Posts from our progressive community

Got DNA evidence of Bigfoot? Don’t peer review, write a book!

Terahertz - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 12:26

Science Editor Jonathan Leake skewered Bryan Sykes in The Sunday Times today [paywalled] over bigfoot claims. Sykes is publishing a new book in which he’ll present the DNA evidence he claims to have for the existence of yetis and bigfoot. This claim comes despite the lack of any good photographic evidence in the era of cameras in everyone’s pockets.

Sykes previously hosted The Bigfoot Files on the UK’s Channel 4. Leake has some sharp comments on Sykes’ credibility:

Bryan Sykes, who describes himself as a ‘professor of human genetics at Oxford’…

Sykes has not published any research on these creatures…

Sykes is a fellow of Wolfson but he admitted [his Institute of Human Genetics at Wolfson College, Oxford] was mythical. “The journal required some sort of additional address in the college and, hey presto, I became an institute!”

Sykes’s book says he has been professor of human genetics at Oxford since 1997, but university officials said he had not held that post for a decade or so.

My favourite piece is the final comment from another scientist:

Tom Gilbert, professor of geogenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, said: “Bryan’s data highlights that a lot of people strongly believe they have evidence for them (yetis etc), but none of it holds up under scrutiny.”

Why Syrzia Matters. It's About a Good Deal More than Austerity. It's About Salvaging Democracy.

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 11:40


Le Monde reminds all of us why Syrzia matters not just in Greece, but across Europe and even on our side of the North Atlantic.

The Greeks don’t need to have the meaning of the word “democracy” explained to them. Even so, they have been given countless lectures since voting in a leftwing government determined to end the austerity policies that have made their lives a misery for six years. The schoolmasterly reprimands have come from people who know what they are talking about: they are people who imposed treaties their electorates had voted against and reneged on campaign promises as soon as they came to power. They are now in a trial of strength with Syriza, which has been trying, against terrible odds, to stick to its promises and beliefs. That trial was all the tougher since those beliefs may spread thoughts of resistance to those hitherto resigned to powerlessness. This confrontation has been about more than just the fate of Greece: the future of European democracy is at stake.

...Though Syriza is isolated in the EU, hounded by its creditors and faced with capital flight, it is in fact trying to rehabilitate concepts that have become alien to democratic life, such as “sovereignty”, “dignity”, “pride” and “hope”. But how could it do so in a state of permanent financial crisis when it is forced to back down in each successive negotiation? And do so all the more painfully as the means designed to throttle the will of a restive populace were shown publicly, while the tormentors chuckled as they recounted the most recent confrontations.

...As its finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has made clear, Greece is “determined not to be treated like a debt colony that should suffer”. What is at stake goes beyond the right of a people to choose their destiny, even when a judge of democratic niceties as fine as German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble reckons that they have “elected a government which is acting somewhat irresponsibly”. Because the question also concerns the possibility of a state extricating itself from destructive policies, rather than having to further toughen those policies each time they fail.

....
Greece’s economic collapse, which has now lasted six years, is comparable to the damage that four years of military destruction and foreign occupation inflicted on France in the first world war.  Which explains why Tsiprias's government gets enormous pupular support — even from the right — every time it refuses to prolong such a destructive policy, and why it is unwilling to survive “like a junkie waiting for his next fix”. But Syriza has few friends outside Greece. As in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, to investigate the potential killers of Greece’s hopes would mean interviewing every EU government, and the chief suspect would be Germany: the failed disciplinary strictures are German, and it intends to squeeze those — especially in Mediterranean countries — who refuse to endure them indefinitely. In Spain, Portugal and Ireland, the governments’ motive for the crime is more sordid. Their citizens would benefit if the iron fist of austerity stopped pounding them. But their governments are afraid, especially when they feel threatened by a domestic challenge from the left, that Greece will demonstrate that it is possible to refuse to follow “a well-marked path, a known path, a path that the markets and the institutions and all the European authorities know,” the path that French finance minister Michel Sapin claims must be “explored right to the end”. The prospect of Greece breaking free would show that all these governments were gravely mistaken to make their people suffer needlessly.

Everyone knows that getting Greece’s debt repaid would be like “extracting blood from a stone” (Paul Krugman, The New York Times, 29 January). So why isn’t it equally clear that Syriza’s economic strategy to finance urgent social expenditure through a determined fight against tax fraud could draw on a young, determined, popular, political force, originating in social movements and free of the compromises and corruption of the past? Even if not marked out, the path is discernible. The uncertain future brings to mind what the philosopher Simone Weil wrote about workers’ strikes in France in June 1936: “No one knows how things will turn out. There is reason to fear a range of disasters. ... But no fear can erase the joy of seeing those who have always had to bow their heads, by definition, standing up for themselves. ... Whatever may happen next, we will always have had this. For the first time, and forever, there will be other memories floating around these heavy machines than silence, coercion and submissiveness”. The Greeks’ struggle is universal. Our good wishes no longer suffice. The solidarity it deserves calls for action. Time is still, as always, running out.


Want Canada to Make a Difference? Let's Back Tunisia.

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 11:19


Face it.  There's not much hope that we're really going to achieve anything significant from our air war in Iraq, regardless of whether we get stuck into Syria also.

All ISIS needs to survive is a nation in chaos.  They weren't in on the ground floor in Syria.  ISIS moved in after the civil war was well underway.  Same thing for Libya.  ISIS moved in once the anti-Gaddafi forces had established a viable resistance.  Iraq, same same.  Yemen, ditto.

ISIS is into turf, acquiring control.  Muslim countries that are destabilized are the organization's preferred hunting ground.

Our approach to ISIS - bombing - is futile.  It amounts to "we'll bomb ISIS here but not there, there, there, there or there."  Sounds pretty rational, doesn't it?  Sort of like the Brits figuring to defeat Hitler by liberating the Channel Islands.  Then again, you can never underestimate a government that has Harper at its head and Jason Kenney as its defence minister.

If we wanted to give ISIS a setback, we could begin with Tunisia.  That's a great place to draw the line, to stop the spread of radical Sunni Islamists.   We might not get to bomb anybody but sometimes you have to sacrifice for the greater good.

Why Tunisia?  Because it has a population ready to turn out by the tens of thousands to denounce extremism. And these people know a thing or two because they're the same crowd that sparked the "Arab Spring" and achieved a stable democratic system for it.

Let's back Tunisia.  Let's give them at least as much support as we're squandering on Iraq to make sure they have everything they need to anchor their democracy and deny ISIS the power vacuum so instrumental to its spread.  Draw the line, stop the fanatical brigands here, and then slowly begin rolling them back.

It's Degrading. Right Before Your Eyes.

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 10:34


What if somebody told you that, globally, mankind has about 60-years of farmland left. It's hard to grasp how farmland, something that goes back to prehistory, could be in such peril.
It's already happening and it's gathering steam with each passing year.  It is the degradation of farmland around the world.

We've got 7+ billion mouths to feed today.  Some expect that to swell to 9 billion in coming decades and possibly 11 or 12-billion by the end of the century.  That's a lot of mouths to fill and an increasing percentage of those mouths want to get filled with the good stuff, especially meat.
What with wastage - spoilage, loss and contamination mainly - mankind has developed a potentially lethal dependence on industrial agriculture.  That means crazy volumes of water and even crazier amounts of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.  Those chemicals, in turn, degrade the soil.  It's a linear process that goes from rich soil to dirt to desert which may have something to do with it being called "desertification."
This may sound novel to you but there's been a good deal of research into the productive decline of farmland around the world.  Even the good stuff - our own farmland with the latest agricultural techniques - is measurably degraded. Elsewhere, it's a far more grave problem.
Indeed one reason our numbers have swelled so enormously so quickly is that the Green Revolution allowed historically food-insecure countries to produce bumper crops through the intensive use of groundwater irrigation, chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.  Unfortunately no one worried about how all good things must end - until recently that is.
Generating three centimeters of top soil takes 1,000 years, and if current rates of degradation continue all of the world's top soil could be gone within 60 years, a senior UN official said on Friday.

About a third of the world's soil has already been degraded, Maria-Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told a forum marking World Soil Day.

The causes of soil destruction include chemical-heavy farming techniques, deforestation which increases erosion, and global warming. The earth under our feet is too often ignored by policymakers, experts said.

"Soils are the basis of life," said Semedo, FAO's deputy director general of natural resources. "Ninety five percent of our food comes from the soil."

Unless new approaches are adopted, the global amount of arable and productive land per person in 2050 will be only a quarter of the level in 1960, the FAO reported, due to growing populations and soil degradation.


There are strategies to slow and at least partially reduce the soil problems but not without some disruption of the food supply and the difficult process of breaking our attachment to industrial agra.  Can it be done?  The wildly optimistic response would be "possibly, maybe if."







Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 10:06
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Simon Wren-Lewis connects the UK's counterproductive austerity program to the lack of any wage growth. And Gary Lamphier observes that Alberta is serving as a case in point that jobs generated through public policy rigged in favour of the wealthy are no less precarious than any other type, while Erin Anderssen comments on the connection between public-sector work and greater wage equality.

- Adam Liptak writes that the First Amendment's protection for speech - like so many other rights which have been redefined to suit the powerful - is now serving primarily to benefit the corporate sector at the expense of the public.

- But we shouldn't accept perpetual corporate encroachment on the common good as inevitable. On that front, Paul Krugman reminds us that George W. Bush's attempts to push privatized Social Security failed miserably - and in a way which only proved the point of his opponents.

- Paul Kershaw highlights how the Saskatchewan Party's budget does nothing for a younger generation that's already being squeezed by a combination of massive costs and minimal opportunities. And Joe Friesen discusses David McGrane's study on the strong support for progressive policies among Canada's younger adults:
Prof. McGrane said one of the most interesting results is that the gap between older and younger people is relatively consistent across regions and education levels.

As one might expect, young people with a university education, those who live in big cities, and those in Ontario and British Columbia tend to be further to the left than those with lower levels of education and those in small cities and rural Canada, the study found, but over all, their differences are outweighed by what they hold in common.

“Young Canadians from nearly all of the socio-demographic groups and provinces examined were more likely than older Canadians to desire an activist government; want more social spending; be socially liberal; and favour higher taxes in exchange for better public services,” Prof. McGrane says in the study’s conclusion.- Finally, Gerald Caplan calls out the immorality and irrationality of the Cons' plan for endless war in Iraq, Syria and anywhere else they can think to bomb.

Because You Really Can't Tell the Players Without a Programme

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 09:57

The Duffy trial is just about a week away.  It seems like forever since the scandal broke plunging Harper's PMO and the Senate into a fearful rout.

To get you back up to speed on the scandal and all the players, National Post has published a dandy primer on the Who's Who of the witnesses expected to be called at trial.

There's a big bag full of names some of which, by the time this trial is over, you'll probably hope never to hear again.

That Burnt Smell, That Hissing Sound? That's the Fuze.

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 09:38


Well, if nothing else, Stephen Harper might just have earned Canada a ringside seat to the outbreak of a Middle East regional war.  The way the International Crisis Group sees it, the Saudi air war on Shiite Yemeni rebels might just be the burning fuze that explodes the Sunni-Shia powder keg.

Obama and the Euros are trying to calm the situation, urging a negotiated peace between Yemen's Sunni government and the Houthi rebels but, according to the ICG, the mixed up gaggle of players aren't in the mood for talking.

No major party seems truly to want to halt what threatens to become a regional war. The slim chance to salvage a political process requires that regional actors immediately cease military action and help the domestic parties agree on a broadly acceptable president or presidential council. Only then can Yemenis return to the political negotiating table to address other outstanding issues.

The Huthi-Hadi divide is the most explosive, but it is not the only conflict. Tensions are also unsettling the recent marriage of convenience between the Huthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who, after being deposed in 2011, has taken advantage of popular dissatisfaction and tacitly allied himself with the Huthis against their common enemies to stage a political comeback through his party, the General People’s Congress (GPC), and possibly his son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh. Divisions in the south, which was an independent state prior to its 1990 union with the north, are rampant as well. Southern separatists are internally split and suspicious of Hadi, a southerner who supports continued unity with the north. Then there are al-Qaeda and a nascent Islamic State (IS) movement, both determined to fight the Huthis and take advantage of the state’s collapse to claim territory.

...GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council - the Sunni Arab states] countries have lost faith as well and are increasingly committed to reversing Huthi gains at virtually any cost. Saudi Arabia considers the Huthis Iranian proxies, a stance that pushes them closer to Tehran. Throwing their weight behind Hadi, the Saudis moved their embassy to Aden and reportedly bankroll anti-Huthi tribal mobilisation in the central governorate of Marib and the south. They lead efforts to isolate the Huthis diplomatically, strangle them economically and, now, weaken them militarily. In turn, the Huthis denounce Hadi as illegitimate and offer $100,000 for his capture. They have conducted military exercises on the Saudi border and likely will harden their position in response to Saudi military intervention. They are less dependent on Tehran than Hadi and his allies are on Riyadh, but on today’s trajectory, their relative self-sufficiency will not last long. They are already soliciting Iranian financial and political support.

...Without minimum consensus within and beyond its borders, Yemen is headed for protracted violence on multiple fronts. This combination of proxy wars, sectarian violence, state collapse and militia rule has become sadly familiar in the region. Nobody is likely to win such a fight, which will only benefit those who prosper in the chaos of war, such as al-Qaeda and IS. But great human suffering would be certain. An alternative exists, but only if Yemenis and their neighbours choose it.


This is a perfect example of what's being called "new war."  It's a furball of state and non-state actors.  Governments, including outside nations, rebels, insurgents, militias, terrorists and criminal organizations.  It's a very fluid type of warfare that commonly features shifting alliances among the parties and widely differing and at times irreconcilable political and territorial objectives.  In the context of a negotiated peace, it really is the equivalent of herding cats.
We're not built for this stuff.  We like our combat "old war" style.  Good guys versus bad guys; winners and losers; war and peace.  We don't know what to do when peace is not a realistic option, certainly not an outcome we can dictate. That's when we do what we Westerners have been doing since Algeria and Viet Nam.  It's what we did in Afghanistan and Iraq and it's partially responsible for the hot mess that is the Middle East today.  We go into a place, toss it over, hang around for a decade or so and then leave.  We cannot accept, despite our persistent lack of success, that we're on a path to near certain failure.  It's right there in the user guide - our side gets to win.  End of story.  What, can't these people read?



Featured Today at the Dawgtion: "Original People, Original Television", Autographed by Author

Dawg's Blawg - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 09:37
“Original People: Original Television”, by Jennifer David, is a fascinating behind -the-scenes account of a little known revolution in Canadian broadcasting - a journey that led from Nanook of the North in 1922 to the launch of the Aboriginal... Balbulican http://stageleft.info

IS and the rescue narrative

Dammit Janet - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 09:24

Echidne has been writing up an excellent series on Daesh and women, including on the rules they enforce on Sunni Muslim women and their establishment of sexual slavery for non-Sunni-Muslim women (not easy to read).

Her latest installment is on women who voluntarily join ISIS/IS/Daesh/whatever and their motives, experiences, and outcomes. In my view, one of the most important takeaway points of her work is that it is not the case that the women who join and support ISIS, especially the ones coming from the West, are dupes who do not know what they are doing. While some of them end up regretting it, there are not a few of them who are ideologically committed to what they are building, and not measurably to a lesser degree than the men who join it---some of whom are also naive dupes who don't understand what they were getting into, but not all.

The reality is, the view of "mainstream" society into religious-fanatical, particularly Islamically-motivated fanatical societies and organizations is coloured by a materialistic calculation of costs and benefits which these groups, almost by definition, don't share. That women, even willing women, must accept less personal freedom than men does not register within the minds of the subjects of this discrimination as a moral assault. Quite the contrary, the distribution of clear life-roles is viewed as an obvious advantage of the Daesh dystopia. From their perspective, who wouldn't prefer the clear outlay of detailed life expectations to the chaos and confusion of "free, liberated" life in the rest of the world? For them, it must be the devil misguiding the rest of us to believe that "the search for Mr. Right" is better than having one's spouse and sex partner simply assigned.

More importantly, Echidne's post points out the obvious fact that many of the reasons that women might voluntarily join IS are (suprise!) the same reasons that men do. While this should be obvious, it is important to point it out because a lot of Western media interprets gender relations in the Muslim world as a whole through the lens of a kind of rescue fantasy. Those Muslim women who, unimaginably, aren't waiting for the American troops to roll through and liberate them from their nasty bearded husbands/fathers in favour of some unspecified life doing...what?...in the feminist utopias that Western colonies universally become can only be accommodated, in this narrative, by an imputed Stockholm Syndrome.

The case of female ISIS volunteers is a piece of evidence against the rescue narrative that is difficult to ignore. This is not in itself, however, evidence for some kind of deep relativism. However, if liberation is a basic goal, then what it is evidence for, to risk a platitude, is that such liberation cannot be effected in the absence of willing participation by the liberatees, so to speak, and when that participation is withheld, it can sometimes be withheld with knowledge of what is being rejected.

what i'm reading: the golden compass by philip pullman

we move to canada - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 06:00
The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman, has been on my to-read list since it was first published in the mid-1990s. Although I generally don't read fantasy fiction, after reading an outstanding review in The New York Times Book Review, I was very intrigued. Thanks to the Teen Book Club I facilitate at the library, I recently had an excuse to read it: The Golden Compass (published as Northern Lights in the UK) is our March title.

This is an absolutely wonderful book. Lyra Belacqua, a smart, spunky 11-year-old girl, is wholly believeable as our powerful, but very human, hero. She lives in a world recognizable to us, but different - a parallel universe which unfolds naturally, without the ponderous world-building that I find so tedious in more typical adult fantasy fiction.

The book is chock-full of adventure, mystery, and action, with just the right touch of thoughtful reflection thrown in. It's an excellent youth or tween read, which is to say it's fast-paced, written in a clear and straightforward style, and with the darker, scarier, and potentially violent material handled with discretion and a gentle touch. There is sadness and loss and frightening elements, as there should be, but there's nothing graphic.

The Golden Compass is sometimes called a youth novel, but it lives on the younger side of that spectrum, perfect for a 10- or 11-year-old who is a good reader. Why, then, is it catalogued in the adult section of our library? I can only speculate that it might have been a response to "challenges" - meaning controversy and calls for banning or limiting access in the library.

To an adult reader, the reason for the challenges - though silly, in my view - are obvious. On the surface The Golden Compass is a straightforward fantasy-adventure, but on another level it can be read as a critique of The Church. The book is certainly not anti-religion or anti-spirituality, but it is a harsh condemnation of the institutional Church - the Church of the Inquisition, the Church of intolerance, and most of all, the Church that has harbored and protected known pedophiles for centuries, allowing countless children's lives to be shattered.

There are other aspects to which some Christian readers might object: our hero is herself identified with Christ imagery. But I believe the principal objections would focus on a negative portrayal of the institution of organized religion.

Some critics see Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass is book one) as a response to C. S. Lewis' The Narnia Chronicles, with its clearly Christian underpinnings. Not being a reader of fantasy, and never having read Narnia (I read and enjoyed The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a child, but stopped there), I can't comment on these critiques. There are many comparisons online, but most focus on film adaptations - not a reliable way to critique a book!

The 2007 movie adaptation of The Golden Compass was greeted with articles like "The Chronicles of Atheism" and "The Golden Compass: A Primer on Atheism". This is nonsense, of course. I'm pretty sure anyone who says the movie version of The Golden Compass is about atheism hasn't seen it. For this, I'll turn to the late, great Roger Ebert's review of the movie.
For most families, such questions will be beside the point. Attentive as I was, I was unable to find anything anti-religious in the movie, which works above all as an adventure. The film centers on a young girl named Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards), in an alternative universe vaguely like Victorian England. An orphan raised by the scholars of a university not unlike Oxford or Cambridge, she is the niece of Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig), who entrusts her with the last surviving Alethiometer, or Golden Compass, a device that quite simply tells the truth. The Magisterium has a horror of the truth, because it represents an alternative to its thought control; the battle in the movie is about no less than man's preservation of free will.One of the better pieces I've found on this subject was by Jenn Northington, writing on Tor.com, for Banned Books Week 2013.
One could argue that while the disdain for organized religion and bureaucracy registers in Pullman’s books as well as in his interviews, it doesn’t prevent them from containing all kinds of mystical elements. There are witches with super powers, embodied souls in the form of daemons, a trip to the underworld. One could further say that they promote a sense of spirituality and a belief in the possibility of things beyond our comprehension. There’s a word for that; some call it faith. This argument, of course, is unlikely to hold weight with anyone who objects to the series. In matters of taste there can be no dispute, and each reader finds something different in a book.If The Golden Compass works equally well as a great children's read, and a response to a famous fantasy series, and a critique of a social institution, that is quite a feat, and Pullman deserves huge recognition for pulling it off. The symbolic meanings are there for discussion and debate, but the solid base of the book is vivid, highly accessible, and simply excellent.

The Quiet Eloquence Of Harry Smith

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 05:51
His is a quiet eloquence that speaks far louder than all the braying our political 'leaders' engage in with abandon. Harry Smith, about whom I previously posted, is a man who has seen much during his long life. He has seen the worst that happens when society treats the majority of its people with contempt, condemning them to short lives of poverty, illness, and despair. He has also seen the best when society recognizes the obligations government has to the less advantaged through the construction of a comprehensive social safety net. It is the latter that he now sees being steadily eroded, as the neoliberal agenda works hard to return us to that earlier time when only the relatively few mattered, the vast majority abandoned to only their own devices and the charity of individuals to sustain them.

The first video is a trailer for his memoir, Harry's Last Stand, which he describes as
"a rallying cry to a younger generation" to fight for a social safety net "that allows every citizen the right to decent housing, advanced education, proper health care, a living wage, and a dignified old age free of want."

Many of these post-war gains, achieved by his generation after the Second World War, are being clawed back, with the poor and middle class losing more and more ground in the face of growing inequality, says Smith.

The second brief video is a stinging indictment of Stephen Harper's agenda which, despite political rhetoric to the contrary, favours the few while disdaining the majority.
In a blistering attack on the Prime Minister, broadcast Saturday at the Broadbent Institute's Progress Summit 2015, the 92-year-old Smith said Harper "has treated veterans with disdain, intimidated scientists, environmentalists, and most importantly the poor," "robbed the vulnerable" and "enriched the 1% at the expense of the 99%."

All disengaged citizens, especially the young, need to hear Harry Smith's message and act upon it.Recommend this Post

The Ghastly Record and Imaginary Trial of Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 04:39


I was thinking today about Mike Duffy's trial, which is now only nine days away, and how it may last at least two months, because of all the evidence the Crown has collected.

And all the PMO witnesses they are going to have to grill.

And it gave me a really warm feeling. Until I had a horrible thought.

With all the evidence and the witnesses the Crimes Against Canada Tribunal could call upon at Stephen Harper's trial, it could go on for YEARS.

And we might have to wait forever for the Day of Justice.
Read more »

War By Other Means

Northern Reflections - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 01:45

                                                       http://www.msn.com/

Over the weekend, Charles Taylor addressed the Broadbent Conference. He's a remarkable man with a remarkable mind and a remarkable history. Like Pierre Trudeau, he grew up in privilege, the son of French and English parents. The two men knew each other well and worked together at Cite Libre. Back in the '60's, they ran against each other in the Town of Mount Royal -- and Taylor knew he was going to lose.

I was living in Montreal back then, and I remember the contest. There were sharp differences of opinion. But the contest was marked by mutual civility and respect -- a far cry from the exchanges this week between Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair.

Back in 2007 Taylor co-chaired Quebec's Commission on Reasonable Accommodation of Cultural and Religious Minorities. He is uniquely qualified to comment on Stephen Harper's politics:

"We're in a context where Islamaphobia is very powerful in the West," he said.

"It's perfectly understandable emotionally. We have to get over it and the worst and the last thing we need is for our political leaders to surf on it and encourage it."

Taylor said Harper seems "tone deaf" to the dangerous impact his rhetoric can have, although he said it also seems to be a deliberate tactic to whip up support in the run-up to the next federal election, scheduled for October.

He called on all political leaders to show restraint, even if it costs them votes, rather than risk "terrible damage" to Canadian society.
In the long run,Taylor said, Harper's politics will be counterproductive:

"Ask yourself what are the recruiters for Islamic State saying? They're saying (to Muslims), 'Look, they despise you, they think that you're foreign, you're dangerous, you're not accepted here, so why don't you come with us?'" 
Carl von Clausewitz wrote that war is "politics by other means." For Stephen Harper, the reverse is true. Politics is war by other means. And that kind of politics, Taylor warned his audience, destroys societies.


Why Young Canadians Can Help Build a Better Canada

Montreal Simon - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 22:38


As you probably know, I believe that one of the most important things progressives must do is reach out to young Canadians and encourage them to vote.

Not just because if they did vote in greater numbers we could crush the ghastly Cons who are destroying our country and torching their future.

But also because they could help build a better Canada. 
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Mandatory Church Attendance?

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 17:04
I'm sorry. As Johnny Carson used to say, "I do not make these things up, folks, I merely report them."



Perhaps Americans have far more in common with that theocracy in Iran than they realize?Recommend this Post

What Is It With Barrick Gold?

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 14:34


When Bryan Mulroney left politics he took a spot on the board of Barrick Gold.  So, too, did George H.W. Bush after he failed to win a second term as president.  Now it's John Baird who has a date with Barrick destiny, apparently as an "adviser."  Baird will be joined by Newt Gingrich, also appointed to Barrick's international advisory board.

It's not exactly a demanding job.  Barrick says the international advisory board meets "about once a year."

The job probably won't put Baird on Easy Street but he might try picking up a few of Pam Wallin's former directorships to help make ends meet.

Stick It Where The Sun Don't Shine

Trapped In a Whirlpool - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 13:39
Ontario's annual sunshine list is out and as usual we here the chorus of What? They made how much? Which is the very purpose these lists exist in the first place.
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Lowlights of the 2015 Manning Centre Conference

The Winnipeg RAG Review - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 12:23
Boy, this year has been crazy - too busy for super frequent blog posting (that and my twitter account has sorta cannibalized a lot of my would-be blog content). I'm still working on some drafts for the blog that should be interesting but as an inaugural post for 2015 I thought I'd lazily share a good mashup of some of the low lights of the 2015 Manning Centre Conference, courtesy of the fine folks from at Truth Mashup.





This early March conference - a true voice of small c-conservatism with a large C-Conservative speakers - is said to have set the tone for the upcoming Federal Election on the right. If so, then feel joy as we're finally going to get to watch the spectacle of real far-right wingnuttery that's dragged political discourse and policy south of the 49th into the ground.

Finally, Canadian politics can become exciting like US politics by becoming a train wreck like US politics!

What Has Jason Kenney Been Smoking?

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 11:32


Seriously.  I'm wondering if our fledgling defence minister was high, high, high, when he proclaimed that, after we defeat ISIS,  Iraq and Syria better not look to Canada to create a model democracy in those states.

That's sort of like me asking the confirmed bachelor if he's stopped beating his wife yet.  Apparently, though, Mr. Kenney foresees that we are going to defeat ISIS.  Where?  How?  When?

He's an amicable little shit but I think minister Kenney is in way over his head on this portfolio.  Fortunately for Kenney, Canada has already outsourced most of our foreign and defence policy decisions to Washington.  All he has to do is listen for America's dog whistle.

It's really not all that bad so long as you don't expect Jason Kenney, ISIS Slayer to make a whole  lot of sense.


On value assessments

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 11:17
The Great Budget Debate at the Progress Summit of course reflected a thorough clash in values. But there was one note of obvious agreement which makes the conservative position untenable once its implications are drawn out.

All four speakers spent plenty of time talking about the fact that some investments are worthwhile, and acknowledging that the role of government includes assessing which ones justify the use of public money. But Monte Solberg in particular neatly demonstrated how anti-government bias undermines any attempt to carry out that task.

Solberg spent plenty of time on the Cons' usual jurisdictional dodges, arguing at various points that the federal government should step aside in favour of provinces, individuals and businesses as alternate decision-makers. But the claim that the federal government should carry a strong bias toward that course of action is flawed in two key ways.

There are plenty of areas where the federal government does in fact have direct jurisdiction: as long as one recognizes e.g. the importance of First Nations health and education (being some of the areas with the most obvious potential for investment to make a massive difference in outcomes) which have been grossly underfunded due solely to the choice of the federal government. And there's also the reality that economies of scale and collective planning can produce better outcomes than atomized and unfocused spending which provinces and municipalities are happy to facilitate.

That said, it's absolutely necessary to evaluate program effectiveness. But Solberg and Philip Cross both went far out of their way emphasizing their disdain for the civil service which needs to be able to carry out the cost/benefit analysis required to direct spending where it can best serve public purposes.

In sum, one can't plausibly claim to acknowledge the value of focused and efficient spending while rejecting the process needed to provide exactly that on specious ideological and jurisdictional grounds. And the right's failure to reconcile those principles - both in the Progress Summit debate and elsewhere - offers a compelling reason not to consider it credible when it comes to economic planning.

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