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The Union May Survive Intact but Cameron Is Seriously Wounded

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 09:34

According to The Guardian, late polls show Scotland will stay in the United Kingdom.  As Scots went to cast their ballots the No side was up six points, 53 to 47 for the Yes secessionists.

Assuming those numbers hold, the onus is going to fall very heavily on London to come through with its 11th-hour promises of a new deal for the Scottish people.

Already Cameron is facing a rebellion in his caucus over what are seen as giveaways to the north that will have to be paid for by the south.

"Writing in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, [Cameron's rail minister, Claire Perry] warned against giving Scotland 'a whole raft of goodies' which would have to be 'paid for by us south of the border to try and appease the yes voters.'

"Perry wrote: 'The funding formula for Scotland, the rather cobbled together Barnett formula, already delivers per capita funding north of the border well in excess of that spent per head in other parts of the union, and if there is a proposal to allow devolution of local taxation, as well as maintaining the current level of funding from the UK parliament, than that can hardly be equitable for those of us in the Devizes constituency and all other areas in the non-Scottish union."

Like it or not, all three party leaders pretty much went along with the bribe and there'll be hell to pay if they renege in the aftermath.  A win for the No side is not going to end London's problems.  They're only just getting started.

Let's Not Get Too Gushy About Rob Ford

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 09:20

I get it, he's got cancer.  With the sludge that guy has pushed down his gullet and snorted up his nose, quelle surprise!

As our friend, The Salamander, pointed out, where's our concern for other cancer victims like the natives in the cancer villages near Fort Mac on the Athabasca river?  Those are people who have contracted terrible cancers and deformities that others, mainly very well to do just like Rob Ford, could get ever richer.

Unlike Rob Ford, those cancer victims of Athabasca are blameless for their plight.  The shit that got into their bodies wasn't of their doing.  Yet we write them off as collateral damage to what Ignatieff called "the beating heart of the Canadian economy."

As a society we are desperately in need of a recalibration of our moral compass.

What, Were They Completely Out of Helicopter Gunships?

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 09:08
Alright punks, recess is over!

Think of your gradeschool principal.  Now visualize that principal clad in body armour, kevlar, clutching a grenade launcher and perched behind the wheel of an armoured assault vehicle.  Why, Mrs. Krabapple, what lovely taste you have in camo.

The militarization of American society continues apace.  Now it's school districts getting the Pentagon's cast offs.  That's right, schools.  Machine guns and grenade launchers and armoured vehicles with run flat tires and bullet proof glass.

"School police departments across the US have taken advantage of free military surplus gear, stocking up on mine-resistant armoured vehicles, grenade launchers and scores of M16 rifles.

"...The Los Angeles unified school district, the nation's second-largest at 710 square miles with more than 900,000 students enrolled, said it would remove three grenade launchers it had acquired because they 'are not essential life-saving items within the scope, duties and mission' of the district's police force.  But the district would keep the 60 M16s and a military vehicle known as an MRAP used in Iraq and Afghanistan that was built to withstand mine blasts."

What kind of fucked-up society needs a school district police department to begin with much less one armed to the teeth with fully automatic assault rifles, armoured vehicles and grenade launchers?

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 07:55
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Linda McQuaig discusses how a politically-oriented audit of the CCPA fits with the shock-and-awe part of the right's war against independent (and public-minded) though:
In the conservative quest to shape public debate in recent years, no tool has proved more useful than the think tank. Nobody understood this better than the director of the ultra-right wing U.S.-based ATLAS Foundation, who once stated that his mission was “to litter the world with free-market think tanks.”

Mission accomplished. Certainly the Canadian landscape is cluttered with right-wing think tanks — the Fraser Institute, the C.D. Howe Institute, the Montreal Economic Institute, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, the Frontier Institute, just to name a few — all well-funded by a business elite keen to have its message packaged in a manner that makes it appear grounded in serious research.

These right-wing policy shops have played a huge role in implanting an ideology that treats the rich as ‘wealth creators’ who must be freed from government regulation — and whose goodwill must be constantly cultivated, lest they be discouraged from investing. This has boiled down to a simple message — government bad, private sector good — that has become the mantra of our times, the guiding force in shaping public policy.
For years, the corporate world has bestowed bountiful, tax-deductible resources on right-wing think tanks, allowing them to baffle the public with this sort of misinformation.

Meanwhile, alone and often ignored by the media, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives keeps churning out quality research exposing the fallacies of the right-wing arguments that have come to dominate our public conversation.

What choice is there for a paranoid, controlling, undemocratic, right-wing government but to call in the auditors?- Meanwhile, Matt Bruenig argues that capitalism in its current form falls far short of any of the theoretical justifications for rewarding greed. Melissa Boteach and Shawn Fremstad note that matters are only getting worse even in the face of what's supposed to be an economic recovery. Andrew Brenier comments on the connection between fossil fuel use and inequality. And Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett discuss what we've learned since The Spirit Level brought the issue to the forefront:
Most important has been the rapid accumulation of evidence confirming the psychosocial processes through which inequality gets under the skin. When we were writing, evidence of causality often relied on psychological experiments that showed how extraordinarily sensitive people are to being looked down on and regarded as inferior.

They demonstrated that social relationships, insecurities about social status and how others see us have powerful effects on stress, cognitive performance and the emotions. Almost absent were studies explicitly linking income inequality to these psychological states in whole societies. But new studies have now filled that gap. That inequality damages family life is shown by higher rates of child abuse, and increased status competition is likely to explain the higher rates of bullying confirmed in schools in more unequal countries.

We showed that mental illnesses are more prevalent in more unequal societies: this has now been confirmed by more specific studies of depression and schizophrenia, as well as by evidence that your income ranking is a better predictor of developing illness than your absolute income.

Strengthening community life is hampered by the difficulty of breaking the ice between people, but greater inequality amplifies the impression that some people are worth so much more than others, making us all more anxious about how we are seen and judged. Some are so overcome by lack of confidence that social contact becomes an ordeal. Others try instead to enhance self-presentation and how they appear to others. US data also show that narcissism increased in line with inequality. The economic effects of inequality have also gained more attention. Research has shown that greater inequality leads to shorter spells of economic expansion and more frequent and severe boom-and-bust cycles that make economies more vulnerable to crisis. The International Monetary Fund suggests that reducing inequality and bolstering longer-term economic growth may be "two sides of the same coin". And development experts point out how inequality compromises poverty reduction.- Stephanie Levitz reports on the Mowat Centre's latest study of income-splitting - which finds that in addition to being grossly inequitable in handing money to the people who need it least, the Cons' pet policy would also siphon billions out of provincial treasuries.

- Connie Walker reports on the Cons' choice to summarily discard any proposals from the Assembly of First Nations and other individuals and groups who want to see both meaningful studies and policy responses to the crisis of murdered and missing aboriginal women.

- Finally, Scott Feschuk rightly skewers Stephen Harper for a foreign policy that's all bluster and no substance.

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 07:49
Here, on Justin Trudeau's remarkable demand that Stephen Harper set up a federal shun registry to make life easier for Trudeau politically.

For further reading...
- Trudeau's Question Period interview is here, with the key passage starting at about the 3:15 mark. And some Libs went so far as to trumpet the demand for a public enemies list as a show of political talent.
- Carlos Tello reports on the RCMP's interest in stigmatizing the environmental movement - which of course matches the Cons' rhetoric. And Alex Boutilier reports that hundreds of public events have already found themselves under secret surveillance over the past few years. So there shouldn't be much doubt that Harper's choice would be to cast a similarly wide (and anti-democratic) net if he were to offer a list of pariahs.
- Finally, Thomas Walkom reminds us that if we're concerned about public health and safety, we should be spending far more time addressing ebola (or similarly threatening diseases), and far less obsessing over the war on adjectives.

Harper's War On The CCPA

Northern Reflections - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 05:11


The Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives is in Mr. Harper's sites. Linda McQuaig writes:

Of course, we’re all familiar now with how Stephen Harper suppresses information that contradicts his agenda: blocking the collection of statistics, muzzling government scientists, auditing charities that critique his policies. And yet, somehow the news that the Harper government is conducting a harassing audit on the CCPA manages to break fresh ground.

This time there’s no recourse to the pretence that the audit was random. A Canada Revenue Agency document, obtained through Access to Information, makes it clear that the organization is being audited because its research and educational materials were considered “biased” and “one-sided.”
Does that mean that the Fraser Institute operates without bias? In fact, Fraser is only one of several right wing think tanks in Canada:

These right-wing policy shops have played a huge role in implanting an ideology that treats the rich as ‘wealth creators’ who must be freed from government regulation — and whose goodwill must be constantly cultivated, lest they be discouraged from investing. This has boiled down to a simple message — government bad, private sector good — that has become the mantra of our times, the guiding force in shaping public policy.
CCPA takes a different point of view -- and a much more vigorous approach to its research:

It would be a stretch for the Fraser Institute, for example, to make a claim of academic rigour. Every year, the institute receives widespread media coverage for its “Tax Freedom Day” — designed to make Canadians feel overburdened by taxes — but the research behind this PR gimmick is shoddy, based on wild exaggerations, flawed math and chicanery, according to an analysis done by tax expert Neil Brooks.

For instance, by failing to factor out inflation and income growth, the Fraser researchers concluded that over the previous four decades taxes on Canadians had risen by a staggering 1,550 per cent … when, in fact, they had risen by about 40 per cent, Brooks showed.

And, so, the Harperites have declared war on the CCPA. Imagine what would happen if voters concluded that their government had lied to them shamelessly and consistently.

No Surprise Here- An Update

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 04:50

Tuesday's post discussed the apparent disappearance of a committee made up of representatives from Environment Canada, the Alberta government and oil and gas companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the tarsands. Investigative reporter Mike De Souza provides important new information about this committee on his website.

Putting the heat on Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq in the House of Commons, NDP environment critic Megan Leslie suggested it is time for the Harper regime to stop stalling:

“After seven years of the government’s broken promises to introduce greenhouse gas rules for the oil and gas sector Canadians are still waiting,” Leslie said.

“Now we hear that Environment Canada has stopped talking to the industry and the Alberta government altogether. In fact, the (federal) government-led committee hasn’t met since March 2013. When will this government quit stalling and when will we see the regulations?”
Of course, as is standard operating procedure for this government, Aglukkaq did not answer, preferring to mouth platitudes about what a great job the government is doing in reducing emissions in this country:
“We have taken action on some of the largest sources of emissions in this country, the transportation and the electricity-generation sector” ... “I’m also looking forward to taking part in the UN climate summit in New York next week to speak to Canada’s record in taking action on climate change.”
And this is hardly a time for obfuscation and misdirection:
Environment Canada estimated earlier this year that greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands increased by 307 per cent between 1990 and 2012. The carbon emissions were projected to grow a further 61 per cent before the end of the decade.
A clue as to why the committee's work suddenly ceased may be found here:
Behind closed doors, internal records obtained by Greenpeace Canada through provincial freedom of information legislation revealed that industry lobbyists rejected proposals from the Alberta government to introduce tough rules, and instead suggested delaying action to allow for more “study, analysis and consultation.”Concludes Keith Stewart, a Toronto-based climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Canada:
“This is what happens when a government opens the doors wide to the oil industry and shuts out everyone else ... The upstream oil and gas industry is now the biggest carbon polluter in the country precisely because the Harper government gives in every time they cry poor. Meanwhile, the public foots the ever-rising bill for climate disasters while the oil companies post record profits.”It seems safe to conclude that this is yet more evidence that Stephen Harper is not here for us.
Recommend this Post

The Scottish Independence Campaign and the Velvet Revolution

Montreal Simon - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 00:55

And so it ended, with wild rallies all over the country. After two long years Scotland's amazing referendum campaign is finally over.

And as I write these lines, Scots are heading to the polls to decide whether Scotland should become an independent country.

The campaign ended with a final message from the YES side urging them to take their own future in their hands, and choose hope over fear. 

Our nation is alive with energy and excitement about the future. And the collective democratic awakening in Scotland goes further and deeper than the independence movement alone. For all of this, Scotland is richer. It is this popular energy which gives confidence for Scotland’s future. Together, we can harness the passion, drive and vision that abounds in Scotland today and use it to build a better society.

It ended with a final message from the NO side warning of doom and disaster. 
Read more »

September 2014 Bits and Bites: Ontartio Civic Elections Edition

Anti-Racist Canada - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 17:44
On September 15 we wrote about Paulie's latest quixotic effort to achieve electoral office and noted that he has received an endorsement from the august leader of one of the numerous KKK factions in the United States, Tom Robb:

To get an idea of how pleasant a fellow Tommy Robb is, we provide these additional images:

Now, a normal politician might shy away from a character like Robb but Paulie, of whom there is little that is normal, happily accepted the Klan kudos:

Read more »

What's Next for Canad's Armed Forces - Dumpster Diving?

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 12:54
Yes, That Old!
Hardly a week passes without another example of how Stephen Harper has neglected the armed forces he boastfully claims to revere.   The jumped up little shit doesn't hesitate to proclaim how he's going to buy this for them and that for them but, somehow, this and that never seem to show up.

BBC News reports that Canadian air force personnel had to cannibalize a C-130E Hercules on display at a base museum at CFB Trenton.

"They sort of called up and said, 'Hey, we have these two INUs (intertial navigation units) that we can't use.  Do you have any on yours?'" museum curator Kevin Windsor recalls.  He says they were lucky the parts were available and interchangeable, and took only half an hour to remove.

The former head of military procurement, Dan Ross, says it's embarrassing that the air force has to "cannibalize old stuff that's in museums" to keep up its rescue planes - eight Hercules and six Buffaloes - which are apparently on their last wings.  The planes respond to thousands of emergencies every year.  The government has been promising since 2002 to replace the planes but has kept putting it off  to make sure it's "getting the purchase right."

A Big Win for SpaceX

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 12:21
He may be the Charles Lindburgh of our day.  Elon Musk - born in South Africa to a Canadian mother.  Traveled to Canada, became a Canadian citizen, studied in Canada before moving on to the US where he is now an American citizen.  He has five sons by his Canadian first wife, twins followed by triplets, all of whom now live in the States.

Elon Musk broke into the big leagues by creating PayPal and growing it to the point where, in 2002, Ebay bought it for 1.5-billion dollars in stock.

Musk went on to found Tesla Motors and then made the company's electric battery technology freely available to competitors to encourage production of electric cars.  From there Musk went on to devise the concept for Solar City, operated by his cousins, which has become the largest provider of solar power systems in the US.  Solar City was springboarded on battery technologies developed for Tesla.

What might be the most ambitious venture Musk has undertaken, however, is SpaceX or Space Exploration Technologies.  Using his own money, Musk recruited experts from NASA and American aerospace giants to develop his own launch vehicles and capsules.  A breakthrough moment came in April with the successful docking of a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule with the International Space Station.

Since the end of the Space Shuttle programme, NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz flights to ferry astronauts to the ISS.  However, with the breakdown of US-Russian relations over the Ukraine troubles, NASA has decided to go with a US alternative.
Until recently the contract would have gone to a major US defence contractor. SpaceX got into a similar situation with the Pentagon that ended when it sued to be allowed to compete.  NASA apparently got the message and this time, it split its space station shuttle contract between Boeing  ($4.2-billion) and SpaceX ($2.9-billion).  
Boeing's 5-seat capsule will compete with the 7-seat, Dragon-2 of SpaceX.  
Crew Seating Configuration
If I had to choose, I'd rather go on the Dragon 2.  The capsule comes with a launch escape system, eight rocket motors generating 120,000 lbs. of thrust that will speed the capsule to safety in case of an emergency any time between when the occupants strap in on the launch pad and when they reach orbit.

The system also allows the capsule to effect a soft landing on a prepared pad instead of having to resort to the standard US water landing.

Musk's next goal?  Mars.

Enough Talk About Inequality. It's Time Our Government Acted.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 11:10
I don't expect Stephen Harper to take any effective action on inequality.   That's a problem facing the Canadian people, not the oil barons of Calgary or his chums in the Beijing politburo.  That said, I do expect our opposition leaders, Muclair and Trudeau to come up with some coherent and credible policies and well prior to the 2015 election.

Fixing this problem begins with acknowledging the problem - the full problem, inequality of wealth, inequality of income and inequality of opportunity.  Equally essential is acknowledgment of the fundamental role government plays in creating and empowering inequality.

The truth is that most inequality is legislated.  It arises out of enactments that create wealth - for a few - from grants, deferrals, tax breaks, subsidies and the transfer of rights to public property at far below fair value and sometimes free of charge.

The infamous "1%" we hear so much about?  It wouldn't be sitting anywhere near as fat and sassy if it wasn't for the political classes serving as its handmaiden.  Read Stiglitz, "The Price of Inequality", to see how Western governments have fallen into service of these elites at the direct expense of the electorates they're sworn to serve and protect.

This screed is brought to you courtesy of The Toronto Star and outgoing TD Bank chief, Ed Clark.  In his farewell speech, Clark referred to inequality in Canada as a "corrosive thing."  Clark also fingered regulators, central bankers, and politicians for helping to create the financial collapse of 2008.

The inequality problem is only going to deepen if the next prime minister plays it safe and seeks political cover in the status quo.  We need a leader who will change Canada's course economically, environmentally and socially.  That sort of change might have the appearance of being revolutionary but that has nothing to do with the imperative merit of change and everything to do with how far Canada has listed to the right.  We're heeled over so far now that the gunwales are kissing the water.

So, let's hear it Tom, let's hear it Justin.  Are you going to be Bay Street bumboys or are you actually going to lead this country to an even keel?


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