Apocalypse Now?


Apocalypse Now?

So, apparently we’re on the verge of another mass extinction – the last one killed off the dinosaurs. We’ve exploited the planet through hunting, fishing, and the degrading of wild habitats, and the planet is fighting back. Couldn’t happen to a nicer species, judging by our behaviour of late. I thought the advent of ‘promposals’ would have pushed us over the edge.

On the plus side, we may have until about the year 2200, the end is nearso put away the ‘end is near’ signs for now. On the negative side, there are a whole lot of people who not only think we’re living in end times, but who are actively praying to be in the first wave hitting Heaven.

Baby Boomers grew up with apocryphal thinking. We cowered under our little school desks during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and sang along to Barry Maguire’s depressing dirge.

(Fun fact: The Turtles recorded “Eve of Destruction” on their first album in 1965, but wisely did not release it as a single until 1970. The writer, P.F. Sloan, felt the song was essentially channeled to him in one long song writing session in the early morning hours between midnight and dawn. He claimed he heard an “inner voice that is inside of each and every one of us but is drowned out by the roar of our minds! “)

The Spokesmen, a folk group that were actually John Madara and David White, a Philadelphia song writing team whose hits include “At The Hop” and “You Don’t Own Me,” recorded an answer song called “The Dawn Of Correction” that made it all the way to #36 on Billboard. “When we wrote the song, we were never for the war, we were just for America, and we felt that ‘The Eve of Destruction’ was a slap against America. Because of the anti-war sentiment, ‘The Dawn of Correction’ was obviously taken the wrong way.”

And of course, “In the Year 2525” predicted the human race’s eventual demise in 9595, but I can’t even listen to the song long enough to get you the url … it was that bad. Save yourself! Don’t Google “Zager and Evans ‘In The Year 2525!”

Certainly there’s no shortage of music available that warns of, or pleads for, mass destruction. Everyone from Johnny Cash to Creedence Clearwater Revival, and from The Strokes to Nine Inch Nails are included for your listening pleasure in this playlist for your Final Days.

No shortage of literature, either. Heck, the Bible told us to start packing for the afterlife centuries ago! And I’ll bet there were cavemen who etched cautionary tales into the walls even before that. But why? Why do we alternately fear and embrace an end to our lives and world?

Some say that our tendency to romanticize a post-apocalyptic world is a response to today’s uncertainties, threats of terroriszombiesm, war, fiscal cliffs and climate change. We secretly believe that we will be one of the few ‘left behind,’ post disaster, in a world cleansed of the Bad Guys. Children, especially, think that life would be much simpler if all they had to deal with were well-known and predictable boogie men like Zombies.

Some mentally cast themselves as the heroes of a new world they can leave their own mark upon, imagining that they can thrive and get back to nature, oblivious to the very real hardships of a life without antibiotics and electricity, amidst crumbling infrastructure. These are the preppers, who build bunkers and compulsively store food and water. Their response to fear is goal oriented. Simple tasks are therapy.

Others are survivors of traumatic experiences, fatalists happiest when amongst other fatalists. It’s not suicidetimeenough if the world kills you first. An apocalypse is just another event in a life of negativity, and if doom can be ascribed to some larger, external event – a rogue comet, an ancient prophecy – well then, whatever happens is certainly not going to be blamed on them.

fear-allure“Apocalyptic beliefs make existential threats—the fear of our mortality—predictable.” And fear is something so primal, it’s etched into our DNA. “Over evolutionary history, organisms with a better-safe-than-sorry approach survive. This mechanism has had consequences for both the body and brain, where the fast-acting amygdala can activate a fearful stress response before “higher” cortical areas have a chance to assess the situation and respond more rationally.” (Shmuel Lissek, neuroscientist)

A scarier group, and one with an even more frightening ability to move the planet closer to oblivion, are the religion based groups who are anticipating a glorious afterlife with their chosen deity. No, not just Muslims in the Middle East – you can count mescalator to heavenany politicians in both Canada and the United States as being amongst those who are salivating at the prospect of a stairway to heaven.

Or better still, an escalator.

One third of Americans believe that the conflict in Syria is a sign predicted in the Bible that the end is nigh. Rep Michele Bachman , who has often hinted that she believes President Obama is the Anti-Christ, claims that the rapture is coming, thanks to President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran’s nuclear program and marriage equality.

“We in our lifetimes potentially could see Jesus Christ returning to earth and the rapture of the church,” Bachmann said. “We see the destruction, but this was a destruction that was foretold. Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hanHalloweenTwilightZoned.”

Three out of four evangelicals believe Christ will return soon. They believe they’re seeing the end of the world because that’s what they want to see. They pooh pooh the idea of dealing with hellfire and brimstone, because they figure they won’t be around. They’ve ticked the “Rapture” option, which says that true believers get first dibs on heaven, while the sinners deal with the mess they’ve left behind.

left behind(Fun fact: The Rapture is not in the Bible. It was invented in the 19th century by John Nelson Darby, an Irish evangelist, and then made popular by a preacher named William Eugene Blackstone in his 1908 book, Jesus is Coming, which sold more than a million copies. It’s a pop construct. An “escapist fantasy” that neatly avoids killing off the ‘good’ Christians.)

Whatever their religion, religious fanatics want to see non-believers punished, even if it means destroying the planet, as long as they themselves are finally instated as the rightful rulers of all mankind.They are so eager for that day to come that preachers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blame every current disaster upon those they conceive of as sinners; feminists, gays, pagans, and every other religion that isn’t their own.

What they’re really drooling over are apocalyptic revenge fantasies.

Although Canadians are pretty tolerant, we have Evangelicals in Canada as well, and one of them is our Prime Minister. In Marci McDonald’s 2010 book, The Armageddon Factor, she warned about the “theo-cons” (Stephen Harper’s word), who view “science and environmentalism as hostile to the Bible.”

armageddon factor“Regarding the church that Harper has belonged to for nearly three decades — the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church — McDonald noted that its “adherents believe that the Bible is ‘inerrant’ and the Second Coming is ‘imminent’.”

That would place Harper’s church squarely in the Evangelical tradition called dominionism, those who believe in the so-called “dominion mandate” spelled out in Genesis 1:28: “And God blessed them [Adam and Eve], and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth.”

Many (although not all) dominionists take that passage as a divine trump card against any thoughts about environmental protection or regulation.”

This is an interesting read, though not really the sort of book you want to take to the beach with you on a sunny day. It’s the sort of book that makes you think, whether you believe the work or not.

We are fascinated by tales of an apocalypse, especially if said apocalypse finds us alive and having wonderful adventures in a new world of our own shaping. But what those stories should be teaching us is what we can do to stop moving towards an end caused by human interference, and how to make the necessary changes in our lives in order to avoid leaving our children and grandchildren a barren world, ripe for annihilation.

(originally published June 21/2015 @ bobsegarini.wordpress.com)

Fighting For The Right To Protest


One week ends and another begins. It’s been a tough couple of weeks for many, even more so than other weeks. After a bitterly cold and seemingly unending winter, Toronto’s spring has yet to settle in, as it jumps from sweltering daytime highs to overnight lows that wreak havoc on wardrobe choices and spark terror in the hearts of gardeners. Yesterday’s cold rain came and went in great sweeps and gusts, ripped my umbrella inside out, and left me soaked and miserable as I waited for that most elusive of creatures – the dreaded Lawrence Bus. It’s a hard rain, baby.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xq1q9k_bob-dylan-a-hard-rain-s-a-gonna-fall-1964_music

C51 pinsI had intended to join the thousands protesting Bill C-51 at Queen’s Park, but the downpour, a lack of bus fare, and a husband increasingly concerned by possible repercussions due to my outspoken opposition to our government, kept me home.

BILLC51 protesters Toronto

For those who think that opposition to the Bill is melodramatic and all conspiracy theorish, ask yourselves; is your concern that the protesters will be beset by terrorists? Or that the protesters will be stealthily added to a police file, arrested for attending a rally, audited mercilessly, or simply have their characters assassinated, and their passports taken away?

Think I’m exaggerating? A new law became effective on Friday. “The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration says it would revoke citizenship for anyone found guilty of terrorism, treason and high treason, and spying for a foreign government.” And bear in mind, terrorism as defined by the bill includes “activity that undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada” that includes “terrorism,” “interference with critical infrastructure” and “interference with the capability of the Government in relation to … the economic or financial stability of Canada.

Which means that protesting the Pipeline, or even Monsanto, is loosely covered under the bill, as terrorist acts interfering with Canadian economics.

WW2 vet against c51There will, if this law is not blocked, be no checks left on state power. State Security will operate outside the law. Citizens will be convicted on secret evidence in secret courts. Citizens will be subject to arbitrary searches and arrests. Due process will be eradicated. Internal security organs will serve as judge, jury and executioner. The outward forms of democratic participation — voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation — will remain, but become meaningless forms of political theater.” Chris Hedges on Bill C-51.

The Canadian arm of Amnesty International indicated that the anti-terrorism bill could be used to target environmental activists and aboriginal protesters, or any other form of protest without an official permit or court order.

Bill C-51 “opens the door to collecting, analyzing and potentially keeping forever the personal information of all Canadians,” including every instant of “a person’s tax information and details about a person’s business and vacation travel.”

It’s pretty ironic that Canada is set to ramp up security, just as America’s NSA has been told to stop collecting citizens’ private information.

senate votes to kill NSASo basically it all boils down to a Senate debate between those who say we must give up some liberty to keep us safe, even though it doesn’t, and those who believe we must protect our liberties, even though they won’t.” — Jon Stewart

Yep. And same thing here. In a matter of days, the Senate will vote on whether to accept the Bill or not. Ergo the protests across Canada, as 67% of Canadians do NOT want the bill passed. At this stage, official word is that “A Senate committee is offering to conduct a review of Canada’s new anti-terrorism powers five years after Parliament adopts Bill C-51, and is calling on the government to quickly adopt new measures to fight terrorism and improve its existing counter-terrorism operations.”

And that’s very daunting. And a real blow to Freedom of Speech and Canadian democracy.

But don’t take my word for it … ask the Raging Grannies of Ottawa.

They’re game, these Grannies, if a little distracted. And brave.

Or ask Cathy Cook, who wrote and performed this blues, empathizing with victims of Stephen Harper’s contempt of aboriginals, women, environmentalists, and veterans.

Or the Ontario based singer/songwriter Terry Tufts, who’s written several songs on our messed up government, and lack of choice in the upcoming election.

Dirty Little War – Written And Performed By Terry Tufts

If nothing else, it seems like we’re finally getting new Canadian protest songs. What is concerning, however, is that the new protesters all seem to skew to the higher end of the age spectrum. Like Dennis Jones, a musician and songwriter based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, who’s been playing guitar and singing for 48 years.

Or Ian Patton, a 5-string banjo player/composer from Edmonton.

Or Halifax based Mike Chandler and Margaret Anne McHugh of SolidariGLEE

I find it interesting that the songwriters protesting this Bill are middle-aged and older. People of all ages are attending rallies for this and other protests, so there are certainly younger voices available. I’m not sure if the lack of participation is due to apathy, a dread of the folk music scene, or a lack of information. Maybe it’s a mix of all three.

Let’s close out with Stevie and the ConserviCats singing the praises of the new Secret Police Bill C-51.

Right then, enough with the politics … How’s about some new music?

This moody ballad is from Vintage Trouble’s first album. Their next release, 1 Hopeful Rd., is due to drop August 14th. Currently, the band is opening for AC/DC in Europe. Live, these guys are monsters, as several of us here at DBAWIS can attest.

Quirky singer/songwriter David Celia has a record release party set for June 4 at the Great Hall. Here’s a taste of the new CD.

Rats! I missed Food Revolution Day, Jamie Oliver’s global campaign to put compulsory practical food education on the school curriculum, on May 15th!

At least we can watch the video. Here’s Jamie with Ed Sheeran, Paul McCartney, Jazzie B, Professor Green, Alesha Dixon, Jamie Cullum, Mr Hudson, Hugh Jackman, Us the Duo, George The Poet, Che’nelle, DJ MK and The London Youth Choir

And of course, don’t forget that Xprime will be playing their new album at their CD release party at the Rivoli on June 4th. See you there!  Xprime CD Release June 4

(originally published at bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/roxanne-tellier-fighting-for-the-right-to-protest/)

An Open Letter to the Canadian Senate on Bill C-51


There are few moments in time so pivotal to a nation’s ongoing health and democracy. Such a moment is facing you, as you decide how you will cast your vote on Bill C-51. The question is: will Canadians continue to live in freedom and peace, or bow to a largely non-existent threat that calls for national paranoia, fear and the silence of her citizens?

Those of you who will make this decision, those of you who hold Canada’s future in your hands, have an enormous weight on your shoulders. Do you abide by partisan lines, obeying your country’s Prime Minister and his directives, no matter how potentially dangerous they may be? Or do you rise to this occasion and tell the truth – that Bill C-51 is a travesty, a declaration of war not on terrorism, but rather an assault on Canada that fundamentally contravenes rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?  (image, Stephen Lautens)

Canadian Charter After Bill C-51

Bill C-51 would label those few who still care enough about their country to demand change and accountability from what is increasingly seen to be a battle for corporate wealth over Canada’s health, as terrorists. It would do the same to Natives who demonstrate peacefully against their own ceded lands being ruined or stolen from them in the name of economic growth. It would stop people from speaking out against justice being perverted by the wealthy and the corrupt. It would allow democracy to be eaten away by the demands for unlimited corporate expansion at the expense of the lower and middle class.

C51 tearsThis bill disproportionately targets indigenous communities, environmental activists, dissidents, and Muslims, many of whom are already subjected to questionable and overreaching powers by security officials. This bill will make it easier and ostensibly lawful for government to continue infringing upon the rights of peaceful people.” (http://stopc51.ca/about-c51)

It would change our very souls as we became afraid to speak out against any wrongdoing or injustice. It would end our precious Freedom of Speech. Perhaps you remember when world leaders gathered In France in support of the Charlie Hebdo journalists rights to free speech? How quickly we revert from courage to cowardice when the cameras are turned off.

c51policebootWe are a nation of peace keepers – or at least, we used to be. Bill C-51 throws down the gauntlet, daring terrorists to do their worse, in spite of the fact that the only terrorist attacks in this country were not ideologically based, but the ravings of shattered, mentally ill men who should have received treatment for their illnesses, but instead, were preyed upon by the very police this bill is asking us to trust.

So I beg you, those of you who stand poised to yea or nay the most important bill of this century, to think long and hard about where you really stand. Are you truly the “sober second thought” that Canadians have been led to believe? Or are you entangled in a game of partisan one-upmanship, a veritable race to the bottom, and dragging 35 million Canadians down that rabbit hole with you?

Stop Bill C-51We are watching you. The whole world is watching you. A vote to approve this bill, despite all of the input you’ve received on this subject from everyone from former Prime Ministers of Canada, to international economists, political experts, and Canadian citizens, will send a clear message to Canadians and the world that Canadian democracy is on life support, with a callous “Do Not Resuscitate” sign hanging over the death bed.

  • Less than 33% of Canadians are in favor of the bill
  • virtually all of Canada’s national newspaper editorials have spoken out against it along with, the Green Party, the NDP, 4 former prime ministers, civil liberties advocates, Canada’s privacy commissioners, former supreme court justices, Former attorney generals, 60 Canadian Business Leaders Sign Letter Against Bill C-51, The Canadian bar association representing over 36,000 lawyers, the people behind Mozilla’s Firefox Internet browser, 100 Quebec organizations, Seven leading Canadian Human rights groups, The Union representing over 51,000 Canada Post workers, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, and over 100 organizations, hundreds of constitutional lawyers, Native Chiefs across the nations, former CSIS agents, NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden, Conrad Black, Rex Murphy, Ralph Nader

 Tell Your Senator to Stop Bill C-51

The government’s controversial “secret police” Bill C-51 has made its way to the Senate. We have to stop it now. Find out below if your Senator wants to #RejectFear and #StopC51.

https://stopc51.ca/

Canadians Mustn’t Die to Protect Harper’s Ego


Whenever I watch anything about war, be it fiction or non-fiction, featuring North Americans, or any other soldiers on the planet, I am struck by one horrible, indefensible truth.

I am long past romanticizing war. The young men … the young and the foolish and brave men, barely past their teens or just into their twenties … believe with all of their hearts that they are acting in the best interests of their tribes. quote-young-men-go-to-war-sometimes-because-they-are-have-to-sometimes-because-they-want-to-always-mitch-albom-206250

Young men, whose hearts are in the right place, but who have yet to achieve total mental maturity, take up arms against others, others that they have been told either have something their country needs, or others who have a predetermined antipathy against their country.

cheneyOld men, men that could not be drafted into service, send these babes out in to the world, armed with little knowledge, but strong prejudices, drilled into them through military exercises, and constant reminders that the most honourable thing they can do is to die for their country.

Those who survive the horror of war, at least since Vietnam, come home not to respect and a grateful nation, but to a country set on denying them timely help in recovering from physical or emotional trauma. Canada and the United States are unable to cope with the wounded from the last several skirmishes. There are veterans of foreign wars living on the streets in North America, while others battle endless bureaucracy to simply get the care they were promised would be available at the end of their military tours. Some of these veterans will kill themselves in despair, willingly or through drug usage meant to dull the pain, before they finally get to the top of the treatment line.

political hypocrisyAnd yet, come Remembrance Day, every politician will be piously doffing their metaphorical hats in respect, a respect in lip service only.

And now, this Easter weekend, Prime unseat harperMinister Stephen Harper, so terrified of losing his seat in Parliament that he will inflate one drug addled, mentally ill man’s assault on the Parliament into terrorist activity, has decided to plunge Canada into what is essentially an illegal war, unsanctioned by the United Nations, and unasked of by the Canadian citizens who will be paying the bill for yet another foreign war, and sending their sons and daughters to be slaughtered to his monumental hubris, and need for power at any cost – even that of the Canadians he was elected to serve.

“”Our last war, in Afghanistan, lasted 12 years. The kill count was 158 Canadian service men and women, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors. There are some 2,100 Afghanistan veterans trying to recover from combat and other non-battle injuries. In terms of treasure, the total bill to the country is $12 billion. This includes $8.4 billion for the mission itself and $447-million to take care of our veterans.”  http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thesundayedition/why-is-canada-at-war-the-politics-of-fear-listener-mail-school-of-gospel-the-sinking-of-the-lusitania-1.3018334/why-is-canada-at-war-michael-s-essay-1.3018363

He has no right, and no mandate, to take Canada into a war slipped through on the eve of Easter and Passover weekend. His cadre of supporters, more cowed supplicants than devoted fellow party members, voted 142 to 129 to pass this war resolution. It is a shameful, vile moment in Canada’s long history of peace keeping.

“War is the ultimate acknowledgement of collective failure. War means that we don’t know how to confront evil by any means other than killing and dying.” Michael Enright.

In generations to come, Stephen Harper’s legacy will include this decision to side with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, whose family has been slaughtering Syrians for decades and continues to do so. His reputation in the rest of the civilized world may never recover. But it is we, the Canadians, who will have to live with the shame and our shattered world image.

war is failure

John Baird – Bouquets and Brickbats


Political junkies were surprised and excited when rumours began that Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird would resign his position, effective immediately, and also resign as an MP, to take effect within days. Speculations as to woil prices cartoonhy, and especially as to why NOW, filled the mainstream and social media.

Was this the beginning of a Conservative meltdown, as oil prices tanked, the loonie dived, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper sabre rattled and proposed new security measures accused of restricting civil liberties?

National Post columnist John Ivison speculated that there was a rift between Baird and Harper over Canada’s sanctions on the Russian government. Some wondered if being pelted with eggs and shoes by dozens of Palestinian protesters in January 2015 had shaken his resolve. (Activists from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party earlier called for a boycott of Baird because of Canada’s Baird Palestineperceived pro-Israel stance, and its opposition to a Palestinian bid to pursue war crime charges against Israel.)

Still others noted that, by not running in 2015, Baird also qualifies for his pension, of $100,00 per year, under an old rule, at age 55. Parliament increased the qualifying age to 65 years old but that policy only covers those who are elected or re-elected in 2015.

Or maybe it was just that, after two decades in public office, he’d simply decided it was time to seek other opportunities, possibly in the private sector. He is said to be finalizing two offers.

Mohamed FahmyOn Monday, Baird reported that Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who is in jail in Cairo, would be released imminently, which would be his last diplomatic victory.

Although Baird’s stances were often provocative, even prompting Conservative colleagues to tease him of having a partisan nature, he was well liked by many in the other Parties.

“I quickly learned thoBaird resignsugh to make a difference, to really make a difference, you can’t be defined by partisanship, nor by ideology. You need instead to be defined by your values,” he said in his resignation speech.

Since being named foreign affairs minister in 2011, Baird has spoken out against controversial issues at home and abroad.

In 2012, he addressed a British audience on human rights, saying that Canada would not stand by while its “Commonwealth cousins” criminalized homosexuality and ignored other fundamental freedoms, including the rights of women, minorities, and the right to practice religion. Homosexuality is illegal in 41 of 54 Commonwealth member states.

child marriageIn 2013, Baird spoke at a United Nations session called “Too Young to Wed,” about child brides forced to marry. Baird said “It’s been felt that in some cultures, in some places, this was a social reality. And for the good of the conference, would I mind shutting up,” adding that forced marriage is “unacceptable” and can be ended within a generation.

But he’s made a few gaffes along the way – his request for gold-embossed business cards was outed and ridiculed. He was always on the move, traveled more often, and to more out of the way places than any Canadian foreign minister before him. To his credit, he traveled commercially, but some of his trips didn’t make much sense, and were thought to be a drain on taxpayer funds. He recently flew to Brazil for President Rousseff’s second term swearing in, and attended Persian Gulf conferences that were not important to Canada’s needs.

John BairdIn 2013, a scandal occurred when CTV News reported that Baird and six friends stayed for eight days at the official residence of Canada’s high commission to Great Britain, Macdonald House.

His diplomats were not fond of his frequent, high-maintenance visits. Apparently he wasn’t very fond of them either. In 2014, Baird quietly ordered his department to cut millions of dollars out of a foreign aid program and to call the cut a “surplus.” He blamed the cuts to the program on the bad performance of Canadian diplomats. Associate Deputy Minister Peter Boehm revised the figures in a May 13, 2014 memo, which read “per your instructions, $7 million was declared surplus.”

foreign aid surplusThe NDP Foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, felt the minister was being deceptive. “It’s what I would call a parlour trick, to make it appear like they’re sound fiscal managers, when in fact in this case, Minister Baird is trying to make people believe that his cut of $7 million is in fact a surplus. This is exactly the same thing that they did with regards to lapsed funding.”

Canada’s former Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, wrote  “The Conservative government has managed the austerity program launched in the 2012 budget with deliberate secrecy. They did not inform Parliament of the details of their spending plans…Austerity is difficult and they did not want to pay a political price for making difficult trade-offs…their strategy was to limit planning information to shut down debate and evade accountability.”

baird_IsraelDuring his time as Foreign Minister, his critics have also accused him of selling embassies and ­unflinching support for Israel, diminished backing for multi-lateral institutions and a “distinctly un-Canadian” stance on foreign policy.

However, he leaves behind many who say he played a large part in shaping Conservative foreign policy and personalizing Canada’s diplomatic relations with the international community

NDP MP Paul Dewar, his party’s foreign affairs critic, told Embassy that Mr. Baird brought the Conservative Party’s foreign policy “into the limelight.”

Canada in the world“John Baird made Foreign Affairs—for good or bad—relevant again within the Conservative government. Prior to that, it really wasn’t a portfolio that was important to the government because of the players involved. They didn’t have as much of an interest or an understanding of the role,” he said.

Harper has appointed International Trade Minister Ed Fast as the interim foreign minister.

The Politics of Terror


Harper new security Jan 2015“The world is a dangerous place and, as most brutally demonstrated by last October’s attacks in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism.”

Or so Prime Minister Stephen Harper decreed on January 30th, flanked by Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and Julian Fantino, Associate Minister of National Defence, and the largest personal protective detail in the history of Canada.

It would seem that Harper sees himself as a ‘war-time’ leader, who, in the run up to the next election, wants to project a manly, statesmanlike image. While cultivating a culture of fear, he is appealing to those who traditionally will cling to the political status quo in times of unrest.

And in one swell foop, the man who spent the Ottawa siege in a closet ramped up the anxiety harper in closetand fear of a nation, while simultaneously putting into place measures that many feel will result in further loss of civil liberties and reduction of freedoms.

By no means am I minimalizing the two horrible attacks . They were horrific, and shocking to Canadians who rightfully believe themselves to be a part of the world’s peace keepers. But these attacks increasingly seem to have been the acts of self-radicalized, troubled and confused young men, with no evidence connecting them to ISIS. Harper’s proposal sounds less like a desire to protect the nation, and more like the fear mongering of a politician desperate to keep his seat in power. MuzzlingScientists

So much for his vaunted and pious defense of Canada’s Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Speech after the recent Charlie Hebdo attack in France. Our Freedoms were already considered under attack, based on his own government’s track record of secrecy, muzzling, sneaky omnibus bills, a disdain for democratic Parliamentary rules, and the misleading of Parliament.

Ottawa Citizen reporter Ian MacLeod called the proposal “the most dramatic package of new laws since the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001.” But .. hang on … who flew into our towers? Three misguided fools in Canada took it upon themselves to mirror the acts of other misguided fools in the Middle East, whom we’ve done nothing but publicize in the media. The same media that attempts to inflame viewers by ramping up anxiety about events in other parts of the world in hopes of getting higher ratings, and very often has the issues completely wrong. fox apologizes

Ironically, terrorism is most effective when it’s target reacts disproportionately to fear. Perhaps those sweeping powers would be better used in policing how media is actually romanticizing terrorism, and making it seem glamorous to impressionable and disenfranchised people who believe they have no voice or impact upon their own democratic governments. There’s a huge difference between planned, organized and directed attacks (terrorism) and a misguided fool whipped up by web sites designed to muster support for a cause.

No matter how often the Conservatives tell us that the attacker of Ottawa’s Parliament was linked to a terrorist network, we’ve still not seen follow up information, or the RCMP background video we are told contains proof of such a link. It’s the politics of fear and terror.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was right when he questioned why Harper is proposing new legislation with far reaching consequences without so much as consulting with opposition parties. Canadian rights, already being pecked away by post-9/11 laws, look to be even more constrained under a grantingcsis_record2 of extraordinary power to Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), with a mandate to “investigate and disrupt” terrorist plots. Canada’s police services will be able to go after online terrorist propaganda.

The line between being branded as an activist or a terrorist is already grey. With these proposals, that line could be even more abused than it currently is, and in fact, simply obliterated. Could a government with a long list of enemies, including labour and environmental movements, simply capitalize upon already existing powers such as restricting the right to remain silent, laws allowing CSIS to spy on Canadians overseas, detainment without charges, and arrest without warrants?

In 2012, Joe Oliver, then Minister of Natural Resources, wrote an open letter to Canadians on the government’s commitment to the diversification of energy resources (i.e. the Northern Gateway, Alberta’s Tar Sands.) In it, he said “environmental and other radical groups threaten to highjack our regulatory system to achieve their radical and ideological agenda.” He claimed that these ‘radicals’ were employing AmeriJOE-OLIVER Natural Resourcescan tactics to “sue everyone and anyone to delay the project,” and that ‘slow, complex, and cumbersome regulatory processes’ were slowing down the government’s ability to push ahead their own unilateral decisions and agenda.

Those ‘radical’ environmentalists were concerned about 50 square miles of tailing ponds full of toxic chemicals, supposedly lined but actually leaking at the rate of 3 million gallons per day. (Pembina Institute.) Cancer rates are 100 times the norm for the First Nations living on the Athabaska River. Over 80% of BC residents have said NO to oil tankers on their coast, and coastal First Nations have declared a ban under their traditional laws. oliver oil sands copy-002Perhaps these are small concerns to Mr. Oliver, but they are of vital importance to those who actually live in the area.

These ‘radical’ environmentalists could now potentially be charged with terrorism.

(In March, 2014, Mr. Oliver was appointed Minister of Finance. Yes, the same Joe Oliver who recently had to delay our next budget, due to the unexpected downturn in the price of oil. The government had banked on a big payoff on the pipeline, but instead, low oil prices are going to cost provinces nearly $10-billion in lost royalties and tax revenue, and see the government lose $4.3 billion in expected revenues. )

Could there be a better time for the government to ramp up fear and politicize terror? Data Mining

When the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001 was due to expire, the Tories’ Combatting Terrorism Act of 2013 reinstated them, with yet more power, and this new legislation would continue to expand on an overbearing and intrusive presence by government controlled security forces , bringing us ever closer to becoming a surveillance state.

On Sunday, President Barack Obama told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that it’s important “we maintain a proper perspective,” on ISIS, and that they are not “an existential threat to the United States or the world order.” He added that the U.S. needs to see the threat for what it is and respond to it in a way that doesn’t undermine American values. obama isis

“It means that we don’t approach this with a strategy of sending out occupying armies and playing whack-a-mole wherever a terrorist group appears, because that drains our economic strength and it puts enormous burdens on our military,” he said.

Contrast this with Harper’s “Stand Your Ground” stance on Canada’s presence in Iraq. As the opposition questioned if Canada was actually at war with Iraq, and what “advise and assist” actually mean to the Canadian soldiers “accompanying” Iraqi troops fighting against Islamic State soldiers, Harper said, safe_image.php

“Let me be clear. This is a robust mission. We’re there to make those guys effective so they can take on the Islamic State and deal with them and if those guys fire at us, we’re going to fire back and we’re going to kill them, just like our guys did.”

Look – I get it. We’re all scared. We’re afraid of ISIS and Ebola, of extreme weather and IEDs, of Monsanto and dirty bombs and oh my lawdy, what’s next! There’s too much crime, we’re told, and draconian systems of justice continue to be put into place at enormous cost, when in fact, crime rates are falling. While some American states legalize marijuana, those in opposition continue to pump out propaganda against pot, and institutionalizing people where the substance has not yet been legalized.

The truth is, “we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence,” as Stephen Pinker concluded in his 2012 book The Better Angels of Human Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. terrorist attacks globally

Terrorism peaked worldwide in the mid-1980s, and in North America around 1970. If you live in Canada or the United States your chances of being killed by terrorism are almost zero. We’ve been sold an exaggerated sense of danger about conflicts and events in other countries, which has allowed those in power to divide and conquer it’s people, alienate North America from war torn nations, engage in wars that profit only those in the military trade, and snip away at Canadians civil liberties, eroding our freedoms.

There are those who will say, “What do I care? I’m not a terrorist! Go get the bad guys!” Those people should perhaps have a chat with the innocent citizens caught up in the police actions taken against the G-20 demonstrators in 2010. g20protestMore than 20,000 police, military, and security personnel were involved in policing the protests, which at its largest numbered 10,000 protestors. Over a thousand arrests were made, making it the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. There were no ‘innocent until proven guilty’ dispensations; in fact, Toronto Police and the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) of the summit were heavily criticized for brutality during the arrests. harper controlling

You cannot hermetically seal a democratic society to protect it from violence; doing so actually reduces democracy. Despite the self-inflicted threat fear that Harper is trying to sell us, it’s our own government limiting our rights, not jihadists.  

Canada’s Heartaches by the Numbers


crude oil boomingOur dollar depreciated more than 2 cents on Wednesday, and is now worth .81 of the U.S. dollar, the lowest level since 2011. The Harper government put all Canada’s eggs in one basket by banking on North American crude oil, our top export, but the commodity has plunged from a high of $85 US a barrel in October of 2014, to a low of $46.US on Tuesday.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver announced this week that he would be delaying his budget from the usual February-March date until at least April, due to “market instability.”

Unable or unwilling to admit Canada’s damaged economy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters yesterday that “These things are creating some shocks that will impact us but they’re not going to throw us off our fundamental growth path or undermine the very strong fundamentals of the Canadian economy.” He added that “The government has complete confidence in the Bank of Canada in the actions that it has taken.”

The Bank of Canada cut the rate on overnight loans between commercial banks by a quarter point to 0.75% on Wednesday, in a response to the recent drop in oil prices. The previous rate had been at 1% since September 2010.  market failure

“The drop in oil prices is unambiguously negative for the Canadian economy. Canada’s income from oil exports will be reduced, and investment and employment in the energy sector are already being cut,” BoC’s Governor Stephen Poloz explained.

Many, including NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen, think Harper is in denial. The Conservatives had hoped to sail into 2015 on a high of oil fumes and the elimination of the$2.9-billion federal deficit , but it looks like their plans may be tanked as predicted federal tax revenues could be reduced by several billions of dollars thanks to global oil price shake-ups.

No worries, though, as Harper is relying on the annual $3 billion contingency fund built into the budget for “unforeseen circumstances.”

He also said that “The oil industry isn’t remotely the entire Canadian economy.” So … what is the Canadian economy?Canadian economy

Our population of 36 million boasts a 6.6% unemployment rate, with approximately 62% employed (16-64 years of age). (The United States, with 316.1 million, is at 5.6% unemployed, and 59.2% employed, while the United Kingdom, with 64.1 million people, has an unemployment rate of 6.0%, and 73% of people are employed.)

In Canada, wealth inequality, while an issue, is not quite as visible as in America; our Canadian 1% holds 12.5 per cent of Canada’s total income. 29 per cent earn $135,000 or more. But our incomes are generally lower – 95 per cent of working Canadians earn less than $100,000 a year. Our definition of ‘wealthy’ begins at $150,000.00 per year – chump change for wealthy Americans.

One of the reasons Canadians have not felt as impacted by wealth inequality is that, beginning in the late 1970’s, women surged into the workforce in record numbers. A household with two incomes could manage quite well. With the inclusion of children into the family, however, things got shakier financially. If one of the two wage earners has to stay home with the kids, they’ve effectively halved the family income, in order to raise children and run the home. As baby boomers aged, that child care burden lifted for a large portion of the middle class.

canadian workforceEducation, and it’s inevitable costs, are a factor. In order to succeed in a technological society, we need workers with complex skills and higher education. 64.1% of adults aged 25 to 64 had post-secondary qualifications in 2011, with women aged 25 to 34 holding a larger share of university degrees. 8 in 10 Registered Apprenticeship certificates were held by men.

In 2011, Almost two-thirds of adult Canadians had post-secondary qualifications, Stemwhile 2.1 million adults had a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree in STEM (science and technology, engineering and engineering technology or mathematics and computer sciences) but half of STEM university degrees were held by immigrants who have lived in Canada for many years, and Canadian newcomers.

waiterUnfortunately, Canada has the third-highest proportion of low-paying jobs in the world, with only the U.S. and Ireland having a higher percentage of low-paying jobs. Canada is becoming a ‘nation of part-timers’; part-time employment may still outgrow full-time employment for some years as the baby boomers reduce their working hours or retire.

But the big, well-paying manufacturing companies have left Canada to take advantage of lower labour costs abroad. What’s left for those with or without special skills are low-wage service and retail jobs, which generally lack the benefits associated with higher paying positions, and are becomingly increasingly insecure.

StatsCan released this information in January 2015:statscan

In December (2014), Canada lost 4,300 jobs as full-time employment rose by 53,500 while there was a decline of 57,700 in part time jobs… Employment gains in 2014 amounted to 186,000 (+1.0 percent), with increases in the second half of the year accounting for most of the growth. Compared with 12 months earlier, the total number of hours worked increased by 0.7 percent.”

“There were 24,000 fewer women aged 25 to 54 employed in December. Their unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.2%, as fewer of them participated in the labour market. Employment among men aged 25 to 54 increased by 23,000 in December and their unemployment rate declined 0.2 percentage points to 5.5%, their lowest rate since 2008.”

This month, however, it was announced that five large retail companies will be closing Canadian operations. Lured to Canada by massive tax breaks, cuts and incentives, they’ll be leaving more than 21,000 unemployed by March or April.

Stephen-Harper-CowboyIn Alberta’s tar sands, Suncor cut 1000 jobs last week as oil prices crashed. They also announced that they’d decrease their capital spending program by a $1-billion, and reduce operating expense s by another $200 million.

Canada’s largest growth sector in jobs has been in service and retail industries. Only Alberta has seen respectable job growth. Mr. Harper’s blithe suggestion that the current oil crisis will fail to impact the economy as a whole, sounds very much like a man whistling past the graveyardcanada bleak future

Update Jan 24/15: Last week on Global TVs The West Block, Jason Kenny (MP, Canada’s Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism) told host Tom Clark, “We won’t be using a contingency fund. A contingency fund is there for unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters.”

But during an interview for this week’s episode of The West Block, Canada’s Finance Minister, Joe Oliver told Tom Clark, “The contingency fund is there for unexpected and unavoidable shocks to the system and, you know, the oil price decline – which was a dramatic one – would fall in that category. I’m speaking as minister of finance so I’m sort of current on the thinking here.”

Should Obama Veto the Keystone XL Pipeline?


kpIn the United States, the battle has raged for 6 years over the Keystone XL pipeline, meant to carry crude oil over 1700 miles from the Alberta tar sands to Nebraska. Canada, and especially Prime Minister Steven Harper, has held its breath as the Democrats, led by President Obama, and the Republicans, have debated the issue.

With the Republicans now holding a majority in the Senate, they’ve decided to make the decision a top priority. Obama has already threatened to veto any such action.

The Keystone would not be the only pipeline Canada has that crosses from Canada to the United States … there are already four major pipelines in existence, with lots of other smaller pipelines crisscrossing through most of the country.

So why the long deliberations? Could it be the ‘dirty oil’ being wrenched from the earth is worse than both the crude oil and tar sand oil already being conveyed?

Wet-tar-sands-537x358Environmentalists have protested Keystone since 2011. The Republicans have told us that having energy coming down from Canada instead of from other oil rich nations prevents the States being held hostage for oil. The Democrats, on the side of the environmentalists have dubbed the tar sands “Extra Lethal.”

But the demand is there. Despite the existing pipelines, oil is being distributed by other means as well – trucks, trains and barges traverse both countries. So, why not this pipeline?

Well, amongst other things, the government has already stopped the North American Free Trade Alliance (NAFTA’s) environmental oversight commission from investigating environmental damage caused by tailings ponds in Alberta’s oil sands twice, this past year alone. Public complaints that Canada is ignoring its own fishery laws have brought the trade organization’s environmental oversight commission on board in an attempt to protect the Athabasca River from industry pollution.

Dale Marshall of Environmental Defence says the Harper government is “blocking” science from getting out information about the oil industry’s harm to the watershed.

watershed“There’s compelling evidence that [industry contamination] is happening and that the federal government is denying it, and not allowing that information to be known to Canadians and the people who live in that area. “It’s disheartening. The Canadian government is more interested in protecting oil sands companies,”

So, it would seem that oil sand protestors, whether led by Canadian musician Neil Young or not, have valid points that are not being addressed, but rather, suppressed.

Recently, Mark Little of Suncor, one of Canada’s largest oil sands producers, denied that the company’s tailings ponds were leaking into the Athabasca River. The executive even referenced historic “Voyageur” accounts of naturally occurring oil seeping into the river to back up his position.

“Oh, no. Oil goes into the Athabasca River, and it has been for hundreds of years.  There is an enormous amount of oil in the sand, and the river runs across the sand.”

But renowned water scientist, Dr. David Schindler of the University of Alberta begged to differ.

“That’s totally untrue. One reason I know industry is responsible for some of [the river pollution] is there’s a 1982 well documented spill for Suncor. They watched as it made its way down the Athabasca to Athabasca Lake and caused the fisheries to be closed for two years.”

deformed fish AthabascaAfter the incident, highly deformed fish, never before seen by locals or scientists, began appearing in the watershed.

Schindler also believes that the Canadian government is likely opposed to the NAFTA‘s investigation because it is “worried about more bad press.”

So, with environmentalists and scientists opposed to the project, it’s fair to think that the United States should be worried about possible spills involved with the proposed pipeline.

From CBC News Canada, “Through an access-to-information request, CBC News obtained a data set of every pipeline safety incident reported to the federal regulator in the past 12 years. The National Energy Board oversees cross-border pipelines. The data doesn’t include smaller pipelines within provincial boundaries. The documents reveal details about more than 1,000 incidents that have happened across the country from 2000 until late 2012 and suggest the rate of overall incidents has doubled in the past decade.” (http://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/pipeline-incidents/)

But meanwhile, the federal government has essentially gone all in on the promise of oil. Natural Resources Canada spent $438.3 million on programs to support the oil and gas industry — it spent $41.6 million more, or nearly 10 per cent extra, than the amount it was allotted for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. As well, an additional $24 million went for an ad blitz in the U.S. Yep, bullish on oil.

environment-1-612x336But what about the $300 million for “environmentally responsible” programs Parliament approved last year? Somehow, Natural Resources Canada failed to spend $298.6-million on programs for “green” programs such as renewable energy development and technology innovation.

The government put all of Canada’s precious eggs in one basket.

And, in Alberta, “the economic promise of the oil sands and their accelerating development are coupled with a curse. The waste gases are flared into the atmosphere, while the waste fluids are pumped into immense tailing ponds. These waste streams contain significant quantities of heavy metals and persistent aromatic hydrocarbons.

As a consequence, human health and local pollution issues are starting to become evident. Democratic governments are entrusted to ensure human health. Economic growth and environmental impacts are balanced in a pragmatic and evidence based manner. But our post-democratic society permits corporations to dictate policy and our government has acquiesced. Laws are now repealed,  allowing low cost development, free from environmental safeguards and at the lowest royalty rates in the world.” (read more here: http://www.vancouverobserver.com/opinion/oil-sands-promise-and-curse)

With the recent drop in oil and gas prices, Ottawa is also expected to lose $5 billion in revenue, and the provinces even more. OPEC, in a zero sum game, is dropping the price of oil, and that drop is creating a net loss for Canada.

Research, education, public broadcasting, and the future of national health lie in the balance as energy subsidies in Canada top an incredible $34 billion each year in direct support to producers and uncollected tax on externalized costs. And still the price of oil drops, down 57 per cent since last June.

The pipeline is truly a lose/lose proposition.

boehner-ryanBUT – the Republicans will push forward on making it happen. Not because it is a good idea, or good for the United States. But because 6 years ago, on the night of Obama’s inauguration, a group of top GOP luminaries gathered to create the outline of a plan for how to deal with the incoming administration. They would fight Obama on everything. And after three hours of strategizing, Senate power brokers Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl and Tom Coburn, and conservative congressmen Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan vowed that none of Obama’s presidential aspirations would succeed, if they had anything to do with it.

For Americans, the road to a national health care plan was nearly derailed, and the work may still be demolished, should these politicians continue to follow their path. The pipeline, also potentially lethal to citizens, will be steam-rollered through, regardless of environmental effects. All to stop one man, President Obama. Whether you are a Democratic or a fan of Obama, it must be admitted that this relentless attack on a legally elected sitting leader is abhorrent and incredibly self-indulgent.

Six years later, America and the world still dangles from these puppeteers’ strings.

generation against oil