Saturday, July 26, 2014

Human Caused Climate Change

Sigh.  No, the "debate" isn't going anywhere.  It's just soooo stupid.  So, instead of trying to rely on facts and information which the skeptics don't believe anyway, let's turn the whole matter over to the comedians.  John Oliver has one way to deal with this:



Sunday, July 06, 2014

Wither the World Economy

I don't claim to be an expert in this field, or even all that knowledgeable, but the picture painted by the charts and graphs in this article is concerning.  That sock under the mattress is looking more attractive all the time.

The Growth of a Leaner, Meaner Society

A recent Federal Court ruling slammed the Government's policy on medical care to refugees as being "heartless and shameful".  Journalist Christie Blatchford spent some time pointing out why this 268-page ruling was a good decision, and an indictment of the government's policy.

The trolls were immediately out in force, spouting off about how Canada is giving all their hard-earned tax dollars away to "furriners" who had no right to any of it.  The Government's Minister, Chris Alexander, vowed to appeal the ruling, claiming that the policy was reasonable and prudent and that there needed to be a way to deal with all the "bogus refugee claimants".  Reminded me of the government's recent claims of "thousands" of cases of voter fraud.  Not that they could come up with any REAL examples, but it made for a good bit of "fear and smear", happily practiced by this government every time they don't have any evidence to back up their claims.

Quite frankly, I am getting quite annoyed by the tone of these claims.  There have been many more of them lately floating around in social media spheres and the comment section following the article noted above had it's fair share.

I like how selective some of these posts are on the topic of what governments should spend money on. There is outrage that the government should provide basic humanitarian aid to a few people who can't afford it but there is no mention of the BILLIONS wasted on other boondoggles being aggressively pursued by this government. So, let me throw out a few possibilities here:

I dislike the political agenda publicly espoused more and more by many churches, especially the so-called evangelical groups. Their positions on many issues clearly stray into the political sphere.  I want their charitable, tax-exempt status canceled. I see NO reason why they should get a free ride on MY tax dollar. You want to support a church or some other religious organization?  Great.  Do it on your own dime.  What this costs Canadians is somewhat difficult to discover, but I read one estimate that tax exemptions in the USA for religious organizations was worth about $71 Billion each year.  I have no idea how accurate that might be or what it might be in Canada, but the real amount is clearly a big number.

I'm also against the, what is it now - $65 billion? - fighter jet scam. You will recall Peter Mackay's early claims that these things would "only" cost about $16 billion.  The real cost is obviously going to be much higher.  Military toys that likely will have little use for our "traditional" role as UN peacekeeper, not that we're doing much of that lately.  Our Prime Minister prefers demonization of his enemies instead of diplomacy and has little use for the United Nations, preferring to tag along behind whatever unilateral decisions the USA makes.

I'm also completely against tax breaks and various subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.  Correction: that's the "grossly profitable oil and gas industry" as well as the coal industry, one of the worst polluters in the energy business.  In Canada, those subsidies have been estimated to be as much as $34 billion every year.

By a very rough count, then, these three examples represent a cost of about $170 billion, some of that is a yearly cost, some not, but you get the picture, and that's just the tip of a huge financial iceberg.

Although I'm not in favour of these spending priorities, I'm forced, like everyone else (other than the very rich who seem to pay a lower tax rate on total income compared to the rest of us) to pay for these freeloaders. Billions.  This is where your hard-earned tax dollars are going.  Cut the tax breaks.

The few dollars spent actually helping people and countries in need and making the lives of real people better is an insignificant pittance by comparison. When did we become a nation of selfish, self-centered, uncaring twits? I think it was right after Harper was first elected. It's not a country I recognize any more. Shame on us.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Prairie Road Trip

A chance for a little wander down memory lane this week. 

The school in which I spent most of my working career is closing, finally, at the end of this week.

When I first went to Landis, in 1975, I think it was, there were about 240 students.  When I left, 10 years ago, in June 2004, we were less than 90.

I've stopped for the night, finally just inside Saskatchewan.  Some things don't change: dusty, small, prairie towns, flat, straight  roads.  Crops on display.  Hawks.  The smell of clover and canola.

Going through Alberta, the exploding size of Canmore, Cochrane and Airdrie were only too apparent.  A different fate from the town I will visit tomorrow and Saturday, after dropping in on some former teaching colleagues en route.

Still time for a little bike ride on the prairie before dark.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Armageddon Factor - a review

The Armageddon Factor - The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada by Marci McDonald

The rantings of the "religious right"  in the USA have mostly been noted with mild and dismissive interest over the past number of years as an aberration that would likely always exist but at least remain on the fringes of our political system.  Most of us have frankly never thought of the so-called "Christian right" (or the religious right in general) as a significant factor north of the 49th parallel.

The author presents a well-researched and exhaustive explanation of why that viewpoint is wildly incorrect and out-of-date.  In fact, there are "evangelical Christians" in the very highest and most powerful levels of government here in Canada, including the PMO, and there is significant evidence that their religious ideology is shaping many decisions, from foreign policy to environmental concerns, specifically the current government's dismissive attitude towards climate change, the gutting of Environment Canada, funding cuts to many advocacy groups, scrapping of the long-form census, attacks against human-rights commissions and the Supreme Court, and so on.  The list is extensive and rather shocking.

In the United States, the Constitution mandates the separation of church and state.  There is no such constitutional protection in Canada.

Part of the strategy to advance their "cause", which is to establish a Christian theocracy in Canada, a government run to biblical standards, at least the standards that the religious right find acceptable, is to demonize anyone who even tangentially questions what they are doing.  They will accuse anyone who objects to their actions as being "anti-Christian bigots".

Astute observers of the American scene will recognize tactics used by Harper and his cohorts as being borrowed from the play-book of the Republican/Tea Party "alliance".  Those tactics: "...poison public debate, reducing legitimate policy disagreements to the crossfire of snide hyperbole and character assassination".  One has to look no further than Cabinet minister Vic Toews' assertion that you are "either with us or with the pornographers" and other Cabinet ministers branding anyone with environmental concerns as being a "terrorist".  This is how the game works, from their point of view.

There is much more to this story; I would encourage anyone with an interest in how democracy continues to unfold in Canada to take the time to read the book.  I don't think it would be any exaggeration to say that you need to know who the enemy is before it's too late.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Season Opener - Mt Fisher

Over in the South Rockies, just east of Cranbrook, is a prominent, pointed peak, Mt Fisher.  I've been looking at it for a few years now and have talked about climbing it with a friend from Kimberley.

Last week, on the only nice day that week, five of us plodded up the 1500 m of elevation gain to it's tiny summit.  There were 4 retired teachers and 1 retired airline pilot.  Needless to say, the current labour difficulties between teachers and the government were mentioned, but only briefly.  There was one "energizer bunny" who set the pace.  We needed crampons and ice axes almost the whole way with steep slopes and hard snow, at least on the way up.

Views out over the valley were mostly nice although fig did roll in just as we reached the summit.  Cranbrook and area were visible for most of the way up and down.

I was a bit tired, this being the first climb of the season, but I did the climb and then spent 3 more hours driving back home after we descended.

A good day out.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Utah State Goblins

Everything around Moab was far more busy than I'd expected.  Any campground I'd wanted to stay in was fully booked.  Obviously a new plan was needed.

Some time was spent consulting the map and my several hiking books to find some place interesting that I hadn't been to before.

Eventually I settled on Goblin Valley state park.  After a quiet night out on the desert, I visited the park first thing in the morning.  No surprise, their little campground was full but I was able to spend a few hours wandering around the goblins.  It was fun for awhile.  It's a place that kids would really enjoy.

More of southern Utah.