Posts from our progressive community

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - il y a 6 heures 39 min
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Thomas Walkom writes that the federal Libs' idea of "real change" for the economy reflects nothing more than the same old stale neoliberal playbook:
At its core, the federal government’s “bold” new plan for economic growth is strikingly familiar.

The scheme, worked out by Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s hand-picked advisory panel, relies on privatization, deregulation, public-private partnerships and user fees.

It would reserve profitable public infrastructure for the private sector but have governments alone foot the bill for those schemes — such as environmental remediation and First Nations projects — that are destined to lose money.

It would have the government set up a new agency to convince foreign investors that Canada is open for business.
The panel, if I understand it correctly, thinks it insufficient to simply have the government borrow money at rock-bottom interest rates in order to build the things that need to be built.

Rather, it wants private capital to build and own, in whole or in part, these new infrastructure projects.

To make ownership worthwhile to private investors, the government would “attach revenue streams” to both new projects and to some already in existence.

Simply put, this means figuring out way to let private participants reap profits from, say, a bridge or subway line.

This is an old strategy. It is the one that underlies, for example, Ontario’s Highway 407, a toll road built with money raised by the provincial government and owned by private-sector operators.

It is also the strategy behind the current Ontario Liberal government’s baffling plan to sell off most of Hydro One, the provincial electricity transmission monopoly.
The problem with privatization is that it usually ends up costing consumers more. Various auditors general around the world, including Ontario’s, have made that point when examining public-private partnerships. - Michael Harris warns Justin Trudeau about the dangers of breaking his most important promises (in terms of public cynicism as well as partisan outcomes), while Tom Parkin notes that we shouldn't be surprised to see the Libs once again taking progressive support for granted. The Star's editorial board argues that it's particularly important to keep commitments to accountable government, while Dene Moore reports that indigenous leaders are rightly calling out Trudeau's year of failures. And Karl Nerenberg calls Trudeau out for personally undermining his own promise of electoral reform.

- But if there's anything worse than breaking one-time promises, it's a government's inclination to approach all problems from an anti-social perspective - and Lib Finance Minister Bill Morneau's declaration that workers should settle for precarious lives looks particularly telling on that front. Meanwhile, Peter Armstrong reports on the fading prospects for retirement among younger generations of workers.

- Steven Pressman argues that income inequality should be the core test for the U.S.' next president, while Kate Pickett reminds us why it remains a vital issue everywhere.

- Finally, Sam Pizzigati proposes a minimum base tax rate on the wealthy to help rein in inequality at both ends of the income spectrum.

The Art Of The Deal: A Guest Post By John B.

Politics and its Discontents - il y a 8 heures 14 min

In response to yesterday's post about free trade, John B. provided a detailed commentary that derves a separate posting. Below is what he wrote:

Are any Canadians asking?

I find the current tap dance we are witnessing reminiscent of the public displays of angst and pretense of desperation by Mulroney and Burney a generation ago over the possibility that the Canada-US deal was in peril because of American apprehension. I've always believed that we were the unwitting dupes of a ruse designed to seduce an uninformed public into assuming, without any further analysis and consideration of what it would occasion that, because a negotiating and simultaneously competing business partner had some reservations, the deal must certainly be much more beneficial to Canada than to its supposedly hesitant deal partner at whose expense the anticipated benefit was to be achieved.

On Saturday when I met up socially with a couple of old acquaintances, both university-educated persons, one of them initiated a discussion of the current CETA situation. They're not people who are generally uninformed: one has an honours degree in history; and the other is a retired police chief. Before I had said anything on the subject, one of them introduced a conversation expressing his displeasure that an insignificant region of a country that had been freed from oppression by Canadian efforts during the Second World War would dare to obstruct an enterprise beneficial to Canadian interests. As my grade eight history teacher would have said: "Shades of the CUSFTA." My pal had made the assumption, just as many other Canadians must have done when Mulroney submitted his star performance, that the other side was balking because the relative benefits of the deal were so heavily weighted in Canada's favour. (There must be a term that marketing specialists use for this baloney sales tactic. Maybe it's got its own chapter in "The Art of the Deal" or "Think and Grow Rich".) After listening to the others' comments, I interjected my opinions on the I-SDS and ICS factors, the enhanced corporate opportunity for achieving regulatory capture and the implications of transnational labour mobility, and briefly stated my view that an insignificant component of this and other "trade" deals actually has anything to do with trade and tariffs. Both of them looked at me as though they didn't speak English and then one of them said that he didn't remember whether he had ever even heard of the CETA prior to Friday. The other one then said that he thought he had heard the first mention of he could recall it earlier in the week.

Now consider what they've been putting on the TV regarding this subject since the hiccup in Belgium on broadcasts that purport to be political and economic analysis : Ed Fast lambasting the Liberals for possibly wrecking his deal when all they had to do was to get it signed; Kevin O'Leary, while Evan Solomon grins from the other side of the interview, ranting in full leadership campaign mode that, because of Freeland's apparent failure, we should now question the competence of all of Selfie-Boy Zoolander's cabinet choices; a private equity and derivatives exchange expert telling Michael Serapio that "trade deals are win-win deals" and that the uncertainty in Wallonia is "absolutely appalling"; and, as we should expect, no discussion dealing with the substance of the objections.

So what's my point? It's that there must certainly be some convergence of interests that has willed the Canadian public to be kept in the dark and cooked the pablum we are being served.

What has happened during the CETA negotiations under both political parties seems to have taken it all up a notch. How did Canada become the headwaiter to and chief water carrier for the global investor-rights business lobby? What additional net benefit are we expected to assume will accrue to the country's economy through the adoption of this irregular national policy as a standard practice? Have we become the go-to guy for the transnational commerce management industry? I'll leave it up to someone smarter and better informed to consider those questions. But I'll suggest that an investigation into some revolving doors and the subsequent career choices of former negotiators and political leaders might provide some possible answers. Maybe Dominic Barton could make some explanation that relates to what's happening now under the Sunny Ways Corps.

With respect to Mound's comment on the possibility of abuses in investor claims, it seems that another innovative market has already emerged from the vibrancy and dynamism of the I-SDS protection racket: this Post

Is the Harper Party Becoming the Trump Party?

Montreal Simon - il y a 8 heures 42 min

As you know I always predicted that the Con leadership race was going to be a real circus.

But who knew there would be so many candidates. Twelve and counting.

Or that it would be such a fascist circus.

For look who just joined the race.
Read more »

Keeping His Word

Northern Reflections - il y a 8 heures 43 min

Justin Trudeau came to office, claiming he would put an end to the cynicism of the Harper years. Michael Harris writes:

When Justin Trudeau was running to become prime minister, he said that cynicism — about the future, the fate of our kids, and most especially the political establishment — was a serious problem. Somehow, someone just had to win back the public’s faith in the system. Otherwise, we would become a society of malcontents, nay-sayers, and self-seekers divorced from any meaningful sense of community. The national myth for those people would be that the whole shooting match was rigged against them for the benefit of the few.
On two critical files -- electoral reform  and the environment -- Trudeau has been backing away from his promises:

The prime minister found himself in a firestorm of criticism when he suggested in an interview with Le Devoir that he was backing away from his commitment to ending Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system. The implication of his words was that his election had somehow fixed the problem, or made it far less urgent at very least. That sparked one commentator on social media to ask for a retraction of Trudeau’s words or his recall.

Trudeau was supposed to be the antidote to years of Conservative mismanagement on the environment. At best, his record has been spotty, at worst, a betrayal of environmentalists who saw him as their champion.

While it is true Trudeau has finally put a price on carbon emissions, it is also true that he supported the Site C dam project in British Columbia, despite the opposition of environmentalists, First Nations leaders, Amnesty International, and the Royal Society of Canada.

The Trudeau government has also failed to legislate its own moratorium on oil-tanker traffic on the North Coast of the province. Instead, it has given conditional approval to Pacific NorthWest LNG’s massive $39-billion project that will also create five million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually should it ever be built. Not exactly what the summiteers in Paris had in mind — nor a lot of voters in British Columbia who went Liberal. 
South of the border, we are presently witnessing a lesson about the wages of cynicism:

Part of what everyone is witnessing in the U.S. Presidential election is the extent to which “every day Americans” hate the political establishment with a passion once reserved for the country’s foreign enemies. So desperate have these people become, so overwhelming has been the avalanche of lies and betrayals visited on them by politicians of all stripes, that 50 million Americans are about to vote for a man whose preferred form of greeting women is a hearty grope.  
If Justin is wise, he'll keep his word.

Donald Trump and the Women Who Brought Him Down

Montreal Simon - il y a 10 heures 19 min

With only fifteen days to go before the U.S. election, if we were on a plane this would be about the time when the pilot announces "we're now on final approach."

Or if you're on the Trump plane the pilot screams "Mayday!! Mayday!! Only God can save us!!!! 

Hillary Clinton has vaulted to a double-digit advantage in the inaugural ABC News 2016 election tracking poll, boosted by broad disapproval of Donald Trump on two controversial issues: His treatment of women and his reluctance to endorse the election’s legitimacy.

Unless you're Donald Trump of course, who is still screaming "MAGA!!! MAGA!!! My campaign is not nosediving!!!!"
Read more »

i look forward to the day when no one wears a fitbit anymore

we move to canada - il y a 10 heures 46 min
What did people do before Fitbit? Without their adorable little bracelets, how did they get enough exercise? Never mind that, how did they manage to live?? All those lonely, barren years, decade upon decade, people running, swimming, cycling, lifting, walking -- without a Fitbit. Can you imagine? It breaks my heart just thinking about it.

Pre-Fitbit, I often didn't know if people were exercising at all! Imagine! I might be speaking to someone who was getting enough exercise, and I wouldn't even know it! Unless the subject came up, I wouldn't know how many steps they had walked that day! What a scary thought.

Why Does the Federal Department of Fisheries Condone This?

The Disaffected Lib - il y a 14 heures 31 min
I know, I know. So you're in Ontario and you think this doesn't matter to you. Think again. Go to your grocery store and buy that great looking "Atlantic salmon." Only it's not from the Atlantic. It's from a pen along the B.C. coast where this goes on before it gets to your dinner table.

what i'm reading: born to run by bruce springsteen

we move to canada - dim, 10/23/2016 - 08:00
This is a run-don't-walk review. Fans of Bruce Springsteen: run to find a copy of The Boss' memoirs, Born to Run. This book was seven years in the making, and (like Chrissie Hynde's and Patti Smith's memoirs) written by the artist himself. It is by turns hilarious and heart-wrenching, poignant and gripping, and always profoundly insightful and a joy to read.

Springsteen is an intellectual -- a man of great intelligence who, for better and worse, lives in his own head, analyzing and at times over-analyzing the world around him and his own reactions to it. Because of this, he brings a powerful self-awareness to his life story -- an ability to articulate where his art comes from, and how his personal pitfalls have affected the most important relationships in his life.

Born to Run is also noteworthy for what it is not. It's not a tell-all or an exposé; readers looking for dirt will be disappointed. Springsteen protects his closest friends from exposure, and when it comes to blame, usually points the finger only at the man in the mirror. If there are personal disagreements, they remain personal: Steve and I had some issues to work out, so we sat down and had an honest talk, and moved past them is a typical approach. Even about his first manager Mike Appel, whose one-sided contracts hobbled Springsteen for years, and whose idol was the infamous "Colonel" Tom Parker, controller of Elvis Presley, Springsteen is measured, compassionate, and forgiving, professing a deep affection for him. The story is honest and revealing -- what was in those contracts, why Springsteen signed them -- but there is no anger or blame.

Born to Run is also not a memoir of a fast life through the great trinity of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Springsteen was 22 years old when he had his first drink of alcohol, and has never used recreational drugs. He mentions the rocker's on-the-road sex life, but only obliquely, to let the reader know it existed, and was then outgrown. That leaves rock and roll, and plenty of it.

In the musicians' memoirs that I've read, the most exciting writing has been their recollection of their moment of discovery. Keith Richards, Patti Smith, and Chrissie Hynde were all able to articulate how music -- literally -- changed their lives, how the discovery of a certain music at a certain time altered their chosen path forever. Springsteen can also pinpoint those moments, and his great self-insight and writing talents make it fairly leap from the page into the reader's heart.

Springsteen's writing style itself is deeply evocative. Sometimes his writing takes off on a flight of fancy.
Conditions were generally horrific, but compared to what?! The dumpiest motel on the road was step up from my home digs. I was twenty-three and I was making a living playing music! Friends, there's a reason they don't call it "working," it's called PLAYING! I've left enough sweat on stages around the world to fill at least one of the seven seas; I've driven myself and my band to the limit and over the edge for more than forty years. We continue to do so, but it's still "playing". It's a life-giving, joyful, sweat-drenched, muscle-aching, voice-blowing, mind-clearing, exhausting, soul-invigorating, cathartic pleasure and privilege every night. You can sing about your misery, the world's misery, your most devastating experiences, but there is something in the gathering of souls that blows the blues away.Other times, there's a sparking turn of phrase: "He had the shortest highway between his fingers and his heart I'd ever heard". Or a metaphor that brings the truth home.
We'd navigated the treacherous part of the river, the part Mike and I couldn't make, where the current changes and the landscape will never be the same. So, breaking into the open I looked behind me in our boat and I still had my Clark. Up front, he still had Lewis. We still had our own musical country to chart, many miles of frontier to travel, and music to make.I have been a diehard Bruce Springsteen fan since my teenage years, one of the millions who grew up in the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia area who feel a special kinship with Springsteen and a special ownership of his music. I've been amazed and thrilled that his music has matured along with his fans. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I wondered if the latter half of Born to Run might be a let-down. The story of how a working-class New Jersey boy discovered his talents and navigated the treacherous waters to rise to fame -- that's a gripping tale. But how that now-famous musician lives the rest of his life -- is that going to be interesting, too?

Yes. Emphatically yes. In the second half of Born to Run, Springsteen explores his ongoing relationship with his parents, his struggles to free his himself from the patterns of his father, and the struggles, challenges, and joys of learning how to parent. The E Street Band broke up, then reformed, and two of the original members died. There's a long, restorative motorcycle journey through the American desert, and a cross-country road trip of self-discovery. There are fascinating details about Springsteen's writing process. There is poetry in all of it.

Throughout, Springsteen is honest about his struggles with anxiety and depression. He relates the roots of his own issues to those of his father's, whose mental illness, like so many from his generation, was undiagnosed and untreated. Interestingly, Springsteen never says "mental health" or "mental illness" -- simply illness. I thought that was a very interesting and positive choice -- making no distinction between mind and body. Springsteen writes about how he found relief, from both talk therapy and medication, pulling no punches: these drugs saved his life.

Fans may also be interested in the companion CD, Chapter and Verse, which chronicles the music written about in the book, and includes five previously unreleased songs.

I'll close this already-long review with a telling passage that speaks to the style and depth of Born to Run.
I learned many a rough lesson from my father. The rigidity and blue-collar narcissism of "manhood" 1950’s style. An inner yearning for isolation, for the world on your terms or not at all. A deep attraction to silence, secrets and secretiveness. The distorted idea that the beautiful things in your life, the love you struggled so hard to win, will turn and possess you, robbing you of your imagined hard-fought-for freedoms. The hard blues of constant disaffection. The rituals of the barroom. A misogyny grown from the fear of all the dangerous, beautiful, strong women in our lives, crossed with the carrying of an underlying physical threat, a psychological bullying that is meant to frighten and communicate that the dark thing inside you is barely contained. You use it to intimidate those you love. And of course . . . the disappearing act; you’re there but not there, not really present; inaccessibility, its pleasures and its discontents. All leading ultimately to the black seductive fantasy of a wreck of a life, the maddening boil lanced, the masks dropped and the long endless free fall into the chasm that at certain moments can smell so sweet from a distance. Of course, once you stop romanticizing it, more likely you're just another chaos-sowing schmuck on the block, sacrificing your treasured family's trust to your "issues." You're a dime a dozen in every burb across America. I can't lay it all at my pop's feet; plenty of it is my own weakness and inability at this late date to put it all away, my favorite harpies, the ones I count on to return to flit and nibble around the edges of my beautiful reward. Through hard work and Patti's great love I have overcome much of this, though not all of it. I have days when my boundaries wobble, my darkness and the blues seem to beckon and I seek to medicate myself in whatever way I can. But on my best days, I can freely enjoy the slow passing of time, the tenderness that is my life; I can feel the love I'm a part of surrounding me and flowing through me; I am near home and I am standing hand in hand with those I love, past and present, in the sun, on the outskirts of something that feels, almost . . . like being free.

Taking Over Riding Associations For Life

Dammit Janet - dim, 10/23/2016 - 07:29

Remember Liberals for Life?

Liberals for Life was a pro-life advocacy group that worked within the Liberal Party of Canada during the 1980s and early 1990s. Some of its members were also affiliated with the Campaign Life Coalition, and, as such, the group was often accused of entryism.

According to its members, Liberals for Life was created after the national victory of Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative Party in the 1984 federal election. The organization attracted little attention until the early 1990s, when it endorsed Tom Wappel in his bid for the party leadership, and gained control of several riding associations.

The Liberal Party's constitution was amended to allow the leader to appoint candidates in certain ridings in 1992. Jean Chrétien defended the change as necessary to prevent "single-issue groups" from taking over the Liberal Party. It was generally understood that Liberals for Life was the primary target of this remark.

The movement effectively dissolved in 1993 after the Liberal Party formed government.We do.

It's a favourite tactic of fetus fetishists. And it's happening again.

Here's the mission of a gang called
Right Now.
RightNow exists to nominate and elect pro-life politicians by mobilizing Canadians on the ground level to vote at local nomination meetings, and provide training to volunteers across the country to create effective campaign teams in every riding across Canada. It is only when we have a majority of pro-life politicians in our legislatures, that we’ll see pro-life legislation passed in our country.They admit that they're sick of losing. *snerk*

In addition to stacking nomination votes, they have a list of anti-choice laws they want passed.

All the usual anti-choice restrictions: outright criminalization, term limits, "unborn" victims of crime, defunding, parental consent, and a new one on me, a law requiring pre-abortion ultrasound. (Which might not work out the way they think. See More Ultrasounds = More Abortions.)

So, last night a 19-year-old in Niagara West-Glanbrook, named Sam Oosterhoff, stunned the Ontario Conservative Party by beating out party president and former MP Rick Dykstra to take the the nomination. (It's Tim Hudak's old stomping ground.)

The only supporter listed on his campaign page is
Dominionist MP and anti-choicer Arnold Viersen.

Sam spouts the usual blahblah about family, but we strongly suspect he is a fetus freak.

Here's Right Now's co-founder Alissa Golob crowing last night:

Niagara West-Glanbrook trending on Twitter.

— Alissa Golob (@alissagolob) October 23, 2016

... and Sam Oosterhoff....

— Alissa Golob (@alissagolob) October 22, 2016

And Right Now's account:

Congratulations @samoosterhoff for beating two heavy hitters @RickDykstra & Tony Quirk for the PC Nomination!

— Right Now (@RightNowHQ) October 23, 2016

And Campaign Life:

Congratulations to @samoosterhoff for winning the @OntarioPCParty nomination for #NWG #youngblood

— CampgnLifeCoalition (@CampaignLife) October 23, 2016

Would someone in the media please ask him about his Dominionist ties and his position on abortion, sex education?

Free Trade Is Never Free

Politics and its Discontents - dim, 10/23/2016 - 06:28
While it is beginning to look like International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland's departure from CETA negotiations was more of a ploy than the end of talks, the hiatus at least gives Canadians the opportunity to once more reflect on its dangers, the same dangers that afflict other so-called free trade deals.

The fact is, free trade is never free. The surrender of sovereignty rights, about which I have written previously, is probably the most insidious aspect of such deals, given that corporations are granted the right to sue if national or subnational governments pass legislation that affects a corporation's right to make money. That includes legislation to protect the environment or mitigate climate change.

An analysis of the Trans Pacific Partnership yields this chilling truth:
"The Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism included in the TPP investment chapter grants foreign investors access to a secret tribunal if they believe actions taken by a government will affect their future profits. This provision is a ticking time-bomb for climate policy, because many government policies needed to address global warming are subject to suits brought before international investment tribunals. ...Other TPP chapters like the one covering trade in goods can be the basis for state-to-state suits challenging climate policies."Here in Ontario, citizens were recently reminded of the consequences of corporate displeasure via the NAFTA investor dispute settlement provisions. Opting for some sober second thoughts, the province decided to put a moratorium on offshore wind turbine development, a pause that did not sit well with Windstream Energy LLC, the American company that had signed a $5.2 billion with Ontario. A fine of $25 million has been imposed after Windstream invoked its investor rights that were granted under under NAFTA, but the fine is a mere precursor to future action.
At the end of September, a panel convened by the Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration awarded $25.2-million in damages and almost $3-million in legal costs to Windstream, saying the province broke rules under the North American free-trade agreement when it put a moratorium on offshore wind developments in February, 2011, effectively scuttling the Windstream project.The deal is still considered to be in force, and Windstream has every intention of making sure it comes to fruition:
“We have a contract here, and contracts don’t go away,” [Windstream director David] Mars said, even though the moratorium on offshore wind is still in effect.In other words, taxpayers will have to brace themselves for further, much deeper compensation to the company in the future, unless Ontario gives in to the extortion NAFTA has made possible.

And despite free-trade cheerleader Freeland's ceaseless chatter about making the investor dispute settlement process more transparent, the unalterable fact is that the rights of corporations to sue governments remains solidly intact.

I'll leave the final word to Noam Chomsky who, in this brief video, reminds us of of some inconvenient truths we would do well to never, ever forget:

Recommend this Post

The Dangerous Demonization of Justin Trudeau

Montreal Simon - dim, 10/23/2016 - 05:33

It's a strange thing about Justin Trudeau. He may be the most popular Prime Minister in recent Canadian history, and a nice guy.

But nobody is hated and demonized by some Canadians as much as he is, and now that hatred is out of control.

For what else can explain that some crazy from the Green Party should throw pumpkin seeds at Trudeau.
Read more »

Donald Trump, the Anti-Lincoln, and the Nightmarish Election

Montreal Simon - dim, 10/23/2016 - 05:25

There are now only sixteen days to go before the U.S. election, but they promise to be   some of the scariest days of our lives. 

For Donald Trump and his Trumplings are still a nightmare in progress.

And there was Trump yesterday, on what he called the "hollowed ground" of Gettysburg.

Where the great Abraham Lincoln so famously tried to heal the wounds of a nation.

Delivering the anti-Gettysburg address.
Read more »

It's Over

Northern Reflections - dim, 10/23/2016 - 04:11

Andrew Nikiforuk has been writing for sometime that bitumen's heyday is over. There are four reasons that account for the decline and fall of black goo:

1. There is no way to clean up bitumen spills.

Basic science shows that neither industry nor government has developed an effective spill response for conventional oil on the high seas. As a consequence, marine oil spill response remains a public relations sham that does not remove spilled oil or fully restore damaged marine ecosystems.

Because the low-grade heavy oil must be diluted with a gasoline-like product to move through a pipeline, it presents an even graver logistical challenge than a conventional spill. 

2. The economic case for pipelines has totally collapsed.

Bitumen will always require higher transportation costs and more upgrading and processing due to its appalling quality. As a consequence, it has always sold at a price differential of around $6 to $7 dollars to conventional oil.

This historic differential widened when the Alberta government rubber-stamped so many projects that industry flooded the North American market with bitumen between 2000 and 2008. The differential dropped again to historic norms as more and more refineries in the U.S. retrofitted to process heavy oil.

 Art Berman, a reliable Houston-based oil analyst, calculates that industry is pumping about half a million barrels a day more than what the world can burn or afford. Most of this overproduction has come from Canada, the U.S. or Iraq.

At the same time, demand is not really growing due to profound global economic stagnation — a lasting legacy of incredibly high oil prices from 2010 to 2014.

But overproduction has now depressed prices to the point that many bitumen miners and American frackers continue to pump oil solely to generate enough cash to service their increasing debt loads or keep their creditors at bay. The world economy, as Berman notes, has become a volatile casino.

“The oil industry is damaged and higher prices won’t fix it because the economy cannot bear them,” Berman adds. “It is unlikely that sustained prices will reach $70 in the next few years and possibly, ever.

3. Bitumen cannibalizes the economy.

Nearly 100 years ago, it cost but one barrel of conventional crude to find and pump another 100 barrels. Today those energy returns now average about one to 20. In the U.S., they’ve fallen to one to 10 and in the oil sands they have collapsed to one to three, or in some cases close to zero. In simple terms, bitumen doesn’t bring home the bacon.

Unfortunately, mined bitumen and fracked oil aren’t easy, cheap or carbon neutral. Companies extracting fracked oil from Texas and North Dakota typically spend four times more than what they make. Bitumen miners aren’t much better. They burn more energy and capital, and all to deliver fewer returns and surpluses to society. It’s like cycling backwards.

4. Climate disruption and carbon anarchy aren’t a distant threat... they’re here now.

 Every day the science spells out some new horror: thinner Arctic ice; acidic oceans; record hot spells; flooded cities; drought-stricken crops. And every day, the economic costs grow dearer. The Fort McMurray wildfire cost $3.5 billion and was determinedly fuelled by petroleum production. The mega-flood that submerged Louisiana cost more than $8 billion and was also primed by oil extraction.
The emissions math on climate change in Canada is now pretty simple. Environment Canada states it boldly: “Emissions of GHGs from the oil and gas sector have increased 79 per cent from 107 megatonnes (Mt) in 1990 to 192 Mt CO2 in 2014. This increase is mostly attributable to the increased production of crude oil and the expansion of the oil sands industry.”
Canada can’t meet any reasonable target to decrease its climate-disrupting emissions by digging up more bitumen.
The writing is on the wall. The Bitumen Boom is over.

Image: Youtube

Wham! Bam!

Dammit Janet - sam, 10/22/2016 - 12:25
Oh boy, we've really got to work harder to raise awareness of what fake clinics are and do.

In August this year, a group of generous community-minded guys in Yarmouth, NS, got together to bestow money on a local charity.

Sadly, the winner of the windfall $11,600 was a fake clinic, called Tri-County Pregnancy Care Centre.

Here's how it works:
The 100 Guys Who Share – Yarmouth County, is one of more than 350 similar groups located worldwide that focus on coordinating funding for local, community charitable organizations. The group gathers for one-hour quarterly meetings to hear three short presentations on local charitable organizations. Members vote then each person writes their check for $100 directly to the winning non-profit chosen for a collective, impactful donation.

The three charities that presented at the first meeting were Parents Place, South End Community Youth Garden, and the Tri-County Pregnancy Centre.

The men’s group has grown to 116 members at last count. They have scheduled their quarterly event so that combined with the women’s initiative there will be good news in the community every six weeks throughout the entire year.Members of the group can nominate any local charity. Three are chosen at random to make presentations.

From the website of the Halifax group, 100 Men Who Give a Damn.

"Bam!" indeed.

There might be drinking involved. More from the Halifax chapter.

under 60 minutes
Start the quarterly meeting with some heroic conversation, maybe visit the cash bar and be out the door in under 60 minutes. 

We’re all about giving smarter, not harder.

we don’t exist
We are a non-organization – no bank account, no fixed address, no opinion. Everything goes to the charity. 100%. Always. 

Otherwise, what are we doing this for?So, it's fast -- and manly.

Too bad there's no vetting to ensure that their hard-earned dough is going to a real community asset and not an operation whose sole mission is to shame, guilt-trip, lie, and manipulate vulnerable people out of asserting their human right to autonomy and privacy.

It's hard to believe that in pro-choice Canada all 116 guys are anti-choice. More likely, the majority simply did not know what fake clinics are and do.

I'm going to write to the Yarmouth group and ask them if they understand where their money is going.

I'll report.

h/t Kathy Dawson

The Death March of Donald J Trump

The Disaffected Lib - sam, 10/22/2016 - 11:46

It has been one of the few graces common to American politics that presidential candidates, Democratic and Republican, have been graceful in defeat. John Kerry, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Al Gore are all deservedly known for their concession speeches.

Then there's Donald Trump.

The communications director for Jeb Bush, Tim Miller, writes that the signs that the Trump camp is ending the campaign in Death March mode are everywhere.

Donald Trump is going to lose this election. His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, is going to lose this election. Even if they would never admit it, they know Donald Trump will never be president. Trump and Conway are on the political death march. (This, to be clear for the Trump fans, is a political metaphor, not an actual death wish.)

This is the part of a losing campaign that exposes the true character of all those involved. So it should come as no shock that Donald Trump and his staff are failing this test in the most shameful and divisive manner imaginable.

...The death march is why Conway has begun to resurrect a time-honored practice: duplicitous political operatives throwing their boss under the bus to try to save face. In an attempt to preserve a lucrative fee on the public speaking circuit after the campaign, Conway has sent a series of tweets over the past week trying to position herself as both in on the joke with Saturday Night Live and the conscience on Trump’s shoulder trying to get him to behave. As a fellow anti-Trump conservative pointed out, Conway is officially playing the role of “punch clock villain.”

To a casual observer, this behavior might seem counterproductive to the goal Trump and Conway share: winning the election. But the reality is the only goal either has in mind now is self-preservation.

Miller has no doubt that Trump won't be a graceful loser. He breaks down Trump's Death March into three sections labelled, Shameful, Despicable, and Pathetic.

In today's Sidney Morning Herald, Nick O'Malley explores the ashes and embers of the final days of Donald Trump, would-be president of the USA.

Speaking with Fairfax Media [former Romney advisor, Avik] Roy notes that Trump is not in any real sense a Republican. He conducted a hostile takeover of the party by identifying and catering to an under-served section of the GOP vote – resentful older whites. It was marketing genius.

As an outsider he had no Republican staff to help build his campaign, and instead hired a crew of mercenaries. They have little loyalty to Trump, and none to the party. So as the death march begins they have little capacity or inclination to curb Trump's excesses, to force him to observe the basic traditions of American presidential politics, such as the gracious acceptance of defeat rather than the dangerous indulgence of claiming a rigged election while exciting racial animosities.

...As the death march goes on the Republican establishment has already started letting blood.

A sign of it was a spat on the MSNBC program Morning Joe on Thursday morning. The guest was Bill Kristol, the leading neoconservative editor of The Weekly Standard, the host was the former Republican Congressman, Joe Scarborough.

Kristol, one of the earliest and staunchest of the Republican's "Never Trump" faction, asserted that Trump was a "fluke candidate" who should be ignored come election night.

Scarborough and his co-host Mika Brzezinski scoffed at the suggestion that Trump was a fluke and declared the Republican Party needed to "come clean" about his candidacy. Kristol, angry, accused Scarborough and Brzezinski of going soft on Trump and giving him free uncritical and very high-rating airtime during the primaries, in effect helping him win. The segment deteriorated into an angry, ugly slanging match, each blaming the other for the rise of Donald Trump.

Back in North Carolina, the young Republicans were divided on who to blame for a candidacy one group's office-holder called "a joke". Some pointed the finger at Paul Ryan, the House Speaker who the establishment hopes will lead them out of the wilderness, some at Ted Cruz, the Tea Party-er who railed for years against the party hierarchy. None had any real idea at what would come next.

...The most optimistic Republicans view the death march as a necessary ordeal.

When other Republicans were calling for Trump to somehow be forced from the Republican ticket earlier this month, the Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist George Will wrote that he must remain in place.

He argued the nation needed the pleasure of seeing Trump being made the thing he most disdains, "a loser," and that his presence would serve as a reminder to the party that "perhaps it is imprudent to nominate a venomous charlatan".

Trump was the GOP's chemotherapy, he said.

If so, Roy is not sure that the death march will be curative.

Still a staunch Republican, he believes that over a period of years his party has lost its way, turning from the tenets of classical liberalism towards a dark nationalism.

Weighed down by the angry old white men that dominate its constituency, he says, the party has no interest in governing a large diverse nation, and therefore has no moral right to.

According to Roy, the Republican Party must first tackle its moral problem before it does its political one.

Greenwald and Snowden Versus Assange

The Disaffected Lib - sam, 10/22/2016 - 11:14

There's not a lot of love going around for WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, these days. It seems his friends list is down to perhaps just Donald Trump.

Even his hosts, the government of Ecuador that has granted Assange refuge in their London embassy, may have had about enough of him. That was clear when they recently cut off their guest's access to the internet to keep him from continuing to dump emails and other documents, supposedly hacked by the Russians, said to be embarrassing - or worse - to Hillary Clinton. Ecuador said it didn't want Assange dragging them into American electoral politics.

Assange might be worried about slipping into obscurity, irrelevance. Since he's gone in hiding he's been somewhat eclipsed by Edward Snowden and journalist, Glenn Greenwald.

Greenwald doesn't think much of Assange's antics.

"You'd have to be a sociopath to think that we ought to just take all of this material and dump it all on the internet without regard to the impact that it will have for innocent people."
For his part, Snowden weighed in on the running battle between Greenwald and Assange with a tweet that noted, in part: "Opportunism won't earn you a pardon from Clinton and curation is not censorship."
I feel almost sympathetic to Assange but he has brought this on himself.

An Affliction of the Mind or Why We Can't Handle Climate Change

The Disaffected Lib - sam, 10/22/2016 - 10:50

We're just too set in our ways to have any real hope of tackling the basket of looming existential challenges facing mankind and, for that matter, pretty much all life on Earth.

Forget everything else. Forget overpopulation, over-consumption of essential resources, terrorism and nuclear proliferation, forget everything except climate change. The thing is, if we can't respond effectively to climate change we don't have a snowball's chance in hell of resolving the others. As a global civilization, we're going down.

Which leads me to Andrew Simm's essay in The Guardian in which he explores the self-defeating process of using conventional thinking in response to the climate change dilemma.

The problem with ...scenarios that emerge in the mainstream, is the intellectual editing that occurs before they even begin. Most share two overwhelming, linked characteristics that strictly limit any subsequent room for manoeuvre. Firstly the demand for energy itself is seen as something innate, unchallengeable and unmanageable. It must be met, and the only question is how.

Secondly, the assumption remains that the principles and practices of the economic model that has dominated for the last 30 years will remain for at least the next 30 years. There is no sign yet of the ferocious challenge to neoliberal orthodoxy happening at the margins of economics shaping mainstream visions of our possible futures. The merest glance at the history of changing ideas suggests this is short-sighted.

There are reasons why we need to get a move on with tackling energy demand. Extreme weather events abound. Record flooding in North Carolina in the United States follows record flooding in Louisiana earlier in the year. While no individual event can be described a direct cause and effect relationship, increasingly heavy rainfall and flood events are consistent with climate models for a warming world.

...What sort of scenarios should we be looking at then? We can learn from the impoverished Brexit debate that was marred by binary choices cloaked in wilful misinformation. For the whole population to fully understand our options, and the choices and challenges embedded in them, we should be thinking as openly and broadly as possible. We can look at how far techno-fixes will get us, and at the maximum speed and scale of change that market mechanisms and the pricing of carbon are likely to deliver. In both, the different impacts on rich and poor need assessing.

But we should go further to assess the pros and cons of radical scenarios for changing how we live and work.

Rarely considered but important variables come from new economics, including the shorter working week, the share economy, shifts in corporate ownership and governance, and intelligent but deliberate measures for economic localisation. Compare these to the “stumble on”, or business as usual scenario, in which we give up control of our future to a permanently destabilised climate change, but also assess seriously the consequences of the argument for planned so-called “de-growth” of the economy.

At the height of the 2008 financial crisis, the UK government promised to “go beyond the conventional thinking” to put things right. It never did, but with the climate crisis there is no choice. Conventional thinking is off-course and contradictory.

Without a balanced, comparative assessment of strategies to align energy use and industry with inescapable climate action, we won’t be able to choose the best possible future.

Now, assuming that climate change became an imperative at least 20 years ago, look at how each of our governments, Conservative and Liberal, over that period approached this problem. A good place to start, perhaps, is to look at where Canadian government has come today. Today they're talking about some token carbon price that may or may not take effect in 2018. I think Simms could have been describing the Trudeau regime when he wrote, "Conventional thinking is off-course and contradictory." Yet that is where we are and, so long as our petro-pols on both sides of the aisle pack the House of Commons, that's where we're going to remain.
This is Canada where our environment minister proclaims she is "as much an economic minister as I am an environment minister." Dame Cathy doesn't even grasp the inherent conflict in that. It's as though she's the minister for tobacco production and the minister of health in some blended portfolio. She's oblivious to Canada's urgent need for a full time and powerful environment minister ready and able to go toe to toe with reluctant premiers and with her cabinet colleagues who are entrusted with economic matters whether that be trade, resources or foreign affairs. We're a petro-state, Cathy, and we can't get by with a part-time environment minister who folds at every scowl of some provincial tyro. Maybe that's why Trudeau singled her out for that portfolio. Maybe he wanted a reliable milquetoast. If so, he chose wisely.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - sam, 10/22/2016 - 07:43
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jake Kivanc points out that what little job growth Canada can claim primarily involves precarious work. And Nora Loreto discusses the crucial link between labour and social change:
(T)o confront climate change, we must imagine the role of workers in the transition to an oil-free economy: how would energy workers, those in the skilled trades, public sector workers, and retail workers engage in this struggle from their workplace?
If we want a national child-care system, we must talk about work: both working parents and the childcare workers required to deliver a new system.
If we want community food centres, we must talk about how workers could be engaged in designing, delivering, and resourcing such a program. 
If we want radical health care reform, we must place patients alongside nurses, doctors, cafeteria workers, social workers, secretaries, archivists, maintenance staff, and everyone else who makes the health care system operate to achieve our radical reforms.        If we want to enact the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we must include workplaces as a site of reconciliation, both to deliver on the commission’s recommendations but to also reach Canadians where they spend most of their waking lives.
There is no new internet without tech workers, there are no alternative food systems without farmers and grocers, there are no new Canadian films without actors and crew, there is no support for artists without funding artists to do their work and paying people to promote and help them out. 
And, within our workplaces, there is no shortage of things we need to fight to improve. We need better pay. We need (better) workplace protections. We need (better) pensions. We need (better) jobs.- Michelle Chen points out how privatization results in degraded services for the people who need then, while rewarding nobody other than rent-seeking corporations.

- Pete Evans reports on the OECD's look at Canada's appallingly high child care costs.

- Bill McKibben writes that any serious effort to combat climate change requires that we not only elect governments willing to speak about the issue, but pressure them to live up to their promises - a lesson which many within the Libs might want to take to heart. And Lauri Myllyvirta and Joanna Mills expose the utter futility of Brad Wall's attempt to pitch "clean coal" as a technology worth developing for export, as the key market in China is slashing planned coal plant construction.

- Finally, Susan Delacourt challenges the conventional political wisdom that young citizens aren't interested in how they're governed.

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - sam, 10/22/2016 - 07:43
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Scott Sinclair and Stuart Trew applaud Wallonia's principled stance against the CETA. And Joseph Stiglitz discusses the need to set up social and economic systems which actually serve the public good, rather than favouring corporate interests:
Where the trade agreements failed, it was not because the US was outsmarted by its trading partners; it was because the US trade agenda was shaped by corporate interests. America’s companies have done well, and it is the Republicans who have blocked efforts to ensure that Americans made worse off by trade agreements would share the benefits. 
Thus, many Americans feel buffeted by forces outside their control, leading to outcomes that are distinctly unfair. Long-standing assumptions – that America is a land of opportunity and that each generation will be better off than the last – have been called into question. The global financial crisis may have represented a turning point for many voters: their government saved the rich bankers who had brought the US to the brink of ruin, while seemingly doing almost nothing for the millions of ordinary Americans who lost their jobs and homes. The system not only produced unfair results, but seemed rigged to do so. ...There are two messages US political elites should be hearing. The simplistic neo-liberal market-fundamentalist theories that have shaped so much economic policy during the last four decades are badly misleading, with GDP growth coming at the price of soaring inequality. Trickle-down economics hasn’t and won’t work. Markets don’t exist in a vacuum. The Thatcher-Reagan “revolution,” which rewrote the rules and restructured markets for the benefit of those at the top, succeeded all too well in increasing inequality, but utterly failed in its mission to increase growth. 
This leads to the second message: we need to rewrite the rules of the economy once again, this time to ensure that ordinary citizens benefit. Politicians in the US and elsewhere who ignore this lesson will be held accountable. Change entails risk. But the Trump phenomenon – and more than a few similar political developments in Europe – has revealed the far greater risks entailed by failing to heed this message: societies divided, democracies undermined, and economies weakened. - Jesse Brown rightly questions whether Canada is living up to its self-image as a progressive example for the world, while Cindy Blackstock notes that continued discrimination against First Nations children is just one crucial area where a change in government hasn't led to improvement in substance.

- Leilani Farha discusses the need to start seeing housing in terms of human rights rather than market commodities. Elisheva Passarello describes how transitional housing allowed her to move from poverty and homelessness toward improvement in all facets of her life. Beatrice Britneff reports on a new study  showing that we could end homelessness in Canada in a decade. And Rachel Zeineker notes that at least in Yellowknife, the public is well aware that homelessness ranks ahead of everything else a problem demanding immediate attention and resources.

- Erika Shaker makes the case for zero tuition (while countering some of the usual spin which has resulted in the cost of education being borne increasingly by students without the means to pay it).

- Finally, Stewart Prest discusses the "yellow dog effect" as an important argument against first-past-the-post politics.

Electoral Reform Cannot Be Postponed

Northern Reflections - sam, 10/22/2016 - 05:27

This week, Justin Trudeau backed away from his promise to reform Canada's electoral system by the next election. There was -- rightly -- an explosion of criticism. By the end of the week, Trudeau was saying that his government is "deeply committed" to electoral reform. Alan Freeman writes:

Trudeau was rightly attacked from all sides for appearing to duck out of his election promise to reform the first-past-the-post system in time for the next election — and for the arrogance of the claim that his election alone was enough to deal with the issue once and for all.
Dropping an election pledge is nothing new. Freeman writes that lots of leaders have backed away from promises if they thought they could get away with it. George W. Bush, for instance, tried to privatize Social Security:

Bush launched a campaign to promote a dramatic reform that would allow Americans to set aside a portion of their Social Security and invest it themselves in private accounts. The ideological right and the investment industry, which had been pushing the idea for years, were thrilled. But voters, particularly older ones, were horrified when they realized that the change would simply impoverish the already-stretched Social Security system and risk the guaranteed benefits they depended on in return for the crapshoot of the stock market.
And Stephen Harper, with the support of Jim Flaherty, tried to harmonize the GST:

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was initially a big proponent of GST harmonization, throwing billions of dollars at Ontario and British Columbia when they decided to come on board with a harmonized sales tax. He embraced the view of leading economists and his own Finance Department — that a harmonized GST would lead to tax efficiency and remove the burden of provincial sales taxes from business.

But the moment grassroots opposition to harmonization started to build in British Columbia, Flaherty ran for cover. He never spoke about harmonization again. At the Finance Department, where I was working at the time, the order came down that the department was not to answer any questions about the issue — to act as if it didn’t exist. In the end, B.C.’s harmonization effort died and the province refunded the big grant it had been given to go ahead with harmonization. Flaherty and Harper had dodged a bullet and spent not a cent of political capital doing it — but an opportunity to change tax policy for the better was lost.
Electoral reform is a bullet Trudeau can't dodge. If he takes that tack, he will not make it through the next election -- even if it occurs under the First Past The Post system.

Image: CBC


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