Posts from our progressive community

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 06:43
Here, on how the Wall government is using a partial privatization of liquor stores to open the door to the wholesale destruction of the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority.

For further reading...
- The Crown Corporations Public Ownership Act is here. Bill 1, which carves SLGA entirely out of the existing law, is here (PDF) - while the Wall government's press release contains no explanation whatsoever as to why it goes to such drastic lengths. And as a reminder, here's what happened when Saskatchewan Party candidates were offered the opportunity to explain their party's plans during the provincial election campaign.
- CBC reported on the privatization of the Information Services Corporation, while Simon Enoch highlighted the gap between rhetoric and reality when it came to the Saskatchewan Party's position on the Crowns, and SOS Crowns pointed out the lack of any logic behind the sale.
- And finally, Aditya Chakrabotty discusses the connection between austerity, privatization and the deliberate destruction of common wealth.

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 06:41
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Andre Picard writes about the widespread poverty faced by indigenous children in Canada - and the obvious need for political action to set things right:
The focus of the [CCPA's] report, rightly, is on the children among the more than 1.4 million people in Canada who identify as indigenous, about 4 per cent of the population. Half of that total are “registered Indians,” 30 per cent are Métis, 15 per cent are non-status Indians and 4 per cent are Inuit. More than half of indigenous people live in urban centres.
These figures are a lot to digest, but they should, nonetheless, be the object of much reflection for our politicians and policy makers.
They are, among other things, an eloquent illustration of the fact that Canadian society is stratified by class, by race and by income, a direct challenge to our comfy belief that we are an egalitarian, socially progressive and colour-blind country.
What we look like and where we came from have an inarguable impact on our opportunities, our income and our health. So does where we live.- Meanwhile, the Star highlights the desperate need for more affordable housing in Ontario (as in many other places). And Bruce Johnstone notes that the Wall government is going out of its way to hide deliberate choices to raise basic utility costs.

- Angella MacEwen reminds us of the wide range of workers who earn less than a reasonable minimum wage.

- Ivan Semeniuk reports on the dangerous air pollution emanating from the tar sands even beyond their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. And Judith Lavoie takes a look at the price the public has to pay in dealing with abandoned mine sites.

- Finally, Maxwell Cameron comments on the widespread perception that the B.C. Liberal government is thoroughly corrupted. And Desmond Cole writes that the replacement of Rob Ford with John Tory hasn't changed Toronto's basic focus on favouring the wealthy at the expense of everybody else.

It's A Strange World, Isn't It?

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 06:33
The above title, taken from the 1986 film Blue Velvet, seems particularly appropriate for the subject of today's post, one that has nothing directly to do with politics but perhaps epitomizes the sorry state of humanity.

In Norway, there is a young woman named Nano who believes she is a cat.
Nano claims to possess many feline characteristics including a hatred of water and the ability to communicate simply by meowing.

The young woman shows off her cat characteristics by wearing fake ears and an artificial tail. She communicates by meowing.
"I realised I was a cat when I was 16 when doctors and psychologists found out what was "the thing" with me. Under my birth there was a genetic defect".This 'genetic defect,' she claims, has given her cat-like powers far beyond the limits of ordinary mortals. She can, for example, hear things others can't:
"Suitcases rolling on the ground," she says, "Keys clinking in pockets. People with ice under their shoes.""I can see better in the dark than in daylight. That's no problem," she says. "I have been running a lot after animals that can be seen in the shadows."But wait. There's more!
Nano prefers to crawl around on her hands and knees, and paws at windows when she wants to go outside.

She also said, despite their size, she can sleep in the sink and on windowsills.

"It's also obvious that I'm a cat when I start purring and meowing," she explains. "And walking around on four legs and stuff like that."For those inquiring minds out there, the delicate subject of kitty litter boxes was not brought up.

And for the dog people who might feel left out, there is this:

And this:

As Johnny Carson used to say, "I do not make these things up, folks, I merely report them."Recommend this Post

Climate Change Did Harper In

Northern Reflections - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 05:47

If there was one policy which doomed the Harperites in the last election, it was their steadfast refusal to do anything about climate change. Chantal Hebert writes:

Last October, a mismanaged election campaign only compounded the decade-long mismanagement of some core policies. Few of those are more closely identified with Harper’s leadership than the party’s dismissive approach to climate change. On his watch, it became part of the Conservative brand and an albatross around the party’s neck.
At both ends of the nation, Harper's refusal to tackle the problem led to his defeat:

Last October, Harper’s approach paid few dividends in the parts of Atlantic Canada where projects such as TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline otherwise enjoy widespread support. His candidates were beaten across the region.
It failed even more spectacularly in British Columbia. Going into the last campaign, B.C. was a long-standing pillar of Conservative support. On the scale of the party’s past presence in the province, Canada’s Conservatives are paying a visit to a field of ruins this weekend. Here are some numbers:
In British Columbia -- which had adopted a carbon tax -- the numbers tell the story:
  • The Conservatives came out of the last election holding only 10 of 42 B.C. seats — seven fewer than the Liberals and four fewer than the NDP. It was the worst Conservative showing in at least three decades.
  • The year Stockwell Day lost to Jean Chrétien and the last time a divided conservative movement took on the Liberals in 2000, the Canadian Alliance won a majority of B.C. seats (27) and almost 50 per cent of the province’s popular vote.
  • Between 2011 and 2015, the Conservative share of the vote went from 45 per cent to 30 per cent. Over Harper’s majority mandate, the party lost almost 150,000 B.C. supporters.

The Conservatives will be saying goodbye to Harper this weekend. As he heads for the exit, they would be well advised to pay attention to his blind spots.


Stephen Harper and the Last Horror Show

Montreal Simon - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 04:22

They say Stephen Harper's speech to the Con Convention in Vancouver this evening is going to be short and sweet.

A final farewell to the party he created in his own ghastly image.

And that it will be preceded by a lavish video from the Con Ministry of Porky Propaganda and Disinformation, praising him as a Great Leader.

Read more »

Is Pollution From The Oil Sands Killing People In Three Provinces?

Montreal Simon - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 18:12

It was thirty three degrees in Toronto today, and as usual when it gets that hot a smoggy haze covered the city.

A blanket of pollution caused by the six million people who live in the Greater Toronto Area, and all their cars.

But did you know that same amount of pollution is put out every day by this much smaller place in Canada?
Read more »

Is Stephen Harper Finally Going to Retire?

Montreal Simon - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 16:50

Well I suppose we shouldn't be surprised, after the way he reacted to the elbowgate incident in the House of Commons.

When he looked like he was about to run for the safety of his well worn closet.

But now it seems that Stephen Harper is finally going to retire. 
Read more »

Another First for the Athabasca TAR Sands

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 13:11

You knew they're grotesque. You knew they're dirty. You knew they create massive amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The Athabasca Tar Sands are an environmental calamity.

All that and more, the "more" part being the emission of noxious, organic aerosols.

The aerosols are minute particles, roughly 1/10th the diameter of a human hair or less, that are created when chemical-laden vapours from the mining and processing of bitumen react with oxygen in the atmosphere and are transformed into solids that can drift on the wind for days.

While researchers have long thought that the oil sands must be a source of such particles, the new results, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, show that their impact on air quality is significant and of potential concern to communities that are downwind.

The oil-sands aerosols are similar in abundance to those that U.S. researchers recorded rising from the massive oil spill caused by the Deepwater Horizon drilling-rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. But they are ever-present.

“The oil spill lasted a few months, and the Alberta oil-sand operations are an ongoing industrial activity,” said Joost de Gouw, a Colorado-based research physicist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who led the oil-spill measurements.

“The take-away is that there’s more that’s emitted into the atmosphere than we’ve fully appreciated,” said Jeffrey Brook, an air-quality researcher with Environment and Climate Change Canada who participated in the oil-sands study. “There is a need to continue to improve our knowledge about where these emissions go.”
The researchers believe that many thousands of people living downwind of the Tar Sands are inhaling these invisible droplets with every breath, every day, year in and year out.
Scientists are still trying to understand the complex health effects those particles can trigger when inhaled, but they have been linked in previous studies to lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

How Do You Go From Emperor to Shopkeeper? Harper's AfterLife.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 12:37

The rumour is everywhere. Shifty Steve Harper will resign his seat in Parliament this summer to pursue other opportunities.

One theory is that he'll set up some sort of foreign policy institute. Bad idea. While, on the international scene, Harper frequently liked to scold other leaders, he really didn't champion any notable initiative. He didn't build any grand alliances. He didn't bring peace to any troubled spot. He has no foreign policy legacy worth mentioning even if it could be recalled - and it can't.

The legendary foreign policy types tended to have vision. Harper, domestically or internationally, was never burdened by the weight of vision. No great statesmanship there - not at the United Nations (which he despised), nor at the
G7, NATO, APEC or just about anywhere else.

The alternative theory is that Harper is planning to enter business, pick up a few directorships, that sort of thing. Not sure he's cut out for that either. Personality problems. A person with dictatorial instincts might not be a good fit on a board of directors.

Brian Mulroney - there's a man who embodied directorial qualities. A jovial personality, a guy who could lean over and tell the next guy some dirty joke, a man who could seek out compromise or at least some accommodation.

Harper - he's convinced he is always, has always been, shall always be the brightest man in the room. He acts on belief, dispensing with evidence or fact. He has a low threshold for frustration, cussing out subordinates, kicking chairs across the room. He's a bully and, like all bullies, a coward - first one into the janitor's closet sort of guy. He's cold and lifeless, utterly joyless. He angers easily and cultivates grievance. Sum it all up, he really, really does not play well with others. He's a nasty, churlish little piggy.

What could he do? Maybe some third-rate burger joint franchise might work, the sort of place he could staff with guest workers from the Philippines, that sort of thing. He could hide out in the office/closet with the water heater; berate the staff all day and carry on his life as a professional shit.

I don't know. Any other ideas? Feel free to weigh in.

Unrepentant Sinner of the Year

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 09:30

And the award goes to - Chevron CEO John Watson.

While other top oil executives are on the run from angry shareholders and investors or snooping prosecutors, Watson says climate change could be good for Chevron.

Climate change - good for an oil company - how so? Well, according to Watson, he's expecting Chevron to wind up increasing its market share.

The oil industry sure is crazy. How crazy? This crazy:

A band of gutsy and resourceful truck drivers are crisscrossing dangerous front lines in wartorn Syria to deliver oil and other cargo, Raja Abdulrahim reports. Tanker trucks carry oil from Kurdish wells to Islamic State territory.

The Kurdish north is dependent for revenue mostly on oil and wheat, and wells are mostly idle because the Kurdish administration doesn’t have the ability to refine or export large quantities. Islamic State controls 10 oil fields in Syria but it has been forced to buy fuel from the Kurdish state, and that trade is indirectly funding the Kurdish militia fighting the extremists.

The Kurds have been selling their oil to ISIS to get money the Kurds need to fight ISIS. The Islamic State needs oil that it can refine and export to get money to fight its enemies and so it has to buy oil from the Kurds, one of its major enemies.

Okay, Next.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 09:12

The American press is all over the story of the successful drone attack on Taliban commander, Mullah Mansoor, whose car was reduced to scrap metal by a missile fired from a stalking drone.

Why do these "we whacked their leader" stories so closely resemble "world's oldest person dies" stories? Both seem to happen with an almost boring regularity.

Yes, you're the new Taliban commander? Thanks, I'll write down your name and do remember to have somebody tell me when you're dead.

There's always another "world's oldest person" and there's always another Taliban or al Qaeda or ISIS commander.

Okay, next.

Tony Blair Unveils His Defence

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 09:01
Tony Blair is looking increasingly nervous as he awaits the imminent release of the Chilcot Inquiry report into Britain's role in instigating and conducting the Iraq War that toppled Saddam Hussein and plunged the region into chaos. The report is set for release on July 6.

Blair is sticking to his fantasy that conquering Iraq was "the right thing to do" but his latest fallback is that the British and American governments "profoundly underestimated" the chaos that would arise during the occupation.

Blair has no choice but to stick to the justification defence. Anything else would be a confession to war crimes that could send him to a place with no Michelin star kitchens or Savile Row tailors.

The silly git doesn't have a lot of friends in the UK any more. Even his Labour Party, now headed by Jeremy Corbyn, is calling for a war crimes investigation into Tony Blair.

Blair's obvious and worsening nervousness may have something to do with the fact that he has already read the report's findings. He knows what's coming.

I wonder if Tony has his bags packed, ready at a moment's notice to bolt to Saudi Arabia or some other sanctuary?

Just What The World Needs

Northern Reflections - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 05:28

Bob Fife reports, in the Globe and Mail, that Stephen Harper will resign his seat before Parliament resumes in September:

“He is not going to be there when the House returns in September,” one close associate said. “He has had some good conversations about what is next for him. … He has some board discussions happening and he’s looking at some options about setting up his own institute.”
Apparently, the institute will focus on foreign policy:

The institute is in its early stages of discussion, but friends say it won’t be academic or domestic-policy focused, such as the conservative think tank founded by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning. Mr. Harper’s interests will be directed largely at global “big picture” issues that he has espoused over the years.

His former policy director, Rachel Curran, said once Mr. Harper leaves politics, he will want to champion global free trade, building on his success in negotiating deals with South Korea and the European Union, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“He spent tremendous time and energy really concluding these trade agreements and opening up trade corridors,” Ms. Curran said. “He has got a really recognized expertise and a lot of respect internationally in terms of his kind of knowledge.”
She said Mr. Harper will also want to promote his geopolitical thinking – whether it’s on human rights, the promotion of democracy or standing up to authoritarian regimes.
Mr. Harper knows something about authoritarian regimes. He'll need money to fund the institute. Word has it that he has been spending time lately with Las Vegas casino magnet Sheldon Adelson. His base might be a little concerned about where the money comes from. But one suspects the base is not on Harper's mind these days.
No, he's thinking about the world. And that's just what the world needs -- more Stephen Harper.

Pay to Play in BC with Spectra

Creekside - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 05:26
Six years ago the BC government decided not to bother doing its own environmental assessments any more because it was so much more efficient to hand that responsibility over to the industry-captured federal National Energy Board for rubber-stamping. That deal was called the Environmental Assessment Equivalency Agreement.

In January the BC Supreme Court ruled that the BC government did not have the authority to pass off its constitutional obligations onto the NEB and found this agreement "invalid" as it served as an end run around the province having to consult BC First Nations over major pipeline projects on their territories. Score one for Gitga'at First Nation.

Now this equivalency agreement can be cancelled by either the NEB or the BC Environmental Assessment Office at any time with 30 days notice but Christy Clark opted instead for another end run - passing an Order In Council last Thursday exempting five Peace region natural-gas projects from the provincial environmental assessments the Supreme Court says it must now carry out: 
The Spectra South Peace pipeline, Spectra's Dawson gas plant, Spectra's Fort Nelson North plant, Nova Gas Transmission's Groundbirch pipeline, and Nova Gas Transmission's Horn River mainline extension.As noted by Charlie Smith in the Georgia Straight : Christy Clark cabinet issues order-in-council to get around court ruling on environmental assessments
"Premier Christy Clark's former deputy chief of staff, Kim Haakstad, is Spectra Energy's manager of technical workforce strategy."Ms Haakstad was forced to resign her position as Christy's chief of staff in March 2013 over the "Quick Win" ethnic vote election scandal but was back in May stumping for Christy in her bid to win a seat in her home riding of Vancouver-Point Grey - which she lost, making her a Premier without a riding until a safer seat could be found for her. 
Haakstad made the jump to Spectra three months later in August 2013. 

Over at RossK's killer reporting and banjo emporium, some of his commenters wondered if Spectra contributed to the $50,000 top up salary Christy receives from the BC Libs each year.   
Dunno, guys, but Texas-based Spectra has been pretty good to the BC Libs

From the BC gov press release
"EAO has begun a process for the projects which are also impacted by the court decision but have not been approved or constructed. These projects include: Approved Projects – not yet constructed
North Montney Mainline Pipeline Project; andEnbridge Northern Gateway Project. Projects currently under review

Trans Mountain Expansion Project; andTowerbirch Expansion Project.Following a process set out by EAO including consultation with Aboriginal groups, ministers will make environmental assessment decisions on these projects according to the act."Extra homework : Why Do So Many BC Liberal Operatives End Up in Trouble?
Criminal charges, convictions, and more plague the party..

How Could The Con Media Blow The Elbowgate Story So Badly?

Montreal Simon - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 04:53

Yesterday I tried to imagine how disappointed the Con media must have been, after trying to turn Elbowgate into a monster scandal.

Only to discover that far from destroying Justin Trudeau, their breathless coverage, and the clownish overreaction of the Cons and the NDP, had only made Justin even more popular.

So I'm glad somebody out there is wondering how could the pompous asses of the parliamentary press gallery have misread the country's reaction so badly?
Read more »

Why We Can't Get Rid of Stephen Harper's Porky Legacy

Montreal Simon - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 02:13

They were the ads no Canadians could avoid, no matter how hard they tried. For they were everywhere.

Stephen Harper's porky propaganda ads, paid for with gazillions of OUR money.

And although the Liberal government is moving to ban that kind of blatantly partisan advertising.

The Liberal government has introduced new rules to prevent the use of public funds for partisan advertising.

Brison explicitly tied the measures to criticisms of the previous Conservative government’s use of public funds for advertising, such as the ubiquitous Economic Action Plan campaigns.

Now it seems we have another problem.
Read more »

Foreign Policy Wrap-Up - Saudi Arabia, Israel in the News

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 17:37

The Yanquis, it seems, are leaving Canada's federal government in the foreign policy dust.

First up, Saudi Arabia - or what Steffie Dion and Slick would call our "good ally."  In the course of debate over a new Senate bill that would allow the victims of the 9/11 (mainly Saudi) terrorist attacks to sue the Saudi monarchy, House members of both parties got together to castigate the Saudis for stoking extremism. That, in case you're wondering, is code for ISIS and al Qaeda.

“The Saudis and the Saudi royal family have been right up to their eyeballs in terrorist activity,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.).

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), the chairman of a House subcommittee on terrorism, noted that “Wahhabi followers are more easily recruited by terrorist groups.”

Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman of California accused Riyadh of funding religious leaders who “preach violent murder against those who they disagree with.”

During the hearing, Rohrabacher asked the four Saudi expert witnesses — who included former 9/11 commissioner Tim Roemer — to raise their hands if they believed the Saudi Royal family did not know of the 9/11 plot ahead of time. Two experts, Karen Elliot House of the Belfer Center and Daniel Byman of Georgetown University, raised their hands, while Roemer and Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute kept their hands down. Later, Roemer said the question was too complex to deal with in an up-or-down fashion, but Rohrabacher rejected that view. “The Saudis have been financing terrorism now for 20 years at least,” Rohrabacher said.
Meanwhile, as Israeli slips into the arms of fascism, its newest Democratic BFF, Hillary "what's in it for me?" Clinton was handed a bit of a setback today. The Dems know they've got a huge problem with Bernie Sanders who, unlike Hillary, consistently outpolls Donald Trump as the peoples' choice for president.
Hillary, for a lot of good reasons, is not well liked. Her negatives far outweigh her positives among American voters. Bernie is the opposite. The Dems know that if they throw the nomination to Hillary - and they will - they'll be vulnerable not only to Trump but, potentially, to Bernie supporters also who threaten to boycott the polls on election day.
Operation Placate Bernie is underway. The Democratic organization is trying to play nice with Sanders, inviting him in to help draft party policy. Sanders foreign policy advisor, Jim Zogby, says that would mean a tougher approach to Israel including calling Israel's half-century occupation of the Palestinian territory a - gasp - "occupation." Remember, this is coming from the strongest Jewish presidential candidate in American history.
We'll just have to wait for Bernie's shopping list to unfold but, chances are, it won't be Hillary-friendly.
To Zogby and other Sanders supporters, the independent Vermonter’s 20 states won in the Democratic nominating contest have given his message a mandate. In conceding appointments on the drafting committee, the DNC has acknowledged Sanders’s clout among the party electorate. And Sanders’s picks, sure to clash with those selected by Democratic leaders and the more hawkish Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and likely nominee, are his most powerful statement yet that he intends to fight for the party’s future beyond the convention in Philadelphia.

Think Of "Dr. Strangelove" on Steroids

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 10:08

The good news is that your chance of dying in a car accident isn't very high, about one in 120 in the United States.

The bad news is that the risk of an average person dying from an extinction event is five times greater than the car accident risk.

So we demand cars that have the best brakes, stability control systems, crash absorbing zones, air bags, seat belts and more. We spend a fortune to build and maintain our highways and hire police to enforce our traffic laws.

Well then, what are we spending on that extinction event risk, the far more dangerous threat? Well, when you add it all up, it comes out to just about bugger all.

When it comes to extinction-level risks there are several. Climate change and nuclear war are 1 and 2. Britain's astronomer royal, Baron Martin Rees, gives us a no better than 50-50 chance that we'll succumb this century to what he calls "bio-terror or bio-error." According to Rees, now that we've privatized scientific research, there's stuff going on in the big corporate labs, unmonitored, that could easily wipe us out if someone goofs up or should it fall into the wrong hands. He gives many examples in his book, Our Final Hour, that - trust me - you probably don't want to read.

I was born at the start of the Cold War and grew up under the constant threat of nuclear Armageddon. When the Soviet Union collapsed we felt a weight had been lifted off our shoulders. The Doctor Strangelove era was over. Well that didn't last long. It's back. More people have nuclear arsenals and some of them are much more likely to use them than anyone who had them back in the 70s. And now we've got all these other extinction-grade threats.

"[N]early all of the most threatening global catastrophic risks were unforeseeable a few decades before they became apparent. Forty years before the discovery of the nuclear bomb, few could have predicted that nuclear weapons would come to be one of the leading global catastrophic risks. Immediately after the Second World War, few could have known that catastrophic climate change, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence would come to pose such a significant threat."
There are no easy answers. Confronting these challenges, reducing the risks to something manageable, survivable is going to require a different model of organization and governance. We'll have to redefine society as we've known it right down to our notions of basic citizenship. That's because we'll never be able to reduce this plethora of risks nearly enough which demands that we also focus on building our resilience, our ability to cope and adapt. You can't do that with social cohesion in tatters as we have today. 
It will take real leadership and vision of a calibre we haven't known for years.

And They Attacked Michelle for Having Bare Arms.

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 09:28

Remember when Republicans criticized Michelle Obama for appearing in a sleeveless dress? Oh, that was so undignified, so unsuitable for America's first lady.

Well, look what they've got in store.

There she is, bare cheeks, in a thong with a gun on the wing of Her Donald's private jetliner. But wait, there's more. Here's a picture of Melania inside that jet, looking for all the world like some drug lord's moll with a briefcase overflowing with jewelry.

Thank the Lord on High that all them good, God-fearin Americans won't have to put up with this any more:


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