahead to the project, it will destroy whatever remnants remain of Mr. Trudeau's claims to green bona fides, not to mention the incalculable damage such a massive enterprise will do to the world's remaining carbon budget.

In today's print edition of The Star, John Stephenson of Toronto offers his perspective:
World co-operation is required to solve the climate crisis. Co-operation requires trust. How is the world to ever trust Canada if it approves the gigantic new Teck Frontier oilsands mine?

Here is what Bill McKibbon recently wrote about us in the Guardian: “If an alcoholic assured you he was taking his condition very seriously, but also laying in a 40-year store of bourbon, you’d be entitled to doubt his sincerity, or at least to note his confusion. Oil has addled the Canadian ability to do basic math: more does not equal less, and 2066 is not any time soon. An emergency means you act now.”

He concludes: “Trudeau, for all his charms, doesn’t get to have it both ways: if you can’t bring yourself to stop a brand-new tar sands mine then you’re not a climate leader.”

Approving Frontier probably won’t appease Alberta. But it will burn bridges with all environmentalists and the rest of the world. It’s simply not worth it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Words And Actions Matter

In these latter days of my life, a time when I have largely lost faith in the possibility of large-scale change, (captured governments being what they are), I think more and more of the things we do in our daily lives that can make things either more or less tolerable for others.

No matter how insignificant we may regard individual acts and comments, we should remember that they can serve as a light in the darkness that envelops our world. A simple smile, a look in the eye, a tacit recognition of someone's essential humanity - we cannot know the ramifications of such basics.

Conversely, as the following video amply demonstrates, we can refuse through our words and deeds to acknowledge those elements; what we cannot ultimately ignore, however, is their destructive impact on others:

"Go back to your country" 5 words that had a lasting impact on a Hamilton man

Here's a phrase no immigrant wants to hear, "go back to your country", those 5 words have had a lasting impact on a Hamilton man who was threatened almost two years ago. Dale Robertson doesn't deny he uttered threats and assaulted an Indo-Canadian couple.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Telling It Like it Is

That's precisely what Rutger Bregman did at Davos last year:

H/t Alex Himelfarb

Breman talks about the reaction he received from his taxation proposal:

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Don't Agonize. Organize

So says the indefatigable Robert Reich, who, while admitting that the times are very discouraging, urges no one to give up in despair. You need only watch the first three minutes to get the gist of his message:

Saturday, February 8, 2020

A New Horrifying High Our Leaders Will Ignore

News that Antarctica just reached new horrifyingly high temperatures, forerunner of the deluge to come, once more reinforces the perilous state our world is in. Despite that, it seems likely that the Trudeau government will approve the massive tarsands project known as the Teck mine, which I posted about the other day.

Indeed, the most startling fact about the development is that it will add to our-already massive greenhouse gas emissions which, despite the pious rhetoric of the Trudeau government, means our country, with a mere 0.5% of the planet’s population, will use up one-third of the world's remaining carbon budget.

A new petition opposing the development is available to sign at the David Suzuki Foundation.

Still not sure that this development flies in the face of ecological sanity? Perhaps the following thoughtful missives from the Toronto Star will help convince you:
I oppose the expansion of tar sands production and call on Liberal cabinet ministers to reject the Teck Frontier mine.

The Trudeau cabinet’s decision is due at the end of February. It’s the first real climate test for this government.

I am one of the two thirds of voters who voted for increased climate action in last year’s federal election. We have less than 10 years to limit climate catastrophe and must act quickly to cut carbon emissions.

The Frontier mine is incompatible with our climate targets. It will produce about four million tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

It would result in significant adverse effects on Indigenous rights and cause irreversible environmental damage. The mine would result in a loss of habitat for local species including wood bison and whooping cranes.

And it will never be financially viable due to its reliance on unrealistically high oil prices.

Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg, Toronto

Can any of us really afford to wait another 30 years for Teck Resources to become carbon neutral? Canada’s federal cabinet ministers are deciding whether to reject or approve the Teck Frontier Mine, slated to be developed 110 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, Alta. — a mine that would become Canada’s largest tar sands project.

This mine would produce 260,000 barrels of oil per day. It would cover 290 square kilometres, almost the combined area of Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond, and have a lifespan of 41 years. During those years, this mega-mine would add 4 million tonnes of CO2 per year to Canada’s emissions, singlehandedly guaranteeing we will not meet our Paris Accord targets.

A federal-provincial joint review panel found that the mine would not only cause permanent and irreversible damage to our environment, but it would also cause “significant adverse effects” on the rights, land use and culture of local Indigenous peoples.

So I ask again: Can Canada, my grandchildren and your grandchildren afford to wait 30 years for Teck to become carbon neutral? The answer from the future is a resounding and imploring cry of “no!”

Patricia Smith, Barrie

As author of “Hawk,” a novel about the oil sands being used in many Canadian schools, I want to raise awareness about the Teck Frontier mine proposal currently up for approval by our federal government.

This mega-mine, the biggest yet, will add an area twice the size of Vancouver to an already questionable tarsands industry and is undoubtedly incompatible with our climate targets.

Canadians are doing their part to cut back on emissions, but our efforts to eat less meat or use public transport pale in comparison to the harm that will be done by this proposed project.

We pray for Australia and send money to help burned koalas, we criticize others for cutting down the Amazon forest, depriving orangutans of their habitat, and we judge the U.S. for its climate-denying leadership.

But here in Canada, with scientists telling us we have less than 10 years to limit climate catastrophe, we are poised to eradicate more boreal forest and add more greenhouse gases to an already beleaguered atmosphere.

I saw former U.S. president Barack Obama on his recent visit to Toronto. He praised Canada for listening to the science. Have we stopped doing that?

Jennifer Dance, Stouffville
Despite the bellicose rhetoric emanating from Alberta over this development, which you can view with this link, in a sane world, there really would be no debate over this ill-conceived and very, very dangerous project.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Canada Stands Indicted

While I most assuredly cannot claim any virtue when it comes to climate-change mitigation (I still fly, probably the greatest environmental sin one can commit), I do understand the gravity of what the world faces; to say I am pessimistic about our future is a massive understatement. That pessimism has been given new impetus by a piece Bill McKibben has written in The Guardian.

Despite having elected a government purporting to take climate-change seriously, it is likely we will approve a new tars sands project that will add countless megatonnes of greenhouse gases to the world's atmosphere:
The Teck mine would be the biggest tar sands mine yet: 113 square miles of petroleum mining, located just 16 miles from the border of Wood Buffalo national park. A federal panel approved the mine despite conceding that it would likely be harmful to the environment and to the land culture of Indigenous people... Canadian authorities ruled that the mine was nonetheless in the “public interest”.
To put things into perspective,
Canada, which is 0.5% of the planet’s population, plans to use up nearly a third of the planet’s remaining carbon budget [emphasis added]. Ottawa hides all this behind a series of pledges about “net-zero emissions by 2050” and so on, but they are empty promises.
Despite the worldwide evidence that we are witnessing the beginnings of runaway climate-change, we just can't seem to help ourselves.
... the Teck Frontier proposal is predicated on the idea that we’ll still need vast quantities of oil in 2066, when Greta Thunberg is about to hit retirement age. If an alcoholic assured you he was taking his condition very seriously, but also laying in a 40-year store of bourbon, you’d be entitled to doubt his sincerity, or at least to note his confusion.
Canada is far from unique in its addiction to, and advocacy for, more fossil-fuel development. What perhaps differentiates us from the world's other bad-actors in this domain is our pious avowals that we are enacting measures that will address the problem

As Bill McKibben points out, nothing could be further from the truth.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

They Are Not The Exclusive Domain Of Republicans

They being intolerance and homophobia, as this exchange at the Iowa Democratic caucus makes clear:

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Death Of An Icon

Dear Friends:

There is no easy way to say this: Mr. Peanut is no more. The first video below depicts the circumstances of his demise, while the second is a loving retrospective of his long life.

Looking for the silver lining of this shocking news, however, one must consider the possibility that his death was for the best; stories have abounded for years of his sad decline, many saying that he was a mere shell of his former self.

Composting has already taken place.