Posts from our progressive community

On changing reputations

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 01/24/2015 - 15:12
Following up on this post as to the value of a common message in countering the Cons' campaign spin, let's test out Stephen Maher's theory as to what the opposition parties need to offer:
For years, Harper has missed no opportunity to portray himself as the only leader who can keep us from ruin, characterizing his rivals as unhinged crackpots with crazy schemes.

Harper has spent more than $100 million in tax dollars on advertisements promoting the Economic Action Plan, a transparently partisan expenditure aimed at inducing a pavlovian response from voters. Add all the cheque presentations, ribbon cuttings, speeches, interviews and party advertising and you have an almost decade-long communication effort that has succeeded in associating economic competence with Harper.
(T)o get rid of Harper, the opposition has to convince voters not that he is nasty or dishonest, but that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

That looks like a hard job, but if they don’t do that they won’t win. Now, there's certainly some appeal to the idea of running an election based on Harper's economic record, and indeed some polling data to suggest he doesn't have any particular advantage in the area.
But as Maher notes, any attempt to present mere facts on that front is running into a headwind generated by hundreds of millions of dollars of past advertising - not to mention the corporate media which has so determinedly ignored Harper's actual record in promoting him as an economic manager in the first place. Which is to say that a successful message focused on the economy today would have to go a long way to account for people who may have found Harper acceptable on the same issue in the past. Maybe "Harper: He's Had His Chance"? Or "Harper: Tried and Failed"?

At the same time, though, Harper is likely far more vulnerable on other issues such as ethics or social policy than he is on the economy in any event. So while it's worth having some economic counterpoints available to highlight how Harper hasn't lived up to his billing, I'd think a core message should probably focus elsewhere.

When All the King's Horses and All the King's Men Can't.

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 01/24/2015 - 14:05
The Atlantic's James Fallows was interviewed on Bill Maher's show last night. The discussion focused on Fallows' article in the latest edition, "The Tragedy of the American Military."

One point that Fallows addresses is how the mightiest, most costly and best equipped military in the world lost America's last two wars - in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Fallows accuses the American people of becoming a Chickenhawk Nation, plenty eager to go to war as long as someone else is sent to do the killing and the dying.

Too much complacency regarding our military, and too weak a tragic imagination about the consequences if the next engagement goes wrong, have been part of Americans’ willingness to wade into conflict after conflict, blithely assuming we would win. “Did we have the sense that America cared how we were doing? We did not,” Seth Moulton told me about his experience as a marine during the Iraq War. Moulton became a Marine Corps officer after graduating from Harvard in 2001, believing (as he told me) that when many classmates were heading to Wall Street it was useful to set an example of public service. He opposed the decision to invade Iraq but ended up serving four tours there out of a sense of duty to his comrades. “America was very disconnected. We were proud to serve, but we knew it was a little group of people doing the country’s work.”
...Ours is the best-equipped fighting force in history, and it is incomparably the most expensive. By all measures, today’s professionalized military is also better trained, motivated, and disciplined than during the draft-army years. No decent person who is exposed to today’s troops can be anything but respectful of them and grateful for what they do.

Yet repeatedly this force has been defeated by less modern, worse-equipped, barely funded foes. Or it has won skirmishes and battles only to lose or get bogged down in a larger war. Although no one can agree on an exact figure, our dozen years of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and neighboring countries have cost at least $1.5 trillion; Linda J. Bilmes, of the Harvard Kennedy School, recently estimated that the total cost could be three to four times that much. Recall that while Congress was considering whether to authorize the Iraq War, the head of the White House economic council, Lawrence B. Lindsey, was forced to resign for telling The Wall Street Journal that the all-in costs might be as high as $100 billion to $200 billion, or less than the U.S. has spent on Iraq and Afghanistan in many individual years.

Yet from a strategic perspective, to say nothing of the human cost, most of these dollars might as well have been burned. “At this point, it is incontrovertibly evident that the U.S. military failed to achieve any of its strategic goals in Iraq,” a former military intelligence officer named Jim Gourley wrote recently for Thomas E. Ricks’s blog, Best Defense. “Evaluated according to the goals set forth by our military leadership, the war ended in utter defeat for our forces.” In 13 years of continuous combat under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the longest stretch of warfare in American history, U.S. forces have achieved one clear strategic success: the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Their many other tactical victories, from overthrowing Saddam Hussein to allying with Sunni tribal leaders to mounting a “surge” in Iraq, demonstrated great bravery and skill. But they brought no lasting stability to, nor advance of U.S. interests in, that part of the world. When ISIS troops overran much of Iraq last year, the forces that laid down their weapons and fled before them were members of the same Iraqi national army that U.S. advisers had so expensively yet ineffectively trained for more than five years.

Fallows deals with the modern collapse of accountability in top military ranks.
During and after even successful American wars, and certainly after the standoff in Korea and the defeat in Vietnam, the professional military’s leadership and judgment were considered fair game for criticism. Grant saved the Union; McClellan seemed almost to sabotage it—and he was only one of the Union generals Lincoln had to move out of the way. Something similar was true in wars through Vietnam. Some leaders were good; others were bad. Now, for purposes of public discussion, they’re all heroes. In our past decade’s wars, as Thomas Ricks wrote in this magazine in 2012, “hundreds of Army generals were deployed to the field, and the available evidence indicates that not one was relieved by the military brass for combat ineffectiveness.” This, he said, was not only a radical break from American tradition but also “an important factor in the failure” of our recent wars.
The author goes on to link the American public's detachment from their military with the madness of modern military procurement.
America’s distance from the military makes the country too willing to go to war, and too callous about the damage warfare inflicts. This distance also means that we spend too much money on the military and we spend it stupidly, thereby shortchanging many of the functions that make the most difference to the welfare of the troops and their success in combat. We buy weapons that have less to do with battlefield realities than with our unending faith that advanced technology will ensure victory, and with the economic interests and political influence of contractors. This leaves us with expensive and delicate high-tech white elephants, while unglamorous but essential tools, from infantry rifles to armored personnel carriers, too often fail our troops (see “Gun Trouble,” by Robert H. Scales, in this issue).

We know that technology is our military’s main advantage. Yet the story of the post-9/11 “long wars” is of America’s higher-tech advantages yielding transitory victories that melt away before the older, messier realities of improvised weapons, sectarian resentments, and mounting hostility to occupiers from afar, however well-intentioned. Many of the Pentagon’s most audacious high-tech ventures have been costly and spectacular failures, including (as we will see) the major air-power project of recent years, the F-35. In an America connected to its military, such questions of strategy and implementation would be at least as familiar as, say, the problems with the Common Core education standards.

Fallows reserves special attention for the overpriced, overdue and under-performing F-35.
“Political engineering,” a term popularized by a young Pentagon analyst named Chuck Spinney in the 1970s, is pork-barrel politics on the grandest scale. Cost overruns sound bad if someone else is getting the extra money. They can be good if they are creating business for your company or jobs in your congressional district. Political engineering is the art of spreading a military project to as many congressional districts as possible, and thus maximizing the number of members of Congress who feel that if they cut off funding, they’d be hurting themselves.

The next big project the Air Force is considering is the Long Range Strike Bomber, a successor to the B-1 and B-2 whose specifications include an ability to do bombing runs deep into China. (A step so wildly reckless that the U.S. didn’t consider it even when fighting Chinese troops during the Korean War.) By the time the plane’s full costs and capabilities become apparent, Chuck Spinney wrote last summer, the airplane, “like the F-35 today, will be unstoppable.” That is because even now its supporters are building the plane’s “social safety net by spreading the subcontracts around the country, or perhaps like the F-35, around the world.”
...In the spring of 2011, Barack Obama asked Gary Hart, the Democratic Party’s most experienced and best-connected figure on defense reform, to form a small bipartisan task force that would draft recommendations on how Obama might try to recast the Pentagon and its practices if he won a second term. Hart did so (I was part of the group, along with Andrew J. Bacevich of Boston University, John Arquilla of the Naval Postgraduate School, and Norman R. Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin), and sent a report to Obama that fall. [Here is that memo.] He never heard back. Every White House is swamped with recommendations and requests, and it responds only to those it considers most urgent—which defense reform obviously was not.
...Seth Moulton, a few days after his victory in last fall’s congressional race, said that the overall quality and morale of people in the military has dramatically improved since the days of a conscript force. “But it’s become populated, especially at the highest ranks, by careerists, people who have gotten where they are by checking all the boxes and not taking risks,” he told me. “Some of the finest officers I knew were lieutenants who knew they were getting out, so weren’t afraid to make the right decision. I know an awful lot of senior officers who are very afraid to make a tough choice because they’re worried how it will look on their fitness report.” This may sound like a complaint about life in any big organization, but it’s something more. There’s no rival Army or Marine Corps you can switch to for a new start. There’s almost no surmounting an error or a black mark on the fitness or evaluation reports that are the basis for promotions.
Obviously America's cultural-political-military problems are an order of magnitude greater - and worse - than what  confronts us today in Canada.  Yet we too are a society detached from our military, a people too willing to support sending our soldiers into unwinnable wars by Chickenhawk politicians to suit their own ends and often led by ticket punchers that populate the highest ranks.  
America wasn't alone in losing the Afghan war.  We lost it too.  Every ISAF contingent lost that war.  Yet we don't speak of that.  We'll have no scrutiny of what went wrong and what went right, no post-mortem, without which we're entirely vulnerable to making the same blunders in our eagerness to send other young Canadians into harm's way whenever the coalition horns sound.  
No one has dared ask Harper why we lost.  We have on record his declaration of what we were fighting for in Afghanistan and what we were determined, even bound to achieve.  In that, our prime minister set the bar that determines victory or defeat for our Afghan campaign and, by his boastful criteria, we failed.  We didn't even have a solitary defeat because Harper kept lowering the bar as the war dragged on until, at the end, success was so hollowed out as to become a function of getting our troops and the bulk of our equipment out of Afghanistan. 
It wasn't the sergeants and corporals or the lieutenants and captains who let us down.  They fought admirably.  By elimination that leaves our political and military leadership who must be held accountable but they're not talking. 

On common messaging

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 01/24/2015 - 09:28
It shouldn't come as much surprise that the new election year is bringing out the usual, tiresome round of calls for strategic voting and candidate withdrawals.

In the past, I've responded by suggesting that if Canada's opposition parties have enough common ground to cooperate, they should consider working with joint messages rather than trying to carve up the electoral map. And I'd still be curious to see how that type of arrangement would work if there was any interest in pursuing it.

But I wonder now whether the best course of action may have nothing to do with party arrangements - particularly in light of how the Canadian political system has evolved since 2011.

Until the NDP's rise to Official Opposition status in 2011, it was tempting for far too many people to pretend that all parties other than the Cons could be safely ignored. And the Libs' "blue door, red door" rhetoric in that election took that narrow mindset to a new extreme - before it proved as inaccurate as it was laden with hubris.

Now, though, there shouldn't be any escaping the fact that we're now in a true three-party system. And due to that change, both major opposition parties are inherently focused not only on making the case for change, but on doing so with messages which are designed to differentiate themselves from each other.

But that doesn't mean the public is similarly limited. And I'll suggest that it's worth putting the full weight of public fatigue with the Harper Cons to good use.

With that in mind, I'll suggest a crowdsourced effort to answer these questions (with a hat tip to the #fivewordsharperfears hashtag which offered plenty of ideas).

What brief, easily-remembered message will best convince voters to turn against Stephen Harper and the Cons when they go to the polls in 2015? And how can be make sure that message is the one Canadians consider as they vote?

I'll suggest a few starting points for such a message:
- It should be friendly to swing voters, rather than insulting anybody who's voted Con in the past but might consider switching votes this time out. 60% of voters have ruled out the Cons, and the goal of this message isn't merely to speak to them; instead, it needs to target the next 10-15% who might swing an election.
- But it should also be consistent enough with progressive values to avoid driving away the people who are most motivated to spread it in order to end Harper's reign.
- In addition, it should fit with well-known political messaging structures: favouring "change" over "the same", progressive/nurturant themes over conservative/authoritarian ones, etc.
- It should be consistent enough with how people already see Harper to fit easily into existing perceptions, but be distinct enough from past campaign messages to avoid any concerns about having failed already.
- And finally, it should counter the "better off with Harper" theme the Cons have already set up as their primary message.

A simple version would be "Canada can do better" or "we can do better" - leaving open the question of who would serve as the best alternative, while focusing attention squarely on whether Harper deserves to maintain power and answering with a clear "no".

But that first thought serves only as a starting point for discussion. And hopefully, progressives of multiple partisan stripes can agree enough on a common theme to make it stick to Harper.

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 01/24/2015 - 07:37
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne writes that by finally recognizing the unfairness and ineffectiveness of Alberta's regressive tax system, Jim Prentice may be starting a needed national debate:
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice talks up taxes for individuals including a sales tax (Alberta is the only province not to have one) and adjusting income taxes. But what about those oil companies? This might also be an ideal time to consider how the province can receive a bigger piece of the oil revenue when prices do bounce back. The prep work should start now.

When oil prices boom, provincial economies dependent on those boom times have to be able to take advantage of skyrocketing prices. This is one way to build a rainy-day fund that can help through the tough times.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis has hinted that everything needs to be considered - both revenues and expenditures - in confronting this province's ballooning deficit. The key here is not to panic. Panic results in poor decisions.

Canadians should demand a tax conversation at the federal level, including a hard look at how tax cuts to the wealthiest in Canada are now being paid for through deficit-financing.
Taxes are all about values. They are how we build a better society. Let's have a conversation about that. - David Sirota comments on the disastrous effect of the U.S.' regressive tax system. And Szu Ping Chan reports on Mark Carney's observation that the tech companies who are rendering substantial classes of workers obsolete should be paying a larger share.

- Andrew Jackson compares the respective merits of meaningful industrial policy as opposed to indiscriminate corporate tax slashing:
The Harper government has proudly put corporate tax cuts at the very heart of its so-called growth and jobs agenda. Since taking power in 2006, they have cut the general federal corporate tax rate from 22.1% to 15%. According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, each one point reduction costs $1.85 Billion in lost annual revenues, so the total annual cost is some $12 billion.

Corporate tax cuts certainly boost after tax corporate profits, but have had a negligible impact to date on actual business investment in machinery and equipment and in intellectual property which are the key building blocks of our future prosperity. The latest national accounts data show that real business spending in these vital areas has been flat for the past three years, and remains below the pre-recession level, both in dollar terms and as a share of the economy.
(G)overnment funds are (shock) being invested as equity in specific areas of the economy such as high tech, IT and health care where start-up capital is much more scarce than in the United States.

Progressive economists see these interventions as broadly justified and cost effective given market failures which limit the willingness of the private sector to undertake or finance risky but potentially highly productive investments. The federal government's own advisory panel on the funding of innovation led by Tom Jenkins recommended more targeted and strategic interventions.

This begs the question of how much money should be funnelled to the private sector through costly across the board tax cuts as opposed to more targeted programs. The fact that even the Harper government has retained and even expanded some strategic interventions strongly suggests that they are needed. - Meanwhile, David Parkinson, Richard Blackwell and Iain Marlow write that no matter how low interest rates are pushed, we can't expect the global economy to begin any sustained recovery until governments get out of austerity mode. And Nadia Alexan discusses some of the more productive options we could be pursuing to turn concentrated wealth into social and economic development.

- Finally, Bruce Anderson observes that the Cons' choice to fund self-promotion rather than anything which could actually benefit Canada's people serves as a compelling indicator of a government that's completely lost its way.

That Grievance Mentality

Northern Reflections - Sat, 01/24/2015 - 06:38


Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address this week. Here are a few highlights:

  • We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions.”
  • “We still need … a higher minimum wage.”
  • “Free community college is possible.”
  • “Let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.”
  • “Let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top 1 per cent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth.”
  • “No challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”

Jeffrey Simpson writes:

Could any Canadian imagine Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying such things? If Mr. Harper were a U.S. legislator, he would have been sitting in the House of Representatives chamber with the sullen-looking Republicans. The Republicans might have chosen Senator or Congressman Harper to deliver their critical reply to the President’s address.
The speech made clear just how much distance there is between Harper and Obama. I suspect that Obama really has little use for Harper -- a suspicion that is bolstered by Harper's cancellation of the Three Amigos Conference:

With political optics defining almost everything in Ottawa, the Harper government dreaded a late-February meeting in Canada featuring Mr. Harper, Mr. Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Planning had been proceeding until the Harper government abruptly announced it was pushing back the meeting until some unspecified later date.
What Ottawa dreaded was the public airing, on Canadian soil, of disputes over Keystone XL and Canadian visa requirements on Mexicans. This would not have looked good, since it would have underscored how clumsily the Harper government has played both files.
What has sent Canadian-American relations south, Simpson writes, is Harper's "grievance mentality:"
A grievance mentality has settled over the Harper government because of Keystone XL, which Mr. Obama obviously opposes, although no final decision has been rendered.
The grievance mentality is deepened by the sense that the Americans have given nothing in return for Canadian participation in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the venue Canada provided for the U.S.-Cuba talks. Things have improved a bit, but they got so bad a while ago that the U.S. ambassador to Canada had to get Prime Minister’s Office’s approval for meetings with cabinet ministers.
That grievance mentality, however, does not confine itself to Canadian-American relations. It defines everything Stephen Harper does. It shows through in his dealings with Parliament, with the provinces, with evironmental groups -- with anyone who opposes his agenda.
Harper came into politics with a chip on his shoulder -- a chip which has only grown bigger over the years. The man is the walking definition of  "grievance mentality."

Stephen Harper's Image Problem and the Con's Secret Weapon

Montreal Simon - Sat, 01/24/2015 - 05:01

Well as you can imagine, Stephen Harper is having a little trouble with his image these days.

He can't pose as a Great Economist Leader anymore, not with the disastrous state of the economy.

And although he is still trying to portray himself as a Great Strong Leader, as I pointed yesterday. 

He knows that image is fatally flawed...
Read more »

Stephen Harper and the Neoliberal Conspiracy

Montreal Simon - Sat, 01/24/2015 - 02:09

If you ever wonder how we could end up living in a world where the richest 80 people on Earth are now as wealthy as the 3.5 billion poorest people.

Or wonder why the top ten percent in Canada are wealthier than the rest of us.

Or wonder how the sinister ideologue Stephen Harper has managed to change this country so much.

Here's an excerpt from Donald Gutstein's excellent new book: Harperism: How Stephen Harper and his Think Tank Colleagues Have Transformed Canada.

And welcome to Steve's World and the neoliberal conspiracy. 
Read more »

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 19:40
I Mother Earth - Used to be Alright

The Barbarism of Saudi Arabia and the Grotesque Hypocrisy of Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 16:00

There couldn't be a more hypocritical or nauseating spectacle, the old king of the brutish terrorist kingdom of Saudi Arabia dies.

And western leaders fall over themselves praising him. With Britain's David Cameron even ordering that flags be flown at half-mast. 

While our disgusting Prime Minister Stephen Harper blubbers sympathetically. 
Read more »

A monster dies and the world mourns

Dawg's Blawg - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 13:50
A foul despot has just passed on, and the Western world is singing his praises. Speak no ill of the dead? There are always exceptions to that rule. And King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, one might have thought,... Dr.Dawg

Said the Man With the 145-Foot Yacht

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 10:04

He made his billions in real estate but Jeff Greene could have had a great career in stand-up.

Greene's private jet was one of 1,700 that conveyed the rich and powerful to the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos now underway.

In an interview with Bloomberg, the real estate entrepreneur, 60, with an estimated wealth of $3 billion said Americans have too high expectations of how their lives should be.

"America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence," he said.

"We need to reinvent our whole system of life."

Greene, who is on the Forbes 400 list, lives in Palm Beach, Florida, where he founded Florida Sunshine Investments, but also owns a string of luxurious properties across the US.

He added: "I’m remarkably long for my level of pessimism.

"Our economy is in deep trouble. We need to be honest with ourselves. We’ve had a realistic level of job destruction, and those jobs aren’t coming back."

"A realistic level of job destruction" indeed.  Of course it's hard to tell just what that means to a guy who raked in billions by gaming the sub-prime mortgage markets.  I expect the world looks a lot different when you're on the top perch of the vaunted 1%.  

It's Three Minutes to Midnight

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 09:40
The Cold War relic, the Doomsday Clock, has been moved two minutes and is now set at three minutes to midnight.

"Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernisation of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity,” said Kennette Benedict, executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in Chicago, the group of scientists which set the clock.

Although the clock is essentially a barometer, it is set by a team that includes 17 Nobel Prize winners and is taken extremely seriously.

The committee pointed out that greenhouse gas emissions have soared by 50 per cent since 1990, while more than £660bn of investment floods into fossil fuel infrastructure every year.

“The resulting climate change will harm millions of people and will threaten many key ecological systems on which civilisation relies. This threat looms over all of humanity,” said committee member Richard Somerville.

The report also raised considerable concerns about nuclear weapons.
“Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a cautious optimism about the ability of nuclear weapon states to keep the nuclear arms race in check and to walk back slowly from the precipice of nuclear destruction,” said Sharon Squassoni, a member of the clock committee.

“That optimism has essentially evaporated in the face of two trends: sweeping nuclear weapon modernisation programmes and a disarmament machinery that has ground to a halt,” she added.

The last time the clock read three minutes to midnight was in 1983 when “US-Soviet relations were at their iciest” according to the bulletin.

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 06:47
Assorted content to end your week.

- Crawford Kilian writes that growing inequality has been largely the product of deliberate engineering rather than any natural process, while Paul Krugman focuses on the preferential treatment of capital income in particular. And Simon Barrow discusses the sources and beneficiaries of the increasing wealth gap:
(T)he anti-change interests arrayed against any attempt to substantially reform global finance, block the privileging of huge corporate interests (TTIP being a prime example), ensure labour rights, address income and wealth gaps, stop tax evasion and tax dodging by the wealthiest on an industrial scale, legally enshrine transparency for governments and companies, guarantee public services become and remain public, end carbon subsidies, invest in a green future, abolish wasteful and immoral spending on WMDs, adopt redistributive fiscal and monetary policies, bail out debt slaves rather than debt enforcers, achieve a universal financial transaction tax – and many other policies that genuinely reverse inequality – are enormous, deep, entrenched and persistent.

For example, UK governments say, "we're all in this together", but pursue policies that have allowed income and wealth gaps to widen and foodbanks to proliferate. When criticism is issued and well-documented evidence proffered, they are swift to denounce it as "out of touch" and "factually incorrect". Beneath accommodating rhetoric about "hard working families" and "fairness" lies a continuing denial of the harsh realities of poverty and inequality by many of those in power.
It is also fashionable right now to say that inequality harms the wealthy as well as the poor, degrades social bonds, "inhibits growth" (of what kind?) and so on. This is true to a significant extent. But it hurts its victims much more: let's not forget this in an "it's still all about us" rush to avoid the conflict underling [sic] the gulf in wealth. For the simple reality is that inequality would not persist if it did not benefit those at the top of the economic ladder extravagantly. Which it does, as Oxfam's research (albeit nuanced by a closer look at the statistics from Channel 4) shows. Sure, the real damage caused by the gap between the haves and the have nots or have-much-lesses comes back to visit us all. But at that point the elites devise and popularise scapegoating mechanisms to evade far-reaching responsibility themselves.- Meanwhile, Kaja Whitehouse takes a first look at how Uber - one of the leading examples of the "on-demand" economy - is exacerbating the pattern by driving down the income of its drivers.

- All of which leads to Guy Standing's proposal for a Precariat Charter to recognize the needs of a class which is otherwise excluded (in practice if not in theory) from political decision-making.

- Finally, Doug Cuthand reminds us of Canada's sad history of racism against First Nations. And Joe Friesen reports on just one example of continued systematic exclusion, as Canada's economic data is skewed by a deliberate choice to ignore people on First Nations reserves.

Going To War In His Armchair

Northern Reflections - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 06:21


Stephen Harper told us that there would be no boots on the ground. It turns out there are, and they're on the front lines. Michael Harris writes:

At some point, a Canadian soldier is going to be captured or killed in action. The prime minister will hold a sorrowful press conference — without taking any questions. The emotional dividend from these inevitable events will be used by his hawkish administration to justify a more “robust” response — i.e. more boots on the ground to protect our forces. And so on … until it’s Afghanistan Redux.
Those of us with longer memories might call it Vietnam Redux:

This, of course, is exactly how the Americans eased their way into the war in Vietnam after the French were whipped. That initial helping hand to the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam turned into a military operation that dropped more bombs on North Vietnam than were dropped in the entire Second World War — and the Americans still lost.

It ended on April 29, 1975, with a desperate airlift of U.S. citizens from the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon, as the Viet Cong overran the city. It was a war that started with trainers and advisers. It ended with the deaths of more than fifty thousand U.S. soldiers — and 3.8 million Vietnamese. So forgive me if the “trainer” explanation rings a little hollow.
And, if anyone in the Harper government actually read history, they might have paid attention to the Russian experience in Afghanistan:

Before the Americans showed up with their army, the Russians were the occupiers. They tried to force changes on an ancient society which didn’t see the world through western eyes. The result was a bitter war that the Russians lost to an alliance of local forces — including the Mujahideen, which gave the world the CIA’s most famous trainee: Osama Bin Laden.

It is instructive to read through the dispatches from Russian generals trying to tell Moscow it was losing the war. The Politburo ignored the warnings, wanting only good news from the front — the kind of news that reinforces the idea that the war is “working.”
But Mr. Harper is an armchair general. He knows nothing of war -- and nothing of history.

Stephen Harper and the Terrorist Trap

Montreal Simon - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 03:40

Well just I predicted, Stephen Harper is moving quickly to take political advantage of that skirmish between our special forces in Iraq, and a group of ISIS terrorists.

Using it to puff out his chest or his belly, and sound like a tough guy. 

"This is a robust mission, we're there to make those guys effective so they can take on the Islamic State and deal with them," he said in response to a question from CBC News during an appearance in St. Catharines, Ont. 

 "If those guys fire at us, we're going to fire back and we're going to kill them, just like those guys did — and we're very proud of them."

And setting it up as a blunt weapon, or wedge issue, to use against the opposition.
Read more »

On Hiatus

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 00:19

Time to head back to our favourite island before it is infiltrated by the Americans.

See you in about a week.Recommend this Post

the shift

Sister Sages Musings - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 22:48


needs a fundamental shift

from linear





Towards a lateral






CBC Management Surrenders and Bans Paid Appearances

Montreal Simon - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 18:44

It's taken them long enough, and it never should have happened in the first place.

But the useless managers at the CBC have finally surrendered, and banned paid appearances. 
Read more »

I see what you did there

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 18:26
Let's face it: a broken Red Book promise, an ignored Kyoto Protocol commitment and zero policy action later, nobody would have had reason to believe any Lib policy promises on greenhouse gas emissions anyway. So why wouldn't Justin Trudeau try to spin continued neglect at the federal level as a feature rather than a bug?

Of course, anybody who actually wants to rein in climate change might recognize that an opt-in approach to a collective action problem is set up to fail. But apparently, "anybody who actually wants to rein in climate change" isn't in the Libs' pool of target voters.

CBC Folds, Finally. On-Air Talent Barred from Paid Speaking Gigs.

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 16:25
Was it Amanda Lang's excesses or the scolding Mother Corp got from the Guardian's George Monbiot?

In an email to CBC staff shared with, top management told reporters all staff must get approval to appear at conferences or to moderate debates or events. It also notes, “CBC/Radio-Canada will no longer approve paid appearances by its on-air journalistic employees.”

The news comes after a slew of controversies over stars at CBC taking money for speaking at events. From chief business correspondent Amanda Lang to chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge, the broadcaster has previously defended the practice as separate from their journalistic activities.


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