Thursday, June 22, 2017

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I Wonder

When even the dimmest and most ideologically bent among us realize they backed the wrong pony when they ignored the warnings about climate change, and when it is far too late to do anything about it (as it almost is now), who will they blame? Will it be their political 'leaders', the corporate obstructionists, or themselves for being so wedded to unsustainable lifestyles?

I fear we will have the answer sooner rather than later:

This report on air turbulence is not unrelated to climate change:

Finally, consider the full implications of this:

All of the above, of course, is centered around North America. Imagine the plight of developing countries, where shade and air-conditioning are often non-existent.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Omnibus Bills: Another Liberal Betrayal

When Justin Trudeau and his merry band of men and women were campaigning for our vote, they railed against the Harper propensity for passing omnibus bills; those documents, being so dense and long, meant that almost anything could be slipped in.

Said the erstwhile earnest Trudeau in 2015:
We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny.

Stephen Harper has used prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances. We will not.

Stephen Harper has also used omnibus bills to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals. We will change the House of Commons Standing Orders to bring an end to this undemocratic practice.
Sadly, the Liberals'return to power has dulled the appetite for change, with the use of the omnibus bill now enjoying the government's full fervour:
The Senate has narrowly defeated a motion to divide the Liberal government’s budget bill, following a personal appeal from Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

In a late-night 38-38 vote with one abstention, senators defeated a motion to split Bill C-44 in a way that removes the proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank Act from the main budget bill.
The motion to split the bill had come from independent Senator André Pratte, who argued that it would give the senators more time to study the proposed $35-billion infrastructure bank about which I have written previously. In typical neoliberal fashion, the Infrastructure Bank appears to be a gift to the corporate world, backstopped as it will be by the taxpayer.

Senator Pratte's desire to separate the Bank legislation from the budget bill appears to have arisen from noble motives:
Mr. Pratte promoted his motion as a vehicle for the Senate to draw a line in the sand against the use of wide-ranging omnibus bills that make it more difficult for Parliament to thoroughly study all of the bill’s component parts.
Alas, the pressure from Finance Minister Morneau appears to have been too great:
Mr. Morneau spent nearly two hours last week as a witness before the Senate national finance committee, where he urged Mr. Pratte and other senators to approve the budget bill intact before Parliament rises for the summer recess.
It would appear that even though Liberal senators are no longer part of the Liberal caucus, their affiliations and gratitude still tend toward placating their former political masters.

Monday, June 19, 2017

When I Was A Lad

... had this appeared in a film, it would have been regarded as a rather crude and obvious satire. Unfortunately, it is today's reality:

You can read a detailed L.A. Times report about this here, including the fact that such comforts are sometimes extended to those who commit violent crimes.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Trump's Benighted Cuba Stance

Donald Trump is attempting to curry political favour in Florida by turning back the clock on warming U.S.-Cuba relations initiated by Obama. However, that cynical move is likely to have unintended consequences that go well beyond economic hardship for the slowly-emerging private sector on the island nation.

Watch this brief report, made the day before the announcement, to learn the kicker at the end, one that could mean some deep trouble ahead for the world, assuming the Orange Ogre somehow manages to remain in office.

And The Independent offers this chilling dose of reality:
By retreating from Cuba, Trump risks creating fresh space for Russia to reassert itself there. Just last month Russia resumed oil shipments to Cuba after a hiatus of over a decade – its saviour in the interim has been Venezuela. As Venezuela falls apart at the seams, Cuba needs someone else to stop it collapsing too. If not America, then Russia. Putin recently forgave 90 per cent of Cuba’s debts to his country. There are reports that Russia is in talks about opening a military base on the island again. You get the picture.
Just one of the many consequences of having a tantrum-prone baby in The White House, along with a plethora of 'caregivers' enabling, aiding and abetting him.

Friday, June 16, 2017

He Can Talk The Talk

But his sandal-clad feet cannot walk the walk.

After the disastrous tenure of Paul Wells as national political affairs commentator, it was a real pleasure to see that The Toronto Star has called Tim Harper out of retirement. In his column today, Harper reminds us of some things that Justin Trudeau acolytes would prefer to ignore.

Among Trudeau's less-than-stellar achievements thus far,

Constitutional Debate, Anyone?
... this government is now facing the prospect of having a budget bill split, or stalled, in the non-elected, non-accountable Senate. It has wandered into this muck by tabling the type of omnibus budget bill it railed against in opposition when it was done by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and by appointing independent senators who have taken that label literally.

Sen. André Pratte may have been quite right in pushing to have the government’s infrastructure bank yanked out of the Liberal budget bill for separate scrutiny. And Trudeau’s point man in the Senate, Peter Harder, may have been quite right in arguing that splitting the bill would mean a spending bill would originate in the Senate — powers the upper chamber does not have.
Harper suggests as with other issues, this one will escape the public's scrutiny thanks to the impending summer recess.

But when we all return from our summer holiday, there are other issues that the public will likely notice.

The Federal Deficit
On the economy, they will see that behind what looks to be a chugging locomotive is a federal deficit that goes much beyond — almost three times beyond — the $10 billion or so Trudeau promised in 2015. It conjures memories of a mocking Harper holding his thumb and forefinger almost together and laughing at Trudeau’s plan for those “tiny” deficits.
Indigenous Issues
... the Trudeau Liberals lifted expectations sky high for historic national reconciliation with First Nations.

But they have not walked their talk on spending on health and social services for Indigenous children living on reserves. They have instead ignored a series of non-compliance orders from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which ruled in January 2016 that Ottawa was discriminating against the children. It is also seeking individual hearings for thousands of children taken from reserves and placed with non-Indigenous families in the so-called ’60s Scoop, despite losing a court battle over compensation.

The inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women has turned into a morass, way behind schedule, certain to miss its deadline, sure to seek more money and losing the support of frustrated family members. Thursday, it lost another key member, Tanya Kappo, one of the Idle No More founders, who resigned as a community relations manager, one more dropping shoe indicating the commission is floundering.
The Environment
...the Trudeau government is still operating under the Harper emission targets, and it faces challenges with Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord. So far, the Trudeau environmental package includes a carbon tax in return for a pipeline, and the future of that Trans Mountain pipeline is clouded by the chaotic politics of British Columbia.
I feel bitter about this government, given the fact that it rose to majority status thanks to the promise of doing things differently. Thus far, outside of a more pleasing manner, I see little to distinguish Justin Trudeau from the neoliberal policies of the Harper government.

Time for people to start paying attention again.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Depraved Indifference

When you think about it, almost all of us are guilty of it.

Toronto Star 14 Jun 2017
Re Caution: children at work, June 13

Recognizing child labour as a violation of children’s and workers’ rights, trade unions are joining with families and community organizations to combat child labour, to move children out of work and into school, and to support core labour standards.

Everything old is new again. The over-privileged Canadians will tsk tsk and the corporations will apologize profusely and come up with yet another “child-slave-labour” certification scam and a feel-good logo on the product, and the consumer monkeys will once again spread their cancer guilt-free.

Do the privileged humans care? Sure. They wish the kids and peasants had a better life and there was no runaway climate change and overpopulation, but they don’t stop consuming and breeding.

Mohammed Olukolu, Toronto

I’d argue that Canadians knowingly buy goods made by workers, including many children, who have been forced into servitude and have little to no rights.

It appears that the Rana Plaza disaster (which killed more than 1,100 garment workers in Bangladesh in 2013) did precious little to open consumers’ eyes as to how callously fast-fashion is produced.

They just gotta have all five colours of those poor-quality, fast-fashion blouses, instead of a couple of high-quality, fairlysourced ones.

Richard Kadziewicz, Scarborough

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Monday, June 5, 2017

On Fact-Resistant Humans

MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”

More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”
While scientists have no clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data, they theorize that the strain may have developed the ability to intercept and discard information en route from the auditory nerve to the brain. “The normal functions of human consciousness have been completely nullified,” Logsdon said.

While reaffirming the gloomy assessments of the study, Logsdon held out hope that the threat of fact-resistant humans could be mitigated in the future. “Our research is very preliminary, but it’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,” he said.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Opera We Can All Appreciate

Thanks to my friend Jonathan for sending this along:

This Just In

From The New Yorker:
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In a dramatic announcement from the White House Rose Garden on Thursday, Donald J. Trump pronounced the planet Earth a “loser” and vowed to make a better deal with a new planet.

“Earth is a terrible, very bad planet,” he told the White House press corps. “It’s maybe the worst planet in the solar system, and it’s far from the biggest.”

Trump blasted former President Barack Obama for signing deals that committed the United States to remain on the planet Earth indefinitely. “Obama is almost as big a loser as Earth,” Trump said. “If Obama was a planet, guess what planet he’d be? That’s right: Earth.”

When asked which planet he would make a new deal with, Trump offered few specifics, saying only, “The solar system has millions of terrific planets, and they’re all better than Earth, which is a sick, failing loser.”

Trump’s remarks drew a strong response from one of the United States’ nato allies, Germany’s Angela Merkel. “I strongly support Donald Trump leaving the planet Earth,” she said.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Climate Change Variables

Now that Donald Trump has formally announced that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, will the efforts of individual states and municipalities be enough to limit the damage of his benighted decision? This report provides some basis for hope:

Meanwhile, back home, Canadian mayors are not buying what Trump is selling.

Additionally, California's powerful leadership role in combating carbon emissions cannot be easily dismissed.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Infrastructure Bank: Another Taxpayer-Funded Subsidy To Big Business

There are undoubtedly those who will never accept the fact that in electing Justin Trudeau and his sunny band of men and women, they were, in fact, putting into power a group as neoliberal as the outgoing Harper regime. It is a hard truth, one that I have had to accept despite the fact that mine was one of the many votes that put the Liberals back into power.

The latest evidence of this sad truth is found in new information about the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, a scheme ostensibly designed to raise private capital to fund various projects to rebuild our steadily decaying roads, bridges, etc.
Federal investments doled out through the government’s new infrastructure financing agency may be used to ensure a financial return to private investors if a project fails to generate enough revenues, documents show.

What investors have recently been told — and what the finance minister was told late last year — is that if revenues fall short of estimates, federal investments through the bank would act as a revenue floor to help make a project commercially viable.

Experts say the wording in the documents suggests taxpayers will be asked to take on a bigger slice of the financial risk in a project to help private investors, a charge the government rejects.
The devil, as they say, is in the details:
An October briefing note to Finance Minister Bill Morneau ahead of the fall economic update where the government unveiled the financial plan for the bank, said federal funding could be structured in such a way that the bank’s “return on investment will only materialize if defined institutional investor revenue thresholds are met.”

“The infrastructure bank could enter in the capital structure to bridge the gap between reasonable returns on investment for investors and the revenue generation capacity of specific infrastructure projects,” reads the briefing note, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
In other words, if I interpret this correctly, should revenues for private investors fall below expectations, we, the taxpayers, will be propping up their profits.

Despite my aging olfactory system, I am forced to conclude that this scheme does not pass any reasonable smell test.

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Lesson In Ecological Humility

I saw the following last night on Global. It impressed me so much that we took a drive today to Long Point, an area I hadn't visited for over 45 years. The story is a singular illustration of can be accomplished at the local level.
A new research paper, published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, details the community of Long Point’s construction of roadway fencing and culverts – tunnels used for animal travel – to decrease the numbers of turtles and snakes dying on the Long Point Causeway in a southwestern part of the province.

The road connecting the Long Point Peninsula on Lake Erie and mainland Ontario was ranked as North America’s fourth deadliest site for turtle road mortality in 2003. Researchers also estimated that since 1979, as many as 10,000 animals per year were killed by traffic on the two-lane stretch, representing close to 100 species.

The study found, however, that the community’s work to protect the reptiles living in wetlands surrounding the causeway has reduced the number of turtles venturing onto the road by close to 90 per cent over 10 years, while the number of snakes going on to the road dropped by close to 50 per cent.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Saturday, May 27, 2017

President Trump's National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster: "I Smell Nothing"

It's sad to witness the total failure of the olfactory system.

Thanks to the work of The Washington Post for this:

On Public-Private Partnerships

Much has recently been written about the Trudeau government's plan to establish an Infrastructure Bank whose putative purpose is to leverage private sector money to help fund projects. One can legitimately ask why that is necessary, given the record -low rates at which the government can currently borrow money.

Trapinawrpool provided a Twitter link to an analysis that should give everyone pause. Perhaps its most salient point is this:
It appears that public private partnerships (P3s), and not low-cost financing, will be the focus of the bank. The likely impact will be interest rates of 7 -9% on Infrastructure Bank projects, instead of 0.8 per cent, the current federal borrowing rate.

In other words, the proposed structure will increase interest costs by a factor of 10: 8% instead of 0.8%. Those higher costs will be paid by governments, by higher user fees, or both. Municipalities are not blind to this issue, preferring public financing due to its lower costs and improved control over public infrastructure.
For a quick look at the forces of unfettered capitalism that may very well be unleashed by the cozy relationship that Mr. Trudeau seems intent on fostering and furthering with his corporate pals, the American experience with such dalliances may prove instructive, especially when the report describes the field day private interests are having with toll roads they financed:

Clearly, Canadians should be very, very worried about what lies ahead under Mr. Trudeau's plans.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Are Trump's Ties To Russia About To Be Made Transparent?

You can read the long version here, or watch the short version below. For a slightly different slant, The Raw Story's evaluation of the writer of the article cited provides a basis for some critical reservations.

The Cassandra Award

This is an interesting concept. Check out the website and watch the following brief video.

Monday, May 22, 2017

As The Orb Turns

Here we are in Canada, celebrating the Victoria Day long weekend. Meanwhile, in a land far, far away, sinister forces are at work:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

An Insurmountable Divide

These days I find myself writing less on this blog and curating interesting material more. In that spirit, I offer the following letters from Star readers.

The first one suggests the necessity of engaging the other side of the Trump polarity, while the ones that follow show why that is never likely to happen:
Re: New doc aims to take down Donald Trump, May 18

No matter how persuasive a Michael Moore documentary might be, he will never convince Trump’s hardcore supporters, now estimated at more than 30 per cent of the American population, that Trump is guilty of anything except standing up to the left-wing media and intellectual elites.

They see Moore is just one more “libtard,” “leftie” or any other of the pejoratives they save for anyone who disagrees with their personal issues. Moore unfortunately is destined to preach only to the already converted, and I doubt he will have any effect whatsoever on the so-called “unwashed masses” who give whole-hearted support to the embattled president, no matter how outrageous he is.

What is needed is dialogue, not more bear bating. If there is going to be any consensus in American public thinking, we must listen to each other. The extremists on both sides are unwilling. That leaves the large middle group to really sit down and dialogue with each other, one on one, two on two, to hear each other’s concerns and hopes.

We must not only hear, but listen, and I’m not sure there is any politician in the U.S. or Canada, or anywhere else for that matter, who can lead us to the consensus we need.

Are we destined to become more split, more angry and more lacking in cohesion until the system falls prey to dystopia?

Stephen Bloom, Toronto

“Look at the way I’ve been treated. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

These are the words of U.S. President Donald Trump, speaking to the graduating class of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday.

This says it all about the vain, ignorant and infantile man who occupies the Oval Office.

Trump embarks on his first foreign trip as an embattled and wounded president only four months into office. Not since Richard Nixon in 1974 has a president gone overseas so weakened. At least Nixon was six years into his presidency.

With the victory of Emmanuel Macron in France, western Europe seems to be stabilizing and the European project is safe for now. The wild card in international relations is the United States and its unstable president. And, of course, Vladimir Putin and the meddlesome actions of the Russian government.

Andrew van Velzen, Toronto

Trump asked me to stop Flynn probe, and Manning to remain on active duty, May 17

The fact that a soldier who shared secrets of the U.S. government has had to serve time in prison provides sharp contrast to a man who is perceived to have made improper efforts to influence an ongoing investigation within the U.S. government who gets to serve time as president.

Let’s hope he is let out on parole early.

Janet Lemon Williams, Guelph, Ont.

The 1964 movie The Fall of the Roman Empire ends with the prophetic comment: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

The American Empire is in decline. It will not collapse during the Donald Trump era, but his barefaced lies, managerial incompetence and psychopathic behaviour are accelerating the U.S. downward.

Trump is not a political genius; he is the byproduct of our times: corporate greed, political corruption, technological transformation, wealth inequity, global warming, regional wars, international terrorism, drug cartels, asylum seekers and social media.

Many distraught and disoriented people are willing to support a bombastic leader who promises simple solutions, especially if those solutions exploit prejudicial scapegoating.

Lloyd Atkins, Vernon, B.C.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Inside The Mind of Trump: A Salamander Guest Post

In response to yesterday's post, The Salamander offered the following analysis, which I am featuring as a guest post:

.. have a long background on the perimeter of 'mood disorders' ..
The Trump is easily found, though spattered within the DSM-4 & the updated DSM-5. ie he manifests comorbid or multiple symptoms. What is obvious throughout the diagnostic and treatment algorithims is that the patient cannot and will not 'heal' themselves. Will not, cannot.

One may as well suggest to a diabetic that they 'pull up their socks' or develop a new hobby, or eat more broccoli.. or 'give their head a shake'. The most common mistake of those suffering from mood disorders is - upon feeling better from therapy & medication.. they stop medication & of course cease attending therapy sessions. In other words they did not succeed in reaching full remission. Worse, they become locked in a vicious & shrinking circle. The disorder(s) & symptoms blooms faster and faster.. and is harder to ever attain full remission.

Trump is far from 'the healthiest President in American history' as he proclaims. The nation has no idea what medication(s) he is taking daily or the side effects. Leaving aside the obvious low hanging fruit of greed, vanity and deceit & likelihood of blood pressure issues & meds, we note a zero alcohol routine as well as possible scalp meds promoting hair growth. Not Good! Only then may we proceed to the somatic i.e., sleep issues, extreme narcissism & related fabrication. Then we hit ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder, ugh, as well as Possible OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. We could throw in Prostate and Erectile Dysfunction Disorder & medication such as Viagra.

Finally, we may also arrive at Mixed Anxiety with Depression, and if his vanity and anger issues preclude professional psychiatric therapy then rest assured he is managing such a comorbid mood disorder with medication alone. For many suffering from this debilitating disorder, withdrawal from medication & in the absence of therapy, the next stage is often a rapid or sudden spiral into psychotic states. It would be unkind & unwise to describe such a psychosis as 'fantasyland' or Donald in Wonderland.

Dare I mention the dreaded 'Side Effects' of any and all of these medications.. or absence of some of them? The Donald is hardwired from birth, as are all of us. Where he went or goes from there through life is mediated via environment, familial and peer events & now as he ages badly before our very eyes and he grows more and more addicted to listening to his own voice only.. and constantly, we see a bewildered, conceited, nasty and extremely ignorant megalomaniac in the White House. Land of the Free & the Home of the Brave.. right ... This loser in life, is attracting similar people.. ie., the GOP and their base, most of whom may not be at risk of growing dementia like Ronald Reagan or the Donald

Monday, May 15, 2017

This Is Explosive

Let's see Trump explain this away:
President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said that Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information Trump relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Truly, Madly, Deeply

Although the above title is taken from both a song and a movie title, it seems as apt a way as any to describe the current state of the American republic under the insane leadership of Donald Trump. It is truly, madly and deeply a nation in almost unfathomable crisis.

Last night, NBC's Lester Holt conducted an interview with the Orange Ogre, one you only have to watch a few minutes of to realize that almost everything Trump says is either a lie or a manifestation of his deeply unstable mind. With no regard for keeping stories straight, he readily admitted his firing of FBI director Comey had nothing to do with a recommendation by his deputy attorney general:
And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”
Another bald lie was his assertion that he had been reassured by Comey three times that he was not under investigation, something that would seem extremely unlikely.

In any event, watch a few minutes and see what you think.

If you have the stomach, watch a few minutes of a racist in Florida abusing and threatening a Muslim family in the name of Trump.

Only the most ideological or insensate will be unable to understand that Trump and his ilk are a terrible, corrosive and cancerous blight on the American body politic. The only question that really seems to matter now is, "Will the republic succumb to its aggressive disease, or will it do what is necessary to return to some semblance of health and normalcy?"

Thursday, May 11, 2017

We've Heard It All Before

With Conservative leadership hopeful Maxime Bernier recently resurrecting the widely discredited and tired trope of a rising tide lifting all boats, Star reader Salmon Lee of Mississauga offers all of us a timely dose of reality:
Tax cuts only help the rich

Re Maxime Bernier’s vision for Canada, May 8

Yet another politician selling the myth that the economy will grow with tax cuts. If Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier’s economics are sound, we should have been experiencing strong economic growth over the past few years. With corporate tax revenues having been reduced by more than $20 billion annually, thanks to the generous tax cuts from the Harper and McGuinty governments, we should be seeing 3-per-cent growth and millions of well-paying jobs. Instead, we see bigger paycheques for CEOs, stagnant wages and more lower-paying precarious jobs. And loads of uninvested cash in corporate coffers. Canadian politicians should learn from the social democratic Scandinavian countries on how to create a society that gives people a secure future and an economy that can support it.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Climate Change And Cities

This is a time when the credibility of national governments is at an all-time low. In the United States, Donald Trump openly denies climate science. Indeed, he has declared his intention to revive the coal industry and boost fracking, two very dangerous sources of environmental disruption. He is even musing about withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement Climate.

Here at home, things are not much better. While avoiding the harsh rhetoric of a climate-change denier, Justin Trudeau, by some feat of rhetorical legerdemain, insists that developing the tarsands is not incompatible with a cleaner environment. Such may sound good to the untutored mind, but for the critical thinker demanding specifics, the prime minister offers pretty thin gruel.

So where are we to look for real leadership? Even though they are at best very junior partners, because they have the most to lose as recent events have made very clear, cities may have far more ability to exert substantial influence on the climate change file than most people might think.

The late Benjamin Barber wrote a book, recently published, called Cool Cities: Urban Sovereignty and the Fix for Global Warming arguing that cities, not national governments, hold the key to real progress on the climate change file. An excerpt in The Guardian offers some of his thinking:
The list [of what municipalities can do] includes divestment of public funds from carbon energy companies; investment to encourage renewable energy and green infrastructure; municipal carbon taxes; fracking and drilling bans; new waste incineration technologies; regulation of the use of plastic bottles and bags; policies to improve public transport and reduce car use; and recycling.
Barber cites the city of Oslo, which is pursuing a zero-emissions campaign, as an exemplar:
The city is applying the goal with particular efficiency to transportation, and electric vehicle charging stations are plentiful. The plan is to make Oslo the most electric vehicle-friendly city in the world – one in four new cars sold in Norway are electric – and a champion of green housing and architecture: its new opera house is set in a neighbourhood that gleams with green infrastructure.
And cities in Asia are embracing some surprising initiatives as well:
The greater Seoul region has a population of almost 25 million, and in 2015 it was ranked the continent’s most sustainable city. Seoul has made a massive investment in electric-powered buses. It already has the world’s third largest subway system, but its carbon fuel bus fleet of 120,000 vehicles has been a massive source of pollution. Current plans are to convert half this fleet to electric by 2020, which would be the world’s most ambitious achievement of this kind.
One of the main impediments to a wider application of municipal green projects is the constraint on the power of local government:
There are two formidable obstacles blocking a larger role for cities: a paucity of resources and the absence of autonomy and jurisdiction. The European Union favours regions over cities, and works more on agricultural subsidies than affordable urban housing. In the United States, the structure of congressional representation means a suburban and rural minority rules over the urban majority.
Here in Canada, at least in Ontario, what a local government can do, as Toronto mayor John Tory found out to his great disgruntlement, is only what the provincial government will permit it to do. Road tolls in Toronto, as had been proposed and initially approved by the Wynne government, was ultimately vetoed, given that a provincial election is pending next year, and motorists have long memories.

There is only one answer, according to Barber:
If cities are to get the power they need, they will have to demand the right of self-governance...

Because urban citizens are the planet’s majority, their natural rights are endowed with democratic urgency. They carry the noble name of “citizen”, associated with the word “city”. But the aim is not to set urban against rural: it is to restore a more judicious balance between them. Today it is cities that look forward, speaking to global common goods, while fearful nations look back.
We, as a species, have a clear choice: continue on our present heedless course to planetary destruction, or start to make the hard, painful and expensive choices in order to live to fight another day.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Ultimate Throwaway Species

My mother was fond of repeating an old adage: "You've made your bed. Now lie it it."

While that advice, in one form or another, has probably been meted out for centuries, renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking apparently doesn't think very much of it.
In "Expedition New Earth" — a documentary that debuts this summer as part of the BBC’s "Tomorrow’s World" science season — Hawking claims that Mother Earth would greatly appreciate it if we could gather our belongings and get out — not in 1,000 years, but in the next century or so.

“Professor Stephen Hawking thinks the human species will have to populate a new planet within 100 years if it is to survive,” the BBC said with a notable absence of punctuation marks in a statement posted online. “With climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, our own planet is increasingly precarious.”
So essentially, since we have trashed this planet, it is time to export our diseased kind to other worlds.

We have become the ultimate throwaway species.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Weather Porn

Since few seem willing to confront root causes, I guess that's what these stories of weather disasters are becoming.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

It's Too Late

As of late, after reading and viewing all of the bad news the world has to offer, especially with regard to rising sea levels and increasingly violent and intense storms wrought by climate change, I have come to the conclusion that there is no hope for us as a species. This is a new conclusion for me; despite being an inveterate pessimist, I have always held to just a sliver of hope that things could change, that we can't be counted out of the game yet.

No one event pushed me over the edge; I think it was just the relentless refusal of our political caste to take seriously the crisis engulfing us. Donald Trump's passion to unleash even more fossil fuel into our atmosphere, and Justin Trudeau's facile, fundamentally dishonest and juvenile insistence that environmental amelioration and exploitation of the tarsands are not mutually incompatible are but two symptoms of a western population that insists on having its every whim and consumptive desire met post-haste. Perhaps deep down, there is also an egoistic and hubristic inability to contemplate our own demise.

I read Owen's blog this morning, a sobering post well-worth your time, and here is the comment I left with him:
Of late I have been forced to conclude that there will be no turning back from the precipice, that the dark forces unleashed by our heedlessness are leading us to our inevitable fall. A shame really, especially when I see on the news almost every night stories of personal bravery and compassion where people put their own comfort, safety and well-being on the line to help or rescue another in distress or peril. I see in those stories the narrative of what we could have been as a species.
Here is but one poignant example:

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Coastal Concerns

As I wrote earlier this year, I have pledged not to visit the United States until, at the very least, the Donald Trump presidency is history. That does not mean, however, that my attraction to the west coast, in particular, California, has diminished. Were these better times, I likely would have paid a second visit to a state that appeals to me on many levels.

It is therefore heartening to see that there is no lessening of resistance in the Golden State to Trump and his mad policies of unleashing more fossil fuels to generate economic growth. Long known for its progressive environmental policies, California has no intention of acquiescing in the Orange Ogre's mad plans:
President Donald Trump painted a golden future of “great wealth” and “great jobs” powered by oil pumped from the ocean floor as he signed an executive order on Friday to consider new offshore drilling around the country.

But his efforts could splash harmlessly against the hardened barricades that California has been fortifying for decades with regulation and legislation to prevent additional drilling along its treasured coast.
Traumatized by past oil spills, Californians are in no mood for Trump's disdain for the environment:
“We will fight to the end,” said Susan Jordan, executive director of the California Coastal Protection Network, an environmental group. “They will not get any new oil on these shores."

“Californians will not stand for this,” said Jennifer Savage, a spokeswoman for the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit conservation group. “We love our coast. It's our playground, the driving force of our economy, the place where we find solace, joy and sustenance.”

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, along with Gov. Jerry Brown and top lawmakers, promised to fight any oil drilling.

“Instead of taking us backward, the federal government should work with us to advance the clean energy economy that’s creating jobs, providing energy and preserving California’s natural beauty,” he said.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) quickly announced new legislation Friday that would bar state commissions from allowing any new oil infrastructure along the coast, from piers to pipelines.

The legislation, scheduled to be introduced next week, would buttress opposition to offshore drilling from the California Coastal Commission and the State Lands Commission, who have jurisdiction over the coastline and the waters stretching three miles into the ocean.

"California’s door is closed to President Trump’s Pacific oil and gas drilling,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is chairman of the state’s lands commission.
While others, including our prime minister, suggest that exploitation of fossil fuels and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive, Californians, it would seem, are in no mood for either hollow rhetoric or risk-taking.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Simpsons Skewer Trump's First 100 Days

This little gem speaks for itself.

How Much Does That Plastic Bottle Really Cost?

For me, the plastic water bottle is an apt symbol for the mentality that encapsulates the western world today: the passion for convenience, abject, complete disregard for the environment, and the narcissistic drive for the satisfaction of personal wants no matter what the ultimate cost may be.

Star reader Paul A. Wilson of Toronto reminds us of the true cost of such indefensible egoism. We would all do well to heed his words:
Re: That plastic bottle you tossed is on its way to Arctic, April 22

The time has come for us to start dismantling the bottled-water industry. The Wellington Water Watchers and letter writers to the Star have convincingly argued that we need to protect our precious groundwater resources.

Now scientists are showing us we produce and throw away so many plastic products that we are destroying our oceans and the marine life. We should care less about the profits of huge multi-national companies like Nestlé and more about the long-term health of our planet and our children.

When we learned about environmental dangers in the past, our country often joined the international community to tackle problems such as acid rain, the use of DDT, lead in gasoline and the uncontrolled dumping of toxic chemicals in our waterways.

We should be able to apply the same resolve to this issue of sustainable water resources as we did when we became global leaders in the campaign to ban landmines.

We have the ability to make the necessary changes. We just have to stop procrastinating and act in ways designed to help our planet survive so our next generation will have a livable home.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Trump Strategy

I just read Owen's blog, which today talks about the wily Trump's real purpose behind his plan to reduce the corporate tax rate to 15%, from 35%. The following news item seems to complement Owen's post, especially when you learn one of the proposals to pay for this cut, which will add $2 trillion to the U.S. debt, is by making substantial changes to the 401k plan which, as I understand it, is roughly equivalent to Canada's RRSP.

Predictably, it looks like Trump's most ardent supporters, a.k.a. 'the little guys,' will be paying a very heavy price for their allegiance to the Orange Ogre.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

We Reap What We Sow, Eh?

The news is very bad, but that isn't really news for those of us who follow climate change:
A new international report shows that Arctic temperatures are rising higher and faster than expected, and the effects are already being felt around the world.

Among the findings in this year's report:

- The Arctic Ocean could be largely free of sea ice in the summer as early as 2030 or even before that.

- Arctic temperatures are rising twice as fast as the temperatures in the rest of the world. In the fall of 2016 mean temperatures were six degrees higher than average.

- Thawing permafrost that holds 50 per cent of the world's carbon is already affecting northern infrastructure and could release significant amounts of methane into the atmosphere.

- Polar bears, walruses and seals that rely on ice for survival are facing increased stress and disruption.

- Changes in the Arctic may be affecting weather as far away as Southeast Asia.
And those facts mean not only massive ecological and human disruption and dislocation in the near future due to sea level rise, but also massive costs:
The frigid region’s shift to warmer and wetter conditions, resulting in melting ice around the region, may cost the world economy trillions of dollars this century...

It is hard to have any hope these days, especially when our political 'leaders' continue to whistle, loudly and hubristically, past our looming collective graveyard.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Zelig, Anyone?

I don't know how many of you remember the 1983 Wood Allen film, Zelig, in which Allen plays an individual with the uncanny ability to take on the characteristics of those around him. The only problem, as I recall, was that there was no real individual at Leonard Zelig's core, just a skilled chameleon whose power was imitative and derivative, not original.

I'm beginning to think of Justin Trudeau as our version of Zelig. You may recall, for example, that he certainly supported Finance Minister Bill Morneau's comments last year that precarious work and job churn are here to stay, and that young Canadians will just have to get with the program. A short time later, however, when Trudeau was addressing politicians and elites in Germany, he had this to say:
“No more brushing aside the concerns of our workers and our citizens,” the prime minister said in prepared remarks. “We have to address the root cause of their worries, and get real about how the changing economy is impacting peoples’ lives.”

He even adopted some of the language of anti-trade movements. [Emphasis added.]

“When companies post record profits on the backs of workers consistently refused full-time work — and the job security that comes with it — people get defeated,” he said.
Trudeau said the anxiety of working people is turning into anger, and politicians and business leaders must take heed and take “long-term responsibility” for workers, their families, and the communities in which they operate.

“For business leaders, it’s about thinking beyond your short-term responsibility to your shareholders,” Trudeau said.

“It’s time to pay a living wage, to pay your taxes. And give your workers the benefits — and peace of mind — that come with stable, full-time contracts.” [Emphasis added]
Note the last sentence's jarring contrast with what Morneau/Trudeau told young people in the fall.

Why the change of tone? Perhaps it was due to the fact that Canada had just finished signing the CETA deal, and the neoliberal prime minister fears there will be few others unless the illusion of progress for workers is perpetrated. As well, his audience was really a world one, and we know how the man likes to bask in the reflected glow of his 'sunny ways' and international press adulation.

Which brings us to his latest Zelig move, which mirrors that of the Orange Ogre to the south:
Canada is going to put off for three years its plan to regulate cuts to methane emissions in the oil and gas sector.

The move comes less than a month after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order that hits the pause button on matching American commitments to methane cuts -- and the timing is no coincidence.
Using lines only too familiar to us from the Harper era, we are told that the delay is so as not to put our businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

Rebukes from the environmental sector have been swift:
Dale Marshall, national program manager with Environmental Defence, told the Star that curbing methane gas is one of the easiest ways to reduce emissions that cause climate change. The fact that the government is putting off action on this low-hanging fruit in the climate fight demonstrates a “total” lack of leadership, Marshall said.
He accused Ottawa of showing “no backbone” on the issue.
Despite the government's protestations that they will still remove the same amount of methane over time, those who study such matters dismiss such self-serving rhetoric:
Andrew Read, a senior analyst with the Pembina Institute, called the new methane timeline a “real blow” that could hinder Canada’s goal to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Read said that, even if the government still cuts methane emissions by 45 per cent, the delayed timeline translates to an estimated extra 55 megatonnes of the gas that will get released into the atmosphere. He added that methane is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
So there you have it - a prime minister as elusive a character as was Zelig, and sharing with him, apparently, one other 'quality': a complete absence of a moral and ethical core.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

In Praise Of Critical Thinking

At a time when darkness and ignorance seem to have become default positions for far too many people, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has made a four-minute video posted to his Facebook page that urges a renewal of critical thinking skills, the kind of skills that have enabled science to make such progress in the past several centuries.
The video begins with a reminder that the United States rose up from a "backwoods country," as Tyson calls it, to "one of the greatest nations the world has ever known," thanks to science. It was the United States that put humans on the moon and whose big thinkers created the personal computer and the internet.

"We pioneered industries," Tyson said. "Science is a fundamental part of the country that we are."

But in the 21st century, a disturbing trend took hold: "People have lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not," he said.

Tyson suggests that those who understand science the least are the people who are rising to power and denying it the loudest.

"That is a recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy," he said.

You can watch the video here.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The World Needs More Rick Steves

The vast majority of you are undoubtedly familiar with Rick Steves, the peripatetic world traveller who has taken his PBS viewers and readers of his travel guides on some memorable adventures.

But there is much more to Steves than his wanderlust. It turns out he is also a very, very impressive philanthropist
Back home, one of my pet social causes has long been affordable housing. Twenty years ago, I devised a scheme where I could put my retirement savings not into a bank to get interest, but into cheap apartments to house struggling neighbors. I would retain my capital, my equity would grow as the apartment complex appreciated, and I would suffer none of the headaches that I would have if I had rented out the units as a landlord. Rather than collecting rent, my “income” would be the joy of housing otherwise desperate people. I found this a creative, compassionate and more enlightened way to “invest” while retaining my long-term security.

This project evolved until, eventually, I owned a 24-unit apartment complex that I provided to the YWCA. They used it to house single moms who were recovering hard-drug addicts and were now ready to get custody of their children back.
The election of Trump, with his mean-spirited, exclusionary billionaires-club policies, changed Steves' plans:
With the election of our president and the rise of a new, greed-is-good ethic in our government, I want to be more constructive than just complaining about how our society is once again embracing “trickle-down” ethics, and our remarkable ability to ignore the need in our communities even as so much wealth is accumulated within the top one percent of our populace. I’m heartbroken at how good people, dedicating their lives to helping others (through social organizations and non-profits across our society), are bracing for a new forced austerity under our government of billionaires.

So, inspired by what’s happening in our government and in an attempt to make a difference, I decided to take my personal affordable housing project one step further: I recently gave my 24-unit apartment complex to the YWCA. Now the YWCA can plan into the future knowing this facility is theirs. And I’ll forever enjoy knowing that, with this gift, I’m still helping them with their mission.

Ricks Steves: clearly a man who recognizes the real value of money.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Trudeau Dissected: A Guest Post By Pamela MacNeil

In response to yesterday's post on Justin Trudeau, frequent contributor Pamela MacNeil left the following response, which I am taking the liberty of featuring as a guest post today:

Bill McKibben is spot on in his assessment of Trudeau and his hypocritical betrayal of supporting climate change, Lorne. While climate change is one of the most important issues he has back tracked on, there are numerous others.

His full embrace of Harper's neoliberal agenda is a guarantee that his policies are being created to support the corporate/political/military domestic and global elite. In other words, he is giving away control of Canada's wealth to global corporations. In order to do this he must eliminate Canada's sovereignty as an independent nation. This is something he is happily proceeding with.

I say happily, because he bragged in an interview with the Guardian that Canada will become the first "post nation state." Governing for the interest of Canadians is not part of his neoliberal equation.

His asserting of Canada's foreign policy with what US policy dictates is deeply entrenched and it goes way beyond military demands, such as the intent of Bill C-51 bringing Canadian security and immigration more in line with those in the US.

There is actually a disturbing, but excellent article written in the Tyee titled "Anti-terror laws already eroding free speech debate." It is about an Italian philosopher barred from visiting Canada to speak at the UBC University of Calgary. His name is Antonio Negri. He has visited Canada before and is a major critic of global neoliberalism.

Trudeau completely supports any military, economic, or political action of the US.

Does the Canadian government speak for Canadians? Do Canadians really think it's okay that [people are] victims of US military violence which has obliterated their countries, had their wealth plundered, had millions of their lives lost and created millions of refugees, who for the most part wander aimlessly looking for a country that will give them refuge?

What does it mean that Canada supports this kind of military violence and injustice? It means we are complicit, complicit in the violence and in the injustice.

Trudeau's alleged support of human rights is a farce.

The US is a country that is an imperial power; its educational system has all but destroyed the conceptual foundation of learning, making knowledge almost impossible to pursue; it is a country where intelligence and ideas are replaced by scripture and myth making, a country whose government, whether Democrats or Republicans, is comprised mainly of thugs who are really just a criminal cabal. This is the country that Trudeau has most aligned Canada with, even if it means submerging Canadian identity in the process.

Because of Trudeau and his cronies, Canadians can very well lose their sovereign independent nation. Can we rebuild our country if the foundation of our democracy has been destroyed? No we can't!

Watch what Trudeau does with Bill C-51. His amendments will only be cosmetic. He and his government will want to keep it for their own use. After all, Canadians will figure out sooner or later, that they have been lied to and will start to protest and fight back. They will have to be stopped and Bill C-51 is just the legislation to do it.

There seems to be a rule of thumb evolving with Trudeau. Anything that involves the creation or reinforcement of the rights and freedoms of Canadians is either ignored or violated, such as in the corporate-controlled, sovereignty-destroying "trade deals" he so loves to promote and the anti-BDS motion he so dogmatically supported.

Harper's arrogant, vindictive personality was a reflection of his political authoritarianism. The authoritarianism is harder to see with someone like Trudeau, whose charm and oozing pseudo sincerity come across as being genuinely truthful and caring.

His continued ongoing authoritarian neoliberal policies that are a threat to Canadians' rights and freedoms, including the destruction of Canada's social democracy, pegs him as a tyrant to me.

Harper has not left the building. Trudeau's sunny-ways are going to lead to some very dark days.

Monday, April 17, 2017

When Is The Anti-Trump Not The Anti-Trump?

Answer: When you scratch beneath the surface of Justin Trudeau's soaring rhetoric.

In his scathing assessment of our prime minister, 350.og founder Bill McKibben says that Trudeau is, in fact, a fellow traveller with Donald Trump when it comes to climate change, something I suspect more and more thinking Canadians are discovering:
Trudeau says all the right things, over and over. He’s got no Scott Pruitts in his cabinet: everyone who works for him says the right things. Indeed, they specialize in getting others to say them too – it was Canadian diplomats, and the country’s environment minister Catharine McKenna, who pushed at the Paris climate talks for a tougher-than-expected goal: holding the planet’s rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But those words are meaningless if you keep digging up more carbon and selling it to people to burn, and that’s exactly what Trudeau is doing. He’s hard at work pushing for new pipelines through Canada and the US to carry yet more oil out of Alberta’s tarsands, which is one of the greatest climate disasters on the planet.
Trudeau's rhetorical shape shifting capabilities were on full display last month in Houston as he received a standing ovation from a petroleum gathering when he said,
“No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.”
And therein lies the crux of Trudeau's hypocrisy.
If Canada digs up that oil and sells it to people to burn, it will produce, according to the math whizzes at Oil Change International, 30% of the carbon necessary to take us past the 1.5 degree target that Canada helped set in Paris.
In that regard, we are certainly punching above our weight:
Canada, which represents one half of one percent of the planet’s population, is claiming the right to sell the oil that will use up a third of the earth’s remaining carbon budget.
Trudeau and his cabinet acolytes would have us believe that we can continue to pump out tarsands bitumen and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I have a theory as to why he thinks this kind of magical thinking can be credible to anyone with even a modicum of critical-thinking skills:

Justin Trudeau has fallen into the trap of believing his own press. The fawning hyperbolic language used to describe him in worldwide journals has, I suspect, led him to believe he can do no wrong or, if he does, Canadians will be too blinded by his 'radiance' to notice.

In this, I hope our young prime minster is badly mistaken.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ready, Aye Ready

That noble motto of the Royal Canadian Navy can now perhaps perversely be described as the modus vivendi of Justin Trudeau in his ongoing efforts to get on the right side of Donald Trump. The alacrity with which he danced to the Orange Ogre's tune on Syria after the latter launched his Tomahawk missile attack following Syria's gas attack on its own people should be a source of grave concern to all. Appeasement never works.

More and more people are discovering that there is far less than meets the eye when it comes to Trudeau's intellect and leadership. And, as always, it is heartening to know that Star readers are not letting anything slip by them:
Re: Trudeau following Trump’s dangerous path on Syria, Walkom, April 12

Trudeau following Trump’s dangerous path on Syria, Walkom, April 12

I appreciated Thomas Walkom’s clear insights into the crisis in Syria. It is important to note that the U.S. missile attack was illegal. Unilateral attacks, without UN approval or without imminent fear of an attack, are illegal

But I have been astounded at the Trudeau government’s seemingly automatic approval of the U.S. action. While spokespeople for the U.K. government, the UN and even Trudeau himself had stated that the chemical attack required investigation, that cool-headed appraisal ended quickly with Trudeau’s supplication to the U.S. and his mind-boggling reference to supporting regime change.

Other attempts at regime change around the world have yielded many failures and led to the deaths of many innocent people. But it seems that, in order to appease an erratic and suddenly interventionist president, we have jumped in to support this ill-conceived and war-mongering U.S. position.

Who would we install? How will this end? I doubt anyone can say, since Syria is a mess. There are many actors on this stage and none offer a palatable alternative to Assad.

I am outraged by Trudeau’s knee-jerk reaction. But, if I hoped that the loyal opposition might provide some balance, I was sadly disappointed. I watched Conservative Peter Kent on CPAC describe Trump’s actions as “courageous.” Disgusting.

Bruce Van Dieten, Toronto

It’s fascinating to watch Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s lightning change of heart. A few days ago, he was publicly cautioning that there still wasn’t firm evidence about who was responsible for the gas attack in Syria.

Now, despite still having no firm evidence of culpability, he is stating that Syrian President Bashar Assad is responsible and that his regime must go.

You wonder whether Trudeau’s Washington handlers yanked his leash, whether he just decided — after watching U.S. President Donald Trump in action — that hysteria is a good enough basis for conducting international relations, or whether he thought that playing the tough guy could rescue his sagging poll numbers, as it seems to have done for Trump.

Whatever the case may be, how reassuring that bugbears like evidence aren’t tying his hands, even when it comes to fanning the flames in a conflict that could tip us over into a world war.

Andrew Brooks, Toronto

Dear Prime Minister: I suggest that before you so quickly decide that deposing Assad is the way to go, take a lesson from what happened in Iraq and Libya when their leaders were deposed. Things ended up much worse than they were before. Deposing Assad is tempting, but could give Daesh just what it’s looking for: an Islamic state to call their own. At the very least, you should know who/what will replace Assad before diving in.

Al Yolles, Toronto

Friday, April 14, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Our Surveillance Society

While we are both right and justified in our concerns over privacy compromises and violations that modern technology seems to have turned into a tsunami, sometimes that very technology can be an ally in our pursuit of truth and justice. As we saw in the recent United Airlines assault of Doctor David Dao, video can be the antidote to corporate spin.

Now, yet another video, both from a police dashcam and a citizen, demonstrates once more that minorities are often victimized by the authorities not because they have done anything wrong, but because of their ethnicity or their colour.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Sad State Of Affairs

While the fallout of United Airlines' ("Fly the friendly skies of United") forcible removal of a paying customer from an overbooked flight continues to reverberate, the ugly incident is reminding all of us of some ugly truths that now constitute our reality. Corporate power rules, and we are merely incidental casualties in its relentless march to profit.

Quoting one of his colleagues, Shawn Ryan sums up the situation: a blind pursuit of profit, United overbooked the flight, didn’t offer enough to entice anyone to get off the plane, then in order to get their own employees on the flight, they removed ticketed passengers, and when one wouldn’t comply with their orders, they called the cops to pull a supposed doctor off the plane—bloodying his face in the process.
Ryan sees much deeper significance here than a viral video that is doing tremendous damage to the airline's 'brand':
But let’s tell the deeper truth here—United made a dumb decision, but essentially they just got unlucky that the problem landed on their laps, and it was their dirty laundry that got aired. They are a cruel agent, without a doubt, but they are not some lone wolf—they are a product of an indifferent system that increasingly devalues individual life, and that system is called America.
Essentially, then, the forced removal of the doctor is only a symptom of an underlying systemic disease, much of which Canada is not immune to. What are some of the things we share with the rapidly unraveling U.S. of A.?
—The social safety net, once the strongest in the world, has been gradually dismantled by both major parties over three decades, leaving the poor and working classes vulnerable to increased poverty and immiseration.

—Labor unions, the only reliable form of protection for the American worker, have likewise been gutted as power amasses in the hands of corporations.

—Our economy is designed to transfer wealth and income into the pockets of those who need it least, and any opposition to this structural inequality is treated as political radicalism.

—Our police are empowered to shoot and kill our own citizens for dubious reasons, and—especially if the victim happens to be a minority—escape all prosecution.

—Harmful free trade agreements have been passed to milk profit from globalism, with no thought given to the loss of jobs, money, and dignity for American workers, or the slave wages and environmental destruction unleashed abroad.

The reality is plain: United Airlines is not the disease. United Airlines is a symptom of an infected country whose institutions of power no longer respect the dignity or the sanctity of the individual life. They don’t care about you
Soon, of course, the furor will subside, and all of us will return to our quotidian concerns, but perhaps we will remain at least a little shaken by having had many of our notions about fairness, equality and justice exposed for the delusions they often are.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

An Excellent Policy Initiative

Although perhaps less than perfect, New York state has taken a bold move in promising free college/university tuition for its residents whose families earn less than $100,000 per year. This will allow many more to secure higher education than would be possible without the bill; upwards of 80% of families will qualify.

Ontario has also promised some tuition relief for low-income families, but the details are still rather vague.

Anything that provides a little light during these exceedingly dark times is to be welcomed:

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Cost-Benefit Analysis Of Air Travel, Or Am I Just Another Hypocrite?

Having just returned from a 10-day visit to England, my first and my wife's third, the hypocrisy of my use of air travel is not lost on me. Well-known as the worst carbon-emitting form of transportation, jets pose a moral dilemma for all of us who claim to care about the environment. However, despite recognizing how personally and environmentally compromising such travel is, I doubt that this will be my last trip abroad.

I could argue that my infrequent use of airplanes is compensated by the measured steps I take in my daily life to reduce my carbon footprint, but they hardly balance the equation. In many ways, I guess I am no different from those who refuse to use their cars sparingly, who profligately and heedlessly make discretionary energy-intensive purchases, and who put their own comforts, conveniences and wishes above all others.

Ah, but the benefits and perspectives conferred by travel are ones that I cannot resist. I will likely address some of them in the future.

Perhaps to assuage my conscience, I would like to direct you to Star ethicist Ken Gallinger's column in today's paper.

A reader writes:
I lie awake thinking about climate change and air travel. As a means of transport, planes create the worst carbon footprint, yet no one cares. Carbon emissions are destroying the earth, yet friends feel entitled to warm vacations or unnecessary business travel. Years ago I committed to flying as rarely as possible, but it’s hard. For Canada’s 150th, we want to visit the new Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. Is it ever ethically defensible to fly?
Gallinger attempts to put the question into a wider perspective, one that may not actually fully address the morality of optional travel:
Sometimes this column puts me in a conflict of interest. Since “retiring,” my wife and I travel a lot, so I won’t pretend this is a disinterested response.

Having confessed to frequent flying, I invite you to join me on a “fantasy flight,” perhaps from Toronto to London, England. Let me introduce our fellow travellers.

See those 30 teenagers in the front rows? They’re small-town high school kids, on their way to Vimy Ridge. They’ll be stunned by the monument, but more to the point, they’ll be brought to tears by the sacrifice, dignity and sheer valour of Canadian kids not much older than themselves.

Observe the couple in 33B and C. His arm’s wrapped around her? Well, her mum is dying over in Jolly Ol’, and she’s praying to arrive in time for a final goodbye. It’s a particularly long flight, though she’s made it many times.

Look over there: 24F. He’s a worldfamous cellist, returning to Vienna after a sold-out performance at Roy Thomson. The thunderous ovation still rings in his ears — or maybe that’s just pressure at 33,000 feet. 18G? The nervous-looking young woman? She’s a nurse from Yellowknife, working with Médecins Sans Frontières and heading for her first assignment in Pakistan. She’s never been away from home before.

The quiet man in 27C? He’s connecting at Heathrow, flying to his ancestral home in Kenya. He’s Canadian, but he returns regularly to this tiny community, helping build a school for girls. A Scarborough church helps out financially; others do, too. But he’s the one who goes, and without his journey of hope, the project would die.
Can the broadening effects of travel be an ample justification and an effective counterbalance to the ignorance that so many seem to embrace today?
Is it ever ethically defensibly to fly? Of course it is. We live in an interconnected world.

Our stories, our families, our hopes and fears are interlaced with faraway places, and despite the occasional backwash of parochialism such as south of the border, there’s no turning back. The globe is our workshop, playground, farm — our heritage and our home.

That doesn’t mean we can ignore environmental implications of air travel, any more than the costs of recreational boating, going for a Sunday drive, bearing children or eating a steak. Air travel is costly, so we need to weigh decisions carefully, avoid flying when feasible and support attempts to mitigate environmental damage. But history shows that living in silos of national, ethnic or religious isolation has a cost too — a cost that is, perhaps, even greater.

Fly to Winnipeg. See the museum. Walk the Forks. Wave to the Golden Boy. Eat Real Perogies.

Just wait till the ice melts, the Jets have again missed the playoffs, the floods recede and the mosquitoes die. There are three or four days in August when the ’Peg is a lovely city.