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what i'm reading: your heart is a muscle the size of a fist, by sunil yapa

we move to canada - Sun, 09/25/2016 - 04:00
If only Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist could be required reading. Everyone who has ever scoffed cynically at protesters. Everyone who has ever seen a mainstream news report showing a burning car, over and over and over, but not showing tens of thousands of peaceful protesters, and looked no deeper. Everyone who has ever denied police violence against peaceful, law-abiding citizens, or assumed that police violence is necessary to maintain order at protests. Every one of these people should read this book.

In this impressive debut novel, author Sunil Yapa takes us into the so-called "Battle of Seattle" -- the protests against the World Trade Organization summit in that city in 1999. But the time and place could be any of the G8 or the G10 or the G20 summits -- any of the meetings where the ruling elite side-step the democratic process as they carve up the world for global capitalism.

The reader sees the mass protests through the eyes of many different characters: activists, cops, delegates, restless world travelers. People in grief, people with secrets, people searching. Activists who have different motivations and different levels of experience and commitment. Cops who care deeply about their city and its people, cops who care about power and revenge. A delegate who believes the WTO is the answer to world hunger and poverty, and wants his third-world country at the table. The action takes place in a single day, and by the time the day is over, every character will be profoundly changed by the experience.

The politics of the book are obvious, but woven naturally into the fabric of the story. Most of the characters feel fully realized; rarely is anyone a billboard for an idea. The author does an especially excellent job of articulating how it feels to join a mass protest -- the deep love, solidarity, and sense of belonging it can create. He also portrays police violence fully and in horrifying detail -- a story that needs to be told.

My required-reading daydream dissolves in the light of day. The people who most need to read this book won't read it, and if they did, wouldn't believe it. They would accuse the author of fabricating and exaggerating. For better and worse, The Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is authentic, and genuine, and true. An excellent read for people who care.

Putting Money Where Her Mouth Is

Northern Reflections - Sun, 09/25/2016 - 03:29


Recently, Health Minister Jane Philpott informed the province of Quebec that she intended to enforce the Canada Health Act. Tom Walkom writes:

The Canada Health Act is the federal statute governing medicare. It lists the standards provinces must meet if they are to receive money from Ottawa for health care. And it gives the federal government the right to cut transfers to any province that doesn’t meet these standards.
In particular, it imposes a duty on the federal health minister to financially penalize any province that allows physicians operating within medicare to bill patients for extra, out-of-pocket fees.
However, the federal government has only rarely penalized provinces which allowed extra billing:
Compared to the billions the federal government spent on health transfers over the period, these penalties were pittances. But they did make the point that medicare is indeed a national program.
And in every province except B.C., where the issue has morphed into a constitutional court case, the extra-billing problem was apparently resolved.
There, Dr. Brian Day has launched a court case, claiming that extra billing is a practice that is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If the case succeeds, medicare -- as a defining Canadian institution -- will be finished. Someone has to meet the challenge head on. That task has fallen to Philpott.
But it imperative that Justin Trudeau stands behind her by providing the money to defend medicare. Originally, medicare was a 50/50 proposition. Half of the costs were to be born by the provinces and half by the federal government. In 2013, CUPE released a report on Healthcare spending. The fifty-fifty split was ancient history. According to the report,
the federal government covers only one fifth of provincial health spending, where it used to cover half – and it wants to scale back further. The 2004–2014 Health Accord provided stable funding after deep cuts in the 1990s. It has brought the federal government’s cash share of provincial health spending up to 20 per cent1 from a low of 10 per cent in 19982 and part way to its original 50 per cent share. The current federal government wants to reverse this progress. 
The "current federal government," of course, was the Harper government. When Stephen Harper headed the National Citizens Coalition he advocated dismantling medicare. These days, Dr. Day has taken Harper's place.
Minister Philpott has signalled that the line has been drawn. But, if she is to succeed, the prime minister is going to have to put money where her mouth is.
Image: The Canadian Press

Deep thought

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 09/24/2016 - 15:45
Memo to those commentators perpetually seeking any available excuse to compare Brad Wall to historical leaders: now would be an ideal time to point out his government's turn toward the Reaganesque.

A Brilliant, Simple Idea. The "Dutch Reach"

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 09/24/2016 - 15:38
Check this out. You and every cyclist will be glad you did.

Saturday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 09/24/2016 - 12:03
This and that for your weekend reading.

- Naomi Klein discusses how Canada's longstanding - if far from inevitable - identity as a resource economy is standing in the way of both needed action on climate change and reconciliation with First Nations:
In Canada, cultivation and industrialization were secondary. First and foremost, this country was built on voraciously devouring wildness. Canada was an extractive company – the Hudson’s Bay Company – before it was a country. And that has shaped us in ways we have yet to begin to confront.
Because such enormous fortunes have been built purely on the extraction of wild animals, intact forest and interred metals and fossil fuels, our economic elites have grown accustomed to seeing the natural world as their God-given larder.
When someone or something – like climate science – comes along and says: Actually, there are limits, we have to take less from the Earth and keep more profit for the public good, it doesn’t feel like a difficult truth. It feels like an existential attack....The trouble isn’t just the commodity roller coaster. It’s that the stakes grow larger with each boom-bust cycle. The frenzy for cod crashed a species; the frenzy for bitumen and fracked gas is helping to crash the planet....Today, we have federal and provincial governments that talk a lot about reconciliation. But this will remain a cruel joke if non-Indigenous Canadians do not confront the why behind those human-rights abuses. And the why, as the Truth and Reconciliation report states, is simple enough: “The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources.”
The goal, in other words, was to remove all barriers to unrestrained resource extraction. This is not ancient history. Across the country, Indigenous land rights remain the single greatest barrier to planet-destabilizing resource extraction, from pipelines to clear-cut logging.- Susan Delacourt highlights Charlie Angus' frustration with the Libs' Teletubbie political style, while Tony Burman notes that Middle East relations represent just one more area where Justin Trudeau's actions couldn't be much further from his rhetoric. 
- But Ethan Cox' report on an Indigenous treaty alliance also signals what may the most effective response - as rather than allowing the Libs to feign friendship while pursuing another agenda, First Nations are presenting a united and direct contrast to Trudeau's plans. And Doug Cuthand points out the widespread protest against the Dakota Access pipeline as the latest and largest example of that solidarity being put into action.
- Meanwhile, Marc Lee signals what we might expect from a federal climate change action plan based on the working groups currently reviewing the options.

- Laurie Monsebraaten reports on a needed push to ensure that child care funding is used to create not-for-profit spaces. And Ashifa Kassam points to Wellington's loss of water rights to Nestle as a prime example of what happens when corporate dollars trump public needs.

- Finally, Alon Weinberg discusses why now is the time to implement a proportional electoral system in Canada. And Craig Scott makes the case for mixed-member proportional over the other options under consideration.

Standing Up For Our Values In A Bigoted World

Montreal Simon - Sat, 09/24/2016 - 11:43


I'm really looking forward to this weekend. It's going to be warm and sunny, and perfect for biking, or sailing.

And on Sunday, in this park in my neighbourhood, there is going to be a big book fair with lots of authors and artists. So it couldn't be better, or more lovely Canada.

But I can't forget what's happening to so many people in this nightmare place.

And ever since I found out that Chris Alexander and Kellie Leitch will be reuniting.

I can't help wondering what might have happened to some of the Syrian refugees now living in this peaceful country if the Cons had been re-elected?
Read more »

Canada Attacked: No Definitive Link to Islam YET

Dawg's Blawg - Sat, 09/24/2016 - 09:08
Dawg asked his co-bloggers to keep an eye on things out there in the world while he’s swanning about Italy, and I’ve tried. But you know, SO much of it is just the same old same old. Trump, police... Balbulican http://stageleft.info

Ted Cruz's Hilarious Endorsement of Donald Trump

Montreal Simon - Sat, 09/24/2016 - 09:07


Let it never be said that Ted Cruz holds a grudge for long. Or that he will let anything get in the way of his feverish desire to be President.

Not even what's left of his dignity, his father's good name, or his wife's honour.

For after having called Donald Trump every dirty word in the book, and claiming he'd have to be a "servile puppy" to endorse him 

Big Ted has rolled over like a lap dog and endorsed him anyway.
Read more »

On Nestle's Unslakeable Thirst

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 09/24/2016 - 06:26


I have written previously about the deplorable government 'stewardship' of our natural resources that allows rapacious companies like Nestle to take Ontario's groundwater for literally pennies as it makes obscene profits on bottle water.

Unfortunately, the story keeps getting worse.
Corporate giant Nestlé continued its privatization creep on Thursday as it won approval to take over another Canadian community's water supply, claiming it needed the well to ensure "future business growth."

Nestlé purchased the well near Elora, Ontario from Middlebrook Water Company last month after making a conditional offer in 2015, the Canadian Press reports.

In August, the Township of Centre Wellington made an offer to purchase the Middlebrook well site to protect access to the water for the community. Consequently, the multinational—which claimed it had no idea the community was its competitor—waived all its conditions and matched the township's offer in order to snag the well for itself.Happily, this is not going unnoticed by the Council of Canadians, which has proposed a boycott of the company, one that I encourage everyone to sign. Part of the boycott reads,
"Groundwater resources will not be sufficient for our future needs due to drought, climate change, and over-extraction. Wasting our limited groundwater on frivolous and consumptive uses such as bottled water is madness. We must not allow groundwater reserves to be depleted for corporate profit."For her part the extraordinarily unpopular Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has often acted as if she is surprised by Nestle's pillaging, is now sounding a cautious note.
“As we look at the water bottling industry, that has to be a question because we’re talking about what we could argue is our most precious resource,” she said.

“There is much pressure on our water, so as we have this discussion about our water, the status of and the treatment of water bottling companies, that needs to be taken into consideration.”Hardly a stinging rebuke.

For its part, Nestle has this to say:
Nestle, which has 2,500 employees in Ontario, has said it is prepared to pay more if rates were increased, but only if all companies with water-taking permits face the higher fees.The fact that this multinational company feels free to stipulate conditions on government decisions tells you all you need to know about who is really running the show, doesn't it?



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Facts That Don't Suit Its Agenda

Northern Reflections - Sat, 09/24/2016 - 05:37


Andrew Coyne used to sing the praises of the Harper Party. That was before he discovered that they were not who they claimed to be. Stephen Harper may be gone, but his party is still a fraud. Take the issue of putting a price on carbon. Coyne writes:

The party of free markets, rather than support a plan that relies on the quintessential market instrument — prices — favours the most costly, intrusive and regulatory-heavy approach imaginable: the very approach that has so signally failed to date. The party of personal responsibility favours sparing people the costs of their economic choices, either socializing them via subsidy or disguising them via regulation.

All of the party's leadership candidates -- save one -- are vehemently opposed to putting a price on carbon:

Yet the position of the Conservative party, and of virtually every one of its leading lights, is flat-out opposition to carbon pricing, in whatever form. Of the federal party leadership candidates, only one, Michael Chong, has come out in favour. The other 87 or so are all opposed. The official line remains the same: it’s a “tax on everything,” and they want no part of it.

But, like it or not, a tax is on its way:

British Columbia has had a carbon tax since 2008. Alberta will have one in place by 2018. Ontario and Quebec are implementing cap-and-trade regimes. That’s 80 per cent of the country, by population, where carbon pricing is now law. And in six weeks the government of Canada will formally commit the country to the Paris climate accord, together with its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, UN-speak for emissions reductions target. By year’s end, the Trudeau government has signalled it will have a national carbon price in place, with or without the provinces’ cooperation.
The Harper Party has never been who and what it claimed to be. And it has never been able to deal with facts that don't suit its agenda.

Image: lautensblogspot.com

Democracy on Death Watch

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 09/24/2016 - 00:17


It wasn't supposed to end up like this but liberal democracy is reeling around the world, the United States included. Harvard prof and Foreign Policy columnist, Stephen Walt, puts it down to a bit of miscalculation and a whole lot of hubris.

Once upon a time — that is, back in the 1990s — a lot of smart and serious people believed liberal political orders were the wave of the future and would inevitably encompass most of the globe. The United States and its democratic allies had defeated fascism and then communism, supposedly leaving humankind at “the end of history.” The European Union seemed like a bold experiment in shared sovereignty that had banished war from most of Europe. Indeed, many Europeans believed its unique combination of democratic institutions, integrated markets, the rule of law, and open borders made Europe’s “civilian power” an equal if not superior counterpart to the crude “hard power” of the United States. For its part, the United States committed itself to “enlarging the sphere of democratic rule, getting rid of pesky autocrats, solidifying the “democratic peace,” and thereby ushering in a benevolent and enduring world order.

...In Russia, China, India, Turkey, Egypt — and yes, even here in the United States — one sees either resurgent authoritarianism or a yearning for a “strong leader” whose bold actions will sweep away present discontents. According to democracy expert Larry Diamond, “between 2000 and 2015, democracy broke down in 27 countries,” while “many existing authoritarian regimes have become even less open, transparent, and responsive to their citizens.” Great Britain has now voted to leave the EU; Poland, Hungary, and Israel are heading in illiberal directions; and one of America’s two major political parties is about to nominate a presidential candidate who openly disdains the tolerance that is central to a liberal society, repeatedly expresses racist beliefs and baseless conspiracy theories, and has even questioned the idea of an independent judiciary. For those of us committed to core liberal ideals, these are not happy times.

...The first problem was that liberalism’s defenders oversold the product. We were told that if dictators kept falling and more states held free elections, defended free speech, implemented the rule of law, and adopted competitive markets, and joined the EU and/or NATO, then a vast “zone of peace” would be created, prosperity would spread, and any lingering political disagreements would be easily addressed within the framework of a liberal order.

When matters didn’t go quite so smoothly, and when some groups in these liberal societies were in fact harmed by these developments, a degree of backlash was inevitable. It didn’t help that elites in many liberal countries made some critical blunders, including the creation of the euro, the invasion of Iraq, the misguided attempt to nation-build in Afghanistan, and the 2008 financial crisis. These and other mistakes helped undermine the legitimacy of the post-Cold War order, open the door to illiberal forces, and left some segments of society vulnerable to nativist appeals.

...It is also abundantly clear that post-Cold War liberals underestimated the role of nationalism and other forms of local identity, including sectarianism, ethnicity, tribal bonds, and the like. They assumed that such atavistic attachments would gradually die out, be confined to apolitical, cultural expressions, or be adroitly balanced and managed within well-designed democratic institutions.

But it turns out that many people in many places care more about national identities, historic enmities, territorial symbols, and traditional cultural values than they care about “freedom” as liberals define it.

Most important of all, liberal societies are in trouble today because they are vulnerable to being hijacked by groups or individuals who take advantage of the very freedoms upon which liberal societies are based. As Donald Trump has been proving all year (and as Jean-Marie Le Pen, Recep Erdogan, Geert Wilders, and other political entrepreneurs have shown in the past), leaders or movements whose commitment to liberal principles is at best skin-deep can take advantage of the principles of open society and use it to rally a popular following. And there is nothing about a democratic order that ensures such efforts will invariably fail.

Okay, Right. Now China Wants More Babies.

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 23:50


Chinese authorities seem eager to scrap the "one child" policy for the nation of nearly 1.4-billion. They want more babies.

On Sept. 17, officials in the central Chinese city of Yichang sent an open letter urging Communist Party members to have a second child and help replenish the city’s falling birth rates. This follows a nationwide move to a two-child policy in early 2016, prompted by fears the country’s shrinking worker base could act as a continuing drag on economic growth.

In short, China’s unpopular and controversial system of population control known as “one-child” policy is becoming “have one more child” policy. But the move may be too little and too late for a country that has become synonymous with the most restrictive birth policies in the world.


As a policy matter, China’s switch to the beginnings of a pronatalist policy is sensible. As with many other modern societies, family sizes in China have shrunk due to the combined forces of urbanization and female empowerment, which has created more opportunities for women.

Several countries have tried to stem the downturn in their own birth rates by offering financial incentives — cash payments called “baby bonuses,” as well as tax breaks. Others have been more blatant in telling their citizens to, quite simply, do it for their country. Italy just launched its first annual “Fertility Day,” a much criticized campaign that follows on the heels of similar movements in Denmark, South Korea, and Turkey. In 2010, South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare designated days when it turned off office lights early as “family days” in hopes its workers would go home and make babies.


Okay, whatever. More Chinese babies it is then even though some credible studies by Chinese experts contend the country is already well on its way to hit 1.5 billion by 2035. 

On "Conscientious Objection," But Mostly on Pseudonymity

Dammit Janet - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 08:35
I was going to blog about a new commentary about "conscientious objection" in medicine. (Link to the full, very readable paper.)
Authorities should bar doctors from refusing to provide such services as abortion and assisted death on moral grounds, and screen out potential medical students who might impose their values on patients, leading Canadian and British bioethicists argue in a provocative new commentary.I remembered that lawsuit launched back in 2015 by the whackadoodle group calling themselves the Christian Medical and Dental Society against the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario over a new requirement that doctors refer patients for services their precious consciences and medieval paternalism wouldn't let them even contemplate.

I remembered that Joyce Arthur of Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada had neatly and completely eviscerated their whiney self-justifications in a piece titled "Christian doctors angry they can no longer abandon their patients."

Then I remembered that I had said everything I have to say about the issue here.
I think any doctor refusing to participate in modern, non-judgemental medicine should have his or her license yanked or else shunted into a specialty or practice where they have nothing to do with lady parts.

Dermatology or podiatry would be good.In that post, I reported on my attempt on Twitter to get the Christian doctors and dentists (WTF are dentists doing in there? "Sorry, madam, but my conscience demands that you must continue to carry that rotten molar until its natural demise"?) to make public a list of their members so that sane people could stay the hell away from them.

Well. As I reported the next day, a shitstorm ensued.

I was accused of trying to "out" the good doctors (and dentists, don't forget the dentists). Um, yeah, I was, in the interests of informing potential patients.

And I was accused of hypocrisy (spelled correctly for a change) in asking for their names from behind a PSEUDONYM!

The gang over at ProWoman/ProForcedPregnancy got particularly pissy about it, two commenters going so far as to imply that my intent was to "target" the doctors (and dentists, don't forget the dentists) for some kind of hostile action.

That second blogpost I wrote is called "FFS: Near Defamation (Is That a Thing?)." (I concluded that it probably wasn't.)

A condescending commenter at PWPFP said:
Hello Fern Hill,
I’m a lawyer, and I agree with you, this does not appear to be a case of defamation.
However, if you chose to pursue any type of litigation, you would of course have to do it in your personal capacity, using your legal name. Your association with your pseudonym “Fern Hill” and your association with your blog DammitJanet, would become permanent public record.
Kind regards,
Faye Sonier
(Please note, of course, that the comments above are not provided as legal advice.)Ooooh. Who's threatening whom there? My legal name and my blog would become associated in the "permanent public record"!!!!

This wasn't and still isn't new. The fetus freaks are obsessed with my practice of pseudonymity. I've been chided in comments here at DJ! I've been repeatedly called "anonymous" by various anti-choicers, including those at LieShite and WeNeedALawLikeAHoleInTheHead. Over at the Amateur Statistician's I am "Fake Person" with my own label. SUZY ALLCAPSLOCK, whose hilarious blog is now sadly private (come back, SUZY, we miss you!), also had a kick at the pseudonymous fern hill can. Mrozek at PWPFP has invited me TWICE to meet for coffee. (I declined politely, of course.)

They are really really peeved that they don't know my real name.

I can't help but wonder: Why? What would they do with that information? Inform my employer? (Ha. As a member of the precariat, I have clients, not an employer. Would they try to track them all down?) Inform the world of my address and phone number, you know, in case someone wanted to send me a personal message or gift?

Or maybe they have in mind merely a friendly, in-person and upfront "discussion."


Their obsession used to bother me. A little. It doesn't anymore.

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 08:05
Tame Impala - New Person, Same Old Mistakes

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 08:05
Assorted content to end your week.

- Scott Sinclair, Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and Stuart Trew study the contents of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Sinclair and Trew also highlight why Canadian progressives should oppose the deal, while Howard Mann notes that the same criticisms, including a gross transfer of power to the corporate sector and the absence of any concern for developmental and environmental issues, apply to all of the new generation of corporate rights agreements. But the Council of Canadians notes that not only are the Trudeau Libs pushing ahead with every single trade agreement currently on the table, they're also trying to lay the groundwork for a similar deal with China - even if it comes with both a blind eye to human rights violations, and an obligation to approve a tar sands pipeline.

- Bill McKibben examines how new climate data shows that we need a nearly immediate transition away from dirty energy in order to meet the Paris conference commitment to rein in global warming. And Seth Klein and Shannon Daub call out the new form of climate denialism - which pays lip service to the science of climate change, but attempts to detach it from any policy steps to improve matters.

- Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson argue that there's no reason to keep hewing to neoliberal orthodoxy when decades of evidence show how it exacerbates inequality and harms health:
Even before the 2008 global financial crisis, neoliberalism was causing what the University of Durham’s Ted Schrecker and Clare Bambra have called “neoliberal epidemics.” As Schrecker and Bambra and many others have shown, income inequality has profoundly damaging and far-reaching effects on everything from trust and social cohesion to rates of violent crime and imprisonment, educational achievement, and social mobility. Inequality seems to worsen health outcomes, reduce life expectancy, boost rates of mental illness and obesity, and even increase the prevalence of HIV.

Deep income inequality means that society is organized as a wealth-based hierarchy. Such a system confers economic as well as political power to those at the top and contributes to a sense of powerlessness for the rest of the population. Ultimately, this causes problems not only for the poor, but for the affluent as well. ...Careful analysis of statistical data debunked the idea that stressed executives are at a higher risk for heart attacks. Now, it has debunked the 1980s myth that “greed is good,” and has revealed the extensive damage inequality causes. It was one thing to believe these myths decades ago, but when experience and all the available evidence show them to be mistaken, it is time to make a change. 
“Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error,” said the Roman philosopher Cicero. Now that we know how inequality harms the health of societies, individuals, and economies, reducing it should be our top priority. Anyone advocating policies that increase inequality and threaten the wellbeing of our societies is taking us for fools. - And Ashley Quan points out how a basic income could alleviate many of the harms caused by precarious financial situations.
- Finally, Thomas Walkom rightly notes that a federal crackdown on extra-billing under the Canada Health Act is long overdue.

The Return of the Monstrous Chris and Kellie Show

Montreal Simon - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 07:06


The other day I wrote about how Kellie Leitch's "Anti-Canadian Values" campaign had brought back memories of the Chris and Kellie show.

The barbaric Con production where Leitch and Chris Alexander demonized Muslims, and invited Canadians to snitch on their neighbours.

And it was such an ugly memory, I remember thinking thank goodness that show was cancelled, and that those two will never be together again.

But sadly I was wrong. Because it seems that the Chris and Kellie show is on again.
Read more »

Drowning In Our Excesses

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 06:28
The news is alarming, the statistics incredible, the implications dire. A convergence of factors, not the least of which is climate change, is causing rapid ice-sheet melting in Greenland. It is estimated to be losing 40 trillion pounds more ice than had been previously thought.

We will soon be drowning in our excesses.

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On The Edge Of Insanity

Northern Reflections - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 06:01

The "American Dream" used to be summed up in two words -- upward mobility. And, after World War II, almost everyone in the United States was upwardly mobile. Ben Fountain writes in The Guardian:

The biggest gains occurred in the post-second world war era of the GI Bill, affordable higher education, strong labor unions, and a progressive tax code. Between the late 1940s and early 1970s, median household income in the US doubled. Income inequality reached historic lows. The average CEO salary was approximately 30 times that of the lowest-paid employee, compared with today’s gold-plated multiple of 370. The top tax bracket ranged in the neighborhood of 70% to 90%. Granted, there were far fewer billionaires in those days. Somehow the nation survived.Democracy’s premise rests on the notion that the collective wisdom of the majority will prove right more often than it’s wrong. That given sufficient opportunity in the pursuit of happiness, your population will develop its talents, its intellect, its better judgment; that over time its capacity for discernment and self-correction will be enlarged. Life will improve. The form of your union will be more perfect, to borrow a phrase. But if a critical mass of your population is kept in peonage? All its vitality spent in the trenches of day-to-day survival, with scant opportunity to develop the full range of its faculties? Then how much poorer the prospects for your democracy will be.“America is a dream of greater justice and opportunity for the average man and, if we can not obtain it, all our other achievements amount to nothing.” So wrote Eleanor Roosevelt in her syndicated column of 6 January 1941, an apt lead-in to her husband’s State of the Union address later that day in which he enumerated the four freedoms essential to American democracy, among them “freedom from want”.

There is a lot of want in The United States these days. But, besides economic want, there is a growing inability among many Americans to think critically. And this inability is fostered by what Fountain calls the "Fantasy-Industrial Complex." Just as the Military-Industrial Complex threatened American democracy, so too does the Fantasy-Industrial Complex. There is now another American Dream:


the numbed-out, dumbed-down, make-believe world where much of the national consciousness resides, the sum product of our mighty Fantasy Industrial Complex: movies, TV, internet, texts, tweets, ad saturation, celebrity obsession, sports obsession, Amazonian sewers of porn and political bullshit, the entire onslaught of media and messaging that strives to separate us from our brains. September 11, 2001 blasted us out of that dream for about two minutes, but the dream is so elastic, so all-encompassing, that 9/11 was quickly absorbed into the the matrix of FIC. This exceedingly complex event – horribly direct in the result, but a swamp when it comes to explanations – was stripped down and binaried into a reliable fantasy narrative of us against them, good versus evil, Christian against Muslim. The week after 9/11, Susan Sontag was virtually crucified for pointing out that “a few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand how we came to this point”. For this modest proposal, no small number of her fellow Americans wished her dead. But if we’d followed her lead – if we’d done the hard work of digging down to the roots of the whole awful thing – perhaps we wouldn’t still be fighting al-Qaida and its offspring 15 years later.
And, so, the Middle East is worse -- much worse. And the United States is teetering on the edge of insanity.

In Defense of Racists?

Fat and Not Afraid - Fri, 09/23/2016 - 05:29

Last week and part of this week was vacation; my first ever all by myself drive to and from Sudbury to the Sault to visit with family and friends. It was spectacular in that it was perfectly ordinary; coffee with one friend, lunch with another, hitting Pokestops downtown one night and a sleepover at camp another. It feels like I took a million pictures but it was more like 300-foxes at breakfast, a selfie with my neice, storm clouds and a rainbow while on a walk with mom, exposed rock bluffs and the marbled ancient shoreline of my favourite lake. If you're interested an album will be up on the Facebook page soon.

The serenity of my vacation was ruined by Canadian Soldiers of Odin and straight up old fashioned racism. Watching the news in the evening with my dad was challenging to say the least. He's in his 60s and holds conservative ideas and values; I learned that Hillary Clinton is a lying bitch about Benghazi but at least he also thinks that Trump is a sociopath. We can't let in any more refugees because they're dangerous (I wont repeat what he said here but it stunned me) thanks to the news out of Manhattan and New Jersey. Also, the Soldiers of Odin have set up a chapter in the Sault and are trying to start one in Sudbury, and I just can't even because a FB friend of mine is all for that, and I bet a few other people are as well but haven't said so YET. Sure they're doing food drives and picking up needles and, in some cities, patrolling the streets at night as a neighbourhood watch group, but despite ALL the Canadian chapters so far vehemently stating they're not like the extreme anti-immigrant group in Finland, that they're not racist, just good citizens who want to Do Something, I'm not convinced. 

I spent a couple of hours combing the Sault's FB page and found this manifesto written by one of the admins. Here's a small excerpt:

     "What I fight against is the injustice done to Canadians who are forced to change their way of life to accomodate people who immigrate here. I fight against the basic upheaval of our culture and beliefs under the guise of "tolerance" or "political correctness". I see the Canada I grew up in changing every day and not for better. I almost can't recognize the country of my youth where I was free to say "Merry Christmas" without the fear of someone taking offense to my sincere well wishes. Where we accepted those of other cultures openly and freely but we did not allow them to change who we are on a fundemental level as we are today. Would you come as a guest into my home and then demand that I allow you to wear shoes where we do not and tread mud on my floor? This is what is being done to Canada. This is the threat to our way of life. Please, come to my country, enjoy the same quality of life that I enjoy. But don't ask us to change the rules of our house to make you more comfortable."

The two admins public Facebook posts also have racist memes and similar comments. I'm having a bad attack of NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard. It's one thing to be aware of the racism and small-minded conservative thinking in my hometown, it's another thing to see it walking around out in the open wearing a leather jacket. Soldiers of Odin isn't anti-immigrant or racist? Sure, you keep telling yourself that. By deliberately choosing to start a chapter of SOO they've chosen to take on all the garbage associated with them.

On the other hand, they did go out the other night and pick up a shit-ton of dirty needles in a bad part of town. They actually ARE doing food drives and helping out. But would I say the same if they were the KKK and I lived in Alabama? If I wasn't a white chick who grew up here? Or is the extremism not bad enough? Where do I draw the line to say "Fuck the good people?" People like my dad who have spent 30 years doing volunteer work with Search and Rescue, helping out friends and family alike with home improvement projects, and doesn't buy Christmas presents but donates to the Sault Star Santa Fund instead? Is he my enemy? He's definitely the kind of guy on Twitter I'd take apart for his racism. If he showed up in my FB feed arguing that the SOO group in the Sault was a Good Thing and why the heck does the name matter so damn much? I'd feed him logic until his head explodes.

But he's my dad.

The Soldiers of Odin have done something here in Canada that noone else has been able to do before; give a legitimate face to the anti-immigrant, right wing conservative racism that's been lurking at the edges for a while now. It's one thing to laugh at the good ol' boys in the rural areas with their quads, beer, guns, and their backwards thinking. It's entirely different when those people put on a uniform, declare they're a part of a unified front, and start patrolling the streets. And I worry that if dad was 30 years younger, he'd join them.

 

 

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