Posts from our progressive community

Pay to Play in BC with Postmedia real estate

Creekside - mer, 06/15/2016 - 20:28

In June 2013, the ailing Vancouver Postmedia papers The Sun and The Province dumped 100 employees plus two out of four floors of their downtown Vancouver offices. 
Colliers International, "the biggest player in the domestic commercial real estate industry", subleased the two now empty floors.

The previous year, Colliers and Postmedia had launched their joint venture "Property Post", described in their presser as providing :
"up-to-the minute news, commentary, information and videos that are accessible via the Financial Post website and the online business sections of The Vancouver Sun, the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal.

Property Post also features content provided by Colliers, including twitter feeds, videos, and industry reports. Property listings will be a key component, allowing Colliers to use the site to market properties on behalf of its clients."Ok, so it's a publisher-advertiser symbiotic partnership, similar to the one Postmedia proposed to CAPP a year later, providing Postmedia with revenue and Colliers with eyeballs :
"It is absolutely exciting," said Sudeep Balasubramanian, manager of digital sales at The Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers. "What we realize in terms of our digital strategy is that it is no longer just about selling advertising on a website.Postmedia will support the site with editorial content that will be anchored by the Financial Post, and each of The Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, and Edmonton Journal newsrooms. It will also showcase commentary by Financial Post business columnist Gary Marr, Postmedia reporters, and freelance writers." While enthusiastic quotes from Colliers spox are liberally sprinkled throughout both papers, it's not always easy to tell whether it's an embed when they wander into straight news stories. This story from last week, for instance, on evictions and demolitions as 106 office towers go up in Burnaby : 
Demovictions' rising as Burnaby towers do the same : quoting David Taylor of Colliers International :  "Burnaby has faced “less public opposition during rezoning” because ...the land is “primarily occupied by older rundown apartments where tenants have, seemingly, less influence with the city than single-family homeowners."Or this one about money from China being laundered through real estate : 
Chinese police run secret operations in B.C. to hunt allegedly corrupt officials and laundered money
"Kirk Kuester, executive managing director of Colliers International Vancouver, said the pool of money from Mainland China seeking investments in Metro Vancouver is so vast right now that he has to turn away potential clients.
“The money is staggering, quite honestly,” Kuester said. Kuester said, for example, that on Wednesday he had two or three potential clients with “half-a-billion” in private funds ready to put to work, but there are simply not big enough deals to satisfy them."In addition to two former floors of the former Pacific Press, Colliers International has ten offices in China.
Two years ago the BC Libs sold off 370 acres of Crown land on Burke Mountain at "$43 million less than its market value to allow Christy Clark to balance the budget", according to the NDP and a bureaucrat's leaked memo.
Colliers International won the marketing contract which saw the "fire sale" land bid go to WesBild. 
WesBild director Hassan Khosrowshahi has given $900,000 in donations to the B.C. Liberal Party since 2000, while Colliers International has only enriched the Libs by just over $100,000 in donations over 10 years. 

In BC there are no restrictions on private fundraisers or corporate donations or foreign donors or foreign ownership of farmland.  Last year the BC Liberals raked in $10 million in donations. 

Betrayal. The Debasement of the Liberal Government of Justin Trudeau.

The Disaffected Lib - mer, 06/15/2016 - 16:27

You just can't get much lower than to betray Canada's wounded veterans. Yet now we have Justin giving us another unwanted glimpse of his true Harperian nature.

His government is doing something that will rightfully disgust most Canadians. It is going to court to repeat the Harperian argument that Canada does not have a social contract or covenant to care for our war wounded.

My father lived with the benefit of that covenant from 1944 until his death seven years ago. He was horribly wounded in WWII while serving as an infantry lieutenant. Canada - at least my Canada as distinguished from this prime minister's - was on his side from the day he left the military hospital right to the day he died when we had to call to say the cleaning lady would no longer be needed.

The only way the relationship between the disabled vet and the nation can work is a covenant. Harper thought he could have somebody do some math and just write a cheque, sending the disabled vet on his way. That's not the way it works.

A veteran usually takes some time to recover, to get back on his feet (if he still has them).  Then he might do pretty well for a while, ten or twenty years. Maybe, maybe not. He may be just fine one day and collapse in a pool of blood at death's doorstep the next. And then as he gets old those wounds return. The normal aging process and decline can  quickly turn tougher, more dangerous.

The VA people used to be proactive. They didn't wait for you to ask. They checked, found out how you were doing and what you needed, figured out what they could do to help. If, as in my dad's case, the veteran winds up caring for his elderly spouse, that can be a real bugger. When that happened the VA people stepped in to shoulder part of the load.

It's the government that makes the call to send these people into harm's way. When they make that decision, knowing that some will die and some will be maimed, the country takes on a solemn responsibility to those soldiers and to their families. These people can be ordered into situations where their death is probable, at times even certain. We don't put civilians in that situation. There's a difference. It's in that fundamental difference that the covenant arises. It is beyond shameful for a government to deny it.

I Know. I'm Sorry. Still, It Has To Be Said.

The Disaffected Lib - mer, 06/15/2016 - 10:22

I'm posting this because it illustrates the predicament we've got ourselves in and what might be entailed to get ourselves out of it. I know you don't want to read this but it's important, vitally important and so I feel obliged to post it anyway. I almost feel like I should be apologizing for this.

The planet is reeling from loss of biodiversity. This is a problem that reaches from lowly microbes to the largest lifeforms on Earth. Species are falling extinct at rates wildly above normal and far beyond sustainable. Surveys of non-human life of all sorts, marine and terrestrial, have found that life on Earth has declined by half since the 1970s. Our stocks of terrestrial life and down by half. Our stocks of marine life are down by half. In case you're wondering, they're still in decline also.

Along comes E.O. Wilson, a world class biologist, who has a way to fix all this. He wants us to set half the world aside for all other forms of life. Humans get half. Nature gets half. That goes for our oceans too.

The reason why half is the answer, according to Wilson, is located deep in the science of ecology.

“The principal cause of extinction is habitat loss. With a decrease of habitat, the sustainable number of species in it drops by (roughly) the fourth root of the habitable area,” Wilson wrote via email, referencing the species-area curve equation that describes how many species are capable of surviving long-term in a particular area.

By preserving half of the planet, we would theoretically protect 80% of the world’s species from extinction, according to the species-area curve. If protection efforts, however, focus on the most biodiverse areas (think tropical forests and coral reefs), we could potentially protect more than 80% of species without going beyond the half-Earth goal. In contrast, if we only protect 10% of the Earth, we are set to lose around half of the planet’s species over time. This is the track we are currently on.

Nice idea but there are snags. The biggest snag is that humanity, as we're constituted today, can't live with just half of Earth. The reason that our stocks of marine and terrestrial life have plummeted by half over the past four decades is because of us. We're taking so much of everything that there's not enough for everything else and so their numbers have to plummet.
In an essay for Aeon, Robert Fletcher and Bram Büscher, both social scientists with Wageningen University in the Netherlands, dub Wilson’s idea “truly bizarre.”

“For all his zeal, (misplaced) righteousness and passion, his vision is disturbing and dangerous,” they write. “It would entail forcibly herding a drastically reduced human population into increasingly crowded urban areas to be managed in oppressively technocratic ways. How such a global programme of conservation Lebensraum would be accomplished is left to the reader’s imagination.”

Did you get that? Wilson's solution would be truly dystopian beginning with a massive cull of humanity. Some calculations have concluded that Earth's human carrying capacity is just under 3 billion. Half an Earth then might need us to get down to 1.5 billion. We're nearing 7.5 billion now so that would be a cull of most of humanity and as much as 80%. Or we could go full-bore Blade Runner and cram billions more into chronic urban density.
The point, however, is that the way we're living now will not continue. This graphic from 2014 produced by the Global Footprint Network illustrates our ecological dilemma.

In 2014 we had reached the point where we, mankind, were consuming the equivalent of 1.5 times our planet's capacity for renewable resource replenishment. We needed one and a half planet Earths to support our consumption. Today that has reached the 1.7 point. By 2050 we'll hit 3.0 - except we won't. 
In the course of hunting down that graphic I came across this post from October, 2014 about a gathering of Nobel laureates who met annually to evaluate the state of our planet. They called for "revolutionary change" saying there was no other path.
The state of affairs is “catastrophic”, Peter Doherty, 1996 co-winner of the Nobel prize for medicine, said in a blunt appraisal.

From global warming, deforestation and soil and water degradation to ocean acidification, chemical pollution and environmentally-triggered diseases, the list of planetary ailments is long and growing, Doherty said.

...The worsening crisis means consumers, businesses and policymakers must consider the impact on the planet of every decision they make, he said.

Underpinning their concern are new figures highlighting that humanity is living absurdly beyond its means.

...“The peril seems imminent,” said US-Australian astrophysicist Brian Schmidt, co-holder of the 2011 Nobel physics prize for demonstrating an acceleration in the expansion of the universe.

We are poised to do more damage to the Earth in the next 35 years than we have done in the last 1,000.”

It's well known that people, even progressives, tune out to reports dealing with the environment or climate change. The "head in the sand" approach guarantees one result and only one.

Making Sure Connie Can't Give Them the Slip, Except He Might Have Already

The Disaffected Lib - mer, 06/15/2016 - 09:29

Is he still Lord Black of Crossharbour? Doesn't really matter. The Canada Revenue Agency has slapped a lien on Conrad Black's Toronto mansion to secure the $31-million he apparently owes in Canadian and U.S. taxes.

Documents filed in Federal Court proceedings related to the liens reveal that Mr. Black, who gave up his Canadian citizenship to sit in the British House of Lords, has little money left in his Canadian bank accounts and has made no attempt to renew a temporary residence permit that expires in September.

The documents say that Mr. Black, who has sold all his property in the United States and Britain, has refused to provide a bank letter of credit to secure his income tax debt on the sale of his Toronto mansion at 26 Park Lane Circle.

“It is open to Black, and would be relatively easy to move his funds, including liquidated equity from Park Lane, offshore and relocate abroad at any time, thereby jeopardizing the collection of his tax,” the revenue agency said.

Mr. Black owes $12.3-million in taxes to the Canadian government and $19.3-million to the U.S. tax department, according to the documents. As of March 11, 2016, he had balances of $38,900 and $6,834 U.S. in his Canadian bank accounts, despite large lump-sum payments made to him over the previous two years.

...The documents also show an unusual arrangement in the sale of Mr. Black’s mansion, which is now on hold. The undisclosed price was $14-million, which was $5-million less than an appraisal commissioned by Canada Revenue Agency.

Revenue investigator Jon-Paul Rebellato said in the court documents that the unnamed buyer agreed to lease the mansion back to Mr. Black at an annual rent of $155,000. The sale included a verbal agreement with the purchaser to give Mr. Black 50 per cent of the proceeds of any future sale of the property.

Mortgages on the 23,000-square-foot house, nestled on 6.6 acres, amount to $13-million.

Something, as you might have guessed, is not right here. Connie's tapped? No money in the bank. A 14-million dollar property subject to a 13-million dollar mortgage? The guy owes 31-million in outstanding taxes. AND HE'S NOT BANKRUPT? His creditors, the Canadian and U.S. governments haven't petitioned Black into bankruptcy so they can go after his worldwide assets, find out where everything (if there is anything) is hidden?

Something is not adding up.

Movin' On Up

The Disaffected Lib - mer, 06/15/2016 - 09:17

Canada has moved up. We are now the second biggest supplier of arms to the Middle East.

The most authoritive defence industry publisher, Janes, also puts Canada 6th overall in global arms trading.

Just a question. If we're doing such a landslide business selling armaments to foreigners, why is our military in such bad shape?

Canada has also vaulted to sixth overall among all arms-exporting countries, based on rankings released by Jane’s this week. This means only five countries are currently selling more weapons and military equipment.

IHS Jane’s analyst Ben Moores said he suspects Canada has never ranked so highly among all arms-exporting countries and that it certainly hasn’t held that position in the past 15 years.

The Trudeau government, asked whether it took pride in Canada’s expanded role as a weapons seller and would feature this achievement in trade promotion materials, referred the questions to a department of Global Affairs bureaucrat. The civil servant instead said Ottawa hopes to toughen screening of weapons sold to foreigners.

“The government of Canada remains firmly committed to introducing more transparency and rigour in export controls,” spokeswoman Rachna Mishra said.

Yeah, right.
Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Ploughshares, a disarmament group in Waterloo, Ont., that is an agency of the Canadian Council of Churches and tracks arms shipments, said Canadians should be worried that their country is now the second-largest arms exporter to “the most volatile region in the world” today.

“This ranking comes days after Canada addressed the UN Security Council and highlighted the importance of protecting civilians in conflict zones … it is civilians who are often most at risk as a result of arms dealings, in particular to regions engulfed in conflict and notorious for their poor human rights records,” Mr. Jaramillo said.

Wait a minute, did I just hear that right? Canada put in an appearance at the UN Security Council to deliver a lecture on the "importance of protecting civilians in conflict zones?" Yet we'll sell Death Wagons to the Saudis who are relentlessly slaughtering Houthi civilians in Yemen. Yeah, this "we'll do better next time, promise" stuff is bullshit.

Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - mer, 06/15/2016 - 09:09
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Louis-Philippe Rochon reminds us why even if we were to (pointlessly) prioritize raw GDP over fair distributions of income and wealth, inequality is bad for economic growth in general:
The more we redistribute income and wealth, the more consumption increases, which then increases demand. In turn, this should encourage the private sector to invest, thereby accelerating the growth process.

So reducing inequality, in addition to social and health benefits, has important economic implications: our economies grow, and growth itself becomes less volatile. In short, inequality is bad economics.
To restart economic growth, a major preoccupation of many Canadians, there are a number of policies that can be adopted. For instance, higher incomes can be taxed at a much higher marginal rate, including capital gains and income earned from dividends; wealth can also be taxed more.

In light of the Panama Papers, government can close tax loopholes; we can also prevent the private-sector practice of buying back their own shares, which unnecessarily inflates the dividends of shareholders, which in turn favours short-term financial gains to the detriment of long-term economic growth.

Finally, we can adopt a full employment policy.- Meanwhile, PressProgress points out new research by Cristobal Younga, Charles Varnera, Ithai Lurieb andRichard Prisinzanob showing no statistically significant connection between tax rates and millionaires' locations - signalling that there's no reason to take seriously any threat that more progressive taxes will lead the wealthy to move to avoid paying their fair share.

- Aru Pande discusses how U.S. non-profits are being forced to try to fill in glaring gaps in public services for children living in poverty.

- Ian McLeod reports that the Libs' plans to do anything about C-51 are limited to secret Parliamentary oversight after the fact - meaning that the public will have continue to have no idea how its rights are being violated. And Michael Geist writes that there's no longer any doubt just how much needless surveillance is taking place in Canada.

- Finally, Zeynep Engin reviews Beth Simone Noveck's Smart Citizens, Smarter State on the future of governance:
The key terms that I believe best describe the spirit of the book emerge as ‘targeted expertise’, ‘crowdsourcing’, ‘experimental governance’ and ‘citizen engagement’. Instead of the traditional advisory committee model that mainly relies on stakeholder representation (missing the epistemic value of committee membership) and typically produces a report or a set of recommendations over months or even years, Noveck suggests that new technologies should allow us ‘to make consultation on a day-to-day basis and to strive for constant conversation with an engaged and knowledgeable public’. Going beyond ‘crowdsourcing widely to crowdsourcing wisely’ to match the right experts to the right opportunities on a large scale is more likely to lead to faster and better decision-making. Modes of expert engagement can be accommodated at all stages of ideation, discussion, formulation and assessment as opposed to limiting public participation to consultation on pre-formulated drafts of ‘professional policy-makers’ in government departments. This would also lead to redefinition of ‘the public service and the public servant as the steward of such a conversation’. The challenges with this type of engagement and potential strategies to overcome them are also covered widely.
Those with technology and ‘hard’ sciences backgrounds would hugely benefit from a comprehensive understanding of government and policy domains in order to set new research agendas with significant potential for wider impact. At the other end of the spectrum, those with politics and social science backgrounds would find it very helpful for understanding the current technologies of expertise and the new trends in public decision-making, offering great promise for transforming the ways that governments should operate under the ongoing data revolution.

The United States of Assholery

The Disaffected Lib - mer, 06/15/2016 - 08:48

How did America give birth to this sub-culture of total assholes? Case in point, Tennessee representative Andy Holt.

Just days before the Orlando massacre, Holt announced a fundraiser would be held at his family farm.  He was laying on quite a spread, a roasted hog, a petting zoo, live music and hay rides for the kids. And there was even a door prize, an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle.

In the wake of the Orlando slaughter, representative Holt realized the situation had changed. And so he decided he'd give away not one AR-15, but two.

"That's right…. I'm now giving away TWO AR-15s!" he wrote on Facebook on Monday. "I'm sick and tired of the media and liberal politicians attacking our right to keep and bear arms. I'll do everything I can to ensure the 2nd Amendment is protected and people are equipped to exercise their innate right to self-defense [sic]."

It's not that some lowlife like representative Holt did something like this that's troubling. It's the utter predictability, no - absolute certainty, that a tragedy like the Orlando shootings would generate this type of response, that is the most disturbing part of modern American culture. That is a civilization in decline.


What Do Bill Maher and Donald Trump Have in Common?

The Disaffected Lib - mer, 06/15/2016 - 08:20
According to Foreign Policy's Judy Ioffe, comedian Maher and comedian Trump share the same warped Islamophobia.

Speaking after “appreciating the congrats” on the Orlando shootings, Donald Trump again insisted that what mowed people down at Pulse was not an assault rifle but radical Islam, because in Trump Tower, it cannot be both. Trump’s world is binary. It is zero-sum: Either guns kill people or radical Islam kills people. In that world, only one religion can be bad, and so Christianity is good and Islam is bad. Christianity is peaceful and Islam violent. Christianity is tolerant and Islam intolerant. Both are inherently one thing or the other, immutable blueprints etched in stone for the behavior of their respective adherents.

This is a worldview that is shared by people who are Trump supporters and not Trump supporters. In the secular vernacular, we might call this view “Manichean,” that is, a binary between light and darkness, good and evil.

...I am tired of hearing, from Bill Maher and from Donald Trump, that Islam is inherently violent. I am even more tired of hearing that Christianity is inherently peaceful. I have witnessed this debate play out many times over, including at one dinner party when Laura Ingraham turned to the other guests and took a poll: Raise your hands if you think Islam is a death cult. Most of the (politically conservative) guests raised their hands and then took pains to explain to me how, unlike Islam, Christianity is inherently a religion of love.
...Conservatives roll their eyes when you mention the Crusades — oh, that old thing? — and I’m sure they will when they see the reference to the Manicheans, but they both matter, especially if you’re trying to argue that religions have inherent characteristics.
The Crusades are still a sore subject in the Muslim world, but it’s easy to forget the havoc they wreaked on the Jews of Europe. Time after time, as Crusaders slogged southeast on their umpteenth trip to the Holy Land, they slaughtered the Jews in their path. They herded them into synagogues and set the buildings alight. The Crusaders killed so many Jews in the name of their Christian faith that it was the most stunning demographic blow to European Jewry until the Holocaust. Which, just a friendly reminder, happened in Christian, civilized Europe only 70-some years ago.

And if you don’t believe me about the brutal repression of Manichean Christians, you can read about it here in the Catholic Encyclopedia (a publication that “chronicles what Catholic artists, educators, poets, scientists and men of action have achieved in their several provinces”). The Christian Church was ruthless with people whose faith was in any way a deviation from the canon, torturing and burning heretics at the stake. After Martin Luther pinned his theses to a church door, unintentionally spawning a new wing of Christianity, it led to hundreds of years of on-and-off religious warfare between Christians, spilling each other’s blood in the fervent belief that their vision of Christ was the truest. And it’s not ancient history: Violence between Protestants and Catholics continued in Christian Ireland until the very end of the 20th century.
...There are so many historical examples I could mention — Christians killing Jews because they blamed them for the plague; the fact that the word “ghetto” comes from the enclosures in which Jews were forced to live in medieval Venice; the pogroms in which the Russian Orthodox Church encouraged their flocks to kill the non-believing Jews. If that’s too far back in time for you, consider July 1988, the thousandth anniversary of the baptism of Russia: Rumors flew in Moscow that there would be a pogrom to celebrate the day Christianity came to Russia, and that the police were handing out addresses of Jews to the public. (That’s when my family decided to flee Holy Rus.)
Ioffe got a barrage of anti-Semitism from The Donald's Trumpeteers in the wake of an expose on Melania Trump in GQ. Really, really vile stuff. As for the gays:
Watching Trump and the Christian right go after Islam for being homophobic is, frankly, jaw-dropping. If any community in this country has shown itself to be anti-gay, it is conservative Christians and their decades of peddling hatred for gay people, comparing homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, claiming AIDS is divine punishment, pushing “cures” for homosexuality, and blocking laws that prevent gays not just from marrying but from being discriminated against. A Christian pastor, who has enjoyed the company of Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, and Ted Cruz, recentlysaid that, according to the Bible, homosexuals “deserve the death penalty.” Now the very same people who, just last month, were comparing trans people to predators who would use the wrong bathroom to hunt for child victims are suddenly lining up to defend gays from radical Islam.
...Friday will mark the one-year anniversary of Dylann Roof killing nine people in the middle of a Bible study in Charleston, S.C. Before his rampage, he wrote a manifesto declaring his allegiance to the white supremacist cause and pointing to the Council of Conservative Citizens, which claims to adhere to “Christian beliefs and values,” as a major source of information and inspiration. By some accounts, Roof came from a church-going family and attended Christian summer camp. Did Roof kill his fellow Christians because he was deranged or because Christianity is violent?”
...No religion is inherently violent. No religion is inherently peaceful. Religion, any religion, is a matter of interpretation, and it is often in that interpretation that we see either beauty or ugliness — or, more often, if we are mature enough to think nuanced thoughts, something in between.

Saudi Prince Snubbed?

The Disaffected Lib - mer, 06/15/2016 - 07:57

In the wake of Hillary Clinton's remarks linking Saudi Arabia to Islamist terrorism, a possible new rebuke to Riyadh, this time from the White House.

It was billed by Riyadh’s state media as a trip for Saudi Arabia’s powerful deputy crown prince to meet with President Barack Obama and other senior U.S. officials. But now that Prince Mohammed bin Salman has arrived in Washington, it’s still unclear if the president or any White House officials will meet with him, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

“No confirmation at this time for any WH meetings,” White House spokesperson Dew Tiantawach told Foreign Policy.

“Very unusual for the Saudis to come out saying he is meeting with Obama and White House not confirming it,” said David Ottaway, a Saudi expert at the Wilson Center in Washington. “They certainly knew he was coming.”

Prince Salman is also the Saudi defence minister which taints him with the atrocities (war crimes) his military is inflicting on Houthi civilians in Yemen. As I understand it, he's also next in line to the Saudi throne.

Does Europe Offer a Glimpse Into Our Future? Is the Old Political Dynamic Passing Away?

The Disaffected Lib - mer, 06/15/2016 - 07:38
The mass support shown for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump has been a measure of the powerful disaffection among the American public. Both are/were anti-establishment figures who spoke to public discontent with their mainstream political parties.

Something similar seems to be underway in Europe. An article from The Guardian suggests a broad-based discontent, from the far left to the far right and everything in between has "mainstream parties in full retreat."

The concerns of many may be broadly the same: immigration, integration, jobs, incomes, the EU, political and business elites. The euro crisis, followed by Europe’s migrant crisis and the Paris and Brussels terror attacks have fuelled their rise.

But their ideological roots are very different: from anti-establishment to neo-fascist, nationalist to anti-austerity, authoritarian to populist, libertarian to Catholic ultra-conservative.

Germany’s AfD is not Hungary’s Fidesz. The Finns and the Danish People’s party loathe France’s Front National, and the Netherlands’ PVV is nothing like Poland’s Law and Justice, which bears no resemblance to Austria’s Freedom party. It may be misleading to bracket them all together in the same category.

What is undeniably happening, however, is that the continent’s traditional mainstream parties are in full retreat. Across Europe, the centre-left social democrats and centre-right Christian democrats who have dominated national politics for 60 years are in decline.

Following a collapse in support for its two centrist parties last December, Spain has been unable to form a government and will hold fresh elections next month. The three mainstream parties in the Netherlands are set to win 40% of the vote between them in elections next year – roughly what any one of them might have got previously.

Even in Germany, it seems highly likely that support for liberal and green parties and, above all, the populist, anti-immigrant AfD, could soon bring to an end an era of two-party political stability that has endured since the end of the second world war.

Is the old political apparatus also failing us in Canada? To me it does seem so, quite clearly. From globalization and the surrender of state sovereignty to inequality and the rise of corporatism to the environment and climate change our governments no longer seem to be acting in the public interest. It's as though representative democracy has atrophied under the governance of our mainstream parties. We are no longer led. Today we are ruled, administered by visionless technocrats who fiddle with this and meddle with that to no coherent end. Perhaps it is just a symptom of some greater malady looming. Who can tell?

Are We Spoiling For a Fight?

The Disaffected Lib - mer, 06/15/2016 - 07:38

Yesterday it was CSIS egging the Canadian government on with dire warnings that Vlad Putin was mobilizing Russian forces and war could be imminent.

Today comes word that the US Navy's Third Fleet, its eastern Pacific/home waters navy, is sailing for China's marine backyard, the East and South China Seas.

The Third Fleet, based in San Diego, California, traditionally has confined its operations to the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean's international dateline.

Japan's Nikkei Asian Review quoted the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift, as saying on Tuesday that the move came in the "context of uncertainty and angst in the region," an apparent reference to China's behavior.

Swift argued that the Navy should utilize the "total combined power" of the 140,000 sailors, over 200 ships and 1,200 aircraft that make up the Pacific Fleet.

The Seventh Fleet consists of an aircraft carrier strike group, 80 other vessels and 140 aircraft. The Third Fleet has more than 100 vessels, including four aircraft carriers.

Pacific Fleet commander, 4-star admiral Scott Swift left no doubt about this mission.

"This is real. The commitment of the 3rd Fleet [operating] forward is real," Swift said, pointing out that the deployment engages the entire Pacific command's 140,000-sailors, 200 ships and 1,200 aircraft.

The Christian Wrong

Politics and its Discontents - mer, 06/15/2016 - 07:12
That, I humbly submit, should be the new name for the Christian right. They are wrong and depraved morally, ethically, theologically and humanly. It should be a source of collective shame that they are part of our species, as the following clip from Rachel Maddow's show makes clear:

Recommend this Post

Glad I'm Not An American

Politics and its Discontents - mer, 06/15/2016 - 05:31
Fellow Canadian Samantha Bee articulates the reasons for my gratitude:

Recommend this Post

The Ghastly Con Michelle Rempel Disgraces Herself. Again

Montreal Simon - mer, 06/15/2016 - 05:03

As you all know the ghastly Con Michelle Rempel aka Rempelstiltskin, has recently been out of control in the House of Commons.

First she accused the opposition and the Speaker of laughing at her. Which caused them to laugh even louder.

And then she started flogging some hollow motion on genocide. And when that was defeated. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the majority of Liberal MPs have voted against a Conservative motion declaring that the violence perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant constitutes genocide.

She went absolutely crazy.
Read more »

Getting To The Bottom Of The Afghan Prisoners Debacle

Northern Reflections - mer, 06/15/2016 - 04:40
In May of 2007, The Toronto Star ran a story about how Afghan soldiers -- who had been captured by Canadians -- were being abused in prison. Michael Byers and William Schabas write:

As one detainee told reporter Rosie DiManno, “They whipped me with rubber hoses. Another time, they used a chain to hang me from the ceiling, my head toward the floor.” The same detainee said Canadian officials visited the prison operated by the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), but were never allowed to speak with prisoners.

As the late James Travers wrote, also in this newspaper, the story was part of a “long march into twilight” for Canada. The country that “gave the world Lester Pearson’s peacekeeping and Brian Mulroney’s stand against apartheid” now had to struggle “with Stephen Harper’s apparent blindness to compelling evidence of Afghanistan prisoner abuse.”
Three months later, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission estimated that “one in three prisoners handed over by Canadians are beaten or even tortured.” In March 2007, the U.S. State Department reported that: “Complaints of serious human rights violations committed by representatives of national security institutions, including arbitrary arrest, unconfirmed reports of torture, and illegal detention were numerous.”
Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin was posted in Afghanistan during this period. He wrote 17 separate reports that warned explicitly of torture and were distributed widely within the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Defence. As Colvin explained when called to testify before a Parliamentary committee, “for a year and a half after they (senior Canadian officials) knew about the very high risk of torture, they continued to order military police in the field to hand our detainees to the NDS.”
The torture of prisoners of war is a war crime:
The Convention Against Torture stipulates that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court specifies that even in “an armed conflict not of an international character,” such as existed in Afghanistan from 2002 onwards, the “cruel treatment and torture” of detainees constitutes a war crime.
The prohibition extends to anyone who knowingly facilitates torture, including by “providing the means for its commission.” For this reason, any soldier who transferred a detainee to a known risk of torture could be guilty of a war crime. Any superior who ordered the transfer of a detainee to a known risk of torture could also be guilty of a war crime. This responsibility extends all the way up the chain of command, including government ministers.
Nevertheless, the Harper government did its level best to sweep all the evidence under the rug -- where it remains to this day. Justin Trudeau seems bent on cleaning out the putrid stable that Stephen Harper left behind. But, so far, he has refused to touch the Afghan detainee issue.
It's time for Trudeau to show us what he's made of. 
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The ISIS Crazies Threaten To Attack the Toronto Pride Parade

Montreal Simon - mer, 06/15/2016 - 02:02

The other day I told you that I'm planning to attend Toronto's Gay Pride parade, even though I'm recovering from knee surgery.

Because I want to honour the victims of the Orlando massacre, and show the hate mongers of this world that we are not afraid.

Even if I have to hobble through that crowd on crutches, or ride majestically through it on the shoulders of my companion. 

Well now I'm even more determined to go, because it seems some ISIS crazies are threatening to ruin the party. 

By behaving badly.

Toronto police say they are aware of a possible threat from a German pro-ISIS group that identifies the Toronto Pride Parade as an “excellent target” for an attack.

And although I'm not sure whether they will be bringing their favourite goats, and although I know that Justin Trudeau will be marching in the parade, so I'm sure the police will take the necessary precautions.

I'm not taking any chances. I'm sending in the Con Brigade...

I mean they're always talking about fighting ISIS, so this is their chance.

But seriously, what everybody needs to know is that the ISIS crazies are about as Muslim as those porkers. They are the Kafirs or unbelievers. 

They're murderous war criminals, drug addicts, rapists, gay killers, thieves, and cowards. 

And judging from the murderous activities of their latest self declared recruit, they may even be sodomites.

So if they try to rain on the gay parade, they will end up in the hell of their own choosing...

And what those losers, or that loser, needs to know, is that the LGBT community is a fighting community. 

The Gay Pride parade is a celebration of the three-day Stonewall Riots in 1969, and the official beginning of the Gay Liberation Movement...

We hate cowardly religious bigots with every bone in our bodies, and have been fighting them for over forty years.

And what they also need to know is that we are joined every year by tens of thousands of straight people, of all ages, and ethnicities. Who bring themselves and in many cases their children, to join in the fun and celebrate diversity, and tolerance.

Which is what makes us all strong. Or makes us Canada 

And while we're marching on to victory.... 

They're heading for oblivion.

So if I was them I'd stay at home, and shove this absurd message where the sun don't shine...

Before I lose my temper and confiscate that deadly cellphone, and that toy gun. And ask the authorities to administer a random drug test.

But if they do insist on coming, I do hope they introduce themselves to me and my buddy Sébastien. 

Because with more than twenty years of martial arts training between us, we'd LOVE to have a chance to welcome them to Canada.

For one thing is for sure eh?

They are losers.

The LGBT community will honour its dead.

And we are not afraid...

Please click here to recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers.

The Orlando Massacre and the Doctor's Bloody Shoes

Montreal Simon - mar, 06/14/2016 - 19:18

When I saw the first pictures of the Pulse nightclub shooting, and I saw the ambulances converging on the scene.

And then because there weren't enough of them, I saw the wounded being loaded onto the back of pick up trucks.

Two thoughts went through my mind. What bloodthirsty maniac did this?

And how are the hospitals going to handle the load?
Read more »

Does CSIS Want Canada On a War Footing?

The Disaffected Lib - mar, 06/14/2016 - 16:46

According to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Vlad Putin is going for his guns and it could mean war is on our horizon.

Fine time to tell us now that our army's kit is clapped out from Afghanistan, our navy is rusting into scale incapable of sallying forth to defend any of our three coastlines, and our air force is having to make do with a paltry number of "long in the tooth" warplanes and little else.

The Trudeau government is considering a request to commit hundreds of troops to eastern Europe and take part command of a new NATO force being assembled to deter Russian aggression.

Canada's participation in the Baltic operation was discussed Tuesday by the military alliance's defence ministers, including Canada's Harjit Sajjan, at a meeting in Brussels.

This comes just days after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service quietly released an open-sourced global security analysis warning, among other things, that the hard-line policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin are becoming more deeply entrenched and that Moscow is retooling its military for a fight.

Yes, Russia is rearming. No question about that. It's the "spoiling for a fight" part that has to be questioned. There's a huge difference between worrying about this giant military alliance that has been marched right up to your borders and wanting to pick a fight that you will almost certainly lose and might not even survive at all.
Using stark language, the report warned decision-makers not to treat Putin's rearmament drive lightly.

"Russia is not modernizing its military primarily to extend its capacity to pursue hybrid warfare," the 104 page report said, referring to the Kremlin's use of irregular tactics to take over Crimea. "It is modernizing conventional military capability on a large scale; the state is mobilizing for war."

One thing for sure. If either side does provoke a shooting war it won't resemble anything we've known since the Korean War, perhaps even WWII.

Global Weirding - B.C. - and An Addition to the Family.

The Disaffected Lib - mar, 06/14/2016 - 15:50

It's snowing on Vancouver's north shore mountains. Snow is accumulating on Grouse, Cypress and Mt. Seymour.

And British Columbians can welcome a new arrival to our coastal dolphin community. Short-beaked common dolphins have moved into the Salish Sea. Usually not seen north of California these dolphins seem to be migrating out of hotter southern waters or they're travelling in pursuit of their traditional bait fish.

Other resident dolphin species include the orca, Pacific white sided dolphin, Dall's porpoise, harbour porpoise, Northern Right Whale dolphin,  Risso's dolphin and striped dolphin.


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