Posts from our progressive community

Is the Biggest Military Procurement Programme in World History the World's Biggest Con Job?

The Disaffected Lib - 3 hours 42 min ago
As I wrote in an earlier post today, Lockheed's F-35 now stands exposed not as the multi-role fighter the manufacturer and the US Air Force touted it to be but as little more than a super-costly, light attack bomber.

The flight test report leaked earlier this week leaves no doubt that the F-35 is no fighter, not of any variety.  It's a bomb truck.  However Lockheed pitched it to its foreign customers as a perfect replacement for their existing multi-role fighters - F-16s, F-18s, Tornadoes and such.

I don't like to get into, much less launch, conspiracy theories but this report raises a lot of questions.

Did Lockheed and the USAF only just discover that the F-35 can't fight its way out of a paper bag? Why were they so insistent that it was a genuine, multi-role fighter when they had to have known with its speed, payload, range and agility limitations plus the degrading of its stealth cloaking it could never be more than a light attack bomber? Getting to the point, did they deliberately set out to hoodwink America's allies and, if so, were the F-35's boosters in those allied air forces in on it? 
This is a 1.5 trillion dollar programme, the biggest in world history. It sounds like the very sort of thing that could make a company resort to some pretty squirrelly things.

I wonder what they're doing to hunt down the snitch who leaked this report? Getting those flight test results into the public domain is really a Snowden-grade effort.

We'll probably have to wait a couple of weeks to see what the political fallout is going to be in those countries that have already signed on to Lockheed's order book. Talk about a political football for the opposition parties in those countries.

Pierre Sprey and Winslow Wheeler stand vindicated. Sprey predicted the US military would never buy more than about 500 F-35's, one-fifth of the announced buy.

what i'm reading: wild by cheryl strayed, zeitoun by dave eggers

we move to canada - 10 hours 23 min ago
I've just finished two truly excellent works of nonfiction: Wild and Zeitoun. Both books read like fiction, with clean, clear writing and page-turning suspense. Both document almost unbelievable, out-sized events, in one case likely unique, in the other - horribly - anything but. I highly recommend both books.

I didn't expect to like Wild. Something about the phrase "best-selling memoir" just turns me off. But when the book was chosen as one of my Library's "Raves and Faves," I was intrigued. Those are always excellent books. (I'm quite proud that all five of my Raves and Faves suggestions made the list!)

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail is a story of perseverance and redemption. Her life unhinged, battered by loss and confusion, the author decides to undertake a wilderness backpacking expedition. This is no casual walk in the woods; she's chosen a trail for which experienced backpackers may spend a year in training and research. Strayed is completely inexperienced and almost comically unprepared - comic, that is, if the consequences of failure weren't potentially life-threatening. At several points in the book, I thought, "Well, she must survive, because she wrote this book...".

Wild is suspenseful, moving, sad, uplifting, heartrending, and joyous. I was filled with wonder at this woman's strength, tenacity, and resilience. Wild left me contemplating that potential in all of us.

Zeitoun is also a nonfiction page-turner. It's almost impossible to write about Zeitoun without spoiling it, and the way in which the novel unfolds gives it tremendous power. Perhaps most people reading this review already know the terrible punchline.

Zeitoun is the story of one man's, and one family's, ordeal during and after Hurricane Katrina. It is a story that sits at the intersection of two American nightmares: Katrina and the post-9/11 police state.

It is an answer to every person who feels "police state" and "fascism" are hyperbole when applied to the United States. In truth, that depends on your zip code, your skin colour, and your last name.

Considering I last visited New Orleans in 1992, I have a strangely personal relationship with Hurricane Katrina. August 30, 2005, the day Katrina hit New Orleans, was one of the most momentous days of my life: the day my partner and I moved to Canada. As with any move of this magnitude, we were unplugged from the world - no TV, no internet - for a couple of days before, and at least two days after. When we were back online, I struggled to take in the magnitude of what had happened. No matter how much we read, I felt like I never caught up.

In the 10 years since, in any story about the Katrina disaster, the dates jump out at me. I can picture us clearly, driving The World's Fullest Minivan, my beloved Buster between us, Cody hunkered in a cave in the back, starting our new life. Right at those moments, tens of thousands of lives were shattered, ruined, or ended.

The Zeitouns' story is compelling, heroic, and deeply frightening. If you've ever been inclined to think, "That wouldn't happen here," or "But they would never do that", know that it did, and they already have.

As with What Is The What, Dave Eggers is using proceeds from this book to fund many very important and worthwhile causes. I highly recommend picking up a copy.

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - 10 hours 47 min ago
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Paul de Grauwe points out that the European push to force Greece into continued austerity is the most important factor holding back a recovery, as the country would be fully solvent if it were being allowed to borrow money on anything but the most draconian of terms. And Paul Mason criticizes the war that's been declared against the Greek public for trying to pursue democratic governance - while noting that the public's justified dissatisfaction isn't going away regardless of the result of the impending referendum.

- Sherif Alsayed-Ali responds to the news that the UK's intelligence agencies have been conducting illegal spying against Amnesty International - and it's worth noting that Bill C-51 will make Canada's sweeping powers and lack of oversight even worse than the UK's:
Our concerns about mass surveillance are not limited to human rights organizations, although this is already very worrying. Mass surveillance is invasive and a dangerous overreach of government power into our private lives and freedom of expression. In specific circumstances it can also put lives at risk, be used to discredit people or interfere with investigations into human rights violations by governments.

We have good reasons to believe that the British government is interested in our work. Over the past few years we have investigated possible war crimes by UK and US forces in Iraq, Western government involvement in the CIA's torture scheme known as the extraordinary rendition programme, and the callous killing of civilians in US drone strikes in Pakistan: it was recently revealed that GCHQ may have provided assistance for US drone attacks.

The obfuscation, secrecy and determination to avoid any meaningful oversight is worthy of a tin-pot dictatorship. It is time for serious public scrutiny of the behaviour of the British government. We need to know what surveillance programmes the government is operating, what spying they consider to be fair game, and why. - Andrew Cohen sees the Cons' "Memorial to the Victims of Communism" as a monument to crass and destructive politics.

- Finally, Robin Sears highlights why the Cons' division and narrowcasting are doomed to fail as a strategy for building a natural governing party. And Thomas Walkom writes that the cult of personality around Stephen Harper is leading the Cons to shut out natural allies in the name of worshiping their leader.

The Little Bomber That Couldn't

The Disaffected Lib - 11 hours 9 min ago
F-35 "Fatso"
The myth of the F-35 as an all purpose, multi-role fighter imploded this past week with the leak of a report on tests showing that it couldn't hold its own, much less defeat a decades old F-16 in air combat maneuvering.  To put it bluntly, the old (and cheap) F-16 waxed the F-35's tail.

When the specs were written for the F-35 one of the requirements was that it had to maneuver at least better than the venerable F-16 it was intended to replace. It's not the first time the F-35 has come up short - or long in its case.  It also failed to meet its landing and take off distance requirements.  So the US Air Force rewrote the specs to reflect what the F-35 could do and changed its F to a C-plus with the stroke of a pen. It also has a pretty worrisome weight problem.  Lockheed tried to trim the plane down by removing its onboard fire suppression system not the best solution for an airplane where the fuel tanks are wrapped around its oh so hot engine.  One lucky hit by some illiterate farmboy with a Korean War vintage assault rifle and - kaboom.

Caught with their pants down, Lockheed and the US Air Force, while admitting that the leaked report was genuine and the F-35 did indeed fail its air combat test, chimed in with a duet about how the dismal report wasn't the whole story.  Truer words were never spoken just not quite in the same way that the manufacturer and the American air force types intended.

What the damning report shows and what Lockheed and the F-35 boosters are now going to have to admit is that their claim that the F-35 is a multi-role fighter is a ruse, seemingly intended to get foreign orders.  The CF-18 that Trudeau bought for the air force is a genuine, multi-role fighter.  It can do a respectable job at ground attack (bombing), close support (helping troops on the ground - bombing and strafing), air to air combat (dogfighting), patrol and interception (air defence).


The F-35 is no multi-role strike fighter.  It's a somewhat stealthy, light attack bomber.  It's designed to carry two bombs to a high-value target (worthy of the F-35's gold plated price tag) and then get out however it can.

Close support?  Not a chance.  That role requires loiter time.  The supporting fighter has to arrive on station, communicate with the troops who need help, identify and try to take out the bad guys, and then hang around for a while in case there are more enemies lying in wait.  It has to carry enough gear to make multiple runs on enemy positions.  And - here's the big one - it has to be able to take a few hits and survive to make it home.  The F-35 is fuel limited.  Hanging around to help out would be a problem.  Then there's the "Pinto" problem of the fuel tanks wrapped around the engine that make ground fire a much more serious threat.  The F-35 is one hot airplane.  Its engine generates an enormous heat plume, ideal for a Russian or Chinese or ISIS soldier with a shoulder-launched, infrared missile just looking for something to shoot down.  Oh yeah, that engine? There's just the one.  When you lose one engine to ground fire and one is all you have you had better hope those friendly troops can get to you before the bad guys do. And if all that wasn't enough, there's the small matter of cost.  This is one super expensive airplane to put at such significant risk.

Patrol and interception, the air defence mission?  I think it was some air force that came up with the term MTBF which stands for mean time between failures. It's based on the idea that equipment eventually breaks down and the longer you run it, the more likely it is to fail.  We used to require 4-engines on passenger jets crossing the Atlantic. Why?  MTBF, that's why.  Multiple engines provide redundancy which comes in really handy if one craps out.  MTBF takes on a whole new dimension when it comes to a single engine warplane hundreds of miles from home up in the Arctic in February.  Another problem is speed.  Once a suspect aircraft is detected, you need to get an interceptor there as quickly as possible.  Gives the target less chance to launch a salvo of long range cruise missiles and such.  Even clean, with no long range fuel tanks or missiles to slow it down, the F-35 lacks "supercruise."  That's the ability to fly at supersonic speeds without having to use the fuel-guzzling afterburner.  It can't go supercruise fast because it's fat - really, really fat. It's fat because, when Lockheed was chosen to build it, they had to build three versions, one of which was the vertical lift model for the US Marines and the Royal Navy.  It takes space to house that extra engine and that made the F-35 a very wide, high drag airplane (see the photo above).  Put all of these shortcomings together and the F-35 would seem to be a very poor pick for the air defence mission.

Which brings us to the glamour stuff, the 'turn and burn' fighter role, dogfighting.  When it comes to the aerial furball, the US Air Force's own leaked tests show the F-35 simply cannot hold its own even against a vintage F-16.  It seemed to take even the pilots by surprise at how easy it was for the F-16 to get on the F-35's tail and stay there.

The Air Force brass kind of gulped and then said that report doesn't tell the whole story.  True enough.  In reality, the F-35 won't have to contend with F-16s. The adversaries it will confront will be far deadlier than the F-16.  It will have to deal with aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su-35, Russia's stealth air superiority fighter, the PAK50, and China's Su-30s and its stealth fighters, the J-20 and J-31.

Since the F-35 is plainly not an air defence fighter, or a close support fighter, or an air superiority fighter, there's just one mission left - light attack bomber.  The reason the F-35 design sacrifices speed, range, payload and agility typical of genuine fighters is because it is intended to bomb high-value targets in heavily defended enemy territory.  That's what the stealth cloaking is all about.

The F-35 is intended to defeat conventional x-band radars found on older fighters.  It's frontal-aspect cloaking.  Scanned from other aspects - the sides, above, below - the F-35 is not very stealthy at all.  The F-35 is designed to go straight to its target, drop its bombs, and go straight back out again via the shortest route possible before hostile fighters can engage it.  Okay, what's wrong with this picture?

For starters, F-35 operators will announce their presence well in advance. Because of the range limitations, the F-35 will require its support aircraft, especially its air refueling tankers to come far forward where they'll be readily detected. They'll need to top up on the way in and once they get out. You see those tankers at the edge of your airspace, you've got time to get your defending fighters in the air to meet the attackers.  You can also assign fighters to destroy the vulnerable tankers ensuring those F-35s, even if they do reach their target, will never get back to their base.  There's the first Achilles' Heel.

The obvious intended adversaries, Russia and China, have made good use of the inordinate delays in the F-35 development to do plenty of developing of their own.  As Edward Snowden revealed, the Chinese managed to hack a lot of the secrets of the F-35 design right out of the contractors' computers.  Additional secrets were obtained from the Lockheed RQ-170 stealth drone that was brought down, seemingly intact, by Iran.  That included the onboard stealth cloaking electronics and the stealth coatings from the skin of the drone.

Their time and effort seems to have paid off.  They developed work-arounds. They focused on the limitations of the American stealth technology and its weaknesses.  This resulted in what's called "sensor fusion" - the combination of sensor technologies such as L-band radar together with long-range infrared and optical sensors.  Slaved together with computers what was invisible is now detectable sufficiently well to permit not just detection but tracking and targeting.  Fighter interception is again viable and when fighters can find the F-35, the US Air Force's playbook goes out the window.

Under attack the F-35 will have little choice but to maneuver - to turn and climb and dive - and once it has to turn its stealth cloaking is simply gone.  It can try to use its onboard missiles (both of them) to bring down its attackers but it probably won't be able to get enough of them for it to avoid the very dogfight it lost to the F-16.  It has a gun but, as the test showed, it can't move its nose fast enough to get on target.  Dogfighting also consumes a crazy amount of what the F-35 has in such limited supply - fuel.  Because of its high drag it's going to be dependent on its afterburner and when the guy sitting behind you has infrared missiles your day is pretty much over.

As for the Russians, they have what's considered to be the world's best surface to air missile systems - the S-300 and the even newer S-400 which the Russkies claim is "stealth ready."

The sad truth is that the F-35 was designed for conditions as they were when the order was placed.  You might remember that time as pre-9/11.  One thing those brilliant designers never factored in was that its secrets might be hacked or turned over to the bad guys when that super secret drone was force landed. They never factored in 'sensor fusion' or that the F-35 might have to go up against an adversary with its own stealth warplanes. The F-35 was supposed to have a world-beating technological edge far into the future.  There was simply no other way to justify the cost or its operational shortcomings.  All of those assumptions now stand unraveled.

Defrocked, the F-35 appears awfully prototypical.  It's like a technology demonstrator where combat essential qualities such as range, payload, speed (remember, no supercruise) and agility have been sacrificed for the sake of supposed stealth cloaking that is frontal-aspect only. It's sort of a "look what I can do, dad" airplane that's hard to take seriously.

Lockheed and the US Air Force continue to dismiss the F-35s critics even as those critics' claims keep getting proven right.  Let's summarize what we now know about this would-be multi-role fighter.

Close support:  too costly to be worth the risk, insufficient loiter time, too vulnerable to ground fire and shoulder-launched IR missiles.

Air defence:  too slow (no supercruise), inadequate range, single engine vulnerability.

Air combat: a dead duck - underpowered, lack of fuel, inadequate turn and climb rate, terrible rear visibility, a heat-seeking missile's dream date.

It's not a fighter.  It just can't do fighter things.  It's a light attack bomber purpose built to attack countries with relatively sophisticated air defences which would be China, Russia, Iran, Britain, France, maybe Israel - as they were back in the Year of Our Lord, 2000.

This is a warplane that makes absolutely zero sense for Canada.  Even the US Navy isn't keen on buying it and the US Air Force is clamoring for quick development of a "sixth generation" fighter to replace the F-35.  The goddamned thing is years away from entering service and they're already yelling "next." I think we should take that as a clear warning. Maybe the Americans can afford to move on but if we buy it we can't.  It will drain our defence budget even if it does spend most of its time idle undergoing maintenance in our hangars.






A Barbaric Practice

Politics and its Discontents - 11 hours 48 min ago
I have written before on the ugly and wholly indefensible slaughter of sharks so that their fins can be enjoyed as a delicacy, but now seems a good time to remind people of this barbaric practice. I just received a petition from Change.org calling on the Canadian government to ban the distribution, consumption and sale of shark fins.

Please take a moment to watch the following brief video, read the ensuing explanatory text and then consider signing the petition, obtainable by clicking on the above link.



Sharks – the apex predators of the oceans – have survived 400 million years of evolution, yet many species may face extinction within our lifetime. Up to 100 million sharks are being killed every year, most often their bodies are discarded and only their fins are kept to be used in Shark Fin Soup – a delicacy in some Chinese restaurants. Over hunting of the world’s largest fish has caused severe declines among many shark species, including the iconic Great White. Currently a third of shark species are threatened with extinction, and some populations have plummeted by over 90%. Sharks are essential to the health of our oceans. As apex predators, sharks maintain a critical balance in the ocean. When sharks are eliminated, disastrous effects have been documented further down the food chain, including the collapse of commercial fisheries and the degradation of coral reefs. If sharks were to become extinct, this would have massive unintended consequences for our ocean ecosystems worldwide. Time is running out for the world’s shark populations. It is time to take a big step in preserving the world’s vital oceans by banning the sale and distribution of shark fins and shark fin products nationwide.Recommend this Post

A Grave Mistake

Northern Reflections - 15 hours 32 min ago

                                               http://news.nationalpost.com/

The story of the Harper Party's rejection of Ches Crosbie's candidacy in Avalon tells you much more about Stephen Harper than it does about Mr. Crosbie. Stephen Maher writes:

It is part of the culture of the distinct society of Newfoundland to have a bit of fun, to mock oneself, one’s fellows and, especially, one’s betters, who must either laugh or lose face.

So Crosbie put on a Stephen Harper wig, a kilt, a seal-skin vest, took up a wooden sword and performed the final, bloody scene of Macbeth, in which, in this version, Stephen MacHarper confronts Mike MacDuffy, swearing he will not “yield to one of Senate born.”

“Before my body, I throw my political friends,” Crosbie declaimed. “Lay on, MacDuffy, And damned be him that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!’ ”

Mr. Harper makes jokes at other people's expense. But if there's one thing he won't -- or can't -- do, it's to laugh at himself. And the National Candidate Selection Committee doesn't believe in laughing at Harper's expense, either:

Crosbie didn’t learn that some humourless mainlanders disliked this until Monday, when he got an email from Dustin van Vugt, executive director of the Conservative Party of Canada, informing him that the National Candidate Selection Committee had held a meeting.

“The NCSC has disallowed your candidacy as a potential nomination contestant for the Conservative Party of Canada,” Van Vugt wrote.

There were three reasons, the party said: the MacHarper skit, his role in a lawsuit by Labrador residential school survivors and an innocuous interview he gave to the Hill Times, the newspaper that covers Parliament Hill.
The problem, you see, is that Crosbie claimed he would be an independent voice for the good burghers of Avalon. The Harper Party will have none of that. Maher writes:

I don’t think Harper’s palace guard cares about the Crosbies or about Newfoundland’s tradition of satirical humour.  They care about winning, and they have a script to follow. It calls for candidates to stand silent while Harper stands at centre stage, sternly warning that only he can protect our families from terrorists.

Yet another reminder that Canada is ruled by a paranoid, humourless man. Extending his stay at 24 Sussex would be a grave mistake.


Stephen Harper's Most Sad and Pathetic Calgary Stampede

Montreal Simon - 18 hours 14 min ago


Well there he was in this PMO picture, at the Calgary Stampede in his black bad guy cowboy hat, framed between a horse and a horse's ass.

Watching the parade and trying to put on a brave face, or smile like a winner. Or at least open his mouth and show his teeth.

But it couldn't have been easy. Not with Rachel Notley, the new sheriff of Alberta, riding triumphantly past him...



He must have had lockjaw by the time that was over eh?

And of course the latest EKOS poll didn't exactly make him want to stand up and shout "Yee haw or hee haw I'm still a Great Leader !!!!
Read more »

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 18:13
Mumford & Sons - Believe (Kyau & Albert Remix)

Busted Arm Blogging

Dammit Janet - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 09:10
Because Twitter is ephemeral and because this is my blog on which I can write whatever I want, here's what's been happening to me.

On Saturday night, I broke my left forearm. Went to Emerg, got it splinted, and got appt with Fracture Clinic 4 days later.

Which was yesterday. Here's my series of tweets about it. (I wrote them out first. Apologies for lack of caps, but one-handed inputting.)

well, that was more of an ordeal than expected. in short, emerg fucked up. bone should have been straightened out before splinting

would that explain BIG pain since? i asked. side-eye between doc and tech. (lotta side-eye throughout) answer: repressively, yes.

straightening process involved what they called chinese finger cages, in use since medieval times (my supposition). like that woven trick tube you put fingers in

more you pull, tighter it gets. all 5 fingers put in metal versions of tube. suspended. weight put on upper arm.

you are left for 10 minutes to weep, scream, gnash teeth, your choice, as break gets reopened. i gnashed.

then 3 techs arrive. 1 to pull on injured arm, leaning away, no shit. 1 to pull on other side to counter pulling, and, best part

1 to "model" broken bit, i.e. push and shove and wrangle bone into alignment, much apologizing included.

here, i chose to gasp and gnash, while plaster strips applied as alignment proceeds.

next, xray to see how all that went. here, one prays to whatever deity that it went well and doesn't need redo

yay! doc comes back to look at xray. no redo. i'm good. i asked for drugs. scrip written for MANY T3s, higher dose, more frequently allowed

next appt 1 week

upshot: freer fingers, no light cast, worse break than i was led to believe by emerg goof

work upshot: i'm going to forgo one gig and hope i'm good enough for the one soon after that
Further update: not surprisingly, arm feels much better with bone properly aligned in stiff cast. Still hurts like hell of course.

But new cast had a hard pointy bit poking into inside elbow. I thought what the heck and went back to the clinic this morning to see if they would fix it.

Butt barely grazed chair after being told to take a seat when nice tech came and got me and removed pointy bit. She also told me that I had been a heckuva trooper yesterday and that clinic doc was MASSIVELY pissed with emerg doc and that there would be repercussions.

GOOD.

I looked hard for a photo of "Chinese finger cages," using all kinds of search terms. No luck. You'll have to use your imaginations.



Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 09:02
Assorted content to end your week.

- Jerry Dias sees the forced passage of an unamended Bill C-377 as a definitive answer in the negative to the question of whether the Senate will ever justify its own existence. And Nora Loreto emphasizes that the bill has no purpose other than to attack unions:
The amendments contained in C-377 to the Income Tax Act are sweeping, broad and idiotic. If Canadians need any example that the Harper Conservatives care more about personal vendettas than good governance, the proof is wrapped up in C-377.

C-377 requires a ridiculous level of compliance from labour organizations and trusts. It forces unions, labour organizations, labour federations, organizations comprised of different unions, labour trusts and professional associations to publically report all expenditures of over $5000 and itemize exactly what that the money was dedicated to.

Everyone's salaries, everyone's timesheets and all contracts will be made public. This places an enormous burden on the bureaucratic structures of the labour movement.
...
It's easy to see why the Harper Conservatives hate unions. Unions are the final major roadblock in their campaign to fully transform Canada. Unions demand rights for working people, decent wages and benefits, all which constitute barriers towards full-scale and unregulated resource extraction and international trade deals.

Unionization and labour rights are fundamental within a free and democratic society. The ability of working people to gather, elect their own leadership and direct their own political campaigns is a tenet of democracy. It is the membership who has the right to make demands of the leadership; no one else.- Meanwhile, Daniel Tencer points out that public service workers and unionized workers tend to have the type of secure retirement we should all be able to plan on. And May Warren reports on the effects of precarious work in Guelph.

- Iman Sheikh writes that immigrants to Canada tend to be disproportionately healthy on arrival only to see their health decline - which surely signals there's far more work to do in making sure new Canadians have access to needed social supports.

- Charles Mandel interviews Bill McKibben about Canada's obstructionist role in global climate talks under the Harper Cons. But Kim Covert notes that the precedent recently set by a Dutch court in mandating emission reductions could well be followed here if our politicians don't live up to their responsibilities first.

- Finally, Michael Grunwald examines the most recent leak from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including its massive handouts to big pharma at the expense of the health care system of every participating country. And the CCPA's latest issue of the Monitor nicely covers the false promise and serious damage done by trade agreements.

On closed-door decisions

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 07:49
Memo to Don Lenihan:

It's well and good to point to past backroom policy debacles such as utterly unwanted Crown corporation giveaways as examples of a complete lack of public engagement.

But before lauding Kathleen Wynne as the face of open government, might it be worth noting that she's doing the exact same thing on too short a time frame for public consultation, while paying lip service to "dialogue" after it's too late?

Shaming Those Who Deserve It - The Case Of Kim McArthur

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 06:54


Every picture of that I have seen of her shows Kim McArthur sporting the same smile as above, conveying the image of someone without a care in the world, a woman of clear conscience. Yet she should be troubled, just as Robbie Yuill, the subject of yesterday's post, should be. Like Yuill, it would seem McArthur is yet another deadbeat employer, refusing to pay money owed to a former employee, Chelsea Phelan-Tran.

The story begins in June of 2012, when Phelan-Tran
landed her dream job at Toronto-based book publisher McArthur & Company, run by award-winning entrepreneur Kim McArthur. Phelan-Tran, who owed $38,000 in student loans, was thrilled.

But by September, she was no longer being paid. For two months she worked for nothing, hoping things would turn around at the increasingly beleaguered business.
Meanwhile, she and her husband, expecting their first child, went into debt to the tune of $10,000. Getting no response to her email requests for payment from McArthur, Phelan-Tran finally took her complaint to the Ministry of Labour, which failed her badly.
According to ministry documents, McArthur “could not be located,” and it took until Aug. 22, 2013, to hold a fact-finding meeting on Phelan-Tran’s file. McArthur did not attend.

By that time, the publishing company had closed. But the ministry ruled that Phelan-Tran was still owed $3,500 and issued an order for McArthur to pay. The matter was sent to a private collection agency, and for a year, Phelan-Tran heard nothing.

Losing patience, she called the agency herself. The collection agent said she too had failed to locate the employer, at which point Phelan-Tran provided McArthur’s phone number and home address herself.

“She was like, 'Oh, you have that?” Phelan-Tran recalls.This inability to locate McArthur is perplexing, given that she has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a LinkedIn page. As well, The Toronto Star
located McArthur’s phone number, email and home address. She did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and did not answer the door of her Brantford house — where her 2001 Canadian Women Entrepeneur of the Year award leaned against the front window.Clearly, neither the ministry of Labour nor the collection agency tried very hard to find her, and this has left Phelan-Tran disillusioned:
The ordeal has left the 31-year-old Ajax mother shocked at the lack of support from those meant to work on her behalf.

“It’s a criminal act that she committed. She broke the law,” says Phelan-Tran. “She could just do it again and get away with it.”I have nothing to add to that damning assessment.
-Recommend this Post

They Never Offer Bribes

Northern Reflections - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 05:35
                                                 http://news.nationalpost.com/

This week, Pierre Poilievre made sure that the public saw him handing out cheques. Michael Harris writes:

There he was, in all his obsequious glory, standing beside the massive press run of the expanded Universal Child Care Benefit outbound cash flow. It looked like a reprinting of the Oxford English Dictionary, so thick were the sheaves of cheques. One hundred and sixty bucks a month for kids under six — and a brand new $60 a month for those 6 and over. Mind the fine print; the UCCB is taxable in the case of the lower income spouse. All is never quite what it seems to be in Harperland.
It's not a new strategy. It's been Standard Operating Procedure for a long time:

The hijacking of public money for private political use is not new with this crowd. You will recall that the Harperites actually posed beside giant ceremonial cheques bearing the logo of the Conservative Party back in 2009.

MPs like Colin Mayes, Larry Miller and James Bezan all tried to take political ownership of government funding cheques. The message was clear. Remember who butters your bread, forgetting it seems, that both this bread and this butter are publicly owned.
And, of course, there is that one billion dollars that has been spent on "public service announcements:"

Here is another one. The Harper government has spent nearly a billion public dollars in party advertising thinly disguised as public service announcements. It is a scandal much bigger than Ad Sponsorship, and includes the obscene costs associated with the PM’s nauseating photo-ops. That’s where the already-announced gets announced again and again, and then re-announced by lesser mortals at smaller PR events across the country.
It's all about buying votes. The Mike Duffy trial has made abundantly clear that, in Harperland, you can be charged with accepting a bribe, but nobody will offer you one.


Pierre Poilievre and the Scandalous Con Plan to Buy the Election

Montreal Simon - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 04:08


As you may remember, when I last dropped in on Pierre Poilievre, I found him wandering around at a clothing sale in an Ottawa hockey arena.

Making a vanity video, desperately trying to buy votes with the Con's so-called Universal Child Care Benefit.

And even more desperately trying to do something, ANYTHING, to try to fix his terrible popularity problem. 

But since that was never going to work. They don't call him Pee Wee or Dickhead for nothing eh?



I see he's taken his desperate search for love to a whole new and low level. 

Read more »

Thursday Evening Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 17:54
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Daniel Marans reports on Bernie Sanders' push for international action against austerity in Greece and elsewhere. And Binoy Kampmark documents the anti-democratic and antisocial ideology on the other side of the austerity debate.

- Noah Smith writes that while there's no discernible connection between massive pay for CEOs and actual corporate performance, there's a strong link between who an executive knows and how much the executive can extract.

- The CP reports on UNESCO's push to study the impact of the tar sands on Wood Buffalo National Park. And Tavia Grant breaks the news that Health Canada is just getting around the acknowledging the long-recognized dangers of asbestos.

- Stephen Maher comments on the Cons' manipulations of the Canada Elections Act to limit voting among poor Canadians. And Michelle Ghoussoub reports on the Council of Canadians' fight to reverse the restrictions.

-Finally, John Baglow notes that the Cons' especially villainous run of recent actions looks to reflect the death throes of Stephen Harper's government. Steve Sullivan calls out the Cons for seeking to terrorize Canada's electorate. And Michael Harris argues that Harper is a tyrant in the true sense of the word, while Andrew Coyne writes that Harper is truly alone as the federal election campaign approaches.

July 2015 Bits and Bites: Canada Day Edition

Anti-Racist Canada - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 14:53
Well, belated Canada Day. Or perhaps Canada Day +1.

We understand that some of our readers have a complicated relationship with Canada Day considering the treatment of First Nations people over the centuries and Canada's past retrogressive immigration policies that excluded people on the basis of ethnicity from coming to Canada. But do you know who shouldn't have any ambiguity about Canada Day?

Boneheads.

Our bonehead friends more often than not refer to themselves as the much more innocuous sounding "White Nationalist," the emphasis being on the "white" part of course, but the "nationalism" portion is no less important to their identity. One of the criticisms of immigrants, First Nations peoples, and non-white Canadians (many of who's ancestors immigration histories predate those of the boneheads by decades) is that these group don't love the country like they do. The "White Nationalists" complain that the immigrants, First Nations, and non-white Canadians didn't do anything to build the country and are just here as "takers" with no fundamental loyalty to Canada:



Putting aside the fact that "RIP Canada 1867 to 1965" likely hasn't picked glacial stones out of a field or cleared brush in his entire life and is assuming the credit due his betters, this is a fairly typical missive. So, we can expect that "White Nationalists" in their zeal to show just how better they are than the unwashed hordes battering down the gates at proving how much they love this country:


Or not.

Read more »

If We Can't Pry Our Politics Free of Neoliberalism, We're Screwed

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 10:32
Like it or not, neoliberalism is the prevailing economic orthodoxy in Canadian politics, the NDP included.  It's also the seed of our destruction as a nation and it's going to be a real bugger to kick our way free of it.

For years I've been writing on this blog that neoliberalism and free market capitalism do not work past a certain point at which a society starts running out of stuff and begins running into walls.  That's when you either descend into a form of economic neo-feudalism or else you transition into an allocation-based economy.  When there's not enough to go around, to meet basic needs, people expect pretty egalitarian solutions.

Which is why I was immensely pleased to find Oxford professor and economic historian Avner Offer's insights in Chris Hedges new book, Wages of Rebellion.

According to Offer, our ideology of neoclassical economics - the belief that, as E. Roy Weintraub wrote, 'people have rational choices among outcomes' that can be identified and associated with values, that 'individuals maximize utility and firms maximize profits,' and that 'people act independently on the basis of full and relevant information' - is a 'just world' theory.  'A just world theory posits that the world is just.  People get what they deserve. If you believe that the world is fair, you explain or rationalize away injustice, usually by blaming the victim.'

But, he warned, if we continue down a path of mounting scarcities, along with economic stagnation and decline, this neoclassical model becomes ominous.

'Major ways of thinking about the world constitute just-world theories,' he said. 'The Catholic Church is a just-world theory.  If the Inquisition burned heretics, they only got what they deserved. Bolshevism was a just-world theory. If Kulaks were starved and exiled, they got what they deserved. Fascism was a just-world theory. If Jews died in the concentration camps, they got what they deserved. The point is not that the good people get the good things, but the bad people get the bad things. Neoclassical economics, our principal source of policy norms, is a just-world theory.'

Offer quoted the economist Milton Friedman: 'The ethical principle that would justify the distribution of income in a free market society is, "To each according to what he and the instruments he owns produces."

'So,' Offer went on, 'everyone gets what he or she deserves, either for his or her effort or for his or her property. No one asks how he or she got this property. And if they don't have it, they probably don't deserve it. The point about just-world theory is not that it dispenses justice, but that it provides a warrant for inflicting pain.'

Offer... said that the effectiveness of an ideology is measured by the amount of coercion it takes to keep a ruling elite in power.  Reality, when it does not conform toi the reigning ideology, he said, has to be 'forcibly aligned.'

...As larger and larger segments of society are forced because of declining economies to become outsiders, the use of coercion, under our current model, will probably become more widespread.

...Offer argued that 'a silent revolution' took place in economics in the 1970s. That was a time when 'economists discovered opportunism - a polite term for cheating.  Before that, economics had been a just-world defence of the status quo. But when the status quo became the welfare state, suddenly economics became all about cheating. The invisible-hand doctrine tells us there is only one outcome, and that outcome is the best. But once you enter a world of cheating, there is no longer one outcome. It is what economists call 'multiple equilibria,' which means there is not a deterministic outcome. The outcome depends on how successful the cheating is. And one of the consequences of this is that economists are not in a strong position to tell society what to do.'

The problem, he said, is that the old norms of economics continue to inform our policies, as if the cheating norm had never been introduced.

'Let's take the doctrine of optimal taxation,' he said. 'If you assume a world of perfect competition, where every person gets their marginal products, then you can deduce a tax distribution where high progressive taxation is inefficient. This doctrine has been one of the drivers to reduce progressive taxation. But looking at the historical record, this has not been accompanied by any great surge in productivity; rather, it has produced a great surge in inequality. So once again, there is a gap between what the model tells us should happen and what actually happens. In this case, the model works, but only in the model - only if all the assumptions are satisfied. Reality is more complicated.'

...Our current economic model, he said, will be of little use to us in an age of ecological deterioration and growing scarcities. Energy shortages, global warming, population increases, and increasing scarceness of water and food will create an urgent need for new models of distribution. Our two options, he said, will be 'hanging together or falling apart.' Offer argues that we cannot be certain that growth will continue. If standards of living stagnate or decline, he said, we must consider other models for the economy.

Offer, who studied the rationing systems set up in the countries that took part in WWI, suggested that we examine how past societies coped successfully with scarcity. ...In an age of scarcity, it will be imperative to set up new, more egalitarian models of distribution. Clinging to the old neoclassical model, he argued, could erode and perhaps destroy social cohesion and require the state to engage in greater forms of coercion.

...However, if we cling to our current model - which Offer labels 'every man for himself' - then, he said, 'it will require serious repression.'

He concluded: 'There is not a free market solution to a peaceful decline.'

What professor Offer is arguing for is, essentially, social democracy as the only viable option to safeguard social cohesion and ward off serious repression necessary to continue today's status quo. What a great time for Layton and Mulcair to embrace neoliberalism and guide the NDP to abandon the Left.

Humanists must engage with the Truth and Reconciliation Report

Terahertz - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 09:19

Earlier today I finally had some time to sit down and read parts of the Truth and Reconciliation report and set out why Humanist Canada’s response was woefully inadequate (at best). I Tweeted my responses and then built my first Storify. Hopefully this works. [View the story “Humanist Canada’s “response” to the Truth and Reconciliation Report” on Storify]

Some Times Things Go Really Wrong. Some Times They Go Really Right.

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 08:51
It's about the worst thing you'll ever hear on a cockpit voice recorder - the pilot saying, "Wow, pulled back the wrong throttle," seconds before the passenger plane falls out of the sky.

According to Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council investigators, those were among the last words uttered by Captain Liao Jian-zong before his Trans-Asia ATR turboprop plane went in.  One engine lost power about three minutes into the flight and then the pilot cut the power to his remaining good engine.



Some pilots, however, catch a break.  A month before the Trans-Asia disaster a pilot found his Cirrus SR-22 out of fuel over the Pacific west of Maui. Fortunately for the pilot the Cirrus comes with its own, built-in parachute.  The pilot came down safely and was rescued by a passing cruise ship.

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