Posts from our progressive community

Well, There Goes Europe.

The Disaffected Lib - mar, 03/31/2015 - 10:46

Making sense of Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, was never easier.  It's all thanks to his revelation that Kim Kardashian is his 13th cousin.  Suddenly it all falls into place.

Just In Case You Haven't Figured Out How Dangerous and Senseless Our Air War on ISIS Really Is.

The Disaffected Lib - mar, 03/31/2015 - 10:38
For your reading pleasure and edification, we have links.

From the Georgia Straight, Gwynne Dyer explains why terrorism is overblown and why ISIS wants needs Stephen Harper to do exactly what he's so intent on doing.

From CounterPunch, Tufts University professor, Garry Leupp, on the senseless risks we run getting dragged into what's really a Sunni versus Shiite Holy War.

At The Week, Kevin B. Sullivan asks what is Saudi Arabia really up to in Yemen.

Another Route To Justice

Politics and its Discontents - mar, 03/31/2015 - 08:57

Those that follow such things will know that proving police brutality is very difficult. Absent video evidence, the police narrative usually is that the one claiming to have been brutalized was in fact the perpetrator, and charges of assault on police almost invariably result.

Such was the situation that Toni Farrell faced when she was viciously assaulted by OPP Sgt. Russell Watson in 2013, a situation I wrote about in January. Russell's 'crime'? She tried to help police find the three men who had viciously assaulted a woman.

Happily, the charge that she assaulted Watson was tossed out by Ontario Court Justice George Beatty, who ruled that she was only being a Good Samaritan. The SIU chose not to investigate Watson, but relented when the story hit the media.

Knowing that if justice is to be achieved, she must pursue it herself, Farrell is suing Watson, the police force and the local police services board for close to $4 million.
Tonie Farrell, 48, “has sustained permanent and serious injuries including, but not limited to, a fractured leg, crushed knee, lost tooth, as well as bruising, spraining, straining and tearing of the muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves throughout her body including her neck and back,” alleges the statement of claim, filed in Newmarket Superior Court in January.

The OPP “knew or ought to have known that Sgt. Watson had a history of using excessive or unwarranted force but failed to take appropriate steps to address the issue,” the statement alleges. “It continued to employ Sgt. Watson when it knew or ought to have known that Sgt. Watson was a danger to the public.”Farrell's list of grievances is long:
Farrell is demanding $4 million in general, aggravated and punitive damages, and $100,000 in Charter of Rights and Freedoms damages. Her family members are each asking for $100,000 in damages.

The statement alleges Watson “is liable for the tort of battery,” saying he “owed a duty to the plaintiff . . . not to make harmful or offense (sic) physical contact with her in the absence of legal justification or authority.”

It also alleges that he wrongfully arrested Farrell, that he was “negligent in failing to carry out a reasonable investigation,” and was “actively involved” in the “malicious prosecution” of Farrell.

The statement of claim goes on to allege that Watson “caused and continued prosecution against the plaintiff in order to conceal or obfuscate his misconduct; he deliberately misstated the events in his notes in hopes of securing a conviction; he counseled fellow officers to misstate evidence to the court in order to secure a conviction.”If anyone is able to break through that thick 'blue wall' the police regularly hide behind, I suspect it will be Toni Farrell.Recommend this Post

Ethical Patriarchy

Dammit Janet - mar, 03/31/2015 - 08:38
From LifeShite: Canadian Doctor Rallies Colleagues Against Tyrannical Attack on Conscience.

Dr. Martin Owen, a Calgary family doctor, has taken on the task of rousing his fellow practitioners to the danger posed to their integrity by policies being pushed by professional regulators in several provinces.

“My conscience is on the line,” Owen said in a chain e-letter. “If I lived in Ontario, I'd probably move my 7 children to another province so I could avoid the tyranny over my professional medical judgment and my conscience.”

Appalled by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons’ new requirement for all doctors, regardless of moral objections, to do or refer abortions,  Owen has launched a website,, with Ezra Levant just before the latter’s Sun News Network folded, and sent chain e-letters to colleagues asking them to vote in a “poorly worded” CBC poll about the issue. And as with a chain letter, he has asked his recipients to pass his message on to 10 colleagues.

“The time has come when doctors now need to fight for the right not to perform abortions, prescribe birth control, or refer patients for controversial procedures,” the email stated. The campaign, called Freedom of Conscience is backed by Campaign Life, evangelical church groups, and the Christian Heritage Party.

Beyond the clip at the site from Sun News (Feb. 4, 2015), it is not clear that Ezra Levant has any ongoing association with it.

I was curious about this Martin Owen, so looked him up on LinkedIn. Here's his summary.
Firstly, to be a witness to the transforming love of Jesus Christ in my marriage, fatherhood and medical practice. Secondly, to promote the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death by opening my self to be an instrument of Christ's healing power in the world. Thirdly, to bring unity to the international natural family planning community through education and healing of the past wounds, so as to be a sign to the world of Christ's promise to unite His flock.

That's not bad for a summary. Anyone want to help?
Owen is listed at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA), as "postgraduate trainee" from July 2010 to July 2012, and as "general registry" since August 2012. He claims also to be a member of College of Physicians & Surgeons of Ontario, but I couldn't find him in its registry.

So, he seems to be a relatively new doctor, though with seven children [!].

Things got quite a bit more interesting when I went looking for him on Twitter.

I found this fella.

Martin Owen is not a terribly unusual name, but the initial "G." corresponds to his CPSA listing. Also, how many medical doctors in Calgary named Martin Owen have seven children?

I've asked DocVemma twice if he is the same person associated with Freedom of Conscience and have had no response.

The Twitter profile page lists a website and, of course, people he's following. I scanned those 122 people.

There are body building and weight loss products, entrepreneurs for same and entrepreneurs in general, plus Dr. Oz, Tony Robbins, and Bill Gates. There are a few Christian and Catholic organizations and groups too.

Quite heavily weighted towards entrepreneurial pursuits of the health sort.

Lots of "Vemma" related accounts.

What is this Vemma the good doc is promoting so hard?

It is a nutrition company that sells "insanely healthy energy drinks" and weight-loss products through a pyramid scheme.

Vemma (/ˈviːmə/) Nutrition Company is a privately held multi-level marketing company that sells energy drinks, nutritional beverages and weight management products. The company, based in Tempe, Arizona, was founded in 2004 by Benson K., Lauren, and Karen Boreyko. In 2013, the company reported US$221 million in revenue. Most distributors are in their twenties. The company has been accused of being a pyramid scheme by U.S. media, business analysts, and former distributors, and was fined by the Italian government.
Some more about the company and its practices.

I don't doubt Owen's sincerity in objecting to "tyrannical" demands that he actually, you know, respect his patients' rights.

But I do doubt his judgement in getting involved in a pyramid scheme selling "nutritional" products. I wonder how hard he promotes these to his patients.

Previous DJ! posts on patient rights.
The CPSO consultation.

Christian Medical and Dental Society launches suit.

Meet a Christian OB/GYN.

The Generals are Talking - That's Rarely a Good Thing.

The Disaffected Lib - mar, 03/31/2015 - 08:37
The top brass is getting restive and they're looking for a bit of mass mayhem.

This might be news to you but Russia has an Academy of Geopolitical Problems. The president of the academy, Konstantin Sivkov, wears a uniform with the insignia of a three star general.

Comrade Sivkov thinks he has an answer to NATO's steady encroachment right up to Russia's doorstep - America's backyard - the San Andreas Fault and Yellowstone national park to be specific.  He thinks that all Russia has to do is pop a good size nuke into the fault and another into Yellowstone and America comes to an end.

"Geologists believe that the Yellowstone supervolcano could explode at any moment. There are signs of growing activity there. Therefore it suffices to push the relatively small, for example the impact of the munition megaton class to initiate an eruption. The consequences will be catastrophic for the United States - a country just disappears," he said.

"Another vulnerable area of ​​the United States from the geophysical point of view, is the San Andreas fault - 1300 kilometers between the Pacific and North American plates ... a detonation of a nuclear weapon there can trigger catastrophic events like a coast-scale tsunami which can completely destroy the infrastructure of the United States."

Meanwhile, US Navy Admiral, Harry Harris, is accusing China of building a second "Great Wall" of artificial islands in the South China Sea.  Harris, soon to head America's Pacific Command, says the island chain will threaten major shipping lanes.
"China is creating a great wall of sand with dredges and bulldozers over the course of months," said Admiral Harris, who is currently commander of the US Pacific Fleet.

"When one looks at China's pattern of provocative actions towards smaller claimant states, the lack of clarity on its sweeping nine-dash line claim that is inconsistent with international law, and the deep asymmetry between China's capabilities and those of its smaller neighbours – well, it's no surprise that the scope and pace of building man-made islands raises serious questions about Chinese intentions," he said.

China has repeatedly rejected regional concerns, saying the constructions are "necessarily" and are taking place on Chinese territory.
Just what Admiral Harris proposes to do about China's expansion into the South China Sea is a mystery.  But often these things begin with hard talk and then get a life of their own.

"Kinda pathetic" kinda totally right

The Winnipeg RAG Review - mar, 03/31/2015 - 08:30
Are you with us or are you with the TERRORISTS?!!

The mature reasoning of Elmwood-Transcona MP
Lawrence Toet.

Image Source
: Youtube
Seemed like there was quite a bit of March madness coming from the Conservative Party this year. Harper CON MP John Williamson made a comment about "brown people" and "whities" at the nexus of wingnuttery that is the Manning Centre Conference. Fellow Conservative MP Larry Miller told prospective Muslim immigrants to "stay the hell where you came from" if you want to wear niqabs at citizenship ceremonies.

Manitoba, unfortunately, was not free from this lunacy.

 With the farce that is Vic Toews gone from Federal politics other Manitoba MPs have had to step up their game. My own representative of Lawrence Toet seems a prime candidate for the next Toews.

Defending Bill C-51- a civil liberties crushing bill that would inspire mass protest across Canada (including here) - with the following push polling flyer:

Elmwood-Transcona MP and Harper CON
Lawrence Toet's question to constituents.

Image Source: Twitter/Curtis Brown

Residents of Elmwood-Transcona were, predictably, able to cut through this ridiculous bullshit.

Crap like this makes me hopeful for a day, possibly this year, when we citizens of Elmwood-Transcona rightly give this clown the boot.

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Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - mar, 03/31/2015 - 08:24
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Kevin Carson discusses David Graeber's insight into how privatization and deregulation in their present form represent the ultimate use of state power to serve special interests at the expense of the public:
What mainstream American political discourse calls “deregulation” is nothing of the sort. There is no major constituency for deregulation in the American political system — just competing (and in fact considerably overlapping) agendas on what regulatory mix to put in place. There is not, and could not, be such a thing as an “unregulated” bank, Graeber argues, because banks “are institutions to which the government has granted the power to create money.” By the nature of that power, they are creatures of the state, and any power they exercise is thus defined by a web of state regulations. So “deregulation” really just means “changing the regulatory structure in a way that I like.” A “deregulatory” regime, in reality, is the choice of a regulatory regime that produces results to one’s liking.
So-called “privatization,” for example, ranges from mere outsourcing of government functions (which continue to be taxpayer-funded) to private contractors, to the sale of government services to private corporations (after which they continue to exist in a dense web of government monopolies, protections and subsidies).

And where it takes place, such “deregulation” and “privatization,” far from involving a reduction of government power, typically involves the unlimited exercise of government power over a population which has been rendered prostrate by war or bankruptcy (Naomi Klein’s “disaster capitalism,” or — in Rahm Emanuel’s words — never letting a good crisis go to waste).  - And Paul Hanley writes that Saskatchewan's pursuit of fossil fuels rather than renewable energy likewise represents a deliberate choice to favour only a few privileged industries at the expense of our economy and environment alike.

- Christopher Wanjek reports on new research showing a connection between family income and children's brain development. But while poverty and inequality may create both physical and metaphorical barriers to education, we shouldn't pretend that school alone will solve broader social problems - as Matthew Yglesias notes that people living with poverty today do so with far more education than a few decades ago.

- Stephen Hume writes that Stephen Harper's exclusionism has given bigots a free pass to start attacking minorities without any risk of consequences. And Charlie Smith points out Gwynne Dyer's observation that a policy and practice of declaring war against large groups of people is exactly what actual extremists want to see.

- Finally, Craig Forcese and Kent Roach's site on C-51 now includes an annotated version of the Cons' terror bill with witness comments. Peter O'Neil reports on Hasan Cavusoglu's research showing that even minor errors in an expanded and unaccountable surveillance apparatus could pose a serious threat to innocent Canadians. Tonda MacCharles reminds us that CSIS - which stands to be granted massive and practically unreviewable power - has been highly unreliable in answering for its past activities, while Alex Boutilier exposes the range of peaceful protests which are already facing surveillance and disruption. And Tim Naumetz reports that the Cons themselves have decided that C-51 is not intended to provide any oversight whatsoever (for the purpose of ruling any amendments which might help matters out of order).

Don't Call It The Conservative Party

Northern Reflections - mar, 03/31/2015 - 06:30

In Canada, Conservatism means Confrontation. It's not about respect for institutions or the rule of law. It's not about wise economic management. It's about focusing on "the other" and destroying him or her. Lawrence Martin writes:

It’s not just Mr. Harper who equates conservatism with confrontation. There’s his new Defence Minister. Many commentators, myself included, have written flatteringly about Jason Kenney over the years; super smart, tireless worker, more inclined to fact than fiction. But more recently, he has come across as a gaffe-prone grandstander. His office has made unsubstantiated charges about Russia confronting Canadian warships in the Black Sea. He tweeted a photo purporting to show Muslim women in slavery that proved to be nothing of the sort. He wrongly accused the NDP of opposing every overseas military deployment in Canadian history. He also got his facts wrong about the Liberal record on defence spending.
There are yahoos in the party -- Larry Miller comes to mind -- who have no clue about the meaning of the word the party takes for its logo. But there are others -- like Chris Alexander -- who you would expect would not throw words about carelessly:

Mr. Alexander has had experience as a diplomat – in Afghanistan, no less. But you’d never know it. Last week, he listed the hijab as a face covering that has no place in the citizenship ceremony. The problem? It’s a head scarf, not normally used to cover the face. “Hey, before you send a race-baiting e-mail,” tweeted Liberal strategist Gerald Butts, “at least know the difference between a hijab and a niqab.”
Like the Cowboy from Etobicoke, the Conservative Party of Canada is a fraud. Call it the Confrontation Party. Call it the Know Nothing Party. Call it the Harper Party. But don't call it the Conservative Party.

Stephen Harper's Monstrous and Obscene Day of War

Montreal Simon - mar, 03/31/2015 - 04:53

It couldn't have been a more deeply disturbing sight. A pumped up Stephen Harper soaking up the applause of his wildly clapping and cheering Cons.

With a weird smile on his face.

Even as he prepared to vote to send our troops into a bigger and more dangerous war. 
Read more »

Featured Today at the Dawgtion: Mont Tremblant Ski Package!

Dawg's Blawg - mar, 03/31/2015 - 04:00
Lot 2: Hit the slopes at Mont Tremblant AND support the Dawg - does it get any better than that? (The answer, btw, is no.) This special Dawg-sized Ski package includes: - 1-day adult ticket - 25% off ski rental... Balbulican

Why are the Generals Covering Up For Jason Kenney?

Montreal Simon - mar, 03/31/2015 - 00:27

The only thing more disturbing than having an incompetent Cold War chickenhawk like Jason Kenney posing as a Defence Minister, and lying like a thief. Over and over again.

Is having Canada's top general, running behind him with a shovel.

To scoop up his manure, or as David Pugliese writes, dig him out of a bomb crater of his own making. 
Read more »

#prgrs15 Wrapup

accidentaldeliberations - lun, 03/30/2015 - 16:23
As readers may have noticed in my earlier posts, I had the opportunity to attend the Broadbent Institute's Progress Summit 2015. And as a whole, the summit was well worth attending, featuring a wide range of interesting speakers and topics, a strong turnout including plenty of people whose work is influencing my own blogging, and a well-designed schedule which packed plenty into just a few days. (On that front, the contrast to a convention which needs to fit in formal party business was striking - though there's still something to be said for being able to have direct and official input into elections and policy resolutions.)

That said, there were a couple of related points which I'd think might be worth considering for future events if they weren't already taken into account.

One of the weekend's headline events was the Great Budget Debate which more than lived up to its billing. But it was nonetheless jarring to see a progressive institution hand over half of its central talk on the economy to a laissez-faire position which is grossly overrepresented in nearly every other forum. And while it was a plus to see the right have to deal with a skeptical crowd for a change, I'd wonder whether there was an opportunity to debate economics from different progressive perspectives - e.g. discussing the relative merits of universality vs. targeted programs or balancing budgets in nominal terms vs. keeping debt to a set proportion of GDP from within the progressive movement itself.

And those types of discussions as to the relative merits of views which could be seen as progressive were relatively sparse in the panels as well, which (at least from my impression) were more diverse in voices than in positions.

Now, it could be that the event's planners were looking primarily to build progressive unity, making it useful to present a few obvious foils while otherwise focusing on points of agreement rather than dispute. But if there's anything I'd change for future summits, it would be some added effort to start conversations which may encourage more debate within the progressive movement as to the best means to pursue even as they serve to highlight the shared end of a stronger and more equal society.

what i'm reading: three books by richard ford

we move to canada - lun, 03/30/2015 - 14:00
I've been meaning to read Richard Ford for years - actually, for decades. Both the 1986 novel The Sportswriter and 1995's follow-up Independence Day have been languishing on The List since they were published. When Canada came out in 2012, and reviews made me want to read it, it was time to dig up those earlier titles and finally discover Ford. I recently put all three titles on hold in my library, and read them in order of publication. (An aside: there was only one copy of The Sportswriter in our system, so my borrowing it probably saved that book's life for a time. At least for a while, it won't show up on any dead lists and be weeded.)

Ford writes the kinds of novels that are all but impossible to make into a movie and defy description in terms of plot. Readers who need page-turning action would be bored to tears. But readers who love keen perceptions of human desires, thoughts, and motivations, and who value precise and elegant language, with the occasional touch of subtle humour, may want to discover this writer, too. 
Richard Ford's writing is highly reminiscent of Saul Bellow's. Bellow was one of the greatest explorers of "the human condition," as it is often called in literary criticism - the Big Questions, the existential longings, the search for meaning and authenticity, the burden of being conscious of our mortality. Ford mines similar territory, plumbing the depths of thinking people who are contemplating their own existence.
The two early novels, both featuring the character Frank Bascombe, are almost entirely internal monologue. Even the more recent Canada, which features a more recognizable plot, is told rather than shown, so the plot elements take a backseat to the thoughts and feelings of the narrator.
Canada adds to the existential crisis a contemplation of the powerless of childhood, and by extension, all of our lives. We meet people who are living the wrong life, so to speak, traveling down a path begun by one wrongheaded decision, but seemingly powerless to choose another path.
Ford's work is full of richly drawn characters, sad lives, and missed opportunities - and also of enduring love and friendship, if sometimes only glimpsed for a moment in a rearview mirror. The writing is always measured, sometimes wry, never melodramatic. These are quiet books, not to everyone's taste, but beautiful in many ways, and worth reading.

Are We Allied with Sunni Arab States Intent on Wiping Out Shiites?

The Disaffected Lib - lun, 03/30/2015 - 12:58
The United Nations would like a word with you.

It's about that hopelessly scrambled mess of an air war now underway in the Middle East from Iraq to Syria and, now, Yemen.  It's the Yemeni business, our Saudi ally's air war in particular, that the UN wants you to know about.

It seems the Saudi air force pilots have been bombing a refugee camp.  These are the Knights of the Air supposedly taking the fight to rebel Houthi forces except that they're not too fussy who gets blown up.

In the late morning, the Mazraq camp in northern Yemeni province of Hajja – close to the border with Saudi Arabia – was bombed.

It is the latest hit on a civilian target since a Saudi-led coalition of eight nations began a bombing campaign last Thursday aiming to displace the Iranian-backed Houthi rebel group from power.

The exact death toll is as yet unconfirmed, but the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is saying 45 people have been killed.

Issa, a resident of the camp, put the number of deaths at between 30-40.

Pablo Marco, Programme Manager for Middle East at Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF), told IRIN there were 29 dead on arrival and at least 34 injured in the hospital they run in the nearby town of Haradh.

What would you like to call it, collateral damage or just a mistake?  That question takes on a different colour when placed in the context of remarks made some time ago to Sir Richard Dearlove, the then head of Britain's MI6, by Saudi prince Bandar bin Sultan.
Prince Bandar told him: "The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them."
I think in anybody's books that's a pretty genocidal proclamation especially coming from a prominent Saudi prince and former fighter pilot.  It's one of those thoughts that sticks in your mind when you consider Saudi bombing strikes on Shia refugee camps.

Has Harperland Made Canada a Rogue State

The Disaffected Lib - lun, 03/30/2015 - 12:23
The Tyee's Crawford Kilian argues that Harper's Canada has become a rogue state.

Kilian disposes of the arguments of those, including several Liberals, who see a "moral imperative" in our air war against ISIS.

It's a very selective morality that attacks the Islamic State in Syria while not attacking Boko Haram in Nigeria, or Russia in Ukraine, and attacks no one at all to protect the millions slaughtered and raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Somalia, and other failing states.

The media and academic war pimps have generally fallen into line with Harper, while dutifully and objectively reporting the opposition's views far down the story. They have no truck with moral imperatives; they just want to speculate on how Justin Trudeau is handling this.

Legally, of course, Harper is jumping into the proverbial quagmire. Foreign Minister Jason Kenney on Tuesday said our current bombing of the Islamic State is at the invitation of the democratically elected Iraqi government. Then on Wednesday Kenney claimed the right of self-defence under the UN Charter's Article 51, which states:

'Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.'

The Security Council, of course, isn't authorizing air raids on Syria -- it's the member state under armed attack, not Canada. A U.N.-sanctioned war, in theory, is the only kind a U.N. member state should engage in. In practice, even those wars tend to end badly (remember Libya?).

...Harper and the Conservatives are peace babies, classic Bush-style chicken hawks. They've grown up with a volunteer-staffed Canadian Forces of around 70,000 active personnel -- roughly one Canadian in 500. Few of us are related to one of them.

...The way to sell a war, they found, was to brand it as an abstract struggle between good and evil somewhere far away. The casualties would be droves of foreign evildoers and a handful of heroes, who would get their pictures on the front page when they died. Those who came home merely screwed up or maimed could be safely forgotten.

This strategy got Bush re-elected, and his successor failed to indict him for war crimes (or to shut down Guantanamo). Stephen Harper must hope that a similar strategy will get him through a perilous spring and summer and then safely home with a second strong, stable, majority government.

How else could he sell himself to the voters? He's touted himself as the guardian of our economic interests, while running up our deficits and promising a balanced budget real soon now. As viceroy of the Oil Patch, he bet the country on exporting expensive oil, and now the Oil Patch is drowning in its own product. We get endless warnings about a housing bubble, job growth has been at record lows for over a year, and the available jobs are crappy part-time ones.

With no end in sight, the economic downturn would demolish Harper and the Conservatives in the next election. But with a sanitary, low-casualty, far-away war to distract people, and Bill C-51 to silence critics, he might just scare enough voters into giving him four more years of the same -- while also running up as big a deficit as he likes.

Meanwhile the Islamic State will be happy to cooperate, whether it inspires our mentally ill or sends its own terrorists. Each outrage will provoke more Canadian response, and damn the cost and the balanced budget. Muslim Canadians will serve the same purpose as the Japanese Canadians after Pearl Harbour: a convenient target for racist bigotry.

But it will all be just entertainment, something to watch on TV or tweet about. We'll ignore the fact that we've become a rogue state, flouting international law. We'll ignore the puzzled looks our allies give us; after all, we were among the key framers of that law after World War II.

Having bet the country on expensive oil and lost, Stephen Harper is now doubling down and betting it on an election-winning war. It's an enormous gamble, and he must know how easily it could blow up in his face. He must therefore also know how bad the economy really is, and how it will worsen by October. Sooner than face certain defeat, he prefers to gamble Canadian lives and honour on a far-away war.

Is Canada Going the Way of Greece?

The Disaffected Lib - lun, 03/30/2015 - 11:58
A report from PBS contends the Canadian economy is "headed off the cliff."

Vikram Mansharamani, a lecturer in the Program on Ethics, Politics & Economics at Yale University and a senior fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, is concerned about rising home prices and falling oil prices.

Canada is in the midst of an unprecedented housing boom that seems likely to bust. I was recently in Canada and noticed a schizophrenic oscillation between housing exuberance and oil-price despair. What did it mean for the Canadian economy’s outlook? Upon returning to the U.S., I did some research. What I found leads me to the conclusion that Canada is now among the most vulnerable large economies in the world. Here’s why.

First, household credit. The seemingly conservative Canadian population has been voraciously consuming debt at a breakneck pace. Total household debt (C$1.82 trillion) now exceeds GDP (C$1.6 trillion), approximately C$1.3 trillion of which was for residential mortgages. Further, household debt is now greater than 160 percent of disposable income – meaning it would take about 20 months for a family to pay off its debt if interest rates were 0 percent and they spent 100 percent of their disposable income to do so.

Second, housing prices. Home prices continue their basically uninterrupted rise that began in the mid-late 1990s. Unlike the United States real estate markets, which have corrected, Canadian prices continue to rise. Detached single-family homes in Toronto now average more than C$1 million and Vancouver is now deemed the second least affordable city in the world – thanks to Chinese buyers.

Third, crude oil. The impact of lower oil prices is rippling through the economy at breakneck speed. Since 2011, Alberta, the oil-rich home of the oil sands, was responsible for more than 50 percent of all jobs created in Canada. It has been the locomotive of job creation pulling Canada forward, but it is now in reverse. Employment growth has stopped in Alberta and is now shrinking.

Finally, craziness. Yup, not sure how to better categorize what I’m about to say. Here’s the situation, as told to me by Seth Daniels of JKD Capital, one of the most astute Canada-watchers I know. Daniels told me that there is now a booming private mortgage market in which ordinary citizens are borrowing from their home equity lines to lend money to desperate borrowers. Specifically, he noted “a homeowner acts as a subprime lender by drawing his home equity line at ~3%, and lends it to a subprime borrower at 8-12% for one year.”

I honestly didn’t believe him when he first mentioned this to me, but I then confirmed it myself. In fact, if you’re a Canadian and interested, here’s a sales pitch from one vendor. It’s only a matter of time before this shadow mortgage banking market slows, and the ramifications are likely to be enormous as defaults skyrocket, housing prices plummet, and consumer spending rapidly slows.

Net net, the ending of the Canadian credit binge, combined with an oil-driven economic slowdown, is likely to crush consumer sentiment. In this Looney Tune, it seems our Crazy Canadian Coyote has run off the cliff, his feet are still moving, but he has yet to look down. He’s suspended in air, and it’s only a matter of time until gravity exerts its force.
Unfortunately Mansharamani doesn't offer any suggestions about reforms our governments can implement to fend off collapse.  Nothing at all.

Struggling with the Big Dilemmas. . . .

kirbycairo - lun, 03/30/2015 - 11:29
Just before Christmas I stopped painting and have not really been able to go back to it. Perhaps it is something like a midlife crisis, I don't know, but over the past few months I have struggled to do anything productive. In the face of what seems like a existential crisis, I began to write again. I haven't written much since I finished the draft for my book on Mary Mitford which is now in the hands of my daughter as she attempts to complete it to a finished version. I started writing about art and aesthetics but that slowly turned to directly personal issues concerning the various artistic, political, and philosophical dilemmas that have haunted me all my life. I have psychologically relived the strange events that led to my commitment to largely disengage from most of the traditional aspirations of life. I won't go into the specifics of this philosophical decision because, for one, I am writing about them, and for another, they are too troubling and off colour for this blog. But the struggle itself can be expressed this way - Imagine that you are in some past society/empire. Let's say for the sake of argument you find yourself in the Aztec empire in Mexico at the height of its power in the 1400s. But unlike most of those around you, you reject pretty much all the cornerstones of your society. You don't believe in Sun worship, you don't believe in the aristocratic structure, you reject their slavery and their militarism, and you don't believe in the gender relations. What does one do in this situation? This is what I more or less have experienced in my own society. I don't believe in the major religions of our society, I reject capitalism, I don't believe in competition or organized sports, I reject the hierarchy of the education system, I reject much of the institutional structures of modern science and the technical-rational ideology that motivates it, I totally reject the militarism of our society, and I reject the gender inequalities that I see around me and to which my daughters will be subjected. In the face of all of this, I have spent much of my life disengaged from the ambitions and desires of those around me. I did a master's degree but I couldn't bring myself to stay in academia because I didn't believe in the hierarchy of the university system. As a white male, I rejected a great deal of career notions because I don't want to be another white male seeking worldly success when the gender inequalities demand that men step back from many ambitions so that we don't just perpetuate these inequalities. This is the reason that when I was in university I eventually began to consciously stay quite in many situations. As a white male, I had been trained from youth to speak up in almost any situation, and I eventually began to realize that women and racialized people had been more or less trained to be more reticent. I didn't want to perpetuate those relations. (I admit that I wasn't always successful in this effort, but I tried and continue to try). The upshot of all of this is that, right or wrong, I have lived outside of much of the traditional efforts of society. I have stood up for things that I believe are right and have sometimes been an activists, but I admit that in the light of the forces gathered against different beliefs, I have often hidden myself away from a society from which I feel so alienated. I might be indicted for not doing enough to change a society that I so thoroughly rejected. Perhaps, as the English would say, 'It's a fair cop.' But this has been my survival mechanism. Now that I have turned 50, I feel disheartened and troubled by my life-choices but feel that I have made the only choices that I could. Other dilemmas have also been part of my explorations, such as my conflicting philosophical beliefs. When I was still young I studied buddhism and meditation at the Naropa Institute (Now Naropa University). And even here I have always been conflicted. I understand the goals of Buddhism's core beliefs of peacefulness of mind, but I have also felt that passion, and sometimes anger can play a central role in creativity. Buddhism looks for a transcendence from suffering, but I think pain and suffering can be a central part of life and an essential part of experience. I have studied philosophy (Buddhist and Western as well) but have found no way out of these dilemmas.

My conflicts continue. Perhaps by writing about them I will find some answers. I don't know. I guess everyone has to find their own way through such dilemmas in life.

Featured Today at the Dawgtion: "Emergency Measures", Autographed First Edition

Dawg's Blawg - lun, 03/30/2015 - 09:00
Lot 1: “Emergency Measures” (Sono Nis, 1976). “‘Emergency Measures’ establishes John Baglow as one of the few North American poets with vision, intelligence, wit, linguistic equipment and technical competence to command serious reading and response anywhere on Earth. In... Balbulican

Deliver Us From Evil

The Disaffected Lib - lun, 03/30/2015 - 08:46
Why do we tolerate Saudi Arabia when the kingdom, and its Sunni state allies, seems determined to deliver Yemen into the control of ISIS and al Qaeda?

Gwynne Dyer writes that, while we wage an air war against ISIS, the Saudis are undermining our effort with their war on the Yemeni Houthi.

They’ve all shown up for this war. Saudi Arabia and the other monarchies of the Arab world (Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and even Morocco) have all committed aircraft to bombing Yemen. Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Pakistan have offered to send ground troops. And the United States (which just pulled the last American troops out of Yemen) promises to provide “logistical and intelligence support.”

In practice, however, this coalition of Sunni Arabs and Americans is unlikely to commit large numbers of ground troops to Yemen: the country has been the graveyard of foreign armies from the Romans to the Ottomans. But if they don’t do that, the (entirely unintended) result of their bombing may be to facilitate the take-over of most of Yemen by al-Qaeda and/or ISIS

Sunni paranoia about the rise of Shia power has its roots in the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. So long as the Sunni minority ruled Iraq, it limited the influence of Iran, the paramount Shia power, in the Arab world. With the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the destruction of Sunni supremacy in Iraq, Iran’s power automatically soared – and so did its influence in Shia parts of the Arab world.

Iran didn’t have to do anything particularly aggressive for paranoia to take off in the Sunni countries of the Gulf. Of the 140 million citizens of countries that border on the Persian/Arabian Gulf, about two-thirds are Shias. With a Shia-dominated government in Baghdad, Saudi Arabia and the smaller Sunni Arab monarchies felt terribly exposed and began to see Shia plots everywhere.

...The “coalition” is now bombing the Houthis all over the country. How intensively and how accurately remains to be seen, but if they really succeed in breaking the Houthi grip on central and southern Yemen, they will create a power vacuum that will NOT be filled by the “legitimate” president of Yemen, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, whom they are allegedly trying to restore to power.

Hadi’s forces have utterly disintegrated, and Houthi fighters now occupy the temporary capital that he established in his home city, Aden. (The real capital, Sanaa, has been in Houthi hands since September.) Hadi left Aden by boat on Tuesday, which suggests that he has left the country entirely – unless he plans to create another provisional capital on, say, the island of Socotra.

So if the coalition bombs the Houthis out of Aden, but does not commit ground troops of its own, the real winners will be the al-Qaeda forces that wait just outside the city. Much the same goes for Taiz, the third city, and even for Sanaa itself: it is al-Qaeda or ISIS jihadis who stand to profit most from a Houthi retreat.

Perfect, Mr. Harper.  Just what in hell have you gotten us stuck into?  One thing is sure, if you really do intend to "defeat ISIS" as your supposed defence minister claims, you're going to need a lot more than a sixpack of CF-18s.  And don't forget to bring your chequebook.


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