Wednesday, June 29, 2016

UPDATED:The News Keeps Gettting Worse

In a column on Tuesday, environmental blogger Robert Scribbler noted that the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream had merged with the Southern Hemisphere Jet Stream.

“It’s the very picture of weather weirding due to climate change. Something that would absolutely not happen in a normal world,” he wrote. “Something, that if it continues, basically threatens seasonal integrity.”

“Historically, the Tropics — which produce the tallest and thickest air mass in the world — have served as a mostly impenetrable barrier to upper level winds moving from one Hemisphere to another. But as the Poles have warmed due to human-forced climate change, the Hemispherical Jet Streams have moved out of the Middle Latitudes more and more. ”

“That’s bad news for seasonality,” he continued. “You get this weather-destabilizing and extreme weather generating mixing of seasons that is all part of a very difficult to deal with ‘Death of Winter’ type scenario.”
If you watch the accompanying video, you will be struck by the interconnectedness of climate systems. Changes in those system thanks to climate change threaten to become catastrophic.

In the following YouTube video, Beckwith says
that the jet stream behavior signaled “massive hits to the food supply” and “massive geopolitical unrest.”

UPDATE: Thanks to the dogged determination of The Mound to find out more about the above-described situation, I am happy (though a bit chastened) to report that the dire news presented above is based on poor science. The Washington Post offers this rebuttal:
The claims are unsupported and unscientific, and they demonstrate the danger of wild assertions made by non-experts reaching and misleading the masses.
The Post reporter
reached out to several atmospheric scientists, who have graduate degrees and are trusted sources in the profession, for their reaction to these claims. Without exception, they said air flow between the hemispheres is not at all uncommon.

“This is total nonsense,” said Cliff Mass, a professor of meteorology at the University of Washington. “Flow often crosses the equator.”

Mass added that the cross-equator flow identified by Scribbler and Beckwith is not between mid-latitude jet streams, as claimed. “The analysis is making mistakes that even one of my junior undergrads would not make,” Mass said.

Ryan Maue, a senior meteorologist with a doctoral degree who works at WeatherBell Analytics, agreed with Mass that the cross-equator flow is totally normal and not evidence of a joint hemispheric jet stream. “Cross-equatorial flow at both upper and lower levels is part of the seasonal transition of the Western Pacific monsoon through boreal summer,” he said.

“Sometimes the flows connect up with each other and make it look like a larger flow structure is causing the jet stream to flow from one hemisphere to the other, but it’s in no way unprecedented,” Roy Spencer, a professor of atmospheric science at University of Alabama-Huntsville, explained on his blog.
My apologies for so readily accepting Beckworth's claims. It was an obvious failure in critical thinking.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Post Fact-Checking World?

That seems to be the opinion of Donald Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord, who offers this view: I honestly don’t think this ‘fact-checking’ business ... is anything more than one more out of touch, elitist media-type thing.

I'm sure the rabble would agree:

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sustainability Needs To Be More Than Just A Word

A Star letter-writer has an insight on sustainability well-worth sharing:
Re: Canada a model for sustainable forestry, Letter June 19

Reading the response to Thomas Walkom’s editorial from Forest Products Association of Canada and Ontario Forest Industries Association, I was once again encouraged by how much progress has been made reducing, reusing and recycling the language of environmental activism for corporate messaging.

Terms like green, environmentally friendly, and eco-everything were always so vague it is not surprising how easily they were co-opted by advertisers to hawk products that are nothing of the sort. But sustainability has a simple, clear, specific definition. Sustainability is the capacity to endure.

What apologists such as letter writers Derek Nighbor and Jamie Lim are peddling should properly be referred to as Sustainability(TM) as this term is also becoming nothing more than happy-sounding marketing for demonstrably unsustainable activities.

By the end of today, there will be fewer trees and less forest wilderness in Canada and on Earth. What remains of these complex ecosystems will be more fractured, less diverse, less resilient, less healthy.

Even if that were the whole of it, the destruction of these ecosystems – and, ultimately, the resources and services they provide – is simply not sustainable. And, of course, that is nowhere near the whole of it.

Among other impacts, the replanting that Nighbor and Lim laud, when it happens at all, is usually a genetic monoculture of non-native species, all at the same stage of growth. These are not regenerating forests. These are plantations; deserts of wood compared to the vital forest ecosystems they have supplanted.

By the end of today, there also will be fewer species, less water, less soil, more carbon in the atmosphere and oceans, and more persistent toxic pollution in everything – including our bodies. Nothing about our presence on Earth is currently sustainable.

I am often at a loss for words to describe the scale and pace of our pathological destruction of the natural world. I am compelled to fight against losing the meaning of the very word that describes the crisis.

What cannot endure, will not endure. Unsustainable activities will come to an end whether we like it or not. We should get actual sustainability before it gets us.
Kevin Farmer, Toronto
If you need further evidence of the havoc being wrought thanks to our collective heedlessness, look no further than this:

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Kool-Aid, Anyone?

Unless you have taken a strong slug of a particular Kool-Aid, I suspect you will be suitably appalled by the following. Indeed, the responses of the folks who were asked what it would take for Donald Trump to lose their vote reminds me of an old tune sung by Tammy Wynette.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

And Now, Another Word From The Truly Insane

Stephen Anderson, I see, is back at it. You may remember the hate-filled screed that this truly insane evangelical launched into following the Orlando massacre, one that was subsequently taken down from YouTube for violating its policy on hate speech.

Not to be silenced, Raw Story reports that this unhinged pastor launched into a new tirade after businesses began severing their relationships with his and other like-minded churches. As I mentioned in my previous post on this obscene parody of God's love, he is difficult to listen to.

The sickest part is that this ding-dong truly feels he is a persecuted Christian.

May This Day Never Come

I pray we never get to the day when scenes like the following become so commonplace that we regard them with only the passing interest we might today express in a rocket launch, and not the shock, awe and humbling that they undoubtedly merit:

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:

Friday, June 17, 2016

An Impressive Debut

I don't feel much like writing lengthy posts these days. In the final analysis, as my literary friend Hamlet would say, they are just "words, words words." However, every so often I come across a video that seems more than worth sharing, as in the following.

Now is the season of commencements, and Grade 8 graduate from Arlington Heights Jack Aiello sets a new standard that will likely be hard to match for years to come. Showing a real capacity for mimicry and a surprisingly
mature understanding of U.S. politics, Jack uses the current presidential race to full advantage, as you will see. His Trump is priceless, and if you watch to the end, you will be stunned by his Bernie Sanders.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Christian Wrong

That, I humbly submit, should be the new name for the Christian right. They are wrong and depraved morally, ethically, theologically and humanly. It should be a source of collective shame that they are part of our species, as the following clip from Rachel Maddow's show makes clear:

Glad I'm Not An American

Fellow Canadian Samantha Bee articulates the reasons for my gratitude:

Monday, June 13, 2016

UPDATED: Unfiltered Hatred

I don't feel completely right posting this video in which a hatred-spewing 'Christian' pastor, Stephen L. Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church, offers his evaluation of the Orlando massacre. However, we cannot turn away from such evil ranters; their malignity only grows if left unchallenged and not held to account.

I will warn you, though. It is not easy listening to such obscenity:

UPDATE: Anderson's hateful screed, I see, has been taken down by for violating YouTube's policy on hate speech. If you want to read some of what this despicable pastor said, you can do so here.


If there is any good to come from this terrible massacre, let it be the realization that the things that may set us apart are small indeed compared to the bonds that unite us.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

An Unsettling Experience

At a time when CEOs are comparing Donald Trump to fascists like Hitler and Mussolini, the experience I had yesterday must surely qualify as deeply disturbing.

I entered a local grocery store to meet my wife, who had been shopping there. She told me that she had seen a man wearing a Trump t-shirt like this one:

It was when she told me who was wearing the repugnant apparel that I reacted with both shock and outrage: a judge who sits the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Toni Skarica.

The former Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP and Crown prosecutor was appointed to the bench in 2012 by former Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

Later on in the store, he passed by us, so I took the opportunity to opine in a rather loud voice: "What a disgrace. What kind of person wears a t-shirt like that?"

He ignored my comment, probably seeing it as a badge of honour for so bravely promoting his 'hero.' However, a young woman who heard me said, "It hurts my eyes to look at it."

And the point here is not that someone is promoting a racist and a demagogue - in our open society, that is permitted. What is not permitted, however, is for judges, who are required to be impartial and refrain from politics, among other restriction, to openly trumpet their support. Here is what the Canadian Superior Court Judges' Association has to say about judicial impartiality:
It is not enough for the judiciary, as an institution, to be independent - individual judges must be seen to be objective and impartial. In their personal lives, judges must avoid words, actions or situations that might make them appear to be biased or disrespectful of the laws they are sworn to uphold. They must treat lawyers, clients and witnesses with respect and must refrain from comments that suggest they have made up their minds in advance. Outside the courtroom, judges do not socialize or associate with lawyers or other persons connected with the cases they hear, or they may be accused of favouritism. Judges typically declare a conflict and withdraw from a case that involves relatives or friends. The same is true if the case involves a former client, a member of the judge's former law firm, law partners or a former business associate, at least until a year or two has passed since the judge was appointed and those ties were severed.

Judges often choose to avoid most forms of community involvement. A judge may undertake community or charitable work but cannot offer legal or investment advice. Judges cannot take part in politics, either as a party member, fundraiser or donor, and many choose to relinquish their right to vote. While judges have been more willing in recent years to make public speeches or agree to media interviews, they refrain from expressing opinions on legal issues that could come before them in a future case. Judges are forbidden from being paid to do anything other than their judicial duties, but can accept appointments to serve on royal commissions, inquiries and other official investigations.
Although I am not sure whether that ban on political involvement includes advocating for politicians in other countries, I am certain of the following:

Justice Skarica, through his support of a candidate who has been shown to be a pathological liar, racist and demagogue, has raised very legitimate concerns about his judgement, his character, his values and, ultimately, his fitness to sit on the judiciary. I will be sending a letter of complaint about him tomorrow to the Canadian Judicial Council.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Limits Of Technology

Conditioned as we are to be in the thrall of our machines, we find it hard to imagine there are some things they cannot fix. Humanity's hubris is such that I suspect there are still many among us who are awaiting a technological fix to climate change, never for a moment imagining that no such deus ex machina will ever come along.

Sometimes we need a potent reminder of this fact, like the one the British Royal Navy is experiencing:
Six British warships stationed in the Persian Gulf are breaking down because the water is too hot. This week, members of the British Navy testified to the UK’s Defence Committee that their Type 45 destroyers keep losing power because of high ocean temperatures. When the ships’ turbines get overheated, they can’t generate as much energy, resulting in electrical failures.

The makers of the billion-dollar warships, including Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems Maritime, claim that the ships were not designed to be used in that kind of environment for an extended amount of time, although they are supposedly engineered for a wide range of temperatures from sub-Arctic to tropic. The Persian Gulf is a very shallow body of water that absorbs more heat than the open ocean, and it’s situated in one of the hottest places on Earth. Water temperatures regularly range from 75 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Is this breakdown an anomaly, a design fault, or something more sinister?
... in an exceptionally hot year on an exceptionally hot planet, the Gulf States have recorded many of their most extreme heat waves in recent months. A “heat dome” stretching from Dubai to Beirut resulted in the second-highest heat index ever recorded on Earth; the air in the Iranian city of Bandar Mahshahr felt like 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to climate change, this is likely to become the norm: A recent study noted that the Persian Gulf region will not be fit for human habitation by the end of the century because of regular, relentless heatwaves.
Back to the drawing board, I guess. Or, perhaps more relevantly, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the Gulf.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Satirical Indictment

Last night I had dinner with some of my retired teacher friends, two of whom used to make my lunch hours at school the highlight of my day, given our discussions on a wide array of topics. Indeed, my eyes glazed over and I repaired to my classroom only when they talked about golf or hockey, which was mercifully infrequently.

Last night was no different, as we tried to understand the allure of Donald Trump and the propensity of our species to plunge headlong towards climate doom. I won't bore you with the details, but this morning I fortuitously came upon the following satire that perhaps cuts too close to the bone:

Scientists: Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans

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.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Now Might Be A Good Time To Sell

If you own property in Florida, that is. A harbinger of much worse to come?

Meanwhile, rising tides have given a St. Petersburg couple new neighbours:

No word yet on whether the mammals have asked to borrow a cup of sugar or a fillet of fish from the Smiths.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Bhutan - A Country That Has Its Priorities Straight

Sure, you may say that Bhutan is a small country, yet it seems to be punching well above its weight. It is the world's first carbon-neutral country. Pity that, given our addiction to technology and bloated lifestyles, we likely think we have nothing to learn from them.


Taking a break to visit our son in Alberta. See you soon.