Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Things Are Bad

But they are going to get much, much worse.
The first study to integrate all prior scientific research in order to project approximately when climate change will produce permanent catastrophic consequences has been accepted and will soon be published in the scientific journal Nature, and it finds that things will start going haywire in the tropics at around the year 2020, and in our part of the world at around 2047.

Nature shares with Science and PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) the distinction of being tied as the world’s three most prestigious scientific journals, and an article is not published in these journals unless it has undergone extremely rigorous scientific peer-revue; so, climate-change deniers will have no professional credibility in attacking this study, as the Koch brothers and their friends can reasonably be expected to do, since they profit so much from what causes global warming - the burning of carbon-based fuels.

According to this study, the tropics, which are the near-equatorial region of this planet that’s almost 100% impoverished, and that has thus contributed virtually nothing to global warming, will begin the period of permanent catastrophe starting in approximately 2020; but the (cooler) moderate-latitude countries, such as in North America and Europe, will begin this catastrophic period in or around 2047.
As if things weren't already bad enough. Consider the plight of the Great Barrier Reef:

Corals, which are animals, have a symbiotic relationship with algae that give them their colour and help provide them with food. During stressful conditions such as heat waves, the algae disappear from the corals, leading to coral bleaching. If the stressful conditions last more than eight weeks, the corals can die of starvation.
Meanwhile, on our own continent, scenes like the following are becoming increasingly, distressingly common:

Clearly, the days of willful ignorance, selfishness and heedlessness are now exacting a massive price.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Pill For The Times

Our American cousins and the Conservative Party of Canada (especially Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander) could benefit from this prescription, but I suspect their response would be, "Just say no to drugs."

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Some Fascinating Speculation

I readily admit to not following U.S. politics too closely; my emotional resilience has limits. However, given the American media saturation coverage of Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, it has been hard to ignore the run-up to their respective parties' presidential nominations. Never, it seems, has either party offered such unpopular and unpalatable mainstream candidates.

In his column today, Tony Burman says there is ultimately little cause for concern if, as many are suggesting, Hillary Clinton will be forced to withdraw from the race should she be indicted for her unauthorized use of a private email server while serving as Barack Obama's Secretary of State.

Dismissing Bernie Sanders as unacceptable to the party establishment, Burman points out that unlike the Republicans, delegates to the Democratic convention are free to vote for any candidate, regardless of primary results, and he suggests that candidate may very well be Vice-President Joe Biden:
He originally declined to run due to the death of his son, but has told friends that he regrets that decision.

In early May, a story appeared on the Politico website that created considerable buzz. It quoted sources close to Biden indicating that, had he decided to run, Biden would have chosen Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as his running mate. Warren is a widely respected financial authority who supports breaking up the big banks to prevent another global crisis. On Tuesday, she enthralled a Washington audience by tearing into Trump, calling him a “small, insecure money-grubber.” It was a devastating performance — a real carving up of Trump — that gave some indication of how effective she would be on the campaign trail.
Whether any of this comes to fruition is anyone's guess. I suspect, however, that given the impressiveness and integrity of Elizabeth Warren, she will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

Friday, May 27, 2016

A Reminder Of What We Have Done To Our Planet

Tornadoes may be nothing new, but their increasing intensity is. This is where our heedlessness has brought us:

Thursday, May 26, 2016

It's A Strange World, Isn't It?

The above title, taken from the 1986 film Blue Velvet, seems particularly appropriate for the subject of today's post, one that has nothing directly to do with politics but perhaps epitomizes the sorry state of humanity.

In Norway, there is a young woman named Nano who believes she is a cat.
Nano claims to possess many feline characteristics including a hatred of water and the ability to communicate simply by meowing.

The young woman shows off her cat characteristics by wearing fake ears and an artificial tail. She communicates by meowing.
"I realised I was a cat when I was 16 when doctors and psychologists found out what was "the thing" with me. Under my birth there was a genetic defect".
This 'genetic defect,' she claims, has given her cat-like powers far beyond the limits of ordinary mortals. She can, for example, hear things others can't:
"Suitcases rolling on the ground," she says, "Keys clinking in pockets. People with ice under their shoes."
"I can see better in the dark than in daylight. That's no problem," she says. "I have been running a lot after animals that can be seen in the shadows."
But wait. There's more!
Nano prefers to crawl around on her hands and knees, and paws at windows when she wants to go outside.

She also said, despite their size, she can sleep in the sink and on windowsills.

"It's also obvious that I'm a cat when I start purring and meowing," she explains. "And walking around on four legs and stuff like that."
For those inquiring minds out there, the delicate subject of kitty litter boxes was not brought up.

And for the dog people who might feel left out, there is this:

And this:

As Johnny Carson used to say, "I do not make these things up, folks, I merely report them."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Police State Edges Closer

Perpetually down in the mouth because they are expected to be accountable whenever they beat, shoot or kill a member of the public, police officers in the United States will undoubtedly be buoyed up by legislation that has been passed in Louisiana. The bill, clearly serving to minimize and marginalize the "Black Lives Matter" movement, is entitled "Blue Lives Matter" and would classify any violent attack on police officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel a hate crime.

Louisiana State representative Lance harris had this to say about the bill:
“I certainly do think there is a need for it. If you’re going to have an extensive hate crime statute then we need to protect those that are out there protecting us on a daily basis,” Harris said. “There is a concerted effort in some areas to terrorize and attack police and I think this will go forward and stop that.”
Not everyone agrees:
Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Allison Padilla-Goodman pointed out that crimes against police officers are already aggressively prosecuted under Louisiana law: “The bill confuses the purpose of the Hate Crimes Act and weakens its impact by adding more categories of people, who are already better protected under other laws.”
In fact, the notion of a hate law for an occupational category weakens real hate laws, which were enacted for a particular purpose:
“Hate Crimes are designed to protect people’s most precious identity categories,” Padilla-Goodman said, “like race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, and gender identity. Proving the bias intent is very different for these categories than it is for the bias intent of a crime against a law enforcement officer.”
As you will see in the following news report, something very similar to Louisiana's bill is now before Congress:

Just one more step, some would argue, in bringing the police state to full fruition.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Elbowgate Kerfuffle

While I think elbowgate is much ado about little (will Ruth-Ellen Brosseau now claim to be a 'survivor' of workplace violence?), the episode does raise some unsettling concerns that the old Liberal arroagance is quickly reasserting itself, doesn't it?

H/t Globe and Mail

Thursday, May 19, 2016

No Encouraging News Here

For those of us who follow such matters, this news is not really surprising: 2015 was the hottest year on record:

Very Encouraging News

While this is not, strictly speaking, a political story, it does involve former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who seems to have escaped the death sentence that advanced melanoma traditionally has been, thanks to what many are calling a breakthrough drug:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

To All Would-Be Bloggers

I'm feeling a bit stale these days in my blogging, and so would like to step back a little bit from daily posts. For those of you who do not have your own blog but like writing informed commentary, such as I often receive from some regular contributors, please feel free to submit guest posts to me. You can use the blogger contact form seen at the left side of this site or the comment form that appears at the bottom of each post. You may choose to remain anonymous, or use your full name or a pseudonym. The only thing I ask is that you respect the tone that I try to adhere to in this blog. And, of course, I do reserve the right to edit material submitted.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Working Mother's Perspective: A Guest Post

Along with many others, I have been both dismayed and disgusted by the attacks directed at Sophie Gregoire for her wish to have extra staff to handle the many speaking invitations and letters she regularly receives. A woman who obviously cares about the public good, she is being cruelly pilloried for that virtue.

I have refrained from commenting simply because many others already have, and I really don't have anything new to add to the discussion. However, a friend of mine, Jennifer Iachelli, a working mother of young children, wrote the following on her Facebook page. With her permission, I am presenting it here.
I think when Ms. Gregoire-Trudeau asked for extra help, all of us working mothers, somewhere in our brains, whimpered "me too, please!" Some with resentment, others in steadfast support. It doesn't matter if you think the Prime Minister's wife is spoiled, or an overwhelmed working mom. The bigger questions are: Why is the role of the Prime Minister's wife systemically dismissed to the point where she has "no active duties" and it is therefore questionable whether she needs help? Why is the call for help on behalf of working mothers routinely dismissed?

To solve yet another one of these dilemmas of ingrained misogyny (God there are so many these days), let's get creative. Let's assume everyone is right. Families need more affordable daycare. Working mothers need help ploughing through the rough of this near path-less field of 21st century mothering. I mean really. If you saw the day a working mom puts in...I digress. Sophie Gregoire Trudeau needs some staff so she can be present in the moment with her children, and go to all of her charitable events, and be a good role model to all of us, and NOT be drunk by 5 pm everyday.

So what about this: Sophie says to Justin "Baby, (cause you know she does), the thing is, I am a leader too. And I need support. And the fact that all your buddies up on the hill don't even think respectfully of that request, well, it speaks to a larger issue for all us women. And quite frankly, I'm sick of it. So here is what you and your law-writing friends are gonna do. You're gonna write me a bill. Sophie's bill. I get three staff and a written acknowledgment of my role as PM wife, and you put that subsidized national daycare program in place, along with tax-credits for nanny fees. And I don't want to hear anymore shit."

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Corporate Recognition Of Climate Change

When the insurance industry starts worrying, we should all be very, very afraid.

Bill Adams, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) vice-president of the Western and Pacific Region, says the rising costs of insurance claims leaves no doubt that climate change is largely responsible:
"It’s happening. The wake-up call is now. There has been a radical shift in the frequency, severity and nature of insurance claims that we’re seeing as an industry in Canada."

According to IBC, insurance payouts from extreme weather have more than doubled every five to 10 years since the 1980s [emphasis mine], and since 2010, claims have hovered between $1 billion and a historic $3 billion, compared with an average of $400 million per year from 1983 to 2008.

Our head-in-the-sand approach is clearly counterproductive:
"I don't think we are adapting to our new weather reality nearly as quickly as we need to," Adams insisted. "I think most Canadians are largely if not (completely) oblivious. Those who are paying attention are those who have either always been engaged and had an understanding of it, or people who have been affected."
And besides the existential peril climate change presents, higher insurance premiums are on the way:
While the Fort McMurray fire alone is not enough to raise insurance premiums, he explained, a rash of wildfires across the country certainly could. It could take anywhere from one to three years to establish a trend, and once a trend is established, the costs will likely rise.

They certainly did after the 2013 floods in southern Alberta, he said, where some insurance companies are reported to have raised their average home insurance premiums by up to 20 per cent.
The Bureau predicts that things are only going to get worse, much worse, over the coming decades, and suggests all homeowners take measures to protect their properties. These measures include installing back-flow valves, using fire-resistant shingles, making sure wall cracks are sealed, etc.

It is a somewhat sad commentary that only when climate disaster strikes do most people take climate change seriously. Long-term planning and vision, it would seem, have never been our species' strong suits.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

In The Service Of Truth

There are many truths today that, thanks to the almost reflexive, visceral response of an often vitriolic social media, few dare to speak. Most recently, linking the terrible fires in Fort McMurray with climate change has been one of them. Is it insensitive and opportunistic to draw such a connection, or is it only stating the obvious?

In a recent column, Thomas Walkom did just that:
If the world’s leading climate scientists are correct, global warming raises the probability of extreme weather conditions occurring – from drought to ice storms to floods to the kind of unseasonably high temperatures experienced this spring in Fort McMurray.

To say that the inhabitants of Fort McMurray brought this disaster on themselves is dead wrong. But to say that climate change played a role is not.

The Fort McMurray wildfire is not just a freak accident. Neither was the 2013 ice storm that crippled much of Toronto.

True, these things can happen without global warming. But climate change dramatically increases the probability of their occurring.

So perhaps the politicians should get over their squeamishness and begin to ask the tough questions.
Fortunately, Toronto Star readers show no such squeamishness, as the following letters amply demonstrate:
I’ve been accused of being insensitive for talking about the climate irony of the Fort McMurray wildfire, which continues to dominate the news in Canada. Many people have argued that now is not the time to discuss global warming and climate change.

I insist that now is precisely the right time to make the link between epic wildfires and climate change. Once the fire is over it will be too late. People will move on with their lives and the Fort McMurray climate disaster will be remembered as just another freak of nature as were the 2013 floods in Calgary.

Experts believe that the Fort McMurray blaze could be the new norm for wildfires as global warming continues to heat up the planet causing earlier and longer fire seasons with more severe and destructive fires. A warming climate has extended the duration of fire seasons – now 78 days longer than in 1970 according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Fort McMurray exists because of the tar sands, which produce a carbon-intensive bitumen that is adding to the world’s carbon problem. We are all consumers of oil products. This means we are all responsible for this raging inferno that has produced 88,000 climate refugees.

The climate irony continues to build. Premier Rachel Notley is now calling for the fastest possible return to full oil production by oil companies that have temporarily suspended operations. The circle is complete.

Rolly Montpellier, Ottawa

Congratulations of the highest order are due to Thomas Walkom for this column. At last we have a prominent journalist acknowledging that climate change “played a role” in this disaster.

Why political leaders, Elizabeth May excepted, have failed to admit the link is best known to themselves, but one wonders if Justin Trudeau fears that pressure may be brought to bear on him to get on quickly with transitioning from fossil fuels to electricity. This would put him at odds with the “international community,” which has, against common sense, agreed to delay action on climate change until after 2020.

What we must, regrettably, bear in mind is that the Fort McMurray fire is not a unique incident. It is part of a chain of disasters, some past, with many more to come. It seems that we cannot reduce the global temperature.

Even if the entire world switched to sustainable electricity at once (impossible), the Earth would go on warming for two more decades, then remain at the elevated temperature for 1,000 years, according to the Australian Academy of Scientists.

That’s all the more reason for drastic action, right now!

Ken Ranney, Peterborough

This discussion also begs the question of whether tar sands oil production is causing the temperature in that region to soar so high in the spring. I bet native groups would have an interesting opinion on this.

Rather than spending billions to rebuild Fort McMurray, so tar sands oil production can start up again, perhaps the federal government should be investing that money in renewable energy, wind and solar power.

Max Moore, Toronto

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Saudis' Assurances Are Worth Nothing, As Trudeau Well Knows

The Trudeau government is adamant about seeing through the $15 billion sale of armoured vehicles to human rights' suppressor Saudi Arabia, trying to hide behind assurances given that they will not be used against its civilian population. That, of course, is absolute nonsense, a fiction intended to paper over the fact that our leaders are essentially saying that blood money is acceptable, as long as the price is right.

I hated it when the Harper government lied to us, but I hate it even more that our 'new' government is doing exactly the same thing. The Globe and Mail reports the following:
Footage analyzed by The Globe and Mail shows Saudi Arabia using armoured vehicles against minority Shia Muslim dissidents in the Mideast country’s Eastern Province, raising serious questions about Riyadh’s tendency to use these military goods against its own citizens.

Copies of the videos, which date from 2012 and 2015, were supplied by Saudi human-rights activists who want Canada to suspend shipments of combat vehicles to Riyadh in a $15-billion deal between Canada and the ruling House of Saud.

The Trudeau government in April approved export permits for the bulk of these vehicle shipments in what Ottawa calls the largest advanced manufacturing export contract in Canadian history. The vehicles, made in London, Ont., are expected to ship over four years, and will have machine guns and anti-tank cannons.

The combat vehicles in the videos are not Canadian-made, but they demonstrate the regime’s inclination to use such military assets against its own people in a region that is very difficult for Canada to monitor. It also casts doubt on the Liberal government’s assurances that the massive arms sale to Saudi Arabia presents no risks for the country’s civilians.

As Flies To Wanton Boys

As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods.
They kill us for their sport.

King Lear, Act 4, Scene 1

In earlier times, we would have blamed the gods for their capricious acts of destruction. Today, we know better. We need only look in the mirror to see the truth.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Enemies Of The People

I hardly think that is too harsh a description of both those who park their money offshore to avoid taxes and those who facilitate such evasions. Indeed, an open letter signed by some of the world's leading economists makes the cost of such selfish and criminal behaviour eminently clear:

As the Panama Papers and other recent exposés have revealed, the secrecy provided by tax havens fuels corruption and undermines countries’ ability to collect their fair share of taxes. While all countries are hit by tax dodging, poor countries are proportionately the biggest losers, missing out on at least $170bn of taxes annually as a result.

... we are agreed that territories allowing assets to be hidden in shell companies or which encourage profits to be booked by companies that do no business there, are distorting the working of the global economy. By hiding illicit activities and allowing rich individuals and multinational corporations to operate by different rules, they also threaten the rule of law that is a vital ingredient for economic success.

To lift the veil of secrecy surrounding tax havens we need new global agreements on issues such as public country by country reporting, including for tax havens. Governments must also put their own houses in order by ensuring that all the territories, for which they are responsible, make publicly available information about the real “beneficial” owners of company and trusts.

The impact of such behaviour is felt everywhere, but never more than in developing countries:
... while estimates put the cost to Canadian tax coffers at between $6- and $7.8-billion per year, the effects on developing countries is far greater, said Haroon Akram-Lodhi an economist and professor of international development at Trent University.

“The amount of capital flight from sub-Saharan Africa is absolutely huge and it’s all going into these tax havens,” said Akram-Lodhi, one of the signatories of the letter. “This is reducing the ability to fight poverty on a global scale.”

Will governments merely go through the motions of doing something, and then go back to the old ways once the fierce glare of the public subsides? I don't know, but I am somewhat dubious of any substantive changes, since the rich and powerful are, well, rich and powerful.

Now that a searchable database is online, this interview with The Star's Marco Chown Oved sheds some light on what can be found there:

One hopes against hope that real change is in the offing.

Monday, May 9, 2016

We Are All Capuchin Monkeys

Or at least I suspect we will feel like the one on the left in the following video, once the Panama papers releases its database of tax cheats and avoiders this afternoon.

I Know It's Tornado Season, But

... this certainly doesn't seem normal to me:

Sunday, May 8, 2016

When The Unhinged Have A Camerman

... this is what happens.

A Timely Reminder

I have been convinced for some time that the prevailing message of those who truly govern us is that protest is futile. The following puts the lie to that propaganda, and perhaps serves as a timely reminder of the dangers of our own pending trade deal with the European Union, CETA. (You know, the deal that Chrystia Freeland and Justin Trudeau are so jazzed about.) The warnings in the following video are equally applicable to that deal.

H/t trapdinawrpool

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Measuring Democracy

One of the concerns that has motivated me throughout the years I have written this blog is public accountability. Far too often, whether examining politics at the federal, provincial or local level, it is evident that public accountability, when it occurs, is often an afterthought, not a prime mover of our overlords. It is safe to say, I think, that ours is not a particularly healthy democracy, given that secrecy, obfuscation and misdirection far too often seem to prevail.

This proclivity seems to be the default position of those who govern us, and unfortunately, like the metaphorical disease that it is, it spreads and infects an array of institutions. This is egregiously evident when one looks at policing.

I have written extensively about the abuses of police power on this blog, and despite the fact that it happens with alarming regularity, there is little evidence that the police culture of secrecy is changing, given that it is aided and abetted here in Ontario by both Kathleen Wynne's government and the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which is called in every time a police action results in either injury or death.

Because there are limits to even what I can endure psychologically, I have refrained from writing about the situation of Andrew Loku, a mentally ill man who was shot dead by police less than a year ago for allegedly wielding a hammer at his housing complex. The SIU report, as per tradition, remains a secret, even to the family of the deceased. All we are allowed to know is that the investigation exonerated the police from any wrongdoing.

Given the reactive nature of the Ontario government, a topic about which I wrote yesterday, it tried to placate public fury over the killing and subsequent secrecy by releasing part of the SIU report, a move that satisfied no one. It was truncated and heavily redacted.

The following letters from Star readers are ample testament to both the inadequacy of the report and the failings of our democracy:
Censored report raises more questions, April 30

Some 74 per cent of this report is secret. This abuses the very basic platform of transparency. The 26 per cent transparency shows how little respect for the voter the government really has. When public trust is bankrupt, remediation is needed.

I suggest that all such reports be made public within three months of receipt, the timetable verified by the Ombudsman’s Office. The report will contain no redactions that have not been approved by an independent council of legal experts and voters and shall be housed at arms-length in the Office of the Attorney General.

It is a sad day when I pick up the Star to learn that once again I’ve been blindsided by politicians “committed” to transparency. It’s a vote of no confidence by the politicians of the people. Public trust has never been so … redacted.

Don Graves, Burlington

The abbreviated Special Investigations Unit report into the death of Andrew Loku is surely in its current form an insult to the intelligence of the people of Ontario. Here we have the attorney-general’s office hiding behind the convenient excuse that deletions are “a result of privacy and safety constraints as well as legal requirements,” delivering what is essentially a “nothing report” and no doubt keeping fingers crossed that the public will accept the whitewash.

Well, it is high time this government learned that we have had enough and that we want, no, we demand, answers. Too many men have died at the hands of police and it is time to put an end to the SIU charade that presents itself as the arbiter of an impartial judicial report.

So, what is going on? Is it Queen’s Park or the police union that is preventing us from learning what really happens when shootings occur? Or (perish the thought) are these two bodies in on the act together?

It is difficult to think of any other group that would seek to keep SIU reports confidential and it is long past time for decisive action. In such crucial issues the public has a right to know exactly what is going on.

Are you listening, Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Liberal government?

Eric Balkind, Ontario

The release of the SIU report into the death of Andrew Loku provides very little information that we don’t already know thanks to the daily reporting by the Star. The hiding of 34 pages of the report simply indicates that nothing has changed. We are left in the dark on key issues surrounding Loku’s death.

I continue to be amazed as to why a political party that has just won an election all of a sudden forgets that it should be reflecting what the vast majority of the people want and deserve. Instead, these Liberals ignore legitimate requests as is the case is here.

There is a strong need to know exactly how, why and by whom a man’s life was taken. This should not be a secret society. Who can possibly be against shining a light on terrible events?

Al Truscott, Collingwood

Once again the dysfunction of our democracy to police the Toronto police is clearly demonstrated. The systemic problem of our democracy is evident when the civilian elected officials and appointees are co-opted by the secret system of policing to preserve its bad practices.

It’s not enough for the Star to demonstrate in its pages regularly the secrecy concealing the truth about one case – the problematic shooting of Andrew Loku and its subsequent cover-up.

Citizens, who are the many, who won’t or can’t administer their police, who are the few, have no right to claim that they are a democracy. Shame on us.

Tony D’Andrea, Toronto

Friday, May 6, 2016

When A Government Overstays Its Welcome

I am convinced that all institutions have a 'best-before date,' after which it is time for massive renewal. Comfort with the status quo, a sense of entitlement, a growing separateness from those they serve are all compelling reasons for 'creative destruction.' We have seen that process of renewal take place recently with the election of Pope Francis to head the Catholic Church, a hoary old institution much in need of a shakeup from its massive corruption and complacency. Unfortunately, such dramatic renewals are the exception rather than the rule.

In the political arena, we saw it federally with the election of the Trudeau government, tantamount to a massive rejection of the old fogyism and abuse of power that had become rampant in the Harper regime after almost 10 years. Whether true renewal is actually taking place under the new administration is something that only time will determine.

Then there is the sad case of politics in Ontario. After almost 13 years in power, power that should have ended in the last election but didn't thanks to a new leader, Kathleen Wynne, the Liberal government is showing all the signs of one that is tired, directionless, corrupt and increasingly out of touch with the citizens it 'serves.' To be honest, I reluctantly voted for that party's re-election, but only because there was no viable alternative. NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who had held the balance of power, sacrificed that influence by forcing the election in a bold and venal gambit for power. Tim Hudak, the Progressive Conservative leader at the time, was never a viable option for anyone except those who fancy village idiots leading their province.

And so we are left with the current situation: a government that apparently wanted power for its own sake, has made a fetish of eliminating the deficit by 2017-18, (hence the horrifying sell-off of 60% of Hydro One), and appears to be engineering policy on the fly. It is an administration that has become highly reactive in nature.

Examples abound, and almost all of them result from Toronto Star investigations. Take the issue of fundraising. Thanks to investigative work by Martin Regg Cohn, Ontario is soon unveil new rules that will surely minimize the corrupt practices of the past.
While there is still some way to go, the sweeping measures would represent a dramatic departure from past decades of what amounted to limitless contribution limits by companies and unions in Ontario. The main thrust, announced in late March by Premier Kathleen Wynne after Liberal fundraising practices were detailed in the Star — notably secret targets for cabinet ministers — would be a complete ban on corporate and union money starting next year.

Healthcare in this province is deteriorating. I was talking to a neighbour the other day who told me that he is being treated for lymphoma, but confirmation of his disease was not an easy task. He needed what is known as an ultrasound directed biopsy, but because hospitals are only funded for two per day, they could not even give him an approximate date for the procedure. Fortunately for him, however, he knew a nurse who arranged for a technician to do it for free on his lunch hour. Without that advantage, he might still be waiting.

Again, thanks to another Star investigation, those facing an even more dire situation, leukemia patients awaiting a stem-cell transplant, will get some relief from the risk of long waits due to funding problems, waits that often result in the end of their remissions, making the transplant far less likely to proceed. Indeed, up until now, the Ontario government refused to authorize transplants for those whose remissions had ended.

Thanks to the reactive nature of this government, in response to that investigation the province's Health Minister, Eric Hoskins,
introduced a critical policy change on Sunday that will make an entire group of cancer patients — those who have relapsed after chemotherapy — eligible for life-saving stem cell transplants.

It’s one of several measures Hoskins announced in a statement following an ongoing Star investigation into the systemic collapse of stem cell transplant programs in Ontario hospitals.
The minister, among other things, has committed to:

- Expanding access for stem cell therapy treatment, in Ontario and out of country, where clinically recommended, to leukemia patients who are not in complete remission after chemotherapy.

- Opening a second stem cell transplant centre in Greater Toronto at Sunnybrook hospital to take pressure off of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, which closed its doors to new transplant patients in March. Princess Margaret’s medical director told the Star it would be “irresponsible” for the hospital to add patients to its eight-month waiting list when they know these patients must receive a transplant within two to three months of diagnosis for the best chance of success.

- Streamlining the convoluted referral process for patients sent out of country, a process that takes weeks as Cancer Care Ontario stipulated that a special review committee must vet all cases before funding is approved.

- Creating a ministerial task force to provide the government with “immediate and ongoing advice.” (A ministry spokesman could not say which experts have been assigned to the committee.)
The Star, as it is fond of saying, "gets action," but is this the best way to formulate policy, as a response to public embarrassment and odium?

I could cite a wealth of other examples, but since I am not a believer in long blog posts, I'll end here as I began: reactive policy-making and visionless government are the hallmarks of a tired administration, underscoring once more that famous observation attributed to Winston Churchill:

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Will A Change Of Tone Be All It Takes?

Over at Northern Reflections today, Owen has a timely reminder via Henry Giroux of what Donald Trump really stands for: fascism, hatred, bigotry and exclusion. I noted in my response to his post the following:

It is interesting to note, Owen, now that Trump has virtually clinched the nomination, his handlers are obviously busy reworking his public persona. While he still espouses the kinds of things that Giroux discusses, he does so with a more subdued, 'reasonable' tone.

Optics are everything these days, and one fears that those who paid little attention to Trump earlier will now begin to seriously consider him. To see what I mean, take a look at the interview he gave to Lester Holt last night:

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Elizabeth May Goes Where Trudeau Fears To Tread

Some would say that to link the terrible losses in Fort McMurray to climate change is insensitive and political. Of course, they would be wrong, since climate change is not an ideological issue, however much the deniers try to frame it. It is a fact.

While Justin Trudeau calls making such a link unhelpful, (not to mention politically costly), Elizabeth May refuses to tow the tread the safe and narrow path.
Prompted by questions from reporters at a news conference, May said that scientists cannot link specific events to climate change, but noted that the disaster was following a pattern.

“The fact that the forest fire season has arrived so early in northern Alberta is very likely a climate event - very likely related to extreme high temperatures and very low humidity, very low precipitation and it is, as we saw in the quote from one of the firefighters - it’s a firestorm,” she said. “It jumped a highway, it jumped a river. It’s a devastating tragedy right now and I think our focus is always on the right now: to think for the firefighters, for first responders, for people who are losing their homes. It’s a disaster. But it’s a disaster that is very related to the global climate crisis.”
Predictably, there is hell to pay for such candour, as her comments provoked
a vicious backlash after they were reported on social media websites from critics who accused her of exploiting the tragedy to advance a political agenda.
But truth is truth, as
... her comments were consistent with assessments from climate scientists that have predicted increasing extreme weather events linked to rising heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

The Trudeau government was also advised by bureaucrats when it was sworn in last November that wildfires were getting worse. The bureaucrats at Natural Resources Canada told its new minister, Jim Carr, that governments across the country hadn't provided enough funding to help communities prepare for the worst.
One hopes that the disaster in Fort McMurray is soon brought under control. Unfortunately, the larger crisis confronting all of us continues unabated.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

UPDATED: Taking On Sarah Palin's Idiocy

I would say Jimmy Kimmel does a pretty good job:

“I have a theory,” Kimmel said. “I think maybe Sarah Palin wants global warming. It’s cold in Alaska. It would be welcome up there. But, the idea that she knows more than 97 percent of scientists is offensive and dangerous. No matter what Sarah Palin and these geniuses she surrounds herself with try to tell you, climate change is not a liberal-versus-conservative thing.”

If anyone needs more convincing, well, there are always scenes like this:

Or these scenes from hell:

Monday, May 2, 2016

Morally Weak, Intellectually Contemptuous

That's how I regard the justifications for continuing with the Saudi arms deal offered by Stephane Dion and his puppet master, Justin Trudeau. I see I am not alone in that assessment:
Re: Approval of Saudi arms deal was illegal, lawyer argues, April 22

According to the Prime Minister, the Saudi arms deal must go forward, notwithstanding profound universal concern about the Saudi government’s cavalier attitude toward human rights.

According to Justin Trudeau, “We will continue to respect contracts signed because people around the world need to know that when Canada signs a deal it is respected.” That statement is odd and troubling on many different levels.

Does Mr. Trudeau believe himself to be Canada’s CEO or its head of government? Are we employees of Mr. Trudeau or are we citizen of this country? Is Mr. Trudeau our boss or our servant? Does Canada, as a political entity, sign commercial deals, or is it rather commercial enterprises within Canada that sign deals, and it is the government’s job to regulate those deals? Most importantly, perhaps: Is Canada a large commercial enterprise or a nation that calls itself a democracy?

A likely explanation of Mr. Trudeau’s statement is that he has a habit of improvising rationales that are at odds with rationality, such as his perplexing statements to the effect that Canada will use fossil fuel production to combat fossil-fuel-induced climate change.

Stephane Dion has turned into a quick study in the art of sophistical rhetoric and improvised rationales. On the subject of the Saudi arms sales, he says he had “reviewed the issue with ‘the utmost rigour’ and will continue to do so over the life of the 14-year deal.” It seems I have been under a false impression that his government had been elected for a four-year term.

Earlier, he had cleverly stated that the sale was justified because the Saudi government has promised not to use the armoured vehicles to suppress domestic dissent. Even if we were to believe the Saudi claim, what about the serious concern about the Saudi ruling family’s hobby of invading neighbouring countries and massacring their civilian populations? Do we need that blood on our hands?

Al Eslami, North York

Jobs worth killing for? Online video April 24

Full marks to Scott Vrooman for, like many other Canadians, pointing out the rank hypocrisy of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government. Could there be a more blatant example of this than the Saudi Arms deal?

While our Prime Minister will happily show up at any photo op for a Pride Parade or similar event (as he should), he quite clearly has no problem selling arms to a regime that executes people for the crime of being gay. If he can’t see the hypocrisy of that, he’s a fool.

This government’s supposed fresh new approach (transparency and honesty and optimism) is looking more and more like a variation of the half truths and manipulated facts that contribute to many people’s default setting with politics and politicians: distrust and cynicism.

Paul Romanuk, Toronto