Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Are You A Supremacist?

Where I live, the summer has been, with just the occasional respite, unbearably hot. It has certainly interfered with one of my seasonal pleasures, sitting on the deck and reading the newspaper while watching various species of birds visit both my feeders and my bird bath. In those quiet moments, the wall that we humans far too frequently erect to separate us from nature seems to barely exist. The air, the sunlight, the perennials at the side and back of the yard are but a few of the things that I, the birds, squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits, butterflies and bees share. The illusion of Eden, however ephemeral, percolates into consciousness. All, for a few moments, is tranquil and holy.

But of course, the above is a very idealized version of reality; nature, in its more intrusive forms, elicits an entirely different response. For example, several years ago we awoke to find a bat in our bedroom. Let's just say that its presence was a source of deep consternation culminating in its capture and ultimately, its death, as it had to be tested for rabies.

While few would blame me for the actions I took, the incident does underscore another truth. We enjoy nature, we want to recognize ourselves as simply part of a vast and powerful reality, but we want it only on our terms. In a recent column, Rick Salutin reminded us of that truth:
When I got home from the cottage Monday, there were signs of struggle in the kitchen, like scratched, torn packaging on rice cakes. Mice? But why didn’t the cat disperse them as he always does? Rats? Later I heard scuffling and went back in: a squirrel!

It’s shocking how menacing they look in there, versus through the backyard window. Panicked and dangerous — the squirrel that is, but me too.

There’s such a sharp separation involved: them out there, us inside. Panic looms if it breaks down.
Salutin goes on to talk about other aspects of nature that we are increasingly contending with: the forest fires, the coastal flooding, etc., all a response to the separation that we have allowed to evolve and culminate in the early stages of climate change. That reality, he says, stands in sharp contrast to the romanticized nature that urbanites maunder on about (‘I love Nature.’). (See opening paragraph.)

And, in the way that only Rick Salutin can, he offers us this insight:
There’s a reason why indigenous peoples everywhere have led on dealing intelligently with climate change: not because they’re wiser or nobler but because they haven’t experienced a rupture with the non-human world to the same degree as most of us. They remain aware of the ways we’re part of the natural realm, and how dangerous and menacing it can be if, like any relationship, that one is left unattended or gets misshapen by a power imbalance. If you live oblivious to something you’re intimately part of, the odds don’t favour you, ultimately.
He might just as well have added that, with the power we wield, it doesn't favour nature either.

Indeed, Derrick Jensen, in a piece well-worth reading, has a name for what we do to the planet: human supremacism.
Here is human supremacism. Right now in Africa, humans are placing cyanide wastes from gold mines on salt licks and in ponds. This cyanide poisons all who come there, from elephants to lions to hyenas to the vultures who eat the dead. The humans do this in part to dump the mine wastes, but mainly so they can sell the ivory from the murdered elephants.

Right now a human is wrapping endangered ploughshares tortoises in cellophane and cramming them into roller bags to try to smuggle them out of Madagascar and into Asia for the pet trade. There are fewer than 400 of these tortoises left in the wild.

Right now in China, humans keep bears in tiny cages, iron vests around the bears’ abdomens to facilitate the extraction of bile from the bears’ gall bladders. The bears are painfully “milked” daily. The vests also serve to keep the bears from killing themselves by punching themselves in the chest.
And those are only a few dramatic examples of our ruptured relationship with the larger world. Every time we use our cars when we could have walked, every vehicle we buy that is bigger and more powerful than we need, every minute we spend idling our cars so we can stay cool or warm, every drop of water we waste when we let the tap run while brushing our teeth, all and so many more of our heedless daily decisions and actions reveal us for the human supremacists we are.

Our arrogance, our assumption of a natural superiority over nature, our insistence that we are separate from nature, continues apace. It is destroying our world and, of course, us along with it. All because of a perceived right to do what we will with the world around us.

A benighted and shameful view, but one that, despite all the indicators, sadly shows absolutely no signs of abatement.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Every North American Should Watch This

I'm often a critic of mainstream media, but the following is an example of what they can accomplish when they have the will:

H/t Ricochet

Groaning Beneath The Yoke

Last week, that paragon of rectitude, impartiality and righteousness (irony alert!), The Fraser Institute, performed its annual service to all Canadian by reminding us of the tax yoke under which we all groan:

This non-profit, tax-payer subsidized 'independent' think tank without a political agenda was keen to share details of our collective burden:
The Fraser Institute calculates that the average Canadian family paid $34,154 in taxes of all sort last year, including "hidden" business taxes that are passed along in the price of goods and services purchased.

The study's authors conclude that visible and hidden taxes would have been equal to 42.4 per cent of the cash income for an average Canadian family in 2015, estimated at $80,593.

By comparison, the study estimates the average Canadian family spent $30,293 on housing, food and clothing last year — about 37.6 per cent of the family's total cash income.
Thanks to a largely compliant and/or lazy mainstream media, this is now being accepted as a factual and grievous injustice. However, leave it to Press Progress to provide some much-needed balance and perspective:
Although the Fraser Institute claims the average family spends 42% of its income on taxes, less than one-third of that number actually refers to federal and provincial income tax.

The Fraser Institute inflates its numbers by tacking on average costs for health insurance, pensions and employment insurance (as if they're all one in the same thing) and further pads their numbers by including corporate taxes and oil and gas royalties for some reason.

Fraser Institute defends their curious methodological choices by arguing "the cost of business taxation is ultimately passed onto ordinary Canadians."

Is that true? To the extent that taxes on corporate profits are passed along to anyone, a US study shows four-fifths of the corporate tax burden would be passed onto income earners in the top 20% – in other words, even by the Fraser Institute's own logic, it's not being passed on to the "average Canadian family."
In a similar vein, that outlier of the mainstream media, The Toronto Star, offers offers this counsel about the alarmist report:
- it deceptively includes corporate taxes, which are largely shouldered by richer Canadians.

- as a share of Canada’s economy, taxes are now at a low rarely seen over the last three decades.

- the portion of income going to taxes has increased by only 7 per cent since 1961.
The biggest flaw in the Fraser report, typical of the kind of right-wing propaganda it regularly disseminates, is the glaring omission of what we get for those tax dollars:
A 2009 report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that middle-income Canadians enjoy public services, from education to health insurance to pensions, worth about $41,000 annually per family – or roughly 63 per cent of their income. Conversely, we have watched as decades of tax cuts have led to eroding public services, but also to rising inequality, persistent homelessness, traffic gridlock and crumbling schools.
So clearly, that yoke under which the Fraser Institute would have us believe we all slave isn't quite the burden they have presented. Indeed, many would not call it a yoke at all, but rather a representation of the values we hold dear as a society. But I guess the Fraser Institute lacks both the will and the tools to measure such vital intangibles.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

BDS, May And Israel’s Occupation

The title for this post I took from the online flurry of letters that brought out the usual voices in The Star. I will reproduce a number below that both support and demonize the movement to sanction Israel for its depraved mistreatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. I remain convinced that words will accomplish nothing in this long and ongoing heartache. Only strong and principled action has a chance of success. For that reason alone, no concerted effort to label people like me and others who support the cause as anti-Semitic will have any effect whatsoever.

Re: May shouldn’t run away from boycott, Opinion Aug. 22

Thank you very much for your publishing Linda McQuaig’s powerful piece. As a Jewish-Canadian, I am deeply concerned about our collective failure to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes, human rights violations and ongoing military occupation of Palestine. Support for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is not only growing among campuses, church and union groups, it is also increasing in our Jewish communities.

Why have we been silent? Why have we not understood that it is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel. It is, in fact, pro-human rights and taking the collective wisdom of our peoples’ histories of being persecuted. Tragically, we know the impact of global silence in the face of state terror.

Those of use who care deeply about Palestinian human rights were thrilled to see the Green Party take a courageous stand in support of BDS. I am very hopeful that Elizabeth May will support this position. This is not a radical position. It is simply taking a very obvious, peaceful stance against violence.

Unfortunately, people who publicly criticize Israel (including journalists and Jewish people) are subject to violent threats and accusations of anti-Semitism.

Much gratitude to Linda McQuaig for her excellent commentary and her courage to speak out about such an important issue. And thanks to the Star for printing this. Although you will likely receive pushback from pro-Israel folks, please know you that you are giving voice to a position supported by many of us.

Alisa Gayle, Toronto

Canada needs a principled position that respects Canadian values of human rights and the rule of international law. If BDS is one efficient way to lead to that end, then there is a well-justified reason to support this movement.

Dr. Nabil Tabbara, professor, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario

The problem with Ms McQuaig and her fellow travelers’ support of BDS is that it singles out Israel, not just in the region but amongst the nations of the world, and does nothing to move along the peace process. To say that the solution to the 100-year conflict lies solely on one side can only be rationalized by someone wearing blinders.

Ms May’s thoughtful rejection of supporting this movement should be praised. Ms McQuaig is the one to be admonished for her stance.

Morris Sosnovitch, Toronto

I agree with writer Linda McQuaig. The leader of the Green Party should not only stay but work as hard as ever that her party does not become the hijacked home base of the anti-Israel bashing club that singularly focuses on Israel and excludes all others.

The solidarity with Palestine is all well and fine except that there is only silence for the people of Sudan and Syria who we see slaughtered daily on a scale that is horrific and cruel.

The military occupation over Palestinian lands will end when there is trust and a true commitment in place to build peace based on a two-state solution by both sides. Peace will never flow by punishing and demonizing one side in a complicated two-sided conflict.

Elizabeth May needs to stay to fight for the soul of her party. She needs to ensure that the Green Party remains committed to real principles and not false narratives.

Martin Gladstone, Toronto

Linda McQuaig’s article presents several incorrect statements and a false narrative. BDS is not a “peaceful way to protest” Israel’s perceived misteps – it is an odious attempt to delegitimize the State of Israel. Palestinians live under Israeli occupation because Jordan refused to stay out of the Six Day War, forcing Israel’s hand to take the West Bank from Jordanian occupation. And the author fails to state that West Bank Palestinian Arabs enjoy far more rights than anywhere else in the Middle East.

David E. Bronfman, Toronto

I see the Star has stooped to a new low. This article exposes your proclivity to show your anti-Israel bias. To defend the BDS movement is exactly the same as calling for the destruction of the State of Israel, the only country of almost 200 in the world that is censured for destruction.

Marek Machtinger, Thornhill

The suggestion that the BDS movement is anti-Semitic is rooted in a narrative created by those who support the 49-year-long illegal occupation of Palestine. The ongoing violations by Israel of international human rights and humanitarian laws, the Fourth Geneva Convention and UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions are why the majority of Green Party members and others support BDS.

The desperate situation in Palestine has been thoroughly documented by reputable human rights agencies such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Defence for Children International.

This year the Israeli government has significantly reduced the water supply to Palestinians. In addition, in comparison to 2015, the Israelis have increased the rates of arrests of Palestinian children and youth and increased their destruction of Palestinian homes leaving Palestinian children homeless.

Those in the media have the responsibility to read the evidence regarding the situation in Palestine compiled by internationally credible non-governmental agencies before they accuse the BDS movement of anti-Semitism.

Rev. Steve Berube, co-chair, United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Pathetic Political Posturing

Yesterday, I posted about the outrageous pillaging of our groundwater made possible by a government that seems oblivious to anything but its corporate clientele. It is a sad situation which I and many others have known about for a long time; it is the same knowledge that Premier Wynne has long been in possession of, since it is the system of permits her government grants that makes this kind of aquatic depredation possible. Yet to hear her political posturing, it is almost as if it is a revelation to her:
There is a difference between taking water for agricultural or industrial use and taking it to sell bottled water, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Wednesday. Some of the conditions of the permits for bottled water use are outdated, she said.

"There's the issue of the quantity of water that's taken, there's the issue of the cost of that water," Wynne said.
Actually, that is not the issue for a lot of people, Ms. Wynne. The real issue, which you are studiously ignoring, is why your government issues such permits in the first place, given that it is yet another sop to your corporate friends and, as the saying goes, a licence to print money.
Environmental group Wellington Water Watchers is urging Ontario not to renew a permit for Nestle Waters in Aberfoyle, Ont., that expired on July 31. It's upset that the company has been allowed to keep extracting water from a local well in the midst of a severe drought in the province.

A water-taking permit remains in force if a renewal application is made at least 90 days before it expires.
Wynne continued with her pathetic political posturing:
"Thirty years ago, we wouldn't have envisioned an industry that took water and put it in plastic bottles so that people could carry it around," Wynne said.

"I mean, we didn't drink water from plastic bottles 30 years ago. We turned on the tap and the fact is our tap water in Ontario is among the best in the world."
If you have the stomach for it, you can watch the following news report that only underscores the political prostitution taking place at Queen's Park.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

UPDATED: Where Is The Outrage?

Buy land, they're not making it anymore.
-Mark Twain

The above quote, attributed to Mark Twain, is self-evident. What doesn't appear to be self-evident is that the same applies to all the water that exists in the world. Water is not, as some seem to believe, a self-replenishing resource; it is merely one that gets shifted about, due to increasingly volatile storms, droughts, evaporation, etc. And yet the government of Ontario operates as if it were ignorant of these facts.

Consider its disdainful treatment of this precious resource.
In the middle of a severe drought in southern Ontario, the bottled water giant Nestle is buying up more groundwater sources and now has permits from the Ontario government to remove a total of over 20 million litres of water per day!
To compound the ignominy of this flagrant commercialization of something that all citizens have a right to,
Ontario charges companies $3.71 for every million litres of water they extract- a total of less than $75 per day for their total permits of 20,000,000 litres of groundwater.
That Nestle feels emboldened to continue with its depredations is not really the fault of the company. After all, it is doing what companies always do: maximizing its profits, consequences be damned. This imperative, of course, is made possible by the fact that governments do little to protect this resource, even in drought-stricken California.

And yet, as you will see in the following report from Global News, Nestle considers itself a responsible steward of the environment and a sterling corporate entity:

What bothers me about the above report is the insistence that, if governments charged more for the water, it could be classed as a commodity under NAFTA. While I am not a lawyer or trade specialist, my question would be that even in charging the paltry sums that governments currently do, isn't water already being treated as a commodity?

As well, despite the comparative statistic showing that Nestle only takes 1% of the water, its commercialization is distinct from the fact that almost all other permit holders in Ontario are municipalities drawing water for their citizens to drink. Hardly equivalent to what Nestle is doing.

In the best of all possible worlds, we could stop companies from taking our water by not purchasing their bottled water. Since that is never going to happen, the only thing concerned citizens (and we should all be concerned) can do is make their displeasure known to the provincial government. Kathleen Wynne already has her eye on the next election, and if this issue incites public discontent, as it well should, she is far less likely to take direction from our corporate overlords and start listening to those who ultimately hold her electoral fate in their hands.

UPDATE: Thanks to The Mound of Sound, who reminded me of this chilling message from the Chairman of Nestle:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

News Many Would Prefer Not To Know

For anyone who knows anything about climate change, the news is not good. There is a large and growing crack in the fourth-largest Antarctic ice shelf, known as the Larsen C.
Larsen C, according to the British Antarctic Survey, is “slightly smaller than Scotland.” It’s called an ice “shelf” because the entirety of this country-sized area is covered by 350-meter-thick ice that is floating on top of deep ocean waters.

The crack in Larsen C grew around 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) in length between 2011 and 2015. And as it grew, also became wider — by 2015, yawning some 200 meters in length. Since then, growth has only continued — and now, a team of researchers monitoring Larsen C say that with the intense winter polar night over Antarctica coming to an end, they’ve been able to catch of glimpse of what happened to the crack during the time when it could not be observed by satellite.
What they found is deeply disturbing:
The rift had grown another 22 kilometers (13.67 miles) since it was last observed in March 2016, and has widened to about 350 meters, ... The full length of the rift is now 130 km, or over 80 miles.
This means that at some time, likely in the next few years, another major chunk of ice will be lost, and ultimately that will be bad news for rising sea levels:
Researchers have estimated that the loss of all the ice that the Larsen C ice shelf currently holds back would raise global sea levels by 10 centimeters, or just under 4 inches.
At least equal in consequence is the loss of reflective surface area, meaning that more and more heat will be absorbed by the ocean, adding to an already warming planet, the release of methane, etc. An ugly feedback loop.

Closer to home, there are these worrisome images of a world in the grips of dangerous, if not yet runaway, climate change:

Why do I continue to post such material? In many ways, considering who reads my blog, I am preaching to the converted. But on the other hand, perhaps someone will send a link to a skeptic, at least causing him or her a moment or two of introspection. If that is too far-fetched an aspiration, it at least provides, I hope, a little bit more information for those keen to understand how our world is being destroyed while our 'leaders' mouth platitudes and we blithely continue our indulgent, self-destructive and heedless ways.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Lesson In Living

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-Dylan Thomas

Although I am of an earlier time musically, and cannot say that outside of about two songs I am familiar with the Tragically Hip's oeuvre, I watched almost all of last night's concert from Kingston, televised by the CBC. I watched because I wanted to see how a man deals with the knowledge of impending death, and I wanted to partake in something that, no matter where we live, links all of us together. The latter is a fact that the CBC clearly recognized, broadcasting the show entirely commercial free, doing exactly what a public broadcaster should do, promoting the kind of experience that unites a country, breaking down some of the silly barriers that separate far too many of us.

Like Gord Downie, my brother-in-law suffered from glioblastoma, succumbing to the disease almost eight years ago. He lived the last year of his life with grace, refusing to succumb to the kind of self-pity that I think many of us would be all too prone to. And like my brother-in-law, Gord Downie showed the same resilience and strength of spirit in his final performance. He showed us what dying with dignity really means; he showed us the awesome strength that human beings can muster in the face of tragedy.

What he is contending with is perhaps epitomized here:

So I watched to be part of a pan-Canadian event, and I watched, not out of morbid curiosity or disrespect for the man's mortality, but to take a lesson in living life until the end. May I have at least a small amount of Downie's fortitude, class and strength of spirit when my time comes.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pillaging The Public Purse: On Hydro One's Privatization

I have written in the past on my strong opposition to Kathleen Wynne's selloff of 60% of Hydro One. She has no mandate for this pillaging of the public purse, and no good reason for it except her politically and ideologically-driven obsession with balancing the budget before Ontario's next provincial election. She will not be getting my vote.

Recently, Linda McQuaig wrote a column that came out strongly against this sale, offering an historical perspective showing the public good that accrues from public ownership of such a utility.

In today's Star, readers offer their own insights on this issue, one that is likely a big contributing factor in the Liberals' current poor showing in the polls:
Re: The case against privatizing Hydro One, Opinion Aug. 4

What’s most disturbing about reading Linda McQuaig’s strong case against privatizing Hydro One is that it reveals clearly that Premier Wynne seems to be selling it for no worthwhile reason.

When 73 per cent of Ontarians disagree with the sale and she insists on it, then she is not serving the public will. Further, to trade off the long-term benefits of Hydro One for a short-lived infusion of cash for infrastructure is economically incomprehensible.

With this kind of foolish, arbitrary decision, which is symptomatic of the disconnect between the public will and its leadership, Wynne will certainly join the infamous ranks of other failed premiers of Ontario, such as Mike Harris and Dalton McGuinty, who also carried out their personal agenda while forsaking the common good of the electorate.

Pity the serious voters.

Tony D’Andrea, Toronto

Timing is everything. Currently, along with a several other Ontarians, I am particularly interested in the timing of the Ontario Liberals’ Climate Change Action Plan.

Last Nov. 15, the Ontario Liberals privatized Hydro One when they sold off 15 per cent of the former Crown Corporation. Sad but true.

In April, they sold off another 15 per cent. The following month, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change let the world know that Ontario is moving away from natural-gas home heating. Some back-peddling followed. Shortly after that, the Liberals released their official Climate Change Action Plan.

It indicated their intention to move to a more electricity-based society. Once complete, Ontario is to have far more electric vehicles, electric charging hubs, electric home initiatives, etc.

In summary, the Liberals are moving Ontario to a more electricity-based society after privatizing our province’s transmission grid and largest local distribution company! That means Hydro One will now go on to make record profits and a huge amount of potential income is being stripped away from Ontarians.

But why? To balance the current Liberal budget and dangle some shiny gifts ahead of the 2018 election. All this at the expense of Ontarians.

The whole thing reeks of corruption. Just waiting for the smoking gun to be revealed. Timing is everything.

Joel Usher, Newcastle

Thanks to Linda McQuaig for detailing the long history of support in Ontario for a public monopoly on electricity — right up to today. The public instinct is right: it is best to keep this rare and valuable asset so that profits go back to our treasury, and to avoid the risk of the monopoly control falling into the hands of those who would maximize their returns at the expense of consumers and the environment.

Ms. McQuaig could have added that selling off Hydro One is a bad deal, as concluded by Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer. After all, investors are not stupid.

They will not pay full price for the value of the future Hydro One profits they would get as minority shareholders, due to the risk, because key decisions affecting profits are taken by government. The monopoly is worth more to the government as the decision-maker.

If you must sell an asset, this is a particularly bad one to sell.

Kim Jarvi, Toronto

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Time For Some Critical Thinking

With Canada's police chiefs clamoring for new powers that would allow for a massive invasion of our collective privacy, Canadians need to take some time to think critically about our rights and freedoms. As you will see in the following, the first commentator, Rich van Abbe of Toronto, has done just that:
Re: Police chiefs pushing for your passwords, Aug. 17

It’s a bedrock principle of our justice system that no one should be compelled to give evidence against him- or herself.

That makes the demand by Canada’s police chiefs that a law be enacted to force citizens to divulge their computer and phone passwords such an odious suggestion.

There’s no question that authorities engaged in a lawful investigation should be able to obtain warrants from the courts to search suspects’ homes or businesses to seek evidence — even to bust down a locked door if necessary.

But no law requires that a subject of a search tell the cops where evidence may be concealed, or help them retrieve it. Finding it is what detectives are paid to do.

The law the chiefs are demanding might make investigators’ jobs easier, but it would enshrine a perverse violation of the principle of no self-incrimination, one of our most cherished legal protections.

The federal government should slap down this foray against Canadians’ rights in no uncertain terms.
The second letter-writer, Claude Gannon of Markham, is quite happy to surrender his privacy, because he has "nothing to hide":
The police want my password? Here it is. I have nothing to hide.

The Internet has given criminals and radicalized individuals the possibility to operate anonymously, so the police and other law-enforcement bodies must be given the tools to curtail their activities. If this involves getting a hold of someone’s password, then so be it. Honest citizens have nothing to hide and will support the police.

Of course, civil libertarians and constitutional lawyers are very quick to cite privacy concerns, but safety and security should come first. Look around you: do people really care about privacy? Most of us are quite happy sharing our lives with banks, credit card companies, major retailers, rental companies…and the list goes on. Some people even display their whole lives on Facebook.

Let’s face it, we live in an increasingly dangerous world, and we need to give law-enforcement agencies all the help they need to combat crime and terrorism. If this means the occasional breach of privacy, then so be it!
Finally, some fitting irony from Randy Gostlin of Oshawa:
Perhaps we should just assume everyone’s guilty until proven innocent —except, of course, for police. They’re always innocent.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

We Should All Be Very Concerned

Given the authorities' recent success in thwarting Aaron Driver's plans for a terrorist attack, I suspect that most Canadians are not too concerned about protecting their privacy rights. The fact that existing laws, legal surveillance and a timely tip from the FBI were responsible for stopping him should, however, be uppermost in our minds as a recent resolution by Canada's police chiefs and technology that allows for indiscriminate eavesdropping are now in the news.
Canada’s police chiefs want a new law that would force people to hand over their electronic passwords with a judge’s consent.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has passed a resolution calling for the legal measure to unlock digital evidence, saying criminals increasingly use encryption to hide illicit activities.
This law, by the way, would involve unfettered access to all electronic devices that are password-protected, including computers, tablets and cellphones, something that many would argue the state has absolutely no right to.

Thanks to some sleuthing done by my son, who sent me a series of links, you might also be shocked to know that our privacy rights are already being regularly violated by police in what would, in the old days, be called 'fishing expeditions.'

Motherboard reports the following:
The Edmonton Police Service owns a controversial surveillance device called a “Stingray” that indiscriminately surveils any cellphone within its multi-kilometre range, a police spokesperson confirmed on Thursday to Motherboard.
Previously the exclusive domain of the RCMP, these devices
force any phones within a target radius [usually several kilometers] to connect to the device and transmit identifying information. When a phone is caught by a Stingray, the police obtain the phone and SIM card IDs, as well as its location and service carrier. More recent Stingray devices are capable of intercepting voice and text communications. Stingrays surveil phones indiscriminately, leading some commentators to label them as “mass surveillance” devices.
Queries to a several other major police services were met with refusals to acknowledge their use, and now the Edmonton police are trying to backtrack. Police spokeswoman Anna Batchelor has issued a'retraction,' saying that
“there was some miscommunication/misunderstanding internally surrounding the information obtained on whether the EPS owns a StingRay, and in fact, the EPS does not own a StingRay device.”

She said it was police policy not to comment on “equipment used in electronic surveillance or on investigative techniques, therefore EPS cannot provide any further information on this topic.”
This feeble attempt at damage control should fool no one, nor should it lull us into a false sense of our privacy security. The problem is that we are currently dependent only on the honesty and goodwill of police departments to use such devices properly. For example, the Vancouver Police admit to using it only once, and records indicate that use was legitimate and authorized. But there are almost no legal safeguards to its legitimate deployment, as
we have absolutely no policy or regulatory response to police and intelligence agencies’ use of Stingrays despite the RCMP having had Stingrays for over a decade.
Contrast this lackadaisical approach with Germany, which has had federal regulation over such devices since 2002, stipulating the following:
-a warrant is required;

-Stingrays can only be used for investigation of serious crimes;

-Stingrays can only be used to determine suspects’ geo-location (not interception of communication’s content);

-the process must limit the collection of non-suspects’ data;

-non-suspects’ data cannot be used for any purpose other than confirming that it is non-suspects’ data and that this incidentally captured data must be deleted without delay;

-police use of Stingray is subject to reporting requirements for oversight and review.
Canadians, meanwhile, are being kept in the dark:
WE DO NOT KNOW whether warrants are always being sought or the nature of the warrants being applied for;

-WE DO NOT KNOW what judges are being told about the capacities of Stingrays with respect to the warrants being applied for;

-WE DO NOT KNOW if any minimization techniques are used to limit the collection of data of people who are not the targets of surveillance;

-WE DO NOT KNOW what is being done with the personal information of the thousands of people who are not the targets of legitimate police investigation.
Over the years I have tried to chronicle the myriad abuses of authority the police regularly engage in. In these fraught times, the temptation to take shortcuts, violate charter rights and generally abuse the citizenry is high. Now is not the time to give police even greater opportunity for intrusion into and violation of our lives. They need to work within tight and responsible constraints. To do otherwise should be unacceptable to all Canadians.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Finally, Some Relief ....

The months-long drought where I live appears finally to be at end. However, any relief I feel is tempered by the knowledge that the weather system responsible for it is also part of the one that has wrought so much devastation in Louisiana:

Meanwhile, in the West, the years-long drought and all that that entails, continues:

Monday, August 15, 2016

Guest Commentary On Trump's Supporters

Receiving and responding to the comments of thoughtful and well-informed people is one of the reasons I maintain this blog. Yesterday I put up a post entitled, How Stupid Are Trump Supporters? It featured a Hulu show in which a convener pretends to be conducting a focus group study into the effectiveness of ads Trump is considering for his campaign. In light of comments from The Mound of Sound and Pamela MacNeil, I realize that mine was a superficial effort at best. I am therefore taking the liberty of reposting their insights, and my responses to them, here.

First, The Mound of Sound:
I think, Lorne, that a large segment of any people fed a constant diet of half-truths and outright falsehoods will eventually succumb.

I regularly write how the corporate media cartel has gone from watchdog of government to government's lap dog, especially when the government is right wing. Here's an example. When Dion and Layton were toying with the idea of a coalition majority government to displace a Harper minority, Canada's corporate media cartel spread the idea that this would be a constitutional coup d'etat, fiendish, the end of democracy. It was an outright lie. In fact that was how Harper's then BFF, John Howard, formed his government. As this utter lie circulated I was surprised at how many people I spoke with believed it.

Years ago 60 Minutes ran a segment about the Republican misinformation machine. Two key Repugs behind it openly described the system used to gain public acceptance of complete falsehood. It progressed through three stages.

The first stage was the open mouth radio shows - Limbaugh and others. They would float a rumour such as the stories about John Kerry's service in VietNam. From there it would be picked up by cable news - FOX in particular, first on their opinion shows (Hannity/O'Reilly) before migrating to the news department. Eventually it worked its way through the cable news milieu.

What began with the Limbaugh-bottom dwellers achieved a critical mass as it became established in cable news. From there it reached a point where the mainstream media - NYT,WaPo - could no longer ignore it and had to run the story or appear out of it. This was the formula used for the effective SwiftBoating of John Kerry.

The public, meanwhile, kept hearing the same lie over and over through progressively credible news services until they were getting it from the gold standard news outlets at the very top. Naturally many of them were conditioned to believe it.

The whole process is an insult to democracy, one that can quickly fester into something far worse.

Lies and half-truths are powerful weapons the unscrupulous wield invariably against their own. They use it to set the hook with those somewhat disposed to support them. Invariably they bait their hooks with generous amounts of fear and appeals to their prey's basest instincts. Harper did it. It works. We had a decade to see that in action.
My response:
Thanks for your in-depth analysis here, Mound. The failure of the media is manifest. In Dan Rather's memoir, he recounts something very similar happening around the time that he incurred right-wing wrath over calling out George Bush's military record. There was irrefutable proof that Bush was AWOL for a year, but the fledgling Internet quoted an early blogger (who was, in fact, a Republican operative) focusing on a particular document that must have been false because, he alleged, proportional spacing did not exist on the typewriters of that time. Proportional spacing did, in fact, exist, but once this blogger's words were in the air, it became a 'fact' that the document was false. The proof? The blogger's allegation and nothing more. It took off from there, ultimately resulting in Rather's dismissal from CBS.
Now, Pamela MacNeil:
No presidential candidate in any past campaign has ever intentionally focused on these people. Whether it was democrats or Republicans these people were not even a thought in the minds of either candidates.Trump has given them life and continues to manipulate them under the disguise of fighting for them.

Trump has made them believe, many for the first time in their lives ,that what they think and what they have to say matters.
They are not aware that now that they are visible, we are witnessing how pathetic they really are.Stupid yes, but pathetically so.

I almost feel sorry for them when I see them responding to the attention they get from Trump and his team. Something they have lived their whole lives without.

These guys have been ignored and dismissed politically, socially and culturally their whole lives. Now their being asked what they think. Living at the bottom of the intellectual ladder, this a moment where they think they can shine in an all too dreary life.

Listening and watching them is cringe worthy. Now they have been able collectively as Trump supporters to come together as a force. They are also an example of Mounds posting the other day on authoritarianism existing with the people not just their politicians, even when they are the mindless and the powerless.

I wonder what their numbers are.
My response:
Thanks for your thoughtful response, Pamela. I think you have identified a very important reason for Trump's support. While I have reacted largely with contempt to his acolytes, seeing them simply as responding to the racism he regularly appeals to, you have looked for a deeper underlying motivation.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

How Stupid Are Trump Supporters?

If you watch this, the answer should become abundantly clear in about three minutes:

Food Security: A Comforting Delusion

Here in the eastern part of Canada, especially at this time of year, we delight in seasonal produce, especially that which can be purchased locally. Living close to the Niagara area, we enjoy such seasonal treats as cherries, strawberries, cantaloupe and corn. And despite some years of scarcity due to bad weather, we tend, I think, to take our largesse for granted. In some ways, it is as if we believe that our food grows in supermarkets.

This is not, however, a time for smugness. The fact that we Canadians take the security of our food supply as a given does not make it so. Climate change and the terrible volatility and variability that it entails should make us all the more humble and determined to do what we can to abate the worst, but there is no sign of this happening.

Watch the following and see if it doesn't shake your confidence. Start at the 7:55 mark:

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Some Good News For A Change

Perhaps I follow the ways of the world too closely, but lately I have been feeling a deep disenchantment with everything. Time to change the channel and feature a story that highlights not only the human capacity for resilience, but also a community's capacity to embrace newcomers:

Friday, August 12, 2016

Why A Tax On Financial Transactions Makes Sense

Robert Reich, for whom I have a great deal of respect, offers this succinct explanation:

You can read more about this issue, also often referred to as the Tobin tax, here.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

UPDATE: We Should All Be Outraged

My father lived to be almost 91 years of age. Should I enjoy such a long life, there are many things that I hope not to lose along the way. Near the top of the list is my capacity for outrage. This morning brought confirmation that at least for the time being, it is alive and well.

Some may remember a post I made in July about Nadia Shoufani, the Mississauga, Ontario Separate School Board teacher who participated in a rally protesting Israel's brutal abuse of the Palestinians and the occupation of their land. At the time, the Jewish lobby demanded her head, conflating her criticism of the Jewish State with antisemitism, as they are wont to do.

It appears their efforts have paid off.

The CBC reports the following:
A Greater Toronto Area elementary school teacher has been suspended following a school board investigation after she was criticized for appearing in and speaking at what advocacy groups have called an anti-Israel rally.

Nadia Shoufani, a teacher at St. Catherine of Siena school in Mississauga, Ont., has been suspended with pay pending further investigation by the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, the board said in a statement.

The school board said concerns raised by the public about Shoufani's professional conduct have been referred to the Ontario College of Teachers for review.
We should all be outraged over this craven capitulation of the Dufferin-Peel Board to the political pressure exerted by those who will brook no criticism of Israel, despite its well-documented record of human rights abuse and atrocities. Human Rights Watch notes the following:
Israel enforces severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights, and it builds and supports unlawful settlements in the occupied West Bank. Its security forces appear to use excessive force against Palestinian demonstrators and suspected attackers, raising the specter of extra-judicial killings. It has renewed the practice of punitive home demolitions. The Palestinian Authority has arrested students and activists allegedly for their political affiliation or because they expressed criticism. Hamas security forces also engage in torture and ill-treatment of people, including journalists. Israel’s closure of Gaza, supported by Egypt, amounts to collective punishment and has impeded reconstruction.
Says Amnesty International:
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israeli forces committed unlawful killings of Palestinian civilians, including children, and detained thousands of Palestinians who protested against or otherwise opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention. Torture and other ill-treatment remained rife and were committed with impunity.

The facts are not in dispute here, but thanks to those public officials working in Dufferin-Peel who have neither backbone nor a belief in freedom of speech, only the kind of cravenness seen in the worst of our politicians, Shoufani is being made an example of. That the board lacks even a scintilla of integrity is evidenced by their refusal to acknowledge they are succumbing to outside pressure, instead hiding behind another excuse for her suspension, as revealed by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA), which is representing the beleaguered teacher. They said,
the teacher wasn't suspended for her conduct, but instead for appearing to not comply with the investigation. However, OECTA said the teacher has provided all of the information the board has asked for and met its timelines.
But not everyone is unhappy about this witch hunt:
Amanda Hohmann, the national director of B'nai Brith Canada's league for human rights, praised the board for suspending the teacher this week.

"It is heartening to see the school board treating this matter seriously," Hohmann said in a statement.
While Hohmann and her group may be gratified by Shoufani's suspension, I expect and hope that fair-minded people everywhere will be appalled by this indefensible curtailment of one of our most valued Charter rights: freedom of expression.

UPDATE: Thanks to Marie for this video that clearly addresses the kinds of conditions that Nadia Shoufani was protesting against. Even if you watch even five or ten minutes, you will get the picture.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Guest Post: Putting Ourselves Under The Microscope

In response to my post yesterday, The Mound of Sound offered the following observations, which I am featuring as a guest post. The Mound has made an intensive study of the environmental and climatic perils we have created, and his insights are ones none of us can afford to ignore:
I fear, Lorne, that we have devolved into a culture of collapse. We plainly cannot keep going as we have since the Reagan/Thatcher/Mulroney era ushered in the scourge of neoliberalism. Yet, having been drawn in, there's no sign of the vision much less the popular critical mass to change and, when time is running out and our options are being steadily foreclosed, that can be fatal.

Jared Diamond contends that when past societies have collapsed it was usually the result of a choice and, in many cases, the disastrous outcome was foreseen. We can choose to conduct ourselves in ways today that we know or ought to know will spell disaster a generation or two from now. Our bacchanal of consumption is premised on "because we can" with scant regard to whether we should. We are just lucky our own grandparents were never empowered to wreak this sort of devastation on us.

Science tells us that mankind first exceeded Earth's resource carrying capacity when our population passed 3+ billion in the 70s. We're now at 7+ billion heading to 9 and beyond. To compound this, our per capita consumption footprint has swelled and continues to grow. Yet our overpopulation and over-consumption has come at a direct, although somewhat deferred (for the moment), cost.

The signs are tangible, palpable, measurable and, in some critical instances, visible to the naked eye from the International Space Station cupola. Rivers that no longer run to the sea. Red tides and blue green algae blooms in our lakes and along our sea coasts. Once fertile soil that now lies exhausted, creating spreading desertification. The blight of deforestation. The collapse of global fisheries as our industrial fleets fish "down the food chain."

We know how this ends but not exactly when. James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia Hypothesis, predicts mankind will number in a few hundred million by the end of this century. That's a massive die-off. He has warned that the only way to blunt this result entails what he calls "sustainable retreat." He uses this term to describe a social transformation away from our excess consumerism into "living small." Small houses, shared transportation, living local, everything necessary to sharply pare our individual and collective ecological footprint.

I've seen no sign that we would entertain this prescription. Your soon to be neighbour confirms this view. Our leaders still quest for 3% annual growth in GDP. We live in a political/economic construct in which negative growth is worse than death. We cannot conceive of how to live other than in the mode that has brought us to this precipice.
The following video, discussing how 2016 is on track to be the hottest year on record, helps to reinforce the consequences of our heedless ways:

Finally, Marie over at A Puff of Absurdity says that despite our natural tendencies, we cannot afford a 'business-as-usual' reaction to the perils engulfing us.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Look On My Works, Ye Mighty, And Despair

More and more in these later days of my life, I find myself pondering our species, puzzling over our apparent collective indifference to the world around us, both near and far. Obsessively, it seems, we pursue chimera after chimera, somehow convinced that personal satisfaction and the wholeness that escapes us is just around the corner, perhaps to be found in the very next purchase we make, or the next monument to our vanity we erect. The environmental consequences of that futile pursuit seem to bother us not in the least.

On my own street, two doors down, on a lot that has been vacant for a number of years, a house is being built that dwarfs all of the other houses in the area, coupled with an architecture that breathes a certain affluence and lifestyle. In the 21st century, it should have no place. To compound the insult, a number of trees on the property have been cut down to accommodate this (the pictures do not do justice to its scope):

Putting aside the resources and energy expended in constructing the house, despite the fact that yesterday was Earth Overshoot Day, I have to wonder about the kind of person who will eventually purchase the house. (The developer claims he is moving in, but I suspect he will live there for the year required so he can claim it as his principal residence and then sell it without having to pay taxes on his profit.) Will the ultimate purchaser be aware that he or she, in buying this vision, is also expressing contempt for the world of finite resources and climate change that we live in? Indeed, will the new owner be one who never even ponders such matters? Will the sun rise and fall on his or her wants, vanity and ego? I fear to contemplate too deeply the possible answer to those questions.

And yet, the ultimate owner will be a tree hugger compared to others with more monstrous egos. Consider the plans for singer Drake's new home in Toronto,
a lavish two-storey 21,000-square-foot mansion on the Bridle Path that will feature an NBA-sized basketball court, a dedicated awards room and an enormous basement pool.
Plans for the 21,000-square-foot mansion include an NBA-sized basketball court in the basement, seen here in the left of this blueprint (#1) for the property. Other items featured on this level: (#2). Pool/Hot Tub (#3). Bar with two wine fridges (#4). Spa and tub retreat (#5). Important Artifact rooms (#6). Jersey museum (SUPPLIED PHOTO)

Plans for the Bridle Path property include a handy feature for peckish players: a snack bar overlooking basketball court (#7). Also on this floor: (#8). Awards Room (#9). Library

On the top level, (#10) is the master bedroom, (#11) are other bedrooms.

To better appreciate what Drake is building, consider a few of these details:
A 44-foot by 94-foot basketball court in the basement (with a snack lounge above), where Drizzy can channel Jimmy Brooks and put in the practice time to make sure he never shoots another airball on camera ever again, like he did at a U.S. college basketball game.

A basement “spa and tub retreat,” surrounded by two saunas (both infrared and regular), a designated massage room and a linen closet.

A sprawling lower-level pool and large hot tub, both situated in front of a massive TV projection screen, with bars on both sides. No word yet on whether the proposed pool is bigger than Kanye’s, as he claims in his song “Summer Sixteen.”

A bar bookended by separate areas for “chilled wine” and “chilled champagne.”

More than one room set aside for “important artifacts” as well as a “jersey museum,” a library and an awards room that proves he was fibbing on Big Sean’s song “Blessings” when he claimed he didn’t care “where the Grammys go.”

A master bedroom with an ensuite steam shower, plus four more bedrooms each with a corresponding bath. Hold on, we’re never leaving home.

A piano room, a music and screening lounge, two dressing rooms, multiple covered terraces, another outdoor swimming pool, a gym, a lounge and a family room for the family he keeps so close.

A titanic tax bill that in 2014 amounted to $27,856.
No one should begrudge the man his success, but that success would seem to entail a grave price: total disregard, even contempt, for today's reality, a reality that is seeing some parts of the world looking for new homes because of rising sea levels. And of course, that is but one of the many challenges humanity, both near and far, faces.

But such concerns are not for my developer friend down the block, not for the likes of Drake, and clearly not for the likes of anyone who believes in erecting monuments to their egos.

They would indeed be wise to read, or reread, Ozymandias.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Childish Recantation

That is the only conclusion I can draw from the fact that in at least temporarily acquiescing to the demands of Republican orthodoxy, Donald Trump makes a conspicuous display of reading notes instead of using a teleprompter or speaking extemporaneously as he 'endorses' people he still has a score to settle with. The message to his true believers? "Folks, I don't really mean what I am saying."

Take a look at the following clip to see what I mean:

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Shape Of Things To Come?

Over the past several years, I have become a bit of an aficionado of bourbon. Given that most of my life I have never cared for the taste of straight liquor, how I came to fancy it is something of a mystery, but it is now my hobby that whenever I see a new listing in the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), if it is within my price point, I will buy it. The other frequent purchase is red wine.

My imbibing habits are really not the subject of this post; rather, it is a disturbing trend I have noticed upon visits for the past several weeks. Product prices are rising, not by ten or twenty cents, but by dollars. For example, a bottle of Barefoot Merlot, a California wine, was retailing about six weeks ago at $9.95. It then went up to $10.05, and quickly jumped thereafter to $10.95. A bottle of Eagle Rare bourbon, (a rare purchase for me, given its price) jumped from about $49 to $54.65. I could give numerous other examples, but I think you get the picture.

Given the relative stability, even upward trend of the Canadian dollar, these increases on American products cannot be attributed to currency fluctuations nor simply a cash grab by the province. I believe there is something more insidious at work.

I believe that the Ontario Liberal government, should it win re-election in 2018. is planning to privatize the LCBO, surely one of our crown jewels, given the huge profits that go into the provincial treasure each year. Indeed, in fiscal 2013-2014, it made a record profit of $1.74 billion, more than our formerly wholly-publicly-owned Hydro One.

What is my evidence, other than the rising prices that would make the LCBO's sale even more attractive to private investors? Consider the pattern:

Before privatizing Hydro One, the government engaged in a series of price increases for electricity, culminating in the current peak rate (weekdays 11 a.m.-5 p.m.) of 18 cents per kilowatt hour. One of the reasons cited is that Ontarians' conservation efforts reduced Hydro One's revenues. Left unsaid is the fact that lower profits would have also resulted in a lower IPO when the first 15% of Hydro One was sold off.

But wait. There's more.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has made a big play to offer a wider distribution of beer, which will ultimately be available, but only in six-packs, in 400 grocery stores. Prior to that, she had expressed public outrage over the virtual monopoly enjoyed by the privately-owned Beer Store, whose proprietors are multinationals: Molson-Coors, Labatt (owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev) and Sleeman (owned by Japan’s Sapporo). At the time, she suggested a licensing fee would be imposed on that monopoly. Needless to say, that never happened, but the fact that beer is now allowed, albeit in limited distribution and quantity in grocery stores, suggests an effort to change the public perception about the virtues of privatization.

Next, there is the recently-announced LCBO delivery service. Finance Minister Charles Sousa said,
the creation of shows the government-owned liquor agency's commitment to evolve and modernize, and will provide greater convenience for consumers.

"The virtual shelf space now available to small wineries and breweries is fantastic," said Sousa.

The online sales site will be a huge boost to Ontario wineries, breweries and cider producers, predicted LCBO president and CEO George Soleas.
As well as a boost to their already fat bottom line, no doubt, thereby enhancing its attractiveness to future private investors.

Consider as well the recent hiring of Bonnie Brooks as the LCBO's new Chair. Known as a turnaround-queen, she joined Hudson Bay in 2008, becoming
its first female president and CEO. Brooks is known for engineering a turnaround for the retailer, dropping its moribund apparel brands and bringing in mid-to-high end fashion products.

Brooks was set to retire from her role as vice-chairman before agreeing to take on LCBO role. She said this new opportunity would allow her to help “build on the great work that has already been done, and to take this exciting retail powerhouse to the next level,” with its expansion online and its new role as wholesaler to grocers.
Cynics like me would suggest that she has really been hired to complete the transformation of the LCBO prior to the start of privatization.

Expect no mention of these plans before the next election. Just as the privatization of the very profitable Hydro One came out of the blue, a cowardly and costly way to avoid tax increases while bringing in her balanced budget in time for the next election, my prediction is that Kathleen Wynne will once more betray the people of Ontario should she win another majority mandate

It is a sad thing when a citizen comes to look upon his government with suspicion and loathing. Yet it is an odium that the premier and her tired regime have justly earned.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Past His Best-Before Date

While I have long admired the film work of Clint Eastwood, his politics are a profound disappointment. Despite his advanced years (he is 86), I am unprepared to excuse him for this:
Clint Eastwood has stopped short of endorsing Donald Trump, but in an interview in Esquire magazine he praised the Republican presidential candidate for being “on to something.”

In the interview posted online Wednesday, the actor-director hailed Trump as a foe of political correctness and lamented what he called “the kiss-ass generation.”

“Everybody’s walking on eggshells,” said Eastwood, 86. “We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff. When I grew up, those things weren’t called racist.”
No, Clint, I guess when you were growing up in that storied American past, people knew their places, eh?

Oh well, at least he doesn't appear to be talking to empty chairs these days.

UPDATE: Yet Another '100-Year Event'

This one was in the traditionally water-challenged area of Phoenix, Arizona.

For additional commentary on our worsening climate, check out The Mound's post.

UPDATE: I have not yet had an opportunity to watch this film, but the trailer suggests it will make compelling and informative viewing:

The complete film can be accessed here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Assesing Trudeau: A Guest Post By Pamela MacNeil

Yesterday, in response to my post about the Trudeau government's diluting the terms of the rules governing the export of arms, frequent commentator Pamela MacNeil offered these insightful observations:

I think "the terrible embargo on truth, honesty and openness," Lorne, will still be there with Trudeau. He can march on gay pride parades and support gender equality, which are good things, but he threatens the democratic and constitutional foundation these rights rest on. He has shown this with his support of the BDS motion and with his military deal with Saudi Arabia, to name a few of his decisions. The response he gives to violating Canadians' rights in these decisions is complete indifference.

His ignoring of amending or, better still, repealing Bill C-51 is very worrisome. The security and privacy risks it poses have already been enacted on some Canadians by CSIS. He may remain silent about it until he can find a way to keep it intact.

His foreign policies follow almost completely Harper's Neoliberal and American Imperial agenda. The U.S. expanding NATO troops, including Canada, in Eastern Europe along the Russian border is very dangerous.

Trudeau goes along and accepts the propaganda narrative that the U.S. is spewing about Russia. More then ever this is when we need a strong independent PM who at the very least questions U.S. foreign policy or, better still, says no to its request to go along with the deception.

The policies he creates in energy, climate change, trade and defence are not in Canadians' interest, but are in fact supporting special interests, especially the American Government's interests.

He is no different than Harper, including having his MPs toeing the party line. Where Harper was a miserable, petty personality, Trudeau is very likable. That is primarily where they differ. In developing policy, however, they are Neoliberal Imperial twins. This does not make him less an authoritarian then Harper.

Because of his strong positive personality though, it's going to take Canadians a long time to come to that conclusion.

When Canadians gave Trudeau his majority, we were ready to once again become a progressive, sophisticated country that respected the rights of all Canadian citizens including the rights of citizens of the world. Instead, Trudeau has embarked on a journey of making Canada a sycophant of the U.S. and is quite prepared to destroy our sovereignty in becoming that sycophant.

Where Harper was aware of what he was doing, Trudeau may be oblivious to the political and cultural consequences of his policy decisions. This doesn't make him any less dangerous.

Canadians are going to have a serious fight on our hands when we realize we're going to have to once again reclaim our democracy.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Are The Changes Only Cosmetic?

Despite unpromising predictions, Justin Trudeau led his party to overwhelming victory close to a year ago. And like political prisoners held captive by a foul and reactionary regime, Canadians began immediately basking in the freedom they were so long denied. According to a Toronto Star article, that basking continues to this day.
“People are welcoming this more active, bolder form of federal government,” said Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research Associates.

Graves said that the Liberals have been consistently polling above 40 per cent in popular support. His firm’s most recent survey had the Liberals at 46 per cent, the Conservatives at 26 per cent and the NDP at 15 per cent.
While I continue to feel much better than the years I chafed under the Harper cabal, it would be imprudent for any of us to simply turn our eyes away and merely trust Justin and his team to do the right thing. As many others have pointed out, there are some very troubling indicators that in many ways we are witnessing only a change in styles, not substance, from the previous regime. A cosmetic makevoer, if you will.

Thanks to Kev, who tweeted a link to this story, it would seem we have ample reason to worry, given the adamant refusal of Trudeau to reconsider the Saudi arms deal. Apparently his answer is to simply change the rules.
The Canadian government has quietly watered down its own mandate for screening the export of military goods, rewriting parts of the only substantive public statement available on Ottawa’s responsibilities for policing foreign sales.

The Report on Exports of Military Goods from Canada, published by the department of Global Affairs, offers the best insight into Ottawa’s export-control policy when it comes to screening deals to sell defence products to foreign customers.

Both the 2014 and 2015 versions of the Report on Exports of Military Goods were released recently by the Trudeau government. Like previous reports, they include several pages of prefatory statements that articulate the rationale and guiding principles for screening weapons sales.
As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, and something akin to the diabolical is to be noted here:
It has removed a phrase about how export controls are intended to “regulate and impose certain restrictions on exports” in response to clear policy objectives.

Instead, it substitutes more anodyne language saying the goal of Canada’s export controls on military goods is, in fact, to “balance the economic and commercial interests of Canadian business” with this country’s “national interest.”

This edit removes the only reference in the entire document to restricting and regulating the export of military goods.
In 1987, Ronald Reagan made famous an old Russian adage while negotiating an arms control treat with Mikhail Gorbechev: "Trust, but verify." Clearly, with this latest development, that advice is as applicable today as it was then.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Power And The Glory

The power is nature's, and the glory is the human capacity for noble, courageous action, as you will see. Two bad that in the collective human psyche, we can't have more of the latter and less of a thirst for the former.