Posts from our progressive community

Restoring the Vox Populi

The Disaffected Lib - 1 hour 5 min ago

Some thoughts for this, Labour Day.

The voice of the people.  Oh, how long has it been since that really meant anything?  In Canada and many other advanced countries, polls show that people are being governed without much if any regard to their views, their concerns.

It's sort of like standing, waiting at the civic bus stop for a bus that just keeps passing you by.

Canadians want action on climate change.  Are they going to get it?  No. Canadians want action on inequality.  Are they going to get it?  Don't be ridiculous.

The American people utterly loathe their federal government, their Congress. Does it matter?  Hell no!  The vox populi has been discounted to the point of near total irrelevance.

Governments don't do what we want them to do.  Governments don't deal with things we want dealt with, the things that cause us worry and insecurity.

There used to be a notion that at the heart of democracy lay the consent of the people to be governed.  To the extent that ever meant something it has been superceded by the ascent of neoliberalism and the corporatist state.

You get to vote and that's about all you get.  There is no longer much of a role for the vox populi.  There's still a vox, a voice alright and it is reaching the ear of the political or ruling classes only it's not your voice.  It's the voice of energy and commerce and high finance that has the ear of those you supposedly elect to office.

Think I'm kidding?  Go back four years to the reign of Ignatieff.  Do you remember when he summoned a "thinkers' conference" to map out a new strategy for a Liberal Canada?  The speakers list spoke volumes for it was massively dominated with CEOs and "management consultants."  Ignatieff wasn't there to formulate policies that would resonate with the voting public, solutions to their needs and concerns.  His focus was Bay Street, not Main Street.  As the Ignatieff Liberals turned their backs on ordinary Canadians, so did ordinary Canadians turn their backs in the next election sending the Liberals from Sussex Drive to Stornoway to Motel 6 out on the Gloucester highway.

The simple fact is that you can't consent to be governed without a reasonable understanding of how you're to be governed.  Without that understanding, there's no informed consent to be governed. You're simply consenting to be ruled.  And even that hollow consent is being coerced out of you through the application of misinformation, outright deceit and fear-mongering.

Your vote used to mean something back when parties offered up a real spectrum of vision and policy.  You knew what made one party distinct from the others and they worked to champion policies that might suit the voting public.

Today our body politic lies on the life support of neoliberalism.  Iron lungs all around.  Even the NDP has embraced neoliberalism.  There's a term for what's happening.  It's called "depoliticization."  Politics is being shut down, its place taken over by grey suits stuffed with wet cardboard.  Administrators, not leaders. Mere technocrats, doing sums.  The public, quite conveniently for the corporate state, is disengaging, tuning out. Why bother if no one will speak to your concerns?  Why bother if no one hears your voice?  Even before you begin to tune out you're already out of the loop.

How then do we reverse this?  How do we get their ear?  How are we to get our voices heard by those we elect, those who are duty bound to serve us?  How do we make them responsive to our concerns, our needs?

How indeed?  I don't know.  I do know that we need to get these people we elect to listen to us and that means they need to stop listening like attentive lap dogs to those who do not elect them.  We need to drum into their heads the prescient words spoken by Teddy Roosevelt more than a century ago.  These words:

...our government, national and State, must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests.  Exactly as the special interests of cotton and slavery threatened our political integrity before the Civil War, so now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit.  We must drive the special interests out of politics.

...every special interest is entitled to justice but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office.  The Constitution guarantees protections to property, and we must make that promise good, but it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation.

...The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being.

There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. 

We no longer "effectively control the mighty commercial forces that we have called into being."  Those mighty commercial forces too often have the ear of those we elect to represent us.

Wresting political control away from these commercial forces may be the key to reclaiming our democratic freedoms.  The thing is I just cannot see that happening under either Trudeau or Mulcair or any other Liberal or New Democrat.  Like others I'm coming to accept that if we cannot rehabilitate the Liberal and New Democratic parties, we need to stop wasting our efforts and put them into building a new party, a genuinely political party, one that speaks for Canadians and speaks to their concerns.  It's pointless to seek solutions in neoliberalism.

India - Superbug Time Bomb

The Disaffected Lib - 1 hour 16 min ago

India is the worst but it's not alone.  All of the emerging economic superpowers share the same problem - the abuse of antibiotics.

For India, it's the result of a population coming into new wealth that still has just one doctor for every 1,700 people.  You get sick, you get pills, off you go.  Too often those pills are antibiotic.

Together with India, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa account for 76% of the global increase in antibiotic use.

If the warnings we get from our medical establishment are accurate, these countries and their societies could be heading for real trouble.  This has the makings of a "perfect storm" - inadequate health care infrastructure, antibiotic abuse, the rise of antibiotic-resistant diseases and all the health impacts of climate change including a critical shortage of freshwater for sanitation and personal hygiene as well as pest and disease migration.

And, of course, given our globalized economy, we're hardly immune to what happens on the other side of the Earth.  If you don't understand this, take a look at the Spanish Flu of 1918, where it originated (it wasn't Spain) and how it spread around the globe.  Then remember back then we didn't have 7.6-million air passengers hopping around the world daily.

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - 2 hours 38 min ago
Miscellaneous material for your Labour Day reading.

- Andrew Jackson discusses the future of Canada's labour movement, while Gil McGowan highlights the fact that unionization can be no less important in Alberta and other booming areas than elsewhere. And Jerry Dias notes that there are some reasons for celebration this year.

- But Edward McClelland points out that far too many labourers who would benefit from organization are instead hostile to the idea of unions. And Timothy Noah finds another gap between labour and U.S. centrist liberals - which is mirrored by the relationship between unions and large-L Liberals in Canada.

- Speaking of which, Tracy Sherlock writes that disastrous past decade-plus for B.C.'s education system can be traced back to the Lib government's hostile response to the inclusion of special needs supports and other student priorities in teachers' collective bargaining agreements. 

- Kathy Tomlinson reports on how the Cons' efforts to undermine Canadian labour are leading to grossly unsafe working conditions for Canadian and imported workers alike. And Geoff Leo exposes yet another employer laying off qualified Canadian workers with help from the Cons' temporary foreign worker program.

- Steven Greenhouse addresses the epidemic of wage theft which is making living conditions all the worse for some of the U.S.' most vulnerable workers.

- Finally, Hedrick Smith (as adapted by Yes) documents how the spread of inequality in the U.S. is the result of deliberate policy choices. And Sean McElwee offers five reasons why politics haven't yet served to reduce inequality, particularly if voters have misplaced faith in upward mobility while ignoring its inevitable counterpart:
According to research from Carina Engelhardt and Andreas Wagner, around the world people overestimate the level of upward mobility in their society.

They find that redistribution is lower the when actual social mobility is [sic] but also lower where perceived mobility is higher. Even if voters perceive the level of inequality correctly, their tendency to overstate the level of mobility can undermine support for redistribution. In another study Alberto Alesina and Eliana La Ferrara find that, Americans who believe that American society offers equal opportunity (a mythology) are more likely to oppose redistribution. Using data from 33 democracies, Elvire Guillaud finds that those who believe they have experienced downward mobility in the past decade are  32% more likely to support redistribution. A relatively strong literature now supports this thesis. ... [A] massive public education campaign about the extent of income inequality is neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve the kind of redistributive policies liberals favor. The real obstacles to policy action on inequality are more deeply ingrained in the structure of American politics, demographics, and interest group coalitions. Insofar as there is a role for better information to play, it likely relates not to inequality but to social mobility which remains widely misperceived and is a potent driver of feelings about the justice of economic policy. As John Steinbeck noted, "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." Stronger unions, more lower income voter turnout and policies to reduce the corrupting influence of money on the political process would all work to reduce inequality. It will take political mobilization, not simply voter education to achieve change.

And Speaking Of Labour

Politics and its Discontents - 3 hours 18 min ago
All kinds of abuses continue under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. As reported by the CBC, an Italian company, Saipem, contracted by Husky Sunrise to build a multi-billion dollar plant 60 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, is employing 344 foreign tradespersons and others who are either unqualified, uncertified or cannot understand English, thereby putting lives at risk.

Despite complaints by supervisors and a surfeit of qualified Canadians who are being ignored in the company's hiring practices, almost nothing is being done about this dangerous situation:

Recommend this Post

Labour Day 2014

Northern Reflections - 5 hours 15 min ago


Just what is the state of Labour on this Labour Day? If you were to use Harper government policy a a yardstick, the answer would be "not very good." After all, this is a government which ends strikes before they begin, and which has vastly expanded the Temporary Foreign Workers Program in the wake of the Great Recession.

But even Harper supporter Tasha Kheiriddin acknowledges that the majority of Canadians support unions:

What does the public think about unions?  A study conducted in late 2013 by Harris Decima for the Canadian Association of University Teachers found that 56% of Canadians “hold favourable views of unions.” Two-thirds believe that all employees of a unionized workplace should be obliged to join the union, versus giving them the right to opt out via right-to-work legislation. At the same time, 45% thought unions have too much influence over government and business, while 35% disagreed.

And one of organized labour's legacies -- a legacy which the Harperites refuse to acknowledge or do anything to improve -- is pensions. The recent Ontario election underscored the fact that pensions are on the public agenda, if not the Harper agenda.

And Canadians are not just concerned with  the state of domestic labour. The recent tragedy at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh -- and the part the Weston Empire played in it -- was not lost on Canadians. Ananya Mukherjee and Darryl Reed write:

Our action as collective consumers and citizens can have an especially transformative impact here. In Canada, the federal government spends millions annually on imported garments, while the government of Ontario also purchases significant amounts, $66 million over the last five years.
While as citizens we pay for these garments, we have little or no information on how or in which countries they are produced. Other public institutions — schools, universities and hospitals — also purchase and sell garments. Our governments and public institutions can adopt purchasing that supports more ethical production. Indeed, some already do. Various universities and municipalities in Canada have “no-sweat” policies for the apparel they buy and sell, and an increasing number have also adopted “fair trade” polices. These policies can be modified or extended to add best practice clauses that support worker-owned firms and co-operatives. However, none of this would happen without our active input. Changes such as these require that we think and act as members of different collectives, institutions, communities and democracies — and not simply as individual consumers.
The Harperites believe citizens are individual consumers. Labour's vision is a collective vision.It has always stood for the concept of community. And, even after almost a decade of Harperian balderdash, that vision persists.

Happy Labour Day

Politics and its Discontents - 5 hours 19 min ago

For a reflection on why unions are still so relevant and necessary, the protests of neoliberals notwithstanding, be sure to check out Kev's post at Trapped in a Whirlpool.

And for indications of a resurgence in the union movement, check out this editorial at The Toronto Star.

Indeed, we shall overcome.Recommend this Post

what i'm reading: indian horse by richard wagamese, a must-read, especially for canadians

we move to canada - 6 hours 4 min ago
Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese, is a hauntingly beautiful novel about an Ojibway boy's journey into manhood. It was the Readers' Choice winner of the 2013 Canada Reads, CBC Radio's book promotion program. But if you're like me and don't listen to the radio, you may have missed it. Don't miss it. Indian Horse should be widely read - by everyone, but especially by Canadians.

In a slim, spare volume, drawing vivid pictures with very few words, Wagamese brings you into the Ojibway family. They are struggling to hold onto their culture - and indeed, to keep their family physically together, as children are being abducted and forced into the so-called residential schools.

Saul Indian Horse, the hero and narrator of the novel, survives the residential school by finding solace and joy in an unlikely place: hockey. Hockey is an integral part of Indian Horse, and Wagamese has written some of the best description of sport I've read in a novel, seamlessly knitting the poetry of game into the narrative.

It's that seamlessness that makes Indian Horse so special. As the reader journeys through the different times of Saul's life - his original family, the residential school, the rink, a Native hockey team, anti-Native bigotry, and so on - the writing is never didactic, the information is never grafted on. We are always in the flow of the story, reading more with our hearts than our minds.

For non-Canadian wmtc readers, residential schools are a euphemism for the government and church-administered programs that attempted the forced assimilation of Native children. These "schools" are more properly thought of as forced labour and indoctrination camps. They were places of horrific cruelty and abuse. For many Canadians, they have become a symbol of a shameful past that continues to echo into the present. But when something becomes symbolic, in can lose its specific reality. Wagamese brings us into the reality as it was lived.

If you're someone who cringes at the idea of reading about the cruelty to children, I encourage you to read Indian Horse all the more. What you know of residential schools is likely gleaned from news reports, perhaps when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was holding hearings. I strongly encourage you to read a First Nations writer's account. It's stark and honest, without being graphic or sensationalist. It's an important exercise in empathy, in bearing witness. It's an important piece of history.

But I assure you, reading Indian Horse does not feel like reading important history. It's one boy's journey, and it will move you.

Stephen Harper, Vladimir Putin, and the Arctic Follies

Montreal Simon - 8 hours 32 min ago

I must admit that when I first  heard that Vladimir Putin had replied to Stephen Harper's stirring Arctic Challenge.

The one that went basically like this: "Hey Putin, the Arctic and the North Pole are MINE, and so is Ukraine. And I'm a Great Strong Leader, so THERE. You Nazi !!!"

By calling Harper and his friends Nazis, and threatening to invade the place. 
Read more »


accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 10:58
I won't claim to match Stephen Lautens' collection of #MacKayTees. But I will add a couple to the mix.

First, making using of a picture which fortuitously made its way around the Internets yesterday:

And second, encapsulating conservatism in four small words:

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 09:02
Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Eric Reguly examines Apple as a prime example of how supposed market successes actually reflect the private capture of public investments - and suggests the public should benefit financially from its investments which facilitate corporate growth:
Apple is such a runaway success that its profits pile up like snowdrifts in the Rockies. At last count, Apple was sitting on $165-billion (U.S.) in cash and securities. That’s more than the GDP of Hungary.

What to do with the windfall?
Here’s another idea: Give the surplus cash back to the taxpayer.

It will never happen, but if you believe that the stakeholders who are responsible for Apple’s success should be rewarded, taxpayers would certainly take precedence over the hedgies. Greenlight and its ilk had absolutely nothing to do with Apple’s journey from garage start-up in 1976 to the world’s most valuable tech company. They did not provide any of the capital. Apple has tapped the public markets only once, in 1980, when its initial public offering raised $97-million (U.S.). In fact, taxpayers provided the lion’s share of the funding for many of the key inventions that are built into every Apple device.
(W)hat powers the iPad, iPhone and iPod? Lithium-ion batteries developed by the U.S. Department of Energy. How about the devices’ liquid-crystal display? That came from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense. The Internet, GPS, SIRI (the intelligent personal assistant used in Apple's operating system) and DRAM cache did not start life as Jobs’s back-of-the-envelope doodles. They came out of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and other government bodies.

Governments also supplied much of Apple’s brainpower. Thousands of its engineers and technicians have been recruited from the finest U.S. (and Canadian and British) universities. “Operating in the United States, Apple should recognize that the knowledge base on which its success has been built can be traced back to government investments,” said academics William Lazonick, Mariana Mazzucato and Öner Tulum in a 2013 paper titled “Apple’s Changing Business Model: What Should the World’s Richest Company Do with All Those Profits?”

The concept of imposing a special fat-profits tax on a single company is legally absurd and morally dubious, but the concept of imposing taxes on the supernormal profits of companies that benefit the most from government spending (such as those in the technology and defence industries) is not. - Kev points out how employers see even their own employees as disposable tools rather than people worthy of human dignity. And Yvonne Roberts discusses what economy built on that assumption means for far too many workers:
Entrepreneurship is the pulse of a thriving economy but, according to the thinktank the Resolution Foundation, one in four who, like Almond, became self-employed in the last five years would rather work for a boss; their situation is involuntary. As employers use ever more aggressive tactics to reduce labour costs and restrict  collective action, productivity is suffering and patterns of employment initially viewed as temporary are becoming permanent. The gap between the richest and the rest widens. This is not unique to the UK.
This story of wage stagflation and the working poor is just as applicable in Britain. Beyond chancellor George Osborne's talk of economic recovery, the stories are legion of families and communities across the whole of Britain who are only just managing to keep afloat.  No matter how often Osborne says it, it doesn't make it true. Large numbers of Britons are not in recovery. The gulf between those getting by and those getting on grows each month.

In the UK, as elsewhere, underemployment, a lack of investment in training and low pay are rife. Forty per cent of part-timers, mainly women, would like longer hours, according to one survey. At the same time, for many on low pay the last several years have seen the cost of living soar as their wage packet has shrunk.
 Huge income disparities and increased casualisation of the workforce also means higher costs for the taxpayer subsidising low wages. Research last year by Landman Economics showed that the cost to the exchequer of millions of workers paid less than the living wage – "wage dodging", as the GMB calls it – is £3.23bn a year in social security spending and lower tax receipts. In a paper published last month, academics Dr Lydia Hayes and Professor Tonia Novitz considered how the cake could be sliced more fairly. They say economic inequality was at its lowest when 58% of workers were in trade unions and 82% of wages were set by collective bargaining. By 2012, 26% of the workforce was in trade unions and only 23% covered by collective bargaining, while the gap between top earners and the lowest is higher than at any time since records began.

Among the recommendations Hayes and Novitz make is sectoral bargaining to set terms and conditions across particular industries, and the right for employees to join a union without repercussions. Other proposals from the High Pay Centre include worker representation on company boards, remuneration committees, a maximum pay ratio and a legally binding target for the reduction of inequality.- In a similar vein, Elise Gould and Frances O'Grady make the case for wage growth (and political and economic environments which put workers in a position to demand it) in the U.S. and the U.K. respectively.

- Nicholas Kristof discusses the appalling link between race and wealth inequality in the U.S. Josh Fullan and Josh Lorinc report on a program encouraging Toronto students to see how different their city looks at varying income levels. And the AP reports that 40 per cent of Michigan's households lack enough income to meet basic needs. (Which most of us see as a problem to be solved, with the notable exception of the Fraser Institute which claims that Michigan's anti-worker policies and consequent impoverishment of its citizens make for a goal to be pursued.)

- Finally, Jeffrey Simpson highlights the absurdity of Stephen Harper making yet another publicity tour of Canada's North while refusing to so much as acknowledge climate change which is radically altering the region.

Christy Clark's Liberals sacrifice BC children to protect Christy Clark's Liberals

Rusty Idols - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 08:47
School will start late in BC because the BC government wont agree to any deal with its teachers that doesn't give the government immunity from the Supreme Court for any consequences of its failure to bargain in good faith.

This government is sacrificing BC kids on the altar of protecting the BC Liberals from the consequences of their own misdeeds. Their blatant bad faith bargaining is going to end up costing millions of taxpayer dollars once the grievances finish winding through the arbitration process and they don't want to explain that to the voters.

When Fassbender proposed leaving grievances out of bargaining, and allowing the courts to settle the matter, he argued it would allow negotiations to focus on the key issues. Iker, however, dismissed that proposal after Saturday’s talks.
“Does the government really expect that teachers would bargain away everything the B.C. Supreme Court has already awarded us?” he wrote in a release. “And what future decisions might bring?”


Trapped In a Whirlpool - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 08:33
As I enjoy this Labour Day weekend I find my self reflecting on why I've become so strongly pro union.
Read more »

The Coldest-Ever Cold War?

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 08:31
When I stumbled across a report yesterday about NATO raising a 10,000 strong, standing "expeditionary force" and that Canada was interested in contributing soldiers, I thought, "oh Jeebus, not again."

The exped force is pretty obviously being created to respond to Russia.  That much is clear from its membership.  The countries providing the troops include Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia along with Norway, Denmark and Holland all under the command of Britain.  At the same time, Finland and Sweden are preparing to sign "host" agreements to permit NATO forces to operate in their countries. Finland is expected to join NATO and so too may Sweden, ditching the Swedes' historic neutrality.

This has got to be irresistible to the current management.  A standing army of the northern latitudes.  Air, land and sea units - perfect for an ice-free Arctic.  Let the coldest ever Cold War begin.

Then again, we have done this sort of deal before.  In the cemetery in Vladivostok are 14 Canadian war graves marking a long-forgotten military blunder Stephen Harper won't be rejoicing in celebrating.  It was called the Canadian Expeditionary Force (Siberia) and it too operated under overall British Command during the Siberian Intervention of 1918-1922.

Canada's 4-thousand troops, almost half of them conscripts, mainly stayed in Vladivostok and spent less than a year before being withdrawn.  Most of our allies - the UK, US, China, Japan, and Czechoslovakia - were gone a year later as it became clear the White Russians were finished.

Canada's first expeditionary force to Russia was something of a flop.  Perhaps the most notable event was a mutiny - on the streets of Victoria.  French-Canadian conscripts didn't quite get why they were being marched off to war in Russia but they were duly herded back into formation at bayonet point and loaded aboard their transport.  The errant soldiers were going to be charged with mutiny until the Canadian brass realized they probably lacked the authority to send conscripts to fight for Russia.

While the CEF(S) cost the lives of 14-Canadian soldiers in Siberia, almost all of them to disease, it claimed over 100 civilian lives in Victoria, B.C.   Research has discovered that the Siberia-bound troop trains brought the Spanish Flu to the west coast.

"humility is the foundation of all learning"

we move to canada - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 08:30
My grandmother had always referred to the universe as the Great Mystery.

"What does it mean?" I asked her once.

"It means all things."

"I don't understand."

She took my hand and sat me down on a rock at the water's edge. "We need mystery," she said, "Creator in her wisdom knew this. Mystery fills us with awe and wonder. They are the foundations of humility, and humility, grandson, is the foundation of all learning. So we do not seek to unravel this. We honour it by letting it be that way forever."

Richard Wagamese, Indian Horse (2013)

The Harper Tipping-point, Hope or Fear ?

kirbycairo - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 08:23
I tend to agree with Heather Mallick in her recent interesting (and surprisingly forthright) article on why people like Trudeau over Harper. And I agree with what many commentators (and most of the polls) suggest, that we have finally reached the tipping point of Harper's political currency. Outside of conditions of extreme nationalism and social turmoil, it is very difficult for any politician to maintain power and popularity with a political persona of anger, hate, fear, and extreme secretiveness. Harper's zenith was inevitable and we now have a confluence of events which are dragging the Con's political machine ever downward. This confluence consists of typical voter weariness, growing evidence that economic and social inequality is drastically increasing, clear signs that Harper and his cabal are not simply strategic in their negative/secretive political style but that their nastiness is at the very core of their political identity, the rise of a very likeable opponent in the person of Trudeau (and let's face it, regardless of one's political stripes Trudeau is a likeable public persona), ominous signs that an over-emphasis on oil extraction is not only environmentally dangerous but economically short-sighted, and (perhaps most importantly) a slowly percolating mood in the country that we have been sleep-walking through a kind of collective nightmare of a government that is actually trying to destroy the positive aspects of democracy, good-will, hope, and peacefulness, that many once thought defined our country.

But even as we teeter at the tipping-point, there are stormy clouds ahead. For one thing it appears that, in the face of political disaster, Harper is intent of dragging this country further into the dark waters of hate, fear, and violence. Deep inside, I believe that Harper is desperately courting war in any arena, as a strategy to stay in power. In what we might call the Falkland Island gambit, Harper is increasingly ramping up his war rhetoric in every part of his foreign policy and, I believe, really hopes that the nationalism and rhetoric of a war will do for him what the Falkland Islands did for Thatcher.

Another disturbing political development is found in the fact that Harper has created a classic political vacuum around him. Harper has surrounded himself with yes-men, flunkies, and Ministers who he knows cannot pose any kind of national competition to his power. Men like Baird, Kenney, and James Moore, Oliver, and Fantino, are all (for different reasons) probably unelectable as party leaders. Not only is Harper's growing unpopularity potentially fatal political baggage for anyone who was part of his cabinet, I believe that Harper has consciously chosen ministers with their own kinds of political baggage so that they cannot challenge him in the way that, say, Martin did with Chretien. This kind of political vacuum may only be bad news for the Conservative Party, but such vacuums often create political chaos that can engulf entire nations. I would never put it past Harper and his flunkies attempting a coup in the face of an electoral defeat and with nothing but yes-men around him, people whose political careers essentially depend upon Harper himself, there may be no dissenting voices among his own.

Any kind of tipping point creates interesting events. But the curse of living in interesting times is a very real possibility now. The question is will the Harper years end with a bang or a whimper??

Burger King Causes Indigestion

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 07:09

At least among the substantial numbers of Americans who appear to be taking grave exception to the burger emporium's tax dodge by merging with Tim Hortons. While Finance Minister Joe Oliver may crow about the success of our low corporate tax rates, American consumers are not nearly as sanguine about what many see as a corporate betrayal of the United States.

A sampling of the comments on Burger King's Facebook page is instructive of prevailing sentiments:

burger king crowned king of the tax dodgers! boycott!!!!!

As a veteran I encourage you to sponsor a bill that shuts down every single Burger King located on an American military installation in the U.S. And around the world and on other Govt property. I feel only companies that are headquartered in the U.S. Deserve to be able to conduct business on govt facilities. I find it very up unpatriotic that our service members who risk there lives would have these tax dodging companies located on their bases. I am very interested in your position on this matter Senator Nelson.

Say "NO" to tax dodgers!

I will Not eat any Cookies sold by any US Tax Cheats - Burger King will not get my fast food dollars - By not paying your fair share of U.S. tax - you will cost the Middle Class more in federal taxes every year - BoyCott BK!!!!!

And this, my personal favourite:

If the King flees to Canada, let's hope he gets his just deserts. Off with his traitorous tax-dodging head! If corporations are really people, this is a good time to execute one. Boycott the tax dodgers.Recommend this Post

The Petro Goose Is Getting Cooked

Northern Reflections - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 06:04


The oil industry has stopped laying golden eggs. Its profits are being squeezed. That news has not been widely reported. But, Andrew Nikiforuk writes, it has been hiding in plain sight on the U.S. Energy Administration website:

Last July the government agency, which has collected mundane statistics on energy matters for decades, quietly revealed that 127 of the world's largest oil and gas companies are running out of cash.

They are now spending more than they are earning. Profits have lagged as expenditures have risen. Overburdened by debt, these firms are selling assets.

The math is simple. The 127 firms generated $568 billion in cash from their operations during 2013-2014 while their expenses totalled $677 billion. To cover the difference of $110 billion, the energy giants increased their debt load or sold off assets.
The reason for the cash squeeze is that oil is harder to find and harder to get at:

Most companies are now investing in high-cost and high-risk projects to mine difficult hydrocarbons such as bitumen or shale oil, according to Carbon Tracker. Hydraulic fracturing, the land equivalent of ocean bottom trawling, adds to the cost of oil, too.

It's not only the firms deploying fracking that are racking up high debt loads. Chinese state-owned corporations, for example, plopped down $30 billion to develop junk crude in the oilsands over the last decade.
And the oil companies are making these investments as demand for oil is flattening:

But given that oil demand in places like Europe, the United States and Japan is flattening or declining, many analysts don't think that high-carbon, high-risk projects (which all need a $75 to $95 market price for oil to break even) make much economic sense in a carbon-constrained world.
Yet our present government has put all its eggs in the bitumen basket. This is a not government known for its foresight. Mr. Harper gave his full throated support to the American invasion of Iraq. That didn't work out so well. And he also didn't see the 2008 recession around the bend.

Others, however, saw this price squeeze -- and its economic consequences -- coming long ago:

Marion King Hubbert, a Shell geologist, predicted this development decades ago and presented the cultural conundrum clearly: "During the last two centuries we have known nothing but an exponential growth culture, a culture so dependent upon the continuance of exponential growth for its stability that is incapable of reckoning with problems of non-growth."
The petro goose is getting cooked.

Stephen Harper and the Monstrous Climate of Fear

Montreal Simon - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 04:02

As the Ukraine crisis continues to escalate, and so does the warlike rhetoric in Europe.

"It is the fact that Russia is in a war state against Ukraine. That means it is in a state of war against a country which would like to be closely integrated with the EU. Practically Russia is in a state of war against Europe."

I'm glad to see that Obama and others in the U.S. are pointing out, that if you want to avoid escalating the situation further, and avoid a potentially catastrophic superpower confrontation.

It's vitally important that you measure your words. 
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