Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Perfect Word

When Kim Jong-Un recently labelled Donald Trump a "dotard," not only did it demonstrate that the North Korean madman has a better vocabulary than the American Toddler-in-Chief, it also served as an apt description of a man intent on making the world in general, and the United States in particular, an increasingly perilous place to reside. Here is a man whose stream-of-consciousness tweets and rants serve only the interests of chaos and destruction.

Take, for example, Trump's 'thoughts' on Colin Kaepernik, the NFL quarterback that I recently wrote about. Because he chose to kneel last season instead of stand for the American national anthem to protest American racism, he has been subjected to a form of economic terrorism as punishment. After declaring himself a free agent after last season, he has not been hired by any other team.

Not content to bring the world closer to nuclear war, Trump now has Kaeperniak in his sights. Here is what the dotard had to say at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama last night:
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired!,'” Trump shouted to a cheering audience.

Trump's contemptuous message is simply: Americans have nothing to apologize for, and they need not examine either their past or their present racism, because all is right with the world as long as you respect the flag.

As my old literary friend, Hamlet, said,
Lay not that flattering unction to your soul
That not your trespass but my madness speaks.
It will but skin and film the ulcerous place
Whilst rank corruption, mining all within,
Infects unseen.
In other words, to ignore the cancer of racism and to simply see Kapernik's taking the knee as egregious disrespect for a national symbol ensures only that the cancer continues to grow and ultimately destroys the body politic.

To aggravate matters, Trump exults in the role he thinks has has played in Kaepernik's stalled career:
“It was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump,” Trump told a cheering crowd in Kentucky this July. “Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that.”
I will leave the final word here to Minnesota Right Back Bishop Sankey, who last night tweeted:

"It's a shame and disgrace when you have the President of the US calling citizens of the country sons of a bitches."

About sums it up, doesn't it?

Friday, September 22, 2017

This is Excellent

Pillorying pretensions, political buffoonery and language abuse are all commendable goals. However, Mrs. Betty Bowers brings this much-needed service to a whole other level. Enjoy:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

UPDATED: Not A Hopeful Sign

As much as I have long been an advocate for the development and honing of critical thinking skills (while readily admitting that I often fall short of the mark - for me, it is always a work in progress), I regret to report, via the CBC, that there is much, much work still to be done. In fact, many Canadians are having a great deal of difficulty distinguishing between facts and opinion, fake news and science fact. In our fraught times, that is surely a recipe for disaster.
Are scientific findings a matter of opinion? Forty-three per cent of Canadians agree that they are, suggests a new poll.
47 per cent (up from 40 per cent last year) agreed that "the science behind global warming is still unclear," despite what scientists have been calling for years "unequivocal" evidence.

19 per cent agree "there is a link between vaccinations and autism," even though the study that made the link was found years ago to be "an elaborate fraud."
The poll, commissioned by Ontario Science Centre, has results that should worry all of us. Maurice Bitran, chief executive officer of the Ontario Science Centre, had this to say:
"If you think that climate change is one of the main issues that we face as a society, and almost half of us think that the science is still unclear when there's a pretty broad scientific consensus about it, this affects the chances that we have to act in a unified way about it."
He is concerned about some of the findings that suggest a lack of trust in science and media coverage of scientific issues such as:
68 per cent agree that media coverage of scientific issues is "reported selectively to support news media objectives."

59 per cent agree that media coverage of scientific issues is "presented to support a political position."
Such conspiratorial views of the media when it comes to fact-based science should give us all pause to consider, among other things, the role media themselves play in this perception:
Kelly Bronson, a University of Ottawa professor who has studied and written about science communication, said people are confused about where to go for reliable information and how to tell facts from beliefs.

She thinks the media are partly to blame for focusing too much on telling both sides of the story: "It doesn't help the public learn how to distinguish true knowledge from mere opinion, if both are given equal weight in a news story."
An excellent illustration of this is to be found in a recent Hamilton Spectator letter to the editor:
RE: Republicans in denial (Sept. 13)

This article calls climate change skeptics "deniers", but is itself a denier. To accomplish this clever trick of contradicting itself, the Washington Post (WAPO) cunningly suppresses the huge hidden assumption behind their "denier" pejorative, which is that man-made climate change is settled science, which it isn't.

An example of the bad science behind "man-made climate change" is CO2, an essential component of all life including ours. In fact we likely need more of it. Reduce pollution, yes, but reduce CO2, no. We emphatically do not have a link between climate change and human-generated CO2.

Pedlars of bad science like Michael Mann are quoted supporting this unproven man-made climate change hypothesis. Natural phenomena like sea level rise are dragged in as proof of it, when actually the sea level is simply rising as it has been for thousands of years. Further, we should note that the climate change industry yields nice personal profits for its promoters, such as writers of columns like "Republicans in denial?"

It is difficult to connect these dots into a picture that warrants calling skeptics of man-made climate change "deniers", particularly when WAPO itself denies much.

Frank Gue, Burlington
Mr. Gue, and all others of his ilk, try to peddle the opinion that the science of climate change is not settled. The fact that it has been settled is but an inconvenience people like Gue circumvent by exploiting people's ignorance and prejudices. Are newspapers doing anyone a service by publishing such arrant nonsense?

Ignorance, sloppy thinking, mindless chatter and misdirection continue apace, but here is an incontrovertible fact: The time is growing very late, and the window to mitigation is rapidly closing.

UPDATE: Pursuant to the comments about online polls (one was used in the above Leger poll,) made by Jay and UU4077, it was not a poll in which just anyone could contribute. Here is an excerpt detailing its methodology:

A survey of 1,514 Canadians was completed online between August 15th to 16th, 2017 using Leger’s online panel, LegerWeb.

A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.


Leger’s online panel has approximately 475,000 members nationally – with between 10,000 and 20,000 new members added each month, and has a retention rate of 90%.


Stringent quality assurance measures allow Leger to achieve the high-quality standards set by the company. As a result, its methods of data collection and storage outperform the norms set by WAPOR (The World Association for Public Opinion Research). These measures are applied at every stage of the project: from data collection to processing, through to analysis. We aim to answer our clients’ needs with honesty, total confidentiality, and integrity.
My wife is part of a large online polling group. Originally responding to a telephone poll by EKOS, she was later contacted by the pollster asking her to become part of an online polling panel, as they needed someone in her demographic. My understanding is that such groups are meant to represent a large cross-section of Canadians, and therefore does not have the notorious self-selection and skewing that open online polls do.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Matter Of Trust

I doubt there are many who would deny how precipitously the reputation of the United States has fallen since Donald Trump ascended to the White House. Each day seems to bring forth new and outrageous stream-of-consciousness pronouncements from the Infant-in Chief, and certainly, his speech to the United Nations was no different other than the fact that this time it was scripted. The world, except for chief-cheerleader Benjamin Netanyahu, was singularly unimpressed.

While Trump was content to rail against North Korea, Cuba, Iran and Venezuela as unworthy of trust, the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, offered some key observations about the U.S., observations that cut to the heart of a crucial consequence of having a giant id on the world stage. Americans are not generally receptive to being lectured to by other nations, especially when the lecture is delivered by a leader who says he would not be willing to sit down with Trump under the current circumstances. However, they would be very wise to listen carefully to his view of what will happen if the U.S. exits from the Iran nuclear deal.

Monday, September 18, 2017

An Ugly And Growing Reality

Although I have written before about the terrible problem of plastic pollution that is strangling the world in general, and our oceans and marine life in particular, it seems that we can never be reminded too often about the terrible toll our self-indulgent lifestyles exact.

While it is true to some extent that we are victims of the packaging imposed upon us by manufacturers (for example, you will find it fairly difficult to buy salad dressing that comes in actual glass bottles) one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution is the ubiquitous water bottle, an accessory almost none of us needs to use. Yet people tell themselves comforting lies such as, I don't trust the water from the tap, bottled water tastes better, I recycle, so what's the big deal? etc. Add to that our incessant reliance on plastic grocery bags, and the threat of environmental and health catastrophe increases even more. These same users refuse to confront the tremendous harm their demand for convenience exacts. Indeed, there is now evidence that microplastics are infiltrating our very cells.

When I look at pictures of shores littered with plastic, I think of what apt metaphors they are for the fact that, without question, we treat our world like a massive waste disposal facility. As to the effects of that attitude on the creatures of the world, graphic imagery abounds but apparently is insufficiently shocking to move people out of their complacency.

Fortunately, there is some basis for hope. If you start the following video at about the 16-minute mark, you will learn that Canada has become the 26th country out of 32 that has has now signed on to the Clean Seas initiative. Take a moment to visit their site, which will give additional insight into the problem as well as what all of us can do to contribute to the solution.

None of us can be passive bystanders here. We all have a role to play in remediation.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

When It Serves Economic Interests, Ignorance Is A National Policy

Burying their heads in rapidly disappearing sand is something of a national characteristic of Americans when it comes to climate change. However, when it is aided, abetted and promoted by monied interests, all should be concerned.

I think it is reasonably well-known that several states have banned any references to climate change or global warming in official government documents. Florida, recently pummeled by monster Hurricane Irma, was one of the first to take such measures back in 2011, when current governor Rick Scott took office. Earlier this year, the state of Idaho stripped any references to it in its revised K-12 science standards. In 2012, North Carolina banned the state from basing coastal policies on the latest scientific predictions of how much the sea level will rise.

Of course, on the federal level, since Trump took office, intensive scrubbing worthy of Mr. Clean has taken place on the White House website. Predictably, that ardour has infected many federal departments. Even those researchers seeking grants from the US Department of Energy are being asked (?} to excise references to 'climate change' and 'global warming' from their proposals.

The mechanism behind this censorship is fascinating and worthy of deep study, but I will offer only a brief overview of the influence being wielded by powerful interests to suppress scientific fact. Not surprisingly, lobbyists for the real estate and housing development industries are leading the charge, striving to keep as quiet as possible some very, very inconvenient truths:
... a storm of scientific information about sea-level rise that threatens the most lucrative, commission-boosting properties ... warn[s] that Florida, the Carolinas and other southeastern states face the nation’s fastest-growing rates of sea-level rise and coastal erosion — as much as three feet by the year 2100, depending on how quickly Antarctic ice sheets melt. In a recent report, researchers for Zillow estimated that nearly two million U.S. homes could be literally underwater by 2100.
Given the rapid progression of climate change, I suspect the 2100 date is far too optimistic. I believe I may see some of the worst within my own lifetime, even though I am admittedly getting a tad long in the tooth.

Truth is frequently unpalatable, and realtors and developers are proving especially resistant to it:
Some are teaming up with climate-change skeptics and small government advocates to block public release of sea-level rise predictions and ensure that coastal planning is not based on them.
And they are getting some assistance from the top:
Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump rescinded an Obama-era executive order that required the federal government to account for climate change and sea-level rise when building infrastructure, such as highways, levees and floodwalls. Trump’s move came after lobbying from the National Association of Home Builders, which called the Obama directive “an overreaching environmental rule that needlessly hurt housing affordability.”
Back in North Carolina, Willo Kelly, who represents both the Outer Banks Home Builders Association and the Outer Banks Association of Realtors
... teamed up with homebuilders and realtors to pass state legislation in 2012 that prevented coastal planners from basing policies on a benchmark of a 39-inch sea-level rise by 2100.

The legislation, authored by Republican Rep. Pat McElraft, a coastal realtor, banned the state from using scientific projections of future sea-level rise for a period of four years. It resulted in the state later adopting a 30-year forecast, which projects the sea rising a mere eight inches.
In South Carolina, the state Department of Natural Resources in 2013 was accused of keeping secret a draft report on climate-change impacts. In Texas, the 2016 platform of the state Republican Party states that climate change “is a political agenda promoted to control every aspect of our lives.”
Fortunately, not everyone is wallowing in, and extolling, ignorance:
In eastern North Carolina, geologist Riggs resigned from the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission’s science panel in 2016, citing legislative interference. He has since teamed up with local governments on the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds to address problems of flooding, windblown tides and saltwater intrusion, a threat to local farming.

Further east, the Hyde County town of Swan Quarter has built a 27-kilometre dike around homes and farms to protect $62 million in flood-threatened property. The dike helped prevent windblown flooding during recent storms, but county officials have some concerns about the future.
Climate change is growing increasingly dire, and it is clearly not the time for citizens to cede control and authority to those whose only interest seems to be squeezing out as much profit as possible in the finite time ahead.

Indeed, some might call such massive venality a massive crime against humanity.

Friday, September 15, 2017

UPDATED: More On Neoliberal Extortion

I admit that at one time, I worshiped at the altar of the NHL, this during the time of the Original Six. But then something happened. I grew up.

I know the above might be offensive to those who still take their sports seriously, but let me make plain I have nothing against such passions, but they are passions that should never cloud our thinking about other, much more important, matters, like the neoliberal gladiator games now being staged in the public arena.

The latest round comes to us from Calgary, where the owners of the Calgary Flames, like the feudal lords they fancy themselves to be, are demanding service from their vassals:
The owners of the Calgary Flames are demanding Alberta's largest city pay for a significant chunk of a proposed new arena and exempt the NHL club from property taxes and rent, all while refusing to open their books as the two sides negotiate, according to a municipal insider.

The club's proposal does not include sharing profits or repaying the city for any contribution it may make toward building a new facility in Calgary's Victoria Park, the source said. The new facility will cost around $500-million, multiple city hall sources said. The Flames asked the city to cover well more than one-third of the bill, the source told The Globe and Mail. Victoria Park is near the Scotiabank Saddledome, where the Flames play now.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, a man who has always struck me as eminently sensible and reasonable, is resisting this extortionate play.
Calgary has offered to finance one-third of the arena, providing cash instalments over a number of years, a source told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday. That money would have to be repaid, the source said. The Flames, according to this plan, would cover another third and the final chunk would come from ticket surcharges. Nenshi, on Wednesday, confirmed this structure is "part" of the deal.
Because a new arena to replace the old Saddledome is integral to Calagary's 2026 Winter Olympic aspirations, the city is taking the situation seriously, but is not prepared to offer carte blanche to the billionaire oilman, Murray Edwards, who is the Flames' primary owner. Being challenged, I imagine, is not part of Edwards' life experience, but he would do well to heed Mayor Nenshi's restrained and sensible comments:

Similarly, a Globe editorial has this to offer:
If the Flames' owners, six of Canada's wealthiest people, want a new arena they can pay for it.

As usual, the NHL cartel and its apologists are counting on Calgarians' succumbing to a wave of me-too feelings when they gaze at taxpayer-funded arenas elsewhere. But using past bad decisions to justify terrible future decisions does not qualify as logic. And governments in cash-strapped Alberta can't afford to capitulate.
All Canadians, if they pay attention, can now see the offensive and egregious nature of the neoloiberalism that is taking over more and more aspects of our lives. The question now, as always, is whether they are content to simply shrug their shoulders and go back to their IPhones and similar such diversions to shut out the real world, or will they finally start taking steps to vociferously resist this steady and ongoing encroachment of the public good?

UPDATE: The city of Calgary has just released the offer that it made to the Flames regarding building the new arena:
Calgary offered to chip in the equivalent of $185-million to cover the cost of a new $555-million arena ...

The offer demands the Flames remain in Alberta's largest city for at least 35 years and the Flames ownership group pay the property taxes. The team's owners would, in turn, collect all revenue in exchange for putting up $185-million, according to the city's proposal.

The city's contribution to the proposed arena is not pure cash. It would hand over land valued at $30-million and pay the $25-million it would cost to demolish the Saddledome, which is 34 years old. Its remaining $130-million obligation would be in the form of "non-property tax sources" according to the proposal.

Municipal taxpayers would be on the hook for "indirect" costs as well. Expenses associated with infrastructure, such as the 17th Avenue extension, total $150-million, according to the plan... the city will pay for a new transit station on a yet-unbuilt expansion of the city's light rail system and utility upgrades, although the price tag on those elements has yet to be determined.
Ken King, who is the president of the group that controls the Flames, described the negotiations, which included this offer, as "spectacularly unproductive."

Draw what conclusions you will.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Low-Risk Takedown

If you read my post from yesterday, you will know who Nick Shcherban is. Watch the following brief video, and ask yourself this: Have you ever heard of a noise complaint being answered by three police officers, an arrest, and handcuffs?

A powerful indictment, in my view, of the neoliberalism enveloping all of us.

For further insight into the predatory practices of film crews working for corporate behemoths, Star reader Ken Pyette of Toronto offers this:
Re: Man arrested for disrupting HBO production in Riverdale, Sept. 12

Enough already! I have just survived a film shoot next door to my home — the second this year. The first instance left my property a garbage-strewn shambles. In the latest invasion, I was given hours notice and chose to cancel the first few days of a planned vacation to protect my property.

It was a good decision. The neighbour on the other side of the shoot went away and I watched as the crew arrogantly placed equipment on their deck, held production meetings on it and completely took over the front yard with equipment and a control-room tent. The neighbour, upon her return, said no permission had been granted for the trespass and she had found damage. She has since been told there is nothing she can do about it. All of this is done with the blessing of the city of Toronto.

Today, I read in the paper that a man has been arrested and lead away in handcuffs for expressing his frustration over much worse experiences. I sympathize with the man.

Having self-important, inconsiderate people invade your street and community is not something residents want. The crew’s condescending attitude that they are bringing a bit of glamour to our benighted little lives is offensive. The usual comeback from the film industry is as quoted in your article: “We’ve pumped billions into Toronto.” I don’t believe this.

Someone should explain to our city council that the film business has a long and well-documented history of taking advantage of suckers.
And if I may be permitted a brief personal anecdote, last year I was picking up some desserts from my wife's church for a charity dinner they were putting on. When I pulled up to the entrance, I was told by someone with a walkie-talkie and a vest that I couldn't park there, as a movie shoot was going on in the area. I replied that I would only be a couple of minutes, but when I came back out of the church, I was told to move along, and someone else radioed that I wasn't complying.

When I told them they didn't own the street, the reply, with the sneering condescension often uttered by those who think they have authority, was, "Sir, we have a permit." I lost my temper at that point and, in a 'strongly worded' excoriation, I repeated my assertion that they didn't own the street, and that I had every right to be picking up the desserts, and that I would move when I was finished.

A small story, but I hope indicative of the kind of supine surrender our municipalities have made to the corporate agenda. I have little doubt that had I tarried further, I would have experienced something very similar to what what was inflicted upon Nick Shcherban.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Slouching Toward A City Near You

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

- W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

The man pictured above is Nick Shcherban, a Toronto resident who was arrested, hauled off to jail and is now awaiting a bail hearing for reasons I will explain later in this post. For now, it might be useful to think of him as a David who has just lost his battle with Goliath. Kind of like the battle we all seem to have lost to the forces of neoliberalism.

A curious term, neoliberalism, one that sounds innocent enough and is fondly embraced by politicians of all stripes, including the much-photographed Justin Trudeau. But what does it really mean?

Probably the best definition I have read is one offered by Naomi Klein in her latest book, No Is Not Enough:
Neoliberalism is shorthand for an economic project that vilifies the public sphere and anything that's not either the workings of the market or the decisions of individual consumers. ... governments exist in order to create the optimal conditions for private interests to maximize their profits and wealth, based on the theory that the profits and economic growth that follow will benefit everyone in the trickle down from the top - eventually.

The primary tools of this project are all too familiar: privatization of the public sphere, deregulation of the corporate sphere, and low taxes paid for by cuts to public services, and all of this locked in under corporate friendly trade deals. [Think, for example, of Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions in NAFTA and CETA.]
For anyone paying attention, there can be little doubt that the forces of neoliberalism are in the driver's seat, despite growing recognition of how destructive it is to the common good.

The latest example is to be found in Amazon's search for a second headquarters. In my mind, it represents the ultimate expression of neoliberalism, one in which a very powerful and extremely profitable corporate entity is demanding massive subsidization by the taxpayer in exchange for bestowing jobs. All of this from a company that has already received well over $1 billion in the form of subsidies and tax breaks.

Consider some of the telling elements of its Request For Proposals, one that leaves little doubt that the more taxpayer-funded 'freebies' a jurisdiction offers Amazon, the more kindly disposed it will be to locating there.

Please read the following carefully for both the explicit and the implied expectations of the jurisdiction that 'wins' their approval.
Incentives – Identify incentive programs available for the Project at the state/province and local levels. Outline the type of incentive (i.e. land, site preparation, tax credits/exemptions, relocation grants, workforce grants, utility incentives/grants, permitting, and fee reductions) and the amount.The initial cost and ongoing cost of doing business are critical decision drivers.[Italics mine]

Please provide a summary of total incentives offered for the Project by the state/province and local community. In this summary, please provide a brief description of the incentive item, the timing of incentive payment/realization, and a calculation of the incentive amount. Please describe any specific or unique eligibility requirements mandated by each incentive item. With respect to tax credits, please indicate whether credits are refundable, transferable, or may be carried forward for a specific period of time. If the incentive includes free or reduced land costs, include the mechanism and approvals that will be required. Please also include all timelines associated with the approvals of each incentive. We acknowledge a Project of this magnitude may require special incentive legislation in order for the state/province to achieve a competitive incentive proposal. [Italics mine] As such, please indicate if any incentives or programs will require legislation or other approval methods. Ideally, your submittal includes a total value of incentives, including the specified benefit time period.
I think we can see where this may be going. It is hard not to imagine a day in the very near future when mega corporations will demand to be relieved of all taxation in exchange for the jobs they provide. A kind of corporate, neoliberal extortion disguised as munifescence, no?

So where does Nick Shcherban fit into this picture? Well, Nick was taught a lesson on Monday about who really rules the world, and that includes the 'world-class' city of Toronto. Tired of the almost non-stop use of a neighbouring house for filming purposes, he decided to take some action:
Two speakers and an amplifier was [sic] set up in his backyard where a radio was blasting in the direction of 450 Pape Ave. during the production of the HBO movie Fahrenheit 451, starring Michael B. Jordan and Scarborough-born YouTube star Lilly Singh.

Shcherban said in an interview earlier on Monday that 450 Pape is exclusively and constantly used for filming movies, commercials, and having photo shoots, causing disruptions like excessive noise and blocking access to a TTC bus stop.
His act of resistance did not go unnoticed:
When Shcherban concluded his interview with the Star, a police officer approached him to discuss a noise complaint against him. Shcherban told the officer that they would need a warrant to do anything about it, and within 30 minutes, three [italics mine] detectives appeared at his door, warrant in hand.

It took more than 15 minutes for Shcherban to respond to the detectives after receiving multiple warnings that his door would be broken down if necessary.

He was escorted out of his home and into a police car, as the film crew watched the dramatic scene.
Perhaps most indicative of the mindset that corporate behemoths like HBO deserve unqualified obeisance, a film crew member had this to say about
Shcherban's arrest:
“Serves him right ... We’ve put billions into the Toronto film industry in the last decade.”
Some may say that Nick Sahcherban is getting exactly what he deserves. After all, who is he to try to interfere in something that is providing much-needed jobs and other economic boosts, just because his personal peace is compromised? And, I guess, that is exactly my point in this post. We have become so used to accepting orts from the corporate table that we have reached the point where the public's well-being is only a secondary consideration, if, indeed, it is considered at all, in the greater scheme of things.

Not nearly good enough, in my book.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017

On Systemic Police Racism

I have avoided writing on incidents of police brutality and racism for some time now, not because they are on the decline (check out some of their recent antics, and you will find that, for example, Toronto and area abounds with them) but, quite frankly, because I find it so dispiriting to deal with such egregious abuses of power and authority. I realize that is hardly a reasonable or viable excuse, especially given the kind of suffering the victims themselves experience at the hands of those police who I hesitate to describe as rogue, since they seem to represent an ethos permeating many police departments.

In any event, the following video is most instructive. The fact that it takes place in the U.S. should provide none of us with any comfort, as it just as easily could be depicting a roadside stop here. The language may offend some, but it is indeed a powerful indictment of a systemic problem.

Closer to home, in a Toronto housing project, the infamous Neptune Four police crime unfolded:

Two separate countries. The same mindset. In my view, there is little doubt that systemic police racism is no respecter of national boundaries.

Well, Well, Well

Quelle surprise.

H/t Tomthunkit

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Bill Morneau's Tax Reforms

I have been following with interest the current discussion, sometimes waxing into hysteria, over Finance Minister Bill Morneau's plan to close small-business loopholes that allow such 'mom and pop' operators as lawyers, doctors and dentists to evade paying their full share by "sprinkling income" to family members who do not actually work for these incorporated entities.

If this is just one of many reforms being planned, it is a good start. If it is to be the only reform, it is a paltry effort, as it will yield only $250 million annually, and perhaps only intended as a form of 'bread and circuses' for the masses.

While the usual suspects are calling it a tax grab and predicting dire consequences, I am happy to report that many others see it as simple justice and have a more mature view of taxation in general.

The following two letters from The Toronto Star illustrate views that are anything but reflexive denunciations.
Re: Morneau not swayed by tax-plan backlash, Sept. 6

I am writing in regard to the well-funded backlash against amendments to our tax laws that will finally close a fraction of the loopholes that unduly benefit Canada’s wealthiest citizens.

I am a middle-aged, median-income wage earner who pays his full tax bill every second Thursday. I come from a family of business people and I possess no particular bias against productive entrepreneurs or the genuine spirit of entrepreneurship.

In my experience, business owners are primarily motivated by a desire to be their own boss. As proud and independent operators, they would be the last people to come looking for a crutch from government. But that is exactly what successive Liberal and Conservative governments have provided.

Our tax system has become the ultimate insider deal, in which the well-connected consistently rewrite the rules to escape the rational and just responsibilities that should be placed upon them by a progressive income-tax system in a democratic nation.

It is beyond any doubt that we have a two-tier income-tax system, in which wage and salary earners are routinely expected to pay their full share. Meanwhile, far too many entrepreneurs play by a set of rules concocted for their own benefit, with the exclusive goal of shifting the tax burden to others who can afford it less.

The Liberal Party ran on a platform of respecting the middle class and I cannot imagine a better opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to that platform than by tackling the egregious and entirely undemocratic imbalance in our tax system.

I am not underestimating the amount of guts it will take to tackle the monstrously dysfunctional and distorted tax laws of this country but a refusal by the Liberals to do so will leave the door open for others to champion the cause.

We need a tax system that puts the needs of the country ahead of the needs of the country club. Will you actually take on that challenge?

If middle-class Canadians had the same attitude toward paying taxes that the people at the top did, our country would be just another bankrupt, basket-case banana republic.

Democracy is not free, nor is it particularly cheap. Please share that information with those who are panicking at the prospect of finally paying their fair share.

Mike Vorobej, Ottawa

Canada has finally got economics right. I am seeing more and more Mercedes, BMWs, Lexus, Audis, Range Rovers, Maseratis and Teslas, along with the increasingly frequent Bentleys, Ferraris and Lamborghinis. According to BMO, luxury car sales have increased 37 per cent since 2013.

Just think, years ago, all that money would have been redistributed — wasted! — through a progressive tax system to provide resources for kids with disabilities in school, to reduce health-care wait times, to fight poverty, to support the elderly and so on.

If this is what a free society looks like, then our fiscal policies are right on track. Tax cuts since 2006 redirect $43 billion per year from social programs to individuals, and the top 20 per cent of income earners take 36 per cent of that.

Canada has been lowering the corporate tax rate for years, arguing it stimulates growth. Meanwhile, corporate divestment increases as taxes get lower.

The upside is that those billions of dollars go to wealthy shareholders who pay a fraction of the tax rate on that income than those who actually work for a living.

Which brings us back to the increased number of luxury cars on the road. Well, that and borrowing against home equity, but let’s not burst that bubble.

Mark Davidson, Toronto

Friday, September 8, 2017

Simply Shameful

The other day I noted the difference between Canadian and American coverage of natural disasters. Canadian news does not shy away from references to, and analyses of, climate change, while American news, doubtlessly due to corporate decree, treats it as a theoretical/ideological/political construct not to be mentioned. Apparently, not running afoul of the powers-that-be and influential network sponsors takes precedence over the truth.

If you go to the three-minute mark of the following NBC Nightly News report, Al Roker gives Lester Holt his morally bankrupt version of the meteorological facts of life.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

He Takes A Nice Selfie, But Secrecy Is His Real Forté

Those of us who follow politics fairly closely know that there is frequently less than meets the eye in the Trudeau government. Certainly, the Prime Minister talks a reasonably good game, and his selfies are world-renowned, but scratch the surface and you will find increasing evidence that the emperor is, at the very least, scantily-clad.

There is, of course, Trudeau's widely-known betrayal of his election-campaign commitment to electoral reform. We were told that there just was no consensus, a claim widely ridiculed since the government never asked Canadians what new voting system they preferred.

But even more worrying than that lie is the disparity that exists between his rhetoric about climate change and the reality of what he is pursuing in relative secrecy, one that seems to be very close to what we often euphemistically call 'industry self-regulation'. Gloria Galloway writes:
Environmental groups say they are surprised to learn that the federal Liberal government has been rewriting and consolidating the regulations governing offshore oil and gas drilling for more than a year without informing them or obtaining much input beyond that of the petroleum industry.

The current draft of the regulations requires the oil and gas industry to implement the safety measures that companies determine to be "reasonably practicable," but the environmentalists say it imposes no minimum standards.

[This suggests that] the proposed changes would allow the industry to decide what safety measures can be reasonably and practicably implemented, the environmentalists say. They suggest oil and gas companies would be able to argue that some are too expensive or too difficult.
Known as the Frontier and Offshore Regulatory Renewal Initiative (FORRI), consultations began last year and are now in their final stages. And the excluded groups are not only environmental organizations, but also indigenous groups, quite remarkable given the Trudeau government's blather about reconciliation.
... while the FORRI website includes many responses to the draft regulations from the petroleum industry, the only Indigenous feedback is from the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC), an Inuit company that manages a land claim in the western Arctic. The IRC expressed significant concerns about the initiative and the consultations.

Other Inuit groups, including the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, which represents Inuit on Baffin Island, say they got no opportunity to give input.
Make of all of this what you will, but I don't think one has to be especially cynical to be very, very concerned about giving the oil and gas industry more freedom, worried as we all should be about our collective future, especially given the global climate disruptions we are currently in the midst of.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Evidence And The Explanation

One of the big differences I have noticed between Canadian and American news is that while the former frequently addresses and uses the term climate change in their coverage of 'natural' disasters,' the latter almost never employs the phrase nor attempts any meaningful analysis of the underlying causes of catastrophes they commonly report on.

Last night, Global National addressed climate change head-on in relation to Hurricane Harvey. However, if you watch to the end of the report, you will see how deeply and shockingly ingrained denialism is in the psyches of many, many people.

Meanwhile, Matthew Hoffmann writes that the time is long past when we can think of climate change as something separate from our everyday lives:
The gulf between the enormity of the climate change challenge and our readiness to undertake it is staggering. This is painfully obvious when climate change is visible, when we are faced with the evidence that the impacts of climate change are happening now with devastating consequences. But this gulf is also evident in society’s failure to internalize climate awareness and concern. As a society we are simply not fully “woke” to the idea that climate change is not some discrete problem to solve; it is, as characterized by climate scientist Mike Hulme, a part of the modern condition. Addressing and living with climate change requires serious transformation of society. We have a lot of work to do and it will not be easy.
Unless and until we are able to honestly confront climate change and the role we all play in its ever-worsening effects, we can expect ever-more frequent reports of its increasingly devastating consequences for the entire world.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

*Echoes Of History - Part 111: Contemporary Economic Terrorism

I must confess that I continue to feel the impact of reading The Blood of Emmett Till. This is a good thing, as it has made me much more aware of the long road involved in the journey to civil rights in the United States, a journey that was regularly punctuated, not just by physical violence but also by violence of the economic kind.

In 1955, these threats were potent weapons to stop Black people from registering to vote, something the racists of the time feared would lead to them exerting electoral power and attaining political office. Nipping such efforts in the bud was the default position of the time.

One of the most insidious mechanisms for this operated through the White Citizens' Councils, a less violent version, if you will, of the KKK, their goal being to silence leaders in the Black movement through economic pressure. A prominent doctor and entrepreneur, T.R.M. Morton, founder of Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL) in 1951, was a crucial leader in the fight for civil rights as well as justice in the murder of Till. As a result of his activism, he faced a situation where banks would no longer extend credit to him, suppliers severed their relationship with him, etc., the goal being to financially hobble him into silence, a quest that failed badly.

Black store owners were also victims in this battle to stop the civil rights movement. They lost their customers as the White Citizens Councils made it known that anyone doing business with them would face their wrath, including job loss. Tremendous economic cudgels were wielded, but many still resisted, despite the peril.

When you juxtapose the depth of character required for someone to risk life. limb and livelihood in the pursuit of justice and equality for all with the supremacists' claim to superiority because of the mere color of their skin, the sheer emptiness of their claims is laid bare. People who hide behind sheets, march in angry groups and preach hatred are hardly what most of us would label as people of character.

Sadly, economic weapons are still being today. Consider the situation of NFL quarterback Colin Kaeperniak, a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers for three seasons who rose to fame (notoriety if you are of a certain bent) by refusing to stand for the American national anthem, opting to instead kneel, motivated by what he viewed as the oppression of people of color in the U.S.

Kaepernik opted out of his contract at the end of 2016 season to become a free agent. Despite the fact that there are 32 NFL teams, not one has even offered him a tryout. This fact recently occasioned a protest outside of NFL headquarters.

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

Scott Stinson puts to the lie the non-racist reasons cited for not giving Kapernik a new football opportunity:
The idea that all the NFL rosters are filled out with quarterbacks who are better than Kaepernick at the skills required is simply nonsense. Over his five seasons of mostly full-time work, the 29-year-old has a career rating of 88.9. That is 17th ALL TIME. Sorry for yelling. Kaepernick’s career rating is better than those of Dan Marino, Brett Favre, and Troy Aikman. Also, John Elway and Warren Moon. And Dan Fouts. Phil Simms, Joe Theismann. I’ll stop now. Jim Kelly and Johnny Unitas. OK, now.
The past cannot be changed, and the future has not yet been written. Confronting the racism of both past and contemporary society is something the Americans have a great deal of difficulty doing, and to be sure, it is no easy task. Only now is Canada coming to grips with our abuse of Indigenous peoples, and the road to reconciliation will undoubtedly be a long one. Until Americans are willing to walk the same path, things will only continue to deteriorate for all.

* If you are interested, Echoes of History, Part One, can be accessed here, and Part 11, here.

Friday, September 1, 2017

There Is A Lesson Here For All Of Us

While no rational person could fail to see ever-worsening climate change as a major contributor to the Houston flooding, there is a compounding problem, as the following report makes clear.

Surely there is a lesson here for all of us.

As to how urban engineering can help address this problem, my thanks to Things Are Good for this:

Thursday, August 31, 2017

No Matter What His Motivation Might Have Been, This Is Just Wrong

ATLANTAA white Cobb County police lieutenant has been moved to administrative duty for telling a white woman during a traffic stop, “Remember, we only shoot Black people.”

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Strong Evidence Of Trump's Racism

The CBC's Neil Macdonald has written a searing assessment of Donald Trump that leaves little doubt that the Americans elected a racist president. His starting pint is an interview conducted by the NYT of one Derek Black, a former white supremacist nurtured since childhood by a family that embraced racism; his father started that shrine to hatred known as Stormfront.
... the arc of the interview was that eventually Derek Black went off to college out of state and found himself contending with educated people who would systematically shred the studies and pseudo-science Black cited in support of his beliefs that, for example, there are IQ differences between races.

In short, Black himself received a humiliating education, decided white supremacy was a fringe movement for ignorant, angry people and publicly abandoned it. In return, his family basically disowned him.
After the terrible events of Charlottesville, Black expected a full-throated denunciation by all politicians, despite the fact that the 'protesters' had used code words well-known in racist circles, such as "protecting our history and culture."
That Donald Trump did not immediately denounce the marchers (though he read a boilerplate repudiation from a teleprompter on Monday), said Black, was "weird" and was taken as somewhat of a victory by his racist former fellow travellers, some of whom had shouted "Hail Trump" at the rally.

Then came Trump's news conference on Tuesday, Aug. 15, when he said that some of the marchers in the white nationalist rally were "very fine people" and focused on criticizing the counter-protesters and those who wanted to take down the statue of Lee.

Ask yourself this: how in heaven's name do "fine people" find themselves among torch-waving men shouting about non-white minorities and "blood and soil?" (Look up the provenance of that slogan). And why would a fine person not bolt at the first chant of "Jews will not replace us?"

Trump then said: "You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name [Emancipation Park]."

Now. Look at those last three words: "to another name." Donald Trump, president of the United States, not only thought there were fine people among the white supremacist marchers, he refused to say "Emancipation Park."
The consequence of this abysmal failure of national leadership was far-reaching:
Derek Black, listening in a coffee shop, said Trump's words "took my breath away."

The president had, in his view, validated the white supremacist messaging strategy in a stroke.

What they heard, he said, was "Donald Trump thinks we're fine." All the people who just needed a little extra nudge, to be told their son would be denied university because of affirmative action, or that an immigrant would take their jobs, had just been nudged.

Black called it the most important moment in the history of the modern white nationalist movement. David Duke and other white supremacists rejoiced. They've crawled out from under their rocks and are basking in their president's complicity.
To fight an evil, one must first be able to name it. Trump's conscious choice not to denounce racism in any credible way, along with his pardon of convicted racist Joe Arpaio, leaves little doubt that a racist is now occupying the White House.

I Remain Transfixed

Until relatively recently, I did not think I would live so long as to see this climate-change future.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Sixty-two Years Ago Today

On August 28, 1955, Emmett Till was murdered in a horrific racist crime that reverberated throughout the world.
In April of this year, Jazz Night in America recorded Wadada Leo Smith performing a portion of his original composition "Emmett Till: Defiant, Fearless" while canoeing down the Little Tallahatchie River in Glendora, Miss.

Here is the 360˚ VR video of that composition:

Friday, August 25, 2017

Part 11 - Echoes Of History: 1955 And 2017

In Part 1, I discussed the murder of Emmett Till, the exoneration of his murderers, and the tactics used by the racists of 1955 Mississippi to try to discredit both the NAACP and the entire trial. Efforts went so far as to suggest Till had not been murdered at all but was in fact living in Detroit, part of an elaborate scheme by the NAACP to embarrass the South and discredit its traditions.

Fast forwarding 2017, it is apparent that not much has changed in the racist camp, now known as 'White Nationalists'or the'alt.right', euphemisms that do little to obscure what they really are. Following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that became abundantly clear.

There was, of course, the now infamous press conference by Donald Trump which seemed to use the time-honoured, disingenous and quite cowardly tactic of arguing for a moral equivalency between the swastika-bearing white supremacists and the many who showed up to oppose them.
"What about the 'alt-left' that came charging at, as you say, the 'alt-right,' do they have any semblance of guilt?" Trump asked. "What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do."

He added: "You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now."
From the never subtle or nuanced Trump, it was an obvious and rather pathetic display of his leanings. Other efforts can sometimes be more subtle. And that subtlety often comes in the form of presenting the racists as victims of intolerance and 'liberal' hypocrisy rather than as perpetrators of hatred. Consider, for example, two of the aggrieved memes circulating widely on the Internet:

Of course, racist strategy goes far beyond such memes. In the Charlottesville violence, the torch-bearing supremacists presented themselves as full-throated Americans marching in favour of free speech and the preservation of historical monuments, yet their real motives are clear to most. As Patrick Sisson recently wrote:
“The Charlottesville protesters revealed what we know to be true about these monuments: They are monuments to white supremacy, and the threat that we’ll tear them down is a threat to their ideology and movement.”
Those not certain of this need only to listen to the chants of Charlottesville 'protesters.'

Casting doubt on the veracity of events is also a time-honoured racist tactic. As noted in Part 1, there were dark hints that the NAACP had engineered the 'killing' of Emmett Till as a tactic to advance their cause. That very same approach was recently used by Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka who, in answering why his leader did not make any comments about the August mosque bombing in Minnesota, discussed Trump's need to have all the information about the bombing (a restraint he has never practised in attacks initiated by Muslims) before offering a public statement to ascertain it wasn't a "fake hate crime."
"We've had a series of crimes committed, alleged hate crimes, by right wing individuals in the last six months that turned out to actually have been propagated by the left," he said.
In Till's day, there were efforts to present the NAACP as a communist-infiltrated organization whose purpose was to upend American society. Efforts are also underway today to conflate those involved in clashes with the supremacists as hypocrites and violent thugs:

Then there was the shocking, disgusting Twitter post by Jason Kessler, the far-right activist who organized the Charlottesville march, to denigrate and slander the 32-year-old woman killed by a hate monger during the demonstration:
“Heather Heyer was a fat, disgusting Communist,” the post said. “Communists have killed 94 million. Looks like it was payback time.”
Or consider the smear campaign uncovered by the BBC:
Far-right activists are using fake Twitter accounts and images of battered women to smear anti-fascist groups in the US, an online investigation has revealed.

The online campaign is using fake Antifa (an umbrella term for anti-fascist protestors) Twitter accounts to claim anti-fascists promote physically abusing women who support US President Donald Trump or white supremacy.

One image shows the slogan "53% of white women voted for Trump, 53% of white women should look like this", above a photograph of a woman with a bruised and cut face and an anti-fascist symbol.

The woman pictured is actually British actress Anna Friel and the photograph was taken for a Women's Aid anti-domestic violence campaign in 2007.

How about this one, another picture promoted on a false Twitter account:

This is the kind of post that could go on almost ad infinitum with examples of racist strategies. Rather than prolong it, I will recommend that you check out two articles that are quite instructive: Michael Coren's recent article, Lessons on how to confront fascists, and How I Became Fake News, Brennan Gilmore's account of what happened to him after he posted his video of the car heading toward and killing Heather Heyer.

But I will close now with the hope that people will be more critical in their thinking and not let their biases blind them to such basic tasks as checking the bona fides of news sites, especially those that abound on the Internet, go to multiple legitimate sources of information, not fall down the rabbit hole of mindless conspiracy theories and, most importantly, use the brains they were born with to constantly assess and reassess the best approximations of the truth we can have in this life.

Oh, and just one more thing. Lest we feel smug and think racism and discrimination are things that afflict only our southern neighbour, this disquieting video from Manitoba should be a source of shame for all Canadians:

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

UPDATED: A Glimpse Of The Religiously Insane


UPDATE: Unless you can stand more of Paula White's sanctimonious and unhinged hypocrisy, I suggest you start the following at the 3:40 mark to savor Roland Martin's relentless take down of her and her fellow crazed evangelicals:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Echoes Of History: 1955 and 2017

From this tragedy large, diverse groups of people organized a movement that grew to transform a nation, not sufficiently but certainly meaningfully. What matters most is what we have and what we will do with what we do know. We must look at the facts squarely ... The bloody and unjust arc of our history will not bend upward if we merely pretend that history did not happen here.
- Timothy B. Tyson, author of The Blood of Emmett Till

As a species, we are terrible students of history. Although its tools have become much more refined over the years, its lessons seem all too frequently lost on many, either because we prefer comforting illusions or we see them through narrow ideological lenses. Refusing to confront ugly truths ensures their longevity.

One of the most emotionally difficult books I have read in a long time is The Blood of Emmett Till. This excerpt from a NYT review sums up the murder of Till, the 14-year-old black lad from Chicago who, in the summer of 1955, was visiting relatives in Mississippi:
On a Wednesday evening in August, Till allegedly flirted with and grabbed the hand of Carolyn Bryant, a white woman who worked as the cashier at a local market. According to recovered court transcripts released by the F.B.I. in 2007, he let out a “wolf whistle” as she exited the store to get a gun from her car. Bryant later informed her husband and his half brother, who proceeded to uphold a grim tradition: Till was abducted, beaten, shot in the head and thrown into the Tallahatchie River. A 74-pound gin fan was tied to his neck with barbed wire, with the hope that he would never be found.
Despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt, his murderers were, in the Southern tradition of the time, found not guilty. Despite the absence of justice, Till's mother, an indefatigable woman, changed the course of civil rights history by insisting that the horribly mutilated body of her son rest in an open coffin, of which photographs were published in prominent magazines, while an estimated 240,000 filed by his casket.

The purpose of this post, however, is not to revisit the horrific details explored in the book that go well beyond the murder of a young teen. Rather, it is to draw parallels between the language and justifications of the racists of Till's time with those of the contemporary white supremacist movement. While over 60 years separate the two eras, the echoes of history are evident for all who care to look.

The most obvious parallel evolves around efforts to discredit the veracity of events. Examples of this 'strategy' abound in the book:
The editor of the Picayune Item snarled that a "prejudiced communistic inspired NAACP" could not "not blacken the name of the great sovereign state of Mississippi, regardless of their claims of Negro Haters, lynching, or whatever [emphasis mine].
Sherriff Strider, a racist who was friends with the accused, sought to constantly undermine the evidence and question whether or not the body was, in fact, that of Till's, telling reporters the following:
"The body we took from the river looked more like that of a grown man instead of a young boy. It was also more decomposed than it should have been after that short a stay in the water."
Soon after, Strider told reporters, "This whole thing looks like a deal made up by the NAACP."

During the trial, Strider was happy to share his racist view with reporters, disguised as questioning the evidence:
"It just seems to me that the evidence is getting slimmer and slimmer. I'm chasing down some evidence now that the killing might have been planned and plotted by the NAACP."
Of course, there was no such evidence. Just as there was no evidence to support a convenient claim that Till had been spirited out of Mississippi and was now living in Detroit, again part of the larger effort to cast doubt on the evidence and the integrity of the NAACP.

Why the attacks on the NAACP? Besides trying to sow doubts about the murder, it was part of a pattern of extreme resistance to school integration and voting rights that Hodding Carter wrote about in The Saturday Evening Post:
Whites considered the NAACP "the fountainhead of all evil and woe," and the factual nature of most of the NAACP's bills of particulars ... doesn't help make its accusations any more acceptable. "The hatred that is concentrated upon the NAACP surpasses in its intensity any emotional reaction that I have witnessed in my southern lifetime." This reflected the NAACP's demands for voting rights and school integration as much as it did their protests over the Till case.
Any fair-minded person who reads The Blood of Emmett Till cannot emerge from the experience without a deep sense of outrage over the horrible injustices meted out to Black people over the years, as well as a profound admiration for those extraordinary souls who, countless times, braved both physical and economic reprisal in their long battle to be treated exactly as they were: American citizens demanding their full rights.

And the battle continues today. In Part 11 of this post, I will look at the tactics employed by white supremacists today, tactics that eerily echo those of a much earlier time as the racists among us seek to turn back the clock and once more subjugate those they deem their inferiors.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Deciphering White Supremacists

The New York Times provides a very useful glossary of the terms favoured by white supremacists these days. Be sure to check it out. As well, the following video breaks down the symbols brandished by these hate-mongers, symbols that were much in evidence last week in Charlottesville.

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Very, Very Timely Message

Arnold Schwarzenegger has a timely and very powerful message for Donald Trump and his racist supporters:

If you go to the YouTube page where this video is posted, you will see by the many vile comments that his message needs to be spread widely.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Will This Saudi 'Explanation' Give Freeland And Trudeau The Cover They Desperately Seek?

As I recently wrote, I am very doubtful that the Trudeau government will rescind its $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, damning evidence of the Saudi deployment of the weaponry against their own people notwithstanding. It is my suspicion that both Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland hope that their sanctimonious expressions of concern prompted by this evidence will be sufficient for the Canadian people.

Now Saudi Arabia has admitted using the armoured vehicles in their Eastern Province, but guess what? They claim it is to fight terrorism.
The Saudi Arabian government is defending the recent deployment of Canadian-made armoured vehicles against residents of the kingdom’s Eastern Province, saying security forces found it necessary to use “military equipment” to fight terrorists who threatened the safety of its population.
Interestingly, the vehicles have been unleashed in al-Qatif, which is predominantly Shia, a sect that finds no favour in Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia. And while it is true that tensions abound in the area, the Saudis are not keen to talk about any of the reasons.

Consider the following event from June of this year:
A Saudi soldier has been killed and two others wounded when an explosive device went off during a patrol in the kingdom's restive Qatif province, the interior ministry said.

In a statement carried by Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the ministry said that the blast occurred late Sunday evening in the Masoura district in the village of Awamiya.

It described the explosion as a "terrorist incident".
What led to this 'terrorist incident'?
The oil-rich eastern province of Qatif is mostly Shia, a minority in the Sunni-majority kingdom.

The SPA has reported an increase in clashes between Shia fighters and security forces in Masoura in recent weeks after the Saudi government sent in workers to demolish a 400-year-old walled neighbourhood there.

UN rights experts have urged the Saudi government to halt the demolition, saying the planned commercial zone threatened the town's historical and cultural heritage and could result in the forced eviction of hundreds of people from their businesses and residences.
Nothing to see here, claim the Saudis:
“The terrorist groups in Awamiyah are equipped with military equipment and they are attacking civilians in the area,” the embassy said in a statement.

Cesar Jaramillo, the executive director of Project Ploughshares, a disarmament group that tracks military exports, said the Saudi explanation for what took place merits skepticism.

“The Saudi government’s depiction of military operations in civilian areas as being part of its war on terrorism has become routine, and increasingly suspect,” he said.

“The fact is that there are too many red flags. A country consistently found to be among the very worst human-rights violators on the planet is now categorically denying any human-rights violations in the siege of Awamiyah. The Canadian public needs to know how much credence Ottawa gives to this claim and whether it is consistent with its own findings.”

Ali Adubisi, director of the Berlin-based European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights, said the Saudi government criminalizes any form of dissent. Many civilians were targeted and killed in Awamiyah, he said, while the government is saying it’s fighting armed men. “Portraying themselves as the protectors of civilians in Awamiyah is a mockery.”

Human Rights Watch said in a statement this week that residents in Awamiyah told them Saudi security forces fired into populated areas from Al-Masora, killing residents, occupying a public school, closing clinics and pharmacies and preventing essential services such as ambulances from reaching the area. The group called for an investigation into whether Saudi authorities “used excessive force in Awamiyah.”
There has been long-standing evidence of the almost genocidal hatred the Sunnis have for the Shia. For Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Freeland to cherry-pick the evidence and stand behind the deal would not only be indefensible, but also yet another indication of an amoral government with contempt for principles and human rights.

For Your Consideration

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

UPDATED: No, Mr. Trump, There Aren't Two Sides

Although issues of justice and equity have concerned me throughout most of my life, as I move through my final decades I find matters becoming more, not less, pressing. Clearly, history is not on an upward trajectory, and as the saying goes, we can rest when we are dead.

Like most, I suppose, I can only bear witness to the suffering that injustice, prejudice and hatred impose and, when opportunities and venues materialize, speak out and write about them and personally intervene if witnessing untoward acts. We all have a deep moral and social obligation not to turn away from but to confront evil in its many forms. Silences gives consent.

One of the most accessible venues for speaking out is a blog, although I am under no illusions about the efficacy of such methodology. However, if it serves to convey information that a reader might not otherwise have, I feel it at least accomplishes something, however little that might be in the larger scheme of things.

In that spirit I offer a clip from NBC News that includes an excerpt from a Vice News documentary exposing what went on behind the scenes in Charlottesville last weekend; it is a clip that puts to the lie everything the diseased leader of the 'free world', Donald Trump, had to say yesterday about some of the fine people who were marching with the white supremacists there. After watching the clip, you can follow this link to Mother Jones, where you can view the entire 22-minutes of the piece.

UPDATE: There is nothing more pathetic than a whining Nazi. Watch below as Christopher Cantwell, the white bare-shirt supremacist who so proudly extolled violence in the Vice clip, now sings a different turn:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

This Is Chilling

Make no mistake. If you are against Trump, you are an enemy of the state.
The US government is seeking to unmask every person who visited an anti-Trump website in what privacy advocates say is an unconstitutional “fishing expedition” for political dissidents.

The warrant appears to be an escalation of the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) campaign against anti-Trump activities, including the harsh prosecution of inauguration day protesters.

On 17 July, the DoJ served a website-hosting company, DreamHost, with a search warrant for every piece of information it possessed that was related to a website that was used to coordinate protests during Donald Trump’s inauguration. The warrant covers the people who own and operate the site, but also seeks to get the IP addresses of 1.3 million people who visited it, as well as the date and time of their visit and information about what browser or operating system they used.

The website,, was used to coordinate protests and civil disobedience on 20 January, when Trump was inaugurated.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been advising DreamHost, characterized the warrant as “unconstitutional” and “a fishing expedition”.

“I can’t conceive of a legitimate justification other than casting your net as broadly as possible to justify millions of user logs,” senior staff attorney Mark Rumold told the Guardian.

Logs of IP addresses don’t uniquely identify users, but they link back to specific physical addresses if no digital tools are used to mask it.

“What they would be getting is a list of everyone who has ever been interested in attending these protests or seeing what was going on at the protests and that’s the troubling aspect. It’s a short step after you have the list to connect the IP address to someone’s identity,” he said.
If none of this disturbs and appalls you, your autopsy is likely pending.

They Never Disappoint Me

'They' would be Star readers who write letters to the editor. The following demonstrate that, like many others, they have taken the full measure of Donald Trump and found him manifestly wanting.
Re: Trump slow to respond to violence in Virginia, Aug. 13

U.S. President Donald Trump’s response to the rioting is hypocritical and hard to stomach. Calling out racist organizations who supported his political campaign and who responded to his attacks on Mexicans, Muslims and many more is a blatant corruption of the facts. Trump himself has incited Americans to hatred, and now violence.

Canada needs to be vigilant about the spread of hate propaganda and the recruitment of youth who feel disenfranchised and are looking for scapegoats. Haven’t the wars of the 20th century taught the world the consequences?

Diane Sullivan, Toronto

What a strange reality it is to come from the 1950s, when the U.S. still imposed racial segregation in schools, buses, washroom facilities, concerts, restaurants, stores and an endless list of public services.

We would see the Ku Klux Klan on television covering their faces like the cowards they were. And now I see their successors, the same group of disenfranchised, mindless hordes that used to show up at public lynchings and hangings for entertainment.

The biggest shock to me is how many of us don’t learn from history. That hate is taught in the first place is enough to sicken even the hardest heart.

These are strange times, brought on by a man who is sick in his heart and mind. He is a harbinger of what may come if we don’t keep those who would embrace hate and intolerance in check. These people look upon him as entertainment because they’re bored with the status quo. They have a longing, a hope for an alternate reality beyond what they have created with their miserable apathy and bland mediocrity.

What a strange reality it is to witness the most powerful man in the world stand aloof and seemingly indifferent to the things taking place on his watch that assault our sensibilities.

Donald Trump is not fit to hold the office of The President of The United States.

Jay Paul Baldwin, Mississauga

Athough Donald Trump’s failure to call out white supremacists in Charlottesville is reprehensible, it provides one more reason why the nation should ignore him and look for leadership elsewhere.

Hopefully, he will become largely irrelevant, a large boulder in a river, impeding but not stopping the water’s flow. Unable to lead and addicted to self-aggrandizement, he is already being sidelined — even by some in his own cabinet.

Shakespeare said, “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” In the case of Trump, it’s the American public that is getting more than a little uneasy.

Geoff Rytell, Toronto