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Elizabeth May Wins, I Guess.

The Disaffected Lib - 4 hours 20 min ago

I guess we'll just have to wait and see if the amended Green Party position on Israel and the Palestinians meets with Elizabeth May's scorn or approval.

The resolution, passed on the weekend, severs the formal ties between the GPC and the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement but reiterates some of the core policies.

The new resolution calls on both Israel and the Palestinian people to accord mutually recognized statehood, for Israel to abide by the United Nations’ Resolution 194, for Israel to accord the Arab-Palestinian population of Israel equal political and civil rights, and for Israel to end the illegal occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Golan Heights and end the country’s siege in Gaza, it says.

It asks Canada to take “strong diplomatic action,” including but not limited to a importation ban on products “produced wholly or partly within or by illegal Israeli settlements, or by Israeli businesses directly benefiting from the illegal occupation,” among other forms of sanction.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) condemned the compromise text “as rife with historical distortions and places the Green Party at odds with the Canadian consensus that BDS is discriminatory and counter-productive to peace,” said CEO Shimon Fogel in a statement.

“The Green Party has been coopted by extreme activists who – in their obsessive campaign of prejudice against Israelis – threaten the party’s own credibility and relevance in Canadian politics,” said Fogel.

Alison at Creekside has been posting UN General Assembly voting records on resolutions pertaining to Palestine and the Palestinians. Just as in the Harper days, Trudeau's Canada continues to join with Israel, the United States and Israel's bought and paid for supporters, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau against 150 states including Britain and the entire EU. Wipe out the bought votes and that's Israel, the U.S. and Canada versus the world.

Liberal Democracy's Unstoppable Decline

The Disaffected Lib - 6 hours 24 min ago

Throughout the western world, the public embrace of liberal democracy is growing weaker, more distanced. Like many of these fractured paradigms today, there's a distinct generational aspect at play. Put simply, fewer young people today support liberal democracy. It's still a minority who discount liberal democracy but the number seems to be growing.

Stanford historian, Francis Fukuyama believes that the public is becoming detached from their failing democratic institutions.

The U.S. has been the paradigm example of a large democracy in the post-WWII world, but it shows signs of wear and decay—as with some other larger-scale democracies. Fukuyama complains of “vetocracy,” not only in the U.S., but also other countries such as Greece, India and Ukraine. The idea is that power in western democracies has been “captured by elites” who can veto anything which crosses their interests; and it will take some shock to the system to get needed reforms.

David Runciman of Cambridge University

Runciman emphasizes that the pace of technological change is throwing up problems more quickly than democratic politics can come to terms with them. I suspect that much the same could be said about the pace of change thrown up by globalization. Runicman claims that democracy is better than alternative systems in eventually dealing with major system-threatening problems, that it is better in self-correction. But what is happening now is that “the bad news doesn't reach us in time.” He warns against the temptation to by-pass politics through the use of technology. He sees it as problematic that in the last 25 years there has been a technological revolution but no related political crisis, as needed to make adjustments and institute reforms. In a political crisis, democracy will “kick the bums out,” and he emphasizes the importance of this sort of negative result of democratic political processes. The point is that the problems, say those generating economic inequality, come too fast to be dealt with by proper political processes. In some contrast Fukuyama complains that "identity politics” has substituted for traditional focus on economic issues on the left.

Last week The New York Times reported on Yascha Mounk's research suggesting that liberal democracies are becoming unstable.
Mr. Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard, has spent the past few years challenging one of the bedrock assumptions of Western politics: that once a country becomes a liberal democracy, it will stay that way.

His research suggests something quite different: that liberal democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline.

Mounk began by looking at the spread of populism in Europe.
A populist backlash was rising. But was that just a new kind of politics, or a symptom of something deeper?

To answer that question, Mr. Mounk teamed up with Roberto Stefan Foa, a political scientist at the University of Melbourne in Australia. They have since gathered and crunched data on the strength of liberal democracies.

Their conclusion, to be published in the January issue of the Journal of Democracy, is that democracies are not as secure as people may think. Right now, Mr. Mounk said in an interview, “the warning signs are flashing red.”
...since 2005, Freedom House’s index has shown a decline in global freedom each year. Is that a statistical anomaly, a result of a few random events in a relatively short period of time? Or does it indicate a meaningful pattern?

Mr. Mounk and Mr. Foa developed a three-factor formula to answer that question. Mr. Mounk thinks of it as an early-warning system, and it works something like a medical test: a way to detect that a democracy is ill before it develops full-blown symptoms.

The first factor was public support: How important do citizens think it is for their country to remain democratic? The second was public openness to nondemocratic forms of government, such as military rule. And the third factor was whether “antisystem parties and movements” — political parties and other major players whose core message is that the current system is illegitimate — were gaining support.

If support for democracy was falling while the other two measures were rising, the researchers marked that country “deconsolidating.” And they found that deconsolidation was the political equivalent of a low-grade fever that arrives the day before a full-blown case of the flu.

Mounk and Foa looked at two countries that embraced liberal democracy initially but almost as quickly turned away, Venezuela and Poland.
According to the Mounk-Foa early-warning system, signs of democratic deconsolidation in the United States and many other liberal democracies are now similar to those in Venezuela before its crisis.

Across numerous countries, including Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has plummeted, and it is especially low among younger generations.

It's apparent that we take liberal democracy in Canada for granted at our peril. I'm convinced that we need a democratic restoration in Canada, a return to truly progressive democracy, the sort that builds social cohesion and a robust and broad-based middle class.
This isn't going to happen when we're told we're a post-national state; not a country at all but some Balkanized gaggle of regions united by a matrix of stitched-together trade deals.
Part of it is our neoliberal rejection of posterity. I addressed this in 2009
...the genetic flaw in Western society, particularly North American society, the missing gene that pretty much dooms us all, is the absence of posterity in our planning.

Posterity doesn't fit into our economic model of production and consumption because it creates a fetter on both. We have lost our understanding of the importance of posterity to our society, to our country. We no longer plan today for generations to come far in the future. We no longer look much beyond the next electoral cycle.

Protecting posterity is an act of collective consciousness and will. It is acknowledging that we're entitled to our fair share and no more. We can't have it all without depriving future generations of their fair share.
To try to understand the idea of "fair share" imagine if our great, great, great grandparents had followed our path.

Imagine if our ancestors had two things - the ability to consume everything they could get their hands on and a blind indifference to the day when it was our turn to populate this country. Imagine if two or three generations had gone on a rapacious binge gobbling up the world's resources; going into serious deficit on renewables (emptying the oceans, logging off the forests, transforming farmland into desert) and fouling the environment. Then consider how their depredations might impact on your life today. I think that's beyond the imagination of all but the best science fiction writers but that's of no real matter. It's enough in any event to make the case for posterity and the concept of "fair share."

What is liberal democracy absent sovereignty, especially when national sovereignty is recklessly ceded to the corporate sector when inking free trade deals?
Our young people know all too well what our liberal democracy has bequeathed them - membership in the precariat, a future of "job churn" and the promise of a low-paying position in some service industry. They know that liberal democracy as we've practiced it has been a device for facilitating our maximum comfort and ease while preserving for them the shit end of the stick. We know and they know that they will never have it nearly as good as we've had it and they know that we liberal democrats aren't doing a damned thing to ease their plight.

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - 6 hours 51 min ago
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- David MacDonald examines how Canada's tax expenditures systematically favour higher-income individuals over the people who actually have a reasonable claim to public support:
This study finds that Canada’s personal income tax expenditures disproportionately benefit the rich and cost the federal treasury nearly as much as it collects in personal income tax. The study examines the income distribution of benefit for the 64 personal income tax expenditures for which there is available data. Out of the 64 tax expenditures, 59 of them provide more benefit to the top 50% of income earners than the bottom half, with the largest share going to the richest 10%. The cost of those 59 expenditures totalled $100.5 billion in 2011 alone. And given the Libs' broken promise to act against the stock option loophole, there's reason for serious skepticism that their review of the tax system will address the most obvious favouritism for the rich.

- Daniel Tencer reports on the spread of inequality and low-wage work in Canada. And Tom Parkin discusses Peter Julian's work to build more inclusive growth as a priority both for the federal NDP and in the wider political system.

- Joe Fantauzzi studies the closely-related issue of precarious workers' reliance on predatory payday lenders, due largely to a lack of access to basic financial services which most people take for granted. And Bob Weber reports on research showing that the Nutrition North program - which tries to deal with access to food solely through subsidies rather than regulation - is doing little to promote either the availability or affordability of basic groceries.

- Finally, Moira Weigel documents the carefully-fabricated phantom enemy that is "political correctness" - and how a figment of right-wing demagogues' imaginations has become a powerful force in shaping electoral outcomes.

Maybe Chris Hedges Has a Better Name for It.

The Disaffected Lib - 7 hours 39 min ago

Our prime minister has proclaimed Canada the "first post-national state." Economist James Galbraith prefers the term "predator state." To Chris Hedges, it's the "mafia state."

Systems of governance that are seized by a tiny cabal become mafia states. The early years—Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in the United States—are marked by promises that the pillage will benefit everyone. The later years—George W. Bush and Barack Obama—are marked by declarations that things are getting better even though they are getting worse. The final years—Donald Trump—see the lunatic trolls, hedge fund parasites, con artists, conspiracy theorists and criminals drop all pretense and carry out an orgy of looting and corruption.
Neoliberalism is state-sponsored extortion. It is a vast, nationally orchestrated Ponzi scheme. ...This fevered speculation [globalisation/free trade] and mounting inequality, made possible by the two ruling political parties, corroded and destroyed the mechanisms and institutions that permitted democratic participation and provided some protection for workers. Politicians, from Reagan on, were handsomely rewarded by their funders for delivering their credulous supporters to the corporate guillotine. The corporate coup created a mafia capitalism. This mafia capitalism, as economists such as Karl Polanyi and Joseph Stiglitz warned, gave birth to a mafia political system. Financial and political power in the hands of institutions such as Goldman Sachs and the Clinton Foundation becomes solely about personal gain. The Obamas in a few weeks will begin to give us a transparent lesson into how service to the corporate state translates into personal enrichment.
Adam Smith wrote that profits are often highest in nations on the verge of economic collapse. These profits are obtained, he wrote, by massively indebting the economy. A rentier class, composed of managers at hedge funds, banks, financial firms and other companies, makes money not by manufacturing products but from the control of economic rents.
To James Galbraith, today's rentiers are the "looter class."
“The great Roman historians Livy and Plutarch blamed the decline of the Roman Empire on the creditor class being predatory, and the latifundia,” [economist Michael] Hudson said. “The creditors took all the money, and would just buy more and more land, displacing the other people. The result in Rome was a dark age, and that can last a very long time. The dark age is what happens when the rentiers take over.

“If you look back in the 1930s, Leon Trotsky said that fascism was the inability of the socialist parties to come forth with an alternative,” Hudson said. “If the socialist parties and media don’t come forth with an alternative to this neofeudalism, you’re going to have a rollback to feudalism. But instead of the military taking over the land, as occurred with the Norman Conquest, you take over the land financially. Finance has become the new mode of warfare.
“You can achieve the takeover of land and the takeover of companies by corporate raids,” he said. “The Wall Street vocabulary is one of conquest and wiping out. You’re having a replay in the financial sphere of what feudalism was in the military sphere.”

Damage Control From A Disingenuous Dick

Politics and its Discontents - 10 hours 19 min ago
Apologies for my rather coarse title, but it seemed the only appropriate way to describe that Dorian-Gray-in-reverse-politician, Chris Alexander, who provided a conductorial complement to a rabid crowd in Edmonton offended by the very concept of taxation in general, and carbon taxes in particular.

At a rally in Edmonton hosted by perennial crank Ezra Levant and his self-described Rebel Media Group, as the erstwhile Immigration Minister played to the prejudices of the crowd, this happened:

You will note the zeal with which Alexander embraced the "Lock her up!" chants, seeming to enter a blissful zone accessible only to the extreme right-wing. However, perhaps realizing such a state of nirvana might not play well in all sectors of the Conservative Party he hopes to lead, and desperate to control the damage to 'his brand' that might have occurred, he issued this disclaimer, saying
he felt "uncomfortable" during a rally at the Alberta Legislature this weekend as the crowd chanted "lock her up" in response to his comments about Premier Rachel Notley's leadership.In a video posted on Twitter by Rebel Media reporter Sheila Gunn Reid, Alexander is nodding and smiling in front of the crowd of about 1,000 as they chant "lock her up" in response to his comments about Notley's leadership.

At no point in the video does Alexander attempt to calm the crowd or denounce their chanting."I could clearly hear what they were saying and I was uncomfortable," Alexander told CBC News on Sunday.

"It was not something I initiated, it was not something I said at any point and it's not something I agree with. I was smiling because I was trying to think of a way to change the chant."Yesterday, I wrote about a software plug-in, a b.s. dectector, to help ferret out fake news. I think it is safe to say no such software is needed to evaluate Chris Alexander's above disavowal.Recommend this Post

Chris Alexander and the Ezra Levant Freak Show

Montreal Simon - 11 hours 33 min ago

As you may know, the story of Chris Alexander has always reminded me of the Oscar Wilde story The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Where the portrait of the once promising young diplomat morphs into something monstrous, after he sells his soul to Stephen Harper.

Well yesterday that portrait became even uglier, if that's possible.

After Alexander disgraced himself again.
Read more »

Tweetie Pie In The White House

Northern Reflections - 11 hours 43 min ago

Donald Trump's communications strategy is simple: demonize the press and communicate through Twitter. Tweetie Pie will soon leave his golden cage and move to the White House. And, while Trump really is a cartoon, that development is no joke -- because journalists and journalism are under a great deal of financial pressure these days. Michael Harris writes:

Dying democracies and a dying free press are getting to be a universal phenomenon — and the guys who are driving the process are cultists like Donald Trump — on both the left and the right.

All politicians lie, but it usually takes awhile to catch them out. Bill on Monica, the elder Bush on new taxes, Nixon on … pretty much everything. But according to PolitiFact, 78 per cent of the statements made by Donald Trump are either false, grossly false, or pants-on-fire lies. He doesn’t even seem to care if Americans know he is lying, he lies anyway.
If the free press ceases to function, there will be no one to call out Mr. Trump's lies. More importantly, there will be no one to expose Mr. Trump's intellectual limitations -- which are considerable.

So it is in Trump's self interest to destroy the free press. In that regard, he is a lot like Stephen Harper:

For years in Canada, former PM Stephen Harper told whopper after whopper. He seemed to think that whatever he said became fact, especially if he said it enough times. Lies about the F-35, the health of the economy, regulating the energy sector, the environment, and global affairs — Canadians got them all in a steady stream of mendacity.

Like Trump, Harper despised the check and balance of a free press. That’s because it represented the most powerful alternative source of information to the government that existed — one capable of going behind his bully pulpit, his misrepresentations and lies and exposing them, as was eventually done on the true costs of the F-35 stealth fighter. So Harper avoided press conferences, and interviews, and even created a weekly news show where he reported on himself at the taxpayers’ expense.
We've seen this cartoon before. Tweetie Pie was a bad joke.

Image: Quotesgram

Victory at Standing Rock?

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 12/04/2016 - 14:17

The US Army Corps of Engineers has thrown in the towel. After months of determined protests, the Dakota Access Pipeline has been stopped in its tracks.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Moria Kelley said in a news release Sunday that the administration will not allow the four-state, $3.8-billion pipeline to be built under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir where construction had been on hold.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said her decision was based on the need to "explore alternate routes" for the pipeline's crossing.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 12/04/2016 - 09:50
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Simon Enoch and Christine Saulnier examine how P3s are used to privilege corporate profits over the public interest:
The CCPA has published numerous publications on the question of P3s because they have been so pervasive and so riddled with problems. There have been books written. Our organization has even published helpful guidelines outlining the 10 questions that should be asked AND fully answered before entering into these partnerships. Never are all of these questions asked and rarely are they fully answered.

In November of last year, one such report, Privatization Nation, chronicled some of the most egregious failures of privatization in Canada in recent years. We thought this to be conclusive evidence that despite 30 years of experience governments rarely seem to get privatization right, and more often get it wrong with astonishing regularity.

Despite this record, the potential bonanza awaiting private contractors through the federal government’s public infrastructure bank has brought many of the same, discredited arguments in favour of P3s back into public debate. The most pervasive of late appears to be the argument that P3 contracts provide the requisite discipline for all players to ensure on-time and on-budget completion, while constraining politicians from meddling in project design and management. However, a recent study in the UK by the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants  found no evidence that P3s were more successful at delivering projects on time because they were P3s; rather they succeeded because of the detailed way the contracts were written. There is no reason why the same sort of pre-negotiations and safeguards could not be applied to projects financed in the conventional public build model. Indeed, it begs the question of why such conditions were not previously made in traditional public procurement contracts.
The bottom-line is this: public services and infrastructure are best financed and delivered by the public sector. Private industry has a key part to play in the design and construction of public infrastructure under contract. The ‘partnerships’ become much more complex and fraught when those contracts are expanded to include private financing and operations.

P3 contracts are by their nature undemocratic — commercial confidentiality and the protection of a private corporation’s private interests are convenient political tools used to trump the public interest EVERY TIME.- Rich Puchalsky questions how neoliberalism has become a dominant economic and social paradigm when only a few (however well-resourced) people have any attachment to it, while lamenting the lack of an obvious left alternative. And Andrew Jackson argues that any changes from private-sector digital technology will fall short of leading to economic benefits that are either fairly shared or particularly substantial.  

- Meanwhile, Barry Ritholtz follows up on Seattle's increased minimum wage and finds - as pointed out by Jackson - that improved wages at the bottom of the income spectrum led to economic growth.

- Brett Norman reports on a Baltimore pediatric clinic's noteworthy work in systematically checking and applying social determinants of health as a basis for patient care.

- Finally, Chris Welzel and Russell Dalton examine the effects of citizen allegiance and assertiveness - and find that while both contribute to improved governance, citizens can achieve more improvement in policy outcomes through critical thinking and questioning than through passive obedience.

An Easy-To-Use Weapon Against Fake News

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 12/04/2016 - 06:51

People of a certain 'vintage' will well remember the above commercial, in which a family appears to take great delight in fooling dad about the spread he is using. All in all, a humorous and harmless deception, one with no lasting consequences. Today, however, we face challenges to truth that the people of that commercial's era could never have imagined, challenges that are not the least bit amusing: the proliferation of fake news, aided and abetted by the ubiquitous Internet.

What defences do we have against such manipulations? Actually, there are many, only one of which I shall address in today's post.

We live in a very rushed world, one in which people often do not take the time to properly assess the information they access. Now, thanks to an exciting software innovation, that task has been made easier. Daniel Sieradski has created a browser plug-in that, with an extensive data base, flashes a warning at the top of one's screen alerting users to the questionable provenance of any given site. Interviewed on CBC's As It Happens, he explained why he created it:
It was in response to Mark Zuckerberg's statement that Facebook couldn't really handle the problem of fake news without a massive effort requiring the development of an algorithm and all these other things. I was able to work out a solution in just about an hour that showed that that was nonsense and that this issue could be easily addressed, if they really wanted to invest their energy in it.Its principle seems elegantly simple:
Basically, it scans a given web page for the presence of links and then checks the links against a database that has been compiled of fake news sites, satire sites, conspiracy theory sites and so on and then it inserts a warning label adjacent to the link letting the user know that it is not exactly a reliable source of information.The beauty of this approach is that it censors nothing; it simply issues a warning of unreliable content, and it is then up to the readers as to what they do with that information.

I strongly recommend that readers give it a try. Compatible with the majority of web browsers, I installed it on Chrome, and then tested it by consulting a list of fake news sites. It worked flawlessly on the ones I went to.

If you are interested, here is the link to the software. A further explanation as to its operating basis is supplied there as well:
The list of domains powering the B.S. Detector was somewhat indiscriminately compiled from various sources around the web. We are actively reviewing this dataset, categorizing entries, and removing misidentified domains. We thus cannot guarantee complete accuracy of our data at the moment. You can view the complete list here.

Domain classifications include:

Fake News: Sources that fabricate stories out of whole cloth with the intent of pranking the public.
Satire: Sources that provide humorous commentary on current events in the form of fake news.
Extreme Bias: Sources that traffic in political propaganda and gross distortions of fact.
Conspiracy Theory: Sources that are well-known promoters of kooky conspiracy theories.
Rumor Mill: Sources that traffic in rumors, innuendo, and unverified claims.
State News: Sources in repressive states operating under government sanction.
Junk Science: Sources that promote scientifically dubious claims.
Hate Group: Sources that actively promote racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination.Incorporating the plug-in is one defence against the increasingly strong assaults on truth and accuracy being mounted by those who seek to impose their distorted and indefensible views on the world. In a future post, I shall discuss the hard work that is also required if this battle is ever to be won.Recommend this Post

Donald Trump and the Betrayal of the Working Class

Montreal Simon - Sun, 12/04/2016 - 06:40

I used to stare at those pictures of Donald Trump preaching to his white working class supporters, and wonder how that old con artist managed to fool so many of them.

Make them believe that a billionaire who sits on a gold plated toilet seat was on THEIR side.

And that he would bring back their lost jobs, fight the elites and the special interests, go after the Big Banks, and Make America Great Again.

I didn't believe a word he said, but his faithful followers did, and now they're already looking like suckers.
Read more »

Not With A Bang But A Whimper

Northern Reflections - Sun, 12/04/2016 - 03:05

It's beginning to look like electoral reform is dead in the water. In the end, Chantal Hebert writes, our political parties could not rise above partisan self interest:

The Conservatives came into this discussion riding the referendum horse, and they come out of it more firmly in the saddle.
They have not budged an inch from their sense that the first-past-the-post system remains the best option. But they have found support from the other opposition parties for their contention that any change should clear the hurdle of a national vote.
That support is more tactical than principled.
Even as they are part of a pro-referendum consensus, the New Democrats, for instance, continue to argue that it is not necessarily essential to put a reform to a national vote prior to its implementation. If the Liberals set out to put in place the more proportional voting system the New Democrats crave, the government could find support on their benches for dispensing with a referendum.

But it's the Liberals who have truly bungled this file:

As for the Liberals, they have managed to turn a secondary policy front into a field of ruins.
With the logistical clock ticking on moving to a different voting system in time for 2019, the government waited eight months to set up a process to follow up on the prime minister’s election promise.
It never articulated a set of principles that might guide its management of the file.
The Liberals went into the debate with a known preference for a ranked ballot but could not be bothered or could not find a critical mass of intervenors to advance that option.
The Liberal committee members ended up rejecting the time frame set by their own leader to achieve a reform as unrealistic and the notion of a more proportional system as too radical. 
Electoral reform is an idea whose time has come. But it looks like it's an idea that will end, not with a bang, but a whimper. 
Image: Ottawa Citizen

Saturday Afternoon #ERRE Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 12/03/2016 - 14:06
A bit of electoral reform material for your weekend reading.

- Nathan Cullen points out how the Special Committee on Electoral Reform's report (PDF) serves as an effective road map to make every vote count in Canada.

- PressProgress highlights how the Libs are attacking their own campaign promises in order to preserve an unfair electoral system, while Jonathan Sas compares the Libs' scorched-earth approach and incoherent response to the remarkable level of consensus and success achieved by members of all parties on the committee.

- Craig Scott generously calls the Libs' approach one of "noble failure" - and that may have been the intention initially. 

- But the "noble" part seems to have been sorely lacking, as Michael Stewart calls out the Libs' mockery of both the MPs who worked on a broad consultation process, and the tens of thousands of Canadians who participated in it. Althia Raj notes that the Trudeau government's insults are particularly egregious since they're directed at people trying to fulfil their own promises - while also reporting that Trudeau and his inner circle would likely have been happy to accept a committee recommendation for a ranked ballot which was rejected by all parties. And Ryan Maloney points out the Libs' aversion to inconvenient math when it would help to achieve improved representation.

A Nation Without Vision

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 12/03/2016 - 12:45

Little attention was paid when Justin Trudeau proclaimed Canada the world's "first post-national state." The New York Times reporter interviewing our prime minister found the remark "radical." It was, it is, and by all signs it will continue into our future under Trudeau.

How to make sense of it? What does it mean to be a Canadian in Trudeau's Canada? Well, how did it feel to be Canadian under Lester Pearson? How wonderful did it feel to be Canadian under Pierre Elliott Trudeau? Why does it feel so wretched to be a Canadian under Justin's premiership? Does it ever.

I remember when Pearson made us proud as he earned the Nobel Peace Prize for our nation's development of peacekeeping. We were doing good around the world. And then he gave us our distinct maple leaf flag, devoid of the symbols of another land.

Then came Pierre Trudeau, just in time for our Centennial, who made us prouder of our nation than we ever had been. He pursued Pearson's vision and strengthened it with his own. He fought back the separatists in Quebec. He patriated our constitution. Best of all, Pierre Trudeau bequeathed Canadians the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that has preserved our liberal democracy against the assaults on our democratic rights by subsequent prime ministers, most recently his own son.

Those were prime ministers of courage and vision and belief in Canada and her people. It is by them that we must measure those who follow them, including Justin Trudeau.

In many ways the Dauphin is a smiley-faced continuation of the guy he displaced. Harper had the personality of a cancerous lung. Justin is easier on the eyes, friendlier, nicer and always holding out a welcome promise of sunny ways and better times.

If we were to judge Justin Trudeau by his promises and his assurances he'd be an amazing prime minister but we should never hold those promises and comforting words at higher value than he himself does and that is not at all.

Justin has made a mockery of the Canada of Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. It began with his sale of $15 billion worth of armoured death wagons to the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East; the state that unleashed the most murderous, virulent strain of radical Sunni Islam that it continues to spread in madrassas around the world today; the nation directly responsible for so much suffering and death in Iraq, Syria and Yemen that remains ongoing today. That's not the Canada of Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. That's the Canada of Stephen Harper and, now, Justin.

I had thought Justin would be Canada's last, best chance to implement real action in the fight to contain climate change. He promised we would slash emissions. He promised to clean house at the industry captured National Energy Board. He promised no pipelines without First Nations support and "social licence" which he said could only come from communities. Yet in the span of his first year what has he done? Harper's rigged National Energy Board is now Justin's rigged National Energy Board. First Nations oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline and we hope that their court action will prevail over Trudeau. As for social licence, the communities this pipeline will pass through and where it will terminate and those communities exposed to the risk of an ocean spill have spoken - loudly and clearly - and they stand opposed to it.

What of all those promises that Trudeau's most ardent followers seem to have quickly forgotten? Trudeau's word, so solemnly given, meant nothing. He lied and in lying he betrayed those who believed him and degraded Canada.

We in British Columbia have had quite a year of Trudeau. From the Site C dam, to the disastrous Woodfibre LNG project, to the Kinder Morgan pipeline, Justin Trudeau and his clown car full of cabinet ministers have supported the environmental degradation of British Columbia. They are Stephen Harper's and Joe Oliver's wet dream. Sitting on our side of the Rockies it's easy to see the other side, Canada, as a predator.

I'm pretty sure that the pipeline secret police Harper created are still in business, that incestuous merger of private pipeline security and intelligence operatives and their federal collaborators in the RCMP and CSIS. Pierre Trudeau fought to protect the privacy of Canadians. Justin continues Harper's work to eliminate those protections.

The assisted dying law, remember that? The Supreme Court of Canada, relying on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, was crystal clear in the Carter case. It was a per curiam decision, all nine judges speaking with one voice. And what did Justin do when it came time to embody that clear decision in legislation? He placed his government above the law. He put his government at odds with, outside the law. He decided that the rule of law only applies when he chooses to follow it.

Yes, we live in a post-national Canada. That much was made clear when Morneau announced that young Canadians should accept a future of "job churn" and life in the precariat. Why? Because that's the price inevitably demanded of neoliberalist globalization. Any doubt about that was put to rest when the governor of the Bank of Canada said that the old jobs, the good jobs that built our once robust and broadbased middle class, are gone for good. Poloz said that Canada's future was in the services sector competing with poverty wage India for outsourced IT work or filling vacancies as chambermaids, restaurant servers and tour guides for the tourism industry.

That isn't accidental. It's not inadvertent. It's the direct and perfectly foreseeable result of globalization that underlies Trudeau's post-national Canada.

I don't know if Justin has taken a good, hard look at the world around him, the world to which he wants to shackle Canada in his post-national nightmare. It's a world in social, political, economic and environmental turmoil and upheaval. Liberal democracy, in nations once beguiled into swallowing the same elixir that has taken hold in Justin, is in retreat.

Dark nationalism (as opposed to the positive, progressive nationalism we knew under our great prime ministers of the past), is taking hold from America to Europe to the Middle East and into Asia Pacific. One response to this is the wave of rearmament spreading through the Middle East and Asia.

Meanwhile dark winter heatwaves underway in the Arctic reveal that we may have crossed or on the verge of crossing no fewer than 19 climate tipping points that, collectively, may launch the world into unstoppable, runaway global warming.

Military commanders from around the world including groups within the United States itself are frantically warning of imminent climate crises that dramatically raise the risks of uncontainable warfare.

Even though we're having a hell of a time in the Arctic, Canada is one of just a handful of countries, all of them northern, that are uniquely advantaged to sustain what is coming. Yet Justin is oblivious to that and, instead, wants to bind us ever tighter to the world of turmoil and conflict.

That Justin Trudeau has shown his hand so blatantly, so quickly is remarkable. That too is a warning. Those who ignore it may come to regret it and sooner than they imagine.

Justin has no vision. Those who embrace globalisation and the post-national state eschew vision. Like cattle swept away by a raging river, they just have to go with the flow.

Many of us smugly dismissed Harper as an aberration. We were wrong.

Here's One You Might Not Have Heard Of - the "Technosphere"

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 12/03/2016 - 10:52

Think of it as everything man has built on Earth that's still standing. That includes the pyramids and everything older provided it's still around.

Now I'm going to throw out a number that's pretty hard to digest - thirty - trillion - tons. That's the estimated weight of the stuff we've built. Those pyramids, sure, but also the Trump Tower, all our roads and houses and bridges and airports, your car, your kid's bike, everything manmade.

But how is one to make sense of 30 trillion tons. This might help. 30 trillion tons represents 50 kilograms of stuff for each square metre of the Earth's surface.

Technosphere is a new term and according to the study published in journal The Anthropocene Review, it comprises of all the human-made structures including houses, factories and farms to airplanes, rockets, computer systems, tablets, smartphones and CDs, to the waste in landfills and spoil heaps that have been built to keep humans alive.

Humans have been having a huge impact on the planet through their activities and that’s where the Anthropocene concept has its roots in. It is an epoch that highlights the impact humans have made to the planet and it provides an understanding of how we have greatly changed the planet ever since our species started dominating.

Technosphere has its roots in the biosphere, but over the years it has gained so much of ‘weight’ and development that it has become a phenomenon of its own. Further, it is having a parasitic effect on the biosphere – like all human activities have on our planet.

Professor Mark Williams at the University of Leicester says “Compared with the biosphere, though, it is remarkably poor at recycling its own materials, as our burgeoning landfill sites show. This might be a barrier to its further success — or halt it altogether.”

According to Wiki, the average human body weight is just over 80 kilos which adds an extra 600-billion kilos of insatiable, voracious consumers all on its own. Maybe Elon Musk is right. Maybe we should get ourselves a new planet.

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 12/03/2016 - 08:36
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Stephen Hawking discusses the urgent need to address inequality and environmental destruction as people are both more fearful for their futures, and more aware of what's being taken away from them:
(T)he lives of the richest people in the most prosperous parts of the world are agonisingly visible to anyone, however poor, who has access to a phone. And since there are now more people with a telephone than access to clean water in sub-Saharan Africa, this will shortly mean nearly everyone on our increasingly crowded planet will not be able to escape the inequality.

The consequences of this are plain to see: the rural poor flock to cities, to shanty towns, driven by hope. And then often, finding that the Instagram nirvana is not available there, they seek it overseas, joining the ever greater numbers of economic migrants in search of a better life. These migrants in turn place new demands on the infrastructures and economies of the countries in which they arrive, undermining tolerance and further fuelling political populism.

For me, the really concerning aspect of this is that now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans.

Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it. Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it.

To do that, we need to break down, not build up, barriers within and between nations. If we are to stand a chance of doing that, the world’s leaders need to acknowledge that they have failed and are failing the many. With resources increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, we are going to have to learn to share far more than at present.- Adnan Al-Daini discusses how market dogmatism is affecting every facet of our society. And Noah Smith reminds us that some the economic theories used have been entirely falsified by real-world evidence.

- Roderick Benns highlights how a well-designed basic income could substantially improve the personal security of the people now at the most risk. But John Clarke warns against settling for an austerian model which treats an insufficient basic income as a substitute for fair wages and needed social supports.

- Bruce Cheadle reports on the International Institute for Sustainable Development's new research showing that Canada's economy is grossly overreliant on fossil fuels, as nearly all of our development has been oriented toward extracting dirty and limited resources rather than developing and applying human capital.

- Finally, Janyce McGregor reports on how the CETA and other trade agreements are designed to increase prescription drug costs - without any effort being made to assess what the price tag will be. But Kelly Crowe and Darryl Hol do note that without much fanfare, Parliament is studying a national pharmacare plan which could both reduce direct drug costs, and significantly improve health outcomes.

The Great Annual Christmas Ad Competition

Montreal Simon - Sat, 12/03/2016 - 07:04

Well now that it's starting to look a lot like Christmas, even in Ottawa.

And now that the party leaders have sent out their seasonal greetings. 

And Rona Ambroses' card sent shivers down my spine...

I thought I'd take a break from the grim world of politics, and the horror of Harper and Trump. 

And get into the spirit of the holiday season.
Read more »

Beguiling Words

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 12/03/2016 - 06:37

The propaganda machine of the extreme right has scored a double hit, it would seem. Not only do they and their racist brethren have Breibart-founder Steve Bannon warmly ensconced in the White House as chief strategist and Senior Counselor to Donald Trump (whether he will also be keeping the president's seat warm in the Oval office in what are certain to be frequent presidential absences is anyone's guess), but many in Congress now appear to be conduits for Breitbart propaganda.

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, headed by Republican Lamar Smith, has a new weapon in its attack on climate science: Breibart 'science':

The content of this tweet is the same sort of thing you’d get if you fed a bull 20 kilos of Ex-Lax and stood behind it for a while. Global warming, of course, is real. The Breitbart article in question is written by James Delingpole, a flat-out climate change denier who has a history of writing grossly misleading articles about global warming. He gets this information from yet another climate change denier, David Rose, who wrote an article for the execrable Daily Mail claiming that global temperatures have dropped by an entire degree Celsius since this summer. Contrary to what the Daily Mail might have to say, global temperature is indeed increasing.

In a nutshell, Rose is guilty of extreme cherry-picking. He looked at a single temperature data set from a specific layer of the Earth’s atmosphere and only used measurements over land. And to make matters worse, he only used data going back to 1998, a big no-no: That year was unusually warm, so starting there falsely makes it look like temperatures haven’t risen much.

He also is chasing local fluctuations and ignoring the decadeslong trend. And that trend is up. The Earth is heating up. If you want more details, Tamino at Open Mind debunks Rose’s claims quite thoroughly.Somehow, I doubt that the propaganda machine in Washington is going to alter too many people's thinking. The true believers of climate denialism will dismiss the critiques, and those who trust the scientific data will be unmoved by such blatant attempts at manipulation.

But what it does show is that the need for critical thinking is greater now than it ever was. In what I hope will be my next post, I will discuss some of the ways one can vet information for its veracity or falseness.
Recommend this Post

The Post Truth Era

Northern Reflections - Sat, 12/03/2016 - 05:56
Several commentators have suggested that the ascension of Donald Trump marks the beginning of the Post Truth Era. George Monbiot writes that, in fact, we have been living in the Post Truth Era for some time now. Over the past fifteen years,

I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.
Consider, most particularly, those who have battled the idea that the climate is changing:

The fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed incomprehensible until I realised they were fake: the hatred had been paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded by oil and coal companies.

Among those I clashed with was Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The CEI calls itself a thinktank, but looks to me like a corporate lobbying group. It is not transparent about its funding, but we now know it has received $2m from ExxonMobil, more than $4m from a group called the Donors Trust (which represents various corporations and billionaires), $800,000 from groups set up by the tycoons Charles and David Koch, and substantial sums from coal, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies.
And then there are those who see organized labour as their mortal enemy:

Charles and David Koch – who for years have funded extreme pro-corporate politics – might not have been enthusiasts for Trump’s candidacy, but their people were all over his campaign. Until June, Trump’s campaign manager was Corey Lewandowski, who like other members of Trump’s team came from a group called Americans for Prosperity (AFP).

This purports to be a grassroots campaign, but it was founded and funded by the Koch brothers. It set up the first Tea Party Facebook page and organised the first Tea Party events. With a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, AFP has campaigned ferociously on issues that coincide with the Koch brothers’ commercial interests in oil, gas, minerals, timber and chemicals.

In Michigan, it helped force through the “right to work bill”, in pursuit of what AFP’s local director called “taking the unions out at the knees”. It has campaigned nationwide against action on climate change. It has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into unseating the politicians who won’t do its bidding and replacing them with those who will.

Trump portrays himself as the friend of the common man.  His friends, however, are not friends of the common man. But in the Post Truth Era, that fact is irrelevant.

Image: Joe.My.God


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