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May This Day Never Come

Politics and its Discontents - sam, 06/25/2016 - 06:45
I pray we never get to the day when scenes like the following become so commonplace that we regard them with only the passing interest we might today express in a rocket launch, and not the shock, awe and humbling that they undoubtedly merit:



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Brain Damaged

Northern Reflections - sam, 06/25/2016 - 05:20

 The Harperites have never liked the courts or judges. Michael Harris writes:

Remember Stephen Harper’s attack on Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin — the one that had her squirmin’ in her ermine? And then there was Dean Del Mastro’s assertion that his guilty verdict on four counts of electoral fraud was only Judge Lisa Cameron’s “opinion.”

The CPC crew has always been happiest being judge in its own cause. It treated the judiciary like interfering busybodies good only for rubber-stamping the government’s agenda, constitutional or otherwise.

So on one level, it’s no surprise to see the Harper appointees who control the Standing Committee on Internal Economy returning at warp speed to a scandal that’s a political shade of kryptonite. They are once again in full-throated pursuit of Senator Mike Duffy for — you guessed it — disputed expense money. Nearly $17,000.
The problem is that Justice Charles Vaillancourt found Duffy's expenses allowable under Senate rules -- something Duffy's lawyer, Donald Bayne, has reiterated:

Bayne points out that this amounts to challenging and attacking Justice Vaillancourt’s finding of facts on those very same impugned expense matters now being regurgitated by the Senate. As Bayne reminds the Clerk of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy in a hand-delivered letter dated June 22, “leading evidence which is inconsistent with findings made in the accused’s favour in a previous proceeding” is precluded from subsequent proceedings. “Thus Justice Vaillancourt’s positive factual findings about all of the impugned expense matters cannot be challenged, attacked or contradicted.”

Justice Vaillancourt had all the evidence available to arrive at his decision. There was no new evidence, as the Standing Committee on Internal Economy originally claimed in their June 8, 2016 letter to Duffy asking for repayment of $16,955 in ineligible expenses.
I have written earlier in this space that perseveration is a symptom of brain damage. One has to wonder if the Conservative caucus in the Senate is brain damaged.

 Image: quotesgram.com

Jason Kenney's Obscene Brexit Celebration

Montreal Simon - sam, 06/25/2016 - 04:48


As you know I've been complaining about how Jason Kenney seems to be everywhere these days. The MSM just can't get enough of him.

One moment he's on his burro preparing to head to Alberta to try to unite the right, and evict the NDP commies from power.

The next moment he's causing some scandal on Twitter.

As he was doing again yesterday.
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The Brexit Referendum and the Independence of Scotland

Montreal Simon - sam, 06/25/2016 - 02:30


I knew the LEAVE side was going to win the Brexit referendum hours before the polls closed.

When I heard that the poor who live in the Britain's rundown Council estates were turning out to vote in massive numbers.

And the reason I did is because if you have ever taken the train from London to Edinburgh, as I sometimes like to do.

Only about two hours after you leave the glittering prosperous capital, you enter a very different Britain.
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Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - ven, 06/24/2016 - 19:39
Pearson & Hirst - Endor

Donald Trump's Incredibly Idiot Day in Scotland

Montreal Simon - ven, 06/24/2016 - 16:55


In one of my last posts I tried to explain why most Scots hate Donald Trump so much.

And why so many are planning to protest his visit. 

And now that he has arrived in that country, there was more evidence that Trump just doesn't get it.

And why he is unfit to be President of the United States.
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Scotland Reacts

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 06/24/2016 - 12:33

Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced there'll be a second independence referendum in the wake of yesterday's Brexit vote.

Deep Breaths. The World Didn't End - Not Yet.

The Disaffected Lib - ven, 06/24/2016 - 12:11

If there was ever a time to revive the iconic 1939 poster it just could be now. Then, Britain faced Hitler, the Nazi horde and six sometimes terrifying years of world war. Now, Britain faces Brexit. That should lend a bit of perspective.

The simple fact is that today and for a while to come you'll find a lot more headless chickens running around than chicken heads. The unexpected always triggers panic and hyperbole among those taken by surprise.

As a general rule, the more vested one is in the status quo, the more traumatic the event. Those with least to lose can be less fearful, even welcoming of change. Societies rent by brutal austerity and soaring inequality can become societies primed for change sometimes bordering on upheaval. Out with the old, in with the new. Screw me? No, Screw You!!

Sure it's a spin of the wheel. Sure it's scary. The more cosseted the more fearful and angry. One Liberal pundit declared the Brexit vote a victory for the "economically illiterate, racists, nativists, anti-traders, separatists and isolationists" before proceeding to declare the sky fallen and British virginity deflowered. Oh well. I guess he missed the "Keep Calm" part.

Will the British vote herald the end of the European Union experiment? Possibly but not of itself, not entirely. The EU, as it is currently constituted, is rife with problems that present the precursor(s) of instability. It's like a sporting league that took on too many new franchises. It lost the old "natural" fit of the pre-expansion union. The centre weakened and populist movements, rightwing and left, rose across the union in poor states and strong.

Academics will have years of work ahead analyzing the vote, the fallout and the causes and blunders. All we have today is the usual "oh, crap" moment. This is the moment tradition cedes to Team Vanquished to moan and wail and spread recriminations and fear mongering and, true to form, that's exactly what they've done. It's so predictable.

Look, British army sappers are not deployed in the Chunnel setting demolition charges. I'm almost positive that the trains and the ferries and freighters that ply the cold waters above them are still carrying people and goods between the UK and Europe. Planes continue to fly.

Sure this is an upheaval event of some sort, duration and impact unknown and, for now, unknowable. It's great stuff for those into casting bones and reading entrails. The thing to remember is that Brexit is just part of an increasingly dysfunctional world that is entering upheaval or on the cusp.

Our old and once comfortable modes of organization - political, social, economic, even environmental, the lot - have been in decline for years and are reaching marginal utility.

Over a decade ago, John Ralston Saul quite convincingly proclaimed the collapse of globalism. He wrote that the neoliberal experiment had failed miserably yet we would remain in its hold until our leaders came to their senses and introduced the next great thing. In recent months even the very temple of neoliberalism, the International Monetary Fund, admitted its failure. There are some who argue, plausibly, that the Brexit vote was an angry response to neoliberalism, one that may soon spread.

Is upheaval inevitable? Sure it is. I was reminded of this yesterday when I received the annual "heads up" email from the highly respected, scientific NGO, Global Footprint Network announcing Earth Overshoot Day 2016 will fall on August 8th. That means that humanity's voracious appetite for renewable resources is outpacing the Earth's capacity to replace them faster each year. From August 8 we will be in a state of Overshoot, meaning we will be consuming our planet's dwindling reserves of renewables - air, water, biomass. When I first learned of GFN six or seven years ago, Overshoot Day fell in mid to late October. Now it's the beginning of August. See where it's heading, how fast it's progressing? This is real Thelma and Louise stuff.

The 80s are over and they're not coming back. We're into a new era that will open with discontent, destabilization and upheaval - that we will ride out in some form if we're very lucky. This new reality isn't just a matter of politics and economics. It's also a function of physics, biology, botany, and climatology. Of course it's going to be different. How could it be remotely the same?

P.S. I'm taking a break for a while to do a couple of online courses and catch up on a mountain of overdue reading. I may stop by, from time to time, but it will be infrequent at best. Have a good summer.

Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - ven, 06/24/2016 - 08:21
Assorted content to end your week.

- In the wake of yesterday's Brexit vote, David Dayen points out how the failure of technocratic policy left many voters believing they had nothing to lose in abandoning the European Union. Dawn Foster highlights the role Conservative-driven austerity played on that front. And Owen Jones comments on what comes next:
(W)hile much of the blame must be attributed to Cameron, far greater social forces are at play. From Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders, from Syriza in Greece to Podemos in Spain, from the Austrian far-right to the rise of the Scottish independence movement, this is an era of seething resentment against elites. That frustration is spilling out in all sorts of directions: new left movements, civic nationalism, anti-immigrant populism.

Many of the nearly half of the British people who voted remain now feel scared and angry, ready to lash out at their fellow citizens. But this will make things worse. Many of the leavers already felt marginalised, ignored and hated. The contempt – and sometimes snobbery – now being shown about leavers on social media was already felt by these communities, and contributed to this verdict. Millions of Britons feel that a metropolitan elite rules the roost which not only doesn’t understand their values and lives, but actively hates them. If Britain is to have a future, this escalating culture war has to be stopped. The people of Britain have spoken. That is democracy, and we now have to make the country’s verdict work.

If the left has a future in Britain, it must confront its own cultural and political disconnect with the lives and communities of working-class people. It must prepare for how it responds to a renewed offensive by an ascendant Tory right. On the continent, movements championing a more democratic and just Europe are more important than ever. None of this is easy – but it is necessary. Grieve now if you must, but prepare for the great challenges ahead.- Steve Burgess discusses the difficulty in placing strong views on free trade at any single point on the political spectrum. And Branko Milanovic discusses the different underlying issues giving rise to populist movements around the globe.

- The Associated Press reports on the IMF's recommendation that the U.S. catch up to the world on minimum wage, social benefits and tax policy.

- Charles Mandel writes about Canada's failing fisheries. And Jason MacLean notes that our environmental laws as a whole need to be brought back up to par following their gutting by the Cons.

- Finally, Alex Boutilier reports on Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien's rightful concerns that Canadian privacy law is also decades out of date.

Britex implications. . . .

kirbycairo - ven, 06/24/2016 - 07:15
Watching England vote to leave the European Union is a strange experience. It is one of those events which leave you dazed and confused but which may, a few years from now, prove to have huge implications of the future of Europe and the world in general.

Britex will have a significant impact on the lives of many British people who have chosen to make their homes on Continental Europe. If those who have decided to work or retire in other countries, like Spain or Germany, don't want to go back to Britain they will have to seek naturalization in their chosen nations. This may or not be a possibility, only time will tell.

But beyond the significant ways in which individual lives will obviously be impacted, the exit of Britain will also have bigger, more ominous, effects. This morning the Scots are already talking about another independence referendum because they voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU. There are also huge implications for Northern Ireland. The peace in NI was maintained in part because the EU allowed for an open boarder between it and the Republic of Ireland. The reintroduction of a hard boarder could easily reignite tensions and fighting in Northern Ireland, particularly given that they were another region that voted to remain in the EU.

Another important issue to consider is that Britex could spell the doom of the EU in general. The victory of those who have pushed for Britain to leave the EU will galvanize those in other countries who want to leave the Union. The EU is, at the moment, even less popular in France than it is in England, a rather ominous fact. The failure of the EU could have terrible implications for the peace and stability of Europe in general.

But one of the things that the vote yesterday reminded me of was the generational political split that we see happening in many places, North America included. The young people in Britain voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU. Young people everywhere seem to understand and embrace the need for greater cooperation, more regulation to control markets, and more open human and cultural integration. I have personally seen this generational split in people around me and it is noticeable and pronounced. In the US we have seen the amazing way that Bernie Sanders has brought young people into the political process, and this is good news for the future. But generational change can be a messy and disorienting business, and I can't help but think that the future of England and Europe in general looks rocky as an older generation, still steeped in an age of racism and Neo-Liberalism, seeks to hold on to its myths and power while a new generation comes up to redefine politics.

The split in American politics is as pronounced as that demonstrated by the Britex vote. Old white folks have demonstrated a shocking degree of support for messages of division, racial hatred, and misogynistic rhetoric. Politicians like Trump use those simmering feelings to bolster a rightwing populism that talks about a return to the "good old days." But younger, more culturally dynamic people know that much of the "good old days" were terrible and they are looking for a way forward that embraces some of the post war drive for greater equality and cooperation without the racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and gender inequality.

The Britex marks a moment in the battle for a new way forward. The battle was lost, but the fight will not go away because the ideas of those who voted to leave the EU are inexorably being replaced. The battle is slow but it's not going away.

Our Unfathomable Equanimity

Politics and its Discontents - ven, 06/24/2016 - 06:24

While the world convulses and gyrates over the results of the Brexit vote, I can't help but wonder why not even a scintilla of that passion can be brought to a much greater threat to our collective well-being: climate change. Star reader Judith Deutsch of Toronto ponders our unfathomable equanimity:

Re: Atmosphere hits grim milestone, June 14

Startling is the news and the lack of reaction about atmospheric CO2 concentration reaching 400 parts per million and the fact that “it will never fall below 400 ppm this year, nor the next, nor the next.” That means the inevitable commitment to an ice-free planet.

The climate record indicates that in the past sea level increased 3 to 5 metres in one century. It means that coastal cities and major agricultural areas will be inundated, much occurring this century.

There is oppressive and dangerous silence so that the public remains ignorant about the danger to human life. The human impacts are already daunting and profoundly unjust: 350 million people in India displaced by drought, 50 million people in Africa threatened by starvation this year because of drought.

There are other interacting factors, such as biofuels and speculation increasing the price of food, the World Bank subsidizing large dams that displace millions of farmers. Research and development of weapons receives 10 times the amount of subsidies as fighting climate change, with horrific new weapons threatening the world’s civilians, the real casualty of wars.

The proffered solutions are risible and serve more distraction, delay and deception: no timetables for emission reductions, no enforcement mechanisms, flawed market mechanisms that have proven to be grossly unjust and ineffectual in other regions, green subsidies only serving the affluent. There is studied avoidance of confronting the imperative to cut back: the biggest emitters are the military, the agro-industrial complex, international aviation and shipping.

The current political trajectory is beyond wonderland: at least Alice was able to observe the absurdity and wonder about it.
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The Con Media and the Cult of Jason Kenney

Montreal Simon - ven, 06/24/2016 - 05:06


As you may remember, when I last dropped in on the ghastly Con Jason Kenney he was busy consulting his shiny crystal ball.

And trying to decide whether to run for the leadership of the Harper Party, or leave Ottawa and try to unite the right in Alberta.

Well, it turns out the ball was wrong.
Read more »

For Good Or Ill

Northern Reflections - ven, 06/24/2016 - 04:12


Britain is out. Yesterday was momentous and there is no telling what the consequences will be. But, Andrew Nikiforuk writes, yesterday had everything to do with what he calls, "the misery of bigness:"

Years ago, the great Austrian economist Leopold Kohr argued that overwhelming evidence from science, culture and biology all pointed to one unending truth: things improve with an unending process of division.

The breakdown ensured that nothing ever got too big for its own britches or too unmanageable or unaccountable. Small things simply worked best. 

Kohr pegged part of the problem with bigness as "the law of diminishing sensitivity." The bigger a government or market or corporation got, the less sensitive it became to matters of the neighbourhood.

In the end bigness, just like any empire, concentrated power and delivered misery, corruption and waste.  
Kohr was an iconoclast whose

masterful and humorous work, The Breakdown of Nations, argued the root of most evil lies in big government and big institutions. Whenever power reached it, a critical mass, its wielders, no matter how nice or educated, tended to abuse it. Bigness not only allowed but invited the abuse.   

The only way to stop the cancer of bigness was to return to the modesty of smallness.

"If a society grows beyond its optimum size, its problems must eventually outrun the growth of those human faculties which are necessary for dealing with them," wrote Kohr.

The problem, he added, "is not to grow but to stop growing; the answer not union but division."

Yesterday the Brits put another nail in the coffin of globalization. Despite what its cheerleaders say, it's falling apart. The centre cannot hold -- for good or ill.



Scotland Prepares to Give Donald Trump a Rough Reception

Montreal Simon - ven, 06/24/2016 - 01:36


It's hard for me to imagine a more disturbing image. This file picture of Donald Trump screaming like a maniac at one of his two Scottish gold courses. With a piper beaming behind him.

And in the background the grass covered dunes, that line the shore of the North Sea, that I used to play on when I was a boy.

It feels like a desecration. It's just too horrible. 

But the good news is that Trump is heading back to Scotland tomorrow, and he's going to get a very different kind of reception.
Read more »

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - jeu, 06/23/2016 - 08:29
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Oxfam points out the latest World Wealth Report showing that extreme inequality and wealth continue to grow around the globe. And AFP reports on the IMF's warnings that inequality and poverty represent significant dangers for the U.S. economy.

- Kim Moody writes about the state of the U.S.' working class, and notes that issues such as temporary and precarious employment are only part of the larger economic puzzle. And Robert Skidelsky makes the case that a basic income could address problems with both our current job market and our fraying social safety net.

- Shannon Daub discusses the connection between austerity and climate politics, as a starved public sector both forces people into survival mode in the short term and limits the resources available for a transition in the long run.

- Michael Wilshaw laments the continued disparity in educational outcomes based on wealth in the UK. And Sandy Garossino points out how private schools in Canada are subsidized with massive tax breaks, even as our public education system is under attack.

- Finally, HealthDay reports on new research suggesting that even a modest increase in the minimum wage can work wonders for child health.

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - jeu, 06/23/2016 - 08:12
Here, on this week's Canada Pension Plan announcement - and the Wall government's surprising decision to merely delay rather than outright obstruct a national boost to retirement security.

For further reading...
- Kevin Milligan, Sheila Block, Adam Mayers and the Canadian Press each offer useful looks at what the CPP expansion means. And Milligan has also pointed out this chart from the OECD on the small amount of social security contributions currently made by Canadians:


- Meanwhile, Jennifer Paterson compares Canada's pension system to other countries in terms of the benefits currently offered. And anybody looking for source information can find it from Service Canada.
- In light of the distance Canada has to go in order to catch up to other developed countries, Jeremy Nuttall reports on Hassan Yussuff's push to further strengthen the CPP.
- Finally, CBC reports on the Saskatchewan Party's grudging acceptance of the deal - along with its spin that delaying implementation is somehow a worthwhile achievement. And David Giles highlights the view of the CFIB and other corporate spokesflacks that any income security for workers is too much.

I've Seen Fire, And I've Seen Rain

Politics and its Discontents - jeu, 06/23/2016 - 06:20
I readily admit that I am transfixed, awed and horrified by these now-regular reports of unfolding climatic disaster. Yet our hubristic selfishness continues unabated. Why? Is this humanity's fatal flaw?



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Restoring Faith In Environmental Assessments

Northern Reflections - jeu, 06/23/2016 - 04:16
 
By the time Stephen Harper left office, no one believed a word of any environmental assessment issued by the federal government. Jason MacLean writes:

In 2012 the Harper government gutted the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the National Energy Board Act, the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Thousands of natural resources projects were exempted from assessments of their potentially significant adverse environmental effects.

Energy projects — including politically charged pipeline proposals — were subjected to far narrower reviews with radically restricted public participation. Fish habitats have been put in serious jeopardy, with 99 per cent of Canada’s rivers and lakes left unprotected.
Summing up the state of Canadian environmental law following the controversial 2012 omnibus amendments, Devon Page, the executive director of Ecojustice, frankly observed that “Canada has some of the worst environmental laws in the world.”
The Trudeau government has declared that it will review all environmental assessment procedures:
Building on its interim measures announced earlier this year, it will appoint expert panels to review the key environmental laws gutted in 2012. They will report back in January 2017, have a mandate to rebuild trust in environmental assessment processes, modernize the National Energy Board and introduce safeguards to the Fisheries Act and Navigation Protection Act.
The government has before it a Herculean task, given the cynicism that Harper left in his wake. For the review to be successful, Maclean writes, three things must happen:
First, the government’s review truly has to be an overhaul, not merely a touch up. With just over 1,000 days until the next election, the government may be tempted to do the bare minimum to declare victory. At a recent meeting of leading environmental assessment practitioners and scholars, for example, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change asked whether there was anything “worth keeping” in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. The answer, no matter how politically inconvenient, is no.
Second, the fundamental assumption underlying environmental assessment must shift from how a proposed project will proceed to whether it proceeds at all. And the way to answer that question is not by mitigating adverse biophysical impacts, but by assessing whether a project will make a net contribution to sustainable development and decarbonization, thereby helping us meet our Paris climate change commitments.
Finally, the government says that public consultation will be the core of its review. It promises a co-ordinated, open and transparent process based on scientific evidence, working in partnership with indigenous peoples, provinces and territories and input from the public, industry and environmental groups. 
Getting agreement on expansion of the CPP took considerable effort. But it will be much more difficult to restore faith in the government's ability to conduct objective environmental assessments.

Image: Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing Bill: The E-Petition

Dammit Janet - jeu, 06/23/2016 - 04:03

In December last year, Canada's government acknowledged the power of the Intertoobz and started allowing e-petitions. They need to be sponsored by an MP and if they get 500 signatures, can be tabled in Parliament.

Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada yesterday initiated an e-petition against Bill C225 (full text of bill), "An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of a preborn child while committing an offence)," with its glurgy nickname, "Cassie and Molly's Law."

Or as we call it: the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (WISC) bill.

English version

French version

PDF backgrounder on ARCC's reasons for opposing C225.

The main reason to oppose it is the usual: it is yet another backdoor attempt to restrict abortion, with the ultimate goal of putting pregnant people under the microscope of the law. Such laws elsewhere have had the effect of criminalizing pregnancy -- in the US, sending dozens of women, largely poor and people of colour, to prison for the crimes of miscarriage, attempted suicide, or substance abuse while pregnant.

It is also a "personhood" law, conferring on a fetus rights that WILL compete with those of the incubator, er, pregnant person.

And if you need further evidence of its intended narsty effects, ALL the fetus freak groups support it.

At ARCC, there is also a resources page listing other actions to take, like signing a paper petition, a sample letter to your MP, and a list of groups opposed to C225.

On March 22, fetus freaks started an e-petition in support of WISC. It currently has 4402 signatures, 31 from "other countries."

The ARCC petition now has 88 signatures, broken down by province/territory. There are none yet from any of the territories or from PEI.

Let's get on this, digital citizens. It's fast and easy. Please sign, then tweet, Facebook, and generally promote it on social media.

Here's the link again in plain text for easy copying:
https://petitions.parl.gc.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-381



Previous DJ! posts on the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing bill:
Dead as a Door Nail

Exploiting Grief to Attack Abortion Rights

Vengeance Drives "Unborn Victims" Law

It's Baaaack: Unborn Victims Bill C484 Redux

Nope, This "Pre-born Victims Bill Won't Pass Either

The Cons and the Never-Ending War on the Poor

Montreal Simon - jeu, 06/23/2016 - 03:53


You might think Lisa Raitt and her Cons might stop attacking the agreement to enhance the Canada Pension Plan now that a deal has been reached.

But no, Raitt is still on the offensive...



Now suggesting it's the work of Big Brother.

While Big Business is calling it the road to economic ruin.
Read more »

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