Posts from our progressive community

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - il y a 1 heure 18 min
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Arjumand Siddiqi and Faraz Vahid Shahidi remind us how inequality and poverty are bad for everybody's health:
In Toronto, as elsewhere, the social determinants of health have suffered significant decline. As the report makes clear, the poorest among our city’s residents have borne the greatest portion of this burden.

These trends have affected the health of the poor in countless ways. They have constrained access to quality health care. They have increased susceptibility to harmful health-related behaviours, such as smoking. They have compromised the adequacy and stability of housing conditions. They have restricted access to nutritious foods. They have heightened exposures to daily experiences of stress and adversity that get under our skin and harm not only our minds but our bodies as well. In fact, what research has shown is that economic conditions underlie almost every pathway leading to almost every health outcome.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, despite a decade of public programs intended to promote health equity, the health status of the poorest Torontonians hasn’t improved. Given what we know about the social determinants of health, the persistence of health inequalities was entirely predictable.

At the heart of the issue are two important insights provided by our best available science. First, public health programs that are designed to encourage people to alter their lifestyles and behaviours simply do not address the myriad other associations between economic position and health status. Attempts to address any one problem do little to fundamentally interrupt the overall correlation. Second, because public health programs do not address the “causes of the causes,” they are incapable of stemming the tide of new individuals that develop poor health-related behaviours. No sooner has one cohort been exposed to a health promotion program than another cohort is ready and waiting. - But Dennis Gruending points out that the Cons' budget conspicuously avoids even mentioning poverty, let alone doing anything at all to reduce it. And Michal Rozworski notes that the Cons are merely continuing a pattern of destructive austerity.

- Meanwhile, Juliette Garside reports on the increase in wealth inequality in the UK. And Suzanne Daley points out that income-based fines and penalties can serve both to ensure that punishments are more fair, and that the enforcement of regulatory law slightly helps inequality generally.

- Andrew Mitrovica tells Benamar Benatta's story as a painful example of how individuals can get caught up in a Kafkaesque terror trap even absent the blanket secret police provisions the Cons want to impose through C-51. And APTN's report on two deaths in Winnipeg offers another example of law enforcement running amok, in this case be seizing media cameras without a warrant.

- Finally, Jesse Myerson offers some suggestions as to how to respond to public protests.

A Contemptible, Arrogant Martinet

Politics and its Discontents - il y a 3 heures 36 min
The other day I wrote a post about the resurrection of Bill C-377, the Harper backed private member's bill that would wage war against unions in Canada. Toward the end of the post I made reference to Senator Don Plett's arrogant dismissal of witness Paul Cavalluzzo during Senate hearings on the bill after the latter suggested Conservative senators are probably the last people who should be lecturing anyone about corruption and transparency.

Plett insulted the witness by telling him he considered “your time and my time to have been wasted with you here today not answering my questions.” saying that he had wasted everyone's time.

Press Progress offers this video of the exchange:



As you can see, the pompous and arrogant Plett sanctimoniously offers himself and the Senate as exemplars of fiscal rectitude and transparency. To this, Press Progress responds:
The Senate is transparent? The Senate isn't corrupt? Really, Senator Plett?

Last year, Conservative Senators reportedly tried to whitewash an audit of Mike Duffy's expenses, deleting paragraphs detailing Senator Duffy's attempt to dodge auditors and hide his expenses.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson is slated to release what is expected to be a damning report on Senate expenses. At least 40 current and former senators recently received letters from Ferguson asking them to account for questionable expense claims. Several senators are said to have expensed over $100,000 with one reportedly billing taxpayers to the tune of $250,000.

Senator Plett himself appears to be among the Senate's highest rollers -- a CBC investigation in 2014 found Plett had the second highest expenses in the Senate, billing taxpayers over $12,000 (mainly for first-class air travel) during one five-week period in 2012 while the Senate was debating suspending Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau.Arrogance in public servants is always profoundly distasteful. When it is practised by pompous and contemptible martinets like Plett, it is intolerable.


Recommend this Post

Stephen Harper and the Insanity of the Con Regime

Montreal Simon - il y a 4 heures 35 sec


As Stephen Harper continues his desperate struggle to snatch another bloody majority there can be no doubt that the stress is getting to him.

And one can't help get the feeling that the voices in his head are now screaming at each other.

For one moment he is a Great Warrior Leader, and the next moment he's Great Gentle Leader. The Mother of the Nation and the Great Protector of Children.

And now it seems the leading voice in his head is telling him: why not be BOTH?

At the same time. 
Read more »

Another Murder-Suicide

Fat and Not Afraid - il y a 4 heures 8 min

I was unsurprised earlier this week to read a headline at the Huffington Post Canada site that a man in Saskatchewan had murdered his girlfriend LaTasha Gosling and three of four of their kids. Completely and utterly unsurprised. Violence against women and children is an epidemic on my planet so these headlines no longer surprise me. I barely even get angry any more when I see the faces of the victims in the news. I mean, it's not like women aren't raped or murdered by their partners or someone known to them, in every country, at every socioeconomic level, every day. Every day. It's just another day for us; it's getting too easy to read the headlines and say "I'm just glad it wasn't me".

transfeminist rainbow first

Before any of the details of the relationship between the victims and their murderer was released I called it; "Let me guess", I said in HuffPo comment on the original story, "they recently broke up, and in a rage of 'If I can't have you, noone can!' idiocy, the coward in question murdered his girlfriend and her three children from the previous marriage, then killed himself." I did call it. It was later revealed by a friend of LaTasha's that indeed, she and the murderer had broken up a few days earlier, at LaTasha's insistence. He not only killed her and her kids, but took photos of their bodies and sent them via text to the cell of LaTasha's ex and the children's father. This didnt' surprise me either, honestly. It's sick and twisted but it's also perfectly in tune with a guy who would murder four people, three of them under the age of ten, because of a break up.What a selfish, entitled asshole.

The only surprise in this whole thing was for me that he spared the baby, a six month old girl, and drove her 130km away from the scene to leave her with someone else before he killed himself in that person's home. I guess blood IS thicker than water. That wee child is an orphan now, but thankfully too young to remember any of the carnage.

To be honest I'm not even sure why I wanted to write about this. Maybe I just wanted to point out that even in Canada, a country with such a good reputation, shit like this still happens. It happens a lot more if you're a First Nations woman, or poor, or a person of colour. I think also I don't want that family to be forgotten. It's only been three days since the story broke but it took me nearly five minutes of searching the CBC website to find an article to refresh my memory. The ache of loss, the horror of it, will resonate within LaTasha's family and friends for the rest of their life.

Things like this shouldn't be so common place that I can scroll past them without bothering to read it, knowing already what's inside; the same dark tale told a hundred thousand times and always written in blood.

LaTasha Gosling, 27.

Her children include two girls, Janyaa, 4, and Jenika, 8, and a boy, Landen, 7.

May they rest in peace, and may their killer recieve the punishment he deserves in the Afterlife, whatever that may be.

It Deserves A Horse Laugh

Northern Reflections - il y a 5 heures 37 min

                                                     http://www.macleans.ca/

The tabling of the budget last week signalled the beginning of the election campaign.  A careful reading of the document makes clear that Stephen Harper's election strategy will be rooted in deceit. Michael Harris wrote:

Still, no one should be surprised. This misbegotten government’s modus operandi is about much more than information control. It’s about soaring, jet-propelled skullduggery in a never-ending political campaign. It’s a power fantasy. It’s Steve’s way.

Armed with his narrative of convenience, Harper programs the electorate with fictions of prosperity, compassion and prudence. In the real world, he acts quite differently. There, he underfunds Coast Guard stations, veterans’ offices, First Nations tribal councils, railway inspections, scientific research and Employment Insurance processing.
Mr. Oliver's budget is full of the new math -- the kind that doesn't add up:

Numbers have a wonderfully elastic quality to them; like Harper cabinet ministers, they say what they’re told to say. Numbers are the favourite tool of fraudsters and politicians alike. One swindles money, the other swindles votes.

Under the old system, the minister assumed an unchanged price for oil over five years in making his projections. But Joe Oliver, viewing the resource landscape through rose-coloured bifocals, is predicting that the price of oil will increase in each of the next five years.

No matter what he says, the minister can’t see into the future. For us to believe his revenue forecast, we have to blind ourselves to some obvious facts. There’s a price war going on in the oil industry. Key producers are turning on the taps to put weaker players with a costlier product out of business. Major producers like Saudi Arabia are also hedging against any softening of long-term demand for their product — because of a working climate change treaty, for example. The last thing they want is to create a situation where demand diminishes or disappears well ahead of supply. The fastest way to diminish demand is to make oil so expensive that it encourages the rapid development not only of costlier product — like tar sands bitumen or fracked oil — but of renewables, like solar.
But besides the convenient oil calculations, there are all kinds of other examples of sleight of hand:

He didn’t, for example, explain that the government is effectively abandoning infrastructure investment until 2017, at which point it proposes to come across with chump change. He didn’t mention the national yard sale the Harper government has been running to funnel public asset value towards balancing the books. (Selling an asset to balance a budget isn’t good management. It’s desperation.)

The final item of fiscal trickery in the budget was almost too brazen to imagine. Oliver slyly waited for the new fiscal year before bringing down his budget — and promptly dumped the government’s last remaining shares it held in General Motors as a result of the 2009 auto bailout.

This allowed Oliver to use $2.1 billion to help balance the budget. It was the most expensive $2.1 billion any Canadian government ever made, given that it imposed a $3.5 billion loss on taxpayers in Canada and Ontario. Market analysts thought it was a bad time to sell. Even the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge pointed out to Oliver that had he waited just two more weeks to sell, Canada would have received an extra $100,000,000 for the shares. Prudent fiscal management — or just another costly bonbon for Goldman Sachs, the buyer?
Sound fiscal management? You bet. If there ever was a budget that deserved a horse laugh, this it it.

Just one personal note: My mother died on Friday. She died as she had lived: determined to cling to life as she became increasingly fragile. She was, as Dan Ackroyd said of Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy, a doodle. And now she's free.

We'll be away for a couple of days this week to attend her funeral.

Rona Ambrose and the Great Con War on Marijuana

Montreal Simon - il y a 7 heures 49 min


You might think that the Harper regime had annoyed the people of Vancouver  enough recently, with their slow response to the oil spill in English Bay.

And their outrageous claims that it was a "world class" operation.

But no, apparently not. Because now after James Moore's world class buffoon act.

Here comes that other Con clown Rona Ambrose, to declare that the real threat to the city is the KILLER WEED !!!!
Read more »

404 country not found

Dawg's Blawg - sam, 04/25/2015 - 10:39
I kept meaning to write about the events going on around Greek membership in the Eurozone, but events kept happening so often that the post that I usually write first in my head kept getting out of date. And... Mandos http://politblogo.typepad.com/

What you know in the PMO

accidentaldeliberations - sam, 04/25/2015 - 08:29
Obviously, the revelation that Mike Duffy saw his job in the Senate as including a role as a publicly-funded lobbyist for the climate denial movement raises a whole new set of questions about the Cons' misuse of public resources. And if, say Enbridge is being at all honest in its own public spin, Stephen Harper was well aware of what was going on:
Duffy's conversations with Enbridge officials [between January and June 2012] aren't listed in the company's lobbying registrations. However, in an email to CBC News, Enbridge's vice-president of enterprise communications called those conversations "unsolicited."

"Senator Duffy made a number of unsolicited contacts to Enbridge representatives offering advice regarding Northern Gateway, as well as to recommend that Enbridge consider hiring his communications colleague, Bill Rodgers. I personally interviewed Mr. Rodgers but elected not to retain him," D'Arcy Levesque said through a spokesman.

"At no time did Enbridge solicit Senator Duffy's help to lobby the federal government. In the interest of clarity, we also took the extra step to notify the Prime Minister's Office at the time, that Senator Duffy did not represent Enbridge or our interests."That, of course, would be the same Prime Minister's Office which continued to defend Duffy at every turn for a year and a half afterward. So it's well worth asking what it did - and didn't do - to follow up if it had been warned far earlier that Duffy was misusing his position.

From beyond the grave

accidentaldeliberations - sam, 04/25/2015 - 07:33
Andrew Coyne wants to pretend we shouldn't worry what legislation gets passed by the Harper Cons on the theory that there's absolutely nothing stopping a future elected government from reversing course.

Which means it's a good thing there's no antiquated, undemocratic chamber of Parliament where regardless of the results of any federal election, a Conservative majority will continue to hold the power to unilaterally negate the decisions of elected representatives.

Oh, wait.

Meanwhile, Back At Campaign Central

Politics and its Discontents - sam, 04/25/2015 - 06:18
Hate campaign, that is. True to form, the Harper regime wasted no time in denouncing the decision to release Omar Khadr on bail pending his appeal. And in addition to playing to their rabid base, they took the opportunity to excoriate both Trudeau and Mulcair with some verbal prestidigitation:




Meanwhile, Thomas Walkom offers a good analysis of the government's strategy:
Conservative Roxanne James, [seen in the above video] the government’s designated spokesperson, said Ottawa opposes Khadr’s release because he has been convicted of “heinous crimes.”

What she should have said is that, in the lead-up to this fall’s election, the Conservatives hope to use the Khadr affair as a political wedge issue.A polarizing figure since his arrest in Afghanistan, the former child soldier is viewed in rather absolutist terms by the Canadian public. There are those who believe he is an inveterate terrorist who deserves no mercy, while others see him as a victim of his parents' jihadist zeal and a political football very useful when governments want to vent their demagogic spleen and manipulate the masses.
He is, in short, a perfect political vehicle for a Conservative prime minister hoping to use crime and national security as defining elements in the election campaign.Khadr's political usefulness began with the Americans:
The Americans, meanwhile, were desperate to have their much-maligned military tribunal system score a judicial victory. Khadr seemed to fit the bill. The U.S. had already decided to ignore the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan. Instead, captives like Khadr would be labelled “unlawful combatants” and accorded none of the usual rights of soldiers at war.Not far behind, the Canadian government picked up the ball:
... by then, Harper had discovered Khadr’s political usefulness. The organizations that the Conservative base loves to hate — including human rights groups, liberal churches and lawyers — were all clamouring for Ottawa to bring Khadr home, where he could have a chance at parole.

So the prime minister resisted. The more the critics clamoured, the more strident his resistance became.

Last year, the Conservatives castigated Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for suggesting that Khadr be treated fairly.Clearly, in contrast to the take-no-prisoners approach the Conservatives usually employ in their politicking for the hearts of Canadians, they are making an exception for Omar Khadr.Recommend this Post

Turnabout Is Fair Play

Politics and its Discontents - sam, 04/25/2015 - 05:45
Thanks to Ed Tanas for bringing the following to my attention:

Taking its cue from the Conservative Party, the Liberals Party is attempting to turn the tables on reckless, unjustified and overtly partisan political ads masquerading simply as useful public information (meted out to the public at taxpayer expense, of course).



The Liberals said people are angry about what they view as wasteful government spending, and they wanted to remind Canadians how much the Tories have spent since 2006.

“After 10 years, Stephen Harper thinks he owns the government — he doesn’t. The people of Canada do,” Liberal party spokesman Olivier Duchesneau said.

The party would not disclose how much they are spending on the limited Stanley Cup playoff ad buy.
As usual, the government is showing its egregious contempt for the intelligence of the public:
The Conservative government defended the spending.

“Advertising is a key way for the government to inform Canadians about important issues such as tax credits and public health issues," said Stephanie Rea, spokeswoman for Treasury Board President Tony Clement.Let's hope the above whopper sets everyone's spider sense tingling. Recommend this Post

How Progressives Can Engage Young Canadians in the Election Campaign

Montreal Simon - sam, 04/25/2015 - 04:37


When Joe Oliver made his outrageous statement about leaving Harper's granddaughter's generation to pay for the Con's revenue killing tax policies, he only said it because he thought he could get away with it.

Because he knows, like we all do, that a lot of young Canadians don't bother to vote.

And it is fashionable in this aging country to blame the young for that troubling democratic deficit.

But as the crusty Globe editorialists point out, all political parties must also share the blame for not making a serious effort to appeal to them, or involve them in the political process 
Read more »

The Liberals Strike Back at the Con's Porky Action Ads

Montreal Simon - ven, 04/24/2015 - 22:02


Stephen Harper and his  Cons have spent almost a billion dollars of our tax dollars on their Porky Action Ads. 

It's the most outrageous mass brainwashing project this country and any other modern democracy has ever seen.

One you can't escape because those ads are EVERYWHERE. 

And although they are riddled with lies and nothing but partisan propaganda, they are helping the Cons stay competitive, despite their appalling economic record.

So I'm glad to see that one of the progressive parties has finally struck back...
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Omar Khadr, the "James Bond of Jihad", is granted bail.

Creekside - ven, 04/24/2015 - 21:02

National Post : "One way or another, Omar Khadr will soon be a free man.
On Friday, moments after judge J.M. Ross of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta granted the 28-year-old Toronto native bail from an Edmonton-area jail pending appeal of his war crimes conviction in the United States, the government announced — as predictably as day follows night — that it would appeal."
The government did not argue that Khadr posed any danger to Canada but rather that his release would show disrespect for the US justice system.     
It's difficult for those of us who are relatively sane to appreciate the pants-pissing opportunistic hysteria Omar Khadr apparently provokes in those who are not.

Two years ago, the office of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews tacked a few additional "terrorism" charges onto Omar Khadr's Canadian file that were not in his original conviction based on a *confession* written by the prosecution at the discredited Guantánamo Bay military tribunal :
"Ottawa’s file on Omar Khadr contains faulty information based on a memo prepared by a senior policy analyst for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews ... Among other things, the government alleges the late terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden was an accomplice of a 15-year-old Khadr, and that the Canadian citizen killed two Afghan militia men.You following along here?  -  the Canadian Public Safety Minister thinks Osama bin Laden was the accomplice of a 15 year old!

“Mr. Khadr engaged U.S. military and coalition personnel with small-arms fire, killing two members of the Afghan militia force. He threw and/or fired grenades at nearby coalition forces, resulting in numerous injuries to them.”Presumably the Ministry of Public Safety's laughable embellishments were garnered from Ezra Levant's appalling book, The Enemy Within: Terror, Lies, and the Whitewashing of Omar Khadr, published the previous year in 2012. Some selections : 
Levant describes the 16-year-old GWOT political prisoner as "the James Bond of Jihad", "the biggest, smartest, most deadly fish in a pond teeming with the most vicious, depraved men on Earth", "a degenerate Agent 007," and a “psychopathic” “degenerate” “gangster,” “deranged … every bit as demented as Paul Bernardo, Canada’s infamous schoolgirl serial killer” who "gave himself a licence to kill Americans and Jews." 
He wrote that Khadr's - as yet still unproven in any reputable court - act of throwing a grenade was part of his plan to rise to the top of AlQaida and become the "biggest, most brutal Godfather ever" and the "top dog of terror".
It's unhinged. 
How, as Boris is wont to ask, did we ever allow ourselves to be governed by such vile, vindictive, tawdry, incompetent, opportunistic fools?
More from Montreal Simon.
The silver lining for Khadr is that upon his release, after the government has exhausted all legal means of betraying common decency, he will be living with his lawyer Dennis Edney.I know -you've seen Edney's 2010 speech before as I like to post it once a year as a reminder of what actual common decency looks like. Edney : "We cannot rely upon governments or others to help us make society better. Each and every one of us has to be our own leader.".

Winnicki Donates to Free Dominion's Warman Appeal: Part II

Anti-Racist Canada - ven, 04/24/2015 - 19:43
There are a few things in life that are predictable.
Death. Taxes. And Tomasz Winnicki will respond to a blog post in which he is explicitly referred to.
A few days ago we had noted that Winnicki had made a donation to the Fourniers' legal fund established to appeal the defamation suit they had lost. As a result of having been found to have defamed Richard Warman, the Fourniers/Free Dominion and two other posters were assessed a considerable penalty. We mentioned that the Fourniers had yet to repudiate the donation at that time, though we suggested we would give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they hadn't heard of Tom Winnicki (though he did post on their forum occasionally if memory serves; he may or may not have been banned) or perhaps they had not yet noticed his contribution. Certainly they wouldn't take money from someone like Tomasz Winnicki if they knew better, would they?
Though we did send a link to the article to the Fourniers via twitter, we didn't expect to hear from them regarding the matter. We were sure that we would eventually hear from Tommy.
And we did hear from him.

The first one in response to a comment Winnicki made regarding his belief that it should be perfectly fine for underage children to engage in sexting and for any accompanying harassment that might follow isn't exactly germane to his contributions to the Free Dominion legal fund, but it does say a great deal about a man who still lives at home with his elderly mother and who will be turning 40 in November. But he soon does get to the main point:Read more »

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - ven, 04/24/2015 - 17:51
Little May - Boardwalks (Sonny Alven Remix)

Omar Khadr and the Grubby Con Hogs

Montreal Simon - ven, 04/24/2015 - 16:11


Over the last eight years I have written almost a hundred posts about the case of Omar Khadr, Canada's child soldier.

For I consider it one of the greatest cases of injustice in the history of this country, a shameful episode that should haunt us forever.

So you can imagine how I felt today when I read that he may finally be free. 
Read more »

The Struggle Ahead for a Decent Future for our Youth

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 04/24/2015 - 13:16

It's sometimes hard to read a Henry Giroux essay without coming away feeling like you've been dragged into a dark alley and bludgeoned.  In his latest essay, this American intellectual explores what we've allowed ourselves to become, how we've been complicit in our own orchestrated economic, social and political degradation.  Brace yourself.

"The danger is that a global, universally interrelated civilization may produce barbarians from its own midst by forcing millions of people into conditions which, despite all appearances, are the conditions of savages."

- Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
 (1951)Following Hannah Arendt, a dark cloud of political and ethical ignorance has descended on the United States. Thoughtlessness has become something that now occupies a privileged, if not celebrated, place in the political landscape and the mainstream cultural apparatuses. A new kind of infantilism now shapes daily life as adults gleefully take on the role of unthinking children and children are taught to be adults, stripped of their innocence and subject to a range of disciplinary pressures designed to cripple their ability to be imaginative.Under such circumstances, agency devolves into a kind of anti-intellectual cretinism evident in the babble of banality produced by Fox News, celebrity culture, schools modeled after prisons and politicians who support creationism, argue against climate change and denounce almost any form of reason. The citizen now becomes a consumer; the politician, a slave to corporate money and power; and the burgeoning army of anti-public intellectuals in the mainstream media present themselves as unapologetic enemies of anything that suggests compassion, a respect for the commons and democracy itself.

Education is no longer a public good but a private right, just as critical thinking is no longer a fundamental necessity for creating an engaged and socially responsible citizenship. Neoliberalism's disdain for the social is no longer a quote made famous by Margaret Thatcher. The public sphere is now replaced by private interests, and unbridled individualism rails against any viable notion of solidarity that might inform the vibrancy of struggle, change, and an expansion of an enlightened and democratic body politic.


...Under market fundamentalism, there is a separation of market values, behavior and practices from ethical considerations and social costs giving rise to a growing theater of cruelty and abuse throughout North America. Public spheres that once encouraged progressive ideas, enlightened social policies, democratic values, critical dialogue and exchange have been increasingly commercialized. Or, they have been replaced by corporate settings whose ultimate fidelity is to increasing profit margins and producing a vast commercial and celebrity culture "that tends to function so as to erase everything that matters." Since the 1980s, the scale of human suffering, immiseration and hardship has intensified, accompanied by a theater of cruelty in which violence, especially the daily spectacle of Black men being brutalized or killed by the police, feeds the 24-hour news cycle. The tentacles of barbarism appear to be reaching into every aspect of daily life. Domestic terrorism has come home and it increasingly targets the young.

Given these conditions, an overwhelming catalogue of evidence has come into view that indicates that nation-states organized by neoliberal priorities have implicitly declared war on their children, offering a disturbing index of societies in the midst of a deep moral and political catastrophe. Too many young people today live in an era of foreclosed hope, an era in which it is difficult either to imagine a life beyond the dictates of a market-driven society or to transcend the fear that any attempt to do so can only result in a more dreadful nightmare.

Youth today are not only plagued by the fragility and uncertainty of the present; they are "the first post war generation facing the prospect of downward mobility [in which the] plight of the outcast stretches to embrace a generation as a whole." It is little wonder that "these youngsters are called Generation Zero: A generation with Zero opportunities, Zero future" and Zero expectations. Or to use Guy Standing's term, "the precariat," which he defines as "a growing proportion of our total society" forced to "accept a life of unstable labour and unstable living."


...The war on youth emerged when the social contract, however compromised and feeble, came crashing to the ground around the time Margaret Thatcher "married" Ronald Reagan. Both were hard-line advocates of a market fundamentalism, and announced respectively that there was no such thing as society and that government was the problem, not the solution to citizens' woes. Within a short time, democracy and the political process were hijacked by corporations and the call for austerity policies became cheap copy for weakening the welfare state, public values and public goods. The results of this emerging neoliberal regime included a widening gap between the rich and the poor, a growing culture of cruelty and the dismantling of social provisions. One result has been that the promise of youth has given way to an age of market-induced angst, and a view of many young people as a threat to short-term investments, privatization, untrammeled self-interest and quick profits.

Under such circumstances, all bets are off regarding the future of democracy. Besides a growing inability to translate private troubles into social issues, what is also being lost in the current historical conjuncture is the very idea of the public good, the notion of connecting learning to social change and developing modes of civic courage infused by the principles of social justice. Under the regime of a ruthless economic Darwinism, we are witnessing the crumbling of social bonds and the triumph of individual desires over social rights, nowhere more exemplified than in the gated communities, gated intellectuals and gated values that have become symptomatic of a society that has lost all claims to democracy or for that matter any modestly progressive vision for the future.


Giroux continues with a discourse on the "soft" and "hard" war being waged by neoliberals on North American youth.
In Canada, one child in six lives in poverty, but for Aboriginal and immigrant children that figure rises to 25 percent or more, respectively. By all accounts, the rate of incarceration for Aboriginal youth - already eight times higher than for non-Aboriginal youth - will continue to skyrocket as a result of the Harper government's so-called Safe Streets and Community Act, which emulates the failed policies of the US system by, among other things, strengthening requirements to detain and sentence more youth to custody in juvenile detention centers. Surely one conclusion that can be drawn from the inquest into the tragic suicide of 19-year-old Ashley Smith, who spent five years of her life in and out of detention facilities, is that incarceration for young people can be equivalent to a death sentence.

...Politics and power are now on the side of lawlessness as is obvious in the state's endless violations of civil liberties, freedom of speech and most constitutional rights, mostly done in the name of national security. Lawlessness now wraps itself in government dictates. In Canada, it is evident in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's support for Bill C-51, an anti-terrorist bill that further limits civil rights through a pedagogy of fear and racist demonization. It is also apparent in the United Sates in such policies as the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, the Military Commissions Act and a host of other legal illegalities. These would include the right of the president "to order the assassination of any citizen whom he considers allied with terrorists."

...Current protests among young people in the United States, Canada and elsewhere in the world make clear that demonstrations are not - indeed, cannot be - only a short-term project for reform. Young people need to enlist all generations to develop a truly global political movement that is accompanied by the reclaiming of public spaces, the progressive use of digital technologies, the development of new public spheres, the production of new modes of education and the safeguarding of places where democratic expression, new civic values, democratic public spheres, new modes of identification and collective hope can be nurtured and developed. A formative culture must be put in place pedagogically and institutionally in a variety of spheres extending from churches and public and higher education to all those cultural apparatuses engaged in the production of collective knowledge, desire, identities and democratic values.

The struggles here are myriad and urgent and point to the call for a living wage, food security, accessible education, jobs programs (especially for the young), the democratization of power, economic equality and a massive shift in funds away from the machinery of war and big banks. Any collective struggle that matters has to embrace education as the center of politics and the source of an embryonic vision of the good life outside of the imperatives of unfettered "free-market" capitalism. In addition, too many progressives and people on the left are stuck in the discourse of foreclosure and cynicism and need to develop what Stuart Hall calls a "sense of politics being educative, of politics changing the way people see things."


...The issue of who gets to define the future, share in the nation's wealth, shape the parameters of the social state, steward and protect the globe's resources and create a formative culture for producing engaged and socially responsible citizens is no longer a rhetorical issue. This challenge offers up new categories for defining how matters of representation, education, economic justice and politics are to be defined and fought over. This is a difficult task, but what we are seeing in cities such as Chicago, Athens, Quebec, Paris, Madrid and other sites of massive inequality throughout the world is the beginning of a long struggle for the institutions, values and infrastructures that make communities the center of a robust, radical democracy. I realize this sounds a bit utopian, but we have few choices if we are going to struggle for a future that does a great deal more than endlessly repeat the present. We may live in dark times, but as Slavoj Žižek rightly insists, "The only realist option is to do what appears impossible within this system. This is how the impossible becomes possible."

You'll Never See Vlad Putin the Same Way Again

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 04/24/2015 - 12:22
If there's one guy who doesn't get any slack from the Western media, it's Russian strongman, Vlad Putin.  We vilify Putin at every turn and, while he certainly brings some of it down on himself, we make sure to depict ourselves as the guys in the white hats while we heap scorn on him.

It's time to reset our compass and there's no one better to do that than Princeton prof Stephen F. Cohen who has been involved with post-Soviet Russia since he served as an advisor to George H.W. Bush during the fall of East Germany. According to Cohen, Putin is as much our creation as his own.

As Russia’s leader, Putin has changed over the years, especially in foreign policy but also at home. His first impulse was toward more free-market reforms, anti-progressive taxes. He enacted a 13 percent flat tax—Steve Forbes would’ve been ecstatic, right? He offers [George W.] Bush what Clinton never really offered Yeltsin: a full partnership. And what does he do? On September 11, 2001, he called George and said, Whatever you want, we’re with you. Bush says, Well, I think we’re going to have to go to war in Afghanistan. And Putin said, I can help you. We’ve got major resources and assets in Afghanistan. I even have an army over there called the Northern Alliance. I’ll give it to you! You want overflight? It’s all yours!

How many American lives did Putin save during our land war in Afghanistan? And do you know what a political price he paid in Russia for that? Because his security people were completely against it.

...Oh, yeah. You think they minded seeing America being brought to its knees? They’d been invaded so often; let America get a taste of it! But Putin assumes he’s achieved what Yeltsin couldn’t and that this benefits the Russian state. He has a real strategic partnership with America. Now, remember, he’s already worried about his radical Islamic problem because Russia has nearly 20 million Muslim citizens of its own. Russia sits in the East and in the West; it’s on the front lines.

What does Bush give him in return? He expands NATO again and he unilaterally withdraws the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the bedrock of Russia’s nuclear security— it’s a complete betrayal. Is that how you repay somebody who’s helped you save the lives of your citizens? This is where the word “betrayal” begins to enter into the discourse.

...I’ve heard him called, among right-wing Russian intellectuals, an appeaser of the West. Soft. You can hear this today: Mariupol? Odessa? Should’ve taken them a year ago; they belong to us. What’s he thinking? Why is he discussing it? [Mariupol and Odessa are two contested cities in the southeastern region of Ukraine.]

So Putin sets his course, and then comes this famous speech he gives in 2007 in Munich, with McCain sitting in the front row. Putin says just what I told you. He says, Look, we want to be your partner; this is what we’ve wanted to be since Gorbachev. We believe in the common European home. But every time we turn to you or we negotiate with you or we think we have an agreement with you, you act like a hegemon and everybody has to do exactly what you say if they want to to be on your side.

Putin has come to tell them that America is risking a new Cold War with more than a decade of bad behavior towards post-Soviet Russia. John McCain interprets this as the declaration of a new Cold War.
Cohen argues that America is massively damaging its own national security by its bellicose approach to Putin over Ukraine.
I think the Ukranian crisis is the greatest blow to American national security— even greater than the Iraq war in its long-term implications— for a simple reason: The road to American national security still runs through Moscow. There is not a single major regional or issue-related national security problem we can solve without the full cooperation of whoever sits in the Kremlin, period, end of story.

Name your poison: We’re talking the Middle East, we’re talking Afghanistan, we’re talking energy, we’re talking climate, we’re talking nuclear proliferation, terrorism, shooting airplanes out of the sky, we’re talking about the two terrorist brothers in Boston.

Look: I mean American national security of the kind I care about—that makes my kids and grandkids and myself safe—in an era that’s much more dangerous than the Cold War because there’s less structure, more nonstate players, and more loose nuclear know-how and materials…. Security can only be partial, but that partial security depends on a full-scale American-Russian cooperation, period. We are losing Russia for American national security in Ukraine as we talk, and even if it were to end tomorrow Russia will never, for at least a generation, be as willing to cooperate with Washington on security matters as it was before this crisis began.

Therefore, the architects of the American policy towards Russia and Ukraine are destroying American national security—and therefore I am the patriot and they are the saboteurs of American security. That’s the whole story, and any sensible person who doesn’t suffer from Putin-phobia can see it plainly.
...The truth is, not everything depends on the president of the United States. Not everything, but an awful lot does, and when it comes to international affairs we haven’t really had a president who acted as an actual statesman in regard to Russia since Reagan in 1985-88. Clinton certainly didn’t; his Russia policy was clownish and ultimately detrimental to U.S. national security interests. Bush’s was reckless and lost one opportunity after another, and Obama’s is either uninformed or completely out to lunch. We have not had a statesman in the White House when it comes to Russia since Reagan, and I am utterly, totally, 1000 percent convinced that before November 2013, when we tried to impose an ultimatum on Yanukovych—and even right now, today—that a statesman in the White House could end this in 48 hours with Putin. What Putin wants in the Ukraine crisis is what we ought to want; that’s the reality.
Maybe it's time we realized that the West, led by an increasingly bellicose Permanent Warfare State, has some fence-mending to do for our sake as much as anyone's.  

This Deserves To Be Watched Regularly Until October

Politics and its Discontents - ven, 04/24/2015 - 11:50
Journalist Michael Harris (Party of One) recently appeared on Steve Paikin's TVO show, The Agenda. People should watch this on a regular basis to be reminded regularly of Stephen Harper's anti-democratic and contemptuous ways.

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