Politics and its Discontents

Subscribe to Politics and its Discontents  feed
Reflections, Observations, and Analyses Pertaining to the Canadian Political Scene
Updated: 15 min 27 sec ago

The Police State Edges Closer

Tue, 05/24/2016 - 05:49

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.Recommend this Post

The Elbowgate Kerfuffle

Fri, 05/20/2016 - 05:37
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 MailRecommend this Post

No Encouraging News Here

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 08:03
For those of us who follow such matters, this news is not really surprising: 2015 was the hottest year on record:

Recommend this Post

Very Encouraging News

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 07:08
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:

Recommend this Post

To All Would-Be Bloggers

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 05:59

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.Recommend this Post

A Working Mother's Perspective: A Guest Post

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 07:48

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."Recommend this Post

Corporate Recognition Of Climate Change

Sat, 05/14/2016 - 06:15
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.Recommend this Post

In The Service Of Truth

Thu, 05/12/2016 - 06:09

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, TorontoRecommend this Post