Posts from our progressive community

Say What? How Bad Is It?

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 16:03
To quote Sverker Göransson, Sweden's top military commander, "it's fucked up."Referring to Sweden's so far fruitless search for a suspected Russian sub lurking somewhere around the islands off its capital,  he said, "This is very serious. I would even go so far as to say, to say that it's fucked up."  
The Swedish military won't even say that they're hunting a submarine.  They have, however, described it as a vessel that was spotted surfacing.  I guess you have to connect the dots yourself.


The Swedish military has released a map of the Stockholm archipelago showing five sightings of the apparent submarine.  The map also reveals how easy it is for a submarine to hide among the myriad of inlets, bays and channels.


Another Group Shames Harper

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 13:36

It is to be hoped that the closer we move to next year's election, more and more Canadians will be wagging their fingers at Stephen Harper for his various acts of destruction in this country. For now, let's enjoy the fact that this group is doing it for us:
An organization known for its efforts to improve scientific integrity within the U.S. government is taking aim at Prime Minister Stephen Harper over policies and funding cuts that it says are detrimental to Canadian public science.

In an open letter released Tuesday, the Union of Concerned Scientists urged Mr. Harper to lift a communications protocol that prevents federal researchers from speaking with journalists without approval from Ottawa. The letter also refers to barriers that it says inhibit collaboration with colleagues in the broader scientific community.The letter, signed by over 800 academic researchers working outside of Canada,
was released jointly with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the union that represents more than 15,000 scientists employed within a range of government departments and agencies. It includes a reference to a PIPSC survey, conducted in 2013, which found that 90 per cent of more than 4,000 of the federal scientists who responded felt they could not speak freely about their work.Dennis Hansell, chairman of the Department of Ocean Sciences at the University of Miami and one of the signatories, said:
“As a global scientist I need Canadians to be involved so I can get my work done too. If there’s any threat to that, that’s a problem,” said Dr. Hansell, who is in the midst of proposing a project in the Arctic that would require the co-ordination of U.S., German and Canadian research teams.Much of the world seems aware of the autocracy and fear that exists in Canada. Let's hope that sufficient numbers of Canadian voters will soon become similarly enlightened.
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Pontifical Council to World Hindus - Globalization Sucks!

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:22
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has issued a heads up to world Hindus for Diwali, the Hindu Autumn festival of lights.


In the message, released October 20 and entitled “Christians and Hindus: Together to Foster a Culture of ‘Inclusion,’” the Pontifical Council stated that “globalization has not achieved its primary objective of integrating local peoples into the global community. Rather, globalization has contributed significantly to many peoples losing their sociocultural, economic and political identities.”Globalization, the message continued, has contributed to relativism, syncretism, “a privatization of religion,” and “religious fundamentalism and ethnic, tribal and sectarian violence in different parts of the world.“Nurturing a culture of inclusion thus becomes a common call and a shared responsibility, which must be urgently undertaken,” the Pontifical Council added. “It is a project involving those who care for the health and survival of the human family here on earth and which needs to be carried out amidst, and in spite of, the forces that perpetuate the culture of exclusion.”

A Nation Awash in Pigs and Guns. What's the Problem?

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:21


How can a nation with a lunatic gun culture ever find itself at the mercy of pigs?

The United States, or at least 39 States so far, is being overrun by a burgeoning population of wild pigs.  There's even a TV show about a family of L'il Abner rednecks who make their living at pig pest control.

In the past 30 years ...their ranks have swollen until suddenly disease-carrying, crop-devouring swine have spread to 39 states. Now, wild pigs are five million strong and the targets of a $20-million federal initiative to get their numbers under control.

Settlers first brought the ancestors of today’s pigs to the South in the 1600s and let them roam free as a ready supply of fresh pork. Not surprisingly, some of the pigs wandered off and thrived in the wild, thanks to their indiscriminate appetites.

Wildlife biologists can’t really explain how pigs from a few pockets were able to extend their range so rapidly in recent years. “If you look at maps of pig distribution from the eighties, there's a lot of pigs, but primarily in Florida and Texas,” says Stephen Ditchkoff, a wildlife ecologist at Auburn University. “Today, populations in the southeast have exploded. In the Midwest and the north it's grown to be a significant problem.” Ditchkoff believes sportsmen transported the pigs so they could hunt them on their land.

As pigs spread, they wreak havoc on the lands they inhabit. Wild pigs cause at least$1.5 billion in damages and control costs each year, according to a 2007 survey, mostly to agriculture. Dubbed the “rototillers of nature,” they dig up fields, create wallows in pastures and destroy fences. A church in Texas was so worried that pigs would devour its annual pumpkin sale that it lobbied the local government to let hunters stand watch over the patch at night. They were right to fret. The 2.6 million pigs in Texas cause $500 million in damage each year—a liability of $200 per pig. “I’ve never seen any one species that can affect so many livelihoods and resources,” says Michael Bodenchuk, state director of Texas Wildlife Services. He is particularly worried about harm to native species and the 400 stream segments in Texas that are infected with bacteria from the pigs’ defecation.
 
Heeding concerns from state wildlife agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculturecreated a new national program in April to halt and reverse this trend. It aims to wipe out pigs from two states every three to five years and stabilize the population within a decade. Dale Nolte, national coordinator of the program, says his first priority will be states with the fewest pigs; he will then work back to those like Texas that are overrun. One reason he wants to confront the states with the fewest pigs first is because the animals reproduce rapidly once they invade an area. If 70 percent of the pigs in a region are killed, the remaining ones can have piglets fast enough to replace all those lost in just two and a half years.

Dispossession by Negotiation - Harper's Approach to Native Land Rights

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 11:48
In what appears to be "Shame on You, Canada" Day, the Guardian has a damning piece on how the Harper regime is intent on severing Canada's First Nations from their rightful claims to ancestral lands.

First Nations have been emboldened by this summer’s Supreme Court of Canada William decision, which recognized the aboriginal title of the Tsilhqot’in nation to 1750 square kilometres of their land in central British Columbia – not outright ownership, but the right to use and manage the land and to reap its economic benefits.

The ruling affects all “unceded” territory in Canada – those lands never signed away through a treaty or conquered by war. Which means that over an enormous land-mass – most of British Columbia, large parts of Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and a number of other spots – a new legal landscape is emerging that offers the prospect of much more responsible land stewardship.

...And the Canadian government’s response? Far from embracing these newly recognized Indigenous land rights, they are trying to accelerate their elimination. The court has definitively told Canada to accept the reality of aboriginal title: the government is doing everything in its power to deny it.

This is what dispossession by negotiation looks like. The government demands that First Nations trade away – or in the original term, to “extinguish” – their rights to 95 percent of their traditional territory. Their return is some money and small parcels of land, but insidiously, as private property, instead of in the collective way that Indigenous peoples have long held and stewarded it. And First Nations need to provide costly, exhaustive proof of their rights to their own land, for which they have amassed a stunning $700 million in debt – a debt the government doesn’t think twice about using to arm-twist.

...Despite the pressure, most First Nations have not yet signed their names to these crooked deals – especially when the Supreme Court is simultaneously directing the government to reconcile with First Nations and share the land. But the Supreme Court’s confirmation that this approach is unconstitutional and illegal matters little to the government. What enables them to flout their own legal system is that Canadians remain scarcely aware of it.

Acting without public scrutiny, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is trying to shore up support for this policy – now forty years old – to finally secure the elimination of Indigenous land rights. The process is led by the same man, Douglas Eyford, who has been Harper’s advisor on getting tar sands pipelines and energy projects built in western Canada. That is no coincidence. The government is growing more desperate to remove the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of a corporate bonanza for dirty fossil fuels: the unceded aboriginal title of First Nations – backed now by the Supreme Court of Canada.

...That’s why the habit of government officials, of media and even of Supreme Court judges to call the Tsilhqoti’in “nomadic” bothers [Chief Roger] William so much: his people have lived on these lands for thousands of years, while it is non-natives who are constantly moving and resettling. And what could be more nomadic and transient than the extractive industry itself – grabbing what resources and profits it can before abandoning one area for another.

As Canadians look more closely, they are discovering that the unceded status of vast territories across this country is not a threat, as they’ve long been told. It is a tremendous gift, protected with love by Indigenous nations over generations, to be seized for the possibilities it now offers for governing the land in a radically more just and sustainable way for everyone.
I
n this battle between the love of the land and a drive for its destruction, those behind the extractive economy have everything to lose and Indigenous peoples everything to win. The rest of us, depending on our stand, have a transformed country to gain.

What this article reminds us is that, in so many ways, Canada's First Nations are carrying the fight for us.  They're doing the heavy lifting.  They're blocking a rogue government that considers itself above the law whenever that suits it.  Maybe it's time we showed a little tangible support for everything our First Nations are doing to defend Canada.

The New Republic Slams Harper, Abbott and Canada's "Government of Thugs"

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 11:19


It's an American publication so you'll have to excuse the hyperbole.  The New Republic, in an article entitled, "These Two World Leaders are Laughing While the World Burns Up," obviously conflated Stephen Harper and his Australian ventriloquist's dummy, Tony Abbott, with "world leaders."

Canada once had a shot at being the world's leader on climate change.  Back in 2002, our northern neighbours had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the world's first treaty that required nations to cut their emissions or face penalties.  In 2005, the country hosted an international climate change conference in Montreal, where then-Prime Minister Paul Martin singled out America for its indifference.  "To the reticent nations, including the United States, I say this: There is such a thing as a global conscience," Martin said.

...According to a 2014 Climate Change Performance Index from European groups Climate Action Network Europe and Germanwatch, Canada and Australia occupy the bottom two spots among all 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  Among the 20 countries with the largest economies (G20), only Saudi Arabia ranked lower than them. Canada and Australia's records on climate change have gotten so bad, they've become the go-to examples for Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who don't think climate change exists.

...On the way to his first trip in the U.S., Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott stopped for a full day of talks with Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Abbott was in Canada's capital with the intention of building a "conservative alliance among 'like-minded' countries" to try to dismantle global efforts on climate change. At a press conference that day, Harper applauded Abbott's efforts to gut Australia's carbon tax. "You’ve used this international platform to encourage our counterparts in the major economies and beyond to boost economic growth, to lower taxes when possible and to eliminate harmful ones, most notably the job-killing carbon tax," Harper said. He added that "we shouldn't clobber the economy" by pursuing an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax. 
ADVERTISEMENT
This is how Canada and Australia's top leaders frame global warming. The two stress that they will always choose short-term economic gain first, disregarding scientific findings and even the interests of their political allies in the process. The countries' abrupt shift on climate track conservatives' rise to a majority in Canada in 2011 and in Australia last year.

 The hostility toward environmental interests goes even deeper than energy policy. Harper has battled his own scientists, independent journalists, and environmental groups at odds with his views. 
 Climate scientists have reported that they are unable to speak to press about their own findings, feeling effectively "muzzled" by agencies that want to script talking points for them. In June, a government spokesperson explained that federal meteorologists must speak only "to their area of expertise," which does not include climate change, according to a government spokesperson. Journalists sometimes face bullying, too. Environmental author Andrew Nikiforuk told ThinkProgress that "a government of thugs" slandered him and shut him out of events. But environmentalists may fare the worst. Seven environmental nonprofits in Canada have accused the Canada Revenue Agency of unfairly targeting them for audits. According to internal documents obtained by The Guardian, Canada's police and Security Intelligence Service identified nonviolent environmental protests—like people who oppose hydrofracking and the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline—as "forms of attack" fitting the "number of cases where we think people might be inclined to acts of terrorism."  ...A decade ago, our close allies due north and across the Pacific rightly shamed us on our poor response to climate change. Now, they've lost the moral high ground. At the September United Nations Climate Summit, the largest gathering of world leaders yet on the issue, both Abbott and Harper were no-shows. The ministers sent in their place also arrived empty-handed; Australia's foreign minister suggested that only larger countries should be responsible for more ambitious climate action. Canada Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq repeated an already-public commitment that Canada would copy Obama's fuel economy regulations requiring 35.5 miles per gallon. Afterward, in an interview with the Globe and Mail, Aglukkaq spoke of the unfairness of a global treaty. "It’s not up to one country to solve the global greenhouse-gas emissions. I mean, seriously now, it’s just not fair. We all have to do our part, big or small countries.” That's true. If only her small country would do its part, too.  A government of thugs indeed.  A government that disgraces our people and our country both at home and on the world stage.





Really, Is This a Good Idea?

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 08:57


Back in the days when General Motors ruled the world it was said that the business of America was business.   That's what came to mind on reading an item today about the US ordering more than a thousand Hellfire missiles on behalf of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Qatar.

Just what is Saudi Arabia going to do with hundreds of Hellfire missiles?  They don't go to war.  We do that for them.  They do fund Islamic extremists of the sort that we wind up having to fight.  They do use their militaries to brutally suppress dissent, especially of the democratic kind.

We've been arming those fanatical buggers, the princes and sheikhs who quietly fund outfits like al Qaeda and ISIS, to the teeth and what good has come of it?

Let's hope these Hellfires don't find their way into the wrong hands, the guys who could use them against us.

The Man Behind The Curtain

Northern Reflections - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 07:16

                                                http://www.sodahead.com

Andrew Coyne is a philosophical and an economic conservative. So one would expect that he would support the present government. But he saw through the facade long ago. Despite his conservative bias, he has very little good to say about the Harper government:

If the nastiness of its politics is the dominant impression of this government, it is in part for lack of anything else to identify it. It seems so pointless, all this poisonous effort for so little actual accomplishment, until you realize that is the point: The partisanship is in place of the policy, not in pursuit of it. The end is only power, and power is, with few exceptions, the only thing of consequence this government has achieved.
Coyne sees the government's critics as inconsequential -- a judgement that will either prove valid or invalid. Nonetheless, Coyne writes:

It is the belief in this government’s consequentiality that, oddly, unites its critics and its friends. Much of that, I think, is bound up in the prime minister’s persona. Foes see a ruthless revolutionary; fans, a sober-sided, get ’er done chief executive, capable of making, as a Globe story put it recently, the “tough decisions.” He seems a formidable character, for good or ill: It is hard to believe that all that intelligence and self-discipline could not be in the service of some larger purpose, or at least some grander strategic design. Even dispassionate observers like Maclean’s magazine’s Paul Wells, in The Longer I’m Prime Minister, attribute to him a vast, if incremental, efficacy: so incremental it eludes the naked eye.
That judgment has always seemed -- to me, at least -- weak minded. Harper is a Canadian version of the Wizard Oz. If he's been successful, it's because he has been allowed by an apathetic public to operate behind a curtain. And he does his best to keep the curtain drawn.


Harper Regimed Deservedly Mocked and Disdained In House

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 06:05
I often marvel at the ability of the Prime Minister and his minions to keep a straight face as they baldly lie to all of us. At least those lies came in for some much deserved mockery yesterday in the House of Commons:

Recommend this Post

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 05:58
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Martha Friendly highlights how families at all income levels can benefit from a strong child care system:
Isn’t it the Canadian way to include people from diverse groups and social classes in community institutions like public schools, community recreation facilities, public colleges and universities so all can learn to live, play and work together? Indeed, research shows that early childhood is the ideal time for beginning to learn to respect differences and diversity by engaging with and getting to know children and adults of all varieties.

Childcare as an inclusive community institution is great for families, as well as children. Childcare that’s responsive to the community can unite families from diverse origins through participation in common activities related to their children. This can demonstrate to adults and children that co-operation among social classes and ethnic groups is possible and valued. Thus, the idea of good childcare as an agent of social change that fosters social inclusion is an important aspect of a vision of Canadian childcare in the future, and one that is already embraced by many quality childcare programs. - Meanwhile, Jordan Brennan and Jim Stanford examine the effect of increasing the minimum wage - which improves equality without affecting employment growth. And for good measure, Danny Vinik highlights a new U.S. study confirming the same point. 

- Murray Dobbin writes about the Harper Cons' Orwellian foreign policy:
Harper's amoral political calculations about who and when to bomb people has little to do with any genuine consideration of the geopolitical situation or what role Canada might usefully play -- or even in what Canada's "interests" are. So long as he is prime minister it will be the same: every calculation will be made with the single-minded goal of staying in power long enough to dismantle the post-war activist state. The nurturing of his core constituency includes appeals to a thinly disguised pseudo-crusade against Islamic infidels, a phony appeal to national security (preceded by fear-mongering) and in the case of Ukraine, a crude appeal to ethnic votes.

Reinforcing this legacy is a mainstream media that lets him get away with it, and in particular, refuses to do its homework while the bombing -- or posturing -- is taking place and then refuses to expose the negative consequences of the reckless adventures. The result is what cultural critic Henry Giroux calls "the fog of historical and social amnesia."- And Frank Graves' issues chart likely explains the Cons' obsession with spreading fear at home and abroad, as "national security" and "crime" are the only issues where they seem to have any meaningful advantage over the other federal parties. But the good news is thatfewer and fewer Canadians are showing any interest in settling for what the Cons are offering.

- Finally, Ryan Meili and Danyaal Raza make the case to make health impacts a central consideration in developing all kinds of public policies.

Stephen Harper, the Terrorist Scare, and the Police State

Montreal Simon - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 03:00


I warned that Stephen Harper was looking for a way to scare Canadians, so he could try to stampede them into believing that only a Great Strong Leader like himself could save them.

So he could use fear to try to save himself, and turn this broken country into a police state.

Well today he got his "terrorist incident." 

A 25-year-old man who injured two soldiers in a hit and run and was later fatally shot by police in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., was known to federal authorities as someone who had been "radicalized," according to the RCMP and the Prime Minister's Office.

And the way he handled it, and some of the strange things that happened today, should make all Canadians wonder whether we're still living in a democracy.
Read more »

PEI: Still Lubing up for the Catlick Church

Dammit Janet - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 19:41
It seems the CBC got its hands on a leaked business plan to bring abortion to the "Gentle Island."

A leaked business plan for a twice-monthly clinic prepared by Health PEI shows the province could have saved $37,000 a year providing abortions on the Island, rather than paying for them to be performed at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Science Centre in Halifax.

In addition, women using the service would also save tens of thousands of dollars.Currently, PEI is the only province that has zip zero nada abortion services and forces women to travel at their own expense.

So, while sensible people worked out a way to make this common but time-sensitive medical procedure available, saving both the government and Island women money, not to mention the stress and hassle, the government nixed it.

With zip zero nada explanation.

In a follow-up story, CBC tried to get government spokespeople to account for the idiocy. They would not.
CBC PEI has requested to speak to [Health Minister Doug] Currie and Valerie Docherty, the minister responsible for the Status of Women.

Currie refused to be interviewed and his office issued a statement, as did Docherty.

"My role is to ensure that the voices of all Island women are considered during policy discussions," Docherty wrote in an email.

"As Minister Currie has noted, Government is meeting its obligations to offer abortion services on a regional basis, similar to the same way we offer other health services, such as cardiac rehab, vascular and pediatric services."Shorter PEI government: "STFU. We know what's best."

On Twitter, though, a clue was provided by @esseleblanc.

@teesock @fernhilldammit Seems the PEI gov. is still under the church’s thumb. See “Closure” section. http://t.co/tVNiaSEGBn

— Stéphane (@esseleblanc) October 21, 2014

From Wiki:
In 1982, after 102 years of service, the Charlottetown Hospital closed its doors when the Queen Elizabeth Hospital opened.

The opening of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 1982 also saw the end of abortion services in the province, which had been provided at the Prince Edward Island Hospital since the late 1960s. One of the conditions that the Roman Catholic Church placed on the provincial government of Premier James Lee for merging the Catholic-affiliated Charlottetown Hospital with the secular and publicly operated Prince Edward Island Hospital into the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital was that all abortion services in the province be discontinued.[1]
And that footnote takes us to a story from The National Post, November 16, 2011.

Isn't that sweet? The Catlick Church stomped its widdle feet over thirty years ago and the pusillanimous politicians are still bending over for them.

According to StatsCan, there are about 58,000 Catholics and 57,000 other Christians out of a total population of just over 137,000.

Looked at another way, this means that a minority is holding 79,000 non-Catholics -- and no doubt some sane Catholics as well -- hostage.

Prince Edward Island is *just* like Ireland -- blithely exporting its abortion "problem" and pretending it doesn't have one.

Time to join the 21st century, little island.

Stephen Harper and the Monstrous Ebola Scandal

Montreal Simon - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 16:15


A few days ago I pointed out that Stephen Harper was trying to fan the flames of an Ebola panic.

Even though his response to the epidemic has been lethally inadequate. 

And far from making us safer he has been decimating the ranks of those who would protect us from dangerous diseases.

But this is simply obscene. 
Read more »

Another Reminder Of The Regime Under Which We Chafe

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 14:53


I hope none of us forgets this, just one small part of the Harper programme to promote ignorance, stifle informed discussion, and ravage the environment.Recommend this Post

Start Thinking About the Next Society. This One Has About Had It.

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:43
I'm with Chris Hedges.  We are sorely in need of revolutionary change.  It's come to the point where we have to kick over the traces if we're to have any hope of reclaiming democracy and salvaging a liveable world for our grandchildren.

For me, the straw that broke the camel's back was the report last week that we have lost half the planet's wild life over the last 40-years.  Such an unbelievably brief interval to have caused such devastation.

I predicted at the time that the report would be forgotten, consigned down the memory hole, within a week and that is precisely what has occurred.  Our political caste has treated the whole business as a non-event.  It's not even on their radar.

If we can be so complacent about the loss of half the world's wild life in just 40-years, what does this portend for the remaining half?  What is our tipping point for biodiversity collapse?  How vulnerable is our civilization, how fragile are we?

A lot of people have no clue how dependent mankind is on biodiversity.  We don't grasp how interconnected the species are and how the loss of part of our biodiversity ripples through every other species.

We lose the pollinators, we starve en masse.  Plain as day.  Without the bees and other insect pollinators plants don't reproduce.  That includes all the plants that we feed on.  Predator species keep pests and disease at bay.  Lose enough of them and your life will become very different very rapidly.

We're facing an extraordinary, immediate and potentially existential threat and all our political caste can do is yawn - and preen.  And that's just one threat, one of several.

Making the country work for Canadians is more than tweaking tax policy even if neoliberals don't see it that way.  It's about building a society that is as robust and cohesive as possible.  That means countering the forces that corrode social cohesion - inequality, authoritarianism, corporatism.  Make no mistake, these are forces that degrade our democracy and there are a good many within our political caste who are just fine with that.

Our political apparatus is no longer responsive to the needs of our people and the future needs of our nation.  Biodiversity, who cares?  Inequality, sure we'll get right on that.  Climate change, we get it but just not now.  The death of democratic press freedom?  Next.

Perhaps you're a true believer who thinks all Canada needs is new management - i.e. your party in power - and all will be right.  I'll tell you what I believe.  I believe that's delusional thinking.  Rubbish, utter nonsense.  The best we can hope for out of the New Democrats or Liberals is government "less worse" than the Harper Conservatives and that's still no damned good for us, our grandkids and our Canada.




Enjoy the Autumn. Winter is Shaping Up to be a B

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:40


Climate change can be cool.  It can also be damned cold, icy and frigid.  You know, you easterners, the Polar Vortex you endured last year.

Well, guess what?  You're getting another one this year.  Or, as my old great aunt used to say, "shit, oh dear."

No, seriously, you're in for another Polar Vortex winter.

AccuWeather reports:  Cold air will surge into the Northeast in late November, but the brunt of the season will hold off until January and February. The polar vortex, the culprit responsible for several days of below-zero temperatures last year, will slip down into the region from time to time, delivering blasts of arctic air.So, to you easterners, you need to understand that this is not a problem that is going to go away or even not worsen substantially until you begin to think less about your party affiliation and a lot more about starting to vote for a party that puts this issue front and center on their agenda.

It's the last really progressive thing to do.

Just sayin.

MoS

Harper's Experiment to Wrap Canadians in "Protective Stupidity" Mission Accomplished?

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:22


The Tyee's Murray Dobbins laments the success Stephen Harper has had, with the powerful support of a shamelessly collaborative media, at manipulating the Canadian public.

Harper's amoral political calculations about who and when to bomb people has little to do with any genuine consideration of the geopolitical situation or what role Canada might usefully play -- or even in what Canada's "interests" are. So long as he is prime minister it will be the same: every calculation will be made with the single-minded goal of staying in power long enough to dismantle the post-war activist state. The nurturing of his core constituency includes appeals to a thinly disguised pseudo-crusade against Islamic infidels, a phony appeal to national security (preceded by fear-mongering) and in the case of Ukraine, a crude appeal to ethnic votes.
Reinforcing this legacy is a mainstream media that lets him get away with it, and in particular, refuses to do its homework while the bombing -- or posturing -- is taking place and then refuses to expose the negative consequences of the reckless adventures. The result is what cultural critic Henry Giroux calls "the fog of historical and social amnesia."
The three most obvious examples are Harper's extremist policy in support of Israel, his joining with France and the U.S. in the catastrophic destruction of the Libyan state and his infantile posturing on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. And now we have Harper's mini-crusade (six fighter bombers for six months) against ISIS or the Islamic State. With rare exceptions the media has gone along with him at every turn, treating Canadians as children incapable of navigating the nuances of foreign policy.Regarding Israel, Harper, with widespread support in the media, has gone so far as to try to establish criticism of Israel as a kind of Orwellian "thought crime." By declaring repeatedly (and even threatening supportive legislation) that criticism of Israel was anti-Semitic, Harper hoped to establish what Orwell referred to as "protective stupidity" -- a kind of mass denial of the obvious. Freud referred to it as "knowing with not knowing" and when it comes to most of Canada's military adventures, it is epidemic. 
In Afghanistan the war went for so long that the facts eventually broke through the protective stupidity, but only partially. Even with the total failure of the mission to accomplish a single worthwhile goal, it is likely that most Canadians still see it as having been a "good war."
As Giroux puts it: "Neoliberal authoritarianism has changed the language of politics and everyday life through a poisonous public pedagogy that turns reason on its head and normalizes a culture of fear, war and exploitation."
Harper's response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict has been similar: a maximum of infantile, simplistic sabre rattling rhetoric with an absolute minimum of reflection on the historical context or even the immediate facts of the situation. This is foreign policy for the willingly -- if not willfully -- ignorant. We are encouraged -- or perhaps enlisted is a better word -- to treat facts and history with a disdain bordering on contempt. Facts, context, history and thoughtful anticipation of the consequences of our actions -- all of this is for sissies and Putin apologists. The nay-sayers are all Neville Chamberlain clones.
...there will be no lasting consequences for governments -- Harper's or anyone else's. The structure of protective stupidity is in place and without a radical change in consciousness the current political consensus will prevail. All will be forgotten.
...Which brings us to the Islamic State. Here, too, the conventional approach to making intelligent foreign policy is cast aside on the basis of reacting to a handful of Westerners being beheaded (as happens on a regular basis already to citizens of Saudi Arabia). Can it be possible that our policy making has been reduced to this level of drunken barroom reaction? We know that the ISIS did this precisely to provoke a Western military response. But "we don't know." We prefer denial and the simplistic -- the notion that we can correct 25 years of imperial hubris, ignorance and gross incompetence by Western powers by bombing our own creation.

The Imperative of Revolt

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 09:25
I've been looking for a way out, an alternative.  I truly have.  Yet I'm becoming resigned to the idea that the future of our grandchildren cannot be entrusted to the existing political structure that currently suffocates Canadian society.

Getting punched in the mouth is devastating whether the fist is in a velvet glove or not.  That's what today's Liberals and New Democrats offer, a velvet glove. Thanks but no thanks.

We're at a point where the imperative of revolutionary change is increasingly obvious.  It's no longer a matter of choice. Twenty or thirty years from now, we won't have the option of a structural reformation of our society, our politics and our economy.

I've written about this for years.  Naomi Klein explores the need to save ourselves from the scourge of free market capitalism while we still can.  Ms. Klein, quite rightly, sees the onset of climate change as bringing us to the boiling point.  The neoliberalism that has come to infect Canda's body politic and that of much of the rest of the world cannot be sustained.

It is with this in mind that I read Chris Hedges' interviews with John Raulston Saul and Sheldon Wolin on smashing the yoke of corporatism that has quietly displaced democracy in our societies.

If, as Saul has written, we have undergone a corporate coup d’état and now live under a species of corporate dictatorship that Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism,” if the internal mechanisms that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible remain ineffective, if corporate power retains its chokehold on our economy and governance, including our legislative bodies, judiciary and systems of information, and if these corporate forces are able to use the security and surveillance apparatus and militarized police forces to criminalize dissent, how will change occur and what will it look like?

Wolin ..and Saul ...see democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States, as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power. Wolin and Saul excoriate academics, intellectuals and journalists, charging they have abrogated their calling to expose abuses of power and give voice to social criticism; they instead function as echo chambers for elites, courtiers and corporate systems managers. Neither believes the current economic system is sustainable. And each calls for mass movements willing to carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience to disrupt and delegitimize corporate power.
“If you continue to go down the wrong road, at a certain point something happens,” Saul said during our meeting Wednesday in Toronto, where he lives. “At a certain point when the financial system is wrong it falls apart. And it did. And it will fall apart again.”
“The collapse started in 1973,” Saul continued. “There were a series of sequential collapses afterwards. The fascinating thing is that between 1850 and 1970 we put in place all sorts of mechanisms to stop collapses which we can call liberalism, social democracy orRed Toryism. It was an understanding that we can’t have boom-and-bust cycles. We can’t have poverty-stricken people. We can’t have starvation. The reason today’s collapses are not leading to what happened in the 18th century and the 19th century is because all these safety nets, although under attack, are still in place. But each time we have a collapse we come out of it stripping more of the protection away. At a certain point we will find ourselves back in the pre-protection period. At that point we will get a collapse that will be incredibly dramatic. I have no idea what it will look like. A revolution from the left? A revolution from the right? Is it violence followed by state violence? Is it the collapse of the last meaningful edges of democracy? Is it a sudden decision by a critical mass of people that they are not going to take it anymore?”
This devolution of the economic system has been accompanied by corporations’ seizure of nearly all forms of political and social power. The corporate elite, through a puppet political class and compliant intellectuals, pundits and press, still employs the language of a capitalist democracy. But what has arisen is a new kind of control, inverted totalitarianism, which Wolin brilliantly dissects in his book “Democracy Incorporated.”
Inverted totalitarianism does not replicate past totalitarian structures, such as fascism and communism. It is therefore harder to immediately identify and understand. There is no blustering demagogue. There is no triumphant revolutionary party. There are no ideologically drenched and emotional mass political rallies. The old symbols, the old iconography and the old language of democracy are held up as virtuous. The old systems of governance—electoral politics, an independent judiciary, a free press and the Constitution—appear to be venerated. But, similar to what happened during the late Roman Empire, all the institutions that make democracy possible have been hollowed out and rendered impotent and ineffectual.
The corporate state, Wolin told me at his Oregon home, is “legitimated by elections it controls.” It exploits laws that once protected democracy to extinguish democracy; one example is allowing unlimited corporate campaign contributions in the name of our First Amendment right to free speech and our right to petition the government as citizens. “It perpetuates politics all the time,” Wolin said, “but a politics that is not political.” The endless election cycles, he said, are an example of politics without politics, driven not by substantive issues but manufactured political personalities and opinion polls. There is no national institution in the United States “that can be described as democratic,” he said.
The mechanisms that once allowed the citizen to be a participant in power—from participating in elections to enjoying the rights of dissent and privacy—have been nullified. Money has replaced the vote, Wolin said, and corporations have garnered total power without using the cruder forms of traditional totalitarian control: concentration camps, enforced ideological conformity and the physical suppression of dissent. They will avoid such measures “as long as that dissent remains ineffectual,” he said. “The government does not need to stamp out dissent. The uniformity of imposed public opinion through the corporate media does a very effective job.”
The state has obliterated privacy through mass surveillance, a fundamental precondition for totalitarian rule, and in ways that are patently unconstitutional has stripped citizens of the rights to a living wage, benefits and job security. And it has destroyed institutions, such as labor unions, that once protected workers from corporate abuse.
Wolin goes on to discuss something explored in a recent course I took on warfare in the 21st century, the rise of "illiberal" democracy.  Think of it as a government that retains some vestiges of democracy, such as the vote, but acts independently of the electorate and often not for their benefit.  The individual's rights against the state are weakened, sapped.  The apparatus, taking such forms as the alliance of political and corporate media power, basically shape public opinion as it suits their interests.
Democracy has been turned upside down,” Wolin said. “It is supposed to be a government for the people, by the people. But it has become an organized form of government dominated by groups that are only vaguely, if at all, responsible or responsive to popular needs and popular demands. At the same time, it retains a patina of democracy. We still have elections. They are relatively free. We have a relatively free media. But what is missing is a crucial, continuous opposition that has a coherent position, that is not just saying no, no, no, that has an alternative and ongoing critique of what is wrong and what needs to be remedied.”
Capitalism is destructive because it has to eliminate customs, mores, political values, even institutions that present any kind of credible threat to the autonomy of the economy,” Wolin said. “That is where the battle lies. Capitalism wants an autonomous economy. It wants a political order subservient to the needs of the economy. The [capitalist’s] notion of an economy, while broadly based in the sense of a relatively free entrance and property that is relatively widely dispersed, is as elitist as any aristocratic system.
Wolin and Saul said they expect the state, especially in an age of terminal economic decline, to employ more violent and draconian forms of control to keep restive populations in check. This coercion, they said, will fuel discontent and unrest, which will further increase state repression.
...“They decided that capitalism and the market was about the right to have the cheapest possible goods,” Saul said. “That is what competition meant. This is a lie. No capitalist philosopher ever said that. As you bring the prices down below the capacity to produce them in a middle-class country you commit suicide. As you commit suicide you have to ask, ‘How do we run this place?’ And you have to run it using these other methods—bread and circuses, armies, police and prisons.”
The liberal class—which has shriveled under the corporate onslaught and a Cold War ideology that held up national security as the highest good—once found a home in the Democratic Party, the press, labor unions and universities. It made reform possible. Now, because it is merely decorative, it compounds the political and economic crisis. There is no effective organized opposition to the rise of a neofeudalism dominated a tiny corporate oligarchy that exploits workers and the poor.
...Resistance, Wolin and Saul agreed, will begin locally, with communities organizing to form autonomous groups that practice direct democracy outside the formal power structures, including the two main political parties. These groups will have to address issues such as food security, education, local governance, economic cooperation and consumption. And they will have to sever themselves, as much as possible, from the corporate economy.
It is extremely important that people are willing to go into the streets,” Saul said. “Democracy has always been about the willingness of people to go into the streets. When the Occupy movement started I was pessimistic. I felt it could only go a certain distance. But the fact that a critical mass of people was willing to go into the streets and stay there, without being organized by a political party or a union, was a real statement. If you look at that, at what is happening in Canada, at the movements in Europe, the hundreds of thousands of people in Spain in the streets, you are seeing for the first time since the 19th century or early 20th century people coming into the streets in large numbers without a real political structure. These movements aren’t going to take power. But they are a sign that power and the respect for power is falling apart. What happens next? It could be dribbled away. But I think there is the possibility of a new generation coming in and saying we won’t accept this. That is how you get change. A new generation comes along and says no, no, no. They build their lives on the basis of that no.”
“You need a professional or elite class devoted to profound change,” Saul said. “If you want to get power you have to be able to hold it. And you have to be able to hold it long enough to change the direction. The neoconservatives understood this. They have always been Bolsheviks. They are the Bolsheviks of the right. Their methodology is the methodology of the Bolsheviks. They took over political parties by internal coups d’état. They worked out, scientifically, what things they needed to do and in what order to change the structures of power. They have done it stage by stage. And we are living the result of that. The liberals sat around writing incomprehensible laws and boring policy papers. They were unwilling to engage in the real fight that was won by a minute group of extremists.
“You have to understand power to reform things,” Saul said. “If you don’t understand power you get blown away by the guy who does. We are missing people who believe in justice and at the same time understand how tough power and politics are, how to make real choices. And these choices are often quite ugly.”


Let The Sun Shine

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 08:04


Like the vampires of fiction who cling to the darkness as they carry out their nefarious, life-depleting ravages on their prey, the Harper regime best operates in the dark, away from the light of public scrutiny as it continues to suck the vitality out of our democracy. (Sorry for the lurid metaphor, but it does seem to be dramatically apt.) While it is a topic I have written about many times on this blog, I am sure I'm in good company when I say that only by bringing as many of these deeds into the light do we stand a chance of Canadians rejecting this perversion of government.

To that end, I would like to bring to your attention the following email I received from Democracy Watch, one of several NGO's that work tirelessly to promote the principles of open and accessible government as a way of promoting democratic principles and participation. After reading the missive, I hope you will consider signing the letter it talks about. The link is contained within that letter:



Since 2012, the federal Conservative government has been claiming to have an open government plan. In fact, every independent report has shown more excessive secrecy in the federal government than any time since the so-called Access to Information law passed in 1983.

The law is so weak it really should be called the “Guide to Keeping Government Information Secret” law.

Right now Conservative Cabinet minister Tony Clement is proposing a plan to the international Open Government Partnership that will only make already public information a bit more easily accessible.

This will do nothing to end secrecy that encourages waste, abuses and corruption – the law needs to be strengthened to require more transparency, with stronger enforcement and penalties for anyone who keeps information secret that the public has a right to know!

Please click here to send your letter now calling on the federal Conservatives, and governments across Canada, to make key changes to laws to open up government and make it more accountable to you.

Minister Clement and the Conservatives are only taking comments on their proposed plan for a very limited time – please send your message by next Monday, October 20th.

And please Share this with everyone you know – see more details set out below.

And please help keep this campaign going until these key changes to open up government are won. To donate now, please click here.

All together we can make difference!

Thank you very much for your support,

Duff, Tyler, Brad and Josephine
and all the volunteers across Canada who make Democracy Watch’s successful campaigns possible
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Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 07:42
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Meesha Nehru reminds us of the importance of fair taxes (and tax authorities capable of ensuring they're paid). And Fair Tax Mark notes that for the first time, a company on the U.K.'s main stock exchange has made the effort to be accredited as paying its taxes fairly.

- But in less pleasant news, Chris Rose exposes the hundreds of millions of dollars the fossil fuel industry spent lobbying and influencing U.S. politicians last year - and the multi-trillion dollar reward they received for exploiting resources and the public alike. And Gabriel Nadeau-Dubious discusses the similarly incestuous connections between the oil industry and the Couillard Liberals.

- Meanwhile, the Star reports on Ontario's gross environmental neglect in allowing contaminated soil to be dumped where it can do the most damage.

- Kathleen Lahey slams the Cons' income-splitting scheme as "upside-down" in giving far larger benefits to precisely the families who least need help.

- Finally, Charles Plante and Keisha Sharp take a detailed look (PDF) at the costs of poverty in Saskatchewan - and the corresponding benefits of ensuring that nobody has to live with needless deprivation:
Poverty is costing Saskatchewan $3.8 billion in heightened service use and missed opportunities. The costs associated with treating the symptoms of poverty amount to over $1 billion a year in increased use of health services, expenses in the criminal justice system and social assistance payments.

The costs of poverty go well beyond the dollars and cents spent providing a modicum of social security for people that have fallen through the cracks. Those living in poverty face significant barriers, preventing them from taking advantage of opportunities people not living in poverty often take for granted. These are opportunities like seeking an education, gainful employment, and participating in civic life. Over time, these missed opportunities contribute to vicious cycles that affect people living in poverty for years to come. Immediate missed opportunities cost our province more than $2.5 billion a year in missing contributions to GDP and taxes. Long-term intergenerational missed opportunities cost us upwards of $200 million a year.

All too often poverty prevention and alleviation efforts are presented as all cost and no benefit. By better understanding the costs of poverty in our province we are able to make informed decisions about how much money and resources we should invest in acting to prevent and alleviate it.

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