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Simple Solutions Come From Simple Minds

Northern Reflections - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 07:40
                                                              http://brane-space.blogspot.ca/

 What is behind Stephen Harper's war on sociology? Jakeet Sing writes:

So what does Harper have against sociology? First, Harper is clearly trumpeting a standard component of neo-liberal ideology: that there are no social phenomena, only individual incidents. (This ideology traces back to Margaret Thatcher’s famous claim that “there is no such thing as society.”) Neo-liberalism paints all social problems as individual problems. The benefit of this for those who share Harper’s agenda, of course, is that if there are no social problems or solutions, then there is little need for government. Individuals are solely responsible for the problems they face.
Harper recognizes only one kind of injustice -- personal injustice. Sociologists recognize personal injustices. But they also recognize systematic injustice:

Structural injustices, on the other hand, are produced by a social structure or system. They are often hard to trace back to the actions of specific individuals, are usually not explicitly intended by anyone, and have collective, rather than isolated, victims. Structural injustices are a result of the unintended actions of many individuals participating in a social system together, usually without knowing what each other is doing. Whereas personal injustices are traced back to the harmful actions (or inactions) of individuals, structural injustices are identified by differential societal outcomes among groups. Sociologists call these “social inequalities.”And therein lies the rub. Perhaps the key difference between personal and structural injustices is that the latter are only clearly identifiable through macro-level societal analysis — that is, sociology. This is because a) there are no clear perpetrators with whom to identify the injustice and assign responsibility; and b) while structural injustices do generate concrete harms and victims, we often only learn about the collective nature of the injustice through statistical inquiry, or by identifying social/demographic patterns over time.

Structural injustices are harder to remedy because they are immune to simple solutions. And Mr. Harper favours simple solutions.

Simple solutions are for simple minds.


Well-Said

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 06:31


Those Star letter-writers nail it yet again:

Under Ottawa's microscope, Insight Aug. 23

If it is not OK for charities to use the money sent to them for the intended purpose of trying to change government policies that threaten the well-being of Canadians and the future of the world, why is it permissible for the Harper government to spend the money we pay them in taxes on billions of dollars worth of useless offensive weapons, while witholding funds from health care, payments to the unemployed and transfers to provinces for infrastructure renewal?

Can we not disagree with a minister like Joe Oliver, who has no grasp of the fundamentals of what he is dealing with?

Instead of forcing charities to waste the money we give them on pointless government requirements, the government should give the public that funds it full disclosure as to how our money is being spent. This is a basic requirement of democracy, flouted only by would-be dictators.


Jenny Carter, Peterborough

It seems odd that a tax-receipt issuing organization like the Fraser Institute is immune from the scrutiny of CRA audits. I see this organization as 100 per cent political and therefore not entitled to issue tax receipts.

Is it possible that a current politician is running interference?


Gerald Berish, Richmond HillRecommend this Post

Stephen Harper Goes After the Media and the Bigot Vote

Montreal Simon - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 04:11


As you know I am increasingly concerned about Stephen Harper's state of mind. 

Because it's pretty clear to me that he is showing signs of cracking under the strain of all those bad polls, and is becoming even more aggressive. Or even crazier.

For in just a few days he has managed to attack Justin Trudeau like a bat out of hell.

Rant and rave about how the elitist conspiracy is out to get him.

All but declare war on the Russians. 

And now he's going after the MEDIA !!!!. 
Read more »

Leveraging Laureen: Part 2

Dammit Janet - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 03:50
So, how's that "leveraging Laureen" strategy going for the heartless, soulless CONservative government of Canada?

Judging from this piece from APTN (video), not well.

Herr Harper made his annual pilgrimage to the North, taking the First Cat Lady with him, and while he declined to answer any questions atall atall, Laureen deigned to answer a question about hungry children in the North with a word salad on corporate wonderfulness.

Really, watch the video at the APTN link, and more importantly, listen to the tone of it.

Wouldn't it be grand if other media outlets turned a similar critical eye on the hypocrisy of the Harper regime?

I know, I know. Too much to hope for. . .

h/t Jennifer McMackon who said: "Let them eat hockey equipment."




Stephen Harper Great Insane Tour of the North

Montreal Simon - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 03:04


Well there he was, thundering over the tundra, on the last day of his Great Photo-Op Tour of the North.

The Dark Knight Nerd on the warpath. Taking part in a military exercise designed to portray him as a Great Strong Leader.

Declaring that the greatest threat to his beloved Arctic are the Russians.

An emboldened Russia is a threat to it neighbours in the Arctic and Canada must be ready to respond to any Russian incursions in the region, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday as he ended his yearly tour of Canada's North.

And suggesting that only a strong military, under his strong leadership, can save the people who live in the True North Strong and Free. 

His True North...
Read more »

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 19:43
Upturned cats.




Ooooh! Bad Talk, More Stark.

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 19:09

Another report from the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC. The Associated Press has managed to thumb through the latest report, a synthesis report based on the previous three.  AP says there's nothing much new in the report except, "the language is more stark and the report attempts to connect the different scientific disciplines studying problems caused by the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas."

It's apparently the usual, "cut that out, dammit, or we're so screwed" sort of report.  It notes that "currently observed impacts might already be considered dangerous."  Well, duh! Except for the observation by the Panel that it is increasingly likely that global warming could already be irreversible.  In other words, it's "increasingly likely" that we have already set in motion irreversible, as in "runaway", global warming.  We may have already passed one or more tipping points to trigger natural feedback mechanisms driving uncontrollable global warming. 

Given that the IPCC has been consistent on just one thing, continuously underestimating the pace and extent of anthropogenic global warming, it's safe to assume the Panel's dire warnings come from the optimistic end of the spectrum. For our kids and grandchildren, that's decidedly not a good thing.  It's a very bad thing.

It'll be interesting to see how the report deals with Canada's fossil fuel of choice, high cost/high carbon bitumen.  

What kicks me in the cojones is that our government has never made the slightest effort to keep Canadians informed about the state of climate change and our options for dealing with it.  To the contrary they have kept our climate scientists gagged.  That's a calculated policy to keep the Canadian people in the dark, leaving them vulnerable to the impacts already here and the worse consequences to come. This is abjectly treasonous, exposing the nation and our people to unwarranted dangers and loss in furtherance of this deviant government's private agenda.  That makes this prime minister, and those in his service, very dangerous enemies of Canada.

A New Addition To The Harper Enemies List

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 16:29
But then again, no surprises here, except that it is being leveraged into a fundraising appeal.

But it is a bit rich, isn't it, that given their expertise in the area, the Harper cabal should be carping about disgusting personal attacks?



Is hypocrisy too obvious a word?Recommend this Post

"Traditional family values" ?

Creekside - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 15:15
Conservatives tout traditional family values in message to party members
OTTAWA - The federal Conservatives are telling core supporters that "traditional family values" are a party stance, a phrase that so far has not entered the prime minister's public speeches or official Tory documents.Well not quite and not for some time  ...


"A survey was circulated Tuesday to Conservative donors and "grassroots supporters," to "hear what issues matter to you the most."The party's policy declaration does not use the term traditional family values, but talks about the family unit as "essential to the well-being of individuals and society." It goes on to say that the party supports legislation defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. That issue has not been raised by an Conservative MP in Parliament since 2006, and attempts to reopen the abortion debate have been quashed." h/t Stephen Lautens  for article.

Of course there's different kinds of families. Here's Steve's Con family :
.

Plain and Simple - Dahiyeh Is a War Crime

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 11:21
This is Dahiyeh, Lebanon, before and after Israel devastated it and its civilian population.


The reduction of this Beiruit suburb marked the introduction of an Israeli strategy to rain destruction and death on civilians and their neighbourhoods in deliberate contravention of the laws of war and human rights.  Civilian infrastructure, especially water pumping plants and sewage systems are destroyed after which the Israelis turn on hospitals, schools and residential neighbourhoods.  No matter how you look at it, this is wanton, mass butchery.

It was WikiLeaks that unveiled this Israeli strategy.  Particulars of it came via leaked cables from the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.

 Israeli army officers mentioned the “Dahiya Doctrine”. One of them, General Eisenkot, said that, in relation to the doctrine, “Israel will use disproportionate force upon any village that fires upon Israel ... causing great damage and destruction." Eisenkot was very clear that it was not a recommendation, but an already approved plan From the embassy cable:6. (8) Eisenkot labelled any Israeli response to resumed conflict the "Dahiya Doctrine" in reference to the leveled Dahiya quarter in Beirut during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.  He said Israel will use disproportionate force against any village that fires on Israel, "causing great damage and destruction." Eisenkot made very clear: this is not a recommendation, but an already approved plan.WikiLeaks legal counsel and President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, Michel Ratner,  argues that Israel is deliberately committing war crimes and must be brought before the International Criminal Court.  Ratner also holds the U.S. government responsible for, while knowing full well of the Dahiya Doctrine, still funding and providing munitions to the Israelis.

How Norway Dodged "The Curse of Oil"

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 10:52


When it comes to petro-statehood, Canada is a lot closer to Nigeria than to Norway and more's the pity.  The Tyee's Andrew Nikiforuk has done a terrific job chronicling how Ottawa and Alberta have squandered that province's energy wealth.

Now the BBC takes a look at Norway's oil city, Bergen.

As one of the centres of Norway's booming oil and gas industries, it is also a very wealthy place.Yet there are few displays of ostentatious spending - there are no supercars with tinted windows, no designer handbag shops, and no queues of people outside exclusive nightclubs.For while other countries have struck oil and then binged on the revenues, by contrast Norway is continuing to invest its oil and gas money in a giant sovereign wealth fund.Start QuoteWe trust the government, we believe our tax money will be spent wisely”Prof Alexander CappelenNHH Norwegian School of EconomicsThe fund, worth about $800bn (£483bn), owns 1% of the entire world's stocks, and is big enough to make every citizen a millionaire in the country's currency, the kroner. In effect, it is a giant savings account.What's critical and what no Albertan since Peter Lougheed has had the mental capacity to grasp is that flooding the local economy with oil wealth is ultimately destructive.  It creates inflationary boom cycles in which wealth literally evaporates.  And, of course, those boom cycles lead to terrible bust cycles whenever world oil prices plummet.  Which is when you'll see a load of Wild Rose pickups sporting bumper stickers like this:

Inching Ever Closer to a Shooting War with Russia

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:57
Foggy Rasmussen

Why do I get the feeling that there are some in the West who would welcome a conflict with Russia?

I watched a documentary last night on the final two years of the Soviet Union, the Gorbachev-George H.W. Bush years.  Some great commentary came from Bush Sr.'s Soviet-affairs expert, a Princeton prof, Stephen F. Cohen.

Cohen described attending a mini-summit between Bush and Gorbachev to deal with the sudden collapse of east Germany and the prospect of German reunification.  Bush rattled Gorbachev when he suggested that, as a unified state, the eastern sector of Germany should also become a part of NATO.  Gorbachev held out until Bush agreed that Germany would be it, NATO would not thereafter expand further eastward.  Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary would remain buffer states.


Gorbachev's fatal mistake, said Dr. Cohen, was in believing America would keep its word.  Instead, once Germany was safely in the bag, NATO proceeded to rapidly swallow up every country in Eastern Europe it could admit to the alliance.

As NATO, at the insistence of Bush/Cheney, spread right up to Russia's doorstep, we taught the Russians the utter folly of believing anything we said, even when it came in the form of a promise.

It is in this context that we need to consider how Vladimir Putin perceives our quite deliberate and calculated meddling in the Ukraine.  In an act of raw aggression, we facilitated the coup by pro-Western dissidents that toppled the admittedly corrupt but nonetheless democratically elected pro-Russian government.

Now that shoot-from-the-lip warhawk, NATO Secretary-General, Anders Fogh (Foggy) Rasmussen, has announced NATO is to deploy permanent combat forces at new bases in Eastern Europe to counter supposed Russian designs on the Baltic states.

Said Rasmussen, "We have to face the reality that Russia does not consider NATO a partner."

Lest you think this notion of a major war between Russia and the West is fear-mongering, the same Dr. Cohen who advised GHW Bush in his dealings with Gorbachev to end the Cold War is warning that a nuclear war is indeed possible and he's even calling for "Patriotic Heresy."

Excerpts from Cohen's address to the US-Russia Forum held in Washington in mid-June:

We meet today during the worst and potentially most dangerous American-Russian confrontation in many decades, probably since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. The Ukrainian civil war, precipitated by the unlawful change of government in Kiev in February, is already growing into a proxy US-Russian war. The seemingly unthinkable is becoming imaginable: an actual war between NATO, led by the United States, and post-Soviet Russia.Certainly, we are already in a new cold war, which escalating sanctions will only deepen and institutionalize, one potentially more dangerous than its US-Soviet predecessor the world barely survived. This is so for several reasons:—The epicenter of the new cold war is not in Berlin but on Russia’s borders, in Ukraine, a region absolutely essential in Moscow’s view to its national security and even to its civilization. This means that the kinds of miscalculations, mishaps and provocations the world witnessed decades ago will be even more fraught with danger. (The mysterious shoot down of a Malaysian jetliner over eastern Ukraine in July was an ominous example.)—An even graver risk is that the new cold war may tempt the use of nuclear weapons in a way the US-Soviet one did not. I have in mind the argument made by some Moscow military strategists that if directly threatened by NATO’s superior conventional forces, Russia may resort to its much larger arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons. (The ongoing US-NATO encirclement of Russia with bases, as well as land and sea-based missile defense, only increases this possibility.)—Yet another risk factor is that the new cold war lacks the mutually restraining rules that developed during the forty-year cold war, especially after the Cuban missile crisis. Indeed, highly charged suspicions, resentments, misconceptions and misinformation both in Washington and Moscow may make such mutual restraints even more difficult. The same is true of the surreal demonization of Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin—a kind of personal vilification without any real precedent in the past, at least after Stalin’s death. (Henry Kissinger has pointed out that the “demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.” I think it is worse: an abdication of real analysis and rational policy-making.)—Finally, the new cold war may be more perilous because, also unlike during its forty-year predecessor, there is no effective American opposition—not in the administration, Congress, establishment media, universities, think tanks, or in society.Cohen goes on to lament how the voice of reason is no longer heard in the United States where, he contends, a new form of McCarthyism has taken hold....in our democracy, where the cost of dissent is relatively little, silence is no longer a patriotic option. (Personally, as an American, I have come to feel this more strongly, even moral indignation, as I watch the US-backed regime in Kiev inflict needless devastation, a humanitarian disaster and possibly war crimes on its own citizens in eastern Ukraine.)...I turn now, in my capacity as a historian, to that orthodoxy. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts.” The new cold war orthodoxy rests almost entirely on fallacious opinions. Five of those fallacies are particularly important today:Fallacy No. 1: Ever since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, Washington has treated post-Communist Russia generously as a desired friend and partner, making every effort to help it become a democratic, prosperous member of the Western system of international security. Unwilling or unable, Russia rejected this American altruism, emphatically under Putin.Fact: Beginning in the 1990s, again with the Clinton administration, every American president and congress has treated post-Soviet Russia as a defeated nation with inferior legitimate rights at home and abroad. This triumphalist, winner-take-all approach has been spearheaded by the expansion of NATO—accompanied by non-reciprocal negotiations and now missile defense—into Russia’s traditional zones of national security, while in reality excluding it from Europe’s security system. Early on, Ukraine, and to a lesser extent Georgia, were the ultimate goals. As an influential Washington Post columnist explained in 2004, “The West wants to finish the job begun with the fall of the Berlin Wall and continue Europe’s march to the east.… The great prize is Ukraine.”Fallacy No. 2: There exists a nation called “Ukraine” and a “Ukrainian people” who yearn to escape centuries of Russian influence and to join the West.Fact: As every informed person knows, Ukraine is a country long divided by ethnic, linguistic, religious, cultural, economic and political differences—particularly its western and eastern regions, but not only. When the current crisis began in 2013, Ukraine had one state, but it was not a single people or a united nation. Some of these divisions were made worse after 1991 by corrupt elite, but most of them had developed over centuries.Fallacy No. 3: In November 2013, the European Union, backed by Washington, offered Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych a benign association with European democracy prosperity. Yanukovych was prepared to sign the agreement, but Putin bullied and bribed him into rejecting it. Thus began Kiev’s Maidan protests and all that has since followed.Fact: The EU proposal was a reckless provocation compelling the democratically elected president of a deeply divided country to choose between Russia and the West. So too was the EU’s rejection of Putin’s counter-proposal of a Russian-European-American plan to save Ukraine from financial collapse. On its own, the EU proposal was not economically feasible. Offering little financial assistance, it required the Ukrainian government to enact harsh austerity measures and to sharply curtail is longstanding economic relations with Russia. Nor was the EU proposal entirely benign. It included protocols requiring Ukraine to adhere to Europe’s “military and security” policies, which meant in effect, without mentioning the alliance, NATO. In short, it was not Putin’s alleged “aggression” that initiated today’s crisis but instead a kind of velvet aggression by Brussels and Washington to bring all of Ukraine into the West, including (in the fine print) into NATO.Fallacy No. 4: Today’s unfolding civil war in Ukraine was caused by Putin’s aggressive response to Maidan’s peaceful protests against Yanukovych’s decision.Fact: In February 2014, radicalized Maidan protests, strongly influenced by extreme nationalist and even semi-fascist street forces, turned violent. Hoping for a peaceful resolution, European foreign ministers brokered a compromise between Maidan’s parliamentary representatives and Yanukovych. It would have left him as president of a coalition, reconciliation government until new elections in December 2014. Within hours, violent street fighters aborted the agreement. Europe and Washington did not defend their own diplomatic accord. Yanukovych fled to Russia. Minority parliamentary parties representing Maidan and predominantly western Ukraine, among them Svoboda, an ultra-nationalist movement previously anathematized by the European Parliament as incompatible with European values, formed a new government. They also nullified the existing constitution. Washington and Brussels endorsed the coup, and have supported the outcome ever since. Everything that followed, from Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the spread of rebellion in southeastern Ukraine to the civil war and Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operation,” was triggered by the February coup. Putin’s actions have been mostly reactive.Fallacy No. 5: The only way out of the crisis is for Putin to end his “aggression” and call off his agents in southeastern Ukraine.Fact: The underlying causes of the crisis are Ukraine’s own internal divisions, not primarily Putin’s actions. The primary factor escalating the crisis since May has been Kiev’s “anti-terrorist” military campaign against its own citizens, now mainly in the Donbass cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. Putin influences and no doubt aids the Donbass “self-defenders.” Considering the pressure on him in Moscow, he is likely to continue to do so, perhaps even more, but he does not control them. If Kiev’s assault ends, Putin probably can compel the rebels to negotiate. But only the Obama administration can compel Kiev to stop, and it has not done so.Cohen's insights are a warning to us all.  We're being fed a load of lies pouring from some very bellicose mouths that could be steering us on a course that leads to war, perhaps even nuclear war, between Russia and the West.  As the German financial newspaper, Handelsblatt, warned earlier this month, we are all being "mentally mobilized" for war.

Yo! Nanny Staters: Fuck Off

Dammit Janet - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:47
I am a smoker. Over the years, I've been vilified, demonized, ostracized, pitied, hectored, shunned, and shamed.

OK. Sure. I'm an addict. All addicts deserve this treatment, I guess.

But what I -- and most other addicts I'd wager -- most object to is being treated like idiots.

We know.

We know smoking is bad.

It's expensive. It stinks. It burns holes in our clothes. It stains our teeth.

It makes us sick and if it doesn't kill us, will probably contribute to our deaths or long-term ill-health.

It may harm people around us, hence self-ostracization.

We know all that.

But we are addicted to nicotine.

We try to quit. Alternate nicotine delivery systems -- patches, gum -- have deficiencies of two main types.

1. They are not like smoking: no warmth, no fiddle-factor, no-"I'm having a break"-factor.

2. The nicotine dose is not adjustable to the user's mood and need.

The fiddle-factor is surmountable. The dosage problem is not so easy.

If I light a cigarette and decide I don't really want one now, I put it out.

If I put a patch on and immediately want to puke (which is what patches do to me), I rip it off.

If I light a cigarette and get involved in reading something and forget about the cigarette, it burns away.

If I chomp down on a piece of nicotine gum, get involved in reading something, forget about the gum and chomp down a few more times absent-mindedly, I want to puke (see above).

Enter e-cigs. Dosage is variable. With added fiddle-factor fun.

They're not perfect, but they are definitely a huge advance.

But guess who doesn't like e-cigs?

Big Pharma who wants to sell us patches and gum -- outrageously over-priced patches and gum.

And Big Tobacco who doesn't want us to quit smoking.

And Nanny Staters. Who, according to Sweetie, have an addiction problem of their own. They are addicted to telling others what to do.

Viz.

The optics of the e-cig concept: a controlled nicotine delivery system. Why would anyone expect that to be well received in the gen public?

— Dr. Brian Goldman (@NightShiftMD) August 26, 2014

I don't watch much telly any more. But I remember ads with people smugly patting their upper arms: "I've got the patch." Did people go insane over that "optic"?

.@NightShiftMD Why not? It's way better than the nicotine patch that Big Pharma makes a ton of $. I can't use patch because of indigestion.

— Fern Hill (@fernhilldammit) August 26, 2014

Oh but wait. Maybe patting the upper arm sends the "right message" whereas Nanny Staters worry about the "wrong message."

@AureliaCotta @fernhilldammit I don't disagree. But do billboards of famous people inhaling nic vapour send the right message?

— Dr. Brian Goldman (@NightShiftMD) August 26, 2014

You mean like this?



From the same source, a succinct summary of the issue.

No matter how you feel about the product or the industry, electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco and lack virtually all of harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. THEY SHOULD NOT BE CLASSIFIED AS SUCH or be limited by the same harsh restrictions. So far, no adverse health effects have been associated with electronic cigarettes, yet the alcohol industry is responsible for at least 80,000 deaths each year and the media seems unconcerned about their marketing techniques. Most people acknowledge that kids should not have access to these devices, but comparing electronic cigarette companies to the tobacco industry of the past is not only unfair – it’s inaccurate. Electronic cigarettes help smokers quit and expose them to significantly less health risks. For now, consumers have a wide array of choices and full access to these products, but if the government, pharmaceutical and big tobacco companies have their way, that may be a thing of the past.
My succinct summary: Fuck right off, Nanny Staters.

I Want To Believe

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:36


But it will take more than an interview by George Stroumboulopoulos to convince me that Justin Trudeau has the right stuff.

Nonetheless, I was impressed by the Liberal leader's relaxed manner, especially striking since it is beyond my powers of imagination to envisage Stephen Harper in such a pose.Recommend this Post

The Faces of Climate Science

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:23
Here's another way of looking at climate science.  Photographer Nick Bowers has produced a black and white photo essay entitled, "Scared Scientists," that you can preview at HuffPo.


Bowers accompanies the photographs with comments from each subject summing up their views on climate change.

I posted this because of a couple of one-on-ones I've had with climate scientists who, for public consumption, say the assuring "we can do this" stuff but, over a couple of beers in a private setting, default to "we're so screwed."

Alta Vista will be left in good hands at the Council table…

Trashy's World - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:01
… if my friend and colleague, Jean Cloutier, is elected on October 27. Jean has been the President of the Canterbury Community Association for quite some time – this is the same group that I have been involved with for the past 4 years. I have seen first-hand the sweat and commitment that Jean has put […]

In Drought News

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:01


Central America continues to reel under severe, multi-year drought.  Guatemala has declared a state of emergency in 16 of the country's 22-provinces.  Experts believe the impact on agriculture could soon leave hundreds of thousands of families without food.

As America's west coast and southwest continue to be plagued by drought, an article at Treehugger examines how Americans might look to Canadian waters to ease their pain.  The article revives a long-forgotten idea to dam James Bay and divert the excess freshwater via canal to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. Presumably the diverted James Bay water would then be drawn into the U.S. via the Mississippi River.

In Australia, farmers are bracing for a possible, late season El Nino to worsen an already serious drought.

When a scorching drought struck eastern Australia in 2006, cattle farmers Robyn and Paul Kendal had to slaughter nearly all their livestock and spend around a year of their normal turnover on feed to keep the remainder alive.With a recurrence of El Niño, the weather pattern behind the drought, looming and dry conditions already affecting an area larger than South Africa, another major drought could be one struggle too many for farmers such as the Kendals."In 2006, we saw the lowest amount of rains here since records began...and we still haven’t recovered from that even today," said Robyn Kendal, whose 3,000-acre (1,215 hectares) cattle farm is about 500 km (300 miles) southwest of Sydney.China's agricultural heartland is said to be experiencing its worst drought in 63-years.  In Brazil, severe drought is impacting agriculture and urban water supply. The city of Sao Paolo could run dry within a few months.Across the Middle East and East Africa, most of the conflict hot spots - Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia and Sudan - reveal how destabilizing drought can be in vulnerable countries.The good news is that world cereal grain production is up this year thanks to good crops in the U.S., the E.U. and India.

#MMIWG: Andrew Coyne's mischievous questions

Dawg's Blawg - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 08:46
“[A] man cannot search either for what he knows or for what he does not know[.] He cannot search for what he knows—since he knows it, there is no need to search—nor for what he does not know, for... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 07:39
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- thwap nicely summarizes how we've allowed our economy to rely on (and feed into) the whims of a small group of insiders, rather than being harnessed for any sense of public good:
(W)hat's changed today is that the wealthy clearly have more money than they know what to do with. And it's rendered our economies top-heavy. Financialization and financial speculation. Which does nothing for ordinary people. Tax-cuts to wealthy and the corporations just go into the banks and into speculation. Tax-increases to the wealthy and the corporations can help mitigate government deficits without harming the economy themselves. Because the wealthy aren't doing anything productive with the money we've been allowing them to miser. We'll get more bang for the buck taxing and spending than we will allowing them to hoard it and gamble with it.- And Toni Pickard makes the case for a guaranteed annual income to ensure that Canadians can rest assured they won't fall into deep poverty.

- Sarah Treanor compares Norway's use of its oil wealth to that of the UK, and concludes that trust is a major factor in the development of a sovereign wealth fund which now offers massive benefits to an entire country:
"For this kind of system to work, you need to have an enormous level of trust," says Prof Cappelen. "Trust that the money isn't going to be mismanaged - that it's not going to be spent in a way you don't like.
...
"We trust the government. We believe our tax money will be spent wisely. once you start trusting that others are contributing their share then you are happy to contribute yours."

So is Norway rich because of Norwegians high level of trust, or are its citizens trusting because they are rich? "I think it is both," says Prof Cappelen. "High levels of trust make economic growth easier." - But of course, trust and security need to be based on reasonable expectations as to how our public officials will act - and there's not much room for optimism based on the ones holding power at the moment. On that front, Iglika Ivanova points out that our tax system has been systematically warped to favour the wealth over the past 50 years, while PressProgress documents the sharp decline in EI benefit availability for unemployed workers. Doug Nesbitt takes a look at the pattern of Canadian governments and other employers looking to demolish retirement security for their workers past and present. David Sirota reports that Chris Christie is just one of many U.S. governors instead using pension funds as a means to reward political supporters with big-money, zero-accountability investment contracts (h/t to David Dayen). And David Cay Johnston notes that a tiny "prosperous class" is taking the vast majority of U.S. wage gains, leaving effectively nothing for upwards of 90% of workers.

- Finally, Murray Dobbin weighs in on the need to value and promote kindness, rather than celebrating ruthlessness in politics and business alike:
The stronger the imperative to compete, the weaker become family, community and friendship connections, because in rampant consumer capitalism -- promoted and reinforced by television culture -- such connections are seen as irrelevant. Or worse, they are seen as weak and inefficient means, if not actual barriers, to the end of achieving more stuff. We are competing in a zero-sum game whose rules are written by those with psychopathic tendencies. As Fred Guerin writes in Truthout, "Obedience, docility, amorality and careerism will be duly rewarded. Those who can regularly suspend any desire they have to think from the perspective of another, or on behalf of a more universal or common good will be promoted."

Guerin is getting at the real roots of our crisis in democracy. It is not first-past-the-post voting systems, or the cancellation of government funding for parties, or even the role of TV advertising. It is at its core our gradual acquiescence "to things that are contrary to our individual and communal interests." This acquiescence, say Guerin, is the "consequence of very gradual political and corporate indoctrination that consolidates power not only by inducing fear and uncertainty, but also by rewarding unbridled greed, opportunism and self-interest."

Is there an antidote to this death-culture? Can we reclaim our capacity to think beyond our immediate self-interest and regain our political agency -- our ability to act as citizens and not just consumers? Can we begin to create a shared space where we can actually imagine a future worth having, talk about big ideas and recover the notion that we can act in concert for the broader good?

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