Posts from our progressive community

Today's flying pigs

Cathie from Canada - 23 min 30 sec ago
Flying pigs were in the news today.

Justice Minister Mackay actually said that the Harper Cons are still considering tickets for pot possession and he expected us to believe it.

Next we'll likely be told that the PMO is reconsidering letting federal research scientists talk about global warming and the CRA is finishing its coercive charity audits.


The Con Regime and the Horror of Lac Mégantic

Montreal Simon - 4 hours 56 min ago


The report into the horrifying tragedy in Lac-Mégantic is out, and it couldn't be more devastating for the Con regime.

A railway with a “weak safety culture” and a federal regulator that was asleep at the switch combined to bring about the worst accident in modern Canadian history, says a report by the Transportation Safety Board.

For not only does the report blame the railway for not operating safely, it also blames the federal government for not doing enough to prevent that fiery holocaust.
Read more »

Harper's War on Charities is a War on All of Us

The Disaffected Lib - 9 hours 43 min ago


Never underestimate the scope and impact of the Harper regime's war to gag our charities. Oxford student and 2013 Rhodes Scholar, Joanne Cave writes in today's Times Colonist that the use of the CRA cudgel to silence charities by Harper & Co.is just the tip of the iceberg.

The recent Canada Revenue Agency crackdown on everyone from Pen Canada to Oxfam — noting, quite appallingly, that “preventing poverty” isn’t an appropriate charitable aim after all — has Canada’s charitable sector wondering: When is enough, enough?

And if you think the issues facing charities aren’t relevant to your life, think again — your local museum, soccer club, Alzheimer’s day program and national park preservation committee are likely registered charities.

The fear-mongering culture created by such frequent political audits is, unfortunately, only the tip of the iceberg in how Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has approached its relationship with the charitable sector. Prior to the 2010 G8 Summit, at which maternal health was a critical part of the agenda, federal funding for 11 Canadian women’s organizations was cut due to their pro-choice advocacy. Similar restraints have been placed on organizations in immigrant settlement services, environment and climate change advocacy and anti-poverty.

While compliance with the CRA’s 10 per cent threshold for advocacy activities is important to prevent abuses to the system, such an audit culture drains the resources of small organizations and paralyzes their participation in the political process. I donate to charities, as do many other Canadians, because I want them to take a stand on issues I believe in.

Federal funding, when it is available, is often short-lived for Canadian charities. Under Harper’s government, charities can increasingly get only project-based funding rather than ongoing, and decidedly less sexy, core organizational funding that enables long-term sustainability. By refusing to fund charitable organizations long-term, we assume that services such as food banks, counselling services, support groups and assisted recreation programs are not integral to the fabric of our society. 

This creates what is often described as a “shadow state” in social policy — when government downloads the provision of services to charitable organizations as arm’s-length partners and uses policies, such as CRA’s political audit crackdown, to limit their independence and constrain their ideological stances. It paralyzes innovation, muzzles healthy political discourse and disrespects the fundamental role of charities in supporting our country’s most disadvantaged communities.

The women’s sector — with which I am most familiar — is still reeling from policy and funding changes imposed several years ago. These changes included the elimination of a $1-million independent research fund on women’s issues, the restriction of all advocacy and legal reform activities for grant recipients (e.g. a women’s shelter advocating on issues pertaining to violence against women) and the removal of the word “equality” from the funding program’s goals.

The CRA’s expanding audit culture is leading charities in a similar direction, but creates a confusing paradox: If charities can’t advocate on the issues that mandate their existence in the first place (a preventive approach) and can’t expect long-term government funding (a reactive approach), where will change come from?

This kind of audit culture actively prevents the civic participation our democracy relies upon, silences the organizations we care about most and forces our thriving charitable sector to become unfairly apolitical. If this frustrates you, donate to charities whose advocacy activities you believe in as a sign of solidarity and support.

Charities, you’re not alone. 

Must Read - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ferguson Is About Race But It's Also About Poverty in America

The Disaffected Lib - 10 hours 6 min ago


Check out Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's op-ed in Time Magazine, "The Coming Race War Won't Be About Race."

KAJ argues that, if the Ferguson atrocity isn't to fade into another historical footnote, it's essential that it must be seen as not just another racial incident but also as class warfare.

Those Shellfish Are Talking to You. Can You Hear Them?

The Disaffected Lib - 12 hours 14 min ago


The eastern Pacific, from the Bering Sea to northern California, has been one of the world's last remaining great fisheries.  It's a band of coastal ocean famous for its abundant salmon, cod, halibut and tuna but it's also known for its bounty of crab of several varieties plus shellfish including scallops, clams, mussels and oysters.

Now a lot of that resource is at severe risk from our greenhouse gas emissions that are acidifying the ocean habitat.  The acid levels in our waters have increased by 30% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  That's the kiss of death for shellfish.

Among the sea species most vulnerable to acidification are shellfish, because a build-up of acid in waters prevents species developing their calcium shells. Alaska’s salmon stocks are also at risk as one of the main ingredients of a salmon diet are pteropods, small shell creatures

Jeremy Mathis, an NOAA oceanographer and a lead author of the study, told the 
Alaska Dispatch News that whereas past reports had focused on the consequences of increased acidification on ocean species, the aim of this one was designed to examine the wider economic impact.

“This is an economic-social study,” Mathis said. “It focuses on food security, employment opportunity, and the size of the economy.”


Mathis said acidification is more likely in Alaskan waters than in many other parts of the world. He explained: “It’s all about geography. The world’s ocean currents end their cycles here, depositing carbon dioxide from elsewhere. The coastal waters of Alaska sit right at the end of the ocean conveyor belt.”

The New York Times reports that billions of baby oysters – known as spat – are dying off the coast of Washington state in the Northwestern U.S.

In May this year, the U.S. government’s major report on climate change, the 
National Climate Assessment, said that waters off the north-west of the country are among the world’s most acidic.

Jay Inslee, governor of Washington, says an industry worth $270 million is at risk. “You can’t overstate what this means to Washington,” he says.

Inslee and many others in Washington State are fighting plans by the coal industry to build large coal ports in the region in order to export to China and elsewhere in Asia.
 

Here's what we all need to bear in mind.  The Pacific shellfish are the miners' canary of ocean acidification.  When they die off it's the same, no it's actually worse, than the canary dying deep down in the mine.  Ocean acidification threatens all terrestrial life.  As paleontologist Peter Ward documents in his book, Under a Green Sky, ocean acidification can trigger a major extinction event.  It has in the past and it can again.

Those dying shellfish are sending us a message.  When will we start listening?

Sylvia Earle's Blue Mission

The Disaffected Lib - 12 hours 38 min ago
There's a terrific documentary, Mission Blue, that's now available on Netflix.  It's the life story of pioneering oceanographer and marine biologist, Sylvia Earle.



From the time she took her science quest underwater in the sixties until today, Dr. Earle has witnessed the wholesale destruction of the most important natural resource we have - our marine ecology. 

Mission Blue is a stark warning that we've put our oceans on the ropes and they won't take much more of our abuse.  We're remarkably complacent about this given that half the oxygen we breathe is generated by our oceans and fish remains the main protein source for the poorest on our planet. 

Earle argues that we still have time to turn this around, to re-seed the world's oceans with marine life, if we can only find the political will to make it happen.  That would mean, at the very least, corralling the industrial fishing fleets responsible for collapsing global fisheries, one after another, as they "fish down the food chain."  They're already in a self-induced death spiral that ends with empty oceans.  Why would any sane government enable that?  Yet we do.

It's a great documentary.  Check out Mission Blue.

Surf's Up - On the Arctic Ocean

The Disaffected Lib - 12 hours 53 min ago
Well, it turns out every cloud does have a silver lining.  A major impact of climate change has been the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice.  The absence of sea ice, in turn, has led to the development of big waves which are, in their turn, contributing to the break up of the remaining sea ice.  But there is a silver lining to all of this.  The Arctic Ocean is now open for surfing.

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - 13 hours 49 min ago
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- John Abraham and Dana Nuccitelli discuss the worrisome spread of climate change denialism, particularly around the English-speaking developed world. But lest we accept the theory that declining public knowledge is independent of political choices, Margaret Munro reports that the Cons are suppressing factual scientific information about Arctic ice levels to avoid the Canadian public being better informed, while Tom Korski exposes a particularly galling example of their vilifying top scientists for reporting their results. And John O'Connor reminds us what's been done to anybody who's dared to speak out about the effect of unfettered tar sands development on local residents.

- Jim Bronskill reports that Transport Canada had been directly warned that safety standard exemptions granted to MMA would put workers and the public at risk in advance of last year's explosion in Lac-Megantic. And Bruce Campbell offers another study (summarized here) as to how regulatory failure was behind the disaster.

- Bloomberg reports that the U.S.' recovery has seen stagnant wages for most workers compared to gains at the top. And Henry Blodget highlights the even more glaring gap between corporate profits and earned incomes:
There's no "law of capitalism" that says that companies have to pay their employees as little as possible. There's no law of capitalism that says companies have to "maximize short-term profits." That's just a story that America's owners made up to justify taking as much of the company's wealth as possible for themselves.

Ironically, this short-term greed on the part of America's owners is likely reducing their long-term wealth: Companies can't grow profits by cutting costs forever, because their profits can't grow higher than their revenues. At some point, revenue growth needs to accelerate. But that won't happen until companies start sharing more of the wealth they create with the folks who create it — their employees.- Michael Butler examines the readily foreseeable effects of the leaked CETA text in detail - with particular emphasis on its potential damage to Canadian health care.

- Finally, the Ottawa Citizen calls for a renewed investigation into Robocon in light of Michael Sona's conviction. And Lawrence Martin points out the most important question left unanswered by the finding that Sona was just one part of a larger scheme to defraud voters:
The term “vote suppression” is a euphemism. When a member or members of a political party run an operation to prevent citizens from voting for another party, it’s tantamount to trying to fix an election result. It’s attempted vote-rigging.

For corrupt political acts, you can’t get much worse. It’s certainly more egregious than abusing housing allowances or misusing government planes, the kinds of allegations that have brought down some prominent politicians lately.
...
So who else was there? Was the operation carried out with the knowledge or input of any of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s top lieutenants? Will we ever find out?

Mr. Sona, with whom I have had several conversations, did not testify at his own trial. But he is considering whether to come forward in coming weeks or months with what he knows about the whole sordid business. If it’s true that others were involved, he should name them.

If Ebola Hits Lagos, All Bets are Off

The Disaffected Lib - 14 hours 49 min ago


Laurie Garrett claims "you are not nearly scared enough about ebola."  Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, warns that if the ebola epidemic reaches Lagos, the entire world is in jeopardy.

You think there are magic bullets in some rich country's freezers that will instantly stop the relentless spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa? You think airport security guards in Los Angeles can look a traveler in the eyes and see infection, blocking that jet passenger's entry into La-la-land?

Last week, my brilliant Council on Foreign Relations colleague John Campbell, former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, warned that spread of the virus inside Lagos -- which has a population of 22 million -- would instantly transform this situation into a worldwide crisis, thanks to the chaos, size, density, and mobility of not only that city but dozens of others in the enormous, oil-rich nation. Add to the Nigerian scenario civil war, national elections, Boko Haram terrorists, and a countrywide doctors' strike -- all of which are real and current -- and you have a scenario so overwrought and frightening that I could not have concocted it even when I advised screenwriter Scott Burns on his Contagion script. 

Let's be clear: Absolutely no drug or vaccine has been proven effective against the Ebola virus in human beings.

Since the Ebola outbreak began in March there have been many reports of isolated cases of the disease in travelers to other countries. None has resulted, so far, in secondary spread, i.e., establishing new epidemic focuses of the disease. As I write this, one such isolated case is thought to have occurred in Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city, and another suspected case reportedly died in isolation in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, prompting the kingdom to issue special Ebola warnings for the upcoming hajj. It's only a matter of time before one of these isolated cases spreads, possibly in a chaotic urban center far larger than the ones in which it is now claiming lives: Conakry, Guinea; Monrovia, Liberia; and Freetown, Sierra Leone.

On Aug. 8, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola epidemic a "public health emergency of international concern." In its pronouncement, the agency noted the urgent need for local government actions, such as the recently erected cordons sanitaires, and for global mobilization of medical resources. The WHO has repeatedly warned that this epidemic could persist for a minimum of six months, perhaps a year. The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, has concurred with that grim forecast.

The Green Devil - Australia's One Man Environmental Wrecking Crew

The Disaffected Lib - 14 hours 51 min ago


Tony Abbott is a man going to war.  His chosen target is Australia's environment and, according to Foreign Policy, he means to do it in.

Located at the bottom of the world, Tasmania is a bioregion so unique that it is listed as a World Heritage site by the United Nations for "outstanding universal value." It satisfies more criteria for that designation than any other World Heritage site on Earth.But for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, this remarkable natural legacy isn't worth protecting. Instead, it should be stripped.Soon after being elected in September 2013, Abbott started making plans to fulfill his campaign promise of removing some environmental protections on Tasmania's forest and opening it to industry, specifically logging. In March, he invited loggers to Australia's Parliament House and told them that members of the country's Green party were "the devil" and that "the environment is meant for man." The loggers were thrilled.A few months later, however, Abbott had to convince a different audience of his proposal -- and this time, the response was not enthusiastic. When the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) met in Doha in June 2014, it unanimously rejected Abbott's plan to remove 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian forest from its list of cherished sites. One delegate said the move would have set an "unacceptable precedent." Thedecision took less than 10 minutes.While the old growth forest of Tasmania might have been spared, Tony Abbott is proceeding apace with other plans.  One of them is to dredge a new coal port and then to dump the millions of tons of dredged soil and sand into the Great Barrier Reef.  Honestly, this guy believes that's a sane thing to do.  To Abbott, trashing Australia is merely taking the fight to the socialists.Australia's opposition leader, Bill Shorten, has called Abbott an "environmental vandal," and university researchers have said his first year in office has been nothing but an "environmental train wreck." This dates back to his very first day in office, when Abbott introduced legislation to repeal a carbon tax on Australia's most polluting industries. Soon after, a document created by Abbott's cabinet surfaced, stating that his administration would no longer tolerate "any measures which are socialism masquerading as environmentalism."And Abbott is increasingly and eerily coming to resemble our very own environmental Beelzebub.
Feel like a sauna?  You betcha.For Abbott, all environmental regulations are merely "green tape" that hold back corporate profits. He has hacked away at that tape by gutting the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the legislative process for determining whether a development project is environmentally safe. Instead oil, gas, and mining permits are now funneled to other agencies where they can get a green stamp.To make sure no one can adequately challenge his dictums, Abbott has eviscerated federal funding for programs such as the Environmental Defenders Offices (EDO), independent legal centers that operate in the public interest. It sounds as though Harper must have slipped Abbott a copy of the Conservatives' own environmental dirty play book.Environmental author Bill McKibben has written that Americans who traveled abroad during George W. Bush's administration should have sympathy for Australians right now: "[I]t's not easy being citizens of countries run by international laughing stocks." The comparison is apt: Like the Bush administration, Abbott chooses to ignore or undercut federal and international law when it doesn't suit his interests.Yet he has no qualms about using the law as a political hammer to quash the opposition: In Tasmania right now, Abbott's Liberal Party government is backing a new bill explicitly drafted to stop environmental protesters. The Workplaces (Protection From Protesters) Bill is aimed at quelling those who "prevent, impede or obstruct the carrying out of business activities." Mining and logging industries are mentioned by name, but the bill is written so broadly that it could cover nearly any business. It includes a sweeping list of prohibitions against "protest activity," with fines up to $10,000 if demonstrations interrupt business -- and mandatory prison sentences for a second offense.
I don't mean to be cynical but I'd guess the only thing preventing Harper from passing his own, protection from protesters act in advance of the Northern Gateway pipeline is the cut lip and bloody nose he's earned in past encounters with the Supreme Court of Canada.  I have to assume that Abbott has the benefit of a weaker constitution and a more compliant court.

Acknowledging the Irrational

Northern Reflections - 15 hours 20 min ago


At the centre of classical economics is the notion that man is a rational decision maker. Thus, economics is all about creating incentives. If you lower taxes, people will have more money to spend and the economy will become a virtuous cycle. But the "dead money" sitting atop the Canadian economy gives the lie to the notion that man always makes rational decisions.

Worse still, the only explanation classical economics has for unemployment is that it is a moral failure. The unemployed simply have not taken advantage of economic incentives. Shipping jobs overseas, or bringing in temporary foreign workers to replace the already employed has nothing to do with unemployment.

The same model of man as rational decision maker applies to Canadian Conservative drug policy. Create stiffer penalties for drug use, and it will decline. It's called the War on Drugs and it's been going on in the United States for forty years and filling American prisons beyond capacity.

The problem with Conservative drug policy is the same as its problem with economic policy. Man does not always make rational decisions. Devon Black writes:

The philosophy behind this approach to drug policy blends overly-simplistic thinking with moral judgments and a fundamental misunderstanding of addiction. In theory, harsh penalties for drug trafficking and drug use should have a deterrent effect. Alongside tough drug penalties come government campaigns which teach that drugs are a choice – one it’s possible to “just say no” to. And so any rational person, understanding the consequences of drug use, would obviously choose to stay away.

The fatal flaw, of course, is the assumption that everyone will respond to the same incentives. The whole nature of addiction is that addicts keep seeking out the focus of their craving, no matter the consequences. It’s not a matter of choice; addicts can no more say no to drugs than I can say no to the flu. Trying to change the behaviour of a person suffering from addiction by creating more consequences is an exercise in futility.

Compounding the problem is the fact that, for many heavy drug users, drug use does have a twisted rationality. There’s a strong correlation between experiencing trauma and developing problems with substance abuse. For teens with post-traumatic stress disorder, the problem is particularly acute: Up to 59 per cent of them go on to develop problems with substance abuse. When there’s no adequate mental health care available, it’s little wonder that many people coping with the after-effects of trauma turn to illegal drugs to manage their pain.

And so, while throwing drug users in jail might seem like a solution on the surface, it only compounds the problem. Eighty per cent of offenders have substance abuse or addiction problems. Prisons have tried to address this – primarily by introducing methadone replacement therapy for inmates with opioid addictions.
We have a self-fulfilling prophecy. The War on Drugs is one of the causes of the problem it seeks to eradicate. The fatal flaw in Conservative ideology is its failure to acknowledge the irrational. And the solutions it proposes become, by extension, irrational.

Denial And Outrage

Politics and its Discontents - 16 hours 4 min ago


During my teaching career, it was occasionally my unpleasant task to confront a student with evidence of his or her cheating; most situations revolved around plagiarizing essays or having skipped a test. The student's responses when confronted were invariably the same; indeed, they tended to parallel Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief.

I won't bore you with the details, but common initial reactions were denial that any offence had occurred, ("I have no idea what you are talking about"), and when that failed, anger that I would harbour such unfounded and unworthy suspicions ("I am really hurt that you would accuse me of such a thing"). Invariably, they were guilty as charged.

There seems to be an analogous system at work in politics.

Let's start with the Harper regime's upcoming campaign against marijuana use, the one that the three main groups representing doctors, Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada have refused to be part of because they "... do not, support or endorse any political messaging or political advertising on this issue".

The accusation that the campaign has become a political football aimed at discrediting Justin Trudeau, who favours legalization of pot, has been hotly denied by Health Minister Rona Ambrose:

“Telling kids to not smoke pot is not a partisan attack on Justin Trudeau by Health Canada,” Ambrose told a news conference Monday on the sidelines of the annual Canadian Medical Association meeting.

“It is a sound public health policy backed by science. Whether pot is legal or illegal, the health risks of marijuana to youth remain the same, and we should all be concerned about them.”

She added that Trudeau “made this a political issue.”


Denial and shifting the blame, both time-honoured tactics of my former wayward students.

Next, the anger:

This morning's Star reports the following:

The federal New Democrats are hoping to put the Canada Revenue Agency under the microscope Tuesday after recalling a House of Commons committee to examine a wave of audits against registered charities.

NDP MP and revenue critic Murray Rankin (Victoria) has questioned whether the audits were politically motivated actions against those advocating for environmental causes and other issues clashing with the Harper government’s policies.


However, Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay rejects the allegations, and with great umbrage:

“Your baseless allegation that I have used my office to blatantly misappropriate CRA resources to target and intimidate charities that don’t agree with our government’s policies is absolutely reprehensible,” wrote Findlay in a letter to Rankin, dated Aug. 5.

“As an honourable parliamentarian, I find your unwarranted attacks on the integrity of the CRA and my office shameful and plunges parliamentary discourses to new lows.”


To quote from my favourite Shakespearean play, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." Such indignation may play well to the party's base, but critical thinkers may wonder at the rhetorical flourishes employed by Ms. Findlay here.

The final stage in the five stages of grief is acceptance. For the Harper regime, I suspect that will only come after the results of the next election.Recommend this Post

revolutionary thoughts of the day: kareem abdul-jabbar, the new yorker, howard zinn

we move to canada - 16 hours 50 min ago
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has an excellent essay in Time, something only a big-name writer can get away with in the mainstream media. Abdul-Jabbar names the stark truths behind the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri. And the mere fact that this appears on Time.com is reason for hope.
This fist-shaking of everyone’s racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor. Of course, to many in America, being a person of color is synonymous with being poor, and being poor is synonymous with being a criminal. Ironically, this misperception is true even among the poor.

And that’s how the status quo wants it.
Solidarity with Ferguson in Times Square
The U.S. Census Report finds that 50 million Americans are poor. Fifty million voters is a powerful block if they ever organized in an effort to pursue their common economic goals. So, it’s crucial that those in the wealthiest One Percent keep the poor fractured by distracting them with emotional issues like immigration, abortion and gun control so they never stop to wonder how they got so screwed over for so long.

One way to keep these 50 million fractured is through disinformation. PunditFact’s recent scorecard on network news concluded that at Fox and Fox News Channel, 60 percent of claims are false. At NBC and MSNBC, 46 percent of claims were deemed false. That’s the “news,” folks! During the Ferguson riots, Fox News ran a black and white photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with the bold caption: “Forgetting MLK’s Message/Protestors in Missouri Turn to Violence.” Did they run such a caption when either Presidents Bush invaded Iraq: “Forgetting Jesus Christ’s Message/U.S. Forgets to Turn Cheek and Kills Thousands”?

How can viewers make reasonable choices in a democracy if their sources of information are corrupted? They can’t, which is exactly how the One Percent controls the fate of the Ninety-Nine Percent.This excellent essay from The New Yorker recognizes what's coalescing beneath the so-called riots.
In the eight days since Michael Brown, an eighteen-year-old, was killed by a police officer named Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, what began as an impromptu vigil evolved into a sustained protest; it is now beginning to look like a movement. The local QuikTrip, a gas station and convenience store that was looted and burned on the second night of the protests, has now been repurposed as the epicenter for gatherings and the exchange of information. The front of the lot bears an improvised graffiti sign identifying the area as the “QT People’s Park.” With the exception of a few stretches, such as Thursday afternoon, when it was veiled in clouds of tear gas, protesters have been a constant presence in the lot. On Sunday afternoon the area was populated by members of local churches, black fraternity and sorority groups, Amnesty International, the Outcast Motorcycle Club, and twenty or so white supporters from the surrounding area. On the north side of the station, a group of volunteers with a mobile grill served free hot dogs and water, and a man stood on a crate, handing out bright yellow T-shirts with the logo of the National Action Network, the group led by Al Sharpton.

Solidarity with Ferguson in Howard University, Washington DCThe conversation here has shifted from the immediate reaction to Michael Brown’s death and toward the underlying social dynamics. Two men I spoke with pointed to the disparity in education funding for Ferguson and more affluent municipalities nearby. Another talked about being pulled over by an officer who claimed to smell marijuana in the car as a pretense for searching him. “I’m in the United States Navy,” he told me. “We have to take drug tests in the military so I had proof that there were no drugs in my system. But other people can’t do that.” Six black men I spoke to, nearly consecutively, pointed to Missouri’s felon-disfranchisement laws as part of the equation. “If you’re a student in one of the black schools here and you get into a fight you’ll probably get arrested and charged with assault. We have kids here who are barred from voting before they’re even old enough to register,” one said. Ferguson’s elected officials did not look much different than they had years earlier, when it was a largely white community.Last year, I made a list of these disparate, but related events.
The Occupy movement

The uprising in Wisconsin

The Arab Spring: Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and other countries

The Quebec student strikes and demonstrations

Walmart workers organizing and striking

Fast-food workers in New York City organizing and striking

Ongoing mass demonstrations and general strikes throughout Europe

Miners in South Africa on a wildcat strike

100 million people striking in India

The Chicago teachers' strike

The global environmental movement

Idle No MoreSome of these now seem bittersweet. The Arab Spring cycled into militarism and repression, but that story is still being written. Other movements - like low-wage workers organizing in the US - have burgeoned and thrived. Now we add Ferguson, Missouri, and the solidarity demonstrations we're seeing all over the world.

I remind myself that no one can predict the future.
There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment will continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people's thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible.

Howard Zinn

The Shadowy Con Conspiracy to Destroy Justin Trudeau

Montreal Simon - 18 hours 4 min ago


I have no idea who broke into Justin Trudeau's home the other night while he was away, in a creepy attempt to terrorize him and his young family.

I can't imagine what kind of foul creature, or creatures, would leave a sinister message in a circle of butcher knives.

But I am glad Justin is asking the RCMP to evaluate his security. 

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has asked the RCMP to assess whether he will need a security detail after someone broke into his Ottawa home on Saturday and left a threatening note.

Because I honestly believe there are a group of shadowy Cons out there who are trying to destroy him. 
Read more »

Reefer Madness and the Corruption of Rona Ambrose

Montreal Simon - 18 hours 19 min ago


Well it could have been just another day in the glamorous life of Rona Ambrose Health Minister.

Serving the public, like an Angel of Mercy, and servicing Stephen Harper, like the Angel of Death.

Not necessarily in that order. 
But then she blew it. Again.
By trying to make the country's doctors believe that the Con cult's massive tax payer funded anti-marijuana ad campaign wasn't blatantly political. Read more »

Why don't they have a protocol for an officer-involved shooting?

Cathie from Canada - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 23:41
One of the many things I don't understand about the Ferguson police department is why they apparently do not have a protocol for dealing with any shooting in which an officer is involved.
It is a routine in Canada when an officer shoots a civilian, that the officer is suspended, an investigation is done right away by a neighbouring police force, and a prosecutor from another jurisdiction is often used to evaluate possible charges.  We might not believe or support the result, but everybody knows what steps need to be taken.
But in Ferguson, they seem to be struggling with these basic steps, and the credibility of the police force in this little town, and the confidence of the entire justice system in Missouri is being destroyed.
Its difficult to see how it will end, because every time things start to calm down, the incompetent Ferguson police release another meaningless tidbit to smear Brown some more.
Overall, I get the impression that nobody is in charge.
On CNN, Jake Tapper says "this doesn't make any sense"
But as the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Or, in Saskboy's version:


.@wongofu @puellavulnerata when all you have is a gun, everything looks like a black man in Missouri. #Ferguson

— Saskboy K. (@saskboy) August 19, 2014

Why the English-Speaking World Resists the Reality of Climate Change

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 18:13
You would think if you were a country particularly prone to being mugged by severe storm events of increasing intensity, frequency and destructiveness you might be just as particularly receptive to overwhelming scientific evidence of the causes.  However if you happen to be one of the major English-speaking countries you are and you aren't.  When it comes to Australia, the United States, Canada and Britain, all four countries are being hammered by climate change impacts yet remain among the countries least likely to accept the scientific evidence.

All four countries are governed by right of centre legislatures in which denialism runs deep.  All four countries are also big into fossil fuel production.  All four countries have an overall right of centre media that is collaborative with right wing government and energy producers.




What this chart also reveals is that, even in the United States where denialism is at its strongest, a solid majority of the public accepts anthropogenic global warming/climate change.  In all four countries, the government is plainly at odds with its people when it comes to climate change.  
Well if our Anglosphere isn't working for our peoples, who do these governments serve?  Oh sorry, I don't know what I was thinking.  Forget I asked.

August 19, 2014 - Earth Overshoot Day

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 17:35
Relax, it's not a holiday.  It's not something to celebrate.  It is however a day of observance.

For 2014, August 19th represents the day on which mankind has consumed a full year's worth of renewable, natural resources.  That also means that, for the rest of the year, we'll be dipping into nature's resource reserves, "eating our seed corn" if you will.   That ensures that Earth Overshoot Day, 2015 will fall well prior to August 19.

Just a few years ago Earth Overshoot Day fell in October, the ninth month.  Now it's arriving in the seventh month.  You can do the math and see where this is headed.  Here's a chart tracing the advance of Earth Overshoot Day.


Overshoot impacts take several forms.  Deforestation is one, desertification (the exhaustion of farmland and its transformation into barren desert) is another.  The emptying of aquifers is a manifestation of overshoot.  So too is the collapse of global fisheries through overfishing.  Another form of overshoot is the accumulation of pollution and other contaminants in our air, soil and water which reflects that we're outpacing nature's capacity to clean our environment.

Here's another way to visualize overshoot in the context of the planet's maximum carrying capacity and our excess consumption.  Overshoot causes carrying capacity to decline so that the ecological deficit steadily grows.



Posse Comitatus and Crossing America's Rubicon

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 17:09


In 49 B.C., then general Julius Caesar staked his life on a huge gamble and led his legions across the Rubicon into Rome.  Caesar knew that any general bringing his army into Rome faced execution but he went on to seize control of the Roman republic. 

In 1879 the U.S. Congress enacted the Posse Comitatus Act, that prohibited the deployment of U.S. Army troops within America "for the purpose of executing laws."  The intent was to prohibit the use of American soldiers against American civilians.  Like the Romans, Americans felt the need to proscribe the use of military force within the homeland.

Lately there's been an end run around the Posse Comitatus Act.  If you can't deploy the armed forces against the public, you can achieve pretty much the same result by militarizing law enforcement and bringing them under the wing of Homeland Security.  Equip the cops with combat gear, outfit them with modern military weaponry and deploy them in armoured military vehicles, all supplied for next to nothing, and - voila - problem solved.

Dennis Kucinich sees recent events in Ferguson, Missouri arising out of the police execution of a young African-American and the police response to the subsequent protests as a threat to American democracy.

The Declaration of Independence condemned King George III for, "keeping among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature."  Out of the Revolution, Americans emerged with an abhorrence of any military presence in their daily lives.

Kucinich points out that, over time, the apparent prohibition against a direct military role in civilian affairs has been gradually and steadily watered down, sidestepped and ignored. 

In 2006, George w. Bush persuaded Congress to enact an express authority for the use of military force:   "The President may employ the armed forces... to... restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition... the President determines that... domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order... or [to] suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy..."

Now the former Democratic Congressman is calling for reforms:

1. Congress must firmly re-establish the firewall between civilian law enforcement and the military by reinstating the intent of the Posse Comitatus law. As member of Congress I warned in 2007 the dangers of a bill which permitted the government to put troops on the ground in the US.

2. The Department of Defense must stop providing war-fighting equipment to local law enforcement.

3. All equipment provided to local law enforcement by the Department of Defense, must be inventoried and stored, not used except under an executive order from the top civilian authority in a state, the Governor, or under orders of the President of the United States.

4. The General Accounting Office and the Inspector General of the Department of Defense must be asked by Congress to determine the extent to which the training and equipping of local police by the DOD has created a culture in local law enforcement which is adverse to democratic values.

5. The Justice Department needs to fund programs which will train or retrain local law enforcement in racial sensitivity, constitutional protections of suspects, including the right to freedom of speech and right to assemble.

6. The Justice Department must also fund, support and mandate that all local law enforcement receiving any federal funds whatsoever create community programs for dialogue between local police and people in the neighborhood. Local police become an occupying army through emotional distancing, fear and lack of contact with the community. That can change by having police and the community meet regularly to discuss mutual concerns.

Those who serve in local law enforcement are given special trust, special dispensation to serve and protect. Their work is essential. Local police would like to be supported. But we must demand strict adherence to the Constitution and protection of the freedoms given to us by the Bill of Rights.

The reforms Kucinich advocates are so logical, so sensible that, in today's America, they won't get the time of day from its dysfunctional Congress.  But, unless and until such reforms are enacted, America will remain beset by a thoroughly militarized Main Street.

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