Friday, June 24, 2016

Our Unfathomable Equanimity

While the world convulses and gyrates over the results of the Brexit vote, I can't help but wonder why not even a scintilla of that passion can be brought to a much greater threat to our collective well-being: climate change. Star reader Judith Deutsch of Toronto ponders our unfathomable equanimity:

Re: Atmosphere hits grim milestone, June 14

Startling is the news and the lack of reaction about atmospheric CO2 concentration reaching 400 parts per million and the fact that “it will never fall below 400 ppm this year, nor the next, nor the next.” That means the inevitable commitment to an ice-free planet.

The climate record indicates that in the past sea level increased 3 to 5 metres in one century. It means that coastal cities and major agricultural areas will be inundated, much occurring this century.

There is oppressive and dangerous silence so that the public remains ignorant about the danger to human life. The human impacts are already daunting and profoundly unjust: 350 million people in India displaced by drought, 50 million people in Africa threatened by starvation this year because of drought.

There are other interacting factors, such as biofuels and speculation increasing the price of food, the World Bank subsidizing large dams that displace millions of farmers. Research and development of weapons receives 10 times the amount of subsidies as fighting climate change, with horrific new weapons threatening the world’s civilians, the real casualty of wars.

The proffered solutions are risible and serve more distraction, delay and deception: no timetables for emission reductions, no enforcement mechanisms, flawed market mechanisms that have proven to be grossly unjust and ineffectual in other regions, green subsidies only serving the affluent. There is studied avoidance of confronting the imperative to cut back: the biggest emitters are the military, the agro-industrial complex, international aviation and shipping.

The current political trajectory is beyond wonderland: at least Alice was able to observe the absurdity and wonder about it.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

I've Seen Fire, And I've Seen Rain

I readily admit that I am transfixed, awed and horrified by these now-regular reports of unfolding climatic disaster. Yet our hubristic selfishness continues unabated. Why? Is this humanity's fatal flaw?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Perspective Of Age

I suspect that much of the wisdom attributed to old age is the perspective that the years bestow. Having lived a certain length of time, it seems inevitable that people will more easily see through rhetoric and facades, much of them perpetrated by democratic governments who claim to represent the interests of the people. One example would surely be Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) involving what many would say are a massive fraud perpetrated on Canadian taxpayers.
Under the guise of combating tax evasion, the federal government opened up dozens of tax loopholes that have allowed Canadian corporations to avoid paying tax on $55 billion in international profits over the last five years.

The money is funnelled into offshore tax havens and can be brought back to Canada tax free by multinationals based in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

These offshore manoeuvres translate into billions of dollars in lost tax revenue for Canada, not because companies are cheating, but because they are encouraged to avoid taxes by government policies.
Not surprisingly, the abuses the treaties allow were engineered by the Harper government at the behest of corporations.
In 2010, Canada joined an initiative launched by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development to make tax havens more transparent and started signing Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) with notorious tax havens like the Cayman Islands, Jersey, the Isle of Man and the British Virgin Islands.

At the same time, the tax code was altered to allow any Canadian multinational corporation doing business in a TIEA partner country to bring profits home tax free.
Says Arthur Cockfield, a professor of tax law at Queen’s University,
“The corporate lobby is alive and well...“Why did (the government) do it? They were persuaded by industry that it was necessary to be globally competitive.”
Yielding to the corporate lobby has proven quite costly.
A joint investigation by the Star and the CBC has found that, since the first TIEAs were signed in 2011, the deals have allowed corporations working in low- or no-tax zones like Bermuda, the Bahamas and Panama to avoid paying taxes on some $55 billion in profits. If earned in Ontario, that money would have yielded more than $14 billion in tax revenue. That’s the equivalent of nearly half of this year’s projected federal deficit.
It is, of course, quite easy to demonize the Harper government that engineered these loopholes, starving much-needed programs and placing an even heavier burden on us, Leona Helmsley's 'little people.' Moreover, the true test of whether our new government is any better will be whether or not it revokes these obscene deals.

As one who has come to the conclusion that government is not really there to represent our interests, its rhetoric notwithstanding, I'm betting that Mr. Trudeau will opt for the status quo.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Donald Trump: A Searing Assessment By A Legendary Journalist

Appearing on CNN’s Reliable Sources, legendary journalist Carl Bernstein ripped into presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, calling him America’s first major party “neofascist.”

The former Washington Post reporter who was part of the team that uncovered the Watergate scandal in the 70’s, offered a very harsh assessment of Trump, saying “very little truth that comes out of his mouth.”

Trump has “shown himself throughout this campaign to be a pathological liar,” Bernstein stated.”There’s very little truth that comes out of his mouth, so let’s start there.”

A pity not all of the press is prepared to make such an uncompromising and accurate assessment of a very, very dangerous man.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

"They're Coming": A Paranoid NRA Interpretation of The Orlando Massacre

A little something to disturb your Father's Day celebrations:
In the wake of the massacre at Pulse night club in Orlando, National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre argued on Sunday that American families should arm themselves because terrorists were “on the verge of overwhelming us.”

LaPierre told CBS host John Dickerson that “we all mourn” for victims of the Orlando shooting, “but we face a terrorist challenge where they are on the verge of overwhelming us.”

Saturday, June 18, 2016

On Gun Control

Before it degenerates near the end with Bill Mahar expressing his usual prejudices about Islam, this clip from his show is well-worth watching. Guests discuss gun control.
The HBO Real Time panel, along with host Bill Maher, jumped all over a conservative commentator who refused to budge an inch on high-capacity weapons Friday night, with host Maher saying the Orlando shooting “was brought to you by guns and religion.”

Guest Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Colin Powell, took the lead in battling with conservative commentator Emily Miller over guns in America, saying, “We need some kind of control on the weapons in this country,” to the applause of the audience.

Admitting that he owns fourteen weapons, with some of them passed down from his father for hunting, Wilkerson went off on military grade weapons available to the public.

“We do not need large capacity magazines, semi-automatic weapons in the hands of anybody in this country, other than possible law enforcement,” Wilkerson said.

I Know You Are Probably Tired Of This

.... but I suspect that our earth is growing even more weary: